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News Clips - August 31, 2007

From August 24 to August 30, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 256 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


The ABCs of fast growth
The Washington Post | August 30
Fairfax County school officials this fall are carrying BlackBerrys that connect to a database of student information, including parent contacts and medical warnings. Dartmouth students are using wikis, blogs, podcasts and other interactive media tools for their courses. A graduate school at Carnegie Mellon has bought new, Web-based software to administer financial aid. The initiatives are all the work of Washington-area businesses -- part of a wave of education technology companies that have emerged in the region in recent years. ... All told, more than 20 education technology companies have set up shop in greater Washington. Some cater to universities, others to local school systems. Some help educators manage big budgets and intricate bureaucracies; others provide tools for use in the classroom -- or, in some cases, seek to replace the classroom altogether.


Zoellick adopts Wall Street tools to end World Bank loan slump
Bloomberg News | August 28
World Bank President Robert Zoellick is bringing a touch of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to rescue the poverty-fighting agency's slumping business. ... Bureaucracy has turned customers away. On average, a borrower must fulfill 38 conditions to get a loan, ranging from privatization of industries to liberalization of trade, according to a study by Eurodad, a Brussels-based aid group. ... Another reason for the scarcity of customers is the loss of its biggest advantage: rock-bottom interest rates, said Adam Lerrick, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.


Crews working to get camera inside mine
ABC News (AP) | August 28
A robotic camera lowered into a mountain became stuck 10 feet from its target, forcing crews to come up with another route to attempt getting video of an area where six miners might be trapped, an official said Tuesday. ... In this undated photo released by Carnegie Mellon University, the Ferret, a 6-inch-diameter, laser-based device for mapping underground mines is shown. The Ferret is one of a number of robots that have been proposed in the last three weeks since the Aug. 6 collapse. Officials planned to deploy an 8-inch wide, approximately 70-pound robot from Florida into a Utah mine where six coal miners have been trapped. The device has two cameras and the ability to maneuver 1,000 feet into the mine.


Court rules against TorrentSpy in hacking case
The New York Times | August 28
A lawsuit filed last year by TorrentSpy--a BitTorrent search engine--that accused the movie studios' trade group of intercepting the company's private e-mails, was tossed out of court last week. But while a U.S. District judge found that the Motion Picture Association of America had not violated the federal Wiretap Act, as TorrentSpy's attorneys had argued, the MPAA acknowledged in court records that it paid $15,000 to obtain private e-mails belonging to TorrentSpy executives. ... "Ethically, it's pretty clear that reading other people's e-mail is wrong," said Lorrie Cranor, an associate research professor and Internet privacy expert at Carnegie Mellon University. "Being offered someone else's e-mails by a third party should have been a red flag."


Robots, revisited: Hopes of humanoid helpers have been downsized
USA Weekend Magazine | August 26
It's been 45 years since Rosey the Robot maid first rolled into America's living rooms on TV's "The Jetsons." She was the automated helpmate so many of us yearn for: a humanoid that did all the housework. So what happened to the domestic robot dream? ... Humans are complex and gifted creatures. We know that a $100 bill on the floor should not be sucked into a vacuum cleaner. We're also far more efficient than machines. Any movement requiring strength, flexibility and dexterity, such as folding laundry, is extremely difficult for a robot. "We envision robots as companions," says Illah Nourbakhsh, who teaches robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. "But they are really interactive technologies."

Education for Leadership

100 Black Men links teens to high-tech
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 27
For 14 weeks this summer, 17 teenagers bypassed sleeping late to show up in a classroom at Carnegie Mellon University. They came on campus at 9 a.m. for five days a week to learn their way around the World Wide Web and get grounded in the basics of computer science. The 7-year-old summer camp, called InfoLink 100, is part of the tutoring and mentoring provided by 100 Black Men of Western Pennsylvania, a professional men's civic organization. The learning is supported by Carnegie Mellon and Highmark and is a free effort to boost the computer skills of inner-city African-American children. Studies show this demographic lags behind the cyber-learning curve of their suburban counterparts. ... One of the students hunkered over a computer is Nate Parker, 14, who will be a freshman at Allderdice High School. Nate began selling "candy and stuff" in the sixth grade and was bitten by the entrepreneur bug. He now wants to own a clothing store. "Kerry is a good teacher," said Nate. "I know the stuff he's teaching me will make getting a job easier and will make my life better."


AIP FYI #88: Internal expansion of U.S. universities explored
SpaceRef (The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News) | August 26
In this new era of globalization, U.S. universities are experimenting with overseas expansion, trying a variety of models of partnerships, programs, and campuses abroad, with a variety of motivations. According to witnesses at a July 26 hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee, universities' objectives may include creating more overseas experiences for U.S. students; developing globally-aware faculty; reaching new markets of international students; filling educational and humanitarian needs; enhancing existing curricula; engaging in unique research opportunities; and leveraging research expertise outside the U.S. ... Mark Wessel, Dean of Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, noted that as other countries develop their own higher education institutions based on the U.S. model, U.S. universities must continue to provide added value, such as developing a global perspective, equipping students for a multinational future, and locating where business and societal needs can be met. The challenges he cited included managing institutions on an international scale; maintaining high standards of quality and ethics; and undertaking the financial risks involved in establishing overseas programs in varied, changing, and uncertain tax and regulatory environments.

Arts and Humanities

Classroom to stage: College theaters make it worth the audience's time
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 30
The Carnegie Mellon School of Drama season tackles the theme of the individual's struggle with a hostile society. Shows will be staged not only in the three theaters in the Purnell Center but also in various locations around the campus and the city. The latter is what's most unusual about the Carnegie Mellon season. A touring commedia dell 'arte. wagon, designed and built by production students, will be the venue for this form of physical theater as students tour adaptations of Carlo Goldoni's "Servant of Two Masters" and Moliere's "Scapino" around the city. "We're proud through the touring Commedia project [to] pioneer a new relationship with the broader Pittsburgh community," says Elizabeth Bradley, head of Carnegie Mellon drama.


Principled principals
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | August 26
Carnegie Mellon University history and political science professor Kiron Skinner's latest book, "The Strategy of Campaigning," explores how two towering political figures of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin, managed to overcome their "fringe" status and win the highest elected offices in their respective countries. Skinner, a Hoover Institution research fellow who's co-written or co-edited books of Reagan's letters and 1970s radio addresses, also edited "Turning Points in Ending the Cold War," a book of essays that comes out next month.


Nakashima: Two new shows celebrate famed modern furniture makers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 25
As a boy, George Nakashima's reverence for trees grew while he hiked the rain forest of the Ho River Valley in the state of Washington. A Japanese-American who studied forestry and architecture before becoming a distinguished woodworker, Mr. Nakashima searched the world for wood, even journeying to the banks of London's Thames River to select English walnut. ... Since Mr. Nakashima's death in 1990, his daughter, Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, and a staff of 13 artisans have carried on her father's approach to carefully choosing, cutting, curing and creating with wood. Each year, these designers and woodworkers produce about 500 handmade pieces at the Nakashima family compound in New Hope, Bucks County. Now two local exhibitions are showcasing the work of Mr. Nakashima and his daughter. "Nakashima Revealed" opens Friday and continues through Oct. 28 at Carnegie Mellon University's Regina Gouger Miller Gallery. "Nature, Form & Spirit" opened Aug. 4 and runs through Nov. 11 at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Ligonier. The shows coincide with a growing international demand for this singular furniture and a dramatic increase in its value. Last December, a table Mr. Nakashima made for close friends sold for $822,000 at a Sotheby's auction.

Information Technology

Spectrum Auction: How open is open? How much is too much?
Wired Magazine | August 29
The January 2008 auction of 700-MHz spectrum has Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Google, vying with more-established telecommunications companies for one of the choicest bits of wireless real estate to come up in years. We asked David Farber -- whom Wired previously called "the Paul Revere of the digital revolution" -- to weigh in on the spectrum auction, how the process will work and why he says this spectrum is so "yummy." Famous for his "Farberisms" (the Yogi Berra of the internet?), the Carnegie Mellon professor remains a pivotal figure in the communications industry. In addition to his varied positions in academia, Farber served a brief stint as chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission in 2000. He also co-founded Caine, Farber & Gordon, a leading supplier of software-design methodology, and is on a number of industrial advisory and management boards, including NTT DoCoMo, Boingo, Rainmaker and E-tenna.


Personal data: Up close and impersonal
Federal Computer Week | August 27
The United States and the European Union continue to spar about how much information to release when they compare trans-Atlantic flight manifests and terrorist watch lists. Domestic agencies focused on anti-terrorism programs are fighting similar battles. The issue centers on preserving the privacy of innocent people while sharing information deemed essential to fighting terrorism. Many people regard new surveillance and data-sharing guidelines, including sections of the U.S. Patriot Act, as violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against illegal searches and seizures. ... Anonymization goes beyond figuratively blacking out a person’s name to hide an association with a record containing personally identifiable information. “Many people would naively believe [blacking out a person’s name] is good enough” to protect an individual’s privacy, said Latanya Sweeney, associate computer science professor and director of the Laboratory for International Data Privacy at Carnegie Mellon University. But it’s hardly that, she said. “With date of birth, gender and ZIP code, I can identify 87 percent of the people in the United States."


Caution urged in making energy decisions
ImediNews (UPI) | August 28
Carnegie Mellon University researchers said the choices U.S. officials make today could limit how the nation's future energy needs are met. Researchers Paulina Jaramillo; W. Michael Griffin, director of the university's Green Design Institute; and Associate Professor H. Scott Matthews said such decisions could also cost consumers billions of dollars in idle power plants and associated infrastructure systems. ... "Investing in LNG infrastructure today could make sense if it helps moderate natural gas prices and keeps existing natural gas power plants running," said Matthews. "But making this investment ultimately locks us into certain technologies that make it harder for us to change paths in an increasingly carbon-constrained world." The researchers point out that LNG -- as do all emerging energy choices -- has many indirect impacts compared with domestic natural gas.


Pittsburgh Patents
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 30
Carnegie Mellon University, for "Method of manufacturing hydroxyapatite and uses therefor in delivery of nucleic acids, No. 7,247,288." Inventors were Prashant N. Kumta, Charles Sfeir, Jeffrey Hollinger, Daiwon Choi, and Lee Weiss, all of Pittsburgh; and Phil Campbell, Cranberry. Provided is a method for preparing hydroxyapatite, and uses therefor, including in tissue engineering and repair and in gene delivery.


Scientists investigate initial molecular mechanism that triggers neuronal firing | August 22
Carnegie Mellon University chemists have solved a decade-long molecular mystery that could eventually help scientists develop drug therapies to treat a variety of disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. ... Tatyana Mamonova, a postdoctoral fellow in Assistant Professor Maria Kurnikova’s laboratory at Carnegie Mellon, will present this report Wednesday, Aug. 22 at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. Glutamate receptors, which are proteins found in neurons, form a channel through the neuron’s membrane. When glutamate, a signaling molecule released by other neurons, docks with the glutamate receptor, it causes a series of molecular shape changes that eventually open the channel and excite the neuron. Although the structure of the glutamate receptor’s docking site was known, no one knew precisely which atomic interactions between glutamate and the receptor caused the receptor to change its conformation — until now.

Regional Impact

Women make less because they don't ask for more
Herald News | August 27
Women earn less than men. For many reasons, including gender discrimination, time out of the workforce to rear children and lower-paying jobs that employ more women than men. There is another reason: women do not ask for raises or negotiate their starting salaries nearly as often as do men. When women do ask, they often request a lower amount than their male colleagues. ... Over a lifetime, women's on-the-job silence translates into a stark difference in male vs. female bank statements -- more than a half-million dollars, according to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, who wrote, "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide." ... Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was spurred to do negotiation research after female graduate students complained to her that many of their male colleagues were teaching their own courses while the women mostly worked as teaching assistants to professors. Babcock wanted to know why. Turns out the women hadn't asked to teach, and the men had. She then did a study to look at starting salaries of master's degree graduates from the university. The men's salaries were nearly $4,000 higher on average than women's. When she looked at who negotiated and who did not, those who negotiated (mostly men, but some women too) earned just over $4,000 more than the non-negotiators. This suggested to her that in this case, at least, the gender gap in earnings might instead be a negotiation gap.


Carnegie Mellon robotics program brings teachers to BC3
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 26
More than 140 teachers from around the world gathered in Butler County last week to learn how to use robotics to teach math, science and technology. "Hopefully, I'll be able to take what I've learned here and use it to excite my students to learn about engineering and [computer-aided design]," said Ken Hilke, an instructor at Butler County Vocational-Technical School who attended the conference presented by the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Academy at Butler County Community College. Science, technology and math teachers all can use robotics in the classroom as a learning tool, said Robin Shoop, director of Carnegie Mellon's robotics academy. ... In addition to the community colleges, Carnegie Mellon also plans to court high school students with a program that would allow them to earn college credits in electronics, parametric solid modeling, programming and robotic engineering.


Carnegie Mellon professor named top innovator in the country
Pop City Media | August 29
Carnegie Mellon's Luis von Ahn is well on his way to being one of the country’s next great creative geniuses. The 28-year-old Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of computer science was recently named one of the top 35 Innovators under the age of 35 by Technology Review magazine, recognition he received for his pioneering research in the field of human computation. ... To achieve this, von Ahn’s research has focused on ways to tap the unique computational abilities of humans. His latest project, called reCAPTCHA, is a new version of the “distorted letter” tests, called CAPTCHAs, that help ensure that users of a Web site are human and not rogue computer programs.


Dateline Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 29
The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute received the 2007 Bronze Anvil Award, the highest national award given by the Public Relations Society of America for individual tactics. The SEI received the Bronze Anvil Award in the Annual Report: Non-Profit Organizations category for its 2006 Annual Report titled Intellectual Capital: Shaping the Future of Software Engineering (


Consulting with Alan Meltzer
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | August 25
When the Federal Reserve Board is in the news, there's no better source of expertise than political economy professor Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon University. Meltzer has not only served as a consultant on economic policy for Congress, the U.S. Treasury and the World Bank, he has written the definitive history of the Federal Reserve from its founding in 1913 to 1951, when it became the independent financial power it is today. Meltzer, who is writing Part 2 of the Fed's history, was working at home in Shadyside when I talked to him Wednesday by phone about the liquidity crisis, the overall economy and how the Federal Reserve Board is dealing with both.


Private equity investor purchases Pennsylvania rehab group
Pittsburgh Business Times | August 24
Private equity investor Chris Cynkar has acquired The Pennsylvania Rehab Group from founder Cliff Milowicki. ... Cynkar is president of private equity firm Swisshelm Park Investors LLC, named for the East End neighborhood where it is based, but he bought Pennsylvania Rehab "individually." As president, he will run day-to-day operations. ... Swisshelm Park Investors may do deals, but Cynkar can't see personally committing to more individual investments over the next few years. He will return in November to Carnegie Mellon University's Donald H. Jones Center to teach "Entrepreneurship Through Small Business Acquisition," a course he introduced last year for members of the business community. "We get people who are interested in buying companies, selling companies and some interested in the investment side," said Art Boni, center director. "We've even allowed a few students in the MBA program to take Chris' class. He's done very well at showing how to do what he does. It's not something people think of as a route to being an entrepreneur."


Carnegie Mellon researcher wins prestigious award for pioneering work in software
Pop City Media | August 22
Carnegie Mellon’s Jonathan Aldrich, assistant professor in the Institute for Software Research (ISR) in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, received the 2007 AITO Dahl-Nygaard Junior Prize for his groundbreaking work in object-oriented programming. Software is among the most complex projects that humans engineer today, with codes that may be millions of pages, a staggering amount of information to keep in your head, says Aldrich. Keeping everyone on the same page by providing a map of the system—especially in companies where engineers are scattered around the world—is critical or the entire system could fail.


EU security organization asks "How safe is social networking?"
Public Technology Limited | August 29
Bebo, Myspace, Twitter, Facebook - Social Networking is a web success story of the new century. The usage statistics are massive - Myspace claimed its 100 Millionth user in August 2006. But a recent European Network and Information Security Agency workshop put the question - “how safe are social networks?” According to the experts, there is a lot to be concerned about; from specialized social networking worms spreading through Myspace profiles to identity theft, extortion, spear-phishing and even recruitment of terrorists – social networking has it all. But the biggest threat is to personal privacy. ... “We do not allow our users to reveal contact information such as zip codes – users who do so will be banned” says Lien Louwagie from Netlog, a Belgian Social Networking site with 25 million users. “Netlog places abuse-reporting buttons on almost every item – we take these issues very seriously." “Careful use of moderation tools can help a lot” adds Maz Nadjm of Rareface, a London based social networking company. And according to Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon University, “Awareness is key." His study of Facebook found that users were more careful after answering a survey about privacy on Facebook than beforehand. “The very fact of answering questions about their privacy made them more cautious."


World Bank mimics Wall Street as it looks for a new role
International Herald Tribune (Bloomberg) | August 28
The World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, is bringing a touch of Goldman Sachs to rescue the poverty-fighting agency's slumping business. The former Goldman vice chairman has concluded, after two months on the job, that the bank must behave more like a Wall Street investment firm to halt a worldwide slide in lending. At stake is the bank's survival in a rising sea of private capital. ... Another reason for the scarcity of customers is the loss of its biggest advantage: rock-bottom interest rates, said Adam Lerrick, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University. ... Without a new approach, the indicators are not positive for the World Bank's survival. Net private flows to developing countries rose to $646 billion in 2006, up from $169 billion in 2002.


US rejects IMF's take on greenback
The Times of India | August 28
The US Treasury took two years to persuade the International Monetary Fund to police global currency markets — and just two months to trash the initiative once IMF adopted it. ... IMF staff economists told US officials in meetings ended July 27 that their research showed dollar was 10% to 30% overpriced, according to an account included in August 1 report. Treasury officials criticized IMF analysis for relying too much on trade in goods and services and not enough on capital flows. ... “US criticism will weaken the authority of the fund to comment on China’s currency,” said Adam Lerrick, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.


Without trust, democracy and globalization are useless
Calibre Macro World | August 27
Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, once made Congo famous. A report in Time magazine showed that some regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo are still as horrific as anything Conrad imagined. ... Australia and the DRC are the two biggest producers of this metal, yielding more than 500 metric tons per year. It is estimated that the DRC has 450,000 metric tons of tantalum reserves. Four-fifths of the world's tantalum is found in Africa, of which 80 per cent is located in the DRC's eastern region, according to Benjamin Todd at Carnegie Mellon University. ... Neither democracy nor globalization are the culprits. Even so, both have their weaknesses. They are incapable of preventing bloodshed and corruption. If a nation cannot find men and women in government and business that are worthy of trust, democracy and globalization are useless. There is no substitute for honesty and justice.


U.S. university to expand here
The Advertiser | August 27
Carnegie Mellon will open its doors to existing university students from next year, with a new two-year program set to expand the U.S. university's Adelaide operation. From 2008, the university will offer a two-year program for graduates in its masters of public policy program, previously open only to professionals with three years' work experience. Carnegie Mellon Heinz School Australia executive director Tim Zak yesterday said its introduction was an exciting development for the Adelaide campus. ... Premier Mike Rann said Carnegie Mellon offered "local and international students world-class degrees which are an academic passport that can be used internationally.",22606,22252475-2682,00.html


Homemade Robots
Newsweek International | August 20-27
Robots have been a part of the manufacturing work force for decades—one in 10 auto-workers, for instance, is now made of metal and electronics. Robots for the home have been slower to come. Household chores are less predictable and repetitive than those of the assembly line, making them difficult to explain in the simple language of a machine. One answer is to design robots that are flexible for specific tasks, such as vacuuming. Another is to figure out a way to make robots simple—and cheap—enough that ordinary people can build their own from parts and program them to do whatever they please. That's the tack scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are taking, through an educational-development project they call TeRK (the Telepresence Robot Kit). With funding from Google, Intel and Microsoft, they've created a series of build-it-yourself robots they say are simple and cheap enough for almost anyone to create.