Phoenix signs off as Martian winter begins

Mars Phoenix is dead but no one is shedding tears for the little space engine that could, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 11.

Certainly not the Canadian Space Agency and university scientists here, who ran the weather station it carried, and used it so successfully. And not NASA, which built and operated the lander itself.

Life is short in the harsh climate of space and a solar-powered probe that lands in the Martian Arctic was never expected to last long once winter arrived and blotted out the sunshine.

The Canadian weather station’s main contribution, in one sense, was taking Mars’ temperature (cold in the summer, then even colder), and eventually discovering snow falling from the icy clouds. But the greater glory may have been getting more firmly in the door of NASA’s Mars offices, wrote the Citizen. While our contributions to shuttles and the International Space Station are well known, and Canada has its own satellites, no all-Canadian technology had ever ridden with NASA to another planet.

"Talk about getting invited to the party!" said Alain Berinstain of the Canadian Space Agency. NASA invited Canada along because this country is known for building superior types of instruments for studying the atmosphere, he said.

Canada studied the weather while American instruments dug in the soil, finding ice and heating tiny soil samples to "sniff" the vapours and analyze the chemistry.

Canada’s scientists came from York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, which led the experiment, Dalhousie University and the University of Alberta.

"We have produced a gold mine of data, and now we look forward to publishing the results – after some rest," said Jim Whiteway, professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and lead scientist for the weather station.

The mission was to last three months. It has lasted nearly six, finding water-ice all over the north plain of Mars (covered with a thin layer of soil) and studying the thin air and its weather.

Phoenix phoned home for the last time on Nov. 2, the day a nasty dust storm came out of the blue and killed the machine. "The possibility of it waking up again is very low," said Barry Goldstein, NASA’s Mars project manager. They will, however, keep listening for a signal.

Worried about grades, students call for end to strike

A strike that has halted classes for 50,000 students at York University is raising questions about who is speaking out for the interests of undergraduates at the country’s third-largest campus, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 11.

A group of students, organizing under the banner York Not Hostage, is planning a rally next week to make sure their interests are recognized in the labour dispute that shows no signs of ending. The group, which has been gathering hundreds of members on Facebook, says student leaders did not consult adequately with undergraduates before supporting striking teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants.

"We are holding the rally because we have lost our voice," said Catherine Divaris, a kinesiology major in her final year, and one of the organizers of the event planned for Monday. "We just want to go back to school and finish our education."

Divaris said the group is concerned that no negotiations have taken place since the strike began last Thursday and is calling on the strikers – members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees – to accept the administration’s offer of binding arbitration. Failing that, it is calling on the province to enact back-to-work legislation.

As of late yesterday, the York University Anti-Strike group on Facebook had about 900 members.

Divaris said students are fearful that this dispute will be lengthy, like a strike eight years ago by the same group. "We are all really frustrated. We all know what happened in 2000-2001 – 11 weeks. We don’t want that again. It just seems to us that neither side is taking it seriously and we just want to force an end to it."

Hamid Osman, president of the York Federation of Students, said criticism being levelled at his group for taking sides in the dispute is unfair. Osman said the federation supports the union’s efforts to get better wages and job security and, like all parties involved, would like to see an end to the strike.

Subha Arulvarathan, editor-in-chief of the student paper Excalibur, said she too has heard from many students who feel their interests are not being represented. In a recent editorial, the paper expressed the same concerns.

CUPE Ontario has worked closely with York student leaders and other members of the Canadian Federation of Students on its tuition campaign in Ontario.

Yesterday, at a lunchtime rally by striking workers, several groups from York’s Keele campus, including undergraduate and graduate student leaders, voiced support for union demands and called for a return to the bargaining table.

The University has offered the group a 9.25 per cent increase over three years; the local is asking for 11 per cent over two years.

Nadia Habib, who has taught on contract for a decade, said that while wage demands have made headlines, what is not being discussed is the University’s efforts to take away full-time job opportunities for long-time employees such as herself. "That’s what’s missing from the conversation," she said.

  • Some students have taken to the Internet to voice their opposition to the strike by setting up Facebook groups, wrote The Canadian Press Nov. 10, in a story about a student anti-strike site

The York University Anti-Strike group has more than 600 members and the York Victims group has more than 1,500 members, wrote CP. Business student Lyndon Koopmans says his Anti-Strike group isn’t taking sides; it just wants a resolution that is fair for all parties.

There are also five groups in support of the strike, including one managed by CUPE Local 3903, which has more than 1,600 members.

  • Strike coverage continued on most Toronto radio and television stations Nov. 10.
  • York students Lyndon Koopmans and Christina Chewchuk spoke about student unhappiness over the strike on CBC Radio, CFTO-TV and City-TV Nov. 10. York student Terrance Luscombe also spoke about the strike on Global Television Nov. 10. Graduate student Amrit Heer spoke on CFRB-AM Nov. 10.

Universities take notice of province’s deficit projection

Universities paid close attention last month when Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced a $500-million deficit for the province, wrote the Welland Tribune Nov. 11. The announcement was a result of the same plummeting markets that have much of the financial world in turmoil.

Queen’s University, in Kingston, has lost $100 million in endowments, The Globe and Mail reported this month. The University of Waterloo has frozen most hiring for six months and York University‘s endowment fund has lost $45 million this year.

Trinity Western edged by York Lions in national final

The Trinity Western University (TWU) men’s soccer team’s amazing post-season run ended Sunday afternoon with a 1-0 loss to the York University Lions in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport gold medal match at Carleton University’s Ravens’ Field, wrote BC’s Langley Advance Nov. 11.

"We lost to a great team today; the guys have nothing to be ashamed of," TWU Head Coach Al Alderson said, after the game.

The Lions’ David Nogaro scored in the 83rd minute to lead York to the 1-0, gold-medal victory. Nogaro took a pass from CIS player of the year Francesco Bruno and calmly sent the ball past diving goalkeeper Andrew Kowan and into the top right corner of the net.

It took the Lions 31 long years to capture an elusive second Sam Davidson Memorial Trophy, their first triumph coming in 1977, wrote the Advance.

Spying doesn’t pay

In a knowledge-based economy, intelligence is king, so it is hardly surprising that from time to time firms will be tempted to test the boundaries and resort to what some would call commercial spying, wrote Andrew Crane, George R. Gardiner Professor of Business Ethics in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the National Post Nov. 11.

However, the practice of gathering and using competitive intelligence is an ethical and legal minefield. The American Society for Industrial Security suggests that US companies lose more than US$50 billion every year in proprietary information and intellectual property. Some estimates put the figure even higher, at more than US$300 billion a year. Unearthing accurate statistics in this most sensitive of areas is of course fraught with difficulties, but it is clear that companies in Canada and other leading industrialized countries face similar risks.

Our research at the Schulich School of Business, conducted in partnership with the Institute of Business Ethics and the University of London, has been investigating the ethical challenges in competitive intelligence from those who know best – intelligence professionals themselves, and the people in their organizations whose responsibility it is to ensure compliance with ethical and legal standards.

The Post noted that the Institute of Business Ethics’ report, Ethical Challenges in Competitive Intelligence, by Crane and Laura Spence, will be published in December 2008.

York prof calls for high-speed rail link in Quebec-Windsor corridor

A high-speed rail link in the busy Quebec City-Windsor corridor would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by providing a convenient alternative to far more polluting air and car travel, says Peter Victor, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a story about economic sustainability by CanWest News Service Nov. 10. In the same story, Victor warned a move to a slow- or low-growth economy requires concerted planning and must be spread over as many as 30 years, wrote CanWest.

On air

  • Brenda Spotton Visano, economics professor in York’s Atkinson School of Public Policy & Administration, spoke about the loss of confidence in the business sector during the economic downturn, on CBC Radio afternoon programs in Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor, Quebec City, Sydney, Halifax and Fredericton Nov. 10.

  • James McKellar, professor of real property in the Schulich School of Business at York, spoke about how the condominium market in Toronto is being affected by the economic downturn, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” (Toronto) Nov. 10.