One premium child: York prof’s son born at gas bar

A miscalculation by a York University math professor ended in what she described as a miracle, after she gave birth to a boy outside a North York gas station, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 15. Xin Gao, 32, was at home with her father, Kerry, early Thursday morning when she started to have contractions. At first, she said, she thought she had plenty of time before she would have to go to the hospital. “At about 5:30 I started to feel contractions and I thought, usually it takes 10 hours (before going into labour),” she said Thursday afternoon. “I thought it was too early to go to the hospital at that time.”

An hour and a half later, however, when the contractions started coming more quickly, Gao changed her mind, reported the Star. Acting quickly, she asked her father to run to a neighbour’s home to ask for help driving her to the hospital. Without hesitation, she said, a neighbour she barely knew and who she identified only as Mary, jumped at the opportunity to help and the three of them were on their way to North York General Hospital. They never quite made it.

“When we started our trip, we thought we’d be able to make it to the hospital but just 10 minutes later things changed dramatically,” said Gao, who has taught mathematics at York for four years now. “At Bayview (Avenue) and Cummer (Avenue) I thought I couldn’t hold it any more because the baby’s head was pushing out.” Mary quickly pulled over into a nearby gas station where she rushed to find a phone to call an ambulance, the Star said. Meanwhile, Gao said, her boy was making his entrance into the world. “I was sitting in the front passenger seat so I lay down and (Mary) rushed into the gas station and borrowed a cell phone,” Gao said of the moments before her son was born.

“She was calling 911 and at the same time she caught the head of the baby.” When paramedics arrived on the scene a few minutes later, Gao had already given birth and her father was cradling the child in his arms, the Star wrote. “They helped me wrap the baby and cut the cord and rushed me to the hospital,” she said of the paramedics. “I was fine and the baby was fine and the whole family is excited.” Hours later, her husband, Hong Xu, would meet her in the hospital after driving back from Ottawa where he works.

Together, the two decided to abandon the traditional Chinese name they had reserved for the boy, and to name him Michael, because the name sounds so similar to miracle, the Star wrote. Weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces, he joins his brother, Xing Ming, 4-1/2. “Both my husband and I decided to choose Michael for the first name of him just to remember what happened today,” she said from her hospital room. “We are very grateful to the people who helped me because without their help it would have been a very critical condition.”

  • CanWest News Service reported Dec. 15 that the driver, Mary Pasquantino, pulled into a gas station and called 911. A dispatch operator talked Pasquantino through the labour. In a recording of the 911 call, the operator, Elizabeth Maxwell, was heard telling Pasquantino to be careful as the baby may be “slippery.” “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s wonderful, beautiful,” Pasquantino said.
  • Canadian Press reported Dec. 14 that paramedic Paul Klaehn arrived within minutes of the call to find the child’s “very proud” grandfather holding the newest family member. 
  • Global, CTV and Omni Television broadcast excerpts of the 911 call. The story was also reported in the National Post and newspapers across Canada.

Resistance to the Ahmadinejads is growing, says Rahnema

It is election time again in Iran; not parliamentary or presidential elections, but elections for the so-called Assembly of Experts and the local councils, wrote Saeed Rahnema, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, and director of York’s School of Public Policy and Administration, in The Globe and Mail Dec. 15. The former is one of many strange political institutions, created in post-revolutionary Iran, and consists of an 86-member all-mullah body that appoints the Supreme Leader for life. Members of the Assembly of Experts are elected for eight years by direct public vote and candidates are drawn from a list approved by the Guardian Council, a 12-member body made up of mullahs and Islamic lawyers, appointed by the Supreme Leader himself.

The Assembly provides the facade of legitimacy for the undemocratic position of the Supreme Leader and the “absolute sovereignty of the jurist” who is not formally accountable to anyone including the “experts” who appoint him, wrote Rahnema. The turnout for this election will be very low and most will not care which mullahs are elected. The contest is mainly between the supporters of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a millionaire ex-president and pragmatic cleric, and Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, the arch-fundamentalist cleric and mentor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Children’s movies deal with big questions

Peter Cumming, a children’s literature expert in York’s Faculty of Arts, said the marketing campaign for the film version of E.B. White’s classic children’s story Charlotte’s Web appears to be tapping into the recent success of children’s films with religious or quasi-religious overtones, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 15. But Cumming says the fact that Charlotte is an adult, female spider that sacrifices herself for a young, male child distinguishes the story from those with a blatant Christian metaphors.

“Typically, girls and women in children’s literature tend to sacrifice their personal selves and ambitions for the sake of family, home, and community,” he says, noting the male protagonist in White’s novel is actually saved by two females – initially a young farm girl and later by Charlotte who spins webs above his pen featuring words like “humble” in order to prevent his slaughter. “If you’re looking for death, sacrifice and re-birth in that novel, Wilbur certainly doesn’t do a lot of sacrificing,” Cumming adds. “He doesn’t end up as a bacon sandwich.”

Animal characters, such as Charlotte or the lion Aslan in the Narnia novel, are often used instead of humans to teach children about death, Cumming explains. “Children’s and young adult fantasy, rather than realism, are where the big themes of sacrifice, renewal and rebirth seem to come into play,” Cumming says.

Sales clerks who try to butter up clients just arouse suspicion

Maybe that indifferent sales clerk who apparently couldn’t care less about your business is on to something, reported The Vancouver Sun Dec. 15. Sales pitches that flatter the purchaser do little to close the deal and tend to reinforce public suspicion of the sales game, according to a study co-authored by Kelley Main, marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business.

When a clerk congratulates you on your selection, or confides that they bought the exact same thing for their own use, consumers automatically move into mistrust mode, says Darren Dahl, professor at UBC, who conducted the study with Main and Peter Darke of Florida State University.

Driven by hatred

St. Francis Xavier professor Shiraz Dossa’s participation in Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic love fest recalls the Talmudic saying that “hatred perverts proper conduct,” wrote Eric Lawee, humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a letter to the National Post Dec. 15. Hatred of the Jewish state among some North American and European academics is so intense as to make academic and moral depredations like Prof. Dossa’s tacit endorsement of Holocaust denial and President Ahmadinejad’s announced wish to see Israel wiped off the map almost inevitable.

Most disturbing of all is that Prof. Dossa will soon be back in the classroom purportedly teaching the academic values he has perverted to students, some of whom may become the next generation of Canadian professors, said Lawee