USC in the News
* CNN’s “Futurewatch” aired a segment Oct. 8 on USC’s Tele-Garden project, a World Wide Web site where more than 1,000 users have already logged on to plant real seeds and tend herbs, vegetables and flowers (or dig them up!) by manipulating a robotic arm. The School of Engineering’s project is meant to be a living model of small-planet social interaction, said robotics expert Ken Goldberg: “We’re trying to contrast the pace of the plant and animal world with the pace of technology.” Computer scientist George Bekey was also interviewed, adding: “I think it’s important for us in the future to find ways of bridging the gap between our view of ourselves and our view of the machine and the technology and the robots.”
An Oct. 6 Time magazine article questioned the progress of genetic research and its promise for clinical applications. Cited as a bright spot in the future of gene therapy was USC faculty member Donald Kohn of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and his research using gene therapy to treat babies born with a disorder called adenosine deaminase deficiency (ADA).
The Oct. 6 “California Report,” a new program which airs on California National Public Radio stations, focused on the budget crisis threatening LAC+USC. Among those interviewed for the program were ophthalmologist Ron Smith, trauma surgeon Demetrios Demetriades and emergency physician William Mallon. The crisis was also examined on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Among the USC physicians quoted on the plight of the medical center were LAC+USC chief of staff Ron Kaufman, trauma physician Howard Belzberg and internist David Goldstein.
The Oct. 3 New York Times cited the research of psychology professor Adrian Raine in a story about links between early violence and criminal behavior. Raine found that boys with birth complications and abusive mothers were three times more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 than other boys. Particularly damaging, he said, is early child abuse, such as shaking a child vigorously. “We know that can lead to laceration of the white nerve fibers that link the prefrontal cortex to deeper brain structures like the amygdala, which are involved in the generation of aggressive impulses, while the prefrontal lobes inhibit those impulses.” Raine was also quoted extensively in the Oct. 6 Chronicle of Higher Education’s examination of the controversy over studies of biology and violent behavior. Other coverage ran in the (Manchester, England) Guardian, Baltimore Sun, Sacramento Bee, Detroit News and Dallas Morning News.
“Far from being one of many cliched blaxploitation movies that only serve the purpose of historical parody, ‘The Mack’ is in fact a narrative that combines the nuances of African-American folklore with the ambition of Horatio Alger,” said cinema/television professor Todd Boyd in the Oct. 1 Los Angeles Times Calendar section. Boyd authored the story, “To the Player’s Ball and Beyond. Right On,” a critical essay of an upcoming festival of African-American films in West Los Angeles.
“Our major mistake is to assume that inner-city youth are clamoring to join gangs. In reality, even in gang-infested neighborhoods many youth steer clear of them. The rest often join because membership represents the best option out of a miserable few choices,” said sociologist Malcolm Klein in a Sept. 29 Los Angeles Times op-ed piece. As director of the Social Science Research Institute, Klein has studied gangs for 23 years. In his new book, “The American Street Gang,” he argues that society’s attempts to abate gangs have inadvertently reinforced gang cohesion and violence. Klein appeared on CBS’s “This Morning” and on “Pacesetters” on KCAL-TV. He was profiled in the Oct. 6 Chronicle of Higher Education. He also was quoted in an Associated Press story on the proliferation of gangs in smaller communities and picked up in newspapers across the country during the first week of October.
“An American computer scientist at the University of Southern California … has created a prototype photocopier that could eventually translate from and to any language,” reported the Times of London September 27. The report on work by Kevin Knight of the School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute described the problems involved in getting a computer to create idiomatic translations between English and Japanese. An earlier report on Knight’s work appeared in Newsweek magazine. An illustrated story about Knight and his “Autoscribe” device also ran Aug. 29 in the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun.
“Meet Bart Kosko, techno-guru of the mind-bending branch of mathematics known as fuzzy logic,” began a profile of engineer Bart Kosko in the September issue of Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine. “In 1985, Kosko geometricized fuzzy logic, put a formula to it, and in the late Eighties, created rules that neural networks, like those inside fuzzy washing machines and camcorders, need to operate,” the story continued. “The power of fuzziness depends on the grayness,” Kosko was quoted as saying. “Fuzzy systems are much closer to the way humans reason.”
In the September Medical Herald, hematologist Alexandra Levine was named one of the top 20 women leaders in American health care. The article mentioned Levine’s recent appointment to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. She is also the principal investigator in several HIV/AIDS studies with more than $10 million in support from the National Institutes of Health.
Literacy expert La Vergne Rosow was featured in a front-page story in the Sept. 18 Los Angeles Times Orange County edition. The article described JobLink, a pilot workplace literacy program that has been adopted by eight major Orange County corporations. Rosow, a clinical education professor, described meeting resistance as the program’s literacy advisor. “They have gotten away with bluffing people very beautifully,” Rosow was quoted as saying about illiterate workers, “and suddenly, you’re put in a place where you’re not going to be covering up – that’s a threat.”
Education professor Stephen Krashen was quoted in a front-page story in the Sept. 13 Los Angeles Times. The story, which urged teachers to return to basics in teaching reading, repudiated the “whole language” approach to reading education. Krashen defended the approach. “There’s a wide number of teachers who have seen whole language work and work effectively and these are not the ones … on the reading task force,” Krashen said.u0000
Dissecting the verdict
* The USC Law Center found itself in the limelight in the days surrounding the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. ABC’s “Good Morning America” aired student interviews Sept. 27 and 29, following closing arguments, and again Oct. 4, after the verdict was announced. Two students from the USC Black Law Students Association joined two students from Harvard Law School on an Oct. 6 CBS “This Morning” segment to analyze the verdicts. Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky frequently commented on the case, with more than 12 major American newspapers – including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today – carrying his quotes after the verdict and the following day.
* “The Simpson-Goldman murder trial has been skillfully hijacked,” law professor Susan Estrich observed an Oct. 1 Los Angeles Times op-ed article. “The sideshow has become the main event. Asking the jury to rise up against a racist system is a brilliant defense strategy and a terrible abuse of the criminal-justice system. This is not what juries are supposed to do. Faculty from other disciplines also commented on the verdict. There is “no such thing as a monolithic black point of view,” sociologist Darnell Hunt told the Los Angeles Times for its Oct. 9 “Special Report” on the legacy of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial. However, he noted that African-Americans tend to be “more race-conscious” and more prone to “ethnic solidarity” than are most whites. Hunt, who is conducting a study of how race affects the way people interpret media coverage, also commented on the verdict for KCAL and KTTV. Journalist Sherrie Mazingo graded media coverage of the so-called “Trial of the Century” in a San Francisco Chronicle Oct. 11 “Open Forum” op-ed. The media deserves “an ‘F’,” concluded Mazingo, citing the mainstream press reports of sleaze-tabloid stories, exclusive interviews that weren’t really that at all, and the 1,400 reporters and camera crews that were assigned to cover just 146 trial witnesses. It was, Mazingo wrote, “10 times as many news people as [those] involved in another big trial – the Lindbergh kidnapping case. The mainstream press did not adhere to its own standards of self-discipline,” she wrote, and its coverage suffered as a result. Journalism professor Bryce Nelson commented on the media’s role in the Simpson trial in the Oct. 11 Los Angeles Times, the Oct. 5 Toronto Globe and Mail, the Oct. 3 Orange County Register and on CNN on Oct. 2.u0000u0000