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A6 RED DEER ADVOCATE Tuesday, July 24, 2012

B.C. AIDS doctors join chorus against ‘war on drugs’

Polar bears much older than thought: study

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS BY THE CANADIAN PRESS VANCOUVER — Two prominent Canadian doctors have joined an international campaign calling on world leaders to stop the spread of AIDS by ending the so called war on drugs. Their advertising campaign is being launched today and is endorsed by supporters of the 2010 Vienna Declaration, which urges governments to write evidence-based drug policies. The campaign has a specific message for U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “You can’t end AIDS unless you end the war on drugs. It’s dead simple.” Among those asking world leaders to show “leadership,” “courage” and “to do the right thing” are British billionaire Richard Branson, the former presidents of Brazil and Colombia, and B.C. based AIDS specialists doctors, Evan Wood and Julio Montaner. The campaign is being launched as delegates meet this week at a major international AIDS conference in Washington. “I think people are really starting to question the war on drugs,” said Wood, lead researcher at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and chair of the Vienna Declaration. “I think globally we’re seeing a real shift in terms of public opinion and a recognition that addiction should be treated more as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.” Wood said that while HIV infection rates are falling around the globe, the number of cases appears to be rising in countries with aggressive policies for prosecuting drug related crimes. He argues the war on drugs actually helps spread HIV in several ways. It often forces addicts into hiding and out of the reach of health officials who can help protect them from the terrible dangers posed by intravenous drug use, he said. The data clearly shows, he added, that the HIV virus is spreading among prison inmates who mainline drugs. Injection drug use accounts for one-third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa, according to the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. The centres estimate there are currently 34 million people worldwide living with HIV. So far, the war on drugs has cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion, and each case of AIDS can cost the Canadian taxpayer about $500,000 in medical costs, Wood said. When asked how successful the new campaign is likely to be in convincing American political leaders, Wood noted that economic times are tough and some states are now spending more money on incarceration than on education.

Lawyer testifies at inquiry into judge BY THE CANADIAN PRESS WINNIPEG — There is more testimony about why a Manitoba man waited seven years to file a sexual harassment complaint against a judge. The Canadian Judicial Council is investigating a complaint from Alexander Chapman that he was harassed by Lori Douglas and her husband Jack King in 2003. Douglas is an associate chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. Chapman’s lawyer at the time, Ian Histed (HEYE’sted), told a council inquiry Monday that Chapman initially targeted only Douglas’s husband with the complaint and reached a $25,000 settlement. But Histed says Chapman decided to pursue Douglas in 2010 after being unhappy with the outcome of a lawsuit he filed against Winnipeg police. King has already admitted to showing Chapman nude photos of Douglas and asking Chapman to have sex with her, but says Douglas was not aware of his actions.

Cutting-edge analysis of polar bear DNA suggests the species could be much older than previously thought. The research, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, also says the white bear’s populations have swung widely in response to changing weather over the millennia — offering hints of how they might respond to climate change today. “Bears in the past have gone through a lot of extreme changes in climate,” said Penn State University biologist Webb Miller, one of the paper’s lead authors. “That’s not to say they’ll make it through this one.” Miller’s team used a new method of genomic analysis to compare DNA sequences from modern polar bears with brown and black bears. There were also DNA frag-

ments from a 120,000-year-old polar bear tooth. “The methods we used are quite recently developed,” Miller said. “Being able to look at a few complete genome sequences and make inferences about species history, this is a brand-new research area.” Their first finding was that characteristics marking polar bears — such as white fur and their ability to store fat — stem from genetic markers that are between four million and five million years old. That completely upends previous theories, which have placed the origin of the bears anywhere between 60,000 and 600,000 years ago. Miller himself wrote a paper three years ago suggesting the correct figure was about 150,000 years. “Wow, we were really wrong,” he said. “Not even close. “I expect that polar bears have

been white for millions of years.” The study also suggested that polar bear numbers have swung dramatically and roughly coincide with climatic changes that increased or reduced the amount of Arctic sea ice the bears use as a hunting platform. Warm eras of less ice supported fewer bears and colder climates produced more. Evidence for that shows up in DNA strands common to both polar bears and other bears, suggesting that the absence of their preferred habitat forced polar bears onto land, which led to hybridization. As well, modern polar bear populations have less genetic diversity than other bears, suggesting they come from smaller root stocks. Miller said just because polar bears have made it through previous planetary warm phases doesn’t mean current warming isn’t a threat.

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Red Deer Advocate, July 24, 2012  
Red Deer Advocate, July 24, 2012  

July 24, 2012 edition of the Red Deer Advocate