Whiteway says Phoenix project points up strength of Canada’s space industry

“That was a very quick result we were able to find in that regard,” said Jim Whiteway, head of the Mars Phoenix Lander’s Canadian team and a professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, referring to the discovery of what scientists believe to be ice, when Phoenix’s thrusters blew away the Martian soil and uncovered a white material, wrote the St. Catharines Standard July 14. “I don’t know if many people thought we would find it before the digging process began,” Whiteway said.

The York weather station’s laser-based-light-detecting-and-ranging (LIDAR) system has observed what appears to be water in clouds about 10 kilometres from the planet’s surface. Similar to the cirrus clouds found on Earth, Whiteway says the thin, wispy formations are helping to put together a picture of the Martian atmosphere never before seen.

“These clouds are quite a clear indication that there is water in the planet’s atmosphere,” he said. “Now the challenge is to measure the water content in them, determine how much water is in there.”

While Whiteway and his team analyze the LIDAR’s results, the Canadian weather station continues to report back the daily conditions one planet over. With a high of just -25 C, temperatures on the Red Planet can dip to -95 C. And this, on Mars, is considered summer.

While the flawless operation of Canada’s technology has surprised none of our scientists, it may go unheralded. Recent short-circuits on some of NASA’s equipment has forced a few parts of the Phoenix to alter their missions or abandon certain pursuits altogether. Canada’s component hasn’t missed a beat.

Whiteway does admit he is “extremely pleased” with how the meteorological station has performed, and he concedes Canadian science has come a long way in the past few decades. “I remember when I first came out of university, I thought I’d have to move down to the States to be able to take part in certain scientific goals,” he said. “The way we’re going now, though, proves we have a very strong space industry…and that’s pretty satisfying.”

Governmen t can be sued for ignoring orders

Governments can be sued for negligence when they ignore a judge’s orders, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday in a decision that permits Saskatchewan elk and deer farmers to pursue a class-action lawsuit against the province, wrote Canwest News Service July 12.

The ruling, however, is only a partial victory for the farmers. They were seeking a significantly broader declaration that the Saskatchewan government also could be sued for negligence for violating its own law with a 2003 mandatory surveillance program that forced some farmers into bankruptcy.

The decision allows the farmers to go to court seeking to have their class-action suit certified so they can attempt to recoup their financial losses.

Patrick Monahan , dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, said the case was closely watched in legal circles to see if the Supreme Court would dramatically expand existing rules by allowing governments to be sued for financial damages for policy actions.

“If they had changed that rule that would have given rise to extremely broad and potentially very expensive claims against the government,” said Monahan.

While the court did extend liability to include judicial orders, Monahan said he thinks governments normally obey the courts so he does not consider the implications will be far-reaching.

York critic comments on CAW’s new president

Sam Gindin , Packer Visitor in Social Justice in York’s Faculty of Arts, is a former economist with the Canadian Auto Workers union who has been critical of CAW President Buzz Hargrove’s ties with the Liberal party and the no-strike deal with Magna International. He has different reasons for his misgivings about Ken Lewenza, wrote CanWest News Service July 11, in a story about Hargrove’s recently appointed successor.

“Kenny is bright and talented and courageous – nobody is questioning any of this,” said Gindin, currently a lecturer in York University’s Faculty of Arts. “The question is whether Kenny only represents continuity in the union at a time when I think there’s a real need for change in the union. So, that’s going to be the test for Kenny.”

Meanwhile, internal calls for changes to a union culture that some say stifles dissent are growing. “It’s kind of telling that the convention hasn’t happened yet and we refer to Kenny as the new president of the union,” said Gindin. “I think that speaks to a serious problem in the union. If Kenny simply sees himself as the candidate of continuity and [starts] clamping down on people concerned with where the union’s been going, that brings up the question of democracy.” Hargrove “went to enormous lengths to pre-empt an election,” said Gindin.

Embattled eyeglasses empire grinds on

When York University student Jeanette Janzen submitted a $740 insurance claim for three sets of eyeglasses last month, a rude shock awaited, wrote The Globe and Mail July 12. Her claim had been denied, Desjardins Financial Security advised Janzen, because the computer-generated prescription issued by a downtown Toronto outlet of Great Glasses, a franchise chain with 23 outlets dotted across Southern Ontario, had not been issued by a licensed optometrist, as the law requires.

“I was just appalled,” said Janzen, 29, who is pursuing an MA in art history. Researching a tangle of court judgments, however, she swiftly discovered she was far from alone. Janzen’s spurned claim represents just a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars in fines and legal costs incurred by Great Glasses.

Radio documentary award winner is coming to York

A former Orillia resident and rookie to the radio business has won a national award for a documentary she produced for CBC, wrote the Orillia Packet and Times July 14. Kalli Anderson was awarded the Adrienne Clarkson Award for Diversity by the Association of Electronic Journalists.

Her documentary, “Never Let Go,” tells the touching tale of an African woman being reunited with her children after 12 years. “I’m pretty new to radio, and it was one of my first documentary projects, so (the award) was a big surprise,” Anderson said from Montreal, where she works for CBC Radio.

She has been with CBC Radio just two years and works mainly on the Montreal afternoon show, “Home Run”, hosted by Bernard St-Laurent. Recently, she won a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. She will be pursuing her master’s degree this fall at York University.

Fine Arts student plays in Barrie Shakespeare production

York student Shealyn Angus, like many of the cast of 10 in a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, came up through the ranks of Theatre by the Bay’s young company, wrote the Barrie Examiner July 12. Open only to young Barrie actors in their teens, it provides a summer job in the form of a children’s show. Many have moved on to study theatre at the postsecondary level, hoping to make it a life-long career.

Angus, 20, spent three seasons with the young company, and the last two summers she moved to a back stage position, working as the house manager. She is in her second year of a four-year theatre major at York University.

On air

  • Pat Armstrong , professor of sociology in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about a recent report on standards of care at Ontario nursing homes, on Toronto’s CFRB Radio July 10. Armstrong also spoke about the issue on London, Ont.’s CFPL-TV July 12.
  • Adam Giambrone, chair of the Toronto Transits Commission, said not to worry about the extension of the Spadina subway through York University’s Keele campus to York Region, despite delays in receiving funding from the federal government, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” program (Toronto) July 10. CP24-TV reported July 9 that its helicopter flew over York’s Keele campus where sewers are being moved to make room for the subway tunnel.
  • Anne Bayefsky , political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, and currently a member of the International Law Association Committee on International Human Rights Law and Practice, spoke about an unsuccessful vote at the United Nations on sanctions against Zimbabwe, on CBC Newsworld July 12.