SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Jan. 23-30, 2009

You mean those dreaded dioxins and PCBs can activate a key protein in the human body that can suppress the growth of breast cancer?

Meanwhile, the “copious” release of lead into the drinking water in Washington DC is called “one more crime against children.”

And SFU wins solid coverage for what one newspaper called “the Shrum Bowl of debates”: Who has influenced modern science more: Darwin or Galileo?

All in week’s media work for SFU scientists. . . .


  • The Vancouver Sun moved within minutes to post on its website a story from an SFU news release: Tim Beischlag, researcher in SFU Health Sciences, has found that carcinogens such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can activate a key protein in the human body that can suppress breast cancer growth. He hopes his research could lead to treatments that that have less side effects than chemotherapy and radiation.

    and the Tri-City News quickly pursued interviews with Beischlag. FairchildTV also interviewed John O’Neil, dean of SFU Health Sciences.
  • Bruce Lanphear of SFU Health Sciences was quoted in a story in Science News. It reported that the District of Columbia’s switch to a new water-disinfection technology in 2000 reduced potentially carcinogenic by-products of chlorination—but released "copious amounts of lead into the drinking water that serves the nation’s capital." And a new study shows "the harm done to children in 2001 to 2004 was indeed significant."

    Lanphear said no one knows which children were harmed. “But we can say that on average, these children experienced elevations in lead exposure that are indicative of harm. So on average we might expect to see an increased risk in behavior problems—such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or conduct disorders—and decrements in IQ.”

    In sum, he said, failing to protect young children from exposure to lead-tainted drinking water “is one more crime against children.“

    Who has influenced modern science more: Charles Darwin or Galileo Galilei?  Stephen Price, coordinator of student recruitment and retention in SFU Science, lined up Tom Archibald, SFU Mathematics chair, and Greg Bole, a UBC lecturer, to debate the issue on the Burnaby campus Thursday. The two also debated on CKNW and the Early Edition show on CBC Radio. Then 24Hours did a half-page story, calling the campus event “the Shrum Bowl of debates”.


  • Leith Davis, director of SFU’s Centre for Scottish Studies, earned media coverage in Scotland and BC as she took part in events celebrating the 250th birthday of poet Robbie Burns.

    She was in the Glasgow Herald, announcing a $300 prize for a designer to produce a computerized likeness of the Bard for use in SFU’s Second Life campus. And she was interviewed by the Times of Scotland.

    Closer to home, she was also interviewed by the Globe and Mail (among other things, she noted Burns was not a Highlander and “never wore a kilt”) and by CFAX Radio in Victoria. And then she was on GlobalTV, taking part in a worldwide web exchange—at the Robbie Burns statue in Stanley Park.

    Media were on hand, too, when she gave the toast to The Immortal Memory (of Burns) at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy celebration in Vancouver—just after the multicultural Rap to the Haggis.
  • Epoch Times in its U. S. edition (and Canadian issues) picked up an SFU news release on how SFU’s Learning and Instructional Development Centre (LIDC) will receive $200,000 from the federal government. It’s for a multi-media project designed to raise awareness of the Chinese Head Tax and other measures that restricted Chinese immigration between 1885 and 1947. LIDC will create a comprehensive interactive education program for BC high school students. In BC, FairchildTV will also air a video documentary.
  • Eric Hershberg, SFU director of Latin American studies and president of the Latin American Studies Association, was on the Social Science Research Council website, talking about the "neglect" of Latin America in U.S. policy, normalizing relations with Cuba, and where Barack Obama ought to turn for advice on the region.


  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader quoted marketing prof Lindsay Meredith as saying consumers should pay off credit-card debt—and should call their credit-card companies to demand lower interest rates. "Come hell or high water, get rid of credit card debt. Any department store or personal retail debt, those guys are hooking you for 19 per cent and higher."
  • Psychologist Joti Samra of SFU's Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction was on the Bill Good Show on CKNW and the Fanny Kiefer show on Shaw-TV, discussing winter blues, mental illness in the workplace and the Bottom Line Conference on workplace mental illness and the family, coming up on March 11. Samra is on the conference steering committee. (
  • A Jon Ferry column in The Province looked at a proposal that gun owners be made to store their guns in a central location such as a gun club, and check them out.  “But as retired Simon Fraser University professor and firearms expert Gary Mauser points out, storing a number of weapons in one location is risky in its own right. ‘Gun clubs, because of noise regulations, have to be away from other houses, so they're a perfectly vulnerable target’.”
  • Student Kriselda Abesamis and Don MacLachlan, director of SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations (PAMR) were on CBC-TV talking about the Burnaby campus’s experience with snow, snow clearing, and the SFU Alerts emergency warning system.

    But Christopher Pavsek, an assistant prof of film in the School for the Contemporary Arts, found the snow somewhat less than artistic: He seized the moment to say it makes him think of the cost of snow-clearing, and the impact on the availability of money for education. “Who cares about how pretty it is? . . . Do the people of this province care that their children are going to grow up and get terrible education?”


  • Five newspapers in the Toronto Sun group leaped on a paper co-authored by Benedikt Fischer of SFU Health Sciences saying there may be public health benefits for addicts of injection drugs shifting from street drugs to the misuse of prescription medication. Addicts who do that are significantly less likely to inject, which reduces the risk of hepatitis C or HIV.

    Fischer told the Sun: “There's a shift away from heroin and increasing use of prescription opioids. . . We don't want anyone to be using drugs illicitly. It's not good for public health. We're just saying, relative to the previous predominant reality, (pharmaceutical substances) may not be all bad."
  • Marketing prof Leyland Pitt was in a National Post story on strategies for luxury retailers in the recession. His advice: Stick to your products and quality, and focus on loyal, connoisseur customers. "The worst decision you can make is to trade down. There are almost no success stories on luxury brands doing that."
  • Shauna Sylvester and her Canada’s World project told media about the culmination in Ottawa this week of a national poll, face-to-face meetings with 4,000 Canadians and on-line dialogues with another 100,000. It all asked “ordinary” citizens what role they want Canada to play in the world.
  • The Globe and Mail noted The Economist listed Defence Minister Peter MacKay as a potential candidate for secretary-general of NATO. Political scientist Alex Moens, a veteran NATO watcher, said the post usually goes to a European. “A Canadian secretary-general would be a genuine new move for NATO. It would be a big step to put it in North America. I would want to hear France and Germany's support for this before I could believe it.”
  • A Globe and Mail story on the Patullo Bridge and its six-day closure quoted Warren Gill, SFU vice-president and transportation geographer, as saying that when the bridge provided access to Surrey it helped create Canada's first automobile suburb. "It was an important structure."
  • Marketing Magazine looked at the unofficial economic “Lipstick Index”—makeup sales rise as the economy slumps. Among those quoted was Steve Kates, associate professor of marketing in SFU Business. “People need to spoil themselves a little bit."


  • The Vancouver Sun’s “Education Life” pages this week had a story on SFU’s dual-degree program with Zhejiang University. Quoted were President Michael Stevenson, computing science prof Stella Atkins and coordinator Vivian Chu.
  • Education prof Paul Shaker was in the Surrey-North Delta Leader, in a story on the issues around Foundation Skills Assessment tests (FSAs) in BC schools. He said random testing would provide as good a snapshot of how well B.C. students read, write and do math. “By taking a careful random sample, you can draw overall conclusions and take the temperature of the system."

    The Maple Ridge News, Tri-City News and Richmond Review also ran the story.

    Retired prof Gary Mauser countered in a letter to the editor in the Tri-City News: “Professor Paul Shaker and The BC Teachers' Federation are acting irresponsibly in opposing the province-wide foundation skills assessment tests. . . . Random sampling would not be able to evaluate individual school districts. I believe that is why Professor Shaker and the BCTF oppose province-wide testing. They are afraid of evaluation. . . . Evaluation promotes good quality. Our students deserve the best schools we can give them.”
  • The Canadian Press carried a featured on how “tech-savvy educators are transplanting the classroom into the digital realm, shifting eager students into cyber-classes and shedding teaching limitations of the past.” It mentioned SFU’s presence in Second Life. The story ran in the Globe and Mail, among others.


  • Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was in a Canadian Press newsfeature on the RCMP’s use of so-called "Mr. Big" sting operations. The tactic has solved key cases, but is questioned by the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. Said Gordon:
    "As an investigative tool it is very effective. If you go the next step and try to use it as evidence it gets wobbly. People  . . . may well confess to police officers who are role-playing in the simulation that they have done this, that or the other when, in effect, they haven't. They want to be accepted."

    We saw the story in and on 27 media outlets, including
  • Gordon was also in a New Westminster NewsLeader story on how a New West police officer was suspended after being accused of assaulting a newspaper delivery driver. (So were two other off-duty officers from other forces.) Gordon said this and other incidents point to the need for a Metro Vancouver police force.

    "The way it's set up now doesn't lend itself to efficient management of police officers, efficient supervision and appropriate control of police officers when they commit disciplinary violations. That's because we don't have a unified Metro Vancouver police with high standards of professionalism.”
  • The Oak Bay News reported on an investigation of the conduct of two police officers in dealing with a man who was mentally ill. Rick Parent, assistant prof in SFU Criminology, said police officers don’t have the training or resources to dealing with social issues, such as mental illness or homelessness.


  • Economist David Andolfatto was in the Surrey-North Delta Leader saying Ottawa’s plans to pour money into infrastructure face a challenge in Metro Vancouver: The strategy will first have to offset slowing activity on major projects that are starting to wrap up, many of them timed to the 2010 Olympics. "With these big infrastructure projects winding down, I think you're going to find a lot of construction sector workers having a difficult time to find work."
  • Gerontologist Gloria Gutman was in The Province, in a story that noted the federal budget promise of more social housing for low-income seniors. She said women who live alone account for almost half of the seniors living at or below the poverty level. "The vast majority are renters, and they are definitely at the mercy of the rental market. If the government is investing in social housing for seniors, that is dead-on. It is very much needed."
  • Political scientist Marjorie Griffin Cohen was on CBC Radio in Vancouver, and in Victoria, discussing the budget. (And on Feb. 10, she will be the first SFU faculty member to speak at the Breakfast on the Hill lecture series in Ottawa. Before an audience of senators, parliamentary staff, senior policy-makers and the media, she’ll talk about the implications of public-policy decisions related to the 2001 economic downturn.)
  • In a pre-budget feature, economist Richard Harris was in the Georgia Straight: "Deficits have to be paid back. That doesn’t mean it's not the prudent thing to do right now. . . . I would say that in this case adding to the deficit makes a lot more sense than what happened 15 years ago."
  • Also making pre-budget comments was public policy prof Kennedy Stewart, who was on CBC Radio saying he hoped the budget would include funding for public housing. (It did promise more social housing for low-income seniors, people with disabilities and First Nations peoples living on reserves.)
  • And quoted urban studies prof Peter Hall in a story on how the Canadian Association of Co-operatives was looking for help in the budget. A recession is a time to support co-operative models, he said.


SFU Athletics kept the information flowing to media as:

  • In their last regular-season home game, the #1-ranked SFU women’s basketball team cruised to a 106-50 victory over the Trinity Western University Spartans Thursday night. The Clan thus improved their record to 19-1, finishing their season with a perfect 11-0 record at home.
  • Meanwhile, the Clan men lost 73-72 to the Spartans. The loss dropped SFU to 11-9 on the year. Both men’s and women’s teams play the Spartans again tonight, in Langley.
  • Last weekend, the SFU Clan women’s basketball team beat the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns 87-55 and the University of Calgary Dinos 86-52. The SFU men beat Lethbridge 77-74 but lost 70-42 to the Dinos.
  • The Clan women’s volleyball team play their final two home games tonight  (7 pm) and Saturday (7 pm) against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.


  • The Edmonton Journal picked up a feature that ran two weeks ago in The Vancouver Sun, on the Accelerate national internship program powered by the SFU-based MITACS network. In it, MITACS CEO Arvind Gupta said: "Canada really needs to wake up to the fact that we're falling behind in building a knowledge economy.”

ALSO in the NEWS

  • Media coverage of the memorial last weekend for Stan Hagen, former BC cabinet minister, noted that he was “praised for his work in education by former Simon Fraser University president Dr. Jack Blaney.” Hagen was awarded an honorary doctor of laws from SFU in 1998. His wife Judy was a charter student, and Hagen was a solid supporter of SFU’s downtown campus and the move of the School for the Contemporary Arts to the Woodward’s project.
  • The federal government announced to media the appointment of Linda Cross of North Vancouver as a part-time member of the National Parole Board. Ottawa’s releases noted she is a criminology grad from SFU.



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