The Harper Government has decided to shutter the Biosphere Museum, a Montreal institution that for the past 15 years has focused on major environmental issues, including those related to Canadian ecosystems. A major part of its cultural and educational activities will shortly be coming to an end. Twenty-five employees are affected.
But guess what: Montrealers aren’t having a bar of it. The Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Québec (Quebec Science Communicators Association) is launching a campaign to keep the Biosphere open. The Biosphere is in fact housed in the United States’ iconic pavilion for Expo 67, so the initiative has a heritage aspect as well.
City Hall, in fact, offers hope for the Biosphere. The Federal Government is tied to the City by a lease agreement that it’s currently trying to modify. According to the information made available to the ACS, the Mayor could refuse the requested modifications that were outlined last week. The two parties apparently met earlier this week to discuss the proposal. The future of the Biosphere is therefore in the hands of the City.
The ACS invites the friends of the Biosphere to send postcards either electronically, or better still, via the post, to the City of Montreal.
Visit the ACS’ website for more information!
Estimated prevalence of tuberculosis per 100,000 people in 2007, per country. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Going up against business interests to defend public health isn’t always easy even when you’re dealing with just one developed country, but Dr. Madhukar Pai, a McGill University Health Centre scientist, has used his research to convince the World Health Organization to adopt a new policy that will improve the well being of millions of people in dozens of tuberculosis-affected developing nations. The new policy relates to a variety of TB tests that continue to be commercialized in weak governance zones, despite mounting evidence that they’re unreliable and therefore a health hazard.
“Unfortunately, we still do not have an accurate point-of-care (POC) test for TB, as we have for infections like HIV or malaria. The WHO policy strongly encourages future research to develop novel or improved serological tests,” said Dr. Pai, in this press release. “We are happy that some countries, like India, have already taken the lead by endorsing the WHO policy and issuing advisories against the use of serological tests. The big challenge will be to improve regulation, especially in the private medical sector, and to incentivize private providers to switch to WHO-endorsed TB tests.”
At the complete other end of the spectrum, Conservative Party Executive Director Dan Hilton has sent a legal threat to a woman whose husband died of asbestos related illness and who set up a website calling upon the Conservative Party to end its policy of supporting asbestos exports to developing countries. So what exactly is Dan Hilton’s issue? Ms. Michaela Keyserlingk of www.canadianasbestosexports.ca had the audacity to use the Conservative Party’s logo. Now, if the Conservatives want to adopt dangerous, unscientific, non-fact based policies, they should at least have the guts to publicly put their name to them. The only upswing - media across Canada are giving plenty of coverage to this issue, so here’s hoping Ms. Keyserlingk’s initiative receives a bit of a boost. If you think this is shameful and disgusting, you can sign a petition here to encourage Mr. Hilton to stop his frankly un-Canadian legal antics.
Image: A woman in India sifting through Canadian asbestos by hand. Courtesy of Greenpeace.
Une version française sera disponible sous peu.
A Montreal man who uses the name David Mabus, and who has been identified as Dennis Markuze of Saint-Laurent, Qué., has allegedly been issuing death threats to American science journalists and bloggers over the course of the past three years, first by email and lately via twitter. However, despite repeated complaints to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Montreal City Police (SVPM), no action has been taken.
“I’ve been getting emails from him for about 3 years or so, ever since I started my website http://whatstheharm.net and James Randi mentioned it in a blog post,” said Tim Farley, whose blog challenges people to think critically. “I have almost 60 screen shots of DIRECT death threats he sent to me. Stuff like “I am going to execute you, fucker… The police will not save you… we’re going to beat the fuck out of you, u lying little sack of shit…. and so on.”
Markuze appears, ironically, to be on some kind of extremist Christian bent, attacking the journalists for their defence of science against creationism or their beliefs in the separation of Church and State. One blogger who prefers to remain anonymous provided the following quote, which was left on a July 2010 article about Galileo: “We have orders to EXTERMINATE you and your entire family if continue to talk about GOD and RELIGION the way *you do* do you got the msg, you stupid little fucker?”
However, not all the missives are so explicitly religious. Heather Henderson, an actress in North Hollywood, Calif., provided the following screen capture:
“I’ve tried to interest the local police in Montreal and the RCMP in doing something about him, but they both seem to have a problem with taking complaints from people that don’t live in their jurisdictions,” Farley said. “The Montreal police told me to file with my local police, which I did back in January. Nothing has happened, even though I faxed the resulting police report to Montreal. It drives me nuts because Markuze seems SO similar to the David Abitbol and @JeffSabres cases, both of which happened in Montreal and both of which resulted in arrests.” Another American journalist said that police had visited Markuze once, “which only resulted in months of taunting saying the police can’t save us.”
Your correspondent happens to share an office with Daniel Baril, former President of the Quebec Secular Movement and Mathieu-Robert Sauvé, current President of the Quebec Association for Science Communicators. Neither Baril nor Sauvé had ever heard of either Markuze or Mabus. That’s quite odd considering his firing range reaches across continents, and would certainly suggest that the perpetrator believes he is free to threaten whomever he likes, provided that person is not in Quebec.
While geography might appear to be a mitigating factor, nobody else seems to be spared - even Rhys Morgan, a 16 year old Crohn’s sufferer from Wales, has received abusive twitter messages from Markuze.
Considering the number of death threats and abuse researchers in Montreal receive from around the world, it is appalling and shameful that our own police service is not acting rapidly and decisively to protect their international colleagues. It is appalling and shameful that our police react promptly to threats to Quebec journalists but not to those based abroad. The SPVM on the other hand has claimed that they have not received any reports, but that concerned citizens may forward any information they may have to firstname.lastname@example.org for referral.
“My big concern is that he needs to be taken in and evaluated psychologically, and it needs to happen before he does something violent that matches his words,” Farley said. Markuze is known to hang around science events in Montreal - the following photo was taken of him at the American Atheist Convention which took place here in October 2010. In other words, it appears that Markuze is moving off the Internet and into the real world. Action needs to be taken now, before someone gets hurt.
Dennis Markuze. Photo taken at the American Atheist Convention which took place in Montreal on October 2010.
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