Dr. Hurricane

York’s granting of an honorary degree Friday to justice activist and former middleweight boxer Rubin Carter, also known as Hurricane Carter, was covered by Global TV and City-tv for newscasts Oct. 14. Photos of the ceremony also appeared Oct. 15 in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Sun and the Times Colonist in Victoria. Carter spent years in prison on a murder conviction that was later overturned, and was the subject of the Hollywood movie Hurricane.

Schulich fares well in world rankings

In BusinessWeek magazine’s international rankings of executive education programs, York University’s Schulich School of Business was No. 17 in open-enrolment programs, reported The Globe and Mail Oct. 15. Among customized programs, Schulich was No. 14. The rankings are based on ratings provided by executives at 163 companies in 22 countries.

Do the wealthy pay too much tax in Canada?

When all taxes are factored in, Canadians all pay the same relative amount, wrote author Linda McQuaig in a Toronto Star opinion piece Oct. 16, citing a study by Neil Brooks, a tax professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. In April, wrote McQuaig, Statistics Canada published a study showing that Canada’s top income earners pay roughly half of all income tax. This study became fresh ammunition for the many vocal commentators who urge more tax cuts for the rich. It certainly seemed to back up their argument that the rich are bearing a particularly heavy tax burden. But this isn’t actually true, argued McQuaig. In a paper published last week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Brooks notes that the top 10 per cent pay a lot of tax simply because they have a lot of income, and their share of the tax burden has increased in recent years simply because their share of the national income has increased. In other words, the rich have gotten richer – a whole lot richer – so their tax bill is bigger. The real story behind the tax data, writes Brooks, is that “Canada is becoming a much more unequal society.” The top one per cent almost doubled their share of national income between 1980 and 2000.

Law grad hired by International Criminal Court

An Algoma University College professor and York grad is one of only two Canadian lawyers admitted to practise before the International Criminal Court, reported The Daily Press of Timmins Oct. 17 in a story from The Sault Star of Sault Ste. Marie. “I tell [my students] the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place and that peace is our ultimate dream,” said John Flood, a professor of law and justice. “But you have to ask yourself what kind of world you want to be prepared in and if you’re prepared to do something about it to create this world. This requires social justice and the ICC can be a big part of that.” Flood, 51, and Paul Skolnik of Montreal are among 88 defence counsel from around the world, including Kenya, Belgium, Uganda and France, who can practise before the court. Flood earned an LLM in criminal law and law procedure from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2003. He received word of his acceptance by the court during the 2003-2004 academic year. While he has yet to be assigned a case, Flood has attended training at the Montreal-based International Criminal Bar and studied the rules of the court, rules of procedure and elements of offences. During the summer, he gave advice to clients in France and The Hague.

Hoser reality show wins Conan as a fan

“Kenny vs. Spenny”, Showcase’s show-off reality game show about a couple of homegrown hosers who battle against each other in bizarre and intense competitions, has made stars of a kind out of Kenny Hotz and York grad Spencer Rice, its two hipster leads, reported the Times Colonist of Victoria, BC, Oct. 16. Toronto natives Hotz (a.k.a. Kenny) and Spencer (a.k.a. Spenny) recently appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, the very epitome of cool. An appearance on Conan is more cool than an appearance on, say, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, even if Leno does command the bigger audience, wrote the TV columnist. The episode titles say it all: Who Can Drink More Beer? Who Can Stay Naked the Longest? Who Do Old People Like More? Who Has the Biggest Balls? Who Can Win a Rat Race? (Yes, exactly what you think. In this one, they race rodents.) Spenny went to York, where he earned a BFA in film and video in 1993.

No love lost for labour funds

Many economists say the Ontario government’s Aug. 29 tax policy announcement to end tax credits for labour-sponsored investment funds will not only lessen the province’s need to pick taxpayers’ pockets, but should also encourage other provinces to do the same, reported the Alberta-based Western Standard Oct. 17. Economists say the funds are poor performers but continue to attract money almost solely for their up-front tax benefits. “They haven’t earned the respect of the rest of the investment industry,” says Moshe Milevsky, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “We all look at these tax subsidies and we say good riddance.”

Gas prices boost transit

Soaring gas prices are fuelling increased transit ridership, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 15. Viva bus rapid transit system in York Region is expanding. Starting Sunday, service was to be increased along Highway 7 in the west from Martin Grove Road via York University to the TTC Downsview subway station at Sheppard Avenue and Allen Road.

Traffic court roulette

Sixty-three per cent of Toronto officers scheduled for traffic court don’t show up, resulting in thousands of tickets being tossed out every year, police Chief Bill Blair says, acknowledging a “systemic” problem in the force, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 15. The startling admission from the head of Canada’s largest police service, which writes almost a quarter of the province’s traffic tickets, came in response to a Star investigation into the province’s traffic court system. The Star’s methodology was reviewed by statistician Michael Friendly, director of York’s Institute for Social Research, who found the findings statistically significant.

 Fellowship of the ring

There’s a darker side to cohabiting before marriage that’s beginning to show itself via studies conducted in recent years, wrote columnist Valerie Gibson in The Toronto Sun Oct. 16. A study by a professor of sociology at the University of Victoria has shown that living together before marriage also greatly increases the odds of divorce. These facts are borne out in an even more extensive study of cohabitation versus marriage from the Vanier Institute of the Family – Cohabitation And Marriage: How Are They Related? by Anne-Marie Ambert, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. Her paper shows clearly that cohabitation is less stable than marriage, quoting statistics that more than 50 per cent of all these unions end in dissolution within five years.

 Author in love with New Orleans

Since his best-selling novel Three Day Road was published this spring, Joseph Boyden has spent much of his time promoting the book across North America and even overseas, reported The Vancouver Sun Oct. 15 in an interview with the 1991 York grad before his appearance at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. Last month, Boyden was midway across the Atlantic, returning to Toronto from London, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. This was of particular interest to him because he has made his home in New Orleans for more than a decade. He said he fell in love with New Orleans as a teenager when he hitchhiked there from Ontario one summer. Later, after earning a BA in humanities and creative writing from York University, he decided to pursue writing and applied to only one graduate school: the University of New Orleans.

Artist writes book about Christian kitsch

Why has the faith of Christians given rise to the popularity of such tacky trinkets as Jesus bobble-heads, porcelain figurines and metal fish attached to the back of cars? As a visual artist and a Christian, Betty Spackman has been fascinated with this Christian-type consumerism and how these images and symbols have shaped people’s faith, reported the Langley Times in British Columbia Oct. 14. Spackman’s fascination has resulted in a beautifully illustrated text called: A Profound Weakness: Christians and Kitsch (Piquant editions 2005). Spackman, a Trinity Western University art professor, earned an MFA from York in 1992.

On air

  • A York study that finds that better commuting conditions give drivers more time to fret about their lives received widespread coverage Oct. 14 on Toronto-area radio and television newscasts. The study by psychologist David Wiesenthal and grad student Christine Wickens concludes that traffic jams may therefore be less stressful, as they force the driver to concentrate on driving. Wickens was interviewed on CBC’s “Here and Now” and the findings were reported on CJCL-AM, CFRB-AM, City-tv and CKVR-TV.
  • Alok Mukherjee is to become new Chair of Toronto Police Services Board after Pam McConnell steps down to vice-chair position, reported “News & Comment” about the York 2003 PhD grad on CFRB Oct. 14.
  • An interview with York biologist Bridget Stutchbury about her research on adultery, jealousy and the wood thrush was aired on CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” Oct. 15.