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Dutch election

Dutch election not bellwether for populist rise in Europe - March 16, 2017

Preliminary exit poll results in the Netherlands suggest that Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Party for Freedom performed below expectations gaining only 19 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament. Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University and author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe” and “Europe Without Borders,” says that today’s performance by Wilders’ party is not the real bellwether of European populism.

Berezin says:

"It is tempting to consider every political poll suspect and every election as a sign of the global populist wave, after the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. But in evaluating the significance of Wilders’ electoral performance in the Netherlands we should not ignore history.

“Wilders has been around Dutch politics for a while, supporting free market capitalism and campaigning against Islam. He does not represent a populist wave. Rather, he is part of the political landscape and how his party fares does not tell us much about European populism.

“There is a general mood of discontent and anger at elites that appears to be running through all elections in the last year. But, what can we make of one election result either way? For example – in December, the Austrians fended off a right wing presidency that seemed a near certainty in the spring. Does that mean that right wing populism is gone from Austria? Hardly.

“The real bellwether election will be Marine Le Pen’s quest for the French presidency, starting April 23 – that is where the populist action is and that is what we should be focusing upon.”    

For interviews contact:
Rebecca Valli
office: 607-255-7701
cell: 607-793-1025

The College of Arts and Sciences' communications office works closely with Cornell's Media Relations Office. As the College's representatives to media, we connect faculty experts and thought leaders to local, regional, national and international media organizations. 


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Current press statements from Arts & Sciences faculty:

Wave of anti-Jewish violence

Wave of violence against Jewish communities is massive, sudden and new

Jonathan Boyarin, director of Jewish Studies and professor in the departments of Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, says threats like the one made at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn today are coming in an America that is less safe for diverse populations than it has been in decades.

Boyarin says:

“The wave of threatened violence against Jewish institutions is massive, sudden, and new. We can't say much about what motivates these threats until we know more about who's making them. We do know that they are coming in an America that is less safe for our country's diverse population than it has been in decades – and part of that loss of safety seems to entail a license for anti-Semitic acts. 

“The Trump administration claims that it aims to protect all Americans from terror. Yet it looks like the administration is focused only on those it deems potential perpetrators of terror – ignoring others – and does not seem to be worried about many of the likely victims of such terror. That doesn't bode well for the American promise of ‘liberty and justice for all’."    

For interviews contact:
Daryl Lovell
cell: 607-592-3925

Sessions’ deception on Russia

Sessions’ deception on Russia echoes Bill Clinton’s lies on Lewinsky - March 2, 2017

Richard Bensel, professor of government at Cornell University is an expert in American politics, parties and elections, says that Jeff Sessions’ dissimulation on Russia is akin to Bill Clinton’s lies about his affair with Monica Lewinsky – and Congress should be mindful of that in its response.

Bensel says:

"Jeff Sessions stated in his testimony before Congress that he was ‘unaware’ of any communication between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and he now says that his contacts with the Russian ambassador were solely restricted to his role as an United States Senator.  

“The Attorney General's dissimulation should remind us of Bill Clinton's claim that he ‘did not have sex with that woman.’ The distinction in both cases is not something that we should interpret one way or another, depending on the eye of the beholder.  

“Sessions should, at the very least, recuse himself from the investigation into Russian ties with the Trump campaign. Whether or not he should resign is something that an independent investigation would ultimately determine."

For interviews contact:
Rebecca Valli
office: 607-255-7701
cell: 607-793-1025

Discovery of new planets

Sagan Institute director explains what life could be like near Trappist-1 - February 22, 2017

Lisa Kaltenegger, one of the world’s leading experts on exoplanets and the potential for life beyond earth, and director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, explains why NASA’s discovery is exciting and what life might look like on the seven Earth-like planets discovered near Trappist-1 – planets likely to have very high ultraviolet radiation flux on the surface

Kaltenegger has two papers (“UV Surface Habitability of the TRAPPIST-1 System," currently under review at Monthly Notices of the Royal Society, and “Biofluorescent Worlds: Biological fluorescence as a temporal biosignature for flare star worlds,” forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal) that discuss life under a very high ultraviolet radiation flux environment.

Video: Lisa Kaltenegger discusses how her team is searching for alien life,

Kaltenegger says:

“Finding multiple planets in the Habitable Zone of their host star is a great discovery because it means there can be even more potentially habitable planets per star than we thought. And finding more rocky planets in the habitable zone per star definitely increases our odds of finding life.

“Trappist-1 now holds the record for the most rocky planets in the habitable zone – our solar system only has two – Earth and Mars. Life is a definite possibility on these worlds, but it might look different because there’s likely to be very high ultraviolet radiation flux on the surface of these planets.

“How good or bad would such a UV environment be for life? Our paper, currently under review at Monthly Notices of the Royal Society, discusses just this scenario for the Trappist-1 system, examining the consequences of different atmospheres for life in a UV environment.

“We find that if the star is active, as indicated by the X-ray flux, then planets need an ozone layer to shield their surface from the harsh UV that would sterilize the surface. If the planets around Trappist-1 do not have an ozone layer (like a young Earth), life would need to shelter underground or in an ocean to survive and/or develop strategies to shield itself from the UV, such as biofluorescence.

“Atmospheric biosignatures such as methane, indicating adaptations by life, could be detected by the James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018, or the European Extremely Large Telescope, coming online in 2022.”

For interviews contact:
Melissa Osgood
office: 607-255-2059
cell: 607-882-3773

Trump's take on anti-semitism

This is what Trump must do to truly stop anti-Semitism - February 21, 2017

Jonathan Boyarin, director of Jewish Studies and professor in the departments of Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, says that if President Trump was serious about fighting anti-Semitism, he would fire Stephen Bannon and stop targeting Muslims and Arabs.

Boyarin says:

“President Trump’s acknowledgment Tuesday that anti-Semitism is ‘horrible’ rings hollow.

“If he really were offended by both anti-Semitism and racism, he wouldn’t have anything to do with advisers like Stephen Bannon.

“If what he really wants for this country is ‘love,’ then he would promote policies that serve everyone who lives in, works in, and visits the United States, rather than choosing to target Muslims and Arabs.

“That would be the best way to fight anti-Semitism, as well. Jews have always been safest in open societies where difference is not only tolerated but welcomed.”

For interviews contact:
Rebecca Valli
office: 607-255-7701
cell: 607-793-1025