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May 19, 2006

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A community comes to a university
New York Times, May 7
When Mike Hart, a professor of biological sciences, took a job at Simon Fraser University a couple of years ago, his first priority was finding a place to live within walking distance of the campus. So he bought a two-bedroom, 850-square-foot condominium in UniverCity, a new pedestrian-oriented community springing up next to SFU that is a 10-minute walk from his office. “The major advantage is not having to get in the car every day,” Hart said. What distinguishes UniverCity from other high-density developments in the U.S. and Canada is its link with a major university and a slate of policies not typically associated with a suburban development. UniverCity prohibits national and international chain stores in the town centre, incorporates mechanisms to provide lower-cost housing and provides a subsidized transit pass to all residents. Last February, UniverCity won a 2005 Canadian Home Builders Association award for best new planned community.

Global warming is killing the planet
Toronto Star, May 7
SFU resource and environmental management professor Mark Jaccard's recent book, Sustainable Fossil Fuels: The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy stands to influence what kind of car you drive and how you heat your home. Jaccard won this year's $35,000 Donner prize and prize-winning books tend to have far-reaching influence on government and industry. “My book is all about the details. I want to know what the possibilities are, technologically, economically and politically,” he says and “The evidence has slowly convinced me that, with a serious commitment to clean energy over the coming decades, we are likely to shift to cleaner uses of fossil fuels rather than their forced abandonment.”

The Big Mac theory
Vancouver Sun, May 6
Every year The Economist magazine surveys the price of a Big Mac around the world to show whether currencies are overvalued or undervalued. The theory is that a McDonald's Big Mac is the same in every country where it is sold, and should cost the same if exchange rates are properly aligned. There are several theories to explain the time gap for exchange rates and pricing, such as inertia. Another theory is whether there is enough competition in the Canadian marketplace for the retailer to lower prices and SFU professor of marketing, Judy Zaichkowsky, is not so sure. “People are much quicker to raise prices than to lower them and, in many cases, they don't want to lower them at all.”

Tories get tough on offenders
Ottawa Citizen, May 5
The Conservatives' plan to reform the use of conditional sentences - legislation the government says is aimed at ensuring serious offenders do serious time - would also put those convicted of crimes such as mail theft and bestiality behind bars. The bill combined with legislation that would impose mandatory minimum sentences of between three and 10 years for various gun-related crimes, represents the first step in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to get tough on crime. Neil Boyd, SFU professor of criminology, said judges often use conditional sentences when the circumstances show the crime was not as serious as the charge. Those sentences may have been wrongly applied in some cases, he said, but that doesn't mean they should no longer be available. “You don't promise policy that covers thousands on the basis of what are arguably a few mistakes in the imposition of conditional sentences,” he said.

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