Read the September 2008 Columbia Alumni
This month's edition includes a link to join CAA's new social network, as well as opportunities to learn about carbon emissions at Café Science or gape at sea lion pups at the Bronx Zoo.
On any given day of the week, the voices and ideas of Columbia faculty members can be seen and heard in the local, national and international media. But this has been an especially busy season for many professors making contributions to the public's understanding of some of the great issues of our time, from climate change and the war on terror, the U.S. presidential election and economy, to the Beijing Olympics and the Georgia-Russia conflict. These and many more Columbia voices have enriched national and global conversations over the past several weeks.
Two Columbia professors wrote editorials that appeared in The New York Times on Sept. 11:
In "Questions of Security," law school Professor Philip Bobbitt joined former U.S. Sen. John Danforth to urge the presidential candidates to answer 12 questions related to national security so that voters can make an informed choice on Election Day. Bobbitt is the author of Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century, which Sen. John McCain and others have called the most important book on terrorism.
Math and physics Professor Brian Greene sheds light on an experiment that many hope will revolutionize our understanding of the universe. In "The Origins of the Universe: A Crash Course," Greene explains how the Large Hadron Collider works and what physicists hope to learn from the research they will use the collider to perform.
Professors Eric Foner and Andrew Delbanco provide key observations in a study of the American character typified by presidential candidate Barack Obama (CC'83) in "The American Wanderer, in All His Stripes," on the front page of the Aug. 24 Times Week in Review. Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, and Delbanco is the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities.
The New York Times also features Professor Catharine Nepomnyashchy in the Aug. 24 story "For Often Unsung Scholars, a War Means Center Stage." The plethora of news coming out of Russia meant no summer vacation for the director of the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies at Columbia University, which is a major research center on this critical region of the globe. She has been called on for commentary and insight during the crisis by CNN, NPR and many others. "There's always been a pretty constant flow of media appearances by members of our faculty," says Nepomnyashchy. "But nothing as intense as this."
Dean of the Columbia Business School R. Glenn Hubbard criticizes Barack Obama's fiscal plan in "We Can't Tax Our Way Out of the Entitlement Crisis" in the Aug. 21 edition of the Wall Street Journal.
"The problem with Mr. Obama's fiscal plans is not that that they lack vision. On the contrary, the vision is plain enough: a larger welfare state paid for by higher taxes. The problem is not even that they imply change. The problem is that his plans are statist."
Provost Alan Brinkley, the Allan Nevins Professor of History, contributed the front-page review of Jane Mayer's best-selling book "The Dark Side" in The New York Times Sunday Book Review on Aug. 3. Brinkley writes in "Black Sites" that Mayer has produced a powerfully unsettling book:
"It is the story of how a small group of determined men and women thwarted international and American law; fought off powerful challenges from colleagues within the Justice Department, the State Department, the National Security Council and the C.I.A.; ignored or circumvented Supreme Court rulings and Congressional resolutions; and blithely dismissed a growing clamor of outrage and contempt from much of the world—all in the service of preserving their ability to use extreme forms of torture in the search for usable intelligence."
On the The New York Times op-ed page on July 30, in The New York Times, Law Professor Tim Wu likened the public's dependence on bandwidth for cell phones, the Internet and cable television to its dependence on oil and warns that we risk the creation of a "bandwidth cartel" if alternative sources are not developed.
"But just as with oil, there are alternatives," says Wu. "Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility. A future possibility is to buy your own fiber, the way you might buy a solar panel for your home."
Sudhir Venkatesh, a professor of sociology, also wrote on the July 25 The New York Times op-ed page that a key to solving the nation's housing crisis is to tear down the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
"In correcting HUD's missteps, we must first separate 'housing policy' from 'urban development,'" Venkatesh says. "Today, housing policy is dictated by private markets, so why not give the Commerce and Treasury Departments oversight of a single authority that administers Federal Housing Administration financing—needed to keep homes affordable for the majority of Americans—and all of HUD's other housing programs?"
On July 24, University Professor and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz wrote in the Financial Times about the dangers of the government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He proposes that instead the government should help affected homeowners stay in their homes before beginning a bail out, "by converting the home mortgage deduction into a cashable tax credit and creating a homeowners' Chapter 11, an expedited way to restructure their liabilities.
"This will bring clarity to the capital markets—reducing uncertainty about the size of the hole in Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's balance sheets."
In a cover story for the June 9 edition of The New Republic, Andrew J. Nathan, the Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, previewed what the Olympics reveal, and conceal, about China in "Medals and Rights."
"Few foreign visitors to Beijing will see—but surely few can be unaware of—the state repression that is as integral to the contemporary Chinese model as urban monumentalism, social conformity, and state-managed sports," writes Nathan. "In July 2007, police in northeast China arrested a peasant land-rights activist named Yang Chunlin who had collected thousands of signatures for a petition titled 'We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics.' He was held and tortured for eight months, then tried and sentenced to a five-year prison term on the vague charge of 'inciting subversion of state power.'"
Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a University Professor and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, takes on the Doha trade talks in an opinion piece in the Financial Times, co-written with Professor Arvind Panagariya, the Jagdish N. Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy.
"Agricultural liberalisation in the European Union and the US is good for several reasons, but it will not help moderate the food crisis. A key component of the proposed Doha agreement is a substantial reduction in agricultural subsidies. This would reduce the supply of grains from some countries that subsidise them and increase it from other countries, especially in the Cairns group."
For the New York Daily News on July 23, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who leads Columbia's Earth Institute, offered a solution to the global food crisis with "How to Solve the Growing Global Food Crisis, in Three Steps."
"First, the U.S. and other rich countries should increase funding for the World Food Program so that it can cover the rising costs of its urgent programs to feed the world's hungriest and most vulnerable people. The WFP needs around $2 billion in the coming year, which comes to around $2 per each person in the U.S., Europe and Japan."
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