“In all the pigs’ sensitivity, in all their intelligence, curiosity, personality and generic similarities, in their intimate presence in our culture and religion, I wonder if the true magic of the swimming pigs of Exuma is because of some more profound connection. In them, we see us.”

“It was a melee of flesh, men packed on top of men, with the only light trickling in from small, barred windows. No guards were in sight. Instead, as far as the eye could see, a sweaty stew of hardened criminals looked me up and down in my soiled white suit.”

“Perhaps the sun was so bright and enticing, the sensation of flying so liberating, that Icarus could not help himself from climbing higher and higher. As for me, I just wanted to see how high I could fly.”

“He stood there for a moment with eyes closed, knowing, fearing yet loving, that this moment would have to sustain him for the rest of the day. Finally he opened his eyes, the water trickling down his skull, streaming down his scared forehead and onto his face.”

“What an accident of history. What an amusing twist of fate that it took swimming pigs to make the world sit up and take notice. And it is remarkable that Exuma, one of the most beautiful places in the world, would soon be defined by the face of a pig.”

Astronaut Scott Kelly to narrate “Pigs of Paradise: The Movie”

On March 27, 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly embarked on what came to be known as “The Year in Space”.

Chronicled by Time Magazine, Kelly’s incredible expedition in the International Space Station was well-known for many reasons, and partly because the American explorer documented the experience so faithfully on social media. Through his Twitter, Instagram and other channels, he took snaps of the Earth from space in all its remarkable, awe-inspiring beauty. But one sight, against all others, stood out to astronaut Scott Kelly – The Bahamas, “the most beautiful place from space”.

With his genuine love for The Bahamas, and the islands of Exuma, Kelly was asked to narrate the new film based on the bestselling book, “Pigs of Paradise: The Story of the World-Famous Swimming Pigs”.

This new film is set to premiere at the Bahamas International Film Festival on December 1st, 2018.

CNN Travel covers release of my latest book

(CNN) — If you’re waiting to fulfill any life goals until pigs fly, heads up: There are swine swimming in the Bahamas already.
A colony of pigs in the Exumas, a klatch of islands to the southeast of Nassau in the Bahamian archipelago, rushes into the crystal-clear surf every time they hear boats motoring nearby. Dubbed the “swimming pigs,” the swine do their best piggy-paddles in the hopes of getting food from curious people who travel here.
Once visitors arrive at Big Major Cay, they can disembark and interact with the pigs in the warm water or on the island’s white-sand beach.
The juxtaposition of pigs and paradise makes for epic and hard-to-believe photographs and selfies. As a result, the oinkers collectively have established themselves as a social media sensation, achieving Kardashian-style fame practically overnight.
Visitors come from all over the world, just to see and swim with the pigs. The porkers have become official ambassadors of Bahamas tourism. A book about them, “Pigs of Paradise,”will hit shelves later this month.
There’s even a full-length documentary film expected by the end of the year.
“These animals certainly have captivated people’s imagination,” says author T.R. Todd. “Swimming with pigs on a beautiful beach is not something you do every day.”
Read the entire article on CNN’s website  here. 

Deal inked with Skyhorse Publishing

After basking in years of sun-kissed fame, appearing in television shows, magazines and countless social media posts, The Bahamas’ fastest growing attraction will soon be displayed in book stores around the world.

Skyhorse Publishing, an independent book publishing company that has published 47 New York Times best sellers, has acquired the rights to “Pigs of Paradise”, written by a former Business Editor In The Bahamas. Expected to be released in the fall 2018, the book offers a history of Exuma, where the pigs are originally from, while also chronicling their swift rise to stardom amid a viral marketing campaign that has captured the world’s attention.

In recent years, the swimming pigs have been seen by millions across the globe from North America to Europe to Asia.

Already a key economic driver for Exuma, the swimming pigs have spread to other islands in The Bahamas, with the world’s fascination for the attraction only seeming to grow.

“Watching the world take notice of these creatures has been an incredible journey,” said author Jeff Todd, who writes by the pen name T.R. Todd. “It probably shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but the hype and momentum surrounding the swimming pigs is truly amazing. The contrast of the most beautiful water and beaches in the world with an often misunderstood animal has proven to be a force in the age of social media. But I think what people will soon appreciate is that the journey on how we got here is also a great story.”

Todd first took notice of the swimming pigs in 2014, when he teamed up with Peter Nicholson, the largest owner at Grand Isle Resort in Exuma, and Bahamian director Charlie Smith, to create a film on the attraction, ‘When Pigs Swim’.

The movie proved to be a hit. After touring in film festivals in the United States, often with a piglet in tow on the red carpet, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism incorporated the pigs into its global marketing campaign. That set off a chain of unprecedented publicity. Since then, the swimming pigs have been featured in most major publications, including the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Travel & Leisure, the Washington Post, Forbes, CNN, The London Telegraph, Daily Mail, BuzzFeed, USA Today, Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and hundreds of others. They have also found their way into a myriad of television shows, everything from ABC’s The Bachelor, NBC’s Today Show and even popular children’s cartoons.

“The book is about how and why they went viral, but what I love most about it is being able to provide a history of Exuma and an opportunity to stop and think about how we interact with animals,” Todd added. “It’s funny, but I want people to come away from the book thinking a bit more about our relationship with pigs, and indeed the wider animal kingdom. I think the pigs give us a unique lens with which to consider our relationship with animals. And I think this is the right time to be thinking more about these issues in a new and original way.”

‘Pigs of Paradise’ is also expected to be heavily illustrated with stunning shots of Exuma and the pigs, including contributions from top social media influencers. Diane Phillips, the founder of Diane Phillips & Associates, wrote the book’s Foreword.

“I’m very excited to see this package come together—it’s an intriguing and informative story with stunning photographs that will surely be a must-have for many, especially animal lovers and activists as well as travelers,” said Nicole Frail, Senior Editor at Skyhorse Publishing.

Skyhorse Publishing, founded in 2006, is a rapidly growing publishing company with more than 1,000 titles. It has published the works for four Nobel Prize novelists, and released around 50 New York Times Best Sellers. In 2015, Skyhorse, headquartered in New York City, published ‘The Walk’. By Phillippe Petit, about his daring walk between the NYC World Trade Center Towers, based on the motion picture directed by Robert Zemeckis. In September 2016, it released Snowden, based on the notorious American whistleblower. The book was timed with the release of Oliver Stone’s feature film that year.

Enigma of Arthur Porter extends beyond the grave

By: Aaron Derfel, Montreal Gazette
Published on: June 5, 2017

News Quebec’s Crown prosecutors are waiting for an official death certificate from Panama two years after Arthur Porter’s demise is fuelling speculation — some of it tongue in cheek — the former head of the McGill University Health Centre might still be alive.

Dr. Arthur Porter, former CEO of the McGill University Health Centre, was accused of taking $22.5 million in bribes in connection with the $1.3-billion MUHC superhospital construction contract. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette files

“We can’t close the file as long as we don’t have the official confirmation,” Nathalie Kleber, the prosecutor in charge of the Porter case, said in an interview last week. “As a general rule, we don’t withdraw (the criminal charges) as long as we don’t have an authentic document proving the death.”

The Montreal Gazette has since learned Quebec’s anti-corruption UPAC squad has still not received the DNA tests results from Panama to confirm Porter’s death, although provincial police investigators say they do believe Porter is dead.

Radio-Canada first reported prosecutors are still seeking Porter’s death certificate, provoking renewed speculation among members of the MUHC community. Asked whether the conspiracy theory Porter might still be alive is absurd, Kleber responded: “I have no comment, I have no opinion on this point.”

Porter, 59, was accused of taking $22.5 million in bribes in connection with the $1.3-billion MUHC superhospital construction contract. He was arrested by Interpol agents in Panama on May 27, 2013, and fought extradition to Quebec while incarcerated in La Joya prison.

His longtime friend and physician, Karol Sikora, released a statement on July 1, 2015, saying Porter had died at the stroke of midnight at the Panama City National Cancer Centre. Sikora had said previously Porter had been suffering from metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.

The time of Porter’s death would later be revised to around 11 p.m., June 30. On July 3 of that year, two UPAC investigators who flew to Panama said they positively identified Porter’s body in a morgue. UPAC director Robert Lafrenière added at the time “to eliminate all doubt,” Porter’s fingerprints were taken as well as DNA samples from his body.

But that didn’t stop the speculation among conspiracy theorists, with some wags comparing Porter to a medical version of Elvis, predicting he would pop up somewhere some day.

“He’d be a good foil for Barrette,” an MUHC manager texted in jest to a reporter last week, alluding to Health Minister Gaétan Barrette.

Porter’s own family addressed the speculation he might have faked his illness, releasing a statement months before his death “the media continue to perpetuate false claims that he was ‘self-diagnosed,’ insinuating he may not even be ill. Although our family wishes that were the case, this is simply not true.”

Fuelling suspicions regarding Porter’s cancer is the fact the former radiation oncologist lived with Stage 4 of the disease for 23 months — most of that time in an unsanitary prison while writing his memoirs and treating inmates for various ailments — before his death was declared. The median survival for those with that advanced form of cancer is only 10 months.

Kleber said Quebec authorities have been in regular contact with Panama to obtain Porter’s death certificate.

“Since this involves Panama, it’s much more complicated,” she explained. “It must go through several levels of government. So why we haven’t received (the death certificate) I can’t tell you, but the request is being processed and we’re in regular contact and we’re waiting for the official confirmation.”

A spokesperson for the Panamanian embassy in Ottawa said on May 30  she would transfer a reporter’s request to her country’s foreign affairs department for information on Porter’s death certificate. Three days later, Gianni Mocci De Diego wrote in an email “as soon as we have any news, I will let you know.”

As for UPAC, the Porter file is closed, spokesperson Mathieu Delisle said. Asked whether UPAC had obtained the results of its scientific analysis of the DNA samples, Delisle responded initially: “I don’t have the results. I will verify this and get back to you.”

The next day, Delisle clarified in an email “the visual identification of the remains of Arthur Porter proved sufficient to formally confirm his death, as we had announced in our communiqué on July 7, 2015.”

However, “we have not to date received the scientific tests of the Panamanian authorities.”

“The investigative file for the other accused continues,” Delisle added, referring to former SNC-Lavalin and MUHC executives who are facing fraud charges in the case.

Porter, who once served as chairman of Canada’s spy agency watchdog, appeared to revel in the speculation surrounding him, writing in his jailhouse memoir “it was rumoured that I was 7-foot-5 and could shoot icicles out of my eyes.

As for the $22.5 million in alleged MUHC bribe money, Quebec authorities succeeded in recovering $17.5 million. That leaves $5 million that’s still unaccounted for, and on that score, there’s no doubt that’s a mystery.

 

*Read the story here

 

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Dr. Arthur Porter dies in hospital

(JULY 1, 2015) – As biographer to Dr. Arthur Porter, I can confirm that the Canadian Privy Council Member has died on Canada Day at a cancer hospital in Panama, according to his physician and long-time friend Dr. Karol Sikora.

Dr. Sikora informed me early this morning that he died of metastatic cancer of the lung, with bone and liver involvement, around midnight on July 1, 2015 at the Panama National Cancer Centre. Dr. Roberto Lopez, the Director of the Panamanian Cancer Institute, called him at his home in England.

Dr. Porter’s death brings to an end a cancer battle stretching back to December 2012, when Dr. Porter, a well-known oncologist, diagnosed himself from his clinic in Nassau, Bahamas.

On March 31, 2013, Dr. Porter was remanded to La Joya Prison in Panama City, a place notorious for human rights violations and inhumane conditions. His imprisonment was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged fraud related to the construction of Montreal’s $1.3 billion McGill University Health Centre, where he served as Director General and CEO.

It has been called the largest corruption fraud investigation in Canadian history.

During this time, in a highly publicized standoff with Canadian authorities for his extradition, Dr. Porter was forced to smuggle chemotherapy drugs into the prison to keep him alive. He wrote letters to the Canadian Embassy in Panama requesting urgent medical treatment.

It was not until recently, more than two years later, that Dr. Porter was granted access to cancer treatment.

“Arthur Porter died at 12 midnight EST in Panama City National Cancer Centre,” Dr. Sikora said in a statement. “He had been out of prison for six weeks but under armed guard in first of all the main general hospital and the last four weeks in the National Cancer Center.”

Dr. Sikora said that Dr. Porter was on high doses of morphine for the pain and continued chemotherapy.

While family was present in the country, he died suddenly and alone.

“It was fairly sudden and unexpected that he died today. We thought he would live another two or three weeks. But that was not the case,” he added.

Born in Sierra Leone, the Cambridge educated oncologist’s life spanned many disciplines and at times seemed beyond belief, stretching across continents and into the fields of medicine, business and politics. While serving as President and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, the largest employer in Michigan, he was asked by then President George W Bush to be the Surgeon General of the United States. He declined.

He went on to become the President and CEO of the McGill University Health Centre, and successfully oversaw the construction of Montreal’s long sought-after mega hospital. On September 3, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Dr. Porter Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee of Canada, the spy watchdog of Canada. He was also made a Privy Councillor.

Known as charismatic, intelligent and ambitious, Dr. Porter served on dozens of committees, published hundreds of scholarly works and received numerous other political appointments in Canada, Sierra Leone, The Bahamas and the United States.

Dr. Porter is survived by his wife, Pamela Porter, and his four daughters Gemma, Adina, Fiona and Charlotte. He was only 59.