April 17, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 14

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed


    The Chronicle’s biweekly column In the News offers a digest of commentary and quotations by a few of the University faculty members, students and alumni who have been headlining the news in recent weeks. Chicago faculty members are some of the most frequently quoted experts, so space allows publishing references to only selected examples. To read many of the full newspaper articles mentioned in this column, visit the In the News column at the University News Office Web site: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    Bruce Lincoln, the Caroline E. Haskell Professor in the Divinity School, and Tony Wilkinson, Associate Professor in the Oriental Institute, were both quoted in a story published Monday, April 7 in the Chicago Tribune. The story described the sandstorms that have been taking place in Iraq, the mettle required by U.S. troops in the region to withstand them, and the visual, metaphorical power they carry. Religious symbolism and biblical references to sandstorms show up in several belief systems, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the story reported. Lincoln, whose latest book is Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion After September 11, said the storms have a ‘wrath-of-God’ feel to them. “Sandstorms seem to humble human ambition,” he added. Wilkinson, who has mapped archaeological excavation sites in Iraq and Syria, described them as “extreme” events. “You see this great cloud of dust coming toward you. Everything gets filled with dust, every crevice. Silt and clay particles get into everything, all parts of engines. It’s quite traumatic.”

    Locke Bowman, Lecturer in and Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the Law School, and a defense attorney for plaintiffs in some of the police torture cases that are tied to former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, was quoted in a Thursday, April 10 Chicago Tribune article. Cook County Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel Jr. ruled that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office will supervise the cases, rather than Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, who in private practice once defended Burge. Bowman said of Biebel’s ruling: “Bit by bit we continue to recognize there are deep problems with the taint Jon Burge has cast on the criminal justice system in Cook County. It’s a new, if modest, step in continuing the saga of getting to the bottom of this horrific set of circumstances.”

    Raghuram Rajan, the Joseph L. Gidwitz Professor of Finance in the Graduate School of Business, and Luigi Zingales, the Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance in the Graduate School of Business, were guests on WGN Radio’s Extension 720 program Thursday, April 3. Rajan and Zingales discussed their new book, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists.

    Lawrence Grossman, Professor in Geophysical Sciences and the College, was interviewed for a story published by Astronomy.com about a recent asteroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart, showering dozens of meteorites across an area in south suburban Chicago. Grossman, who lives in that area, heard the event as it woke him from sleep. Grossman, his colleague Steven Simon, Senior Research Associate in Geophysical Sciences, and scientists from NASA’s SETI Institute and the University of Western Ontario are all eager to study the fragments that fell to Earth Thursday, March 27. The fragments that fell are of a common type of meteorite called a chondrite. Grossman and Simon’s analysis will determine exactly what kind of chondrite the fragments are and what kind of asteroid they came from, the story reported. The Saturday, March 29 Chicago Tribune also carried a story about the event.

    Sleep researcher Eve Van Cauter, Professor in Medicine, described in a Wednesday, April 2 Chicago Sun-Times article the potential health risks to soldiers currently fighting in Iraq, who also are being deprived of the amount of sleep considered necessary for the human body to safeguard against disease and disorders. According to Van Cauter, physiological changes within the human body, occurring as a result of sleep loss, mimic many of the changes that occur with aging. “We suspect that chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset [of aging], but could also increase the severity of ailments like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory loss that are normally hallmarks of old age,” she said.

    McGuire Gibson, Professor in the Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and Stephen Harvey, Assistant Professor in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and the College, explained in a Friday, April 4 Chronicle of Higher Education story how the war in Iraq has halted all or most archaeological research in the Middle East region because of tensions in many of Iraq’s neighboring nations. Harvey said he gave up a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and canceled his work at Abydos, an archaeological field site in southern Egypt. “I do have concerns about being in an area two hours from an airport and with very little infrastructure and not very much news coming in,” explained Harvey about the risks of working in that area at this time.

    The discovery by Neal Shubin, Chairman and Professor of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, and a team of other paleontologists from the University and Peking University in Beijing, China, was the subject of a story that appeared in the Thursday, April 3 Chicago Sun-Times. Shubin and his colleagues discovered 161-million-year-old salamander fossils of the species, Chunerpeton tianyiensis, one of the earliest known salamanders. The find will help answer some of the most fundamental questions in evolution.

    Jean Maclean Snyder, a Lecturer in the MacArthur Justice Center at the Law School, was quoted in a front-page Chicago Tribune story published Saturday, April 5. The story reported on a recent ruling by Cook County’s Chief Criminal Court judge to launch a grand jury investigation into the treatment of inmates at Cook County Jail. The probe has come after reports of regular abuse against inmates at the jail and following allegations that guards had beaten five inmates in July 2000. “I don’t have any reason to believe his [Judge Paul Biebel Jr.’s] decision to appoint a grand jury is anything but a decision that reflects the seriousness of these cases,” said Snyder, who has investigated the brutality claims and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the five inmates in the July 2000 incident.

    Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law & Ethics in the Law School, was interviewed for an article published Monday, March 31, in The Nation. Judge Richard Posner, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, and a Senior Lecturer in the Law School, also was cited in the article. The Nation reported on the practice of torture and asked legal, human rights and ethics experts whether torture is ever justifiable–especially as prevention against catastrophic terrorist attacks. Posner was cited in the article as having recently written in The New Republic: “If the stakes are high enough, torture is permissible. No one who doubts that this is the case should be in a position of responsibility.” Nussbaum’s opinion, while offered with less certainty than Posner’s, saw the use of torture as potentially necessary. “I don’t think any sensible moral position would deny that there might be some imaginable situations in which torture [of a particular individual] is justified,” she had written in an e-mail to The Nation.

    Marvin Zonis, Professor Emeritus of Business Administration in the Graduate School of Business, has regularly appeared as a guest expert on WBBM-TV newscasts, covering the war in Iraq. His most recent appearances were on the Wednesday, April 9 and Thursday, April 10 broadcasts. Zonis also discussed on CNBC-TV Wednesday, April 2, Iran’s position on obtaining nuclear technology and the United States’ foreign policy regarding Iran’s nuclear armament plans.