February 17, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 10

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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/.

    Three University professors—Valerie Davis-Raskin, Clinical Professor in Psychiatry, Elizabeth Steinhauer, Associate Professor in Psychiatry, and Jeremy Marks, Associate Professor of Neonatology in Pediatrics—were quoted in a Friday, Feb. 4 Chicago Tribune article that reported on a study that suggests pregnant women who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for depression might cause their newborn babies to have seizures or other withdrawal symptoms. Published in the British journal The Lancet, the study has prompted experts to approach the warning with caution, saying non-treatment of serious depression could put both babies and mothers at risk. “It’s important not to throw the mother out with the bathwater,” said Davis-Raskin, who also appeared recently on ABC News Now on the SSRI topic, as well as on the Today Show and in an Esquire magazine interview on postpartum depression. “Convulsions in a newborn are serious—but so is maternal depression.” Steinhauer noted that millions of women who are using SSRIs are not having neonatal complications in their infants. Marks said it would be premature to conclude that Paxil, an SSRI, should not be used during pregnancy.

    A ceremonial ribbon-cutting event for the University Hospitals’ new Comer Children’s Hospital was the subject of numerous news reports on the major Chicago television stations, including WLS-TV, WBBM-TV, WFLD-TV, CLTV, WMAQ-TV and WGN-TV, on WGN-AM Radio 720, and in the newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Gary Comer and his wife Frances, who gave more than $40 million for the construction of the hospital and a pediatric emergency-care facility to be completed in 2006, attended the ceremony, as did U.S. Senator Barack Obama, a former Senior Lecturer in the Law School, Maggie Daley and Illinois First Lady Patricia Blagojevich.

    Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and the College, was featured in a story in the arts section of the Monday, Jan. 31 New York Times. The article highlighted her new book, The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was, which “gleefully catalogs myths and movies and plots about characters who disguise themselves as themselves.” The article noted that Doniger’s exploration of Hinduism from multiple perspectives, including the sexual imagery found throughout Hinduism’s baroque mythology, has caused some right-wing Hindu groups to attack her scholarship. The attacks, said Doniger, are not just about particular interpretations. “Right-wing Hindu groups, in India and the diaspora, have increasingly asserted their wish, indeed their right, to control scholarship about Hinduism.”

    Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School and the College, was featured in the Chicago Tribune Sunday, Jan. 30, as was his newest book, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. Gratified by the book’s reach beyond academic readers, Stone also was surprised by what the research revealed. “The primary surprise was the extent to which many of these episodes involving contested free speech come about as a result of a complicated mix of national fear and political opportunism.”

    Elaine Allensworth, Associate Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, was interviewed on the 7 a.m. Cliff Kelly program on WVON-AM Radio. Allensworth discussed the consortium’s recent report that shows more students drop out of Chicago Public Schools than is officially reported. The consortium study found that 54 percent of students who entered high school in 2000 graduated in 2004, compared to a reported 71 percent.

    Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, was interviewed in a segment on social security, which NBC broadcast on its Friday, Feb. 4 Nightly News. If the federal government operates private accounts and the choices are very restricted, “Wall Street stands to gain somewhere between $100 billion and $500 billion” in profits over a 75-year period, Goolsbee said. Time magazine cited Goolsbee’s research in a January issue and other publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, commented on a contract rejection by mechanics of United Airlines and what a strike would do to the financially crippled airline in stories that appeared in the Friday, Jan. 28 Chicago Sun-Times, on the front page of the Saturday, Jan. 29 Chicago Tribune and on Newsday.com. “If there’s an extended shutdown on United, they won’t make it,” said Baird. “If they call a strike, United is basically finished. It’s the death knell. That’s when you bring in the defibrillator.”

    Daniel Drezner, Assistant Professor in Political Science, was a guest on C-SPAN for its post-State of the Union coverage, Wednesday, Feb. 2. Drezner commented on President Bush’s address, saying he thought the domestic section of the speech was weaker than the foreign policy topics. He commented on Bush’s omission of any discussion of trade in the State of the Union, and noted that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) discussed the topic within the first five minutes of the Democratic response.

    Norman Golb, the Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History & Civilizations in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and the College, and William Schweiker, Professor in the Divinity School and the College, were quoted in a story that appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 6 Chicago Tribune. Golb and Schweiker commented on how the three major monotheistic religious traditions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—historically had rules against lending money at a rate of interest. “Many people thought it was evil to exploit the poor by charging them money to use money,” said Golb, referring to the belief of early Jews and Christians that such rules offered fairness among groups of different economic classes. Schweiker said: “It was a kind of primitive socialism,” referring to early Christians who often organized their communities as mutual-aid groups. “The priority of both early Jews and Christians was justice over wealth, Schweiker added. “Making money on money was against the notion of justice for them.”

    Jennifer Dugas-Ford, a doctoral student at the University and co-author of a paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, was photographed and interviewed for a Monday, Feb. 7 Chicago Sun-Times article reporting on her research. Dugas-Ford’s study shows that a larger portion of a bird’s forebrain is dedicated to higher-level learning processes than was previously believed. “Birds are not dumb,” said Dugas-Ford. “It turns out there is a very large portion of a bird’s brain dedicated to higher learning processes, much the same as a portion of the mammalian brain,” especially in humans and primates, she said.

    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business, was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal as one of a sampling of experts who provided free advice to Hewlett-Packard Co. The technology company recently ousted its CEO, who, according to the HP board, “failed to execute on her ambitious strategy.” Schrager suggested an alternative to breaking up the company. “Have strong independent divisions a la GE. They are still under one umbrella. If HP could adopt a structure like that, with powerful divisions, they could keep it together.” Schrager also was quoted in a piece on the same subject in the Sunday, Feb. 13 New York Times.