Author: Daniella

A Likely Dictatorship

Term limits for the leadership are not usually found in dictatorships. The Chinese Communist Party’s proposed abolition of China’s presidential term limit means that it has forgotten one of the main lessons of Mao’s long despotism. The two-term limit was inserted into the People’s Republic of China Constitution after the Cultural Revolution ended and reflected a widespread desire to prevent the return of one-man dictatorship. Its abolition signals the likelihood of another long period of severe repression. This should prompt us to think of Chiang Kaishek as well as Mao and Yuan Shikai and, in a comparative Asian vein, of Marcos and Park among others. Of course, some recognize that Putin’s example may also have significantly influenced Xi Jinping. Xi’s move will have a profound effect on world order. It will enable him to move more boldly and increases the risk of his acting arbitrarily and perhaps mistakenly in international relations. It will surely hinder China’s efforts to be respected for “soft power” as well as military and economic prowess. Xi decided to strike while the iron is hot …

Should Atheism Be Taught?

Louis J. Appignani, an 84-year-old living in Florida, tells a compelling story about his conversion to atheism. Despite attending Catholic schools from a young age and through his teens, he didn’t really question belief in God growing up; people in his world, he said, sort of took faith for granted. Then he got to college and started reading the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who argued against traditional defenses of God’s existence and justified, as Appignani put it, “what I deep down believe.” Now, the proud atheist holds nothing back when it comes to his personal views on religion. The study of atheism, he said, “gave me strength to believe that faith is stupid … [that] mythology is not true.” Appignani started his career as a businessman, serving as the president and chairman of the famous Barbizon International modeling and acting school, among other endeavors. In 2001 he turned his focus to atheism, establishing the Appignani Foundation, which supports “critical thinking” and “humanistic values” and has given grants to organizations such as the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America. Then, …

Black Panther box office hit?

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, opening tonight in theatres across Canada and the United States, is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit. It set records for advance ticket sales on Fandango, its soundtrack album debuted in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts and industry estimates point to opening-weekend revenues as high as US$170 million. Director Ryan Coogler and star Chadwick Boseman appeared on the cover of the industry trade magazine Variety, while British GQ styled actor Michael B. Jordan to recall Black Panther Party activists. The red-carpet premiere made a splash on celebrity and fashion blogs, and it’s the most-tweeted-about film of the year. Marvel’s had big hits before. But this feels like something different. Ahead of its time The Black Panther, also known as King T’Challa of Wakanda, was created as a comic book hereo in 1966 by artist Jack Kirby and writer/editor Stan Lee. Although considered the first Black superhero in American comics, this is not the first time we’ve seen a Black superhero in the cinema. Comedian Robert Townsend gave …

Battles Over Memory Rage On

Battles Over Memory Rage On

Throughout the world postconflict societies have grappled with bitter wartime memories. Some succeed by casting aside disputes over the past, says David Rieff, author of In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies. Others, like postwar Germany, have repudiated their pasts. White nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month over the removal of Confederate monuments highlight how the United States has had no such reckoning, he says. This stems from the federal government’s failure to impose a narrative of emancipation of African Americans after the Confederacy’s surrender, Rieff says, adding, that “the rebellion won the peace, in terms of the memory war.” How do you distinguish between memory, collective memory, and history? The only thing that we can call memory is individual memory. You can testify on the basis of your individual memory in a court, but not on the basis of your collective memory. Even if we agreed on what happened [in Charlottesville], that wouldn’t mean we have a collective memory; it would just mean we share the same view. Collective memory is the …

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 …