Conflict escalation

first_imgIn a dramatic and unexpected act of aggression, Russia launched deadly airstrikes in Syria Wednesday against sites that Pentagon officials say target rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not the Islamic State, as Russia maintains.The incursion comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin caught many off-guard by announcing a new arrangement with Iraq, Iran, and Syria to share information in the fight against the Islamic State during the United Nations General Assembly. Russia’s entry into the Syrian civil war adds an unwanted layer of complexity for the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State and more broadly for American hegemony in the Middle East.Retired Brigadier Gen. Kevin Ryan is the director of the Defense and Intelligence Project for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. A career military officer, Ryan served as senior regional director for Slavic states in the Secretary of Defense’s office, defense attaché to Russia, and as chief of staff for the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command. Most recently, from 2003 to 2005, he oversaw the Army’s strategic war plans, policy, and international affairs. The Gazette spoke with Ryan about Russia’s move into Syria, how the United States is likely to react, and how this development will affect U.S.-Russia relations.GAZETTE: Why is Putin suddenly moving aggressively into this region, and why now?RYAN: The immediate reason, I believe, that President Putin has deployed additional military assets into Syria is because he and his experts assessed that the Assad regime was about to fall and they want to avoid that. Now, why do they want to keep the Assad regime from falling? It’s because they see the Muslim extremist threat, and specifically they see that as a Sunni extremist threat, as dangerous to the security of Russia. All of the Muslim extremist threats that exist in Russia’s southern tier — the Caucasus and throughout Central Asia — are Sunni-based, not Shia. We know that Sunni Muslim extremists living in Russia have gone down to fight in Syria as part of a global jihad effort. The Russians are concerned that after Syria falls, these jihadists will return to Russia to restart the war there.GAZETTE: Is that a valid concern?RYAN: Yes, absolutely. The conflict between Muslim populations and the Russian Orthodox population is an historical one. It goes back over 100 years, for sure. And it flares up from time to time. This is the most recent flare-up.GAZETTE: Russia maintains that these airstrikes are targeting Islamic State terrorists, yet Pentagon officials and others say the sites being bombed are areas associated with rival Syrian rebel groups who also oppose Bashar al-Assad, a regime Putin has supported militarily in the past.RYAN: What appears to be going on is that the Russian military, with these first airstrikes, is attacking rebels who oppose the Assad regime or threaten the regime with collapse. I do not think that the Russians care whether they swear allegiance to ISIS or to al-Nusra or al-Qaida or whatever.GAZETTE: Why publicly make the distinction then?RYAN: Either they intend to do that and just made a mistake in their bombing yesterday, or they really don’t see a difference between ISIS and the rebel groups.GAZETTE: Does anything suggest to you yet what kind of campaign Russia will pursue and for how long?RYAN: Putin said today [Thursday] on TV to his people that Russia’s military operation there will consist of air support, air campaign only, and not ground troops. He has also said he’s there to support the government of Syria — the Assad regime — so that’s an open-ended commitment, I think, until such time as they can help find a political resolution to the fighting there. I don’t think that means that they’ll be there until Assad dies. I think they could see a future in which Assad steps down, but the regime remains.GAZETTE: Doesn’t Russia’s presence greatly complicate U.S.-led efforts to push Assad out and defeat the Islamic State and other extremist groups in the region?RYAN: I don’t think it could get any more problematic than it was before they showed up. I think it complicates things, but if the United States wants to work at this, we can probably find a way to leverage the Russian participation to our benefit. But if we can’t, if the Russians refuse to be helpful in this and go their own way, then I think we can work around it.GAZETTE: How should the U.S. respond?RYAN: I don’t know how the U.S. is going to respond in the long run because I’m not sure what the dimensions are of the Russian commitment. I think the U.S. has responded appropriately so far. We have agreed to “deconflict” military operations so that pilots won’t be crashing into each other, but it remains to be seen whether Russia is going to do what it says it wants to do — which is bomb ISIS rebels — or whether they’re going to indiscriminately bomb any opposition forces to the regime.GAZETTE: What does it tell us that the U.S. appears to have been blindsided first by Putin’s remarks at the United Nations earlier this week about the “coalition” with Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and then these bombings? Is this a major intelligence failure?RYAN: No, I don’t think it’s an intelligence failure at all. Russia has had, in the past, a very robust intelligence relationship with the Iraqi government under Saddam [Hussein]. I don’t know what their intelligence relationship is today, but it appears they’re trying to restart it with the current government now. Every government has the right to establish an intelligence relationship with another government. We have our own. Now, it probably should make us reassess our intelligence relationship with Iraq, because we don’t want to be sharing things with Iraq that are then going to be shared with Russia unless we intend that to be the case.I’ve read the reports and let’s assume that they’re accurate, that a Russian general officer visited the U.S. embassy an hour before the bombings began and gave us a heads-up. First of all, that’s not good enough coordination. But this is the first time and the U.S. and Russia only just days ago agreed to even discuss coordination, so I think we’ll hopefully improve on that going forward. That’s something to build on, let’s say. That’d be an optimistic way of describing it.GAZETTE: Did the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine — and the lack of pushback from the EU, the U.S., and others — embolden Putin to move into the Middle East?RYAN: No, I don’t think so because I disagree with the premise. I don’t think there’s a lack of response from the United States and the EU. I think there was a very robust response to Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and there continues to be. There are sanctions and the U.S. and the EU are supporting Ukraine in a number of ways. We’ve beefed up presence in the Baltic region to prevent any similar kinds of things happening to NATO countries. So in that regard, I think our response has been pretty good.Putin has been emboldened to move into Syria by a couple of other things. Number one is that through many years of continued investment and reform, his military is now qualitatively better than it was, say, a decade ago. So that emboldens Putin and his military leadership. And number two, as I said before, I think he was encouraged to act because he saw the impending fall of the Assad regime and he felt that if he did not take an action now, the whole regime would collapse.I see a real close analogy with the war in Kosovo back at the end of the 1990s. In that case, as the war in Kosovo was winding down and it was clear that the Serbs were going to lose that war, Russia had sent a contingent of its military force, which was already in Bosnia, and he sent them across the boundary and into Kosovo and they went to the capital of Kosovo, Pristina, and they occupied the airfield. And then they attempted to fly in support and troops and other equipment into the airfield, but they were prevented from doing that because countries like Bulgaria refused to provide over-flight rights. Russia did this because they wanted to have a voice in what was going to happen to the Serb population there and they wanted to have a voice in what was going to happen in Kosovo because they felt that NATO had overstepped its bounds.As it turns out, they got to do some things in Kosovo, but in the end, it was too little, too late, and they didn’t really have any say in what happened in Kosovo. I don’t think they want to let that happen again with regard to Syria, so Putin decided to act more forcefully and sooner in Syria than they had done in Kosovo because they want to be able to shape the outcome.GAZETTE: Is this the beginning of a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia?RYAN: I don’t think so, in this case. It’s about Russia’s own security against Sunni Muslim extremists and it just happens to be happening in Syria. Because they had a commitment there, they have a base there in Tartus, and Putin has said this publicly and it’s true: that a lot of their extremists are fighting down there in that war. Some of them are on ISIS’ rolls and others are fighting with other groups.GAZETTE: What does this action portend for U.S.-Russia relations? Are we entering a dangerous new phase?RYAN: I think we entered a dangerous new phase in relations when Russia invaded and took over Crimea and began its operations in eastern Ukraine. Syria is an important issue; it’s a problem, but I don’t see that as more dangerous than what’s going on in Europe. I still believe that the situation in Europe is ultimately more dangerous to the United States than the situation in Syria — what’s already been done [in] Crimea, what’s happening [in] Ukraine, and what might happen [in the] Baltics. Altogether, it’s a very dangerous situation and both countries seem to have hard positions staked out in opposition to each other, so it does not appear that it will be easy to resolve these conflicts and these differences in Europe and the Middle East.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.last_img read more


Greening starts at home

first_img 4A Hubway bike station provides green transportation on the Harvard Medical School campus. It is one of 12 Harvard-sponsored stations in Cambridge and Boston. The University provides a Hubway membership discount to students and staff, and offers a bike expense reimbursement to employees who commute by bicycle. 8A natural gas-fired turbine in Harvard’s Blackstone Steam Plant is part of an expanded combined heat and power system that efficiently generates 7.5 megawatts of electricity. The heat created in the process is reused to provide steam heat to the campus, significantly reducing the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions. 7Alex Hem ’16, who works with the Undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program, talks with Jose “Memo” Guillermo Cedeño Laurent, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, outside the newly renovated McKinlock Hall at Leverett House. Hem participated in a “living laboratory” study led by Laurent, who won two Climate Change Solutions Fund grants at Harvard. This study monitors students’ wellness, sleep, and fitness habits. “We want to understand how buildings can enable our students not only to be the most accomplished, but also to be as healthy and happy as they can be,” says Laurent. 1Standing on the roof of Batten Hall, Julia Musso, the energy and sustainability coordinator for Harvard Business School, shows an array of 113kW solar panels that provide energy for the HBS campus. The University has installed more than 1MW of solar panels on rooftops across its Cambridge and Boston campuses. 2William Veguilla (left), a research assistant, and Li Qiong Chan (right), operation director of the DNA Resource Core at Harvard Medical School, work with TetraScience equipment connected to ultra-low-temperature freezers at HMS. The devices, developed by a team that included Harvard students and supported by a student sustainability grant, were developed to help researchers monitor and reduce energy using wireless technology. In the background is research assistant Alexander Reynolds. 6Inside the great staircase in the Barker Center, Bradley Craig, a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, marvels at the antler chandelier that was donated by President Theodore Roosevelt and recently upgraded with LED bulbs. The energy-efficient bulbs are being installed throughout the University’s buildings, including the Harvard Art Museums and Widener Library, as part of Harvard’s focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of climate change and sustainability touches almost every part of life. Universities such as Harvard are well positioned to act on some of these environmental challenges, not only on Earth Day but every day, both through multidisciplinary research and teaching and by translating the findings of that research into practice.Harvard students, faculty, and staff are exploring the ideas and discoveries that will help to move the world away from fossil fuels and build a healthier, more sustainable future. The solutions generated across the University’s Schools and departments not only reduce pollution, save money, and increase energy efficiency, but they also give students the tools to address these global challenges wherever their lives may lead.“Living green and learning about the impact we have in our environment has been an essential part of my education at Harvard,” said Matheus Fernandes ’15, a doctoral student at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I believe the challenge of sustainable living is different than any other challenges we face in modern society. It requires a joint community effort and brings together people from many different backgrounds to achieve a common goal of unquestionable importance.” 9John Carroll, horticulturist, and Kieran Clyne, operations supervisor for landscape and recycling, analyze soil samples in the organic landscaping indoor “lab” at 156 Western Ave., Allston. The new lab will be used to test and optimize the “compost teas” that are part of the University’s internationally recognized organic landscaping program. 12Tom Tribble, senior facilities manager at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, explains how a device he designed helps reduce airflow in the Northwest Laboratory building, dramatically curbing energy use. The metal disk, which is manufactured at a campus machine shop, allows Tribble’s team to reduce airflow without replacing the building’s air conditioning system. Harvard’s facilities leaders and building managers are working behind the scenes to optimize building energy systems and performance to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 5Memorial Church’s property operations assistant, Jim Barbas, maintains historic chandeliers that were recently outfitted with long-lasting, energy-efficient LED light bulbs in the narthex entrance in Harvard Yard. 10Matheus Fernandes ’15 tests out green chairs and furniture inside Peabody Terrace. These chairs, used by Harvard University Housing, feature chemical flame retardant-free materials. In 2015, Harvard became the first university to sign a national pledge stating a preference for purchasing furniture manufactured without the use of toxic flame retardants. Peabody Terrace was the first project of its size to implement the new pledge on campus. 11Kieran Clyne, operations supervisor for landscape and recycling, and Franco Camporesi, volunteer and Allston resident, repair a donated table at the Harvard Recycling and Surplus Center at 156 Western Ave., Allston. The University prioritizes the reuse of furniture and other materials through donations to more than 200 local organizations, “freecycle” events, and by distributing surplus furniture and equipment to the community at the Recycling and Surplus Center. 3Susan Andrade uses the electric car charging stations in the new parking garage on the HMS campus. There are more than 25 electric vehicle charging stations located across Harvard’s Cambridge and Boston campuses. last_img read more


How violence pointed to virtue

first_imgRichard Wrangham has been studying chimpanzees at the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in Uganda since 1987, when he founded the research center. A student of famed primatologist Jane Goodall, Harvard’s Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology has studied primate behavior, ecology, and nutrition for nearly 50 years.Wrangham says his new book, “The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution,” is his first attempt to examine his own species in detail. He will discuss his theory about aggression as it connects to capital punishment on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Science Center Book Talk, Hall C, 1 Oxford St. His talk is free and open to the public. In advance of his appearance, he shared his thoughts with the Gazette.Q&ARichard WranghamGAZETTE: Why did you write this book?WRANGHAM: I’ve been teaching this material for some time, and a former student, Luke Glowacki, pointed out that these views are not widely known. I think it is important to be as accurate as possible in understanding human aggression. I’ve been thinking about the problem of self-domestication for 20 years, and now seemed the right time because work in this area has been accelerating excitingly in fields such as genetics and neurobiology, as well as paleoanthropology and primatology.What this book does is scientific journalism in the sense that it’s reporting on a lot of work by others, but it pulls it together in a new kind of focus. Aggression has traditionally been regarded just as it always has in anthropology as a single type of behavioral tendency, which has led scholars to be divided between those who regard us as a particularly tolerant, pleasant species, as in some ways we are, and those who see us as an especially violent, competitive species, as we also are. In fact, however, there are two kinds of aggression, a distinction that solves a whole series of problems concerned with understanding human nature. To see aggression as falling into two types has been conventional wisdom in biology and psychology for decades, but the difference has barely been recognized previously in anthropology.It can now help us understand how humans got our very curious mixture of being, on the one hand very unaggressive in everyday life, and on the other hand one of the most dangerous species of all in terms of the frequency of killing each other. Compared to chimpanzees, for instance, we kill each other, in particular other adults, at rates so high that they are almost unknown in other species, exceeded by only a very few, such as wolves. This peculiar combination of nonaggression and aggression is puzzling. Understanding aggression as falling into two separate biologically controlled types helps us explain it.GAZETTE: You write at length about proactive and reactive aggression, but it’s the former that gives us virtue. Can you explain?WRANGHAM: Our virtue is our tolerance in face-to-face interactions, and the evolutionary question is where this comes from. The solution I present is that it comes ultimately from capital punishment, a practice made possible by our capacity for proactive violence. Armed with capital punishment, males are able to conspire together and decide on a time and a place to dispatch a tyrannical despot who is making their lives miserable. The unintended result of this style of controlling aggressiveness by bullies is genetic selection against the propensity for reactive aggression. So through proactive aggression, our ancestors controlled reactive aggression and, in doing so, made us virtuous. Ultimately, this system gave us the moral senses.GAZETTE: Presumably, cooperation plays a critical part in humans’ capacity for capital punishment?WRANGHAM: Cooperation is a big part of the story in the sense that it’s only as a result of our ability to cooperate that our ancestors were able to control the aggressiveness of the most extremely violent males. It was absolutely critical that the subordinate males were able to come together to cooperate. The argument I make is that this depended entirely on a sufficiently sophisticated language.GAZETTE: Yes, I wanted to ask you about language and the notion of shared intentionality, and how you think about language versus weapons as they relate to capital punishment.WRANGHAM: Some of the scholars writing in this area have argued that, with the evolution of weapons, humans were able to develop capital punishment because with a weapon you can surprise someone and kill them. But that doesn’t seem to me anything like as important as language. We would almost certainly have had killing weapons long before 300,000 years ago, which is the time when fossils reveal the earliest consequences of selection against reactive aggression.Chimpanzees are perfectly capable of collaborating with each other to kill members of neighboring groups — and even sometimes members of their own group. But they do not have the linguistic ability to be able to choose a particular victim; the best they can do is to respond to the presence of someone who is a predictably hostile enemy for all of them. Chimpanzees are capable of killing without weapons, just as humans are, but they are incapable of capital punishment. What capital punishment needs is the ability to make a plan and to coordinate that plan.GAZETTE: What new data brought you to make this argument?WRANGHAM: Biologists have known for decades that aggression works in different ways, whether you are stalking and attacking an individual by surprise, or if you’re reacting by losing your temper. However, although this has been understood to be two types of aggression, it’s only in the last five years that people have been able to identify rather precisely the biological mechanisms in the brain that are associated with these two types of aggressions. A lab in Budapest, Hungary, is leading the way on this. The rats they work with will sometimes attack each other by surprise and go for vulnerable parts of the body in an effort to kill their opponents; in different circumstances rats just end up fighting over food or females.Experiments show that the same parts of the brain are involved in the two types of aggression — that is, proactive and reactive — but the wiring that leads between the brain regions is different. Knowing that the biological mechanism is different between proactive and reactive aggression, we can also conclude that natural selection can change these two kinds of aggression independently. For instance, you can produce breeds of rats that are particularly elevated in their tendency of proactive aggression, but reduced for reactive aggressive, which is what happened in human evolution. The fascinating question at the heart of my book is why you get that extraordinary combination.GAZETTE: How did your Kibale Project in Uganda play into the questions you asked in the book?WRANGHAM: My interest in these questions began even before I launched the Kibale Chimpanzee Project. I had been working with Jane Goodall at her site in Gombe in Tanzania in the early 1970s, a time when as a research team we were learning for the first time that chimpanzees would use proactive aggression to kill members of neighboring groups. I wanted to start my own project to explore further the extraordinarily intense hostility that they occasionally show. While working with chimpanzees in Kibale, Martin Muller and I observed aggression in detail. Just like in Gombe, we found high rates of face-to-face aggression.So it was clear there was something quite different between humans and chimpanzees because, on the one hand, humans and chimps are rather similar in their warlike propensity for attacking members of neighboring groups, but there was a huge difference in the frequency of aggression within a given group. As a primatologist, I was interested in broader themes of the evolution of behavior among humans and our closest relatives. The chimpanzee data led me to start thinking about bonobos, which are closely related to us, as chimpanzees are. We share a common ancestor with the chimpanzee/bonobo line from 7 or 8 million years ago. Bonobos are far more docile and much less aggressive than chimpanzees are. Students such as Brian Hare helped work on this comparison, partly using our aggression data from Kibale, and a new understanding gradually emerged.GAZETTE: So even though some of this research has come out in the last five years, these ideas have been in your brain for decades.WRANGHAM: I’ve been puzzling about it for more than 20 years. In 1996, I wrote a book called “Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence,” which was focused on the question of why chimpanzees and humans share this very remarkable, rare property of getting together in small groups and making very deliberate attempts to hunt down and kill members of neighboring groups. I was already aware that chimps were much more aggressive within groups than humans are, which raised a fascinating question: How come humans are so different in that respect?GAZETTE: So how does this make sense of the old Hobbes/Rousseau philosophical debate?WRANGHAM: Rousseau says we’re naturally nonviolent; Hobbes says we’re naturally violent. The new perspective says that in different ways they are both correct. Then the question that emerges is: Should we be very depressed that humans do have this high propensity for proactive violence, which is basically what is responsible for war? Proactive violence has been a hugely important component of history and prehistory, but the special thing about proactive violence is that animals and even humans don’t spontaneously engage in it if it looks risky — in other words, if it will hurt or be dangerous for the protagonists.The extraordinary thing about chimpanzee attacks on each other is people have documented more than 60 cases of chimps being killed, and yet although the victims were immensely strong and fighting for their lives, the attackers have never been hurt. The reason is that the attackers choose to attack only when they are very confident they can dispatch their victim at very little risk of being hurt. The simple math in the world of chimpanzees is: If you can get at least five against one, each of the four can hold a limb and one can do the damage without anyone except the victim getting hurt. This is all very unpleasant, but the nice part of understanding human aggression as proactive is that if there is a balance of power, you do not expect to see violence. Only when one group is immensely more powerful than another is it expected to attack, because only then do the members perceive the risk to themselves to be sufficiently low.Another quite different line of argument is that this new view gives us for the first time a concrete theory on why Homo sapiens evolved. Homo sapiens is different from other species of Homo by being a somewhat lighter-boned form, with reduced differences between the sexes. The standard explanation of our origins is that our ancestors became more and more skilled in inventing and retaining cultural skills. As a result, they were able to rely less than before on brute force in their foraging, so Homo sapiens emerged as a more delicate form. But what is so striking about Homo sapiens is that we are not merely strikingly gracile, but the ways in which we are different from our ancestors are like the differences between a dog and a wolf. The origin of Homo sapiens, in other words, can be traced to self-domestication — and therefore to the sophistication of language that made capital punishment possible for the first time in any mammal more than 300,000 years ago.last_img read more


Students find solutions for social issues

first_img President’s Challenge narrows field to 10 finalists Related A mobile app that stops cyberbullying, a way to support tenants’ rights and housing advocacy, technology that raises the standard of infection prevention, and a science-driven approach to reinventing everyday consumer products received the four top prizes in the eighth annual President’s Innovation Challenge Showcase and Awards Ceremony.“The only way [the world] gets better is if good people like you are willing to make it so,” said President Larry Bacow in his introductory remarks.He added, “I also want to say to every student who participated in this challenge — not just the ones that we are going to honor with awards and checks this evening, but every single person who was willing to try; who was willing to conceive of an idea; who was willing to think hard about how to make that idea into a reality and commit themselves to doing so — I want to say thank you.”Each of this year’s four winners was awarded $75,000 in prize money from the Bertarelli Foundation to help them advance their innovations. The winners are ReThink for preventing cyberbullying; JustFix for supporting tenants facing landlord harassment and neglected housing conditions; Kinnos for its patented technology for infection prevention in health care settings; and Jamber for reinventing consumer products that can transform the lives of millions, starting with a coffee mug that even Parkinson’s patients can hold.Trisha Prabhu, founder and CEO of ReThink, said after the awards, “Harvard is one of the leading institutions for addressing some of the world’s most important issues. To be able to participate in this challenge is to be able to participate in a legacy of a larger story. Being here and winning tonight is an absolute dream come true.”“Winning the President’s Innovation Challenge helps us get more Jamber mugs into the hands of more people, which is really meaningful, because we’ve seen stories from all of our customers about how much these mugs are improving people’s lives,” said Diana Arseneau, co-founder and chief science officer at Jamber.,The President’s Innovation Challenge brings the Harvard community together to engage with pressing issues and explore how to turn their ideas into ventures with real-life impact. This year, it attracted more than 400 applications from 12 Harvard Schools. Teams competed across four tracks — Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise; Health and Life Science; “Open,” for ideas that transcend categories; and Launch Lab X for eligible alumni-led ventures. All 20 finalists showcased their products and services Wednesday at Klarman Hall, and gave one-minute pitches onstage before the winners were announced.In her remarks, Jodi Goldstein, executive director of the Harvard Innovation Labs, talked about the importance of bringing together the Harvard community to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.“Our vision has been to create a community where no matter where you are on your journey, you will be welcomed,” Goldstein said. “For us, it’s not just about supporting innovative ideas, but about supporting the people behind those ideas.The four runners-up, who each received $25,000, were GC Therapeutics, for developing a faster and more efficient cell engineering platform; MDaaS Global, for building and operating diagnostic centers to provide health care to Africa’s next billion citizens; MyToolBox, for creating a labor marketplace for skilled blue-collar workers; and Sophya, for helping students learn more effectively on the internet.This year, the President’s Innovation Challenge also introduced the $10,000 Ingenuity Awards, for ideas with potential to be world-changing, even if they are not yet fully formed ventures. The Ingenuity Awards grand prize of $5,000 was given to Christina Chang for envisioning the development of a sustainable chemical steel manufacturing process that would decrease global CO2 emissions. Two $2,500 runners-up prizes were awarded to Tauheedah Baker for a tech-based approach to increasing the quantity, quality, and retention of teachers of color in underserved communities, and Nicole Iveyfor making day care centers hubs for everything working parents need.The Launch Lab X track is also new this year, bringing the total prize money to $410,000.The President’s Innovation Challenge prizes are exclusively funded by the Bertarelli Foundation, which announced the President’s Innovation Challenge Fund in October 2017 to fund the competition for the next five years. This gift extends the Bertarelli Foundation’s previous backing of student-led ventures at Harvard, which began in 2013 when the foundation funded the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge at the Harvard i-lab.“The potential in this room alone gives me great hope for the future,” said Goldstein in her closing remarks. “My main message to everyone in this room tonight is this: No matter what, keep innovating.” Students ready to solve some of the world’s most critical problems center_img President’s Challenge finalists announced 10 teams given seed capital, support for quest to win entrepreneurial awardlast_img read more


Harvard postpones Commencement

first_img The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. Harvard President Larry Bacow announced Friday that the University’s 369th Commencement ceremony will be postponed indefinitely. The move is part of Harvard’s ongoing effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic .With health officials anticipating large portions of the nation’s population becoming infected in the coming months, Bacow said the decision to postpone was the only way to help ensure the safety of the thousands of members of the Harvard community who gather on campus for Commencement Exercises each May.“Given the advice we are receiving from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other public health officials, and our own faculty, who are among the world’s leaders in infectious disease, epidemiology, and virology, it is difficult to imagine how we could safely hold such a large gathering this spring,” wrote Bacow in an email to the Harvard community. “We recognize that people need to start making plans soon, so we thought it best to provide guidance now.”To guarantee students graduate on time, the usual gathering will be replaced with an online degree ceremony on May 28. Individual Schools will hold their own virtual Commencement ceremonies, Bacow wrote, and graduates will receive their diplomas in the mail. Other higher education institutions around the country have begun opting for virtual ceremonies to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.Bacow said University officials are working to organize a personal ceremony on a future date.“We plan to host an in-person celebration sometime later, once we know it is safe to bring people together again. By then, we will be eager not just to celebrate our graduating students, but also to recognize and acknowledge the sacrifices that so many have made to ensure the well-being of our community. We intend for this ceremony to have all of the pomp, circumstance, and tradition that is typical of a Harvard Commencement — with as many of the traditional campus festivities that typically precede Commencement as possible.”The day featuring services for graduating students and a Commencement address before alumni is the highlight of the academic year, and is also the University’s largest annual gathering, bringing thousands into close proximity with one another. The ceremony, generally held outdoors, begins in the Old Yard as students, faculty, staff, honorees, and dignitaries gather to process into Tercentenary Theatre, where the steps of Harvard’s Memorial Church facing Widener Library are transformed into a stage for both morning and afternoon events and addresses. Each spring, about 32,000 people attend Harvard’s morning exercises.Bacow’s announcement follows many rolling changes across campus as University officials work to help contain the spread of the virus, keep members of the Harvard community safe and informed, and help students, staff, and faculty manage their stress during the pandemic. Following spring break on Monday, Harvard will shift to online learning.In other developmentsTips for working effectively from homeOn Friday, Harvard’s Executive Vice President sent a message to central administration staff containing information about how to work effectively off site. “We continue to add new resources to the ‘work remotely’ section of the University coronavirus website to support you as best we can, including links to articles, remote gatherings, and knowledge series to help you stay connected and motivated; and HUIT guidance on accessing and optimizing the internet remotely and basic guidelines for using Zoom that will help ensure adequate bandwidth for academic use,” the message said.She also thanked employees for their transition to remote work and encouraged them to practice self-care by taking regular breaks, going on walks, stopping for lunch, drinking water, getting plenty of sleep, and remembering to be “as compassionate with yourself as you are with others while we acclimate to these circumstances.”Commuter passes on hold; free campus parking Harvard commuters who receive a subsidized transit pass from the University and who do not use their pass during April will receive full credit toward a future benefit month, noted an email from Harvard’s CommuterChoice program on Friday. More information and details are available here.In addition, employees are now eligible for no-charge daily parking at select Harvard facilities on the Cambridge and Allston campus. All Harvard ID holders will have access to the 52 Oxford St. Garage, the Broadway Garage, the Soldiers Field Park Garage, and the Webster Lot in the athletics area.last_img read more


Securing the Mobile Enterprise

first_imgWe are seeing a fundamental shift in the way IT is consumed, and subsequently secured, and it’s mostly driven by mobile. The recent SBIC report, “Realizing the Mobile Enterprise: Balancing the Risks and Rewards of Consumer Devices,” highlights these shifts.“A huge benefit of mobile devices is the user interface… This is simply how people want to interact with IT systems nowadays…” –Dr. Martijn Dekker (SVP, CISO, ABN Amro)There are a number of trends around mobility that make it a distinctly different and new security challenge to consider:BYOD: The fact that devices are personally owned or treated as such has serious implications. Many enterprises are struggling to get users to install Mobile Device Management (MDM) software on their devices, let alone deeper agents like anti-virus or malware forensics. In addition to the lost endpoint control, BYOD also creates a problem about when and how enterprise policy is applied. The fact that I carry my phone all day everyday means that a large percentage of the time it will be used is for personal reasons. This forces enterprises to think about applying security policy sparingly.Off Network: Network visibility is a drug to security teams. It’s needed more than anything else to understand what users are doing and when they are doing it. Unfortunately, in the mobile world, enterprise networks don’t have to be touched all that often. As soon as the data gets to the device – you’ve lost visibility from a network perspective (picture a sensitive piece of content being uploaded to Dropbox from a mobile device).“Chatty” Interaction Model: Mobile users have very frequent context shifts between work and play. The Blackberry changed the way email is consumed. It gave quick access to email and calendar without the need for VPN. Android brought in more play to these devices and what we are left with is a consistent flip between work/play throughout the day. Constant switching does not provide good areas for strong authentication and blurs the line as to when enterprise security policy should be applied.Web/Federated Access Model: More and more cloud services are being used for enterprise purposes (Google Apps, Salesforce, Box, Office 365, etc.), and each of them make use of web-based authentication standards. As enterprise app development evolves, more and more things will be developed in the mindset of “mobile first.” This will push more traditional enterprise authentication and identity management into a web standards world.Fundamentally, you still need to secure data and identities, and get threat visibility, but you need to do it while working within these trends. The SBIC report calls out the need for MDM, but cautions against over reliance on it as a security solution. The overall mobile market is maturing beyond just MDM into application and data management. Strong authentication methods, especially those that rely on risk-based methodology, as well as data security and threat forensics will be layered on top of these infrastructure components to create a true mobile security stack that can take much of the mystery out of BYOD.last_img read more


Germany says it beat 2020 goal to cut greenhouse emissions

first_imgBERLIN (AP) — Germany’s economy minister says the country beat its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% last year compared to 1990 levels. Peter Altmaier said figures show Germany’s emissions of planet-heating gases were 42% lower in 2020 than three decades ago, confounding warnings that the country couldn’t meet its goal. While the coronavirus pandemic helped reduce emissions, Altmaier said the target might have been achieved anyway even without the drop in economic activity due to the lockdown. Separately, the German government agreed Wednesday to increase the share of renewable fuels in the transport sector to 28% over the next decade. That’s double the target set by the European Union as a whole.last_img read more


Student government offers city bus tour

first_imgTo counteract students’ tendency to stay within the Notre Dame campus “bubble,” student government is offering a bus tour of South Bend.The bus tour, which has been offered for the past five years, will leave from the flagpole between the Joyce Center and the stadium at 5 p.m. Monday.The tour is meant to provide students an opportunity to see the city of South Bend as more than just home to the University.Junior Claire Sokas, chair of student government’s Community Outreach Committee, said students, especially freshmen, have much to gain from becoming better acquainted with the community outside the campus.“It will give them a better idea of the opportunities and activities off campus,” Sokas said. “I hope it gets them to get off campus a lot more than I did my freshman year.”Transpo, South Bend’s bus service, provided the buses and collaborated with student government in planning the event.“I hope it helps [students] realize how easy it is to get off campus with Transpo, and how many things there are to do, especially in downtown South Bend which is really thriving,” Sokas said.The bus tour will highlight the city’s shopping and dining areas — from the stores and restaurants along the campus’s perimeter at Eddy Street Commons to those at the center of downtown South Bend.The tour will stop downtown at the Morris Plaza for pizza and a brief presentation with Mayor Stephen Luecke before returning to campus, Sokas said.While incoming freshmen are especially encouraged to take advantage of the bus tour, all students are welcome to take part, and there should be enough space on the buses to accommodate all interested students.“The tour is open to anyone, but geared towards freshmen,” Sokas said. “Last year’s turnout was really good, so we’re hoping this year’s is too.”There will be a table set up at Domerfest tonight where freshmen can get more information about the tour.The tour is expected to take less than two hours and students can expect to be back on campus before 7 p.m. Monday.last_img read more


Athletic director speaks on moments leading up to student’s death

first_img The videographers are part of the broader football administration team, and they report to a video coordinator. Emergency personnel responded quickly following the collapse of the tower, Swarbrick said. NDSP responded in three minutes, followed by the Notre Dame Fire Department and a city ambulance. Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick entered the football practice field at about 4:47 p.m. Wednesday, and witnessed two completed passes. He said practice seemed normal, until he felt a powerful gust of wind, and saw objects that had formerly been stationary fly past him. “We’ll let the investigation thoroughly and completely run its course. And then we’ll have the ability to really understand what happened, to learn from it and to move forward from it,” Swarbrick said. Swarbrick also declined to comment on which channels of authority authorized an outdoor practice and who was responsible for clearing the videographers to tape practice from the tower. The Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and a contracted accident reconstruction team are investigating the accident. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) also launched an investigation. The state investigates all workplace fatalities, an IOSHA official said. Shortly after, Swarbrick felt the wind speed up and heard a crash. Swarbrick declined to answer questions about the possible effect of the day’s weather conditions on the accident until the investigation is completed. Winds reportedly reached 50 miles per hour when Sullivan, who was videotaping the football practice for the University, was on the scissor lift that collapsed. “There is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of the students. There is certainly no greater sadness for a family than the loss of a son or brother,” Jenkins said. “It is with the sense of that double sadness that on behalf of the whole University, I want to express our deepest condolences.” Sullivan’s parents and younger brother came to campus Wednesday evening. His sister is a freshman at the University. Vice President for Student Affairs Fr. Tom Doyle spent the evening with the family. During the press conference, University President Fr. John Jenkins said Sullivan was bright, energetic and dedicated. Swarbrick said no information will be released until the investigation is complete. He said he expects the practice field will be restored by this weekend. He described the minutes preceding Declan Sullivan’s death from his perspective in a press conference Thursday, where he told reporters the University is launching a full investigation into the video tower accident that caused the Notre Dame junior’s death.center_img Swarbrick and head football coach Brian Kelly told players and staff members to leave the accident scene. “Coach Kelly remained with me by Declan until the ambulance attendant had Declan up on a lift,” Swarbrick said. As Swarbrick walked through the north end of the west field of the LaBar Practice Complex, he said he saw items like towels and Gatorade containers fly by him. Officials estimate the tower fell about 4:51 p.m., he said. “I noticed the netting on the goal posts start to bend dramatically and heard a crash,” Swarbrick said. “At first, I couldn’t orient the location of the crash.” “It was an unremarkable journey in the sense that practice was normal and plays were being conducted with no difficulty,” he said. Before the ambulance reached the hospital, Sullivan was no longer breathing on his own, he said. Swarbrick said the investigation into Sullivan’s death began immediately. In response to questions about practicing in the weather conditions and allowing the videographers to use the towers, he said each individual sports program makes its own decisions about how practice will proceed. Investigators will examine the decisions made about that specific practice leading up to the accident, he said. At least one other videographer was on a tower taping practice Wednesday. Swarbrick said he has witnessed past practices in which the video towers were not used, possibly because of weather concerns, most likely, lightning, he said. “There is a lot to learn here, and we will learn it all,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of speculation about what may or may not have happened, but that’s what the investigation is for.” “It’s not one decision. There are multiple decisions made,” he said. “It’s not a decision to go outside. It’s a host of decisions relevant to ‘Do you go outside?’”last_img read more


Professors for Lunch’ panel discusses liberal arts

first_imgThe value of a liberal arts education was discussed Friday afternoon at the second installment in the “Professors for Lunch” series. The event, titled “Why choose the liberal arts?” was hosted at the Oak Room in South Dining Hall. The “Professors for Lunch” series is meant to enrich intellectual life at Notre Dame by engaging students and faculty in dialogue.  Diverging from the structure of the inaugural event on Feb. 24, the second meeting featured a panel of speakers from diverse academic backgrounds, followed by questions from the audience. Professor Mark Roche, professor of German language and literature and former dean of the College of Arts & Letters, was scheduled to speak about his book “Why Choose the Liberal Arts?” which inspired the topic of this Friday’s event. However, Roche was unable to attend, so senior event organizer Morgan Pino said the organizers worked to find a diverse group of panelists. “It went really well [because] they all had something different to bring to the panel,” Pino said.  “I enjoyed getting to hear multiple points of view on the issue.” Fr. Brian Daley of the theology department, Dr. Kevin Burke of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and Michael Zuckert of the political science department comprised the panel. The panelists addressed the purpose of a liberal education from varying disciplines. Daley said he drew on his Christian faith, especially his Jesuit background, to inform his analysis of America’s universities and its general academic culture. “One of the things that always struck me when I think about our universities is that they are very artificial institutions, that we create them for a specific purpose,” he said. Daley said these institutions are embodiments of a common culture, resting on specific assumptions, hopes and values.  He said this leads to questioning what type of person would be a successful Notre Dame graduate, and how the University’s vision differs from the general national opinion. “I suspect that many undergraduate institutions, Notre Dame among them, would also hope to have some consensus that at the end of four years, a graduate would be a virtuous person, a person who is trained morally, virtuously [and is working] to make the world a happier, more just place,” Daly said. Discussion of the Christian faith, particularly the Jesuit theology, enables students to engage in evaluation of the culture and faith from which they come, Daley said.   “I say this as a Jesuit because we have a long tradition of doing education,” he said. “The Jesuits happened into education by accident; the first Jesuits were pastoral ministers that happened into education because they shared the assumption that teaching young people … made them better Christians.” Burke said he also drew on Jesuit teachings to inform his opinions on undergraduate education and the search for personal vocation. “I’m going to go back to the Jesuits and their idea of the ‘magis,’” Burke said. “The magis [means] ‘more in the world,’ doing more, thinking more, spiritually being more. When you think about what your vocation might be, does it think about doing more for the world?” The ultimate goal for each individual’s undergraduate education is at the intersection of each individual’s answers to three distinct questions, Burke said. “The questions are ‘What are you good at?’ ‘What brings you joy?’ and ‘What does the world most need you to do?” Burke said.  “I’m going to argue that you figure out the answer to those three questions in conversation.” Zuckert said his definition of contemporary liberal arts depends on their basis in classical educational tradition. However, French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out the tendency in modern democracies is for people to believe practical education is the only kind that makes sense, Zuckert said.   “In America, liberal education is always threatened by education that is not liberal,” he said.  “If there are kinds of human activities that are choice-worthy in themselves and not as a means for other things, then there remains a case for liberal education as the education conducive to engaging in those activities.” These sorts of activities are those that contribute to living well and rightly, Zuckert said.   “Liberal education helps us to answer these questions,” Zuckert said. “It goes beyond the necessities of living, answering the question of what the point of living is.” Pino said though the speakers only had a brief time to formulate their comments, the laid-back style of communication made the talk accessible. “With Professor [of early modern European history Brad] Gregory’s talk [at the last meeting], I think everyone was blown away,” Pino said.  “The problem was that we didn’t leave enough time to really get into it … This time we were going to try to make it a little less formal, and to leave more time for questions and answers afterward.” The shorter comments from the panel allowed for more discussion and engagement with the speakers’ ideas, Pino said. “I’m glad it was a little shorter and that we had more time to talk afterward,” Pino said. “I think students really got into it.”   Event organizer and political science professor Vincent Muñoz said h e is pleased the panel format successfully interested the audience.   “The turnout was very strong,” Muñoz said. “It seems to me that we have found something that is really resonating with the students. The panel format seemed to work well … It’s unfortunate that Professor Roche couldn’t be there, but the [resulting] format allowed for more voices and more conversation.” Pino said the organizers want to continue the series, and they are taking it one step at a time. “It’s really sort of up in the air,” she said. “I think we’re just going to take it topic by topic and see what professors come forward and what interesting work comes up. We are not set on particular ideas, more on what we think people would be interested in and what people want to talk about.”last_img read more