York professors lead protest of Mennonites’ gesture to Iran

A group of Iranian-Canadian academics and artists, including York Professors Haideh Moghissi and Saeed Rahnema, is vehemently protesting an invitation by the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario to six Iranian Islamic scholars to take part in a conference at the University of Waterloo this month, wrote the Toronto Star May 16. The Shia scholars, who are still awaiting visas, are from the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute. Its director is the controversial fundamentalist Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, spiritual adviser to Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We’re not against dialogue but the Mennonites are naive if they think they can open one with these people," says Moghissi, a social science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, who with 17 others signed a protest letter sent to the University of Waterloo. She says Mesbah-Yazdi and his followers are "at the forefront of oppression in Iran," responsible for silencing all intellectuals who disagree with the regime. "It hurts to know that while people are losing their lives over there, some people are opening the door to ‘dialogue’ over here. Why doesn’t the institute open it back there?"

Mesbah-Yazdi is a strong advocate of the death penalty, public flogging and the use of suicide bombers against "enemies of Islam," said the Star. He has said that Iranians who question the regime after studying abroad do so because they’d been trained in "psychological warfare" by foreign universities.

"He is the most dangerous mullah in Iran," says Saeed Rahnema, director of York’s Atkinson School of Public Policy & Administration, who spearheaded the protest. Rahnema thinks that by co-sponsoring the May 27-30 conference, Conrad Grebel University College is giving legitimacy to Mesbah-Yazdi’s ideology, said the Star.

Stones BlackBerry would have been a good idea, says Mick’s old schoolmate, Alan Middleton

You can’t always get what you want, but if you sue sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) May 16. At least that’s the hope of the Rolling Stones, whose licensing arm is locked in a court battle with Research In Motion Ltd. over an agreement to create a Stones-branded BlackBerry.

A Rolling Stones BlackBerry would have made good sense to RIM as the company broadened its product line, said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. "They have moved the BlackBerry much more aggressively into the crossover market between business and leisure, and given the average appeal of the Rolling Stones, which is anybody up to the bottom end of the baby boom, there’s a potential of having an additional skew that appeals to that market group," said Middleton, who went to university with Stones singer Mick Jagger in England.

Labour funds have high costs, low returns and more write-offs

Are Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Corporations, or labour funds, a sustainable policy mechanism for fostering innovation and economic growth? The answer, I believe, is generally no, and Canadians would be better served if smarter options were on the table, wrote Douglas Cumming, professor of finance at York’s Schulich School of Business, in the National Post May 16.

The reason I say the model is unsustainable is labour funds’ overall poor performance, from the perspective of investment returns, and from the perspective of efficiently delivering capital to good venture projects.

Cumming is the author of a paper for the C.D. Howe Institute titled, "Financing Entrepreneurs – Better Canadian Policy for Venture Capital," available at www.cdhowe.org.

Jackman gift spurs a $90M windfall

Hal Jackman will today double – to $30 million – his donation to the study of humanities at the University of Toronto, wrote the Toronto Star May 16. It’s believed to be the largest individual donation to humanities in Canada and the U of T has agreed to double up on Jackman’s money, making it a $90-million windfall. Jackman’s wife, Maruja, taught humanities at U of T and York University. All five of their children have postgraduate degrees in the humanities and two teach at the university level.