Somalia attacks play into extremists hands, says York commentator

The Bush administration’s air strikes on suspected Al Qaeda strongholds in Somalia have raised fears that it may be courting a third, bloody front in its fight against terror, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 10. Hassan Shire Sheikh, a Uganda-based coordinator of the African Human Rights Defenders Project now working as a research associate at York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, said Washington has undone its good work in attempting to broker peace and reconciliation in the region. "I’m afraid this will play into the hands of the extremists in the Horn of Africa," he said. Sheikh said the US has a right to defend itself, but said it targeted an area full of the sick, the dying, the young and nomads. "I don’t know how they can pinpoint such an attack," he said. "They have the right to respond, but it must be done with caution."

  • A leading Somali human-rights expert accused the US of squandering an opportunity to be an "honest broker" in the quest for stability in Somalia by launching the air strikes, wrote CanWest News Jan. 10. "That sends back the clock to a place where I can’t predict that anything positive comes out," said Hassan Shire Sheikh, an experienced human-rights monitor on the ground in Somalia for the past 15 years. He said the US State Department had positioned itself to be "an honest broker" to bring moderate elements of the Islamic Courts into the fold of Somalia’s transitional government. "Now that has been lost because of this bombing," he said. "Now they are participating in the war."

TTC commissions art project along dedicated York bus route

The Toronto Transit Commission is looking for an artist to create art that’s viewable at 80 km/h, reported the National Post Jan. 10. Toronto Culture has issued a call for artists for a $170,000 public art project at Sheppard Avenue and Allen Road, which will be the landmark site of a dedicated bus route between York University and Downsview subway station. The art will be a bit of visual relief for commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic.

TTC chief engineer Gary Carr said the new dedicated bus route will help alleviate major congestion problems that affect riders of the 196 York University bus. "We needed to get buses separated from the impact of traffic," he said. "It will be an excellent improvement in time saving and reliability," said Carr, who noted that the new route will cut the rush-hour commute time in half, from up to 30 minutes now to as little as 13 minutes. He expects the route to be in operation by 2009. Teams of artists and construction workers will begin laying the groundwork as early as this fall.

Trading with the enemy could hurt the NDP

York University political scientist Jim Laxer, a founding member of the NDP’s left-wing Waffle movement, fears party leader Jack Layton is determined to follow former leader Ed Broadbent’s 1988 game plan and strive to replace the Liberals, no matter the cost to the country, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Jan. 10. "It ought to be clear to any New Democrat that if Mr. Harper were to win a majority of seats in the next election, he would attack Canada’s social state with a vengeance and seek a deal with Quebec sovereigntists by savaging the power of the central government," Laxer wrote recently in the Globe and Mail.

"The next election is going to be a tough one for the NDP," he predicts. The party has to be "unequivocal" in making Stephen Harper the target. But if Layton goes back to saying the Liberals and Conservatives are Tweedledum and Tweedledee, "not only is his party going to be punished at the polls by progressives who want Mr. Harper out, he will be endangering the long-term survival of the NDP."

York student wins Canadian Federation of University Women scholarship

York student Melisa Puran, who attended Brampton’s Chinguacousy Secondary School, was recognized by the Canadian Federation of University Women with a scholarship for her academic achievements, as well as her volunteer commitments, wrote the Brampton Guardian Jan. 10. In addition to her involvement with the Announcement Committee and 2006 Ontario Envirothon, she frequently volunteered around the school and helped with events at neighbouring schools. Puran is attending York University. She hopes to become an optometrist.

On air

  • Lee Lorch, professor emeritus of mathematics in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about receiving an award from the Mathematical Association of America, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Jan. 9.