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Results 1 - 25 of 219
1. Selfies and model bottoms: monkeying around with intellectual property rights

When “The Case of the Black Macaque” scooped media headlines this summer, copyright was suddenly big news. Here was photographer David Slater fighting Wikipedia over the right to disseminate online a portrait photo of a monkey which had, contrary to all expectations and the law of averages, managed within just a few jabs of a curious finger, to take a plausible, indeed publishable “selfie”. Did Slater have the right to control the image since it was his camera on which it was recorded, or was it free for the world to use on the basis that he was not its author, the true creator being the crested black macaque who, for all her charm and dexterity, was neither a real nor legal person and therefore disentitled to any legal rights?

Disputes like this make great headlines, but cause even greater headaches for the intellectual property (“IP”) community. Most have little legal substance to them and are interesting only because of their facts, but that’s what drives journalists’ involvement and readers’ interest, making it easier for the media to attract paying advertisers. By the time they pass through the media machine these tales are frequently mangled to the point at which IP lawyers can scarcely recognise them. In one recent case involving a well-known chocolate brand, a company was said to have patented its copyright in England in order to sue a business in Switzerland for trade mark infringement.  To the layman this may sound fine, but it’s about as sensible to the expert as telling the doctor that you’ve got a tummy ache in your little finger because your cat ate the goldfish last night.  We IP-ers try to explain the real story, but monkeys and selfies are far more fun than the intricacies of copyright law and, by the time we’ve tried to put the record straight, the next exciting story has already broken.

“By the time they pass through the media machine, these tales are frequently mangled to the point at which IP lawyers can scarcely recognise them”

The next selfie episode to hit the headlines, far from featuring a portrait, was quite the opposite end of the anatomical spectrum. Model Kim Kardashian objected that Jen Selter’s selfies constituted copyright infringements of photos which had been taken of Kim Kardashian’s bottom (occasionally colloquially described as her “trademark” bottom, but not yet registered in conventional legal fashion). Here the only questions IP lawyers address are (i) are the pictures of Kim Kardashian’s backside copyright-protected works and (ii) does the taking by Jen Selter of selfies of her own posterior constitute an infringement? For press and public, however, the issue morphs into the much more entertaining, if legally irrelevant, one of whether a person has copyright in their own bottom.

By Self-portrait by the depicted Macaca nigra female. See article. (Wtop.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Self-portrait by the depicted Macaca nigra female. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

There are many IP rights apart from copyright and they all have their macaque moments. Trade mark law is full of episodes of evil corporations stealing words from the English language and stopping anyone else using them. Patent law (in which the legal protection of body parts very much smaller than bottoms, such as sequences of DNA, does have some relevance) is garnished with tales of greed and intrigue as people seek to steal one another’s ideas and avariciously monopolise them. Confidentiality and the right to publicity have their own rip-roaring encounters in court as amorous footballers who are “playing away” seek to hush up their extramarital (that’s one word, not two) exploits. Meanwhile, the women with whom they shared moments of illicit intimacy seek to cash in on their news value by selling them to the highest bidder. For IP lawyers the legal issues are serious and, when cases come to court, they achieve precedential status that governs how future episodes of the same nature might be handled. For press and public, the issues are different: who is the footballer, who is the woman — and are there any pictures (ideally selfies)?

Seriously, the rate at which not just eye-catching tales like those related above but also far less glamorous tales result in litigation, or even legislation, makes it hard-to-impossible for practitioners, academics, administrators and businessmen to keep abreast of the law, let alone understand its deeper significance for those affected by it: businesses, governments, consumers, indeed everyone. Publishers like OUP are increasingly raising the tempo of their own responses to the IP information challenge, utilising both formal and informal media, in print and online.  Since legal publishing is largely reactive, we can narrow the gap between the time an exciting new event or legal decision hits the popular media and the point at which we can strip it down to its bare legal essentials. But it will take more than a little monkeying around before we can close that gap completely.

Featured image credit: Camera selfie, by Paul Rysz. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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2. Ebola: the epidemic’s next phase

Although the number of Ebola cases and deaths has jumped dramatically in the short time since we wrote our December Briefing on the epidemic, there are signs of hope. Ebola is slowing down in areas where there was previously high transmission, in Liberia and in Eastern Sierra Leone for example. The lesson from past Ebola epidemics is that learning and local adaptation has played a central role in controlling previous outbreaks; now in West Africa the curve of the epidemic seems to be turning as people alter their behaviour. The apparent avoidance of continued exponential growth is a relief but it is no cause for complacency.

Freetown and the North of Sierra Leone are still suffering heavily. There is likely to be ongoing transmission for some time with sporadic clusters of cases as the epidemic moves into its next phase. The message, that local people should be involved and that their perspectives and knowledge are both valid and valuable, is still essential. Now is the time to find a balance between medical interventions, emergency thinking, and more humane and localised approaches based on collaboration.

As and when the epidemic ends, there should also be no complacency about the structural violence which produced this crisis. Structural violence refers to the way institutions and practices inflict avoidable harm by impairing basic human needs. The long term view — which locates this epidemic in the context of economic, social, technical, discursive and political exclusions and injustices — needs to be at the forefront of recovery and ‘development’ post-Ebola. The stark evidence of violence, in the form of distrust, the collapse of already dysfunctional health services, the catastrophic costs of Ebola on families and countries, the unpaid salaries of nurses and burial teams, the lack of protection – whether in the form of plastic gloves or welfare nets in times of crisis – must not fade with a return to business as usual. The Ebola crisis should be a game-changer for development.

In pointing to structural violence, we aren’t talking of a single social institution, but of overlapping institutions and practices that have produced interlocking inequalities, unsustainabilities, and insecurities. Aid and development have failed to address these conditions. Sierra Leone and Liberia attract considerable foreign direct investment and record some of the world’s highest growth figures yet most of their populations live in continued or worsening poverty. The emerging field of global health emphasizes networks and shared vulnerabilities, but in practice — through disjointed programmes and a tendency towards ‘quick wins’ — has neglected dire inequalities, which mean a virus like Ebola can tear a country up due to an absence of the most fundamental public health and state capacities. These structural and related socio-cultural conditions are not quickly or easily addressed, but Ebola has highlighted how vast disparities, internationally and within countries, are not sustainable. A greater focus on inclusive institutions and economies, and on conceiving of health as a global public good, is needed in order to build trust and resilience. Achieving that will involve asking difficult questions about aid and development as practiced in this region.

Both the crisis response and efforts to address its structural underpinnings are strengthened by recognition of the complex and historically-embedded logics and relationships which shape people’s lives. The Ebola Response Anthropology Platform has been set up to network anthropologists and other social scientists across the world with fieldworkers and communities, and to provide an interface with those planning and implementing the Ebola response so that such perspectives can be integrated into the response. Complementary initiatives, like one supported by the American Anthropological Association, mean that there is now a groundswell of debate and commentary on these critical dimensions. Much of this is building on research conducted over decades of post-colonial development and post-conflict reconstruction that, with the benefit of hindsight, is revealing of the fault-lines of the Ebola epidemic. As ‘the response’ transitions into another phase of reconstruction it is critical that these lessons, and the complexities they reveal, are fully appreciated to prevent further disasters for this region.

Headline image credit: Conakry, Guinea, 2011. Photo by CDC Global. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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3. Top 5 reasons why young professionals love the OHA Annual Meeting

You may have seen representatives of the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) at the OHA Annual Meeting this year. We rumbled down hallways in a pack six strong, all twenty-five years old and younger, all smiles, all ears, and all left feet. After years working behind the scenes, this was for most of us our first national academic conference–and the farthest north we’ve ever ventured. We were militantly ready to learn about the field and claim our place in it.

The relationship between junior and senior scholars is cyclical, yet the world we’re learning in is new and different in many ways: fraught with new ethics questions, digitization challenges, and multiplying global crises oral historians are called to record and interpret. Our advisors, older colleagues, and titan historians hand us the projects, the inspiration, and the advice, and with that comes meaning and structure that help us face the new day. The rest is up to us, and that responsibility is titillating and frightening.

Besides the food, music, and friendly faces, here are five reasons why young professionals loved the OHA Annual Meeting.

(1) Big ideas, executed.

SPOHP staff posing excitedly during the OHA Annual Meeting in Madison, WI.
SPOHP staff posing excitedly during the OHA Annual Meeting in Madison, WI.

When undergraduates and postbacs transition into the staff at SPOHP, they have boundless ambitions that range from reorganizing project databases to writing field-redefining case studies. But how to get there? Oftentimes, those who collaborate on projects only see their share of the work and aren’t privy to the mainframe, the construction of a whole project start to finish. Individually, we become so concerned with doing our jobs right and on time that we miss the forest for the trees. We learned last month that we will connect to the field in ways that are meaningful to us, and in tandem with each other. Diana Dombrowski, our web coordinator, was most inspired by University of Kentucky Doug Boyd’s OHMS and the prospects of open-source programs. Our resident musician, Chelsea Carnes, arrived ridiculously early to Michael Honey, Jonathan Overby, and Pat Krueger’s plenary session on African-American song and poetry. Senior research staff Sarah Blanc says, “I was fascinated by the number of younger scholars pursuing incredibly cutting edge research. It made me want to step up my game. It was also reassuring to hear how much thought and energy went into the ethical aspects of their work.” Watching scholars present their lifetime work, with joy, reminded us that when it comes to developing our own innovations and interests, the reins are already ours.

(2) Openness to change — and to us.

Diana Dombrowski presenting at the OHA Annual Meeting.
Diana Dombrowski presenting at the OHA Annual Meeting.

Diana was pleasantly dismayed facing a full house when she spoke during the roundtable, “Recording Voices and Inspiring Communities.” Professors leaned forward in seats and against walls and columns to listen for a while; voices from near the door shouted encouragement to the front during discussion. People really wanted to know, and wanted to share what they know.

It’s important to start talking soon because we will face the field’s challenges together. SPOHP’s Latina/o Diaspora in the Americas Coordinator, 22-year-old Genesis Lara, puts her experience as an audience member at Diana’s panel like this:

“The discussion of the panel quickly turned into a conversation regarding ethics in the oral history community, especially in terms of conducting oral histories among undocumented communities. It was a debate that was repeated in several of the panels that our staff was fortunate to attend. Throughout the entire meeting, there was this atmosphere of question and curiosity: where do we go from here?”

Knowing that established members of the OHA care what we think and how we do things encourages more people to join the conversation.

(3) The focus on fieldwork gives us a chance to shine.

SPOHP staff conducting fieldwork in Mississippi.
SPOHP staff conducting fieldwork in Mississippi.

Every year, Sarah Blanc returns from UF’s annual trip to the Mississippi Delta, sleeps a couple of days, writes some thank you cards, and starts preparing all over again. “Fieldwork” rolls off the tongue dramatically, but it’s tough to coordinate with community members in another state while navigating university policies and student schedules; then, the fourteen-hour days on-site. Although the concept is Dr. Ortiz’s, the trips and their stories become ours and the interviewees’. Obviously, in oral history, no one can go it alone.

Then go on and try to condense those relationships, hundreds of hours of audio, and what it all means to you into a bullet list on a PowerPoint. Oral History in Motion teaches us that stories about topics from Freedom Summer to the anti-incarceration movement matter, and it’s our job not to give meaning but to interpret, to convey the excitement and sense of discovery to people who weren’t with us. We work hard but we’ve been privileged through the opportunities we’ve been given. It’s now our privilege to share with you the places that brought us to Madison, from Mississippi to the Dominican Republic.

(4) Oral history has a pantheon of heroes.

I can’t believe you did that.
I can’t believe you did that.

Donald Ritchie was reclining in a chair eating those free Concourse Hotel hard candies. He was trying to enjoy a panel about the legacy of Freedom Summer, featuring the up-and-coming work of Senate and House oral historians Jackie Burns and Katherine Scott, and UF’s Sarah Blanc. That’s too bad.

My plan of attack, carefully conceived, started with casually sidling up (harder than you’d think) and saying a little too loudly, “SORRY TO LURK.” The final product of our brief conversation is above.

My overtures of friendship were by most standards terrible, but here’s the thing: I teach SPOHP’s internship class around Dr. Ritchie’s Doing Oral History every year, twice a year; it’s how I learned what to expect and what to ask as an undergraduate too. I watch students read it and discuss it, and then they get that oral history has distinct potential bounded only by the researcher. Donald Ritchie makes that moment possible every year, twice a year, in our classroom and many others. He embodies the transformation from student to researcher and in many cases, non-major to major in history. We can’t thank him correctly, so we took a picture together.

(5) Oral history has many faces: activists, public servants, poets, musicians.

Sarah Blanc discussing fieldwork at the OHA Annual Meeting
Sarah Blanc discussing fieldwork at the OHA Annual Meeting

Chelsea Carnes is a musician and activist as well as a student, but she found inspiration in a meeting of historians exactly because they weren’t just historians. There are both academics that fill multiple roles–Mike Honey, the activist, historian, and musician–and full-time artists and union organizers who have something to say. The resulting free exchange of inspiration and experience opened the door and let the fresh air in. Chelsea explains it best:

“Oral historians are addressing ways that history can come to life through activism, education, art…I’ve always been told that the career of historian is a very lonely and self-reliant one, but at the conference I saw and heard about historians working together cooperatively and really engaging with their communities. There was a real focus on a macroscopic objective and humanistic worldview that I found very progressive and exciting.”

Chelsea picked up on what Genesis calls our “essence as human beings who are trying to help other human beings, through the most elemental of things: our human stories.” We’re proud to be a part of oral history’s motley crew.

Oral history’s motley crew
Oral history’s motley crew

All images courtesy of Jessica Taylor.

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4. It’s not just about treating the cancer

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is emotional and overwhelming for patients. While initially patients may appropriately focus on understanding their disease and what their treatment options are, supportive care should begin at diagnosis and is a vital part of care across the continuum of the cancer experience. Symptom management, as a part of supportive care, is aimed at preventing the side effects of the cancer and its treatment. Appropriately managing these side effects will help enable patients to maintain their quality of life through their cancer journey.

It is well-known that, unfortunately, many cancer treatments (mainly chemotherapy) will cause nausea and vomiting. Fortunately, decades of research have improved our understanding of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) and have led to the development of very effective and safe drugs to prevent and manage these bothersome and potentially debilitating side effects. Research has also shown us that often combinations of two or three drugs taken together, sometimes over multiple days, offers the best CINV prevention with certain chemotherapies. With the appropriate use of these “antiemetic” drugs, CINV can now be prevented in the majority of patients. However, 20-30% of patients may still suffer from these side effects. Some of these patients are refractory in that the recommended antiemetic prophylactic treatments, for whatever reason, do not prevent the nausea and/or vomiting. Other patients, unfortunately, are incorrectly managed and are not given the appropriate preventative treatments. This is indefensible and not representative of an optimal patient-centered approach to cancer management. Physicians should be approaching symptom management in the same manner as they approach cancer therapeutics, utilizing the best and most appropriate treatments available.

Chemotherapy bottles, National Cancer Institute. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Chemotherapy bottles, National Cancer Institute. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

With the goal of making prevention of CINV simpler and more convenient, the first antiemetic combination product has recently been developed, combining two drugs in a single pill that only needs to be taken right before chemotherapy is administered along with a single dose of dexamethasone. This new product (called NEPA or Akynzeo®) was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (and is under review in Europe) after years of development. The combination not only comprises two drugs from two classes, an NK1 receptor antagonist (RA) and a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, representing the current standard-of-care. The NK1 RA (netupitant) and the 5-HT3 RA (palonosetron), however, are long-acting, and palonosetron is recommended by many guidelines committees as the preferred 5-HT3 RA.

Three of the pivotal studies conducted to establish the efficacy and safety of NEPA were recently published in Annals of Oncology. These selected articles convincingly show efficacy with the NEPA combination, superior prevention of CINV compared with that of oral palonosetron, and maintenance of efficacy when given over multiple cycles of chemotherapy known to result in nausea and vomiting.

NEPA appears to be a promising new agent with the potential to address some of the barriers interfering with physicians’ administration of recommended antiemetics. This is accomplished by conveniently packaging effective and appropriate antiemetic prophylaxis in a single, oral dose that is taken only once per chemotherapy cycle, along with a single dose of dexamethasone.

Hopefully this will help, because preventing the symptoms has to be as important as treating the disease.

Heading image: Cancer cells by Dr. Cecil Fox (Photographer) for the National Cancer Institute. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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5. Across the spectrum of human rights

What are the ties that bind us together? How can we as a global community share the same ideals and values? In celebration of Human Rights Day, we have asked some key thinkers in human rights law to share stories about their experiences of working in this field, and the ways in which they determined their specific focuses.

*   *   *   *   *

“My area of research is complementary forms of international protection, which is where international refugee law and international human rights law merge. Since the beginning of time, there has been an element of compassion in customary and religious norms justifying the acceptance of and assistance to persons banned from their communities or forced to leave their homes for reasons of poverty, natural disasters, or other reasons outside their control. Based on a general conviction that the alleviation of suffering is a moral imperative, many industralized countries included in their domestic migration practice the possibility to grant residence permits to certain categories of persons, who seemingly fall outside their international obligations, but who they considered to deserve protection and assistance because of a sense that this is what humanity dictates. In the past twenty years, many of these categories have become regulated and categorized as beneficiaries of protection, either through a broad interpretation of the refugee concept or through the adoption of new legislation confirming the domestic practice of States, such as the EC Qualification Directive. I find this to be a fascinating area of international law because, it shows how human rights and the notion of ‘humanitarianism’ (i.e. reasons of compassion, charity or need) have generated legal obligations to protect and assist aliens outside their country of origin.”

Liv Feijen, Doctoral Candidate in international law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and author of ‘Filling the Gaps? Subsidiary Protection and Non-EU Harmonized Protection Status(es) in the Nordic Countries’ in the International Journal of Refugee Law

*   *   *   *   *

“My work focuses on the forms and functions of the law when faced with contemporary mass crimes and their traces (testimony, archives, and the (dead) body). It questions the relationship between law, memory, history, science, and truth. To do so, I call into question the various legal mechanisms (traditional/alternative, judicial/extrajudicial) used in the treatment of mass crimes committed by the State and their heritage, especially at the heart of criminal justice (national and international), transitional justice, international human rights law, and constitutional law. In this context I have explored the close relationship between international criminal law and international human rights law. These two branches of law, that have distinct objects and goals, are linked by what they have in common: the protection of the individual. Their interaction culminated in the 90s when international criminal law, and in a larger sense transitional justice, boomed: an actual human rights turn took place with the strong mobilization of human rights in favour of the ‘fight against impunity’ of the gravest international crimes. At the heart of this human rights turn lays the consecration of a new human right, namely, the ‘right to the truth’, which is the object of my current research.”

Sévane Garibian, Assistant Professor, University of Geneva, and lecturer, University of Neuchâtel, and author of ‘Ghosts Also Die: Resisting Disappearance through the ‘Right to the Truth’ and the Juicios por la Verdad in Argentina’ in the Journal of International Criminal Justice

*   *   *   *   *

“I decided early on to focus in my work on how rights perform when they are put under some kind of strain. That could be panic and fear emerging from a terrorist attack, or resource limitations at national or international level, or political structures that make effective enforcement of rights (un)feasible, for example. It seemed to me to be important to think about the resilience of the language and structures, as well as the law, of human rights because in the end of the day we rely on states to deliver rights in a meaningful way and this raises all sorts of challenges around legitimacy, will, embeddedness, international relations, domestic politics, legal systems, constitutional frameworks, and so on. These are factors that have to be accounted for when we think about what makes human rights law work as a means of ensuring human rights in practice; as a means of limiting the power of states to do as it wishes, regardless of the impact on individual and group welfare, dignity, and liberty. Thus, rather than specialise in any particular right per se, my interest is in frameworks of effective rights protection and understanding what makes them work, or makes them vulnerable, especially in times of strain or crisis.”

Fiona de Londras, Professor of Law, Durham Law School, and author of ‘Declarations of Incompatibility Under the ECHR Act 2003: A Workable Transplant?’ in the Statute Law Review

*   *   *   *   *

“I have always been interested in the protection of individual rights from undue interference by executive authority. So, my scholarly roots arguably originate in classic social contractarianism. In my work, I have been mostly focusing on civil and political rights, whether in the context of constitutional law, criminal justice, or international (human rights) law. An important part of my research examines the (alleged) tension between ‘liberty’ and ‘security’ and explores how this tension plays out in both domestic and international contexts, often addressing the interface between the two dimensions. National security issues, such as terrorism, have featured prominently in my scholarship, but my human rights-related work also extends to the field of preventive justice, including questions relating to the post-sentence detention of ‘dangerous’ individuals for public safety purposes. A fascinating development that has captured my attention recently concerns the expansion of executive power of international organisations. International bodies such as the UN Security Council have become increasingly active in the administration and regulation of matters that once used to be the exclusive domain of States. This shift in governance functions, however, has not been accompanied by the creation of mechanisms to restrain or review the exercise of executive power. I suspect that it is in this area that much of my research will be carried out in the years ahead.”

Christopher Michaelsen, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, UNSW Australia, member of Australian Human Rights Centre, and author of ‘Human Rights as Limits for the Security Council: A Matter of Substantive Law or Defining the Application of Proportionality?’ in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law

*   *   *   *   *

“I specialize in the interaction between international financial markets and human rights, both in relation to (a) understanding international legal obligations relating to socio-economic rights in the context of financial processes and dynamics; and (b) the business and human rights debate as it applies to financial institutions. My focus on these areas resulted from an awareness that as the world economy globalised over the last twenty years, the financial markets changed beyond all recognition to become a predominant force shaping economic processes. Therefore, although they are generally seen as remote from immediate human rights impacts, they set the context of socio-economic rights enjoyment. The practical challenges involved in realising these rights can only be fully understood by accepting the way financial markets shape economic and policy making options, and outcomes for individuals. As this is a huge field of enquiry and many of the connections have not so far been extensively explored from a human rights point of view, my focus tends to be determined by (a) a desire to bring new areas of the financial markets into a human rights framework, and (b) a desire to respond to issues of importance as they arise, such as financial crisis and austerity.”

Mary Dowell-Jones, Fellow, Human Rights Law Centre, University of Nottingham, and author of ‘Financial Institutions and Human Rights’ in the Human Rights Law Review

*   *   *   *   *

“My research covers a variety of human rights issues, however I have a particular interest in the analysis of domestic violence as a human rights issue. Domestic violence affects vast numbers of people in every state around the globe. The practice of domestic violence constitutes a breach of internationally recognised rights such as the right to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to private and family life; and, in some circumstances, the right to life itself. However it is only relatively recently that domestic violence has been analysed through the lens of human rights law. For example, it is only since 2007 that judgments of the European Court of Human Rights have been issued which directly focus on domestic violence. Nevertheless, there is now an ever-increasing awareness of domestic violence as a human rights issue, and there have been a number of important recent developments, such as the adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which entered into force on 1 August 2014.”

Ronagh McQuigg, lecturer in School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast, and author of ‘The Human Rights Act 1998—Future Prospects’ in the Statute Law Review

*   *   *   *   *

“Human rights discourse has been proliferating. Yet I feel that the proliferation of the discourse of human rights does not contribute to the success of implementing human rights on the ground. Perhaps one reason is that human rights scholarship and activism has great appeal to idealists and while idealists whom I admire are good in articulating ideals, they are less capable of carrying out these ideals. I believe that a major difficulty in implementing human rights is the costs of implementation. Human rights organizations may be justifiably appalled by police brutality and urge states to restructure their police forces, but such a restructuring is not costless and it may be detrimental to other urgent concerns including human rights concerns. The good intentions of activists and the scholarly work of theorists (to which I have been committed in the past) may ultimately turn out to be detrimental to the protection of human rights. What I think is urgently needed in order to carry out the lofty ideals is not more human rights scholarship but scholarship which will focus its attention on the best ways to implement the most urgent and basic humanitarian concerns. This is not what I have been doing in my own work but I am convinced it is what needs at this stage to be done. In doing so one ought to constrain idealism in favor of modest pragmatism. Ironically those who can most effectively pursue modest pragmatism are not human rights activists or theorists.”

Alon Harel, Professor in Law, Hebrew University Law Faculty and Center for Rationality, and author of ‘Human Rights and the Common Good: A Critique’ in the Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies

*   *   *   *   *

“It had long been assumed that the best protection of human rights was a strong, Western-style democracy – if it came to the test, the people would always decide in favour of human rights. Recent developments, however, have challenged this assumption: human rights restrictions introduced after 9/11 in the United States and other Western democracies had strong popular support; the current British government’s plans to weaken (or even withdraw from) the ECHR system seem primarily designed to gain votes; Swiss voters have approved several popular initiatives that conflict with international human rights guarantees. Is the relationship between democracy and human rights not as symbiotic as it is often thought? Do direct democratic systems lend themselves more to tyranny of the majority than representative democracies? What is needed so that the human rights of those in the minority can be effectively protected? These, I believe, are among the most pressing questions that human rights lawyers must confront today.”

Daniel Moeckli, Assistant Professor of Public International Law and Constitutional Law, University of Zurich, co-editor of International Human Rights Law, Second Edition

*   *   *   *   *

Headline image credit: Canvas Orange by Raul Varela via the Pattern Library.

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6. Scoring loss across the multimedia universe

Well known is music’s power to stir emotions; less well known is that the stirring of specific emotions can result from the use of very simple yet still characteristic music. Consider the music that accompanies this sweet, sorrowful conclusion of pop culture’s latest cinematic saga.

When the on-set footage begins, so does some soft music that is rather uncomplicated because, in part, it simply alternates between two chords which last about four seconds each. These two chords are shown on the keyboard below. In classical as well as pop music, these two chords typically do not alternate with one another like this. Although the music for this featurette eventually makes room for other chords, the musical message of the more distinctive opening has clearly been sent, and it apparently worked on this blogger, who admits to shedding a few tears and recommends the viewer have a tissue nearby.


This simple progression has been used to accompany loss-induced sadness in numerous mainstream (mostly Hollywood) cinematic scenes for nearly 30 years. This association is not simply confined to movies, yet inhabits a larger media universe. For example, while the pop song “Comeback Story” by Kings of Leon, which opens this movie’s trailer, helps to convey the genre of the advertised product, the same two-chord progression—let’s call it the “loss gesture”—highlights the establishing narrative: a patriarchal death has brought a mourning family together (for comedic and sentimental results).

Loss gestures can play upon one’s heartstrings less discriminately; they can elicit both tears of joy as well as tears of sadness. Climaxes in Dreamer and Invincible, both underdog-comes-from-behind movies, are punctuated with loss gestures. As demonstrated at 2:06 in the following video, someone employed by the Republican Party appears to be keenly aware of this simple progression’s powerful capacity for moving a viewer (and potential voter).

Within the universe of contemporary media, the loss gesture has been used in radio as well. The interlude music that plays before or after a story on National Public Radio often has some relation to the content of the story. A week after the Sandy Hook school shootings, NPR aired a story by Kirk Siegler entitled “Newtown Copes With Grief, Searches For Answers.” Immediately after the story’s poignant but hopeful ending, the opening of Dustin O’Halloran’s “Opus 14” faded in, musically encapsulating the emotions of the moment.

How the loss gesture works its magic on listeners is a Gordian knot. However, it is undeniable that producers from several different corners of the media world know that the loss gesture works.

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7. Parental consent, the EU, and children as “digital natives”

Children have become heavy new media users. Empirical data shows that a number of children accessing the internet – contrary to the age of users – is constantly increasing. It is estimated that about 60% of European children are daily or almost daily internet users, and therefore, by many they are considered to be “digital natives”.

However, in our view, the use of this “digital natives” concept is misleading and poorly founded, and is based on the assumption that children are quick to pick up new technologies. A recent EU Kids Online study invalidates this assumption. The study shows that even though children actively surf on various online applications, they lack digital skills such as bookmarking a website, blocking unwanted communications, and changing privacy settings on social networking sites. Many children are not capable of critically evaluating information and changing filter preferences.Interestingly, the lack of skills to perform specific tasks while being online does not impinge on children’s beliefs in their abilities – 43% of surveyed children believe to know more about the internet than their parents. At the moment, no correlation between this proclaimed self-confidence and their actual understanding of how internet works can be done due to the lack of data. Nevertheless, it is worth questioning whether, and to what extent, it is reasonable to expect that children understand the implications of their behaviour and what measures could mitigate children’s online risks in the most efficient and effective way.

It is probably closer to the truth to say that, in terms of privacy and data protection awareness, children are anything but “digital natives”.

Indeed, children’s actions online are being recorded, commercialised and serve for the purposes of behavioural advertising without them actually realising. This media illiteracy is tackled by awareness raising campaigns and policy measures on domestic and EU levels. However, it seems that these measures only partially address the challenges posed by children’s online engagement.

Image credit: Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw via Flickr Creative Commons. This image has been cropped.
Image credit: Classroom laptops, by R. Nial Bradshaw. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr. This image has been cropped.

The European Commission (EC) seems to be in favour of legislative measures providing for a stronger legal protection of children’s personal data in the online environment. In Article 8 of the proposal for the General Data Protection Regulation, the EC introduces verifiable parental (or custodian) consent that would serve as a means of legitimising the processing of a child’s personal data on the internet.

Article 8 of the proposal foresees that parental consent would be required in cases where the processing operations entail personal data of children under the age of 13. The age of 13 would be the bright-line from which the processing of children’s personal data would be subjected to fewer legal constraints.

In practice, this would divide all children into two groups; children that are capable to consent (i.e. 13-18 year olds) to the processing of their personal data and children that are dependent on parental approval of their online choices (i.e. 0-13 year olds). Drawing such a strict line opposes the stages of physical and social development. Also, it requires the reconsideration of the general positive perception of the proposed parental consent from a legal point of view. In particular, it is necessary to evaluate whether the proposed measure is proportionate and whether it coincides with the human rights framework.

In a recent article published in the International Data Privacy Law Journal, we have analysed the proposal to distinguish between children younger and older than 13 years and found many practical and principled objections. Apart from the practical objections, which are often self-evident (e.g. what about the protection of children in the age group from 13 to 18 year old? How to ensure the enforcement of the proposed parental consent?), there are several fundamental problems with the proposed 13 years-rule.

The bright-line rule, which would require data controllers to obtain parental consent before processing personal data of children aged under 13, seems to be incompatible with the notion of evolving capacities. The proposed measure is based on the assumption that from the age of 13 all children are able to provide an independent consent for the processing of their personal data in the online environment. The proposed Article 8 ignores the fact that every child develops at a different pace and that the introduction of parental consent does not ensure more guidance regarding online data processing. We also regret that Article 8 in its current form doesn’t foresee a way in which children could express their own views regarding the data processing operation; the responsibility to consent would rest exclusively with a parent or a legal guardian. This set-up opposes the idea of children’s participation in the decision-making process that concerns them, an idea anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that is recognised by both the EU and its Member States.

Finally, our analysis suggests that children’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy may be undermined, if the proposed parental consent is introduced. As a result of Article 8, children’s access to information could become limited and dependent on parents. Also, the scope of their right to privacy would shrink as parents would be required to intervene in children’s private spaces (e.g. gaming accounts) to make informed choices. Therefore, it can be observed that the introduction of parental consent contradicts the key principles of human rights law enshrined in the UNCRC.

Featured image credit: Student on iPod at school. Photo by Brad Flickinger. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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8. Why Republican governors embrace Obamacare

The national headlines following the 2014 Midterm elections trumpeted the Republican success in seizing the majority in the US Senate and expanding its strength in the US House to record numbers since 1929. These wins were striking but hardly surprising given the tsunami of polls. The big news that continues to elude commentators are the Republican wins in gubernatorial elections – wins that may well have more impact on everyday lives than the Washington battle that pits a Republican Congress against President Barack Obama’s veto pen. Republicans not only pulled out wins in hotly contested battles in Florida, Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin, but they also invaded Democratic strongholds by prevailing in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Will the GOP gubernatorial wins sweep in a revolution that, among other things, wipes out Obamacare’s centerpiece – the state’s decision to expand Medicaid? Many commentators are predicting just that – repeal or blockage of health reform. They often point to the fiery partisanship in Washington.

The talking heads are wrong. The raw partisanship in Washington cools in the hands of governors facing the nitty-gritty job of running their states – searching for revenues to design budgets and addressing the pressure from doctors and hospitals and advocates for the vulnerable.

Partisanship has been a tractor beam on many states. Democratic states have moved faster and further towards expanding Medicaid than their Republican counterparts, providing some credence to the recent reports that new Republican governors will hinder reform. What is striking, however, is that partisanship – and particularly steadfast GOP opposition to reform — has often been moderated or overridden by the real-world circumstances facing governors. What could possibly convince a politically skilled GOP governor to take on their party on such a high profile issue?

Carrots. The decision to adopt the expansion of Medicaid rests with states. The federal government has served up an enticing financial package: 100% of the costs for the first three years of the program and 90% afterward.

Hospitals that serve the uninsured and poor are facing dramatic reductions in federal government funding, leaving many to worry about dire financial crises. Medicaid expansion is a lifeline for these providers. It also may help state budgets by picking up the cost of caring for the uninsured, what is known as “uncompensated” or charity care.

Here is one of the most striking patterns in our era of partisan polarization: states with Republican governors in Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and others embraced Medicaid reform. In Arizona for example, conservative firebrand Governor Jan Brewer forced Medicaid reform through the state legislature as an imperative to create jobs, save hospitals, and ensure coverage for Arizona residents. Governor John Kasich passed it by going rogue on his Republican legislature by circumventing them altogether and risking a constitutional crisis.

The Republican recent romp has elected a new crop of pragmatic governors. Maryland Governor-Elect Larry Hogan and Illinois Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner seem poised to find a path forward to implementing reform. Florida’s Scott has supported Medicaid expansion in the past and may find more support in the GOP legislature now that the election is over. Some Republican governors favor reform in a modified form so they can publicly frame it as a “conservative model” that fits their states.

A new normal is arriving. The uncompromising push to repeal Obamacare is being replaced with a pragmatism geared to solving real problems. The irony of the GOP gubernatorial success in 2014 is that it may mark the turning point from vitriolic partisanship to real-world problem solving.

Headline image credit: Election vote. CC0 via Pixabay.

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9. Gary King: an update on Dataverse

At the American Political Science Association meetings earlier this year, Gary King, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, gave a presentation on Dataverse. Dataverse is an important tool that many researchers use to archive and share their research materials. As many readers of this blog may already know, the journal that I co-edit, Political Analysis, uses Dataverse to archive and disseminate the replication materials for the articles we publish in our journal. I asked Gary to write some remarks about Dataverse, based on his APSA presentation. His remarks are below.

*   *   *   *   *

An update on Dataverse

By Gary King

If you’re an academic researcher, odds are you’re not a professional archivist and so you probably have more interesting things to do when making data available than following the detailed protocols and procedures established over many years by the archiving community. That of course might be OK for any one of us but it is a terrible loss for all of us. The Dataverse Network Project offers a solution to this problem by eliminating transaction costs and changing the incentives to make data available by giving you substantial web visibility and academic citation credit for your data and scholarship (King, 2007). Dataverse Networks are installed at universities and other institutions around the world (e.g., here is the Dataverse network at Harvard’s IQSS), and represent the world’s largest collection of social science research data. In recent years, Dataverse has also been adopted by an increasingly diverse array of other fields and protocols and procedures are being built out to enable numerous fields of science, social science, and the humanities to work together.

With a few minutes of set-up time, you can add your own Dataverse to your homepage with a list of data sets or replication data sets you make available, with whatever levels of permission you want for the broader community, and a vast array of professional services (e.g., here’s my Dataverse on my homepage). People will be able to more easily find your data and homepage, explore your data and scholarship, find connections to other resources, download data in any format, and learn proper ways of citing your work. They will even be able to analyze your data while still on your web site with a vast array of statistical methods through the transparent and automated connection Dataverse has built to Zelig: Everyone’s Statistical Software, and through Zelig to R. The result is that your data will be professionally preserved and easier to access — effectively automating the tasks of professional archiving, including citing, sharing, analyzing, archiving, preserving, distributing, cataloging, translating, disseminating, naming, verifying, and replicating data.

Dataverse Network Diagram, by Institute for Quantitative Social Science. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Dataverse is an active project with new developments in software, protocols, and community connections coming rapidly. A brand new version of the code, written from scratch, will be available in a few months. Through generous grants from the Sloan Foundation, we have been working hard on eliminating other types of transaction costs for capturing data for the research community. These include deep integration with scholarly journals so that it can be trivially easy for an editor to encourage or require data associated with publications to be made available. We presently offer journals three options:

  • Do it yourself. Authors publish data to their own dataverse, put the citation to their data in their final submitted paper. Journals verify compliance by having the copyeditor check for the existence of the citation.
  • Journal verification. Authors submit draft of replication data to Journal Dataverse. Journal reviews it, and approves it for release. Finally, the dataset is published with a formal data citation and back to the article. (See, for example, the Political Analysis Dataverse, with replication data back to 1999.)
  • Full automation: Seamless integration between journal submission system and Dataverse; Automatic Link created between article and data. The result is that it is easy for the journal and author and many errors are eliminated.

Full automation in our third option is where we are heading. Already today, in 400 scholarly journals in the Open Journal System, the author enters their data as part of submission of the final draft of the accepted paper for publication, and the citation, permanent links between the data and the article, and formal preservation is taken care of, all automatically. We are working on expanding this as an option for all of OJS’s 5,000+ journals, and to a wide array of other scholarly journal publishers. The result will be that we capture data with the least effort on anyone’s part, at exactly the point where it is easiest and most important to capture.

We are also working on extending Dataverse to cover new higher levels of security that are more prevalent in big data collections and those in public health, medicine, and other areas with informative data on human subjects. Yes, you can preserve data and make it available under appropriate protections, even if you have highly confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive data. We are working on other privacy tools as well. We already have an extensive versioning system in Dataverse, but are planning to add support for continuously updated data such as streamed from sensors, tools for online fast data access, queries, visualization, analysis methods for when data cannot be moved because of size or privacy concerns, and ways to use the huge volume of web analytics to improve Dataverse and Zelig.

This post comes from the talk I gave at the American Political Association Meetings August 2014, using these slides. Many thanks to Mike Alvarez for inviting this post.

Featured image: Matrix code computer by Comfreak. CC0 via Pixabay.

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10. Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

Increasing numbers of people are forced to live their lives away from the ones they love, be they partners, parents, or friends. Having been a member of a long-distance relationship, I can attest to the strain that separation places on a relationship. Over the last few decades communication technologies have been increasingly marketed as solutions to the problem of strain, separation, and isolation. But how far do they go in actually addressing these issues?

237px-Skype-iconAs digital technologies have become ever engrained in our daily lives, a vast array of communication devices have been developed to help support our interpersonal relationships. Skype makes seeing distant loved ones easier; Snapchat allows us to send them inconsequential thoughts as they pop into our heads; and email allows us to send a letter anywhere in the world without even having to buy a stamp. The research community is continually investigating new designs, be they based on kissing or other less creepy ideas like exchanging love notes.

This interest results in a huge number of different device designs, few of which are ever evaluated. What is it we should be trying to support to help distant relationships?

The psychological literature has a large number of concepts that could be used as a lens for examining interpersonal relationships and communication, such as Social presence and Closeness. Social presence can be thought of as the sense of emotional connectedness experienced through a single act of communication. Closeness is a longer-term feeling of connectedness that is also related to the amount of contact people experience. Closeness, arguably, is essential for relationships to survive. If we could establish a link between these two concepts, evaluations of communication technologies can focus purely on the experience of using the technology, confident in the knowledge that this will have a meaningful impact on the relationships’ feeling of Closeness. We thus designed a study that focussed on attempting to establish whether there is a link between Closeness and Social presence.

In order to answer this question we recruited 63 students to track their communication use over time. Each day they would record how close they felt towards a specified individual (either a partner, friend, sibling, or parent) who either lived in the same city or at a distance. Additionally, participants tracked their communication use and recorded a Social presence score for each act of communication. In total we collected 956 contact reports and 1281 daily Closeness ratings over a three-week period.

In analysing this data we could unpick some fascinating aspects as to how interpersonal relationships can be supported. Our data indicates the type of communication technology and the relationship type and distance can predict the Social presence ratings. All of the communication media our participants reported on were rated with much lower levels of Social presence compared to face to face conversations. This highlights the fundamental weakness communication technologies have – they simply aren’t the same as seeing someone.

However, establishing a relationship between Social presence and Closeness is useful because we can demonstrate that creating communication technologies that encourage emotionally significant experiences can support relationships in a more meaningful, long-term fashion as those technologies are likely to strengthen feelings of Closeness with absent others. Thus while absence may not make the heart grow stronger, communication technologies can be used to make sure that out of sight definitely doesn’t mean out of mind.

Image credits: (1) Fountain Pen Letters, by Andrys. Public Domain via Pixabay. (2) Skype-icon, by Keiner. Public Domain via Wikimedia

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11. How Malcolm X’s visit to the Oxford Union is relevant today

Fifty years ago today, a most unlikely figure was called to speak at the Oxford Union Debating Society: Mr. Malcolm X. The Union, with its historic chamber modeled on the House of Commons, was the political training ground for the scions of the British establishment. Malcolm X, by contrast, had become a global icon of black militancy, with a reputation as a dangerous Black Muslim. The visit seemed something of an awkward pairing. Malcolm X encountered a hotel receptionist who tried to make him write his name in full in the guest book (she had never heard of him), sat through a bow tie silver service dinner ahead of the debate, and had to listen to a conservative debating opponent accuse him of being a racist on a par with the Prime Minister of South Africa. A closer look at the event, though, reveals the pairing of Malcolm X and the Oxford Union to be a good fit — and reveals much about the issues of race and rights then, and now.

From the perspective of the Oxford Union, a controversial speaker was an entirely good thing. The BBC covered Malcolm X’s costs and broadcast the debate. In late 1964, though, Malcolm X also spoke to student concerns about race equality. For many years, the British media’s (sympathetic) coverage of anti-racist protests in the American South and South Africa gave the impression that racial discrimination was chiefly to be found elsewhere. A bitter election which turned on anti-immigration sentiment in late 1964 in Smethwick, in the English midlands, with its infamous slogan, “If you want a n***** for you neighbour, vote Labour,” exposed the virulence of the race issue in Britain, too. Students followed this news abroad and at home. Some visited “racial hotspots” in person. Others joined demonstrations in solidarity. Still, on the surface, such issues seemed a world away from Oxford’s dreaming spires.

But some students in Oxford were also grappling with the question of race in their own institution. The Union President, Eric Antony Abrahams, was a Jamaican Rhodes Scholar, who had vowed to his sister in his first week that he would “fill the Union chamber with blacks.” Abrahams was part of a growing cohort of students from newly independent nations who studied in Britain, many of whom called for changes in curriculum and representation. Three days before Malcolm X arrived, Oxford students released a report showing that more than half of University landladies in the city refused to accept students of color. The University had an official policy of non-discrimination, but the fact that many landladies turned down black applicants in practice had been a running sore for years. The report, and Malcolm X’s visit, brought the matter to public attention. Student activism ultimately forced a change in practice, part of a nationwide series of protests against the unofficial color-bar in many British lodgings. At a time when Ferguson is rightly at the forefront of the news, events in Oxford in 1964 remind us that atrocities elsewhere should serve as a prompt to address, rather than a reason to ignore, questions of rights and representation nearer to home.

Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on March 26, 1964. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on 26 March 1964. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

For Malcolm X, coming to Oxford was an exciting challenge. He loved pitting his wits against the brightest and the best. As chance would have it, as Prisoner 22843 in the Norfolk Penal Colony in Massachusetts, he may well have debated against a visiting team from Oxford. More germane, though, was Malcolm’s desire in what turned out to be the final year of his life to place the black freedom struggle in America within the global context of human rights. He had spent the better part of 1964 in the Middle East and Africa. In each stop along his dizzying itinerary of states, he attempted to build support for international opposition to racial discrimination in America. Malcolm’s visits to Europe in late 1964 were no different. But it was Oxford that afforded him the opportunity to broadcast his views before his widest single audience yet. Citing the recent murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, Malcolm X told his audience: “In that country, where I am from, still our lives are not worth two cents.”

At a time when cities across the United States have recently braced themselves against the threat of rebellion in the aftermath of the acquittal of Michael Brown’s killer, it is hard not to conclude that for many African Americans, Malcolm’s words at Oxford continue to haunt the nation. Indeed, by placing the civil rights movement in broad relief internationally, Malcolm sought to link the fate of African Americans with West Indians, Pakistanis, West Africans, Indians, and others, seeking their own justice in the capitals and banlieus of Europe. Emphasizing the independence of this new emergent world both within and outside of the confines of Europe, Malcolm hoped that the “time of revolution” his audience was living in would in part be defined by a broader sense of what it meant to be human. There could no longer be distinctions between “black” and “white” deaths — despite his condemnation of the media for continuing to indulge such distinctions.

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12. Up in the air over taxing frequent flyer benefits

Imagine you’ve been on an out-of-town business trip. Your employer paid for your airfare, but allowed you to keep the frequent flyer points generated by the trip. Some time later, you redeem the points (perhaps along with additional points generated by other business trips) for a free flight to a vacation destination. You might wonder, “Do I have taxable income, either when the points are credited to my account or when I redeem the points for personal travel?”

Under the US federal income tax, it is reasonably clear that there is taxable income in this story, although there is plenty of room to argue about the timing of the taxable event, or that the fair market value (of either the points or the later reward) should be included in income.

Despite the technical “taxability” of employees who benefit from frequent flyer programs, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy” in 2002, which stated that “the IRS will not assert that any taxpayer has understated his federal tax liability by reason of the receipt or personal use of frequent flyer miles … attributable to the taxpayer’s business travel.”

Seemingly faced with problems of valuation, enforcement, and taxpayer understanding, the IRS simply declared that it had no intention of enforcing the law, rather than dealing with the issues that would have been created by a serious attempt to administer the taxation of frequent flyer benefits.

“Seemingly faced with problems of valuation, enforcement, and taxpayer understanding, the IRS simply declared that it had no intention of enforcing the law.”

Twelve years later, the 2002 announcement still accurately reflects the supine position of the IRS. Regardless of one’s views on the merits of either taxing or not taxing employee-retained frequent flyer benefits, from a rule-of-law perspective, it is troubling that this question has been resolved by a statutorily unauthorized de facto administrative exemption, rather than by a legislative enactment.

The IRS is far from alone among tax administrators in having performed poorly with respect to frequent flyer benefits, despite having had more than three decades to grapple with the problem since frequent-flyer schemes were introduced in the 1980s. The efforts of the Canada Revenue Agency and of the Australian Taxation Office have differed from those of the IRS, but today, all three countries retain the same bottom line: virtually no tax on frequent flyer benefits is collected anywhere, and respect for the rule-of-law (on the part of both taxpayers and the tax agencies themselves) has been eroded.

So what ought to be done? A tax policy purist would suggest that either the tax administrator or the legislature should develop workable rules for valuation, and for third-party information reporting of that value (by either employers or airlines). The development of workable rules would not be easy, but it could be done. If such rules were adopted, the tax administrator could and should enforce the taxation of frequent flyer benefits. It is unlikely, however, that either an agency or a legislature would take on the difficult and thankless task of developing and adopting the necessary rules. If neither the tax agency nor the legislature is willing to get serious about the taxation of frequent flyer benefits, the second-best approach would be for the legislature to solve the agency-as-scofflaw problem by turning the IRS’ de facto administrative exclusion into an explicit statutory exclusion.

Featured image credit: Airplane flight. Photo by Robert S. Donovan. CC BY-NC 2.0 via booleansplit Flickr.

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13. One second in the life of an artist

The riveting film, The Artist and the Model (L’Artiste et son Modèle) from Spain’s leading director, Fernando Trueba, focuses on a series of “one seconds” in the life of French sculptor Marc Cross.

The film director transfers himself into his protagonist, played brilliantly by Jean Rochefort, to explore what serves as inspiration for an artist. “An idea,” says the sculptor as he shares with his young model a sketch made by Rembrandt of a child’s first walking steps. “It is the tenderness of the sketch,“ the “one second of an idea,” that Marc Cross searches for to unblock his aging loss of creativity.

And it is the sculptor’s wife, played by beautiful Claudia Cardinale, who will find this “idea” for him. She will save him, help him create.

In one second, the “good wife” sees a driftless girl in their town, sleeping on the ground at a doorstep. She knows nothing about this vagabond who has found her way to their small French village at the Pyrenees’ border with Spain. The only thing the wife knows is that this homeless, hungry girl, wrapped in a bulky, woolen coat, has a face and body that her husband would love to sculpt. This street urchin could become his inspiration. Claudia Cardinale brings the girl home, shelters and feeds her, and teaches Mercè (Aïda Folch) how to pose.


After weeks of sketches and small sculptures, in one second, by chance, the sculptor sees his model in a new position, resting. It is the angle of her arm, the tilt of her head, her leaning down to reflect that gives him “his idea.” He sees in one second before him, a girl who has become a beautiful woman. Marc Cross realizes his model is thinking of the War, worrying about the people she has been transporting secretly during the night to both sides of the Pyrenees. They are “Jews, Resistance, anyone,” who want to escape German-occupied France of 1943-44, as well as from Franco’s military dictatorship of Spain.

In that one second, the sculptor feels her sensitivity, her attempts to do what is right. He sees her in a different light and feels her soul. She has become more than a body or model. He feels in one second that she is Beauty, Art. It is what the artist has been searching for. With tenderness and love, he sculpts his final masterpiece.

When his work is coming to an end, so is the War. The girl leaves to model for another, perhaps Matisse in Nice, as she bikes to the Riviera with a letter of introduction. At this time, the sculptor’s wife leaves him for a few days to care for her sick sister. It is not a coincidence that this is his moment, his one second, to create the most courageous act of all. And he does, with the beautiful finished sculpture of the woman in his garden — surrounded by perfect light and birds chirping – giving him peace.

The Artist and the Model speaks to an age when all men and women search for one second of Hope.

Headline image credit: Still of Jean Rochefort and Aida Folch in The Artist and the Model (2012). © 2013 – Cohen Media Group via IMDB

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14. World AIDS Day reading list

World AIDS Day is a global campaign that raises awareness and funds for the estimated 34 million people living with HIV, and also commemorates the 35 million people who have died of the virus. The first one was held in 1988 and, as such, it is the longest running health day. Despite many medical advances, HIV remains one of the most devastating epidemics in human history. The search for a cure or vaccine for HIV continues, with new discoveries being published all the time. We’ve created a reading list of journal articles and books so that you can read some of the latest, cutting-edge texts on the subject:

‘Diagnosing acute and prevalent HIV-1 infection in young African adults seeking care for fever: a systematic review and audit of current practice‘, published in International HealthINTHEA
This article investigates the extent to which HIV-1 infection is considered in the diagnostic evaluation of febrile adults in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through a systematic review of published literature and guidelines in the period 2003–2014.

Delivering TB/HIV services in Ghana: a comparative study of service delivery models‘, published in Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene
Three hospitals with different delivery models were identified and a survey of TB cases registered between June 2007 and December 2008 conducted.

‘HIV and HIV treatment: effects on fats, glucose and lipids‘, published in British Medical Bulletin
This review provides a brief summary of our current understanding of the epidemiology, clinical presentation and therapeutic approaches of what is termed ‘the HIV-associated lipodystrophy syndrome’ and of HIV-associated lipid and glucose metabolic abnormalities.

‘Increased Morbidity in Early Childhood Among HIV-exposed Uninfected Children in Uganda is Associated with Breastfeeding Duration’, published in Journal of Tropical Pediatrics
Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa have shown that HIV-exposed uninfected children (HEU) have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality compared with HIV-unexposed uninfected children (HUU). This article looks at how breastfeeding affects the relationship between HIV-exposure and morbidity and mortality.TROPEJ

‘Randomized community-level HIV prevention intervention trial for men who drink in South African alcohol-serving venues’, published in European Journal of Public Health
South African alcohol-serving establishments (i.e., shebeens) offer unique opportunities to reduce HIV risks among men who drink. Read the study in full

‘Primary Effusion Lymphoma (PEL) in the absence of HIV infection – Clinical presentation and management’, published in QJM
To clarify treatment issues in HIV-negative PEL patients, this report looks at two such patients who represent two opposing ends in the spectrum of treatment and review the literature regarding treatment options and patient outcomes.

‘Early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection: magnitude of benefit on short-term mortality is greatest in older adults’, published in Age and Ageing
The number and proportion of adults diagnosed with HIV infection aged 50 years and older has risen. This study compares the effect of CD4 counts and anti-retroviral therapy (ART) on mortality rates among adults diagnosed aged ≥50 with those diagnosed at a younger age.AGEING

‘Attitudes about providing HIV care: voices from publicly funded clinics in California’, published in Family Practice
As the enactment of health care reform becomes a reality in the USA, it has been widely predicted that HIV+ patients will increasingly be cared for by primary care physicians (PCPs), many of whom lack the experience to deliver full-spectrum HIV care.

‘Community-based family-style group homes for children orphaned by AIDS in rural China: an ethnographic investigation’, published in Health Policy and Planning
As the number of children orphaned by AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) has reached 17.3 million, most living in resource-poor settings, interest has grown in identifying and evaluating appropriate care arrangements for them.

‘Physician communication behaviors from the perspective of adult HIV patients in Kenya’, published in International Journal for Quality in Health CareINTQHC
This study looks at the perceived physician communication behaviors and its association with adherence to care, among HIV patients in Kenya.

‘Glycodendrimers prevent HIV transmission via DC-SIGN on dendritic cells’, published in International Immunology
The authors design molecules that bind dendritic cells and block HIV-1 binding, thereby stopping transport to CD4+ T cells and preventing virus transmission.

‘Clinical Outcomes of AIDS-related Burkitt Lymphoma: A Multi-institution Retrospective Survey in Japan’, published in Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology
Highly intensive chemotherapy would bring a high remission rate and prolonged overall survival for patients with AIDS-related Burkitt lymphoma.

‘Interview with Dr. Deborah Cotton about HIV Treatment and the Early Years of the Epidemic’, published in Open Forum Infectious DiseasesOFID
In this podcast, Editor-in-Chief Paul Sax, MD, speaks with colleague Deborah Cotton, MD, MPH, about the recent OFID article “A Glimpse of the Early Years of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic: A Fellow’s Experience in 2014.” Drs. Sax and Cotton compare their experiences in Boston with those of the authors at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, which still cares for a large number of patients with untreated HIV

‘Improvements in HIV Care Engagement and Viral Load Suppression Following Enrollment in a Comprehensive HIV Care Coordination Program’, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases
Gaps in the HIV care continuum jeopardize the success of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. A pre-post analysis of 1-year outcomes among New York City Ryan White Care Coordination clients demonstrated improvements in HIV care engagement and viral suppression.

‘Frailty in People Aging With Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection’, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases
The increasing life spans of people infected with HIV reflect enormous treatment successes and present new challenges related to aging. This review explains how frailty has been conceptualized and measured in the general population, critically reviews emerging data on frailty in people with HIV infection, and explores how the concept of frailty might inform HIV research and care.

‘Factors Associated With Retention Among Non–Perinatally HIV-Infected Youth in the HIV Research Network’, published in Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases SocietyJPIDS
The transmission of HIV among youth through high-risk behaviors continues to increase. Retention in care is associated with positive clinical outcomes and a decrease in HIV transmission risk behaviors, but this retrospective analysis shows alarmingly high proportions of newly enrolled non-perinatally HIV-infected youth were not retained.

‘Sex differences in atazanavir pharmacokinetics and associations with time to clinical events: AIDS Clinical Trials Group Study A5202′, published in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
This new research from the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy examines whether HIV-1 antiretroviral exposure and clinical response varies between males and females. The study of 786 participants revealed that average atazanavir clearance was slower in females than males.

Oxford Textbook of Medicine, edited by David A. Warrell, Timothy M. Cox, and John D. FirthOxford-textbook-of-medicine
Giving an unparalleled integration of HIV/AIDS basic science and clinical practice, this chapter is taken from the Oxford Textbook of Medicine, the most comprehensive, authoritative, and international medical textbook available.

Oxford Handbook of Genitourinary Medicine, HIV, and Sexual Health, edited by Richard Pattman, Nathan Sankar, Babiker Elawad, Pauline Handy, and David Ashley Price
Taken from the Oxford Handbook of Genitourinary Medicine, HIV, and Sexual Health, this chapter provides evidence based, practical information on HIV/AIDS and details the pathogenesis of HIV infection.

Fitness For Work, edited by Keith T Palmer, Ian Brown, and John Hobson
Comprehensive coverage of occupational health issues relating to HIV. While antiretroviral treatment (ART) has increased survival, many HIV-infected people remain symptomatic, either through drug side effects, HIV-related illnesses, or the psychological morbidity associated with the diagnosis and disease. All of these factors can have a significant effect on an individual’s ability to find, and remain in, work.

Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine, edited by Andrew Brent, Robert Davidson, and Anna SealeOH-of-Tropical-Medicine
This guide to HIV is from the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine, a definitive resource for medical problems in tropical regions, and low-resource countries. Covering diagnosis and associated diseases, through to treatment and prevention strategies, this chapter is a comprehensive guide to clinical practice.

Challenging Concepts in Infectious Disease, edited by Amber Arnold and George Griffin
Part of a compendium of challenging cases, this chapter examines prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in a case where a 26-year-old Nigerian lady presented with a week-long history of worsening fever, cough, and shortness of breath. She was 28 weeks into her first pregnancy, which had otherwise been uneventful and had included a negative routine antenatal test for HIV at 12 weeks’ gestation.

Virus Hunt, by Dorothy H. Crawford9780199641147_450
The hunt for the origin of the AIDS virus began over twenty years ago. It was a journey that went around the world and involved painstaking research to unravel how, when, and where the virus first infected humans.

The Aids Generation, by Perry Halkitis
Perry Halkitis narrates a story of HIV survival, based on his interviews with the AIDS Generation, those gay men who came of age at the onset of the epidemic, prior to any effective treatments. This chapter provides a historical and epidemiological background of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as it has manifested itself over the last three decades.

African Health Leaders, edited by Francis Omaswa and Nigel CrispAfrican-Health-Leaders
Written by Africans, who have themselves led improvements in their own countries, the book discusses the creativity, innovation and leadership that has been involved tackling everything from HIV/AIDs, to maternal, and child mortality and neglected tropical diseases.

Featured image credit: World AIDS Day, White House, by tedeytan. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

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15. The not so thin blue line: policing economic crime

Fraud is one of the most costly crimes to society, with the last estimate produced by the now disbanded National Fraud Authority suggesting that in 2012 this figure was £52 billion. Yet the response from the Government, from the criminal justice system, and – most importantly – law enforcement, does not match the magnitude of the problem.

These are difficult times for the police. The most recent statistics on police numbers suggesting that officer levels have returned to where they were in 2002 as a consequence of deep funding cuts imposed by the coalition government. Nevertheless, in view of the cost of fraud – which is certainly a significant under-estimation due to the fact that not all frauds are reported and no law enforcement agency has a 100% detection rate – the public has a right to expect that the policing response to fraud is proportionate to these losses, and on a par with resources dedicated to investigating other acquisitive crimes such as burglary and robbery.

We are told that crime rates are falling, so why would this be an issue? Well, closer inspection of the Crime Survey for England and Wales reveals that the estimate of crime does not include any data for credit or debit card fraud, yet the last estimate by the National Fraud Authority was that in 2012 fraud was estimated to have cost the financial services sector over £5 billion. Fraud itself is on the increase; data evidence shows that reported fraud by individuals has risen by 17% in the 12 months to the end of March 2014. Yet again, it is only right for the public to expect that there are adequate police resources to tackle this rising crime problem.

So let us explore what the policing response to fraud actually amounts to in terms of officers dedicated to investigating this type of crime. Over the last 20 years there have been several studies that have illustrated a decline in specialist police resources dedicated to investigating fraud. During the mid-1980s, research by Michael Levi suggested there were 588 fraud squad officers. The Fraud Review published in 2006 identified that this figure had reduced to 416, which included 126 in London, and that this resource was actually under threat. Further research conducted by Robert Gannon and Alan Doig in 2008 suggested that in the last decade there had been a slight reduction in the number of police officers dedicated to the investigation of fraud, to around 400 officers. This in itself evidences the low priority that fraud is given by law enforcement, when considering that numbers of police officers rose year on year from 2000 to 2010.

Balancing The Account. Photo by Ken Teegardin. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

To obtain a more up-to-date picture of policing resources dedicated to fraud, during the Summer/Autumn of 2013 a research team from the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data from Police Constabularies on the resources dedicated to fraud and economic crime. The term ‘economic crime’ was used because some forces have an economic crime unit. However, these units focus not only on the investigation of fraud, but a range of other financially related offences such as  money laundering, counterfeit currency, and criminal involvement in a financial enterprise to name but a few. The expectation was that, in line with the overall reduction in police numbers, this figure would show a further decline in resources dedicated to fraud.

This was not to be the case. The numbers show that the resources allocated to tackling economic crime – excluding ‘financial investigators’ – within police forces in England and Wales currently stands at 624.3 (full time equivalent), higher than in 2006. This figure represents a mix of specialist police and civilian investigators, reflecting current trends in the increased civilianisation of some policing activities.

However, do not get too euphoric: this figure actually represents only 0.27% of all police personnel, further illustrating that the trait of giving fraud the status of a “Cinderella crime” continues. Even more worrying is that of the 48 police constabularies in the UK, seven police forces claimed they did not have an economic crime unit. So, don’t become a victim of fraud in Cumbria, North Wales, Bedfordshire, or Gloucestershire to name a few, as there won’t be anybody available to investigate your case! This may also explain why many frauds reported to the national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud never get investigated. Similarly, how many civilian fraud investigators referring an internal fraud case to the police will be familiar with the response “the offender has been sacked, what more do you want?”

Although the ‘thin blue line’ turned out to be not so thin after all, when considering that the number of recorded fraud cases has risen by two fifths over the last three years, and that there are four times as many officers dedicated to investigating benefit fraud (which only accounts for £1.9 billion of a £52 billion fraud problem), the fact that the police are only able to offer 0.27% of the total resource to fraud and economic crime does seem rather thin. Whilst the announcement that the Metropolitan Police Operation Falcon will create the largest cyber-crime and fraud team in Europe, the present policing figures really do suggest that it’s ‘open season’ for fraudsters.

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16. The importance of mentoring

Throughout my career, there have been many times when advice, support, and criticism were critical for my own professional development. Sometimes that assistance came from people who were formally tasked with providing advice; a good example is a Ph.D. advisor (in my case, John Aldrich of Duke University, who has been a fantastic advisor and mentor to a long list of very successful students). Sometimes that advice was less formal, coming from senior colleagues, other academics at conferences, and in many cases from peers. The lesson is professional advice and support — or to put it into a single term, mentoring — comes from many different sources and occurs in many different ways.

However, there is growing concern in political science that more mentoring is necessary, that there are scholars who are not getting the professional support and advice that they need to help them with career decisions, teaching, and the publication of their research. There are many good programs that have developed in recent years to help provide more mentoring in political methodology, for example the excellent “Visions in Methodology” program. And the Society for Political Methodology recently approved the foundation of a new professional award, to recognize excellent mentors. But more needs to be done to improve mentoring and mentoring opportunities in academia.

During the 2014 American Political Science Association conference, there was a very informative panel discussion, “How to Be a Good Mentee: Mentoring for Methodologists.” The discussion was chaired by Megan Shannon of the University of Colorado, and participants were Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer (Rice University), Tiffany D. Barnes (University of Kentucky), and Brett Ashley Leeds (Rice University). I had an opportunity to listen to much of this panel discussion, and found it quite helpful.

After the conference I sent Leslie, Tiffany, and Ashley some questions about mentoring by email. Their responses are informative and helpful, and should be read by anyone who is interested in mentoring.

R. Michael Alvarez: How have you benefited from being involved in mentoring relationships?

Tiffany D. Barnes: I have benefited in a number of ways from being involved in a mentoring relationship. Mentors have provided me with feedback on research at multiple different stages of the research process. They have provided me with professional advice about a number of things including applying for fellowships and grants, marketing my book manuscript to university presses, and navigating the negotiation process at my university. My mentoring relationships have broadened my network of scholars with similar research interests and/or professional goals, which in turn have resulted in a number of different opportunities (e.g. coauthors, and invitations to participate in conference panels/round tables, mini-conferences, and edited volumes/special journal issues). Equally important, my mentoring relationships have resulted in a number of valuable friendships that make working in the profession more enjoyable.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: As a mentee, I really benefited from getting guidance, feedback, and research assistance from many different formal and informal mentors over the years. As a mentor, I get to give that back which is a great opportunity.

Brett Ashley Leeds: I believe fundamentally that no one figures everything out on his or her own. I know for sure that I did not, and I have had (and continue to have) a variety of mentors throughout my career. As a mentee, what I really value is knowing that I have people who respect me enough to tell me when I am wrong and to help me improve. As a mentor, I not only learn a lot from thinking intently about my mentees’ work and articulating my opinions for them, but I also get great personal satisfaction from the relationships that evolve and from helping others to succeed. It feels good to pay forward what has been done for me.

Woman looking away and smiling. © GlobalStock via iStock.
Woman looking away and smiling. © GlobalStock via iStock.

R. Michael Alvarez: Why has the issue of mentoring become an important topic of conversation in academia, and in particular, in political science?

Tiffany D. Barnes: Although it is well established that mentoring is an important aspect of professional development, it has recently become an important topic of conversation because academics have become aware that not all scholars have the same opportunities to develop mentorship relationships nor do they derive the same benefits from mentor relationships. In particular, women and minorities may face more challenges when it comes to identifying mentors in the field and they may not reap the same benefits (e.g. opportunities to collaborate, sponsorship) from mentorship relationships as men do. In the long run, this “mentor gap” may have negative repercussions for the retention and career advancement of some otherwise talented scholars.

If a scholar feels they would benefit by mentoring, how can they seek out a mentor? What should they look for in an appropriate mentor?

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: Mentoring relationships can be both informal and formal. Informal relationships often emerge when scholars ask for advice and support from colleagues in their department, subfields, or various disciplinary organizations. Formal relationships sometimes emerge organically or at the initiative of a mentee or mentor, but they also can be entered into through a number of mentoring programs in the discipline. For women, the Visions in Methodology program offers a mentoring program through which mentees can ask to be paired with a mentor. They usually ask the mentee to suggest someone they would like to be paired with and then check with the suggested mentor about interest and availability. The Midwest Women’s Caucus has a mentoring program for women in any subfield. They ask individuals interested in mentoring and being mentored to volunteer to participate and then pair them by interest. Other organizations and groups probably offer similar programs.

In seeking a mentor, either formally or informally, you should think about exactly what you want out of the relationship. Are you looking for someone to provide you with general guidance about the profession or are you seeking someone who is willing to read your work from time to time and talk through research challenges when you come across them? Are you in your first year out, feeling lost, and needing help getting back on track or are you close to tenure and looking for guidance on how to navigate the process? Do you want a mentor whose style is to give “pep talks” or “straight talk?” Knowing what you want out of the relationship will help you identify the right person for the job.

Tiffany D. Barnes: Scholars who want to find a mentor can look for a mentor by signing up for a formal mentor match or by identifying someone in the profession who shares similar research interests or professional goals.

A formal mentor match is good option for identifying someone who is interested in serving in a capacity as a mentor. Typically the mentor program will ask you questions about what you are looking for in a mentor relationship, your research interests, your rank, and your professional interests. The program will try to match you with a mentor based on this information. If you are paired with someone through a program, you can be confident that your mentor wants to help you. These relationships can be very valuable, but, as with all mentor-mentee relationships, it requires initiative on the part of the mentee. It is the mentee’s responsibility to drive the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentees should identify why they want a mentor and reach out to the mentor and ask for help in areas where they can benefit the most. One criticism of formal matching programs is that they may not always result in the best “fit.” Even if you do not think the match is the best fit, there are still a number of benefits you can derive from the relationship. Your research interests do not have to perfectly overlap for you to benefit from the relationship. Indeed, most successful scholars have a wealth of information, advice, and perspective to offer junior colleagues. It is up to the mentee to identify areas where your needs or interests intersect with the mentor’s strengths, experiences, and interests — and to capitalize on these opportunities.

A second option is to develop a more informal mentor relationship. To do this, mentees should identify someone in the field who has similar research interests or professional goals. Mentees should identify different opportunities to get to know scholars with similar interests and try to develop these relationships from there. For example, you may have the opportunity to establish relationships with scholars when you present research on the same panel, when someone shows interest in your work by offering comments or questions about your research (or vice versa), or even when you have the opportunity to bring a guest speaker to your university. By following up with people after the initial meeting and/or taking them up on their offer to read and comment on your research, you can begin to establish relationships with them. These relationships may take time to develop and they may be difficult establish if you are new to the profession or do not know many scholars in your field. Finally, when attempting to establish more informal mentor relationships, it is important to be self-aware. Some people will show interest in you and be eager to get to know and help you, others will not, and no one is obligated to do so. Respect people’s rights to not be interested in you and try not to take it personal.

Brett Ashley Leeds: My view is that it is less important to find one person that can be identified as “a mentor” and instead to focus on finding mentoring, even if it comes from a variety of people. I encourage scholars to identify people who have skills, abilities, and/or information that they think would be useful to them– basically people they would like to emulate in particular areas of their work. Approach these folks politely in person or by email (for instance, asking to have coffee at a conference) and ask questions. Some will not be responsive, but many will be responsive and helpful. Follow up with those who are helpful. In some cases a relationship will develop.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the most important “dos” and “don’ts” for a scholar who is in a mentoring relationship?

Brett Ashley Leeds: Since below I cover some tips for mentors, here are some tips for mentees: (1) Figure out what it is you want to know/learn. Think of both specific and general questions so you are prepared to ask when the opportunity arises. (2) Recognize the time and costs of what you ask and make things as easy as possible for your mentor by reminding him/her of past interactions and explaining the specific feedback you are looking for. (3) Understand that ultimately you are responsible for your own decisions. Ask your mentor to explain why he/she believes a particular action/approach is best, and for major decisions, seek advice from multiple people. (4) Let your mentors know about the outcomes. For example, if a mentor helps you with a paper, send a note when the paper is accepted for publication.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: For mentees, be assertive and discuss with your mentor when your relationship begins just what you each want from the relationship and are willing to commit to it. If you need something from your mentor, don’t wait for him/her to reach out to you. Email, call, or arrange to meet with your mentor at a conference. Since the mentee is the one who needs the mentoring relationship the most, the mentee needs to take the initiative to ask for help or guidance from the mentor.

Tiffany D. Barnes: Establish clear expectations and boundaries. Tell your mentor what you are hoping to get out of a mentoring relationship, and don’t be afraid to ask your mentor for help in areas where you could benefit the most. That said, it is important to acknowledge that your mentor may not always be willing or able to help you in the ways you want. Respect these boundaries and do not take them personal.

When establishing boundaries, it is important to respect your mentor’s time and to be cognizant and courteous with the time you ask of your mentor. For example, if your mentor agrees to meet with you for half an hour, pay attention to the time and wrap up your meeting in a timely manner. Your mentor will likely appreciate not having to cut you short, and, if they know you respect their time, it may make them more likely to make time for you in the future.

Don’t expect any single mentor to fulfill all of your mentoring needs. Different people, depending on their experience and expertise, have different things to offer. Try to identify the areas where your mentor is most likely to be of help to you and build on these strengths. Along these same lines, although your mentor likely gives great advice, you cannot expect them to have the answer to all of your questions. It is important to weight their point of view carefully and to seek out a number of different perspectives.

Seek to develop a number of mentoring relationships. It can be useful to have mentors within your own department, in your university (but outside your department), and in the discipline more broadly. Moreover, it is often just as useful to develop relationships with senior mentors, as it is to develop relationships with peer mentors.

Student With Teacher In Class.  © monkeybusinessimages via iStock.
Student With Teacher In Class. © monkeybusinessimages via iStock.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the responsibilities of a mentor?

Brett Ashley Leeds (1) Create an environment in which you can provide effective constructive criticism. This tends to require first establishing an environment of mutual respect. (2) Know what you know and what you don’t, and know that your experience is not universal. (3) Always explain why you are giving the advice you are giving and be willing to consider alternatives. (4) Recognize that in the end, your mentee should make his/her own decisions and may not always take all of your advice. (5) Recognize how important your opinion may be to your mentee; wield this power responsibly.

Tiffany D. Barnes: A mentor should establish clear boundaries with their mentee. Be honest and upfront the role you are and are not willing to play as a mentor. Be clear about your time constraints and the amount of time you are willing to commit to your mentee.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: If it is a formal mentoring relationship, make sure you and your mentee establish ground rules at the beginning about what each of you wants from the relationship and are willing to give to it. Don’t commit to something you aren’t willing to follow through with and be sure to follow through with whatever you commit to do for your mentee. If you can only commit to an hour of time twice a semester, that is fine, but make sure your mentee knows that and agrees that it is sufficient for him/her. If you are willing to provide general guidance but don’t want to read/comment on your mentee’s work, that is fine. But, again, make sure your mentee knows that from the beginning. Keep in mind that your mentee may place very high value on your advice and guidance so give it carefully.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the personal and professional benefits of being a mentor?

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: Too numerous to list in a short response!

Brett Ashley Leeds: It has often been said that one only really knows something when she can teach it to others. Mentoring gives me an opportunity to clarify and articulate my views on professional issues and research in a way that I otherwise might not. I frequently learn in the act of mentoring. The main benefits, however, are personal, and come from the satisfaction of helping others to achieve their goals and the feeling of paying forward what has been done in the past for me.

R. Michael Alvarez: How can professional organizations (like the Society for Political Methodology) facilitate professional mentoring?

Brett Ashley Leeds: The most important thing that professional organizations can do is provide opportunities that encourage interaction among scholars who don’t already know one another, and particularly between junior and senior scholars. Small conferences, dinners, and receptions help a lot with this. Poster sessions in which junior scholars are matched with senior discussants also help.

Tiffany D. Barnes: In my experience professional organizations play both, an important formal and informal role in facilitating professional mentoring.

Professional organization can formally facilitate mentoring relationship by matching mentors with mentees. I have two different successful mentoring relationships that were products of mentoring matches. This is a great way to help young scholars identify someone in the profession who is willing to serve as a mentor.

Professional organizations can also facilitate mentoring by simply providing both professional and social opportunities for junior scholars to meet likeminded senior (and junior!) colleagues. By becoming involved in professional organizations that align with your professional interests you will establish relationships with colleagues in your field. Most of these relationships will emerge naturally and develop slowly over time. Although you may not formally call the individuals you meet here “mentors,” they will become an important part of your mentoring community.

Leslie A. Schwindt-Bayer: One of many ways is a formal mentoring program. The Visions in Methodology mentoring program is a fantastic example, but it is only for women. This is a very positive feature of the program because women in a field with a small representation of women face different and sometimes more challenging sets of obstacles than men. However, plenty of men in the field would also benefit immensely from mentoring and so offering a similar program for men or a program that is open to both women and men, if it does not already exist, would help to facilitate formal professional mentoring in the methods subfield.

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17. Anxiety in non-human primates

Anxiety disorders adversely affect millions of people and account for substantial morbidity in the United States. Anxiety disrupts an individual’s ability to effectively engage and interact in social and non-social situations. The onset of anxiety disorders may begin at an early age or occur in response to life events. Thus, the effects of anxiety are broad ranging, affecting both family and work dynamics, and may limit an individual’s quality of life.

While there has been a great deal of research focused on anxious behavior and anxiety disorders in the past few decades, there is still much we do not know. In order to better understand anxiety disorders, and to develop novel options for those who are nonresponsive to current treatments, scientists need to investigate the biobehavioral mechanisms that underlie the expression of anxiety related behavior. Research with humans subjects is one strategy used to gain insight on how to effectively treat anxiety disorders. However, there are inherent difficulties with such studies, including complex life histories and differences in access to resources (such as health care), as well as ethical issues. Common physiology between humans and other animals allow for the development of animal models that allow scientists to examine the neurobiological underpinnings of anxiety disorders. The non-human primate (NHP) has been used in the study of anxiety due to the physiological, behavioral and neural commonalities we share.

One type of anxiety assessment in non-human primates relies on direct behavioral observations, either in the animal’s ‘home environment’ or in a situation in which the animal is mildly challenged to induce an anxious state. In these procedures, observers typically look for the presence of behaviors indicative of anxiety, including fear and displacement behaviors (normal behaviors that may occur at seemingly inappropriate times). For example, in certain stressful situations, macaques may pick at their hair, a behavior similar to hair twirling in humans. Importantly anxiolytic drugs that reduce the occurrence of these behaviors in humans have been shown to reduce these behaviors in non-human primates, suggesting a common biological mechanism.

One commonly used procedure to assess anxiety in non-human primates is the “Human Intruder Test” (HIT). This procedure was designed to evaluate an animal’s response to the “uncertainty” of the presence of an unfamiliar human. The species appropriate response when presented with this mild challenge is to remain still and vigilant; however, there is a range of responses, with some animals showing little response and others excessive freezing behavior. Variations of this procedure have used similar stimuli, including unfamiliar conspecifics and predatory threats (e.g., stuffed predator) to measure anxiety-related responses. Animals that exhibit heightened anxiety responses in the Human Intruder Test also show alterations in the same neurobiological systems affected in humans with anxiety disorders.

Barbary macaque. CC0 via Pixabay.
Barbary macaque. CC0 via Pixabay.

Another class of anxiety tests in non-human primates relies on measuring physiological response following the presentation of an unexpected auditory or motor stimulus. For example, anxious people are more likely than others to react to a brief, unexpected sound with an exaggerated heart rate. Researchers have adopted similar methodology to assess startle response for nonhuman primates using a wide range of stimuli and physiological parameters.

Other research has focused on the cognitive processes involved in the regulation of anxiety responses. These tests of “cognitive bias” are based on the idea that an individual’s tendency to attend to potentially noxious stimuli tell us something about how the individual processes or weighs the experience. Therefore, an individual’s “anxious” state can be by assessed from his or her judgment about or attention to stimuli with different potentials to evoke anxiety. Cognitive bias procedures have been adapted and successfully employed in humans and other animals with similar response strategies across species, making these tests valuable comparative tools in our understanding of anxious behavior behavior.

Our review presents non-human primate models used by scientists in an effort to understand the biobehavioral mechanisms that mediate anxiety. The cross-species approach of modeling human psychopathology aims to discover targets for treatment toward the goal of reducing human suffering caused by anxiety disorders. Additionally, the knowledge gained from our investigation of anxiety-like behavior inform captive care of non-human primates. The studies reviewed have refined our understanding of factors that may result in anxiety-like behavior and provide information on how to manage them. Modeling psychopathology in non-human primates is necessary and critical to our understanding and treatment of these disorders in humans and nonhuman primates.

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18. World Philosophy Day reading list

World Philosophy Day was created by UNESCO in 2005 in order to “win recognition for and give strong impetus to philosophy and, in particular, to the teaching of philosophy in the world”. To celebrate World Philosophy Day, we have compiled a list of what we consider to be the most essential philosophy titles. We are also providing free access to several key journal articles and online products in philosophy so that you can explore this discipline in more depth. Happy reading!

Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will by Alfred R. Mele
Does free will exist? The question has fueled heated debates spanning from philosophy to psychology and religion. The answer has major implications, and the stakes are high. To put it in the simple terms that have come to dominate these debates, if we are free to make our own decisions, we are accountable for what we do, and if we aren’t free, we’re off the hook.

Philosophy Bites Again by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton
This is really a conversation, and conversations are the best way to see philosophy in action. It offers engaging and thought-provoking conversations with leading philosophers on a selection of major philosophical issues that affect our lives. Their subjects include pleasure, pain, and humor; consciousness and the self; free will, responsibility, and punishment; the meaning of life and the afterlife.

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn
Here at last is a coherent, unintimidating introduction to the challenging and fascinating landscape of Western philosophy. Written expressly for “anyone who believes there are big questions out there, but does not know how to approach them.”

What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel
In this cogent and accessible introduction to philosophy, the distinguished author of Mortal Questions and The View From Nowhere brings the central problems of philosophical inquiry to life, demonstrating why they have continued to fascinate and baffle thinkers across the centuries.

Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics by Earl Conee and Theodore Sider
Two leading philosophers explore the most fundamental questions there are, about what is, what is not, what must be, and what might be. It has an informal style that brings metaphysical questions to life and shows how stimulating it can be to think about them.

Killing in War by Jeff McMahan
This is a highly controversial challenge to the consensus about responsibility in war. Jeff McMahan argues compellingly that if the leaders are in the wrong, then the soldiers are in the wrong.

Reason in a Dark Time by Dale Jamieson
In this book, philosopher Dale Jamieson explains what climate change is, why we have failed to stop it, and why it still matters what we do. Centered in philosophy, the volume also treats the scientific, historical, economic, and political dimensions of climate change.

Poverty, Agency, and Human Rights edited by Diana Tietjens Meyers
Collects thirteen new essays that analyze how human agency relates to poverty and human rights respectively as well as how agency mediates issues concerning poverty and social and economic human rights. No other collection of philosophical papers focuses on the diverse ways poverty impacts the agency of the poor.
Aha! The Moments of Insight That Shape Our World by William B. Irvine
This book incorporates psychology, neurology, and evolutionary psychology to take apart what we can learn from a variety of significant “aha” moments that have had lasting effects. Unlike other books on intellectual breakthroughs that focus on specific areas such as the arts, Irvine’s addresses aha moments in a variety of areas including science and religion.

On What Matters: Volume One by Derek Parfit
Considered one of the most important works in the field since the 19th century, it is written in the uniquely lucid and compelling style for which Parfit is famous. This is an ambitious treatment of the main theories of ethics.

The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory according to the Everett Interpretation by David Wallace
Quantum physics is the most successful scientific theory we have. But no one knows how to make sense of it. We need to bite the bullet – it’s common sense that must give way. The universe is much stranger than we can think.

The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters by Thomas Hurka
An engaging, accessible survey of the different things that can make life worth living: pleasure, knowledge, achievement, virtue, love, and more. A book that considers what really matters in one’s life, and making decisions around those values.

9780192854216 What should I do?: Plato’s Crito’ in Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Edward Craig
Plato, born around 427 BC, is not the first important philosopher, with Vedas of India, the Buddha, and Confucius all pre-dating him. However, he is the first philosopher to have left us with a substantial body of complete works that are available to us today, which all take the form of dialogues. This chapter focuses on the dialogue called Crito in which Socrates asks ‘What should I do?’

A biography of John Locke in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
A philosopher regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers, John Locke was born on 29th August 1632 in Somerset, England. In the late 1650s he became interested in medicine, which led easily to natural philosophy after being introduced to these new ideas of mechanical philosophy by Robert Boyle. Discover what happened next in Locke’s life with this biography

‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ from Mind, published in 1950.14602113
In this seminal paper, celebrated mathematician and pioneer Alan Turing attempts to answer the question, ‘Can machines think?’, and thus introduces his theory of ‘the imitation game’(now known as the Turing test) to the world. Turing skilfully debunks theological and ethical arguments against computational intelligence: he acknowledges the limitations of a machine’s intellect, while boldly exposing those of man, ultimately laying the groundwork for the study of artificial intelligence – and the philosophy behind it.

‘Phenomenology as a Resource for Patients’ from The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, published in 2012
Patient support tools have drawn on a variety of disciplines, including psychotherapy, social psychology, and social care. One discipline that has not so far been used to support patients is philosophy. This paper proposes that a particular philosophical approach, phenomenology, could prove useful for patients, giving them tools to reflect on and expand their understanding of their illness.

Do you have any philosophy books that you think should be added to this reading list? Let us know in the comments below.

Headline image credit: Rays at Burning Man by foxgrrl. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

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19. Celebrating Alan Turing

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) was a mathematician and computer scientist, remembered for his revolutionary Automatic Computing Engine, on which the first personal computer was based, and his crucial role in breaking the ENIGMA code during the Second World War. He continues to be regarded as one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.

We live in an age that Turing both predicted and defined. His life and achievements are starting to be celebrated in popular culture, largely with the help of the newly released film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke. We’re proud to publish some of Turing’s own work in mathematics, computing, and artificial intelligence, as well as numerous explorations of his life and work. Use our interactive Enigma Machine below to learn more about Turing’s extraordinary achievements.


Image credits: (1) Bletchley Park Bombe by Antoine Taveneaux. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Alan Turing Aged 16, Unknown Artist. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Good question by Garrett Coakley. CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

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20. Academics as activists: an interview with Jeffrey W. Pickron

This week, we bring you an interview with activist and historian Jeffrey W. Pickron. He and three other scholars spoke about their experiences as academics and activists on a riveting panel at the recent Oral History Association Annual Meeting. In this podcast, Pickron talks to managing editor Troy Reeves about his introduction to both oral history and activism, and the risks and rewards of speaking out.

Heading image: Boeing employees protest meeting in Seattles City Hall Park, 1943 by Seattle Municipal Archives. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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21. Global solidarity and Cuba’s response to the Ebola outbreak

How did the international community get the response to the Ebola outbreak so wrong? We closed borders. We created panic. We left the moribund without access to health care. When governments in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria called out to the world for help, the global response went to mostly protect the citizens of wealthy nations before strengthening health systems on the ground. In general, resources have gone to guarding borders rather than protecting patients in the hot zone from the virus. Yet, Cuba broke this trend by sending in hundreds of its own health workers into the source of the epidemic. Considering the broader global response to Ebola, why did Cuba get it so right?

Ebola impacted countries, and the World Health Organization (WHO), called out for greater human resources for health. While material supplies arrived, many countries tightened travel restrictions, closed their doors and kept their medical personnel at home. At a time when there has never been greater knowledge, more money, and ample resources for global health, the world responded to an infectious pathogen with some material supplies, but also with securitization, experimental vaccines, and forced quarantines – all of which oppose accepted public health ethics. The result is that without human resources for health on the ground, the supplies stay idle, the vaccines remain questionable, and the securitization instills fear.

The Global North evacuated their infected citizens. These evacuations spawned donations to the WHO and then led to travel bans. The United Kingdom provided £230 million in material aid to West Africa. The United States committed $175 million to combat the virus by transporting supplies and personnel, with an estimated 3,000 soldiers to be involved in the response. Canada’s government provided some $35 million to Ebola, including a mobile testing lab, sanitary equipment and 1,000 vials of experimental vaccines that have yet to arrive in West Africa or even be tested on humans. Canada then followed the example of Australia, North Korea, and other nervous nations, in imposing a visa ban on persons traveling from Ebola affected countries. Even Rwanda imposed screening on Americans because of confirmed cases in the United States.

View of Havana skyline from Hotel Nacional by Hmaglione10. CC-BY-SA-4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Despite this global trend, Cuba — a small and economically hobbled nation — chose to make a world of difference for those suffering from Ebola by sending in 465 health workers, expanding hospital beds, and training local health workers on how to treat and prevent the virus. Cuba is the only nation to respond to the call to stop the Ebola epidemic by actually scaling up health care capacity in the very places where it is needed the most. Even with a Gross Domestic Product per capita to that of Montenegro, Cuba has proven itself as a global health power during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Many scholars and pundits have been left wondering not only how a low-income country, with its own social and economic challenges, could send impressive medical resources to West Africa, but also why they would dive into the hot zone in the first place — especially when nobody else dares to do so.

Cuba is globally recognized as an outstanding health-care power in providing affordable and accessible health services to its own citizens and to the citizens of 76 countries around the world, including those impacted by Ebola. Cuba’s health outreach is grounded in the epistemology of solidarity — a normative approach to global health that offers a unique ability of strengthening the core of health systems through long-term commitments to health promotion, disease prevention and primary care. Solidarity is a cooperative relationship between two parties that is mutually transformative by maximizing health-care provision, eroding power structures that promote inequity, and by seeking out mutual social and economic benefit. The reason for the general amazement and wonder over Cuba’s Ebola-response stems from a lack of depth in understanding the normative values of solidarity, as it is not a driving force in the global health outreach by most wealthy nations. The ethic of solidarity can even be seen on the ground in West Africa with Cuban doctors like Ronald Hernandéz Torres posting photos of his Ebola team wearing the protective gear, while giving the thumbs and peace sign — an incredible snapshot of humanity that contrasts the typically frightening images of Ebola health workers.

Solidarity is not charity. Charity is governed by the will of the donor and cannot be broad enough to overcome health calamities at a systems level. Solidarity is also not pure altruism. Selfless giving is based on exceptional, and often short-term, acts for no expectation of reward or reciprocity. For Cuba, solidarity in global health comes with the expectation of cooperation, meaning that the recipient nation should offer some level of support to Cuba, be it financial or political. Solidarity also means that there is a long-term relationship to improve the strength of a health system. Cuba’s current commitment to Ebola could last months, if not years.

Cuba’s global health outreach can be approached through the lens of solidarity. This example implies engaging global health calamities with cooperation over charity, with human resources in addition to material resources, and ultimately with compassion over fear. This approach could well be at the heart of wiping out Ebola — along with every other global health calamity that continues to get the best of us because we have not yet figured out how to truly take care of each other.

Heading image: Ebola treatment unit by CDC Global. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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22. Back to the future with the ASC’s new Division of Policing

On 31 December 1941, August Vollmer hosted the first meeting of the National Association of College Police Training Officials at his home. The organization initially focused on developing standardized curricula for university-based policing programs, but soon expanded its scope to include the more general field of criminology. In 1958, the American Society of Criminology (ASC) name was officially adopted.

Vollmer, first police chief of Berkeley, CA and founder of the first school of criminology at the University of California Berkeley, is generally regarded as the father of modern policing.

O.W. Wilson, himself a prominent figure in modern policing, perhaps summed up Vollmer’s influence best in a 1953 article in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology: “August Vollmer, police administrator and consultant, student, educator, author, and criminologist, will be recorded in American police history as the man who contributed most to police professionalization by promoting the application of scientific principles to police service.”

While Vollmer’s focus on science was largely on forensic and physical sciences, in part because of a lack of social science research on the police at the time, he was one of the first to recognize that the police could partner with scientists and other outsiders to increase their effectiveness and efficiency. He embodied the idea of infusing policing with research and scientific knowledge that is the hallmark of efforts to make policing more evidence-based today.

We can only speculate on how Vollmer would run a police department today. But based on his strong belief that officers should be well-educated and exposed to the latest research findings through extensive training throughout their careers, we might assume he would embrace close collaboration between police and social scientists and the use of findings from rigorous studies to guide police practice. Today, our evidence base outside of the hard sciences is far larger. The Evidence-Based Policing Matrix, for example, includes nearly 130 methodologically rigorous studies of the crime control effectiveness of policing strategies.

As O.W. Wilson’s quote suggested, Vollmer not only incorporated research into policing, but he also was one of the first to straddle the line between science and practice through his work as a police chief and university professor. Vollmer’s interest in the link between universities and policing inspired that New Year’s Eve meeting in 1941, which eventually led to the formation of the ASC, now the largest professional organization devoted to criminology in the world.

August Vollmer, "father of modern law enforcement," 6 September 1929, photo by Underwood & Underwood. Public domain via Library of Congress.
August Vollmer, “father of modern law enforcement,” 6 September 1929, photo by Underwood & Underwood. Public domain via Library of Congress.

The initial close link between the ASC and police education quickly dissipated, however. Many of the police practitioners and professors initially involved in the creation of the ASC began to feel as though the organization had become too sociological and concerned with questions of crime causation and uninterested in police practice. As Willard Oliver describes in his History of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), the International Association of Police Professionals was established by former ASC members in 1963 to focus more on police education. The organization eventually expanded its focus to the entire criminal justice system and took on its current name of ACJS. Thus, while Vollmer was instrumental in the creation of the ASC, his followers soon abandoned the organization in favor of ACJS. As a result, police practitioners have traditionally been more involved in the Annual Meetings of the ACJS, which has had a section on policing for more than 20 years.

Recently, a group of scholars and practitioners brought together by Cynthia Lum of George Mason University have begun the critical work of highlighting policing as an important part of criminology and the ASC. In May of this year, the ASC approved a new Division of Policing, with membership open to any ASC member. We encourage members to consider joining the Division when renewing (or beginning) their ASC membership for 2015.

As Anthony Braga, Cynthia Lum, and Edward Davis described in a recent article in The Police Chief, a major goal of the Division is to build strong partnerships between police and researchers that will ideally increase the number of completed research studies and improve translation of research findings into police practice. The Division thus marks a return to the roots of the ASC and Vollmer’s vision of a policing profession consistently using the best science and research to guide policy and practice.

Even without a formal Division in place, policing presentations have become a major component of the ASC conference. A guide to policing sessions of interest at the Annual Meeting next week includes more than 120 panels with policing presentations. This number should only increase in future years with the Division’s efforts, and ideally the number of police practitioners presenting at ASC will increase exponentially.

We invite everyone attending the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology to join us at the inaugural event for the Division of Policing to be held 20 November 2014 from 4:00-5:30pm.

The event will include opening remarks from San Francisco District Attorney and former Police Chief George Gascón. Wesley Skogan of Northwestern University will then provide a brief history of police research and introduce a distinguished group of police researchers and practitioners who will each speak briefly about their vision for the future of policing research.

It seems especially appropriate that this kick-off event for the Division will take place at the Marriott Marquis San Francisco, less than 15 miles away from 923 Euclid Avenue in Berkeley, Vollmer’s former home and the birthplace of the ASC.

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23. A reading list for European Antibiotics Awareness Day

Held every 18 November, European Antibiotics Awareness Day (EAAD) is a European public health initiative that promotes responsible use of antibiotics. The day raises awareness of the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and encourages prudent antibiotic use.

The number of patients infected by resistant bacteria is growing, which means that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. The problem is caused by the inappropriate use and prescribing of antibiotics and is a major threat to patients’ safety and public health. Using antibiotics responsibly can help us to ensure that antibiotics are effective for the use of future generations.

To raise awareness of this vital topic, we’ve put together a reading list of free articles from the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, selected by the Editor-in-Chief, Alan Johnson.

Trends in antibiotic prescribing in primary care for clinical syndromes subject to national recommendations to reduce antibiotic resistance, UK 1995–2011: analysis of a large database of primary care consultations by Hawker JI, Smith S, Smith GE et al.

This paper investigates trends in prescribing antibiotics in relation to nationally recommended best practice in the UK. It reports on the mixed success of implementing national guidelines, with prescribing antibiotics for coughs and colds now being greater than before recommendations were made to reduce it.

Good practice recommendations for paediatric outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy (p-OPAT) in the UK: a consensus statement by Patel S, Abrahamson E, Goldring S et al.

BSAC and the British Paediatric Allergy, Immunity and Infection Group have written recommendations to highlight good clinical practice and governance for managing children on intravenous antimicrobial therapy in secondary or tertiary care settings. Managing children on intravenous antimicrobial therapy at home can improve parent and patient satisfaction and reduce health-care associated infections.

Longitudinal trends and cross-sectional analysis of English national hospital antibacterial use over 5 years (2008–13): working towards hospital prescribing quality measures by Cooke J, Stephens P, Ashiru-Oredope D. et al.

This study examines the variation in antimicrobial use in individual hospitals in the UK. It uncovers a wide variation in usage between individual hospitals and recommends the urgent development of quality measures of optimal hospital antimicrobial prescribing.

Pills by stevepb. CC0 via Pixabay.

Evaluation of antifungal use in a tertiary care institution: antifungal stewardship urgently needed by Valerio M, Rodriguez-Gonzalez CG, Muñoz P et al.

This article explores the quality of antifungal use and reports on antifungals being prescribed unnecessarily in 16% of cases. It considers the potential savings that could be made by optimising antifungal therapy.

Effect of antibiotic stewardship programmes on Clostridium difficile incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis by Feazel LM, Malhotra A, Perencevich EN et al.

Despite vigorous infection control measures, Clostridium difficile continues to cause significant disease burden. This paper demonstrates that restrictive antibiotic stewardship programmes can be used to reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile infections.

A window into the lives of junior doctors: narrative interviews exploring antimicrobial prescribing experiences by Mattick K, Kelly N, Rees C et al.

Prescribing medications is an important challenge in the transition to junior doctor practice. This study explores the antimicrobial prescribing experiences of foundation year doctors in two UK hospitals and offers some practical solutions to the challenges they face.

Impact of implementation of a novel antimicrobial stewardship tool on antibiotic use in nursing homes: a prospective cluster randomized control pilot study by Fleet E, Rao GG, Patel B et al.

This paper evaluates the impact of ‘Resident Antimicrobial Management Plan’, a novel antimicrobial stewardship tool on systemic antibiotic use for treatment of infection in nursing homes. This pilot study demonstrated that the use of this tool was associated with a significant increase in total antibiotic consumption.

Antibiotic use in Dutch primary care: relation between diagnosis, consultation and treatment by van den Broek d’Obrenan J, Verheij TJ, Numans ME et al.

The aim of this study was to describe the antibiotic management of infectious diseases in the clinical context in the Netherlands. It examines trends in prescribing antibiotics for different types of infection and concludes that complete data on infectious disease management, with respect to patient and physician behaviour, are crucial for understanding changes in antibiotic use, and in defining strategies to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use.

Effect of antibiotic streamlining on patient outcome in pneumococcal bacteraemia by Cremers AJH, Sprong T, Schouten JA et al.

This study investigated whether streamlining in bacteraemic pneumococcal infections is associated with mortality. This practice can reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics but is poorly undertaken due to lack of clarity related to patient safety.

The efficacy of non-carbapenem antibiotics for the treatment of community-onset acute pyelonephritis due to extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing by Park SH, Choi SM, Chang YK et al.

Extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli has become an important cause of community-onset urinary tract infections. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of non-carbapenem antibiotics for acute pyelonephritis (APN) due to ESBL-producing E. coli.

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24. Vaping and the data on e-cigarettes

Oxford Dictionaries has selected vape as Word of the Year 2014, so we asked several experts to comment on the growth of electronic cigarettes and the vaping phenomenon.

Vaping is the term for using an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette). Since e-cigarettes involve inhaling vapour rather than smoke, it is distinct from smoking. The vapour looks a somewhat like cigarette smoke but dissipates much more quickly and has very little odour since it mostly consist of water droplets.

E-cigarettes started to become popular around 2010 and it is estimated they are currently being used by more than 2 million people in the United Kingdom and more than 5 million in the United States. Their sale is banned in many countries, including Australia and Canada, although surveys show that use in these is widespread since they can easily be obtained via the Internet.

E-cigarettes are devices in which a battery-powered heating element vaporises an ‘e-liquid’ usually containing propylene glycol or glycerol, nicotine, and flavourings. They are designed to provide much of the experience of smoking but with much lower risk, less annoyance to bystanders, and usually much more cheaply. Because they do not involve burning of tobacco, the concentrations of toxins in the vapour are typically a tiny fraction of those in cigarette smoke. The precise risk from using them is not known, but based on the vapour constituents it would be expected to be between 1% and 5% that of smoking.

Data on e-cigarette use are not available for most countries. By far the most complete data come from England where the ‘Smoking Toolkit Study’ (STS) collects data on usage from nationally representative samples of adults every month enabling this to be tracked closely over time. This study was established to track ‘key performance indicators’ relating to smoking and smoking cessation and has been going since 2007. Action on Smoking and Health also conduct large national surveys of adults and young people each year. Large scale surveys are also being conducted in the United States and some other countries. The data show that most people use e-cigarettes in an effort to protect their health either by stopping smoking altogether or cutting down. Despite misleading claims by some anti- e-cigarette advocates, use by never-smokers and long-term ex-smokers is extremely rare in the UK and US at present, and in England its prevalence in never-smokers and long-term ex-smokers is similar to the use of ‘licensed nicotine products’ (LNPs) such as nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges.

E-cigarettes come in many different forms. In England, the most commonly used ones at present are known as ‘cigalikes’ because they look something like a cigarette and often have a tip that glows when the user takes a puff. Becoming more popular are devices that involve a refillable ‘tank’. There are also more sophisticated ‘mod’ systems which are highly customised. These are often the choice of aficionados.

Most e-cigarette users probably obtain less nicotine from these devices than people typically do from cigarettes, but experienced vapers using tank systems or mods can obtain at least as much nicotine from their devices as do smokers.

When used in a quit attempt, on average e-cigarettes seem to improve the chances of successful quitting by about 50%, similar to licensed nicotine products when used as directed. The main difference appears to be that these devices are much more popular, and they seem to be effective when people use them without any support from a health professional. Currently the evidence still indicates that use of the drug varenicline or a licensed nicotine product with specialist behavioural support provides the best chance of quitting for those smokers who are willing to use this support and where such support is available.

Electronic Cigarettes by George Hodan via PublicDomainPictures.net.
Electronic Cigarettes by George Hodan via PublicDomainPictures.net.

When used for cutting down, daily (but not non-daily) use of e-cigarettes seems to be associated with a modest reduction in cigarette consumption on average. Use of licensed nicotine products for cutting down has been found to be associated with an increased likelihood of later smoking cessation. This has not yet been demonstrated for e-cigarettes, although smokers who use e-cigarettes daily do try to quit smoking more often than those who are not ‘dual users’.

Despite claims from some anti- e-cigarette advocates, in England and the United States, e-cigarettes are currently not acting as a ‘gateway’ to smoking in adolescents or ‘renormalising’ smoking. Youth and adult smoking have continued to decline steadily as e-cigarette use has grown and in England adult smoking cessation rates are somewhat higher than they were before e-cigarettes started to become popular. E-cigarette use in indoor public areas has not led to any increase in smoking in these areas in the UK and compliance with smoke-free legislation remains extremely high.

Some e-cigarette advertising seeks to glamorise vaping and in some countries appears to blur the boundaries between smoking and vaping. This has led to concern that it might make vaping attractive to non-smokers and countries such as the UK have regulated to prevent this.

There is some controversy over vaping. A number of high-profile public health advocates have engaged in what appears to be a propaganda campaign against them, creating an impression in the public consciousness that they are more dangerous than they are and that they are undermining tobacco control efforts when the evidence does not support this. It is reasonable to be concerned about what may happen in the future with tobacco companies dominating the e-cigarette market and being incentivised to maximise tobacco sales, but much of the anti- e-cigarette propaganda appears to be motivated more by a puritanical ethic than a dispassionate assessment of the evidence. Maximising the public heath opportunity presented by e-cigarettes, while minimising the potential threat, requires collecting good data, using this information to construct an appropriate regulatory strategy, and monitoring the situation closely to adjust the strategy as required. England appears to be leading the way in this approach designed to encourage smokers to use e-cigarettes to stop smoking, while not undermining use of potentially more effective quitting methods, and preventing e-cigarettes becoming a gateway into smoking. The Smoking Toolkit Study, the ASH surveys, and other research will continue to provide essential information needed to inform this strategy.

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25. Does workplace stress play a role in retirement drinking?

Alcohol misuse among the retired population is a phenomenon that has been long recognized by scholars and practitioners. The retirement process is complex, and researchers posit that the pre-retirement workplace can either protect against—or contribute to—alcohol misuse among retirees.

The prevalence of alcohol misuse among older workers is staggering. In the United States, the rate of heavy drinking (i.e., more than seven drinks per week or two drinks on any one occasion) among those aged 65 and older is calculated to be at 10% for men and 2.5% for women, with some studies estimating the frequency of alcohol misuse among older (i.e., age 50 and older) as 16% or higher. Yet another study makes the case that 10% of all alcoholics are over 60. As a point of reference, the incidence of frequent heavy drinking in the workforce (US) is 9.2% and rate of alcohol abuse is 5.4%.

Estimates of future problem drinking and predictions of how prevalence rates may rise may be underestimated, not only because of the aging of the population, but also because of shifting societal and cultural norms. There is evidence that individuals follow relative stable drinking patterns as they age. If this is the case, the Baby Boomer generation may show a higher prevalence of alcohol problems as they enter later life than their parents and grandparents. Moreover, some research suggests that the frequency and severity of alcohol misuse may increase in aging populations, especially among individuals with a history of drinking problems.

Recent research has suggested that retirement drinking may be influenced by workplace factors.

Richman, Zlatoper, Zackula, Ehmke, and Rospenda (2006) investigated the role of aversive workplace conditions that could influence drinking behavior among retirees: sexual harassment, generalized workplace abuse, and psychological workload. The analysis of a longitudinal study of employees at a Midwestern university shows that retirees who had experienced high levels of stress drank more than their counterparts who were still employed (and who were still experiencing a stressful workplace). This pattern held even in relation to a comparison between stressed and non-stressed workers. The study suggests that for those still employed, workplace norms and regulations may inhibit the use of alcohol as a means of self-medication in response to highly stressful experiences, retirement removes the social controls that curtailed drinking while the individual was in the workforce.

Retirement of Porter Ted Humphreys, 1968. Public domain via LSE Library.

Bacharach, Bamberger, Biron, & Horowitz-Rozen (2008) examined the role that positive work conditions might have on the retirement-drinking relationship, positing that pre-retirement job satisfaction might interact with retirement agency to affect retirees’ drinking behavior. Using data from a NIH-funded ten-year study of retirement-eligible and retired workers, the research team found a positive association between “push” perceptions and both the quantity and frequency of drinking (though not drinking problems), and an inverse association between “pull” perceptions and both drinking frequency and drinking problems (though not quantity). The study also found that greater job satisfaction amplified the positive association between “push” perceptions and alcohol consumption, and attenuated the inverse association between “pull” perceptions and unhealthy or problematic drinking. This moderating effect of pre-retirement job valence suggests that people who are most satisfied with their jobs are likely to fare worst in response to the stress of a retirement that is unplanned or undesired. Even when retirement is the result of personal volition, it may still be associated with a sense of loss and negative emotions for which alcohol may serve as a coping mechanism.

Bacharach, Bamberger, Doveh and Cohen (2007) examined how the social availability of alcohol in and around the workplace prior to retirement may have divergent effects on older adult drinking behavior. Bacharach et al. found that problem drinkers—after retiring from a workplace with permissive drinking norms—drank less over the first two years of retirement. This population not only left the workplace, but they also dropped their regular association with coworkers who supported and encouraged drinking behavior. The findings suggest that for those with a history of problem drinking, retirement may be linked to a net decline in the severity of drinking problems.

To assess the degree to which this decline in problem drinking may be attributed to separating from a permissive workplace drinking culture, the team examined shifts in the extent of the problem-drinking cohort’s social support networks during the study period. Findings suggest that the decline in problem drinking severity was apparent among those whose social networks became smaller in retirement. Conversely, for the small number whose social networks expanded in retirement, problem drinking severity increased. The nature of the retirement-problem drinking relationship, at least for baseline problem drinkers, may be contingent upon the social availability of alcohol in the work environment from which they disengage.

While there is a lack of research demonstrating the role of strain as a mediator linking these stressors to shifts in older adults’ drinking behavior, a substantial body of evidence examining the role of stress in the origin and intensification of alcohol use and misuse suggests that strain is likely to serve as the intermediary mechanism. To the extent that strain plays such a mediating role, the same network factors are likely to also operate as vulnerability or protective moderating factors in this second stage of the mediation. As suggested by Bacharach et al. (2007), the impact of disengagement-related strain on older adults’ drinking behavior is likely to vary depending upon whether they exit into a non-work social network with more or less permissive drinking norms than those associated with their workplace or occupation.

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