Saturday, August 8, 2015

Inter-connected as we all are...why not take the opportunity it offers?

It is revealing to watch the BBC News America program, given two observations:
first, the newscast is not afraid to dedicate several minutes to an in-depth examination of what it considers the most important stories and
second, the stories, exhibiting a distinctive 'British' flavour and attitude, are gathered from correspondents around the world.
PBS Newshour, too, is well-known for its critical probing of important issues, through the insights and even opinions of expert witnesses. Increasingly, we are be exposed to news stories that document, beyond any doubt that parochial perspectives would deny, the deep and permanent interconnectivity of all humans currently living and previously contributing to who we are and how we are growing.
Fires, droughts, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes are one 'disaster' theme with which the whole world is contending. Similarly, micro-organisms know no national or even continental boundaries. Also, and just as important but not appearing in our daily menu of international news, music, art, literature, dance and all of the many platforms through which these expressions 'spread' continue to influence us, and through us the events in which we participate no matter where we live.
Listening to a Rimsky-Korsakov composition, in Canada, one cannot help but feel, deeply in one's bones, the throbbing pulse of the Russian heart beat; similarly, while taking in a Rachmaninoff performance of his Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini one cannot help but absorb the technical mastery linked to the virtuosity of the musicality of another  Russian musical genius. These shared gifts, like the novels, plays, poems and canvases that overflow museums and galleries of art around the world, re-acquaint readers and explorers of how the human mind and spirit are much more aligned than divided, notwithstanding the unique differences in both perspective and expression that characterize each work.
Mahatma Gandi wrote:I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another.
Two news stories this week, caught my attention. Both indicate our deep and permanent connectedness.
The first comes from the world of sports. The International Athletic Association reported that the testing of some 5000 athletes, from 2002 through 2012, indicates that some 800 showed dubious results for banned substances, some of these were medal winners. Most countries' athletes were involved, and the issue is so troubling that Dick Pound of Canada has been asked to head an investigation into the report's findings. Pound is quoted as saying that he doubts any punishments can or will be meted out to offending athletes. International trends to cheating link the world's athletic federations in a common cause to attempt to eliminate the abuse.
The second story comes courtesy of CBC:
Frances Oldham Kelsey, the Canadian doctor whose vocal opposition to the anti-nausea drug thalidomide helped keep it out of the United States, has died at age 101...
Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women in the 1960s before it was discovered that it caused serious birth defects such as missing limbs, internal organ damage, deafness and blindness.
Kelsey was a reviewer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who raised serious concerns about the safety of the drug.
Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell had travelled to London on Thursday afternoon to present Kelsey with the Order of Canada, which was bestowed on her in the spring. 
Dowdeswell suspects that because Kelsey lived in the U.S. for much of her life, it took longer for her to be honoured in Canada...
Kelsey's refusal to agree with approval of the drug for use in the U.S. saved thousands of children from serious birth defects, and led to new safety standards for prescription drugs, a statement from the Governor General said. Only 17 children were born in the U.S. with thalidomide problems...
Kelsey was hailed as a hero in the U.S. and given the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by John F. Kennedy.
But the drug's dark legacy continues in her home country: In May, the federal government announced Canada's nearly 100 thalidomide survivors will be each provided pensions of up to $100,000 a year for the rest of their lives. The aging survivors are seeking help to cope with their day-to-day needs.
Kelsey demonstrated how one person can change the world, said Alvin Law, a thalidomide survivor, currently in Crystal Lake, Sask.
"She was a hero. She was just simply that. She was a guiding angel. She was an amazing human being," Law said.
"She stood up to a lot of people and made us as a group have more relevance.… We weren't mistakes, we were human beings."
Through Kelsey's actions, not only did regulation of the pharmaceutical industry change, but she changed our mindsets about women taking drugs during pregnancy, he said. (CBC News, August 7, 2015)
Athletes using banned substances to enhance their potential for victory and pharmaceutical companies advancing their 'morning sickness prevention' for profit are issues that know no national boundaries. They are both at the heart of a common human ambition...to compete and to overcome various odds and to succeed.
Restraint, of all human ambition to power, especially in a time when the unleashed venom of extreme power for its own sake is ubiquitous, may not garner headlines. Nevertheless, the need for such restraint, such prevention and such resistance, coming from individuals like Dr. Kelsey, and inspiring the efforts of international bodies like the Olympics, and the much-berated World Health Organization, has never been more demonstrated.
Dr. Kelsey, when interviewed by the CBC's Knowton Nash, sadly bemoaned the absence of an international drug-review and regulating agency that would have prevented the thousands of deformed babies resulting from the use of thalidomide by expecting mothers for morning sickness. It would appear that such an agency still does not exist, in spite of the many pharmaceutical products whose physical and emotional and psychiatric impacts have damaged the lives of millions.
It is not past time for such an international empowered agency with real enforcement powers?

In a week in which the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the threat of nuclear weapons rears is ugly head, could we not now 'come to our senses' in pursuing enhanced nuclear disarmament in conjunction with other collaborative, preventive and enforcement agreements of restraint of  the pursuit and imposition of harmful even deathly powers?

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