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A wreck waiting to happen

Transportation expert James Moore was part of KCBS-TV’s coverage of the April 23 fatal train wreck in Placentia. Moore said the head-on collision of a freight train with a Metrolink commuter train could have been prevented with Positive Train Control, a high-tech control system for trains similar to the nation’s air-traffic control system. “The central authority could have seized control of the train and redirected it,” he said.

 

Finding clues to tsunamis

An April 23 New York Timesfstory reported that experts had found clues to the cause of a deadly Pacific tsunami. Tsunami expert Costas E. Synolakis – who led a team of researchers in discovering that an underwater landslide, rather than an earthquake, was the cause of the 1998 Papua New Guinea tsunami – said, “For the first time, we are able to identify a landslide from its acoustic signature.”

 

But will it sell in L.A.?

Don’t hold your breath, said experts in an April 24 New Times (Los Angeles) story: Former Mayor Richard Riordan’s plan to start a newspaper in Los Angeles may be a bust. “I expect this to be as successful as his gubernatorial campaign,” said journalism expert Bryce Nelson. The trend has been toward fewer newspapers in American cities, not more, Nelson said. He also predicted that the paper’s focus on the city of Los Angeles would alienate more sophisticated readers who want regional, state, national and international news.

 

Get serious about peace

Middle East expert Laurie Brand spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis with Bill Rosendahl on Adelphia’s “Week in Review” in mid-April. “The United States has had an important role whenever there have been major breakthroughs,” Brand said. “The U.S. is involved in the region whether we say we are or not. … I think what this administration needs to be doing is taking seriously the notion of peace and security for both peoples in the region.”

 

Closing in on Alzheimer’s

USC research that may have found the chief culprit in Alzheimer’s disease was featured in an April 25 CBS News “Early Show” segment. Scientists found something that may point to what causes the brain’s neurons to die. “While many scientists have said it’s the sticky plaquelike substance, this amyloid substance, these scientists have found that the culprit might be a different cell called a microglial cell, which sort of goes around to try to clean things up,” said the report.

 

Video era’s coming of age

Media expert Joe Saltzman talked to the Associated Press for an April 25 story about the flood of video images after Sept. 11 and whether they make us better informed. “Seeing Sept. 11 pictures of the jets is horrific, but it doesn’t tell you key information, the who, the why, the how,” he said. “At times, a tape can almost be more distorted and give the wrong impression than no tape.”

 

Mideast: It’s the economy

In an April 25 Q & A, economics and legal expert Timur Kuran told the Sacramento Bee that the roots of Middle Eastern resentment of the West are 1,000 years old. “Blaming the religion won’t do, because for centuries the Islamic world was more advanced than the Christian. What I’m arguing is that there’s nothing fundamentally anti-commürcial in the religion, but what happened is that certain institutions, adopted for very good reason, had unanticipated and unintended consequences. A lot of the problems we face in the Middle East – and with the Middle East – have to do with this lack of development,” he said.

 

L.A. 10 years post-riot

Urban demographer and planner Dowell Myers participated in a special two-hour “Town Hall” program on race relations in Los Angeles 10 years after the riots. The show aired April 25 on KPCC’s “AirTalk With Larry Mantle.” Myers spoke about demographic shifts in the last decade. Since few cities in the county have a clear ethnic or racial majority, he said, a successful future will depend on multi-ethnic coalitions. Legal expert Erwin Chemerinsky was interviewed on CBS’ “Evening News With Dan Rather” April 26. “All of the deep-seated problems in the city with regard to race and poverty and policing have not been addressed,” he said. “I think it’s inevitable, as tragic it is, that we’re going to have more violence in the future.” Criminal and discrimination law expert Jody Armour was quoted in the April 30 Houston Chronicle&Mac253; “There are those who think progress has been made,” Armour said, referring to a USC symposium on the L.A. riots. “And there were a number of panel members who thought although there have been some changes … many of the underlying problems continue to fester and may erupt in yet another violent outbreak.”

 

Soaring home prices

Urban demographers Dowell Myers and Julie Park’s study was featured in an April 26 Los Angeles Times story about the state’s record home prices. Myers recommends changing the state laws designed to increase low-income housing.

 

Faith mandates change

An April 27 Los Angeles Times story on how a Pasadena ministry is part of a growing movement to challenge practices of corporate globalization quoted religious culture expert race Dyrness. “People of faith are saying, ‘This world isn’t working, and what can we do about it?’ For many of them, it is a
mandate that comes out of their sacred scriptures to be a good steward and to love your neighbor,” she said.

 

It takes a village

hhe renewal of neighborhoods depends on new families moving in and rejuvenating homes, said an April 28 Los Angeles Times feature. California studies expert Michael Dear talked at length about the cycles of decay and renewal in urban neighborhoods. “That neighborhoods change is an undisputed fact of life,” said Dear. “The difficulty comes when the houses start to age and reach the end of their natural life span, which tends to happen to homes in a neighborhood all at once.”

A loss for the White House

In commenting on a Bush adviser’s impending departure from the White House, politics analyst Susan Estrich told the April 28 New York Times, “The question isn’t whether Karen Hughes made the right decision for her. The question is whether the White House is suffering a loss, and I think it is.”

 

Post-Enron, spirituality gains

Management guru Ian Mitroff, who wrote a book called “The Spiritual Audit of Corporate America,” told the April 29 Christian Science Monitor: “A lot of companies are convinced of the value of spirituality. What they lack is a way to bring the practice of spirituality – spirituality, not religion – into the workplace in a way that won’t cause disruption or acrimony.”

 

But is it profiling?

Management and policy expert Howard Greenwald’s Sacramento Bee op-ed was cited at length in an April 29 Seattle Post-Intelligencer&Mac253;story about racial profiing. “As long as it is accepted that a police department may send more officers into high-crime than into low-crime areas, and for officers to stop vehicles for investigative purposes,” Greenwald wrote in the opinion piece, “over-representation of African-Americans among drivers who are stopped cannot be interpreted as a sign of racial bias.”

 

Late-late motherhood

The few women who have given birth in their 50s and 60s – with science’s help – are making history and changing society, said infertility specialist Richard Paulson in the April 29 Los Angeles Times. Paulson, the specialist who helped a 63-year-old woman (who lied about her age) give birth, talked about society’s changing attitude toward older mothers and the medical considerations of bearing children in late middle age.

 

The air vs. the square

In a story about the latest Air Jordans vs. the Classic Chuck Taylor All-Stars, orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Chang told the April 30 Washington Post that “the biggest advance to occur in basketball shoes over the years is having more rigid uppers around the ankle.”

 

It’s news and entertainment

The Robert Blake case has renewed a TV debate. Media expert Martin Kaplan said in the April 30 Seattle Times that the murder case “comes as a grotesque comic relief [from news about the Middle East and Afghanistan]. Most national outlets have thoroughly disgraced themselves by their attention to it. It has only voyeuristic content and deserves only 1 percent of the coverage it’s getting.” But screenwriter John Furia told CNN on May 6 that he sees a “good story” in the murder trial of the actor. “All drama gets back to character relationships. And the relationship [here] was dark and strange between the two of them. It was sexual. There was a baby involved. And a murder. What more elements would you want?”

 

Help for paralyzed muscles

On May 1, TechTV aired a story on the Bion, the bionic neuron fabricated on the USC campus and undergoing clinical trials. The story focused on a Canadian woman who suffered a stroke and was implanted with Bions that exercised her paralyzed shoulder muscles. “If we can’t exercise our muscles at all, they lose strength, they lose the ability to contract,” said Jerry Loeb, biomedical engineer and creator of the Bion.

 

Excitement in grid computing

The cover story in the May issue of MIT’s influential Technology Review was devoted to grid computing, an emerging way to share information, computing power and other resources over high-speed post-Internet links. It uses the Globus Toolkit, a set of open-source software tools that is fast emerging as the standard for grid computing in much the same way that the hypertext transfer protocol, or HTTP, is the standard for linking documents on the Web. “The idea is to let the network provide the basic mechanisms for moving data around, while Globus provides mechanisms for resource sharing,” said Carl Kesselman of the Information Sciences Institute. Kesselman has been developing the Globus Toolkit for the past five years.

 

Pulling answers out of the air

Occupational and environmental health expert Rob McConnell, who recently published a study proving that smog can actually cause – not just exacerbate – asthma, speculated in the May 1 Baltimore Sun on other possible triggers for children’s asthma. One possible reason for the rise in attacks in the fall is that children return to school and pick up viral infections that aggravate their asthma, said McConnell.

The Oaxaca connection

Immigrants from southern Mexico have brought real molés, clayudas and avocado leaf barbacoa to Los Angeles. Sociologist Gaspar Rivera Salgado was quoted in the May 1 Los Angeles Times about the customs, character and immigration patterns of people from Oaxaca. “What distinguishes [one of the Oaxaca groups] from other indigenous groups is they are the entrepreneurs. They love business,” Rivera said.

Shutting down a newspaper

First Amendment expert Erwin Chemerinsky expressed concern in the May 3 Los Angeles Times over the shutdown of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise by District Attorney Steve Cooley. Cooley was seeking business records related to the city of Southgate’s recall election. Chemerinsky called the episode “enormously troubling” given recent statutes severely limiting newsroom searches.

 

A comeback for gene therapy

W. French Anderson, who performed the first gene therapy attempt, told the Associated Press in a May 3 story that, despite some failures, human testing has continued without interruption. “After all the trauma, things now appear to have turned the corner for us,” he said. “Those that stayed [in the field] are starting to make real progress.”

 

Environmental politics

Sometimes lofty environmentalism is a cover for crude politics, said philosopher John Hospers in a May 3 Newsweek story. The United States has the world’s largest proven reserves of coal, but Hospers noted that in 1996 President Clinton put 68 billion tons of America’s cleanest-burning coal, located in Utah, off-limits for mining, ostensibly for environmental reasons.

 

Fixing corporate behavior

as the “rank and yank” culture takes hold at many American companies, corporate relations expert Edward Lawler told the May 3 Australian Financial Review that most performance assessment models are open to abuse. “Companies are constantly changing these systems because they get a lot of negative feedback. These systems are often badly designed and badly exercised.” In the May 6 Business Week– Lawler commented on how to fix corporate governance. He said the business world recently saw a “convergence of self-interest” in which directors “were all doing well, and nobody wanted to rock the boat.”

 

Seconds make a difference

Criminal law expert Charles Whitebread joined a discussion in the May 3 Los Angeles Times on how much time officers should give suspects to come to the door before breaking it down. “The courts like the ‘reasonableness’ standard. Sadly, what I think they don’t consider is that it leaves the police confused as to what they can do.”

 

Heroic dentist gets his due

On May 5, both the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News ran stories on alumnus Ben Salomon being awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous last stand on Saipan in 1944. He was the first Army dentist to receive the medal – thanks primarily to the case made on his behalf by fellow alumnus Robert West, whom he’d never met. “It was a kind of moral imperative,” said Harold Slavkin, dean of the USC School of Dentistry, commenting on the years-long efforts of West and others. “They were compelled to do it because they wanted the right thing to be done.”

 

When can children decide?

A May 5 Ventura County Starƒarticle about the new book, “Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex,” elicited this from censorship expert James Kincaid, who wrote a foreword for the controversial book: “The general argument is, by and large, we’ve done a lot more harm than good by pretending [kids] have no erotic
feelings or fantasies.”

 

The importance of leadership

The multifaceted, multinational business model continues to confound critics and attract investors. In the May 5 Los Angeles Times, business expert James O’Toole said, “One of the lessons learned about conglomerates … is that a lot of their success is dependent on their leader.”

 

Cities look inward for growth

“The notion of always expanding … beyond the urban fringe is something that is not as viable as it once was,” said finance and business economics expert Stuart Gabriel in the May 5 Los Angeles Times. “Housing is coming back to the jobs.”

 

Death of film is premature

Movies look great on a digital projector, noted an article in the May 6 issue of Time magazine. But who’ll pay for them? Major movie studios and theater owners are tangled in a web of competing interests that delays adoption of digital technology – and prevents the industry from achieving hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings. Said Elizabeth Daley, dean of the film school: “The hold-up right now is not the technology – it’s the economics.”

 

A South-Central star gives back

In the May 6 issue of Newsweek, alumnus and Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson talked about investing in his childhood neighborhood after it was devastated by the Los Angeles riots. A key player in the new Chesterfield Square mall at Western and Slauson, Johnson said: “You have to do for yourself. That’s the way the world works.”

UPN 13’s news deconstructed

Los Angeles Times columnist Howard Rosenberg panned an Emmy-winning local newscast on May 6 with the help of a class he teaches at USC. “I felt like I was watching a music video,” wrote one student. “Anyone with a high school diploma is much too educated to watch it,” added another.

 

Surviving the fall

Employees still with Global Crossing are trying to keep spirits up while taking on the tasks of those laid off, according to a May 6 Los Angeles Times article. Crisis management expert Ian Mitroff said the tribulations faced by Global’s employees are “unfair, but that’s what happens in a crisis, and that’s why you don’t want to get into one of these things.”

Polish Music Center is praised

USC’s Polish Music Center was lauded in the May 6 Los Angeles Times for bringing “music-making ãoles to wider attention” with its inaugural Paderewski Lecture. The center “reminds us – with festivals, conferences and concerts – that Polish music did not begin and most certainly did not end with Chopin,” the review said.

 

USC professor to SEC post

The May 7 Los Angeles Times reported that Lawrence Harris, holder of the Fred V. Keenan Chair in Finance in the USC Marshall School of Business, will head a team of economists at the Securities and Exchange Commission. News of the appointment also ran in the New York Times and Washington Post, among other publications.

 

A thoughtful voice post-9/11

Composer Stephen Hartke’s “Beyond Words,” inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was reviewed in the May 7 Los Angeles Times. “There is no angst, no patriotic defiance, just desolation reminiscent of the last chamber works of Shostakovich in mood,” wrote the critic. “And it stays with you long after its conclusion.”

 

A Harlem great’s tales

Literature expert Carla Kaplan shed some light on the life of the late African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston in the May 9 New York Times. “Evidently, she cut an unusual figure – a single black woman, driving her own car, toting a gun, sometimes passing for a bootlegger, offering prize money for the best stories and lies,’” Kaplan wrote in the preface to a new collection of Hurston’s work. Hurston gathered the folk tales in the late 1920s in Florida while studying anthropology at Barnard College. “She worked under harsh conditions … sleeping in her car when ‘colored’ hotel rooms couldn’t be had, defending herself against jealous women, putting up with bedbugs, lack of sanitation and poor food in … the turpentine camps, sawmills and phosphate mines she
visited.”

E-mail’s long goodbyes

In a May 9 New York Times story about e-mail exchanges that tend to drag on, communication expert Margaret L. McLaughlin said that in such a bare-bones medium, “There’s an absence of contextual and nonverbal cues that help to reduce ambiguity about the meaning of speech acts and the state of the relationship.”

 

6th USC grad in the family

The Los Angeles Daily News featured a front-page story May 11 on a Pacoima family who put all 11 children through college – six at USC. The Perez family recently celebrated the graduation of its 10th child – Dinah Perez – who received a degree in Spanish at USC. Her younger sister will be a junior at USC in the fall.

 

Op-eds 

The triumph of extremes

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, PPD, Los Angeles Times, April 28. The Legislature could be a nightmare for California’s new governor, wrote Bebitch Jeffee. She did a postmortem on March’s statewide elections and wrote about the challenges that will face the next governor vis-a-vis the newly configured state Legislature.

 

A priority: community policing

Warren H. Schmidt, PPD, Los Angeles Times, May 6. Schmidt and two co-authors argued that the most important quality of the next LAPD chief must be a commitment to community policing.

 

Honors & Awards

Kudos for Keck’s Akmal

The National Kidney Foundation of Southern California will pay tribute to Mohammad Akmal, professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, at a dinner in early June. He is being lauded for his longtime service to the organization and to patients with kidney disease. Akmal directs the DaVita/USC Kidney Center.

 

Wolf elected a fellow

Walter Wolf Distinguished Professor of pharmaceutical sciences and director of the pharmacokinetic imaging program at the USC School of Pharmacy, has been elected a Fellow of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

 

USC’s labs lauded

USC Clinical Laboratories and the USC Pathology Reference Laboratory have been awarded accreditation with distinction by the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation of the College of American Pathologists, based on the results of a recent on-site inspection. Alan L. Hiti, director of the clinical laboratories, and Clive R. Taylor, professor and chair of the department of pathology, received notice of the accreditation that cited the “excellence of the services provided.” The laboratories are part of more than 6,000 CAP-accredited laboratories nationwide.

 

Med students take top places

Two USC medical students won $1,500 in prize money for taking first and second place in the 12th annual Gustav Retzius Competition in Neuroanatomy, a contest sponsored by the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Fourth-year medical student Daniel Goodwin took the top prize of $1,000 for identifying in one hour the highest number of 60 slides depicting neuroanatomical structures. Third-year student Lawrence Davidson took second place and a prize of $500. Members of the team that designed and administered the exam were: Floyd Gilles, head of neuropathology at CHLA; Marvin Nelson, radiologist-in-chief at CHLA; Judy Garner, USC associate professor of cell and neurobiology; and Charles Haun, USC emeritus associate professor of cell and neurobiology.

 

Center to be evaluated

The department of family medicine’s Division of Community Health has received a $142,500 grant from the San Diego-based Alliance Healthcare Foundation to evaluate a “one-stop center” for small businesses seeking health insurance information as part of an 18-month pilot project to provide coverage and educational materials about health-care plans and options.

 

Etc. 

New USC Ph.D. re-elected

Suja Lowenthal, awarded a Ph.D. from the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development on May 10, was recently re-elected to the Long Beach Unified School District Board with 63 percent of the vote. First elected to the board a year ago in a special election, she i[ the government affairs manager for the Central and West Basin Municipal Water District.

 

Clinical trials course for Aparicio

Ana Aparicio, hematology and oncology fellow at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, was chosen to take part in the Southwest Oncology Group’s March “Young Investigators Training Course,” designed to develop the skills needed to prepare and conduct cancer clinical trials.

 

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