June 10, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 18

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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: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    The naming of the University’s Mexican Studies Center in honor of Friedrich Katz, the Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in History, was broadcast on numerous local television and radio stations, including WMAQ-TV, WLS-TV, Telemundo and WBBM-AM. Channel 2, Channel 5, Fox 32 and the two Spanish language networks, Telemundo and Univision interviewed Katz and President Randel, who celebrated the naming of the center with a campus visit from the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, and his wife. Stories also appeared in both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.

    Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule, Professors in the Law School, co-authored an op-ed that appeared in the Tuesday, July 6 Wall Street Journal in support of the U.S. Justice Department’s recently released memorandum on torture. The memorandum, which was written in an attempt to define the legal term for “torture” as used in federal statutes and treaties, had been criticized by several legal academics in a New York Times article, charging the authors with “professional incompetence and for violating longstanding norms of professional practice and integrity in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.” Posner and Vermeule wrote, “the memorandum’s arguments are standard lawyerly fare, routine stuff,” and that the only conclusion in the memorandum that they found disputable was “whether the choice of interrogation methods should be deemed within the president’s power. That conclusion may be right or wrong,” they wrote, “and we, too, would have preferred more analysis of this point—but it falls well within the bounds of professionally respectable argument.”

    Research on the brain’s regulation of gasping, which was conducted at the University, was the focus of an article published Thursday, July 8, in the Chicago Tribune. The article described the research as providing a missing link between problems with gasping and lower serotonin activity in the brain stem of children who have suffered sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. “We knew that SIDS starts because you have no gasping, and we knew that in the brain stem there is little serotonin. Now we can show that [these children] don’t gasp because these nerve cells need serotonin to do the gasping,” said Jan-Marino Ramirez, Associate Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy, the lead investigator in the University study.

    Marvin Zonis, Professor Emeritus of Business Administration in the Graduate School of Business, wrote an op-ed that was published in the Sunday, June 27 Chicago Tribune. Zonis argued that President Bush’s goals for the U.S. invasion of Iraq—to find weapons of mass destruction, to end Iraq’s support of international terrorism and to create a democratic society—will not be accomplished. Zonis wrote: “We will not create a democracy in Iraq because while advanced weapons and sophisticated communications equipment can accomplish many things, they cannot bring about the democratization of a society. That requires the social or psychological prerequisite for democracy, utterly absent in Iraq.”

    Raymond Roos, Professor and Chairman of Neurology, was interviewed and photographed for a story about research being done on peripheral neuropathy, a nerve disorder caused by damage to the peripheral nerves, which carry signals from the brain and spinal cord to the limbs, skin and internal organs. Roos, who is Co-director of the Jack Miller Center for Peripheral Neuropathy at the University, said about the center: “One of our goals is interaction between our scientific and clinical areas so we can translate the research and ‘bring the bench to the bedside,’” he said. “Our goal is to try to determine the cause of peripheral neuropathy, then to treat the cause,” he added.

    Joseph Margulies, Visiting Lecturer and Trial Attorney in the Law School’s MacArthur Justice Center, was interviewed for stories published in the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune that reported on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling concerning the rights of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The court’s ruling stated that the detainees have a fundamental right to have their cases argued in court. Margulies, who represented four of the prisoners in the Supreme Court case, commented on the stance of the Bush administration and the court’s decision: “On the one hand, they say the Geneva Conventions don’t apply, but on the other hand, they don’t put anything in its place. They are in this lawless void. That is what the court has repudiated.”

    Sho Yano, the University’s 13-year-old student enrolled in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program of the Pritzker School of Medicine, was featured in a Chicago Tribune magazine cover story published Sunday, June 27. The story describes Yano’s journey thus far in pursuit of his higher education as a child prodigy, the challenges he and his family have faced along the way, and how his fellow classmates and professors in the Biological Sciences Division view his intellectual abilities and his childhood. “It’s amazing how great his thought processes are,” said classmate Jie Chen. “Overall, we really benefit from his comments.” Said Yano of his studies: “I don’t set expectations for myself to be great. I just want to do the best I can and study what I like.”

    W.J.T. Mitchell, the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, wrote an essay that appeared in the Chicago Tribune’s Perspective section about the photographic images of torture from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Focusing on one prominent image—that of a hooded Iraqi prisoner, standing on a box with electrical wires attached to his outstretched hands—Mitchell described why this image in particular evokes sympathy rather than the disgust evoked by other images from Abu Ghraib. Circulated globally, this image reminds its viewers of the image of Christ being crucified, wrote Mitchell. “The stillness, the equilibrium of the man on the box have to remind us of devotional images of Christ keeping his cool under stress, forgiving his tormentors, remaining serene and dignified despite his humiliation.”

    Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, was quoted in stories published Saturday, June 26, in the Chicago Tribune and Tuesday, June 29, by the Associated Press Newswire Service. Baird, an expert in bankruptcy law, commented on United Airlines’ denial of a government loan guarantee in its bankruptcy restructuring. “Somebody has to belly up to the bar and say they believe in United’s business plan and come forward with the cash. Talk is a lot easier than writing a check for $500 million or more,” said Baird.

    Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, commented in the Sunday, July 4 New York Times on recent Supreme Court rulings in three terrorism-related decisions. The cases heard by the court regarded the rights and protections of detained prisoners and the extent of executive authority the president has in matters of national security. “The court had to be affected by the realization that these decisions would be acceptable in the current political climate,” said Stone. “What’s gone on with Iraq and torture has to have made it easier for justices to feel comfortable about this decision.” Stone also pointed out that “although presidents often push the envelope where the law is unclear, they do not defy established constitutional doctrine. And Bush has not done so either,” said Stone. “The things he has done, however questionable they might be, were all arguably legal.”

    John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College, was interviewed for a Sunday, July 4 Chicago Tribune story that reported on people’s need for informal gathering places, even though telecommunication technologies have made it easier for individuals to stay in touch. Cacioppo, who has studied the effects of social isolation and loneliness, said the latest technologies can help make some people feel more connected to others, while for many others it can decrease connectedness. “If you go home and you’re using your cell phone to continue your productivity at work—which many of us do—that’s helping you achieve what is valued as part of our culture. But also there is a cost to it in terms of what you lose with contact with others,” he said. “We know that if people are socially isolated, they are more likely to suffer broad-based health problems,” Cacioppo added.

    Bruce Lahn, Assistant Professor in Human Genetics and Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, was featured in a story published Friday, May 28, in the journal Science. The story reported on foreign-born scientists who are doing successful research in the United States while helping scientists in their native countries learn from their innovations and research methods. Lahn, who came to the United States in 1988 as an undergraduate student, said Chinese scientists “lack vision. I thought that the way to change that was not to go in as the director of some institute, but to demonstrate a new approach by being a role model.” Lahn is chief scientific adviser to a new primate research facility in Guangzhou, China.