Tag Archives | activist

Riyadh Lafta, scientist, doctor, activist finally got a US visa to speak at the University of Washington

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When the US 2003 invasion of Iraq was underway, University of Washington (UW), Associate Professor of Global Health Amy Hagopian thought it would be a good idea to bring an academic from Iraq to explain what was actually happening to people in Iraq as a result of that invasion. She worked with other academics at UW, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Johns Hopkins, as well as with community groups who worked with Iraq refugees and the anti-war movement. She spoke with politicians, and wrote letters, and in 2007, it almost seemed as if Lafta would be able to come. He was scheduled to give a talk at UW, but the USA still refused his visa. Canada agreed to give Lafta a visa, and he spoke at Simon Fraser University, with a crowd at UW in Seattle watching the lecture via the internet.

It is likely that one of the main reasons Lafta was denied an USA visa is his 2004  and 2006 Lancet papers  on the mortality of citizens in Iraq as a result of the US invasion. Doing rather dangerous door-to-door surveys, Lafta and colleagues found mortality to be far worse than that reported by the US, which downplayed the effects of war on civilians, and there was a hostile reaction to their papers.

Lafta continued to examine the effects of war on Iraq, and Hagopian continued to work with academic and community members to bring him over. After years of effort, Lafta was awarded a US visa in 2016. On October 27, Lafta gave a talk at the University of Washington.

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There was no pretending in the auditorium that politics was unconnected to science and research: lives are not saved by science or medicine alone. Hagopian and Pramila Jayapal (who is running for Wa State Senator) spoke of politics and war and healthcare, and the possibilities of change. Lafta himself was very clear about the origin of the health problems in Iraq, and about how difficult it would be to improve life for Iraqis. Physicians fear for their lives and most leave the country. With no functioning government, the country is run by militias. He ended his talk with a short film that showed before and after footage of Iraq, once busy streets and markets reduced to rubble. There was a lively question and answer session, and perhaps the sadness and hopelessness of the situation was summed up by Lafta in response to a question about his exceptions of the election on Iraq policy.

He answered simply, “No American President has ever done anything beneficial for Iraq.”

Lafta’s talk has been scheduled for November 3 at Simon Fraser University  in Vancouver, Canada- but as of October 28, his visa application has been refused. He will be speaking at the American Public Health Association meeting in Denver this week.

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October 28, 2016

Riyadh Lafta’s talk can be viewed on YouTube.

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Biochemist Lynne Quarmby arrested at Burnaby Trans-Mountain pipeline

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Scientist and activist Lynne Quarmby mixes her research life (at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia) and her civic life straightforwardly, as shown on her website . A video of her labs’ work with Chlamydomonas is side by side with her Twitter posts (@LynneQuarmby) on the Burnaby protest against a tar sands pipeline. Quarmby, with dozens of other community members, was arrested today in the ongoing protests against the proposed Trans-Mountain pipeline from Calgary through Burnaby.

Kinder Morgan (KM), based in Texas, proposed a doubling of the oil sands pipeline that already runs under Burnaby, and wanted to test the feasibility of building a tunnel under the mountain.  Not only would this immediately disturb the local mountain environment, but the bigger picture- that the extraction of oil from tar sands and the burning of that oil contribute to carbon dioxide production and so, to global warming- was even more controversial. (This connection of government actions with the science of climate change is a message that Quarmby constantly communicated.) The announcement was met by protest by First Nations and other Burnaby citizens and then by a constitutional challenge by the town.

The National Energy Board (NEB) ruled the City of Burnaby couldn’t impede the project, and protests on Burnaby intensified after that October 24th decision.

Quarmby had been working with her community: marching, writing letters, contacting politicians, and protesting in the Burnaby park. She was, with others, arrested on October 25th.

On October 30, KM named 6 residents, including Quarmby, in a 5.6 million dollar lawsuit, saying that they were losing money every day of protest. Quarmby believes she was targeted because she was dangerous from a PR perspective as an outspoken professional willing to stand up and protest, not just about the pipeline, but about the link of the destruction on the mountain to climate change.

“”Maybe it’s because I’m reasonable and level and just speaking about the scientific realities of climate change,” she said . “I am writing and speaking at rallies, and maybe they feel like I’m starting to get people’s attention about this issue. They don’t want people to pay attention to climate change, that’s for sure.”

Quarmby and I were supposed to talk Thursday afternoon, but she asked if we could postpone the talk, as a call had gone out for supporters to come to Burnaby Mountain, where the police were arresting protesters in the park. Best reason to postpone I’ve ever heard!

And this morning, after a short and stirring speech, citizen and scientist Lynne Quarmby walked up the hill to the police line and was arrested again. She did not mince words before she left. She blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the present conservative government of Canada for suspending environmental regulation in 2012. She linked the madness of expanding a pipeline in the face of the surety of climate change. She expressed her horror at the Canadian government for its dismissiveness to the First Peoples of the region, who were not even consulted about the pipeline project. She emphasized that the act of civil disobedience she was about to commit was the act of a citizen whose votes, testimonies, and data were ignored. Her three minute speech is a marvel of clear intention and love of community.

The court costs to face Kinder Morgan in the civil suit court are huge, and though Quarmby is prepared to lose her house, funds are being raised by two crowd-funding groups.

http://www.gofundme.com/gkxn9o  GoFund Me campaign

https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/legal-support-for-burnby-mountain-defenders  Legal support for Burnaby Mountain Defenders

 

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Caucus at your professional organization meetings: Don’t waste a chance to build community

     In 2009 the American Public Health Association approved the policy statement, “The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War.” Despite the known health effects of war, the development of competencies to prevent war has received little attention. Public health’s ethical principles of practice prioritize addressing the fundamen- tal causes of disease and adverse health outcomes. A working group grew out of the American Public Health Association’s Peace Caucus to build upon the 2009 policy by proposing competencies to understand and prevent the political, economic, social, and cultural determinants of war, particularly militarism. The working group recommends that schools of public health and public health organizations incorporate these competencies into professional preparation programs, research, and advocacy. (Am J Public Health. 2014;104:e34–e47. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301778) 

       Within every organization there are specific interests that are shared among smaller groups at meetings. Make that official- or make it unofficial- but gather together to vote, to talk, to suggest resolutions that  guide the organization, to plan projects together.

     The Peace Caucus of the American Public Health Association has been advocating against war and its effect on public health for years. Their latest newsletter is posted below. From that group arose the Primary Prevention of War group, which believes that war, like disease, is best avoided than treated, and has suggested curricula that School of Public Health can use to teach the primary prevention of war (The Role of Public Health in the Prevention of War: Rationale and Competencies. Wrist et al, AJPH 2014:104, e34-e47- for a copy of the paper, email me at kbarkerbtb@gmail.com.)

     

NEWSLETTER________________________________________________________________________________________

Peace Caucus in Official Relations with the American Public Health Association

PEACE CAUCUS

Newsletter • Fall 2014

Primary Prevention of War Group Needs Your Support !

The Public Health Working Group on Primary Prevention of War (PH-PPW) is growing in numbers – and is looking for your support! The group grew out of the APHA annual meeting in 2011, following a Peace Caucus session where
a paper was delivered documenting the general dearth
of coursework available on war and armed conflict within
Schools and Programs of Public Health (SPPHs). Based on a content analysis of curricular offerings of the top 20 SPPHs, the paper demonstrated that the narrow set of courses offered on war tend to be reactive, rather than advancing the concept of primary prevention. This tipped off the creation of this international, interdisciplinary Working Group of scholars and practitioners organizing to promote the primary prevention of war.

The PH-PPW Working Group meets every other month by conference call and has undertaken a number of activities, all aligned with APHA’s Policy Statement, The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War (1). In 2013, the group published its findings on SPPH curriculum in Public Health Reports (2). In 2014, the group published a framework for public health prevention of war in AJPH, including a set of

continued on page 4

www.peacecaucus.org

2014 Victor W. Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace

Recipient – Nancy Stoller, PhD

Please join us in honoring Dr. Stoller for her tremendous contribution to peace and health for all Tuesday 6:30 PM
APHA Public Health Awards Reception and Ceremony (Session
322.o)

Film Festival: “Within the Eye of the Storm.” Monday at 6:30 and 8:30 PM

The Medical Care Section is sponsoring showings of “Within the Eye of the Storm” at 6:30 and 8:30 pm (session 3356.1) http://withineyeofstorm.com/. The film runs about 1 hour and tells the real-life story of two men – one Palestinian and one Israeli – each previously dedicated to fighting a faceless other, and each of whose daughters were killed in the conflict, who then committed to work to- gether to humanize the enemy and interrupt the vicious cycle of retaliation. Each showing of this inspiring film will be accompanied by a discussion to which the director, Shelley Hermon, has been invited. Check the program for the location.

Are you a member ?

Peace Caucus Program November 15 – 19, 2014 New Orleans, LA

MONDAY (3171.0) PUBLIC HEALTH, PEACE AND CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

10:30 – 12:00 PM NANCY STOLLER, PhD, MODERATOR MCC, 220

10:30 AM — Exploring Social Justice Across Cultures and Professions
Jane Lipscomb, PhD, RN, Corey Shdaimah, PhD, Roni Strier, PhD, Susan Leviton, JD and Jody Olsen, PhD

10:45 AM — Voices Through Walls: How Walls Undermine Human Rights, Humanity, and Peace Steven Gilbert, PhD, DABT and Saherea Bleibleh, PhD

11:00 AM — Politics of Deteriorating Health in Palestine Dima Qato, PharmD, MPH, PhD

11:15 PM — Conflict, Peace, and Public Health in Syria: Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis Noah Gottschalk, Meredith Larson and Sarah Kalloch

11:30 AM — Academic researchers’ and publishers’ role in addressing health issues in Palestine Amy Hagopian, PhD, MPH

11:40 AM — Discussion

Endorsed by: LGBT Caucus of Public Health Professionals, Public Health Nursing, Socialist Caucus CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH) , Masters Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)

MONDAY (3272.0) RESISTANCE TO WAR AND BUILDING PEACE

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12:30 -2:00 PM MCC, 220

12:30 PM — Health Care Access and Host-Refugee Relations in Uganda Joshua Rodd, MPH, MS, PhD (ABD)

ROBERT GOULD, MD, MODERATOR

12:42 PM — Afghan peace volunteers: Nonviolent resistance to war in Afghanistan Patrick Kennelly, MLS and Emily Malloy, RN, CNM

12:54 PM — From theory to practice: Public health practitioners, academics, and advocates in relation to armed conflict and war

Emily Malloy, RN, CNM, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD and Ellen Kennelly, BS, RN, FNP 1:06 PM — Health pathway across all levels after the Gulf War

Charles W. Cange, PhD, MSc 1:18 PM — Using music to create peace

Barry S. Levy, MD, MPH and Victor W. Sidel, MD 1:30pm Discussion

Endorsed by: Public Health Nursing, Socialist Caucus CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH)

TUESDAY (4253.0) Distinguishing health study findings from public policy goals promotes peace, justice and health

12:30 -2:00 PM MCC, 223

Discussants: Madeleine Scammell, D.Sc. and David Tuller, DrPH

MADELEINE SCAMMELL, D.Sc, MODERATOR

12:30 PM —Assessing the public health impacts of industrial farm animal production (IFAP) – Steve Wing, PhD
12:45 PM —Exposure to ionizing radiation from Fukushima: The collision of science and public policy – Robert Gould, MD 1:00pm — War, public health and institutional conflicts of interest – Shelley White, PhD, MPH and Wesley Epplin, MPH 1:15pm Discussion

Endorsed by: Socialist Caucus CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH) , Masters Certified Health Educa- tion Specialist (MCHES)

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Page 2 APHA Peace Caucus Fall 2014

Peace Caucus Program

Patrice Sutton, MPH and Eleni Tolma, PhD, MPH Program Planners

TUESDAY (4352.1) Integrating competencies for the prevention of war into public health curricula: Primary prevention of war work group roundtable

2:30 PM-4:00 PM Moderators: Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD and Neil Arya, MD MCC, 243

In 2009 the APHA adopted the policy “The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed conflict and War.” This was one of 35 related policies the APHA has adopted, including those advocating the banning of specific types of weapons, criticizing military budgets, and opposing military recruiting in public schools. Some of those policies, including the 2009 policy, have specifically recommended that schools of public health develop curricula on war and peace and prepare students to address the causes of war. However, research has shown that schools of public health include little about the prevention of war in their curricula. Therefore, in June of 2014 an article to initiate that curriculum development, written by the Working Group on the Primary Prevention of War, an outgrowth of the Peace Caucus of APHA, was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The article delineated 60 competencies in five domains (Militarism, International Peace Work, Peace Advocacy, and Peace Research) for use in developing courses, incorporation into existing courses and conducting workshops to prepare public health workers in the prevention of war. The Working Group disseminated information about the competencies to Deans of schools and programs of public health to help initiate adoption of the competencies and stimulate greater faculty involvement. In addition to the appendices to the AJPH article, the Working Group also has resources available on two Web sites to assist faculty in developing course content. Participants in this roundtable will discuss additional ways to foster the integration of the competencies into the public health education curriculum. Individuals from schools of medicine, nursing, allied health, and the behavioral and social sciences, in addition to faculty and students of schools and programs of public health, are encouraged to participate in the roundtable.

Session Objectives: To identify ways to foster the integration of the competencies about the prevention of war into the public health education curriculum.

Organized by: Peace Caucus Endorsed by: Socialist Caucus

TUESDAY (320.0) Peace Caucus Business MeetinG

6:00 – 7:00 PM MCC, 241

Please note: We will have a brief business meeting beginning at 6 PM and at 6:30 PM we will go to the APHA Awards ceremony in order to celebrate Nancy Stoller as the recipient of the Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace.

WEDNESDAY (5133.0) PEACE TO END ALL WAR

10:30 PM-12:00 PM Ann Hirschman, RN-C, FNP, MPH, ModeratoR MCC, 223
10:30am Military events leading to the Christmas truce (July-December 1914): The start of a military revolution

Stephen Trynosky, JD, MPH, EMT, MMAS (cand.)
10:42am
Lasting Legacy of War – Susan Schnall, RN, FACHE
10:54am
Right to Heal – Maggie Martin, MA
11:06amCommunity Based Rehabilitation Model for Individuals with War-Related Disabilities: Could This Work in the United

States? – Carole Baraldi, Ed.D, RN 11:18amLegacy of War: What is it Good For?

Paul Cox, Civil Engineer, Vietnam Veteran, Board Chair Swords to Plowshares

Endorsed by: Public Health Nursing, Socialist Caucus CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH) , Masters Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)

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Fall 2014 APHA Peace Caucus Page 3

2014 Health Activist Dinner! Sunday November 16, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m

Hoshun Restaurant 1601 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans Buffet Dinner and Cash Bar
(1.2-mile walk or 5-minute taxi from New Orleans Convention Center)
The Health Activist Dinner is a 30+ year tradition that celebrates activism for social justice in the field of health with an event that brings together progressive physician leaders and health activists from across the country. Register at:
http://activistdinner.eventbrite.com $55 (Students: $35)
Registration at the door: $60 (Students: $45)

Sponsoring Organizations: American Medical Student Association, APHA Peace Caucus, APHA Socialist Caucus, Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare, Doctors Council SEIU, Doctors for Global Health, Health- Begins.org, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, National Physicians Alliance, Physicians for a National Health Program, Physicians for Human Rights, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Project for Nuclear Awareness, and RxDemocracy.

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continued from page 1

Tuesday November 18, 8 PM- 12 midnight Occupational Health Section Dance Party!

Fund Raising Social, Party, and Dance All welcome!!!!
Location: The Attic at Lucy’s

Primary Prevention of War Group Needs You!

teaching and learning competencies (3).

The group is also developing website content that will compile faculty resources for teaching on war and health (4). This year, the group has been doing ongoing advocacy targeting the IOM’s recent report “Preventing Psychological Disorders in Service Members and their Families,” which made no mention of preventing war itself. There will be a presentation at APHA on the IOM report, titled “War, public health and institutional conflicts of interest” (#4253, Tuesday 12:30).

The group has also recently reached out to Deans of SPPH to alert them to the group’s work and encourage expanded curricular offerings, as well as to recruit interested faculty to join the group’s efforts. At the upcoming APHA meeting, the PH-PPW will be holding a session “Integrating Competencies for the Prevention of War into Public Health Curricula” (#4352.1, Tuesday 2:30) that will focus on the competency framework recently published in AJPH. This working round table session will engage all attendees
in visioning expanded curricular offerings and academic strategies for promoting the primary prevention of war. We invite all to contribute! For those not attending and interested in learning more about this Working Group, please contact Shelley White at
mlwhite@bc.edu.

1. American Public Health Association. 2009, November 10. The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War. Policy Number 20095. Available on-line at:http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1391 2. White, Shelley K.; Lown, Bernard; and Rohde, Jon E. 2013. “War or Health? Assessing Public Health Education and the Potential for Primary Prevention.” Public Health Reports 128(6). Available on-line at: http://www.publichealthreports.org/issueopen.cfm?articleID=3036
3. Wiist, William; Barker, Kathy; Arya, Neil; Rohde, Jon; Donohoe, Martin; White, Shelley; Lubens, Pauline; Gorman, Gerry; Hagopian, Amy. 2014. “The Role of Public Health in the Prevention of War: Rationale and Competencies.”American Journal of Public Health 104(6): e34-e47. Available on-line at: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301778
4. Faculty Resources for Teaching War and Public Health. Available at: http://phsj.org/war-and-peace/

Fall 2014 APHA Peace Caucus Page 4

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Running for office as scientist and socialist

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“My name is Jess Spear.

I am a member of Socialist Alternative.

I am a climate scientist.

And I was the organizing director for 15Now.”

So Jess Spear, who is running for the Washington State Legislature, began her debate on October 7 with the mainstream Democratic and  20 year incumbent, Frank Chopp.

15Now was a successful charter amendment for a $15.00 minimum wage in Seattle, a success that is galvanizing similar initiatives all over the country. For, although she is a scientist, environmental and economic justice are her motivations, and science is a tool to address that activism.

Not that Spear doesn’t love science- but from the beginning, she saw the problems science could address. She was first inspired by Carl Sagan as a teenager to want to do something about climate change, way before it became a common concept. Thrilled by a biology class, Spear switched from anthropology to biology, and applied to work on a climate change problems for her senior year project- only to be told by her project advisor that climate change wasn’t a surety. As a student, Spear listened and worked on red tide- but a belief that authority, scientific or political, was necessarily correct did not take, and she found her way back to climate change as soon as possible.

It was not an end to her disappointment with scientists. Not with her mentor: while not as activist as Spear, he was civic-minded and involved and supportive of Spear. But her fellow students, even those working on climate change, were not engaged beyond their own work. Graduate students often have a laser focus only on their areas of study, but Spear thinks, sadly, that it was cynicism about the future that prevented students from working with the bigger picture.

Few senior climate scientists were speaking out, as speaking publicly led to questions about the scientists’ integrity and objectivity. Then, perhaps more than now, scientists in general were schooled to believe that their role is not to be part of policy, but only to provide the data for the policy, seeming to still believe that the research they are doing isn’t already influenced and caused by policy. Michael Mann and Jim Hanson have strongly acted and spoken out, and have written about the need for scientists to speak out, and public involvement is no longer completely damning.

Spear’s personal discontent with the approach to climate change and injustice took a big change in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, public protest in Wisconsin against the budget and restrictions on collective bargaining, and the Occupy Movement. Though Occupy! Seattle, she heard speakers from Socialist Alternative, with whom she then learned the links between climate change and the economic system.

Science and research are integrated into economics, but are generally seen only through the lens of capitalism in US training. Spear recommends that scientists read Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000) by John Bellamy Foster, who has written several books integrating ecology and economics, and who warns readers about the ineffectiveness of spiritual approaches to saving the environment. Frederick Engel’s The Dialectics of Nature, written in 1883  and published in 1939 with a forward by evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane, analyzes the revolutions of science and their parallels with revolutions in society, a larger perspective useful for the scientist and activist.

Socialism provides the philosophical and practical links between science and environmental activism, and economics and social policy. For example, while many scientists and organizations agree that we must decrease reliance on fossil fuels to limit climate change, socialists are also concerned with the resulting human needs and in finding job alternatives for those in industries that might be abolished though activism or government regulation. A major mistake of environmentalists, believes Spear, is that they are coming head to head against ordinary working people. Socialism and Marxism have been very helpful to her in framing the issues, in putting problems in a social context, and have made her more more effective on a range of environmental issues.  Spear says, “I now understand how ludicrous it was for me to rail against individuals for their lifestyle choices. People shouldn’t be asked to choose the environment over their families.”

As a member of Socialist Alternative, Spears is not working as an individual, but as the member of a collective. Decisions about policy and actions are made collaboratively. There is a non-hierarchical perspective. This may be difficult for the scientists who believe in themselves purely as individuals to understand. But even with the inspiration of individuals, it is the power of an organization that creates social change.

After 2011, Spear spent more time on political campaigns, working first on the successful Seattle City Council election campaign of Kshama Sawant before leading the also successful 15Now minimum wage campaign. When she and Socialist Alternative decided that it made sense for her to run for Legislative office in 2014, she left behind for now her career as an oceanographer to focus on the election. She marches for political and environmental causes, has been arrested for stopping oil trains going through Seattle, gives interviews and talks, and leads a very different life, for now.

One of the biggest challenges for Spear has been learning a different way of public speaking than she had been trained in as a scientist. There was no effective formula for a political speech. It was usually not possible to use notes or other aids. Instead, Spear had to learn to make herself vulnerable, to listen and respond to the crowd, to improvise. Having let go of the notion of control that is drilled into science, she feels much better when giving a speech.

The election is November 4. Even without the corporate money poured into the campaign of the incumbent, Spear made a good showing in the primary, and well may win this election…if not this one, then the next. People may be shy about socialism, but are understanding that business-as-usual will not solve anything. As a person, scientist, and politician, Spear gives enormous hope that we have the capability to overcome fear and lassitude and make a better world.

The photograph used for the illustration found at the Vote Spear! website. http://www.votespear.org/jess_spear_arrested_protesting_oil_trains_in_seattle.

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Don’t let the government get in the way of your mission: 3 stories from today’s New York Times

A doctor(s), an engineer, and a poet were highlighted in different stories in today’s New York Times. The three were activists in different ways, proceeding with their chosen missions despite apparent obstacles such as government, regulations, and public opinion.

This is a short posting of good news.

Doctors without borders  Doctors Without Borders Evolves as It Forms the Vanguard in Ebola Fight. The New York Times, October 11, 2014, pA6.

“The group emerged in the late 1960s, as Nigerian forces fought a secessionist struggle in Biafra. When the government refused to allow some young French Red Cross doctors to deliver food to the famine-strien rebel territories, they revolted, breaking their Red Cross Pledge of neutrality and silence.

They founded the group that would, in 1971, become Medecins Sans Frontieres. Its first director, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, a media-savvy leftist who would become France’s foreign minister, described the mission: “It’s simple.Go where the patients are.”

Medical teams would tend to people wherever they suffered, regardless of political or military boundaries, with or without permission. The group’s workers would bear public witness to what they observed.

Today, Doctors Without Bordersis the largest of the relatively few organizations devoted to providing urgent care in medical crises caused by armed conflict or natural disasters..”

—–

Kailash satyarthis nobel prize caps decades of fighting child slavery in India. The New York Times, October 11, 2014, pA10

Kailish Satyarthi, one of the 2 recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, has worked for 3 decades to stop child slavery in India, using undercover operatives and camera crews to physically free children, on site, from enforced work in deplorable conditions. The organization he founded, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Children Mission) has freed 70,000 children.

“Born about six and a half years after India won independence, Mr. Satyarthi, 60, was so deeply impressed with Gandhi’s teachings that, as a teenager, he invited a group of high-caste local bigwigs to a meal prepared by low-caste “untouchables”: the ivied guests boycotted the event and then shunned his family. Deeply upset, the boy dropped his Brahmin family name in favor of Satyarthi, which mean “seeker of truth,” according to an account on his website.

A few years later, Mr Satyarthi was studying engineering at college when Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, cracking down on civil liberties and suspending elections. Already a Marxist, he mobilized students against the government and spent much of the period avoiding arrest warrants, said Prabhat Kumar, a longtime friend and fellow activist.”

——–

Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer-Winning Poet, Dies at 89. The New York TImes, October 11, 2014, p A19.

And last, the obituary for poet Carolyn Kizer, whose poetry was personal, intellectual, and political.

“Ms. Kizer’s politics were not confined to paper. In 1998, for instance, she and Maxine Kumin resigned as chancellors of the Academy of American Poets to protest the lack of women and minority group members in its leadership. The organization has since diversified as a result.”

 

Ms. Kizer’s first collection, “The Ungrateful Garden,” published in 1961, left little doubt that to her, the poetical was the political. In a poem from the volume, “The Death of a Public Servant,” about McCarthyism, she wrote:

This is a day when good men die from windows,

Leap from a sill of one of the world’s eyes

Into the blind and deaf-and-dumb of time …

Dead friends, who were the servants of this world!

Once there was a place for gentle heroes.

Now they are madmen who, scuttling down corridors,

Eluding guards, climb lavatory walls

And squeeze through air-vents to their liberation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Scientists, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Right Livelihood Award

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How many scientists have won Nobel Peace Prizes?

Not many, but more than most people- including scientists- can name. 

The Nobel prizes were started by the bequest of the will of Swedish scientist, chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel, best known for his discovery of dynamite, and were first awarded in 1901. (The award for Economics was started after the others, in 1968, by the Swedish Bank Riksbank.) 5 of the awards (Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Economics) are given in Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Parliament. 

While in Oslo, I visited the Nobel Peace Center about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Peace Prize, near the waterfront. Most of the area in the small museum was taken up with a tribute to the 2013 Nobel to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  The organization is a diplomatic and legal one, and the exhibition was quite slanted in its emphasis on offenders since WWII- citing, for example, the use of mustard gas by the Germans in WWII, but making no mention of the use of Agent Orange by the USA in Vietnam.

There was an installation with all Nobel Peace Prize awardees, and here and there were was a winner identified as a scientist. I wouldn’t have necessarily expected more- the description of the qualifications for the award as given in Alfred Nobel’s will (” and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses..”) is certainly not directed to scientists.

Still, scientists are in a great position of respect and power, are certainly implicated in the development of weapons and technology, and could take advantage of this privilege in promoting peace. I read the Nobel Peace Prize awardee biographies and made a list of scientists and science-related organizations who have won Nobel Peace Prizes. 

Scientists/Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

Name                                      Year of award                      Science focus

Wangari Maathai                     2004                                      Biologist

Joseph Rotblat                         1995                                       Physicist

Andrei Sakharov                      1975                                       Physicist

Norman Ernest Borlaug        1970                                       Botanist

Linus Carl Pauling                  1962                                       Chemist

(Albert Schweitzer                  1952                                      Physician )

Ralph Bunche                          1950                                      Social Scientist

John Boyd Orr                         1949                                     Physician and Biologist

Jane Addams                           1931                                      Sociologist

Fridtjof Nansen                      1922                                       Zoologist

 

Organization/Nobel Peace Prize                                                               Year

 (Médecins Sans Frontières                                                                         1999)

International Atomic Energy Agency                                                       2005

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)                   2007

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War              1985

( ) denotes a medical person/organization. 

For some, the activism that led to the peace prize was their occupation; in others, it was beyond the job. As for the other Nobel Peace Prizes, the laureates are generally already very well known. The awards are primarily diplomatic, and this combined with the celebrity factor makes the paucity of scientists perhaps understandable. 

But this political focus of the Nobel Peace Prize has been bothersome. The prize has sometimes given to world leaders whose role in peace was dubious, and it is certainly difficult to take seriously a peace award given to, for example, Henry Kissinger, one of the architects of American’s war on Vietnam.

The Alternative Nobel Prize- the Right Livelihood Awards

Journalist and professional philatelist Jakob von Uexkull felt that the awards were narrow in scope and were unrealistic in focusing on the interests of industrialized countries. He approached the Nobel Foundation to establish awards more relevant to the problems of poverty and the destruction of resources, and was rebuffed. He then financed the first “Right Livelihood Award” in 1980, and in 1985 was invited to present the award in the Swedish Parliament. These awards are sometimes described as the “Alternative Nobel Prize” and tend to be given to activists in developing world countries.” There  are usually 4 winners a year, and sometimes an honorary winner who does not receive money. 

 There are many scientists among the winners of the Right Livelihood Awards. The winners are realistically inspirational, ordinary scientists with feet to the ground who made huge local (but often international) differences to people. It is obvious from reading the individual biographies that activism is very doable for a scientist, and can be very effective. 

They come from countries from all over the world. They organize, they collaborate, and those collaborations are often with people outside their own fields. They are multidimensional, and are often experts in several fields, learning what needed to be learned to accomplish their missions. Science is not an end onto itself, but is a powerful tool to effect change, peace, and a better world. Some are self-trained. Many are women.

The choices of awardees are not politically “safe.”

Right Livelihood awardees 

Name                                                           Year of Award                       Science Focus

Paul Walker                                                2013                                       Political scientist

(Denis Mukwege                                         2013                                       Physician)

Hans Herrin                                               2013                              Agronomist/entomologist                                     Biovision Foundation

(Sima Samar                                                2012                                       Physician)

Huang Ming                                               2011                                       Engineer

David Suzuki   Honorary                         2009                                       Zoologist

Rene Ngongo                                             2009                                       Biologist

(Catherine Hamlin                                     2009                                       Physician)

(Monika Hauser                                         2008                                        Physician)

Ruth Manorama                                       2006                                        Sociologist

Tony Clarke                                               2005                                        Sociologist

Asghar Ali                                                  2005                                        Engineer 

Raul Montenegro                                     2004                                        Evolutionary Biologist

Walden Bello                                            2003                                         Sociologist

Nicanor Perlas                                          2003                                         Agriculturalist

Ibrahim Abouleish                                  2003                                          Pharmacologist

Martin Green                                           2002                                          Engineer

Tewolde Berhan                                       2000                                         Botanist

Birsel Lemke                                            2000                                          Political scientist

Wes Jackson/The land Institute          2000                                    Geneticist-agronomist

Hermann Scheer                                     1999                                            Social Scientist

Juan Garces                                              1999                                            Political scientist

Samual Epstein                                       1998                                            Physician, Occupational Medicine

Juan Pablo Orrego                                 1998                                             Environmental Scientist

(Katarina Kruhonja                                 1998                                             Physician)

(Vesna Terselic                                         1998                                             Physician)

Jinzaburo Takagi                                    1997                                             Nuclear Chemist

Michael Succow                                      1997                                             Biologist   

(George Vithoulkas                                  1996                                            Homeopathic Physician)                     

Sulak Sivaraksa                                       1995                                             Social Scientist

Hannumappa R Sudarshan/Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK)    1994 Physician /org

Vandana Shiva                                        1993                                             Physicist

(Zafrullah Chowdhury                             1992                                            Physician)                                                             with Gonoshathaya Kendra (GK)

John Gofman                                          1992                       Nuclear Chemist and Physician

Edward Goldsmith  Honorary             1991                                             Ecologist/writer  

Bengt Danielsson                                    1991                                             Anthropologist                                                                                                (with Marie-Therese Danielsson)

Melaku Worede                                      1989                                             Agronomist

(Akilu Lemma                                          1989                                             Physician)

(Legesse Wolde-Yohannes                     1989                                            Physician)

(Inge Genefke    Honorary                      1988                                           Physician)                                                Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims

Jose Lutzenberger 1988 Agronomist

Johan Galtung Honorary                     1987                  Mathematician, Social Scientist

Hans-Peter Durr                                    1987                                             Physicist

Mordechai Vanunu                                1987                            Geographer, philosopher 

Rosalie Bertell                                        1986                  Biometrics, Environmental Health

(Alice Stewart                                          1986                                              Physician)

Wangari Maathai                                  1984                                               Biologist                                                                                                (Won Nobel Peace Prize in 2004)

Amory B. Lovins                                    1983                                      Experimental Physicist

Hunter Lovins                                        1983                     Political Scientists and Sociologist

Organization                                                                         Year of Award

Grain International                                                                                      2011
 

Grameen Shakti                                                                                            2007 

Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) Org. of Science Writers        1996  

 

Reading only the biographies of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates would lead a scientist to believe that there isn’t much change of being an activist for peace.

Reading the biographies of the Right Livelihood Award would lead scientists to believe that they can be effective in activist efforts, and that their particular talents and training makes them very, very useful in a drive for peace and sustainability.

——
September 24th, 2014

Right Livelihood Award 2014
The „Alternative Nobel Prize“ is awarded annually by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation „for outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people“. This year, the Foundation has selected not four, but five Right Livelihood Award Laureates:

Edward Snowden (USA), Joint Honorary Award with Alan Rusbridger
„… for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights.“

Alan Rusbridger (UK), Joint Honorary Award with Edward Snowden
„… for building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices.“

Asma Jahangir (Pakistan)
„… for defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk.“

Basil Fernando / AHRC (Hong Kong SAR, China)
„… for his tireless and outstanding work to support and document the implementation of human rights in Asia.“

Bill McKibben / 350.org (USA)
„… for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change.“

We congratulate the Laureates and extend our cordial thanks for their outstanding enthusiasm and work for a more just, democratic and sustainable world!

http://www.rightlivelihood.org/

posted on http://www.inesglobal.com/news-2014.phtml
 

 

 

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Chemist Bob Boikess: Condoleeza Rice should not give the Rutgers Commencement address

Boikess

 

Bob Boikess, Rutgers University organic chemist, was instrumental in preventing Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State under George W. Bush,  from speaking at the Rutgers University Spring 2014 commencement.

The Board of Governor’s of Rutgers University voted in February, 2014, to award an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Condoleeza Rice, and invited her to give the Commencement speech (and receive $35,000).

Organic Chemistry Professor Bob Boikess introduced a resolution to the Rutgers University New Brunswick Faculty Council that they urge the University’s Board of Governors to rescind its invitation to speak at Commencement because of Rice’s involvement in the Iraq War. The Faculty Council approved the resolution on March 2.

But Rutgers officials refused to rescind the invitation to Ms. Rice. But the faculty resolution, and the refusal of Rutgers to disinvite Ms. Rice, was publicized in newspapers and social media across the country.

The students requested meetings with the Rutgers administration, wrote letters, filed petitions, submitted op-eds in the local and national press, but the administration refused to meet with them. Approximately 160 held a student sit-in on April 28 at the Old Queens administration building to protest Rice’s invitation. Rutgers President Robert Barchi still refused to meet with the students or to respond to letters.

Karl Rove, Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff for George Bush, objected publicly to the treatment of Rice by faculty and students, and called the Rutgers faculty and Boikess out as a “nutty organic chem professor” on Fox News, saying that the pressure against Rice was “politically motivated, poetically aimed, ideologically driven and stupid.” “Shame of the little totalitarians on the left and their faculty agent who perpetuated this.”

On May 3 Ms. Rice informed Rutgers President Robert Barchi that she had decided not to give the Commencement address.

There have been repercussions for Boikess through mail, email, and phone hate messages. His scientific “objectivity” (Aren’t we yet done with the idea that this is possible?) has been questioned, as has his science. Many faculty and students have publicly disagreed with the Faculty Senate action. But Boikess has been an activist all his life, and hate and criticism are part of the package, not important in the bigger scheme of things. The verbal attack by Karl Rove was actually a positive in the eyes of Boikess’ friends and family.

“I’m certainly not personally offended because I learned a very long time ago to ‘always consider the source,’” he said in an interview by Politico. “the senior advisor to arguably the worst president in American history is not a very reliable source.”

Boikess has been an activist since his teens, with a commitment to social justice. He was brought up to be an activist, but was only really propelled into activism by the U.S. war on Vietnam. His activism has taken different forms.

At Stony Brook University, during the duration of the Vietnam War, he was overtly antiwar. For example, when recruiters from Dow Chemical (the manufacturers of napalm) came to the Stony Brook campus to offer deferments to those who took jobs with them, Boikess and Dr. Goldfarb, both members of the Chemistry department and the Organization for Progressive Thought, held a class to discuss the chemical structure of napalm and its effects on people. While at Stony Brook, he also was also invoked in the court decision Boikess vs Aspland, which concerned faculty privacy.

He practiced academic activism through various positions in the University Senate and other campus organizations and committees. He participated in the Student Judicial process and was an advisor to several student organizations. He was also active in the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a group that functions as a union as well as a foundation and a professional organization. That Boikess is is obviously a committed member of the community and a full participant in university life has no doubt helped in being taken seriously as being someone with more than a personal agenda, and has served perhaps as some protection.

He is involved in Big Pharma and climate change issues, in which his expertise as a scientist is part of the the activism. Most of his activism has not stemmed from his research, but has gone on- side by side- with his scientific work. Bob does not feel that activism has helped or hindered in his scientific career. But he does recommend that scientists wait until after tenure to really get into activism mostly because activism takes so much time.

Bob’s bottom line for young scientists who are considering taking on controversial issues-

“If you don’t do and say what you believe to be right, you’ll regret it later.”

May 28, 2014 email interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notoriety pays: Cliff Mass

Cliff mass 1 Influenced by mentors Carl Sagan and Steve Sneider, University of Washington atmospheric meteorologist Cliff Mass has always happily considered himself to be an activist. As a university professor, he already saw himself as more than a scientist in being an educator. His list of outreach activities- and especially, his very public firing by radio station KUOW – has made him quite well known in Seattle.

The reasons Cliff was fired are political and comical.

For 15 years, Cliff had a segment on public radio station KUOW, where he gave the weather forecast and discussed Pacific Northwest weather, climate, and education-related topics. His show had a large following, and audience response to his descriptions of the need for coastal radar played a large role in the establishment of that system. But then Cliff made a big mistake- he spoke about math.

Through the years, he had notice a diminution of math skills in the K-12 schools and in entering freshman at the university, which he blamed partially on the discovery math curricula that was recommended by many Schools of Education, including the University of Washington School of Education. The problem here was that the University of Washington School of Education was a big donor to KUOW. So KUOW issued a no-math warning.

Cliff complied reluctantly, having other avenues (such as a popular blog) where he could discuss math. But on another show, a Seattle Times article about the rejection of in-state A student applicants (the University of Washington is a state university) in favor of higher-paying out-of-state students came up. As a faculty member who was an undergraduate advisor with colleagues on the admissions committee, Cliff knew this urban legend to be untrue, and said so. And the next day, he was fired, primed by speaking out about math. You can read Cliff’s account of this here. http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2011/05/no-more-weather-on-kuow-weekday.html

Another radio station, KPLU, picked up Cliff’s segment, and there he enjoys free rein of expression and a larger audience. Another windfall is that many people cancelled donations to KUOW, sending them instead to Cliff, for his lab, or to KPLU. He is yet better known, and this notoriety can be very, very useful.

True citizen, Cliff is constantly involved in one civic issue after another, often controversial. As part of his crusade for better math education, Cliff has worked on the elections of 3 pro-math Seattle Public Schools board member elections, and has seen all 3 candidates win despite money poured into opponents’ elections by business interests in town.

He is also activist in his field, speaking out publicly on science issues. Early in his career he began advocating for better weather prediction in the USA, which was seen as criticism of NOAA. On April 1, H.R. 2413, The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act passed a vote in the House of Representatives and has gone to the Senate, a gratifying and long-coming result.

While a believer in anthropogenic climate change, Cliff is outraged that many people, including scientists, overhype and overstate data, and has publicly dissected scientific literature that exaggerate the data. He is particularly annoyed at scientists and media who attribute specific weather events to long term climate change. (See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/15/texas-tall-tales-and-global-warming/ on the Texas heatwave and  http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2011/06/scary-snowpack-stories.html on snowpack association with climate change.)

“Careers are made and lots of research money comes to the ‘right’ position,” he says. “And the media loves global warming. But if you don’t know the facts, you can’t fight it. It isn’t worth it to do the right thing with the wrong information.”

An unfortunate side of Cliff’s responses to exaggeration is that climate change deniers quote him to demonstrate lack of scientific consensus on climate change, or even as a disbeliever. But being as honest and accurate trumps the occasional misuse of words.

(This is a very important point, and I like Cliff’s take on it. Many scientists refuse to speak with media representatives, as they fear being misquoted. This is a shortsighted fear of little actual significance. Your credibility can ultimately be more hurt by staying silent.)

Still, Cliff says, you have to protect yourself, and you can’t let activism get in the way of developing your career. He advises academics to get tenure before taking on too much controversy. Universities can, as Cliff’s did, put pressure on a faculty member because of their own vested interests, and won’t always protect their faculty in public conflicts.

Update: On June 3rd, Cliff’s choice for elementary school curriculum was voted in by the School Board, throwing over the District choice.

 

 

 

 

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