Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

1. How a CRISPR Lab Became a Pop-Up Covid Testing Center
Wired

Telling the story of how a robotic COVID-19 testing lab has been ramping up at lightning speed at Berkeley's Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI), these reporters share a detailed timeline of actions key players took to spur the initiative. "If you've been following the US's slow-motion testing trainwreck, it should be obvious why they had heeded the call: The country needs more testing. ... IGI is among several academic labs that have wasted no time booting up operations to fill the still yawning void in Covid-19 testing," they write. Molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of the CRISPR gene-editing technology, is leading the project. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including PNAS.org, Interesting Engineering, The Scientist, Bio Portfolio, and KRON TV--link to video.
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2. COVID-19 Triggers Dip in Carbon Emissions and Pollution
Engineering.com

"It's a useful thing to draw a parallel between these two kinds of crises," says associate business and public policy professor Christine Rosen, speaking of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis. "We evolved to respond to attacks like from a saber-toothed tiger. Here we have an attack from something that's invisible -- we understand it, but even so, some people are in denial. Climate change is an even more long-term invisible threat, and there are parallels in terms of how important it is to be proactive before you're in the middle of devastation. ... The financial disruptions are not good for the efforts to transition to clean energy. ... One of the problems is the price war that's broken out between Russia and Saudi Arabia that's driven down the price of oil, and all the fracking that has driven down the price of natural gas. Natural gas is much better for the environment than oil and coal, but this will reduce incentives for people to transition to electric cars and renewable energy systems. During this crisis, it's hard for companies and governments to invest in clean energy development." Concerned that the pandemic is taking attention away from the climate threat, she says: "People aren't going to be able to forget about climate change. ... The climate isn't going to heal and revert to the way it was in the 1940s. We're going to keep struggling with this."
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3. The coronarvirus will change our lives, but the environment could see benefits
San Francisco Chronicle (*requires registration)

With life on Earth so thoroughly disrupted by the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, people are being prompted to think more deeply about a lot of their actions. According to journalism professor Elena Conis, a historian of medicine, pandemics have frequently changed how people live. People started practicing safe sex with the AIDS epidemic, they stopped spitting in public after the tuberculosis pandemic, and doctors started washing their hands before delivering babies in the wake of puerperal fever. "Today we don't even think about these changes," she says. "We're all very curious what the world will look like when we come out of this pandemic." From an environmental perspective, energy and public policy professor Dan Kammen, chair of Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group, suggests we could also come out of this with a healthier approach to climate change. "A green stimulus is a way governments could commit to building back greener, stronger and more equitably." He helped write a spending proposal for Congress last month, and it was signed by dozens of scientists and academics from around the country. The proposal included significant investments in renewable energy, public transportation, high-density housing, and energy-saving retrofits for homes and businesses. The $2 trillion stimulus package President Trump signed last week doesn't include any of these types of investments, but Professor Kammen says there's room for compromise in the next package. "To look at COVID-19 as an environmental benefit is the wrong perspective," he says. "What it highlights, though, is how much environmental improvement can come with easy transitions."
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4. Here's List of Journalism Professors Signing Letter Lashing Fox News on COVID-19
Times of San Diego

Dean Edward Wasserman and other faculty members of Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism -- Adam Hochschild, Jennifer Kahn, Deirdre English, Carrie Lozano -- have joined other journalism professors around the country in calling out Fox News for spreading "misinformation" in their COVID-19 coronavirus coverage. "The misinformation that reaches the Fox News audience is a danger to public health," the professors wrote to Rupert Murdoch and Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch on Wednesday. "Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers -- and not only them, for in a pandemic, individual behavior affects significant numbers of other people as well. ... Yet by commission as well as omission -- direct, uncontested misinformation as well as failure to report the true dimensions of the crisis -- Fox News has been derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19."
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