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Cuban Dissident Blasts Obama During UM Visit

In his first trip outside of Cuba, Oscar Elias Biscet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush and the keys to Coral Gables from Mayor James Cason, formerly the chief U.S. diplomat in Cuba.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet holds a copy of Cuba's 1940 constitution,  which the Castro regime abolished.

Noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet holds a copy of Cuba’s 1940 constitution, which the Castro regime abolished.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 30, 2016)—Holding a black and white photo of President Barack Obama shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet condemned the U.S.’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, saying countries that “defend democracy should serve as examples.”

“How can you shake hands with an assassin?” Biscet asked at a June 29 press conference held at the University of Miami, referring to Raul Castro’s bloodied history, which includes ordering hundreds of firing-squad executions at the onset of the Cuban revolution led by his brother.

“When you see the faces of Fidel and Raul Castro you are not only looking at their faces, but at the faces of Stalin and Hitler, and they symbolize terror and death,” said Biscet, a physician who spent years in Cuban prisons for his advocacy.

During the hour-long press conference at UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, the founder of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights reiterated his longstanding belief that the Cuban regime was a dictatorship built on “illegitimacy.” As he noted, the Castro government abolished the 1940 Cuban Constitution, which, inspired by the U.S. Bill of Rights, granted basic human rights and freedoms to its citizens.

“The Cuban people want a complete change,” he said. “They do not want an evolution with this dictatorship. They want to be free.”

Biscet was introduced by Coral Gables Mayor James C. Cason, who, in presenting Biscet with the keys to the city of Coral Gables, called him “the true hero, one of the most principled, determined members of the opposition in Cuba.”

As head of the Cuban Interest Section in Havana during the early 2000s, Cason met Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon, and often tried to intercede on his behalf with the Cuban government.

Now 54, Biscet made his first trip abroad to speak out against the repression in Cuba, and to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush for his dedication to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba. Bush awarded Biscet the medal in absentia in 2007, while he was in prison. Biscet accepted the nation’s highest civilian honor at a ceremony at the George W. Bush Center in Dallas on June 23.

Although repression in Cuba persists, Biscet said he felt the dictatorship is nearing its end because internal opposition is well defined and most Cubans are beginning to lose their fear of the government.

As a sign of the changing times, he noted that his Project Emilia, a petition initiative calling for the end of communism on the island, was gaining momentum. In what is a risky act in Cuba, about 3,000 Cuban citizens have signed the petition, giving their names, addresses, and identity card data.

 

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UK Donors Help Students ‘Aim for the Stars’

British donors will finance a London immersion trip for 20 students who are interested in global careers.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

LondonCORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 22, 2016) – A group of University of Miami students will witness the complexities of globalization first hand, including the fallout from Britain’s exit from from the European Union, when they travel to London, England, for the inaugural international Toppel Career Crawl.

The Toppel Career Center has partnered with a pair of London-based donors to provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 20 students. The lucky group will take part in a London Career Crawl, an immersion trip aimed at providing industry insights, networking opportunities, and cultural outings.

“UM aims to develop students into leaders of the world, so we hope the London Career Crawl will play a part in helping them build meaningful global careers,” said Christian Garcia, associate dean and executive director. “Many of our students express an interest in working abroad, and it’s our job to help them develop the skills, knowledge, and connections that will take them there.”

The London Career Crawl will be held the week of the fall academic break, October 16-21. Sophomores and juniors who are interested in participating must apply by August 31.

The immersion trip is generously supported financially and logistically by a British couple who are members of the UM Parents Council. Colin Potter is founder and partner of Global Legal Search, an executive search company established in 2002, and his wife, Clare E. Woodman, is global chief operating officer for Institutional Securities of Morgan Stanley. Their son, Thomas, is a rising junior at UM.

The couple, first-generation college graduates who came from humble beginnings, hope that the educational trip will include students who otherwise would not have the opportunity for such an experience, said Potter.

“Both my wife and I were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in different countries during our careers,” said Potter. “We wanted to give some UM students, particularly first-generation college students, the opportunity to see a major international city like London and to meet people from a diverse range of global organizations. Hopefully the trip will inspire them to aim for the stars when it comes to their own career ambitions.”

While in London, the students will be able to explore career paths and opportunities in a global work environment and engage in interactive visits to employer sites, including Morgan Stanley’s London office, the London office of New York-based White & Case, an international law firm, as well as a London advertising agency and other major business organizations in a variety of sectors.

Students also will visit professional hubs such as the London Stock Exchange, attend receptions with UM alumni and other professionals living and working in London, enhance their career readiness by learning what they should do now to successfully transition into a global workforce after graduation, and discover what it’s really like to live and work abroad.

The Toppel Career Center launched the Career Crawl initiative in April 2016 with two domestic crawls, one in downtown Miami, which focused on nonprofits, and one in Washington, D.C., where students learned about government and public service.

The London Career Crawl is open to undergraduate students in any University of Miami school or college who will be sophomores or juniors at the time of the trip. There is no cost, though students are responsible for securing and purchasing the necessary documents to travel abroad, i.e. passport and/or visa.

Interested students must submit an online application by August 31, 2016. Students chosen to move forward in the selection process will give a brief presentation/interview on how they hope the experience will enhance their career readiness.

For more information and to apply, students should contact Hilary Kautter Allsopp at h.kautter@miami.edu.

 

 

 

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Research Finds Women Hold Extremist Groups Together

Special to UM News

A study reveals that although women remain under the radar in terrorist organizations, they hold the networks together

women_extremeCORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 5, 2016) – A team of researchers at the University of Miami who examined the role of women in extreme networks or organizations, such as terrorist groups, dispelled the common assumption that women are lured into these dangerous environments solely to offer support while men are recruited and tend to be the key players. Instead, the researchers found, women are better connected within the network, essentially becoming the glue holding the system together, fueling its vitality and survival.

“The research examines the assumption that, as any kind of real-world situation becomes more dangerous and aggressive, men will dominate—and hence in any network operating under extreme conditions, it is the men that will hold things together,” said Neil Johnson, a physicist in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We had a feeling that the issue of women’s roles—and more generally the role of any numerical minority in human groups or populations that are under stress—is one of prime interest that has not been looked at in sufficient depth.”

For the study, titled “Women’s Connectivity in Extreme Networks,” researchers analyzed detailed data from two separate and extreme terrorist organizations: the Provisional Irish Republican Army, or PIRA, which operated entirely offline from 1970 to 1998, and the Islamic State, or ISIS, which is functioning in the current digital age.

“The PIRA network dataset isn’t only a network of ‘who knows who,’ but it gives the connections between individuals regarding participation in attacks, which require innovation and planning,” Johnson said. “At the same time, we started collecting information online about pro-ISIS supporters. Taking these two datasets together enabled us to do the study.”

For the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances, Johnson and his team monitored individuals on Vkontakte, a social media network based in Russia with more than 350 million users. Pro-ISIS groups normally last longer on Vkontakte than Facebook, which shuts down these groups. The researchers pinned down pro-ISIS followers by using specific social media hashtags displayed in open source information on the internet, and then tracking the groups they belonged to using a software system. On Vkontakte, the researchers uncovered 41,880 individuals in a two-month period, 24,883 of whom were men, and 16,931 women (66 declared no gender).

For the offline portion of the study, the team used a detailed PIRA database, which was easier to assess as the data was previously collected and built as a manual social network listing members, their actions, and demographic information. Of the 1,382 total number of registered PIRA members listed, 1,312 were men and 70 women.

Based on their online and offline research of PIRA and pro-ISIS groups, the researchers demonstrated that although men dominated these groups numerically, women had the most effective connections within the network, acting as a far stronger glue than men in regard to holding the network together, which the study identifies as high “betweenness centrality” (BC).

Pedro Manrique, a postdoctoral associate in the physics department and first author of the study, explains: “A crucial measure in covert networks is related to the capacity of a node (e.g. actor) to serve as a bridge for communications, a flow of resources or ideas, and brokerage. This quantity is called betweenness centrality. An actor with high betweenness centrality is critical to keep the channels of communication active and efficient, and its removal could cause a higher cost and potential risk, to the extent of the disruption of the network.”

The study proposes women in the pro-ISIS groups have a high BC and hence play a central role by passing on vital information, from recruitment messages to files, or video and audio ISIS propaganda. Women in the PIRA network, the study suggests, were inclined to act as team players who spread this team ethic to other members.

One practical finding from the research, Johnson says, is that it suggests authorities investigating extreme networks should engage female members, even if they are the minority and not deemed key figures.

“Our work also feeds into current discussions about the role of women combatants in conflict and terrorism, and how this can differ from stereotypes in which women adopt a minor role,” Johnson said. “I think all this could be of interest in a more general setting as well, beyond physical conflict and terrorism, since our findings suggest a need to reexamine how we judge the importance of any minority group in a network.”

In addition to Johnson and Manrique, other coauthors of the study are UM’s Stefan Wuchty, of the Department of Computer Science; Zhenfeng Cao, Andrew Gabriel, Hong Qi, and Chaoming Song, from the Physics Department; Elvira Restrepo, of the Department of Geography and Global Studies; John Horgan, from Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute & Department of Psychology; Paul Gill, of the Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London; and Daniela Johnson, of the Department of Government at Harvard University.

 

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Study Pinpoints Threats to Wetlands

Special to UM News

Rosenstiel School researchers use satellite data to quantify wetland loss

LouisianaWetlands

Using a remote sensing technique called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, the researchers analyzed water-level changes in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands that occurred due to tidal inundation.

MIAMI, Fla. (June 27,2016)—As Louisiana’s wetlands continue to disappear at an alarming rate, a new study has pinpointed the man-made structures that disrupt the natural water flow and threaten these important ecosystems. The findings have important implications for New Orleans and other coastal cities that rely on coastal wetlands to serve as buffer from destructive extreme weather events.

Scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that man-made canals limit the natural tidal inundation process in roughly 45 percent of the state’s coastline, with disruptions from levees accounting for 15 percent.

“This study demonstrates that human infrastructure development along coastal areas have long-term consequences on the ability of coastal wetlands to adapt to sea-level rise and other processes that reduce the size of coastal wetlands,” said Talib Oliver-Cabrera, the study’s first author and a Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student.

Coastal wetlands in Louisiana are economically and esthetically important for providing storm protection, flood control, and essential habitats for a myriad of wildlife. They support economically important commercial and recreational fishing industries, tourism, and oil and gas industries.

Man-made structures such as levees and canals have changed the regular patterns of tidal inundation in coastal wetlands and have become a main element in determining coastal wetland distribution.

Using a remote sensing technique called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), the researchers analyzed water-level changes in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands that occurred due to tidal inundation. Based on the detected changes observed, they were able to determine the extent of tidal inundations along the Louisiana coast.

“Our analysis showed that tidal inundation along Louisiana’s coastline is restricted to narrow areas due to the presence of man-made canals and levees that disrupt the regular tidal flow through the coastal wetlands,” said study co-author Shimon Wdowinski, a research professor of marine geosciences at the Rosenstiel School.

“To protect these valuable resources, it is important to study them and quantify what is causing wetland loss in coastal Louisiana,” Wdowinski said.

The study, titled “InSAR-based mapping of tidal inundation extent and amplitude in Louisiana Coastal Wetlands,” was published in the May 7 special issue of the journal Remote Sensing. The National Science Foundation funded the study. Oliver-Cabrera’s work was also supported by a Fulbright scholarship and a grant from The National Council for Science and Technology, Mexico (CONACyT).

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HR Director Appointed to Professional Association Board

Nerissa Morris

Nerissa Morris

Nerissa Morris, vice president for human resources, has been tapped to serve a three-year term on the board of directors of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, which serves more than 20,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at more than 1,900 member organizations. She joined the board on July 1.

Morris has been a member of CUPA-HR for seven years and was a participant in the association’s 2015-16 emerging leader program. She also has served on the association’s public policy committee and has presented at two CUPA-HR annual conferences.

Prior to joining the University in 2009, Morris worked in HR for the Ford Motor Company for 22 years, serving as the corporation’s human resources manager for global information technology, with responsibility for information technology professionals in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

 

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