Nuclear threats, then and now

first_imgIn 1985, researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School published a book called “Hawks, Doves, and Owls,” and gave it an ambitious subtitle: “An Agenda for Avoiding Nuclear War.”Those scholars gathered again at the School on Monday (May 16) for a seminar on the current challenges in avoiding nuclear war — and to marvel at just how drastically the nuclear threat has morphed in the two decades since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.The bottom line is that the Avoiding Nuclear War Project got a lot right, not least in recognizing that the real danger of igniting a nuclear war lies not in calculated military judgments but in misperceptions, irrational acts, and human mistakes. The group’s recommendations to take steps to “lengthen the nuclear fuse” and reduce the risks of accidental war remain core elements of U.S. nuclear policy.But the four nuclear policy veterans on the panel — Graham Allison, Joseph S. Nye Jr., Ashton B. Carter, and Albert Carnesale — also acknowledged many unanticipated changes in the nuclear landscape. Nye said that few experts in the mid-1980s imagined a world without a Soviet Union within a decade, and the consequent danger of loosely guarded nuclear materials. Nor did they anticipate that terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda would declare their intention to obtain and use nuclear bombs.Nye, the Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, said, “If any of us thought that within a decade, there would be no Soviet Union, none of us got that. … We social scientists pat ourselves on the back, but what we know is fairly limited.”The seminar was part of a two-day tribute to Nye organized by former students and fellows, some of whom took part in the ’80s project and are now respected academics and government officials.The panel took its title, “Avoiding Nuclear War: Hawks, Doves, and Owls, Then and Now,” from the first book published by the project, which was co-edited by Allison, Carnesale, and Nye.Seeking to move beyond the traditional showdown between hawks and doves, the authors devised a third policy caricature, involving owls. In contrast to hawks who seek military dominance to deter war by “peace through strength,” and doves who view the arms race as provocatively aggressive, owls see irrational behavior and loss of control as unintended triggers of conflict. Owls focus on reducing those risks as the key to avoiding war.Allison, who like Nye is a former Kennedy School dean and now is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the School, noted: “Owls eat hawks as well as doves.”Carter took a leave from the Belfer Center to serve as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics in the Obama administration. Carter sketched a clear intellectual path from the ’80s work of the Avoiding Nuclear War Project to the current U.S. struggle against terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction (WMD).Carter said one breakthrough idea in the ’85 agenda lay in thinking not only about nuclear arsenals but also about the “wiring of the arsenals,” and the organizational and psychological factors underlying the nuclear command and control systems.“If you look at nuclear terrorism and the thinking about WMD, you can see that the focus on the materials is complemented by thinking about the people and the networks of terrorism,” Carter said. “That series of steps you can trace right back to hawks, doves, and owls.”Carnesale, who also was a Harvard Kennedy School dean and went on to become Harvard University provost and then chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, recalled that the 1985 book declared: “We see no certain way to escape some reliance on nuclear deterrence.” He said that conclusion “holds up pretty well today.”Nye pointed out that the ’85 study, and another publication by the project three years later called “Fateful Visions,” did not call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He noted that there was disagreement then, as there is now, about whether getting to zero should be the overarching goal.Nye said the more important objective in the mid-’80s was to get nuclear powers to back away from the hair-trigger ability to launch thousands of weapons of immense destructive power within minutes. “We thought of it as a timeline: How far could you back away from those bombs on the front line? But there was always some disagreement among us about whether as you got down to lower numbers — let’s say five, or one — whether the premium for cheating and for a crisis of instability would grow enormously.“So if you could get away from bombs at the front line, and avoid proliferation, the question of whether you could get to zero, we never quite solved,” Nye said.That debate remains very much alive, especially with several former secretaries of state and defense now advocating dismantling all nuclear weapons.Nye said that should remain an aspirational goal, if not an operational one, in part because political climates can change in unexpected ways that make détente suddenly realistic. He recalled traveling to Argentina and Brazil in the ’70s as a State Department official and urging the two military dictatorships to forgo their nascent nuclear weapons programs. They scoffed at him then, but soon the military rulers gave way to elected successors, and the two nations did abandon their nuclear weapons plans. South Africa later made a similar leap.Carter said the Obama administration had helped break through “a very loud disagreement between left and right” on nuclear policy because President Barack Obama “was able to distinguish between having zero and having less while retaining a credible deterrent for the United States.”David Welch, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada who was a doctoral fellow with Nye and who co-organized the gathering, said the Avoiding Nuclear War Project had a powerful direct impact. He said former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s cautious nuclear policy was heavily influenced by the thinking of adviser Georgi Arbatov, who had been involved in a number of project initiatives.last_img read more

In the spirit of the law

first_imgOn their campus of old, Harvard Law School (HLS) students scrounged for meeting space, searching for quiet corners or tucked away nooks, occasionally sacrificing their bodies for the few coveted spaces available for group discussions.“People would throw themselves across the couches in Pound Hall to reserve them,” recalled third-year law student Ellen Wheeler. “Before, if you could find space, it was like the Holy Grail.”Some determined students braved the din of Harkness Commons and its busy lunchtime crowd, but the bustling dining hall didn’t lend itself to discussions about complicated cases or legal statutes. Others students settled for seats on the floor of a building’s hallway; some simply met off campus.Now, they don’t have to.Last fall the School opened its newest building, 250,000 square feet aimed at bringing faculty and students closer. Its design, developed in close collaboration with HLS community residents and neighbors and realized by the architectural firm Robert A.M. Stern Architects, grew out of a strategic plan crafted in 2000, with the primary goal of improving the overall student experience.“There was a real sense that the student environment could be improved,” said Story Professor of Law Daniel Meltzer, faculty chair of the 2000 planning committee. In the past, he said, some student-run journals were housed in converted basement closets, and the School’s student organizations and its clinical programs were scattered among HLS buildings. The campus was also missing an expansive space in which students could “hang out.”“The campus lacked a physical nucleus,” said Meltzer, “where students would run into each other, study together, and have fun together.”The new Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, and Clinical Wing building includes new classrooms and learning spaces of varying sizes equipped with the latest technology, meeting spaces, a sizable lounge, and offices for the School’s student-led organizations, journals, and clinical programs. There’s even a pub. The project had a sustainable mandate, and the complex recently received LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.“The way the building is designed has made running into friends and bumping into people in organizations that you might want to collaborate with much more frequent,” said Abram Orlansky, a third-year student and a member of several student organizations.The effect of the new setup was evident on a warm spring afternoon that drew crowds of students to a courtyard on the building’s second floor, where tables were filled with study groups reviewing cases, or students were grabbing an outdoor lunch.The garden space is part of the building’s Milstein Conference Center, funded by HLS alumni Howard P. Milstein and his wife Abby, which includes an expansive, adjacent conference room.“The new center will facilitate gatherings and become a true focal point for the Harvard Law School community and the broader Harvard community, bringing together students, faculty and guests in an inspiring and beautiful space,” said Milstein.Downstairs, others relaxed in the student center’s vaulted Robert B. and Candice J. Haas Lounge, complete with comfortable chairs, couches, and two fireplaces, or next door in the building’s pub painted from floor to ceiling in a deep red hue and covered with pictures of famous HLS alumni.The complex’s student center unites the School’s 84 student-run organizations and 16 of its 17 student-operated law journals under one roof, affording them airy, open offices and the chance to interact in common spaces.“As opposed to just trying to send emails” to connect with people, said Wheeler, co-editor in chief of the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, “if I come here during the week, I know everyone will be here.”The same is true for the Clinical Wing, which houses most of the School’s extensive clinical programs.“It integrates the clinics more into the daily operation of the School,” HLS Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove said of the new wing. “Having them in the same building as many of the classrooms allows for interaction between the clinical and the teaching faculty, as well as interaction between students.”“The place is just hopping,” said Meltzer. “I have had any number of students say to me, ‘Where was everybody before this?’”The new complex also addresses a change in curriculum. In the same 2000 strategic plan, administrators agreed to reduce the first-year sections of 140 students each to 80 students. A curricular reform in 2005, led by Professor Martha Minow, now HLS dean, introduced a number of courses, electives, and workshops designed for smaller classes.The Wasserstein Hall classrooms resemble those of Harvard Business School, with a horseshoe shape with the teacher at the front, but some have an added feature. Two classrooms are equipped with swiveling chairs that allow students to face each other for breakout discussions in class.The move toward more interaction was done as with an eye to promoting team learning, something that will better prepare graduates for the changing nature of the profession, where team players rank high on the wish list of hiring firms. Practicing lawyers regularly complain that the notion of working in teams isn’t emphasized enough in current legal pedagogy, said Meltzer.“They want employees who can come to them knowing how to work with someone else to improve upon each other’s ideas, how to disagree, and how to generate a group product that is better than anything that could be produced individually, and we think the new complex will encourage that.”A crowd gathered in the complex’s Milstein Conference Center for an official dedication ceremony April 20. Speakers included Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, Harvard President Drew Faust, and former HLS dean and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Elena Kagan.last_img read more

Sendhil Mullainathan joins MacArthur Board

first_img Read Full Story Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of economics at Harvard University, has been elected to serve on the MacArthur Foundation Board of Directors.Mullainathan was, until recently, Assistant Director of Research for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He is also founder of ideas42, a non-profit that applies insights about people from behavioral economics to create novel policies, interventions, and products. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2002.“Sendhil will be a great asset to the Foundation,” said Board Chairman Marjorie Scardino. “His work in many strains of economics, his perspective on technology, and his focus on poverty and discrimination will help us see our work differently, and his tendency toward the woods rather than the trees will help us stick to our priorities.”To read the full release, visit the MacArthur Foundation website.last_img read more

Blood clot breakthrough uses drug-device combo

first_imgA new, highly effective drug-device combination for treating life-threatening blood clots in stroke patients is being developed by a team of researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and the University of Massachusetts’ New England Center for Stroke Research.The study, which will appear in the December issue of the journal Stroke, describes a novel method to quickly dissolve clots that completely obstruct blood vessels in the brain.The team’s research, which is co-led by Wyss Institute founding director Donald Ingber and University of Massachusetts Medical Professor of Radiology Ajay Wakhloo, combines an injectable clot-busting nanotherapeutic that targets blockages with an intra-arterial device that restores blood flow to obstructed vessels.The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University had already discovered novel nanotherapeutics for clearing obstructed blood vessels. Its nanotherapeutic is composed of an aggregate of biodegradable nanoparticles coated with a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which mimics the way blood platelets behave inside our own bodies. When blood vessels narrow, the shear force of blood flow increases at that location to produce a physical cue that causes platelets to stick to the vessel wall. Similarly, the nanotherapeutic reacts to fluid shear force, releasing tPA-coated nanoparticles in these narrowed regions where vessels are partially occluded, binding to the blood clot and dissolving it away.But until now, the mechanically activated nanotherapeutic would not be effective in complete vascular blockages where there is no blood flow, as is the case for most stroke patients. The most effective treatment for stroke today is known as a stent-retriever thrombectomy procedure, originally described by Wakhloo and his colleague Matthew Gounis, associate professor of radiology at U.Mass. The procedure involves placing a small tube through the blockage, passing a closed stent through it, and then opening the stent to physically pull the large blood clot out of the vessel.Targeted Delivery of Vascular Therapeutics The Wyss Institute has developed a targeted vascular nanotherapeutic (Vascular NanoRx) platform that targets drugs to stenotic (narrowed) sites in blood vessels to treat life-threatening and debilitating clotting disorders, such as stroke, pulmonary embolism, acute coronary syndrome (myocardial infarction, unstable angina), thrombosed hemodialysis access sites, and potentially atherosclerosis. The platelet-sized Vascular NanoRx microaggregates (large blue aggregates) disperse into drug-carrying nanoparticles (blue dots) when exposed to high shear stress caused by a clot that narrows a blood vessel, resulting in concentration of drug-coated nanoparticles at the site of the stenosis.Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University “Even with the retriever thrombectomy procedure, not all clots can be removed with a successful outcome,” said Gounis. “Clot fragments can be dislodged, which can lead to microclots and tissue damage downstream in the brain circulatory system, and physical dragging of the stent through the vessel can potentially be damaging as well.”Instead, the new advance describes using the stent not to drag out the clot, but to create a narrow channel restoring blood flow through an opening in the center of the vascular blockage. Doing so creates a high level of shear force generated by restored flow, activating the nanotherapeutic to release and target the clot-busting drug along the opened channel in the clot. After the blood clot is fully dissolved, the stent is re-sheathed and harmlessly removed from the vessel. If during the process any clot fragments break off and travel through the circulatory system, the drug-coated nanoparticles will remain bound to them and continue to dissolve them locally wherever they go.“What’s progressive about this approach is that the temporary opening of a tiny hole in the clot — using a stent device that is already commonly used clinically — results in a local rise in mechanical forces that activate the nanotherapeutic to deploy the clot-busting drug precisely where it can best do its job,” said Ingber, who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and professor of bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.In clinically relevant large-animal studies, the team has demonstrated that the drug-device combination works very efficiently, showing that it dissolves clots that fully occlude brain blood vessels that are the same size as they would be in humans.“This has been a great collaboration between experts in the field of treating stroke and experts in mechanobiology and bioengineering,” said co-first author of the study Netanel Korin, a former Wyss technology development fellow and current assistant professor in biomedical engineering at the Technion, Israel, who first described the nanotherapeutic with Ingber in a 2012 Science publication. “We hope that one day it will have a positive impact on patients suffering from a range of medical crises resulting from blood-clot occlusions.” <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VhXKqfIJvk” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/1VhXKqfIJvk/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a>last_img read more

Translating nine pounds of poetry

first_imgStephen Owen doesn’t understate the intellectual stamina required to maintain a healthy relationship with the Chinese poet Du Fu.“If you’ve got to be stuck with someone for eight years, you want it to be someone you enjoy, who can sustain your interest,” said the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard, who recently published “The Poetry of Du Fu,” the first complete English translation of the great Tang dynasty literary figure.A monumental undertaking (the prolific Du Fu left 1,400 extant poems), Owen spent nearly a decade working on the translation, which resulted in a 3,000-page, six-volume book that weighs in at nine pounds.“I didn’t believe it until I held it in my hand,” he said. “There’s something to having the physical copy.”Owen, a sinologist who has written extensively about Chinese literature, counts “The Poetry of Du Fu” as his 13th published effort, and he expects the substantive book, which is free to download but retails as a hard copy for $210, to find its way into academic libraries and the homes of Chinese-American parents who want their children to grow up familiar with some of the work of the poet, who is considered “the Shakespeare of China.”“This is for general readers and scholars, but mostly for those who know some Chinese, but not enough to read Du Fu. This is to help them,” said Owen.Poetry and commitmentProfessor Stephen Owen reads from “The Poetry of Du Fu,” the first complete English translation of the Chinese poet, which took eight years to complete.Like the Bard of Avon, Du Fu’s writing is layered and shows immense range. The elusive poet wrote in a wide variety of styles and registers. Inside the green-bound volumes are acclaimed verses such as “Moonlit Night” and “View in Spring,” but Owen argues that Du Fu “is a lot more fun when you get out of the well-known ones.” Sitting in his office with shelves and tables stuffed with books, he reflected on the poet’s habit of traveling — always accompanied by all of his poems and his personal library.“He’s a quirky poet. When he moves to Chengdu with his family, he has to set up house and writes a poem to people asking for fruit trees and crockery. No one had ever done this kind of poem. He has a poem praising his bondservant Xinxing for repairing a water-piping system in his house. It’s a wonderful poem about the joy and discoveries of living in the real world instead of living in the rarefied poetic world,” Owen said.Du Fu tackles the subject of war extensively, but there is also a poem about bean sauce and another about taking down a gourd trellis in which Du Fu compares the challenging, if mundane, task to the fall of the Shang dynasty.“He’s forgotten what you can and can’t do in poetry, and 30 years later poets looked back and said, ‘This is the greatest poet we have,’” Owen said.In its simplest form, Chinese poetry is not easy to translate. It doesn’t have tenses and rarely uses pronouns. There is no easy way to tell whether a noun is singular or plural. If the characters read: “bird fly sky,” Owen says, that can be interpreted as either “A bird flies in the sky” or “Birds fly in the sky.”“You read the title — that’s the most important thing,” he said, adding, “Of course, it’s maddening.”Frustrating moments aside, the project was a long-in-the-works dream, born of a 2005 Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award, which gave Owen $1.5 million to fund this and other projects. “The Complete Poetry of Du Fu” will inaugurate the Library of Chinese Humanities, an accessible series of pre-modern Chinese facing-page texts and translations published by De Gruyter. Owen expected the Du Fu translation to take three years, but teaching responsibilities and speaking engagements set him back numerous times.“It owns you. I got teaching relief for a couple of semesters, and I worked on it and I worked on it. It wasn’t that I was lazy,” he said. “You see the territory that has to be done. You have to plow the south 40, and have plowed the south 28, and see what still has to be done.”Owen, who is 69, worked primarily alone, allowing a graduate student to go over the work only after it was complete.“Du Fu’s a great person to translate, but there goes eight years of your life. Finally it’s done,” he said.last_img read more

In anti-lynching plays, a coiled power

first_imgMany Harvard students can pinpoint a transformational moment — often a class or professor — that changed their experience at Harvard. For Magdalene “Maggie” Zier ’16, it was a book.Zier discovered that book, Koritha Mitchell’s “Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890–1930,” as a sophomore while taking Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Robin Bernstein’s seminar “African American Theater, Drama, and Performance.” The book is a study of plays on lynching, a topic that proved so powerful and profound that three years later Zier wrote her senior thesis on three of the plays.Magdalene “Maggie” Zier turned her senior thesis about anti-lynching plays into a live performance at Harvard Law School. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer“It was the intersection of history and literature and theater, and this seemed to connect for me,” said the now 21-year-old Quincy House resident. “They have been discussed a little by scholars, but they deserve more attention as a window into black women’s creative contribution to this important social movement.”The connection was natural for Zier, who arrived at Harvard intending to concentrate in history and literature.“I grew up in Greenwich Village in New York City, and my parents encouraged me to study the humanities,” she said.Being raised in the Big Apple exposed her to Broadway, and though she laughs at her own talents — “I’m a terrible performer” — she transitioned in college to behind-the-scenes roles, working as stage manager, producer, publicist, and costumer on shows such as “Assassins,” “Little Murders,” and “The Pillowman.” She became president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club her junior year.In academics, Zier focused on African-American theater, but the anti-lynching plays, originally created by women to raise awareness and a sense of community among African-Americans living amid the horror, were foremost in her thoughts.With research funding from the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and the Harvard College Research Program, she spent the summer before senior year in the library archives at Howard and Emory universities, researching the three plays — Mary Burrill’s “Aftermath” (1919), Georgia Douglas Johnson’s “A Sunday Morning in the South” (1925), and May Miller’s “Nails and Thorns” (1933) — that would become her senior thesis.Last November, before the thesis was completed, she was invited to stage a reading of “A Sunday Morning in the South” at the Harvard Art Museums following a lecture called “The Visual Commons: #BlackLivesMatter” given by New York University Professor Nicholas Mirzoeff.“Many people said they didn’t realize [the play] was from 1925. They thought it was 2015. The themes are so eerily relevant they couldn’t pinpoint when it was from,” said Zier, who was recently awarded a Hoopes Prize from the College as well as History and Literature’s Oliver-Dabney Award and the Department of African and African American Studies’ Elizabeth Maguire Memorial Prize.The museum performance whet her appetite to continue to stage the plays, and Zier reached out to the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School (HLS), where Managing Director David J. Harris was eager to incorporate art into social justice programming.“It was an easy sell for us,” said Harris. “That these plays were written by women, and the fact that women today are leading so many social movements, especially in communities of color — lots was compelling.”Tapping her connections at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), Zier brought in Shira Milikowsky, the A.R.T.’s artistic associate, to collaborate with the institute, and her thesis adviser, Timothy McCarthy, history and literature professor and program director at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, which co-sponsored the event.“There is a mandate across the University to collaborate, but it’s hard to get it done. This undergraduate goes out and arranges a meeting with the Law School and A.R.T. and [the Faculty of Arts and Sciences],” said Harris. “The amount of research she did, running around in pursuit of this project, shows a remarkable amount of determination. She exemplifies the absolute best of undergraduate education at Harvard.”Held in the Ames Courtroom last month, the performance, “Plays That Don’t Play: The Drama of Lynching” featured the three plays performed by 14 students from the College, HLS, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as one student from Northeastern University. It was an evening (followed by a panel discussion the next day) that Harris described as “unbelievably powerful.”“Everyone was riveted,” he said. “For a lot of people, Michael Brown’s body wasting on the street for four hours in the heat was evocative of lynching.  These plays are terribly resonant.”Zier, who will work as a W.E.B. Du Bois Public Policy Fellow at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Baltimore headquarters this summer, said the enthusiastic audience response is a testament to the power of theater to address material that is both historic and relevant in today’s society.“To see them read aloud after all this time was moving. They’ve been pretty much left off stage,” she said. “I was trying to understand why playwriting would be the weapon of choice. I don’t have an answer, but it continuously intrigued me throughout the process.”last_img read more

The loaded history of self-defense

first_imgAfter the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, Harvard historian Caroline Light felt compelled to explore the roots of the American right to self-defense, which has helped turned the United States into a country with more guns than people.In her new book, “Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense,” Light traces the development of the notion of self-defense from English common law to contemporary stand-your-ground laws. The Gazette sat down with Light to talk about her book, the rise of armed citizenship, and the idea that the right to self-defense has traditionally been wielded by the most privileged against the most vulnerable. GAZETTE: In your book, you trace the history of the American right to self-defense to before the foundation of the United States. Where does this notion come from?LIGHT: I traced the legal theory and ideology of lethal self-defense back to English common law principles, which are foundational to what would eventually become the United States legal system. But self-defense had serious limitations in the English context. People in the United States forget that originally English common law doctrine held a “duty to retreat” that meant that you were obligated to retreat in the face of an attack. The one exception was enunciated in a 1604 court case involving an intrusion of agents of the king into a man’s private dwelling. These are the origins of the Castle Doctrine, which says that you do not have the duty to retreat when you’re in your home because “a man’s home is his castle.” This doctrine originated as an exemption to the duty to retreat, but in the United States it turned into a very expansive set of notions about who is allowed to fight back lethally against whom. The ideology of lethal self-defense is very selective in the U.S., even if we claim to be gender-blind and race-blind. When people in the U.S. said, “A man’s home is his castle,” what they actually meant was, “A white, property-owning man’s home is his castle,” and he’s allowed to fight back.GAZETTE: How did the notion of self-defense that emerged in the 17th century as a privilege for white men who owned property, as you argue, evolve over the centuries?LIGHT: When we look back into the roots of self-defense laws in the United States, we also see that they’re tethered to colonialism, legalized slavery, and the legal doctrine of coverture, which meant that married women couldn’t own any property because their rights were literally “covered” by their husbands. All of these different principles of exclusion were embedded in what would become the United States’ legal system. And as I traced them through time, even as laws started becoming more inclusive, self-defense laws were adjudicated chiefly to protect white men and their property. That took off in the post-Reconstruction era, late in the 19th century, when we see court cases in several states where white men are allowed to fight back lethally even when they aren’t in their home. We don’t see anything like that happening for African-Americans because in the wake of the Civil War, black codes and vagrancy laws, etc., restricted black freedom and access to full citizenship. And most black codes prohibited African-Americans from possessing weapons for self-defense. Similarly, women couldn’t defend themselves against violence from their husbands. I argue that lethal self-defense has been legalized for the most privileged even if, rhetorically, we celebrate self-defense as something universal to all citizens.GAZETTE: What is the turning point at which the “duty to retreat” from threat becomes what you call a “selective right to kill”?LIGHT: The pivotal moment coincides with the end of Reconstruction in the 1870s. There are two crucial court cases, one in Ohio and one in Indiana, in which the state courts decide not to obligate white men to retreat in the face of danger even if they’re outside their homes. This coincided with the moment the federal government withdrew federal forces from the South, which meant it withdrew protections for newly freed people. This was done in the interest of protecting white property, especially given the end of slavery. This legal shift accompanied an effort by whites to retain a claim to what had been their property, to maintain control over formerly enslaved people. The 13th Amendment carried a loophole by which white Southerners could continue enslaving African-Americans under the guise of incarceration for criminal behavior. For instance, vagrancy laws could be used to keep African-Americans in prison. All of these things are part of a larger constellation in which self-defense laws were mobilized selectively in the interest of white property.GAZETTE: How would you describe the legacy of this belief system in today’s American society?LIGHT: Lethal self-defense, in many ways, has become naturalized as a universal civil right. What that means is that many Americans see it as their right to carry a lethal weapon in the interest of self-defense. I tracked the transition from the late 20th-century focus on hunting to what we see today, which is an urgent accumulation of firearms for self-defense. On top of that, stand-your-ground laws have spread to over half the states, declaring that you can “stand your ground” against an attack wherever you may be, even outside your home. But as we’ve seen with cases like Trayvon Martin’s, these laws are not adjudicated in a way that entitles everybody to protect themselves from what they perceive to be a reasonable threat.GAZETTE: You said that the killing of Trayvon Martin inspired you to write this book. How so?LIGHT: That moment was crucial for many Americans. Trayvon’s death and his killer’s ability to walk free were an awakening to the prevalence of racial violence in our supposedly color-blind society. And even though many people would say that the Trayvon Martin case had nothing to do with stand-your-ground laws, it still resonates in terms of how the jury was instructed to consider George Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. Stand-your-ground laws provide an exemption from criminal prosecution for people who use lethal self-defense in response to a reasonable threat, and that’s what the jury acted on. They believed that it was reasonable for Zimmerman to fear for his life when he saw an unarmed black teenager. I think that speaks volumes to the pernicious injustice of stand-your-ground laws.GAZETTE: In your book, you call stand-your-ground laws part of the “Do-It-Yourself Security Citizenship” movement. Could you tell us what this means?LIGHT: “Do-It-Yourself Security Citizenship” is the idea that an individual can and will be heroically prepared to fight in defense of himself and other innocent lives around him. It’s a seductive narrative for many people. And gun ownership, this notion that you must be prepared to kill or be killed, is at the center of “Do-It-Yourself Security Citizenship.” Whether you have a gun or not, the core idea is that no one is going to protect you, the government won’t protect you, and law enforcement won’t protect you. So as a good citizen, you need to take your safety and security into your own hands. The National Rifle Association [NRA] plays a powerful role in distributing and naturalizing this knowledge, making it seem like an emblem of patriotism to accumulate and carry weapons. Gun ownership is no longer about hunting or recreation; it’s about an urgent necessity to protect yourself from danger and to participate in armed citizenship, which the NRA characterizes as the ideal of American patriotism. Their message is that when you protect yourself, you make everybody safer. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to protect yourself, but I’m asking people to be more self-critical about the way in which “Do-It-Yourself Security Citizenship” is based on anxiety and fear about criminal strangers, including the perception of black masculinity as a threat in and of itself.GAZETTE: Would you say that the notion of the right to self-defense is part of the DNA of the country? If so, how do you think it will evolve?LIGHT: Yes, in a way, it’s in our DNA, but we have our own particular genetic mutations. As the duty to retreat and the Castle Doctrine were transported to what would become the United States, they changed due to the influence of our specific economy, our ideal of Manifest Destiny, the legacy of slavery, and also our willful amnesia around the ways in which the violence of slavery has not been left in the past at all. It is in many ways built into our DNA, but does that mean we can’t change it? I remain hopeful that we may become more critical about armed citizenship and its impact on public safety. It’s going to take all of us to rethink and question DIY Security Citizenship as the emblem of patriotism.last_img read more

Music in the Mediterranean Diaspora: An international conference at Villa I Tatti

first_imgThis interdisciplinary conference at Villa I Tatti (Florence, Italy) examines the circulation of music and musicians throughout the Mediterranean diaspora. It concentrates on music as a migratory frontrunner and privileges displacement as its critical lens with the specific aim of crystallizing new theoretical approaches to mobility. Across a series of contributions grounded in history, anthropology, demography, literature, and music, we ask how border-crossing histories can shift our critical appraisal of cultural production and, conversely, how the study of musical performance can help us sight instances of ethnic encounter, creolization, and cultural métissage that are otherwise difficult to trace.Date: 18 & 19 May, 2017Organizer: Kate van Orden (Harvard University)View the program Read Full Storylast_img read more

Cellular ‘message in a bottle’ may provide path to new way of treating disease

first_img Read Full Story A newly discovered cellular messaging mechanism could lead to a new way to deliver therapeutics to tissues affected by disease, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers found that a type of extracellular vesicle (EV) — a sac secreted by cells that contains proteins and RNA molecules — known as ARMMs also carries receptors that allow signaling without direct contact between cells. This capability may make ARMMs uniquely suited to be engineered to send therapeutics directly to affected areas of the body.“EVs are like messages in a bottle between cells,” said senior author Quan Lu, associate professor of environmental genetics and pathophysiology. “We think that within the next few years, we may be able to swap the endogenous molecules in ARMMs for therapeutic cargos — such as antibodies — and to engineer ARMMs to home in on a particular tissue.”The study was published online Sept. 27, 2017 in Nature Communications.There are an estimated 37 trillion cells in the human body — and 100 times that many EVs. They circulate in the blood and other bodily fluids and are involved in processes such as coagulation and the immune response. They can also be hijacked to spread cancer or viruses like HIV and Ebola.EVs are generating a great deal of interest in the biotechnology field. Researchers believe that the molecules they carry include the fingerprints of disease and harmful environmental exposures. Work is already underway on developing a “liquid biopsy” to test EVs in a drop of blood.Previous work by Lu’s lab described the body’s mechanism for producing ARMMs. Unlike other EVs, which are generated within cells, ARMMs are secreted directly from the plasma membrane at the cell’s surface. Although the physiological function of ARMMs remains unknown, the way that they are made may make them uniquely suited to carry certain molecules.In the current study, the researchers found that ARMMs contain molecules used for NOTCH signaling, a type of intercellular communication that normally requires cell-to-cell contact. NOTCH receptors are plasma membrane proteins involved in critical physiological roles such as embryonic development, tissue homeostasis, and stem cell function. According to the new findings, ARMMs are able to facilitate NOTCH receptor signaling at a distance.“Our research on ARMMs has tremendous potential for therapeutics and public health,” Lu said. While other researchers have explored using EVs to deliver therapeutics, directing them within the body has been an obstacle. Lu believes that ARMMs provide a way past that barrier, and he was recently awarded a patent for generating, isolating, and engineering ARMMs. “It will likely be at least 10 years before we see these methods used in a clinical setting,” Lu said. “But the path forward is clear.”  The study’s first author was Qiyu Wang, a research associate at Harvard Chan School.This study was supported in part by a National Institutes of Health R01grant (R01 HL114769) and by funding from the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator Fund.last_img read more

Exploring religion, building a life of service

first_imgThis is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.Using her head and her hands, Haley Curtin ’18 has built the foundation of a meaningful life. Meaningful first of all to her.Curtin commutes to Harvard from her home in Waltham, Mass. The daughter of a carpenter, she has spent most of her time outside the classroom working construction to help pay for college. Inside the classroom, studying religion has provided her scholarly work with deep consequential relevance. Appropriately, she sees her studies in religion as an addition to her toolbox.“This degree is an incredible tool and such a gift, and will hopefully allow me to effect bigger change down the line,” said Curtin, 22, who completed that degree in three years. She will work next year in a high school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota through an AmeriCorps service program. “My impact on rural impoverished America could be bigger than just home repair projects, though I would be content to do that.”Early in her time at Harvard, Curtin’s path was less clear as she struggled to find social and academic communities. Taking the advice of her sophomore adviser, Curtin, who grew up a Roman Catholic, took her sophomore spring and junior fall semesters off, spending the first six months on Nazareth Farm, a faith-based West Virginia service community in rural Appalachia. Twenty miles outside cellphone service, Curtin worked with people some of whose homes lacked running water or floors.“It’s a pretty stark contrast, growing up in a Boston suburb and being at Harvard, to seeing what rural poverty looks like. It was a culture shock, but I really fell in love with it,” said Curtin, who followed her time at Nazareth Farm with interning at a homeless shelter in Clarksburg, W.Va. “I lived on a salary of $100 a week, bringing small groups of residents to help families in the southern part of the state who had lost homes in a devastating flood.”,Helping to create stable homes for those in need brought clarity to the direction of her education, and Curtin returned to Harvard, changing her concentration from environmental science and public policy to religion with a focus on Christianity and Islam.“Being in the religion department has been a big game changer of my Harvard experience. It’s super small so I’ve had the chance to get to know and build strong relationships with many of the other students in the department. Also, it’s been great to really get to know the awesome professors and to have them as mentors and advisers,” she said.“From an ideological perspective, studying religion also changed my relationship with my upbringing,” Curtin said. “It taught me to be appreciative, but critical, and it’s given me more ways to consider why I’m drawn to certain parts of the Catholic faith while other parts frustrate me. Now I have more ways to think about the ideas underlying the beliefs and practices.”Courtney Bickel Lamberth, director of undergraduate studies for the Committee on the Study of Religion, said it’s been energizing to watch Curtin grow.“She’s incredibly warmhearted and so easy to talk to about absolutely everything. Beloved by her peers, she’s incredibly wise, but not in a pedantic way. She’s had an unusually broad and deep set of experiences for a college senior,” Lamberth said. “There’s a wisdom about her that is very subtle and unassuming, but it’s inspiring.”Curtin works for Page Associates, a building and design company in the MetroWest region outside Boston, doing home finish carpentry and remodeling three days a week. “I love being active and I really like the guys I work with,” she said. “I wanted to learn more skills so down the road I could do more home repairs. I think there’s value in being self-sufficient and having the ability to help others in this way.”She also plays on the Harvard women’s ice hockey club team and volunteers as a tutor through Evkids, and said commuting (an hour by bike) and paying for school herself has made her more intentional about her time at Harvard.“I have felt less pressure [to be] involved in a hundred activities. I have really had to choose what is fulfilling and what I want to be on campus for,” Curtin said. “It’s taught me to value everything — the meals I get with my friends mean so much to me. I could easily not be here so I try to make the most of it, not in the sense of building a LinkedIn page or networking, but investing deeply in the relationships I have with classmates and professors.”last_img read more

12345323