NORTEP, Bodies of Education, and Family History.

The Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) in Saskatchewan, Canada commenced in 1976 to facilitate access to teacher education and certification for northerners, particularly those of Aboriginal ancestry.

It covers tuition costs, books, and a living allowance for students who have lived in the north for 10 years or half their life.

By most accounts, it has been a success. Which is why the recent decision to cut funding to NORTEP and transfer its $3.4 million in funding to another institution, has raised somber questions about the priorities of the Wall government.

According to Saskatchewan’s Advanced Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre, the decision was “about equity … it’s not about necessarily getting rid of the bursary structure.”

Unfortunately, this signals tremendous lack of forethought. The optics are dreadful, especially at a moment when Colton Bushie weighs on the hearts and minds of many in the province. And the decision also carelessly flies in the face of ongoing tragedies in Northern communities, including suicides, shootings, and missing women.

More than that, Saskatchewan has garnered international attention in the pages of The Atlantic magazine for its ground-breaking (but long overdue) approach to Aboriginals in higher education. The NORTEP decision is a step backward.

In short, the long-term benefits of the program should be weighed up more sensibly. Luckily, there are useful historical lessons to draw from.

In June 1987, pennies were being pinched. The “great barbeque was over,” according to the NDP’s Janice McKinnon, and the “bills for the wild spending were coming due.”

The Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) identified the need for a review of the program’s progress. Worried about cuts and reallocations, SUNTEP reached out to experts in education.

One of those was Ruben Richert, a former teacher, principal, and past-president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation. In 1987, he was asked to evaluate the program and produce a report on its sustainability in the province’s educational eco-system.

SUNTEP ran in Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatoon, and operated out of the Gabriel Dumont Institute. For Director James McNinch, it offered a “measure of control and participation in the education of Native teachers and Native children and in the maintenance and affirmation of a cultural identity which prevents assimilation of the minority culture.”

In a period of provincial fiscal restraint, there was significant concern that programs such as SUNTEP might be “erroneously regarded as expendable frills or fringes” and money could be shunted elsewhere.

The 52-page report evaluating SUNTEP determined that the social costs of cuts to the program could be far more expensive in the long-term than the program dollars involved.

A number of recommendations for improvement were made, and the need for introspection was underlined. But the ultimate conclusion held that:

“The question as to whether there is a need for a program like SUNTEP should not have to be asked…We know it is an investment that actually bears interest rather than being a drain on the economy.”

At the time, Grant Devine’s Progressive Conservatives used privatization and public-service reduction to shrink the government. And Devine pointed to the financial necessity of restraint in the province. Over 1,100 civil servants were offered early retirement.

The budget of 1987-88 saw an absolute decline in spending of roughly five percent. Yet, he included an 11 percent increase for education. He did not undermine SUNTEP’s ability to operate at its current service levels.

The NDP often takes credit for SUNTEP and NORTEP, and deservedly so. But it should be noted there was often general bipartisan agreement – if not absolute harmony – about the value of these programs.

This seems far from the case in the present. Budgets have been cut for Saskatoon’s Lighthouse homeless shelter, and the same is true for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program and the general Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP). Pinching pennies is one thing, but as Murray Mandryk argued, it’s wise not to be pound foolish.

If NORTEP plays a role in minimizing alienation and redressing lack of educational options in the North, the program should be maintained.

The 1987 report framed SUNTEP’s usefulness as a minor way of “helping to maintain a culture and heritage and preventing assimilation.”

It wasn’t big money, but the results were important. Much the same can be said of NORTEP. It would be advantageous to let the BBQ continue.

Beyond Vape Fear

Richard Roope, of the RCGP, has recently released a report on e-cigarettes.

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Essentially, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the official channel for General Practice of Medicine in the UK, has given their informed recommendations to health professionals regarding smoking cessation and the use of e-cigarette.

The recommendations:

1. GPs provide advice on the relative risks of smoking and e-cigarette use, and provide effective referral routes into stop smoking services.

2. GPs engage actively with smokers who want to quit with the help of e-cigarettes.

3. Where a patient wants to quit smoking, and has not succeeded with other options, GPs should recommend and support the use of ENDS.

BEGIN DIGRESSION.

[GENEVA – Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), of which electronic cigarettes are the most common prototype, are devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporise a solution the user then inhales. The main constituents of the solution, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavouring agents. ENDS solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants.The World Health Organization (WHO) submitted a report on Electronic nicotine delivery systems to the sixth session of Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP 6), which occured in Moscow, Russian Federation, from 13 to 18 October 2014.]

END DIGRESSION.

4. GPs recognise ENDS offer a wide reaching, low-cost intervention to reduce smoking (especially deprived groups in society and those with poor mental health, both having elevated rates of smoking).

5. All GPs encourage smokers who want to use e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking to seek the support of local stop smoking services.

Harm-reduction has come out on top. Vape Fear has lost this one.

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I have written my fair share about e-cigarettes in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain.

For example:

* ‘Why Aren’t we Regulating E-Cigarettes?,’ Regina Leader-Post [May 16, 2016]

* ‘Let’s Get Proactive with E-cigarettes,’ Saskatoon Star Phoenix [April 24, 2015].

* ‘Lot of Smoke and Mirrors with Vape Policy,’ Saskatoon Star Phoenix [November 28, 2014]

Often, I have suggested a measured response. My sense is, a little bit of regulation can go a long way. Minor rules can make a major difference. Don’t go overboard, but the waters are rough. Vaping should play by the rules, basically.

With my last op-ed back in May, people in Canada weren’t impressed with my approach. Folks were not interested in a middle-ground perspective. Here’s a list of the harshest responses to my articles on vaping. I’m basically the Red Skull mixed with Lex Luthor for suggesting some thoughtful rules might be in order.

1. “Please take the check that you earned from writing this trash and take an ethics course. Or a journalism degree.”

(Uh, I didn’t get paid. Woulda been nice.)

2. “It’s pretty obvious you don’t quite understand how the system works here in Canada…”

(Does anybody. There are no regulations? Ha.)

3. “You help tobacco companies profit from murder.”

(Jeez, really?! C’mon it’s my birthday.)

4. “…governments are making decisions based on MONEY, NOT PUBLIC HEALTH.”

(No comment.)

5. “What tobacco lobbyist wrote this trash?”

(I’m no tobacco lobbyist, but I sure do think they’re funny in the movies. Aaron Eckhart, anyone?)

Anyway, read the piece and decide for yourself. And share. http://leaderpost.com/opinion/columnists/why-arent-we-regulating-e-cigs

Climate change isn’t your fault, by Justin Fisher

This excellent post by Justin Fisher deserves attention! And a big wide audience. Please do take the time to read.

sask climate activist

“You’re part of the problem. You depend on fossil fuels every day.” You hear this a lot when you talk about climate change, especially if you live in a place like Saskatchewan. Whether it’s coming from oil industry PR people, forever-eager online commentators, or even family and friends (the latter two quite expertly influenced by the former), the message is always the same: you’re a hypocrite; we all need fossil fuels to survive and that’s the end of it. It’s a seductive argument, too, because in a sense it’s true. As individuals, we consume massive amounts of energy just surviving, let alone pursuing activities we really enjoy (like, say, travelling). Many of our livelihoods depend on it. But, despite this, you can rest assured – climate change isn’t really your fault. Although oil industry folks love for you to think that it’s all about you, it’s really all about…

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Helping the Body (Politic) by Reforming Donations

Reforming Political Donations: Or How to Slow the Money Train

In Australia, the former prime minister Tony Abbott recently outlined a sweeping plan for reform of the country’s political donations system that would ban payments from unions, companies and overseas donors. “Obviously,” he said, “we don’t want influence buying, we don’t want subversion of our system. The best way to ensure the system is straight and clean is full transparency. The best way to have transparency is to have real-time disclosure, or near-to-real-time disclosure.”

This isn’t a debate unique to the Aussies. Canadians have been forced to engage with this issue in 2016 as well.

There are a number of dynamics at play. In Saskatchewan, discussion has revolved around its Western neighbour. With its oil wealth and booming population growth, Alberta has come to play a much larger role than ever in federal politics. Donations to federal parties in the province, for instance, have more than doubled in the past decade, from $2.3-million in 2004 to $5.5-million in 2014. This is significant.

The bulk of federal party contributions in Alberta still go to the Conservatives. Yet, opposition parties have gradually been gaining financial support in the province. In the 2008 election, for instance, the Conservatives captured 77 per cent of all money raised in Alberta. That had fallen to 66 per cent, or $3.6-million. The Liberals, on the other hand, raised more than $1.3-million in the province in 2014, well short of the Conservatives, but still double what Alberta gave to the Liberals as recently as 2010. The Money Train has carried all sorts of passengers.

Of course, the NDP has been less successful in the province. (Which has partially sparked debate amongst NDPers in Sask.) Even as the provincial New Democrats managed to topple more than 40 years of provincial Progressive Conservative rule in Alberta this year, there was minimal evidence that the federal NDP was winning financial support in the province. In 2014-2015, Mr. Mulcair’s party raised just $582,000 in Alberta. Not tons. For an excellent breakdown of the Money Train’s wending and weaving throughout Canada, see here.

Another question remains: what actually happens that folks donate? The answer, according to one source, rests with the media. Namely, the money goes to ads. “According to expenses reported by the NDP, Liberal and Conservative national campaigns last election, just over half of the money they spent went to advertising.”

“So much of what we learn about political parties now is through the media,” said Harold Jansen, chair of political science at the University of Lethbridge and a researcher on party finance. Political parties have fewer volunteers and fewer members, he noted, so fewer and fewer people have a personal connection to a party than they used to. That is made up by buying ads. “…media matters, and media costs money,” Jansen argued.

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More broadly, weak election finance laws can have a toxic effect on the political process. The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a paper in April 2016 called Financing Democracy: Funding of Political Parties and the Risk of Policy Capture.

“If the financing of political parties and election campaigns is not adequately regulated, money may be a means for powerful special interests to exercise undue influence, and ‘capture’ the policy process,” says the report. This should come as no big surprise.

The surprise, arguably, is that it could happen in Saskatchewan. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Duncan Kinney suggested that Saskatchewan was a Wild West. And he traced some of Premier Brad Wall’s largest corporate donors:

  • Crescent Point: 126,923.67
  • Cenovus: 68,108.06
  • Encana: 50,556.52
  • PCL: 88,817.29
  • PennWest: 83,347.71
  • CAPP: 5,612.33
  • Canadian Energy Pipeline Association: 8,882.40

But the problem went much deeper than out-of-province donations.

Personally, I’m still working out my thoughts on how to maintain the health of the body politic. And I’ll be presenting more ideas about this in the future. Clearly, addressing political donations is a big part of democracy’s health. What are your thoughts?

**

 

Gin, Beer, and Chicken: Hogarth’s Art and More

A new piece of art commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) re-imagines William Hogarth’s classic 1751 cartoon Gin Lane. It depicts a society preoccupied by junk food rather than gin.

This is pretty amazing timing, considering this is the focus of my Disease and Society lecture this week!

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Reimagined Version by Thomas Moore

According to the BBC, the original showed the damaging effects of a gin craze sweeping London as well as a population suffering from deadly infections common at the time. Cholera. Syphilis. You name it. In contrast, Thomas Moore‘s new picture shows how obesity and mental health issues are today’s big health threats.

The updated version shows a mother salivating over yummy junk food, which she is also feeding her child. In contrast, Hogarth’s 18th century version focuses on a mum more interested in gin and snuff, who is suffering from syphilis sores.

Another stark difference is the prominent payday lender shop, replacing the pawnbrokers of 1751. (Just need a betting shop in there!) Moore’s modern version highlights the popularity of high street chicken shops today, while Hogarth’s work shows people almost skeletal with starvation.

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Gin Lane by William Hogarth

And…Beer Lane

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FULL BREAKDOWN OF CHANGES

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The overall scene is the same street as presented in the original, but has been developed and modernized so that it is representative of a typical street scene in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK today.

  1. The central character has been reinvented. Where the original depicts a mother who is drunk and too pre-occupied with taking snuff to care for her baby, Gin Lane 2016 instead shows the mother preoccupied with eating junk food, which she has also fed to her child.
  2. A pawnbroker is one of the significant and thriving businesses in the original piece. In the modern version, this has been replaced by one of the payday lenders which have become a feature of many high streets, and are perhaps a 21st century equivalent. The desperation of one of the customers leaving the payday lender represents the mental ill health associated with debt.
  3. The chicken shop is a representative feature of the obesogenic environment which is at the heart of Gin Lane 2016 – busy, vibrant, and packed full of glum looking customers.
  4. The man contemplating throwing himself off the top of a building is a nod to the original in which a barber is seen hanging, having committed suicide because his customers could no longer afford to have their hair cut. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
  5. The original arch has been converted into Gin Lane tube station, with commuters glued to their smart phones – a depiction of the busy, potentially lonely existence of many Londoners today.
  6. Junk food adverts provide another reflection of the ubiquitous power of marketing in our obesogenic environment.
  7. The distillery from the original piece has become a busy pub, replete with rowdy drunk customers.
  8. A news vendor hands out a paper with another headline about the threat posed by obesity.

Courtesy of https://www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/gin-lane-2016-iconic-artwork-reimagined-for-the-21st-century.html

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My lecture this Friday will definitely be connecting the past with the present…

GIN AND JUICE

 

Yoga Boys, Boys of Yoga

Back in August I wrote about ‘Manly Yoga’ and Bro-Culture. But, having been in the UK for a couple of months now, it seems that yoga for boys is also a thing.

According to The Telegraph, we’ve seen the launches of Broga, a version of the practice adapted to suit our “macho” sensibilities, and, yes, Dirty Yoga, a US-based programme which claims to appeal to men as it allows them to do it “in the privacy of their own home, without the need for mats or gurus.” Both prioritize “rugged” strength and physicality over spirituality.

There are others, and one company is Boys of Yoga.

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And here is its mantra:

Some guys think that yoga makes you less of a man, the truth is it makes you a better one.
Yoga isn’t just for your mom, your sister or your girlfriend anymore
It’s time to smash the stereotype

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They call themselves a “crew” and there’s a section of the website titled “Spiritual Gangster.” The guys are tattooed, bearded, and give off a Vice-like vibe. Similar to “surf, skate and snow sport cultures,” the Boys’ argue, “yoga creates a community of the like-minded. The deeper you go, the more it pulls you in.” This language reminds me of The Godfather. The Boys of Yoga are clearly not the Mafia. But they certainly use a marketing campaign that conjures up such images…

The website features profiles of all the various members of the crew.

Take Kyle Gray, from Scotland:

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Here’s an excerpt from his bio, where he refers to himself as ANGEL GUY . BOOK SCRIBBLER . CHEEKY BASTARD . YOGI.

Is there anything you preach but don’t practice?  Fuck, no. I often say at the end of my yoga classes, “eat lots of chocolate and drink lots of wine” – oops!

We’ve all done a few things we aren’t too proud of, care to share one?  I recently lost my shit at a parking attendant who gave me a ticket while I was helping an 80 year old lady into her car. My ego felt bruised that he could do that while I was being of service. I swore lots and lost my mind for a moment. I got into trouble for it but, more, it was a real lesson for me to stop being so self-important. I’ve since written an apology letter.

What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing?  Strength – my arms were like jello – I could barely hold myself up.

Why did you keep coming back?  The rejuvenating feeling that swirled around me when it was over. That was a triiiip!

What would make you skip practice?  Not waking up in time… I have slept in so many times through morning Ashtanga Mysore class – OOPS!

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A few years back Justin Hakuta asked if yoga had lost its mystique. “Gone are the days,” he wrote, “of the loin clothed yogi meditating alone on a mountaintop, unless of course said loin cloth is made of wickable polyester blend, fits your body like a glove and retails for $100 a pop and the yogi in question has worldwide appearances and a DVD series purchasable on Amazon.com. Oh, and don’t forget to check their Twitter feed.”

Pretty cynical. But there’s truth there, too. It’s a roughly $7 billlion dollar business and we’ve now got ample styles, options, and brands to choose from, including Antigravity Aerial Yoga,laughter yoga, chair yoga, acro yoga, partner yoga, hiking yoga, dog yoga, and, yup, Boys of Yoga.

Yoga has achieved, in short, a level of infamous popularity, mainstream accessibility and frantic commercialization in the West.

Is this a negative? Is this selling out? Or, as Justin Hakuta asked, has yoga lost its soul? That’s up to you.

With the Boys of Yoga, well, they seem pretty soulful to me.

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Here’s an entirely different crew of soulful Boys:

 

Ultrarunning: Nature and Native Americans

Mo Farah, you wuss! It’s time to take it to the next level with ultrarunning. Here’s an excerpt from “Beer, candy fuelled ultrarunner’s record-breaking race,” by Lindsey Crouse.

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At a time when “endurance running” no longer means mere marathons – and even 160-kilometre races are attracting the masses – Karl Meltzer, a former ski-resort bartender, has proved he can suffer longer and faster than almost anyone else. When he staggered onto Springer Mountain in Georgia before dawn Sunday, Meltzer set a record for completing the Appalachian Trail. He covered the 3,524 km over 14 states in 45 days 22 hours 38 minutes.

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As commentator Lindsey Crouse put it, Meltzer, 48, is a little different from other titans of the newly booming ultrarunning scene. He is six years older than Scott Jurek, who was featured in the bestselling book about almost-barefoot endurance running, Born to Run – and who set the former Appalachian Trail record last year (46 days 8 hours 7 minutes).

In a sport checkered with mantras such as “clean living,” Jurek sustained his trek on a vegan diet. Staples of Meltzer’s diet, by contrast, included Red Bull and Tang. Jurek incurred a $500 (U.S.) fine and public outrage for opening Champagne at the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine during his record run. When Meltzer finished on Sunday, he walked down the mountain, sat in a chair and sated himself with pepperoni pizza and a beer. It was the latest milestone in an unusual professional racing career.

Meltzer moved to Utah to ski in 1989 and started running the next year. He came to long-distance racing in his late 20s. Primarily a skier, he worked as a bartender at the Snowbird ski resort but took summers off to run. Now, based in Sandy, Utah, he became an ultrarunner in 1996 after completing a 160-km race nearby in just more than 28 hours. In a sport built on superlatives – faster, longer, more, more, more – his 160-km trail race portfolio is formidable: He has won 38 of them, more than anyone else in the world.

That’s intense.

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What’s the story with Ultras? How it works.

According to the IAAF, ultra races are contested over two different types of race modalities, either over a set distance or a set time. Examples of the former would be 50km, 100km and longer events while illustrations of the latter would be something like 6hr, 24hr, and multi-day events. Both are gaining popularity with the masses and bring their own unique challenges to the racers.

Races are organised on a) trails where athletes get to enjoy the serene environment of a forest. b) track when athletes do not have to venture too far from their start/finish areas and are always within visible region. c) road where athletes can enjoy their road running days and run through both quiet and busy streets. Some ultra races are a combination of two or more of the available terrain, and some also span a few stages and are run over a course of days.

How popular?

As reported by The Guardian, despite the growing interest, the organisation of ultras is still rather disparate, with independent races popping up all over the place, giving the sport a slightly amateurish feel, with camaraderie playing a large part. Some of these are billed as a gentle introduction to ultras. Others, such as Whistler’s Meet your Maker make no bones about what they are: 50 miles of undulating singletrack alpine terrain. So if you really want to run across the US’s national parks, there’s an ultra for you. And if you fancy tackling 4,600m of altitude gain in Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland, you’re in luck.

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“Running has seen tremendous growth in the past 20 years,” says Topher Gaylord of Mountain Hardware, an outdoor equipment company that has turned its attention to ultras enthusiastically. “There’s been a tenfold increase in trail events, and the events have seen a massive rise in participation because it’s such a natural way to engage with the environment.”

Nature and Native Americans

Often, the discussion around modern ultrarunning in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent, Canada) revolves around nature and the ways in which Indigenous peoples ran, and ran, and ran some more…

As Andy Milloy phrased it “In the Beginning: Native Americans,” without horses, using only dogs as pack animals, Native Americans were conditioned to cover great distances on foot from an early age. It was recorded that Apache Indians, who were renowned for their toughness, at the age of 15 or 16 had to undertake a long run over rough country carrying a load on their back. Young men would be expected to go without sleep in a vigil that could last 48 hours. They then were required to go out into the wilds for two weeks, living through their own skill and toughness. An adult Apache could travel on foot over the roughest terrain from fifty to seventy-five miles a day, keeping this up for several days at a stretch.

Outstanding runners in such a culture would become key figures in holding together widespread associations, such as the Iroquois Confederacy, or even loose groupings of proximal tribes, by carrying news and other urgent messages. A typical example of the role such runners played is recorded in Peter Nobokov’s excellent book “Indian Running.” In the 1860s a messenger runner of the Mesquakie tribe in his mid-fifties ran 400 miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin to warn Sauk Indians along the Missouri River of an enemy attack. Such messenger runners were probably part of the culture of the Sauk, Creek, Omaha, Kickapoo, Osage, and Menominee tribes, and possibly many others. Such runners dedicated their lives to this endeavour, following a strict diet and often practicing celibacy. On their runs they would carry a dried buffalo heart.

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Cocaine Fury

It was tight. It was very, very close. However, Colombians rejected a peace deal to end 52 years of war with Farc guerrillas, throwing the country into confusion about its future. With counting completed from 98% of polling stations, the no vote led with 50.23% to 49.76%, a difference of 61,000 votes. Not much.

According to the major news sources, including the Guardian, The verdict on the deal between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc means it cannot now be implemented. Polls before the vote predicted that the yes camp would win with a comfortable 66% share. Santos had been confident of a yes result and said during the campaign that he did not have a plan B and that Colombia would return to war if the no vote won. His opponents, led by former president Alvaro Uribe, said a win for their side would be a mandate for the government and rebels to negotiate a “better agreement”.

The Deal

Under the agreement rejected by voters, the Farc’s 5,800 fighters and a similar number of urban militia members would have disarmed and become a legal political party. Whether or when that will happen now is unknown.The deal would have allowed rebel leaders to avoid jail if they confessed to their crimes such as killings, kidnappings, indiscriminate attacks and child recruitment, something that many Colombians found hard to swallow.

At the same time, Sunday’s outcome amounts to a setback for the United States and the Obama administration, which had backed Santos and pledged to boost U.S. aid to Colombia by nearly 50 percent, to $450 million a year. The fate of that funding proposal is now up in the air.

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1979

 

The Future

After nearly six years of negotiations, many handshakes and ceremonial signatures, Colombia’s half-century war that has killed 220,000 and displaced 7 million is not over.

“I am the first to recognize the result,” said President Juan Manuel Santos in a televised address, flanked by members of the government peace negotiating team, who looked stunned. “Now we have to decide what path to take so that peace will be possible. . . . I won’t give up.”

Bernard Aronson, the U.S. special envoy for the peace process, talked with Colombia’s ambassador in an emergency meeting Sunday night. “We believe Colombians want peace, but clearly they are divided about terms of settlement,” he told the Washington Post. “We will continue to support Colombian authorities as they try to build a lasting peace with justice and security.”

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In other cocaine news:

Tyson Fury

The world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who last week pulled out of his proposed rematch with Wladimir Klitschko citing mental health issues, has allegedly tested positive for cocaine. Fury, who holds the WBA and WBO world titles, was informed last Thursday night that his A sample from a random urine test on 22 September had tested positive for the substance benzoylecgonine, the central compound found in cocaine. Fury pulled out of the rematch a day after the test.

After the initial postponement, Fury was pictured shortly afterwards buying England fans alcohol in France at Euro 2016. In the past, the boxer has publicly hinted at taking the drug, in addition to his mental health. Speaking last April on the topic of his depression, Fury stated:  “It’s either high or low. I’m either off my head on cocaine or down on the floor from a tranquiliser injection. Most of the time, I’m just down and depressed like today, because for every high there’s a low.”

Fury’s WBA, WBO and IBF belts could be on the line if the allegations are confirmed.  He later tweeted a picture of himself in Tony Montana’s chair.

“Say hello to my little friend!”

scarface

 

Sources:

Business Insider, The Guardian, The Independent, Washington Post, and Time

Cocaine and Colombia

The first line of a recent Washington Times story about cocaine in Colombia spells the country incorrectly. ‘Ninety-five percent of the cocaine sold on the streets of the United States today comes from Columbia.’ Don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes. But c’mon. Really? Then, the rest of the article mixes the spellings.

It’s weird.

Here’s what’s going on, according to the Economist:  “In October some 200 FARC troops here, like up to 15,000 of their comrades across the country, will assemble at a designated area and start putting their weapons into containers under the watchful eyes of a UN mission that will later supervise their destruction. ‘There’s optimism, but there’s also a lot of mistrust,’ says a burly man who is the civilian leader in the FARC territory and gives his name as ‘Grossman.’

The FARC’s disarmament and conversion into a political party is the crux of a peace agreement forged over four years of hard talking in Havana and signed in Cartagena on September 26th. It is not quite true to say, as Juan Manuel Santos, the president, told the UN General Assembly on September 21st, that ‘the war in Colombia is over.’ There are other illegal armed groups. But the struggle between the FARC and the state, exacerbated in earlier years by right-wing paramilitaries, was by far the biggest conflict. It was responsible for most of the 220,000 deaths due to conflict and thousands of kidnappings seen over the past five decades. It displaced perhaps 6m people.

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The agreement comprises 297 dense pages. It is of enormous complexity and involves controversial trade-offs, especially between peace and justice. Politically, if not legally, it can only come into effect if it is ratified by Colombian voters in a plebiscite on October 2nd. Polls suggest that around 60% of those that turn out will vote Yes. But will enough do so to meet the minimum 4.5m votes (13%) campaign in which the naysayers, inspired by Álvaro Uribe, a former president, accuse Mr Santos of selling out democracy and claim he could and should have struck a harder bargain. The Yes campaign counters that its opponents really favour war.”

Essentially, this was the best deal that could be struck.

Even the conservative Washington Times, which can’t even spell the country’s name properly, agrees.

“The White House, the Drug Enforcement Administration, State Department and Department of Defense all have means to coordinate with and assist Colombia in fighting drugs. It’s time to recognize the FARC peace deal for what it is — necessary but dangerous — and take steps to avoid the growth of a narco-state in Colombia that could well fuel a drugs-and-crime epidemic in the United States.”

With all the discussion over Donald Trump’s cocaine habit, Colombian policy seemed particularly relevant!

Here’s a classic!

 

 

THE FUTURE OF UK MEDICAL MARIJUANA REMAINS BLURRY

BUT THERE ARE LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY FROM CANADA

From 2014–2016, Canadian health authorities were forced to address the issue of medical marijuana, even as activist groups and industry sought to influence the decision-making process and its place in the medical marketplace. First, the system was privatized, then issues of use and access, not to mention the full-on legalization of recreational marijuana, dominated headlines.

In light of last week’s shocking medical marijuana report, the policy debate will certainly grow more heated here in the UK. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform stated there is “good evidence” cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of several health conditions, including chronic pain and anxiety. According to Prof Mike Barnes, a leading consultant neurologist who contributed to the report, “We must legalise access to medical cannabis as a matter of urgency.”

In a recently co-edited series on Canadian cannabis called Waiting to Inhale, it became clear that medical marijuana was a supremely complex policy issue. Some of the questions included, but were not limited to, the tenuous balance between consumers and regulators, Canadian physicians as unwanted gatekeepers, marijuana as a measure (and potential leveller) of inequities, and the major struggles between Big Cannabis and craft cannabis.

Looking ahead, the UK can learn lessons from other countries, including Canada.

Background: Canadian medical cannabis

Medical marijuana has been available in Canada since 2001, after the Canadian Court of Appeal declared that sufferers from epilepsy, AIDS, cancer and other ailments had a constitutional right to light up. Prohibition of this “medicine” was, in short, unconstitutional.

The original regulation that allowed patients to access medical marijuana in Canada was enacted in 2001 and called the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). It allowed patients to possess dried marijuana flower/bud with a license issued by the government, provided that the application was signed off by a physician.

One strain of medicine was available for purchase from one single government supplier, Prairie Plant Systems, but optional licenses were available for patients to grow their own plants or to designate a grower to supply medicine to them.

The MMAR was repealed and replaced by the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), enacted on Apr. 1, 2014. With this, medical marijuana was officially opened for business. And the new rules generated a craze as dozens of new entrants jumped into the marketplace.

As of Aug. 24, 2016 the MMPR was replaced with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR). These new regulations included legislation that satisfied the latest Supreme Court decision to allow patients who possess a prescription from a doctor to grow their own medicine.

During this period, certain problems have hindered the medical marijuana industry’s growth in Canada, and Britain could learn from these.

Dispensaries vs. Big Cannabis

These stores and clubs are illegal because they procure and sell their products outside the federal medical marijuana system, which was overhauled and expanded last year to allow industrial-scale production of pot products that are mailed directly to licensed patients.

The pushback against dispensaries has come from national and local law enforcement as well as the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association. Yet, the Cannabis Growers of Canada, a trade association representing “unlicensed” growers and dispensaries, have fought to be included at the table. Along with several other organizations, the CGC has lobbied the government to be included in the new legal regime.

As the New York Times put it, “a lobbying battle is raging between the new entrepreneurs and the licensed medical marijuana producers, who were the only ones allowed to grow and provide the plant under the old regulations. One side complains about being shut out by a politically connected cartel, while the other complains about unfair and damaging competition from those who are breaking the law.”

Physicians

Medical marijuana has not approved as a medicine by Health Canada, although there is a growing body of clinical evidence regarding its pain-alleviating effects.

As such, physicians in Canada have struggled with the science and ethics of medical marijuana. At the 147th annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association in Ottawa last August, many doctors expressed serious reservations about prescribing marijuana.

Some doctors said they felt threatened or intimidated into signing prescriptions, whereas others felt as though patients were shopping for doctors. Worst of all, there were reported cases of malfeasance, where doctors charged their patients for a prescription.

The result is that the CMA remains divided on, if not outright opposed to, being the gatekeepers of medical marijuana.

Workplace Safety and Performance

With more relaxed rules around medical marijuana (along with federal legislation looking to legalize cannabis),employers are wondering whether this will grow as an issue when it comes to pre-employment or on-the-job testing.

Aside from certain industries, such as transportation, most provinces don’t have clear policies or precedents for dealing with medical marijuana.

Besides that, workplace screening of marijuana is a mediocre indicator of performance in the workplace as it doesn’t actually test for impairment. Rather, it tests for by-products excreted from the body after the drug’s been ingested.

Looking ahead, human resource departments will be forced to develop a raft of new policies.

Veterans

The core problem rests with the amount of cannabis veterans are authorized to take. In 2014, Veterans Affairs doubled the amount to 10 grams per day for eligible veterans. Yet, this is twice the amount Health Canada considers safe.

An internal Health Canada document showed that more than five grams has the potential to increase risks to the cardiovascular, pulmonary and immune systems, as well as psychomotor performance and has a chance of increasing the risk of drug dependence.

Ferguson’s office could not find any evidence to support this decision to increase the threshold. Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr expressed shock in March that his department lacked an “informed policy” on the use of medical cannabis, even as the number of claims by veterans for medical marijuana grew more than tenfold over the past two years.

Vaping

The intersection of vaping and medical marijuana has also caused tension. As vaping has moved from a niche presence to mainstream practice, its unregulated nature – at the federal level – poses problems to policy-makers.

For example, the Ontario government exempted medical marijuana users in mid-November from a law that bans the use of e-cigarettes anywhere regular cigarettes are prohibited. These regulations were set to come into effect Jan. 1. This exemption meant medical marijuana users could vape in restaurants, at work or on playgrounds. However, Ontario’s associate health minister Dipika Damerla stated that the government would remove the exemption.

Local governments in various cities recently voted to implement a vaping bans in public spaces, with only a vape shop exemption predicated on “safety” concerns, specifically for the uninitiated e-cigarette user who doesn’t know how to install batteries in the device. But it was also predicated on the notion that buyers should be able to see what they’re getting, which is the same argument made by authorized medical cannabis users about the value of a local pot dispensary.

The Future

Marijuana remains a highly contested medicine for various scientific, political and social reasons. That is obvious.

Policy makers from government, industry leaders, and physicians will face considerable question marks. Cutting through all the haze won’t be an easy task, yet all participants, including the public, would be wise to use recent examples from Canada to light the way.