May 29, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 17

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    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.

    Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and Sociology, was interviewed for stories that ran on WBBM-TV and WMAQ-TV in Chicago on the issue of human organs being sold for transplantation. Becker advanced the idea at a recent conference at the University's Gleacher Center, where transplant doctors, medical ethicists and economists gathered to discuss financial incentives for organ donors. The Chicago Sun-Times published a story on the conference in its Sunday, May 18 edition, in which David Cronin, Assistant Professor of Transplantation in Surgery, was quoted. "You care for patients who have life-threatening disease, and you see them day in and day out. And you know there is a therapy out there–you just can't get it to them," said Cronin. "We are coming to discuss more and more–and I think we'll come to this in some way, shape or form–some sort of incentive system."

    In an op-ed published Monday, April 28, on the Web site USA Today.com, Steven Kaplan, the Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance in the Graduate School of Business, wrote that the U. S. corporate governance system, regarding U.S. economic markets, is superior to both the European and Pacific markets, as the U.S. economy has outperformed other markets in the past two decades. Kaplan credits the increase in equity-based pay, which he said strengthens the alignment of U.S. executives with shareholders. Kaplan noted that corporate scandals, resulting from equity-based pay and equity ownership, could put the United States' economic successes at risk, should these scandals create what he considers political overreaction and excessive regulation. Kaplan's recent research on corporate governance also was the subject of a Monday, May 12 Christian Science Monitor story.

    Charles Glaser, Professor and Deputy Dean of the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and an expert on international security policy, wrote an op-ed in the online edition of the Los Angeles Times that revisited the question of whether or not the United States could have successfully used containment and deterrence against Iraq and its leadership, concerning the threat of weapons of mass destruction. "Critics of the war in Iraq are now questioning whether the Bush administration intentionally distorted the threat of weapons of mass destruction," wrote Glaser. While many critics believe not finding WMD in Iraq hurts the reputation of the Bush administration and U.S. intelligence capabilities, Glaser pointed out that finding WMD might be just as damaging. "If Hussein was deterred from escalating to the use of WMD when the United States was invading his country, then he could have been deterred with still higher confidence in virtually any other scenario," wrote Glaser. He wrote that Hussein's failure to use such weapons poses important questions about the deterrence of rogue states, which need to be addressed.

    Olaf Schneewind, Professor in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division, was interviewed as an expert on the history, biology and the possible vectors of pneumonic plague. The interview was conducted at Argonne National Laboratory, where temporary studios were set up to produce a simulation of a CNN news broadcast. The virtual TV channel, called VNN, was part of the dramatic, mock emergencies to test the response of homeland security teams. Called the national TOPOFF2 exercise, the simulations involved teams of emergency first-responders. Many media outlets nationwide covered the TOPOFF2 exercise, in which the city of Chicago took part.

    Nicholas Hatsopoulos, Assistant Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy, was quoted in a Thursday, May 15 New York Times story reporting on recent advances in brain-machine interfaces that promote robotic movement. Citing research by neuroengineer Steve Potter of Georgia Tech, the story explained how scientists are applying the neural signals in rat brain cells to control robotic movements. Hatsopoulos said an analogy could be drawn between Potter's feedback loop and the human nervous system. "Potter's device has sensors that pick up information, and then the signals go back to the dish and stimulate the cells," explained Hatsopoulos, who is working on ways to use brain signals to move prosthetic devices. "Closing the loop will be a key issue in moving this field to the next level," said Hatsopoulos, "for the feedback presumably helps learning."

    The University's Law School was the subject of an article published Friday, May 23, in The Wall Street Journal. The article described the school's recent alumni reunion to celebrate its 100th anniversary, and the work and research of many Law School faculty members, including Richard Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, and Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, as well as many prominent alumni and former faculty members, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and federal appeals court judges Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook. Commenting on how he values the school's intellectual identity and its scholarship, Sunstein said he has never found another place "where the culture is more devoted to trying to get at truths."

    Don Browning, Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School and Director of the Religion, Culture and Family Project at the University, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Friday, May 23 Wall Street Journal. Browning wrote about a recent Presbyterian report titled "Living Faithfully With Families in Transition," which he criticized for appearing inclusive and conveying a superficial acceptance of other social groups–groups whose family structures differ from traditional intact families–such as single-parent, blended or adoptive families. Browning quoted the report as stating that the majority of Presbyterians are white, educated and richer than most other Americans, and three-fourths are currently married, while only 19 percent are divorced. "It [the report] imagines that if this acceptance is forthcoming, poor people, blacks, Hispanics and all kinds of diverse families will come flocking into mainly white, middle- and upper-class Presbyterian churches. I doubt it, for the simple reason that the entire report functions to explain away the family problems of these groups. It is a marvelous example of how elitism can silently march under the banner of inclusiveness."