More Talking To Babies Helps Their Brains

18 February, 2014 at 16:50 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Science | Leave a comment

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WASHINGTON—Using videos that claim to teach toddlers, or flash cards for tots, may not be the best idea. Simply talking to babies is key to building crucial language and vocabulary skills—but sooner is better, and long sentences are good.

So says research that aims to explain, and help solve, the troubling “word gap”: Children from more affluent, professional families hear millions more words before they start school than poor kids, leaving the lower-income students at an academic disadvantage that’s difficult to overcome.

That gap starts to appear at a younger age than scientists once thought, around 18 months, said Stanford University psychology professor Anne Fernald.

And research being presented this week at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science suggests that it’s not just hearing lists of words that matters as much as rich, varied language with good grammar that trains babies’ brains to learn through context.

Instead of just saying, “Here’s an orange,” it would be better to say: “Let’s put the orange in this bowl with the banana and the apple and the grapes.”

“It’s making nets of meaning that then will help the child learn new words,” Fernald explained.

“The advice I give mothers is to have conversations with your babies,” added Erika Hoff, a psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University. “Children can hear lots of talk that goes over their head in terms of the meaning, and they still benefit from it.”

Income Word Gap

The research comes amid a growing push for universal preschool, to help disadvantaged youngsters catch up. But it also raises the question of whether children from low-income, less educated families need earlier intervention, such as preschool that starts at age 3 instead of 4, or higher quality day care or even some sort of “Let’s talk” campaign aimed at new parents to stress talking, singing, and reading with tots even before they can respond. That can be difficult for parents working multiple jobs, or who may not read well or who simply don’t know why it’s important.

Scientists have long known that before they start kindergarten, children from middle-class or affluent families have heard millions more words than youngsters from low-income families, leaving the poorer children with smaller vocabularies and less ready to succeed academically. Fernald said by some measures, 5-year-olds from low-income families can lag two years behind their peers in tests of language development.

Brain scans support the link, said Dr. Kimberly Noble of Columbia University Medical Center. Early experiences shape the connections that children’s brains form, and kids from higher socio-economic backgrounds devote more “neural real estate” to brain regions involved in language development, she found.

Language Quality Matters

How early does the word gap appear? Around age 18 months, Stanford’s Fernald discovered when she compared how children mentally process the language they hear. Lower-income kids in her study achieved at age 2 the level of proficiency that more affluent kids had reached six months earlier.

To understand why language processing is so important, consider this sentence: “The kitty’s on the bench.” If the youngster knows the word “kitty,” and his brain recognizes it quickly enough, then he can figure out what “bench” means by the context. But if he’s slow to recognize “kitty,” then “bench” flies by before he has a chance to learn it.

Next, Fernald tucked recorders into T-shirts of low-income toddlers in Spanish-speaking households to determine what they heard all day—and found remarkable differences in what’s called child-directed speech. That’s when children are spoken to directly, in contrast to television or conversations they overhear.

One child heard more than 12,000 words of child-directed speech in a day, while another heard a mere 670 words, she found. The youngsters who received more child-directed speech processed language more efficiently and learned words more quickly, she reported.

But it’s not just quantity of speech that matters—it’s quality, Hoff cautioned. She studied bilingual families and found that whatever the language, children fare better when they learn it from a native speaker. In other words, if mom and dad speak Spanish but aren’t fluent in English, it’s better for the child to have a solid grounding in Spanish at home and then learn English later in school.

Next, scientists are testing whether programs that teach parents better ways to talk to tots really do any good. Fernald said preliminary results from one of the first—a program called Habla Conmigo, Spanish for Talk With Me, that enrolls low-income, Spanish-speaking mothers in San Jose, Calif.—are promising.

Fernald analyzed the first 32 families of the 120 the program will enroll. Mothers who underwent the eight-week training are talking more with their toddlers, using higher-quality language, than a control group of parents—and by their second birthday, the children have bigger vocabularies and process language faster, she said Thursday.

via More Talking To Babies Helps Their Brains

Wi-Fi Could Harm Your DNA

17 February, 2014 at 07:46 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Environmental issues, health, Science, sustainable development | Leave a comment
Tags:

By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times

We are engulfed by electromagnetic fields all day everyday, and the fields are only getting stronger as technology progresses and spreads. The health effects are of increasing concern, as it has been shown they not only affect individuals, but also harm DNA passed along to offspring.

Wi-Fi routers, cell phones, cordless phones, baby monitors, electric blankets, alarm clocks—all of these devices are damaging, says electrical engineer and environmental consultant Larry Gust. He discussed the dangers and how people can protect themselves in a video presented by Electromagnetic Health this week.

Here’s a look at the health effects, recommended maximum levels of exposure, the levels most people are exposed to, and tips on how to protect yourself.

Health Effects Overview

Dr. Martin Blank, who studies the effects of electromagnetic radiation at Columbia University, pointed out in a 2012 lecture uploaded to YouTube that the damage to DNA disrupts normal cell growth and protein production.

He cited studies that have shown DNA damage causes cancer. Illustrating the impact of the field emanated from a simple daily device, he said it has been shown electric blankets greatly increase a woman’s chance of miscarriage.

Electric field health effects:
-Aggravated allergies
-Disturbed sleep
-Night sweats
-Heart palpitations
-Muscle and nerve pain
-Waking tired
-Daytime irritability
-Bed wetting in children

Radio frequency health effects:
-Headaches
-Irritability
-Memory problems
-Inability to concentrate

Electric, Magnetic Field Exposure

Recommendations for the maximum exposure in electric fields vary from about 3 volts per foot at the upper end of the spectrum to 1.5 volts or fewer per foot at the lower end. The typical bedroom has 3 to 9 volts per foot.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the maximum level for a magnetic field in a home should be 3 to 4 milliGauss.

In Marin, Calif., a 4-year-old girl had an 80 milliGauss field around her bed and in the play yard she frequented, recalled Gust. She was lethargic, had no appetite, and had rectal bleeding. As soon as the field was cleared, her symptoms vanished.

Maximum Recommended Levels of Radio Frequency Exposure

The BioInitiative Report was produced by a working group of doctors. Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and Environment at the University of Albany co-edited it. The Building Biology Report was released by the International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology, a non-profit research and advisory institution.

Typical Radio Frequency Exposure Levels

via Wi-Fi Could Harm Your DNA

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Toddlers’ Aggression Is Strongly Associated With Genetic Factors

11 February, 2014 at 07:03 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Science | Leave a comment
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MONTREAL—The development of physical aggression in toddlers is strongly associated genetic factors and to a lesser degree with the environment, according to a new study led by Eric Lacourse of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital. Lacourse’s worked with the parents of identical and non-identical twins to evaluate and compare their behavior, environment, and genetics.

“The gene-environment analyses revealed that early genetic factors were pervasive in accounting for developmental trends, explaining most of the stability and change in physical aggression, ” Lacourse said. “However, it should be emphasized that these genetic associations do not imply that the early trajectories of physical aggression are set and unchangeable. Genetic factors can always interact with other factors from the environment in the causal chain explaining any behavior.”

Over the past 25 years, research on early development of physical aggression has been highly influenced by social learning theories that suggest the onset and development of physical aggression is mainly determined by accumulated exposure to aggressive role models in the social environment and the media.

However, the results of studies on early childhood physical aggression indicate that physical aggression starts during infancy and peaks between the ages of 2 and 4. Although for most children the use of physical aggression initiated by the University of Montreal team peaks during early childhood, these studies also show that there are substantial differences in both frequency at onset and rate of change of physical aggression due to the interplay of genetic and environmental factors over time.

Read more: Toddlers’ Aggression Is Strongly Associated With Genetic Factors » The Epoch Times

Nothing is more important than teaching compassion

2 February, 2014 at 15:38 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Society, Spirituality | Leave a comment


Teaching schoolchildren happiness, empathy, altruism and compassion has proven beneficial results for classroom learning as a whole, says Vinciane Rycroft.

As educators, we have a genuine wish to contribute to a happier society. And yet, we sometimes wonder how we can keep this intention alive and make it a reality.

Do you remember this letter written by a Holocaust survivor? It said: “My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your children become human.”

A few of us like-minded educators met in the late-90s during mindfulness retreats that we attended regularly in France and in the UK. We were young and looking to live by values of peace and compassion, in a way that was neither cranky nor hairy fairy. What are the qualities that make the Nelson Mandelas and the Dalai Lamas of this world? Could we cultivate such qualities in ourselves and impact the young people around us?

Read more: Nothing is more important than teaching compassion | Teacher Network | theguardian.com

Thinking of Buying a Counterfeit Bag? After Reading this, You Will Think Twice

23 January, 2014 at 16:10 | Posted in Children, China, human rights, Society | Leave a comment

Presence of China sits uneasily in background of global effort as new UN Campaign shifts their approach

By Joshua Philipp
Epoch Times

The approach to solving the international crime of counterfeiting was, until recently, based around trying to negotiate with the main perpetrator: China.

But times have changed. Among the impacts of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden—which expose the NSA’s international spying—was the end of any possible discussion with China on intellectual property theft for years to come.

Thus, the focus has shifted, and the United States and its allies are now looking to stop China’s IP theft and the subsequent flow of counterfeit goods through other means.

In New York City’s Times Square, on Jan. 14, a very visible example of this new approach was aired on the NASDAQ screen.

The public advertisement on the big screen shows child laborers and men with guns, while giving a brief introduction to the dark ties that bind the counterfeiting industry with organized crime.

Counterfeit goods and the theft of intellectual property go hand in hand. Criminals and nation-states looking to tap the markets of foreign businesses will steal product designs, and then begin manufacturing their own copies of the products.

Child Labor

The counterfeit industry “supports child labor, 7-year-olds chained to sewing machines, eating two meals of rice a day,” said Valerie Salembier, president of the Authentics Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates about the dangers of counterfeits.

Salembier was publisher of Harper’s Bazaar when it printed an investigative story on the counterfeit industry in January 2009. It included a view from inside a factory in Guangzhou, China, where two dozen children aged 8 to 14 were making knock-off designer bags on rusty sewing machines.

Salembier said that the public response to the article in Harpers Bazaar makes her believe public education can be a powerful tool against the counterfeit industry.

“These stories of young girls working in sweatshops in China, the response we got for that story was overwhelming,” she said.

(China) Cooperation Problems

While few could doubt that the UNODC campaign is a step in the right direction, it is reminiscent of problems raised when the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was signed in October 2011 by the United States, Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, and Singapore. http://www.ustr.gov/acta

Experts argued then—as they do now—that any significant effort to end counterfeiting requires broad cooperation from China. And Chinese authorities haven’t shown any serious interest in uprooting the counterfeit industry.

An estimated 15 to 20 percent of all products made in China are counterfeits, according to the MIT Center for International Studies. The Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs also reported in 2012 that close to 80 percent of counterfeit goods seized at U.S. borders come from China.

Asking Chinese authorities to stop the flow of counterfeits is “impossible, especially since eight percent of China’s GDP is based on counterfeit goods,” said Daniel Katz, an expert on the effects of outsourcing manufacturing, in a telephone interview. “A huge amount of their own revenue comes from that, so how can they just get rid of that revenue? What are they going to replace it with?”

“It’s a situation that can’t be cracked down on until China changes as a country,” Katz said.

‘Ask the Consumer’

The public awareness campaign, Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organized crime, is being run by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). Of course, China is a member of the UNODC, but the campaign makes no mention of China. The focus is solely on transnational organized crime with groups such as the Chinese Triads, Italian Mafia, and Japanese Yakuza on the list.

“The aim of the campaign is to ask the consumer to look behind the purchases they make, particularly if they knowingly buy counterfeit products, and make an ethically informed choice about their purchases,” said Alun Jones, UNODC chief of communication and advocacy division for policy analysis and public affairs, in an email.

Jones said the campaign is part of a larger initiative from the UNODC that started mid-2012 to raise awareness about organized crime and the United Nation’s efforts against it.

And the scope of the problem can’t be understated. Jones said the global trade in counterfeits brings in $250 billion a year, “and is most probably the second largest earner for organized criminal groups after drug trafficking.”

Stopping the Flow

Flashback to May 2013. For the first time, the Pentagon called out China directly for its cyberattacks aimed at stealing U.S. corporate intelligence. This came just a month after Microsoft won a high-profile case in Beijing Higher Court on a lawsuit against China’s owner and manager of Bai Nao Hui, over the spread of counterfeit copies of Windows in China.

Also in May 2013, Jon Huntsman Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to China and now co-chair of the private Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, said, according to New York Times, “China is two-thirds of the intellectual property theft problem, and we are at a point where it is robbing us of innovation to bolster their own industry, at a cost of millions of jobs.”

For China’s communist leadership—which broadly censors the Internet and tightly controls the country’s media—public image matters. And it was precisely its public image that was being tarnished by the exposure of its campaigns of spying and theft.

The administration’s attempt to have the discussion with the Chinese leadership was derailed by Snowden’s leaks of the NSA’s spying, however. Even though the NSA targets foreign intelligence, rather than business secrets, the Chinese used the revelations to accuse the United States of hypocrisy.

Given that dialogue is no longer in the cards, other proposals have been made to deal with Chinese counterfeit goods and intellectual property theft.

Many were outlined in the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2013 report to Congress. They include banning imports from Chinese companies that counterfeit U.S. goods, preventing offending Chinese companies from using U.S. banks, and establishing stronger systems for U.S. companies to file international lawsuits.

But the problem with any solution is that counterfeiting is built into the workings of China’s communist leadership, according to Greg Autry, senior economist with the American Jobs Alliance, and co-author of “Death by China.”

“They don’t really view, as individuals, that intellectual property theft is a problem,” Autry said in a telephone interview. “Under the communist ideology, of course, they believe that everything is communal.”

“In the communist system, it requires that you have to kowtow to the authorities in Beijing,” he said. “It’s a political decision that moves you forward. Having great ideas isn’t what gets you forward—stealing other people’s great ideas and helping the leaders profit is what gets you forward.”

via Thinking of Buying a Counterfeit Bag? After Reading this, You Will Think Twice

Why Child Laborers Don’t Want to Go Home to Liangshan, China

21 January, 2014 at 07:10 | Posted in Children, China, Economy, Society | Leave a comment

Child laborers beg not to go home when rescued, while officials back home squander money excessively

By Zhou Xi, Radio Free Asia

A recent Radio Free Asia report has highlighted two corresponding issues in China that have drawn much public attention.

The first news in focus is that when an illegal child labor site was discovered in an electronics factory in Shenzhen City and 41 youth were rescued, none of these teenagers wanted to be sent home.

One girl told the reporter: “I can eat rice and meat here, at home I only have potatoes and corn. I don’t want to go home.” Their hometown is Liangshan in Sichuan Province, one of the poorest areas in the province as well as the whole nation.

There, transportation and utilities are undeveloped, and farmers’ per capita annual income is only 2,000 to 3,000 yuan ($300 to $500), roughly the same amount as these child workers earn in a month. Even the parents feel that going out to work is not a bad thing—the children can gain experience, make money, and eat meat. Even with working 12 hours a day, they have a far better life than at home.

Meanwhile, the West China City Newspaper reported on Jan. 7 that a member of the Communist Party Standing Committee of Liangshan, who is also the Secretary of State-Owned Assets Supervision Administration Commission in Liangshan, was criticized by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission for feasting on public funds.

While leading a work group to conduct grassroots inspections, the official spent over 15,000 yuan ($2,480) on a dinner in which cigarettes and alcohol accounted for over 8,000 yuan ($1,322).

An article by Zhi Shang Jian Zhu (Constructing on Paper) said “Spending 15,000 yuan on a meal—such squander even humbles the affluent areas, not to mention it happened right in Liangshan, where the rescued child workers do not want to return home because they don’t have meat to eat.”

It looks like there is actually no absolute poverty, only absolute injustice. While people are hungry, the officials live in extravagance. Where did their money come from? It comes from those incredibly poor people.

This is exactly what the old saying “Yu Rou Xiang Li” describes (Treat commoners as fish and meat, kill and eat as you wish), it’s not a lifestyle issue, but a crime in the rawest form.

It might be coincidental for the two pieces of news to break out at the same time, one is about child laborers working 12 hours a day, the other is about squandering county officials. These people come from the same hometown, but they live in two totally different worlds.

As early as 2008, it was exposed by the media that a lot of child labor was exported to Shenzhen and Dongguan in Guangdong Province from Liangshan, which is very remote and inhabited by elderly, minority nationalities, and the poor.

So how was the squandering local official reprimanded for his 15,000 yuan work dinner? He was merely criticized in a written notice.

Those children of poor families, even if they are “rescued” and sent back to Liangshan, will most likely return to the city in groups after the Chinese New Year at the end of January, and continue their child labor lives, eating rice and meat.

An article by Di Guo Liang Min (Empire’s Innocent Citizen) said the situation hasn’t changed since the 2008 media exposure. But would media exposure today help people realize how bad Liangshan’s poverty really is?

The image of local officials enjoying an extravagant dinner with a scene of child laborers being exported in large groups in the background creates a modern version of ‘Behind the vermilion gates meat and wine goes to waste, while out on the road lie the bones of those frozen to death,’ (written by the famous poet Du Fu of Tang Dynasty in 755 A.D.).”

The state of poverty in the remote, poor areas such as Liangshan is always troubling, and many feel helpless about the child labor phenomena. Some people even blame the media for exposing the existence of those child laborers, because it resulted in the children being forced to return to their hometown where they only have potatoes and corn to eat.

Such bitterness and frustration constitutes a true portrayal of contemporary Chinese society.

Read the article in Chinese.

via Why Child Laborers Don’t Want to Go Home to Liangshan, China » The Epoch Times

Amira Willighagen, 9, Amazes Again Singing ‘Ave Maria’ Opera

23 December, 2013 at 16:11 | Posted in Children, classical, Music | 1 Comment

By Cindy Drukier
Epoch Times

Amira Willighagen, the 9-year-old Dutch girl who astounded first the judges, and then the world with her opera singing during her first appearance on “Holland’s Got Talent” has done it again. She was the runaway winner at the Dec. 22 semi-finals with her soul-stirring rendition of Ave Maria. 

Many have likened her to the pure voice of American-born, Greek opera legend Maria Callas, whom at least some seem think she may have been in a past life.

Next week the opera prodigy will sing three songs in the finals.

via Amira Willighagen, 9, Amazes Again Singing ‘Ave Maria’ Opera +Video

China’s One-Child Policy Here to Stay, With Minor Tweak

17 November, 2013 at 07:02 | Posted in Children, China, human rights, persecution, Society | 1 Comment

By Carol Wickenkamp
Epoch Times

Population control measures, including a possible loosening of the despised one-child policy, were a major topic at the third plenary meeting of the Party’s 18th Central Committee this week.

Any liberalization of the policy would be minor. The new policy being considered would allow any family, where one parent was a single child, to have a second baby. The current policy allows a second baby only in cases when both parents were only children.

Any changes to the one-child policy would endeavor to sustain the nation’s low birth rate while allowing greater freedom for some families to have a second child, National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman Mao Qunan told state media.

Mao attributed China’s economic growth in the past three decades to the one-child policy, saying it had prevented the births of 400 million people, resulting in greater prosperity.

However, Wang Feng, a public policy professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, disagrees. In a Nov. 12 article in Caixin magazine Wang was quoted saying he believes the policy’s contribution is exaggerated by family planning officials and that the greatest decline in China’s birth rate occurred in the ten years prior to the 1980 introduction of the policy. The birth rate plunged because of the promotion of birth control information during the 1970s, he said, adding that when the economy took off in 1987, the birth rate fell again.

“The improvement of living standards and changes in people’s views about the family and giving birth are the key forces driving the decline,” Wang said.

Critics of China’s one-child policy point to serious abuses, including forced abortions, selective abortions of female fetuses, and invasive forced birth control practices as further reason to eliminate the policy. Though Chinese authorities have denied the use of forced abortions, such cases have been documented by activists like Chen Guangcheng.

“Women are forced to abort babies up to the ninth month of pregnancy, and sometimes these forced abortions are so violent that the women themselves die along with their full-term babies,” Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition that opposes forced abortion said on the organization’s website.

“The one-child policy causes more violence towards women and girls than any other official policy on earth, than any other official policy in the history of the world,” Littlejohn said.

via China’s One-Child Policy Here to Stay, With Minor Tweak – The Epoch Times

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Beautiful Voice from a Young Girl

1 November, 2013 at 17:20 | Posted in Children, classical, Culture, Music | 2 Comments

This girl can really sing. A voice from the heaven. So mature… for her age. 
Just incredible…

Mindfulness Training Helps Reduce Stress for Teachers

16 September, 2013 at 07:07 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, meditation, Society, Spirituality, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Rosemary Byfield
Epoch Times

How teachers cope with demands in the classroom may be made easier with the use of “mindfulness” techniques, according to new US research.

Learning to pay attention to the present in a focused and non-judgemental or mindful way on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course helped teachers in the study to feel less stressed and to avoid burnout.

Dr Richard Davidson, chair of the Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, is the study co-author. “The research indicated that simple forms of mindfulness training can help promote a certain type of emotional balance, leading to decreased stress,” he said in an interview on the Centre’s website.

“[Teachers] perceive greater ability to remain present in the classroom for their children and less likely to respond to children with anger,” Davidson said.

“[Teachers] perceive greater ability to remain present in the classroom for their children and less likely to respond to children with anger,” Davidson said.

Stress, burnout, and ill health are increasing burdens experienced by teachers in schools leading to absenteeism and prematurely leaving the profession.

“This is an area where mindfulness may be particularly important and interesting,” he said.

“We wanted to offer training to teachers in a format that would be engaging and address the concerns that were specifically relevant to their role as teachers,” said lead researcher Lisa Flook in a statement.

Researchers trained 18 teachers to use MBSR techniques designed to handle difficult physical sensations, feelings, and moods and develop empathy for pupils in challenging situations.

Randomly assigned teachers practised a guided meditation at home for at least 15 minutes per day and learned specific strategies for preventing and dealing with stressful factors in the classroom. These included “dropping in”, a process of bringing attention to breathing, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations; and ways of bringing kindness into their experiences, particularly challenging ones.

Mindfulness originates from Buddhist meditation but was developed for secular use in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts in the United States.

“The most important outcome that we observed is the consistent pattern of results, across a range of self-report and objective measures used in this pilot study, that indicate benefits from practising mindfulness,” Flook said.

Study participant and teacher Elizabeth Miller found that mindfulness could be practised anywhere, and at any time.

“Breath awareness was just one part of the training, but it was something that I was able to consistently put into practice,” Miller said.

“Now I spend more time getting students to notice how they’re feeling, physically and emotionally, before reacting to something. I think this act of self-monitoring was the biggest long-term benefit for both students and teachers.”

In Britain, teachers Richard Burnett and Chris Cullen developed the Mindfulness in Schools project, “.b” or “Stop, Breathe and Be!” programme. After experiencing the benefits of mindfulness themselves they wanted to teach it in the classroom. Their course is now taught in 12 countries.

via Mindfulness Training Helps Reduce Stress for Teachers » The Epoch Times

Chinese ‘Birth Tourists’ Getting Attention From US Authorities

12 September, 2013 at 08:50 | Posted in Children, China, human rights, Society | Leave a comment
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By Leo Timm
Epoch Times

U.S. authorities are getting tough on pregnant Chinese women visiting the Northern Mariana Islands to give birth. In what is called “birth tourism,” prospective mothers can at once evade penalties imposed by the One Child Policy in China, and gain U.S. citizenship for their newborn.

Eloy Inos, governor of the Northern Marianas, told the Saipan Tribune that immigration agents had sent home about 20 “birth tourists” in the past three to four months because of “documentation problems.” In August, a pregnant tourist arrived on a charter flight from Shanghai one evening was sent back home early the next morning. Her tour leader Fenny He told the Tribune the woman ” refused to listen” when she advised her not to go.

The number of women delivering babies in the island chain, located between the Philippines and Hawaii, has seen a massive increase in the last two years, according to a Marianas Variety report. This is due to the constitutionally-protected clause granting citizenship to all those born on American soil. U.S. territory includes the Northern Mariana Islands, which were ceded by Japan following World War II.

Today, the territory is a tourist hotspot. In an exception to U.S. immigration laws intended to encourage tourism, Chinese citizens are permitted to visit Saipan and other islands in the Northern Marianas for up to 45 days without a visa. According to USA Today, the total number of Chinese arrivals in 2012 has already been surpassed by July of this year, and about 11,000 Chinese visited the islands in the month of July alone. It’s unclear how many of them are birth tourists.

Avoiding the penalties associated with violation of the One-Child Policy, which was introduced by the Chinese communist regime in 1979, appears to be a major motivation for birth tourism.

He Peihua, chief associate of Guangdong International Business Law Firm, told Chinese media Southern Metropolis Daily that if a Chinese family has their first child in China, and the second in the U.S, it does not constitute a violation of China’s family planning regulations.

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily’s report, one netizen under the name Great Mom wrote: “I’m planning to give birth to my baby in America. I did research from multiple sources to make sure I don’t break the rules. Giving birth in the United States is the best way.”

She added: “There are many centers run by Taiwanese in the United States. It takes two months to get ready for birth and one month after that. You can go back to China after three months.”

Another Internet user quoted in the report said she gave birth in the United States to avoid the one child policy – so her son wouldn’t be an only child.

Sohu, a Chinese Internet portal, lays out 10 reasons Chinese people might consider giving birth in the United States: American citizens are eligible for a retirement pension, for example, even if they never return to the United States, and they may be afforded greater opportunities to enter prestigious American universities.

Americans can visit over 180 countries visa-free, Sohu noted, whereas holders of a passport from the People’s Republic of China can only enter a handful of African and Southeast Asian countries visa free.

With research by Lu Chen.

via Chinese ‘Birth Tourists’ Getting Attention From US Authorities » The Epoch Times

Communist Party Intensifies Political and Ideological Study Among Young Teachers

5 June, 2013 at 18:38 | Posted in Children, China, Society | Leave a comment
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By Annie Wu

Theoretical legacy of former regime leader Jiang Zemin, the Three Represents, given a silent rebuff.

Communist Party Intensifies Political and Ideological Study Among Young Teachers » The Epoch TimesChina’s Ministry of Education on Monday published a directive on its website ordering local education agencies and Party organizations at universities across the country to strengthen the ideological and political education of young university instructors.

The circular, which carried the imprimatur of Party Central in Beijing, was aimed squarely at young people. It highlights the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) growing unease with their prolific use of the Internet, and facility in harnessing social media to expose the misdeeds of officials and join together for common causes.

The notice comes in the wake of an internal Party order to university administrators and professors known as the “7 Don’t Speaks,” which listed topics that were prohibited from being discussed in class, including issues like civil rights, civil society, and freedom of the press. The order was posted and widely circulated on China’s microblogging service, Sina Weibo, earlier this month.

“Both the seven taboos and the latest 16 advisories are new measures of stability maintenance the top leaders introduced because they are realizing there is an unprecedented political crisis, with the young generation being the most powerful threat that could topple the communist regime,” commentator Zhang Lifan told the South China Morning Post.

The recent educational directive, which listed 16 recommendations, noted that “strengthening and improving young teachers’ ideological and political thinking” is imperative because “young university instructors are close in age to their students, frequently interact with them, and have more direct influence on their thinking and actions.” It was jointly issued by the Organization Department of the Central Committee, the Ministry of Education, and the Propaganda Department on May 4, but was published online this Monday.

Constant reference was made in the notice to “improving political thought work” and “strengthening the study of political theory.” These are watchwords of communist doctrine that refer to inculcating strong adherence to and belief in Communist Party precepts, and loyalty to its rule.

These two recent directives targeting the youth population suggest the Chinese regime’s unease with their exposure and growing awareness of issues that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disapproves of—given the youth’s prolific use of the Internet.

“Both the seven taboos and the latest 16 advisories are new measures of stability maintenance the top leaders introduced because they are realizing there is an unprecedented political crisis, with the young generation being the most powerful threat that could topple the communist regime,” commentator Zhang Lifan told the South China Morning Post.

Wen Zhao, a Canada-based analyst of Chinese affairs with NTD Television, told The Epoch Times that this move by the CCP is to demonstrate that the Party still asserts its control over public opinion. “First, this is a kind of declaration, that is, the Chinese Communist Party will not only stubbornly hold onto its control over expression and ideology, but will continually strengthen its control. This is displayed for the rest of society to see, but also to those elements within the Party who are not resolute and firm in their Party ideology and loyalty.”

However, Wen believes that while the CCP’s attitude is more aggressive as of late, the Party does not enjoy a corresponding increase in its ability to control and censor. “From the Southern Weekend incident earlier this year, to the Masanjia [Labor Camp] being exposed in April, this year has shown that the CCP’s ability to control expression and ideology has been constantly challenged and weakened.”

In the first incident, journalists and editors at the iconic newspaper went on strike after the provincial propaganda chief overstepped the boundaries of acceptable censorship; in the second, a lengthy investigative report was published about torture at one of the most notorious labor camps in China, which primarily targeted practitioners of Falun Gong—discussion of which remains political taboo.

Wen Zhao said that as the CCP faces more challenges, more frequently, it will feel the need to test its grip over public opinion with such orders.

The prevalence of such ideological rhetoric is also raising doubts over the ability of the regime’s new leader, Xi Jinping, to bring about true reform, despite his calls for rule of law and upholding the constitution since taking power last November. “In front of the public, Xi Jinping wants to portray an open-minded image, but to certain people within the party, he will display a conservative side… Since he took power, his primary task is actually to promote economic reform in order to ease societal tensions, while consolidating his power.”

Scholars noted that in the first of the 16 points, reference was made to Marxist and Leninist ideology, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping notion of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and former Party leader Hu Jintao’s “scientific development concept.” But no mention was made of previous regime leader Jiang Zemin’s trademark theoretical contribution to the communist canon, the enigmatic “Three Represents.”

Yu Maochun, a scholar of Chinese politics, strategy, and history at the U.S. Naval War College, said he was “very surprised” by the omission. “Jiang Zemin’s work style was flamboyant, undisciplined, and boastful,” he said, adding that Xi Jinping may be distancing himself from such traits by leaving Jiang’s theory off the list. Ding Li, a researcher with Chinascope, a news service that translates and analyses Communist Party propaganda, said it was “extremely weird.” He added: “If this is not a mistake, the missing of the mention of the ‘three represents’ is equivalent to saying that Jiang Zemin is no longer qualified to leave his legacy in the Party’s history.”

via Communist Party Intensifies Political and Ideological Study Among Young Teachers » The Epoch Times

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Lessons From Ancient Mothers: Healthy Habits Worth Teaching

2 June, 2013 at 07:21 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Food, Society | Leave a comment
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Lessons From Ancient Mothers: Healthy Habits Worth Teaching » The Epoch Times


By Tysan Lerner
Epoch Times

Thinking Shen Yun Performing Arts would be entertaining for my daughters, I bought tickets as soon as I heard about them. What I got from the performance was not only entertaining—it was enlightening. One historical story after another taught me about grace, kindness, and strength. That evening, I understood more about how to be a good woman than ever before.

Shen Yun is a performing arts company based in New York whose mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture. In honor of Mother’s Day, the Shen Yun website recounts stories of great mothers from Chinese history. The story of how the great philosopher Mencius came to be, and the role that his mother played, really stood out for me.

His father died when he was very young, and his mother was left to raise him. They lived near a cemetery and Mencius started imitating funeral processions. Noticing this, his mother moved them closer to the marketplace. But soon Mencius started speaking in the haggling way that merchants spoke. As a result, Mencius’ mother decided to move them again.

This time they moved next to a school, and Mencius started imitating scholars’ study habits. Pleased about this, Mencius’s mother did not move again, and Mencius grew up to become one of the greatest philosophers in Chinese history.

Just as Mencius’s mother gave him an environment to thrive in as a scholar, we can create the same kind of influence on our children when it comes to their health habits.

I’ve noticed that my children imitate me a lot. This is how they learned to speak, use body language, and react to things.

I had a lot of issues around my body image and my relationship to food, and I did not want to pass these notions on to my daughters. I have met many women who blame their poor eating habits (be it bingeing or starving) on their mothers.

I have more than one relative who suffers from an eating disorder, and I did not want my daughters to do the same. I needed to get clear about my food values so I could lead by example.

It became more important to me that I eat with ease, enjoyment, and respect for my health because that’s what I wanted to teach my daughters.

I stopped complaining about feeling fat or regretting my food choices if they weren’t optimal. It was surprisingly tough to do that. I had gotten into the habit of equating my body fat with my self-worth, and so I went through a bit of withdrawal from self-criticism.

Just as Mencius’s mother saw Mencius copying those around him, I saw my daughters copying me. I saw my clients’ daughters copying them, and I saw my friends’ daughters copying them. I wanted my daughters to learn confidence, healthy habits, and respect.

Helping Children Develop Healthy Habits

• Children love fun
Kids are fun-making machines. They love to explore with their hands and their mouths, so take advantage of this, and feed them foods they can interact with. For example, let them add their own sour cream and parsley to their black bean soup or place their own raisins on a celery stick with nut butter for an “ants on a log” treat.
I got my kids off the ice cream kick by letting them whip up really thick smoothies in the blender. They nicknamed these “smoothie ice cream.”

• Children are the best conscious eaters
Because most children approach things very simply, they have a lot of focus. I remember when my daughter had just learned how to tie her own shoelaces. She would breathe heavily as she carefully tied them. It took some serious focus.

Children pay a lot of attention to all of their various experiences. Have you ever seen a child get lost in a game? They aren’t just pretending, they are experiencing. With a little guidance, it is easy to teach them how to pay closer attention to what they are eating.

What does the texture of this food feel like? Is it smooth or rough in your mouth? Do the flavors change as you chew? How long can you chew before you swallow your food?

• Children love learning
Children are incredibly curious. They love to learn. Remember the endless “whys?” Take this curiosity by teaching them about food and health. The more you educate your children about what they are eating, the more they will choose healthy foods.

Get them excited about growing organic vegetables, and explain what happens to the earth’s soil when we use pesticides. Teach them about where dairy comes from, and how too much sugar will affect them.

Warning here: Keep it simple. If you get too technical, you risk your children getting bored, misunderstanding you, or getting scared of eating certain food for fear of illness or death. Keep it simple and light! They will make it fun.

• Children love variety
Notice how schools are often decorated with lots of colors, textures, and shapes. It keeps the children stimulated, interested, and engaged. With food, do the same. The more variety, the better. So build meals with a variety of colors, flavors, textures, and shapes.

When you follow these tips, your children will naturally learn to have a healthier relationship with food. It will become part of the way they live rather than an escape from life.

Give them enough guidance and boundaries with food to feel safe, yet enough freedom to explore, get interested, and be brave.

Mothers, we have a great role to play. Let’s be responsible to our children for better health and more confidence. Have a fabulous Mother’s Day!

Tysan Lerner is a certified health coach and personal trainer. She helps women attain their body and beauty goals without starving themselves or spending hours at the gym. Her website is http://www.lavendermamas.com

via Lessons From Ancient Mothers: Healthy Habits Worth Teaching » The Epoch Times

Healthy Kids Need Time in Nature

23 March, 2013 at 15:07 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Nature, Society | Leave a comment
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By David Suzuki

Ontario’s Healthy Kids Panel recently proposed a strategy to help kids get onto a path to health.

The problem is that the path doesn’t lead them into nature. Though the report quotes parents’ comments and research showing kids spend dramatically less time outside than ever, it doesn’t encourage time in nature.

That said, many of the report’s recommendations should be implemented and supported locally, provincially and nationally to reduce the risks of obesity.

Encouraging parents and children to be more critical about dietary choices and requiring more information and labelling from restaurants and food producers is long overdue.

Ontario isn’t the only province working to reduce obesity rates and support parents raising healthy children, particularly in the early years. Alberta released relevant reports in 2011 and Quebec has had a ban on advertising junk food to children since 1980.

No one can argue against public awareness and education around the benefits of healthy eating and active living. But a provincial, patchwork approach to addressing these issues isn’t enough. We need a national strategy to get our kids eating healthy foods and being active in nature.

‘Make good things more accessible’

Although it seems logical that much of the time spent being active will take place outside, the Ontario report acknowledges that “many communities are not designed to encourage kids to move or be physically active…and have few safe green spaces.”

One parent in a focus group explains that the parks in his community are either gated or locked up once school is closed. So, even when there is green space, it’s not always accessible.

Last year, the David Suzuki Foundation conducted a survey with young Canadians and found that 70 percent spend an hour or less a day outdoors. The 2012 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card says they spend almost eight hours a day in front of screens.

So it’s not that kids don’t have time to be outside. It’s just not part of their lifestyle.

Much has been reported about a recommendation by the Ontario panel to ban junk food advertising that targets children under 12. This has worked in Quebec and is being discussed in Alberta.

But the approach has invited criticism from those who argue that people should have the right to choose.

We need a national strategy to get our kids eating healthy foods and being active in nature.

It’s always tempting to focus on making bad things less accessible, but perhaps policymakers should be more creative and focus on ways to make good things more accessible.

Being in nature is good for all of us. People who get outside regularly are less stressed, have more resilient immune systems and are generally happier.

And it’s good for our kids. Studies show spending time in nature or green spaces helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

Even in built playgrounds, kids spend twice as much time playing, use their imaginations more, and engage in more aerobic and strengthening activities when the space incorporates natural elements like logs, flowers, and small streams, according to research from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Bring Nature Back Into Our Lives

Despite all the obvious health benefits of spending time outside, provincial and federal governments are failing to integrate a daily dose of nature into their policies.

It’s also something we as a society are failing to make a priority in the lives of our children. This inexpensive and effective way to make our lives healthier and happier should be an obvious solution.

We need to make sure our neighbourhoods have green spaces where people can explore their connections with nature.

We need to make sure our neighbourhoods have green spaces where people can explore their connections with nature.

We need to ask teachers and school board representatives to take students outside so that nature becomes a classroom.

And we need to stop making the outdoors seem like a scary place for children by helping parents understand that the benefits of playing outside outweigh the risks.

It will take public education and awareness-building as well as changes to the way we build cities and live in our communities to bring nature back into our lives.

Connecting kids to nature every day needs to be a priority policy objective in any strategy for healthy children and could easily have been integrated into the recommendations from the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel.

Taking our kids by the hand and spending time outside with them will have the added benefit of making us healthier and happier adults.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Leanne Clare

via Healthy Kids Need Time in Nature | Viewpoints | Opinion | Epoch Times

A Chinese Mother’s Miracle Baby

4 March, 2013 at 17:28 | Posted in Children, China, human rights, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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Pregnant woman induced labor to avoid forced abortion

By Jenny Liu
Epoch Times Staff

LOS ANGELES—Qiao Shunqin, a former elementary school teacher from Kaifeng, Henan Province, still recalls the cruel pressure she faced more than two decades ago. She was nine months pregnant and determined to save her baby the night before she was scheduled to have a forced abortion.

Her son now lives in the United States; he is 24 years old and 6 feet tall. He came here to study and later joined the U.S. military. His mother says he treats his parents with respect, perhaps because he knows his life did not come easily.

Qiao had a child from her first marriage, but when she divorced, the court gave her ex-husband custody of the child. Her second husband also had a child, but his ex-wife had been given custody.

According to the one-child policy at that time, because the couple did not have custody of their respective children, neither was considered to have exhausted their one-child allowance, so Qiao applied for a birth license. Only after it was approved by several different officials and offices, including her school principal, and the district Family Planning Office, did she prepare for a pregnancy.

In June 1988, after she had been married for two years and was over eight months pregnant, the school principal told Qiao that the new director of the district Family Planning Office, Sui Yajie, did not think she should be permitted to have a second child. She was therefore asked to have an abortion.

The family planning office, the school principal, and her boss took turns to visit and pressure her. For her to go against the family planning office would reflect negatively on the performance reviews from her boss and her school principal. “I just wept silently,” she said.

Ms. Qiao requested to have the abortion in Zhengzhou, where her parents and in-laws lived. On July 5, 1988, she went to the obstetrics department of the People’s Hospital of Henan Province under duress. The family planning director and school principal asked the doctor to abort the fetus immediately.

The doctor saw that Qiao was almost ready to give birth, and at age 38, was a mature woman with heart disease. To avoid complications, he insisted on first conducting a complete examination. By the time he finished, the out-patient division had closed for the day, and the abortion was rescheduled for 8 a.m. the next day.

Qiao returned to her in-laws’ home, arriving after 9 p.m. She knew the baby, kicking and moving inside her, would be killed the next morning. Nine years earlier she had been forced to have an abortion when she was seven months pregnant. That time, a toxic solution was injected into her uterus, and four hours later, she lost a baby girl. The horrific experience was still fresh in her mind.

She was determined to keep her child this time. She held her stomach as if holding the child in her hands, and began repeatedly hitting her back against the wall, but did not feel any change after about one hour, aside from perspiration and back pain.

She decided to change her approach, and placed newspaper on the concrete floor with blankets on top. Then she held her stomach, and began jumping down from the bed onto the floor. Every time she jumped, she held her breath and then climbed back up again. It grew more and more difficult, but she persisted. She prayed the child would be born soon, while worrying that too much movement would hurt the child. Her husband and mother-in-law looked on in horror, but did not dare stop her.

At about midnight, Qiao’s water broke–the baby was coming.

To avoid any issues, Qiao used a fake name, age, and work unit when registering at the hospital. Five hours later at 6 a.m., her son was born.

After the birth, the director of the family planning office blamed her for not telling them sooner, “If you had informed us, we could have given the baby a toxic injection and killed him, and you would not have to lose your job for violating the one-child policy.”

These chilling words brought deep fear to Qiao. “For several years after that, I had dreams that someone was chasing me and trying to kill me and my child. We ran and ran for our lives. In my dreams, I held my child tightly for fear he would be taken away,” she said.

Qiao was fired from her job, even though she was rated an excellent teacher and in the prime of life. Her husband’s salary was stopped for more than a year, and he was demoted from government official to factory worker. They therefore had to rely on assistance from their families.

For over 20 years, Qiao traveled to different appeals offices to try and get her job back. However, she did not receive a response and was repeatedly humiliated. An official from an office in Henan Province even told her to “just go jump off a building and drop dead!”

From childhood, Qiao had grown up in a Communist Party-controlled environment and had truly believed in the Party. She said, “Because of the one-child policy, I turned from an activist promoting the Party to a vehement opponent of the Party.”

Since being reunited with her son in the United States, Qiao has publicized statements severing all ties with the Chinese Communist Party, including the Communist Youth League and the Young Pioneers.

Translation by Li Zhen. Research by Jane Lin. Edited by Nicholas Zifcak and Cassie Ryan.

Read the original Chinese article.

via A Chinese Mother’s Miracle Baby | Democracy & Human Rights | China | Epoch Times

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