BURLINGTON, Vt. John Cohn, PhD, chief scientist of design automation in the IBM Systems and Technology Group, has been working with students and faculty in the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College this winter.Cohn, an IBM Fellow and Vice President for the Americas for the IBM Academy, and five Champlain College game development students have been creating a multimedia educational companion piece for an electronic game that IBM has developed for Engineering Week 2008. The educational product will be delivered in a multimedia way that kids relate to, and it will illuminate what makes up an electronic game and what courses of study and careers are available in game-related fields.For Cohn, this is a self-designed assignment at Champlain that will benefit IBMs OnDemand Community outreach program. One of IBM and Cohns driving goals is to break through the negative perceptions of kids who might be turned off by science and technology. I know thats a hard problem to change perceptions, he said. But technology, science or math can be so beautiful, much in the way music and art are beautiful.Working with the Champlain College students has been mind-blowingly great, Cohn said. These students really get it. Game development students Ian Bissett, Michael Fowler, Bryan Hare, Wesley Knee and Lauren Nishikawa make up Cohns team.IBM built the processors for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii. IBM doesnt currently make games, but we provide a lot the technology behind them, Cohn explained.In addition to his technical duties at IBM, Cohn has long promoted the excitement behind science and technology. Hes delivered entertaining science presentations to more than 30,000 school children over the years. In the near future, he hopes to employ new media such as online science and technology videos to create more enthusiasm for science and technology among Americas youth.
Most people don’t associate the outdoors with politics and government policy. Around Washington, D.C., and state capitals, many take to the woods with the explicit goal of forgetting about politics for a while.Yet the outdoor environment and recreation there is inextricably linked to what happens in the halls of Congress and other political arenas. Whether it’s ownership of public lands or the quality of our environment, funding for land management agencies or the trade and tax policies affecting gear manufacturers, what happens in the outdoors is dramatically affected by elected lawmakers.With America more politically polarized than any time in the last 50 years, November’s congressional midterm elections carry higher-than-usual stakes. Beyond the issues that vary by district and state, voters will decide who controls both the Senate and House of Representatives. That will, in turn, determine the broader shape of politics in the country, including its wildlands.Although outdoors issues aren’t considered as divisive as cultural wedges such as guns and abortion, they have their constituencies. The League of Conservation Voters and the Outdoor Industry Association both issue lawmaker scorecards rating representatives on their votes on legislation affecting the environment and outdoors.Advocacy groups don’t limit their involvement to scoring lawmakers. The Sierra Club, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has contributed $60,516 in the 2018 cycle so far. The Outdoor Industry has contributed $28,296. And the League of Conservation Voters already has spent $2.4 million, mostly on candidates.Some of this activity is a matter of course for Washington politics. Yet there’s also no doubt that Donald Trump’s 2016 election, Republicans winning majorities in both congressional chambers, and the decisive shift in policy and lawmaking since then has energized conservation and public lands advocates.In April 2017, Trump ordered a review of all 27 national monuments created since 1996. In December, he signed an executive order to shrink Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent. Political maneuvering in Utah around public lands, including calls to sell federal lands to the state, led the Outdoor Industry Association to move its Outdoor Retailer show from Salt Lake City, where it had run for two decades, to Denver, Colorado.The same dynamic played into the OIA’s decision to release and publicize its congressional scorecard.“The monuments review galvanized this industry and made it operate in an entirely different way,” said Alex Boian, the OIA’s political director. “Some of the brands got more vocal about the policies and their disappointment with what was happening. During the comment period on the monument review, more than 3 million Americans registered comments, and the majority said to leave the monuments intact. We really saw the American people stand up for public lands.”The OIA started planning its 2018 theme #VoteTheOutdoors last fall. The organization’s goals are different than some other groups in that it prioritizes not just conservation and public lands measures but also tax and trade policy, which matter to its members who manufacture outdoor gear. Boian said the organization is endorsing roughly 20 candidates and ballot measures, mostly in western states, but it is publicizing its congressional scorecard for a national audience to build momentum for the 2020 elections.“We really think the outdoor industry, the outdoor recreation economy, and protection of public land will be voting issues in the election this fall,” Boian said. “If we can prove that and help foster that in these races, then going into 2020 it’s going to be even stronger.”Most observers see an easier path for Democrats to win a majority in the House than in the Senate this fall. To win a House majority, Democrats need to net 23 seats—the same number of Republicans that hold seats representing districts won in 2016 by Hillary Clinton. Instead of focusing just on those districts, however, Democrats have broadened the field to target other congressional seats, even in areas where Trump won decisively.In the Senate, Republicans hold 51 seats to the Democrats’ 47, with two independents caucusing with Democrats. The path to a Senate majority is narrower but demographically harder, with fewer paths to victory.With both chambers potentially up for grabs, here are six key races to watch in Blue Ridge Outdoors country this fall.U.S. Senate:West VirginiaThe Mountain State has tilted increasingly Republican since 2000, when four of five of its seats on Capitol Hill were held by Democrats. That may have culminated last year, when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 42 points, the most in state history and second only in the country to Wyoming. That’s put all eyes on Joe Manchin, the only Democrat still standing in West Virginia’s congressional delegation.Attorney General Patrick Morrisey emerged victorious from a tough primary fight in which he defeated 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (more on that district below) and former Massey Energy coal baron Don Blankenship, who somehow won nearly 20 percent of the vote despite decades of environmental atrocities, miners’ deaths, and a criminal conviction for conspiring to skirt mine safety rules.Morrisey is running as a Trump Republican, but he may have trouble painting Manchin as a Clinton Democrat. Manchin has long branded himself as a centrist. His first campaign for the Senate included an ad in which Manchin used a gun to shoot a bill to reduce air pollution by instituting a cap-and-trade system. Since Trump’s election, Manchin has played the role of swing voter, occasionally breaking with Democrats to support the president’s cabinet appointments but sticking with his party on healthcare and other issues.TennesseeIncumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Corker was among those to receive an F on the Outdoor Industry Association’s scorecard, but he is retiring. With his seat open, former governor Phil Bredesen won the Democratic nomination and will face Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn, a 16-year congresswoman.Tennessee leans Republican as a matter of course. The GOP holds seven of the state’s 9 House seats, and Democrats haven’t held either of its U.S. Senate seats since the mid-’90s. Trump won it by 26 points, so Democrats have a difficult slog ahead. However, pre-primary polling showed Bredesen with a lead over Blackburn, which gives Democrats some hope. The winner will represent a state with a thriving tourism industry that includes its share of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which drew 11 million visitors in 2017, making it America’s most popular national park.House of Representatives:Kentucky’s 6th District KY-6 includes parts of Appalachian Kentucky but also the metro area around Lexington. It’s flipped back and forth between parties since the late ’70s, and since 2013 has been represented by Republican Andy Barr. He blew out his 2016 opponent, but this year faces a very different political atmosphere and opponent. Amy McGrath, a charismatic former fighter pilot, defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in a May primary, largely by building a national fundraising network on the strength of her campaign ads. McGrath functions as the ideal 2018 Democratic candidate, both as a veteran and as one of a record-breaking number of women to run for office.Pennsylvania’s 17th DistrictEarlier this year, federal courts rejected Pennsylvania’s congressional districts and drew their own, with the result that incumbents Keith Rothfus, a Republican, and Conor Lamb, a Democrat, now live in the same western Pennsylvania district. Rothfus won election in 2012, narrowly defeating a Democratic incumbent after narrowly losing in 2010 to a different Democratic incumbent. Now he faces Conor Lamb, a Marine and former federal prosecutor who won a special election to Congress earlier this year. Lamb represents one model for success among several that Democrats are pursuing this fall: a scrappy, pro-labor veteran with enough independence from the national party that voters feel confident he or she will fight for them.Virginia’s 5th DistrictThe 5th once was a rural Southside Virginia seat dominated by tobacco and textile manufacturing, but economic decline and gerrymandering have stretched it north to the point that Charlottesville has become its center. Until this spring, it appeared that it would be defended by freshman Congressman Tom Garrett, a Republican. In May, however, Politico published a story in which former aides alleged he verbally abused them, and later that week, Garrett announced he was an alcoholic and would retire. Republicans subsequently nominated distillery owner Denver Riggleman, who faces journalist and filmmaker Leslie Cockburn. Republicans have accused Cockburn of anti-Semitism in a 1991 book she wrote; Democrats have accused Riggleman of an interest in, um, Bigfoot erotica. Buckle up, this is going to be a weird one.West Virginia’s 3rd DistrictTrump won this southern West Virginia district by 50 points in 2016, but WV-3 was actually held by Democrats up until 2014, when former Democrat Evan Jenkins switched parties to defeat longtime incumbent Nick Rahall. With Jenkins leaving to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, the 2018 campaign for his open seat has become one of the most closely watched House races in America. That’s due almost entirely to Richard Ojeda, a charismatic Democratic state senator who advocates for legalized marijuana, openly supported Trump in 2016, was brutally assaulted days before he defeated an entrenched incumbent in a primary that year, and became a hero of the 2018 teacher’s strike. He’s running against Carol Miller, a state delegate whose father represented an Ohio district in Congress.State governors:Georgia The race for governor in Georgia will be closely watched around the country. After years of mostly centrist white male governors, this year’s candidates, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, represent radically different views of America that in many ways echo national political and cultural clashes. Kemp is a populist in the Trump mold, proudly politically incorrect with ads that showed him brandishing a shotgun and offering to use his own truck to take immigrants back. Abrams, who could become the country’s first African American woman governor, built her primary campaign on an unabashedly progressive platform that includes affordable childcare, economic fairness, and clean energy jobs. Demographically, Georgia has been growing more diverse, and in November its voters will choose between two bright-line candidates who represent very different directions.TennesseeThe Volunteer State has seen Democrats and Republicans trade stints as governor in roughly equal measure since 1970. The outgoing governor is Republican Bill Haslam, whose net worth of more than $2 billion makes him the richest governor in America, including West Virginia resort and coal magnate Jim Justice. The state is home to much of the Smokies and Cherokee National Forest, with numerous state parks. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is running as the Democratic nominee and will face businessman and political newcomer Bill Lee, who won a four-way primary that broke campaign spending records. Ballot measures:GeorgiaThe “green space” amendment would change the Georgia state constitution to set aside up to 0.75 percent of sales and use taxes on outdoor recreation equipment to maintain, restore, or buy land, waterways, or parks for conservation and outdoor activities. The amendment, paired with action by state lawmakers, could funnel tens of millions of dollars into conservation and outdoor recreation in the state. Although the Outdoor Industry Association is focusing mostly on western races, it heavily supports this ballot measure.
In this Nov. 27, 2004 file photo, Bloomington High School running back Adrian Arrington tries to clear a pile of Providence Catholic defenders during the Class 6A championship football game in Champaign, Ill. Arrington, who later went on to play at Eastern Illinois in Charleston, is the lead plaintiff in a class-action head injury lawsuit working its way through federal court in Chicago. The NCAA and the plaintiffs announced a settlement on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/ Stephen Haas, File)CHICAGO (AP) — The NCAA agreed Tuesday to settle a class-action head-injury lawsuit by creating a $70 million fund to diagnose thousands of current and former college athletes to determine if they suffered brain trauma playing football, hockey, soccer and other contact sports.College sports’ governing body also agreed to implement a single return-to-play policy spelling out how all teams must treat players who received head blows, according to a Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Critics have accused the NCAA of giving too much discretion to hundreds of individual schools about when athletes can go back into games, putting them at risk.Unlike a proposed settlement in a similar lawsuit against the NFL, this deal stops short of setting aside money to pay players who suffered brain trauma. Instead, athletes can sue individually for damages and the NCAA-funded tests to gauge the extent of neurological injuries could establish grounds for doing that.The filing serves as notice to the federal judge overseeing the class-action case that the parties struck a deal after nearly a year of negotiations. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer, the settlement also applies to all men and women who participated in basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse.Joseph Siprut, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney who spearheaded talks with the NCAA, said the sometimes-tough negotiations ended with a deal that will make college athletics safer.“I wouldn’t say these changes solve the safety problems, but they do reduce the risks,” the Chicago attorney said Tuesday. “It’s changed college sports forever.”The NCAA hailed the settlement.“This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions,” NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said in a statement.Siprut added that stricter oversight and return-to-play rules should help ensure the viability of football by allaying the fears of parents who are currently inclined to not let their kids play.“Changes were necessary to preserve the talent well of kids that feeds the game of football,” he said. “Absent these kinds of changes, the sport will die.”There is no cutoff date for when athletes must have played a designated sport at one of the more than 1,000 NCAA member schools to qualify for the medical exams. That means all athletes currently playing and those who participated decades ago could undergo the tests and potentially follow up with damage claims.To keep the NCAA from having to hold unwieldy talks with multiple plaintiffs, 10 lawsuits filed from Georgia and South Carolina to Minnesota and Missouri were consolidated into the one case in Chicago, where the first lawsuit was filed in 2011. Combined, the suits identified several dozen athletes by name as having suffered brain trauma.The lead plaintiff is Adrian Arrington, a former safety at Eastern Illinois. He said he endured five concussions while playing, some so severe he has said he couldn’t recognize his parents afterward. Subsequent headaches, memory loss, seizures and depression made it difficult to work or even care for his children, filings said.Another named plaintiff is former Central Arkansas wide receiver Derek K. Owens. After several concussions, he said he found he could no longer retain what he had just studied. His symptoms became so severe he dropped out of school in 2011, telling his mother: “I feel like a 22-year-old with Alzheimer’s.”Among other settlement terms, all athletes will take baseline neurological tests to start each year to help doctors determine the severity of any concussion during the season; concussion education will be mandated for coaches and athletes; and a new, independent Medical Science Committee will oversee the medical testing.The NCAA admits no wrongdoing in the settlement and has denied understating the dangers of concussions. As proof it has tried to mitigate the risks, it has cited recent changes in equipment, medical practices and playing rules, including ones prohibiting football players from targeting an opponent’s head or neck.The NCAA also announced in May a three-year, $30 million concussion study co-funded by the U.S. Defense Department. Plans call for initial data collection on about 7,200 athletes from 12 colleges, increasing to 37,000 athletes at 30 sites, with the aim of better understanding concussions and developing better prevention methods.The settlement is still subject to approval by U.S. District Judge John Lee, in a process that could take months. He must grant preliminary approval and then, after affected athletes weigh in, give a final OK.Plaintiffs’ filings say the number of athletes who may require testing to learn if they suffered long-term damage runs into the tens of thousands. They cite NCAA figures that from 2004 to 2009 alone, 29,225 NCAA athletes suffered concussions — about 16,000 in football, 5,751 in women’s soccer and 3,374 in men’s soccer.Internal emails unsealed in the lawsuit illustrate how pressure mounted on the NCAA over the issue.In a Feb. 23, 2010, email, the NCAA’s director of government relations, Abe Frank, wondered about debates elsewhere, including in Congress, about recommended new safeguards for young children playing contact sports.“Do you think this renewed emphasis on youth sports will increase the pressure on the NCAA to do more at the college level?” he asks in the email sent to the NCAA’s then-director of health and safety.David Klossner responded bluntly a few hours later. “Well since we don’t currently require anything all steps are higher than ours,” he wrote.Later that year, the NCAA did establish a new head-injury policy that requires each school to have a concussion management plan on hand and it states that athletes should be kept from play for at least a day after a concussion; it also requires players to sign a statement “accepting responsibility for reporting their injuries.”But plaintiffs argued schools put too much of the onus on athletes with little understanding of concussions to self-report injuries. And they blamed a tendency of some teams to hurry concussed players back into games according to patchy, uneven plans and the NCAA’s lax enforcement of the concussions policy.In a 2012 deposition, Klossner conceded the NCAA provides virtually no oversight of concussion management plans and that schools aren’t required to submit them to the NCAA. Asked if any schools had been disciplined for having subpar plans, Klossner said, “Not to my knowledge.”Prior to the settlement, plaintiffs were scathing about how the NCAA handled the head injury issue for decades.Instead of adopting stricter protections for athletes, the lawsuit said the NCAA chose “to sacrifice them on an altar of money and profits,” an approach that occurred even though the NCAA had known for at least a decade “of the correlation between concussions and depression, dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s disease.”The plaintiffs cited a 2010 internal NCAA survey that found almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of a concussion back into the same game.___Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm