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10/25/2011 in Headline News Bookmark and Share

Prejudice against girls creates population imbalance in India

Modern medical technology – specifically ultrasounds for determining the baby's sex – coupled with ancient cultural values which give preference to boys, mean that hundreds of thousands of girls are never being born, wrote McClatchy-Tribune Regional News Oct. 24.

There were only 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six in India, according to the 2011 census, compared with 927 for every 1,000 boys in the 2001 census. Today's ratio is the highest imbalance since the country won independence in 1947.

While national trends are cause for concern, the situation is improving in some areas. "Tamil Nadu is one of the few states where we have seen an improvement," said Sharada Srinivasan, a professor of gender studies [in the Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] at York University in Canada.

In addition to counselling and the creation of self-help groups for women, the southern state is using the carrot and the stick approach. "The government has created a massive cash transfer program" to entice parents to keep baby girls, Srinivasan told Al Jazeera. Parents who commit infanticide are increasingly being prosecuted for homicide, she said.

While cash incentives, laws against gender selective ultrasounds, harsh punishments and economic changes all play a role, changing deeply ingrained social values is arguably the most important issue, and the most difficult.

Some communities in Punjab and elsewhere are taking collective pledges not to kill or abort girls, considering the practice a source of shame and an example of backwardness. This is where government policy ends and grassroots action begins. "There is no way you can tax patriarchy," Srinivasan said. "Public action has a role to play in changing social norms. History is full of examples of this."

Understanding health info a challenge for those born deaf

The reason why those who are born deaf often have trouble with complex reading is because reading itself draws on our hearing skills, explains Connie Mayer, a professor in the Faculty of Education at York University, and a literacy specialist and former deaf educator, wrote CTVNews.ca Oct. 23. If you've never been able to hear, where do you begin with sounding out letters and words?

"You might think of reading as a visual language, because you look at it. But reading is really an auditory process," Mayer explains.

The most commonly used sign language in Canada is American Sign Language, or ASL, and while it can convey all the same meanings as English, it is not a "translation" of English. "ASL is a gestural language with its own grammar, syntax and lexicon and very distinct from English," she says.

For someone whose first language is sign language, it can be difficult to understand the grammar and syntax of English, and even harder to learn how to read it. "There are significant numbers of deaf and hard of hearing individuals who learn to develop age-appropriate literacy," Mayer says. "But I would suspect there is a group that would have trouble reading complex text like you might find on a website with health information."

Arbitrations may create pathway for Air Canada

Air Canada may be on the path to finding labour peace with all of its employees after the airline agreed once again to let an arbitrator decide key economic issues, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 22.

An arbitrator will issue a binding agreement in about two weeks on the contract with flight attendants under federal labour laws that prevent a strike or lock out during that period.

Industry observers believe arbitration rulings [on a new contract and an earlier decision on pensions] will establish a framework for resolving common issues in upcoming talks with pilots, mechanics and dispatchers.

George Smith, the former director of employee relations for Air Canada and currently a Fellow at Queen's University, said interest arbitration generally favours unions because arbitrators prefer gradualism over endorsing radical change.

That results in a "conservative award" which doesn't dramatically alter the status quo, added David Doorey, professor of labour & employment law at York University's School of Human Resource Management [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

As a result, Air Canada won't likely make much headway in dramatic reforms and the workers are unlikely to get huge wage gains. "The fact that the employees so adamantly rejected the employer's earlier offers may work to the advantage of the union because arbitrators attempt to 'replicate' what would likely have occurred if the parties had been permitted to engage in a work stoppage," he said in an e-mail.

Edu-daters bring love-seekers back to the bar

Now that dating has veered so hard towards the online realm, it seems almost retro to take proceedings back to the bar. But a new dating school launches next week at the Thirsty Fox Pub on Eglinton Avenue with an introductory workshop called Happy Dates, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 20.

Matchmaker and dating coach Stacie Ikka and psychologist Dr. Andrew Shaul, who specializes in couples counselling, have hooked up, so to speak. The pair refers to themselves by the catchy handle “edu-daters.” But their scientific approach – the school is wrapped around their original Dating Quotient (DQ) questionnaire – is what separates their new enterprise from dirty-flirty pickup tricks of fly-by-night Learning Annex courses.

She sees her matchmaking, coaching and new dating school more as support for what is fast becoming the real meet-market. Shaul agrees. He has “seen a lot, heard a lot,” about what makes relationships work over his 20 years in the business, also noted regularly through the psychology course he teaches to grad-level students at York University [Faculty of Health]. “It is always our own personal issues that cause relationships to run into difficulties. In two dates, two years, or two decades, the same problems present,” says Shaul, who reports he is himself happily married. “It is not about the match, it is about the decisions we make at every turn of a relationship. It is about behaviours.”

Quotas would get more women into the boardroom

There is a way to ensure that more women secure senior roles on corporate boards, but you won’t like it. I’m talking about quotas, wrote Leah Eichler in The Globe and Mail Oct. 22.

“We’ve been trying over the years to increase the number of women,” said Ronald Burke, a professor of organizational studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business, in an interview. “Leaving it to natural occurrences hasn’t worked in the past and it won’t work in the future.”

Yet Burke acknowledges that the likelihood of Canada enforcing quotas on corporations is a non-starter: “Telling a CEO [in Canada] to impose quotas is like telling them they have a sexually transmitted disease,” he quipped.

Are hockey fights vicious, or a good release valve?

A new study suggests that few punches thrown during National Hockey League games end in significant injury, wrote Gannett News Service Oct. 22, in a story about whether fighting serves a beneficial purpose as a release valve for on-ice tension.

Alison Macpherson, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science at York University [Faculty of Health], who has studied hockey injuries, won’t go that far. She’s skeptical of the findings, noting that teammates and referees are on the scene to prevent hockey fights from becoming extremely violent, while that’s not the case in fights elsewhere.

Gay students bear 'cycle of hate'

Ontario's Keeping our Kids Safe at School Act, which came into effect in February 2010, requires teachers to report and respond to serious bullying incidents, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 22, in a story about the failure of some school board policies to prevent bullying of gay students.

Debra Pepler [Distinguished Research Professor, Faculty of Health and LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research] at York University and a bullying expert who advised the government on the law, said teachers have told her incidents still aren't being reported. Teachers don't spend as much time in the halls as they once did; some do report incidents, but principals don't always follow through, she said. "I think everyone in the system is discouraged."

Fitness and aging: Use it or lose it

One of the classic approaches to studying age-related decline is to look at how age-group records change in sports such as running and weightlifting, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 24. The fastest and strongest 45-year-olds are considerably slower and weaker than their 25-year-old counterparts, which supports the traditional view of inevitable decline.

But there are several problems with this analysis. One is that even the best older athletes train less as they age, notes York University kinesiology Professor Joe Baker [Faculty of Health] – though the reasons for this aren't entirely clear.

"I've always wondered whether the change in training habits that we see as athletes get older reflects a change in their life situation – 'I'm not making it to the Olympics, so goodbye speed work' – or whether this results from injury or pain-related issues – 'Speed work hurts a lot more than it used to'," he says.

Sponsoring hockey remains one of the safest bets in the business

To explain hockey's recession-proof appeal to Canadian corporate sponsors you have to look beyond mere patriotism, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 22. If it were that simple, CFL teams would attract lucrative sponsorships at the same rate.

Instead, says York University marketing Professor Alan Middleton, hockey appeals to sponsors because it's equally popular in urban and rural communities – unlike the CFL, which resonates in Saskatchewan but doesn't captivate Torontonians. And as a soft economy prompts corporations to pare budgets, Middleton says companies often funnel sponsorship dollars to sports that are established, like hockey, instead of merely popular – like the UFC.

"When money gets tight we focus on the big stuff. Hockey is protected," says Middleton, a professor at the Schulich School of Business. "They really like (that hockey) gives them coverage right across the market."

Wilson scores York, OUA, CIS athlete of week honours

Not once. Not twice, but three times York University's Kristie Wilson torched the twine in a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over perennial power University of Toronto Blues hockey team, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 22.

Wilson's explosive output earned her York's Female Athlete of the Week, as well as OUA and CIS athlete of the week honours.

The "hotshot" is one of three graduates of the Stoney Creek Junior Sabres club program on the Lions roster. "Stoney Creek has an excellent program," said Dan Church, coach of the Lions. "They have great coaching. They focus on developing players through their midget and junior programs.... So there is a cohesive plan and progression through their top tiers.

Wilson was heavily recruited, but decided York was the best fit. "I had heard many great things about both the school and the hockey program under Coach Church (recently named head coach of Canada's national women's team)."

The fourth year senior has flourished under Church's charge. "Coach Church brings a great deal of high-level coaching experience – especially at the Hockey Canada level – to the York hockey program," says the 20-year-old. "That expertise has definitely helped elevate everyone's game, but the fact that he always makes sure I'm doing all the 'little things' right on the ice has personally helped me improve a great deal over my three years at York."

York student helps Canadian squash team win Pan Am gold

Squash player Samantha Cornett of Dunrobin…finished [her] first Pan Am Games in golden fashion on Friday in Guadalajara, Mexico, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 22.

Cornett scored the first of two match victories in the best-of-three gold-medal women's team squash final as Canada blanked Colombia 2-0.

It was the second Pan Am medal for Cornett, a York University student in Toronto. Earlier, she won the women's singles silver medal.

Little Portugal resident lands role in film

After years of working on the classical theatre scene, actress Christine Horne [BFA Spec. Hons. ‘04] was able to flash some sharp teeth in the independent comedy The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, wrote the Parkdale-Liberty Villager Oct. 22.

The Little Portugal resident has earned a name for herself working with acclaimed theatre companies such as CanStage. Horne has landed the role of Sadie in the film.

For Horne, the film was a departure from her typical fare. "When I got a chance to read the script, it seemed like a lot of fun," she said. "I'm usually in wigs and period dresses."

Horne's ascent into the acting world came about by accident. She had planned on studying film at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts] and applied to the school's theatre program on a whim. When she was admitted to the theatre program and not the film program, the die was cast. "I hadn't done high school plays or community theatre, but it was always something I had wanted to do," she said. "It could have been a disaster."

The actress said one of her greatest allies in her early days was her naïveté surrounding the theatre industry. She was neither jaded nor wary of the struggles many young actors face and was fortunate to start getting work quickly. "I feel a little bit like ignorance was my friend," she said. "I didn't have to wait tables for years, so I just had a stroke of good luck."

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