No middle ground on Lebanon among Liberal supporters

A key Ontario Liberal and Jewish community figure, Senator Jerry Grafstein, says he likes what Stephen Harper is saying about the crisis in Lebanon a lot more than what he has been hearing from his own party — and he is now challenging Liberal leadership contenders to get off the fence, reported The Globe and Mail  Aug. 8 in a story that included comments by Ian Greene, professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts.

Political scientists say the Liberals have largely been the architects in recent decades of a Canadian foreign policy that has attempted to be distinct from the United States in a number of ways, including a more balanced approach to the Middle East. The Liberal political base also relies more heavily on ethnic groups than does the Conservative Party and the importance of the Muslim vote has been increasing in recent years. Academics say the Middle East is a difficult arena in which to find a “squishy” middle ground. Greene said that Harper is trying to create a wedge between his party and the Liberal hopefuls. The tactic could be effective, Greene added. Because the Liberals are in a leadership campaign, they can’t afford to offend those on either side of the issue, he said.

Third-oldest tournament has evolved into a grand spectacle

Surely Isadore Hellmuth had spectators gasping as he stroked the ball with conviction while winning the first Canadian championships 125 years ago in 1881, wrote tennis writer Tom Tebbutt in The Globe and Mail Aug. 5. Since that first event, Canadians have been fortunate to witness what has evolved into an annual pilgrimage of the world’s best players to the third-oldest tennis tournament in the world (after Wimbledon and the US Open).

Better known now as the Rogers Cup, it is an event that can be traced to that first competition on three grass courts at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club on the grounds of the Palace Hotel on Front Street, just west of the current location of the Fairmont Royal York hotel. The event went back and forth between the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club and the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club in the 1970s until it outgrew the private clubs and moved to York University’s Keele campus in 1976.

  • Greg Wood, vice-president of corporate sponsorships for Tennis Canada, confirmed last week that for the first time Tennis Canada, which is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Canadian tennis tournament this year, has sold out of television advertising space, generating $1.6 million in revenue for the men’s and women’s events, up from about $1 million last year, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 6. Advance box office sales are also up over last year. Organizers were targeting $8.3 million, but Wood figures the tournament will likely generate closer to $9 million – a record. That’s a symbolic figure since it is about double that of 2003, the last year the men’s event was held in a makeshift stadium with rickety bleachers – before its transfer to the Rexall Centre.
  • People attending the Rogers Cup at the Rexall Centre on York’s Keele campus during Wellness Day on August 9, 2006, will have an opportunity to ask skin experts all their sun and skin questions, reported Canada News-Wire Aug. 6. The Canadian Dermatology Association is hosting a Sun Awareness Station on the grounds of the tournament and dermatologists will be on hand to answer questions from 10am to 6pm. If you would like to know which sunscreens to use, if sunbeds are safe, which hats and clothing offer the best protection, and how to keep kids sun-safe, please come by to talk to the doctors.
  • There was extensive coverage of the Rogers Cup in most major print and broadcast media over the weekend, all noting that the event is being held at the “Rexall Centre at York University”.

Scientists chip away at moon’s mysteries

The moon is slightly squashed, as if someone had held it at the poles between thumb and forefinger and squeezed, flattening it around its equatorial midsection, wrote The New York Times Aug. 8. That is not surprising. The moon spins, and the outward centrifugal force should indeed have generated a bulge as the molten magma of a young moon cooled to solid rock eons ago. But as far back as 1799, the mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace noticed a back-and-forth wobbling because of the moon’s deformed shape. “Quite a lot of the darned thing is still quite mysterious,” said Kimmo Innanen, professor emeritus in physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

Wind remains the ‘ignored statistic’ in weather study

Winds and other forces of nature account for 70 per cent or more of power outages, said a spokesperson for Toronto Hydro cited in the Toronto Star Aug. 6. But wind patterns on a larger scale tend to be studied more than specific places; for example, the location of the jet stream, 10 kilometres high in the atmosphere, says Peter Taylor, a professor of atmospheric science in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. Taylor is one of the authors of a new study that measured changes in wind speeds in Sudbury, and found that, because of changes to the landscape, wind has dropped 30 per cent thanks to a 30-year reforestation program.

York geographer to speak at Salon Voltaire event

Jonathan Ezer is inspired, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 5. Ezer’s new venture Salon Voltaire aims “to take the buzz of the London School of Economics and make it nightlife.” Fittingly, it’s a blend of idealism and a highly ambitious business plan. He has sold about a dozen tickets for each of the first two lectures, when “entertainment” will be provided by an eclectic, not particularly well-known group of academics – the inaugural event at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum on Sept. 15, features writer and York University geographer Amy Lavender Harris.

Sisters’ artwork aims to promote the realization that not all Muslims are alike

Sisters Shaheen Alam, 26, and York student Aayshah Alam, 21, have experimented with painting since they were small children but didn’t take their passion seriously until they started learning about different techniques from art classes at Jarvis Collegiate, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 7. Their paintings are on exhibit at the Parliament Street Library where Aayshah works part-time as she attends full-time classes studying geography at York University.

The urge to merge

Whenever a Canadian company is “in play,” the debate resurfaces, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 6. How important is it for our country to keep Canadian companies in Canadian hands? According to Theo Peridis, finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, companies behave in a way to maximize their interests, irrespective of where the company’s headquarters are. Foreign takeovers don’t necessarily spell doom and gloom for national economies. A study released by Statistics Canada last month found that, between 1999 and 2005, foreign firms that took over domestic ones created just as many jobs as they eliminated.

A voice against injustice

When it comes to social injustice, many in York Region walk the walk and talk the talk, reported Newmarket/Aurora Era-Banner Aug. 6. There are a few, like former York University student Jane Wedlock (1994-1995), whose stride is more purposeful and whose voice is heard above the crowd. As Alliance to End Homelessness public education co-ordinator based in Newmarket, Wedlock is entrusted with the task of creating awareness and helping find solutions for the chronic number of homeless and at-risk people in York Region.

York student designs local troupe’s set for Cats

If the creators of Theatre Out Reach On Stage wanted to do something special for the troupe’s 20th anniversary, they didn’t spare any expense, wrote the North Bay Nugget Aug. 5. The costumes, set and props, as well as the dance choreography, acting and singing performances, will undoubtedly impress the expected sold-out audiences for the troupe’s production of Cats. The set was designed by James Bolton of Powassan, who attends York University in Toronto. “I started making the set in May and developed costume sketches. I’ve been gathering information and pictures of every type of cat I could find since I heard we were going to be doing Cats,” he said. “I also went to a lot of junk yards and took digital pictures to get the right design.”

Alumnus creates children’s musical with a line-dancing beaver

It’s not everyone who can say they have something in common with a line-dancing beaver – especially something as complex as a philosophy on life, wrote the Milton Canadian Champion Aug. 4. But given that Milton resident and York alumnus David Di Giorgio (BFA ‘99) is the creator of the beaver, a character in a new musical, it’s no wonder some of Di Giorgio’s own nature is fused into the fun-loving animal. Through his company, As Promised Productions, Di Giorgio has created a new musical stage show that’ll be presented at the CNE twice daily from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4 at the Kids’ World stage. As a high-school student, Di Giorgio said he had some teachers “who really believed in me,” prompting him to take music composition at York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts.

Oakville program helped York criminology student

Recently, family, friends and support workers cheered the accomplishments of 14 students who are part of the Independent Learning Program (ILP) at Erinoak, Serving Young People with Physical Disabilities, reported The Oakville Beaver Aug. 4 . Bob McKay is testament to the success of the program. He graduated from the first program run in 2002. Now, in his time off from studying criminology at York University, he returns to the Sheridan residency as a youth support worker.

York graduate Zachary Abella marries his e-mail sweetheart

In the summer of 1993, Susannah Gora, a native New Yorker who was then 15, attended a news broadcasting program at Oxford University, where she met then York student, now graduate, Zachary Abella (BA ‘99, LLB ‘02), reported The New York Times Aug. 6 in its Weddings section. “He didn’t talk much in class, but when he spoke whatever he said was brilliant and funny,” said Gora, now 28 and a freelance entertainment reporter. Abella, now 29, the son of York history Professor Irving Abella and Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella (LLD ‘91), also noticed her. “She was very popular,” he recalled. “I don’t want to say that I wasn’t popular, but, well, I wasn’t.” He couldn’t imagine her being interested in “a shy, odd person from Canada.”

Nevertheless, he would often search online for news of her. In 1999, while attending York University in Toronto, he found an e-mail address for her at Duke University, where she was an undergraduate. After spending a month composing an e-mail message to her, it bounced back, user unknown. They remained out of sync until February 2001, when Gora arranged an Oxford reunion in New York as an excuse to contact Abella. He was so stunned when he saw her name in his e-mail in-box that it took him almost two weeks to open her message and respond.

At that, they began an eight-month correspondence, but Abella was sure that “she didn’t think of me as anything but an afterthought,” he recalled. He was mistaken. “I found myself falling in love with him over e-mail,” she said. “But I was afraid to say how I felt, because what if he didn’t feel the same way?” The couple finally got around to meeting and were married in New York on July 22.

York professor enjoys his tai chi

Greg Malszecki, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, became a tai chi convert when he saw Master Simon Hu’s demonstration at the Bloor West Village Street Festival in 1999, reported the Bloor West Villager Aug. 3. “I find it invigorating. It really does give a good, non-invasive workout,” he said. “With aerobics it’s all about pushing harder but with this it’s more about release.”