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Producing the evidence
Re: New science palace bugs entomologist (Sept. 25). I am an academic and public health physician who feels very fortunate to have an office in the Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex at the University of Winnipeg. I especially appreciate the convenient access to the Elements, restaurant.
Rob Anderson raises some important issues and questions, including the appropriateness of having a restaurant in a science research facility. It appears that he believes that the presence of labs poses a significant health risk to restaurant patrons and that the presence of the restaurant poses a significant interference with the conduct of scientific research.
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I assume Anderson has adequate scientific evidence for his views. I am sure that many will be interested to see this evidence, especially the designers and users of similar facilities, such as the federal laboratory in Winnipeg, the Basic Medical Sciences Building at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine, the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and indeed every other hospital in the province.
These places and the Richardson science complex share in common at least three characteristics:
- Laboratories, workers or ill patients that share the same physical space and ambient air as a restaurant or cafeteria.
- Lunch or staff rooms located on the same floor and often in close proximity to labs, workers or patients.
- Many places of animal traffic -- mostly non-sterile, walking human beings, most of whom appear to be well despite their frequent exposure to the air and restaurant food.
Let me get this straight. The University of Winnipeg's dean of science thinks the building is pretty great. The associate VP in charge of research and innovation thinks "it's the best freaking building" he's ever seen.
But Rob Anderson, an associate professor of biology, thinks that building doesn't even achieve mediocrity. So whose picture do we see on the front page and above the headline of the article? The naysayer's, of course.
As a lifetime Winnipegger, a U of W science grad and project manager for the building's glass installers, I think it's a prize for the downtown campus.
Fortunately, Anderson's own data provide the solution to his dilemma. He claims that he "had better research conditions in a remote field station in Kenya." Winnipeg will no doubt miss him, but our loss will be Kenya's gain.
Lack of data discourages
Mary Agnes Welch's Sept. 23 article Census picture far from perfect, about the lack of census data for the West Alexander neighbourhood and neighbourhoods across the country, is very discouraging.
I am a student working toward a bachelor of recreation management and community development. We learn early on in our program that income, race, ethnicity and education all contribute to a list of factors called the social determinants of health.
These can provide insight into the access and use of programs and services within a community. Data pertaining to the social determinants of health are also invaluable to the education and prevention of poor health outcomes in our greater population.
In short, this missing data may further disadvantage the areas of our city we are trying to help rejuvenate.
The Sept. 24 story Absenteeism worth $16B marshals some interesting statistics in support of Stephen Harper's war on the workers.
The $16 billion Canadian Press reporter Linda Nguyen claims is being lost by employers due to absenteeism assumes that every employee is contributing to the profit of the enterprise for every minute he is being paid.
This is true, more or less, for a worker on the assembly line at Ford. If he is not there he must be replaced or the line can't move. There are some other occupations where this is so, to some extent.
In most cases, however, if an employee takes a sick day, his inbox simply fills up and he has to work a little harder for a few days when he comes back. There is no extra cost to the employer.
Somehow, Scandinavian and Dutch employers manage to make profits even though their workers are paid $20 per hour, have five weeks paid holiday and 24 sick days per year. Yet these countries all have higher-per-capita GDPs than Canada or the U.S. Maybe our employers could learn something from them.
In his Sept. 23 column, All roads leading to downtown Winnipeg -- again, Jino Distasio writes that Winnipeg's decline resulted from the 1919 General Strike, the opening of the Panama Canal and the growth of other western Canadian cities.
Jim Blanchard posits, in his book Winnipeg, 1912, that Winnipeg's mid-century malaise can be traced to more concrete circumstances: 1912's evaporation of British investment in the city -- in preparation for the coming of war.
Sin of nuclear omission
Edward Katz's Sept. 21 letter, Nuclear still an option, commits the sin of omission when discussing the benefits of nuclear power. True as it may be that the act of processing electricity derived from the internal nuclear reaction itself "gives off no carbon emissions," nuclear power relies on the reaction of radioactive metals, which must be mined out of the Earth, giving off plenty of greenhouse gas.
Accidents that kill no one, meanwhile, remain accidents. And in the case of nuclear accidents, they are incredibly expensive to clean up.
Re: AJI assumptions wrong (Letters, Sept. 23). Michael Melanson's ability to emanate effluvium into his own alimentary canal is as impressive as his thesaurus.
Unfortunately, his vision has been muddied, as it were, by this feculent view of life.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 A14
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