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News Clips - May 4, 2007

From April 27 to May 3, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 290 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Wolfowitz, detractors play for time as board waits for report
Bloomberg | May 3
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz may have to wait until next week before the agency's board of directors decides whether he should be reprimanded or removed for his role in a promotion for his partner. The panel of seven directors probing the pay raise met yesterday and may complete their report tomorrow, said two officials, who declined to be identified. The board, which represents the lender's 185 member nations, probably won't review the findings until next week, the officials added. ... Wolfowitz, who apologized for his role in Riza's raise on April 12, has since taken a more aggressive stance, hiring Washington attorney Robert Bennett to represent him. This week he lashed out at the board's investigating panel, declaring he wouldn't quit in the face of a "bogus charge" and saying he'd been the victim of a "smear campaign." Wolfowitz now appears intent on showing he's carrying on the business of the bank, which dispenses $23 billion in aid to developing nations each year, said Allan Meltzer, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who chaired a congressional panel on the World Bank in 2000. "His job of leading the bank was difficult before and more difficult now," Meltzer said. "I don't think there is anything he can do to convince the British and French that they want him to stay.


Harvard ponders just what it takes to excel at poker
The Wall Street Journal | May 3
Four-time poker champion Howard Lederer makes a plush living playing cards. His scholarly calm at the table has earned him the title "The Professor," along with $3.3 million in tournament prize money. Just don't call him lucky. To describe poker as anything but a game of skill, he says, "is just wrong." Now poker fans in academe are jumping in to help prove that point, most recently with a daylong "strategy session" at the Harvard Faculty Club bringing together poker pros like Mr. Lederer, game theorists, statisticians, law students and gambling lobbyists. ... Mastering the game, particularly the dominant version these days known as Texas Hold 'Em, can take years. Its complexity of betting and bluffs has long exasperated computer programmers who have tried to mimic the best players. But defining that skill is just as tough. ...  Jay Kadane, a statistician at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, doesn't play the game. But he was drawn to the Harvard session by the idea that one could show, statistically, what makes some players better than others. The online poker companies have reams of minute-by-minute data on the decisions and bets of thousands of players, and Mr. Kadane has pitched to potential sponsors a project that would crunch those data in search of proof that poker is a game of skill.


HAL 9000-style machines, Kubrick's fantasy, outwit traders
Bloomberg | May 3
Way up in a New York skyscraper, inside the headquarters of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Michael Kearns is trying to teach a computer to do something other machines can't: think like a Wall Street trader. In his cubicle overlooking the trading floor, Kearns, 44, consults with Lehman Brothers traders as Ph.D.s tap away at secret software. The programs they're writing are designed to sift through billions of trades and spot subtle patterns in world markets. Kearns, a computer scientist who has a doctorate from Harvard University, says the code is part of a dream he's been chasing for more than two decades: to imbue computers with artificial intelligence, or AI. ... Thomas Mitchell, chairman of the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, says many AI researchers have decided to reach for less and accomplish more. "It's really matured from saying there's one big AI label to being a little more refined and realizing there are some specific areas where we really have made progress," Mitchell, 55, says.


Older, dangerous drivers a growing problem
USA Today | May 2
Fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, based on data from 1999-2004. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers. For drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens. ... You always hear about teenage (driver) risks being so incredibly high, but to me the amazing thing is there are two clusters you really have to focus on": teens and elderly drivers, says Paul Fischbeck of the Center for the Study and Improvement of Regulation at Carnegie Mellon.


Middle East peace a reality in new computer game
The New York Times (Reuters) | May 1
Many have tried. All have failed. But with a new computer game, you can make peace in the Middle East. The software, called "PeaceMaker'' and manufactured by Israeli and U.S. programmers in the United States, allows you to play the part of the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president and make diplomatic, security and economic decisions. ... "The secret is to opt for the middle route, to walk between the drops and not make radical decisions," said one of the developers, Israeli native Asi Burak. "You have to know when to ignore things and when to respond." ... Burak and Eric Brown created the game as a project during their time at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, which has since used it in its courses. They began selling it online earlier this year under their label ImpactGames.


Realities of a gender pay gap
ABC News | April 28
Evelyn Murphy travels the country teaching women how to get paid as much as men. The former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts said when she started working 40 years ago, women earned 59 cents on the dollar and they were told they lacked the education and experience men brought to the job. ... Women also clearly pay a price for interrupting their careers -- even briefly -- to have children. One economist recently calculated the cost of the "Motherhood Penalty" at 7 percent per child. But the wage gap between men and women starts long before a woman has children. Surprisingly, it often starts right out of college with the very first job. "Even from the first day of work there's inequity," said Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. A new study by the American Association of University Women blames much of this inequity on discrimination. But Babcock, author of a book called "Women Don't Ask," said her research shows a prime reason women out of college earn just 95 cents for every dollar earned by a man is that they are far less likely to negotiate their pay.


Data theft scam targets Google ads
MSNBC (AP) | April 27
Google Inc. yanked paid advertisements linked to some 20 search terms that online criminals had hijacked to steal banking and other personal information from Web surfers looking for the Better Business Bureau and other sites. It was unclear how many people were affected before the breach was discovered this week, but computer security experts said Thursday the attack appears to be isolated and only targeting Windows XP users who had not properly updated their machines. ... The attack targeted the top sponsored links tied to Google search results, installing a program on victims' computers to capture private information used to access online accounts for 100 different banks. "This is serious — there's confidence in the links that are at the top, whether they're sponsored or not," said Nick Ianelli, an Internet security analyst with the federally funded CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University. "It's going to affect the whole industry, not just one provider.


Enter the computer tutor: PCs can help kids pass no child left behind tests
U.S. News & World Report | April 27
The versatility computers bring to the classroom is on full display in Wooster, Mass., where several classes of eighth graders are currently testing the Assistment program, a software tool designed by professors at Carnegie Mellon University. The program saves teachers time by administering and automatically scoring quizzes that are similar to Massachusetts's state achievement test. And when kids get tripped up on a problem, the PC breaks a larger problem down into step-by-step questions, trying to tease out exactly where the students got off track. "It's fine-grained analysis," says Ken Koedinger, the program's designer. "It's terribly useful for teachers marking up lesson plans.


Robots for the rest of us
CNET | April 26
Carnegie Mellon University unveiled a new project Thursday designed to help people make robots from parts found at the local hardware store. The Telepresence Robot Kit, dubbed Terk, was developed by Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor of robotics, and his team at the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab at Carnegie Mellon. The project got financial help from Google, Microsoft and Intel. "Everything is open source and public domain," Nourbakhsh said. "There is no incentive to make money here. None of the corporations that funded are looking to license this. These companies gave us gift money--even better than grant money because there's no strings--to help us try and come up with ways to get people to be more creative with tech and more tech-literate.

Education for Leadership

Carnegie Mellon high tech aims higher for blind, deaf
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | April 30
Running his hand along the wall, Joe Wassermann quickly found the smooth, white tag. After scanning it with a handheld computer, the blind man instantly had the layout of one of Carnegie Mellon University's most-confusing labyrinths: the halls of the Human Computer Interaction Institute. "Once I locate myself with this, it tells me immediately to take the first intersection on the left," said Wassermann, 72, of Oakland. "If I hadn't had that clue, I might have turned right, and it would have taken me a while to get back on track. This starts me off in the right way." BlindAid, a personal digital assistant developed by Carnegie Mellon students as part of a project to bring technological solutions to underserved communities, guided Wassermann from rooms 3527 to 3602 with calmly spoken directions. He found the room as fast as any professor could.


Do you owe me money?
YOUNG MONEY | April 29
Evan Xu knows how money issues can ruin roommate situations. When Xu was a freshman at the University of Washington, his friend got into a roommate dispute over money for a fridge. The dispute dragged on for years, as the roommate dragged his feet, claimed he didn't have the $500 to pay him back, then disappeared during their sophomore year. Finally, Xu's friend got reimbursed right before graduation nearly four years later! ... Luckily, there are a few new web sites that make it easier to keep track of what you owe and who owes you what. Meet and Three grad students at Carnegie Mellon created Buxfer to track expenses amongst themselves without accumulating large scraps of Post-Its and papers. They quickly realized its potential to help college students and professionals around the world, so they launched three years ago. Now the free site tracks over $10 million in transactions, and 60 percent of Buxfer's users are college students.

Arts and Humanities

WQED radio visits Cleveland
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 3
WQED-FM (89.3) host Jim Cunningham will broadcast live from Cleveland public station WCPN-FM Friday morning from 7 to 9 a.m. The show will feature musical highlights from this evening's performance by the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic at Severance Hall in Cleveland.


Carnegie Mellon art students take over a Garfield storefront
Pittsburgh City Paper | April 26
Nestled in a storefront on Penn Avenue in Garfield, Dawn Weleski's "Time Travel Agency" looked like your average business: A young woman in professional attire sat behind a desk, working on her computer. These vacation plans, however -- a trip back in time to the Civil War, or forward to the year 3000 -- were far from average. Weleski's project, part of Jon Rubin's Art in Context class at Carnegie Mellon University, helped people imagine their own personal time trips. After a week, clients received picture postcards detailing their adventures. "I wanted to create a business in which I could readily interact with people and force them to imagine and play in their minds," says Weleski, a Carnegie Mellon junior. "The people that do come in here will become a representation of the area through imagination." Rubin is an artist who became a Carnegie Mellon assistant professor last fall. "For years I've been creating site-specific work, and I thought instead of teaching in a classroom at a university, we should get the students out into the city," he says.

Information Technology

Mastering software management at Carnegie Mellon
SD Times | May 1
Carnegie Mellon, based in Pittsburgh, has been offering courses in Northern California since 2002. The cornerstone of the small, 150-student extension campus, formally called Carnegie Mellon West, has been its traditional Masters of Computer Engineering course. However, Carnegie Mellon says that the new Masters of Software Management program, which launches this fall, is one of the first programs of its sort in the world. The intent of the program, explained Diane Dimeff, associate dean, is to serve working software professionals. “We talked to hiring managers and executives in Silicon Valley,” she said. “We want techies who can talk to executives, marketing professionals and financial experts. We want them to think like executives, marketing professionals and financial experts.” ...  In class, said Jim Morris, professor of computer science and dean at Carnegie Mellon West, it’s all about software engineering in a business context. ... The course is entirely project-based, explained Martin Griss, associate dean for the program. ... The Masters of Software Management program director is Tony Wasserman, formerly vice president of middleware maker Bluestone Software, and then director of the Mobile Middleware Labs for Hewlett-Packard.


International robots & vision show
Advanced Imaging Magazine | April 30
The International Robots & Vision Show, held just once every two years, draws more than 5,000 potential customers looking for new products and solutions. ... Keynote speakers this year are William L. "Red" Whittaker on Monday, June 11 and Steve Squyres, Ph.D. on Tuesday, June 12. Whittaker is the Fredkin Professor of Robotics, Director of the Field Robotics Center, and founder of the National Robotics Engineering Consortium, all at Carnegie Mellon University.$3956


Wall-climbing robot
Technology Review | April 30
Researchers have created a robot that can run up a wall as smooth as glass and onto the ceiling at a rate of six centimeters a second. The robot currently uses a dry elastomer adhesive, but the research group is testing a new geckolike, ultrasticky fiber on its feet that should make it up to five times stickier. It's not the first robot to use fiberlike dry adhesives to stick to surfaces, says Metin Sitti, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who led the research at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. But this robot should prove to have far greater sticking power, thanks to fibers that are twice as adhesive as those used by geckos.


System overload
Charlotte Observer | April 28
AT&T Inc.'s e-mail system continued to be overwhelmed by spam this week -- delaying delivery of some legitimate electronic mail by days. The company said its spam-filtering servers covering a nine-state Southeast region were overrun, clogging the system. Spam is unwanted mail, often advertisements, sent in bulk to multiple addresses. ... The capacity problems caused by spam and the popularity of the Internet are increasingly felt across the country as servers are sometimes overcrowded with traffic, said Bill Courtright, executive director of Carnegie Mellon University's Parallel Data Lab, which studies the Internet and computer data storage. Courtright said there are two main e-mail culprits stressing the system: more messages, including onslaughts of spam, and the increasing size of the messages, which include pictures and other data-rich attachments.


Experts dispute air-quality report
Times Online | May 1
Local air-quality experts are disputing an American Lung Association report that has ranked the Pittsburgh metropolitan region - including Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties - as the second-sootiest in the nation. They say that Pittsburgh's air has improved significantly over the past year, probably due to new pollution controls required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and that the Lung Association report did not reflect data from 2006. "We think that their rankings are a little unfair and kind of misleading in that the air-quality data that they're using only goes up to 2005," said Guillermo Cole, spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department. ... Allen Robinson, an associate professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, which has conducted extensive studies of air pollution in the region, agreed that the air here is getting cleaner. He noted several "hot spots," including U.S. Steel Corp.'s Clairton coke plant and the Bruce Mansfield power plant, but gave the region's air a passing grade overall.


Two PA. teams compete in 2007 Solar Decathlon
Department of Environmental Protection | May 1
Teams from Carnegie Mellon and Penn State universities are among 20 selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to compete in the third annual Solar Decathlon competition to be held Oct. 12-20 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Participating teams will design, build and operate the most attractive and energy efficient solar-powered home. This year, teams have been selected from the United States, Puerto Rico, Germany, Spain, and Canada. The Solar Decathlon complements President Bush’s Solar America Initiative, which seeks to make the solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015.


New Pa. firm to help convert cars to run on waste cooking oil
NEPA News (AP) | April 28
The distinct, deep-fried smell of tempura followed Colin Huwyler and Dave Rosenstraus on their 270-mile trips from Allentown to this struggling town east of Pittsburgh. Fired on used vegetable oil, their cars not only get around, but also serve as a mobile advertisement for their company, Fossil Free Fuels. With a grand opening Monday, Fossil Free Fuels will be the first company in the area to produce and install conversion systems that allow diesel vehicles to run on waste cooking oil from the local fast food joint. ... A totaled car, its windshield shattered and its trunk twisted like a pretzel, waits to have its engine removed before being used for emissions testing in a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.

Regional Impact

Donations stun disabled Iraq veteran
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | May 1
The generosity of strangers has overwhelmed Iraq war veteran James Fair, his family said. Fair, 25, of Coraopolis, could move into a home being built in Ross in about six months thanks to $250,000 in cash, services and materials donated by people he's never met. ... Technologies to be used in Fair's home could help put Pittsburgh at the forefront of the development of products for people with disabilities, officials said. "We want quality of life to be a brand name for our region," said James Osborn, executive director of the Quality of Life Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University.


Just in case, report lays out blast-survival tools
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 2
You know it's a bad day when a thunderous explosion is followed by a mushroom cloud on the horizon. Decisions you make in the next few minutes will determine your and your family's fate. ... To help Americans with such lifesaving decisions, two Carnegie Mellon University professors have outlined the science, psychology and rationale for survival -- that is, for those far enough from ground zero to survive the initial blast. "Individuals' Decisions Affecting Radiation Exposure After a Nuclear Explosion," written by H. Keith Florig and Baruch Fischhoff, was published in the May edition of Health Physics.


Carnegie Mellon's Morgan, Pitt's Gronenborn elected to Academy of Sciences
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 2
Two Pittsburgh academicians were among 72 elected yesterday to the National Academy of Sciences -- the most prestigious national honor for American scientists. M. Granger Morgan, head of Carnegie Mellon University's department of engineering and public policy, and Angela M. Gronenborn, chairwoman of University of Pittsburgh's department of structural biology, were elected by academy membership that now numbers 2,025. ... Dr. Morgan, 66, has a 24-page resume that includes 75 journal publications and four books on subjects ranging from energy to risk assessment and uncertainty in science. He has contributed to 29 other books and has published 61 conference and technical reports and numerous book reviews. "Obviously I'm delighted," Dr. Morgan said, noting he received "lots of lovely" congratulatory e-mail messages and phone calls from people nationwide. Dr. Morgan's research in environment science and policy includes risk assessment of carrying cell phones on airplanes to the health risks of power lines. He also has addressed uncertainty and disagreement in such fields as climate change to help people make policy.


Cigarette tax scofflaw crackdown raises a host of questions
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 29
When it comes to matters of taxation, the courts in Pennsylvania typically are asked to apply three tests -- does the tax-collecting statute meet the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause? And does it satisfy the state constitution's exemption and uniformity clauses? ... Yet another woman told the Post-Gazette she owed $3,854. The state told her she'd have to pay 10 percent upfront, then about $150 a month over two years, to work off her debt. When she told the state she couldn't make such a large payment, she said she was informed that the state could place a lien on her home. "That's a violation of the spirit of the uniformity clause," Mr. Ledewitz said. The effect of the 100-carton threshold is that "the tax is zero up to 100 cartons .... The tax is obviously uniform as written, but it isn't being enforced in a uniform fashion." Getting a court to agree with that, though, is another matter. "I think that one could bring a uniformity challenge," said Robert Strauss, an economics and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. "But I don't think the argument is a slam dunk.


TTD to place Saraswathi Library treasures on Net | May 3
The manuscripts and rare collections of the famed Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji’s Saraswathi Mahal Library are to be made available to the world at the click of a mouse. ... Following request of the Government of Tamil Nadu to TTD Central Library and Digital Library to digitize the collection at the Saraswathi Mahal Library, TTD approved the proposal. Raj Reddy of Carnegie Mellon University, USA came forward to sponsor 25 computers, 10 scanners, software and hardware for the project.


U.S. Embassy sponsors American writers for Calabash 2007
Jamaica Observer | May 3
The U.S. Embassy continues its support for literary and cultural development in Jamaica as a sponsor of the 2007 Calabash International Literary Festival to be held in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth May 25-27. The embassy will be supporting the participation of African-American poets Elizabeth Alexander, Terrance Hayes and Patricia Smith as well as fiction writers Felicia Luna Lemus, Joe Meno and Aaron Petrovich. ... Pittsburgh-based poet Terrance Hayes is the author of Wind in a Box and Hip Logic, which won a National Poetry Series. He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University.


12 schools compete in Botball contest
The Peninsula | April 29
Teams of students from 12 local high schools put their robots to the test in the Qatar Botball competition at the Diplomatic Club yesterday. The teams competed against each other on a playing field the size of a ping-pong table in a high energy, non-destructive tournament. Doha College secured the highest overall score, compiled from the tournament rounds as well as the pre-competition documentation of their work. ... Brett Browning, systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon, along with Justin Carlson, Teaching Assistant at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, judged the competition, which was held at the Diplomatic Club. ... "When people think about robots, they usually have in mind something like R2D2 from Star Wars. “But robots are much more than that — we use robotics technology to build accident-avoiding cars, intelligent homes for elderly people, advanced monitoring of diabetes, systems to monitor chemical plants and toys that teach school kids about math and science," says Chuck Thorpe, dean of Carnegie Mellon Qatar.