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Strange News from the Great Wide World

Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 15:22 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Here are some noteworthy stories that have come across my BlackBerry news feeds over the past few weeks. The whole world is a mess, I tell you.

UNITED STATES: New Rules Would Label Millions of American Workers as Disabled

Millions of Americans may be disabled and not even know it, according to some legal experts.

That’s because sweeping new regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offer new guidelines on the issue of how to define “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

[ . . . ]

Although the new regulations cannot classify any condition as a disability per se, there is a list of maladies that will be viewed that way “in virtually all cases.” The list includes: autism, diabetes, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For the love of Pete, do we now need to give federal bureaucrats vocabulary lessons? The word “disability” is defined by Merriam-Webster online as “inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment,” meaning that one must have impaired functioning in order to be considered disabled. Or, as we say in the disability insurance business, a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a disability. Millions of people have diseases, injuries, or other conditions without any functional restrictions (things they should not do) or limitations (things they cannot do) whatsoever. The definition narrows even farther when you consider disability as the inability to perform the duties of a certain job or occupation.

Take, for example, a person with epilepsy whose seizures are eliminated with medication. He or she would have no functional impairments at all, in either an employment situation or with daily activities. An individual with mild autism might be very high-functioning, perhaps more than someone without autism depending on the skills and talents required of a certain job. Someone diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a trauma not job-related might have no problems working. And there are thousands of people who have diabetes without even knowing it.

Unfortunately, the new interpretations of the disability law, if the report is accurate, appear to equate the presence of a condition with absence of function. In most cases, nothing could be farther from the truth.

INDIA: India combats sex-selective abortion as gender ratio loses balance

The 2011 census recorded an alarming drop in the percentage of girls among India’s preschoolers. For every 1,000 boys aged up to 6 years old, the report counted 914 girls, a drop from 927 a decade ago.

That’s the lowest ratio since India gained independence in 1947, said the preliminary census.

It’s illegal in India to abort a child just because of its sex, but such abortions happen, often aided by illegal clinics.

“The reasons for high number of incidence of female feticide in India include a deep-rooted traditional son preference, continued practice of dowry and concern for safety of the girl child and exploitation and abuse of women and girl children,” India’s Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told Parliament last month.

Sad to say, this is nothing new. Female infanticide is an age-old tradition in India, China, and some other cultures that see sons as a blessing and daughters as a burden. The availability of abortion merely allows the act to be performed earlier.

Women’s rights activists have long been torn over what to do about sex-selection abortion. They can’t logically argue that abortion is a woman’s private choice but then make an exception when the choice reflects a preference not to have a daughter. If female feticide should be outlawed on feminist grounds, then why shouldn’t abortion because of fetal “deformity” be outlawed on disability rights grounds? On the other side of the coin, if a fetus isn’t a person under the law, then what difference does it make why you kill it?

UNITED KINGDOM: UK’s ‘discriminatory’ royal law may be changed

The British government has accepted that laws surrounding succession to the throne could be “discriminatory” and that “discussions have started” to change them, CNN has learned.

Current rules state older daughters are overlooked in favor of the first-born son, and non-Protestants are banned from assuming the throne.

[ . . . ]

The British government confirmed to CNN that it has been working on this matter behind closed doors.

The Cabinet Office said: “The Government accepts there are provisions which could be discriminatory.”

No, do you think? It boggles the mind that this is just now becoming an issue, especially considering Britain’s history of strong female monarchs. You would think that the successful reigns of Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II would have long ago put to rest the notion of male supremacy. But sexism isn’t rational.

By the way, it isn’t just a first-born son who bumps his older sisters down the line of succession. All sons (and, subsequently, their heirs) automatically move ahead of the eldest daughter in line. That’s how the reigning queen’s daughter Anne ended up behind not only her older brother Charles and his sons but also her two younger brothers and their daughters.

And don’t even get me started on the Catholic thing, which you can read about in more detail in the article.

CANADA: Family with disabled child can stay in Canada

A French family living in Montreal will be allowed to stay in Canada after facing deportation because their daughter has cerebral palsy.

The Barlagne family was originally denied residency because Canadian immigration officials said eight-year-old Rachel would be a burden on Canada’s health-care system.

Hey, Barlagne family, come on down here, where certain political types called Democrats want immigrants to come in and be a burden on the system and then become life-long Democratic voters.

But seriously, I believe that every country has the right to determine whom it lets in. A society can hardly sustain itself if it allows people to take up residence and then go on welfare. It seems to me, however, that human decency requires you to stop making distinctions beyond whether or not an immigrant is gainfully employed. Banning people with greater-than-average health care needs (which is a matter of degree) opens the door to all sorts of other judgment calls that do not befit an egalitarian nation.

AUSTRALIA: Woman told to remove personalised number plates due to rude Filipino translation

Kristen Perry, known as Kiki by her friends and family received a letter from the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) in New South Wales demanding that she show “just cause” for using the plates, otherwise they would be confiscated.

The RTA said it had received a complaint from a member of the Filipino community because Mrs Perry’s nickname Kiki translates to “vagina” in Tagalog.

TAGALOG? Why, exactly, is an Australian state concerned about how people’s names translate in Tagalog? The Philippines aren’t part of Australia. Besides, “vagina” isn’t a dirty word. I realize that the actual word in question might actually translate to a more vulgar slang term, but the world is a big place and I suspect that many names and words sound like vulgarities in other languages. Evidently, the state agency at issue reached the same sensible conclusion and backed down. Good for them.

By all means, go ahead and prohibit Australians from having vanity plates that say the C-word or the F-word or similarly offensive English vulgarities. But leave Tagalog (or French, or Swahili, or Urdu, or Dutch, or Ayapaneco, or any other language) out of it.

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