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author's voice

Sheldon Krimsky, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

Genetic Justice: DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties (Columbia University Press)

DNA data banks were first created to track sex offenders and violent criminals. But since the 1990s, they’ve ballooned to include the genetic information of nearly 3 percent of the U.S. population. In some cases, arrest alone is considered sufficient cause for collecting people's DNA; they don't even have to be charged with a crime. The ramifications of this intrusion into the most intimate regions of our being are chilling. With co-author Tania Simoncelli, a former science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, Tufts' Sheldon Krimsky challenges the presumption that DNA profiling is infallible and explores the precarious balance between serving justice and protecting privacy.

The media and shows like CSI perpetuate myths about DNA as a supreme source of evidence. DNA testing is a powerful tool for identification, but you have to understand its limitations and misuses. Among other problems, it’s possible to pick up the DNA from the person doing the test. The fact that a lot of the DNA that's tested comes in mixtures also creates potential for error. Does the DNA belong to the perpetrator or a passerby?

Civil liberties and justice issues with regard to exoneration are very different. In that case, a DNA mismatch is more powerful than a match. When there is one perpetrator, if there's a mismatch with what's been found at the crime scene, it's pretty certain that the accused is innocent. This method has been used to exonerate some three hundred people. But the possibilities for mistakes are much greater when you're trying to assert a match.

Only courts with a warrant should be able to obtain your DNA. Right now, you can get that information by picking up someone's discarded Starbucks cup.

People shouldn't be in a national DNA data bank if they're not convicted of a crime. Imagine that you're running for high office. The police, when you were much younger, took your DNA for some minor infraction but didn't convict you, and now it's on a national database. Say someone in the police department doesn’t like your candidacy. They decide to use your biological sample and release your genetic information to the public, and you have a specific locus that makes you vulnerable to Alzheimer's. This is very intimate information, and it would end your career.

In 2008, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which made it illegal for health insurers to deny coverage based on genetic predisposition to a disease and for companies to use genetic information in employment decisions. So we’re moving toward greater privacy protection in medical genetics, and in the opposite direction in forensic genetics. Everything should be brought into one coherent system of analysis."


The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us (Grand Central)

Whether it’s a prim peck or a salacious snog, a friendly greeting or a preamble to more, kissing, when you get right down to it, is an odd behavior. It’s not instinctual like yawning or blinking and not essential for reproduction, so why do we do it? Sheril Kirshenbaum, A02, a research scientist and blogger for Discover magazine, set out to demystify the lip lock, researching animal behavior, evolutionary psychology, classical history, and neurology. A seemingly simple smooch unleashes a cascade of physical responses and transmits volumes of information to our prospective partners, including our genetic compatibility and reproductive potential. Kirshenbaum even includes scientific tips for better kissing—tailor your kiss to your partner, play up anticipation, and women, paint that smacker red. It stirs men’s primal memories of our ape foremothers' inflamed nether regions. How’s that for romance?

Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy, and Comfortable (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Thanks to medical advances, our canine companions are living longer than ever. Unlike us, they don’t have to worry about outliving their retirement savings, but geriatric dogs face their own unique challenges. Nicholas Dodman (editor) and fellow faculty of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine advise the caretakers of aging dogs on preventing disease, sensible nutrition (the “senior” dog food label doesn’t mean much), identifying and managing cognitive decline, and knowing when “it’s time” (many conditions assumed to warrant euthanasia are actually quite treatable). Maintaining a healthy, comfortable environment will keep your dog’s later years golden, even if his muzzle is graying.

Zora and Me (Candlewick)

T.R. Simon (Tanya McKinnon, J90) and Victoria Bond drew on Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography, short stories, and novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine for their young-adult novel, which imagines the literary giant as a plucky detective in the marshy, close-knit community of Eatonville, Florida, Hursto’s hometown. The fictional Zora enlists the help of her best friends, Carrie and Teddy, to solve the mystery of a murdered man found beside the railroad tracks. Zora spins a chilling tale of a murderous, shape-shifting gator-man who prowls the marshes, but she finds that the truth is even more frightening—and decidedly more adult.

The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History (Princeton)

The current era of economic upheaval and political feuding would give our knee-breeched ancestors a run for their money, as two new books on the Tea Party make plain. But it’s just that “What Would the Founding Fathers Do?” kind of thinking that Jill Lepore, J87, a professor of American history at Harvard and a writer for The New Yorker, finds worrisome. The Whites of Their Eyes, her acerbic appraisal of the modern Tea Party, takes the far right to task for its mythologizing of our nation’s founding and its hostility toward the academic study of history, a discipline distinguished by skepticism. Along the way, she offers a nuanced look at the eighteenth-century struggle for independence.

Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (Yale)

Benjamin Carp, an associate professor of history at Tufts, is also in the business of Tea Party myth busting. Defiance of the Patriots acknowledges that the tea dumpers of 1773 helped lead our fledgling nation to war and enshrined certain ideals in the American consciousness, but the true meaning of their act is harder to pin down. This dramatic account fleshes out the Boston Tea Party from every possible angle, placing it in a previously unexplored global context that encompasses everyone from Chinese tea pickers, sugar plantation slaves, and Native Americans to English businessmen and the ladies of Boston's colonial beau monde.



The debut album of the Denver-based band The Raven and the Writing Desk—led by Julia Libassi, A08, on vocals and Scott Conroy, A05, on guitar—is about what you’d expect from a group whose name pays tribute to the Mad Hatter’s riddle in Alice in Wonderland. Dreamy, classically inspired melodies pair with haunting lyrics about sleepwalkers, marionettes, and astronauts in free fall. Curious and curiouser? Go ask Alice—or just download it from iTunes.

Easy Wonderful

For Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller, and Brian Rosenworcel, all A95, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Since they formed the upbeat acoustic pop band Guster in the heyday of nineties alt rock, they’ve climbed the Billboard 200 and Adult Top 40 charts, rocked multiple nationwide tours (and one U.K. excursion), and launched an organization that promotes environmentally sound practices among touring musicians. Despite their fifteen years of success—and the fact that they’re all pushing forty, with five children between them—Guster’s sixth studio album still contains all the jubilant hallmarks of the cheeky college band that got its start at 139 College Ave.

The anthem “Bad, Bad World” is a surefire blues-chaser, but the album isn’t all sunny. As Guster’s road journal notes, it tackles “catastrophes, depression, drowning, loneliness, troubled relationships, Armageddon, general insecurity, and biblical floods.” With an appearance on Conan and critics lauding Easy Wonderful as Guster’s best album yet, the resurgent trio has plenty of reason to be optimistic. That they’ve made it all look—and sound—so easy, well, that’s pretty wonderful. Free download of “Bad, Bad World” at guster.com/badbadworld.



This indie horror flick, filmed at an abandoned mental institution, had its Los Angeles premiere on January 19. Starring Ben Samuels, A09, who also wrote, produced, and directed, and Nick Jandl, A07, the thriller follows five restless college grads whose summer ennui comes to an abrupt halt when they visit an old mental hospital that’s been shut down after eight decades of patient abuse. Trailer at www.asylum-the-movie.com.

A Film Unfinished

The Israeli director Yael Hersonski, whose most recent documentary won the World Cinema Documentary Editing award at Sundance, will be filmmaker in residence in Tufts’ Communication and Media Studies program from March 1 to April 30. A Film Unfinished analyzes Das Ghetto, an unfinished Nazi propaganda film that purported to document life in the Warsaw Ghetto. Shot in 1942, just months before the Ghetto’s terrorized inhabitants were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp, this enigmatic account served for decades as a historical record of their lives.

In 1998 an additional reel was discovered, revealing how elaborately the original “documentary” had been staged. In particular, scenes juxtaposing wealthy, high-living Jews with images of wretched poverty were debunked by new footage that showed well-dressed Jews being ordered to ignore the destitute in their path.

Hersonski’s film moves through each reel of Das Ghetto, folding in impressions from survivors and former denizens of the Ghetto, journal entries, and an interview with a cameraman. A Film Unfinished will spur long overdue conversations about the relationship between documenter, image, and viewer, and the layered complexity of history captured on film. Tufts Events: March 3 screening, March 7 panel discussion on images of the Holocaust on stage and screen with Barbara Grossman and Joel Rosenberg.

Also of Note

Governing Risk in GM Agriculture (Cambridge), edited by MICHAEL BARAM, E57, and Mathilde Bourrier, examines the evolution of policies intended to ensure the safety of genetically modified crops. JAMIE LYNN (KATZ) COOKE, J90, helps cash-strapped companies increase their efficiency in Agile Productivity Unleashed (IT Governance). Writing with the Words of Others (Königshausen & Neumann), by ALAN J. CLAYTON, Tufts professor emeritus of French, analyzes the poetry of Hans Enzensberger, one of the most widely read and respected writers in postwar Germany. In Answers to Anorexia (Sunrise River), JAMES M. GREENBLATT, assistant clinical professor at the medical school and a leading expert on eating disorders, argues for a medical, rather than psychological, approach to treating anorexia. His breakthrough treatment focuses on addressing nutritional deficiencies. In Principles of Brownfield Regeneration (Island), JUSTIN B. HOLLANDER, assistant professor of urban and environmental policy and planning, Niall G. Kirkwood, and Julia L. Gold argue that the redevelopment of abandoned industrial land is essential to revitalizing urban areas and preventing sprawl. Role-Modeling Socialist Behavior by KARLA DORIS (ELLENBOGEN) RAB, J61, looks at the life and letters of Isaac Rab, soapbox orator, teacher, founding member of the World Socialist Party, and agitator for socialism in the Boston area. In Monstrous Intimacies (Duke), CHRISTINA SHARPE, associate professor of English and director of American studies, traces the persistent legacy of slavery’s sexual violence in the work of writers and artists of the African diaspora. DAN SHERMAN, A78, shares the secrets of the supersuccessful, including Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Charles Schwab, in You Can Be a Peak Performer! (Peak Performance Media).

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