Monthly Archives: January 2004

The Naked Face

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Some people say a face is like an open book. For psychologist Paul Ekman, the face is more than that, it’s the Rosetta stone of human evolution. Ekman has spent his life studying the language of facial expressions, identifying, mapping, and interpreting the emotions they reveal.

He got his start in the 1960s, when he traveled to New Guinea and found villagers there who had never seen a white person, but who knew a smile when they saw one, and could tell a frown from a grimace, a glower from a glare. His time in the bush convinced him that, contrary to conventional wisdom, emotions are not determined by culture, but instead are the universal product of human evolution, hardwired and honed over hundreds of thousands of years.


Paul Ekman, professor of psychology at the University of California Medical School and author of “Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life.”

Political Science

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The conflict between science and politics is an old one, just ask Galileo. Here in the United States, Washington, not Rome, often determines the frontiers of scientific exploration. Since the days when President Nixon abolished the entire White House Office of Science and Technology because he disagreed with its findings, scientists have avoided clashes with the White House.

But today, some are saying that the Bush Administration is waging a quiet war against science, by limiting areas of key research like stem cells and climate change, and stacking advisory committees with those who share certain religious views and favor business over the environment.


Daniel Greenberg, author of “Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion.”

Don Kennedy, Editor in Chief, “Science Magazine”

Sex in the City

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As Carrie and company prepare for their final stiletto-clad romp through the valley of urban singletons, real-life sex and the city dramas are unfolding all across America. A new survey from the University of Chicago finds that average, single, city dwellers spends most of their adult lives unmarried and the study goes on to identify the marketplaces where singles search for various sorts of companionship, from true love to something less lasting.

The survey’s findings reveal an ongoing sexual evolution that could also be the harbinger of a social revolution, with American singles on the verge of becoming the new majority. But whether that’s by accident or design is another question.


Edward Laumann, Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and co-editor of the forthcoming book, “The Sexual Organization of the City”

Ethan Watters, author, “Urban Tribes”

Michelle Conlin, associate editor, Business Week, and author of the October 20, 2003 cover story, “UnMarried America”

The Debate Over Legacy Admissions

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Until last week, being the child of a Texas A&M alumnus would have given you a leg up at the admissions office. But late last year, the university dropped its affirmative action program for minorities, and that lead to a call to also put an end to these so-called legacy admissions, something that critics refer to as affirmative action for wealthy whites.

So last week Texas A&M joined a small but growing list of public universities banning preferential admission for the children of alumni. Supporters say its too much political correctness, that it puts at risk the camaraderie of proud alumni attending Aggies football games, donating money for science labs, and expecting that their children would get that extra nudge at the admissions office.


Adam Bellow, author of “In Defense of Nepotism.”

Jay Mathews, staff writer for the Washington Post

John Neely, mortgage banker from San Antonio, TX

Clifford Sjogren, former director of admissions at the University of Michigan

Behind the Color Line

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The Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., says African Americans often speak “differently, more openly, when talking with each other behind closed doors.” In search of that conversation, Gates traveled the country, asking the famous and not-so famous what’s changed for blacks in America today.

South of the line, Gates found that a vast number of African Americans are leaving the North and moving back to Dixie, in many cases, to live in self-segregated communities. Thirty-five years after the death of Martin Luther King, Gates wonders if that’s what the civil rights leader had in mind.


Henry Louis Gates Jr., chair of the Department of the African and African-American Studies at Harvard University

Deirdre Wolff, a lawyer featured in the documentary

Maurice Ashley, Chess Grand Master.

Deconstructing the Iowa Caucus

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Some of the most influential decisions of this presidential race are about to be made in a high school auditorium. Or a cafeteria. Or a church. Welcome Back to the Iowa Caucuses. When tens of thousands of people in towns across the Hawkeye state spend an evening meeting and arguing over who they want to run for president.

The caucuses occupy a hallowed place in political history, even though they are not known for their predictive power. In recent history only Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush made it to the White House after getting a headstart from Iowans. Others, like Bob Dole and Tom Harkin, swept the caucuses and then slammed into the granite cliffs of New Hampshire. But lots of people defend Iowa’s right to caucus, the place where the grass really meets its roots.


Peverill Squire, Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa in Iowa City

Richard Meyers,
former Mayor of Coralville, Iowa, and former State legislator (1994-2003), currently a truck stop operator and Harley Davidson shop owner

Joe Klein, Time magazine political columnist.

For the Love of Lego

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In Lego Land the invention of the wheel came late, in 1961. After twelve block-building years packaging those colored two-by- four bricks, Lego had decided to provide its young customers with the possibility of adding movement to their creations.

More recently, Lego picked up the pace of innovation. In recent years the Danish toy company brought out a state-of the-art plastic fish, and further populated its world with action figures, computerized cogs, Hollywood linkups and Lego branded fashion accessories. But now the giant toy company is in financial trouble and says it’s going back to its original mission, producing plastic building blocks for little kids. Longing for good old Lego; we’re telling a toy story.


Mitchel Resnick, director of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at MIT’s Media Lab

Jan Craige Singer, president, Big Blue Dot

Michael McNally, Senior Brand Relations Manager, Lego.

A Revolution in Care

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Try to imagine a health care system where you, the patient, get to call the shots. You phone the doctor in the morning and schedule an appointment for later that day. Upon arrival, you’re immediately told, “the doctor can see you now.” You get your diagnosis, and a treatment is prescribed using the very latest in medical science. You would never again be asked to wear a “johnny.”

No more conflicting advice and opinions, no chance of incompatible medications from a gaggle of specialists who don’t know your name, no risk of death from medical error; and never a problem with the billing. That’s the scenario Don Berwick imagines though he knows the current system cannot deliver it. The pediatrician turned prophet scribbles out a radical prescription for curing American health care.


Don Berwick, clinical professor of pediatrics and health care policy at Harvard Medical School, President and CEO of Institute for Health Care Improvement (IHI), a non-profit with the mission of improving helath care worldwide.

My Life As a Fake

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Peter Carey is a writer who’s already known for challenging the line between fact and fiction. In 2001, he won his second Booker prize for “True History of the Kelly Gang,” a novel about a real life Australian outlaw. His new novel, “My Life As a Fake,” is based on a literary hoax that rocked Australia in 1946, when two poets created an imaginary genius and passed him off as the real thing to a gullible literary editor.

But in Carey’s version, the fictional poet actually comes to life and like Frankenstein’s monster, pursues and torments his creator. Nothing is what it seems in this enigmatic tale of kidnapping, exile, and murder. What is true depends largely on who is telling the story, and in this story, all narrators are suspect.


Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey

Robert Rubin

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The economic policies of a rogue nation are threatening the financial stability of the world. So says the International Monetary Fund, an organization not easily given to overstated warnings. But it is not some far away currency crisis in Latin America, that is causing distress for the financial wizards of the IMF, it is the current economic policy of the United States.

With its rising budget deficits and its burgeoning trade imbalance, the U.S. debt is swelling to unmanageable proportions and threatening to upset global financial stability. So says the IMF and so says Robert Rubin, President Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary. We’ll talk with the man who slew the deficit, about the economic balance sheet of the Bush Administration, and America’s financial future.


Robert Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary from 1995-1999, currently Director of Citigroup and author of “In An Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington”

Elizabeth Becker, New York Times Trade Correspondent.