‘Nice’ Canada is now the world’s top brand

Canada has emerged as the No. 1 brand, according to a new annual survey of countries with the most favourable brand – surpassing the US for the first time, wrote the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch website Nov. 8.

One top Canadian observer says it may be what Canada is not defined by nationally rather than its usual “nice” image that has led Canada to jump into the top-brand country rating from sixth place. “I suspect one part of our success is the decline of our competitors,” says Alan Middleton, professor of marketing in the Schulich School of Business at York University. “Our economy is not as bad as others’ – like the US. Our government is not unstable, and we are seen as a peaceful society, not one marked by violence or political unrest.”

Yes, the dreaded “nice” factor usually associated with Canada and Canadians does enter into its image, agrees Middleton. “We’re not as pushy or as arrogant as Americans,” he said.

Depressed? Write yourself a ‘love’ letter

Writing yourself a feel-good letter can lead to a long-term boost in emotional well-being, but it won’t work if you’re needy, according to a York University study, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Nov. 8.

The study found that individuals who wrote themselves a compassionate or optimistic letter every day for a week were less depressed up to three months later. And they reported an overall increase in happiness after six months.

For the study, more than 200 people logged onto a website for seven consecutive nights to complete the exercise, then filled out questionnaires measuring their progress at intervals of one, three and six months. Participants were assigned one of three conditions: self-compassion, optimism or a neutral control condition.

“Interestingly, we noted significant improvements in mood for all participants except those who exhibited extreme neediness,” says study co-author Myriam Mongrain, professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. “The idea was to try and be good to yourself, to realize your distress makes sense and provide the words you would need to hear to feel nurtured and soothed,” Mongrain says.

Numerous studies, including Mongrain’s own, have established that dependent and self-critical personality types are at high risk for depression.

The study was published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

  • Researchers at York University have found that writing one’s self a “feel-good letter” can give a long-term boost to emotional well-being, wrote the Toronto Sun Nov. 8.

Every night for seven days, the study’s more than 200 participants logged on to a website to complete an exercise that varied depending on whether they were in the study’s optimist, self-compassion or control group.

“Interestingly, we noted significant improvements in mood for all participants except those who exhibited extreme neediness,” said Myriam Mongrain, the study’s co-author and a professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health.

  • It may feel strange, but writing yourself a love letter could help alleviate depression, according to a York University study, reported Toronto’s 680News radio Nov. 8 in a story about research by York psychology Professor Myriam Mongrain of the Faculty of Health.

Researchers found that by writing a feel-good letter could lead to a longtime boost in emotional well being. In the exercise, participants had to address an upsetting event, trying to comfort themselves like they would do for a friend in the same situation.

  • Mongrain also spoke about the study on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” Nov. 8.

Philanthropist remembered for ‘his love for humanity’

Hours before York benefactor Hassanali Lakhani died, with family and friends crowded around his bedside at Markham Stouffville Hospital, the devout Muslim could not keep his eyes off the clock, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 9.

When the sun went down just after 5pm on Friday, the 89-year-old asked his loved ones to rotate his bed as far as all the electrical cords and IVs would allow so that he could face Mecca during his final sunset prayer, a close family friend recalls.

“That will be a cherished memory that lives on in me for the rest of my life: how authentically pious he really was, even in his last moments," says Timothy Gianotti [visiting professor in humanities in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. “He was physically unable to go through the postures of prayer but he followed the whole prayer right from his bed.”

His efforts to unite Muslims in all their diversity and to celebrate Islamic culture live on in the Noor Cultural Centre he founded in 2003. His daughter, Samira Kanji, is the current president of the centre in Don Mills, which promotes learning through an endowed chair and two fellowships in Islamic studies at York University.

"It’s one thing that we were never in any doubt of, as his family, that this was something that mattered so much to him. We will continue with his vision for it," she says.

The centre is also a hub for cultural and religious exchange, manifest in the York-Noor lecture series, which brings in religious scholars from around the globe.

Memorial prayers will be held at the Noor Cultural Centre on Wynford Drive in Don Mills at 1:20pm on Friday.

Guitars up for grabs

A rare piece of Canadian folk music history is up for grabs, wrote YorkRegion.com Nov. 8. Three of four acoustic guitars autographed by performers at the Mariposa Folk Festival’s 50th anniversary are being made available to the public – two through an online auction and the other in a raffle.

The fourth guitar will be added to the permanent collection of Mariposa Folk Foundation memorabilia at York University’s Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections.

  • The story was also reported on Barrie’s A-Channel TV Nov. 8.

Raccoon intelligence at the borderlands of science

How does the intelligence of raccoons compare with other species? That was a topic of heated debate between 1905 and 1915 within the then-nascent field of comparative psychology, wrote Michael Pettit, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, in an historical article for the November edition of the American Psychology Association’s Monitor on Psychology.

Since the 1910s, raccoons have had a few but scattered advocates among psychologists. After 1915, few studies about raccoons appeared in psychology journals. Like many of their generation, Herbert Burnham Davis, a doctoral student at Clark University and psychologist Lawrence W. Cole moved from comparative psychology to the field of education. Hunter conducted a few experiments on raccoons over his long career but continued to downplay species-specific traits. With the renewed interest in comparative cognition, perhaps it is time to reconsider the raccoon’s exclusion from the discipline of psychology.

Prentice’s move a sign of West’s new power

The absence of criticism surrounding former MP Jim Prentice’s move to a Toronto-based bank is yet another indication that since the election of the Harper government, westerners are feeling much more influential and less likely to see themselves as shut out of the national conversation, wrote columnist Gillian Steward in the Toronto Star Tue Nov. 9.

That attitude shift was confirmed in a recent report released by Calgary-based Canada West Foundation. Using data compiled by the Institute for Social Research at York University, the report points out that since the election of the Harper minority governments in 2006 and 2008 the percentage of westerners who feel their province is treated badly by Ottawa has declined significantly.

Mission to Mars made in Canada

Researchers from four Canadian universities will play an integral role in the upcoming Mars 2016 exploration mission using Canadian-made technology and knowledge, wrote Metro Canada Nov. 6.

The mission, which is jointly run by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will place an unmanned spacecraft into orbit with the red planet and probe its atmosphere for weather patterns, gases and even signs of former life.

Jack McConnell, a professor of atmospheric science in York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering working on the project, says the mission will give scientists a unique look into Mars’ history and atmospheric conditions. “This is going to be an important, exploratory mission. It’s going to increase our level of understanding of what’s going on in the atmosphere on Mars and maybe it will be able to tell us if there has been life on Mars in the past,” McConnell said.

Snowmobilers elect York grad as their president

It has been a year of firsts for the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, wrote Ontario Farmer Nov. 9. Last summer, the non-profit organization based in Barrie made history when its board of governors elected it first female president, Brenda Welsh (MBA ’79), a long-time volunteer from Huntsville who served for 10 years as secretary-treasurer.

A certified accountant, Walsh has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University and a BASc from University of Guelph.

Canadian actor McAdams steals the show

Rachel McAdams (BFA Spec. Hons. ‘01) doesn’t just have top billing in her new comedy, Morning Glory, wrote Postmedia News Nov. 9. She has top billing over two veteran superstars – the mighty Harrison Ford and Oscar-winner Diane Keaton.

That fact alone shows how high the 31-year-old Canadian’s stock has risen in Hollywood. She has made it into the big time.

London, Ont.-born McAdams, who holds an honours bachelor of fine arts degree from Toronto’s York University, says that she can relate to [her character] Becky on a personal level – “in terms of feeling like you get your foot in the door and you feel like it’s your only shot to stay there. I definitely felt that way with my first job. It was like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders…. I have to make this work or I’m never going to get another chance. It was a three-day part on a kids’ show, and there wasn’t much I could do with it. But I still felt like – this is it, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for. And it’s probably a good thing that you do look at it that way because you rise to the occasion.”

Graduate student is determined to unearth evidence of massacre

For Winnipegger Karlee Sapoznik (MA ’08), following up on [the work of Father Patrick Desbois, president of the Yahad-In Unum Association], especially in the shtetl of Berezne where many of her family members were killed, has become something of a passion, wrote Winnipeg’s The Jewish Post & News Nov. 8.

In the fall of 2009 Karlee went to Ukraine to conduct research on “Holocaust by Bullets”. As a result of her efforts to bring to light an aspect of the Holocaust that has not been well documented, Karlee was recently approached by B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights and asked to become a sitting member. She will be formally accepted into the league at a ceremony in Toronto on Nov.22.

Sapoznik’s journey from a relatively assimilated background growing up in Winnipeg to the point where she now maintains a vital interest in her Jewish roots is a fascinating one.

Following her graduation from St. Boniface College in 2007, she moved to Toronto to study history at the master’s and doctoral levels at York University. In 2008 Karlee completed her master’s degree and proceeded directly into a PhD program in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. Continuing her interest in slavery, Karlee’s focus now is on slavery in the modern world.

On air

  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the onset of the Christmas marketing campaign, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Nov. 8.
  • Sean Rehaag, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and an expert on immigration, spoke about the problem of marriage fraud, on CBC Radio Nov. 8.