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Neuroscientist Teams Up with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue on Mindfulness Study


Special to UM News

Jha.MDFD

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey and UM neuroscientist Amishi Jha

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 13, 2015) – The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department will partner with University of Miami neuroscientist Amishi Jha on an innovative research study to investigate how mindfulness and relaxation training can help firefighters better cope with the high stress and challenging nature of their demanding service.

A recent study by Jha and her colleagues suggests that mindfulness training bolsters cognitive performance in pre-deployment military populations, and may be useful in other high-stress, high-performance cohorts.

“Our program aims to understand if the human attention system can be made stronger and more effective using these training programs,” said Jha, associate professor of psychology and director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the UMindfulness Initiative.

Jha, the lead researcher on the study, is collaborating with Scott Rogers, director of programs and training for the UMindfulness Initiative and of UM Law’s Mindfulness in Law Program. Their previous research found that mindfulness training helps curb mind wandering and improves attention as high-stress undergraduates near exam season. Jha will begin the new project this summer, with Rogers delivering an innovative mindfulness and relaxation training program to Miami-Dade firefighters.

The Jha-fire rescue collaboration is one phase of a larger research project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, which aims to determine if mindfulness and relaxation training might help protect individuals in high-stress, high-demand careers—an area of interest that is drawing national attention.

“These programs have been found to reduce stress, improve sleep and mood, as well as protect against depression and improve relationships,” Jha said. “Through our work with the military, we’ve also found that mindfulness- and relaxation-based brain fitness programs improves memory, attention, and situational awareness.”

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said, “We know that even though firefighters are strong and resilient, we, too, may suffer from the high pressures and stresses of our daily work.”

Gary Gonzalez, a retired battalion chief for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, has been practicing mindfulness for nearly two years. “There is no question it would have improved my work performance, my leadership and decision-making skills, and my ability to more effectively manage the stress of the job if I had started 20 years ago,” he said. “I wish I was given the opportunity to learn this brain fitness program while I was still working.”

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School of Law’s JoNel Newman Receives Award


JoNel Newman

JoNel Newman

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – UM School of Law’s JoNel Newman, professor of clinical education and director of the Health Rights Clinic, has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education’s M. Shanara Gilbert Award.

Newman will be presented the award on May 5 at the Conference on Clinical Legal Education in Rancho Mirage, California.

The M. Shanara Gilbert Award honors an “emerging clinician” with ten or fewer years of experience who has:
– a commitment to teaching and achieving social justice, particularly in the areas of race and the criminal justice system
– a passion for providing legal services and access to justice to individuals and groups most in need
– service to the cause of clinical legal education or to the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education
– an interest in international clinical legal education
– an interest in the beauty of nature (desirable, but not required)

Newman is committed to social justice, creative pedagogical approaches, and to serving marginalized communities in the Miami area and beyond, and her initiatives have focused on the Haitian diaspora, veterans’ rights, pediatric care, and more.

One nominator wrote of the significant contributions of the Health Rights Clinic, noting that students “have served over two thousand vulnerable health-impaired clients …. and have secured over $2 million in entitlements and public benefits for their clients.”

Newman’s students wrote that she “embodies the qualities sought in the recipient of the Shanara Gilbert Award” and her colleagues at Miami Law noted her “extraordinary efforts and contributions to clinical legal education, service, and justice.”

 

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Fredman Family Foundation Gift to Fund Toxins Project

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Fredman Family Foundation Gift to Fund Toxins Project


UM News

The city of Miami confirmed that the soil in several city parks is contaminated, and closed them for cleanup.

The city of Miami confirmed that incinerated ash contaminated the soil in a number of city parks, and temporarily closed them for cleanup.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 31, 2015) – The Environmental Justice Project at the School of Law’s Center for Ethics and Public Service, which was instrumental in uncovering the trail of toxins the city of Miami spread through decades of dumping incinerated ash, has received a generous gift from the Fredman Family Foundation to ensure its ongoing effort in environmental science and public health research.

Founded in 2012, the Environmental Justice Project works to increase awareness and provide support to communities affected by environmental justice issues throughout Miami-Dade County.

“The Center for Ethics and Public Service is enormously grateful to the Fredman Family Foundation for its generous support,” said Anthony A. Alfieri, director of CEPS. “With the help of the foundation, the important work of our Environmental Justice Project will continue through careful community-based investigation and research of the environmental and health consequences of the Old Smokey incinerator for low- and moderate-income communities in Miami and Miami-Dade County.”

Founded in 1996, CEPS is an interdisciplinary program devoted to the values of ethical judgment, professional responsibility, and public service in law and society.

The donation will create the Fredman Family Foundation Environmental Justice Fund and be used to support  EJP’s work in Miami-Dade County and retain experts in environmental science, health and medicine in support of its advocacy, education, research, and policy work.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” By design, environmental justice blends many of the principles from the civil rights and environmental movements to promote the equitable distribution of environmental burdens and benefits regardless of race, income or ethnicity.

 

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Human Rights Clinic Founder Appointed White House Advisor on Violence Against Women


By Catharine Skipp
Special to UM News

Carrie Bettinger Lopez

Carrie Bettinger-Lopez

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 4, 2015)—Vice President Joe Biden announced today the appointment of Miami Law’s Caroline “Carrie” Bettinger-López as the new White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Bettinger- López, a leading advocate for gender-based equality and human rights, has worked at local, national, and international levels to bring an end to violence against women.

In her new role, Bettinger-López will serve as an advisor to the president and vice president on domestic violence and sexual assault issues and as a liaison to the domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy communities, according to the White House.

She also will collaborate with federal agencies on the implementation of Violence Against Women Act programs and the coordination of federal efforts to address violence against women and girls both domestically and globally, and drive the development of new initiatives and policies to combat domestic violence and sexual assault with key public and private stakeholders.

“Throughout her career, Carrie has made clear that the most basic of human rights is freedom from violence,” Biden said. “I am honored that she will be joining my staff to continue the work we began with the Violence Against Women Act, and I know she will be a strong voice for women everywhere who continue to suffer from sexual assault and domestic violence in the worst prison on earth—the four walls of their own home.”

As a litigator and an advocate, Bettinger-López has fought for the protection of victims of domestic violence and the provision of remedies for violations of survivors’ rights. Prior to her legal career, Bettinger-López engaged in social services advocacy and youth education centered on women and girls’ empowerment, as well as anti-violence programming.

Most recently, Bettinger-López founded and served as director of the Human Rights Clinic at the  School of Law, where she served as an associate professor of clinical legal education. Her scholarship included a focus on violence against women, gender and race discrimination, and immigrant rights.

“We are delighted that Vice President Biden has asked Professor Bettinger-López to play this important role,” said School of Law Dean Patricia D. White. “Her path-breaking advocacy work makes her uniquely qualified to carry out her charge.”

Bettinger-López will lead the Obama administration’s efforts to put an end to violence against women. Among many important steps forward, the administration has led efforts to combat campus sexual assault, worked to prevent domestic violence homicides, and fought to extend protections to women of color and LGBT Americans who have been victims of violence, according to the White House.

 

 

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Twenty Years Later, Lawyers Recall the Fight for Cuban Rafters


By Peter E. Howard
UM News

Panelists included, from left, Harold Hongju Koh, Francisco Angones, Marcos Jimenez, Roberto Martinez, and Christina Frohock.

Panelists included, from left, Harold Hongju Koh, Francisco Angones, Marcos Jimenez, Roberto Martinez, and Christina Frohock.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 17, 2015) — Inside the event program, the list was long. In two columns, alphabetized from A to W.

They were the names of women and men, lawyers all, who had helped fight for legal rights of Cuban rafters and Haitians held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the mid-1990s.

“They are my brothers- and sisters-in-law,” quipped fellow lawyer Harold Hongju Koh.

Many on the list were among the more than 100 people who turned out on February 16 at the University of Miami’s Richter Library to hear a panel discussion about the refugees’ plight and the legal fight to win their freedom.

The lead lawyers in the case, Cuban American Bar Association v. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, outlined their strategy to secure representation of the 33,000 rafters, and the two year battle it took to get them freed and brought to the United States.

Joining Koh, a professor at Yale Law School, were Roberto Martinez, adjunct professor at UM’s School of Law and partner at Colson Hicks Eidson; Marcos Jimenez, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP; and Francisco Angones, senior partner at Angones McClure & Garcia. The panel was moderated by Christina M. Frohock, a professor at the School of Law.

The panelists talked about how Haitians began being held at Guantanamo in the early 1990s, but it was in August 1994, Jimenez said, that “Fidel did what Fidel always did” when he wanted to get rid of dissidents – anyone who wanted to go could go.

The mass exodus began, and Cubans in boats, rafts, inner tubes and other makeshift craft fled across the Florida Strait. Some died at sea. About 8,000 made it to South Florida. More than 33,000 were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and brought to Guantanamo.

The lawyers, all working for free, fought the U.S. government for due process rights for the detainees, and sought a solution that didn’t involve sending the group back to Cuba.

They recalled racing against time to file briefs in the case; being applauded by onlookers as they exited cars in front of the courthouse; winning the right to go and meet with rafters at the base; and one day being quoted in a front page article in USA Today.

“We embarked on this without really knowing anything about international law or human rights law,” recounted Angones. “It was a very emotional case for all of those involved.”

Martinez said the initial intent was not to win the lawsuit. The objective was to get the rafters freed and brought to the U.S., and the “lawsuit was a tool” used to make that happen.

The lawyers wanted sympathetic clients, people the public could rally behind. At Guantanamo they found a young woman who played the Star Spangled Banner on a violin, and her picture ended up in the Miami Herald. They found a pregnant woman among the detainees.

The detainees were held in a camp with barbed wire fencing. Many were educated – lawyers, doctors, teachers. Some were political prisoners in Cuba. They were all grateful for the intervention and representation.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Frohock and the panelists talked about how the detainment of the rafters and Haitians was a prelude to use of Guantanamo as a place to imprison suspected terrorists following 9/11.

The politics of the time, said Koh, gave the impression that Guantanamo was “the land without law.”

Peter Howard can be reached at 305-284-8085.

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