By Timothy Sawa, Lisa Ellenwood, Mark Kelley, CBC News
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"
Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour
Friday, March 16, 2018
Corruption is Everywhere - But in Canada??? and Costco???
Rebates not allowed in Ontario in bid to drive down overall price of generics
By Timothy Sawa, Lisa Ellenwood, Mark Kelley, CBC News
Retail giant Costco collected $1.2 million in potentially illegal payments from the generic drug company Ranbaxy. (CBC)
Costco is under investigation by an Ontario government forensic team that specializes in "allegations of wrongdoing against government" after the retail giant received $1.2 million in potentially illegal payments from a generic drug-maker, The Fifth Estate has learned.
The revelation follows guilty pleas of professional misconduct in front of the Ontario College of Pharmacists from two pharmacy executives with the company (Costco) known for its bulk deals and rock bottom pharmacy dispensing fees.
The college accused Joseph Hanna and Lawrence Varga of demanding illegal payments from the generic drug company Ranbaxy.
Hanna and Varga said the demands could "reasonably be regarded by members of the profession as unprofessional," according to statements from them that were included in the college's decision.
Each pharmacist was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $30,000 in costs.
At the time of the fine, in January 2018, Costco had collected $1.2 million in potentially illegal payments from the drug company and so far has been allowed to keep that money.
Tony Gagliese was a salesman with Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals. (CBC)
Tony Gagliese, a salesman with Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals at the time, blew the whistle on the company by filing a complaint with the Ontario College of Pharmacists.
"I basically said: 'I don't understand what's going on,' " Gagliese told The Fifth Estate in an exclusive television interview.
"Costco always followed the law and suddenly you're breaking the law from my understanding and no one is here to help me."
'I prefer to call it a kickback'
The allegations stem from a questionable industry-wide practice that inflates the price of generic drugs, known as pharmacy rebates.
"You call it a rebate. I prefer to call it a kickback," says Amir Attaran, a professor of medicine and law at the University of Ottawa. Pharmacy chains sometimes demand a payment from a generic drug company to stock its brand of drugs.
Most provinces allow rebates, but Ontario made them entirely illegal in 2013 in an effort to drive down the overall price of generic drugs.
'Canadians are really seriously gouged
on the price of generic drugs.'
- Amir Attaran
If pharmacy chains stopped demanding rebates, the province argued, then generic drug companies could afford to lower the price of drugs for Canadians.
Canadians pay some of the highest generic drug prices in the world, with last year's spending estimated at nearly $6 billion. A large percentage of that — likely billions of dollars — went directly to pharmacy chains in the form of rebate payments.
"Canadians are really seriously gouged on the price of generic drugs," says Attaran. "That's largely because in the price of a drug in Canada there's not just the drug. There's a portion of the price that goes to the pharmacy in the form of a rebate or a kickback."
Various players in the industry launched challenges to Ontario's law.
In upholding the law in 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada called rebates a "tenacious problem" and said manufacturers have been "charging exceptionally high prices for generic drugs flowing not from the actual cost of the drugs, but from the manufacturers' cost in providing financial incentives to pharmacies to induce them to purchase their products."
The Fifth Estate has learned Ontario's Forensic Investigation Team, or FIT, launched its investigation into Costco in the fall of 2017.
Costco says its lower dispensing fees saved its customers in Ontario more than $16.4 million in 2014. (David Donnelly/CBC)
That came after Gagliese turned his evidence over to the province. Then the Forensic Investigation Team called him for a meeting.
"What I was told, and I quote: 'Help us Tony to put together a ... case against Costco,' " says Gagliese.
FIT is a provincial team independent of Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that investigates financial issues and "allegations of wrongdoing against government," according to the head of the team in a speech.
It conducts civil investigations and can pass its findings on to law enforcement for followup criminal investigations.
The Fifth Estate has seen emails confirming FIT's involvement.
"The ministry has engaged the Forensic Investigation Team to conduct a second phase of investigation," wrote David Schachow, director for the Drug Programs Delivery Branch with Ontario's Ministry of Health.
When asked about FIT's involvement, the Health Ministry says it "is unable to provide further information about ongoing inspection or investigation activities."
Costco CEO Craig Jelinek and its top Canadian executive, Andrée Brien, both declined to be interviewed by The Fifth Estate.
In a statement, Brien says it didn't believe any of the payments were illegal at the time, that it stopped the practice after its own internal investigation and the payments it demanded were ultimately good for consumers because it could use the money to lower their prices.
And did that actually happen? Can you account for that money?
At the heart of the Costco case is a phone call Gagliese secretly recorded between himself and Hanna, Costco's national director of drug buying. The Fifth Estate has obtained a copy of that recording.
Hanna began the conversation, recorded in February 2014, by telling Gagliese that Ranbaxy wasn't paying Costco enough money to keep his products on its shelves. He wants a higher percentage of Ranbaxy's generic drug sales in what would be considered a rebate.
"My analysis essentially shows that your support is approximately, and I might be off by a couple per cent or I might be off by a lot more if you tell me differently, around 46-ish per cent," Hanna said.
"Here's sort of what I'm going to kind of tell you, if you want to compete, it's going to have to be sort of 60 [per cent] plus," Hanna told Gagliese.
'It was obvious to me that they weren't interested in following the law.'
- Tony Gagliese
Gagliese says the request raised an alarm for him.
"They asked for a 60 per cent rebate retroactive to April  and I pointed out to them it's illegal [in Ontario] what you're asking for," Gagliese told The Fifth Estate.
"It was obvious to me that they weren't interested in following the law."
Costco says Gagliese "used the recordings and the threat of proceedings as leverage to try and force Costco to purchase additional generic drugs from the company he represented."
The University of Ottawa's Amir Attaran calls Gagliese a hero. "I think he's behaved in a selfless and heroic way," he says. "He has shed light on one of the murkier sides of the pharmaceutical business. Costco has been caught with its hand in the till. Clearly."
Costco wanted Ranbaxy to pay $3.6 million in total, in exchange for $6 million in Canadian sales.
In Ontario, Costco wanted Ranbaxy to make the payments by investing in what Costco called its "advertising and customer education programs."
On the secret tapes, Hanna lays out how Ranbaxy can make the payments for its sales in the rest of Canada, where rebates are legal, versus Ontario, where they aren't.
In Ontario, instead of using the term rebate, Hanna says Ranbaxy can pay up to $1.3 million for what he calls "marketing support."
The remaining $2.3 million can be paid as a straight rebate. If Ranbaxy refused to pay, Costco's Hanna says the company could lose its business with the retail giant.
"This is what I would like to see and this is a minimum to ensure that, not ensure but a minimum to greatly reduce the likelihood of somebody eating your business," Hanna said.
No guidance, Costco says
Hanna also declined an interview request from The Fifth Estate.
In an email to The Fifth Estate, he says he had no idea the payments he was asking for would be considered an illegal rebate in Ontario and that neither the Ontario College of Pharmacists nor the province had provided any guidance on the issue.
'Neither I, nor Costco, would ever knowingly
accept a payment that was prohibited.'
- Joseph Hanna
"I genuinely believed at the time Ranbaxy made the payments in question that they were permissible," he says. "Neither I, nor Costco, would ever knowingly accept a payment that was prohibited."
Hanna says that the secretly recorded phone call does not appear to be "complete" and that "a number of other conversations that provide context … have not been provided."
Amir Attaran, a professor of medicine and law at the University of Ottawa, says Gagliese has 'shed light on one of the murkier sides of the pharmaceutical business.' (CBC)
In one of those conversations, Hanna says he told Gagliese that he "did not believe the payment was a rebate."
Hanna also says he personally did not receive any of the funds in question.
In her email, Brien, Costco's top Canadian executive, says the company stopped the payment scheme in Ontario immediately after it did its own internal investigation and not because of any "finding of wrongdoing" on its part but because it wants "further clarification from the Ontario government."
Brien also points out that in its decision, the College of Pharmacists says the Costco executives were "operating in a legal environment that was not crystal clear" and that the payments were not "rebates on their face."
Funds not used to 'line our pockets'
"We acknowledge that the advertising payment received from Ranbaxy was considered to be a rebate by the college in the particular circumstances of the case," she says.
"However, where advertising fees are charged, we have not used these funds to 'line our pockets' while we continue to charge high fees. To the contrary, payments received for advertising are used to defray our operating costs to allow us to pass the savings on to our customers."
Costco says its lower dispensing fees saved its customers in Ontario more than $16.4 million in 2014.
Both Costco pharmacy executives who pleaded guilty to professional misconduct continue to act in their senior roles with the company.
Consequently, they were clearly acting in company policy. The real question here is did the money genuinely go to reducing the price of the drugs, and can Costco prove it? 60% kick-back is an astonishing amount of money, and yet it's presumable that the pharmaceutical company would still be making a significant profit on the 40% left. Amazing!
Costco pharmacy executive Joseph Hanna says he 'genuinely believed' at the time Ranbaxy made the
payments that they were legal. (CBC)
Gagliese, on the other hand, has been unable to find work as a drug salesperson since going public.
Without the secretly record audio tape, he believes Costco would not be under scrutiny right now.
"I think without the tape, nothing would've happened. I think that the tape is the only reason why Costco decided to plead guilty," he says.
"You can't debate the tape. I didn't ask him, I didn't set him up, he told me how to pay him, so Costco's story is in that tape."
By Sara Shayanian
An injured woman is aided by an emergency officer at the Parsons Green Underground Station in London after a bombing on September 15, 2017. File photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE
UPI -- An Iraqi teenager was convicted Friday of attempted murder for bombing a crowded London underground train last summer.
Ahmed Hassan, 18, was found guilty after a trial at which he said he didn't intend to injure anyone with the bomb. He told jurors the bombing was an effort to get attention, and that he'd been "very bored, very depressed, very confused."
Hassan was arrested in September after his bomb injured 29 passengers on a subway during rush hour at the Parsons Green station in London.
Hassan said he'd been influenced by action films and wanted to be a fugitive. Prosecutor Alison Morgan called him "calculated and clever."
"You can be sure it was not an act of attention-seeking or boredom," Morgan said. "This was someone who wanted to cause death and damage and make good his escape."
Both Hassan's parents died when he was a child, and prosecutors said he blamed Britain for his father's death during an airstrike on Baghdad.
"The prosecution rely heavily on motive in this case and point to evidence that Mr. Hassan was angry. He blamed the coalition for his father's death. He had been killed by a bomb in Iraq," judge Justice Haddon-Cave said.
"He was angry at the continued bombing of his country by the U.K. It was suggested he had a deep down hate of this country."
Hassan said he'd been abducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and "trained on how to kill." The 18-year-old said he then made his way to Britain via Istanbul, Paris and Calais as a stowaway.
Hassan later said he made up the story of his kidnapping in an attempt to win sympathy and stay in Britain.
So, in all probability, he was trained by IS on how to kill, but it was completely voluntary. The effects of Bush's insane attack on Iraq will continue to haunt the western world for many years to come.
Corruption is Everywhere - No surprise in South Africa
By Sara Shayanian
Former South African President Jacob Zuma will face 16 counts of corruption in court, prosecutors said Friday. File photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo
UPI -- Former South African President Jacob Zuma was charged Friday with 16 counts of corruption.
Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said the former president was charged with fraud, racketeering and money laundering -- and said Zuma's numerous attempts at challenging the charges had failed.
Prosecutors say the charges stem from a $2.5 billion state arms deal and are related to nearly 800 instances of alleged wrongdoing.
"After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr. Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment," Abrahams said.
"I am of the view that a trial court would be the most appropriate forum for these issues to be ventilated and to be decided upon."
Zuma, 75, resigned as president last month amid pressure from the African National Congress.
South Africa's leader since 2007, Zuma said he disagreed with the ANC's decision to recall him. Cyril Ramaphosa, the only candidate nominated in South African Parliament, took over as president.
In 2016, Zuma as ordered by South Africa's top court to repay $15 million in public funds he used to upgrade his private home.
Berlin lists a little further to starboard
Seehofer outlines tough new measures on immigration and deportation of Muslim migrants.
Newly-appointed Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said that “Islam doesn't belong to Germany.” The comments contradict previous remarks from his own chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Seehofer was sworn-in on Wednesday, following protracted negotiations to form a new German government, and made the remarks in an interview with Bild on Friday. Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, also outlined a number of tough new measures to curtail immigration and make it easier for Germany to deport failed asylum seekers.
Seehofer said he would implement a “master plan for quicker deportations” and seek to classify more countries as ‘safe,’ therefore making it easier to deport people to their country of origin. “My message is: Muslims need to live with us, not next to us or against us,” the minister said. “Of course the Muslims living here do belong to Germany.”
An estimated 4.4 to 4.7 million Muslims live in Germany, many from a Turkish background. More than a million middle-eastern migrants have arrived in the country since 2015 after Chancellor Merkel adopted an open-door policy.
The recent surge in popularity for the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been linked to German dissatisfaction with Merkel's policy, coupled with fears of a large-scale terrorist incident following the Berlin Christmas market truck attack which killed 12 people in 2016.
Gains have been made by right-wing and anti-immigrant parties in a host of European countries over the last year, most notably in Austria, Denmark and France where National Front leader Marine Le Pen lost a close-fought presidential race to centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Tanya Granic Allen
We recently documented Europe's 'listing to starboard' - a clear response to far-left policies and actions of governments which were leading their countries into cultural suicide with uncontrolled Islamic migration.
Islamization is not a big problem in North America, yet, although it is rising and perhaps some people's excessive reaction to that problem is a bigger problem.
In Ontario, the Premier, Kathleen Wynne, is a lesbian, a Liberal, and far to the left of any premier who has gone before, even the NDP 's Bob Rae, who was an absolute disaster. Liberals are supposed to be centrists and NDPs leftists. But Wynne has taken the provincial Liberal party far to the left of even the NDP, just as Justin Trudeau has taken the federal Liberals far to the left of the federal NDPs.
As pointed out in a recent post, when you steer a ship to port (left), it will list (lean) to starboard (right). It is not Islamization that has caused this list but the use of the educational system to inflict a far-left version of cultural progress, or social engineering on Ontarians.
Wynne employed, among others possibly, the Deputy Minister of Education, Benjamin Levin, to write a new curriculum with regard to gender equality and bullying. But Levin had to step down as DM after he was charged with and convicted of having child pornography. Levin is a paedophile!
His curriculum was very much about normalizing homosexuality and transgenderism from a very young age. This is bolstered by libraries across Canada embracing drag queens, in full costume, going into classrooms and reading to little children as if that is supposed to be anything close to normal.
There is little mention of child sex abuse - safe touch/unsafe touch, who to tell and how to tell, etc., etc. in the curriculum. Nor is there any mention that gender dysphoria is a disease and there are options to deal with it. They teach that it is quite normal for a man to look down at his scrotum and decide that he is a woman. Extreme liberalism!
Wynne's other big problem is having sold 50.1% of Hydro One, a Crown Corporation until then. Hydro One is the primary electrical distribution company for Ontario. Hydro One suffers from aging infrastructure and consequently, rates jumped spectacularly after the sale. Many homes are paying several hundred dollars per month for hydro even after measures to reduce usage.
Wynne's solution to this issue, after nightmare stories came out of people being, or threatening to be cut off because they couldn't pay the extraordinary increase in their bills, was to reduce everyone's hydro bill by 25%, which will be underwritten by the government. Consequently, all taxpayers in Ontario will pay for the increased hydro rates for decades to come.
Now the story really gets bizarre:
In 2017, Hydro One agreed to acquire U.S. energy company Avista for C$6.7 billion in cash! Where did they get $6.7 bn in cash? Why didn't they invest that money into Hydro One's aging infrastructure? Where will they get the money to invest in Hydro One's infrastructure?
Ontario Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown put forward an idea to fix the Hydro One problem, and with Kathleen Wynn's approval rating down around 12%, it appeared he would get a chance to employ that solution after a provincial election in June. Then #MeToo came along (2nd story on link) and Patrick Brown suddenly and dramatically resigned just a few months before a provincial election. He went kicking and screaming, then joined the race to be his own successor, and a few days later, withdrew from that.
That sounds more like BC politics than Ontario. Nevertheless, the extremely rushed leadership convention occurred last week with 3 high profile and very different contenders, plus one relative unknown. The list included Christine Elliott, the wife of the late, and very popular, federal Finance Minister under Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty; Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of long-retired Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; and Doug Ford, the brother of the late, internationally infamous, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
The 4th candidate was a dark horse with no political experience and no pedigree. She is, however, the head of a parental rights group called PAFE - Parents As First Educators. It was clear Tanya Granic Allen was not going to win the contest and Canada's left leaning media often completely ignored her in their 30 second sound bites they call news. But Granic Allen made a significant impression in the few opportunities she had and received a number of 1st choice selections on the leadership ballot.
The ballot was structured to choose 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices so that in the event of no-one getting enough votes on the first count, the candidate with the fewest 1st place votes would drop off and their ballots would revert to their 2nd choice. Most of Granic Allen's voters chose Doug Ford as their 2nd choice and that was enough to push him ahead of Christine Elliott in a very close race.
Doug Ford, an outsider to provincial politics except that his father was once a backbench MPP, was the most right wing of the candidates with the exception of Granic Allen. He stated that he would change school curriculum to reflect societal norms rather than extreme left-wing ideologies. He also stated that he would allow MPPs to bring forward bills challenging the right to abortion. Both of these positions are probably due to Tanya Granic Allen's presence and forceful presentations on the candidacy platforms.
Granic Allen hasn't decided if she will run for MPP in June, but if she does, I would expect her to be a powerhouse of an MPP, possibly in the cabinet, and a possible successor to Ford sometime in the future if she can survive the disdain of Canadian media.
When a ship lists to starboard because it is steering to port there are only two options: continue to steer to port and go around and around in circles, or, steer to starboard until the ship is upright again. Ontarians deserve an upright ship for a change.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Colorado Springs Gazette Opinion
Last week marked the fifth anniversary of Colorado's decision to sanction the world's first anything-goes commercial pot trade.
Five years later, we remain an embarrassing cautionary tale.
Visitors to Colorado remark about a new agricultural smell, the wafting odor of pot as they drive near warehouse grow operations along Denver freeways. Residential neighborhoods throughout Colorado Springs reek of marijuana, as producers fill rental homes with plants.
Five years of retail pot coincide with five years of a homelessness growth rate that ranks among the highest rates in the country. Directors of homeless shelters, and people who live on the streets, tell us homeless substance abusers migrate here for easy access to pot.
Five years of Big Marijuana ushered in a doubling in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana, based on research by the pro-legalization Denver Post.
Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use
among teens, scoring well above the national average
Five years of commercial pot have been five years of more marijuana in schools than teachers and administrators ever feared.
"An investigation by Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network shows drug violations reported by Colorado's K-12 schools have increased 45 percent in the past four years, even as the combined number of all other violations has fallen," explains an expose on escalating pot use in schools by Rocky Mountain PBS in late 2016.
The investigation found an increase in high school drug violations of 71 percent since legalization. School suspensions for drugs increased 45 percent.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use among teens, scoring well above the national average.
The only good news to celebrate on this anniversary is the dawn of another organization to push back against Big Marijuana's threat to kids, teens and young adults.
The Marijuana Accountability Coalition formed Nov. 6 in Denver and will establish satellites throughout the state. It resulted from discussions among recovery professionals, parents, physicians and others concerned with the long-term effects of a commercial industry profiteering off of substance abuse.
"It's one thing to decriminalize marijuana, it's an entirely different thing to legalize an industry that has commercialized a drug that is devastating our kids and devastating whole communities," said coalition founder Justin Luke Riley. "Coloradans need to know, other states need to know, that Colorado is suffering from massive normalization and commercialization of this drug which has resulted in Colorado being the number one state for youth drug use in the country. Kids are being expelled at higher rates, and more road deaths tied to pot have resulted since legalization."
Commercial pot's five-year anniversary is an odious occasion for those who want safer streets, healthier kids and less suffering associated with substance abuse. Experts say the worst effects of widespread pot use will culminate over decades. If so, we can only imagine the somber nature of Big Marijuana's 25th birthday.
It will take some years before the count of teens developing schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions is made known. I suspect they will be horrifying statistics and yet, nothing will be done to stop it. Big money is involved; there's no going back; there's no room for morals; there's only money.
And soon, Canada will make it a national experiment. God help us.
But is it really an attack on Christian Schools?
In their own far-left way, Swedes are attempting to discourage more Muslims migrants from flocking to the country. The obvious clash between Muslim culture and Sweden's excessive liberalism has been overlooked until now. Finally, Stefan emerges on the side of Swedish culture, at least in this one area, or does he?
© Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images
Sweden is cracking down on schools that do not support gender equality, according to the country’s education minister. The initiative is part of the government’s overall plan to remove religious influence from schools in general.
Gustav Fridolin said Sunday that he has launched an inquiry into tightening the regulation of independent religious schools, by stopping those who do not support Sweden’s “fundamental values.”
“The regulatory framework will be tightened,” wrote Fridolin for the newspaper, Aftonbladet. “Those who do not support fundamental values around equality and human rights should be stopped from running free schools in Sweden.”
The new regulations will ensure that schools will “actively promote equality” and “allow students to develop their skills and interests independently of gender identity,” wrote Fridolin. The restrictions are expected to impact Muslim schools the most.
No doubt this will affect Christian Schools as well. Although Christianity in Sweden is luke-warm at best, so it may not be a significant effect.
The minister went on to stress that “no child should be exposed to direct or indirect compulsion to take part in religious activities in any school in Sweden,” even if that school was founded by a religious organization. “And all education should be completely free of religious influence,” Fridolin wrote.
Is this really aimed at Muslim schools?
However, the religious restrictions won’t apply to Jewish schools, said Fridolin in a follow-up interview, as “there’s no point in attacking Jewish schools which have existed in Sweden since the 1950s.”
Sweden has over 60 religious schools, the majority of which are Christian, about 11 of which are Islamic, and a handful of which are Jewish, according to The Local.
So, nearly 4 dozen Christian schools may very well be the real target with Islam as the pre-text. This is liberal-extremism's finest hour! Christianity is weak and pathetic in Sweden, but it's not dead. That could very well be the point!
Meanwhile, what has Stefan done to protect young Swedish girls and women from sexual assaults and gang-rapes? That's not a rhetorical question - can anyone tell me anything he has done?
Left-wing extremists can never steer a country far enough to the left, they always want it to list further and further to port. But steering to port invariably results in a ship listing to starboard - a country reverting to much more conservative values as is happening across Europe, and sometimes they can go too far the other way.