Author Archive

Trump Administration Restricts H-1B Worker Visas Coveted By High Tech

By |

Trump Administration Restricts H-1B Worker Visas Coveted By High Tech

The Trump administration is tightening the rules for companies that contract out high-skilled workers who are in this country on H-1B visas.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency issued a new policy memo on Thursday that requires “detailed statements of work or work orders” about the work that will be performed when an H-1B visa worker is employed at a third-party work site. Employers will have to file more details that support the need for foreign talent.

H-1B visas are controversial. American tech companies use them to hire highly skilled foreign workers, such as engineers, IT specialists, architects among others, in situations in which they say there is a shortage of U.S.-born talent. The visas are good for three years and renewable for another three-year term.

Critics of the visas — 85,000 of which are issued every year — say American workers are aced out of competition with workers who can be paid less.

As CNN reports, “Indian outsourcing firms will be the hardest hit. Indian workers receive more than 70% of all H-1B visas.”

The USCIS memo says that if a visa beneficiary will be placed at one or more third-party worksites, the employer “has specific and non-speculative qualifying assignments in a specialty occupation for the beneficiary for the entire time requested in the petition; and the employer will maintain an employer-employee relationship with the beneficiary for the duration of the requested validity period.”

The memo says USCIS recognizes that visa-holders may wind up earning less money than promised or might perform “non-specialty” jobs when they are contracted out to third-party worksites.

The policy change comes as the Trump administration has signaled its desire to change the visa program with a “Buy American, Hire American” policy outlined in an executive order signed in April 2017. The order promised to root out fraud and abuse in the program.

As the Mercury News reports, the H-1B program has come under intense federal scrutiny.

“A Bay Area News Group report earlier this week found a sharp rise in the number of reviews immigration officials were conducting on H-1B applications. From January to August 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent 85,265 requests for evidence in response to H-1B visa applications, a 45 percent increase compared to the same period a year earlier, agency data show. Such requests are made when an application is missing required documents or when the agency determines it needs more proof to decide if a worker is eligible for the visa. Immigration lawyers say the extra enforcement could discourage companies and individuals from seeking an H-1B visa in the first place.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Frank Kimbrough On Piano Jazz

By |

Frank Kimbrough On Piano Jazz

When pianist Frank Kimbrough was Marian McPartland’s guest in 1997, he was performing regularly with the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra at Visiones Jazz Club in New York, where he has been active on the jazz scene for nearly four decades. An educator and recording artist, Kimbrough was a founding member and composer-in-residence of the Jazz Composers Collective.

In this Piano Jazz session, Kimbrough’s graceful, romantic style is evident on a Herbie Nichols tune, “Wildflower.” He and McPartland duet on Sonny Rollins‘ “Doxy.”

Originally broadcast in the spring of 1997.

SET LIST

  • “Wildflower” (Nichols)
  • “20 Bars” (Kimbrough)
  • “Sweet and Lovely” (Arnheim, Tobias, Daniels)
  • “All Too Soon” (Ellington, Sigman)
  • “Wish I Knew” (Warren, Mack)
  • “Lonely Woman” (Coleman, Guryan)
  • “Doxy” (Rollins)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Director Of Oscar-Nominated Aleppo Doc Wants His Film To Serve As Witness

By |

Director Of Oscar-Nominated Aleppo Doc Wants His Film To Serve As Witness

White Helmet Khaled Omar Harrah was killed during an airstrike in 2016. He’s part of a group of volunteer rescue workers featured in the documentary Last Men in Aleppo (available on Netflix).

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

This winter, the Syrian government regained control over the entire city of Aleppo. For years before that, it was the largest urban stronghold of anti-regime rebels. Over those years, there were countless government bombings, and the city was reduced to rubble.

The documentary Last Men In Aleppo, by Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad, takes viewers inside the city. “I grew up in the countryside of Aleppo,” he says. “And Aleppo — it’s my city, where I know every single street and every single store.”

In 2015 and 2016, Fayyad and his crew followed a group of self-appointed rescue workers called White Helmets. The film has been nominated for an Oscar in the documentary category, making it the first Syrian film to receive that honor.


Interview Highlights

On the experience of filming his city while it was being destroyed

It’s very painful on one level, but on [another] level it’s put me in the position of responsibility. … This is a story [that] could be writing the history and save the evidence for what’s happened in this period of time in our human history.

On the deliberate, repetitive nature of some scenes

I tried to tell the story as a nightmare for this people — like, sleeping, waking up, seeing the same things and there’s no solution. And they try different ways to face that. You see that it’s like the bomb is repetition, again and again. And I try to [use] the camera … to witness what they saw, and the ugly side and the [beautiful] side. But watching the [beautiful] side, it’s kind of discovering through the eyes of the character what’s making them stay, from where they get their inspiration to [resist] and stay in this city.

On why the White Helmets stay

Actually, it’s like a philosophy question, a big philosophy question for all of us when we face a lot of pressure from our government, from the war, from anything. We find ourselves under pressure to leave. But there’s something … [that makes] them resist this decision of leaving. And this is a story — it’s about the common inner-conflict between your personal survival and what you can do for your community through what you have. They stay because they feel that, what they can do, it makes sense. They save almost 100,000 civilians. Just imagine if these people left … their city.

On what happened to the family of White Helmet Khaled Omar Harrah after he died

After he [was] killed, his wife with his two daughters, they moved outside of Aleppo to [another] part of Syria, and hopefully they are safe. There’s no real safe place in Syria, but there’s a place less dangerous than the others. And the wife of Khaled, she was pregnant, and she had the baby and called it Khaled also.

Fatma Tanis and Jessica Deahlproduced and edited the audio of this interview. Sydnee Monday and Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

No One's Quite Sure Why Lassa Fever Is On The Rise In Nigeria

By |

No One's Quite Sure Why Lassa Fever Is On The Rise In Nigeria

A vendor in Lagos pushes his cart past a tray of garri, a powdery foodstuff made from cassava that can be eaten or drunk. During dry season, rats scavenge for food and can spread Lassa fever by defecating or urinating in foods like garri.

Pius Utomi Ekpei /AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Pius Utomi Ekpei /AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria is tough on diseases.

With help from a few partners, it stopped Ebola’s spread. It wrestled guinea-worm disease into a headlock, with no new cases since 2013. And it’s nearly eradicated the transmission of polio.

But now a disease that usually just lurks in the background has roared into headlines. Since the beginning of the year, there’s been a particularly large outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria’s southern provinces.

As of February 18, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reports 913 cases of Lassa fever and 73 deaths. That’s compared with 733 cases and 71 deaths in all of 2017.

“Everyone is scared,” says Oyewale Tomori, a retired professor of virology who chairs the Lassa Fever Eradication Committee of Nigeria.

Lassa fever, named for the Nigerian town where it was discovered in 1969, generally breaks out during the dry season, between October and early March. It’s not clear why this year’s outbreak is bigger than usual.

So along with treating the mounting numbers of patients, Nigeria is trying to prevent the disease’s spread. The NCDC is following up with 1,747 people who encountered patients ill with Lassa fever to try to diagnose cases early and prevent more infections.

The World Health Organization has also stepped in. “The high number of Lassa fever cases is concerning. We are observing an unusually high number of cases for this time of year,” Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO representative to Nigeria, said in a statement. WHO has sent 20 people to Nigeria to support NCDC and shipped 40 boxes of face masks and goggles to hospitals to protect anyone in close contact with patients, says Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesperson.

True to its name, Lassa fever starts out with a fever, along with a general feeling of weakness. Symptoms come on gradually and can include headache, sore throat, muscle and chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and stomach pain.

The most severe cases can cause facial swelling, fluid in the lungs and bleeding from the mouth, nose, vagina or gastrointestinal tract.

Of patients who are hospitalized, 10 to 15 percent die from the virus. But many people contract the Lassa virus and develop antibodies against it without becoming ill.

The seasonal outbreaks reflect the source of the disease: It’s a virus that jumps from the rat Mastomys natalensis to humans. West Africa’s dry winters push rodents closer to people to scavenge for food. Virus-carrying rats may defecate or urinate in grains and other food; people can pick up the virus from contact with contaminated products. The virus can also spread between people via bodily fluids.

And there are a lot of rats – which means there’s a lot of potential for outbreaks, says Lina Moses, a global health researcher at Tulane University. “If you compare this to the Ebola epidemic from 2014-2016, that likely came from one animal to spill over into the human population,” Moses says. “So in terms of control [Lassa fever] is much more challenging.”

Nigeria isn’t the only country that’s worried. The rats that spread Lassa fever are native to many regions of West Africa. Nigeria’s news has pushed Ghana’s Health Services to caution health-care providers about Lassa fever, but no cases have appeared there. On February 8, Guinea reported the first death from Lassa fever since 1996. The Guinean victim, who didn’t appear to infect anyone else, died after traveling into Liberia – a reminder of how easily diseases can cross borders.

A general uptick in Lassa fever cases isn’t totally surprising, Moses says. The Ebola epidemic led to improved labs and diagnostic testing across West Africa. Doctors use the same blood tests to identify Ebola as they do for Lassa fever.

But better diagnostics don’t entirely explain the 2018 caseload. With about a month left in the dry season, reported cases have increased each week so far.

The faster diagnoses do, however, give health workers a chance to start the treatment that generally works against Lassa fever — IV infusions of the antiviral drug Ribavirin. That works best when administered within the first six days of the fever’s onset.

The IV treatment requires patients to stay in a hospital for around a week, which puts health-care workers at risk of infection. In the current outbreak, 18 health-care workers have been diagnosed with Lassa fever, and four have died.

To protect Nigerians, health officials are urging people to keep food in sealed containers so rats can’t get to it and to keep garbage as far from homes as possible to keep rats away.

Moses is concerned that the rise in cases could be part of a trend. In a paper she published in 2016, she looked at the way the rat that carries Lassa fever interacts with humans. Examining data on climate change, population growth and land use, she suggests that the annual number of Lassa fever cases could potentially double by 2070.

In order to handle future outbreaks, it’s important to investigate the causes of this current outbreak, she says. But there’s a concern among public health officials that momentum will fade once the rainy season begins.

“When the rains come, the numbers go way down and people forget about it again,” says the virology professor Oyewale Tomori.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Trump Declares New Shipping Sanctions On North Korea

By |

Trump Declares New Shipping Sanctions On North Korea

President Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday shortly before he announced new sanctions against North Korea. The measures are designed to prevent shipping companies from evading existing measures by sending prohibited goods to the country.

Andrew Harnik/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Andrew Harnik/AP

President Trump on Friday announced a fresh round of sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to block oil and other prohibited products from getting to the Asian nation.

“We have imposed the heaviest sanctions ever imposed,” Trump said at the conclusion of his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxen Hill, Md., just outside Washington. “Hopefully, something positive can happen. We will see.”

More than 50 ships and shipping companies were cited by the Treasury Department for evading existing U.S. and international sanctions. While most of those name were based in North Korea, companies and ships from China, Singapore, Taiwan, Panama, Tanzania, the Marshall Islands and the Comoros were also included.

The measures are part of the administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” on North Korea and are designed to put pressure on the country for its expanding nuclear weapons program.

Despite the ongoing efforts by the U.S. administration, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has insisted his country will never give up the nuclear program and has been making rapid advances over the past year.

The latest U.S. steps come at a moment when North Korea and South Korea have experienced a slight thaw in relations linked to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Senior North Korean figures have visited and met South Korean leaders.

Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, is in South Korea for the closing ceremonies this weekend, but is not scheduled to meet any North Korean officials. Vice President Mike Pence attended the opening ceremonies two weeks ago, but pointedly ignored Kim’s sister, who was representing North Korea and seated right behind him.

In this photo released by the U.S. Treasury Department, the North Korean vessel KUM UN SAN 3 (left) conducts a ship-to-ship transfer with the Panama-flagged KOTI on Dec. 9. The Treasury Department, which announced new sanctions on Friday, says this transfer shows North Korea’s efforts to evade sanctions.

U.S. Treasury Department

hide caption

toggle caption

U.S. Treasury Department

Because North Korea is so heavily sanctioned, it was not immediately clear what impact additional punitive measures might have.

However, United Nations measures in recent months have ramped up economic pressure and made it more difficult for North Korea to import oil and other essential products. For example, North Korea now faces a cap on the oil it can import.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters said North Korean oil imports are down by nearly 90 percent in recent months.

North Korea was attempting to make up the difference and evade sanctions by hiding the identity of its ships and conducting ship-to-ship transfers on the open seas, officials said.

The U.S. is working with allies, including South Korea and Japan, as well as the global shipping community. The new measures are designed to disrupt the current sanctions-busting efforts and impose additional costs on North Korea, the U.S. officials said.

North Korea depends on oil imports, while coal is its most valuable export.

China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, and Beijing has agreed to scale back some economic ties. However, several Chinese companies were cited for busting sanctions on the latest U.S. list.

The Treasury Department released photos showing what it said was false identification information painted on North Korean ships, and examples of ship-to-ship transfers.

The companies and ships named by the Treasury Department are barred from doing business with the United States.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Tanya Donelly Reunites Belly, Announces Comeback Album

By |

Tanya Donelly Reunites Belly, Announces Comeback Album

Belly’s DOVE comes out May 4.

Chris Gorman/Courtesy of the artist

hide caption

toggle caption

Chris Gorman/Courtesy of the artist

Belly is back. The group fronted by Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and The Breeders will release a new album, Dove, on May 4, its first new music in 23 years.

Donelly paired the announcement with the release of the album’s first single, “Shiny One,” a shimmering, propulsive reflection on the universal struggle between good and evil.

[embedded content]
YouTube

Belly was an alt-rock force in the early 1990s, thanks largely to its breakthrough singles “Feed The Tree” and “Gepetto,” but broke up in 1996 after its sophomore album, King.

[embedded content]
YouTube
[embedded content]
YouTube

In an official statement, Donelly says now is the right time to reunite.

“We had just gotten to the point where we were just missing each other, and missing the music,” she says. “The music I’ve been doing in the past several years has been very collaborative, which made me kind of homesick for Belly; I missed that sense of having a band.”

Donelly says the new songs on Dove are more collaborative than anything in the band’s catalog, even though the group’s members are scattered throughout the country. “It required a lot of trust,” says Donelly, “because we were sending raw snippets to each other – anything from 30-second pieces to full songs. [Guitarist] Tom [Gorman] and [bassist] Gail [Greenwood] and I would send demos back and forth, and then Chris [Gorman] would add drums to whatever snippets he’d heard, and Tom would sew everything together. It would sometimes be a very circuitous route to a song, but it was really fun.”

In addition to the new album, Belly will launch its first tour since 1995, starting with a performance in Boston on May 26.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Amnesty International Finds Human Rights Deteriorating Around The World

By |

Amnesty International Finds Human Rights Deteriorating Around The World

Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan (second from right) receives Myanmar’s Home Minister Kyaw Swe (second from left) in Dhaka on Feb. 16. A human rights report criticizes Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims. But in presenting the findings, Amnesty officials said Bangladesh’s action to accept the Rohingya refugees, a rare bright light in a year of worsening human rights violations.

AP

hide caption

toggle caption

AP

Amnesty International released its annual report Thursday, highlighting a worsening of human rights worldwide.

The report covering 159 countries claims that increasingly world leaders are “undermining the rights of millions,” either by turning a blind eye to violations of human rights or by perpetrating them.

Amnesty cites Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte whose anti-drug campaign has left thousands of people dead; Russian President Vladimir Putin whose government has tried anti-corruption protestors on “politically motivated charges;” and President Xi Jinping of China where Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo died in custody, Internet controls were strengthened, and “repression” conducted under ‘counter-terrorism’ campaigns remained “particularly severe” against the Uighur minority and Tibetans.

Amnesty decried a lack of leadership on human rights, pointing to the “feeble response” to war crimes and crimes against humanity from Syria to South Sudan.

It warned that the U.S. had taken “a step backward,” saying that the Trump administration’s early attempts in 2017 to ban all citizens of several Muslim majority countries was “transparently hateful,” and “set a dangerous precedent” for other governments to follow.

Amnesty Senior Director for Global Operations Minar Pimple, however, noted that populism and the “politics of demonization” is a trend that began before Trump took office. Brexit and Turkey’s crackdown on dissent preceded the 2016 U.S. election.

Across Europe, countries saw a gathering storm against refugees, migrants, and religious minorities and the use of counterterrorism measures “disproportionately restricting” rights in the name of security.

2017 saw France clamp down on protests. Poland threatened the independence of the judiciary. Hungry “reached a new low” automatically detaining asylum seekers, in breach of EU law. Germany, grappling with an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Afghanistan, reported more than 1,000 criminal offenses against refugees and asylum seekers.

But the epicenter of human tragedy this past year has been Myanmar in South East Asia. A society was “encouraged to hate, scapegoat and fear minorities,” culminating in the military “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims, according to the report.

Rohingya fled the state of Rakhine, and streamed into Bangladesh in what was the “fastest growing crisis of 2017.” Estimates of the number of people displaced range from 655,000 to more than 800,000.

Across the globe, Amnesty said the past year showed what happens when the “politics of demonization become mainstream.”

In India, Amnesty notes that religious minorities, especially Muslims faced “increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media, and some state officials.” Mob violence by cow vigilantes intensified.

Amnesty said India, considered a “beacon” of democracy in the region, saw the space for its civil society continue to shrink, as authorities used repressive laws to stifle dissent, and press freedoms came under increasing attack.

Journalist Gauri Lankesh, a vocal critic of Hindu nationalism, was shot dead outside her home. Freedom of expression on college campuses “remained under threat.”

The report states that India made efforts to expel an estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees and send them back to Myanmar.

Bangladesh, however, was called a hopeful sign in a year when the global human rights record deteriorated. The tiny, impoverished South Asian nation welcomed the great mass of Rohingya refugees into the country. However, the report also says many of the refugees lived in squalid conditions, malnutrition was rife, and inadequate protection exposed woman and girls to heightened risk of sexual violence and human trafficking.

The crisis continues: new satellite images show that Myanmar authorities are bulldozing “scores of depopulated Rohingya villages,” according to Human Rights Watch, and it calls on the country’s donors to demand it stop. HRW says the areas must be preserved, in order that investigators can “properly evaluate the evidence” to help identify those responsible for the “atrocities.”

Amnesty’s Regional Director for South Asia Biraj Patnaik says India “has lost the moral high ground,” and that China has stepped in to fill the vacuum left by India’s retreat on human rights. For example, he says it was China that ultimately helped Myanmar and Bangladesh negotiate an agreement under which the Rohingya would be repatriated.

But China has said that there is no one-size-fits-all standard for human rights, that countries are free to follow their own standards. “Countries can find their own models of human rights protection in light of their national conditions and people’s needs,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently said.

Accordingly, Patnaik sharply criticized the Beijing-brokered accord for failing to adequately safeguard the Rohingya in line with human rights principles: “It does not guarantee safe, dignified, voluntary, or sustainable returns. It does not guarantee that the Rohingya would not be sent back to the same conditions that they fled from.”

Amnesty points out that China has managed to head off criticism inside the U.N. of its own crackdown on lawyers and activists. In June, Greece, a recipient of Chinese investment, blocked an EU statement critical of China’s rights record, calling it “unconstructive.”

As the report documents the “bitter fruit” of deteriorating worldwide human rights, the year was not without human rights victories.

Amnesty says the #MeToo has elevated the issue of harassment and discrimination against women into a global phenomenon.

Young people have showcased the growing influence of social movements, be it raising their voices against attacks on minorities in India or marching against gun violence in the United States.

Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty said, “There is a palpable sense that protest movements are on the rise globally.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Amnesty International Finds Human Rights Deteriorating Around The World

By |

Amnesty International Finds Human Rights Deteriorating Around The World

Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan (second from right) receives Myanmar’s Home Minister Kyaw Swe (second from left) in Dhaka on Feb. 16. A human rights report criticizes Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims. But in presenting the findings, Amnesty officials said Bangladesh’s action to accept the Rohingya refugees, a rare bright light in a year of worsening human rights violations.

AP

hide caption

toggle caption

AP

Amnesty International released its annual report Thursday, highlighting a worsening of human rights worldwide.

The report covering 159 countries claims that increasingly world leaders are “undermining the rights of millions,” either by turning a blind eye to violations of human rights or by perpetrating them.

Amnesty cites Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte whose anti-drug campaign has left thousands of people dead; Russian President Vladimir Putin whose government has tried anti-corruption protestors on “politically motivated charges;” and President Xi Jinping of China where Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo died in custody, Internet controls were strengthened, and “repression” conducted under ‘counter-terrorism’ campaigns remained “particularly severe” against the Uighur minority and Tibetans.

Amnesty decried a lack of leadership on human rights, pointing to the “feeble response” to war crimes and crimes against humanity from Syria to South Sudan.

It warned that the U.S. had taken “a step backward,” saying that the Trump administration’s early attempts in 2017 to ban all citizens of several Muslim majority countries was “transparently hateful,” and “set a dangerous precedent” for other governments to follow.

Amnesty Senior Director for Global Operations Minar Pimple, however, noted that populism and the “politics of demonization” is a trend that began before Trump took office. Brexit and Turkey’s crackdown on dissent preceded the 2016 U.S. election.

Across Europe, countries saw a gathering storm against refugees, migrants, and religious minorities and the use of counterterrorism measures “disproportionately restricting” rights in the name of security.

2017 saw France clamp down on protests. Poland threatened the independence of the judiciary. Hungry “reached a new low” automatically detaining asylum seekers, in breach of EU law. Germany, grappling with an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Afghanistan, reported more than 1,000 criminal offenses against refugees and asylum seekers.

But the epicenter of human tragedy this past year has been Myanmar in South East Asia. A society was “encouraged to hate, scapegoat and fear minorities,” culminating in the military “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims, according to the report.

Rohingya fled the state of Rakhine, and streamed into Bangladesh in what was the “fastest growing crisis of 2017.” Estimates of the number of people displaced range from 655,000 to more than 800,000.

Across the globe, Amnesty said the past year showed what happens when the “politics of demonization become mainstream.”

In India, Amnesty notes that religious minorities, especially Muslims faced “increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media, and some state officials.” Mob violence by cow vigilantes intensified.

Amnesty said India, considered a “beacon” of democracy in the region, saw the space for its civil society continue to shrink, as authorities used repressive laws to stifle dissent, and press freedoms came under increasing attack.

Journalist Gauri Lankesh, a vocal critic of Hindu nationalism, was shot dead outside her home. Freedom of expression on college campuses “remained under threat.”

The report states that India made efforts to expel an estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees and send them back to Myanmar.

Bangladesh, however, was called a hopeful sign in a year when the global human rights record deteriorated. The tiny, impoverished South Asian nation welcomed the great mass of Rohingya refugees into the country. However, the report also says many of the refugees lived in squalid conditions, malnutrition was rife, and inadequate protection exposed woman and girls to heightened risk of sexual violence and human trafficking.

The crisis continues: new satellite images show that Myanmar authorities are bulldozing “scores of depopulated Rohingya villages,” according to Human Rights Watch, and it calls on the country’s donors to demand it stop. HRW says the areas must be preserved, in order that investigators can “properly evaluate the evidence” to help identify those responsible for the “atrocities.”

Amnesty’s Regional Director for South Asia Biraj Patnaik says India “has lost the moral high ground,” and that China has stepped in to fill the vacuum left by India’s retreat on human rights. For example, he says it was China that ultimately helped Myanmar and Bangladesh negotiate an agreement under which the Rohingya would be repatriated.

But China has said that there is no one-size-fits-all standard for human rights, that countries are free to follow their own standards. “Countries can find their own models of human rights protection in light of their national conditions and people’s needs,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently said.

Accordingly, Patnaik sharply criticized the Beijing-brokered accord for failing to adequately safeguard the Rohingya in line with human rights principles: “It does not guarantee safe, dignified, voluntary, or sustainable returns. It does not guarantee that the Rohingya would not be sent back to the same conditions that they fled from.”

Amnesty points out that China has managed to head off criticism inside the U.N. of its own crackdown on lawyers and activists. In June, Greece, a recipient of Chinese investment, blocked an EU statement critical of China’s rights record, calling it “unconstructive.”

As the report documents the “bitter fruit” of deteriorating worldwide human rights, the year was not without human rights victories.

Amnesty says the #MeToo has elevated the issue of harassment and discrimination against women into a global phenomenon.

Young people have showcased the growing influence of social movements, be it raising their voices against attacks on minorities in India or marching against gun violence in the United States.

Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty said, “There is a palpable sense that protest movements are on the rise globally.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Janelle Monáe Bends More Than Gender In Two New Videos From 'Dirty Computer'

By |

Janelle Monáe Bends More Than Gender In Two New Videos From 'Dirty Computer'

Janelle Monae’s third album Dirty Computer arrives April 27.

Courtesy of the artist

hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of the artist

Janelle Monáe has always been adept at shrouding herself in mystery. It’s not that she wasn’t keen on expressing the depth of her humanity; she just went the length of creating an android alter-ego named Cyndi Mayweather to do so.

Like her against-the-grain affinity for formal wear at a time when most of her pop counterparts were reveling in various states of undress, it added a layer of dimension and intrigue. Yet there was always the sense that more might lie beneath the surface — that maybe Monáe’s Afro-Futurist metaphors and otherworldly explorations were an elaborate guise for a tangibleand present soul.

One week after teasing us with a trailer for her forthcoming release, Monáe confirms as much with the premiere of “Make Me Feel” and “Django Jane” — the first two songs and videos from her third LP, Dirty Computer, which will be out on April 27. An accompanying “emotion picture” was announced as well, though its release date hasn’t been revealed.Together, the new songs showcase the boldest, strongest, most vulnerable Monáe yet.

[embedded content]
YouTube

Over a slab of ’80s-inspired future-funk and guitar licks reminiscent of major influence Prince, the Alan Ferguson-directed video for “Make Me Feel,” which co-stars Tessa Thompson as one of two potential love interests, moves beyond androgynous flirtation to reveal something essential about Monáe’s experience of gender as the basis of identity more than fluidity.

“It’s like I’m powerful with a lit-tle bit of tender / An emotional, sexual bender,” she sings on the hook while provocatively stalking the set. By the video’s conclusion, any anxiety around the exploration of the unknown has melted into empowered acceptance.

“Django Jane” finds Monáe suited and booted as she raps a personal narrative of black girl magic and feminine empowerment. The video is directed by Andrew Donoho and Monae’s longtime Wondaland creative partner Chuck Lightning along with Lacey Duke.

If the choice to premiere two singles at once seems odd, it’s the juxtaposition that communicates Monáe’s grander vision. She balances the pop-chart seduction of “Make Me Feel” with a certified street banger full of feminist discourse in “Django Jane.” They work together as the unified whole of her feminine and masculine energies, but the feeling they communicate is less about representing a binary with either than showcasing the marriage and constant dialogue between both.

[embedded content]
YouTube

In a new interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe on Beats 1 Radio, Monáe suggested that Dirty Computer is the album, and personal statement, she’s been dying to make, despite her fear over how it will be publicly received.

“I’m going to be 100 percent honest, I’m scared. I’m actually terrified,” she told Lowe. “It’s such an honest body of work and I don’t know how people are going to react to it, Zane. I really, I don’t know. Just the thought of it is kind of freaking me out a little bit, but I feel like it’s something that I need to do. It’s something that I always knew I needed to do and it’s going to happen.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

Synergy Between Nurses And Automation Could Be Key To Finding Sepsis Early

By |

Synergy Between Nurses And Automation Could Be Key To Finding Sepsis Early

Rosemary Grant is a registered nurse and helps coordinate sepsis care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The center’s goal, she says, is to get a patient who might be developing sepsis antibiotics within three hours.

Ian C. Bates for NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Ian C. Bates for NPR

A quarter of a million Americans die every year from sepsis, which is the body’s reaction to overwhelming infection. This cascade of organ failure can be nipped in the bud if health care workers know it’s ramping up, but that’s often not easy to do.

“Sepsis is a really frustrating disease,” says Dr. David Carlbom, a critical care pulmonologist, and medical director of the sepsis program at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “There’s no blood test for sepsis,” he says. “There’s nothing you can look at under the microscope and say ‘this is sepsis.’ “

So a few years ago, Carlbom set out to devise a system that uses more subtle clues from a patient’s day-to-day electronic health records to send up warning flags of impending sepsis.

The automated system looks for patterns in symptoms like high temperature, low temperature, low blood pressure, fast breathing and high white-blood-cell counts. No single symptom signals sepsis, but certain patterns suggest this condition could be emerging.

Rosemary Grant, a registered nurse who coordinates sepsis care at Harborview, explains how it works as we stand at a nursing station in the hospital.

The previous day, a red box appeared on a computer screen next to the name of a patient who had been hospitalized for several weeks following a motorcycle accident. The computer prompted the nurse responsible for that patient to assess whether his constellation of symptoms was an early sign of sepsis.

“If the nurse says yes, then the provider is automatically paged, out of the computer system,” Grant says.

The doctor is supposed to respond within half an hour, she says, and the overall goal is to get a patient who might be developing sepsis antibiotics within three hours.

But faster breathing might also be due to a walk down the corridor, and having an elevated number of white blood cells is not a reliable sepsis indicator in someone with cancer. Given the general nature of these symptoms, most of the time the nurse will report that the alert is just a false alarm.

Once one alarm is triggered, nurses aren’t notified again for 12 hours, Grant adds — and that helps reduce the number of annoying false alarms the hospital staff must handle.

If the nurse says it’s not sepsis, Grant says, “then the computer system just asks ‘why do you think the patient has these abnormal vital signs?’ “

The nurse may type in that the patient’s heart rate was up because he was exercising, or has a high pulse because she’s in pain. It’s a partnership between the automation and the human being. And while systems like this are increasingly common in hospitals, the synergy between nurses and computers is a hallmark of the Seattle program.

“Just having the nurses really being in tune with their patients is really what makes the system work,” Grant says. And it is working, she says. Since the system was installed in 2011 — and updated in 2017 — hospital mortality has fallen.

We head over to the room of the injured 34-year-old motorcyclist to see how he’s doing. Matthew Clark says his world changed on Jan. 15, when he had an unfortunate encounter with a car.

“I was just on the way to make some chicken chili for my girlfriend,” he says, “and a young distracted driver who wasn’t looking kind of plowed into me.” Two big bones in his left leg were broken, requiring a series of operations to set right.

But nine days after the accident, Clark got a clue his recovery was taking a turn for the worse when a friend came into his hospital room and he had trouble waving to her.

“I noticed my hands were shaking,” he says, “and my blood started to leave my hands and feet. I just looked at her and said ‘I need some help.’ “

The hospital’s internal 911 system responded with a team that, among other things, provided intravenous antibiotics to prevent his apparent infection from raging out of control and becoming septic shock.

“My temperature dropped incredibly,” he says. “I’d never been so cold or shook so hard in my life.”

And 24 hours later, he says, he was back to his old self.

In this case, the patient’s alert actually popped up on the computer screen long after the medical team had stepped in.

Dr. David Carlbom, a critical care pulmonologist at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center, says sepsis has long frustrated clinicians. “There’s no blood test,” he says. “There’s nothing you can look at under the microscope and say ‘this is sepsis.’ ”

Ian C. Bates for NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Ian C. Bates for NPR

“I think his case is a great example of action happening before the computer catches up,” Carlbom says. “The vital signs are measured and dealt with at the bedside before they’re entered into the computer.”

In fact, that need to enter vital signs manually into the electronic medical record is a shortcoming of this system. The computer may be ever vigilant for signs of infection, but it only gets new data to crunch a few times a day.

This isn’t simply an issue for the system at Harborview — it’s a shortcoming for automated sepsis-detection programs elsewhere. Medical researchers are actively working to close that gap, says Dr. Matthew Churpek at the University of Chicago.

“We’re partnering now with a company that has a device that goes under a patient’s mattress and can continuously calculate their heart rate and respiratory rate in real time,” Churpek says.

His team and others are also working on more accurate computer algorithms, to reduce the number of false alarms that are a problem both in Seattle and in similar systems around the country.

Doctors have struggled to find a good treatment for sepsis. For example, last year Dr. Paul Marik announced that a protocol involving intravenous vitamin C, niacin and steroids dramatically reduced the number of sepsis deaths in his hospital’s intensive care unit in Norfolk, Va. That unproven treatment has just begun to be studied in a series of careful clinical trials.

Carlbom uses that experimental therapy sometimes, but says it would be much better to prevent the condition.

“We use all these therapies in the ICU as a rescue tool when people are very sick dying of septic shock,” he says, “but I think early discovery will probably affect mortality more.”

You can contact Richard Harris via email: rharris@npr.org.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Read more »

AdSense
Wordpress SEO Plugin by SEOPressor