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October 21, 2004

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A look at why we're so angry
CanWest News Service, Oct. 9

Rage, an hour-long news documentary by Vancouver filmmakers James Dunnison, Kimberley Wakefield and Trevor Hodgson, peels back the surface of social psychology in our increasingly pressed-for-time society and finds that we're becoming angrier, more frustrated and less tolerant. Trouble is, when that anger manifests itself as rage, whether on the road, in the workplace or at the hockey rink, everyone loses. Simon Fraser University media professor Martin Laba is one of several experts in the film who explain how a techno-dependent society is not necessarily a healthy society. Our collective need for speed has not resulted in a kinder, gentler world.

‘Quality-of-life' legislation
Vancouver Sun, Oct. 9

The Safe Streets Act proposed by the provincial government is the latest salvo in a continent-wide crackdown on quality-of-life crimes such as aggressive panhandling. New York City pioneered the idea of quality-of-life legislation, which former mayor Rudy Giuliani credits with helping reduce crime by 60 per cent between 1993 and 2000. Proponents of safe-streets legislation say it cleans up problem neighbourhoods. Others say it simply shifts the problems to other areas, and doesn't address the real issues: poverty, mental illness and homelessness. Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd thinks that while “you might achieve some short-term changes,” safe-streets legislation attempts to put a band-aid solution on bigger problems. “(It fails) to address the reality that both the NDP and Liberal governments have cut entitlements to the most disadvantaged members of our society.”

When girls fight
MetroValley Newspaper Group, Oct. 9

The closing of the gender gap has unleashed at least one undesirable side effect - more fighting among girls. It's gone beyond the rumour-spreading and character assassination that is more typical among girls. Experts in youth behaviour are saying that, increasingly, younger members of the so-called gentler sex are turning to violence to settle their disputes. Simon Fraser criminologist Irwin Cohen agreed that with violence, “the (gender) gap is slowly closing.” One school of thought is “women are becoming more like men in many other aspects in society - why not crime?” said the professor of criminology and criminal justice. “It's becoming more accepted (among girls) as a way of gaining status or gaining respect.” While there are different arguments for why this is happening, “I do think it just has to do with breaking down traditional roles.” That said, girls still make up only about a quarter of all criminal charges against youth, Cohen pointed out.

The summer of the glitch
EDGE, Oct. 1

It was the summer of the system crash for Canada's major financial institutions. Parts of three of Canada's largest chartered banks' debt and credit processing systems failed. The Royal bank led off the summer of disasters followed by CIBC and then the Toronto Dominion bank reported problems in its systems. The processing crashes affected a huge number of people. Each problem had a unique origin, but all showed the vulnerability of processing systems to human-induced shocks. Among the lessons learned was the need to document everything. Royal Bank managers were able to take corrective steps because they knew how their problem arose. “You can't back out of a programming error unless you know how you got there,” says Drew Parker, associate professor of information systems in Simon Fraser University's faculty of business administration.

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