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  • February 11, 2022 5:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It is with great joy that ClassACT HR73 welcomes Ron Dieckmann, Dan Hoffheimer, and Henrietta Wigglesworth Lodge to the board. Each of them brings with them great skills, wonderful vision, and inspiring enthusiasm. As ClassACT has grown, so has our need for strong leadership and innovation. We look forward to discovering the contributions that each of these wonderful classmates will make to our work. Please join us in a toast to Henrietta, Dan and Ron, and take a look at their bios on our leadership page!

  • February 11, 2022 5:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    *click the image below to view the video on our youtube page

    Video by Rick Brotman '73, featuring Dr. Richard Wohns '73 and Jacki Swearingen '73

    A climbing expedition to Mt. Everest and treks through Nepal in the 1970s and 1980s led Dr. Richard Wohns ’73 to found the Nepal Spine Foundation in 2013 as a way to give back to the people there and to bring cutting edge neurosurgical techniques to a country often lacking in the latest medical resources. Today Dr. Wohns, a Seattle resident, and a team of fellow surgeons and nurses travel annually to Kathmandu to help perform spine surgery on patients at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) who suffer from debilitating and excruciating injuries and diseases including tuberculosis. In the months between those visits, Dr. Wohns and the foundation’s neurosurgeons meet monthly via Zoom with the faculty members and residents of TUTH to discuss surgical cases.

    “I love the country, and I love the people,” said Dr. Wohns, who began trekking through the majestic Kathmandu Valley and climbing peaks such as K2 back when only a small number of climbers ventured up the world’s tallest mountains. Yet the splendor of the Himalayas has not blinded him to the country’s health-care crisis, especially in rural villages. With its population of 30 million, Nepal has only 100 neurosurgeons. “The implication is that people are waiting for care or never getting it,” Dr. Wohns added.

    Arriving each year with donated spinal instruments, equipment and implants, Dr. Wohns and his team offer Nepalis who otherwise could not afford the devices and surgery a chance at a new life. Among the Foundation’s success stories is that of one young man, a laborer, who fell from a tree and broke his neck. Despite the collar prescribed by the local doctor, his pain worsened and some extremities grew numb. The young man walked nine days to the teaching hospital in Kathmandu where Dr. Wohns’ team was working. The donated screws, plates and expertise the team brought allowed the young man to receive the care he could otherwise not afford. “He did fine. He went back to the village and he could do work,” Dr. Wohns recalled.

    Dr. Wohns estimates that Nepal needs at least 200 more neurosurgeons to provide the level of care that its population requires. Consequently, another key mission of the Nepal Spine Foundation is training faculty and residents in the latest techniques they normally would have difficulty learning without traveling outside Nepal. When the pandemic hit, Dr. Wohns and his team started monthly online meetings in which they lecture, help to read MRI’s and guide residents learning to present complicated cases.

    “It’s always fun. It’s always interesting. It’s always educational,” said Dr. Wohns of collaborating virtually with his Nepali colleagues, including Dr. Sushil Shilpakar and Dr. Mohan Sharma, the first neurosurgeons trained at TUTH in the 1990s. Both physicians are now members of the Nepal Spine Institute’s Board of Directors. “We’ve got a growing audience with more people coming in from the Kathmandu community of neurosurgeons, not just those at TUTH.”

    In November Dr. Wohns and the foundation team plan to return to Kathmandu for Spine Week, during which they hope to deliver 20 lectures and perform“a significant number of new spinal procedures,” he said. “I would love to have some of my 1973 classmates who are neurosurgeons join me,” he added, extending the invitations to others who are neurologists, physicians assistants, operating nurses, and pain specialists as well those skilled in online medical education. “People who have come with me have gotten the bug and have gotten to make really good friends there.”

    Classmates and others who are not in health care can lend their support by donating to the Nepal Spine Foundation or joining in fundraising events such as the 2022 Trek to Everest Base Camp. Scheduled for November 11 to December 1 (with the option of helicoptering out of base camp earlier), the trek includes a significant donation to Tribhuvan hospital to promote neurosurgery as well as a final day spent observing the remarkable work of the hospital’s staff.

    “The neurosurgeons at TUTH are tremendously skilled. We want to help them obtain all the tools needed to provide state-of-the-art care,” Dr. Wohns said.

  • December 10, 2021 2:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Back in January, ClassACT produced the Zoom Forum, “When the Stage Goes Dark: Performing Arts in Covid Time.” The arts not only give us joy, but also help us understand the world we live in. The work explored here is by Linda Bond, an artist whose work explores some of the hard stuff in American history. Linda is married to our classmate Rick Brotman, an artist and a central member of the ClassACT team, and, as you will see, Rick collaborated with Linda on some of this work. Our classmate Andrea Kirsh, art critic and historian, explores Linda’s work in the commentary below and in her review of Linda's current exhibition at Drexel University. Rick has created a beautiful accompanying video of that exhibition - please take a look below.

     

    Andrea Kirsh writes:

    I knew Rick Brotman from our mutual work for ClassACT HR73, but we only met at the 2019 symposium at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs that ClassACT HR73 organized in connection with its Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program. Rick, a professional videographer, was covering the event. There I also met Rick’s wife, Linda Bond, and discovered she was an artist whose work addressed U.S. activities and policies in the Middle East and a variety of social justice themes. She has worked on several projects involving video and the web in collaboration with Rick, one with women in Afghanistan.

    My own interests in art are broad, but I have a strong interest in artists who address current social and political topics with work that is largely outside of the art market. Such work is rarely covered by commercial art publications which depend on advertising, so to show and circulate their work artists must find small, not-for profit and artist-run spaces, public libraries with exhibition programs, sympathetic community organizations, university galleries and museums which are not beholden to board members, and non-profit publications .

    Since 2006 I’ve been writing criticism for Artblog, a Philadelphia-based web publication committed to covering the breadth of art produced in Philadelphia and elsewhere, with no consideration for its marketability. It covers work exhibited in coffee shops, in artists’ homes which function as occasional galleries, in artist-run spaces, in public or commercial spaces lent to artists for special projects and in the various circumstances which enterprising artists find to exhibit their work to the public, as well as the more conventional galleries, art centers and museums. There is a lot of art being produced that deserves attention. I consider it my service to the field to broaden the range of artwork that receives critical attention as well as to bring some art historical perspective to work being shown, since few art writers have studied art history nor have most artists, even those who teach.

    I was excited to learn that Linda had two upcoming projects in Philadelphia: a large survey of twenty years of her work at the gallery at Drexel University, a showing which I reviewed for Artblog, and an installation at Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic site that addresses the history of criminal justice reform and current questions of equity in the criminal justice system.

    Eastern State has commissioned artists to produce work for its grounds since 1995, selecting those whose proposals address the organization’s themes. Linda sited her piece, Deadly Weapons, in one of the small penitentiary cells whose walls had remnants of peeling plaster and paint. At first glance the cell had been brightened with reflective silver flooring and both the spare cot in its center and the wall behind were covered with textiles in the bright colors of Mexican festival decorations. Bond used beauty as a seduction to tell viewers the story of immigrants from South and Central America detained at the U.S. Southern border who are taken into custody and have their shoelaces removed so they cannot run away and the laces can’t be used as “deadly weapons.” Placed in detention with only Mylar blankets for warmth, they are released into Mexico to await hearings and their shoelaces are not returned. As a result, they sometimes make new shoelaces out of strips of the Mylar which Bond had woven with shoelaces to make her cover for the cot. She had used more shoelaces as a makeshift curtain at the back wall. That wrenching twist, when the seduction of her materials and technique is confronted with the grimness of her subject, is characteristic of Bond’s method. Like all the best art of a political nature, hers raises questions but doesn’t provide answers. And like the best political artworks, her questions are impossible to ignore.

    Linda’s work at Drexel will be showing through February 20th, 2022, and her installation at Eastern State Penitentiary will be open through the spring. 

    Rick has also produced the following video about the 20- year retrospective at Drexel.

    Link to video: Errors and Omissions - Linda Bond 

  • December 10, 2021 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ClassACT is dedicated to “achieving change together.” While our efforts often focus on national and global changes, the connections made through ClassACT create ripple effects that result in positive change for individual lives. We are delighted to share another such example. Our classmate Jeremy Bluhm lives in Sydney, Australia and has attended some of ClassACT HR73’s virtual events. When the tailor on Jeremy’s street, Reza Nikan, asked for help, Jeremy thought of ClassACT. Reza, who is “a wonderful Hazara man who has lived in Australia for about 15 years,” asked for help for his aunt, Hanifa (52), and cousin, Sabera (24). In October, Hanifa and Sabera were able to escape from Afghanistan to Islamabad, Pakistan, with a goal of resettlement in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Reza reported that they landed in a foreign country as unaccompanied women and felt very vulnerable and afraid.

    Upon Jeremy’s request for assistance, we reached out to two of our former Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program fellows, Natasha Jehangir Khan and Nadia Rehman, and one BBLP Associate (and Natasha’s husband), Muhammad Ali, who all live in Islamabad. The three immediately responded and have begun connecting with the women. Natasha and Ali are contacting the Afghan Representative in Islamabad to find out how the women can be helped. In addition, Natasha is helping Sabera, a fledgling dressmaker, connect with vocational training to improve her skills. Nadia is in the process of reaching out to Hanifa and Sabera to offer her assistance as well. Jeremy has been told to reassure Reza that they are living in a “fairly safe” neighborhood and that there are other Afghans living in the area. We are following these ongoing efforts and will provide updates in future communications.

  • December 08, 2021 6:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The News on Gerrymandering is Grim 

    The redistricting process is in full swing, and unfortunately, some politicians in both major parties are grossly abusing their power to redraw election district maps. As we highlighted in our primer on gerrymandering, Gerrymandering: Our Democracy At Risk, these trends are growing more extreme. That is partly because the United States Supreme Court has either eliminated or gravely weakened provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that previously helped to prevent egregiously gerrymandered maps in many states.   

    Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Senate pass The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These measures would provide Federal standards to protect key voting rights, in Congressional races, from attacks by state officials and lawmakers.  We urge you to contact your Senators and ask them to support these two crucial proposals. 

    Independent Commissions Work…

    Certain politicians from both major parties are trying to stack the deck in their favor in several states where their party dominates the legislature. In some instances, they are ignoring, or undermining, advisory commissions that were recently created in efforts to reform the map-drawing process. These developments have reinforced our view that independent commissions are the best way to ensure that maps are drawn fairly.  

    Truly independent commissions can succeed because, unlike advisory commissions, they have the power to draw and implement electoral maps—not just recommend them. Even in the best models, such as California’s, politicians don’t appoint the commissioners, who are subject to strong conflict-of-interest rules. Furthermore, the commissioners are evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents. This structure forces Democrats and Republicans to compromise on the maps, so they can get the independent commissioners to approve them. 

    With such safeguards in place, no single party can dictate the maps. Still, we should monitor independent commissions’ deliberations to make sure they produce non-partisan outcomes. 

    But Advisory Commissions Hit Roadblocks in New York

    The problems with two recent reform efforts demonstrate the flaws of advisory commissions and the advantages of independent commissions.  

    In New York, Democrats hold super-majorities in both the state assembly and the state senate. Voters approved the creation of an advisory commission to draw up maps in this redistricting cycle. However, the commission can only make recommendations, and the legislature retains the ultimate power on redistricting decisions. Democrats have essentially ignored the maps proposed by the commission. 

    There were two other major flaws in the structure:

    ·   politicians chose the commissioners

    ·   the commissioners were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans

    Predictably, the commission deadlocked, so its members issued two sets of maps: one drawn by Republican appointees and another drawn by Democratic members. Both were dead on arrival.

    And Deadlocked in Virginia

    We had been more optimistic about the possible outcome for Virginia’s new advisory commission, but that reform effort has also run into trouble. As in New York’s structure, politicians appoint the commissioners, who are split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. They were supposed to deliver maps to the state legislature, which can accept or reject them. But the commissioners could not agree on the maps. 

    However, Virginia has a fallback provision that may lead to a less partisan result than New York’s. Since the commissioners did not issue maps (and the legislature did not accept any), the Virginia State Supreme Court is now empowered to redraw the electoral districts. Judges on that court are not elected, and the Court has a history of acting impartially. The court will hire a special master, a non-partisan professional, to create the maps. 

    By contrast, the newly-established independent commissions in Colorado and Michigan seem to be off to a good start. Arizona also has a fairly independent commission, although its safeguards are not as robust as California’s. 

    Both Sides are Gaming the Rules but…

    Democratic lawmakers in Maryland and Illinois, as well as those in New York, are engaged in gerrymandering in this cycle. However, most extreme gerrymandering attempts are being carried out in states dominated by Republican legislatures. That is because Republicans control more state houses than Democrats do and because they are trying to preserve their electoral advantage in battleground states where they are facing adverse demographic shifts. 

    As Nick Corosaniti of the New York Times has observed (GOP Cements Hold On Legislatures in Battleground States),  

    “In Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, Republican state lawmakers have either created supermajorities capable of overturning a governor’s veto or whittled down competitive districts so significantly that Republicans’ advantage is virtually impenetrable—leaving voters in narrowly divided states powerless to change the leadership of their legislatures.” (Nov. 25, 2021). 

    These are all key battleground states. North Carolina and Georgia voters are fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and Texas is getting close, but extreme gerrymanders have enabled Republicans to dominate those legislatures. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Michigan, two other hotly contested jurisdictions, have also gerrymandered districts heavily, although the new independent commission in Michigan offers hope for a fairer outcome in this cycle. 

    The Senate Must Pass Voting Rights Acts NOW

    After the Democrats failed last summer to pass the sweeping For the People Act, they introduced a scaled-down bill, the Freedom to Vote Act. This bill contained many of the FTPA’s key measures, but it dropped the requirement for states to establish independent commissions to conduct Federal (not state) elections, and it included other concessions. 

    The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is also before the Senate. 

    This bill would:

    ·   restore federal oversight of states practices to ensure that states do not pass laws that discriminate against voters based on race or political background

    ·   require greater transparency in changes to voting laws and practices

    ·   restore voters’ ability to challenge discriminatory voting practices in court

    These two pieces of legislation present the best way to protect voting rights from abuse by state officials and lawmakers. If enacted, these proposals would make it easier to sue jurisdictions for extreme gerrymandering and help to prevent racial gerrymandering and purging voters from rolls. 

    Time to Create an Exception to the Filibuster

    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised to bring the bills for a vote in the Senate before year-end, and we hope he means it, because time is running short. The 2022 election cycle will soon begin in earnest. 

    At this point, it is clear that no Republican Senator will support either of these measures. Instead, Republicans will filibuster the two bills, arguing that they infringe upon “states’ rights” …while ignoring the abuses the two proposals would stop.  

    We urge you to contact your senators and let them know how important passage of these two bills is for ensuring that our elections remain fair. And if they are Democrats, ask them to carve out an exemption to the filibuster for proposals, like these two measures, that would protect fundamental rights such as voting. 

    Ryan O’Connell ‘73

    Jim Harbison ‘73

  • November 01, 2021 3:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Understanding Our Differences, an award winning, nationally recognized program that helps students not only increase their knowledge and understanding of differences among people, but also provides practical skills, is one of ClassACTs Bridge Programs. Please click on the image above to view Rick Brotman '73’s short video that explains in detail about the program and how ClassACT helped it move forward in its growth.

    Click here to watch!

  • October 28, 2021 3:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After a pause due to the pandemic, ClassACT’s Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program fellowship is back! Our 2021/2022 BBLP fellow Zeina Majdalani hails from Lebanon. She is a civil engineer and has spent 10 years working for the Lebanese government in the water and energy sectors. In addition, in 2017 she founded an organization for women engineers and architects. Interested in sustainable practices and policy, she is taking five courses at HKS and MIT. Zeina is grateful for the fellowship and says her goal is to promote “positive change in Lebanon.” Click below to view Rick Brotman '73's four minute video to learn more about Zeina.


    Learn more here!

  • October 15, 2021 2:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    JUSTICEAID CONCERT WITH MAVIS STAPLES & AUTHOR TALK

    JusticeAid’s mission is simple: Do good through music and the arts

    Rock with Civil Rights and Social Justice Music Icon Mavis Staples

    Oct. 19 @7:20pm ET, Lincoln Theatre, Washington, D.C.

    Photo from justiceaid.org


    Click here to purchase tickets



    Join JusticeAid live in concert with Mavis Staples and Amy Helm at the historic Lincoln Theatre on U street on Tuesday evening, October 19th at 7:20pm ET. All proceeds from the show will benefit Neighborhood Defender Service in support of JusticeAid’s 2021 issue: police accountability and community empowerment. It will be a fun evening supporting a pressing social justice cause---a great event to share with family, friends, colleagues or clients. Great seats available at an array of price points.

    *Proof of vaccination, and masking will be required consistent with DC policy.

    Author Talk: Kristin Henning, The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth

    A JusticeAid Facebook Live event Oct. 19 @5:00pm ET 

    Photo from justiceaid.org

    Tune in at 5:00pm ET on JusticeAid’s Facebook Live page for an important conversation on the intersection of race, adolescence and policing with Kris Henning, author of The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth. Professor Henning serves as the Blume Professor of Law and Director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law, and was previously the Lead Attorney of the Juvenile Unit at the D.C. Public Defender Service. For additional information, go to JusticeAid’s Facebook page.

    Professor Henning will be in conversation with Angela J. Davis, Distinguished Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. Professor Davis is an expert in criminal law and procedure, with a specific focus on prosecutorial power and racism in the criminal justice system. Professor Davis previously served as director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, where she began as a staff attorney representing indigent juveniles and adults.

  • September 29, 2021 2:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER CRISES: DROUGHT, FLOOD, CONTAMINATION … AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

    Monday, October 25th, 7:00 - 8:30 PM EDT

    Human impact on the planet is being compared to the meteor that struck Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs – we have truly entered the Anthropocene. A changing climate acts first and foremost through the water cycle, which together with human demands are putting unprecedented stress on the reliable availability of water. Its amounts, timing, and quality for humans, other species, and ecosystems have been severely disrupted. Extreme weather events in the summer of 2021 alone run the gamut from wildfires in Siberia and the American West, to unprecedented rainfall events and floods in Germany, China, and the U.S. Gulf Coast, to sea snot (marine mucilage) in the Sea of Marmara off the coast of Turkey. These and other events impact water availability, quality, quantity, and timeliness around the world.

    We bring together a panel of experts, moderated by Erum Sattar, Program Lead of the Sustainable Water Management Program (SWM) at Tufts University, and including Andy Sawyer ’73, Assistant Chief Counsel of the California State Water Resources Control Board, Jeff Hébert, President of HR&A, Kelsey Leonard, water scientist, legal scholar, policy expert, writer, and enrolled citizen of the Shinnecock Nation, and William Moomaw, Emeritus Professor of international environmental policy at Tufts University, to discuss these disparate and interrelated problems. Together, we aim to attain greater understanding of the immense challenges to global and local water security and to begin to chart future actions.

    REGISTER HERE

  • June 18, 2021 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CLASSACT LINKS TWO '73 HARVARD GRADS FOR A JOINT

    HEALTH-CARE PROJECT IN HAITI

    By Ron Dieckmann

    Ron Dieckmann '73 in Peru

    Two ’73 Harvard doctors are bringing their nonprofit healthcare groups together for a physician training and software giveaway this summer in the country of Haiti. Dr. Ron Dieckmann and his California-based KidsCareEverywhere organization has joined forces through ClassACT with Dr. Dan Scoppetta and Grand Anse Surgery Project for the first-time exercise in the city of Jeremie, where the project is based. The project will be completely virtual and conducted with Zoom technology.

    Ron and Dan met through the ClassACT healthcare group and have been planning the joint project since January 2021. “Ron and his team have been extraordinary,” says Dan. In Haiti close to 100 individuals were identified as participants in a project that would provide an educational tool of great utility. To me it is having a ‘library on your cellphone’ providing accurate, thorough, practical information about medical management.”

    KidsCareEverywhere, a public charity founded by Ron in 2006, has provided free medical software and software training to physicians in 23 countries on three continents: Africa, Asia and South America. KidsCareEverywhere’s mission is generously supported by EBSCO Health (Ipswich, MA), which donates powerful, up-to-date medical software called DynaMed for distribution in under-resourced countries. The software is primarily used as a mobile app on smart phones and has been extensively used by physicians worldwide for patient-care decision-making, education and teaching.

    Dan Scoppetta '73 in Haiti with a fellow doctor

    Dan’s nonprofit group, Grand Anse Surgery, began in 2016 at the invitation of the Grand Anse Women’s Health Program. The Grand Anse Surgery Project (GASP) then started periodic visits to Haiti to provide breast surgery and to help build an in-country surgical program in Jeremie. The surgical mission quickly expanded to include thyroid surgery and hernia surgery. A third nonprofit group that works with Dan in Jeremie, the Grand Anse Health Development Association, is also an active partner in the summer training exercise.

    The Haiti program will be the first completely virtual training for KidsCareEverywhere. “This virtual model is what we will be primarily using going forward,” Ron envisioned. “With so many barriers facing us now for on-the-ground conventional training, I am extremely pleased to have the chance to collaborate with Dan in Haiti and develop this new, inexpensive approach to our worldwide mission.”


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