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Breakfast with Meredith
Meredith Vieira, J75, to replace Katie Couric as co-anchor of the Today show.

  Why can’t a comic be Islamic?
Naif Al-Mutawa, A94, brings superheroes to Islamic teens.

Blogosphere . . .
What alumni are blogging about


Other Tufts alumni in the news

EARLY BIRD GETS THE SHOW: In September, Meredith Vieira, J75, will replace Katie Couric as co-anchor of the Today show.
photograph by ABC/Yolanda Perez

Breakfast with Meredith

Meredith Vieira, longtime moderator of The View, has parted ways with ABC’s morning chat fest to serve as co-anchor for NBC’s Today show. "Not only is the Today show a great program within a superb news organization, it’s also where America turns to begin the day," Vieira said in a press release from NBC Universal Television Group.

Vieira, J75, began her career as a news announcer for WORC radio in Worcester, Massachusetts—her first and last stint in radio before finding her place in front of the camera. She started with CBS News in Chicago in 1982 and from there became a correspondent for 60 Minutes and West 57th, where she earned five Emmys. She later joined ABC’s news division as chief correspondent of Turning Point, receiving a sixth Emmy award for a program on white supremacists, "Inside the Hate Conspiracy: America’s Terrorists."

In recent years, Vieira has been best known for her work in entertainment. She took on hosting duties of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2002, and won her first Daytime Emmy as "Outstanding Game Show Host" in 2005.

From a Tufts perspective, Vieira’s most illustrious hosting job took place in April, when she served as emcee of the TUAA’s "Ballou to Broadway" event in New York City.

Of her move to Today Vieira said, "I look forward to joining Matt, Ann, and Al in giving America the best each morning."


Why can't a comic be Islamic?

Naif Al-Mutawa, A94, used to worry that young Muslims didn’t have enough positive role models. Then, a few years ago, he learned about a set of children’s stickers glorifying suicide bombers. That did it. He put his clinical psychology practice on hold, raised $7 million in capital, and set about creating heroes the Muslim world could be proud of. The 99, a comic-book series to be launched in September, stars teenage superheroes who are each endowed with one of the 99 virtues of Allah.

Allah’s virtues are much like Judeo-Christian ones. "Generosity, strength, wisdom, foresight, mercy, and dozens of other attributes that aren’t used to describe Islam in the Western media today," Al-Mutawa said in a recent email while on a business trip to Saudi Arabia from his native Kuwait. In The 99, those Allah-inspired gifts turn ordinary teens into Jabbar the Powerful (a formidable giant), Sami the Hearer (a boy with unusually acute ears), or Noora the Light (able to see the "light of truth" or, when provoked, zap bad guys with her laser vision).

The story of The 99 has its origins in an event known to every Middle Eastern schoolchild: the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. The House of Wisdom, an actual repository of ancient knowledge, is destroyed in the invasion, but not before its curators manage to download the collected works—and here fantasy takes over—onto 99 mystical gemstones that are later scattered across the globe. Recovering the gems before they fall into the wrong hands becomes the mission of The 99.

The superteens must put their heads together in creative ways. "Each plight in The 99 needs three of The 99 to solve it," Al-Mutawa said. "So there is promotion of teamwork and different methods of solving problems."

The comic, previewed in English and Arabic at www.the99.org, features stark lighting and dramatic angles. Machine guns go brakka brakka brakka. Helicopter blades go wusp wusp wusp. If The 99 looks and reads like a typical Marvel comic, it’s because Al-Mutawa’s co-writer and all of his artists have worked for Marvel. "I promised my investors top talent," Al-Mutawa explained. His publishing company, Teshkeel Media Group, also distributes Arabic versions of Marvel comics, which have been doing "fantastically well."

Although a new career as a maker of superheroes is a departure from psychology (after Tufts, Al-Mutawa received a Ph.D. from Long Island University and specialized in treating victims of torture), it is not a complete break. "I create the characters—give them internal conflicts—and create their back stories," he said. "This is all psychology."


Blogosphere . . . What alumni are blogging about

Rough skiing. On the last run from the top, I was going full speed under the Thunder Mt lift. What I failed to notice on any of the rides up the lift that day was that towards the end of the slope, there was one spot where the snow stopped and a 5-yard stretch of gravel began. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it until 10 yards before the snow stopped and I was going way too fast to be able to stop in time. So I decided to go with it and ski the gravel. I did jump off the snow a little to try to keep my full weight from being on the rocks. But as I was going over, I still heard that painful sound of base material meeting granite. Even though they were rock skis, a little part of me did die at that moment.
Douglas Leister, A00, SoCal Ski Blog, "personal musings on anything and everything related to skiing"

Dissent. It’s been said that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, but I would argue that questioning the patriotism of one’s political opponents, calling them traitors and their opposition treason, is truly the political scoundrel’s last refuge.
Michael J. W. Stickings, A95, The Reaction, "a liberal blog on politics, philosophy, and culture"

Good eatin’. During the Civil War, Southern civilians suffered heavily from Northern blockades and as the war dragged on, food supplies became quite limited. Southern food substitutions became common when staples were no longer available. For meat, people ate "domestic animals, crows, frogs, locusts, snails, snakes, and worms." When coffee ran out, it was "brewed" from "okra seeds that were browned, dried sweet potatoes or carrots, roasted acorns, wheat berries."
Meg Hourihan, J94, Megnut, "a site about food"

Branding. The problem with Wikipedia is that it lends its brand to anyone. In the trademark context, a trademark owner who nakedly licenses a mark to anyone without keeping track of the quality of goods sold under that mark may lose the right to defend the mark. Since a trademark is meant to protect consumers and indicate the source of a good or service, nakedly licensing the mark strips away value from the mark. By allowing anyone and everybody to edit entries on Wikipedia, Wikipedia may squander any credibility it has attained.
—Andrew Raff, A00, IPTAblog, "a weblog about the relationship between the law, communications technology, and the creative arts"

Got a blog? Tell us about it at tuftsmagazine@tufts.edu.


Edward Sternick, A60, J86P, was selected by the American College of Medical Physics as this year’s winner of the Marvin M. D. Williams Professional Achievement Award, given annually for significant contributions to medical physics.
Helen Osborne, J70, recently received a Will Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Communication from the New England Chapter of the American Medical Writers Association for her book Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message.

In May, Alan Solomont, A70, A08P, won the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Award. Solomont is chairman and CEO of Solomont Bailis Ventures, whose mission is to launch innovative health- and elder-care ventures.
Arline Isaacson, J78, received the President’s Special Recognition Award from the Women’s Bar Association. This award spotlights Isaacson as an advocate for women, children, and gay people.

Co-producer Jeffrey Greenberg, A82, received a 2006 Grammy award in the category of Best Historical Package for the eight-disc box set "Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax" (Rounder Records).
Vikram Akula, A90, has been named by Time magazine as one of "The People Who Shape Our World" for 2006, in recognition of his vision and leadership as the founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, one of the world’s fastest-growing microfinance institutions.

Miami-based food writer and poet Jennifer Karetnick, J90, was awarded $5,000 by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund for her unpublished lyric poem, "Farm Share."

The New York Jets football organization hired Andy Dickerson, A03, G05, as their coaches’ assistant.