Thursday, May 28, 2020

Escaping Our Post-Antibiotics Future

-By Badra Abbas


There are many miracles modern medicine has afforded us, the ability to undergo organ transplantation, recovering from infected cuts and scrapes, and surviving some of the deadliest infectious diseases on the planet. A primary component of this remarkable success is antibiotics, medicines that hinder or kill bacteria (Society, (n.d.)).
Since the advent of antibiotics, human life expectancy jumped up, and many of the worst diseases faded from memory. Ironically it was the positive reputation antibiotics gained that led to their overprescription. The consequences appeared a mere 4 years after the discovery of penicillin, the first antibiotic. Certain bacteria began surviving and continued to infect humans. In time the golden age of antibiotic development ended, and a public health crisis ensued. The killers of the past such as the Black Death, typhus, pneumonia, tuberculosis are returning. Human misuse of antibiotics in healthcare, agriculture, and the worldwide contamination of rivers is aggravating this situation. Animals are treated with more antibiotics than humans, a costly action that was banned in the EU in 2006 but is still an international practice. A worldwide examination of hundreds of rivers revealed heavy contamination from antibiotics, so the question of why the bacteria evolved against these medicines is easily answered. 
As for the cost? The death toll would be in the millions since anybody can get infected with a disease. The loss of human life from bacteria exists worldwide, in the deaths of almost 5.7 million people (“Lack of access to antibiotics is a major global health challenge”, 2019), and the resistance crisis will only be adding to these deaths. Those with compromised immune systems face the greatest risk. For example, a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, or an individual with a severe case of COVID-19. Patients with severe cases can contract secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia (Gerberding, 2020). For these vulnerable members of our communities, their quality of life or chance at surviving an illness is entirely dependent on having antibiotics available.

The solutions to this complex and daunting issue are manifold and require global collaborations, massive investments, and private sector cooperation. Some moves have already begun, such as the work of the global nonprofit partnership, CARB-X, which is accelerating global innovation in antibiotics with an investment of around 220.8 million. Revitalizing the pharmaceutical industry to encourage the production of antibiotics also needs to be addressed. R&D for any new drug requires the commitment of billions of dollars, and possibly decades of time, but especially in the case of antibiotics, returns on investments are low. These aren’t drugs like heart medications that a consumer must take every day, these are stored for emergencies (Outterson, 2018). Funding small startups and aiding them in their research makes more possibilities for a larger company to buy their patents and invest in promising drugs. Changes in drug development, such as patent extensions and upfront payments are proposed solutions, but they require government involvement (Mckenna, 2015). A solution that takes a different route is clamping down on the usage of antibiotics globally, enforcing stringent measures to monitor usage across industries and in healthcare (Zhang, 2015). This is already a reality in many hospitals globally in the form of stewardship for antibiotics to help determine where these drugs can be used. 

In a more futuristic sense, new technologies such as nanotechnology (“Antibiotic nanoparticles fight drug-resistant bacteria”, 2017), virus phage therapies (Schmidt, (n.d.)), and bacterial vaccines (Sweeney, 2019) are being produced. Repurposing old drugs, and combining them with new ones is an alternative track being taken by researchers (Torres, 2019). These promising treatments and experiments are all heading in the right direction creating a promising future with continued advancements in medical care and a lower death toll. 

At the end of the day, the governments of the world along with citizens, need to decide what the cost of living a healthy life means to them. This issue may involve a lot of biology and chemistry, but it’s ultimate impact is heaviest on people. According to a report by the European Consumer Organization in 2017, antibiotic resistance is on its way to causing more deaths than cancer by 2050, and a routine infection could be deadly in about 20 years. If a terrifying future without antibiotics is going to be avoided, continued efforts must be doubled, because the lives of over 10 million predicted victims are at risk by 2050 (Hu, 2018). 

Bibliography

  1. Borunda, A. (2019, May 29). First global look finds most rivers awash with antibiotics. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/hundreds-of-worlds-rivers-contain-dangerous-levels-antibiotics/ 
  2. Boston University. (n.d.). Home - Carb-X. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://carb-x.org/ 
  3. Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. (2019, April 09). Lack of access to antibiotics is a major global health challenge. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190409135849.htm 
  4. 'Do something now,' says chair of panel warning drug resistance may kill 400,000 Canadians by 2050 | CBC News. (2019, November 13). Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/superbug-deaths-1.4429406 
  5. Gerberding, J. (2020, March 29). Antibiotic resistance: The hidden threat lurking behind Covid-19. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/23/antibiotic-resistance-hidden-threat-lurking-behind-covid-19/ 
  6. Hu, C. (2018, July 21). Pharmaceutical companies are backing away from a growing threat that could kill 10 million people a year by 2050. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/major-pharmaceutical-companies-dropping-antibiotic-projects-superbugs-2018-7 
  7. Kane, L. (2019, November 13). 'Do something now,' says chair of panel warning drug resistance may kill 400,000 Canadians by 2050 | CBC News. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/superbug-deaths-1.4429406 

Storytelling in Movies


An examination of Characters, Growth, and the Human Spirit
- By Andrew Wei, Film Critic via Instagram



History tells grand conquests of extraordinary generals, tactical masterminds on the battlefield, and tyrannical rulers devastating the kingdom. It portrays the power and politics of the nobility and the crooked dealings of the Church. It tells the victories of the privileged elite. Film, art and literature, on the other hand, tell the stories of the everyday people who make up our world. 1700s art, Victorian-era literature and turn-of-the-century films rarely reflect the grand scale of history, they instead opt to examine the people of these times, and how they were impacted by society. When we take a journey through art history or cinematic history or English lit, we see, hear and read stories not about how the leaders and elite were doing, but rather the experiences and emotions of the common men and women. We see their struggles, we hear their triumphs and we read their passions. That’s the difference between history and art. History examines tactics and politics on a grand scale, while art looks at the individual human elements involved. Movies tell stories of the human spirit, it examines our species under a magnifying glass more intimately than history ever could.

Film holds a mirror against society and shows us not only the defining features of our facade but also the wrinkles and folds that we had hoped no one would notice. More closely than that, film holds a mirror against each and every one of us. The movies that I am most invested in are the ones whose stories are about that of the human spirit. It doesn’t matter if they’re from Ancient Greece or the 23rd century. It doesn’t matter if they’re about a starving family in Tokyo or an urban couple from New York City. It doesn’t even matter if they’re human, a trash rabbit from space or a cube-shaped robot that cleans up garbage, at their core they are all about us. They are just told through different mediums. It’s about the triumphs and pitfalls of the human spirit. It’s about humanity’s capacity for love and cruelty. It’s about how individuals and societies grow, change, and fall. That’s why I love film making, it is an intimate craft that forces filmmakers to look deep within themselves and society before creating their characters. 

Movies are nothing without characters. The most common critique I have about sub-par movies are character-related. Whether that be a lack of character development, being stuffed with too many characters, or suffocating the characters with too much emphasis on plot, it’s almost always about the characters. Without your characters, there is very little movie, because you can’t tell stories about the human spirit, without a vessel to reflect that in. Sure, we read stories about legendary battles, or mythical conquests or galactic adventures, but at its heart, the stories are about our heroes and the personal journey that they underwent from within. The journey on the exterior is just a plot device. The plot will always fall second to the character for me because the plot is just a backdrop for characters to develop. 

We watch these characters change and develop, and it teaches us about how the human spirit responds to its surroundings. Oftentimes it’s not the quest or the MacGuffin that audiences care about when watching a movie, we watch to see how characters are impacted by their journey. We don’t watch to observe the plot, we watch to observe how characters respond to the plot. How they react to the plot. How they are influenced by the plot. We watch because we see ourselves portrayed in the characters, we project our strengths in the heroes and see our weaknesses reflected in the villains. Maybe it says something about our narcissistic society that we have to portray ourselves in everything, but if humanity as a whole really is that narcissistic, then might as well be entertained while we’re at it. 

I can’t relate to Caesar as he went into battle against the Gauls, but I sure can relate to Harry Potter as he battles Lord Voldemort. I could care less about Napoleon and Czar Alexander’s bromance/romance, but watching love blossom between two office assistants as they attempt to ‘parent-trap’ their boss leaves me more fulfilled then I’d like to admit. Learning that the Chinese Government is potentially spying on me through my Huawei phone drew little more than a shrug of my shoulders, but I was in shambles after experiencing half of the universe being snapped away. I suppose one could say that putting so much emotional investment into movies says more about my mental state than a reflection of our society, but I choose to believe the latter to help me sleep at night. I choose to believe that movies are so integral to our society because they help us make sense of the confusing and chaotic environment that we live in. Seeing humanity and the human spirit is portrayed so honestly and intimately on a 30x50 feet silver screen teaches us something about the human spirit within ourselves.  

Isn’t that the point of storytelling, to learn about ourselves as we watch these superheroes go back in time, or a couple attempt to find each other whilst being lost in their own memories of one another? These stories inspire us, they confront us, they scare us, but above all else, they teach us. They teach us aspects of ourselves that we’ve never even interacted with or are ready to admit. Effective stories show us a director, a filmmaker or an actor’s take on how human beings respond to crises. How the human spirit preserves, or how it fails. They are not making a general statement about all of humanity, but rather just a contained story about one character’s motivations, one family’s world views, one society’s cruelty. They can teach us, about what we want to become, and what we want to avoid. I suppose that is why I love movies so much, to follow characters and see their inner workings, as their identity is tested again and again. To observe whether or not they can withstand the elements, that is the plot. To observe whether or not they can withstand the elements - that is the plot. To learn from how the people we meet change and develop - that is the character. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The ‘Ethical Canadian Oil” Claim from Politicians will Soon be Dead

Hanson Feng
Chief Operating Officer
Senior Business and Economics Columnist



Canadian oil and gas have taken a beating with no recovery after the 2014 crash. Husky Energy (TSX: HSE.TO) was once known as a stable and blue-chip stock with a price over almost $50 before the great recession of 2008, since the beginning of 2020, a Starbucks latte is more expensive than a share of this giant organization. This isn’t to say that you’d be paid to take oil away at the height of the COVID-19 economic downturn. Conservative politicians have always had a strong base in the oil province of Alberta and have constantly been the cheerleaders of the oil and gas industry. Claiming it’s the most ethically produced oil in the world that respects human rights, dignity, and generously compensates its workers. Let’s be clear, as a Canadian I’m proud of the oil and gas, my family has benefited from the boom. But the craze is over, so is the claim that our resources are 100% ethical.
Saudia Arabia is Buying Canadian Oil Shares
Saudi Arabia is founded on oil and gas just like Alberta, but with all of the ownership centralized under one power. While Canadian companies cannot directly control who buys their shares, no for-profit organization would give up capital funding. But when our energy activity is funded by an anti-democratic and repressive regime, we cannot claim our oil is more ‘ethical’ as theirs, it’s equal. If corporate executives continue to ignore a disrespect to basic human dignity by its soon larger investors, it’ll directly oppose this image of morality and dignity presented by the right, providing the left with an open net to score an anti-Canadian energy goal. This could mark the soon demise of the Canadian non-renewable energy sector.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Rebirth

Rebirth

By Nicole Cohen

May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but the fight for sexual assault victims is a neverending cause. Another important day in awareness is marked on April 29th; “denim day”. Denim day is an event in which people, both survivors of sexual assault or those who want to visibly support them, wear denim to raise awareness. This tradition started after an 18-year-old girl was raped by her driving instructor in Italy in the 1990s. The rapist was initially convicted and sentenced to a lesser charge of indecent exposure, but he was subsequently convicted of all charges after the victim appealed. However, the accused appealed to the Italian Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction in 1998 because the victim wore tight jeans. The court did this giving the argument that this must have been an implicitly consensual act since “the only way to have gotten them off was if she had helped her attacker remove her jeans”, putting the Italian Supreme Court in favour of the accused. As of 2008, the Italian Supreme Court has overturned their findings, and there is no longer a "denim" defence to the charge of rape.
Although, the issue still stands that those who face sexual assault are always asked the same misinformed question: what were you wearing? In 2019, Statistics Canada said that one in three women and one in eight men experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in public. For both genders alike, younger age and sexual orientation have shown to increase the odds of experiencing this unwanted behaviour more than any other factor. Almost certainly, someone you know has faced a form of sexual assault, and it is imperative that year-round we respect sexual assault survivors and can serve as a support system for those that may find themselves in need. We must also continue to educate ourselves on the misconceptions of those who experience it. There is never a justification for the sexual violation of another human being, and while “no” always means “no”, there is no consent without a “yes”.

rebirth

i once fit a pair of size 6 kids overalls
but as we must all eventually do,
i grew out of them.

like i grew out of innocence,
i found i outgrew their fondness
comfortability, the fabric itself.

my desired style feels as unachievable
as the peaceful state of mind i wish i had
when i first put on the overalls.

actions speak louder than words
but still, the things we say
don’t fail to carry a weight strong enough to break us.

“that can’t be, he wouldn’t hurt a fly”
“no, he’s always been a model student”
“i know him, he isn't like that”

it’s funny that the words spoken for my comfort,
are never intended to ease my pain, or for validation
they are for him, his sole tranquility.

his hands left stains on my soul,
captured the cells my body created
ruptured the rapture of my juvenescence.

i still see his face marked in the eyes of those i wrongly trusted
in every piece of denim clothing i wish i could own
in every single childhood photo where the denim overalls are seen.

ten years have passed, enough time for my body to be anew.
they tell me now there is no cell in my body he’s touched before
and never again will his hands taint the denim it bears once more.


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