facility:university of wisconsin

  • Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies

    Je n’ai pas réussi à extraire une simple partie de ce texte, tant l’ensemble me semble complètement hors-jeu. Je partage l’avis de l’auteur de l’article : la folie et l’hubris scientifiques se serrent la main dans le dos de l’humanité. Choisir de surcroit des femmes en difficulté (HIV positive) est bien dans la lignée machiste d’une science qui impose plus qu’elle ne propose.

    La guerre internationale à la réputation, la course à « être le premier » (ici le masculin s’impose), la science sans conscience ne peuvent que provoquer ce genre de dérives. Il faudra réfléchir à une « slow science » et à un réel partage des découvertes, qui permettrait de prendre le temps du recul, et qui pourrait associer la société civile (ici au sens de celle qui n’est pas engagée dans la guerre des sciences).

    The proposal follows a Chinese scientist who claimed to have created twins from edited embryos last year.
    David Cyranoski

    Denis Rebrikov

    Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov is planning controversial gene-editing experiments in HIV-positive women.

    A Russian scientist says he is planning to produce gene-edited babies, an act that would make him only the second person known to have done this. It would also fly in the face of the scientific consensus that such experiments should be banned until an international ethical framework has agreed on the circumstances and safety measures that would justify them.

    Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov has told Nature he is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women, possibly before the end of the year if he can get approval by then. Chinese scientist He Jiankui prompted an international outcry when he announced last November that he had made the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls.

    The experiment will target the same gene, called CCR5, that He did, but Rebrikov claims his technique will offer greater benefits, pose fewer risks and be more ethically justifiable and acceptable to the public. Rebrikov plans to disable the gene, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter cells, in embryos that will be implanted into HIV-positive mothers, reducing the risk of them passing on the virus to the baby in utero. By contrast, He modified the gene in embryos created from fathers with HIV, which many geneticists said provided little clinical benefit because the risk of a father passing on HIV to his children is minimal.

    Rebrikov heads a genome-editing laboratory at Russia’s largest fertility clinic, the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology in Moscow and is a researcher at the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, also in Moscow.

    According to Rebrikov he already has an agreement with an HIV centre in the city to recruit women infected with HIV who want to take part in the experiment.

    But scientists and bioethicists contacted by Nature are troubled by Rebrikov’s plans.

    “The technology is not ready,” says Jennifer Doudna, a University of California Berkeley molecular biologist who pioneered the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing system that Rebrikov plans to use. “It is not surprising, but it is very disappointing and unsettling.”

    Alta Charo, a researcher in bioethics and law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says Rebrikov’s plans are not an ethical use of the technology. “It is irresponsible to proceed with this protocol at this time,” adds Charo, who sits on a World Health Organization committee that is formulating ethical governance policies for human genome editing.
    Rules and regulations

    Implanting gene-edited embryos is banned in many countries. Russia has a law that prohibits genetic engineering in most circumstances, but it is unclear whether or how the rules would be enforced in relation to gene editing in an embryo. And Russia’s regulations on assisted reproduction do not explicitly refer to gene editing, according to a 2017 analysis of such regulations in a range of countries. (The law in China is also ambiguous: in 2003, the health ministry banned genetically modifying human embryos for reproduction but the ban carried no penalties and He’s legal status was and still is not clear).

    Rebrikov expects the health ministry to clarify the rules on the clinical use of gene-editing of embryos in the next nine months. Rebrikov says he feels a sense of urgency to help women with HIV, and is tempted to proceed with his experiments even before Russia hashes out regulations.

    To reduce the chance he would be punished for the experiments, Rebrikov plans to first seek approval from three government agencies, including the health ministry. That could take anywhere from one month to two years, he says.

    Konstantin Severinov, a molecular geneticist who recently helped the government design a funding program for gene-editing research, says such approvals might be difficult. Russia’s powerful Orthodox church opposes gene editing, says Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow.

    Before any scientist attempts to implant gene-edited embryos into women there needs to be a transparent, open debate about the scientific feasibility and ethical permissibility, says geneticist George Daley at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who also heard about Rebrikov’s plans from Nature.

    One reason that gene-edited embryos have created a huge global debate is that, if allowed to grow into babies, the edits can be passed on to future generations — a far-reaching intervention known as altering the germ line. Researchers agree that the technology might, one day, help to eliminate genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis, but much more testing is needed before it is used in the alteration of human beings.

    In the wake of He’s announcement, many scientists renewed calls for an international moratorium on germline editing. Although that has yet to happen, the World Health Organization, the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society and other prominent organizations have all discussed how to stop unethical and dangerous uses — often defined as ones that pose unnecessary or excessive risk — of genome editing in humans.
    HIV-positive mothers

    Although He was widely criticized for conducting his experiments using sperm from HIV-positive fathers, his argument was that he just wanted to protect people against ever getting the infection. But scientists and ethicists countered that there are other ways to decrease the risk of infection, such as contraceptives. There are also reasonable alternatives, such as drugs, for preventing maternal transmission of HIV, says Charo.

    Rebrikov agrees, and so plans to implant embryos only into a subset of HIV-positive mothers who do not respond to standard anti-HIV drugs. Their risk of transmitting the infection to the child is higher. If editing successfully disables the CCR5 gene, that risk would be greatly reduced, Rebrikov says. “This is a clinical situation which calls for this type of therapy,” he says.

    Most scientists say there is no justification for editing the CCR5 gene in embryos, even so, because the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. Even if the therapy goes as planned, and both copies of the CCR5 gene in cells are disabled, there is still a chance that such babies could become infected with HIV. The cell-surface protein encoded by CCR5 is thought to be the gateway for some 90% of HIV infections, but getting rid of it won’t affect other routes of HIV infection. There are still many unknowns about the safety of gene editing in embryos, says Gaetan Burgio at the Australian National University in Canberra. And what are the benefits of editing this gene, he asks. “I don’t see them.”
    Hitting the target

    There are also concerns about the safety of gene editing in embryos more generally. Rebrikov claims that his experiment — which, like He’s, will use the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool — will be safe.

    One big concern with He’s experiment — and with gene-editing in embryos more generally — is that CRISPR-Cas9 can cause unintended ‘off-target’ mutations away from the target gene, and that these could be dangerous if they, for instance, switched off a tumour-suppressor gene. But Rebrikov says that he is developing a technique that can ensure that there are no ‘off-target’ mutations; he plans to post preliminary findings online within a month, possibly on bioRxiv or in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Scientists contacted by Nature were sceptical that such assurances could be made about off-target mutations, or about another known challenge of using CRISPR-Cas 9 — so-called ‘on-target mutations’, in which the correct gene is edited, but not in the way intended.

    Rebrikov writes, in a paper published last year in the Bulletin of the RSMU, of which he is the editor in chief, that his technique disables both copies of the CCR5 gene (by deleting a section of 32 bases) more than 50% of the time. He says publishing in this journal was not a conflict of interest because reviewers and editors are blinded to a paper’s authors.

    But Doudna is sceptical of those results. “The data I have seen say it’s not that easy to control the way the DNA repair works.” Burgio, too, thinks that the edits probably led to other deletions or insertions that are difficult to detect, as is often the case with gene editing.

    Misplaced edits could mean that the gene isn’t properly disabled, and so the cell is still accessible to HIV, or that the mutated gene could function in a completely different and unpredictable way. “It can be a real mess,” says Burgio.

    What’s more, the unmutated CCR5 has many functions that are not yet well understood, but which offer some benefits, say scientists critical of Rebrikov’s plans. For instance, it seems to offer some protection against major complications following infection by the West Nile virus or influenza. “We know a lot about its [CCR5’s] role in HIV entry [to cells], but we don’t know much about its other effects,” says Burgio. A study published last week also suggested that people without a working copy of CCR5 might have a shortened lifespan.

    Rebrikov understands that if he proceeds with his experiment before Russia’s updated regulations are in place, he might be considered a second He Jiankui. But he says he would only do so if he’s sure of the safety of the procedure. “I think I’m crazy enough to do it,” he says.

    Nature 570, 145-146 (2019)
    doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01770-x

  • Eliot Borenstein, Author at NYU Jordan Center

    Eliot Borenstein is a Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies and Collegiate Professer at New York University. Educated at Oberlin College (B.A., 1988) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison (M.A., 1989, Ph.D., 1993), Mr. Borenstein was an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia (1993-95) before taking an appointment at NYU in 1995.
    Articles by Eliot Borenstein
    The Americans: “Take Your Daughter to Work” Day
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    The Americans: The Marriage Plot against America
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    Was Putin targeting Jews?
    Semantics, not anti-Semitism, may be behind Putin’s gaffe.
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    Boys Just Want to Have Fun: Just How Queer are the “Satisfaction” Videos?
    The Satisfaction supporters are definitely fighting for something, but it is not LGBT rights
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    Enabling Russian Paranoia: A Response to Thomas Weber
    We may not be colluding with Russia, but we are handing over propaganda victories free of charge
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    Matt Taibbi’s Not-So-Secret Russian Past
    Like the clueless expats they loathed, the editors treated Moscow and its residents as their playground.
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    Ksenia Sobchak; or, Who Gets to Lose to Putin in 2018?
    Russia could do a lot worse than Ksenia Sobchak. In fact, most countries currently are (not everyone gets to be Canada).
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    Is “fake news” fake news?
    We are in a panic about the very means that are used to spread panic.
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    Blaming Russia
    Blaming Russia lets us off the hook.
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    Change is coming to All The Russias
    I am stepping away from most of my editorial duties for the blog
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    I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want her to be a Slavist.
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    Cringe-Watching: Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews
    Watching Stone question Putin and, worse, try to make small-talk, is simply embarrassing.
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    The Ballad of Sonya and Louie: An Immigrant Story
    I had thought my family was Russian, but then when I went to college, I found out we were just Jews.
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    Hulk Smash Stupid Russia Theories
    Monocausal explanations have the virtue of catchiness and the vice of absurdity.
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    In Defense of Russia’s Holocaust on Ice
    Has “Springtime for Hitler” finally met its match?
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    American Fascism: Lessons from Russia
    Putin is not a fascist, in part because he does not need to be. Trump ran a consistently fascist campaign.
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    Russia vs. PornHub: Lie Back and Think of the Motherland
    Apparently, people would rather do anything else—watch porn, have gay sex—than engage in heterosexual intercourse.
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    PokéMaidan, or, How to Start a Moral Panic in Russia
    Pokémon Go troubles the Russian media imagination because it represents the return of the repressed.
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    The real problem with the constant Trump/Putin comparisons is that they are profoundly unfair… to Putin.
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    No Netflix, No Chill: Russia’s Culture Minister Would Rather Purge than Binge
    In the West, we’ve long been familiar with the clear and present danger of Netflix.

    #Russie #culture #sciences #société

  • “Hate Speech” Does Not Incite Hatred - Quillette

    The United States Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed that “[s]peech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground” is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, the protections of the First Amendment extend only to government efforts to punish or censor speech. Private entities remain free to take action against people who engage in speech which ostensibly demeans others, and private actors from Harvard University to Facebook and Twitter have punished or censored individuals whose speech they have found to be “hateful.”

    Those who advocate the censorship of so-called “hate speech” claim that it causes various ills, but perhaps the most common claim is that “hate speech” engenders hatred towards particular groups, and thereby causes violence against members of those groups. Such claims have been particularly common in recent years, and have included allegations that “anti-police hate speech” on the part of Black Lives Matters supporters has led to violence against police officers; that Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric has led to an increase in hate crimes; and that anti-Muslim hate speech on the Internet can motivate some people to commit acts of violence against Muslims.

    The claim that “hate speech” causes hatred, and thereby causes violence, is superficially appealing, but the more one thinks about it, the less sense it makes. Is it really likely that otherwise reasonable people will be driven to hate others, and to violently attack those others, simply because they were exposed to hate speech? The proponents of that view rarely, if ever, offer direct evidence for that claim. There is a simple explanation for that failure: such evidence does not exist.

    At first blush, that would seem to be an outlandish claim. What about the infamous “hate radio” in Rwanda? Doesn’t everyone know that those broadcasts caused people who had peacefully coexisted with their neighbors to engage in genocide? Well, in fact, there is no evidence that that is true. This common understanding of the role of “hate radio” overlooks basic facts of Rwandan history, including the fact that the genocide took place in the midst of a Tutsi-dominated insurgency that had begun in 1990, and which had resulted in hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Rwandans as insurgent forces approached the capital in 1993, just a year before the beginning of the genocide. Thus, the myth that Rwanda was an Arcadia of ethnic harmony before the “hate radio” broadcasts began is just that: a myth.

    A father in Rwanda searches for his lost child. ©ICRC/Benno Neeleman

    Perhaps more importantly, the popular narrative regarding the role of “hate radio” ignores twenty years of scholarship which finds little evidence that the radio broadcasts caused people to engage in genocide. For example, a 2017 study published in Criminology found no statistically significant relationship between radio exposure and killing.1 Moreover, the anthropologist Charles Mironko interviewed one hundred convicted perpetrators and found that many either did not hear the “hate radio” broadcasts or misinterpreted them, and University of Wisconsin political scientist Scott Straus found that peer pressure and personal appeals, not hate radio, is what motivated most perpetrators.2 Similarly, political scientist Lee Ann Fujii’s book-length study of the Rwandan genocide found that those who participated in the genocide did not show unusual levels of fear or hatred of Tutsis. Instead, they participated through personal relationships with local elites, often because they feared repercussions if they did not participate. Hate had nothing to do with it.

    Professor Fujii’s findings are consistent with a recent study that was published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which found that villages with better radio reception had higher levels of participation in the genocide, but which credited that effect not to the creation of hatred, but rather to the fact that the broadcasts told those who were already willing to participate how to coordinate with others, and assured them that the government supported the killing and hence that they would not be punished.

    At this point, an alert reader might object that several “hate radio” executives were convicted of genocide-related offenses, and might also point to the well-known claim that some of the killers “had a radio in one hand and a machete in the other[.]” That is true, but it is also true that immediately after the assassination of the Rwandan president, the “hate radio” broadcasts shifted from general propaganda to broadcasting specific advice and instructions to those already participating in the genocide regarding who to kill and where to find them.3 It was for only those post-assassination broadcasts that radio executives were convicted, rather than for the pre-genocide, more generalized “hate speech.”

    Finally, these findings regarding the role of “hate radio” in the Rwandan genocide is consistent with what we know about the effects of propaganda in general. Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that propaganda is able to change minds; rather, it is generally effective only among those who already agree with it, and counter-productive among those who disagree.4 That was true even of Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda, which decreased denunciations of Jews by ordinary people in areas which had not historically been anti-Semitic.5

    Therefore, the scholarly consensus is clear: “Hate speech” does not engender hatred. Rather, to the extent that is has any effect on violence at all, it makes it somewhat easier for those already inclined towards violence to act, largely by placing an imprimatur of official approval on acts of violence, and thereby making people who are already hateful and prone to violence believe that they can get away with acting violently.

    This implies that censoring “hate speech” by ordinary persons is pointless – it is only “hate speech” by elites that can be dangerous (and even then not by creating hatred). There is no evidence that “hate speech” by ordinary persons has any effect on violence whatsoever. Thus, the efforts of such private actors as Facebook and Twitter to scrub the internet of what they deem to be “hate speech” by ordinary persons are, at best, misguided. But such efforts can also be dangerous because they help create excuses for governments to use allegations of “hate speech” to silence ideas that they dislike. Indeed, Freedom House has noted that that has already occurred in Russia, French courts have upheld “hate speech” convictions of advocates of the BDS movement to boycott of Israel, and in Spain, Catalan separatists who burned photographs of the Spanish monarch were fined on the grounds that they had incited violence and promoted hate speech.

    Finally, efforts to censor extremists can backfire by causing them to see themselves as a persecuted minority who are justified in using violent means to be heard. Therefore, as painful as American law’s protection of “hate speech” can be, the alternative is almost certainly worse. In addition, given that even the Supreme Court recognizes that, in the contemporary world, “the most important places … for the exchange of views … is cyberspace …, and social media in particular[,]” Twitter, Facebook, and other private actors should resist calls to censor hateful speech; they might believe that doing so serves the public interest, but in fact it does quite the opposite.

    Gordon Danning is History Research Fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He has published a law review article on the free speech rights of high school students and conducted research on political violence.


    1 Hollie Nyseh Brehm. 2017. Subnational Determinants of Killing in Rwanda. Criminology, 55(1): 5-31. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1745-9125.12126/full
    2 Scott Straus, 2007. What is the relationship between hate radio and violence? Rethinking Rwanda’s “Radio Machete”. Politics & Society, 35(4): 609-637. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0032329207308181
    3 Richard Carver. 2000. Broadcasting and Political Transition: Rwanda and Beyond. African Broadcast Cultures: Radio in Transition, edited by Richard Farndon and Graham Furniss, 188-197. Oxford: James Currey 190.
    4 Hugo Mercier. 2017. How Gullible Are We? A Review of the Evidence from Psychology and Social Science. Review of General Psychology, 21(2): 103-122. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/gpr/21/2/103
    5 Maja Adena, Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, Veronica Santarosa, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya. 2015. Radio and the Rise of The Nazis in Prewar Germany. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(4): 1885–1939. https://academic.oup.com/qje/article-abstract/130/4/1885/1916582?redirectedFrom=PDF

  • Spark of Science: Sean B. Carroll - Issue 34: Adaptation

    In his latest book, The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters, Sean B. Carroll tells us the remarkable story of Robert Paine, who revolutionized ecology by throwing starfish out of tide pools. Paine’s bold experiments revealed predators have an ineluctable impact on every animal and plant in an ecosystem. If a writer turned the lens on Carroll, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin, and vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he would have an equally adventurous subject who’s made fantastic contributions to science. Only in Carroll’s case the inspirational animal would not be starfish but snakes. As a kid, Carroll loved everything about snakes, especially the colors and patterns (...)

  • How a Mathematical Superstition Stultified Algebra for Over a Thousand Years - Facts So Romantic

    Hooked on numbers: Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise (1869), a painting by Fyodor Bronnikov (1827–1902).Wikicommons Like most people, my high-school training in mathematics involved next-to-no history, barely touching on the names of a few mathematicians, like Pythagoras, and their theorems. I graduated only vaguely aware that geometry came from ancient Greece and algebra came from the Babylonians. A decade later, as a graduate researcher of chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, I realized that by not knowing anything about the origins of these branches of mathematics, I was missing out on something extremely important. I began rummaging through this history to see their elaborate unfolding myself and, to my surprise, found that geometry was far more developed than algebra (...)

  • The Hidden Power Laws of Ecosystems - Issue 29 : Scaling

    Here’s how to cause a ruckus: Ask a bunch of naturalists to simplify the world. We usually think in terms of a web of complicated interactions among animals, plants, microbes, earth, wind, and fire—what Darwin called “the entangled bank.” Reducing the bank’s complexity to broad generalizations can seem dishonest. So when Tony Ives, a theoretical ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, prodded his colleagues at the 2013 meeting of the Ecological Society of America by calling for a vote on whether they ought to seek out general laws, it probably wasn’t surprising that two-thirds of the room voted no.1 Despite the skepticism, the kinds of general laws made possible by simplification have remarkable predictive powers. They could let us calculate how many species there are in ecosystems that (...)

  • Obama must end support for Israeli apartheid against Palestinian scholars
    4 septembre | Radhika Balakrishnan et al |Tribunes

    US President Barack Obama, in a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, reaffirmed his support and love for Israel because, as he claims, “it is a genuine democracy and you can express your opinions.”

    He further expressed his commitment to protecting Israel as a “Jewish state” by ensuring a “Jewish majority.”

    The US government’s support for the “Jewish state” has always been far more than rhetorical, backed by billions of dollars of military funding and consistent pro-Israel vetoes at the UN Security Council.

    We are a group of US-based academics, representing diverse ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds, as well as a range of national origins, who recently visited Palestine. We were able to gain firsthand exposure to what Obama described in the interview as Israel’s “Jewish democracy” and to what kinds of infrastructure our tax dollars help to support — walls, checkpoints and modern weaponry.

    We had the privilege of traveling through part of the occupied Palestinian territories — the West Bank, including East Jerusalem — where we met with Palestinians.

    Double standards

    We feel compelled to share a few examples of what we witnessed during our visit with Palestinian scholars, policy makers, activists, artists and others working in the West Bank. We observed numerous double standards with regard to Palestinians’ rights that prompt us to question the claim that Israel is a genuine democracy.

    We believe that our government’s assertions that Israel is a democracy obscures the conditions it imposes on the Palestinian people through the occupation and beyond with conditions that amount to apartheid under settler colonialism.

    Our concerns began even before we arrived, as a search of the US State Department website for information about travel to Israel returned sobering results.

    The US government warns travelers to back up their computers because Israeli border control officials can erase anything at will. This indeed happened to one of us upon leaving Tel Aviv to return to the US.

    The site also warns travelers that their personal email or social media accounts may be searched, and so travelers “should have no expectation of privacy for any data stored on such devices or in their accounts.” Equipment may also be confiscated.

    The State Department further acknowledges that US citizens who are Muslim and/or of Palestinian or other Arab descent may have considerable trouble entering or exiting through Israeli-controlled frontiers. And this too happened to one of us who had mobile phone contacts searched immediately on entering Tel Aviv.


    Concerns in entering and exiting pale in comparison to the restrictions placed on US citizens of Palestinian origin, along with all other Palestinians who hold identification documents from the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

    Before traveling, most of us did not understand that for Palestinians under occupation, there are several types of identification and profiling and each comes with its own restrictions on mobility.

    Palestinians from Jerusalem have identification cards they must carry in a blue booklet while those living in the rest of the occupied West Bank hold an ID card in a green booklet, issued to them from the Palestinian Authority with the permission of the Israeli government.

    People possessing that identification generally cannot enter Jerusalem or present-day Israel without prior permission, even for a visa interview to attend an academic meeting in the US. Many people we met had only visited Jerusalem, home to many holy sites, once in their lives despite being mere minutes away by car.

    In the rest of the West Bank, a US citizen of Palestinian origin who wants to live there long term has to obtain a visa that says West Bank only. They are not allowed to travel in and out of the West Bank and are subject to the same checkpoints as other Palestinians. They cannot leave the occupied territories as a US citizen, as the State Department warns on its website.

    A Palestinian in the West Bank who holds US citizenship cannot simply catch a plane from Tel Aviv like any other US citizen simply because he or she is Palestinian and holds a Palestinian ID card. This fact is stamped into the US passport.

    They are not allowed to enter the checkpoints into Jerusalem or any other checkpoints as other people with a US passport can. This restriction is not at all applied to the Jewish settlers who are growing in number — thousands of them US citizens who are choosing to live in the occupied West Bank inside illegal settlements financed in part by US tax-exempt organizations.

    Academic freedom

    As scholars, among the many disturbing things we witnessed was the limited academic freedom and freedom of speech imposed on Palestinians (and many Israelis, whose travel in the West Bank is restricted) by the Israeli government.

    We learned that there is a prohibition on most books published in Syria, Iran and Lebanon even though Beirut is a central publishing hub of Arabic literary materials in the region. Regardless, banning books is, in our view, a profoundly anti-democratic act.

    Israel’s wall that surrounds the West Bank including Jerusalem — and which snakes deep inside the West Bank in many locations — also functions to limit academic freedom.

    One of the starkest examples is in Bethlehem, where the wall cuts through the city, making access to education at Bethlehem University very difficult for those who happen to be on the wrong side of the wall’s many twists and turns.

    Additionally, the Abu Dis campus of Al-Quds University is completely surrounded by the wall, making travel to and from the campus incredibly arduous despite it being in Jerusalem.

    An academic colleague described to us the difficulties she experiences getting to campus on a typical day. She must pass through roadblocks and endure searches and myriad forms of harassment by Israeli soldiers. In the West Bank, we were shocked to witness separate roads for Palestinians and Israelis based on the color of one’s license plate and identity card.

    In theory, these roads exist for the protection of Israeli settlers living on settlements built in the West Bank illegally according to international law. In practice, these roads create an apartheid travel system where Palestinians encounter several checkpoints on a given day, some of which may be mobile, unpredictably placed “flying checkpoints.”

    As our colleague explained to us, what used to be a very short trip between her village and the university now often takes more than an hour and a half and she is expected to cross through at least three checkpoints. She is often late to teach her classes and some days she is unable to make it to work or back home at all.

    Her students are often arrested and jailed using the legal cover of administrative detention — detention without charge or trial for an indefinite amount of time — for their participation in any political activities, or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We heard that this process is intensified at exam periods.

    This creates an extraordinarily stressful academic environment when on any given day Israeli soldiers might detain students and faculty who are simply traveling to class.


    We recognize every people’s desire to be secure — and Israel’s supporters will defend its policies and actions in the name of its national security. What we witnessed during our visit is that “security” was offered as a rationale for almost any troubling behavior or policy.

    What we witnessed was a slow but deliberate expansion of Israel’s occupation, increased settlements, the taking over of agricultural land and the spread of industrial parks in the West Bank including substantial parts of East Jerusalem — all in the name of “security.”

    The United States, as a settler colonial state with its own occupations, police violence, carceral injustice, de facto apartheid and its own brand of border brutality — certainly has its own failings as a democracy, failings we continue to address in our intellectual and political work.

    We thus claim no moral high ground. But an ethnocracy is not a democracy ; the State of Israel imposes violent domination of the Palestinian people through colonialism, occupation and apartheid — three prongs of brutal oppression that are the very antithesis of democracy.

    As academics, watching attempts to stifle criticism of Israel — as in the case of our colleague, Professor Steven Salaita — and visiting the West Bank has prompted us to speak out publicly about Israel’s injustices. Doing so is imperative.

    We implore President Obama to reconsider his rhetoric and policies — and budget appropriations — that support Israel with impunity.

    Radhika Balakrishnan is professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University.

    Karma R. Chávez is associate professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    Ira Dworkin is assistant professor of English at Texas A&M University.

    Erica Caple James is associate professor of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is associate professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University.

    Doug Kiel is assistant professor of American Studies at Williams College.

    Barbara Lewis is associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

    Soraya Mekerta is director of the African Diaspora and the World Program, and associate professor of French and Francophone Studies at Spelman College.


    L’AURDIP (Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine) est une organisation française d’universitaires créée en liaison avec la Campagne Palestinienne pour le Boycott Académique et Culturel d’Israël PACBI et avec l’organisation britannique BRICUP.

  • A Renaissance painting reveals how breeding changed watermelons - Vox

    James Nienhuis, a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin, uses the Stanchi painting in his classes to teach about the history of crop breeding.

    “It’s fun to go to art museums and see the still-life pictures, and see what our vegetables looked like 500 years ago,” he told me. In many cases, it’s our only chance to peer into the past, since we can’t preserve vegetables for hundreds of years.

    The watermelon originally came from Africa, but after domestication it thrived in hot climates in the Middle East and southern Europe. It probably became common in European gardens and markets around 1600. Old watermelons, like the one in Stanchi’s picture, likely tasted pretty good — Nienhuis thinks the sugar content would have been reasonably high, since the melons were eaten fresh and occasionally fermented into wine. But they still looked a lot different.

  • WOODEN computer chips reveal humanity’s cyber elf future • The Register

    Boffins have developed a #biodegradable semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood in an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices.

    Technicians from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), have demonstrated the feasibility of replacing the substrate of a computer chip with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.

    In the abstract to the article, titled High-performance green flexible electronics based on biodegradable cellulose nanofibril paper, and published in Nature Communications, the researchers claim to “report high-performance flexible microwave and digital electronics that consume the smallest amount of potentially toxic materials on biobased, biodegradable and flexible cellulose nanofibril papers”.


  • This Roy Lichtenstein-Themed Map Makes Pop Art of The World - CityLab


    Katie Kowalsky hadn’t always known she wanted to be a cartographer. In fact, she started out as an economics major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but somewhere along the line, stumbled onto cartography. Doing so was the “best mistake” she ever made, she writes at her blog. Kowalsky goes on to explain why cartography was such a perfect fit for her:

    I had always wanted something that was an amalgam of history, art, computer science, geography, and design.

    Her Lichtenstein-esque world map is just that. Kowalsky, who now works at the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab and co-organizes Maptime Madison!, read about the value of highly aesthetic maps in the Cartographic Perspectives journal while she was conducting research under cartography professor Rob Roth. Intrigued, and inspired by beautiful pop art-based maps created by geography students at Penn State, she created her own using Mapbox Studio.

    #cartographie #art #Roy_Lichtenstein

  • Interactive and Multivariate Choropleth Maps with D3 | Sack | Cartographic Perspectives


    Interactive and Multivariate Choropleth Maps with D3

    Carl M. Sack, University of Wisconsin–Madison | cmsack@wisc.edu

    Richard G. Donohue, University of Kentucky | rgdonohue@uky.edu

    Robert E. Roth, University of Wisconsin–Madison | reroth@wisc.edu

    The following tutorial describes how to make an interactive choropleth map using the D3 (Data-Driven Documents) web mapping library (d3js.org). This tutorial is based on a laboratory assignment created in the fall of 2014 for an advanced class titled Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. This is the second of two On the Horizon tutorials on web mapping and extends a previous tutorial that used the Leaflet JavaScript library (see Donohue et al. 2013; dx.doi.org/10.14714/CP76.1248). Fully commented source code for both tutorials is available on GitHub (github.com/uwcart/cartographic-perspectives). All code is distributed under a Creative Commons 3.0 license and available for unconditional use, with the exception of the files in the lib directory, for which certain license conditions are required as described in the file LICENSE.txt.

    This tutorial assumes literacy in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS programming for the web. In particular, you should be comfortable with the manipulation of JavaScript arrays and objects. Free tutorials and reference documentation for these languages are available at www.w3schools.com. Additionally, D3 makes heavy use of jQuery-style DOM element selection and dot syntax (jquery.com). It is further assumed that you are familiar with in-browser development tools such as those provided by Google Chrome (developers.google.com/chrome-developer-tools), Mozilla Firefox (developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Tools), and Firebug (getfirebug.com). An important limitation of D3 is its incompatibility with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser prior to version 9; use of Internet Explorer below version 10 is not recommended. Finally, the tutorial assumes you have set up a development server running either remotely or as a localhost. MAMP for Mac (www.mamp.info/en) and WAMP for Windows (www.wampserver.com/en) are useful for this.

    #cartographie #D3 #séliologie #choroplètes

  • Theo Colborn — the genius who got BPA out of your water bottles, and so much more | Grist

    When she thought about what she should do next with her life, the answer that came to her was “become an expert in water sampling techniques.”

    So Colborn went back to school. In 1985, at 58, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Ph.D. in zoology and minors in epidemiology, toxicology, and water chemistry. “I wanted to get the education,” she said (...) “so that I could maybe undo some of the things that my generation basically foisted on society.”

    By the time Colborn died on Sunday, at the age of 87, she had immersed herself in decades of research — and inspired even more research — that sought to do just that. The many, many proposed BPA bans? Go back to the very beginning, and you’ll find Colborn. The concern over dwindling sperm counts? Same thing.

    #chimie #environnement #santé #militer

  • Was it ‘crazy’ for this scientist to re-create a bird flu virus that killed 50 million people? - The Washington Post

    At the center of the international debate is a thin, intense-looking man named Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who studies influenza virus and Ebola. On Wednesday, he and an international team of scientists published a study in Cell Host & Microbe that said they created a life-threatening virus that is only 3 percent different from the 1918 Spanish flu, which likely killed more people than the Black Death.

    ça recommence (http://blog.mondediplo.net/2011-12-09-De-tres-mechantes-bestioles-en-laboratoire), mais cette fois c’est les Américains

    #recherche #virus #santé #guerre_bactériologique cc @anne

  • Open-Source Seed Initiative Plants Resistance to Patented Crops

    For Earth Day, gardeners can help ensure vegetable, fruit and grain seeds remain available to everyone by ordering a set of open-source seeds from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Gardeners and farmers can save open-source seeds after harvest and pass the plants on for generations. Breeders can use the open-source crops to develop new varieties.

  • Six decades of U.S. migration


    We know that millions of Americans move to different counties every year, and when you look at the net totals, you see a pattern of people migrate from the midwest to the coasts. However, look at migration across demographic categories, and you see more detailed movement. This was the goal of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and they recently released their estimates, in map form.

    Every year, about 10 million Americans move from one county to another. Migration rates vary by age, race, and ethnicity and with local and national social and economic conditions over time. Still, individual counties’ patterns of age-specific migration tend to be consistent over time telling demographic stories about local places. This website highlights these stories by providing reliable estimates of net migration broken down by age, race, Hispanic-origin, and sex for all U.S. counties each decade from 1950 to 2010.

    #états-unis #migrations

  • NSA recruitment drive goes horribly wrong | World news | guardian.co.uk

    On Tuesday, the National Security Agency called at the University of Wisconsin on a recruitment drive.

    Attending the session was Madiha R Tahir, a journalist studying a language course at the university. She asked the squirming recruiters a few uncomfortable questions about the activities of NSA: which countries the agency considers to be “adversaries”, and if being a good liar is a qualification for getting a job at the NSA.

    She has posted a recording of the session on Soundcloud, which you can hear above, and posted a rough transcript on her blog, The Mob and the Multitude. Here are some highlights.

    The session begins ...

    Tahir: “Do you consider Germany and the countries that the NSA has been spying upon to be adversaries, or are you, right now, not speaking the truth?”

    Recruiter 1: “You can define adversary as ’enemy’ and, clearly, Germany is not our enemy. But would we have foreign national interests from an intelligence perspective on what’s going on across the globe? Yeah, we do.”

    Tahir: “So by ’adversaries’, you actually mean anybody and everybody. There is nobody, then, by your definition that is not an adversary. Is that correct?”

    Recruiter 1: “That is not correct.”

    Recruiter 2: “… for us, our business is apolitical, OK? We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us ... We might use the word ’target’.”

    Tahir: “I’m just surprised that for language analysts, you’re incredibly imprecise with your language. And it just doesn’t seem to be clear.”

    Later ...

    Tahir: “... this is a recruiting session and you are telling us things that aren’t true. And we also know that the NSA took down brochures and factsheets after the Snowden revelations because those factsheets also had severe inaccuracies and untruths in them, right? So how are we supposed to believe what you’re saying?”

    Even later ...

    Tahir: “I think the question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk?” [A reference to an earlier comment the recruiter made about NSA employees working hard and going to the bar to do karaoke.]

    Recruiter 2: “... reporting the info in the right context is so important because the consequences of bad political decisions by our policymakers is something we all suffer from.”

    Unnamed female student: “And people suffer from the misinformation that you pass along so you should take responsibility as well.”

    Later still ...

    Male student: “General Alexander [head of the NSA] also lied in front of Congress.”

    Recruiter 1: “I don’t believe that he did.”

    Male student: “Probably because access to the Guardian is restricted on the Department of Defence’s computers. I am sure they don’t encourage people like you to actually think about these things. Thank God for a man like Edward Snowden who your organisation is now part of a manhunt trying to track down, trying to put him in a little hole somewhere for the rest of his life. Thank God they exist.”

    And finally ...

    Recruiter 2: “This job isn’t for everybody, you know ...”

    Tahir: “So is this job for liars? Is this what you’re saying? Because, clearly, you’re not able to give us forthright answers. I mean, given the way the NSA has behaved, given the fact that we’ve been lied to as Americans, given the fact that factsheets have been pulled down because they clearly had untruths in them, given the fact that Clapper and Alexander lied to Congress – is that a qualification for being in the NSA? Do you have to be a good liar?”

    Recruiter 1: I don’t believe the NSA is telling complete lies. And I do believe that you know, I mean people can, you can read a lot of different things that are, um, portrayed as fact and that doesn’t make them fact just because they’re in newspapers."

    Unnamed female student: “Or intelligence reports.”

    Recruiter 1: “That’s not really our purpose here today and I think if you’re not interested in that ... there are people here who are probably interested in a language career.”

  • Predicting Collapse

    Now, physicists studying laboratory yeast have found a new way to tell when such a collapse is imminent. The researchers hope their warning signal can help fishery and wildlife managers act in time to save stressed populations.

    The team’s work is “a really nice paper” that “could potentially lead to some new insights,” says Stephen Carpenter, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin. Madison, who has studied similar early warning signals in lakes.

    The key to preventing a population collapse is spotting early signs of trouble. One recognized warning signal is that unhealthy systems often take longer than healthy ones to recover from a disturbance. Scientists call this “critical slowing down.”

    #environnement #écologie

  • ’Firefly’ and Anti-Fascism Posters Get Professor Threatened with Criminal Charges on University of Wisconsin Campus

    On September 12, 2011, Professor Miller posted on his office door an image of Nathan Fillion in Firefly and a line from an episode: “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.” On September 16, UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter emailed Miller, notifying him that she had removed the poster and that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.”

    Amazed that UWS could be so shockingly heavy-handed, Miller replied by email, “Respect liberty and respect my first amendment rights.” Walter responded that “the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed.” Walter also threatened Miller with criminal charges: “If you choose to repost the article or something similar to it, it will be removed and you could face charges of disorderly conduct.”

    Later on September 16, Miller placed a new poster on his office door in response to Walter’s censorship. The poster read “Warning: Fascism” and included a cartoon image of a silhouetted police officer striking a civilian. The poster mocked, “Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets.”

    Astoundingly, Walter escalated the absurdity. On September 20, Walter emailed Miller again, stating that her office had removed the poster because it “depicts violence and mentions violence and death.” She added that UWS’s “threat assessment team,” in consultation with the university general counsel’s office, had decided to have the poster removed, and that this poster was reasonably expected to “cause a material and/or substantial disruption of school activities and/or be constituted as a threat.” College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Interim Dean Raymond Hayes has scheduled a meeting with Miller about “the concerns raised by the campus threat assessment team” for this Friday.

  • Conservative Crusade to Discredit Labor Experts Spreads to MI | Mother Jones

    On March 24, William Cronon, an acclaimed history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered a startling revelation on his personal blog: The Wisconsin Republican Party had filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding all emails sent or received via Cronon’s UW email account mentioning certain labor unions, labor leaders, the words “recall” and “collective bargaining,” and the names of a host of state Republican lawmakers, including Governor Scott Walker. The request was clearly aimed at intimidating and discrediting Cronon, a prominent academic who has criticized #Wisconsin Republicans, especially Walker, on his blog and in the pages of the New York Times.