Image of comparison between deepfake and real image of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Villasenor on Widespread Use of Deepfakes

John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and management, spoke to CNBC about the proliferation of “deepfakes” on the internet. Deepfakes — videos or other digital representations that appear real but are actually manipulated by artificial intelligence —are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and accessible to the public, Villasenor said. They can make candidates appear to say or do things that undermine their reputation, thus influencing the outcome of elections, he warned. Deepfake detection software is being developed but still lags behind advanced techniques used in creating the misleading messages. “Will people be more likely to believe a deepfake or a detection algorithm that flags the video as fabricated?” Villasenor asked.


 

Image of bus only lane in Portland, Oregon

Bus Lanes Can Lead to Systemic Changes, Matute Says

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Curbed LA about the benefits of creating bus lanes. New York City recently created a bus-only street, which resulted in less traffic congestion. Matute said giving every bus in the United States a dedicated bus lane could lead to systemic changes. The public demand for more buses would outweigh the supply by the third week if this initiative were to be implemented, he said. “If the bus lanes were, in fact, permanent, in 10 weeks you’d see GM coming to a labor agreement and retooling factories to make buses,” he said.


 

Image of housing in Los Angeles with skyline in the distance

Monkkonen on Affordable Housing for Moderate-Income Angelenos

Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to Curbed LA about the availability of affordable housing for moderate-income people in Los Angeles. Many residents must pay a burdensome price for shelter yet do not qualify for affordable housing because their annual income surpasses the $56,000 threshold. The Los Angeles City Council voted to examine why there is a shortage of housing options for these people. Monkkonen argued that studying the restraints on moderate-income housing development could lead to city policies that make it easier to develop more housing in the city. He said policymakers and the public believe only certain types of housing need to be built. More housing in general is needed, he said.  “All multifamily housing getting built quicker would help everyone, including middle-income residents,” he says.


 

Ritterbusch on Breaking the Silence

The online geography journal Antipode recently published a video excerpt from “Empathy at Knifepoint: The Dangers of Research and Lite Pedagogies for Social Justice Movements,” a paper written by Amy Ritterbusch, assistant professor of social welfare. Ritterbusch’s paper recounts her realization of the importance of deep relationships for social justice movements. Ritterbusch describes the paper as a tribute that expresses her frustrations with the struggles of social activism. The video excerpt “Huele el Cambio: Quemando La Torre” (“Smell the Change: Burning the Tower”) features Ritterbusch and her sister-in-struggle Argenis Navarro Diaz, also known as El Cilencio, an Afro-Colombian woman who fought back against the conditions of structural and gender-based violence through writing and street-level activism. Ritterbusch likens the urgency of action to the “sensation of being held at knifepoint” and stresses the importance of sisterhood and friendship between the women who are united in their struggles. “Silence is not an option,” she argues.


image of empty field in Houston- part of FEMA buyout

Koslov on FEMA Buyouts of Flood-Prone Properties

Assistant professor of urban planning Liz Koslov spoke to NPR about Federal Emergency Management Agency buyouts of flood-prone properties. FEMA subsidizes the cost for local governments to buy out homes owned by people who want to relocate out of flood zones. A recent study found that counties that administer FEMA buyouts on average have higher incomes and population densities. The study also found that not all flood-prone communities can pursue a buyout because their local governments have not established FEMA programs. One reason that wealthier counties might be receiving more buyouts is that it requires significant bureaucratic and monetary resources to apply for and distribute buyout funds, the article noted. “Without public support, it’s clear that many people will be left without sufficient resources to move out of harm’s way,” Koslov said.


 

Image of Mauna Kea

Akee on Indigenous-Led Protests to Protect Mauna Kea

Associate professor of public policy Randall Akee spoke to Business Insider about the development of a telescope on Mauna Kea, a sacred site of prayer and worship for Native Hawaiians. Valued at over $1 billion, the Thirty Meter Telescope project has faced contentious protests led by indigenous groups in Hawaii. For years, the protests have delayed progress on building the telescope at the site nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. Akee said that indigenous people are often expected to accept development projects for the “greater good.” “Often these development projects and these activities are forced on indigenous people, and it creates this false narrative that these native people are just against development,” Akee said. “And that is not the case. We are just tired of bearing the cost.”


 

Kaplan on Infrastructure for Suicide Prevention

In a Santa Monica Daily Press article, professor of social welfare Mark Kaplan discussed strategies for suicide prevention. Since September 2018, five people have taken or attempted to take their own lives in parking structures in downtown Santa Monica. Experts have found that barriers, cameras and signage can serve as prevention measures in parking structures. “It’s often an impulsive act, and there’s research showing that people think twice if there’s a barrier,” Kaplan explained. “That doesn’t mean people won’t go elsewhere or take their own lives some other way, but you can at least erect barriers that reduce the possibility of this happening again.” Those struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or chat online.


Social Workers Key to New Era of Juvenile Justice, Abrams Says

Professor of social welfare Laura Abrams was featured in a Social Work Today article about the role of social work in the U.S. juvenile justice system. Over the last half-century, the U.S. has favored a system of punishment that made it easier for juveniles to be treated as adults. But Abrams sees a new era unfolding with a wave of 21st century reforms that prioritize the protection of children’s rights and support for youth and families. “Social workers should care about juvenile justice reform because we need to restore our rightful place with youth who have been in contact with the law,” she said. She encouraged social workers to stay informed about the issues, become aware of local initiatives and connect with advocacy groups to advance the cause of juvenile justice reform. “We can’t consider [reform] done, even though a lot of progress has been made,” Abrams said.


Manville on Benefits of Congestion Pricing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Sierra Club article about the prospect of congestion pricing in major U.S. cities. Earlier this year, paralyzing traffic delays in New York City prompted the state to approve a plan to implement congestion pricing by 2021, and Los Angeles recently approved a two-year study to investigate the feasibility of the traffic-management strategy. By charging people to drive on traffic-clogged roads, congestion pricing encourages people to drive at different times, carpool or take public transit, all while reducing carbon emissions and raising revenue for transportation projects. Manville explained that congestion pricing is “the only thing that has ever been demonstrated to reduce [congestion]. So either we can do this or everyone has to stop complaining.” Manville reiterated his support for congestion pricing as one of the most viable solutions to traffic gridlock in a Shift article.


Turner Tracks Effectiveness of ‘Cool Pavement’ Technology

A CityLab story on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to pursue “cool pavement” technologies to address rising urban temperatures featured the research of V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning. While other cool pavement studies have measured surface and air temperature, Turner’s research is the first to focus on “mean radiant temperature,” which is most related to thermal comfort. Turner and Ariane Middel, assistant professor of arts media and engineering at Arizona State University, studied unshaded streets in Pacoima and Sun Valley that had been coated with an asphalt mixture called CoolSeal, which reflects, rather than absorbs, the energy from sunlight. They measured air temperature, wind speed, humidity and radiation from morning to sundown, and their preliminary findings will soon be published by the American Meteorological Society. The project is one part of a greater effort to collect data on the effectiveness of strategies to address so-called urban heat islands.