People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Storm Shelters in OKC

Tuesday June 5, 2001 marked the start of an extremely fascinating time in the annals of my cherished Houston. Tropical storm Allison, that early summer daytime came to see. The thunderstorm went rapidly, although there was Tuesday. Friday, afterward arrived, and Allison returned. This time going slowly, this time in the north. The thunderstorm became still. Thousands of people driven from their houses. Only when they might be desired most, several leading hospitals shut. Dozens of important surface roads, and every important highway covered in water that was high.

Yet even prior to the rain stopped, service to others, and narratives of Christian compassion started to be composed. For a couples class, about 75 people had assembled at Lakewood Church among the greatest nondenominational churches in The United States. From time they got ready to depart the waters had climbed so high they were stranded. The facility of Lakewood stayed dry and high at the center of among the hardest hit parts of town. Refugees in the powerful thunderstorm started arriving at their doorstep. Without no advance preparation, and demand of official sanction, those 75 classmates started a calamity shelter that grew to hold over 3,000 customers. The greatest of over 30 refuges that could be established in the height of the thunderstorm.

Where help was doled out to those who’d suffered losses after Lakewood functioned as a Red Cross Service Center. When it became clear that FEMA aid, and Red Cross wouldn’t bring aid enough, Lakewood and Second Baptist joined -Houston to produce an adopt a family plan to greatly help get folks on their feet quicker. In the occasions that followed militaries of Christians arrived in both churches. From all over town, people of economical standing, race, and each and every denomination collected. Wet rotted carpeting were pulled up, sheet stone removed. Piles of clothes donated food and bed clothes were doled out. Elbow grease and cleaning equipment were used to start eliminating traces of the damage.

It would have been an excellent example of practical ministry in a period of disaster, in the event the story stopped here, but it continues. A great many other churches functioned as shelters as well as in the occasions that followed Red Cross Service Centers. Tons of new volunteers, a lot of them Christians put to work, and were put through accelerated training. That Saturday, I used to be trapped in my own, personal subdivision. Particular that my family was safe because I worked in Storm Shelters OKC that was near where I used to live. What they wouldn’t permit the storm to do, is take their demand to give their religion, or their self respect. I saw so a lot of people as they brought gifts of food, clothes and bedclothes, praising the Lord. I saw young kids coming making use of their parents to not give new, rarely used toys to kids who had none.

Leaning On God Through Hard Times

Unity Church of Christianity from a location across town impacted by the storm sent a sizable way to obtain bedding as well as other supplies. A tiny troupe of musicians and Christian clowns requested to be permitted to amuse the kids in the shelter where I served and arrived. We of course promptly taken their offer. The kids were collected by them in a sizable empty space of flooring. They sang, they told stories, balloon animals were made by them. The kids, frightened, at least briefly displaced laughed.

When not occupied elsewhere I did lots of listening. I listened to survivors that were disappointed, and frustrated relief workers. I listened to kids make an effort to take advantage of a scenario they could not comprehend. All these are only the stories I have heard or seen. I am aware that spiritual groups, Churches, and lots of other individual Christians functioned admirably. I do need to thank them for the attempts in disaster. I thank The Lord for supplying them to serve.

I didn’t write its individuals, or this which means you’d feel sorry for Houston. As this disaster unfolded yet what I saw encouraged my beliefs the Lord will provide through our brothers and sisters in religion for us. Regardless how awful your community hits, you the individual Christian can be a part of the remedy. Those blankets you can probably never use, and have stored away mean much to people who have none. You are able to help in the event that you can drive. You are able to help if you’re able to create a cot. It is possible to help in the event that you can scrub a wall. It is possible to help if all you are able to do is sit and listen. Large catastrophes like Allison get lots of focus. However a disaster can come in virtually any size. That is a serious disaster to your family that called it home in case a single household burns. It is going to be generations prior to the folks here forget Allison.

United States Oil and Gas Exploration Opportunities

Firms investing in this sector can research, develop and create, as well as appreciate the edges of a global gas and oil portfolio with no political and economical disadvantages. Allowing regime and the US financial conditions is rated amongst the world and the petroleum made in US is sold at costs that were international. The firms will likely gain as US also has a national market that is booming. Where 500 exploration wells are drilled most of the petroleum exploration in US continues to be concentrated around the Taranaki Basin. On the other hand, the US sedimentary basins still remain unexplored and many show existence of petroleum seeps and arrangements were also unveiled by the investigation data with high hydrocarbon potential. There have already been onshore gas discoveries before including Great south river basins, East Coast Basin and offshore Canterbury.

As interest in petroleum is expected to grow strongly during this interval but this doesn’t automatically dim the bright future expectations in this sector. The interest in petroleum is anticipated to reach 338 PJ per annum. The US government is eager to augment the gas and oil supply. As new discoveries in this sector are required to carry through the national demand at the same time as raise the amount of self reliance and minimize the cost on imports of petroleum the Gas and Oil exploration sector is thought to be among the dawn sectors. The US government has invented a distinctive approach to reach its petroleum and gas exploration targets. It’s developed a “Benefit For Attempt” model for Petroleum and Gas exploration tasks in US.

The “Benefit For Attempt” in today’s analytic thinking is defined as oil reserves found per kilometer drilled. It will help in deriving the estimate of reservations drilled for dollar and each kilometer spent for each investigation. The authorities of US has revealed considerable signs that it’ll bring positive effects of change which will favor investigation of new oil reserves since the price of investigation has adverse effects on investigation task. The Authorities of US has made the information accessible about the oil potential in its study report. Foil of advice in royalty and allocation regimes, and simplicity of processes have enhanced the attractiveness of Petroleum and Natural Gas Sector in the United States.

Petroleum was the third biggest export earner in 2008 for US and the chance to to keep up the growth of the sector is broadly accessible by manners of investigation endeavors that are new. The government is poised to keep the impetus in this sector. Now many firms are active with new exploration jobs in the Challenger Plateau of the United States, Northland East Slope Basin region, outer Taranaki Basin, and Bellona Trough region. The 89 Energy oil and gas sector guarantees foreign investors as government to high increase has declared a five year continuance of an exemption for offshore petroleum and gas exploration in its 2009 budget. The authorities provide nonresident rig operators with tax breaks.

Modern Robot Duct Cleaning Uses

AC systems, and heat, venting collect pollutants and contaminants like mold, debris, dust and bacteria that can have an adverse impact on indoor air quality. Most folks are at present aware that indoor air pollution could be a health concern and increased visibility has been thus gained by the area. Studies have also suggested cleaning their efficacy enhances and is contributory to a longer operating life, along with maintenance and energy cost savings. The cleaning of the parts of forced air systems of heat, venting and cooling system is what’s called duct cleaning. Robots are an advantageous tool raising the price and efficacy facets of the procedure. Therefore, using modern robot duct isn’t any longer a new practice.

A cleaner, healthier indoor environment is created by a clean air duct system which lowers energy prices and increases efficiency. As we spend more hours inside air duct cleaning has become an important variable in the cleaning sector. Indoor pollutant levels can increase. Health effects can show years or up immediately after repeated or long exposure. These effects range from some respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancer that can be deadly or debilitating. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure indoor air quality isn’t endangered inside buildings. Dangerous pollutants that can found in inside can transcend outdoor air pollutants in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Duct cleaning from Air Duct Cleaning Edmond professionals removes microbial contaminants, that might not be visible to the naked eye together with both observable contaminants. Indoor air quality cans impact and present a health hazard. Air ducts can be host to a number of health hazard microbial agents. Legionnaires Disease is one malaise that’s got public notice as our modern surroundings supports the development of the bacteria that has the potential to cause outbreaks and causes the affliction. Typical disorder-causing surroundings contain wetness producing gear such as those in air conditioned buildings with cooling towers that are badly maintained. In summary, in building and designing systems to control our surroundings, we’ve created conditions that were perfect . Those systems must be correctly tracked and preserved. That’s the secret to controlling this disorder.

Robots allow for the occupation while saving workers from exposure to be done faster. Signs of the technological progress in the duct cleaning business is apparent in the variety of gear now available for example, array of robotic gear, to be used in air duct cleaning. Robots are priceless in hard to reach places. Robots used to see states inside the duct, now may be used for spraying, cleaning and sampling procedures. The remote controlled robotic gear can be fitted with practical and fastener characteristics to reach many different use functions.

Video recorders and a closed circuit television camera system can be attached to the robotic gear to view states and operations and for documentation purposes. Inside ducts are inspected by review apparatus in the robot. Robots traveling to particular sections of the system and can move around barriers. Some join functions that empower cleaning operation and instruction manual and fit into little ducts. An useful view range can be delivered by them with models delivering disinfection, cleaning, review, coating and sealing abilities economically.

The remote controlled robotic gear comes in various sizes and shapes for different uses. Of robotic video cameras the first use was in the 80s to record states inside the duct. Robotic cleaning systems have a lot more uses. These devices provide improved accessibility for better cleaning and reduce labor costs. Lately, functions have been expanded by areas for the use of small mobile robots in the service industries, including uses for review and duct cleaning.

More improvements are being considered to make a tool that was productive even more effective. If you determine to have your ventilation, heat and cooling system cleaned, it’s important to make sure all parts of the system clean and is qualified to achieve this. Failure to clean one part of a contaminated system can lead to re-contamination of the entire system.

When To Call A DWI Attorney

Charges or fees against a DWI offender need a legal Sugar Land criminal defense attorney that is qualified dismiss or so that you can reduce charges or the fees. So, undoubtedly a DWI attorney is needed by everyone. Even if it’s a first-time violation the penalties can be severe being represented by a DWI attorney that is qualified is vitally significant. If you’re facing following charges for DWI subsequently the punishments can contain felony charges and be severe. Locating an excellent attorney is thus a job you should approach when possible.

So you must bear in mind that you just should hire a DWI attorney who practices within the state where the violation occurred every state within America will make its laws and legislation regarding DWI violations. It is because they are going to have the knowledge and expertise of state law that is relevant to sufficiently defend you and will be knowledgeable about the processes and evaluations performed to establish your guilt.

As your attorney they are going to look to the evaluations that have been completed at the time of your arrest and the authorities evidence that is accompanying to assess whether or not these evaluations were accurately performed, carried out by competent staff and if the right processes where followed. It isn’t often that a police testimony is asserted against, although authorities testimony also can be challenged in court.

You should attempt to locate someone who specializes in these kind of cases when you start trying to find a DWI attorney. Whilst many attorneys may be willing to consider on your case, a lawyer who specializes in these cases is required by the skilled knowledge needed to interpret the scientific and medical evaluations ran when you had been detained. The first consultation is free and provides you with the chance to to inquire further about their experience in fees and these cases.

Many attorneys will work according into a fee that is hourly or on a set fee basis determined by the kind of case. You may find how they have been paid to satisfy your financial situation and you will have the capacity to negotiate the conditions of their fee. If you are unable to afford to hire an attorney that is private you then can request a court-appointed attorney paid for by the state. Before you hire a DWI attorney you should make sure when you might be expected to appear in court and you understand the precise charges imposed against you.

How Credit Card Works

The credit card is making your life more easy, supplying an amazing set of options. The credit card is a retail trade settlement; a credit system worked through the little plastic card which bears its name. Regulated by ISO 7810 defines credit cards the actual card itself consistently chooses the same structure, size and contour. A strip of a special stuff on the card (the substance resembles the floppy disk or a magnetic group) is saving all the necessary data. This magnetic strip enables the credit card’s validation. The layout has become an important variable; an enticing credit card layout is essential in ensuring advice and its dependability keeping properties.

A credit card is supplied to the user just after a bank approves an account, estimating a varied variety of variables to ascertain fiscal dependability. This bank is the credit supplier. When a purchase is being made by an individual, he must sign a receipt to verify the trade. There are the card details, and the amount of cash to be paid. You can find many shops that take electronic authority for the credit cards and use cloud tokenization for authorization. Nearly all verification are made using a digital verification system; it enables assessing the card is not invalid. If the customer has enough cash to insure the purchase he could be attempting to make staying on his credit limit any retailer may also check.

As the credit supplier, it is as much as the banks to keep the user informed of his statement. They typically send monthly statements detailing each trade procedures through the outstanding fees, the card and the sums owed. This enables the cardholder to ensure all the payments are right, and to discover mistakes or fraudulent action to dispute. Interest is typically charging and establishes a minimal repayment amount by the end of the following billing cycle.

The precise way the interest is charged is normally set within an initial understanding. On the rear of the credit card statement these elements are specified by the supplier. Generally, the credit card is an easy type of revolving credit from one month to another. It can also be a classy financial instrument, having many balance sections to afford a greater extent for credit management. Interest rates may also be not the same as one card to another. The credit card promotion services are using some appealing incentives find some new ones along the way and to keep their customers.

Why Get Help From A Property Management?

One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the revenue of your rental home would be to engage and contact property management in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If you wish to know more and are considering the product please browse the remainder of the post. Leasing out your bit of real property may be real cash-cow as many landlords understand, but that cash flow usually includes a tremendous concern. Night phones from tenants that have the trouble of marketing the house if you own an emptiness just take out lots of the pleasure of earning money off of leases, overdue lease payments which you must chase down, as well as over-flowing lavatories. One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the earnings would be to engage a property management organization.

These businesses perform as the go between for the tenant as well as you. The tenant will not actually need to understand who you’re when you hire a property management company. The company manages the day to day while you still possess the ability to help make the final judgements in regards to the home relationships using the tenant. The company may manage the marketing for you personally, for those who are in possession of a unit that is vacant. Since the company is going to have more connections in a bigger market than you’ve got along with the industry than you are doing, you’ll discover your device gets stuffed a whole lot more quickly making use of their aid. In addition, the property management company may care for testing prospective tenants and help prospects move in by partnering with the right home services and moving company. With regards to the arrangement you’ve got, you might nevertheless not be unable to get the last say regarding if a tenant is qualified for the the system, but of locating a suitable tenant, the day-to-day difficulty is not any longer your problem. They’ll also manage the before-move-in the reviews as well as reviews required following a tenant moves away.

It is possible to step back watching the profits, after the the system is stuffed. Communicating will be handled by the company with all the tenant if you have an issue. You won’t be telephoned if this pipe explosions at the center of the night time. Your consultant is called by the tenant in the company, who then makes the preparations that are required to get the issue repaired with a care supplier. You get a phone call a day later or may not know there was an issue before you register using the business. The property management organization may also make your leasing obligations to to get. The company will do what’s required to accumulate if your tenant is making a payment. In certain arrangements, the organization is going to also take-over paying taxation, insurance, and the mortgage on the portion of property. You actually need to do-nothing but appreciate after after all the the invoices are paid, the revenue which is sent your way.

With all the advantages, you’re probably questioning exactly what to employing a property management organization, the downside should be. From hiring one the primary variable that stops some landlords is the price. All these providers will be paid for by you. The price must be weighed by you from the time frame you’ll save time that you may subsequently use to follow additional revenue-producing efforts or just take pleasure in the fruits of your expense work.

Benifits From An Orthodontic Care

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry centered on the identification and treatment of dental and related facial problems. The outcomes of Norman Orthodontist OKC treatment could be dramatic — an advanced quality of life for a lot of individuals of ages and lovely grins, improved oral health health, aesthetics and increased cosmetic tranquility. Whether into a look dentistry attention is needed or not is an individual’s own choice. Situations are tolerated by most folks like totally various kinds of bite issues or over bites and don’t get treated. Nevertheless, a number people sense guaranteed with teeth that are correctly aligned, appealing and simpler. Dentistry attention may enhance construct and appearance power. It jointly might work with you consult with clearness or to gnaw on greater.

Orthodontic attention isn’t only decorative in character. It might also gain long term oral health health. Right, correctly aligned teeth is not more difficult to floss and clean. This may ease and decrease the risk of rot. It may also quit periodontists irritation that problems gums. Periodontists might finish in disease, that occurs once micro-organism bunch round your house where the teeth and the gums meet. Periodontists can be ended in by untreated periodontists. Such an unhealthiness result in enamel reduction and may ruin bone that surrounds the teeth. Less may be chewed by people who have stings that are harmful with efficacy. A few of us using a serious bite down side might have difficulties obtaining enough nutrients. Once the teeth aren’t aimed correctly, this somewhat might happen. Morsel issues that are repairing may allow it to be more easy to chew and digest meals.

One may also have language problems, when the top and lower front teeth do not arrange right. All these are fixed through therapy, occasionally combined with medical help. Eventually, remedy may ease to avoid early use of rear areas. Your teeth grow to an unlikely quantity of pressure, as you chew down. In case your top teeth do not match it’ll trigger your teeth that are back to degrade. The most frequently encountered type of therapy is the braces (or retainer) and head-gear. But, a lot people complain about suffering with this technique that, unfortunately, is also unavoidable. Sport braces damages, as well as additional individuals have problem in talking. Dental practitioners, though, state several days can be normally disappeared throughout by the hurting. Occasionally annoyance is caused by them. In the event that you’d like to to quit more unpleasant senses, fresh, soft and tedious food must be avoided by you. In addition, tend not to take your braces away unless the medical professional claims so.

It is advised which you just observe your medical professional often for medical examinations to prevent choice possible problems that may appear while getting therapy. You are going to be approved using a specific dental hygiene, if necessary. Dental specialist may look-out of managing and id malocclusion now. Orthodontia – the main specialization of medication – mainly targets repairing chin problems and teeth, your grin as well as thus your sting. Dentist, however, won’t only do chin remedies and crisis teeth. They also handle tender to severe dental circumstances which may grow to states that are risky. You actually have not got to quantify throughout a predicament your life all. See dental specialist San – Direction Posts, and you’ll notice only but of stunning your smile plenty will soon be.

Accenture bolsters support for technology and innovation through new MIT-wide initiative

MIT and Accenture today announced a five-year collaboration that will further advance learning and research through new business convergence insights in technology and innovation. The MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Industry and Technology, established within the School of Engineering, will aim to draw faculty, researchers, and students from across MIT.

MIT’s alliance with Accenture spans over 15 years and has proven to be paramount in establishing educational programming and training in technology advancement and data analysis. The industry leader has collaborated with MIT across areas including: MIT Professional Education, MIT Sloan Executive Education, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, MIT CSAIL Alliances, MIT Horizon, MIT Career Advising and Professional Development, MIT Data Science Lab, MIT Data to AI Lab, the Gabrieli Laboratory, and the Department of Economics Initiative on Technology and the Future of Labor, among others.

“The world is experiencing disruption beyond what any of us have seen in our lifetimes. In that context, it is more important than ever that academia and industry collaborate to address pressing societal challenges and opportunities,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Building on MIT’s long relationship with Accenture, we are eager to join forces again now to demonstrate how the convergence of industries and technologies is powering the next wave of change and innovation, and how we can harness and shape these forces for positive impact.”

Accenture will work with MIT to establish opportunity on multiple fronts: from graduate fellowships awarded to graduate students working on research in industry and technology convergence who are underrepresented, including by race and ethnicity and by gender, to an ambitious educational program targeting Accenture’s 500,000 employees.  

“As disruptive technologies and ideas continue to blur the boundaries between industries, moving with speed and designing a future that will benefit all requires a different approach,” says Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture. “Rapid progress will depend on the ability of industries to learn from each other, from technology leaders and from diverse perspectives across business and academia. MIT, with its strengths across science and engineering, the arts, architecture, humanities, social sciences, and management, and its continuing commitment to interdisciplinary programs, is the ideal partner for Accenture to create breakthrough new research, education and thought leadership programs that can help companies and countries seize the opportunity of the convergence of industry, technology and markets and embrace the change it will bring to create more 360-degree value for all.”

The new MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Industry and Technology will focus on the following offerings:

  • Advancing a portfolio of research projects that address technology and industry convergence in the near and long-term. This will include MIT research that is data-driven that connects to topics including AI, knowledge curation, and talent.
  • Providing five annual fellowships that will be awarded to graduate students working on research in industry and technology convergence who are underrepresented, including by race and ethnicity and by gender.
  • Establishing multiple learning programs including: a digital learning program bringing learnings to the broader Accenture community and leveraging MIT’s most innovative digital learning methodologies; a weeklong program held at MIT (possibly online) for Accenture leadership; a program designed to immerse c-suite executives in the latest convergence technologies; and opportunities for the MIT student community to engage with Accenture thought leaders.

“Our new collaboration with Accenture, which will build upon prior mutual efforts, is an obvious and wonderful step forward,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I can’t wait to see the many incredible educational and innovative opportunities launched through this alliance.”

Sanjay Sarma will serve as chair of the advisory board for the MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Industry and Technology. Sarma is vice president for open learning at MIT and the Fred Fort Flowers (1941) and Daniel Fort Flowers (1941) Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Brian Subirana, research scientist and director of the MIT Auto-ID lab, will serve as director of the Initiative.   

Co-leads of the new Initiative will be Anantha Chandrakasan and Sanjeev Vohra, global lead of Accenture Applied Intelligence, both of whom will work with the advisory board including members from each organization.

A global collaboration to move artificial intelligence principles to practice

Today, artificial intelligence — and the computing systems that underlie it — are more than just matters of technology; they are matters of state and society, of governance and the public interest. The choices that technologists, policymakers, and communities make in the next few years will shape the relationship between machines and humans for decades to come.

The rapidly increasing applicability of AI has prompted a number of organizations to develop high-level principles on social and ethical issues such as privacy, fairness, bias, transparency, and accountability. Building on those broader principles, the AI Policy Forum, a global effort convened by the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, will provide an overarching policy framework and tools for governments and companies to implement in concrete ways.

“Our goal is to help policymakers in making practical decisions about AI policy,” says Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. “We are not trying to develop another set of principles around AI, several of which already exist, but rather provide context and guidelines specific to a field of use of AI to help policymakers around the world with implementation.”

“Moving beyond principles means understanding trade-offs and identifying the technical tools and the policy levers to address them. We created the college to examine and address these types of issues, but this can’t be a siloed effort. We need for this to be a global collaboration and engage scientists, technologists, policymakers, and business leaders,” says MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. “This is a challenging and complex process for which we need all hands-on deck.”

The AI Policy Forum is designed as a yearlong process. Activities associated with this effort will be distinguished by their focus on tangible outcomes — their engagement with key government officials at the local, national, and international level charged with designing those public policies, and their deep technical grounding in the latest advances in the science of AI. The measure of success will be whether these efforts have bridged the gap between these communities, translated principled agreement into actionable outcomes, and helped create the conditions for deeper trust between humans and machines.

The global collaboration will begin in late 2020 and early 2021 with a series of AI Policy Forum Task Forces, chaired by MIT researchers and bringing together the world’s leading technical and policy experts on some of the most pressing issues of AI policy, starting with AI in finance and mobility. Further task forces throughout 2021 will convene more communities of practice with the shared aim of designing the next chapter of AI: one that both delivers on AI’s innovative potential and responds to society’s needs.

Each task force will produce results that inform concrete public policies and frameworks for the next chapter of AI, and help define the roles that the academic and business communities, civil society, and governments will need to play in making it a reality. Research from the task forces will feed into the development of the AI Policy Framework, a dynamic assessment tool that will help governments gauge their own progress on AI policy-making goals and guide application of best practices appropriate to their own national priorities.

On May 6–7, 2021, MIT will host — most likely online — the first AI Policy Forum Summit, a two-day collaborative gathering to discuss the progress of the task forces towards equipping high-level decision-makers with a deeper understanding of the tools at their disposal — and trade-offs to be made — to produce better public policy around AI, and better AI systems with concern for public policy. Then, in fall 2021, a follow-on event at MIT will bring together leaders from across sectors and countries and, built atop the leading research from the task forces, the forum will provide a focal point for work to move from AI principles to AI practice, and serve as a springboard to global efforts to design the future of AI.

3 Questions: Daron Acemoglu on the US tax system and automation

As part of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future’s new series of subject-specific research briefs by MIT faculty, Institute Professor Daron Acemoglu teamed with economics PhD student Andrea Manera and Boston University Assistant Professor Pascual Restrepo to examine the different forms of automation and examine how the U.S. tax system has led to excessive reliance on machines.

In their brief, “Taxes, Automation, and the Future of Labor,” Acemoglu and co-authors explain how the tax system evolved to favor capital relative to labor, and what U.S. policymakers could do to reverse this negative impact and level the playing field between the two. The brief argues that while lower taxes on capital is a long-standing feature of the U.S. tax code, the issue now is more acute as new automation technologies move into a larger variety of worker tasks performed throughout the economy, from warehouses to factories to insurance firms and stores. Automation, which involves the substitution of machines and algorithms for tasks previously performed by workers, could be an engine of growth. But when it is excessive, for example driven by tax incentives rather than for efficiency gains, it harms labor and fails to improve productivity. Here, Acemoglu provides an overview of the brief’s findings.

Q: Your brief describes how the U.S. tax system has historically favored investments in physical capital vs. human labor. Can you explain?

A: In the 1980s and 1990s, the effective tax on labor was 25 percent. This means that, due to federal and state income taxes and payroll taxes, if an employer wanted to pay out $100 in a worker’s pocket, this would cost them $125. Even at that time, capital was taxed much more lightly. The average tax rate on equipment and software capital, the types of capital involved in automation, was around 15 percent during these two decades. Since then, the effective tax rate on labor has remained around 25 percent, while taxes on capital have declined. We now tax equipment and software at about 5 percent. This decline is partly because of the lower income taxes on people with capital income, partly because many businesses have shifted their status from “C corporation” to “S corporation,” and even more majorly, because since 2000, the U.S. government has given very generous depreciation allowances, enabling firms to reduce capital expenditures from their tax obligations.

Q; What are the implications of this imbalance for workers, wages, and broader societal issues such as inequality?

A: Because of our tax system, firms have an artificial reason for preferring machines, and specifically automation, to employing labor. Suppose that you can perform a crucial task by hiring 10 workers and paying them $95,000 a year and they would do an excellent job. Hence, employing labor for this task would cost you $950,000. Now imagine there is a specialized software that costs $1 million a year which also performs the same task satisfactorily. There should be no reason for you to use this software, since it is no better and costs a little more. But with the current tax system, you pay much higher taxes when you hire labor than when you go for the software.Therefore, it is now more profitable to use the software. It is probable that many firms are thus being induced to reduce their labor demand and use machines instead because of the U.S. tax code. This implies lower labor demand and thus greater inequality between capital and labor. Moreover, since the types of workers that are laid off because of machine or algorithmic replacement are typically low-skill, the bias of the tax code also fuels inequality.

Q: What are your recommendations for how U.S. policymakers can better level the playing field between investments in capital vs. human labor?

A: If we go back to the tax structure in the 1990s, we would still be treating capital more favorably than labor, but it would be a huge step towards leveling the playing field. It would also help raise tax revenues, which are sorely needed at the moment. I would also like to see payroll taxes reduced, but at a time of mounting budget deficits and public debt, this is less likely to be adopted.

Fotini Christia named director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center

Professor Fotini Christia has been named the director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC) at MIT.

A professor in the Department of Political Science, Christia stepped into her new role with SSRC on Oct. 1. The interdisciplinary center, part of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society in the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, focuses on the study of high-impact, complex societal challenges that shape our world.

Christia succeeds Ali Jadbabaie, the JR East Professor of Engineering, who has led SSRC since 2016. Jadbabaie recently stepped down to become the new head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Fotini’s breadth as a social scientist, on-the-ground approach, use of data science and computational techniques, and application of novel methods to understand how societies are being shaped in diverse areas, made her a natural fit to lead SSRC into the next chapter,” says Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. “I’m delighted to welcome her and look forward to collaborating on behalf of the college and the Institute.”

Christia’s research interests deal with the political economy of conflict and development in the Muslim world, for which she has done extensive experimental and survey-related fieldwork in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, and Yemen. She is presently using cellphone and social media data in ongoing research on refugee return in Syria, and on gender-based violence in Egypt during Covid-19.

She is the author of “Alliance Formation in Civil War” (Cambridge University Press, 2012), which rationalizes that warring group alliances are not eternally divided along ethnic or religious lines, but rather are dynamic, formed for more instrumental reasons that often reflect shifts in the balance of power. Her book was awarded the Luebbert Award for Best Book in Comparative Politics, the Lepgold Prize for Best Book in International Relations, and a Distinguished Book Award from the International Studies Association. 

Her research has also appeared in Science, Review of Economic Studies, IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering, and American Political Science Review, among other journals, and her opinion pieces have been published in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She has been awarded an inaugural Andrew Carnegie fellowship and a Harvard Academy fellowship.

A native of Greece, where she grew up in the port city of Salonika, Christia moved to the United States to attend college at Columbia University. She graduated magna cum laude in 2001 with a joint BA in economics–operations research and an MA in international affairs. She joined the MIT faculty in 2008 after receiving her PhD in public policy from Harvard University.

Beyond Bitcoin: A new case for novel payment systems

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has become a center of excitement, mystery, and controversy. Boosters have viewed it as an investment opportunity, a financial innovation, and a rival to state-controlled currencies; skeptics think it is an energy-wasting market bubble.

MIT economist Robert Townsend sees things differently. To Townsend, Bitcoin, for all its novelty, is part of a larger family of financial innovations, known as “distributed ledgers,” which allow people to perform financial activities without requiring a central authority to keep a master copy of those transactions and while minimizing the need for individuals to trust each other.

Functionally, distributed ledgers can be applied to payments, financial accounts, escrow mechanisms, and contracts. These tools have evolved globally while receiving comparatively little attention — even though some of the tools are part of Bitcoin.

“Almost everyone has heard of Bitcoin, and likewise, they have opinions about it,” Townsend observes. “It’s quite a politicized issue. But a lot of its technologies were pre-existing. They got put together in a rather interesting and complicated way in Bitcoin. But the idea of having a common ledger implemented by consensus on transactions, that was not unique to Bitcoin; that predated it.”

Now Townsend has written a book, “Distributed Ledgers: Design and Regulation of Financial Infrastructure and Payment Systems,” published this month by the MIT Press, in which he surveys these tools and analyzes their usefulness. Overall, Townsend writes, distributed ledgers “have the potential to transform economic organization and financial structure,” especially in areas of the world lacking financial institutions — although not only in those places.

For instance, shipping giant Maersk has combined with IBM to build a distributed ledger system for its business. The Reserve Bank of India’s TReDS platform lets merchants directly receive trade receivables (money owed to them) through distributed ledger principles. And numerous platforms now facilitate money transfers across national borders.

“These things are increasingly being used quite a lot,” Townsend says. “On the other hand, there is [also] a lot of exaggeration and hype and outright failure.”

Up close in Thailand

The book’s origins start with the Townsend Thai Project, a 20-year research effort Townsend oversaw, starting in the 1990s, which collected monthly financial data from hundreds of households in several provinces. This helped Townsend see the potential of distributed ledgers, since many Thai people and communities lack easy access to financial institutions.

“People tend to react relative to what they have in their own country,” Townsend says. “In Europe or the U.S., there are very sophisticated financial infrastructures, so the issue is, ‘Why do we need Bitcoin or financial ledgers at all?’ But if you make your way into one of the Thai villages that I study, armed with the data that I collected over 20 years, the gaps become quite apparent.”

One apparent gap: The Thai baht, the currency, is heavily paper-intensive. And as Townsend explains, “Thailand is now an upper-middle income country relative to Myanmar and Cambodia, and it has immigrants coming in to work with the objective of sending money home to their families.”

Now companies using distributed ledger approaches, such as the open-source money-transfer platform Stellar, can make remittances happen cheaper and faster. Stellar allows transactions between decentralized servers that synchronize every few seconds; another firm, Ripple, operates in similar fashion.

“A money transfer organization in Thailand can connect to a money transfer organization in Myanmar, and fiat money [government currency] never really changes hands,” Townsend observes. “They can affect this transfer in literally seconds, at the cost of pennies. It’s almost revolutionary, relative to what they have now.”

Moreover, the same distributed-ledger principle applies to “smart” contracts and escrow services, which are often lacking in Thailand.

Escrow addresses “the ability to make and honor a promise,” as Townsend puts it. In places like the U.S., large transactions such as a house sale can have delicate timing issues. Sellers need assurances that payments will be forthcoming, and buyers need assurances that goods are available. Usually, money is held by a third party until the terms of a deal are fulfilled.

But since distributed ledger technologies offer a platform where two parties can make synchronized exchanges, they can substitute for the escrow process.

“In rural areas of Thailand, they don’t have that,” Townsend says. “The banks don’t think traditionally of farmers having any interest in these [escrow-type] instruments. But of course, it’s really quite important.” With distributed ledgers, farmers could deliver goods without getting burned by bogus payments.

M-PESA’s moment

Moving beyond Asia, Townsend notes, Kenya boasts a notable alternate currency: M-PESA, a phone-based money-transfer system created by mobile provider Safaricom in 2007. With M-PESA, used by 90 percent of Kenyans who lack bank accounts, people deposit funds and transfer them to others as payments, at parity with the Kenyan shilling, and with low transaction costs. Studies by MIT economist Tavneet Suri show M-PESA helps spread risk effectively.

However, Safaricom offers no collateral for user deposits, so there are customer risks. And the M-PESA network runs through agents, 60 percent of whom lack liquidity at least once per month.

“That’s entirely a private initiative, it’s not government-sponsored, and you do have to trust the cell-phone company,” Townsend says. “You’re giving your money to an agent, who’s crediting your account. Granted, you can check on your phone and see if it’s there … but there’s nothing securing it.”

M-PESA is also a step removed from some types of distributed ledgers, since Safaricom is a third party overseeing transactions; it more closely resembles some types that do use third-party validation. But Townsend writes that M-PESA, as a flexible currency substitute, has “great social value” for Kenyans, and believes it should be part of the discussion about how financial innovation can meet the needs of society.

“Distributed Ledgers” has gained positive notice from experts in the field. Hyun Song Shin, economic adviser and head of research for the Bank for International Settlements, states that Townsend has shown “mastery” of the subject “as a top-notch theorist and with concrete examples,” adding: “This impressive book is a must-read for all serious observers of digital currencies and the payment system.”

For his part, Townsend hopes many people — policymakers, technologists, finance industry experts, and any other readers — will seriously consider the cases beyond Bitcoin that show the value of new finance tools.

“I’m very eclectic about it,” Townsend says. “I always think of these things as options. You don’t have to go the full route to consensus algorithms [like Bitcoin] on distributed ledgers to achieve a lot.”

3 Questions: Anat Biletzki on the Human Rights and Technology Fellowship Program

MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) research affiliate Anat Biletzki is the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy at Quinnipiac University. From 2001 to 2006, she served as chair of B’Tselem ― the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and in 2015 was honored as a nominee of the 1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize initiative. Her most recent book is “Philosophy of Human Rights: A Systematic Introduction” (Routledge, 2019).

Biletzki is a founding co-director of the CIS Human Rights and Technology Fellowship Program. The program offers research fellowships to MIT students with the intent of producing new knowledge about the relationship of human rights and technology. The fellowship program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and invites proposals for its 2020-21 cohort of fellows through Oct. 26. She speaks here on the fellowship program.

Q: Can you tell us about the work that the Human Rights and Technology Program does and what it offers to MIT students? 

A: The program is invested in teaching human rights, but teaching in a very deep sense of the word “teaching.” It is not about classes. It is about actually getting students to engage with human rights. The “work” is getting students to think of their own projects, which can be completed in a semester or a year, that link human rights with technology.

When thinking of a human rights program at CIS, John Tirman [executive director and a principal research scientist at CIS], Richard Samuels [director of CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science], and I determined that the program should focus on MIT’s strength in technology. Our vision, then, was to add the human rights component and thus explore on a grand scale how technology either aids or hinders human rights.

Tirman and I co-direct the program, and each fall we send out a request for proposals to MIT students to apply for the annual fellowship. The program started in 2018 with its first cohort of students. Our 2019-20 awardees involved seven projects and 10 students. The projects are amazingly diverse and come from both undergraduate and graduate students across the Institute. 

One student was working on the use of technology in monitoring migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Another student was working in Micronesia, looking at Facebook Groups and the issue of labor exploitation of migrant workers. One evolving group project began with looking at how social media promotes activism for workers’ rights. And we have other students working on questions of indigenous knowledge, indigenous culture and indigenous groups, and how access to their own resources is supported or harmed by technology.

Q: What sort of adaptations has the program and its current fellows made due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

A: On a very mundane, technical level, the part of the program that is predicated on meetings among fellows and personal reports and encounters all went online. There is nothing exclusive here merely the easy success of Zoom meetings with all our fellows who continued to deliberate together about their ongoing projects.

More significant was the fact that a few projects involved travel abroad (to Vietnam, Mexico, India) while others demanded face-to-face contact with interviewees who were not accessible via internet, or internet contact with interviewees whose technological resources became scarce. These projects underwent certain transformations some couldn’t travel, some were “stuck” in their alternative space, some meetings couldn’t take place and the fellows managed to admirably convert their methodology and even their project-goals to something doable in Covid-19 times.

Clearly, the 2019-20 cohort had to make their changes and “deliver the goods” on an ad hoc basis. Looking forward to 2020-21 and beyond, and as strange as it may sound, I see great potential for the program in our current Covid-19 predicament. Projects that are articulated now cannot ignore the limitations and demands that this new context will require of students, especially when thinking about their objectives and tools, since both are now impacted in the matter of technology. Just as relevant, to my mind, are the effects of Covid-19 on questions of human rights. A whole new slew of human rights abuses, now so much with us, are precisely matters of human rights and technology. In working with new fellows, we will need to adapt to our new physical, geographical, and conceptual frameworks.

Q: How do you hope the program will continue to grow in the future? 

A: Of course, we’d like it to grow in the very mundane sense of having more people. For example, if we could have 20 projects a year, we’d have a more vibrant program. What we’re noticing now is how the projects are enriching one another and how the group as a whole is working together. If it’s a bigger group with more projects, it widens the horizons of what we can do.

On a less concrete level, I want the program to be asking deeper questions about whether technology is good or bad for human rights, and grappling with how we deal with the encroachment of technology. In that sense, I see this program as being a great contribution in the way human rights is perceived and done all around the world, not just at MIT.

What we are seeing, and what gives me great hope that the program will thrive, is that the students involved are getting more and more excited. I have been incredibly amazed at the speed and depth with which they do their work. Within two weeks of our first meeting, they are human rights “experts.” They read, they investigate, they absorb everything they hear.

Select the Right School – For Overall Development of Your Child

Everyone is aware that the importance of selecting the right school for your child is paramount. Every parent puts in all their efforts so that their child gets the best of education. To find the right school for your child, you need to do proper research; otherwise, you might end up selecting a school that you never wanted for your child.

Get information from your friends

You can discuss this issue with your friends and relatives who have their kids studying. By doing this, a lot of information about a particular school can be gained. You can discuss the fee structure, extra curriculum activities, arts, sports, and teachers. If you are satisfied, you can get your child enrolled in that school. There are many best private high schools in Tampa, so do not be disappointed and lookout for the best for your child.

Visit the site of the school 

The best way to gain full information about any school is to visit the school site. There are many important things about the school that can be gathered from the site. The school’s address, admission process, fee structure, campus area, etc. can be understood after browsing the site.

Search for the school with good ranking

If the school’s ranking is good, then it is assumed that the school is doing well in all the areas. The best school will always help your child in overall development rather than focus on studies alone. So, parents take time from your busy schedule and search for the best private high schools in Tampa.

Shortlist a few schools that you like

To avoid any confusion at a later stage, you should shortlist schools that you like. You might end up liking three to four schools. In this case, you can figure out the benefits of one school over the other. To avoid your child from wasting time commuting, it is advisable to choose the school near your home. Do not hesitate to pay more fees if the school is the best. Before enrolling your child in any school, you can visit the school along with your child.

Look for these qualities

The best school will always help your child to become a responsible citizen in the future. Remember that interaction and understanding between teachers and students is a must. A right school will always help your child to think in the right direction. It also teaches its students to be themselves and to respect other person’s points of view.

Choose a school that aspires your child to learn ways to excel. School should make its students explore the outer world so that your child can go beyond the classroom’s boundaries. School should teach their students to take part in community services to see the world with a larger view. By doing this, the child will be able to understand others and oneself in the best way.

Good schooling is significant as it helps groom your child and makes your child tough enough to overcome any challenge in life with the utmost ease.


Sheila Widnall: A lifetime exploring the unknown

On Sept. 30, the MIT community came together to celebrate the career of Institute Professor Emerita Sheila Widnall, who recently retired after spending 64 years at MIT. The virtual event featured remarks from MIT leaders, current and former secretaries of the U.S. Air Force, and Widnall’s faculty colleagues from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), who spoke of her impact at MIT and beyond.

MIT was not only a springboard for a hungry young tinkerer who became a remarkable engineer and a visionary leader, both at MIT and on the national stage. Widnall would also become one of the curious few who make MIT their intellectual home for their full adult lives. Her work in fluid dynamics would have major implications in aviation and space flight. She would become the first woman to lead a branch of the U.S. military when she was secretary of the Air Force in the 1990s. And her leadership in supporting women in the STEM fields, both at MIT and internationally, would blaze trails for six decades.

The call to adventure

It was a small chunk of uranium, a gift from an uncle who worked for a mining company that first brought Widnall face to face with her future. 

It may seem like an odd choice of present for teenager, but in the 1950s when Widnall was in high school in Tacoma, Washington, America was hot for uranium. Hollywood produced two uranium-themed movies: “Uranium Boom” and “Dig That Uranium.” The Atomic Energy Commission was paying between $3,000 and $7,000 a ton for the stuff — half the cost of a new home.

To Widnall, however, the rock had a more practical purpose. An 11th grader at Aquinas Academy, a Catholic girls’ school, she had a science project due: “I used it, along with models of atoms, to explain radioactive decay,” she told a reporter in 2009.

Her project on the degradation of uranium won first prize at the Tacoma Science Fair, and from there it was on to a national competition. She traveled with her science teacher on a two-day, 2,000-mile train trip to Ohio, where Widnall’s life was about to change forever.

Her project impressed a Tacoma civil engineer, Arthur Anderson SM ’35, SCD ’38. As a businessman he’d developed pre-stressed concrete, which could be used to create curved beams, the kind you see in monorails like the ones at Walt Disney World. Anderson thought Widnall had a future in science and told her she should apply to his alma mater, MIT.

“Where’s that?” she asked.

Soon enough, Widnall would discover how the Institute launched the intellectually curious, helping them explore the boundary where the known meets the unknown.

From Tacoma to Cambridge

Widnall attributes the fearlessness with which she faced a career in engineering to her parents, Rolland and Genevieve Evans. At a time when women were only a third of the U.S. labor force, Widnall was unique among her friends in having a mother with a full-time job. Genevieve Evans was a probation officer whose cases sometimes required her to reach back to her earlier professional experience as a social worker. “She worked with families, kids who were accused of violent crimes,” Widnall says with pride. “It was a big deal.”

Her father, Rolland Evans, was an insurance salesman. Later in his life, he went back to school to obtain a master’s degree and teach college-level business. He also taught his daughter self-reliance. “We worked together on various projects, building things. He fixed things and I’d tag along and he’d show me how. I was 20 years old before I realized you could hire people to do work on your house,” Widnall says.

After being accepted to MIT, Widnall arrived on campus in the fall of 1956. Of 6,000 students at that time, just 2 percent were female, including 23 first-years. The women felt isolated, Widnall remembers, forced to live in a rowhouse a mile off campus. While she personally experienced few instances of outright sexism, one episode stood out: “When I came to MIT and was introduced to my freshman advisor, he said “Why are you here?’, Which I took as an insult. I thought, ‘This guy is a jerk.’ But every other advisor was supportive.”

One of these, math professor George Thomas, author of the famous textbook, “Thomas’ Calculus,” brought cookies to sustain her during a test. Another, Holt Ashley, an aeronautical engineering professor known for his patience and humor, first suggested to Widnall that she pursue an advanced degree — and she readily agreed.

By then, Widnall already knew what she would study. “I love airplanes. There was never an issue about what I was going to choose,” she says. Much later in her career, she would read reports suggesting many women entering science and engineering chose fields where they believe they can make the biggest contribution. By her example, it was true. Less than a decade into her career she’d already conducted research that had an impact in aeronautics, one that every air traveler ought to appreciate.

After obtaining her PhD in 1964, Widnall was hired as the first female faculty member in the MIT School of Engineering, where she established her research program with a focus on fluid dynamics. Eventually, she published research that analyzed vortices trailing from the wing tips of aircraft. This work was used to gauge the hazards of wake turbulence. It was no small matter, as some of the largest commercial aircraft were taking to the skies, the Lockheed L10-11, the DC-10 and the jumbo jet that started it all, the 400 plus seat Boeing 747. Turbulence from the wing vortices of these enormous airplanes could and sometimes did upset the flight of airplanes nearby.

But as Widnall’s MIT colleague Dave Darmofal, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, notes, there was a smaller phenomenon in Widnall’s research that had even larger applications for wing, engine and rocket design. “Yes, she made an impact in understanding the wing tip vortex with the obvious aviation application, but the fundamental understanding of the Widnall instability you see in many more situations,” Darmofal says. “With any kind of fluid motion this instability plays a role.”

Widnall also kept an analytical eye on how MIT and other academic institutions could contribute their research expertise to government policy. Transportation was evolving in the seventies. America’s interstate highway system was brand new, but the increasing emphasis on cars had many environmental and social consequences, not all of them positive. Could academia help government think through these issues?

Widnall got the chance to find out when fellow engineering professor Robert Cannon asked her to be the first director of the office of university research for the U.S. Department of Transportation. In the early seventies, Widnall oversaw the distribution of $6.5 million, ($31 million in 2020 dollars) for university research projects from Alaska to Atlanta.

Around this same time, Widnall was thinking about improving outcomes for MIT students who came to the Institute without strong backgrounds in engineering, and who ultimately missed out on careers in this area. She teamed up with MIT physicist and electrical engineer Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus to spearhead a new course for first-year MIT students that introduced avenues for career advancement in various engineering fields. “We had hoped for 15 students per semester, but we got over 100,” Widnall recalled in 2017. “Many MIT women and minority students took the course, and quite a few decided to major in engineering.”

Later, Widnall saw how MIT’s own research provided a way through the persistent gender imbalance in admissions. In the 1980s, as chair of MIT’s admission committee, she proposed a simple solution: accept more of the women who apply to MIT. Her proposal relied on the research of then-engineering professor Art Smith. He had discovered that the Scholastic Aptitude Tests under-predict the actual academic performance of women students — at least as far as the math scores were concerned. The proposal, based on the data, was to add a small percentage to their SAT score. MIT was casting about for ways to increase the number of women while at the same time using an irrelevant barrier.

“People in the administration were saying, ‘We have to do more advertising we have to do more searching” for women students, Widnall says. “And I said, ‘Why are we searching? The women we should admit are the women who have applied.’”

The idea was effective. A year later, she says, “the number of women admitted rose from 26 percent to 38 percent.”

Not satisfied to stop at undergrad admissions, Widnall turned her attention to graduate applicants.

Daniel Hastings, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Education and head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, remembered Widnall’s presence at a meeting of faculty for admissions in the early 1990s. When all the candidates had been considered, the applications sat on the table, divided into stacks of yes, no, and waitlist. Then Widnall summarized the proceedings, noting that all of the women had been waitlisted while they accepted many of the men. 

“Every time there was a question, ‘Is this candidate capable?’ the men were given the benefit of the doubt and the women were not. The women went to the waitlist pile,” says Hastings. “We felt collectively ashamed and we went back to correct that.”

Hasting’s summary was simple. “Wise people are the backbone of this place.”

Leadership on a national stage

Her reputation for wise sensibility was not confined within MIT’s walls. In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton cited Widnall’s scientific acheivements when he nominated her to become secretary of the U.S. Air Force. Prior to the nomination, Widnall had served on several Air Force advisory boards and had served as chair of the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors in the 1980s. Accepting Clinton’s nomination, she became the first woman to lead a branch of the U.S. military.

While Widnall called it “an incredible experience,” to lead the Air Force, with an $84 billion budget, it was a time of international strife as well as domestic controversies and sexual harassment scandals, all of which were serious business. “Many pressures are brought on the secretary of the Air Force. The person has to make the tough calls and live with the key decisions,” says a successor to Widnall, 23rd Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

When she announced she would return to MIT in 1997, Widnall’s legacy at the Air Force was writ large and small. On the larger side is a program to develop the expendable launch vehicle used for Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, which began under her direction. “These vehicles still provide the majority of the launch capability for National Security launches,” she says, adding, “There has never been a launch failure.”

Less obvious, but equally important, was her contribution to defining the character of the Air Force. The branch had no stated core values when Widnall arrived, so she elevated those of the Air Force Academy — “Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.” — to define all 400,000 airmen and women.

“If you ask any airmen, ‘What are our values?’ my guess is 99 percent would be able to tell you,” says Heather Wilson, who became the 24th Air Force secretary two decades after Widnall broke the glass ceiling. “The best values are those when a leader says, ‘This is who we are.’”

Back to the Tech

Widnall’s return to campus was a thrilling development for MIT’s ROTC students because she volunteered to be their academic advisor.

“It was awesome,” says 1st Lt. John Graham, now an F-16 pilot. Graham found his highly accomplished advisor down-to-Earth, fun-loving, and — most important — a talented instructor.

“What she taught me I wouldn’t have learned in a different astrodynamics class,” Graham says. “She could simplify the complex.”

Meanwhile, Widnall’s service continued on the national level. Most recently she served as co-chair of a 2018 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that examined the costs and consequences of sexual harassment in these fields. It was another example of Widnall applying her experience and intellectual energy to improve the environment for female students.

Among other things, the book-length report analyzes the effectiveness of harassment awareness training programs and finds them wanting. The report concludes changing behavior is key, and efforts should be regularly assessed.

“Schools have to create a climate that supports proper behavior,” Widnall says. “They don’t do it by passing rules and regulations; they change the environment.”

To Capt. Jay Pothula ’14, a former ROTC student at MIT, this message was clear: He and all students have a role to play in creating an atmosphere conducive to achievement. “Adhering to the core values is one way we can reduce the incidents of harassment and assault,” says Pothula, now in F-15 pilot training at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.

Widnall also had a unique approach to testing students, according to Pothula, who took her aerodynamics class.

“Most of the quizzes and learning moments took place in knowledge tests,” he says. “You would go into a room with her and the teaching assistant and you would be given a problem and you would try to solve it in front of them.”

At first, Pothula found the method intimidating but before long his thoughts were flying. “These were great experiences because she would always know the right thing to say to push you ever so slightly in the right direction. She would always get you there. There was a dual purpose, testing your knowledge but you would learn a lot in the experience.”

Widnall did not reserve that kind of thought-prodding for students only. Olivier de Weck, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems, joined the faculty of MIT in 2001, occupying an office across the hall from Widnall, who he describes as a friend, colleague, and mentor. He hadn’t been in the job long when Widnall was asked to serve on the board looking into the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, which came apart on its return to Earth in February 2003, killing seven astronauts.

Over the course of seven months, Widnall and her fellow investigators examined the physical chain of events as well as the systemic pressures that played a role. De Weck watched in fascination as his colleague participated in writing one of the best-ever analyses of an accident.

“She is able to look under the covers,” he says describing Windall as having “an uncanny ability to peel away layers of complexity and get to the core reason about why things are and why they happen.”

It was de Weck’s habit to stop by Widnall’s office most mornings for a quick conversation or to catch up on MIT news. On occasion, though, de Weck would seek her advice. Widnall would steer the search for a solution right back to him, de Weck says, using her decades of experience to provide relevant context.

“She never tells you what to do, just how to look at the question from a holistic perspective,” de Weck says. “After leaving Sheila’s office, I felt I had a different way to think about the problem.”

When Widnall naively stepped onto the campus of MIT in 1956, she began a journey that would help her live up to the expectations of those who saw her potential in her youth and pushed her to do more. She became a role model for those who came after, inspiring those who benefited from her pioneering efforts for women and for science.

All the while she was becoming what she set out to be at the age of 15, considering that chunk of uranium; a traveler on never-ending journey along the border between the known and the unknown.

India’s culture of coping with cancer

When Dwaipayan Banerjee began studying the lives of poor cancer patients in and around Delhi, India, he noticed something distinctive: Virtually none of them used the word “cancer” itself. One elderly man Banerjee met got upset at seeing a medical van with the words “caring for cancer” on the side; the man insisted he was actually suffering from “oncology.”

Banerjee also learned, from a medical resident at a hospital, to think of these patients as experiencing “shak,” a Hindi word implying doubt, skepticism, and suspicion. For a patient, a diagnosis would create fears about not only physical well-being, but also the social stakes of the disease.

“The commonplace use of the word ‘shak’ by families and patients indicated not only the doubt that a lump or growth could be a tumor, but also revealed longer and deeper misgivings,” Banerjee says. “These doubts and suspicions were often about a lack of faith in the public health system that had failed them before, and skepticism about finding support from doctors and kin.”

For many people, having cancer creates “a sense of being unmoored from prior certainties about oneself and one’s place in the world,” writes Banerjee, an associate professor in the MIT Program in Science, Technology, and Society, in a new book exploring the world of Indian cancer patients.

In the book, “Enduring Cancer: Life, Death, and Diagnosis in Delhi,” published by Duke University Press, Banerjee delves into the psychological and social worlds of generally low-income cancer patients. The work illuminates the culture that has emerged around cancer in India — such as the tendency to avoid naming the disease — and aims to spur thought about how other cultures cope with cancer.

“It’s not as if people aren’t very careful about how they talk about cancer in the U.S. or anywhere else,” Banerjee says. “It’s still something that evinces a lot of stigma, in the same way that other diseases strongly associated with death do. People are uncomfortable around death and the possibility of dying, anywhere in the world.”

A more visible problem

Banerjee conducted much of the research for “Enduring Cancer” as anthropological fieldwork, studying patients and medical care as an inside observer with two organizations: CanSupport, an NGO dedicated to helping lower-income urban cancer patients, and the All India Institute of the Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a prestigious hospital in Delhi.

The services offered by CanSupport and AIIMS add a layer of care beyond medical procedures, helping patients cope psychologically with cancer or deal with lingering physical pain they experience.

“I grew up in Delhi, and I had never heard of doctors and organizations doing this kind of work,” Banerjee says. “That’s because there were none, at least until these last two decades. That says something about the rise of cancer as a visible problem, as well as the need for palliative care. Very distinctively, at AIIMS, cancer pain is treated as a biomedical condition deserving of attention by the country’s best anesthesiologists, rather than a symptom that can be ignored and left for nonspecialists. The United States has much to learn from this approach.”

To an extent, Banerjee observes, the presence of cancer had long been ignored in the global south by public health experts and policymakers, who associated the disease more with industrialized societies and even claimed that vegetarian diets (where present in India) reduced incidence of the disease. And yet, he notes, even British doctors in India in the 19th century were sending reports home about treating cancer patients, frustrated by the lack of attention paid to the disease by the colonial government.

“The disease has been in India as long as it has been elsewhere in the world,” Banerjee says. “It’s one of the big myths I try to unravel in the book.”

Banerjee also notes how cancer treatment at AIIMS has expanded to include an emphasis on pain management as a part of patient care: “The commitment from them to [address] pain, as highly trained specialists and not just leaving it to public health workers, is really remarkable. Pain is not a mere symptom; it’s part of the disease.”

During his fieldwork, Banerjee closely observed how a cancer diagnosis reverberates around affected families, as well as marriages, both revealing and reshaping relationship dynamics. Many times, he observed, there are delicate decisions about how much information is distributed among families.

“There is this way of distributing knowledge across families rather than putting all the burden on an individual,” Banerjee says. “Doctors are as well-aware of this as anybody else.”

But Banjerjee also found gender differences at work in families, adding tensions to the whole process of family support.

“There are imbalances within families — who gets to be told and who doesn’t — that reveal who has power within the family,” Banerjee says. “It’s often women who are not told and it’s often the male kin who make these decisions. Cancer doesn’t just easily map itself onto what hierarchies and imbalances exist, it changes them and puts pressure on what already exists.”

By the book

Even as patients avoid using the world “cancer” and may sometimes seem unclear about the nature of their illnesses, Banerjee believes, they are well-aware of their diagnoses.

“Of course they know,” he says. “They know through different nonverbal cues, from repeated hospital visits, and extrapolate from the treatments they receive. They know how to read between the lines. The decision not to talk about it, or to carefully negotiate speech around it, is more often than not a way of demonstrating care and concern, at a different register than explicit talk. It is a way through which they weave this terrifying disease into their everyday worlds.”

But as Banerjee discusses in multiple chapters, there are some explicit discussions of life as a cancer patient in Indian culture, including books and films. Banerjee has mixed views about this material. Like elsewhere in the world, most mass-market books about cancer in India are self-help volumes that provide encouragement, but may also burden people by making them feel unduly responsible for their own wellness.

“These books urge patients to be strong in the face of the disease and to be a survivor and to transcend the pain by the sheer force of personal will,” Banerjee says. “I would be wrong if I said a self-help book does not offer a degree of identification and comfort. It absolutely does. There’s a reason they’ve been popular. But this structure can end up distracting from the more political aspects of the disease.”

Consider some of the book’s titles: ‘The Joy of Cancer,” “To Cancer with Love,” “My Date with Cancer,” and “Cancer Made Me,” which Banerjee says sends a clear message to patients: “Don’t let them know you’ve lost your hair or are experiencing so much pain. Learn to love the disease and let it teach you about not just surviving, but becoming a better person. The assumption here is that the habits of the patient’s life before the disease contributed to its occurrence. For women, this can be especially dangerous, as they are often accused of transitioning to quickly to a “modern” working lifestyle and not taking care of their own health.

“Of course, I see the value of encouraging patients to be resilient,” Banerjee says. “But in the end, I think the books’ intent is to make everyone around patients feel comfortable; not the patients themselves. Instead of ‘loving’ or ‘accepting’ cancer, there is a case to be made for being justifiably upset and angry — angry at the lack of political will to address the environmental containments and inequalities of medical that have become part of public health systems all over the world.”

“Enduring Cancer” has received praise from other scholars in the field. Vincanne Adams, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California at San Francisco, calls the book a “wonderful ethnography,” in which Banerjee “shows how cancer in India exists across many relationships, aspirations, frustrations, gendered battles, caregiving gestures, medical sciences, and familial trials.” Harrison Solomon, a professor of cultural anthropology and global health at Duke University, describes the book as “a landmark for thinking about survival and endurance in medical anthropology, science studies, public health, and South Asian studies.” 

For his part, Banerjee says he wants to help readers consider how cancer is experienced by people, and what everyone can do to help.

“It’s not a battle that your psychological state got you into, and it’s not a battle that your psychological state alone solves,” Banerjee says. “Increasingly, there is a new kind of activism around cancer that I find very heartening. In the best of circumstances, it’s a difficult disease for a patient to present a cheerful face about. The onus is on the rest of us to make sure treatments are available, and the patient is supported.”

Exploring the lives of MIT pioneers through drama

With the Covid-19 pandemic squelching a lot of typical summer research activities for MIT students in 2020, three undergraduates joined forces for a different kind project: researching and writing a theatrical script about the lives of pioneering MIT students. Sponsored by visiting professor Jeffrey Toney as part of MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), the script was a collaboration between junior Rose Bielak, a physics student; junior Valerie Chen, a political science major; and sophomore Jovita Li, an applied mathematics and economics major.

The undergraduates researched several history-making students from MIT and other institutions, and wound up writing a script in which the main figures have a dialogue across time. The play focuses on chemist and engineer Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman admitted to MIT, in the 1860s, and later its first female instructor; Shirley Ann Jackson ’68, PhD ’73, currently the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and, as a physics student, the first African-American woman to receive a PhD from MIT; Marion Mahony Griffin, the second female architecture graduate of MIT, in 1894, and a noted member of the Prairie School style; and Richard Greener, who in 1870 became the first African-American graduate of Harvard University and later served as dean of Howard University’s law school.

“I was so impressed with how they internalized the research,” says Toney, the provost and vice president for research and faculty at Kean University, a former MIT postdoc in chemistry, a visiting professor in MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, and a visiting scholar in Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science. MIT News spoke with Bielak, Chen, and Li about the experience of researching and writing about these historical figures.

Q: How did this project start and why did it interest you?

Li: I thought it was interesting because it was something I didn’t quite expect from MIT. Being a freshman who had had a quarter of the year just completely slashed, I wanted to do something related to school over the summer. And it was good to honor these figures, who were pioneers and paved the way for people like us.

Q: Are there particular aspects of their lives that jumped out the most?

Bielak: For me it was the isolation. Shirley Ann Jackson and Ellen Swallow Richards faced almost complete social isolation, in enforced and non-enforced ways. And through that, the fact that they reached such great heights, and never slowed down or gave up. Ellen Swallow Richards didn’t even get to be in the classroom with the guys at first. She was just off in some little basement and doing the exact same work as them, with no help. That was impressive to me.

Chen: We all started out researching Ellen Swallow Richards. Then I found my way to Marion Mahony Griffin and drew parallels between their ideals — for Ellen Swallow Richards, building a better environment, with a focus on chemistry and sanitation, while Marion was an architect and designer who wanted to build in harmony with the environment. Ellen Swallow Richards is more recognized now. Marion Mahony Griffin’s husband was the architect Walter Burley Griffin — they moved to Australia, so their reputation has never been as big here. They made the design for Canberra, the new capital city. She collaborated with her husband, but no one’s really sure who did how much, so she’s also been overlooked.

Q: What was the writing process like? What was most challenging?

Bielak: We spent the first couple of weeks just researching Ellen Swallow Richards, and read a lot of the same material. But from there we branched out to do our own research on other possible charaters. We would come together and talk about which had the most prospects for our play. We were all writing our own scenes and we would share them. It was a lot of individual work that grew together.

Li: Right at the end of the summer when the UROP period was ending we stitched the scenes together in an order that made sense. We kind of quilted it together. For me the toughest part was writing dialogue that sounded like something real people would say, as opposed to just throwing in our facts and themes and the points we wanted to get across — we’re trying to embody the characters and show, not tell.

Chen: It’s about exploring the frameworks they thought in, while not attributing things to them that we think they should have believed in, when we have no evidence either way.

Q: Do you relate this all to your own experience? You’re in a different situation today, but to what extent are people still dealing with these issues  of acceptance, isolation, and stereotypes in different fields?

Bielak: Obviously we’ve come such a long way since any of these women were at MIT, so I suppose the differences are pretty stark. But there is always an undercurrent of feeling like a bit of an underdog as a woman in STEM. You’re never going to be discouraged, but you’ll see very little representation in a number of fields. So we are lucky in a lot of ways, but despite the fact that there isn’t any verbal or obvious discouragement, people absorb the things they see, and that remains in your mind a little bit. At the same time we’ve come so far. 150 years ago, Ellen Swallow Richards was stuck in a basement.

Q: Would you like to get this script produced? What are the next steps?

Bielak: Yes. I mean, it’s obviously hard with the current situation in the world. This is a penultimate version of the draft, but we’re going to figure out in what capacity it could be performed. At one point, we were thinking about a podcast or an onstage play. We definitely would be interested in reaching out to some play groups and seeing if anyone would want to perform it.

Li: As things start opening up, we’ll want to return to the project and see what more we can do with it.

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