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Ontario court grants same-sex divorce

An Ontario Superior Court judge has taken the novel step of granting a divorce to a same-sex couple over legal objections from the federal Crown. Madam Justice Ruth Mesbur ruled that same-sex civil partnerships from foreign countries that don't permit same-sex marriages can nonetheless qualify as marriages under Canadian law. […] Robert Leckey, a professor of family law at McGill University and president of Egale Canada, said he found the federal position to be disturbing.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Warm weather forcing rink operators to think artificial

An extended January thaw in parts of Quebec and Ontario has put a major dent in the outdoor hockey season. But an increasing number of municipalities, responding to fluctuating temperatures, are now using artificial refrigeration to keep their skating rinks frozen through the winter months. […] A study released last March said that outdoor hockey is being threatened by climate change. The study, co-authored by a McGill University professor Lawrence Mysak, said that ice rinks were opening later over and closing earlier in the year.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Some doctors have done more than just providing care

(Chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz): “I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug, nor give advice which may cause his death … ” That passage comes from the Hippocratic oath, by which physicians promise to practise medicine ethically and honestly. Not all abide by the oath, but doctors who wilfully harm their patients are rare. The ultimate harm, of course, is murder. It is a crime for which Dr. Harold Shipman paid with his life, and for which Dr.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Muslim thought on evolution takes a step forward

A high-quality debate of a sensitive topic did not disappoint, as all panellists bar one accepted the scientific consensus. An imam of an east London mosque, Usama Hasan, received a death threat for arguing in support of human evolution two years ago. On Saturday, London played host to a riveting intrafaith dialogue on Islam's stance on the theory of evolution.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

In defense of the CEO

Chauffeur-driven limousines, millions in stock options, golden parachutes. It's no wonder bosses' pay and perks can rankle. Here's why the best ones are worth it. … Let's start with the basics: how chief executives spend their time. Among the first researchers to give us a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the CEO was management guru Henry Mintzberg, who followed a handful of business leaders for his Ph.D. thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management over four decades ago. He discovered that, first and foremost, CEOs go to meetings.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Multiple choice exam theory

(Guest post by Jonathan Sterne, an associate professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill): "Every summer, before I assemble my fall courses, I read a book on pedagogy. Last summer’s choice is Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It (except I read it in the spring). Those who are familiar with critiques of mainstream educational practice will find many familiar arguments, but Now You See It crucially connects them with US educational policy.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

China faces a neurotic future

(REPAP Chair of Economics Reuven Brenner): Ten years ago, I wrote about the possible consequences of China's one child policy (published in Asia Times Online, Financial Times, and Singapore Times). All of it seems to have held the test of times - and recent evidence strengthens the points raised then:  What can be the point of reference to predict consequences of China's current childbearing pattern, adjusted over the last decades to one-kid or you're-out-of-your-apartment policy?

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Dying with dignity: opinions vary

Quebecers afflicted with an intolerable terminal illness may soon be able to seek the help of a doctor to end their suffering. A panel of legal experts has recommended that the provincial government allow what it is calling “medical assistance to die” in rare cases where a patient is close to death, but unable to endure the physical or psychological pain. But not everyone agrees with the panel’s controversial findings, which were announced in Quebec City on Tuesday. […] Canada’s father of palliative care, Dr.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Scientist at work: Russian comforts on Antarctic ice

(Michael Becker, a doctoral student at McGill University, was a scientific diver on an expedition to Lake Untersee, Antarctica, this is part two in a series of blog posts for the NYT): Fieldwork in the polar latitudes is often 50 percent science and 50 percent logistics. When the weather goes bad the science drops quickly to zero. That’s the position we found ourselves in as we waited to depart our transit town of Cape Town, South Africa.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Phosphorus footprint shifting dietary habits

Increased use of phosphorus in food products since the 1960s is now putting pressure on the sustainable supply of the essential mineral, warn researchers. Between 1961 and 2007, rising meat consumption and total calorie intake resulted in a 38 percent increase in the world's per capita "phosphorus footprint", according to a research by Canada's McGill University.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Who needs drugs when you've got music?

It happened again last Saturday. And boy, when it hit me it felt great — though it left me a little shaken. … Time to call Daniel Levitin for some answers. He's the guy who wrote a fascinating book called This is Your Brain on Music. The McGill University professor confirmed that I'm far from alone in experiencing these very strong reactions to music. And it seems my analogy to drugs wasn't far off. "It's not surprising that we have these intense reactions to the environment and that they can be said to be similar to drug states," Levitin told me. "They are drug states.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Blood pressure and painkiller mix cause kidney problems

People who take a combination of blood pressure drugs and certain painkillers are at increased risk for serious kidney problems that doctors should watch for, Canadian researchers say. People who are prescribed a combination of blood pressure medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are often at high risk of kidney injury, which is associated with about half of potentially preventable deaths in hospital.

Published: 11 Jan 2013

Why hackers are so much funnier than you are

The popular stereotype is that hardcore techies are, well, humor-challenged. But software hackers are another matter. Despite his inability to keep a straight face when a reporter calls asking about supreme moral vigilance in the programming world, Bob Nystrom is living proof that hackers thrive on humor in ways other techies rarely do... You’ll hear much the same thing from Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who spent three years living with hardcore software hackers and recently documented the experience in a book called Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking.

Published: 11 Jan 2013

Muslims engage in quest to understand evolution

More than 850 delegates flocked to a seminal conference in London on Saturday about the compatibility of modern evolutionary theory and Islamic theology – despite scaremongering and the refusal of Islamic student societies to participate. Determined organisers had overcome pressure to cancel by changing the venue from Imperial College to Logan Hall at the University of London. The event was the brainchild of the Deen Institute, which runs courses to promote critical thinking among Muslim students and kindle rational dialogue within Islam.

Published: 11 Jan 2013

Accessible learning for students with disabilities

McGill University takes the lead implementing Universal Design… As a McGill University student with a learning disability, Cedric Yarish hates when professors rely on “chalk and talk.” What helps him with his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is when professors engage students in discussion, present their material in a variety of interesting ways and provide options for student evaluation, such as a choice between exams or papers or other types of multimedia projects.

Published: 10 Jan 2013