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Senate Committee Investigates Leading Universities And Museums Over Failures To Repatriate Human Remains



This article was originally published on propublic, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism editorial.

More than a dozen senators are pushing for museums and universities that hold the most Native American remains to explain why they failed for decades to return thousands of them to the tribes, as required by federal law.

Members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and other senators have singled out for scrutiny the five institutions identified in recent investigation by ProPublica and NBC News as having the largest collections of indigenous remains, including influential and prestigious universities with a long history of delaying repatriation requests.

“It’s unforgivable, it’s immoral, it’s hypocritical, and it needs to stop,” committee chairman Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said.

In letters sent Thursday to the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, Ohio History Connections, the Illinois State Museum and Indiana University, senators called the slow pace of repatriation of Native American remains and property under a 1990 federal law “unacceptable.” ”

“For too long, Indian ancestral remains and cultural treasures have been shamelessly banned from returning home by institutions, defiled by scientific research, publicly displayed as specimens, left to gather dust on a shelf, or simply thrown into a box and forgotten in a museum. pantry,” the senators wrote.

More than 30 years ago, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, requiring museums, universities, and federally funded government agencies to identify human remains they believe are Native Americans and then work with tribal peoples over their repatriation.

Lawmakers expected the process to be completed or nearly completed within five years, the senators’ letter said, but “there is a huge amount of work to be done.”

More than 100,000 ancestral remains are still preserved in hundreds of institutions across the country, according to an analysis of federal data by news organizations. Nobody else has UC Berkeleyfrom 9000 and then Illinois State Museum And Ohio history connection.

Senators wrote that Congress “continues to receive disturbing testimony” about the agencies’ poor enforcement of the law, including insufficient consultation with tribes, poor tracking and misidentification of items, disrespect for traditional knowledge, and allegations that repatriation efforts are being avoided or slowed down.

In response to a request from news organizations to comment on the senators’ letter, UC Berkeley said in a statement that it would cooperate “in full transparency” with Senate requests. He apologized for the harm caused by his inaction and stated that repatriation is now a top priority.

“We take responsibility and accountability for past failures and mistakes of the university in terms of repatriation and tribal relations,” he added.

A spokesman for the Ohio History Connection said it welcomes the Senators’ attention to NAGPRA, adding in a statement, “This work requires a lot of resources and time – both for institutions like ours and for federally recognized tribes – to get the repatriation done.” on such a large scale.”

fredcate, Indiana Universityvice president of research, said the school has appointed six staff members in recent years to work on NAGPRA compliance. “It’s all about coming to a consensus with the tribes that we’re working with,” which takes time, he said.

Harvard and the Illinois State Museum did not comment Thursday; Harvard previously apologized for past collection practices, and the Illinois Museum said it had plans in place to speed up NAGPRA compliance.

In the letters, the senators asked universities and museums to respond to a list of written questions within two months, including how they decide whether to grant or deny tribal requests and how long they take to make decisions.

The senators cited a recent expert assessment that it would take the institutions another 70 years to complete the repatriation process. “This is simply unacceptable,” they wrote of the assessment of Chip Colwell, who as curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science oversaw his repatriation efforts.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior recently estimated that the process could take another 26 years, based on the progress of the agencies over the past decade. Schatz said he wanted it to be done much sooner. “It can’t take another decade or two to fix it,” he said.

The Department of the Interior is considering proposed rules this year that would force museums and universities to shut down within three years, which some agencies say is unfeasible.

Edward Halealoha Ayau, chairman of the NAGPRA review committee, said museums too often shirk authority to consult with indigenous peoples. He added that many institutions only rely on their own records and do not consider evidence based on tribal traditions and knowledge when deciding on claims.

“You can’t just sit in the corner and put your fingers together and say, ‘Oh, we don’t know whose ancestors these are,'” he said.

Ayau said the senators’ letter sends a message to hundreds of other agencies that must also comply with NAGPRA.

The senators also asked the institutions what actions the government had taken against them under the law, and what steps they had taken in response. Fines are rare, federal data shows. Only 20 institutions were found legally, averaging $2,955 per institution. Of the five institutions that received the letter from the Senate, only Harvard and UC Berkeley were mentioned and were not required to pay fines.

Schatz said he hopes the letter will encourage institutions to speed up enforcement of the law.

“If there are deans, presidents and boards of trustees sitting around and trying to figure out how to live by their values, that’s a very practical and immediate way to get started,” he said.

Schatz added that he expects the institutions to answer the senators’ questions, but if they don’t, the committee has the right to subpoena them.

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Meek Mill: Rapper vows to ‘spread the word’ against anti-Semitism after visiting Auschwitz




About 10,000 people from all over the world gathered last week in Poland for the annual March of the Living, a 3-kilometer walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau, where the Nazis killed more than a million civilians, mostly Jews, during World War II.

One of the most famous marchers was Meek Mill, a 35-year-old African-American rapper from Philadelphia with nothing to do with the atrocities that took place there.

But at a time of rising anti-Semitism in the US, his presence spoke volumes, and it made sense.

“I’ve always stood for anything that condemns racism, but now that I’ve been educated, I’ll be sure to tell people in my culture about what I saw and felt today in that concentration camp,” Mill told CNN. during the march.

Mill is a friend of New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Robert Kraft, whose Anti-Semitism Foundation runs a $25 million national #StandUpToJewishHate campaign. The effort, represented by a blue square emoji, includes a paid television ad that highlights alarming numbers of anti-Semitic incidents in the US.

Anti-Defamation League data traces a surge in recent incidents against Jews due to repeated hate comments by rapper Kanye West, now known as Ye, who makes no apologies for his pro-Hitler, anti-Jewish language.

“We are two different artists. We represent two different things,” Mill said.

Mill said that he “wasn’t educated to even tell right from wrong” when Ye made his remarks.

“But I know a lot of what he said was wrong because it sounded like hate,” Mill said. “Now that I’m a bit educated, because I’m at the starting point, just, you know, spreading the word about humanity. push things.”

Kraft met Mill during the rap artist’s 12-year legal battle over his arrest on gun and drug charges when he was 19.

According to a Kraft spokesperson, they were introduced by a mutual friend, and Mick occasionally turned to the Patriots owner for friendly advice. When Mick was put in jail, Kraft visited him in jail and they stayed in touch and remained friends.

The Mill case spurred the activism of many prominent figures, including Kraft, on the issue of criminal justice.

“It is important for me to study the history of mankind,” Mill said. “But I think it’s also important for me to support Robert, all my Jewish friends, everyone who has always supported me. Robert supported me at a very high level. As I went through what I was going through, he recognized my lifestyle. He got to know my culture, where I come from, my past.”

Mill said he went to Auschwitz to “see it for yourself and learn about it for yourself”, describing what he saw there as “horror, pain, something you can’t explain”.

“He’s a very caring person and it’s very important to him to build bridges between people of Jewish faith and people of color in America,” Kraft said of Mill.

“He is a sensitive person who went through several difficult situations where he was treated unfairly. And I think that for him you need to understand the culture of our people, what we went through and how many experiences are similar – when people just stand up and hate for no good reason, ”Kraft added.

Mill not only visited Auschwitz and took part in the March of the Living, but also participated in events marking the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Poland. The popular artist has almost 25 million followers on Instagram and said he now intends to use his bullhorn to make sure his fans understand that all hate — be it anti-black racism or anti-Semitism — is rooted in the same ignorance and cannot be tolerated.

“In my music, I always use my platforms. I come from the ghettos of America – from the streets. I started talking about it because it was my lifestyle,” Mill said.

“But through education, more knowledge and more vision, I think I can convey some of the things that will touch those moments and be able to express and tell the story of what I have witnessed and what I have seen.”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Meets Japan’s Kishida in Tokyo



TOKYO – Governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis met here Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and praised Japan’s efforts to increase its defense spending during the first leg of the likely Republican presidential nominee’s trip this week to four of America’s biggest allies.

The tour is officially billed as an “international trade mission” with Enterprise Florida, an economic development organization in Florida, to build economic ties between the state and Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom. But it is also widely seen as an attempt by the governor to polish his foreign policy powers ahead of a potential 2024 presidential bid.

Members of Congress and US governors have paid official visits to Japan in recent months, but it is unusual for a governor to meet with the Japanese prime minister. The visit also gives Kishida a chance to build a relationship with a potential presidential candidate.

DeSantis plans to host a working dinner with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Monday night after meeting with business leaders.

Florida’s two-term governor has privately said he intends to run for president. He rose to prominence in the Republican Party as a fighter against what he calls the “awakened” political left, and won re-election by almost 20 percentage points in the fall. Polls show he will enter the GOP primary as a clear second to former President Donald Trump, who launched his campaign.

After a successful start, DeSantis is facing stumbling blocks on the road to 2024.

In a 40-minute meeting with Kishida on Monday, the two leaders discussed the importance of the US-Japan alliance and economic relations between the two countries, according to Japan’s foreign ministry.

According to the Governor’s statement, Japan is Florida’s second largest bilateral trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region and the seventh largest trading partner overall.

At their meeting, Kishida welcomed DeSantis on his first visit to Japan and said he hoped the governor and his family “can deepen your understanding of Japanese politics, economics, and culture, which I hope will further strengthen Japan, the United States, and Japan.” . Relationships in Florida,” according to their opening remarks video.

Kishida also discussed the role of the US-Japanese alliance in ensuring global peace and security, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

DeSantis congratulated Japan on their World Baseball Classic victory over the United States and reaffirmed the importance of the alliance. He praised Japan for ramping up its defense budget as it grows more cautious about military threats from China, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We very much applaud your efforts to strengthen your defenses. We understand that here is a difficult neighborhood with North Korea, the rise [Chinese Communist Party]and we really believe that a strong Japan is good for America and a strong America is good for Japan,” said DeSantis Kishide.

He also told the Japanese prime minister that he plans to meet with airline executives to create direct flight routes between Japan and his state, which is the largest US market without direct flights to Japan, he said.

Joining the trip were First Lady Casey DeSantis, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, and Florida Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella, according to the Governor’s statement.

The delegation then plans to visit South Korea, where DeSantis will meet with the Governor of Gyeonggi Province. Kim Dong Yeon and Prime Minister Han Dak Soo. South Korea’s supreme leader, President Yoon Seok-yeol, will be in Washington, DC, where he will be the guest of honor at the White House State Dinner on Wednesday. DeSantis and company plan to travel to Israel on Thursday and end their trip with a stopover in the United Kingdom.

The 2024 U.S. presidential contest is of interest to Japan and South Korea, where many officials are bracing for a potential return of Trump’s “America First”-style foreign policy and demanding that U.S. allies pay for stationing U.S. troops abroad and for upkeep. USA. nuclear umbrella for two allies.

Despite Trump’s demands, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forged close ties with him, including through golf, to protect and advance Japan’s interests.

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Biden administration pushes for solar investment, innovation and community projects



On Thursday, the Biden administration announced more than $80 million in funding to make more solar panels in the US, make solar power available to more people, and find superior alternatives to the ubiquitous shiny panels made from silicon.

The Energy Department announced the investment in the morning, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm plans to visit a local solar site in Washington in the afternoon. Public solar refers to a variety of mechanisms whereby tenants and people who do not control their rooftops can still receive electricity from solar energy. Two weeks ago, Vice President Kamala Harris announced what the administration says is the largest public solar efforts ever in the United States.

Now he’s set to spend $52 million on 19 solar projects in a dozen states, including $10 million on infrastructure legislation, and $30 million on technology to help integrate solar power into the grid.

The Department of Energy also selected 25 teams to compete in a $10 million competition designed to accelerate the efforts of solar energy developers working on public solar projects.

The Inflation Reduction Act already offers incentives for the construction of large solar energy projects, such as tax credits for renewables. But Ali Zaidi, the White House national climate adviser, said the new money is aimed at meeting the country’s climate goals in a way that benefits more communities.

“It lifts our workers and our communities. And that, I think, is what really excites us in this work,” Zaidi said. “This is a chance not only to tackle the climate crisis, but to bring economic opportunity to every zip code in America.”

The investment will help people save on their energy bills and make the grid more reliable, safer and more resilient to climate change, said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technology Division.

Jones-Albertus said she is particularly excited about the support for public solar projects because half of Americans don’t live in a situation where they can buy their own solar power and install it on their rooftops.

Michael Jung, Executive Director of the ICF Climate Center, agreed. “Public solar power can help address equity concerns as most of today’s rooftop solar panels benefit single-family home owners,” he said.

In typical community solar projects, households may invest in or subscribe to part of a larger off-site solar array. “What we are doing here is an attempt to unlock the public market for solar energy,” Jones-Albertus said.

According to the latest estimates, there are currently 5.3 gigawatts of total solar installed in the US. By 2025, five million households will have access to it, about three times as many as today, saving $1 billion on energy bills, Jones-Albertus said.

The new funding also highlights investments in next-generation solar technologies designed to generate more electricity from the same number of solar panels. Currently, only about 20% of solar energy is converted into electricity in the crystalline silicon solar cells that make up most solar panels. There has long been a hope for higher efficiency, and today’s announcement will funnel some money into the development of two alternatives: perovskite and cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells. Zaidi said this would allow the US to become “an innovation engine that can tackle the climate crisis.”

Joshua Rhodes, a scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said investing in perovskites is good news. They can be produced cheaper than silicon and are much more resistant to defects, he says. They can also be built into textured and curved surfaces, opening up more options than traditional rigid panels. Rhodes noted that most of the silicon is produced in China and Russia.

Solar cadmium telluride can be made quickly and at low cost, but further research is needed to improve the material’s efficiency at converting sunlight into electrons.

Cadmium is also toxic and people should not be exposed to it. Jones-Albertus said that in cadmium telluride solar technology, the compound is stable and encapsulated in glass and additional protective layers.

The new funds will also help recycle solar panels and reuse rare earth elements and materials. “One of the most important ways to ensure that CdTe remains in a safe compound form is to ensure that all U.S.-made solar panels can be reused or recycled at the end of their life cycle,” Jones-Albertus explained.

Solar panel recycling also reduces solar energy waste and can provide materials for new panels. Eight of the projects announced Thursday focus on improving solar panel recycling, totaling about $10 million.

According to the administration, clean energy is suitable for every state in the country. A solar project in Shungnak, Alaska, has eliminated the need to continue generating electricity by burning diesel, a method sometimes used in remote communities that is harmful to human health and contributes to climate change.

“Alaska is not a place that people often think of when they think of solar energy, but this energy can be a cost-effective and accessible resource in all parts of the country,” Jones-Albertus said.

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