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Access, America

first_imgPerhaps no single journey holds more mystical fascination for Americans than the cross-country road trip. Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, and Hunter S. Thompson famously wrote about the open road as a metaphor for personal and intellectual freedom and a vehicle for self-discovery and social commentary. And for decades, it’s been a summertime rite of passage, uniting everyone from families in station wagons to intrepid campers to vagabonds and outlaws, all eager to hit the pavement and experience the nation from sea to shining sea.Kunho Kim, a Harvard College sophomore raised in South Korea, knew that one of the things he absolutely had to do while living in Cambridge was travel around the nation. Brad Riew ’17, whom Kim met on his first day of freshman year during tug-of-war at Thayer House, got on board right away. The pair began planning their itinerary in earnest last spring, picking up two more like-minded travelers along the way: You-Myeong Kim (no relation) ’17, and Cynthia Cheung, a recent graduate of the University of Bath in England.[googlemaps https://mapsengine.google.com/map/embed?mid=zt8y4eCJt8Yg.knLDuJy8lL2M&w=640&h=480]Interactive map: Ride along with Harvard College sophomore Kunho Kim and friends as they hit 20 cities on a cross-country road trip to find wheelchair-accessible options for budget travelers. Map by John McCarthy/Harvard StaffClick here for a full rendering of the interactive map.But it wasn’t long before their plan ran into a snag. Kunho Kim has needed a wheelchair to get around since a ski-jumping accident in Montana in 2010 left him paralyzed from the waist down. While researching hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing attractions that would be accessible to him, it became clear that such information, if available at all, was surprisingly hard to find. Despite more than 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law, if the information wasn’t buried deep in the back of guidebook and website listings, it was incomplete or used confusing terms.Frustrated, Kim and the group refocused their trip with a higher purpose: to gather accurate, reliable data for wheelchair travelers so others won’t have to slog through the same uncertain terrain or endure unexpected discomfort and inconvenience.“For example, getting a cab. It says they have 14 wheelchair-accessible vans, but if you actually call them, they’re like, ‘You have to wait an hour and 30 [minutes],’” said Kim. “And if you ask them how many vans they have available right now, they say, ‘We only have one running now.’” Although museums generally have wheelchair ramps and accessible entrances, he added, “You kind of need to know where to go. But that information is not readily available, so I thought that’s something I could do for people like me.”On July 10, the group piled luggage, camping gear, a cooler, and Kim’s wheelchair into a rented Ford Expedition in San Francisco and began snaking across country, hitting 20 cities and three national parks, including Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, before pulling into in Cambridge on Aug. 24. They created a blog called “Wheel Project 2014” about their trip and will use their findings to assemble a guidebook to wheelchair-friendly travel on a budget, to be published next year as part of Harvard Student Agencies’ “Let’s Go” travel series.According to U.S. Census data, about 3.6 million people over age 15 use a wheelchair; another 11.6 million require a cane, crutch, or walker to get around.Kim found that the accessibility information provided by hotels was often flat-out inaccurate, creating major headaches. Budget hotel websites that assured prospective guests that they had “roll-in” bathrooms frequently turned out to be misleading. Either the designated rooms were already booked when they checked in, or they were not truly accessible.“We asked a couple times, ‘Do you have a wheelchair-accessible bathroom?’ But once we get into the hotel, either they have a tub, or it’s not accessible and totally different from what we expected,” said Kim.“A lot of them aren’t practical. Sometimes they’ll be missing a bench, sometimes the railings would be far from the hand control, sometimes the shower nozzle would be so far apart that it would be impossible” to get wet, said You-Myeong Kim.To pay for the trip, the group raised just over $6,600 from families, friends, and other supporters through a crowd-funding website and received a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which funds research and advocacy for curing spinal-cord injuries.Now back at Currier House, Kim said that despite public awareness and sensitivity to the need for accessibility, even getting around Cambridge’s uneven brick sidewalks or in and out of its older buildings is still pretty difficult.“Harvard Square is one of the worst,” he said, noting that crossing the Yard or visiting Riew and You-Myeong Kim at Eliot and Kirkland Houses, respectively, is tough because of the narrow old doorways and steps.The ongoing House renewal program, under which renovations to Leverett House’s McKinlock Hall and Quincy House’s Stone Hall were recently completed, will bring full accessibility, including elevators, to all of Harvard’s historic undergraduate housing, said a University spokesman.Exhausted since returning to Harvard and jumping into a new semester, Kim said he’s happy the trip ended safely. And while the experience was certainly fun and exciting, just as he had hoped, it wasn’t without some trying times.“At some point of the trip, I just wanted to quit everything and wanted to leave,” he said. Fortunately, the group helped pick him up in his darkest hours. “The positivity they had was the drive to help me withstand the pressure and the stress” of traveling and producing a book. “What I learned by the end of the trip is to enjoy the trip and worry about the book later.”All in all, Kim said, “It was the best summer I had so far. I can say that proudly.”last_img read more

Pollster looks at how pandemic, loss of RBG may affect election

first_img Comey defends ‘nightmare I can’t awaken from’ GAZETTE: What question reveals the most vital information in this election?HARRISON:  For an incumbent president, presidential job approval is really key. An election with an incumbent is typically seen as a retrospective vote on the performance of that incumbent. The closest indicator we have of that is “presidential job approval.” That is a key indicator I look at other than something like presidential vote choice.GAZETTE: Which is the more important number, job approval or disapproval? On average, polls show Trump with approvals in the low 40s and disapprovals in the low 50s.HARRISON:  It’s not clear whether it’s approval that drives it or disapproval that drives it. The notion is that people are registering their evaluation on the incumbent. It’s a different dynamic when there are two challengers. But for an incumbent president, you ordinarily want to see job approval being high. If it perfectly correlates with the vote, above 50 percent would get you the election. Trump’s approval has been below 50 for most of his presidency, and that’s the one factor that ordinarily is the most suggestive in a race with an incumbent.GAZETTE: If there’s a dramatic uptick in voting by mail and/or early voting, how does that change the way that campaigns will use polling data, and does it change how the public should be looking at them as well?HARRISON:  Since there are going to be more people voting earlier now, it should make the pre-election polls more accurate. With an Election Day exit poll, you’re finding out how people voted five or six hours or so before the votes are counted. With early voting or vote by mail, you’re finding out days, even weeks, before. So that should make them more accurate. Now the caveat I’d have here is this assumes that the mailed ballots are received and are counted. In the primaries, there were a number of problems with mail ballots being disqualified for different sorts of reasons. So what I’m going to be looking at closely is how the mail is functioning, but even more so, how many of those mailed ballots are disqualified when they’re received. Because that’s a case where you could see pre-election polls or even exit polls differ from the election results. A poll can only measure whom you intended to vote for; it doesn’t measure whether that vote was counted.GAZETTE: What impact could the vacancy on the Supreme Court have on the election?HARRISON:  It’s hard to tell. Historically, Republican voters have been more passionate in translating court choices into votes, so a simple take is it would benefit Trump, if only in energizing turnout from socially conservative voters. But if you look at the specific states in play and the coalitions in play, it might be more complex. Trump was already doing well among the conservative voters who care about the court. In contrast, in the last election, Trump drew quite a few votes from working-class voters, especially in the Midwest, who are pro-choice, and who might care about the court shifting too far to the right on social issues. So, I don’t have a clear take on whether in the end it will impact the election one way or another.GAZETTE: How are polling firms adjusting for respondents who want to mislead or deceive them or making sure that they’re not just talking to people willing to answer polls?HARRISON:  There’s not a ton of evidence that people lie to pollsters about their election choices in the United States. The bigger problem is that you get different types of people completing the poll than you sampled. You have a low response rate and its differential for some groups, with education being the classic one that tripped people up in 2016. So what you try to do is to adjust for all of the factors that you can measure, to control for that differential nonresponse. The key factors that people typically include are geographic region, sometimes urbanicity, gender, age, education, race. Once you control for region, urbanicity, gender, age, education, and race, you should have a more accurate result. I would point out that the national polls in 2016 were almost remarkably right. They overestimated Clinton by about a percentage point and in fact, most of the polls had come out before the [former FBI Director James] Comey revelation [about the discovery of emails possibly linked to an investigation of Clinton’s private email server]. There was a lot of talk about “shy Trump voters” in 2016. There’s not much empirical evidence for that.GAZETTE: What about in this election?HARRISON:  Well, people don’t seem to be very shy about announcing their support for Donald Trump. Wearing a hat is certainly something more public than telling a pollster that you support a candidate. If there were a “shy Trump” effect you’d expect to see self-administered polls like internet polls showing higher margins for Trump than interviewer-administered telephone polls. You don’t see that. “The race could hinge on Michigan, Wisconsin, or Pennsylvania. If Trump wins Florida, he could probably take the election with any one of those three states, and they will all be slow-counting states.” Related Fall poll finds them divided on the scope and style of change needed for the nation GAZETTE: With the Electoral College, only about eight states will decide this election. Which demographic group of voters in these states are potentially the most decisive?HARRISON:  The thing I’m watching the most is voters 65-plus because that’s a large group. It’s a group that’s supported Trump before. And so, as the data currently suggests that they’re not supporting Trump, it’s hard to see how Trump can pull off a re-election without an advantage in voters 65-plus even if Trump improves his margins with Hispanic voters. In Florida, if you compare the Hispanic vote to the 65-plus vote, even though they’re both large, there’s really no comparison in terms of the influence on the election.By and large, the swing states are the same as they were last time. The one real exception seems to be Arizona, which has been polling consistently well for, in fact possibly better for, Biden than some of the upper Midwest states. … So that’s going to be an interesting state to watch.GAZETTE: A record number cast votes for a midterm election in 2018. Does robust voter turnout favor one candidate over the other?HARRISON:  The current data tends to show that Biden does slightly better among all voters than he does among likely voters. The fewer survey respondents who are considered likely voters, the more the results tend to shift a little bit toward Trump. It’s not really pronounced, but it’s enough to make a difference in a close election. So, I would say a high turnout election would benefit Biden. It’s one of the reasons I’m looking so much at that 65-plus vote, just because it’s not what I would have expected. And, if it holds, it would make all of the other factors less relevant because it’s a large demographic group, with high levels of turnout, that supported Trump in 2016. Faith in the ballot Public opinion research will need an impeccable 2020 election to repair its battered credibility after 2016, when most polls on Election Day had Hillary Clinton clearly ahead if not running away with the presidential race. It will be an especially tricky election taking place amid an ongoing pandemic, reeling economy, civil unrest, wildfires in the West, and the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaving a particularly consequential vacancy on the Supreme Court. Voting is now underway in 29 states, with a record six in 10 registered voters saying they want to cast their ballots before Nov. 3. What insight can the polls offer on this unprecedented election? Chase H. Harrison is senior preceptor in survey research in the Department of Government and associate director of the Program on Survey Research at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. The Gazette spoke with him about what polling suggests about this year’s race so far and what he’ll be paying attention to during the campaigns’ final weeks.Q&AChase HarrisonGAZETTE:  Many voters have become very skeptical since 2016, when polling in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where the election was decided, failed to anticipate key factors like the large pro-Trump turnout or that undecided voters overwhelmingly broke late for Trump. What’s different this time?HARRISON:  The biggest change is that in 2016, many statewide polls were not weighting their data by education, so they were not adjusting for differences in the level of education in respondents. People with college degrees, almost across the board, have higher response rates to surveys than people without college degrees. Prior to 2016, there weren’t huge differences in the vote based on college degree and non-college degree. The polls that didn’t weight by education systematically overestimated Clinton’s vote. It’s also a problem that you’re trying to do analysis by state, and many of the state-level polls are of middling quality. There are a small number of good polls. What is different is most polls are now weighting for education. People think they’ve learned the lessons from 2016, so we should expect the polls to be at least a little bit better.GAZETTE: What are some interesting trend lines you’re seeing right now?HARRISON:  In 2016, voters 65 and older were one of the groups that was most likely to support Trump. The polling now is showing that these voters are more evenly split or even that they slightly prefer Biden. And since this is such a large group, and it’s especially concentrated in some swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, it has the potential to move the popular vote and also the Electoral College toward Biden. I think that’s the most interesting trend that I’m following right now. It’s also true the Biden doesn’t seem to be doing as well among African American and Hispanic voters as [Hillary] Clinton did, and that is reflected in the marginal difference in the two-party vote. That’s mostly due to a higher percentage of those voters saying that they don’t know who they’re going to vote for, as opposed to Trump increasing his actual numbers with that group. But unless Biden makes up that difference, that would be trouble for him unless it is counterbalanced with a larger group such as voters with a college degree or voters age 65-plus. The other thing that’s always interesting to me, especially teaching in a college environment, is whether younger voters, who prefer Biden, will actually turn out to vote. Normally, younger voters have low levels of turnout. The one exception to that in recent times was in 2008 voting for Barack Obama. So it will be interesting to see if the youth voter turnout is like it was in 2008 or more like 2016. “Since there are going to be more people voting earlier now, it should make the pre-election polls more accurate.” How white evangelicals tour the nation’s capital and redeem a Christian America In Kennedy School appearance, former FBI director revisits his decisions during 2016 presidential election Young voters found more pragmatic than progressive GAZETTE: Even though most states may not finish counting ballots on Election Night, which state could be a reliable bellwether on Nov. 3 for the eventual winners?HARRISON:  The state to watch on the eve of the election is Florida because Florida allows early counting of absentee ballots, they have a history with large vote-by-mail, and they are likely to report the results on election night. So if Florida goes for Biden, we will know on election night that it’s exceptionally unlikely that Trump can win the election.This year, the thing that we haven’t had in the past is we could have some suspense for some number of days after the election where the ballots have not been counted in ways that could impact the Electoral College in one way or another. The race could hinge on Michigan, Wisconsin, or Pennsylvania. If Trump wins Florida, he could probably take the election with any one of those three states, and they will all be slow-counting states.GAZETTE: What will you look for in the polls to see how public concerns over COVID-19 may be influencing who is voting and who is not?HARRISON:  There are really two unknowns we don’t have any experience with to make any evaluation. One of them is voter turnout in a pandemic. And the other is how well mass mail voting functions in most states. And so with those two items, that is going to insert more variability into the election results and into differences between the polls and the election compared to anything that the polls might tell us. So I don’t know the factors I would be looking at this year because they’re not the factors I would look at in other years. But they would be things like what percentage of ballots are mailed early or what percentage of them are disqualified? Are COVID rates going up or down? Are people more willing to go outside or less willing to go outside? All sorts of factors like that.Interview has been edited for clarity and length.last_img read more

Artificial intelligence gears up to fight a future coronavirus

first_imgDisease outbreaks like the coronavirus often unfold too quickly for scientists to find a cure. But in the future, artificial intelligence could help researchers do a better job.While it’s probably too late for the fledgling technology to play a major role in the current epidemic, there’s hope for the next outbreaks. AI is good at combing through mounds of data to find connections that make it easier to determine what kinds of treatments could work or which experiments to pursue next.The question is what Big Data will come up with when it only gets meager scraps of information on a newly emerged illness like Covid-19, which first emerged late last year in China and has sickened more than 75,000 people in about two months.The fact that researchers managed to produce the gene sequencing of the new virus within weeks of the first reported cases is promising, since it shows there’s far more immediate data available now when outbreaks happen.Andrew Hopkins, chief executive officer of Oxford, England-based startup Exscientia Ltd. is among those working to help train artificial intelligence for drug discovery. He figures new treatments could go from conception to clinical testing in as little as 18 to 24 months within the next decade, thanks to AI.Exscientia designed a new compound for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder that’s ready to be tested in the lab after less than a year in the initial research phase. That’s about five times faster than average, according to the company.Cambridge-based Healx has a similar approach, but it uses machine learning to find new uses for existing drugs. Both companies feed their algorithms with information — gleaned from sources such as journals, biomedical databases and clinical trials — to help suggest new treatments for diseases.Human SupervisionThe two companies each use a team of human researchers to work alongside the AI to help guide the process. In Exscientia’s approach, dubbed the Centaur Chemist, drug designers help teach the algorithms strategies for searching for compounds. Healx puts the AI’s predictions to researchers who analyze the results and decide what to pursue.Neil Thompson, Healx’s chief science officer, said the technique could be deployed against an outbreak like the coronavirus as long as it had enough data on the new disease. Healx isn’t working on tackling the coronavirus or tweaking its technology for outbreaks, but it wouldn’t be a stretch.“We’re quite close,” Thompson said in an interview. “We wouldn’t need to change much about the AI algorithms we use. We look at matching drug properties to disease features.”One catch for all these technologies is clinical testing. Even drugs already safe for use to cure one ailment should be tested again before they’re prescribed for another. The process of showing they are safe and effective on a large number of people can take years before going to regulators for review.To be effective, AI-based drug developers would have to plan ahead of time, picking out a virus genome likely to cause problems in the future and targeting it when there are few incentives to do so.Read more about how drugmakers are hunting for ways to halt the coronavirus.Another obstacle is finding qualified staff.“It’s hard to find people who can operate at the intersection of AI and biology, and it’s difficult for big companies to make quick decisions on technology like this,” said Irina Haivas, a partner at venture capital firm Atomico and former surgeon who sits on the board of Healx. “It’s not enough to be an AI engineer, you have to understand and get into the applications of biology.”Topics :last_img read more

5v5 Vainglory pre-reg now open, grand unveiling set for World Championship

first_imgVainglory has today opened pre-registration for its upcoming 5v5 mode. The mode has long been discussed and remains in closed beta but would-be players can now pre-register for a chance to enter the Early Access. Kristian Segerstale, Super Evil MegacorpThe upcoming Vainglory 5v5 map has been built ‘from the ground up’ by a team of PC MOBA designers and former competitive players of the title. Super Evil Megacorp CEO Kristian Segerstrale commented: “When we started Super Evil Megacorp, we set out to challenge the notion that mobile-first gamers were somehow inferior to gamers on other platforms.“We believed that every phone was a portable next-gen console, and that every mobile player deserved games just as core, strategic and performant as players on PC. Over the past three years, millions of players across the globe rallied to our cause, embracing real-time multiplayer gaming on touchscreens, shifting the market in our direction.“Fueled by that momentum, our mission now is creating a 5v5 MOBA that is deeply strategic and tactical, with console-grade performance, based on deep, original fantasy and personality-rich storytelling.”According to the press release the 5v5’s closed beta is conducting around-the-clock playtests with ‘players from multiple regions and all skill tiers’.Segerstrale continued: “We have been working closely with our closed beta community to get our 5v5 exactly right, and we will show it off to everyone at our upcoming World Championship in Singapore in December. We will be growing the early-access community as we move toward launch. If you want to be part of the journey putting final touches on 5v5, be sure to pre-register.”During the Vainglory 2017 World Championship event, which is being held at Singapore’s Kallang Theatre in December (14-17), will see the grand reveal of the 5v5 mode to the public. Cloud9 and Rox Armada are the two teams to have qualified for the event to date. Esports Insider says: Exciting news to come out of the Super Evil camp for Vainglory fans, and it’s good to hear they’re waiting to reveal the new mode to the public until it’s been fully tested by both experts and players at all levels.last_img read more