Author: Daniella

How animals taking communal decisions

Today we opt for ballot boxes but humans have used numerous ways of voting to have their say throughout history. However, we’re not the only ones living (or seeking to live) in a democratic society: a new study has suggested that African wild dogs vote to make group decisions. A new study has found that these dogs sneeze to decide when to stop resting and start hunting. Researchers found that the rates of sneezing during greeting rallies – which happen after, or sometimes during, a rest period – affect the likelihood of the pack departing to hunt, rather than going back to sleep. If dominant individuals start the rally it is much more likely to result in a hunt, and only two or three sneezes are required to get the pack started. But if a subordinate individual wishes to start a hunt, they have to sneeze a lot more – around ten times – to get the pack to move off. The researchers think that this sneezing is the pack members voting on when to …

Canadian health-care system under performing?

Canada’s health-care system is a point of Canadian pride. We hold it up as a defining national characteristic and an example of what makes us different from Americans. The system has been supported in its current form, more or less, by parties of all political stripes — for nearly 50 years. Our team at the Queen’s University School of Policy Studies Health Policy Council is a team of seasoned and accomplished health-care leaders in health economics, clinical practice, education, research and health policy. We study, teach and comment on health policy and the health-care system from multiple perspectives. While highly regarded, Canada’s health-care system is expensive and faces several challenges. These challenges will only be exacerbated by the changing health landscape in an aging society. Strong leadership is needed to propel the system forward into a sustainable health future. A national health insurance model The roots of Canada’s system lie in Saskatchewan, when then-premier Tommy Douglas’s left-leaning Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government first established a provincial health insurance program. This covered universal hospital (in 1947) …

Rising food price has lead to conflict in Syria

Rising food price has lead to conflict in Syria

In 2015 the Welsh singer and activist Charlotte Church was widely ridiculed in the right-wing press and on social media for saying on BBC Question Time that climate change had played an important part in causing the conflict in Syria. From 2006 until 2011, [Syria] experienced one of the worst droughts in its history, which of course meant that there were water shortages and crops weren’t growing, so there was mass migration from rural areas of Syria into the urban centres, which put on more strain, and made resources scarce etc, which apparently contributed to the conflict there today. But what she said was correct – and there will be an increasing convergence of climate, food, economic and political crises in the coming years and decades. We need to better understand the interconnectivity of environmental, economic, geopolitical, societal and technological systems if we are to manage these crises and avoid their worst impacts. In particular, tipping points exist in both physical and socio-economic systems, including governmental or financial systems. These systems interact in complex ways. …

Failure of football clubs to pay staff a living wage

Failure of football clubs to pay staff a living wage

English football’s top flight, the Premier League, dominates the sporting world’s league tables for revenue. Star players, managers and executives command lucrative wages. Thanks to the biggest TV deal in world football, the 20 Premier League clubs share £10.4 billion between them. But this wealth bonanza is not being distributed fairly within clubs. Wages are dramatically lower for staff at the opposite end of the Premier League labour market to players and executives. Many encounter in-work poverty. Indeed, Everton and Chelsea are the only two Premiership clubs fully accredited with the Living Wage Foundation to pay all lower-paid directly employed staff, as well as external contractors and agency staff, a real living wage. This is a (voluntary) wage that is higher than the legally required national living wage. It is calculated based on what employees and their families need to live, reflecting real rises in living costs. In London it’s £9.75 an hour, elsewhere it’s £8.45. Of 92 clubs in England and Scotland’s football leagues, only three others – Luton Town, Derby County and Hearts …

Regrets and how children to make better decisions

Regret gets a bad press. It is a painful emotion experienced upon realising that a different decision would have led to a better outcome. And it is something that we strive to avoid. In sharp contrast, our recent research on children’s decision making emphasises that the ability to experience regret is a developmental achievement associated with learning to make better choices. The results of this research suggest a different, more functional relationship between regret and decision making. How does one go about studying regret in children, given that they may not have the term “regret” in their vocabularies? Developmental psychologists ask children to make simple choices between two options. Outcomes are engineered so that once they have received a small prize associated with their choice, they see that they could have obtained a better prize had they chosen the other option. Using this task, the ability to experience regret can be tested for by asking children to express how they feel about the outcome of their decision on a child-friendly rating scale before and then …

Clean eating can damage children’s health

Clean eating seems ideal for parents who want to establish their children’s healthy habits early on. It’s no surprise really: “clean eating” is the perfect buzz term for parents who are faced with supermarket shelves full of baby and toddler food which is high in sugar content and low in nutritional value. But while some clean eating plans are focused on a balanced diet – with less processed and more whole foods – others are extreme. Some advise cutting out things such as gluten, or whole food groups, such as grains and dairy – all the while advising us to consume so-called “super-foods” to maximise health and well-being. There’s a reason why it’s called a “balanced” diet, and subscribing to any extreme nutritional plan can adversely affect child health on multiple levels. Excluding major food groups from our diet at any age can lead not only to inadequate calorie intake, but potentially malnutrition, and deficiencies in minerals and vitamins. Food groups Gluten – a protein found in cereals like wheat, rye and barely – appears …

Duterte’s rise and the fate of a neglected public

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that he killed three men during his time as mayor of Davao city, despite officials trying to downplay an earlier admission. Duterte’s comments might yet hurt his popularity but that seems unlikely. Duterte’s national crusade has resulted in an alarming daily average of 34 drug war-related murders. Despite this death toll and international condemnation, public satisfaction with his anti-drug war is at a significantly high rate of 78%. How can this be explained in a country that a mere 30 years ago brought down a dictator without resorting to violence? How could a nation that inspired the world with its peaceful “People Power” revolution now welcome a return to the state-sanctioned murders of the martial-law era of 1972-1981? Duterte’s rise is an evolving lesson in the vulnerability of democracies in the face of a neglected public. The democratic institutions of the Philippines have little power when faced with a populist president determined to channel frustrations into immediate actions. Unfulfilled promise In 1986, millions of Filipinos ended Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship …

Is slavery making a comeback?

The members of the United Nations Security Council hear terrible stories from conflict zones with alarming frequency. So it takes a truly horrific tale to bring them to tears. Yet as officials in the Council listened in December to Nadia Murad Basee Taha bravely recount her torturous ordeal as an Islamic State sex slave, some wept openly. When she fell silent, she received a rare ovation. Murad is returning next week to the UN to be inducted as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. Since her last visit, the Security Council has requested a report from the Secretary-General on human trafficking in conflict, and what can be done about it. The council should act soon – because the problem appears to be rapidly getting worse. Is slavery making a comeback? International law is clear that slavery is never allowed, anywhere, any time. Yet the best estimates suggest that 45.8 million people alive today are enslaved. Armed groups have long forced vulnerable people into sexual exploitation, military service, and forced labor …

Racism and Teaching Anti-Racism

WE ARE NOT BORN RACIST People are not born racist. As former U.S. President Barack Obama, quoting Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, tweeted shortly after the tragic events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017 in which the university town was overtaken by white supremacists and hate groups, resulting in the killing of a counter protester, Heather Heyer, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Very young children do not naturally choose friends based on the color of their skin. In a video created by the BBC children’s network CBeebies, Everyone’s Welcome, pairs of children explain the differences between themselves without referring to the color of their skin or ethnicity, even though those differences exist. As Nick Arnold writes in What Adults Can Learn About Discrimination From Kids, according to Sally Palmer, Ph.D., lecturer in the …

No more victimisation

At the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, actress Jessica Chastain – who was serving as a jury member – said that she found the portrayals of women in the festival’s films “quite disturbing.” To many, this isn’t exactly news. The lack of women in film – in front of and behind the camera – has been at the forefront of Hollywood criticism in recent years, with scholars and writers detailing the various ways women tend to be underrepresented or cast in stereotypical roles. University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith, who researches depictions of gender and race in film and TV, found that of the 5,839 characters in the 129 top-grossing films released between 2006 and 2011, fewer than 30 percent were girls or women. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of films fulfill the criteria of the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Despite the uphill climb for women in film, it isn’t all doom and …