This Week in the News…

Posted: August 22, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Following are highlights of national news coverage George Mason received during the past week:

Friday, Aug. 15, Houston Chronicle

History Repeats; Power Failure Trumps Technology

“‘Although the blackouts of 1965 and 1977 were unique in many ways, they also reveal problems that remain with us today,’ says the web site (, an interactive history project maintained by George Mason University. ‘Despite our “high tech” economy good old-fashioned power failures are still with us, and appear to be an increasing likelihood due to rising electricity consumption and delayed utility investments in generating capacity.'”

Saturday, Aug. 16, The Toronto Star

Americans ‘Want Some Answers’

John McCarthy, the executive director of George Mason University’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Project, said Thursday’s blackout showed that the complexity of the situation is still not well understood by public policy-makers. The fact that the Internet and water supplies could have been so profoundly affected shows the need for governments and industry to better integrate their response network to minimize the impact, he said. ‘You can’t stop hurricanes and you can’t stop fires,’ he said. ‘You really can’t even stop terrorists or a rogue individual from targeting a vulnerable system. The reality of the post-9/11 world is that you can’t just send in the marines or the army to fix things.'”

Sunday, Aug. 17, The New York Times

Professor Teaches Change in His Indian Village

“Along fields so green they seemed to vibrate with color, Jagadish Shukla walked toward his childhood home. There, a room specially built for his visits waited, as did a generator rented so fans could cool him in the Indian heat–his family’s modest effort to provide the comforts of his Bethesda, Md., home in this rural village. Professor Shukla, 59, has lived for 32 years in the United States and is now its citizen. He is a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and a climatologist who directs the Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies in Calverton, Md. But he has never relinquished his past or forgotten his home. Every year since leaving India, he has returned to this village of 1,500 people, where he grew up and where his family still lives.”

Sunday, Aug. 17, Times-Picayune

Pension Plan May Go Up in Smoke

John Petersen, a professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy who writes on public finance for Governing magazine, said most pension funds assume a return of between 7.5 and 8.5 percent. He called the 10.7 percent projection ‘a very high assumption under any circumstances.'”

Sunday, Aug. 17, Philadelphia Inquirer

Experts Postulate on What Would Happen if Power Went Out and Stayed Out

James T. Sparrow, a historian at George Mason University, whose web site collects New Yorkers’ memories of the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, argued that the times more than technology determine how people behave in a disaster. ‘What really matters is the social context in which technological failure occurs,’ Sparrow said. ‘The power goes out in ’65 and ’77, and people have very different reactions because the context changes. Technology is one of these magical aspects of modern society that most people don’t think about much.'”

Monday, Aug. 18, USA Today

Blackout Illuminates Change for the Better

James Sparrow, director of the Blackout History Project at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., notes the same grievances still exist in many neighborhoods. ‘It’s really telling that we haven’t seen looting and rioting,’ he says. Sparrow says another peaceful Rust Belt blackout that occurred in 1965 may help explain why. It occurred during the Cold War, another time when Americans felt themselves under threat. ‘Americans in general are in a state of mind that’s much closer to the Cold War,’ he says. ‘There’s a sense of community that wasn’t there in the ’70s, and a greater respect for authority. And I wouldn’t underestimate the fear factor.'”

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