Mason in the News

Posted: February 20, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Following are highlights of national news coverage Mason recently received.

Saturday, Feb. 7, Newsweek

Will the BlackBerry Sink the Presidency?

“So while legions of BlackBerry fans cheer Obama’s success in keeping his, insisting it makes users more productive and connected, experts in cognitive psychology and in human-machine interactions who study pop-ups, e-mail alerts, calendar reminders and instant messaging — the most intrusive and ubiquitous pre-BlackBerry technologies — have two things to say: distraction overload, and continuous partial attention. Pilots who are interrupted during a preflight checklist sometimes miss an item when they try to pick up where they left off, notes psychologist Deborah Boehm-Davis of George Mason University, who studies interruptions.”

Friday, Feb. 13, Associated Press

Honoring Lincoln

“Historian Richard Norton Smith said admiring Lincoln is practically routine for presidents, particularly embattled ones. ‘I’m not sure how much it matters to voters. I suppose it’s better to associate yourself with Lincoln than Millard Fillmore,’ he said. But no other president can match the emotional connection of a black man following in the footsteps of the president who ended slavery. It helps complete what Smith called ‘the unfinished part of the Lincoln agenda’ — bringing America closer to real racial equality. Smith, who was the first director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, sees a potential risk in Obama’s public admiration of Lincoln. ‘To the extent that you are seen as wrapping yourself in the Lincoln flag or, worse, presenting yourself as a latter-day Lincoln, you set the bar terribly high and you invite legitimate criticism,’ said Smith, a scholar in residence at George Mason University.”

Monday, Feb. 16, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

As Economy Sours, It’s Sweet to be an Economist

“For economist John Nye, the financial crisis has meant new questions at dinner parties and children’s birthday parties. But Nye, a former Washington University professor who now teaches at George Mason University in Virginia, noted an irony in his profession’s new-found popularity. He said most people — including government officials — seemed to ignore economists during the good times, but they are turning to economists now, even though there is little consensus among economists about what to do. ‘We’re confused,’ said Nye, ‘and yet folks want to listen to us even more.’”

Monday, Feb. 16, Seattle Times

Stimulus a Big Victory for Social Programs

“The economic-stimulus package ramps up spending to benefit needy Americans in a way not seen since the launch of the Great Society programs. ‘We are seeing a paradigm shift,’ said Paul Posner, a former Government Accountability Office official who teaches at George Mason University. The bill includes billions in new money for food stamps, expanded child care and services for the homeless.”

Tuesday, Feb. 17, Los Angeles Times

Media Ban on Troops’ Coffins May Lift

“Every week, Air Force cargo jets land and taxi down the runway at Dover Air Force Base, Del., carrying the remains of fallen U.S. troops. The flag-draped coffins are a testament to the toll of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of the sacrifice borne by those who serve in the military and their families. But this ceremony, known as the ‘dignified transfer of remains’ and performed nearly 5,000 times since the start of the wars, is hidden from public view by the Pentagon. President Obama said last week that he is considering lifting the ban on photographs and videos at Dover. ‘Showing these pictures would remind people of the war,’ said Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. He added, however: ‘What turns people against a war is not knowledge that Americans are dying, but the belief that they are not dying for something worthwhile.’”

Wednesday, Feb. 18,

If Stocks Are in Turmoil, Blame the Feds

“The latest idea: To allow mortgage contracts to be rewritten after they’ve been signed. A House of Representatives committee has approved a proposal to allow bankruptcy judges to lower the interest rate and the amount owed on existing loans; a companion bill is pending in the Senate. Does anyone think this will encourage investors to buy mortgages or the banks that write them? Or that only existing mortgages will qualify? Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told a House panel that a potential consequence is ‘less capital flows into this market.’ George Mason University [law] professor Todd Zywicki noted that not only will interest rates rise and foreclosures increase, but it would ‘exacerbate the already existing uncertainty in the financial system.’”

Wednesday, Feb. 18, Washington Post

New Mortgage Plan to Focus on Lowering Payments

“An estimated 8 million mortgages could fall into foreclosure during the next four years. In the Washington region, the number of properties involved in the foreclosure process activities jumped 161 percent last year, to 50,148, according to the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. Foreclosures have hit a plateau in some markets, but could spike again as a second wave of risky loans adjusts to higher payments starting in late 2009, said John McClain, deputy director of the center. ‘What Obama does for helping the foreclosure situation is key to preventing that wave from getting here,’ McClain said.”

Wednesday, Feb. 18, Washington Post

Obama Leaves D.C. to Sign Stimulus Bill

“Warning that its passage into law ‘does not mark the end of our economic troubles,’ President Obama on Tuesday signed the $787 billion stimulus package, a measure he called the most sweeping financial legislation enacted in the nation’s history. ‘What people see inside the Beltway is the nature of compromise and incrementalism that is part of the legislative process,’ said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a communications professor at George Mason University who has studied how presidents market themselves. ‘Outside, they notice that Obama wanted a major stimulus package and was able to deliver one within a month of becoming president.’”

Wednesday, Feb. 18, USA Today

Security Infiltrates College Classrooms

“In the spring of 2007, Homeland Security Today published its first educational directory, with a list of 81 institutions with homeland security programs. The most recent directory, published last fall, had nearly twice that number. Offerings range from vocational certificates earned in a few weeks to advanced degrees. George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., for example, offers a doctorate in biodefense, which teaches ‘intelligence and threat assessment, nonproliferation and medical and public health preparedness,’ according to the university’s web site.”

Thursday, Feb. 19, Inside Higher Ed

Anthropologists Toughen Ethics Code

“By an overwhelming margin, 87 percent of members of the American Anthropological Association approved changes in its code of ethics that are designed to strengthen its protections of people who are studied, and to promote the values of free dissemination of scholarship. Hugh Gusterson, a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University, is among the organizers of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, which has been encouraging scholars to pledge not to ‘engage in research and other activities that contribute to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the ‘war on terror.’’ Gusterson said he saw the changes that the anthropologists adopted would significantly add to the protection of research subjects.”

Thursday, Feb. 19, Newsweek

Bootleggers’ Delights

“In the name of ‘stimulus,’ Washington is radically broadening its supervision of the economy, so it is time to ponder the paradox of the Baptists and the bootleggers: When politicians ban Sunday liquor sales, they please Baptists by purifying the Lord’s Day, and they please bootleggers by stimulating demand for the bootleggers’ services. So Baptists praise politicians who do something that enriches bootleggers, who give some of their riches to the politicians in campaign contributions. Russell Roberts, a George Mason University economist, says the moral of the story is that an asymmetry of attention makes the political world go ’round: Normal voters have lives to lead and so pay little attention to the actual workings of the government interventions that they applaud. Bootleggers, however, have a lucrative stake in the interventions, so they pay close attention to the details, wherein the Devil lurks. Consider, for example, two sorts of smoking, that of smokestacks and that of cigarettes.”

Thursday, Feb. 19, Washington Post

Arlington Puts Diversity among Its Top Priorities

“As part of an effort to ensure that Arlington diversifies and includes even more in the future, the county hosted three Diversity Dialogues in the fall. A total of nearly 500 attended, in an effort to build connections and generate discussion among groups in the county. Mara Schoeny, an assistant professor of conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University, said of the Arlington events, ‘Having done dialogues before and in a lot of different settings, it was nice to see that this actually works.’ She said that from what she heard at the tables, ‘People were really glad, not only to come and say their piece, but to hear what other people were thinking about.’”

Write to at