Berkeley in the News

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

Thursday, 30 October 2014

1. Should we add ARSENIC to tap water to cut breast cancer deaths? Study links 'toxic' chemical to 50% drop in mortality
Daily Mail Online (UK)

A surprising study led by epidemiology professor Allan Smith has linked the presence of arsenic in drinking water with a 50 percent drop in breast cancer deaths. Conducted in an area of Chile where residents have inadvertently been exposed to high levels of the naturally occurring toxic element, the study also found the effect was most pronounced among women under the age of 60, with their mortality reduced by 70 percent. "We've been studying the long-term effects of arsenic in this population for many years, focusing on increased disease and mortality attributed to the historical exposure to arsenic in this population," Professor Smith says. Asked if the chemical should be used to treat breast cancer, he says: "Not yet. We do not know if the treatment will work, but carefully designed clinical trials should take place as soon as possible based on this new evidence."
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2. How a Coalition Seeks to Bring Minority Students Into Science
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

Supported by a $2.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation, an alliance of four leading California universities, including Berkeley, aims to increase the number of minority researchers in science and engineering at universities and federally supported science facilities nationwide. Alliance director Colette Patt, also director of The Berkeley Edge Program, says: "We’re not trying to steer every single student into a national lab or academia. ... We’re trying to ensure that students are moving in far greater numbers into those sectors." Earth and planetary science professor Mark Richards, the principal investigator on the NSF grant, says: "At a time when industry is clamoring to bring in well-trained workers from other countries ... leaving out such a large fraction of our own population is not merely a matter of social justice. It’s an economic imperative."
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3. UC Berkeley chancellor upholds Bill Maher speech despite protests
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has issued a statement overriding protesting students' demands that comedian Bill Maher's invitation to speak at Berkeley's winter commencement ceremony be rescinded. The invitation was offered by the student organization that chooses graduation speakers, and the chancellor's statement said that "the invitation will stand, and [I look] forward to welcoming Mr. Maher to the Berkeley campus." He added that the decision "does not constitute an endorsement" of any of Maher’s views, although it does support his right to express them. “More broadly, this university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative.” Other stories on this topic appeared in Berkeleyside, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle Online, Time Magazine, CBS News Online, NBC Bay Area Online, CNN Online, San Francisco Chronicle Online, and Inside Higher Ed.
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4. Bassem Youssef, the 'Jon Stewart of Egypt'
KQED Radio

Egyptian satirist and former television host Bassem Youssef, often referred to as the 'Jon Stewart of Egypt, is interviewed. He also spoke at Berkeley Wednesday, in one of the campus events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Link to audio.
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5. 80 percent of Cal recruits must have 3.0 GPA by 2017-18
Contra Costa Times (*requires registration)

A new admissions policy, approved earlier this month by Berkeley's Academic Senate, will bring athletic admissions into closer alignment with those of the rest of the student body. The policy states that by the 2017-18 school year, at least 80% of the incoming freshman class will have had a minimum 3.0 GPA in high school, and any exceptions will be admitted through a separate process involving scrutiny by the UC Director of Admissions and the Student-Athlete Admissions Committee (SAAC). The policy will be instituted gradually, beginning in the 2015-16 school year.
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6. Oak researchers gather to talk drought
Visalia Times-Delta

Researchers from California, the Pacific Northwest, Spain and South Korea are scheduled to attend the 7th California Oak Symposium Monday through Thursday in Visalia. According to the symposium's coordinator, Rick Standiford, a UC Cooperative Extension forest management specialist based at Berkeley: "The drought will be a major focus of the symposium. ... We will also have cutting edge research and policy presentations on sudden oak death, gold-spotted oak borer and conifer encroachment in black and Garry oak woodlands, among much more.”
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7. Mind-reading device invented by scientists to eavesdrop on 'inner voice'
Telegraph (UK)

Brian Pasley, a fellow at Berkeley's Cognitive Neuroscience Research Laboratory, run by psychology professor Robert Knight, discusses a mind-reading device under development there. The device converts brain activity into sounds and words. "If you're reading text in a newspaper or book, you hear a voice in your own head," he says. "We're trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice to create a medical prosthesis that can allow someone who is paralysed or locked in to speak."
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8. Op-Ed: America’s Polling Places Desperately Need a Redesign

Ted Selker, director of Berkeley's Research on Accessible Voting project, writes about the negative impact that poorly designed polling places can have on the fairness of an election, and about the app he has co-designed to give poll workers a way to share design improvements. He says: "The goal is to help election officials learn how to design and administer polling places with the sophistication of top designers of high-throughput stores. Without losing the privacy, security, and integrity of the system, we need to think like the customer and anticipate any potential snafus in the physical space, staff training, digital tools, and the transitions between them."
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9. Field Poll: Torlakson and Tuck tied for superintendent, Brown leads Kashkari by 21 points
San Jose Mercury News (*requires registration)

Education and public policy professor Bruce Fuller is quoted in a story about a Field Poll indicating that the race for state superintendent of public instruction is currently tied, with more than four in 10 likely voters still undecided. He says that "working-class Latinos and blacks are not at all happy with their neighborhood schools, so it appears they're backing the insurgent candidate."
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10. China Real Time Report Blog: Key Points in China’s Flood of Legal Reform Rhetoric
Wall Street Journal Online (*requires registration)

Law lecturer Stanley Lubman writes about a key policy document issued on Tuesday by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. Referring to the report's source -- China's first-ever plenary session devoted to legal issues -- he says: "Such meetings typically wrap their findings and decisions in an opaque cloud of political terminology, and this year’s plenum was no exception. It is nevertheless possible to discern a few points of interest through the haze." He concludes that if proposed reforms are effectively implemented, "Chinese law will have taken a small step forward."
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11. Visualizations may shape smarter city development
PC World

City and regional planning professor and department chair Paul Waddell, founder and president of planning software company Synthicity, discusses the evolution of visualization software that could help give ordinary people more of a say in how their cities are built. Decisions about transportation, housing, pollution and other issues have long been made using models based on urban planning theories, he says, but now planners who build those models can use them to put structure around big data. What that data can accomplish is determined partly by what visualization software can do, and its capabilities keep growing. He says: “We can do interactive design, we can do interactive visualization, and we can start to engage communities more directly in evaluating the outcomes that matter to them.”
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12. Will we need a learner's permit for self-driving cars?

Steven Shladover, program manager at Berkeley's California PATH (Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology), comments on the need for new road rules with the coming advent of self-driving cars. “There need to be national rules to govern all of this,” he says, “but the legislative process is very slow.”
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13. Like drivers, crash-test dummies are becoming obese
USA Today

A study by Berkeley's Safe Transportation and Research Education Center found that an obese person is 78 percent more likely to be killed in a car crash, and this statistic is cited in a story about the development of new crash-test dummies that resemble obese drivers.
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14. Candy, costumes, pumpkins, prejudice: Part 2
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

A student writes about Halloween and racism, quoting American studies and African American studies professor Michael Mark Cohen. Professor Cohen recently wrote an article on racism in which he repeated advice he gives to his own students: "If we want to be more than just not racist, if we want to be actually anti-racist, then how should we act? How do we deal with the burden of a privilege we did not earn? ... 'liberal guilt' is not the answer ... empathy and solidarity are. I don't have time to explain that learning to share anger at injustice is the start of a common conversation, and that they can learn how to recognize where privilege resides in their own lives by reading about and listening to the experiences of others who do not have it."
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15. Three big universities proclaim: Learn data science online!

A commentator compares three major universities' online data science certification programs. The offerings are from Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, and MIT, and the writer describes Berkeley's master's degree as the more traditional and theoretical of the programs, since it is not an inexpensive MOOC that anyone can try for at most a minimal fee -- in other words, students must apply for admission and pay tuition.
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16. Photo Gallery: Uncharted 2014 — a festival fit for Berkeley

A photo gallery offers glimpses of Berkeleyside's Uncharted: A Festival of Ideas, held last Friday and Saturday. Among the campus speakers pictured are Deborah McKoy, director and founder of Berkeley's Center for Cities and Schools at the Insitute of Urban and Regional Development; molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna; industrial engineering and new media professor Ken Goldberg; Saru Jayaraman, director of Berkeley's Food Labor Research Center; molecular and cell biology professor and Nobel Laureate Randy Schekman; and Executive Vice Chancellor Claude Steele. Also pictured is the party held at the University Club at Memorial Stadium on campus.
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UC Berkeley in the News Archives