A new program at Harvard Law School (HLS) aims to help reform the nation’s criminal justice system, with assistance from Harvard students and faculty. The program’s executive director is Larry Schwartztol, who has been a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. Schwartztol has worked on issues including racial justice, policing in schools, educational equality, and economic justice concerns involving the home foreclosure crisis and discriminatory lending practices. When he decided to attend Yale Law School Schwartztol said, “I wanted to find ways to use the law as a vehicle for social justice.”He recently spoke with the Gazette about the HLS program, his role in it, and a conference sponsored by the new initiative on how the media helps shape the criminal justice narrative.GAZETTE: What attracted you to this new role as the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Program of Study, Research & Advocacy?SCHWARTZTOL: We are in this incredible moment with respect to criminal justice. On one hand, we’re coming from this dark stretch of mass incarceration and decades of incredibly punitive criminal justice policies that have been devastating to people caught up in the criminal justice system, devastating to families and communities, costly, counterproductive. Yet just in the last couple of years we are seeing a real space to question some of the fundamentals about how our country has approached criminal justice and incredible bipartisan awareness that this system we’ve had for the last several decades has not been necessary to keep us safe.With the recognition of the brutal consequences of this system, and the recognition of the profound racial disparities in the system, there’s an appetite for big thinking about how to change criminal justice and an openness to really remake the way we approach criminal justice. At the same time there’s an understanding that there needs to be good, creative work by lots of people, and some of that creative work needs to come from lawyers. So there’s this amazing opportunity, but no guarantees about the nature or scope of change. Advocates and policymakers have to get it right.All of that is why I was excited about getting to come into this new role at HLS. The criminal justice program launching this fall is designed to be a policy research and advocacy organization that will be an active and forceful voice in efforts to reform the criminal justice system and to provide an avenue for students here to work in a meaningful way on advancing reform.GAZETTE: Can you say a little more about the mission of the program and how it is structured?SCHWARTZTOL: Our mission is to help advance criminal justice reform by bringing rigorous and creative legal thinking to bear on hard, cutting-edge policy problems. The program builds on an incredible infrastructure already at the Law School. I work with the two faculty directors, Carol Steiker and Alex Whiting, and we are excited about bringing together our own mix of backgrounds in doing this type of work. Professor Steiker has a background as a public defender; Professor Whiting has a background as a prosecutor. I come from the public interest advocacy world, so we think about criminal justice differently. We think about policy change differently, and we are really trying to build a program that takes very seriously that diversity of perspectives and approaches.We are going to be very active on national policy debates and national policy reform efforts. We are going to get students involved in every dimension of that. There’s a yearlong seminar that is the pathway for students into our program. We have 16 excellent second- and third-year students, and the work that they do in that seminar is entirely devoted to the policy initiatives that we are taking on.GAZETTE: What is the aim of the “New Ledes: The Media & Criminal Justice Reform” conference?SCHWARTZTOL: We’ve moved from having a conversation about criminal justice where the iconic image is Willie Horton to a conversation about criminal justice that’s driven by images captured by citizen journalists on their iPhones, that’s defined by the president sitting down in a federal prison with a group of inmates to talk about their experiences. We are really interested in exploring how we got to this changed media landscape. Is it because we have a different political climate? Is it because we have different media institutions? Is it because of technology? We will also cast a critical eye on where we are in terms of the media discussions around criminal justice, exploring the blind spots and the stories that aren’t getting told. We wanted our first big public event to be an opportunity to think in a rich and also critical way about those issues. We are structuring a series of conversations on all of these issues, and we see it as something that is going to inform the work we are doing in the policy space.GAZETTE: Who will be attending the event?SCHWARTZTOL: We have people who have been leading voices in the way that journalism has developed in approaching criminal justice: Bill Keller, the former executive editor of The New York Times and now chief editor at The Marshall Project; Brent Staples from The New York Times; Jennifer Gonnerman, who wrote the amazing and powerful New Yorker story last year on Kalief Browder, the young man who committed suicide after spending three years in Rikers [Island jail] without being convicted of a crime.That’s a story that would have been tragic and worth telling and hearing at any moment, but I think what’s really telling is that it has become a frame that is really driving a lot of conversation about the need to have more sensible and humane policies on, for example, bail and solitary confinement. … I think that the power that story has had in driving conversations around reform in New York, and also around the country, is telling.We are also bringing in people who are in the business of trying to move the conversation around criminal justice. We’ve invited really sophisticated advocates like Nick Turner, president of the Vera Institute, Scott Levy from the Bronx Defenders, Carl Williams from the ACLU. And we are thinking about how technology is changing what we mean when we talk about the media. We have invited people who have spent a long time thinking about and studying and using tools of citizen journalism and social media to try to move the conversation, including DeRay Mckesson, one of the leading voices in the Black Lives Matter movement.Our hope for the conference is to bring together these different groups of people who are thinking about these issues from different perspectives and really be able to have an illuminating conversation about how the media has changed, how it is continuing to change, and also what that’s going to mean for the criminal justice system going forward.“New Ledes: The Media & Criminal Justice Reform,” which is open to the public, takes place on Nov. 19 and 20 in Austin Hall at Harvard Law School.
In 2012, Fanelesibonge Mashwama ’17 and Bo Seo ’17 met on a bus in South Africa en route to an international debate tournament. Little did they know that fate would lead them from two different continents to Harvard, to Pforzheimer House, and ultimately to triumph earlier this month at the World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC), the world’s largest debating competition.“I remember thinking he was such a dynamic, energetic figure,” Seo said of his initial meeting with Mashwama.The pair reconnected during the first weeks of their freshman year, joined the Harvard College Debating Union, and eventually became debate partners and block mates. Last year, they made it to the grand final of the WUDC competition in Malaysia, which made them more confident about their prospects coming into the tournament this year.“We’ve been training pretty much since we got to school,” Mashwama said. “No team comes into the World Championship with a majority chance of winning, but we felt we had a good chance because we made it so far last year.”Since debate competitions require participants to argue on any side of almost any topic, Mashwama and Seo try to be as well-read as possible, consuming a steady diet of current events, political theory, and philosophy.“At the end of the day being good at debate boils down to a few skills that are applicable to life outside as well,” said Seo, a social studies concentrator who grew up in Australia. “I have to read a lot and speak eloquently, it’s not really separate from anything else I do at school.”“It is very academic,” said Mashwama, a native of Swaziland who is concentrating in philosophy. “So even though it’s not formally part of our coursework, it’s complementary.”Started in Scotland in 1981, the WUDC is the World Cup of the debate world. Originally composed of 43 teams from seven nations, the 2016 tournament hosted 400 teams from more than 70 nations. Students form teams of two in a Parliamentary-style debate in which teams are eliminated from the tournament over the course of a week’s worth of debates.After more than two years competing together, Mashwama and Seo say they’ve developed a natural rhythm to their speeches and complimentary skills.“Bo is very good at framing debates,” Mashwama said. “I’m more looking at participants’ arguments to challenge their assumptions.”Still, with 15 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech, there’s always room for improvement.“You’re racing the clock,” Seo said. “And so there’s an impossibility of perfection. The time rushes by.”Winning, Mashwama said, was “relief, exhaustion, and elation.”So will the pair return to the WUDC next year to defend their title?“Probably not,” Mashwama said. “The tournament means I’m gone most of winter break. I’d like to spend some time with my family.”
Acclaimed chemist Charles M. Lieber, a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been named a University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty honor.Lieber will be the first to hold the University Professorship newly established by Joshua Friedman ’76, M.B.A. ’80, J.D. ’82, and Beth Friedman. The chair supports a tenured faculty member who has shown both extraordinary academic accomplishment and leadership within the University community.Lieber’s appointment as the Friedman University Professor took effect on July 1.At Harvard, Lieber has pioneered the rational synthesis of a broad range of nanoscale wire-like materials and characterization of their unique physical properties. He has also pioneered methods to assemble these “building blocks” into unique structures that have impacted and created new opportunities in areas ranging from electronics and computing to biology and medicine.“Charlie Lieber is an extraordinary scientist whose work has transformed nanoscience and nanotechnology and has led to a remarkable range of valuable applications that improve the quality of people’s lives,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “He’s also a widely admired teacher, mentor, and colleague, and it’s a pleasure to welcome him as the inaugural occupant of the Friedman University Professorship.”For more than a decade, Lieber pioneered the field of nano-bioelectronics, creating nanowire electronic devices with powerful new capabilities for ultra-sensitive, real-time detection of cancer markers and viruses, as well as the first nanoscale transistor tools capable of monitoring and modulating the behavior of individual living cardiac and neuron cells. He also was at the forefront of the creation of a new paradigm for electrical implants called syringe-injectable mesh nanoelectronics, whose ultra-flexible mesh enables the electronics to integrate seamlessly within the brain without causing damage. This new approach has allowed Lieber to record and stimulate the same neurons and neural circuits for time scales of at least a year, creating unprecedented opportunities for fundamental neuroscience research that could lead to powerful therapeutic tools capable of treating neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as ameliorating declines in cognitive capabilities that come with natural aging.“I sincerely appreciate the recognition for my work and, implicitly, the support of my student and postdoctoral co-workers, collaborators, and the Harvard community,” said Lieber. “I am especially honored to be named the inaugural Friedman University Professor.”Lieber received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Franklin and Marshall College in 1981 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University in 1985. After two years of postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology, he was appointed an assistant professor of chemistry at Columbia University in 1987 and promoted to associate professor of chemistry in 1990.In 1991 he joined Harvard as a professor of chemistry, and since 1999 he has held a named chair as Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry. Since 2015 he has also served as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.An author of nearly 400 articles in peer-reviewed journals, Lieber has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Von Hippel Award (2016), the highest honor of the Materials Research Society, as well as the IEEE Nanotechnology Pioneer Award (2013), the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2012), the National Institutes of Health’s Pioneer Award (2008), and multiple awards from the American Chemical Society. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, the American Physical Society, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Chemical Society, and several other professional societies.Lieber is co-editor of the journal Nano Letters, and serves on the editorial and advisory boards of several other science and technology journals. He is the principal inventor on more than 50 U.S. patents. Active in commercializing nanotechnology, he founded the nanotechnology company Nanosys, Inc., in 2001 and the nanosensor company Vista Therapeutics in 2007.The first University Professorships were created in 1935, as a means to recognize “individuals of distinction … working on the frontiers of knowledge, and in such a way as to cross the conventional boundaries of the specialties.” With the addition of Lieber, 26 Harvard faculty members across the University now hold this honor.
In the digital era, Americans have instant access to more information about everything — from health, science, and global affairs to the leaders of local, state, and federal government — than ever before. But are we better off or even better informed? In researching his new book “Overload: Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News,” veteran CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer spoke to top news editors and reporters about the technological changes to newsgathering and publishing over the past 15-plus years that have made it harder for Americans to filter out fact from fiction and to process the information coming at them 24/7. The rise of social media as the primary purveyor of news, despite platforms like Facebook insisting they’re not news sources, has made the public vulnerable to propaganda, hoaxes, and other forms of misleading or inaccurate information.Schieffer, a 2015–2016 fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, recently returned to Harvard and spoke with the Gazette about the chaotic state of national politics and media coverage, and how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media — and ordinary news consumers — need to adapt to the new realities.GAZETTE: We last spoke in the fall of 2015 during the presidential primaries. Back then you said you felt we were at “a real turning point in the country.” How do you feel now?SCHIEFFER: At that point, I thought Donald Trump had a good chance at getting the nomination. I took him very seriously. I had interviewed Trump over a series of years, but I had never seen him on the stump until the South Carolina primary. We probably interviewed 35 people before he spoke. To a person, they said, “I just like the way he’s not afraid to speak his mind.” I came away thinking he’s saying what they wish they could say to their boss on their worst day of work. And that’s when I came to really start to believe he was going to win the Republican nomination.Now, after some of the things he did where he violated every rule in the book, I never thought he would be elected president. And I could never find anyone in the Republican establishment who thought he was going to win either. I remember going up to Capitol Hill the week before the Republican convention. I couldn’t find a single person in the leadership who thought he was going to win. What they were trying to do at that point was figure out a way to shift the money that was coming into their Senate races because they were afraid he was going to lose and take down the Senate with him. Well, what do we know? He did win. He crafted a message that somehow cut through all the political chatter and got to those people, especially out in the rural areas of this country, who felt they were being left behind. Maybe they didn’t particularly like him, but they thought, “What could be worse? Nothing is happening now.” So they took a flyer. And in the end, that’s how he got elected. He found a way to speak to them, and Hillary Clinton never did. She was eminently qualified, I don’t take that away from her, but her campaign was never able to really establish a rationale for her candidacy.GAZETTE: You’ve been in the news business since the Kennedy administration. How does this era compare?SCHIEFFER: When people used to ask me, “What was your favorite beat” (because I’ve covered all the big beats in Washington), they’d say, “I guess it was the White House, right?” And I always say, “No! Not at all.” I enjoyed covering the White House, but at the White House everyone works for the same guy. You get up on Capitol Hill, and they’re all independent contractors, and that’s how you get news. Well, that’s not apt anymore. Because in this White House, there are as many factions right now as there are up on Capitol Hill, and they all have different agendas. Many of them just hate each other and make no secret about that. You can find all kinds of people to talk with in this White House. They talk more than any White House I’ve ever seen. They’re far from on the same page, and that’s what’s really different here.GAZETTE: What do you make of Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) remarks where he said that President Trump’s erratic mental state and belligerent posturing could put the United States on a path to World War III if he’s not restrained by senior aides, and that most of the Republicans in the Senate share this view? And what do you think of the friction between the president and his secretary of state?SCHIEFFER: We’ve never had anything like this. This was a campaign unlike anything we’d ever seen, and now this has become a presidency unlike anything we’ve ever seen. There’s the idea that the president would be undercutting his own secretary of state, who’s trying to negotiate some kind of opening where we could have discussions with North Korea. And to have the president tweet out “You’re wasting your time” — I can’t ever recall any president reacting in that way. And this is what, of course, Sen. Corker was reacting to. I have to say in all honesty I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think we’re in a very dangerous time. We probably just have to strap ourselves in here and hope for the best.GAZETTE: Do you think these extraordinary comments might provide a tipping point in relations between the administration and a GOP-led Congress?SCHIEFFER: I think it’s going to make everything harder for Trump. Think about this: It’s an open secret that the president doesn’t like his secretary of state. Trump has made that known in a variety of ways. Frankly, I don’t see how [Rex] Tillerson can last much beyond Christmas because he now has no power whatsoever. When word gets out that the president doesn’t like you, why does anyone want to talk to you? Regardless of his talents and his abilities, I think it’s impossible now for him to be effective. So let’s say he goes. Whoever Mr. Trump nominates to take his place is going to have to be confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker. I think Corker is a patriotic person and a person of good character, and I think he’ll do, in the end, what’s best for the country. But having him on your bad side is not going to make it easier for you on a variety of things. Trump is not expanding his influence on Capitol Hill. To the contrary, he seems to be narrowing it. What he is saying is very popular with his base, but I don’t see him broadening his power. The presidency is about persuasion, it’s not ordering people around. It’s persuading people that it’s in their best interest to do what you’re advocating.GAZETTE: How much of what happened in the 2016 election should be blamed on the press, and what needs to change to correct those mistakes?SCHIEFFER: On the whole, I think the press did a really good job. I think we fulfilled our mission. I found a lot of people who didn’t like Hillary Clinton and a lot of people who didn’t like Donald Trump, but I have yet to run into anybody who said they didn’t have enough information about both of them to cast their votes. So if that’s the case, I think we did our job.What Trump was so good at is this old political theory called the “dead cat theory.” If you’re having a dinner party, I don’t care what you’re talking about, if someone throws a dead cat in the middle of the table, the conversation immediately shifts to the dead cat. And he did that over and over. The early morning tweets: He would say something before 7 o’clock in the morning, it’s on all the morning shows, and the rest of the day, the campaign narrative was about reacting to what he had said. Is it right? Is it wrong? And the Clinton folks just never figured that out until it was too late.We’ve got to find some way to get our polling better. As news organizations, we’re going to have to go back to doing more focus groups to go along with what we’re finding out with analytics. Peter Hart, he’s the dean of the pollsters, said, “We can find out a lot with social media, but you can’t know what’s in people’s hearts.” And that’s the part that we never got to and really understood. This is why the decline of local newspapers is such a factor. In the old days, newspapers would send people out and they knew, “This is a Republican neighborhood,” and they’d go out and knock on the doors and ask, “Are you going to be for or against, and why?” And we don’t do that anymore. They can’t do it because they don’t have the manpower to do it. So, they’re leaning on these polls.GAZETTE: With revelations that the Russians bought ads and pretended to be Americans in order to manipulate users of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms during the election, should these companies be regulated when they accept money from politics, like TV and other broadcast media are?SCHIEFFER: Something is going to have to happen here. Facebook and Google started out saying, “We’re technology companies, we’re not media companies. We’re not responsible for what pops up; we can’t check out every message.” They’re going to have to do something. When you have 67 percent, I think, of the American people now getting at least some of their news off Facebook, to say that you’re not a media company? We’ve got to figure out a way, I don’t want to say to police this, because it’s a very difficult problem. How do you separate parity and political comment from just straight-out propaganda and messages that are like crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Now, the social media companies are at least saying, “We’re going to try to do something about this.” But they’ve got a lot to do here.GAZETTE: In your new book, you argue there’s a fire hose of information — both real and fake — coming at us so rapidly, it’s become harder to process events and discern what’s true and what’s not. How so, and isn’t that “flood the zone” tactic a hallmark of propaganda campaigns?SCHIEFFER: Sure. If you look across Europe and see what the Russians have done in all the satellite countries around them, they don’t drive their tanks across the border anymore. They found a cheaper, better way to do it. They go in, they use cyber to cause confusion, they bribe the local politicians, they make sweetheart deals with the local oligarchs, they loan them money, and then the next thing you know, they’re in control. That’s the Russian playbook. And we’re seeing the same thing in this country, and we simply have to recognize this. There’s no question that people have found a way to game this system. They figured out how you can manipulate this stuff to their own financial as well as national security advantages. And that’s the part we have to really be aware of and understand is happening. You can’t rebut every single lie, but we have to find a way to inoculate people and help them understand that just because you see it on the internet doesn’t make it true. Don’t just depend on one source for your news. Know where your news is coming from. I think that’s one of the things that those of us in the media have not done a good enough job at.Social media is having a greater impact on our culture than the invention of the printing press did on people of that day. We all talk about the wonderful thing the printing press was, and it obviously was, but there were 30 years of religious wars before Europe finally settled back into some sort of equilibrium. We’re just in the first trimester of this thing. We don’t know where all of this is going, and it’s going to take us a while to work our way through it. But in the meantime, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Hold the soda, hold the fat shaming In pursuit of a novel tool for the research and treatment of celiac disease, scientists at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center (MIBRC) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have validated the use of intestinal organoids. These 3-D tissue cultures are miniature, simplified versions of the intestine produced in vitro. Taking tissue from duodenal biopsies of celiac and non-celiac patients, researchers created the “mini-guts” to explore how the gut epithelium and microbiota-derived molecules respond to gluten, a complex class of proteins found in wheat and other grains.“We currently have no animal model that can recapitulate the response to gluten that we see in humans,” said Stefania Senger, co-senior author of the study, which was published in Scientific Reports this week. “Using this human tissue model, we observed that intestinal organoids express the same molecular markers as actual epithelium in the celiac tissue, and the signature gene expression reflects the functional differences that occur when epithelia of celiac disease patients are exposed to gliadin.” Gliadin is one of the main components of gluten.Celiac disease is triggered when genetically predisposed individuals consume gluten. The condition affects approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population. Based on current data, the onset of celiac disease is thought to be preceded by the release of the protein zonulin, which is triggered by the activation of undigested gliadin to induce an autoimmune response. This leads to increased intestinal permeability and a disrupted barrier function. Novel evidence suggests that the microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract may play a role in the onset of celiac disease.Earlier studies from the MIBRC group and others have shown that human organoids “retain a gene expression that recapitulates the expression of the tissue of origin, including a diseased state,” the authors write. Through RNA sequencing, the new findings validate the organoid model as a “faithful in vitro model for celiac disease,” Senger said.Using whole-transcriptome analysis, the researchers identified 472 genes regulated differently in organoids reflecting celiac disease than in control organoids without the illness. These included novel genes associated with epithelial functions related to the pathogenesis of celiac disease — including gut-barrier maintenance, stem cell regeneration, and innate immune response. A second finding of the study shows that bioproducts derived from gut microorganisms can be employed to modify the epithelial response to gluten, a finding that could lead to future treatment strategies.“These results confirm our hypothesis that genes and exposure to gluten are necessary but not sufficient, since changes in both the composition and function of the gut microbiome are also needed to switch from genetic predisposition to clinical outcome, as shown by our data,” said Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center and co-senior author.Fasano is a professor of pediatrics and Senger an instructor of pediatrics, both at Harvard Medical School. At science and cooking lecture, chef explains process of creating the first without the second Telling people what to eat and what not to eat often backfires, but ‘Don’t drink soda’ is a clearer message, Harvard expert says Pasta yes, gluten no Related “We believe our observations represent a major shift in the study of celiac disease,” Senger said. “We are confident that with adequate funding we could achieve major goals that include the development and implementation of high-throughput drug screenings to quickly identify new treatments for patients and expand the organoid repository to develop more complex models and pursue personalized treatment.”Support for this study came from the National Institutes of Health and the Egan Family Foundation. Additional co-authors of the paper are first author Rachel Freire, Laura Ingano, and Gloria Serena of the MGH MIBRC; Murat Cetinbas and Ruslan Sadreyev of the MGH Department of Molecular Biology; Anthony Anselmo, formerly of MGH Molecular Biology and now with PatientsLikeMe; and Anna Sapone of Takeda Pharmaceuticals International.
Auditory cortex nearly identical in hearing and deaf people Related Study shows architecture of audition likely based on innate factors Hidden hearing loss, on the other hand, refers to listening difficulties that go undetected by conventional audiograms and are thought to arise from abnormal connectivity and communication of nerve cells in the brain and ear, not in the sensory cells that initially convert sound waves into electrochemical signals. Conventional hearing tests were not designed to detect these neural changes that interfere with our ability to process sounds at louder, more conversational levels.In the eLife report, the researchers first reviewed more than 100,000 patient records over a 16-year period, finding that approximately one in 10 of these patients who visited the audiology clinic at Mass. Eye and Ear presented with complaints of hearing difficulty, yet auditory testing revealed that they had normal audiograms. Progress in treating hearing loss A pair of biomarkers of brain function — one that represents listening effort, and another that measures the ability to process rapid changes in frequencies — may help explain why a person with normal hearing may struggle to follow conversations in noisy environments, according to a new study led by Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear.Published Jan. 21 in eLife,the study could inform the design of next-generation clinical testing for hidden hearing loss, a condition that cannot currently be measured using standard hearing exams.“Between the increased use of personal listening devices or the simple fact that the world is a much noisier place than it used to be, patients are reporting as early as middle age that they are struggling to follow conversations in the workplace and in social settings where other people are also speaking in the background,” said senior study author Daniel Polley, HMS associate professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery and director of the Lauer Tinnitus Research Center at Mass. Eye and Ear. “Current clinical testing can’t pick up what’s going wrong with this very common problem.”“Our study was driven by a desire to develop new types of tests,” added lead study author Aravindakshan Parthasarathy, HMS instructor in otolaryngology head and neck surgery and an investigator in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass. Eye and Ear. “Our work shows that measuring cognitive effort in addition to the initial stages of neural processing in the brain may explain how patients are able to separate one speaker from a crowd.”Hearing loss affects an estimated 48 million Americans and can be caused by noise, aging and other factors. Hearing loss typically arises from damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear (the cochlea), which convert sounds into electrical signals, or the auditory nerve fibers that transmit those signals to the brain. It is traditionally diagnosed by elevation in the faintest sound level required to hear a brief tone, as revealed on an audiogram, the gold standard test of hearing sensitivity. “… patients are reporting as early as middle age that they are struggling to follow conversations in the workplace and in social settings where other people are also speaking in the background.” — Daniel Polley, senior study author Optimized gene-editing system halts hearing loss in mice with hereditary deafness Motivated to develop objective biomarkers that might explain these “hidden” hearing complaints, the study authors developed two sets of tests. The first measured electrical EEG signals from the surface of the ear canal to capture how well the earliest stages of sound processing in the brain were encoding subtle but rapid fluctuations in sound waves. The second test used specialized glasses to measure changes in pupil diameter as subjects focused their attention on one speaker while others babbled in the background. Previous research shows changes in pupil size can reflect the amount of cognitive effort expended on a task.They then recruited 23 young or middle-aged subjects with clinically normal hearing to undergo the tests. As expected, their ability to follow a conversation with others talking in the background varied widely despite having a clean bill of hearing health. By combining their measures of ear canal EEG with changes in pupil diameter, they could identify which subjects struggled to follow speech in a noisy setting and which subjects could ace the test. The authors are encouraged by these results, considering that conventional audiograms could not account for any of these performance differences.“Speech is one of the most complex sounds that we need to make sense of,” Polley said. “If our ability to converse in social settings is part of our hearing health, then the tests that are used have to go beyond the very first stages of hearing and more directly measure auditory processing in the brain.”This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant NIDCD P50-DC015857).Adapted from a Mass. Eye and Ear news release. Single letter speaks volumes Researchers develop drug cocktail that unlocks potential to regrow inner-ear ‘hair’ cells
Students reflect on the shift to online classes and unplanned move home Related University offers coronavirus resources and help guides Mark Elliott and Martha Gladue reflect on efforts to support global community Ten weeks of House traditions, crammed into one night.That was the scene at Lowell House on Thursday, as Faculty Deans, House staff, and students took a break from frantic packing and travel planning and made the most of one of the last few days on campus. Residents came together for a greatest-hits version of traditional spring events, including tea outside, the Bacchanalia spring formal, and an impromptu performance of three songs from the (now canceled) Lowell House opera “Sweeney Todd.”“The spirit of the evening was incredibly cathartic and important,” said Lowell House administrator Beth Terry. “The community interaction is so vital, and that’s what people focused on. There were a lot of tears, but also happiness, and gratitude. Of course it’s a negative [experience], but out of that comes incredible positivity between tutors, administrators, and students here. We in the Houses do what we can to make the students feel supported.”,In addition to navigating last-minute festivities, staff at the Houses were hard at work helping students sort, store, and ship belongings. Volunteers from across the University also pitched in to help with travel assistance, room-key drop-off, and library book returns. It was a scene repeated across the College and in the University’s dozen Schools, as staff and volunteers helped students pack, move out, and plan for an immediate future of distance learning.Lowell was a microcosm. Brenda Messervy, a senior analyst at the Harvard Allston Land Company, and Elizadel Deauna, administrative coordinator for the Dean’s Office at Harvard College, were on hand in the Lowell dining hall to help students book travel home.“As a mom, I couldn’t bear the idea” of not helping students get where they needed to go, said Messervy. “It’s an emotional time, and I knew I had to help.”,Down the street at Leverett House, building manager Paul Hegarty expressed gratitude for staff volunteers who handed out packing supplies and directed students to shipping and storage stations in the Houses. Hegarty said the help he received was integral to making sure the move-out process went smoothly and gave him time to send critical updates to residents.“We had to make everything as efficient as humanly possible, and everyone helped out,” said Hegarty, who has worked at Harvard for 18 years. “As we go, there are more problems that come up that need solutions. The most impressive thing to me was the alumni and volunteers from around the campus who showed up to help.”Depositing a large box of books at a storage drop-off, Leverett resident Andrew Rao ’21 said that the staffers’ work made a difficult situation much more bearable.“They’ve been helpful with updates, and helping us get all our supplies,” said Rao. What new U.S. travel rules mean for foreign students, scholars The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. ‘Unsteady,’ ‘lucky,’ and ‘overwhelmed’ Information aims to give students, professors, and staff a hand with moving, remote learning, meetings, travel, financial aid, and other issues
Moving online allows viewers to visit sites, affiliates, researchers around the world Harvard Worldwide Week truly goes global Related The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of life, including social movements such as the struggle for LGBTQ rights. As part of Worldwide Week at Harvard, on Wednesday the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs hosted “Rethinking Resistance Politics in Troubling Times: Transnational Queer Solidarity During COVID-19,” an online panel discussing recent work examining the international situation.The two-hour-plus forum began with a look at the Arab world. Sa’ed Atshan, visiting assistant professor of anthropology and visiting scholar in Middle Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and assistant professor peace and conflict at Swarthmore, opened the Zoom event by discussing the Arab Spring, the series of nonviolent protests launched in Tunisia in 2010. Although these succeeded in toppling dictatorships there and in other nations, the region has in recent years been experiencing a reactionary pushback that has included a rise in officially sanctioned homophobia.Atshan, who had been a graduate student at the Weatherhead Center, cited as an example the persecution of those who mourned the recent suicide of Sarah Hegazi, who became a cause célèbre for the gay community in the Middle East and beyond. The Egyptian writer and lesbian activist was arrested and tortured by authorities for waving a rainbow flag in 2017 at a concert in Cairo — a city once considered “the queer capital of the Arab world,” said Atshan. She emerged deeply traumatized and depressed and was granted asylum in Canada, where she died in June. This loss, explained Atshan, was exacerbated by the isolation of the pandemic, with widely shared images of Arabs “shaming anyone who mourned her,” he said.“The deeply entrenched nature of homophobia meant that even in her death she could not rest in peace,” he said. “Queer Arabs had to process this alongside living through a global pandemic.”Although Beirut appears to be rising as a new center of the queer Arab world, he said, the hard-won gains of 2010 are endangered. “It is clear that the crisis is offering totalitarian regimes cover to consolidate their power,” said Atshan. “The world cannot turn its back on the people of the region, both queer and straight.”Language offers another frontier in LGBTQ rights, explained the next speaker, Nicole Doerr, associate professor of sociology, and director of the Copenhagen Centre on Political Mobilisation and Social Movement Studies, University of Copenhagen. Delivering her paper “Queer Solidarities in Postmigrant Societies,” she focused on translators, saying, “Social movements today are multilingual movements.”Doerr’s study of queer migrants and people of color in European movements uncovered both weaknesses and strengths in these increasingly multicultural movements. Looking at Denmark and Sweden, for example, she uncovered that resident migrants, rather than refugees, are the most effective at being heard. “Members of the resident LGBTQ community will not take the refugees seriously,” she said. “You always need some white, middle-class citizen group who wants to work with the multilingual migrant activists.”However, the translators who work with the migrant and refugee communities — and often come from these communities — have responded. Many are expanding their roles in ways that defy their traditional job definition. “Whites assume translation has to do with language and nothing else,” said Doerr. In the migrant and refugee community, she explained, translation has more to do with ideas and understanding cultural norms.As translators pushed back against marginalization or racialization, Doerr said, “They develop a counter-hegemonic awareness.” In response, these translators create spaces for new solidarities and dialogue about silenced topics. Translation works by “disrupting dominant culture while remaining in dialogue.”George Paul Meiu, John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology and Department of African and African American studies, tackled the identification of homosexuality with illness and how that association is playing out amid a global pandemic. Equating homosexuality with illness has deep historical roots. In Africa, in particular, homosexuality is often cast as a Western idea that has “infected” native cultural traditions. The leap to associating it with actual sickness has been made overt by such figures as the president of Burundi, who claimed that “homosexuality is the origin of curses like AIDS and the coronavirus.During the pandemic especially, homosexuality has been lumped in with globalization as a source of pollution, if not contagion, an idea that supports the fallacy of gay “recruitment.”In fact, in his study of objects and art that represents “gayness,” Meiu found a surprising similarity of attitudes toward homosexuality and plastics. “Homosexuality or gayism is like a plastic foreign import from the West,” he said, “a form of environmental pollution [that has] nothing to do with African bodies.” Meiu discussed the intentional use of plastics to reclaim the idea of the homosexual body. As the pandemic has restricted mobility, he cited the sharing of queer art over social media as an important entry point for solidarity. International forum cites strong government response as key in battle against COVID Containment works, but a vaccine is still needed Beginning his talk on “The Great Refusal: The West, the Rest, and the Geopolitics of Homosexuality,” Jason Ferguson, acting assistant professor, department of sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, began by discussing the 2015 arrest of seven men for homosexuality in Senegal — and the international pushback that followed. Both, he said, may be understood as part of larger global trends.In Western consciousness, Ferguson pointed out, the trend toward liberalization seems clear. Starting in the 1970s, European countries in particular began to move away from homophobic laws toward gender and sexual equality. More recently, however, African and some European countries have begun to swing back toward repression and even criminalization of homosexuality, and the trend toward liberalization has slowed. “By 2015, 40 percent of countries still had to decriminalize homosexuality,” he said. “Gambia increased criminal penalties for homosexuality. Ankara banned LGBT events; even Europe is moving backward on gay rights.”While these may seem random, such trends may be explained in terms of sociodemographics, he said. That first wave of normalization, for example, coincided with the loosening of the Eastern bloc and Eastern European countries’ desire to join with the more democratic, and wealthier, West. On the other hand, increasing nationalism — particularly among colonized countries — has sparked a pullback from what may be cast as Western decadence or immorality. “The global struggle for gay rights always plays itself out in this theater of inequality,” he said.Tunay Altay, Ph.D. candidate in social science, Humboldt University of Berlin, focused strictly on Turkey in his paper “In the Grip of Rising Nationalism and the Pandemic: Examining Turkey’s Emerging Digital Queer Spaces.”Intolerance is increasing in Turkey, said Altay. As an example, he pointed to the canceled production this past July of the original Turkish Netflix series “If Only” because of conflict over a gay character. Although that character was a supporting role and had only nonsexual scenes, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Netflix of “attacking Turkey’s national and spiritual values,” and the series was pulled.Nevertheless, the country held a digital Pride Month in June, incorporating a slate of online activities that began as early as March and continue today. This has created a divide between the official line and what Altay called “the growing digital visibility of Turkey’s queer communities.”“Zoom created a safe space” for drag queens, DJs, and others in the community, he said. People learned “we are everywhere.”The situation remains complex, he pointed out, with a double standard for what is permissible online and in real life. Still, Altay credits the digital world with “giving form to a new regional queer consciousness.”“It’s a matter of survival,” he said, quoting a Turkish proverb that translates to: “If we ever stop dancing, we shall all turn to stone.”
President Joe Biden has chosen two Harvard faculty members with deep diplomatic experience to fill senior government positions, signaling his intention to emphasize diplomacy and soft power in rebuilding U.S. influence on the world stage.Wendy R. Sherman, professor of the practice of public leadership at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the School’s Center for Public Leadership, has been nominated to serve as deputy secretary of state. Samantha Power, the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at the Kennedy School and the William D. Zabel ’61 Professor of the Practice in Human Rights at Harvard Law School, has been nominated to be the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.Both women held high-ranking positions during the Obama Administration.Power served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017 and before that as special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights. A former journalist, Power won the Pulitzer Prize for her book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” and has written a memoir, “The Education of an Idealist.” Before joining the U.S. government, Power was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and a professor at the Kennedy School.Sherman served as under secretary of state for political affairs from 2011 to 2015. She was the lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal and also led talks with North Korea on its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs. She began her career as a social worker and activist on child welfare and low-income housing issues and was director of EMILY’s List before joining the State Department during the Clinton administration. She is the author of “Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence.”Biden has pledged to elevate the role of diplomacy in rebuilding America’s international standing after what he has described as the isolationist approach of the Trump administration. Sherman and Power both are on record stressing the vital importance of raising the profile of alliance-based diplomacy and support for human rights as leading tools of U.S. foreign policy.“Wendy Sherman and Samantha Power have contributed so much to the Kennedy School, through their teaching, writing, and engagement with public leaders,” Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf said. “Our loss now is the country’s gain, and we look forward to welcoming them both back to the Kennedy School in a few years and learning from their new experiences.” Read Full Story
Business managers and HR professionals alike are familiar with the “4 Ps” that companies have traditionally used to incentivize their employees: Pay (salary, bonus, equity), Promotion (new role, new title), Perks (office space, travel policies, free beverages), and Praise (recognition and rewards). At a recent meeting of EMC’s top executives, noted author Dan Pink (Drive, A Whole New Mind, To Sell is Human) argued that business leaders need to look beyond these extrinsic incentives to intrinsic motivators. He suggested that people are driven by three essential motivations:Purpose: “I want to contribute to something important.”Mastery: “I want to be really good at something.”Autonomy: “I want to be in control, not controlled.”Extrinsic incentives and levers of control are fundamental to our traditional concepts of command and control. Pink’s list of intrinsic motivators, on the other hand, seems more suited to art classes and book clubs than to the rough-and-tumble world of business.In an attempt to compare and contrast Pink’s model to the more traditional, hard-edged notion of command and control, I turned to the definitive, or at least eponymous, publication on this subject, U.S. Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 6, “Command and Control.” Marine Corps officers who would study command and control are urged to understand that:“We are… fond of saying that commanders should be ‘in control’ of the situation…. The truth is that… it is a delusion to think that we can be in control…. [U]nlike in chess, ‘pieces’ consist of human beings….” “The essence of war is a clash between human wills, and any concept of command and control must recognize this first. Because of this human element, command is inseparable from leadership. The aim of command and control is not to eliminate or lessen the role of people or to make people robots, but rather to help them perform better.” MCDP 6 goes on to explicate a model of command and control based on giving those under one’s “command” a clear sense of the overarching goals, training them extensively, and giving them the information and ability to respond intelligently in the field. Sounds suspiciously like Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy. Olive drab is decidedly Pink.On the surface, this may seem surprising. After all, commanders need not offer incentives – they can simply issue orders that must be followed, and voluntary attrition by their “employees” is a limited threat (it’s called desertion). But commanders do need to motivate. The key point is that incentives are not motivation. They are related, but quite distinct.Seen through this lens, striving to make a work group a great place to work, or defining a team mission that is as important as quotas or share price, or building work communities that give back to their home communities, are not “nice to have” complements to business leadership, they are central to leadership.Like a general, a business leader must set strategy, build plans, and properly use extrinsic incentives to guide and reward specific actions. But to win convincingly, repeatedly, and profitably, she must also build a business and work environment that gives her comrades a sense of purpose, the opportunity to develop true mastery, and the autonomy to function as people.