April 13, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 14

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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.

    Neil Shubin, Chairman and Professor of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, has been interviewed for numerous newspaper, television and radio reports about a fossil discovery he and a team of researchers made in the Canadian Arctic. The discovery, which has been published in two reports in the journal Nature, is a missing link in the evolution of fish to land animals. Shubin and his team uncovered several skeletons that have the anatomical traits of a transitional creature, which had fins as well as emerging limbs. Shubin and his team consider the discovery to be “the most compelling examples yet of an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition.” The fossil has been named Tiktaalik roseae. “It represents the transition from water to land—the part of history that includes ourselves,” said Shubin in the Chicago Tribune, in a Thursday, April 6 report. “When we talk about the fish’s wrist, we’re talking about the origin of parts of our own wrist.” Stories also were published Thursday, April 6, in the Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times and USA Today. Shubin also has appeared on many network television newscasts discussing the discovery.

    As attempts to work out the details of an immigration bill stalled in the Senate, Mai Ngai, Associate Professor in History, was interviewed as an expert source on immigration issues and the history of immigration in the United States. Ngai was a guest on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program on Wednesday, April 5, and she also commented on the topic in a Wednesday, April 5 USA Today story. That article pointed out that between 1930 and 1935, at least 345,839 people were either deported to Mexico or left the United States on their own. According to a 1936 dispatch from the U.S. Consulate General in Mexico City, 1931 was a peak year for departures from the United States to Mexico. “It was a racial removal program,” said Ngai, adding that people of Mexican ancestry were targeted.

    John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College, and Louise Hawkley, Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, who recently published a paper on loneliness and how it affects systolic blood pressure in older adults, were interviewed for several newspaper articles and appeared as guests on numerous radio programs, including the ABC, CBS and AP radio networks. The Globe and Mail cited the findings published in their paper, which noted: “Loneliness is a complex physiological phenomenon that incorporates feelings of dysphoria and stress, dissatisfaction with social support and hostility toward others.” The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Sun-Times and the South Wales Evening Post published articles about the research, during the week of Monday, March 27.

    Richard Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, was quoted in a Tuesday, March 14 New York Times opinion column about Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s vote in 2005 on the Kelo eminent-domain case and the more personal fallout of his decision. Keith Lacasse, a candidate running for the town board in Weare, N.H., where Souter lives, is proposing to seize Souter’s private home for public use, should he be elected. While town residents debate Lacasse’s proposal, they have clearly voiced their opposition to the court’s Kelo decision, which ruled that private property could be seized for public use, if the seizure meant the property would be used to eliminate “blight” or break up a land oligopoly. “The Kelo decision wasn’t compelled by legal precedents,” said Epstein. “It wasn’t a case of eliminating blight or breaking up an oligopoly. There was no precedent for kicking people out of their private homes just to warehouse the land for future development.”

    Albert Alschuler, the Julius Kreeger Professor in the Law School, was interviewed for a Tuesday, March 28, Chicago Tribune story, which reported on the issue of jurors’ honesty when they are questioned during a jury selection process. The issue came up recently during the trial of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, when U.S. District Judge and Law School alumna Rebecca Pallmeyer (J.D.,’79) dismissed two jurors who may have lied on juror questionnaires. Alschuler noted that legal scholars have long debated whether long, high-profile trials actually end up with jurors of different qualities and demographics.

    A Friday, March 31 Chicago Tribune front-page story quoted two University Hospitals physicians—Julie Moldenhauer, Assistant Professor in Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Lisa Shah, Resident in Pediatrics, when it reported on the average length of a pregnancy. The story noted that on average pregnancies have decreased over the last decade from 40 weeks to 39 weeks. Moldenhauer, who cares for high-risk obstetrical patients, said that long-term research is needed to be certain babies born just short of full term are healthy. “Our neonatal intensive care units do a fantastic job, so for the most part these kids do just fine. But I don’t think we’ve looked long enough down the road to know that for sure.”

    Susan Gzesh, Director of the Human Rights Program, was a guest on WBEZ radio’s World View program Tuesday, April 4. Gzesh discussed immigration laws in the United States from the Mexican-American perspective.

    Robert Topel, the Isidore Brown & Gladys J. Brown Professor of Urban & Labor Economics in the Graduate School of Business, commented in a Monday, March 27 Associated Press story on General Motors’ recent buyout offer to more than 125,000 workers from GM and its auto parts supplier, Delphi Corp. Topel noted that workers in the manufacturing industry who find themselves needing to make a decision about a buyout most often either retire or change occupations if they leave their jobs. Topel said in these situations these workers “take a beating because the skills they have are pretty limited.”