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Feb 20, 2003

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Home away from work
Ottawa Sun, Feb. 17

There are perks to working from home, or telecommuting - working with the help of technology - such as no boss, no one to notice tardiness, and the convenience of voice and email. Yet the proportion of Canadians who worked at home in 2001 was virtually unchanged from the previous decade, despite the advent of the internet. Statistics Canada reports that 6.3 per cent of Canadians (excluding farmers) worked from home in 2001, compared with 6.4 per cent in 1991. So why haven't more Canadians embraced telecommuting? “ Do we trust our employees to be able to work from home? That's the big question,” says Rick Iverson, who teaches a business course at SFU dealing with telecommuting. “There is a backlash. If you telecommute and your co-workers don't, are you still part of that group?”

A marketing goal or gaff?
Canadian Press, Feb. 13

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's decision to increase provincial gas taxes at a time when Vancouver is about to hold a plebiscite Feb. 22 on the city's bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics is raising eyebrows. Political marketing experts, such as SFU professor Gary Mauser, are wondering if Campbell unwittingly took a gamble that the coincidence of the tax increase with the plebiscite wouldn't put voters off the games. “That's certainly not the way to maximize chances of getting this referendum passed,” says Mauser. “Either Campbell is looking for a way to get out of the Olympics or he's willing to play high-stakes gambles.” The 3.5 cent a litre tax increase, which takes effect March 1, will be used partially to improve the Sea to Sky highway. The highway's improvement is considered essential to Vancouver clinching its bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler

Pleading for prison deals
Vancouver Sun, Feb. 11

There is nothing dirty, underhanded or illegal about plea-bargaining say many of Canada's legal academics. Many legal professionals and academics say the practice is vital to preventing the justice system from getting bogged down and collapsing under the weight of full-blown trials. SFU criminologist Simon Verdun-Jones, who specializes in plea negotiations, says that in Canada, the judge has to determine whether the agreement is just and fair. “The judge has to consider all the facts, such as whether the sentence adequately reflects the crime, remorse is usually a factor, and whether there may be some aggravating circumstances involved.” Plea-bargains have led to high-profile criminals getting shorter than publicly acceptable prison sentences of late. Inderjit Singh Reyat, who was charged in the Air India case, recently received a five-year prison sentence.

NATO's crumbling alliance
Globe and Mail, Feb. 12

Two of NATO's allies have so far been unwilling to follow the U.S. to war with Iraq. Military strategist Andre Gerolymatos, chair of Hellenic studies at SFU, says the splits in NATO reveal how little the old allies have in common these days, and how the security interests of the French and the Germans are incompatible with those of the Americans. “The perspective from Paris and Berlin is considerably different. France and Germany have significant economic interests in Iraq and are not keen to see the U.S. control Iraq's oil reserves in the future,” he says. He points out that France, Germany and Belgium are refusing to abide by the NATO charter to protect Turkey, clearly signalling that their security priorities have changed. “Effectively, these countries have undermined the raison d'etre of the alliance,” he says.

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