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February 05, 2004

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Police not talking about allegations
Canadian Press, Jan. 26

Police in Toronto aren't keen to speak publicly about allegations of corruption, brutality and conspiracy. Six members of the city's now-disbanded drug squad were charged after a massive RCMP-led corruption probe and accusations of forged notes and police records, false testimony and missing evidence. The constant pressure to bust the bad guys, combined with steady contact with criminal elements and the lack of scrutiny that comes with undercover police work, is a recipe for corruption, says SFU criminologist Robert Gordon, himself a former police officer. ‘'It's normative for those kinds of teams to operate on the margins of legality,'' Gordon said. ‘'It's not something that you can accept or praise, but it is a certain reality. These guys work with extremely nasty people, who will pull a number of stops to frustrate their activities.''

Power to the people
Maclean's Magazine, Jan. 26

It's sometimes said that democracy makes it possible for ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And that any one of us can make a difference. But how often do you see it happening? Actually, it's happening right now in British Columbia. On Jan. 10 and 11, the face of change gathered in a downtown Vancouver conference hall, and it could not more completely resemble the face of your neighbour, because that's precisely what it is. The 160 members of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform will spend most of the year trying to improve the way governments get elected in B.C. “The innovation is that non-elected citizens have the power to make this decision,” says Jack Blaney, former SFU president, and the assembly's appointed chairman. “We are inventing a new social tool in democracy.”

Stronach an outsider
Vancouver Sun, Jan. 23

She may be the daughter of a Toronto billionaire, but Belinda Stronach still wants to position herself as an outsider in the race for the leadership of the new Conservative party. SFU political scientist David Laycock said Stronach's “blank slate” status won't win her support from many Conservative members in Western Canada, mostly former Canadian Alliance members, who would prefer someone with a history in the populist Reform party, the Alliance or in the movement to merge the two parties. Laycock says Stronach is the candidate of former Tories who are now regretting the “hostile takeover” of their party by the Canadian Alliance. “Stronach's appearance of having been born with a silver spoon in her mouth won't go down well with many Conservative party activists,” he says.

Fraudsters skimming debit cards
Vancouver Province, Jan. 23

David could be a poster boy for the careful use of a debit card. He rarely uses it, and when he does it is almost always with an automated-teller machine at a bank. Earlier this month he was asked by his bank to come in and change his personal identification number. He learned the card had been compromised. So-called smart cards, with embedded microchips, make counterfeiting extremely difficult and expensive, but don't expect to see that happen here any time soon. The cost of upgrading to chip cards in the U.S. is about $13 billion, while the annual loss from card fraud is $1.8 billion. SFU business professor Lindsay Meredith says financial institutions, while continuing to improve security, are resigned to absorbing fraud losses as a cost of doing business toward a cashless world.

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