Mason in the News

Posted: June 6, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Following are highlights of national news coverage Mason recently received.

Monday, June 2, Philadelphia Enquirer

Push for Fewer Elections in N.J.

“When residents of Delran go to the polls tomorrow for New Jersey’s primary election, it will be their fifth vote of the year. Like many other New Jersey residents, they voted in the presidential primary on Feb. 5. And the fire district elections on Feb. 16. And the school elections on April 15. And the municipal elections on May 13. And the big one, the Nov. 4 general election, is still five months away. All that democracy may be too much of a good thing. Having fewer elections increases participation, but the longer ballots may daunt voters, election experts say. Studies of election behavior have produced ‘some evidence that countries with frequent elections have lower turnouts,’ said Michael P. McDonald, an election expert and associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University. The best example is Switzerland, with frequent elections for local offices and chronically low voter turnout, he said. Narrowly focused elections, such as those for school or fire officials, tend to draw only voters who care a lot about those offices, McDonald said.”

Monday, June 2, Washington Post

Outdated Radios Fail Capitol Police

“The U.S. Capitol Police guard one of the nation’s biggest terrorist targets. But their radios conk out in ‘dead spots’ around congressional buildings and have limited connections to local police in the Washington area, officials say. Channels on the Reagan-era police radio system often crash. Some experts are calling for building a national emergency communications system from scratch, instead of having agencies create new systems and then try to link them. It would be the first-responder equivalent of the kind of national network set up by cell phone companies. Jerry Brito, a fellow with the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said only a national system can provide the efficiency and seamless communication emergency responders need. ‘You have about 50,000 public-safety agencies in the country, everyone from the local sheriff in Mississippi to the FBI,’ he said. ‘Even if each agency wanted to get together and coordinate, it’s impossible.’”

Tuesday, June 3, National Geographic

Giant ‘Tornadoes’ Seen Erupting from the Sun

“The sun produces giant tornado-like jets that stretch thousands of miles into space, new satellite data shows. The solar tornadoes typically last about 10 minutes and occur near the sun’s poles. ‘These solar tornadoes are almost a thousand times faster than a terrestrial tornado and are very big,’ said Spiros Patsourakos, a researcher at George Mason University. ‘The main element [of the new observations] is that the erupting structures possess twist,’ said Patsourakos, who described his findings last week at an American Geophysical Union meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.”

Tuesday, June 3, USA Today

63 Percent Say Gay Marriage Is a Choice

“As same-sex couples start lining up to get marriage licenses in California on June 17, the USA Today/Gallup Poll found 63 percent of adults say same-sex marriage is ‘strictly a private decision’ between two people. That the government has the right ‘to prohibit or allow’ such marriages was stated by 33 percent, and 4 percent had no opinion. On Monday, the California secretary of state said an initiative to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union ‘between a man and a woman’ will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. If it passes, it would overturn a May state Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, 11 states voted on similar questions. ‘Those initiatives did have an impact in election results,’ says Mark Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. ‘Turnout was 2.4 percent higher on average in those 11 states than the other 39 states.’”

Wednesday, June 4, CBS News

CBS Poll: Ready for a Black President?

“As Barack Obama claims the mantle of presumptive Democratic nominee, nearly 70 percent of Americans say the country is ready for a black president, a new CBS News poll shows. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say the country is ready — up six points from March and 14 points from January. Eight years ago, only 38 percent of those polled said the country was ready for a black president. Michael Fauntroy, a professor at George Mason University, also said he believes the country is ready on ‘The Early Show’ — though he sounded a note of caution. ‘To my way of thinking, it’s still an open question, though certainly we’re moving in the right direction,’ he said.”

Wednesday, June 4, USA Today

The Unfriendly Skies

“Longer waits. Anybody who flew last year knew that delays were bad. But the official government statistics — showing that one of every four flights was late by at least 15 minutes, the second-worst performance in 13 years — didn’t do justice to how bad. Now, George Mason University researchers, who’ve massaged data squirreled away in government databases, report that the average trip delay was nearly two hours — 24 minutes longer than in 2006. Feeling the pain yet? Try this. Passengers whose flights were cancelled were delayed an average 11 hours — one hour more than in 2006. In part, that’s because there were more cancellations. The bigger villain, though, was that planes were so packed — a historically high 80 percent full — that once a flight was cancelled, fliers were hard-pressed to find an alternative. George Mason professor George Donohue, one of the report’s authors, says flight cancellations can save airlines money. By law, airlines must pay ticketed passengers who are ‘bumped.’ But there is no such problem for a cancelled flight: Airlines can put those customers on another flight, filling up seats that might fly empty. With sky-high fuel prices, that’s a money-saver for the airline industry.”

Wednesday, June 4, Washington Post

Universities Join to Reinvigorate Local Tech Scene

“Five D.C., Maryland and Virginia universities yesterday announced a partnership aimed at helping the Washington area turn the research and innovations of its scientists and scholars into patents, products and businesses. Calling the partnership the Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance, the universities hope to reinvigorate the region’s technology sector by sharing information on their research with one another and with businesses and investors. That is one reason the group is starting out with a small group of members, though it eventually hopes to expand to include institutions such as the University of Virginia. ‘One of the quickest ways to kill it is to expand to 16 universities,’ said Alan Merten, president of George Mason University. ‘Then the incentive for us to work together is not going to happen. Consortiums sink when there are too many people in the boat.’”

Wednesday, June 4, Washington Post

Two Words with a Ring of Possibility

“Black president. Two words profound and yet contradictory. Once thought of as an oxymoron, impossible to be placed together in the same sentence, context, country — unless followed by a question mark. ‘Black president. Is there still racism in this society? Of course there is. But it is not nearly the level of racism that would make the idea of the words “black president” sound ridiculous,’ says Roger Wilkins, professor emeritus at George Mason University. ‘Black president. . . . It is not as if one morning I woke up and turned on the radio and I heard someone say “black president” I would drop my teeth. This has been gradual. When I hear it, I think as someone who has taught history for the last 25 years; I think our country has come a long way.’ Wilkins adds: ‘There is a very deep joy and pride when I listen to the words “black” and “president” applied to a walking, breathing person who carries African genes in his body and soul.’”

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