Looking for life: Water’s allure becomes an otherworldly quest

York University space engineering Professor John Moores is a participating scientist with the Mars Science Laboratory, the $2.5-billion (US) project that deposited NASA’s Curiosity rover into a Martian crater last summer and is yielding new insights into what once transpired there. “Water is a big part of it,” said Moores in The Globe and Mail Aug. 5. “We really want to understand what the water story of Mars is: how it changed from being a warm and wet planet in the past to being the arid planet it is today, and whether or not it periodically comes back to life.” Read full story.

North Korean defector training in Toronto to be a voice for his people
Founded in 2007 by York University law students Jack Kim, Sylvia Kim and Simon Park, HanVoice Support Association is the largest non-profit in Canada working for human rights in North Korea….HanVoice is an advocacy group for North Koreans, to help develop skills in lobbying for change on the international stage. The idea for the pilot project came up at an international human rights conference in Toronto in 2010, reported Metro Aug. 4. Read full story.

A nuclear reactor that burns its own waste?
Bill Gates has invested some of his considerable fortune in a nuclear reactor developer that is promising to deliver cheaper power while operating more safely and dramatically reducing radioactive waste, reported The Globe and Mail Aug. 6….Ontario is now considering whether to build two new reactors at its Darlington site to replace the planned retirements in its aging fleet of Candus….However, critics such as Mark Winfield, an environmental studies professor at York University in Toronto, said nuclear power remains a high-risk option, both economically and because it deals in highly radioactive materials. Read full story.

Toronto’s waterfront: Dredging up the past to build the future
Building on the Toronto waterfront presents unique challenges, including a high water table, contaminants from the area’s industrial past and occasional surprises….“There are stories that when construction occurs on the waterfront, that people find all sorts of things, like the hulks of old vessels and bottles. At one point the central waterfront was the city’s dumping ground – if you had a dead horse, you’d take it out there in the winter and leave it on the ice for the spring to come,” said York University archivist Michael Moir, former archivist for the Toronto Harbour Commission (now known as the Toronto Port Authority), in the Toronto Star Aug. 6. Read full story.

Controversy around ‘study drug’
Adderall XR was pulled from the Canadian market in 2005, after 20 reports of sudden deaths in association with the drug were made. But it was returned to the market a short time later after an appeal from Shire, the manufacturer. That same year Shire’s global sales of Adderall XR had a 20 per cent growth, earning the drug company more than $730 million dollars. The following year sales were up another 18 per cent….Adrienne Shnier, a PhD candidate at York University, is the lead author on a study that evaluated conflict-of-interest policies between drug companies and Canada’s 17 medical schools. “We found that the pharmaceutical industry is able to influence education at medical schools in Canada. This can affect how doctors prescribe medication,” said Shnier in the Toronto Sun Aug. 4. Read full story.

Big pharma ‘likes’ social media for marketing
While the pharmaceutical industry’s spending on “direct-to-consumer advertising” has fallen sharply in the past few years as some of the world’s top-selling prescription medications become available in generic form, drug companies are beginning to direct promotional dollars into social media….However, not everyone agrees that tougher enforcement is the correct response….York University Professor Joel Lexchin feels drug companies would balk at using the Internet to disseminate the full range of information about their prescription medications, including other similar drugs, target patient groups and non-medicinal alternatives. “This kind of an issue is really something that is incredibly difficult to regulate,” said Lexchin in the Toronto Star Aug. 5. “I don’t think a national approach [to regulation] has any chance of being successful.” Read full story.

The top 25 most influential – changemakers
For the second year Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Lorne Sossin is one of our Top 25 Most Influential for his leadership in Canadian legal education. As dean of Osgoode since 2010, Sossin has been leading efforts at experiential education. With the Law Society of Upper Canada planning radical changes to legal licensing in Ontario, Sossin’s novel and creative approaches to legal education promise to play an important role in the profession in the coming years, reported Canadian Lawyer’s August 2013 issue. Read full story.

Puck sanctuary: Women’s national team coach Dan Church gets look at 27 squad hopefuls in Calgary
Dan Church, the Canadian women’s national team hockey coach who has led the York University women’s program since 2004, welcomed 27 Olympic hopefuls to WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park on Tuesday, officially kicking off the program’s centralization in an effort to navigate the winding road to the Sochi, Russia, next February. “As a coach in the female game, this is the best possible job,” said Church in the Calgary Sun Aug. 7. “It’s something that I set a target on about 10 years ago, and having the opportunity to work with the best players and the best staff and the best hockey organization in the world, it’s great to be in this place here at WinSport[…]it’s a dream job.” Read full story.