Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor in the School of Health Policy & Management in York’s Faculty of Health, said clinical trials for new drugs often do not discover the full range of possible adverse effects of the medications, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 25 in an article about a new study on prescription drug testing. These tests are typically done on a relatively small number of people, usually adults between 18 and 64, who are taking only one medicine. This means drug reactions on the elderly, children and patients being treated for multiple conditions might not be adequately assessed. “It’s a real crap shoot in terms of figuring out if there will be safety problems in those people,” Lexchin said.
Lexchin published a research paper last year that estimated that 41 drugs were withdrawn from the Canadian market for possible safety reasons from 1963 to 2004, one of few efforts to measure the magnitude of the problem. He said another regulatory weakness in the current drug–testing system is that Health Canada doesn’t have the authority to demand new safety trials once a drug has been approved, and monitors adverse reactions only in a passive way through reports made by doctors. “I think that there is a recognition in Health Canada that things are not adequate at this point,” Lexchin said.
Hezbollah’s becoming an important social force, says Rahnema
Saeed Rahnema, a political scientist and Middle East specialist in York’s Faculty of Arts and the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was quoted in a Maclean’s article Sept. 25 about Iran and its support for proxy militias, notably the Lebanon–based Shia group Hezbollah, whose prestige is growing because it stood its ground against Israel and was not defeated in the recent war. “Forget about the guns and mortars that they lost. They can gain them again,” said Rahnema. “What is important is that they are becoming a more important social force.”
Artist comes with baggage
York alumnus Peter Alexander Por (BFA ‘95) will be moving soon, wrote columnist Jim Coyle in the Toronto Star Sept. 25. His definitely–seen–better–days little house on Sheppard Avenue West has, along with several others, been bought by a developer. It looks like condos are coming. But whatever the change does to property values, it’s doubtful the area will ever again be quite as interesting. The Toronto artist, you see, wears his heart on his sleeve. And, as no one who passes by can fail to notice, he also exhibits his art in the yard. Along the perimeter of his corner lot are battered suitcases of all shapes and sizes, from briefcases to steamer trunks. In white paint, they’re labelled with many of the afflictions that trouble the souls of humankind and create much of the misery men and women inflict on each other.
Por came to Canada to escape serving as a combatant in the Vietnam War, married, had a couple of daughters and worked as an architect. In the recession of the early 1990s, like many 40–somethings, he got laid off. He tried computers, didn’t like it, so decided to pursue his passion. He enrolled at York University, “absolutely loved it,” and in just two years earned a bachelor of fine arts degree. Since then, living “incredibly frugally,” doing a little teaching, that’s how he’s earned his living.
Schulich student targets drunk drivers
Keep your eye on Jason Brown, wrote The Toronto Sun Sept. 25. This 20–year–old has done more for the greater good of Toronto than many people do in a lifetime. “I like to have fun and I’m no saint, but I really get a thrill out of helping others, especially young people,” said the third–year student at York University’s Schulich School of Business. Although Brown exudes an unbeatable combination of courtesy, confidence and humility, he explained that in Grade 9 at Forest Hill Collegiate, he was “studious, into sports, but a borderline shy student.”
Two things helped to change all that. Inspired by his older sister’s activism, he became an anti–impaired driving advocate. “I remember thinking it was shocking, unfathomable, that drunk driving, something so entirely preventable, was the leading killer of youth,” Brown said. His involvement with OSAID (Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving) led his teachers to choose him as an ambassador to a youth leadership conference. “They taught us to be loud, to take charge, to fire on all our cylinders and to have fun at what you do,” he said. “I’m relatively modest, but you have to declare yourself, to get things done.”
Book takes hard look at Canada’s policies
York alumnus MacDonald Ighodaro‘s book Living the Experience will be released at a Fernwood Publishing launch in the first couple of weeks of October, reported The Daily News (Halifax) Sept. 25. Ighodaro (BA ‘94, BA‘95, BEd ‘98, MEd ‘98), an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, moved to Canada from Africa two decades ago for, as he says, “the pursuit of human decency.” He went to high school in this country, failed to secure a job after that, and so went on to do his bachelor of arts at York University in Toronto. He later earned an education degree and masters in education at York, as well as graduating with a diploma in migration studies.
“Today, in Canada, we have human rights, equity and social–justice polices in place which are inclusive, but on the ground, there are bureaucrats who continue to violate those policies, not applying them equitably,” he says. “As for the argument about our refugee policies being Eurocentric, why is the government so proud to send planes to Kosovo and not so proud to send them to Somalia?” He notes in his book: “Contemporary studies continue to demonstrate that immigration policy practice often excludes Africans, not simply because they cannot adapt and contribute to economic well–being, but because Africans are still deemed inferior compared to other immigrants in the minds of immigration officials.
Toronto’s growing sky high
“A lot of the condos today are really vertical gated communities,” said urban planner and York University Professor Gerda Wekerle, of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in the Toronto Star Sept. 24. “We don’t really know if these folks are getting widely involved [in their community],” Wekerle added. In the background there’s a steady, persistent refrain from developers and urban planners: density is good. “It’s over and over and over again,” Wekerle says. “It’s a concerted attempt to reshape the way we think about what’s happening in the city.”
Wekerle has spent much of her career studying high–density issues, namely the mile–high monument to intensification known as the residential highrise, whether it’s condos or apartments. And it’s led her to challenge the idea that if you plunk a condo down somewhere in the city, you can call it a neighbourhood. “These folks who move into a 30–storey building, do they get involved in the neighbourhood? Do they care what the parks are like and the street?,” she said.
Leslie Kern, a York PhD student writing a dissertation on first–time condo buyers, shares those concerns. “There are certain neighbourhoods that are just condos, like the Harbourfront,” she says. “There’s no reason to go there unless you live there. It’s just kind of taking up space, but not necessarily integrating itself into the community…They’re increasingly privatized spaces,” she adds. “People are, in many ways, encapsulated in their own buildings. In a way, it’s kind of allowing the city to back off a little bit from its responsibilities for providing public spaces.”
Free beer parties help spread the word
Doesn’t this sound like fun?, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 24. Saturday night, a house party and 30 of your closest friends. Oh, and 100 bottles of free beer. The free–beer part is a new twist on the most effective marketing – word of mouth, where a friend tells a friend about a new product. Experiential marketing is the advance guard of advertising trends and part of a shift to more surreptitious marketing, says Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York’s Schulich School of Business. In our ad–saturated world, he says, “marketers have a feeling that traditional marketing forms are losing their potency.
“When you see a 30–second commercial, you know exactly what it is. A lot of these new forms are lot more subtle.” But not necessarily less ethical. “Young people know what’s going on. You cannot underestimate how sophisticated they are…They know the world we live in is a market–based economy where people try to get to them…I’m always impressed by the good intelligence of consumers.”
Dewdney moves in a writer-in-residence at Windsor
York cultural studies Professor Christopher Dewdney, 55, three–time nominee for the Governor General’s Award for poetry, is the new writer–in–residence at the University of Windsor, reported The Windsor Star Sept. 23. He is described this way by Karl E. Jirgens, head of English: “Each generation that discovers Dewdney’s writing responds with an enthusiastic engagement…(he) is celebrated globally as a writer and a visionary.” The London, Ont., native has published 10 books of poetry, including “Predators of the Adoration” and “The Radiant Inventory,” both nominated for the Governor General’s Award.
Our evolving view of angels
If you believe in angels, you might imagine them as invisible bodyguards who serve and protect us, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Sept. 23. That is a comforting thought, says Rachael Turkienicz, an instructor in Jewish education and rabbinics in York’s Faculty of Education and a Fellow at York’s Centre for Jewish Studies. But there is much, much more to those heavenly beings. During a lecture for the Jewish Studies program at the University of Waterloo, Turkienicz delved into ancient texts to flesh out our bare–bones image of angels. She said she personally discovered her own fascination for angels while combing through ancient Jewish texts while studying for her doctorate.
The notion of angels appears in the Bible’s Book of Genesis. On Day Six of creation, God says let “us” make humanity. Many ancient writers believed God was speaking to angels in that Scripture. According to one text, the heavenly choir didn’t like God’s tune. “The angels say ‘Really bad idea. Bad idea. Don’t make these human beings.’ It’s the genesis of a sibling rivalry,” Turkienicz said.
Younger student sees an advantage
Some younger first-year students struggle to make the transition into adult education, often feeling at a disadvantage compared to their older peers, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 23. Attending his first year at Schulich School of Business at York University, Abraam Polos, 17, from North York, thinks being younger gives him an advantage. “I get to start my life after school earlier, ” he says. “People usually finish university at, like, 22 years old, but I’ll finish at 21. So when I start a career, I will be a year ahead of my peers.”
York student tries to beat the bookstore blues
At York University more than 350,000 books are sold in September, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 23. Over the remaining 11 months, the university will sell 200,000 more. Maria Luisa Vitti, a second–year York student, spent an hour waiting in line at the campus bookstore last week only to have to run to class without buying her books. But the store didn’t lose the sale. Vitti had to return this week to buy the books she needed for her courses. Vitti, 20, who is completing a double major in labour studies and law in society, started her search for books in August when booklists were released. She pays for the books – not to mention half of her tuition that she splits with her parents – from her part– time jobs as a waitress and babysitter. “I have to pay off tuition and then books. What’s more frustrating is when the professors don’t really use the books and I can’t even get half of what I paid for them (back from the bookstore).”
York University has an online classified system that connects sellers and buyers of used books, the Star also noted. It offers prices that are a fraction of the bookstore price. Vitti snagged one book – listed at $52 in the bookstore – for $30 through the online system. She has also searched amazon.com, but the books she needs weren’t available there.
Ice Gardens set for renovation
Last month, Canlan paid $11.25 million to buy the bankrupt Ice Gardens, a six–pad facility on the grounds of York University, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 24. The place was in terrible shape. “Once the cash flow starts to dry up, the first thing that goes is usually repairs and maintenance, and then the cleanliness of the building,” says Gellard. To get the joint back into shape, the company expects to spend as much as $800,000. That will leave Canlan with a building it would have cost $25 million to build from scratch.