February 16, 2006
Vol. 25 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/. 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.

    Randall Kroszner

    News stories announcing Professor Randall Kroszner’s nomination by President Bush to the Federal Reserve Board appeared in a number of newspapers, including the Friday, Jan. 27 Wall Street Journal; the Saturday, Jan. 28 Chicago Tribune; the Monday, Jan. 30 Chicago Sun-Times; and in Bill Barnhart’s Market Report column in the Tuesday, Jan. 31 Chicago Tribune. Two of Kroszner’s colleagues, Anil Kashyap, Professor of Economics in the GSB, and Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics in the GSB, were quoted in the local papers about the nomination. “Randy’s passion has less to do with short-term macroeconomic policy and more to do with regulating the banking system and coordinating policy internationally,” said Kashyap. Goolsbee, who has publicly debated Kroszner, Professor of Economics in the GSB, said: “We’re on different sides of the aisle, but he’s extremely intelligent. He’s one of the two or three people in the world you’d turn to on banking regulation. I think any economist who knows Randy would say, ‘Wow, what a good choice.’”

    John Woods, Professor in History, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and the College, was quoted in a front-page Chicago Tribune article published Tuesday, Feb. 7. The story reported on the violent protests that erupted throughout Asia and the Middle East over a Danish newspaper publishing political cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Woods and others commented on what had sparked such anger among Muslims, with Woods noting that Muslims believe their religion is under attack by the Western world. “It’s not only that the Prophet is shown, but it’s how he’s shown,” said Woods. “He’s shown as a terrorist and there is the insinuation that this is the religion of terrorists. Ten years ago, this might have caused a minor stir. But, in the aftermath of 9/11, Iraq and the Mideast conflict, this came too close for comfort.”

    Stephen Stigler, Chairman of Statistics and the Ernest DeWitt Burton Distinguished Service Professor in Statistics and the College, was interviewed about his analysis of a surprisingly common phenomenon—when a researcher learns his or her discovery already has been discovered. “The very fact of multiple discoveries has been discovered many times,” said Stigler in a New York Times article that appeared Sunday, Feb. 5. While duplicative science may cause nothing more than a researcher’s chagrin over wasted time, occasionally, and especially involving medical research, the risk could be harmful to patients. The other problem with duplicative science is who gets credit for a discovery. Stigler noted that renowned scientists often have been credited with another’s discovery, going back to the time of the great mathematician Pythagoras.

    David Thompson, Associate Dean in the Division of the Humanities, was quoted in a Friday, Jan. 27 Chicago Sun-Times story on the popularity of Chinese language courses in the city of Chicago, including courses at the University that have seen an 81 percent increase in enrollment over the past five years. Thompson explained that the intensified interest in China has come about as the country has begun to open up to the rest of the world, sharing its art history, cinema and literature more freely. “It’s not just economic, it’s also cultural,” said Thompson. “There is more of a tendency now to explore the ways China is connected to the rest of the world in ways we haven’t thought much about before.”

    Amil Petrin, Associate Professor of Economics and Statistics in the GSB, was quoted in a front-page Chicago Tribune article that appeared Tuesday, Jan. 24, and that reported on the reshaping of the auto industry in the Midwest due to global competition. Petrin noted that the pressure on auto industry companies to cut costs has been “extremely painful.” The story reported that Ford and General Motors often cite pension and health care costs to long-retired employees as their biggest competitive problem, though market experts have noted that product development and marketing prowess also give leading companies a competitive edge. “That’s always been the UAW’s complaint,” said Petrin. “Our advantage has always been that we were clever and knew how to advance the industry. That hasn’t been happening.”

    Richard Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, was interviewed for a Wednesday, Feb. 1 New York Times story about newly confirmed Justice Samuel Alito Jr. While Alito has replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who often was the swing vote on such hot-button issues as affirmative action and abortion rights, Alito’s votes are expected to have less impact in cases about other legal issues. Alito, some predict, will vote with the three justices who are considered most conservative, creating a four-member bloc. Of the remaining members on the court, another bloc of four justices considered more liberal would balance it. Justice Anthony Kennedy is considered the new fulcrum of the court. “We changed from a court split 4 to 3, with two in the middle,” said Epstein. “Now it’s 4-1-4, and now it’s Kennedy,” whose seat is the tipping point.

    A team of researchers led by Steve Goldstein, Professor and Chairman of Pediatrics, has identified a genetic variation that increases by 24 times the risk of an African-American baby in the United States succumbing to sudden infant death syndrome. About one in nine African Americans carries a copy of the variant gene, and children who carry two copies of the mutation are at even higher risk, reported the Chicago Sun-Times in its Saturday, Feb. 4 issue. Goldstein noted that although the variant alone “does not cause SIDS, our findings suggest that it renders infants vulnerable to environmental challenges, such as long pauses in respiration, which are tolerated in children without the mutation. The hope is that findings like this may one day allow us to intervene. We might screen to identify children at high risk and teach parents how to lessen the likelihood of secondary challenges. We have already begun to evaluate drugs that may mitigate the risk,” said Goldstein. The research also was reported by the Scripps Howard News Service and published in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story.

    Ron Gregg, Lecturer and Director of Programming in Cinema & Media Studies, was interviewed on the program Critical Thinking on WFMT-Radio on Monday, Jan. 30. Gregg discussed the film Brokeback Mountain with program host Andrew Patner.

    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business, was interviewed for a news story that aired Monday, Jan. 30, on NBC Nightly News with anchor Brian Williams. Schrager commented on the failed energy company Enron and the upcoming trial of its executives for the news segment. Also, Schrager’s classroom was videotaped for the broadcast and shown during the story’s airing.