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Politics
According to a psychological analysis from the university of British Columbia style and not substance resulted in Donald trump’s US Republican presidential nomination. When comparing Trump’s speech style and Twitter usage to that of the other top nine republican contenders, Psychology researchers at the university came to an interesting conclusion. The real estate mogul and reality star regularly ranked highest in ratings of grandiosity, “I”-statements, informal language, vocal pitch variation and the use of Twitter. “Trump’s outrageous statements over the course of the campaign led many political pundits to underestimate his chances of success,” said supervising author Delroy L. Paulhus, a personality psychology researcher and professor at UBC. “Contrary to what might be expected, grandiosity, simplistic language and rampant Twitter activity were statistical predictors of success in the Republican primaries. Although Trump’s bombastic communication style was shocking—even detestable to many viewers—our research suggests that this style helped him win the Republican nomination.” Speech segments from the nine contenders were transcribed and analyzed using a computerized text analysis software. Trained raters also coded the transcriptions for grandiosity after removing all personal information and references to the candidate’s party. In addition, the researchers also carried out an acoustical analysis of the speeches to determine pitch variability, usually promoting an image of dynamism and energy. Finally, they examined each candidate’s Tweet count in the three months leading up to the announcement of their candidacy. Paulhus said the difficulty of fact-checking everything people tell us may lead us to rely on how they say it. “We’ve shown that this holds true even in political elections.” He further added that this phenomenon not only helps explain how Donald trump gained power but also how questionable political leaders might rise to power  — even in democracies. “Explaining Trump via Communication Style: Grandiosity, Informality, and Dynamism” appears today in Personality and Individual Differences.  Co-authors are Sara Ahmadian and Sara Azarshahi.
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Politics, World
On May 9, the Philippines held its national and local elections, electing a new President and Vice President, as well as senators, mayors and other local officials. Though the official results will be released later in June, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is the presumptive winner of the presidential race with a 6 million vote lead over his main contender, Manuel Roxas II. It is notable that the popular vote has chosen Duterte as the new president, despite of allegations of murder, of his infamous “Davao Death Squad” (DDS), and outspoken willingness to kill criminals and anyone who dares to defy his rule. Why has this been so? To understand Duterte’s popularity, one must understand the mood of the majority of Filipinos towards their government and place in society. For one, his rise comes at a time of increasing anger against the rampant corruption in the Philippine government. This corruption is represented by the candidates themselves, in terms of dynastic families continuing to hold power, as well as in the corruption of tax funds, bribery of officials, and others. Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II, the second ranked candidate, is the grandson of former President Manuel Roxas. Grace Poe, another close contender, is the daughter of Fernando Poe Jr, a famous figure in Philippine politics and popular culture. Jejomar Binay, another candidate, has various family members in different levels of government as well as many charges of corruption against him. Duterte appears to be the antithesis to these candidates. Formerly the mayor of Davao City, he will be the first President who hails from the Southern Philippines in a position dominated by candidates from the North. He is from a lower socioeconomic class than his opponents and has declared to have a simple lifestyle, though recent reports have shown that he too has unaccounted for wealth. He is not part of a dynasty in national politics, which has been a main source of frustration of Filipinos against government officials. He stands firm against corruption, and has vowed to file an executive order to implement Freedom of Information (FOI) regarding the government’s executive branch, which was started by President Ninoy ‘NoyNoy’ Aquino Jr but had failed to pass in Congress. Most of all, the dominating feature of his platform is his promise to solve crime in the Philippines in 3-6 months, allowing for the possibility of assassinations, death squads, as well as the dumping of bodies in Manila Bay. His apparent ability to keep order in Davao City with similar methods seems to give credibility for this promise. He is what the majority of Filipinos have seen as the saviour the Philippines so desperately needs. Indeed, while Aquino has managed to spearhead the largest economic growth since the era of martial law and earn the Philippines the title of a ‘Rising Asian Tiger’, this has largely not been felt at the lower layers of society. About a quarter of the Philippines’ population remains in poverty. With the governmental corruption, recent disastrous storms that have devastated the country, and lack of visible change, the frustration has grown. It is evident that a hero is needed to save the nation. But can Duterte save the Philippines? A president’s term lasts only 6 years, and as reflected in other parts of the world such as the US, change can be slow, frustratingly so, and it can bring criticism on the leader’s apparent inability to make it happen faster. But this is also what makes Duterte so popular – he is promising quick, immediate change for problems the nation, especially its lower socioeconomic classes, have experienced for so long. The people have spoken for the Punisher, the so-called Donald Trump of the East to become the new President of the Philippines. Experts fear that this new regime can bring an end to democracy in the Philippines and cause ripple effects across Southeast Asia. Others worry for the Philippines’ foreign relations during his rule, especially with consideration to the conflict in the South China Sea. Only time will prove to tell whether Duterte was the right choice. The Philippine election results can be found at this link, provided by the news outlet Rappler. The overseas votes are the remaining ones to be counted.
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Health, Politics, News
According to a new UBC study, all Canadians especially the lowest-income groups should have dental care as part of their basic health care plan. Researchers surveyed 567 clients from four major health care clinics in Ontario and British Columbia that served a large number of Aboriginal and low-income groups. Close to half (46 percent) of the participants considered their oral health being fair to poor and about the same number (44 Percent) said they often have pain in their mouth and teeth. “Those numbers are three times higher than the general Canadian population as reported by the Canadian Health Measures Survey–clearly, the people we interviewed face tremendous oral health issues,” said UBC nursing professor Annette Browne, who led the study. Browne said many of the participants may have underestimated their dental issues mainly because they were already tackling other social and health problems due to their financial burden.   The research also revealed that individuals with fair oral health had difficulty eating a variety of foods due to missing teeth. Co-researcher and UBC PhD graduate, Bruce Wallace, says the findings indicate the necessity for affordable dental services for some of Canada’s low-income groups. Wallace said, economically disadvantaged groups have no dental insurance and have only access to public dental health benefits. Therefore, they often skip dental work due to the cost and other problems. “No one should have to depend on charitable dentistry or volunteer dental clinics. We need to integrate oral health benefits within universal health insurance and consider offering dental care in alternate health care settings, such as community health care centres,” said Wallace.
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Environment, Politics, News
According to a Stanford University study, collective efforts to reduce deforestation are more than twice as effective as “confrontational” programs implemented by either nongovernmental  organizations or industry. Various eco-certifications inform consumers of their impact on deforestation. However, there hasn’t been much research on their effectiveness up until now. The study finds that  these certifications have improved forest product sustainability to a great extent. According to “Impacts of Nonstate, Market-Driven Governance on Chilean forests” published in “Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences”, Market-driven attempts have reduced deforestation to a great extent, with multi-party collaborations having the greatest impact. “Our research shows that these market-based conservation efforts have reduced deforestation in Chile,” said lead author Robert Heilmayr, a recent graduate from Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, in the paper “Impacts of Nonstate, Market-Driven Governance on Chilean forests” published in “Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences” A comparison on the conservation outcomes between CERTFOR, a largely industry developed certification program, Joint Solutions Project (JSP), an NGO-instigated deforestation moratorium and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a cooporation between industry and nongovernmental organizations, has provided insight into this issue. While CERTFOR had 16 percent reduction in deforestation on average, JSP-only participants experienced an average reductions of 20 percent. With 43% reduction in deforestation, FSC resulted in the greatest success. According to Heilmayr and co-author  Eric Lambin,the George and Setsuko Ishiyama Provostial Professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, the balance between strict environmental requirements with cost-effective solutions was responsible for FSC’s leading success. This balance creates a notion among participants that their interests have been protected and hence they follow through on requirements. The analysis also suggests in contrast to government policies, private and market-driven programs are better at lowering deforestation rates in places of high deforestation. “Traditional conservation policies like national parks often protect remote, pristine locations,” Heilmayr said. “Agreements between companies and environmentalists can reduce deforestation in more threatened forests.” “In the globalization era, deforestation is increasingly associated with consumption in distant, international markets,” said Lambin . “We need new approaches to environmental governance that regulate the impact of international actors.”
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Technology, Politics, Innovation
Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver is a timely and provocative exploration of the future of Vancouver as a response to the mounting concern on the changes taking place in the region, shifting the dialogue  from real estate  to the future state of the city. Thus, Urbanarium Society in partnership with the Museum of Vancouver (MOV)  will bring  an exhibition that will feature 20 different scenarios of Vancouver’s future landscape, while engaging the public to discuss four exceptionally pressing issues:  housing affordability, residential density, ease of transportation and quality of public space. The exhibition will take place from Jan. 21 through May 16, 2016 at the MOV. Organizers at the museum expect to welcome a few thousands attending Your Future Home throughout its duration. Urbanarium is a non-for-profit educational organization, created 30 years ago by architect and planner, Ray Spaxman, who was  inspired by  a then-newly opened planetarium in Toronto. He  envisioned  a place where people can  gather and have discussions about the future of the city and the region, as well as  exhibitions, lectures and workshops,  where visitors can learn about design and urban planning. After some inactivity, in 2013 Spaxman and  a group of architects,  planners and volunteers —  including, renowned Vancouver-based architect  Richard Henriquez, chairman of the board of directors–  revived Urbanarium.  Still a virtual space, Urbanarium’s website was launched a year later. “This  is by far, one of our  most ambitious programs yet, along with the debate series,” says  Jamaican-born Henriquez in a phone interview. He arrived first in Manitoba as a teenager  in the late 1950s, but has called Vancouver home since 1967. This exhibition aims  to expose the city’s  issues and “get people thinking about the choices that might have to make in the future as time goes on”. Henriquez  is the founding partner of Henriquez Partners Architects, recipient of numerous accolades, and the creative force behind iconic estructures, such as the Gaslight Square, the New Westminster’s Justice Institute of BC and the Sinclair Centre.

Exhibition

Your future home exhibition will feature  a 1,400-square-foot model, a sort of a real estate “sales centre,” advertising new condominiums. “Except that instead of showing off one building, we are showing off the whole city. (…) It’s a miniature model of Vancouver, ” Henriquez explained. This model will include photographs, infographics, animations, dramatic models, panoramic images relating to Vancouver’s downtown and suburban neighbourhoods. Visitors will have the opportunity to discuss the future scenarios, offer feedback and propose new solutions. The second part introduces about 20 different scenarios focused on ideas  about ways to improves  the city in the future. “They have to do with  affordability, public open space, transportation  and increasing density, which is a big concern for a lot of people.” Some of the case studies will also include the Arbutus Lands redevelopment, the  expansion of the CPR line to Marpole, possible changes in  Granville Island, and new ways of  heating buildings in the Downtown area and sustainability issues. One of the future scenarios will feature a 2,500-foot vertical city as a three-dimensional model, a representation of Granville Street turned on end to run vertically, to be displayed in the “Urban Grid.’ It’s a lesson about  scale and people’s  changing notions of scale over time. Among the various topics, high sky home prices is certainly the most urgent issue in Vancouver. “There  is a lot of pressure from outside people to get housing,”  says  Henriquez.  A foreign investor can buy six or eight apartments at a time  – most likely to remain empty. “Vancouver is like a bank (…)  It’s a safe place to park money.”  Henriquez says he thinks it’s the federal government’s responsibility to look into this matter. On a municipal level,  the City of Vancouver and developers are working together to create affordable  housing in the benefit of low-income individuals.  Developers are allowed to build condominiums at a higher density than usual, in exchange the City will get 20% of the suites for free. From an architectural point of view — although Henriquez doesn’t advocate for it — miniaturization of suites is another option. “In designs with very small spaces, everything is multiuse, so you can shrink the space and still live in.” Debates During the exhibition, members of the public will have the chance to participate in six Oxford-style  debates  among architectural, real estate and urban planning experts, by casting their votes with mobile devices. The debates  will take place at the Robson Square, except for first one to be held at  the MOV  on January 20th (Free admission by donation –currently sold out), which will focus on densification of neighbourhoods.  The debates will be a yearly affair, depending on their success. For more information visit: MOV’s website.  
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Politics
Private US companies can now mine asteroids for minerals, despite it violating a major treaty of space laws. This came after the signing of a major bill by United States President Barack Obama. The bill called the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, allows US citizens to obtain, own and mine asteroids. This law makes it easier for private American companies to explore and obtain space resources commercially. Until now, nobody could claim commercial ownership of any space material. The bill states: “A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.” Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resource – an American company aiming to make profits from asteroid mining – said in a statement, “this is the single greatest recognition of property rights in history … this legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space.” In 1967, the US wrote and signed the Outer Space Treaty along with 124 other countries – it states “celestial bodies,” including the moon may not be claimed by or owned by any nation.
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Environment, Politics
Thousands attended the Global Climate March in Vancouver filling the streets with messages to world leaders who have arrived in Paris. The UN climate summit kicks off on Monday where discussions on national limits of greenhouse gas emissions will arise. People began gathering in the early afternoon in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery then marched throughout the downtown core. Climate change activists held protests across many cities. Check out how some people described the events on Twitter:    
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Politics, IdeasXChange Hub Events

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

On February 24, 2015, IdeasXChange launched its sustainability workshop series with over 30 participants and five well-respected community leaders as panelists. The theme of discussion: social sustainability.

About 30 participants including UBC students and community members gathered at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to hear about what social sustainability means to some of Vancouver’s community leaders.

But what is social sustainability?

One of the most well-known definitions includes environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The concept of “social sustainability” encompasses topics such as:

Social equity – a state in which all members of a group or society have the same status in certain areas, including civil rights, freedom of speech and property rights among others.

Community development – a process where members of a community come together to take action and generate solutions to common problems.

Social capital – the expected economic or collective benefits from the preferential treatment and cooperation between people and groups.

Human rights – rights that are believed to belong justifiably to every person.

Labour rights – a group of legal rights relating to labour relations between workers and employers.

Panel Discussion: From addressing poverty to finding solutions

Five panelists addressed social sustainability from different perspectives – from working side-by-side with Vancouver’s poor population, to finding solutions through social enterprises and advocating for greater access to education and legal representation.

The panelists included:

Jeff Baergen – community and engagement director at the UGM – a charity organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Tara Taylor – Manager at Potluck Catering and Recipes for success – a social enterprise that provides opportunities for those who face employment barriers

Marcia Nozick – CEO of EMBERS – a social enterprise that offers economic and employment opportunities to individuals and advice for companies

Cherie Payne – a former Vancouver School Board member and advocacy lawyer

Patti Bacchus – an elected Vancouver School Board Trustee and active player in the field of local education

For information on our other workshops follow this link.

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Politics, Society, Features, Featurable

In Western countries, it has become commonplace or even trendy to consume so-called “superfoods” that developing countries produce and export. They sit on shelves in nearly every grocery store and their health benefits are well known to consumers. In particular, Western demand for grains such as quinoa and teff have exploded in recent years. But why? Superfoods are food products that are relatively high in nutrients. What drives Western demand for them? If you live in a developed country, it’s likely you’re well versed in, or at least conscious of the superfood conversation. They tend to be popular with vegans and vegetarians, lifestyle choices that have become more prevalent in Western culture, as superfoods are nutritious alternatives for meat products. As we become more preoccupied with making healthy food decisions, foods deemed “superfoods” are front and center. But there’s more to the equation than just demand – somebody has to meet those demands, and this responsibility falls upon the superfoods’ countries of origin.

Background on quinoa and teff and its impacts on countries of origin



Quinoa and teff are highly nutritious, gluten-free grains. Quinoa traditionally grows in Peru and Bolivia and is low fat, high in protein, and full of amino acids. Teff, which has 50% more protein, five times more fiber and 25 times more calcium than brown rice, hails from the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. With these stats, it’s no wonder that health-conscious Westerners covet them – consuming foods with these nutrient levels likely impacts our own health in positive ways (which is why demand is so high), but the impacts of our consumption on producing countries is another story altogether. While consuming superfoods like quinoa and teff may have positive health effects for Westerners, we can’t say the same for the health of the countries that produce them. In fact, the “Columbusing” of superfoods, or the “discovery” of these crops in developing countries, tends to benefit global consumers more than producers.

Quinoa industry damaging Bolivian development

Increased global demand – how much people desire a good as a whole – for quinoa spurred Bolivia to export higher volumes of the grain. While this increases Bolivia’s revenue and incomes of local farmers, it also causes the domestic price of quinoa to soar. In other words, while individual living standards of farmers have improved, it has become more difficult for the general population to afford quinoa, a staple in their diets. In 2011, a kilogram of quinoa cost $4.85 USD in contrast to $1 for the same weight of rice. The problems don’t stop there. In attempting to meet global demand, Bolivia faces pressure to allocate more land for quinoa production. If it follows through, Bolivia will in effect transform its agricultural portfolio into a monocrop of only quinoa. Without diverse agricultural production, Bolivia will become subject to volatile food prices and limited food security. If the price of quinoa plummets, its agriculture industry won’t bring in revenue; if it only produces one crop, Bolivia risks pest or disease infestation that can wipe out its only source of food, potentially resulting in famine.



Ethiopia’s teff dilemma

In recent years, Westerners have lauded teff for its nutritional value, so much so that the Ethiopian government decided to lift its ban on teff export with tight controls in place. Previously, there was a complete ban on raw teff export, with only processed teff in the form of injera allowed to leave the country. While this prevented the re-entry of teff into the Ethiopian market at inflated prices, the government and manufacturers were involved in the economic process, leaving farmers with little of their deserved revenue. Lifting the ban means Ethiopia needs to control price fluctuations. It hopes to do so by licensing commercial farms to produce teff for export to avoid flooding the market and bringing teff prices down. According to CEO of Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency Khalid Bomba, licensed producers will supply exports first, and then extend to small-scale farmers who comprise most of Ethiopia’s working population. The Ethiopian government’s hopes to meet both domestic and global demand will be tricky business. If it wants to engage in export, Ethiopia should first satisfy its own population’s demand. This involves increasing production levels by introducing modern farming techniques. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of agricultural research on teff production, so Ethiopia must first figure out which modern farming techniques are best suited to teff. Another issue is other countries have successfully planted teff crops. In the United States, 25 states produce the superfood. Al Jazeera reports that because of such successful transplantation, Ethiopia is losing out on its staple crop. Perhaps the best way for Ethiopia to combat this loss is to capitalize on the fact that the quality and taste of foreign-produced teff can’t hold a flame to its own. If it manages to brand Ethiopian teff as a premium product, Ethiopia may be able to overtake its competitors.


Consequences of superfoods on health in developing countries


Let’s now consider the impact of Western demand for quinoa and teff on the health of Bolivian and Ethiopian populations. When goods become too expensive, consumers substitute their consumption of that good with cheaper alternatives. In Bolivia, people substitute less nutritious rice and noodles for quinoa. In Ethiopia, teff farmers are selling the bulk of their harvests instead of eating it to take advantage of high global prices. The consequence of these actions is rising malnutrition, especially in rural communities. In both Bolivia and Ethiopia, consuming more quinoa and teff can alleviate malnutrition, but this task competes with Western cravings.

What can we do?


This paints a fairly bleak picture of guilt. Evidently, Western eating habits are directly related to economic conditions and poverty levels in developing countries. How can we reconcile our health-conscious love for quinoa, teff and other superfoods with the adverse affects it creates for countries that produce them? One way is to practice ethical consumerism. Movements like Fairtrade aim to ensure local farmers receive fair payment for their work; purchasing Fairtrade products means more of your money goes to the producer rather than distributors or manufacturers. But this only solves half of the equation – how can we ensure that our consumption of superfoods doesn’t come with the price of malnourished communities who can’t afford the same product? This is a question of social and economic policy. We have seen how Ethiopia is taking measures to ensure domestic prices (the current price for teff in the economy) of teff don’t skyrocket. To see lower domestic quinoa prices, Bolivia may restrict exports or increase production (both of which will bolster domestic supply and push down price) or introduce some kind of policy that balances its exports with domestic concerns. It’s unlikely that Western demands for superfoods will cease or even plateau any time soon. Indeed, such demand can produce incentives for more people or countries to become involved in superfood industries and drive more efficient production. Taking this into consideration, the key lies in how, rather than what, we consume, and the ways in which we can all improve our consumer behaviour.

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