The massive unauthorized leak by WikiLeaks to three newspapers, including The New York Times, of 91,000 classified documents related to the war in Afghanistan may cause a reassessment of the war effort by the Obama administration. It already has shown how times have changed in the Internet age since the leak of the Pentagon Papers by government insider Daniel Ellsberg in the ’70s. College of Communication Dean Tom Fiedler, a former executive editor of the Miami Herald, says in a BU Today interview that the source of such a leak is less important than the vigilance of the newspaper publishing it.
“When a mainstream news organization gets information, the organization doesn’t say, ‘Are you a good person?’ The organization says, ‘Is that information verifiable?’ It doesn’t matter who WikiLeaks is.”
Contact Tom Fiedler, 617-353-3488, firstname.lastname@example.org
A 2-year investigation by the Washington Post shows that the top-secret world the federal government built in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks now is so big, unwieldly, and secretive that no one really knows how much it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs there are, or how much overlap there is among agencies. International relations Professor Joseph Wippl, a 30-year CIA veteran, says the easiest action for the political class is to enact laws and fund programs, even when every new law and every new program diminishes the return on investment.
“Real political and media leadership would pause to think through reasonable measures to counter problems — but that is hard. Terrorist attacks against the United States are probable sometime in the future. How we react to these attacks will determine if we defeat them or defeat ourselves.”
Contact Joseph Wippl, 617-353-8992, email@example.com
The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, an 842-square-mile submerged plateau off Massachusetts with a wealth of endangered whales and old shipwrecks, has finally got the attention of the federal government. A newly released management plan builds a scientific case for better protecting the sanctuary from humans. Biology Professor Les Kaufman, who had a hand in devising it, says in a BU Today interview that the compromise plan still doesn’t fully protect the area from overfishing and endangering the whale population but it’s a good start.
“Most important of all, it acknowledges that the existing management structure isn’t working, the sanctuary’s health isn’t what it should be, and that’s the goal, to restore its health. Those are landmark statements, as obvious as it sounds, because one of the options was to do nothing.”
Contact Les Kaufman, 617-353-5560, firstname.lastname@example.org
Boston University Professor of Sports Journalism Frank Shorr reacts to the passing of the baseball icon calling Steinbrenner a “lightning rod” who made the sport better:
“He was a lightning rod certainly, but always had the best interest of his team in mind. He never failed to make the Yankees better and, in turn, baseball better. Sure, he spent a lot of money, but he filled ballparks, albeit with teams you often loved to hate.”
Contact: Frank Shorr, email@example.com or 617-353-5163.
The lethal, coordinated bombing attacks in Uganda during the World Cup final have accelerated concerns among anti-terrorism authorities in the United States about the previously local Islamic group, the Shabab, that now is using the Al Qaeda playbook to spread terrorism across borders. International relations Professor Charles Stith, director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC) and a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, says how Africa manages the challenge of overcoming the factional divide within Islam has profound long-term implications for peace, stability, and development on the African continent.
“For historical and contemporary reasons, Africa is fertile soil for fringe elements of Islam to take hold. The problem radical Islam poses for Africa is neither abstract nor isolated; there are clear and present dangers all across the continent.”
Contact Charles Stith, 617-353-5452, firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s all BP all the time in Washington this week. After President Obama addresses the nation Wednesday on the BP oil spill situation, company executives on Thursday face a Congressional hearing on the matter. Visiting law Professor Elizabeth Nowicki, both a former SEC and Wall Street attorney, says BP CEO Tony Hayward would be well-served to remember what empirical research shows about the economic value of apologies.
“My advice to Hayward is to remember what behavioral research has shown: Corporations with senior management who willing and sincerely apologize are (a) less likely to get sued and (b) more likely to settle inevitable lawsuits more cheaply.”
Meantime, political science Prof. Graham Wilson, author of “Business and Politics,” wonders when other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster and its aftermath will be put in the spotlight that thus far has swamped BP.
“It will be interesting to see if the American companies involved, such as Transocean and Haliburton, are also asked to set aside funds [for clean-up]. Only eight of the people on the rig when the well failed were employed by BP.”
The Congressionally sponsored bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission now has cast its eyes on the credit-rating agencies and the impact they may have had on the Great Crash of 2008. Law Professor Elizabeth Nowicki, a veteran attorney from both Wall Street and the Securities and Exchange Commission, says the agencies are both hopelessly plagued by conflicts and in a position to undermine the very stability of the capital markets.
Nowicki: “Today’s hearings, then, will serve only as a political tool to emphasize the need for a dramatic response to the financial crisis.”
Meantime, School of Management master lecturer Mark Williams, a former Federal Reserve Bank examiner and author of “Uncontrolled Risk” about the fall of Lehman Brothers, says that while the rating agencies weren’t the main cause of the credit crisis, but they left the gate open and let the market and its participants behave in a more destructive manner.
Williams: “Meaningful financial reform will require that rating firms devise compensation plans that reward for high rating standards and provide penalties for intentional ratings manipulation.”
A new study produced by Boston University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism that outlines media coverage of the Massachusetts special senate election has revealed some interesting points about the recent race. According to the report, national media initially lost interest in a “fairly dull and utterly local contest.” But, “when it became clear something was up, it was polling—not journalistic reporting—that caught the wave in the race to succeed Kennedy.”
For more information, contact: Tobe Berkovitz, 617-353-7724, email@example.com.
For the first time, tests of an artificial pancreas system developed by BU researchers have successfully maintained near-normal glucose levels in patients without causing hypoglycemia. The tests, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, were the first of an artificial pancreas using both insulin and the blood-sugar-raising hormone glucagon. Department of Biomedical Engineering Prof. Edward Damiano, who co-led the research team, says such a system could replace the need for type-1 diabetics to constantly check their blood sugar and make treatment decisions every few hours.
“It wouldn’t be a cure, but it has the potential to be the ultimate evolution of insulin therapy for type-1 diabetes.”
A new study from Bruce Anderson, Ph.D., of Boston University’s Dept. of Geography and Environment has found that the summertime conditions in the Northeast have the potential to change dramatically as the century progresses.
According to Dr. Anderson, the study found “there is the threat that conditions across the Northeast are going to become significantly drier. In addition, they will become significantly warmer. More worrying though, is the health-related changes in the heat index for our region, which captures days with both high temperatures and high humidities.”
Anderson explains that not only does the average summertime heat index increase significantly – by up to 4C (7F) – but so do the number of potentially-threatening “extreme caution” days (where the heat index exceeds 90F). In fact, for the highly-populated Northeast megapolis stretching from NYC to Boston, over half the days during summer are expected to exceed the “extreme caution” value; and, the “extreme caution” value has the potential to become the norm for the region.
Similar studies carried out in parallel with this one suggest that the summertime climate of Massachusetts will become more and more like that of the deep South (Georgia and Florida) as the century progresses.
The research appears in the April issue of Climatic Change.
Contact: Bruce Anderson, 617-353-4807, firstname.lastname@example.org