SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Oct. 17-23, 2008              

“Every day is Christmas for a seed-eating bug with a fondness for pine cones.”
That was how Science News reported the discovery of SFU biologist Stephen Takács that the western conifer seed bug homes in on its dinner thanks to special infrared receptors that detect heat emitted by conifer cones.
Word of the groundbreaking discovery activated the news receptors at a number of prime media outlets.


  • Stephen Takács is the first scientist to discover that a plant-eating animal uses infrared radiation to find its food. Working in the lab of biologist and bug buster Gerhard Gries, Takács proved that spots on the western conifer seed bug’s body pick up IR from hot conifer cones.
    The New York Times called him. Takács also did interviews with the Quirks and Quarks show on CBC Radio, The Vancouver Sun, National Post, and with Nature and Science Now. The Daily Planet show on Discovery Channel interviewed Takács on Oct. 22. The story shot around the scientific blogosphere, as well.
    His findings were initially published in the Royal Society Proceedings B.
  • Ed Bukszar, associate dean of SFU Business, appeared on TVOntario, in a panel discussing the current financial situation and how Canadian banks have suffered less than others.
  • The Globe and Mail and CanWest News Service reported that the Canadian Medical Association Journal denounced the federal government for moves to block international controls on asbestos. David Boyd, an author of the Journal’s editorial and an adjunct prof at SFU, said: “Canada really sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes to not only exporting it, but promoting it as well.”
  • The Canadian Press covered the arrival in Montreal of the (Olympic) Spirit Train and quoted VANOC as saying it showed the 2010 winter games belong to all of Canada. But CP quoted SFU sociologist Ann Travers as saying making the games truly belong to all Canadians is a difficult proposition: “'If we were going to hold a massive sporting event that would really be the people's, that would really be Canada's games, what would that mean?''
  • Epoch Times reportedCanadians are drowning in credit-card debt. Among those quoted was Amir Rubin, assistant prof in SFU Business: “The fact that the banks charge 18 or 19 per cent interest is ridiculous, it’s unjustified.”
  • The Globe and Mail noted U of Texas economist James Galbraith and other Galbraiths had made a pilgrimage to the Ontario settlement where, 100 years ago, his late father, John Kenneth Galbraith, the U.S. liberal icon, was born. The Globe quoted Richard Lipsey, SFU prof emeritus of economics, as saying John Kenneth Galbraith's work will never win acceptance by mainline theoretical economists "but for people who worry about policy, he certainly is on the radar."
  • Davis Marques, research associate in SFU Interactive Arts & Technology, was interviewed by The Weather Channel. This for a story on SIAT’s role in the design of a high-tech, solar-powered house that will be displayed in Washington DC as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon.
  • Careers pages in a number of CanWest newspapers caught up to the news that SFU was named one of Canada’s 100 best employers (for the second year running, too) in a national survey run in Maclean’s on Oct. 2. The Victoria Times Colonist refined that to say SFU is one of BC’s top 50 employers.
  • Columnist Margaret Kopala in the Ottawa Citizen rehashed the controversy over the RCMP funding research that was critical of the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver. She mentioned that one of the critical reports came from criminologist Garth Davies of SFU. The Vancouver Sun picked up the column.
  • Canadian Business magazine looked at “Dutch disease” (a term coined in the late 1970s after the Netherlands’ economy went from riches to rags) and wondered if Canada is showing symptoms. Among those quoted was Herbert Grubel, economics prof emeritus and senior fellow at the Fraser Institute. “Grubel is an advocate of an . . . ambitious tactic to inoculate the country against Dutch disease: tying the dollar to the U.S. greenback.”
  • Also cited in Canadian Business: the book Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil, co-authored by Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies.


  • The Vancouver Sun reported that the Canadian Diabetes Association awarded a major national honour to SFU’s Diane FInegood for her efforts in diabetes research. She got the 2008 Frederick G. Banting Award. Finegood is the founding scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.
  • The Vancouver Sun cited a poll that found British Columbians are leaning toward change in November municipal elections. Quoted was marketing prof Lindsay Meredith: "When it looks like you're heading into tough sledding, you get a restless electorate; who do you blame, so to speak?"
  • The North Shore News interviewed Canadian residents who can vote in the U.S. election. The paper spoke with Kate Ellison, a student at SFU and president of the university’s Americans Abroad organization. "I enjoyed this (final presidential) debate a lot. McCain was stronger than in the last two, but he contradicted himself a lot. I think Obama's chances are good. I do."
  • The Delta Optimist reported that city staff told Delta council that scientists have concluded that not all forms of intensive land use (such as greenhouses) have a detrimental impact on migratory birds. The study was done for Delta by SFU’s Centre for Wildlife Ecology and Douglas College's Institute of Urban Ecology. Surrey Now also ran the story.
  • The Vernon Morning Star reported that “a forensic anthropologist from Burnaby's Simon Fraser University” had been brought in to help Vernon RCMP investigate the discovery of human skeletal remains. The Star and the Kelowna Courier later reported the male remains had been there 10-20 years.  (The newspapers didn’t identify the anthropologist. It was Mark Skinner, along with two doctoral candidates in forensic archaeology and anthropology.)
  • The Penticton Herald looked at why young people may join gangs. Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was quoted: “It's usually nothing weird about the kids. It's usually just the environment in which they're living and the failure of the adults in that environment to meet their needs."
  • Warren Gill, vice-president of university relations, put on his geographer’s hat for an appearance on the Fanny Keifer show on Shaw-TV, discussing transit, transportation and traffic plans for visitors to the 2010 winter Olympics.
  • The Vancouver Courier carried a lengthy feature on rail travel, and quoted SFU’s Anthony Perl. “Canada, Perl says, should be preparing for a coming oil shock by halting all airport and road infrastructure projects and focusing on building a modern, high speed rail network.”
  • The Prince George Citizen quoted energy guru Mark Jaccard on carbon taxation: “Non-compulsory policies—like information or subsidies—don't make you do anything. You cannot substitute for compulsory policy.”


  • Marketing prof Lindsay Meredith capped his media work on the federal election with an appearance on GlobalTV’s national news. There, he cited errors by Liberal leader Stéphane Dion: “Immaculately bad timing in terms of trying to push the green shift taxation in a face of an economic downturn. Second major error, look, he had some key handlers who advised him to back off the carbon tax temporarily. He wouldn't do it.”
  • Political scientist Andrew Heard’s election website was widely consulted by journalists and bloggers. He noted: “Conservatives benefited . . . from the hundreds of thousands of disenchanted Liberals who simply stayed home on election day.”  And, he added: “A bright spot in this election is the record number of women who have been elected to the House of Commons.” (The 68 women comprise 22.1% of current MPs, a record for both the number of women and their share of seats.)
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader looked at voter turnout in the federal election Oct. 14. It said in part: “It was one of the lowest voter turnouts on record, but at least one local expert thinks that's not such a bad sign. . . . (Retired SFU prof) Gary Mauser thinks recent elections where voter turnout has been sparse is just a blip on our electoral history. ‘If you get two in a row, that's still not much of a trend.’”
  • The Montreal Gazette wrote that climate-change experts and economists are concerned that Stéphane Dion's failed attempt to sell his Green Shift “may leave a lingering stink of failure around the idea of taxing carbon emissions.”
    The paper quoted Nic Rivers, doctoral student in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, and SFU economist Nancy Olewiler. They say a cap-and-trade system could also work—but not if, as proposed by the Conservative government, it allows for exemptions and covers only half the economy.
  • A column in the Ottawa Citizen said the election outcome “suggests a disconnect between what Canadians say they want (re: combatting climate change) and what they're prepared to do to make it happen”.
    It, too, quoted Olewiler. "We're all still free riders," she said, adding that the election did little to advance public understanding of the available options for addressing climate change. "I'm deeply disappointed."
  • The Edmonton Journal picked up from sister papers last week’s guest column from Rivers: “ . . . the state of Canada's climate policy today is unnervingly similar to its state five years ago (and) implementation of a true economy-wide carbon pricing scheme, which experts acknowledge is the most effective and efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, seems almost as far away today as it was in 2002.”
  • Meanwhile, the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald carried a primer on the green debate. Among others, it quoted SFU’s Mark Jaccard as criticizing a mooted auction system for emissions permits. He said big industrial emitters (such as Alberta's coal-fired electricity generators) will complain: "They'll say, 'That's going to be a horrendous cost for us.' They scream and yell, so politicians slide toward a greater and greater amount of free allocations."


  • Paul Bowles, president of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C., wrote a letter in The Vancouver Sun saying the BC government has “designated university professors as one of the top 10 occupations in need of workers” but has cut budgets promised to universities. “Already, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria are talking about reducing the number of professors.”

ALSO in the NEWS

  • Toronto’s CityNews website threw out the names of potential Liberal leaders to succeed Stéphane Dion. Among them: John McCallum, MP for Markham-Unionville, Liberal finance critic, former defence minister, and once an economics prof at SFU.
  • carried a column from Michael A. Lebowitz, professor emeritus of economics: “Venezuela has put socialism for the twenty-first century on the agenda everywhere.  . . . It demonstrates especially that its oil wealth  . . .  can be the basis for creating new relations where the explicit goal (in Marx’s words) is making the ‘development of all human powers as such the end in itself’.”


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