Mistletoe or mortgage payments? Gas or gifts? Fed workers face high anxiety over gov’t shutdown

Alex Edelman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — They are janitors scrubbing toilets and maintenance workers polishing the majestic marble floors in many of Washington D.C.’s wide-ranging expanse of federal office buildings.They are security officers in some of America’s most treasured museums, maintaining vigilance and ensuring visitor safety at a tense time in the nation’s history. They are federal corrections officers and Forest Service firefighters and National Weather Service forecasters and members of the Coast Guard.And for the foreseeable future, hundreds of thousands of them are out of luck.Roughly 420,000 federal employees will work without pay this week as the shutdown continues, and as many as an additional 380,000 will be furloughed, possibly indefinitely, according to some congressional estimates.Late Saturday afternoon, legislators in the U.S. Capitol adjourned for the holidays without reaching a deal to re-open the partially-shuttered federal government. They will not return until after Christmas, leaving federal employee families across the country wondering what comes next.The shutdown “could be devastating for the men and women who keep our federal buildings safe and clean,” said 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Vice President Jaime Contreras.“32BJ members cannot afford interruptions to their weekly paychecks, especially in the middle of the holiday season.”Across the nation, anxiety is rising among hundreds of thousands of federal employees caught in the jaws of an unpredictable government shutdown with no clear end in sight.But don’t call it a shutdown. Call it a “lapse.”That’s the official language released by the White House this week in a four-page contingency plan that spells out the contours of every last lump of coal the shutdown will be delivering to federal employees in the days and possibly weeks ahead.In a lapse, all pre-scheduled, paid leave and other paid time off is cancelled — including so-called “use-or-lose” leave that many workers end up with at the close of a busy year.And if you are called in to work during the shutdown, or to work a national holiday like Christmas or New Year’s Day, you don’t get paid until the shutdown ends and Congress passes legislation to fund those paychecks.Chris Barrett, a correctional officer at a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, said on Friday that he was planning to take off work until after the New Year holiday, but now his plans are up in the air. Barrett said on Friday that he expects he’ll receive a call telling him to report to work on Monday.That’s because Barrett is what the government deems an “essential” employee.And according to the rules, any planned leave by an essential employee is canceled and employees are expected to report to work.That irks Barrett, who is also the president of his local union, known as local 3951.“I’m not really happy…For the government to play with our lives like that, it’s not fair.”By mid-January, furloughed federal employees’ paychecks will begin to dry up, according to officials with one of the nation’s largest unions representing federal employees.Many employees and contractors will be paid up until that point in January because the government operates on a delayed pay schedule, said Ashley De Smeth, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees.But after that, workers will have to wait for Congress to pass legislation to provide back pay.And with the post-holiday credit card bills beginning to come due next month just as paychecks could be drying up, typical holiday season stress could be exacerbated by extreme financial uncertainty.“Not being able to pay our bills or put gas in our car – or having to carpool -– it’s very stressful,” Barrett said.But despite the cold shoulders from lawmakers and the president, some Americans are still looking out for the tens of thousands of federal employees heading into this holiday season with one eye on their wallets.Celebrity chef Jose Andres – who owns numerous high-end restaurants in the Washington D.C. area, announced on Twitter on Friday morning that he is willing to step up and help out until the government gets back on its feet.“I will offer again Free Sandwiches to the poor men and women of the federal government, republicans and democrats, at every restaurant of mine in DC for lunch until they paid again!”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. read more

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US Navy bids farewell to longest serving secretary

first_img View post tag: Ray Mabus US Navy bids farewell to longest serving secretary Authorities January 9, 2017 Share this article Back to overview,Home naval-today US Navy bids farewell to longest serving secretary View post tag: SECNAV The U.S. Navy bid farewell to Ray Mabus, the navy’s longest serving secretary since World War I, in a ceremony in Washington on January 6.During his eight-year tenure, Mabus led the navy through a period of often controversial changes with social and energy reforms at the forefront.Seeking to minimize the U.S. Navy’s dependency on fossil fuels, Mabus championed an alternative solution throughout his tenure. In January 2016, the Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike group deployed sing alternative fuel sources.The alternative fuel was made from 10 percent beef tallow provided from farmers in the Midwest and 90 percent marine diesel.The navy claimed the fuel was cost-competitive, but subsequent reports indicated that was not the case as even a 90:10 ratio, instead of the envisioned 50:50, cost more than regular fuel.Mabus will also be remembered for his support for women and homosexual persons in service. During his time in office, women got the right to serve in all combat roles while homosexuals were allowed to serve openly.A not so popular measure during the secretary’s tenure was the reform of sailors ratings. A September 2016 decision which said that sailors would no longer be addressed by their rating but by generic titles was withdrawn by the chief of naval operations John Richardson in December 2016.Mabus’ navy bio says that during his tenure, the navy went from building fewer than five ships per year to having 86 ships under contract, an average of 14 ships per year.The navy says that Mabus’ shipbuilding efforts reversed the decline of the navy’s fleet and will increase it to more than 300 ships by the end of the decade despite fiscal constraints.Before his appointment by President Obama, Mabus held a variety of leadership positions. From 1988 to 1992, Mabus served as Governor of Mississippi, the youngest elected to that office in more than 150 years. Mabus was Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 1994-1996 and later was Chairman and CEO of a manufacturing company which he led out of bankruptcy.As PEOTUS Donald Trump prepares to take office there is still no official nomination for a new navy secretary. View post tag: US Navylast_img read more

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Royal Norwegian Navy to get Hugin MCM AUVs

first_img View post tag: HUGIN Royal Norwegian Navy to get Hugin AUVs for mine countermeasure tasks The Royal Norwegian Navy is getting a mine countermeasure capability boost with a new set of autonomous underwater vehicles.Contracted by the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA), Kongsberg Maritime is to deliver four complete Hugin AUV systems for detection, classification and identification of mines.The AUV’s will have a depth rating of 3,000 meters, and will be equipped with advanced sensors for modern mine hunting. According to the company, the deliveries include systems for planning, execution and analysis of missions, and launch and recovery systems both for the Navy’s mine hunting vessels, as well as in mobile containers.“Our job is to continuously develop and modernise the Norwegian Armed Forces, and the acquisition of HUGIN is an important part of the Royal Norwegian Navy’s transition to autonomous systems for mine countermeasures,” said Bård Øina, project manager at the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency“The HUGIN systems that will be delivered to the Norwegian armed forces will contribute to more efficient and safe operations. The two mobile container systems being delivered are portable and flexible, and can therefore be used by several different vessel types. We are also to deliver training and maintenance,” Egil Haugsdal, president at Kongsberg Maritime, noted. Authorities View post tag: Kongsberg Back to overview,Home naval-today Royal Norwegian Navy to get Hugin AUVs for mine countermeasure tasks center_img View post tag: AUV March 27, 2017 Share this article View post tag: Royal Norwegian Navylast_img read more

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Dean’s sees profits regain momentum

first_imgFollowing a drop in pre-tax earnings for 2005/06, shortbread manufacturer Dean’s of Huntly has regained its profit momentum and has improved sales by close to 10% in 2006/07, MD Bill Dean told British Baker.For the financial year ending June 30, profits were likely to be “on a par” with the 2004/05 level of £443,657, while turnover was on course to top £6 million, he said. These figures compare to, respectively, £161,677 and £5.6m for 2005/06. Last year’s reduced profits were due to higher costs of ingredients, packaging, labour and distribution, as well as to the costs of financing a £1m-plus investment in the company’s headquarters, spent on upping the production area at Huntly from 40,000 to 60,000sq ft in a project completed last summer, he said.The company was now building a café, visitor centre and development kitchen – due for completion in August – and was planning to add new office and staff facilities in 2008, he added. Dean said the company was targeting sales of £7m for both 2007/08 and 2008/09, rising to £10m by 2012.Supermarket, independent and own-label sales now make up around three-quarters of the company’s turnover; the gift and foodservice sectors account for, respectively, 15% and 3-4% while exports add a further 5%.Recently, Dean’s has been developing a “Shortbread Biscuit Collection”, aimed at the gift and export markets. Scheduled for launch in New York in early July, the range of “home-style” biscuits will appear in “a new packaging concept”, Dean revealed.last_img read more

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Footfall figures show differing trends

first_imgFootfall in out-of-town locations has continued to rise, with a 1.9% year-on-year increase in the UK.Despite these encouraging figures, footfall in shopping centres saw a 1.9% decline compared to October 2013.Scotland reported the greatest rise in regional footfall, up 0.5% year-on-year.These figures come from British Retail Consortium/Springboard’s retail footfall monitor, which records more than 60m footfall counts per week at over 600 counting locations. Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: ‘’The positive performance of Scotland’s retail locations continued in October, with an increase in footfall for the fourth month in row.“Even more encouraging was that, in contrast with the UK, footfall in Scottish high streets increased by 0.5%, with only shopping centres seeing a drop over the year from October 2013. Even retail parks, where footfall rose by 1.9% across the UK, recorded a higher increase of 3.4% in Scotland.‘’So it seems retail locations in Scotland are exhibiting a far greater degree of resilience than those across the UK as a whole, and this is reflected in its vacancy rate of 9%, which is noticeably lower than the average of 10.3% across the UK.”Four regions in England reported footfall above the UK average of -0.9%. These were the East Midlands (2.0%), South East (1.5%), East (0.8%) and North and Yorkshire (0.5%).last_img read more

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Slow growth in grocery sector

first_img“Sluggish growth” has been recorded in the British grocery market in the 12 weeks to 16 August 2015. The latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel show a 0.9% increase in sales compared to one year ago.Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Industry growth of around or below 1% has now persisted since summer 2014 and has become the new normal. Despite the accelerating British economy, like-for like grocery prices are still falling, with a representative basket of everyday items now 1.7% cheaper than in 2014.”Iceland has seen sales increase by 3.4% following efforts to create a more premium image for frozen food, as well as new store openings including its Food Warehouse format, which has seen more shoppers through the doors. Its market share, however, remains flat at 2%.Waitrose had a good period, with its Pick Your Own Offers promotions helping to drive growth of 3.7%. The Co-operative has also seen growth for the second month in a row, with sales up by 1.1% on last year.It was another successful period for the discounters, with growth at Aldi accelerating to 18.0%. Lidl’s sales have also risen, up 12.8%, taking its market share to a new high of 4.1%. McKevitt added: “As anticipated, Asda has retaken its position as Britain’s second-largest supermarket, despite a fall in sales of 2.5% and a 0.6 percentage point fall in market share. The retailer’s greater focus on non-food items means its market share is traditionally higher in the summer, and it is expected that Sainsbury’s will again become the number two retailer towards Christmas.”Sainsbury’s was the only one of the big four to see an increase in sales, up by 0.1%, which represents its first growth since March. Sales at Tesco fell by 0.9%, while Morrisons’ increased decline of 1.1% this month reflects a tougher comparison against last year, when a widespread voucher promotion was in place.last_img read more

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New hope for Libyan democracy

first_imgBut Bennis, who is from Tripoli, singled out the violence, which he pinned on the government for initiating, as a unifying factor and said it will make the country’s transition to democracy easier. “Every family in Libya has lost something; they lost their house, all their possessions, a family member. Some have lost everything,” he said.  Thus, Libyans “are having a communion,” since, “The whole war actually has brought Libyans together more than anything before.”Bennis also downplayed the role of tribes, saying most people involved in the war are younger than 40, and most live in cities. Observers should not mistake loyalty to family as  loyalty to a tribe, he said. Tribes do exist, and people are proud of their ancestors, but “most people I talk to, they don’t care about it, they don’t think about it.”With the rebels’ hold on most territory still fragile, Owen suggested that outside advice or aid from entities such as NATO should be delivered cautiously. “This is a high time for Arabism — there have been high tides before,” he sad.“Certainly this is a moment in which the Arab world is extraordinarily interconnected. It may not be united politically.  But what happens in one country matters enormously to what happens in another country,” Owen said. With conditions in Libya remaining volatile and deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi still defiant, two Middle East experts turned to a welcome but slightly atypical source during a panel discussion about the crisis on Thursday.Before speaking during the “Assessing Libya” session sponsored by Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, E. Roger Owen, the A.J. Meyer Professor of Middle Eastern History and director of the Contemporary Arab Studies Program, asked if any Libyans were among the people packed into the room.Amr Bennis, a Harvard sophomore, raised his hand, and Owens indicated he would very much like to hear from Bennis. Bennis did comment, but waited until he heard from Owen and from William Granara, Professor of the Practice of Arabic on the Gordon Gray Endowment, who looked at recent events though a literary telescope.“Libyan fiction does really connect with fiction in other parts of the Arab world,” said William Granara (left), Professor of the Practice of Arabic on the Gordon Gray Endowment, who looked at recent events though a literary telescope. The popularity of various novels shows that people “are linked through the trauma of being oppressed.”Owen, who spent his honeymoon in 1960 in Libya (“My wife and I had the country to ourselves” then, he said.) was particularly interested in getting an insider’s perspective because few Westerners know much about Libya today. He said, “It’s a bit of a black box.” The country, a former Italian colony, was created only about 60 years ago, and there is much debate over whether it is a cohesive nation or a blend of tribal groups. Observers have “played it both ways.”Owen, however, believes that a sense of loyalty and of “Libyaness” has emerged after rebel forces drove Gadhafi from the capital following months of rebellion.  Bennis would later agree.Gadhafi’ s bizarre and sometimes comic antics have obscured his brutal repression against his people, Owen said, beginning in the 1970s when student protesters were tortured, humiliated, and publicly hanged.However, Libya’s oil industry has been exceptionally well run and could be a model for other countries. Gadhafi’s brand of “patrimonialism” has created an unequal distribution of oil wealth, the same conditions that led to his assumption of power in 1969 after a military coup, Owen said.The panelists saw Gadhafi’s ouster as a continuation of the “Arab spring” that overthrew regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Granara emphasized the close economic and cultural links between Libya and Tunisia, saying people all over the region are linked by watching the TV network Al Jazeera, and even by their own political anxieties.  “It would behoove us to look beyond Libya’s geography and political borders,” Granara said.Granara said literature, like culture, is being globalized.  “Libyan fiction does really connect  with fiction in other parts of the Arab world,” he said. The popularity of various novels shows that people “are linked through the trauma of being oppressed.”  He added, “The Arab writer is in many ways the conscience of society.”Owen was hopeful about the prospects for democracy in Libya. Chibli Mallat, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Visiting Professor of Islamic Legal Studies at Harvard, however, commented on the violence during the Libyan uprising, which differed from the Arab spring in other countries. He wondered if that strife would preclude reconciliation. “The toll is frightening  — 35,000 to 50,000  — nor is it over,” he said.last_img read more

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New life for McKinlock

first_imgWhen Leverett House students return to McKinlock Hall in the fall of 2014, after 15 months of construction and renovation under the House renewal initiative, they may scarcely recognize it.While much of the building’s historic façade will be familiar, though entirely restored, the interior will have been fundamentally reconfigured for today’s House life. In addition to better room configurations and circulation throughout the building, McKinlock will include new, modern common spaces for meeting, studying, or just hanging out, as well as dedicated areas for music, art, and performances.Designs unveiled by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) for McKinlock, the older neo-Georgian section of Leverett, are part of a system-wide effort to renew the University’s 12 undergraduate Houses. The Old Quincy building of Quincy House is already undergoing renewal and is slated to reopen to students next fall. These two test projects are enabling University officials and architects to assess, in close collaboration with House masters, the program assumptions and the design and construction options that will inform plans for renewal of a full House. Dunster is the first full House scheduled for renewal, beginning in the summer of 2014.“Over the last several years, Dean [Evelynn M.] Hammonds and I have worked with the architects, the Leverett House masters, and with students to create designs that preserve McKinlock’s unique and historic character while transforming it to better support our residential learning model for the 21st century,” FAS Dean Michael D. Smith said.  “As the first facility with a dining hall, social spaces, and a master’s residence to be renewed, McKinlock is providing invaluable lessons that we will apply to Dunster and future Houses.”Construction on the McKinlock project will begin in June. Work on the dining hall will take place over the summer, and it will reopen to Leverett House students in the fall. Students will live in nearby swing housing currently being used by students from Old Quincy.Like Old Quincy, planned changes to McKinlock include the elimination of walk-through bedrooms, the creation of additional single rooms, the addition of elevators for accessibility, and horizontal internal corridors that will connect the traditional vertical entryways. While the renewed Houses will share many of these same features, the renewal program will maintain and enhance each House’s distinctive character based on its unique architectural design, history, and traditions.The renewal of McKinlock Hall, the older neo-Georgian section of Leverett House, will reconfigure existing spaces to provide greater opportunities for student interaction, allow tutors to better engage their communities of students, and create horizontal corridors to facilitate movement through the building.In the case of McKinlock, the plans creatively reconfigure existing spaces to alleviate crowding in the dining hall, provide greater opportunities for student interaction, allow tutors to better engage their communities of students, and connect spaces to improve movement through the building.One major change will enable residents to keep their slippers on when visiting friends in another entryway, or when going to the dining hall for breakfast. A series of new horizontal corridors throughout McKinlock means students will be able to walk through the building without having to go outside.“The students are quite excited about that,” said Howard Georgi, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, who, along with his wife, Ann, is master of Leverett. “I am very excited. The architects have done a wonderful job and have gotten very creative.”McKinlock was originally designed to accommodate 156 students, whose needs were very different from those of today’s Harvard scholar. This fall, 176 students moved into the building, bringing with them a host of electronic devices never envisioned by their pre-World War II predecessors, as well as different ways of interacting socially and accessing knowledge.Those involved with the project say McKinlock’s renewal will better accommodate the number and needs of today’s students, while helping to foster community and nurture learning — goals at the heart of what Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell envisioned when he brought the House system to the University more than 80 years ago.The addition of horizontal corridors also will ensure that the tutor suites, which are central to the advising communities, will be better positioned to connect with students.“One of our goals with McKinlock Hall was to strengthen the advising communities, which are led by the tutors,” said Stephen Kieran, the project’s architect from KieranTimberlake. “We accomplished that by placing the tutor suites where they could more easily interact with all the students in their charge.”Addition of the dining hall in 1930 created an outdoor alleyway, used by Leverett students as they make their way from the towers to the hall. That alley will be enclosed and covered by a glass roof, bringing the space into the building and creating a new “light court.” This area will connect the dining hall to a new seminar room and lounge, creating more space for the sometimes-cramped dining area, and opening space for meeting, studying, or socializing.The art studio and music suite will be upgraded, providing comfortable space for students to practice their craft, complete with modern technology to allow them to share their work with the Harvard community and others. The Old Library will have new theater lights, a sound system, and a movable stage. The issue of accessibility will be addressed so that the room can be opened to performances for students beyond Leverett.McKinlock’s lower level plan reveals a new below-grade corridor connecting the two wings of the building, providing full accessibility to the renovated Old Library Theater, and music and art suites.“This room is one of the gems of the House system, but currently it can only be used by students in McKinlock because it isn’t fully accessible,” said Merle Bicknell, assistant dean for FAS physical resources.  “After renewal, it will be a resource for students across the College, especially those in the river Houses.  It will become a terrific and fully accessible venue for student performances.”A new feature will be an underground corridor connecting the two wings of the building. A narrow skylight will flood the hall with natural light, and the new space will give students a place to display their artwork where their housemates can see it as they pass through the opposite sides of the building.As the outline for House renewal was taking shape, the House Program Planning Committee (HPPC) was created to engage faculty, students, and staff in a yearlong conversation about the mission and purpose of the undergraduate Houses. Students, faculty, administrators, and alumni remain engaged as these projects move forward.“HPPC is the foundational document for House renewal,” said Hammonds, who chaired the committee.  “Students and faculty were instrumental to establishing the guidelines that are driving the changes planned for the two test projects and, eventually, for Dunster and the other Houses.”“We’ve literally gone through and tied back every architectural element or standard or guideline back to the HPPC,” said Steve Needham, the project’s program manager. Needham added that as each individual project is initiated, the masters and students from that House are re-engaged through regular workshops and feedback meetings with the designers and planners.In addition to improving House life by renovating existing and creating new common spaces in McKinlock, renewal also aims to improve the comfort, accessibility, and sustainability of the facility.“The students are going to come back to buildings that have altogether new systems in them, all new plumbing, all new heating, all new wiring and lighting. All the systems will be state of the art, and they will save a lot of energy as compared to the current systems,” said Kieran. “As a result, the comfort of the buildings will be hugely enhanced.”Making the building accessible was one of the key goals and challenges, Kieran said.On the first floor of McKinlock, there are eight changes in the floor level, which made creating a fully accessible building extremely difficult. That is where the experience of working on the Old Quincy test project came into play.“We’ve learned how to do the whole building using only two elevators, even though there are eight different level changes on the first floor. Elevators take up a lot of room, and you want to limit the number of them in a building, but there were a lot of things we learned in Old Quincy that helped us with the design of McKinlock,” Kieran said.Renewal will also prioritize energy-efficient technology and water conservation. The increased efficiency will help reduce the University’s environmental footprint, while increasing student comfort with additional natural light and better-insulated walls and windows.“The energy models show a 30 percent reduction in energy used for heating the building when we are done,” said Needham. The goal is to make McKinlock a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold building.“The architects have worked hard to understand what is different about Leverett House, and they have been very imaginative. I certainly would not have thought of the light court idea, which is a wonderful idea,” Georgi said. “It is going to be such a big change, it is rather hard to imagine. But I am very excited.“Although I am not yet sure where we will put the foosball table,” he added.last_img read more

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Tracking disease in a tent city

first_imgThis is the last in a series about Harvard’s interdisciplinary work at the Kumbh Mela, a religious gathering in India that every 12 years creates the world’s largest pop-up city.ALLAHABAD, India — Ask to peek at a doctor’s notes or go behind the pharmacy counter in the United States, and you’ll likely be escorted out by security. Deepak Singh has a decidedly different attitude toward outsiders.“Come in!” Singh said in his limited English, shuffling a group of Harvard doctors into his clinic, past the street-side folding table where one of his nurses was signing up patients. Singh, an Allahabad physician with a serious mien and a fuzzy pink sweater-vest, was eager to show off his 18-bed observation tent, his ambulance, and his stockpile of generic medications.He had good reasons for such pride. After all, the clinic didn’t even exist four months ago, when the land it stood on was still covered in water. Back in the fall, Singh received a call from the planners of the Maha Kumbh Mela, India’s massive religious gathering held every 12 years, saying he would be needed to staff one of the festival’s dozens of hospitals and clinics, which would be built — like everything else in this temporary city — virtually overnight. By early January, clinics like Singh’s were up and running, ready to serve the millions of Hindu pilgrims who would be coming through to worship, as well a curious Harvard researcher or two.“This is really impressive,” said Gregg Greenough, an emergency physician and assistant professor of global health and population at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), as he toured the clinic. “In my department, we only have 10 beds.”Greenough found himself at the Kumbh as part of a research team run by Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, which planned to monitor all kinds of public health concerns at the Kumbh, from the provision of pre-hospital care (how quickly those new ambulances navigated the Kumbh’s crowded footbridges) to the management and care of lost children (a big problem in a crowd of millions speaking dozens of languages) to the quality of the drinking water and public toilets at the festival.Assistant Professor of Global Health and Population Gregg Greenough (left) found himself at the Kumbh as part of a research team run by Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights that planned to monitor a variety of public health concerns at the tent city. Photo by Katie Koch/Harvard StaffManaging disease, and resourcesGreenough wasn’t there just to poke around in Singh’s records. He and his two colleagues, physician Pooja Agrawal and HSPH student Neil Murthy, were on a mission that day to secure permission from the Indian authorities to access medical records for the entire Kumbh, a 55-day affair in which 80 million pilgrims would pass through. The Harvard visitors’ ambitious plan was to track diseases spreading among four of the Kumbh’s 14 sectors in real time, tracing them back to their sources, and hopefully stopping their spread before large-scale damage could be done.Measuring outbreaks “is a tough thing to do, because providers are busy providing care,” Greenough said. “They don’t always have an eye on diseases clustering in time and space.”So Greenough and his colleagues did it for them. Over 25 days, using not much more than a team of Indian medical student volunteers and 10 iPads, the FXB team cataloged 40,000 patient records.“Using that data, we’ve been able to generate daily reports for the field staff on the ground” and then given to Kumbh officials, said Satchit Balsari, an FXB fellow and a physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, who helped lead the Harvard team. “But we were also testing the proof of concept: Can you set up a system to track disease in this large-scale setting?”This chart shows the incidence of common complaints at clinics in four of the Kumbh’s sectors, based on data collected in real time by Harvard researchers and Indian medical students. Cough and colds were most common. Graphic by Logan PlasterBeyond monitoring disease, the Harvard team has also been able to look at how Indian officials utilized resources at the Kumbh. Take Singh’s clinic, for example. Most of the beds in the pristine facility, it turned out, were rarely used; in fact, all 18 cots were empty the day Greenough visited, their thin white sheets still crisply pressed. Meanwhile, the clinic’s staff was often overburdened with patients who had minor illnesses — often 500 or 600 a day, with only three nurses and one or two doctors on duty at a time.In making such observations of how a large event plays out, the Harvard team hopes to help future planners of other mass gatherings better deploy the resources they have. That may be especially important at the Kumbh, where organizers plan well but lack the communication skills to respond to potentially tragic public-health disasters on the ground in real time. The stampede at a train station that occurred last month, killing 36, was a tragic reminder of how far the Kumbh has to go.“In some ways, it’s bureaucracy at its best,” said Balsari. “It works as it’s supposed to work. But it doesn’t take advantage of new management tools, of new information. What you don’t have is a nimble feedback loop,” which is exactly what the Harvard team hoped to provide.A man approaches a pharmacy counter at one of the clinics. Photo by Katie Koch/Harvard StaffA role for educatorsThe massive amounts of data and dozens of public health lessons will also be used back at Harvard, where student interest in global health extends well beyond the confines of HSPH. The Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), a kind of University-wide think tank on health education across disciplines and one of two major funders of the project, along with the South Asia Institute, is planning a series of case studies based on Harvard research at the Kumbh. They’re hoping to create a permanent archive of research materials on the festival and its history, some of which they have already gathered in an online bibliography.HGHI is interested in many forces that are shaping health worldwide, said its associate director of programs, Amanda Brewster — say, the effects of aging as humans live longer, or of globalization in a world where humans and their diseases are more interconnected than ever. The Kumbh project is HGHI’s biggest investment so far in studying the impact of urban development on the health of populations.“This is a chance to think about some of the health challenges posed by rapid urbanization,” Brewster said. “It’s also an opportunity to look at health in these intersecting and unconventional ways.”Getting down and dirty The work of one group of students at the Kumbh would certainly be considered unconventional. Depending on your feelings toward outhouses, you could also call it brave, or gross. But the students — two HSPH master’s candidates and one Harvard College junior — simply called themselves “Team Toilet.”They had traveled to the Kumbh with Richard Cash, a longtime senior lecturer on global health at HSPH who spends most of the year in India. Fifteen years ago, Cash organized public health trips to his adopted home country for Harvard students. Eventually, those January term outings morphed into a student-led “toilet mapping” project in Mumbai’s slums that have helped local citizens fight for better sanitation.Given Cash and his students’ well-documented interest in managing human waste, a visit to the Kumbh seemed like a natural extension of their trip. His student researchers spent much of the week poking their heads into every kind of public toilet imaginable, from high-tech, plastic “eco-toilet” stalls to simple holes in the ground shielded by corrugated iron fencing. They also did their best to observe how pilgrims used the facilities.“It sounds really weird, but we wanted to get user experience,” explained Leila Shayegan, the undergraduate who had willingly signed herself up for a week in the (sometimes literal) trenches. As Cash pointed out, public health isn’t just about what the government provides; it’s also about how people behave.Investigating the types of toilets available, as well as how they were used by the pilgrims, was included in Harvard’s research. A woman waits in front of the women’s toilets. Photo by Kalpesh Bhatt“That’s the thing you’ve got to observe: what people do, how do they do it, why do they do it,” Cash said one morning, as he watched a group of women huddle together next to a public toilet to urinate in the sand. “People don’t put aside their bodily functions so they can attend one of these festivals. … Students at Harvard mostly practice virtual public health in a classroom in Boston, but public health takes place in these environments, in situations like this where there are mass gatherings of people.”Cash is something of a legend among HSPH students, including the two who were brave enough to follow him to the Kumbh’s muckier depths, Stephanie Cheng and Candace Brown.“He basically invented oral rehydration salts,” Brown said to a newcomer to the group, as if someone had just professed ignorance of the Beatles. In the 1960s, Cash, a physician, and his colleagues conducted the first oral-rehydration therapy trials to try to combat potentially fatal dehydration in patients with cholera and other infectious diarrheal diseases. The treatment is now commonplace in the developing world.“It’s crazy,” Cheng added, “but his work has probably saved millions of lives.”You wouldn’t know all that if you stumbled upon Cash in one of the Kumbh’s several hospitals, where he was seated unobtrusively in the makeshift waiting room, wrapped tightly in a shawl in the local fashion.“I’m not in a hurry,” Cash said, content to watch the action. When you deal in human waste, he deadpanned, “There’s no end to the fascination.”His colleagues at the Kumbh — drawn to the messiness of public health in action, eager to learn from the festival’s successes and its failures — would no doubt agree.Learn more about “Mapping the Kumbh Mela” and follow the South Asia Institute’s blog on the project here. Follow the FXB Center’s blog on the project, “Public Health at the Kumbh Mela,” here.Read previous Gazette coverage of the Kumbh Mela here, and watch the Gazette throughout March for a series on Harvard’s work elsewhere in Asia.last_img read more

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Saint Mary’s welcomes prospective first years

first_imgAccepted members of Saint Mary’s class of 2018 were invited to the College Sunday for Meet Me at the Avenue, a program for students to meet each other and learn more about the campus community.Vice president for enrollment management Mona Bowe said Meet Me at the Avenue is important for prospective students because it is often a young woman’s first visit to campus and the first opportunity for students to meet one another.“Students get to talk to other students and meet their future classmates,” Bowe said.“There are still many months to make decisions about college so [Meet Me at the Avenue] allows students to answer questions they have.”The day began with a ceremony to welcome accepted students to campus, Bowe said. Saint Mary’s president Carol Ann Mooney welcomed students, as well as Sister Veronique Wiedower, vice president for Mission. Incoming student body president McKenna Schuster welcomed the young women on behalf of Student Government Association and the larger student body.Bowe said the prospective students heard from many departments on campus throughout the day, including Information Technology, Sodexho Dining Services and Student Accounts, to discuss the next steps of the acceptance process.This year, the admissions office received the largest number of applications in the recorded history of Saint Mary’s, Bowe said. The office received about 1660 applications, but Saint Mary’s plans to keep the class size at about 430 women.Current students served as greeters, panelists and tour guides in each of the buildings on campus, Bowe said.“We always get comments from visitors about how friendly our students are,” Bowe said. “We want to thank the community for their help.”Junior Rachel Wall served as a student liaison for the Rome study abroad program at the event. She spoke with students interested in the program about her own study abroad experience in Rome and how it shaped her overall Saint Mary’s experience.“The College offers such a unique experience to its students that it would be a shame for anyone to pass it up,” Wall said.Wall said she hoped to get the prospective students and their parents excited about the opportunities that Saint Mary’s and the Rome program have to offer.The day provided an opportunity for current students to interact with prospective students during the academic open house, Wall said. Students and professors from their respective departments discussed what common classroom and study abroad experiences are like at Saint Mary’s.“Meet Me at the Avenue is important to Saint Mary’s because it occurs at a pivotal point in a high school senior’s year,” Wall said. “Saint Mary’s has the opportunity to seal the deal in the minds of the student’s visiting campus.“For many prospective students, today marks the day they can finally see themselves at Saint Mary’s.”Wall said the event served as a pleasant reminder of her own decision to come to Saint Mary’s.“Being involved with Meet Me at the Avenue has made me realize how quickly my time at Saint Mary’s has flown by,” Wall said. “Not too long ago, I was in the shoes of the seniors visiting campus today. … I’m hopeful that all of these young women will find a special place in their heart for Saint Mary’s College.”Tags: Meet Me at the Avenuelast_img read more

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