Thursday, April 28, 2011

Researchers Develop Treatment for Lung Disorder

GUELPH, Ontario April 27, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

Patients with a rare lung disorder may eventually breathe easier with a potential new treatment developed by a research team including University of Guelph scientists.

The group has developed a way to improve therapeutic proteins used to treat various diseases, especially alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency. Their study appears in a paper published online this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

About 3.4 million people worldwide have this rare genetic disorder, which causes breathing problems, notably emphysema and bronchitis. It can also cause liver cirrhosis and skin inflammation. It occurs when the liver makes too little A1AT, which normally helps protect the lungs from illness and exposure to harmful substances such as tobacco smoke.

The researchers have shown a new way to make A1AT drugs last longer in the body. Currently, patients need frequent injections and high doses, meaning high health-care costs and greater toxicity risks. Patients also treat symptoms with inhalers and medication.

Altering therapeutic proteins to make drugs remain in the body longer may allow for lower dosages and fewer injections, improving patients’ lives and reducing drug costs, said Warren Wakarchuk, one of the study’s authors and an adjunct professor in Guelph’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB). He’s also a research officer in the Institute for Biological Sciences at the National Research Council in Ottawa.

Study co-author Lisa Willis, a Guelph PhD student, started the project while working at the NRC with Wakarchuk. The researchers used a bacterial enzyme to alter the A1AT glycoprotein for testing in mice.

Wakarchuk says using bacterial enzymes to make these glycoproteins is better than current chemical processes. He says the long-term goal is to develop better protein-based therapies for A1AT deficiency and for other disorders such as hemophilia.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nobel Laureates Tell World Leaders: No Nukes

photo: Wangari Maathai, Kenya (2004) Photo credit: e pants via Flickr/ Creative Commons

by Daniel Kessler, Oakland, CA

On the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster, nine Nobel Peace laureates have written world leaders to tell them that nuclear energy is not the answer to our energy problems. Betty Williams, Ireland (1976), Mairead Maguire, Ireland (1976), Wangari Maathai, Kenya (2004), Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (1984) and others say that nuclear energy is too dangerous and that the world needs to prioritize renewable energy.

"On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine--and more than two months after the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan--we the undersigned Nobel Peace Laureates ask you to invest in a safer and more peaceful future by committing to renewable energy sources. It is time to recognize that nuclear power is not a clean, safe or affordable source of energy.

We are deeply disturbed that the lives of people in Japan are being endangered by nuclear radiation in the air, in the water and in the food as a result of the breakdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. We firmly believe that if the world phases out its current use of nuclear power, future generations of people everywhere--and the Japanese people who have already suffered too much--will live in greater peace and security."

No, President Obama, former winner of the Prize, did not sign on. He is still a staunch advocate for nuclear power despite the fact that no new plant has been built in the US for over 4 decades and that UBS recently estimated that new nuclear power will have a capital cost of $5,000 per kilowatt generated.

The full list of signatories is:

...Betty Williams, Ireland (1976)
...Mairead Maguire, Ireland (1976)
...Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Guatemala (1992)
...Jody Williams, USA (1997)
...Shirin Ebadi, Iran (2003)
...Wangari Maathai, Kenya (2004)
...Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (1984)
...Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentina (1980)
...President Jose Ramos Horta, East Timor (1996)

The full letter can be read here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Running Room launches Boomer focused Active-Aging online walking clinic

Nearly 6 out of 10 Canadians over the age of 65 are not getting enough exercise, and may be at risk for cardiovascular disease

TORONTO, Ontario April 26, 2011 (Canada NewsWire) - With age and physical inactivity considered risks for developing cardiovascular disease, nearly six out of 10 Baby Boomers are in danger of dying from Canada’s second leading cause of death and disability – cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Recognizing the risk to the Canadian Baby Boomer population, Running Room founder John Stanton is spearheading the launch of his new program - the Active-Aging online walking clinic. This easy-to-follow and convenient program is specifically aimed to Canadians over the age of fifty looking to add exercise into their lives – one step at a time.

“As we start to age, we need to realize that we can’t become inactive,” says John Stanton. “One of the reasons I wanted to start this online clinic was to help people age in a healthy way and walking is a great way to do so.”
The Active-Aging online walking clinic can be found by visiting Its goal is to inspire people about the virtues of walking, and provide information on how exercise and a healthy lifestyle are an important part of managing risk for cardiovascular disease.

“Thirty to 60 minutes of walking daily offers many of the same health benefits as running, and is a great place to start for someone being introduced into a fitness regime. A lack of exercise can contribute to your risk for cardiovascular disease,” explains Dr. Robert Welsh, Associate Professor and Academic Interventional Cardiologist at the University of Alberta Hospital. “The good news is that by incorporating physical activity, this risk factor is modifiable.”

Inactivity, along with age, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history and diabetes, is considered a risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 are inactive, which can lead to a decline in bone strength, muscle strength, heart and lung fitness and flexibility. Since cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death and disability in Canada, accounting for 29.5 per cent of all deaths nationally,6 incorporating exercise is one of many ways Canadians can begin to address this problem.

“We know that physical activity on a regular basis helps maintain strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, and can help reduce the risk of falls, which is why it becomes more and more important as we age.” says Dr. Welsh. “Walking is a great way to ease into a new exercise routine, and if done properly, it can offer many of the same health benefits as other types of exercise. Be sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.”

To learn more about the Active-Aging online walking clinic, or to view educational videos and heart-healthy content sponsored by AstraZeneca Canada, visit

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stealth Shopper Sneaks "Toxic" Labels On Deodorant

Photo courtesy Jessica Assaf.

by A.K. Streeter, Portland, Oregon

Consumers are usually the last to know the important information about the products we are using. Take cleaning supplies - many still don't clearly specify which exact ingredients are harmful and in what amounts they are used. And organic labels may be reassuring on food products, but sometimes they don''t tell the whole story about small amounts of "hidden" unorganic ingredients. And what about GMOs? Consumers have said they want labeling of GMO-containing products for years, to no avail. So one shopper took matters in to her own hands.

New York University student Jessica Assaf created stickers to educate consumers about the toxic ingredients found in many cosmetics and personal care products.

Assaf targetted Secret because it is one of the most popular deodorants used by young women in the United States today, she said. According to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep, Secret has some not-so-savory secret ingredients, such as butane, associated with allergies and immunotoxicity, and aluminium chlorohydrate, linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. And overall, Secret's rating (a "6" out of "10") is fairly high compared to the hundreds of other deodorants in the EWG database. (Salt crystal deodorants score best.)

So Assaf went around to some drugstores in her area and stuck toxic warning labels on 100 Secret bottles.

"I believe that consumers should know the truth about the ingredients in their everyday products. This is a completely unregulated industry, and most people do not know that cosmetic companies can put any chemical in their products and with no labeling requirements or safety testing, sell these toxic products to the public. I'm not going to wait for legislation to protect our health because we don't have any time to wait. These chemicals are accumulating in our bodies and no one is stepping up to stop it,"
says Assaf.

Assaf said she will target personal care products with these stealth labels until the Federal Drug Administration begins to more closely regulated the personal care products industry. She is also working on a documentary about the issues called Body Burden.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Riding the World's First Hybrid Car: 1900 Porsche Semper Vivus

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York

Quick: name the first functional hybrid car ever built. Okay, sure, it's Porsche's Semper Vivus. But if you hadn't already read the headline to this post, you might have said the Prius. Yet the Semper Vivus beat the Toyota to the punch -- by about a hundred years. Yes, the world's first hybrid electric cars (and all electric cars) were built way back at the turn of the century, when it was still unclear whether EVs or gas-powered cars would take off. The combustion engine quickly became king, of course, and most folks forgot that hybrids and EVs were even in the running. Which is why it's a pretty neat PR gimmick for Porsche to roll out an exact replica of the very first hybrid car -- painstakingly and immaculately recreated by a devoted hobbyist -- and give us press folk rides in the amazing vehicle to demonstrate that hybrid technology is seriously old news.

n effect, we've known how to build functional electric cars and hybrid electrics for literally over 100 years. The moral of the story, to me, is that once a series of interests align and become entrenched -- the way oil companies' and automakers' did early on -- it's tough to untangle them. There was some serious money on EVs -- the first American taxi company was all-electric, for instance -- but the combustion engine won out for a variety of reasons. And because of gas-powered cars, we eventually got massive highway expansion and suburban sprawl -- if things had lined up differently for EVs or hybrids early on, the US could have been built completely differently. Of course, we'd have an even bigger coal problem ... read more story and watch videos of this car at

Friday, April 22, 2011

Khan Academy - A free world-class education for anyone anywhere

The Khan Academy is a "not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

Designed as a type of educational tool and a living archive, the site contains over 2100 videos that include algebra lessons, calculus sessions, cosmology, and developmental math. The "tool" function comes in when visitors discover that they can create their own playlists of these videos for use after signing up for an account.

It is a remarkable collection, and other subjects are covered here as well. [KMG]

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2011.

All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Watch video

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Canadians Say Transit Missing as a Priority from Governments

TORONTO, April 21, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A Harris Decima survey conducted on behalf of the Canadian Urban Transit Association reveals that although most Canadians live in communities served by public transit, the majority of these Canadians do not think governments have put enough emphasis on transit infrastructure.

"The majority of those surveyed (60%) say they are "deeply concerned that governments have not made public transit infrastructure the priority it needs to be,"" says CUTA Chair, Charles Stolte. "With city and community issues largely missing from the federal parties' platforms during this election period, there has to be a shift of focus to these important issues."

"Only 29% believe the federal government is doing enough to support public transit infrastructure across the country," says Michael Roschlau, CUTA President and CEO. "Canadians understand that the federal government must strengthen its role in ensuring public transit is adequately funded and supported."

CUTA is one of a number of stakeholders including mayors, the FCM, Boards of Trade, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), environmental groups, and related organizations calling for transit and community issues to be higher profile among political parties during this election campaign.

This polling research was designed to support CUTA's Transit Vision 2040 monitoring framework by seeking impressions and opinions of the general public on issues and matters related to public transit in Canada.

"Canadian transit users share a very positive outlook on the specific aspects of their system with three in four users rating all aspects as excellent or good," confirms Roschlau. "Whether they use public transit or not, the majority of Canadians living in communities served by public transit (64%) believe it is important or very important to have access to public transit in their community."

Seven in ten Canadians (69%) indicate they have access to public transit in their community. Of those who have access to public transit, two thirds (67%) use public transit regularly or occasionally in the course of their day-to-day activities. Regardless of whether they use it or not, the majority of Canadians living in communities with public transit (64%) attribute an excellent or good rating to the public transit system in their community.

"Considering that transit ridership is at an all time high, these findings cannot be ignored," concludes Stolte. "It's time to focus on public transit in this election campaign allowing voters to see the federal parties' plans for dedicated and long term support for public transit."

CUTA is the national association representing public transit systems, suppliers to the industry, government agencies, individuals and related organizations in Canada.

The survey report is available upon request by emailing Maureen Shuell at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Putting Our Roads on a Diet (Video)

Making Cities Safer, More Efficient

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada

Sometimes, less is more. Removing lanes from certain roads can - counter-intuitively - help traffic flow more smoothly while making the street safer for cyclists and pedestrians. It can also encourage more people to explore the neighborhood and be beneficial for local businesses.

Even drivers can benefit:

"Less speeding improves safety for motorists and passengers, and providing left-turn pockets allows through traffic to proceed without shifting lanes or waiting behind turning vehicles."

Via our friend Clarence at Streetfilms.

See also: 700+ Cyclists Ride to Support the Prospect Park West Bike Lane in Brooklyn (Video)

Moving Beyond the Automobile: Road Diets from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Candidacy Announced in Response to Citizens' Pledges to Vote for the Internet

Internet to Run for Prime Minister

VANCOUVER, April 18, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Sensing Canadians, especially youth, are hungry for change and a positive vision for the future, The Internet, aka Net, has announced that they are running for Prime Minister of Canada.

A month after almost half-a-million Canadians stood up for the Internet by signing's Stop The Meter petition, and only days after over 35,000 citizens took a pledge to vote for the Internet, Net followed Tuesday's Federal Leaders debate via Twitter and was shocked when no one answered the call for strong digital leadership. Within hours Net brought together a meeting of their closest and most trusted advisers, and decided to file the nomination papers early this morning.

Net picked up an early endorsement from, which hailed the candidate as one that holds the fundamental democratic principles that should guide Internet governance in Canada. Net will be putting forward a platform unlike any other, based on principles of openness and affordability.

"Canadians are not happy with what passes as leadership these days. We need to shake this race up a bit. Net has strong foreign policy credentials, and a positive vision for the future of Canada. This is a candidate Canadians will surely support." said Steve Anderson, Net's Campaign Manager.

"I get to travel a lot," said Net, "and as a proud Canadian, I can honestly tell you we're falling behind. The rest of the world is quickly embracing the digital age; they recognize the future engines of economic growth will require more speed, more affordability, and more openness."

Net added:
"Do we embrace the digital age and its full potential, or do we get left behind? That's the choice facing Canadians in this election."

Net's campaign headquarters can be found at Net can also be found on Twitter here:

This Internet sensation is sweeping the nation.

About is a national, non-partisan, non-profit public engagement organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada. Our primary goal is to increase public awareness and informed participation in Canadian media, cultural, information, and telecommunications policy formation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sold to the Highest Bidder: 3 Used Space Ships

Photo: NASA, Discovery

by Bonnie Alter, London

Last week there were used battleships for sale on e-bay, this week we've got used space shuttles. But not going as cheaply as the warships and not being turned into pots and pans either.

NASA has been trying to flog these space shuttles for a while now; they have already been marked down from $42M to $28M. And it looks like they may have finally found a new, earth-bound, home.

It's the thirtieth anniversary of the space shuttle voyages and the fiftieth anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space.

Twenty museums were vying to get one of the old space ships. Places like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio; Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City; Museum of Flight in Seattle; Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Adler Planetarium in Chicago all wanted one. It's a great tourist draw and an important piece of American history. Especially since there won't be any more space shuttles. Former President Bush cut the programme in 2004 and President Obama favours a different direction for the space programme.

Discovery, Endeavour and Enterprise are all up for grabs, along with an existing, working shuttle (Atlantis) and various other bits and pieces.

The winners have been announced.

Enterprise, the first orbiter built (1977), will move to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

Discovery will go to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Discovery was the first to be retired. It has completed 39 missions into space and 5,247 orbits. It will have to be transported there, but first it has to be drained of toxic fuel and have the contaminated plumbing removed. NASA also wants to pull out some pieces for analysis, to help in the development of future spaceships.

Endeavour, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of the month will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex in Florida.

Other museums with get various bits and pieces. The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Ore., and Texas A&M's Aerospace Engineering Department will get various shuttle simulators. The Museum of Flight in Seattle will get a full fuselage trainer. The nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer will go to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The flight deck pilot and commander seats go to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and orbital maneuvering system engines go to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center of Huntsville, Ala., National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

However, no main engines will be included. NASA was trying to sell them for $400,000 to $800,000, but there were no takers. So now they are now offering them free to museums but they have to pay transportation and handling costs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Study Shows That If You Shop Daily, You Live Longer

Grocery in Nanjing; CC Image credit Ginnerobot

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

We have made the case that small fridges make good cities; now a new study indicates that small fridges make healthier people.

A study in Taiwan found that old people who get out and shop every day are 27% less likely to die over a ten year period than those who shop once a week.

Livescience speculates on the reasons:
It's possible that shopping itself could improve health by ensuring a good supply of food for a healthy diet, ensuring exercise by walking around, and providing social interaction and companionship in the form of shopping buddies, the study said.

"Shopping captures several dimensions of personal well-being, health and security as well as contributing to the community's cohesiveness and economy and may represent or actually confer increased longevity," researchers wrote in the study.


Yet another reason to live in walkable communities instead of driving to the Walmart and filling up the doublewide fridge once a week. From the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

More on shopping daily:

IDS07: Small Fridges Make Good Cities
Designing a Kitchen Without a Fridge
Small Fridges Make Good Cities: Oprah Tours Fridges in Copenhagen

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Survey Reveals Canadians are Knowingly Trashing Potential Cash

Roughly 10 Million Canadians are Throwing Away Unwanted Items Instead of Seeing Green

TORONTO, April 13, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - As the nation sweeps into spring cleaning action not all Canadians will be seeing green this year, according to a new survey commissioned by Kijiji Canada. In fact, more than 40 per cent of Canadians trash upwards of $400 by tossing unwanted household items instead of selling them.

So, why are Canadians missing the opportunity to turn their clutter into cash? The perceived difficulty associated with getting rid of clutter may explain why nearly half of Canadians simply throw unwanted items out with their regular garbage. In fact, the research reveals that, in general, Canadians would be more inclined to get rid of their unwanted items if there was an easy way to find someone who needed the item (54 per cent), a free and easy way to get rid of the item (47 per cent), or the ability to get rid of the item without having to transport it (35 per cent).

"There's no reason to trash cash," said Jaclyn Ray, Kijiji Canada's Clutter Wrangler. "Once you've taken the first and hardest step - which is letting go of your unwanted items - online resources, like, make it easy to sell household items and turn unwanted treasures into cash, not trash."

"It's also the greener way," she adds. "Selling or donating unwanted items means the item is being reused or recycled and it's not ending up in a landfill."

Turning clutter into cash

In order to turn clutter into cash, Kijiji's Clutter Wrangler Ray suggests these tips:

...Detach to de-clutter. More than 50 per cent of Canadians contend that they're "emotionally attached" to their clutter, according to Kijiji's research. Really, ask yourself: what is the worst possible thing that could happen if I didn't have this item?

...Seek out the obvious. Clutter, according to the survey, is likely hiding in the basement, a closet, or the garage. In fact, 45 per cent of Canadians admit to storing their clutter in their basement. Look for clothes, office supplies, and collectibles that you no longer want or need.

Love it or list it. If you don't love it or need it, list it for sale using an online classifieds site like It's a great way to sell almost anything.

...Pick a price and post a picture. Take a minute to compare the price of similar products to get a sense of what your item is worth. If you're like 67 per cent of other Canadians with clutter who say it's made up of a bit of everything, you may not know its true value. Once you've priced the item, start listing. Always include a photo of your item in your ad. After all, a picture is worth 1000 words or maybe even $1,000.

...Start seeing green. Once your ad goes live, interested buyers will start to contact you. To complete the transaction, meet in person at a mutually agreed upon location.

With spring cleaning on the decline - only 48 per cent of Canadians plan an annual spring cleaning, compared with 54 per cent in 2010 - Ray suggests weekly or monthly de-cluttering instead. After all, the longer someone holds on to an item, the harder it is to part with it.

Clutter by community

Who's holding on to the most clutter? Which community has the most entrepreneurial spirit? When it comes to clutter behaviour, the survey also reveals interesting differences from coast-to-coast:

...East versus West. The Maritimes are the most cluttered, with 30 per cent of Atlantic Canadians admitting to high levels of clutter.

...There's a certain "je ne sais quoi" in Québec. Quebecers are the most attached to their items, with 17 per cent reporting that they are very emotionally connected to unwanted possessions.

...Cashing in! Ontarians like to make the most profit, with 33 per cent of them selling their items at garage sales, and 20 per cent selling their items online.

...Paying it forward? Ontarians are the most charitable, with 80 per cent donating their items to charity.

...Albertans have an entrepreneurial spirit. On average, Albertans make more money than the rest of the country from selling unwanted items. The average amount earned last year was $421; however 16 per cent of Albertans made between $1,000 and $2,000 selling their unwanted items.

...British Columbia and Ontario residents are fighting the most. Fifteen per cent of residents in each province report that they argue frequently or often with family or friends over clutter.

...We're seeing environmental differences. Atlantic Canadians are most likely to throw their items away (57 per cent), while Quebecers are the least likely (32 per cent).

"According to additional research conducted globally, the average person throws away 10 items each year which could have been sold instead," said Zachary Candelario, general manager, Kijiji Canada. "As Earth Day approaches, we're reminding Canadians that there are no more excuses for simply throwing things away. With 99 community sites across the country and no posting fees, Kijiji is a free and environmentally-friendly way for Canadians to turn their clutter into cash. In fact, in the last year alone, Canadians have posted $2.1 trillion worth of ads on"

To start turning their clutter into cash, Canadians should visit or download the Kijiji Canada iPhone app directly from the App Store.

About Kijiji Canada

Kijiji, which means "village" in Swahili, is the number one classifieds site in Canada, connecting nine-million buyers and sellers each month. offers Canadians a free, easy, and local way to buy, sell, and trade goods and services in their community. With local sites for more than 99 cities and towns across the country, Kijiji makes it easy for Canadians to find exactly what they're looking for in their own community. Kijiji Canada is part of the eBay Classifieds Group, the global leader in online classifieds with a global presence in more than 20 countries and 1,000 cities.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New Regulations Give Ontarians Better Access to Eye Care

TORONTO, April 6, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Government approved a regulation today that allows Ontario's optometrists to start prescribing medications for their patients. Optometrists will now be able to prescribe treatments for conditions ranging from routine bacterial eye infections to more serious diseases including glaucoma. The change will alleviate wait times in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics for patients with eye-related problems.

"This is great news for our patients and everyone in Ontario," notes Dr. John Mastronardi of Windsor, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). "Most of our members have been educated and trained to prescribe medications for years. We are pleased that the Ontario government has made changes that will broaden access to medically necessary services across the province."

While Ontario is one of the last provinces to en-act this regulation, the new regulation has the widest scope in Canada and brings about the most benefits to patients.

For patient Jason Secord of Acton, he applauds the decision. "A few years ago, I almost lost the vision in my right eye because of a condition called iritis. I went to my optometrist and he knew what was wrong but he couldn't prescribe the drops that I needed. Now if I ever have a problem again, I can go to my optometrist right away without putting my eye health at risk by waiting to see three different doctors for treatment."

Today's decision by the Ontario government means better healthcare and shorter wait times for patients while reducing costs for taxpayers.

The Executive Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Ontario, Paul Ting, also applauded the news. "This will make great strides in the treatment of all eye care," says Ting. "Seventy five percent of vision loss is preventable or treatable. Preventing blindness is an urgent challenge with an aging population, and this will drastically improve access to clinical care."

Optometrists are eye doctors who are university educated and clinically trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the eye and visual system. Optometrists complete a four year professional doctorate degree program and are regulated by the College of Optometrists of Ontario.

For more information on the eye conditions that optometrists can now treat and prescribe, please visit the Ontario Association of Optometrists website at:

Founded in 1909, OAO is the voluntary professional organization that represents more than 1,400 optometrists in Ontario. The Association proudly serves the profession by undertaking government advocacy, membership education and public awareness initiatives.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ontarians "Still Waiting" for Access to Home Care: New Report

TORONTO, April 4, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new report on the state of Ontario's home care system has found more than 10,000 people on wait lists for services. "Still Waiting: An Assessment of Ontario's Home Care System After Two Decades of Restructuring", released by the Ontario Health Coalition today, reveals that major problems reported by Ontario's Auditor Generals since 1998 are still not resolved. As a result, Ontario's home care system is plagued by inadequate services, inequitable access to care and poor oversight.

The report also reveals that 18,500 hospital beds have been closed since 1990 and other hospital services such as outpatient rehabilitation are being cut across Ontario. While patients are being downloaded from hospitals, too often there are inadequate services in the community.

"Access to home care in Ontario is not improving. Huge wait lists, totalling more than 10,000, have persisted for more than a decade," said Natalie Mehra, coalition director. "We found that home care funding is actually shrinking as a percentage of health spending even though hospital beds continue to be cut and closed. Patients face long waits, inequitable and inadequate access to care, and user fees. Access to information and democratic accountability are worse than ever."

"Seniors want to age at home," noted Derek Chadwick from the Canadian Pensioners Concerned. "Often home care is not available unless seniors have the money to pay for it out-of-pocket."

"This report is meant to be a wake up call for all Ontario political parties as we lead into the provincial election," said Derrell Dular, managing director of the Older Canadians Network. "Improving access to home care must be a priority. Provincial Auditors have repeatedly recommended a full review of the competitive bidding system that has siphoned resources and focus away from front line care. We are repeating this call."

Key Findings:

...For more than 12 years, Provincial Auditors have reported that access to home care across Ontario is inequitable with some CCACs receiving up to double the funding that others receive.

...There are no standards for access to care. Huge wait lists have persisted for more than a decade, totalling more than 10,000 people since 1999.

...Home care funding is decreasing as a proportion of health spending -- from 5.5% to less than 4.5% between 1999 and 2010. Funding per home care client has decreased from $3,846 in 2003 to $3,003 in 2009.

...Inadequate standards and poor quality control have continued for more than 12 years, according to Provincial Auditors. Inconsistent and inadequate tracking of complaints has not been resolved after 12 years.

Public accountability and democratic control over home care have decreased.

Administrative costs are very high. Administration and case management take up 30% of CCAC budgets totalling more than $500 million. There are four tiers of administration before funding reaches front line care, yet oversight is consistently poor. Competitive bidding has siphoned vast resources away from care.

..Staffing shortages threaten access to care.

...Repeated calls by the Ontario Auditor General for a full review of the competitive bidding system in home care have been ignored.

Auto insurers welcome Ontario's latest move to fight fraud

TORONTO, April 1, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Auto insurers welcome Ontario's latest moves to fight fraud, abuse and over-utilization that drive up costs for their law-abiding policyholders.

"The government has clearly signaled it will support insurers that stand up to those who would exploit the system," says Ralph Palumbo, Ontario vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

"The vast majority of Ontarians are honest, truthful and determined to return to normal activities after a vehicle collision," says Palumbo. "They should not have to pay more for those who are not."

The IBC and executives at member companies are applauding the announcements in both the provincial budget, and an earlier bulletin from the superintendent of financial services:

...The formation of an anti-fraud task force to examine all aspects of detecting, combating and vigorously prosecuting those who profit from fraud.

...The recognition that a new electronic billing system that became mandatory Feb. 1 will permit insurers and regulators to monitor the performance - both the best and the worst - among injury treatment providers, and to screen for signs of excess or inappropriate treatment and for outright fraud.

...The superintendent's check-list for ways insurers can, and must, respond to attempts to circumvent the province's regulations and price-cap for treatment of minor injuries.

...The recognition by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan in his budget that insurers need more tools to combat fraud and excess billing, and his intention to ensure those tools are put in place.

"The government is clearly engaged in rooting out fraud, abuse and overutilization of benefits that are intended to treat those who have been injured in motor vehicle collisions," said Palumbo.

"Every dollar inappropriately diverted from treating injured claimants is a dollar that is unavailable for honest victims and policyholders."

Insurers welcome the clear directions Philip Howell, superintendent of financial services, gave in a bulletin about the policing of abusive billing practices by certain treatment and assessment clinics.

"We haven't seen that kind of clarity and direction…ever," says Rocco Neglia, vice-president of claims at The Economical Insurance Group in Waterloo.

Howell warned insurers to treat injured persons fairly, and in a timely manner, but to ensure treatment clinics respect the government's rules.

Regulation changes Ontario implemented Sept. 1, 2010 were intended to improve affordability for drivers, Howell points out. So he urged insurers to confront abuse in the form of excess treatment, improper billing and multiple assessment requests.

"The majority of people injured in car accidents in Ontario sustain minor injuries (as defined in regulations) for which the goods and services provided under the minor injury guideline are appropriate," said Howell.

Howell said the $3,500 spending cap for minor injuries was intended to cover the cost of any treatment for psychological or emotional issues that may arise after the injury.

It's reasonable, Howell pointed out, for an insurer to require proof that a treatment has been provided, to set conditions before paying a treatment provider directly, to enlist the help of injured persons to confirm their clinics' billings and to interview claimants once under oath.

The cost of assessing and treating what are mainly minor injuries has been the prime source of inflation in insurance premiums, which are higher in Ontario than anywhere in the world.

"What (the bulletin) says to us is you have got to push back," said Nora Hohman, vice-president of claims at The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co. "It gave us some comfort that …the regulator is supportive."

She added: "They are saying you have the rights, but you also have the responsibility to push back when warranted, so go for it: We're behind you."

"I think (regulator) is attempting to remind insurance carriers that the changes…gave us a better ability to fight claim fraud," said Gregory Jones, claims manager at State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

"We want to commend him for putting out such a bold bulletin," said Neglia.

State Farm is the largest insurer of Ontario automobiles. Like Economical before it, and Dominion after it, State Farm has sued certain clinics for millions of dollars, accusing them of using identity theft to submit bills for services.

Jones said his company has dramatically increased its staff of special investigators to confront fraudulent practices within clinics, particularly in the Toronto area. State Farm lost a record $1.06 billion on $1.4 billion of auto premiums last year.

The one reservation insurers said they have about Howell's bulletin was that the arbitrators employed by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario to hear appeals from injured persons could later chastise them for being too reluctant to pay for treatments.

"A lot of companies, very understandably, have not been as assertive as we might otherwise have been because of concerns about things like arbitrator decisions," says Hohman of The Dominion. "Now we have to use the legislation the way it is written or it doesn't have a chance to work."

Jones said he is looking forward to seeing an industry-wide analysis of those clinics and professionals that submit extraordinarily high claims for assessing and treating injured persons.

Such an analysis of data will soon be possible, while protecting the privacy of injured persons, now that all treatment providers must transmit bills to insurers using a new Health Claims for Auto Insurance billing system, said Barbara Sulzenko-Laurie, the IBC's vice-president of policy.

"We still lack some teeth to fight organized claim fraud that is led by treatment providers," said Jones. "But the bulletin says there is an expectation the industry is fighting claim fraud."

Palumbo said the announcements in the budgets, coming days after Howell's bulletin, "have clearly signaled the government's strong intention to arm insurers with the tools to better defend against fraudulent and abusive claims."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Linamar Funds Novel Engineering Scholarships

GUELPH, Ontario, March 30, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

The University of Guelph will recruit and produce even more top engineers, thanks to a $1-million gift from Guelph-based Linamar Corporation.

The University will use the gift, announced today by U of G president Alastair Summerlee and Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz, to establish the Linamar Engineering Design Scholarships.

The gift will fund 10 entrance scholarships a year in perpetuity, each worth $2,500.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the University of Guelph’s School of Engineering in this initiative,” said Hasenfratz. “Competitiveness on a global stage is absolutely based on our ability to be innovative in product and process design, and the key to doing so successfully is plenty of strong engineers with a solid grounding in practical and theoretical knowledge.”

Summerlee said the scholarships demonstrate Linamar’s commitment to building global competitiveness in the region while enhancing the School of Engineering’s leadership in teaching and research.

“Through its generous support, Linamar has made a significant contribution towards creating highly skilled engineers in Canada,” said Summerlee. “These scholarships will enhance our ability to attract top students who excel in engineering design and innovation.”

Each year, five scholarships will go to students coming directly from high school and five to students transferring to engineering programs at Guelph from Ontario college and international technology programs.

In addition, U of G is proposing to the provincial government to increase opportunities and access to Guelph’s engineering programs for university, college and international students as well as industry professionals via a new Pathways program. The collaboration is subject to government approval and accreditation review, and would involve U of G and Ontario colleges.

“Students who have industry experience or who are entering the program from college bring practical skill sets that are important to engineering design,” said Summerlee. “Linamar recognizes that having these students in the classroom will not only help improve the overall learning experience but also produce well-rounded engineers who will become leaders in their field.”

Hasenfratz said her company looks for grads with practical skills and theoretical smarts.

“For us there is no better combination for our manufacturing and processing engineers than someone with a skilled trade designation such as a machinist who has gone on to acquire an engineering degree,” she said. “Skilled people are experts at developing the best process to most efficiently produce the components and assemblies we manufacture. Add to that the theoretical design, design for manufacturing knowledge and program management skills of an engineer, and we have a hugely effective person who can absolutely help us gain an edge over our competition and grow our business.”

U of G engineering programs cover biological, biomedical, computer, engineering systems and computing, environmental, mechanical and water resources engineering.

The new Linamar Engineering Design Scholarships will help improve engineering education and training, said Anthony Vannelli, dean of the College of Physical and Engineering Science.

“The field of engineering plays an important role in solving today’s world problems,” said Vannelli. “Engineering has the potential to drive human development and make positive changes to the environment, health and medicine, economics and whole societies.”

About the University of Guelph

The University of Guelph is ranked as one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities because of our commitment to student learning and innovative research. We are dedicated to cultivating the essentials for our quality of life: water, food, environment, animal and human health, community, commerce, culture and learning. The University community also shares a profound sense of social responsibility, an obligation to address global issues and a concern for international development.

About Linamar Corporation

Linamar Corporation is a diversified global manufacturing company of highly engineered products powering vehicles, motion, work and lives. The company is made up of four key divisions — Manufacturing, Driveline, Industrial Commercial Energy (ICE) and Skyjack, all world leaders in the design, development and production of highly engineered products. The company’s Manufacturing and Driveline divisions focus on precision metallic components, modules and systems for engine, transmission and driveline systems designed for passenger vehicle markets. The ICE group concentrates on similar products for on- and off-highway vehicle, energy and other industrial markets. The company’s Skyjack division is noted for its innovative high-quality mobile industrial equipment, notably its class-leading aerial work platforms and telehandlers. With more than 12,500 employees in 39 manufacturing locations, five R&D centres and 13 sales offices in 11 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, Linamar generated sales of more than $2.2 billion in 2010.

McGuinty Government Delivers on Front-Line Staff for Long Term Care

TORONTO, March 29, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today's provincial budget included welcomed funding commitments in response to priorities raised by the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS), most notably $40 million to add new staff and additional investments in recognition of the increasing care needs of residents.

"This is really a good news budget for long term care home residents," said Debbie Humphreys, Acting CEO of OANHSS. "We are very aware of the unprecedented fiscal challenges this government continues to face. This level of investment in the current environment clearly demonstrates the McGuinty government's commitment to improving the lives of Ontario's seniors."

In its 2008-09 budget, the government committed to add 2500 personal support workers over a three-year period. Funding announced today will bring on an additional 1100 PSWs and fulfill this promise.

"We are very pleased to see funding in the budget for new PSW positions," added Humphreys. "Residents will see a direct benefit from this investment through enhanced levels of care and services."

PSWs are a critically important component of the staffing mix in long term care homes. They support residents with the most basic activities of daily living such as bathing, eating and dressing that are so important to residents' quality of life.

Also of significance in this budget is funding to assist homes in meeting the increasingly complex care needs of residents.

"Residents are older, frailer and more chronically ill than ever before and with the growing challenge of alternate level of care, homes are taking on the heaviest care patients that are coming out of hospitals. This funding allows homes to better care for residents."

OANHSS understands that today's budget also includes new investments for the community support services sector and will be looking for further details on this in the coming weeks.

In its pre-budget submission to government, OANHSS also put forward several "no cost" proposals including a recommendation to immediately launch a comprehensive capacity planning exercise that encompasses the continuum of seniors' care, including home care, long term care, seniors' and supportive housing, and community services with the goal of implementing the plan as soon as the Ontario government returns to balanced budgets.

The Association also recommended that the government consolidate its oversight of all planning and programming for seniors' within a Cabinet committee to reverse the current "silo" approach to the sector.

"We look forward to discussions with the government on these important policy priorities," said Humphreys.

OANHSS is the provincial association representing not-for-profit providers of long term care, services and housing for seniors. Members include municipal and charitable long term care homes, non-profit nursing homes, seniors' housing projects and community service agencies. Member organizations operate over 27,000 long term care beds and over 5,000 seniors' housing units across the province.