[Chronicle]

Aug. 14, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 20

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    In the News

    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.

    The University’s recent appointment as the lead institution for a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research was reported Friday, Sept. 5, by various local news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and WGN and WLS TV stations. Olaf Schneewind, Professor in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, who will head the Midwestern regional center, was interviewed for the stories. “While this project has been driven by recent concerns about bioterrorism, the knowledge we gain could have a significant impact on humanity’s battle against all infectious diseases,” said Schneewind in the Tribune article.

    News stories about the University’s new role in studying why African-American women have an unusually high rate of breast cancer at an early age were recently published in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Defender, as well as broadcast on WBBM-TV, WBEZ-FM Radio and Fox TV. Using a $9.7 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health, University researchers will help develop a new interdisciplinary approach while working with researchers in Nigeria. The project will be called the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research and will be based at the University’s Institute for Mind and Biology. Sarah Gehlert, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, will head the center and will be joined by other University faculty, including Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology, who will co-direct the project, and Funmi Olopade, Professor in Medicine.

    Douglas Lichtman, Professor in the Law School, wrote an op-ed, which was published in the Wednesday, Sept. 10 Wall Street Journal, about the recent lawsuits brought against 261 individuals for copyright infringement, bringing Internet music piracy to the public’s attention. The individuals were a random selection of people who have downloaded music from the Internet and shared those files with others, using programs offered by such intermediary companies as Grokster and KaZaA. The software offered by these intermediaries allows individuals to download MP3 files and share them with however many others they choose, without paying for the music. Though the courts have been reluctant to impose liability on Grokster and KaZaA and other companies like them, because they are seen as not having directly committed any wrongdoing, Lichtman believes the courts should facilitate litigation between the music industry and the intermediaries. “In short,” wrote Lichtman, “let KaZaA and Grokster profit from their technology and then pay for their crimes. And let the college student, whose crime is something between an arrogant disregard for existing law and a praiseworthy enthusiasm for the technologic future to come, walk free.”

    Research conducted by Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, was reported in a Thursday, Sept. 11 New York Times article that pointed out how book rankings listed at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble booksellers at BN.com helped him perform empirical studies about online business competition. Goolsbee and his colleague Judith Chevalier, formerly a Chicago professor and now at Yale University, completed a study and published a paper on their findings in Quantitative Marketing and Economics. One conclusion in their study was that, although the Internet has spurred competition, uniformly low prices are the not the result of that competition. Goolsbee and Chevalier wrote that, “Raising prices by 1 percent at BN.com reduces sales about 4 percent but increases sales at Amazon.com by only about 0.2 percent. Many of the lost customers from BN.com evidently do not just go buy the book from Amazon.com.”

    Raghuram Rajan, the Joseph L. Gidwitz Professor of Finance in the Graduate School of Business, was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times Sunday, Sept. 14. Rajan, who will begin his post as chief economist for the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday, Oct. 1, discussed with columnist Debra Pickett some of the more recent economic and political situations occurring in various countries to help explain his upcoming role with the IMF. “Take Argentina. Politicians there see homes being repossessed, and they see that’s bad for the poor. So they outlaw it. But the effect of that hurts the poor so much more; people’s homes are no good as collateral.” Knowing the IMF has its critics, Rajan described briefly his upcoming task: “The IMF’s job is to occasionally act as bad cop, to say, Look, you’re spending way beyond your means.’ The IMF can’t micromanage how you get your house in order, but it will tell you it needs to be done.”

    Rajan, and his Chicago colleague Luigi Zingales, the Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance in the GSB, co-authored an op-ed published in the Sunday, Sept. 7 Chicago Tribune. The two professors compared the United States’ current military power––and policymakers’ attempts to depose rogue regimes, such as that in Iraq, and develop democracy in its place––to Western Europe’s search for colonies during the second half of the 19th century. “While these policymakers would reject any parallels in motives with colonialism, they exist nonetheless; a mix of self-interest (the world will become safer for the United States) and idealism (it also will make the world more prosperous and liberal). But can these policies work?” they asked. “History suggests that democracy and free markets are hard to impose, no matter how beneficial they are. Rarely did an occupying outside power, unconnected by the bonds of ethnicity, culture and national origin with the ruled citizenry, leave behind the conditions that would foster democracy and markets,” they concluded.

    Robert Daum, Professor in Pediatrics and Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, was pictured and interviewed for a Thursday, Sept. 18 Chicago Tribune story that reported on a new childhood vaccine. The vaccine has been effective for children under age 2 in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause such deadly diseases as meningitis, pneumonia and blood poisoning. Daum said this latest vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine, is the second one developed against the three most dangerous types of infections among infants––haemophilus, pneumococcal and meningococcal. “These are the infections that we fear, and now it’s so exciting to see them going away. We used to see 60 to 65 haemophilus cases a year; we’ve none now, and right now we’re not seeing any pneumococcal disease.”

    Tom Levinson, a second-year Law School student and author of the newly released book, All That’s Holy, was the subject of a story published in the Friday, Sept. 12 Chicago Tribune. Levinson wrote the book after traveling across the United States and interviewing people about their religious practices and the faiths they follow. He discussed with the Tribune some of the answers he gathered. “Basically, most people take the elements of a faith that mean the most to them and resonate at their core, and dismiss the things that seem superfluous or even anathema to them.” The Tribune reported that Levinson’s book has earned acclaim from the industry journal Publisher’s Weekly.

    The University’s Oriental Institute and its role in preserving the treasures of antiquity were featured in a story published in the October issue of Chicago Magazine. The story highlighted the institute’s refurbished Mesopotamian Gallery and its collection of Mesopotamian artifacts to be displayed there in a special exhibition opening Saturday, Oct. 18, as well as the postwar looting of the National Museum in Iraq, formerly part of Mesopotamia, and the institute’s role in helping to find and retrieve stolen artifacts. McGuire Gibson, Professor in the Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations; John Larson, Museum Archivist; Clemens Reichel, Research Associate; Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute; Raymond Tindel, Museum Registrar and Senior Curator; and Karen Wilson, Director of the Oriental Institute Museum, were all interviewed for the story. Pulling off his watch, Stein illustrated to the writer what Mesopotamians gave to modern-day life. “Look at it. It has a 60-second minute, a 60-minute hour. Where does it come from? It comes from Mesopotamia. Look at this book. Who invented writing? The Mesopotamians did. We’re living in the city of Chicago. Who invented cities? Mesopotamians. We drove here in a car. Who invented the wheel? The Mesopotamians did. If you think about it, virtually every major aspect of our civilization has its roots in Mesopotamia,” said Stein.