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SPSSI Policy News RSS Feed - May 8, 2009

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New AAAS Science and Human Rights Program Newsletter Released, Highlights Matters of Importance to SPSSI

The latest edition of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program Newsletter addresses several points of interest to SPSSI members:

The organization's "On-call" scientist program, targeted at connecting human rights organizations with volunteer scientists willing to lend their knowledge and skills to specific causes, has successfully resulted in its first match.  Please click here to read the success story. 

Also, the full report of the AAAS Science and Human Rights launch is now available in PDF form on the Coalition's web site.  SPSSI members are encouraged to review the report as it includes a comprehensive review of the launch events, and the first full meeting of the Coalition.  Additionally, the report identifies and breaks down the specific commitments of the five areas of activity working groups, and reviews outcomes from the session evaluations.  To access the report of the Coalition, please click here.

Lastly, the next meeting of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition will take place on July 23-24.  SPSSI Policy Coordinator Chris Woodside will be in attendance.  Click here to register for the event.

You can sign up to receive the Science and Human Rights Program Newsletter directly.  The Newsletter is issued by the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, and includes news, program updates, resources, and information about upcoming events relevant to those immersed in the world of science and human rights.  Click on http://shr.aaas.org/newsletter/ in order to sign up.  Submissions to the newsletter are also welcome and can be made via the AAAS online submission form at http://shr.aaas.org/emform/emform.php?form=3.  

*Credit AAAS for the information provided in this summary

Event Alert!

When Healers Harm:  Accountability for Health Professional Abuse of People in Custody

The Center for Constitutional Rights & Physicians for Human Rights Present...

A Panel Featuring:

Richard N. Gottfried
NY  State Assembly member (D-75th District) & Chair, NY State Assembly Committee on Health,

Allen S. Keller, M.D.
NYU/Bellevue Survivors of Torture Program & Physicians for Human Rights,

Dr. Steven Reisner
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology & Physicians for Human Rights,

Jamie Fellner, Esq.
U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch, and

Gitanjali Gutierrez, Esq.
Center for Constitutional Rights.

Additional speakers to be announced.

Thursday, May 14, 2009
6:30pm

The Community Church of New York, Assembly Hall
40 East 35th St. (between Park & Madison)

BDFVNQRW to 34th Street-Herald Square
or 6 train to 33rd Street

Psychologists, physicians and other personnel who were trained and licensed to heal were instrumental in creating and maintaining the U.S. government’s policy of torture in its overseas prisons.  Health professionals designed torture tactics, directly inflicted and supervised abuse, gauged harm and enabled, covered up and failed to report abuse.

This should not come as a surprise.  Most torture regimes – even ones as old as the Holy Roman Empire during the Renaissance and as notorious as the Nazi government during World War II – have relied on health professionals to make them run.  In fact, because our own mainland prisons and other places of custody are no strangers to abuse, it is critical that we also explore the role of health professionals in systems of injustice at home.

It's time to hold accountable the healers who have harmed. Accountability matters not only to survivors of medical torture, but to health professionals, most of whom take seriously their commitment to do no harm.  It also matters to the rest of us – as patients and members of civil society, we have a right to treatment by health professionals who we can trust, and a right to a government that upholds the law.

Join us on Thursday May 14, 2009 for a discussion about medical complicity in abuse and how it affects both New York health professionals and patients.  Learn from local psychologists, physicians, legislators and human rights advocates about how you can help prevent abuse and make sure justice is served.

Please contact dpopowski@CCRjustice.org for more information.

*The event logistics and synopsis included in this summary were forwarded to SPSSI as a courtesy by our friends at The New York Campaign Against Torture. 

Event Recap

Center for American Progress Hosts "A Transatlantic Dialogue on the Green New Deal"

On April 29, Jutta Tobias, SPSSI James Marshall Public Policy Fellow, attended a special presentation at the Center for American Progress, entitled “A Transatlantic Dialogue on the Green New Deal with John Kerry and Sigmar Gabriel”.  Gabriel is Germany’s Federal Environment Minister. Several other German officials were among the panelists for this event and outlined recently introduced energy policies in Germany.

This event was organized in the wake of energy efficiency legislation introduced recently in Congress, in particular the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  This bill, co-sponsored by senior House Democrats Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, would put a cap on carbon emissions and sets out an accelerated plan to reduce the United States’ dependence on oil and coal.

While there is considerable opposition in Congress toward large-scale investments in energy reform at a time of a nation-wide fiscal budget crisis, the speakers at the event emphasized the opportunities that this economic crisis presents for making sustainable changes, both economically and socially.  One of the main arguments presented was that especially during a recession, providing the opportunities and incentives to invest in a green infrastructure would be a smart economic strategy, as the case of Germany’s recent energy policies illustrated.  In particular, investing in energy-efficient and environmentally friendly business structures, so the speakers argued, would constitute a safer investment option than investing in financial markets, which would be appealing to many investors at this time.  Saving energy is one of the key cost-cutting priorities for the private sector, and the current economic climate has prompted a surge in innovation and entrepreneurship focused on eco-friendly business models, leading to new business opportunities for German manufacturers.

According to the presenters, these new business models, in turn, pave the way for more sustainable job opportunities and future-proof infrastructures.  What is more, such investment would create more jobs in this country as well as in Germany.  This would be in contrast to more consumption-based stimulus activity, benefiting to a considerable degree overseas markets.  In this way, local communities would especially benefit from these new income streams, sorely needed in today’s economy.

At the event, the book “Apollo’s Fire – Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy” was also highlighted. This book was co-authored by Washington State Congressman Jay Inslee and CAP Senior Fellow Bracken Hendricks.  Representative Inslee, a Democrat and member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, has spearheaded a range of green energy policy bills in Congress since introducing the New Apollo Energy Act of 2005 (H.R. 2828, 109th Congress).  “Apollo’s Fire” narrates the initiatives of the Apollo Alliance, a think tank and advocacy group that brings together unions and business associations interested in creating a green economy, and achieving energy independence for the United States.

Our environment knows no national borders; hence protecting it is a transnational issue.  The “Transatlantic Dialog” event at CAP illustrated how sharing lessons in public policy can provide social as well as economic benefits.

News Item!

SPSSI Cosponsor’s COSSA Briefing:  “Building A Diverse Scientific Workforce”

Last month, SPSSI, alongside 60 other organizations from a variety of backgrounds, cosponsored a congressional briefing entitled “Building A Diverse Scientific Workforce.”  The briefing, which was held in the Rayburn House Office Building in downtown Washington, DC, was intended as a discussion forum for advocates and scholars working jointly towards achieving the goal of increasing overall diversity in America’s scientific workforce.

Featured speakers at the event included NIH Acting Director Raynard S. Kingston; Acting Assistant Director for the Education and Human Resources Directorate, National Science Foundation Wanda E. Ward; Managing Partner and Co-founder of EducationCounsel Arthur L. Coleman; and Director, Office of Policy and Communications with the Society for Research in Child Development Mary Ann McCabe, who served as moderator.

Dr. Kingston utilized the majority of his speaking time to discuss issues of grant recipient diversity at NIH, explaining to the assembled audience that over the past three decades of work at the Center, little progress has been made on the diversity front.  Dr. Kingston explained that in particular, certain minorities, such as African-Americans and Hispanics have remained frighteningly unrepresented as principal investigators.  Dr. Kingston assured the audience that NIH is incorporating a variety of experimental new tactics to address this long-running dilemma.

Dr. Ward reinforced Dr. Kingston’s sentiment concerning minority under representation, and spoke about NSF’s programs targeted at increasing participation in STEM talent development amongst women, faculty of color, and individuals with disabilities.  Dr. Ward explained that NSF currently has roughly 60 of these programs in place, ranging from focused initiatives aimed at minorities, women, and persons with disabilities, to much more broadly designed programs that simply highlight diversity as a staple of their overarching goals.

Mr. Coleman concluded the remarks by offering a legal and institutional perspective of the previously mentioned diversity programs and their impact on scientific education and the scientific profession as a whole.  Mr. Coleman explained that sound policy development must be fact, not ideology driven, and argued that those involved directly in the field should focus their efforts on strengthening public support through the sharing of hard data, which proves without a shadow of a doubt that workforce diversity produces superior, more competitive results.

The briefing concluded with a lively Q&A session.  The event was extremely well attended and also provided SPSSI with an opportunity to distribute some of our organization’s more recent public policy handouts.  Overall, the experience served as an excellent coalition building exercise for SPSSI.   

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin