George Mason in the News

Posted: August 17, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Thursday, August 9,

Airlines, Fliers Adjust a Year after Liquid Ban

“Although restrictions on liquids have become a fact of life for airlines and travelers, it’s difficult to know if these measures are deterring attacks. ‘The trouble with terrorism is it’s not like safety,’ said Kenneth Button, a professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. ‘Safety is a technical problem.’ If some part of an airplane is malfunctioning, it can be repaired, Button said, but averting terrorism is not that simple. ‘Every time you stop one attempt, they change tactics,’ he said. Security measures such as the TSA’s ban on liquids are partly cosmetic, according to Button. They keep travelers aware of dangers and encourage them to be vigilant, but they also serve to make people generally more confident about flying.”

Saturday, August 11, New York Times

States Try to Alter How Presidents Are Elected

“Republicans in South Carolina recently moved their primary to January from February to get ahead of Florida’s. Also, there is a germinal movement to effectively abolish the Electoral College, awarding the White House instead to the winner of the national popular vote. Maryland recently became the first state to have such legislation passed and then signed into law, although legislatures in several other states have passed similar measures. In 2004, 13 states with 159 electoral votes among them were considered “in play,” according to FairVote, a voting rights organization; in 1988, there were 21 such states and 272 electoral votes. The interest in changing the way the president is elected was largely seeded by Democrats after the 2000 election, but has since been embraced by Republicans as well. ‘We have discovered what our founding fathers learned as well, which is that you can manipulate election outcomes by setting those rules,’ said Michael McDonald, an associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University.”

Monday, August 13, MSNBC

Rove and Executive Privilege

“What effect will Karl Rove’s departure have on the argument by the White House that executive privilege shields him from having to testify before Congress? In one critical way, not much. Rove was obviously a part of many Oval Office discussions that would be subject to a claim of executive privilege even after he is gone from the White House. So the president could use executive privilege regarding past discussions, says George Mason University professor Mark Rozell, an expert on the privilege. And many legal experts agree.”

Thursday, August 16, Washington Post

A Piano Novice Strikes Just the Right Chord

“The story began nearly six decades ago with a young man’s dream to play piano. Its most dramatic chapter ends this month with 16 sleek, black Steinway grand pianos, each worth tens of thousands of dollars. The young man is now 79, an ‘old person,’ as he puts it, and a novice pianist. Sidney Dewberry, who made his fortune helping design and engineer developments including Pentagon City and Montgomery Village, took up the instrument four years ago under the tutelage of Linda Monson, assistant chair of Mason’s Department of Music. This spring, he raised the money to bring the Steinways to Mason. When the final three Steinways are delivered this month and the 350-student music department’s upright pianos are gone, Mason will join the ranks of ‘all-Steinway’ schools, a list that includes the Juilliard School, Yale University and the University of Maryland. ‘I’m tickled to death,’ Dewberry said. ‘This performing arts school, I think, is going to really help Mason come into its own as a cultural institution.’”

Thursday, August 16, New York Times

Even if Life Is a Computer Simulation . . .

“Nick Bostrom, a philospher and the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, argues that we could be living in a computer simulation. It’s a clever new twist on the old life-is-but-a-dream notions of Western philosophers, Eastern religions and science-fiction writers everywhere (‘The Matrix,’ ‘The Truman Show,’ and the ‘holodeck’ in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’). Bostrom guesses that there’s a 20 percent chance we’re in a simulation. Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University, has theorized that simulators might be especially interested in dramatic historic events and rich, colorful and famous people (and might even be playing along as one of the famous people). Hanson concludes, ‘If you might be living in a simulation then all else equal you should care less about others, live more for today, make your world look more likely to become rich, expect to and try more to participate in pivotal events, be more entertaining and praiseworthy, and keep the famous people around you happier and more interested in you.’”

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