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.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

1. Cal researchers use gene therapy to help blind mice see again
KGO TV

Berkeley scientists have made a major breakthrough in the quest to cure blindness, restoring sight in mice with a relatively simple gene therapy treatment. With just one injection of a gene for a green-light receptor, the mice were navigating their environment with the same ease as sighted mice within a month. "We are trying to add a new function with gene therapy to another cell. This isn't trying to keep the photo receptors cells from dying, it is trying to make other cells light sensitive to take their place," says optometry and neurobiology professor John Flannery, one of the study's co-authors. The findings offer hope to roughly 170 million people around the world with age-related macular degeneration, as well as people suffering other types of blindness. The team hopes to begin human trials in the next three years. Link to video. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Medgadget, and Bioengineer.org.
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2. Op-Ed: Racist terrorists are obsessed with demographics. Let's not give them talking points.
Washington Post (*requires registration)

"I'm very familiar with this kind of argument," writes doctoral demography student Leslie Root, commenting on the "replacement theory" propounded by the suspect in the New Zealand mosque shooting. Noting that the "far-right theory" holds that "immigration and differences in birthrates will cause the gradual replacement of white people by non-white people," she discusses the history of demography as an academic discipline, and what it can tell us about real and false trends. She concludes: "Changing the way we talk about population will not change the minds of racist terrorists; I doubt that if I had fact-checked his manifesto, the mosque shooter would have reconsidered committing mass murder. But those of us who study population owe it to the world, and to ourselves as a discipline, to talk about it in ways that don't lend false scientific and rhetorical legitimacy to their ideas."
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3. 'Replacement Theory,' a Racist, Sexist Doctrine, Spreads in Far-Right Circles
New York Times (*requires registration)

In a manifesto called "The Great Replacement," released by the suspect in the New Zealand terrorist attack last week, the first sentence, repeated three times, was, "It's the birthrates." The theory holds that falling birthrates among whites will lead to the race being replaced by nonwhites. Commenting on the topic, gender and women's studies professor Paola Bacchetta, a board member of Berkeley's Center for Right Wing Studies, says: "The way that emotion gets engaged in the right wing today is almost always around questions of fertility. ... It's about their anxieties about their male others. They fear that they will overproduce them and eliminate them."
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4. Op-Ed: College admissions are corrupt because universities are. Here's how to fix them.
Washington Post (*requires registration)

Writing about the admissions scandal rocking higher education, Pulitizer Prize-winning author and Berkeley alum Viet Thanh Nguyen offers some suggestions for what college administrators and others involved in higher education can do to "meaningfully change their schools in the new Gilded Age." One of his ideas is to "increase transparency and expand democratic governance, because corruption grows in darkness and secrecy." Elaborating, he says: "As for university management, faculty, staff and students are often sidelined in favor of a professional, nonacademic class of bureaucrats. But the excluded people are the heart of the university, and they need to serve on committees, have oversight responsibilities and help determine university policy and direction through empowered academic senates (at my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, undergraduates can serve on university administrative committees, and the UC system has a student regent on its Board of Regents). When faculty, staff and students aren't allowed to serve, they feel powerless and have no incentive to do things like report on corruption and abuse."
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5. Ma Joad's Heirs -- And the Battle Today Over Independent Contractors
Forbes

Making a point about independent contractor policy as it relates to the diversity of independent contractors at work today, this author says: "Annette Bernhardt is the director of the low wage work program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, and the preeminent researcher on California's contingent economy. Her recent research has emphasized the diversity of the contingent economy: a relatively small portion of the California workforce in 2016, an estimated 8.5%, who rely on contingent work full-time, and a greater number who use it to supplement incomes. The role of independent contractors differs widely across sectors and occupations. The on-demand platform work that gets so much attention, is estimated by Bernhardt to be less than .5% of the workforce in 2016."
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6. Obituary: Alan Krueger, labor economist who advised Clinton and Obama, dies at 58
Washington Post (*requires registration)

An obituary of labor economist Alan B. Krueger, a former adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama, notes that he was "probably best known for his studies on raising the minimum wage, which he began in the late 1980s with economist David Card, a Princeton colleague who now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley." Discussing a study they conducted comparing fast-food wages in New Jersey (where the minimum wage had been increased) and eastern Pennsylvania (where the minimum wage was lower and unchanged), the writer says: "Their results, published in a 1994 issue of the American Economic Review, contradicted the theory that wage increases lead to reduced employment. Instead, New Jersey restaurants added around 2.5 workers and payrolls shrank in Pennsylvania. ... Dr. Krueger was by then working at the Labor Department, where his boss, Secretary Robert B. Reich [now a public policy professor at Berkeley], pushed and eventually succeeded in obtaining an increased minimum wage." A similar obituary appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
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7. Review: At 'Dreamers' premiere in Berkeley, neo-Romantic oratorio is the sound of hope
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

"Dreamers," a new oratorio co-commissioned by Cal Performances and composed by alum Jimmy López, made its world premiere on Sunday during a three-concert residency by the Philharmonia Orchestra, London. The dramatic piece explores the challenges faced by undocumented immigrants, especially students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. López, who earned his Ph.D. in music from Berkeley in 2012, was born in Lima, Peru. He and librettist Nilo Cruz interviewed a number of Bay Area Dreamers to produce the neo-Romantic oratorio. In this review, the critic says the piece is "inspirationally on the side of the dream" and that if "music can give hope, and maybe offer some support at the ballot box, this is what that sounds like." Cal Performances streamed the premiere and has archived it on YouTube for the next month. For more on this, see our story at Berkeley News or visit Cal Performances.
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