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Doctoring the results: bias against female students unmasked

Many women in Japan have recently discovered what they suspected all along that their dream of becoming doctors was shattered by the decision of several prestigious medical schools across the country that rigged their entry exam papers. These were marked down to stop them from pursuing a career in the medical field and ensure that more men than women were enrolled. The scandal, first uncovered at the Tokyo Medical University, quickly extended to other medical schools.

Last week the school admitted that the practice has been customary for more than ten years. Tetsuo Yukioka, Director of Tokyo Medical University in a press conference stated “We deeply apologize for having inconvenienced and caused people pain with such a serious scandal […] Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that and any organization that fails to recognize women will grow weak. And we fail to contribute to society.” He also stated that he was not aware of the rigging and that he was never involved.

The news came to light during an investigation regarding the son of an education ministry official and how he was allegedly admitted in order for the school to obtain research funds. Both the bureaucrat and the former head of the school were charged with bribery. The revelations have generated such a wide echo around the world to prompt the education ministry to order an investigation at many medical schools across Japan. Following this outbreak, the Education Ministry asked many medical schools to provide six years-worth of data on the genders and ages of all applicants.

The Tokyo Medical University kept the female student population at 30 percent, due to concerns about female doctors’ leaving their career following pregnancy and to take care of their children. The message is clear: since women will eventually quit their jobs to start a family, there is no point bothering with education! Let’s let the men do the heavy lifting.

In Japan women are massively underrepresented in politics, certain professions including medicine, and as company executives, accounting for more than 40% of the workforce. According to a 2017 World Economic Forum survey, Japan ranked as 114th in a list of 144 countries for gender equality. The lack of female doctors positions Japan well behind other advanced countries. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2015 Japan had 21 percent of female doctors against the OECD average of 45 percent.

That Japanese companies are more likely to promote men than women was known; however, the malpractice carried nowadays by educational institutions of denying female applicants entry in one of the most advanced economies in the world carries a very powerful weight. When it comes to equal opportunities, some societies are way behind.

Interestingly enough, a Japanese Internet portal Joy.net conducted a survey of Japanese female doctors, asking for their opinion on Tokyo Medical University’s test score manipulation, and found their responses rather surprising as they expressed understanding as to why the score was rigged. In other words, if even women justify the reason behind the rigging, that demonstrates that acceptance of gender inequality is so deeply ingrained in the female psyche that women do not fully embrace the concept of being on par with men; or to put it bluntly they have come to accept dishonesty and discrimination.

Furthermore, if it is true that women are more likely to quit their jobs after they get married and have children, then it is time for their male counterparts to take their share of childrearing responsibilities and for the Japanese society to create a work environment where it’s easier for female doctors to return to the workforce after maternity leave. In other words, it is time to start a discussion nationwide about putting in place a gender balanced policy in all professions across the country.

From Toronto, New Year’s traditions from around the world

As we approach 2018, it’s time to think about all the positive things we have managed to accomplish in 2017 and how our lives will be different in the new year. Luck and prosperity are just a few of the things many people from around the world hope for. In keeping with this, many people have a few customs and traditions to help make the transition easier, and hopefully bring luck along the way. Here are some New Years customs and traditions from some countries around the world.

Brazil: jump seven waves 

NYE in Brazil is well celebrated and can feature spectacular firework displays all along the famous beaches in Rio. Many people find themselves hanging out by the beach and not just to watch the fireworks. Wave jumping is another tradition. If you jump over each wave while making your wish, this will increase your luck and bring you joy for the new year. If you want to increase your chances in love, make sure the first person you greet in the new year is someone special.

Turkey: wear red underwear

Wearing red underwear is common in many countries on NYE, especially those in Latin America. Many people head to the malls to buy themselves some red undergarments for their NYE celebrations. Wearing red panties guarantee passion and love for the new year ahead for many women. It is also common to wear yellow underwear to bring happiness and money. Perhaps aim for a red panty with yellow polka dots?

Spain- lucky grapes

There is a tradition, as well as a superstition, in Spain where people eat 12 grapes at midnight. These grapes are known as the lucky grapes and can be traced back to a custom in 1895 by grape growers. If you eat 12 grapes at midnight, each grape will represent the 12 months of the new year and the 12 wishes you are permitted. These 12 grapes must be consumed in the first 12 minutes of the new year. If you get a sour grape amongst the bunch this could mean a sour month in the year ahead. It is also common to find this tradition in the Philippines and other Spanish countries and communities.

Denmark- break plates

If you live in Denmark and you have a broken dish, don’t throw it out. Instead, smash the remains on NYE. This tradition is odd, yet serves as a sign for friendship in that country. After midnight, it’s not uncommon to find a pile of broken dishes on your doorstep, as this is a sign that someone values your friendship. Smash plates and other wares against your friend’s door as a sign of lasting friendship and love — just make sure it’s not glass.

Jamaica- clean your house

Similar to many other Caribbean islands, Jamaicans have a tradition of cleaning out their homes for Christmas and for the New Year. You clean out all the negativity and leave room for positive space in your life. People find the time to buy new decorative items for their homes and even repaint their houses. Many people around the world also take a broom on NYE and (literally) sweep all the negativity held throughout the year.

Japan- ring 108 bells

This may not be a personal requirement for the New Year in Japan, but many temples ring the bell 108 times at the stroke of midnight. Ringing the bell 108 times represents 108 worldly temptations a person must overcome in the Buddhist belief.

Italy- Pucker up

particularly in Venice, there is a custom of mass kissing that takes place at the stoke of midnight. As fireworks  light up the sky over St Marks Square, couples are encouraged to start smooching!  Many couples make this a romantic event. It’s not odd to kiss at midnight, as this is common in many cultures around the world, including here in Canada and in the united States. kissing someone at the stroke of midnight is meant to set the tone you wish to establish for the future with that person. It is about maintaining the bond. If you’re single and don’t have anyone to kiss, I say to kiss all your problems from 2017 goodbye.

Happy 2018!

Fun gift ideas for your kids this Christmas

I’m sure your holiday shopping list is already long enough, but have you started actually buying your holiday gifts yet? When it comes to the children in our lives, whether it’s your own kids, nephews, nieces or little cousins, the best gifts you can give them during the holidays is a sense of family and fun. But, they will still be looking out for gifts from Santa under that tree, so here are some toy ideas for the little ones in your life, or maybe for yourself because we are all kids at heart.

Colouring Books

So, colouring books have changed a lot since the 90s. Somehow, within the last year or so, colouring books became fun again, with many targeting adults as a stress reliever. With that being said, there are many options available for kids with beautiful illustrations. If your kids are into Harry Potter, consider getting them a Harry Potter Colouring book by Scholastic. This book also comes with many different options under the HP theme, including magical creatures and magical places. This book is recommended for ages 8-99 on the Scholastic website.

Personalized Bedtime Book

This one is definitely geared towards the younger kids. Give them the opportunity to get excited while seeing a character of themselves come to life in a version of their favourite bedtime story. Places like Me Bookz lets you choose your storyline, upload a picture of your child, add in details, and place your order for a hard copy version of your child’s story. You can also add an additional character to the story, just in case you want to add in your child’s favourite/ or annoying sibling. This gift is definitely something your child can hold onto and cherish even as they get older.

Chocolate Pen

If you have a little one that’s chocolate obsessed, why not give them the unique and yummy option of writing with a chocolate pen. This isn’t an actual pen made of chocolate, but a pen that dispenses liquid chocolate which hardens at room temperature. This opportunity allows your child to draw little 3-D versions of their treats before they eat them. This makes decorating cookies even easier and promotes creativity for your child. The Chocolate Pen also comes with different colours of chocolate, including white chocolate, pink and blue. The kit also comes with different candy moulds so your child can feel like a true master chocolatier.

PlayStation 4 Slim/ Nintendo Switch

If you have a child, or even a teenager that’s been after you to get the Playstation 4 , but you’re not willing to commit to the price, try going slimmer. The Playstation 4 Slim was released late last year and costs a fraction of the original Playstation 4. if you’re looking for the hottest option this year, price aside, the Nintendo Switch is generating a lot of positive buzz in the gaming world.

Hatchimals

This is an interesting one. I’ve seen it quite a lot of them while shopping around. The Hatchimals seems to be the latest craze for young kids, where children can watch and wait in anticipation as their new toy pet hatches out of an egg. This magical egg offers a thrilling surprise as your children learn about nurturing and love. Hatchimals even comes with a surprise twin option or various different critters that your child can watch grow.

Popin Cookin Kits

Unusual, cute and unique, these Popin Cookin kits by Kracie are popular in placed like Japan, where users of all ages are invited to craft miniature versions of food. I will admit, I have watched many You Tube videos on this trend and it’s quite fascinating. Your kids can craft miniature donuts, hamburgers, complete with fries and a soda or even sushi, pizza and ramen. These kits can be ordered on Amazon or maybe you can find one in a random grocery store in Little Italy like I did.

An Experience Coupon

This may be the most creative gift you give your child or children in your life. Think about their interests and take them on a fun outing for the holidays. Maybe it’s a trip to the spa to pamper your princess with her first manicure or a trip to the aquarium to delight them with creatures of the sea. Any memories made are worth more than a dozen presents.

Merry Christmas Shopping and let us know in the comments below what you plan to buy for your kids.

6 holiday traditions from different parts of the world

What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.

Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:

Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.

Norway

Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.

Venezuela

Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.

Italy

Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.

Czech Republic

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.

Ukraine

The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.

Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below

How do you feel about smart robots?

Ex- Machina, iRobot, and The Terminator are movies that all have one thing in common — robots. But not just any robot. We are talking about specifically designed computer software, or commonly known as artificial intelligence (AI), able to think, talk, and more importantly rise up and overpower us tiny humans.

Growing up and watching movies like The Terminator, spoiler alert, made me wonder if a robot uprising was possible in real life. Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger always came out on top, meaning there was nothing to worry about… right? These movies always instilled a sense of fear or uncertainty, but it also added to the fascination level, hence why is is such a popular genre. So, why is it increasingly nerve wrecking when you hear stories like popular social networking giant Facebook having to shut down their AI nicknamed Alice and Bob after they invented their own language and were communicating to each other in a way humans could not understand?

This sounds like the plot for the next popular television, but it’s a real thing! It’s interesting that we are constantly producing movies and shows that demonstrate this threat, and yet we are somehow obsessed with making this threat a reality.

When the iPhone 4s was released in 2011, it was the launch of Apple’s digital personal assistant, Siri. Those of you that know Siri may love her, or you may have her disabled in your settings, but one thing for sure is that we now all have access to virtual personal assistants that can schedule our appointments, set reminders, call friends, or even compose a message for us.

Siri is a voice recognition feature that will respond to the tone of your voice and she is often activated with a simple “Hey Siri”. She is pretty accurate in her response and can access a wide amount of information on the Internet, but at the end of the day, I always wonder if she will turn into a version of HER.

After All, Siri is based on a military designed program. The use of Artificial Intelligence systems are common in scientific and military designs. AI was originally created as a computer-based program that can solve problems in a creative manner.

Siri is not the only modern AI system that you may be familiar with. There is Alexa by Amazon Echo and Google Home by Google.  All these systems are able to meet our demands through voice activation, but soon will we expect them to do more? And where will that lead?

People, are often exposed to the friendlier robots, café serving robots, or even, Paro, the increasingly popular robotic harp seal. Paro is a therapy robot, designed to help patients with dementia by soothing and engaging them. The creator of Paro, Japanese scientist Takanori Shibata, says Paro is a Canadian seal, since his voice was recorded from baby harp seal in Quebec. Paro has been used since 2003 in Japan and Europe, but has now made his way to San Francisco, where he was showcased at a gerontechnology gathering.  Gerontechnology studies human aging and the combination of technology to assist the elderly. In fact, there are numerous AI’s designed to help humans and are called carebots. Another example is Robear, a nursing robot that is being tested to lift patients up and transfer them from beds to wheelchairs.

However friendly and cuddly these robots appear to be, I will always end up thinking about the movies that are bringing this obsession to life.

By all means, robots are helpful and can make life easier, but when they develop their own language and leave humans out of the picture, things become a bit more questionable and creepy.

So, do you think that one day AI will overpower human intelligence? Have we started the process of designing our own downfall, or am I just being dramatic? Let us know in the comments below.

Only in Japan: People with pigeon heads on Google Street View

While we’re still unsure if they are a regular fixture of the Tamagawa-josui sidewalk in Musashino, Japan, one thing is for sure — when the Google Street View cameras came by in March of this year there was a gaggle of mutant pigeon people waiting.

The eight avian-humans are poised and ready as the Google bike camera approaches and turn around to peer curiously as it passes them. One of them has disappeared in that short amount of time, most likely to hide under your bed.

The Japanese pranksters follow in the great tradition of Japan’s youth being weird for the sake of weird much like octopus pornography, hairy legged stockings, and eyeball licking before them. At least no one is getting sick from this, although it may contribute to some bird-people nightmares.

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.