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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.
Linda Glaser, Publicist
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Tricia Barry, Communications Director
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Current press statements from Arts & Sciences faculty:
Cuba's Change in Leadership
No more Castro: Cuba’s change of guards starts a day early - April 16, 2018
This week, Cuba will undergo a historical transition. Raul Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel as president in 2008, will officially leave that office and Cuba’s National Assembly is to pick the country’s next leader — the first not bearing the Castro name in more than 60 years. While the change has great symbolism, Cubans’ economic hardship will continue to be top of the agenda for the new president who will likely stay on the path of economic liberalization, Cornell University experts say.
Gustavo Flores-Macias studies political development in Latin America with a focus on the politics of economic reform. He says that a younger generation of politicians in Cuba will have to contend with severe problems both domestically and in U.S.-Cuba relations.
“Raul Castro has promised he will step down as Cuba’s president on April 19. Since Raul will remain at the helm of both the country's Communist Party and the armed forces, the glacial pace of political and economic liberalization is expected to continue, at least in the short run.
“However, the changing of the guards will have major symbolism, as it will mark the start of the generational transition in Cuba.
“Without a Castro formally at the head of the Cuban government, a younger leader without the legitimacy of the revolution will have to navigate the island’s many domestic and international challenges, from resolving Cuba’s problematic dual currency system to weathering President Trump’s return to a Cold War antagonism in U.S.-Cuba relations.”
Lourdes Casanova is director of the Emerging Markets Institute at Cornell. She says that with Raul Castro still at the helm of party ranks, internal pressures may play a big role in the new president’s policy decisions.
“Trying to solve the Cuban economic recession will be Raul Castro’s successor biggest challenge. With an average salary of about $30 a month, Cubans’ demands for a better life will, quite likely, take center stage.
“Solutions to the economic crisis are limited, among other things, because of Trump’s hard stand towards Cuba. The new president may have no choice but to move towards a more market friendly economy.
“However, Raul Castro, generally considered a hardliner, will stay on as head of the Communist Party and from there, he will try to keep control on the new president’ policies. It remains to be seen how these internal politics will play out with the demands of Cubans for more political freedom and a better economy.”
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TESS satellite to hunt for new worlds ‘in our cosmic backyard’ - April 10, 2018
NASA’s new satellite telescope, designed to hunt for planets outside our solar system — some which may harbor life — is scheduled to launch on April 16 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The telescope, known as Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, signals a new era in exoplanet research that could shed light on planets in our neighboring solar systems.
Lisa Kaltenegger is director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute and one of the world’s leading experts on exoplanets. She serves as a member on the TESS science team and will be at the launch and available for media interviews. She says TESS is important because it will find exoplanets “in our cosmic backyard.”
“The Kepler space telescope found an astounding number of exoplanets, but most of them are many, many light years away, too dim for us to learn much about them. That’s why TESS is so important: it will find exoplanets around stars in our cosmic backyard. TESS will provide a list of our top neighboring worlds for any follow up observations, as well as any far future travel plans.
“TESS is small but it is mighty, because it will search the whole sky, all the bright stars we can see at night, for worlds orbiting them. When looking up at night, we will be able to point at bright stars in the night sky and say - right there, there is a star that hosts another Venus, Mars, or maybe even another Earth.
“I can't wait to see TESS launch, and participate as the next step in human exploration of new worlds takes shape.”
TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
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Kim Jong-un visits China
Despite appearance, China’s leadership likely seething at Kim’s visit - March 28, 2018
Yesterday’s unprecedented meeting between North Korean’s leader Kim Jong-un and China’s president Xi Jinping showed Kim’s willingness to engage in diplomacy after a long period of estrangement. But Cornell University government professor Andrew Mertha, who studies Chinese political institutions and the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party, says that recent developments in U.S.-North Korea relations have left Beijing scrambling.
“President Trump’s surprise announcement of a direct meeting with Kim Jing-un was not particularly welcome to China, a country that hates surprises.
“Beijing has to scramble to stay in the game with events moving at an uncomfortable breakneck speed. Whatever effect the Trump-Kim meeting will have, it will be felt most directly by China and by South Korea, so this was an important, if hasty and suboptimal, opportunity for Beijing to let Pyongyang know what China can and cannot accept in terms of regional security.
“And although China put a positive face on it, the leadership is likely privately seething at being forced to meet with the somewhat less-than-beloved Kim under circumstances not properly stage-managed by Beijing.”
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
Triangle fire of 1911 still echoes in NYC and beyond - March 19, 2018
Sunday will mark the 107th anniversary of one of the most devastating industrial accidents in New York City. At 4:30 pm on March 25, 1911, a fire engulfed the Asch Building, currently known as the Brown Building at 23–29 Washington Place in the Greenwich Village. Just 18 minutes later 146 people, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women working in the Triangle Shirtwaist garment factory, were dead.
Experts at Cornell University are available for interviews about the long-lasting legacy of the fire and the activism it sparked within the labor movement and immigrant communities in the city and nationwide. Elissa Sampson is a visiting scholar and lecturer in Cornell's Jewish Studies Program. She teaches about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as part of her work documenting Jewish immigrant life and activism in New York's Lower East Side. Jonathan Boyarin is professor of modern Jewish studies at Cornell. He has worked on a range of ethnographic projects in the Lower East Side of New York City.
Media note: Images and more information about the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire can be found here. In addition Sampson and Boyarin will take part in the presentation and discussion “Triangle Fire: See you in the streets” on March 26 to commemorate the tragedy and remember its victims.
“After the fire, union organizers needed to balance two very different reactions as seen in these slogans: 'We Mourn Our Loss' and 'Don't Mourn, Organize.' People needed to do both in 1911 and we need to do both today. In a city of immigrants, we show respect for the living by showing respect for the dead.
"This local New York story resonates deeply as it travels in multiple directions in a world in which the garment trade is global. Its echoes reverberate in the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh and elsewhere around the globe. Most of those who perished in 1911 were young women and girls who lived in the Lower East Side and Little Italy. New Yorkers can picture themselves in that building. So can many others today.
"The dead have bequeathed us a legacy. Public outrage sparked subsequent legislation in support of workplace safety conditions. These immigrants worked in a factory which had been previously been picketed by 20,000 female garment workers during the Shirtwaist Strike of 1909."
“Our goal is both to commemorate the Triangle Fire itself and to understand more about the efforts to keep its memory alive today. The building - now part of New York University’s Washington Square campus - still stands. But until the Remember the Triangle Fire coalition successfully lobbied for a permanent memorial now in the planning stages, it was all too easy to walk by and forget what happened there. Remembering the fire doesn't just honor its victims, but also helps keep alive the goal of creating a world where that kind of human-made disaster is unthinkable."
Remembering Stephen Hawking: a personal story - March 14, 2018
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away early on Wednesday and members of the science community worldwide are remembering his legacy.
Yangyang Cheng is a particle physicist and postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University. Cheng was born and raised in southeastern China. Her father – who passed away when she was 10, was a mechanical science and engineering professor. Cheng says that Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” became a ‘window’ into the father she never got to know.
“Being a young academic, my father was often away on work trips, and in the late 90s he spent a couple years working in the UK and the US as a visiting scientist when I was in elementary school. In his absence I would go to his study, tiptoe and stare at his giant bookshelf. Among the volumes of literature and philosophy with faded cloth covers, there was a series of popular science books in sleek dark design that stood out against the rest. The most notable in the series was the one with the shortest name, 时间简史, the Chinese translation of Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’.
“As a child science nerd, I had deployed cool phrases like blackholes and time travel into my vocabulary, despite being too young to understand their meaning in full, and I knew Hawking was considered the most brilliant mind alive. I longed for the day I’d be able to read that book.
“My father passed away very suddenly when I just turned 10 years old. It would be years before I was able to gradually read off his bookshelf. I finally read the translated copy of ‘A Brief History of Time’ when I was fifteen, in the summer before I started university to study physics at my father’s alma mater and former workplace. For me, ‘A Brief History of Time’ was not only an introduction to some of the most fascinating topics in physics, but also a window into the father I never got to know and the brilliant mind I was supposed to inherit. It’s only so fitting that the book was about time, albeit on a cosmological scale. For me it was also a conduit across time, and life and death itself.”
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