York physicist questions validity of US findings on climate change

A York University professor has ignited a controversy by challenging a supposed prime example of man-made climate change – that jet condensation trails, know as contrails, act like clouds, cooling the Earth during the day and keeping it warmer at night, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 23.

Physicist William van Wijngaarden, a professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, says he found no evidence to support this climate effect in Canadian temperature records for the contrail-free days immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"There’s been a lot of groupthink going on about this," Wijngaarden said in an interview in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society.

The York researcher said he decided to double-check the US findings because the claimed temperature rise was so large, almost equal to the global average temperature increase from greenhouse warming. "If it was that big, then I ought to have been able to see it in Canada," he said.

"The American researchers need to look a bit harder at the original data," said Wijngaarden, who travelled in person to New Orleans to explain his controversial findings at the largest gathering of meteorologists and climate experts in the world. "If I wasn’t here, people might say I was chickening out," he said.

Osgoode alumnus Jerry Levitan meets John Lennon and Oscar

Jerry Levitan (BA ’76, LLB ’79) woke up this morning and learned that he was nominated for a Best Animated Short Academy Award, vindicating John Lennon for the decision not to call security when a 14-year-old Levitan snuck into the King Edward Hotel on May 26, 1969, wrote Eye Weekly Jan. 22.

The five-minute animated short depicting the experience, I Met the Walrus, was produced by Levitan for $50,000 – about half of which came from Bravo!FACT, a foundation supported by revenues from the cable channel. Director and animator Josh Raskin and two illustrators in their mid-20s supplied a sepia-toned swirl of images to complement a five-minute excerpt of Levitan’s audience with Lennon.

Now, given the Oscar nod, the decision to grant time to a young teenage infiltrator who ran the gauntlet of grown-up reporters is now the most enduring part of John and Yoko’s local stopover on their notorious honeymoon “Bed-In.”

“I have no messianic tendencies, I don’t think,” says Levitan from his downtown law office, right before heading off for a screening at the Sundance Film Festival. “These guys who did the movie just got it – they were able to embrace my experience, and transmuted [it] to continue spreading John’s message of peace.”

Levitan coveted the 40-minute recording of his conversation, made on a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder he talked CHUM radio into lending him after Lennon told him to come back later that day. Yet, he didn’t start telling the story until it appeared in short-lived yuppie periodical T.O. concurrent with 1988 documentary Imagine: John Lennon, when the mythology of the 1960s was first under the microscope.

Welcome to Peace Village, Canada’s all-Muslim neighborhood

This is Peace Village, a residential housing development in a Toronto suburb that caters to Muslims – but is open to anyone, wrote Agence France Presse Jan. 23.

Patricia Wood, a professor at York University who has researched multiculturalism and immigration, also defended the housing development, noting that while some aspects of the project may seem new, the creation of ethnic or religious-based neighbourhoods "is actually a very old practice" on this continent.

"If you look at the history of North America, some of the earliest settlements have specific groups coming and establishing their own communities with their own buildings and their own institutions in very close proximity to one another."

There are very few immigrant groups that did not create their own neighbourhoods within larger cities, and historically it has been good for them and society at large, she said. Wood concedes that some people may have some difficulty with the concept, which can also be seen in an all-Catholic village in Florida called Ave Maria.

Whether it be the Muslim Peace Village, or Vancouver’s century-old Chinatown, "there is so much mutual support in these communities that would not necessarily be available in Canadian society." "It’s been a very important part of successful migration in Canada and the United States," she said.

Investigator told York’s Innocence Project a different story

Retired detective John McCombie offered a different story about evidence concerning Romeo Phillon [who was convicted of murdering Leopold Roy in 1972] when interviewed in 1999 by students with the Innocence Project at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who were investigating Phillion’s case, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 23.

During the hour-long meeting [in which he discussed Phillion’s alibi of being at a truck stop at the time of the murder] the former detective said Phillion still had time to get back to Ottawa between 1pm and 2:45pm to commit murder. He never mentioned having evidence proving Phillion was in Trenton much later, said Toronto lawyer Stacey Taraniuk.

Premier warns of Korean auto tariffs

Ontario will explore slapping tariffs on Hyundai and Kia cars if Ottawa signs a free trade pact with South Korea that’s unfavourable to Ontario automakers, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 23, in a story about comments made by Premier Dalton McGuinty. "It’s just basically making noise," Bernie Wolf, a professor and director of the international MBA program at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said of McGuinty’s posturing. "I don’t think there’s anything he can do."

"If Hyundai wanted to open a plant here, he would put out a welcome mat," said Wolf, who noted the high dollar may negate that scenario. "We’re no longer the cheap location we used to be."

Lessons in Wind Chill 101 taught at York bus stop

Few places in Toronto are as windy as the York University area, south of Steeles between Keele and Jane streets, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 23. It’s surrounded by open fields and minimally developed land that allows the winter wind to gather force and cut like a knife through parkas and mittens.

David Law e-mailed the Star to say York students waiting for the eastbound Steeles bus at Founders Road used to hide from the elements in a TTC pen until several years ago, when it got battered in a traffic accident.

For some reason a new shelter was never installed, said Law, meaning a long line of young academics has learned to dance from foot to foot to stay warm during bus waits as part of their university education.

"A lot of students use that stop because it’s the way to get to the Finch station," he said. "You only need to stand there for a while on a cold winter day to understand why that shelter should be replaced."

City supervisor Kyp Perikleous agreed the Steeles stop rates a new shelter – and soon, wrote the Star. He was sending staff for a look to get a temporary shelter in place as soon as possible.

Noted US lawyer speaks at Osgoode

The firm of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg brought William T. Allen, former chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery, the key business law court in the US, into town to speak to law students at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the firm’s lawyers about corporate governance, wrote the National Post Jan. 23. Allen, who is counsel at noted merger and acquisition firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, raised concerns that perhaps corporate governance and shareholder activism has gone too far. He raised the valid point of who is overseeing the shareholder activists and their increasing demands for corporate accountability, noting that everyone has his or her own interests, including hedge funds.

Leafs begin search for new GM

Richard Peddie, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, has retained the services of York alumnus Gordon Kirke (LLB ’69), a noted sports lawyer and professor, to conduct the search for a new GM, wrote CBC.ca News on-line Jan. 22.

"It is wide open," Kirke told HNIC Radio. "We want to get the best person available." Kirke has represented several high-profile clients, including the NHL Players Association, Canadian Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League, and teaches sports and entertainment law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Toronto.

York mathematician wins New Pioneers Award

York University mathematician Jianhong Wu can add a Skills for Change New Pioneers Award in science and technology to his list of honours, wrote the North York Mirror, Jan. 28. The awards, handed out for a 16th year, showcase the outstanding contributions made by immigrants and refugees within the Greater Toronto Area.

Born and educated in China, Wu has lived in Canada since 1998. As an immigrant, he said he’s faced challenges pertaining to teaching and interacting with students from completely different educational backgrounds, conducting and leading research projects in different academic and social environments, and developing and retaining collaborative opportunities between Canada and China.

"It’s a great honour," Wu said of the award. "I’m particularly glad (Skills for Change) has an award recognizing the important contribution immigrants make in Canada. Canada is a global leader in science and this would be impossible without immigrant contribution."

The price and payoff of an EMBA

When Pablo Heyman (EMBA ’06) decided to earn an executive MBA while holding down a full-time job in marketing and sales with Cadbury Schweppes plc, he knew he’d need to squeeze every minute of time out of his days, wrote CBC News on-line Jan. 18, in a story that originally appeared in the National Post.

The program he chose, at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, would eat up every other weekend over 18 months as well as require intensive, week-long study periods that included trips to Chicago and Hong Kong. On top of that, he and his wife were expecting their first child.

Like many young executives, Heyman, who finished the program a year ago, chose to go back to school to upgrade his skills, improve his career prospects and challenge himself. "I always wanted to do an MBA," he says. "It builds your confidence, your ability to manage your time, and your soft skills" such as leadership.

Heyman didn’t pursue an EMBA for the sake of promotion, he says, but after completing it, he got one anyway. And he feels he got what he paid for. "If anything," he says, "it exceeded my expectations."

On air

  • James McKellar, professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about credit and consumer culture, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Morning” Jan. 22.