Jack’s frosty on fees

The Varsity: So, the NDP is working with the Canadian Federation of Students to replace the defunct Millenium Scholarship program with needs-based grants.

Jack Layton: We’re working with CFS […] In particular, on a piece of legislation that we’ve developed in consultation with CFS and teachers’ organizations and a broad sweep of Canadians. It would have goals established in law: the goals of affordability, accessibility, universality, high quality, and independence so that we can stem the drift toward for-profit corporate definition of research mandates. […] It establishes an ongoing federal mandate and legal obligation a little like the Canada Health Act does for Medicare.

TV: Is there reasonable hope for a tuition freeze in Ontario or nationwide?

JL: I think there is reason to hope, but not under the Harper government. We’d have to cancel some of the corporate tax cuts that both Mr. Harper and Mr. Dion and the Liberals have been pushing. They’re pushing through a budget right now, supported by the Conservatives, that will lower corporate taxes very dramatically and not leave the kind of funds that would be needed to pay for [a fee freeze].

TV: How was it that CFS and student politicians got involved in this legislation?

JL: Well we have been following the calls by student groups and faculty organizations over the years, for something to replace [the legislation controlling] the federal transfer of funds. In fact, we sat down and took their ideas and molded those ideas into legislation that we could bring before the House of Commons.

TV: Is it a matter of lowering tuition, or increasing financial aid?

JL: Tuition levels and aid are both key. In fact I’d go further and say that issues like affordable student housing need to be addressed. […] Oftentimes the housing cost is as great or even greater, sometimes, than the tuition cost. […] But really it would have to be determined at the level of the provinces in conformity with the goals of the legislation.

For instance, in Manitoba, there’s been a nine-year freeze on tuition. So what they might do around issues like tuition could be quite different than a place like Nova Scotia or Ontario, where tuition fees are quite high

TV: Alright. what about ancillary fees? Ontario student reps say they’re illegal charges.

JL: The federal legislation would make the pursuit of affordable postsecondary education a matter of law, and that could create a situation that could actually strengthen the students’ capacity to fight back against any unfair charge, provided the federal government was putting the money in.

TV: To finish with a softer question, as the leader of a federal party, you’re obviously one of the country’s most influential politicians. So the question is, what role do student politics play in what you do?

JL: Well first of all it was instrumental in my getting involved in politics in the first place [laughs], and that was at the high school level. Working with my fellow students, we were able to…to make a few things happen—they weren’t momentous or anything, but they taught me a few things.

I felt all along, in my experience—both when I was in city council working with student councils on a whole series of issues […] or now as NDP leader—we get some of our best ideas from student groups. Our postsecondary education legislation is a case in point. And also, […] it’s important that students continually press all politicians including me, and put our feet to the fire. And I think CFS was very effective at doing that around the Millenium Scholarship and replacing that money with a needs-based approach.,

Now we’ve still got a long way to go, but that was a heck of an achievement.

Can We Talk About Something Else?

Stephen Colbert, the crown prince of self-satirizing Americana, recently took a stab below the belt of Canadian national consciousness by lampooning the turmoil surrounding the Hockey Night in Canada theme. In a segment for his Comedy Central show, the Colbert Report host declared his intention to purchase the song’s rights. The song would thus serve as exciting musical accompaniment for American activities “like punching beavers in the face.”

The two-minute Colbert Report sketch received a fair amount of media coverage in Canada, though the joke was not universally well-received. After all, Colbert was tackling a pretty sensitive subject.

More than a week has passed since the CBC’s announcement of its Hockey Night licensing woes and CTV’s subsequent purchase of the theme song’s rights, but lamentations over its loss have yet to subside.

Summer is upon us, and melodrama appears to be the flavour of the season.

One news piece, published over the weekend in the Edmonton Journal, went so far as to compare the iconic jingle’s appeal to the “primal” satisfaction gleaned from sex and drugs. Dopamine receptors in Canadian brains have formed a chemical dependency to the beloved tune, the article says.

Apparently, when there is nothing left to say about an exhausted news event, procuring scientific proof of its importance is a good save.

That the 40-year-old Hockey Night theme holds profound sentimental ties for legions of Canadian hockey fans is without question. Whether the CBC’s loss of the tune is truly a national catastrophe is open for debate.

It’s probably safe to say that more important things have happened.

Like Julie Couillard’s rack, for example.

The hubbub surrounding Maxime Bernier’s affair is entering its second month of heavy rotation, and it seems that the time for thoughtful analysis—if ever such a time existed—is well behind us. Now there is little left to discuss, save for the physical attributes of Bernier’s former flame. After all, aren’t they the only reason we still care?

The Bernier story can be summed up remarkably quickly: Foreign Affairs Minister foolishly leaves government documents at his girlfriend’s house; for his carelessness, loses job. The Bernier “scandal” is an entirely different animal, spawned from rhapsodizing rhetorical acrobatics and a loving attention to detail—specifically, the oft-cited details of Couillard’s former-model status and past biker boyfriends. A month of media scrutiny has transformed Couillard from an ordinary woman with unfortunate romantic inclinations into something resembling a Sweet Valley High villain.

It would be easy to dismiss Bernier’s political blunder as an act of recklessness on his part; but wryly blaming the downfall of the “best-dressed man on Parliament Hill” on his ex-girlfriend’s bosomy charms is much more satisfying. The plunging dress worn by Couillard at Bernier’s 2007 induction ceremony may soon require its own Wikipedia entry.

In a summer thus marked by natural disasters and political turmoil in other parts of the world, we can at least rest assured that, in Canada, the bulk of our drama is self-made.

In Praise of Bad Racial Stereotypes

Summer blockbuster season has only begun, but it already appears to be a bumper crop year for shock and appall. Hindu groups demand that Mike Myers’ Love Guru be banned from India because it is “potentially offensive” and “religiously insensitive.” In Russia, Communist Party members have deemed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull “anti-Soviet propaganda,” and want the Russian Culture Ministry to bar the film. On at least three separate occasions this summer, friends have told me they can’t wait to see Iron Man, “even though I hear it’s kind of racist.”

While trailers for the Love Guru appear too senseless to warrant banning the film, and Iron Man generated plenty of media attention upon its release (but only so much as we now expect of a Marvel movie), the return of Indiana Jones was a veritable event. Movie mag Empire outdid itself, printing a virtual shrine to the franchise, complete with a special Indiana Jones collector’s book of first-hand accounts from the film’s main creators. Indy made the front page, above-the-fold photo in an edition of La Presse and received a lengthy comment in The Independent on Sunday. It garnered a standing ovation at Cannes.

If you’ve watched any of the first three Indiana Jones films recently and have a passing understanding of post-colonial theory, you’ve likely noticed that the films scream for an Orientalist critique. Archeology professor Indiana Jones is an enlightened, rational skeptic who warns his students constantly about the dangers of folklore and myth, or, as he puts it, hocus pocus and superstition. Non-Western peoples are shown as being pre-Enlightenment. Indy is in a position of cultural superiority, sometimes reaching the point of godlike or savior status: a protagonist to be emulated by people of other cultures. In some cases, the imperial ramifications of this presentation are explicit. At the end of Temple of Doom, banned from India for its “racist portrayal of Indians and overt imperialistic tendencies,” the British army comes to the rescue. As the title of the third film puts it, Indiana Jones is on nothing less than a crusade—one in which he puts everyone else in a museum dedicated to his own glory. As is sometimes hinted at in the films, he has grave robber tendencies.

It might seem obvious that the Indiana Jones films stereotype other cultures. But while I have no problem ignoring films like Love Guru, I have trouble applying the same rule to Indy. I know several fans that feel the same way. Despite how uncomfortable the films’ representations of different nationalities make us, our attachment is difficult to break. That’s the unfortunate reality of living in a racist society: you inherit its effects.

In high school, my go-to movies when I was sick were Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Last Crusade and A Room with a View. For a long time, going through university, I hid this fact from my friends. If a film presents ethnic stereotypes or Eurocentrism and I enjoy the film, it must mean that I’m a deep-down racist as well—otherwise, why the repeated viewings? This isn’t a question I enjoy asking, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, it can’t be avoided. The Indiana Jones movies are racist, and I love Indiana Jones.

In November 2001, the Egyptian journalist Hani Shukrallah wrote an article about the franchise’s first film for the daily Al-Ahram. He called Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc “probably one of the most blatantly racist films ever produced by Hollywood, which is saying a lot, especially when the object of racism, as in this film, happens to be Arab.” It may be difficult to deem a film the most racist, but that doesn’t make the author wrong.

Shukrallah analyzed a scene in which Indy encounters a maniacal swordsman of Arab origin (we can tell he’s an Arab because he wears a turban) as a metaphor for the United States’ approach to the Middle East. If you’ve ever seen an action movie, you know the kind of drawn-out fight we’re in for as the crowd in the souq (the setting is stolen directly from A Thousand and One Nights) parts to display the skilled, black-clad threat. Spielberg breaks with tradition, though. Ever practical, a dysentery-ridden Indy shoots the guy dead, just like that. It’s an uncomfortable scene if you’re at all concerned about Western imperialism. It’s also 38th in the top 50 film gags as chosen by Empire. Here’s the shocker: despite himself, when Shukrallah watches this scene, he laughs. “I might as well admit to one of my shameful little secrets. I’ve enjoyed the Indiana Jones film series.”

The issue is not whether the films are Orientalist, but how we’re supposed to relate to them. For Shukrallah as for me, the issue of the Indy movies’ appeal relates to why Umberto Eco classified Raiders as a cult film. According to Eco, Casablanca is popular because it’s a pastiche of many films that came before it, and, in the viewer’s mind, the films that came after it as well. Watching the Indiana Jones movies, the same applies. The films are a jumble of highly-charged scenes, as Indy himself exemplifies familiar tropes in film history: he can be Bogey, he can be the fastest gun in the West, he can be Tintin all grown up. Spielberg and Lucas were inspired by images from the B-movies and pulp magazines of their youth. Viewing an Indiana Jones film allows you to turn off your filters. You can watch them again and again without having to worry about following a coherent narrative, enjoying the sensation of déja vu as one iconic image after another washes over you.

The use of such icons is what entrenches the Indiana Jones series into the censorship debate, but it’s also the source of their appeal. Before groups like the Russian Communist Party worry that Indiana Jones will burn anti-Soviet propaganda into the retinas of today’s youth, they should recognize why Cate Blanchett in a bowl cut butchering the Russian accent is entertaining in the first place.

Northern Exposure

Summer festival season is upon us, and it kicked off in spectacular fashion with 500 performers at 40 clubs under the banner of North By Northeast. While Toronto is blessed to have two annual large-scale music festivals, North By Northeast holds an advantage over Canadian Music Week by virtue of its sheer size, the number of awesome international acts, and beautiful weather (recent CMW experience involved trudging through two feet of freshly fallen snow).

For a festival of this size, timing is everything. NXNE ran like clockwork, with 40-minute sets that all started on the hour, ensuring that fans could stroll from venue to venue with relative ease.

This year’s story was the lack of legendary acts that are typically brought in by festival organizers. With the absence of big names like former festival headliners Dinosaur Jr. and the Buzzcocks, the onus was on music lovers to seek out and unearth exciting new bands which, in our experience, led to more successes than disappointments.

If you were able to get out and enjoy the great music and perfect weather, congratulations. If you couldn’t make it, shame on you, but here’s The Varsity’s comprehensive wrap up of what you missed. —RD


The Stills—Mod Club, 9 PM

After the massive success of their debut LP, 2003’s Logic Will Break Your Heart, it all went awry for The Stills. Lineup changes were the main culprit, as drummer and principal songwriter Dave Hamelin emerged from behind the kit to take over frontman duties on the band’s second album. This was an unequivocal disaster, because Hamelin lacks the voice, magnetism and charisma of Tim Fletcher, who has thankfully taken back the lead vocal on the new tracks that the band debuted at this Mod Club showcase. Fletcher scowled as the band roared through the majority of their old favourites, ditching the rootsy, piano-driven songs that made their second record such a flop. Armed with a massive new single, “Being Here,” that has all the bombast of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” the time could be right for a resurgence. Perhaps the new album, due in August on Arts & Crafts, will see the band live up to their early potential, but only time will tell. —RD

Rating: VVVv


Summerside—Dundas Square, 6 PM

The Hard Rock Café Main Stage at Dundas Square played host to an early evening set by Burlington’s Summerside, the latest in a seemingly endless string of suburban 905 cookie-cutter emo bands. It’s a genre so rife with mimicry that it’s difficult not to label every band “watered down Fall Out Boy wannabes” and stop there. Singer Grant Edwards’ attempt to mimic Patrick Stump’s soulful vocals turned into a falsetto that made him sound like he was battling a cold. Summerside has also dropped a member or two recently, chaining Edwards to his keyboard and thereby limiting his ability to be the kind of energetic frontman that is practically an emo prerequisite. Maybe it was just the sun in their eyes, but the only aspect of Summerside’s live show that distinguishes them from their contemporaries is their lack of energy. Did I mention they have pretty rad haircuts? —RD

Rating: Vv

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists with The Hospital Bombers—Mod Club, 8 PM

There was something nostalgic in the air on Thursday night at the Mod Club. Sounding like a grimy, less spastic Los Campesinos!, openers The Hospital Bombers (who copped their name from the epic Mountain Goats tune “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”) sang a bombastic guitar/violin tribute declaring, “Punk’s not dead.” When Ted Leo and the Pharmacists took the stage at a punctual eight o’clock, they opened with their lament to the death of ska entitled “Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone?” It all sounded wistful for the music of yesteryear, the irony further deepened by the excessive product placements for Converse sneakers scattered all over the venue (Joey Ramone is rolling in his grave). However, Ted Leo’s mad guitar slinging and corrosive vocals reignited hope in a crowd who were becoming increasingly ashamed of their black high-tops. Racing through material from his three recent stellar albums, Leo presented forty-five minutes of raw, wired energy that passed all too quickly. My only complaint was that he skipped his usual manic live version of “Ballad of a Sin Eater,” quite possibly the best song about Americans ever written. By the time Leo had the crowd singing along to “Me and Mia,” all was forgiven, and suddenly the rock n’ roll of the past seemed like nothing compared to what some musicians are producing in the present. —WBM

Rating: VVVVv

The Vibrants—El Mocambo Downstairs, 10 PM

The fact that The Vibrants were one of the few English bands brought in for the festival is an indicator that the NXNE programmers can’t be all that concerned with UK indie rock at the moment. Hailing from London, the band chart angular post-punk territory in the vein of Bloc Party and The Libertines. Yet it seemed that jet lag from the long flight was getting the band down, as they practically slept through the forgettable first half of their set. Signs of life sparked later on with “Shows You Up,” a track that kick-started a series of danceable jams that showcased the drumming of James Hayward. While front man Giles Farnham manages a few memorable hooks, The Vibrants’ overall package gives you the sense that they’re a band destined to placate concertgoers’ dancing shoes until the headliners finally make it out of the dressing room. —RD

Rating: VVv

Oholics—Silver Dollar (Thursday 11 PM, Friday 12 AM, Saturday 2 AM)

Toronto’s resident lunatic genius Dan Burke has done it again, importing Sweden’s Oholics to headline three consecutive nights of his NeXT shows at the Silver Dollar. Having entered Thursday’s show without grand expectations, Oholics made such an incredible impression on me that I made sure to turn up all three nights, and I was definitely not alone. They describe their sound as ‘psychedelic electrorock,’ which in practice seems to be a combination of the band’s two most obvious influences, early incarnations of Pink Floyd and Oasis. In fact, their debut single, an unreleased early Pink Floyd track written by Syd Barrett called “Lucy Leave,” was the only Oholics release available until Friday night when Davy Love’s local Magnificent Sevens label released a new 7-inch single. Juxtaposing the steely composure of the singer and guitarist with the androgynous, barefoot multi-instrumentalist who alternated between sitar, tambourine and electronic spacebox, Oholics put on the type of transcendent live show that inspired a demonstration of Dan Burke’s famed trance-like snake charmer dance. He grooved with good reason, as Oholics emerged from relative anonymity on this side of the Atlantic to become the most noteworthy band of the festival. The frenzy had grown to such an extent by Saturday night that it really didn’t come as a surprise when George Stroumboulopoulos leaned into my ear and yelled, “10,000 people are going to say they were here tonight! This band is going to be huge!” My thoughts exactly. —RD

Rating: VVVVV

Monotonix—Reverb, 11 PM

Talk about interactive! Tel Aviv-based Monotonix’s Thursday night set lasted just twenty-five minutes, but that was enough for the crowd to be wowed by their creative audacity. Shunning the stage entirely, the band initially set up their wares on the dance floor amidst the audience. Within minutes, singer Ami Shalev was flinging the drum set at crowd members (while percussionist Haggai Fershtman hardly missed a beat) and was dousing attendees with pilfered beer. Guitarist Yonatan Gat joined Shalev in scaling the Reverb’s pillars, jumping onto the bar, and collapsing onto onlookers as they continually lost their balance. Monotonix may also have played some music, but we can’t seem to remember—the complete break from expectation itself was enough to overwhelm our senses. —SW

Rating: VVVV


Dance Electric—Neutral, 9 PM

Considering NXNE’s indie focus, this year’s line-up featured some notably aging acts (Here’s looking at you, Chris Murphy). Enter the fresh-faced Mississaugan Dance Electric, with a flailing energy that puts their youth to good use. Despite a last-minute set time change due to the lateness of opening rockers Perla (who got lost en route from Iceland), the band managed a dynamic, powerful show. The quartet of twenty-somethings possesses an enviable chemistry and cohesiveness. Though the bandmates are off in different directions this year, hopefully they’ll maintain the bond—such fond friends can be hard to find. —SW

Rating: VVVv

Ok City Ok—Silver Dollar, 9 PM

This Tokyo outfit traveled a long way to play a one-off show in Toronto, and unfortunately, the 13-hour flight simply wasn’t worth it. Lead singer and Texas native Kay Grace and his Japanese backing band play an uninspired brand of classic rock that can’t even net them a record deal in Japan. Their set was a bore, from the forgettable songwriting, to their complete absence of charisma, to the contrived gimmicks like the thick-rimmed glasses with mini headlamps that they threw on during half of one song, for some inexplicable reason. Even the cute female bassist who thanked the audience for coming wasn’t enough to make up for the band’s attempt to throw everything at the wall and have nothing stick. —RD

Rating: V

Ari Shine—Hideout, 9 PM

With all the amazing live shows at NXNE, it’s inevitable that some acts aren’t going to get much attention. Like singer-songwriter Ari Shine, who played to a sparse crowd at Queen Street’s Hideout. Shine is not young, hip, or particularly innovative, but he’s not unlistenable either. With a strong voice and good range, his charismatic stage presence helped boost his predominantly lackluster material. If you’re going to arm yourself with only an acoustic guitar, it’s best to have some deep Elliott Smith-esque lyrics on your side and a compelling story to tell. Hopefully Shine can make it to that stage eventually, but the show’s strongest moment was his deadpan cover of Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man” (which was admittedly pretty awesome). When it came down to it, Shine himself was even willing to admit his shortcomings: the chorus of one song found him repeatedly telling a girl “you’re cooler than me.” Well okay dude, if you say so. —WBM

Rating: VV

Attack In Black—El Mocambo Downstairs, 11 PM

Rumours were flying when a mysterious “special guest” timeslot was placed up against loveable emo band Moneen at the El Mocambo main floor on Friday night. Despite the raging thunderstorm outside, curious concertgoers arrived in droves to find local indie darlings Attack in Black taking the stage downstairs. Best known for their 2007 radio hit “Young Leaves,” the band shied away from their popular tunes in favour of harder rock and country-influenced songs. Lead vocalist Daniel Romano expressed his exhilaration over Attack in Black’s ability to pull off a secret show for a packed house, a marked achievement for a relatively new band. Then again, they’re sharing the main stage at next month’s Edgefest with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Sam Roberts Band. At this point, stardom seems inevitable. —SW

Rating: VVVv

Moneen—El Mocambo Upstairs, 11 PM

Veteran Brampton rockers Moneen are purveyors of a mature kind of emo that flies over the heads of mere drunk teenagers. They mixed a slower selection of untitled new songs with old favourites with such stellar titles as “Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?” and “If Tragedy’s Appealing, Then Disaster’s an Addiction.” While it was a treat to see a band of Moneen’s stature play a club show, the raw power was simply too much. The microphone fuses were blown multiple times, and it was so hot that singer Kenny Bridges claimed he felt like he was singing underwater and drowning in the process. But the crowd’s enthusiasm made it all worthwhile—how often do you see kids crowd surfing upstairs at the Elmo? — RD

Rating: VVVv


Carina Round—Savannah Room 9 PM

No more than 30 spectators gathered at the tiny back stage of the Savannah Room, and were treated to a short yet intimate acoustic set by British singer-songwriter Carina Round, with some help on lead guitar from her collaborator and record producer Dan Burns. Round’s effortless charm was on full display, as she demanded a swig of an audience member’s beer, claiming that Canada makes her drink twelve times more than normal. Given the setting, her softer material was the strongest, including a haunting impromptu sing-along that featured Round harmonizing with the audience. It made for a soothing start to a hectic night. —RD

Rating: VVVv

The I Spies— El Mocambo Downstairs, 10 PM

Local post-punk outfit The I Spies roared through a selection of barnburners from their 2007 independently released LP, In the Night, including “Stop Screaming,” “Up All Night,” and the similarily-named title track. Decked out with the most fashionable of indie rock accessories (white sunglasses, gold blazers), they certainly looked the part of headliners. However, the Saturday night showcase didn’t catch them at the top of their game. With the recent addition of a live keyboardist to replicate the album’s layered piano and organ arrangements, effervescent singer Johnny Kay’s vocals were often lost in the mix, burying the band’s colossal hooks. —RD

Rating: VVv

Monotonix (Third Show)—Sneaky Dee’s, 12 AM

You’re standing on an amplifier on stage at Sneaky Dee’s trying not to get crushed by a tattooed monster pouring beers into the audience. Flashbulbs and cell phone cameras blind your eyes. A 100-pound Israeli punk rocker shimmies onto a hanging sprinkler and kicks his steel-toed boots in the air while a screaming crowd tries to keep him stable. To your left, a puffy-haired guitarist unleashes surf-punk licks while grandstanding on a speaker, then dives swan-like into the dirge. The audience paws at the Borat look-alike drummer like werewolves then—holy shit! —hoists him and his bass drum into the air as he ferociously pounds out an airborne solo. You’re worried your ears might be bleeding. You’re worried that the audience is going to torch your favourite Tex Mex restaurant to the ground with the end of a flaming joint. But with one last catlike jump, the lead singer falls to the ground and ends the set screeching on the ground. We embrace and I slap his sweaty back in congratulations. Does the music even matter when the antics are this surreal? —CL

Rating: VVVVV

Redd Kross—Lee’s Palace, 1 AM

While NXNE organizers didn’t bolster their lineup with heavy hitters past, Los Angeles’ Redd Kross have all the credibility of last year’s special guests Dinosaur Jr., with higher grooming standards. Dressed in Marc Jacobs suits that were swiftly removed, the band played off their signature power pop sludge with sugary nasal vocals by lead singer Jeff MacDonald, and a driving rhythm section. “Blow You A Kiss In The Wind” was good kitschy fun with theatrical hand gestures and an extended guitar solo, while “Follow The Leader” held more slacker charm than even Evan Dando could muster. The band played on much longer than their 40-minute restriction, relishing their rock-star status in front of a mid-aged crowd that delighted in every bouncy single. Some come to NXNE for youthful bands on the cusp of breaking out. Some come for old favorites. Redd Kross have been playing longer than high-schoolers Ruby Coast have been alive, and it shows in every soaring crescendo. —CL

Rating: VVV

Malaria parasite hindered by enzyme deficiency

Parasitic diseases have been a burden on human society since ancient times. Over the years, advancements in technology and medicine have provided ways to combat some of these ailments. However many parasitic diseases, like malaria, still have no cure or vaccine.

Malaria is an important parasitic player in human disease, causing more than one million deaths each year. While its impact in North America is minimal, it is an influential pathogenic agent in many parts of the world, particularly in areas close to the equator. This mosquito-transmitted disease successfully evades medical intervention due to a lack of an effective vaccine as well as its ability to develop drug resistance. Improved understanding of the pathogenesis of malaria, and how the body defends against the parasite, is critical for developing new drug targets. Fortunately, a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine has given scientists a new way of examining how malaria interacts with humans.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Kevin Kain, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, set out to determine whether a pyruvate kinase enzyme deficiency, identified in mice as protective against malaria, would also protect humans against the disease. In addition, the team wanted to determine the molecular basis of the protective effects of a shortage of the enzyme.

Pyruvate kinase is a key component of energy production in red blood cells. Some individuals inherit a deficiency in this enzyme which can lead to a type of anemia, known as nonspherocytic hemolytic anemia. This is significant, as sickle cell anemia has also been shown to provide resistance against malaria.

The researchers drew blood samples from individuals with the deficiency and compared them with the normal red blood cells of control subjects. When the blood samples were exposed to the malaria parasite, the sample from the pyruvate kinase of deficient individuals showed a protective effect against the replication of malaria in red blood cells. Furthermore, the researchers found that the protection granted by the deficiency was two-fold. It hindered parasite replication by causing an inherent defect in the red blood cells and encouraged the immune system to eradicate infected blood cells.

“Understanding how [mutations occurring in our genome] make us more resistant to malaria can help us design innovative new strategies to prevent or treat severe malaria in places such as sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr. Kain. “Our research shows that people who have an enzyme deficiency or those who carry the gene trait for this deficiency may be protected from severe and fatal malaria.”

The importance of these results suggests another mechanism by which humans may have evolved resistance to the malaria parasite in endemic regions. While a complete pyruvate kinase deficiency leads to poor overall health, a partial deficiency in this enzyme may offer some protection against malaria. This recently discovered role of kinase in malaria pathogenesis offers a novel mechanism by which humans have evolved self-preservation. The next step is to test whether there is an increase in mutant pyruvate kinase genes in regions where malaria is endemic. This could serve as a drug target, which has the potential to improve mortality statistics or, at the very least, lend itself to improving humanity’s knowledge base in the battle against malaria.

Certain carbon nanotubes may induce cancer-related lesions

Carbon nanotubes, described as “the wonder material of the 21st century” are found in a wide range of products. However, a recent publication in the journal Nature Nanotechnology suggests that certain forms of carbon nanotubes, if inhaled in large quantities, could be as much of a health hazard as asbestos.

Asbestos fibres have been shown to induce lesions within the lining of the lungs which eventually become mesothelioma, a lethal form of cancer. Specifically, the long, thin fibers of asbestos enter the lungs and penetrate deep within the tissue lining. This characteristic pattern makes it impossible for the body’s immune system to naturally clear the airway of this obstruction. Though the production and usage of asbestos has been severely reduced over the last 25 years, during the 1940s and 50s it was linked to one of the worst and most costly occupational health disasters in American history. Unlike asbestos, the potential hazards of carbon nanotubes are not fully understood.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Kenneth Donaldson of the University of Edinburgh, investigated whether certain lengths of carbon nanotubes could provoke a pathological response known to be a sign of mesothelioma. Four groups of mice were used for the study. Each group was injected in the abdomen with a different substance, either short nanotubes, long nanotubes, asbestos or small carbon clumps. Of the four divisions, the researchers found that only the long carbon nanotube and asbestos treatments induced lesions.

Professor Shana O. Kelley, who holds an appointment from the Faculty of Medicine, Biochemistry and Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, currently employs nanotechnology as part of her research and was not involved in the study. Dr. Kelley points to the fact that since this study injected “relatively large quantities of carbon nanotubes—this scenario bears little resemblance to any kind of environmental exposure that the average person could experience, it’s not reasonable to extrapolate the findings of this study to predict that carbon nanotubes currently pose any type of public health risk.” In particular, Dr. Kelley explains that “the comparison to asbestos, which is an inhalation hazard at much lower levels, is somewhat questionable. For example, most of the nanoscale biomedical sensors that are being developed [which use] carbon nanotubes as a platform will not be affected. [Alternatively], large-scale industrial applications may need to be pursued with adequate protection for workers handling the materials.”

Structurally, carbon nanotubes are atom-thick sheets of graphite formed into concentric cylinders. They can be found in lengths ranging from a few nanometers to upwards of one hundred thousand nanometers. However, their most miraculous characteristic is a dainty structure that allows them to be as light as a feather, while maintaining strength comparable to steel.

In recent years, a substantial amount of research has been aimed at developing carbon nanotubes for use in new drugs, disease identification models, and advanced electronics. Currently, nanotubes can be found in such commonplace items as tennis racquets and baseball bats. Yet since their discovery, scientists have feared that the small needle-shaped nanotubes might cause diseases similar to those brought about by asbestos fibers.

Given these current findings, this study may act as a wake-up call for the ways in which large-scale production and handling of these materials have been undertaken. In terms of the research community, Dr. Kelley says that there is a hope that granting agencies as a whole “will continue to devote much of their research funding [towards] new applications of nanotechnology, while still supporting studies that evaluate the safety of new materials.”

‘Fight Fees 14’ under unusual double investigation

The 14 student activists facing criminal charges stemming from a March 20 sit-in at Simcoe Hall received only partial disclosure at the hearing on June 3 where they were to receive information about the specific charges and the evidence the prosecution intends to pursue.

At a public information meeting held last month by the Committee for Just Education, accused student Ryan Hayes asserted his belief that some of the accusations against him and the others amount to slander.

“Charges [are] being laid through the public eye, which don’t show up in the criminal proceedings,” he said. “Which makes you wonder if there’s any basis for them whatsoever.”

The University of Toronto and Toronto police have accused the students of preventing senior administrators and staff from leaving their offices in Simcoe Hall during a student occupation of the building to demand an immediate meeting with U of T president David Naylor. The 14 and their supporters say the charges are trumped-up and should be dropped.

In a statement released shortly after the sit-in, Naylor said that “Police were shoved, hit, and otherwise assaulted,” that staff members were “pushed and shoved,” and that any of the protestors “who are not U of T students will be subject to trespass orders.”

Yet Michael Leitold, one of the lawyers for the defence, confirmed this week that no one has been charged with assault or the other alleged offenses. Instead, the 14 have been charged with forcible confinement, an offense in the Criminal Code which falls under the heading of “Kidnapping, Trafficking in Persons, Hostage Taking and Abduction.” It carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Other charges include that of “forcible detainer” (wrongfully holding property not one’s own), and mischief in relation to property, carrying maximum sentences of two and five years, respectively.

U of T administrators have refused to comment on the investigation and court proceedings, maintaining that the matter is in police hands. The list of complainants in the case includes individual administrators, though neither the police nor the defendants’ legal counsel are willing to disclose the administrators’ names. Police were unwilling to comment on details of their investigation. The 14 accused have claimed the university played an active role in the investigation, citing the fact that police initially contacted them through their official university email addresses.

The accused are Farrah Miranda and Liisa Schofield, campus organizers for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group; Michal Hay, former VP university affairs at UTSU; Hayes, who is president of ASSU; Edward Wong, an ASSU executive; APUS staffers Oriel Varga and Chris Ramsaroop; recent U of T graduate Noaman Ali; Farshad Azadian and Semra Eylul Sevi, members of the activist group Always Question; and students Luis Granados, Golta Shahidi, and Gabi Rodriguez. The accused also include one minor who cannot be named, and who has been additionally charged with uttering a death threat. The minor is undergoing a separate legal process at youth court.

Leitold has complained that prosecutors are taking longer than normal to disclose information about the cases being processed. “There’s an intake process and that can usually take between 30 to 60 days. We’re well past that now. In our view, disclosure should be promptly made available to the defence,” he said.

Thirteen students have been accused of breaking U of T’s Code of Student Conduct. The group, which includes most of the students facing criminal charges, all received letters informing them they were being investigated under the CSC.

The investigation process is kept confidential and could result in serious academic penalties.

“It’s my understanding that a letter that you’re being investigated [under the CSC] is a threat of expulsion,” said Sevi, acting as a spokesperson for herself and her co-accused. Sevi is among the students facing both criminal charges and a CSC inquiry.

A university-appointed investigator from the law firm Heenan Blaikie contacted each of the co-accused, asking to interview them individually. The students have not agreed to meet with the investigator. Sevi said she and the others were concerned that the CSC investigation would be questionably linked to court proceedings.

“We won’t deal with [the CSC investigation] because anything we say could be used in court,” she said. She also insisted that the CSC investigation be stopped, as the matter is currently in court.

The Code of Student Conduct states that if an alleged offense is already the subject of a criminal or civil proceedings, the university will not redundantly use the CSC process. According to the policy, the university can launch the secondary investigation if criminal proceedings “have not been taken or would not adequately protect the University’s interests and responsibilities.”

“It is a clear example of an attempt at the intimidation of student activists and the silencing of dissent,” said Wong, who is also the focus of ongoing court and CSC investigations.

“Since criminal charges, however unjustifiable, have already been laid against those facing CSC investigations, the CSC investigations should be dropped,” he said.

Euro Cup mania strikes Toronto

Croatia – Streetsville, Mississauga

At the corner of Eglinton and Mississauga Road, a wood crafted sign reads: “Welcome to Streetsville, the Village in the City of Mississauga.” This sign reflects the small-town charm of the neighbourhood that lies beyond it. But more importantly, it symbolizes the friendly nature of Streetsville’s dynamic Croatian community.

During the first week of the Euro Cup, Streetville’s Croatians were out in full force, welcoming locals and visitors alike to cheer on their home team. Many gathered to watch the games at the Croatian National Sports Club on Queen Street. Led by Nedo, affectionately known as “the best manager of Toronto Croatia and our favourite uncle,” the gang shared drinks and stories of Croatia’s success.

“We are very powerful in sports… There’s always somebody from such a small nation that comes up and performs for its country and for its people… Croatia is a small nation, but a nation of major domination,” said contractor and Sports Club regular Dalibor ‘Dallas’ Milicevic. And after their country dominated Euro favourite Germany with a 2-1 win on Thursday, moving to first place in Group B and securing a spot in the quarter-finals, Streetsville became a village of major celebration.

The community’s historical buildings and corner stores were virtually unrecognizable amidst the cheering fans, waving flags, and blaring horns. “It feels so good being in Streetsville right here on Canadian soil, lifting up the three colours [of the Croatian flag]: red, white, and blue and holding the checkers,” said super-fan Justin Škrinjar as he joined in on the excitement.

Further down the road at Father Kamber Croatian Parish Park, thousands of fans watched the games outdoors amongst the foliage, their friends, and those ubiquitous Croatian flags. Milicevic insisted that the park is always a lively and community oriented place. There is only one difference between the park’s weekly Sunday picnics and its current Euro celebrations: “Soccer brings out more checkers,” a proud Milicevic stated.

Look out for more checkers and that glorious red, white, and blue when the Euro 2008 quarter-finals commence on June 19.


Greece – The Danforth

Greece entered this year’s Euro Cup with high hopes of reliving their 2004 championship-stealing glory, and the Danforth was in full blue and white regalia in the first week of the games.

Almost all of the upscale restaurants and bars along the strip sported multiple plasma TVs. Patios were the best for patriotic fans, who stood up and belted out the national anthem at the beginning of each game. The best seats were at Café Frappe at Danforth and Fenwick. It didn’t seem to matter whether customers were noshing on anything especially Greek—most patrons chose from the regular array of beers or went with an iced coffee—as long as they were in the characteristic Greek blue.

As for the games, The Simpsons’ portrayal of international soccer as being five defense players passing the ball back and forth with the other team waiting for them to make a move proved a fairly accurate description of the strategy that won Greece the cup in 2004 It did wonders in 2004; less so this year. “Shoot it!” was the main cheer from exasperated fans. Comedic relief came with replays of coach Otto Rehhagel’s wild gesticulations in response to bad plays. But it was tragedy for the Heroes of Hellas. There was some optimism that the team could bring it back after their 2-0 loss to Sweden on Saturday, but it all came crashing down with Saturday’s game against Russia leaving Greece shut out and pointless after two losses. At five minutes to go in the second game the patio set were on their feet when Charisteas seemed to have tied the game, only to be dismayed when the goal was called offside.

One of the post-game long faces was that of spectator John Katsis, who found that when Greece stopped trying to repeat their plays from 2004 they put up a better fight. He chalked up the team’s poor performance to pressure. “Last time they had nothing to prove. This time they had the title of defending champions, so I guess there was a little more stress. Unfortunately, we can’t walk around with our head held high, not going out at this stage. There’s nothing we can do now except walk around and talk about the game for the next three months.”


Portugal – College & Ossington

The Portuguese kicked off their Euro 2008 campaign in style with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Turkey. Amongst the Portuguese fans spread out along College Street, the pre-match banter emphasized the shared optimism the community holds for their team’s chances this year. This time around, they may have a solid case.

There is a sense of mission for Portugal. The wound of falling to Greece in the Euro 2004 final has not healed. Judging by their opening game, the Portuguese team seems to be as hungry for success as their fans in Toronto.

Another reason for Portugal’s optimism is Cristiano Ronaldo. For those unfamiliar with the finer details of the game known here as ‘soccer,’ he could be described as a ‘phenom’. Having matured greatly from four years ago, he is set on a course to become World Player of the Year. The fans’ confidence may be matched by a team capable of finally winning their first major tournament.
Speaking to the hordes of Portuguese fans crammed inside bars along College brought home the importance of this competition. If Portugal wins, the party would last for weeks. The fans would forfeit their jobs and scrap their schedules, choosing to go wild.
The desperation to win is further heightened by the closeness of the Italian and Portuguese communities. Having conglomerated in roughly the same neighbourhood on arriving in Canada, Portuguese and Italian-Canadians cannot escape each other’s successes and failures in major soccer tournaments. Watching the Italian street parties after World Cup 2006 only added to this local rivalry. The Portuguese are desperate to step out from under the shadow of Italy, to wave the green and red flag in their own celebration party, and to banish the memory of their own Greek tragedy four years ago.

After witnessing the insanity outside Cervejeria at College and Ossington following Portugal’s victory in the opening game, rest assured that if Portugal wins a
major trophy, the party will be well worth attending. Forca Portugal!


Poland – Roncesvalles Village

Do you want to hear a good Polish joke? Here’s one for you. It takes place on Thursday, June 12th in the predominately Polish neighborhood of Roncesvalles.

A man walks into a Polish bar called Zagloba, during the Euro Cup match in which Poland leads Austria 1-0 in the second half. This is Poland’s first ever Euro, and since they lost their opening game to Germany, this could be their first ever win. In the bar, a crowd of ten Polish-speaking fans are gathered around the television to watch the game. The man grabs a nearby chair and admires the charming bar, adorned with a collection of Polish soccer memorabilia, a 3-D poster for Zywiec beer, old fashioned gaming machines, and a handsome poster of the New York City skyline at night, replete with the World Trade Center. The hushed comments of the fans turn into mumbles and then yells, as the game reaches its denouement and Poland narrowly misses their insurance goal. At the last minute of the match, a Polish player is called for a penalty in the box, and Austria scores on a free kick. Game over. 1-1 tie. Not a happy ending for the assembled crowd.

The man leaves the bar, and as he wanders south, he discovers another, more well-lit bar called The Dizzy, where fans are spilling out the door. One patron, a Polish soccer fan named Jools Chrosicki, says that the tying Austria goal was unavoidable. Poland had many chances to score in the second half, but failed to capitalize. Another well-spirited fan, a dead ringer for Philip Seymour Hoffman, pipes up that Chrosicki is “the only Polish guy on Roncesvalles that would admit it was a good call,” causing the bar to erupt in fits of laughter.

The man suddenly remembers reading that Poland is scheduled to co-host the 2012 Euro. However, Poland would only host if the facilities could be completed in time. At this point, Warsaw has no main soccer stadium, and is nowhere near ready to host. Chrosicki speculates that Spain, or Ireland/Wales will take Poland’s place.

The man boards a streetcar and at the next stop another streetcar passenger, apropos of nothing, announces to the driver, “This is a terrible day. Poland lost, or tied or something.” This is the real joke of the day.


Italy – College Street

Hours before Italy’s 2008 Euro Cup debut, wearing the same clothes and commingling at the same bars as during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Italian soccer fanatics descended upon College Street hoping for the same result: another major championship victory.

Draped in Italian flags and jerseys, fans joined their beloved Azzurri in singing the Italian national anthem prior to their match versus the Netherlands.

Italian super-fan Giuseppe Rauti, wearing customized Crocs, a wig bearing the Italian colours, a pair of pants made from an Italian flag and a classic Azzurri jersey—a costume also donned when he grabbed the front page of the Toronto Star after Italy’s World Cup win—exemplified the passion that has taken hold of Toronto’s soccer-hungry Italian community.

“I wait every four years and I wait every two years. This is my favourite time of year. My favourite everything,” explained Rauti.

But what a difference 45 minutes can make. After a less than stellar half by the Azzurri, plagued with questionable coaching decisions, a controversial goal in favour of the Netherlands and an unshakable performance by Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, the enthusiasm of the Italian supporters was crushed.

Conversations turned to the lack of leadership on the Italian side, brought about by the loss of captain and 2006 FIFA Player of the Year Fabio Cannavaro and Italy’s inability to control an incredibly strong Dutch team.

“They’re just playing bad. All and all they’re playing bad,” said Joe Martino, 21.

As time began to wind down in the second half and raindrops began to fall, Italian fans began trickling out onto College Street in disbelief. Their flags now used as shelter against the rain, but not the pain of an embarrassing loss.

Things did not improve in their second game versus Romania. A late goal and a late save by the Italians leading to a 1-1 tie have now set up a final group match showdown versus long time rivals France.

With a rematch of the 2006 World Cup Final looming and the possibility of an early exit from the tournament,supporter Alfonso Querlia managed to express the anguish felt by Italian fans around the city:

“The support is obviously awesome, the love is there, but it’s just not happening on the field right now. That’s pretty much all there is to say.”