Saturday, November 13, 2004

U.S. Tapping Into Former Russian Biowarfare Scientists

08:52 AM Jun. 08, 2004 PT
Weapons Makers Turn to Medicine
By Kristen Philipkoski

SAN FRANCISCO -- A little more than a decade ago, Amir Maksyutov was developing virulent strains of influenza and other infectious agents for potential use as bioweapons against the United States. Today, he's working on vaccines for HIV, flu and malaria.
Maksyutov is happy to be one of the scientists taken under the wing of the United States since the Soviet Union fell. After the Cold War, when Russia employed brilliant scientists to create vats of super-virulent infectious agents, many of those researchers were out of jobs.
Lest the researchers go to work for its enemies, the United States developed programs to collaborate with former Soviet scientists.
"(Developing medicine) feels much better than to destroy," Maksyutov said through an interpreter here Monday at the Biotechnology Industry Organization annual conference. "Now, our potential is so strong that we can develop many new medications."
Maksyutov is a scientist at the Vector State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in the Novosibirsk region in Siberia, where he says bears walk in the streets. Everyone in the town, he said, is somehow affiliated with the research center, which was once a facility for producing the most dangerous pathogens on Earth.
Its transformation into a medical facility is one of several successful collaborations between the U.S. government and Russian scientists.
"There is so much talent and human capital in Russia," said Jeffrey Gelfand, senior adviser of international medical affairs at Massachusetts General Hospital, who works with the State Department Bioindustry Initiative on establishing research projects in Russia. "At one point, years ago, it was being misspent, and it's so exciting to put them on track to help mankind."
Garland said Russian researchers often approach projects in ways that Americans wouldn’t think of. Maksyutov, for example, figured out that there are 46,000 different ways in which HIV could mutate in order to evade a vaccine. He developed a vaccine that can provide a counterpunch to each one of those 46,000 mutations.
"Our dogma would have said it can't work," Gelfand said. But in rabbits the vaccine did work, and the State Department will support further tests.
Dr. Vsevolod Kiselev is another former bioweapons researcher who has been transformed into a medical miracle worker. Kiselev is now developing a vaccine to fight human respiratory papilloma, or HPV, as head of the biotechnology laboratory at the Research Institute of Molecular Medicine in Moscow. HPV causes warts in the respiratory tract of infants and can cause breathing problems or even death. With funding from the State Department, Kiselev not only developed the vaccine, but also a whole new technology for making vaccines.
"Vaccines are usually weak and cannot give good protection," Kiselev said. "I developed a technology that significantly improved the protection level -- a small amount of the compound can give a high level of protection with no side effects."
The vaccine is in its early stages. Once it's tested in animals, the technology could potentially be translated to other types of vaccines, Kiselev said.
Despite these advances, it's not likely that the United States has managed to lure every former Soviet bioweapons scientist. Funding from the United States has helped prevent bioweapon proliferation, but more efforts are needed, he said. Maksyutov worries that "laboratories not friendly towards mankind" will develop bioweapons in the next five to 10 years.
"The level of biotech now is so high that it's possible to create new, very dangerous viruses such as modified flu viruses," Maksyutov said. "The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 would look like nothing. Those potentially dangerous viruses need to be under tight control."
Maksyutov is also studying the function and structure of the flu virus to try to develop a vaccine.
"It’s very clear to me how to make the virus more virulent," Maksyutov said. "Unfortunately it's really very simple."

Putin Forming World's Biggest Superpower

Russian President Putin planning to glue together the most powerful superpower coalition in the world - Inida, China, Russia and Brazil
India Daily | November 12 2004

Russian President Putin is taking a lead role in putting together the most powerful coalition of regional and superpowers in the world. The coalition consists of India, China, Russia and Brazil. This will challenge the superpower supremacy of America as well as the European Union. The Chinese are concerned about American and European influence over the world. So is India, Brazil and Russia. Russians need Brazil badly. Brazil is in South America in the American corridor. According to Startfor, a strategic think tank, when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Brazil Nov. 21-23, he likely will talk economic issues with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva. However, Putin has bigger ambitions: He wants to establish a long-term Russian footprint in Latin America in order to expand Moscow's geopolitical influence in the region. Brazil is very open to the coalition concept where these large countries support each other in term of trade, economics, international politics and defense.

According other think tanks, this coalition will have an overwhelming influence over the United Nations. Russia and China are permanent members of the security council. India and Brazil are in the process of becoming the same. In terms of population, the coalition will have three quarters of the world population, largest amount of natural resources and largest pool of technical and scientific talent.

Drugs Firms Accused of Scaring People for Profit

Drugs firms 'are scaring people for profit'
London Telegraph | Nov 12 2004

A senior member of the Royal College of General Practitioners told MPs yesterday that health scares over osteoporosis and high blood pressure were created largely by pharmaceutical companies intent on selling their drugs.
Dr Iona Heath, the outgoing chairman of the college's committee on medical ethics, said people's bones became thinner naturally as they became older, but there was no correlation between bone density and fracture rates.
"It is a continuum," she said. "I would not dispute that at the end of the continuum there are people whose bones cause problems. But there is no cut-off point where someone has good bones and someone has bad bones."
She suggested women over 50 should stamp on the floor instead of taking drugs to prevent their bones thinning.
Dr Heath told the Commons health select committee that pharmaceutical companies were "disease-mongering" and creating "disease creep" where more and more people were told that there was something wrong with them.
In the case of osteoporosis, she said that when older women had their bone density measured it was compared with the bone density of a young woman, even though this was bound to show up a problem. "The same thing is happening with high blood pressure," she said. "We are only just beginning to understand the health effects of making people worried about their health.
"It's a huge problem for the future. People feel that their body is somehow sabotaging them. If someone is told that they have high blood pressure, they think about it, on average, seven times a day. This introspective health surveillance is the absolute antithesis of health."
Dr Heath, who received the CBE in 2000 for her work in the medical profession, was one of the latest batch of witnesses to appear before the committee's inquiry into the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the health service.
She was responding to a question from David Hinchcliffe, who heads the committee, about so-called "disease awareness campaigns", which are the only way in which pharmaceutical companies are allowed to promote their products.
Because the companies are not allowed to promote their own drug for a particular condition, they may attempt to raise patient awareness of that condition through advertising, which may lead to more prescriptions being written for the company's drugs.
Dr Heath said: "We GPs regard part of our role as defending patients against the pharmaceutical industry".
She said that, because of the industry's campaigns, she was seeing large numbers of patients who were "inappropriately worried" about their health, and that this had "huge personal and social implications for them, and huge financial implications for society".
She also cited the large numbers of rich patients who are unnecessarily worried about their cholesterol level, saying that plans to make some cholesterol-lowering statins available over the counter without prescription would only exacerbate the problem. "The fittest, wellest people spend the most time worrying about cholesterol," she said, adding that people with poorer diets who might benefit from the drugs did not have time to worry about their cholesterol levels.
Osteoporosis is a very common condition, strongly linked to ageing and affecting one woman in three and one man in 12 over the age of 50.
It is a natural condition in which bones lose density and fracture more easily. Bone density reaches its peak when men and women are in their thirties and declines after that. But not everyone who has osteoporosis will sustain a fracture.
An estimated 70,000 hip fractures, 50,000 wrist fractures and 120,000 spine fractures are caused by the condition each year.
In women, osteoporosis is associated with the drop in levels of the hormone oestrogen after the menopause. Men with osteoporosis are sometimes treated with the male hormone testosterone.
Dr Heath's argument that there is no correlation between bone density and the rate of fractures in osteoporosis opposes accepted medical thinking. A spokesman for the National Osteoporosis Society said yesterday: "For every 10 per cent drop in bone density below average, the risk of fracture doubles.
"This risk increases as people get older, because the risk of falling is greater," she said.
With a very large potential market the drugs industry has been active in recent years in producing drugs for osteoporosis. They include bisphosphonates, non-hormonal drugs that help to maintain bone density and Serms.
Serms, selective estrogen receptor modulators, act in a similar way to oestrogen in bone, again helping to maintain density.

Internet Is Future of News, Says AP Head

Internet represents future of news, says head of world's largest news service

Fri Nov 12, 7:49 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The future of news is online, and traditional media outlets must learn to tailor their products for consumers who demand instant, personalized information, the head of The Associated Press said Friday.

The growth of high-speed broadband connections is leading to a future in which computers are always on "and so are the users," Tom Curley, president and CEO of the world's largest news organization, told the Online News Association conference in Hollywood.

The Internet is picking up the readers and viewers that newspapers and TV news shows have been losing, Curley said. It also has changed the balance of power from news providers to consumers, who use web-surfing programs and video recording devices to control what they want to know and when and where they'll learn it.

Curley, who was publisher of Gannett's USA Today newspaper before becoming the AP's top executive in 2003, offered a scenario in which a "news enthusiast" would download to various electronic devices an array of news - sports scores, headlines, financial reports and analysis - from a variety of sources.

In the world of personalized news, "the content comes to you; you don't have to come to the content," Curley said. "So get ready for everything to be 'Googled,' 'deep-linked' or 'Tivo-ized.'

"You have to let the content flow where the users want to go, and attach your brand - and maybe advertising and e-commerce - to those free-flowing 'atoms,' " Curley said.

That already is leading to changes in how news is covered. For example, Curley said, AP is furnishing its U.S. news bureaus with cameras to provide video for multimedia use and is increasing coverage of news of interest to young audiences.

News media also may need to consider non-traditional services for the Internet. Curley noted one site in Kansas already offers a webcam service that local college students can use to see how long the lines are at a pizza parlour.

More media companies will have to learn how to make their web operations profitable - since many Internet consumers are used to getting their news for free, he said.

The market is out there, Curley said, citing a recent study that found 29 per cent of Internet users - about 43 million people - go online to get news three or more times per week.

Stephanie Busack, 22, a journalism student at Ohio University who attended the conference, said she gets most of her news online.

"I just go to the websites, basically . . . it's right there, everything you need to know," she said. "I don't like reading newspapers."

Curley also touched on Internet users who disseminate news and ideas through web logs, citing one recent estimate that there are four million "bloggers" making 400,000 posts per day.

"That works out to roughly 16,000 posts an hour, or about as many stories as the AP sends out in an entire day," he said. "It will get even tougher to be heard above the roar of the Internet crowd, and the business bets will have to be for greater stakes."

Still, Curley predicted current news giants will survive.

"The bloggers need a baseline of facts and professional analysis on which to base their work," he said. "Imagine Drudge without somebody to link to, or Wonkette without somebody to poke fun at."

Michael Coren: Christians Being Used as Scapegoats

Sat, November 13, 2004
The scapegoats are on the right

This past week has been a disgrace for journalism. Especially for Canadian journalism. Especially for liberal Canadian journalism.
Apparently unable to tolerate losing in the game of democracy, left-leaning pundits decided to blame the participants. Welcome to the hellish world of The Christian Right.
I've never seen such flummery and nonsense in all my life. A toxin of ignorance and bitterness suddenly flowed into the media bloodstream and poisoned the body politic. The very nature of free speech and political expression was challenged.
Why? Because the left lost. They had to find a scapegoat because they couldn't come to terms with their own failures. Just as with minorities of old, the best type of scapegoat is someone you don't really know but really know you're supposed to hate.
After U.S. President George Bush's re-election last week, one rather glib Canadian pundit opined: "Half of the United States wants to be like Canada, the other half like Iran."
How awfully clever. Yes that's right, 150 million Americans want to amputate limbs as a form of punishment and sponsor international terrorism.
But in Canada this is accepted as intelligent analysis. It is what we have come to expect from the influential minority group known as The Secular Left. They dominate political parties, are well organized and are vehemently intolerant. They are also incapable of listening to the inherent contradictions in their own arguments.
It needn't be that way. The public square should be a place for civil, if heated, debate. No voice need be marginalized and no viewpoint silenced as being extreme or unacceptable. The reality, however, is fundamentally different.
The Secular Left may advocate, for example, gay marriage, abortion on demand, the removal of prayer from schools, more state intervention in the family, lowering the age of sexual consent and full access to pornography on television.
The Christian Right may advocate, for example, no gay marriage, no abortion on demand, prayer in schools, less state intervention in the family, raising the age of sexual consent and limited access to pornography on television.
I have views on all these issues, but I do not see one as extreme and one as moderate, or one as intelligent and one as stupid. It is surely acceptable, indeed laudable, to have differing views on such vital topics in a thriving democracy.
But what we have been told by so many in the media this past week is that the people who hold one of these sets of opinions are righteous -- and the others want to stone people to death.
Let me tell you about some members of the alleged Christian Right whom I know. They are real, but I have altered their names.
The Van Pelts have six children. Their fifth child is a Down Syndrome boy, Timmy. "You never quite stop grieving for the normal child you lost, even though he never existed," says Jean Van Pelt. "But the love is overwhelming."
The Van Pelts are not wealthy, but their sixth child is adopted. They are white; he is black. And he also has Down Syndrome. "He needed us more than other children," says Jean. "If we're not here to help, there's no point." The Van Pelts voted for Bush.
The Burmans lead their church mission to the inner city. They never discuss Jesus unless asked, but they do work with alcoholics, drug addicts and the abused. Both Dean and Cindy Burman have been physically attacked in their work, but they wouldn't abandon their friends for anything. They voted for Bush.
Rick Kelly is a widower. His wife died five years ago and since then he has raised their four children alone. The tears are less common now, but they never completely stop. Rick's church has raised millions of dollars to help fight AIDS in Africa and also supports an AIDS hospice in the U.S. Rick voted for Bush.
The Christian Right. Some are saints, some are the contrary. They can be intolerant and annoying. Just like, in fact, The Secular Left.
But we all have a right and a responsibility to have an influence over our political system. How outrageous that the smug and powerful encourage one group but despise the other.
Thing is, Jean, Dean, Cindy and Rick will forgive them. Perhaps it's this that makes them so very angry.

China Cracks Down on Religion Again

China cracks down on religious activities
Associated Press
POSTED AT 8:18 AM EST Friday, Nov 12, 2004

Shanghai — State security agents arrested a prominent member of the unofficial Chinese Protestant church as part of a renewed crackdown on religious activities outside Communist Party control, an overseas activist group reported Friday.
Cai Zhuohua, minister to six unofficial congregations, was bundled into a van by three plainclothes agents while waiting at a bus stop in Beijing two months ago, said the China Aid Association, which is based in Texas.
Mr. Cai's wife, Xiao Yunfei, was arrested on Sept. 27 along with her brother, Xiao Gaowen, and sister-in-law, Hu Jinyun, after the three went into hiding in the central province of Hunan, the report said.
It was not clear why news of the arrest was delayed, although China rarely reports such matters and information about the unofficial church can be difficult to obtain even within China.
The association cited prosecutors involved in the case as saying it was part of a broader crackdown on unauthorized religious activity and publications that began in June.
China's officially atheist government allows worship only in the communist-controlled Protestant church, which claims more than 10 million followers.
As many as to 50 million Christians, however, are believed to worship in unofficial Protestant congregations, which operate with varying amounts of freedom throughout China.
While many hold services openly in some parts of the country, in other regions, particularly the politically sensitive capital of Beijing, they are routinely harassed and their leaders arrested.
The China Aid Association relies on an independent network of Christians in China and overseas for information about developments in the underground church. It said Mr. Cai and the others were being held at the Qinghe detention centre in Beijing. The centre's phone number is unlisted.
Calls to public numbers for Beijing's State Security Bureau rang unanswered and officials at Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate Court said they were not authorized to release any information.
The association said Mr. Cai's case drew special attention from authorities after the discovery of 200,000 Bibles and other Christian literature in a warehouse under his control, the origins of which were unknown.
The official church is the only authorized publisher of Bibles in China, which are produced in strictly controlled numbers and forbidden to be sold in ordinary bookstores.

Number of Pot-Smoking Students Alarms Educators

Students' pot use alarms educators
Facing an uphill battle against marijuana, schools say new law sends wrong message
Grace Macaluso
Windsor Star
Saturday, November 13, 2004

Danny sucks on the joint like a pro. At 17, he started smoking marijuana shortly after entering high school, and lunch hour is prime time for getting high.
"Everybody does it," says Danny, who asked that his real name not be used. "It's no big deal." He and two other friends pass around the joint as they huddle in an area of Jackson Park that's far enough away from the watchful eyes of Kennedy high school administrators. The marijuana cigarette was purchased just minutes ago from a fellow student - one of a handful of dealers who profit from on-site demand for a drug that has become a fact of life in Ontario high schools.
Marijuana use among teenagers has risen to the point where it has overtaken tobacco for the first time as the second most popular drug of choice behind alcohol, according to a recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The trend is alarming school officials and politicians, who fear it will only get worse under Ottawa's plan to decriminalize marijuana.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense," says Randy White, Conservative solicitor general critic and MP for Langley-Abbotsford. "Canada should be telling kids not to smoke pot; instead we're telling kids 'you'll just get a fine.' "
Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who reintroduced the legislation earlier this month, insists the bill constitutes a multi-pronged approach that includes tougher penalties for grow-ops as well as funding for a public education campaign aimed at discouraging the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs.
"Cannabis use is harmful and it will remain illegal in Canada," Cotler says. "Combining cannabis reform with this public education campaign will reinforce the message that marijuana is illegal and harmful to one's health."
But the minister's reassurances offer little comfort to principals like Tom Halliwill, who face an uphill battle against pot-smoking students who believe inhaling a joint is no worse than consuming alcohol.
"There are drugs in every school in North America," asserts Halliwill, principal of W.F. Herman high school. "I think it's more socially acceptable; a lot of parents do it. In the media they're talking about decriminalization. Well, kids read the paper, too, and it seems smoking pot doesn't carry the same stigma it had during the '70s."
In fact, in the minds of some students, pot is far less harmful than tobacco. "Cigarettes are worse; they're addictive," says Jason, a Grade 11 student at Herman who didn't want his real name published. "Pot can become habitual, and you know what's in it. It's not like cigarettes that contain chemicals like formaldehyde. Look at what second-hand smoke can do to you."
At F.J. Brennan Catholic high school, principal JoAnne Shea says the eight pot-related suspensions she handed out last year do not reflect the full extent of use among students. "I'd literally have to be policing alleyways," says Shea, adding that the school hears from nearby residents and businesses complaining about kids smoking up.
The majority of Brennan's 1,027 students are not using marijuana during the school day, says Shea. "We're hearing that pot is the drug of choice during the week; on the weekends it's alcohol."
Major challenges for principals include detecting use and catching kids in the act, she says. "We're always trying for evidence; it's easily camouflaged."
And it's affordable. "I was offered some just this morning during food and nutrition class in second period," says Herman high school student Jason, a pot smoker who declined the offer. "Pot is sold in the school on a regular basis."
The going rate for one cigarette is $5, or three joints for $10, he says. "You can make good money."
Identifying drug dealers is also easy, says 16-year-old Kennedy student Derek - not his real name. "Most people that deal are always high," says Derek, who used pot weekly until it started affecting his grades and athletic performance. Now, he indulges "once in awhile, on a Friday when I'm with friends.
"My parents said I can smoke weed as long as I don't get into trouble and continue to do well in school, but they didn't like that I was doing it."
Richard Pollock, a Windsor lawyer and federal prosecutor, attributes the rising use of marijuana to the ever-increasing supply of marijuana from large-scale hydroponic operations in the area. But more troubling, says Pollock, is the cultural shift that has contributed to the growing perception that pot use is acceptable.
"I've prosecuted cases where children under the age of 16 have been caught consuming cannabis out in the open, in public places and not hidden for fear of getting caught. I've prosecuted cases where teens were smoking up and their parents were aware of it.
"This debate (over decriminalization) is taking place in a vacuum without considering how it's affecting the lives and activities of our children."
Under Ontario's Safe Schools Act, a student found to be under the influence or possession of a drug, including alcohol and illegal substances, faces an automatic 10-day suspension, says Vickie Komar, supervisor of social work at the Greater Essex County District School Board. "And, there's always a recommendation to student and families to seek counselling through a variety of agencies that can provide education and support."
While both the public and Catholic boards offer anti-drug workshops and assemblies featuring police officers and a variety of public speakers, schools can't tackle the problem alone, say education officials.
"It has to be a community response; like the campaign against drinking and driving," says Komar. "The message has to be that it's not socially acceptable.
"As long as the message among teens is 'everyone is doing it,' it becomes normal behaviour and it's much more difficult for us to step in."
Even teens who refrain from using pot face intense peer pressure to smoke up, says Katie Moore, a Grade 12 student at Brennan. "People call me a narc, a police narcotics officer, because I want to stop drugs. If you're one to go against it, you're looked down upon."
Determined to spread her anti-drug message, Moore says she's researched the impact of pot, noting the grade on the streets today is far more potent than what was available in previous years. "The THC is much higher. It's going to affect your judgment, especially when you're driving and you're high."
Current growing methods have made pot more potent, said Const. Deb Mineau, spokeswoman for Essex Ontario Provincial Police. In 1960, an average marijuana cigarette contained 0.2 per cent THC - the mind-altering ingredient in pot, says Mineau. Today, the level of THC in an average joint is between five and 14 per cent.
Users like Derek agree that pot isn't a benign drug. "I couldn't concentrate in school," he says. Push came to shove when he began playing competitive hockey. "I was skating real slow. So that's when I cut back."
Still, misconceptions about pot are widespread, says Stephen Gard, Focus Community co-ordinator at the Teen Health Centre.
"It's becoming normalized. I'm being told that it's not that bad. Some teens think decriminalization means legalization."
And some teens, like Bogdan Babos, an 18-year-old student at Herman, doubts the battle against pot can be won. "Obviously it's there. You won't be able to stop them from trying it. I know they're going to try it sooner or later -- it's a given."
Adds Jason: "They've been trying to stop kids from having sex for how long, now? If they want to do it, they'll find a way to do it, so why stop them?"
Drug use among students from Grade 7 through Grade 12 (2003)
Alcohol 66.2 per cent
Cannabis 29.6 per cent
Binge drinking 26.5 per cent*
Cigarettes 19.2 per cent
Hallucinogens 10 per cent
Pot use soared from 6.2 per cent in Grade 7 to 44.8 per cent in Grade 12.
In the spring of 2003, 6,616 students in Grades 7 to 12 from 37 school boards participated in the study by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Ontario Student Drug Use Survey.
* Binge drinking (five-plus drinks on one occasion) refers to the past four weeks time period.

Prozac, Painkillers Found in Canadian Tap Water

Prozac and painkillers found in tap water
Drinking water contains traces of nine drugs, new study finds
Sarah Staples
CanWest News Service
Saturday, November 13, 2004

The federal government's first study of pharmaceuticals in drinking water will confirm traces of common painkillers, anti-cholesterol drugs and the antidepressant Prozac are ending up in the treated water that Canadians drink, CanWest News Service has learned.
A study by researchers from the National Water Research Institute for Health and Environment Canada, designed to gauge how efficiently plants removed traces of drugs from drinking water, found nine different drugs in water samples taken near 20 drinking water treatment plants across southern Ontario.
The drugs were mainly from a class known as "acidic pharmaceuticals," and included the painkillers ibuprofen and neproxin, and gemfibrozil, a cholesterol-lowering medication. Concentrations were in the parts per trillion -- comparable to one cent in $10 billion. "Barely detectable" levels of Prozac were also found.
The worst contamination came from treatment plants located near rivers or downstream from sewage treatment plants, as opposed to those plants sourcing water from lakes or groundwater.
The study has been submitted to the British scientific journal Water Research and is expected to be published sometime in the New Year.
While the amounts are well below prescription doses, experts from the NWRI say confirmation of even scant levels of a burgeoning assortment of drugs in Canada's drinking water is a troubling find warranting further investigation.
"It's kind of a brand new ball game and we don't know enough," said Jim Maguire, director of the institute's aquatic ecosystem protection research branch.
Residues of hormones are well known to disrupt the reproductive abilities of amphibians and fish. There is also suspicion that antibiotic residues working their way up the food chain may promote resistance to the drugs, while many other medications could harm fetuses, and people who are ill or infirm.
The effects of pesticides are better understood and regulated in Canada than personal care products, such as lotions and cosmetics, or prescription pharmaceuticals, said Maguire.
"You need to know how long lasting [the contamination is], and if it's being continually reintroduced -- but there's no country in the world that has enough information," he said. "We're kind of like where we were 25 years ago with PCBs and dioxides."
The government study is the first official acknowledgement of long-standing suspicions voiced by Canada's water-quality experts.
Transcripts obtained by CanWest News Service of a Health Canada-sponsored international workshop in 2002 show government chemists voicing serious concern over the possible negative effects of trace pharmaceuticals, at a time when U.S. and European studies were starting to reveal antibiotics and chemotherapeutics, drugs for epilepsy and depression, anti-inflammatory drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances such as musk, and hormones in treated sewage runoff and tap water.
Informal private testing carried out last year on behalf of media outlets revealed residues of gemfibrozil and the anticonvulsant drug carbamazepine in tap water from towns and cities across Canada.
The federal government isn't testing for the full range of drugs that could be in Canada's potable water supply, preferring initially to limit its search to "acidic" drugs because they are easiest to spot using existing pesticide analysis techniques, said Kent Burnison, an NWRI microbiologist who co-wrote the study.
Ontario's water was surveyed not because of any special concern over its safety, but because samples had to be taken near NWRI's laboratory to preserve their integrity, he said.
The United States and Europe -- which acknowledged pharmaceutical accumulation several years before Canada began studying the phenomenon -- have already begun releasing the first disturbing results of experiments to understand the impact of drugs in the water on fish and wildlife.
In October, for example, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Environmental Protection, revealed 42 to 79 per cent of the male smallmouth bass from a section of the Potomac River known to harbour nicotine-related chemicals and caffeine traces have started producing eggs.
Studies in Colorado waterways recently encountered more examples of "intersex" males, as well as female fish that are having trouble reproducing.
The working hypothesis is that leftover estrogen from chicken droppings or human hormones, not traditional pollutants from agriculture or mining, are disrupting the fish's reproduction.
In Europe and Japan, scientists are turning their attention to devising ways of cleaning drinking water using new, hypersensitive nano-scale filtration materials.
Burnison's lab is in the midst of a multi-year study of the environmental impacts of the drugs found so far in Canada's drinking water.
With a growing and aging population of baby boomers who will rely increasingly on medication, water experts fear the problem may only get worse.
"You may prove that individual pharmaceuticals aren't doing that much [to the environment], but when you've got a 100 or more compounds together, what is the synergistic effect?" he said.
"Is it one plus one equals two, or does it equal three and four?"
Detectable levels of many common drugs have been found in Canadian drinking water.
- Analgesics ibuprofen and neproxin.
- Antidepressant Prozac.
- Anti-cholesterol medication gemfibrozil.
- Anticonvulsant drug carbamazepine.
- Traces of nicotine, caffeine and estrogen are detectable in some wildlife.

6,500 Witches Attend 'Witchfest'

Wicca's world comes to town Nov 12 2004

MORE than 6,500 witches from across the world arrived in Croydon this weekend for Witchfest - the largest festival of its type.

But the gathering was not without its controversy, as a small protest was held at the Fairfield on Saturday morning.

One demonstrator stood outside with a board which read: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

Last year, street preachers flew over from America to protest outside the event.

Inbaal, a 30-year-old Wiccan witch who lives in the Addington area, said: "The protest was very peaceful, although a megaphone was used which was not very good manners.

"They tried to approach me with fliers and probably thought they were doing a good thing."

The two-day event boasted a medley of mystics, stalls, talks, bands and performances.

For the first time there was a pre-Witchfest special performance of the Circus of Horrors the night before.

The circus was a fusion between daredevil and bizarre circus acts performed by a cast of 26, plus live rock 'n' roll music played by the X Factor, all joined together by an "Alice in Horror Land" theme.

The event was put together by the Children of Artemis, an organisation that promotes witchcraft and Wicca - an ancient pagan religion - in the UK.

It is claimed this is the largest witchcraft festival in the world, with people travelling from across Europe and the US to attend.

Baby Dies By Court Order

Terminally-ill Luke is allowed to die
By Nigel Bunyan
(Filed: 13/11/2004)

Luke Winston-Jones, the terminally ill baby whose level of medical care was determined by a High Court judge, died yesterday at Alder Hey Children's Hospital.
Merseyside Police confirmed last night that Luke's family had made a formal complaint over his death. The force said it would be carrying out an investigation.
The nine-month-old child was originally given only days to live after being diagnosed at birth with the genetic disorder Edwards syndrome.
His mother, Ruth Winston-Jones, 35, of Holyhead, north Wales, fought to save her "little fighter'', despite being told by medical staff that his condition was so poor that he should be allowed to die.
Last month doctors at Gwynedd Hospital, Bangor, and Alder Hey, Liverpool, won a ruling that allowed them to withhold life-saving treatment involving "aggressive'' mechanical ventilation if the child's condition deteriorated.
News of Luke's death was disclosed by his aunt, Jacqui Kirkwood. She demanded an inquiry into how doctors complied with the court's instructions regarding Luke's care. She said procedures were not carried out that would have saved Luke's life.
Sources at Alder Hey rejected her claims, insisting that doctors had actually done more than was required of them by the court order, and had tried to resuscitate him for over an hour
The hospital said in a statement: "The trust is confident that it has always acted in the best interests of Luke and has fully complied with the recent ruling from the High Court.''

Friday, November 12, 2004

WHO Recommends Smallpox Genetic Virus Alteration

WHO Recommends Smallpox Genetic Virus Alteration
By Paul Elias
AP Biotechnology Writer

An influential World Health Organization committee is sending shock waves through the scientific community with its recommendation that researchers be permitted to conduct genetic-engineering experiments with the smallpox virus.

The idea is to be able to better combat a disease that is considered a leading bioterror threat though it was publicly eradicated 25 years ago.

The WHO had previously opposed such work for fear that a "superbug" might emerge. Because the disease is so deadly, the WHO has even at times recommended destroying the world's two known smallpox stockpiles, located in secure labs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and in the former Soviet Union.

The recommended policy shift has reignited a debate over whether such research will help or hinder bioterrorism defenses.

The World Health Assembly - the ruling body of the 192-nation WHO - would make a final decision on whether to approve the experiments, which would include splicing a "marker" gene into the smallpox virus so its spread can be better tracked in the laboratory. The WHO committee said inserting the marker gene wouldn't make the disease any more dangerous, and that allowing such experimentation would speed depletion of the remaining smallpox virus stocks.

It has been U.S. policy to refrain from genetically engineering smallpox, but that would undoubtedly change if the WHO endorses such research.

"It's absolutely the right decision," said Dr. Ken Alibek, a former top scientist in the Soviet biological weapons program who said the Soviets covertly developed smallpox as a weapon in the 1980s.

Alibek, who defected to the U.S. in 1992 and now teaches at George Mason University, said it's now possible to genetically engineer smallpox to render current vaccines useless.

"The bad guys already know how to do it," Alibek said. "So why prohibit legitimate researchers to do research for protection."

Other scientist argue that such research has little value and is too risky.

"We have seen no evidence of a threat that would justify this research," says Sujatha Byravan, Executive Director of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a Boston nonprofit. "A decade ago, the WHO was planning to destroy the world's last remaining samples. Today, it is proposing to tinker with the virus in ways that could produce an even more lethal smallpox strain. This is a devastating step backwards."

Smallpox has plagued humans for centuries, and it's believed to have killed more people than all wars and epidemics combined. Death typically follows massive hemorrhaging.

A similar debate was set off last year when researcher Mark Buller of Saint Louis University announced that he had genetically engineered a mousepox virus that was designed to evade vaccines. Buller created the superbug to figure out how to defeat it, a key goal of the government's anti-terrorism plan. He designed a two-drug cocktail that promises to defeat the exceptionally deadly virus.

Buller said similar smallpox protections could be developed if researchers were free to experiment responsibly with genetic engineering. Mousepox is a close relative of smallpox.

Buller's work improved upon research done in 2001 by Australian scientists who created a mousepox strain so powerful that it killed even those mice inoculated against the virus.

The WHO committee that made the genetic engineering recommendation is the international organization's Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research. News of its decision, in a meeting in Geneva last week, was first reported by National Public Radio.

The committee said further research should be carried out before a final decision is made.

"It will go through the bureaucratic process," WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said. "It will be a political decision."

He said the modified version of the virus would only be used in testing drugs for people who already have the virus and not for smallpox vaccines.

Today, the only smallpox vaccine available is unsafe for people with weakened immune systems, and can even seriously harm some healthy people, because it is made with a live virus called vaccinia that can spread through the body.

Smallpox is the only major disease to be successfully eradicated under a WHO-sponsored vaccination program. The last known case was in 1978.

AP writer Sam Cage in Geneva contributed to this report.

Common Vaccine Ingredients - Be Informed!

Vaccine Ingredients - Formaldehyde, Aspartame, Mercury, Etc.

This following list of common vaccines and their ingredients should shock anyone.
The numbers of microbes, antibiotics, chemicals, heavy metals and animal byproducts
is staggering. Would you knowingly inject these materials into your children?
Acel-Immune DTaP - Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Wyeth-Ayerst 800.934.5556
* diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis adsorbed, formaldehyde, aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, thimerosal, and polysorbate 80 (Tween-80) gelatin Act HIB
Haemophilus - Influenza B Connaught Laboratories 800.822.2463
* Haemophilus influenza Type B, polyribosylribitol phosphate ammonium sulfate, formalin, and sucrose
Attenuvax - Measles Merck & Co., Inc. 800-672-6372
* measles live virus neomycin sorbitol hydrolized gelatin, chick embryo
Biavax - Rubella Merck & Co., Inc. 800-672-6372
* rubella live virus neomycin sorbitol hydrolized gelatin, human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue
BioThrax - Anthrax Adsorbed BioPort Corporation 517.327.1500
* nonencapsulated strain of Bacillus anthracis aluminum hydroxide, benzethonium chloride, and formaldehyde
DPT - Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis GlaxoSmithKline 800.366.8900 x5231
* diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis adsorbed, formaldehyde, aluminum phosphate, ammonium sulfate, and thimerosal, washed sheep RBCs
Dryvax - Smallpox (not licensed d/t expiration) Wyeth-Ayerst 800.934.5556
* live vaccinia virus, with "some microbial contaminants," according to the Working Group on Civilian Biodefense polymyxcin B sulfate, streptomycin sulfate, chlortetracycline hydrochloride, and neomycin sulfate glycerin, and phenol -a compound obtained by distillation of coal tar vesicle fluid from calf skins Engerix-B
Recombinant Hepatitis B GlaxoSmithKline 800.366.8900 x5231
* genetic sequence of the hepatitis B virus that codes for the surface antigen (HbSAg), cloned into GMO yeast, aluminum hydroxide, and thimerosal
Fluvirin Medeva Pharmaceuticals 888.MEDEVA 716.274.5300
* influenza virus, neomycin, polymyxin, beta-propiolactone, chick embryonic fluid
FluShield Wyeth-Ayerst 800.934.5556
* trivalent influenza virus, types A&B gentamicin sulphate formadehyde, thimerosal, and polysorbate 80 (Tween-80) chick embryonic fluid
Havrix - Hepatitis A GlaxoSmithKline 800.366.8900 x5231
* hepatitis A virus, formalin, aluminum hydroxide, 2-phenoxyethanol, and polysorbate 20 residual MRC5 proteins -human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue
HiB Titer - Haemophilus Influenza B Wyeth-Ayerst 800.934.5556
* haemophilus influenza B, polyribosylribitol phosphate, yeast, ammonium sulfate, thimerosal, and chemically defined yeast-based medium
Imovax Connaught Laboratories 800.822.2463
* rabies virus adsorbed, neomycin sulfate, phenol, red indicator human albumin, human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue
IPOL Connaught Laboratories 800.822.2463
* 3 types of polio viruses neomycin, streptomycin, and polymyxin B formaldehyde, and 2-phenoxyethenol continuous line of monkey kidney cells
JE-VAX - Japanese Ancephalitis Aventis Pasteur USA 800.VACCINE
* Nakayama-NIH strain of Japanese encephalitis virus, inactivated formaldehyde, polysorbate 80 (Tween-80), and thimerosal mouse serum proteins, and gelatin
LYMErix - Lyme GlaxoSmithKline 888-825-5249
* recombinant protein (OspA) from the outer surface of the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi kanamycin aluminum hydroxide, 2-phenoxyethenol, phosphate buffered saline
MMR - Measles-Mumps-Rubella Merck & Co., Inc. 800.672.6372
* measles, mumps, rubella live virus, neomycin sorbitol, hydrolized gelatin, chick embryonic fluid, and human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue
M-R-Vax - Measles-Rubella Merck & Co., Inc. 800.672.6372
* measles, rubella live virus neomycin sorbitol hydrolized gelatin, chick embryonic fluid, and human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue
Menomune - Meningococcal Connaught Laboratories 800.822.2463
* freeze-dried polysaccharide antigens from Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, thimerosal, and lactose
Meruvax I - Mumps Merck & Co., Inc. 800.672.6372
* mumps live virus neomycin sorbitol hydrolized gelatin
NYVAC - (new smallpox batch, not licensed) Aventis Pasteur USA 800.VACCINE
* highly-attenuated vaccinia virus, polymyxcin B, sulfate, streptomycin sulfate, chlortetracycline hydrochloride, and neomycin sulfate glycerin, and phenol -a compound obtained by distillation of coal tar vesicle fluid from calf skins
Orimune - Oral Polio Wyeth-Ayerst 800.934.5556
* 3 types of polio viruses, attenuated neomycin, streptomycin sorbitol monkey kidney cells and calf serum
Pneumovax - Streptococcus Pneumoniae Merck & Co., Inc. 800.672.6372
* capsular polysaccharides from polyvalent (23 types), pneumococcal bacteria, phenol,
Prevnar Pneumococcal - 7-Valent Conjugate Vaccine Wyeth Lederle 800.934.5556
* saccharides from capsular Streptococcus pneumoniae antigens (7 serotypes) individually conjugated to diphtheria CRM 197 protein aluminum phosphate, ammonium sulfate, soy protein, yeast
RabAvert - Rabies Chiron Behring GmbH & Company 510.655.8729
* fixed-virus strain, Flury LEP neomycin, chlortetracycline, and amphotericin B, potassium glutamate, and sucrose human albumin, bovine gelatin and serum "from source countries known to be free of bovine spongioform encephalopathy," and chicken protein
Rabies Vaccine Adsorbed GlaxoSmithKline 800.366.8900 x5231
*rabies virus adsorbed, beta-propiolactone, aluminum phosphate, thimerosal, and phenol, red rhesus monkey fetal lung cells
Recombivax - Recombinant Hepatitis B Merck & Co., Inc. 800.672.6372
* genetic sequence of the hepatitis B virus that codes for the surface antigen (HbSAg), cloned into GMO yeast, aluminum hydroxide, and thimerosal
RotaShield - Oral Tetravalent Rotavirus (recalled) Wyeth-Ayerst 800.934.5556
* 1 rhesus monkey rotavirus, 3 rhesus-human reassortant live viruses neomycin sulfate, amphotericin B potassium monophosphate, potassium diphosphate, sucrose, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) rhesus monkey fetal diploid cells, and bovine fetal serum smallpox (not licensed due to expiration)
40-yr old stuff "found" in Swiftwater, PA freezer Aventis Pasteur USA 800.VACCINE
* live vaccinia virus, with "some microbial contaminants," according to the Working Group on Civilian Biodefense polymyxcin B sulfate, streptomycin sulfate, chlortetracycline hydrochloride, and neomycin sulfate glycerin, and phenol -a compound obtained by distillation of coal tar vesicle fluid from calf skins
Smallpox (new, not licensed) Acambis, Inc. 617.494.1339 in partnership with Baxter BioScience
* highly-attenuated vaccinia virus, polymyxcin B sulfate, streptomycin sulfate, chlortetracycline hydrochloride, and neomycin sulfate glycerin, and phenol -a compound obtained by distillation of coal tar vesicle fluid from calf skins
TheraCys BCG (intravesicle -not licensed in US for tuberculosis) Aventis Pasteur USA 800.VACCINE
* live attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis monosodium glutamate (MSG), and polysorbate 80 (Tween-80)
Tripedia - Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Aventis Pasteur USA 800.VACCINE
*Corynebacterium diphtheriae and Clostridium tetani toxoids and acellular Bordetella pertussis adsorbed aluminum potassium sulfate, formaldehyde, thimerosal, and polysorbate 80 (Tween-80) gelatin, bovine extract
US-sourced Typhim Vi - Typhoid Aventis Pasteur USA SA 800.VACCINE
* cell surface Vi polysaccharide from Salmonella typhi Ty2 strain, aspartame, phenol, and polydimethylsiloxane (silicone)
Varivax - Chickenpox Merck & Co., Inc. 800.672.6372
* varicella live virus neomycin phosphate, sucrose, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) processed gelatin, fetal bovine serum, guinea pig embryo cells, albumin from human blood, and human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue
YF-VAX - Yellow Fever Aventis Pasteur USA 800.VACCINE
* 17D strain of yellow fever virus sorbitol chick embryo, and gelatin

59-Year-Old Set to Give Birth to Twins

59-Year-Old Set to Give Birth to Twins
The Associated Press

Nov. 11, 2004 - A 59-year-old great-grandmother is pregnant with twins and
will deliver next month, three decades after she had her tubes tied. "They
came untied," Frances Harris said Thursday.

The multiple birth Dec. 21 would break the purported record set this week by
a 56-year-old New York City mother of twins.

Harris, of rural Sylvester, Ga., said she wasn't trying to get pregnant and
didn't realize she was until she started gaining weight and went to see her

"A lot of things changed about me," she said. "I started craving grapes and
apples, things I don't usually crave. By then I was four months pregnant."

When the doctor broke the news, "They had to sit me down. I couldn't even
talk," she said.

The news was even more shocking considering Harris the mother of five,
grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of six had her tubes tied 33 years
ago after the birth of her youngest child.

Harris had her first child when she was 15; 44 years will separate her
first-born from the newborns. She was divorced years ago from the twins'
father, 60-year-old Raymond Harris, a heavy equipment operator. She said
they will remarry before the birth.

The oldest American believed to have given birth to twins is Aleta St.
James, a single mother who turns 57 on Friday. She gave birth Tuesday by
in-vitro fertilization at New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 263
children were born to women between ages 50 and 54 in 2002. The oldest
American to give birth is Arceli Keh, of California, who was 63 when she had
a daughter in 1996.

Harris said some family members, concerned about health complications, had
suggested she end the pregnancy.

"I couldn't live with myself," she said. "I pray we all three pull through.
When they're so little, they're so beautiful. I think they are God's gift."

Associated Press writer Pat Milton in New York contributed to this story.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2004 ABC News Internet Ventures

Radio Station Bars the Term, 'Reproductive Rights'

NC Public Radio Station Bars Use Of Phrase 'Reproductive Rights'
POSTED: 1:49 pm EST November 11, 2004

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- There's a big difference between reproductive rights
and reproductive health, says the head of a group forced to substitute one
word for the other in an underwriting announcement on a local radio station.
WUNC-FM recently informed Chapel Hill-based Ipas that use of the phrase
"reproductive rights" in the group's on-air underwriting announcement could
be interpreted as advocating a particular political position.
The station required Ipas, an international women's rights and health
organization, to use "reproductive health" instead.
Ipas' executive vice president, Anu Kumar, said she disagreed with WUNC's
interpretation and said the words don't mean the same thing. But she said
she was less upset about WUNC's decision than with the political climate
that led to it.
"What concerns me is the chilling effect of the world we're living in, which
makes everybody super-cautious about what they say," she said. "The issue of
reproductive rights, like many others, has been cast as an `either you're
with us or you're against us' issue, and so much of the language is assumed
to be code for something else."
WUNC's general manager said the station made the change to avoid trouble
with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC prohibits public radio
stations from airing underwriting announcements that advocate political,
social or religious causes.
"We can accept sponsorships and make announcements from advocacy groups, but
we can't use advocacy language," said general manager Joan Siefert Rose.
"Unfortunately, the FCC doesn't specify what that is. There's no list of
forbidden terms. The only way to find out if you've stepped over the line is
if someone challenges it and the FCC issues a fine. So we are always pretty
conservative in interpreting the announcements we make."
Kumar said the original phrase has an internationally understood meaning
that better conveys the scope of the organization's work.
"`Reproductive rights' is not a euphemism for abortion," Kumar said. "Among
other things, it means the right to infertility treatments, the right to
contraception, the right to information, the right to live free of rape and
violence. In global forums, those meanings are universally understood. And
`reproductive health' doesn't convey all of that. It's important to say that
our work is about rights as well as health."
Rose said the red-flagging of the phrase in Ipas' announcement came as part
of a routine review of underwriting announcements. She said she planned to
meet with Kumar to discuss the issue and try to reach a resolution that
would satisfy everyone involved.
"I have a duty to be a good steward of our FCC license, and we go over the
underwriting announcements with all of our sponsors," Rose said. "Almost
always, there's some language that needs to be changed for various reasons.
And in just about all the cases, we find a way to do that in a way that's
mutually acceptable."

Eugenics-Like Baby-Designing Proposed

Couples may get chance to design the 'ideal' IVF baby
By Alexandra Frean, Social Affairs Correspondent

COUPLES will be able to choose donated sperm or eggs to create their designer child, under proposals published by the fertility watchdog.

Characteristics such as height, eye colour and intelligence could be selected if women undergoing fertility treatment are given more freedom to pick the donated sperm, egg or embryo.

The controversial proposals are part of a public consultation launched yesterday by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). But critics are concerned that the proposal could lead to more couples demanding “designer” babies and to parents having unrealistic expectations of the resulting children — a point accepted by the authority in its consultation document.

The practice of screening donors for desirable characteristics is widespread in the US, where couples can pay up to $25,000 to secure the right type of donor. In America, donors are routinely screened according for high intelligence, family medical history and physical traits such as height, weight and eye, skin and hair colours.

The British fertility watchdog insisted, however, that its proposals were aimed at ensuring that as many couples as possible receive treatment.

At present its guidelines state that clinics should offer donated sperm, eggs or embryos from donors who are a close physical match to the patients.

But, with 90 per cent of clinics reporting a shortage of donors, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make close matches, particularly for couples from minority ethnic groups, and waiting lists for treatment are stretching to two years. Experts expect the situation to get worse next April, when donors lose their right to anonymity.

“We shouldn’t be preventing someone from having treatment because they don’t have the physical characteristics that match the donors,” an HFEA spokeswoman said.

But Olivia Montuschi from the Donor Conception Network, which represents families of children conceived after sperm or egg donations, insisted that it was vital for children to share physical characteristics with their parents.

“If a child is significantly different in any way, either in physical characteristics or intellectual attainment, then it can make it harder for them to feel part of that family,” she said.

Elizabeth Wincott, chairman and founder of the Project Group on Assisted Reproduction, also opposed widening the scope for selection of donors. “As far as possible, selection should mirror the natural processes that occur in normal conception, except for specific medical reasons,” she said.

Suzi Leather, chair of the fertilisation authority, agreed that relaxing the rules on matching donors with patients could lead to a child who looked so different from the rest of the family that they had difficulty fitting in. “This is particularly important for families that do not want their donor conceived child to stand out,” she said, but she felt that might not be important to some parents — for example a single woman having treatment.

The authority is also considering relaxing the restrictions on the import of sperm, eggs and embryos from overseas to deal with the shortage of donors in Britain. A further proposal is to change the rules to allow payments. These could range from £50 for sperm donors to £1,000 for egg donors.

The consultation is part of its Sperm Egg and Embryo Donation Review, which has been prompted by plans to remove the anonymity of donors and the introduction of new EU rules on human tissue and cells.

More than 37,000 children have been born in Britain as a result of people donating sperm, eggs and embryos, but changes in the law and in public attitudes, meant a review of the rules on treatment was needed, Ms Leather said.

Proposals to pay donors were not intended to act as an inducement but to reflect the inconvenience experienced and the time donors sacrificed. At present sperm donors are paid £15 plus “reasonable expenses”. If that were increased, they could receive up to £2,500 since they are allowed to donate up to 50 times in a six-month period.

Payments for egg donors would be higher to reflect the increased inconvenience and the invasive nature of the procedure. Some clinics have suggested payment up to £1,000, while most favoured a figure between £300 and £500.

The payments would apply only to donations made in Britain. At present the only country from which Britain imports gametes is Denmark, which has a far better supply.

The consultation closes on February 4 next year.


Donors in the US are screened for the following attributes:

Intelligence, measured by school and university records
Family medical history
Mental state
Personal profiles and family backgrounds.
Physical traits — height, eye, skin and hair colour, weight.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hypocrisy in the Prime Minister's Office

Thu, November 11, 2004
'Hypocrisy' in PMO
Martin boasts of opening up government, but his staffers' pay kept secret
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, Parliamentary Bureau

The prime minister's hires are part of an elite government group whose salaries are shrouded in secrecy. Pay ranges of all federal staffers -- including aides to cabinet ministers -- are subject to public disclosure guidelines. But Paul Martin's 75 staffers are exempt from the rules, which means the public doesn't even get a ballpark sense of their salaries.

"There's an overall budget and it's the chief of staff's discretion to staff the Prime Minister's Office accordingly, while maintaining the budget," said Marc Roy, the PM's associate director of communications.

As the PMO administers all facets of government and not just a single portfolio, "flexibility" allows the office to adapt to different situations with staffing needs, Roy said. Staff are compensated based on experience, ability and role and there are no caps on salaries.

PMO employees share a $5.5-million yearly salary pot.

Tory MP John Williams fumed that the exclusive club gets special protection while their boss boasts about making government more open and transparent.

"There's only one word for it: Hypocrisy," Williams said.

The Tory MP said the public has a right to know at least a ballpark size of individual salaries on the PM's payroll, especially since many staffers were "friends" who worked on Martin's Liberal leadership bid.

A furious NDP MP Pat Martin urged the PM to reverse the exemption if he's serious about fixing the democratic deficit.

"So much for transparency and accountability in the PMO," he said.

"Martin gets elected on all these romantic and flowery platitudes about transparency and accountability, but put to the test, clearly he falls short."

National Post: Does Canada Even Have a Conservative Party?

Does Canada have a conservative party?
National Post
Thursday, November 11, 2004

When Stephen Harper scored a first-ballot victory in the Conservative Party of Canada's inaugural leadership contest last March, it was a strong endorsement of the conservative values that had guided his stewardship of the Canadian Alliance. And yet, mere months later, Mr. Harper is shifting the party to the mushy middle.
As early as last June's federal election campaign, there were signs -- notably the Conservatives' statist health policies -- that Mr. Harper was wary of bold policy proposals. Since then, he has become meeker still: Having apparently deduced that his party lost the election because its policies were too bold, Mr. Harper has been reluctant to take any position that could spark even slight controversy -- the only exception being his curious and unwelcome flirtation with Belgian-style federalism.
The Conservative leader now appears to be sacrificing one of his party's top priorities -- assisting the United States in promoting continental security. Yesterday, it was reported the party is backing away from its support for Canadian participation in a missile defence shield. "The goal posts are moving on this," a party insider told CanWest News Services, "because there's a recognition that missile defence just doesn't sell in Quebec or among urban voters in Ontario."
The Conservatives may be correct to hold back on a full-fledged endorsement of the Liberals' missile-defence plans until more specifics are available. But their unwillingness to voice support for the idea even in principle contradicts the positions taken by Mr. Harper as recently as last year. This backtracking could compromise Canada's participation in the program: The Liberals may not be keen to press forward with missile defence if all three opposition parties oppose it.
Canada has little use for a pandering, anti-ideological opposition party that bases its positions on the polling numbers and spends more time sowing regional divides than putting forward serious policy proposals. What it needs instead is a principled right-of-centre alternative to the governing Liberals. Mr. Harper was elected leader because he seemed best able to provide that alternative. With the Liberals in minority status and the next election up for grabs, now is the time to start delivering.

Matthew Shepard Murder Not a Hate Crime?


November 11, 2004 -- ABC is preparing a major investigation of the Matthew Shepard gay-bashing murder that contends it may not have been a hate crime — but a mugging gone wrong.
Friends and family of Shepard — who became a national symbol of the senseless violence against gays — as well as gay activists are upset about the report, scheduled to air on "20/20" later this month.
Shepard, 22, was a gay college student who was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo., in 1998 by two locals.
The killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell A. Henderson, pleaded guilty and are each serving consecutive, double life sentences.
But in their first interviews since they were convicted, McKinney and Henderson claim anti-gay bias had nothing to do with the crime.
In a press release promoting the show, ABC promised "surprising revelations, including Laramie's underground world of methamphetamine use that may have contributed to the crime and whether or not Shepard knew his killers."
"ABC News' press release about this show definitely raised our eyebrows, and we'll be watching," said Joan M. Garry, Executive Director, Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation.
According to one person who has seen a rough of the episode, "20/20" raises the possibility that Shepard was mugged for his money, not because he was gay.
"Does it make Aaron McKinney and Russell A. Henderson any less guilty of the crime that they committed? Absolutely not," says Romain Patterson, one of Shepard's close friends.
"You just don't kick someone in the crotch over and over again unless you have a real problem with their sexuality," she says. "To imply otherwise, in my opinion, is irresponsible, and I think it's irresponsible to be giving a voice to two very guilty men."
The interviews apparently violate the plea agreements the two men signed at their sentencing. According to reports, the men agreed never to talk to the media about the case as part of the agreement that spared them the death penalty.
Henderson's lawyer, Tim Newcomb, did not return calls yesterday.
ABC declined to make the piece, slated to air Nov. 26, available to The Post.
"The murder of Matthew Shepard was and is a heinous and viscous crime," ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider says.
"Exploring and re-examining the facts around that murder in a very thoughtful and in-depth way is the very essence of responsible journalism. This new information in no way diminishes the importance of the national conversation that took place after Matthew Shepard's murder."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

School Board Approves Licentious Sex-Ed

Board OKs sex-ed program
By Jon Ward

The Montgomery County public school system approved a curriculum yesterday in which 10th-graders will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers, and eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family.
The county school board voted 6-0 in favor of recommendations from the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, despite opposition from parents.
"We are a Catholic family and feel strongly that the school system has no right or business telling our children that they may be homosexual and that a homosexual orientation is acceptable," Tony Castellano said in testimony yesterday before the vote.
The condom demonstration is part of a video titled "Protect Yourself" that will be shown this spring to the 10th-graders. In the video, a girl demonstrates how to fit a condom onto a cucumber and talks about the dangers of unprotected sex and cheap condoms that could break.
The video also stresses abstinence as the only foolproof way to avoid disease, said David Fishback, chairman of the committee. The video was pilot tested last spring in three high schools.
The board is also considering a second video in which food-flavored condoms are discussed.
The curriculum is a revision of previous ones and will be taught this spring to eighth- and 10th-graders in six schools. It defines a family as "two or more people who are joined together by emotional feelings or who are related to one another."
Same-sex parents are listed under the heading "kinds of families," along with eight other variations.
The new curriculum also includes detailed information about sexuality and "gender identity." Gender identity is defined as "a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female."
The curriculum also will teach that "most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice."
Officials did not say which schools would be part of the pilot program.
The committee will assess the results of the studies in June, then make recommendations to the board for countywide application next fall.
"I am confident that we are doing the right thing," said school board President Sharon W. Cox. She also said the new curriculum represented "mainstream thinking" and that opposition was "predicated on a difference of belief on whether homosexuality is a choice or not."
Chris Moody, who has a daughter in kindergarten in Clarksburg, disagreed with Ms. Cox's assessment.
"I am not a homophobe, and I don't get irate on this issue," he said. "But the school board presenting it this way says, 'Hey it's normal and fine.' I think that's going too far."
He pointed to a section of the curriculum that states it is a "fact" that "sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence."
About a dozen parents and concerned residents spoke out against the curriculum revisions at a public forum in Rockville yesterday morning, before the afternoon vote. There was no public testimony in favor of the revisions.
Mr. Castellano found out about the forum one day prior, and hastily arranged a statement.
Mr. Fishback said having two homosexual sons sparked his interest in becoming the chairman of the advisory board, but did not shape his opinions.
"There is nothing there that is objectionable unless you believe that people wake up one day and say, 'I'm going to become a homosexual,' " Mr. Fishback said.
He said the passage in 11 states last week of constitutional amendments banning same-sex "marriages" did not indicate that public opinion perceives homosexuality as immoral.
Mr. Fishback said Montgomery County "is not a homophobic" community.
"If we don't [teach this] here because people in another part of the country think differently, then it will always stay bad," he said.
Mr. Moody said it was the parents' job to educate children about sexuality.
"I'm not taking the approach that we should have our heads in the sand," he said. "We certainly want to be respectful of people who think this way, but it's our job to teach our kids about morality, not the school's."

Press 'Blew' Election Coverage: CBS

Press 'blew' election coverage
By Jennifer Harper

The press could be facing an identity crisis in a post-election world.
"We blew it. It's that simple," said Jon Friedman, media editor of "The news media, especially those in New York and Washington, completed underestimated the intensity of people who live between the coasts, in the red states and the South."
The press gave them "short shrift," Mr. Friedman said, while reinforcing one another's insular beliefs.
"If you habitually talk to people who only agree with you, and are of the same mind, you start thinking, 'Yes, this is how it is,' " Mr. Friedman said. "We've treated the fact that Bush won as some sort of accident which can't be explained. And I say 'we,' because I am one of those journalists in New York."
He has advice, though.
"Both the media and Kerry supporters should try to understand what really happened here, and make some sense of it — to understand who is voting for a president, as well as who is running for president," Mr. Friedman said.
Fixated by persuasive polls favoring Democratic challenger John Kerry and the allure of his support in Hollywood or from high-profile pundits, much of the so-called liberal press outlets overlooked the clout of values voters, Wal-Mart Republicans, evangelical Christians and others who included traditional American ideals in their political ideology.
"The liberal media is the biggest and most immediate loser of Mr. Bush's win. They staked their prestige on defeating the president, and they lost," said Jed Babbin, contributing editor of the American Spectator magazine.
Mr. Babbin categorizes this stubborn genre of journalists as "legacy media," based on a computer term.
"Legacy computer systems are old, outdated and not adapted to the needs of the audience. Legacy media — CBS, The Washington Post, the New York Times — are exactly the same," he said. "They forget to write for their audience. They don't have to agree with them, but they also can't hold them in contempt. Legacy media write for themselves — not their audience."
Mr. Babbin added, "These people missed the idea that the world is passing them by. They'll go the way of the dinosaur unless they reach out to the real American audience."
Some believe the press is not so heinous, however.
"Self-criticism is good, but I am not sure why journalists want to beat themselves up over not covering a certain class of voter," said Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor and Publisher magazine. "Essentially, the election turned out as many pollsters predicted it would. There was no huge upset. It was not like Ronald Reagan's landslide over Jimmy Carter in 1980."
He thinks the press is not disconnected from the public, as some fear.
"As much as people rail against the media as being elitist, we predicted who would win key battleground states based on newspaper endorsements for candidates Bush and Kerry," Mr. Mitchell said. "We made the correct prediction in 14 out of 15 states. To me, that indicates the papers reflected their own voters. They were not out of step with them."
Editorial philosophy could be slow to change, though.
"Much as we can delude ourselves otherwise, elections aren't about candidates, or conventions, or strategists, or advertising, or even issues. Elections are about voters — in this case, the 120 million Americans who thought through what they want in a president and acted on their beliefs," John McCormick, deputy editor of the Chicago Tribune's editorial page, noted yesterday.
"Not that we'll remember the lesson come 2008," he added.

Dispirited U.S Gays Heading to Canada

Dispirited U.S. gays choosing Canada
UPDATED AT 5:53 PM EST Wednesday, Nov 10, 2004

They're calling it the gay drain. Hundreds of well-heeled gay and lesbian lawyers, professors, educators and film directors from the U.S. are immigrating to Canada, drawn by the country's recognition of same-sex rights, unions and benefits.

Craig Lucas, who wrote the popular Hollywood movies Prelude to a Kiss and The Secret Lives of Dentists, contacted a Toronto immigration lawyer last week after the election victory of Republican President George W. Bush.

"Our rights are slowly being eroded," said the award-winning screenwriter, who plans to move to Vancouver with his partner, a set designer. "It happened in Nazi Germany, the incredible brain drain of artists, scientists and writers who fled to the U.S. Now it's happening here [in the United States]. The government wants gays to live outside the protection of the law."

Michael Battista, a Toronto immigration lawyer, said Mr. Lucas, like many of the gay Americans who have contacted him, has just the kind of skills Canada needs and will have no trouble qualifying to immigrate under the points system.

"I currently have more than 100 applications in the works on behalf of prospective gay American immigrants," he said. "These are highly skilled people with no dependents and substantial savings. Canada is benefiting enormously. They are not deterred by the fact that it can take as long as two years to process their applications."

While some gay Americans applied to immigrate before the Nov. 2 election, the results only reinforced their determination to leave. Mr. Bush has again indicated he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Eleven states, including Ohio, Michigan and Oregon, voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriage, in balloting held at the same time as the election. Ohio also banned civil unions.

That means gay couples in those states may not be able to apply for health coverage under their partner's plan and will have difficulty transferring property in the event of death, delegating power of attorney, and arranging hospital visitation rights or other rights that heterosexual couples take for granted.

Under U.S. federal immigration laws, gay Americans who are living with foreigners are unable to sponsor their partners, which means they must leave the country if they want to stay together.

Americans who immigrate to Canada may sponsor their same-sex partners under the family-class category and be processed on the same application.

The Globe and Mail received two dozen e-mails yesterday, through an organization called Immigration Equality, from gay Americans who have applied to immigrate to Canada and bring in their gay foreign partners as common-law spouses.

"It's clear that the U.S. is becoming a place that is hostile to the long-term health of same-sex relationships," said Phil Schwab, a 36-year-old research policy analyst with a PhD in agricultural genetics. He relocated to Ottawa from Washington with his Canadian partner three months before the election.

"We are the leading edge of the wave," he said. "More and more gays will come here, especially after 11 states voted to prohibit same-sex marriage in their constitution. Many of these changes will be challenged in the courts as unconstitutional, so the battle is not over, but it becomes a struggle to get equality for same-sex relationships."

Tim Sally, a 47-year-old real-estate investor from the gay-friendly city of San Francisco, said he is tired of living in a country that won't accord him the same rights as heterosexuals. He worries that the U.S. conservative political discourse has no place for gay liberals, even wealthy and talented ones, who no longer feel welcome in their own country.

His exit plan? A move to Vancouver with his partner, a German schoolteacher who has been accepted as an immigrant. "It is a brain drain and a wealth drain. Canada is getting the cream of the crop," Mr. Sally said.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Sex Diseases Soaring in London

Sex disease cases soar in capital
By Jason Beattie And Rebecca Smith, Evening Standard
9 November 2004

The number of Londoners suffering sexually transmitted diseases has risen by
more than a third, new figures reveal.
They show that cases of infections soared between 1997 and last year, from
169,721 cases to 228,641. The final figure could be higher as some clinics
have still to submit information.
The rise has embarrassed ministers, amid calls for a highprofile,
well-funded sexual health campaign. Of particular concern is the rise in
chlamydia among the young - it can show no symptoms but leads to infertility
in men and women if left untreated.
One in eight men and one in 10 women are thought to have chlamydia, a rate
estimated to be even higher among those in their early twenties. The figures
show the number of sexually transmitted-infections (STIs) diagnosedin each
of London's primary-care trusts. The rise may be due to better clinics
seeing more people, population differences, and education.
But the figures do not specify where patients live. This explains the high
rate for Camden, which is home to University College Hospital, as people
often visit clinics outside their boroughs to ensure secrecy. MP Sarah
Teather, who un-earthed the figures, said sexual health had been left out of
government priorities for the NHS.
"Ministers have dithered and delayed," said the Liberal Democrat MP for
Brent East. "The NHS needs to focus on prevention, not just treating
symptoms. The answer has to be better education about sex within the context
of relationships, and more accessible sexual health clinics."
The Health Department said millions had been spent on a sexual health
strategy, the "first ever" such plan in Britain. A spokesman said: "Rates of
STIs tend to be higher in large urban areas. It is encouraging that the rate
of increase has slowed."
A spokesman for fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, called the
figures "alarming" and said sexual health services were underfunded.

Arkansas Governor Promotes Covenant Marriages

Ark. Governor Pushes Covenant Marriages
Tuesday, November 09, 2004

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Mike Huckabee (search) and his wife plan to convert
their nuptial vows into a covenant marriage (search) during a mass ceremony
on Valentine's Day, giving a public push to the movement that seeks to
strengthen marital ties and make it harder to get divorced.

The governor, a former Baptist minister, said Monday he hopes more than
1,000 other couples will join him for the conversion ceremony at a North
Little Rock arena. Arkansas has one of the highest divorce rates (search) in
the country.

Covenant marriages, which also are an option in Louisiana and Arizona,
usually require pre-wedding counseling and allow divorce only in cases of
adultery, imprisonment, abandonment, abuse and after a substantial waiting

Huckabee did not disclose the total cost for the Valentine's Day event, but
said most of the cost would be covered by contributions from participating
churches. He defended using some taxpayer money to promote the ceremony and
cover some its costs.

"We believe it's an important enough event to use this time and resources
for it because, quite frankly, we're spending an enormous amount of money
dealing with the consequences of marriages that don't work out," the
governor said.

Arkansas' marriage rate is nearly double the national average — 15.1 per
1,000 population compared to the national rate of 8.3, but the state's
divorce rate is among the highest in the nation at 6.5 per 1,000 population,
according to the governor's office. The national average is 4.2.

The proposed ceremony did not rankle the head of the state chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union, which strictly monitors the separation of
church and state.

"I don't think we have a problem with it," ACLU Executive Director Rita
Sklar said. "I don't think it's Christian per se or religious per se. A
covenant marriage, as I understand it, is not necessarily a religious

Huckabee said too few couples have taken advantage of the covenant marriage
option since he signed a 2001 law creating it. About 600 such unions were
created in three years out of about 40,000 marriages that occur annually in
the state.

Some opponents say marriage is a religious matter and not one for the
government to regulate. Supporters argue it is a way to help slow the
divorce trend that they say hurts children.

Huckabee said the pastor of the church he attends recently announced that he
would perform only covenant marriages. But Huckabee said that, as the
state's chief executive, he was not encouraging pastors to take such a

"That would be across a line that I wouldn't step," he said. "I would
encourage them to encourage their members to seek a covenant marriage. I
wouldn't ask them to require it."

States Line Up to Outlaw Gay 'Marriage'

States lining up to outlaw same-sex 'marriage'
By Cheryl Wetzstein

The next round of proposals to amend state constitutions to define marriage will begin in a few weeks as lawmakers in as many as nine states promise to get such measures before voters.
In Texas yesterday, state Rep. Warren Chisum "pre-filed" a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Virginia lawmakers have pre-filed a similar amendment, while state legislators in Washington, Idaho, South Carolina and Alabama have said they will introduce marriage amendments as soon as possible.
Marriage amendments already are being processed in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Tennessee, where they require a second legislative approval to go before voters.
The 11-for-11 election victories for marriage amendments Nov. 2 "will encourage legislators in other states to follow suit," said Glen Lavy, a lawyer with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is involved in many legal battles over same-sex "marriage."
Last week's vote "was an overwhelming endorsement of the idea that marriage is what it always has been — [the union of] a man and a woman," he said.
The amendment votes should give state legislatures "some confidence that this is an issue that the American people are behind and are willing to support," said Joshua Baker, legal analyst at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy in Washington, which tracks same-sex "marriage" issues.
However, at least one marriage amendment is expected to have a bumpy ride. Last spring, the Massachusetts legislature passed, by a 105-92 vote, a compromise amendment to reserve marriage for heterosexual couples and create civil unions for same-sex couples.
Neither traditional-values groups nor homosexual rights groups were pleased with the amendment.
It now has to go before the new legislature and win at least 101 votes before it can go before voters. But the odds that the Massachusetts amendment will pass lengthened Nov. 2, when three amendment supporters were voted out of office.
Homosexual rights activists say these new amendment opponents, with help from lawmakers who will change their minds and vote against the amendment, will sink the measure if it comes up.
It is likely that legislative leaders won't even bring it up. Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees, a Republican and co-sponsor of the amendment, has told the Republican newspaper of Springfield, Mass., that the measure might be dropped.
"Gay marriage is in place. It would be very hard to take something away that is already there," Mr. Lees said, referring to a Massachusetts court's unprecedented decision to legalize same-sex "marriage" last year.
Amendment supporters outnumber opponents 103-to-96, the State House News Service says. This assumes "everyone maintains their vote" from last year, said a reporter at the Boston-based news service.
In Wisconsin, where Republicans control both legislative chambers, the marriage amendment is likely to go to a vote early next year. If it passes, as expected, it could go to voters a few months later.
In Tennessee, the legislature passed its marriage amendment for the first time in May. It now has to be approved by a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber before it can go to voters. Clearing that hurdle shouldn't be hard because the amendment passed the first time through by lopsided votes — 86-5 in the House and 28-1 in the Senate.
Seventeen states have constitutional amendments defining marriage. Voters in Hawaii, Alaska, Nebraska and Nevada approved amendments in the 1990s and early 2000s. On Nov. 2, amendments were approved by voters in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.
Missouri and Louisiana passed amendments earlier this year. The Louisiana amendment has been overturned by a lower court ruling and is under appeal.

Hollywood Vows to Keep Up Its Leftism

Bad News for Democrats
Hollywood activists vow to keep it up
Tuesday, November 9, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

In the wake of the unexpectedly emphatic Bush victory, Democrats got bad
news from Hollywood. Instead of announcing plans to immigrate to France or
Canada, the leading entertainment industry activists solemnly pledged to
intensify their already impassioned commitment to partisan politics--thereby
greatly complicating Democrats' efforts to shed their elitist image and
reconnect with the American mainstream.
Consider the example of John Cameron Mitchell, flamboyant creator of the
critically acclaimed transsexual musical comedy "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
He traveled to Ohio to get out the vote for John Kerry and refused to feel
discouraged by the disappointing results. "Ultimately, after a period of
depression yesterday, today I feel even more energized!" he proudly told the
New York Times.
Similarly, Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss saw no chance that
Tinseltown campaigners would allow an inconvenient setback like a GOP
victory to cool their ardor for remaking America. In an election-eve
interview on my radio show, Mr. Dreyfuss noted the powerful momentum behind
Mr. Kerry's candidacy and promised that in the unlikely event of a Bush
triumph, the energy would continue to build, leading, inexorably, to the
impeachment of the president.
Michael Moore himself, spiritual leader of pop-culture politicos, composed a
pep talk to his followers under the cheery headline "17 Reasons Not to Slit
Your Wrists." In addition to making predictions that President Bush would
slack off in the second term ("It'll be like everyone's last month in 12th
grade--you've already made it, so it's party time!"), he reminded the
faithful that they had nearly achieved the impossible and shouldn't "stop on
the three yard line."
Despite such confident exhortations, there's scant evidence that the
unprecedented participation of scores of A-list celebrities helped Mr. Kerry
march toward victory. Paul Newman surprised suburban homeowners by walking
precincts in Ohio, and Sean Penn no doubt alarmed voters by going door to
door in New Mexico, but both states wound up in the Republican column.
Despite tireless, all-but-unanimous support for Mr. Kerry from the
show-business elite (Bruce Springsteen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand
and the well-known political theorist Ben Affleck), Mr. Bush actually
improved his electoral performance in 45 of 50 states and even narrowed his
margin of defeat in California.
The relentless "Vote or Die!" jihad of P-Diddy proved no more successful
than amiable enticements by Drew Barrymore in "rocking the vote" with a
tidal wave of new participants at the polls: The 18-to-29 contingent
represented approximately the same percentage of total participation as it
did in 2000.
In fact, the celebrity campaigners who flocked to the Kerry cause presented
a painful dilemma for the Massachusetts senator: With his billionaire wife,
windsurfing hobby and vacation homes in Sun Valley and Nantucket, he hardly
needed further association with "the beautiful people" to emphasize his
distance from everyday Americans.
At a controversial July fund-raiser in Radio City Music Hall, entertainers
like Whoopi Goldberg, Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep and John Leguizamo
delivered bitter, often obscene tirades against the president, after which
Sen. Kerry proudly declared that "every performer tonight . . . conveyed to
you the heart and soul of our country." Mr. Bush promptly (and deftly)
turned that comment against his opponent, noting at frequent campaign stops
(and even in his acceptance speech) that Mr. Kerry thought that you can find
"the heart and soul of America in Hollywood, but I know it is really found
right here in (fill in the blank)."
As Election Day approached, celebrity activists had aroused enough
resentment that they even turned up as sanctimonious villains in the
counterterrorism spoof "Team America: World Police." Puppets representing
Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Samuel L. Jackson and Matt Damon allied
themselves with the puppet version of the diabolical Kim Jong Il, and
suffered decapitation, evisceration and other gruesome fates on
screen--while audiences reportedly roared their approval in multiplexes
across the country.
Despite their popularity as entertainers, these performers maintain at best
a love-hate relationship with the general public (and feed innumerable
tabloids with lurid tales of their personal problems), so their endorsements
of candidates mean almost nothing. Moreover, movies long ago ceased
functioning as a unifying celebration of populist values and now serve a
primarily youthful niche market. Even box-office blockbusters typically draw
only seven million or eight million people on their opening weekends--less
than half the number who listen to Rush Limbaugh in any given week.
If Democrats intend to compete for support in "fly-over country," generating
fresh appeal to hardworking, religiously committed red-state voters who shop
at Wal-Mart without guilt, they must escape their identification as the
party of Beverly Hills dilettantes and self-righteous celebrities. This
means learning to live without Hollywood money, and focusing less obsessive
attention on fighting Ralph Nader (or other radical leaders) for a handful
of high-profile endorsements on the marginal left.
A future standard-bearer might even strengthen his appeal if fashionable
former Naderites like Ms. Sarandon, Michael Moore, Tim Robbins and Peter
Coyote once again abandoned practical politics and embraced a chic, purist
fringe party, leaving the Democrats to compete for the decidedly unglamorous
voters who can actually elect a president of the United States.

Mr. Medved, author of "Right Turns," due from Crown Forum in January 2005,
hosts a nationally syndicated daily radio talk show.

Flu Vaccination Urged for Every Canadian

Health group urges flu shots for all Canadians News Staff
Tue. Nov. 9 2004 9:15 AM ET

All Canadians over the age of six months should be vaccinated against the
flu, a Canadian task force on preventive health care suggests.

In a report published Tuesday, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health
Care for the first time recommends that doctors urge even healthy adults and
children to get annual flu shots.

Right now, health advisory groups recommend the shot to seniors, children
aged six to 23 months, and anyone with a heart or respiratory illness.

However, the influential group of epidemiologists, health-care researchers
and clinicians says a universal vaccination could reduce cases of influenza
by as much as 93 per cent.

"Because influenza occurs yearly and because reinfections occur throughout
the lifespan and affect up to 20 per cent of the population each year,
considerable attention has been directed to the prevention of infection in
healthy people," the group says, in the report published in the Canadian
Medical Association Journal.

It says the benefits include:

Economic benefit in fewer sick days and health care provider visits
A decrease in antibiotic use
Prevention of secondary complications
The harms include:

Some discomfort around the area where the shot was given, for 24 to 48 hours
after vaccination
Rhinorrhea and sore throat in people who receive the nasally-administrered
Nausea and vomiting in recipients of oseltamavir

Dr. Marla Shapiro, a CTV medical correspondent and host of Balance TV, says
what's changed is that the health community is becoming more aggressive
about primary prevention.

"It's important not only to target those who are at high risk," she told CTV

The preventive group does not recommend flu shots to those under the age of
six months, or to anyone who has had an allergic reaction to a previous flu
shot. It also does not recommend it to people who are allergic to eggs or
thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in the flu vaccine.

The group also recommended the use of drugs used to treat influenza, sold
under the brand names Tamiflu and Relenza.

So far, only Ontario and Yukon have universal vaccine programs that offer
free flu shots to their residents. While these programs have not yet been
fully assessed, it was revealed last week that Ontario would launch an
evaluation of the universal vaccine program.

According to a report in The Globe and Mail, vaccinating all 32 million
Canadians would cost about $125 million. This year, about 11 million
Canadians are expected to get the shot, as a cost of $45 million.

The recommendation to expand the flu vaccine program in Canada comes as the
United States struggles with a shortage of the shot, due to problems with
pill production.

The States have turned to Canada for vaccine supplies, and Canadian health
officials have tried to calm fears that stocks of the vaccine would not be
compromised in favour of Americans.

Health Canada estimates that about 10 to 25 per cent of Canadians will get
the flu during flu season, which runs from November to April.

"Although most of these people recover completely, an estimated 500-1,500
Canadians, mostly seniors, die every year from pneumonia related to flu and
many others may die from other serious complications of flu," the Health
Canada website says.