Sri Lankan Civil War

The Sri Lankan Civil War has been in the news a lot lately, especially here in Toronto where a large number of Tamil people have been protesting daily, calling on the Canadian government and the UN to intervene. It's hard to know what to make of the situation since accurate information is very scarce and both sides have their share of atrocities. Yet the situation in Sri Lanka serves as a reminder of the balancing act we have here in Canada, where there is a sizable minority of people who want to make their own country by carving their province out. The situation in Sri Lanka is roughly the same as if the FLQ had been more effective in their initial attempts to start a civil war in Quebec.

It's very interesting to note that there are linguistic aspects to both our struggle and the one in Sri Lanka. On Language Log there is a post describing this history. It's a very interesting article. To summarize it, when Sri Lanka was under the control of the British, the civil service was run in English. American missionaries had been very successful in teaching Tamil youth English, and thus the Tamil were a big part of the civil service; only about a quarter of the people are Tamil but half the civil service was Tamil. After Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948 there was call to change the official language of the civil service to a local language. Initially it was intended to be Sinhala and Tamil, together, but Sinhalese nationalists, assisted by numerous lay Buddhists and activist Buddhist monks, organized emotive and impressive processions demanding a Sinhala-only policy. They called Tamils parasites, said that Sinhalese and Buddhism were under threat by the Tamils, and demanded a Sinhalese-only state. The result was the passage of the Sinhala-Only Act of 1956. The Tamil responded by protesting; the protesters were attacked by Sinhala protesters, and riots ensued. Over the years, the situation further deteriorated, and even attempts to elevate the Tamil language's status in the 70s and 80s didn't solve the problem.

Everyone must read this

This is the story of Matthias Rath, a vitamin magnate who works hard in South Africa to convince people that AIDS drugs are actually poison and that their problems will all go away if they eat vitamins that he sells.

He sues Doctors without Borders, newspaper reporters, etc. He takes scientific research and abuses the conclusions so badly that the authors of the research make announcements distancing them from his bizarre nonsense. He even tried to have a community activist, who was HIV+ but refused treatment until others in the community had access to anti-retrovirals, indicted on genocide charges in The Hague.

And he is causing people to die of AIDS related illnesses due to his (and the South African Government's) insistence that AIDS isn't real.

Dr. Ben Goldacre, writer for the Guardian and a true scientist, has written a chapter about this outrageous story, but it wasn't included in his book because Rath was suing him at the time the book was published. Dr. Goldacre won the suit and now you can read it. It's long for a blog post but short for a book chapter and worth reading.

The scariest part: the rest of the nutritionism/naturopathic-medicine community still back Rath and treat him like a superstar. What is wrong with these people? People are dying.