York Model UN students win international diplomacy awards

York University might not have been one of the better known postsecondary schools competing at last month’s 2008 Harvard World Model United Nations conference in Puebla, Mexico, but that didn’t stop five of the school’s students from taking home diplomacy awards, wrote the North York Mirror April 3.

York Model United Nations sent 12 participants to the conference March 24 to 28, which drew more than 1,500 students from 150 colleges and universities spanning 80 countries. Five of York’s 12 students took home diplomacy awards, the most awarded to any Canadian school and any school in North America.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Steven Versa, one of York’s award winners. “It’s a feeling I still cannot describe. We came as a team and we knew we were doing very well. We were confident in our performance. The conference was a life-changing experience.”

The York team was assigned the countries of Canada and Turkey to represent, Versa said, adding the home country advantage wasn’t necessarily so. “It’s a little bit harder when you are given your home country because you are expected to know your country’s policies inside and out,” he said.

Habon Ali, vice-president of external affairs for York Model United Nations, said the group of 40 to 50 students meet once a week and focused on training delegates in international diplomacy. “The world conference is one of the most prestigious competitions,” she said. “We’ve climbed leaps and bounds. We are not a well-known University and we’ve put ourselves on the map. We were competing against schools such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale.”

Yorkie made movies with the Bee Gees as a kid

If it wasn’t for the Bee Gees, raunchy teen comedies like American Pie might never have been made, wrote Victoria’s Times Colonist April 4 . Who knew? Credit former York student Peter Foldy‘s childhood friendship with the brothers Gibb – Barry, Robin and Maurice – while growing up in Australia.

It inspired his passion for filmmaking, a journey that began with an influential script he co-wrote for Hot Moves, a hugely successful 1985 teen sex comedy that fuelled the genre’s popularity during that era, and its later resurgence.

“The Gibbs were very cinematic,” the Budapest-born filmmaker recalled during a visit to promote Head, Heart and Balls…Or Why I Gave Up Smoking Pot, his 2007 short film featuring funny man Adam Carolla. “We’d make little eight-millimetre films together.”

The Bee Gees also fuelled Foldy’s passion for music. The singer-songwriter studied film at York University, supporting himself by playing in a rock band. Then came record deals with the indie Kanata label, Capitol/EMI and RCA. He’s best known for Bondi Junction, his 1973 Juno-nominated bubble gum chart-topper, and his Top 10 hits Roxanne and Julie-Anne.

Researcher was drawn to Tom Thomson’s compelling story

How did the famous Toronto painter Tom Thomson die on July 8, 1917, asked the Toronto Star April 2: was it by accident, suicide or murder? Who found his body? Where are his remains buried? These questions are explored in one of three new sections of Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, an educational Web site project launched in 1997.

“It, for me, was just a compelling story,” said project research director Gregory Klages, a graduate student in the joint Communication & Culture Program at York and Ryerson Universities. “It had all the makings of a great mystery: a suspicious death, accusations of murder, suicide, accidental death, a question about where Thomson’s body was buried. “There just seemed to be so many questions.”

Author shares challenges to her faith

Osgoode alumnus turned author Karen Henein (LLB ’79) challenged her audience to reflect on its faith by sharing her own experience as someone who returned to the church after being “shaken up” by a few incidents, wrote the Niagara Falls Review April 4.

Henein, the keynote speaker at the Niagara Falls Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, recalled one experience as a university student, when she was staying in Norway and helped a farmer’s wife who tried to commit suicide.

“She suddenly laid very still on the bed and she looked straight into my eyes and she said, ‘Karen what are you living for?’ And I was silent. I didn’t know…. I realized that if I thought I was a Christian, my faith wasn’t more than an inch deep because I had nothing to say for this women in her moment of need,” she said to the shocked crowd Tuesday morning., April 1.

Once Henein returned to Canada, she attended York’s Osgoode Law School and  then began working as a lawyer at a Toronto firm. Later, she met her husband Sam who is a medical practitioner. Despite their hectic schedules, they “insisted on meeting at least once a day,” said Sam. Henein left the law profession in 2001 and ever since she has been speaking and writing books about the Christian faith, such as Counsel of the Most High.

Wilson seen as ‘extremist’ in Penticton

Barrie Wilson, professor emeritus of philosophy and religion in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, whose new book is called How Jesus Became Christian, is a convert to Judaism, wrote pastor Jim Hill in BC’s Penticton Herald April 4, in a "Faith First" column about two authors with controversial theories about Christ. Wilson claims that Jesus was merely a revolutionary rabbi trying to restore true Judaism. What’s new is that Wilson blames the apostle Paul for inventing Christianity and blames the early church for covering up the truth of Jesus’ identity.

On the one hand, I’m sad that these intelligent people are having doubts about central teachings of the Christian faith, and even glorying in their doubts and calling them “enlightenment”, wrote Hill. On the other hand, I’m hoping that in the eyes of the world, the church’s openness, tolerance and patience toward these extremists will stand out in stark contrast to the intolerance and suppression of dissent in some other faiths, and thus turn out to be a positive witness to the Gospel.

American songbirds are being wiped out by banned pesticides

The number of migratory songbirds returning to North America has gone into sharp decline due to the unregulated use of highly toxic pesticides and other chemicals across Latin America, wrote The Independent (London, UK) April 4.

Bridget Stutchbury, an ornithologist and professor in the Faculty of Science & Engineering at York University in Toronto, said, “With spring we take it for granted that the sound of the songbirds will fill the air with their cheerful sounds. But each year, as we continue to demand out-of-season fruits and vegetables, fewer and fewer songbirds will return.”

It is only recently that the decline has been definitively linked to the use of toxic pesticides in the Caribbean and across Latin America. “Everyone who has looked for pesticide poisoning in birds has found it,” Stutchbury said. “When we count birds during our summers we are finding significant population declines in about three dozen species of songbirds.”

She wrote in the comment pages of The New York Times: “They are the modern-day canaries in the coal mine.” She said, “The imported fruits and vegetables found in our shopping carts in winter and early spring are grown with types and amounts of pesticides that would often be illegal in the United States. I believe that if we don’t make drastic changes quite literally many birds which are common now are going to become rare,” said Stutchbury.

One of the world’s best guitarists to perform at Market Theatre

For the next eight months, guitarist and York alumnus Don Ross (BFA ‘83) is going to see very little of his Cannington, Ont., home. But don’t feel too bad for the celebrated musician, wrote the Woodstock Sentinel-Review April 4.

During this extended absence, Ross will see most of Canada, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom as he crosses the globe to promote his two most recent albums, Live in Your Head and The Thing That Came From Somewhere, his 2008 collaboration with fellow guitarist Andy McKee. While his more exotic tour-stops to cities like Berlin and Sedrun are balanced with visits to the more mundane, including an April 25 performance at Woodstock’s Market Theatre, the result is the same.

Ross is spending most of his year on the road. “Ever since I started in music, I’ve made the lion’s share of my money from touring,” he said. “Since 2000, when Napster hit the fan and spelled the beginning of the end of the music industry, (touring) has become even more important.

Ross is one of the world’s best guitarists. Since graduating from York University’s music program, he has focused on recording and performing his own songs, honing his personal style with each of his releases.

On air

  • Michael Jenkin, professor in the Centre for Vision Research at York University, spoke about the amphibious research robot Aqua that he and a team of York engineers are testing in the Bahamas, on the Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” program April 3.