Adonis Diaries

Archive for July 22nd, 2012

Hiring discrimination: In Classical music world

Abbie Conant, a trombone player, had to fight a protracted legal battle (5 years) to retain her position and another one (3 years) to get equal pay as men musicians…Trombone, like French horn and other brass instruments…are considered men sections in orchestras.  Trombone is used for military marches and apparently, Beethoven used trombone to create background noises

“Herr” Abbir Conant, (instead of frau) as she was referred to in the audition letter of acceptance by the Munich Deutsches Philharmonic, had the number 16 for a blind screen procedure audition.  The judges were not able to see the player auditioning for the trombone position. Why?  The son of a musician was also auditioning and the jury didn’t want to be blamed for any biases

After Abbie finished her piece, maestro Sergiu Celibidache exclaimed: “That’s who we want!” and sent the remaining auditioners packing without any trial…Sergiu Celibidache was very displeased to see a women selected.

A year later, Abbie was relegated to second trombone, since the orchestra wanted a man, as tradition wanted. And Abbie filed suit…

Maestro Otto Strasser told this story.  A blind screen audition was conducted and a Japanese musician was judged to be the best. That was a complete chock: Japanese were assumed not to play with any soul and fidelity of classical music composed by European…

Rainer Kuchl claimed that he could instantly differentiate between a female and a male violinist by picking up the softness and flexibility of the female style. Another hog wash claim by biased maestro…

Sylvia Alimea, 5 feet tall, a French horn player “who could blow down a house” was selected in a blind screen audition, otherwise she had no chance whatsoever.

Julie Landsman held at the last high c for a very long time, just not to leave any doubt in the jury’s mind (that she is a male player)

The eyes and all the other senses increase prejudiced assessment, and only the ears should be used in selecting talented musicians.

Herb Wiksleblatt, tuba player for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, let the fight in the 60’s for blind screening auditions. High heel sounds or coughing or anything that might divulge the gender or origin of the person coming to audition were ground enough to be issued a different number and come back behind the screen…

Control the environment and rapid cognition that usually decides can come under control and reduce biases.

Control the first impressions and you have the opportunity to hire the best qualified talented people…

Since blind screen auditioning procedures were instituted, the number of female musicians increased from 5% to 50% within two decades.

Note: Piece inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

And here comes food contamination to Lebanon

While Lebanon is renowned for its culinary excellence, some of the most common harmful food bacteria have reached dangerous levels in the country, according to a recent study. These pathogens also show resistance to the most frequently prescribed antibiotics. Calls for legislation to outlaw unhygienic practices is sounding the alarm.

Andrew Bossone posted under “Fears over dangerous food contamination in Lebanon

Lead researcher of the study, Rabih Kamleh, an environmentalist at the American University of Beirut (AUB) said:

“We took samples [of meat and dairy products] from rural regions in Lebanon, the Bekaa, the north and the south. The results are really bad. They are contaminated by different pathogenic microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria and Escherichia Coli.” The mean results showed bacterial levels which were much higher than accepted standards set by the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom.

A shawarma sandwich. Meat and dairy products in Lebanon may be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.stu_spivack / Flickr

Kamleh’s research follows a national uproar in Lebanon, a few months ago, after large amounts of rotten imported meat were found at some of Beirut’s top restaurants and supermarkets. Kamleh announced the results of his study during a public debate with minister of agriculture Hussein Hassan in the Bekaa about proposed national food safety laws.

The minister, who disagrees with Kamleh’s assessment that the source of the hygiene problem is importation and local production values, said he is opposed to proposals for new laws because of the difficulty in enforcing them.

A stalled law

Hussein Hassan said: “The ministry of agriculture cannot apply the new law because it suffers from vacancies in 80% of its staff. There are no agricultural engineers, veterinarians, technical assistants or biochemical engineers.”

Proposals for hygiene laws were first presented to the Lebanese government by researchers in 2005 after a three-year study, but the passing of these laws was stalled when war broke out with Israel in 2006.

In the same year, AUB microbiologist Steve Harakeh published a study showing that 100% of meat samples in Lebanon had bacteria resistant to the common antibiotics oxacilllin and clindamycin, and 42% were resistant to trimethroprim-sulfamethoxazole1.

Harakeh also published a study earlier this year in The International Arabic Journal of Antimicrobial Agents that found several dairy products in Lebanon contained Yersinia enterocolitica and are highly resistant to antimicrobials2.

Initial studies by Kamleh this year are showing similar resistance to antibiotics in meat, and also high rates of E. Coli and Listeria in cheese samples, 66% and 26.6% respectively.

“[The proposed law] is based on modern scientific evidence, so we don’t want to have this law modified to suit what the ministers want to do,” said AUB professor Mey Jurdi, who helped formulate the law in 2005 and has studied the effect of pollution in the Litani River in southern Lebanon on the region’s food supply. “We want to have a comprehensive approach to guarantee food safety in the country.”

(We have no potable water or electricity but we insist on great internet facilities...)

Wissam Tarif is very upset with our internet service providers and infrastructure and initiated a petition drive.

He wrote in

Why is our Internet so bad? About one million more Lebanese are online than the system was designed to accommodate. For years, we’ve been lied to and watched as public money drained away without desperately needed infrastructure upgrades materializing. Experts say the next major fixes, promised for September, are months behind schedule.

We’re famous for some of the highest prices and slowest speed for the net, with abysmal government planning to avoid and mitigate problems. Ogero and MOT have traded blame, but their deadlock is crippling Lebanon’s investment environment, universities, businesses and many other facets of professional and personal life.

Corruption, politicking and ineptitude are blocking crucial infrastructure and condemning us to experience Internet misery and frustration — only a massive outcry can turn the tide and help unleash the net access we deserve.

The Ministry of Telecommunications and its implementing company, Ogero, are at each others’ throats, killing any attempt to improve Internet services in Lebanon.  But after the latest series of blackouts, the business community is up in arms about the days of lost productivity and profits, and the Minister is feeling the heat. If enough of us raise our voices now we can help force through a political agreement that breathes life back into our dearly departed Internet.

We’ve all cursed our service providers at home and with our friends — now it’s time to transform our individual outrage into a collective action that Ogero, MOT and the Prime Minister himself can’t ignore. Add your voice now, and we’ll make sure that the message resonates across Lebanese media!

  • References on the food contamination

    1. Harakeh, S. et al. Isolation, molecular characterization and antimicrobial resistance patterns of Salmonella and Escherichia coli isolates from meat-based fast food in Lebanon. Science of the Total Environment 341, 33-44 ((2005) | Article | PubMed | CAS |
    2. Harakeh, S. et al. Highly Resistant Yersinia enterocolitica Isolated from Dairy Based Foods in Lebanon. The International Arabic Journals of Antimicrobial Agents 2-1 (2012) doi:10.3823/706




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