CAROL OFF: Hello, I'm Carol.
JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening, I'm Jeff Douglas. This is As It Happens.
CO: The acquittal doesn't erase the anguish. Three rail workers are found not guilty of criminal negligence for the deadly disaster in Lac Mégantic. But the lawyer for the train's engineer says his client is still devastated.
JD: Going without the flow. Cape Town, South Africa is in the grip of a drought so severe that it threatens the city's water supply — and the taps could run dry within 90 days.
CO: Gory details. A new study shows how a promising experimental blood test might enable doctors to detect cancers at an early stage. One of the authors explains the results so far.
JD: He tried to wipe the record clean and now he has a record. The chief of staff for former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is found guilty for deleting e-mails after the cancellation of two major gas-fired power plants.
CO: Apostro-catastrophe. His country is switching from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, and if the president of Kazakhstan gets his way, there will be an explosion of apostrophes — which is giving linguist's there a lot of painful contractions.
JD: And…A sight of sore ice. To express his anger to City Hall, a Toronto restaurant owner puts a big ice sculpture outside his place. It's a hand with the middle finger extended and its central point is clear. As It Happens: The Friday Edition. Radio that predicts problems on the temperature reaches the single digits.
[Music: Theme]Back To Top »
Part 1: Lac-Mégantic Verdict, Gas Plant Ruling, Kit Kat Restaurant Owner
Guest: Thomas Walsh
JD: It has been four and a half years since a runaway train hurdled into Lac Mégantic and exploded, killing 47 people in the small Quebec town. Today a jury in Sherbrooke found three men charged with criminal negligence causing death not guilty. Thomas Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre — they were all employees of Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway. Immediately after the verdict came down Mr. Labrie addressed reporters.
RICHARD LABRIE: Speaking in French.
JD: That was former rail traffic controller Richard Labrie saying quote “To the 47 victims and all the residents of Lac Mégantic, I hope that you got the answers you were hoping through this process. Despite the fact that I have never spoken to them, I always thought of you all.” Thomas Walsh is the lawyer for Thomas Harding, the train's engineer, also acquitted today. We reached Mr. Walsh in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
CO: Mr. Walsh, you just heard Richard Labrie come out of the courtroom, very emotional when he spoke to reporters. You told the journalists that your own client, Thomas Harding, would not be coming out to speak. Why not?
THOMAS WALSH: In fact, Mr. Labrie was very emotional, Mr. Harding was unfortunately too emotional. He couldn't get a word out with us and he had trouble standing on his two feet. So he was afraid that he would mess it up or say something the wrong way and so we just did it. I think he was too profoundly moved by the situation to say what he wanted to say.
CO: And what were his emotions, what did he tell you? Was he able to express how he felt about this not guilty verdict?
TW: Well, the thing is is that his feeling all through this is that he is responsible in an important way. He has an important part of the responsibility for this tragedy, which we've admitted from the beginning, and that is that the train wasn't secured according to all of the regulations of the company so that there was not a perfect compliance. And that was basically our argument in front of the jury, that he complied with so many things, other than that particular point. The rest of his conduct, before and after the tragedy, reflected, basically, the mind and the makeup of a person who wasn't criminally negligent. So we simply asked the jury to judge him by his conduct in the context of the rest of his conduct and in the context of his character as an individual. And that's what they were able to do.
CO: Because there weren't enough brakes applied the train did roll back into Lac Megantic.
TW: And that's the proof of the fact that the that the hand brakes were insufficient. I mean, there's no question about that. The whole question in front of the jury was what was Mr. Harding’s state of mind when he put those hand brakes? Did he was the state of mind of somebody who knew that he wasn't doing enough and didn't give a damn, or did he have the state of mind of somebody that felt that he was doing enough on the whole, that is with the air brakes and the hand brakes, he had about three times the holding power that was necessary for the train when he left the train. The problem here, as you know, was the intervening incident of the fire and then the firemen who came and put the fire out, but then who turned the train's motor off and turned off the electricity as well, the breakers. So that was kind of an intervening element.
CO: You’ve just said that in answer to the question what are the emotions that Mr. Harding is feeling, and so do I conclude that though he is found not guilty, that his emotions are mixed, given that he did concede that he didn't put on enough brakes?
TW: Absolutely. He has felt from day one, from moment one, the weight of the responsibility for this terrible tragedy.
CO: Given that there is this series of things that created this horrible disaster, including not enough brakes, the firemen who arrived, the length of the train, so many other things, as you know, it's a long litany. People want to know who is accountable, who in the end? Because if these three men are not guilty, and people, many people in Lac Mégantic, felt that this is the conclusion they wanted to see. Who is responsible, who should be held accountable?
TW: Well, the problem with what's called an organizational accident, which is what this is, it's an accident where a lot of the factors are beyond the control of any one person. So it has to be a systemic thing and in this case it was, this is what we've portrayed to the jury, that safety or lack of safety was a systemic problem. And all of the checks and balances that should exist in a proper safety system which is what this company was supposed to have had since the year 2000. I mean, we’re 13 years later and there are so-called safety system was basically in tatters. It had been neglected, it hadn't been properly enforced and hadn't been properly supervised by Transport Canada. There are so many people who have part of the blame. It is very difficult to point your finger at any one person because of the nature of the accident.
CO: We're talking about the now defunct company Montreal Maine Atlantic Railway and what has been so many reports and studies indicate that so many bricks were taken out of the safety wall that they wwere cutting corners and these incredibly long trains of these kinds of cargoes were passing through places that this is a disaster waiting for disaster waiting to happen.
TW: It was a disaster waiting to happen and nobody was on top of the changed circumstances. So that it's just a complete case of unpreparedness on the part of the quote unquote authorities. You know, and so the idea is is that if they aren't prepared and they haven't taken their responsibilities to heart and done something in terms of risk identification and risk assessment, that the blame shouldn't land on the shoulders of the last person in the line of causality because there there is more than one person who bears the responsibility.
CO: 47 people died in this tragedy. A town destroyed, trying to rebuild, so many lives affected by it. You've known Mr. Harding for many years, as you were saying, he's a friend. How does he live with this tragedy and his role in it? How does he go on with his life with that knowledge?
TW: He’s going to have to carry that for the rest of his life. You know, I mean, it’s no better after than it was before. I mean, the verdict just gets him out of the criminal negligence, but it doesn't get the the moral responsibility — he feels that very deeply and has felt that since the beginning. You're not guilty of criminal negligence but nobody said you don't bear some responsibility for this terrible tragedy, he does he knows that.
CO: We will leave it there. Mr. Walsh, thank you.
TW: A pleasure. Take care.
JD: Thomas Walsh is the lawyer for Thomas Harding. We reached Mr. Walsh in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Mr. Harding was acquitted today of criminal negligence causing death for his role in the 2013 tragedy in Lac Mégantic.
[Music: Ambient Tones]
Gas Plant Ruling
Guest: Ann Cavoukian
JD: He was once one of the most powerful staffers at the Ontario legislature. Today David Livingston was found guilty for his role in the gas plant scandal. A top staffer for then premier Dalton McGuinty, was found guilty of criminal charges for deleting emails from government computers after two gas-fired power plants were cancelled seven years ago. His deputy chief Laura Miller was found not guilty of the same charges. Ann Cavoukian is the former Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner. She investigated the deleted emails in 2013 before criminal charges were laid. We reached Ms. Cavoukian in Toronto.
CO: Ms. Cavoukian, five years ago, you called out Ontario Liberal staffers for breaking the law when these gas plant emails were deleted. What was it like for you to see this guilty ruling today?
ANN CAVOUKIAN: I must admit I was very pleased with the ruling and I applaud Judge Lipson because he really called it as he saw it and it was not an easy decision for him to make, but it was the right decision. There is no way we can allow governments to delete information, get rid of records, basically hide that which they do not want the public to be aware of it. It is a completely unacceptable practice.
CO: And it just some of the words of Justice Timothy Lipson in this he said that well he said the wiping of the hard drives in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office he said was not careful and select deletion of personal records. And as we remind people this was just days before the transition from the McGuinty government to the Kathleen Wynne government. He said it wasn't careful and select deletion it amounted to a scorched earth strategy. What did you make of that?
AC: It was right on the money. It was perfectly in tune with what happened because it was just an unthinkable. I remember in the report that I wrote about this, I think some five years ago, I entitled the report ‘Deleting Accountability’ because it just, it's strange credulity that they could delete all of this information, all of these records could be just eradicated and, you know, they said that's what they had to do to protect people's personal information — nonsense. It just made no sense whatsoever. And I remember one of the interviews with one of these people he said well oh we really believe in keeping a clean inbox. We go to great lengths to delete e-mails as soon as, you know, they're completed. Are you kidding me? These guys don't have time to breathe, these political staff, and they're worried about maintaining clean inboxes? It was crazy.
CO: The arrangement was, and it was one other person who was charged, Laura Miller, and she was found not guilty of these charges. Her partner, her common-law partner Peter Faist, third person in this. He was paid $10,000 by the Liberals to go in and delete e-mails. He was an expert in IT. How did he come out in this?
AC: Well, I think he came out fine because I think he had a political arrangement that he would basically be unaffected by giving the testimony that he did. You know, that's the other thing, you're paying this external party who's the spouse of your deputy, to come in and, basically, indiscriminately delete all of these records, and you’re paying him $10,000. I mean, it's crazy. Who could justify that? And when you think about it, the cost of getting rid of these gas plants and eradicating any possible recording of that happening. The auditor general when the audit happened said that this would be costing Ontario taxpayers over $1 billion dollars over the next 20 years, and no ability for the public to access records that they have a right to access under Freedom of Information laws, because you've gotten rid of the records. It's unconscionable.
CO: Just give us a sense of the larger picture of what was to be done with theserecords. What was the responsibility that they had, not only to preserve those records, but who had asked for them?
AC: Well the legislature had asked for them. The opposition parties wanted access to the records to find out what was going on. In the Oakville area they were really opposed to having these gas plants and they wanted them moved. And this was a very political time because there was an election coming up and the Liberals were in the minority and not doing well. So they just decided we've got to get rid of these gas plants and they put it in Nappanee and some other place — Sarnia. And this finding of guilt substantiates the view that it was a conscious act to delete these records so that no one could see what the reality was, what was the truth associated with the decisions to move the gas plant. You know, in a in a democratic society which values freedom of information — that's what we have FOI and privacy laws — you have to have faith in government that government is not going to do unconscionable things like deleting all evidence of something that they chose to do for political reasons and then lying about it.
CO: What have we lost? What do taxpayers in Ontario who should know, could know, would have known, what information is lost, do you think? What do we not know about that transfer of those gas plants because of this?
AC: We don't know who instructed whom. Obviously the chief of staff, Livingston, put this in motion, contacted the spouse of Miller. The point is we don't know who else knew about this. How high up did the instructions come from, in terms of what we got to get rid of these records because we got to get rid of the gas plants and it can't look like we're doing it for political reasons.
CO: Do we know, in the end, what role former Premier Dalton McGuinty played in this?
AC: I cannot make any kind of conjecture on that part. You know, you have to think of would the chief of staff gone down this path if he had no authorization to do this? Again, it's strange credulity that Mr. Livingston with all of his own, nobody else would've known anything about it.
CO: I know this is not your area but there is an election coming in Ontario. How do you think this will play out politically?
AC: I can't imagine that it's going to have a favourable influence, you know, for the liberals, this is a very negative finding against the former Liberal government and their actions.
CO: All right we will be watching. Ms. Cavoukian, I appreciate speaking with you.
AC: My pleasure. Thank you.
JD: Ann Cavoukian is on Tara's former Information and Privacy Commissioner and currently leads the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence at Ryerson University. We reached her in Toronto.
Kit Kat Restaurant Owner
Guest: Al Carbone
JD: A restaurant owner in Toronto is raising a big ole middle finger to city hall in a big ole public way. Al Carbone is the owner of Kit Kat on King Street. And for the past week outside his restaurant he has displayed an ice sculpture of a giant hand with that finger raised. Mr. Carbone says that he launched this art exhibit to protest a recent pilot project on King Street, which aims to minimise congestion and improve the flow of traffic by making public transit the priority. For 24 hours-a-day seven-days-a-week, cars face a bunch of new restrictions about how and where they can enter the street and how and where they can travel. Mr. Carbone says the pilot is hurting his business. We reached him in Toronto.
CO: Mr. Carbone, why of all things, did you choose a frozen middle finger to put up outside your restaurant?
AL CARBONE: Well, I got the idea from Pierre Elliott Trudeau when Mayor Tory, Joe Cressy and Michael Thompson had a press conference a few weeks ago, they said this is going to fill up our business they're going to animate the sidewalks. I’m thinking to myself, how’s an ice sculpture going to fill up my restaurant?
CO: Just people who — because this is a national show and an international show — so you're referring to the mayor and city councillors.
AC: The King Street Transit Pilot Project.
CO: Yeah and this is for people who don't know, this is a project that allows streetcars a wide open track to go up and down and it limits.
AC: Priority and no vehicles.
CO: Yeah it limits them.
AC: If there's a vehicle, every block you have to turn right. So their pilot project is making people go in circles, making them go crazy and making them stay out of the area.
CO: And what's it done to your business?
AC: We lost over 50 per cent. There was an epidemic, people stayed away from King Streets
CO: And cars stayed away, people were still taking the streetcar, right?
AC: I know, I have nothing against the streetcar. I don't have anything against the riders. This is directed to City Hall. We asked the city to compromise and to do something. My compromise with the city would be remove the planters because they don't want anyone to on a curb lane.
CO: I just want to point out that when you make the reference to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the reason why you're saying that is because at the base of your sculpture it says what?
AC: Fuddle duddle.
CO: All right. So that's your reference back to the.
AC: Back to the middle finger.
CO: But what do you think you're accomplishing by having this middle finger and this gesture, frozen gesture, outside your restaurant
AC: Talking about gestures, I'm going to have a snowman, is that going to create attention? So I took a bold step, I'm sorry if I offended someone. But people are throwing the finger out every day — whether it's road rage, whether it's a cyclist, whether it's a pedestrian, whether it's another car on car — anyway it's out of control.
CO: I just wonder, you know, I've looked at some of the Twitter traffic about your gesture and people saying, there are lots of people saying, that they are offended by it and saying why would you think that a couple who are strolling down King Street looking for a place to eat are going to go into a restaurant that has a frozen finger put out?
AC: Let me keep it simple. I'm offended with what City Hall is telling everyone and I'm offended for the media that's saying everything's accurate. And these people are all working together as one. By the way, I've been here for 30 years and we have a good following and a good base. But as of November 12th that disappeared because no one wants to come downtown Toronto. People from out of town, they don't know the area. They're getting dinged and they don't want to come back.
CO: At the same time, you also had people who wrote on your Twitter account. They said that they have gone to your restaurant before and they took the streetcar there and they're not going to come back because of your gesture.
AC: Listen I have nothing against streetcar riders, I have nothing against Toronto transit, but the whole system is broken. The street was active, it was animated, it was vibrant. All that disappeared overnight Carol.
CO: But just, I mean, from there from the city's point of view, what they're saying that yeah it's flawed, there are problems, they got to work them out. But the King Street Pilot Project of the streetcar having priority has meant tremendous good for the people who take it. Ridership is up by 25, so people know because, again, this is a national program and people might not know this. They say that is a huge increase in numbers of people taking it and they're getting to work faster than they have before. So from that point of view it seems to be working.
AC: Let me interrupt you if you don't mind please. The point is it's all fake news that they're giving us. At rush hour the biggest problem is they don't have enough streetcars. The other day I got up early, I went to Kings and Jefferson and Atlantic Avenue, 8:00 in the morning, and I wanted to see for myself if there was an improvement. People were waiting for streetcars. The first streetcar to come was like a can of sardines.
CO: Do you think this is, remember Rob Ford always said that there's a war on cars. Is that your view that this is an extension of that war on cars?
AC: Well, I believe so because the cars are going to come. People like myself, people from the suburbs have to come and do business. And if they don't know how to get around they're going to get dinged. And it's a tax grab.
CO: Well, you've got Rob Ford's brother, Doug Ford, on your side. Is that helping?
AC: Well, sure. As far as my sculpture goes there's someone taking a picture of it right now. I have families taking pictures. Whoever is offended is offended, I'm sorry, I apologize. The point is this is directed at City Hall and Joe Cressy.
CO: And what will you do when your finger melts?
AC: Well, I’ll get another one when it's colder.
CO: What will you do in the summer?
AC: I’ll put a plastic one up.
CO: We'll leave it there. Mr. Carbone, Thank you.
AC: Thank you. Have a good day.
JD: That was Al Carbone, the owner of Kit Kat restaurant. We reached him in Toronto. And if you'd like to see some photographs of this piece of art you can head on over to our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.
[Music: Laidback Jazz]
Guest: Angèle Regnier
JD: In a 1918 speech US President Woodrow Wilson said quote “friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” In one sense a very nice turn of phrase, in another sense — wait what friendship, cement, like the stuff that hardens to become really heavy and impossible to escape from? That seems a little harsh Mr. President, although apparently the marmots agree. For 13 years scientists, led by biologist Daniel T. Blumstein from UCLA, monitored 11 different colonies of yellow-bellied marmots in Colorado — from a distance, through binoculars because marmots apparently are not keen on humans — or each other it turns out. In a study published on Wednesday, Dr. Blumstein revealed a surprising finding — yellow-bellied marmots who spend more time hanging out with their marmot peers die younger than surly loner yellow-bellied marmot who are like smell ya later. They probably don't say that because marmots have an excellent sense of smell, so they probably smell each other all the time whether they want to or not. But you get the point. Dr. Blumstein told The New York Times quote “The difference in lifespan between the most social and the least social marmot was about two years.” That's a long time period — but for markets it's especially significant since they only live to around 15. But why exactly do antisocial markets live longer? Dr. Blumstein and his colleagues aren't sure. He told the “Times, There are a variety of plausible explanations. I just don't know what they are yet.” Whatever the reason, let's say friendship is cement for yellow-bellied marmots. It's a heavy, immobilising burden and if they spend too much time hanging together they just fall apart.Back To Top »
Part 2: Cape Town Water, Cancer Study
Cape Town Water
Guest: Axolile Notywala
JD: It's been dubbed ‘day zero’ and it is only about 90 days away. Officials in Cape Town, South Africa are warning that as soon as April 21st water could stop coming out of the city's taps. It has been facing a severe drought, and the government has put restrictions in place to save water. Axolile Notywala is an activist in Cape Town. He is the general secretary of an NGO that pushes for basic rights for people living in the city's informal settlements. We reached him in Cape Town.
CO: Mr. Notywala, what is the mood in Cape Town's townships and the settlements today as day zero approaches?
AXOLILE NOTYWALA: There's panic, I think across the city, not only in townships. And there's uncertainty from a number of people as to what exactly will happen when ‘day zero’ come or if ‘day zero’ is really going to come.
CO: What do they say will happen in your communities when day zero arrives?
AN: Well, in many of the townships where there's a number of informal settlements, they have said that there won't be that much of a change. ‘Day zero’ means that taps from households who have their own taps and their own toilets, it means that they will be closed. So people would have to go and collect water at different stations. But there isn't really a clear plan as to how that is going to work for formal areas that are in townships where there are informal settlements. So that's still not clear and we haven't heard from the government or from the city of Cape Town as to how that is going to work out.
CO: But then, as you point out, there are the informal settlements, there are huge numbers of people and you can tell me what numbers we're talking about, who don't have any running water in their homes, that they don't have plumbing. So tell us a bit about those people and what they're anticipating?
AN: Well, when you talk about informal settlements, so informal households in the city of Cape Town. So those make up about 21 per cent of the population, of the city's population. So that includes informal communities and also there's backyarders. So there are people who live in informal housing but in backyards of formal houses. And at the moment there hasn't been that much change, there have been issues in enamels areas where water has been cut off for like two to three hours without any communication and people not knowing when the water will come back. And from the city’s side they've said that water will continue coming out in standpipes, in the communal standpipes that people are using. But there hasn't been a plan as to how people in formal areas around those areas where those people are going to get water.
CO: There are huge disparities between the rich and the poor in Cape Town, aren’t there? And so here you have people who are already angry with the rationing or with restrictions on water, where they can't fill their swimming pools and can't water their lawns and wash their cars, and you have people who don't have running water who wonder if the single tap that they're all getting water from it's going to be shut down. How much tension is there right now given those disparities?
AN: I mean, without the day having come as yet, I mean, water gets cut in one area and then it comes back. But we know that the security measures that the city is going to put in place in most of the well-off areas, in the middle class in which areas, where they are going to be having these water points. But what we are hoping to see and what we want to hear from the city is whether those security measures are also going to be put in the poor areas because water is needed by everyone. And so no one knows what's going to happen when water runs off and if something, if there's a plan for residents of the city of Cape Town, it must be a plan for everyone within the city of Cape Town, whether rich or poor.
CO: How did Cape Town get to this situation? Because I know that the severe drought is hugely responsible, but how much is it because of mismanagement that the city is almost out of water?
AN: There's quite a bit of it that's because of mismanagement. There have been warnings before that water is likely to run out and dams are going to run dry. From our view some of the high restrictions that have only been implemented recently should have been implemented quite a long time ago.
CO: The mayor of Cape Town has said that, she’s accused people of being callous, going over water limits. She said that they she thinks the majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards day zero. Is there a sense that those who have been using the water, ignoring the rules, have actually created the crisis for everybody, everyone has to now live with what some have done?
AN: This is as much a matter of governance as it is a fault of anyone. If the city of Cape Town and its staff and its officials had been able to make sure that people are saving water making sure that there were measures in place. In some of the poor areas the city has installed water devices where people if they use a certain amount of water then their water gets cut off. We have never seen that in wealthy areas. Had the city put those measures in place in an equal manner we wouldn't be in such a crisis today.
CO: We'll be following this story and I hope you don't get to day zero. I appreciate you speaking with us tonight. Thank you.
AN: Thank you for the opportunity.
JD: Axolile Notywala is the general secretary of the NGO Social Justice Coalition. We reached him in Cape Town.
[Music: Ambient Guitar Plucks]
JD: Sentencing hearings for Larry Nassar continued for a fourth day today. The former team doctor for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 10 of his patients. And as part of his plea deal Mr. Nassar is required to listen to victim impact statements from all of his accusers — who number well over 100. He has already been sentenced separately to 60 years on child pornography charges. Yesterday Judge Rosemarie Aquilina read part of a six-page letter she received from Mr. Nassar, in which he complained that it was too difficult for him to continue listening to his victim's statements. Judge Aquilina dismissed that complaint and the proceedings proceeded. Today one of the women to speak was Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman. She began by addressing Mr. Nassar directly.
ALY RAISMAN: I'm here to face you, Larry, so you can see I regained my strength, that I'm no longer a victim, I'm a survivor. I am no longer that little girl you met in Australia where you first began grooming and manipulating. As for your letter yesterday, you are pathetic to think that anyone would have any sympathy for you. You think this is hard for you, imagine how all of us feel. Imagine how it feels to be an innocent teenager in a foreign country hearing a knock on the door and it's you. I don't want you to be there, but I don't have a choice. Treatments with you were mandatory. You took advantage of that. You even told on us if we didn't want to be treated by you, knowing full well the troubles that would cause for us. Lying on my stomach with you on my bed insisting that your inappropriate touch would help to heal my pain. You are so sick, I can't even comprehend how angry I feel when I think of you. You lied to me and manipulated me to think that when you treated me you were closing your eyes because you had been working hard, when you were really touching me, an innocent child, to pleasure yourself. Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice. Well, you know, what Larry? I have both power and voice and I am only beginning to just use them. All these brave women have power and we will use their voices to make sure you get what you deserve — a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.
JD: Ms. Raisman did not only have strong words for Mr. Nassar. After addressing him she then turned her attention to USA gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
AR: Your abuse started 30 years ago, but that's just the first reported incident we know of. If over these many years just one adult listened and had the courage and character to act, this tragedy could have been avoided. I, and so many others, would have never ever met you. Neither USA Gymnastics nor the USOC have reached out to express sympathy or even offer support. Not even to ask how did this happen? What do you think we can do to help? Why have I, and others here, probably not heard anything from the leadership of the USOC? Why has the United States Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn't the USOC here right now? Larry was the Olympic doctor and he molested me at the 2012 London Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it's easy to say that now, when the brave men who started speaking out back then more than a year after the USOC says they knew about Nassar they were dismissed. At the 2016 Olympic Games the president the USOC said that the USOC would not conduct an investigation, and even defended USA gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes. That's the response a courageous woman gets when she speaks out? And when others join those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse were they acknowledged? No. It is like being abused all over again. I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics, and have done so successfully. And both USA gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalise and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No. So at this point talk is worthless to me. We're dealing with real lives and the future of our sport. We need to believe this won't happen again. For this sport to go on we need to demand real change and need to be willing to fight for it. It's clear now that if you leave it up to these organizations history is likely to repeat itself.
JD: That was Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Aly Raisman speaking at the sentencing hearing of Valarie Nassar today in Lansing, Michigan. Mr. Nassar, the former team doctor for USA gymnastics, is expected to face more than 100 of his accusers as part of the hearing.
[Music: Piano Ballad]
Guest: Cristian Tomasetti
JD: Finding some types of cancer could be as easy as a blood test. It is a potentially huge breakthrough revealed in a new study that was just published in the journal Science. The wrok is still in the early stages but some are calling the results promising. Cristian Tomasetti is one of the authors of the study. He is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. And that is where we reached him.
CO: Professor Tomasetti, what would a cancer blood test do that other diagnostics failed to do?
PROFESSOR CHRISTIAN TOMASETTI: Well, it will find cancer hopefully, very early. Essentially there are no screening tests for five of the eight cancer types we consider in this study. So right now there is absolutely nothing done, here we have something.
CO: And what are those cancers?
CT: Ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal.
CO: Those are five, what about colon cancer, lung and breast cancer?
CT: I mean, you can think of, you know, colonoscopy so there are things for those three. But here for these five there is nothing in terms of screening.
CO: What are the results? What have you found about the effectiveness of this blood test?
CT: Yes, so it is of course dependent on the tissue type. On average our sensitivity was 70 per cent. So 70 per cent of the time we were able to, if there was cancer, we were able to detect it. You know, not as high in breast, about 39 there, in the 30s. And it goes up to essentially almost 100 per cent in the ovaries and in the liver. And for almost all the others is between 60 and 70 per cent.
CO: What about false positives? What were the numbers of those?
CT: And then the number of false positives was less than 1 per cent.
CO: So you're happy with these results then?
CT: Of course. Yeah, because that was the, you know, the key to have a very low false positive rate. If we didn't have such a stringent false positive rate then we could have had much higher sensitivity, but definitely the point is that, you know, we don't want to produce false positive results causing patients first of all to get scared about having cancer, and then to do unnecessary, possibly invasive, follow-up tests and procedures.
CO: Right. Because a test like this, a blood test, people will be thinking of the PSA test for prostate cancer and all the controversy around that given that that has lead to overdiagnosis, hasn't it? People think they have cancer and they and they get all kinds of treatments that may be necessary. It's been controversy, you're trying to avoid that?
CT: Yes. Let me say, I think this is very important, because I think this point gets always raised when, you know, we talk about screening tests and cancer. It is definitely a fair point. It is true that in prostate cancer, you know, it's not clear say if I detect cancer six months earlier or a year earlier, you know, what is the actual benefit in terms of survival, for example. So it's fair. On the other side I think the prostate is a clear outlier. I mean, I think everyone knows, it's very well-known that prostate cancer is a very slow growing cancer. So I don't think it's the typical scenario. I don't know about others but personally I would want to know that there is cancer in my body as early as possible so that I can try to take care of it. Now there is plenty of evidence that the later stage at which the cancer occurs, has been diagnosed, and the worst survival. So with the exception really of prostate very few others, but that's why I'm saying that's kind of like a very particular case.
CO: And that your test, you find that you're able to detect fairly early on, within time that they could actually make a difference, that there could be treatment and there would actually be results from that?
CT: Well, what I can say is that we, for example, we didn't see their stage four at all, because we were focusing on screening, and so we're interested in finding cancer early. You know, the problem gets harder the earlier stage. It's easier to find, much, much easier to find a stage four, than to find a stage one. When we look at the different stages there are important differences. If we look out stage three we have a sensitivity of 78 per cent. Stage two is 73 per cent while when we go to stage one it's 43 per cent.
CO: Is that considered quite good, quite high in cancer diagnostics?
CT: Well, as of now, as I said, as of now especially for those five, there is nothing. So, you know, the screening is zero of our current methods out there. 43 per cent may sound low right. But if we think about it, first of all, it's almost half of the population with cancer that will be detected at an extremely early stage, we are talking about a very small math. And second, so cancer does not grow, you know, in a few weeks or months —doesn't go from stage one to stage four, usually, that quickly. So there is a good window of opportunity for, say even for those patients that you know were not detected on their first test, maybe six months or a year later when the test is repeated, it’s done every year to detect it then, and maybe the patient will still be stage one or stage two. So there is a compounding effect.
CO: You tested this on people who already have cancer, is that right?
CT: Yes. And so that is an important limitation of our study and that's why we are ready to start the much larger study. We are currently going to be sequencing 10,000 women. And then if the results of the first year look promising it will be extended to a total of 50,000 women.
CO: Professor Tomasetti, it's very important, very interesting work that you're doing. Thank you for telling us about it.
CT: Of course. Thank you.
JD: Christiane Tomasetti is an associate professor of biostatistics and oncology at Johns Hopkins University. We reached him in Baltimore.
[Music: Orchestral Strings]
Listener Response: Tapestry
Guest: Amanda Schochet
JD: Sharp as an arrow — that is what As It Happens listeners are. On last night's program we heard about the Bayeux Tapestry. The French government has decided to lend it to England as a diplomatic gesture. The original plan was to send it to the British Museum in London, but the tapestry portrays the 11th century Battle of Hastings and the museum at the battle site thinks it shouldn't have a shot. Then our talkback line got a call about another contender.
Hello Carol. My name is Anne, I'm calling from the Bowen Island, British Columbia. I really liked your episode on the Bayeux Tapestry. My husband and I were wondering whether it will end up in Reading. You have no talk of Reading for a long time. So if it goes to Reading how far will it be from Hastings. Arrow length, of course, but there are short arrows, long arrows. Thank you. Thank you for everything.
JD: Thank you Anne. And since we aim to please we took a shot at answering that question. We could not get a solid answer on how long the Norman arrow that may or may not have killed poor Harold might have been. What we did learn though, was that the average English longbow arrow these days is about 75 centimetres long. And using that metric that would put the length of Harold’s journey from Reading to fight at the Battle of Hastings at 231,745 Norman arrows — give or take.Back To Top »
Part 3: Philippines Shutdown, Kazakh Apostrophes
Guest: Maria Ressa
JD: Maria Ressa barely had time to do her job this week. Ms. Ressa is the founder of Rappler. It is a Philippines news site and it's one of the few doing the job of putting tough questions to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte — or that is what it has been doing until now. On Monday security officials in the Philippines announced that they were ordering Rappler to close. They say it has violated a constitutional ban on media outlets being foreign-owned. Then yesterday Ms. Ressa herself, got a summons from the National Bureau of Investigation. They are investigating Rappler for violating a cyber-libel law with a story back in 2012. We reached Maria Ressa in Manila.
CO: Ms. Ressa, you have run afoul of two of your country's most powerful institutions in just one week. What's going on?
MARIA RESSA: Ah I call it harassment. And I don't think it was any of my doing, to be honest.
CO: let’s just start with you, I mean, one of these do with the Securities Exchange Commission, which is saying that your publication has violated the constitutional ban on foreign ownership. What do you say to that?
MR: It's not true and we’ll continue to appeal the decision. We'll take it as far as any legal remedies will take us up to the Supreme Court. The charge against us, we believe, is political in nature. Are we owned by foreigners? It's something we've denied publicly, our records show it.
CO: But what they're saying, what the accusation is that because you have foreign investors one of them being the Omidyar Network, which is owned by Pierre Omidyar, who founded eBay, and North Base Media, two foreign investors, that hence you are owned by foreign interests and that is against the law. Is that the charge?
MR: It is, and it's ludicrous because we are not the only Filipino media group that has these Philippine depositary receipts. They're a financial tool that is recognized by the Philippine constitution
CO: And what role does Pierre Omidyar have in Rappler, in your publication?
MR: Absolutely none. I've never met Pierre Omidyar, but the Omidyar Network itself, they gave us money under the PDR. It is completely constitutional and they've had no role in the day-to-day operations, they don't have any control over Rappler, nor do they have any management duties.
CO: So the other thing you're up against is that you — the National Bureau of Investigation in the Philippines has accused Rappler of cyber-crimes for a story that ran in 2012. Can you just, first of all, tell us what that story was?
MR: It's a story during the impeachment process and then former Chief Justice Renato Corona. He was riding in an SUV that was given by a businessman, the businessman has now filed a case against Rappler or a complaint. And the subpoena from the National Bureau of Investigation is charging us with cyber-libel. Again, I'll say ludicrous, because six years ago. It is before the actual law was even passed. And I think both of these charges — well, there's one more case nationality or investigation. That same decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission was transmitted to the Department of Justice, the DOJ has given that to the National Bureau of Investigation and they’ve started investigating it, meaning that I could now face a criminal charge and I could be arrested. I think what all of these charges — so actually now you are making you think about it I have three charges that I'm facing — and all of them what they have in common, whether it's an administrative charge or whether it's a criminal charge, these are all being used to stifle free press. They're trying to prevent us from continuing, essentially, trying to shut Rappler down.
CO: When you say they who are you referring to?
MR: The Philippine government.
CO: And are you pointing a finger at the presidency, at Rodrigo Duterte?
MR: I don't know, but what I do know is that last July during his second State of the Nation address President Duterte just singled Rappler out, along with the Philippines largest television network ABS-CBN. This just caps a year-and-a-half of threats, of attacks, and President Duterte, after singling out Rappler, then went on to continue these numerous verbal attacks. You know, I think trying to control the narrative, trying to harass a news organization, we're just not going to stand for it. We're going to face the charges. We're going to continue doing our jobs. And I'm so proud of our reporter at The Palace. She's a young reporter, but President detector berated our organization, was cursing while she calmly and respectfully asked the tough questions.
CO: What kinds of stories have you reported that may have got the ire of President Duterte?
MR: We've won numerous awards for what we call our ‘impunity series.’ This is focused specifically on the president's drug war, which has killed — I mean, the Philippine National Police’s own numbers from July 1 to January 31 — they had reported that the 7,000 people killed. But then once international condemnation began the police began to fudge the numbers, they began to introduce new definitions that obscured exactly what was going on. We were attacked by government agencies. We were attacked viciously online for trying to get to the bottom of this.
CO: And this is leading to —you’re referring to that President Duterte has actually put out death squads and encouraged people to take matters into their own hands when it deals with anyone who they suspect are dealing with drugs.
MR: It's impunity. This is why we're calling it the ‘impunity series.’ We're trying to get accountability and in doing that, aside from the drug war and the killings that are going on in our country, we've also focused on something that's moved to the west, which is a propaganda war on social media. We've run a series of stories that have shown you that there is a concerted effort, not only to intimidate people from questioning what is happening in government, but to cripple institutions and anyone critical of the government.
CO: President Duterte has said in the past, he said of Rappler and of journalists who are doing the work that you're doing, he calls that fake news. He has said that quote “Just because you're journalists you are not exempted from assassination if you are a son of a bitch.” Are you and your journalists fearing for your safety?
MR: We’re aware of the environment that we're operating in. So far the president has spoken in colourful language, and the very first time that he's used the term fake news was, again, just this week directed at our reporter at the palace. I think that the president — what we're trying to do is check abuse of power and we'll continue doing that.
CO: We will be following this story. Ms. Ressa, thank you.
MR: Thanks so much.
JD: Maria Ressa is the founder of the news site Rappler. We reached her in Manila.
[Music: Ambient Bass & Strings]
JD: Last night on the program we told you about the so-called ‘Tide pod Challenge.’ It is an ill-advised and very dangerous viral trend that is not even attached to any kind of good cause. Today we have another challenge to tell you about. This one is probably still a little dangerous, but at least it's raising money for something — and it sounds like this.
FISHERMAN: And I’d also like to nominate Chester Richard, Andre Atknison and Patrick Simmons. Here I go.
JD: Yes. That was a lobster fisherman in Nova Scotia jumping into a near-freezing holding tank aboard a boat. It is part of the ‘Livewell Challenge’ which is aiming to raise money for a family that lost four children in a recent house fire in Pubnico Head, Nova Scotia. The challenge was started by lobster fishermen Todd Newell. This morning he spoke with Phlis McGregor of CBC's Information Morning.
PHLIS MCGREGOR: So tell me what have you asked your friends to do?
TODD NEWELL: I’ve asked them to take a dip to make a difference. And by that I mean jump in the holding tank, the livewell aboard the boats here. I'm asking them to take a dip and to make a donation to any charity in the tri-county areas or any cause, and a lot of them have, obviously, given the recent events in Pubnice with the fire, a lot of people have named that charity as the recipient of their money. I was hoping to get at least 100 people to do it. Donate a thousand dollars each and raise $100,000 for charities all across the tri-counties.
PM: Good for you for doing this. So the livewell, is this where youkeep lobster or other fish in there, is it for lobster?
TN: It's for lobster, fill a crate of lobster and then you put it down. It's just a holding tank basically aboard the boat, it has a pump in it that keeps water circulating and it keeps your lobsters alive while you're hauling.
PM: And how cold is that water?
TN: When I jumped in it was 36 and a half degrees so that's 37 degrees right now.
PM: So that's Fahrenheit obviously?
TN: That’s, Fahrenheit, yeah it's pretty cold. Actually initially what I was going to do was I was going to donate 10 dollars for every second I could stand it. That's what initially I was going to do, but I thought that probably wouldn't be a good idea, because I'd probably get hypothermia before I came out. So I said we'll just take a dip and jump out. And it's cold, it's a kind of a shock, but it's now it's not too bad. You're only in there for a few seconds so you get warmed up pretty quick.
JD: That was Todd Newell in conversation with the CBC's Phlis McGregor earlier today.
[Music: Laidback Guitar]
Guest: Andrew Stobo Sniderman
JD: Cutting up vegetables is pretty straightforward. But in one case straightforward dicing can get straightforward dicey. There are many solutions, so-called solutions to the so-called onion problem floating around online. All kinds of techniques and pardon my language ‘life hacks’ that claim to stop them from making you cry every time you slice into one. Personally, I have tried lighting a candle — didn't work. Tried some goggles — fogged up. I've even tried chopping an onion while pressing my tongue to the roof of my mouth. I still cried, but I couldn't say why. So this week's news about a new type of onion was a sight for sore eyes. It's called the Sunion — and it is being marketed as America's first tearless onion. This new onion has been 30 years in the making. It was developed by a company called Bayer Crop Science, and was produced as a result of natural crossbreeding that started in the 1980s. What makes us cry when we cut a regular onion is a compound that forms sulfuric acid when it contacts the water in our eyes. The Sunion has no such effect. As for taste, Bayer describes Sunions as quote “consistently crunchy and sweet with a mild flavor.” And according to The Washington Post the onions were sweet enough to eat like popcorn and have no strong aftertaste. For now Sunions are only being grown in Nevada and Washington and are expected to be available in the United States beginning in March. And if it ever gets to Canada I will burst into tearlessness.
[Music: Whimsical Guitar]
Guest: Timur Kocaoglu
JD: I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that whatever you know about the language of Kazakhstan you learned from Borat. Bad news — Borat is not a great teacher. For example, Yakshemash, is not actually Kazakh — it's Polish. Although what I just said may not even be polish. So forgot whatever you think you know about Kazakh. Here are the real complicated facts. For decades the language of Kazakhstan has been written in Cyrillic, since it was part of the Soviet Union. But now, 26 years after becoming independent, it is switching to the Latin alphabet. You might think that that would make things easier, but the country's authoritarian president wants the written script to include lots and lots of apostrophes. And that has left a lot of Kazaks confused and angry. Timur Kocaoglu is and languages expert who regularly visits Kazakhstan. We reached him in East Lansing, Michigan.
CO: Professor Kocaoglu, what did you think when you first laid eyes on this written version of Kazakh with all these apostrophes?
PROFESSOR TIMUR KOCAOGLU: Yeah, that was the big surprise. First I couldn't believe it because I have been expecting before because there were several proposed alphabets and there was nothing like that. So there was some which we like more or better than others, but this one was a surprise that I saw but not only my surprise, when I talk with the other Kazakh intellectuals, politicians, writers etc. They all expressed their astonishment.
CO: This all comes from the president, right?
TK: Yeah. The secret is that for the other proposed Alphabets we know the names of the institutions and name of the linguists. But for this there is no one, so no one knows. So it is a secret because the Kazakh themselves, I ask them especially from them to find out is there an organization or is there a person. But everyone says it is not disclosed.
CO: But it is widely believed to be the president, President Nazarbayev, is that the case?
TK: He has chosen that although he was there off the other good proposals, and especially the Kazakhstan linguistic society which proposed one, but somehow the president decided this one. But then I found a kind of confidence among the intellectuals, writers etc. That they said because the real official alphabet would be adapted in 2025. So there is a long time. So the president only signed a resolution of changing Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic into Latin to the Congress about three months ago. But actually the Congress will decide in 2025. But still they say that until that time they are confident that proposed alphabet will be changed because they all say no one can read that script.
CO: You mentioned this confidence but another confidence is that President Nazarbayev is rarely criticized. He doesn't brook much criticism and so it seems that people are emboldened by this. Lots of people are saying it's wrong. This is awful, this apostrophe version going from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet is just awful.
TK: Yes. So since it is an alphabet question, I think now criticism is allowed. But you don't directly challenge the president. So that's why we see lots of criticism orally, even written in the Kazakh media about the alphabet.
CO: What's the theories as to why the president wants all these apostrophes in the language? I mean there are other ways of doing, it right?
TK: Yes, I think no Kazakh intellectuals that I have spoken to could give me a kind of explanation for that. So we don't know. But let me tell you that many do support the change of alphabets from Cyrillic into Latin, but there is also, even if it is a minority, but there is some intellectuals who oppose even changing the alphabet from Cyrillic to a Latin because they say that in past 60 years many words have written in the Cyrillic alphabet, now the new generations won't be able to read them. But there is also another hand that the Russians who make up about right now 35 to 38 per cent of the population, they are also not pleased that a Kazakhstan will change to the Latin alphabet because street signs and many major things will be written in Latin alphabet, which they are used to the Cyrillic one. So there is a kind of opposition within Kazakhstan population about a changing the alphabet anyway.
CO: How do they do this in other countries? Because other former Soviet republics switched from the Cyrillic alphabet that had been imposed on them by the Russians, and they switched to the Latin alphabet. What happened to news Uzbekistan, did they did revert to all apostrophes or did they find some other way of doing it?
TK: Uzbekistan is like this, in 1993 Uzbekistan adopted thirty four letter alphabet, the Latin alphabet, which is called Turkic common Latin alphabet. So it is a five letter in addition to Turkey's alphabet because Turkey's Latin alphabet has 29 letters. But there are some letters that are missing in Turkish language but it exists in other Turkic languages so there was the alphabet made with 34 letters, which is appropriate for all the Turkic languages. So Uzbekistan had adopted that one in ‘93 but suddenly President Karimov decided to change that alphabet after two years and change into the alphabet which is a mixture of English alphabet and a few letters with apostrophes. So the Uzbek alphabet is also not perfect. Although they had the perfect one in ‘93 but suddenly the president changed it. And again, no one knows who proposed this alphabet in 1995. So far only Azerbaijani adapted earlier in 1992 a Latin alphabet which is similar to the Latin alphabet of Turkey with the addition of that five letters and so far that's a good model.
CO: It sounds like there's a contagion of apostrophes that is spreading through the region while you have to watch out for that. Professor Kocaoglu, thanks for speaking with us.
TK: Thank you.
JD: Timur Kocaoglu is a Turkic languages expert at Michigan State University. We reached him in Lansing, Michigan.
[Music: Upbeat Rock]
Archive: Evelyn Farha Obit
JD: Her goal was to further the legacy of her son. And until her last days she was a champion for those living with HIV/AIDS. Evelyn Farha, the honourary president of the Farha foundation, died yesterday. She was 92 years old. Ms. Farha’s son Ron created the foundation in 1992. He had been diagnosed with HIV in the late 80s. Its goal was to raise enough money to find a cure, and Ron also made it his mission to ensure that Quebeckers with HIV or AIDS received all the support and the care they needed. When he died of AIDS in 1993, Evelyn made it her mission to achieve her son's goals. She took over the foundation. She walked in his place during Ça Marche, the foundation's annual Walk for HIV AIDS. In 2007, a few days before that year's walk, Ms. Farha spoke with Bernard St-Laurent, host of Homerun. Here's part of that interview.
EVELYN FARHA: My son's goal was to help people. He saw so many people suffering that didn't have the money, he was lucky enough that he had the insurance to pay for his medication and everything. He wanted so badly to help everyone. So our goal is to raise enough money at least $400,000 more if we can, to help all these people living with AIDS. And there’s quite a few homes in Montreal, we have over 20 homes in Montreal of people living with AIDS that need help because they come from, either family that don't have money, or they're rejected by their family.
BERNARD ST-LAURENT: Ron died before the first walk took place. I know that you were at his side during the last days. What did he want you to do?
EF: Well, he wanted me to stay because he figured that the image of the mother behind, and we are now and because my husband had a company that used manufacture lingerie — he figured that if I stay there it will give a good image and I promised him that I would stay. He told me ‘only two years Mom,’ but it's almost 15 years now that we've started it and there’s still no cure for AIDS.
BSL: What kind of changes have you observed in people's awareness about AIDS over the years?
EF: Awareness is not good. What I've seen in change is that the drug companies have come out with more sophisticated drugs that help people live longer, but there's still no hope. They still didn't find anything to cure them. And it's amongst the young people, especially the young boomers, the generation that divorce so young and they forget that AIDS exists and they don't protect themselves. And we want to bring people to the fact that is something that they can prevent. They just have to have safe sex.
BSL: Your son Ron hoped that soon after he created the foundation that there would be a cure for AIDS. We still don't have one today. What do you think he would say about that?
EF: He’d be very discouraged because he really told me ‘two years at the most Mom,’ but, you know, it's been a long time.
JD: Evelyn Farha for speaking with the CBC's Bernard St-Laurent. Ms. Farha died yesterday. She was 92.
Jazz Classical Pianists
JD: I don't know much about playing piano. So if scientists scanned my brain while I was trying to play piano, I'm pretty sure they would see activity in the regions that make you go “What am I doing?” Or “Oh no.” I also don't know much about the regions of the brain. But researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences do. And they have discovered that there are key differences between the brain activity of jazz pianists and the brain activity of classical pianists. Now broadly speaking classical piano requires you to play the piece as written but interpret it through your playing, whereas jazz broadly, speaking requires you to improvise. And playing in either style all the time changes the way your brain works. For example, the institute researchers found that classical pianists were better at playing chords that required unusual fingering. Their brains showed a stronger awareness of how to play ahead for the odd finger positions. Jazz pianists were better at playing quote “harmonically unexpected chords,” when they were asked because their brains process the request and recalculated the fingering faster. As the Institute explains in a press release “Both kinds of pianists have to know what they are going to play and how they're going to play it. But classical players are more focused on the how, and jazz players are more focused on the what.” Different approaches that mean different brain activity — both of which are different from the what and the how that swirl around confusedly in my mind when I'm trying to play Chopsticks.
CBC would like to acknowledge the support of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund.