Cops on the prowl for peeping Tom

Residents of the area around St. George St. and Bloor West have been warned by Toronto police to keep vigilant after reports came in of a man peeping into women’s homes during the evening and early morning hours. Police sent out a safety alert last week, asking for the public’s assistance identifying the man, described as 5’6” to 5’10” with a thin build, wearing a dark bomber jacket and toque.

It is not clear whether any of the peeping Tom incidents took place on U of T’s downtown campus, but Justin Fisher, assistant to the dean of Woodsworth College—whose new residence tower sits at the intersection highlighted by police— said he could not recall any similar incidents in the six months since he took on his position.

“The measures that we have in place, we’re very confident in those, and in the policies we have in place too,” said Fisher. He cited such security measures as a 24-hour front desk, guest sign-in policy, and nightly rounds made by staff.

“I just think being in downtown Toronto and how we have an such open campus where anyone from public or students are able to access our buildings, that’s why it’s important that we take security seriously and that we’re always on top of it.” In September, two female students at York university were sexually assaulted by men who snuck into their dorm. GTA universities condemned the assault and responded by reaffirming their commitment to student security. Later that month, two editors of Ryerson’s newspaper the Eyeopener tested the security at two of the university’s dorms and found they could sneak in easily. No such incidents have been reported at U of T.

Inventing the aqualung

Scuba diving generates millions of dollars in revenue each year. The word “scuba” is an acronym for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus,” created by the U.S. Navy as a way to describe the equipment used by military divers. It is fitting that the modern name for the popular underwater breathing equipment finds its origins with the military. For centuries before scuba gear was used for recreation or research, the ability to remain underwater for long periods of time was most desired for military purposes. Renaissance strategists fantasized about the ability to work on the underside of submerged vessels for long periods of time or, more importantly, being able to ambush enemies completely undetected.

Some early inventors, like 16th century Italian mathematician Niccolo Tartaglia, envisioned a waterproof bell or hourglass inside which a person could stay underwater for as long as the air encased remained breathable. Others envisioned air tubes that connected the diver to the surface. Even Leonardo da Vinci had a working model: in the 15th century, he sketched a diving suit that afforded the wearer the ability to descend or ascend by deflating or inflating a “wine skin to be used to contain the breath.” While many of these inventions never made it past the drawing board, they are quite impressive considering the lack of dependable scientific knowledge at the time.

A commercially viable diving suit was not produced until the 19th century. French engineers Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze teamed up to produce the “Aerophore,” a suit that incorporated a reservoir of compressed air for emergencies. The reservoir gave the diver freedom to move around, for a small amount of time, unfettered underwater. The success of Rouqauyrol and Denayrouze’s compressed air reservoir inspired others to try and improve on the design. In 1878, Henry Fleuss designed the first self-contained oxygen apparatus. In his invention, oxygen was contained in a small copper cylinder that could be rebreathed, as the system used a chemical to absorb exhaled carbon dioxide. Furthermore, Fleuss’ apparatus did not produce air bubbles, making it ideal for military frogmen, as they would not be given away at the surface while using it.

As technology advanced, cylinders that could hold very high pressures were finally produced. This innovation, along with an observation made by French navy Commandant Yves Le Prieur, combined to create the first incarnation of modern scuba diving equipment.

In 1912, Le Prieur watched as Maurice Fernez remained underwater through the aid of a surface pump. Inspired by Fernez’s display, Le Prieur wanted to find a way to do the same thing underwater. Fourteen years later, the two men teamed up and produced the lightweight breathing apparatus that Jacques Cousteau would later refine and popularize. By attaching a mouthpiece to the kind of metal cylinder used to inflate pneumatic tires, Le Prieur was able to create a selfcontained breathing apparatus that was light and easy to use. However, the air flowed continuously out of the cylinders, giving the diver a mere 12 minutes underwater.

In 1943, Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagan co-invented the first open-circuit scuba diving equipment, which they called the “aqualung.” It solved the problem of continuous airflow with the “demand valve,” which releases air only upon inhalation. Their invention was soon in widespread use. Cousteau is credited with popularizing modern diving and pioneering underwater filming, neither of which would have been possible without his invention. Though modern scuba diving equipment is fairly similar to the aqualung, it has undergone some changes. One of the most notable is Ted Eldred’s invention of a single-hose open-circuit scuba set, as opposed to the twin-hose design of Cousteau and Gagan. Scientists, vacationers, and militaries now use scuba equipment, assisting divers in a much broader range of functions than those originally conceived by Renaissance thinkers.

Strike and lockout tensions stew at STU

Picketing continues at Fredericton’s St. Thomas’ University, where administrators and faculty are negotiating amidst a simultaneous strike and lockout. In an unprecedented move, the liberal arts university locked out its faculty in anticipation of a strike two weeks ago, a move they said was an effort to reduce the negative impact of a strike on students. The undergraduate school’s 2,800 students have seen the start of their term indefinitely postponed. Faculty will meet Monday to decide whether or not to continue their protest.

On Friday, the St. Thomas’ University Students’ Union held a march through campus to protest the delays. They included a detour off campus so that faculty, barred from entry to the university itself, could participate.

“Students are the ones who are directly affected,” said Alicia Del Frate, STUSU’s VP administration. “[But] we don’t really have an avenue to speak. [The march] shows that students are united.”

Throughout the labour dispute, many students have declared their support for the administration, who they said are more conscious of the burden an ever-changing calendar puts on students.

“As president of St. Thomas’, it would be irresponsible of me to allow delays in reaching an agreement that would penalize our students and compromise future accessibility,” said STU president Michael Higgins in an open letter.

The Faculty Association of the University of St. Thomas’ accused the administration of using distorting fi- nancial projections to exaggerate the cost of FAUST’s demands and scare students away from supporting them. Dawn Morgan, a professor and FAUST representative, went as far as saying the administration had deliberately misled and manipulated students to weaken FAUST’s bargaining position.

Del Frate highlighted the difficulties surrounding the uncertain start date for this term. Students living nearby have gone home to wait for classes to start, but those from out-of-province or outside the country have had to repeatedly reschedule travel plans. The first day of classes was rescheduled twice before being postponed indefinitely.

Though they decide when the semester begins, neither the administration nor faculty are affected in the same way as students, according to Del Frate.

Morgan pushed for solidarity between students and FAUST. “Faculty and students are natural allies. The university is the universe in which students and faculty come together, that’s the whole purpose,” she said.

The administration and FAUST are negotiating salary and workspace issues for part-time, full-time, and temporary faculty. The latter group is of special concern.

Morgan explained that temporary faculty, many of whom have just left graduate school, tend to get excessive workloads. Temporary faculty often teach four classes a semester, while full-time professors only teach two or three. “It is absolutely overwhelming,” said Morgan. “We just don’t think that’s equitable.”

FAUST has won some concessions from the administration, and will decide tomorrow whether or not to continue picketing. Morgan said she was particularly happy about gains for part-time faculty, including health benefits and more office space. “That’s a really good agreement and we’re very happy with that,” she said.

Paying for our eco-sins: the story behind carbon offsets

“Marge, I agree with you—in theory. In theory, communism works. In theory,” said Homer Simpson in response to his wife’s concerns over owning an elephant. Replacing the word “communism” with “carbon offsets” might be appropriate considering a recent turn of events.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating green marketing and advertising claims in a series of hearings. One of the topics under review is carbon offsets, a $54-million (USD) business in the United States alone last year.

As part of a growing “green trend,” many companies are featuring environmental incentives for consumers who choose their brand. One doesn’t have to search hard to find examples of this practice. Air Canada started a carbon offset program last May, in conjunction with a non-profit group called Zerofootprint. After typing in your destination and point of origin, the Zerofootprint website calculates the money you owe in order to cover the carbon dioxide emissions you are responsible for creating by flying. Other large corporations, such as Dell, Volkswagen, and General Electric offer optional environmental programs that range from investing in tree planting to reward points that earn the customer carbon offsets.

The FTC’s guidelines for environmental advertising haven’t been updated since 1998. Coupled with worries over where the money put into these programs actually goes, it is easy to see why some people are concerned.

On top of all this, the effectiveness of some carbon fighting strategies has been called into question. The number- one reason planting trees has been advocated as a tool for fighting climate change is the fact that they act as carbon sinks. Through photosynthesis, trees are able to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and use it to create leaves, branches, and other structures. Conceivably, extra trees will absorb the excess carbon dioxide that human activity puts into the atmosphere, provided they live long enough. A typical tree in the tropics is estimated to be able to absorb 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year. However, trees in slower growing temperate forests absorb much less.

Compared to other carbon reduction strategies, planting trees is extremely cost effective. The International Panel on Climate Change notes that the price for this strategy can be as low as $0.10 to $20 USD per metric ton of carbon dioxide sequestered. In contrast to the usually steep costs of developing alternative energy sources, planting carbon sinks is an attractive and easily implemented solution. Whether or not it is an effective one remains to be seen.

Ken Caldeira, a researcher with the Carnegie Institution, denounces this “feel-good” practice of purchasing offsets, recommending that more effective strategies be pursued, such as stopping ecosystem destruction and changing the way we use energy.

English environmentalist George Monbiot famously compared the carbon offset system to that of buying indulgences in the Middle Ages. For a certain fee, Catholics could buy forgiveness for sins, easing their guilty consciences through monetary donations to the church. Rather than changing consumption habits, everyday consumers can use carbon offsets in much the same way.

Admittedly, it is difficult to gauge how effective climate change strategies are, and here is where the problem lies. Aware of the potential for abusing the system, many organizations that deal with carbon offsets are beginning to use independent groups to monitor their efforts. A formal certification system is needed and hopefully the FTC can get the ball rolling on this initiative.

Carbon offsets are a positive step towards fighting climate change, and the speed with which consumers and corporations have adopted the practice is encouraging. But accountability is needed to make sure carbon offsets are not money thrown out the window. The theory behind carbon offsets is a good one. Let’s hope the experiment proves they are effective.

Students push York to dump Burma stocks

York students are lobbying their university to let its money speak for democracy in Burma. The student-led York Coalition for Responsible Investment is urging the university to review its Burma-related investments. In support of the boycott of the Burmese military regime, YCRI has launched a petition calling on the school to divest itself of these stocks.

The group’s petition, available online, cites human rights abuses reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and includes a pro-boycott statement from the All-Burmese Monks’ Alliance. Last September, Burma’s military dictators weathered a storm of public and official condemnation of their regime and its violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

“The campaign is really just beginning, consisting mainly of the petition and investment research at the moment,” said Simon Granovsky-Larsen, a student organizer of YCRI. “But we plan to eventually bring motions to the York Board of Governors addressing some or all of the companies active in Burma.”

YCRI found York University investments totaling over $1 billion in companies active in Burma, including Total, Chevron, Petrochina, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Hyundai, LG, and Samsung.

Their petition is a part of the ongoing effort to reform the ways universities invest. YCRI wants ethical standards, decision-making structure, voting methods, and the role of students in investment processes to be made explicit.

This isn’t the first time the students have criticized the university for involvement with Burma: York students led a five-year boycott of Pepsi products in the mid ’90s, following the soft drink maker’s opening of a plant in Burma.

MP Larry Bagnell, the chairman of the group Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Burma, just returned from the Thai-Burmese border. In a public letter, he reported on his experience with various groups, including deserters from the regime’s army, monks, and ex-political prisoners:

“I learned that, though it may appear to the international community that the worst of the violence is over in Burma, atrocities in the ethnic states including rape, forced displacement, forced labour and extrajudicial killings are going on daily,” he wrote. “The people I met expressed support for Canada’s humanitarian aid to Burma and increased economic sanctions against the regime.”

McGill set a precedent with a similar campaign in 2006. In response to that program, the Montreal school’s Board of Governors adopted an ethical investment proposal.
The petition can be viewed online at: http://www.petitiononline.com/YUburma/ petition.html.

Katz’s crew catch Gee Gees

With RMC and Queen’s set to visit the Athletic Centre this weekend, the Blues will be looking to build on momentum from an impressive 71-65 victory over the Ottawa Gee Gees. RMC and Queen’s are two teams going in opposite directions. While RMC currently sits last in the OUA East with an 0-12 record, Queen’s (8-4) is in the upper tier of the division, and challenging Toronto (9-3) for third.

“We played both of them last weekend.” said Blues centre Nick Snow. “This year RMC hasn’t been that strong as in the past, but Queen’s is a pretty good team, they’re right behind us, so we expect another good game.”

The Blues hope there is no letdown following tough weekend match ups against the Carleton Raven’s (ranked number one in Canada) and the Ottawa Gee-Gees, second in the OUA East division. Against the Carleton Ravens, the Blues lost 86-70 in a game that was dominated by poor officiating. The Ravens were allowed to go to the free throw line an astonishing 42 times, compared to only 24 for the Blues. It was a disappointing game, but there was no shame in losing to the number one team in all of Canada. Nick Magalas lead the Blues with 28 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s early foul trouble. Starters Nick Snow, Paul Sergautis, and Mike DeGiorgio fouled out of the game with more than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Blues were also badly out-rebounded in this game 38-16.

In Saturday’s match against Ottawa, Toronto faired much better. Ottawa (10-2) is currently second in the OUA East division, just ahead of Toronto (9-3). The who’s who of Canadian basketball were in attendance for this meeting of division rivals. Members of Toronto Raptors brass, including head coach Sam Mitchell and assistant Jay Triano, took in Saturday’s game on a rare night off for the pro-team.

“I think you’re seeing two of the better teams in Canada right now,” said Triano the former coach of the Canadian national team. “It’s a hard fought battle and both teams play very good defense, they run good sets, both very well coached.” Triano, who worked with Blues head coach Mike Katz on the Canadian team, was duly impressed by the talented home grown players from both squads: “There are a lot of guys that could play on the national team. If they keep working hard, they have a chance” said Triano.

It was an important game for the Blues, not the least because of who was in attendance. Under this scrutiny Toronto struggled early in the game, missing four of their first five shots. After a couple of early foul calls (one of them a debatable blocking foul on Paul Sergautis), coach Mike Katz brought in sub Nick Magalas with four minutes left in the first quarter, providing a spark.

Ottawa’s team was clearly more athletic than the Blues, with a few well-executed windmill dunks during warm up. But the Blues would stick to their game plan throughout, and it eventually paid off. With the first quarter winding down and the Blues trailing 11-4, Rob Paris had a block on Gees Gees forward Jacob Gibson-Bascombe under the basket, then promptly hit a three pointer on offense to cut into Ottawa’s lead, and get the Blues faithful in attendance, back into the game.

Ottawa’s defenders made it difficult for the Blues to get much going inside, so they had to rely on the three pointer early in the first half, hitting 10 of them. Rob Paris had three three-pointers in the first half to keep the team within striking distance, but sat out for most of the second as the team stayed with Nick Magalas at the off guard. The Blues entered the half trailing only 36-33.

In the second half, the Blues shooters got hot and began to pour it on against the Gee Gees. Mike DeGiorgio, who finished the game with 14 points was a major contributor. He hit a three at the seven minute point of the third quarter, to give the Blues a 40-38 lead.

With the score tied at 45, and inbounding the ball from behind the basket, DeGiorgio took a Nick Snow screen and hit a difficult fall-away jumper from the top of the key, giving the Blues the narrow two-point lead once again.

The emotional turning point occurred with three minutes left in the third quarter, when Paul Sergautis got fouled hard, but not before completing a fine three-point play. The Blues took a 50-45 lead, and didn’t look back.

In the fourth quarter, Ahmed Nazmi helped put away the game with a couple of three-pointers down the stretch. Nazmi who finished with a team-high 22 points, hit a three pointer with nine minutes left in the game to give the Blues the 57-44 lead. Our team’s stellar defence held Ottawa, who had been averaging 77 points a game, to only 65 points.

Trailing 68-63 with less than two minutes left to play, the Gee Gees tried to put on the full court pressure, but a Nazmi three pointer brought the score to 70-63. “I think in the second half we came out and really got into them.” said fi rst year forward Andrew Wasik following the win. “We focused on defending them, and just working as hard as we can because we play a similar style of game to them, so rebounding and defense, and will is important.”

It was a great win, and having the Raptors coaches there seemed to provide an emotional lift for the Blues. The usually glib Mike Katz was even more speechless after the game, only managing to comment: “We knew that we had to have a good second half, and I was really happy that we won the game. If Sam Mitchell doesn’t show up today, we don’t win that game.”

Who’s laughing now?

The Writers Guild of America strike is entering its 10th week today, and while it might warm some hearts to know that a new American Gladiators is back in the making, most television viewers are beginning to tire of the onslaught of game shows and reality programming hijacking TV airtime. Adding insult to couch potato injury, last week it was announced that this year’s Golden Globes will be cancelled. This means no red carpet and no fashion magazine “best and worst of” lists in the weeks to follow. This strike is beginning to hinder all sorts of guilty pleasures.

Still, it’s hard not to side with the writers. Now that they’re gone, we’re realizing just how badly television needs them. Well-written shows like The Office and Big Love—two of the many programs whose production has been halted by the strike—are what keeps the ‘boob’ out of boob tube. More pressingly, this is a U.S. presidential election year. How on earth are we supposed to follow the campaign without Jon Stewart’s whipsmart coverage on The Daily Show to fill us in on all the dirty politics? New episodes have returned, but with Stewart doing all his own writing, they are of lesser quality.

On the other hand, Canadian-produced television shows remain unaffected by the WGA strike. Perhaps an ongoing strike would allow for a push of Canadian programming into a broader North American spotlight. Can’t you just picture families across America rushing home to see the latest episode of Corner Gas? Then again, maybe not.

There is a major downside to the strike for Canadian entertainers. Our Hollywood North economy is beginning to suffer tremendous losses from the cessation of American television productions. In British Columbia alone, more than a dozen series that had been filming in the province prior to the strike have closed operations. The two that remain are expected to follow suit within the month.

The strike is a nuisance, but fair is fair. This isn’t the first time American writers have gone on strike. Back in 1988, the WGA ended its five-month strike with an ill-forged deal that wound up costing them enormous home video and DVD residuals in the following years. Now, the writers’ concerns surround new media, specifically a share of internet-based media profits, which don’t add up to much today, but are projected to be worth billions in the future. Though it may seem mind-boggling, production companies that rely so heavily on the talent of their writers for enormous profits have long been reluctant to grant these writers a fair piece of the pie.

Hopefully the studio execs are paying close attention to the low-grade pap that’s being churned out on their networks, and realize that pretty soon we’re going to get tired of watching reruns of House, turn off the TV and, I don’t know, pick up a book or something.

Just compensation for writers is the obvious, ethical choice for the entertainment industry, even if it means viewers have to endure more of the same dismal programming until an agreement can be made. The writers have already been shortchanged. This strike is about making sure it doesn’t keep happening.

Blues rise in East

After a tremendous first half of the season, which saw the team win the first five games and put up a record of 7-3 overall, the Varsity Blues women’s basketball team must have been sad to see 2007 come and pass. The team can take solace that while the Gregorian calendar has already brought us into 2008, in the Chinese lunar calendar, the year of the pig, which officially began on Feb. 18, 2007, will not change until Feb. 6, 2008. So far the year of the pig has been nothing short of a blue-ribbon year for these “Beasts of the East.” Coach Michelle Belanger praised her team’s overall consistency this season, following an 89-48 route of the Ottawa Gee- Gees over the weekend.

“The players should get all the credit for our success this year. They’ve matured a lot, and are finally playing up to their ability. They’re taking things a little more seriously than they have in the past and it shows. They really want to win!”

The Blues have not only been consistent this season, but dominant. In wins they are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 75-58 (17 points per game.) First in the East in overall scoring per game, our team trails only high-powered Laurentian and Western in the OUA.

“We try to run a lot of back-screens, and play a motion offense,” said coach Belanger after Saturday’s blowout against Ottawa. “I think we did a good job today of scoring in transition and taking advantage of our speed. When we play in the half court, we want to move the ball really quickly, set some screens, then look inside to our post players. We did that today.”

Against the Ottawa Gee Gees, quick ball movement resulted in excellent shooting percentages and mismatches down low. Toronto finished the night shooting 46.4 per cent from the field, while going to the line 29 times compared to just 14 attempts for their opponents. Four Toronto players scored in double figures on Saturday: forward Laila Bellony had ten points and seven rebounds for the Blues, while Christine Cho and Allaine Hutton had 13 apiece. Any of these players could have easily grabbed Player of the Night honors, which eventually went to second-year guard Jessica Hiew who scored a season-high 16 points. Asked why this edition of the Blues has been so successful thus far, Hiew said, “I think it comes with playing a lot together. We’re starting to get to know each other’s games, what everyone can do, and that has helped a lot.”

The Blues haven’t only gotten familiar with their teammates in the New Year, but will be renewing hostilities with old foes the RMC Paladins and Queen’s Golden Gaels. The teams will be squaring off this Friday and Saturday at the Athletic Centre. Toronto opened 2008 with two victories on the road against them, and Hiew expects a dog fight this time around: “RMC and Queen’s are probably looking for revenge ’cause we beat them just last weekend. Especially Queen’s, because that was quite a close game. RMC we beat by quite a lot, but they’ll be looking to improve this time around as well.”

With another pair of victories, the Blues could creep closer to the top of the standings. Their current record, following a sweep of Ottawa and Carleton, stands at 11-3, good for second overall in the East behind the York Lions. The Blues are on pace statistically to win 17 games this season, their best total since 2003 when the team went 18-4. All coach Belanger wants to see is a hard-working team that learns from their past successes and failures.

“I just hope that we get better after every game we play, and I think that we have improved a lot in some areas. The goal is to put it all together by February so that we’ll have the total package.” The year of the pig isn’t quite over yet, and neither is the Varsity Blues season, so it’s possible that the 2007/2008 campaign will indeed be their year.