July 14, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 19

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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/.

    Kenneth Warren, the William J. Friedman and Alicia Friedman Professor in English Language & Literature, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Saturday, July 2 Chicago Sun-Times. Warren explained why he believes Democrats are losing a battle being fought with words in Washington by using as examples recent comments made by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and White House political adviser Karl Rove. Durbin’s comments came when he made remarks about abusive treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While Durbin’s comments were construed as innuendoes comparing innocent Holocaust victims to violent terrorists and U.S. military personnel to mass murderers, Warren argued that Durbin’s point was only that no person under U.S. detention should be subjected to certain kinds of treatment. Warren also pointed out that Rove’s comments—“Al-Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals”—were filled with innuendoes. “Ironically, while Durbin’s detractors were successful in getting him to back down from what he didn’t say, Democrats will likely not fare as well in getting Rove, a master of innuendo, to apologize for what he actually did say both explicitly and implicitly,” wrote Warren. He added that in construing the object of Rove’s attack, Democrats would have to paint themselves as victims of innuendo.

    Jean-Pierre Dube, Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Graduate School of Business, was quoted in a Thursday, June 23 Chicago Tribune story that reported on General Mills’ new advertising campaign that targets children and promotes the importance of breakfast. The article reported that General Mills was countering a move made earlier this year by Kraft Foods Inc. to stop advertising sweet cereals and snacks to children under age 12. “Both seem to believe that they not only need to do something, but they need to get good PR for being concerned about health, and especially about the health of kids,” said Dube.

    Jacqueline Goldsby, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature, was a guest on WBEZ-FM radio’s Odyssey program Friday, June 17. Goldsby, whose forthcoming book is titled Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature, discussed the politics surrounding the Emmett Till murder case and the reopening of other civil rights era cases. Goldsby also wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Tuesday, June 21 Chicago Sun-Times, in which she argued that during the early 20th century, the U.S. government had been complacent about lynching, and that its recent resolution obscures how widespread that complicity was. The U.S. Senate’s resolution apologizes for past legislators who turned their backs on creating laws that would have made lynching a federal crime. “In the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and in the midst of our fears about global terrorists, it’s reassuring to see our nation’s lawmakers think twice about our country’s unsavory record of human rights abuse,” wrote Goldsby. “Yet it should also remind us that when human rights are only defended selectively, they cease to be ‘rights’ at all, and that the defense of our rights cannot consist of words alone, but requires action.”

    Lior Strahilevitz, Assistant Professor in the Law School, commented on a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows local governments to take property from its owner and give it to another private party for the purpose of economic development. The Friday, June 24 Chicago Sun-Times article reported that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens urged aggrieved property owners to fight their battles before city councils and local courts instead of making federal cases out of their disputes. “I don’t think we all have to live in fear that this could be us tomorrow,” said Strahilevitz. “It means the federal courts are going to stay out of these disputes except in the most egregious circumstances. Had the court gone the other way, I think it would have meant the federal courts would have had their dockets full of challenges to the exercise of eminent domain.”

    Bruce Lahn, Assistant Professor in Human Genetics and Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, was interviewed and photographed for an article published in the Wednesday, June 6 Chicago Sun-Times. Lahn and a team of researchers at the University completed a study in which they found that in the process of natural selection—when gene mutations that help a plant or animal survive become part of that species’ genetic makeup, while other harmful mutations die out—the higher the mutation rates, the higher the percentage of mutations being accepted. Lahn said the finding “flies in the face of the evolutionary paradigm people have used for decades.”

    Mae Ngai, Assistant Professor in History and the College, wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post’s online edition Tuesday, June 14. Ngai, who is author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, suggested that Congress consider reinstating a statute of limitations for prosecuting the unauthorized presence of illegal immigrants in the United States. She argued that such a statute is consistent with basic legal and moral principles. “Unauthorized presence would remain a violation of the law and continue to carry the risk of apprehension and removal, at least for some period of time. But it would allow us to recognize that the undocumented become, for better or worse, members of the community, and to accept them as such.”

    Ronald Burt, the Hobart W. Williams Professor of Sociology and Strategy in the Graduate School of Business, commented on the benefits of business networking and pointed out that one of two types of networking offers an employee better chances at promotion. Burt was interviewed for a story published in The Times Thursday, June 9, in which he said that the employee whose main contacts are outside a company will likely have the best career gains. Developing outside contacts that will reap rewards requires employees to make discriminate choices about who to know better, and those new contacts can generate ideas—even ideas that may have failed in another’s company. “When you have the chance to learn how someone does your job differently, go,” he said, adding that variety is best. “Seek out a diversity of experiences.”

    Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics in the GSB, wrote an op-ed that was published by the Los Angeles Times in its online edition Wednesday, June 29. Describing an auction as the classic free market, Goolsbee looked at the economics of the recent auction of Marlon Brando’s personal property. He questioned why people would be willing to pay so much more than ordinary value for ordinary items once used by someone famous, such as paying up to $600 for Brando’s bathroom scale. Goolsbee noted that items like these only have what economists call “non-pecuniary benefits,” and no financial return on the investment. “The evidence is pretty overwhelming that you shouldn’t buy Brando’s bathroom appliances for the financial return,” because even if there is an initial financial return, it is as fleeting as celebrity and may not be there tomorrow. “Will Brando still be famous in 75 years?” asked Goolsbee.

    Farr Curlin, an Instructor in Medicine and the author of a recent study on physicians’ religious beliefs, was interviewed for a Chicago Sun-Times story about the results of his survey. “We did not think physicians were nearly this religious,” said Curlin, who discovered that 55 percent of physicians say their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine. One factor in the study showed that physicians in some specialties were more religious than others. While 58 percent of family doctors said they look to God for support and guidance, the same was true of only 36 percent of psychiatrists. Curlin explained this result, saying, “Psychiatry is the medical specialty that comes closest to being a complete explanatory framework for life. It can make sense of the powerful range of human experiences in non-religious terms.” The Chicago Sun-Times published the article in its Thursday, June 23 issue, and USA Today published a brief on the study that same day.

    David Shepherd, co-founder of The Compass, an improvisational comedy troupe he and Paul Sills began in 1955 at the University, returned to campus for an anniversary production of the troupe’s first performance. Students in the University’s Off-Off Campus group performed an updated production of the show that Shepherd, Sills and other performers, including actress Barbara Harris, performed 50 years ago on June 30. Shepherd discussed the comedy troupe, which was the forerunner to The Second City, as a guest of WBBM-AM radio, WBEZ-FM radio and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program. The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune also covered the performance in articles published Friday, July 1, and Monday, July 4, respectively. WBBM-TV and WMAQ-TV also aired stories on the special performance on the evening of the production, Tuesday, July 5.

    John MacAloon, Associate Dean of the Social Sciences Division and a former member of the International Olympic Committee Reform Commission, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Thursday, July 7 edition of Newsday.com. MacAloon addressed the IOC’s election process for selecting host cities for the Olympic Games, and pointed out that London’s victory as the location for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which knocked out New York and other cities’ bids, was likely a big surprise to the losing bidders. “London would never have won had the respected Olympic champion and former MP Sebastian Coe not chaired the bid. Lord Coe led the fight for active athlete representation on the IOC, and after hearing his inspiring speech in Singapore, his IOC beneficiaries paid him back.”