Processed meats come with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes

first_imgIn a new study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage, or processed deli meats, led to a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb.This work, which appears in today’s online edition of the journal Circulation, is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the worldwide evidence for how eating unprocessed red meat and processed meat relates to risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.“Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” said Renata Micha, a research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH and lead author of the study. “Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats.”The researchers, led by Micha and HSPH colleagues Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, and Sarah Wallace, junior research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology, systematically reviewed nearly 1,600 studies. Twenty relevant studies were identified, which included more than 1.2 million individuals from 10 countries on four continents (United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia).The researchers defined unprocessed red meat as any unprocessed meat from beef, lamb, or pork, excluding poultry. Processed meat was defined as any meatpreserved by smoking, curing, or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Examples include bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs, or processed deli or luncheon meats. Vegetable or seafood protein sources were not evaluated in these studies.The results showed that, on average, each 50 gram (1.8 ounce) daily serving of processed meat (about one to two slices of deli meats or one hot dog) was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. In contrast, eating unprocessed red meat was not associated with risk of developing heart disease or diabetes. Too few studies evaluated the relationship between eating meat and risk of stroke to enable the researchers to draw any conclusions.“Although cause-and-effect cannot be proven by these types of long-term observational studies, all of these studies adjusted for other risk factors, which may have been different between people who were eating more versus less meats,” said Mozaffarian. “Also, the lifestyle factors associated with eating unprocessed red meats and processed meats were similar, but only processed meats were linked to higher risk.”“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, four times more sodium and 50 percent more nitrate preservatives,” said Micha. “This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.”Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure, a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects which could increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.Given the differences in health risks seen with eating processed meats versus unprocessed red meats, these findings suggest that these types of meats should be studied separately in future research for health effects, including cancer, the authors said. For example, higher intake of total meat and processed meat has been associated with higher risk of colorectal cancer, but unprocessed red meat has not been separately evaluated. The authors also suggest that more research is needed into which factors (especially salt and other preservatives) in meats are most important for health effects.Current efforts to update the United States government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are often a reference for other countries around the world, make these findings particularly timely, the researchers say. They recommend that dietary and policy efforts should especially focus on reducing intake of processed meat.“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating. Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs, and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid,” said Micha. “Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.”last_img read more

Daily sugar-sweetened drink may increase heart disease risk in men

first_imgA new study led by HSPH researchers finds that drinking just one daily sugar-sweetened soda, juice drink, or energy drink may increase a man’s risk for heart disease by 20 percent. Researchers Lawrence de Koning and Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, analyzed data from nearly 43,000 men ages 40 to 75 followed for more than 22 years in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The risk for daily sugary beverage drinkers held up even after the researchers accounted for other indicators of unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking and not exercising, in addition to family history of heart disease.But the good news for soda drinkers is that they don’t have to give up their habit entirely. “We should treat soda as some kind of treat, not a regular event,” Hu told WebMD. “One or two a week, I don’t think that’s going to be a major problem.” Read Full Storylast_img read more

Dawn of a revolution

first_imgMicrosoft founder Bill Gates, who attended Harvard, returns to campus this weekend for a question-and-answer session as part of the launch of The Harvard Campaign. Below, author Walter Isaacson, who is writing a book about the great inventors of the digital age, recalls Gates’ formative years at Harvard.It may have been the most momentous purchase of a magazine in the history of the Out of Town News stand in Harvard Square. Paul Allen, a college dropout from Seattle, wandered into the cluttered kiosk one snowy day in December 1974 and saw that the new issue of Popular Electronics featured a home computer for hobbyists, called the Altair, that was just coming on the market. He was both exhilarated and dismayed. Although thrilled that the era of the “personal” computer seemed to have arrived, he was afraid that he was going to miss the party. Slapping down 75 cents, he grabbed the issue and trotted through the slush to the Currier House room of Bill Gates, a Harvard sophomore and fellow computer fanatic from Lakeside High School in Seattle, who had convinced Allen to drop out of college and move to Cambridge. “Hey, this thing is happening without us,” Allen declared. Gates began to rock back and forth, as he often did during moments of intensity. When he finished the article, he realized that Allen was right. For the next eight weeks, the two of them embarked on a frenzy of code writing that would change the nature of the computer business.What Gates and Allen set out to do, during the Christmas break of 1974 and the subsequent January reading period when Gates was supposed to be studying for exams, was to create the software for personal computers. “When Paul showed me that magazine, there was no such thing as a software industry,” Gates recalled. “We had the insight that you could create one. And we did.” Years later, reflecting on his innovations, he said, “That was the most important idea that I ever had.”In high school, Gates had formed the Lakeside Programming Group, which made money writing computer code for companies in the Pacific Northwest. As a senior, he applied only to three colleges — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton — and he took different approaches to each. “I was born to apply for college,” he said, fully aware of his ability to ace meritocratic processes. For Yale he cast himself as an aspiring political type and emphasized the month he had spent in Washington as a congressional page. For Princeton, he focused only on his desire to be a computer engineer. And for Harvard, he said his passion was math. He had also considered MIT, but at the last moment blew off the interview to play pinball. He was accepted to all three, and chose Harvard. “There are going to be some guys at Harvard who are smarter than you,” Allen warned him. Gates replied, “ ‘No way! No way!’ ”When he was asked to describe the types of roommates he preferred, Gates asked for an African American and an international student. He was assigned to Wigglesworth Hall with Sam Znaimer, a science geek from a family of poor Jewish refugees in Montreal, and Jim Jenkins, a black student from Chattanooga, Tenn. Znaimer, who had never known a privileged WASP before, found Gates friendly but weirdly fascinating. He marveled as Gates spent several nights filling out various federal and state tax forms for the revenues of his high school programming firm, and was astounded by the intensity of his study schedule. “His habit was to do 36 hours or more at a stretch, collapse for 10 hours, then go out, get a pizza, and go back at it,” he recalled. “And if that meant he was starting again at 3 in the morning, so be it.” When working hard, Gates would rock back and forth. Then he would grab Znaimer for a frenzy of playing Pong, the Atari video game, in the dorm lounge, or Spacewar!, a legendary game invented at MIT, on one of the mainframes in Harvard’s computer lab.After their freshman year, Bill Gates and Andy Braiterman, who was better at math than Gates, decided to room together. They were assigned to Currier House, which Gates loved. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff PhotographerThe lab was named after Harvard’s computer science pioneer Howard Aiken, who had invented an electromechanical computer known as the Mark I, which now sits in the lobby of the Science Center. The Aiken Lab housed one of Gates’s favorite machines: a PDP-10 from Digital Equipment Co. It had been destined for use in Vietnam but was reassigned to Harvard to assist military-funded research there. To avoid sparking an antiwar protest, it was smuggled into the lab early one Sunday morning in 1969. There were also a slew of PDP-1 computers on which to play Spacewar! For his freshman computer project, Gates linked the PDP-10 and a PDP-1 to create a video baseball game. “The logic was on the PDP-10, but I sent it down to the PDP-1 because I used the same display as Spacewar!, a line-drawing display which you don’t see anymore,” said Gates.Allen’s warning to Gates that he would not always be the smartest kid in class turned out to be true. There was a freshman who lived upstairs from him in Wigglesworth who was better at math, Andy Braiterman from Baltimore. They would wrestle with Math 55 problem sets all night in Braiterman’s room, eating pizza. “Bill was intense,” Braiterman remembered, both about math and poker. He was also “a good arguer.” Gates was particularly forceful in asserting that soon everyone would have a home computer that could be used for calling up books and other information. He and Braiterman decided to room together, and they were assigned to Currier House, which Gates loved.Gates decided to major in applied math rather than pure math. “I met several people in the math department who were quite a bit better than I was in math,” he said. “It changed my mind about going into math.” He was able to make a small mark on the field of applied math. In a class taught by computer scientist Harry Lewis, he was introduced to a classic problem:The chef in our place is sloppy, and when he prepares a stack of pancakes they come out all different sizes. Therefore, when I deliver them to a customer, on the way to the table I rearrange them (so that the smallest winds up on top, and so on, down to the largest at the bottom) by grabbing several from the top and flipping them over, repeating this (varying the number I flip) as many times as necessary. If there are n pancakes, what is the maximum number of flips (as a function f(n) of n) that I will ever have to use to rearrange them?The answer required coming up with a good algorithm, just as any computer program did. “I posed it in class, and then I went on,” Lewis recalled. “And a day or two later, this smart sophomore comes into my office and explains that he’s got a five-thirds N algorithm.” In other words, Gates had figured out a way to do it with five-thirds flips per the number of pancakes in the stack. “It involved a complicated case analysis of what exactly the configuration of the top few pancakes might look like,” Lewis recalled. “It was quite clever.” A teaching assistant in the class, Christos Papadimitriou, later published the solution in a scholarly paper co-authored with Gates.Gates developed a rebellious academic pattern: He would not go to the lectures for any course in which he was enrolled, but he would audit classes that he was not taking. He followed this rule carefully. “By my sophomore year, I was auditing classes that met at the same time as my actual classes just to make sure I’d never make a mistake,” he recalled. “So I was this complete rejectionist.”He also took up poker with a vengeance. The games would last all night in one of the common rooms of Currier House, which became known as the Poker Room. His game of choice was Seven Card Stud, high low. A thousand dollars or more could be won or lost per night. Gates was better at assessing the cards than in reading the thoughts of his fellow players. “Bill had a monomaniacal quality,” Braiterman said. “He would focus on something and really stick with it.” At one point he gave Paul Allen his checkbook to try to stop himself from squandering more money, but he soon demanded it back. “He was getting some costly lessons in bluffing,” said Allen. “He’d win $300 one night and lose $600 the next. As Bill dropped thousands that fall, he kept telling me, ‘I’m getting better.’ ”In a graduate-level Economics 2010 class taught by Michael Spence, Gates met a student who lived down the hall from him at Currier House. Steve Ballmer was very different from Gates on the surface. He was big, boisterous, and gregarious, the type of campus enthusiast who seemed to join or lead every organization. He was in the Hasty Pudding Club, the manager of the football team, the publisher of the Advocate, and the advertising manager of the Crimson. What bound the two was their shared super-intensity. They would talk and argue and study together at high volume, each of them rocking back and forth. Then they would go see movies together. “We went and saw ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ which are only connected by the use of a common song,” said Gates. “And then we got to be super-good friends.”Such was Gates’s life at Harvard when it was suddenly changed, halfway through his sophomore year, by Allen’s arrival at his Currier House room with his newly purchased copy of Popular Electronics featuring the Altair on the cover. Allen’s rallying cry — “Hey, this thing is happening without us” — jolted Gates into action.Gates and Allen set out to write some software that would make it possible for hobbyists to create their own programs on the Altair. Specifically, they decided to write an interpreter for the programming language known as BASIC that would run on the Altair’s Intel 8080 microprocessor. It would become the first commercial native high-level programming language for a microprocessor. In other words, it would launch the personal computer software industry.They wrote a letter to MITS, the fledgling Albuquerque company that made the Altair, claiming that they had created a BASIC language interpreter that could run on the 8080. “We are interested in selling copies of this software to hobbyists through you.” In reality, they did not yet have any software. But they knew they could scramble and write it if MITS expressed interest.When they did not hear back, they decided to call. Gates suggested that Allen place the call, because he was older. “No, you should do it; you’re better at this kind of thing,” Allen argued. They came up with a compromise: Gates would call, disguising his squeaky voice, but he would use the name Paul Allen, because they knew it would be Allen who would fly out to Albuquerque if they got lucky. “I had my beard going and at least looked like an adult, while Bill still could pass for a high school sophomore,” recalled Allen.When the founder of MITS, Ed Roberts, answered the phone, Gates put on a deep voice and said, “This is Paul Allen in Boston. We’ve got a BASIC for the Altair that’s just about finished, and we’d like to come out and show it to you.” Roberts replied that he had gotten many such calls. The first person to walk through his door in Albuquerque with a working BASIC would get the contract. Gates turned to Allen and exulted, “God, we gotta get going on this!’”Because they did not have an Altair to work on, Allen had to emulate one on the PDP-10 mainframe at the Aiken Lab. So they bought a manual for the 8080 microprocessor and within weeks Allen had the simulator and other development tools ready.Meanwhile, Gates was furiously writing the BASIC interpreter code on yellow legal pads. “I can still see him alternately pacing and rocking for long periods before jotting on a yellow legal pad, his fingers stained from a rainbow of felt-tip pens,” Allen recalled. “Once my simulator was in place and he was able to use the PDP-10, Bill moved to a terminal and peered at his legal pad as he rocked. Then he’d type a flurry of code with those strange hand positions of his, and repeat. He could go like that for hours at a stretch.”One night they were having dinner at Currier House, sitting at the table with the other math geeks, and they began complaining about facing the tedious task of writing the floating-point math routines, which would give the program the ability to deal with both very small and very large numbers in scientific notation. A curly-haired kid from Milwaukee named Monte Davidoff piped up, “I’ve written those types of routines.” It was the benefit of being at Harvard. Gates and Allen began peppering him with questions about his capacity to handle floating-point code. Satisfied they knew what he was talking about, they brought him to Gates’s room and negotiated a fee of $400 for his work. He became the third member of the team, and would eventually earn a lot more.Gates ignored the exam cramming he was supposed to be doing and even stopped playing poker. For eight weeks, he, Allen, and Davidoff holed up day and night at the Aiken lab making history. Occasionally they would break for dinner at Harvard House of Pizza or at Aku Aku, an ersatz Polynesian restaurant. In the wee hours of the morning, Gates would sometimes fall asleep at the terminal. “He’d be in the middle of a line of code when he’d gradually tilt forward until his nose touched the keyboard,” Allen said. “After dozing an hour or two, he’d open his eyes, squint at the screen, blink twice, and resume precisely where he’d left off — a prodigious feat of concentration.”They would scribble away at their notepads, competing to see who could execute a subroutine in the fewest lines. “I can do it in nine,” one would shout. Another would shoot back, “Well, I can do it in five!” As Allen noted, “We knew that each byte saved would leave that much more room for users to add to their applications.” The goal was to get the program into less than the 4K of memory that an enhanced Altair would have, so there would be a little room left over for the consumer to use. (A 16GB smartphone has four million times that memory.) At night they would fan out the printouts onto the floor and search for ways to make it more elegant and compact. By late February 1975, after eight weeks of intense coding, they got it down, brilliantly, into 3.2K. “It wasn’t a question of whether I could write the program, but rather a question of whether I could squeeze it into under 4K and make it super fast,” said Gates. “It was the coolest program I ever wrote.” Gates checked it for errors one last time, then commanded the Aiken lab’s PDP-10 to spew out a punch-tape of it so Allen could take it down to Albuquerque.When Allen arrived at MITS, he toggled the switches on the Altair and then waited 10 minutes for the tape reader to load in the code. Ed Roberts and his colleagues exchanged amused glances, already suspecting that the show would be a fiasco. But then the Teletype clacked to life. “MEMORY SIZE?” it asked. “Hey, it typed something!” shouted one of the MITS team. Allen was happily flabbergasted. He typed in the answer: 7168. The Altair responded: “OK.” Allen typed in: “PRINT 2+2”. It was the simplest of all questions, but it would test not only Gates’s coding but also Davidoff’s floating-point math routines. The Altair responded: “4.”Up until then, Roberts had been watching quietly. He had taken his failing company further into debt on the wild surmise that he could create a computer that a home hobbyist could use and afford. Now he was watching as history was made. For the first time, a software program had run on a commercially viable home computer. “Oh my God,” he shouted. “It printed ‘4’!”Rogers invited Allen into his office and agreed to license the BASIC interpreter for inclusion on all Altair machines. “I couldn’t stop grinning,” Allen recalled. As soon as he got back to his hotel, Allen called Gates at Harvard. They were officially in business. When Allen arrived back in Cambridge, bringing with him a working Altair to install in Gates’s Currier House room, they went out to celebrate. Gates had his usual, a Shirley Temple: ginger ale with maraschino cherry juice.A month later, Roberts offered Allen a fulltime job at MITS as director of software. Gates decided to stay at Harvard, at least for the time being. There he endured what has become a rite of passage, amusing only in retrospect, for many of Harvard’s most successful students: being hauled before the dreaded and then-secretive Administrative Board for a disciplinary process, known as being “Ad Boarded.” Gates’s case arose when auditors from the Defense Department decided to check the use of the PDP-10 that it was funding in Harvard’s Aiken lab. They discovered that one sophomore — W.H. Gates — was using most of the time. After much fretting, Gates prepared a paper defending himself and describing how he had created a version of BASIC using the PDP-10 as a simulator. He ended up being exonerated for his use of the machine, but he was “admonished” for allowing a non-student, Allen, to log on with his password. He accepted that minor reprimand and agreed to put his early version of the BASIC interpreter (but not the refined one he and Allen were by then working on) into the public domain.By that time, Gates was focusing more on his software partnership with Allen than his coursework at Harvard. He finished his sophomore year that spring of 1975, but then flew down to Albuquerque for the summer and decided to stay there rather than returning for the first semester of his junior year that fall. He went back to Harvard for two more semesters, in the spring and fall of 1976, but then left Harvard for good, two semesters shy of graduating. In June 2007, when he returned to Harvard to get an honorary degree, he began his speech by directing a comment to his father in the audience. “I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to say this: Dad, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.”Walter Isaacson has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin. He is a Harvard Overseer.last_img read more

Getting to the dark heart of ‘Conspiracy’

first_imgIn 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi officers and German bureaucrats gathered in a villa in a lakeside suburb of Berlin for a secret meeting to discuss the extermination of every Jew in Europe.In 1997, Emmy Award-winning writer Loring Mandel began to craft a screenplay based on the only known surviving record of the Wannsee Conference, where momentum built behind the Final Solution. His work eventually became the 2001 HBO movie “Conspiracy,” starring Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci.In 2012, Caleb Thompson ’14 traveled to New York for an afternoon meeting with Mandel and his agent at the Museum of Modern Art to talk about bringing a version of Mandel’s theatrical adaptation of the screenplay to Harvard.This weekend, “Conspiracy,” a Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) production, premieres at the Loeb Mainstage at the American Repertory Theater. Thompson is the play’s director.The story has been brought to the stage only once before, in an amateur production in East Lansing, Mich. The film is theatrical in that it presents the conference in real time. Thompson, whose first encounter with the film, as a teen, coincided with a budding interest in the stage, expanded on this notion. The movie, he said, was “remarkable … with a complete unity of time and place.” Also, “I think it offers a portrait of human evil unanticipated by any other work or moment in history. The Wannsee Conference represents a certain human instinct or view of the universe taken to its absolute extreme. In my hubris, I thought this could make quite a good play.”Lunch in New York led to a series of email exchanges, conversations, script tinkering, and a recent visit to Harvard by Mandel, who sat in on a rehearsal and met with the cast and crew.Mandel, 85, penned the stage version with an eye toward using the play as a teaching tool and conversation-starter in schools, churches, and synagogues. “At our first meeting [Caleb] asked if I was adamant about making no changes,” recalled Mandel. “I told him that I was always interested in improving it, if there is a way to improve it.”Throughout rehearsals, the two worked closely to fine-tune the script. While the changes amounted mostly to slight tweaks and adjustments, Mandel also worked through a substantive revision of the end of one crucial scene.“Loring took the script away, emailed me three or four days later and said ‘How about this?’ ” said Thompson. “It totally solved the problem. It’s fantastic. It’s an indication of his generosity of spirit that he has been happy to rewrite parts of his script.”Beyond being a boon for the cast and crew, Mandel’s engagement has shown how near the project is to his heart, said Thompson.“At Harvard we do get opportunities to work with professionals, but it’s very rare that we get to work with a professional who, I think, is so invested in the project. He is invested in this being a success.”Mandel was introduced to the idea for “Conspiracy” in the 1990s by his friend Frank Pierson, a screenwriter-director whose writing credits included cinema classics “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Cool Hand Luke.” (Pierson died in 2012.)“I had never heard of the Wannsee Conference,” said Mandel. But when Pierson told him it was the first thing he had encountered about the Holocaust that angered him rather than making him want to cry, Mandel grew interested. After researching the conference, he signed on to the project as screenwriter, with Pierson set to direct.Although the pair wanted to make the film as realistic as possible, confining the action to the conference alone, they fretted that 15 men talking at a table might flop in a culture accustomed to “physical action, explosions, and violent confrontations.”They had no need to worry. “Conspiracy” was critically acclaimed and won several awards, including Emmys for best actor (Branagh) and writing (Mandel).Thompson has stayed true to the movie’s sparse model for the stage. The 80-minute play takes place in one room. Though he forbade his cast members from watching the film, he helped them research in detail the inner workings of the Third Reich and the lives of their characters. He also relied on Mandel, who used his visit to offer the actors insight on the motivations and complex relationships of the various characters.Difficult material is nothing new for the young director. He staged his first play — David Mamet’s charged “Glengarry Glen Ross” — in high school. At Harvard, Thompson has directed plays such as the 17th-century Spanish drama “Life is a Dream” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which explores themes of free will and fate, and “Talk Radio,” a play by Eric Bogosian about a truculent radio host.But directing “Conspiracy” at Harvard, from which so many of tomorrow’s leaders have and are setting out, had special relevance, he said.While people of his generation tend to associate racial hatred with ignorance, he said, “Conspiracy” makes the point that “the greatest crime in human history was perpetrated by 15 intelligent, educated, enlightened, sophisticated, witty, urbane, idealistic young men.“The guys sitting at that table thought they were the most progressive society in the world. They thought that they were creating a sort of racial utopia … [‘Conspiracy’] is a kind of reminder that we always have to temper of our intellectual advancement with a moral awareness.”As for the actors, connecting to their characters has sometimes proved daunting. Portraying profound evil is no easy task. “It’s extremely challenging. If you are to play a part properly or convincingly, some tiny part of you has to empathize,” said Thompson.Senior Adam Conner, whose roles with HRDC have run from hilarious to heart-rending, said that while he welcomed the challenge of playing Holocaust “architect” Reinhard Heydrich, he also feared his emotions might get in the way.Conner credited Thompson’s deft direction with getting the most from his cast.“The improvement in my performance — solely a result of Caleb’s input and direction — has put me in a place I know I would never have gotten with this character by myself.”“Conspiracy,” supported by Harvard’s Office for the Arts, opens Friday at 8 p.m. at the Loeb Drama Center, with performances to run through Nov. 17 and then Nov. 21 through Nov. 23. This Saturday, Loring Mandel will take part in a discussion following the show.last_img read more

A character fit for a novel

first_imgThanks to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Oscar-winning film “Schindler’s List,” many know the story of Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved hundreds of Polish Jews during World War II by employing them in his factories.Thanks to the work of Radcliffe Fellow Julie Orringer, many readers will soon be familiar with a lesser-known, somewhat unlikely wartime hero. Varian Fry was an American journalist and Harvard graduate who helped saved more than 2,000 artists and anti-Nazi activists by way of a daring rescue network in occupied France.For 13 months from 1940 to 1941, Fry, based in Marseilles, forged papers and planned escape routes for a list of people that reads like a Who’s Who of Europe’s cultural elite. It includes Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, and Max Ernst.“It surprised me all the more reading that list that I had never heard of Fry,” said Orringer on a recent rainy morning in her office at Byerly Hall. On a wall next to her desk, haunting black-and-white photos of Arendt, Chagall, Ernst, and André Breton serve as vivid reminders of Fry’s work. Orringer is writing a novel based on his life during her fellowship year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.An alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Orringer initially considered herself content with writing stories — her collection “How to Breathe Underwater” was published in 2005. But an emotional conversation several years ago changed everything. After her grandfather described how he had been conscripted into the Hungarian army as a Jew in 1939, Orringer set out to tell his story with her debut novel. It was while researching that 2010 work, “The Invisible Bridge,” that she encountered Fry.Orringer had come across an article in the Franco-German armistice known as the “surrender on demand” clause, a mandate that required the French state to turn over German nationals on French soil to German officials.“When I did a Google search for ‘surrender on demand,’ up came an autobiography of the same title by this gentleman I’d never heard of.”The more Orringer learned about Fry, the more her curiosity grew. Fry’s memoir raised even more questions. When she tracked down the book’s original introduction she found it “indignant and impassioned” compared with the version that appeared in print. Fry’s editors, she later discovered, worried the public would react badly to reading about “the horrible things that were happening in Europe at the time.”“I came to understand pretty quickly that there was a lot that Fry couldn’t reveal about his own experience when his book was published in 1945. … The style in which it’s written is very guarded. It’s theatrical in a way,” said Orringer. “He speaks as if he were writing a spy movie about himself. I was wondering who this person was behind this artifice.”Orringer soon discovered that Fry, who graduated from Harvard in 1930, was just as guarded with many of his friends and collaborators. “A novelist immediately begins to pay attention when somebody talks about obsessive secret-keeping. I wanted to know what his secrets were.”A window into some of those secrets has opened for Orringer at Harvard. While at Radcliffe she has delved into Harvard’s archives, poring over Fry’s student file to learn more about his College years.A keen intelligence and rebellious spirit punctuated Fry’s time in Cambridge. When the literary journal The Harvard Advocate refused their work, Fry and classmate Lincoln Kirstein founded their own quarterly, The Hound & Horn. Fry’s intellect was matched by his love of mischief. He was fond of parties and drinking, said Orringer, and was eventually suspended for placing a “For Sale” sign on the lawn at the home of the Harvard College dean.Included in the archives are letters Fry’s father and the administration exchanged over the young man’s bad behavior, as well as pleas from some of the professors who supported his reinstatement.“There’s a wealth of material here that I could find nowhere else in the world,” said Orringer, “and that’s in addition to the amazing information that’s available through the Harvard libraries.”Two Harvard undergraduates are helping Orringer with her research, developing a detailed timeline of Fry’s stay in France and compiling information on the writers and artists he aided.Why a novel when nonfiction works about Fry’s life, as well as a 2001 TV movie — “Varian’s War” with William Hurt in the lead — are readily available? Orringer insists that fiction offers a chance at a more psychologically layered portrait.“In a novel we can proceed from a kind of inner perspective that allows the reader the most intimate access to the forces that drive us, and that make us afraid, and that animate us, to the kind of amazing work that Fry ended up doing.”Orringer’s own life has followed something of a twisting path shaped by her passion. The daughter of two doctors, she was in her sophomore year at Cornell on a pre-med track when she met “living, working writers” during a series of creative writing workshops. Though she had crafted plays as a schoolgirl and won numerous writing contests, Orringer had never considered writing “something you could study or do professionally” until that moment.When she called her parents to tell them she wanted to become a writer, she held her breath.“I assumed they were going to be horrified … after a long silence they both began to laugh and they said, ‘We wondered how long it was going to take for you to figure that out.’”Julie Orringer will deliver this year’s Julia S. Phelps Annual Lecture in the Arts and Humanities at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Radcliffe’s Knafel Center.last_img read more

Tackling climate change through law, policy

first_imgSince it was founded in 2006 by Professor Jody Freeman, LL.M. ’91, S.J.D. ’95, Harvard Law School’s (HLS) Environmental Law and Policy Program (ELP) has become the leader in its field, with renowned faculty, innovative courses, a lauded clinical program that gives students hands-on training in real cases, and the program’s new Policy Initiative, which provides nonpartisan legal analysis and policy advice to federal and state agencies. In the spirit of Harvard President Drew Faust’s recent focus on addressing the problem of climate change, HLS interviewed Freeman, who served in the Obama administration as counselor for energy and climate change and is co-author of a forthcoming book on global climate change and U.S. law. In a question-and-answer session, she discussed the range of ways in which HLS scholars and students are engaged in confronting climate change.HLS: Your course on energy and climate law and policy is widely viewed as innovative. Why?FREEMAN: Climate change is usually taught separately from energy law when, in fact, they have everything to do with each other. My class is a unique, interdisciplinary course covering the full gamut of topics: electricity sector regulation, natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy, oil and gas regulation offshore and onshore, transportation sector policies, energy security, and hot topics such as the North American boom in “unconventionals,” the Keystone XL pipeline, and geo-engineering. We’ve had some terrific guests, including the assistant secretary of defense for operational energy, the assistant secretary of energy for policy and international affairs, and the minority staff director to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, among others, who really make these issues come alive. The class poses the question: Is it possible to have a coherent energy policy and climate policy at the same time? Students from all over campus and MIT join our HLS students, making for a wonderful mix of perspectives.HLS: HLS Professor Richard J. Lazarus ’79, a leading authority on the Supreme Court and environmental law, who served as executive director of President Obama’s commission investigating the BP oil spill, plays a leading role in the ELP. His course on advanced environmental law, which covers climate change, among other topics, is hugely popular. Why?FREEMAN: Well, first, he is a phenomenally talented teacher. In addition, as someone who has argued 13 cases in the Supreme Court and provided counsel in dozens more, he offers a unique inside perspective to our students. As part of his course this spring, two dozen students studied a climate-change case pending before the court, which involves a challenge to the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations. They spent weeks analyzing the case record and briefs, then attended the oral arguments, and afterward met with Chief Justice John Roberts ’79 and Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. This kind of deep dive into leading climate litigation, coupled with exposure to the key players, is really special and gives students a much better understanding of the complex issues.HLS: How else is Professor Lazarus involved in the issue of climate change?FREEMAN: Richard serves on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund, where he also chairs its litigation-review committee, which oversees all proposals for engaging in litigation, including on climate change. So he plays a key role by advising stakeholders involved in the climate debate on which challenges make the most strategic legal and political sense. Closer to home, he also served on President Faust’s greenhouse gas review task force this year, which undertook a comprehensive review of the University’s existing programs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, he speaks and publishes widely on climate change, including a major article in the Cornell Law Review on how climate change is a “super wicked” problem because of its remote impacts, which calls for creative legal strategies. In January, he delivered a keynote address at a high-level conference of industry and government attorneys sponsored by the Edison Electric Institute and the Environmental Law Institute on pending Supreme Court climate-change litigation. And he recently published an article in the Harvard Law Review Forum on the ability of the president of the United States to address the adverse risks of climate change through executive action, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.HLS: Harvard Law students also have the benefit of [Robert Walmsley University Professor] Cass Sunstein’s presence at HLS. Can you speak to his contribution?FREEMAN: Cass is a formidable scholar and public intellectual, and students not just at HLS but from all over campus are very keen to work with him. Cass has done important work on climate change, which has long been a significant part of his broader interest in regulation and behavioral law and economics. When he served in the Obama administration as director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass oversaw the cost-benefit process for many major energy-efficiency rules that have a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He also spearheaded the interagency process that for the first time established a government-wide social cost of carbon, which will be factored into the cost-benefit analysis for proposed regulations. That was a significant feat.HLS: What are some of the more innovative projects on climate change that students are working on now?FREEMAN: The practical, hands-on work our students get to do on issues related to climate change is really unparalleled. Led by Wendy B. Jacobs ’81 [clinical professor of law and director of the ELP’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic] and supported by our two terrific staff attorneys, clinical instructor Shaun Goho and Aladdine Joroff, our clinical students have for several years advised the city of Boston about options for preparing to manage the impact of climate change, and last year drafted regulations to implement one of the city’s climate-change mitigation measures, the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. In 2012, the clinic advised a major national environmental group on reducing methane emissions from a natural-gas fracking operation in the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota. This year, the clinic filed an amicus brief in the same U.S. Supreme Court climate-change case that Richard Lazarus and his students attended for oral argument, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, which involved challenges to the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. The clinic’s brief, which argued that greenhouse gas permitting has not resulted in excessive delays or costs for regulated industries, even received a shout-out from the U.S. Solicitor General during oral argument. What’s notable here is the diversity of the projects we take on, and the variety of tools the students learn to use to address climate change.HLS: Are there other notable clinical projects related to climate change?FREEMAN: Last summer, the clinic released a report, “Beyond the 2020 Plan: A Review of the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan,” which presents a dozen concrete suggestions to help Massachusetts achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. A couple of years ago, the clinic produced a comprehensive white paper and developed model legislation to facilitate the use of carbon capture and sequestration as an interim measure for mitigating climate change. And it convened several workshops on the topic in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., which were very well received by policymakers. The clinic also has been working with the Harvard Forest to examine the forest’s opportunities to generate and possibly sell carbon offsets based on the carbon sequestered in the forest’s trees and other biomass. It is working now on a project to study the legal constraints on the structure of micro-grids in Massachusetts, which are small systems for generating and distributing electricity, heat, and cooling among a network of users in a geographically defined area. For several years, the clinic has represented a group of general contractors who specialize in renewable energy projects but were being blocked from installing solar power by a state licensing board. Again, this is just a subset of the full slate of projects on climate mitigation or adaptation that the clinic has taken on. Wendy Jacobs has done a magnificent job building the best environmental-law clinic in the country, and climate is a big part of the docket.HLS: What climate-change projects are underway at the ELP’s new policy initiative?FREEMAN: The policy initiative, launched just this year by Kate Konschnik, has already published an influential white paper on how the EPA might design its upcoming power-plant rule (which is the key initiative in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan) to promote energy efficiency and ease compliance for states. The paper’s legal and policy arguments are fresh and innovative, and the reception by the EPA and industry stakeholders alike has been very positive. As a result, at least a dozen states have asked Kate to advise them on how they might build energy-efficiency programs into their plans for complying with the new regulation.It’s exciting that two students are doing spinoff research from this paper. Kate, who formerly served as environmental counsel to Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse, has also involved students in a significant fracking project, in which they have engaged with the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the oil and gas industry on how to improve the DOI’s rules on drilling and chemical disclosure. And Kate and her Energy Fellow, Ari Peskoe, have also launched a project on renewable energy, consulting with states on how to ensure their clean-energy programs are not vulnerable to constitutional challenge. Just recently, part of Minnesota’s clean-energy law was invalidated by a federal court on dormant commerce-clause grounds, so this issue is very important and timely. As part of this effort, HLS has just rolled out the State Power Project website, which will track the constitutional challenges to state renewable portfolios, carbon offsets, and other clean-energy programs.HLS: Tell us about your new book, which has drawn advance praise for its expert and innovative approach to this critically important topic.FREEMAN: “Global Climate Change and U.S. Law,” which I produced with my colleague at Columbia Law School, Michael Gerrard, will be published next month by the American Bar Association. We intend it to be the most authoritative and comprehensive guide to the broad variety of statutes and regulations that currently address climate change in the U.S. The message of the book is that even though Congress has not passed climate legislation, there is a tremendous amount of legal and regulatory innovation going on at all levels of government, including initiatives aimed at both mitigation and adaptation. Wendy Jacobs wrote the chapter on carbon capture and sequestration, and Kate Konschnik wrote the concluding chapter with me, on the future prospects of climate change legislation in Congress. We hope this will be the go-to resource for policymakers and practitioners who want to understand the legal state of play.HLS: Since leaving the White House, have you managed to continue being involved in the national conversation on climate change?FREEMAN: Since leaving government, I have continued to advise the Obama administration and Congress on climate policy whenever I can be useful. I’ve also continued to speak and write on energy and climate issues, whether on The New York Times op-ed page or through books and articles. In the fall, I gave the keynote address on U.S. climate policy at Northwestern University’s Searle Center Conference on Energy and Federalism. My new article “Old Statutes, New Problems” (co-authored with Dave Spence), which will be published later this year in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, focuses on how agencies are now setting the direction of climate and energy policy during a time of congressional dysfunction. The article shows how agencies are strategically adapting the statutes on the books, which requires them to manage significant legal and political risk.HLS: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Working Group reports, which have been issued recently and have gotten a lot of attention, say the risks will only get more expensive the longer we wait to get a handle on this. Do you believe we will ever be able to solve this problem or at least manage it enough, the way we were able to arrest the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer?FREEMAN: This challenge is monumentally tougher than ozone depletion because it involves shifting the way we use energy, and the world’s energy systems do not turn on a dime. Also, greenhouse gases are stock pollutants that live a very long time in the atmosphere, which means that even if we stopped emitting them today, some climate change would already be locked in because of past emissions. So we will need to invest in adaption no matter what. But in terms of mitigating the most severe risks, which scientists have very clearly described in these reports, there is still time. We have a window in which to get moving, but the message of the U.N. reports is that we need to act now to start bending the curve of emissions down, toward stabilization. We cannot lose another decade. It’s not beyond our grasp. We have the technology to increase energy efficiency, to substitute natural gas for coal in the electric sector, to increase the supply of renewables like solar and wind, and to make progress on moving to cleaner fuels in the transportation sector. It’s very hard to do this, though, while it remains free to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. So priority No. 1 is putting a price on carbon. And the U.S. cannot do this alone. So we need to work toward an international agreement under which all nations with significant emissions, both developed countries and emerging economies, commit to meet tough targets and follow through. Ultimately, we pay a small amount now, or we pay hugely later. It’s really that simple. The politics of this are challenging, but I am optimistic that bottom-up pressure will continue to build, especially as the consequences come more clearly into view, and policymakers will be moved to act. I see it as an opportunity, actually, for the U.S. to lead a new era of clean energy innovation.This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To read the full interview, visit the Harvard Law School website.last_img read more

A wellspring of hope

first_img The local economy of Pinalito in the Domican Republic is based on agriculture. Community leader Luis Ciprian grows potatoes in this field. Photos courtesy of Christopher Lombardo/SEAS Ramos later examined a broken tap stand to be replaced. Crossing borders with water Christopher Lombardo (left) and William Jameson ’16 tested the flow rate from one of the newly installed tap stands. Harvard student Manuel Ramos ’15 and Luis Ciprian discussed construction plans.center_img The relief in Pinalito is palpable. The water is clean again.For the past 2½ years, students in the Harvard University chapter of Engineers Without Borders have been rehabilitating and improving a potable water system in the rural town in the Dominican Republic. After the most recent visit, the students returned to campus in late August having successfully worked with the community to upgrade the water quality and distribution system.“The residents now have a clean source of water, something they haven’t had for five or more years,” said the group’s adviser, Christopher Lombardo, assistant director for undergraduate studies in engineering sciences at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “The well that was built by a government contractor had failed; it had been improperly installed and was clogged with clay. The new, productive, and clean water well can produce 27 gallons a minute.”When the Harvard team first arrived, the community was skeptical. By working with translators and speaking with people who lived there, the students built the trust needed to move the project forward in the most beneficial way for the town.“From the beginning, we designed a system with the community,” said Leah Gaffney ’15, the Harvard chapter president, who had visited on two of the five earlier excursions. The new water main provides a more reliable supply of water to the village. “We walked around with community members and talked about water sources and options. We did an extensive analysis of options: Should we dig a new well or pipe water from the existing spring? We acted as consultants to determine the best way to go forward,” said Gaffney, who studies biomedical engineering at SEAS.Indeed, community-driven development programs comprise the heart of the mission of Engineers Without Borders-USA, a humanitarian organization working worldwide to design and build sustainable engineering projects in full partnership with host communities. SEAS, for its part, encourages students to take advantage of such opportunities abroad.“We want our students to be aware that although we’re teaching them engineering in Cambridge, there are many other perspectives they’ll need to consider when they go further afield — and they won’t always have access to a state-of-the-art lab,” said Fawwaz Habbal, executive dean for education and research at SEAS. “The role of an engineer is to help solve problems, to improve life. But it’s only by listening and engaging with the stakeholders that a sustainable solution can take root.”After each field research visit, the student team returned to Harvard and consulted with engineering faculty and staff in the SEAS Teaching Labs, as well as other professionals in the Engineers Without Borders network. A technical advisory committee reviewed all of the visitors’ work.“We also worked on education,” said Gaffney, explaining that she and her fellow students visited local schools and talked with children about water purification and the importance of good sanitation.“I’m most proud of the relationships we have fostered in the community, and the mutual pride in the project,” she said.Located in a mountainous region in central Dominican Republic, Pinalito’s modest houses are made of tin, wood, and concrete. The homes perch on a hillside that slopes down to a river.The students knew going in that poor water quality is linked to gastrointestinal illness and larger public health concerns.“A critical part of the project was to pipe water into people’s homes. Before that, they were taking buckets down to the river and carrying water back up,” said Tunde Demuren ’15, a mechanical engineering concentrator and project leader who made four trips to the area.The team’s largest design improvement involved changing the site of the well.“It made sense to drill a well on the opposite side of the river where there are the highest density of houses,” said Lombardo.After consulting with the community, it was agreed that the well and pipes would be located on property owned by a community leader, Luis Ciprian, primarily because he had paperwork to show ownership of the land.William Jameson ’16, an electrical engineering concentrator and project leader, had designed wiring for the electrical pump systems on a previous visit. He returned in August to add additional piping to improve the water pressure and reliability of the system, and to construct more robust metal-and-concrete tap stands.Students worked for 12 hours a day, from dawn until dusk, and were integrated into the life of the community.“We had lunch in the community every day. We bought groceries, and Luis’ wife, Daisy, would make chicken, rice, beans, and avocado,” said Jameson.“It was a really great experience, more personable and enjoyable than I thought it would be,” said Sylvia Percovich ’15, who visited for the first time in August as one of the team’s translators. “I saw the community embrace the people as much as the project. I felt like I was coming home to a family that my friends were part of.“I thought I was only going to translate, but was completely immersed in the project. It was a crash course, a very hands-on experience. I didn’t know how to fix a pipe, but I could pass tools to people or go to the grocery store,” Percovich said.The most recent quality test determined the water was clean, and the well was deemed to satisfy community demands. To ensure that the system will continue to operate successfully, the community has voted to pay a small monthly fee to an elected treasurer to maintain the project.At the final community meeting, Manuel Ramos ’15, a Dominican national, announced the project’s success in Spanish: “La agua es igual que el botellón.” (“The water is just like bottled water.”) The residents applauded. They threw a party for the team and asked about future community infrastructure projects.“Engineers Without Borders shows there are people out there trying to make the world a slightly better place,” said Percovich.last_img read more

Answering the bell

first_imgCautioning that “you don’t get what you don’t fight for,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) came to the Science Center Saturday to urge Harvard College students concerned about issues such as economic inequality, racial justice, and immigration reform to get off the sidelines and get into the game in such fields to make a difference.Warren, who joined the Harvard Law School faculty 20 years ago before her election to the Senate in 2012, suggested that her life’s unusual trajectory from Oklahoma schoolteacher to one of the most powerful voices in American politics was strong proof that anyone can make a difference.“I didn’t go to Washington to be the most popular girl in the Senate,” Warren said when asked if she and other congressional Democrats, now the minority party, intend to obstruct a Republican legislative agenda. “I went there to fight for what the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts sent me to fight for.“Understand this: We are losing this country. This American ideal, this notion that the daughter of a janitor could go to a school that costs $50 a semester and work hard and play by the rules and become a United States senator — those opportunities are not there for kids growing up today,” she said as part of a keynote address during “Public Interested,” a daylong conference for undergraduates thinking about careers in public service.“The good news is we know what to do about it. The bad news is right now we don’t have the will to make the changes. And the only way we’re going to have the will to make changes is if we’re willing to get out there and fight for them.”Now in its fourth year, the conference is a broad, collaborative effort by the Center for Public Interest Careers, the Harvard Alumni Association, the Institute of Politics, the Office of Career Services, the Office for Sustainability, the Phillips Brooks House Association, and the Public Service Network that caps off Wintersession.“What we try to say at this conference is that there’s great privilege in being at Harvard, and we all have a responsibility to be good citizens when we graduate. There’s a lot of ways to do good in the world, but for students whose primary passion is public service, we’re committed to helping them to figure out how to follow that passion professionally,” said Gene Corbin, assistant dean of public service at Harvard College, who oversees the event.Warren advised students to follow their hearts, but to keep their minds open to new and unexpected options.“Don’t have such a narrow vision that when doors open that look sideways and at awkward angles that you don’t have the courage to step through them, because that is where you truly get the opportunities to make a difference,” she said.The conference was created to address what Corbin says has been a growing interest among students to learn about and consider public service as a career. According to data from the annual senior survey, 8 percent of students planned to go into government or military service, or work at a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization (NGO) in 2014, compared with 4 percent in 2013.Nearly 200 alumni working in 10 career tracks, including public and global health, government, public policy and military service, education and youth work, and human rights and public-interest law, spoke candidly to more than 300 students about what it’s like to work in their fields, whether students can make a living doing public-sector work and, as they approach graduation, how they can find jobs. “Public-service-work recruiting is typically less predictable and structured” than the financial services and consulting fields, and can be hard for students to effectively navigate, said Corbin.Since the program’s inception, Corbin said, “A common refrain from alumni when they’re advising students is to talk about a willingness to take some risk — because the path is not as structured — combined with the assurance that if public service is your passion, there is a way to make a decent living and find meaningful work.”Maribel Hernandez Rivera ’04, an immigration attorney with Immigrant Justice Corps who returned to campus to advise students curious about such work, said that when she was an undergraduate she wasn’t aware of public service as a career.“What I remember is there was a lot of emphasis on Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey [& Co.], and I tried that,” she said. “I did it for two summers and had a great experience, but my heart wasn’t in it. I always knew I wanted to do immigration work. But I didn’t see other people going into the field, and so I kind of wondered: Is that a waste as a Harvard graduate? Somebody paid for my education. Is this how I should be spending their money — in this kind of field?”Hernandez Rivera said Immigrant Justice Corps counts several Harvard alumni among its executive ranks and plans to hire 20 to 30 new college graduates this year. “It’s just really exciting to see that, in fact, yes, it is a good investment to use my Harvard degree to do public interest.“I want people to know the value. It might not be monetary compensation, but it really is happiness, in feeling like ‘this is why I went to Harvard,’ to be able to use that education to help other people, just like other people helped me to get here,” she said.Elizabeth Warren was a Radcliffe Fellow in 2001-02.last_img read more

Path to understanding

first_imgCrossing Asia to the Mediterranean Sea, the Silk Road was once a vital route for trade. Named for the Chinese silks its merchants transported to the West, the road — really a mix of intertwining routes — also carried other goods, as well as languages, religions, and philosophies, making the world, if not smaller, then at least more comprehensible, centuries before today’s instantaneous communications.No wonder, then, that in 1998 when the cellist Yo-Yo Ma wanted to bring together musicians from around the world, he named the project after this route, forming a nonprofit that two years later spawned the Silk Road Ensemble. And no wonder, then, that musicians from the ensemble fit so neatly into the Navigation Lecture Series at Radcliffe, for a panel discussion on “Cultural Navigation: Finding One’s Way Across Traditions,” part of the Academic Ventures program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, held in Fay House on Monday.The panel included four Silk Road Ensemble musicians: Cristina Pato (bagpipe), Sandeep Das (tabla), Joseph Gramley (percussion), and Hadi Eldebek (oud). John Huth, the Donner Professor of Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and co-director of Academic Ventures, introduced them and noted, “Marvelous things emerge when you travel with an instrument to a new land.”Still, said moderator Steve Seidel, director of the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “The idea of being part of a science series was not an immediately obvious thing to us.” Only when the group realized that it was actually practicing “navigation across cultures” did the theme make sense.It has been a wild journey. In a brief video of the group in performance, bagpipe traded off with flute, while a classical Western string quartet played along with African-style percussion. The music had a strong rhythmic pulse, with solos punctuating ensemble sections. In brief, it swung, despite the fact that, as Gramley noted, “This was the first time that those 12 instruments had played a concert together.”The piece was one of Eldebeck’s contributions, “Shirak,” a folkloric Lebanese-Armenian composition, arranged for the ensemble. The panel discussed the path to the performance as a way of explaining the challenges faced by the ensemble.To arrange the piece, said Eldebeck, he first had to learn about instruments and styles of playing that were foreign to him. Giving an example, he said, “I communicated with Christina. I said I wanted to include her instrument, and I asked how the instrument is played, culturally — what is the context. It shaped my understanding.”In return, Pato had to analyze and describe her instrument, including its limitations. The bagpipe, she said, is invariably loud, which made rehearsing difficult. “If I play,” she said, “they cannot hear each other. And that to me is a lesson. The way we each one of us work in our own independent life is very different from how we work in this ensemble.”The challenge for the musicians came not only from playing along with unfamiliar instruments, but also from working with others from wildly disparate disciplines.“The Arabic tradition, the Indian tradition, we have a lot of emphasis on ornamentation and improvisation,” said Eldebek. In contrast, “The Western classical tradition has a lot of emphasis on specification and dynamics.”It was a conflict that some of the members of the ensemble were able to understand. “I grew up in both traditions,” explained Pato, who also plays piano. “As a classical pianist, I learned the hard way of rehearsing many, many hours. But with the bagpipe, if you rehearse, you lose that beautiful energy.”Forging a path forward involved compromise. “Instead of giving what will be played, I gave when it will be played,” said Eldebek. “I gave, ‘This is the idea, this is the structure, this is the flow’… everyone contributes.”A video clip of the ensemble’s sole hourlong rehearsal showed how the group forged this path with much laughter and a sharing of ideas. For Das, “The journey is about reaching a point where I value what these guys do, how they make it beautiful, how they make it free for themselves. And I feel very enriched that I can enjoy both worlds.”Monday’s panel discussion was a preview of Friday’s Silk Road Ensemble concert at 8 p.m. in Sanders Theatre. (Eldebek will not be part of Friday’s concert.) The concert is sold out, but there will be a line for standby admission.last_img read more

Maternal health internships give students hands-on experience

first_imgFrom assessing what motivates women in rural Zanzibar to give birth at a health facility rather than at home, to studying what fuels obesity rates among Tanzanian women before and during pregnancy, nine Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health students spent the summer in seven countries doing internships in maternal health.They spoke about their experiences and shared research findings at the School on Sept. 6 and 7, 2017.The students’ internships were supported by travel grants from the Maternal Health Task Force, part of the School’s Women and Health Initiative.Isabel Fulcher, a doctoral student in biostatistics, worked in a D-tree International program aimed at improving birth safety in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Despite having access to health facilities, over half of women in Zanzibar give birth at home with an unskilled attendant. Rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in Zanzibar remain high, and home births rates are higher compared with births at health facilities.Last year, Fulcher worked with D-tree to help develop a mobile phone app to guide community health volunteers in conversations with pregnant women in their homes, with a focus on encouraging women to get pre- and postnatal care at a health facility and to save money toward delivering their child at a facility. This past summer, Fulcher expanded on that work by helping assess the effectiveness of the app.She and her colleagues found that how much money the women saved was a key factor in their decision to deliver at a health facility. Women who had previously delivered at home were more likely to give birth at home for their next pregnancy. And women were more likely to deliver in a facility if they had been visited at home by a community worker close to the delivery date.Onella Dawkins, a master’s degree student in epidemiology, worked with the Africa Academy of Public Health to study the prevalence and risk factors for obesity and overweight in women both before and during pregnancy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. About 40 percent of Tanzanian women of reproductive age are overweight or obese, putting both mothers and children at risk for a range of health problems, Dawkins said. She had expected to train workers to collect data, but when she arrived she found that they needed help developing a nutrition survey tool—so she switched gears, quickly familiarizing herself with nutrition information as well as popular local foods.“It was a great experience. I learned about flexibility and how to make the most to be productive in a role I hadn’t planned on,” she said. “I stopped researchers in the hallway to ask questions. It was a lot of learning on the go.”Other students participating in the 2017 Summer Internships in Maternal Health included Alexandra Earle, Estelle Gong, Jigyasa Sharma, Shiyi Zan, Mia Monique Blakstad, Kalin Stoval, and Kayla Rosenberg.For more on the program: Summer Internships in Maternal Health— Marge Dwyer Read Full Storylast_img read more