UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 2 | Feb. 2, 2006
In the News
Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in January 2006
Compiled by Basil Waugh
Peace on Earth? Increasingly, Yes
In an op ed carried by Scripps Howard and picked up by international dailies such as the Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, and the Hong Kong Standard, the UBC Human Security Centre's Andrew Mack, argues that, contrary to public opinion, nearly all forms of political violence have decreased since the end of the Cold War.
Author of the 2005 Human Security Report, the first comprehensive study of global violence, Mack writes: “By 2003, there were 40 percent fewer conflicts than in 1992. The deadliest conflicts -- those with 1,000 or more battle-deaths -- fell by some 80 percent. The number of genocides and other mass slaughters of civilians also dropped by 80 percent, while core human rights abuses have declined in five out of six regions of the developing world since the mid-1990s. International terrorism is the only type of political violence that has increased. Although the death toll has jumped sharply over the past three years, terrorists kill only a fraction of the number who die in wars."
Mack's findings cited in year-end editorials in dozens of national and international dailies, including the Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Detroit Free Press, Pittsburgh Morning News, Lebanon Monday Morning, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and the Ottawa Citizen.
The hunt for the next Planet Earth
UBC astronomer Jaymie Matthews' hunt for Earth-like planets was reported by Reuters news wire and picked up by dozens of national and international media outlets, including CNN, ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, India's New Kerala, Malaysia Star, Global News, and the Toronto Star.
Matthews, chief scientist of Canada's MOST satellite, "staked out" a star 160 light years away, known to possess a Jupiter-sized planet. Astronomers suspected a smaller Earth-sized planet might also be orbiting close to the same star; however, by measuring subtle variations in light levels, MOST was able to rule out earth-like planets in the area.
Speaking at the American Astronomical Society in Washington, Matthews said, "This is the first time that humans are capable of searching for planets around the size of the earth, around another star. We've looked at this star and said, sorry, you have to go back to the drawing board. Those theories won't hold up."
Matthews says the Canadian telescope will make another intensive search for an Earth-sized planet this fall. "We're going to sweep outwards from the star and get to the ‘Goldilocks zone’ – where it's not too hot or too cold," he said.
Matthew's efforts are cited by Discovery Magazine, which ranked the “hunt for another Earth" number 57 in its review of the top 100 science stories of 2005.
Pine beetle fallout worries U.S. logging industry
According to an Associated Press story carried by dozens of U.S. papers including the L.A. Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Northwest loggers are worried British Columbia may be forced to harvest as much as 21 million acres of forests to stop the mountain pine beetle, flooding the market and driving down timber prices.
The story cites a 2005 report by UBC's Forest Resources Management Department, which warns that warm winters and an abundance of pine are helping the insects flourish in B.C. and the Inland Northwest, and UBC forest entomologist John McLean, who says B.C. has little choice but to salvage what it can.
"In this case, we have dead timber that is degrading as it sits on the stump," says McLean. "A big effort is under way to access as much as can be handled by the system while at the same time, plant trees on the cutover lands to ensure that the new crop is established."
The return gap: Predicting mutual fund performance
A story carried by the New York Times and France's International Herald Tribune, cites research by UBC finance prof. Marcin Kacperczyk as "a big step forward in helping investors to reliably choose mutual funds that are likely to outperform the market.
Kacperczyk and his colleagues focused on what they called the "return gap": the difference between a fund's actual returns and what it would have earned had it stuck with its most recently listed holdings. "This approach," Kacperczyk says, "works well because it evaluates fund performance more precisely than the customary practice of comparing it with a market benchmark."
Analyzing more than 2,500 domestic equity mutual funds from 1984 through 2003, the study found that, on average, funds with consistently positive return gaps were much better bets for future performance than those that were consistently negative, regardless of the frequency of portfolio disclosures.
UBC Prof. finds unexpectedly high levels of STDs in Arctic
CanWest News Service reported the recent findings of UBC nursing prof. Audrey Steenbeek, who found high levels of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia the Canadian Arctic.
The story, which ran in the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen and the Victoria Times Colonist, cited Steekbeek's study as most detailed look yet at sexual health and infections in an Inuit community.
Steenbeek's study found that more than 15% of the individuals tested -- mainly teenagers and young women, many of whom were sexually active before 15 -- were infected with chlamydia.