Berkeley in the News Archive

The links to the stories summarized on this page are time sensitive, so stories might no longer be online at that URL. We also include links to the original source publication itself.

Friday, 13 June 2014

1. Throwing Rocks at the Ivory Tower
Inside Higher Ed

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks remarks on filmmaker Andrew Rossi's new documentary, Ivory Tower, about the world of nonprofit education. The film, which opens today in New York and Los Angeles, argues that the cost of college is so high now that it no longer works as an engine of social mobility. Chancellor Dirks disputes that, saying he feels the documentary puts too much blame for college costs on the institutions themselves, and not enough on the “abdication of funding not just by the state of California but also by a lot of other states.” He also feels that the film's sidestepping of for-profit institutions leaves its discussion of student debt somewhat decontextualized. "The notion that we’ve all just swallowed the tuition and assumed that the way out of our problems is to build climbing walls and raise the price of tuition is not helping us advocate for values that I think Mr. Rossi would probably share with those of us at Berkeley, who are trying to continue this tradition of being great but also being open to a really diverse student body.” He says that returning to the “grand old model” of states funding public higher education -- a model California at one time exemplified -- “would be a wonderful goal for people to work towards.” Full Story

2. UC Berkeley Researchers Build Exoskeleton For Paraplegics Allowing Them To Walk Again

Engineering professor Homayoon Kazerooni's Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory is developing an affordable, lightweight robotic system, called an exoskeleton, which can be worn under clothing and help paraplegics and other people with impaired motor skills live more ordinary lives. It will soon be available for medical and clinical use, priced at roughly $22,000. Link to video. Full Story

3. Minimum wage boost creates positive effects, report shows
San Francisco Chronicle

A new report by Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education has found that raising the minimum wage in Oakland, and likely other Bay Area cities, would have widespread positive effects and virtually no downside. "Raising the minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of consumers, and they'll tend to spend it locally, which is good for the local economy," says Ken Jacobs, the center's chair. "What you don't see with minimum wage increases is a negative impact on employment or the economy." Full Story

4. The fight for fair pay
Boston Globe

A story about rising inequality quotes public policy professor Robert Reich for saying that since the economic recovery began in 2009, 95 percent of economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent, and a Berkeley study found that more than 50 percent of all income goes to just 10 percent of the workforce. Full Story

5. Early childhood programs yield long-term gains for children in developing nations
Medical Xpress

A new analysis of a long-term study in Jamaica, co-authored by economics professor Paul Gertler, has found that early childhood development programs are especially important for disadvantaged children and can improve their income when they are adults. The program involved inexpensive interventions, such as educating parents on how to interact better with their children and providing toys and books. Full Story

6. Soon, you might be able to charge your dead phone with your clothes
Washington Post

A round-up of portable devices that may eventually replace batteries by generating energy on people's bodies includes work at Berkeley, where researchers have developed textiles woven with piezoelectric wires. The energy is generated by stretching or twisting the textile, with a small stamp-sized generator producing an electrical charge when pressed. It could work, for example, when integrated into the soles of shoes, creating power for mobile devices as the carriers walk. Full Story

7. EPA Hits Nuclear Power With Kryptonite

A commentary on the EPA's newly proposed rule for nuclear power plant emissions quotes nuclear engineering professor Per Peterson, who has said that the reason for the new rule may be political. “The major issue is that EPA may be attempting to regulate emissions of krypton-85, a noble gas that disperses so rapidly that it causes no detectable dose to anything anywhere, and no public heath consequence even remotely. There exists no plausible public health or environmental reason to regulate Kr-85 emissions, since they do not and can never have any significant public health or environmental impact (Energy Thorium).” However, setting unreasonably low limits on the gas could make new reactor designs unaffordable, derailing plans to build reactors that are safer and can't meltdown. Full Story

8. Op-Ed: Time to Discard the Metric that Decides How Science is Rated
The Conversation

Cell and developmental biology professor David Drubin writes about the "journal impact factor" of science evaluations, saying that it is a "poor surrogate" for measuring a researcher's accomplishments. "The flaws in this metric have been acknowledged widely -- it lacks transparency and, most of all, it has unintended effects on how science gets done," he says. He concludes: "Reform will help researchers by enabling them to focus on their research and help society by improving the return on the public investment in science." Full Story

9. Babbage: Public domain complexity: Copyrights and wrongs
The Economist (*requires registration)

Berkeley Law's Samuelson Clinic has released a handbook and flowcharts intended to aid those who need to understand complex and frequently changing U.S. copyright laws. Full Story

10. Harvard professor challenges school’s denial of tenure
Boston Globe

Law professor Mary Ann Mason is quoted in a story about a female Harvard professor who is challenging Harvard for denying her tenure. Professor Mason wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2010 that judicial interpretations in the last two decades have made it more difficult to win a tenure discrimination complaint. She said a plaintiff has to prove not only that the reason given for tenure denial is untrue, but that the real reason is sex discrimination. Full Story

11. Mexico boasts a staggering genetic diversity, study shows
Los Angeles Times

Sociology professor Troy Duster comments on aspects of a new genomic study of Mexico's diversity. He says that it is an enormous leap to determine that differences in DNA are responsible for observed differences in lung capacity, and he worries about some of the implications of such research. “There is always lurking danger that this kind of research, which emphasizes the genetic structure of ethnic and racial groups, fuels the notion that the biology or genetics of those groups explains their condition,” he says. Full Story

12. Video: Latina author searches for the root of “Hispanic” vs “Latino” identity
Latina Lista

In an interview about her new book, Making Hispanics, assistant sociology professor G. Cristina Mora talks about her study of the wide variety of words used to describe Americans of Hispanic descent. Asked about the gist of her book, she says: "It’s a story about people being disadvantaged, being a statistically reliable group and being consumers. All of these elements came together in an almost perfect storm in the 1970s when activists, the media and government bureaucrats learned how to work together to put out this pan-ethnic message." Link to video. Full Story

13. A study of Bay Area's (hic) cocktail history
San Francisco Chronicle

The Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office is raising money online to finish a study of the Bay Area's colorful history of mixed drink inventions. Historian Shanna Farrell is leading the project. "What cocktails tell us, not just about drinking culture but American life, is incredibly fascinating," she says. "The Bay Area has been a center of that, and that history has never been researched." She plans to interview bartenders, distillers, historians and bar owners, covering everything from recipes to Prohibition to political and social influences dating from the Gold Rush to the present. "Cocktail knowledge has always just been passed down across the bar," says Martin Meeker, the office's associate director. "We're trying to formalize that. It's not just what's going into the glass but who's mixing it, who's drinking it. It's about immigrants, labor, politics, the role of women, the evolution of taste. There's a lot to look at." The article's writer notes: "The idea was a no-brainer for the Bancroft Library, which has one of the country's most comprehensive archives of Western memorabilia." Full Story

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