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Journalist and author Todd Miller tackles this scary new phenomenon known as the climate refugee in his new book entitled, “Storming the Wall” Climate change, Migration, and Homeland security.

“The internal displacement monitoring center…have numbers showing an average of 21 million [refugees] per year since 2008 to 2015 directly relating to climate change.

A Planet Full of Refugees: By Blaise Scemama

Sea levels rising, cities flooding, hurricanes raging, fires burning, droughts persisting, and – everywhere around the globe – people are being displaced. The era of the climate refugee has begun.

Journalist and author, Todd Miller, tackles this scary new phenomenon known as the climate refugee in his new book entitled, Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security.

I recently had the privilege of speaking to Mr. Miller about his latest release in my very first podcast entitled “Trailblaise and Todd Miller talk Climate Refugees.”

During our conversation, Miller and I discuss how a projected one billion refugees are expected to be roaming the earth by 2050, and how homeland security is dumping billions of dollars into border patrol and other surveillance industries in preparation.

Miller, who has been writing about border and migration issues for over a decade, is regarded in many circles as one of the preeminent authorities on the subject. In his first book, Border Patrol Nation, Miller exposes the bloated $20 billion border patrol industrial complex, and how private surveillance and weapons companies profit from refugees and undocumented migrants.

In Storming the Wall we, once again, encounter the department of homeland security and border patrol, helping to enforce a corporate system, aimed at protecting assets over human lives. This time, the powers that be have recognized climate change as the primary threat. But instead of focusing on addressing environmental issues, the government’s primary concern appears to be combating the inevitable refugee fall out.

“Climate change is something to worry about for the future as well as these future projections but it’s also something happening right now, right here, right now,” says Miller, in reference to the staggering refugee projections.

“The internal displacement monitoring center…have numbers showing an average of 21 million [refugees] per year since 2008 to 2015 directly relating to climate change… and then there’s another number, 26 million [refugees] a year, relating to environmental reasons.”

There are many ways to quantify the effects of climate change but, when it comes to human life, Miller looks to the displaced to get an accurate picture of what is going on. And, while he recognizes that some of the projections are just that: projections – Miller seems to have illuminated a phenomenon that, if not addressed, will be impossible to ignore in the coming years.

“In our conversation about his most recent release, Miller and I discuss how a projected 1 billion refugees are expected to be roaming the earth by 2050 and how homeland security is dumping billions of dollars into border patrol and other surveillance industries in preparation.” Blaise Scemama

 
Watch the full interview here:

Entre Noticias/ Blaise Scemana

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«Just ask yourself, what if the public wasn’t allowed to speak out against laws forbidding women the right to vote or people of the same sex to marry? Remember, both women’s right to vote and same-sex marriage were against the law until public outcries were heard throughout the country.»

Photo credit: Newtown Grafitti, taken October 7, 2011.

By Blaise Scemama

Everytime some maniac drives a car into a crowd of people, the First Amendment is immediately put into question.

The right blames violence on Islam, questioning the freedom of religion. The left condemns hate speech, questioning the freedom of speech. Both factions, seem to question the right to peaceably assemble and, regardless of party affiliation, the freedom of the press is certainly questioned by everyone, from progressives to Trump himself.

Essentially, the First Amendment says that government cannot forcibly stop you from assembling peaceably, practicing a religion, or speaking your mind in public or in the press.

While there are restrictions to all of the First Amendment freedoms, hate speech, no matter how vicious, is one hundred percent protected under the First Amendment. This means, a large group of people, assembling in a park, spewing hate speech, is not illegal.

What happened in Charlottesville, seems to have put the First Amendment in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U), an organization responsible for protecting First Amendment rights, has recently come under fire on Twitter and other social media platforms, for defending the White Nationalists’ right to exercise their freedom of speech and to assemble at Charlottesville.

But the A.C.L.U’s defense was sound – the White Nationalists who assembled at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville were acting completely within their legal rights, under the First Amendment, to assemble. The Antifa, also present, were equally acting within their legal rights to assemble, and yet a state of emergency was issued, 19 people were injured, and one was killed – why?

Is the First Amendment flawed?

Well, let’s remember why freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and press are so important.

For one thing, if we didn’t have the First Amendment, the government could literally make it against the law to protest or criticize, in the streets or in the press, anything the government did.

Just ask yourself, what if the public wasn’t allowed to speak out against laws forbidding women the right to vote or people of the same sex to marry? Remember, both women’s right to vote and same-sex marriage were against the law until public outcries were heard throughout the country. The First Amendment allowed for this public discourse to take place and America was made better for it.

The freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech are simply too important to do away with. But is the public just too irresponsible to have such freedoms bestowed upon them?

I hope not…

However, as racial tensions continue to grow, people’s speech has become more and more charged with polarity, vitriol, and anger. Protests are becoming increasingly heated and violent.

In fact, the tensions between protesters may ironically bring about a real justification for a more militarized police force, the type left and right wing conspiracy theorist have been prophesying about for years.

If martial law were to be enacted, I hope extreme protesters and conspiracy theorists on both sides recognize that their prophecies were a bit self-fulfilled due to their extreme behavior.

And this is what I take issue with – not the First Amendment, but extremism and extreme partisanship.

The alt-right accusing anyone who disagrees with them a Communist, and the far left accusing anyone who disagrees with them a Fascist. The alt-right vilifying the left, the far left vilifying the right. I call it double Mccarthyism.

If you haven’t realized it yet, the country is in a state of social unrest. If we don’t start moving toward the middle, politically speaking, civil war will be inevitable.

I think most agree that what Trump said in his speech following the events at Charlottesville, making false equivalences between the Antifa and the White Nationalist who drove his car into a crowd of people, was inappropriate and insensitive. However, the Antifa have engaged in unjustified acts of violence, like lighting cars on fire and assaulting people in the streets, so let’s not pretend that they don’t have some responsibility for rising tensions throughout the country and on the day in question.

Limiting the First Amendment means less dialogue – less dialogue in times of civil unrest may result in more violence.

In truth, there are actual Fascists on the far right, and actual Communists on the far left. However, most people are just good and reasonable people who may lean to the right or lean to the left, but somehow get swept up together in this persistent culture war. It’s time to wake up and condemn both extreme factions of the right and left, if they engage in violent behavior.

We need to promote serious dialogue between the left and right. The only way to accomplish dialogue, is to keep the First Amendment exactly where it is.

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Not all Dreamers are originally from Mexico, though they predominate. In 2016, around 3,000 were from Poland, over 5,000 from India, 15,000 from South Korea, 8,000 from the Philippines, and nearly 6,000 from Jamaica.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
( John Lennon)

This piece originally appeared on Juan Cole’s website.

Trump’s consiglieri, Jeff Sessions, came out Tuesday to smear the some 800,000 young people in the DACA program, undocumented people brought to the US when they were children, without their having decided as individuals to break any law. He implied that the deferment from deportation instituted by President Obama endangered Americans’ security. The allegation is a huge lie. Trump also keeps implying that Dreamers, as immigrants, are a drain on the US economy.

Immigrants cause economic growth. I follow developments in the Middle East, and Turkey took in over 2 million Syrian refugees. Economists estimate that as a result, its economy has been growing 4 percent a year, despite a lot of political upheaval. That rate of growth is directly attributable to Turkish businesses, including farms, having access to more workers, and Syrian refugees creating companies and investing in Turkey.

In contrast, a country like Japan that rejects immigration, is in danger of shrinking demographically, economically and geopolitically.

1. Dreamers are 14 percent less likely to be incarcerated than the general population, and Dreamer women are twice as likely to stay out of jail as a native-born American.

2. Dreamers are from unusually educated families and are themselves disproportionately well-educated. Roberto G. Gonzales at Harvard found that 36 percent report having at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree. [Roberto G. Gonzales, Veronica Terriquez, Stephen P. Ruszczyk, “Becoming DACAmented Assessing the Short-Term Benefits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” American Behavioral Scientist 2014]
Of Gonzales’s sample,

22 percent have a Bachelor’s degree
27 percent have attended a 4 year college but have not graduated
32 percent have attended community college
20 percent have not attended college.

3. Given that this group is young, many of those who have not attended college may be in high school, and many who do not have a BA may still be in college.

Some 27 percent of Americans have a BA, so Dreamers are educated proportionally in comparison with the general population.

4. 91 percent of Dreamers are employed.

5. Deporting the Dreamers would therefore cost the US some $460 billion over the next ten years.

6. Not all Dreamers are originally from Mexico, though they predominate. In 2016, around 3,000 were from Poland, over 5,000 from India, 15,000 from South Korea, 8,000 from the Philippines, and nearly 6,000 from Jamaica.

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«In the confrontations between a tiny number of white supremacists and a very small number of demonstrators, the photographers who chased them sometimes outnumbered those involved. At those same moments, hundreds of Black, Latino, Asian and white church people were marching up Martin Luther King Jr. Way. »

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – 26AUGUST17 – Community organizations and unions in San Francisco marched up Market Street, carrying banners and blocking streets, to protest a planned rally by Nazis and racists in San Francisco. Members of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA local 39521, carry their union banner.Copyright David Bacon

By David Bacon

Relying on the photographs, reporting and video in the mainstream media can give you a false idea about the marches and demonstrations against white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers in San Francisco and Berkeley last weekend.  The newsroom adage says, “if it bleeds it leads.”  But screaming headlines about violence, and stories and images focused on scuffles, were not a good reality check. 

Mainstream coverage was miles away from the reality most people experienced.  One racist quoted for each counterprotestor ignored the fact that there were at most a few dozen of one, and many thousands of the other.  More important, where were the reasons why people came out to demonstrate against racism and rightwing politics?  How did people organize their broad constituencies of faith and labor, communities of color, women and immigrants?

In the confrontations between a tiny number of white supremacists and a very small number of demonstrators, the photographers who chased them sometimes outnumbered those involved.  At those same moments, hundreds of Black, Latino, Asian and white church people were marching up Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  The two banners of the Democratic Socialists of America (one all the way from Santa Cruz) stretched across the four lanes of the avenue.  Where were the photographers? In San Francisco thousands marched up Market Street.  I saw fewer photographers there than at any march in recent memory.

Making the scufflers so visible makes everyone else invisible.  Sure, editors choose what to put on the page or website.  But as media workers we can also see what’s real and what’s not.

Photographs by David Bacon

BOOK EVENTS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte

September 5, Living Wage Coalition
6PM, 2940 16th Street, Room 301 San Francisco

September 12, UC Berkeley Labor Center
6PM, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley

September 13, Food to Farm Event
5:30PM, Guy West Plaza, Sacramento State University, Sacramento

September 15, Green Arcade Bookstore
7PM, 1680 Market Street, San Francisco

September 20, Commonwealth Club
With Jose Padilla, Executive Director, California Rural Legal Assistance
6PM, 555 Post Street, San Francisco

Originally published on The Reality Check by David Bacon

David Bacon

David Bacon, award-winning photojournalist and author, has spent twenty years as a labor organizer and immigrant rights activist. He has been a reporter and documentary photographer for eighteen years, shooting for many national publications, and has exhibited his work internationally. He is the author of “The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration” (Beacon Press, Sept. 2013). He works as an associate editor at Pacific News Service and hosts a weekly radio show on labor, immigration, and the global economy on KPFA-FM.

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«Just like I believe in open-source-software and open data, I also believe in open governments», said Villarreal, «I could be selling advertising on Google, making a lot of money, but I would not have the satisfaction of knowing that I was able to help release someone who was wrongfully convicted.»

Photo: Paola Villarreal
 

By Aleyda Villavicencio

 

When Annie Dookhan was arrested in 2012, accused of fabricating evidence and altering drug samples, she had been involved in more than 24,000 alleged drug cases where thousands of people had been wrongfully convicted, according to the ACLU of Massachusetts.

A statement released by the Civil Liberties organization claims that, “for years, state drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was allowed to falsify and fabricate evidence, causing tens of thousands of people to be convicted of drug crimes based on tainted evidence and fraud.”

On April 19, in a historic decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 21,587 of those convictions were dismissed thanks, in part, to the work of civic technologist Paola Villarreal.

Villarreal, 32, used her programming and data analysis skills to assist the lawyers in Bridgeman v. District Attorney, and significantly influenced the decision of the court to dismiss those cases. According to Villarreal, it was thanks to the use of “open data” scattered in different government databases that she was able to make a lifetime difference for the thousands of people involved in this historic case.

“My motivation was thinking that I was not dealing with numbers,” said Villarreal, “but that people’s lives were behind all that mess, and we could help them.”

David Colarusso, staff attorney and data scientist for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, worked with Villarreal during the litigation. He explained that for the court to dismiss thousands of cases, it needed to know the seriousness of the situation, including the balance of convictions for dealing drugs versus those of users caught with drugs for their own use.

“What Paola did was pulling out numbers and trying to explain how many of these were convictions on straight possession versus distribution,” said Colarusso.

Villarreal has worked for almost 20 years as a self-thought system programmer and data scientist. She dropped out of school when she was 14, despite her parent’s opposition, remembers Villarreal.

“They tried to convince me not to leave my studies,” she said. “I did one year of high-school and failed every single subject, except computer science. That one I actually got an A+ because I created a small program for the school professors who did not know how to use Linux.”

From that moment on, Villarreal said, she was certain that school was not for her, and went from working part-time to full-time right away.

“The truth is I didn’t like school, and I had a lot of work at work,” she said. “It made a lot of sense for me to leave school because I dedicated myself to doing what I really like.”

For over a decade Villarreal was her own boss. She founded her own consulting firm and was doing everything from server maintenance to web design and programming. She was also a consultant for private companies and government agencies, advising them on web security and hack prevention and recovery programs.

Her reputation got her a position in the administration of former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, as well as the current mayor, Miguel Angel Mancera, in Mexico City.

“It all happened very organically,” said Villarreal.

At 13, she joined a community of programmers on the Internet. The people in this chat room created the program they were using to communicate among themselves, so they could modify it as they saw fit. Villarreal wanted to make some changes to the program and quickly realized she had a special ability to understand the rules and logic of computer programming, she said.

“I just wanted to add more colors to the chat, and instead of having them do it, they gave me the tools to do it myself,” said Villarreal. “And that’s how it all started!”

In 2015, she was granted a Mozilla fellowship, through the Ford Foundation.

“The premise of my project was how technology and open data can help the work of a human rights and civil liberties organization.”

Villarreal believes these two elements can help society have a more effective government. “In my opinion, data and technology are the lubricant for the gear that Mexico, and the world in general, need.”

During the Mozilla fellowship, Villarreal worked closely with the ACLU of Massachusetts and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, to disentangle the database containing the more than 24,000 cases involved in Bridgeman v. District Attorney.

“When people think of the Bridgeman case, they do not think of data,” said Colarusso. “If anything, they would think of the need to have a chemist in our team. But this is a case involving thousands of people and the information was lying all over the place in the DA’s files.”

Colarusso and Villarreal, agree that it was not the sophistication of her work what made it difficult. Collecting data from eight different counties, each with a very different database was what made this job dreary.

“There were many variables, too much data, and what I did was consolidate it in a single place that allowed me to manage the information to obtain statistics, averages, and make groups,” said Villarreal. “All this in collaboration with lawyers who could now have concrete data and percentages of the different types, and severity of cases in which Dookhan participated.”

Adriana Lafaille, attorney on the ACLU team, refers to Villarreal’s contribution to the case as “extraordinary.”

“She allowed us to bring facts before the court,” said Lafaille. “The kind of analysis Paola was doing for us, there was just no way that anyone could do that manually.”

Villarreal likes to call herself a “civic technologist” and she believes there are not enough computer scientists working on social causes.

“I have seen first hand the difference [data analysis] makes in how justice is delivered, as well as how it is accessed by those who need it most,” said Villarreal.

Most people with these skills prefer to work for the government or the private sector, and of course the difference in pay is huge, she said. But for her, there are other gratifications in working with non-profit organizations.

“Just like I believe in open-source-software and open data, I also believe in open governments,” said Villarreal, “I could be selling advertising on Google, making a lot of money, but I would not have the satisfaction of knowing that I was able to help release someone who was wrongfully convicted.”

Aleyda Villavicencio

 

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«“It will be like inserting a USB, with very specific information to hack the software of the heart and rejuvenate it,” Ulises Ruiz-Esparza said.»

Nanotechnology to treat human heart.

By Aleyda Villavicencio

 

When Ulises Ruiz-Esparza left his hometown in Aguascalientes, Mexico, to study medicine, he did not imagine that less than a decade later his name would be written in the annals of medicine. His doctoral research at the Houston Methodist Hospital brought him international attention and MIT’s recognition as one of the top innovators under the age of 35. He is currently the youngest of five leaders at the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

“When I picked nanotechnology in cardiovascular applications, few people believed it would work,” said Ruiz-Esparza, 28.

 

Nanoparticles have been used for many years in certain cancer treatments, delivering chemotherapy to the tumor without affecting other organs, Ruiz-Esparza explained. But by the time he completed his research, they had never been used in pathologies such as heart failure.

During his doctorate, Ruiz-Esparza designed a nanoparticle that instead of reaching a tumor could reach the heart. Now, the use of nanotechnology in cardiovascular applications opens an avenue to deliver different types of drugs, or genetic information to the heart to treat diseases such as heart failure, or to reverse its aging process.

“It will be like inserting a USB, with very specific information to hack the software of the heart and rejuvenate it,” he said.

 

Looking back at the time Ruiz-Esparza applied to medical school, his father, Guillermo, said he would never forget that in his letter “my son wrote that he wanted to contribute something more than what was written in medicine, and that’s what he’s doing.”

When her mother, Leticia Herrera, speaks of the moment the oldest of her three children moved out of the house her voice breaks.

“It was hard to accept the idea that his success meant that I would have to let him go,” she said. “But my husband always believed Ulises had the capability to do great things, and that he had to leave the house to reach his full potential.”

 

Last year Ruiz-Esparza moved to Cambridge to continue his research and plans to apply to the internal medicine residency program, at Harvard Medical School, and later on start his fellowship in cardiology.

He explains that his interest in cardiovascular treatment comes from a reason that is deeper and more personal than the desire to pursue something groundbreaking. Already a medicine student and visiting home, Ruiz-Esparza faced his grandfather’s death of a heart attack.

“I was there when he died,” he said. “Not being able to help him marked me very deeply, so much it motivated me to focus in cardiovascular treatments when I did my doctorate.”

 

His family plays a very important role in his life, Ruiz-Esparza said, “My most remarkable childhood memories are those where the whole ‘clan’ was together at my grandparent’s vacation home.”

He relaxes his posture when he speaks of his family and his younger years. When he goes back in time, Ruiz-Esparza seems to have a clear idea of where his life would have gone if he did not go for med school.

“In reality, I’m nothing but a frustrated soccer player,” he said with a smile as he laid back in his chair.

 

He confessed liking soccer so much he considered it a possible career when he was younger. He has played all his life, and still does in small tournaments with his lab peers, in his spare time.

He also speaks with enjoyment of the rock band he formed with his high school friends where he played the bass, or the guitar, and sometimes performed as the lead singer. His mother remembers that during graduation, he surprised the whole family as part of the show. “Suddenly, we saw him there, on stage singing in front of almost 1000 people!” she said.

Ruiz-Esparza describes himself as an average schoolboy in his early years. “I wasn’t always a straight A’s kind of student,” he said. “In fact, these days, when I’m invited to conferences, or even here with my students, I always tell them that being clever is more important than always getting an ‘A’.”

The first year of medical school was particularly challenging, he said. He struggled with some of his classes and at times, he said, he felt totally out of place. But he teamed up with a couple of friends to form a study group and his grades quickly improved.

“Failing in med school is the worst thing that can happen to you,” said Ruiz-Esparza. “Professors and peers look at you as if you will go through life killing people instead of saving them.”

 

A recurrent character in his conversation, and someone he repeatedly mentions as someone who significantly influenced his career, is Dr. Guillermo Torre, former head of the Heart Failure Program, at the Houston Methodist Hospital.

“[Dr. Torre] is my mentor and a huge inspiration,” said Ruiz-Esparza. “After seeing his practice, his research, and level of commitment, I thought to myself, I want to be like him some day.”

 

That inspiration moved Ruiz-Esparza to create a joint program with his alma mater, the Monterrey Institute of Technology, to bring undergrad students in Mexico to the Harvard-MIT laboratory, so they can experience doing research in a world-class environment.

He is convinced that this opportunity can open the minds of other young students to possibilities that otherwise they may not think possible.

“When I met doctor Ruiz-Esparza, the first thing that came to mind was that he was very young,” said Sofia Jimenez, 22, undergraduate student of biotechnology engineering from Guadalajara. “But I think that’s why he is very patient with us. He dedicates us time and is always telling us that age should not determine the significance of our ideas.”

 

Dr. Guillermo Ulises Ruiz-Esparza receiving the National Youth Award in Science and Technology 2016.

Last year Ruiz-Esparza received the National Youth Award in Science and Technology, from the Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, and said a reporter told him in an interview that he was part of the country’s brain drain.

Ruiz-Esparza responded that he is trying to grow the chain of knowledge by bringing Mexican students to work with him in Cambridge, and is working in several projects with doctors and scientists in Mexico all the time.

Confronted with the possibility of having to return to Mexico, Ruiz-Esparza explains that it would mean forgetting about his research entirely. “We don’t have the necessary equipment over there to continue developing the cutting edge research we are doing here at Harvard-MIT,” he said.

“My ultimate goal is to make every possible effort so that one day, what we do here in Boston, or Houston, can be replicated in Monterrey, or anywhere else in Mexico. That’s ultimately my biggest motivation; training and collaborating with Mexican scientists.”

 

Aleyda Villavicencio

 

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«Suddenly, the project reached a dead end because the local legislature asked for a bribe to let it operate. “That’s what we were dealing with,” said Sanchez.»

Aleyda - Articulos

Ramon Sanchez PinŽa2

Ramón Sánchez Piña with Nicole Bellisle, Program Coordinator of Sustainable Business Development, cooking in a solar stove that resulted from one of the multiple projects of the Leadership Program Applied to Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency developed in Mexico during 2015 and 2016.

For the most part Ramon Sanchez’s education took place in Mexican public schools, in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. Only in high school, his mother, Yolanda Pina enrolled him in a private institution. On his senior year, Sanchez remembers, he was the top student in his class and everything pointed at him to win the “excellence scholarship,” granted to the student with the best grade point average of each class, to attend a private college. But in an unexpected turn of events, he says that year the scholarship was instead given to someone who had been part of the institution since the first grade.


“That was my first reality check on how politics work in Mexico,” said Sanchez, “where academic and financial support are not always granted on merit but on personal, or economic, influence.”

For Sanchez, corruption in Mexico is the largest obstacle to the country’s success. That year he applied for the scholarship directly at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and was able to enter college, but ever since that incident, he says, he is always mindful of how corruption, in its many forms, can make or break someone’s future.

“Imagine the shock of thinking you no longer have the opportunity to continue with your higher education because your scholarship was given to someone else, just like that,” he said.

 

Today, Sanchez, 43, is the director of the Sustainable Technologies and Health Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Sanchez says school was an amusing part of his adolescence and describes those years as “critical” in his understanding of how society works in “the Mexican system.”

“I was no stranger to corruption when I was living in Mexico,” said Sanchez. “But I realized its outstanding levels when I got [to Harvard] and started working on projects that I thought could benefit my home country.”

 

In 2014 the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in coordination with InTrust Global Investments and the Mexican Department of Energy, created a program to allow academics in Mexico develop tangible renewable energy projects in their communities.

In an unprecedented effort, the Applied Leadership Program in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency reached more than 300 professors from over 120 public universities in Mexico. More than 90 renewable energy projects and six patents resulted from this exertion.

“It took many setbacks to learn the recipe for success,” said Sanchez.

 

One such setback, he said, was a project intended to decrease the ecological footprint by 50 percent, saving 10 to 15 lives a year while cleaning the air. It was paid by international investors and had all the technical elements to support its functionality. Suddenly, the project reached a dead end because the local legislature asked for a bribe to let it operate. “That’s what we were dealing with,” said Sanchez.

To make things more complex, the Mexican people are suspicious of any development plans in which the government has any participation, and with good reason.

“It is difficult to trust the authorities,” said professor Blanca Gonzalez, administrative assistant of the Antitalaquia Institute of Technology, located in a rural community in one of Mexico’s poorest states; Hidalgo.

 

Gonzalez was one of the 300 professors invited to the Applied Leadership Program, and the Antitalaquia Institute was one of the public schools participating.

“Our school is the result of a promise made during a political campaign,” said Gonzalez. The authorities promised to build a higher education building in her community and they did. But when they received the keys to the building it was completely empty, she said.

 

“There were no tables, no chairs, nothing. I mean, we didn’t even have electricity!” said Gonzalez. “For over a year we had to buy diesel to have a light plant. There was nothing to work with and we still have almost nothing.”

 

Authorities recognize there are cases of corruption that need to be addressed, but disagree that this is an endemic problem.

Emilio Rabasa, the consul general of Mexico in New England, who has held various positions in public office, stressed that the government “is taking firm steps to fight this problem,” such as the recent approval by the Mexican Congress for the creation of the National Prosecution Office Against Corruption. “I can tell you things are moving in the right direction,” he said.

On the other hand, Sanchez said he believes the key to success was honesty and community involvement.

“You have to be transparent in the way you approach the people who will eventually benefit from the project,” he said. “If the locals don’t trust the outcome you will surely fail in the long run.”

 

But the ability to build trust and empathize with the people around him comes natural for Sanchez, said Guillermo Cedeno, program leader of Energy Efficiency and Carbon Mitigation Technologies at the Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health.

“Ramon is a person of impeccable ethics,” Cedeno said, “and has an exceptional ability to explain the potential results behind a scientific proposal, and that’s what people are looking for.”

 

Cedeno assisted in the organization and logistics of 18 different seminars given throughout Mexico.

“If it wasn’t for the corruption, I believe Ramon would be willing to spend more time and do more field work in Mexico,” he said. “But not being able to develop his full potential has made him choose to stay here.”

 

Sanchez’s involvement in Mexican matters extends to other groups of influence, like the Mexican Consulate Board of Advisors where he is an active member.

Rabasa recognized Sanchez’ extensive experience and willingness to help. “Ramon’s participation in our monthly sessions of the advisory group has many times turned into important networking events and project improvements,” and added, “He is undoubtedly the one Mexican who knows best Boston’s ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship in science and technology.”

In a series of interviews with Sanchez’s colleagues, each one spoke of his selflessness. “That eagerness to help in a selfless way is always palpable,” said Gonzalez

“How many people of Ramon’s academic and professional stature would agree to give a web lecture to your students for free?” asked Gonzalez rhetorically. “However, he has always been very open to share his time with us whenever we’ve asked.”

 

Giving back is part of his motivation, said Sanchez. “I’d like to think I’m making an impact. That I’m not in this world just to make money.”

“I could be working as a Wall Street analyst, or maybe go back to being a general manager at a manufacturing firm,” said Sanchez. “But what would I do there? Maybe provide a better future for me and my family, but that’d be it. Transforming small communities is like teaching the world how to fish, and that is how you really change things for everyone.”

 

Aleyda Villavicencio

 

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In Cambridge alone, there are dozens of Mexicans involved in projects that range from aeronautics to biotechnology and renewable energy. These Mexican professionals say multiple factors led them to stay in the U.S., including the fear that they would have fewer opportunities in Mexico.

Aleyda - TN

Clase_Sonora

Ramón Sanchez, director of the Sustainable Technologies and Health Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

By Aleyda Villavicencio

Ulises Ruiz-Esparza, 28, is currently the youngest leader of the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. With a doctorate degree in biotechnology and nanotechnology, Ruiz-Esparza started in this position less than a year ago, but it did not take long before he realized that his residence in the U.S. could be in jeopardy.

Last February he went back to Mexico to renew his TN visa, which allows him to work in the United States under NAFTA. Once there, he learned that the process that used to take a few days could now take months, with no guarantee of a positive outcome. His concern was to lose not only his job but also the possibility to continue his research.

“If I had to return to Mexico, I would have to forget my research completely,” said Ruiz-Esparza. “It is practically impossible to do my job over there. It requires highly sophisticated equipment that is not readily available. In fact, sometimes even when you have the tools, the bureaucracy and the tariff laws in our country make it tough to get the necessary materials in a timely manner.”

 

Ulises Ruiz-Esparza Liderazgo

Ulises Ruiz-Esparza, mexican scientist.

Ruiz-Esparza is not the only scientist in this country facing a similar conflict when confronted with the possibility of having to go back to Mexico.

In Cambridge alone, there are dozens of Mexicans involved in projects that range from aeronautics to biotechnology and renewable energy. These Mexican professionals say multiple factors led them to stay in the U.S., including the fear that they would have fewer opportunities in Mexico, and that bureaucracy and corruption would limit their resources and inhibit their research.

Contrary to Trump’s allegations that “when Mexico sends their people, they’re not sending their best,” a 2013 study by Alma Maldonado, then a research assistant in the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, showed that one-third of the total Mexican population with doctoral degrees live in the United States. As a result, approximately 11,000 Mexicans, whose post-graduate education was sponsored by the Mexican government or themselves, are employed in the U.S. and paying taxes on this side of the border.

Meanwhile, researchers at Southern Methodist University found that the two main reasons highly educated people flee Mexico is the lack of infrastructure and resources, followed by politics in academia.

“In Mexico, anyone could become head of the university only because he is a friend of the current governor,” said Professor Ramon Sanchez, director of the Sustainable Technologies and Health Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

 

Sanchez, 42, has lived in Boston more than 10 years and has developed multiple renewable energy projects throughout Mexico. He believes “the main detractor for talent to remain in Mexico is corruption.”

But the unethical distribution of key positions in the education system is not the only concern for Mexican students and scientists; the allocation of government funds through scholarships is also an issue. Most of this money is funneled through the National Council of Science and Technology, and it does not give the money directly to the universities.

“[The leaders of the Council] want to keep control of who gets these funds,” said Marco Munoz, director of the Office of Global Initiatives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “since scholarships are not always awarded for merit, but for influence.”

 

One of Munoz’s responsibilities at MIT is to find “philanthropic partners,” both to implement students’ ideas and to create scholarships for specific countries.

Munoz speaks to wealthy people around the world and particularly in Latin America. He said it is difficult to find financial partners in Mexico, and the most common reason he gets is “I don’t want to sponsor people to study abroad because they are not going to come back.”

Munoz agrees, but explained that after many years of working with students from around the world, Mexicans educated abroad feel unwelcome returning home.

Four years ago MIT created the first 10 Peruvian-preferred scholarships thanks to a philanthropic partner from Peru. Munoz explained that the businessman who funds these scholarships comes every year to visit the students and invites them to his various businesses in Latin America. “They get involved with the companies’ problems, and they do internships over there [to try to find solutions],” he said.

Munoz, who studied at the University of Texas School of Law, with a scholarship from the government of Veracruz, said he has never seen this bond between Mexican students and their authorities.

“There’s no link other than the money between the students and their government,” he said. This leads to a disconnection between the institutions that could benefit from these scholars and the needs of the students who could bring their knowledge back to their country, he added.

 

For Ruiz-Esparza, returning to Cambridge was crucial for the future of his research. He said he was lucky his renewal was approved in a timely manner and was able to come back to work without delay.

He still remembers the difficulties he went through when he tried to continue his research in Mexico after he completed his doctorate in Houston.

“It took me five months of reaching out to different laboratories throughout the country to try to make some tests,” said Ruiz-Esparza. “Something we do here in a matter or minutes can take you months in Mexico. There’s no way to compete with scientists from developed countries when you don’t have the resources at hand.”

 

When Ruiz-Esparza finished his MD-PhD program, he was only 27, and he insists that he would not have accomplished as much in Mexico as he has in the United States.

“In Mexico, except for my mentor, nobody would take me seriously,” he said. “Every time I went back before my doctoral thesis was so widely recognized, people would tell me I was a fool, a child,” said Ruiz-Esparza. “Ironically, here in the United States, Harvard believed in me and invited me to work with them. The opportunity was a dream come true, and I didn’t think twice.”

 

Aleyda Villavicencio

 

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For Hernandez and Andrade the goal is clear: to promote and encourage the participation of more young students in STEM fields, but they both share an interest in increasing the number of girls and women who can access the resources available.

Oficina - STEM

Women in many countries face obstacles to careers in science and technology, but in Mexico, the challenges can be particularly daunting.
 

By Aleyda Villavicencio

 

Women in many countries face obstacles to careers in science and technology, but in Mexico, the challenges can be particularly daunting.

According to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “women are the most underestimated resource in Mexico. Even though their achievements in education are now comparable to those achieved by men.”

The study shows that school dropout and adolescent pregnancy are among the first causes women do not complete high school in that country. “Mexico has the highest proportion of births among women between the ages of 15 and 19, with 74 births per 1,000 women, compared with the average 15 births in the rest of the countries.”

The Mexican Department of Education recognized they must promote efforts in the education field not only to solve the school dropout of girls, or the very high rate of adolescent pregnancy but also to encourage them to pursue an education in STEM; science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

According to the Mexican Department of Education, the number of young Mexican women entering the workforce in STEM careers is insufficient. Even though women make up nearly half of the working population, they remain underrepresented in STEM occupations. In 2011, 26 percent of STEM workers were women, and 74 percent were men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sarah Wagner, 23, a research associate at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, recently published a study that considers the influence of “support and encouragement” upon young women’s likelihood of choosing a STEM career.

Wagner explains that studies on this subject traditionally consider factors such as self-efficacy, confidence and feminine role models, among others. But fewer studies have analyzed the strength of “support and encouragement” in influencing young women.

Wagner found that both women and men are more likely to report wanting to enter a STEM career when they are encouraged by someone to do so, and women report their home environment as being more supportive of children pursuing careers in science, than men.

Selene Sandoval, 37, said she always had her family’s support to study engineering, but the real motivation to continue with her studies came from another woman who finished her doctorate in engineering abroad and motivated her to do the same.

The influence of speaking to someone she could relate to was the encouragement she needed to apply for a scholarship and move out of her hometown, Sandoval said.

Sandoval is currently studying for a doctorate in material science and engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson and is planning to start her own business after she graduates. She explains with frustration how even at the doctoral level, men look at her with disbelief when she talks about her intentions.

“When I tell them my plans of becoming my own boss and opening a company to create jobs back in my hometown, they look at me with a mocking smile,” she said. “I don’t know why they think that’s funny.”

 

Wagner’s research also found that encouragement by a high school teacher is more influential to young men and women than even parents and expert’s motivation.
Paola Hernandez, 31, is a doctoral candidate in applied life sciences at Keck Graduate Institute. She was 13 when her biology teacher showed the class a resin-encapsulated embryo and told them that, “that little thing” could become a dog, a cat, or a human, depending on what its cells dictate. She later explained that genes could be deliberately altered to obtain specific results.

The example may not have been entirely accurate, but the teacher certainly got her point across, and at least one girl in her class fixed upon the idea that she could someday achieve such a feat.

“The moment I realized I could manipulate genetic information to have a dog, a cat, or a chimpanzee if I wanted to, I said, wow! I want to change things,” said Hernandez. “I didn’t know where, when or how, but from that moment on I was certain that I wanted to study genetic engineering.”

 

On February the Mexican government presented an initiative for women from STEM disciplines to be part of a support network for young Mexican students. The plan will launch talks, mentoring programs and workshops with the objective of promoting the integration of more women in this area.

Other non-governmental organizations, such as Clubes de Ciencia México (Mexico Science Clubs) are also contributing to expand access to high quality science education and to inspire and mentor the future generation of scientists and innovators in Mexico.

Patricia Andrade, 32, digital marketing manager at Clubes de Ciencia México, said they are looking closely at the gender equality issue during the selection of both instructors and students participating.

“There is a greater number of male applicants,” said Andrade. “But we are making sure we balance our teams as much as possible to get a 50/50 distribution of men and women.”

 

It is important to encourage more women to participate, and to connect young women in Mexico with first-hand role-models of what they can achieve, said Hernandez, who is also a board member of Clubes de Ciencia México.

“How could a girl who lives in a distant town in Yucatan and studies in a small rural school think that she could someday go to a university abroad?” she said. “But if I was able to do it, she can do it too.”

 

For Hernandez and Andrade the goal is clear: to promote and encourage the participation of more young students in STEM fields, but they both share an interest in increasing the number of girls and women who can access the resources available.

“We have to open doors and build bridges, and that’s what we do through Clubes de Ciencia México: we bring scientists to different cities around the country to teach hands-on cutting-edge science workshops and at the same time, we empower several communities by fostering an environment of camaraderie and ongoing support to make these things happen,” said Hernandez. “I believe that we, the privileged educated women with various academic degrees on this side of the border, have a social responsibility to go back [to Mexico] and take ownership, not only in STEM but in all fields that make deep changes in society.”

 

About Me: https://about.me/aleyda.villavicencio
Twitter: @aleydag
FaceBook: Aleyda Villavicencio
Blog: http://milunitatucumana.blogspot.com

 

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Valdez was a nationally and internationally recognized journalist who authored several books on the drug trade, including “Narcoperiodismo” and “Los Morros del Narco.”

IMG_7685

Riodoce reported that Valdez was driving about a block from its offices when he was intercepted by gunmen.

Javier Valdez, an award-winning reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was slain Monday in the northern state of Sinaloa, the latest in a wave of journalist killings in Mexico.

Valdez is at least the sixth journalist to be murdered in Mexico since early March, an unusually high number even for one of the world’s deadliest countries for media professionals.

Valdez was shot to death in the early afternoon in the state capital of Culiacan, near the offices of the publication he co-founded, Riodoce. State Prosecutor Juan Jose Rios visited the scene and said authorities were investigating all possible motives, including that the killing could have been due to Valdez’s work, though he gave no details.

Late Monday, the Jalisco state prosecutor’s office reported an armed attack on the deputy director of a weekly publication in the city of Autlan and her son. The woman was wounded and the 26-year-old son killed.

Riodoce reported that Valdez was driving about a block from its offices when he was intercepted by gunmen. Valdez was also a correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada, which reported that he was pulled from his car and shot multiple times.

Images in Mexican media showed a body lying in a street covered by a blue blanket and surrounded by 12 yellow markers of the kind typically used to flag evidence such as bullet casings.

President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned what he called an “outrageous crime.”

“I reiterate our commitment to freedom of expression and the press, fundamental for our democracy,” he tweeted.

The federal Attorney General’s Office said it was investigating.

Valdez was a nationally and internationally recognized journalist who authored several books on the drug trade, including “Narcoperiodismo” and “Los Morros del Narco.” The former is a look at the relationship between journalism and organized crime, and the latter chronicles the lives of young people swept up in Mexico’s criminal underworld.

Jan-Albert Hootson, Mexico representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said Valdez and Riodoce were known as a rare source of independent, investigative journalism in Sinaloa.

“And for that same reason, he and his magazine and his co-workers were always under threat of violence,” Hootson said.

According to CPJ, in 2009 unknown attackers threw a grenade into the Riodoce offices days after it published an investigation on drug trafficking. No one was hurt.

By the group’s count, some 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico for reasons confirmed as related to their work since 1992. An additional 50 were slain during the same period under circumstances that have not been clarified.

Journalists targeted in Mexico are most often local reporters in places where the rule of law is tenuous, but there have also been killings of journalists with national profiles such as Valdez and Regina Martinez Perez, who was slain in 2012. The recent spate of slayings includes Miroslava Breach, correspondent for La Jornada in the northern state of Chihuahua, who was gunned down in March.

On Saturday, seven journalists were assaulted and robbed by a mob of about 100 armed men on a highway in the troubled southern state of Guerrero.

Sinaloa has long been a drug trafficking hotbed and is home to the Sinaloa Cartel headed by notorious kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is in a New York prison awaiting trial on multiple charges. Experts say Guzman’s arrest last year and extradition in January have led to upheaval in the area as rival factions war for control of the gang.

“Drug trafficking there is a way of life,” Valdez said in an October interview with Rompeviento TV. “You have to assume the task that falls to you as a journalist — either that or you play dumb. I don’t want to be asked, ‘What were you doing in the face of so much death … why didn’t you say what was going on?’”

Hootson described Valdez as a warm, friendly man, well-liked by other journalists who frequently sought his help to navigate and understand the complex, dangerous state.

“His door was always open. … Everybody always deferred to his knowledge,” Hootson said. “And in that sense, it’s a huge loss for everybody.”

In 2011, CPJ recognized Valdez with its International Press Freedom Award for his “bravery and uncompromising journalism in the face of threats,” the group said in a statement. “His loss is a blow to Mexican journalism and to the Mexican public, who see a shadow of silence spreading across the country.

In a report this month, CPJ noted that most killings of journalists go unpunished in Mexico. It added that even when there are convictions, they are often limited to the immediate killer and do not clarify the motive.

“By not establishing a clear link to journalism or providing any motives for the killings most investigations remain opaque,” the report said. “This lack of accountability perpetuates a climate of impunity that leaves journalists open to attack.”

Valdez’s slaying came less than two weeks after a CPJ delegation met in Mexico City with Pena Nieto and other top government officials.

Last Wednesday, the federal Attorney General’s Office replaced the head of its division responsible for investigating journalist killings. Ricardo Sanchez Perez del Pozo, a lawyer with a background in international law and human rights, took over the post.

 

Entre Noticias/AP

 


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