June 28, 2001 Vol . 21, No. 5

Media Bytes

Arctic dress rehearsal for Mars
Canadian Press, June 24

Steve Braham is about to become a Martian. For the next eight weeks, the SFU physicist will live on the desolate lip of a parched, ancient crater, crammed into a two-story metal cylinder with five colleagues, several robots and a pile of scientific gear. He'll sleep in a closet-sized cubbyhole and cook, eat and socialize in an area the size of a large bathroom. "Some people think I'm thoroughly crazy," says Braham. "The question is usually, ‘why?' " Braham says it's to prepare for human exploration of Mars. The Haughton Crater, located on the Arctic's Devon Island, replicates conditions found on the red planet. Braham is one of 25 crew members, including four Canadians, selected to man the first season of the Flashline Mars arctic research station. While the others do two-week rotations, Braham is the only researcher who will spend the entire summer at the facility.

Driving fears in the golden years

Vancouver Sun
, June 22

A recent report for the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) says the number of senior drivers across the province will more than double to 660,000 over the next 25 years, as baby boomers enter their senior years, live longer and drive more. Gerontology professor Andrew Wister says that's a conservative estimate. He says the number will likely grow faster because seniors of tomorrow will probably behave differently from those today. Women are now more likely to hold jobs outside the home and use a car to get to work than previous generations. They also stand a greater chance of living alone than their mothers and will rely on a car to maintain independence. "Cars seem to be so integral to people's lives," says Wister. "The older baby boomer, I'm sure, will want to have a vehicle, and will use the vehicle frequently."

Book captures NDP's confusion, despair
Vancouver Sun, June 22

A new book edited by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, Democratic Equality: What Went Wrong?, focuses on the state of democracy globally. Its contributors also suggest ways the embattled left could try to rebuild. SFU economist John Richards argues that Canadians opted in the 1960s for a European-style welfare state. "Unfortunately, they never agreed to pay for it," he says. That has led to the problems facing the party today, with the NDP defending a welfare state no one wants to fund in the post-deficit era. Richards argues the NDP should adopt pragmatic policies that focus on citizens' responsibilities as well as their rights. For example, welfare recipients who are able, should be required, as a condition of support, to upgrade job skills. He also recommends the NDP curtail its alliance with big labour.

At issue: B.C. health care strike
CBC News and Current Affairs, June 20

The current health care strike in B.C. is the first big crisis facing the (Gordon) Campbell government. "The first test is always a big one," says SFU political historian David Mitchell. "The honeymoon is effectively over with this showdown with the nurses." Mitchell says there is a well of public sympathy for nurses, making it difficult to force a confrontation with them. "The government has tried to handle it gingerly but this is in a context of other public sector labour disputes that are brewing in B.C." Mitchell says there's no guarantee that legislation brought in by the new government ordering a cooling off period will lead to a solution. "There's no realistic sense that 60 days is going to fix the problem," notes Mitchell. "Cooling off a hot situation is not easy. In fact, British Columbia politics are anything but cool right now."

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