Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And you went for THAT as a headline?

As I was checking out my sweet, sweet Google Reader this morning, I noticed this headline from CBC:

Sikh group slams immigration name change policy

The first bit of the article read:

A Sikh-Canadian group is slamming the long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.

Jasbeer Singh, of the World Sikh Organization, said the policy is incredibly out of synch in this day and age.

My god, I thought, seriously? Like, Ellis Island stylz? Freakin' ridiculous.

Then I read the rest of the article and my blood pressure dropped quite a bit. The actual issue is that, given how common the names Singh and Kaur are, people with those names are asked to give a second surname to distinguish their file.

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the reason for the policy is that it helps officials with the paperwork and allows them to identify people's files quickly, efficiently and accurately.

"You can imagine you wouldn't want your file to be confused with someone else's," she said.


Shadd-Evelyn said that while the department recognizes the tradition of having the names Singh and Kaur, it's their understanding that it is already a common practice for people in the Sikh community to have a third name.

"Generally, when we ask for that, they are accustomed to that and are used to providing a third name," she said. "They have it. It's not something that they're just making up on the spot."

Okay, well, both sides are being a little stupid I think.

According to this wikipedia article, there isn't a huge panoply of traditional Sikh names. The CBC article seconds that:

Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every baptized male and Kaur to every baptized female Sikh. There are millions of Singhs and Kaurs around the world.

As someone who works in a doctors' office, and has worked with refugee and immigration files, I can tell you that even in small scale, repetitive names are a disproportionate complication. Also, families where the children are all named after the mother and/or father, and so on. Although I couldn't find a reference for this, in my own experience the Roma tradition of wives taking on their husband's given names is a particular hassle (paperwork-wise--I'm not criticizing any of these practices per se, but I do know they create administrative difficulties). So I suppose I have some sympathy for the paper-pushers at CIC who have to deal with this. According to StatsCan, almost 300,000 Southern Asians came to Canada between 1991 and 2001, so that's about 30,000 per year (about the population of Orangeville), and I doubt it's gone down much. Wikipedia claims there are about 600,000 Sikhs in Canada. That's a lot fo Singhs and Kaurs to sort out.

That said? This is exactly the kind of problem agencies like CIC are supposed to be able to sort out. For one thing, immigrants and refugees are assigned file numbers. Also, the way they've presented the issue to immigrants and sponsors does not match what they told CBC. The article included a link to a sample of the type of letter Citizenship and Immigration Canada sends out. The letter requests:

ORIGINAL passport for yourself after getting your surname endorsed on it. ...Please note that your surname must be endorsed on your passport. The names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada. [emphasis added]

Worst. Phrasing. Ever. Come on now, people. That really does sound like "change your name or no Canada for you--P.S., we are racist."

Frankly, I can't believe this is only coming out now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

No, really. I'm weird like that.

BBC: Taiwan applies for UN membership

I wonder if Taiwan realizes that's unlikely to happen?

Here's the problem: China considers Taiwan a breakaway province, and no one want to make China angry. Now, to be fair, one of the longstanding problems has been resolved, in that Taiwan is no longer claiming to be the proper representative of all of China. But still, angry China is bad news for everyone, especially given their security council veto. And frankly, there's been so many work-arounds put in place, I don't think anyone's really concerned about Taiwan's status as a virtual non-country.

BBC: First female president for India

Oh India, you are now and forever my favorite developing country. As the Beeb notes: "Millions of women in India face discrimination and poverty often linked to age-old traditions which require the parents of a bride to pay a large dowry to the family of her eventual husband." And yet, you're way more likely to have women in leadership roles than most Western countries. "A study in contrasts" is a massive understatement.

BBC Again: Two held over Rwandan massacres

Is France finally getting their act together? Also: one of these accused genocidaires is a priest. Oddly, despite what I know about the genocide, that still upsets me.

More 24ths

At the Age of 24...

Dame Agatha Christie 1890-1976

Her first marriage, an unhappy one, was in 1914 to Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks, and divorced in 1928.

During World War I she worked at a hospital and then a pharmacy, a job that influenced her work: many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. (See also cyanide, ricin, and thallium.)

Florence Nighingale 1820-1910

Image:Florence Nightingale 1920 reproduction.jpg

In December 1844, in response to a pauper's death in a workhouse infirmary in London that became a public scandal, she became the leading advocate for improved medical care in the infirmaries and immediately engaged the support of Charles Villiers, then president of the Poor Law Board. This led to her active role in the reform of the Poor Laws, extending far beyond the provision of medical care. She was later instrumental in mentoring and then sending Agnes Elizabeth Jones and other Nightingale Probationers to Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.

Dorothy Parker 1893-1967

In 1917, she met and married a Wall Street broker, Edwin Pond Parker II, but they were separated by his army service in World War I. ...

After her limited schooling, she earned money by playing piano at a dancing school, among other things. She first sold a poem to Vanity Fair magazine in 1917, and some months later, she was hired as an editorial assistant for another Condé Nast magazine, Vogue. She moved to Vanity Fair as drama critic and staff writer following two years at Vogue.


So, I turned 24 a couple of weeks ago. I realize this is belated, but here are some interesting related trivia tidbits. From Wikipedia, of course...

June 15th in History

At the Age of 24...

Elizabeth I at her coronation

Elizabeth I 1533-1603

["Bloody Mary" Tudor died in November 1558.] Upon Mary's death there was rejoicing in the streets of London, and in November 1558 Elizabeth was set to succeed to the throne. Legend has it that she was sitting beneath an oak tree reading the Bible at Hatfield when the news reached her - although this is unlikely given the winter season. A manservant approached her and breathlessly said, "Your Majesty…". Elizabeth then quoted Psalm 118 in response: "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes".

St. Ivo of Kermartin 1253-1303 (patron saint of lawyers)

He went to Orléans in 1277 to study Canon law.

Louise Arbour b. 1947 (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)

[She] proceeded to the Université de Montréal where she completed an LL.L. with distinction in 1970. She became the Law Clerk for Mr. Justice Louis-Philippe Pigeon of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1971-1972 while completing graduate studies at the Faculty of Law (Civil Section) of the University of Ottawa.

Shirin Ebadi b. 1947 (Iranian jurist and activist)

Ebadi was admitted to the law department, University of Tehran in 1965 and upon graduation in 1969 passed the qualification exams to become a judge. After a six-month internship period, she officially started her judging career in March 1970. She continued her studies in University of Tehran in the meanwhile and received a master's degree in law in 1971.

Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor b. 1930 (first woman on the US Supreme Court)

O'Connor attended Stanford University, where she received her B.A. in economics in 1950. She continued at the Stanford Law School for her LL.B, serving on the Stanford Law Review, and graduating toward the top of a class of 102, of which future Chief Justice William Rehnquist was valedictorian. O'Connor briefly dated Rehnquist during this time.

In 1952 she married John Jay O'Connor III, with whom she has three sons: Scott, Brian, and Jay.

...She therefore turned to public service, taking a position as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California from 1952–1953 and as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany from 1954–1957.

Rosalyn Higgins b. 1937 (President of the International Court of Justice)

Judge Higgins, President of the ICJ.

[She] married the politician Terence Higgins in 1961 (Sir Terence from 1993, Lord Higgins since 1997). ...Higgins studied at Girton College, University of Cambridge receiving her B.A. in 1959 and LL.B in 1962.

Theodora, detail of a Byzantine mosaic in Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna.

Empress Theodora c. 500-548

In 523 Theodora married Justinian, the nephew of Emperor Justin I. On his accession to the Roman Imperial throne in 527, he made her joint ruler of the empire, and appears to have regarded her as a full partner in their rulership.

Cleopatra VII of Egypt 69-30BCE

Image:Lawrence Alma-Tadema- Anthony and Cleopatra.JPG

Cleopatra and Caesarion visited Rome between 47 BC and 44 BC and were probably present when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44 BC. Before or just after the assassination she returned to Egypt. When Ptolemy XIV died due to deteriorating health, Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent and successor. To safeguard herself and Caesarion she also had her sister Arsinoe killed, a common and necessary practice of the times.

Vijayalakshmi Pandit (1935)

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit 1900-1990 (first female President of the UN General Assembly)

In 1921 she married Ranjit Sitaram Pandit. She was the first Indian woman to hold a cabinet post.

Sonia Gandhi b. 1946 (Italian-Indian politician and widow of former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi)

Sonia Gandhi

[She and Rajiv Gandhi] were married in 1969, after which she moved into the house of her mother-in-law and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. ... The couple had two children, Rahul Gandhi (born 1970) and Priyanka Gandhi (born 1972).


Aphra Behn 1640-1689 (English writer, scientist, and spy)

In 1663 Aphra visited an English sugar colony on the Suriname River, on the coast east of Venezuela (a region later known as Suriname). During this trip Aphra is supposed to have met an African slave leader, whose story formed the basis for one of her most famous works, Oroonoko. The veracity of her journey to Suriname has often been called into question; however, enough evidence has been found that most Behn scholars today believe that the trip did indeed take place. ...Shortly after her return to England in 1664 Aphra married Johan Behn, who was a merchant of German or Dutch extraction.

Madame Curie 1867-1934 (Polish-French scientist)

Maria Skłodowska-Curie.

Eventually in 1891, having saved up some money earned working as a governess, Maria went to join her elder sister in Paris.

Skłodowska studied mathematics, physics and chemistry at the Sorbonne. (Later, in 1909, she would become the Sorbonne's first female professor, when she was named to her late husband's chair in physics, which he had held for only a year and a half before his tragic death). In early 1893, she graduated first in her undergraduate class.


Saint Teresa of Avila 1515-1582 (Spanish mystic)

Leaving her parents' home secretly one morning in 1534, at the age of 20, Teresa entered the Monastery of the Incarnation of the Carmelite nuns at Avila.[citation needed] In the cloister, she suffered greatly from illness. Early in her sickness, she experienced periods of spiritual ecstasy through the use of the devotional book, Abecedario espiritual, commonly known as the "third" or the "spiritual alphabet" (published in six parts from 1537-1554).

Image:Stamp Hannah Arendt.jpg

Hannah Arendt 1906-1975 (German philosopher and political scientist)

She married Günther Stern, later knowns as Günther Anders, in 1929 in Berlin (they divorced in 1937).

The dissertation was published the same year, but Arendt was prevented from habilitating, a prerequisite for teaching in German universities, because she was Jewish. She worked for some time researching anti-Semitism before being interrogated by the Gestapo, and thereupon fled Germany for Paris.

Aspasia c. 470-400BCE (Milesian sex worker, philosopher, and political strategist)


Being a foreigner and possibly a hetaera, Aspasia was free of the legal restraints that traditionally confined married women to their homes, and thereby was allowed to participate in the public life of the city. She became the mistress of the statesman Pericles in the early 440s. After he divorced his first wife (c. 445 BC), Aspasia began to live with him, although her marital status remains disputed.Their son, Pericles the Younger, must have been born by 440 BC.

Image:Christine de Pisan - cathedra.jpg

Christine de Pizan 1364-1430 (French writer and philosopher)

She successfully educated herself by immersing herself in languages, the rediscovered classics and humanism of the early Renaissance, and within Charles V’s royal archive that housed a vast amount of manuscripts. De Pizan did not, however, assert her intellectual abilities, or establish her authority as a writer until she was widowed at the age of twenty-four.

Christine married Etienne du Castel, a royal secretary to the court, at the age of fifteen. She bore three children, a daughter (who went to live at the Dominican Abbey in Poissy in 1397 as a companion to the king's daughter, Marie), a son Jean, and another child who died in childhood. De Pizan’s familial life was threatened in 1390, however, when Christine’s husband, while in Beauvais on a mission with the king, suddenly died in an epidemic (Willard 39). Following du Castel’s death, Christine was left to support a large household, and to pay off her husband's extensive debts. When she tried to collect money due to her husband’s estate, she faced complicated lawsuits regarding the recovery of salary due to her husband. In order to support herself and her family, Christine turned to writing.

Isabelle Allende b. 1942 (Chilean novelist and activist, related to assassinated Chilean leader Salvador Allende)

From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization in Santiago, then later in Brussels, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe. For a brief while in Chile, she also had a job translating Romance novels from English to Spanish. However, she was fired for making unauthorized changes to the dialogue of the heroines to make them sound more intelligent as well as altering the Cinderella endings to let the heroines find more independence and do good in the world. Her daughter Paula was born in 1963. In 1966, Allende returned to Chile, and her son Nicolás was born there that year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Canada tokes at 4 times world average: UN

Hahaha...okay, this time the answer is clearly "amused."

Canadians use marijuana at four times the world average, making Canada the leader of the industrialized world in cannabis consumption, a recent United Nations report found.

The 2007 World Drug Report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says that 16.8 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 64 smoked marijuana or used another cannabis product in 2006. The world average is 3.8 per cent.

I wonder, can't you sort of assume people under-report drug usage?

But to be perfectly honest, I have trouble getting worked up over people smoking pot. Not that I recommend it, per se, but I think it's a pretty clear-cut instance of malum prohibitum, rather than malum in se. On the other hand, I found this disturbing:

The report found that Canada also had a high rate of usage for cocaine, at 2.3 per cent of population, ranking it third behind Spain and England.

Cocaine bothers me. Why? Because it melts your face, people!

According to WebMD, Marijuana causes the following problems:

  • Regular use of marijuana can cause problems with memory and affect problem-solving and learning. It can cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
  • It can damage the lungs, which may lead to breathing problems (such as wheezing and bronchitis).
  • It contains many cancer-causing chemicals.
  • When under the influence of marijuana, a person may have reduced inhibitions and impaired judgement. They may take risks or have an auto accident.
  • It can cause lower sperm counts and increased breast size in males (gynecomastia). In females, it can cause menstrual problems.

So, okay, none of those are good things, alsothough some of them are sort of negligible. Everything causes cancer-causing chemicles, and the whole "reduced-inhibitions-impaired-judgment" thing is of variable danger. Compare that to these:

  • ...the delusion or false sense of grandeur, known as cocainomania.
  • Dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, headache, or vertigo (the sensation of your surroundings or yourself moving or spinning).
  • With or even without increased amounts of coke, these can progress to excitement, flightiness, emotional instability, restlessness, irritability, apprehension, inability to sit still, teeth grinding, cold sweats, tremors, twitching of small muscles (especially of face, fingers, feet), muscle jerks, hallucinations (cocaine bugs, snow lights, voices and sounds, smells), and cocaine psychosis. Cocaine psychosis resembles paranoid schizophrenia
    and can bring on paranoia, mania, and psychosis.
  • Many users complain of nasal irritation, nasal crusting, recurrent nosebleeds, nasal stuffiness, facial pain caused by sinusitis, and hoarseness.
  • The mucous membrane of both sides of the septum (the cartilage that separates the nostrils) can be damaged by decreased blood supply, along with drying, crusting, and nose picking. This results in a perforation or hole in the septum with more crusting, foul secretions, nosebleeds, and whistling with nasal breathing, the so-called coke nose.
  • Utilizing the technique of deep inhalation and breath holding to maximize the amount of cocaine inhaled and absorbed can cause the lung to collapse. These cocaine users will complain of sharp chest pain, often worse with deep breathing, neck pain, difficult or painful swallowing, and air under the skin in the neck that feels like Rice Krispies under the skin when touched (subcutaneous emphysema). Though unusual, the user’s lungs can fill with fluid (pulmonary edema) causing extreme shortness of breath, sometimes respiratory failure, and death.

Lebanon's Sticky Politicians - The Middle East Blog - TIME

Lebanon's Sticky Politicians - The Middle East Blog - TIME

So you think Lebanese politics -- based on a sectarian system of 17
recognized religious groups with ever-shifting alliances and antagonisms -- are
confusing? Well so do the Lebanese. Which is perhaps one reason why a
collectible sticker album launched last month called "Parties and Colors" has
become so popular. Supposedly aimed at educating young Lebanese about their
government, the album has pages devoted to each of the country's 14 main
political parties -- from Iranian supported Hizballah to the American supported
Future Movement -- with space reserved for adhesive portraits of their leaders
and founders.

Hmm...amused or horrified...amused or hard to choose.

But I'm a cynic at heart, I guess, because I'm going with amused.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Pope's move on Latin mass 'a blow to Jews' "

Pope's move on Latin mass 'a blow to Jews' World The Observer:
Obnoxious and ignoring the point:

'We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years
after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good
Friday mass, it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting
words by praying for Jews to be converted,' said Abraham Foxman, the group's
national director, in Rome. 'It is the wrong decision at the wrong time. It
appears the Vatican has chosen to satisfy a right-wing faction in the church
that rejects change and reconciliation.'

Actually getting the point:
The liberal French Catholic magazine Temoignage Chretien published an editorial
in Latin explaining that it was not concerned about the language in which the
mass was celebrated but by 'the view of the outside world held by most
supporters of the traditional rite ... of a church that sees itself as the sole
holder of the truth. Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, this stand is
Thank you, French magazine I'd admittedly never heard of, for actually discussing the problem rather than having a typical knee-jerk reaction.

Although, I must admit to a bit of eye-rolling over the whole thing. Wait...the Pope is giving a tacit okay to the conversion of Jews?!?!?! Why, that's....the reason for his religion! How perverse can you get? Come on, people...criticize Ratzinger's dogmatism or Nazi past or unwillingness to acknowledge anti-Semitism. His evangelism is a stupid target, since, hello, basis of the Christian doctrine. Which is not to say that I agree with it, but I am utterly unsurprised and unperturbed by it, assuming it accords with other doctrinal principles like not burning people and generally not making an ass of oneself.

Today in upsetting statistics...

To boycott or not - the new Israeli question World The Observer: "Driven by daily images of violence and destruction of Palestinian society, and fed by the enormous disparity in the fatality figures (in 2006, 27 Israelis were killed while more than 650 Palestinians, 120 of them children, died) the question being posed to unions, churches and individuals has become: boycott or not?"