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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Research Tricks │ My Views on the Miramich Pay Centre as a Former Compensation Advisor

The recollection is indistinct, but I may have been abed last night just prior to 11:50 p.m.

As usual, though, I was feeling none too rested when I rose this morning shortly after 8:00 a.m. to another hot day.

My eldest step-son Tho was too tired from screwing around with his girlfriend last evening, so he skipped work and remained in bed this morning until into the noon-hour.

It's possible if that bum had not been home, I might have been able to rally enough to go and do the shopping I've been speaking of.

I should have gone in the morning, but I became too involved in an old post I was editing at my Siam-Longings website.  I'll save the rest of it for completion and publication tomorrow.

And since I want to have a "one-arm knee-curls" session tomorrow with my 42½-pound dumbbell, I will not likely be going on any taxing shopping expedition that day.  The errand will likely be postponed until Thursday.

I have a little sunning I want to engage out in the backyard, but I want to offer this report from about six days ago that the Health Sciences Institute (HSI) came out with concerning just that very activity:

The great sun scam
Melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, has become an American epidemic.

A new CDC report shows that melanoma cases have doubled over the past 30 years -- and 65,000 Americans will get the life-changing diagnosis this year alone.

But before you run to slather sunscreen all over yourself, there's something you need to know.

Nearly everything you've been told about how to prevent skin cancer, especially melanomas, is wrong, wrong, wrong.

We've been lied to for decades about how to be safe in the sun -- and this new CDC report proves that people are dying as a result.

Ten years ago Harvard professor Dr. Edward Giovanucci stood up at a meeting of top cancer scientists and told them they were full of it. He declared that their overly aggressive recommendations on avoiding sun exposure were going to cause 30 times more deaths than they prevented.

They nearly laughed Dr. Giovanucci out of academia -- but now he looks like a genius.

Because a growing body of evidence is proving that reduced sun exposure may be causing the spike in melanoma cases throughout America.

If sunscreens were the silver bullet for preventing skin cancer, we should have seen the melanoma rate bottom out years ago. Americans are buying nearly $1 billion worth of sunscreen every year -- compared to just $18 million in 1972 -- and the FDA is recommending it for everyone over six months old.

But sunscreen sales and skin cancer rates have risen at the exact same time. And researchers are finding that people who spend the most time out of the sun may have the highest risk of developing a deadly melanoma.

While people who work outside get 3 to 10 times as much UV exposure annually as indoor workers, their rates of the most deadly kinds of melanomas (cutaneous malignant melanoma, or CMM) are typically lower than people who work in offices.

That comes from a study by Dianne E. Godar, a chemist with the FDA, and previous research by the World Health Organization has found the same thing.

In fact, a study published in The Lancet a decade ago also found a "decreased risk of melanoma" in people who work outdoors. The researchers said that chronic sunlight exposure seemed to have a "protective effect."

Now I'm not saying that spending too long in the sun without protection is safe. Because it isn't. Too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer, especially if you get a burn.

But getting the right type of sun exposure at the right time can also prevent skin cancer -- and that's something that plenty of scientists and doctors have forgotten.

The UVB rays from the sun help your body fill up its stores of vitamin D. There have probably been more studies on vitamin D (the "sunshine vitamin") than any other vitamin, mineral or hormone that your body requires. And it's been found time and time again to be one of the most potent cancer fighters out there.

So when we cover ourselves with sunscreen all the time -- or completely avoid the sun -- we promote skin cancer in two ways.

First, we prevent our bodies from making enough vitamin D. Second, many sunscreens contain an ingredient -- a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate -- that can actually promote skin cancer.

To make sure your body has a healthy supply of vitamin D, your skin should be exposed to the sun for around 10 to 20 minutes each day (depending on how fair you are). Make sure you don't burn.

And when you're getting sun exposure, remember that UVB rays are what you want, because they allow your body to make vitamin D.

You can find out the hours when the sun is at the right angle to provide you with those UVB rays by going to the United States Naval Observatory website. Simply put in the date, your state and town name, and click "compute table."

Then look down the middle column until you find a number at 50 or higher and look in the left column for the time (it uses military time). This time of the year in the U.S. you'll probably find that those beneficial 50-or-over UVB rays will be shining from 10 A.M. to around 4 P.M.
It's unfortunate that the U.S. Naval Observatory website mentioned above doesn't apply to anywhere but the States.

As for the various UV rays, this excerpt is from Wikipedia's Ultraviolet article:
...The atmosphere blocks about 77% of the Sun's UV, almost entirely in the shorter UV wavelengths, when the Sun is highest in the sky (zenith). Of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth's surface, more than 95% is the longer wavelengths of UVA, with the small remainder UVB. There is essentially no UVC. The fraction of UVB which remains in UV light after passing through the atmosphere is heavily dependent on cloud cover and atmospheric conditions. Thick clouds block UVB effectively; but in "partly cloudy" days, patches of blue sky showing between clouds are also sources of (scattered) UVA and UVB....
The Health Sciences Institute ─ a member site of NewMarketHealth.com ─ came out with a somewhat related sort of report five days ago.

No, it didn't relate to sunning or sunscreens; rather, it involved specious reporting of the results of various studies.

The media are so easy to enlist in the subterfuge, too:

A sweet deception
It was reported in 20 countries and six different languages. Major publications like London's Daily Star and the Huffington Post were tripping over each other to bring their readers the news.

Dr. Johannes Bohannon from the Institute of Diet and Health had made a breakthrough discovery -- eating a chocolate candy bar every day could make you lose weight 10 percent faster.

Of course, there were three problems with the story.

There is no Dr. Johannes Bohannon. The Institute of Diet and Health doesn't exist. And the study results were entirely bogus.

You may have heard that an award-winning journalist conducted a shocking experiment proving how medical researchers scam the media into reporting health news that isn't true. News that can even be dangerous.

Now that the smoke is starting to clear, we're learning more about exactly how he did it. And once you see how easy it was, you may never trust anything reported by the mainstream health press again.

"The key is to exploit journalists' incredible laziness," said John Bohannon, the actual reporter behind the imaginary Dr. Johannes Bohannon.

Bohannon, a contributor for Science and Discover Magazine, has spent his career exposing shoddy health reporting and how medical journals often barely review research they publish.

And recently he turned his attention to a dangerous phenomenon I warned you about last week -- Press Release Medicine.

Drug companies and researchers regularly issue press releases making bold and unproven claims about their studies -- and then count on lazy and under-qualified reporters to publish the information, no questions asked.

To bring attention to the issue, Bohannon decided to prove he could invent a fictional doctor and organization, design a useless study, and still get worldwide media coverage.

Here's exactly how he did it -- and how plenty of other medical researchers do it, too.

The study: Believe it or not, Bohannon did conduct a study -- a terrible one to prove how scientists intentionally design their experiments to get favorable results.

He divided 15 people into three groups of five. One group followed a low-carb diet; another a low-carb-plus-chocolate-bar diet; and the rest of the subjects ate whatever they wanted.

By keeping the groups small, Bohannon could make the differences among them appear more significant. For example, if two people in the chocolate group lowered their cholesterol -- compared to one in a non-chocolate group -- he could claim that chocolate is twice as effective at cutting cholesterol.

Drug researchers do this all the time. And Bohannon measured 18 different variables, such as weight, blood pressure and quality of sleep, to practically guarantee he'd find something.

Fudging the data: When Bohannon crunched his final numbers, he looked for any ridiculous conclusion he could find -- and he discovered a doozy.

Both of the low-carb groups lost an average of five pounds. But through some coincidence, the low-carb people who also ate the chocolate bar hit the five-pound mark a couple days earlier.

So Bohannon claimed his study proved chocolate helps you lose weight 10 percent faster -- even though the chocolate group didn't lose any additional weight and the time difference wasn't statistically significant.

"It was terrible science," Bohannon said. "The results are meaningless."

Any reporter who took time to dissect the study would have learned that. But none did.

The dubious journal publication: To increase the chances that the media would pick up his bogus study, Bohannon got it published in The International Archives of Medicine under the name Dr. Johannes Bohannon from the Institute of Diet and Health.

That sounds awfully prestigious, but The International Archives of Medicine is one of a growing number of journals that will publish anything for a fee. For $673, Bohannon got his research published -- no peer review and no changes.

The press release: Armed with a "published" study, Bohannon turned his attention to the press release. It promised reporters that the "key details are already boiled down" for them, allowing them to simply copy and paste.

Which they did -- in droves.

According to Bohannon, hardly any reporters asked how many subjects he tested before concluding candy bars accelerate weight loss. And he couldn't find a single reporter who contacted an outside researcher for help.

After Bohannon revealed the hoax, a couple of publications like Prevention posted a retraction. But many never bothered to remove their stories -- you can still find some of them online right now.

And refusing to research or correct bogus health information isn't just irresponsible. It's how the media operates -- even when we're talking about issues a lot more serious than chocolate.
The fault of pulling a stunt like that is that there will always be many people who do not become privy to the retraction, and have it buried within them the falsehood that the daily chocolate bar study is legitimately a way to lose weight more quickly than by following a low-carbohydrate diet alone.

Dr. William Campbell Douglass II came out with his own report about a study trumpeting false conclusions ─ he released this about four days ago:

Shady research tricks used to make statins look safe
Gotta love the lamestream media. If their Big Pharma masters feed them a steaming pile of bull, they'll break out the forks and knives and chow down as if it's pumpkin pie.

And then they'll try to serve it to us, too.

Just take a look at last week's big headlines on statin drugs. Across the board, almost every major media organization ran big headlines claiming these brain-rotting drugs don't cause memory loss despite decades of evidence to the contrary.

Heck, even the FDA has issued a warning over memory loss and statins!

The new study actually found that statins QUADRUPLE the risk or memory loss, but they managed to claim otherwise by pulling one of the most shameful book-cooking stunts I've ever witnessed.

They didn't just compare statin users to non-statin users in this study. They also included a small group of patients on OTHER types of cholesterol drugs.

And it gets worse. When patients on both the statins and the other types of cholesterol drugs reported memory loss, the researchers managed to conclude -- I kid you not -- that they must've been making it up.

"Patients might report a memory loss to me that they would otherwise pay little attention to because I am seeing them more often and I ask them about it," Rutgers University researcher Brian L. Strom told MedPage Today.

Bull. If that were the case, memory loss would be reported as a side effect of practically every drug in nearly every study.

The REAL reason both sets of patients reported memory loss wasn't some mass delusion. It's just basic human biology: Your brain is practically swimming in cholesterol.

About a quarter of the cholesterol in your body makes a beeline for your skull, where it plays an essential role in mood, memory and more. ANY drug that lowers cholesterol could cause memory loss, which is why EVERY drug that lowers cholesterol will come with memory loss as a potential side effect.

The reason the researchers behind the new study are pretending otherwise can be found at the very bottom of the paper. Tucked away in the disclosures section, you'll find these guys are linked to just about every major drug maker on the planet: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott, Bayer, Novartis, Pfizer and Merck.

Don't be fooled, statin drugs DO cause memory loss -- and if you want to protect your own brain, lay off of them.

Picking apart bad science,

William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.
As he counsels ─ don't be fooled.  The pharmaceutical corporations are highly efficient deceivers who do NOT have what's best for the public welfare at heart.  Profit is their paramount focus ─ nothing else.

I located the study he was talking of, but only the abstract or summary is available to the general public without payment of a fee:  Statin Therapy and Risk of Acute Memory Impairment (doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2092).

Here are a couple of other reports on the study, including the one Dr. Douglass had mentioned which quoted the lead author of the study as saying that the study subjects who were reporting some memory loss were only being overly sensitive about the possibility:

Here in Canada, I see that the P.W.G.S.C. is extremely adept at being untruthful ─ or at least, its major mouthpieces are.

I used to be a Compensation Advisor for Human Resources in three different federal government departments:  first Transport Canada (Ministry of Transport), then Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and finally Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

To be frank, I quite enjoyed most of the work when it strictly involved the so-called Pay System.  But when PeopleSoft started being made the mandatory vehicle through which we had to work, then I quickly lost any attraction I ever felt for the job.

I know what it's like to be desperately working in a field in which one has absolutely no affinity.

It's of course impossible for me to even estimate, but I spent many hundreds ─ maybe even into the thousands ─ of hours working entirely for free because I would remain on the job long after I should have gone home; and I would also come in on weekends and work on my workload.

I even had to spend an occasional night in the office because I missed the last Skytrain home from Vancouver.  Fortunately, those occasions were always when I did not have to work the following day.

But I do remember having to hustle off for the morning Skytrain on one occasion and nearly being sighted by one of my co-workers who was coming from the train to start her day.

And when I say that I had no affinity for the job, I am speaking of aptitude in the widest sense of the term.  About four years after I first got into the field, my fellow Compensation Advisors (who were then all women) and I went off-site for some in-depth job-assessment by a private organization that specialized in this sort of research. 

The organization did not know what our jobs were ─ it was a blind assessment of us.

When eventually my results were obtained ─ and I think I may still have most of the print-outs somewhere ─ the verdict on me was that I would probably be able to enter almost any field, although one involving extensive mathematics might pose a hurdle for me.

There was only one field that I was advised I should steer entirely clear of ─ Human Resources.

When they learned that I worked in Human Resources, they were flabbergasted.

But what no one realized was just how unsuited I really was, and the toll it was taking on me.  I considered suicide.  I even prayed to God that I might die on my way to work early in a week ─ I just didn't want it to happen when I was on my way home after one of my dreadful days.

And I certainly did not want it to occur when I was going home for the weekend after one of my work weeks in Hell.

My drinking quite escalated.

I often marvel how I got through those learning years in the beginning of my so-called career.

When I first started as a trainee, my supervisor told me that the job would be more than a '9 to 5' sort of routine ─ she warned me that I would find myself spending longer hours in the office than that.

But she had no idea what I was willing to do to survive and try to last long enough that I could retire with a pension.

When she started realizing that I was sacrificing my life as I was doing ─ and she and the HR Director both fruitlessly ordered me not to come in for unauthorized weekend work ─ she made me choose a weekday that would become my 'earned day off' (EDO) or 'compressed day off' (CDO).

She knew that I was already working an extended daily shift each working day, so she forced me to select a day of the week in which I would stay home ─ it was the only way she could have me take any sort of 'weekend' from the job.

So I chose Thursdays.

It made sense for me.

I would struggle through three working days, and then have a day of liberty.  And then return for just one more regular working day before the actual weekend.

Anyway, I see that I am getting very much side-tracked.  I only intended to prelude a news report that came out today:  Public servants waiting months for paycheques as new system stumbles.   

You see, my so-called career that was supposed to see me in a position of demand with almost any federal department for the rest of my life has become nearly extinct, thanks to the damned Conservative government headed by Stephen Harper.

Most federal departments now no longer have Compensation Advisors in their Human Resources.  And the ones that do...well, the positions are slowly being rooted out.

All of the work is being centralized in Miramichi, New Brunswick.  No department will be allowed to have its own Compensation Advisors any longer.

But the people taking over the work in Miramichi never dreamed what a nightmare was ahead ─ these are excerpts from that article:
"One even likened conditions at the new pay centre to a “sweat shop” and one pay adviser who quit called her former colleagues 'poor souls who are on the brink of mental collapse.'

"Those familiar with the new centre say the work is relentless, and there isn’t enough support for new employees who run into problems with complicated files.
"Public servants waiting for pay say they are unable to get anyone on the phone at the pay centre, or, if they do, they are promised return calls that never come or are even told nothing can be done. The pay centre’s 1-800 line warns callers about 'high volumes.'"
"On top of the complaints from unpaid workers, PSAC was getting an earful from the 550 pay advisers working in Miramichi. The union said it had reports that a growing number were on sick leave. As well, some were infuriated that management had ordered them to work 30 hours of mandatory overtime over two weeks to deal with a backlog of paycheques. (That order was later changed to ask for volunteers to work extra hours to help catch up.)"
"The government has the biggest and most convoluted pay system in Canada. The 90,000 rules and regulations take years to master and good compensation advisers are worth their weight in gold."
"The stress included dealing with angry clients on the phone; management trying to hurry workers on with mandatory overtime; and overarching fear that if they failed, Miramichi would lose the only industry stabilizing the local economy.

"'I have seen grown men and women crying at their desks left, right and centre,' said one pay centre employee. 'Most of my colleagues and myself went on mental health medication for depression or anxiety. We have been threatened that the pay centre may fail and the much-needed Miramichi jobs be lost.'
I became a rather popular Compensation Advisor ─ probably because I was so approachable and utterly unorthodox.

Prior to these two photos from my Transport Canada years in the latter 1990s or 2000 or so, I wore a bandana:

And here are a couple from my DFO years, which ran from the Summer of 2001 to May 2006:

If it was possible to work locally ─ close enough to my home that I could actually walk to work ─ and if I did not have to have anything whatsoever to do with infernal PeopleSoft ─ I would seriously return to the job.

In truth, I would not have retired when I did if those conditions were in place.

It sincerely burns me that spokespeople for P.W.G.S.C. lie and claim all is well at Miramichi.

Just wait until those poor souls at Miramichi have DFO's Coast Guard files ─ 'Fleet Pay' is one of the most intricate there is.  No Compensation Advisor can just sit down and start working in it ─ special training is required.

At DFO, we had a crew of Compensation Advisors who worked exclusively on it, but it was eventually decided that having this process in place was untenable because no one else was able to help them out.

Also, when a member of 'Fleet' went on leave, then the other Compensation Advisors in 'Fleet' were truly hard-pressed to handle the work.

So all of the Advisors started getting some training in it.

I left the department soon after that.

Incidentally, I was one of those working in 'Fleet Pay' before the general training in it started.

Concerning "grown men and women crying at their desks" ─ I did my share.

And at home. 

Sometimes I had to struggle to hold back while I was on the Skytrain.

But much of my stress stemmed from two Compensation Managers I had in my 'career' who made my working life an agony.  Both of them nearly broke me.

I needed to hang on somehow until I was able to take a pension, though...or die.

That latter option was removed when I married in late May 2005, and my wife came here to Canada from Thailand almost a year later.

The free weekend work started dying off, too ─ I just couldn't face the horrendously long commute to get to the office just to spend a 10-or-more-hour day working for free.

And then the long commute home again.

I swear, I do not know how I endured it, but I have no doubt that my longevity has been negatively affected.

My sincerest condolences go to those in Miramichi.
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