York student examines way of keeping energy from going up in smoke

Peter Litster, a graduate student in environmental studies at York, is working on a study of barriers to the mass uptake of cogeneration in Ontario, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 6 in its Deep Thoughts column.

Litster’s research looks at the barriers to bringing cogeneration technologies to Ontario. Cogeneration, common in Denmark and Germany, recycles the large amount of wasted heat at industrial and commercial sites, turning it into usable heat or converting it into electricity. Those clouds rising from a factory’s smoke stacks would be a thing of the past, because that wasted energy would be used to power the factory more efficiently.

Litster wants to make policy recommendations to speed up development of cogeneration in Ontario. The timing is right, he says. "In Ontario, the transmission grid is very old and needs to be replaced, so this would be the ideal time" to introduce cogeneration, since it wouldn’t need a transmission infrastructure.

Litster and a group of students in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies are trying to get 100 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic – or electricity-producing – panels installed on the roof of the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building on York’s Keele campus. The idea is to generate revenue for other campus greening projects, Litster explains. "We want to make this a flagship for everyone else. We want it to be an example for other universities."

The project is the brainchild of York lecturer Jose Etcheverry, one of Litster’s advisers.

Medicinal pot case wraps up

Lawyers for Canadian users of medical marijuana, who want Ottawa to ease restrictions on where they get their pot, wrapped up their case Wednesday by telling a Federal Court judge that government-approved marijuana, grown by a Flin Flon contractor, doesn’t compare to higher-quality strains available on the street, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Dec. 6.

Patients ought to be able to pick their own grower, said lawyer Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who accused Ottawa of rushing into drafting a program in 2003 that ultimately forced patients to use a substandard product – a violation of their constitutional rights.

"When the dust settles, what you’re left with is a government simply decreeing that this is the way you are going to get your medicine," Young said. "Governments don’t know how to grow marijuana and don’t know much about marijuana because, for 80 years, they’ve been trying to convince us that it’s harmful."

Wednesday’s hearing marked the procedural culmination of a three-and-a-half-year process, which Young hopes will eventually give experienced cannabis growers the opportunity to supply products specifically tailored to the needs of medical users. The court could issue a ruling by the spring, he added.

Osgoode graduates file rights complaints over Maclean’s article

Four Muslim graduates of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School are accusing Maclean’s magazine of violating their human rights over an article titled “The Future Belongs to Islam”, wrote CBC News online Dec. 6. They’ve filed complaints with the federal, Ontario and British Columbia human rights commissions over the October 2006 article.

The article discusses the high birth rate among Muslims and speculates that Islamic people could become the majority population in Europe. It also says some Muslims are violent radicals.

Naseem Mithoowani (LLB ’07), one of the Osgoode alumni bringing forward the complaint, said the article was one of a series of articles offensive to Muslims. "This isn’t just one article in a context of fair and balanced media. This really was the straw that broke the camel’s back because it’s one in a string of articles that are anti-Islam and anti-Muslim," she told CBC News.

Khurrum Awan (LLB ’07), another of the alumni, said the group will argue before the commissions that such articles tend to subject Muslims to hatred or contempt. "To say that we share the same basic goals as terrorists…if you look at the theme of the article in the context, it is putting that label on all of us and I felt personally victimized," he said.

Maclean’s said it stands behind the writer of the article, Mark Steyn, and it is confident the human rights commissions will find no merit in the complaint.

  • For grievance-mongers such as these, no insult is too small to whip up into a hate crime, wrote columnist Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail Dec. 6…. This week, they launched a bunch of human-rights complaints against the magazine for promoting hatred against Muslims. "This article completely misrepresents Canadian Muslims’ values, their community, and their religion," said Faisal Joseph, a lawyer for the Canadian Islamic Congress. "I felt personally offended," said complainant Naseem Mithoowani (LLB ’07).

Curiously, the four complainants in the case are all law students or graduates from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. You might think that law students, of all people, would be very big on stuff like civil liberties, tolerance and free speech. I guess not. "There is a fine line between freedom of expression and promoting hatred," said York alumna Muneeza Sheikh (BA ’03, BA ’04, LLB ’07), one of the complainants. "Our feeling was that the article definitely did promote hatred."

  • Mithoowani spoke about a human rights case he and three fellow graduates want to bring against Maclean’s, on CBC Radio Dec. 5.

Negative vaccination info popular on YouTube: study

Negative information about vaccinations shown on the popular video Web site YouTube received more stars and more views than positive information, finds a new study conducted by researchers at York University and the University of Toronto, wrote CBC News online Dec. 6.

According to the study, published in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, many health care professionals have expressed concern about what they consider to be erroneous health information on Internet sites.

The researchers discovered that 48 per cent of the videos were positive, 32 per cent were negative and 20 per cent were ambiguous. They found that negative videos were more likely to be rated by viewers and to receive more views. On the other hand, public service announcements received the lowest ratings and fewest views.

They add that health professionals should consider using the YouTube site to spread accurate health messages.

Commons questioning of Schreiber ’10 years too late’

Professor Alan Young of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School took part in a roundtable discussion about German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, on CTV News Nov. 29. Host Paula Todd asked Young about the process of answering questions from a House of Commons committee.

Young said: "Well, it is about 10 years too late, first of all. It’s pretty convenient that this is happening just as he’s on the eve of his extradition, so, you know, it’s kind of hollow because he really seems like he’s orchestrating this for his own benefit. Right now, we’re going through really a political show trial, quite frankly. It means nothing. The inquiry that [will be] conducted in the next year may have some teeth because the bottom line is the RCMP never got to the bottom of this. They closed the file in 2003. So, I think it really is incumbent on our politicians to look at this. Our prime minister may have been taking secret commissions, that’s very important. "

In answer to another question, Young added: "There’s no sympathy for Brian Mulroney. Let’s not forget he was in office nine years, and he had nine ministers resign. His regime may have been one of the most corrupt in Canadian history, so it’s about time we look at what he was doing. "

After Pickton verdict, what’s next?

When Justice James Williams decided last year to split the case against accused serial killer Robert Pickton into two, the decision appeared to be the most expeditious way to cut short a trial which could have gone on for well over a year, wrote The Canadian Press Dec. 6.

Butt Alan Young, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said trying the 26 counts together would have been tidier. "From the point of view of the administration of justice, it’s always better to try to resolve all outstanding claims at one time," said Young. "It’s more efficient and it avoids the possibility of inconsistent verdicts."

Young said he thinks a second trial wouldn’t likely begin for two years, but it could also start as early as this spring. But he said a conviction on some or all of the six counts puts the Crown in a "tough spot" in deciding whether to hold a second trial at all.

Spike in violence among girls ‘is a problem’

Debra Pepler, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health and director of LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, said figures from Statistics Canada indicate there’s been a slight increase in girls arrested for violent crime, but noted the number of girls arrested is so small that even if there’s a slight increase, the percentage balloons, wrote The Daily News (Halifax) Dec. 6.

"It’s not as if the world has gone completely wrong and all girls have turned violent," she said. "There are a very small number of girls who are at a very high risk for engaging in violent behaviour." But even a slight increase in violent behaviour among young women is something to be concerned about, she said.

"It is a problem," she said. "We want girls to be assertive, we want them to be empowered, but we don’t want them to learn that violence is an effective way of solving problems in relationships."

As family dynamics break down, girls aren’t embedded in relationships that are protective anymore, Pepler explained. Girls who learn that violence is an effective way of solving problems lack the skills they need to develop healthy relationships.

York student excels at the sport of racketlon

It’s all about proving yourself the world’s best racquet wielder, wrote Brampton’s South Asian Focus Dec. 6. One has to be absolutely correct with all cousin racquets. York student Jamie Herman of Richmond Hill is one of four members of Canada’s team in the upcoming four-day world championship in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Dec. 27-30.

Racketlon is a sport in which a player challenges his opponent in each of the four racquet sports: table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis. Canadian Racketlon Tour coordinator and an avid enthusiast, Herman, 21, is the current number one junior in Canada and the first-ever Canadian under-21 to enter the world championships of racketlon. Herman will be competing in the men’s C category, in which he ranks number one.

Lions’ coach sees more home-grown players on national teams

Canada’s under-22 hockey coach Dan Church said more home-grown players on the national teams’ rosters is an encouraging trend, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo, Ont.) Dec. 6. "It really is a good demonstration of how women’s hockey is growing by leaps and bounds in Canada," said Church. "I think there are a lot of players now from Canadian Interuniversity Sport institutions that can compete at this level." Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Church is also the head coach of the women’s hockey team at York University in Toronto.

York study on securities regulation still having a ripple effect

A report on securities regulation by former Supreme Court justice and York Chancellor Peter Cory and Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Marilyn Pilkington, also criticized the Mounties’ record on tackling commercial crime, wrote the National Post Dec. 6 in a story about comments by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

"This is a matter of concern for the image of Canada," Flaherty told a Senate committee. "The reports are unanimous that we are not doing well and some are of the view that this is an international embarrassment for Canada."

York education student to sing in Midland musical comedy production

Area residents have a rare opportunity to enjoy the voice of soprano and York student Kristin Wilkes in a production of the musical comedy A Fine Romance at Midland’s Huronia Players Studio, wrote the Barrie Advance Dec. 5. Currently, Robertson is working on her bachelor of education degree at York University. She is a busy soloist and combines performance with teaching. “It’s just been a passion, something I’ve always loved to do.”

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the Canadian autoparts industry’s request for government aid, on CBC Radio Dec. 5.