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Healing Earth Makes News

The Jan. 7 Chinese Daily News was one of a number of publications prominently covering publication – in the prestigious journal Science – of research by geophysicist Yong-Gang Li, which for the first time observed a process of healing along a ruptured fault. Emeritus cofounder of the Southern California Earthquake Center Keiiti Aki collaborated on the research, which was also reported on KCAL and the Dallas Morning News, as well as Science NOW, UniSci News Net, The American Reporter and other on-line sites.

The Media Turn Out for King Day

USC’s 17th annual celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday Jan. 15 was a hit with local media: TV, radio and newspaper outlets covered the event, which was watched by an enthusiastic, overflow crowd at Hancock Auditorium. The Los Angeles Times led its King Day roundup story with a front-page Metro section account of USC’s event, including two photos of student dancers from the 32nd Street/USC Performing Arts Magnet School who were part of the celebration. The story quoted sophomore Ian Chestnut, one of several student speakers, and Kay Allen, associate director of the Fisher Gallery, who helped plan the event and served as master of ceremonies. Other media covering the celebration included the Daily News and Los Angeles Sentinel, TV stations KABC and KNBC and radio station KFI.

In a Jan. 14 Los Angeles Times story on the crash of Asian financial markets and the impact of that economic freefall on American universities, Dixon C. Johnson, executive director of the Office of International Students, said his staff sees early warning signs that USC foreign students are feeling the pinch – including an increase in the number of foreign students seeking financial counseling. “This is new, it is regional and it is economic, not political,” said Johnson. Other foreign crises that have dampened enrollment have been limited to political troubles in a lone country, such as the fall of the shah of Iran in 1979, said the article. “USC opened its doors to foreign students in the late 19th century and takes pride in its role in helping educate the leaders of various Asian nations,” the article continued. Countering the notion that schools such as USC are doing foreigners a favor, President Steven B. Sample said that in reality, international students enrich the education of Americans. “It is very important for U.S. students to have a better idea of how the rest of the world thinks,” Sample said. According to the piece, Asia supplies 57 percent of the nearly half-million foreign students who attend American universities each year, injecting $7 billion into the U.S. economy.

“His planned clinic has more in common with Barnum & Bailey’s Circus than with Brigham and Women’s Hospital,” bioethicist Alexander M. Capron wrote in a Jan. 11 Boston Globe op-ed about Chicago physicist Richard Seed’s plans to establish the Human Clone Clinic and clone humans with techniques that have been used to clone sheep. Seed’s announcement raises the specter of using “ideal types” to create children and using “genetic enhancement” to provide superhuman capabilities. “Whether such developments arose voluntarily, as a result of social pressure, or through eventual legislation, they would amount to a form of eugenics more chilling than those contemplated by the Nazis, more akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.”

A USC troupe of actor-robots were a hit at the MacWorld convention in San Francisco this month, as reported in a feature profile Jan. 9 on Wired magazine’s Website, Wired On-Line. “Everyone loves robots – put a robot down somewhere and people always stop and look,” said Barry Brian Werger, a doctoral student in robotics, who is the man behind the troupe. “It seemed to me we could take it further. No one has really tried to exploit the entertainment potential of robots.” The story discussed the history of Werger’s expressive but mute auto-thespians, and plugged their next performance, a new play entitled Self-Made Man on the Moon, to be performed soon at USC.

“I think the Drudge Report is popular because not everybody has a friend in Washington they can call and find out what everybody else in Washington already knows,” politics expert Susan Estrich commented on a Jan. 8 ABC “Nightline” report about the Website that specializes in Washington gossip. Estrich also wrote a Jan. 8 Denver Post and Houston Chronicle op-ed about the insanity defense in light of the Unabomber case. “The insanty defense allows us to tell ourselves a story about our system that really isn’t true,” she wrote. “We do punish the mentally ill. We do it every day. In my judgment, we have a right to do so. Ours is not a system based on choice so much as it is one based on responsibility, and we hold people to standards whether they can meet them or not. But we should admit it.”

In a Jan. 8 KCAL report about Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski, insanity-defense expert Elyn Saks commented on the pitfalls of representing oneself against criminal charges. “You might not know the most effective way to present your case or cross-examine witnesses – all the things that a trial lawyer learns how to do through lots of training and experience,” she said.

Molecular biologist Lawrence Kedes was interviewed by KCAL on Jan. 7 regarding the feasibility of creating a human clone, following a Chicago physicist’s announcement of plans to open cloning centers. Kedes, who is director of the Institute for Genetic Medicine, said, “We’re not there yet in terms of what we know about human reproductive biology. The Scottish experiment was a success in the sense that they got an animal but only after several hundred tries.” The interview aired on the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. news.

Dietitian and epidemiologist Carol Kaprowski commented in the Jan. 5 Los Angeles Times Health section on a poll of Southern Californians who were queried on matters of fitness and nutrition. “Most people, if they are eating a balanced and varied diet, don’t really need a supplement,” she said. “Often vitamins give a false sense of security because people think it will compensate for a poor diet. It doesn’t.”

From the Jan. 5 Wall Street Journal article on the automobile industry’s search for alternative, ‘green’ engines: “George Olah, who won the Nobel Prize in 1994 for his hydrocarbon research at the University of Southern California, also is skeptical. These days, Dr. Olah is busy tweaking his latest invention, a fuel cell powered by methanol. He isn’t sure that the automakers are doing much more than ‘talking,’ but he doesn’t think the industry will ultimately have much choice. … ‘In thirty years, we will be 10 billion [people] and all of them will need energy…. Within the next decade or two, there will be a substantial, inevitable pressure.'”

The Jan. 3 New York Times featured sociology of religion scholar Donald E. Miller’s recent book, Reinventing American Protestantism (University of California Press, 1997), which describes how “new paradigm” churches are proliferating and usurping the role of mainline Protestant churches. Miller’s study of three growing movements – the Calvary Chapel, Vineyard and Hope Chapel movements – provides part of the reason that Protestant churches are losing hundreds of thousands of members. According to Miller, part of the movements’ appeal lies in their having “incorporated aspects of the therapeutic, individualistic and antiestablishment values” prevailing in America since the 1960s…. In a Dec. 20 Washington Post story, which was picked up from the Religion News Service, Miller said the three new movements struggle “to put together a new world view that integrates the sacred with the profane…. That’s very powerful and it’s very innovative. And it’s something that most mainline churches are not doing.”

Plastic surgeon Randy Sherman was quoted Dec. 31 in a front-page story in the Pasadena Star-News on the surgeries he performed to enable an 11-year-old University Hospital patient to smile for the first time in her life. The girl was born with a congenital condition, Mobius syndrome, that left her without the facial muscles needed to smile. “The younger you are, the faster the nerve-ends’ regrowth and the muscle transplant works,” said Sherman. The story was covered by all seven local television stations, KFI-AM radio, and television stations in major cities, including San Diego, Miami, Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago.

On Dec. 18, neurologists Christopher DeGiorgio and Leslie Weiner were interviewed by “Breakthrough,” a PBS program highlighting medical advances, regarding a new epilepsy implant called the vagus nerve stimulator. Reproductive endocrinologist Richard Paulson also was interviewed on the use of RU 486 in fertility treatments. The show is scheduled to air nationally in March.

The USC/Norris Hospital received front-page coverage in the Dec. 17 Pasadena Star- News on a visit from the Tournament of Roses Royal Court. Epidemiologist Ronald K. Ross commented, “It’s a huge boost to morale. A lot of patients are sick and have a difficult time getting into the holidays.”

Reproductive endocrinologist Richard Paulson’s recent publication in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility on a new fertility technique called FASIAR (follicle aspiration, sperm injection and assisted rupture) prompted an interview by KCAL News on Dec. 23. “FASIAR represents a midway point between artificial insemination and high-tech test tube in vitro-type methods … in terms of complexity and in terms of success,” said Paulson. The story was also featured in the Dec. 22 Los Angeles Times Health section and in the Boston Globe.

In a Dec. 9 Washington Post article on how universities increasingly are forced to take steps against destructive cults and other groups that use high-pressure recruiting approaches on campus, director of student activities David Crandall reported that USC administrators once noticed the “Chinese Engineering Society” was sponsoring volleyball games – but “none of these folks had Chinese surnames and none were engineering students.” The group, Crandall said, had been “commandeered” by a high-pressure group known as the International Churches for Christ. When confronted by the university, the “engineers” formed the “Good Clean Fun Club,” which sponsored movie nights, beach parties and volleyball games as “opportunities to recruit people into the church,” Crandall said. The club disappeared when the university pressed for sponsorship information. The article also appeared in the Dec. 11 Dallas Morning News.

Robert Tranquada, emeritus professor of medicine and public policy, was quoted in the Dec. 8 Los Angeles Business Journal on the recent investigation of restaurant cleanliness. “The bottom line is, how many people get sick eating in L.A. restaurants, and there is no evidence that it is a significant figure,” he said.

In the December issue of Telecommunications magazine, telecommunications expert A. Michael Noll addressed the hype surrounding the growth of the Internet and the notion that the network will revolutionize our lives and the world of media. “…Those of us old enough to remember the ‘new’ media of the past – all of which were touted as revolutionary in their day – know that considerable hype surrounds much new media, and that, in the end, very little seems to change. …The media might seem new, but the paradigms are old.”

Media outlets continued to solicit journalism professor Bryce Nelson for his take on the sale of the Los Angeles Daily News to newspaper magnate William Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group. “Just as much as one publisher acquiring too many L.A. newspaper outlets, I am concerned that Mr. Singleton has acquired no reputation for enhancing journalistic excellence in the newspapers he does own,” said Nelson in a Nov. 20 interview on Pacifica Radio’s KPFK. Nelson’s remarks also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Oakland Tribune and the Los Angeles Business Journal. Nelson was also interviewed by the Long Beach Press-Telegram – one of Singleton’s papers – Nov. 21 on the ethics of a Los Angeles Times series on drug-addicted parents and their children. “It is the job of journalists and newspapers to report on what is happening, no matter how disturbing,” he said.

LAS dean and economics of higher education expert Morton Owen Schapiro commented in a November Boston Magazine investigation of “lavish excesses and outrageous salaries” at upscale Boston-area universities. “A lot of things [that] people [in higher education] used to get away with have come back to haunt them,” he said. “The reason tuition is so expensive at a number of elite schools is not because they have all these things they had to buy. It’s because people will pay it. But the number of schools … in that old situation where the market would bear whatever they charged has really fallen … A lot of institutions have reached the price wall.”

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