Italy, Spain and Wuhan – PTA Connection

Planes

It is now a relatively well known fact that about 100,000 Chinese workers (primarily from Wuhan) have been working in Northern Italy for awhile.

Direct flights from Wuhan to Italy were just part of the regular air traffic.

The Wuhan outbreak of Covid19 likely began in early December (if not before).

The first reported cases in Italy were in early February.

This is all highly suggestive of why Italy has been hit so hard…the virus went undetected for about 2 months as it was transferred, plane load by plane load, from Wuhan to Italy.

Spain has the 2nd highest incidence of death attributed to Covid19, and the 3rd highest in the world.

Here is a potential connection – Spain’s growing popularity with Chinese tourists…up 128% over the past few years.

Its a hop skip and jump from Italy to Spain, by planes, trains or automobiles – 58 Euros will get you there. 

Thus, it appears Spain may be now be suffering from its popularity, and, China’s inaction in alerting the rest of the world to Wuhan’s woes.

The good news for us is that both Italy and Spain are, as a result, likely data outliers.

That is supported by Germany data, another short distance away, which has just a 0.39% Death to Case ratio, compared to Italy’s 9.01% (23 times) and Spain’s 6.14% (16 times).

And, out of those three countries whose data would you believe the most?

Stay safe out there, and auf wiedersehen for now!

 

 

 

 

Corona After Bite

Crysal

Prediction – As concerns grow daily across the world, our country, and especially in the major cities, I predict there will be many people who will be considering the many benefits of being somewhere other than a major city during this event, or any other future event. We have a moat. We have just done a virtual lifting of the drawbridge with our official requests to please stay away.

This will not go entirely unnoticed by those 2,800,000 people who are living in the Lower Mainland…nor I suspect those living in Toronto, Montreal, or Calgary.

When this subsides, as it eventually will, expect the real estate market here to become VERY active. As of this writing there are only 53 single family dwellings for sale here.

However, my real concern, as it has been for 20 years now, is the effect rising real estate prices, due to the lack of supply and high demand, will continue to have on our rental market, and therefore, our middle income and lower income, non-owner, residents, better known as renters.

Virtually every single rental house is an investment for someone. When that investment reaches a “maturity” it will be sold to someone who wants to move here permanently. That is the trend which started 5 years ago, and which has been continuing since then.

Thus, a (hopefully) short term crisis caused by a virus from China is very likely going to have an indirect, but significant, long term negative, influ-enze on our current housing crisis.

It is long past time for the Islands Trust to legalize ALL cottages, ALL suites, and tiny homes, trailers and 5th wheels for occupancy, AND to make affordable housing projects and proposals the number one priority on their agenda. Fir trees and climate change can wait a few years…they are Johnny Come Latelys to our housing crisis and can get in line.

Like most long time Islanders, after 20 years of this housing crisis, I’m tired of watching this island’s community’s gentrification/decimation, while those who wield the power of the pen tell us sorry, there is really nothing they can do.

BS…If they need concrete ideas they know where to reach me, or, they can just read some of my many past posts on the subject.

Chickens In A Coal Mine?

chicken

Let’s fast forward say 3 months and the Covid19 crisis is hopefully over.

And hopefully, the number of people who died from this particular virus wasn’t more than the annual grim reaper’s influenza toll of about 10,000 Canadians.

The economic damage was severe, with losses in the billions, and many devastated…in some cases life savings wiped out.

We survived, learned, and hopefully are better prepared for next year.

Yes, next year…or the year after…

And this is where the discussion gets a bit messy.

Prior to Covid19, for centuries, we watched the reaper reap his annual toll, noting that, just like back in jungle, those with the strongest immune systems survive. Nature takes us all back in time…its just a matter of how and how soon.

We dodge bullets from the moment of conception until the moment we fail to dodge the last, fatal, shot.

That’s life, and, if we are realists, we accept that death is just the period at the end of life’s sentence.

How long that sentence is, is largely our doing.

Heart disease and cancer take about 75% of us. Shouldn’t have had that last fatty hamburger has likely been the last regretful thought of many – ”Damn….arterial plaque IS a thing…”

Some of us are blessed with great immune systems and some of us are cursed with crappy immune systems.

But, most of us, on a daily basis, neglect our immune systems.

I like to tell people the story of chicken farmers, selenium, mortality and money.

Commercial chicken farmers supplement a chicken’s food with selenium, because selenium is an essential element in the functioning of a chicken’s immune system against…wait for it…viruses.

Infection of poultry with HPAI viruses can cause severe disease with high mortality. … HPAI virus infection in poultry (such as with HPAI H5 or HPAI H7 viruses) can cause disease that affects multiple internal organs with mortality up to 90% to 100%, often within 48 hours. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-birds.htm )

90-100% mortality…I’m just going to say that’s a pretty high rate wouldn’t you say?

And what does science tell us about selenium and viruses?

Selenium deficiency leads to increased host-susceptibility to viruses in most cases. High Selenium levels may be beneficial to us, particularly for HIV-1, which itself appears to negatively affect our Selenium status.

(I’ve added a list of references below which anyone can peruse to their heart’s content.)

So, back to the chicken farmer and money. Like any commodity, the cost of selenium fluctuates, and, given farmers are frugal when it comes to reducing costs of farming, the farmer wants to know just how much bang for the buck he can get from the essential mineral.

In order to calculate that, he uses a software program, into which he inputs the cost of selenium. With a push of a button the software compares the cost of selenium to the mortality rate of chickens, and determines how much selenium should be added in order to balance the cost of selenium with the mortality rate. If selenium prices are high, then selenium will be reduced in the food supply just enough to keep the survival rate of production above the loss of excess mortality.

So, I’ll leave you with this question – Do you supplement your diet with selenium:

(a) at all,

(b) like a chicken farmer on a budget, or,

(c) at the scientifically recommended daily dose of 200 mcg for immune system support against viruses?

That would be an interesting question to also ask every Covid19 patient,  and compare the mortality rate of those patients to see if we can learn anything from what could very likely be “chickens in a coal mine.”

 

Reference from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3723386/

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  3. Beck MA, Nelson HK, Shi Q, Van Dael P, et al. Selenium deficiency increases the pathology of an influenza virus infection. FASEB J. 2001;15:1481–1483. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  4. Li W, Beck MA. Selenium deficiency induced an altered immune response and increased survival following influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 infection. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2007;232:412–419. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
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  6. Moustafa ME, Carlson BA, El-Saadani MA, Kryukov GV, et al. Selective inhibition of selenocysteine tRNA maturation and selenoprotein synthesis in transgenic mice expressing isopentenyladenosine-deficient selenocysteine tRNA. Mol Cell Biol. 2001;21:3840–3852. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
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  9. Baum MK, Shor-Posner G, Lai S, Zhang G, et al. High risk of HIV-related mortality is associated with selenium deficiency. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1997;15:370–374. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  10. Kupka R, Msamanga GI, Spiegelman D, Morris S, et al. Selenium status is associated with accelerated HIV disease progression among HIV-1-infected pregnant women in Tanzania. J Nutr. 2004;134:2556–2560. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  11. Stephensen CB, Marquis GS, Douglas SD, Kruzich LA, Wilson CM. Glutathione, glutathione peroxidase, and selenium status in HIV-positive and HIV-negative adolescents and young adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:173–181. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  12. Shor-Posner G, Miguez MJ, Pineda LM, Rodriguez A, et al. Impact of selenium status on the pathogenesis of myco-bacterial disease in HIV-1-infected drug users during the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2002;29:169–173. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  13. Drain PK, Baeten JM, Overbaugh J, Wener MH, et al. Low serum albumin and the acute phase response predict low serum selenium in HIV-1 infected women. BMC Infect Dis. 2006;6:1–6. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  14. Hurwitz BE, Klaus JR, Llabre MM, Gonzalez A, et al. Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 viral load with selenium supplementation: A randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:148–154. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  15. Mantero-Atienza E, Beach RS, Gavancho MC, Morgan R, et al. Selenium status of HIV-1 infected individuals. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1991;15:693–694. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  16. Hori K, Hatfield D, Maldarelli F, Lee BJ, Clouse KA. Selenium supplementation suppresses tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication in vitro. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1997;13:1325–1332. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  17. Broome CS, McArdle F, Kyle JA, Andrews F, et al. An increase in selenium intake improves immune function and poliovirus handling in adults with marginal selenium status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:154–162. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

 

Reading the Riot Act

Fox

The following was my presentation to Trust Council today (March 11, 2020)

Thank you Mr. Chairman

I do not relish being here today to speak to this issue.

I am here today speaking on behalf of all property owners in the Trust Area who are or should be outraged at the state of affairs of application processing in the Trust Area as I outlined in my recent letter to you all.

As a taxpayer I was shocked last year to find just how poorly the Trust has been operating when it comes to processing land use applications, and, the resulting impact on taxes.

To be clear, when I say “the Trust” I am collectively referring to the corporate body, Trust Council, its appointed CAO, the provincial government employees employed as planning staff, including the Director of Local Planning Services and the Regional Planning Managers, all of whom have a statutory duty to follow established Trust Policies.

In 2004 I was likewise shocked to find the average cost of processing an application within the Trust Area was $17,000. When I brought the matter to the attention of Trust Council senior staff could not provide a substantial explanation of why it was costing so much, or where the time was being spent. I recommended to Council that time tracking software be purchased and implemented, and, I understand my recommendation was followed in 2006 after I left office.

However, at the time there was already Trust Policy, established circa 1993 through 1996, which should have acted as a failsafe to protect taxpayers. However, that failsafe has failed because the Policy has not been followed by Staff, and, has been ignored by Trust Council as a whole.

As a result of that failure, I estimate that over $20 million of subsidy to development within the Trust Area has been inappropriately been placed on the backs of the very same taxpayers who elected every local trustee sitting around this table to represent their best interests…as local trustees who have a duty to ensure the trust placed in their elected representative is upheld and not broken.

It was reported to you last year at this time that 92.7%, or $2,092,000, of the cost of application processing was paid by taxpayers.

How much should have been paid by taxpayers if the failsafe Trust Policies were followed? Zero dollars.

How then has this been allowed to continue since 2004 when I first rang the alarm on behalf of those I represented?

Well, in 2007 the Trust paid thousands of dollars to Stantec Consulting to look into the matter. Stantec completed their report and provided recommendations which were brought forward to this corporate body in September 2007. The efficiency of processing applications was quantified by Stantec at 43%…put in another way, the inefficiency at the time was 57%.

So, according to the data published last year, the Trust is now about 6 times less efficient in processing an application than in 2007, and about 13 times less efficient than Trust Policy dictates it should be.

It is unquestionable and undeniably clear that Staff have not been following Policy. However, the question as to “why” Staff haven’t been following policy is not.

And that is what is really at the heart of this issue. How is it that for 16 years, two Chief Administrative Officers, three Directors of Local Planning Services later, staff is still, to this day, not following Policies?

The Policies are clear. They were intended to be clear when they were written and adopted by Trust Council. They set out exactly how long Application Processing should take for any one of 15 different applications. They set out exactly the process Staff are to follow when first considering the cost of processing an application. They set out exactly how much time it should take, and therefore how much an average application will cost, planners to process. They set out exactly how Staff are to estimate and calculate extraordinary costs, and they set out exactly how Staff are to invoice applicants, not taxpayers, for additional costs.

And yet, the Policies have been entirely ignored.

When we explore the results of ignoring them, a number of things become clear.

1. There is consequently no time constraint on how much time Staff can spend on an application. In other words, ignoring the policies means there is no check on the efficiency of any planner as to how efficiently they process a particular application. Time becomes meaningless.

2. The result of no check on efficiency of application processing means applications take longer to process. The proof of this is clearly presented in the fact that applications, on average, are taking 13 times longer than they should. I’m going to say that again – Applications are taking 13 times longer on average to process than they should.

3. What is the impact on applicants when an application takes 13 times longer than it should? I would suggest you ask that question of virtually any applicant which has come before any of your Local Trust Committees over the past 16 years. Ask them what their additional costs have been due to the time delays they have experienced.

4. The impact on taxpayers is startling. Over 25% of the Trust’s entire budget last year, paid for by the electors you were all elected to represent, was in essence flushed down the proverbial drain. Because of this, given the 16 years since I first brought this to the attention of the Trust, it is not a stretch to suggest the cost to taxpayers has been well over $20 million dollars. $20 million dollars of taxpayers’ hard earned, after tax dollars, to subsidize development within the Trust Area simply because this corporation has ignored Policy.

5. The fact that applications take 13 times longer begs the question whether there is an actual unwritten, internal policy adopted by staff to ignore the written policies and take their time processing applications, in order to slow development in the Trust Area down. Given the entirety of circumstances, and the magnitude of the issue, that’s NOT an unreasonable question to ask.

 

The Trust has woken somewhat to this issue, because there is now a new, proposed Application Processing Template bylaw in draft form.

When I read through it I was impressed by the fact the Trust Policies which are still not being adhered to are not even mentioned…while at the same time the primary “solution” being touted is simply to raise application fees.

With all due respect, this is akin to a chicken farmer being told by the fox he doesn’t need to mend the fence… he just needs to get a few more chickens.

According to the Staff report on the draft bylaw, an average rezoning application costs about $12,000 to process. Comparing that to the existing Policy guidelines, that suggests an average rezoning application is taking only 3 times longer than it should, not 13 times longer than the financial data show for applications. Then where is the additional time spent? Something doesn’t add up here and no audit has been conducted which would shed more light.

In addition, even if Staff’s current recommendations are adopted, it means taxpayers will still be picking up about $1.5 million a year in subsidizing development applications.

To that point, there is some discussion within the Staff Report about the “benefit” to the public of the Trust in processing a development application. With all due respect, if one taxpayer wants to make an application to rezone a property, why should a taxpayer from Lasqueti pay for ANY part of processing a land use application on Salt Spring? Especially when there are specific policies to address this?

With all due respect the current proposal is entirely inadequate, and, in my opinion, attempts to veil the underlying inefficiency which is apparent.

And this is where the issue begins to boil down to its essence. If applications are taking 13 times longer on average to process, one approach would be to increase application fees 13 fold. However, what would the consequences of that be?

Well, the very first taxpayer to apply for a rezoning application would be told the application fee has recently been increased from $5,000 to $65,000. And, what do you think you, as the elected representative, would hear from that taxpayer? This would become front page news, as it should now be.

Instead, Staff are recommending you make things more complicated, add on a few additional charges here and there, and only charge a total of say $12,000….which would leave taxpayers to pick up the additional $53,000 of processing.

I’m going to put it to you all that this situation has been out of control for over 16 years, and has gotten worse, not better, over that time.

The question of whether this whole matter is actionable has arisen. Do you, and this corporate body, owe an administrative duty of care to the electors of the Trust Area to ensure the Trust’s Policies are followed, to ensure the taxpayers are receiving fair service for fair cost? That’s a great question, and as our representative one you should all be asking yourselves.

If this was a private corporation which you owned, and you discovered it was operating at a 7.1% efficiency, and that you were subsidizing that inefficiency by over $2,000,000 a year, and that the reason for the subsidy was that the CAO you appointed, and your Directors and employees had been collectively blatantly ignoring company policies for 16 years, in spite of an independent consultant’s report and recommendations leading to a $20 million loss…I’m going to ask you… would you demand that heads roll and that existing policies be enforced, or, just continue business as usual and raise rates to try and cover the ongoing losses?

It’s entirely your decision to make, one way or another. You are the captains of this enterprise, but, it is long past time to right this ship.

Thank you.

Eric Booth, Islands Trustee (2002-2005).

Lost in Interpretation on Salt Spring

Bill Murray 1

The following, in blue, is my commentary on Mr. Robinson’s article.

Viewpoint: Dark underbelly showing

 Feb 18, 2020

By CAM ROBINSON

Over the weekend, while enjoying the facilities at Centennial Park with my grandson, I witnessed a man urinating on a police officer’s car as the peacekeeper was engaging a rough-looking crowd drinking in public. How do I describe my reaction? I leave it to you good citizens to decide. My five-year-old grandson would have the opinion that it was at very least a poor performance. I can draw no conclusion other than it was a symbolic act, an insult to both the constabulary and the community. Another observer remarked to me that our island home will never be the same. I hope not.

The above is an entirely reasonable observation and commentary.

I have always believed that how we treat the least fortunate members of our community is a direct reflection of who we are. I am very happy to see my tax dollars support those in need.

I completely agree…those who are the “least fortunate” and are actually in need should be supported. 

I am, however, becoming increasingly concerned over the challenge of determining who are the worthy candidates versus those who are opportunists, capable but unmotivated to contribute to the common weal.

Here Mr. Robinson brings up the gist of the article – the concern, expressed by many in the community over the question of the differentiation of who are “in need” and those who “take advantage” of goodwill. An example of why that question has been raised more often on the island over the past couple of years relates to the Food Bank. The Food Bank’s purpose is help those “in need” within the community. Those who are, for example, facing temporary unemployment, or are handicapped, or are single parents struggling. The Food Bank was not created to feed an ever increasing, able-bodied, tourist/transient population. Thus, Mr. Robinson’s use of the words “opportunists, “capable,” “unmotivated” and not “contributing.” to the community.

Mr. Robinson makes it clear he has no problem contributing some of his own money (tax dollars) to help those “in need.”

What he, and many others, have a problem with is what are the factors which should be taken into account when asking the rather practical question – “Why are you deserving of help?”

Is that a reasonable question to ask, given limited resources? Is it a reasonable question to ask of someone able bodied? I believe the answer is yes.

To me this issue is amplified in an island microcosm, where spaces, housing, human and financial resources are literally finite.

I agree…the issue is amplified, and, unfortunately, the amplification is not the result of all of the homeless people. It is the result of a few people who, due to a lack of common respect issues (littering, drinking, obnoxious behavior, fighting, etc.), are placing the majority in a poor light.Every morning I pick up the litter remnants of the night before – liquor bottles, cans, empty cigarette packages, garbage, coffee cups, clothing, dog shit, tissue paper, food trays, etc. strewn about. I’m going to ask every reader – is that the product of reasonable behavior for adults who wish to be respected?

As I have witnessed the “dark underbelly” of the homeless population increase, i.e., those who are preying upon our good will, property and quality of life, I recognize that an equal proportion of those most deserving of our support are more likely to be displaced and tarnished by this metastasizing cancer. What to do?

Let’s take a look at Mr. Robinson’s analogy of a “metastasizing cancer.” Cancer begins when one cell in the body is damaged. Eventually one damaged cell becomes two, and then four and then 8, etc.. Unchecked, the cancer will eventually kill all cells and the body in which all cells reside. As it applies to the issue at hand, Mr. Robinson is stating the number of those who disrespect the community, and its environment, in which they currently reside, are increasing. I agree, and would challenge anyone who says the situation has plateaued, or is lessening.  

Mr. Robinson however defends those who are “most deserving of our support” and, fears that those “in need” are “more likely to be displaced and tarnished” as a result of others’ actions. 

I understand his perspective, because it is decent, common sense.

The homeless question: Is there a solution? The words question and solution have a somewhat sinister ring to them, but cannot be ignored for the sake of propriety. So how do we identify the miscreants from the meritorious in our homeless population?

The term “miscreant” means “a person who behaves badly or in a way that breaks the law.” So, Mr. Robinson is asking how do we identify those are disrespectful, and who behave badly, from those truly “in need.”

I don’t think it’s as difficult as you might imagine, because as I witnessed at Centennial Park, they seem to identify themselves. The problem I observed in that particular example is that there appeared to be no ticketing, detention or arrest of the individuals acting in contravention of the law. I suspect this is a consequence of an ongoing and overwhelming battle of attrition, as police officers tire of endless paperwork and a revolving door at the courthouse.

The incident in question – drinking in public and pissing on a police vehicle – could only be considered a taunt, looking for a reaction. The fact that there wasn’t an immediate reaction indicates tolerance on the part of the peace officers. However, Mr. Robinson begs the question as to whether that actually was an appropriate reaction.

There must be consequences for criminal and antisocial behaviour; those who escape them are otherwise emboldened by their experience, and thus we are on a slippery slope in their absence. Here I will assert that prison, though appropriate for many, is an expensive and counterproductive means of rehabilitation for those who require a hand up by means of correction for their desultory citizenship. Let’s not send them to crime school.

Any reasonable person would agree there should be “consequences for criminal and antisocial behaviour.” Here, however, Mr. Robinson makes it clear he doesn’t believe sending someone to jail is the solution to the issues at hand.

I agree…up to a point. Certain violent offenders do need to be taken off the streets. But, they aren’t representative of even the minority.

Would it be too draconian to suggest repeat offenders be sent to work camps where by their own sweat and toil they may be instilled with a sense of self worth and purpose for their contribution to the common good, as well as the insight that such industry on the “outside” is preferable to the alternative?

This last comment by Mr. Robinson has drawn howls of social media outrage from some, with comparisons to Japanese internment camps, or Gulags, or Nazi concentration camps.

I fear thou doth protest too loudly….

First, Mr. Robinson makes it clear it is the “repeat offenders” who he is referring to. The troublemakers, the disrespecters, the instigators…take your pick. 

He makes it clear that the suggestion of sending the “repeat offenders” to “work camps” is a potential alternative to sending them to prison.

He also makes it clear, that his hope is that by the “repeat offenders” actually having to work for food and shelter, as opposed to having it handed to them on a platter may actually “instill” them with a “sense of self worth and purpose for their contribution to the common good, as well as the insight that the alternative IS prison.”

So, what he is really asking the “repeat offenders” is – which would you prefer?

I don’t see that as an unreasonable offer.  

When I read an article I try and understand what someone is saying because, as is the case here, content can be lost in interpretation. 

 

Of “Liveaboards” and “Liveonlands”

living

There is now discussion beginning to foment on how liveaboards can be legalized (if they need legalizing, since there is already ongoing debate on that issue).

However, it occurred to me today that on-land liveaboards, which I’m going to call “liveonlands,” in the form of Z240 RV rated trailers and 5th Wheels, and, insulated Tiny Homes, (all with water, appliances, toilets with holding tanks) are arguably as, or more, “liveable” than liveaboards, when it comes to what would be considered “liveable.”

So, my question to our elected representatives is this – “If/when you begin to formally discuss legalizing liveaboards, are you at the same time going to discuss legalizing liveonlands?”

One Down, One to Go

Bylaw 471

With the hopeful demise of Bylaw 512, housing proponents should set their scopes on Bylaw 471.

Once again, staff have missed the mark with this bylaw proposal.

Rather than demanding people jump through the Temporary Use Permit gauntlet (which is similar in process to a rezoning), and in keeping with the KISS principle, all that needs to happen is to make TWO minor changes to the definition of “mobile home” in the existing Bylaw 355, and ADD one definition.

Change from:

“mobile home” means a transportable, single or multiple section dwelling unit conforming to the Canadian Standards Association Z240 Series of Standards at time of manufacture, and designed and intended for residential occupancy and set up in accordance with required factory installation details.

to:

“mobile home” means a TINY HOME ON WHEELS, OR A transportable, single or multiple section dwelling unit conforming to the Canadian Standards Association Z240 OR Z240RV Series of Standards at time of manufacture, and designed and intended for residential occupancy and set up in accordance with required factory installation details.  

and add:

“Tiny home on wheels” means a dwelling unit on a wheeled chassis with a maximum floor area of 37.5 square metres.

By making those changes, 4 season RV’s (most 5th Wheels and Trailers) and tiny homes would be defined as “dwellings” under the bylaw, since dwellings include “mobile homes.”