Voices of frustration

first_imgIn some instances the details are so graphic, her editor chooses not to publish them.For years, investigative journalist Fatima Tlisova has documented the torture of prisoners and the corruption of government officials in Russia’s Northern Caucuses. And for years, Russian officials, and the mainstream media, have largely ignored her stories.But the work is vital and needs to reach a wider audience, said Tlisova during a discussion at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The July 11 talk explored the challenges of reporting international stories to U.S. and global audiences.Because many members of the Russian media are also corrupt or controlled by the government, the real stories are never told, Tlisova said. “That is why attention from the Western audience is needed,” she said, so that the world knows what is happening.She recalled reporting on a corrupt Chechnyan official who, though he earned a mere $5,000 salary, had a fleet of exotic sports cars and lived in a mansion. She showed the audience a Web video shot by citizens who snapped pictures of the home and the vehicles using their mobile phones.“The media doesn’t give you the real picture,” she said. “You have to listen to the local people.”But a commitment to reporting the truth can come with a high price, as is the case with Nigerian Dele Olojede.A joint winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for his work reporting on the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, Olojede began his career in Lagos, Nigeria. He later worked for Newsday in the United States, eventually becoming the paper’s foreign editor.One day Olojede said he “looked up on the wall and saw that the clock was winding down.” So he returned to Nigeria, where he created NEXT, NextOnSunday, and 234NEXT.com, news outlets that he calls “an honest space” for credible news.But today his business is on the brink of collapse after advertisers and shareholders balked at his practices of exposing widespread government corruption. Despite his efforts, the public continues to elect the same corrupt officials, said Olojede, and the mainstream media ignores the story. His options, he said, are to find another type of business model, or “just say the hell with it, we have already made our statement.”He challenged the audience with “a very important question.”“What if you provide the information, what if you take the risk, what if you did all the reporting, what if you are broken in the process? … What if we did all this and armed the public with the information that they need to enable them to make rational decisions as citizens, and they don’t?”The event was a tribute to Persephone Miel, a onetime Berkman Fellow who died last year. Miel was a longtime employee of Internews Network, a media development organization that supports independent media around the world.She devoted much of her life to figuring out how to help make international stories more accessible to American and global audiences.One of the best ways to honor Miel’s memory is to seek out and engage with stories that are largely ignored by the mainstream media, said Ivan Sigal, executive director of Global Voices, a nonprofit media initiative.In places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, “tremendously dangerous places to work,” where U.S. reporters focus on drone strikes and terrorism, local journalists are also risking their lives to report on those and other important stories with a different point of view, he said.Today Dele Olojede’s business is on the brink of collapse after advertisers and shareholders balked at his practices of exposing widespread government corruption.“The potential for us to listen to and read and hear stories that are coming from Pakistanis that are not about primarily the framework that the American media places on those stories or those kinds of narrow channels … is a tremendous one, and I urge you all to take the time to engage those different stories.”Jon Sawyer, founding director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, briefly discussed the Persephone Miel Fellowship. Before she died, Miel expressed her wish to be remembered by a fellowship that would help journalists outside the United States report on their home countries and bring their stories to a wide international audience. The fellowship, overseen by the Pulitzer Center in partnership with Internews, recently announced its first fellows.“Persephone was so involved in so many things,” said her husband, Tony Rudie, who spoke briefly at the event. “We miss her in so many different ways.”last_img read more

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Strength in numbers

first_imgHarvard researchers studying the same yeast used in beer brewing and bread making have gained new insights into one of the key steps between life’s earliest beginning and the development of complex animals like humans: the rise of multicellular life.A team of researchers led by Andrew Murray, the Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics, found that yeast cells that clumped together were able to more effectively manipulate and absorb sugars in their environment than were similar cells that lived singly. The experiments showed that in environments where the yeast’s sugar food source is dilute and the number of cells is small, the ability to clump together allowed cells that otherwise would have remained hungry and static to grow and divide.Murray said the work offers one explanation as to why single-celled organisms might have initially banded together deep in the history of life, though it’s impossible to prove conclusively that this is what happened.“Because there is an advantage to sticking together under these circumstances, and because we know that lots of single-celled organisms make enzymes to liberate goods from their environment, this may be the evolutionary force that led to multicellularity,” Murray said. “Short of inventing time travel and going back several billion years to see if this is how it happened … this is going to remain speculation.”The work, which appears in the Aug. 9 issue of the journal PLoS Biology, was conducted by a team including Murray, postdoctoral fellow John Koschwanez, and Bauer Fellow Kevin Foster.Common yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, has long been used by scientists as a model organism for understanding single-celled life. Murray’s lab has been using yeast to examine the transmission of genetic information during cell division and the question of how cells respond to selective pressure.It is selective pressure, the driving force of evolution, at work in the most recent yeast experiments. Some mutations let yeast cells grow and divide more readily, giving them a better chance to pass their genes to subsequent generations and dominate the population. Murray and colleagues’ work shows that under certain conditions, working together gives yeast cells an advantage over those that go it alone.But first, the yeast needed work to do. Murray and colleagues devised a series of experiments that presented two problems for the yeast cells to solve if they were to take in enough food to grow and divide. The first was how to change their food from an unusable form to a usable form. The second was how to actually take in this food.The researchers put the yeast in a solution of sucrose, or plain old table sugar, which is composed of two simpler sugars, glucose and fructose. Yeast lives on sugar, but the sucrose can’t get through the membrane that surrounds the cell. So the yeast makes an enzyme called invertase to chop the sucrose into glucose and fructose, each of which can enter the cell using gatekeeping molecules, called transporters, that form part of the membrane.The second problem is how to get the glucose and fructose from the place where they were split apart by invertase to the transporters in the cell membrane. The only way to bridge the gap is through diffusion, an inefficient process. Researchers calculated that once a cell makes invertase and chops the larger sugar down to usable bits, only one sugar molecule in 100 would be captured by the cell that made it.They also calculated that, working alone, a single yeast cell in a dilute solution of sucrose would never take in enough glucose and fructose to be able to grow and divide. But by cooperating, clumps of yeast in that same solution might have a chance. With several cells in proximity, all releasing invertase to create smaller sugars, they would increase the density of those sugars near the clump, increasing the chances that each cell could take in enough to grow and divide.“The bigger the clump, the faster everyone gets to take up glucose and fructose,” Murray said.To test this idea, the researchers used two strains of yeast. The first was the common laboratory strain, which tends to reproduce by cleanly dividing and forming separate individuals in subsequent generations. The second strain, more commonly found in nature, tends to clump together after dividing.After putting cells from the two strains in dilute solutions of sucrose and letting them incubate for some time, researchers found that indeed, the clumping strains were growing and dividing while the yeast cells living alone were not.“Based on the results, there is an advantage to sticking together,” Murray said.The research, Murray said, has led to further investigations, ongoing now, on whether selective pressure would allow researchers to effectively evolve clumping yeast from those that live singly. Murray said results were preliminary, but promising.“It is proof of concept,” Murray said. “It could have happened this way. That’s not to say it did happen this way.”last_img read more

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Peabody receives $150,000 grant

first_imgThe Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology has been awarded a $150,000 Museums for America Grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Over the next two years, staffers will catalog, document, inventory, and photograph the Peabody’s most important archaeological collections with the grant.“Our collection will be more accessible to researchers, especially educators,” said Senior Collections Manager David DeBono Schafer, who will manage the project. “These are among our most requested materials. Now researchers will be able to quickly determine exactly which archaeological objects are in the collection.”The collection of approximately 20,000 objects includes stone tools from the Leakey excavations in Africa, organic archaeological materials (such as textiles, wood, leather, and basketry), ceramics from the American Southwest, and many historic artifacts from three decades’ excavations in Harvard Yard.last_img read more

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Notes on music’s lessons

first_imgJazz legend Wynton Marsalis met his audience at a tuneful crossroads at Sanders Theatre Monday night, exploring America’s diverse musical heritage. On Tuesday, the energetic trumpeter and composer met with members of the Harvard community at the intersections of music, education, ethics, and innovation during two far-reaching panel discussions.“Entrepreneurs are always in search of ideas, and artists have a knack with creativity and original thinking, which entrepreneurs can learn from,” said Mihir Desai, Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance, who moderated an afternoon panel with Marsalis and professors from Harvard Business School (HBS) at the Harvard Innovation Lab, or i-lab, a new University initiative aimed at fostering innovation and collaboration. The conversation was the first in a series of planned events for the i-lab that will explore the connections of artists as entrepreneurs.Following his Monday night lecture, the third of six in a two-year presidential series, Marsalis pointed to Duke Ellington, the composer, musician, and big band leader as an example of a true innovator.Marsalis (center) spoke about the “Artist as Entrepreneur” at the i-lab. Also attending the event were Nancy Koehn (from left), Mukti Khaire, Rohit Deshpande, and Mihir Desai. Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff PhotographerEllington stuck fast to his mission of creating a fusion of sound based on musical tradition. He surrounded himself with other expert musicians who could help him realize his musical vision, and he worked harder than anyone, making up for a lack of resources by constantly sacrificing for his dream, said Marsalis during the HBS panel.“He so believed in his music that he would sacrifice whatever he had to sacrifice for that music to be right. And the first thing he sacrificed was time. When everybody else was sleeping, he was up,” perfecting his music, said Marsalis.Like music, business requires a profound understanding of the subject matter at hand, said the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and confident professionals who know their material and are ready to lead. Marsalis said he examines a spreadsheet the same way he reviews a complicated musical score, by studying every number on the page.“There’s not a conductor in the world who gets the score of [Igor Stravinsky’s] “The Rite of Spring” and goes, ‘Wow, there are a lot of notes here.’ You don’t sit in front of an orchestra with a score and say, ‘Well, I don’t understand these 20 measures, but we’ll make it through that OK.’ ”In a story that resonated with the innovators and dreamers in the crowd, Marsalis recalled important advice he received from his father as he prepared to leave home as a teen. Friends and family told him to have something to fall back on if his plans for a musical career didn’t work out. Others cautioned that if he stuck with music he would struggle, like his father, a pianist, who worked hard just to make ends meet.“My daddy said, ‘Man, the only thing I can tell you is, don’t have nothing to fall back on.’ ”Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (left) was among those who shared the stage with Marsalis during a discussion at the Graduate School of Education. His topic: “Education for Moral Agency and Engaged Citizenship.” Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerMusic and the arts can be a guiding force in helping students to develop solid, moral foundations, several Harvard professors agreed during a talk with Marsalis titled “Education for Moral Agency and Engaged Citizenship” at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.During the discussion, Marsalis touched on many of the themes in his 2008 book “Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life.” The book discusses how concepts in jazz can be applied to broad life lessons involving integrity, creativity, empathy, and humility.The trust, collaboration, experience, and communication that unfold on a stage filled with jazz musicians are applicable to the classroom as well, said Marsalis.“Music forces you to hold two opposite thoughts in your mind, and it forces you to act on both of those things … all the time.” As part of a band, he said, you have to always be aware of what you are playing and what somebody else is playing. That art of listening, he argued, is essential to education.As a young man, Marsalis played with an ensemble that included many members of Ellington’s band. The experience taught him a lesson in communication and understanding.“The old men were always cussing us out and saying, ‘you all are playing too loud, too loud, too loud, too loud’ … Being around them forced you to play softer. Then, when you played softer, you could hear what somebody else was playing.”Holding students to high standards and expecting them to bring ideas, energy, and commitment to their music is another Marsalis hallmark. He challenges young musicians, he said, as a means of getting them to take their craft seriously and bringing out their best.His message was an important one for educators to remember, said panelist Diane L. Moore, a senior lecturer in religious studies and education at Harvard Divinity School.“You take them seriously. You expect that they can rise to a standard,” said Moore. “Too often, we don’t involve and invite our students in any context of any classroom to collaborate, to assume they come into the classroom with valuable information that they can share.”last_img read more

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To win elections, get diverse

first_img <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCKtDE5ofUw” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/lCKtDE5ofUw/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> Republicans must accept a broader definition of their party, finding a way to embrace young voters, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and environmentalists, if they are to avoid repeating the losses of the 2012 election, panelists said Tuesday during an Institute of Politics (IOP) forum at the Harvard Kennedy School.“Our tone was wrong in recent years,” said Karen Hughes, a top aide to former President George W. Bush and author of the phrase “compassionate conservatism” for her former boss.  “Conservative philosophy can be optimistic and hopeful.”But Ana Navarro, national Hispanic co-chair for John Huntsman’s 2012 presidential campaign, was more blunt: “We had bad outreach, a bad message, and bad messengers. We should make 2012 a manual of what not to do.”For progress, Navarro said the party must shift from its perceived resistance to change on issues. “Young people feel deeply about gay marriage, access to contraception, and they also care about the environment,” she said. “There are any number of issues we missed out on without changing our position.”The prescriptions for improvement ranged widely but hewed to a theme of inclusion and dynamism.Kerry Healey ’82, a former Massachusetts lieutenant governor, said there is a tangible sign of a brighter future in the commonwealth with Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy Seal and Harvard Business School graduate who may run for the U.S. Senate seat that John Kerry vacated to become secretary of state.  “We’ll have a wonderful candidate who will represent the new face of the Republican Party in the Northeast,” said Healey, a top adviser to Mitt Romney’s recent presidential campaign.Healey, who was secretary of the Harvard Republicans as an undergraduate in 1978 — when the club numbered 12 members compared with the current 100 — was also an IOP fellow in spring ’07. She said the party has to be more accepting, and must rebuff attempts to subject each member to a litmus test of approved conservatism.“If you consider yourself a conservative, we think you’re a conservative,” she said. The party likewise needs to find a way to welcome moderate Washington officeholders, whose ranks are diminishing to the point of extinction with recent departures from Congress.“There has been a glass ceiling in our party for many years above which they could not rise,” said Healey, currently a state committeewoman to the national party. “We need to come together not under a big tent but as a coalition of conservatives,” to create “a winning strategy to bring us back.”Several panelists, including Ron Christie, a White House adviser to the younger Bush and an IOP fellow in 2011, said the party has to improve its use of technology to reach people and get out the vote.Navarro, a CNN contributor who also was an adviser on Hispanic issues to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, quipped: “We seem to have a lot of nerds in the Republican Party, but not enough geeks.”What is truly unsustainable, said John Murray, a former aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who now heads a super PAC to promote conservative candidates and policies, is the amount of money being spent on losing candidates.“We invest a lot of money in guys who can’t win,” said Murray, who heads the Young Guns Network, which was started by Cantor. “If you are going to engage in a House race, you need to find someone who fits his district,” he said. “I cannot go to the people who put up the money and say I blew the budget on a guy who had no chance of winning.”The problem, he said, is that funders are intent on furthering their political agendas   and back candidates who share them even if they are not in winnable races. The Young Guns are taking a different approach by vetting promising candidates rather than supporting whoever feels entitled to run because it’s his or her turn. “We have begun to systematically look at people who look different.”A member of the audience who has been active in the Harvard Republican Club asked why Republicans are scarce in faculties on elite campuses.Christie, who has served as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, took the point and expanded on it, saying, “We need to get involved in academia and deal with the hostility that is out there.”The Future of the Republican Party Watch the full panel discussion from the Institute of Politicslast_img read more

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HSPH goes Hollywood with “Fed Up” film screening

first_img“There are 600,000 food items in America. Eighty percent of them have added sugar,” according to the new film Fed Up, which was screened at Harvard School of Public Health on April 23, 2014 in Kresge G3. The exclusive advanced screening event was co-hosted by Let’s Talk About Food, an organization dedicated to changing the way we eat, talk and think about food, and ChopChop The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families. The new documentary film is directed by Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped) and produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, (producer of Academy Award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth). One of the most talked about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Fed Up is about “how everything we thought we knew about food and exercise was dead wrong,” according to the producers. The film opens nationally on May 9.David Ludwig, professor in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, had a role in the film. Referring to the food industry, Ludwig said in the film, “To place private profit above public health is a systematic, political failure.” Read Full Storylast_img read more

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The $3 million suit

first_imgIn a current prototype, a series of webbing straps around the lower half of the body contain a low-power microprocessor and a network of supple strain sensors. These act as the “brain” and “nervous system” of the Soft Exosuit, respectively, continuously monitoring various data signals, including suit tension, wearer position (walking, running, crouched), and more.“Over just a couple of short years, Conor and his team will work to fundamentally shift the paradigm of what is possible in wearable robotics,” said Wyss Institute director Don Ingber. “Their work is a great example of the power of bringing together people from multiple disciplines with focused resources to translate what first seems like a dream into a product that could transform people’s lives.”In addition to its military application, the team will collaborate with clinical partners to develop a medical version of the suit that could greatly benefit stroke victims, for example, whose gait often becomes slow and inefficient.Collaborators include Wyss Institute and SEAS faculty member Robert Wood and visiting professor Ken Holt, and Terry Ellis at Boston University’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Critical to this project’s success to date has been a team of Harvard postdoctoral fellows (Alan Asbeck, Stefano de Rossi, Ignacio Galiana, Yigit Menguc) and graduate students (Ye Ding, Jaehyun Bae, Kai Schmidt, Brendan Quinlivan), and staff from the Wyss Institute (Zivthan Dubrovsky, Robert Dyer, Mike Mogenson, Diana Wagner, Kathleen O’Donnell). Boston-based New Balance also will be a key collaborator on this new phase of the project, bringing expertise in textile and apparel innovation.Under the terms of the contract with DARPA, the Wyss Institute will receive up to $2.9 million for its work on Warrior Web, with full funding contingent on meeting a series of technical milestones. <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azSpdF8CGPw” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/azSpdF8CGPw/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> A biologically inspired smart suit that fits under clothing and could help soldiers walk farther, tire less easily, and carry heavy loads more safely has been given a boost that could be as much as $2.9 million.The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that it has been awarded a first-phase, follow-on contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further develop its Soft Exosuit — a wearable robot — alternative versions of which could eventually help those with limited mobility as well.Technologies developed by DARPA’s Warrior Web program aim to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries for military personnel, but can have civilian applications, too. The suit could reduce long-term health care costs and enhance the quality of life for people on and off the battlefield.The award is the first of what could be a two-phase contract, and it enables Wyss Institute core faculty member Conor Walsh and his team to build upon their earlier work (also funded by DARPA) demonstrating the proof-of-concept of this radically new approach to wearable robot design and fabrication. Inspired by a deep understanding of the biomechanics of human walking, Soft Exosuit technology is spawning development of entirely new forms of functional textiles, flexible power systems, soft sensors, and control strategies that enable intuitive and seamless human-machine interaction.The lightweight Soft Exosuit overcomes the drawbacks of traditional, heavier exoskeleton systems, such as power-hungry battery packs and rigid components that can interfere with natural joint movement.“While the idea of a wearable robot is not new, our design approach certainly is,” said Walsh, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab.The lightweight Soft Exosuit overcomes the drawbacks of traditional, heavier exoskeleton systems, such as power-hungry battery packs and rigid components that can interfere with natural joint movement. It is made of soft, functional textiles woven into a piece of smart clothing that is pulled on like a pair of pants, and is intended to be worn under a soldier’s regular gear. The suit mimics the action of leg muscles and tendons when a person walks, and provides small but carefully timed assistance at the leg joints without restricting the wearer’s movement.last_img read more

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Radcliffe Institute awards Fay Prize to top Harvard theses

first_img Read Full Story The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study awarded the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize to three graduating Harvard College seniors — Natalie Smith, Dennis Sun, and Eleanor Wilkinson — who demonstrated exceptional and original work on their theses.The 2015 Fay Prize recipients were chosen from 68 Thomas Hoopes Prize winners for outstanding scholarly work or research.“These winners exemplify the very best of transformative thinking and innovative undergraduate research at Harvard,” said Radcliffe Institute Dean Lizabeth Cohen. “Their work not only enriches Harvard’s intellectual community but also contributes substantially to the world of academic scholarship.”last_img

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Fighting words from former EPA leader

first_imgSpeaking at Harvard this week, former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy urged an audience of climate scientists and health experts to stop sulking over the Trump administration’s anti-climate-science stance, to get to work, and to speak out.“Get the mopes off your faces and pull up your big-boy pants,” she said.The long-term nature of climate change ensures that the efforts of one administration will have little impact, McCarthy said, listing several reasons why momentum for addressing the crisis will be difficult to slow. Chief among those reasons, she said, is work at the state and local level.McCarthy, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2013 until January, addressed an audience of about 100 at Jefferson Hall as part of Climate Week at Harvard. In a talk that was by turns humorous, grim, and hopeful, she insisted that the country is in a different place than it was when President Obama took office eight years ago. More citizens — business leaders among them — accept climate science, and supporters of action on the issue are finding their voices, she said.The average cost of wind power, meanwhile, fell 61 percent between 2009 and 2015, while that of solar declined 91 percent, meaning that clean energy has gotten cheap enough that even unfavorable government policies can’t kill it, McCarthy said. The real threat of such policies, she said, is that the U.S. risks losing a leadership position in the energy technology of the future.Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Director Michael VanRooyen spoke on the first panel regarding the mass migrations that will result from the effects of climate change. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer“The clean energy train has left the station. It’s not going back,” McCarthy said.To those scientists who fear politicizing their work, McCarthy warned that staying silent will make things worse. Recent proposals would add industry voices to the EPA peer review process and bar scientists who’ve received EPA grants in recent years. In effect, she said, opponents of climate action are moving beyond ignoring research and trying to block the science from even being conducted.“Your only way of not being political is to get in the fray because what these bills do is make your world political,” McCarthy said, urging scientists to talk in their role “as a public citizen who is well informed.”“Talk, as one human being to another, about what the science tells you and what you want to have done to protect your children and your children’s future,” McCarthy said. “If it’s important to you, it should be important to the person next to you who doesn’t know what you know.”McCarthy, who is on campus for fellowships at the Kennedy School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spoke at an event titled “Human Health in a Changing Climate,” sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the Climate Change Solutions Fund. President Drew Faust offered introductory remarks, calling skepticism about science in Washington, D.C., “unfounded” and “unwarranted.”“This permeates public discourse across our country,???? Faust said. “Research that is essential to national and human progress is under assault, and the expansion and perpetuation of knowledge, for the first time in my lifetime, seems to be something that none of us can take for granted.”In addition to McCarthy’s talk, the event featured panels on climate change and human migration, climate from a physician’s point of view, and ways to communicate the health impact of climate.In the discussion on migration, Jennifer Leaning, the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, and Michael VanRooyen, head of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and a professor of emergency medicine, talked about ways in which climate effects — longer droughts, flooding, stronger hurricanes — force people to move.Leaning offered Syria as an example of that process. Internal migration was prompted by a severe drought, one that scientists say was exacerbated by climate change. Farmers moved to a part of the country less affected by drought and already hosting refugees from Iraq. The subsequent strains led first to protests and then to the violence that drove millions of Syrians out of the country and into neighboring nations.FXB Center for Health and Human Rights Director Jennifer Leaning discussed how the Syrian Civil War grew out of a severe drought that scientists believe was exacerbated by climate change. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerIn her talk, McCarthy struck a hopeful note, reminding listeners that states have significant power to enact climate-related solutions. California — with the world’s fifth-largest economy — has enacted a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, and the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative uses a cap-and-trade system for the region’s power industry.The president’s executive orders will have little effect on environmental rules that have been finalized, McCarthy said, as undoing those rules is as time-consuming as proposing them. In addition, she said, regulations that have been supported by sound science in the rule-making process can’t be undone without opposing science — and, if presented, that science will have to be explained in court.“I know what it takes to put those rules together. They ain’t got it,” McCarthy said. “We have not lost, they have just set a stage for a battle in a different location.”McCarthy acknowledged that Trump’s proposed EPA cuts would devastate significant functions of the agency. If adopted, the cuts would reduce the agency budget by a third, and the money for science by half. Though the rationale would be to return responsibility for regulating pollution to the states, the proposal would also cut state funding by 45 percent, McCarthy said. A possible bright spot, she said, is that Congress has a long history of ignoring presidential budget requests as it drafts its own spending priorities.last_img read more

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Racial discrimination still rules, poll says

first_imgHalf a century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, more than half of black Americans still experience some form of racial bias, with systemic effects ranging from unequal prison terms to premature death, according to a new poll from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.The poll made it clear that much work remains to make healthcare, housing, and access to justice available to all, said panelists discussing the research at a Chan School Forum last week.“We need a narrative change, and we need to work with all the agents of our culture to change that narrative,” said David Williams, the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health and professor of African and African American studies and sociology. “That’s not easy to do, but it can be done.”In the poll, co-sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 57 percent of African-Americans said they were discriminated against in terms of equal pay, and 56 percent said they faced racism when applying for jobs. Fifty percent said they had experienced discrimination when interacting with police, and 45 percent while they were trying to rent or buy housing.When respondents were asked whether they felt they were treated differently because of their race, the numbers were even higher: 61 percent said they were treated differently by police, and 45 percent by the courts. Thirty-one percent said that they had avoided calling police when in need, and 22 percent had avoided seeking medical care. And 52 percent said they had heard offensive comments and/or racial slurs.Further, the poll found that blacks higher up the economic ladder were likelier to report discrimination than poorer ones.“This is not what you’d call the American experience,” said Robert Blendon, the Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and senior associate dean for policy translation and leadership development at the Chan School and professor of health policy and political analysis at both the Chan School and the Kennedy School of Government. “The story goes that once you get education and become successful, these things disappear. Not true.”Those results were discussed in a Chan School Forum panel on Oct. 24, “Discrimination in America: African American Experiences,” moderated by Joe Neel of NPR. (The poll’s research on six other demographic groups will be discussed in the coming weeks.) Blendon said the poll was unique because rather than asking general questions about the state of the country, it dealt only with discrimination as personally experienced.Williams said it confirmed what research has shown before.“We have scientific evidence that discrimination is pervasive. Over 200 African-Americans die every day who would not die if they had the same health experience as whites. Think of a huge jet crashing every day — that is the kind of disparity we’re talking about.”Further, he said the experience of everyday discrimination is a stressor that adds to the mortality rate. “Being treated with less courtesy, the little indignities that take place every day — that makes a stressful life experience. It literally causes premature death.”“The American criminal justice system in inherently racist,” said Elizabeth Hinton, assistant professor of history and of African and African American Studies. She said that although African-Americans are responsible for only 15 percent of illegal drug use in the country, they account for nearly 50 percent of drug-related incarceration.Hinton said those numbers eased somewhat in the Obama era, but the policy of zero tolerance has been revived under Trump.“African-Americans do not have a high level of trust in the police. More than a quarter avoid doing ordinary activities due to fear of coming into contact with them,” Hinton said. She said some current programs aim to integrate the police with their community, but do not go far enough.Dwayne Proctor, senior adviser to the president and director of the Achieving Health Equity Portfolio at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said his organization is especially concerned with the lack of health access for African-Americans.“We’re trying to build a culture of health in America and you can’t do that until you have health equity in place. Discrimination and poverty, these things impede our systems’ ability. And the word systems may sound mechanical, but what we’re talking about is people.”The California-based institute PolicyLink is also working to address discrimination in jobs and housing. Speaking via Skype from Los Angeles, Deputy Director Mary Lee said that most of the city’s homeless population of 66,000 are black and Latino.“Biased beliefs have transformed society in zoning and land-use policy,” she said. “Whites have benefited from homeowners’ insurance, while blacks were red-lined. … When you look at the human capital that we waste, and how many people are excluded from society, it is such a loss.”last_img read more

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