Testing shouldn’t stop after medication hits the market

Pharmacovigilance, at first blush, sounds like the title of a blood-curdling Michael Crichton thriller, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 18. In fact, it is the “science of collecting, monitoring, researching, assessing and evaluating information on the adverse effects of medicines after they are marketed, in order to identify new information about the hazards associated with medicines and to prevent harm to patients.”

This definition is from a new report commissioned by the Health Council of Canada, titled Keeping an Eye on Prescription Drugs, Keeping Canadians Safe.

The report, prepared by York University researchers Mary Wiktorowicz  and Joel Lexchin [of the School of Health Policy & Management], notes that while pharmacovigilance is an evolving science, it is essential to a safe and effective delivery of health care in our drug-saturated culture.

Antimatter captured in major scientific breakthrough

Antimatter fuelled the Starship Enterprise to go where no man had gone before, but in reality it remained strictly in the realm of science fiction. Until now, wrote The Canadian Press Nov. 18 in an article that ran in many daily newspapers and on broadcast media.

In an article published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists explain how that fiction may have taken a step closer to fact with the creation of a type of magnetic bottle that can hold antimatter long enough for scientists to try to unlock the mystery of the antiatom.

About 15 Canadian experts from Simon Fraser University, the University of BC, the University of Calgary, York University  [Professor Scott Menary of the Faculty of Science & Engineering] and the TRIUMF national research lab in Vancouver were part of the 42-person team to make the discovery in Geneva.

The exciting device has the usually sedate scientific world in a froth.

The project, called the ALPHA Collaboration, was based at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Switzerland. CERN is probably best known for its large Hadron Collider, a giant white donut-like structure that is the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator.

  • Menary also spoke about the recent breakthrough in containing anti-matter, on Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” Nov. 17.

How retirement at 67 helps younger workers

Encouraging workers to delay retirement will help relieve the burden on young workers, who face having to help support twice as many seniors past the age of 65 by 2035, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 18.

But this concession to fairness is too little and too late for a pair of Ontario political scientists, who point to other developed nations having agreed sooner to gradually raise the age of retirement. Canada moved sooner to increase Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions to build up a large reserve fund. Unfortunately, that might not be enough.

So, after conferring with the chief actuary for the CPP, Thomas Klassen of York University, and Martin Hering of McMaster University are calling for a later retirement age, too.

The professors argue that an age increase would ensure younger and older generations would share the cost of an aging population.

Revisit recounts, says York professor

Municipal election recounts just aren’t what they used to be, wrote YorkRegion.com Nov. 17 in a story about three separate recounts that only confirmed the earlier results.

It becomes difficult to call a recount if all you’re doing is feeding ballots back into the same machines you used on election day, said York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

If there is a doubt about the result and a desire to re-tally the ballots, a second count should be performed by human beings, he said. “I still think there are some benefits to handling (recounts) the same way they’ve been done for more than 100 years,” he said. “If a recount is just redoing the machine count you did on election day, there doesn’t seem to be much point.”

MacDermid said…it may even be best to shift responsibility for deciding on recounts away from municipal councils entirely and leave it in the hands of judges or even some sort of municipal version of Elections Ontario or Elections Canada. Putting people in charge of the count would allow discretion in determining a voter’s intentions, which is something even the best electronic vote counter lacks, he said.

Urban legend or renewal?

Former industrial sites can be a hard sell if their redevelopment value is less than the cost of remediation, wrote the Orillia Packet & Times Nov. 18, citing comments by Mark Winfield, a professor in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.

There is also the “liability risk” a potential buyer faces after taking title of a property, Winfield points out. What sort of work will the Ministry of Environment require after a sale?

Elsewhere in Ontario, municipalities are facing the same dilemma with no choice but to foot the bill for remediation should they want to redevelop.

But Winfield is a firm believer in breathing new life into former industrial sites. “From a broad-interest perspective, there’s no question this makes a huge amount of sense.” The alternative is paving over the periphery, creating more sprawl and, in the process, “suck-ing the life out of downtown.”

York says rabbi’s statements in anti-Galloway e-mail were ‘actionable’

York University this week threatened a Toronto rabbi with legal action if he continued to spread “defamatory” remarks about the school’s president and did not stop encouraging non-students to protest George Galloway’s speech on campus on Tuesday night, wrote the National Post Nov. 17.

Rabbi Aaron Hoch sent an e-mail to 700 people on his community mailing list last week informing them about the speech by the controversial former British MP, and asking them to “take part in protesting this outrage” on campus. Galloway was banned in 2008 from entering Canada under suspicion that he financially supported Hamas – the Palestinian entity deemed by Ottawa to be a terrorist group – and who is currently on a speaking tour of the country.

The University’s general counsel retorted with a letter – dated Nov. 15 and obtained by the National Post – requiring Rabbi Hoch to “remove [the message] from your website and to direct your supporters to cease and desist the distribution of the poster.”

At the centre of the school’s letter is Rabbi Hoch’s characterization of York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. The University’s letter called the comments “untrue” and harmful to the president’s reputation. “We consider it actionable,” wrote Harriet Lewis, the University’s general counsel. “We expect a retraction and apology forthwith.”

Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, said the school “does not tolerate any racism or anti-Semitism on our campus,” and said the trigger for the letter was the “accusations that Dr. Shoukri was being anti-Semitic.” Bilyk called the remarks “defamatory” and said it is “to be determined” whether the school will pursue legal action.

Scugog students expand their skill set

In the near future, Port Perry High School music teacher Rory Snider-McGrath hopes to have instructors from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts teach students how to set up stage lighting – a skill that will be useful in the school’s gyms and also require participants to become certified in use of a cherry-picker lift, wrote DurhamRegion.com Nov. 17 in a story about a new work skills instructional program.

Students are expected to complete their extra training over a two-year period. In the case of the arts and culture students, they meet at lunch every second Friday.  “It’s great for the students and gives them so many new opportunities. (The teachers) are learning just as much,” said Snider-McGrath.

Culture vulture

Canada-based Vietnamese director Ngo Quoc Cuong (BFA Spec. Hons.’09) has just returned to Vietnam to make his first series of short films on his native land, wrote Vietnam News Service Nov. 18. The series of six short films, which is titled Ngoc Vien Dong (Oriental Pearls), features Vietnamese women. It will be released this Christmas.

He was born and grew up in Vietnam and studied at the Ho Chi Min City Theatre and Cinema College before taking a second degree in film production at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

His most recent film The Golden Pin won the Colin Campbell jury award for Best Canadian Short at the Toronto Inside Out Film & Video Festival in May 2009.

Lawyer takes on professor’s case free of charge

One of Winnipeg’s top litigators has taken on the case of embattled University of Manitoba Professor Gábor Lukács (PhD ‘03) – and he’s doing it without charge, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Nov. 18.

Robert Tapper said Lukács, 27, is one of the smartest individuals he’s ever met, but the professor will still need help making his case before a judge. The lawyer said he was impressed with the quality of Lukács’ legal research, but that can only carry the young mathematics professor so far. The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20.

Lukács filed an application in court at the end of September challenging U of M’s right to award a PhD to a student in the mathematics program who didn’t meet all the requirements – the student had failed a comprehensive exam twice. The university has subsequently suspended Lukács for three months without pay.

A group of students recently began an online petition to support Lukács and others have given him cash. Lukács 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 in Toronto at 20.

On air

  • Leo Panitch, Distinguished Research Professor in Political Science and Social & Political Thought, and Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy, spoke about an incentive program proposed by the Toronto District School Board to pay students to stay in school, on CFRB Radio Nov. 17.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the initial purchase offer of its stocks made by General Motors, on CTV News Nov. 17.
  • Jinyan Li, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about leadership skills, on OMNI-TV’s Cantonese news Nov. 17.