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Scientists use nanotech to prevent heart disease

first_imgUniversity researchers have built nanoparticles designed to cling to artery walls and slowly release medicine – a breakthrough that could help fight heart disease.Scientists at MIT and Harvard Medical School yesterday announced that they teamed up to create what they’re calling “nanoburrs,” nanotechology that sticks to arteries the way that pesky burrs in the woods stick to your clothes. Researchers are hoping the nanoburrs can offer an alternative to surgically implanting arterial stents that, over time, release drugs to treat or prevent plaque build up on artery walls…Read more here (Computerworld)last_img

Hospital readmission rates linked with quality of surgical care

first_imgReducing hospital readmission rates is an important clinical and policy priority but whether those rates really measure the quality of hospital care isn’t clear. In a new study, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found strong evidence of a relationship between surgical readmission rates and quality of surgical care. The finding provides an opportunity for policymakers to improve surgical quality and decrease readmission costs and supports plans by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand its readmission penalty program to include surgical procedures.“Our findings suggest that focusing on surgical readmissions may be a smart policy approach to both improving care and reducing unnecessary spending,” said Ashish Jha, professor of health policy at HSPH and the study’s senior author.The study appears in the Sept. 19, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.Much of the policy focus to date has been on reducing readmissions after hospitalization for medical conditions, such as heart failure and pneumonia, but this approach has been controversial. Readmissions for medical conditions are primarily driven by how sick the patients are and whether they live in poor or better-off communities; the link between hospital quality and readmissions is less clear. The authors postulated that surgical care may be different—and sought to find out if there was a relationship between readmission rates after surgery and the quality of surgical care in that hospital. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Faculty Council meeting held Jan. 29

first_imgOn Jan. 29 the members of the Faculty Council heard reports from the Committee on Academic Integrity and the Committee on Outside Activities in the Online Environment.The council next meets on Feb. 12. The next meeting of the faculty is Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. The preliminary deadline for the March 4 meeting of the faculty is Feb. 18 at noon.last_img

Purposefully designed

first_img Read Full Story This summer, the Frances Loeb Library underwent a partial renovation on its lower level, transforming a portion of stacks space into dedicated semi-open workspace with an adjoining conference room for students in the Graduate School of Design’s PhD program.“We have been rethinking our library for over the last several years. The ability to support GSD programs physically as well as through service and materials has been an ongoing process and this is one step we have been able to take,” said Ann Whiteside, librarian and assistant dean for information resources. “We were thrilled to be able to accommodate evolving user needs in this way while maintaining accessibility to materials.”last_img

Learning about learning: Creating a connection

first_imgPeter Bol, Harvard’s vice provost for advances in learning (VPAL), announced Thursday the formation of the VPAL Research Group. The organization will integrate HarvardX and the research fellows’ programs from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT), and adds new leadership and positions.“This fusion to support our growing work in the learning sciences is absolutely additive,” said Bol, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, who has served in the vice provost role for two years. “Moreover, research is following our faculty, as what is happening online and in the classroom is increasingly blurred, and researchers have already been skating across both realms. In that sense, it’s a reflection of a reality that has already existed over the past few years.”The VPAL Research Group will be dedicated to advancing Harvard’s research on assessing and improving residential, blended, and digital learning environments.The newly formed VPAL Research Group will strive to study learning whenever and whenever it happens—even in virtual environments such as those created by the Visualization Lab in the department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Photo courtesy of the Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching.“Grounded by HarvardX’s benchmark studies on MOOC [massive open online course] learners and HILT’s ongoing efforts to convene faculty and build a teaching and learning network across campus, we are working from a position of strength,” said Dustin Tingley, Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy, who will assume the faculty directorship of the new VPAL research team. “Looking ahead, our charge is to enable faculty research as well as develop new opportunities for research that come out of Harvard’s investment in technologies like the new Canvas platform.”Tingley is also the director of graduate studies for the Harvard Government Department, faculty director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science’s Undergraduate Research Scholar program, and founding director of the Program on Experience Based Learning in the Social Sciences, which created and helps maintain ABLConnect, a resource for activity-based and active learning.Andrew Ho, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who has simultaneously served as chair of the HarvardX Research Committee and directed on an interim basis the efforts of the HarvardX research team, will become the chair of the VPAL Research Committee.The committee supporting and advising Ho and Tingley will be composed of faculty members from across Harvard, many of whom have previously served as advisers to the prior HarvardX research group. Designed around topic subgroups to help define and advance particular priorities, the committee will tackle adaptive learning; hybrid classrooms; and the use, sharing, and privacy of learning data, among other issues, while also fostering cutting-edge research.“Our aim remains steadfast: supporting the charge by our faculty to improve teaching and exploring the emerging, constantly changing state of what Provost Alan Garber calls ‘anywhere, anytime learning,’ ” said Bol. “I am very much in line with a growing sentiment of the learning sciences research community. Every learning experience offers a potential opportunity for experimentation and analysis — and progress.”last_img read more

Faith still strong in Iran nuclear deal

first_imgSkillful negotiation can often be more art than science. But it was science that played the most pivotal and visible role in reaching the breakthrough nuclear weapons accord between the United States and Iran last year.The man credited with giving science the prime seat at the bargaining table in Vienna was U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. A longtime nuclear physicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he leads the Department of Energy, whose core missions involve ensuring nuclear security and confronting climate change, not just by measuring and detecting it, but by searching for science-based solutions.Moniz discussed his unusually powerful part in the Iran deal and how science can — and should — be part of diplomatic efforts to solve major global challenges such as nuclear disarmament and climate change Thursday evening at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).He flatly rejected the notion that the United States didn’t push hard enough to get a better deal. “Most of the criticisms of the deal are not actually criticisms of the deal; they’re criticisms of what the deal is not,” he said.The “only critique worth discussing,” Moniz said, is why the rollback period is 15 years and not longer. “You can always question ‘why 15 years? Wouldn’t 25 be better?’ Well, yeah.”But given the threat that a nuclear weapon in Iran would pose to the world and the international community’s determination to make sure that never happens, the deal zeroed in on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, not other issues.Moniz doesn’t think the deal’s implementation will automatically be derailed by recent developments such as suspicions that Iran shipped illegal rifles and other small arms to Houthi fighters in Yemen that were intercepted by U.S. and French naval forces in recent weeks, or Iran’s apparent escalation of missile launches. But Iran’s ongoing behavior outside the narrow scope of the agreement — such as its role in Syrian fighting, its support for Hezbollah, and human rights violations — could eventually take a toll, he allowed.“Clearly, if the other issues don’t get better, the concern is that even other sanctions could come on and the relationship could be difficult,” Moniz said during a brief session with reporters before delivering the Robert A. McNamara Lecture on War and Peace. “We’re now three months into implementation; it’s going to take a lot more years before we say we’re home free.”The talks had reached a standstill in early 2015 when Moniz took a more central role in the negotiations and began working with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. The men shared ties to MIT, Moniz as a faculty member and Salehi as an alumnus, and their common scientific background led to a clear understanding of what both sides needed to achieve. That opened the door to possible solutions.The United States had to have at least a one-year “breakout time,” defined as how long it would take Iran “in a full sprint” to assemble the material to build an initial nuclear weapon. And, at President Barack Obama’s insistence, verification provisions that went on for a substantial period of time, in some cases indefinitely, had to be in place, a demand that’s always difficult to get met, he said. For Iran, the ability to continue the activities and objectives of its peaceful nuclear program was essential.The unity shown by the “P5+1” nations and the European Union was also a key reason for the deal’s eventual success, Moniz said.“For the United States to even contemplate unilaterally reversing this agreement would be a tremendous mistake, because in fact the effectiveness of the sanctions regime derived from the coherence of the international community,” he said. “Our deciding to walk away means we walk away alone.”Moniz hopes that many of the gains to eliminate and secure loose nuclear materials around the world that were achieved through the final Nuclear Security Summit held early this month in Washington, D.C., will live on after the Obama administration. In December, the International Atomic Energy Agency will host the first in a series of ministerial-level summits on the issue, while China, which is in the middle of a massive expansion of its nuclear power capabilities through 2030, has built an “impressive” complex that will train thousands of inspectors from the region.With the threat of nuclear terrorism still on the rise, Moniz advised the next president to sustain key programs that the United States has underway, such as its work to help other countries establish “centers for excellence” for nuclear security and to continue returning weapons-grade material to the United States and Russia from sites around the world.Other challenges on the front burner that will need to be addressed in the next administration include more elevated security around nuclear facilities, as well as limiting access to radiological sources at civilian sites such as hospitals and oil operations to prevent access to material for making “dirty” bombs, said Moniz.North Korea’s recent displays of nuclear firepower are “obviously … a huge threat” to its neighbors, including China, which “should get a little bit nervous,” Moniz told reporters. The United States will need to work closely with both North Korea and Russia to push the former’s denuclearization. “Nobody’s saying it’s going to be a short path.”Despite the noteworthy goals set in the Paris Agreement on climate change, which calls for 25 to 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions in the next 15 years, Moniz said the United States must be even more ambitious in the coming decade and robustly pursue and support innovations in clean energy.“The reason is pretty simple: that innovation, to succeed and scale in the marketplace, ultimately it’s going to be continuing to drive down cost, and lower costs will lead to more ambition, especially in the emerging and developing economies,” he said. That effort has already begun, as 20 nations, including the United States, have agreed to step up innovation efforts and work closely with the investment world, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.“I’m certainly a technology optimist, not surprising, but there’s ground for it. Just look at what’s happened in the last six years with costs: solar down 50 percent, wind down 40 percent, batteries down 60 percent, LEDs down 90 percent,” Moniz said. “We’ve got to keep that trajectory going and extend it to other technologies, as well.”last_img read more

Understanding how the intestine replaces and repairs itself

first_imgResearchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School have identified a previously unknown mechanism that plays an important role in the regeneration of the inner intestinal lining. Their findings provide new insights on how this tissue, which undergoes change on a daily basis, maintains itself.The intestine is the most highly regenerative organ in the human body, regenerating its lining, called the epithelium, every five to seven days. Continual cell renewal allows the epithelium to withstand the constant wear and tear it suffers while breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste.In a Cell Stem Cell study, the researchers found that mature cells, instead of other stem cells, were responsible for replenishing the stem cell population in the intestinal crypts — cavities at the bottom of hair-like structures in the intestine — of mice.“This is a very basic discovery that allows us to deeply understand how a tissue is organized,” said Ramesh Shivdasani, principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the study.Over the past 10 years, scientists have thought that the extent to which the intestinal epithelium could regenerate relied on the presence of a second population of stem cells that remained dormant until needed. Instead, when working stem cells are depleted, some types of mature cells transform themselves into stem cells after undergoing a process called dedifferentiation, according to the new study.“This process is possible because all the cells in our body have the same genetic code,” said Shivdasani, “but what makes each cell different is the parts of that genetic code that are actually active.”For dedifferentiation to take place, a cell needs to rearrange the way its DNA is folded into chromatin within the nucleus. This would change which genes are active, something that is generally considered unlikely to happen.However, after depleting the original stem cell population in mouse intestinal crypts, Shivdasani and his colleagues analyzed molecular markers and chromatin signatures unique to each cell type to determine which types of cells were present and in what quantities.They found that two different types of cell populations changed as new stem cells appeared, indicating that these cells were dedifferentiating and becoming stem cells. All evidence suggests that the same mechanism likely occurs in humans.“The intestine appears to have enormous plasticity,” said Shivdasani, “and in thousands of intestinal crypts we could watch the chromatin unfolding.”This research sheds light on basic processes that occur deep in our tissues, allowing our bodies to deal with injury, and it may provide a foundation for identifying therapeutic targets in the future. Shivdasani points out, however, that it’s too early to understand how this knowledge may lead to treatments for specific diseases.“We still don’t understand how the mature cells in the intestine know that the stem cells are missing,” said Shivdasani, but “we have shown that the chromatin barriers are readily reversible and that cells undergoing dedifferentiation can be captured and studied, which is an important start.”This research was supported by funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases, the National Institutes of Health, and gifts from the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation and Pan-Mass Challenge.last_img read more

Sustainability report marks milestones

Sustainability celebration marks Harvard’s accomplishments Related At Extension School, a sustainable program grows Believing that transparency is a key ingredient for accountability and continual improvement, in this year’s report OFS included new interactive graphs developed with the cutting-edge data analytics and visualization software Tableau and aggregated in an online dashboard available to all. A new Data Hub web page aggregates the data sets that are available to students, staff, and faculty to use for ongoing research, benchmarking, and to inform decision making.As in past years, the report uses a combination of data and storytelling to mark the progress at every level of the University. This year’s achievements include:A 44 percent reduction in trash per capita, 26 percent reduction in water use, and 30 percent reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 to 2017. Reductions in building energy use over the past 11 years offset the impact of growth in square footage and the addition of energy-intensive space.Ten living lab research projects have been funded to date by the Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund, and all 900 first-year students at Harvard Business School were tasked with a classroom project on how climate change will impact business.The Healthier Building Materials Academy partnership with faculty experts to address chemicals of concern in the built environment. The academy is collaborating with 25 major capital projects across campus and more than 100 manufacturers to remove harmful chemicals from their products.129 LEED-certified green building projects across campus, including the first and second LEED v4 commercial interiors projects in Massachusetts.Sustainable IT standards were approved by the Harvard CIO Council, and healthful and sustainable food standards and green cleaning standards are currently being developed in collaboration with students and faculty.“Ten years ago, when our initial climate goal was set and the Office for Sustainability was created by President [Drew] Faust, we didn’t know how we’d meet the 30 percent reduction in net emissions by 2016, but we worked together, and we met our goal.” wrote Henriksen. “Now, we will use our lessons learned to inform how we achieve our ambitious new fossil fuel-free goal. And we will also continue our commitment to accomplishing the goals, standards, and commitments embedded in our Sustainability Plan by 2020.” When the switch was flipped on the new rooftop solar installation at 38 Oxford St. in 2017, it not only became the second-largest solar system at Harvard, it helped the University create more than 1.5 megawatts of solar energy on campus — enough to power 300 average-sized homes for a year.This and many other milestones are included in the 2017 Harvard Sustainability Report released Wednesday by the Office for Sustainability (OFS) documenting the University’s transformation to a healthier, fossil-fuel-free campus. The report, produced annually and available online, details the progress made toward the goals, standards, and commitments laid out in the Harvard Sustainability Plan adopted in 2014.“Our progress has illustrated the power of One Harvard collaboration,” OFS director Heather Henriksen wrote in a message to the community. “It has proven that we are stronger when we work together across Schools, across disciplines, and across departments to generate new ideas, learn from each other, and, most importantly, to use our campus as a test bed for incubating and proving exciting new solutions that tackle climate and enhance public health.” Large cohort of students learning how to make a difference A decade on, a goal met; now, next targets read more

Spirit of transformation animates Faust, students

first_imgFifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was to be Harvard’s Class Day speaker. The civil rights leader was assassinated only weeks before he was set to address the Class of 1968, but his enduring legacy includes “a call to action that still rings out today,” said President Drew Faust during Tuesday’s Baccalaureate service at Memorial Church.“[King] said: ‘Transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.’”Transformation was a theme Faust returned to repeatedly during her final Baccalaureate Address, 10 years after she told the Class of 2008 to put their deepest passion before the safer course of action, or, as her “parking-space theory of life” holds: “Go to where you want to be. You can always circle back to where you have to be.”The Class of 2018 inspired her to consider amending and expanding her theory, Faust told students on Tuesday, based on the spirit of inquiry they exhibited during their time at Harvard.Their questions included “How can I help?” and “What is necessary at this time and place in the world?”“You have developed a more expansive goal­ — a broadening sense of ‘where you want to be,’” said Faust, adding: “The transformation promised at your convocation turned out to be less about you and more about everything around you.”,Faust had the seniors in stitches during a humor-filled preamble. She called the Baccalaureate one of her “favorite events,” despite feeling daunted at imparting “the sober wisdom of age to the semi-sober impatience of youth.” The crowd roared its approval.In four years on campus, the students helped to transform Harvard and the world around them as they strived for reinvention, inclusion, and innovation, Faust said. Their accomplishments included the student production “Black Magic,” a play about race and identity “that shattered precedent on the Loeb main stage.” They also turned out a range of prize-winning theses, including work on Lassa virus detection and a cultural history of the helicopter in Vietnam.The class witnessed transformations in the form of a new concentration in Theater, Dance & Media, voluntary composting in the dorms, an end to backpack security checks at Lamont Library, and a shift in language and culture with the elimination off “House master” in favor of faculty dean. Students also saw “the entire campus agitate over sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Faust noted.Building on her theme, Faust described three principles of transformation for the soon-to-be-grads to ponder. The first included a reminder that life “is not just about your passions; it is about your purpose.”,Listen to Faust’s address to graduating seniors PlayPlayPauseSeek0% buffered00:00Current time00:00Toggle MuteVolumeToggle CaptionsToggle Fullscreen,Faust’s recalled her freshman year in college, seeing future congressman John Lewis and other civil rights marchers beaten and tear-gassed while attempting to peacefully cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.“I felt a moral imperative to act — it was as if there was no other choice. Congressman Lewis calls it ‘making necessary trouble’ — a willingness to get in the way. I hear in your stories that same imperative.”“See with fresh eyes,” Faust offered as her second principle, urging the students to draw deeper lessons from their studies in the arts and humanities and the sciences — patience, an appreciation for the value of listening, and a commitment to seeking out diverse perspectives.A liberal arts education, said Faust, “enables us to see the world in order to understand how we can transform it.”Finally, Faust told the seniors to “take this spirit of transformation with you”— a spirit linked to their professors and friends and the lessons of four years on campus — and to “keep the fire fueled by your education burning.”Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church Jonathan Walton encouraged listeners to think of Commencement as the beginning of a life enriched by the lessons and virtues instilled during college.“Wisdom is more precious than silver or gold,” he said. “The common good outlasts individual accomplishments. And every grand idea that has ever pushed humanity forward began with a dream and faith put it into action.“Be proud in recalling how far you have traveled in these four years, as well as the many obstacles that you have overcome,” he added. “Yet embrace humbly the infinite paths of possibility that are ahead of you.The ceremony included songs, readings, prayers and blessings from a range of faiths and traditions. Graduates departed in a reflective mood.Eden Girma said that she has come a long way since she first arrived on campus four years ago. A student in the Harvard-New England Conservatory dual degree program, Girma will head to London after graduation to study composition. She said she was grateful for Harvard’s resources and opportunities, but that her greatest transformation came “from the people I’ve been able to meet and interact with.”last_img read more

Mayoral initiative heads for year two

first_img A summer of service to cities Mayor Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids, Mich., a member of the first-year cohort, noted that the program exposed her to more than one new source of learning.“In addition to the talented professors who challenged us to think differently about how best to solve community problems,” Bliss explained, “we had the opportunity to connect with and learn from other mayors.”With an emphasis on leadership, innovation, collaboration, and data-driven decision-making, the program begins each year with an intensive three days in New York City and seamlessly transitions to virtual classes from the HBX Live studio for the rest of the year. Additional support and programming helps each mayor focus on building their leadership skills by applying real-time learning to real-world problems. In Year 1, Fischer was particularly impacted by the public narrative workshop with Marshall Ganz, the Rita E. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society at HKS.“The storytelling sessions that we did with Marshall, learning how to better express yourself and connect heart-to-heart with your citizens, was really valuable,” said Fischer. “Mayors tend to talk kind of head-to-head, from an intellectual standpoint. But what moves people is heart-to-heart storytelling about the mayor as a person — the constituency as a whole, what we’ve done, or what our challenges are together. That was a great takeaway that I use every day.” “In addition to the talented professors who challenged us to think differently about how best to solve community problems, we had the opportunity to connect with and learn from other mayors.” — Mayor Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids, Mich. Bloomberg Harvard program opens with three-day session, offering yearlong support on solving problems Reflecting on his experience with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative over the past year, Mayor Greg Fischer thought first of the collective learning for his organization.“It’s been the most valuable kind of training, lifelong learning experiences, that I’ve had and my administration has had together,” said Fischer, the mayor of Louisville, Ky., and a first-year participant in the initiative.The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration among Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Harvard Business School (HBS), and Bloomberg Philanthropies, a nonprofit foundation created by businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It offers leadership and management training to mayors and senior officials from participating cities, and kicked off its second year on July 22.As the first year ends, the feedback has been positive. Through the Bloomberg Harvard Initiative, student fellows help mayors to improve lives center_img Fischer’s cohort included 29 U.S. mayors and 11 from Canada, South America, and Europe. The second group has widened its outreach to Africa and Asia, including mayors from cities in Indonesia and Sierra Leone.Though specific policy challenges vary between states and countries, many leadership challenges for city officials are consistent worldwide. The initiative’s faculty leaders have found that investing in the local level of government translate to a direct impact on communities.Rawi Abdelal, an HBS professor and the executive education co-chair for the initiative, said that in many cases, “it is city government that is the most consistent about both vision and pragmatism.”“Investing in these city leaders means increasing capabilities within the level of government that has the largest influence on citizens’ day-to-day lives,” he said.The new cohort of mayors aren’t the only ones selected from their cities to attend Harvard classes; each mayor will soon nominate two senior change agents in their administration to spend a year working with them and the initiative to advance the goals they set together. The three-person team will have ample opportunity to engage others in city hall — and beyond — to share in the learning journey and attend classes and workshops.The initiative is designed to benefit more than the participating mayors and their senior leaders, said Jorrit de Jong, the initiative’s faculty director, executive education co-chair, and lecturer at HKS.“We educate not just current city leaders, but also future city leaders and people who are currently enrolled in our degree programs,” de Jong said.This summer, for example, the initiative has 16 Harvard graduate student fellows working in the offices of Year 1 mayors.“We’ve made it a big focus to expose our students to what we do,” de Jong said. “We want to make them excited about working for cities and expose them to the real challenges our cities are facing.”Situated in HKS’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the initiative models itself as a “learning organization,” according to de Jong. The program has evolved as it enters its second year, and is adapting its content in response to feedback from Year 1 mayors.“We’re asking mayors to think differently, to ask themselves and their organizations tough questions, to pursue innovation with courage, and to accept failure as a necessary ingredient for success,” he said. “As an organization, it’s vital that we also commit ourselves to those principles so we can be creative yet strategic with our program, and practice what we preach.”In pursuit of new knowledge, the Initiative has engaged in research and curriculum development projects with a number of cities from the first cohort.“Convening mayors is only the beginning of our partnership with cities,” de Jong said. The initiative has launched three HBS/HKS research projects with Year 1 cities, he explained. They’re looking to produce more actionable data, teaching tools, and case studies that will continue to push what de Jong called ‘the field of city leadership’ forward in academia and on the ground in cities.“Year 1 taught us that the program resonates with mayors and senior leaders,” de Jong said. “For us, Year 2 is about doubling down on the best HBS and HKS has to offer so city leaders can step up with confidence and leverage skills they learned from each other to better serve their communities.” Related The mayors, who have to make government worklast_img read more