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Google Told Stadia Developers They Were Making ‘Great Progress,’ Then Fired Them

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Google’s decision to kill Stadia’s game development and shut down its studio came as a surprise to everyone, especially its employees. A leaked email shows that that the VP of Stadia and general manager Phil Harrison sent an email on January 27 lauding everyone for the ‘great progress’ Stadia had made thus far. Five days later, Harrison announced Google would no longer be developing its own games, effective immediately.

Kotaku reports that Harrison held a contentious conference call with Stadia developers several days later. When pressed to explain the difference in tone between his January 27 email and the Feb 1 announcement, Harrison admitted nothing had changed between those two dates. “We knew,” Harrison said.

Officially, Harrison claims that Google quit the game development business because Microsoft bought Bethesda and because the cost of game development continues to rise. Sources claim Harrison also referenced the difficulties of working during the pandemic as one reason why Google shut down development. These answers strain credulity. Are we to believe that Google launched itself into game development without bothering to read a single article on the difficulty of launching into the console space? The cost of making games is literally always going up. Here’s the data:

Adjusted for inflation, the price of making games goes up roughly 10x every decade and has for the past 26 years. This is not new data.

I found this in under five minutes. The idea that Google launched Stadia without conducting some minimum due diligence is insulting. Furthermore, Stadia only launched 14 months ago. Google’s game development effort is reportedly under two years old. That’s not enough time for any game studio to create a brand-new AAA game. There are reports that developer headcounts were frozen all throughout 2020, indicating someone at Google had misgivings about Stadia from the get-go. It sounds as if Stadia never had Google’s full support, which is exactly the kind of half-baked effort everyone was afraid Stadia would turn out to be.

There is a profound and growing disconnect between Google and the concerns of actual humans who use its products. Google’s customer service has been infamously nonexistent for years, but things came to a head earlier this month when the developer of Terraria, a game with tens of millions of Android customers, announced he’d canceled the Stadia version of his game because he couldn’t get in touch with anyone at Google who could explain the total account ban affecting his company.

Getting locked out of your Google account without any known reason or apparent recourse isn’t just something that happens to little people. It happens to developers who partner with Google to sell software. Now, we know it happens to developers who trust Google as an employer, too. The company makes a lot of noise about wanting ethical AI experts on-staff, only to fire them the first time they raise questions about ongoing projects.

Google is not honest with the public about its own goals, motivations, or priorities. At times, it’s self-evidently not honest with its staff, either. The company repeatedly pledges to support projects like Stadia, then drops the entire concept of developing its own games with zero warning to anyone, even its own employees.

This isn’t just a question of shading the truth in a self-evidently favorable way. Every company does that. Consider: When Apple announces new hardware, speculation revolves around cost. When Microsoft announces a new feature, speculation revolves around how well it’ll work. If Facebook announces a new product, the discussion revolves around privacy.

When Google launches a new product, speculation revolves around how long it’ll be before the company kills it.

It’s unfortunate to learn Google treats at least some of its employees with the same disdain it treats everyone else, but it certainly isn’t surprising. Google used to be known for what it built. Now, it’s mostly noteworthy for what it quits.

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Sydney told to watch its famous New Year’s Eve fireworks from home

Sydney, one of the world’s first major cities to welcome each New Year with a public countdown featuring a fireworks display over its well-known Opera House, has banned large gatherings that night amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.

A mid-December resurgence of COVID-19 in the city’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 125 cases after five new infections were recorded on Monday. About a quarter of million of people there must stay in strict lockdown until Jan. 9

That has led to further restrictions of the already toned-down plans for the New Year’s Eve. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian banned most people from coming to Sydney’s downtown that night and limited outdoor gatherings to 50 people.

“We don’t want to create any super-spreading events on New Year’s Eve, which then ruins it for everybody across the state moving forward,” Berejiklian said at a news conference, adding that watching the fireworks from home was the ‘safest’ way to do so.

“On New Year’s Eve we don’t want any crowds on the foreshore around Sydney whatsoever,” she said.

Permits required

Only residents with permits for hospitality venues downtown will be allowed there on New Year’s Eve. Households across Sydney are only allowed to host 10 people until further notice.

New South Wales Police have issued 15 notices in Sydney for breaking public health orders since Christmas Eve.

“I would say to those people half contemplating doing anything stupid in the next few days, forget it,” New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, backed the Sydney restrictions.

“What we have been doing is working,” he said.

Because of swift border closures, lockdowns, widespread testing, social distancing and a high rate of public compliance with anti-virus measures, Australia has recorded just over 28,300 infections and 908 deaths related to the coronavirus.

Officials say this has given regulators time to evaluate vaccines without the pressure of mounting cases of COVID-19, as has been the case in much of Europe and the United States.

“Our approach is to under-promise and over-deliver,” Hunt said, reiterating that the government is sticking to a March timetable to start vaccinations.

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CBC | World News

George Floyd told ‘it takes … a lot of oxygen to talk’ during arrest, transcript reveals

As George Floyd told Minneapolis police officers that he couldn’t breathe more than 20 times in the moments before he died, the officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck dismissed his pleas, saying “it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk,” according to transcripts of body camera video recordings made public Wednesday.

The transcripts for the body camera videos of officers Thomas Lane and J. Kueng provide the most detailed account yet of what happened as police were taking Floyd into custody on May 25, and reveal more of what was said after Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, was put on the ground.

“You’re going to kill me, man,” Floyd said, according to a transcript of Lane’s body camera video.

“Then stop talking, stop yelling. It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk,” said Derek Chauvin, the white officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, even after Floyd stopped moving.

“They’ll kill me. They’ll kill me. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” Floyd said.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, had no immediate comment Wednesday.

Former officer seeks dismissal

The transcripts were made public Wednesday as part of Lane’s request to have the case against him dismissed. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said in a memorandum that there isn’t probable cause to charge his client, based on all of the evidence and the law.

Gray painted an image of a rookie officer who trusted Chauvin, a senior officer, after Floyd had been acting erratically, struggling and hurting himself during an arrest. Gray said that once Floyd was on the ground, Lane had asked twice if officers should roll Floyd on his side, and Chauvin said no.

Gray also submitted the body camera footage itself, but that was not immediately made public. The transcripts show Floyd appearing co-operative at times but becoming agitated as he begged not to be put in a squad car, saying repeatedly he was claustrophobic.

“Oh man, God don’t leave me man, please man, please man,” he begged, later adding: “I’ll do anything y’all tell me to, man … I’m just claustrophobic, that’s it.”

Gray wrote that Floyd started to thrash back and forth and was “hitting his face on the glass in the squad and began to bleed from his mouth.” Officers brought Floyd to the ground and, “the plan was to restrain him so he couldn’t move and hurt himself anymore,” Gray wrote.

Helped with CPR

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Lane, Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. Lane was holding Floyd’s legs at the time, Kueng was at Floyd’s midsection and Thao was watching nearby bystanders. All four officers were fired.

A message left with an attorney for Floyd’s family wasn’t immediately returned. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said prosecutors plan to oppose the motion to dismiss.


Former officers, from left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Lane are charged in Floyd’s death. ( Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/The Associated Press)

As part of his court filing, Gray also submitted a transcript of Lane’s interview with state investigators and police department training materials on restraint holds. Gray wrote that all of the evidence exonerates his client and that it is not “fair or reasonable” for Lane to stand trial.

Gray said in a memorandum that his client’s body camera video shows the encounter with Floyd from the time Lane got on the scene to the point where Floyd was put into an ambulance; Lane went in the ambulance and helped with CPR, according to the transcript.

Lane repeatedly told Floyd to show his hands, and he told investigators he drew his gun at first because Floyd was reaching for something, but holstered it once Floyd showed his hands. Body camera video transcripts show Floyd initially said he had been shot before, and begged police not to shoot him.

Gray said Floyd was acting erratically and had foam at his mouth. According to the body camera video transcripts, when asked about the foam and whether he was on something, Floyd said he was scared and had been playing basketball.

As officers struggled to get Floyd into the squad car, Floyd said: “I can’t breathe” and “I want to lay on the ground,” the transcripts say.

Once Floyd was on the ground, Lane told the other officers “he’s got to be on something.” and he asked twice whether officers should roll Floyd onto his side — Chauvin said no.

“Lane had no basis to believe Chauvin was wrong in making that decision,” Gray wrote.

Bystanders told officers repeatedly to check Floyd’s pulse, and after Kueng did he said, “I can’t find one.”

“Huh?” Chauvin said, according to the transcript of Keung’s body camera video.

‘Reasonably justified’

Lane told state investigators that Chauvin was not Lane’s field training officer, but that he had trained Kueng and was someone Lane had previously gone to for guidance. According to a transcript of that interview, one investigator said it seemed like Lane’s gut was telling him something wasn’t right with the way Floyd was being restrained.

“Yeah. I would say felt like it maybe could have been handled differently or we should be reassessing what we’re doing, I think is what I was kind of coming to,” Lane said.


A Detroit protester holds a photo of Floyd on May 29. The case launched nationwide protests. (Sylvia Jarrus/Reuters)

Gray argued in his memorandum that in order to charge Lane with aiding and abetting, prosecutors must show Lane played a knowing role in committing a crime. He said there’s no evidence Lane played an intentional role or knew Chauvin was committing a crime, namely assault.

“The decision to restrain Floyd was reasonably justified,” Gray wrote, adding: “Based on Floyd’s actions up to this point, the officers had no idea what he would do next — hurt himself, hurt the officers, flee, or anything else, but he was not co-operating.”

Gray wrote that Lane’s trust in Chauvin was “reasonable and not criminal.”

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Nursing home told families hospital wouldn’t accept sick residents during pandemic. That wasn’t true

The long-term care home where more people have died during the coronavirus pandemic than anywhere else in Ontario is facing new scrutiny.

Families who asked that their loved ones be transferred to hospital from Orchard Villa Retirement Community in Pickering, east of Toronto, say they were told hospitals were closed to residents of long-term care homes and that COVID-positive residents would need to remain — and possibly die — in the home.

But an investigation by CBC’s Marketplace and The National reveals that was never the case.

More than a month into the long-term care lockdown across Ontario, Cathy Parkes learned COVID-19 had reached her father’s long-term care home.

In a call with Paul Parkes soon after the outbreak was announced, his voice was weak, making her think he was already in the grips of the virus.

“My brother managed to reach him briefly on Easter Sunday and he said he couldn’t speak at all,” said Parkes. 


Paul Parkes, seen here with daughter Cathy Parkes, died of COVID-19 on April 15, 2020. He was 86 years old, and one of at least 78 residents of Orchard Villa Retirement Community who have lost their lives because of the virus. (Submitted by Cathy Parkes)

She said she spent the day trying to reach someone at the home, finally getting hold of a nurse at 9:15 p.m. He told her he couldn’t swab her father until he had a fever. But overnight, her father’s temperature began to rise. 

The next day, Parkes went to Orchard Villa and stood outside her father’s window, looking in. She could see that her dad was in bad shape. She asked that the 86-year-old be moved to hospital.

‘He was not OK’

“I knew as soon as I saw him that he was not OK,” she said. “I kept saying, Dad, turn your head and look at me. He couldn’t do it.”

She got hold of the nursing staff by the evening and asked that he be moved to hospital.

But the charting report from that night confirms that the staff member advised against it. Parkes said staff assured her that her dad was doing better and had eaten most of his lunch that day.

“I thought that’s not possible,” said Parkes. “I was there at 12:05 at lunchtime and he was comatose.”

CBC’s The National and Marketplace examined the outbreak at Orchard Villa through a whistleblower’s account on the front lines and extensive interviews with family members of residents. They found that families were given false information and led to believe that the home had a handle of the situation when it didn’t.

Exclusive hidden camera footage shows that even two years ago, the home was underprepared for an emergency of this scale, and an analysis of five years of inspection reports paints a picture of a home with well-known problems that may have set the home up for failure.

‘He was not being fed’

Parkes, whose father died of COVID-19 at the home on April 15, is not the only one who says she was discouraged from seeking hospital intervention on behalf of their loved one at Orchard Villa. 

Raquel John-Matuzewiski said she was told the same thing.

WATCH | A daughter ignored the advice from a nursing home and believes she saved her dad’s life:

Raquel John-Matuzewiski was told if her COVID-19 positive father had worsening symptoms, he would go into palliative care at the home because the hospital was not accepting patients from care homes. CBC learns that wasn’t true. 2:33

Two days after the death of Parkes’s father, John-Matuzewiski’s father, Chester John, tested positive for COVID-19. 

A week later, when John-Matuzewiski saw that her father, 79, wasn’t doing well, she also asked about having him transferred to hospital. She said she was told that if his symptoms worsened, her father would start palliative care in the home because the hospital was not accepting patients from long-term care. 

But when a FaceTime call revealed a sharp decline for her father in just 24 hours, John-Matuzewiski said she called the nursing station and insisted he be transported to hospital immediately. The home obliged.

Malnourished and dehydrated

“I no longer felt that … my dad’s wellbeing and safety could be entrusted to them,” John-Matuzewiski said. 

But when John-Matuzewiski arrived at hospital, she learned her father’s poor condition wasn’t just because of COVID-19. He was also suffering from malnourishment and dehydration.

“It told me, obviously, that he was not being fed or being nourished or hydrated the way they had told me he had been for weeks,” she said.

After John was put on an IV and a feeding tube, he recovered and is in stable condition at Lakeridge Health Ajax Pickering Hospital.


Chester John, 79, seen here with daughter Raquel John-Matuzewiski, was treated for malnutrition and dehydration as well as COVID-19 when he was transferred to the hospital from Orchard Villa nursing home. He is now COVID-free and in stable condition. (Submitted by Raquel John-Matuzewiski)

Lakeridge Health, the health authority that runs the hospital, told CBC in a statement that there was never any period of time that it was not accepting long-term care patients. 

Citing “privacy reasons,” Orchard Villa’s executive director, Jason Gay, wouldn’t comment on why families were advised against sending loved ones to hospital. 

“We cannot comment on individual resident matters for privacy reasons so unfortunately, we cannot respond to most of your inquiries,” Gay said in a statement. “Our team at Orchard Villa reached out to health partners and the government early and often and all assistance provided was welcomed.”

‘They’re lying to you’

Parkes said the night she tried to send her father to the hospital, the nursing staff told her that everyone who had tried to go to hospital was rejected. Either the paramedics wouldn’t take them or they would arrive at the hospital and be sent back. 

But she had contacted the hospital earlier and had been told they would take them.  

Yet Parkes said the nursing staff still insisted the hospital was mistaken. “[They told me] ‘No, they won’t. They’re lying to you.’ “

Parkes decided to sleep on it and ask again the next day. But by then, it was too late. Her father had died.

“We weren’t given the chance for him to survive,” she said. “I think if my dad had been in the hospital, he might have had a chance.

“I think everything in this situation was done wrong — everything that could be done wrong was done wrong.”

WATCH | Orchard Villa told families a nearby hospital wouldn’t accept their parents during the pandemic:

Families at Ontario’s worst-hit nursing home say they feel the home misled them about COVID-19 care options. David Common investigates whether Orchard Villa staff discouraged families from sending their loved ones to the hospital and refused outside help when it was offered as the outbreak ramped up in the home. 8:42

Families of residents at Orchard Villa are left with many questions: Why were they discouraged from calling an ambulance? Why didn’t the home seek help earlier? Did management really think they had things under control? 

If they did, they shouldn’t have, according to a care worker whom CBC has agreed not to name for fear he may lose his job. 

“I would start my … evening shift from three to 11 and I’d find the breakfast and lunch trays sitting in front of the patients,” said the worker. 

He said staff were only helping to feed patients who had required help feeding before the pandemic hit. The rest were fending for themselves.

Whistleblower haunted by what he saw

“The patients who were sick with COVID, they had no energy … the food would be sitting there right in front of them.”

He said it was “disheartening” to see because the residents were hungry, but they didn’t have the strength to pick up a fork and feed themselves.

“Imagine what it’s like … you put food in front [of them] and they can smell it, they can see it, but they can’t have it,” he said. “Not only were they hungry, it’s a carrot dangling in front of their face, you know?”

The worker is no longer working in the home, but the experience still haunts him.

“Now that it’s over and I’ve been out of it for a while, I’m actually having PTSD kind of symptoms,” he said.


A man plays bagpipes at a vigil Monday night for the residents that died at Orchard Villa Retirement Community. The long-term care home has the highest COVID-19 death count of any care facility in Ontario. Seventy-one died in the long-term care section of the facility, and seven more died in the retirement home section. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The worker said he reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Health, and the prime minister’s office as well, urging them to talk to the front-line workers about what’s going on in these homes and how to fix it.

But according to Orchard Villa’s inspection reports from 2015 through 2019, the provincial government had already been alerted to the fact that the home was not prepared to deal with what reports call “community disasters.”

For every year that there is a retirement home inspection report posted on the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority website, there is a violation noted for Orchard Villa’s emergency planning.

“A review of the emergency kit revealed that the only resources, supplies and equipment vital for emergency response set aside were three flashlights,” said an inspection report from 2015.

The next year, according to a report, the home still didn’t have a fulsome emergency plan, and there was “no evidence” of procedures for dealing with a community disaster or emergency evacuation. 

A followup report later that year found no violations, but another emergency response plan violation was recorded in the next report in 2018. Inspections from 2017 and 2019 were either not conducted or their reports weren’t posted on the RHRA’s website.

No plan for community disaster in 2017

Marketplace visited Orchard Villa in 2017 when investigating abuse in long-term care homes. At the time, the home was in the top 20 homes in Ontario for the worst records of reported incidents of staff-to-resident abuse.

When the undercover journalist asked about the inspection reports posted on the wall, an administrator said it had recently been written up for not having a plan to deal with a community disaster.

“The licensee provided an emergency plan which did not contain community disasters,” she read with a laugh. “So we took corrective action to complete. 

“Quite often they can usually find something,” she said.


Participants react during the vigil for COVID-19 victims at the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering, Ont., on Monday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

When the journalist visited the long-term care side of the home, staff appeared to violate their own rules about infection control.

“We’re not allowed to give tours during an outbreak,” said the staff member. “I’ll give you a quick glance.”

The journalist wandered the halls for 30 minutes without being made aware there was an outbreak before she was offered a tour. 

Other reports in the years leading up to the pandemic from both the retirement and long-term care regulatory authorities might have tipped off the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that this home might struggle in a pandemic. 

They reveal that staff weren’t trained in infection control, that there were multiple incidents of neglect and there was chronic understaffing, including 14 shifts within a span of five months where there were no registered nurses on duty.

Residents lying on bare mattresses

Despite these reported incidents, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he was shocked by a report released a month after members of the Canadian Armed Forces were ordered into five Ontario long-term care homes, including Orchard Villa, to help facilities that were struggling.  

The report confirmed that a hydration schedule was not being adhered to and that residents were lying on bare mattresses, left in soiled diapers in bed and being fed while lying in bed, which, according to the report, “appeared to have contributed” to the choking death of a resident.

“The people that were really sick were just dehydrated, I’m not convinced that COVID killed a lot of people,” said the health worker. “And the reason I know that is because once the military started feeding them and making sure they’re getting fluids, people were rebounding faster.”

The government has since assigned Lakeridge Health to take over management of the home and appointed other health authorities and hospitals to manage six others in Ontario.

‘She was so dehydrated’

As shocked as the premier might be by the military report, many of the findings were predictable for family members with loved ones who lived at Orchard Villa.

Marie Tripp said she noticed issues right away when her mom, Mary Walsh, was admitted to Orchard Villa in April 2019. That’s why she was there every day to take care of her mom long before the COVID-19 lockdown locked her out.

“I continuously was asking for doctor’s appointments for mom, for followups…. Something as simple as getting her hair done wasn’t even done for two months,” she said. “I’d asked the same nurse over and over again all these questions [and she said] ‘I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it’ and it got to the point that nobody was getting to anything.”


Mary Walsh died of COVID-19 on April 20 at the age of 89. She had lived at Orchard Villa for one year. (Submitted by Marie Tripp)

Tripp said after her mom wasn’t given pain medication for three days following skin cancer surgery, she decided to install a camera in her room to monitor her care in the hours that she couldn’t be there with her.

With the camera on, Tripp developed serious questions over how the home was handling the COVID-19 situation. When she was watching the video feed, she noticed her mom’s breathing was shallow and laboured. She called the home and had her put on oxygen immediately. In another instance, she saw Walsh’s food and water left out of her reach. Tripp said calls to the home often went unanswered for hours.

‘Just trying to get help’

Tripp and her daughters went to visit her mom at the window of the home and saw that she was malnourished.

“My mom was so dehydrated, she had the call button in her hand and she was trying to drink from the call bell,” she said.  

“I knew she was dying and I knew they wouldn’t let me in till the last hours,” she said “The only thing we could do was bang on that window — I was afraid my girls were going to break it — just trying to get help for Mom.”

Walsh died on April 20 at the age of 89.

WATCH | A daughter talks about why she monitored her mother’s care through a camera:

Marie Tripp says she witnessed her COVID-19 positive mother desperate for water and in urgent need of oxygen before mother’s ultimate death in the home. 4:24

Ralf Leswal said he was also in the home every day for years before COVID because he didn’t trust that his wife, Karen Leswal, would be fed if he wasn’t. 

Karen Leswal had been living at Orchard Villa for 15 years before she caught COVID-19. She had Huntington’s disease and needed a lot of care, which her husband felt he needed to bolster.

Leswal would visit the home every night to feed his wife dinner. He said it would take an hour to feed her and make sure she was hydrated.

“Nobody under normal conditions has that time to give to a resident.”

Leswal said the home “never had enough staffing,” a sentiment shared by inspectors who documented short-staffing issues in reports from 2016, 2017 and 2018.  

‘To the worker, it’s all about time’

He said the home wasn’t meeting the care needs of residents even before the pandemic.

“I cleaned my wife’s room personally because the standard of housekeeping was ridiculous,” said Leswal.

“To the worker, it’s all about time. If you spend 10 minutes on one resident, that means you’ve got to spend less on the next resident, right?” he said. “They’re not even paying attention sometimes to the resident they’re working with because they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I got to be here, I got to be here, I got to be here.’ ” 


Karen Leswal lived at Orchard Villa for 15 years before the COVID-19 lockdown. Her husband, Ralf, stayed in the home with her for the last four days of her life, until she died on April 30. (Submitted by Ralf Leswal)

Leswal was shut out of the home for 43 days before he got a call on April 27 saying his wife was palliative and that he should come to say his goodbyes. She died on April 30 at the age of 69.

“I really don’t know whether she died from COVID or whether she died of a combination of being malnourished, mistreated,” he said. “I have no idea.

“I knew my wife would some day pass,” he said. “But … she didn’t die on her terms.”

Orchard Villa wouldn’t comment on the death for “privacy reasons.”

After eight weeks of intervention from Lakeridge Health, and seven weeks of help from the army, Orchard Villa is now COVID-free.

But with a 78-person death toll, families are left wondering how many might have been saved had the home been adequately prepared or sought intervention sooner. 

For her part, John-Matuzewiski won’t be taking her father back to Orchard Villa after he’s discharged from hospital.

“I told them that the day he was admitted [to hospital],” she said. “The trust has been broken.”

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CBC | Health News

Chiropractors told to remove posts claiming their methods boost immune system and prevent COVID-19

There’s no scientific evidence that chiropractic care can boost your immune system, but that hasn’t stopped some chiropractors from touting the practice as a tool to prevent infection from the novel coronavirus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem is so widespread that one Ontario man has filed at least 34 complaints against chiropractic clinics in the province alone in the past few weeks.

“As soon as there is public fear to exploit, these practitioners are really quick to get on message and promote this type of misinformation for their own profit,” said Ryan Armstrong, who runs an independent non-profit called Bad Science Watch.

WATCH | Ryan Armstrong talks about filing complaints against chiropractic clinics:

Ryan Armstrong has filed complaints with the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, after providers in the province wrongly claimed spinal manipulation could boost immunity. 0:46

He provided CBC News with copies of 34 complaints he recently filed with the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, along with the posts that triggered his complaints.

In one video Armstrong had captured, three practitioners stand in front of a whiteboard with the word “Coronavirus” on top and the words “Boost your immune system” underneath. During the video, they talk about coronavirus and the need to boost your immune system through chiropractic care. 

On Wednesday, the College of Chiropractors of Ontario (CCO) said it has sent 54 cease and desist letters to practitioners since March 2. According to a statement from Dr. Dennis Mizel, the president of the college, the college had sent the letters “within hours of receiving information about potential inappropriate claims for the benefits of chiropractic.”

Third-party content

A different Facebook post that Armstrong shared with CBC News reads, “Covid-19? Now is the best time to see your Chiropractor! Spinal adjustments have been shown to boost your immune function.” 


This screen capture, provided to CBC News, shows a post from a Mississauga, Ont., chiropractic clinic. The post claims that spinal adjustments can boost immune function, a claim that isn’t back by scientific evidence. (Erin Mills Optimum Health/Facebook)

The post was from Erin Mills Optimum Health, a chain of four clinics in the Greater Toronto Area, and it has since been removed from Facebook.

In an email to CBC News, Dr. Ken Peever, a spokesman for the clinic, claimed the clinic did not knowingly place the post on their Facebook page. He said the first they heard of it was when the CCO sent a cease and desist letter on March 16. 

Peever said the clinic uses a third party to provide “monthly in-house newsletters and occasional social media posts” and that the clinic had never previously had an issue with this third party.

“I assume that this third party had already received feedback about this particular post from other clinics that it services and it removed the post,” Peever wrote.

He did not provide the name of the third party that posted the content. 

Governing bodies issue warnings

Across the country, provincial governing bodies have issued warnings to their members not to spread misinformation about chiropractic care and COVID-19.

The College of Chiropractors of B.C., the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, the Manitoba Chiropractors Association and L’Ordre des chiropraticiens du Quebec have all put out statements in the last week or so.

Nationally, the Canadian Chiropractic Association has also warned members about making unsubstantiated claims. 

“We would be remiss to ignore the rise of misinformation at this difficult time. While we firmly believe in the efficacy and benefits of chiropractic care in supporting the health of Canadians, there is no scientific evidence that supports claims of a meaningful boost in immune function from chiropractic adjustments,” the association wrote in a post from March 16. 

‘No evidence to support that’

Tim Caulfield is used to critically examining health claims with dubious merit.

He is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and a professor at the University of Alberta, as well as the author of several books, including Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash.

WATCH | Timothy Caulfield warns about unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of chiropractic

Tim Caulfield says there is no scientific evidence that spinal manipulation can boost immune function. 0:50

Caulfield said spinal manipulation won’t boost immune function.

“There’s really no evidence to support that at all,” he said. “I’ve looked to find any kind of clinical support for that claim, and I can’t. I can’t find it.”

Caulfield said the danger right now is that these claims are adding to an already “chaotic information environment,” and muddy the waters as people search for good information.

“I feel like it’s sort of exploiting that state in order to sell a procedure,” he said. “That’s infuriating, and it adds to the confusion.” 

Calling chiropractic care to ward off coronavirus “a waste of money,” Caulfield said that it presents another problem as well.

“It just sort of erodes our critical thinking. It invites us to believe a sort of magical thinking about a procedure that has no science behind it.”

‘It undermines our democracy’

Armstrong, who lives in St. Thomas, Ont., has been monitoring chiropractors and said he has been filing complaints regarding claims practitioners make about spinal manipulation since 2017.

He has a PhD in biomedical engineering, but currently works in information security, and said he has never been to a chiropractor.  

In 2016, Armstrong saw a pamphlet from a local practitioner inviting cancer patients to get treatment through spinal manipulation. He said it puzzled him and he set about researching it, because he had previously only considered chiropractic in relation to musculoskeletal issues. 

He said it took him a while to research the issue. Once he felt confident he understood the science — or lack of it — he began to file complaints.

Armstrong said he saw posts from chiropractors touting immune benefits start to spring up about a month ago, and it worried him. 

“There’s very immediate harm from this type of misinformation. We have clinics that are non-essential services that are operating — not just operating, but having patients come in under the impression that they might be in some way protected from the pandemic,” he said. 

“Obviously that’s a very serious issue, especially [for] people who might already be immunocompromised and think that this might offer some benefit to them. They’re really putting themselves at risk,” he said.

It’s not just his science background that compels Armstrong to correct misinformation, however. 

“Ultimately, it undermines … our democracy and how we interact and understand each other and the world,” he said. “That’s what really, really drives me.”

CBC’s COVID Check unit is here to help you sift through the noise and get to the truth. If there is something you want us to check out and verify, contact us at covid@cbc.ca.

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Caster Semenya to run without medication after IAAF told to suspend rules

Caster Semenya won an interim ruling in her battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations and its testosterone regulations when the Swiss supreme court ordered athletics’ governing body to suspend the rules on Monday.

The freezing of the rules allows the two-time Olympic champion from South Africa to run in her favourite 800-metre event without taking any hormone suppressing medication, although the temporary ruling can be challenged by the IAAF.

Semenya’s lawyers said there will be another decision by the supreme court after the IAAF makes its arguments to the court that the rules should stand. No date was given for that hearing but it could happen as early as this month, Semenya’s South Africa-based lawyer, Greg Nott, said.

The temporary suspension of the rules comes after the 28-year-old Semenya last week filed an appeal to the Swiss supreme court asking for the testosterone limits in female events to be removed completely.

The full appeal against a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport could take up to a year or more to be heard by the supreme court, which is also known as the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

That full appeal will be heard by a panel of Swiss federal judges.

“I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision,” Semenya said in a statement. “I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.”

WATCH | Semenya dominates 1st event since CAS ruling:

South Africa’s Caster Semenya won the opening Diamond League women’s 800 metre race in Doha. It’s the final race before new rules take effect that would force Semenya to lower her testosterone levels for the 800 or 1,500 metre races at major events. 6:19

Dorothee Schramm, the Swiss-based lawyer leading Semenya’s appeal, said the supreme court “has granted welcome temporary protection to Caster Semenya.”

“This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes,” Schramm said.

If the testosterone rules stay suspended, Semenya would likely be cleared to run in the 800 for the remainder of the Diamond League and, crucially, be able to defend her title at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, in September.

The IAAF’s testosterone limits apply to female athletes with conditions known as “differences of sex development” (DSD). The IAAF says the athletes affected have levels of testosterone in the male range and gain an athletic advantage from their elevated levels of the muscle-building hormone. To be eligible to compete in certain events, the athletes must lower their testosterone to below a point specified by the IAAF through medication or surgery.

The rules apply only to races from 400 metres to one mile. Semenya is the reigning Olympic champion and also a three-time world champion in the 800.

Semenya and at least one other athlete affected by the regulations, Olympic 800 bronze medallist Margaret Wambui, have refused to take any medication to lower their hormone levels.

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Toronto plastic surgeon told to remove security cameras from consult rooms

The regulatory body for doctors in Ontario has made a formal allegation of professional misconduct against a Toronto plastic surgeon who had security cameras in his consultation rooms.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has scheduled a disciplinary hearing in July for Dr. Martin Jugenburg, who markets himself online as Dr. Six. In the meantime, the college told him to remove the cameras, and he has done so. 

Last year, while reporting undercover for a story on breast implants, Marketplace producers spotted security cameras in a closed-door consultation room at Jugenburg’s clinic as well as in the waiting area. The small black devices were attached to the ceiling in the corner of the rooms.

The consultation rooms are where patients are regularly asked to remove their clothing during pre- and post-operative appointments.

The CBC producers, one posing as a potential patient and the other as her supportive friend, were not told about the security cameras. Several past patients of Jugenburg’s clinic say they were not told either, nor did they see any signs mentioning the cameras before staff asked them to undress for a consultation.

When one of the Marketplace producers asked about the camera during the appointment, a staff member said it was “for the doctor’s record,” and that the office had to document everything for “legal purposes.”

Later, when the nurse entered the room, she said the camera was “just a security camera, basically.”

“It’s to protect you, too” she said. “And him. Like if someone ever said something happened and it didn’t. Or stuff like that.”

WATCH: Clinic staff says security camera in consultation room is for ‘the doctor’s record’

Marketplace took a hidden camera into the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute to investigate the marketing practices around breast implant surgery 0:57

Grace, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said she had no idea cameras would be recording her breast implant consultation at Jugenburg’s clinic last year. If she had known, she never would have gone, she said.   

“You don’t expect a doctor to have a camera. So it’s not something that I was looking out for.”

After her consultation, Grace decided to book her surgery with a different plastic surgeon.

Grace first became aware of the cameras when she saw Marketplace’s story on YouTube.

“I felt pretty violated and very, very angry,” she said, recalling the moment she realized there may have also been cameras recording her consultation.

“My first thought was, ‘Why? What does he do with the videos?’ Because, honestly, why would a doctor want a video of people with their tops off? It’s not medically necessary. What was he using them for?”


One woman who visited Jugenburg’s clinic for a breast augmentation consultation said she would never have gone if she’d known there would be cameras recording the appointment. (CBC)

Grace says she is very private about her body and believes the clinic had no right to film her without permission.

“How would you feel if you went to a new doctor, you put your trust in them because they’re a doctor. And then, months later, you find out they videotaped you with your top off?” she said.

After she watched CBC’s story, Grace sent an email to Jugenburg’s clinic. Staff wrote back to her saying all of the footage is automatically deleted from their system every few weeks.

A few days later, the surgeon sent out an email to his past patients that confirmed cameras had been installed throughout the clinic about two years prior.

“The video footage captured on this system was for security purposes and to protect our team and our patients,” he said in the email. “The information was stored on a highly secure IT system with access limited to me or my senior office manager.”

He also apologized for not offering patients the opportunity to opt out of being filmed.

Investigation continues

Following CBC’s initial story, both the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and the province’s privacy commissioner launched investigations into Jugenburg and his security cameras.

Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish won’t comment on the case because his investigation is still ongoing. But when CBC initially interviewed him in November, he called the situation “unacceptable” and “intrusive,” saying it was the first he had heard of a camera being used for surveillance in an examination room.  

He also said physicians using cameras for surveillance rather than strictly for clinical purposes — after a patient’s consent has been explicitly provided — is “unjustified and would likely be a breach of our privacy law.”

Beamish’s office wasn’t able to give a timeline for when its investigation would be complete.

Allegations ‘denied and being defended’

As for the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Jugenburg was already facing a disciplinary hearing in July for previous allegations of misconduct. These include violating advertising regulations, permitting a film crew into a surgical procedure without a patient’s consent and posting photos of the patient online without her consent.  

When CBC asked Jugenburg about these allegations in November, he said the allegations are “denied and being defended.”


A security camera, located in the upper left corner of this photo, is seen in the waiting room of the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute. The same style of camera was spotted in one of the clinic’s consultation rooms by a CBC producer who was posing undercover as a patient wanting breast augmentation in October 2018. (CBC)

The latest allegation that’s been added to the hearing’s agenda reads: “Dr. Jugenburg engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct, including … his use of video recording devices and/or video surveillance recording devices at his practice location.”

Back in March, prior to making the formal allegation about recording patients, the college told Jugenburg to remove all cameras from rooms where patients undress, and also required that the clinic post clear signage alerting visitors to video surveillance in areas like entranceways and waiting rooms.

When CBC asked Jugenburg in March about the college’s direction, he responded by email saying his staff are working with regulators to ensure his clinic is in compliance with all privacy and security standards and he confirmed that the consultation room cameras had been removed.  

“Patient privacy and safety remain paramount for us in delivering a quality health-care experience.”

As for Grace, she hopes Jugenburg faces consequences for his actions.

“I felt violated,” she said again. “And he had no right to do that.”

Jugenburg did not respond to emails seeking comment about the reaction of patients who spoke with CBC News, and whether he will contest the college’s new allegation against him. 

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