François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

With a pandemic still raging and plenty else to bring down the spirits happening on this planet, we finally get some news from outer space. Mars, in particular.

Last Thursday, NASA landed a rover called Perseverance on the surface of the Red Planet. While this is not a first, success isn’t always the case in missions like this, so it is kind of a big deal.

On Monday, NASA released a video of the successful landing (releasing such a video is a first):

Perseverance launched from Earth seven months ago, has six wheels and is roughly the size of a small car. It also carries a Mars helicopter called Ingenuity which will make the first-ever powered flight on another planet as it plans the best routes for future Mars rovers.

The rover also carries quite a bit of high tech equipment to take and analyze samples as well as to photograph the Martian environment. Most notable of the photo equipment is the Mastcam-Z, which has already produced two 360 Panorama shots on the surface, like this one taken in the Jezero Crater:

You can see all the images and panoramas and download them as extremely high res images through the NASA website.

NASA has also released audio from Mars through its SoundCloud channel (yes, NASA has a SoundCloud channel). One includes the noise the rover makes itself and this one excludes it, to give you an idea of what Mars sounds like:

Perseverance’s primary mission is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth. ” It has one Martian year, or 687 Earth days to complete it.

Hopefully this means we’ll be getting more images. It’s nice not to write an op-ed about something that pisses me off, but rather about something interesting and inspirational. Even if the story comes from another planet.

The sixth mass extinction will hit harder than expected, according to a collaborative study between Stanford and the University of Mexico. 32% of all vertebrate species are steadily decreasing, even if one third of them classify as low concern species.

We already knew that animals and plants are going extinct 100 to 1 000 times faster than what is normal  (and those are the most conservative estimates). If we stay on this course, the general consensus is that around 30% of all species will be gone by 2050. The scientific community went from asking if the next mass extinction is underway to asking if it’s going to be worse than the last one – which, keep in mind, killed most of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Now, researchers say that assessments based on species extinctions, alarming as they may be, might be underestimating the problem. According to the article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States:

“Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations [EN: local extinctions], which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.”

This huge study is based on a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species (which is roughly half of them). All of the 177 mammal species among them have seen their natural range significantly shrink, 40% of them have seen their populations decrease by 80% or more.

The article concludes: “we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most…”

*Featured image by Robert Young under Creative Commons

In February of 2013, the world watched as a meteorite blazed over Central Russia, shocking citizens and shattering glass with its immense sonic boom. The unanticipated meteorite almost overshadowed Asteroid 2012 DA14 which passed by in close proximity to our little planet that very same day. These were two completely unrelated and rare events and them both occurring on February 15th was astronomically coincidental!

Surprisingly, March doesn’t look like it’s going to pale by comparison, in terms of exciting heavenly happenings. Quite the opposite, March is upon us with an impressive celestial agenda. For the majority of this month, sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere can look up and observe comet Pan-STARRS in its flashy splendor.

Pan-STARRS, or Comet C/2011 L4, was discovered in June of 2011, just outside of Jupiter’s orbit. This long tailed baby comet was flung from its origin in the Oort Cloud (a massive cloud of icy planetary debris) and can be expected to gradually get brighter as it approaches the sun. Despite being millions of years old it is still categorized as a “baby comet” and gets its name from the team that discovered it: PANSTARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) based in Hawaii.

Photo Credit: NASA

Have your fingers crossed for some clear weather in the next few days, because PANSTARRS is said to be visible without any visionary aid (although a telescope or binoculars would be ideal). NASA says: “To see the comet, look low on the western horizon just after the sun has gone down. Comet Pan-STARRS can appear as a bright head with a wispy trail, weather permitting, though some stargazers have said the bright evening twilight can make spotting it tricky.”

This comet was rumored to have been its brightest on the 10th of March, so if you haven’t caught a glimpse of it in the Western sky yet, you should grab your binoculars and do so soon. The closer April gets the dimmer Pan-STARRS will become.

Unlike “The Terminator” Pan-STARRS won’t be back anytime soon. Pan-STARRS’ elliptical orbit around the sun causes it to only be near us approximately every 100 million years.

So, good luck and keep your eyes peeled, stargazers. From March 14th on, the comet will be visible at a low point in the Western twilight sky. If you have a knack for spotting constellations Pan-STARRS will be near Andromeda or Pegasus. However, if you’re like me and can only find the Big Dipper in the night sky; do not fret! Simply direct your eyes towards the crescent moon, and Pan-STARRS shouldn’t be too far off.

We finally passed that venerable point in the year when the days have started getting longer again. This week marked the vernal equinox, the official kickoff of spring. Usually, this day of transition is nothing more than a figurehead, as winter remnants like snowbanks still linger on the sidewalks.

For the first time in recent memory, the weather has exceeded expectations for a summer day, let alone a spring one. People are crawling out from their winter hibernation, popping on their favorite pair of sunglasses and hitting the closest terrace they can find for pitchers of sangria.

Needless to say spring makes people horny. Known colloquially as spring fever, the increased energy and overall vitality could have something to do with shedding the winter layers to reveal pale skin itching for a healthy dose of vitamin D. Getting out of the house more often means meeting more people, which in turn leads to more chances for spring romance.

There are also biological and chemical factors at play that cause this increased libido. According to Dr. Sanford Auerbach, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Boston University, the fluctuation in daylight hours between winter and spring triggers a reaction in the retina that signals the brain to produce less melatonin, which in turn can lead to elevated mood and energy levels.

Furthermore, mammals have developed seasonal breeding patterns to promote long-term survival, which helps to explain the increase in birth rates in the springtime. “From a biological perspective, most types of animals, and maybe even plants, have a seasonal variation in behavior and physiology; there are seasonal cycles in human rates of conception,” noted Thomas Wehr of the National Institute of Mental Health.

For example, a late-spring increase in the luteinizing hormone that is known to trigger biological changes like increased ovulation or testosterone production leading to an increase in spring births. Logically, if you’re going to be carrying and nurturing a baby for nine months, it makes sense for the latter ones to occur during winter when you spend most of your time hunkering down and hibernating anyways.

So what are some of the best ways to harness this added energy and channel it into something positive? Try working off some of that winter weight by starting a new exercise program. Incorporate outdoor activities like cycling or jogging to bask in the warming glow of the sun. And for those of your ladies out there who might need a little extra motivation to get back to the gym, researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University have found that approximately 40% of the women they surveyed had experience exercise-induced pleasure, sometimes resulting in orgasm even when the women weren’t having any sexual thoughts at the time.

Of the women who experienced orgasms during their workouts, a little less than half were engaging in abdominal exercises at the time, while almost 20% were biking or spinning, and nearly 10% were climbing poles or ropes.

Photo credit:

Pro ·mis ·cu ·ous adj, \prÉ™-mis-kyÉ™-wÉ™s\

1 – composed of all sorts of persons or things

2 – not restricted to one class, sort, or person

3 – not restricted to one sexual partner

4 casual, irregular


Promiscuity, or at least the open acknowledgment of it, has been on the rise since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, although it has been around as long as the human race in one form or another. Some sexologists speculate that male promiscuity hearkens back to the hunter-gather society, where it was advantageous for men to spread their seed often and with many partners, thereby increasing their chances of procreating and carrying on their blood line.

However, a recent study by a research team at Binghamton University suggests that a predisposition towards risky sexual behaviors in contemporary society, including one night stands and infidelity, is inherent in our DNA, specifically one particular gene variant of the dopamine receptor gene DRD4.

According to the study by researcher Justin Garcia, a postdoctoral fellow at the New York State University, “The motivation seems to stem from a system of pleasure and reward, which is where the release of dopamine comes in… In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks are high, the rewards substantial and the motivation variable – all elements that ensure a dopamine rush.”

For the study, the team collected DNA samples from a group of 181 young adult volunteers, and tested them for the presence of the variant of the DRD4 that causes thrill-seeking behavior. They also gathered information on the sexual history, relationships and behaviors of the volunteers.

People with the thrill-seeking variant of the gene reported a significantly higher rate of adultery (50 percent versus 22 percent for those without the variant) and were twice as likely to report a history of one-night stands. While it goes without saying that not everyone with this genotype is doomed to become a lying, cheating, easy lay, it does seem like they are at a much higher risk of going down this road.

It will be interesting to see where this research takes us in the future. Perhaps one day they’ll start testing for the presence of this variant at a young age so they can adequately educate those children and adolescents with a predilection towards these risky behaviorsmand sort of nip the problem in the bud, so to speak.

However, an intangible behavior like promiscuity can be very hard to measure, since actions considered promiscuous to one person or culture may be quite commonplace to another. In an effort to examine this as scientifically as possible, in a separate study the International Sexuality Description Project created a seven-question test to measure the taker’s “sociosexuality”, or promiscuity.

The number-based questionnaire include questions about the number of sexual partners in the past year, the number of one-night stands and attitudes towards sexuality on a scale between one and nine.

Interesting, Finland landed at the top of the pile, with a median score of 50.5. I suppose it is a great way to stay warm through those cold winter nights. Next were New Zealand and Slovenia, with Canada coming in at number 28 with an average score of 34.52. Out of curiosity I answered the questions for myself and while I won’t reveal my score here, suffice it to say I’d be a very popular lass in Scandinavia or with the Kiwis.

To see how you stack up against takers from 48 different countries, take the promiscuity quiz

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