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Swarthmore in the NewsFebruary 24, 2012


The Philadelphia Inquirer

Flutist Curenton shines with a varied repertoire

By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer music critic

February 20, 2012

In Astral Artists' one-day Spiritual Voyages Festival on Saturday, flutist Julietta Curenton rightly occupied the "eye of the storm" slot - the middle - having been the conceptual epicenter of the three-concert event at Church of the Holy Trinity with a program that solidly bridged mainstream classical repertoire and the non-European cultures represented in the other two concerts.

She and pianist Andrea Lam followed an African American program featuring composers George Walker and Alvin Singleton and preceded music of Asian and Latin American origin with composers such as Gabriela Lena Frank and musicians such as Swarthmore's Gamelan Semara Santi.



Ecology Campus Network (Web site)

Divest from Fossil Fuels Say Students at Swarthmore, UNC-Chapel Hill, U of Illinois

By Blair Halcyon

February 20, 2012

SWARTHMORE, PA - On campuses across the country, students are writing a new chapter in the youth environmental justice movement. The last five years of student organizing have won huge victories. "Sustainability" is on the tip of every college administrator's tongue, and 674 institutions have signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment to long-term carbon neutrality. Colleges have taken real leadership in the fight for climate justice.

If one thing is clear, though, it's that we haven't won yet. ...

(Note: This article also appears on It's Getting Hot in Here (Web blog), and We Are Power (Web site)


The New York Times

Economics Made Easy: Think Friction

By Barry Schwartz, professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and the author, with Kenneth Sharpe, [professor of political science] of Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing'

February 19, 2012

Critics of Mitt Romney's activities at Bain Capital have been described, somewhat hysterically, as critics of capitalism. They're not. But they are attacking something. And understanding that something can have enormous implications for the shape of our economic institutions and activities going forward.

What Bain Capital, and firms like it, do is try to increase the efficiency of the companies they buy. They try to get more with less -- to eliminate waste. They are not interested either in creating jobs or in destroying them. Nor are they interested in improving the lives of consumers by making products and services better and cheaper. They are interested in profit -- for themselves and their shareholders. ...

It may seem heartless to worship efficiency at any cost, including lost jobs and decimated communities, but it is important to understand that increased efficiency is the only way a society's standard of living will improve. ...


What stands in the way of efficiency is friction. When automobile manufacturers struggle to squeeze as many miles per gallon as possible out of their car designs, friction is the enemy. Their aim is to design a vehicle that uses every ounce of fuel to move the car forward.


So whereas some efficiency is good, more efficiency may not be better. The psychologist Adam Grant and I published an article last year suggesting that the ''too much of a good thing'' phenomenon may be more general than commonly thought. Some choice is liberating; too much choice is paralyzing. Some motivation produces excellent performance; too much motivation leads to folding under pressure.

Finding the right amount of each of these things -- what Aristotle called the ''mean'' -- is the real challenge we face, both as individuals and as a society. In my view, the real criticism of capitalism that is implied by the criticism of Mr. Romney and Bain is that in worshiping efficiency so single-mindedly, it has ignored the possibility that too much efficiency -- too little friction -- might be a bad thing.


(Note: This story also appeared in Forbes magazine.)


Wall Street Journal

Talking the Talk, for Posterity: Oral Online Dictionaries Help Preserve Languages, Cultures Muted by Modernity

By Robert Lee Hotz

February 18, 2012

VANCOUVER, British Columbia-In 2009 ... [Associate Professor of Linguistics and National Geographic Fellow] David Harrison first encountered the speakers of Matukar Panau, a language common to about 600 people in two small villages in the hills of Papua New Guinea.

The villagers had no written alphabet, no electricity and no computers. But they had heard of the Internet and believed that if their language were to survive, they would have to put it on the Web.

Now they can. At a science conference here Friday, Mr. Harrison, of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and his colleagues at National Geographic's Enduring Voices project unveiled a set of online talking dictionaries that for the first time document the sound, syntax and structure of Matukar Panau and record seven other unusual, vanishing languages, including Tuvan in Mongolia, Chamacoco in Paraguay and Ho, Sora and Remo in India.

"We can hear their words and their songs and learn something of their unique world view," Mr. Harrison said. "It is a bit of a pushback against globalization."

Language experts predict more than half the world's nearly 7,000 languages may disappear by the end of the century, succumbing to political, economic and social change. Government policies that repress minority tongues, the spread of mass media, the need to conduct business with outsiders and other pressures of globalization are among the threats.


The new interactive lexicons join a growing body of digital communication tools designed as life support for these vanishing languages. From Maori to Mohawk and Circassian to Cornish, language survival has become a matter of YouTube videos, Facebook pages, iPhone apps, websites and specialized computer fonts. Even when a language's last fluent speakers die, digital technology can preserve their talk for the day when a future generation may seek to revive their forbears' speech.


In the project revealed Friday, to create the talking dictionary for a Native American language in Oregon called Siletz Dee-ni, Mr. Harrison enlisted its last fluent speaker, a master basket weaver named Bud Lane. Mr. Lane painstakingly recorded more than 14,000 vocabulary entries, documenting in his voice the proper pronunciation, inflection and cadence.

"This is a language that packs entire sentences in a single word," Mr. Harrison said. "You can say 'we are fishing' in a single word."

The project is also developing an online talking dictionary for six related Celtic languages: Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Manx. Later this year, Mr. Harrison expects to release an online talking dictionary for Koro, recently discovered in the Himalayas.

In all, the dictionaries made public at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science contain 32,000 word entries and more than 24,000 audio recordings, illustrated with photographs of cultural objects.

Generally, scholars prize these rare languages as irreplaceable records of experience and diversity of thought, encoded in vocabulary, verbs and grammatical structure. "There are so many intricacies in these languages that can make you question your own perception of reality," Mr. Harrison said.

To say "go" in the Tuvan language, for example, the speaker first must know the location and identity of the nearest river as well as the direction in which the water is flowing. "If you don't know the river current, you can't say the correct word for go," Mr. Harrison said.


(Note: This article can also be found at Science Codex, The Wall Street Journal, SkyNews Austrailia, The Sydney Morning Herald, BBC News, Huffington Post, (Karachi, Pakistan), The Independent (United Kingdom) , TodayOnline (London), The Times of India, Agence France-Presse, Talk of the Nation (NPR), International Business Times News, Kamloops Daily News (British Columbia), AFP-RelaxNews (headquartered in Paris), Asian News International (New Delhi, India), Sunshine Coast Sunday (Queensland), MyNews Interactive Media (Web site), Indo-Asian News Service, The Irish Times, The Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan), National Post/The Financial Post (Canada), Press Association Mediapoint, Today Online/MediaCorp (London), Brisbane Times (Austrailia), (Croatia) , All Things Digital, Discovery News , (South Asia)0,, Gulf Times, (Doha, Qatar)


The Associated Press News Service

Freedom in fashion startups for up and comers

By Samantha Critchell

February 17, 2012

The big names at New York Fashion Week who are watched for trends include Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler. But now, Jacobs and Proenza designers Jack McCollugh and Lazaro Hernandez have more on their minds than mere creativity and innovation.

They have big businesses to run, and that has to enter the decision-making process at some point. When you're more of a startup, there's freedom.


Who could be next?

As part of Fashion Week, The Associated Press attended a handful of shows by designers who seem on the cusp. They are not household names, unless you live among the hipsters of SoHo or Brooklyn, but based on the buzz they had among front-row players, they seem to have potential as the next big things:

Joseph Altuzarra ['05] is at the top of the list, winning in the past year both the Council of Fashion Designers of America award for up-and-coming talent and the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund prize, which gave him mentors and some seed money for his business.

In the first collection since then, Altuzarra drew on a gypsy's life, a wandering woman wearing jangling coin sequins and high leather boots.


"I'm really thinking about my roots, what it means to be French and to be multicultural," he said backstage. "The fantasy really came from travel and this idea of an imaginary world traveler who kind of picks up things everywhere they go. From Morocco, North Africa, India, China."

The Swarthmore-educated Altuzarra, whose father is French-Basque and mother Chinese American, also had a favorite 70s comic book rapscallion in mind, Corto Maltese. Some of his strong shoulders and military tailoring were references to a "Viennese military cadet," he said.


(Note: This story was also carried in the Taipai Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and CBS News.


Tell Me More (National Public Radio)

CNN Executive On Troubled Family Past

Host: Michel Martin

February 16, 2012 

Michel Martin: ... All month, we've been digging into some of the literature that has expanded our understanding of African-American lives. We're talking about the memoir.


He chronicled his family's very interesting history and because he's one of the premier journalists of our time, told a riveting story with solid reporting. He is Mark Whitaker. He is now executive vice president and managing editor of the cable news outlet, CNN Worldwide, but you might also remember him from his previous stints as editor-in-chief of Newsweek and Washington bureau chief for NBC News.


Michel Martin: One thing I've been interested in with all of our authors is, why did you want to write a memoir and why now? And you actually describe this in your book as kind of a eureka moment where you sat up in the middle of the night and started writing.

Mark Whitaker:  Right. You know, over the years, people had said that they thought there might be a book in the story of my parents, you know, an interracial couple that met in the 1950s and both of them came from very interesting backgrounds, my father [C. Sylvester Whitaker, Jr. '56] from black Pittsburgh. My mother [Jeanne Theis Whitaker '46] was raised in French Africa and then came to America. Her father helped save a lot of Jews in the mountains of France as a protestant pastor.


Michel Martin: As you mentioned, your parents both came from such very interesting and different stories. If you'd just talk a little bit about your mother...

Mark Whitaker: Yeah. Well, you know, my mother, in terms of her personality, is very shy and very quiet. She stuttered very badly as a child and yet, you know, throughout her life, she did some very adventurous things. She came to America when she was 14 years old with five of her younger sisters. She married my father, who was, at the time, the only black male student at Swarthmore College. She was his professor, so it was sort of a doubly adventurous romance.

And then, you know, after they divorced - and it was a very unhappy divorce - she'd given up tenure at Swarthmore to follow my father and, you know, she had to work as a substitute teacher and take temporary jobs for years before she got back on her feet, taking care of two young children. You know, she did it all, even suffering, you know, from depression and a lot of financial hardship.


Michel Martin: And your father?


Mark Whitaker: He was the son of two black undertakers from Pittsburgh and had grown up in segregated Pittsburgh, but excelled as a student at Swarthmore, became the first black Ph.D. in politics from Princeton and a groundbreaking scholar of Africa. His specialty was Nigeria.