York’s Wu leads SARS team

Newspapers across the country reported on the new SARS research team led by York’s Jianhong Wu. With the epidemic’s end in sight, a crack team of mathematicians – headed by Wu, an  expert in non-linear dynamics who holds a Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics – has been called in to give the final word on how the lung disease spread and how it might arise again, reported the National Post, The Vancouver Sun and Victoria Times Colonist May 1. The self-described “unconventional mix” of complexity theorists and statistically minded infectious disease experts is still being formed, but already includes 14 of Canada’s most respected scientists, said the Post. The team will map the spread of SARS in Canada from its index case in Scarborough to the official end of the epidemic, which Toronto officials say could come as early as May 8. “Mathematics has not yet cured any communicable diseases,” Wu told the Post. “But it has provided some important strategies.”

Free tuition is good, but first create nursing jobs

In a Globe and Mail story May 1 on the Ontario budget, Adeline Falk-Rafael, nursing professor at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and president of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, praised the province’s promise of free tuition to nurses and doctors who decide to work in under-serviced areas and family health networks. But she cautioned that the government needs “to create many more full-time employment positions to entice casual, part-time and agency nurses and to stem the tide of hundreds of recent graduates to the United States.”

Mothering conference opens at York

Just ahead of Mother’s Day, a conference on mothering opens at Toronto’s York University, reported Broadcast News May 1. The three-day conference, called “Mothering and Work/Mothering as Work”, examines the trade-offs women with children make in balancing the demands of work and motherhood. Andrea O’Reilly, York women’s studies professor and conference co-organizer, says women’s paid work has an impact on their unpaid work in the home, and vice versa. O’Reilly says a conference like this is important because the majority of Western women with children under the age of 18 work outside the home. But she says society as a whole hasn’t changed to reflect that reality. She says most studies show marriage and parenthood enhance a man’s career, while they still have a negative impact on a woman’s career.

Stupidity and the media

Canadian Albert Nerenberg takes on the heady subject of stupidity in his documentary Stupidity, reviewed by The Globe and Mail’s Liam Lacey May 1 and showing at the 10th annual Canadian international Hot Docs festival in Toronto. In the film, several academics expound on the topic, including Canadian historian J.L. Granatstein, York University professor emeritus, who told Nerenberg: “The media is about dumbing down, the media is about simplifying, the media is about the 20-second sound bite.”

Aerogold’s advantage may not last

With an estimated 500,000 to one million card holders, CIBC’s Aerogold drives tens of millions of dollars worth of profits annually, began a National Post story May 1 about the most popular credit card in Canada. It is the only one aside from Diners Club which lets card holders collect miles directly in their loyalty program accounts at Air Canada. “Simplicity in redemption is critical,” said Bernie Wolf, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “The interest in any program which relies on Aeroplan miles to appeal to customers is going to be very strongly linked to the liquidity of those miles and how easily customers can use them up.” Beleaguered Air Canada, in bankruptcy protection and looking for ways to increase cash flow, is recently introduced a $25 fee for all Aeroplan bookings. Such expenses, coupled with the reduction of reward travel seat availability on popular routes, “is going to seriously reduce the appeal of products like Aerogold,” said Wolf.

TTC proposes transit tax to expand subway to York

TTC chairman Howard Moscoe and budget chief David Shiner think Toronto homeowners should cough up an extra one per cent in property taxes each year for the next three to fund more subway lines, reported The Toronto Sun May 1. Moscoe has proposed a referendum question be put to voters this November soliciting their support for the dedicated transit tax. Moscoe said yesterday the money would be used specifically to expand subway lines still on the drawing board – to York University, the Sheppard line to the Scarborough Town Centre and the Bloor line west to Mississauga.

A ‘principled’ battle for medical marijuana

In a May 1 story on the battle to legalize medicinal marijuana, The Toronto Sun reported that a lawsuit launched by medicinal marijuana users is aiming to abolish the federal law against possessing and using pot with a constitutional challenge. The eight named in the suit — chronic pain sufferers — are not suing the federal government for any money — just access to safe, affordable marijuana for treatment. “It shows just how principled these people are,” said Alan Young, one of the country’s crusading pot lawyers and a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Milevsky’s mortgage study invoked

A study done two years ago by Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, is invoked in a Globe and Mail column May 1 on bank competition for mortgages this spring. The study came down firmly in favour of variable-rate mortgages compared with a five-year term. It found that you’d have paid less interest with a variable-rate mortgage 88.6 per cent of the time between 1950 and 2000.

On air

  • CBC’s “Metro Morning” and “Here and Now” mentioned April 29 that York University is hosting the first ever African Canadian music conference this weekend featuring Norman Otis Richmond, historian of Toronto’s black music scene, as keynote speaker, and musical accompaniment.
  • On April 25, CPAC-TV aired the April 4 conference on constitutional cases held at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, including incoming dean Patrick Monahan’s overview of the Supreme Court in 2002 and current Dean Peter Hogg’s panel discussion on equality rights.