Friday, April 28, 2017

The Secret Nation: How an Economic Boom Occurred Amidst Plague and Famine

Paul Fischer
Professor Katlyn Morris
Assistant Professor Jeremy Romanul

The Secret Nation: How an Economic Boom Occurred Amidst Plague and Famine

The nation of Somalia lost over 250,000 people in 2011 to starvation (McVeigh). In the last couple of years the rate of death has increased and the median age stands at 17 years old, a phenomenon not seen in Vermont since the 1820s. In Vermont parents moved West in search of riches; Somalia has lost the older generation to the altogether more sinister specter of death. Historical precedent and medical background of the epidemiology of oppression and deprivation must be explored to establish a successful route out of what has been described by some as a nightmare on the wrong plane.

Cholera: Neglect and Willful Exacerbation

Cholera, once contracted is deadly and inefficient or ill informed methods of treating the disease can be less effective than inaction, as was seen in a Russian outbreak during which doctors saw 1097 of 1968 patients pass away. In one report of this incident, common in European countries throughout early urbanization, it is stated that, “It will be seen that in private treatment the deaths under the Allopatric or ordinary method were 39 per cent, and under the Homeopathic little more than 9 per cent; and that in hospitals it was 56 per cent” (Wilkinson, 6). In addition to inadequate measures to fight the epidemiology of the disease, failure to diagnose it meant that the sick were frequently not brought in until they were “violently” diseased and heavily dosed with medications.
Many of the epidemiological and technical difficulties faced by such early, both rural and urban outbreaks of the disease are also present in African countries such as Somalia. Cholera is a fast acting disease and just one of several diseases that have broken out in the region in recent years. The primary means of infection are through drinking water, though once hosted, the disease can be very contagious and can spread through any droplets so the contagion can easily spread to many regions if not effectively controlled, making obstruction or inefficacy of aid efforts all the more infuriating and dangerous. The fear experienced by a young girl who awakes in a town affected by a deadly form of cholera is explicit in The Secret Garden, a novel written during the height of colonial choleric outbreaks, reading, “the cholera had broken out in its most fatal form and people were dying like flies … others had run away in terror. There was panic on every side, and dying people in the bungalows” (Burnett, 4).
Diarrhea is followed by dizziness, pain, dehydration, and ultimately mortality. Modern treatment is effective, and clean water can make a world of difference to assist in recovery. In regions affected by the worst poverty a combination of lack of resources and political structures conducive to quagmire such as Al-Shabaab, a militant group with a history of refusing access to international aid organizations, has impeded mitigation or improvement attempts (McVeigh).
Prominent among these are lack of effective treatment techniques and training as well as policies or political struggle that sets the efforts of international organizations to assist back. Such efforts are also exacerbated by lack of access to basic commodities including nutrition in a nation that has suffered an increase in the Consumer Price Index of 20% since already inflated prices following a costly civil war (FEWSNET). The causes of this situation despite falling oil prices must be further explored.

Starvation and Co-ordination with other Avoidable Harms

With drought comes food deprivation and attempts to make what little supplies are available last, including through the adulteration of clean water with potables or other contaminants. In this way, lack of access to clean water or adequate foodstuffs can initiate other public health crises including biological incidents (McVeigh).  In addition to direct mortalities, nearly 10 percent of the population of Somalia has been displaced.
Central to price fluctuations that have been demonstrated in the region has been civil conflict and sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia. Regions inclusive of parts of Somalia such as Somaliland have seen a resurgence of economic growth, but the general region including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia represent millions more in or near starvation and mean that neighboring assistance is not likely. Wage depression means that price fluctuations are felt more acutely now than before in combination with the forces of inflation (FEWSNET).
Direct assistance of the sort provided in the film by the Love Army is not effective, by admission of the interventionists themselves. Even though a tonne of rice only costs a fraction of the millions of dollars raised, protecting any resources costs significantly more. In the capital city of Mogadishu robberies, car bombings, and shootings are but a few of the violent encounters that have become everyday affairs.

Addressing the Issues: Root Solutions

Multiple interventions have been tried in Africa, and in Somalia international intervention dates back to the days of dictatorship. The Structural Adjustments Programs during the 1980s were interventions that appeared effective in nature, but ended up bolstering established businesses while hitting small farmers near the point of starvation the hardest (Muangi). By privatizing veterinary services, the services became out of the price range of others.
Sometimes technology can be the best tool to distribute, and the one most difficult for local intimidation factors to rob and sell back for more instruments of war. Distributed technology rights and patents also circumvent issues of distribution, of the sort that now ensures ⅓ of sub saharan children are malnourished. One example of a way this can make money appear out of seemingly overcapacity farmland is by treating animals for disease appropriately and breeding them with maximum efficiency.
To put this example in play, one can take a Boran livestock, that many Africans today breed for the purpose of using the strongest and most prolific or highest-yield livestock. A strong body is customarily associated with hardiness. In reality, however, this is not the case for the cattle, and many die as a result of infection. By breeding using modern technology to avoid early termination of such infected cattle, higher yields can be produced using smaller amounts of land. Even with the spread of this technology and others, however, there is still much work to be done and while livestock provides food and sustenance for 60% of Somalia’s population, the increase in cattle production has not satisfied the hunger demands in the country or region such that the average worker can only afford 7-12 kg of foodstuffs per day’s labor, a 10% decrease from the amounts during mass starvation (FEWSNET).
The secret nation is the unrecognized state of Somaliland. Many reforms there have been successful, most notably removing violence from the political process. By enforcing free and open elections, despite the effect of "wahhadists", the state has given a template for success that has not been appropriately investigated. Without approval from neighboring states, the functional region does conduct independent trading with large nations such as Saudi Arabia. There are also public services that are not available in Somalia that have contributed to a relative sense of success in the area.
Burnett, F. H. (2002). The secret garden. Macmillan.
FEWSNET (March and April, 2017). Somalia Livestock Price Bulletin. Famine Early Warning System Network.
McVeigh, Karen (3 February, 2017). Somalia Famine Fears Prompt U.N. Call for ‘Immediate and Massive’ Reaction. The Guardian.
Muangi, Thumbi (26 April, 2017). Better livestock policies pathway out of poverty. The Herald.

Wilkinson, James John Garth (1855). War, Cholera, and the Ministry of Health: An Appeal to Sir Benjamin Hall and the British People. Clapp.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The American Beaver

Paul Fischer
Professor Alice Daniels

The American Beaver

Before engineering, the first things everyone thinks of when a beaver is mentioned are the unique bright orange teeth that mark one of the mammal’s favorite past-times: forest felling. In fact, they are not completely orange, but instead this appearance is from a layer of outer enamel that is harder than the rest of the dentin in the tooth (Holland, 353). As an herbivore, the largest rodent in North America actually uses the sharp, beveled edge created by movement of the incisors against lower teeth to fell trees, shorten twigs, and sharpen their teeth as a recreational activity as seen in figure 2.
Such dams are necessary for breeding as they give beavers access to the water where the mating occurs almost exclusively as well as to the surrounding environment in the bitter cold of the months January to March (407). The escape of beavers during the occasional January thaw to retrieve fresh food can be seen in tracks such as that in figure (368). Females have a short period of time when they are receptive to the attention of the male, around 22-24 hours, and a successful incident will result in between three and six kits, or young beavers, being born between May and July.
Young beavers will frequently spend several weeks of their life inside the dams, or lodges one of which can be viewed in figure 1 (84). This is because of another fascinating feature of beavers, the oil and castoreum used to grease and waterproof fur, that develops a little later. They will be driven from the home after a few years and before little siblings are born, meaning brother and sister are terms without meaning for beavers.
Oil to waterproof the beavers are not the only fascinating aspect of the beaver that adapts the prolific mammal to life in water and on land alike. In fact, the adaptations that allow the beaver to exist on land and underwater are numerous and relatively unique among rodent species (321-3). From webbed feet to a nictitating membrane, or transparent third eylid, the top of the beaver to the tail has been dramatically altered for survival in a variety of warm and cold, dry and wet environments. Even the respiratory system of the beaver is fundamentally altered from that of other species to allow use of five times as much of the oxygen inhaled as humans and to voluntarily increase bloodflow to the brain allowing toleration of higher levels of CO2. To put that in perspective, some beavers might be able to survive, for a period at least, without a suit on parts of Mars, where oxygen levels run at under 1% the level found on Earth, though humans have permanent brain damage as levels of oxygen decrease to under 5 or even the 12% found at higher altitudes (Williams).
A high distribution of predators means that stealth is not only limited to ease of transport in multiple environments and naturally nocturnal behavior, but even the communication of beavers has been altered. Rather than using calls or acrobatic body language, their primary means of communication is through scent mounds of mud and vegetation mixed with pungent gland residue.


Figure 1: Beaver dam in a wetland
Centennial Woods Natural Preserve, Vermont, 2017

Figure 2: Evidence of beaver lodge-building activity
Centennial Woods Natural Preserve, Vermont, 2017


Holland, M. (2010). Naturally Curious. Trafalgar Square Books.

Williams, D. R. (2016). Mars fact sheet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Greenbelt, MD Retrieved from http://nssdc. gsfc. nasa. gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact  (April 24, 2017).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

We Got You Covered

Paul Fischer
Professor Lisa Dion

We Got You Covered © started as a pet project to give users an automated experience playing music without the hassle of getting up to turn pages or invest in a complicated system to turn pages as you play live music. By bringing your music and the music of your favorite artists from the sheets to the stage your cover band or quintet can easily master the most complicated music recorded in history. Get started here and hop into our sheet music: let us cover your dive into our unique automatic page-flipping mechanism. You can play an old rag tune with little more than a washboard and chickenbones or even organize an entire orchestra by porting the website through mobile devices. Yes, you are reading correctly, this website is fully mobile-optimized!
The fun doesn't end with performance. We Got You Covered also provides a contextualized service that allows even a novice music historian to place artists into a cohesive vision of modern and classical music theory provided by the website’s trained experts. Fun facts, pictures, and, of course, music lists can all be accessed through this brand new up and coming website.
Should you be interested in picking up more cool information and music or sharing your own tidbits or comments, our website also has a fully functional email list and submit option. Music has been developing for thousands of years and there is no reason that trend should stop with you. Start the next trend by composing and submitting your own work or the work of your favorite artists to be considered for  inclusion into the website!
We hope you enjoy your interactive trip through musical history with this multimedia extravaganza of popular songs, symphonies, quintets, and even ballets. If you know of a hot musical trend you can submit the idea and your contact information to get updates.  It was fun to make the site and provides an educational experience for users as well as developers: we look forward to hearing from you!
All three of the web designers have basic HTML coding credentials now and varied backgrounds that have allowed the website to develop appropriately. John learned FORTRAN (Formula Translation) and COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) for professional reasons before becoming interested in modern website design. Rachel studies film and television with a focus on television and is now beginning to learn website programming for computers. Paul is a history and environmental studies major who has taken classes in music before, fields that jived well with the topic of our website. He has learned programming in C and C++ and is completing a certificate in cybersecurity has well.

The University of Vermont is proud to sponsor musical and historical endeavors as well as STEM initiatives training young students in the languages of the future. This has become more critical to workplace functionality in recent years and both of these are foci inclusive of the academic goals at this research institution. No corporate or competing sponsorship has been disclosed in the development of the website. Right now this website operates under standard educational copyright standards

Monday, April 10, 2017

Environmental Justice: From Cancer Alley to the Aarhus Convention

Paul Fischer
Teaching Assistant Jeremy Romanul
Professor Katlyn Morris

Environmental Justice: From Cancer Alley to the Aarhus Convention

One group that bears the effects of environmental pollution disproportionately are rural farm-workers. This is because protective gear does not always work and because the government is not present to ensure the efficacy of such gear. More importantly rampant illiteracy among this group in nations such as South Africa or Brazil mean that members of this group are frequently associated with a sense of hopelessness that reflects their inability to take action to better such a situation. This is a classic example of environmental injustice. Organizations in the developed world such as the Farmworker Association of Florida have taken steps to try and better fellow workers attempts to complete their work.
One such organization, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), deals with another group of the disenfranchised: the chronically poor who live in Kosovo and other Central and Eastern European areas. One study from these regions showed that 88% of the children under the age of 6 had severe lead poisoning such that immediate medical intervention was necessitated. These groups communicate through the forum of conventions, such as the 1998 Aarhus Convention, which HEAL adheres to.
Both farm workplace poisoning as well as lead poisoning are specific examples of environmental harms that can exist without groups who stand in the way of corporate or national interests. An example of benefits that can occur as a result of Environmental Justice activism includes the success of Concerned Citizens of Norco, founded by Margie Richard in 1990. The town in Louisiana is home to 120 petrochemical facilities, incinerators, and landfills and is known by Chemical Corridor or Cancer Alley. After a prolonged period of visible campaigns and a 2001 presentation in the Netherlands at the headquarters of Royal/Dutch Shell, relocation was offered to community members affected by pollution and emissions were reduced by 30%. Richard won the 2004 Goldman Environmental Prize.

One area that remains muddy is how corporations have avoided to make environmental justice concerns a fundamental pillar of economic and political considerations even in the United States, nevermind other nations with severely affected or culpable communities. NGOs are a start, but even the EPA is clearly not sufficient to adequately direct the actions of massive corporations many times the size of any government bureau or office. Because many resource of Earth are shared, and the effect of pollution is rarely contained to any one entity, it may be time for international organizations to step up in a major fashion to achieve tangible goals and objectives.

Monday, April 3, 2017

History of Musical Trends in the 1850s to 1900

Paul Fischer

History of Musical Trends in the 1850s to 1900

The 1850s saw the burgeoning classical music industry ripen with an almost pungent odor of success. While new musical forms such as jazz, salsa, and eventually pop would shock and invigorate listeners across the globe within a century, this final stage of classical dominance heardsome of the most technically proficient and abundant masterpieces. The romantic period saw the ripening of the careers of traditional musicians exemplified in Brahms' Liebslieder (1869) and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (1892). Both of these works equate the joys of childhood and innocence with the themes of romanticism already latent in European painting and literature. As perhaps an example of the only time period in which the profits and yields of industrialization could be focused on one set of objectives, the development of a Euro-centric romanticism, the work not only eclipsed but surpassed the work of innovators in the field in a definitive manner.
Expansion of the railroads during this period is evident in the music of the artists such as Josef Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony and the manner in which brassy sections open and present mark a rivalrous departure from other choral and religious composers of the time, despite the common musical ancestry of Mozart and, more recently, even Beethoven. Many different themes are inherent in the incredible development of classical music in Europe at the time. These include the religious grounding and explosion of fervor seemingly justified by not only the discovery but the realization of riches, populations, wars, emotions and tragedy on a scale not only previously unimaginable, but unimaginable from any scale previously imaginable.
Not all music of the period, however, was limited to the realm of classical work and opera houses. Home on the Range is provided as an example of tune composed in 1871 by Daniel Kelly to a poem written by Brewster Higley. In addition to the European infrastructural inward expansion allowing a greater proliferation of musical geniuses than in all the history of mankind prior to that point, American railroads were redefining the perceptions of peripheries as social and cultural constructs. A melting pot of Irish-American, African-American, European and other counter-cultures were all at the cusp of recognition, a throbbing hub of innovation just under the surface of the frontier lifestyle. By the 1900s, the music industry had dramatically changed and perhaps the most important aspect of this was the move from live audiences to gramophones and rags, both of which were finally commercially available to the masses by virtue of mass production and assembly-line factories.

Latin Jazz and the End of an Era

The end of the period saw the musical industry begin chugging as steadily as the steam engines, and Scott Joplin’s Solace (1909) will be included as an example of the developing Latin Jazz genre. While it was only published in 1909, a combination of musical and racial discrimination meant that habanera music had been popular in America for decades before any “rags” were published. By the 1940s this would become an entire genre and produce award-winning albums through the 1970s with broad popular appeal. For listeners in the late 1800s, though, the clave-style beat and off-center gathering of instrumental acoustic devices created a whirlwind of counter-cultural production right in the middle of urban areas.