UC Berkeley

First Native American US Ambassador Starts UN Job: Cal Alum Focused on Human Rights

Keith Harper says he always wanted a career that helped his people—indigenous people.

Harper’s dream, which he cultivated while a student at UC Berkeley, was more fully realized this week when he became the first Native American of a federally recognized tribe to earn the post of U.S. Ambassador. This week, he begins his new job as the U.S. representative on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, which is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

California Game-Changer: Is This the Beginning of the End of Teacher Tenure?

Lowly Superior Court rulings rarely make national news headlines. Then again, Superior Court rulings rarely mash so many political hot buttons at once.

Consider then yesterday’s mercury-raising ruling out of Los Angeles County—simultaneously touching on union power, public school reform, and the constitutional rights of the state’s children—and it’s no wonder that the decision already is being called a “game changer” by supporters and an “attack on teachers” by opponents.

Project Nile: Africa is Divided by a River, but United by a New Musical Collaboration

Africa has its share of environmental problems, and the Nile River is a prima facie case in point. The longest river in the world, its basin supports about 300 million people. The demands on the Nile and its major tributaries are extreme—for urban water supplies, for agriculture, for hydropower and fisheries—and they are growing. And as the demands grow, the potential for conflict grows with it. Some of the flash points are especially fraught: A dam under construction in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile is the largest hydro project in Africa, and has enraged Egypt.

Back with a Vengeance: Berkeley’s Head Epidemiologist On the Return of Pertussis

Professor Arthur Reingold is Head of Epidemiology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health

California: Is whooping cough coming back?

We certainly are having a resurgence of pertussis in the United States, although it’s never gone away. It is a threat to very young infants, particularly those too young to be vaccinated or who have not yet had a complete series of the vaccines. 

Where does pertussis come from? How can you catch it?

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.

Blister On The Sun: A Near-Miss Raises Questions about Effects of Large Solar Storm

Dr. Janet Luhmann sort of wishes Earth had been hit by a giant gust of solar wind in the summer of 2012. Sure, the cloud of magnetically charged protons and electrons would’ve gotten tangled up in our planet’s own magnetic field, probably disabling global positioning and other communications satellites and overloading many of our electrical transformers—potentially knocking us back to the Candle Age. But, she says, “It would have been an interesting experiment.”

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.

Think an Old-Time Matchmaker is an Anachronism in Digital Age? Think Again

In an age of Tinder and Match.com, of TV romance carnivals such as The Bachelor, Judith Gottesman is a proud anachronism—an old-fashioned matchmaker in a new age. Her business, Soul Mates Unlimited, concentrates on matches for Jewish singles all over California, including many in their golden years.

“Don’t think because they are 75, 85 or 95, that they want to settle for a warm breathing body,” she says, sitting at a café near her home in San Rafael, where she works. “They are looking for soul mates.”

No Joy in Mudville: Amid Drought, California’s Reservoirs are Clogged with Gunk

As the drought drags on and reservoir levels keep dropping, our politicians predictably are clamoring for new dams. But there may be a better and cheaper way to squeeze more water out of California’s desiccated watersheds: Clean out the gunk behind existing reservoirs. That’s because dams collect sediment from eroding watersheds along with water. Our reservoirs rapidly are filling up with silt, sand and rocks—and the more sediment, the less room there is to collect life-sustaining water.

Cari Borja’s Berkeley Salon: Designer Stages 52 Dinners for Intriguing Friends and Strangers

Racks of gowns, manikins, and sewing machines crowd the edges of Cari Borja’s design studio, but a huge dining table occupies the center. It’s where she holds the dinners that resemble the fieldwork of an anthropologist outside the Ivory Tower. For a series of 52 meals—44 already served—she has transformed her studio into a salon where guests, from the famous to the unknown, discover connections and savor a slow meal.

Aliens Are Almost Surely Out There—Now Can We Find the Money to Find Them?

Dan Werthimer thinks his testimony last week before the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology went pretty well. As director of the SETI Research Center at Berkeley, Werthimer updated committee members on the search for extraterrestrial life, and provided a generally upbeat evaluation: ET microbial life likely is ubiquitous throughout the galaxy, and new technologies have improved the chances of detecting signals from advanced alien civilizations.

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