{"feed":"the-conversation","feedTitle":"The Conversation","feedLink":"/feed/the-conversation","catTitle":"Business","catLink":"/cat/bussiness"}

Turkey goes to the polls to vote for president and parliament on Sunday.

As a scholar of the history and politics of the Middle East, I believe the most striking feature of the campaign is the ideological uniformity displayed by the main parties and their presidential candidates. With the exception of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, candidates espouse strong sentiments of activist nationalism, Muslim piety or, sometimes, both.

This seems to resonate well with the majority of the Turkish electorate.

First as prime minister and then as president, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party have worked to recast Turkey in an increasingly nationalist and religious mold. Today, Erdoğan successfully uses these two ideas to cement his bond with voters.

Turkey was regarded as an outpost of Western-type secularism during much of the 20th century. But Islam and Turkish nationalism were always present in the country, even if not as strongly displayed as they have been in recent years.

The growing focus on religion and nationalism is leading Turkey away from democracy and democratic participation, making it difficult for diverse ideas to be advanced and respected by all parties. That has been evident in the increased authoritarianism of Erdoğan’s rule and the state...

Read in English.

Los edulcorantes artificiales están en todas partes, pero el jurado todavía está deliberando sobre si estos productos químicos son inofensivos. También llamados edulcorantes no nutritivos, pueden ser sintéticos, como la sacarina y el aspartamo, o derivados naturales, como el esteviol, que proviene de la planta de Stevia.

Hasta la fecha, la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de Estados Unidos ha aprobado seis tipos de edulcorantes artificiales y dos tipos de edulcorantes naturales no nutritivos para su uso en alimentos.

Para los que se esfuerzan arduamente por dejar de consumir azúcar, ésta ha sido una gran noticia. En todo el mundo, el aspartamo se encuentra en más de 6.000 alimentos, y se consumen entre 5.000 y 5.500 toneladas por año solo en los Estados Unidos.

La Asociación Americana de Diabetes —el grupo profesional más respetado enfocado en esta condición— recomienda oficialmente los refrescos dietéticos como una alternativa a las bebidas azucaradas. Hasta la fecha, siete municipios han establecido un impuesto a las bebidas azucaradas para desalentar el consumo.

Sin embargo, estudios médicos recientes sugieren que los políticos que están interesados en imponer un impuesto a los refrescos, podrían querer incluir a las bebidas dietéticas porque también estarían contribuyendo a la diabetes y a las enfermedades cardiovasculares.

¿Por qué no tienen calorías...

Nota editorial: Este articulo se publicó por primera vez el 28 de agosto de 2017. Read in English.

La noticia corrió como pólvora a lo largo de las redes: Leopoldo López, el líder de la oposición venezolana preso en la cárcel militar de Ramo Verde ha muerto. Lo dijo Leopoldo Castillo, un conocido periodista de Canal de Noticias Globovisión que se encuentra exiliado en Miami, por Twitter.

En Venezuela y fuera, la gente empieza a retuitear la noticia sin esperar confirmación. Hasta el senador norteamericano Marco Rubio lo “confirma”: el cuerpo casi sin vida de López había sido trasladado al hospital militar.

Se lanzan epítetos diversos en contra del gobierno de Nicolás Maduro, al que se acusa de asesinato . Algunos dicen que la cuenta de Castillo fue hackeada por agentes gubernamentales justamente para esto, para generar zozobra, cosa que Castillo desmiente con lo cual se genera una confusión aún mayor .

Se solicita una “fe de vida”. El gobierno se apresura a través del programa de televisión del poderoso ex-diputado Diosdado Cabello a mostrar un video en el cual López asegura estar vivo y en buenas condiciones, mientras la familia de López se dirige al hospital militar y exigen verlo.

Castillo confirma la información de la muerte. Se dice que el video es un montaje, o que la voz de quien habla no es la de López, la mismísima Lilian Tintori tiene dudas sobre la veracidad del video.

Algunos expertos expresan que la cara...

Physical therapists help people walk again after a stroke and recover after injury or surgery, but did you know they also prevent exposure to opioids? This is timely, given we are in a public health emergency related to an opioid crisis.

Many people addicted to opioids are first exposed through a medical prescription for pain. Opiate-based drugs provide relief for acute conditions, such as post-surgical pain.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of opioids decreases after time, requiring higher doses of the drug for the same effects and, perhaps counter-intuitively, worsening pain in some people. Many people progress from this prescription to other opiate derivatives, including heroin and fentanyl. As a result, a growing emphasis has been placed on nonpharmacological alternatives to opioids.

I am a physical therapist and I have studied non-pharmacological methods of preventing the transition from acute to chronic pain. It’s an exciting time for the field, because practice and research are showing that physical therapy could diminish the need for opioids, and thus lower the risk of addiction.

Reducing initial exposures to opioids

Part of the proposed solution to the opioid crisis is to limit new opioid exposures. Physical therapists are an important part of this process. And it is not just physical therapists who are saying this.

There are those who say that comparing President Donald Trump’s rhetoric to that of Adolf Hitler is alarmist, unfair and counterproductive.

And yet, there has been no dearth of such comparisons nearly one and a half years into his term.

Many commentators have also drawn parallels between the conduct and language of Trump supporters and Holocaust-era Nazis. Recent news of ICE agents separating immigrant families and housing children in cages have generated further comparisons by world leaders, as well as Holocaust survivors and scholars. Trump’s use of the word “infest” to refer to immigrants coming to the U.S. is particularly striking. Nazis referred to infestations of Jewish vermin, and Rwandan Hutu’s labeled Tutsi as cockroaches.

In August 2017, in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, the president used a familiar rhetorical strategy for signaling support to violent groups. He referenced violence on “both sides,” implying moral equivalence between protesters calling for the removal of Confederate statues and those asserting white supremacy. His comments gave white supremacists and neo-Nazis the implied approval of the president of the United States.

Many of these groups explicitly seek to eliminate from the U.S. African-Americans, Jews, immigrants and other groups, and are willing to do so through violence. As co-directors of Binghamton University’s Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention, we emphasize the importance of...

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is one of the most powerful people on the planet.

He is also a soccer fan.

Since taking office in 2013, Xi has put soccer squarely at the center of his ambitious plan to turn China into a wealthy superpower. Xi has a “World Cup dream.” He wants China to qualify for, host and eventually win the World Cup by 2050.

To date, China has qualified for this global soccer tournament just once, in 2002, and it has never scored a goal in the World Cup.

Can China go from soccer dud to soccer superpower? My guess is probably not – at least not in Xi’s lifetime.

Not a winner

I’m a China expert who has researched the country’s top-down political system and its approach to economic development. I also lived in Shanghai, in 2012 and 2013, where I shuttled my three school-age children to and from soccer practice.

China certainly has the money and political wherewithal to expand its commercial and political influence over this global sport, just as it has lately done with the Olympics and international relations.

Chinese companies have bought several major European soccer teams, including the U.K.‘s Wolverhampton and Italy’s AC Milan. Chinese brands like Mengniu and Luci bought serious advertising space in this year’s World Cup, publicizing these little-known companies alongside global giants like Budweiser and Rozneft.

Xi can also ensure that his countrymen see and play more soccer. China’s 2016 plan for Chinese...

The new health care venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced June 20 that Harvard professor and well-known author Atul Gawande would be the company’s CEO. The idea for the new company is to innovate by cutting costs from the health care system, starting with the more than 1 million employees of the three companies behind the venture.

Previous efforts to contain health care spending – from managed care to high deductible health plans to alternative payment models – shared the goal of eliminating unnecessary and overly expensive services. But these practices are very hard to change, since they’re based on physicians’ clinical judgment and patient preferences.

The new joint venture may find it is easier to start with a different question entirely: Can we reduce spending by 15 to 20 percent just by cutting out unnecessary middlemen?

As business school professors, we know that cutting the unnecessary transactions costs generated by unneeded middlemen is the classic first step. We expect it will quickly be seen as the low-hanging fruit for this new organization.

Tackling inefficient health care arrangements

Lorna Simpson, a pioneering visual and conceptual artist whose striking work on race, gender and identity has placed her among the leading artists of her generation, was recently honored by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts University with the SMFA Medal, given annually in recognition of creative excellence in visual art, art history and arts advocacy. Simpson’s works have been presented in many of the world’s major art museums. Much of Simpson’s work focuses on experimenting and discovering new ways to develop imagery.

Below is an excerpt from a public conversation, edited for clarity, between Simpson and York University Professor Christina Sharpe, Ph.D., at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where the SMFA at Tufts honored Simpson. Sharpe, a professor of English at Tufts when she spoke with Simpson, is a renowned feminist critic and author of “Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects” and “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being.” Her scholarship is dedicated to the same concepts explored and confronted by Simpson’s work.

Christina Sharpe: I was introduced to your work when I was in graduate school at Cornell through an image of “The Waterbearer” that appeared on a syllabus. The text [on the image] reads, “She saw him disappear by the river, they asked her to tell what happened only to discount...

If you had US$1 million to give to charities aiming to eradicate poverty, how would you do it?

Would you support a soup kitchen? A financial literacy program? Educational scholarships? Organizations pressing for policy changes?

I worked for nonprofits for many years before realizing the way I approached solving social problems said more about me than it did about the problem I wanted to solve. If I really wanted to make a difference, I had to think about how I was thinking about the problem. And, if I wanted to make a difference at a broader level, I had to help donors and nonprofit leaders think about how they think.

Nonprofit fundraisers consider many demographic characteristics to explain and predict charitable giving, such as age, gender, income, and marital and parental status. As far as I could tell, no scholars had considered “how people think” as a category worth considering.

My quest led me to obtain my Ph.D. and learn to analyze how an individual’s thinking changes over time. Along the way, I found that how people construct their ideas influences their philanthropic choices, and that how donors think is as important as what they think.

How donors think

Human beings develop increasingly complex ways of making sense of the world over the course of a lifetime. To a large extent, this is intuitive – you probably expect a 20-year-old to think about many things differently than a 50-year-old. How people...

When I overcame a flying phobia, I resolved to make up for lost time by visiting as much of the world as I could.

So in the course of a decade, I logged over 300,000 miles, flying everywhere from Buenos Aires to Dubai.

I knew intuitively that my travels would “make me a better person” and “broaden my horizon,” as the clichés have it. But I’ve come to believe that travel can, and should, be more than a hobby, luxury or form of leisure. It is a fundamental component of being a humanist.

At its core, humanism is about exploring and debating the vital ideas that make us who we are. We study music, film, art and literature to do just that. And while it’s important to explore these ideas in our own communities, people and places that are not like us have a role to play that’s just as crucial.

This is where travel comes in. It’s what sent me packing to see some of the places I have spent so long reading about. And it’s what compelled me to write “The Importance of Elsewhere: The Globalist Humanist Tourist,” in which I wanted to make a case for a new approach to travel.

The imperialist tourist

In academia, travel studies have long looked at the intersection between imperialism and tourism, describing how they flourish...

At birth, the brain is the most underdeveloped organ in our body. It takes up until our mid-20s for our brains to fully mature. Any serious and prolonged adversity, such as a sudden, unexpected and lasting separation from a caretaker, changes the structure of the developing brain. It damages a child’s ability to process emotion and leaves scars that are profound and lifelong.

That’s bad news because, although President Trump has ended his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy of separating parents and children at the border, there are some 2,300 children whose reunification with parents remains uncertain.

In my psychiatric and therapeutic practice, I work with children and adults who as children experienced unexpected and lasting separation from their parents. Some fare better than others. Some struggle with major psychiatric disorders, whereas others have no psychiatric diagnosis. Yet, their feeling of safety and trust in others is compromised. The impact of separation trauma is everlasting.

Born to be nurtured

Altricial species, such as humans, are dependent upon parental care for survival and development after birth. The parent is necessary to regulate the offspring’s temperature and to provide food and protection against environment threats. This is accomplished through parent bonding with the offspring that nurtures a deep attachment. The newly born learn quickly that signs of...

America’s CEOs have become increasingly active on political issues that they would have shunned in prior years.

The latest example came in response to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy that led to the forced separation of several thousand immigrant children from their detained parents. United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz called the policy “in deep conflict with our company’s values.”

United and fellow airlines American, Southwest and Frontier each indicated they didn’t want the government to use their planes to fly separated children. President Donald Trump hoped to quell the furor over the issue by signing an executive order ending the separations.

It’s certainly not the first time corporate CEOs took a stand against a Trump policy or his words. After the president’s contentious response to violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, CEO resignations and denunciations led to the dissolution of two White House advisory councils.

While Trump’s actions likely sparked this increase in political activism by corporate CEOs, its roots run deeper and will survive beyond the end of the current administration.

From custom abiders to bullies

When I first began studying the interactions between social movements and corporations in the 1990s, it was rare to see business take a public stand on social issues. Yet today we see organizations ranging from General Electric to the NCAA weighing in on, for...

When New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood recently sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation and four Trump family members who serve on its board of directors, she alleged the foundation was “little more than a checkbook for payments” that personally benefited the Trump family rather than supporting good causes.

Along with the headaches it’s causing the first family, the lawsuit is raising questions about charitable norms. For example, some people may wonder whether the alleged misdeeds really stray so far from what other family foundations typically do.

That’s why putting these allegations in context is important. As a scholar of legal ethics who studies how organizations make decisions, I know that perceptions matter. When the public believes that corruption is rife, people become more likely to break the rules for their own benefit.

Not like the other ones

To be sure, the New York attorney general’s allegations against the Trump Foundation are only that.

If proved in court, however, those allegations would indicate that the Trump Foundation did deviate from the way most private family foundations operate. And these differences may have made it easier for the Trump Foundation to break laws.

First, most family foundations get all or most of the money they give away from their own fortunes. Since these charities are set up so the wealthy can help...

With all the recent news on opioid overuse in the U.S., it’s not surprising that Americans consume the vast majority of the global opioid supply. Daily opioid use in the U.S. is the highest in the world, with an estimated one daily dose prescribed for every 20 people. That rate is 50 percent higher than in Germany and 40 times higher than in Japan.

As former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy once said, the U.S. “arrived here on a path that was paved with good intentions,” but “the results have been devastating.” “We have nearly 250 million prescriptions for opioids written every year. That’s enough for every person in America to have a bottle of pills and then some,” he added.

Has the U.S.‘s heavy reliance on prescription opioids caused more harm than good? And, likewise, have other countries’ low use of opioids caused more pain than good?

I have been pondering these issues at Texas A&M Health Science Center, where I am the chair of a newly established Opioid Task Force, an initiative that emphasizes a multifaceted approach to the opioid epidemic. To me, it seems like most countries need to find a happy balance between the American attitude that all pain needs to be cured – and the ethos in other countries that pain is to be endured.

Adults are sitting more than ever, and few pay attention to how they sit throughout the day.

Take a moment to think about all the reasons we sit. First off, you’re probably sitting while reading this. Some of the most common sitting activities include eating meals; driving; talking on the phone; using a computer, television, or small device; and reading. Now take another moment to think about all the sitting done across your lifetime.

The fact is, the amount of time spent sitting has increased over time. And with innovations such as Alexa, delivered groceries, and pre-made meal services, we expect many older adults will sit longer, and will do it more often. As of today, the average older adult spends between 56 percent and...

Anti-immigrant policies, race-related demonstrations, Title IX disputes, affirmative action court cases, same-sex marriage litigation.

These issues are continually in the headlines. But even thoughtful articles on these subjects seem always to devolve to pitting warring factions against each other: black versus white, women versus men, gay versus straight.

At the most fundamental level of biology, people recognize the innate advantage of defining differences in species. But even within species, is there something in our neural circuits that leads us to find comfort in those like us and unease with those who may differ?

Brain battle between distrust and reward

As in all animals, human brains balance two primordial systems. One includes a brain region called the amygdala that can generate fear and distrust of things that pose a danger – think predators or or being lost somewhere unknown. The other, a group of connected structures called the mesolimbic system, can give rise to pleasure and feelings of reward in response to things that make it more likely we’ll flourish and survive – think not only food, but also social pleasure, like trust.

But how do these systems interact to influence how we form our concepts of community?

Implicit association tests can uncover the strength of unconscious associations. Scientists have shown that many people harbor an implicit preference for their in-group – those like themselves – even when they show no outward or obvious signs of bias. For example, in...

In recent years, there has been a great deal of public angst about refugee resettlement in the U.S. and Europe. Americans are deeply divided on the issue. For instance, a Pew Research Center study published in May of this year found that only a quarter of Republicans and right-leaning independents say the U.S. “has a responsibility to accept more refugees,” compared with almost three-quarters of Democrats and left-leaning independents.

Policies under the Trump administration reflect this division: The number of refugees being resettled to the United States in 2017 was just over 50,0000 – less than half the number from 2016. The decline is even sharper for 2018, since the administration lowered the annual cap to 45,000 refugees. Fewer admissions also means a decrease in numbers of students with refugee backgrounds in U.S. public schools.

Those who see refugees as a drain on public resources might view these declines as a positive. However, qualitative research published recently in my co-edited book, “Educating Refugee-background Students: Critical Issues and Dynamic Contexts,” suggests that this trend represents a loss to our schools and communities.

Having fewer students with refugee backgrounds, I argue, may result in missed opportunities for learning among all U.S. students – particularly when it comes to preparing them for global citizenship, civic responsibility and perseverance both inside and outside of the classroom.


The Fuego volcano puffs smoke against a clear blue sky, as it has done for centuries.

Here in Antigua, 10 miles away, people go about their daily business: Students rush to school; tourists snap shots of the UNESCO-protected city’s Spanish Colonial architecture and cobblestone streets.

Volcano hikes are still marketed as a popular tourist activity. Guatemala’s tourism board has even issued a press release reassuring tourists that Guatemala is safe.

That is not true for the tens of thousands of people who were caught by Fuego volcano’s recent eruption. On Sunday June 3, El Fuego turned violent, spewing columns of fire, ash and rocks – pyroclastic flows that billowed up some 15,000 feet before raining over the region.

Some 60 square miles of mountainous central Guatemala were blanketed in deadly 400-degree ash. Families having Sunday lunch in the communities of San Miguel Los Lotes and el Rodeo were buried in 10 feet of ash and volcanic rock.

Officially, 110 people died and 197 are missing.

We are an anthropologist-photojournalist team who lives in the area. After the eruption, we interviewed survivors and photographed the devastation. We have come to believe that official death toll is grossly underestimated.


The problem with opioids is that they kill pain – and people. In the past three years, more than 125,000 persons died from an opioid overdose – an average of 115 people per day – exceeding the number killed in car accidents and from gunshots during the same period.

America desperately needs safer analgesics. To create them, biochemists like myself are focusing not just on the opioids, but on opioid receptors. The opioids “dock” with these receptors in the brain and peripheral nervous system dulling pain but also causing deadly side effects.

My colleagues and I in Bryan Roth’s lab have recently solved the atomic structure of a morphine-like drug interacting with an opioid receptor, and now we are using this atomic snapshot to design new drugs that block pain but without the euphoria that leads to addiction.

What has caused the opioid epidemic?

In the U.S., more than one-third of the population experiences some form of acute or chronic pain; in older adults this number rises to 40 percent. The most common condition linked to chronic pain is chronic depression, which is a major cause of suicide.

To relieve severe pain, people go to their physician for powerful prescription painkillers, opioid drugs such as morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. Almost all the currently marketed opioid drugs exert their analgesic effects through a protein called the “mu opioid receptor” (MOR).

MORs are embedded in the surface membrane of brain cells,...

The news has been full these past few weeks of disturbing stories from the nation’s borders. The Trump administration has separated immigrant children from their parents precisely to discourage others from trying to enter the country.

Trump now says he may be about to end or limit the practice. But thousands of children have been traumatized as part of an explicit effort to, in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s words, send a powerful “message” to other potential immigrants. Sessions used the Bible to defend the practice: “I would cite to you the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”