July 13, 2006
Vol. 25 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/. 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.

    Above is one of the cuneiform tablets of the Persepolis tablets collection, which Oriental Institute researchers have studied over the years. The tablets in the photo are from a portion of the collection that the University returned to Iran in 2004.

    Emil Coccaro, Chairman of Psychiatry, was quoted in a Tuesday, June 6 Chicago Tribune article about research he has conducted with colleagues at Harvard University. The results of their nationwide study show that 1 out of 20 Americans suffer from the condition IED, or intermittent explosive disorder. The condition is defined as repeated and uncontrollable anger attacks that often become violent. “Our new study suggests IED is really out there and that a lot of people have it,” he said. “That’s the first step for the public to actually get treated for it, because if you don’t think it’s really a disorder, you’re never going to get treated for it,” said Coccaro. The researchers studied activity in the amygdala, the section of the brain that controls emotional responses to threats. “People with this problem have a low threshold for exploding and that’s probably genetically and biologically mediated,” said Coccaro. Articles on the results of the study also were carried by The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Associated Press Newswire Service.

    In the debate over the legal rights of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Eric Posner, Professor in the Law School, wrote in an op-ed that those who have been detained for the threat they pose to Americans should remain in detention. His argument, published in the Sunday, June 25 New York Times, is that protecting Americans from the dangerousness of certain suspected terrorists requires indefinite detention, even if it has not been proven they have committed any crimes. The distinction is between civil detention and criminal incarceration, wrote Posner. “A person who is merely dangerous cannot be criminally punished for being dangerous; however, he can be detained, and he is not always entitled to the expansive procedural protections granted to the accused criminal.” Throughout his argument, Posner noted that this principle appears in many areas of the law. “Even when deciding the length of ordinary criminal sentences, judges often take account not just of guilt but of a defendant’s dangerousness. A sentence, in reflecting dangerousness, may be longer than is justified by the defendant’s guilt,” he wrote.

    Excerpts from a memo written by Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute, which explains the institute’s position on the legal battle over a collection of ancient Persian tablets, were published in numerous stories, including a report carried Wednesday, July 5 by the Associated Press Newswire Service. The ancient tablets, which the Iranian government lent to the Oriental Institute for study in the 1930s, are being claimed for seizure and auction by a group of Americans who were injured in a 1997 bombing linked to the Iranian-supported group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the bombing in Jerusalem. In the memo, Stein wrote: “The Oriental Institute will do everything in its power to protect cultural patrimony and the character of the tablets as an irreplaceable scholarly data set. We remain absolutely committed to safeguarding the Persepolis tablets. The protection of cultural patrimony and of scholarly research are fundamental matters of principle for us, as they should be for every civilized person and nation. This trove of tablets has never been a commercial item to be bought or sold. They have never been a source of profit to either Iran or the Oriental Institute,” he wrote. Articles also have been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as numerous international newspapers. The British Broadcasting Corporation also has covered the story in its reports.

    The University’s acquisition of professional papers from the Saul Bellow estate, which includes drafts, unpublished essays and personal letters, was the subject of several recent news articles. Alice Schreyer, Director of the Special Collections Research Center at the Joseph Regenstein Library, was quoted in an Associated Press story about the new papers that will be added to an existing Bellow archive. “It’s a wonderful record of his creative process,” said Schreyer. “And in this age of the word processor, this is one of the last great literary archives of one who did everything by hand on paper.” Also covering the acquisition were The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

    The University’s new child-care initiative was featured in a story that appeared in the Friday, June 16 Chicago Tribune. The new initiative will provide grants to three area child-care facilities, allowing these day care businesses to expand their programs to include infants and toddlers. The University recognized a need for more child-care options for its faculty and staff members who are working parents, and decided not to open an on-campus day care site. “There was concern about competing with the long-term providers in the neighborhood. We were reluctant to do that. We wanted to do something neighborly. What we tried to do was enhance the supply,” said Ingrid Gould, Assistant Vice President and Associate Provost in the Office of the President.

    Neil Shubin, Associate Dean of Organismal Biology & Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology and Provost of the Field Museum, was featured in the Monday, June 12 issue of Crain’s Chicago Business about his new appointments (See appointment story, Page 3.) According to the article, Shubin helped to build the University’s graduate paleontology program, which recently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. News & World Report magazine. The profile quotes James Madara, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine, Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of the University Medical Center, as well as the Sara and Harold Lincoln Thompson Distinguished Service Professor in the BSD, who commented on Shubin’s leadership abilities. “He is very clear, logical and knows how to manage a budget,” said Madara.

    An article featuring the research of David Galenson, Professor in Economics and the College, was published in the July issue of Wired. Galenson has published quantitative research on creativity in two books—Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art and Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity—concluding that the majority of artists fall into one of two categories: conceptual artists or experimental artists. Conceptual artists, such as painter Pablo Picasso and composer Wolfgang Mozart were artists whose most acclaimed works were completed in their younger years. Experimental artists, such as painter Jackson Pollock and poet Robert Frost spent years perfecting their works and created their most notable ones in their later adult lives. In the article Galenson describes the conceptual approach of a young, 25-year-old Georges Seurat, who painted the famous Sunday on La Grande Jatte and which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. “This guy comes along and says, ‘Look, Impressionism has been all the rage, but these guys are unsystematic, they’re casual. I’m going to make a scientific, progressive art. And this is going to be the prototype of the new art. In the future, everyone will paint scientifically. This is his dissertation, basically. This is like Foundations of Economic Analysis. This is like Samuelson saying, ‘I’m going to unite all of economics.’ Seurat is saying, ‘’We’re discovering the underlying principles of representation.’ One of them is the systematic use of color. And this is the masterpiece.”

    Olufumilayo Olopade, Professor of Hematology/Oncology in Medicine and Director of the Clinic for Cancer Genetics, was quoted in a Tuesday, June 27 Chicago Tribune story that reported on a European study that looked at the risk mammogram X-rays pose for women who already are at risk for breast cancer because of identified genetic mutations. Olopade, who wrote an op-ed that accompanied the published study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, said: “Maybe after age 30 the risk of cancer is high enough to justify the potential long-term risk of cumulative radiation. So we traditionally recommend that high-risk women—especially mutation carriers—start screening with mammography at 25. This [study] calls into question the possibility that we might increase their risk by starting so young.”

    Dennis Hutchinson, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the College and Senior Lecturer in the Law School, was quoted in a Monday, June 26 USA Today article that reported on the duel role of John Roberts as the father of two young children and Supreme Court Chief Justice. “In the 20th century, most of the justices were in their late 50s, most of the wives were stay-at-home mothers and most of the kids were not around,” said Hutchinson. Roberts’ children, Josephine and Jack, have been present at many of their father’s public appearances, and Roberts has been lauded for sharing the child-rearing responsibilities with his wife, Jane, who is a lawyer. Hutchinson noted that Roberts’ parenthood experiences could influence his court rulings on such issues as the quality of schools and Internet predators. “It offers a window into what we worry about in society,” he said.

    Allen Sanderson, Lecturer in Economics, was interviewed for a story published in the Tuesday, June 6 Chicago Tribune. Sanderson, an economist with expertise in the sports industry, commented on the city of Indianapolis’ winning bid to host the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Indianapolis outbid Chicago by offering bigger incentives, including a payment of $400,000 per year during the five-year contract to the Big Ten to compensate for less seating capacity than Chicago’s United Center. “You could have won because you know more, or you could have won because they know more than you do and they realize you went far beyond what made sense to do,” said Sanderson about the incentives that were offered.