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Swarthmore in the NewsMarch 16, 2012

Philadelphia Daily News

Signing Hands Across the Water poetry festival at Swarthmore College

By Mary Sydnor

March 16, 2012

At traditional poetry events, poets read their written work aloud. But this weekend, Swarthmore College shows that not all poetry is composed in a written language, or even in a language that can be spoken.

"Signing Hands Across the Water" is a sign language poetry festival featuring American and British poets who express themselves through movement rather than by speaking. The festival is the work of Rachel Sutton-Spence, a reader in Deaf Studies at Britain's Bristol University and a visiting professor at Swarthmore this year.

To be deaf is to be part of a distinct culture. At Swarthmore, Sutton-Spence (who is not deaf) has taught classes such as "Sign Languages in Their Social Context" and, this semester, "Sign Language Literature and Folklore."

"Signing Hands Across the Water" is a particularly ambitious effort for this expert in deaf culture. "This is my first time organizing anything this big or internationally," she confessed.


To Sutton-Spence's knowledge, this is the first such festival to bring together American and British poets. That distinction is noteworthy: American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) are different languages. "Over the years BSL has been a little influenced by ASL and both have been influenced by French Sign Language, which used to be dominant," Sutton-Spence said. "But the vocabulary is very different." Translators for both languages will be present at all events during the festival.



San Francisco Examiner

Ivy substitute: the Ivy League and college admissions

March 15, 2012

It is perhaps inevitable that when students first explore colleges, they think about dream schools. And when accomplished students consider dream schools, their minds invariably jump to the Ivy League. Having started out as an athletic conference in 1954, the Ivy League with its eight private, northeastern institutions has for many become a byword for the oldest and best in American higher education, with exceptional academics, highly selective admission, enormous resources and an appealing traditionalism.

Students have little to gain by approaching the Ivy League as a single institution with several campuses, ivy on the walls and an impossibly low admit rate. ...


When students step away from an undifferentiated view of the Ivy League, they can instead identify what it is they like about any one of these colleges and begin to search for other institutions that offer the same. Here are some examples, though the list is endless:


If you want the sense of intellectual intensity that many associate with Yale, you may find a good fit at Swarthmore ....



Waging NonViolence (Web site)

How to create a dilemma

By George Lakey, visiting professor at Swarthmore College

March 13, 2012

Because tactics are much on the minds of activists in Occupy these days - and many other movements - I'll devote my column occasionally to that aspect of strategy.

I'm using the military definition of tactics: actions or maneuvers that are intended to produce an advantage in a struggle with an opponent. A given nonviolent method may or may not be a tactic, depending on its objective. A group picketing a bank, for instance, may be there just to express a point of view - a lot of protests are exactly that - and the bank can safely shrug its marble shoulders and go on with business. But a labor union may use the same method when picketing a factory to decrease the chances of replacement workers going inside. In that case, picketing is truly a tactic, a method of action intended to produce an advantage in a struggle with an opponent.


A recent example of a dilemma demonstration was in the neighborhood-based direct action campaign to prevent the 1 percent (including a billionaire from Chicago) from picking the pockets of Philadelphia's 99 percent through casino gambling. The campaign was started by young friends of mine against the advice of Philly "old heads" who said the casinos were "a done deal." In his account of the campaign, researcher William Lawrence tells us that, of the two casinos designated by the state of Pennsylvania to operate in Philadelphia, the campaign stopped one of them and forced the other to shrink to a third of its intended size.


The secret in designing a dilemma is that the campaigners need to create an advantage for themselves no matter what happens. It wouldn't work if the demonstrators couldn't create an advantage either way - if the sit-inners, for example, regarded getting the coffee (or being beaten and jailed) as a defeat. Like a good playwright, the tactical artist uses imagination to create choices that are fine for the campaign but bad for the opponent.

One reason that Gandhi became the preeminent leader of India's independence struggle was because he knew this art, and his people loved twisting the tail of the British lion. ...


What gives a dilemma demonstration its power is the dramatic clarity in the fact that the activists really want to expose the documents, make the salt, deliver the medicines or drink the coffee.

The downside, however - and every tactic has its downside - is that a dilemma demonstration takes imagination to create. A rule among my friends in the Casino-Free Philadelphia campaign was never to organize a march or a rally. They made that agreement to force themselves to become creative and to invent new tactics. And, in four years of campaigning, they never did hold a march or a rally. There is so much else one can do.


Space Daily (Web site)

Mysterious electron acceleration explained

By David L. Chandler for MIT News

March 13, 2012

BOSTON-A mysterious phenomenon detected by space probes has finally been explained, thanks to a massive computer simulation that was able to precisely align with details of spacecraft observations. The finding could not only solve an astrophysical puzzle, but might also lead to a better ability to predict high-energy electron streams in space that could damage satellites.

Jan Egedal, an associate professor of physics at MIT and a researcher at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, working with MIT graduate student Ari Le and with William Daughton of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), report on this solution to the space conundrum in a paper published Feb. 26 in the journal Nature Physics.

Egedal had initially proposed a theory to explain this large-scale acceleration of electrons in Earth's magnetotail - a vast and intense magnetic field swept outward from Earth by the solar wind - but until the new data was obtained from the computer simulation, "it used to be people said this was a crazy idea," Egedal says. Thanks to the new data, "I don't get that anymore," he says.

The simulation shows that an active region in Earth's magnetotail, where "reconnection" events take place in the magnetic field, is roughly 1,000 times larger than had been thought.

This means a volume of space energized by these magnetic events is sufficient to explain the large numbers of high-speed electrons detected by a number of spacecraft missions, including the Cluster mission.


Michael Brown, a professor of physics at Swarthmore College who was not involved in this research, says Egedal "is emerging as a real leader in experimental [and] observational aspects of magnetic reconnection," and his co-author Daughton "is the recognized leader in state-of-the-art plasma simulations."

The new result "is very significant, and I think is surprising to the rest of the community. ... I think this picture will gain more and more acceptance, and we have to go beyond" the presently accepted picture of plasmas, he says.



Columbia Missourian

Former student activist seeks to inspire 'social entrepreneurs,' stop genocide

By Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

March 12, 2012

COLUMBIA - One article sparked it.

Sitting in the cafeteria at Swarthmore College eight years ago, then-college senior Mark Hanis ['04] opened The New York Times to get his pick for March Madness. Instead, he found a story about Halima, a 16-year-old girl in Darfur. He was shocked to learn how she was brutally raped and orphaned in the genocide in the western region of Sudan.

"What can I do as an average student in the United States?" he said he asked himself.

So he skipped class and headed to the library to look up Sudan and Darfur on Google. It became a pattern, and in 2005 he helped start an influential anti-genocide advocacy organization. 

He shared his experience with MU students and faculty Monday night to inspire them to "engage public policy" with issues relevant to them.

The Genocide Intervention Network - now renamed United to End Genocide - seeks to "empower Americans with the tools to prevent and stop genocide" through education, advocacy and donations, he said.

With about 1,000 student chapters and the 800-GENOCIDE lobbying hotline, United to End Genocide has an annual budget of about $2.5 million. It passed legislation nationally and in 27 states to pressure companies to stop funding the violence in Sudan. 

At one point, Hanis said, the organization's efforts were so successful that members of Congress were calling him to ask what they could do to get their constituents to back off.

Hanis said he was fortunate to have a network of supportive professors to help him; anyone looking to make an impact should be aware of the resources out there.




Iran War Clock

Weekends with Alex Witt

March 11, 2012

Summary: Dominic Tierney of Swarthmore College joins MSNBC'S Alex Witt to discuss a new measure of war and peace called the "Iran War Clock" which suggests there is a 48% chance of war between the US or Israel and Iran within the next year.

Partial transcript:

Alex Witt (host): You spoke with a number of people, correct, to put this clock together? What did you gather and how did you get to 10 minutes to midnight?

Dominic Tierney: Sure, so, with American troops having finally left Iraq, and U.S. troops on the way out of Afghanistan, Americans would be forgiven for thinking that the tide of war is finally receding in the Middle East. But war with Iran is getting closer. And to find out just how close, we assembled a high-profile panel of experts, a kind of dream team of academics, journalists, policy makers, people who really know what's going on. And their estimate of the odds of war between the U.S. or Israel and Iran in the next year was 48 percent. So, it's basically a coin toss. And then based on that number, we adjusted the Iran War Clock, so it now is set to ten minutes to midnight.

AW: OK, so you've got 48 percent saying this may happen within the next year, but I'm going to flip it and say there's 52 percent who are saying we're still at peace for this next year. At what point and how much would it take to notch that up to 49, 50 percent or beyond?

DT: Well, we have a very fast moving and dangerous situation. I mean, just take Israel for example. So, Israel is deadly serious about stopping Iran's nuclear program.  And they see a narrowing window of opportunity where they can strike Iran before Iran is able to put its capabilities essentially beyond Israel's capacity to destroy.  And so it's very easy to see how an incident could happen that could escalate unless cooler heads prevail.



Entertainment Close-Up

National Council for Research on Women Taps Davia Temin as One of '30 Outstanding Women'

March 9, 2012

Davia Temin ['74] was among the "30 Outstanding Women" being celebrated by the National Council for Research on Women for their efforts in advancing women's issues, promoting women's leadership and changing the way women and girls are viewed globally.

Nominated by their peers for their achievements, the group said the honorees will be recognized at this year's Making a Difference for Women Awards Dinner ... in New York City, where the NCRW will also be commemorating its 30th anniversary.

"Redefining the impact and perception of women leaders is something I have focused on throughout my career," says  Davia Temin, CEO of reputation and crisis management consultancy Temin and Company .

"Helping girls and women realize their leadership potential is why I became so heavily involved in organizations such as Girls Scouts of the USA and the White House Project. I wanted to help develop the pipeline of female leadership in this country, from Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies all the way up to the U.S. Presidency," she says. "And, making a difference in the U.S. also has an impact globally, especially in countries where women's leadership is more challenged by societal expectations."

...Temin is the First Vice Chair of the Board of Girl Scouts of the USA, Chair of the Board of Video Volunteers, and serves on the advisory boards of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship at Columbia Journalism School and ProPublica, and on Harvard Kennedy School's Women's Leadership Board. A former board member of The White House Project, Women's eNews and Swarthmore College, she was the producer of an entertainment industry conference, "The Business of Entertainment: The Big Picture." ...

(Note: This story also appeared in the Bulldog Reporter's Daily Dog.)


The Times (London)

Barney" Rosset: Publisher who challenged American censorship to print for the first time in the US works by Beckett, Ionesco and Henry Miller

March 9, 2012

In the 1960s the battles in America against censorship of sexually explicit material were largely waged by one man, Barnet Lee "Barney" Rosset Jr. [’44] The heir to a banking fortune, Rosset waged a legal war on what he deemed puritanical, petty and redundant regulations through high-profile and expensive court cases that put conventional American morality on trial.


Rosset's legal victories began in 1959 with his publication in the face of fierce legal opposition of an unexpurgated edition of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, a book of critical literary merit, that he used as a precedent for publication of a trickier novel about sexual awakening, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. The 1964 Supreme Court ruling approving Rosset's right to publish Cancer confirmed that the First Amendment defended absolutely America's free speech rights, however "obscene" lower courts may have deemed the material.


The success of Chatterley, however, led to a more difficult battle over publishing explicit sexual content. Rosset had read a Paris copy of Tropic of Cancer and was determined to publish the book in America. He defended the work at a succession of trials .... In a Chicago courtroom he was delighted, when challenged about his personal devotion to the book's content, to read from his 1940 Swarthmore dissertation on Miller. The case collapsed when prosecutors reading offending passages caused the jury to burst out laughing.


Barney Rosset, publisher, was born on May 28, 1922. He died on February 21, 2012, aged 89.

(Note: This story also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Independent/London.)


3BL Blogs

Social Innovation Saving 7,000 Vanishing Languages

Source: Sangeeta Haindl, staff writer for Justmeans on Social Enterprise

March 8, 2012

Social innovation might just save our planet's vanishing languages. Today, a staggering 7,000 or so languages are spoken around the globe, yet unfortunately, about half are expected to be extinct by end of this century. The good news is that linguists believe Facebook, YouTube and even texting could save many of the world's endangered languages. North American tribes are using social media to re-engage their young, while Tuvan, an indigenous tongue spoken by nomadic peoples in Siberia and Mongolia, has an iPhone app to teach the pronunciation of words to new students.

The cause for these languages and dialects to disappear is partly due to globalisation and progress. However, Professor K. David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College and a National Geographic Fellow sees what he calls the "flipside of social innovation and globalisation.' He says, "Small languages are using social media, YouTube, text messaging and various technologies to expand their voice and expand their presence. We hear a lot about how globalisation exerts negative pressures on small cultures to assimilate. But a positive effect of globalisation is that you can have a language that is spoken by only five or 50 people in one remote location, and now, through digital technology, that language can achieve a global voice and a global audience."

Finding a way forward, Professor Harrison has collaborated with National Geographic to help produce eight talking dictionaries. These social innovation dictionaries contain more than 32,000 word entries in eight endangered languages. All the audio recordings have been made by native speakers, as nothing can replace actual speakers pronouncing a language to others speakers.


The New York Observer

Jed Rakoff's Rules of Order: Maverick Justice Gavels SEC, Sends Citi Back to The Dock

March 6, 2012

By David Freedlander

It is not hard to imagine what the reaction was like around the Securities and Exchange Commission offices when it was discovered that U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff ['64] would be tasked with approving the agency's settlement agreement with Citigroup over mortgage-backed securities fraud.

It was Judge Rakoff, after all, who took the unusual step in 2009 of blocking a settlement between the SEC and Bank of America over executive bonuses, writing in a scathing ruling that "all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth" and adding that "it does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality."

It was Judge Rakoff who in 2010 called off a JP Morgan deal with a cable television operator, accusing the bank of violating, "at a minimum, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing," and writing that the structure of the deal was "an end run, if not a downright shame."

And it was Judge Rakoff who earlier this year decried the SEC's "cavalier approach" to "forum shopping" when he rejected the agency's motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Galleon Group managing director Rajat Gupta-after he was singled out among 29 other defendants to face an administrative hearing rather than a full trial.

("A funny thing happened on the way to this forum," the judge wrote, showcasing his trademark penchant for wordplay in opinion writing, lines now being quoted by his admirers as if they belonged in Bartlett's. "The Securities and Exchange Commission-having previously filed all of its Galleon-related insider trading actions in this federal district-decided it preferred its home turf.")


In October, Judge Rakoff handed out 18 questions to lawyers from the SEC and Citigroup, asking in an order, "Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud, but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?"

And sure enough, last week, he found the consent judgment entered into between the agency and the bank to be "pocket change to any entity as large as Citigroup," The settlement, which relied, as they often do, on the bank admitting neither guilt nor innocence to protect it from future civil lawsuits, had rendered the court a "mere handmaiden to a settlement privately negotiated on the basis of unknown facts."

The judge threw out the settlement, and ordered the two parties to argue their sides in the full sunshine of an open courtroom. The trial is scheduled for this summer.

Friends and colleagues of the judge's say he is not the Lone Ranger some would cast him as.

"People call him a populist and a firebrand, but that's not really his personality," said John C. Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School who has co-taught a course on white-collar crime with Mr. Rakoff for the past 23 years. "He is a much calmer, quieter guy. He is not a grandstander. He is not trying to lead a movement."


Legal observers and friends describe Judge Rakoff as bringing a prosecutor's ferocity and a deep knowledge of securities law to the bench. He grew up in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, an upper-middle-class enclave in the northern reaches of the city, attending the prestigious Central High School. He was a high school debater who ran for student body president, and lost, a high school friend recalls, to "a popular jock." His father was a pioneering fertility doctor; his mother worked in the public school system. He went to Swarthmore and Harvard Law, and after clerking for a federal judge, did a long stint as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office securities fraud bureau.


But now that one judge has stepped out and said that the judiciary should not be a rubber stamp, such deference is unlikely in the future as other judges will have to weigh their own decisions against Judge Rakoff's.