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Ups And Downs
[Thu Oct 28 1999]

WE SALUTE the Anna Bixby Women's Center in Harrisburg as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. Dur ing that time, the center has been a beacon of support and comfort for women and children on the run from domestic violence. 

The center has served an average of 1,200 to 1,500 victims each year since its opening. Its services include a 24-hour hotline, safe homes, transportation, counseling, advocacy, children's programs, education, job placement assistance, abuser treatment and youth advocacy. 

It's hard to overstate the value of the work done by the center and shelters like it in other communities. Those who volunteer time and money to the centers are helping to make their communities more decent and compassionate places. 

A BOYHOOD in an impoverished, obscure village in the Sudan hasn't stopped Salah Mohammed from winning recognition as one of America's leading mathematicians. 

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is lucky to have him on its faculty. Mohammed is typical of the kind of talented individuals who continue to come to the United States looking for opportunities not available to them in their homelands. They usually find them. 

Mohammed's improbable odyssey was fueled by a lifelong passion for mathematics. The successful life he has built for himself is an inspiring story and maybe a source of hope for youngsters who sometimes feel overwhelmed by the intricacies of advanced mathematics. 

MOHAMMED'S CONTRIBUTIONS to his adopted land are underscored by the news that most of this year's Nobel prize winners in economics and the sciences -- chemistry, medicine and physics -- are or were once on the faculty of American universities. This year's results are a continuation of last year's trend when eight professors at American universities swept the Nobel prizes in sciences. 

The United States has reason to be proud of an education system that nurtures so much of the world's cutting edge scholarship. But the celebration must be tempered by the sobering realization that very few of the winners began their education in the United States. A good example can be seen in Ahmed H. Zewail, who won the Nobel for chemistry. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Egypt's Alexandria University. He didn't become part of the U.S. educational system until the mid-70s when he began working on a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. He moved on from there to faculty positions at the University of California in Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology., 

Robert L. Park, the head of the Washington office of the American Physical Society, describes American scientists as "very disturbed" by shrinking enrollments in physics at the graduate school level. 

"But while enrollments in physics are down everywhere, there are plenty of foreign students who are willing to endure the rigors of physics," Park told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "Without them, I don't see how we could maintain our scientific and technical expertise." 

WE APPRECIATE the efforts that a panel of experts made in studying the ill-fated National Coal Museum in West Frankfort before recommending that no state money be spent in keeping it open. 

The panel, which was organized by Gov. George Ryan, wisely concluded that Southern Illinois deserves to have a coal museum, but the project in West Frankfort has too many safety and financial problems. 

It's time to go back to the drawing board. A successful coal museum needs a better facility, better management and better financial backing than what is available at the current site. Maybe a new group of organizers will emerge and learn from the mistakes that doomed the National Coal Museum. 


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