Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Monday, 27 April 2015

1. UC Berkeley Nepali Students Pray for Families, Fundraise for Water Filters

The Nepali Student Association at Berkeley is mourning lost friends and relatives following the devastating 7.8 earthquake that hit their country Saturday. They're also raising money for water filters to send home for one of the most urgent needs in the country -- clean water and sanitation. Student Puja Dahal says: "We believe this is the most critical thing right now.... We’re going to buy water filters or purifiers for people in Nepal." Organizers have set up a GoFundMe page for their cause, and they will hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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2. Quake warnings of minutes, not hours, are possible, but pricey
Al Arabiya

Geophysicist Peggy Hellweg, of Berkeley's Seismological Laboratory, comments on the lack of an early earthquake warning system in Nepal, which could have helped save lives in the 7.8 earthquake and its aftershocks this past weekend. Even after decades of research, she says, “our ability to predict earthquakes is still non-existent.” She notes that earthquake early-warning systems, which give crucial seconds of warning, have been deployed only in a handful of the world's seismic hot zones. “If Nepal had a seismic network that operated as the seismic stations in Northern California did in the Napa quake,” she says, “people in Kathmandu would probably have had 15 to 20 seconds warning.” That could have been enough to take cover under tables or escape some collapsing buildings. The systems are very expensive. Capital investment costs for a system for the west coast of the US will cost an estimated $38.3 million, with annual operating costs of $16.1 million. Associate earth and planetary science professor Richard Allen, director of Berkeley's Seismological Laboratory, told a recent conference that the system in Japan saved "thousands of lives" in their massive 2011 quake.
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3. Op-Ed: Rebirth of the Research University
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks writes about the California Master Plan for Higher Education, a visionary plan developed in 1960, and the "growing belief that higher-education systems modeled after the master plan have run their course." He discusses various proposals to reimagine the American university, as well as his own model, which involves creating a "global campus" on property the Berkeley campus owns on the Richmond waterfront. He concludes: "As we carry the debate ahead, it is crucial that our commitment to research in the research university be unwavering, and that our advocacy for the many reasons that research matters be argued and advanced far beyond the university itself."
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4. Op-Ed: How to Attract Female Engineers
New York Times (*requires registration)

Lina Nilsson, innovation director at Berkeley's Blum Center for Developing Economies writes about the dearth of female engineers in the U.S., and ways that women can be encouraged to follow that career path. She says a Berkeley experience showed her that "if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves." She says: "I work at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, which recently began a new program that, without any targeted outreach, achieved 50 percent female enrollment in just one academic year. In the fall of 2014, U.C. Berkeley began offering a new Ph.D. minor in development engineering for students doing thesis work on solutions for low-income communities. Half of the students enrolled in the inaugural class are women. They are designing affordable solutions for clean drinking water, inventing medical diagnostic equipment for neglected tropical diseases and enabling local manufacturing in poor and remote regions."
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5. Op-Ed: We're on a slippery slope toward a totally monitored world
Los Angeles Times

James Rule, a researcher at Berkeley's Center for the Study of Law and Society, writes about the implications of our diminishing privacy in an electronic world. He's the author of Privacy in Peril: How We Are Sacrificing a Fundamental Right in Exchange for Security and Convenience, and he says: "You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to foresee a Faustian bargain — consent to a totally monitored world — emerging from these trends. Our greatest concern should not be unauthorized access to our data, but access by interests rightfully entitled to exploit any data known to exist."
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6. Justices to Hear Challenge That Argues Lethal-Injection Drug Causes Agony
New York Times

Megan McCracken, the Eighth Amendment resource counsel with Berkeley Law's Death Penalty Clinic, comments on the Supreme Court's upcoming review of the lethal injection protocol that caused an inmate in Oklahoma to die an excruciatingly slow death last year. Compared to a case in 2008, which turned on the possible misadministration of drugs, she says the new case argues that the drug midazolam cannot reliably meet a constitutional standard even when it is properly used. "This is an opportunity for the court to prevent other states from adopting a drug that has been so problematic."
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7. Different kind of crime-victim group lobbies against rolling back Prop. 47
Los Angeles Times

Law lecturer Barry Krisberg, director of research and policy at Berkeley's Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, comments on Proposition 47, a law that removed most felony penalties for drug use and minor theft. He says that proposals that would modify Proposition 47 would affect few people and would not substantially erode the law, but the alternative justice lobby is unlikely to affect lawmakers' votes on criminal penalties. "The politicians are still pretty frightened about crossing the law enforcement unions," he says.
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8. California Report: Vital Signs: Community Policing Through Exercise in East Palo Alto 'Fit Zones'
KQED Radio

Sarah Lawrence, director of policy analysis and program evaluation at Berkeley's Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, discusses a new community policing effort she's researching in East Palo Alto that uses "Fit Zones." The city has one of the highest murder rates in California, and this innovative program involves a weekly gathering of police and residents, who take over a park to ride bikes, play volleyball and exercise. Link to audio.
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9. 13.7 Cosmos & Culture Blog: The Danger Of GMOs: Is It All In Your Mind?
NPR Online

Psychology professor Tania Lombrozo writes about a forthcoming paper on the deep cognitive biases behind many individuals' fear of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The researchers identified some psychological tendencies and preferences that can help explain what they refer to in the title of their paper as "the intuitive appeal of GMO opposition." She says: "Of course, understanding the psychology of GMOs doesn't tell us whether GMOs are truly safe, or about their economic, legal and social consequences. Those are questions for biologists, economists, legal scholars and ethicists, not (just) for cognitive scientists studying the human mind. But identifying the role of cognitive processes in the perception of GMOs can shed light on why discussions of GMOs often take the forms they do."
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