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Horton examines mistreatment in Guantánamo:

(04/09/10 8:00am)

Scott Horton, admitted jokingly, that he is no Al Gore. But those who attended his talk Thursday knew they had stepped into the right room. Horton, a journalist, lawyer, professor and contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, spoke Thursday on his extensive research regarding Guantánamo Bay. His talk, immediately after the former vice president visited campus, was a part of the conference “Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on extraordinary rendition at the state and regional level.” Through extensive research with law students in New Jersey, Horton published an exposé in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine about the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.  On the evening of June 9, 2006, three prisoners died suddenly at Guantánamo. The U.S. government asserted that their deaths were suicides, but Horton’s research regarding the incident contends otherwise. Horton interviewed several witnesses, sergeants and guards who worked in the camp and later came to the conclusion that the prisoners’ deaths were the result of severe torture by camp officials. He noted that the public announcement that the deaths were suicides was simply a government cover-up. “The thing I thought most amazing about researching this is when I actually succeeded in identifying and interviewing prison guards—they all took it as a matter of given that of course the government’s story isn’t true. Everyone knew that,” Horton said. “They all, in fact, stated that they had been ordered not to contradict this official statement even though of course you know it’s not true.” Although the prison in Guantánamo Bay was originally designed to contain high-risk terrorists, specifically al-Qaeda members, to obtain information, the U.S. government has deviated from their originally targeted prisoners. Horton noted that the key to enemy detainment is to be sure that the detainee is actually a hostile combatant. “If you seize them on the battlefield somewhere, they are. But if you seize them shopping in a grocery store in France, because you think that they made some contribution to a charity that funded the hospital that once gave aid to a terrorist, and therefore they are subject to being detained—and believe it or not, the U.S. Department of Justice had made that argument—that’s not an enemy combatant,” Horton said. Horton’s main topic of discussion Thursday pertained to the Guantánamo prisoners’ mistreatment, which he said was unconstitutional. Horton noted that President Barack Obama’s promise as a senator to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp was not realized after he took office. “Barack Obama voiced strong criticisms of Guantánamo in his story of campaign to the presidency but his impressive oratory has only been reflected in key policy choices,” Horton said. Most of Horton’s research was derived from those who were in Guantánamo before Obama took office—those who said they were silenced by the George W. Bush administration, but spoke out after Obama promised to close the camp.  One of Horton’s key witnesses, Joseph Hickman, who was an Army staff sergeant at Guantánamo the night of the three deaths, said he gave his accounts with the assurance that he would not be silenced by a new administration. “[Hickman] told me he really felt when he saw [Obama’s speech] that he was now free to talk about this,” Horton said. Although the event was not well attended by Duke students, several members from sponsoring organizations like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law were in attendance. 

18 admitted to new Cardea program

(09/11/09 8:00am)

In a University where perfect scores on science Advanced Placement exams and SAT subject tests are not surprising, Cardea Fellows allows science classes to be a bit less daunting. Cardea Fellows, a four-year pre-health program that incorporates creative seminars and interactive courses in biology and chemistry, helps students who may not have had such an opportunity to develop strong backgrounds necessary for health professions. This program, in its first semester, reflects this vision for not only the students but also for the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. “We really want students to know when to collaborate and to compete—and when to collaborate to compete,” said Lee Baker, Trinity dean of academic affairs. The program consists of Chem20, a required course of the curriculum, and Bio49S, “Medical Biology,” a freshman seminar. The curriculum still follows all Trinity requirements and it is managed in a flexible way, Baker said. Eighteen students were admitted this year, from two international countries and almost a dozen states. The students are selected by looking at their academic experiences, commitment to science, teamwork and their interest in Chem20. “True to our mission, we were seeking high-achieving students who enjoy working with others, but with limited backgrounds in science and math,” Alyssa Perz-Edwards, director of the Cardea Fellows Program, wrote in an e-mail. The program covers its expenses without any new funding from the University—it uses resources like the Academic Resource Center and pre-health advising staff, Perz-Edwards said. Duke has also been receiving donations from external sources, Baker noted. “The beauty of this is that this is an innovative program from a constrained budget,” Baker said. The special freshman seminar for this program is taught by Dan Scheirer, chief pre-health adviser and Trinity associate dean. His course uses interactive media that he wrote and designed called “Biology Basics” to replicate experiments by scientists Francesco Redi and Louis Pasteur. The seminar focuses on broad views of biology—the consistent and evolving knowledge base in the science—as well as new dynamic relationships between biology, politics, religion, business and technology. “The importance of this approach is that medical schools do not require applicants to be biology majors, or even science majors, although many are,” Scheirer wrote in an e-mail. “So my goal is to ‘bring biology to life’ for students with all kinds of majors.” With the help of these classes, the program helps students explore their career options as well, participants said. “I think that the program will help us understand the breadth of options in the health care field, and it will include programming specially targeted to improve our knowledge of medicine and health care,” freshman Andrew Lay, a program participant, wrote in an  e-mail. Freshman Mariah Hukins, a Chronicle cartoonist, said the program changed her mind about medicine, opening her to the various aspects of the health field and “not just the stereotypical types.” As a new program with strong goals and purpose, the Cardea Fellows program centers on students’ potential and needs—not only academically but also socially, Perz-Edwards said.