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Health Canada stands by approval of ingredient in Roundup weed killer

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Health Canada scientists say there is no reason to believe the scientific evidence they used to approve the continued use of glyphosate in weed killers was tainted.

On Friday they rejected, again, arguments that the ingredient in herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup causes cancer if the substances are used as they’re supposed to be.

The department’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is required to reassess herbicides every 15 years and after such a reassessment in 2017 it approved glyphosate for continued use in Canada with some additional labelling requirements. The review looked at more than 1,300 studies and concluded glyphosate products pose no risk to people or the environment as long as they are properly used and labelled.

Glyphosate is one of the most common herbicides used in the world, is in more than 130 products sold in Canada and has widespread use by farmers to keep weeds out of their crops.

After the decision, eight objections were filed, many of which said the evidence used to approve the product was tainted because Monsanto had influenced the results.

Their accusations were largely based on documents filed in a U.S. lawsuit in which a former groundskeeper was awarded a multimillion-dollar settlement after jurors decided his cancer was linked to glyphosate.

Bottles of Roundup herbicide, a product of Monsanto, are displayed on a store shelf in St. Louis. The generic name is glysophate and it is one of the most widely used agricultural herbicides in the world. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

‘No stone unturned’

The groups, including Ecojustice, Environmental Defence and Canadian Physicians for the Environment, wanted Health Minister Ginette Petipas Taylor to order an independent review of the Health Canada decision.

Instead Health Canada assigned 20 scientists not part of the original review to look at the matter. Connie Moase, a director in the health-effects division of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, said Friday the scientists « left no stone unturned » in reviewing the decision.

« The objections raised did not create doubt or concern regarding the scientific basis for the 2017 re-evaluation decision for glyphosate, » said Moase.

She said the documents, known as the Monsanto Papers, were mainly reviews of studies, not studies themselves, and that Health Canada’s approval was based on the actual studies.

Moase added that no pest regulatory management agency in the world says glyphosate causes cancer at current levels of exposure.

Bayer Canada pleased 

Trish Jordan, the public-and-industry-affairs director for Bayer Canada’s crop-science division, said the company supported the additional review Health Canada launched and is also pleased with the result.

Monsanto has previously denied any attempt to influence scientific studies on glyphosate.

« We have an unwavering commitment to sound science, transparency and to producing valuable tools that will help farmers continue to feed a growing population in a sustainable manner, » Jordan said.

Elaine MacDonald, head of healthy communities for Ecojustice, said the decision is a big disappointment.

« How can we trust the science if we can’t be sure that it’s independent? » she said.

Muhannad Malas, the toxics program manager at Environmental Defence, said there is no reason to trust Health Canada if it assigns its own scientists to review the work of their peers.

« We maintain that the public cannot be confident about the validity of the government’s decision to re-authorize glyphosate unless the health minister strikes an independent panel of experts who are not affiliated with Health Canada or industry, » he said.

Thierry Belair, spokesman for Petipas Taylor, said the government is very aware Canadians have concerns about pesticides and this review was done with the utmost of care.

« A team of 20 of our best scientists reviewed the evidence before coming to this decision, » he said. « As always, we have asked them to continue to monitor for new information related to this pesticide, and to take action if needed. »

Recent testing by Environmental Defence uncovered traces of glyphosate in a number of popular food products including doughnuts, cookies and cereals. However the amounts were well below the levels Health Canada says would be unsafe for human consumption.

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Serial killer Dellen Millard appeals conviction and sentence for father’s murder

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Serial killer Dellen Millard is appealing his first-degree murder conviction and sentence for the death of his father, arguing the outcome of his case was unreasonable.

Millard was found guilty in September of murdering his dad, Wayne Millard, whose death in 2012 was initially ruled a suicide.

In December, Justice Maureen Forestell sentenced the 33-year-old to his third consecutive life sentence, which means he will serve 75 years in prison before being able to apply for parole.

Two days after being sentenced, Millard filed a notice of appeal disputing Forestell’s conclusions.

« The verdict is unreasonable, » Millard wrote in the document dated Dec. 20. « The sentence is unconstitutional. »

Millard, who had pleaded not guilty to the murder of his father, a wealthy aviation executive, is also appealing his first-degree murder convictions and sentences for the deaths of Hamilton’s Tim Bosma, a complete stranger, and Toronto’s Laura Babcock, his one-time lover.

Millard had pleaded not guilty to the murder of his father, a wealthy aviation executive. (Court exhibit)

He committed those two murders with his former friend, Mark Smich, who is also appealing the verdicts in those cases.

Forestell, who presided over the Wayne Millard case without a jury, found that Dellen Millard shot his 71-year-old father through the left eye as he slept on Nov. 29, 2012.

She found that Millard took steps to set up a false alibi by leaving his car, a cellphone and his credit card at Smich’s house while he took a taxi to his father’s place in the middle of the night.

Forestell said at sentencing last month that there was faint hope for Millard’s rehabilitation.

« Dellen Millard has repeatedly committed the most serious offence known to our law, » she said.

« He has done so with considerable planning and premeditation. In the murder of his father, he took advantage of the vulnerability of his father and betrayed his father’s trust in him. »

A sketch of Dellen Millard, left, in court. Lawyer Ravin Pillay, centre, represented him and Justice Maureen Forestell presided over the trial. (Pam Davies)

Millard’s lawyer argued the consecutive sentence without parole eligibility was unduly long and harsh but the judge disagreed.

« It is necessary to impose a further penalty in order to express society’s condemnation of each of the murders that he has committed and to acknowledge the harm done to each of the victims, » she said.

« Dellen Millard is capable of gaining the trust of friends, relatives and strangers. Mr. Millard has, however, used his ability to gain such trust as a vehicle for planned and deliberate killings. »

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Murders in Mexico hit record high as police, government struggle to contain violence

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Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what’s happening around some of the day’s most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • Mexico has set a new murder record for the second year in a row.
  • A large number of Canadians are at risk of sleep apnea and the serious health effects that come with it, but surprisingly few are aware of it.
  • An insurance industry report says 2017 and 2018 now stand as the costliest back-to-back years on record for losses due to natural disasters.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Mexico murder

Mexico has set a new murder record for the second year running, with 33,341 homicides in 2018.

The new figures, released by the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection, represent an almost 15 per cent increase from last year’s 29,168 murders. The current wave of violence eclipses the previous peak of the country’s drug wars in 2011, when 27,213 died.

So far, 2019 isn’t shaping up to be any better.

On Sunday, police in Cancun found seven dead bodies in a house in the city’s centre — victims, they say, of a dispute between « street-level drug dealers. » Last year, the popular vacation destination saw 540 murders, more than double the 227 recorded in 2017.

(The Pacific coast paradise of Acapulco retains the title of murder capital, however, with a homicide rate of 103 killings per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it among the most violent cities in the world.)

Forensic personnel and Mexican soldiers carry the body of a murdered man, who was found in Caletilla Beach, Acapulco, on April 15, 2018. Guerrero, home to popular beach destinations such as Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, is also one of the poorest states in the country and one of the hardest hit by organized crime violence. (Francisco Robles/AFP/Getty Images)

Also on Sunday, police discovered the battered corpse of a missing journalist, Rafael Murua Manriquez, in northwestern Baja state. He is the 122nd reporter slain in the country since 2000.

Last week, police in the border city of Juárez were embroiled in a series of running street battles with La Linea, the local drug cartel, that left eight officers wounded and saw a city bus set alight. So far in January, there have been more than 60 homicides in the municipality, which sits just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

The week before, authorities in Ciudad Miguel Alemán — 1,100 kilometres to the southeast but still along the Texas border — found 20 bodies, most of them burned beyond recognition, after a clash between two rival drug gangs.

Well over 150,000 people have died since the Mexican government declared war on the cartels in 2006. Tens of thousands more have simply disappeared, many abducted and murdered by security forces. But illicit drugs remain a $29 billion US a year business.

An expert in ballistics analyzes shell casings at the Laboratory of Expert Services and Forensic Sciences of the Attorney General of Chihuahua. (Henrika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)

And now the soaring murder rate is also being driven by another type of crime: fuel thefts.

The illegal tapping of pipelines and refineries has become a $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion US enterprise, with 11,240 breaches discovered in the first nine months of 2018 alone. And with organized gangs recruiting entire neighbourhoods to collect the spoils or block police, violent turf wars have followed.

Newly installed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador came to power vowing to bring an end to the bloodshed in the country’s streets. But over his first six weeks in the job, there has been little indication that he intends to follow a different path than his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.

The army, which he once promised to return to its barracks, has instead seen its public profile strengthened. The military has been dispatched to protect 58 key fuel installations, and put in charge of building Mexico City’s new airport.

Students in Guadalajara hold signs that read ‘No more silence!’ and ‘No more violence!’ at an April 26, 2018 demonstration. They were protesting the murder of three film students who have become emblematic of Mexico’s missing, after they were abducted by a drug cartel while filming a school project at a family member’s house. (Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press)

And AMLO, as the president is popularly known, seems to be wavering when it comes to his intent to seek a negotiated solution with the cartels.

To the surprise of many, the leftist reformer has been actively trying to keep the military in the fight, creating a new National Guard to battle the cartels after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the army’s never-ending deployment in the streets was unconstitutional.

All of which suggests that Mexico’s record-setting violence is nowhere near an end.


Are you sleep-deprived?

A large number of Canadians are at risk of sleep apnea and the serious health effects that come with it, but surprisingly few are aware of it, reporter Duncan McCue writes.

Are you having trouble sleeping at night?

You aren’t alone. We’re a sleep-deprived nation.

Statistics Canada estimates a third of Canadians are getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.

Some experts say the culprit is too much screen time. Others blame increased work demands and caffeine consumption.

But few realize their daytime doziness may be due to sleep apnea, an obstructive sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing — as many as several hundred times a night, and for as long as 30 seconds at a time.

Carolyn McCann goes to bed wearing monitoring equipment as part of a sleep test arranged by The National. She wanted to understand why she’s so restless through the night. (Diane Grant/CBC)

A 2014 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated 5.4 million Canadian adults have been diagnosed with, or are at high risk of experiencing, obstructive sleep apnea.

Yet the majority of them don’t know it.

Tonight on The National, you’ll meet three Canadians worried about lack of sleep – and find out what happens when we arranged a take-home sleep test for them. It’s worth staying up for.

– Duncan McCue

  • WATCH: Duncan McCue’s story about sleep apnea tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

And here’s Duncan’s story about new research into how sleep helps our brains form long-term memories — and may help stave of dementia:

Back in 2005, Canadians averaged about eight hours of sleep a night. By 2013, that dropped to seven. Now about 40 per cent of Canadians are dealing with some kind of sleep disorder. Something about sleep keeps our bodies and minds from falling apart. The lack of it has been linked to obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. Researchers are now discovering some fascinating things about how important sleep is to the way our brains store memories and learn things. 11:49

  • Like this newsletter? Sign up and have it delivered by email.
  • You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief — start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.

Adding up the costs of climate change

The world experienced 42 individual billion-dollar-plus natural disasters in 2018, according to a new insurance industry report.

The annual Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight, released today by global broker Aon Inc., tallies $225 billion US in economic losses due to fires, floods, earthquakes, droughts and storms last year — $215 billion of that directly related to weather events.

While the dollar value of the devastation is down from last year’s $450 billion, and below the record $512 billion in losses in 2011, the report notes that 2018 was the third consecutive year that losses surpassed the $200 billion mark, and the 10th time that has happened since 2000.

A man looks at a neighbour’s home in Banten, Indonesia, which was destroyed when a fishing boat driven by tsunami waves slammed into it on Dec. 28, 2018. The tsunami was triggered by the eruption of the Anak Krakatau Volcano, killing over 400 people. (Ed Wray/Getty Images)

In addition, 2017 and 2018 now stand as the costliest back-to-back years on record.

The Asia Pacific region was hardest hit, with 17 disasters costing $1-billion-plus, mostly typhoon-related, followed by the United States with 16.

America suffered from wind (Hurricane Michael,) rain (Hurricane Florence,) and fire (California.) The Golden State set a new record for wildfires for the second year in a row, with the Camp blaze alone destroying 18,804 structures, killing 88 people and inflicting $15 billion in losses.

The report estimates that 10,000 people died in natural disasters worldwide last year.

The insurance industry will pay out $90 billion for the 2018 calamities — 64 per cent of that in the United States. That’s a reduction from 2017’s $147 billion bill, but still the fourth-costliest year on record.

Homes in Mexico Beach, Fla., were heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018. Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm, causing widespread damage and claiming 29 lives. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

All of that destruction and bad weather may be having an effect on public opinion when it comes to climate change.

A new U.S. poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, released this morning, finds that 74 per cent of Americans now say that their thoughts on global warming have been influenced by extreme weather events over the past five years.

Nine per cent of those surveyed still say that climate change isn’t happening, while 19 per cent expressed uncertainty.

This stands in contrast to the scientific consensus, with studies showing that at least 97 per cent of active, publishing climate experts agree that the Earth is warming due to human activity.


A few words on … 

Butting heads over civic pride.


Quote of the moment

« As we’ve said in the past, we need to cut the crap. Sugary drinks are the single greatest contributor of sugar in our diets, and Canadians get half of their daily calories from highly processed foods, with kids getting the most. »

Yves Savoie, CEO of the Heart & Stroke foundation, reacts to the newly unveiled revisions to Canada’s Food Guide.

Servings recommended by Canada’s new food guide. (CBC)


What The National is reading

  • U.S. shutdown, slowing growth in China fuel concerns for global economy (Washington Post)
  • Report reveals secret North Korean missile base (Al Jazeera)
  • Mnangagwa promises investigation of brutal Zimbabwe crackdown (Guardian)
  • DNA debunks Rudolf Hess doppelgänger conspiracy theory (New Scientist)
  • « Dr. Lipjob » nets suspended sentence for illegally injecting botox (CBC)
  • Airline meals being stockpiled as travel industry braces for Brexit chaos (Independent)
  • Calgary police recover stolen cruiser (CBC)
  • Health-conscious hit man convicted by his GPS watch data (Runner’s World)

Today in history

Jan. 22, 1989: Max Ward sells Wardair

The RCAF-vet-turned-bush-pilot built his business from a single De Havilland Otter to the country’s third-largest airline. But when he was finally allowed to make the jump from charters to regularly scheduled service in 1986, his ambition got the better of him and a billion-dollar order for new jets sank the company deep into the red. Ward ended up selling to Canada’s second-biggest carrier, Canadian, and his name disappeared from the planes.

A profile of Max Ward, who has sold his airline Wardair. 4:47

Sign up here and have The National Today newsletter delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

Please send your ideas, news tips, rants, and compliments to thenationaltoday@cbc.ca. ​



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Economists cool to Doug Ford’s warning of ‘carbon tax recession’

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford is warning that the federal government’s carbon tax risks triggering a recession, but it’s hard to find economists eager to back up his claim.

Ford used a speech to Economic Club of Canada to predict that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon pricing plan will hurt the economy . 

« A carbon tax will be a total economic disaster, » Ford told the estimated 1,000 paying guests at the lunchtime event in downtown Toronto on Monday.

« There are already economic warning signs on the horizon, » he said. « I’m here today to ring the warning bell that the risk of a carbon tax recession is very, very real. » 

Ford did not offer any details in the speech about how the carbon pricing scheme would lead to recession. He did not take questions from reporters afterward.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford arrives on stage to speak at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Monday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Asked by CBC News for clarification, Ford’s press secretary pointed to a study by the Conference Board of Canada that suggests a federally imposed carbon tax would shrink the nation’s economy by $3 billion. While that sounds like a big number, it is only a fraction of a per cent of the country’s $2.1 trillion GDP.

« Our analysis suggests the economy will shrink marginally in response to the carbon tax, » the authors said. « While the overall economic impact is small, the distribution is not equal across sectors, with some industries bearing notable costs. » 

The report does not say that the carbon tax will cause a recession. Nor do other economists. 

In its most recent monetary policy report, the Bank of Canada lays out what it sees as the major risks to the economy in 2019. The looming carbon tax is not even mentioned as a factor.

CBC News asked economists from four of Canada’s big banks to weigh in on Ford’s statement on Monday, but none agreed to comment. 

There’s no evidence to substantiate Ford’s claim, says Dale Beugin, executive director of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission. It’s a group of economists specializing in economic and environmental policy, led by an advisory board that spans the political spectrum, including the former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. 

According to the Ecofiscal Commission’s analysis, the likely economic impacts of carbon pricing will be modest. It forecasts the Canadian economy to grow slightly more slowly than it would have without a carbon tax but to remain « a very, very far step away from a recession, » said Beugin.

« That money being collected is not being burned, it is being sent back into the economy in different ways, » Beugin said Monday in a phone interview with CBC News. He said the federal backstop model would keep the economy buoyant by sending carbon tax revenue back to households to be spent. 

He points to the experience of jurisdictions that have put carbon pricing in place. 

The British Columbia economy kept ticking along after a carbon tax was imposed in 2007 by the government of then-premier Gordon Campbell (who recently led Ford’s financial commission of inquiry into Ontario’s deficit).  The cap-and- trade system did not tank Ontario’s economy after Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government launched it in 2017. Various carbon pricing schemes did not harm the economies of Quebec, Alberta and California in recent years.

« Sweden is another example where we’ve seen a really high carbon price over time and the economy has continued to grow even as emissions have declined, » said Beugin. 

Last week, a list of 45 senior economists from across the U.S. political spectrum published a statement in the Wall Street Journal endorsing a carbon tax, with all revenue given back to citizens. The list includes former White House economic advisers, treasury secretaries, Federal Reserve chairs and Nobel laureates. 

This will not likely be the last time you hear the phrase « carbon tax recession » from Ford. Two conservative strategists told CBC Toronto they expect the Ontario premier will continue to use this messaging in the coming months, as carbon pricing becomes a key issue in the federal election. 

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