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News Clips - December 14, 2007

From December 7 to December 13, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 185 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Japanese 10-year government bonds advance as local stocks fall
Bloomberg News | December 13
Japanese 10-year bonds rose for a second day after a slide in local equities increased demand for the security of government debt. The advance pushed benchmark yields to the lowest close in a week after shares in Tokyo declined on speculation a fund- injection plan by central banks in the U.S. and Europe will fail to end a credit squeeze. The Bank of Japan said yesterday it "welcomes'' the measures and will continue to carry out money- market operations "appropriately.'' ...  The Fed is "being pushed very hard by the people in the market, by the Congress, by the administration, and it's giving in,'' said Allan Meltzer, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He spoke during an interview yesterday.


Fed deflects criticism with credit crisis steps
The New York Times (Reuters) | December 12
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday diluted criticism of his handling of a global credit crisis with measures to boost bank liquidity that were seen as a constructive step that might well work. It was a quick turnaround. Bernanke was slammed on Tuesday for lacking a sense of urgency after the Fed cut interest rates by a modest quarter-percentage point and declined to offer a signal of the further action some critics felt was warranted. ... "This will help to improve the distribution of liquidity in the system," said Marvin Goodfriend, a former top Fed adviser and professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University.


Fed unveils new tools
The Wall Street Journal | December 12
Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve showed off a few new tools today, a day after a quarter-point cut of the fed-funds rate didn't impress Wall Street and set off a stock-market tumble. Ahead of the open, the Fed said it has banded together with four other major central banks to announce a series of moves aimed at pumping more cash into global money markets. The overall aim is to get persistently viscous credit channels flowing freely once again. One way policy makers are looking to do it is through the creation of reciprocal "swap" lines between the European Central Bank, for $20 billion, and the Swiss National Bank, for $4 billion. Such swap lines will let the ECB and SNB make dollar loans to banks in their jurisdiction. The inability of foreign central banks to inject funds in anything other than their own currency has been a factor creating the squeeze on bank funding in those markets. Such swap lines are nothing new in the world of central banks, said Marvin Goodfriend, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, who studies monetary policy.


How to stop your emotions from wrecking your returns
The Wall Street Journal | December 12
Feeling rattled? Stock investors have been through the wringer over the past five months, sweating through nasty market declines and savoring the recoveries that followed. But just because you're unnerved doesn't mean you're a lousy investor. Here's how emotions affect investing, plus four strategies that should help you sidestep the pitfalls. ... Make no mistake: Emotions can hurt your investment results. For instance, a study published in Psychological Science in June 2005 found that people with impaired emotional responses made more-sensible financial decisions. These folks, who had lesions on their brains that limited their emotional reactions, were more willing to take gambles where the potential payoff easily outweighed the potential loss. "When people with normal emotional reactions lost, they got discouraged and stopped gambling," notes one of the study's authors, George Loewenstein, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University.


Workers should be wary of shady business deals | December 9
Do you remember the Enron scandal and the whistleblower at the energy company Sherron Watkins, who was even named Time person of the year in 2002? Seems like many employees and managers have forgotten her heroism and they’ve also forgotten the many ethical lapses among businesses just a few years ago epitomized by Enron. ... If it’s a minor ethical breach many people tend to brush it aside, says Francesca Gino, visiting assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.


Cell phones are dangerous in flight: myth, or fact
ABC News | December 7
It's a fact of life for the frequent flier: Once the plane is off the ground, cell phones must be turned off and put away. That's the rule and every commercial airline in the United States enforces it. But is there a good reason for this? Can a cell phone bring down a plane, or is that just a myth? ... According to Bill Strauss, cell phones emit strong radio signals that could cause false readouts on an airplane's navigational equipment. Strauss and other researchers from Carnegie Mellon University invented a device that detects radio emissions from cell phones and other electronic devices.


Want to break a bad habit? Try this
U.S. News & World Report | December 7
It isn't news that unhealthful habits are tough to break. But an article in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that some "asymmetric paternalism" might help. The idea: It's possible for policymakers to realize change by designing systems that make the healthful choice the default choice. Having doctors automatically schedule screening exams for people rather than relying on the patients to keep track, for example, would probably be good for preventive medicine. George Loewenstein, one of the paper's authors and a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University, says individuals can apply the concept within their families, too.

Education for Leadership

Proposal would dust off Wilkinsburg train station
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 13
There's a proposal to bring new life to the Wilkinsburg train station, which has been vacant since the 1970s. ... In 2004, a team of students from Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management received a $10,000 grant from an anonymous contributor to conduct research regarding the station, including obtaining public suggestions for its use.


Of wayward gloves and lost souls
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 10
Two Saturdays ago, this newspaper's front page carried an article on a local art student's bittersweet effort to return lost gloves to their less-than-fully-dressed owners. A critical reader ribbed me: "This is your paper's top story today?" But the story, whimsical at first glance, struck a deep emotional note. Accounts of Jennifer Gooch's Web site,, and her quixotic mission -- to retrieve misplaced gloves from Pittsburgh streets and sidewalks and reunite them with their lonely mates via the Internet -- soon appeared everywhere from Seattle to San Jose to USA Today to the BBC. ... The gloves collected by the Carnegie Mellon University student sprang to my mind just a few days later when a teenage gunman killed eight strangers and himself in a mall in Omaha, Neb.

Arts and Humanities

Why is it hard for adults to say 'no?'
The Washington Post | December 11
If Mary and Peter Hamm had had Maria first, they might not have had any more kids. Maria, the second of their 12 children, said no to giving her kindergarten teacher a Christmas present the teacher might actually use, insisting instead on making something resembling gloves out of felt. ... She was always testing the limits, Mary recalls, and never shy about saying no. How frustrating the "no" word can be: for the parent trying to corral a wayward child, for an employee fighting for a raise, for a diplomat trying to broker agreement between warring countries. But consider what can happen when people don't say no. ... By age 15 or 16, young people possess virtually all the cognitive abilities to make good decisions that adults have, according to Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Like adults, they must know three things to use those skills well: what they really want as opposed to, say, what their friends want; what their options are; and what will happen if they choose one option over another.


With tidings of conflict and stress? Sadly, yes.
Star-Telegram (U.S. News & World Report) | December 10
Ah, the holidays. Here come the glazed hams, the gifts -- and the in-laws. Although the season brings people together, some gatherings can be wrought with familial tension. ... Negativity-plagued relationships are toxic in part because of the effects of chronic stress, says Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University. Besides damaging the heart, ongoing stress can deplete the immune system -- creating openings for colds, cancers and other maladies -- and lead to depression and risky coping behaviors like excessive drinking.

Information Technology

Web tool detects something phishy
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 11
Harvey Schoenman, a board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals, said it's commonplace for computer-based workers to cast aside the Internet security advisories they receive from their employers. "It's not only PNC," said Schoenman, a 30-year IT veteran who retired as PNC information technology vice president. "Business people in general don't want to be bothered. They've got their job, and they just want things to work. Then they click on something and find it didn't work. You end up educating them over the phone." ... Lorrie Cranor, who studies those responses for a living, concurs. "We've done a study that shows nobody uses them," Cranor said of the advisories. "People think, 'It doesn't apply to me.' But our study showed that people do read phishing e-mails." So she and a team of researchers she directs at Carnegie Mellon University's Usable Privacy and Security Lab have devised a fake-phishing e-mail that actually is an animated, interactive training tool.


Earning a degree in green
Plenty Magazine | December Issue
Until recently, almost no one had heard of a tiny school called the College of the Atlantic. Located in Bar Harbor, a small town on Mt. Desert Island, which is about halfway up Maine’s coast, the campus is far away from just about everything. But this past year, a flood of media attention washed away its cozy anonymity. It was the subject of a New York Times feature, received praise from Hillary Clinton and was listed by the environmental news website Grist as the greenest university. ... But these days, College of the Atlantic is not alone in its goals—sustainability is quickly becoming part and parcel of university culture. ... The University of Pennsylvania bought 112,000 megawatts of wind energy, which accounts for about 30 percent of its overall energy needs. Carnegie Mellon requires that all new buildings conform to a minimum of LEED silver standards. And the list goes on.

Regional Impact

Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center receives $14.4, hiring
Pop City Media | December 5
Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center received a whopping $14.4 M from the United States Army to further develop an unmanned ground vehicle that may one day solve transportation challenges like those encountered by supply convoys in Iraq. While disclosure rules prevent officials from discussing the contract, it will involve hiring 5 to 10 additional robotics researchers in the areas of mechanical, electrical, software engineering and technicians, says Steve DiAntonio, director of strategic business development.


Carnegie Mellon helps develop camera system that creates explorable panoramics
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 11
Three years ago, Randy Sargent left his job with NASA to invent a camera system he believed would revolutionize the way people share information. Now he is watching the revolution begin. "We had a lot of crazy ambitions for Gigapan," said Sargent, senior systems scientist for the Global Connection Project at Carnegie Mellon University. "But if you asked me then if, realistically, we would ever get to this point, I'd probably have said no. It is definitely exceeding my expectations."


Carnegie Mellon robotic team basks in glow of victory
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 10
Carnegie Mellon University's decisive victory Nov. 3 at the Urban Challenge can be reduced to basic NASCAR tactics. "[Competitors] didn't accelerate like we did, and they didn't brake like we did," said Chris Urmson, director of technology for Carnegie Mellon's Tartan Racing. ... Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon said the Nov. 3 "victory in Victorville" marks "a very significant day in the history of this university. Not only did we win, but we won convincingly," he said.


Buying property for college-bound child can make sense
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 9
A checklist for parents of new college students: Don't forget to: a) pay the tuition; b) have the safe-sex talk; c) have the drinking-and-driving talk; and d) buy your student a house or condo. Pardon the whiplash on that last one, but the fact is, many parents are investing in real estate close to campus for their college-bound offspring. Oftentimes, it's preferable to shelling out dormitory fees or apartment rent. ... Robert Sheehan, consulting economist for the National Apartment Association, had a good experience. He bought an old four-bedroom Victorian in a reviving neighborhood of Richmond, Va., for his daughter to live in while attending Virginia Commonwealth University. After his daughter graduated, he sold her the house with easy terms. But Mr. Sheehan didn't repeat the process when his son enrolled in Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Why? Carnegie Mellon provided better digs less expensively than he could have purchased.


How insects walk or bounce on water?
The Times of India | December 8
If you have ever wondered how insects walk or bounce on water, or skim across the surface of ponds, rivers and oceans, scientists have the answer. ...  One team led by Metin Sitti at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, has already built a lightweight spider microrobot able to walk on water. The real thing is extraordinarily mobile. Some water striders can propel their bodies across the water surface at nearly 3.5 feet, or 100 times their body length, per second. A six-foot-tall human swimming at a comparable speed would achieve around 400 mph.


Funding the future
The Peninsula | December 7
A project on developing robots that can effectively communicate with the Arab societies is among the 47 research proposals that will receive grants from the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) of the Qatar Foundation. ... Dr. Majd Sakr, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University-Qatar (Carnegie Mellon Qatar), while explaining his proposal on human-robot interaction, told The Peninsula: “Robots in developed countries were designed to communicate with the cultural setting of their respective societies. The thrust of our research is to develop an effective communication language for robots suitable in the Arab societies. If robots fail to effectively interact with people, the huge amount spent on the technology would be wasted.” The research project is supported jointly by Carnegie Mellon Qatar and the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.