Trudeaumania Part Deux?

Last night Justin Trudeau led the Liberal Party of Canada to an amazing and unexpected win, going from 34 seats in Parliament to a majority of 184 seats. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper led his party to complete failure, losing 67 seats to come out of the election with only 99 seats in the 42nd Parliament of Canada. There was also bad news for the New Democratic Party, which went from having 103 seats and the position of official opposition to the third place party with just 44 seats.

In 1968, Justin Trudeau’s father ignited a similar phenomenon when he became the leader of the Liberal Party. Considered one of Canada’s most prolific Prime Ministers, Pierre Trudeau is forever remembered for many key decisions made that changed the face of Canada.

Pierre                  (Pierre Trudeau, 1960s)

So is this Trudeamania part deux? When Justin Trudeau won the party leadership on April 14 2013 many Canadians thought that he was perhap riding on his father’s coattails and banking in on the Trudeau name. He was considered too young and too inexperienced to be the leader of the party. Even in the 2015 Federal election, the Conservatives generated attack ads that implied repeatedly that he was too young and too inexperienced to lead the country.

A former teacher who also studied engineering, first came into Canadian politics on October 14 2008 when he was first elected MP in the riding of Papineau – taking the seat from an incumbent Bloc Quebecois party member. He was appointed the Liberal cirtic for multiculturalism and youth, later the critic for youth, citizenship and immigration.

After winning re-election in 2011, where his party performed dismally and became the third party in parliament, not even the official opposition, he was appointed the critic of post-secondary education, youth and amateur sport. He also took our Senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match.

Trudeau                                (Justin Trudeau)

Yet between the time of his party leadership win in 2013 and his election as Prime Minister on October 19 2015, Trudeau has shown himself to be a capable leader. He wasn’t just banking on name recognition – he was showing himself to be different than his father with his own strengths. He demonstrated repeatedly his knowledge and ability to debate during the many debates leading up to the election of the 42nd Parliament. He took those two years and listened and learned.

Now we have to see if he will be able to govern. You can never know for sure how someone will do with the Prime Minister position. Clearly, Canadians think he isn’t too young or inexperienced. His party shockingly won a majority in a race that was for most of the campaign considered nearly a three way tie. His upset was historic and amazing to watch unfold, starting with capturing the entire east coast, then ridings which had not gone Liberal in five decades, then capturing at least one seat in every province and all three territories.

Good luck, Trudeau.

Outlaw Abortions

Many people advocate for the criminalisation of abortion, some going so far as to want it illegal even in cases of rape/incest, or health risks to the mother. Poland has those restrictions in place and rather than the abortion rate falling, it is “flourishing” in the private sector, by private physicians, who are more than happy to perform them for more money. There is so accountability when it comes to cost or quality of care. Or, these women elect to go abroad to a country which does permit abortion. Summary: criminalising abortion does not stop abortion. It does not stop women from finding people willing to perform them. It’s not the most effective route to stopping abortion.

From Science Daily, “Clandestine abortions generate up to $95 million a year for Polish doctors as women use illegal private sector”:

“A new analysis published by the UK journal Reproductive Health Matters shows that the criminalisation of abortion in Poland has led to the development of a vast illegal private sector with no controls on price, quality of care or accountability. Since abortion became illegal in the late 1980s the number of abortions carried out in hospitals has fallen by 99%. The private trade in abortions is, however, flourishing, with abortion providers advertising openly in newspapers.

Women have been the biggest losers during this push of abortion provision into the clandestine private sector. The least privileged have been hardest hit: in 2009 the cost of a surgical abortion in Poland was greater than the average monthly income of a Polish citizen. Low-income groups are less able to protest against discrimination due to lack of political influence. Better-off women can pay for abortions generating millions in unregistered, tax-free income for doctors. Some women seek safe, legal abortions abroad in countries such as the UK and Germany.”

Now let’s look to Peru where similar restrictions are in place and are also ineffective according to a fairly comprehensive study.

“Peru Study Shows Restrictive Law Fails to Limit Number of Abortions”:

“Despite abortion being severely legally restricted – and potentially unsafe – in Peru, the incidence of abortion is as high as or higher than the incidence in many countries where it is legal and safe, found researchers from Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States in an article published in CMAJ.

Clandestine induced abortion is a significant public health issue in many countries where access to abortion is severely legally restricted. Abortions are often available only in cases of rape or incest or when a pregnancy threatens the health or life of the woman, causing many women to pursue clandestine abortions, which are often unsafe. Forty percent of women live in countries where abortions are legally restricted.

As comprehensive official statistics are lacking, this study provides valuable public health data.

The researchers conducted a population-based survey of almost 8000 women aged 18-29 years in 20 Peruvian cities. They found that 11.6% of women reported having abortions and 7.5% of sexually experienced 18-year-olds – the youngest age surveyed – reported having had abortions.”

More than 10% of Peru’s female population, according to the study, have had abortions even though there are strict laws in place. Simply put, laws don’t work. Government intervention and prohibition don’t work. As soon as abortion is criminalised, black market abortions become available. It’s not much different than what you see happening with the continued illegal status of street drugs. There’s always going to be a market for abortion and when government butts their head into something they should not be concerned with, other alternatives become readily available – but with a twist. There is no stopping people under the legal age or the necessity of parental consent. There is no accountability for the quality care or even proof of a physician’s license. The cost is no longer controlled. Criminalising abortion is basically offering the public a chance for free-for-all abortions that will be available and likely lead to infections, death, permanent damage, and so forth. Statistics show those dangers aren’t enough to stop a woman from accessing illegal abortion.

The Vaccine Dissociation

Hanging around political discussion forums you hear the usual conspiracy theories about vaccinations. They cause autism. They cause dementia. The virus is actually going to infect you and make you sick. So forth – basically a lot of hogwash not supported by science.

Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy tout their crazy nonsense about vaccines causing autism in particular. In her case, her many books and speeches on the topic entrance too many parents to follow her lead with crazy therapeutic decisions on ‘curing’ autism ’caused’ by vaccines.

Basically, crazy theories like using chelation therapy flourish through ignorance and listening to uneducated ‘activists’. Forget the fact someone like McCarthy has a non-existent medical background and believes in highly controversial therapies and treatment protocols shown ineffective by medical professionals and scientists.

It is people like McCarthy and the beliefs of those people that are causing normally rational parents to question their healthcare providers over routine vaccinations for children. A recent study found that more parents are refusing to vaccinate their children due to poor communication with their physicians and ‘concerns’ about the ‘risk’ of vaccination.

The World Health Organization estimates that somewhere between 2 and 3 million people die each year in the world due to lack of access to vaccinations – a large majority of those deaths are children. Spoiled westerners should realise that they’re lucky to even have the option of saving their child from diseases and illnesses which can be fatal but which are entirely preventable.

Early Exposure to SSRIs

There was an interesting study published on Science Daily this week about the use of SSRIs during a woman’s pregnancy. It’s vital for research to be performed on this subject as there are many women who can’t cope without their medications for 9 months (or more if breastfeeding) and those who develop depression or anxiety while pregnant.

“The results of the six-year study appear early online Dec. 19, 2014 in the peer-reviewed journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

SSRIs like Prozac and Lexapro act by blocking the actions of a protein called the serotonin transporter, which removes the neurotransmitter serotonin from the signaling space between neurons. Andrews and her team also studied mice that had been genetically engineered to have a reduction or absence of serotonin transporters in the brain. They were able to compare early antidepressant exposure to permanent reductions in serotonin transporter function.

Genetic reductions in serotonin transporters are thought to be a risk factor, particularly when combined with stressful life experiences, for developing anxiety and mood disorders. And in fact, the genetically engineered mice Andrews studied showed more anxiety as adults.

“It might be possible that when mothers are treated for depression or anxiety during pregnancy that certain SSRIs may promote resilience to developing these disorders in children later in life,” Andrews said. “However, it will take much more research for us to understand whether this is true and whether certain SSRIs may be better at promoting these effects.”‘

It is an interesting study that compliments an earlier post of mine about the versatility of SSRIs. If mothers taking SSRIs during pregnancy has the effect of making their offspring less likely to experience depression or anxiety than that is a huge find and runs contrary to the opinions of many regarding the use of antidepressants during pregnancy.

Of course, a six year study isn’t long enough to truly determine the long-term effects of SSRIs on infants in the womb; anything that messes around with neurotransmitters and especially during pregnancy needs to have a study of massive proportions over a time period that lasts until at least age 20 of the children.

Still, for all of the people screaming angrily about the use of antidepressants this seems like more evidence that we can’t jump to conclusions about the use of them, what the long-term effects might be and whether they could be positive.


Global Feminism

Global feminism or feminism without borders is the idea of bringing light to the issues of women across all cultures, across all borders, where violence towards women is rampant and significant. In an article originally posted on The Lancet, the rate of violence across the world is discussed:

“Current efforts to prevent violence against women and girls are inadequate, according to a new Series published in The Lancet. Estimates suggest that globally, 1 in 3 women has experienced either physical or sexual violence from their partner, and that 7% of women will experience sexual assault by a non-partner at some point in their lives.

Yet, despite increased global attention to violence perpetrated against women and girls, and recent advances in knowledge about how to tackle these abuses (Paper 1, Paper 3), levels of violence against women — including intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and forced marriages — remain unacceptably high, with serious consequences for victims’ physical and mental health. Conflict and other humanitarian crises may exacerbate ongoing violence.

Between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with more than 3 million girls at risk of the practice every year in Africa alone. Some 70 million girls worldwide have been married before their eighteenth birthday, many against their will (Paper 1, Paper 5).

The article also discusses what might help the situation, or what is already in place that is supposed to be helping these women:

“Globally, one in three women will experience intimate partner and/or sexual violence by non-partners in their lifetime, which shows that more investment needs to be made in prevention. We definitely need to strengthen services for women experiencing violence, but to make a real difference in the lives of women and girls, we must work towards achieving gender equality and preventing violence before it even starts,” explains Series co-lead Professor Charlotte Watts, founding Director of the Gender Violence and Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK. “No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls. But evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behaviours are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation.”

Ultimately, say the authors, working with both the perpetrators of violence (men and boys) and women and girls will be essential to achieve lasting change, by transforming deeply entrenched societal norms on gender relations and the insidious belief that women are inferior (Paper 3).”

If you read on, there is sort of a 5 point plan involving government involvement to address the issue, a change in discriminatory structures, integrating education and healthcare initiatives, promoting of equality and researching the most effective ways to deal with the true war on women.

The rate of violence towards women globally is much higher than in OECD countries, or first world countries as they might be called. I think it’s the duty of all women to stand up against the violence and to also stand up for those who are unable to in countries where they are most effected by causes of violence, such as inequality or cultural reasons.

Screw American politicians; they bitch and moan about a war on women that they distort for their own purposes. The war on women has nothing to do with abortion, birth control or reproductive rights;  those may be issues that are very important, but the real war on women is the rampant abuse of them. Forget reproductive freedoms – let’s try to make women safe first. Make them free to live their lives as free from violence as possible.


Smart, or Sexy?

In an op-ed by Carol Costello on CNN’s website the question is raised about whether a female would rather be smart or sexy – and it’s an interesting question.

When you look at a lot of female role models that are in the spotlight it has to be acknowledged that they are famous mostly because of how they look. Actresses, models, musicians – very few are unattractive or what might be called “unconventional looking” (a polite way of saying not a sex bomb). Absolutely many of them could also be extremely intelligent, as well, but that’s not what they’re famous for. It’s not why Maxim and People dedicate entire issues to who are the sexiest among them.

When you ask young women about females they’d like to emanate, you don’t get many people saying Eileen Pollack, Marie Currie or Rosalind Franklin. They probably don’t even know who those women are. But they do know who Gisele Bündchen is or Jennifer Lawrence are.

Young women are especially prone to think of beauty as more important than brains. From the time you first start watching television, playing video games, or listening to music you get inundated with images of women that make you want to be pretty. Women literally change their bodies with plastic surgery to try and have features directly drawn from the famous, beautiful women we see on televisions and the internet.

I am sure if you ask a man whether he would honestly want someone sexy or someone smart you’d get a mixed bag of answers. Smart is sexy, some might say. Or why can’t they want both? Or, plenty of sexy people have brains. But to easily influenced women and adolescents in particular the question seems more of an “either or” situation. Do little girls think they can be both?

The article brings up the Big Bang Theory, which actually has women characters who are scientists and incredibly intelligent. But who really wants to be Amy or Bernadette? Penny is sexy, uneducated and gets the guy who isn’t Howard or Sheldon (let’s face it – those guys would make very irritating boyfriends).

All my life I have seen women choose between sexy and smart. It became especially noticeable in high school. Some of my closest friends dumbed themselves down for male attention or their boyfriends. Heaven forbid you be smarter than your boyfriend. And really let’s be honest here – the geeky (codeword for smart) girls never got that much attention from the hot guys that only dated the popular girls.

So, an interesting question it poses.

Growing up Traumatized

An article in Science Daily highlights the trouble with growing up these days.

“Nearly half of all children in the United States are exposed to at least one social or family experience that can lead to traumatic stress and impact their healthy development — be it having their parents divorce, a parent die or living with someone who abuses alcohol or drugs — increasing the risk of negative long-term health consequences or of falling behind in school, suggests new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For the study, Bethell and her colleagues analyzed data from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, a survey of parents of 95,677 children under 17 from throughout the United States. The survey included questions about nine adverse childhood experiences as reported by parents: extreme economic hardship, parental divorce/separation, lived with someone with a drug or alcohol problem, witness or victim of neighborhood violence, lived with someone who was mentally ill or suicidal, witnessed domestic violence, parent served time in jail, treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity and the death of a parent. The survey includes myriad data on family and neighborhood environments and parental well-being in addition to children’s schooling and medical care, and contains some data about child resilience.

The study found that more than 22 percent of children represented in the survey had two or more of these traumatic childhood experiences. Broken down by state, Utah had the lowest number of children experiencing two or more traumatic experiences (16.3 percent) while Oklahoma had the highest (32.8 percent).”

Children who experience trauma early in their lives are much more likely to have a mental illness, learning disorder, have to repeat grades in school, and more.

People want to call this the most selfish and weak generation ever, yet manage to willfully ignore that it’s also the generation facing some of the worst environments to grow up since the great depression. Often those environments are created by parents who are the same ones complaining about the ‘me’ generation.

The article definitely gives you something to think about when it comes to child development. It could have wide implications for parents and educators, possibly helping in preventing suicide or violence.

Oldest Cancer Case

A group of researchers have found the oldest case of cancer, 4500 years ago, according to an article by CBC News.The group of researchers included a Canadian from Saskatchewan. The remains were found in Siberia.

“A group of researchers, including a Saskatchewan scientist, have found what may be the oldest case of human cancer in the world.

Bones of a man exhumed in Siberia that date back 4,500 years to the Early Bronze Age show he had lung or prostate cancer, which eventually spread through his body from his hip to his head. He died between 35 and 45 years old.

ancient-cancer(Image courtesy of Angela Lieverse/University of Saskatchewan/The Canadian Press)

“This is one of — if not the oldest — absolute cases of cancer that we can be really, really confident saying that it’s cancer,” said Angela Lieverse, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

She said there have been similar cancer discoveries in remains estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old. But those involved unconfirmed cancers or tumours that were later found to be benign.”

It’s a pretty interesting article about the discovery, hypothesizing that smoke inhalation from starting fires caused the cancer. It also explains how the researchers and scientists were able to identify that this was a case of cancer rather than something else.


“I have often been asked why, as a man, I create films that empower and focus on women. Frankly, I wasn’t always aware of the myriad societal forces women had to wrestle with from a young age. To paraphrase feminist activist Gail Dines, women are aware from adolescence that they have two options: either be sexually desirable or be invisible.

The first two films from the America the Beautiful documentary series touch on the ideas of beauty politics, eating disorders, media influence, and gender dynamics. But America the Beautiful III: The Sexualization of Our Youth is by far the most personal of my documentary films.

The third installment of America the Beautiful explores the sexualization of our youth and its harrowing consequences as adolescents grow into adulthood. When you look at the current hysteria surrounding the photograph of Kim Kardashian’s behind, it’s obvious that there’s a dark underbelly leading us to question our cultural landscape.”

This is an excerpt from an article by Darryl Roberts on the website the Daily Beast. It discusses what parents currently think, what parents can do and what they are doing to combat the ability of media to influence their child and how their child reacts to those influences.

Obviously teenagers will be curious sexually and sometimes about their own sexuality. The message being sent by the media and their peers is often a disturbing one, a hypersexual and oversexualized idea of what society and culture consider appropriate behaviour. Girls especially feel defined by their sexuality or feel pressured to mimic what they see and hear. It can also have an impact on their self-esteem and self-worth if they feel they don’t measure up to what they view as normal body proportions.

Pornography is one way in which teenagers get a distorted view of what sexuality is and how they should expect sexual experimentation to go, without realising the highly fictionalized and unrealistic behaviours demonstrated in pornography.

Beauty pageants, where parents often live vicariously through their children, is another example of oversexualizing children. Many parents, however, see no issue with dressing their young daughter up as a tiny version of Miley Cyrus. How they miss the implications, who knows.

Is there a solution to this issue? The article argues that the solution lies in parents and I would argue it also lies with educators. Adults need to be there to explain what is fictionalized or unrealistic. They need to be there to explain that being beautiful is not the only job of a young woman. They need to explain that beauty is individual, not just about looks, and certainly not limited to being drastically underweight. They need to be there to recognize the signs of a child or teenager suffering from low self-esteem or eating disorders and get treatment promptly.

Multi-purpose Antidepressants

SSRIs are the third most commonly prescribed medication with researchers saying that between 8 to 10 percent of the United States population is taking an SSRI. The most common are Fluoxetine (Prozac), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Sertraline (Zoloft).

In an article in this month’s issue of Scientific American MIND, it discusses that the use of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). The use of SSRIs is broadening from not just treating mental illnesses but also for applications that are far reaching such as diabetic neuropathy, to deficits caused by stroke and premature ejaculation.

The FDA approved indications for these medications has expanded rapidly since the introduction of Prozac in December of 1987. In the beginning this class of medications was primarily for affective disorders like major depression/unipolar disorder. It soon expanded to include anxiety disorders like OCD, eating disorders and panic disorder. By 2005 they had also become approved for use in treating PTSD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, social phobia and social anxiety.

Fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, migraines, arthritis and many other syndromes and symptoms have been either investigated or currently are under investigation for treatment by SSRIs.

You can even prescribe Prozac to an anxious dog or cat with separation anxiety.

SSRIs get a bad rap by the general public because there is the risk of suicidal ideation, especially in those who take it for existing depression or anxiety. They can also accidentally reveal someone diagnosed with depression as having bipolar disorder as SSRIs can trigger episodes of mania. All pharmaceuticals have the potential for bad side-effects but by far antidepressants have one of the worst reputations in modern medicine by the general public, but not by physicians.

It doesn’t help that the mechanism of antidepressants and similar psychotropic drugs is not always known. Viagra started out as a blood pressure medication and went on to become something much different – it seems that SSRIs are going in that same direction with physicians finding more and more indications for use.

Perhaps the image of SSRIs will improve as more uses are discovered, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Bringing Paxil Back