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People: What USC folks have been up to (4/12/01)

‘Never pedantic,’ says the Sun

Historian John E. Wills Jr.’s book “1688:A Global History” was reviewed by the Baltimore Sun Feb. 11. The review described the work as “never pedantic, consistently accessible – or in publishing parlance, a good read.” On April 1, Wills’ book was 12th on the Los Angeles Times non-fiction best-sellers list.

Celebrities care about conduct of politics

Some Hollywood celebrities have formed a coalition supporting Sen. John McCain’s campaign finance bill because they care about the conduct of politics, said politics and culture expert Martin Kaplan in a March 14 interview with Marketplace. In addition, the celebrities are probably tired of having their pockets picked, Kaplan said. “Politicians come to California for gold every two years, and who can blame them for being fed up?”

Rage has base in brain abnormalities

Abnormalities in the brain region may, in some cases, trigger violent behavior in children, said Adrian Raine in a March 15 USA Today story. When this part of the brain doesn’t work well, rage can spin out of control, Raine added.

Politics on stage — and more

Playwright Velina Hasu Houston, whose “Tea” runs at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, was featured in the March 16 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I don’t want to just present politics on stage,” Houston said. “I want to see a story, a personal journey. But in presenting a multidimensional character, some element of that character is going to be political whether it’s about the politics of economics, the politics of marriage or relationships, the politics of education. I think if we draw our characters well, then there will be politics inherent in the shaping and execution of those characters.”

People magazine profiles USC violinist

Violinist Chan Ho Yun, who earned his Ph.D. from the USC Thornton School of Music in 1998, was profiled March 19 in People magazine. Headlined “Strings of His Heart,” the feature told how the musician “helps Los Angeles youngsters fiddle away their spare time” when he teaches budding inner-city violinists at “Sweet Strings, the first classical music program in the area.” Yun, recruited by a mother from South Central, directs the program, which began in 1999 with 25 kids and no instruments. Today, 116 youngsters benefit from the program, which also requires parent participation. The music fosters harmony in the community, bringing together Korean, Latino and African American parents for the sake of the kids. “We all believe in working toothier,” Yun said in the piece, “No matter where we come from or what color we are, the only color I recognize is the color of the sound of the music we make.”

Olah’s new book gets major review

Chemist George A. Olah’s book “A Life of Magic Chemistry: Autobiographical Reflections of a Nobel Prize Winner” was the subject of a two-page review in the March 19 Chemical & Engineering News. “As the title implies and as is made clear throughout the book, a primary motive for writing this unusual autobiography was Olah’s pleasure in writing it. He has obviously enjoyed his life enormously, despite its many challenges and hardships, and he wishes to share it with anyone who is interested,” said the reviewer.

Too much to comprehend? Not for Hawking

Theoretical physicist Itzhak Bars was quoted in a March 21 Wired News story about Stephen Hawking’s lecture at USC. “There are very few among us who have the talent he has to explain physics to everyone,” Bars said about Hawking. “He is asking if the universe is too much to comprehend, and his answer was, We should try, because it’s in the realm of science to answer the question.”

Ask not what it can do for you, but with you

A research proposal written by cultural technology expert Douglas Thomas was quoted in a March 22 Los Angeles Times article about Aibo robotic dogs and their owners. “Instead of fusing technology to facilitate entertainment among people, an increasing aspect of entertainment has focused on the user’s interaction with the technology itself,” Thomas wrote. “The joy of Aibo is not what it can do for you, but instead what it can do with you.”

Not all Jews are religious

Many Jews don’t observe the Sabbath but still identify as Jews, Judaism expert Susan Laemmle said in a March 23 Los Angeles Times article about an annual event designed to boost attendance at Sabbath services. “There’s no doubt that there are a lot of Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere who have a strong sense of being Jewish but aren’t religious,” Laemmle said. “We’re inclined to think it’s not possible to keep Jewish life together without that religious core.”

Entertainment could use some un-blurring

Product placements in TV news and talk shows must be curtailed,” journalism expert Loren Ghiglione said in a March 23 USA Today article about a backlash against such placements. “The line between entertainment and news is blurring. We need to make clear what the boundaries are.”

Air quality focus should consider children

A story in the March 23 Riverside Press-Enterprise looked at the poor air quality in the city of Mira Loma. The latest findings stem from a long-term USC study. In this case, officials need to look at “local air-pollution sources, especially the impact of automobile and truck traffic on children’s respiratory health,” said air quality researcher James Gauderman.

Sprawl could use a little strategizing

Policies that address urban sprawl and create coherent growth strategies are long overdue, urban social policy expert Michael Dear said in March 24 Los Angeles Times article about a legislative hearing convened to explore the state’s role in promoting “smart” growth. “We simply have run out of land and run out of resources to keep on growing the way we have,” Dear said. He was also quoted in a March 25 Milwaukee Journal article about “Sprawl Hits the Wall,” a joint report of USC’s Southern California Studies Center and the Brookings Institution’s Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.

Delivering AIDS drugs poses dilemma

A debate over the pricing of AIDS drugs was played out in the March 25 Los Angeles Times. Part of that debate revolves around distributing the drugs to patients in poorer nations. “It is a real dilemma,” said pharmacist Joel Hay. “In poor countries, it is very hard to police where the drugs end up.”

Asperger’s syndrome part of autism

In a March 26 Los Angeles Times letter to the editor, neurologist Wendy Mitchell commented on efforts to understand Asperger’s syndrome, a recently identified disorder associated with autism. “While a few children with Asperger’s are strikingly gifted in a particular area, some have other learning problems as well. It is more like dyslexia in this regard,” said Mitchell.

Southern California more urban than people think

A March 27 Los Angeles Times article about the racial demographics of Southern California quoted urban expert William Fulton and Angela James, an expert on changing contours of race in the 2000 census. “We are a far more urban area than we like to think,” Fulton said. “Los Angeles, in particular, is now an older urban area.” James agreed that the Los Angeles-Long Beach region is more segregated than other areas. “The percentages of Latinos, whites, black and Filipinos [in Carson] are very even, but where do people live? It’s very mixed on a macro level, but very segregated on the neighborhood level.”

Bloodless surgery gains notice

On March 27, NBC aired a story on transfusion-free transplants done at USC University Hospital. “People should not take blood transfusions lightly,” said surgeon Nicolas Jabbour. “If they have a chance to have an alternative way of doing surgery without blood or at least minimize the blood transfusion, they should do it.”

$10 million gift for team building

A story in the March 27 Los Angeles Times reported a $10 million donation from the Beckman Foundation to USC’s Doheny Eye Institute. “Our goal,” said Stephen J. Ryan, Doheny president and dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, “is to develop an interdisciplinary and interactive team of outstanding scientists.”

North Korea support urged

A March 27 Los Angeles Times op-ed co-authored by journalism expert Michael Parks advised the Bush administration to help keep North Korea economically afloat. “The basic argument for keeping North Korea on life support is simple both for the U.S. and South Korea: Its collapse would be disaster,” according to the commentary, which was co-authored by Gregory F. Treverton. “There is no real alternative to engagement and life support.”

More praise for Jack Langguth

According to a book review in the March 29 Christian Science Monitor, A.J. “Jack” Langguth’s “Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975,” “reads with compelling drive and clarity, a history that will be admired and studied by scholars and journalists, a collection of character portraits and relationships that beats most best-selling fiction.”

Diversity growth reshapes the area

Historian Philip Ethington was quoted in a March 30 Los Angeles Times story about Latino and Asians reshaping Los Angeles County. “As we work and travel through the county, we’re more likely to encounter diversity,” Ethington said.

Bush visits’ aim: build pressure

George W. Bush’s visit to Portland, Maine, was part of a swing through the states to pressure senators to vote for his tax cut proposal, political communication expert Thomas Hollihan said in a March 31 Portland (Maine) Press Herald article. “The clear attempt is to try to create enough public pressure within the state of Maine that he’ll get letters to the editor and correspondence directly with your two senators to squeeze them to make sure they vote with him,” Hollihan said.

The company he keeps: James Ragan at the UN

A United Nations’ evening of “Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry” featured poets Yusef Komunyakaa, Joyce Carol Oates, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Sri Chinmoy and James Ragan, director of USC’s Professional Writing Program. The March 29 event, held at the United Nations Building in New York, is one of a series of worldwide literary programs meant to “to foster tolerance, respect and cooperation among peoples.” Some of the other 200+ venues include such novel sites as Mt. Everest, the Casey Station in Antarctica, a scientific boat in the West Philippine Sea and, possibly, the International Space Station.

People: What USC folks have been up to (4/12/01)

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