Canadian observer says Venezuela’s vote fair

Anti-democratic fanatics will continue to insist Venezuela’s presidential recall vote was fraudulent even though there’s no evidence to back the assertion, a Canadian observer of the vote says, reported The Record of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo Aug. 20 in a story from Associated Press that was also disseminated by Canadian Press. Opponents of President Hugo Chavez are claiming that machines used in Sunday’s referendum were rigged, dealing a setback to international efforts to bring stability to the oil-rich country. “I don’t know where that’s coming from,” said Greg Albo, one of two Canadians among 300 independent observers designated to watch the balloting. “There was no evidence of [fraud].” Albo, a political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, said he watched dozens of the machines in operation and they “all worked fine.” Albo’s belief that the vote was fair echoed the view of hundreds of other international observers, including former US president Jimmy Carter.

Nicolas Lopez, a political science student at York University who was also on hand for the vote, said those who support Chavez won’t be cowed by the opposition. “People have learned what their rights are,” Lopez said. Disadvantaged and younger Venezuelans are particularly keen to be involved in the political process, and the openness and vigour of the referendum campaign was impressive, he said.

Success of Nortel’s new ethics officer depends on clout

Scandal-plagued Nortel Networks is to recruit a new breed of executive becoming increasingly common in US corporations – a chief ethics and compliance officer, reported the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 20. Brampton-based Nortel, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, is a multinational company that already has an ethics program, said Wesley Cragg, an ethics professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University. The success of Nortel’s initiative depends on how sincere Nortel is about giving real clout to the ethics officer, said Cragg. “It may just be public relations,” he said. “If that’s what it is, they are headed for serious trouble.”

Research balloon targets ozone data

A massive research balloon and a series of smaller ones will be launched near Vanscoy this summer as part of a study of the ozone layer, reported The StarPhoenix in Saskatoon Aug. 20. It’s expected to reach an altitude of 40 kilometres, passing through most of the ozone layer in the Earth’s stratosphere as part of the Middle Atmosphere Nitrogen Trend Assessment (MANTA) project. The MANTA project is a collaborative effort between the Canadian Space Agency, Environment Canada’s Meteorological Service, York University, the universities of Toronto, Waterloo and Denver and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique of France. It involves about 40 scientists and students working on site in Vanscoy, 22 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.

Monkey business – surviving in the corporate jungle

The rules of hierarchical group behaviour are strongly defined, and that applies whether you spend your time engineering hostile takeovers or hanging around in a tire swing like Charles, the dominant male gorilla at the Toronto Zoo who found himself being challenged by a younger player, reported the Globe and Mail Aug. 19 in a feature about office politics. “We are all primates, and no matter how much we try to pretend we’re so sophisticated, we’re so not,” said Suzanne MacDonald, a psychology professor with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and a behaviouralist at the Toronto Zoo. “Especially in times of stress, that’s the perfect time for the inner monkey to come out.”

MacDonald explained that in groups of animals with a clearly defined dominance hierarchy, like gorillas, mandrills and elephants, an individual occasionally falls to the foot of the social ladder, not through any fault of its own, but just by the luck of the draw. “It’s very hard to be at the bottom of the pecking order. In real life, if that happens, the individual leaves and finds another group,” she said. “So the easiest thing to do is leave and find another job, because that would actually be what would happen in nature.” The good news? “Often when animals go to another group, they’re fine,” said MacDonald. “They will not be a scapegoat.”

On air

  • Psychoanalyst Don Carveth, sociology professor at York University’s Glendon College, discussed the nature of heroism, courage and its motivations, on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” Aug. 19.