TORONTO: He’s the Mayor, He’s the Boss — Meet Doug Ford, the guy who makes Rob look good

MAY 26, 2011

Written by Edward Keenan

Mr. Personality

Doug Ford may be a rookie councillor, but as the mayor’s most trusted adviser, he could be the key to keeping this administration afloat

Late in the morning on Wednesday, May 18, Councillor Shelley Carroll was working the floor of the council chamber, trying to drum up votes to save the Fort York bridge, which had been scheduled to begin construction this summer. As public projects go, the bridge was significant in that it represents everything former Mayor David Miller was passionate about: a $23-million proposed oasis strictly for pedestrians and cyclists that would connect downtown to the waterfront and serve as a “vision thing” for a confident, growing city.

It’s the antithesis, then, of everything the current mayor thinks is appropriate. Still, it came as a surprise to virtually everyone when, at the end of an epic Public Works Committee meeting a few days earlier, a sudden motion to delay construction passed by a slim majority. It was a move that, for several technical reasons, would effectively kill the project. “This is a plain and simple ‘fuck you’ to those of us who think we can build a better city,” one lefty councillor said to me. “That’s all it is.”

So, last Wednesday, armed with reams of letters in support of building the Fort York bridge from residents, architects and prominent developers, council’s left was trying to muster up the two-thirds majority needed to bring the matter to debate in time to save the project. As the vote to keep the bridge project alive drew near, Carroll approached Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, who represents Ward 2 in Etobicoke. “I don’t find the mayor’s staff particularly receptive to having any kind of conversation with me at all,” Carroll told me later. “When I need to make an appeal to that leadership office, I go to Doug. He’s approachable.”

But it’s more than simply his approachability that makes him the go-to guy on the mayor’s team. Already, the press generally cites Doug’s opinions as though they are official pronouncements from the mayor’s office, and refers to the administration casually as “The Fords.” “He’s the shadow mayor, there’s no doubt about it,” says Councillor Janet Davis, who has been among the Fords’ most vocal critics. “It’s quite striking, really, that Doug has assumed the role of mayor so easily, and people have now come to accept that he has some greater authority around here.” Political gadfly (and former mayoral candidate) Himy Syed recently joked on Twitter that Doug Ford needs more security protection than Rob since, if anything were to happen to Doug, Rob would become mayor. Continue reading

Iranians still facing death by stoning despite ‘reprieve’

Fifteen could still die in horrific sentence after being allegedly convicted of adultery

Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Ian Black

Thursday 8 July 2010

An Iranian woman at a protest in Brussels highlights the barbarity of death by stoning, in which women are buried up to their necks in front of a crowd of volunteers and killed in a hail of rocks. Photograph: Thierry Roge/Reuters

Twelve Iranian women and three men are on death row awaiting execution by stoning despite an apparent last-minute reprieve for a mother of two who had been facing the horrific sentence after being convicted of adultery.

Human rights groups and activists welcomed a wave of international publicity and protests over the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, who was awaiting execution in the western Iranian town of Tabriz after what her lawyer called an unjust trial and a sham conviction.

The Iranian embassy in London said in a statement that “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities” the stoning would not go ahead. If confirmed it would be an victory for a brief but intense campaign that was first highlighted by the Guardian last week.

However, there are still concerns over her plight. In a previous case a prisoner who was to be stoned was instead executed by hanging.

Speaking to this paper Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son Sajad, said his mother – whom he had spoken to by telephone – believed the pressure on her behalf might succeed, although he had not heard of any reprieve. “The campaign for her release is going very well,” he said. “They gave me permission to talk to her and she was very thankful to the people of the world for supporting her. I’m very happy that so many have joined me in protesting this injustice. It was the first time in years I heard any hope in my mother’s voice.”

Without a reprieve, Mohammadi Ashtiani would have been buried up to her neck before being pelted with stones large enough to cause pain but not so large as to kill her immediately. Iran routinely censors information about executions, but all the 12 other women on death row have been convicted on adultery charges, as has one of the three men.

Azar Bagheri, 19, was arrested when she was 15 after her husband accused her of seeing another man. She has been subjected to mock stonings along with partial burial in the ground.

Ashraf Kalhori, 40, also sentenced to death by stoning, was forced to confess to a relationship with her husband’s murderer, and has been in Tehran’s Evin prison for seven years, according to her lawyer.

In one especially gruesome case, Maryam Ayubi, another alleged adulteress, fainted while being ritually washed before her execution in 2001 and was stoned to death while strapped to a stretcher. Outrage over that led to the marking of 11 July as the annual international day against stoning – which will see demonstrations at the Iran embassy in London.

Iranian activists say the tragedy is that the families of those sentenced to death often ignore them. “It doesn’t matter to them whether the charge of adultery is true or not because the honour of the family is tainted so they forget the poor creature awaiting death,” said Soheila Vahdati, who is now based in California.

“It’s not possible to talk about these prisoners in public because their families don’t want their names mentioned or their pictures published. Their families don’t want to defend them neither. Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case is amazing because her children are campaigning for her courageously and said that their mother is innocent.”

Shammameh Ghorbani, who is awaiting stoning, begged not to be freed from prison because she feared being killed by her family.

Shadi Sadr, an acclaimed Iranian lawyer, said it was hard to know exactly how many people were still facing stoning. Last year the Iranian parliament passed a law banning it, but the powerful Guardian Council has been silent on the issue.

“Many women are kept in prison because the government is very scared of the public attention,” Sadr said. “One of my clients has been there for eight years and her family have abandoned her.”

Publicity helps. “The only reason the Iranian government has not carried out stoning sentences on all these people is that it is afraid of Iranian public reaction and international attention,” said Sadr.

The embassy said in its statement: “This kind of punishment has rarely been implemented in Iran” and condemned media reports about the case as unreliable.

The 12 women on death row also include Mariam Ghorbanzadeh, 25, Iran Iskandari, 31, Kheyrieh Valania, 42, Sarimeh Sajadi, 30, Kobra Babaei, and Afsaneh R.

Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of having “illicit relationships” with two men. But her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, insisted there was no evidence to justify an adultery conviction. As a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority, her inability to understand the language of the court also prevented a fair trial, he said.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, added his voice to the outrage today, condemning a “medieval punishment that has no place in the modern world”. He added: “The continued use of such a punishment in Iran demonstrates a blatant disregard for international human rights commitments … as well as the interests of its people. I call on Iran to put an immediate stay to the execution of Ms Mohammadi Ashtiani on the charge of adultery and review the process by which she was tried, and her sentence.

“She has already faced the disgraceful punishment of 99 lashes for adultery; her execution would disgust and appal the watching world.”

Actors Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Juliette Binoche and playwright Sir David Hare have backed the appeal to halt the stoning. John Bercow, the Commons speaker, made a rare statement condemning a “horrific” matter and a “grotesque abuse” of human rights.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, requires states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to restrict its use to the “most serious crimes”. The United Nations general assembly has called on all states to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Police say mother’s alleged knife attack likely a ‘crime of honour’

Montreal woman charged with attempted murder in stabbing of her teenage daughter

Montreal — The Canadian Press

Monday, Jun. 14, 2010

Police say it has all the hallmarks of a so-called honour crime.

A Montreal mother faces an attempted murder charge after her teenage daughter was stabbed in the head and chest last weekend.

Police say the mother — a 38-year-old native of Afghanistan — will appear in court Monday afternoon.

Her 19-year-old daughter is in stable condition in hospital.

“If there’s one good thing about this whole story, it’s that the victim will make it for sure,” said Montreal police Const. Olivier Lapointe.

“We have the confirmation from the doctors today. She has head, face, shoulder and arm injuries — but she will survive.”

The mother faces three charges: attempted murder, assault and possession of a weapon.

Const. Lapointe says the husband is not facing any charges in the case.

“From what we have so far we think he even tried to intervene to stop the assault,” Const. Lapointe said.

Three other daughters who were in the home at the time of the attack — aged 16, 14 and 10 — have been sheltered with youth protection.

Police were called to the West Island home at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday.

Cosnt. Lapointe said investigators quickly arrived at the conclusion that it was an “honour” crime after scanning evidence gathered from the home, from witnesses and from the victim herself.

Globe and Mail

Montreal mother to have psychiatric evaluation in alleged honour crime

Sidhartha Banerjee

Montreal — The Canadian Press

Tuesday, Jun. 15, 2010

A woman alleged to have stabbed her daughter in the head in a so-called “honour” crime – apparently because the 19-year-old arrived home late – will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to see whether she’s fit to stand trial.

Johra Kaleki, 38, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday but her lawyer argued successfully that she should be dispatched to a psychiatric hospital for a 30-day evaluation instead.

Lawyer Tom Pentefountas told Quebec court that an evaluation was necessary and, after grudgingly divulging some details of his case, he managed to convince Judge Serge Boisvert.

Police suspect the attack on the teen, who is now in hospital, was an “honour” crime. One expert says it’s the 13th case of its kind in Canada since 2002.

Mr. Pentefountas told the judge his client was normally a balanced individual – but that the Afghan-born woman took leave of her senses on Sunday morning.

“We have a situation where a mother was alleged to have stabbed her teenage daughter, the reason being alleged that she came home late,” Mr. Pentefountas told the judge.

“My colleague is raising in the file the idea of crimes of honour, and we think there was a temporary lapse in the mental capacity of Johra.”

The Crown said Ms. Kaleki was hysterical that morning and had to be calmed down.

Prosecutor Anne Gauvin said she wasn’t asking for an evaluation herself, but did not oppose the defence’s request for one. Ms. Gauvin wouldn’t go into any details about the case outside the courtroom.

The psychiatric report will show whether Ms. Kaleki is fit to stand trial and whether she can be held responsible for her actions.

Dressed in a grey T-shirt and track pants, Ms. Kaleki began sobbing quietly as her husband pleaded with the judge from his seat in the public gallery.

“Please, sir, my wife is innocent,” Ebrahim Ebrahimi told the judge as courthouse security tried to quiet him.

Ms. Kaleki is accused of three crimes, according to a charge sheet filed with the court: attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

She returns to court July 12.

She is forbidden to communicate with any of her daughters, but the judge did not approve the Crown’s request that a communication ban extend to her husband.

The family are considered important witnesses in the Crown’s case, Ms. Gauvin said. “He’s one of the Crown’s witnesses and I believe his implication in the file is important and I don’t want him to be polluted by what she could tell him,” she told reporters.

“He’s also the father of four witnesses.”

The 19-year-old daughter is in stable condition in hospital. She is expected to survive.

“If there’s one good thing about this whole story, it’s that the victim will make it for sure,” said Montreal police Constable Olivier Lapointe.

“We have the confirmation from the doctors today. She has head, face, shoulder and arm injuries – but she will survive.”

Constable Lapointe says the husband is not facing any charges in the case.

“From what we have so far we think he even tried to intervene to stop the assault,” he said.

Three other daughters who were in the home at the time of the attack – aged 16, 14 and 10 – have been sheltered with youth protection.

Ms. Gauvin said they will remain there until the file is settled.

Police were called to the West Island home at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday.

Constable Lapointe said investigators quickly reached the conclusion that it was an “honour” crime after scanning evidence gathered from the home, from witnesses and from the victim herself.

One researcher who has done extensive studies on so-called “honour crimes” said this is the 13th case documented in Canada since 2002.

Amin Muhammad, a psychiatry professor at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, said this latest case is surprising because it’s not usually women who initiate the violence.

“Women are often the co-perpetrators,” Dr. Muhammad said. “Women don’t usually attack. So in this case, it’s a bit unusual.”

Dr. Muhammad said the Canadian government is becoming more aware of the problem, prevalent in many societies. Canadian immigration booklets make it clear that honour killings are considered barbaric and unacceptable.

But he said it has little impact in some cases.

Some people “don’t care actually because they are shunned by their community or ridiculed by other members,” Dr. Muhammad said.

“They feel dishonoured and when they do this kind of act, they feel their honour is back and they will be seen with respect.”

Dr. Muhammad said he’s preparing a position paper for the federal Justice Department on honour killings and hopes the courts begin to mete out tougher sentences.

He said in some cases, the accused have used plea bargains to avoid the severity of the sentence.

The Canadian Press

In Sweden, the Men Can Have It All — laws reserving at least two months of the generously paid, 13-month parental leave exclusively for fathers — a quota that could well double after the September election — have set off profound social change

The New York Times

Ludde Omholt with his son, Love, in Södermalm, a bohemian and culturally rich district in Stockholm. From Swedish capital to the villages south of the Arctic Circle, 85 percent of Swedish fathers now take parental leave

June 9, 2010


SPOLAND, SWEDEN — Mikael Karlsson owns a snowmobile, two hunting dogs and five guns. In his spare time, this soldier-turned-game warden shoots moose and trades potty-training tips with other fathers. Cradling 2-month-old Siri in his arms, he can’t imagine not taking baby leave. “Everyone does.”

From trendy central Stockholm to this village in the rugged forest south of the Arctic Circle, 85 percent of Swedish fathers take parental leave. Those who don’t face questions from family, friends and colleagues. As other countries still tinker with maternity leave and women’s rights, Sweden may be a glimpse of the future.

In this land of Viking lore, men are at the heart of the gender-equality debate. The ponytailed center-right finance minister calls himself a feminist, ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers, and preschools vet books for gender stereotypes in animal characters. For nearly four decades, governments of all political hues have legislated to give women equal rights at work — and men equal rights at home.

Swedish mothers still take more time off with children — almost four times as much. And some who thought they wanted their men to help raise baby now find themselves coveting more time at home.

But laws reserving at least two months of the generously paid, 13-month parental leave exclusively for fathers — a quota that could well double after the September election — have set off profound social change.

Companies have come to expect employees to take leave irrespective of gender, and not to penalize fathers at promotion time. Women’s paychecks are benefiting and the shift in fathers’ roles is perceived as playing a part in lower divorce rates and increasing joint custody of children.

In perhaps the most striking example of social engineering, a new definition of masculinity is emerging.

“Many men no longer want to be identified just by their jobs,” said Bengt Westerberg, who long opposed quotas but as deputy prime minister phased in a first month of paternity leave in 1995. “Many women now expect their husbands to take at least some time off with the children.”

Birgitta Ohlsson, European affairs minister, put it this way: “Machos with dinosaur values don’t make the top-10 lists of attractive men in women’s magazines anymore.” Ms. Ohlsson, who has lobbied European Union governments to pay more attention to fathers, is eight months pregnant, and her husband, a law professor, will take the leave when their child is born.

“Now men can have it all — a successful career and being a responsible daddy,” she added. “It’s a new kind of manly. It’s more wholesome.”

Back in Spoland, Sofia Karlsson, a police officer and the wife of Mikael Karlsson, said she found her husband most attractive “when he is in the forest with his rifle over his shoulder and the baby on his back.”

In this new world of the sexes, some women complain that Swedish men are too politically correct even to flirt in a bar. And some men admit to occasional pangs of insecurity. “I know my wife expects me to take parental leave,” said a prominent radio journalist who recently took six months off with his third child and who preferred to remain anonymous. “But if I was on a lonely island with her and Tarzan, I hope she would still pick me.”

In 1974, when Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave, the few men who took it were nicknamed “velvet dads.”

Despite government campaigns — one featuring a champion weightlifter with a baby perched on his bare biceps — the share of fathers on leave was stalled at 6 percent when Mr. Westerberg entered government in 1991.

Sweden had already gone further than many countries have now in relieving working mothers: Children had access to highly subsidized preschools from 12 months and grandparents were offered state-sponsored elderly care. The parent on leave got almost a full salary for a year before returning to a guaranteed job, and both could work six-hour days until children entered school. Female employment rates and birth rates had surged to be among the highest in the developed world.

“I always thought if we made it easier for women to work, families would eventually choose a more equal division of parental leave by themselves,” said Mr. Westerberg, 67. “But I gradually became convinced that there wasn’t all that much choice.”

Sweden, he said, faced a vicious circle. Women continued to take parental leave not just for tradition’s sake but because their pay was often lower, thus perpetuating pay differences. Companies, meanwhile, made clear to men that staying home with baby was not compatible with a career.

“Society is a mirror of the family,” Mr. Westerberg said. “The only way to achieve equality in society is to achieve equality in the home. Getting fathers to share the parental leave is an essential part of that.”

Introducing “daddy leave” in 1995 had an immediate impact. No father was forced to stay home, but the family lost one month of subsidies if he did not. Soon more than eight in 10 men took leave. The addition of a second nontransferable father month in 2002 only marginally increased the number of men taking leave, but it more than doubled the amount of time they take.

Clearly, state money proved an incentive — and a strong argument with reluctant bosses.

Among the self-employed, and in rural and immigrant communities, men are far less likely to take leave, said Nalin Pekgul, chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party’s women’s federation. In her Stockholm suburb, with a large immigrant population, traditional gender roles remain conspicuously intact.

But the daddy months have left their mark. A study published by the Swedish Institute of Labor Market Policy Evaluation in March showed, for instance, that a mother’s future earnings increase on average 7 percent for every month the father takes leave.

Among those with university degrees, a growing number of couples split the leave evenly; some switch back and forth every few months to avoid one parent assuming a dominant role — or being away from jobs too long. The higher women rank, the more they resemble men: few male chief executives take parental leave — but neither do the few female chief executives.

Parents may use their 390 days of paid leave however they want up to the child’s eighth birthday — monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly — a schedule that leaves particularly small, private employers scrambling to adapt.

While Sweden, with nine million people, made a strategic decision to get more women into the work force in the booming 1960s, other countries imported more immigrant men. As populations in Europe decline and new labor shortages loom, countries have studied the Swedish model, said Peter Moss an expert on leave policies at the University of London’s Institute of Education.

The United States — with lower taxes and traditional wariness of state meddling in family affairs — is not among them.Portugal is the only country where paternity leave is mandatory — but only for a week. Iceland has arguably gone furthest, reserving three months for father, three months for mother and allowing parents to share another three months.

The trend is, however, no longer limited to small countries. Germany, with nearly 82 million people, in 2007 tweaked Sweden’s model, reserving two out of 14 months of paid leave for fathers. Within two years, fathers taking parental leave surged from 3 percent to more than 20 percent.

“That was a marker of pretty significant change,” said Kimberly Morgan, professor at George Washington University and an expert on parental leave. If Germany can do it, she said, “most countries can.”

If the Social Democrats win Sweden’s election on Sept. 19, as opinion polls predict, they will double the nontransferable leave for each parent to four months, said Mona Sahlin, the party leader who would become Sweden’s first female prime minister.

Mrs. Sahlin, who had three children as a member of Parliament with her husband sharing the leave, knows that this measure is not necessarily popular.

“Sometimes politicians have to be ahead of public opinion,” she said, noting how controversial the initial daddy month was and how broadly it is now simply expected.

The least enthusiastic, in fact, are often mothers. In a 2003 survey by the Social Insurance Agency, the most commonly cited reason for not taking more paternity leave, after finances, was mother’s preference, said Ann-Zofie Duvander, a sociologist at Stockholm University who worked at the agency at the time.

Ann-Marie Prhat of the TCO employee federation said she had been determined to share the parental leave with her husband. After many discussions, “we practically signed a contract — six months for me and six months for him.”

Five months into the leave, she was enjoying her son. Could she stay home a couple of months longer, she asked her husband? “In the end,” she said, “I negotiated one extra month.”

Eight in 10 fathers now take a third of the total 13 months of leave — and 9 percent of fathers take 40 percent of the total or more — up from 4 percent a decade ago.

The numbers tend to look more impressive in urban areas, like Stockholm, but there are some surprises. Owing to extensive government campaigns, the northern county of Vasterbotton, where the Karlssons live, has repeatedly topped the “daddy index” of average leave the TCO federation publishes every year, says its president, Sture Nordh.

For Carlos Rojas, 27, a Swedish-Spanish entrepreneur who runs one of a host of new father groups campaigning for more paternal say at home, that is not enough. His 2-year-old twin sons, Julian and Mateo, call him Mama. He and his now former wife shared parental leave by alternating days at work and at home.

Fathers at home “are still often second-class parents,” since the mother usually stays home first and establishes routine, Mr. Rojas said.

“How many dads cut their children’s nails?” he asked, admitting that he does not. “I know she’s going to do it and so I don’t bother. We have to overcome that if we truly want to share responsibility.”

In Sodermalm, Stockholm’s trendy south island, the days of fathers taking only two months are clearly over. Men with strollers walk in the park, chat in cafes, stock up at the supermarket or weigh their babies at walk-in daycare centers.

Claes Boklund, a 35-year-old Web designer taking 10 months off with 19-month-old Harry, admits he was scared at first: the baby, the cooking, the cleaning, the sleepless nights. Six months into his leave, he says, he is confident around Harry (and cuts his nails).

“It’s both harder and easier than you think,” he said.

Understanding what it is to be home with a child may help explain why divorce and separation rates in Sweden have dropped since 1995 — at a time when divorce rates elsewhere have risen, according to the national statistics office. When couples do divorce or separate, shared custody has increased.

Fredrik and Cecilia Friberg both went part time soon after their daughter Ylva was born last Christmas Eve. He works Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday, his wife the remaining days. It helps that both are civil servants. “I wanted to be there from the start. So much happens every week, I don’t want to miss out,” said Mr. Friberg, 31.

Every once in a while, former traditions surface. “I get complimented on how much I help at home, Cecilia gets no such gratitude,” Mr. Friberg said.

Some, however, worry that as men and women both work and both stay home with kids, a gender identity crisis looms. “Manhood is being squeezed” by the sameness, argued Ingemar Gens, an author and self-described gender consultant.

So is the Swedish taxpayer. Taxes account for 47 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 27 percent in the United States and 40 percent in the European Union overall. The public sector, famous for family-friendly perks, employs one in three workers, including half of all working women. Family benefits cost 3.3 percent of G.D.P., the highest in the world along with Denmark and France, said Willem Adema, senior economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Yet Sweden looks well balanced: at 2.1 percent and 40 percent of G.D.P., respectively, public deficit and debt levels are a fraction of those in most developed economies these days, testimony perhaps to fiscal management born of a banking crisis and recession in the 1990s. High productivity and political consensus keep the system going.

“There are remarkably few complaints,” said Linda Haas, a professor of sociology at Indiana University currently at the University of Goteborg. With full-time preschool guaranteed at a maximum of about $150 a month and leave paid at 80 percent of salary up to $3,330 a month, “people feel that they are getting their money’s worth.”

Companies, facing high payroll taxes and women and men taking leave in unpredictable installments, can be less sure.

Tales of male staff members being discouraged from long leave are still not uncommon, although it is not fashionable to say so. Mr. Boklund said his office “was not happy” about his extended absence.

Bodil Sonesson Gallon, head of sales at Axis Communications, an IT company that specializes in video surveillance, admits that parental leave can be disruptive — for careers and companies. She laments that with preschools starting at 12 months and little alternative child care, there is huge pressure for parents to take at least a year off.

Small businesses find it particularly tricky to juggle absences, said Sofia Bergstrom, social insurance expert at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, which represents 60,000 companies. Worse than parental leave, she says, is the 120-day annual allowance for parents to tend to sick children, which is impossible to plan and which is suspected of being widely abused.

“The key issue for business is planning ahead,” said Ms. Bergstrom.

But in a sign that the broader cultural shift has acquired a dynamic of its own, a survey by Ms. Haas and Philip Hwang, a psychology professor at Goteborg University, shows that 41 percent of companies reported in 2006 that they had made a formal decision to encourage fathers to take parental leave, up from only 2 percent in 1993.

Some managers try to make the most of the short-term openings to test potential recruits. Others say planning longer absences is easier and encourage fathers to take six months rather than three. A system of flexible working hours has evolved. Even senior employees may leave at 4:30 p.m. to collect children from school, but are expected to log on at home at night. A growing number of employers top up the salary replacement the state pays parents to 90 percent of their salary for several months.

For many companies, a family-friendly work pattern has simply become a new way of attracting talent.

“Graduates used to look for big paychecks. Now they want work-life balance,” said Goran Henriksson, head of human resources at the cellphone giant Ericsson in Sweden, where last year 28 percent of female employees took leave, and 24 percent of male staff did. “We have to adapt.”

Lying children will grow up to be successful citizens

The earlier a child starts telling convincing lies the more likely they are to be a success in later life, new research suggests.

Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
16 May 2010

Researchers have found that the ability to tell fibs at the age of two is a sign of a fast developing brain and means they are more likely to have successful lives.

They found that the more plausible the lie, the more quick witted they will be in later years and the better their abiliy to think on their feet.

It also means that they have developed “executive function” – the ability to invent a convincing lie by keeping the truth at the back of their mind.

“Parents should not be alarmed if their child tells a fib,” said Dr Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto Universit who carried out the research.

“Almost all children lie. Those who have better cognitive development lie better because they can cover up their tracks. They may make bankers in later life.”

Lying involves multiple brain processes, such as integrating sources of information and manipulating the data to their advantage.

It is linked to the development of brain regions that allow “executive functioning” and use higher order thinking and reasoning.

Dr Lee and his team tested 1,200 children aged two to 16 years old.

A majority of the volunteers told lies but it is the children with better cognitive abilities who can tell the best lies.

At the age of two, 20 per cent of children will lie. This rises to 50 per cent by three and almost 90 per cent at four. The most deceitful age, they discovered, was 12, when almost every child tells lies.

The tendency starts to fall away by the age of 16, when it is 70 per cent.

As adulthood approaches, young people learn instead to use the less harmful “white lies” that everyone tells to avoid hurting people’s feelings.

Researchers say there is no link between telling fibs in childhood and any tendency to cheat in exams or to become a fraudster later in life.

Nor does strict parenting or a religious upbringing have any impact.

Dr Lee said that catching your children lying was not a bad hing but should be exploited as a ” “teachable moment”.

“You shouldn’t smack or scream at your child but you should talk about the importance of honesty and the negativity of lying,” he told the Sunday Times.

“After the age of eight the opportunities are going to be very rare.”

The research team invited younger children — one at a time — to sit in a room with hidden cameras. A soft toy was placed behind them.

When the researcher briefly left the room, the children were told not to look. In nine out of 10 cases cameras caught them peeking.

But when asked if they had looked, they almost always said no. They tripped themselves up when asked what they thought the toy might be.

One little girl asked to place her hand underneath a blanket that was over the toy before she answered the question. After feeling the toy but not seeing it, she said: “It feels purple so it must be Barney.”

Dr Lee, who caught his son Nathan, three, looking at the toy, said: “We even had cameras trained on their knees because we thought their legs would fidget if they were telling a lie, but it isn’t true.”

Older children were set a test paper but were told they must not look at the answers printed on the back.

Some of the questions were easy, such as who lives in the White House. But the children who looked at the back gave the printed answer “Presidius Akeman” to the bogus question “Who discovered Tunisia?”

When asked how they knew this, some said they learnt it in a history class.

Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth

New York Times

May 3, 2007

Escape from the Gender Ghetto


The very same morning that I began to read the new essay collection: “One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers,” which examines the role of women in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and in other instances of American military abuse, I came upon a man out for a walk with his baby daughter. He was wearing shorts; she was in a sunsuit. He wore a hat; she wore a bonnet. He carried her in a BabyBjörn-like-thing on his chest, and as he reached down for a moment to hike up her bottom (reassuring himself, I imagine, that she was still hanging in there), he looked so blissfully happy, so beatific, in fact, that I had to give him a smile.

He smiled back – the somewhat sheepish grin of someone caught in a moment of guilty pleasure – and I thought, what a blessing it is for this man to be able to be a father today.

In the foreword to “One of the Guys” progressive icon Barbara Ehrenreich writes about how seeing the now-infamous Abu Ghraib photographs “broke [her] heart.” The sight of Lynndie England, with a naked Iraqi man on a leash, and Specialist Sabrina Harman, “smiling an impish little smile and giving the thumbs-up sign from behind a pile of hooded, naked Iraqi men,” she writes, shattered her “illusions about women.” While she “never believed that women were innately gentler and less aggressive than men,” she says, she did believe that “women were morally superior to men,” due in part to the fact that “women do most of the caring work in our culture.” The presence of women in our armed forces, she had hoped, “would over time change the military, making it more respectful of other people and cultures, more capable of genuine peacekeeping.” (The essay was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.)

How odd, I thought, reading this.
Continue reading