The Star tours TO’s cheap textbook market

The Toronto Star has reported on 10 copy shops near U of T and Ryerson University who photocopy textbooks for students in violation of copyright laws. While the Star suggested that high tuition costs are the reason students might head to copy shops instead of bookstores to get their required reading, the article went a long way towards incriminating the employees of the offending copy shops.

Published Saturday, Jan. 10, the Star’s investigation found 10 copy shops near U of T and Ryerson who were willing to photocopy entire textbooks, or at least assist in binding the pages together.

Students quoted in the article called photocopying textbooks “stealing” from publishers, but argued that they had no other choice due to financial reasons. New textbooks, as any student knows, can be a major expense, sometimes exceeding the $1,300 estimated by the Star.

Publishers claim that they lose $75 million annually in revenue to piracy, amounting to a full quarter of their business. The Star did not report any independent figures.

NFL Playoff Review: Duel in the Desert

The Arizona Cardinals have been underdogs all season. Even their most die-hard fans were unsure how far the team could make it in the playoffs. Atlanta and Carolina’s strengths fit Arizona’s weaknesses, yet the Cardinals managed to defeat them both. Now they’re one win away from going to the Super Bowl, facing the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game.

Arizona will have home field advantage in Sunday’s game. The team already boasts one playoff win at the University of Phoenix stadium, beating Atlanta at home two weeks ago. Arizona fans are more excited than they’ve ever been, meaning the Eagles will have to contend with an extraordinarily loud crowd. On top of that, Philadelphia will be on the road, a prospect no team relishes, especially when it comes with a two hour time difference.

In their last meeting, Philadelphia beat Arizona 48-20. However, if this year’s playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that the regular season means very little anymore. Arizona is a different team now, playing a completely different, better type of football

The Cardinals’ regular season wins were mostly due to quarterback Kurt Warner and their explosive offense, namely wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Their defence was unreliable and inconsistent. But when they hit the post-season, they somehow found a way to make everything click. In last weekend’s game against Carolina they were able to stop the run—something they struggled with during the regular season—shutting down one of the league’s best running back tandems. They also racked up five interceptions.

In order for Arizona to move on to the Super Bowl, DT Darnell Dockett, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, FS Antrel Rolle, and the rest of the defense are going to have to continue to come up big. They’ll need to put pressure on Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. If he’s forced to throw when he doesn’t want to, they’ll be ready to pick him off. Andy Reid likes to call more pass plays than run plays, but the Eagles will likely try and get the ball to RB Brian Westbrook, as they’ve had post-season success with the ball in his hands. However, if Philadelphia can get the running game going, they won’t be forced to throw the ball downfield. That could be bad for Arizona, as the Eagles would be able to bypass the strongest part of the Cardinals’ defense.

Philadelphia boasts a tough, blitz-happy defense that will have their sights set on Warner. Thus far, the Cardinals’ offensive line has kept the pressure off of their quarterback. However, if they can’t stand up against FS Brian Dawkins and the Eagles’ defense, it will put Arizona in a potentially ruinous position. They’ll need to avoid third-and-long situations, as that’s when the Eagles are guaranteed to bring the blitz. They’ll also need to get the ball deep, forcing Philadelphia to abandon the blitz in order to drop players back into pass coverage. Arizona will then have the opportunity to run the ball, handing it off to veteran RB Edgerrin James.

Things to watch for: Keep your eyes on Fitzgerald. Look for him to run deep crossing routes, which Arizona used successfully against the Panthers multiple times last week. On defense, watch for Dockett, and his uncanny ability to get up field to defend the run and put pressure on the opposing quarterback. Look for McNabb to put a few drives together that involve short-yardage passing—they’re tailor-made for his arm strength and accuracy, as proven in last weekend against the Giants’ defense. Expect CB Asante Samuel to make some great plays, as he’s known for getting critical interceptions in big games.

Final word: This championship match-up will likely hinge on whether or not Arizona’s defense can stop the run. If they play as well as they did against Carolina, they’ll make the trip to Tampa Bay.

Pick: Arizona Cardinals

Cold Front

U of T’s favourite hangout spot in the spanking new $105-million Terrence Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Research is feeling the weather in its fourth winter. Falling ice cracked several panes of glass of the sixth floor atrium (right) in the CCBR. The building’s ground floor garden and staircases have been temporarily closed as a result. In other woes, the building’s iconic—but lately withering—bamboo forest (right) had to be cut down, leaving nothing but stumps. According to business manager Renee Brost, the bamboo won’t be replanted before the spring.

NFL Playoff Review: Grudge Match of the Year

Let it be said clearly: the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens don’t like each other. Although their rivalry is fairly new—starting in 1996 and featuring only 27 games between them—it has proven to be ferocious. With questionable hits, controversial calls, and nail biting finishes (and that was only this season), games between these two teams rarely disappoint.

To call it a surprising post-season would be a serious understatement. Huge upsets by the Eagles and Ravens had a similar theme: in today’s NFL, defence wins championships. Although Baltimore gave up almost 400 yards to the formidable Titan offence, they were able to recover two fumbles and an interception to keep them in the game. Sunday night’s match against the Steelers will be decided by interceptions and tackles rather than game-breaking runs and deep throws.

Considering this match features the Steelers’ number one-ranked defence against the number two Ravens, stopping the run will be an integral part of each team’s strategy. Overplaying the run is a potential problem for Baltimore, as tight end Heath Miller and wide receiver Hines Ward have been adept at finding open ground in the secondary all season-long. It is probable that coach Mike Tomlin will try to push back the Baltimore secondary using draw plays on first down.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put any doubts to rest with his brilliant, error-free performance against the Chargers, finishing 17 for 26 with one touchdown and no interceptions. There is no question that he is back in full form after a concussion sustained in Week 17 against the Browns.

Expectations were low for the Ravens offence at the start of the year. With the team pinning their hopes on rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the results have been nothing short of extraordinary, capped by a huge win against the heavily-favoured Titans last week. Flacco has been steady all season, not letting pressure from the pass rush interrupt his throwing rhythm.

In order to succeed, the Baltimore linebackers will have to contain Willie Parker. The Chargers were unable to corral him, leading to a 146-yard game, helped in no small part by a resurgent Pittsburgh offensive line that opened up running lanes all over the field. But Ray Lewis’ earth-shattering, helmet-popping hit on fullback Ahmard Hall in the game against the Titans should silence those who question if he still has what it takes to lead the Raven’s defence to a conference title.

Led by pro-bowl safety and force of nature Ed Reed, Baltimore’s secondary will have to keep a careful eye on Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward: the former will stretch the pass coverage, allowing the latter to gain key yards with well timed slants and hooks.

James Harrison has been a notable storyline in Pittsburgh this season. As the only undrafted player to win the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year Award, he has successfully filled the gap left by the departure of Joey Porter. Considering the effectiveness of both Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, Baltimore may have to pass the ball more than usual, relying on Flacco’s steady, powerful arm to move the chains.

Troy Polamalu could be a non-factor in this game. Although he has graced the highlight reel a few times this season with spectacular fingertip interceptions, he is playing with an injured calf that will greatly reduce his closing speed and ability to cover the Ravens’ receivers. Derrick Mason may be able to exploit this weakness and beat the Pittsburgh corners in one-on-one situations. He has been Flacco’s go-to receiver all year, so expect him to get several balls thrown in his direction.

Things to watch for: Turnovers. If the Pittsburgh offensive line can give Roethlisberger time in the pocket, this should minimize the chances of him throwing untimely interceptions when he scrambles. Baltimore’s only chance of earning a trip to the Superbowl is if their offence maintains possession of the ball and puts together consistent drives. There should be more than a few points off turnovers, which could likely decide the outcome.

Final word: The Steelers have momentum in their favour, having won both match-ups during the regular season. However, there is one caveat—both wins were decided by less than five points. Expect a similarly close game that will probably be decided in the fourth quarter. The key stat will be turnovers: the team that coughs up the ball fewer times should win the game.

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers

A healthy approach to reform

When Tom Daschle sat down for a lengthy Senate confirmation hearing last Thursday, the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services made a strong case for restructuring and rejuvenating the U.S. healthcare system. Often called the “health czar” of the President-elect’s cabinet, Daschle has been assigned to do what some consider impossible: provide universal healthcare to all Americans.

Daschle is all too familiar with the kind of ideological backlash that can ensue from the mere suggestion of universal coverage. The Clinton proposal of 1994, which raised eyebrows among libertarians and conservatives, suffered a humiliating blow from heavy Republican opposition, Democratic infighting, and the health insurance industry. The right-wing opposition campaign, with its clever television ads, helped to foment public distrust of government-led programs. The Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 was the final nail in the coffin. Now, with a Democratic majority and a public pleading for reform, Daschle has the formidable task of delivering Obama’s campaign promises, despite the country’s staggering $10 trillion deficit.

The key to successfully carrying out legislation is garnering early support for the initiative. This will require a grassroots-level strategy, similar to the kind of broad, cooperative social networks Obama established during his presidential run. The corporate backroom-style planning that Clinton’s Task Force engaged in suggested exclusion and secrecy, unlike Obama’s visionary campaign. Already, the president-elect’s team has used YouTube webcasts featuring Daschle and online blog posts to spur public discourse.

Taking the plan to the masses will require a sophisticated spokesperson. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent and potential Surgeon General, has the right combination of medical expertise, charm, and name recognition to revitalize the post and act as chief promoter for the administration’s plans. One main component of Obama’s campaign healthcare platform was an emphasis on disease prevention prior to treatment. Dr. Gupta has been quite outspoken on issues relating to food safety, obesity, and health education.

Support will also need to come from within Washington. Daschle must seek steady input from Democratic lawmakers if he hopes to craft legislation effectively and pass it through swiftly. Last Thursday he outlined a thorough plan to fix the system, pledging to broaden healthcare access to rural areas, increase Medicare and Medicaid payments, and ease the cost of prescription drugs and insurance premiums, thus reining in wild profiteering from an insurance industry drunk with power. The toughest obstacle will come from Congressional Republicans, who have already begun to voice concern over the long-term costs. Republicans—guided by an anti-government philosophy, except where finance is concerned—have warned of ballooning budgets and a deepening recession if healthcare spending goes too far.

But the last thing Obama’s administration needs to do right now is curb spending. It is imperative that his proposed economic stimulus package go hand in hand with healthcare reform. With a lack of basic coverage comes increased illness, poorer general health, and shortened life spans—all of which threaten economic stability and workforce productivity. If the administration takes advantage of its solid majority and rejects discredited conservative dogma, Americans’ desire for comprehensive healthcare may finally be fulfilled.

Blues got served

The second half of the OUA volleyball season officially got underway last weekend.

However, digesting the results from the women’s Varsity Blues volleyball team makes one wonder whether the players were still shaking off leftover turkey from the holidays. It appeared that the team needed to be “bump”-started.

The team went into the winter break on a hot streak, winning four of their past five matches. But over the weekend, the Blues only managed to take one set total from its games versus Brock and Ottawa.

Friday night, the Blues took on the Brock Badgers, a team Toronto has owned over the years. But this time, the Badgers bit back playing extremely good all-around volleyball, handing the Blues their first loss in the new year, 3-1 (25-10, 19-25, 25-17, 25-16).

While pleased her team won the second set after blown out in the opening, Blues head coach Kristine Drakich was disappointed Toronto didn’t make Brock fight more for the win.

“It wasn’t a good day for us all around. I don’t think there was anything that went really well for us,” said Coach Drakich. “But we have to be able to pull out a game or two. This should have went to five, I don’t know if we would have won as Brock was playing great, but […] we should have started stronger [and] made a better match out of it.”

Drakich points to the executional errors in her team’s servers and outside hitters as the biggest culprits. The Blues finished with 26 attack errors and six serving errors, compared to just 13 and four for the Badgers.

“It made it difficult for us to run an offence […] and everyone on the floor seemed to be worried about what was behind them, the last play, and not just what’s right there in front of them,” she said.

Drakich wants her players to keep playing their game regardless of what it says on the scoreboard, instead of letting errors dictate their play.

“We played very timid, we seemed to play defensively […] Part of what we do well is attack strongly. We want to keep doing that whether it’s serving or blocking.”

The Blues were missing the OUA’s 12th leading scorer in Dianne Burrows due to injury, but Drakich wasn’t about to bail her players out with excuses.

“I have never seen some players play as poorly as they did here, so I’d like to think that it’s really just that we weren’t prepared to play,” she said. “And we should be able to play with any lineup out there.”

Drakich’s words clearly had not sunk in on Sunday as the team played in Ottawa against the Gee Gees, and were quickly disposed of in three straight sets (25-21, 25-17, 25-21).

Brock (8-4) currently sits at a surprising third in the OUA’s West Division, within striking distance of Western (11-1) and McMaster (10-2) for first. Ottawa’s (10-3) victory over Toronto (6-6) helped them keep up their fight for the top spot in the East Division. That perch, usually occupied by the Varsity Blues over the past years, is now kept warm by the undefeated York Lions (11-0).

The Lions take on the Blues tonight at 6 p.m. in the Athletic Centre Sports Gym. A win by the Blues over their hated rivals would not only snap the Lions’ perfect record, but surely would restore any confidence lost from the past weekend.

I prorogued Parliament, and all I got was this lousy budget

When the Conservatives won an expanded government just three months ago, they probably felt entitled to as fiscally conservative a budget as they liked. Not so.

The scene in the House on the 27th will be positively surreal: a largely sedated Cabinet listening to a respected colleague—a former minister in Mike Harris’ provincial government—announce program after program with the bow of stimulus on top. In his wildest dreams, Paul Martin wouldn’t have spent this much uncollected taxpayer money. Stephen Harper may have to glare at certain Tories to get them to applaud their own budget.

The NDP reaction will be even more confounding. Jack Layton has spent his entire career trying to get a budget like this passed—he even expropriated Ralph Goodale’s finance department to try and write one himself. Yet he has all but publicly declared that the NDP will oppose the budget. Even with his reputation as the king of fake outrage and contrived anger, this will be a tough sell.

Since the Bloc’s economic policies (inasmuch as they exist) could never be implemented even theoretically except as part of a coalition, their response is predictable. The Bloc will want more for Quebec, as they have with every single budget since their inception. Whether the amount is $2 billion, or $5 billion, or $10 billion, one thing is certain: it will not be enough to appease the separatists, ou sovereigntists if you insist, because Parliament Hill’s resident whiners-in-chief need work to do.

And as for the Liberals, I’m sure that some of them bristle at the notion of supporting any Harper budget after what they perceive as a hatchet job on their former leader and his coalition. Yet no one forced Dion, a noted federalist, to create an (almost certainly abandoned) alliance, allowing separatists to “take control of the administration of the federal state” and “create a mechanism of permanent consultation empowering the Bloc Quebecois on every question of importance, notably concerning the adoption of the federal budget.” Fortunately given the current state of the Liberal party, any outrage over a budget that could easily be their own will be muted.

But as Andrew Coyne noted in Maclean’s, there is one thing Harper could do to make all this fake outrage very, very real. The new budget will contain billions of dollars for industries that desperately need it—industries that employ tens of thousands of small-l liberal voters in swing ridings in Southern Ontario. Industries that didn’t need the money during the election campaign, but need it now. This will be the mother of all election budgets: spending will be spread over a huge swath of Canadian society. As a partisan Conservative, I think Harper should include the party funding cuts that set the whole coalition gong show in motion a month ago. Imagine the Liberal Party trying to fight an election over its own finances, while the constituencies that elected Liberals starve for the federal dollars promised to them in the defeated budget.

You win one, you lose one

Both the men’s volleyball university teams from Waterloo and Laurier invaded U of T’s Sports Gym this past weekend, leaving the Blues in exactly the same position statistically where they were over a month ago before the winter break.

On Friday, the Blues rang in the New Year and second half of the OUA volleyball season by hosting and defeating the Waterloo Warriors 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-21, 31-29). On Saturday, the Laurier Golden Hawks got revenge for their Waterloo cousins, defeating the Blues 3-1 (10-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-18).

Friday’s match also marked the return of Blues starting setter Deagan McDonald, who was been sidelined since breaking his foot on Halloween against Queen’s.

The match had it all: close nail biting sets sandwiching a blowout set to a dramatic finale in the fourth where set and match points were thrown around like tequila at a Mexican wedding.

In the end, the Blues prevailed. Head coach Ed Drakich couldn’t contain his excitement after the dramatic high scoring fourth.

“Pretty exciting eh? The level of play was quite good. I think we’re going in the right direction,” said Drakich.

Pleased about McDonald’s triumphant return and immediate impact to his lineup, Drakich couldn’t help but award him the prestigious Player of the Game honours.

“Deagan’s our quarterback and we only had him for one of our first 10 matches. So we played nine matches without our starting setter and he really makes a difference.”

Despite the appearance of blowing the Warriors out in the second set, 25-16, the Blues were actually down 12-7 early on and looked like they might fold and take the easy way out. But instead they did the exact opposite, going on an amazing 18-4 run to end the set and tilt the momentum in the Blues’ favour.

“We were up in the first and then we found the tank. But it was a combination of Waterloo really going for it and we were tentative and they just sort of steamrolled us at the end of the first set,” said Drakich. “In the second set we were getting blown out, but the guys started to settle down.”

Drakich admitted what impressed him the most about the match was the calm and maturity his players displayed during the wild fourth set.

“The guys, they stayed consistent, they stayed level-headed and they fought and I’m really proud,” said Drakich. “That was a really nice win […] Waterloo is a very strong team and our guys showed a lot of heart today, a lot of fight.”

Another player who put a smile on Drakich’s face were left side hitter, Jessi Lelliott, who stepped in to play libero.

“He was making some digs that were just unbelievable. He was a difference maker for us,” said Drakich.

Steve Kung showed why he leads the OUA in points per game with 21 kills on the match. Drakich also showered praise on freshman Kyle Konietzny.

“I give him a lot of credit, he’s a freshman and he got put in a very difficult situation and he came out and passed some really tough balls and fought really hard,” he said.

On Saturday it was a freshman from Laurier who put the hurt on Toronto.

After looking like they were still on a high from the Waterloo win, the Blues quickly mopped up the Golden Hawks 25-10 in the first set.

Then the Samuel Schachter show began.

The rookie from Richmond Hill reeled off an amazing eight aces on the match, including three straight in the second set that left even refs laughing in disbelief. Even Schachter’s serves that didn’t drop for aces were plenty difficult to pass, resulting in several free balls for Laurier.

Schachter also added 11 kills and eight digs. Another young star for Laurier, Greg Houston helped supplement Schachter’s attack with a team-leading 13 kills and the only other ace.

For the Blues, Steve Kung was his usual serial killer self, finishing with match highs in kills (18) and digs (10).

The Blues (5-7) will now face off against their striking rivals from York (2-10). Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday night.