Missing Women - Christopher Hitchens - The Sojourners

Hour One

Shortly after she began her studies in Beijing 11 years, writer Mara Hvistendahl noticed something strange.

In the classroom, on the streets of the city, everywhere she looked there were far more men than women.

She became intrigued. Everywhere she traveled in Asia and India, the same images----many more men than women. She decided to find out why.

What she reveals in her book Unnatural Selection is that the world is missing about 160-million women because of gender selection and gender abortion.

In a world of misogyny, boy babies are much preferred to girl babies and thanks to the spread of Western technology, male birth is assured.

In our First Hour this morning, the Missing Women with Mara Hvistendahl.

Hour Two

In our Middle Hour a memory of and tribute to Christopher Hitchens.

He was a fearsome polemicist who took immense pride in his work and in the enemies he made.

He made several appearances on The Sunday Edition over the years and this morning we remember some of them.

Hour Three

In our Final Hour, the Vancouver based gospel singers The Sojourners, who personify the idea of music as a joyful noise.

There are especially tuneful at this time of year and we have them in live concert from Vancouver.

Elsewhere in the show: the fight to save a Canadian languishing in an African prison, some memories of Christmas store windows, the invasion of the ugly sweater and an eternal giant at the centre of our pop culture, Mr,. Claus himself.

Hour One

Missing Women:

It has been called "gendercide" and "consumer eugenics" and a "Generation XY." And it is an ironic consequence of women gaining control over their reproductive lives.

According to Mara Hvistendahl, the author of Unnatural Selection, Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, millions of girls who should have been born never were.

The cause?  Sex-selective abortion, female infanticide and high-tech in-vitro fertilization  -- and Ms Hvistendahl estimates as many as 160 million girls have been lost - more than the entire female population of the United States.

These practices, and the gender imbalance which ensues, lead to social problems like trafficking in women and even child marriages arranged by parents who want to snag a child-groom before it's too late.

There is even a suggestion that with so many more men in the world - and therefore testoserone - there will be more violent crime.
Mara Hvisentdahl is an award-winning writer and journalist specialized in the intersection of science, culture, and policy.

She is a correspondent for Science magazine, and has written for many magazines including Harper's, Scientific American, Popular Science, The Financial Times and Foreign Policy.
She has spent half of the past decade in China, reporting on everything from archaeology to Beijing's space program. Unnatural Selection is her first book.

She was in Beijing.

Mail - Iceland:

We received an avalanche of mail after Michael's conversation with the President of Iceland last Sunday. The vast majority were letters of adulation for Olafur Grimmson and the way he managed his country's debt crisis. Here are a few of those.

Hour Two

Christopher Hitchens:

Christopher Hitchens once said that everybody remembers their first love but that he, Christopher remembered his first hate.

And he knew how to hate with a burning, lacerating Count of Monte Cristo kind of hating.
Dictators, hypocrites, fanatics, poseurs, charlatans, racists were all targeted with the stinging laser of his intellect and his words. No one, not Mother Theresa, not Henry Kissinger, not Bill Clinton, not the Pope, could maneuver away from his verbal assaults.

He took no prisoners.

He died Thursday of a pneumonia triggered by a year-long chemical and radiation treatment of esophageal cancer. He was only 62.

He was arguably the most trenchant and at the same time, most popular contemporary essayist in the English language, certainly the most prolific and probably the best since his hero George Orwell.

The range of his interests and enthusiasms was breathtaking.

He could deconstruct the most complicated tenets of some arcane political ideology and in the next breath write joyfully about the correct and only way to make a cup of tea.
Tough as he was, Christopher had a gentle personality, and was unfailingly polite and everlastingly loyal to his friends. He also had a devilish sense of humor.

I first met him at a journalism conference in Ottawa more than 20 years ago. At the end of the day's business, relaxed in his hotel room, he proceeded to consume more scotch and more cigarettes than I thought humanly possible, all the while discoursing on the major issues of the day.

Over the next few years on different CBC Radio programs, I interviewed him several times about his latest book or latest essays or latest tirade against the abusers of power.  
In 2004, we talked about why people, presumably intelligent people, could actively hate him.

British-born and Oxford-educated, Christopher began his political life as a staunch Marxist, embracing  every left-wing cause, particularly the 1968 student revolts in Paris.
In later years, after breaking with some early friends, the organized left tried to disown him especially when he supported George Bush on the invasion of Iraq.

But even as he changed his politics, he still called his friends Comrade.

He had great courage, both moral and physical. Several times he risked his life in covering wars and conflicts from Bosnia to Baghdad. At one point, he volunteered to be waterboarded so he could write about it. He called it torture.

I mentioned  earlier his love of and respect for Orwell as the lodestar that guided his writing and his thought.

In 2002, he wrote a book called Why Orwell Matters and he came on the program to talk about it.

Christopher Hitchens faced his ravaging cancer and his last months with great courage, equanimity and a dash of humour.  With his death, the world  has become a little  bit less interesting.

Once asked to sum up if he could, his world view and  life philosophy, he said;
"Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way."

Bashir Makhtal:

Five years ago, a Canadian citizen named Bashir Makhtal was kidnapped in Kenya, and like Maher Arar, shipped on an illegal rendition flight to a third country, where he was thrown in jail, tried and convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison.

The Canadian government says that all of what happened to Mr. Makhtal, all of it, the kidnapping, the trial, the sentence, were illegal and a systematic denial of his human rights.

Appeals have been made over the years to the Ethiopian government for his release. Foreign Minister John Baird has even flown to Addis Ababa calling for his return to Canada. All to no avail. The Ethiopian government says the sentence stands.

Mr. Makhtal's lawyer is trying a new tack to pressure the Ethiopians to release his client and return him to Canada.

Lorne Waldman is suing the Canadian government to prevent Ottawa from continuing its aid to Ethiopia, which amounts to about $160 million a year. The country is in fact Canada's third largest recipient of foreign aid. Mr. Waldman's lawsuit is unprecedented in the field of human rights.

Lorne Waldman was in our studio in Toronto.

Hour Three

The Sojourners:

The gospel group The Sojourners first came together back in 2006, when Canadian blues singer Jim Byrnes was looking for some backup vocals for an album he was recording. He called his friend, Vancouver-based gospel singer Marcus Mosely, who contacted two of his buddies. Once they all got behind the mics, it became crystal clear that they could be more than just a backup act.

During that first session, Byrnes gave them the name The Soujourners and it stuck.

Since then, the oldest member of the Soujorners left the group and was replaced by the now-youngest member, Khari McClelland. Their latest album The Sojourners was nominated for the 2011 Juno for Blues Album of the Year.

The Sojourners, Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Khari McClelland, were in our Vancouver studio. 

Ugly Christmas Sweaters:

Talk about re-branding.

The hideous holiday sweater is suddenly hip and happening.

You know of what we speak - ice skating bears, sequined snowmen, jolly old everything in applique - in reds, greens, washed-out pastels. The kind YOU would never wear, of course. The kind that used to clog up thrift store racks and now are snapped up by young people with a highly pumped sense of generational irony. EBay has a whole department of Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

In fact, they're so cool, people are are building parties around them. Frank Faulk has more.


Every year, pretty much as soon as the clock has tolled on Halloween, Santa Claus invades our consciousness.  He is everywhere.  In the malls, on street corners, in TV commercials.  In the music floating out of the radio or wafting over our heads in the grocery store.
The character that North Americans know as Santa Claus - the rotund and jolly old elf  in a red and white suit who travels in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer - can be traced back almost 200 years.  And it's largely thanks to the poem The Night Before Christmas written by Clement Moore in 1823.

Popular culture being what it is, Santa has made a lot of guest appearances over the years. And he has turned up in some of the strangest places.

Here is a short history of the big kahuna himself, Santa Claus. 

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