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SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - August 20, 2010

August 20, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: August 13, 2010 to August 20, 2010.

The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band played their hearts out and finished third in the World Pipe Band Championships. Recognized as one of the top three pipe bands in the world is still something to cherish, though. And congratulations to SFU’s Jason Paguio on getting ranked the top drum major in the world. Nice work, Jason!

All of Canada is seemingly focused on the hundreds of Tamil refugees who arrived by boat in B.C. recently. SFU’s Andre Gerolymatos is certain there are terrorists hiding amongst the passengers.

THREE-PEAT HOPES DASHED

  • The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band was hoping for a three-peat but settled for third place in the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland. Top spot this year went to Dublin’s St. Lawrence O’Toole Pipe Band, followed by Field Marshall Pipe Band from Belfast. “We thought we were playing particularly well … but the judges thought other bands played better,” SFU pipe sergeant Jack Lee said in The Vancouver Sun. “This is a band that bounces back. We’ll learn from what happened and try to do better next year.” There was some controversy, though, when the placing was announced. They initially announced SFU finished fourth but the error was corrected after the band brought it to the judges’ attention. On a personal note, SFU drum major Jason Paguio was ranked first in the world for drum majors. “He’s absolutely fantastic,” said Lee. “His ability to flourish and throw the mace and catch it without breaking stride is incredible.” More than 200 bands from around the world competed this year at the event that drew about 50,000 spectators. Several media outlets reported on the pipe band’s performance at the world championships, including CBC-TV Vancouver, The Epoch Times, The Province, Burnaby NOW, and CTV News. The Burnaby NewsLeader published stories and photos the week leading up to the competition.

CONTAMINATED CANADIANS

  • SFU assistant health sciences professor Scott Venners told CBC-TV News and The Canadian Press that bisphenol A (BPA) is detectable in 90 per cent of Canadians. BPA is an industrial chemical used in the manufacturing of some hard plastic containers, bottles and toys. The Statistics Canada report proves Canadians are exposed to BPA on a regular basis. Venners said, “While the potential cause-and-effect relationship between BPA and health effects remains unclear, regulators could consider taking steps to limit exposure during pregnancy as a precaution.” This story was also discussed on CBC-TV’s The National. Colleague Bruce Lanphear also spoke extensively with media about this issue. Lanphear, a professor of children’s environmental health, was interviewed by CTV News, Global TV, CityTV’s Breakfast Television (Vancouver), CBC News, and CHQR radio (Calgary).

HUMAN SMUGGLING

  • The Province interviewed SFU’s Andre Gerolymatos, an international security expert, about the boatload of Tamil refugees that arrived in Victoria Aug. 13. Authorities suspect some of the passengers are affiliated with the Tamil Tigers, a known terrorist group, and continue to conduct interviews to confirm identities. Gerolymatos, who is confident there are Tamil Tigers amongst the group, said the RCMP faces challenges in determining if this is a case of human smuggling because it’s common for organizers to threaten passengers in order to maintain their silence. "They'll be told to say they didn't pay anything (to travel), that they don't know who the captain is or who the officers are, (or that) they just paid somebody back on land and ended up on the ship," he said. The ship set sail from Sri Lanka and took three months to reach Canadian shores. Almost 500 refugees are being held at three locations in B.C. Other newspapers in the Postmedia News network, including Windsor Star and Edmonton Journal, also published this article. Gerolymatos was also interviewed by News 1130, CFAX (Victoria), the Georgia Straight, Global TV (national and Vancouver newscasts), CKNW and CBC-Radio’s B.C. Almanac.

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS

  • John Geddes from Maclean’s magazine wrote an interesting article about how Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government’s attitude toward using data and evidence in shaping policy. According to Geddes, prominent researchers and scientists have often clashed with the Conservatives about sensitive issues ranging from crime to health and taxation to climate. They feel the government undervalues their research when it comes to developing new laws and regulations. In the article, SFU criminologist Neil Boyd said the government ignored research by making mandatory minimum sentences the core of its tough-on-crime agenda. “They have a very strange antipathy to science and to evidence-based policy-making,” he said.

  • SFU economics professor (emeritus) Herb Grubel had a letter to the editor published in the Financial Post. He responded to a column discussing how U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt devalued the American dollar in 1934. This led to a positive effect on economic conditions in the U.S. The column cited an article by Ben Bernanke suggesting, “such devaluation could also be used during future crises.” Grubel said devaluation was easy in 1934 but not so much today. “Extremely low U.S. interest rates have not been accompanied by the expected capital outflows and dollar depreciation. The reason is that dollar investments are seen to offer a safe haven from bankruptcy, confiscation and taxation facing investments in assets of other countries,” he wrote. “Once the fiscal crisis of Greece and other European governments has abated, capital will return and the U.S. dollar will depreciate — unless other developments intervene. Only countries like China that have strict exchange controls can set their exchange rates at any level they wish. But it should be noted that the increase in the value of the yuan will have little influence on the country’s export surpluses unless it is accompanied by an increase in domestic spending. Excess production must go somewhere and it will, even if Chinese producers have to absorb the reduced yuan income caused by the currency appreciation to remain competitive in the U.S. ­market.”

  • Will climate change lead to more catastrophes in Pakistan’s Indus Valley? According to BBC News, scientists are wondering what the future will bring as floods “of truly biblical proportions” have devastated the country recently, displacing 14 million people and killing an estimate 1,700. Floods are triggered annually when torrential rain sweeps in from the Indian Ocean and affects the mighty Indus River. Geologists are working hard to better understand the river’s flood history. Scientists blame increased monsoon intensity on climate change. Monsoons are sensitive to the surface temperature of the Indian Ocean. If global warming continues, BBC News wonders if we can expect to see the Indus return to the “monster river” it was 6,000 years ago. “That is the million-dollar question,” said SFU earth sciences professor John Clague. “There is a huge uncertainty … and this is a matter of heated debate amongst scientists at present.” CTV News also interviewed SFU disaster-management expert Ed Bukszar, who blamed summer vacations and limited knowledge about Pakistan by Westerners for the lack of donations for relief efforts. “In the U.S. media, it really is a back-page story, in spite of the fact that it’s a very significant catastrophe.” Bukszar added: "The slower-moving nature of this catastrophe means it is not front-page news as frequently, so you end up with a situation where it's not as high profile, during a period when people aren't really paying attention in North America.”

  • Gerolymatos was interviewed by CBC-Radio about the Omar Khadr war-crimes trial. Khadr is a Canadian who is accused of killing a U.S. soldier during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan. The Toronto-born Khadr was 15 years old at the time and is finally getting his day in court eight years later. The interview segment was broadcast by numerous CBC-Radio stations across Canada.

BC NEWS

  • Learn the buzz: SFU biology associate professor Elizabeth Elle is spending this summer identifying bee species in B.C.’s south Okanagan and has discovered some native species are struggling to survive. “We are concerned with what’s happening with our native bees. Some of them are in decline because of things like habitat loss,” she told the Penticton Western News. Elle stressed the important role that bees play in a healthy functioning ecosystem. “They are extremely important to humanity. One of out of every three bites you eat is thanks to a bee.”

  • News 1130 did a report about the rise of road rage in Metro Vancouver that is connected to racism. SFU communication professor Peter Chow-White recalls “one extreme case involving an Asian woman who was in a car with her kids, when a white man started banging on her window yelling racial slurs.” He would like to see more research into this issue. "It would be an excellent study for someone to take on,” said Chow-White. “Whether or not there is funding for this kind of study, so whether the government or police or ICBC or the federal granting agency are going to fund this type of study, that's another story all together. Studies take money, and grants are needed in order to do this." CKNW, Sing Tao newspaper (Vancouver), Global TV, Omni, and The Province also interviewed him.

  • Anti-HST supporters declared victory after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered their petition be sent to Victoria for consideration. The ruling didn’t surprise SFU public policy professor Doug McArthur. "It's really the only practical ruling to suggest what the people who are supporting the HST and the government were arguing -- and that is the government and the legislature didn't have, or doesn't have, the power to reverse attacks that this government imposed,” McArthur told News 1130. “So it's not surprising; I didn't think he would rule otherwise." The judge is expected to make another ruling next week on whether the HST itself is constitutional. McArthur was also quoted by the Georgia Straight: “I can’t see any further obstacles. It should go to the legislative committee. They should meet, I would hope, quickly and make a decision as to whether they’re going to refer it to the legislature for a vote in the legislature or whether they’re going to refer it to a referendum.” And Rick Cluff with CBC-Radio’s The Early Edition also interviewed McArthur.

CRIME BEAT

  • SFU’s Raymond Corrado, an expert in youth criminology, said early intervention is important when dealing with youths who constantly have run-ins with the law. In The National Post, he commented on the story about a 12-year-old Nanaimo youth who was recently charged with attempted armed robbery. The child is known to associate with criminals and the RCMP has been contacted about him more than 100 times. The youth’s mom is a single parent and said her son needs help, but Corrado noted the government can provide money and opportunities but “cannot force a child to attend programs or take medications.”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

  • SFU associate professor Shuyu Kong was interviewed by The Globe and Mail about Aftershock, a box-office smash in China. The highest grossing domestic film ever made in that country, it “examines the emotional, physical and psychological toll of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake on one Chinese family during a 30-year span.” Released in mid-July, it is showing on an “unprecedented” 4,000 screens across the country and has raked in almost $80 million US so far. But the movie is not without controversy. Critics claim the film shows China reacting effectively to the disaster when in fact the earthquake proved the country was unprepared. It didn’t surprise Kong, who said all Chinese films still require approval by state bureaucrats. “The filmmakers have to make sure the Tangshan earthquake is portrayed in the right way,” said Kong. “China is now a commercial society, but the state still has lots of say.”

  • News 1130 reported on SFU film grad Adrian Buitenhuis’s film, Highway 99, which was shown at the Café for Contemporary Art in North Vancouver. The movie about the massive construction project focuses on people around it and how global change affects the local community. "The Western influence in this area, we don't see us as having a history, because we've been here for such a short time,” Buitenhuis said. “So things like re-shaping the landscape up to Whistler and building this new highway, people don't see that as a monumental event."

EDUCATION

  • SFU associate dean of education David Paterson was interviewed by The Vancouver Sun in an article about the recent sex charges against three student teachers. He said the university screens “students before enrolling them to ensure they are suitable for classroom work. They must have a record of volunteer service and letters of recommendation, as well as good grades.” Ethics and boundary violations are covered regularly once they are enrolled. "Sexual contact is inappropriate in all cases -- this is something that students are told repeatedly through the program. It's very important to keep vigilant in making sure that this is a message that receives continued emphasis,” Paterson said.

  • The North Shore News used SFU education associate professor John Nesbit in a back-to-school story that talks about better study methods. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Grade 1 or a fourth-year university student, Nesbit offered techniques to improve memory. "Within a day, much of what you learned within the previous day is already gone," he said. "As time goes forward, the amount of loss decreases, the rate of forgetting slows down." He suggested reviewing material a day after you learn instead of waiting right before a test. And parents can help their children learn more effectively, too, by talking to them about what they learned. “When I say talk to them, really ask them. Have a conversation about it -- not just what they learned in school today, but try to get into the topic more and have the child explain what they know," Nesbit said. A sister newspaper, Abbotsford Times, also published the article.

  • In another education-related story by the North Shore News, SFU education assistant professor Alyssa Wise supports the use of personal electronic devices in secondary schools. She said combining technology with learning could be very useful for students. “I certainly think that there are really good, educationally-valuable ways to engage with both laptops and the Internet,” she said in the paper. Even cellphones can be helpful, especially powerful smartphones like BlackBerrys and iPhones, because they can do a lot. Some people say things like laptops and iPads can do more harm than good because they distract students from learning. But Wise said it’s up to educators to create ways to engage students. "The problem with students being distracted and looking at things other than what is trying to be taught unfortunately is not limited just to technology; if you have a laptop that has the Internet on it, obviously you've got a lot more options to distract yourself,” she said. "But a lot of times where that's coming from is that the students aren't engaged with what's going on in the first place … You certainly can restrict use of laptops I suppose, but at the same time, if lots of students are bringing them in, it might be more useful to think about how you can engage students in interacting with the technology in ways that would support learning."

  • They’re no Dummies: Almost 20 years later, the “For Dummies” series of self-help books is still going strong. With 1,600 titles and more than 200 million copies in print, the franchise is finding new ways to remain current by going beyond traditional publishing. In Maclean’s magazine, SFU communication professor Rowland Lorimer said publisher John Wiley & Sons is wise to think about how to reach audiences in the future. The company has created several iPhone and iPad apps, such as Spanish for Dummies, and also provides some free content via its dummies.com website. “They’re making major investments to be well placed as people move online,” said Lorimer. “The lesson for other publishers here is all about building the brand.”

  • Choosing your college roommate just went high-tech. Many Canadian universities are implementing a service called StarRez that matches students based on extensive questionnaires. According to The Globe and Mail, SFU will start using the system in January for third- and fourth-year students looking to share on-campus townhouses. Chris Rogerson, SFU’s associate director of residence life, said giving students “more choice and control” is important because many of them have had the luxury of living alone in the school’s single rooms. “The reality is that most of our students have rarely shared a bathroom or a room,” he said in the article. “This is causing a lot of angst and challenge. We have to be responsive to the needs of the group coming in. Otherwise, we’re forcing people into a situation they don’t want to be in and they’ll just leave.” How extensive are the roommate questionnaires? They drill right down to musical tastes and favourite TV shows.

  • Rogerson was interviewed by the Georgia Straight in a story about student housing for Metro Vancouver post-secondary schools. The article looked at the various policies for campus housing and noted that many students have to live off-campus. High Metro Vancouver rents make it difficult for many to balance school and housing. First-year and international students typically get priority for campus housing, which means senior students have to find rental accommodations. “However, as a third- or fourth-year student having attended SFU or whatever institution for many years, you now know the area,” Rogerson told the Straight. “You know where you can live. You got familiarity, and traditionally you’ve also created employment opportunities.” NDP housing critic Shane Simpson said the province has addressed homelessness but hasn’t done much to find solutions for students with housing issues.

ATHLETICS

  • Pigskin practice: SFU football coach Dave Johnson was featured by The Province sports columnist Kent Gilchrist in a preview of the upcoming season. The Clan is playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division II this year and Western Oregon is the team’s first opponent Sept. 4. More than 100 student-athletes are pushing for starting jobs and the opportunity to play against U.S. schools. The first year provides many challenges for SFU but Johnson is optimistic. “The quality of the recruits and their willingness to work and help each other is … humbling,” he told the paper. “We’re happy with the athletes we’ve got.”

  • Other media also picked up on SFU’s entry into the NCAA as the fall sports season is just around the corner. The Canadian Press wrote a good article that was also picked up by The Associated Press in the U.S. SFU men’s basketball coach James Blake, who has coached in the NCAA previously, said his recruiting pitch to Canadian players is they can stay in Canada and compete against U.S. schools by coming to Burnaby Mountain. “This is a very Canadian school, it has a lot of Canadian traditions, but Canadians want to compete at the highest level. They always have wanted to do that,” he said. "And Simon Fraser going NCAA is a representation of what Canadians want to do. They want to compete at the highest level and they are at this school." Patriotism will play a role in bringing Canada’s best student-athletes to SFU. Said football coach Johnson: "I think we can build something special here and we can be the flagship program in the nation. I think we can attract the best players from around the country. I'm an American guy but I can tote that Canadian maple leaf and talk about winning one for the country. It matters to our Canadian kids. I do believe we have the unique ingredients to build something special." This article was published on several news websites, including Sports Illustrated (arguably the top sports magazine in North America), Hamilton Spectator, and The Sports Network (Canada’s national sports TV network), and SFU was mentioned on The Sports Network’s SportsCentre show.

  • Johnson was also interviewed by Mario Bartel with the Burnaby NewsLeader. He talked about the T-shirts all his players have this year that say, “Character Under Construction.” Johnson said his job involves more than developing football players. “My vision for the kids is to make them better dads, better employees, better people because of the development of their character while they’re here. We’re trying to impact the community by creating fine young men.”

SECOND RUN

  • SFU fish biologist John Reynolds spoke at a Rotary Club meeting in Chilliwack and said forecasting salmon runs is an imperfect science because there are so many variables involved. “It’s a fool’s game,” he said in the Chilliwack Progress. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada forecasted a very good season for fishermen this year and so far Fraser River sockeye salmon are coming home in great numbers. Reynolds noted there are theories that “human-induced global climate change” may be a reason for previous low fish runs. Rising temperatures of ocean waters and new challenges in rivers can create problems for young sockeye. Reynolds was also quoted in an article in The Province that said local recreational fishermen are ecstatic about this year’s sockeye run, which expects to bring between seven to 11 million fish back to the Fraser River. “The preliminary indications are extremely good,” he said. “Touch wood that the largest run, which is only now just starting to materialize, if it follows what its predecessors have done over the last few weeks, then we will be in for a good year."

  • Star struck: SFU physicist Howard Trottier continues to promote a proposal to build an observatory on Burnaby Mountain. He appeared on French CBC-Radio to discuss the project and emphasize an additional $2 million is required to make the observatory a reality. It would be built near the Diamond Alumni Centre.

  • In B.C. Business magazine, SFU’s Benedikt Fischer said there is a lack of information in evaluating what works and what doesn’t when it comes to addiction treatment centres in our province. He’s “mystified” how the provincial government can make funding decisions without proper data. “In B.C. we’re not terribly good at measuring the impact of any of the programs,” says Fischer, interim director of SFU’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction. “I have no idea how (health ministry bureaucrats) make policy decisions when they have no information.” According to the article, B.C. has 288 treatment facilities – the most of any province.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

  • A book that SFU criminologist Neil Boyd co-authored with Vancouver Sun reporter Lori Culbert and former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell has been short-listed for the George Ryga book award. A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Fight for its Future, “raises questions about the challenges confronting the east side and proposes a number of controversial solutions.” This year’s award winner be announced Nov. 6.

  • Fifth-year SFU student Courtnee Anderson has been crowned Miss Charity B.C. for 2010. The Bowen Island Undercurrent profiled Anderson and called her medicine’s equivalent of Legally Blonde, a movie about a bubbly student who attends Harvard Law School. Anderson has had two relatives die of cancer, plus her grandmother recently died of kidney disease. She plans to study medicine and would like to help find a cure for cancer. “It’s such a horrible disease,” she said. “I just want to do something about it … it’s just that when I think of all the people who aren’t here any more, they’re such an inspiration.”

  • One drop of oil makes a difference: That’s the message SFU communication student Katy Hirsch is delivering to B.C. communities she’s visiting this summer. Representing the B.C. Used Oil Management Association, Hirsch is visiting oil collection facilities and reviewing recycling programs. In a Williams Lake Tribune article, it says statistics for B.C. show: a 77 per cent return rate on used oil, 90 per cent return rate on oil filters, and 81 per cent return rate on oil containers. Part of Hirsch’s job is to speak with owners of oil recycling stations and local government officials to see how the programs are doing.

  • Who do you believe? Calgary’s Fast Forward Weekly examined the role polls play in civic elections, especially the upcoming mayoral race in its city. With less than two months to go before election day, it’s very difficult for polls to declare front-runners much less winners, said SFU assistant political science professor Mark Pickup. “It’s difficult making such pronouncements so far out from an election. We’ve seen this far too often on a national level where two months out from an election media will pronounce a winner … and often that doesn’t happen,” he said.

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