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Who We Play For saving lives through athlete heart screenings – Tallahassee.com

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 11:53 am

One day, Cocoa Beach High soccer forward Rafe Maccarone was scoring a game-winning goal against nearby rival Titusville High.

The next day Friday, Nov. 30, 2007 the 15-year-old collapsed during a casual two-lap jog around the practice field.

Cocoa Beach soccer player Rafe Maccarone, 15, collapsed during a practice in 2007 and died the next day from a genetic heart condition. Many of his teammates later founded non-profit Who We Play For while students at FSU in an effort to screen student-athletes hearts while in youth sports. (Photo: Submitted photo/Florida Today)

He died later the next day, one week shy of his 16th birthday.

For Evan Ernst, a 2014 Florida State grad who was a senior on the Minutemens team at the time, it was a startling scene. His younger brother, Zack, was best friends with Maccarone.

That week and the weeks after have forever shaped Ernsts life.

We lost a couple state championships, we traveled the country and we had one of the best teams in the state, if not the country, said Ernst, 25. Its unexplainable, to be a 15-, 16-year-old kid and to be among your best friends and watch a kid just collapse and die in front of you. Its something pretty shocking.

But theres nothing more shocking than learning it was a detectable heart condition, it was preventable, and it represented thousands of people.

Maccarone never had a symptom. Doctors believe he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

It took two years before everyone learned that HCM, a genetic condition which thickens heart muscle and blocks normal blood flow was preventable.

Both Merritt Island and Cocoa Beachs soccer teams wore Rafe Maccarone’s number along with the words “Brevard’s Finest” on their jerseys during Merritt Island’s match at Cocoa Beach on Dec. 13, 2007. Maccarone collapsed at soccer practice and died on Dec. 1. (Photo: Amanda Stratford/Florida Today)

That moment, like Maccarones death, hit Ernst hard.

Bringing together all his best friends in Room 114 of their Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house at FSU, Ernst and 10 other kids hed known his whole life tossed around an idea.

We asked the crazy question Can we create a national movement to protect the hearts of student-athletes? Ernst said. And weve been working every single day for about five years to be able to do that.

Ernst, former Cocoa teammate Zane Schultz and his friends initially took up a fundraising cause, creating the Play for Rafe Foundation.

I knew pretty much exactly what I wanted to do, said Ernst, who majored in entrepreneurship, business management and marketing. I took classes that taught me how.

Who We Play For voluteered its time at Godby High School in December 2016 to provide heart screenings for student-athletes. From left: Christi Gao, Andre Walsh, Angela Byrne, Carmen Araujo, Kathryn Kaspar, Samantha Sexton, Evan Ernst, Quinn Rainer and Anthony Haddad. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)

From the effort, they were able to provide automated external defibrillators for Cocoa Beach High and a Brevard County park to have onsite.

Out of that first incarnation, however, came the desire to do more than treat a condition as it occurred.

Who We Play For was born.

We realized that we talked everyday about Rafe and what he represents, Ernst said. And thats who we play for. Theres thousands of kids like him from Godby to FAMU to FSU that have lost their lives from detectable heart conditions.

Added Ernst: We were young, creative and felt undeterred. Because if we asked that question now, wed probably say its not possible. But we believed it, we were all in, and we committed to it.

And now weve built the biggest non-profit heart screening in the country, and it all started in that room.

The summer after that first meeting was spent in development. Three programs arose AEDs, CPR and heart screenings.

People were already making millions off AEDs; Ernst saw that need as checked off. CPR was also being taught everywhere by the American Heart Association.

But prevention was lacking. Ernst viewed it as the key.

In Rafes case and in most peoples case, if you had an AED or CPR on the spot, you only have a 38 percent chance of saving that persons life, Ernst said. Thats better than nothing, but on the flip side, if we deliver whats asked in the fine print on the physical form for high school or middle school athletes, then theres a 90 percent chance youre going to catch that condition before its even a problem.

Evan Ernst, an assistant soccer coach at Leon High School, works with the team on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Nine years ago, a teammate of Ernst died of a heart condition that if detected could have saved his life. Now, Ernst works to screen students for heart conditions in hopes of preventing the next generation from falling to the same fate. (Photo: Joe Rondone/Democrat)

Calling every single heart-screening group in the country, he asked how they do what they do. He tried to position Who We Play For to be more than just another well-intentioned nonprofit.

Florida State student-athletes and many at NCAA athletic programs get their hearts checked, as do pro athletes.

But for middle school and high school athletes, required physicals required dont go far enough in prevention. Much of that revolved around the cost for an electrocardiogram, which at the hospital would cost $150.

It can literally reduce sudden cardiac arrest in athletes by 94 percent, said Ernst, who found a group in Texas called Cypress ECG Project, which provided him a cost-efficient model.

The biggest cost associated was getting a pediatric cardiologist to read the screenings. By building a volunteer doctor network and using telemedicine, Who We Play For was able to drop the cost considerably.

Then Ernst and his group experimented with taking the heart screenings to schools during the school day.

We give every kid the opportunity to check their heart, whether they can afford the $15 or not, Ernst said. It has to be affordable. If this is ever to become standard, it has to be proven that we delivered dirt cheap.

Who We Play For has now screened middle and high school athletes in six states and over 300 schools. During this 2016-17 school year, it has screened 12,174 hearts. The overall total is now at 86,088 hearts.

Lives saved to date: 66.

Finding one heart condition, its as unexplainable as losing Rafe. There are no words, Ernst said. Its hard to believe every time.

On Jan. 14, 2014 just one week before Who We Play For provided its first Tallahassee screening Godby High School freshman Tariq Barfield was warming up for a track and field practice.

Suddenly, Barfield was dehydrated and woozy. Athletic trainer Jackie Burkette was on hand next to Cougars head coach Jesse Forbes.

Tariq Barfield, a freshman, was warming up for track practice at Godby High School when he collapsed suddenly and later died on Jan. 14, 2014. Barfield was determined to have a genetic heart condition that might have been detected with a simple five-minute heart screening. (Photo: Courtesy of the Barfield family/Democrat files)

The 14-year-old became more and more unresponsive. Burkette looked Barfield in the eye and asked if hed like her to call 9-1-1. He said yes.

An ambulance arrived and the EMS responders took him into its bay, sitting in the parking lot alongside the track before suddenly pulling out, lights on and siren blaring.

Barfield died that day.

The Leon County Medical Examiners Office gave the official cause of death: Sudden cardiac death with abridged left anterior descending coronary artery.

It was a detectable heart condition.

That was the worst day of my professional career, Burkette said. The worst thing that can happen as an athletic trainer is losing a kid like that. We didnt even find out until a couple days later that it was a congenital heart defect and theres nothing you can do for a situation like that.

When Ernst and Who We Play For did their first screening the week after the death, Barfields mother was there. They walked and talked and comforted each other.

That day, no Godby athletes came to the screening. It hurt Ernst deeply.

Godby athletic director Jackie Burkette was previously the schools athletic trainer. On Jan. 14, 2014, she witnessed the death of freshman student Tariq Barfield, who suffered cardiac arrest during a track workout. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)

We realized Saturday screenings are great, but theyre catered around parents that have the resources to get their kids there, said Ernst, an assistant coach for Leon Highs boys soccer team. Its still an issue at hand that socio-economic status determines whether you get your heart checked or not. And thats a problem.

Thats when he decided to take the ECGs directly to schools.

In 2015, Burkette worked with athletic director Joy Becker to provide the first heart screening for Godby student-athletes.

Burkette, now the schools athletic director, had 70 athletes screened in December. They paid nothing thanks to Who We Play Fors search for grants and donations.

She keeps a picture of Barfield on the wall above her computer. It serves as a daily motivation to ensure her student-athletes are safe and protected. A simple heart screening could have saved Barfields life.

But at a Title-I school like Godby where 70 percent of students live below the poverty line, day-to-day survival often takes priority.

To have something like Who We Play For, which goes out on its own time to get grants to pay for my kids, its invaluable, Burkette said. Were able to test them for something they might not have had the opportunity to get before.

Andre Walsh was an energetic kid, running around St. Catherine, Jamaica, without a care in the world. By high school, Walsh had developed into one of his countrys top sprinters and hurdlers. He later competed for two years in the U.S. at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

He transferred to FSU in 2013. That triggered an automatic heart screening.

Walsh was diagnosed with acute viral respiratory disease. He underwent surgery for an implantable cardiac defibrillator. His doctor prescribed beta-blockers to keep his heart rate down. But there was a bigger blow.

Andre Walsh runs an ECG machine at Godby High School as part of screenings with non-profit Who We Play For. Walsh, who transferred in 2013 to FSU as top track runner, was diagnosed with a heart condition that ended his running career. (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)

Not yet 25, Walsh was forced into retirement. He could never race again.

Its scary to know that something could have happened during that whole time, but thankfully nothing did, said Walsh, now 27. Coming out of the blue, thinking about FSU and a possible career in track to having all that stripped away, it was hard.

Walshs depression lasted two years as he struggled to adjust to losing his livelihood. Without the structure of class and practice, he became less productive in school and in life. Eventually, he sought the help of a counselor to deal with the psychological effects

Given a chance at a normal life, Walsh started volunteering with Who We Play For. Slowly, he realized that having his dreams snatched away was not the worst thing in the world.

I was distraught and shocked, but then I realized the chance I got, said Walsh, who still cannot exercise or risk elevating his heart rate to dangerous levels. Speaking to Evan, I realized what was really going on and could see there were a lot of people who didnt survive it. That helped me a lot, to go out and speak to others about what would happen.

As one of many who have volunteered with Who We Play For, he was able to visit the Parent Heart Watch conference.

He saw parents who had lost their child to detectable heart conditions. His own parents could have easily been among them.

I saw and felt the immense pain, Walsh said. For Evan and Who We Play For putting in this initiative, it helps a lot to know we can catch this so that a tragic thing doesnt happen to another family.

Walsh is a success story.

Other FSU athletes, such as Harry Mulenga (track) and Leyla Erkan (tennis), have had heart conditions discovered by screenings.

There are those who survived through good fortune. Former Chiles High cheerleader Brittany Williams passed yearly physicals only to have her condition discovered at age 24.

Theres no registry, so we have no idea how many kids die from this and we have no idea how many kids been caught.

There are those who have died. Florida A&M student Antwan Ivey in 2014 seven years after rushing for a state-best 2,345 yards and 31 touchdowns during Newberry Highs state championship season.

Concussions, which are widely discussed as a major prep sports area of concern, didnt cause a single death last year. But not much is known about how many die from detectable heart conditions.

Sudden cardiac arrest, however, affects 9,500 youths annually and is the leading cause of death on campuses, according to Parent Heart Watch.

Doctors believe the most vulnerable age is between 15-16, influenced by puberty and strenuous exercise.

Who We Play For co-founder Evan Ernst runs a heart screening for Godby High School student-athletes in December 2016 (Photo: Brian Miller/Democrat)

One controlled-population study of NCAA athletes from a doctor in Washington on Who We Play Fors team determined an African-American Division-I basketball players rate of having a heart condition is 1 in 3,200. In total for NCAA student-athletes, it is 1 in 40,000.

Thats really the biggest question to what we do, Ernst said. Theres no registry, so we have no idea how many kids die from this and we have no idea how many kids been caught.

Ernst has no visions of fame and fortune. He just wants to spread his message of awareness from Cocoa Beach and Tallahassee to the far reaches of the nation.

I cover my bare minimum expenses, but Im definitely not making money, Ernst said. From the start, we wanted to be a non-profit because we never wanted anyone to question our incentives behind this. There will come a time in our lives when we can make money, but wed love to do this first.

Transforming from grassroots effort into global mission, Who We Play For is honoring Maccarones memory and saving lives along the way.

Our goal will be met when every student-athlete has a chance to check their heart, Ernst said. Were done when its not in the fine print, but when it is delivered.

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Who We Play For saving lives through athlete heart screenings – Tallahassee.com

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Bill to lower gambling appears to be DOA in Nevada Legislature – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Posted: at 11:49 am

If youre old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be old enough to play blackjack and drop a few dollars into a slot machine at the local casino.

At least, thats the logic of Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, who brings to the table Assembly Bill 86, which, with any luck at all, will be 86d right out of the Legislature.

The bill would reduce the legal age to gamble in Nevada from 21 to 18.

Credit to Wheeler for introducing a philosophical debate among lawmakers. But with just four months to complete the business of the state and the introduction of a solution to a problem that doesnt seem to exist, it makes no sense to spend any time on a proposal that isnt going anywhere.

Dead on arrival, one gaming regulator said at a recent meeting.

Colleague Colton Lochhead reached out to Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo about the proposal, and he was as puzzled as everybody else about it.

The industry has not come to us with any wants for dropping this, Alamo said. Everyones happy with 21 years of age.

Indeed, Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resorts Association, said her membership isnt bucking to change the law.

Weve never supported it in the past, she said. Theres really no compelling reason to change that position.

In fact, the change could create a problem.

With a legal gambling age of 18 and a legal drinking age of 21, drink servers at casinos would be compelled to card patrons to see if they could be served a drink.

Of course, the argument could be made that carding a customer might be a good thing because casinos could guard against underage drinking as well as underage gambling.

Some observers say that adding players who are 18, 19 and 20 could increase play and thus generate additional tax revenue for the state.

But really, just how much money would the average 18-to-20-year-old spend gambling? For the state, it looks like a big investment with little return.

Nevada is no longer the only state with casinos. Whats the legal gambling age everywhere else?

For most, its 21.

According to the casino.org website, the legal age to gamble at tribal casinos in Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota and Wyoming is 18.

In some states, the legal age is 18 or 21, depending on the game. For example, the age to legally place pari-mutuel bets the type most commonly associated with horse racing is 18 in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.

If youre 18, you can play bingo at casinos in Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin and at tribal casinos in South Dakota (but not the commercial sites in Deadwood).

For real confusion, the legal gambling age is 18 or 21, depending on the casino, in California, New York and Oklahoma.

Its easy to sympathize with 18-year-olds who wonder why they can drive, vote and go to war but cant consume alcohol or gamble. It doesnt make sense.

But its a debate from which legislators should keep away.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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Donald Trump & Ayn Rand | CLUSTER B

Posted: at 11:48 am

On November 8th of this year, the unthinkable happened. Donald Trump was elected president. Although his campaign sounded more populist that free-market fundamentalist, his choices for cabinet tell a different story. Liberals and progressives and just plain poor people are deeply concerned about the future. Alternet has an article whose title spells it out: Its Ayn Rands America Now: Republicans Have Stripped the Country of Its Last Shred of Morality. Now Trump is hardly the ideal of Objectivists or Libertarians. He doesnt embrace freedom for the individual, not with his pro life and anti-immigrant stance; certainly not with his intention to punish anyone who burns the flag. But the Republican Party representing the 1%, may well make the country Ayn Rands America.

Many enemies of Ayn Rands philosophy (and there are many) like to call her a psychopath. Of course, many of these same people call anyone they disapprove of a psychopath. Is she one? Is her philosophy an expression of psychopathy, par excellence?

A friend of mine who, like me, is a socialist and also a psychopath has admitted that, were he wealthy, he would probably change his politics. I admitted I probably would too. We psychopaths are on our own side first and foremost. In that respect, we think in a way that is similar to the way Ayn Rand thought. But there is a difference. We are amoral and Ayn Rand was very moralistic indeed. We consider altruism optional. If we want to be altruistic, thats our business. She considered altruism evil. Altruism does not mean mere kindness or generosity, but the sacrifice of the best among men to the worst, the sacrifice of virtues to flaws, of ability to incompetence, of progress to stagnation and the subordinating of all life and of all values to the claims of anyones suffering. She does like benevolence which consists of acts of good will towards those one likes. But suffering should not entitle anyone to make demands. Only productivity entitles one to anything. Well, lack of empathy is harmonious with the refusal to considering the fact of suffering a moral imperative. Does that mean psychopaths are against the social safety nets? No. Rational recognition that life in a society with safety nets protects us as well as others can make government benefits look desirable for everyone who belongs to the 99%. Ayn Rand equated poverty with inferiority. She believed and preached that those who encounter economic hardship are incompetent and lacking in value. My article, Libertarianism and Psychopathy, is a rebuttal of that claim.

Her enemies, in addition to denigrating her writing and philosophical strength, made much of an infatuation she had with a serial killer, William Hickman.Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should, she wrote, continuing that he had no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel other people. The fact that he brutally murdered some little girls doesnt enter into her description of Hickman, nor does she give any indication that she admired murder. She is said to have modeled the character, Howard Roark of The Fountainhead on Hickman but only his indifference to public opinion seems to have made it into Howard Roarks description. Roark, the architect, was all about producing great buildings. Her mention of the Superman in the above quote is a remnant of her earlier attachment to the philosophy of Nietzsche which she had discarded during her We The Living period. There are actually two versions of the latter, one of which shows Nietzsches influence and the latter of which does not. Although she admired Hickmans sublime indifference to other peoples opinions, she didnt seem to share it.

Ayn Rand put a lot of emphasis on living in a way that is consistent with ones values. However, she didnt manage to achieve that kind of consistency in her own life. While social programs such as Medicare was anathema to her,

she collected Medicare benefits to finance her treatment for lung cancer. She also collected Social Security. In comparing Medicare with criminal expropriation, she said, the private hoodlum has a slight edge of moral superiority: he has no power to devastate an entire nation and his victims are not legally disarmed.

Her excuse was that she paid into these programs so she deserved to benefit. But, if she really considered these programs a form of robbery, she must not have considered the benefits true recompense for the contributions the beneficiaries put into the program. If that were true, after all, the programs could not be compared to bank robbery at all but, instead, to withdrawing ones own savings from from the bank. And she didnt collect under the name of Ayn Rand. She used her married name, Mrs. Frank OConnor. She didnt want the public, including her followers, to know she collected Medicare and Social Security, just as she didnt want them to know she got lung cancer from smoking. She had always glorified smoking. All her followers emulated her. She denied that smoking caused cancer and insisted that cancer came from a defect of character. Once she found out she had the disease, she put out her cigarette and never smoked again. But refused, when asked, to make a public statement warning others about the dangers of smoking. She probably still believed smoking came from a deficit in her character of which she was ashamed. Thats more narcissistic than psychopathic. Her classes in Objectivism which were attended by worshipful admirers provided all the narcissistic supply a narc could ever want. She became increasingly intolerant of disagreement among her friends. She discarded them one by one on grounds of even trivial differences. She ended life cut off from all but the few who were completely submissive. Expressing disgust at the collective stupidity of the masses, she fastidiously withdrew from public life, condescending only to put out a newsletter that was her unchallenged word dispensed to the faithful.

Critics of Trump are divided on whether to call him a narc or a path. His ruthlessness seems psychopathic but his constant bragging and idealization of himself are very narcissistic. His candidacy didnt focus very much on a clear-cut ideology. Instead, he urged the voters to believe in him as the solution. He would make America great again. Once he could do it.

I think both Trump and Rand wanted to create an ideal human being and to embody that ideal. People refer to this idea as the narcissistic false self. That self is a kind of superman, the grandiose god of the narc. Sam Vaknin has called Hitler a narcissist and has stated that a narcissist is more dangerous than a psychopath. Time will tell.

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One huge step: Trump’s plans to privatize ‘low Earth orbit’ and send NASA into deep space – Yahoo News

Posted: at 11:30 am

In perhaps the most poetic passage from his inaugural address, President Trump said, We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space. So, how does Trump intend to do that?

Former Congressman Robert Walker, R-Pa., who was tapped to draft Trumps space policy during the campaign, spoke to Yahoo News about the administrations plan to place low Earth orbit missions predominantly in the hands of the private sector, with exceptions for military and intelligence satellites. The government would not compete with commercial interests in this region of space; instead, NASA would concentrate on deep-space exploration with the long-term goal of having humans explore the entire solar system by the 22nd century.

A number of private entities, such as Axiom Space and Bigelow Aerospace, are interested in creating commercial space stations and have technologies under development such as constellations of satellites for Earth observation or new communications tools that they believe can be profitable in low Earth orbit, the region of space up to an altitude of about 1,200 miles. Its the easiest orbit to enter and maintain. The International Space Station (ISS) is in low Earth orbit.

There are already commercial organizations prepared to lift supplies that NASA needs for deep-space exploration into low Earth orbit for assembly.

As we look toward going back to the moon, going to Mars or further, well want to have space resources that would be assembled in orbit so we could make them large enough and capable enough to do real deep-space activities, Walker said.

Walker has extensive experience in the space sector. He was the first sitting member of Congress to receive NASAs Distinguished Service Medal, the agencys highest honor, and has been heavily involved in presidential commissions on the aerospace industrys future and space exploration.

Walker believes space policy must acknowledge that the space community is far bigger than NASA or the military and that private investors should take the opportunity to participate in achieving national goals. He is calling for the National Space Council, a policy-setting body disbanded in 1993, to be reconstituted under the leadership of the vice president to set national goals for all three stakeholders in space: commercial, military and civilian interests.

The questions to address, he said, are Whats the best way for us to access space in the future? And what opportunities exist if youre truly innovative about how your approach a space future?

Michael Suffredini, another recipient of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, has more than 30 years of human space flight experience, has managed the ISS for 10 years and is CEO and president of Axiom Space, which is currently developing the first private, commercial space station. It is intended to be the successor to the ISS after its retirement in 2024.

Along with providing a facility for research, Axiom plans to offer human space flight programs for countries that wish to send their own astronauts into space and for space tourists who want to orbit the Earth for 7 to 10 days.

According to Suffredini, NASA has already been on a path toward commercializing low Earth orbit, and the Trump administration is interested in continuing this process.

We think the time is right for an almost completely from a development, launch and operations standpoint commercial platform in low Earth orbit that can replace what the ISS brings to the table when its ready to retire, Suffredini told Yahoo News. The Trump administrations plan forward really supports what were interested in doing.

Hes hopeful that the administration will support commercial endeavors moving out to cislunar space (the area between the Earth and the moon) as well as to the moon or even Mars. We can all debate, he said, how much commercial activity will happen beyond low Earth orbit in the near future.

[The administrations] thrust is to look at more and more ways to look at commercial entities to participate where they want to in space, Suffredini said.

Robert Bigelow, the founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, said major aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin the big guys have always had a lock on NASA and therefore on government money. He said privatizing low Earth orbit is a tremendous opportunity for the little guys to survive and build a thriving business.

This is a completely new era. The circumstances have been changed, because NASA is cash-poor, Bigelow said. Not only does it make sense, but its an absolute necessity.

Bigelow, who has argued that NASAs roughly $19 billion budget should be doubled, recalled conservations with William H. Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate at NASA, indicating that the agency does not have the resources to return humans to the moon (or accomplish similar lofty goals) without help from the private sector.

Bigelow Aerospace, based in North Las Vegas, Nev., develops expandable space station modules and other resources that could assist human space exploration whether to low Earth orbit, the moon, Mars or deep space. Bigelow said NASA and other national space agencies worldwide are prospective clients.

Aside from unmanned satellites, there are at this time no moneymaking, private operations in low Earth orbit, other than those catering to the ISS, such as the BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module).

There is nothing that private enterprise cant successfully take on, do more affordably and more quickly than any government operation can, Bigelow said. Private enterprise hasnt had the chance.

He said three things are necessary for any space activity: money, technology and legal permission, which itself requires political wherewithal.

The private sector invents technology and generates huge amounts of money, so the political permission is the stopping point, he continued. Up until the current time, aside from satellite communications, space has always been the domain of NASA as far as the United States is concerned. That is changing.

On Wednesday, Robert Lightfoot, the acting administrator for NASA, said in an agency update that the transition under the Trump administration is going smoothly. He also asked NASAs human exploration and operations mission directorate to look into the feasibility of adding astronauts to Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), the first planned flight of the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and second flight of the Orion spacecraft, accelerating human exploration in deep space. With EM-1, NASA is developing the technologies that would be needed for a journey to Mars.

While speaking to a conference of suppliers for the SLS and other projects, Lightfoot emphasized the importance of private and public space industries in reaching the countrys goals.

We must work with everyone to secure our leadership in space and we will, he said.

According to NASA, the SLS and Orion missions (together with record levels of private investment in space) would ensure the United States leadership role in exploring the cosmos and put us closer to unlocking the mysteries of space.

Back in October, the Trump campaign called Walker and asked him to draft its space policy. He agreed and said he could come up with one in a few days, but the Trump team said they needed it much faster. Walker and Peter Navarro, Trumps chief trade adviser, put together what they consider a cohesive space policy within 48 hours.

I was thrilled to help them. This has been a long-duration mission of mine to get our space program as robust as possible, and I have been particularly an advocate for commercial space for a long time, Walker said.

Navarro would run their ideas by Trumps team, and they would offer suggestions that ultimately wound up in the policy, such as a focus on hypersonics (speeds of Mach 5 and above).

Afterward, Trump would mention space as part of his larger vision for the country. Vice President Mike Pence also held a roundtable in Florida during the campaign in which he outlined a space program that resembled Walkers outline.

At a campaign rally on Oct. 25 in Sanford, Fla., roughly an hours drive from the Kennedy Space Center, Trump said, I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low Earth orbit activity big deal. Instead, we will refocus its mission on space exploration. Under a Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars.

He said the expansion of public-private partnerships would result in maximum investment in space exploration creating thousands of jobs.

Trump has mentioned space as one of the places where we can demonstrate that America is attaining its greatness, Walker said. As hes gone out to some of these rallies, postelection, space was in a couple of his remarks.

In December, Trump named Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and of SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer dedicated to colonizing Mars and reducing the cost of space transportation, to his Strategic and Policy Forum.

Still, certain aspects of Trumps space policy are bound to trouble liberals and scientists concerned about climate change. In an October op-ed for SpaceNews, Walker said NASA spends too much time on politically correct environmental monitoring.

Late last month, employees for more than a dozen government agencies reportedly launched rogue Twitter accounts to take a stance against what they see as Trumps attack on climate science research. These included scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service and NASA.

Amid the barrage of Trump news, Walker said he has already seen some of his own ideas misconstrued and attacked. Walker said critics falsely accused him of wanting to eliminate NASAs Earth Science programs. He insists that he merely wanted to move them to another agency considered more appropriate for these projects, such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The suggestion was that we were eliminating the Earth Science programs that NASA is doing. And thats absolutely wrong. The reason for looking for a transfer was because we were taking NASA out of low Earth orbit, and most of the space-based assets for Earth Science are in low Earth orbit.

Though Walker is advising the Trump administration and drafted its space policy, he was not a formal member of the transition itself. With every new administration, some policies diverge from campaign rhetoric when confronted with the realities of governance. Consequently, as with other areas, its still too early to assess Trumps space initiatives.

Walker also serves on the board of directors for Space Adventures, a space tourism company, and was chairman of the board for the Space Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for the space industry.

Brendan Curry, the vice president of Washington operations at the Space Foundation, said the conversation around private operations in space is nothing new. For instance, commercial communication satellites have been operating and generating revenue in geostationary orbit, at an altitude of 22,300 miles, for decades.

The idea of making money in space has been around almost as long as the Space Age has, he said.

NASAs commercial crew and cargo program, established in 2004 under former President George W. Bush, enjoys bipartisan support. Curry does not see any political efforts to derail or curtail it but said policymakers will need to account for the ISSs planned retirement. This raises a slew of questions: Should it be extended? Should there be a successor platform?

Were asking these companies to make investments in systems and capabilities to go to a destination that might not be around after 2024, he said, so weve got to decide: Are there going to be other opportunities for these companies to develop or maintain systems and capabilities to go to low Earth orbit to provide private services or a service to the federal government.

Robert Jacobs, the deputy associate administrator for NASAs office of communications, told Yahoo News that the agency has helped to create a robust commercial space economy by turning orbital resupply missions for the ISS over to commercial industry. He also said that NASA will soon return to the launching of American astronauts from U.S. soil aboard commercial spacecraft, as the agency focuses on pushing human and robotic exploration further into the solar system.

President Trump said in his inaugural address that we will unlock the mysteries of space, Jacobs said. Accordingly, it is imperative to the mission of this agency that we continue to work hard to do just that.

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One huge step: Trump’s plans to privatize ‘low Earth orbit’ and send NASA into deep space – Yahoo News

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Head Case Scottish writer: ‘Decapitate me after death, freeze my head, and I let me live again centuries from now’ – Herald Scotland

Posted: at 11:14 am

DJ Maclennan is hoping for a good death. When the time comes, the Isle of Skye writer wants to be surrounded not just by his family, but by the emergency volunteer stand-by team from Cyronics UK.

Since 2007, he has been paying 50 a month to the Alcor Institute in the town of Scottsdale, Arizona. For that they will ‘cryopreserve’ his head (it costs significantly more to keep the whole body) in a tank of liquid nitrogen, keeping it there, the company promises on their website, for decades or centuries until a future medical technology can restore that person to full health.

All going well, within ten minutes of MacLennan breathing his last, that team, made up of enthusiastic amateurs, none of whom have professional medical training, will take control of his body. Theyll start by giving the cadaver oxygen, and chest compressions before placing it in an ice bath.

Then they administer drugs to stabilise biological systems and prevent clotting and brain damage through cell destruction. Once thats done they remove the corpse to their mortuary, cut open carotid arteries jugular veins and replace the blood with an an antifreeze solution. Within 24 hours of death, the body must have been cooled to at least -20C. Then, and only then is it ready to transport over to Americas west coast, where the head will be removed.

The problem for MacLennan is he needs the NHS and the Procurator Fiscal to let this happen, and right now that looks unlikely. Bodies in Scotland cant be released to family until theres a death certificate, and every death certificate needs a cause of death.

If that death is unexplained or sudden, then it gets reported to the Procurator Fiscal who takes over legal responsibility for the body until a cause can identified.

That often requires time or even a post-mortem, both of which make cryopreservation impossible, and the 40,000 or so MacLennan will have paid to Alcor over his lifetime would be for nothing.

Unfortunately, while we will always be sympathetic to requests by members of a family, this has to be balanced with the need for an independent and thorough investigation and a post mortem examination will sometimes still be required, the Procurator Fiscal tells the Sunday Herald.

None of Scotlands 14 health boards, or the NHS National Services Scotland, have any policy or guidelines on cryonics. Some of them are even openly hostile to the idea. NHS Western Isles said they would not facilitate volunteer medics, who may have no medical experience to operate on a dead person, regardless if this was the wish of the dead person.

The Scottish Government also has no policy, and say theyre waiting on the results of an information gathering exercise undertaken by the Human Tissue Authority, who were mobilised into action in the wake of last years high profile legal row between the parents of JS, the 14 year old dying of cancer who wanted her body to be cryopreserved.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who sat on that case, suggested there needed to be proper regulation of cryonic preservation in this country if it is to happen in future.

That was in part a response to fears expressed by JSs doctors over the Cryonics UK standby team. The medical staff said the volunteers were under-equipped and disorganised. The groups ambulance had broken down, and was replaced by a van.

The Human Tissue Authority will in the next few months produce two pieces of guidance, one for medical professionals and one for members of the public. Though they werent willing to tell the Sunday Herald what was in those guidelines.

Given this is a procedure thats been going on for 30 years it’s surprising that there’s no policy for it in the place in the UK, MacLennan says.

He is happy to talk about cryonics, and has written books on the process, as part of an attempt to normalise it a little bit and take the Frankenstein factor out if it.

Cryonics is potentially exponential technology, he argues. When people see the price coming down there’ll come a point when they see a benefit. The cost will be finite and the benefit will potentially be infinite, because if it works the benefits are potentially infinite.

But this is currently a niche issue. No one is sure, but it seems there are around 100 people in the UK who have opted for cryopreservation.

In Scotland, the NHS and the Procurator Fiscal have yet to deal with any cases of Cryonics.

Professor Clive Coen from Kings College London believes there should be a ban on the marketing of cryonics, saying the idea of preserving a whole body was ridiculous and a whole brain only slightly less ridiculous.

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The working-class job that Trump could save from automation – Washington Post

Posted: at 11:09 am

President Trump has made a huge deal of his attempts to bring back blue-collar manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas and to shame companies into building plants here rather than in other countries. Both of which I think are fine.

But Trump would probably get greater value for working-class Americans and for American consumers by spending some of his time leaning on companies to preserve a huge, threatened class of blue-collar jobs: cashiers. Yes, cashiers.

Speaking up for cashiers, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is the second-largest occupation in the country, wouldnt be as glamorous or tweet-able as berating Ford or General Motors or Carrier for the loss of American jobs.

[Why bodyslamming big companies is good for America]

But it would be a great way for him to get back to playing offense and showing he cares about the working class. Supporting the nations 3.5 million cashiers could help preserve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of low-paid people who are in entry-level jobs or rehabilitating-themselves jobs or trying-to-feed-their-family jobs.

Whats more, theres even an example, not far from Trump Tower in New York, of how preserving cashier-type jobs could be done, at minimal (or perhaps no) cost to consumers. Its in my home state of New Jersey, which has saved thousands of such jobs those of gas station attendants.

Its the unintended but welcome outgrowth of the states 1949 ban on the self-pumping of gasoline, which many out-of-staters ridicule. Even so, it is so popular that Jersey residents have resisted repeated attempts to end it.

Now, lets step back a bit.

The number of cashier jobs No. 2 only to retail sales clerks, according to the BLS was almost exactly the same in 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) as in 2005, even though total U.S. employment was up by 7.6 million.

Still, its obvious that these jobs are threatened as never before.

[How to save good jobs]

Go into any large, reasonably modern supermarket, drug store or retail store, and you see more and more self-checkout lines and fewer and fewer manned cashier lines.

McDonalds is using self-checkout in some locations. Even Costco a big company that seems to care about employing people is experimenting with it.

And heres the crowning blow. Amazon, which has upended Americas retail business (and whose chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post), is building physical stores that have no cashiers. If Amazons initiative succeeds, can cashier-less days at mainstream operations be far behind?

Look, Im not proposing that the United States turn into a modern-day version of old-style Russia, where it took half a dozen people to check you out of a store. And Im not proposing to return to pre-bar code days, when checkout lines were slower and there was more work for cashiers.

But I just look at the gas stations in New Jersey and compare them with the large, modern retail outlets in Atlantas northern suburbs, where my wife and I recently spent considerable time.

Georgia customers using the self-checkout line got no savings whatever in return for doing the stores work. Late at night, at least some big stores had so few cashiers on duty that self-checkout became the norm.

By contrast, at New Jersey gas stations, someone pumps my gas. Thats a boon to those of us, like me, who have arthritic wrists that dont react well to pumping my own gas, which I did in Georgia. And the Jersey gas lines moved more quickly.

[What to expect at work in 2017]

Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey trade group that represents gas stations and convenience stores, estimates there are about 9,000 gas-pumping jobs in the state. (The BLS once tracked Jersey gas-pumping jobs but no longer does.) Risalvato, who wants the self-pumping ban repealed, estimates that having attendants increases the price of gas by about 10 cents a gallon. To put that in context: The state increased gas taxes by 23 cents a gallon in November, and the recent average cost of gas ranged from $2.32 a gallon for regular to $2.79 for premium, according to GasBuddy.

Robert Scott III, a professor at New Jerseys Monmouth University who in 2007 published a scholarly article about the self-pumping ban, thinks it adds little or nothing to gas prices. A major reason, he says, is that insurance costs for Jersey gas stations are lower than they would be if customers pumped their own gas.

To be sure, you dont see the plight of cashiers portrayed nightly on cable news, and theres no big public fuss made when cashier jobs quietly slip away. But if Trump can dig out of his current problems and get back to playing offense, he could do a lot of good for cashiers and himself by publicly leaning on retail chains to preserve those jobs or even add to them.

And who can say? Just as we Jerseyites appreciate having gas pumped for us, store customers across the country would probably come to appreciate cashier-based checkout. Wed keep cashiers working instead of having to live in poverty or go on welfare or file for disability. Wed all win. And so would Trump.

Read more:

Trumps awful boast about paying no taxes

The whopping $1.2 trillion omission in Trumps tax reform plan

Why I cant (and wont) stop writing about Social Security

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Govt mulls abolition of parallel degree programs in public varsities – Capital FM Kenya (press release) (blog)

Posted: at 11:08 am

State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu noted that this might be one of the issues contributing to the current lecturers strike/FILE

By SIMON NDONGA, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19 The government is mulling the abolition of parallel degree programs in public universities across the country as a result of what it terms as a lack of accountability of the monies generated.

State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu noted that this might be one of the issues contributing to the current lecturers strike.

Speaking during his weekly briefing on Sunday, Esipisu indicated that such a move would be in line with the exam reform process currently being undertaken by the Education Ministry.

You know with this reform of the exam system, one of the results of that is the potential complete removal of the Parallel structure, he stated. You know very well that there have been issues about accountability in terms of the resources coming out of that parallel structure.

The Spokesman further indicated that funds raised through these programs have not been accounted for.

The absence of funding from that parallel structure obviously is something that needs to be looked at in terms of the underlying reasons for the current problems, he said.

Money that is paid from those programs to lecturers and to universities is not exactly in the public view and has not probably been accounted for in the way you would expect other government resources to be, he stated.

He however expressed confidence that Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi will be able to deal with the situation.

People do feel that all these things need to be put on the table as part of the discussions. What is it that is driving unrest in terms of the lecturers position? But this is a matter that I think the Cabinet Secretary is seized with and he has shown that he does get his work done so we do not think it is out of his hands, he stated.

University lecturers rejected a Sh10 billion pay deal that would see the lowest paid teaching staff earn Sh91,593.

Under the package, professors pay bracket will open up to an upper limit of Sh240,491 per month.

University Academic Staff Union (UASU) last week deal as a drop in the ocean and announced massive nationwide strike starting Monday.

UASU is insisting on a 30 percent pay rise as opposed to the 3 percent they would get under the proposed deal.

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PH economic freedom ranking jumps from 70th to 58th – Inquirer.net

Posted: at 11:07 am

Solid macro fundamentals sustained despite a change in administration last year helped the Philippines jump 12 spots to 58th in the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (IEF) of Washington-based conservative political think tank The Heritage Foundation.

In a statement Sunday, the governments Investor Relations Office (IRO) claimed that with the Duterte administrations 10-point socioeconomic agenda ultimately aimed at slashing the poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022 from 21.6 percent in 2015, the countrys economic freedom ranking is expected to further climb in the medium term.

The Heritage Foundations latest annual global survey covering 186 countries showed that the countrys 2017 position leaped from 70th in the 2016 IEF due to a higher score of 65.6, up 2.5 points from last year.

The IRO noted that the Philippines 2017 score exceeded not only the global average of 60.9 but also Asia-Pacifics 60.4.

The IRO quoted The Heritage Foundation as attributing the gains in the countrys higher score as well as ranking to notable successes in fiscal policy, government spending and monetary stability.

According to the IRO, The Heritage Foundations IEF measures economic freedom based on 12 quantitative as well as qualitative factors that were being grouped into four broad categories or pillars, namely: government size (fiscal health, government spending and tax burden); open markets (financial, investment and trade freedom); regulatory efficiency (business, labor and monetary freedom); as well as rule of law (government integrity, judicial effectiveness and property rights).

The IEF reveals a positive relationship between economic freedom and a variety of positive social and economic goals such as poverty elimination, greater per capita wealth, healthier societies, cleaner environments, and democracy, the IRO noted.

In the 2017 IEF report, The Heritage Foundation highlighted the countrys solid economic performance amid a challenging global economic environment, according to the IRO.

The Philippines has achieved notable economic expansion, driven by the economys strong export performance and inflows of remittances, The Heritage Foundation said.

The Philippine economy grew 6.8 percent last year, among the fastest in the region, as both public and private consumption and investment increased amid solid fundamentals.

In 2016, cash sent home through banks by Filipinos living and working abroad hit a record $26.9 billion, up 5 percent from $25.607 billion in 2015 to surpass the governments 4-percent growth target.

The latest Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data also showed that the 2016 foreign direct investment target was already exceeded during the first 11 months, as end-November net inflows reached $6.973 billion, up 25.4 percent year-on-year as well as higher than the $6.7-billion goal for the entire year.

Also, the Philippine government continues to pursue legislative reforms to enhance the overall entrepreneurial environment and develop a stronger private sector that is needed to generate broader-based job growth, the IRO quoted The Heritage Foundation as saying.

In the 2017 IEF, the country posted the highest jump in monetary freedom of 18 notches to 68th from 86th last year.

The IRO also noted of high rankings on government spending (22nd) as well as fiscal health (26th).

The Heritage Foundation also underscored the stability of the countrys financial sector, adding that in 2016, the central bank announced that it would end a 17-year moratorium on the granting of new banking licenses, the IRO added.

Given the 2017 IEF ranking, the Philippines economic freedom was deemed moderately free, the IRO said.

According to The Heritage Foundation, economies tagged as moderately free provide institutional environments in which individuals and private enterprises benefit from at least a moderate degree of economic freedom in the pursuit of greater competitiveness, growth and prosperity, according to the IRO.

The IRO quoted economic managers as attributing the countrys higher economic ranking as well as score to gains from policy reforms undertaken by the government to maintain macroeconomic stability and enhance the countrys business and investment environment.

The BSPs firm commitment to maintain price stability and promote a sound and inclusive financial sector and the positive results we have achieved thus far have contributed to the big improvement of the Philippines IEF ranking, Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said.

The benign inflation environment has enabled the economy to further accelerate in 2016, a remarkable feat given the uncertainty and volatility in the global scene. With the BSPs relentless efforts to pursue proactive reforms to improve governance and risk management in banks, the Philippine banking system remains a pillar of strength that will support the rapid pace of growth of the economy, Tetangco added.

For his part, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the significant jump in our countrys ranking in the 2017 IEF by 12 rungs from 70th to 58th validates the assiduous efforts by the Philippine government to sustain high growth and achieve economic inclusion by freeing some six million Filipinos from poverty.

For the Philippines to aspire to move up higher from the moderately free to the mostly free category in the near future, the Duterte administration needs to pursue without letup its comprehensive tax reform program along with other bold reform initiatives to keep the high-growth momentum, upgrade the living standards of the Filipino poor, eliminate official corruption, and improve the ease of doing business in order to attract more investments and create jobs for all, Dominguez added.

According to the IRO, the IEF is an annual index and ranking created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal in 1995 to measure the degree of economic freedom in the worlds nations.

The IEF ranking of countries is used as input by other institutions for their respective governance and competitiveness ratings, such as the World Bank for its Worldwide Governance Indicators. Likewise, the index is used by some institutions in formulating policy, the IRO explained.

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These principles of freedom are worth the fight by universities – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Posted: at 11:07 am

I am writing to express my support for the 50 members of the Faculty and Staff Social Justice Association at Duquesne University for their efforts to protect students by urging that the school become a sanctuary campus.Freedom of expression and right to protest are hallmarks of our democracy. This free exchange of ideas is particularly important in academic settings. I applaud the faculty members for taking this strong and righteous position against the new administration in Washington over its threats and inequitable policies against immigrant students.

While I very much respect Duquesne Universitys president and understand why he has taken a neutral stance on the sanctuary campus issue, I would urge the university to join other schools and academic leaders across the state and nation who have taken a stance in support of all their students against these shortsighted immigration policies.

Whether these students are documented immigrants or not, I do not see the point in disrupting their lives and educational pursuits. In seeking a college education, they are positioning themselves to have a positive and constructive impact on our country and its future.

I would emphasize that many police officers and law enforcement leaders across the nation have also expressed opposition to President Donald Trumps immigration crackdown. Yet another unfunded federal mandate, these proposals would only add additional enforcement and detention costs and responsibilities for local police departments stretching limited resources and placing additional financial burdens on local taxpayers. This repressive policy would also discourage immigrant populations from reporting crimes and cooperating with police officers.

I salute Duquesnes faculty members for supporting their students and urge the schools administration to bolster this ethical and principled position with full institutional support.


The writer represents the states 42nd Senatorial District.

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Freedom and Jack London draw refugees to Fairbanks – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Posted: at 11:07 am

FAIRBANKS – My story is not at all unique, said Sveta Yamin-Pasternak. Its the same as it is for over a million people just from our wave of immigration that came over. Sheand her husband Igor Pasternaks stories are far from the standard American experience, however. Though they met in Chicago, both are Jews from the Soviet Union who came to America as political refugees.

Sveta was born in Rechitsa, a small town in Belarus, and grew up in Minsk. In 1989, her parents took advantage of an opening that allowed Jews to leave. The family traveled through Austria to Rome, where they were aided by HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which helps refugees of all backgrounds re-establish themselves in new countries. They were assisted by Fairbanks-born HIAS worker Sam Sherman, with whom Sveta reconnected in Fairbanks many years later.

Igors family lived in Odessa, Ukraine, before leaving in 1992. Thawing relations between the United States and the USSR led to an American consulate being established in Moscow, and they were able to apply directly for political asylum.

Both had limited knowledge of America. For Sveta, the country existed only in my imagination, adding, It was ideologically constructed as the enemy, and at the same time it was a very desirable place.

Igor had seen VCR tapes that circulated underground and said, We believed that Hollywood was what it is. Money grows on trees. You can do whatever you want. Sex, drugs and rock n roll. I had no idea about the conservatism.

They did know about Alaska, however, mostly from Jack London novels which they read in school because the Soviets approved of his socialist politics.

Because both their families had relativesalready in Chicago, that is where they each wound up Sveta as a high school student and Igor having completed army service and studies in mechanical engineering. For both, the most astonishing thing about America was that they suddenly didnt have to hide being Jewish.

I could not believe that young men would walk on the street wearing yarmulkes, Sveta said. I was coming from the perspective that if at all you can, you would pass for a non-Jew for your everyday safety and to not be denied opportunities. It was mind blowing.

Igor, who describes his father as a big time dissident in the USSR, immediately noticed that nobody gives a damn about you. You could walk on the street and no one is looking at you. That was completely new.

That sense of freedom required getting used to, but both said the Jewish community in Chicago was supportive and they quickly learned English and settled in.

The couple met in a coffee shop near Northwestern University in 1993. They dated throughout Svetas years at Northern Illinois University, where she earned bachelors and graduate degrees in anthropology. There she became fascinated with the cultures on both sides of the Bering Strait, leading her to Fairbanks in 1998 to pursue her Ph.D.at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

To this day, the shared indigenous culture with its nuanced differences between the Russified and Americanized everyday practices just continues to fascinate me, she said.

Igor helped her move to Fairbanks and made repeated visits during her first 11/2 years here. I did not have plans to settle here, but very quickly, within the first year, it became my home, Sveta said.

When Sveta started sending him emails about friends living in dry cabins with outhouses, Igor grew concerned. I thought, OK, time to bring her back. Even in the Soviet Union they had running water and toilets, he said, laughing.

However, after visiting her waterless cabin off Farmers Loop, I realized that privacy is such an important thing. We were able to get lost in the woods for hours and nobody would bother us. All the Jack London books came back. After two years I said, I want to be here too.

Igor came to stay in 2000. While Sveta completed her Ph.D., he earned a BFA in art. Theyve made Alaska their home ever since, except for 2007 to 2009 when Igor earned his masters degreefrom American University in Washington D.C. and Sveta did post-doc work at Johns Hopkins.

These days they collaborate on projects involving both anthropological research and art. This is what I believe success is, Igor said. We work together. We figure out how to come up with something in common between studio art and social science. In addition to the standard curriculum, Sveta and Igor team-teach original courses they developed, serving more than100 UAF students eachsemester.

Theyve also embraced the Alaska lifestyle by buying land, building their home, hunting, fishing, trapping and raising animals while conducting classes and traveling the world (theyve visited more than40countries).

Both have found Fairbanks welcoming.

I dont think Ive ever had an experience in Fairbanks connected with xenophobia, Igor said. That wasnt always the case in Chicago. Here even at the gun show, nobody told me I have an accent.

Sveta added, The big cities in the United States are perceived as very diverse and they are in their entirety, but they are actually divided into ghetto neighborhoods. People remain within their own groups.

This creates fun neighborhoods, but the cultures dont mix.

In Fairbanks, it is diverse but also a lot more integrated. Most people come from Outside, she added, so being an immigrant isnt as unique.

After living in Chicago, It feels like we have even more freedom here, Igor said.

Its a refuge from the refuge. The ultimate refuge, Sveta added.

The idea of refuge has been on her mind a lot owing to current events, making her especially sensitive to refugees fleeing far worse conditions than she knew.

I did come to the United States as a refugee, she said. I did come from a country where we faced everyday persecution. Its part of our story and it is relevant to what is happening now.

David James is a freelance writer who lives in Fairbanks.Becoming Alaskan is an ongoing series documenting the lives of immigrants in Fairbanks. Feedback and suggestions for future interviews can be emailed to nobugsinak@gmail.com.

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