Friday January 12, 2018

January 11, 2018 episode transcript

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The AIH Transcript for January 11, 2017

Hosts: Carol Off and Jeff Douglas

STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE

Prologue

CAROL OFF: Hello, I'm Carol Off.

JEFF DOUGLAS: Good evening, I'm Jeff Douglas. This is As It Happens.

[Music: Theme]

JD: Tonight…

CO: Spring forward, spring back. Protests in Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring in 2011. Now that Tunisians are back on the streets, our guest hopes these new demonstrations will bring the improvements the last ones didn't.

JD: The point of not returning. Sudanese migrants deported from Belgium are facing torture back home. And a former government adviser says he warned officials about that danger if they were sent back.

CO: A tell-tale new sign. Washington D.C. votes to rename the street the Russian embassy is on after Vladimir Putin's murdered political opponent Boris Nemtsov.

JD: Worst case scenario. The late San Francisco Police Detective Dave Toschi spent years trying to catch the so-called Zodiac serial killer and years afterwards he was haunted by what he might have missed.

CO: Nose job. To make an important discovery about fossilized butterflies and moths researchers needed a lot of pluck — at least enough to make a delicate tool tipped with a human nose hair.

JD: And…Wonder Woman. Out of thousands of applicants The New York Times has picked Jada Yuan to travel to 52 places around the world and write about it — which sounds like a cool job — except for the commute. As It Happens: The Thursday Edition. Radio that hopes there is a method in her nomad-ness. [Music: Theme]

Back To Top »

Part 1: Tunisia Protests, Russian Street, Dream Job

Tunisia Protests

Guest: Heythem Guesmi

JD: The cradle of the Arab Spring is being rocked this week. For the last three nights Tunisia, the first country to spark protests across the Arab world in 2011, is facing new unrest. Antigovernment demonstrations have taken place across the country. 500 protesters have been arrested and the army has been deployed. One demonstrator has been killed. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has dismissed the protests as quote “acts of theft, looting and attack on property” unquote. But Heythem Guesmi says that that is far from the whole picture. he's been demonstrating in Tunis this week. We reached Heythem Guesmi in Tunis.

CO: Mr. Guesmi, why have you been out protesting in Tunis this week?

HEYTHEM GUESMI: In fact, on Tuesday as a member of the campaign ‘I won’t forgive’ we called for a protest to show our disappointment towards the killing of a citizen called Khomsi Yefrni in the west of the capital. He was hit by a car of a policeman.

CO: That's what brought you out, you and the others out into the streets?

HG: Yes.

CO: There have been 500 arrests of these protesters so far. What are the accusations? Have they been charged, accused of anything?

HG: There are two kinds of accusations. The first one is against vandalists and the anarchists who vandalized properties. And the other accusation is against the activists who are calling for a pacifist and peaceful protest just to shut down the riots.

CO: What do you make of the vandalism? I just want to ask you about that. There has been many reports of looting and attacks on property. What do you think of that?

HG: I condemn these actions because protest as a member of ‘I won’t forgive,’ as I said in the beginning of the interview, we are peaceful and pacifist and we've shown that during the last two years.

CO: You know better than I that Tunisians have been protesting out in the streets since 2011, since Jasmine spring and Arab Spring, that they have taken to the streets before. This is not unusual in Tunisia but it is different this week, isn't it? I mean, it has been a different reaction. Why do you think that's the case? Is it just because of the vandalism?

HG: It's a tradition for Tunisian people to protest during the month of January. This year the difference is the absence of the security services, by seeing lootings and vandalism against private and public properties under the eyes of policemen who didn't do anything to prevent that. The second thing is that the media, whether it's private or public, is against these protests and they are criminalizing them by stigmatizing every protest as vandalism and violence.

CO: But you know that there were, I mean among the vandalism and the violence, there was a national security building that was set on fire. And that's one of the reasons the government is saying it needs to crack down on the protests and they have tolerated the protests in the past. So can you appreciate that this may be something they're trying to get control of in this case?

HG: The thing is we have like 24 states in the Tunisian country, there are 16 states that are protesting. And there is one case of burning the security services post and the government only sees that and ignoring all the other demands which were protested peacefully. That's what the regime does. They focus only on separate acts of vendettas.

CO: Are you concerned that you might be arrested?

HG: Yeah, we are all threatened by this campaign of arrests. In fact, there is an activist in an organization against unemployment and he was arrested and we didn't know about him for about 24 hours until there were many lawyers who came to rescue him to find out where he is.

CO: Some people have been arrested at home, is that right?

HG: Yes, yes, yes. The example I just mentioned right now, it's a person who were arrested from home.

CO: It's possible you might get a knock on the door at any time?

HG: Yes.

CO: Are you worried about that?

HG: Well, I don't know. I don't know how to feel.

[CHUCKLES]

CO: But will you continue protesting?

HG: Yes. In fact, the campaign which I'm a part of, we called for a protest during the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. It's a celebration of the anniversary of the revolution first of all, and second of all, to protest against impunity towards policemen who committed crimes of murder against the martyrs of the revolution.

CO: And going back to the anniversary, this is seventh anniversary of the 2011 protests. It was an extraordinary moment, wasn't it in Tunisia? If people have forgotten Arab Spring began there when you toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. And it was a moment when things changed. The assumption has been that Tunisia is one place where the revolution, Arab Spring, actually worked. Is it not improved? Have things not changed since you toppled the dictator?

HG: Compared to other countries like Libya and Syria, Egypt and Yemen, the revolution in Tunisia just avoided the civil war or the return of dictatorship. But the thing is, when we went out to the streets to protest against the ancient regime, we ask and demanded for employment, freedom and dignity. But right now we only have freedom. And for the unemployment wages it's increasing and for dignity, as you see right now, as there's a police brutality and employment.

CO: But again, I mean, you know better than I, but there was a great deal of corruption under President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. And you've had nine elected governments since the revolution. So is there not some things that are better?

HG: About the nine governments we've seen and we have been governed by, it gives a bright side and dark side. The bright side is that the system is listening to the streets and to the will of the people, and the dark side is that the problem is not the persons who hold posts in the government, but the problem is in the system, it's in the regime they don't have a strategy to try to find solutions for peoples problems.

CO: Mr: Guesmi we will be following events in Tunisia and stay safe and thank you for speaking with us.

HG: You're welcome.

JD Heythem Guesmi is a resident of Tunis who participated in some of the demonstrations there this week.

[Music: Bass & Chimes]

Russian Street

Guest: Mary Cheh

JD: Washington D.C. has decided to give a new name to one of its streets — not the whole street just the part of Wisconsin Avenue where the Russian embassy is located. That will now officially be known as Boris Nemtsov Plaza. As in Boris Nemtsov, the rival of Vladimir Putin who was shot and killed on a bridge near the Kremlin in February of 2015. Mary Cheh is the city council member who proposed that name change. We reached her in Washington D.C.

CO: Council Member CHEH, who are you trying to send a message to with this vote?

COUNCILLOR MARY CHEH: I want to send a message to Russian lovers of democracy, to tell them that one of their leaders in that effort to realize democracy and fight corruption principles in Russia that we in the United States and people around the world are not going to forget Boris Nemtsov’s contribution and his sacrifice, really, of his life for the for the effort.

CO: What actually physically is going to change, what will you do?

MC: Well the streets will be ceremoniously named, which is to say the names of the street will remain formally the same but a sign will be placed underneath the name, usually in green to distinguish it from the other colours of the signs so you can see that it's something separate, and it will say Boris Nemtsov Plaza. And we're going to have a little ceremony to dedicate the plaza on February 27, which would be the third anniversary of his assassination.

CO: All right. He was murdered on a bridge where there has been a plaque that keeps getting removed in Moscow so.

MC: You know that was one of the main motivations behind what I wanted to do. You know, we named another area Andrei Sakharov Plaza in 1986, Congress did that and it was to honour him. But in this particular case what most moved me was the fact that, you know, here is this physicist, a statesman, this leader in the democracy movement and he's murdered, no doubt motivated by his political belief, and his open criticism of the Russian government. And yet when his supporters wanted to memorialize his memory, as you say on the spot where he was shot, they swiftly remove all traces of his memory and the movement — and that I wanted to say by doing this here we won't forget. No one is going to remove it here. You know, the idea of wiping away his sacrifice, it won't succeed here. And so what I wanted to do is answer that. You can't erase someone's sacrifice in that way. And when the people want to have a memorial to someone who's, you know, a statesman, a leader for democracy and they keep wiping it away. What I want to say is ‘we're not going to forget, we're going to note it, we're going to keep his memory alive,’ and people around the world should see that as well.

CO: OK, I want to point out that there were five men who were found guilty of his murder and sentenced to sentences ranging from 11 to 20 years. Though the people, Mr. Nemtsov’s family and activists in Russia, have always said they believed that the order for the killing came from much higher. So is the message, are you principally trying to send a message to Vladimir Putin?

MC: Yes, and his government. That's correct.

CO: And what do you what do you want him to understand? Because now this will be the address, is it not the address of the Russian Embassy in Washington?

MC: Yes, it’s the Russian embassy. And by the way, the Andrei Sakharov naming of those streets, the ceremonial naming those streets is when the Russian embassy was at that location, it's since moved. And so that location will still be Andrei Sakharov Plaza but it will be the Russian ambassador's residence. But the message is that you can't just wipe away or erase people who give their, you know, the memory of people who give their lives and fight for democracy. You might try it and you might get away with it there, but these things are known around the world and we want to make sure his sacrifice isn't forgotten.

CO: The reaction in Russia, of course, is that they are not happy and that they have said that this is an effort to interfere in the politics of Russia, and that you have, this is a quote “This game of interfering in Russian internal affairs has been going on for a long time,” They're very disappointed in you and in Washington for making this change. What do you say to them, that it is political, that this has nothing to do with.

MC: No I think I think what it is, is it's honouring someone's sacrifice. And those who want to fight for democracy see this as something that transcends national boundaries. And if there's somebody who's fighting for democracy or somebody who's given his life for democracy, and if in the very place where he gave his life they won't even allow a small designation in honour of his memory, then it falls to people around the world to keep that memory alive.

CO: You know that Russia giving tit-for-tat — there may be retaliation. Do you think it's possible that we'll see the U.S. Embassy situated on Edward Snowden Boulevard or Chelsea Manning lane in the future?

MC: Well, you know, I don't know they'll have to make their own decisions but I hardly think those cases are comparable. We don't shoot people down in the street because they're fighting for democracy.

CO: Just to point out, I'm not suggesting that they are comparable, but that is something that you might see Moscow doing. I was just wondering what your reaction to that possibility would be.

MC: Well, you know, I will also say that there's this open Russia movement in Russia, they support this honour for Boris Nemtsov, and I can't account for what other governments do in reaction. I just know that what we're doing is right and proper.

CO: And the plaque goes up on the third anniversary of his murder.

MC: That's right on February 27th

CO: Council Member Cheh, I appreciate speaking with you, thank you.

MC: Sure. Thank you very much.

JD: Mary Cheh is a member of city council for Washington D.C. We reached her at City Hall. We have more on this story on our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.

[Music: Laid Back Jazz]

Dream Job

Guest: Jada Yuan

JD: At the end of a year she is going to wake up tired. But that's what happens when you finish a dream job. Last year the New York Times posted a kind of help wanted ad. The successful candidate would go to every one of the newspapers 52 Places to go in 2018, in 2018. As you might imagine a lot of people were very interested in that assignment. But Jada Yuan was the person who nabbed it. Ms. Yuan is a journalist from New York and this year she will be visiting a new place every week and telling the stories of her travel experiences to inspire other travelers. We reached Jada Yuan in Brooklyn.

CO: Jada, congratulations.

JADA YUAN: Thanks so much, it's kind of overwhelming but it's great.

CO: The Times says 13,000 people applied. There plumbers, project managers, teachers, basketball players and some State Department officials. So that was what you were up against, but what do you think it was about you and your resume that made you stand out from the crowd?

JY: I have a lot of on the ground experience. The job description said that they were looking for someone who could parachute into a place and distill its essence pretty much immediately upon arriving. And that's just a lot of what, as an entertainment reporter working in film festivals, I've done. I landed in Sundance or Cannes or Toronto — go Canada — and you know, and two of those are foreign countries for us. And I get to, I had to figure out the lay of the land, I didn't know how to get around. I didn't understand the subway systems, I didn't know how to speak French when I got to Cannes I paid my own way when I went to Sundance and Cannes for the first time. And I just figured it out. And I was able to figure it out in a way that I got sent back as an official reporter for the magazine. So I think that was compelling.

CO: But do you think, do you think there's more than that? Because they weren't just looking for someone — there's a lot of savvy travelers and people who can figure out logistics and all of that. What about you? I mean, I know that you made a video as part of your application describing who you are. You grew up as a Chinese-American in a Hispanic neighbourhood in rural New Mexico. Do you think that was part of it, just the story of where you came from, that you might have some unique insights, some way of seeing things that others might not?

JY: I think so. You know, I wasn't part of the interview process but I do think that all of that makes for an interesting perspective in that, you know, I grew up being a minority in a minority community, and that I didn't really have a way to get around until I was 16 and was able to drive. I was pretty confined to a really small area in New Mexico where we didn't have paved roads until I was 12. So I think that maybe they were looking for someone who hadn't had the opportunity to take a trip like this. It's funny reading your resume, actually your bio, I realized ‘oh there are ways that you can be a journalist and travel the world’ because you seem to have really pulled that off.

CO: Well, I've traveled a lot and I know how hard it is. But I think it sounds like it’s you're the depth of your curiosity that appeals the most to those who chose you for this job, because that that's the driving force that keeps you going when you've lost your baggage and you don't know what airport you're, in you don't speak the language, and it's late at night and there's no taxi. So that's what that will carry you. But one of the things about it is that, I mean, and I think you've said this elsewhere, that you like the idea of being able to describe for readers what it is for a woman to travel alone.

JY: Yes. And I haven't done an extensive amount of it. I traveled alone when I was 19 and I lived in Italy for a summer and I sort of, I worked in a greenhouse and made just enough money to travel for a few weeks going to hostels. So I've done that and I traveled alone for work going to Los Angeles and things like that. But I haven't done an extensive amount of world travel by myself not with friends. And I do know, as a woman in New York, what it's like just walking around the streets and it's not always easy. There are a lot of obstacles that you run into and safety precautions that you have to take. And I think that that's interesting and I don't see it a lot in other travel writing. I do think that the majority of hosts are men. When I when I looked up who the best video hosts for travel are, all the lists were entirely men that I was seeing.

CO: It is very different. And so sometimes hostile sometimes it's the ticket to actually the door is open for you because you're a woman, so there's a lot for you to discover.

JY: Tell me the tips.

CO: The tip is wide-eyed curiosity it somehow always works. Always keeping eyes in the back of your head at the same time to make sure your nose might be coming up behind you. You're starting with New Orleans, where do you go from there?

JY: So the itinerary isn't fully set but it's going to be the southern states first. So I think I go from New Orleans to Chattanooga, Tennessee and then to Montgomery, Alabama and then Disney Springs, Florida and then I just head into South America. And I haven't even — I've I've thought about the first Southern trip and then South America is just sort of this whole new spectrum that I'm going to have to compute in my head after I figure out just how I pack for this thing. So that's where it's going after that. I mean, the list is going to take me all over the place. I'm going to be hitting Canada also, Saskatoon, and then you know I'll hit Asia and Europe and Africa. It's going to be amazing. I can't believe the places I'm going to see.

CO: But a new place every week for 52 weeks?

JY: I think it may even be two places, because just the way that I will have a little time off and so I won't be on the road all 52 weeks. So we're going to have to squeeze a few in on certain weeks.

CO: Wow. The only advice is good pair of shoes, never check and he bags and watch your back.

JY: Never Check any bags?

CO: No, carry-on, carry-on

JY: How am I supposed to pack everything in one carry-on?

CO: You know, there's a lot to figure out about this but you'll do it. Jada, you're going to do just fine. And I'm happy for you. Thanks for speaking with us.

JY: Thank you so much.

CO: Bye.

JY: Bye.

JD: Jealous. Jada Yuan is a journalist from New York. She'll be traveling around the world this year documenting her experiences for the New York Times. We reached her in Brooklyn. To find out the country she cannot wait to visit check out our website. We've also got a link to the video she submitted for her job application for future reference. www.cbc.ca/aih.

[Music: Uptempo Banjo Strums]

Murphy’s Law

JD: Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edward A. Murphy Jr. A man who is probably famous for inventing something he most probably did not invent. And that's fitting, since as Mr. Murphy once said, if anything can go wrong it will — or he said something like that — or he didn't say anything like that and someone did, but Edward Murphy was sort of involved so they called it Murphy — it's weird. Anyway, here's the legend. In 1949 the U.S. Air Force was testing the effects of g-force on a guy named Colonel John Paul Stapp. Engineer Captain Edward A. Murphy supplied some sensors to measure the force of gravity being applied to Colonel Stapp but the sensors didn't work. One had been connected wrong so Captain Murphy said quote “If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe someone will do it.” And later at a news conference about the research Colonel Stapp said quote “It's Murphy's Law. If anything can go wrong it will go wrong.” So pretty clear narrative there, but it seems like something did indeed go wrong — somewhere. Because when researching Murphy's Law a documentarian by the name of Nick T. Spark found a radio interview with Captain Murphy himself. Mr. Spark discovered that A: Captain Murphy was, to be blunt, dull, quite dull. And B: Murphy's version of Murphy's Law bore no resemblance to the one we know, he told the interviewer that he had explained his error installing the sensors to Colonel Stapp who then said “Well that's a good candidate for Murphy's Law.” Which Murphy himself found confusing, quite confusing. Well, whatever he said or whether he said anything, we do wish Edward Murphy a posthumous Bappy Hirthday — oops.

Back To Top »

Part 2: Belgium Sudanese Deported, Dave Toschi Obit

Belgium Sudanese Deported

Guest: Koert Debeuf

JD: He's known to some as the "Flemish Trump."And now Theo Francken — Belgium's secretary of state for asylum and migration — is under fire for his decision to deport nine Sudanese migrants. It emerged last year that Francken invited Sudanese officials to interview the migrants before they were sent back. Now, as many predicted, some of the migrants say they have faced brutal torture upon their return to Sudan. Koert Debeuf is a director at the Tahrir Institute, and a former advisor to the Belgian prime minister. We reached Mr. Debeuf in Brussels.

CO: Mr. Debeuf, on what grounds were these nine people from Sudan expelled from Belgium and sent back to Sudan?

KOERT DEBEUF: Well, the Belgian government had Sudanese refugees here in Brussels and they were not able to identify them because they didn't ask for asylum so they asked a Sudanese delegation coming from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to identify these people. So the government has let let's say all control out of their hands and have given this to the Sudanese government. So there were not grounds. So they were not picky at all, so everyone who was Sudanese was going to be sent back to back to Sudan.

CO: When you heard, now that this is talking about Belgium's Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, this is Theo Francken, who had invited officials from Sudan to come to Belgium and review the cases of the people who ended up being returned to Sudan. How did — what did you think when you heard that that was how this process had begun?

KD: When I heard it in September I was absolutely horrified. So I lived for five years in Egypt, I know how these kind of regimes work. And Sudan is a regime that is completely controlled, the entire country is controlled by a very brutal secret service. The president of Sudan is actually having cases against him in the Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. So we are giving these people the power to decide about people on our territory. So for me that was horrifying news.

CO: And what kind of consultation did they have? Was it that high level, were there documents? Did the Sudanese produce any material that could support the case of deporting them? I mean, what kind of review was done, what was the process?

KD: Well, there was no review at all by the Belgian administration. So the Sudanese saw people, one by one, try to identify them, threaten them not to ask for asylum. They said if you asked for asylum and you fail then we will send you to the headquarters of the Secret Service, which means for every Sudanese that they probably will not get back alive home. So they threatened them very much and then they give them papers and just on the basis of these papers these people were sent back. I mean, Sudan is one thing, but there are two war zones in Sudan — Darfur and Kurdufan. And even from there, I mean, chance that you are being beaten or threatened or even tortured when you go back are very high.

CO: That's exactly what's happened, isn't it? You have been in touch, you have corresponded with at least three of these Sudanese men who have returned. And where were they returned to and what happened to them?

KD: They told me that when we arrived in the airport in Khartoum that they were sent to a police station and that they were beaten, sometimes several times a day for days. And one guy told me that he was beaten for three hours with sticks by the Secret Service. Most of these guys are now absolutely terrified and they don't like to talk, of course. Even the other guy didn't want to talk at all because yeah he's traumatized after ten days of investigation or interrogation by the Secret Service.

CO: And could, should or would the Belgium government have known that they were likely to face this kind of persecution and abuse if they were sent back to Sudan?

KD: When this came out in September I warned them that this is a tortuous regime so that this is a procedure we cannot follow. But they said ‘No it's going to be fine. All rules will be followed.’ And so for now I mean it's clear that this was not the case at all.

CO: What can you tell us about the man, the Secretary of State involved here — Theo Francken? He’s been called the “Flemish Trump.” Can you tell us about him?

KD: Well, he's one of the most popular politicians in Belgium because he's responsible for asylum and migration. But what he does is he has a very harsh communication. So he spoke once of cleaning up the park of illegal people and he's always happy tweeting about the amount of people that have been sent back and so forth. So this makes let's say the policy of asylum, I think, rather extreme, rather inhumane like everyone who has been sent back is a victory for the country.

CO: You warned the Government about this, you saw it coming and you were unable to stop these deportations from happening. How do you feel about this now personally?

KD: About these nine people who were deported, I feel of course, absolutely awful. I mean, I've heard so many stories from Sudanese people about torture and with every story is absolutely devastating. But yeah so I feel extremely bad about it.

CO: And what about those who have been sent back to Kurdufan or Sudan. These nine people, can they return? Can you do anything to help them at this point/

KD: Well, there is very, very little we can do. So a few of them have decided to restart their migration to try to reach Libya. And that's what some of them are doing. So, of course, if these guys who are trying this route right now will manage to go back to Europe coming from one of these regions, well they cannot be sent back. So but of course this route through Libya is extremely dangerous and going by boat is, again, even more dangerous. So it's terrible. And I'm afraid there is nothing we can do.

CO: We'll leave it there. I appreciate speaking with you, thank you.

KD: Thank you so much.

CO: Good night.

JD: Kurt Debeuf is a director at the Tahir Institute and a former adviser to the prime minister of Belgium. We reached him in Brussels. You can read more about this story on our website: www.cbc.ca/aih.

[Music: Acoustic Guitar & Bass]

Netherlands Ambassador

JD: Yesterday was Pete Hoekstra’s first day on the job as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands — and like most first days on the job it was tough. Now you may remember Mr. Hoekstra from a video that went viral last month. After President Donald Trump appointed him to his current position, a journalist from the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur, questioned him about some things that he had said about the Netherlands in the past.

SOUNDCLIP

REPORTER: At one point you mentioned in a debate that there are ‘no go’ zones in the Netherlands and that cars and politicians are being set on fire.

PETE HOEKSTRA: I didn't say that, that is actually incorrect statement. We would call it ‘fake news.’ I never said that.

REPORTER: It’s what you actually said.

PH: No it's not what I said.

JD: Except it is what he said. Here is Pete Hoekstra making the remarks in question in 2015.

SOUNDCLIP

PETE HOEKSTRA: The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned. And yes there are ‘no go’ zones in the Netherlands.

JD: And the reporter played that clip for Mr. Hoekstra and then they continued.

SOUNDCLIP

REPORTER: You call it fake news. Obviously.

PH: I didn't call that fake news. I didn't use the word today.

REPORTER: No?

PH: No I don't think I did.

REPORTER: OK.

[CHUCKLES]

JD: OK, so to recap, Mr. Hoekstra denied using the phrase fake news in reaction to his own unsubstantiated comments moments after he had used the phrase fake news. The following day after the exchange went viral Mr. Hoekstra issued an apology. He said he regretted the exchange with the journalist but he didn't address the original remarks. Dutch journalists however, did not forget what he had said. And so yesterday Mr. Hoekstra first news conference as the new ambassador it was all they wanted to ask about and here's how that played out.

SOUNDCLIP

REPORTER: Do you now reach the conclusion that you were wrong when you state politicians and cars are being good because you can discuss the views, like you said, but not facts? Was that a wrong remark. Was it false?

PH: I issued a statement, I expressed my regrets and my apology for the comments I made. And I’m not revisiting the issue.

REPORTER: But for what remarks exactly? No seriously, this is important. For the original remarks, are politicians being in the Netherlands in the past? Is that something you believe? Yes or no?

PH: I’m not revisiting the issue. I’ve expressed my regrets, an apology.

REPORTER: You’re still sticking to that original remark? You’re regretting the Nieuwsuur remarks but not the original remarks?

REPORTER 2: Any example of a Dutch politician who was burned in recent years?

REPORTER 3: This is the Netherlands you have to answer questions.

That was just part of a news conference yesterday with Pete Hoekstra, the new US ambassador to the Netherlands. During that press conference Pete Hoekstra was standing in front of a portrait of John Adams, the first U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. And beneath that portrait is a quote by Mr. Adams and that quote reads “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” So at one point referring to that quote A reporter asked Mr. Hoekstra if he was truly an honest and wise man. Whether he would retract his unsubstantiated remarks about Muslims in the Netherlands Mr. Hoekstra declined to answer.

[Music: Luau]

Archive Dave Toschi

JD: He never cracked the case, but also he never lost hope that one day someone would. Dave Toschi was a detective who spent years trying to track down the so-called Zodiac killer, who murdered at least five people in Northern California in the late 60s and the 70s — he wrote notes to police and newspapers taunting them. Dave Toschi died Saturday. He was 86 years old. In 1976 Mr. Toschi was a guest on this program talking about his work on the Zodiac case. Here's part of that conversation with former host Barbara Frum.

SOUNDCLIP

BARBARA FRUM: How frustrating is it to try to track down a killer like this?

DAVE TOSCHI: It can be very if you let yourself get frustrated. I try not to because I'm handling other cases in the meantime and I’ve been in the detail for almost nine years. But this is my major case. He is my primary case.

BF: Is this a lifetime obsession with you until you catch him?

DT: It's gotten to be on a personal basis for the last, probably five years I'd say, starting at around ‘71 when he was signing his communications with his zodiac sign and then saying Zodiac: 22 – SSPD: 0. And for at least five years now it's his personal boast, it's his Zodiac box score against what is now just me. In other words it said Zodiac against me here in San Francisco.

BF: How old are you?

DT: I'm 44 years old.

BF: Think you’ve got enough time?

DT: Yes I do. I just do what I have to do and hope to God that someday he’ll either come in and surrender or he'll make a mistake and I'll get him.

BF: Thanks for talking to us.

DT: OK.

BF: And good luck.

DT: Thank you very much. I need it.

JD: That was Detective Dave Toschi speaking to Barbara Frum on this program in 1976. Mr. Toschi went on to inspire movies including, Dirty Harry, Bullet and Zodiac, in which he was portrayed by Mark Ruffalo.

Dave Toschi Obit

Guest: Duffy Jennings

Duffy Jennings was a longtime friend of Mr. Toschi. Mr. Jennings was a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who covered the Zodiac case. We reached Duffy Jennings in San Francisco.

CO: Duffy, first of all, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend.

DUFFY JENNINGS: Thanks so much Carol. It's great to hear Dave’s voice after all these years.

CO: What goes through your mind when you hear Dave Toschi’s voice?

DJ: Oh, it's so familiar. That voice, it's like yesterday since we talked and to hear him talk about the case it just takes me back.

CO: And takes you back to what? Tell us a bit about what you remember from your friend Dave Toschi?

DJ: Well, we didn't start as friends we started as a reporter and police detective working, essentially, on the same story. When Dave when I first met in 1969 when Zodiac murdered a cabdriver here in San Francisco late one Saturday night, it was his last known murder and his only San Francisco murder. And that's when that's when Dave and his partner were on call that night and they took the case and it became his or theirs from that point forward. And I, as a police reporter, was involved in some of the coverage of the case at that time and later on a more full time basis. But I, also through the years, spent a lot of time with Dave on other cases that he worked on. So, you know, we go back to 1969. Even after we both went on to other jobs I maintained my relationship with him to the point where we would get together for lunch or coffee once or twice a year for many years.

CO: We heard in that interview clip he did with Barbara Frum back in 1976 that it was a lifetime obsession to solve this Zodiac serial killing case, which was never solved. So what did he say about that? What was his feeling about that case? Why was he so obsessed with that one?

DJ: I think any good homicide detective is probably obsessed with the cases that don't get solved. And, you know, not only did Zodiac murder five known people in the Bay Area and perhaps another one in Southern California, it affects those victims and their families forever. And it was very important to Dave in among 100 other murder cases that he investigated during his career that the ones that are unsolved are the ones that gnaw at you. And I know he told me in later years he'd gotten an ulcer from it and it's still troubled him to the point where, for many years, on October 11th, the date of that cab driver murder, Dave would drive over to the intersection where the cab driver was killed and he would wander around and look and see if he could think of anything that he might have missed or any other reason they might not have been able to catch Zodiac that night. And so I know it ate at him, gnawed at him for many years even after his retirement. It was something in the front of his mind probably until his very last breath I would think.

CO: Of course there was a movie made about Zodiac, but he was also the inspiration for the cops in Dirty Harry, in Bullets as well as in Zodiac. What do you think it was about him that inspired the films to use him as their model?

DJ: Well, Dave was unique among police detectives here in that time, in that he liked to wear snappy clothes and dress sharp, he favoured bow ties, which is very unusual for most detectives. But Dave had a little bit of flash to him, he was an Italian kid grew up in the North Beach area of San Francisco and then it was just important to him to serve his community when he came back from serving in the Army during Korea. But he had an engaging personality and together with some of his trademark accoutrements like the quick draw shoulder holster that he favoured, he was always walking around a box of animal crackers, kind of a favorite snack that I know he liked when he especially after he quit smoking. And so he just was a character that had a lot of people liked and admired and obviously Steve McQueen took some of his inspiration from Dave. He had the shoulder holster and the trench coat in Bullet. The same thing with Dirty Harry although Dirty Harry that cop was not really modeled after Dave as much as the storyline of that movie was a copy of Zodiac’s threat to shoot kids coming off a school bus. But in whatever event, Dave is a little larger than life and he left that impression with people.

CO: Clint Eastwood played Dirty Harry and in Zodiac it was Mark Ruffalo. Did any of those actors actually meet Dave Toschi and get the inspiration directly from him?

DJ: Yes, Mark Ruffalo did. Dave told me that Mark had spent a couple of days or more with Dave while he was preparing to shoot the film in order to, obviously, get a sense of his mannerisms, his speech patterns and his personality in a way that he could try to portray him as accurately as possible. From my perspective he did just that in the film, which was a remarkable piece of work by David Fincher across the board. The acting was good and the scene setting of the Chronicle newsroom, in particular, back in those days was very authentic to me.

CO: You were also portrayed in the movie Zodiac and is it true that you the two of you went to see the movie together?

DJ: That's true, well there was a premier. A lot of the Chronicle people were invited to a premier in February of 2007 when the film came out, although he and I sat together and had a chance to catch up and talk.

CO: You know, because you said went on to cover other cases that Dave Toschi was investigating and there were just hundreds of cases that he was on during the course of his career. How do you think he'd want to be remembered? Was there anything in particular he did or and case that he broke that you think that he would like to be remembered for?

DJ: Well, knowing Dave I think more than anything, he'd like to be remembered as the guy that caught Zodiac. It's sad, you know, listening to that clip at the opening of this segment of him thinking he had enough time to catch Zodiac. Here was another 42 years later had gone by and Zodiac is still an unsolved case. But I think Dave would probably more than anything else beyond that, like to be this remembered as a good cop and a guy who loved his family, you know, like anyone else I think he wanted to kind of have that more of a legacy than an individual case. But he won't be remembered as the guy that didn't catch Zodiac, he'll be remembered as the guy that did everything he could to catch Zodiac. But I think at the heart of it, particularly, as a police officer serving his native city would be a great source of pride to him.

CO: Duffy thanks for sharing your memories of Dave Toschi with us.

DJ: My great pleasure Carol. Thank you for asking me.

CO: Bye-bye.

DJ: Bye.

CO: Duffy Jennings was a San Francisco Chronicle reporter and a friend of the late Police detective Dave Toschi. We reached Mr. Jennings in San Francisco. Dave Toschi, who led the investigation into the so-called Zodiac killer in the late 60s and the 1970s, died Saturday. He was 86 years old.

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Part 3: Reuters Charges, Butterfly Study, Asian Flush Study

Reuters Charges

Guest: Stephen Adler

JD: We were trying to reveal the truth. Those were the words of a Reuters journalist as he was led out of a court in Myanmar yesterday. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained by authorities back in December. And then yesterday they were charged under Myanmar's official secrets act. The two had been reporting on the crisis in Rakhine state, where of course, a brutal military campaign against Rohingya Muslims has forced approximately 650,000 people to flee their homes to neighbouring Bangladesh. Stephen Adler is the president and the editor-in-chief of Reuters News. We reached him in New York City.

CO: Mr. Adler, we have seen pictures and video of these two journalists outside the courtroom saying goodbye to their children and in handcuffs. Can you describe the scene there as you saw it?

STEPHEN ADLER: Well, I mean, first of all, the fact that they were even there in handcuffs is what we are so very concerned about because our two reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested just while doing reporting like anybody else would. The scene is one in which you see Burmese journalists very concerned about this. So there's a lot of press attention, there is just tremendous concern that two reporters going about their business reporting on something that's of worldwide importance suddenly get arrested. So everybody's just very, very concerned about this.

CO: And they have already been in detention for a month. Do you know what conditions they’re in, what are they returning to? What have you learned as to how they're being held?

SA: Well, at first they were in an interrogation centre and we had no contact with them at all. And then after their first court appearance they were sent to a pretty hard core prison in Yangon. So they're in a prison that includes people who have committed serious violent crimes.

CO: And has Reuters and your lawyers representing them, have they had much access to the men?

SA: There was no access in the beginning when they were in the interrogation centre. There has been limited access of the lawyers since they've been in the prison. We, as Reuters, have not had access to them except very briefly when they were being transferred into and outside the courtroom.

CO: What are your biggest concerns at Reuters? What are the biggest concerns that you have now about what's going to happen and what is happening to these reporters?

SA: Well there's another hearing coming up on January 23rd and we're still hopeful that they'll be released. But the prosecutors have asked them to be charged under the Official Secrets Act, and that's a law that goes back to 1923 when Myanmar was part of British India. And it's really a law that was trying to stop anti-colonial uprisings. So journalists in 2018 are being charged with a crime that was an effort to protect the colonial power of the British Empire in 1923.

CO: For those who have not followed the story, I know it's gut goes back a bit, but tell us what were they doing when they were arrested and what are they charged with having done?

SA: Right. So were not publicly stating exactly what they were reporting because were trying to protect them and were concerned that that might put them in greater danger. I can say, broadly, Reuters has been reporting very closely on the Rohingya Muslims, which are a minority group in Myanmar. They've had a lot of difficulty there. Many of their villages have been burnt down. There's a lot of prejudice against them within the country. And again, I can't say what specifically they were reporting on at the moment they were arrested. But they were arrested in the course of doing their reporting. They had been invited to meet with a couple of policemen right outside the capital of Yangon. They met with the police and shortly thereafter they were arrested and disappeared. We had no contact with them for a couple of days, didn't even know what had happened or where they were. They're not aligned with any party or any side. They're just trying to go out and report what's going on, and to be arrested in the course of doing that and to be charged with such a serious crime is just incredibly disturbing, and I think should be disturbing to anybody who cares about press freedom around the world.

CO: I understand you're limiting what you will say but just if you can tell us what they were in possession of? Because they were, as I understand it, those police that they met gave them some documents and then they were subsequently arrested for possessing documents, what they called secret government information related to Rakhine state and security forces, and that they were accused of having illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media. Can you tell us what they had in their possession when they were arrested?

SA: No, actually I can't, again, because my first goal is to keep them as safe as possible. I can tell you that it's been reported that they told their families that they were handed materials and didn't even know what was in them and they were arrested shortly thereafter. But I can't tell you that independently. I can tell you that they were arrested, really, just for doing their jobs.

CO: But as an editor-in-chief of Reuters news agency just about the struggle to cover what is going on in Myanmar and specifically in Rakhine state is this. Do you believe going to make it even more difficult, as far as even assigning anyone to go in there, difficult to get any independent stories out of that region?

SA: Whenever people are arrested for doing their jobs it sends a message to everybody else that it's really dangerous to do this work. I think people already knew it was dangerous, but I think this raises the stakes for journalists quite a lot, particularly invoking the Official Secrets Act. The Official Secrets Act is a very, very high-level, serious matter with potential prison sentences of 14 years and so we’re especially distressed by that. Myanmar is a democracy, it's gets converted to being a democracy, it has Democratic leadership, and what we're trying to stress is debate democracy includes being tolerant of free and independent reporting, even if sometimes you don't like what the results of the reporting are.

CO: There are many countries, your country, my country, who had supported some Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy that Myanmar is now said to be. But at the same time these things are going on. Journalists are being arrested. What kind of international support, what kind of diplomatic pressure are you able to get from other countries, including the United States, in an effort to help get these men released?

SA: Well, we've gotten extraordinary support from the global diplomatic community, from your Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, from the U.S. secretary of state, the U.N. secretary general and we've got ambassadors on the ground from many countries who are engaging in diplomatic efforts. The EU has been involved, Australia, Japan. So we're hoping that some of these diplomatic attempts will be successful. I think that, again, there's been a lot of attention to the democratization of Myanmar. And one way to show the world that this is serious and that the country is taking this seriously is to respect press freedom, and I think that's what most of the diplomats are trying to emphasize.

CO: All right we'll be following this story. Appreciate you speaking with us Mr. Adler. Thank you.

SA: Thank you so much for your interest. We really appreciate that.

JD: Stephen Adler is the president and the editor-in-chief of Reuters News. We reached him in New York City.

[Music: Slow Electric Guitar Strums]

Butterfly Study

Guest: Timo van Eldijk

JD: I don't think most people think much about their nose hairs. I don't believe they do, or at least they don't have good thoughts about them. They just trim them, they pluck them, they feel mild disdain perhaps, toward them. But what if I told you nose hairs could be used as tools to make an important scientific discovery. You still don't care about nose hairs and I understand, I'm with you. But Timo van Eldijk does care about nose hairs. He's an evolutionary biologist in the Netherlands and he's also the lead author of a new study on fossils found in Germany, that may change your understanding of butterflies and moths. We reached Timo van Eldijk in Vianen.

CO: Mr. van Eldijk, what are these fossils that your team has discovered?

TVE: So what we have discovered is small scales that are normally found on the wings of moths and butterflies and we have discovered the scales in sediments that are 201 million years old.

CO: And how does that compare with what you found in butterfly and my families before in ways of fossils?

TVE: Well, we already had fossils of moths and butterflies from 190 million years ago, but now we have 201 million years ago, so that extends to the oldest known evidence for the the group that encompasses moths and butterflies. What's even more striking, what's actually, I think, one of the most important points of our new research, is that we find hollow scales amongst this assemblage of scales. And these hollow scales they are characteristic of a particular subgroup of the butterflies and that's a subgroup of the butterflies that possess a proboscis or so-called butterfly tongue or a butterfly trunk. And nowadays, of course, this proboscis or trunk, it's associated with feeding on flowering plants. This raises a question right, because in 201 million years ago there were no flowering plants, but yet we now have evidence of these moths and butterflies with their proboscis when there are no flowering plants, so then what were they doing with this proboscis if they were not using it to feed on flowers?

CO: The butterflies and moths you’ve found from earlier specimens, 190 million years ago, what did they have? Did they not have proboscis?

TVE: They had mandibles. So the oldest evidence we had before of these moths with a proboscis that was 130 million years ago, and that's a time when there were flowering plants. So we always thought was oh there's these moths and butterflies then flowering plants come along and these moths and butterflies develop a proboscis to feed on the flowering plants. But this research says well, that's not how it went. This proboscis was there already way, way, way before the flowering plants were.

CO: OK, so what your theories as to the butterflies we're using these big tongues for?

TVE: The new hypothesis that we've put forward is that they were using this proboscis to feed on pollination droplets of gymnosperms, so let me explain a little bit. So gymnosperms is a group of non-flowering seed plants that also for example include your Christmas trees and your pine trees and this kind of stuff. And of these gymnosperm groups there are some that excrete tiny droplets on the female cones, and these are sort of sugary droplets that are sort of used to catch male pollen grains flying through the air, but that we think might also be used by butterflies to feed on.

CO: Okay so that so you're going to test that thesis I imagine.?

TVE: Yes, so this is this is going to be one of the things. So the thing is butterfly body fossils, whole body of fossils of butterflies are really rare, but if we find some and we can start examining if maybe some of the pollen of these gymnosperms are actually associated with such fossils.

CO: But this is a theory that these moths and butterflies had proboscis 201 million years ago. You don't know, right? Because you haven't found a fossil of that, of the butterfly. What is the association you’ve found that leads you to conclude that?

TVE: OK, so we are 100 per cent sure that these moths and butterflies did have a proboscis. Our new hypotheses only concern the questions that raises. So the question of what were they doing with the proboscis? But how we infer that they had provboscis is basically because we have a very good evolutionary framework for the group that encompasses moths and butterflies. So the way this works, we have the oldest families of modern butterflies, they have jaws, so they have mandibles and they have solid scales. Then the next split in the evolutionary tree there is a group that already has a proboscis but it still has the solid scales. And then to split after that, is the split where they still have a proboscis because that already occurred and they start developing these hollow scales. So then because we find these hollow scales we know that the evolution of the proboscis must have already occurred before that.

CO: These are the scales you have seen in the fossil, these tiny little hollow scales? If I understand correctly, you are able to sort of examine them. You used a nose hair to explore it, how did you use that?

TVE: So the way this works is the way the scales were originally found was kind of serendipitous because my supervisor was studying pollen and spores in this core. That was a core associated with one of the major five mass extinctions that occurred. So this is a time of dramatic CO2 emissions and climate change. And were what they were simply doing was you take a piece of rock and you put it in some really nasty acid, and then what you have leftover at the end is a couple of droplets of tiny black sludge. So this is just all the organic material, so the pollen, the spores, any other kind of stuff and scales in this case, that was in the rock. And then you take the sludge and you put it under a microscope, you take a single drop you put it under a microscope and you sort through it with a human nose hair. So apparently the human nose hair is just the right springy-ness to sort of sort through the material, and even more importantly, when you then finally work the scale out of the droplet it sticks to the human nose hair so you can isolate it and then put it into an electron microscope.

CO: Then you had your Eureka moment.

TVE: Yeah when we when we first saw the images from the electron microscope we were — yeah we we had some questions.

CO: Thank you Mr. Nose hair. Was it your nose hair? Do you even know who volunteered, who who supplied the nose hair for your research?

TVE: So the thing is, I don't know. There was a joke going around that it was one of the professors, but I think it's best not to ask certain questions.

[LAUGHTER]

CO: All right so we won't probe that. It's very interesting research, I appreciate speaking with you thank you.

TVE: Thank you.

CO: Bye.

TVE: Bye, bye.

JD: Timo van Eldijk is an evolutionary biologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. His paper was published this week in the journal Science Advances.

[Music: Steady Electric Guitar Strums]

Kevin Menis Promo

JD: It has been just a little over three months since Stephen Paddock opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window into a crowd attending a country music festival below. As media reports so often remind us, it was the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history. Mr Paddock injured more than 500 people — killed 58. But that night at Sunrise Hospital the focus was on saving people. The hospital is just eight kilometres from the strip, and minutes after the October 1st shooting victims began arriving in cabs and police cars and by ambulance. Dr Kevin Menis led the team that worked through the night to treat them. In a feature interview this week on CBC Radio's White Coat, Black Art with Dr. Brian Goldman, the E.R. physician reveals that he had long considered Las Vegas to be a target for such an incident, and he'd been planning out worst case scenarios in his head for years. As he told Dr. Goldman that included how he would manage shell shocked staff who were called in to treat the victims.

SOUNDCLIP

DOCTOR KEVIN MENIS: As I would circle around the E.R. looking for patients that are going to start crashing on me. If I would see a doctor who had come in I would grab them tell him all the sort of work-arounds that we had been doing. And then I told them, you know, you're a shark, get out there and find blood. And the funny thing is after every time I would say that you would see that look of shock, horror confusion, sort of melt away. That look that doctors get when they're ready to work would come over their face and then they would go. And at that point they knew they needed to find these patients who were bleeding and dying. As the a surgeons came in they would go up to the trauma surgeon and he would hand them cases to take back and do the damage control surgeries on. It would just go back-and-forth, back-and-forth and that's what we did that night till we save everybody that we saved that night.

DOCROT BRIAN GOLDMAN: There must have been a moment when you were exhausted when you hit the wall?

KM: Cat scanner reports started coming back I remember looking at one of them. It just looked like a blob. I really could not make the words out. You know, I realized I was more dangerous to the patients than I was of a help.

BG: But what time was it when you when you realized you had to kind of step away?

KM: I would say probably about four thirty, five o'clock.

BG: How many patients did you and your team save that night?

KM: A lot. I think every — not I think — I know that every patient that could have been saved that we night saved them.

JD: That was Dr. Kevin Menis who was on duty the night of the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October. You can hear his story on White Coat Black, Art with Dr. Brian Goldman this weekend. White Coat Black Art airs Saturday's at 1:05 p.m. on CBC Radio 1. 1:35 P.M. in Newfoundland.

Asian Flush Study

Guest: K.J. Patel

JD: We have known for some time that drinking alcohol is linked to, or can lead to, cancer.

We haven't known exactly why. Well new research performed on mice may shed some light on that issue. The work suggests that alcohol increases the risk of cancer by damaging DNA in stem cells. Furthermore, the scientists add that if your face flushes after drinking alcohol, like many Asians, you could be suffering significantly more genetic damage than other people. K.J. Patel is a biology professor at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of this study, which was published in the journal Nature. We reached K.J. Patel in Cambridge.

CO: Professor Patel how did you come to discover that those who whose faces turn red after drinking alcohol, how is it that you know they suffer from more DNA damage than others?

PROFESSOR K.J. PATEL: Well, let me begin at the beginning. The reason why alcohol causes damage to us and causes cancer is very controversial. So this is a question that we've been addressing for the last ten years in research and we've been doing so by genetically engineering mice to take away key genes that are conserved in humans, that means that the same genes are present in humans. And essentially what we have discovered is that we are protected from alcohol by two levels of protection. The first is an enzyme that clears a toxic by-product when alcohol is being processed by cells. But when this toxic product attacks DNA then there's a mechanism to fix the damaged DNA. So if you remove these two mechanisms, in a mouse at least, they are extremely sensitive to alcohol and tiny amounts of alcohol completely obliterate the production of blood.

CO: Okay people whose faces turn red, what does that indicate?

KP: Well, people whose faces turn red lack first tier protection, they lacked the enzyme that clears the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism. So they're entirely dependent on the DNA repair system. And in this paper that we've just published in Nature, we showed very clearly that if you take a mouse that's been genetically engineered to mimic the Southeast Asian flushes as we call them, a single big dose of alcohol induces a level of DNA damage that equivalent to you and I spending five minutes in front of Fukushima. But fortunately, there's a DNA repair backup system that fixes the damage that's in the DNA. But like all biological systems these systems are not perfect and if they're faced with too much to do they do their job ineffectively.

CO: And so they lack the enzyme or don't have enough of the enzyme?

KP: Your classical Southeast Asian colleague who goes bright red with alcohol is lacking the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase 2. And this enzyme removes the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism. So when you drink alcohol it's converted by the cell into energy. But in the middle of its conversion to energy it's converted into this violently toxic product called acetaldehyde. And the enzyme ALDH2, which some of your Southeast Asian colleagues may lack, are unable to clear this product. And our work shows that when this happens that it attacks DNA and quite fundamental ways.

CO: OK, but your study was done on mice, I presume their faces didn’t turned red. So what proof do you have that this works in humans?

KP: Well, we're pretty certain it does because of the concept of two tier protection, two layers that protect you from your evening gin and tonic, well we know that humans lack the enzyme the red flushes. We know the people who lack the DNA repair pathways have an unusual genetic illness where blood is not produced. But rarely in Japan individuals exist that lack both tiers of protection and these individuals are extremely sensitive, not only to alcohol, but when they are born they have hardly any blood forming stem cells. So it's very clear that our discovery that there are two levels of protection against alcohol is what happens in and you and I. It's only that you and I can probably live longer than mice and our physiology is subtly different from mice.

CO: What percentage to the population of the world do you think might be affected — might not have this enzyme?

KP: So the deficiency of the enzyme is extremely common in Southeast Asia. It's estimated that up to 500 million people lack the first tier of protection against alcohol. But that 500 million people are not falling apart by drinking alcohol. And that is because they have an essential prop that protect them against alcohol which is this DNA repair system. But as I pointed out DNA repair systems are not perfect.

CO: There are those whose faces — people have this flush that they get when they drink, they often take medications to reduce that redness, allowing them to continue drinking or not have these symptoms. Does that mitigate anything? Does that solve any of these problems?

KP: No, because the reason people flush is not fully understood, but it's basically a warning signal to the body that you're doing damage. Our work no shows, at least in the mouse version of the human situation, that one of the underlying reasons is that you're damaging your DNA. So the flushing response is a warning signal to tell you what you're doing. And in fact, in many Southeast Asians this warning signal is so strong that it puts them off alcohol totally. They get an aversive response to alcohol. You will be aware that there is a behavioural treatment for alcoholism, which is to give a drug called Antabuse. What it does is inhibit this enzyme and induces this aversive flushing reaction.

CO: We’ll leave it there. It's very interesting Professor Patel. I appreciate you speaking with us. Thank you.

KP: Well, thank you. Bye.

JD: That was K.J. Patel a biology professor at the University of Cambridge and we reached him in Cambridge, UK.

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