Monday, November 28, 2005


If it's going to costs bosses millions just because of normal sexual responses and differences between employees, who would want to hire the whiners?

Your boss pats you on the bottom and a male colleague remarks on your breasts. An after-work drink is followed by a series of lewd text messages and, at a male-dominated meeting, jokes are made about explicit email images. For hundreds of Australian women each year, this kind of unwanted sexual attention is just part of the daily grind. Thousands more encounter a far subtler form of sexual discrimination - structural inequity in workplaces where men in dark suits still dominate.

In the past two years, in Britain and the United States, banking leaders and international law firms have been forced to pay millions of dollars to women workers treated differently because of their gender. In Sydney, a $10 million landmark sexual discrimination case due before the Federal Court in February for the first time alleges that a culture of systematic discrimination exists at the nation's largest accounting firm. Senior PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Christina Rich claims she was sexually harassed by several partners at the firm, and that her career and those of other women were stymied by a "culture of discrimination, bullying and harassment". The 41-year-old also says partners discouraged her from speaking out and victimised her when she made a formal complaint. Rich says she was labelled "scatty", "emotional" and "high maintenance" by a senior partner.

It may well be years before the case concludes, but it has prompted predictions that a flurry of lawsuits will ensue from senior women fed up with hitting their heads on the glass ceiling. University of Sydney academic Associate Professor Catharine Lumby believes that by demanding financial compensation for discrimination, women are finally talking the sharemarket's language.

"Money is what will make people listen," Lumby says. "It's not as simple as a whole lot of men walking around saying 'we hate women'. It's that the worlds of work and private lives are still absolutely separate and for many women that means that issues that matter to them, such as child care, are deemed irrelevant." That sexual discrimination still thrives is because women are seen as "sexual beings", Lumby says.

More here


Last January, media outlets reported that cancer had overtaken heart disease as the number one killer in the United States. Sounds scary, no? Fear not. As is usually the case, beyond the scary headline, deep into the copy, came the real story. Both diseases are in steady decline. Cancer rates and deaths from cancer have fallen every year since the early 1990s. The thing is, incidence and mortality rates of heat disease and stroke have fallen even more over the same period (25 percent since 1990). So while it's true that cancer has "overtaken" heart disease, that's really not the story. The story is that both are in decline, heart disease remarkably so.

Late last February, another health story hit the wires: Americans are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy is up across the board, among both genders and all ethnicities. The gaps in life expectancy between men and women and between black and white are shrinking, too.

At the same time all of this good news has transpired, the number of Americans classified as "obese" and "overweight" has been on a steadily upward trajectory since about the mid-1970s. In 1985, 8 states reported that at least 10% of their populations were obese. By 1990, the number rose to 33. By 2001, it was all fifty.

Of course, as you might expect, the scariest numbers about the condition of America's waistline are overblown - there are significant problems with the way the government measures obesity, which I'll discuss in a moment. But most researchers agree that the average American is carrying 10-15 more pounds than he was thirty years ago.

If you believe media, nutrition activists, and public officials, those extra 10-15 pounds portend a looming healthcare catastrophe. U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, for example, said in 2004 that childhood obesity is "every bit as threatening to us as the terrorist threat." A congressionally commissioned report from the Institute of Medicine published in the fall of 2004 called for massive government intervention to stave off the crisis. One author said we need "nothing short of a revolution." The World Health Organization warned "If immediate action is not taken, millions will suffer from an array of serious health disorders."

But if we've been getting fatter for 30 years, shouldn't we be seeing at least the front end of this coming crisis? Why are we getting healthier? In fact, a closer look at the statistics suggests that even some of the diseases most associated with obesity are in retreat.

Take cancer, for example. In 2002, the BBC reported researchers had found that "the more excess weight a person carries, the greater their risk of certain types of cancer." In 2004, USA Today echoed that claim. "The nation's current epidemic of overweight and obesity is likely to drive up cancer rates in coming years," the paper wrote. The Associated Press wrote that, "heart disease and diabetes get all the attention, but expanding waistlines increase the risk for at least nine types of cancer, too" (other sources put it at ten).

But of the ten types of cancer commonly associated with obesity, deaths from nine - pancreatic, ovarian, gall bladder, stomach, prostate, kidney, colal-rectal, cervical-uteran, and breast - have decreased since 1992, some of them significantly. Only one - pancreatic cancer - has seen an increase in mortality rates over that period.

And heart disease? Case Western Reserve University researcher and obesity skeptic Paul Ernsberger notes that "The greatest improvements are in cardiovascular disease deaths, which are most strongly linked to obesity."

As noted, the gap in life expectancy between black and white is shrinking. But at the same time, blacks as a group have put on more weight than whites......

America is at war with obesity. We could eventually come to find, however, that this war's origins are dubious as the sinking of the Maine. None of this is to say extreme or morbid obesity is healthy, or even benign (though again, there seems to be some modest protective effects to carrying some excess weight). The decline in incidence and deaths from heart disease and cancer are almost certainly due to advances in medical research and technology. We're getting better at uncovering these diseases early, and with pharmaceutical marvels like Statin drugs and chemotherapy, we're making huge leaps in treatment once we've diagnosed them. And it's of course likely that the gains we've made would be even more significant were the most obese among us a bit more svelte.

But the notion that our expanding waistlines have put us on the verge of a calamitous offensive against our health care system simply isn't borne out by the evidence. And so these incessant calls for immediate, large-scale government interference in how we grow, process, manufacture, market, prepare, sell, and eat our food ring hollow, hyperbolic, and needlessly invasive....

The bizarre thing about the obesity debate is that less than a decade ago, the very thought of it was often discussed only in parody, or in a reductio ad absurdum context. Opponents of the tobacco lawsuits often invoked the idea of trial lawyers suing fast food restaurants as one example of the "parade of horribles" that might follow should the tobacco suits be allowed to go forward.

Well, we're here now. This is post-reductio America. If the anti-obesity proposals currently up for debate become law, it's difficult to come up with any aspect of our lives that's out of the reach of the public health activists. Or, as one advocacy group that represents the food industry has put it, the question will no longer be "what's next?"...but "what's left?"

Much more here


The latest in the civilized world's need to right old wrongs is the country of Turkey's objection to the use of the name turkey to describe a rather intellectually challenged bird with a snood. "It casts us in an unflattering light, offends our ancestors and we are not getting any royalties!" they stated fictitiously.

The objection is ironic considering they were embroiled in a similar argument with the foot stool industry when they started calling themselves The Ottoman Empire. The self-appointed quasi Federal Politically Correct Commission, (FPCC) is forcing the U.S. Turkey Taxonomic Team (TTT) to rename their beloved beast.

In response the team submitted the general sounding Big White Bird, but were immediately attacked by Sesame Street for copyright infringement and by the Color Discrimination League (CDL). The CDL is objecting to the use of colors for names, as insensitive to the Colorless. No longer can we paint the town beige, sing the blues or name citrus fruits after colors. Songs like Yellow Submarine, Red River Valley and Green Sleeves must be re-recorded as The Opaque Submarine, The Muddy River Valley and The Grass-Stained Sleeves. I personally have been asked to change my name to Baxter Dark.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, the FDCC continues to put pressure on the TTT.

TTT proffered the idea of using outdated or extinct names, thinking they would gain sympathy by recycling words. The Dodo, Ivory Billed Woodpecker, Pterodactyl and Tyrannosaurus Bigfoot were put up, then rejected. Moses, Mohammad, Billy Graham and NFL Football also got a thumbs down because of issues regarding separation of church and state.

Maybe, they thought, we could name the bird after an unsympathetic character that even the most sensitive PC commissioner could not help but enjoy demeaning: Hitler, Charles Manson, Newt Gingrich, or Sen. Edward Kennedy. But the ACLU objected to all except Newt Gingrich. Alas, the name `newt' was already taken by a hairless lizard!

Submissions were received by the TTT from its members; The Flightless Bird, The Feathered Stump, The Walking Wishbone, The Gobbling Dunce, The Winged Zucchini, The Pilgrim's Gizzard on a Stick.

Finally, since no new name for the turkey had been deemed politically correct, talks were held with the United Nations Fresh Poultry Committee to see if the Turkish ambassador could convince his country to change its name.

Willie Nelson and Ross Perot served as negotiators and an agreement was reached in what will forever be known as the Turkey Texas Accords. The Snooded National symbol of Thanksgiving will still be called the turkey. And the big country, America's ally in Asia Minor, will now go by the name of Hank and become the 52nd state of the Union, right after Israel.


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