March 3, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 11

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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/.

    Michael LaBarbera, Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy and the College, and an experiment he conducted in Hyde Park were the subjects of a front-page Chicago Tribune story that appeared Friday, Feb. 18. LaBarbera, whose specialty is marine biology, spent a year searching in the Hyde Park neighborhood for arthropods and found what some Field Museum biologists consider “a very good record”—especially because he found 120 species during the daytime and without using special tools. “When people who live in the city think of biodiversity, they think of pigeons, cockroaches, sparrows and rats. Hardly anyone could realize there are at least 120 insect species in plain sight, there for anybody to gaze upon with no more effort than just looking around.”

    Lainie Friedman Ross, Associate Professor in Pediatrics and the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, was quoted in two Monday, Feb. 21 stories that reported on a current debate over a federal advisory board’s recommendation that all newborns be screened for 29 rare medical conditions. Proponents argue that early detection can be lifesaving, while opponents claim the screenings can detect mild versions of illnesses and babies could then be treated needlessly and aggressively for them. The screenings also reveal conditions that are known as abnormalities, but which cannot be explained. The advisory board will recommend parents be given that information, though that decision also is controversial. “We don’t know if they are medical conditions,” said Friedman Ross. “We don’t know what to do with the information. Reporting test data for which there are no systems in place for follow-up testing and treatment is not rejecting paternalism, but it is patient abandonment.” The articles appeared in the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

    Recent research that Steven Levitt, the Alvin H. Baum Professor in Economics, and Chad Syverson, Assistant Professor in Economics, conducted was the subject of a Sunday, Feb. 20 New York Times story. Levitt and Syverson found the real estate market inefficient and that the incentives for real estate agents to maximize profits for clients are not powerful enough. Comparing data on homes that agents sold for their clients and those they sold for their own profits, the two economists discovered that when agents work on behalf of clients, the small percentage they receive from the sale does not give them enough incentive to put in the extra time and effort to pursue a larger client profit. Levitt and Syverson concluded that agents may push clients to accept lowball offers from buyers. The article also noted that sellers are educating themselves about the pricing of homes through Internet sites. “As consumers become more comfortable with the idea that they can price their own properties, times will get tougher and tougher for real estate agents,” said Levitt.

    Dario Maestripieri, Associate Professor in Human Development and the College, and Elizabeth Kessler, a doctoral student in the Committee on the History of Culture, who both presented research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., last month, were featured in articles that covered their lectures. Featured in The Guardian Saturday, Feb. 19, Kessler showed that the images of real objects in space that the Hubble Space Telescope captures are often visually interpreted in ways that resemble paintings of the American West (See story, Page 4). BBC News also covered Kessler’s presentation at the AAAS meeting, and they also covered Maestripieri’s research on rhesus monkeys. His study, which will be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal, shows both female humans and monkeys exposed to stress early in life can accelerate development of their maternal responsiveness. “Early social influences are very important for human reproduction,” he said.

    Shulamit Ran, the William H. Colvin Professor in Music and the College, was photographed and interviewed for a profile published Wednesday, Feb. 16, in the Chicago Tribune. The article highlighted women who work in the world of classical music at the highest levels, including Ran, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. Ran, who directs the University’s new music ensemble, Contempo, commented on women and music composition. “The only way you can learn how to compose music is by listening to it. In the past, many women were denied access to having an orchestra bring their compositions to life.”

    Randall Kroszner, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business and a former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, was a guest on CNBC’s Squawk Box program Friday, Feb. 18, speaking on President Bush’s proposal to reform Social Security. “After 2018, the outflows to Social Security recipients will be greater than the revenues generated,” said Kroszner. “By 2042, the Social Security system will have run out of money. The President is trying to make sure the system is solvent in the long run.”

    Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, was a guest on the National Public Radio program Speaking of Faith. Elshtain discussed the topic “Moral Man and Immoral Society: The Public Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr.” The program, which was broadcast at varying times between Thursday, Feb. 10 and Wednesday, Feb. 16, aired locally on WBEZ-FM Sunday, Feb. 13.