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January 5, 2011: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Scholarly sneak preview; New charitable IRA opportunity
Baker Institute fellows: A look at the year ahead

With classes about to start and a new year underway, the 2011 calendar at the Baker Institute is quickly filling with plans for new research, courses, conferences and other events. Here's a sneak preview of what some institute fellows are planning for the months ahead:

Edward P. Djerejian, the Baker Institute's founding director, will teach Contemporary United States Middle East Policy (POST 455) this semester. The course provides an introduction to the underlying political, socioeconomic and cultural trends in the contemporary broader Middle East, and focuses on the struggle of ideas between the forces of extremism and moderation in the Arab and Muslim world; the Arab-Israeli conflict; Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the geopolitics of energy. It also examines the region from the perspective of U.S. national security interests, foreign policy and public diplomacy.

George Abbey, Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy, and Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technology policy, will publish a paper in January that outlines a recommended course of action for the U.S. space program. Other 2011 Space Policy Program activities include a panel discussion on the future of U.S. space flight featuring present and past senior leaders of NASA; and a presentation and discussion with Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, who, as a member of the space shuttle Discovery crew in 1985, became the first Muslim to fly in space. In May, the Space Policy Program's 2011 International Space Medicine Summit will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned flight in space by Yuri Gagarin by emphasizing the importance of multinational space collaborations –- in particular, maximizing the use of the International Space Station. Abbey will also travel to Moscow in 2011 to continue discussions on international space collaborations.

Joe Barnes, Bonner Means Baker Fellow, is finishing a paper on U.S. policy toward Pemex, Mexico's state-owned petroleum company, and researching a new paper on President Barack Obama's foreign policy, two years into his administration.

Rice students taking a course on intelligence analysis and technology co-taught by Chris Bronk, fellow in information technology policy, will learn how to use technology to collect information and boil it down to a form useful to analysts. Bronk's 2011 plans also include meetings with members of the public and private sectors to discuss potential threats to communication systems, the power grid and health care systems.

John Diamond, Edward A. and Hermena Hancock Kelly Fellow in Public Finance, is planning a conference on the global economic crisis and will teach Microeconomics I (ECON 201) at Rice. He is also writing a chapter for a widely used handbook on taxes.

Mahmoud El-Gamal, Will Clayton Fellow in International Economics, will launch the second phase a microfinance project in rural Egypt funded by the institute's Kelly Day Endowment on the Status of Women and Human Rights in the Middle East. This year, researchers will establish a prototype credit union designed to allow residents to leverage their own resources to lift themselves out of poverty. El-Gamal's other areas of research include the role of global financial imbalances in countries such as Ireland, Greece and Italy. He will also teach a course on Financial Markets (ECON 255) this semester.

Vivian Ho, James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics, is continuing National Cancer Institute-funded research on the factors that lead to higher treatment costs for cancer, and how best to control them. She is also investigating whether public smoking bans improve public health. In a third study, funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, Ho is evaluating cancer screening practices, the quality of cancer treatments and the quality of post-treatment surveillance in Texas.

Amy Myers Jaffe, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies, will teach a course on energy policy (POST 401) this semester. Later this month, she travels to the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., to discuss the security implications of shale gas; she then returns to Houston to speak at the Women LEAD program, a Rice student initiative that encourages leadership through empowerment, affiliations and development. Jaffe's early 2011 activities also include speaking engagements in Boston and at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Jaffe is also the director of the Baker Institute Energy Forum, whose 2011 plans include studies on the geopolitics of natural gas, energy in Mexico and the role of shale gas in U.S. national security. In addition, the forum will host a conference on the geopolitics of natural gas, with experts discussing the political factors that affect the development of natural gas in countries such as Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Bolivia and China; and is planning many other events, such as an energy roundtable in Mexico.

In addition to teaching Energy Economics II (ECON 547) this semester, Ken Medlock, James A. Baker, III, and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics, will attend meetings from Denver -- where he will present a paper at the Allied Social Science Associations annual meeting on the roles of renewable energy and fossil fuels -- to Stockholm (the International Association for Energy Economics conference). He'll discuss the future of shale gas at the Dallas Geologic Society, energy economics at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and speak at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists annual meeting in Houston, as well as the U.S. Association of Energy Economists conference in Washington, D.C.  

Mark Jones, fellow in political science, will track votes during the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature to produce a liberal-conservative ranking of Texas House members. Jones will provide a rolling ranking on the institute's blog as the session progresses; a final ranking at the end of the session will be the basis of a paper on liberal-conservative scores, legislative success rates and comparisons to past legislatures. Jones is also teaching graduate course on comparative political institutions (POLI 568) and writing a book on the evolution of party politics in Texas.

In an ongoing effort to promote the Baker Institute Science and Technology Program, Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technology policy, will continue his work with committees and advisory councils for high-level scientific groups and government bodies including the Department of Energy, Houston Museum of Natural Science and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His 2011 scheduled presentations include remarks on "Civic Scientists" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a talk on "A Scientist's Approach to Diplomacy -- First, Listen and Learn" at the annual meeting for the American Physical Society. In May, he will be the commencement speaker at The University of Texas Health Science Center.

Kirstin Matthews, fellow in science and technology policy, is teaching Science Policy and Ethics (NSCI 511) this semester for the professional science master's program at the School of Natural Sciences. She is also helping the natural sciences school develop a master's degree track for health and biomedical research policy. In April, the science and technology policy program will host a Civic Scientist lecture with Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In March, the program will host a discussion on science diplomacy. Matthews recently finished a Baker Institute report on stem cell research in Texas, and is submitting a paper for peer review that examines the impact of international collaboration on scientific research.

Steven Lewis, C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow, will continue studying subway and advertising cultures throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and in Cairo. In addition, he will teach a class on Asia and Energy (ASIA 488), co-teach Perspectives in Modern Asia (ASIA 212) and continue to coordinate the institute's Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program.

William Martin, Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy, is writing about the prospects for a statewide needle exchange program for The Texas Tribune, a partner of The New York Times. He also expects to speak to Texas legislators in support of the program, which is meant to curb the spread of diseases through intravenous drug use by giving users clean hypodermic needles. In February, Martin will speak at Southern Methodist University about the controversy over teaching the Bible in public schools. Martin will also write about separation of church and state, and counter some Christian conservatives who assert the Founding Fathers intended America to be a Christian nation. In addition, Martin is planning a program featuring former law enforcement officers who now believe that drug prohibition is a failure, and a paper about the reform of drug sentencing laws.

Joan Neuhaus Schaan, fellow in homeland security and terrorism, expects border issues to be a primary focus in 2011. She will assist in the organization of the Transborder International Police Association conference in April, and serve as a keynote speaker for the Texas Crime Prevention Association. Additionally, she will speak before the Border Issues Seminar being organized by the Canadian Consulate General in Dallas, Texas, in partnership with The University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs. Finally, she will be publishing a series of papers chronicling the experiences of citizens in the borderlands. In the area of transnational extremism, the Homeland Security and Terrorism Program will be conducting a summary and analysis of recent U.S.-associated plots.

Ron Sass, fellow in global climate change, is investigating in situ uranium mining practices in Texas and Wyoming. He is developing the conclusion that regulations for mining practices set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been faulty for 30 years and should be reinvestigated because they do not prevent the contamination of area groundwater. Sass is also looking at adaptations along the upper Texas coast with regard to future hurricane damage, mainly from water surge. Finally, Sass is scheduled to return to China as a guest of Tsinghua University in Beijing, probably in early fall 2011, to continue work on the overuse of nitrogen fertilizer in Chinese rice agriculture and its impact as a source of greenhouse gases.

Tax bill extends charitable IRA rollover

The tax bill signed by President Barack Obama late last year extended the charitable IRA rollover through Dec. 31, 2011, and made it retroactive beginning Jan. 1, 2010. The bill also allows qualified individuals to make a new IRA rollover gift retroactive to 2010 as long as you make your gift by Jan. 31, 2011.

If you would like to take advantage of this brief window to make 2010 qualified distributions to the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, thereby sheltering your IRA-required minimum distributions from income tax, contact Vince McElligott, senior director of development, at 713-348-2923 or by e-mail at

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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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