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:
Afghanistan Papers’ expose unaccountable war spending, corruption - Dec. 9, 2019
Documents obtained by the Washington Post related to the U.S. war in Afghanistan were released on Monday, detailing dysfunction in the U.S. government’s management of the war as well as criticism of war efforts made by top officials in the Bush and Obama administrations.
Sarah Kreps, professor of government and international relations at Cornell University, is an expert on defense budgeting and is the author of “Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy.” She says that while Americans knew about rising casualties resulting from the war in Afghanistan, they were unaware of the financial cost and corruption exposed by the Afghanistan Papers.
“The newly released information reveals the enormous disconnect between what the civilian and military leadership knew about the war and what the public knew, especially when it comes to how much it cost and how that money was spent.
“Americans knew about the mounting casualties. What’s revealed in this trove of documents is the patterns of spending. Total money spent became a metric for success but was unmoored from actual measures of progress, relatively unaccounted for by Congress, and fanned the flames of corruption.
“Back in 2009 when President Obama was publicly declaring the end of the blank check, some members of Congress proposed a war tax that would create a sense of shared sacrifice and close the gap between the conduct of conflict and the cost to the public. The mainstream of both parties derided the idea, but these documents show that this sort of tax would have forced more debate about what we now know was a pattern of largely unaccountable war spending.”
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Hong Kong Protests
Hong Kong authorities hint at new strategy by allowing rally - Dec. 6, 2019
Police in Hong Kong granted pro-democracy protestors permission for a rally, planned for Sunday. The decision follows months of unrest, including increasingly violent confrontations between protesters and the police. It also comes at the heels of an unprecedented victory for the pro-democracy camp, which won 90 percent of available seats at recent district council elections. Cornell University experts say that police may be trying a new, less confrontational strategy by giving the green light for the weekend’s demonstration.
Allen Carlson is professor of government at Cornell University and an expert on Chinese politics and foreign policy.
“For much of November, whispers were growing increasingly loud regarding the degree to which Hong Kong’s population had supposedly grown disillusioned with the months long, and increasingly volatile, protest movement that has brought the city to a near standstill. However, such skeptical voices were silenced by the resounding victories scored by pro-democracy candidates who ran in last week’s district council elections. In it, 17 of 18 districts were won by such candidates. This result seriously undermined Beijing’s narrative that the protests were nothing more than the work of foreign forces and lacking in grass roots level support.
“The question then became how would China and Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, respond to this new reality. The recently announced decision by Hong Kong authorities to permit a large rally in the city this weekend may be an indication that they are now willing to implement less confrontational policies in dealing with the protesters.
“This is not an insignificant development. However, it also seems unlikely to be enough to mollify those within the protest movement who have repeatedly made it clear that they have ‘five demands, not one less’. Satisfying the protestors, especially after last week’s elections, will take much more than simply allowing them to march. As a result, the situation in Hong Kong is likely to remain precarious in the coming weeks.”
Eli Friedman, assistant professor at Cornell’s ILR School, is author of “Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China,” and studies state responses to workers unrest in China.
“It seems likely that the government is somewhat chastened following their bad defeat in the recent election. Their strategy has been to refuse any concessions, with the hope that protestor violence will drain public support from the movement. That has not happened, and the elections clearly demonstrated ongoing dissatisfaction with the government and police responses to the protest.
“It is impossible to know why they decided to allow this march to go forward, but they would be foolish to not try a new strategy. Dialing back the use of police violence will be an important first step in trying to win back the public, so hopefully this march can proceed peacefully.”
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Procedural questions to shape impeachment trajectory - Dec. 5, 2019
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the House of Representatives will proceed with articles of impeachment against President Trump. House Representatives are expected to vote on impeachment before the year ends, which will trigger a trial in the Senate.
David Bateman, professor of government at Cornell University, studies American state constitutions and state legislative behavior. He says that it might just take a few Republican members shifting their positions for conviction to be possible in the Senate.
“Nancy Pelosi's announcement means that it is almost certain that the president will be impeached, leaving his fate in the hands of a friendly – but not warm – Senate. What we should watch for now are how broad the articles are, and whether they are voted on individually or as a package.
“If they go the first route, Democrats run the risk of losing on some, but also increase their odds of picking up a few Republican votes. If they go the second route, they'll be able to make the strongest substantive case but almost guarantee a straight partisan vote.
“In the Senate, we will want to watch for any signs of bipartisan agreement on procedural questions. This will be an important indication of whether any Republican senators are seriously considering conviction. Finally, we'll want to watch whether any Republican senators – who will be silent during the floor trial – show signs of wavering. It might just take a few for the dam to burst, but it will likely require clear statements that they’re considering voting to convict.”
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Gaseous Disk Surrounds White Dwarf Star
Gaseous disk around white dwarf ‘intriguing’ find for exoplanet hunters - Dec. 4, 2019
An international team of scientists have reported in the journal Nature that they’ve discovered evidence of a gaseous disk around a white dwarf star — expanding astronomers’ understanding of planetary bodies that can exist around white dwarfs.
Lisa Kaltenegger, who was not involved in the study, is director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, a professor of astrophysics, one of the world’s leading experts on exoplanets and an author of a 2018 paper on habitable worlds around white dwarfs. She says these findings represent an intriguing development.
“These results are intriguing because they suggest that white dwarfs could host planets.
“Our work on white dwarfs as host stars to potentially habitable planets, led by my PhD student Thea Kozakis, shows that such planets — if they exist — could maintain habitable conditions for billions of years. I hope they will find rocky planets orbiting white dwarfs next.”
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