January 5, 2006
Vol. 25, No. 7

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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/. If you are aware of news articles that feature the University or its faculty, students and/or alumni, feel free to bring them to the attention of the Chronicle editor to be considered for In the News. News clips may be sent to ldavis@uchicago.edu.

    Clemens Reichel, Research Associate in the Oriental Institute and co-director of the Syrian-American excavations at the archaeological site of Tell Hamoukar near the Iraq border, was interviewed for numerous stories about his team’s discoveries there. Reichel and his colleagues have recently uncovered evidence of a fierce battle—a clash between northern and southern cultures in ancient Mesopotamia. They collected more than 1,200 oval-shaped “bullets” used with slings and some 120 larger round clay balls. The layer of ruins from that time also held vast amounts of pottery from the Uruk culture of southern Mesopotamia. “The picture is compelling,” said Reichel in a Friday, Dec. 16 New York Times article.  “If the Uruk people weren’t the ones firing the sling bullets, they certainly benefited from it. They took over this place right after its destruction.” Articles on the discovery also appeared in the Boston Globe online edition, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and The Washington Post online edition.

    Edward Snyder, Dean of the Graduate School of Business and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics in the GSB, and Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics in the GSB, were featured on the front page of the Chicago Tribune business section Sunday, Dec. 25, in an article on the year-end assessment of President Bush’s handling of the economy. They gave letter grades to Bush on taxes, spending, job creation, the deficit, health care, energy, disaster recovery and other key issues. Also featured in the article was former GSB faculty member Michael Mussa, now a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics. 

    Ilai Alon, a Visiting Scholar in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, was featured in a Friday, Dec. 23 article published in the Chicago Tribune. The article reported on Alon’s work with Assad Busool of the American Islamic College in Chicago on a dictionary of terms that provides both Palestinian and Israeli definitions of the issues and events that have shaped their decades-long conflict. “The idea is that words include emotion,” said Alon, who is teaching medieval Islamic philosophy and negotiations in Arabic-speaking Islam at the University.  “It’s not always nice to hear. It makes the blood boil on both sides, but this is reality.” The two scholars are incorporating how people on both sides of the conflict feel about the issues and events, with the hope that those people will gain insights from each other’s perspectives.

    A Sunday, Dec. 18 New York Times story quoted John Cochrane, the Theodore O. Yntema Professor of Finance in the GSB, regarding the flattening yield curve for long-term and short-term interest rates. While Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said there is no need to worry if the yield curve flattens or inverts because it has lost its ability to forecast recessions, Cochrane said he is not so certain that is the case. Because of a small sample size, it is difficult “to determine what the relationship in the first place was between an inverted yield curve and recessions, much less to know if that relationship may have changed recently,” said Cochrane.

    Emilio Kouri, Associate Professor in History and the College and Director of the Mexican Studies Program at the University, was interviewed for an article that appeared in the Friday, Dec. 23 Chicago Tribune. The article described a special lottery that the Santa Maria del Popolo Church in Mundelein practices in an effort to embrace its growing Latino culture. A four-foot painting of La Virgen de Guadeloupe is the prized object of the lottery, which allows parishioners to keep the “traveling virgin” for a week. Often, the painting is placed on a makeshift altar, where parishioners honor the Virgin of Guadalupe. “This is their Virgin,” said Kouri. “She is protecting and watching over her mestizo children wherever they are. It’s a cult to the Virgin that transcends all kinds of borders.”

    Eric Oliver, Associate Professor in Political Science, discussed findings that are published in his new book, Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic (See story, Page 1), in a Friday, Nov. 25 Chicago Sun-Times article. “BMI (body mass index) is not only a poor measure of health, it is actually a lousy measure of obesity,” said Oliver, who contends the obesity epidemic in America is exaggerated. Oliver pointed out in an op-ed, published in the Sunday, Dec. 4 Sun-Times, that an ethos of individualism and self-reliance underscores the prejudice many Americans have for fat people. “As with blacks and the poor, fat people are thought to violate some of the most fundamental tenets in American political culture: that all people are fundamentally responsible for their own welfare; that self-control and restraint are the hallmarks of virtue; and that all Americans are obliged to work at improving themselves.”

    Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School and the College, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 21, Chicago Tribune. Stone wrote on the subject of President Bush’s authorization of the National Security Agency to monitor international telephone calls and e-mail messages without obtaining a search warrant from a court. Stone argued that this action violates federal law and the Constitution, which prohibits any search without probable cause or a judicial warrant.  “Because executive branch officials are focused on zealous law enforcement, they will inevitably construe ‘probable cause’ too generously. Thus, a court order is necessary, to enable an independent branch of government—the judiciary—to determine whether probable cause exists in each instance,” Stone wrote. He also was quoted in a Wednesday, Dec. 21, New York Times article that reported on Vice President Dick Cheney’s response to critics of Bush’s authorized surveillance.

    Eugene Fama, the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance in the GSB, was quoted in a Sunday, Dec. 18 Chicago Tribune story reporting on the investment value of gold. “There is nothing special about gold,” said Fama, adding, “It shouldn’t play any role” in an investment portfolio. The volatility of gold makes it undependable for people who want protection from inflation, he said.

    Mark Ratain, Professor in Medicine and Chairman of the Committee on Clinical Pharmacology, commented on the results of the drug Nexavar in a Wednesday, Dec. 21, Chicago Tribune article. Developed at the University, Nexavar has been used in drug trials by patients suffering from kidney cancer, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in December 2005 for treating patients with this particular cancer. While physicians await the final results of a large-scale trial of Nexavar to see whether or not the drug helps patients live longer, Ratain said, “the interim survival analysis is clearly promising.”

    The research of Philip Gossett, the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music and the College, was featured in a short profile in the Sunday, Dec. 25 Chicago Tribune magazine. Gossett, an expert in 19th-century Italian opera, specifically the works of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi, has uncovered works by these composers and variations on their works. “There are lots of versions of an opera that exist, and some of these are even considered lost operas,” said Gossett.

    Jean-Pierre Dube, Associate Professor of Marketing in the GSB, was quoted in a Chicago Sun-Times story about the marketing strategies that some retailers are using to lure male shoppers into their stores. By creating shopping experiences for men, high-end retailers, such as jewelers, can boost holiday sales. Often, these retailers will offer men’s night shopping events that feature pizza and beer for customers. Dube said the trend is found among high-end retailers because they can afford such events. “A kind of store that’s competing on prices doesn’t invest in creating experience anyhow, except for creating the deal.” And, these special holiday shopping events, tailored to assist men in shopping, are working, said Dube. “It’s painful to shop for feminine things. It’s embarrassing. Anything you can do to make it easier and more comfortable will increase the likelihood they’ll do more impulse buying.”