An actor on the brink of a blockbuster

Rachel McAdams (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01), a 31-year-old Canadian actress who lives in Toronto in a house she shares with her younger brother when she’s not off shooting movies, has long held a green card, wrote The New York Times Oct. 29 in a story about the York grad…. In the eight years that McAdams has been making movies there have been few glaringly stupid ones. An exception would be her first Hollywood film, The Hot Chick, a dopey comedy in which she played a high school cheerleader who switched bodies with Rob Schneider’s small-time crook.

McAdams’s colleagues attribute her rise to her winsome manner, her serious acting chops and a no-diva approach to her work. Critics have also been complimentary…. What McAdams is still missing is the breakout hit that will do for her what Pretty Woman did for Julia Roberts in 1990. But in the opinion of Roger Michell, the director of Morning Glory, McAdams has star power and talent to spare.

“With film stars you look for the life they bring to the lens,” Michell said. “She just radiates life. She has two sets of muscles. One is a kind of railway map of the script, which must be adhered to, and the other is emotional, meaning she can see what floats through the window on the day of shooting and go with that.”

McAdams received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from York University [Faculty of Fine Arts], reported the Times. Roles in television shows and Canadian movies followed. Within a year Hollywood came calling.

Lurching from one disaster to the next

The world is ill-prepared for the human toll from the expected increase in floods, droughts and extreme storms and hurricanes on the horizon, wrote Rome-based Inter Press Service Oct. 30 in a story about the increasing role of the military in relief efforts.

The biggest obstacle is the military itself, especially in Canada, where defence planners are not jumping at the expanded opportunities in humanitarian relief, even with their soldiers’ battle weariness in war-torn Afghanistan, said Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics & International Law at the University of British Columbia.

Martin Shadwick, a military analyst at the York Center for International & Security Studies, agrees that ambivalence exists in Canada’s military. “There is not really a negative connotation in the military towards (disaster relief). I think they would only get concerned if they were being called upon day in and day out and were turning into disaster relief 911 (telephone emergency) service,” he said.

Shadwick warns that an insufficient supply of military equipment and services has developed in the militaries of the European Union and North America in wake of recent austerity measures. “Compared to 10 or 20 years ago, even the Americans’ capabilities to provide disaster relief capabilities, that is military-based capabilities, has been going down, because in many ways, defence budgets have been slashed,” he said.

Canadian Forces eye Obama’s chopper cast-offs

The Defence Department is looking at whether it should buy US President Barack Obama’s helicopter cast-offs as spare parts for the Canadian air force’s Cormorant search-and-rescue choppers, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 1.

Preliminary discussions are underway on the possible sale of the US101 helicopters to Canada. The aircraft, which were to form the new fleet of “Marine One” presidential helicopters, are similar to Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant search-and-rescue choppers which, at times, have been grounded because of a lack of spare parts.

The Obama administration pulled the plug on the US101, also known as the VH-71, after the projected cost of the aircraft doubled from US$6.5 billion to US$13 billion.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick of the York Centre for International & Security Studies said the deciding factor for any Canadian purchase of the presidential helicopters will be price. “It could potentially be a good deal for the parts if the cost is low enough,” said Shadwick.

Funding crunch: Prescriptions for health care diverge sharply

The Canadian health-care system is in dire need of treatment, wrote Montreal’s The Gazette Oct. 30. Everyone with expertise on the subject at least agrees on that diagnosis. It’s when it comes to prescriptions that views sharply diverge, with some proposing the equivalent of radical surgery and others advising something more like restorative physiotherapy.

The signals are mixed but then so is the health system, says Brenda Zimmerman, director of the Health Industry Management Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University. She also said in an interview that obsession with the public-private wrangle impedes breakthrough thinking on health care. “We set things up as contradictions; you’re either for or against something. What we tend to have is these huge blanket statements instead of piecing things out enough.”

She suggests, for example, that fairly standard surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements and hernia operations, best lend themselves to private clinics that can perform them on an assembly line basis while public facilities are better for more complex maladies. “There are things at which the private sector is really good and things for which it just doesn’t work very well. Let’s take the best of the private sector, things it does really well, and have it do that part in health care while keeping the public sector doing what it can do best. As it is, we’re not getting the best of the public sector mentality or the private sector mentality.”

Hypocrisy of Khadr trial ‘staggering’, writes Osgoode prof

This week’s "show trial" of Omar Khadr is the crowning achievement of US military justice, wrote Jamie Cameron, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Oct. 30. Mr. Khadr’s confessions were coerced from a severely wounded teenager terrorized through a program of torture that used him as a human mop. Of all the indignities to the rule of law, the celebration of Mr. Khadr’s "admission" of guilt is "the worst of the worst".

The hypocrisy of this trial, in a system of law based on constitutional rights, is staggering. Equally shameful is Canada’s complicity and lack of courage in standing by while the US abused the rule of law and tortured a Canadian citizen, wrote Cameron.

Top justices send media source case back to Quebec Superior Court

The Supreme Court of Canada concluded its extended examination of press freedom Friday by handing a qualified victory to a reporter for The Globe and Mail, whose fight to protect a confidential source continues, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 29.

But Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Jamie Cameron said that although the case is clearly a win for Leblanc and all journalists, the Supreme Court has still been reluctant to grant Canadian reporters some of the same protections as their foreign counterparts. “The problem is that the privilege does not have constitutional status and is left to the uncertainties of case-by-case decision making,” said Cameron, who represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was granted intervener status in the case.

“The time has come for Canada to follow the lead of the US and other countries, and adopt a shield law that would protect the journalist-source privilege.”

Cameron said the recent Supreme Court rulings have produced mixed results for journalists. “There have been positive developments as well as setbacks, in cases such as National Post. The court has been supportive of press freedom, but only to a point. Changes for the benefit of the media and the press are set in a framework of caution and incremental change,” she said.

A case of ‘excessive’ self defence

David Beldman clutched a plastic lawn chair and when he threw it near Constable Lynne Rusk, she aimed her gun, hesitated, then shot him, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 30 in a continuing series of articles investigating exoneration of police officers by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

The police officer had been sent by her superiors – alone to a remote, radio dead zone after 10pm –  to arrest Beldman, a starved and emaciated homeless man wanted for trespassing.

When the SIU cleared Rusk of any wrongdoing, the director at the time said she was justified in firing a bullet because any reasonable person would have done the same "in the interest of self preservation."

Alan Young, a criminal law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, disagrees. A private citizen in the same situation would be convicted of manslaughter if the bullet had taken Beldman’s life, he said. "It would have been ruled ‘excessive’ self defence. No question about it."

Feminomics: calculating the value of ‘women’s work’

According to the old maxim, a woman’s work is never done, wrote Antonia Zerbesias in the Toronto Star Oct. 30 in a column about The Economics of Mothering conference hosted by the Motherhood Initiative for Research & Community Involvement (MIRCI).

It certainly never counts, a least not by the economic formulae that figure out the wealth of a nation.

“Feminists have said motherhood is the unfinished business of the feminist movement,’’ says conference organizer Andrea O’Reilly, a women’s studies professor in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “That’s why I started MIRCI, largely because of the invisibility and marginality of mother work.

“The majority of women become mothers today, well over 80 per cent globally,” she continues. “So it’s still a huge defining part of women’s lives, in time (consumption) and in defining who they are. Everything impacts mothering and mothering impacts everything. “

But, O’Reilly adds, it’s completely taken for granted. “I was just at a meeting about health care,’’ she says. “It was all about ‘we have to cut costs, we have to rely less on institutional care and hospitals, we have to do home care.’ But nobody says who will do that home care – mostly women.”

“When I started this work – I’ve been doing this research 20-plus years and trust me there were no conferences, no journals, no press, nothing – people would just do roll their eyes and go ‘What’s that? You don’t study motherhood. That’s just what women do.’”

Math prof says U of M student wrongly given doctorate

Students and professors at the University of Manitoba are rallying around a math professor who has been suspended for three months without pay after he took legal action to overturn the university’s decision to award a PhD to a student who hadn’t met all the requirements, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Oct. 30.

Gábor Lukács (PhD ’03) said the U of M is demeaning the reputation of other PhD students and the professors who teach them. “The shadow of suspicion that the present case casts on all other, hard-working students who did fulfil their requirements bothers me a lot,” Lukács said.

The university says the court action amounts to harassment of the student, and that Lukács violated the individual’s personal privacy by disclosing his name in court documents. Lukács has been warned he faces further discipline.

A Queen’s Bench judge this week imposed an order prohibiting identifying the student involved in the dispute. A hearing was set for Nov. 30.

Lukács, 27, is a one-time child math prodigy who began university at the age of 12, received his master’s degree at 16 and earned his PhD from York University at 20.