Shakira defends her song against plagiarism in Spanish court
Wednesday, March 27
MADRID (AP) — Colombian singers Shakira and Carlos Vives appeared in a Madrid court Wednesday to answer allegations by a Cuban-born singer and producer that they plagiarized his work in their award-winning hit “La Bicicleta.”
Shakira smiled as she entered the court in downtown Madrid. She didn’t answer reporters’ questions.
Shakira and Vives refuted the allegations by Livan Rafael Castellanos that “La Bicicleta” — which means “The Bicycle” in English — contains lyrics, rhythm and melody similar to those of his 1997 song, “Yo te quiero tanto.”
Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, told the judge that Castellanos’ song “is nothing like … La Bicicleta, the melody is different, the music is different, the subject matter is different,” according to private Spanish news agency Europa Press.
“My (song) talks about my homeland, it’s a salute to my homeland — Barranquilla, Colombia — not Cuba,” Shakira said, according to Europa Press. “It’s different.”
“La Bicicleta” won two of the three biggest Grammy Latino awards for 2016, including song and record of the year.
Vives told reporters he welcomed the chance to clear his name.
Castellanos claimed that music experts supported his claim of plagiarism. “Let’s see whether we can finally get to the bottom of this and justice can be done,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Sony Music, which released “La Bicicleta,” made no immediate comment on the case.
The court is expected to deliver its verdict in 20 days.
China expels ex-Interpol president from public office, party
Wednesday, March 27
BEIJING (AP) — China said Wednesday that it has expelled former Interpol President Meng Hongwei from public office and the ruling Communist Party as he awaits trial on corruption charges.
Meng was elected Interpol president in 2016, but his four-year mandate was cut short when he was detained without notice by Chinese authorities last October during a visit to China from Interpol headquarters in France.
At the time, Meng was also one of China’s vice ministers of public security.
An investigation found Meng guilty of serious legal violations, a party statement said, noting that he had failed to abide by party principles and implement the party’s decisions.
The statement said Meng abused his power to satisfy his family’s “extravagant lifestyle,” indulging his wife’s use of his authority for personal benefit. Expulsion from the party is usually the last step before a suspect is sent for trial and almost certain conviction. Corruption charges usually result in lengthy sentences, including life in prison.
Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, made a bold public appeal from France for help locating her husband after she lost contact with him last September. The appeal — especially unusual for relatives of senior Chinese officials — cast light on the forced disappearances of dissidents and allegedly corrupt officials alike under President Xi Jinping.
Following Meng’s appeal, the Ministry of Public Security said he was being lawfully investigated for bribery and other crimes. Interpol said the international police agency had not been informed in advance of the probe, while the French police had launched an investigation into his unexplained disappearance.
Interpol later said Meng resigned as president.
Rights groups criticized Meng’s appointment in 2016, pointing to the lack of transparency in China’s legal systems and the potential for Meng to use his position against Beijing’s political opponents.
He is among a slew of high-ranking officials who have been ensnared by Xi’s sweeping crackdown on graft and perceived disloyalty.
How higher ed can earn the public’s trust after the admissions scandal
March 27, 2019
Genevieve Shaker, Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, IUPUI
William Plater, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs, Philanthropy, and English; Executive Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculties Emeritus, IUPUI
Disclosure statement: Genevieve Shaker receives funding from the TIAA Institute. William Plater is an unpaid trustee of Antioch University. He served as a WASC Senior Commission of Universities and Colleges commissioner from 2007 to 2011. It is a regional accrediting agency serving public and private higher education institutions throughout California, Hawaii, and the Pacific, as well as some outside the U.S.
Partners: IUPUI provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The college admissions scandal is exposing illegal and unethical conduct by dozens of people who paid or took bribes to get students into the University of Southern California and other elite universities. Concerns about social justice, meritocracy, parental overreach, privileges tied to wealth and philanthropy are rampant.
It’s also pointing to another widespread concern that troubles us as scholars who study higher education and the public good.
Americans have traditionally viewed higher education as an essential public good because it fosters a strong workforce and effective citizens. We believe that the admissions scandal is undercutting the public’s faith in its value.
Questions about accountability
Faith in higher education serving the needs of all Americans is the rationale for the annual investment of an estimated US$158 billion of public funds in public and private schools. Now, perhaps more than ever, Americans are questioning whether we’re getting our money’s worth.
It’s hard to know, because it’s unclear who is supposed to hold institutions accountable on behalf of taxpayers. Yet all of us pay for federal, state and local tax breaks and research funding.
The admissions fiasco is hardly the first controversy to make higher ed look bad.
Most recently, athletic debacles have rocked Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland and Michigan State University. Legacies of racial, class, ethnic, religious and gender bias remain at many institutions.
Sloppy financial management has afflicted the University of Central Florida and Howard University. Conflicts of interest have plagued Baylor, the University of Illinois-Chicago and many others. Questions have arisen about whether schools are bowing too much to the whims of their donors at George Mason University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Each infraction and scandal chips away at the public’s trust.
From the earliest days of the new republic, America’s leaders understood that a society freed from aristocratic and despotic dominance requires an educated populace to participate in its governance.
“Nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue,” proclaimed Ben Franklin.
In the intervening centuries, this nation has not only believed in this admonition but put its money where Franklin’s words were, as we documented in two research papers. Universities create life-improving, and even life-saving, knowledge. They contribute to society in important ways, ranging from the creation of the internet to advances in immunotherapies and vaccines.
Virtually every college and university takes advantage of public funds in the form of federal and state tuition subsidies and direct investments, federal and state research funding, and tax benefits for donors and charitable entities. In addition to the $158 billion in annual government funding, there’s $46 billion in donations from individuals, corporations and foundations – often eligible for tax breaks. This money is spent directly and indirectly on about 20 million currently enrolled students.
There is also the matter of the $1.56 trillion debt the federal government guarantees for student loans.
Even before the admissions scandal broke, a Gallup poll indicated that less than half of American adults have faith in higher education. A Pew poll found that the public is worried about the direction higher education is taking.
Perhaps reflecting those sentiments, some state funding for higher ed has been redirected to other priorities. Parents and prospective students are asking themselves if college is worth its rising tab, including the mountain of debt former students owe in exchange for making their own gainful employment more likely.
Political parties are sharply divided on the value of higher education and whether public funding has kept up with need.
A nongovernmental voluntary system of accreditation through which all higher ed institutions submit to scrutiny regarding self-defined financial, operational and academic standards and criteria has been in place for nearly 100 years.
The federal government, through the Education Department, has delegated authority to the seven regional and two national accreditation agencies. Meeting their standards on such matters as academic achievement and financial viability is mandatory to be eligible for receiving federal funds, especially student aid. States rely on this system as a proxy for financial and operational integrity too.
In our view, these scandals suggest that this approach to oversight is falling short, largely because the observations are kept confidential. If accreditors were to make all aspects of their review and findings public, their work would accomplish much more.
To be sure, some approaches to professional self-regulation, including the systems that doctors and lawyers use, do a reasonable job of earning the public’s trust. But clearer and higher standards of professional conduct are needed in the academic profession if the public’s trust is to be maintained. We and other colleagues argue that the academy needs to reaffirm its commitment to the public good as individual faculty members by ensuring that their own teaching and research advances the common good and is conducted ethically.
Among other things, all faculty and administrators must disclose conflicts of interest such as medical researchers funded by pharmaceutical companies who may potentially put patients at risk if they rel on inconclusive results. These rules demand rigorous enforcement.
Most of the voluntary institutional associations that encompass all of higher education running the gamut from community colleges to elite research universities attest to their members’ integrity and accountability. Yet they have few mechanisms in place to scrutinize members’ conduct other than relying on promises to adhere to the organizations’ principles and values. They should, and soon.
Other voluntary higher ed associations, such as the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the National Association of University and College Business Officers, highlight the importance of self-regulation to maintain the public trust. Such groups need to prove that they mean it by at least requiring an annual personal reaffirmation of adherence to standards by the president on behalf of the institution, along with paying dues.
State coordinating bodies for higher education, the NCAA and the NAIA, governmental agencies like the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Education are also supposed to hold colleges and universities accountable. Most are overwhelmed by numbers of members and alleged infractions with limited capacity to enforce well-meaning rules, but each of these bodies can do more.
What’s more, higher ed trustees are supposed to be holding the institutions they oversee accountable. Boards of trustees or governors have the ultimate responsibility for institutional performance and integrity, as promulgated by the Association of Governing Boards and others. As variously prescribed by the states, trustees are legally responsible for their institutions.
Trustees own the consequences of the actions of the people they oversee and the moral climate they inculcate. Individually, each trustee has a personal responsibility to know what “trust” means, even if only the collective actions of a board have formal authority. We argue that trustees should discuss annually the institution’s contribution to the public good and include this aspect of institutional accountability in their assessment of CEO performance.
Trustees have a fiduciary duty, but others must step up too, including the parents of aspiring students, college officials, coaches and all faculty members. For there can be no institutional accountability without individual responsibility.
The science and politics of genetically engineered salmon: 5 questions answered
March 27, 2019
Author: Alison Van Eenennaam, Researcher, Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis
Disclosure statement: Alison Van Eenennaam was an unpaid temporary voting member of the 2010 FDA Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee meeting on the AquAdvantage salmon.
Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
A Massachusetts-based company earlier this month cleared the last regulatory hurdle from the Food and Drug Administration to sell genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. Animal genomics expert Alison Van Eenennaam, who served on an advisory committee to the FDA to evaluate the AquAdvantage salmon, explains the significance of the FDA’s move and why some have criticized its decision.
1. How is AquaBounty’s salmon different from a conventional salmon?
The main difference is that AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon grows faster than conventional salmon, and therefore gets to market weight in less time. This is desirable for fish farmers because it means the fish require less feed, which is one of the main costs in aquaculture.
Fast growth is a commonly selected characteristic in food animal breeding programs. The growth rate of chickens, for example, has increased dramatically over the past 50 years thanks to conventional breeding based on the naturally occurring variation in growth rate that exists between individual chickens.
To produce the AquAdvantage salmon, Canadian researchers introduced DNA from the King salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, a fast-growing Pacific species, into an Atlantic salmon genome 30 years ago. The AquAdvantage salmon are several generations removed from that original fast-growing founder fish. These fish inherited the King salmon fast-growth gene from their parents in the normal way, passed down through sexual reproduction.
2. The Food and Drug Administration approved AquAdvantage salmon in 2015. Why couldn’t it be sold in the United States until now?
Because the AquAdvantage salmon is a genetically engineered animal, it was required to undergo a mandatory premarket FDA safety evaluation. The agency completed that evaluation and determined the fish was safe in November 2015, after almost two decades of regulatory scrutiny.
Following this approval, Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced language into the 2016 federal budget bill that banned importation and sale of the genetically engineered salmon until such time as the FDA “publishes final labeling guidelines for informing consumers of such content.” According to her press release, she did this to protect Alaska’s fishing interests and Pacific “salmon stocks from the many threats of ‘Frankenfish.’”
Soon afterward, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was tasked with developing the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard,” also known as the GMO labeling rule, which became effective on Feb. 19, 2019. This rule requires the fish to be labeled as bioengineered food.
In response, the FDA deactivated the 2016 import alert that prevented the genetically engineered salmon from entering the United States, clearing the way for its sale here. The fish had already been approved in Canada in 2016, and has been sold there since 2017.
3. Is there evidence that eating genetically engineered salmon could be harmful to people’s health?
No. The FDA evaluated the fast-growing salmon and concluded that it was as safe as conventional salmon. The agency determines safety by compositional analysis – basically, grinding up genetically engineered salmon and control fish samples and comparing them. In these analyses, the genetically engineered salmon and wild Atlantic salmon were not found to differ.
It was also determined that the introduced King salmon gene was not a novel allergen. Needless to say if you are allergic to fish, don’t eat this AquAdvantage salmon or any other salmon either. In reality, there’s no such thing as a completely “safe food,” so what the FDA scientists concluded was that the food from AquAdvantage salmon “is as safe as food from non-GE Atlantic salmon.”
4. Some critics argue that the genetically modified salmon will escape and mix with wild stocks of fish. How likely is that?
AquaBounty is using multiple, redundant biological, geographical and physical containment measures that collectively decrease the possibility of its salmon escape and interbreeding with wild stocks of fish.
Currently it is growing its engineered fish in land-based freshwater tanks in an FDA-inspected facility in the highlands of Panama. This limits their interaction with wild stocks of fish. They are also being raised to be all-female and triploid. Triploidy means the fish have three complete sets of chromosomes rather than the usual two. Triploidy renders females essentially infertile.
The fertile broodstock fish as maintained in a closed FDA-approved facility on Prince Edward Island in Canada that has physical and geographical containment measures. After reviewing those safeguards, Canadian health and environmental authorities concluded that “The likelihood of (genetically engineered salmon) exposure to the Canadian environment is concluded to be negligible with reasonable certainty.”
In 2017 AquaBounty purchased a fish farm in Indiana where they plan to grow out genetically engineered salmon. This site was approved by the FDA in 2018 as a grow-out facility. The advantage of growing the salmon in land-based facilities in the United States is that it provides a local source of domestically produced Atlantic salmon. Currently, most salmon eaten in the United States is farmed Atlantic salmon imported from Chile, Norway, and Canada incurring considerable transportation costs and carbon emissions.
The Pacific coast has a wild salmon fishery, and some of its representatives say the genetically engineered salmon is an ecological and genetic threat to native gene pools. But Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are in a different genus from Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) species. This means they cannot interbreed.
In my view, claims that AquAdvantage salmon will negatively affect wild Pacific salmon populations are unfounded, due not only to the fact that AquAdvantage salmon are being raised in land-based tanks with multiple redundant physical, geographical and biological containment measures to prevent fish from escaping, but also due to the basic genetic incompatibility of these two distinct genera of salmon.
5. Where can I read more?
There are two comprehensive yet comprehensible write-ups that I highly recommend for readers looking for more detailed information on the science and politics of the AquAdvantage salmon. The first is from factcheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center, entitled “False Claims about ‘Frankenfish,’” and the second is by the independent educational site biofortified.org, entitled “Fast-growing genetically engineered salmon approved.”