In the News

UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 12 | Dec. 6, 2007

Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in November 2007

Compiled by Basil Waugh

Controversial Process Saps Trees’ Strength, Prof Says

New York Times interviewed UBC wood science professor Shawn Mansfield about a controversial genetic engineering process that seeks to turn trees into new energy sources.
Scientists are attempting to reduce the amount of lignin, a chemical compound that interferes with efforts to turn the tree’s cellulose into biofuels. But the procedure can also sap trees of their strength because lignin provides structural stiffness and resistance to pests.

Mansfield is skeptical of the process. “Nature would have selected for lower-lignin trees if they could survive,” he said.

2010 Olympics Vulnerable to Sex Crimes

UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin warns that the 2010 Winter Olympics will make Vancouver a prime target for the sex-slave market.

“The Olympics give traffickers an easy cover story, and border guards aren’t sufficiently trained to identify these people,” said Perrin, founder of the Future Group, an international organization that battles human trafficking and child sex tourism.

Perrin, who said criminals see male sports tourists as sex tourists, also featured prominently in media coverage of two Canadians facing charges of child sex crimes in Thailand, including Agence France Presse, Globe and Mail, National Post, Vancouver Sun, CTV and CBC TV.

Perrin said Canada is “arguably amongst the worst countries at preventing pedophiles from exploiting children abroad.”

Facebook Bullies: Friend or foe?

UBC computer scientist Richard Rosenberg offered advice in a Globe and Mail article to Facebook users who garner friend requests from childhood tormentors.

“You have to take into account that you really don’t know this person at all,” Rosenberg said, “and it was not a pleasant relationship when you did.”

While he doesn’t dismiss the notion that some bullies may be reaching out for forgiveness, Rosenberg thinks that not responding should be the general rule of thumb.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

New York Times reported on a UBC study on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This is the U.S. legislation that was enacted in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals to improve the accuracy and reliability of corporate financial disclosures.

This objective may have been at least partly achieved, but Joy Begley and Qiang Cheng of the Sauder School of Business have found that the act may also have a serious side effect: It appears to have made Wall Street analysts less able to forecast corporate earnings.