Enforcement of ban on cellphones in cars could be a challenge

Ontario will introduce a three-month phase-in period of its ban on cellphones in cars on Oct. 26, during which offenders will likely receive a warning, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 3. On Feb. 1, 2010, police will begin issuing tickets for up to $500.

Such dismal statistics suggest enforcement may be a big challenge. “The police are going to have a hard time seeing people holding their phones through tinted windows, or at night,” says David Wiesenthal, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health.

Former York prof Baxter& restages a Monopoly game with real currency

Recession satire anyone? Seminal ampersand-attached artist Baxter& calls on local celebs to stage a Monopoly game with real currency on Bay Street, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 3. If there’s one core event at tonight’s Nuit Blanche, a single signifying gesture indicating the collective mojo of the dusk-to-dawn art crawl and its 280 or so artists, it’s found at Monopoly with Real Money (2009) by Iain Baxter&, who taught in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts from 1972 to 1975.

Oh, you noticed that big, going-nowhere ampersand affixed to Baxter? It’s not a typo. The artist formerly known as Baxter had an "&" legally added to his name to signify the many art "-isms", movements and seminal ideas attached to his name over the past half-century.

A swanky big money/big ego setting is provided for 30-plus local celebrities – urban studies theorist Richard Florida, rapper k-os and model Yasmin Warsame, to name a few – who are taking part in six two-hour Monopoly games in the gallery of the TMX Broadcast Centre (the Exchange Tower, 130 King St. W.). Real Canadian currency will take the place of Monopoly money, should some spectators not notice the difference.

In their preparations, curatorial team members Jim Drobnick and Jennifer Fisher remembered that an early iteration of Baxter&’s Monopoly-with-real-money was played in 1973 at York University, where he was then a professor of visual arts. Property developer Murray Frum proved to be the eventual winner in a game that also used a borrowed stash of real cash. David Silcox, president of Sotheby’s Canada, then York’s associate dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, was in the game too.

Accessibility helps Nuit Blanche’s popularity

Setting and social context also play a role, wrote the National Post Oct.3 in a story about the success of Nuit Blanche, the Toronto art fest that’s risen from eccentric one-off to annual must-see almost instantly. “A major part of Nuit Blanche’s popularity is the space where it’s presented,” says York student Joseph Banh, a cultural researcher currently organizing a York conference on urban festivals. “It’s in public, so there’s this notion of accessibility, of fewer boundaries to cross.”

Tent of Endless Funding Announcements

In this award-winning installation that challenges conceptions of “ritual” and “gullibility”, a seemingly infinite procession of municipal, provincial and federal politicians announce major infrastructure projects for the City of Toronto, including money to fix the waterfront, bury the Gardiner Expressway, construct a rail link to Pearson International Airport, and a subway link to York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 3 in a guide to exhibits at the Nuit Blanche festival. Each announcement is met by canned applause while a square of asphalt suspended next to the podium slowly crumbles.

Taking credit for ghostwritten drug studies is tempting but wrong

What is not a mystery is why [drug manufacturer] Wyeth would orchestrate such a stealth marketing campaign. It did so just as doubts started to emerge about the safety of hormone replacement thearpy (HRT), wrote Regina, Sask.’s the Leader-Post Oct. 3, in a story about drug studies ghostwritten by the manufacturers under the name of university researchers.

“So before the Women’s Health Initiative reported (on the link between breast cancer and HRT in 2002), there were already a lot of people questioning the value of HRT in preventing cardiovascular disease and other things,” said Joel Lexchin, a physician and drug policy professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health.

“I would think Wyeth saw producing these articles as a way of saying, ‘You may have heard about this controversy but you can really ignore it because here we have all these wonderful people who are saying the drug is still very useful.’”

In hindsight, the decision to lend one’s good name to a drug company is at best a conflict of interest and at worst foolishly corrupt, wrote the Leader-Post. But when a drug firm comes calling, the opportunity to get published in a respected medical journal for little or no original research is highly tempting.

“I think the people who do this kind of thing are prostituting themselves for the money, for the prestige of getting published, for the ability to have extra articles added to their CV so they’ll get promoted, and so they can get another research grant,” Lexchin said. “The motivations may be different, but this is what people are doing – taking credit for things they haven’t done”

Economic crisis leads to York graduate program in financial accountability

In the aftermath of the economic meltdown, there is a pressing need for a different type of business-focused program – one that teaches higher standards of financial accountability and governance oversight, wrote Canada Newswire Oct. 5. To address this need, the School of Administrative Studies in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies has initiated a new graduate program – the Master of Financial Accountability (MFAc) – a unique program in Canada that offers a specialized focus solely on business ethics and financial accountability.

“The watchwords today and into the near future are regulation and reform, accountability and transparency, investor protection and trust, risk management and integrity, but many business programs are lacking in being able to equip executives with the skills to tackle this new reality,” said Sung Soo Kwon, professor of accounting and MFAc Program director. “Our goal is to give practising professionals the expertise they need to solve the increasingly complex problems related to financial accountability.”

Subliminal messages could work after all: study

More than 50 years after an American market researcher generated paranoia about the effects of subliminal advertising – which was promptly debunked – a team of British researchers say they’ve proven the human brain is indeed capable of picking up those messages, wrote Canwest News Service Oct. 4.

“The marketing field has certainly been very skeptical of whether these effects exist at all,” said Peter Darke, a marketing expert at the Schulich School of Business at York University. “The truth is it could work – but it can’t make (consumers) buy things they don’t want.

“If you pair a brand with happy images, with positive music, bright colours…people (will) have a positive emotional response. They notice these stimuli again later because of these responses and they are not very aware of it,” Darke said.

But Darke said marketers have already been doing this for years.

Weak economy could be with us a while

One expert predicted that Hong Kong could become a global financial centre as it seeks to become the pipeline for Chinese financial flows in Asia and around the world, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 3 in a story about how long the recession could last.

“Coming through this crisis, will London and New York still be as powerful?” said Gregory Chin, a faculty associate in the York Centre for Asian Research and Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Sex workers set to launch landmark challenge

If she could do it herself, Terri-Jean Bedford would strike down Canada’s prostitution laws, perhaps using the riding crop she plans to bring to court, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 5. Instead, the Toronto dominatrix and two other sex workers have launched a sweeping constitutional challenge to the legislation, arguing it perpetuates violence against women.

The landmark case gets underway Tuesday in a University Avenue courtroom where Bedford, in a nod to traditionalism, is promising to arrive conservatively attired, even if she is packing a tool of her trade. It’s the first time in a generation the legislation has been attacked.

“The one thing I can tell you from looking at this, both as an academic and as a person constructing a case, is that we have not had a really rational discourse on this topic because political ideology, emotional reactions and stereotypical thinking have dominated,” said Alan Young, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who is Bedford’s lawyer.

Bird watching

We are two weeks into “statutory fall”, which at this latitude is no legal fiction, wrote columnist David Warren in the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 3. It is my favourite time of the year – the spectacle of the leaves, the autumnal lighting, the coolness, and I would add the poignancy of the silences. Our songbirds have gone.

According to a study done by Professor Bridget Stutchbury and a team from York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, these birds take their time flying south – perhaps six weeks, with leisurely stopovers en route. But in spring, they are racing, and can make the “return journey” in two weeks flat.

Time for a fixed-rate mortgage?

He has a landmark study on mortgages but Professor Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, says he never anticipated the credit markets of the last year, wrote the National Post Oct. 3.

The 2001 paper examined the previous 50 years to determine whether consumers benefited from locking into a fixed-rate mortgage or going with a variable-rate product linked to prime. Consumers did better 88 per cent of the time by going with the variable-rate option. The study has been used by banks to lure consumers into variable rate products. Currently, about 25 per cent of mortgage holders have gone with floating rates.

“I’ve written seven books and 100 research articles and that’s the one I’m known for,” says Milevsky, with a laugh. “I just wish some of these banks would mention the author.”

He says the study results still hold true. If you factor in the past nine years, the variable rate probably does better about 96 per cent of the time. But that doesn’t mean if you are looking for a mortgage today you should float, he says. “There is another element of risk to analyze,” Milevsky says.

He’s referring to the volatility in the mortgage market for variable-rate products. The variable rate is still tied to prime but the discounts and premiums being offered are moving up and down wildly.

Baker’s coaching career a delight

York grad Dale Baker (BSc Spec. Hons. ’76) was planning to retire from teaching last year, wrote The Barrie Examiner Oct. 3. But she held off.

Baker, a 56-year-old phys-ed instructor at Innisdale Secondary School, couldn’t resist sticking around to help organize the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) senior boys "AAAA" volleyball championship in Barrie. She convened the event – held at Innisdale, Barrie North Collegiate and Eastview Secondary School – last November, and coached the Georgian Bay champion Innisdale Invaders, who reached the championship side quarter-finals at OFSAA last year.

While Baker played volleyball in her high school years in Toronto, swimming was her No. 1 sport while attending York University. But as soon as a high school volleyball coaching gig became available, she took it.

York grad named Miss Oktoberfest

York grad Jessica Wulff (BA Spec. Hons. ’08) of Mannheim has been crowned Miss Oktoberfest 2009, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Oct. 5.

Wulff, a lifelong resident of Waterloo Region, was selected from a group of 12 candidates Friday night at Bingemans’ Ballroom.

Wulff, 24, graduated from York University’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, in 2008 with a specialized honours degree and a certificate in sports administration.

Film students focus of reality series

Andrew Cromey (BFA Hons. ’07) has been working in the industry since graduating with a degree in film & video production from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 4, in a story about a film series on a course offered through George Brown College’s continuing education department. He learned about the program after catching episodes of “The Film Student” on TV.

New Tundra played at York

The Coldwater/Orillia Tundras have signed a group of returning players in time for this Saturday’s home opener, including York student Jesse Cook, wrote The Barrie Examiner Oct. 5.

Cook has previous playing experience in the Ontario Junior Hockey League as the Brampton Battalion’s team captain before playing for the York University Lions last season.

High school football coach steps down to work with York Lions

Upon conclusion of this York Region Athletic Association football season, Rick Maloney had intentions on stepping down as head football coach of the Brother André Catholic High School Cardinals’ program to divert his full attention to serving as an assistant coach with the York University Lions football team, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Oct. 2 in a photo caption.

Kept from the classroom

Ukrainian teacher Vladimir Kravtsov began trying to get an Ontario teaching certificate shortly after he arrived here in 1997, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 5 in a story about his complaint against the Ontario College of Teachers at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. He still doesn’t have it.

Kravtsov seems well qualified, wrote the Star: He wants to teach French, a field that goes begging for teachers in Ontario. He has two university degrees, 11 years of experience, teaching fluency in Russian, English and French, has taken upgrading courses at York University and made a diligent effort to deliver all the paperwork demanded by the college.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the cycle of poverty on APTN-TV’s “National News” Oct. 2.