MDs warned not to click and shill

Health Canada is warning doctors that they shouldn’t be using their personal websites to promote drugs, medical procedures or other health products, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 9.

The department said it suspects many doctors and health professionals are simply unaware of the law when it comes to online drug promotion. It has issued letters to provincial colleges, which act as medical regulatory authorities, to put them on the alert.

But the issue raises important questions for health professionals across the spectrum, said Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in the School of Health Policy & Management at York University in Toronto [Faculty of Health]. And he doesn’t believe it’s necessarily restricted to prescription drugs.

For instance, a number of naturopaths aggressively market a host of supplements, vitamins or other formulations on their websites, in many cases without mentioning possible side effects or potentially risky drug interactions. Other medical specialists may advertise procedures or treatments that could boost their profits.

The major issue at stake is the fact that while the Internet allows for much freer, open dialogue between health professionals and the public, the sheer volume of online communications isn’t as easy to regulate as other traditional mediums, such as TV or print ads.

There are thousands of doctors across Canada, making any attempt by regulatory bodies to check for prohibited online activities nearly impossible, Lexchin said. "Do they have the resources to monitor? How do you even know if doctors have got a website and what’s on their website?"

Protein could be key in treating obesity, diabetes

Toronto researchers have identified a protein that could help diabetics and obese people by keeping blood sugar and appetite in check, wrote QMI Agency Aug. 10.

York University researcher Suraj Unniappan [Faculty of Science & Engineering] looked at the metabolic effects of a protein called nesfatin-1, which is found in the brain. He found rats given nesfatin-1 ate less, used more stored fat and became more active.

"(The rats) actually ate more frequently, but in lesser amounts," Unniappan said. "In addition, they were more active and we found that their fatty acid oxidization was increased. In other words, the energy reserve being preferably used during nesfatin-1 treatment was fat. This suggests more fat loss, which could eventually result in body weight loss."

Part of the research was published Tuesday in the journal Endocrinology.

Unniappan said the discovery may eventually lead to new hormone-based treatments to suppress body weight and blood sugar, but more research needs to be done.

Farming and the no-growth economy

York University Professor Peter Victor [Faculty of Environmental Studies] observed…that existing development has "gone beyond planetary boundaries," wrote The Owen Sound Sun Times Aug. 10, in a story about a summer rebroadcast of the CBC radio program “Ideas”, which included four academics’ thoughts on the economic significance of current climate and pollution issues.

In order to deal with the priorities of a degraded environment, Victor said, we must devise an economy without growth in order to reduce our use of materials and fuel, thereby cutting pollution.

Why senior investors must spread the risk

For investors approaching retirement or already there, the past three years have been a wake-up call, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 10. The wild swings in the market over that period have demonstrated that retirees can’t count on traditional portfolios of stocks and bonds to produce a steady, dependable stream of income.

The solution, says Moshe Milevsky, a professor of finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business, is to expand your portfolio to include a wider range of investments that can provide a guaranteed income no matter what the market does.

"Over the last decade, equities, especially in the short term, have become a lot riskier than people previously thought," says Milevsky. "Retirees have to think hard about their exposure to the stock market, especially when they start to draw down their assets."

He says investors should refrain from taking any drastic or dramatic action as a result of the wild swings in the market over the past few days. However, the volatility does give him an opportunity to drive home the need for people to consider a wider range of financial offerings. "Start thinking about products that give you upside, but have some sort of downside protection. I think that’s the realization of the last decade," he says.

"Today represents a phenomenal opportunity to take money off the bond table and put in the stock table, especially in registered accounts," he says. "This is not about market timing. It’s about bringing you back to the right allocation and getting out of some very expensive bonds. People often think that buy and hold means buy and do nothing. That’s not necessarily the case."

  • Where is the best place to put your money in uncertain times? Asked the Toronto Star Aug. 6.

Gold. Fool’s gold? Remember your grandparents telling you that gold was a safe, sound investment in crazy times? Not so much, said Moshe Milevsky, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

The precious metal has jumped from just more than $900 (US) an ounce two years ago to more than $1,600 an ounce today.

"To buy something when its price has almost doubled and say that it’s a safe investment is just not true," said Milevsky. Not that he’s dead-set against it. "I’ve got a bit of money invested in gold, but that’s just being diversified."

Bonds. The other old saw – that bonds are safer than equities – doesn’t necessarily hold up either, said Milevsky.

Banks. Don’t bank on it. Stowing your money in a savings account might be tempting, but it can be counterproductive in the long term because inflation easily outstrips the rate you’ll earn, Milevsky argued.

What else? If all you are concerned about is keeping your money safe, Milevsky sees Canadian government-issued inflation-linked bonds as the way to go. "The return you’ll get is tiny, but because it’s indexed, the value of your money won’t be eroded by inflation."

Heavy rain leaves cars submerged, closes roads in Toronto area

York University’s Norman Bethune College had its own rain troubles and was closed for precautionary reasons earlier in the day, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 9 in a story about a sudden downpour Tuesday.

Wallace Pidgeon, a spokesperson for the University, said the damage was minor. “It’s not like the Titanic where the water is up to the gunnels," he said. Pidgeon simply explained that there was a leak in the roof and, as a result, water spilled into the stairwell and onto the floors.

The building will reopen soon, he added.

Earlier today, Andrew Eckford, a professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at York, tweeted that Norman Bethune was being evacuated due to flooding.

Organic systems use less energy

After a review of 130 studies, researchers have concluded that organic farming systems use significantly less non-renewable energy than conventional farming, wrote Ontario Farmer Aug. 9. The farm energy savings for organic are often 20 per cent or more.

One of the differences in this study was that, rather than considering only the energy use of farm fuel and electricity, a much broader approach was taken. The study authors, who included Rod MacRae of York University [Faculty of Environmental Studies]…looked at all energy used within the life cycle of the whole farm system.

Women sports leaders see bikini basketball as a giant step backward

A new Toronto sports company – Bikini Basketball Entertainment – is having little trouble finding female players to peel off their clothes for a chance to play, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 9.

At HoopDome at Downsview Park on Sunday night, a dozen women practised free-throws and dribbling at tryouts for the bikini league, which plans to debut its weekly pay-per-view game on Aug. 17.

Alyssa Stark was chosen for bikini basketball’s first episode after trying out in a pink tank top and tight black shorts. The York University student tried out for lingerie football and made it to the top 40, but [her] catching just wasn’t up to snuff.

Trees need water: resident responds

From her front porch on Brock Avenue, Jen Cypher has watched some new trees planted around McCormick Arena and recreation area slowly dry out, turn brown and in some cases die, wrote Aug. 8.

"It is really frustrating to watch trees die," Cypher said. "If these trees aren’t watered they will die, and I’m afraid we won’t be getting new ones."

So, in an effort to save the new foliage that may someday shade her home, Cypher and her family have adopted a few of the trees. Every few days they haul buckets of water over and slowly hydrate the ground around the trees and Cypher is hoping some of her neighbours will do the same.

"I got pretty worried because there has been a dry spell and the trees get stressed out, so I just thought I would ask if people could do it," said Cypher who is in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, and works in technology and environmental philosophy.

Car dealership buzzing with sweet activity

The way Pete Sargent talks about honey bees, you’d think he’d been working with the industrious little insects forever, wrote the Vancouver Sun Aug. 9 in a story about a green-energy project at Auto West BMW in Richmond, BC.

Since 2009, Sargent has been tending to an estimated 100,000 bees living on his employer’s rooftop off Highway 99. "Apis Mellifera," he said, as he led the way during an interview with The Sun past rows of fragrant flower beds toward a tight cluster of bee boxes tucked behind a white-painted wooden lattice panel. "That’s the scientific name for the honey bees we have."

Sargent’s unusual career move came at the urging of his boss, Joachim Neumann, who was searching at the time for new and creative ways to introduce green initiatives to his newly built luxury car dealership. The bees arrived two years later, after Neumann began reading with alarm news articles on the global collapse of honey bee colonies, known as colony collapse disorder.

The project is also part of a study led by York University exploring how the urban environment affects the nesting habits of honey bees.

Tennis poet-in-residence offers up her first serve

Ottawa-born Priscila Uppal is the first Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament poet-in-residence, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 6. A professor at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] who previously served as poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the Vancouver Olympics, Uppal will publish poems and write an Art of Tennis blog on the tournament website each day, and invite fans to submit their own poems for a contest she will judge. She will also be on-site at Toronto’s Rexall Centre during the tournament, which begins this weekend and continues until Aug. 14.

Uppal wrote this poem for The Globe and Mail as her opening serve in her new court.

Courting the Tennis Muse

You must wake early, sometimes before the sun
has even shaken off the grogginess of night,
for she races at dawn, stomping dew from the grass
with long muscular legs, speeding up mountainsides
from which to gain omniscient view
of her suitors down below – not always the most
talkative bunch, but anxiously stretching on hands
and knees practising passionate proposals, arranging
bright bouquets of fresh-cut strokes, delivering
aces by express post, love notes tagged to clouds.
Getting close isn’t easy. Heavily guarded, prone
to bouts of vanity and doubt, you must keep up with
her changing likes and dislikes, her strict rules and
demands. Today she prefers racquets to swords,
scores to scansion, serves to kisses, grunts to arias.
She knows your strengths and your weaknesses,
modes of attack and defence. So save your breath for
the competition. She will only succumb to the desires of one.
Like a butterfly, you must follow her until she lands.
Like a butterfly, you must ease her gently towards your net.

  • For the first time, the Rogers Cup will employ a poet-in-residence. York University Professor Priscila Uppal [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] will roam the Rexall Centre looking for inspiration, then publish one poem daily encapsulating the action on and off the court, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 6, in a story about the tournament being played on York’s Keele campus.

Union: Follow up on suggested cop cover-up

The head of Hamilton’s [police] rank and file wants Chief Glenn De Caire to help "clear the air" after a judge suggested a possible coverup of officer wrongdoing during a botched drug raid last year, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Aug. 6, in a story about the trial of Detective Constable Ryan Tocher.

In his decision, Ontario Court Justice Paul Currie said the testimony of four police witnesses "raises the spectre of a coverup."

The judge was likely trying to provoke a police reaction, said Allan Hutchinson, a research professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "Most judges would be very aware in making that kind of statement…. I would think they’re trying to send out a strong message to others within the police force that they’d like to see some followup," Hutchinson said Friday. "Presumably (the chief) has to sit up and listen to that sort of comment.

Firms tap into moms’ network to get to the decision-makers

Mothers have always been a big target for advertisers, but the difference now is social media, says Alan Middleton, assistant professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, wrote the Hamilton Spectator and Toronto Star Aug. 6 in a story about online marketing business Mom Central Canada. "The research still tells us that in most cases, the mama is the purchasing agent for the family…. Nobody cares about the guys. Moms are ‘it’ in the advertising world," he says.

Women also take pride in how well they shop and manage the family budget whereas "men tend to be more hopeless on that level," Middleton adds. "Your purchase behaviour changes when you become a mom"

Community-focused Arts Market comes to Leslieville

Arts entrepreneur Daniel Cohen [BA ’04] has travelled the world selling his hand-made graphic art at artisans markets, wrote Aug. 6, in a story about his Arts Market business in Toronto’s Leslieville.

After returning home to the Toronto area in the fall of 2009, he sold his wares at local markets but felt there just weren’t any here that offered the same personal touch as the ones he’d visited abroad, so he started up his own.

“I always visited markets wherever I went and I really spent time at each market talking to people,” shared Cohen, a native of Richmond Hill who studied theatre and drama at York University’s Glendon College before venturing abroad and living in Australia for nearly four years. “I studied the markets because I found them fascinating, what a lifestyle to live.”

The Arts Market, which officially opened its doors to the public the weekend of July 9 and 10, can comfortably accommodate about 25 artisans, who can rent a “booth” on a weekly or monthly basis. Initially, the space was to only open on weekends, but Cohen said there’s enough demand to open the Arts Market seven days a week.

Dusk comes a crooning

When Matt Dusk [BFA Spec. Hons.’02] performs next Friday in Celebration Square’s Live ON Stage series, at some point in the evening he’ll undoubtedly spare a thought for Oscar Peterson, wrote the Mississauga News Aug. 6.

Mississauga, after all, was the longtime home of the jazz piano legend, under whom Dusk studied at York University with an Oscar Peterson scholarship. Dusk was obviously a good student. He’s now one of Canada’s most beloved male crooners.

Born in Toronto in 1978, Dusk from an early age wanted to become a performer. At age seven, he was accepted into the St. Michael’s Choir School, where he remained for 11 years. Originally, he performed opera and classical music, but changed his tune after listening to Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan records. In 1998 he won the top spot in the Canadian National Exhibition Rising Star Competition, beating out 654 contestants. When not in the studio, Dusk has been known to play some 20 shows a month in the clubs of Toronto.

"When you’re around people who love music as much as you, that’s the moment I love and the moment I dread ever losing. I’m not trying to change the world. I’m just an entertainer who wants to bring a little jazz into the mainstream," he said.

Osgoode grad Mackay loved teaching law students

Osgoode grad Robert Mackay [BARR ’52] was a legal educator who loved teaching, the law and a good joke, wrote Ontario’s London Free Press Aug. 8, in an obituary.

Mackay taught in the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario where, from 1969 to 1973, he was dean of law. He died Aug. 3 at age 85. 

On air

  • Perry Sadorsky, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the stock market on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” and CFRB-AM Aug. 8.
  • Jessica Fraser-Thomas, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, spoke about the signing of seven-year-old Leonel Angel Coira, by soccer team Real Madrid, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Aug. 9.
  • Muhammad Ali Khalidi, philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, took part in a panel discussion about Arab world prospects and the current revolutions for democracy, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Aug. 5.