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Week of 15 October 1999

Vol. III, No. 10

In the News

The 50th anniversary of Mao Tse Tung's revolution in China was celebrated with pageantry, as well as promises of continued economic advance. "The economy's not the problem," said Merle Goldman, a CAS professor of history, on NPR's Marketplace on October 1. "The problem that China's going to have in the next half century is finding a new political structure that goes along with that economy. And there doesn't seem to be a sense of any understanding of that from the leadership today. The Leninist party state which they built the revolution with since 1949 is no longer functioning -- it is obsolete; it's a hollow shell. And without a functioning government, I think they're in for trouble."

Interviewed on The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox cable news channel September 29, Brent Baker said, "Journalism today seems to be turning away from public service, seems to be turning away from telling people what they need to know, more towards entertainment and pictures and what they want to hear." Baker, dean of the College of Communication, continued, "I hear journalists referring to readers not as citizens but as customers, and it bothers me a lot. If you believe in a democracy -- and for a democracy to work, the people have to be informed -- this is a danger. And the citizens are not getting the type of news they need about the subtleties and complexities of decisions that are being made in their name."

In the past, "religious believers have looked to the millennium's end for God's Last Judgment on each individual," write CAS Associate History Professor Richard Landes and David Kessler, director and administrative assistant, respectively, of BU's Center for Millennial Studies, in the September 27 Boston Globe. "In Y2K we find a judgment whose crux is instead the interdependency of society." Speculating on ways to prepare for the consequences of any disruptions, they advise, "The challenge of the year 2000 then, is to take it as an opportunity for learning. If we ridicule and alienate believers in negative scenarios, we are fracturing society by undermining the principles of civil discourse."

In an America Undercover documentary aired in mid-September on HBO, David Barlow, CAS psychology professor and director of BU's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, discussed the prehistoric responses to danger that underlie the panic attacks some people suffer from today. "We think millennia ago when our ancestors lived in caves and had these kinds of challenges almost daily, that those who had this kind of reaction, this fear reaction, this panic, this surge of adrenaline that runs through your body, tended to survive," he explains. "They were able to escape the saber-toothed tiger, or the marauding tribe, or they were able to fight more effectively, and they passed their genes down to us."

"We know a bit of that moment when a child is told he or she suffers with a particular disease like diabetes or cancer," says Thomas Cottle, an SED professor of special education, in an essay in the September 22 Education Week. "We know because we frequently ask children about their feelings and reactions." Identification of a learning disability, however, while it may bring the promise of treatment, does not always include the same concern for the feelings of the sufferer, he says. "And how ironic it is that we ask the child to tell us what he or she is thinking after the child has learned, or believes he or she has learned, that there is something woefully wrong with the way he or she thinks."

"In the News" is compiled by Alexander Crouch in the Office of Public Relations.