Uc berkeley – in the news

Between 1450 and 1700, an estimated 20,000 people lived in what is now believed to be the lost city of Etzanoa, a site now occupied by the small community of Arkansas City, Kansas. Archaeology professor Donald Blakeslee of Wichita State University is exploring the history. He was first inspired to investigate in 2013, when Berkeley scholars, led by Spanish and Portuguese professor Jerry Craddock, retranslated Spanish accounts of the conquistadors’ forays into the area. "I thought, ‘Wow, their eyewitness descriptions are so clear it’s like you were there.’ I wanted to see if the archaeology fit their descriptions," Professor Blakeslee says. "Every single detail matched this place."

Dispelling a number of urban stereotypes, a recent study co-authored by Berkeley researchers has found that urban residents’ spending varies significantly according to age and gender.

Conducted in Mexico City, the study looked at the credit card and cell phone records of 150,000 residents. Overall, the leading purchase categories were food and transportation, not fast food, taxis, or movies. The researchers believe the results are likely applicable to other cities as well.

The Constitution of France prevents the nation’s presidents from being interrogated or prosecuted while in office, so it was easy for President Emmanuel Macron to tell critics to "come get him" when a legal scandal erupted around him recently. U.S. President Donald Trump is not so lucky, but Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky says the question of whether a U.S. president can be indicted or prosecuted has never really been "resolved" here. "In 1974, the Watergate grand jury named Richard Nixon an unindicted co-conspirator because they did not think they could indict a sitting president," he says. "Most commentators think a sitting president cannot be indicted, though I disagree."

"With good reason," Google is facing opposition for its plan to build a search engine for China that would accommodate the government’s censorship, write associate information professor Deirdre Mulligan, faculty director of Berkeley‘s Center for Law and Technology, and doctoral information student Daniel Griffin. "The Chinese government will insist that the search engine suppress results related to the Tiananmen democracy protests of 1989, in which several hundred peaceful protesters were shot by the army," they say. "But international norms oblige companies to treat human rights atrocities such as the Tiananmen Square massacre differently. Suppressing information about these atrocities undermines the individual and collective right to truth that is increasingly recognized in human rights law."

Observing the hubris and questionable ethics of people such as Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and a number of other prominent personalities today, public policy professor Robert Reich ponders the question of whether it’s "necessary for true innovators to break norms and rules." While he notes that there may be important differences in the characters’ intentions — for example, "Musk seems to genuinely care about the future of humanity" — he concludes: "They believe the norms other people live by don’t apply to them. Their attitude toward the law is that anything they want to do is OK unless it’s clearly illegal. And even if it’s illegal, it’s OK if they can get away with it. And they have contempt for anyone who gets in their way. Researchers have found that great wealth and power often correlate with less compassion and stronger feelings of entitlement. The very rich cheat more on their taxes, are more likely to shoplift and more likely to cheat at games of chance."

The roles that people play in worsening the wildfire problem in California include variables related to population growth and climate change, but other factors are public policies that protect forests from lumbering and a resistance to forest management that includes controlled burns. As William Stewart, co-director of Berkeley‘s Center for Fire Research and Outreach, says, part of the California dream has been keeping "nature as it is."

With the aim of promoting voice technology research that could advance Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, the company has announced that it is expanding its Alexa Fellowship program to award fellowships to graduate students and faculty at Berkeley and 17 other elite colleges. The program’s benefits for students include tuition payments, stipends and mentoring by Alexa scientists. Faculty participants will receive research funding and devices for teaching and research.

"Pepperland," the Mark Morris Dance Group’s tribute to the Beatles’ "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" music is coming to Berkeley Sept. 28-30, presented by Cal Performances. Choreographed for the 50th anniversary of the album, the show made its debut last year in Liverpool, England. Commenting on his rediscovery of the music, choreographer Mark Morris says: "I heard it as a kid — I was 10 or 11 when it first came out — because I had teenage sisters, and they were having multiple orgasms over it. … And I liked it without exception — until I didn’t. … Then I went decades without listening to it, but of course I still knew every lyric and every key change, because you can’t get rid of that kind of knowledge. And when I came back and listened to the whole thing straight through again, I just loved it, and I noticed things I’d never noticed before." For more on this, visit Cal Performances.

A roundup of upcoming dance performances highlights Cal Performances’ presentation of Sasha Waltz & Guests October 20-21. According to the critic: "More than a few of us have been waiting for Sasha Waltz & Guests to come back to the Bay Area since 2014, when Cal Performances presented the German postmodernist’s ‘Impromptus.’ Finally, Waltz brings her guttural, witty minimalism back to Zellerbach Hall in October with her signature work, 2000’s ‘Körper.’ … The title means ‘bodies’ in German, and bodies are what you’ll see — naked bodies, draped bodies, squirming bodies, bodies in writhing tableaux, bodies paired and rearranged to create front-facing torsos perched on backward-walking legs. Immersed in an original score by composer and sound designer Hans Peter Kuhn, Waltz’s 13 exceptional dancers use that physicality as a channel for confronting ideas of morality and mortality. Waltz, an officer of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, will become co-artistic director of Staatsballett Berlin in 2019, but her company will continue to tour." For more on this, visit Cal Performances.