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 First Published: September 24: 2015
The Humanion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Conversation

 

 

The Conversation

And the dawn says: look what I have become!

And the soul says: a joy inside my being for I could feel the music of your becoming; outside you are, inside you are. I can reach you not just by my eyes but with my soul, that is what I am.

And the dawn says: and when you see with your soul you know the Universe is poetry sung in light and music made with dark.

And the soul says: indeed, the poetry sung in light and music made with dark!

And the dawn says: and this is the bellavistaview of the Universe that you can only elsvision, see without your senses, and it will show you the architecture of light and the dark; if you seek and explore all the avenues seeking out for light.

And the soul says: bellavistaview towards the architecture of light and the dark?

And the dawn says: yes, towards the light, always alight with wonder and joy.

And the soul says: always towards the light, always alight with wonder and joy!

 Munayem Mayenin: 010216

 

The Chief Information Technology Officer at The United Nations In Conversation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P: 110216

 Dr Anne Parle-McDermott: Following the Architecture of Acids

Image: Dublin City University

 

|| May 07: 2017: Dublin City University News || ά. Dr Anne Parle-McDermott is a Senior Lecturer in Genetics, at the Dublin City University School of Biotechnology. Here she speaks about her work, research and teaching. You work on a tiny but important B-vitamin, called, folic acid. Why is it so important: Folic acid is involved in lots of processes in the body. We know that, if a woman has low folic acid in the early stages of pregnancy, there’s a higher risk of the baby being born with a developmental condition, such as spina bifida. Also, not having enough folic acid in adulthood has been linked with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and decline in brain function. There are even links between the way our bodies process folic acid and our risk of cancer.

What has your lab been discovering about how our bodies use folic acid: A few years ago my lab discovered that a human gene, called, dihydrofolate reductase 2 or DHFR-2 for short, has a role in how embryos develop early on and that it is involved in processing folic acid. So we are looking more deeply at what that gene does and how it affects folic acid in our cells. You are just starting a big new project on that, is that correct: Yes, we just got a grant from Science Foundation Ireland and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council:BBSRC for more than 600,000 Euro to look at this, which we are very pleased about.

The project will be with Professor Nicholas Greene in University College London. It’s a perfect partnership because I am a functional geneticist so I am working out the function of the DHFR-2 gene in cells grown in the lab and he is a neurodevelopmental biologist, so he is looking at how the gene behaves more broadly in living beings. Between us we will get a better understanding of folic acid in development, particularly, in cells, that are growing and dividing.”

And what about folic acid and ageing: That’s another project in my lab. My PhD student Darren Walsh has just won a scholarship from the Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes for Health to look at how levels of folic acid affect a type of DNA in cells, called, mitochondrial DNA. This DNA tends to get compromised as we get older, mistakes build up in it and we want to see if folic acid has a protective role. That project will be with Dr. Lawrence Brody at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Maryland, USA.

You have a busy research lab; what keeps you going: I think it’s that feeling when I come up with a new idea, that no-one has ever thought of and it’s up to me to prove or disprove it. I love doing that. I, also, love solving technical challenges in the lab, where, maybe, something isn’t working and we try different ways to figure it out. It’s frustrating but then really satisfying when we solve it. And I enjoy talking to other people about the work at conferences or meetings, getting their insights and opinions.

And what’s the hardest part about being a researcher: It has to be getting research funding, because it can feel like you are not being very productive when you spend so much time looking for funding. It’s great when you get funding though and you can move forward with projects.”

How has DCU supported your work: I have had tremendous support from School of Biotechnology, the mentorship programme run by HR, the Research Office and the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology. Without the core facilities and the expertise in DCU I would not have won those two big grants recently. Also, DCU has so many researchers, who are willing to collaborate.

Such as: Well I am about to start some work with Professor Fiona Regan in DCU Water Institute. We are going to develop biosensors and deploy them at a marine site in Mayo.

And what will they be sensing: Atlantic salmon. When they are in the water they shed DNA, so if you sample the water you can test to see if their DNA is present. We are building this sensor to detect that DNA in the environment.

That’s a jump from folic acid: The common element here is my ability to find specific genes. When I was looking for the human DHFR-2 gene I had to find it among many other similar genes and I’m applying that kind of expertise here to find Atlantic salmon DNA in the mix of genetic material in the water.

Being able to detect DNA will help the Marine Institute at Burrishole Catchment to more easily keep track of Atlantic salmon and monitor biodiversity and the effect of climate change.” ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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On Yemen: Candelaria Lanusse MSF Nurse Speaks of What She Has Seen in Yemen Where the War is Taking a Very High Toll on the Civilian Population

Image: MSF

|| April 06: 2017: MSF News || ά. Two years after the conflict escalated, medical and humanitarian needs in the Arab country are huge and aid organisations have many problems providing assistance. Ms Candelaria Lanusse is a nurse, who works as health adviser for Yemen at Médecins Sans Frontières:MSF. She has just returned from a field visit to MSF projects in the northern governorate of Hajjah and the capital, Sana’a. How is the conflict affecting Yemen: The escalation of the conflict in the country is hitting the population hard. The data speaks for itself. More than 18 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, some three million are internally displaced and tens of thousands have died or been injured, according to the United Nations.

The civilian population is paying a very high price. The war is, also, having other effects: fear, scarcity of food, rising fuel prices. One thing that's very impressive is that a large part of the population, perhaps, because of being immersed in a context of violence for a long time, has accepted psychosocial assistance as something normal. They know they need it and have no problem requesting it. Many people have been displaced more than once. They have had to leave everything behind. There are few, who have not lost loved ones. What are the main problems and needs at the medical and humanitarian level: There is no doubt that there are many unmet needs. The lack of security due to the fighting and bombing makes it difficult to provide assistance, and the problems of access, due to restrictions or delays in permits for some humanitarian workers, is also a disadvantage.

People are totally dependent on aid, as economic activity has been greatly reduced. Another very worrying issue is that cases of preventable infections such as whooping cough are appearing more frequently. This is a reflection of the collapse of the health system, which has left vaccination coverage well below standards. The combined factors of fighting, import restrictions and non-payment of salaries to public officials in the north are having a serious effect on access to food. Distributions of food are irregular and erratic and there is a lack of access to nutritional treatments.

Some humanitarian workers have pointed at the risk of starvation, or famine, in Yemen: how do you see the situation: The UN figures are shocking: 1.1 million breastfeeding women are malnourished and 462,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. It is difficult for MSF to make a conclusive analysis. On the one hand, the deterioration of the situation is evident, as people have been displaced and lost their livelihood, crops or animals.

On the other hand, only the most severe cases of malnutrition arrive at our hospital. As we don't provide ambulatory care, we don't have the full picture. At Abs hospital, Hajjah governorate, the teams are surprised that the nutritional centre is not at its full capacity, which is probably because we don't refer malnutrition cases from more remote areas. Between March 2015 and December 2016, our projects in the country treated 4,485 children with acute malnutrition through therapeutic feeding programmes. Many cases we receive at the hospital are children under six months. This is not only due to the lack of food but also because the trauma makes many women less able to breastfeed.

The conflict has also affected aid organisations. How? Are people afraid to go to hospitals because of the risk of attacks: Dozens of health facilities have been destroyed in attacks or combats. Four MSF hospitals were hit by airstrikes or shelling between October 2015 and August 2016, which forced the temporary evacuation of personnel and the disruption of services. Many other civil infrastructures such as markets or social gatherings have, also, been targeted. Nevertheless, people have integrated the violence into their daily life and continue to go to hospitals if they can receive medical attention, depending on the frequency of bombings in the area where they find themselves. Many other health centres are not functional because the staff have fled to safer places. In addition to the poor functionality of the health system, it is difficult to get supplies to the country. Usually, we are not able to get them there by sea and the air route is very expensive. There is also a reduced availability of medical material and other goods in the country, which forces us to import much more or to pay higher prices.

Can you explain what activities MSF is carrying out in the capital and in the north of the country: In Sana’a, we're making donations to hospitals to help them deal with the massive influx of war victims, while we offer training and support to medical facilities. We also support the national HIV/AIDS programme in Sana'a and other governorates, and have ensured that more than 95 per cent of the patients involved have uninterrupted access to treatment despite the conflict.

In addition, we have just started supporting a burn unit in one of the major specialised hospitals. It receives two types of patients: war-wounded and people suffering from domestic burns of all kinds. In the hospitals where we work in the localities of Abs and Hajjah, in the northern governorate of Hajjah, we offer a wide variety of assistance.

We treat many war-wounded, including a large number of orthopaedic surgeries, but we also assist the population suffering from the indirect effects of the conflict in different areas. In Abs, for example, there is a wide range of beneficiaries: displaced people who are living in camps or with their families among the population. This rural hospital, which has a strong maternity, paediatric and neonatal component, has become a reference in the area, as it is the main functional health facility in the western part of the Hajjah governorate.

We also have mobile clinics, which focus on more preventive work. Community health workers deployed in the area detect emergencies or, for example, malaria cases that cannot wait. In Yemen, MSF works in the governorates of Ibb, Taiz, Sa'ada, Hajjah, Amran, Aden, Al-Dhale and Sana’a. From the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 until December 2016, MSF treated more than 56,000 war wounded and carried out around 29,000 surgeries. More than 23,400 biths were assisted by our teams.
ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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A Dr Helen McCarthy Pursing Nanomedicine Innovation: Her Key is in This Focal Point: Not Patience But the Patient is the Virtue: There’s No Point in Designing the Most Fantastic Medicine in the World If You Can’t Deliver It to Patients

Image: Queen's University Belfast

 

|| April 01: 2017: Queen's University Belfast News || ά. Dr Helen McCarthy is a Reader at the School of Pharmacy, at the Queen's University Belfast. She obtained her PhD in 2000 from University of Ulster, Jordanstown. She then took a Research Associate post in the field of prostate cancer gene therapy at the University of Ulster. In July 2004 she moved to the School of Pharmacy, Queen's University to take the post of Research Fellow on a cancer gene therapy project, within the newly established, Experimental Therapeutics research cluster. She obtained a lectureship within the School of Pharmacy in November 2006, then Senior Lecturer in 2011 and Reader in 2013. Her main research focus is the development of bio-inspired delivery systems for nanomedical applications.

To that end, she has two patents, published over 60 scientific publications, edited a book and has given many conference presentations. She has received research grant income from the National Science Foundation, Invest Northern Ireland, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Campaign, Prostate Cancer UK, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, The Royal Society, BBSRC, MRC, Prostate Cancer Research Foundation and Action Cancer. She is a member of the Association for Radiation Research, British Society for Gene Therapy, the American Nano Society and European Society of Biomaterials. She is, also, on the editorial board for Cancer Nanotechnology and an external examiner at RCSI.

Dr Helen McCarthy’s view is straightforward, ''There’s no point in designing the most fantastic medicine in the world if you can’t deliver it to patients.'' She has followed that belief for the past 16 years. She says, ''My journey has been inspired by two outstanding academics, Professor David Hirst and Professor Tracy Robson, who were my mentors when I was a postdoctoral scientist. They ignited my passion for alternative therapeutics, particularly, in the cancer field, so when they moved to Queen’s in 2004 I moved with them.''

She took up a post at the School of Pharmacy as a Research Fellow on a cancer gene therapy project. ‘I really enjoyed the whole philosophy in Pharmacy,  trying to make medicines that actually work. It’s very translational.''  She has been a Reader since 2013. She leads a research group on experimental therapeutics, focusing on the development of non-viral delivery systems for nanomedicine and is a key member of the Pharmacy-led Pioneer Research Programme:PRP, directed by Professor Ryan Donnelly.

''My research is about designing delivery systems for difficult-to-treat therapeutics, DNA, RNA, microRNA. What made me go down that route of trying to mimic viruses in a non-viral sense was something, called, the Promising Researchers Scheme at the School. It was just £5,000 but it enabled me to go off to Washington State University, where I was introduced to the whole new world of nanomedicine and then I came back and developed my research group.

I believe strongly that you need to work with others, who don’t have the same skill set as you. For example, I worked closely with Professor Nicholas Dunne when he was in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering on an injectable treatment for serious bone fractures and bone metastases. Ryan and I have, also, worked together for years on therapeutic cancer vaccines. Basically, he designs microneedle systems, that cross the skin and I incorporate my biological therapeutics, my nanoparticles and then we evaluate the response. Together we’ve patented this technology.

Within the PRP, part of my role is to mentor the younger generation coming on and to research third generation nucleic acid therapeutics. As new polymer delivery systems evolve, I incorporate my nanoparticles and we evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy. The whole purpose is always with the patient in mind. Even if we’re doing some basic research, we need to think, how can this translate to the patient? That’s the focus of everything.''

Helen has, also, designed and patented a peptide delivery sequence. ''Back in the early days I was very much into delivering a gene for nitric oxide and it’s a fantastic anti-cancer molecule but it’s not going to have any effect because we can’t deliver it to patients. So that’s why I designed these systems.''

Helen is lending her expertise to another PRP, the Centre for Advanced and Interdisciplinary Radiation Research. ''I lead the biological evaluation strand. Frequently patients are given drugs and we’re not quite sure how they’re going to respond to them. We want to be able to model how tumours will respond to a chemotherapy combination or types of radiotherapy so that patientswill ultimately receive the type of treatment that’s ideal for them.

The generation of such translational technologies always has the patient as the end point so I hope there’ll be the momentum and investment to go further. Some really exciting results have come through already and we won’t stop until we’ve made an impact with these nanomedicines.'' ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Are There Such Things as Medicinal Tattoos, Dr Aoife Morrin: We are Working on It: A Conversation

Image: Dublin City University
 

|| March 14: 2017: Dublin City University News || ά. Dr Aoife Morrin is a Senior Lecturer, at Dublin City University's School of Chemistry and Funded Investigator with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, who works on clever skin patches or ‘tattoos’, that can pick up signals from the body. Here she speaks of her research and work. My group is developing easy-to-wear ‘tattoos’ that you can leave on the skin. We are developing this tattoo platform as a wearable medical device, so the tattoo material sits on the skin and can measure specific information from the body, with the aim of monitoring the person’s health or performance.

How do these tattoos work: They are like temporary tattoo transfers: we screen print the tattoo material onto a transfer sheet as whatever pattern we want, then you press the sheet against the skin so the material contacts the skin and you release the tattoo by dabbing the backing paper with water. The scientific advance here is that the materials that get transferred are tightly integrated with the skin so they can pick up high quality signals but they are also able to flex and stretch and move with the skin so you can wear them for a long time. In practice it should be even easier than wearing a sticking plaster.”

What kinds of signals would you design these tattoos pick up: Different materials will respond to different signals coming from the skin. Measuring the electrical properties of the skin can give us information on things like wound healing progress. We are increasingly looking at ways to measure biochemical signals, too. Specifically, we are looking at ways to collect and detect the gases or volatiles, that our skin emits, to see if we can interpret these signals in the context of our health."

How do you measure the signals that the materials on the skin detect: At the moment we need to physically contact with the tattoo to measure the signals, but we would anticipate that in the future it could be a wireless signal, where you could, perhaps, measure it with a smartphone app.”

And what kinds of medical conditions might you monitor with these wearable devices: One of the big things we are looking at is the integrity of the skin barrier, which changes in skin conditions, such as eczema and to a certain extent in psoriasis. Ideally, we would like to be able to pick up signs, that the skin barrier is becoming compromised, which could warn of an impending flare-up. That would mean steps could be taken to protect the skin. Being able to measure gases in the skin might, also, be of use for a range of other conditions, such as diabetes and even cancer, too. I am confident we will see a range of wearables, such as these that are capable of monitoring our health status on the shelves of pharmacies in as little as five years.”

How did you become interested in this area: As a chemist I have always been interested in materials and sensors. The idea of using simple printing methods for building chemical and biochemical sensors and even whole devices has always been of interest. So I came up with this project to develop printed sensors into wearable platforms for the skin and Science Foundation Ireland granted me a Career Development Award, which funds the research.”

What is your typical day in research: I run a research group of four post-graduates and a post-doctoral researcher, so I spend a lot of time with the group discussing ideas and findings. We, also, work with lots of other people in DCU and in Insight, we are always learning from our colleagues in biochemistry and data science. As well as running the research group, I lecture to our chemistry students. I am, also, the Research Convenor in the School of Chemistry, so I am there to help, if anyone in the School has issues around research.”

What drives you to keep going in research: I think it’s seeing the people in the research group develop themselves as we move ideas through into development, that is really rewarding. We have a great bunch here and we work well together, we all learn from each other.”
ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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MSF Nurse Sara Ferrer Speaks of the Syrian War That Has Left Tens of Thousands of Children Unvaccinated

Image: MSF

|| March 12: 2017: MSF News || ά. Ms Sara Ferrer, MSF nurse, is co-ordinating MSF's medical projects in Aleppo governorate, Syria. Children in many parts of Syria have not been vaccinated against preventable diseases. She explains the risks. ''The war in Syria has been terrible because of the violence but also because of serious side effects, that go unnoticed. Since the conflict escalated in 2012, the vast majority of children born in many parts of Syria are unvaccinated and this is very worrying. Mass displacements of people mean medical authorities and non-governmental organisations have been unable to focus their efforts on these activities or have no resources for it.

The most that some children have received is one or two doses in isolated campaigns. Syrian children are not vaccinated against a range of preventable diseases such as measles, rubella, tetanus or pneumonia. Before the war, children were normally vaccinated in Syria. However, we are now faced with a rather widespread problem of unvaccinated children, especially in the areas controlled by the opposition where we are working. The information we have obtained from monitoring the medical condition of displaced children from areas under Daesh control is that they have not been vaccinated, although we do not know if it is a generalised issue. We do not have access to areas controlled by the government of Syria, despite having requested permission. According to data from some medical authorities operating there, there are some vaccination activities.

Have many cases of these infections been documented? How worrying is it: Cases of measles, meningitis and pneumonia have been documented and treated in time but consolidated data is missing. The EWARN:Early Warning System, reporting to the health authorities, reports cases of infections throughout the country, in the provinces of Raqqa, Idlib, Aleppo, rural areas of Damascus.

At the moment, they are limited. The risk we face is that factors such as a generalised lack of immunisation and mass population displacements are brought together. Some of these infections are transmitted through the air, so we may find ourselves in a situation where infections spread as an epidemic that we cannot control. During the winter, people choose not to move much because of the cold. With the arrival of good weather, it is expected that people will try to return to their places of origin where the conflict has ceased, as in the city of Aleppo, or areas such as Al Bab where the situation is changing.

What is MSF doing: In our Al Salamah hospital, Azaz district, Aleppo governorate, we have been carrying out an expanded programme of immunisation:EPI for several years, once a week. In July of last year we also started sending teams to the camps for displaced people in the northern part to curb the risk of outbreaks of infections.

We concentrate on an area with an estimated population of 200,000 people, of whom 17 per cent, around 34,000, are under the age of five. It is a process that involves three rounds and we are still working in collaboration with other humanitarian workers responsible for implementing vaccination. MSF provides the vaccines, ensures the maintenance of the cold chain through a monitoring process and trains the vaccinating teams.

In the last year we have launched two measles vaccination campaigns. The most recent was in January, after seven cases were confirmed in the camp for displaced people in Shamareek. The vaccination campaign was led by MSF and joined by the World Health Organisation:WHO and local medical organisations. In 12 days, 6,540 children under the age of 15 were vaccinated, 93 per cent of the target. At the moment we are studying the possibility of expanding our action to other places. In the three districts of the northern part of Aleppo governorate where we are working we estimate that there are about 143,000 children under the age of five.

What problems do our teams face when it comes to vaccination: At times, we have met some resistance from the population. The work of health promotion teams, who talk to mothers so they understand the benefits of these preventive measures for their children, is critical. Usually they are well accepted and families that have several children and have already gone through this understand the need.

Why are there not many other organisations vaccinating in Syria: These are programmes require a lot of human resources and are expensive. It is also not easy to get the vaccines or maintain the cold chain so they don’t spoil. This happened to us in the city of Aleppo. It was impossible to introduce vaccines there because of the siege between July and December 2016. We did not have a specialised supervisor to offer guarantees that the cold chain would be maintained, ensuring the quality of the vaccines.

What should be done: We believe that WHO, other UN agencies and other medical players should press for an increased population coverage for vaccinations. Small steps are being taken, such as an immunisation programme for children under one year old in the provinces of Hama and Idlib. But it's not enough. Syrian children deserve greater protection against a complicated future.

Between July 2016 and February 2017, MSF vaccinated a total of 35,907 children under the age of five in four districts in the northern governorate of Aleppo in the framework of an expanded immunisation programme:EPI. In addition, 5,733 women of childbearing age, between 15 and 45, have been vaccinated for tetanus. MSF also conducts vaccination initiatives in several other governorates of Syria.
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Lorraine Eyers: A Voice and Force of Women to Drive Change in the City Hall of London on International Women's Day

Image: London Assembly

|| March 10: 2017 || ά.  Ms Lorraine Eyers works in City Hall’s of the London Assembly and the London Mayor's Office, at its Public Liaison Unit. She, also, runs its Women’s Network. Here’s what she has to say about women, work and equality in celebration of this year's International Women's Day. What does bold for change mean to you: I think, for me, the biggest thing is actually challenging discrimination and bias. I want to be the champion for gender equality here at City Hall. I want to make sure that equalities and the Mayor’s vision is taken on board. I’ll be working 100% to make sure that happens.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting her career: I’ve worked here for almost 17 years, so I’ve seen a lot of change. If I was talking to a young woman just beginning her career, I’d say they need to be passionate about the job they do. To be successful, you need to be your real self. It’s about finding your personal brand. When you’re in a job, get yourself a good mentor. Their support and experience will be invaluable as you develop your career. I’d also say young women need to learn to blow their own trumpet more. You do a good job, so you take credit and get praise for it. You own it. Women can have a lot of self-doubt, they see a job and think they won’t go for it, because they don’t have the exact experience or whatever. It’s called ‘imposter syndrome’. Some women worry that they’ll be ‘found out’, so don’t bother.

What should women do if they face discrimination at work: You should be prepared to challenge it. You need to be self-empowered. Only then can you be ready to battle against and break down the barriers women face at work. If you’re a woman in a senior position, I believe it’s important to help those below. I went to a women’s leadership symposium recently.

I asked what you do if other women keep you down, and don’t recognise or promote you. There was a collective groan. I think it’s sad that women don’t support each other. Often women get stopped progressing by other women. All you do, if there are obstacles in your way, is go round them. Go to people who’ll give you that hand up. I’m passionate about helping women to get to the top.

Outside of work, I’m a school governor for two primary schools. I’ve heard the girls talking about STEM subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, which is brilliant. I recently had a sabbatical in Toronto and there’s actually a global movement to get girls into technology.

In my school, they have a special project for STEM girls. The girls are really interested, they even had a discussion with Major Tim Peake in space! For women, it’s about building up your knowledge base, being prepared and making things happen. Women have to be on the ball and ready to bat.

You run the Women of London City Hall Network, can you tell us about it: I set up the forum to help women share information and support each other in their careers. Through the network, we host events for women staff. We also work closely with learning and development to identify gaps in training to support women in their career development. More and more women are joining the network, and that’s great. There’s also much more focus on gender equality under the new Mayor, which personally I’m delighted about. ω.

International Women's Day

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Conversation with Rowan Oberman: Assistant Lecturer at the Dublin City University: Climate Change is a Political and Urgent Social Issue That Needs Global Holistic Responses: Therefore, She Works to Take Climate Change Issues with the Creating Futures Programme to School Children

Image: Dublin City University


|| March 05: 2017: Dublin City University News  || ά. Rowan Oberman, Lecturer and Researcher with the Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education at the Dublin City University's School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies in the DCU Institute of Education. Here is a Conversation in which Ms Rowan Oberman speaks of the challenges and aspirations of her work.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humans in the 21st century. You are working on ways for teachers to encourage primary-school children to become more aware of the issues and potential solutions around climate change. Why the need for more resources in education: Because there is a gap there. We know this because about five years ago at the Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education we did some research on climate change education in primary schools. In the main, we found that climate change was considered as a segment in geography or science and teachers often seemed to view climate change as an Armageddon-like scenario and it’s difficult to engage with that.

So climate change was marginalised. Teachers were not discussing with their students the issues of human implications or responsibility, and the political and social context of climate change and mitigation and adaptation was not part of their narrative. On the other hand when we asked specialists in climate change, some in education and some in NGOs and politics, climate change was a political and urgent social issue that needs global holistic responses.

So what did you set out to do: "We developed a resource called Creating Futures for teachers of senior primary school students, 5th and 6th class. It covers the ‘what’ of climate change, the history and the evidence and it encourages students to think about the injustices that climate change creates and who is most vulnerable to its impact. It also looks at the future, and gets students to design solutions and to develop leadership skills.

How could a teacher use this in practice: We specifically designed Creating Futures to be cross-curricular, so it works across the subjects they are covering with their class. Within the resource there are also activities that encourage the children to think critically. For example, one activity has an image of banknotes to the tune of 100 million in currency, then there is a list of 12 projects that are looking for funding, such as hunger relief for people, who need food immediately because of drought, a seed bank to help adapt crops to climate change and also lobbying for political change. The children rank the projects and decide how much funding each project should get. This gives the class the opportunity to discuss long- and short-term strategies and priorities for dealing with climate change.

Have schools tried out Creating Futures already: Yes, we piloted it across a range of primary schools, and the feedback has been really positive from teachers and students. Children love debate and being asked their opinions on these issues, and in 5th and 6th class they often have strong feelings about injustice. They are particularly shocked that climate change is such a huge issue yet so little is being done about it.

What is happening with Creating Futures now: We are now doing a larger, formal assessment where we look at baseline climate change literacy in classes, then the teacher works through Creating Futures with the children during the school year and we go back and measure the impact and find out about their experience.

Will Creating Futures be in all schools in Ireland: We hope so. The resource is currently freely downloadable from the Trócaire website, who funded the project along with Irish Aid, and eventually we hope this will become part of primary education in Ireland. We are using Creating Futures with students of education in DCU, so that when they go to teach in schools they will be able to incorporate climate change education. And we also run accredited Continuing Professional Development courses for teachers on climate change education.

Why 5th and 6th class? What about younger primary school students: Creating Futures suits 5th and 6th class because it responds to their curriculum and uses concepts, such as graphs, which they will have learned about in Maths. It encourages students to work in teams on projects to figure out solutions to questions or problems. I think though that the skills and concepts children need to engage with climate change should be built up from day one, and we have worked on other projects that encourage critical thinking and more awareness of global citizenship among younger primary school students, too.

Such as: “At the Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education we carried out some research on Children’s Global Thinking. We looked at how 7-9-year old children engage with global issues, and we found they had pre-conceptions about countries based on development aid – for example that some countries or regions were labeled as poor and there was little appreciation of other aspects of those places or of global interdependence.

What arose from that project was a children’s book I wrote called Farid’s Rickshaw Ride which tells the story of a child in Bangladesh who has a cousin in Ireland. This boy, Farid takes a rickshaw ride around Dhaka and the driver tells him about his life. They’re involved in a traffic accident which highlights the social inequality and explores human rights. These are all opportunities to explore wider issues such as trade and climate change and migration and the injustice of poverty. I also developed a story sack resource called Just Children for children in preschool and infant classes. I am very interested in how fictional stories can help children improve their critical literacy.

What do you like most about your research: I think that the work we do is innovative, and it is just nice to work with teachers and students, and to hear their feedback. Some of my best moments are when a teacher says how much the kids really love working with Creating Futures. To hear that is really rewarding.

How has DCU’s Incorporation had an effect on your research: It has opened up new conversations and ideas about the research. There has been a lot of interest in what we do and we are now thinking about using climate change education resources, particularly, Creating Futures, in intergenerational learning, so that children, parents and grandparents can learn about climate change together.” ω.     

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Nobel Laureate in Medicine 2016 Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi: It All Began with a Microscope


|| March 04: 2017: Tokyo Institute of Technology Japan News  || ά. The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy. This year's Nobel Laureate discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components. The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto, meaning 'self', and phagein, meaning "to eat". Thus, autophagy denotes "self eating". This concept emerged during the 1960's, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation. Yoshinori Ohsumi was born 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan.

He received a Ph.D. from University of Tokyo in 1974. After spending three years at Rockefeller University, New York, USA, he returned to the University of Tokyo where he established his research group in 1988. Since 2009 he has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990's, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker's yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells. Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease: Yoshinori Ohsumi Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine 2016



Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi is a soft-spoken man who speaks dispassionately. Behind the calm exterior, however, is a man on a mission. The Inamori Foundation's 28th Kyoto Prize presentation ceremony was held on November 10, 2012. Candidates for the prize were individuals or groups who had made lifetime contributions to the development of science, technology and the arts. Professor Ohsumi was among the recipients. He was the first person in the world to visually observe the function of autophagy or self-cannibalisation, whereby cells placed in a state of starvation degrade parts of themselves to serve as nutrient sources and so stave off starvation. He then elucidated the mechanism of autophagy and the genes involved.

Professor Ohsumi initially studied yeasts. However, he concluded that the phenomenon of autophagy was not confined to yeasts but was one of the most basic cell functions found in a variety of organisms, from plants right up to humans. This set off the current boom in research into autophagy around the world. Publications on autophagy have grown from around ten per year in the early 1990s, to over 2000 per year at present and the number continues to grow rapidly.

"As research into autophagy has expanded, it has become clear that it is not simply a response to starvation. It also contributes to a range of physiological functions, such as inhibiting cancer cells and aging, eliminating pathogens and cleaning the insides of cells. We have also begun to see a small explosion in research that demonstrates a new function with the knocking out genes that contribute to autophagy. However, there is still much we do not know about the mechanism of autophagy and this calls for serious study. I hope to go on to study autophagy at the molecular level, to tackle the mechanism head-on. That is my mission."

The challenge of doing what no one else is doing: Professor Ohsumi became involved with autophagy in 1988. After earning his Doctor of Science in Physiology from the Graduate School of Science at the University of Tokyo, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University in the US. He returned to the University of Tokyo, working first as a research associate and then as a lecturer in the Faculty of Science. In 1988 he was appointed associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo at the age of 43.

This was the first laboratory that he ran. He had been working on the transport of materials to the vacuoles in yeasts in the Botany Laboratory under Professor. now Emeritus Professor, Yasuhiro Anraku, but decided to turn this over to Professor Anraku's laboratory and set out on a new project. It was then he decided to elucidate the mechanism of the the degradative function of the vacuoles in yeasts, which later tied in to his research on autophagy.

"While working in Professor Anraku's laboratory, I chose the transport of materials to the yeast vacuoles as my research project, because no one else was studying it," Professor Ohsumi said.

Vacuoles are a type of organelle in living things and they are limited by vacuolar membranes. They are filled with cell sap or mostly salts solution. Especially they account for around 90% of the cell volume in plants. Back in the 1980s, vacuoles were simply regarded as inert organelles and the repositories of wastes in the cells.

However, when Ohsumi was attempting to isolate the nuclei in yeast cells as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University, he found a layer of clearly concentrated organelles at the top layer in centrifuge tube that was to be discarded, and noticed that these were vacuoles. He wondered whether or not these vacuoles played an important role in the cells.

Upon leaving Rockefeller University and returning to the Faculty of Science at the University of Tokyo, Ohsumi began serious research into yeast vacuoles. He was the first to discover that yeast vacuoles actively transport substances such as amino acids and play a role in the homeostasis of metabolites and ions. This brought him considerable success and has shaped his approach to research, that of undertaking what no one else was doing, ever since.

"I started out with a love of the microscope. Vacuoles are the only organelle visible under the light microscope, and I often observed them. My observations under the microscope were the main reason I was able to discover these hitherto unknown functions of vacuoles." he said. Yeast vacuole in a state of starvation, as seen with an electron microscope. The large white circles inside the cell are vacuoles and we know that a portion of the cellular material is found inside them.

"Doing something no one else is doing" was also the motivation behind choosing to elucidate the mechanism of lytic function of yeast vacuoles when be branched out on his own in 1988. Vacuoles are organelles that not only store waste materials inside cells, but also contain various degradative enzymes. However, what was degraded inside the vacuoles, and how it was done, were still complete mysteries in those days.

At first, Professor Ohsumi considered whether it would be possible to observe what was occurring inside the vacuole under a microscope. In the absence of nutrients, yeasts fall into a state of starvation. Next they then turn to forming spores inside the cells, which allows the cells to ride out the starvation. He thought that if vacuoles had a degradative function, it would probably become most active in a state of starvation when the cells were forming spores. If it were possible to halt the lytic function in the vacuoles, it should then be possible to discover what was being degraded.

He procured mutant yeasts, which had no hydrolytic enzymes in their vacuoles, and using a light microscope he began observing what occurred in the vacuoles during the state of starvation. This was when he discovered autophagy.

When a yeast cell is starved, double membrane structures will appear within the cell. The double membrane structures are autophagosomes which take in part of the cell material and organelles. The outer membranes of the autophagosomes fuse with the vacuole membrane and their contents are gathered into the vacuole. The contents taken into the vacuole are degraded by the degradative enzymes.

"When I observed yeasts that had been starved for several hours, I found that large numbers of small granules accumulated inside the vacuoles and that they were highly mobile. The granules were single-membrane bound structures which contain a portion of cytoplasmic materials. The granules were drawn into the vacuoles and presented the appearance of Brownian movement. The Brownian movement occurred because yeasts contain so small amount of proteins and are low in viscosity. This made a great impression on me and I spent hours watching them," Ohsumi said.

This was the first time anyone had actually seen the working of the autophagous function of vacuoles. When the degradative enzymes in the vacuoles are present and working normally in a yeast cell, any cellular material collected in the vacuole is immediately degraded. Hence no one had ever seen this before. These days, light microscopes provide 2250x magnification, but in those days, the maximum was 600x. Professor Ohsumi laughed and said "I'm lucky. I might not have noticed them if they hadn't been moving."

Ohsumi then went on quietly, "All my research findings started from observations with a microscope. So even now, I always get the students who come to my laboratory to work with a microscope. In one sense, this should be the way biology is done and I believe that phenomena themselves are important. I want my students to naturally confirm things with their own eyes and hopefully make new discoveries with their own eyes too."

Do the things you find truly interesting: After his success in witnessing autophagy with a microscope, Professor Ohsumi began work on identifying the genes connected with autophagy. Autophagy genes are now known as ATG genes. A total of 18 ATG genes have been discovered.

In 1996, Professor Ohsumi transferred to the National Institute for Basic Biology in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, which has the necessary staff and equipment to elucidate the functions of the proteins that are encoded by the ATG genes. Several years later, with the assistance of research workers at the Institute, Professor Ohsumi was able to show autophagy to be one of the most basic functions of the cells of many plants and animals. In recognition of this string of successes, he was awarded the Fujihara Award, the Japan Academy Prize and the Asahi Prize between 2005 and 2008. He also received the Kyoto Prize for Basic Sciences in 2012.

Finally, Professor Ohsumi offered this message to the next generation: "Today's young people approve of 'research in the service of humanity,' while maintaining a steady and conservative outlook. That calls for research on humans rather than on yeasts or mice. However, you can answer the most basic and important questions about the nature of life through yeasts. My research was able to explain autophagy precisely because I was working on yeasts and could observe them under an electron microscope. Basically, it's not easy to define what will serve humanity, nuclear power is a good example. So my message to all of you, who want to pursue a career in science, is to do what no one else is doing and do what you find truly interesting. Research isn't easy. However, if you're really drawn to a subject and you're interested in it, you'll certainly overcome all the obstacles, even if, say, your work isn't appreciated for a time. You only live once. Others aren't interested in trivia. In the end, you have to want to taste the pleasures of success after all is said and done."

Autophagy can be seen in every single organism, from plants to human beings. It is one of the most basic functions of cells. It has become clear that it is not simply a response to starvation, but also contributes to a variety of physiological functions: inhibiting cancer cells, inhibiting aging, eliminating pathogens and cleaning the insides of cells.
ω.     

Yoshinori Ohsumi: Molecular Cell Biologist

1945: Born in Fukuoka, Japan
2009-Present Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology
2005: Fujihara Awardouter ,The Fujihara Foundation of Science
2006: Japan Academy Prizeouter, The Japan Academy
2009-2008: Asahi Prize, The Asahi Shimbun
2012: Kyoto Prize, outer The Inamori Foundation

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Elaine O'Reilly an Assistant Professor of Chemical Biology Speaks of the Real Challenges of Biocatalysis and Chemistry: If She Went Back in Time From 2006 She Would Rather Go Almost at the Beginning to See How Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Began When Molecules and Proteins Were Just Forming Themselves to Rise up as the Spectacle of This Life


|| February 24: 2017: University of Nottingham News || ά. Elaine O’Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Biology. She joined The University of Nottingham in 2015 after a PhD in organic chemistry at University College Dublin, followed by four years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and a lectureship in Chemical Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Elaine O'Reilly graduated from University College Dublin with a Bsc Hons in Chemistry in 2006 and began a PhD in organic chemistry at UCD.

In 2010, she moved to The University of Manchester where she spent four years working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow under the direction of Prof. Nicholas J. Turner. In 2014, she joined Manchester Metropolitan University as a Lecturer in Chemical Biology. In February 2015, she was appointed Assistant Professor in Chemical Biology at the School of Chemistry, University of Nottingham where her research focuses on the development and application of biocatalysts. She now runs the O Rielly Research Group where there are PhD opportunities available in case readers are interested. Here, Elaine O'Reilly speaks about what she does and why.

How would you explain your research: Nature is capable of making so many complex materials and important medicinal products starting from a very simple and limited set of building blocks. It does this through the action of highly sophisticated catalysts, known as enzymes. As chemists, we often go to great lengths to design chemical catalysts that mimic the action of enzymes in order to help us synthesise similar complex materials. Our group uses these catalysts directly to do chemistry. This means that we can avoid the use of costly, rare and often toxic metals, allowing us to perform chemical reactions in a "green" and sustainable manner.

However, sometimes the enzymes won’t perform the type of chemistry that we desire and they need to be modified. To do this, we often use a technique known as "directed evolution". This wonderful evolutionary strategy enables us to introduce random mutations into the DNA corresponding to the enzyme we would like to modify and essentially select the enzyme that has the new function that we seek. The strategy mimics the process of natural evolution and natural selection except we can do it in a few weeks rather than waiting thousands or millions of years. Our goal is that the catalysts we design will open the door to new pharmaceutical drugs.


 

What inspired you to pursue this area: I was always fascinated with Darwinian evolution. The idea that we could use a similar strategy to design natural catalysts that enable us to do synthetically challenging chemistry was very appealing. Also, chemistry has a bit of a bad name as people often associate it with toxic chemicals and pollution. Our goal is to limit the use of toxic or dangerous chemicals by using natural catalysts that operate at near ambient conditions in water. Using appropriately designed enzymes to do chemistry also allows us to design previously unthinkable routes to target compounds and should one day open the door to new and cost-effective pharmaceutical drugs.

How will your research affect the average person: Our goal is that the catalysts we design will open the door to new pharmaceutical drugs we have not been previously able to access. Additionally, we should be able to access them in an extremely sustainable way using these benign catalysts. In many cases, we can use readily available and natural materials such as sugars to synthesise our desired materials using biocatalysis and these abundant and sustainable feedstocks will allow us to reduce our dependence on petrochemicals.

What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far: My greatest achievement to date was securing my position at The University of Nottingham. It’s a fantastic place to work and a wonderful research environment. I would like to go back to prehistoric times to when the first molecules and proteins were being formed

What advice would you give to someone starting out: I think that it’s important to think about what the real challenges are in the field of biocatalysis and chemistry and think about how your research interests and ideas can make a real impact. It’s getting more important nowadays to find application and commercial avenues for your research and this is something I would strongly recommend considering.

What’s the biggest challenge in your field: I think we are becoming more and more aware of our impact on the environment, and as chemists, we need to make sure that we are designing sustainable and environmentally friendly synthetic routes and methodology.

If you could jump 100 years into the future, what’s the first thing you’d look up: Have I won a Nobel Prize! I’m joking! Science and technology are moving at such an incredible rate there would be so much I would want to look up. However, it would have to be where we were as a race regarding war and world poverty. It’s hard to believe that we are advancing at such a dramatic rate scientifically yet our world is still plagued with terrible suffering. I would love to think that another 100 years is enough to see big changes but I would be 'googling' with a certain degree of doubt.

If you could go back in time where would you go: It could be dangerous but with the right safety equipment I would like to go back to prehistoric times to when the first molecules and proteins were being formed. There’s so much we don’t understand about this period and more information would answer some fundamental chemistry questions that continue to baffle scientists. ω.

Images: University of Nottingham

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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In Conversation with Vicki Jackson About Palliative Care: Where Clinicians are Focused on Helping Patients with Serious Illnesses Live Well

 

|| February 23: 2017: Massachusetts General Hospital News || ά. As the Massachusetts General Hospital  celebrates the 20th anniversary of Palliative Care, Vicki Jackson, MD, Chief of the Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine Division, talks about the emotion of this milestone, the excitement of embarking on the division’s future projects and the challenges the unit has overcome.

How does it feel to celebrate 20 years of Palliative Care at the MGH: It is very exciting! I’m very grateful that we have been able to, with the support of our colleagues and the institution, grow this service so tremendously in the last 20 years. What comes to mind when you realise the unit has existed for 20 years: It is really encouraging and I have great anticipation of what the next 20 years will look like. We have had the gift of being so well integrated into the institution that now I’m really excited about what the next opportunities are. I don’t even think we could have envisioned this growth 20 years ago.

What are some major accomplishments the unit has achieved over the last two decades: Our programme has grown to one of the largest and most robust programmes in the country. We have three different clinical services lines; inpatient consultation, outpatient palliative care clinic and home-based palliative care delivered in the community. We have pioneered the development of an outpatient palliative care practice that is deeply integrated into the care of patients with cancer.

Our research with Jennifer Temel, MD, Clinical Director of Thoracic Oncology and Director of the Cancer Outcome Research Programme in the Cancer Centre, has shown that patients with metastatic lung cancer, who receive early integrated palliative care have improved quality of life, a decreased rate of depression and a prolonged survival.

In research spearheaded by Areej El-Jawahri, MD, Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivorship Programme, we have expanded our work in oncology to patients with leukaemia undergoing bone marrow transplant. Patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation who have palliative care have improved quality of life and symptom control, a lower rate of depression, fewer post traumatic symptoms, and their family caregivers have improved outcomes as well.

What challenges has the unit overcome: One of the biggest challenges is the workforce shortage in palliative care and we’ve worked hard to build a large fellowship programme for both nurse practitioners and physicians to meet that need. Nationally, there’s a very high rate of burnout in palliative care clinicians and we’ve worked hard to build a resiliency training programme to help meet the needs of our clinicians and also think about novel ways to improve the clinical delivery models that meet patient needs and support our faculty.

What does the future of Palliative Care at MGH look like: Anything new in the pipeline: In 2015, Peter Slavin, MD, MGH President, convened a task force charged with developing a comprehensive strategy to care for seriously ill patients at the MGH. The task force began a nine-month strategic planning effort from which the Palliative Care Continuum Project was born with the mission is to help patients and families live well through palliative care, when and where they need it.

We have just begun the roll out of this programme working with clinicians in primary care, hospital medicine, neurology, paediatrics and the emergency department. Palliative care scholars will be trained to serve as local palliative care experts, as we work to improve the care of seriously ill patients through a comprehensive advanced care planning strategy, patient and clinician education and engagement. This is something we are very excited about.

Where do you hope the unit will be in 20 more years: I hope that in 20 years the division will be seen as a national leader in primary palliative care education as well as having expanded our research in oncology and other areas such as cardiology and neurology. I am so incredibly grateful to be at an institution where clinicians are focused on helping patients with serious illnesses live well. ω.  

Massachusetts General Hospital: Founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $800 million and major research centers in HIV:AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, photomedicine and transplantation biology. The MGH topped the 2015 Nature Index list of health care organisations publishing in leading scientific journals and earned the prestigious 2015 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. In August 2016 the MGH was once again named to the Honor Roll in the U.S. News and World Report list of 'America’s Best Hospitals'. ω.

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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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The Conversation with Elena Pylaeva: You Seek to Help Those Who Experienced Their Universe Fall Apart While Its Debris and Shrapnel Torn Them Into Pieces

Tatiana Ivanovna talking to the MSF psychologist Elena Pylaeva, who is a member of the mobile clinic team.

|| January 14: 2017: MSF News || ά. Despite the back-to-school ceasefire, an agreement signed in September to guarantee a safe environment for children to attend school after the summer, shelling continues in many villages located near the line of contact in eastern Ukraine. After almost three years of conflict, civilians are still bearing the brunt of the ongoing violence with more than 01.7 million, according to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine; IOM; May 2016, people forced from their homes.

Elena Pylaeva, a Psychologist working with MSF, explains the effects of this protracted conflict on the mental health of the population. How is the conflict affecting people's lives: The conflict is breaking communities and families apart. This is very visible in the locations we visit every day: the majority of our patients are elderly women, often widows whose children and grandchildren have fled to find a safer place to live or a job. There are people who have been left behind in their villages near the contact line, living with the fear of shelling and being cut off from basic services, including healthcare. Then there are people who have fled to these places, who have to come to terms with a new environment and start from zero. In many cases, people who decided to stay lost their jobs. They were working in places such as schools, supermarkets or kindergartens that had to close because of the conflict. How can a school operate with shells falling nearby? So there are people in their 40s or 50s who have been forced to retire. There is a strong work ethic in eastern Ukraine, so this sudden inactivity is perturbing for many people.

Is there a particular impact on women?

Women in Ukrainian society work hard, and at the same time have a central role in the family caring for the children, taking care of the house and bonding family members together. This leaves little to no time to look after themselves. Family plays an essential role as one of the first places where you can find support. However, when your children have fled and you suddenly find yourself unemployed, your entire universe falls apart. In addition, in some cases the conflict has generated an increase in alcohol consumption, particularly in men.

Pressure on women thus becomes higher and often they've had to take over their husband's role providing for the family. An important part of our mental health support is to share ways in which people can start addressing their own needs. This is particularly important in such an unstable and insecure situation: while it's not possible to change the daily reality of the conflict, there are changes that women can make for both their physical and mental health.

What are the main symptoms you are seeing among mental health patients?

The main issue we keep seeing is related to stress, either acute or chronic. Around half of patients suffer from anxiety symptoms. This is of course directly related to the conflict: people have lost relatives or friends because of the conflict; and many had to flee because their houses were damaged. People live with the daily fear of shelling, and this affects both their mental and physical health.

How do you support displaced people and people living near the contact line?

Through our mobile clinics, we offer individual mental health consultations. We also carry out mental health awareness presentations that help inform people about stress and anxiety symptoms and how to cope with them in daily life. In addition, we have started group support sessions for the elderly population in Mariupol. These groups include people who fled to Mariupol, as well as people from the city. Having both groups – displaced and host communities, facilitates integration into a new environment, and creates a space to exchange on feelings linked to the conflict. Our goal is to provide the participants with emotional coping mechanisms that will have a positive effect on their physical health and psychological well-being.

Is coming to the mobile clinic also a way to create exchange and break isolation?

Indeed, coming to the mobile clinic is a first step for patients to feel less isolated. Many elderly people, suffering from chronic diseases, come to see our nurses and doctors to check their physical condition and receive their treatment. While waiting for their medical consultation they chat with each other. What seems to be just an everyday moment is on the contrary a real opportunity to support and listen to each other, and to share feelings related to similar experiences. This is a way for people to understand that they are not alone and are not the only ones experiencing distressing feelings linked to the conflict.

What advice do you give people to take care of themselves?

The priority is to take time to look after their health and well-being, and ensure as much as possible that they have a healthy lifestyle. It is also good to undertake 'normal' activities. For some this is cooking, for others it might be gardening.

We have seen an increase in violence and violations of the ceasefire. How does that impact your work?

In places where there has been an increase in shelling over the past few weeks, we are seeing more people coming for support. Houses continue to be damaged, people still have to hide in their basements, and families keep leaving everything behind to move to safer places. People are scared and tired.

What is the impact on the population of almost three years of violence?

Life in remote villages is tough. When the conflict started, many people had already lived a challenging life and knew how to deal with it. However, coping with such a volatile environment for so long isn't the same. In the past few weeks, I have seen families who can't cope with the situation anymore. There are people who have slept in their basement for more than two years and with the shelling continuing, they now need support to get through what has become a new reality.

People are tired of the conflict. They often ask me: when is this going to end? Their energy to be able to face this situation comes from their hope. Hope for a return to a peaceful life. But after so long coping with that much uncertainty and insecurity, it looks like we are talking about the last few drops of energy. ω.  

Taisiya lives alone in her house in Pavlopil. Since 2014, it has been shelled twice. Images: Maurice Ressel

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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In Conversation with Professor Jun Ishikawa: An Independent Expert Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Jun Ishikawa delivers a statement at the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities:CRPD in 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
 

|| December 03: 2016 || ά. Of the world’s 07.4 billion people, some 15 per cent or one billion, are said to have some form of disability. Jun Ishikawa is one of them. An International Relations Professor at the University of Shizuoka in Japan, he lost his eyesight at the age of 16. Yet, he has become a visionary on the issue of disability in his country, leading the Commission on Policy for Persons with Disabilities, a watchdog for disability policy implementation, since 2012.

Mr. Ishikawa has gone on to become the first Japanese independent expert to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a role he will formally take up January 01, 2017. The other newly-elected members hail from New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, Hungary, Kenya, Uganda and Russia. The Committee, consisting of 18 individuals, monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:CRPD, one of the most widely ratified international human rights instruments, with 169 Parties to it.

All States which are party to the Convention, which celebrates this year the 10th anniversary since its adoption by the UN General Assembly, are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. The Committee examines each report and makes suggestions and general recommendations on the report.

Japan ratified the Convention in 2014 and submitted its first report in June this year. In his message for International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed annually on December 03, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged national and local governments, businesses and all actors in society to intensify efforts to end discrimination and remove the environmental and attitudinal obstacles that prevent persons with disabilities from enjoying their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

In an interview with the United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo, Mr. Ishikawa shared his thoughts on the role of UN in this matter, how Japan fares compared to other countries, and his passion about aided engineering research. The following are excerpts taken from the interview and re-purposed for English-speaking audiences.

UNIC Tokyo: What is the role of the UN regarding the rights of people with disabilities?

Jun Ishikawa: Human rights make up one of the three pillars of the UN’s work. Since the end of World War II, the UN has set global norms and standards in various areas of human rights. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:CRPD has unfathomable impacts because it established a universal principle that countries, both advanced and developing, need to implement their national disability policy within the framework of the Convention. Because economic, political, social and cultural backgrounds differ from country to country, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is expected to make effective and constructive suggestions that take into account each country’s current situation when publishing its concluding observations on State Parties’ reports.

UNIC Tokyo: You were the first person who passed the entrance exam, in Braille, for the University of Tokyo. How did you overcome your challenges you faced in doing so?

Jun Ishikawa: I was a child with weak sight. I lost my sight when I was in high school. After being hospitalised for nearly two years, I transferred to a school for the visually impaired that offered a high school-level programme, where I studied for three years and learned Braille. Fellow students taught me how to walk with a white cane. As for the college entrance exam, I studied by listening to recordings by my mother of textbooks from cover to cover.

UNIC Tokyo: Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, awareness about people with disabilities and the building of inclusive society is gradually growing among the Japanese public. How does Japan fare compared to other advanced countries in terms of implementing disability policy?

Jun Ishikawa: Japan submitted its first report at the end of June this year. The Commission on Policy for Persons with Disabilities contributed comments that were included in the report. In my view, Japan lags far behind other countries in the area of the hospital-to-community transition of persons with mental disabilities. There are a large number of people with mental disabilities who stay in hospital for a long time. The country’s system for supporting decision-making by those with mental disabilities is also weak. For instance, the adult guardianship system widely used in Japan for people with intellectual disabilities was originally intended to protect their interests. But it has become paternalistic as it is used even for those who can make decisions by themselves with adequate support.

UNIC Tokyo: In the wake of its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014, Japan enacted the Act to Eliminate Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in April this year and revised the Act to Promote Employment of Persons with Disabilities. Do you have expectations in relation to this?

Jun Ishikawa: The former prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and obligates public entities to provide 'reasonable accommodation' when a person with a disability requires the removal of a social barrier and if the burden associated with its implementation is not excessive. The private business sector is also required to 'make an effort' to provide reasonable accommodation. For instance, in school or the workplace, operators have an obligation to provide support, if requested, such as sign language interpretation or other alternative means, for people with hearing impairment, if such assistance is not an excessive burden for the operators. The later law introduced similar obligations in its revision. Thus, the provision of reasonable accommodation, which had been considered 'voluntary goodwill' has now become an obligation.

UNIC Tokyo: You are also a sociologist and software programmer. What is that device in your hands?

Jun Ishikawa: This is a mobile Braille device, known as Braille Sense. The hardware is manufactured in the Republic of Korea. I developed a substantial portion of software in it. This can do a lot of things, such as converting text into sound. It can be connected to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and handle email and social media such as Facebook. I used this device to make presentations during the election of members of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I also use this device to take notes and facilitate discussions during meetings of the Policy Commission, which I chair.

UNIC Tokyo: What is at the centre of your current research?

Jun Ishikawa: My work’s recent concept is 'aided engineering that provides fun' for users. Until now, I have been studying and developing aid devices that are vital to education and employment for the disabled. But lately, my work is focused on aided engineering technology that disabled persons can enjoy, as well as on research directly connected to disability policy, such as accessibility, including the Global Positioning System:GPS that aids the movement of the disabled.

Aided engineering is inherently imperfect and inaccurate. GPS will not give you perfectly accurate location information. For instance, in places like Tokyo’s Shibuya district, which has many high rises, the margin of error could be substantial. We cannot recommend using this technology to those who do not accept that risk factor. This technology is for those who understands its imperfection and use it accordingly. It’s easy for naysayers to complain about imperfection, but you will arrive at an obvious answer if you compare it with the difficulty of walking without any assistance. ω.  

The Black Dog

This sonnet is put here, in the hope, if by any chance Professor Jun Ishikawa happens to read this page, or anyone close to him comes and reads this page, they can tell him about it, so that he can read this poem. This is to show our deep appreciation and to express our regards for his great work in working tirelessly for enhancing and empowering people with disabilities and their human rights across the world and in Japan.

Please, Support the Work of Medical Detection Dogs

The Black Dog that minds the Woman who sees the world in
Ways other than I do or ever can and this sonnet is his story
The story of my Black Dog Friend I write as I think of him
William Cowper who once wrote about a dog’s Hemmanity

This story began on a bus when he happened by next to me
Suddenly I felt a gentlest of a press on my leg and saw him
Next to me moved I returned the friendly press and he went
Back to his space that deliberate presage a gesture intelligent

He left in me with its depth of Hemmanity yet weeks later I
Saw him from afar with his friend in a busy peopled-street
He could not see me and many a month later I found him

Again at a supermarket while she was buying salads and I
Herbs when in such a magnetic tsunami of joy I beheld him
As he raised his Black-Sun-Face to me to let me hold him on

Munayem Mayenin: November 14: 2016

Hemmanity Is

It tells us wordlessly, it shows us palpably, it directs us tangibly, it touches us, neither by its senses nor by ours, directly, as light does, as darkness does, it moves us almost involuntarily and it makes us respond, form relationship and become better for it; this is what we find in the Animalium and this is what, a parallel, and resonant version of humanity and we cannot but fail to notice it, acknowledge, respond and interact with it, we are calling Hemmanity. Hemmanity is as if a parallel, resonant, mirror-translational, relational humanity exists outside humanity itself that shows it what it is like and unlike.

This Cat came to say hello as I went to a green for a walk on October 20, 2015. This cat did not know me but came to me and 'communicated' her friendliness by way of coming to me, going around me touching and pressing her fur on my legs and then doing a great display of lying down straight, then lying on her back, then turning backward on her back and making a circle with her body and, so many other gymnastics. She stayed there and let me sit next to her and stroke her and speak to her.

This felt as if she is 'human' and that 'human' is what I call Hemmanity in animals. And this Hemmanity in the animals make it not only to behave in such a way that calls for acknowledgement, care, attention and response, but at the same time, makes it appear at its most beautiful, most joyous, most touching and most moving; particularly, all this forces us to acknowledge, feel and see the deep connections and similarities between us connecting us to the cycle of life.

And this is only one of those expressions of this cat. And how this little animal understood that she could come to me in the sense that she would be safe? And this understanding of the cat can be seen in the way she is staying there right in front of my eyes. This astonishing thing is Hemmanity in animals and because of this our humanity is enhanced, enriched, enlightened and punctuated brightly when we come in touch and interact with animals; no matter what animal it is, whether a cat or a dog or a horse or a tiny little bird or a dolphin or a butterfly or a tiny stick insect sitting on a wall of the busy street.

Posted on: November 09: 2015

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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In Conversation with WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas: The Mind-Guide to Support the Global Fight Against Climate Change Impacts with Science

Image: UN Photo

|| November 17: 2016 || ά. In a new report analysing the global climate between 2011-2015, the World Meteorological Organisation:WMO, the United Nations system’s weather agency, found an increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts. This “hot and wild” weather meant that global ocean temperatures rose at unprecedented levels, Arctic sea ice coverage and mountain glaciers declined and surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet continued at above-average levels. The extreme weather also meant that people around the world suffered from high-impact climate events such as severe droughts in Africa, devastating floods in South-East Asia, terrible heatwaves in India and Pakistan, and catastrophic hurricanes and typhoons in the United States and the Philippines.

All Upwards

Against this backdrop, and within the context of the ongoing 22nd Conference of the Parties:COP22 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:UNFCCC, in Marrakech, Morocco, November 07-18, the United Nations News Centre spoke with Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organisation, on the state of the Earth’s weather and what it means to the people who inhabit the planet. In this conversation, Petteri Taalas says, ''There is optimism in the fight against climate change, but the best time to act is now.''  Mr. Taalas also noted that the world is now better equipped with technologies to mitigate the levels of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the global climate.

UN News Centre: The global climate report 2011-2015 confirms that the average global temperature in 2015 has already reached the one degree Celsius mark. What does this one degree Celsius really mean to people on the ground, say for an office worker in South-East Asia or a farmer in South Africa?

Petteri Taalas: One degree does not sound like a big number if you compare the temperate over a couple of days but globally over a long period of time it means that we have seen an increase in the amount of disasters related to the weather. It means that we have observed more heat waves, for example, in Kuwait, the temperature hit 54 degrees Celsius limit last summer and there have been devastating heat waves in many continents.  We have also seen changes in the pattern of rainfall, which means that some areas are now seeing flooding, when it rains, it rains much more and that led to problems for human beings and also for economies. And then in some parts of the world, we have seen more droughts, caused by the heat waves, and leading to forest fires and difficulties in agriculture. For example, at the moment, the southern part of Africa is suffering because of a drought that was partly caused by El Nino last year but also by a drying trend behind it. In tropical zones we have observed more intense tropical storms and they have been devastating for countries like Vanuatu. We also observed the first hurricane hitting Cabo Verde on the African coast. So this one degree change means that the amount of disasters related to weather and hydrology have been increasing and if it goes beyond that one degree limit, which seems to be the case according to this year’s observations, we can expect to see more of these kind of disasters. And it will have a negative impact on the economies of the countries, and it will also impact the lives and wellbeing of all humans.

UN News Centre: What has caused this dramatic change in temperatures?

Petteri Taalas: The main reason behind it is that we are using much more fossil fuel: coal, gas, and oil. We have changed the composition of the atmosphere. Therefore, we have seen a very dramatic increase of the carbon dioxide, CO2, concentration in the atmosphere. And we have also seen an increase in the amount of methane, CH4, in the atmosphere and an increase of the nitrous oxide, N2O. And all these are contributing to this warming that we have seen.

UN News Centre: Earlier WMO had said that this one degree rise, already halfway to the two degree threshold and that the national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to prevent even a three degree rise. Do you think this is something that could have been foreseen before the Paris agreement?

Petteri Taalas: In our field we have known about this problem for 30 years. So about 30 years ago, we established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:IPCC, and then years later we established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:UNFCCC to start mitigating climate change. So this problem has been around for a long time, but the good news is that governments now understand the need to mitigate climate change, and that’s why they adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change last year, and it has very recently entered into force. This gives us a good basis for moving forward, and to mitigate the effects of climate change. And the key issue is whether we are acting quickly enough to avoid a 01.5 or 02 degree warming or are we going to go beyond that. So far the pledges behind the Paris Agreement indicate about a 03 degree warming level, which would mean that we might have a larger amount of disasters related to the weather. So it would be a smart thing for the governments to start reducing the emissions, and that would also be good for the coming generations.

UN News Centre: In this context, what other messages would you like to give to the leaders attending the COP22 in Morocco?

Petteri Taalas: I would like to thank them for ratifying the Paris Agreement, which gives us hope. And we also now have better technological means for mitigation. And those means are also cheaper than they used to be. For example, solar and wind energy sources are cheaper than they used to be ten years ago. And we also have possibilities to convert our transport systems to use more electric cars. In the case of diet, we can go to more vegetarian diet; which could also reduce emissions. So we have all the means available, and now it’s time to act and prevent these negative impacts of climate change, and it’s important that we start acting very soon, because if we wait, the problem will become more severe. I am very optimistic that we have all the means to be successful, but we should start changing our behaviour very soon.

UN News Centre: What is something that society, as a whole, can do to mitigate these impacts?

Petteri Taalas: All normal consumers now have big powers, they can decide what kind of sources of energy they use in their houses, what kind of means of transport they use, and what kind of diet they are eating. For example, a vegetarian diet is better for climate than a meat-based diet. Consumers have big power here and if they decide to go to these low emission solutions, they are the ones who have power to do that. And also the policy-makers are watching very closely what the opinion of the ordinary people is, and I believe that they are able to change the consumption behaviour in the coming years. ω.  

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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In Conversation with Melanie Kerloc’h Clinical Psychologist Working with MSF in Greece: Picking the Shreds of Humanity to Put Them All Back Together Again

Clinical psychologist Melanie Kerloc’h works on MSF’s mental health care projects for asylum seekers in Epirus, Greece. Image: MSF

|| November 12: 2016: MSF News || ά. How is life in a refugee camp shaping the psyches of asylum seekers stranded in Greece? What does providing specialised psychological care to a population on the move entail? Why is mental health support to populations fleeing extreme violence and trauma so important inside the camps? Melanie Kerloc’h, an MSF Clinical Psychologist specialised in intercultural psychology and anthropology, shares her experience from MSF’s mental health care projects in Epirus, Greece.

MSF is currently providing mental healthcare to asylum seekers stranded in Greece. How is life in a refugee camp shaping people’s psyches? What are the factors that can worsen their psychological wellbeing?

When you live in a camp under a tent or in a very old building where the conditions are bad, you start identifying yourself with these conditions. “I am a poor refugee, living in a tent, wearing the second-hand clothes given to me by a charity, eating food prepared by others, having lost my previous identity and now I am only a refugee. I cannot do anything but wait.” People can only put up with that for a short period. But if you spend months living like that, you start identifying yourself with it. You start to believe you have no value and you retreat into yourself.

The camps might now be open, but people are isolated. When you don't have money, you do not speak the language, you are afraid of the perception that others may have of you; in the end, you prevent yourself from going outside the camp. Thus, a ghetto is created. Furthermore, people are left in the camp without any social organisation, any structure or rules. People are expected to organise themselves but this takes time. While all of that is going on, who is guaranteeing safety and order in the camp? Who can people refer to when a conflict arises?

In addition, people are becoming very tired. Imagine yourself living for months in a camping site in 35 or 40 degree heat without any trees to provide shade. Or imagine yourself staying in a humid tent, pelted by heavy rain for days. And we are talking about entire families, with old people, newborn babies and sick people. Living under these conditions can be very exhausting. The fatigue brings a lot of somatic and psychological issues. Usually, people think that the conditions are better in buildings but, when they are overcrowded, noise is a major problem. These building are not made to house so many people. All of these factors can worsen people’s psychological balance.

But the worst problem for the refugees stuck in Greece is that they are suspended in time and space. From a psychological point of view, they are stranded in a no man’s land. They cannot start a new life; they just have to wait and see what will happen to them. They do not know how long they will have to stay here or how long they will have to wait. They could be sent back. They may have to live in Greece or they may be sent to another country. The uncertainty about their future is terrible. It is devastating.

What does providing specialised psychological care to a population on the move entail, in practice? Can you describe MSF’s approach?

The majority of the people we see took the decision to flee their country and leave everything behind. In some cases, they even left family members behind. This is not an easy decision to make, especially for a parent. I’ve met parents who took the decision to cross the sea to save their children but at the same time they put their children’s lives at risk. Very often, we see people suffering from guilt because they exposed their own children to potential death or because they think they took the wrong decision and now their family is stuck in Greece without a future. This can be the topic of our psychotherapy sessions. People need to start describing their feelings to be able to live with their guilt.

When we meet people that can benefit from our care, we try to identify the difficulties they face and how they impact their life. The very first step is to allow people to express their suffering. The second step is to identify the cause of their suffering. Finally, the third step is to identify how they are involved in their own suffering and how they can be actors in their own life and recovery.

Psychologists providing care in refugee camps do not always speak the language of the people. Is it difficult to work with interpreters?

Working with interpreters is not always a barrier. Sometimes it is a very useful tool. It is important in the therapeutic process to show people that even if you lack the language skills, you can overcome the handicap by asking for help from someone else and you can achieve your goal thanks to that co-operation.

There is another added value, too. Usually, people not used to psychotherapy get a bit anxious when faced with moments of silence; they feel embarrassed. When a translator is used, the patient has the time to think about what he:she has said and what he:she has been told. At the same time, the specialist is able to observe the patient’s reactions and watch their body language. So the presence of a translator can support the whole process.

How easy is it for the people you work with to overcome their traumatic past and live a normal life again?

I think that humans are capable of doing incredible things. They might go through really terrible situations, but they can recover. These people can live normal lives again. They just need a place where they are given the chance to build their lives. Most of them will overcome their problems on their own. A few of them will need special support, a space where their psychological suffering can be recognised and where they can be helped to integrate what happened to them in the past. If we leave them without care, they will live a life that is destroyed by the cause of their suffering. We cannot allow all this violence to continue contaminating their minds. We need to provide them with care.

At the beginning of my mission in Greece, I met a Yazidi woman from Sinjar:Sengal in Iraq. When she spoke, she stared at the floor. She told me that two weeks before she had tried to commit suicide because she couldn’t imagine a way out anymore. For two years, she kept having flashbacks from the genocide she witnessed before her eyes. She could not ‘delete’ these images. She didn't know how to live on her own anymore. She couldn’t take care of her children and couldn’t take part in a conversation. She felt so alone in the world. This woman told me that she felt like she was alone in a sea of sadness.

Medically, she suffered from insomnia. She had not slept a full night in two years. She used to stare at the floor during our first sessions. Now, she has started looking at me. I told her that it is possible to live another life and that no one is condemned to live with all of this suffering. She looked at me in the eyes and asked me, “Do you really think it is possible?” I told her I cannot guarantee anything but that I know she doesn’t have to live with these images in her head.

This type of psychological disorder is a classic post-traumatic stress-disorder:PTSD. PTSD , depression and anxiety disorders are the main symptoms we see in the camp and require specialised care.

Thankfully, today, this same woman is much better and is able to deal with her experiences. Patients like these make me realise how important MSF’s role is inside the refugee camps.

: In August 2014, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 Yazidis fled to the mountains following raids by Daesh in the city of Sinjar. It has been reported that hundreds of women were taken as slaves while hundreds of men were killed, beheaded or buried alive. Yazidi girls, allegedly raped by Daesh fighters, committed suicide by jumping to their death from mount Sinjar.  ω.

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The Conversation with Professor Victoria Chapman at University of Nottingham

Image: University of Nottingham
 

|| July 26: 2016: The University of Nottingham News || ά. Professor Victoria Chapman is a professor of Neuropharmacology at The University of Nottingham and leads a research group focused on mechanisms of chronic pain. She is deputy director of the Arthritis Research UK Centre of Excellence in Arthritis Pain, where she is responsible for preclinical studies, and is the lead of the University’s Health and Wellbeing Global Research Theme.

You lead the Health and Wellbeing Global Research Theme:GRT. What does this entail?

The aim of our theme is to increase the breadth and quality of research interactions between schools, faculties and campuses, preventing research silos, and increasing the impact of our research outputs. The Health and Wellbeing GRT encompasses many of the great research challenges facing the world today, ranging from chronic inflammatory diseases, the impact of ageing upon the brain and the musculoskeletal system and tackling antimicrobial resistance.

This theme includes vital opportunities arising from fundamental advances in stem cell research which are leading to novel regenerative medicine therapies and the development and application of healthcare technologies. My role is to oversee and coordinate the University’s research efforts in these priority areas, encouraging and enabling efforts to make step-changes in the research delivered here at Nottingham.


How does your work fit within the Health and Wellbeing GRT?

My own research fits well with a number of the Research Priority Areas: Musculoskeletal Health in Ageing and Wellbeing, Translational Biomedical Imaging and Brain Health across the Lifespan. In the future I would like to start a dialogue with Healthcare Technologies over research collaborations.

How would you explain your research?

The experience of pain is fundamental to survival: it serves to protect us from external damage, can alert us to underlying disease and forces us to take it easy and let injuries heal. Most people have experienced short-lasting pain which is easily treated with drugs such as ibuprofen. However, many individuals of all ages experience long-lasting pain which is either difficult to treat with existing drugs, or requires sustained drug treatment which can lead to unwanted side-effects.

Our research is focused on understanding the mechanisms that mediate pain responses, both at the level of the sensory nerves and within the central nervous system. Using this information, alongside evidence from pharmacological studies using cellular and molecular biology, we can identify cellular targets, for example receptor proteins or enzymes, for new drugs which should reduce pain. This type of mechanistic research shows that not all chronic pain is the same, for example drug targets for chronic pain arising from nerve damage, neuropathic pain, are different to those for inflammatory arthritis pain.

What inspired you to pursue this area of research?

My interest in understanding how drugs work, and the systems they interact with, resulted in me studying Pharmacology at University College London, where I was introduced to neuropharmacology and specifically spinal mechanisms of pain processing by Dr Tony Dickenson. He inspired many undergraduates to enter pain research, and four of 15 students in my year have had careers working on chronic pain in either academia or industry. I was fortunate to study for my PhD with Tony, which was when I had my first interactions with the pharmaceutical industry, Sandoz, GSK, Merck, and started to attend international conferences.

Following my PhD I spent two years in Paris working with Professor Jean-Marie Besson, an international leader in pain research. Jean-Marie was an unconventional role model, the hours were long, expectations were high, questions were difficult and I was often left wondering if I had missed the point! Jean-Marie inspired generations of pain researchers, including me. He understood and promoted the importance of research being translationally relevant long before it became a widely recognised need for clinical research.

How will your research affect the average person?

The amount of knowledge required for a change in medical practice such as drug treatments is vast, and is achieved by the culmination of many different types of research by many research teams across the world. Being part of the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre:ARUK at Nottingham means that my fundamental mechanistic research is aligned to clinical studies carried out at Nottingham and across the UK. The centre aims to advance understanding of arthritis pain mechanisms and to develop new treatments, pharmacological and non-pharmacological.

Understanding why people experience chronic pain allows better informed treatment plans, which will benefit individuals in the future.

What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far?

I have been very fortunate to work with many great people, some well-established scientists and others just starting their careers. Enjoying the small victories is important for my long-term success and mental strength; getting those controversial ideas published, giving a good talk, submitting a grant you are proud of, successful PhD defences.

Seeing undergraduate students make the transition into postgraduate success, especially in my area of research, makes me very happy! Being part of the team awarded the centre of excellence for pain research by ARUK has made a big impact on my research and standing within the research community.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Discuss your ideas with colleagues and your mentor, get involved in the Research Priority Areas and meet new people from across the University to collaborate with. Try to balance research innovation with tried–and-tested methods, be open to other peoples’ opinions but don’t be distracted and dragged off-course. I am a firm believer in the value of research planning to sustained long-term research success.

What’s the biggest challenge for researchers in your field?

Chronic pain is debilitating and impacts upon everyday life, disrupting work, sleep and relationships. It is often associated with depression and anxiety, and recent evidence suggests it alters cognitive function. The research community’s common goal is the development of new, more effective analgesic drugs which have reduced side-effects, which will improve the quality of life of millions of people worldwide.

How does being based at the University allow you to fulfil your research aspirations?

Nottingham has excellent research facilities and a strong collaborative ethos. The willingness of colleagues from different schools and faculties to collaborate and develop new strands of research has allowed me to broaden my research base, allowing us the freedom to look at scientific questions from different perspectives. I am very grateful to many colleagues from across the University who helped me start my career in Nottingham and continue to contribute to the goals of our pain research. ω.

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The Conversation With Aurelia Barbieri Working with MSF in Italy

|| June 04: 2016 || ά. Aurelia Barbieri, an Italian MSF psychologist, currently working in Italy with those that have been rescued while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe. I cannot accept that children or adults can die like this. I cannot accept it. Never.'' she says who is working in Catania, Sicily.

What condition do people arrive in after surviving a shipwreck?

“They are devastated. They have had a long and dangerous journey from their countries of origin, and they are marked by their time in Libya, where many of them were treated with inconceivable cruelty. And if, on top of this, they have experienced a shipwreck, maybe even losing a family member, then their suffering is huge. There are children who arrive by themselves because they lost their parents in a shipwreck, and there are parents who lost their children.”

Safely on land, what do shipwreck survivors most need?

“The most important thing is to give them a safe and humane reception. You start with the most basic things: water, food, showing them where the toilets are. They need to feel that someone is taking care of them. As psychologists and cultural mediators, we form a bridge between the survivors and the medical teams. The survivors need to be made welcome, to be given a cup of tea, a smile, to find someone who will take care of them and listen to them. When they arrive, it is frantic and the authorities are rushing to put official procedures in place. Our contribution is limited, it doesn’t have a long-term impact, but it can make a big difference for them. It’s about feeling close to other human beings.”

What requests do shipwreck survivors have?

“They often ask for the opportunity to call home, to tell their family that they are alive. Soon after a shipwreck, not everyone is ready to say that they have lost someone in the sea. They often ask for news of the person who they can no longer find. They will ask us: ‘Is my child dead?’ Later they will have to face one of the toughest moments: identifying the bodies of those who drowned.”

Which survivors’ stories have made the greatest impression on you?

“There was an Eritrean woman in her late twenties who was seven months pregnant, and who had lost her child of seven or eight. After the shipwreck, the woman was in the water for four or five hours. In front of me, she phoned her mother, but was unable to say anything about the tragedy. All she said was that she was safe and had arrived in Italy. It had been a long time since she had spoken with her mother; she just wanted to hear her voice. Even the silences and omissions count.

We often use maps or drawings when we talk with the survivors. I drew a boot to represent Italy, and the Eritrean woman said to me, smiling: ‘I studied it at school!’ Before leaving her homeland, she had checked on a map the shortest point to cross the sea. She will carry a huge weight with her for the rest of her life, as after all the efforts put into this trip, her child drowned.

Burbon Argos rescue on May 23, 2016

What else travels through the phone lines between Europe and Africa?

A few days ago, I met a Sudanese man who had left his country with his pregnant wife. He was desperate as he had arrived in Italy alone. He was drying some photos he had brought with him on the journey. He called home and I heard him saying alhamdulallah:thanks be to Allah while speaking with his wife's sister. His wife had called her to say that she had arrived in Italy. She survived. He could hardly believe it: for several hours he had suffered the tragedy of her possible loss. At the end of the call there was an explosion of tears and joy – by him, but also by us! The other survivors of the shipwreck told me that he had helped a lot of other people at sea. His help had been rewarded somehow. Stories like this give the survivors – and also give us – the energy to keep going. It’s the power of hope.”

Is it possible to get accurate figures for how many people drowned in a shipwreck?

“It’s very difficult to get accurate numbers. All the available information is collected from the survivors. One of our jobs is to make people understand that it is important to say if they have lost someone, to give all the details, but they are in a state of great confusion. You can try to give figures, but they are estimates, and nothing is certain. However, when one after the other the people we meet tell us, ‘I lost my sister,’ ‘I lost my cousin’, or when a group of friends tells us that 19 of them left, but only nine arrived – all of this can make the volume of a tragedy understandable.”

What concerns you most?

“I am afraid that the sense of humanity – the sense of proportion – could be lost. I fear that people watching these events from a distance could get used to them, as if they were watching a movie. There is the risk that tragedies like these will become normal. But the reality is that each shipwreck is a terrible tragedy. Whether there are hundreds of deaths, tens of deaths, or just one, all these victims are people who have been forced to cross the sea because there are no safe alternatives. I cannot accept that children or adults can die like this. I cannot accept it. Never.”

:MSF: In Italy, MSF mobile teams are working in Sicily and in Southern regional ports, at critical landings related to shipwrecks and incidents at sea, to support psychologically and give first assistance to people who survived such traumatic events. A mobile team composed of a psychologist and specially trained cultural mediators is deployed within maximum 72 hours after the alert given by the Italian authorities. At sea, on the Bourbon Argos, MSF is providing Psychological First Aid:PFA to people during and after rescue operations. Between the end of April and the end of May 2016, 6 PFA operations have been conducted, most of them related to last days shipwrecks, including 16 individual sessions and several emotional group debriefings. ω.

Images: Sara Creta:MSF

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The Conversation With Takeshi Imamura

 

Takeshi Imamura Project Scientist, AKATSUKI: Venus Unveiled: A Planet Beyond Our Imagination. Associate Professor, Department of Solar System Sciences, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, JAXA. Dr. Imamura received his Ph.D in 1998 from the Department of Earth and Planetary Physics at the University of Tokyo. He has been involved in radio science observations of the Mars explorer NOZOMI, the SELenological and Engineering Explorer KAGUYA (SELENE), and AKATSUKI. He specializes in planetary atmospheric science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: NASA Planetary Photojournal : Published: 14 February 1990: This picture of Venus was taken by the Galileo spacecrafts Solid State Imaging System on February 14, 1990, at a range of almost 1.7 million miles from the planet. A highpass spatial filter has been applied in order to emphasize the smaller scale cloud features, and the rendition has been colorized to a bluish hue in order to emphasize the subtle contrasts in the cloud markings and to indicate that it was taken through a violet filter. The sulfuric acid clouds indicate considerable convective activity, in the equatorial regions of the planet to the left and downwind of the subsolar point (afternoon on Venus). They are analogous to "fair weather clouds" on Earth. The filamentary dark features visible in the colorized image are here revealed to be composed of several dark nodules, like beads on a string, each about 60 miles across. The Galileo Project is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; its mission is to study Jupiter and its satellites and magnetosphere after multiple gravity assist flybys at Venus and Earth. Image Credit: JPL

|| April 24: 2016 || AKATSUKI was successfully inserted into orbit around Venus in December 2015. A previous attempt, five years ago, failed due to a damaged engine, and since then the probe has been orbiting the Sun, waiting for the next opportunity to approach Venus. Now, tests of observation equipment have been completed, and full-scale observation is due to begin around April. We asked AKATSUKI Project Scientist Takeshi Imamura what kind of results we can expect.

Focus on the climate

First of all, tell us what is interesting about Venus

The most appealing thing about Venus is the question, “Why is Venus so different from Earth?” Venus is the same kind of solid-rock planet as Earth, and does not differ much from it in size or mass. Therefore, we think that the composition of its atmosphere at birth may have closely resembled that of Earth. But Venus’s current environment is completely different. Earth’s atmosphere is composed mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, whereas Venus’s is almost completely carbon dioxide, and its skies are covered with thick sulfuric acid clouds.

Venus looks bright from Earth because these sulfuric acid clouds reflect the light of the Sun – this is why it’s always captured people’s interest. But Venus is a very difficult planet to explore. Until fairly recently, only American and Soviet probes had studied Venus, but because of these clouds, they had trouble seeing the planet underneath. Also, because the surface temperature is more than 400℃ and the atmospheric pressure is over 90 Earth atmospheres, the probes were not able to move around freely and study the planet. As a result, many puzzles remain, which AKATSUKI is going to try to solve. For example, we’re going to do a thorough study of the climate. Venus’s atmosphere is in a state of super-rotation – it circles the planet at speeds of up to 400 km/h, at an altitude of 60 km – a kind of ultra-high-speed wind. Venus rotates slowly, with one rotation taking 243 Earth days, but in the skies above it there is a ferocious wind. Where does this wind come from? How are the sulfuric acid clouds formed? AKATSUKI will attempt to answer these questions.

The current environments on Venus and Earth are totally different, but when the planets were formed they were similar. Is that correct?

Yes. The surface temperature on Venus today is very high, and there are no oceans. But some scientists think there may have once been oceans on Venus. Its atmosphere is made up mainly of carbon dioxide, but Earth also has a lot of carbon dioxide. The difference is that on Earth it’s hidden underground, and absorbed into oceans and rivers. Carbon dioxide that is dissolved in water combines with minerals such as calcium to form carbonate minerals, which are hidden at the bottom of the oceans. But if Earth were to move closer to the Sun, like Venus, it is possible that its temperature would rise with the heat of the Sun, all the water would evaporate, the carbon dioxide in the ground would be released, and it would become like Venus – a planet covered in a thick layer of carbon dioxide.

If we can find out how Venus became the scorching-hot world that it is now, we should be able to understand how special Earth’s environment really is. We need to know more about Venus in order to know more about Earth. Environmental problems on Earth are becoming more serious, and Venus may be an example of the ultimate result of global warming. Studying Venus may allow us to see how Earth’s climate will change if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. That’s another reason that exploring Venus is really significant.

New aspects of Venus unveiled

Tell us about the current status of the probe.

Since our probe started its orbit of Venus last December, we have been testing its six observation instruments and performing initial observations. When we start using a camera, for example, we can make adjustments such as changing the exposure. We will be able to start full-scale observation – around April of this year.

Will all the equipment be used simultaneously?

AKATSUKI is equipped with five cameras, which observe Venus at different light wavelengths, and one instrument for measurement using electromagnetic waves. The cameras observe the atmosphere at different heights: the visible-ray camera looks for lightning; mid- infrared looks at cloud temperature distribution; ultraviolet looks at the chemical substances at the top of the clouds; near-infrared (1μm) looks at the planet surface, and another near-infrared (2μm) observes the lower atmosphere. Electromagnetic waves sent from the probe and received on Earth tell us about the vertical structures of the temperature and other features of the Venusian atmosphere. Looking from Earth, there are times when the probe is hidden behind Venus. When the probe is just coming back into view, its electromagnetic waves glance off the edge of the Venusian atmosphere. By studying the fluctuations of the electromagnetic waves at such times, we can get information on the atmosphere.

All this observation equipment will be working simultaneously, although not necessarily in unison. Cameras that only observe Venus on the dayside will be resting while the probe is on the nightside. The most important thing about AKATSUKI is the simultaneous and continuous study of the Venusian atmosphere with multiple wavelengths of light, and the three-dimensional capture of these movements. We can’t achieve our goals using just one camera taking one type of image. Venus looks completely different depending on the wavelength, so by combining multiple data, we can get a more complete picture of the movement of the atmosphere and the origin of the clouds.

Some early images from AKATSUKI have now been released. How did that feel?

I had a pretty strong reaction to seeing the images that were taken right after AKATSUKI was inserted into orbit. Even with just these images, we have made a number of discoveries, and our science team is extremely excited. When we saw full images of Venus taken by the observation cameras that we had personally developed, we were beside ourselves with joy! That’s when we really felt that we had finally arrived at Venus.

What kinds of discoveries have been made from these images?

The thing that we scientists are most excited about are the images taken by the mid-infrared camera. Looking at these images, which capture the temperature distribution of Venusian clouds, we can see a bow-like white pattern from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere, straddling the equatorial area. The white coloring shows areas where temperatures are high. High-speed winds of 400 km/h blow from east to west on Venus, so we can see the streaks from east to west, but how a band structure can run from north to south is a puzzle. We never imagined that we would see this kind of thing.

Images that are taken with the ultraviolet imager have also shown us aspects of Venus that we had never seen before. This is the first time we have imaged Venus with the ultraviolet wavelength that allows us to see sulfur dioxide. Ultraviolet rays from the Sun cause a chemical reaction, and the sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere changes into sulfuric acid. This is the origin of the sulfuric acid clouds that cover the planet, but we don’t know where and how this sulfur dioxide is carried to the top of the clouds. As we continue our analysis of these images, we hope to understand how the sulfuric acid clouds are created, and why the planet is covered with them. Personally, I am very interested in this.

In addition, the images captured by the near-infrared camera are very interesting. From these images, we can see that the clouds are low at the north and south poles, but high near the equator. This large-scale difference of elevation is overlain with striped pattern from east to west. This striped pattern may be caused by the super-rotation, which blows from east to west, but it is a mystery why clouds should be higher or lower depending on location. So even these initial observation images are giving us one piece of new information after another. So we are delighted! At the moment, we are taking only still images, but starting April we will be recording the first ever video of the movements of the atmosphere and clouds of Venus. I think after that our understanding will progress in leaps and bounds.

Changing the Last Five Years to a Positive

AKATSUKI waited five years for an orbit insertion opportunity. How did you feel when insertion was successful?

When I saw that our second attempt to insert AKATSUKI into orbit had worked, I got so emotional I could hardly speak. This happened on December 7, 2015, five years to the day after our first attempt had failed. That failure happened because a fuel-supply valve had closed and an abnormal combustion occurred in the main engine leading to its destruction. This time we maneuvered the probe by firing its four attitude-control thrusters instead of the damaged main engine. These thrusters are quite small – the four of them together have just one-fifth the power of the main engine. We fired them for about 20 minutes in the opposite direction to the probe’s flight path – in other words, applying the brakes. And then AKATSUKI was pulled into orbit by Venus’s gravity. This was the first time in history that a probe had been inserted into planetary orbit using just the attitude control engines. The day of the operation we were watching with bated breath, trusting the skill of the orbit control team. When we saw that the engine thrust had gone exactly according to plan, we knew that we had been successful.

How did you maintain your motivation over the five years it took until the second attempt?

When the initial orbit insertion failed, our goal seemed very far away, but we always had a strong will to succeed with AKATSUKI. If you think too much about the five-year period, it becomes really hard to stay motivated, so I tried to just keep looking ahead. And it’s not just me. There is an entire AKATSUKI science team. As a group we have the advantage of a thorough knowledge of the abilities and limits of the probe, so we were able to continue refining our observation plans.

Over the past five years, the daily work in the operation control room has been to send commands to the probe. We have also worked on improving not only our methods of analyzing observation data but also our numerical simulation models. Technology has greatly improved in these five years, and we’ve been able to create a system that will produce more results. So we haven’t wasted these five years.

The orbit around Venus is larger than originally planned. Will this affect the observation plans?

AKATSUKI is currently in an elliptical orbit around the equator of Venus, at an altitude of between 1,000 and 10,000 km at its nearest point, and about 360,000 km at its farthest, orbiting the planet in around 10 days. The initial plan was to have AKATSUKI complete one orbit in around 30 hours, so it is true that the orbit is much larger than originally planned. But we haven’t abandoned any of the original plans – we intend to accomplish them all. Luckily, the observation equipment is functioning properly, and as the cameras have some of the highest levels of resolution in the world, we believe that we will obtain satisfactory results from this orbit. I am sure you have also seen images from the meteorological satellite Himawari. Weather forecasts only show images of the skies above Japan, but in fact Himawari images the entire planet Earth. Orbiting the Earth from afar and getting a full view with one camera, it is possible to observe our planet’s climate as a whole. Similarly, AKATSUKI can study the Venusian climate from a position where it can observe the entire planet.

Are you worried about AKATSUKI’s design lifespan?

We have already passed the original design lifespan of four and a half years, but AKATSUKI’s observation equipment is in very good condition. There has been no major deterioration, so, given the amount of fuel it has left, I feel we will be able to carry on for quite a long time. We will continue to operate with caution in order to keep the probe going as long as possible.

The long wait for AKATSUKI is over

What has the international reaction been to the successful orbit insertion?

When the news broke that we had managed to put AKATSUKI into orbit, our mailboxes filled with congratulations from scientists all over the world. The Venus Express conference was held just after this, and I participated by videoconference. Everyone cheered and applauded for us. Venus Express is a European probe that observed Venus from 2006 to 2014. We have a great collaborative relationship with that team, to the point that we had a shared observation plan if AKATSUKI had arrived at Venus in 2010. In order to solve the puzzles discovered by Venus Express, we knew that we had to wait for AKATSUKI to arrive, so everyone was waiting eagerly for that day. Now there are a lot of expectations. More than anything we want to make sure that AKATSUKI’s observations are successful.

What role will the Venus Express observations play in the AKATSUKI mission?

The main goal of Venus Express was to study the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the surface, atmospheric motions to some extent, and electromagnetic environment around Venus. AKATSUKI is going to visualize the movements of the Venusian atmosphere in three dimensions. These are very different missions, but by combining the results of the two, we expect to be able to make a whole new set of discoveries.

Venus Express also observed the atmosphere using electromagnetic waves, and it did capture some waves that could feasibly have come from lightning. If there really is lightning on Venus, this will create another big puzzle for us. Lightning on Earth is caused by ice particles in clouds colliding and creating static electricity through friction. So if ice particles are required to create lightning, but there are no ice particles on Venus because of the scorching heat, how is that lightning created?

It may be that the mechanism that creates lightning on Venus defies conventional wisdom. On the other hand, there are scientists who don’t accept that there is lightning on Venus. They postulate that there is a high-altitude atmosphere around Venus that is charged with electricity, and that due to some kind of movement in this atmosphere, electromagnetic waves resembling lightning are created. AKATSUKI is equipped with a sensor that can capture the luminescence phenomenon of lightning, so we hope to settle this once and for all.

The mysteries of the wind

What puzzle would you particularly like AKATSUKI to solve?

I would like to be able to solve the puzzle of the super-rotation of the Venusian atmosphere. There are a number of hypotheses about the cause of the super-rotation, but they are all theoretical, and we lack conclusive evidence. I think AKATSUKI will allow us to find a definitive answer, through observation of key phenomena and simulations using numerical models.

My own interest, though, is not just in Venus itself. My original interest was wind. When I was a student, I studied the Earth’s atmosphere, and I always had questions about why the wind blows the way it does. Around that time, I found out that the wind on the planet next door blew in a completely different, incomprehensible way. What are the differences between wind on Earth and wind on Venus? I thought that if we could understand these differences, we would finally be able to truly understand the wind on Earth. Once we understand the reasons wind behaves the way it does on Earth, we should be able to understand how our environment could change to become like Venus’s, and vice versa. I want to know about the boundaries of the differences between Earth and Venus.

Did you know that each celestial body has a different kind of wind blowing on it? Mars also has wind and storms and sometimes tornadoes. The planet next to Mars, Jupiter, also has many intriguing meteorological phenomena, including wind and lightning. Not to mention the fact that the Sun also has an atmosphere with blowing winds. Each of these celestial bodies has a different type of wind, but where do the differences come from? I really want to understand the fundamental reasons behind these differences. And furthermore, I would like to find out whether super-rotation exists on planets outside our solar system. We’ve discovered many planets outside our solar system that, like Venus, orbit a central star. Under the right conditions, I think we’ll be able to find similar phenomena outside the solar system.

You really do like wind, don’t you?

I really do. I have always been very interested in the rotational mechanism of the flow of the atmosphere. In the end, we are all alive on Earth because the atmosphere flows. For example, Earth’s atmosphere distributes heat over the planet as a whole. If this stopped, heat would no longer be carried from south to north, the oceans in the equatorial zone would all evaporate, and the high latitude zones would freeze over. People would no longer be able to live in such a world of extremes. We are all able to breathe fresh air precisely because the atmosphere circulates. The circulation of the atmosphere creates a planet’s climate. In this sense, I think wind is very important.

Atmospheres are basically fluid, and fluids are connected. Therefore, wind is not a local thing but a continuum. For example, if a very strong wind blows in one location, it isn’t just blowing in that particular place. It’s only a small part of the wind that is blowing all over the world. And that wind is part of the jet stream that surrounds the entire planet. So when I feel the wind, what I’m feeling is the flow of the atmosphere that surrounds the whole Earth. That’s why I love being outside on really windy days!

The joy of turning conventional wisdom on its head

What are your current goals?

First of all, there are the original goals of AKATSUKI: obtaining a proper explanation for the phenomenon of super-rotation and the sulfuric acid clouds. After that, I want to see how far I can get with solving the new puzzles that will come up in the future. Before we started getting the initial observation images, we scientists had long been imagining what kinds of pictures of Venus these cameras would give us. But our imagination was completely turned on its head. Thee images are different from what was accepted knowledge until now, and they’ve have created another new puzzle. But the more conventional wisdom is overturned, the happier we are. This is because each time that happens, it’s a starting point for new research. AKATSUKI will show us new images of Venus that are beyond our imagination. I think the challenge for researchers when they see these is to let go of preconceived notions and make as many new discoveries as possible. I want to broaden the results we get from AKATSUKI – not just discovering new puzzles, but creating new science.

Something else that requires consideration is future development. How are planets formed? What is the secret behind the creation of an environment like Earth's? When we think about questions like this, there is no way that everything will end with AKATSUKI. The next mission might be to Mars, to Venus, or another planet. My biggest goal is to launch the next probe as soon as possible, in order to explain the structure of another planet’s environment.

Do you have a final message for the readers?

Please continue to pay attentions to AKATSUKI. Once full-scale observation begins this spring, we will be able to see video of the Venusian atmosphere. If we achieve this, we would very much like to make this video public. Following this, we plan to announce results from AKATSUKI. We would be very happy if you were able to join us in experiencing the fun of finding out that what you imagined is completely wrong. We would like you to look at a new world in a new way along with us. And I would also be very happy if some of the readers developed an interest in the science of planetary atmospheres. I hope you will join us in following AKATSUKI’s scientific journey on Venus.

Image and Texts: JAXA

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The Conversation

The Conversation With Eriko Masaki, General Manager of One Year Old Japan Space Museum: Sharing the Beauty of the Universe

Top Image: TeNQ and Bottom Image: JAXa

Japan's Space Museum, A Year Old: Sharing the Beauty of the Universe With Eriko Masaki

Then I had a chance to see the magnificent starry night sky at Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii, where the Subaru Telescope is located. I was so moved. This was when I realized that the concept of TeNQ should be about excitement: about being awed by the beauty of the universe, about the thrill of discovery, about the joy of learning something new and sharing it with others. Our hope is that such an exciting experience will encourage visitors to develop an interest in the universe.

March 15, 2016: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA: The Space Museum TeNQ (pron: ten-cue) celebrated its first anniversary in July 2015. Throughout the museum there are many creative exhibits that help visitors feel closer to the universe. The museum’s general manager, Eriko Masaki, reveals the secrets of the museum’s success.
 

Mapping the Visitors’ “Mind Stories”

What is the concept of Space Museum TeNQ?

TeNQ is an entertainment museum designed to be enjoyed whether the visitor is already interested in the universe or not. When the topic is space, some people automatically assume that it is difficult and put up their guard. So at TeNQ, we would like visitors to loosen up, and allow themselves to simply enjoy and be enchanted by the universe. We want to make TeNQ an exciting museum where people can feel close to the universe.
 

So the museum focuses on using entertainment to engage people

Entertainment is a key element, since TeNQ is located in an entertainment facility consisting of the Tokyo Dome (an all-weather multipurpose stadium), a hotel, an amusement park, and a spa complex. We have chosen “the universe” as the concept for the museum because we saw good potential for involving everyone, from children to the elderly. But the universe can cover such a wide range of topics, and you can approach it from so many different angles. Frankly speaking, I didn’t have a particular interest in space before, so in the early stages of planning I wasn’t quite sure what we should do at TeNQ. Then I had a chance to see the magnificent starry night sky at Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii, where the Subaru Telescope is located. I was so moved. This was when I realized that the concept of TeNQ should be about excitement: about being awed by the beauty of the universe, about the thrill of discovery, about the joy of learning something new and sharing it with others. Our hope is that such an exciting experience will encourage visitors to develop an interest in the universe.

What’s your strategy for achieving this?

Imagination

When designing the visitor experience, we thought about our guests’ “mind stories” – how their mind would work – and designed the exhibition space accordingly. We created nine areas: Entrance, Tunnel ZERO, Starting Room, Theater SORA, Science, Imagination, Exhibition, Connection Place, and Space Store.

The flow of the story we designed goes like this: First, you reset your mind as you walk from the entrance through a dark tunnel. Then, in the Starting Room, which is full of white cubes, there is a surprise waiting for you: with the help of projection mapping, we use the entire room to introduce how humans have viewed the universe from ancient times to the present day. We don’t go into detail, but instead use a montage of historic images to stimulate your imagination.

The next area is the Theater SORA. The theater has a unique shape: 11 meters in diameter, with a hole at the center. You look down through the hole to watch video. There, you see real images of the Earth and other planets, galaxies, the starry night sky shot at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and the Earth seen from the International Space Station, for example – in greater than 4K ultra high definition video. The highlight is that, by looking down into outer space, you can simulate the sensation of floating in space. I’ve heard it said that seeing the Earth from space changes astronauts’ view of the world. This is called the overview effect. Right now only a very small number of people can go to space, but at TeNQ you can feel as if you’re there. We guarantee you a memorable experience.

After the video images stimulate your emotions, the next step is to inspire you with science. Because you are already excited, you are more open to things that you may normally think are too difficult for you, and you can make connections with the video you just saw in the other areas. So we have designed the exhibits by imagining how visitors’ minds would work. The video show emphasizes entertainment, but in the Science area, by contrast, we introduce a lot of real, cutting-edge research.

Then in the area called Imagination, you can enjoy the universe in whatever way you want, having fun with the various exhibits. There are interactive exhibits, including a quiz, a puzzle that allows you to create your own planet, and a game where you fly a rocket by operating a robot. There is also a corner for viewing art and watching videos about the universe.

So each area is given a different role, but they are also sort of mixed intentionally. We have combined various elements here and there, and it is up to visitors where and how they become excited or moved. We would like them to feel something at TeNQ, and to go home with memorable experiences. So we design the exhibits thinking about how our visitors’ minds will work.

You’re also trying to provide a comfortable environment for visitors.

We allow visitors to enter the museum every 15 minutes, with a maximum of 70 people at any one time, so it is very rare that it becomes crowded. In the Theater SORA, for example, everyone can watch the video from the front row. After the theater experience, they are invited to move to the next area, so we can usually avoid situations where there are too many people crowded in one exhibit. We work hard to make sure that visitors are exposed to the universe in a comfortable environment.

Authenticity Moves People

I was surprised to hear that there is a real laboratory in the Science area

Yes, our exhibit includes a Research Center, which is a satellite office of the University Museum of the University of Tokyo, under the supervision of associate professor Hideaki Miyamoto. Prof. Miyamoto specializes in planetary science and solar system exploration. He is a leading scientist in the study of Mars and its exploration, and is also involved in the HAYABUSA 2 project. At the Research Center, scientists are actually working on research, and visitors can watch them work. The latest results are presented directly to the public, and this is one of our big highlights. For example, images sent from NASA’s Mars explorer are shown on the monitor, and the information is constantly updated.

Conventional science museums restrict their exhibits to things that have already been proven. But at TeNQ, we show what is under debate at this very moment. Visitors can see information that regular people normally don’t have access to, and the information is updated daily, so visitors can get the latest every time they come to the museum. In addition, there is a corner where visitors can touch a piece of a Martian meteorite, and the Mars Research Project allows them to take part in actual research. I think that these events are unique experiences. After all, authenticity touches people. We hope that, having seen real research data and real-life scientists working, some people will be inspired to pursue an interest in space development or in the universe.

Frequently updating the information must contribute to the number of repeat visitors.

That’s correct. We want people to come back to TeNQ many times, so we plan different exhibitions and seasonal events, for example for Christmas and Halloween. We have also hosted lectures by world-class scientists, and a public viewing of a rocket launch with the help of JAXA. We try to offer excitement that you can only get at our museum, rather than just providing knowledge that you only need to hear once.

Could you tell us about your past exhibitions

We change the content every three or four months. The first exhibition was about TeNQ-style space travel, the second was about Ultraman (a popular Japanese science fiction TV series), followed by exhibitions featuring illustrations of the universe, and the manga Space Brothers. The current exhibition is about people with space-related careers – people working at JAXA and elsewhere in the space field. I had the opportunity to meet some of them in the course of curating our past exhibitions, and really enjoyed the experience. I thought the public would enjoy learning about space-related work through the people who work in the field – empathizing with their words, the way they work, and the stories behind what they do. Let’s say there is a woman who is not interested in the universe or technology at all. Even someone like her will be touched if she hears the story of someone getting in trouble in space and surviving, wouldn’t you say? So we introduce people whose jobs are space-related – astronauts, scientists and engineers – along with their anecdotes and messages to the public. We also introduce space technologies used in daily life, for example in fishing or growing rice.

To show how space technology is used in fishing, you provide a lot of detail about people – for example interviews with people working in the industry – but at the same time, you show satellites as simply yellow boxes. I found the contrast very interesting.

Typical exhibition facilities may use sophisticated satellite models, but our objective is to show the relationship between satellites and people – how satellites are being used in real life – so it’s enough to just show the satellites as icons. If visitors would like further information, we think that they can look into it themselves or visit other facilities. In fact, when we consulted JAXA about the idea for this exhibition, they told us they’d held a similar exhibition before.

Changing the style of the exhibits and the décor of the museum space can really affect the visitor’s experience. For instance, displaying a product beautifully in a stylish shop can make it look much nicer. So in our case, we try to show things differently from other facilities in order to offer visitors a sense of intimacy. Take for example the entrance of TeNQ: the décor uses a lot of wood, so it feels like a café. We wanted to go with softness and unpredictability to distinguish us from typical science museums, space theme parks and science fiction.

Even the toilet signs are different, right?

We try to use as many fun and surprising elements as we can, so we used male and female astronauts for the toilet signs. There are aliens hidden in many places, too. Please come and look for them! Mind you, there are no aliens in the Science area, because we only show real research there. I think otherwise the scientists would be upset. (Laughs.)

The Universe as Entertainment!

Do you often collaborate with research institutions?

We are not space experts, so for the current exhibition, about people with space-related careers, we worked with JAXA employees and other experts, and for the exhibition on illustrations of the universe we collaborated with the Four-Dimensional Digital Universe Project at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Our collaborators introduce us to the people we need to meet for our workshops, and this way our space network is gradually expanding. Our biggest strength is being able to show the universe as entertainment. Prof. Miyamoto at the University of Tokyo decided to collaborate with us because he saw a new opportunity for public outreach. We are hoping we can continue to plan and implement exhibitions in collaboration with those who specialize in space research and technology, as well as others from the space industry.

It has been a year and a half since the museum opened. How have visitors’ reactions been so far? Which area is the most popular?

We would like families to visit TeNQ, of course, but our main target is women in their 20s and 30s. We want to have a museum where women feel comfortable to come alone. And indeed, we’ve met our target: 60 percent of our visitors are women, many in their 20s and 30s. Theater SORA is very popular, but some say that their favorite is the Starting Room, because it gives them a real sense of being “there,” while others spend hours with the Mission Rally Q, where they have to find answers in the exhibits as they go. So everyone is different. But we didn’t expect that so many visitors would be taking photos in the Word-arium, a room that introduces words inspired by the universe. Surprisingly many take selfies beside the words displayed in this dark and mysterious room. Knowing that people like taking photos to share on social media, we made a special effort to create good photo backdrops, but this phenomenon was truly unexpected. While we are happy to see things working as we originally planned, we are often surprised to find that people are intrigued by things we never expected to be so popular.

So people can take pictures freely?

They can take photos anywhere, except in the Starting Room, Theater SORA and the Research Center. We are happy to see photos spread through social media because that way more people hear about TeNQ. But at the Research Center, visitors are asked not to take photos, to avoid interfering with the scientists at work.

Have you been in the entertainment business for a long time?

I was involved in the opening of the spa complex LaQua, which opened in 2003 at Tokyo Dome City, and also worked on the shopping mall and the redevelopment of the old amusement park area. Tokyo Dome City was originally a place that appealed mainly to men, with baseball, martial arts and horse racing. The objective of the redevelopment was to bring women and families to the site. The experience I have gained with the other projects was very useful for planning a space museum that targets women.

Have you developed a fondness for the universe?

I think so. I can look at the universe only from an average person’s point of view, but I definitely feel more familiar with it and more interested, as I meet more people who work around space. Everyone is so passionate about their job, that I am totally drawn to their stories, regardless of their specialty. It is much more interesting than learning from books. After I heard about the moon, I look up at it at night and appreciate its beauty. Also, meeting with JAXA employees and researchers gives me more awareness of space-related news. I think my perspective has broadened thanks to this job.

New Space Stories All the Time

Are there new things you would like to try in the future?

Many people expect to get something extraordinary in entertainment every time. Of course, there is a type of entertainment for times when you don’t want to think about your daily concerns and just refresh yourself. But I think that there can also be a kind of entertainment that can make the everyday more enjoyable. Going to a museum or a spa after work – I would like to suggest that people add such forms of entertainment to their daily lives. TeNQ is open until 9 pm, so I think visitors have enough time to enjoy the museum after work. I would like TeNQ to be an entertainment museum where people can stop by casually when they feel tired from work and want to relax watching video of the beautiful universe. Our museum is not well-known enough to achieve this goal yet, so we need to make a greater effort in promoting it by planning interesting exhibitions, for instance. We want to strive to continue to offer excitement at TeNQ.

What kind of expectations do you have for JAXA?

I think it’s possible for even a commercial complex such as ours to introduce the public to the beauty and excitement of the universe, in a different way than JAXA. The universe has always been something that catches people’s attention – its attraction is universal. By collaborating with JAXA, we are sure that we can offer excitement and memorable experiences. For the asteroid explorer HAYABUSA 2, for example, we would like to take advantage of our permanent facility, and not just feature the launch but also follow up on its mission later on. TeNQ opened only a year and a half ago, and there is still a long way to go. We will be delighted if JAXA can continue to work with us in the future.

Eriko Masaki: Image: JAXA

Eriko Masaki: TeNQ General Manager, Space Museum Department, Tokyo Dome Corp: After joining Tokyo Dome Corporation, Ms. Masaki was assigned to the Tokyo Dome City redevelopment project team, and worked on the spa complex LaQua. Subsequently, she was involved in the development of the food court, GO-FUN, which opened in 2011. The same year, she joined the Space Museum TeNQ project, in its planning stage. TeNQ opened in July 2014, and she was appointed to her current position in August 2015.

TeNQ

Opening Hours

Daily 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM (doors closed for admission after 8:00 PM)
Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and specified dates 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM (doors closed for admission after 8:00 PM)
*Open year round (with some closures for scheduled equipment maintenance, special events, and specified dates)
*"Specified Dates" are Golden Week, spring/summer/winter school holidays, etc.
* Several exhibits at TeNQ incorporate large-screen video, sound, and blackout effects that do not allow us to admit children under 4 into the Museum.

Where and How

Tokyo Dome City, Yellow Building 6F

-Nearest station
Suidobashi Station, JR & Mita subway lines
Korakuen Station, Marunouchi and Namboku subway lines
Kasuga Station, Oedo subway line

-Address: 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0004

-Tel. 03-3814-0109

TeNQ

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The Conversation With 'UN Woman' Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Let's Talk About Having a Woman to Head the UN

Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). UN Photo/Cia Pak

March 08, 2016: From economic exclusion to violence targeting women and girls, the head of the United Nations entity tasked with promoting gender equality believes such challenges make it all the more critical to push ahead with the new global development agenda, which contains many targets specifically recognizing women's equality and empowerment.

“We’re asking private sector, individuals, ourselves – as the women organization – to step it up for gender equality,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, told the UN News Service.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality,” referring to the deadline for the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which chart out a new roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls and other forms of development over the next 15 years.

“One big thing that is relevant for every woman and girl no matter who they are and no matter where they are, is the fact that all governments have agreed to the 2030 Agenda,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, adding that issues related to women and girls are front and centre in that Agenda and will allow greater progress to be made.

She defined “Planet 50-50 by 2030” as making strategic decisions about including women in the economy, pushing for equal pay, reducing early pregnancies in girls and getting more girls to stay in schools longer, among other strides.

“Stepping it up means coming out of the ‘business as usual,’ and making sure that the gaps we've identified in our evaluation of the way we've worked in the last 20 years are being addressed,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

“We are calling men and boys to be part of a solution. That is stepping it up,” she added.

Eliminating violence against women and girls

One of the detriments to gender equality is violence against women and girls, a priority area for UN Women, which works with governments to develop dedicated national action plans, and advocates for countries with weak or non-existent laws on eliminating violence against women to put the proper frameworks in place.

“Leaders of nations need to have zero tolerance towards violence against women and girls,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

She blamed a culture of impunity where violence was not only tolerated by officials elected to lead and protect a nation, but also by a lack of access to justice and accountability.

“We are delegating this story upwards,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “We are saying the issue of protecting women and girls from violence is the responsibility of the heads of State. Because a woman might not have the clout to tell a police office in her country what to do, but the biggest power who has the authority – and that is the head of State.”

The situation is more difficult when non-State actors are involved, such as the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

“We don’t have a structured way to interact,” noted Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “This is where communities are important.”

She extolled community-focused outreach programmes, which range from security to social interventions, and where local residents provide both the intelligence and the deterrence against today’s challenges, such as the radicalization of young people.

Targeting of human rights defenders

In some situations, the line between violations against women by State and non-State actors is blurred. Such as in the targeting of women’s right defenders, which Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said is an increasing problem.

Earlier this week, UN Women strongly condemned the murder on 3 March of indigenous leader, environmentalist and defender of human rights, Berta Cáceres, who was shot in her home in the city of La Esperanza in western Honduras. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing.

According to a press release, Ms. Cáceres was a staunch defender of the rights of indigenous peoples, and had been receiving threats for her stance against hydroelectric construction projects on land sacred to the Lenca people in western Honduras.

Recognizing her death and work, UN Women paid tribute to the many other women who have been murdered in Honduras and across the world for their work to build peace, justice and equality.

“It shows how vulnerable women are in our communities,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

Gender equality and the UN

Advocating on behalf of women and girls throughout the world means advocating also on behalf of the women and girls within the UN system.

Despite many high-level appointments under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “we have begun to stagnate,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka cautioned. “We need to step it up as the United Nations in order to make sure that we’re the best example on this issue.”

“We still have UN events and panels with an all-men panel discussing an issue that is central to everybody, women and girls. The assumption that men will know what needs to be done is cheeky, to say the least,” she continued.

That includes selecting a woman as the successor to Ban Ki-moon, whose second and final term ends on 31 December 2016. There are now at least three female candidates: Vesna Pusic of Croatia; Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; and Natalia Gherman of the Republic of Moldova.

“I am only interested in a woman candidate,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “It is time. It’s 2016, please.”

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The Conversation With Robert Onus MSF Logistics Team Leader

MSF providing support to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq. Image: MSF

Iraq: Seven months in an endless race to provide access to aid
 

Seven months in Iraq was quite an assignment for MSF logistics team leader Robert Onus. It felt like an endless race against time to provide refugees, internally displaced people and local inhabitants access to humanitarian and medical aid. From securing supplies and managing logistics to rehabilitating health centres, Robert guides us through his assignment with MSF in this region in turmoil.

What did your mission consist of?

There was a big supply component to what I had to do, 75% of the supplies we needed for the country were coming through Dohuk, where I was based. We had to manage importation and exportation, local purchasing, warehousing and transportation to the various other projects.

Another major part of my work was the rehabilitation/construction side of things, as we were preparing to hand over the health centre in one of the refugee camps near Domiz to the local authorities. As part of this process, we had to rehabilitate some old buildings, move offices, build new latrines, upgrade the waste management area and various other bits and pieces.

But the most challenging aspect was managing the logistics for the mobile clinics project we were running in Ninewa. This project was based in an area close to the frontlines between ISIS and the Kurdish forces and as it was a long distance from our main office in Dohuk we effectively had to start from scratch, building a new base, office and housing in a small town in the area. Finding a house seems simple enough but in this area seven out of ten houses had been damaged or destroyed in the fighting and many remained booby trapped or contained unexploded ordnances. Once we found a house that we could actually rent then we had to do the rehabilitation to meet the needs of the project. All of this took place in a small village where most people had left due to the war and to which we had limited access and there were only limited supplies available.

What was life like in Iraq?

It is hard to describe life here. On one side it is simple, common, and unremarkable. I lived half of my life in Dohuk, a modern city with modern amenities. And then I spent the other half of my time working in this rural area close the frontlines in a small village with only basic conditions.

The area near the frontlines is a vast farmland not dissimilar to north western New South Wales, Australia, where I come from. Rolling hills are covered in wheat and herds of sheep shuffle across the countryside usually held in check by a young boy sitting sideways on a donkey, his face completely covered by a red and white scarf to hide from the sun.

The conflict in the area we were working seemed to ebb and flow, but it would usually remain on the other side of the small mountain range to the south of where we were based. The sound of coalition jets, sporadic towers of smoke across the mountains, military convoys and seemingly infinite check-points were the only signs that we were in the middle of a war zone.
What were your more difficult challenges?

A destroyed house in Iraq. Image: MSF

At a personal level the main challenge was certainly the quantity of work we had to achieve across the various projects we were running. The needs are infinite and it is only a lack of resources and the danger associated with accessing certain areas that limits what you could or might do. Regardless of whether I worked 12 or 14 or 16 hours a day the amount of work I had to do seemed to grow from one day to the other.

For me the most difficult element was trying to imagine the long term solution to this war. Of course it’s not our mission in MSF - we are here to deal with the medical problems faced by the people not trying to find the political solution. Yet in previous projects, such as in the Ebola epidemic, it was hard but we knew we could find the solution. In this conflict, we are bringing support to people who don’t have anything but who can say when the general situation here will improve.

What are conditions like in Iraq?

There are camps for refugees and internally displaced people scattered all over the Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous region. In Dohuk Governorate, where I was based, there were 18 camps alone that housed displaced people. The conditions vary from camp to camp but all suffer the same basic hardships – most people are living one family in a small tent with temperatures fluctuating from below zero in winter to around 50 degrees in summer with only the most basic access to water and sanitation, food and shelter.

The situation is perhaps even worse for those people who are not in the camps but still living in unfinished buildings and tents scattered around the cities. The buildings are large skeleton-like structures of concrete of several floors high, none of the walls are completed and they provide only the basic concept of shelter. People use plastic sheeting as walls, but again they have only limited access to water and sanitation. We worked in places where the bottom floor had been transformed into a giant open sewer. It was in the middle winter, so it was freezing cold, there was rubbish everywhere, and of course people are going to get sick, you are going to have epidemics in this kind of context.

What was your relationship with the national staff?

The staff was great. We had staff from Iraq and Syria and they were all exceptionally capable and I relied heavily on them. Outside of work, on the rare weekend when I could take a day off, we would go to the mountains or close to a river for a picnic.
 

People still living in unfinished buildings and tents scattered around the cities. Image: MSF

Dohuk Governorate is home to around 500,000 people who are either internally displaced or refugees. Among these people, who are living in precarious situations, you have many skilled and motivated to work in any way they can to provide for their families. One of the members of my team had a degree in physics; another one had a degree in literature and was a qualified electrician.

We also had a number of our staff who left Iraq to go Europe in search of a better life, especially staff who were themselves refugees in Iraq. Some staff left with their families; despite knowing the risks they faced they saw no alternative. Many cities in Syria are destroyed, there is no hope of return, and the future of the whole country is under a heavy cloud. So what can you do? Live the rest of your life in uncertainty and wait for this protracted war to end for a chance to go home or try to build a life somewhere?

MSF is currently working in 11 governorates across Iraq in order to provide impartial and free medical care to people affected by the conflict. In the first six months of 2015, MSF teams carried out 126,722 medical consultations in Iraq.

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The Conversation With Atefah Atti Riazi

The Chief Information Technology Officer at The United Nations In Conversation

10 February 2016 – Atefah “Atti” Riazi, the Chief Information Technology Officer of the United Nations, carries the following items in her handbag at all times – a screwdriver set, a Swiss Army knife and an iPhone.


“Of course, the iPhone,” she laughs, adding that along with Skype for keeping in touch with family while travelling, her favourite app is ‘Scratch’ a programme made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to teach children how to code.

“I tell my kids they can’t play a game until they write a game. That’s the one rule we have,” she says in an interview with the UN News Centre.

Ms. Riazi notes that her own personal experience as a parent, coupled with her role as head of the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT), has given her a better understanding of the challenges the global community has encountered over the past 15 years in trying to inspire and engage women and girls in science.

Ms. Riazi with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from right) at a showcase sponsored by the Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) in October 2015 at UN Headquarters. UN Photo/E. Debebe

In an effort to promote greater participation of women and girls in science, the UN last year declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In doing so, it recognized that the full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Ms. Riazi has ten-year-old twin daughters, the latest generation in what she describes as “a family of strong women,” although she is acutely aware of the sacrifices that many of them have made.

“I was born in Iran, and many of the women in my family didn’t have access to education. My grandmother was an orphan who was married at nine – she was never allowed to go to school. I remember helping her to read. I was probably in first or second grade at the time.

“My mother was only allowed to go to school up to the third grade – and she always says her worst memory from her childhood was when her brothers all managed to go to school and she was held back because she was a girl. She had to stay home and learn to be a housewife.”

Her mother never forgot this experience, she adds, and, along with the man who became her father, Ms. Riazi’s parents were determined to change the status quo.

“I came from a family that really believed that girls and boys could do whatever they wished to do, whatever they loved to do. Although society still put pressure on girls – as kids the girls wouldn’t study math or engineering, the boys would, and it was simply expected that the girls would become teachers and nurses. But from the beginning I just didn’t like the voice that constantly told me that you could not be what the boys could be.”

In 1979, as the Iranian revolution took place in her home country, Ms. Riazi enrolled in the electrical engineering programme at Stony Brook University in New York. She was one of just three women in her class.

“When I came to this country I decided that I was going be an engineer because my brother was always told that he would be the engineer. I kept looking back at my mom and my grandmother – at what they couldn’t have, and I knew I had to change the course. So I took engineering.

“And in the beginning it was difficult for me. Because if there’s one thing that we don’t teach women and girls, it’s confidence. And I went through that first year of engineering thinking ‘oh my goodness, this is so difficult I just can’t do it.’ But giving up was not an option. I was a foreign student. My country was in turmoil. I couldn’t fail.”

Despite the difficulties, one day she experienced a lightning bolt moment.

“I learned the beauty of mathematics once I looked at it from a social physics perspective – that’s when everything changed. Going into technology, that’s great. But doing it for the material gains? That’s the wrong path. It should be about a bigger cause. In the technology sector, we have a lot of innovation but it’s not responsible innovation. We’re moving from physics to social physics – design engineering that has a social impact.

“And if you’re going to do engineering, if you’re going to do technology, what are you trying to get? Value for humanity, that’s the ultimate goal. I realised then, that for a long time, especially in the private sector, we had used technology to improve consumers and to improve products. But how could we use technology to improve human life?”

It’s been this fundamental question, she says, that has guided her throughout her 30-year career in technology, with stints as Chief Information Officer at New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (she was on the team that introduced the Metro card) and The New York City Housing Association. Three years into her role at the UN, she balances a workload that focuses on innovation but also, with the rise of the dark web and cyber-crime, protection.

“What keeps me awake at night is what I call the ‘revenge of technology,’” she says.

“The dark web consists of websites that you cannot find and you cannot access unless you’ve been invited to go to them. For a price, you can buy a kid; you can buy a person for their organs; you can buy drugs or weapons. Technology is amoral – we’ve created a species that is a lot smarter than us, and very soon, especially with artificial intelligence, it’s going to supersede our human mind.

“The 20th century was an incredible century – a man on the moon, antibiotics and the World Wide Web changed the world… But there are side effects – 20 million humans have been trafficked and 80 per cent of that happens on the dark web. Huge percentages are women. Nearly 30 per cent are children.

“So how do we deal with this revenge of technology? How do we protect our children? If you look at the impact of cyber-attacks and cyber wars of the future, where criminals could easily bring down an electrical grid in a country – think of that impact – hospitals, water, food, transportation, human life. And we are completely unprepared for that.

“So the UN, in our mission of peace and security and human rights and development and rule of law, we need to think about what does all this mean in the cyber world? Will the peacekeepers of the future be the peacekeepers of today? Will development, as we see it in the physical world, be the same or will it be complemented by the cyber world? We have to have big philosophical discussions around those issues because in the cyber world, government, rule of law and civil society doesn’t have much meaning. How do we create a positive force within the cyber world, because the negative force has been created already, within the dark web.”

Her answer? What she calls ‘the light web’ – a space where technologists can come together with the goal of global good.

“We as the UN have the ability, capacity and capability to operate both in the physical and in the cyber world,” she insists. “Things like bringing doctors, via the Internet, to villages that no one wants to go to or simple online education – bringing knowledge to parts of the world that never had access before.”

In her role as Chief Information Technology Officer, she says, her daily job means finding ways to implement technologies that support the critical work of the UN.

“Everything we do supports the core work of UN staff around the world, helping them do their jobs better and more efficiently. In that way, ICT is critical to the UN's substantive work. Technology plays a role in all of the Sustainable Development Goals and we're looking forward to working with many UN entities to get them the tools they need to do their work, whether it's predictive data analytics, new technologies in the field like digital cash or telemedicine, or just a better way to quickly search for relevant UN documents,” she says.

“The UN is also the guardian of an unparalleled database of the world's socio-economic and political history. Opening this data to the public and collaborating with partners will help us make better decisions that support the work of the United Nations in international peace and security, human rights, international law, humanitarian aid and sustainable development.”

The Director-General of the UN Office in Nairobi, Sahle-Work Zewde (left), and Ms. Riazi officially opened the Unite Service Desk and Network Operation Center in Nairobi in May 2015.

And what does she say to those who might critique that technological innovation is impossible in a bureaucratic organization like the UN?

“I think there’s always a chance for tech innovation and for thinking outside the box,” Ms. Riazi says.

“It’s true within governmental entities that it takes longer because you have responsibilities to your citizens or to the Member States. But for instance, the financial cuts which governments often face forces organizations to innovate through technology. And that’s exactly what we’re doing within the United Nations. There’s a lot of desire to modernize, to automate processes, to become more effective, so that when we respond to crisis we respond together. We can go from crisis reaction to crisis prevention – which requires united innovation in terms of the way we’re structured, in terms of the way we respond and the technologies that we use.”

Yet as the need for innovation grows, Ms. Riazi is ever conscious that technology remains one of the most underrepresented areas for women workers, particularly in management roles. It is something that saddens her, she says, as she points to three smooth bangles on her arm:

“These are my Grandmother’s bracelets. I remember as a little girl, noticing that she never took them off. And I wondered, ‘why doesn’t she take them off?’ And I realised that, for her generation, as a woman, that was all the wealth you had. You had no security – no financial security, no rights, at any moment you could be kicked out of the house. And if you were, you needed to have the little bit that you had to your name with you.

“I wear these to remember my Grandmother, but also to remind me that we owe it to women. To make sure that we reach a point where women have the same rights, the same access to education and that they can dream and become who they want to be.”

She cites multiple reasons for why she believes women are so underrepresented in technology.

“For starters, I don’t think we teach mathematics as well to girls. They say that by age 11 if you don’t teach a girl to love math they’re going to start to turn away. And there are so many pressures on social media. If you look at TV and movies, innovators, technologists and scientists are still viewed as ‘geeks’ and that negative image for women is not supporting them getting to that space. And when we’re not there, our voices are not heard.”

It is time for girls, she says, to take ownership of the word ‘geek’ and to wear the moniker with pride.

“My girls came home one day from school and one of them had a new pair of glasses. She said, ‘Mommy, someone called me a geek.’ And I said, ‘Wow, you are so lucky they called you a geek! That is fabulous, we must go celebrate. Because geeks are the smartest people.’ It’s all about positive reinforcement, because kids do say those things, because their parents do and because the media does. What is a ‘geek?’ It’s a person who’s super smart and super brilliant. That’s what I tell my girls.”

As for her advice to aspiring tech innovators, she says: “think out of the box, think in an innovative way.” But she follows that up with a challenge.

“Let’s look at the Sustainable Development Goals. In 15 years we don’t want hunger and we don’t want disease. We want gender equality, universal access to education, smaller cities, an end to climate change, cleaner oceans. Look at all of those – can you focus on creating water out of thin air? Design plants that don’t need as much water so you can help with drought? Can you create algorithms that help improve disease detection? These are the questions I have for the young girl starting her engineering career. I say, answer one of those things for me.”

And what should parents say if their daughters announce they want to work in technology?

She grins widely and offers the following advice: “Brilliant. Great choice.”

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The Conversation With Isabelle Mouniaman-Nara

Mental heath sessions in Maiduguri IDP camps, Borno State, Nigeria: Image: Michèle MARIETTE:MSF

Isabelle Mouniaman-Nara, MSF Programme Manager in Nigeria

 

The Nigerian government/army is combating rebel group "Islamic State’s West-African Province" – formerly known as Boko-Haram – in Borno State in northeast Nigeria. MSF has been working in the State since August 2014.

Isabelle Mouniaman-Nara, MSF programme manager in Nigeria, has returned from a visit to the State. She provides an update on the situation and explains what the future holds for people displaced for many years by the insecurity (fighting, attacks on towns and villages) and what MSF has been doing to respond to the crisis.

February 2016

This crisis has been going on for close to two years. What does the future hold for the displaced in Borno State?

“The situation hasn’t changed much. There are still around 1.6 million displaced people in northeast Nigeria, with the vast majority in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. While 90% of them live in the community, 100,000 of them are spread among ten or so camps in the town.

There was talk of sending the displaced back to where they come from, but due to the persistent lack of security in those areas, it looks as if that’s no longer on the cards. The authorities in Borno want to close down several of Maiduguri’s camps and assemble all the displaced in just six locations (all in the capital), possibly to return schools and universities to their original purpose as they’ve been used up until now to accommodate the displaced, and also to better control security and the aid deployed in the camps.

What is MSF doing?

MSF is providing health and epidemiological monitoring in all of Maiduguri’s displaced persons camps, hygiene and sanitation in seven of them and medical care in two.

Our teams are also working in the host community in former Boko-Haram stronghold Maimusari. Maimusari is a deprived district of Maiduguri and its inhabitants, residents and the displaced alike, are extremely vulnerable and their most basic needs are largely unmet. We have opened a clinic where we give outpatient consultations and deliver maternal health and nutrition services. In addition, MSF runs a health centre in Bolori II district (another former Boko-Haram stronghold), where we also give outpatient consultations and provide maternal health and nutrition services.

We provide assistance (nutrition centre, emergency treatment and paediatrics) to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Maiduguri and the emergency room in Umaru Shehu hospital. We are planning to set up a surgery programme solely for the displaced. Working in partnership with the teams at the hospital, we will provide surgical treatment – from simple trauma to care for victims of attacks referred to us by, for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross who also work in a Ministry of Health facility (surgery). We may offer burn trauma care too, because during the ‘cold’ season many people, and more especially children, living in insalubrious conditions are burned in domestic accidents often caused by unsafe makeshift heating appliances.

IDPs from Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria: Image: Michèle MARIETTE/MSF

What would we like to do in the coming months?

Once the total number of camps drops to six, we will continue to ensure comprehensive health monitoring as well as medical, hygiene and sanitation activities, but only at two of the sites. It is essential that we stay in the camps because it’s the only effective way to keep track of what is actually happening to the displaced.

We will continue our work in Maimusari and Bolori II and at Umaru Shehu hospital. We will transfer activities currently run at the Infectious Diseases Hospital to the health centre in Maimusari as soon as its refurbishment is completed.

MSF will manage hygiene and sanitation at the sites and facilities where we’ll be working but we would like to hand over at least part of this to other agencies.

Our assistance has so far focused exclusively on the town of Maiduguri. Our last attempt to venture further was in February 2015 when we went to Monguno to evaluate a hospital and determine whether we could set up operations. The following day, former Boko-Haram fighters attacked Baga and the whole town fled to Maiduguri. Monguno suffered a similar fate and was also emptied of its inhabitants.

The authorities would like people living in rural areas to move into towns such as Bama, Baga, and Monguno, etc., and stay put while the Nigerian army takes offensive action in the vicinity. Those who don’t manage to get to these urban centres in time will be automatically considered as sympathisers or possibly even members of Boko-Haram. We’re also concerned because nothing seems to have been done in the towns to prepare for the influx of all these people in terms of healthcare, food, shelters, etc. We need to keep a close eye on the situation. But, northeast Nigeria is still very dangerous, so our priority is ensuring that our teams can get around and do their work in safety.”

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The Window of the Heavens Always Open and Calling: All We Have to Do Is: To Choose to Be Open, Listen and Respond

 

 

 

Imagine a Rose-Boat

Imagine a rose floating like a tiny little boat on this ocean of infinity
And raise your soul-sail on this wee-little boat and go seeking out
All along feed on nothing but the light that you gather only light
Fear shall never fathom you nor greed can tempt nor illusion divert
For Love you are by name by deeds you are love's working-map

 

 

Only in the transparent pool of knowledge, chiselled out by the sharp incision of wisdom, is seen the true face of what truth is: That what  beauty paints, that what music sings, that what love makes into a magic. And it is life: a momentary magnificence, a-bloom like a bubble's miniscule exposition, against the spread of this awe-inspiring composition of the the Universe. Only through the path of seeking, learning, asking and developing, only through the vehicles and vesicles of knowledge, only through listening to the endless springs flowing beneath, outside, around and beyond our reach, of wisdom, we find the infinite ocean of love which is boundless, eternal, and being infinite, it makes us, shapes us and frees us onto the miracle of infinite liberty: without border, limitation or end. There is nothing better, larger or deeper that humanity can ever be than to simply be and do love. The Humanion

 

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The Humanion Online Daily from the United Kingdom for the World: To Inspire Souls to Seek

At Home in the Universe : One Without Frontier. Editor: Munayem Mayenin

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First Published: September 24: 2015