Friends of Science "educational funding" facing U of C audit?

Thu, 2007-08-16 15:49Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Friends of Science "educational funding" facing U of C audit?

UPDATE: sent this email to the University of Calgary today requesting an update. I'll let you know what I hear back.

According to this email exchange (pdf.) posted to sourcewatch, it looks like the University of Calgary is considering an audit of the controversial 'Science Education Fund' that was used to fund the oil-industry backed so-called 'Friends of Science.'

The exchange is dated back to March, 2007 with no further updates. I've sent off an email to the University of Calgary requesting an update.

If any of our readers has an update, send me an email at desmogblog [at] gmail.com.

Previous Comments

I don’t get it. There are tent cities in Edmonton. Calgary is spending (some of) their windfall on road infrastructure and schools, as if young families will still move there after oil busts, that is, assuming they still haven’t diversified into wind, hydrogen, or solar (federally funded NIN in Edmonton). Geothermal uses drills, doesn’t it?! The Calgary downtown commute is horrible. Southwestern AB will be the first place in Canada that goes arid because of Global Warming The glacial rivers servicing Cgy will dry up. Why do 45% of Albertans not believe in Global Warming? I don’t see any quality-of-living gains that come with the black gold.

The housing shortage in oil towns could be solved if big oil were forced to fund trailer parks for those working in tangential construction and service industries. I mean, they’re already getting tax breaks to inflate the global long-term cost of grains, fruit and vegetables, meats, freshwater, lumber, person-years in Africa…

In Alberta, the big blue sky just doesn’t look polluted, aside from the cities, forest fires, etc. It’s like when I was a kid trying to persuade another kid that germs exist, even though he couldn’t see them. And the mostly useless Alberta media doesn’t report much on things like the increase in cancer deaths caused by the oil sands companies, except for the CBC.

Agreed. It’s hard to convey climate change and C02 emissions when you can’t point to it, like you can smog or deforestation. 

We’ll all be pointing at it pretty soon when the refugees start pouring through the arrival gates from river deltas all over the world.

I was jut up North at a cabin I’ve been going to for over 30 years – saw 3 new species of bird that I have never seen before – normally they’re range only went as far North as around California. 

“And the mostly useless Alberta media doesn’t report much on things like the increase in cancer deaths caused by the oil sands companies, except for the CBC.”

I haven’t heard of this. Exactly how many cancer deaths have been caused by the oil sands companies?

Well, since they keep asking the government to do a health study, presumably they don’t know for sure. And the Alberta government probably does not want to know, because then they might have to do something about it. Sound familiar?

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2007/08/15/alta-chip.html

…Fort Chipewyan, nearly 600 kilometres northeast of Edmonton on the western tip of Lake Athabasca and downstream from major petroleum refineries…

…People in Fort Chipewyan, a community of 1,200, say they have noticed an unusually high number of deaths from cancers in the past year, including colon, liver, blood and bile-duct cancers…

…”We have to do it, when you see as many as four or five deaths in a month, and the pain that everybody has to go through because the whole community suffers … when one person goes.”

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/08/16/fortchip-oconnor.html

…The doctor who blew the whistle on what he says are high cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, visited the oilsands hamlet this week with a promise he would continue to fight for a health study in the community…

…He noted in particular the high rate of bile-duct cancer, which had killed three people in the community. This type of cancer normally affects one in 100,000 people. He said he had also observed an unusually high rate of thyroid problems and other immune-related diseases…

“Well, since they keep asking the government to do a health study, presumably they don’t know for sure.”

Okay. So, “they don’t know for sure” = “increase in cancer deaths caused by the oil sands companies”?

FYI, The Alberta Ministry of Health and the Cancer Board did an epedemiological review, and found no abnormal increase in cancer rates. The report was presented last month.

The report by Alberta Health and Wellness was released over a year ago. It appears to have been rushed through so that it could be presented in support of a tarsands plant expansion request before the AEUB. The author of the report said that she had virtually no data for 2005 and only partial data for 2004 (the report was supposed to be for cancer deaths and incidence between 2001 and 2006).

Subsequent to Dr. John O’Connor’s initial report to the media on the poor health statistics in Fort Chipewyan a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta was lodged against him by Health Canada. This complaint was recently dismissed.

This is just another example of all levels of government bending backwards to help their friends in big business while the average citizen gets screwed over, both financially and healthwise.

As far as I am aware the report has never been made public so it cannot be reviewed by an unbiased audience. If you are aware of how to locate a copy of this report please let me know.

Ian Forrester

It seems we’ve come full-circle here. The fact is that there is no compelling evidence to believe that there even is an anomaly in the cancer rate for that population – let alone, that if there was one, it is caused by any oil sands project.

In spite of that, you seem to draw some vastly sweeping conclusions based on no evidence whatsoever.

Clearly there are certain people who desperately want to believe, for whatever reason, that an oil sands project is guilty of something, and are unwilling to let facts (or their absence) obstruct their goal.

“No compelling evidence”? What about this cited earlier:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2007/08/15/alta-chip.html

“…Fort Chipewyan, nearly 600 kilometres northeast of Edmonton on the western tip of Lake Athabasca and downstream from major petroleum refineries…

…People in Fort Chipewyan, a community of 1,200, say they have noticed an unusually high number of deaths from cancers in the past year, including colon, liver, blood and bile-duct cancers…

…”We have to do it, when you see as many as four or five deaths in a month, and the pain that everybody has to go through because the whole community suffers … when one person goes.”

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/08/16/fortchip-oconnor.html

“…The doctor who blew the whistle on what he says are high cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, visited the oilsands hamlet this week with a promise he would continue to fight for a health study in the community…

…He noted in particular the high rate of bile-duct cancer, which had killed three people in the community. This type of cancer normally affects one in 100,000 people. He said he had also observed an unusually high rate of thyroid problems and other immune-related diseases…”

Oh, right. You disregard all science anyway, Rob, so you’re not going to likely spot an anomaly anyway.

Um, that’s not “science”. Those are anecdotes.

No. Those are statistics cited in the articles.

You seem to have rather vague knowledge of what constitutes “anecdotal” evidence. I put it to you that when a professional medical doctor, who is more up on the research than most people in the field, sees what he considers to be a higher than normal incidence of certain diseases, this is not “anecdotal” evidence but is observational fact finding. If you knew anything about science you would realize that one of the key attributes of an excellent researcher is a keen observational aptitude.

If no one makes original observations then no further research can be conducted since the abnormal findings will go unnoticed and problems will escalate which could have been caught in time.

I will point out to you that it was not epidemiological (please note the correct spelling) research but keen observation by physicians in the field, interacting with patients, who first spotted the problem with thalidomide.

There is obviously something wrong in the Fort Chip area. We do not, at present, know what is causing these health problems and it seems unlikely that we will ever be able to do so when the provincial government issues shoddy and incomplete reports which back their big business friends rather than looking after the health and wellness of the population, that is after all what the Department of Health and Wellness is mandated to do.

Ian Forrester

“I put it to you that when a professional medical doctor, who is more up on the research than most people in the field, sees what he considers to be a higher than normal incidence of certain diseases, this is not “anecdotal” evidence but is observational fact finding.”

Which is a fancier way of saying anecdotal evidence.

“If you knew anything about science you would realize that one of the key attributes of an excellent researcher is a keen observational aptitude.”

How do you know this particular doctor happens to have a “keen observational aptitude”? Because he is claiming something which appeals to you, one presumes. Bear in mind 50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class. The odds are 50/50 that he’s one of them.

“I will point out to you that it was not epidemiological (please note the correct spelling) research but keen observation by physicians in the field, interacting with patients, who first spotted the problem with thalidomide.”

I will point out to you that you are pompous and pedantic (please note the correct spelling). I will further point out that not everything compares to the case of thalidomide. To conclude that there is anything approaching an “epidemic” based on three observed cases is ridiculous.

“There is obviously something wrong in the Fort Chip area.”

No, actually it’s not obvious at all.

“We do not, at present, know what is causing these health problems “

Well, why didn’t you say so?

“the provincial government issues shoddy and incomplete reports which back their big business friends rather than looking after the health and wellness of the population”

Ah, so it is a conspiracy theory. Surely, Donald Rumsfeld had a hand in this? It’s obvious!

But then, hard-bitten crackpots wouldn’t be satisfied with ANY report the government issued, unless it squarely pointed the finger at Suncor – or whoever your demon du Jour happens to be.

Not one coherent responsible response. You are part of the problem not part of the solution, whoever you are.

Ian Forrester

Fact 1: local doctor sees three, possibly 5 cases of a very rare disease. Fact 2: said disease may be caused by environmental toxins. Fact 3: local band officials and residents say that they have witnessed a seemingly large number of cases of cancers and other diseases (immunological) in their community). Fact 4: government quickly procures a quickly and shoddily conducted report. Fact 4: this report is used to quash arguments about possible health effects of tar sands operations. Fact 5: oil company gets go ahead for major expansion. Fact 6: said doctor who started all of this has a complaint filed against him (complaint dismissed after oil company gets go ahead).

It is interesting that another public health figure was fired from his position after complaining about possible health effects of natural gas processing (he is now an opposition MLA).

The government admitted after giving approval that they were wrong in the report but argued things were not quite as bad as Dr. O’Connor suggested.

I don’t know where you live but politicians and government officials who behave in this manner in support of questionable industrial activity should be dismissed from any position of authority in relation to safe guarding both the environment and public health.

Ian Forrester

“Fact 1: local doctor sees three, possibly 5 cases of a very rare disease.”

Fact: 3 cases of anything do not an epidemic make. I’m not an epedemiologist, but I’d say three cases is not sufficient to draw any useful conclusions, let alone the wild extrapolations you make.

“Fact 2: said disease may be caused by environmental toxins.”

If this disease (as reported by one doctor) may be caused by environmental toxins, then it holds that it also may not be.

“Fact 3: local band officials and residents say that they have witnessed a seemingly large number of cases of cancers and other diseases (immunological) in their community).”

Of course, the people making these statements have concluded this only after referring to worldwide statistical databases of causes of death and comparing them to their own comprehensive epedemiological records. Again, merely anecdotal.

And since we’re veering into mere anecdotes, I’ll venture to say I live in closer proximity to Fort Chip than you do. Do you have any idea of the concentration of volatile organic compounds a person ingests from deliberately inhaling Pam cooking spray to get high? I had to step over one to use the ATM this afternoon. That, sir, is a FACT, and it is lamentable. I’m pretty sure Suncor had nothing to do with it.

“Fact 4: government quickly procures a quickly and shoddily conducted report.”

That is not a “fact”. That is your interpretation.

“Fact 4: this report is used to quash arguments about possible health effects of tar sands operations.”

What? Another “Fact 4”? But since this is not really a “fact” either, I’ll let it pass.

“Fact 6: said doctor who started all of this has a complaint filed against him (complaint dismissed after oil company gets go ahead).”

You seem to be building a case based on empty rhetoric and wild conspiracy theories. How do you know the legendary International Jewish-Masonic Banking Cartel didn’t have a hand in this, assisted by The Trilateral Commission? Perhaps a lone gunman on a grassy knoll?

“I don’t know where you live but politicians and government officials who behave in this manner in support of questionable industrial activity should be dismissed from any position of authority in relation to safe guarding both the environment and public health.”

I don’t know that public officials who would draw such questionable conclusions, based on no evidence, would really be helping to ensure public safety to begin with.

“Do you have any idea of the concentration of volatile organic compounds a person ingests from deliberately inhaling Pam cooking spray to get high? I had to step over one to use the ATM this afternoon.”

Can you prove that there was such a person and explain how you came to the conclusion that they had inhaled Pam? Do you have any scientific proof showing how Pam spray is connected to unusually high rates of bile cancer and other rare forms of cancer? Can you compare it to the chemicals the oil companies are dumping into the Athabasca River and Lake Athabasca?

Do you have access to studies showing how fish and other wildlife are affected by these chemicals? Can you prove they are not harmed by the oil companies? Can you prove that humans are not ingesting dangerous chemicals in their food such as fish from the river and lake?

Are you employed by an oil company, Rob? Do you believe everything they tell you? Sucker.

“Can you prove that there was such a person and explain how you came to the conclusion that they had inhaled Pam?”

Clearly, one of us has been huffing Pam.

Moderators, please ban this idiot. He’s been nothing but derogatory and has yet to make a coherent argument.

Rob, shut the f*** up!

I agree; he is being offensive, and he should know better. Rob is a North Dakota political blogger, posting the usual rightwing talking points. So he knows nothing about Alberta, the oil sands, health studies or statistics, or anthropogenic global warming. He has nothing useful to add here, and has simply resorted to insults.

http://sayanythingblog.com/P0/

This is the blog post he copied onto an earlier thread on DeSmogBlog on Aug 10/07.

http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/nasa_drastically_revises_global_temperature_numbers/

So the statement he made above; “I’ll venture to say I live in closer proximity to Fort Chip than you do.” was a lie or a fool’s guess, since I live in Alberta. I also wonder if his original Pam comment might have a racist assumption behind it.

I always get a kick out of reading comments by people who know absolutely nothing about a particular area so they immediately set up a whole army of strawmen. I think your response gets the award for most strawmen in a single response. Please take your medication, do some reading and then come back with a rational response. The history of government reports siding with large industrial friends is well known in Alberta.

I take it you are either a politician (including political adviser) or are employed by one of the polluting industries for you to take such an uneducated stance in this discussion.

Ian Forrester

Based on the two above cases, I conclude that there seems to be an epidemic of chronic solvent-abuse in this thread.

I hope you get some relevant responses, Kevin. So far it looks like a case of deny, deny, deny. It very often seems like a way that baddies get away with things. But if people are dogged enough in pursuit, it looks like it’s possible for a real action to finally occur (or at least a serious investigation). Way to go, Sourcewatch!

I guess in a way the above sentiment could also be applied to McIntyre’s chase of Mann and the NAS review that followed. I didn’t agree with the Barton hearings, but I thought the NAS review was warranted. In the end, outsiders could all feel a little bit better about what the data are and what they say. Way to go, McIntyre!

I know not everyone thinks the same way I do about the value of ‘auditors,’ but I think we can see the value of having data made public so folks can pick through them. Health around Lake Athabasca is another example. Let’s see the science – what is the carcinogen concentration in food fish there compared to other northern lakes less proximal to oil sands projects?

[x]
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