Can a black man become our PM?

The rise of US presidential hopeful Barack Obama raises a question for us: Can a black man become prime minister of Canada?, asked the Toronto Star Jan. 10.

"The chances are close to zero," said Allan Hutchinson, professor in York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who was also asked about visible minorities in general..

Hutchinson: "We may be somewhat better than the States but not much when it comes to dealing with race. Visible minorities remain woefully under-represented in not only politics but in civic and business leadership….

"I look at my legal profession and it’s mostly white men on the higher courts. It’s still news when we get a woman but that’s still white women. No aboriginals on the Supreme Court, no visible minorities."

Billionaire alumnus can’t resist sports fan’s fantasy

Windsor-born billionaire Doug Bergeron (BA ’83) was explaining the business case for becoming a part owner of the NHL’s Nashville Predators when he stopped himself, wrote the Windsor Star Jan. 10. His logic for becoming the first person from this area to become an NHL owner sounded flawless, but the 47-year-old San Francisco-based business whiz tossed aside the cold arithmetic because he couldn’t keep the excitement inside any longer.

"You know, after we’re done this interview, I’m going down to Los Angeles to have dinner with (fellow Predators co-owner) Boots Del Biaggio and Luc Robitaille and then watch the team play the Kings," said Bergeron, the CEO and single-largest stockholder in the US’s leading electronic payment company VeriFone. "That’s what’s going to be fun about owning part of an NHL team.

"I’m not denying I’m going to enjoy the prospect of ownership more than my other investments that simply send me a dividend cheque every month."

Bergeron holds an honours bachelor of arts degree in computer science from York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, and a master of science from the University of Southern California.

Big Pharma’s new drugs mostly junk, says researcher

US pharmaceutical companies spend nearly twice as much on promoting and marketing drugs as they do on research and development, according to a new study by Canadian researchers, wrote Maclean’s in its issue dated Jan. 21.

The industry spent US$57.5 billion on promotion in 2004 compared to US$31.5 billion on the development of new medications, says former York graduate student Marc-André Gagnon of the University of Quebec at Montreal and co-author of the study, published Jan. 3 in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine. The result is that the market is flooded each year with "me-too" drugs, treatments that have little or no new therapeutic value but are very similar to what’s already being sold, Gagnon says. That might maximize profits for companies trying to grab a larger slice of an existing market, but it does little to improve the health of patients. "The critical mass of new drugs is junk," he says.

There’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that the more doctors heed the ads, the more their judgment is affected when it comes to writing prescriptions, says Joel Lexchin of York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, and co-author of the study. "What that translates into for consumers is that advertising is bad for your health," Lexchin says.

  • Gagnon’s and Lexchin’s study has also been covered internationally in Brazil and Germany, as well as in the Canadian French media, including articles in Le Devoir, Le Nouvelliste, La press affaires, Le Droit, Le Mecure Presse and Le Soleil.

Lions alumnus Benevides prefers coaching in the CFL

BC Lions coach Wally Buono likely won’t announce his coaching staff until the paperwork is complete but the buzz before Christmas was that he wouldn’t be in a position to name former York Lions player Mike Benevides (1990-1995) as defensive coordinator if his alma mater had pushed him harder to consider the head coaching vacancy at York University, wrote The Province (Vancouver) Jan. 10.

“The alumni really wanted me to do that, but at this point I told them my passion is somewhere else," Benevides said. “I just don’t feel like ordering buses and uniforms. The big advantage of being in the CFL is that all you worry about is football.”

Benevides has been special teams coach for five seasons and will be named successor to retiring defensive co-ordinator Dave Ritchie as part of an expanded staff.

On air

  • Stephen Newman, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the US presidential election primaries, on CTV NewsNet Jan. 9.