Category Archives: Public Affairs

Challenges Facing the Free World, with H.R. McMaster

The United States suffers from a “strategic narcissism” that leads to international missteps and catastrophes, retired Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said in a recent conversation with journalist Lowell Bergman.

In a wide-ranging conversation, the Army combat veteran and historian discussed topics ranging from the Iran Nuclear deal, the war in Afghanistan, the Syria conflict and US-China relations.

McMaster served for 13 months as National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump. He declined to discuss details of what that was like. He is now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

McMaster expressed confidence in the nation’s democratic institutions despite the tests this year: the pandemic, the recession, racial and social divisions and extremely partisan presidential election.

Watch General H. R. McMaster in Conversation with Lowell Bergman.

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Scientific and Social Activism

Please join us for an intimate discussion with eminent microbiologist and geneticist Jon Beckwith of Harvard Medical School. Beckwith is the author of Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in Science. He discusses the history of scientific and social activism and the teaching of social issues in biology.

Along with having a successful scientific career, Jon Beckwith has been one of the scientific community’s most influential champions of social justice and civil liberties. He has openly supported the Black Panther Movement and was among the first in his field to warn the world about the danger of genetic engineering. He has over 50 publications dealing with issues such as discrimination and misuse of behavior genetics. He was a member of the Working Group on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications committee of the Human Genome Project and was an important organizer of the international organization, Science for the People. Since 1983, he has taught a course on Social Issues in Biology at Harvard University, one of the first courses of its kind.

Watch A Deep Conversation with Jon Beckwith: A History of Scientific and Social Activism and the Teaching of Social Issues in Biology.

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The Erosion of Democratic Values and Practice

Many observers believe we need to grapple with challenges arising from the many well-established laws, regulations and policies which have been ignored or violated over the past four years.

Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy faculty member and former UC President and former Secretary for Homeland Security, is in conversation with Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, former Director of the CIA, former White House Chief of Staff, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and former U.S. Representative from California; L. Song Richardson, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law; and Eric Swalwell, U.S. Representative for California’s 15th congressional district.

These experts tackle the impact on American society and democracy and voice concerns that the nation may have to grapple with a challenging period before it can begin to implement reforms to strengthen the system.

They explore the possibility of a transfer of power and the need to shore up democratic institutions to make our democracy stronger and better.

They each have ideas on a practical, yet ambitious, roadmap for reform focused on combatting the erosion of democratic values and practices in Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and law enforcement.

Watch American Democracy: Needed Reforms.

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Big Ideas: Election 2020

This fall we have the quadrennial opportunity to study American politics during a presidential campaign. Combining real-time analysis of the election campaigns, an in-depth study of the relevant historical context, and a lively roster of guest speakers from academics and social movements, this twice a week class taught by two UC Berkeley professors provides an interdisciplinary introduction to American politics in a time of unprecedented crisis and possibility.

Michael Mark Cohen, American Studies and African American Studies, and Saru Jayaraman, Goldman School of Public Policy, take you through the day-to-day flow of the 2020 campaign, taking on everything from polling data and social media coverage, the COVID-19 pandemic and the waves of social protests, to the presidential debates and the final vote tallies. While the presidential election will hold center stage, they will also explore politics from a local, state wide and international level.

New programs are added every Monday and Wednesday evening. Each session begins with a lively, up-to-the-minute discussion of the latest events in the race. From there, delve into the sources of these current events. Each Wednesday features a guest speaker; specialists, academics and social movement leaders from across the campus, the Bay Area and the world offer their expert insight into our political system.

This election, and this moment of crisis, will define the future of American democracy. And in this class, we will examine this turning point as it happens.

Browse more programs in Big Ideas: Election 2020.

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Wildfires and Smoke

The 2020 California wildfires are among the worst in history and the wildfire season is just starting. Wildfires have been a feature of the mountain west for eons but the fires of the last few years have been catastrophic in loss of property, life and health. With increased fires at the wildfire urban interface the effects of the fires and the smoke they cause are impacting front-line firefighters and Californians all over the state, even when the fire activity is hundreds of miles away.

The duration of the wildfire season is longer, now stretching from summer into early winter, and catastrophic wildfires are increasing in size and frequency due to climate change. The fires are also having an impact on air quality with clear evidence of an association between wildfire smoke and respiratory health. Smoke also likely causes other negative health outcomes such as adverse birth outcomes.

Dr. John Balmes, UCSF Professor of Medicine, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, ZSFG/UCSF, explains the impacts of smoke on health and discusses studies underway to improve our knowledge as we continue to deal with devastating wildfires that are projected to get worse.

Watch Where There’s Wildfire, There’s Smoke.

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