So, who owns the Internet?

first_imgA clash over who should decide which information flows through Internet networks — and at what price — is now before a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court in a landmark case that could grant Internet service providers (ISPs) the unfettered power to turn the information superhighway into a private toll road.In Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, the telecommunications giant is challenging the FCC’s authority to regulate the delivery of high-speed, high-capacity Internet access to the public. The lawsuit stems from a December 2010 FCC rule that requires wireless and wired ISPs to remain “network neutral,” meaning they not take advantage of their role as a conduit for traffic between broadband customers and outside companies in order to favor or discriminate against any lawful content or to impose fees for linking to customers through their broadband networks.Verizon argues that because the FCC labeled high-speed Internet service as separate and distinct from two-way telephonic communications nearly a decade ago, the agency no longer has the power to impose the 2010 rule, called the Open Internet Order, or any others, to regulate what Verizon can or cannot do on its own networks. Further, the company claims, any steps by the government to constrain its ability to control or “edit” what content flows through its networks violate the company’s First Amendment rights.A decision in the closely watched case is expected early this year.Some Harvard legal and business experts say if the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decides in favor of Verizon, it could have dramatic and far-reaching implications for everyone who uses the Internet, and could open the door to other challenges by companies seeking to undermine the deference traditionally given to regulatory agencies.“Because of the legal gymnastics that the FCC has gone through over the last few years, it’s unclear whether they have labeled high-speed Internet access in such a way as to take advantage of the Congressional authority given to the agency to protect Americans from abuses,” said Susan Crawford, most recently a visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School, and Visiting Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard Kennedy School.“This matters from the nation’s perspective because if the FCC is purporting to regulate with one hand and deregulate with the other, then it’s bound to have no real authority … to say anything about high speed Internet access. That means the essential facility of our time is subject to no oversight.”Crawford compares the unilateral autonomy that Verizon and its competitors seek for themselves over an essential piece of infrastructure to that of the Gilded Age oil and railroad barons.“Just like Standard Oil, they’ve cornered the market on a commodity that’s essential for every part of American society to operate. High-speed Internet access undergirds every policy direction the country wants to take. And yet, control over this commodity is centralized in the hands of a very few providers,” said Crawford, a co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “It’s so unbelievable and that’s why I spend so much time and so much energy talking about it.”Jonathan Zittrain, the Berkman Center’s co-founder and director, recently served as chairman of the Open Internet Advisory Committee, a panel charged with studying and assessing the impact of the current FCC rules in order to advise the agency on policies and practices that will best protect the future openness of the Internet.“What’s most striking to me is that the taxpayers paid for the copper infrastructure, paid for it through regulated, expensive telephone service with taxpayers slated to own the resulting infrastructure,” said Benjamin Edelman, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “Now, that all got privatized in a particular way, [but] the short of it is, this is a public resource. It’s a public right of way; it was funded through public expenditures. It seems strange to declare this is actually one company’s asset to do with as they see fit.”Crawford said the debate about the FCC’s rule-making powers over Verizon and others could be resolved outside the courtroom simply by reclassifying high-speed Internet service as two-way telecommunication.“All the FCC has to do is change its mind and say, ‘We got it wrong,’” said Crawford. “It has ample political Congressional authority to do that. This is just a political battle. The FCC is concerned that if it acts to carry out this administrative relabeling, it will lose half its budget and half its staff.”‘Devastating’ consequencesMany existing and new businesses, particularly tech start-ups, are likely to suffer, as will national competitiveness, if the court decides in favor of Verizon, critics say.“A broad class of tech start-ups rely on and assume the availability of reliable, high-speed, low-cost data transfer from users to the Internet at large. That’s been a pretty good assumption for most users most of the time. But it’s not guaranteed if the broadband operators can slow down the connection because it serves their strategic interests,” said Edelman. “Then businesses that require that kind of connection will be much harder to start or perhaps impossible” to start.Companies such as Skype or YouTube that offer high-quality streaming video could likely be among the earliest targets of any effort by Verizon or other ISPs to slow down content on their networks, said Edelman. The largest, most powerful Internet companies like Google or Facebook, however, would probably avoid manipulation by ISPs because they have a “rich set of options” to choose from should network neutrality suddenly disappear.“One thing that these companies can do is they can build their own networks to get the data as close as possible [to users, so] rather than Google delivering data to Verizon in Mountain View, California, Google could deliver it right here in Cambridge if the data are intended for a Cambridge customer. And then there would be somewhat less opportunity for Verizon to delay it or slow it down,” said Edelman.“A second thing Google could do is to somehow force the network’s hand,” by bringing the issue directly to the public and notifying them that Verizon or another ISP is editing or slowing down content, as Google did during the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act two years ago.“It could be quite an opportunity for Google to state what is really the company’s view on a political question, but to state it in a way that puts users onto Google’s side,” he said.Losing network neutrality would be “devastating” to the innovation economy that has driven the digital revolution of the last two decades, said Brad Burnham, managing partner of Union Square Ventures, a New York City venture capital firm that was the first institutional investor in Twitter, Tumblr, Etsy, Foursquare, and others.“My concern is that the explosion of innovation that we’ve seen as a result of ubiquitous connectivity and permissionless access to consumers goes away,” he said. “I think it will chill the younger start-ups, which will hurt innovation.“You are effectively putting Verizon in the position of being able to choose winners and losers by delivering a differentiated user experience and charging a fee for that,” said Burnham. “That it will make it difficult for young companies who can’t pay that fee to get into the market, so we will end up calcifying around the incumbents and Verizon will just take their piece of that. That’s the problem.”Without a viable way to regulate network monopolies like Verizon, future investors will likely walk away from the uncertainty and risk of tech start-ups. “Most investors are fairly apolitical and given a choice of tilting at the windmill of Washington or going and making money someplace else, they would probably choose to go make money someplace else,” said Burnham.Constitutional claimAs potentially troubling as it may be for consumers and the economy to permit for-profit companies to regulate the Internet, Crawford says Verizon’s “breathtaking” legal claim that it should be allowed to decide which content passes through its network has sweeping implications for all businesses, should it prevail.“Verizon is asserting, and cable companies have asserted in the past, that they’re just like The New York Times, they’re just like the Harvard Gazette: They need the discretion to function as editors and any interference by the FCC with that discretion amounts to a First Amendment, unconstitutional act,” she said.The company argues that selecting which content passes through its system, and at what cost and speed, is an expression of its free-speech rights.“This is not about speech, this is about their ability to discriminate, to in effect turn Internet access into the equivalent of a pay-TV service,” said Crawford.There are very good reasons for the government, under the Commerce Clause, to want to maintain an open Internet, said Crawford. She said Verizon’s constitutional claim is much like those made by tobacco, energy, and pharmaceutical companies that seek to avoid regulatory oversight of their activities.“The First Amendment is very much in vogue as a way to attack the power of an administrative agency. This is an A-plus example of that,” she said.“No one ever thought a telephone company had a First Amendment right to edit telephone traffic. And no court, no agency ever would have said that. But in this political climate, this argument is just going to be repeated again and again until someone takes it seriously.”last_img read more

Eight to receive honorary degrees

first_imgMichael R. Bloomberg, Doctor of LawsMichael R. Bloomberg, an entrepreneur, politician, and philanthropist, served as New York City’s 108th mayor, ending his third term in 2013.Bloomberg was elected shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. As mayor, he balanced the city budget, reformed education, and boosted economic development. He also led high-profile campaigns to improve New Yorkers’ health, expanding anti-smoking regulations and proposing a ban on “super-size” sugary beverages, which was ultimately struck down in court. He took action to fight climate change, reducing New York’s carbon footprint by 19 percent and taking a leadership role among global urban leaders on the issue.Bloomberg was born and raised in Massachusetts, growing up in Medford before attending Johns Hopkins University and then Harvard Business School. In 1966, he was hired by the Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers, where he rose through the ranks, overseeing equity trading and sales and then information systems.Bloomberg left Salomon after the company’s 1981 sale. He launched Bloomberg LP in a one-room office as an information technology company with a vision of bringing transparency and efficiency to financial information. Today, Bloomberg LP is a global financial information and media company with 15,000 employees in 73 countries.After leaving office earlier this year, Bloomberg returned to his self-named firm and also focused his efforts on philanthropy through Bloomberg Philanthropies, a data-driven charity with five areas of focus: public health, arts and culture, the environment, education, and government innovation. Earlier this year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed him U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change.Among his causes, he has supported his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, where the School of Hygiene and Public Health was renamed the Bloomberg School of Public Health in recognition of his support. All told, he has donated more than $2.4 billion to a variety of causes.Isabel Allende, Doctor of LettersFrom her debut novel in 1982, “The House of the Spirits,” author Isabel Allende’s work has been a savory charquicán of history, fable, politics, passion, and family that embodies the ethos of magic realism.Since then, Allende’s 20 books reflect her unstoppable work ethic (she starts a new novel every Jan. 8) and sample from a broad palette of literary influences and styles, from the tragic romance “Of Love and Shadows” to “Paula,” a memoir, to her most recent, the mystery “Ripper.” Allende’s work has been translated into 35 languages and has sold more than 60 million copies.The daughter of diplomats, Allende was a noted television and magazine journalist in Chile during the late 1960s and early 1970s. She fled Chile in 1975, living in exile in Venezuela following the brutal military coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The uprising led to the death of her cousin, Salvador Allende, then the nation’s first socialist president. Now a U.S. citizen, Allende lives in Northern California with her husband, the writer William C. Gordon.Long one of Latin America’s most prominent feminist voices, Allende formed the Isabel Allende Foundation after the death of her daughter in 1992. The foundation works with nonprofits in Chile and the San Francisco Bay Area to protect and empower women and girls.For decades, she told The Guardian last year, Allende has sustained a daily letter writing exchange with her 93-year-old mother who still lives in Chile.“The most important things about my life happened in the secret chambers of my heart and have no place in a biography,” she once wrote. “My most significant achievements are not my books, but the love I share with a few people, especially my family, and the ways in which I have tried to help others.”President George H.W. Bush, Doctor of LawsThe Honorable George Bush was 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. During his White House tenure, the Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union; Germany was reunified; and the Gulf War — involving an unprecedented coalition of 32 nations — was executed to liberate Kuwait after it had been invaded by Iraq.In a lifetime of public service dating to 1964, Bush, a Republican whose father had served in the U.S. Senate, was also the 43rd vice president of the United States from 1981 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. Before that he was a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. At 89, he is the oldest living former president and vice president. During World War II, he piloted a U.S. Navy torpedo bomber, starting at age 18. Bush married the former Barbara Pierce in January 1945 and then completed an accelerated program at Yale, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in economics.Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Mass., grew up in Greenwich, Conn., and in 1948 began his oil business career as a sales clerk in West Texas. George and Barbara Bush have five children, 17 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Son George W. Bush was 43rd president of the United States; son Jeb was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.In 1990, Bush signed into law both the Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disability Act. He also started negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which became law in 1994, during the Clinton era. Since leaving office, President Bush has raised millions of dollars for charity and lent his name to relief efforts after catastrophic hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters. The aircraft carrier USS Ó (CVN 77) was commissioned in 2009. In 2011, President Obama awarded Bush the Medal of Freedom.Aretha Franklin, Doctor of ArtsHer famous voice has vaulted her into the select realm of superstars known by only one name: Aretha.An amazing vocal range and flexibility and unmatched musicianship are the trademark talents that have led Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul,” to a career spanning more than five decades and encompassing myriad styles. A musical chameleon, Franklin made her first recording as a gospel singer at age 14. She captivated crowds with R&B hits through her teens and early 20s. By the late 1960s and early 1970s Franklin had redefined the sound of soul with chart-topping classics including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You).” Her iconic version of the Otis Redding song “Respect” became a musical sensation and an anthem for the feminist and civil rights movements. In the 1980s Franklin’s career was marked by a string of hit duets with artists such as George Michael, Elton John, and Whitney Houston.Other career highlights: her unforgettable turn in “The Blues Brothers,” a last-minute appearance in place of Luciano Pavarotti during the 1998 Grammy Awards when she sang the ailing tenor’s signature Giacomo Puccini aria “Nessun Dorma,” and her inspiring version of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” during the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama.Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1942. She moved to Detroit with her family as a young child. Her love for music blossomed in New Bethel Baptist Church where her father was the minster and where she sang in the choir. She began her career in gospel music as a teen, later making the switch to secular music as singer, songwriter, and accomplished pianist.Franklin’s list of awards is a long as her list of hit songs. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987. She received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1994, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She is the winner of 18 Grammy Awards.Patricia King, Doctor of LawsPatricia A. King, J.D. ’69, an expert in medical ethics and family law, is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Medicine, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center. From 2005 to 2012 she was a member of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s top governing board. King is a pioneer in the legal realm of bioethics related to both stem cell research and experimentation involving human subjects.A longtime trustee of her undergraduate alma mater, Wheaton College (Mass.), King had arrived there in the fall of 1959 as a 17-year-old scholarship student from the segregated South. After college, King worked at the U.S. State Department before arriving at nearly all-white and all-male Harvard Law School in 1966.Early in her career, King was a lawyer in the federal government. She served as special assistant to the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, deputy director of the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), and deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. Today, King is a member of the American Law Institute and the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the Hastings Center.Related to bioethics and the law, King served on the HEW’s Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, and the Ethics, Legal, and Social Issues Working Group of the Human Genome Project.King and her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Roger Wilkins, live in Washington, D.C., where he is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture Emeritus at George Mason University.Peter H. Raven, Doctor of SciencePeter H. Raven, a botanist who created the concept of coevolution and whose hand guided the noted Missouri Botanical Garden for more than 39 years, is the George Engelmann Professor of Botany Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis.Raven is a staunch advocate of conservation and biodiversity. His early career focused on the biology of Onagraceae, known broadly as evening primrose, as well as on biogeography, folk taxonomy, and pollution studies. He published an influential paper in 1964, co-authored with biologist Paul Ehrlich, in the journal Evolution, which first introduced the term and concept of “coevolution.”Coevolution is the process through which changes in one species — or a unit at another level of biological organization — influence the evolution of another. An example would be the ongoing evolutionary partnership between flowering plants and pollinating insects.Raven was born in Shanghai in 1936 and raised in San Francisco. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957 and a doctorate in botany from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1960.He became the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1971, gaining the title of president and director in 2006. Over the course of his tenure, he guided the institution as it became a world-class center for botanical research, education, and horticultural display.He has written numerous books and papers, including the popular textbooks “Biology of Plants” and “Environment,” both with co-authors. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1985 and the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientific honor, in 2001. He was named by Time magazine a “Hero for the Planet” in 1999 and has held leadership positions in numerous scholarly societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.Seymour Slive, Doctor of Arts         Art historian Seymour Slive understands the brilliance of 17th-century Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Jacob van Ruisdael — along with their rich landscapes and evocative portraits. He is Harvard’s Gleason Professor of Fine Arts Emeritus and former director of the Fogg Art Museum.Among Slive’s publications are “Rembrandt and His Critics: 1630-1730” (1953), “The Rembrandt Bible” (1959), “Frans Hals” (three volumes, 1970-74), “Jacob van Ruisdael: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, Etchings, and Drawings” (2001), and “Rembrandt Drawings” (2009).This son of Russian immigrants was born in Chicago in 1920 and received both his bachelor’s degree (1943) and his Ph.D. (1952) at the University of Chicago. He put his graduate studies on hold to serve in the Pacific Theater with the U.S. Navy during World War II.Before his arrival at Harvard in 1954, Slive taught at Oberlin College in Ohio and later at Pomona College in California, where he served as assistant professor of art and chair of the department. Slive became an associate professor at Harvard in 1957 and a fine arts professor in 1961. He was appointed chair of the Department of Fine Arts in 1968 until 1971. In 1973, Slive was appointed Gleason Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard. He was the director of the Fogg Art Museum from 1975 until 1991.During his directorship, Slive helped establish the Arthur M. Sackler Museum to house Harvard’s collections of ancient, Asian, Islamic, and (later) Indian art in 1985.During his career, Slive was also an exchange professor at the University of Leningrad (1961) and Slade Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Oxford (1972-73.) He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy and of the Dutch Society of Sciences.Joseph E. Stiglitz, Doctor of LawsBy the 1940s, the once-proud steel town of Gary, Ind., had been beset by poverty, discrimination, and unemployment, prompting a young Joseph E. Stiglitz, whose parents were born and spent most of their lives there, to ask why and what could be done about it.Now, as one of the world’s leading economists and economic educators, those questions still remain sharply in his focus. In his 2012 book, “The Price of Inequality,” Stiglitz posits that the nation’s growing wealth disparity is the deliberate-but-reversible result of a political system that rewards a rich and powerful elite, not an inevitability caused by technological advances or social change.Stiglitz helped develop a new area of study, the “economics of information,” that considers the broad effects of decision-making in transactions where one side has better information than the other, work that led to his 2001 Nobel Prize in economics.Stiglitz attended Amherst College in 1960, but left after just three years at the urging of faculty who had arranged for him to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a modest fellowship. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in economics in 1967. Later, Stiglitz was awarded an undergraduate degree and an honorary doctorate from Amherst College.During the Clinton administration, he was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1993 to 1995, and then served as the council’s chairman from 1995 to 1997 before moving on to the World Bank, where he was the senior vice president and chief economist from 1997 to 2000.Stiglitz is currently a University Professor at Columbia University and has held professorships at Princeton University, Oxford University, Stanford University, Yale University, and MIT. The author of several influential textbooks and best-sellers, he has received numerous honors, including the John Bates Clark Medal for economics and France’s Legion of Honor.last_img read more

Faculty Council meeting held March 25

first_imgOn March 25 the members of the Faculty Council approved changes to the Handbook for Students for 2015-16. They also heard a review of human evolutionary biology and presentations from the Task Force on Sexual Harassment and from the University Benefits Committee.The council next meets on April 15. The preliminary deadline for the May 5 meeting of the faculty is April 21 at noon.last_img

Robert Parry to receive I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence

first_imgIn recognition of a career distinguished by meticulously researched investigations, intrepid questioning, and reporting that has challenged both conventional wisdom and mainstream media, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present journalist Robert Parry with the 2015 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence during a ceremony on Oct. 22, 2015.Parry established the website consortiumnews.com in 1995 as the first online investigative news magazine. He continues to edit the site and notes that a founding idea behind the project was the belief that “a major investment was needed in journalistic endeavors committed to honestly informing the American people about important events, reporting that truly operated without fear or favor.”Parry is known for breaking many of the stories related to the Iran-Contra affair while working at The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He received the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work on Iran-Contra at the AP, where he broke the story that the CIA had provided a manual to the Nicaraguan Contras (“Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare”) that outlined ways to build support for the Contra cause and carry out political assassinations.In 1985, he was the first to report on Oliver North’s involvement in the affair and, along with his AP colleague Brian Barger, was the first to describe the Contras’ role in cocaine trafficking in the United States – stories that led to an internal investigation and a congressional inquiry. Parry also was a 1985 Pulitzer finalist for his work. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Frank Hu, Sudhir Anand elected to National Academy of Medicine

first_img Read Full Story Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, and Sudhir Anand, adjunct professor of global health, at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the National Academies announced Oct. 19. Election to the NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.Hu is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is an internationally recognized researcher in epidemiology and prevention of obesity and diabetes. His research group has conducted detailed examinations of the relationships between dietary and lifestyle factors and risk of chronic diseases. These findings have contributed to current public health recommendations for chronic disease prevention. Hu serves as director of the Harvard Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer Center, and the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center Epidemiology and Genetics Core, and is a member of the federal government’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.Anand is also a professor of economics at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, a distinguished fellow at Harvard Chan School’s FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, and an associate at the Harvard University Asia Center. Anand is a world-recognized development microeconomist, who has published widely on topics including economic and health inequality, undernutrition, poverty, and population ethics. He chaired the WHO Scientific Peer Review Group on health systems performance assessment, and has been a member of various WHO advisory committees.last_img read more

Lucy Liu named Artist of the Year

first_img Read Full Story Lucy Liu, acclaimed American actress, producer, director, and philanthropist, has been named the 2016 Harvard University Artist of the Year. The popular actress will be awarded the Harvard Foundation’s prestigious arts medal at the annual Harvard Foundation Award ceremony, Sat., Feb. 20, during the Cultural Rhythms Festival in Sanders Theatre.“The students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation are delighted to present the distinguished and much-admired television and film star Lucy Liu with the 2016 Artist of the Year award,” said S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation. “Our student and faculty committee commended her outstanding contributions to the performing arts and her highly-praised humanitarian work as UNICEF Ambassador and other charitable projects.”Liu has starred in many popular films, including “Charlie’s Angels,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “Kill Bill,” and “Chicago.” She currently plays the role of Joan Watson on the acclaimed Sherlock Holmes-inspired television show “Elementary.”Throughout her career, Liu has worked to make a difference in the lives of others, Counter said. She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of women and children in some of the world’s most impoverished countries and the international child trafficking industry. She has actively supported Women for Women, a nonprofit organization that has helped nearly 430,000 marginalized women in countries that are affected by war and conflict. And in 2012, she received the Champion of Peace Award for her “unyielding commitment to promote peace, justice, and human rights.”last_img read more

Case for reparation gains international force

first_img Related During Harvard appearance, Coates probes ongoing problems in criminal justice system Forty acres and a mule. The order by Union General William T. Sherman in January 1865, just after the Civil War ended, to offer some recompense to newly freed slaves for the harms they had suffered was a radical, tantalizing promise that never came to be.More than 150 years later, the question of whether nations that benefited from the African slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries bear a responsibility to provide financial reparations for their crimes — as well as the lasting economic, social, and political damage they caused — remains unsettled. Many political and Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., have tried to gain traction for the idea periodically over the years, without much success.Now may finally be the time. The issue caught fire again in the United States following author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ powerful and provocative 2014 polemic, “The Case for Reparations,” and the flourishing of the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier this month, the state of Delaware issued a formal apology for slavery and Jim Crow-era laws, while a human rights panel at the United Nations pressed the United States to make reparations, blaming the effects of slavery for the many challenges still facing African-Americans.“Slavery was not just a system of holding people in bondage, it was holding people in bondage for a purpose, and that was to make money, to make money off of their bodies, and that’s the important realization that Americans have to come to,” said Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, speaking on a panel with professors Vincent Brown and Kenneth Mack. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer“This is not about retribution and anger, it’s about atonement; it’s about the building of bridges across lines of moral justice,” said Sir Hilary Beckles, a distinguished historian, scholar, and activist from Barbados, during a talk Monday at Harvard Law School (HLS), where tensions continue to roil over how best to confront racism and the vestiges of the School’s own historic roots in the slave trade.Beckles is leading an international legal effort now underway in the Caribbean to hold European nations that engaged in that region’s slave trade accountable to the modern-day descendants of those slaves. He chairs a reparations task force of the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), the region’s top political and economic body, that has made legal claims through the U.N. against the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Unlike past payments to survivors of the Holocaust, so far no nations have agreed to make restitution for slavery.“Those who argue against reparatory justice, when you examine the assumptions of those arguments, whether legal, philosophical, social, moral … they converge around a simple point: that the African peoples of the Americas might have a moral and legal right to justice, but they are not deserving of reparatory justice,” Beckles said, “unless they are facing human extinction.” What’s past is prologue Despite their united and longstanding opposition, it’s not as if European countries have never engaged in reparations, he said. After Haiti won its battle for independence in 1804, France demanded it be paid 150 million francs, a still-crippling debt, for its economic losses in exchange for recognition as a sovereign nation. Beckles’ own research found that Britain had made reparations for slavery in Jamaica — to the families of former slaveholders. Last year, he called for Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, himself a descendant of slaveholders, to pay billions of pounds to Jamaica for its extraction of the tiny island nation’s natural and human assets.Beckles says the call for reparations is directly related to the Black Lives Matter movement. During 17th and 18th centuries, slaves had monetary value to their owners, so laws were enacted to protect that value. Colonial governments compensated owners if slaves were somehow harmed.“Nothing mattered more than black lives because their economies were built upon black lives,” Beckles said following an introduction by Sven Beckert, the Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) whose acclaimed 2014 book, “Empire of Cotton: A Global History,” traced the commodity’s primacy and how it inextricably bound Africa, Europe, and the New World in the 19th century. “The inventories of their estates, the productive structures of this country and all the Caribbean countries, the accounts, the balance sheets, all showed that outside of land, the most valuable asset on the books of every enterprise was black life, and therefore, black life mattered most.���But with emancipation across the Western Hemisphere, black men and women’s utility in creating wealth for plantation owners suddenly evaporated, and black lives were no longer important.Beckles, as vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, asked President Obama to join CARICOM’s efforts and establish a U.S. commission to examine the idea of reparations during his visit to Jamaica in April 2015. He recalled the eerie symbolism of the accidental excavation of human bones from a slave graveyard during construction of a new building on campus.“I felt the sense that there was a connection between this history and the present — the fact that our ancestors’ bones were being dug up as the president was coming to our campus,” he said, urging the HLS community to help push the United States to use its global influence to push reparatory justice as a matter of civil rights in the 21st century.“Let us turn this history around. We cannot bury it because when we bury this history … the bones are everywhere. There’s no point in burying the legacy and the memory as well as the bones. Let us bring everything to the surface and find a way forward through all of this.”Vincent Brown, the Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies at FAS; Annette Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at FAS; and Kenneth Mack, the Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law at HLS, considered the practicality and applicability of the Caribbean approach in the United States.“Even if we zero in on the state, I fear that the demand for reparations presumes and depends upon states committed to distributive justice, a commitment most states haven’t borne since the rise of neoliberal governance, which, many would argue, is essentially predatory itself,” said Brown.Gordon-Reed, who is also the Carol Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute and professor of law in the faculty of law, noted the differences in the way Europeans and Americans view and understand slavery. One important obstacle that must be overcome before the idea of reparations will go anywhere, she said, “is to make people understand that slavery was not just a system of holding people in bondage, it was holding people in bondage for a purpose, and that was to make money, to make money off of their bodies, and that’s the important realization that Americans have to come to.”Rather than taking on the difficult task of trying to identify specific harms and the descendants of those who lived hundreds of years ago, it would be more practical to make whole those still alive who have endured slavery’s effects, such as disenfranchisement or housing discrimination, and then work back into history, she said.“We can think about what we should do if we understand that all of us benefit from the proceeds of slavery every day if we’re associated with this institution,” Mack said in response to repeated questions from HLS students about how to confront the School’s racist history and prompt change on campus.Mack and Gordon-Reed noted the many real-world opportunities in Boston and across the United States that exist right now for HLS students to facilitate getting reparations for black people through the legal system.“All of us derive a present-day benefit from the oppression, the degradation of human beings. And what should we do as an institution to make reparations for that” is what should be on everyone’s mind in thinking broadly about the concept of reparations, said Mack.last_img read more

Guidelines for Harvard’s 367th Commencement

first_imgSince 1642, with just nine graduating students, Harvard’s Commencement Exercises have brought together the community unlike any other tradition still observed in the University. Degree candidates with family and friends, faculty and administrators who supported them, and alumni from around the world are anticipated to participate in our 367th Commencement Exercises this spring (May 24). To accommodate the increasing number of people planning to attend, we ask that any interested readers carefully review the guidelines governing ticketing, regalia, security precautions, and other important details, which are available online at https://commencement.harvard.edu/ticket-information.Commencement Day Overview — May 24The Morning Exercises begin when the academic procession is seated in Tercentenary Theatre. Three student orators deliver addresses, and the dean of each School introduces the candidates for their respective degrees, which the president then confers. Toward the conclusion of the ceremony the graduating seniors are asked to rise, and their degrees are conferred on them as a group by the president. Honorary Degrees are then conferred before the Exercises are adjourned.Diploma-granting ceremonies and luncheons: Graduates and their guests return to their respective undergraduate Houses or graduate and professional Schools. Harvard and Radcliffe College alumni/ae who have celebrated their 50th Reunion are invited to join the Tree Spread luncheon, while all other alumni may pre-purchase tickets for boxed lunches at the Alumni Spread in Harvard Yard.The Afternoon Program features an address by Harvard President Drew Faust and the Commencement speaker. Officially called the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, this program includes the Overseer and HAA director election results, presentations of the Harvard Medal, and remarks by the HAA president.last_img read more

Fighting flora with fauna

first_img Researchers: Deeper understanding of the peacock spider’s anti-reflective black surface may yield new applications Related Tree in Harvard Forest outfitted with sensors, cameras, and other digital equipment sends out on-the-ground coverage A red oak live tweets climate change This is not the Arboretum’s first use of biological controls to keep its living collections safe and thriving. In 2015, in collaboration with Joseph Elkinton, professor of environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, it introduced a parasitic fly Cynzenis albicansto help control the burgeoning and destructive winter moth population, which at one point was defoliating large sections of the Arboretum “making it look like winter in May,” Gapinski said.“Through partnership with Dr. Elkinton, winter moth is now a non-issue for us, and we have eliminated the need for chemical controls to keep the pest in check,” he said. A product idea with legs The Greeks knew it takes a thief to catch a thief. Today, taking a page from the ancients, scientists at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University are using one foreigner to combat another, but in this case it’s fauna against flora.The target: swallow-wort, or Vincetoxicum nigrum or V. rossicum, a weed that is no stranger (or friend) to city gardeners or country strollers. Cambridge, in fact, distributes flyers asking residents to yank the seed pods when they see them; in woodsier suburbs, whole trees can be swamped with the climber.Exuding toxins, smothering neighbors, and chemically tricking monarch butterflies into laying their eggs on leaves that kill the larvae, swallow-wort is a threat to biodiversity, and on a quest for domination. The foul-smelling, finely-rooted weed resists conventional controls such as pulling, mowing, and herbicides, so this summer, the Arboretum partnered with the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) Biocontrol Laboratory to become a release site for the defoliating moth Hypena opulenta, a species native to Ukraine whose larvae eat swallow-wort leaves. The three-year project will gather data showing whether the moth could serve as an effective biocontrol agent against the rapidly spreading, highly adaptable Vincetoxicum.The alien invader’s threat to native insect and plant communities is so great that in 2005, URI researchers began investigating biocontrol options to conserve local ecosystems and the animals and insects that rely on them for survival. Biocontrol, when carefully and scientifically vetted, is a safe and effective alternative to pesticides, using living organisms or “natural predators” to reduce pest populations and invasive plants.Richard Casagrande, the entomology professor emeritus who initiated the URI biocontrol program, said host relationships that developed over millennia mean that many insects rely on specific organisms for their development.“Biocontrol specialists seek out these host-specific insect parasitoids, often wasps and flies, for controlling insect pests and weeds that are outside of their native range,” he said. “Centuries of experiences have shown these relationships to be stable in the new, introduced environments.”Hypena opulenta was shown to be a safe and potentially effective biocontrol agent against swallow-wort by several seasons of field surveys and preliminary testing in Europe, the native habitat or both moth and weed, followed by studies at URI’s Biocontrol Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved quarantine facility.“A plant like the swallow-wort is introduced into North America, but it doesn’t have a native insect to feed on it, so we have to go back to its place of origin to find, research, and potentially introduce the natural enemy to its host plant, while ensuring safety to the surrounding ecosystem,” said Lisa Tewksbury, a Biocontrol Lab manager who has worked on the project since its inception.,Biocontrol is carefully regulated in the U.S., Tewksbury said. Canada conducted the first North American field releases of Hypena opulenta in 2013, but the approval process in the U.S. is more extensive, and it took URI researchers another four years to get USDA approval to release the moth in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 2017.“Classical biological control is effective and a safe long-term management plan when the appropriate testing is done,” Tewksbury said. “The research on Hypena host-range testing in our lab took six years. We saw no larval development to the pupal stage on any of the 80 plant species we tested.”Casagrande said years or even decades of investigation are required before the USDA is petitioned to approve release of a biological agent. Only if the agency’s Technical Advisory Group for Biological Control Agents of Weeds (TAG), which includes scientists from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, issues a favorable review does the USDA submit the petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to native tribes, and finally for public review in the Federal Register.“There is concern about the safety of biocontrol, generally resulting from adverse impacts of accidental introductions,” said Casagrande. “Nobody is more concerned and careful than we are.”Hypena opulenta’s release at the Arboretum began at a remote location on Peters Hill. Tewksbury and URI research associate Lexi Johnson deployed a 6-foot-wide, 6-foot-tall mesh enclosure containing 37 adult male and female moths. A week later, they found eggs and newly hatched larvae, along with some leaf damage to the swallow-worts, an encouraging sign the moths were acclimating. Within several days, the number of larvae had increased, defoliating most of the swallow-worts inside the enclosure. Tewksbury and Johnson removed the cage and allowed the moths to fly freely, with the hope they will mate and lay new eggs on surrounding swallow-wort leaves.“The ideal scenario is that we are able to establish a population of this insect that is able to reproduce and spread into the areas that have swallow-wort,” Tewksbury said. “I don’t expect it to make the swallow-wort population disappear, but we do expect it to get permanently established, hopefully reducing the spread and impact of this pernicious weed.”,URI and Arboretum researchers will regularly monitor the release throughout the project. If this first release proves successful, Tewksbury said the Biocontrol Laboratory hopes to work with other states and agencies for additional releases.Andrew Gapinski, Arboretum head of horticulture, said this kind of partnership is by far the most effective tool to address the increasing environmental challenges that include novel pest and disease pressures, invasive weeds, and severe drought conditions.“Supporting and utilizing the latest scientific research — including biological controls — and partnering with outside experts is to the key to ensuring the future health of our plants and larger environment in a changing world,” he said.last_img read more

Congressional district COVID-19 dashboard launched

first_imgResearchers at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and the Center for Geographic Analysis at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science recently launched  a public dashboard for congressional representatives. The dashboard also includes constituents on key COVID-19 metrics for the congressional districts of the country, as identified by the 116th United States Congress.Nearly a year into the global pandemic, data on COVID-19 metrics for the United States congressional districts have not been readily available. Yet, having access to such data can substantially enhance the ability of elected officials and the constituents they represent to monitor and develop testing strategies, vaccine deployment strategies, and other measures to allow their districts to open safely.Nydia M. Velázquez, chairwoman of the Committee on Small Business and representative  of New York’s 7th congressional district, underscored the importance of having COVID-19 metrics by congressional districts.“This research from the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies provides critical insight not previously available into how this pandemic is impacting different congressional districts across the United States,” she said. “Because of this information, the House Small Business Committee can better examine the efficacy of federal programs in reaching the areas most impacted by this virus. Data like this is critical to policymakers as it improves our ability to legislate changes that ensure aid is going to those that need it most.”The Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) at IQSS works with researchers across Harvard and beyond its campus to strengthen University-wide geographic information systems (GIS) infrastructure and services; provide a common platform for the integration of spatial data from diverse sources and knowledge from multiple disciplines; enable scholarly research that would use, improve, or study geospatial analysis techniques; and improve the ability to teach GIS and geospatial data science at all levels across the University. To learn more about CGA, visit: gis.harvard.edu  Read Full Storylast_img read more