NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander captures Martian dust devils on camera

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has photographed several dust devils dancing across the arctic plain and sensed a dip in air pressure as one passed near the Lander, wrote the New Delhi-based Hindustan Times Sept. 12. These dust-lofting whirlwinds had been expected in the area, but none had been detected in earlier Phoenix images.

“Throughout the mission, we have been detecting vortex structures that lower the pressure for 20 to 30 seconds during the middle part of the day,” said Peter Taylor of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, a member of the Phoenix science team. “In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the intensity increasing, and now these vortices appear to have become strong enough to pick up dust,” he added.

Green Party battles ‘tree-hugger’ myth

The Green Party, says Mark Winfield of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, has long been “sensitive to the flake accusation,” wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 13 in a story about the party. It encouraged former Green leader Jim Harris, once a Conservative member, to emphasize the party’s fiscally conservative policies, including pledges of balanced budgets and debt reduction. The current program envisions eliminating Canada’s $481-billion debt completely.

“The party is positioning itself quite explicitly in the centre. Some of the pro-business language that was there has been moderated a lot,” says Winfield, a political scientist who specializes in environmental issues. Winfield credits leader Elizabeth May for the shift. It makes electoral sense, he says, because the Greens are mainly vying for “progressive voters.”

Councillor appointed to Greenbelt council

Markham Ward 2 councillor and York alumna Erin Shapero (BES ’99) has been appointed to the province’s Greenbelt Council, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Watson announced Thursday, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Sept. 13. Shapero, a graduate of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies who was elected to Markham Council in November 2000, has been a green initiatives proponent and has received several environmental leadership awards.

Northern law program gains traction

The deans of Ontario’s six law schools are working on a proposal which, if it wins approval, will see would-be lawyers in Northern Ontario given at least some of their legal education at a northern university without the province having to fund a new law school, wrote The Lawyer’s Weekly, Sept. 12.

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, says the proposal involves one or more of the law schools having a presence at one or both of the two northern universities, Lakehead in Thunder Bay and Laurentian in Sudbury.

Monahan told The Lawyers Weekly the proposal had been actively considered by the Ontario Council of Law Deans until it seemed Lakehead had a good chance of winning approval for a new faculty of law. It was revived in the wake of the government’s announcement that it was not prepared to fund any new law schools.

Monahan said the scheme would be a cost-effective means of addressing the problems of a shortage of lawyers in remote northern communities and a lack of lawyers versed in Aboriginal law.

Lakehead University’s President Frederick Gilbert has promised to wage a continuing campaign for a full-fledged faculty, wrote the Weekly.

Osgoode’s Poonam Puri featured in new law magazine

Professor Poonam Puri of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School knew early on she wanted to be a lawyer, wrote Precedent: The new rules of law and style Sept. 7. Her parents weren’t pleased, she adds. They wanted her to be a doctor. “My parents tried to dissuade me from law school by suggesting that there are ‘too many lawyers.’ My own belief is that numbers don’t necessarily matter — if you are passionate about something, you will succeed,” she says.

The then-25-year-old was understandably nervous when she accepted the offer to join the faculty at York as an assistant professor teaching corporate governance and business associations. That she would be barely older than her future students also gave her pause. But she realized that this opportunity was too exciting to pass up.

Puri uses her experiences in the field to help her students think through problems for which there are no precedents. “My students never cease to amaze me,” she beams. “Just when you think you’ve thought through an issue, you have a student make a comment or ask a question that makes you re-interpret your theory. And that always happens.”

How do you sell a glass castle in the ghetto?

It’s a big marketing challenge, but the Daniels Corporation, the developer behind One Cole and the Regent Park revitalization, says it’s prepared to counter the stigma [of the neighbourhood’s reputation], wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 13.

The bottom line is that if the developers can’t persuade middle-class shoppers to snap up property in Regent Park, the mixed-income revitalization plan risks failure, experts say. “It would be unfortunate if the whole project went down the tubes because they can’t attract middle-class residents,” says Alison Bain, a professor of urban geography in York’s Faculty of Arts. “[But] despite the stigma that’s attached to this neighbourhood, I can think of any number of neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto that have been totally transformed through gentrification,” she says, citing Leslieville, Yorkville and Queen Street West.

“It shouldn’t at all be a challenge to attract new middle-class condo dwellers [to Regent Park],” she says, especially since the neighbourhood is so close to downtown. Regent Park might attract people who embrace the identity of what was once considered a revolutionary social-housing experiment, Bain says. “If you look at the scale of the architecture [in St. Lawrence] and the surrounding buildings, it’s not overwhelming. It’s not big glass towers,” Bain says.

Former York coach says U of T neglected its football team

Football experts say the University of Toronto Varsity Blues’ losing streak was the result of administrative neglect and funding cuts that devalued the football program, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 13 in a story about the team’s resurgence this season. “The team just didn’t have the resources,” says Frank Cosentino, formerly a Canadian Football League quarterback and professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, who specialized in sports history. “And the results reflect that.”

Cosentino says football is a complex, expensive game that demands a specialized coaching staff and sustained recruiting. And if a team starts losing, it gets harder to attract talented high school players. “It’s hard on the players,” he says. “The cycle just keeps repeating itself.”

Principal brings experience to new school

Former York professor, now principal Sharon Moss (BEd ’92, MEd ’01) has a stylish haircut, large expressive eyes and a warm manner, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Sept. 13 in a story about Donald Cousens Public School.

This year marks her 25th working in the field of education. Moss, 49, has two children and lives in Durham Region. She has a master’s in education and taught at York University for three years.

Younger voters ripe for online influence

Elections Canada studies show that voting among Canadians 18-34 rose from 37 per cent in 2004 to 44 per cent in 2006, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 13. Joel Esguerra, 19, a York University business administration student, sees a trend toward Conservative leader Stephen Harper at school. “That came out when our professor talked about the polls this week,” he said. While he leans Liberal, he said: “Most of my friends are going to vote Conservative. They definitely like Harper.”

Water often taken for granted

In a story in The Vancouver Sun Sept. 13, Janine MacLeod, a York University PhD student who is working on a book about our cultural relationship with water, notes: “Right now, the systems we have in our municipalities are ones of total invisibility. Water comes from seemingly nowhere, enters the domestic space, and then disappears, and we don’t want to know where it goes.”

All the world’s a stage for youths

Youths 10 to 13 have a new opportunity to experience drama thanks to the Huronia Players Academy Drama Program, wrote the Midland Mirror Sept. 12 . Organized by Betony Main (BA ’03), the classes begin Oct. 2 and run for eight Thursday evenings until Nov. 20 at the North Simcoe Sports & Recreation Centre in Midland.

More than just acting, Main said it’s a chance to build essential life skills: “It’s really important to have something that’s creative for children. The great thing about drama education is what you’re learning – critical thinking, group work, problem solving, being comfortable to speak in front of a group, concentration, focus – all things that are really essential for life, not just drama.”

Main studied theatre in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, then worked as an arts administrator in Toronto and co-founded a children’s theatre company.

Osgoode grad escaped assassination after becoming an Ontario court judge

In December of 1978, a man who believed Canada’s law courts were run by crooks plotted to kill Osgoode alumnus Larry Pennell (LLB ’41), an Ontario Supreme Court judge, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 13 in an obituary. At the last minute, Peter Matas switched targets. Instead, he shot and killed lawyer Frederick Gans in a Toronto courthouse.

Judge Pennell never talked about his narrow escape or the case, other than as a tragedy. “The fact that he was the target never bothered him,” said his son, Brian Pennell. “It’s a risk a judge takes.”

His foray into federal politics took him to the inner sanctum of prime minister Lester Pearson’s Liberal cabinet. As solicitor general, he spearheaded the drive to abolish capital punishment, to pass the Canada Health Act and to enact the Canada Student Loan Program, which he considered his greatest political achievement. As a judge in the Ontario Supreme Court (now Ontario Superior Court), he strove to ensure people’s legal rights were protected.

He finished his studies at Osgoode Hall Law School in 1941 but was not called to the bar until 1945 because he immediately enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Osgoode name honours former attorney general

John White (1757-1800), originally of Middlesex, England, as a lawyer spent some time in Jamaica before returning to England where, in 1792, his distinguished jurist brother-in-law recommended him to serve as Upper Canada’s attorney general with William Osgoode who was preparing to sail to that colonial region to be its chief justice, wrote the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder Sept. 13.

Toronto’s “Osgoode Hall,” which commemorates the latter fellow, has long been the centre of the Law Society of Upper Canada and also housed English Canada’s premier Law School until 1969 when, as a faculty, it was relocated to the campus of York University.

Tories’ big plan for cities is just old money

Only $8.8 billion, over seven years, goes to the infrastructure-building cities talk about, wrote the Toronto Star’s Royson James Sept. 13 in a column about Conservative Party election campaign claims that they have invested $33 billion in funding for cities. Of this, $697 million is for the York University subway extension, hardly a new project.