April 2014


Should women be charged with assault for taking drugs while pregnant? Tennessee thinks so.

Tennessee is poised to become the first state in the United States to charge pregnant women with assault if they consume drugs while pregnant. The controversial bill passed through both chambers of the state government and is set to come to life at the beginning of July.

The bill states that, should children be born “addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug … as a result of her illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant” the mother could be investigated and prosecuted for assault — harm in this case including deformities related to drug use — and if a child is stillborn or a mother miscarries as a result of illegal drug use she could be investigated and prosecuted for criminal homicide.

The bill has raised some important questions:

What does this mean for the legal definition of when life (and motherhood, in this case abuse) begins?

What does this mean in terms a setting a president for prosecution the transmission of genetic disorders or lifelong conditions like HIV?

What does this mean for women who consume substances before knowing that they are pregnant?

Alternatively, why should the law protect women (or anyone) who knowingly abuses their child, whether that is post-natal or in utero?

Let us know what you think, should women be charged with assault if their drug use during pregnancy results in ddeformity or addiction in their child when they are born?


India’s supreme court officially recognizes transgender people as third gender

In a landmark ruling out of India’s supreme court transgendered people have officially been granted status as a third gender in the country. With the granting of rights to those who don’t identify as either male or female the courts said “it is the right of every human being to choose their gender.”

Indian trans people, often called hijra, are an ostracized group that often has trouble finding work because of their gender identity. This new ruling means that hijra/trans people will be included in government quotas for employment along with other recognized minority groups.

BBC estimates there are up to two million transgender people in India, a country with a population of over one billion people.

Read more about the ruling in BBC’s coverage.

UofT study finds toddlers are ‘surprisingly sophisticated’ at understanding accents

According to a new study from the University of Toronto toddlers and small children have a much better comprehension of foreign and unknown accents than previously thought, or, in short: baby-talking to toddlers and small children might not be needed after all.

“Fifteen-month-olds typically say relatively few words, yet they can learn to understand someone with a completely unfamiliar accent. This shows that infants’ language comprehension abilities are surprisingly sophisticated,” according to UofT associate Psychology professor Elizabeth K. Johnson.

This means that adults speaking to a child in Australian English, American English, or British English can be understood fairly quickly by youngsters, even if the children themselves don’t say too much yet, possessing similar understanding skills to adults who take longer to fully comprehend accents.

The findings are based on two studied recently published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and in Language Learning and Development.

Brand baby, brand!

By Elana Rabinovitch

Elana Rabinovitch runs Propaganda Ink and is the Administrator of the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

“KIDS AND ADVERTISING: MOMMY, THAT’S MY BESTEST BRAND” yipped a recent headline – leaving parents everywhere shooting no-logo, fair–trade coffee out their noses. Decades ago, research suggested children understood commercials by the age of seven or eight. Yet, a recent study showed that children as young as three have no trouble identifying a brand and decoding its message. There is after all a reason why slogan inventors and jingle creators make big bucks and advertisers net big profits – they know the power of a good meme, and no consumer is too young to target. One of the enduring axioms of the ad game – keep it simple – helps target the lowest common denominator. Think ’Coke Is It’ or ’Snap, Crackle, Pop.’

If toddlers – and I say this with no judgment except for the one rendered here – are watching commercial television, then surely exposure (like possession) is 9/10ths of the equation. Still, given the ubiquity of advertising, should we really be surprised that our offspring can mimic aggressively focus-grouped sound bytes and fall prey to the pleasing computer-generated sounds and colours of the latest tchachkes being sold?

No longer just for traditional media, ads have invaded sidewalks, escalators, the skies, floors, benches, packaged goods, and green space, making it impossible to escape the onslaught. We’ve become accustomed to their face. Stand still on any bus or subway car and watch how people’s eyes scan the vicinity until they light on an image to be taken in, then flit away to another. Our ever-shrinking attention spans have made us ripe for the picking and no image or icon is too sacred. TV and film celebrities, real and animated, have been turned into merchandizing shills. Having always thought I was too smart to be influenced by advertising, I nonetheless went ahead and bought my son plates emblazoned with the logo and titular characters from the Hollywood movie Cars. He also has Dora and Diego flatware. Not my proudest moment, but all is forgotten when little Spike’s face lights up with joy. That’s the thing about advertising – they get you where you live.

The power to persuade people to identify with a product (McDonald’s tasty food) by embedding imagery (golden arches) and sound (da da dat da da, I’m lovin’ it) below the conscious level, and, further, persuade people (or their parents) to buy that product (over 47 million sold) is the age-old art and science of the advertising racket. Over the years, the style and reach of advertising has evolved, gotten slicker, but its primary purpose – to convince a whole lot of people to buy/wear/eat/drive your stuff instead of your competitor’s stuff – remains the same.

However frightening that may be, Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant’s book The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture (Knopf Canada) is anything but. Tennant & O’Reilly are co-creators – with O’Reilly as host – of the outstanding CBC Radio show of the same name. The program, like the book, is a terrific primer on the art of advertising from the telegraph to the internet. It’s a delicious insider’s guide to the back room war stories of how (mostly) admen created some of the most successful commercials ever (often by accident); debunks myths (advertisers really aren’t trying to annoy you into buying something); and why the human voice is often an advertiser’s best weapon. As an instrument to demystify advertising and make the whole venture enormously entertaining, this book is essential reading.

The authors skillfully weave advertising’s past into modern history itself, illustrating the rise, fall, and rise again of branded entertainment where the sponsor is also the content creator. In what may be the modern apogee of this trend, in 2007, Geico, the gecko commercial pitchman for Geico Insurance, was spun off into a 30-minute sitcom. And summarily canceled soon after. But branded entertainment really began in 1930’s era Great Depression when soap operas on radio were actually created to sell soap to housewives by the same companies that produced the shows. Back to the future we go.

Tennant and O’Reilly make the point that marketers have to constantly up their game to connect with today’s savvy consumers who, especially with social media like YouTube, have become content creators of their own and shun conventional media. To reach niche markets in a multi-channel universe and stay ahead of the tech curve, it seems inevitable that ads will continue to proliferate.

Our best defense, as with most things, is a good offense. Understanding how advertising works, where it came from and where it’s headed will make us smarter consumers. Think what you might about the perniciousness of advertising, it is here to stay. Resistance is futile.

7 tips to boost your fitness motivation

By far and away the hardest part of starting and sticking with an exercise program is maintaining your motivation over the long haul. Even the most committed of gym room junkies have days when they don’t feel like working out. So what’s a girl to do when her motivation to exercise starts to wane?

1. Get Clear About Your Reasons for Exercising

List all the reasons why you want to exercise. First, cover the basics, like having a healthy heart and being stronger. Then, dig a little deeper. Jot down all the reasons that stir your emotions, things like feeling beautiful or sexy; having more energy to play with your kids; or feeling good about your body when you look in the mirror. Once you’re sure that you’ve written all the reasons you could think of, post your list in a place where you’ll see it every day. Your bathroom mirror or night table are both good options.

2. Set SMART Goals

Setting clear fitness goals is a great way to ramp up your motivation. Looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness? Then register for a 5k run/walk. Want to improve your upper body strength? Set a target number of push-ups you’ll be able to perform by a certain date. Trying to lose weight? Purchase a goal dress one or two sizes too small for an upcoming special occasion. Finally remember, your goals should always be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

3. Keep A Daily Fitness Journal

Documenting your feelings and thoughts about each workout in a journal can be a great source of inspiration on days when you’re feeling sluggish. Being able to look back and see how far you’ve come may just be the kick you need when you feel like giving up. So, if you don’t already have a journal, get one. FACT: People who journal about their workouts are more likely to achieve their fitness goals.

4. Exercise First Thing in the Morning

By working out soon after you rise, you’ll start your day with an energy boost and a feeling of accomplishment, long before most people have had their morning coffee. And, as an added bonus, you’ll have the rest of the day to tackle all your other responsibilities. Besides, people who make a habit of exercising at the start of their day are less likely to skip their workouts. After all, it’s unlikely your friends, coworkers or relatives will call you to chat or invite you out as you’re rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn, right?

5. Consider Your Workout as YOU Time.

Most women, spend so much time taking care of others (their partner, kids, parents, etc.) that they often tend to neglect their own self care. But let’s face it ladies, if you aren’t in good health you won’t be able to care for your loved ones, right? So, think of your exercise time as your chance to make you and your health a priority. Choose an activity you really enjoy to ensure your workout is really all about you. Then, schedule a time slot for your workout in your appointment calendar – just as you would for any other appointment. Finally, make the commitment; never let yourself down (or your body) by skipping your exercise session.

6. Reward Yourself for Successes.

If you’ve dropped those first 10 pounds, shaved minutes of your 10k time, or stuck to your plan of hitting the gym five days/week, it’s time to reward yourself. So, indulge. Go out and buy a new pair of shoes, that piece of jewellery you’ve had your eye on for months, or even a new pair of skinny jeans to celebrate the thinner, sexier you. Or better still, pamper yourself with a day at the spa for a massage and facial. Rewarding yourself as you make progress towards your goals will go a long way to keeping you motivated. But don’t succumb to temptation – avoid treating yourself with sweet or fatty foods.

7. Recruit an Accountability Partner.

If you feel like you’re losing your mojo perhaps you should consider recruiting an accountability partner. Among your co-workers, neighbours, family and friends, there are bound to be people (at least one) you can count on to help you keep your word when you commit to exercising. Can’t think of anyone you can connect with to workout with on a regular basis? Hire a personal trainer. Knowing your trainer is at the gym waiting to put you through your paces will make it much harder to blow off workouts. Can’t afford a trainer? Then sign up for a class or start going to the gym at the same time every day. Eventually, the people there will get to know you and start expecting you to show up. You’ll be amazed at how having that sense of community and knowing you’ll be missed will have you dragging your butt out the door.

And one final note ladies. Remember: Stay active and keep motivated!


DATING FOR DUMMIES: Relationship rules defined

Is date three always the sex date?

By Shannon Hunter

The third date is universally accepted as the ‘sex date’. I’m not sure when I first heard this or where, but I know I’ve heard it more than once. And to be honest I’ve never really been comfortable with it. Why should the number of times you’ve gone out dictate when it’s socially acceptable to get busy?

I’ve said before if the first date goes well and you just so happen to end up in bed together you shouldn’t feel guilty. Sometimes these things happen – denying yourself of what you feel is right because of an unwritten rule is ridiculous. I apply the same logic to a third date: If you’re ready – go for it.

Dating is complicated enough without imposing MORE rules on ourselves… we’re careful to wear the right make-up, never drink too much but not too little either, show the right amount of skin, and share ourselves but again not too much; all things we’ve learned to do naturally. When other people start giving us rules to follow it becomes a little too much to handle.

So when it comes to the ‘sex date’ I think the call is simple. If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t it’s not because your relationship is doomed, it’s not because he doesn’t like you, and it is most definitely not because he doesn’t find you attractive. So check your insecurity at the door.

Relationships play out in so many different ways that when we create rules and mandatory milestones we kill the romance, the fun, and the spontaneity.

Stop planning life and let it happen. Because when something really fantastic does happen it’ll always be better than anything you could have planned.

In Sickness and in Health

By Jen Kirsch

You’re sick in bed.  You feel everything that the words ‘miserable’ and ‘discomfort’ are made of.  You would give it all up if only you could – for the love of Fendi – feel better. You look over at your partner and his ‘How can I save you eyes of sympathy’ peer into yours, which suddenly light up.  Because let’s face it, when we are as sick as can be, we all – even the Sam Jones’ of the world – love (and dare I say need) some good, old, classic, TLC.

I may go as so far as to say that TLC makes for the best medicine.  A prescription often prescribed, yet not always filled. Which is just what happens when – after you tell him how grateful you are for having him around to take care of you – he tells you he’s going to go sleep on the couch tonight so he “doesn’t get sick.”

Excuse me?’ You wonder to yourself thinking you may have misheard his words.

There are two types of men when it comes to the direction of sleeping habits when you’re under the weather. There are those who are a) at your beck and call, by your side all night and wouldn’t think to have one sleep away from you (sick or not), or b) the cautious ones that are more concerned about catching a cold.

I don’t know about you ladies, but when I’m sick just so happens to be synonymous with when I need extra cuddles, love and attention. I’m more than happy to give that same extra TLC to a partner when they aren’t well and I genuinely want to because I know how it feels. A great feeling comes with knowing someone is there for you without having to ask for it. When a partner goes to sleep on the couch, it’s ever-so-easy to take it personally.

I understand with keeping your distance, but the fact remains that the germs are already in the house and we are more contagious before we are sick than during. So be conscience that you are sick but make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your sleeping arrangements. Because the last thing any of us need is the added stress when our mind tells us ‘we’re uncared for’ when in fact we very much are.



Dating around the world

By Karolina Weglarz

We all know that dating is complicated. What am I going to wear? What will they think? What do I do if they ask me back to their place? Thoughts race through your head at a mile a minute – possibilities of love, possibilities of heartbreak. Things get even more complicated when you’re living abroad, where customs and expectations are different than your usual norm. Even if you’re in a metropolis, a date with a foreigner brings a set of new expectations and new customs you might not be used to.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, George Eves of Expat Info Desk, offers some valuable tips of what to expect from dates around the globe:


Chivalry is dead. Think again. If you don’t want to offend your Russian date, keep your wallets in your purses and be prepared to have your doors held open for you. Don’t worry though; for the most part he’s not expecting anything in return. And, never take the word “casual” too seriously. Be prepared for make-up, heels, and sexy outfits on the regular.


Terrified of the truth? Like flattery instead? Forget about dating a German man. If you’re not ready to hear the truth about your weight, new outfits, or friends, don’t bother asking. Don’t say anything you don’t mean either – Germen men take what you tell them quite literally. Skip on the small talk or he’ll consider you superficial.


Don’t bail if an Italian man won’t stop talking about his mother. For many, she is considered sacred, and though he probably thinks no woman will ever compare, refrain from criticizing. Don’t take flirtatious comments as an invitation to date either. Comments that some might consider sexual harassment are common practices in both social and work environments.


Ditch your day planner when setting up a date with a French man. Rarely organized as “official,” dates are quite informal and often take place in groups. A word of caution when leaning in for that goodnight kiss: kissing means serious business for the French, so unless you intend for him to be your boyfriend, forget about it!

United States

Don’t believe in casual, open relationships? Make sure you’re straight up with your man. Don’t be surprised if he’s seeing other women on the side. Until you make it known that you want to become exclusive, it’s common for him to juggle several partners to assess their strengths and weaknesses before settling down and making a decision for good. The upside? You’re allowed to do the same!

Middle East/Islamic Nations

Forget about PDA when you’re in the Middle East. For most countries in this region, it’s illegal to have sex before marriage and touching, kissing, and cuddling are better kept behind closed doors.


If punctuality isn’t your forte forget about dating a Japanese man. Being late on a date is considered extremely rude; you’ll be lucky if you ever hear from him again. If you find he talks a little too much about his salary during the first date, don’t stress, he’s just showing that he can care for his mate.


If you like your man to take charge on the first date, forget about dating an Australian. It’s not unusual for women to ask men out and pay. Don’t be surprised if your man asks you out via text message.


Flowers, chocolate, and romantic restaurants are just a few things your date will have in store for you on Valentine’s Day. In China, Valentine’s Day is observed religiously. Singles in China tend to live with their parents until they get married, so don’t resist an invitation to meet his parents promptly after your first date.



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Hey bedbugs: Bite me!

You’ve probably heard that there’s a bed bug epidemic sweeping the United States. We’ve imported it, like so many other American products, to Canada, and most notably for Women’s Post readers, to the Toronto area.

While these little guys are nibbling their way through North America, we humans are not letting this whole issue go unnoticed, nosiree! We’ve got conferences, summits, and now the suggestion from Ontario MPP Michael Colle that we fire up a bedbug tracking program.

Say what? I have to wonder just how we’d track these tiny creatures, just 4 to 5 mm long (about the length of an unbitten baby toe-nail). Would we all be issued some kind of counter as in click-when-you-see-one? But then, what about people like me who wear glasses to see small objects, but never when I’m sleeping? Maybe I’d track them by counting the bites each morning?

Turns out, we haven’t had this many bedbugs to snuggle up with, in about 30 years. And 30 years ago, we dealt with them using DDT, an insecticide which is now banned because of its high toxicity. So unless we un-ban DDT, the bedbugs are winning. I suspect un-banning DDT is way tougher than un-friending on Facebook.

If you search YouTube for ‘bedbugs,’ you’ll find a treasury of over 3100 buggy videos, covering the obvious hotels to hospitals to the more obscure courtrooms and libraries. I’ll admit to not watching any of these creepy videos; see me shudder at the thought. It might be a better idea to subscribe to one of many bedbug forums available such as bedbugger (give them a prize for a great domain name please) where you can read bedbug blogs that really gnaw into the subject.

There’s a Facebook page for bed bugs, of course, and there’s also a page called The Bed Bug Patch – kinda like Nicoderm for bed bugs? If there are only 32 people who like this page, what does that mean, I wonder?

In the U.S., the bed bug infestation is so rampant that there are now lawyers who specialize in, are you ready for this, bed bug litigation.

I think that instead of spending our tax dollars on Mr. Colle’s suggestion of tracking, we should send him to the Bed Bug University’s Summit 2010 next week in Chicago. Oh wait, it’s sold out! But there is a waiting list and the cost of the entire summit is only $450, a bargain with a bite, I’d say.

But wait, there is a solution! Bedbugs do have natural enemies – cockroaches, ants, spiders and mites. All we need is some innovative entrepreneur to start a company selling the ultimate anti-bedbug package, a combination of all 4 predators. I bet he could get some start-up money from Dragon’s Den; they’re sure to be impressed with such an unusual idea, or they’ll at least say an immediate yes simply to get the bug buddy out of the studio.

There are companies that sell butterflies to release at weddings; you used to be able to buy lady bugs to combat the aphids in your rose garden; why not spiders to spin up the bedbugs or cockroaches to consume them?

OK, seriously, there are home remedies that worked like a charm for our grandmothers – put your sheets and clothes in the dryer for about 30 minutes, steam your mattresses with one of those hand-held steamers, buy a natural remedy such as Black Walnut or Boric acid powder.

Of all the stressors we have to deal with today, it just seems to me that bed bugs are pretty far down the list and don’t require or warrant all the hysteria, press and dollars they’re receiving.

I’m with Bart Simpson on this one – bite me!

TRAVEL: Have you found Newfoundland?

by Russell Wangersky

Russell Wangersky is the Editor of the Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is a Women’s Post Contributor.

There are no signs that send you to the look-off over Big Broad Cove Pond.

No arrows. No instructions to tell you that there’s even something there to see. It’s a roofless gazebo with a couple of benches, the whole thing painted dark green with that heavy paint that seems to be sold only to institutional buyers, and you can see that same gazebo on Google Map’s satellite pictures – but only if you already know exactly where to look.

You come across it like many things in Newfoundland: by accident, often while looking for something else. No particular reason to pick a dirt road that could just as easily lead to nowhere.

On a recent Sunday, the unlikely gazebo had a panoramic, 360-degree view of one part of the northeast corner of Newfoundland’s Avalon peninsula, the northern end of Conception Bay out in front of you, the big pond down in back, and the rolling barrens lands on both sides, low scrub and spruce and fragrant bog plants as far as the eye could see.

Down the hill to the water of the pond, and the canoe slips easily out into the water, and we were pulling hard under deep, heavy clouds and a quick shower of rain before the sun came out, several kilometres of canoeing, the edges of the pond all tufts of flowers. Drifts of small Arctic succulents with brilliant yellow blooms, and shouldered waves of rhodera, with saucy-mouthed hot-pink flowers that blend together in a drift of colour away from you to the cliffs, grey stone that seems to jut up exactly wherever it wants to, weathered jawbones and wandering teeth in desperate need of straightening.

On the south side, coming back, it was occasional sun and all damp heat, and looking down into the peat-brown water you could see the water deepen as the pond ledged downwards, followed by a sudden steep drop off that took the bottom entirely out of sight. One unexpected and motionless line of seagulls ahead, until we were close enough to realize that they weren’t floating, but standing in line on a long spine of rock jutting out from shore into the centre of the lake, and then that breathless canoe moment when you stop paddling entirely and wait as you whisper over the rock, waiting too for the familiar soft nudge of the grounding.

A quick stop near an abandoned plywood tilt, and through the window, you can see a man’s jacket and a yellow-handled swede saw. Out front, a set of moose horns is toppled into the bog, only the top horn wholly visible.

But here’s the magic part.

On the pond for the afternoon, and we saw exactly three people, two in another boat, and the third flyfishing at the foot of the pond, until we pulled away in the canoe and he turned into a dot. And that, a 50 per cent increase over the two we had seen after an afternoon’s canoeing on the Saturday. And even Saturday’s total was more crowded than the usual none.

It was five minutes’ drive from where the minke whales were chasing capelin near the surface, the whales’ black backs arching wet out of the waves, close enough to shore so that you could hear their puffed exhalations as they surfaced. You didn’t need a boat – you could see them from the car. After that, five minutes from the house.

(I could, if I wanted to, tell you that there is a swimming hole underneath a 20-foot falls on a river closer than a subway-stop away. Or that the same distance away there is an empty ocean beach with fine grey sand where we have only ever seen footsteps – two sets of prints, sturdy walking shoes with a businesslike tread, and a walking stick they used only on their way back. Or that, in August, the blueberries will weigh their plants down like grapes on an arbour.)

Wish you were here?

Maybe you do.

Sorry to say, I’m not missing you.

I guess that makes me greedy.


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RECIPE: Crunchy Vegan Anzac Biscuits

I tried my first Anzac biscuit a few months ago while visiting Detroit. However, these cookies have a long history. It’s rumoured that wives in Australia and New Zealand sent these cookies to soldiers who were fighting abroad because the ingredients don’t spoil, so they were able to survive the journey overseas.

The basic ingredients really couldn’t be simpler and with a few tweaks I was able to create a healthier, vegan version without sacrificing taste. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, give these crunchy, chewy, almost-caramelized biscuits a try.

Crunchy Vegan Anzac Biscuits


  • 1 cup buckwheat flour + pinch xanthum gum (the original recipe calls for “plain” flour and normally I would have used whole wheat pastry flour but I was all out, so just use whatever you have on hand. If you’re using a flour that contains gluten, omit the xanthum gum.)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup sucanut
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water


  1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix together your dry ingredients (minus the baking soda) and set aside
  3. Melt the coconut oil, Earth Balance, and agave nectar over low heat. When melted, mix in the baking soda and hot water.
  4. When the oil mixture starts to froth, quickly mix it in with dry ingredients
  5. Shape dough into walnut sized balls and flatten them onto a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cookies are golden brown.


Enjoy with a hot cup of tea or your morning cup of coffee!