Friday, July 31, 2009

Holocaust Shtick.

In what can only be described as bizarre, comedian Roseanne Barr and Heeb Magazine have created some controversy surrounding a recent interview and photo shoot.

In the shoot, Barr poses gleefully dressing as Adolf Hitler, complete with a swastika armband, pulling a tray of burnt “Jew Cookies” from an oven. Barr, a Jewish grandmother herself allegedly requested that she be dressed as the führer for the photos.

Barr went on the depart some additional pearls of wisdom:

…on politics The rich ain’t going anywhere. They are done with that Christian Right- type stuff—there’s no more money in it. They have become the Christian Left now.

…on vegans Vegans are all coke-sniffing, cigarette-smoking faux socialists who listen to music that has no melody at all, so fuck them.

Apparently Barr feels guilty about it though.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sexism: Olympics Style. Part Deux.

Last year I explored the International Olympic Committee’s exclusion of women's ski jumping for the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010. Not that there is anything new about sexism in the Olympics, but this case, and its recent conclusion demonstrates it in a way that is quite outrageous.

The story began in November 2006 when the International Olympic Committee rejected the inclusion of women's ski jumping for the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010. IOC President Jacques Rogge explained that only 80 women were competing in the sport and including it in the 2010 Games would dilute the value of medals won in other events.

Even though nearly all Olympic sports have both a men's and women's event, the Games position towards ski jumping was to let it be a male-only competition. The IOC explained that its decision not to include women's ski jumping at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games was based on technical merit and wasn't discriminatory.

However a coalition of international women ski jumpers disagreed and filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) last year challenging this decision arguing that their exclusion from the Vancouver Games violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "The failure to include women's ski jumping events in the Games violates every woman's right to equal benefit under the law," according to the documents filed in British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver.

VANOC argued that the IOC decides which sports are allowed in the Games and that the Charter doesn't apply to it.

In order to be considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games, the IOC said past world championships were one of several criteria used to determine which of several possible new events would be included in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"Events must have a recognized international standing both numerically and geographically, and have been included at least twice in world and continental championships," according to the statement, which was re-released by the IOC on Friday.

The statement said the decision not to include Curling Mixed Doubles and Women Ski Jumping in the 2010 Winter Games "was made as their development is still in the early stage thus lacking the international spread of participation and technical standard required for an event to be included in the programme."

But some say the IOC is using the technical merit justification as an excuse and that requirement was formally dropped by the IOC in 2007. They also pointed out that world championships for women's ski jumping were held this year in Liberec, Czech Republic.

Supporters of women's ski jumpers argue there are 135 women ski jumpers in 16 countries. This compares to other sports already in the Games like snowboard cross, which has 34 women from 10 countries, skier cross, which has 30 women from 11 nations, and bobsled, which has 26 women from 13 nations. They also argue that women's marathon was added to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles after a single world championship in 1983.

Of note, the Canadian Government fully supported the lawsuit and "would try to convince the IOC to include women's ski jumping at the Vancouver Games." David Emerson, Canada’s federal minister responsible for the 2010 Games, said it’s “extremely disappointing” women are not being allowed to ski jump at the Olympics.

“Ski jumping is an important sport and we’re investing a lot in jumping and training facilities in Canada and to not have women able to participate on the same basis as men, to me, I just don’t think it’s right.”

While members of the Canadian ski team were vocal in their dissent, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association took a more diplomatic tact. The association is the governing body for ski sports in the U.S., Tom Kelly, vice-president of communication, refused to say if he thought women were being discriminated against.

“We have great respect for the process the IOC has for bringing the sport into the Olympics. We were disappointed when the IOC made it’s decision (on 2010.) We are very optimistic for 2014. The first world championships will be held next year and that is a critical event in the growth of the sport. When we get to the world championships, and the world sees what these women can do, that is a great message to send to the IOC.”

Sadly though – the battle for female ski jumpers to compete in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver was lost.

In a ruling issued last week by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon expressed sympathy for the women, but said the court doesn't have the authority to force the IOC to include the sport in the 2010 Games.

In her reasons for judgment, Fenlon agreed with VANOC that the issue is an IOC responsibility. While she conceded that women are being discriminated against, the responsibility for eliminating that discrimination is the IOC's, not VANOC's, she wrote.

Fenlon also sided with VANOC in its argument that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply in this case. The IOC is not governed by the Charter nor does it fall under this court's jurisdiction, she wrote.

After the ruling, the IOC issued a statement:

"While we are pleased that the Games can now proceed as planned, we strongly disagree with the court's analysis that the IOC acted in a discriminatory manner."

It repeats the IOC's explanation for the decision not to include women's ski jumping in the 2010 Winter Games: "Our decision was based on technical issues, without regard to gender."

Those technical issues they included the number of women ski jumping at an elite level and the number of countries competing in the sport and restating that too few women and countries compete to justify Olympic competition.

Fenlon addressed that directly in her: "If the IOC had applied the criteria for admission of new events to both men's and women's ski jumping events," she wrote, "neither group would be competing in the 2010 Games."

As more succinctly, as 16 year-old ski jumper Zora Lynch says "It’s not about the competition between the sports. It’s about gender equality and that kind of stuff."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I wrote the original diary on this topic almost a year ago to the day and thought perhaps that it was a topic worthy of revisiting.

Every year, malnutrition kills five million children - that's one child every six seconds. Many do not get the milk, vitamins and minerals their developing bodies need. Furthermore, some mothers in these villages can't produce enough milk themselves and can't afford to buy it. Even if milk was available, its very difficult to store -- there’s no electricity, so no refrigeration. Powdered milk is useless because most don't have clean water.

But now, 'Doctors Without Borders' or 'Médecins Sans Frontières' believes that there is a product that can save millions of these children. And could possibly be the most important advance ever to cure and prevent malnutrition.


A ready-to-eat, vitamin-enriched paste - it's cheap, easy to make, and extremely easy to use. It is a simple formula: made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter and is very sweet, and because of that many of the children love it. Developed by a nutritionist, it does not need refrigeration, water, or cooking; it is simply squeezed out in a paste and thus many children can even feed themselves.

Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.

In Niger, West Africa, where child malnutrition is widespread, 'Doctors Without Borders' has been handing out Plumpy'nut. This was covered in a segment by 60 Minutes.

On a list of 177 developing countries, the United Nations ranked Niger dead last. More than 70% of the people are illiterate and earn less than a dollar a day. The average woman will give birth at least eight times in her life. But largely because of malnutrition, one in five of their children will die before they reach the age of five. Of those who survive, half will have stunted growth and never reach full adult height.

Niger has become Plumpy'nut's proving ground. A daily dose costs about $1; small factories mix it there and in three other African countries. In Niger, most children need help now during what’s called the "hunger season," just before the new harvest. Old food supplies have run out and about all that’s left is millet, a basic grain women pound for porridge. But millet doesn’t have enough nutrients to keep kids alive; in the western world it is used it as birdseed.

Dr. Susan Shepherd, a pediatrician who runs Doctors Without Borders in Niger, says children that would have been hospitalized in the past can now be treated at home. "The reason we can do that is because we can give children Plumpy'nut here in the ambulatory center, and they take a week’s ration home. Moms treat their children at home and come back every week for a weight check," Dr. Shepherd explained.

Children are weighed and measured at the distribution sites. They're also examined to make sure they don't have any serious infections. Malnutrition destroys a child's immune system, so they're more susceptible to diseases and less capable of recovering from them.

If Plumpy'nut is the answer, how come kids are still dying?

"The answer is getting to kids earlier," Shepherd says. "Once children are as sick as she is, Plumpy'nut is not gonna save her."

What about peanut allergies?

"We just don't see it. In developing countries food allergy is not nearly the problem that it is in industrialized countries."

Fortified ready-to-eat products, like Plumpy'nut, save children's lives. nutritional specialist for Médecins Sans Frontières, Dr. Milton Tectonidis says if the more countries were willing to spend part of their food aid on this, more companies will start making it.

"Even by taking a miniscule proportion of the global food aid budget, they will have a huge impact, huge impact!" Tectonidis says. "We're not even asking for billions. It will solve so much of the underlying useless death. So we gotta do that now."

"Wasted life. Just totally wasted life for nothing. Because they don't have this product, *a little bit of peanut butter with vitamins,"* Tectonidis says. "What a waste."

Médecins Sans Frontières is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hitler? He Got Things Done.

Yesterday Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One, in an interview with London's The Times newspaper, said that he preferred totalitarian regimes to democracies and praised Adolf Hitler for his ability to “get things done”

“In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done.

In the end he got lost, so he wasn’t a very good dictator because either he had all these things and knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it . . . so either way he wasn’t a dictator.” He also rounded on democracy, claiming that “it hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries — including this one [Britain]”.

Ecclestone later praised the concept of a government based on tyranny.

Politicians are too worried about elections,” he said. “We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban]. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing but we get involved in things we should leave alone.”

Ecclestone, who owns F1's commercial rights, is no stranger to controversial remarks. He once said women should dress in white "like all other domestic appliances." In The Times interview, Ecclestone claimed that had been a joke, adding "I would love to have a good lady race driver and preferably black and Jewish too, but they might take maternity leave."