seal  Purdue News

August 18, 2003

Purdue experts can discuss 9/11 anniversary, war in Iraq, homeland security

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Purdue University experts can talk about a variety of topics related to the second 9/11 anniversary, the six-month anniversary of the war in Iraq and homeland security. Below is a headline summary for all the tips included in this package.


1. Mending fences with the French
2. U.S. reactions to Mexican ID cards may dampen hemispheric relationships
3. Demand for Arabic language grows
4. Homeland security affects international students
5. Green issues falling behind current events
6. Cost of war starting to add up
7. Lessons learned from war on Iraq
8. Americans need to protect information access
9. Airline security 'dramatically better' than before attacks
10. Dogs, cats play role in biosecurity
11. As attacks become history, aftershocks hold students' interest
12. Military families cope while loved ones overseas
13.Media images can, should still disturb
14. Keep dialogue open with children
15. Purdue researcher sets his sights on Ebola vaccine


Mending fences with the French

Just six months after Americans were ordering freedom fries and dumping out French champagne, U.S. citizens may not realize that they now have a greater understanding of French culture, says a Purdue University expert.

"History suggests that during times of adversity, if you can call this adversity, Americans tend to learn more about the other country," says Thomas Broden, a professor in liberal arts who studies French culture. "For example, during the Cold War of the 1950s, there were more Americans learning Russian, and since 9/11 we have seen a greater interest in Arabic."

Broden also says Americans need to remember that they have close ties with the French.

"France and America actually have a long, rich history of mutual influences," Broden says. "For example, the French were the first white explorers and settlers in Indiana, and the city of Lafayette is named for a French general who fought alongside George Washington and was wounded at the battle of Brandywine.

"I expect there probably will always be a love-hate relationship between our two countries, but I think the relationship will improve. America still represents an important source of hope and beauty in the world for many people in France today."

CONTACT: Broden, (765) 494-3857,


U.S. reactions to Mexican ID cards may dampen hemispheric relationships

Homeland security initiatives may be working to keep Americans safe, but at the cost of good relations with old neighbors, says a Purdue University political science expert.

America's reluctance to accept Mexican-issued identification cards could harm relations with Mexico, says James McCann, an expert in American and Mexican politics.

"South of the border, a national nerve is being touched through this issue," says McCann, who is co-author of "Democratizing Mexico; Public Opinion and Electoral Choices."

"Mexican President Vincente Fox has long supported Mexicans who work in America, holding them up rhetorically as heroes and cultural ambassadors," McCann says. "Relations between the U.S. and Mexico, which have gotten worse over the last two years, might grow colder still if effective immigration policies are not adopted. U.S. lawmakers concerned about migration and public safety need to do much more than simply dismiss Mexican illegal identification documents as untrustworthy."

CONTACT: McCann, (765) 494-0738,


Demand for Arabic language grows

The growing demand for Arabic language courses is not solely based on 9/11 and current events in the Middle East, says Purdue University's director of the Arabic language program.

Keith Dickson, chair of the Arabic, classics, Hebrew and Italian program, says the largest group of Purdue students enrolled in Arabic language courses are second-generation Arabs who want to retain their culture.

"After 9/11 we did see an enormous jump in students pursuing Arabic languages, but only a small group is the white student who is interested because of current events, business or the military," says Dickson, who is associate professor of the classics. "The second largest group is international students who are Muslim, but non-Arabic. For example, students from Indonesia or Pakistan may pursue the language because of their religious commitment."

In 2001-02 there were three sections of Arabic at Purdue. The following academic year, the number of sections along with enrollment doubled due to student demand. Arabic is currently the fastest-growing language program at Purdue.

CONTACT: Dickson, (765) 496-3253,


Homeland security affects international students

The evolving visa application process could deter some international students from studying at American universities, says a Purdue University expert.

"International students are adjusting well to most changes the federal government implemented as a result of 9/11," says Michael Brzezinski, director of International Students and Scholars. "However, we do see how the visa application process, which is more time-consuming with its security and background checks, may dissuade some international students from pursuing higher education in this country. Some of those students are now looking elsewhere for an education."

Brzezinski says the good news is that Purdue, which has the largest international student population at a public university, will experience fewer visa delays this year compared to last.

"We also are happy to see the State Department placing special emphasis on prioritizing student visa appointments," he says. "On or before Aug. 1, all non-immigrants had to be interviewed during the visa application process.

"This includes many individuals, such as businessmen, who never before had to be interviewed, so there is potential for a backlog. Fortunately our State Department has requested American embassies and consulates give priority to student visa applications."

Brzezinski also can talk about Purdue meeting the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System's deadline to enter all current international student data into the SEVIS database. SEVIS is the government's national database that stores information on international students, staff and faculty.

CONTACT: Brzezinski, (765) 494-7084,


Green issues falling behind current events

A Purdue University scientist says current events are forcing environmental issues to take a backseat, even though some play an important role in international events.

"I'm particularly fond of Hans Blix's widely reported comment that he is far more worried about global warming than weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," says Leigh Raymond, an expert in environmental policy in the School of Liberal Arts. "The disparities in what level of evidence we need to act decisively with regard to homeland security versus environmental threats also is striking, and troubling, in my view."

Raymond says Americans need to understand that environmental issues, such as America's continued dependence on fossil fuels, play a role in international events and determining the national policy agenda.

"The refusal to put more political energy and support into policies requiring greater fuel efficiency and more realistic pricing for fossil fuels, for example, is especially galling in an era where dependency on cheap oil has both environmental and national security consequences of great magnitude," Raymond says.

CONTACT: Raymond, (765) 494-4182, Raymond will not be available until Aug. 21.


Cost of war starting to add up

Americans are just beginning to see the price of going to war in Iraq in American politics and international relations, says a Purdue University political scientist.

"At home, approval ratings of President Bush are slowly but steadily moving downward, and questions about the Iraq war policy are growing because of disclosures about fictitious claims that were used to justify the war," says Harry Targ, an expert in U.S. foreign policy and international relations.

Targ predicted that the war with Iraq would possibly create permanent conflicts with traditional European allies, countries in the Middle East and most countries in the Persian Gulf.

"Resistance to U.S. efforts are reflected now, also, in continuing violence against U.S. military personnel in Iraq and growing opposition to the U.S.-backed leader of Afghanistan," Targ says.

CONTACT: Targ, (765) 494-4169 or (765) 743-0416,


Lessons learned from war on Iraq

A Purdue University expert says the war in Iraq won't be the last time America strikes preemptively in anticipatory self-defense.

Louis Rene Beres, a professor of political science who is the author of books and articles dealing with nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, says the U.S. war against Iraq was based on a broadened doctrine of preemption, the right known under international law as anticipatory self-defense.

"In the coming months and years, new situations will inevitably arise where our country will have to decide upon further expressions of this expanded doctrine," says Beres, whose work is well known in the American and Israeli military and intelligence communities. "Obvious cases that come to mind are Iran and North Korea. In each of these cases there will be profound decisional tension between the risks of further American unilateralism and the risks of placing our national security in the hands of a so-called international community.

"Much will depend on whether we are now able to prevent new and more devastating terror attacks on the American homeland," he says.

CONTACT: Beres, (765) 494-4189,


Americans need to protect information access

Americans need to be aware of what kind of information is being kept secret because of homeland security, says a Purdue University expert on the First Amendment and communications law.

"The everyday American should be concerned that there are more and more obstacles for journalists to obtain information," says Constance Davis, a professor of communication in the School of Liberal Arts. "Certainly, some information is legitimately about national security, but it is clear that national security is used to cover up far too much material. We cannot limit access to information because journalists have an obligation to inform readers. Then, readers can make informed decisions at the election polls."

Davis also can talk about the Patriot Act and how it has affected American privacy and freedom of information.

CONTACT: Davis, (765) 494-9107,


Airline security 'dramatically better' than before attacks

Airport security has improved dramatically since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but economic concerns continue to tax the industry, according to a Purdue University airline industry and safety expert.

Dale Oderman, an associate professor of aviation technology and a retired U.S. Force colonel and pilot, says that although air security is not perfect, it has made great strides.

"The main improvement is the hardening and locking of cockpit doors," Oderman says. "That means that even if an airplane is hijacked there is a much slimmer chance that it can be used as a weapon, as planes were on Sept. 11.

"Security has also improved by the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration and its handling of screening jobs. The government has done a better job than the previous private contractors of training baggage and passenger screeners, and more importantly, it has made the job more desirable to qualified candidates."

Oderman also says that while the airline industry continues to suffer financially, the after-effects of the attacks concerning fear of flying have mostly faded.

"I don't think there are many people not flying because of Sept. 11," he says. "People who aren't flying now are mostly doing so because of economic conditions. Low-cost airlines are doing pretty well, but large network carriers with higher ticket prices are continuing to have problems."

CONTACT: Oderman, (765) 494-9567,


Dogs, cats play role in biosecurity

Dogs and cats could be the first creatures to alert America to a biosecurity attack.

Larry Glickman, professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues at Purdue and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has begun a study using a national pet health database to assess whether dogs and cats are sentinels that could provide early warning for terrorist-related attacks.

"We are developing analytical techniques that, when used in a timely way, could signal a terrorist attack," Glickman says. "This approach is intended to complement, not replace, human medical record-based surveillance systems currently under development and give practicing veterinarians a key role in the war on terrorism."

Glickman is working with Banfield Pet Hospitals on the design of this Purdue-based pet surveillance system, called the VMD-SOS, which stands for Veterinary Medical Data-Surveillance of Syndromes.

Banfield Pet Hospital, with approximately 300 veterinary hospitals located in 43 states, electronically records health information for the approximately 60,000 cats and dogs seen each week in their practices.

"Every night that information is processed, and with the right programming we could be alerted to an anthrax or plague outbreak in cats or dogs," Glickman says. "Every night the clinical and laboratory information on these pets is sent electronically to a central data warehouse. With the right computer programming and statistical analysis, this information will allow us to detect terrorist attacks related to the use of chemical or biological agents, such as anthrax or plague. Public health officials could be notified before they might otherwise be by human health surveillance systems, which tend to be more regionalized and less standardized."

Researchers at Purdue have previously used veterinary hospital records of dogs and cats, together with information obtained from owners, to identify environmental causes of cancer in pets.

CONTACT: Glickman, (765) 494-6301,


As attacks become history, aftershocks hold students' interest

As the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks continue to reverberate, the events will remain relevant when taught in schools and could change the way history classes are taught, says a Purdue University civics education expert.

"It is like the attacks themselves were an earthquake, and we continue to have aftershocks," says Lynn R. Nelson, a Purdue professor of curriculum and instruction. "Between security threats, the war in Iraq and continued discussions of the search for Osama bin Ladin, young people see the way the attacks affect their lives and are interested in learning about them."

Nelson says he hopes the transition of the Sept. 11 attacks from a current events lesson to a history lesson will lead educators to change their approach to teaching history.

"Many American history classes do not consider a global view of American events; they stop at our borders," Nelson says. "You obviously can't teach about these horrific attacks without looking around the world. I would hope that would encourage a more global view on other topics covered in our social studies classrooms, like the Depression or westward expansion."

CONTACT: Nelson, (765) 494-2372,


Military families cope while loved ones overseas

Some military families may not be taking advantage of services to help them cope while their loved ones are away, says the co-director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University.

"Seek and take advantage of all possible resources for assistance," says Shelley MacDermid, professor of child development and family studies. "The military offers a variety of family support mechanisms — don't be afraid to use them. Let family and friends know what you need; often they want to help but don't know what to do. Be kind to yourself, and don't make things harder by telling yourself you should be feeling differently than you do."

If physical or psychological disturbances, such as persistent anxiety, trouble sleeping or lack of interest in daily activities, go on for several weeks, see a physician, MacDermid says.

She also says families should acknowledge difficulties but not dwell on them. Instead find new, positive opportunities, such as spending more time with children or making new friends. Families also should record special events so the deployed family member can enjoy them when they return home.

"Try to maintain a stable environment for children, but acknowledge their feelings about what is happening," MacDermid says. "Try not to become isolated — keep reaching out into the community. Often, helping others is a great way to help oneself."

MacDermid also can talk about how families can adjust when their loved ones return from war.

MacDermid, and her co-director Howard Weiss, professor of psychology, created an online diary for military families to record their thoughts and feelings about family members being deployed. A related story is available on the web.

CONTACT: MacDermid, (765) 494-6026,


Media images can, should still disturb

Two years may have passed, but a Purdue University communications professor says media images of 9/11 should be viewed cautiously.

"With images of war and terror appearing regularly in the media over the past two years, the public ought to be forewarned about anniversary news coverage that will feature the same images that horrified us in 2001," says Glenn Sparks, an expert in mass media. "One of the negative aspects of all of these disturbing images is that we become emotionally desensitized. It isn't emotionally healthy to become calloused to horrific violence."

Sparks also can talk about emotional risks for children, such as young children believing that 9/11 is happening again because of the anniversary coverage.

"Effective parenting will limit children's exposure to news, as well as to TV more generally," Sparks says. "In terms of healthy cognitive and emotional development, children probably shouldn't spend more than one hour per day watching TV."

CONTACT: Sparks, (765) 494-3316,


Keep dialogue open with children

Parents and teachers should not avoid talking to children about terror and the fighting in Iraq, says a Purdue University child expert.

"The danger in ignoring this topic is that parents or teachers may not be dealing with the things that are on kids' minds," says Judith Myers-Walls.

Even though there has not been a terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and the major fighting in Iraq is over, there are still events that affect children, such as the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons. Myers-Walls says there are still many topics for parents to speak to their children about.

"I think the whole 'playing-cards' approach has been an issue for some children," Myers-Walls, says. "And the confusion about whether the war is really over needs to be addressed. The fact that more than 60 U.S. soldiers have died since active combat ended could confuse children and adults. Also, the mixed reactions of the Iraqi people to the U.S. presence could be a topic to discuss as well."

Myers-Walls addresses how to talk to children about terrorism on a Web site at

The site features video clips, photos, answers to frequently asked questions and fact sheets. Two of the fact sheets are in Spanish. In 2002 the Web site received 41,000 hits.

CONTACT: Myers-Walls, (765) 494-2959,


Purdue researcher sets his sights on Ebola vaccine

Is a vaccine for Ebola around the corner? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) seem optimistic about a Purdue University researcher who has the seemingly odd idea of using bacteria to boost the body’s immune system against the deadly African virus.

"The body’s defense system can only fight Ebola if it has been effectively stimulated by the right proteins," says Ramesh Vemulapalli, assistant professor of veterinary immunology and microbiology in Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine. "We can use bacteria both to manufacture these Ebola proteins and to deliver them to the immune system’s cells. The approach has not produced a vaccine yet, but it’s promising."

The NIH seems to agree, as they have funded Vemulapalli’s research with a special grant created to support unusual approaches to health problems.

So far all human Ebola virus outbreaks have been restricted to parts of Africa, but Vemulapalli said the worldwide health threat from Ebola is a concern because of the virus’ potential as a bioweapon.

"Ebola, like anthrax, could be used by terrorists," he says. "The more defenses we have against it, the safer people will be, whether in Africa or elsewhere."

CONTACT: Vemulapalli, (765) 494-7560,