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.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

1. Spare the Rod, School the Child
New Yorker Magazine

Associate environmental science, policy and management professor Justin Brashares, a wildlife ecology and conservation expert, is profiled for his research into the "causal chain from the health of ocean fisheries to educational success" in Ghana. His research documented what natives already knew – that poor fishing drove people inland to hunt for bushmeat, which changed the wildlife balance on land, leading to students being held home from school in order to protect family farms from aggressive troops of olive baboons. It's a problem replicated in various ways around the world, and he sums up a core problem in the way it is approached, saying: “The science side is very focused on natural-resource trends and not really thinking about social consequences, while the policy side is looking at Somali pirates or elephant ivory, and totally disconnected from the root causes.” Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including the Washington Post Online, Scientific American, NPR Online, New Scientist, BBC Online, io9, and Wildlife Extra. Full Story

2. Vision-correcting display lets users ditch their reading glasses

Computer science and vision science professor Brian Barsky is leading a project to develop a device that uses algorithms to compensate for computer users’ visual impairments. "Our technique distorts the image such that, when the intended user looks at the screen, the image will appear sharp to that particular viewer,” Professor Barsky says. "But if someone else were to look at the image, it would look bad." Lead author Fu-Chung Huang conducted the research for his dissertation at Berkeley. Stories on this topic appeared in more than 100 sources around the world, including PC World, Computer World, CBS Bay Area Online, Science 2.0, Business Insider, and BBC News Online. Full Story

3. 13.7 Cosmos & Culture Blog: Cognitive Science Honors Its Pioneers And Leaders
NPR Online

Statistics and electrical engineering and computer science professor Michael I. Jordan is this year's winner of the David E. Rumelhart Prize. The award was established in 2001 and annually honors contributors to the theoretical foundations of human cognition. The award includes a bronze medal and $100,000 prize. Professor Jordan is recognized for his pioneering work in machine learning and Bayesian nonparametrics, and the computational models he's developed have been applied to learning, memory, natural language processing, semantics and vision, and other areas of natural and artificial intelligence. Full Story

4. A Summer Camp in Business Basics
Poets & Quants

A summer camp at Berkeley's Haas School of Business is profiled. Called BASE (Business for Arts, Science, and Engineering), it is an intensive six-week program geared toward helping non-business majors become more marketable with business skills and career advice. Student Gabriel Giguere-Joannette, from McGill University in Canada, says: "It’s very much like an immersion. ... We’re thinking about business all day, and if I have free time, I try to do extra reading and learn more -- I’m trying to get everything I can from this. ... We have very high quality professors who usually teach at the MBA level. ... They’re very good teachers, and also entertainers.” Full Story

5. Trail of Medical Missteps in a Peace Corps Death
New York Times (*requires registration)

Alumnus Nick Castle died earlier this year from gastrointestinal illness while teaching in China as a Peace Corps volunteer. This article tells the story of an investigation of mistakes the Peace Corps made with his medical care and the agency's response to his death, as well as those of other volunteers around the world. Deaths in the Peace Corps are rare – in 53 years, less than two-tenths of 1 percent of volunteers have died – but recent cases have prompted the agency's director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, to reexamine its operations, including health care. Full Story

6. Should you be afraid of the Ebola threat?

Public health professor Art Reingold, head of epidemiology at Berkeley, discusses the Evola outbreak in West Africa, noting what makes this crisis different and more challenging than previous outbreaks. "People should not be concerned about Ebola spreading to the US or other wealthy countries," he says. "It's transmitted entirely through exposure to bodily fluids. ... The virus is not transmitted through coughing and sneezing, or through sitting next to someone on a bus or the like. The idea that the virus can somehow mutate and become more readily transmissible from person to person through coughing or sneezing — those are Hollywood scenarios." Ultimately, he says, "More people die of diarrhea in a day than Ebola has killed in history." Another story quoting Professor Reingold on this topic appeared in World.Mic. Full Story

7. What Makes Someone a Refugee?
The Atlantic

Law lecturer Kate Jastram, faculty director of Berkeley Law's Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, comments on a new poll finding that 69 percent of respondents feel that the children crossing the border are "refugees," not "illegal immigrants." She says: "People realize that these kids do need help -- these families need help. ... I think in the general connotation of the word [refugee] is consistent with our history ... our values of wanting to assist, to help." However, she notes that "there's been a real effort not to characterize these kids as refugees" among political leaders. "The fear in the U.S. amongst policy makers is that if you encourage anyone at all, it will be more of a pull factor." Full Story

8. Suburban sprawl and bad transit can crush opportunity for the poor

Assistant city and regional planning professor Dan Chatman weighs in on the economic impact of metropolitan transportation networks. In a 2013 study, he had found that when transit service expanded by 10 percent, people's incomes grew by $53 to $194 annually — a significant amount for low-income workers. Improved transit service also boosted gross metropolitan product by 1 to 2 percent. However, he notes that zoning is an issue that is often overlooked. "Transit isn't nearly as important as zoning is. ... We have unfortunately gotten into a trap of believing and communicating to the public that transit investment must happen prior to any restrictions on density." Full Story

9. Bay Area District Wants to Use Tax Dollars For Private Clubhouse

Speaking of a controversy near San Anselmo over using tax dollars to improve a private clubhouse in an unincorporated town, assistant law professor David Gamage says: “It’s very difficult to distinguish cleanly between private purposes and public purposes.” Noting that the distinction is particularly blurred in special tax districts like the one in question, he says: "They aren’t supposed to be autonomous but they are supposed to be accountable to their voters. ... These districts don’t answer to the governor or to anybody else in the state directly. They’re only regulated indirectly the same way that any private organization or a nonprofit organization or other public organization is answerable to the state in terms of the state’s regulatory powers.” He estimates that there are as many as 5,000 such special tax districts in California. Professor Gamage's part begins at 4:23 in the video. Full Story

10. Deal Book: In Real Estate Listings Deal With Zillow, Trulia Bears All the Risk
New York Times (*requires registration)

Law professor Steven Davidoff Solomon writes about Internet real estate site Zillow's $3.5 billion acquisition of Trulia. "The acquisition agreement puts relatively normal requirements on Zillow to obtain antitrust approvals, requiring the company to take 'reasonable best efforts' to obtain clearance," he says. "So far so good, but here is where things get a bit technical because the lawyers crafted a big exception from this requirement for Zillow." Full Story

11. Zeroing In on the Female Traveler
New York Times (*requires registration)

A hotel marketer has come up with a curious idea for vacation packages targeting women who are single without children. It includes a book called Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, and Linguistics Professor Emerita Robin Lakoff remarks on the risks of using a title like that. “Irony is dangerous because some people get it and some people don’t. ... Some people have irony deficiency anemia.” Noting that the concept of "other" has long been associated with people of less powerful races, religions, classes, sexual orientations and nationalities, she says: “Social scientists, of course, have talked a lot about othering. ... It’s about somebody who is not us. We are the good, the right, the fully human, the ones who have the right to good treatment. ... To say someone is an other ... is to put them in the category of people who can’t make their own meaning.” Full Story

12. Travel Letters: Health concerns over Google Glass
Los Angeles Times

Joel Moskowitz, director of Berkeley's Center for Family and Community Health, responds to the article "Seeing S.F. Through New Eyes" (July 20), saying he wants to alert readers to the health risks of wearing a Google Glass device. Noting that preliminary research indicates the device emits more wireless radiation than most cellphones, he says: "Although the radiation level complies with the 1996 federal standards, many health scientists believe that these standards are obsolete as they fail to protect wireless device users from the nonthermal effects of wireless radiation. ... In the long term, these effects include increased brain cancer risk, and in the short term, other health problems including electrosensitivity, sperm damage and infertility, and reproductive health risks in children." Full Story

13. Obituary: Margot Adler, 68, Journalist and Priestess, Dies
New York Times (*requires registration)

Alumna Margot Adler, a longtime correspondent for NPR and an authority on neo-pagan spiritualism, has died at the age of 68 after a long battle with cancer. The daughter of Viennese psychiatrist Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Freud, she was a political science major at Berkeley, active in the free speech, civil rights, and antiwar movements. Another obituary appeared on NPR Online. Full Story

Today's Edition of UC Berkeley in the News