The McGill Daily On strike since 1911 2015-08-22T19:59:05Z http://www.mcgilldaily.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Jill Laurin <![CDATA[The influence of saturated fat on your brain]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42474 2015-08-22T19:59:05Z 2015-08-22T19:59:05Z New UdeM study explores the neurological effects of different types of fat

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“Just one,” you tell yourself, biting into a freshly baked cookie. The chocolate chips are gooey and sweet in your mouth; the warm dough is still soft and crumbles as soon as it hits your tongue. That first bite is blissful – and gone too soon. Okay, maybe just two, you decide.

A recent study conducted at Université de Montréal (UdeM) and published in Neuropsychopharmacology illustrates the neurological effects of high fat content foods, and provides insight into why we might be tempted to go for seconds. Cecile Hryhorczuk, the first author of the study and a PhD student at the Research Centre of the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), explains this reward system – known as the mesolimbic dopamine system – is the brain’s centre for motivation and pleasure, and it is linked to mood disorders, drug addiction, and overeating. “Several groups before us have studied the impact of fat on the mesolimbic system. However, no one had looked specifically at whether different types of fat have the same effects,” Hryhorczuk told The Daily in an email.

Fundamental changes in our brain’s circuitry could be the cause rather than a consequence of overeating, obesity, and associated mental and metabolic diseases.

And so, Hryhorczuk and a group of her fellow researchers at UdeM set out to determine how diets high in monounsaturated fat and saturated fat influence the dopamine system. Three groups of rats were used in the study. The first group served as a control and was fed a low-fat diet made up of a mixture of the two types of fat. The second group was given a diet rich in monounsaturated fat, and the third group a diet high in saturated fat. “We chose palmitate, a saturated fatty acid, and oleate, a monounsaturated fatty acid, because they are widely present in the food we eat and they are two of the most abundant fatty acids found in the human body,” said Hryhorczuk. By conducting the study on a strain of rats that do not suffer from obesity– a condition linked with many other complications – when fed high fat content foods, the researchers were able to resolve the molecular and behavioural changes induced by the three different diets independent of weight gain, as all groups gained the same amount of weight.

Following eight weeks on their specific diets, each group of rats underwent a series of tests to ascertain the operational effectiveness of their dopamine systems. The results were clear: the rats on the diet high in saturated fat showed significantly dampened dopamine function in both behavioural and biochemical tests. “Our results demonstrate that long-term consumption of saturated fat negatively impacts the reward system in the absence of obesity and peripheral metabolic abnormalities,” said Hryhorczuk.

So back to the cookie. Why is it that one bite of the delicious, fatty, and sugary treat tends to give way to overindulgence? “Both drug and food intake trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good molecule,” Hryhorczuk explained. “However, on the long term, the system gets used to it and becomes less sensitive. This is what occurs in drug addicts, who develop tolerance and need to increase their dose to reach the same amount of pleasure.” And according to Hryhorczuk’s findings, “the same thing happens with high-fat fod: on the long term it reduces the sensitivity of the system to rewards. If we extrapolate to humans, it suggests it could make people look for and consume more of this type of food to get the same pleasure/satisfaction.”

Although clinical studies would be required in order to determine if the effects of diets high in saturated fat translate from rats to humans, this study suggests that what we eat influences not only our gastrointestinal system, but also our neurological one. The most surprising discovery from this study is the fact that fundamental changes in our brain’s circuitry could be the cause rather than a consequence of overeating, obesity, and associated mental and metabolic diseases. Hryhorczuk noted that with the continuing rise in rates of obesity, a healthy diet and exercise may not be enough. “It is thus important to understand the biological mechanisms at play. This is why we conduct research on how food can impact the central nervous system.”

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Coco Zhou <![CDATA[Of costume and conflict]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42450 2015-08-06T21:07:37Z 2015-07-30T19:31:15Z Restaging colonial (art) history

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A Yinka Shonibare piece can be identified almost immediately. The London-born Nigerian artist is well-known for his routine use of Dutch wax fabric as a symbol of cultural (in)authenticity and for his style of restaging famous paintings of Western art history, combining theatre with postcolonial thought.

The exhibition “Pièces de résistance,” currently on display at Montreal’s DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, showcases all of these quintessentially Shonibare elements. At the core of the exhibition is a message about identity – with all of its hybridity, flexibility, performativity, and instability – particularly in the context of colonization.

The key to reading Shonibare’s art lies in the Dutch-wax fabric, used consistently in the majority of the works on display.

“Pièces de résistance” picks up on the conflicted relationship between different identities and histories and engages in dialogue with the West. The photographs, paintings, films, and sculptures in the exhibition are tied together by references to famous works of Western art, including paintings by Manet, Géricault, and de Goya, as well as to famous figures in Western history, such as the German philosopher Kant and 19th century British naval commander Horatio Nelson.

The key to reading Shonibare’s art lies in the Dutch-wax fabric, used consistently in the majority of the works on display. The vibrant fabric, appropriated by Dutch merchants in the 19th century from the Indonesian batik tradition, was produced in Europe and traded in West Africa. Today, it is closely tied to the visual landscape of West Africa and is a defining feature of how the West conceptualizes ‘Africanness.’ Shonibare’s purposeful use of the fabric demands viewers to recognize the far-reaching effects of colonialism and interact with that reality.

Throughout the exhibition, the fabric is used to dress various figures. In Fake Death Pictures, Shonibare stages Nelson’s death(s) in a series of photographic prints that allude to classic death scenes in Western paintings. Nelson wears a colourful, Dutch-wax fabric uniform, a metaphor for the complex material and colonial relations in which he participated.

The exhibition invites viewers to engage with the politics and poetics of the postcolonial condition while resisting a totalizing interpretation.

This series is accompanied by The Age of Enlightenment – Immanuel Kant, a sculptural piece in which the philosopher is rendered headless with brown skin, subverting his race and identity. Dressed in the trademark fabric, Kant sits at his desk, surrounded by mathematical and analytic tools, in a commentary on the limits of the so-called ‘pure rationalism’  historically used to justify colonial conquests.

When Shonibare’s pieces do not involve human characters, the signature fabric is employed in other ways. It is used as the sails of La Méduse, a large-scaled photo piece that recalls The Raft of Medusa by Géricault. Shonibare’s work reminds viewers of the ship’s imperialist mission to retake British-occupied land, a mission often masked by romantic accounts of scandal.

The systematic use of the fabric continues into the film works. In Odile and Odette, Shonibare takes from the ballet classic Swan Lake to draw  attention to the black/white binary. Two dancers, one Black and one white, mirror each other’s movements in front of an empty frame, revealing the mechanisms of the binary relation, as the meaning of one always depends upon the meaning of other.

In a rich play of intertextuality, “Pièces de résistance” leaves questions open and identities unsettled. The exhibition invites viewers to engage with the politics and poetics of the postcolonial condition while resisting a totalizing interpretation.


“Pièces de résistance” is on display at the DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art until September 20. Admission is free. 

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Kateryna Gordiychuk <![CDATA[GOOD FOOD Market comes to NDG]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42439 2015-08-06T13:53:56Z 2015-07-26T17:15:46Z Depot tackles food desert with public market

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Minutes from the Vendôme Metro and steps from the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) residential area, the NDG Food Depot launched their GOOD FOOD Market on June 19. The market, which will run every Friday from 2 p.m to 7 p.m., offers a diverse selection of seasonal vegetables brought to the neighborhood by Quebec farmers and sold for a low price; it is an opportunity for NDG residents to access a local and affordable source of healthy food.  The food market is also accompanied by spirited music, on-site food preparations by restaurant chefs, and engaging conversation with community members.

The market did not just appear over night – this project has been long in the making. In 2013, the NDG Coalition for Food Security applied to Montreal’s Department of Public Health to obtain funding to implement an initiative to provide better access to fresh and healthy produce. The request was followed by rigorous social work with NDG residents to find out exactly where the needs of the neighborhood lie. As part of the need identification process, a public symposium was held in February 2014, and the gathering inspired the community market.

“This is the first time that we [got] a decent amount of funding for a long period of time; and having the support of the Direction de la Santé Publique as well as the rest of the Coalition has been great to get this market up and happening,” Nicole Fornelli, a NDG Community Council member told The Daily.

The NDG borough of Montreal is considered to be inadequate in terms of sustainable options for fresh food.

The NDG Food Depot has been successful in inciting action within the long decision-making process of larger organizations. Functioning as a community-based non-profit organization, the NDG Food Depot provides an emergency food baskets service for anyone living in the NDG region who does not have the means to purchase food, in general, as well as healthy fresh food. In 2013, the Depot was able to distribute as many as 12,685 baskets. An area is classified as a “food desert” if residents have low accessibility to food markets and stores with affordable products. The emergency basket service proves essential to residents facing these difficulties, and the introduction of the GOOD FOOD Market on Fridays has a similar value to NDG inhabitants.

The market is strategically situated in the yard outside of the NDG Food Depot. According to Fornelli, this placement allows NDG residents to spot it upon picking up their emergency baskets from the Depot. In this way, the Depot informs its visitors that the neighborhood is becoming more sensitive about sustainability issues.

We really want to become a community hub, where people come to eat and meet people, and to do cooking workshops,”  ex-President of the Food Depot’s Board of Directors Lynda Porter told The Daily.

The NDG borough of Montreal is considered to be inadequate in terms of sustainable options for fresh food. Historically a highly diverse community, NDG continues to attract immigrants of various ethnic backgrounds. The populations of NDG’s four low-income areas “face major constraints when it comes to adequate housing, food security and academic success.”

The NDG Market was brought to life with the hope that food insecurity in the neighborhood will be better regulated by providing residents with better food choices and sustainable provisions. The enthusiasm expressed by visitors at the market on the opening day foretells the market’s success in bringing people together and making fresh vegetables accessible. The scale of its success in the long run remains to be seen.

“[The Depot] is trying to grow the organization and make it that which is inclusive. […] We really want to become a community hub, where people come to eat and meet people, and to do cooking workshops,”  ex-President of the Food Depot’s Board of Directors Lynda Porter told The Daily.

Undeniably, the NDG Food Depot is only a drop in the bucket of food sustainability solutions and cannot completely resolve issues of poverty and food accessibility. It, nevertheless, marks a good step towards addressing the community’s needs.

A previous version of this article stated that the NDG Food Depot provides emergency food baskets to NDG residents classified as living in a “food dessert”. In fact, the Depot provides this service to all residents who do not have the means to purchase food in general. The Daily regrets the error.

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Cem Ertekin <![CDATA[Protesters stand in solidarity with Unist’ot’en Camp]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42433 2015-07-26T14:55:21Z 2015-07-25T20:32:27Z March ends in arrests and tickets

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Around twenty protesters met in front of McGill’s Roddick Gates on July 24 to demonstrate support for the Unist’ot’en Camp in British Columbia and to protest the recent actions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has increased its efforts to enter the camp and has, allegedly, threatened the camp’s volunteers.

The Unist’ot’en Camp is set in the unceded territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which are currently endangered by 11 different pipeline proposals, including Chevron’s Pacific Trails Pipeline project. For several years, the volunteers at the camp have been setting up checkpoints in the territory and determining whether or not visitors are allowed access.

Speaking to The Daily, one organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that the Unist’ot’en and the volunteers at the camp have been practicing “free prior and informed consent protocols,” a method that involves asking potential visitors what they are planning to do within the territory.

“If [the visitors] are not approved by the hereditary chiefs, then they’re not allowed on the territory. And [the Unist’ot’en have] made it very clear that […] Chevron is not allowed in the territory and the RCMP, who is just acting to enforce this capitalist agenda, is not allowed on their territory either,” the organizer said.

“[The Unist’ot’en have] made it very clear that […] Chevron is not allowed in the territory and the RCMP, who is just acting to enforce this capitalist agenda, is not allowed on their territory either.”

In a pamphlet handed out to passers-by, the organizers explained that “the context of police brutality is one of maintenance and protection of the settler-colonial invasion.”

“We refuse to tolerate the police abuses of power and the day-to-day acts of police violence that allow for the continued colonization of Turtle Island [an Indigenous name for North America] and the environmental devastation of capitalist expansion,” the pamphlet concludes.

Police response to the protest march

At around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the protesters started to show up at the designated meeting point, where ten Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) cars were already waiting. The protesters then began marching westward on Sherbrooke.

The procession turned left at Mansfield Street and then at Maisonneuve, continually marching westward. As they approached the corner of Maisonneuve and Stanley, one of the police cars overtook the procession by driving through the bike lane. The SPVM then proceeded to surround the protesters.

According to the anonymous organizer, six people were arrested and three people were ticketed “for demonstrating and exercising their free speech.” The SPVM, however, stated that one arrest had been made and eight tickets issued.

Among those ticketed was Link reporter Matt D’amours, whose alleged offence was “having occupied a road used as an alternate route for traffic diverted from a public highway by placing an obstacle so as to obstruct vehicular traffic on the road without authorization,” under article 500.1 of the Highway Safety Code.

“The police brutality that we witnessed today has become the norm in Montreal.”

“I do admit that I was on the street at certain points, because as a member of the press, I had to be as close to the story as possible to see what was happening,” D’amours told The Daily.

“What’s interesting, though – I did eventually make it to the sidewalk. The police had come near the curb in between the cement to get on the bike path […] and I was moving in that direction and was actually on the sidewalk, when a police officer came up to me and grabbed me by the arm, and asked me, first of all, to turn my phone off while I was live streaming,” he continued.

Speaking to the reaction of the SPVM to the protest, the anonymous organizer said, “The police brutality that we witnessed today has become the norm in Montreal. But also, police brutality has always been used against marginalized communities and it’s not that surprising that [police] would target a protest that’s in support of Indigenous peoples’ struggle, because all these [police forces], especially the RCMP, have been established to enforce the colonial state’s policies.”

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Cem Ertekin <![CDATA[Petition to start “alcohol does not equal consent” campaign]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42428 2015-07-21T17:42:16Z 2015-07-21T17:42:16Z Organizers highlight the need to recognize that rape culture exists

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Earlier this spring, a petition was launched demanding that the Quebec government make it mandatory for alcohol bottles to have the slogan “alcohol does not equal consent” written on them, as well as having establishments with alcohol permits to display the same slogan at their bars and restrooms.

While the digital version of the petition has 568 signatures, organizers claim that the total number exceeds a thousand if the paper versions are included. In addition, the petition has been endorsed by Québec solidaire Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Manon Massé.

The deadline for the petition is this Friday, July 24.

According to Kharoll-Ann Souffrant, a social work student at McGill and one of the people behind the petition, the idea is to make the message visible and create awareness about the issue of sexual assault.

Souffrant explained to The Daily that the idea came to her and her three friends at the feminist training camp organized by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ).

“We were talking about society and all kinds of issues that happen in society. We started talking about sexual assault and we quickly realized that we all knew someone [to whom] it has happened,” Souffrant said.

“We need to discuss the issue and try to show that just because a woman drank alcohol [doesn’t mean] that she deserves to be raped.”

According to Mélanie Lemay, an administrator at the Centre d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS) Estrie, one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual assault over the course of their lifetime. In addition, three in four cases of sexual assault occur when the survivor has alcohol in their bloodstream.

“[Alcohol is] the real rape drug,” Lemay told The Daily.

“People don’t even see what’s the issue about that. […] Because, basically, alcohol has always been seen as something that allows [people] more easily to have sex, due to all the taboos we have around sexuality. […] It’s really disturbing to see that some people see it only as a means to have sexual encounters.”

“This is why we need to discuss the issue and try to show that just because a woman drank alcohol [doesn’t mean] that she deserves to be raped,” Lemay continued.

The organizers say that most of the reactions to the petition were positive, but there were a few negative ones.

“The bad comments that we had were, for instance, ‘Oh, women want us to be responsible when they’re drinking, it’s their fault if they get assaulted.’ But that’s part of rape culture, also,” stated Souffrant.

“It’s really putting the blame on [survivors] rather than on the person who commits the crime. And also, for instance, I was reading [about] the [Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM)], and they were talking about sexual assault that was happening in taxis in Montreal, and they were giving all kinds of recommendations for women,” Souffrant continued.

This is referring to when four women in October 2014 reported to the SPVM that they were sexually assaulted in taxis in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. An SPVM spokesperson warned that women should “limit their alcohol consumption and stay in control.” This response was widely criticized as victim-blaming by many organizations, including the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS).

“[Survivors] tend to internalize all these ideas and they feel guilty. It’s the only crime where the [survivor] feels guilty and the aggressor feels innocent,” Souffrant concluded.

“We need, first, to admit that there is a rape culture. This is the biggest test, and most people don’t do it, because it’s hard to believe that actually everything’s made up so that women [are not even the owners of their own body],” Lemay said.

She concluded, “I believe that the petition we’re doing is something that’s helping [fight rape culture]. We’ve received a lot of feedback, either positive or negative. So it’s working. People are talking about it,”

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Precilia Hanan <![CDATA[After marriage equality]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42415 2015-07-13T18:44:17Z 2015-07-13T18:31:28Z The Supreme Court equal marriage decision did not end legal discrimination

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As you’ve all probably heard, the Supreme Court of the United States recently declared gay marriage legal across the country, ruling state bans on equal marriage unconstitutional. The achievement of marriage equality in the U.S. is great news, and an important victory for the LGBTQ community. Gay couples are finally able to have their relationships recognized by the law, and the media has provided extensive coverage of their jubilant reaction since the decision was rendered at the end of June. At the same time, though, this type of coverage is a symptom of the widespread perception of marriage rights as the ultimate expression of LGBTQ equality, an approach that is blind to a host of other forms of discrimination aimed at the community.Trans people, for one, remain a target of extreme legal discrimination.

Mere months prior to the Supreme Court equal marriage decision, the Texas House of Representatives introduced a bill that would allow cisgender students to collect a fine of $2,000 from their school, if the school allows trans students  to use the “wrong” bathroom. , This made Texas the fifth state to introduce this kind of transphobic legislation. Days later, Nevada introduced a similar bill to restrict trans students’ access to washrooms and locker rooms that coincide with their gender identities. Trans people are often denied healthcare coverage and prohibited from changing their gender markers on official documents to reflect their gender identities. Here in Canada – which prides itself on having recognized equal marriage years prior to the U.S. – a proposed federal bill to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination was amended in the Senate to bar trans people from public washrooms. Trans people have been fighting for their rights just as loud and clear as marriage equality activists; often, they have been the ones left behind.

While some activists may believe that the work is done, it is not.

Now as ever, the LGBTQ community and activists must fight for the basic rights of trans people. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision recognized a constitutional right for people “to define and express their identity” – like state bans on equal marriage, discriminatory measures aimed at trans people infringe on that right. This is no time to leave the battle behind, blinded by the taste of success; rather, now is the time to redouble our efforts.

Of course, in doing so, we should be mindful of the historical trans-exclusiveness of our own activisms. As a recent example, consider the advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which was a major player in the push for marriage equality in the U.S.. While many people changed their Facebook profile pictures to equality signs as part of an HRC campaign in 2013, most did not know about or acknowledge that HRC had come under fire for silencing trans activists in their ranks. Activist groups composed of mostly white gay men have had their disruptive demonstrations praised, while Jennicet Gutiérrez, a trans woman of colour, was criticized for her interruption of Barack Obama’s recent White House Pride reception speech. This double standard cannot make for inclusive and effective activism.

While some activists may believe that the work is done, it is not. Trans people continue to face legal discrimination, and equal marriage activists owe the trans community their support. The LGBTQ community has a choice: will it amplify the voices of trans activists, or will it silence them?


Precilia Hanan is a 2nd year Psychology student. To reach her, please contact precilia.hanan@mail.mcgill.ca.

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Grace Brown <![CDATA[Seoul – I Become a Shade]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42404 2015-07-12T21:33:52Z 2015-07-11T23:28:03Z Montreal dream pop debut falls short of its potential

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Seoul pays attention to the details. “We’re just very intent on trying to get our musical ideas to exist as the definitive versions of themselves,” explained frontman Nigel Ward in a press release. The Montreal dream pop trio, made up of Ward and bandmates Julian Flavin and Dexter Garcia, emerged onto the scene at Pop Montreal 2013. Their meticulous technicality generated a following, but the band stayed quiet in the intervening two years. That is, until a few months ago, when they began releasing singles ahead of the June 9 release of their debut album I Become a Shade on Last Gang Records. But while the amount of thought put into the long-awaited album shows, it isn’t enough to deliver a remarkable listening experience.

Seoul attempts to distance itself from frequent comparisons to the electropop of Passion Pit with I Become a Shade. Compare the bright, hectic energy of Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” to any of the tracks on Shade – Seoul’s sound is much more subdued. If a comparison has to be made, French synth pop group M83 might do. Seoul crafts a similarly lush atmosphere comprised of synth textures straight out of the 80s, layered with indistinct vocals. Another comparison might be drawn to the work of Dev Hynes, who records under the name Blood Orange and has co-produced tracks for Solange and Sky Ferreira. Seoul’s “Stay With Us” invokes Hynes’ slick sound, peppered with guitar flourishes reminiscent of disco guitarist Nile Rodgers.

Dream pop typically features distorted and indistinct vocals, and the tracks on I Became a Shade are no exception. This indistinct quality lends the lyrics a certain intimacy. Lyrics become thoughts on Ward’s mind, confessions not necessarily meant to be heard by others.

Seoul tries to move away  from this derivative sound on Shade. Self-ascribed as consisting of three “distinct suites, equal parts […] dream-pop, […] r&b, and […] ambient,” Shade provides a generic ambience. “Fields,” “Thought You Were,” and “Carrying Home Food in Winter” are all short tracks invoking the sparse instrumental work of Icelandic band Sigur Rós.

The closer, “Galway,” is probably the most original track on the album, with dense, reverb-heavy synths creating an intimate, moody pop feel. It’s also the hardest song to tune out to, with no catchy chorus for the less mainstream elements to hide behind.

Seoul’s lyrics, co-written by Ward, Flavin, and Garcia, reflect a poignant existential restlessness and dissatisfaction. In “Haunt,” Ward asserts, “I won’t be living in this miserable city again.” Dream pop typically features distorted and indistinct vocals and the tracks on I Became a Shade are no exception. This indistinct quality lends the lyrics a certain intimacy. Lyrics become thoughts on Ward’s mind, confessions not necessarily meant to be heard by others.

Notwithstanding the technical success of the album, its monotony is hard to ignore. The three suites are anything but distinct and the tracks blend too easily together. Lacking in innovation, I Become a Shade dangerously approaches a series of pastiches. “I Negate” instantly recalls Beach House, “Real June” M83, “Fields” Sigur Rós, et cetera. As a debut album, I Become a Shade is promising, featuring some excellent production. That said, the band’s existential troubles clearly go beyond its lyrics — Seoul is audibly struggling to find itself on this first release.

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Cem Ertekin <![CDATA[McGill medicine program put on probation]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42397 2015-07-18T20:40:14Z 2015-07-08T19:28:51Z Report cites inadequate instruction in women’s health, family and domestic violence

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Correction appended July 10.

In a consolidated letter dated June 15 and addressed to McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) announced their decision to put McGill’s undergraduate medicine program on probation.

“Probation is an action reflecting the summative judgment that a medical education program is not in substantial compliance with accreditation standards,” says the letter. However, even on probation, the medical program has not lost its accreditation.

In order for the program to be taken off probation, the faculty needs to address the various problems raised in the consolidated letter by 2017.

“It’s certainly disappointing,” Dean of Medicine David Eidelman told The Daily. “We did not expect to have this much difficulty, but we had the visit in February, and at the end of that visit it was clear that there were more difficulties than we expected.”

The faculty received preliminary feedback on the accreditation visit in April and an Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) Accreditation Task Force was “immediately established.”

“We are going to have a visit from the accrediting body in – probably – September to help make sure we’re on track. A detailed action plan would be submitted in December. Assuming that action plan is accepted, which usually would be in these conditions, we would have until 2017 to correct all the problems. Although I personally would like to see most, if not all, of the problems corrected by December,” Eidelman continued.

Inadequate instruction in women’s health and family and domestic violence

One of the findings in the report states that “over the past 5 years, on the [Canadian Graduation Questionnaire], students have reported inadequate instruction in women’s health (range 23.9% to 24.5%) and family and domestic violence (range 51.5% to 59.1%).” In addition, “there has been no discussion on this particular topic at the new curriculum executive level.”

“Over the past 5 years, on the [Canadian Graduation Questionnaire], students have reported inadequate instruction in women’s health (range 23.9% to 24.5%) and family and domestic violence (range 51.5% to 59.1%).”

Speaking to The Daily, Medicine Student Senator David Benrimoh admitted that this is an issue he has observed.

“We talk about [sexual assault] as a thing that happens. We talk about it as being a big part of why a lot of people have bad health outcomes – we know that it exists. But the actual sort of operational way of going about conducting an interview that is focused on sexual assault, that’s focused on domestic abuse […] we don’t get a lot of that,” Benrimoh said.

Doulia Hamad, president of Medical Students’ Society of McGill (MSS) explained that there is a student initiated task force whose mandate it is to discuss sexual health and sexuality.

“[It] has a very very broad mandate. We could talk about queer issues, LGBT issues, […] women’s health and intimate partner violence – it’s a very very broad range of topics,” Hamad told The Daily.

Inadequate documentation and communication

According to Eidelman, most of the program’s shortcomings stem from inadequate communication and documentation.

“One thing I have heard from students is that we didn’t have a systematic way of reporting back to them the things that we did. So students concluded that they had made complaints and nobody did anything about it,” Eidelman said.

“Oftentimes we have a lot of [the] meat of it – you know, the content is there, and the actions are happening. They’re not documented well, they’re not communicated well, so [a] lot of the time there are discrepancies because of that,” Hamad told The Daily.

According to Hamad, an example of inadequate documentation would be the minutes taken at various faculty committees that oversee undergraduate medical education, which were not detailed or precise enough.

“We have to document that we’re doing it,” Eidelman said. “Because, for accreditation, we could be doing the best thing in the world; if we don’t put it in our documents, and it doesn’t get to the eyes of the visitors, it’s as if it never happened.”

“For accreditation, we could be doing the best thing in the world; if we don’t put it in our documents, and it doesn’t get to the eyes of the visitors, it’s as if it never happened.”

Student reactions

“Students are taking it seriously, obviously,” Hamad told The Daily. “Most of them have been quite calm and have greeted the news with a sober face, but [also] with hope and confidence that the faculty is going to see that we don’t lose our accreditation and that we bridge all the issues by 2017.”

“I think a lot of the things that were named in the accreditation report echo problems that the students were already either working to deal with or working to solve.”

“It’s important to put this into context. If you look at what we actually have to fix – it’s very fixable. This is not a permanent thing, or I don’t think we’re in any danger of losing our ability to grant degrees. So when it comes to me as a student, forgetting even as a student leader or a senator, I’m not concerned that I’m not going to get my medical degree,” Benrimoh said.

Benrimoh added, “[Students] believe that the media reports in the [Montreal] Gazette have been woefully inaccurate, that they’ve blown things out of proportion.”

“In the media, a few people are saying that it’s really a huge hit for McGill […] and I think that those comments are a little bit unfair, because many other schools have been on probation from accreditation or have been warned with probation,” said Hamad.

“We know that it’s a very serious situation, and we’re not trying to excuse it. We have many ways to explain this situation, but we know that it’s our duty as medical students and future physicians to really be part of the solution so that we can be a great medical school and serve our patients.”

A previous version of this article stated that McGill’s medicine program was put on probation. In fact, it was only McGill’s undergraduate medicine program that was put on probation. The Daily regrets the error. 

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Tanner Levis <![CDATA[Drugs, Alcohol and Depression in the NHL]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42390 2015-07-06T19:06:55Z 2015-07-06T19:06:55Z Richard Clune opens up about his inebriated past

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On July 1, The Players’ Tribune released an article written by Nashville Predators left winger Richard Clune, titled The Battle. In the article, Clune opens up about his past experiences as an alcoholic and as a drug addict, something he claims does not set him apart from other professional hockey players. “I am certainly not unique. There are players in the NHL right now who are suffering and you would never know it from looking at their stat sheet or how hard they compete in practice,” Clune writes.

Clune was pressured by his parents to play hockey at Harvard University when he was younger, but he begged them to let him play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) instead, where he would be drafted to the Sarnia Sting in 2003. The following year, the OHL gave him the Bobby Smith Trophy, which is awarded to the player who “best combines high standards of play and academic excellence.” In his article, Clune writes that he accomplished these feats “while binge drinking every single day, often alone in [his] room.”

“Plenty of teammates and coaches had suspicions about me over the years, but nobody knew how bad it was” Clune said. In 2008, after he was drafted by the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL), he began going on spurts where he would abuse cocaine for several consecutive days at a time. Soon after, his family sat him down for an intervention, and this is when Clune first realized there was no way he could “bullshit [his] way out of it anymore.”

He checked in to rehab that summer, but still didn’t believe in the least that he was an alcoholic. “An alcoholic is a person passed out on a park bench,” he thought. After four days of repetitive questions such as “Rich, when was the last time you cried?” he decided to leave rehab, saying, “This is insane, I’m out of here.”

Clune explains that his problems with drugs and alcohol stemmed from existing in a constant state of fear. “I put on a mask to deal with the fear,” he states, explaining that once you get drafted to the OHL as a sixteen year old, you forced to be part of a culture which involves heavy drinking and constantly being surrounded by men. Clune talks about putting on a mask to deal with the state of fear. “You put on the mask, and it never goes away. When you get drafted, you put on the mask to deal with the pressure of getting a contract. When you get your contract, you put on the mask to deal with the sleepless night before you know you have to go out and drop the gloves with the 6’5” monster on the other team. When you finally pull on that NHL sweater, you put on the mask to deal with that ever-present fear that it could all go away in an instant.” Clune says.

One day, he woke up and realized he had had enough. He writes that he wished he had arrived at the realization earlier, when his parents and the assistant General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings Ron Hextall asked him to get help. “A lot of guys never got so lucky. We have lost too many of them over the years to the darkness of depression and drug abuse and alcoholism,” he says.

Several other players in the NHL (both past and present) have suffered from problems involving alcohol and drug abuse, but most have not and will never open up about it. Luckily, Clune is one of the few athletes who have been able to come forward with his story, and hopefully will now be able to serve as an outlet for other players who do suffer from the same problems he once suffered from, and help them on the path to recovery.

Derek Boogaard, a notable 6’7”, 265lb left-winger who played for the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers, was considered to be one of the most intimidating players in the NHL. Boogaard was found dead in his bed after overdosing on a mixture of alcohol and prescription Percocet. While his death may have been accidental, other issues were raised on how the situation may have been prevented. Boogaard’s father expressed concerns to the NHL about the way Derek’s drug abuse had been handled, and maybe even enabled, by the two teams he played for.

Two other players, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, were also both found dead within a four-month span following the death of Boogaard. Rypien was playing for the Vancouver Canucks but was then assigned to their minor team, the Manitoba Moose. A few months later, he signed to the Winnipeg Jets, and had another shot to play in the NHL, but soon after was found dead in his home in August 2011.

The deaths forced past enforcers of the NHL and sportswriters to question the role of ‘the enforcer’ and how the league was dealing with the stress of the position. An enforcer generally plays the role of the intimidator for their respective team, and is known to be the fighter and instigator. Another well known enforcer of the NHL, Georges Laraque stated that he never liked being in the position he was in, something that Clune also agreed with, but they both made careers serving the same role.

Following the deaths of Rypien and Boogaard, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the media that the League would begin looking into reinforcing the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Programs. This requires players to be provided with educational programs on substance abuse, counseling programs, and other forms of treatment, administered by doctors once every year, all of which is to be paid for by the NHL or by the players’ respective teams.

Although the NHL’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program is available to all players, it has not seemed to function to the best of its ability, as there are players still struggling with substance abuse and alcoholism. Most hockey players have the mindset that they need to be another level of ‘tough’ and feel as if they could fend for themselves in situations like these, but as Clune wrote in his article, he is definitely not the only NHL player who suffers from alcoholism and substance abuse.

The NHL needs to find another way to deal with this issue across the entire league, because money isn’t the only thing players and their families care about when they are suffering from mental illnesses. The league needs to take preventative measures for situations like these, and also make several changes to its Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Programs, to stop these issues from occurring, rather than attempting to deal with them after it is far too late.

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Sonia Larbi-Aissa <![CDATA[Busty and the Bass charms Jazz Fest]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42382 2015-07-03T20:27:09Z 2015-07-03T20:27:09Z McGill’s own takes up residency at Le Savoy for three nights

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When The Daily sat down with Busty and the Bass Thursday night, the nine-piece band had already played a two-hour set for its album release party at Apt. 200. The band members’ exhaustion was palpable, but so was the playful excitement necessary to power the three-hour set the band would go on to play later that night at Le Savoy du Métropolis, the cozy corner lounge tucked away in the massive concert venue.

Busty transitioned from being that one good act in the OAP lineup to the band everyone was talking about after winning the CBC Music Rock Your Campus competition in the fall of 2014. The $10,000 prize scored them the studio time and production needed to release their new album, GLAM. While GLAM is a professional rendition of the pieces that make up Busty’s live set, it doesn’t hold a candle to the energy created on stage by the musicians.

Bassist Milo Johnson summed up that energy when he explained the idea behind the notorious adjective in the group’s name: “The idea of ‘busty’ is like an adjective, [but] not the usual definition; [it’s when] you’re having a good time and letting go of the world and entering this crazy party zone, where it’s safe, but everybody’s having a good time.” That crazy frenetic energy felt from good live jazz is something Busty almost effortlessly provides, but it is far from effortlessly created.

“The idea of ‘busty’ is like an adjective, [but] not the usual definition; [it’s when] you’re having a good time and letting go of the world and entering this crazy party zone, where it’s safe, but everybody’s having a good time.”

Hatched in the basement of the Strathcona Music Building during Music Frosh, Busty runs on the technical training learned in class. “We all have a base level of technical proficiency,” said pianist and keyboardist Eric Haynes, “so we all come from that baseline and [we] all [speak] the same language [and have the same way of] approaching music […] so it definitely makes talking about music to each other a lot easier.”

However, Busty is far from a textbook jazz ensemble. Because of the members’ varied music tastes, the band puts out cover after cover of familiar songs spanning genres as disparate as hip hop and EDM. One hour into the set yielded a sampled masterpiece driven by Evan Crofton on synth and keys, featuring the wispy “never” and other sound elements from Disclosure’s “Latch” layered with powerful work from the band’s brass section. The packed room exploded with energy as the anthemic favorite pitched the room into an excited frenzy.

Yet, the audience response to the band’s more traditional jazz improvisations was equally as frenetic, if not more. A sublime piano solo by Haynes and gusty saxophone feature by Nick Ferraro had someone in the audience yelling “Holy fuck!” Somehow, the members of Busty and the Bass are able to present a genre of music largely foreign to their peers and get them dancing to it. They succeed in making instruments like the trombone and saxophone current to a demographic who can only vaguely remember John Coltrane and J.J. Johnson.

Now, more or less graduated from the Schulich School of Music, Busty is hitting the road. No longer ‘the college band to watch out for,’ the group must bank on the following it has been able to muster from quick tours during the semester to support it. If last night’s turnout is any indication, Busty won’t have a problem filling venues.


Catch Busty and the Bass at Le Savoy du Métropolis July 3 and 4 from midnight to 3 a.m.. Entry is free.

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Anna Vail <![CDATA[Still no decision for Divest McGill]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42374 2015-07-10T04:22:28Z 2015-06-30T23:48:33Z Board of Governors discusses divestment research, more budget cuts in sight

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Correction appended July 10.

McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) held its final meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year on May 21. BoG Chair Stuart Cobbett opened by commenting on the success of the recent Canadian University Board Association conference held for the first time in Montreal from April 30 to May 2. Cobbett stressed the importance of the conference in generating francophone interest, as it was a fully bilingual affair.

McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier spoke about her recent meeting with Quebec Minister of Finance Carlos Leitão. According to Fortier, Leitão mentioned a $73 million cut to Quebec universities in the 2015-16 school year. Out of the overall amount, the cuts imposed on McGill could range between approximately $9 to $11 million.

The BoG also approved the Declaration of Compliance to Quebec Treasury Board Pursuant to Loi 65.1, a motion that requires the University to publish or make public any contract into which it enters that is above an initial $25,000 threshold.

Speaking to The Daily, former Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa noted that she found this declaration particularly important.

“I think it might be interesting to a lot of students that this is public knowledge on the McGill website. They might find it interesting to see who the university works with and has contracts with,” Ayukawa told The Daily.

CAMSR report on Divest McGill

Three members of Divest McGill attended the open session of the meeting. Members of Divest have submitted two petitions to the BoG over the past two years, calling on McGill to divest from fossil fuels

In May 2013, McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) had advised the BoG to reject Divest’s original petition. Since then, CAMSR has updated its terms of reference to include grave environmental damage in its definition of social injury.

Reporting on the progress of CAMSR, Stuart Cobbett noted in the meeting that that they received a “very well put together and documented petition from Divest.”

“We are trying to work with [CAMSR] to make things as effective as possible,” Divest Campaign Organizer Kristen Perry told The Daily.

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios.”

McGill’s Secretary General Stephen Strople stated that the Board has called on the Royal Society of Canada, a national research council composed of distinguished scholars, to research the potential implications and consequences of divestment.

Speaking to The Daily, Divest member Sam Quigley stated, “With regard to study with [the] Royal Society, we are concerned that it is unnecessary because there is already an enormous body of research, and that it will cause a very significant delay in the process.”

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios,” Quigley continued.

Quigley concluded, “We are trying hard to respect their process. We are glad they are engaging, but we are a bit disappointed by their lack of regard for their own mandate so far, and we are hoping this will be rectified and that they will consider the social injury question, making a decision by July 1.”

Victor Frankel, another member of Divest, remarked that “CAMSR has given a 6 to 18 month timeline for the Royal Society study,” indicating that the July 1 deadline might not be met.

Newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim, also newly appointed to CAMSR by the BoG, stated, “The hope is that the research will point to fact that it will be a socially responsible choice to divest.”

“I think divestment is attainable,” Ibrahim said.

A previous version of this article stated that newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim was newly appointed to CAMSR board. In fact, CAMSR does not have a board and its members are not elected, but appointed by the Board of Governors. The Daily regrets the error.

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Zapaer Alip <![CDATA[Ready to launch]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42361 2015-06-30T03:54:57Z 2015-06-29T14:18:06Z McGill Rocket Team hosts unveiling ceremony

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Correction appended June 29, 2015.

What started out as an ambitious idea became reality for a group of students on June 17, when the McGill Rocket Team presented its first rocket. The team held a public exhibition of the rocket, named “Peregrine” after the falcon, at Lower Field throughout the day, followed by an official unveiling ceremony at the Frank Dawson Adams building in the evening.

The McGill Rocket Team is the latest addition to the numerous engineering design teams on campus. The team worked over the span of four months to build a recoverable rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet and releasing a 10-pound payload. These are the requirements for the basic category of the tenth annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), which took place near Green River, Utah from June 24 to 27.

The rocket, which measures 9.5 feet in length with a diameter of 5.5 inches, is made of fibreglass and weighs approximately 40 pounds. The team used 3D-printed fins and a Von Karman nose cone to reduce aerodynamic drag. The rocket will be using solid fuel as propulsion and activate gunpowder charges to release the payload at 10,000 feet. The team chose a solar-powered glider as their payload which contains various sensors and instruments and will transmit data as it descends. If all goes well, parachutes will deploy once the payload has been released and both the rocket and payload will be recovered.

“We are in an era where there is talk of space exploration and commercial space travel. It’s very exciting to have the possibility of contributing to this.”

The McGill Rocket Team was founded by engineering students Aissam Souidi and Muhammad Hamza Tikka in October 2014. The team has picked up momentum since and grown to its current size of 70 students from a variety of faculties, including Science, Management, Arts, and Engineering.

Aissam Souidi, cofounder of the team, said, “When I came to McGill, I really wanted to get involved with something that has a real impact on the community. […] We are in an era where there is talk of space exploration and commercial space travel. It’s very exciting to have the possibility of contributing to this,” in an interview with The Daily.

Souidi believes the insights gained by the team experimenting on small scale rockets could potentially have implications “for bigger rockets made by [aerospace] companies like SpaceX.”

With one of the main costs in space expeditions being rockets, which are used to launch cargo and shuttles, building a reusable rocket would significantly reduce the cost of going to space. According to Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred.” The reduced costs could make space tourism and even space colonies on Mars a reality. SpaceX is currently testing its reusable rocket, Falcon 9, by trying to land it on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean after completing International Space Station resupply missions. The company has made two unsuccessful attempts so far; however, in the second attempt, SpaceX managed to land the rocket on the barge briefly, before it toppled due to the high speed of descent. More attempts to land the rocket have already been scheduled.

Unfortunately, unlike SpaceX, the McGill Rocket Team does not have millions to spend, nor does it have experts working for it. Instead, it depends on community fundraising efforts and its members’ motivation to learn and contribute. The team has relied on sponsors and crowdfunding on sites like Seeds of Change, an online fundraising platform for student groups at McGill.

Among the faculty in attendance at the unveiling ceremony was James Nicell, dean of the Faculty of Engineering. Nicell told the Daily “In all our design teams, students are on a very voluntary basis outside of the classroom. [They are] taking all the knowledge they gain in the classroom and are actually putting it into action in their designs […]. There is no better learning opportunity than that,” Nicell said.

“For sure in the next couple of years we would like to to improve on it, make it more efficient, and hopefully start winning the competition, [IREC], on an annual basis.”

Andi Rayhan, a U2 Computer Science student and a member of the McGill Rocket Team, spoke to The Daily about the self-learning involved in the project. “I am proud of the team, because this was our first year and to have finished this project in such a short time is, I’d say, impressive.” Rayhan added, “Not many of us had any previous experience, so we had to a lot of learning, self learning. [For example,] I had to learn about sensors and how to build circuits since I am not an electrical engineer.”

Kyle Weissman, a U2 Mechanical Engineering student, is part of the payload sub-team. With little prior experience in rocket-building, Weissman often reached out to professors, as well as advisors from high school. “Engineering is not a closed environment. You really have to be comfortable communicating and asking,” he said. “We are a team of 70; there is no assumption which we [make] do by ourselves, it’s a constant back and forth between team members and friends.”

Despite the challenge, for Weissman, “having an idea, designing it on Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and moving through physical iterations to have a beautiful product,” is worth the extra effort.

Looking ahead, Souidi acknowledges there is currently a low ratio of women to men on the team and says he will try to improve this next year by collaborating with Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering, also known as POWE.

The team members recognize that this is only their first rocket and believe their product will only keep getting better with time.

Steven Crisafi, a U4 Mechanical Engineering student who worked in the aerodynamics sub-team said, “This is a very basic rocket, we only had a few months to design and build it. For sure in the next couple of years we would like to to improve on it, make it more efficient, and hopefully start winning the competition, [IREC], on an annual basis.”

A previous version of this article stated that the IREC took place at Utah State University, while it actually occurred near Green River, Utah. The Daily regrets the error.

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Leanne Louie <![CDATA[Mysteries of human evolution]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42325 2015-07-26T22:33:31Z 2015-06-21T10:00:59Z What happened after early humans first left Africa?

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Updated July 26.

Even a journey of fifty thousand miles starts with a single step. For early humans, this pioneering first step out of Africa began a globe-spanning journey that would forever change life on Earth. However, aside from the location of this fateful first step, little else is known for certain about our early human roots, and there is much yet to be discovered.

For instance, one source of conflict within the archaeological community is the question of who actually took this first step and when it was taken. It is known that Homo erectus, an extinct species of hominid – a family including all modern and extinct great apes, including modern humans – left Africa about two million years ago and went on to inhabit much of Europe and Asia. However, it is unclear whether the upright walkers that moved into these areas were actually the ancestors of Homo sapiens, or humans as we are today.

The debate over early migration

One theory, known as the multiregional hypothesis, suggests that the descendants of these Homo erectus are indeed modern humans, and that the species evolved on multiple continents in a relatively uniform fashion. This model is based on the idea that separate Homo erectus populations established across Eurasia and Africa were in close enough proximity to allow for interbreeding and gene flow. As they evolved, they did so as a relatively cohesive unit despite their spatial separation. According to this theory, regional differences in climate and other factors created the variation in features we observe in the human population.

However, as new genetic and archaeological evidence continues to be discovered, the multiregional hypothesis is not as well-supported as the Out of Africa theory. The latter asserts that Homo sapiens evolved solely in Africa from Homo heidelbergensis, a descendant of Homo erectus. Then, around 200,000 years ago, they left Africa, replacing their hominid relatives that had already settled across Eurasia. However, given surfacing DNA evidence, the term “absorption” may describe the disappearances of these species better than “replacement.” The genes of early hominids such as Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), a species that evolved from Homo heidelbergensis in Europe, compose a small percentage of the genomes of modern people living outside of Africa, indicating that there was likely interbreeding between humans and other hominid species.

Aside from the location of this fateful first step, little else about it is known for certain about our early human roots, and there is much yet to be discovered.

There are a couple of possible reasons for why Neanderthals, who possessed a similar brain size to modern humans and were in fact capable of complex speech, were replaced by modern humans. “Neanderthals had the intellectual capacity to develop greater complexity, but they had the disadvantage of living in an inhibiting environment,” McGill anthropology professor Michael Bisson told The Daily in an interview. The cold environments Neanderthals inhabited enforced living in small group sizes and high levels of social dispersion; thus, they were not required to develop the social institutions associated with higher-level group interactions. Moreover, the spread of technological innovations amongst Neanderthal communities would have been difficult because populations were so dispersed.

Although popular culture focuses heavily on Neanderthals as the main symbol of human evolution, there are actually a number of other, less well-known variants of archaic humans. The dominance of Neanderthals in the media is in large part due to their early discovery. “Between 1908 and 1922, an abundance of Neanderthal fossils were found in France, helping to cement their place as the prototypical ‘cave men’ in the public mind,” Bisson said. As the first to be found, Neanderthals became the centre of public debates about evolution.

However, the spread of humans into the Americas is not as well-documented in archaeological records as the spread of Neanderthals, as Europe possesses far better conditions for preservation of remains. It has long been believed that humans crossed the land bridge connecting Asia and North America at the end of the last ice age, going on to inhabit both North and South America – though scientists do not agree on this either. There is a discrepancy in possible time periods for this migration, with some scientists asserting circa 15,000 BCE and others circa 30,000 BCE as the likely date of bridging. “We really don’t know exactly what was going on, because now, everything’s underwater,” said Bisson.

Recent discoveries of early human species

Of the Denisovans, one of the recently discovered early hominids, all that has been found is a finger bone and two teeth. Found in the Denisova Cave in Siberia, the Denisovans lived around 41,000 BCE and represent a variant of hominid with DNA distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans. “They could have been East Asia’s temporal equivalent of Neanderthals,” suggested Bisson.

Whether recent archaeological discoveries such as the Denisovans represent new species is the subject of hot debate within the scientific community. According to Bisson, the research community is comprised of “splitters” and “lumpers.” “‘Splitters’ recognize a greater number of species and ‘lumpers’ argue that there are fewer species and greater variation within species.”

“We’re extremely, perhaps disturbingly, successful.”

So what differences constitute a different species? “That is a judgement call,” Bisson explained. “There is no set number of base pair differences that defines a separate species.”

At an excavation site in Dmanisi, Georgia, a skull determined to be roughly 1.8 million years old was unearthed with four other skulls, all showing tremendous variation. It was originally suggested that the skulls belonged to multiple species. However, because they came from the same location and general geological time – within a 20,000-year period – it’s also possible and even likely that they represent a population of a single species. This discovery suggests that three of the major defined branches of hominids – Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo erectus – could represent a single species.

Regardless of our modelling and classification systems, of course, the way in which humans evolved across time and throughout the globe will remain unchanged. All that will change is our understanding of our beginnings. After leaving Africa, whether it was 200,000 or 1.8 million years ago, we proceeded to inhabit the entire planet and create a global network of advanced societies. “We’re extremely, perhaps disturbingly, successful,” Bisson commented.

“Humans are going to be an interesting experiment. Can behavioural flexibility and intelligence compensate for the fact that we’re rushing towards an overpopulated Earth and exhaustion of terrestrial resources?” Bisson asked. Only time can tell. But perhaps, when we finally have an understanding of where we came from, we will have a clearer sense of where we will go, and how we can continue to survive.


Ha-ha-hominids: A McGill Daily science cartoon!

SCITECH_Daniella_Mysteries HominidsDanielle Amir | The McGill Daily

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Sonia Larbi-Aissa <![CDATA[M.I.A.: cultural appropriation or cultural engagement?]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42317 2015-07-03T19:38:35Z 2015-06-16T15:15:00Z International artist censored mid-production over fears of cultural appropriation

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Ahead of the release of her upcoming 3-song mixtape, M.I.A. took to Twitter to float a question about cultural appropriation to her fans. The English recording artist of Sri Lankan Tamil heritage tweeted, “I wanna talk about [cultural] appropriation! I’ve been told I can’t put out a video because it’s shot in Africa. Discuss.” At the time of publication, 1,212 accounts responded to the tweet. While some cited her Bad Girls music video as a glaring instance of exploitative appropriation, her fans overwhelmingly came to her defense, citing her efforts to make a “world town where music fashion [and] culture are remixed” as justification enough.

It’s concerning to see an artist like M.I.A. preemptively questioned about cultural appropriation when artists ranging from Taylor Swift to Lily Allen to Katy Perry to Shakira roll out grotesquely appropriative music videos without second thought, duking it out in the court of public opinion post-production. This is evidence of an insidious double standard in the music industry where white and whitewashed artists get a carte blanche for their appropriative images, while artists of color who push marginalized perspectives into the mainstream consciousness are told to check themselves.

M.I.A. tweeted, “What happens when I shoot videos in America or Germany it makes no sense to the 00.01% of artists like me.” While this comment doesn’t exactly capture the idea of cultural appropriation, it illustrates well its widespread misconception. M.I.A.’s label sees any engagement in a culture not of one’s own as cultural appropriation. However, speaking about, playing music from, and appearing with members of other cultures isn’t appropriation. Speaking like, claiming music from, and appearing as members of other cultures is cultural appropriation.

M.I.A.’s label sees any engagement in a culture not of one’s own as cultural appropriation.

At its core, cultural appropriation is a hegemonic exercise. Dominant social groups and cultures demand those they dominate to conform to their norms and standards. Historically, colonizers demanded this from those they colonized. In addition, the dominant group has the privilege of picking and choosing aspects of other cultures to emulate and claim, erasing any sort of analysis or awareness of the cultural, historical, or political nature of appropriated symbols or practices.

As Amandla Stenberg stated in her viral history class video Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows, “…the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred, but here is the thing. Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in.”

Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in.

M.I.A. most certainly does not approach her music from this benighted position. Just the opposite –  she actively works to reverse the process of cultural appropriation with the music she creates, consistently spotlighting groups around the world that Western media may otherwise ignore. M.I.A. re-politicizes symbols and sounds that are otherwise homogenized by the Western music industry and infuses them with adrenaline and anxiety to purposefully make the listener uncomfortable. Even her most numbingly simple hit “Paper Planes” sneaks scathing critique of American immigration policy and the artist’s placement on the Homeland Security Risk List in 2006 behind the song’s deceptively straightforward lyrics.

According to M.I.A’s tweets, the video in question is a one-shot take of a talented dancer from Côte d’Ivoire who “was never going to make ‘____ got talent’.” She elaborates that “if the music industry allows an African artist to come through this year on the intnl level, [she] would gladly give him this video for free,” betraying a fatalist view of inclusivity in the music industry most likely formed through experience.

For all intents and purposes, M.I.A. is a bulwark against the very cultural appropriation her label is wringing its hands over. As one of the few non-Black American artists of color with international reach who regularly engages in global politics, it is cause for concern when M.I.A. experiences pushback mid-production while her contemporaries are given a blank check.

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Josephine Bird <![CDATA[A case for the selfless selfie]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42290 2015-06-23T09:27:59Z 2015-06-13T14:32:31Z Exhibit surprises with unexpected take on social media trend

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Every muscle is tensed to create a perfectly formed pout. Her head is cocked slightly to one side to reveal her excellent cheekbone structure, her arms outstretched to highlight her slender figure.

It is the face of Kim Kardashian on the cover of her book Selfish, a compilation of selfies taken by the celebrity from 2007 to 2015. It is easy to mock and dismiss Kardashian’s book as the embodiment of narcissism and vanity, but the content of Selfish may not be as vacuous as one might assume.

“Selfie,” a group exhibition of thirteen artists of Iranian descent on display at the Maison d’Édition Ketabe Iran Canada (MEKIC) gallery, explores the role of the selfie in modern life using a variety of different mediums to challenge the attitudes surrounding this modern phenomenon.

Local artist Nima Emrani connects ideas about representations of the self in technology with how the self is perceived in nature. Emrani’s drawing depicts a large fish swimming in a pond whose eyes reflect the artist’s face. The drawing is meta-referential and therefore a crucial part of its commentary exists in its own self-awareness. Emrani demonstrates a freeing of the self from the confines of technological scrutiny by asserting control over his depiction in the eye of the fish.

“I want to be liked. I want to be shared, I want to be tagged, and I want to be commented on. The selfie is a way of finding importance in the world, but anything done in extremes is unhealthy” Afshar said in an interview with The Daily.

Just as Emrani controls the way he is depicted and shown to society in his piece, the act of selfie-taking gives an individual control over their own exposure. However, this image may be distorted, just as the fish eye distorts the image of the artist in the drawing, or as a fisheye lens can distort the photographic image captured in a selfie. The creation of a selfie, then, is an empowering process. Emrani’s work aligns the practice of selfie-taking with self-portraiture to illustrate this point.

In contrast, Nazanin Afshar picks up on this theme of distortion and criticizes the transient feeling of empowerment that the selfie produces in its creator. Two identically sized paintings, originally selfies by the artist, are placed alongside each other. A third canvas is hung to the right of these two paintings. It is an image of the artist’s bloodshot eye, but a circular mirror is transposed onto the canvas where the pupil should be. Viewers are forced to see themselves and confront the flaws in their naked image. The viewer is thus rendered powerless before the complete honesty of their own reflection, which stands in stark contrast with the two contrived images of the artist. Afshar approaches the selfie as an unsustainable tool for the expression of self-love by pointing to how it breaks down in the real world where flaws cannot be hidden.

“I want to be liked. I want to be shared, I want to be tagged, and I want to be commented on. The selfie is a way of finding importance in the world, but anything done in extremes is unhealthy,” Afshar said in an interview with The Daily.

Afshar’s piece speaks to the incapacitating effect of the selfie as the feeling of importance gained from taking selfies comes at an expense of defamiliarization with unfiltered depictions of the self.

On the whole, however, the artists featured in the exhibition seem to sympathize with the motivations that underlie the modern selfie. For many, the selfie serves as a storytelling device.

Artist Ronak Kordestani, for example, took photographs of herself for twenty-four days. At the end of this process, Kordestani used mixed media to etch out hidden emotions that were less obvious in the original photographs. “The appearing and disappearing patterns added to the image, projected my day-to-day emotions in a self-observatory process,” Kordestani told The Daily. In this sense, the artist’s self-reflection dictated the creation of the piece. The chronological layout of the selfies and the visually highlighted emotions Kordestani reveals help her to convey a narrative to the viewer.

“Selfie” creates a grey area between self-reflection and self-obsession, forcing viewers to re-evaluate how easily society dismisses the act. As explored by the artists, the symbolic potential of this modern mode of self-portraiture goes far beyond vanity and narcissism.

Inspired by the arguments made at “Selfie,” is it now possible to regard Kardashian’s Selfish as the manifesto of a movement to reinvent the modern self-portrait, and Kim as being at the helm of a shifting artistic narrative?


“Selfie” is on display in the MEKIC Gallery at 4438 rue de la Roche until July 14th.

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