Olympic flame war comes to campus

As the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games approach, some dissenters are less than enthused that China is playing host. In response, protestors have embarked upon the Human Rights Torch Relay.

Organized by the Global Human Rights Relay, an organization formed to oppose and publicize the abuse of Falun Gong members by the Chinese government, the HRTR is designed to mirror the ceremonial Olympic torch carrying ceremony.

The HRTR will stop in 150 cities, including Toronto in May. At 1 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 28, GHRR will stage a meeting in front of the Chinese Consulate on St. George St. From there, participants will walk to Yonge-Dundas Square for a concert and a film screening at 7 p.m.

Organizers said the event is meant to hinder what they called the Chinese Communist Party goal of legitimizing their governance through the Olympic Games. Featured guests are to include former Olympic athletes.

“It’s not a political campaign, the focus is really on human rights,” insisted U of T student Pierre-Arnaud Barry-Camu, a Falun Gong practitioner and HRTR organizer.

Barry-Camu said HRTR’s methods, such as a boycotting, were to similar actions taken by some countries during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He added that the “core values of the Olympics” are at odds with the CCP.

Active with Falun Gong at U of T, Barry-Camu began practicing in 2001. He expressed hope that the international relay will be able to sufficiently push the regime towards changing some of its policies towards Falun Gong.

While the Human Rights Torch Relay focuses on persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, organizers have announced their wish to shed light on the issues facing Chinese ethnic minorities, religious groups and pro-democracy organizations who have claimed ill-treatment at the hands of Chinese authorities. The Chinese government has continually rejected the merit of such claims.

In regards to Falun Gong, the Toronto-based Chinese Consulate- General has given an official statement that declares Falun Gong detrimental to Chinese society and accuses it of pushing such ideas as ritualistic suicide and rejecting doctors and medical treatment. The statement contends that the CCP had no choice but to ban the group nationwide.

Cold Relief

Men’s hockey (1-3) has had a less-than-stellar opening season. After dropping their first three games to Guelph, Brock, and York, the Blues hoped to get on the right track against University of Ontario Institute of Technology this past Friday at Varsity Arena. Led by Mark Heatley with two goals and an assist, the Blues downed UOIT 3-1.

While the sluggish opening games may be worrisome after an OUA semifinal berth last year, coach Darren Lowe said that the slow start is caused more by team inconsistency than a lack of chemistry or experience.

“We have a lot of young players and two first-year goalies. We’ve blown a 2-0 lead and we completely outplayed York on Wednesday but just couldn’t score. Tonight we played well, which was something we haven’t been able to do for a full sixty minutes. “These guys have a lot of pride. We lost our first three but they are a resilient group and they didn’t fold in the tent. I hope this gets us rolling,” said Lowe.

The Blues played well from the start on Friday, as Heatley scored shorthanded 2:29 into the first period, setting the tempo for a strong Blues performance that put up a season-high 41 shots on net.

Heatley netted his second goal of the night on a Blues power play, going five-hole on a two-on-one after a neutral zone feed from defenseman Brendan Sherrard.

Though the Blues only got one power play goal, they moved the puck well to the points and behind the net, keeping possession mostly in the UOIT zone.

“Our first unit is all players from last year so they are familiar with each other. The only new guy, you can say, is [Eddie] Snetzinger who is replacing Robichaud,” said coach Lowe. “We would like our second unit to get up to speed though. In the end you just got to get the puck in the net.”

Anthony Pallotta scored with 35 seconds left in the second on a onetimer pass from Heatley, who made a backhand pass from the right corner. Pallotta received the pass in the slot and went high glove side, giving the Blues a 3-0 lead going into the second intermission.

The Blues showed signs of a dominant offensive team with good puck control and pressure, but their supremacy didn’t last for the full sixty minutes. The team showed lapses, mainly on the breakout, which was sloppy at times and caused poor giveaways in the neutral zone .

Regardless, goaltender Andrew Martin picked up the victory with a strong outing, stopping 29 of 30 UOIT shots. The only way to score on Martin, it seemed, was to run him over—which Ridgebacks’ Brent Connolly did, halfway through the third on a loose puck in the Blues crease.

“Martin played sharp tonight. He’s really starting to get used to the style and level of play,” Lowe said. “We know that UOIT is a physical team and I didn’t have a problem with the crashing of the net,” Lowe added. “That’s something coaches want to see. That’s what I want our guys to do.”

The Blues look to gain some ground at their next two home games, against Queen’s on Oct. 26 and Royal Military College on Oct. 27.

Talking Heads

Clockwise from top-left

Anne-Marie, 3rd-year Life Sci: No! I’ve seen three
girls almost get hit on Spadina. Drivers need to
respect cyclists!

Jasmine, 3rd-year Religion: Keep alert and you’ll
be fine. If all else fails, a good glare at stupid
drivers will do the trick. Scare them a little.

Sam, 1st-year Probably English: Cyclists are fine.
Driving around here is more dangerous than cycling.

Tobi, 4th-year Art History: There need to be more bike
lanes, especially east-west and around Queen’s Park!

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Book Review: Paula Spencer

Paula Spencer is trying as hard as she can. She just turned forty-eight and she hasn’t had a drink in months. Her relationship with her family is strained, but she wants to fix that.

In Paula Spencer, Roddy Doyle returns to the protagonist of The Woman Who Walked into Doors. In the earlier book, Paula was coping with a horribly abusive husband by drinking heavily. Doyle’s newest novel resumes Paula’s story ten years after her husband’s death.

Set in present-day Dublin, the story follows Paula’s attempt to stop drinking and reinvent herself. As she explains it, she’s “a new-old woman, learning how to live.” With the money she makes cleaning offices, Paula opens her first bank account. She discovers cell phones and the internet. She tries to look at ease when drinking a latté in a trendy café. Paula’s battles may look small, but it’s clear how important they are to her.

As Paula grows increasingly clear-headed, she discovers that other problems are just beginning. She hasn’t been a good mother to her four children, and she tries desperately to prevent them from making the same mistakes she made. Although her son has recovered from his heroin addiction, her younger daughter, Leanne, is well on her way to becoming an alcoholic. The scene in which Paula confronts Leanne about her drinking is one of the most emotionally gripping in the book. Paula also tries to patch up her relationship with her two sisters, which was damaged by Paula’s years of drinking.

Paula Spencer is written in Doyle’s characteristically staccato sentences, with large sections made up almost entirely of dialogue. The dialogue is witty, engaging, and wholly believable. Doyle gives us insight into Paula’s conflicted thoughts—she’s torn between love and hatred for her dead husband, and between the desire to stay sober and the craving for drink. Paula’s mistakes and inconsistencies make her a truly believable and likable character. Though the subject matter is painful at times, Paula Spencer is an engrossing novel that leaves the reader with a sense of optimism and quiet triumph.

Harper choosing pandering over policy

The notion that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar seems to have informed Stephen Harper’s latest masterplan for trapping Canadian voters. The plan’s goal, according to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, is to increase the party’s links with religious and ethnic minorities in Canada through an “ethnic outreach team,” which will presumably be supplying the honey.

The fly-honey analogy is particularly fitting to Harper’s attempt at reaching out to “ethnic voters.” The prime minister’s team sent out “happy new year” greeting cards to the Thornhill Jewish community for Rosh Hashanah, the holiday in which apples dipped in honey symbolize the sweetness of the coming year. This tactic is in line with the team’s strategy, which consists of targeted, one-on-one meetings at “major ethnic events,” and the creation of a large database of new Canadians.

But as any child knows, too many sweets can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, and the same is true of Harper’s ethnic outreach campaign, for two reasons. First, because it is inherently discriminatory, and second, because it distracts voters from core issues by appealing to their feelings.

One obvious problem with the campaign is that it is inherently discriminatory. The fact that there is a subcommittee aimed specifically at the “ethnics” in Canadian society betrays the Conservative Party’s belief that there are Canadians and then there are “ethnic Canadians,” suggesting that Jews and other minorities have not really integrated into the country, which is far from the case.

Furthermore, by appealing to the specific needs of a minority group rather than the collective needs of the country, the ethnic outreach campaign ignores the federal government’s reason for existence: the betterment of society at large. Any strategies it carries out ought not to address specific demographics but rather the collective citizenry.

The second major problem with the campaign is that it distracts voters from the core issues by appealing to their feelings. The significance of this problem has been evident since the earliest political societies. In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates says that pastries seem to do the work of medicine but do not make us healthy, and cosmetics seems to do the work of exercise but does not make us fit; so political sophistry seems to do the work of legislation but does not make society just. Should our prime minister be trying to woo voters with holiday cards, or with convincing policies?

Harper is appealing to people’s emotions and flattering them by targeting their cultural identities, but is not telling voters anything useful. He’s not helping them make decisions about which party would make better leaders.

Politics ought to be about engaged critical debate surrounding the core issues, not about whether the politician in power or running makes you feel good about yourself.

Fortunately, Canadians are smarter than Harper thinks. Likely few will be swayed by his ridiculous political games, and most citizens will pay attention to something more substantial, like how he governs.

Path to AIDS misery begins long before infection

The notion that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar seems to have informed Stephen Harper’s latest masterplan for trapping Canadian voters. The plan’s goal, according to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, is to increase the party’s links with religious and ethnic minorities in Canada through an “ethnic outreach team,” which will presumably be supplying the honey.

The fly-honey analogy is particularly fitting to Harper’s attempt at reaching out to “ethnic voters.” The prime minister’s team sent out “happy new year” greeting cards to the Thornhill Jewish community for Rosh Hashanah, the holiday in which apples dipped in honey symbolize the sweetness of the coming year. This tactic is in line with the team’s strategy, which consists of targeted, one-on-one meetings at “major ethnic events,” and the creation of a large database of new Canadians.

But as any child knows, too many sweets can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, and the same is true of Harper’s ethnic outreach campaign, for two reasons. First, because it is inherently discriminatory, and second, because it distracts voters from core issues by appealing to their feelings.

One obvious problem with the campaign is that it is inherently discriminatory. The fact that there is a subcommittee aimed specifically at the “ethnics” in Canadian society betrays the Conservative Party’s belief that there are Canadians and then there are “ethnic Canadians,” suggesting that Jews and other minorities have not really integrated into the country, which is far from the case.

Furthermore, by appealing to the specific needs of a minority group rather than the collective needs of the country, the ethnic outreach campaign ignores the federal government’s reason for existence: the betterment of society at large. Any strategies it carries out ought not to address specific demographics but rather the collective citizenry.

The second major problem with the campaign is that it distracts voters from the core issues by appealing to their feelings. The significance of this problem has been evident since the earliest political societies. In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates says that pastries seem to do the work of medicine but do not make us healthy, and cosmetics seems to do the work of exercise but does not make us fit; so political sophistry seems to do the work of legislation but does not make society just. Should our prime minister be trying to woo voters with holiday cards, or with convincing policies?

Harper is appealing to people’s emotions and flattering them by targeting their cultural identities, but is not telling voters anything useful. He’s not helping them make decisions about which party would make better leaders.

Politics ought to be about engaged critical debate surrounding the core issues, not about whether the politician in power or running makes you feel good about yourself.

Fortunately, Canadians are smarter than Harper thinks. Likely few will be swayed by his ridiculous political games, and most citizens will pay attention to something more substantial, like how he governs.

Street racers can’t outrun bad luck forever

My grip on the steering wheel tightened. As I slammed down on the accelerator, my brother asked me “What’s going on over there?” A moment earlier, I had noticed the group of people down the road and how their cars were parked. I knew I had better get my little brother the hell out of there.

I’ve known guys who street race. Not all of them were arrogant or cocky, they just knew they wanted to go fast and thought they would be good at it. And so they went fast.

Most times, street racing isn’t like what you see in The Fast and the Furious. It’s just a bunch of friends who dare each other to do something they know could be dangerous if they’re unlucky, but really fun otherwise. They find an empty stretch of road, usually a highway at two a.m., set up their cars, and gun the engine. The guys I know never got into any serious accidents, but I remember times in senior year where they spent a month or two without a car because they got “a few dents.”

Back in Costa Rica, whenever I noticed street racing going on nearby, I did my best to get out of the area as fast as possible, especially if things hadn’t started yet. I got out of there because many times when they’re excited, street racers will notice other cars near them and think that maybe these people want to race too, and they challenge you. Some of the crazier ones don’t like it when you say no. So I tried to avoid the situation completely. The best tactic when they came up behind, weaving in and out of traffic, was to maintain speed and not change lanes.

Some people say that there’s nothing wrong with racing when no one else is on the road, especially if it’s a drag race. This is like saying a flame is beautiful, but a large fire would be even more stunning. Then you burn the house down and you’re fucked. So I never raced, and did my best not to expose my little brother to it.

Most street racers are good guys, with a good sense of humour. Lots of times they are good at sports, they are easy to like, and they are leaders among their group of friends. A street racer is the guy or girl you trust because they’ve gotten you out of shit before, or because you’ve done something crazy and fun with them and gotten away with it. But the thing is, when you do something daring and fast-paced, luck likes to have her say. And the thing with luck is it tends to be unfair. So when it comes down to something really important—like people’s lives—I wouldn’t put much faith in it.

Depression and the Blue Sky Project

Some argue depression is a necessary evil, a critical counterpoint to that often-elusive state of happiness. Carl Jung said it best: “The word ‘happy’ would lose meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” But how much sadness is too much sadness?

Blue skies up ahead

A new study on depression hopes to tackle the difficult and multi-faceted problem of depression. According to the Blue Sky Project—led by doctors Kate Harkness, of Queen’s University, and Michael Bagby, director of clinical research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto—much of the major research focuses primarily on people well into their adulthoods who have experienced several depressive episodes. The Blue Sky Project, by contrast, studies adolescents and young adults between the ages of 18 and 29, with the belief that depression’s causes can be addressed if discovered at first onset, and potential recurrences can be avoided.

Dr. Harkness explained the nature of depression: “60 to 90 per cent of people who experience their first episode of depression in young adulthood will go on to suffer more episodes. So, depression really is a recurrent disorder.” This recurrent nature often leads to a host of problems later in an individual’s life, underachieving in school and work compared to depression- free people. Depression-prone individuals also tend to have more physical health problems later in life, and those with recurring episodes tend to die at a much earlier age.

People within the 18 to 29 age range are just as likely to experience their first depressive episode as they are to not receive treatment of any kind. University students are particularly vulnerable, because of the number of stressors that they are prone to. For students, especially those in their first year, the adjustment to university life—leaving home for the first time, living in residence , and being under more academic pressure than ever before—can be traumatic. Dr. Bagby explained: “Just learning how to balance class work and social life is very new for them at the university setting, and living away from home, that is a combination that makes it very stressful.” At home, students are more likely to be surrounded by a familiar social support system to help them get through a significant event like a break-up. Leaving that behind makes a university student more vulnerable, as they have to deal with emotional issues on their own.

Diagnosing depression

As with most mental disorders, it can be tricky to nail down a diagnosis for depression. The Blue Sky Project has created a list of subjective statements—including “I used to be happy,” “I don’t have fun seeing my friends,” “I’m not getting anything done,” and “I just don’t feel like myself anymore”—that sound generic, but can be key to diagnosis if experienced for a prolonged period of time. It is normal to have periods of minor depression in response to stresses, such as after doing poorly on a difficult test. One red flag that doctors look for is if this distress becomes debilitating to the point that it starts affecting concentration and memory, at which point it can easily start negatively affecting other facets of life, like academic performance.

Environment versus genetics

The two risk factors examined with depression amongst young adults are genetic vulnerability and major stressful events.

Depression is known to have a genetic component, which the study is investigating via a particular gene in the serotonin system, responsible for the regulation of emotions. Harkness and Bagby expect that people with a genetic variant will not experience as much stress—whether originating early or late in life—compared to those without the genetic vulnerability to induce the onset of depression. Individuals not genetically vulnerable are more likely to cope with stress since they have more psychological resources at their disposal. “These people are the lucky ones who are born with the resilient genetic profile,” said Harkness.

But being born with faulty genes does not necessarily mean you are doomed to gloom. In terms of environmental stressors, some people are lucky to be born into less stressful conditions. Conversely, people who have a lot of stress in their lives or have experienced trauma can get psychologically worn down even if they have a stronger genetic makeup. There are a variety of approaches in treating depression, ranging from psychotherapy to cognitive behaviour therapy to medication. After extensive screening, the Blue Sky Project administers an antidepressant that increases serotonin levels, thereby increasing pleasurable moods. This is ideal for participants who are experiencing their first episode of depression. This treatment works quicker than cognitive behavioural therapy in improving concentration and memory, which is beneficial to students who are experiencing trouble in school.

The cost of sadness

Depression is predicted to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. Harkness hopes the project will raise awareness about the cost of early-onset depression.

“In Canada we spend about $16 billion a year on depression in costs of direct treatment and indirect costs through loss of productivity. Most of this cost is borne by people with recurrent chronic depression. So, again, if we can figure out how depression occurs early on, we can help to intervene, which will save all of us a lot of heartache and money,” said Harkness.

Understanding what causes depression’s onset could help refine treatment, which is currently only 60 to 70 per cent effective. Harkness and Bagby believe that this number can be bettered with increased research on young adults through early detection, adequate provision of treatment, and prevention of future recurrences.

After that, nothing but blue skies

Blue Sky Project contact Information

Telephone: (416) 979 – 4294 E-mail: blueskyproject@camh.net Web site: www.blueskyproject.ca