October 7, 2011
University of Pennsylvania Receives $13.6 for Undergraduate Research Program
The University of Pennsylvania last week announced a $13.6 million gift from alumnus P. Roy Vagelos and his wife, Diana, to establish the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER), a dual-degree program to be offered by the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This marks the third time the Vageloses have contributed to UPenn's Making History capital campaign. They have now contributed $21 million toward the campaign's $3.5 billion goal.
“As generous friends and visionary leaders at Penn, Roy and Diana understand the value of clearly focused, interdisciplinary education in helping to solve complex problems, and for this we are extremely grateful," said UPenn President, Amy Gutmann. “The VIPER program is a unique undergraduate program in its focus on a critically important area of study for our country and the world: alternative and efficient energy sources. We all can be proud that VIPER draws on Penn's unique strengths in combining great interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching to address some of the world's most pressing problems.”
The UPenn press release continues:
The VIPER program is designed to train students for research careers focused on alternative and efficient energies. Students will participate in advanced science and technology courses, specialized seminars, intensive mentoring and several internship opportunities with energy-related laboratories.
Students enrolled in the VIPER program also will work closely with faculty affiliated with the Penn Center for Energy Innovation, who will mentor VIPER participants and involve them in cutting-edge research on topics such as solar energy, chemical fuels, and energy-efficient electronics and materials. Recruiting for VIPER has begun, and the first freshman class will arrive next September.
October 6, 2011
International Red Cross Begins Aid Push in Somalia
According to the BBC, a continuous operation will transport the food in trucks from the coast deep into areas controlled by the Islamist militant group, al-Shabab. The operation began following what the Red Cross terms difficult negotiations with al-Shabab, which banned many Western aid agencies from its territory two years ago.
Red Cross spokesman, Geoff Loane, told the BBC its operation was a three-month distribution, targeting vulnerable people like farmers and pastoralists.
The organisation will also provide seed to nearly a quarter of a million farmers so that they can begin to recover from the region's worse drought in 60 years. According to Mr. Loane, "If all goes well, hopefully these farmers will be able to harvest some crops by the end of the year."
Meanwhile, the BBC states that its Africa analyst, Martin Plaut, says that if the transportation operation is successful it could "break the back of the famine."
Let's hope so...
PNC Financial Pledges Additional $250 Million to Extend Great Initiative
PNC Financial Services Group has announced a ten-year, $250 million extension of its Grow Up Great early childhood education initiative, which has benefited more than a million children since its launch in 2004.
The initiative was originally conceived as a ten-year, $100 million effort to help prepare children for school, with an emphasis on math, science, the arts, and financial education. To date, the initiative has awarded $40 million in grants through the PNC Foundation. In yesterday's press release announcing its re-commitment to the effort, PNC also announced a $7 million expansion of its preschool science initiative, which was launched in 2009. The competitive grant program will fund regional science centers and nonprofit organizations that give children opportunities for inquiry-based science learning and experience-related activities that are both educational and fun.
The program also includes additional support for the professional development of teachers, support for expanding and diversifying employee volunteer programs, and continued support for PNC's advocacy efforts on behalf of quality early education among business leaders and public officials at all levels.
October 4, 2011
California Governor Signs Law to Protect Circumcision
Today's New York Times reported that California Governor, Jerry Brown, on Sunday signed a bill that prevents local governments from banning the practice of male circumcision. The measure was drafted in response to efforts in San Francisco and Santa Monica to outlaw circumcision for any males under 18 years old. Jews and Muslims had argued that the ban would have violated their free expression of religion.
The effort to ban male circumcision in Santa Monica and San Francisco began earlier this year. Proponents argued that the ban would protect children from an unnecessary medical procedure, something they termed "male genital mutilation." They wanted ballot initiatives that, if successful, would enable municipalities to criminalize the procedure. Jewish groups saw the ballot measures as a very real threat, likening them to bans on circumcision that existed in Soviet-era Russia and Eastern Europe and in ancient Roman and Greek times. Meanwhile, many medical groups take a neutral approach, saying that the practice is not harmful and that not enough scientific evidence exists to conclude that it is necessary. Accordingly, they maintain, the decision should be left with the child's parents and their doctor.
I agree. Whatever their reasons for wanting their sons circumcised, parents should be allowed to decide without governmental interference. I wonder, however, whether Governor Brown, by signing the bill into law, has involved the government in a religious debate. I have not yet made up my mind...