Campus crash

The corner of Morningside and Ellesmere was the scene of a bloody, gunshot-riddled car crash Wednesday morning. The crime scene was one block away from UTSC directly across from the Centennial College HP Campus, meaning that many students living near campus, like Chris Smith, a fifth-year political science student at UTSC who heard the shots firsthand.

“All I heard was gunshots—bang, bang, bang—like that. And not long after I heard a lot of sirens… it was pretty intense. Normally you only see a couple of cop cars, not 15 or 20.” Early that morning over a dozen police cars were still lined up along the street next to a crashed compact car—the result of a late-night highspeed chase involving gunshots, a helicopter scan and a call for help to cruisers from multiple divisions.

The chase began after a man was shot near Wellesley and Parliament and two suspects were seen attempting to make a getaway in a small green vehicle. It quickly escalated into a multi-car chase for more than 40 kilometers, finally ending when the vehicle lost control and swerved into a guardrail on the side of the road. One suspect fled the vehicle into nearby Morningside Park, while the other refused to get out of the car. An Emergency Task Force and K-9 Unit were both brought in to subdue the uncooperative suspect, and eventually escorted him out of the vehicle. Police quickly surrounded the area of the park and soon found the fleeing suspect hiding in a ravine.

While two individual patients were taken to Sunnybrook hospital, it is uncertain whether the injuries sustained were from the car accident or shots fired by police.

As of early yesterday morning, more than a dozen white bullet casing markers littered the ground around the suspect vehicle, which was lying across the sidewalk of the opposite lane with the trunk and driver side door open. The green compact sustained extensive damage, with both headlights smashed in, a broken window, and bullet holes across the driver’s-side door. The police cruiser closest to the suspect vehicle had its driver’s side window shot out.

Price to play

The NFL season opener for the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos on September 9 was a game that many would like to file away in the category of unforgettable. Not only because of the last second field goal that gave the Broncos the victory but more so because of the life-threatening injury that Bills tight-end Kevin Everett sustained during the opening of the second half. Everett fell lifelessly to the field after attempting to tackle Broncos player Domenik Hixon. Players huddled together to say a prayer for Everett as medical personnel prepared him to be taken away in an ambulance.

Everett underwent successful surgery and was sedated with the assistance of a respirator in the immediate days following the procedure. Doctors characterized the trauma as a cervical spine injury that had the possible effect of leaving the player paralyzed for the remainder of his life. Most recently, Everett has regained feeling and movement in some parts of his body and doctor’s now believe that the 25 year old may be able to walk again due to his remarkable progress thus far.

The fact that Everett may fully recuperate is a great piece of news. More importantly this event has allowed athletes to question whether their profession of choice is worth taking part in. Many would define the worthiness of a profession by various standards such as compensation and liesure time. But in the realm of professional sports one has various other concerns that are not considered by those in “regular” occupations. For example, an athlete that is asked to make high risk plays only a few times a game, may have to rethink his career options because of the unlikely possibility of earning more playing time and overall exposure. On the other hand, it can be argued that the risk of bodily injury is worthwhile for players that are able to showcase their talents more prominently on the field for greater compensation and media exposure. Oddly, those that get more playing time are at a greater statistical risk of serious injury but are less likely to consider this possibility due to their overarching responsibilities on and off the field.

Cliché or not, the intangible factor of passion for the game may be a valid reason to the risk injury in athletics. Everett for example, struggled with injuries from the very start of his career and was primarily a special teams player in 2006. The fact that he was on his way to more playing time provides some insight to his continued dedication to the game even when he faced impediments earlier on. At the end of the day, professional athletes embark on career paths that provide for lucrative opportunities must understand that with every snap of the ball they may have to fight for their lives in the very next moment.

It appears that Kevin Everett has won the battle for his life and can now focus on the goal of learning to walk again one day. Let this be a lesson to others.

Veni, vidi, Vaccharino

When he was hanging out at the Blind Duck as an undergraduate at U of T’s Erindale campus, Franco Vaccarino never thought he’d end up in charge.

But following his official installation ceremony on Monday, the 51-year-old psychologist is the ninth principal to lead the Scarborough campus in its 40-year history.

In one sense, not much has changed in the two decades since he first set foot on UTSC as an assistant professor in 1984.

“I think we only had two buildings there at the time…what was interesting is that we had a real sense of energy and passion at UTSC back then, and that’s continued over the years,” said Vaccarino, who was slotted early in the year for the position vacated by Professor Kwong-loi Shun.

A slew of new buildings and unique co-op programs have defined UTSC’s development since Vaccarino took the reins. A new emphasis on graduate programs will also continue to be developed under his watch.

“Traditionally UTSC has been more of an undergraduate-focused campus and that’s still the case, but you’re now seeing the emergence of more emphasis on graduate training. In many sectors the masters degree is quickly becoming the educational credential of demand,” he said.

To balance the needs of a large undergraduate population with the emphasis on post-grad studies, Vaccarino plans to feel out “the pulse of the community” and get a sense of direction by the end of the year through consultations with students and faculty: “We need to be thinking not only about the present and the kinds of needs that have emerged, but we also have to be anticipating the future.”

Vaccarino’s vision for his five-year term at the campus will be influenced by his view on how modern economy is changing in its “unprecedented interconnectivity between peoples and nations.”

“I think in some ways UTSC is a reflection of the world at large,” said Vaccarino, who points to courses such as City Studies, which can’t be pinned down to one specific discipline.

“When campuses are smaller you also have more of an opportunity to connect with people, but I think there’s something to be said for a campus on the one hand being small enough to maintain a sense of community, but at the same time also large enough to have an impact and be recognized beyond the local community,” Vaccarino said.

“I see us building on these kinds of strengths.”

Freshly pressed

The Tough Alliance – New Waves (Summer Lovers Unlimited)

The Tough Alliance is a tough alliance. This Swedish electro-pop duo have been busy stomping all over Europe’s burgeoning indie-dance scene since 2004, but have only recently been making waves on this side of the Atlantic. On New Waves, Henning Furst and Eric Berglund showcase a four-song snapshot of what the Alliance is truly capable of. Think of it as a taste of what’s to come. As the disjointed cover shot of a cresting wave suggests, there is a slightly tropical feel to this EP, which makes it picture-perfect beach music or, alternately, great music for imagining you’re at the beach (when you’re really getting ready to endure another cold, cruel, Canadian winter). Their equatorial touch is most evident on the EP’s insta-hit “Silly Crimes”—which starts off with a mind-blowingly cool synth riff—and on the equally intricate “25 Years And Runnin.’” While comparable with Swedish comrades Lo-Fi Fnk, TTA’s music is more lyrically complex (with a slight, non-douchy political slant), yet proves just as pleasing to pop-addicted dance-floor crashers everywhere.—JB

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Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals – Lifeline (EMI)

With today’s pop scene coughing up nothing but multiple overdoses, sweaty girls in bikinis, and catchy songs about umbrellas, it is reassuring to hear an album that stays true to its musical roots. Ben Harper and his naturally-gifted band, the Innocent Criminals (Oliver Charles, Leon Mobley, Juan Nelson, Michael Ward, and Jason Yates) recorded the soul-infused acoustic album, Lifeline, in seven days after months of touring across the globe. Its sweet simplicity can be attributed to Harper’s choice of an old-school 16-track analog tape machine as opposed to the computer and pro-tools setup commonly used by artists today. Recorded in Paris, Lifeline poses as the perfect rainy day companion with bluesy tracks like “Needed You Tonight” and “Heart of Matters,” to the more poignant “Having Wings” and “Younger than Today.” With these, Harper and his band keep the album’s overall tone refl ective and thoughtful, but by no means boring. Kicking up the rhythm with tracks like “Say You Will” and “Put it On Me,” Harper pulls inspiration from the R&B greats. The “shoo-wop” of the ladies’ background vocals in “Say You Will” lends a gospel-inflected nod to the girl group days of Phil Spector and the Supremes, while Harper’s startlingly high range in “Put it On Me” is reminiscent of a time when Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder ruled the airwaves. Harper and the Criminals finish off the album with two introspective tracks, leaving the listener more than satisfied. “Paris Sunrise #7” leads as an instrumental track with a raga-inspired guitar solo, followed by the sheer sincerity of “Lifeline,” in a finale nothing short of perfection.—CK

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Usra Leedham – The Architect’s Wound (Bad Reputation)

Nowhere near an expert on indie music, I wasn’t sure what to expect of Canadian artist Usra Leedham’s album, The Architect’s Wound. In all honesty, the moment the soft and café-like mood of the piano introduction began, I was relieved and enchanted. Through the ten tracks that followed, a whole new world was opened up to me: one that mixes the distinct talent of a classical vocalist and pianist with the personality and past of a remarkable human being. Dubbed “urban soul” by some, Leedham’s jazzy style is rough yet elegant, and overflowing in beautiful instrumental passages. Even the fact that her lyrics are often not understandable becomes overshadowed by her passion for creating music and her will to distance herself from the world of success-by-numbers. Regardless of style or appeal, an artist who believes that “music as an art will always win out” is sure to bring quality to content, a characteristic decidedly greater than mass approval. —BK

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Tegan and Sara – The Con (Sire)

Tegan and Sara, two spiky-haired lesbianic twins from Vancouver, BC (if you can believe it), have an incredible knack for making the lovelorn sound catchy as hell. The Con, the sisters’ fourth full-length, hot off their noteworthy appearance on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, follows their A-HA meets Wilson Phillips aesthetic, coupling strumming electrics and just enough Casio to sound punchy and jarring, with perfectly coordinated harmonies. Title track “The Con” features bursts of synth with the twin’s quavery pleas, while “Nineteen” places infatuated lyrics like “I felt you in my legs before I even met you” on the shelf with half-hearted, sludgy drums. However it’s “Back In Your Head” that will cripple you— like every Tegan and Sara single, you’ll spend your time wishing you could forget its hooky deception and hoping it appears each time you turn on the radio. Nothing especially new here, but let’s hope the Grey’s exposure gives the girls a chance to foray onto larger screens.—CL

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Pride Tiger – The Lucky Ones (EMI)

On their major label debut, Vancouver rockers Pride Tiger seem determined to bring back a wide variety of 70s rock clichés, including the singing drummer, which is one that we the listening public really could live without. Ripping solos all over the place just aren’t enough to make up for the countless worn out phrases (“Sweet Dreams,” “Let ’Em Go,” etc.) that populate every track. While the album’s highlight, “Fill Me In,” has got all the right hooks and guitar frills in the right places, the other songs sound like simple deviations from this formula. Overall, Pride Tiger display a complete lack of originality, failing to come up with any interesting elements that could breathe life back into the sound of a bygone era. At least Wolfmother have cool hair.—RD

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Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Sony)

The fourth album from Idaho singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has been described as “his most freewheeling work to date.” This may or may not be a direct Dylan reference, but such a comparison wouldn’t be out of place, as Ritter places himself firmly in the folk rock tradition by crafting an album of tunes that tips its cap to those who have come before him. The Dylan influence is inescapable, as opener “To the Dogs or Whoever” is so reminiscent of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” that you can almost see the white cards dropping before your eyes. If you’re looking for something groundbreaking that you haven’t heard before, look elsewhere, but be mindful that there’s a fine line between derivative and traditional. Ritter’s work is not a cheap imitation of his influences, as he furthers the folk rock genre in an artful and interesting way. “The Temptation of Adam” is a fine example, as it proves that there will always be a place in the world for a gorgeous country ballad, no matter what decade it is. —RD

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Artists bawl at City Hall

Toronto mayor David Miller eschewed the microphone Wednesday afternoon as he climbed atop a picnic bench to address a 200-strong crowd at Nathan Phillips Square. The rally invited artists and any interested parties to express support for the upcoming Oct. 22 vote on proposed land transfer and vehicle registration taxes.

“Unlike other major cities in North America and around the world, we don’t fund cities properly in Canada,” said Miller, who opened the rally. The mayor recounted Harrris-era “downloading”, which held the city responsible for health and social services. According to www.fairtaxes.ca, the mayor’s web site, property taxes make up only 18 per cent of the top 35 U.S. cities’ revenue but account for 42 per cent of Toronto’s revenue.

Miller hoped to pass two taxes, which would provide an estimated $360 million per year, in July, but narrowly lost a council vote that saw the issue pushed to October. Service cuts-closed community centres, the TTC fare hike, public libraries closed on Sunday—have already taken place, and if the taxes aren’t passed, Miller warned, the services will either be severely reduced or be paid for by a massive increase in property taxes.

The dozen speakers who followed were given two minutes each—though no one timed them–to address the crowd. Though funding for the arts, always one of the first to be cut in a budget deficit, was important to those gathered, speakers expressed concern at the reduction of social services.

“Unlike the Toronto Real Estate Board, we can’t afford to buy a fullpage ad in the Toronto Star,” said Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Council. “But we can afford to gather here and let our voices be heard.”

Many speakers—and protestors (“Fuck the Toronto Real Estate Board!”) criticized the TREB, who opposes the proposed taxes.

The TREB web site, www.nohomebuyingtax. com, said that “a 100% increase in land transfer taxes is not the right solution to the city’s financial challenges.”

Speakers argued that services such as art programs, community centres, and the public library make the city a great place to live—and raise property values.

Desmond Cole, last year’s candidate for Ward 20, quoted the TREB web site’s address to councillors: “Get your houses in order so we have a decent city to live in without taxing a handful of tax payers.”

Cole said in response, “Renters like myself, who have to pay these punishing fees, will never be homeowners.”

Kat Cizek, Filmmaker-in-Residence at the National Film Board, spoke about homelessness: “6,500 beds are in service every night, and people still get turned away. The city has really inflated real estate prices, so to tax that seems fair.”

“Let’s tax the profiteers,” she said, a sentiment echoed by the last speaker, Adam Vaughn, councillor for Trinity- Spadina.

“That’s what real estate companies do. They follow artists into neighbourhood after neighbourhood. They capitalize on your city-building.” Vaughn told the audience that the real estate board called his office and threatened to make sure he lost the next election unless he changed his vote.

“We are not afraid,” he declared, urging Torontonians to attend the vote on Oct. 22. “Fill the chamber, so it’s the real estate board that’s going down in flame and the city that’s rising from the ashes.”

Spam’s not a sham?

People clicking through spam emails offering prescription drugs at crazy prices don’t usually think twice before clicking “delete.” But a U of T researcher has found that, a surprising amount of the time, these offers actually work.

Dr. Alejandro R. Jadad, professor of medicine and information studies at U of T, began researching the spam mail hawking human health products to online buyers last year with his former student, Peter Gernburd.

“The internet is really being crippled by spam. We discovered that 82 per cent of e-mails circulating through the world are spam,” said Jadad.

Dr. Jadad bravely clicked through—and documented—the segment of that 82 per cent made up of offers for prescription drugs such as Viagra, Valium, and penis-enlargement pills.

“I wanted to figure out how to handle spam myself, and I was shocked to realize that there was nothing published on the behaviour of spammers. So I said that if there’s nothing on that, I’m not going to wait for that to happen because spam has been around for 20 years or so, and it’s getting worse,” he said

Jadad and Gernburd then began their study by creating three unfiltered e-mail accounts to see how many spam messages they would receive in the month of November 2006.

“We collected over 4,000 e-mail messages from those three accounts from spam, and by spam we mean unsolicited, commercial offers,” said Dr. Jadad.

They found that one third of the spam was health-related.

Over a week-long period, they responded to every such ad that gave identifiable information about the seller.

Their spam contained 27 unique offers. Using a credit card and a post office box, they bought one product from each of these alleged internet hucksters.

One third of the products ordered resulted in deliveries to Jadad and Gernburd, who received five prescription drugs and four natural health products. Furthermore, the credit card was only billed for items Jadad actually received.

Jadad added that he does not know if the drugs he got online are authentic, warning that they could be useless or contain dangerous substances.

“The first thing we want to show is the magnitude of the issue,” said Jadad.

“People are putting themselves at risk. One out of four messages on the internet is health-related spam and if you order drugs, you get them one out three times. These [spammers] are gone in two weeks and can’t be held accountable if something goes wrong. It’s very important for people to know so that they can make an informed decision.”

With the first stage of their study complete, JAadad and Gernburd are currently working on determining the legitimacy of the drugs they received and looking at what agencies such as Health Canada, INTERPOL, and the RCMP are doing, or can do, to help the general public against potential, poorly understood dangers of spam.

TTC fares rise, but service falters

Last week, the TTC announced that it will raise its fares by approximately ten per cent. U of T students who buy metropasses subsidized by UTSU will be now be paying $96.00, up from $87.75. According to UTSU VP-External David Scrivener, the increased cost could limit the number of metropasses that UTSU can afford to buy on behalf of students. He also warned that the money UTSU uses to run the program will likely not buy enough metropasses to meet student demand, leaving U of T students to buy non-subsidized passes. The regular price of non- UTSU metropasses has been raised to $109.

So not only are students facing an increased fare, but they might also be forced into lengthy lineups around Hart House Circle to ensure they actually do get a transit pass. Imagine a conga line with no music, add wait times of approximately one hour in the Toronto winter, plus the chance of being turned away without a pass, and the net result will be a very agitated student body.

The fare raise is a result of a survey that was circulated by the TTC a few weeks ago, asking if Torontonians wanted a raise in fare. I have a confession to make: I voted in favour of a fare hike. Before you fire up your MacBook to write me a scathing piece of hate mail, let me explain my logic. I responded that I would prefer a raise, as long as service was not cut. That being said, what I actually meant is that expensive fares for transit are reasonable if and only if we receive service that is reliable and dependable.

The problem with an increased TTC fare is not so much the cost (although I am sure that it is a bitter pill for many students to swallow). The problem is that in spite of this increased fare, Torontonians will likely not be getting the service that is expected of a major city in North America. The service is simply not up to par, and the TTC has made no promises to elevate it now that we’ll be paying more.

Take for example the fact that the subway often stalls at Ossington, Keele or Eglington stations for about five minutes so that the TTC operators can switch between shifts. How hard could it possibly be for the next operator to wait on the subway platform to ensure that the transition from one operator to the next is as seamless as possible?

Or the fact that you can wait at a bus stop for 30 minutes in this city and watch five buses go past without picking up passengers, not because those buses are full, but because bus drivers are unwilling to raise their voices and ask people to move to the back so that others can be let on.

In short, U of T students and Torontonians should be disgusted with the present state of affairs. At this critical time, when efficient public transit could help slow down the processes of climate change and global warming, the TTC is sticking to a pathetic policy of providing the bare-minimum of service, and not even attempting quality service. Doing so while raising fares is utterly laughable. The current operation of the TTC is a disfavour to the city of Toronto that needs to be rectified.

Our money, their choices

U of T now has close to $5.7 billion in investments. That’s a significant sum of money when compared to other Canadian universities. Income from investments represents almost eight per cent of the school’s annual budget, which means that it is being re-invested into the school. These investments strongly impact our university experience. But is this money being invested responsibly? Ethically?

Finance-savvy students are quick to point out that U of T investing in controversial companies like Lockheed Martin or Shell doesn’t really profit them. We are not financing these companies or supporting them with our money because, more likely than not, we did not purchase our shares directly from the corporations but rather from other shareholders. This point is accurate, if not entirely relevant. We aren’t benefiting these companies. Rather, these companies are benefiting us, which is all the more reason to ensure that they are acting responsibly.

Responsible Investment (RI) is more about financial sustainability than it is about ulterior moral motivations. RI is about incorporating environmental, social and governance criteria into market assessments. While these factors are often undervalued, it seems to be an elementary deduction to claim that in the long term, the environmental sustainability of a host region will affect a multinational corporation’s business outcomes.

Same goes for political instability and gross violations of human rights. Consider the case of Talisman Energy, which recently saw a massive drop in share value despite quadrupling production. As a direct result of their operations in Sudan and the Sudanese government’s unethical actions, most Western countries began divesting in the country, and Talisman suffered. Another example, Total S.A., is frequently targeted with lawsuits for violating labour rights, and has drawn much negative publicity. Perception is everything in the stock market.

RI is quite different from Ethical Investment, which is an initiative more concerned with divestment from immoral corporations. RI, on the other hand uses reward-based guidelines to actively participate in appropriate shareholder coalitions, such as the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG) or the Carbon Disclosure Project. Through these organizations, RI focuses on investing in companies that have strong social, environmental, and political indicators of sustainable policies and profits.

Supporting something like RI has proven to be financially sound. The Domini Social Index, an RI investment index, has out-performed the mainstream S&P 500 for the last seventeen years. The Canadian Jantzi Social Index has out-performed or performed at par with the Toronto Stock Exchange since its inception in 2000. Prominent universities such as Harvard, Yale and Brown have all successfully pursued RI.

Despite a sense of morality not being the prime motivation behind RI, ultimately we relate to investment on a moral level. We must ask if we can morally reconcile ourselves to benefiting from war profiteers, environmental degraders, and human-rights violators through our academic institution. We at Investing in Integrity have decided that we cannot. We do not advocate undercutting investment profits, but following the precedence set by companies and institutions that have correctly identified RI as win/win.

Were I to invest my personal funds, I would not consider investing in Halliburton even though they are going to be quite profitable for winning most of the uncontested Iraq reconstruction contracts. I have the liberty of choosing a company that I feel will not only make me financially comfortable (although really, I’m aiming for rich), but one that also aligns with my moral and ethical stance on the world. In the free market, that’s my prerogative and the perfect example of that capitalist buzzword: “choice”.

But where is the choice for students whose money is being invested by the university? Nowhere does the university even acknowledge that staff, faculty, students or alumni have legitimate concerns about the state of U of T’s investments, much less does U of T provide a forum for discussing such matters.

Investing in Integrity is working to give everyone that voice and that choice. This institution shouldn’t just be investing in companies that are transparent and accountable, but should also be conducting its own investments in a transparent and accountable fashion. Responsible Investing is a concept sorely neglected by the university, and that is something we hope to correct in the near future.