I recently sent out an "Appeal" for accounting educators, researchers, and
practitioners to actively support what I call The Accounting Review (TAR)
Diversity Initiative as initiated by American Accounting Association President
Judy Rayburn ---
In the past I've provided links to various types of music and video available
free on the Web.
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---
The essays are somewhat personalized in terms of how theory
development is perceived by each author and how these perceptions changed
In Tidbits I shared some of the key quotations as I
proceeded through this book. I have now finished the book. It was somewhat
heavy going, so it took
some time to add selected quotations to the list of quotations at
KEN G. SMITH and MICHAEL A. HITT
Interestingly, our scholars were not highly explicit about the
search processes or search behaviors they used other than to recognize that the
search process occurred. Bandura notes, "Discontent with adequacy of existing
theoretical explanations provides the impetus to search for conceptual schemes
that can offer better explanations." Vroom describes how he was "searching for
a dissertation topic" when he obtained an insight for expectancy theory.
Rousseau describes the search process: "Observe and listen to people in the
workplace, do lots of reading, and talk with other colleagues to figure out the
way forward." Mintzberg argues, "We get interesting theory when we let go of
all this scientific correctness, or to use a famous phrase, suspend our beliefs,
and allow our minds to roam freely and creatively." We suspect that the search
process if not independent of the tension that created it. They likely occur
almost simultaneously and the tension continues until the framework for the new
theory is developed. In fact, some tension is likely to exist until others in
the field embrace the new theory. That said, we infer different patterns of
search based on career paths of our scholars, and the colleagues with whom they
interacted. Thus, their career orientations and their collegial relationships
interacted with their individual training and experiences (knowledge stocks) to
produce the new theory.
Bandura also captures this part of the process: "Initial
formulations prompt lines of experimentation that help improve the theory.
Successive theoretical refinements bring one closer to understanding the
phenomena of interest." Oldham and Hackman note:
Locke and Latham are more specific in discussions of their means
of elaboration in their goal setting research:
Zucker and Darby use the metaphor of a growing tree to portray
the process of theory development: "It grows according to where the nutrients
and sun are best, and in the process sometimes grows odd-looking branches and
may be quite unbalanced in its growth in the sense that one side of the tree
grows more than the other. Many people work at developing a theory, and not all
use the same approach". Rousseau suggests that three specific mechanisms (four
distinct sets of actions) helped her elaborate psychological contract theory:
spending time in organizations, writing two books, and producing a series of
research projects. In some cases, this process of elaboration is of a
shorter-term nature and in others it is a career-long endeavor. For the most
part, elaboration involves a rather long period of time, although not
necessarily a whole career.
The proclamation of the theories can occur in many ways, but two
alternatives are more common. First, there can be a series of both conceptual
and empirical articles that often incrementally build on each other or
independently add to the theoretical knowledge. Usually after the quantity of
this work passes a critical threshold, it is summarized in a book in order to
create a "gestalt" framework and to enhance the coherence of the theory. For
example, Locke and Latham summarized over twenty-five years of studies in their
1990 book on goal setting. Similarly, Finkelstein and Hambrick (1996)
summarized and elaborated ten years of research in their book, Strategic
Leadership. Beach and Mitchell (1996) published a number of papers on image
theory and summarized this work in an edited volume on Image Theory.
Being first a female scientist and then a male scientist has given Prof.
Barres a unique perspective on the debate over why women are so rare at the
highest levels of academic science and math: He has experienced personally
how each is treated by colleagues, mentors and rivals.
"He, Once a She, Offers Own View On Science Spat," by Sharon Begley,
The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2006; Page B1 ---
Based on those experiences, as well as research
on gender differences, Prof. Barres begs to differ with what he calls
"the Larry Summers Hypothesis," named for the former Harvard president
who attributed the paucity of top women scientists to lack of "intrinsic
aptitude." In a commentary in today's issue of the journal Nature, he
writes that "the reason women are not advancing [in science] is
discrimination" and the "Summers Hypothesis amounts to nothing more than
blaming the victim."
In his remarks at an economics conference in
January 2005, Mr. Summers said "socialization" is probably a trivial
reason for the low number of top female mathematicians and scientists.
But Prof. Barres, who as Barbara received the subtle and not-so-subtle
hints that steer smart girls away from science, doesn't see it that way.
The top science and math student in her New Jersey high school, she was
advised by her guidance counselor to go to a local college rather than
apply to MIT. She applied anyway and was admitted.
As an MIT undergraduate, Barbara was one of the
only women in a large math class, and the only student to solve a
particularly tough problem. The professor "told me my boyfriend must
have solved it for me," recalls Prof. Barres, 51 years old, in an
interview. "If boys were raised to feel that they can't be good at
mathematics, there would be very few who were."
Although Barbara Barres was a top student at
MIT, "nearly every lab head I asked refused to let me do my thesis
research" with him, Prof. Barres says. "Most of my male friends had
their first choice of labs. And I am still disappointed about the
prestigious fellowship I lost to a male student when I was a Ph.D.
student," even though the rival had published one prominent paper and
she had six.
As a neuroscientist, Prof. Barres is also
skeptical of the claim that differences between male and female brains
might explain the preponderance of men in math and science. For one
thing, he says, the studies don't adequately address whether those
differences are innate and thus present from birth, or reflect the
different experiences that men and women have. Harvard psychologist
Steven Pinker, who defends the Summers Hypothesis, acknowledges that the
existence of gender differences in values, preferences and aptitudes
"does not mean that they are innate."
The biggest recent revolution in neuroscience
has been the discovery of the brain's "plasticity," or ability to change
structure and function in response to experiences. "It's not hard to
believe that differences between the brains of male and female adults
have nothing to do with genes or the Y chromosome but may be the
biological expression of different social settings," says biologist Joan
Roughgarden of Stanford, who completed her own transgender transition in
Jonathan Roughgarden's colleagues and rivals
took his intelligence for granted, Joan says. But Joan has had "to
establish competence to an extent that men never have to. They're
assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is
assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise. I remember going
on a drive with a man. He assumed I couldn't read a map."
Actually, Ben Barres says there may be
something to the stereotype that men are better map readers. The
testosterone he received to become male improved his spatial abilities,
he writes in Nature, though "I still get lost every time I drive."
Still, there is little evidence that lack of
testosterone or anything unique to male biology is the main factor
keeping women from the top ranks of science and math, says Prof. Barres,
a view that is widely held among scientists who study the issue.
Although more men than women in the U.S. score in the stratosphere on
math tests, there is no such difference in Japan, and in Iceland the
situation is flipped, with more women than men scoring at the very top.
"That seems more like 'socialization' than any
difference in innate abilities to me," geneticist Gregory Petsko of
Brandeis University wrote last year. In any case, except in a few
specialized fields like theoretical physics, there is little correlation
between math scores and who becomes a scientist.
Some supporters of the Summers Hypothesis
suggest that temperament, not ability, holds women back in science: They
are innately less competitive. Prof. Barres's experience suggests that
if women are less competitive, it is not because of anything innate but
because that trait has been beaten out of them.
"Female scientists who are competitive or
assertive are generally ostracized by their male colleagues," he says.
In any case, he argues, "an aggressive competitive spirit" matters less
to scientific success than curiosity, perseverance and self-confidence.
Women doubt their abilities more than men do,
say scientists who have mentored scores of each. "Almost without
exception, the talented women I have known have believed they had less
ability than they actually had," Prof. Petsko wrote. "And almost without
exception, the talented men I have known believed they had more."
Which may account for what Prof. Barres calls
the main difference he has noticed since changing sex. "People who do
not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect," he says.
"I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a
How do athletes at Auburn University find a way to ace sociology without
having to go to class?
"Top Grades and No Class Time for Auburn Players," by Pete Thamal, The
New York Times, July 14, 2006 ---
Professor Petee’s directed-reading classes,
which nonathletes took as well, helped athletes in several sports
improve their grade-point averages and preserve their athletic
eligibility. A number of athletes took more than one class with
Professor Petee over their careers: one athlete took seven such courses,
three athletes took six, five took five and eight took four, according
to records compiled by Professor Gundlach. He also found that more than
a quarter of the students in Professor Petee’s directed-reading courses
were athletes. (Professor Gundlach could not provide specific names
because of student privacy laws.)
The Auburn football team’s performance in the
N.C.A.A.’s new rankings of student athletes’ academic progress surprised
many educators on and off campus. The team had the highest ranking of
any Division I-A public university among college football’s six major
conferences. Over all among Division I-A football programs, Auburn
trailed only Stanford, Navy and Boston College, and finished just ahead
Among those caught off guard by Auburn’s
performance was Gordon Gee, the chancellor of Vanderbilt, a fellow
university in the Southeastern Conference and its only private
institution. Vanderbilt had an 88 percent graduation rate in 2004,
compared with Auburn’s 48 percent, yet finished well behind Auburn in
the new N.C.A.A. rankings.
“It was a little surprising because our
graduation rates are so much higher,” Mr. Gee said. “I’m not quite
certain I understood that.”
The N.C.A.A. cannot comment on specific
academic cases. But when asked how much 18 players taking 97 credit
hours could affect a football team’s academic standing, Thomas S. Paskus,
the N.C.A.A.’s principal research scientist, said it would be likely to
lift the number. He added that it would be difficult to gauge how much
the classes helped the academic ranking.
In the spring of 2005, Professor Gundlach
confronted Professor Petee, to whom he reported, about the proliferation
of directed-reading courses. That spring, the university’s
administration told Professor Petee he was carrying too many of the
classes. Far fewer have been offered since.
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on academic scandals in college athletics are at
"Internet Con Artists Turn to 'Vishing'," PhysOrg, July 13,
Internet con artists are turning to an old tool
- the phone - to keep tricking Web users who have learned not to click
on links in unsolicited e-mails.
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A batch of e-mails recently making the rounds
were crafted to appear as if they came from PayPal, eBay Inc.'s online
payment service. Like traditional phony "phishing" e-mails, these said
there was some problem with the recipients' accounts.
Phishing e-mails generally instruct recipients
to click a link in the e-mail to confirm their personal information; the
link actually connects to a bogus site where the data are stolen.
But with Internet users wiser about phishing,
the new fake PayPal e-mail included no such link. Instead it told users
to call a number, where an automated answering service asked for account
Security experts tracking this scam and other
instances of "vishing" - short for "voice phishing" - say the frauds are
particularly nefarious because they mimic the legitimate ways people
interact with financial institutions.
In fact, some vishing attacks don't begin with
an e-mail. Some come as calls out of the blue in which the caller
already knows the recipient's credit card number - increasing the
perception of legitimacy - and asks just for the valuable three-digit
security code on the back of the card.
"It is becoming more difficult to distinguish
phishing attempts from actual attempts to contact customers," said Ron
O'Brien, a security analyst with Sophos PLC.
Vishing appears to be flourishing with the help
of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, the technology that enables
cheap and anonymous Internet calling, as well as the ease with which
caller ID boxes can be tricked into displaying erroneous information.
The upshot: "If you get a telephone call where
someone is asking you to provide or confirm any of your personal
information, immediately hang up and call your financial institution
with the number on the back of the card," said Paul Henry, a vice
president with Secure Computing Corp. "If it was a real issue, they can
address the issue."
Continued in article
"IRS Warns Phishing Scams Increasing," AccountingWeb, July 12,
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reminding
taxpayers to be on the lookout for bogus e-mails claiming to be from the
tax agency, on the heels of a recent increase in scam e-mails.
In recent weeks the IRS has experienced an
increase in complaints about e-mails designed to trick the recipients
into disclosing personal and financial information that could be used to
steal the recipient’s identity and financial assets. Since November, 99
different scams have been identified. Twenty of those were identified in
June, the highest number since the height of the filing season when 40
were identified in March.
“The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails
asking for personal information,” IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, said
in a prepared statement. “Don’t be taken in by these criminals.”
The current scams claim to come from theirs,
tell recipients that they are due a federal tax refund, and direct them
to a web site that appears to be a genuine IRS site. The bogus sites
contain forms or interactive web pages similar to the IRS forms or Web
pages but which have been modified to request detailed personal and
financial information from the e-mail recipients. In addition, e-mail
addresses ending with “.edu” – involving users in the education
community – currently seem to be heavily targeted.
Many of the current schemes originate outside
the United States. To date, investigations by the Treasury Inspector
General for Tax Administration have identified sites hosting more than
two dozen IRS-related phishing scams. These scam Web sites have been
located in many different countries, including Argentina, Aruba,
Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, England, Germany, Indonesia,
Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Singapore and Slovakia,
as well as the United States.
Tricking consumers into disclosing their
personal and financial information, such as secret access data or credit
card or bank account numbers, is fraudulent activity which can result in
identity theft. Such schemes perpetrated through the Internet are called
“phishing” for information.
The information fraudulently obtained is them
used to steal the taxpayer’s identity and financial assets. Typically,
identity thieves use someone’s personal data to empty the victim’s
financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit
cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the
victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns.
When the IRS learns of new schemes involving
use of the IRS name or logo, it issues consumer alerts warning taxpayers
about the schemes.
The IRS also has established an electronic
mailbox for taxpayers to send information about suspicious e-mails they
receive which claim to come from the IRS. Taxpayers should send the
information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Instructions on how to properly submit
possibly fraudulent e-mails to the IRS may be found on the IRS web site
at www.irs.gov. This mailbox is only for suspicious e-mails, not general
More than 7,000 bogus e-mails have been
forwarded to the IRS, with nearly 1,300 forwarded in June alone. Due to
the volume or e-mails the mailbox receives, the IRS cannot acknowledge
receipt or reply to taxpayers who submit possibly bogus e-mails.
Bob Jensen's threads on "Phishing , Pharming, Vishing, Slurping, and
Spoofing" are at
What are the worst of the bad opening sentences to imaginary novels?
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2006 Results at San Jose State University ---
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office
studying the light from his one small window falling on his super
burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said
you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did
exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and
lick the shovel clean.
"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed
Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six
superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot
myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most
powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head
clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel
loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"
Christy, lounging in the gondola which
slipped smoothly through the enveloping mist had her first inkling that
something was afoot as she heard pattering hooves below (for our story
is not in Venice but Switzerland with its Provolone and Toblerone) and
craning her not unlovely neck she narrowed her eyes at the dozen tiny
reindeer, pelting madly down the goat trail.
She looked at her hands and saw the
desiccated skin hanging in Shar-Pei wrinkles, confetti-like freckles,
and those dry, dry cuticles--even her "Fatale Crimson" nail color had
faded in the relentless sun to the color of old sirloin--and she vowed
if she ever got out of the Sahara alive, she'd never buy polish on sale
at Walgreen's again.
It was a day, like any other day, in that
Linus got up, faced the sunrise, used his inhaler, applied that special
cream between his toes, wrote a quick note and put it in a bottle, and
wished he'd been stranded on the island with something other than 40
cases each of inhalers, decorative bottles, and special toe cream.
Web Site Comparing Shipping Rates Launches ---
Enter your address, the weight of a package and its
destination, and the site displays a grid with the prices various couriers
would charge to send the item, depending on the delivery time. With a few
clicks, you can print a shipping label and schedule a pickup, or find the
nearest drop-off center. "Instead of being designed to ship people, it was
designed to ship packages," Van Wyck said.
"Web Site Comparing Shipping Rates Launches," PhysOrg, July 13, 2006
Recent Examples of Cheating from "Cheating: Everybody's Doing
by Gay Jervey, Readers Digest, March 2006, pp. 123-124:
- Nine business students at the University of Maryland caught
receiving text-messaged answers on their cell phones during an
- A Texas teen criminally charged for selling stolen test answers ---
allegedly swiped via a keystroke-decoding device affixed to a teacher's
computer --- to fellow students.
- Seven Kansas State University students in one class accused of
plagiarizing papers off the Internet.
- A Kansas State University student hacked into a professor's online
grade book and changed the grades on two examinations that he did not
- 70 percent of students at 60 colleges admitted to some cheating
within the previous year (Gallop reported 65%).
Bob Jensen's threads on "New Kinds of Cheating"
Popular Mortgage Web Site Under Scrutiny
A lawsuit against Bankrate.com, which alleges
that the Web site has become a haven for "bait-and-switch" loan pitches,
underlines the difficulty consumers can have in locating reliable
financial information online.
Michael Hudson, "Popular Mortgage Web Site Under Scrutiny: Lawsuit
Against Bankrate Spotlights Difficulty of Getting Sound Financial Data
Online," The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2006 ---
Bob Jensen's mortgage advice is at
Bob Jensen's threads on banking fraud are at
"An Easier Way to Send Large Email Attachments: Free Application
Helps To Avoid Clogging Inboxes; Speeds Still Might Vary," by Walter S.
Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2006; Page D5 ---
How many times have you wanted to email a large
attachment -- like a bunch of digital photos, an album of songs, or a
hefty video -- but didn't do so because it exceeded your email
provider's, or the recipient's, limits on attachment size, or because it
might max out the recipient's mailbox?
This frustration is growing increasingly common
as better digital cameras produce bigger photos and large video clips,
and digital music becomes more widespread. Computer hard disks have
grown nicely to accommodate these files, but limits on the size of email
messages haven't. And, even if you could send such large attachments, it
can take forever to send them via email, partly because broadband upload
speeds lag far behind download speeds.
Instead of suffering the frustration of a
bounced email, many folks have resorted to Web-based services like
Shutterfly or Kodak EasyShare Gallery or YouTube.com or Google Video for
sharing digital photos and videos. They upload the files to these sites,
then send links to their friends and family. But this method has major
drawbacks. The recipients don't get the full-size files on their own
computers, and sometimes must register with the sites to view your
This week, we tested a new, free, application
called Pando that aims to solve this problem without requiring you to
use an intermediary Web site. Pando lets you email huge attachments --
up to one gigabyte each -- to anyone, without breaching email size
limits, or clogging anyone's inbox. It comes in versions for both
Windows and Macintosh computers, available for downloading at
It sounded fishy to us, too, but Pando, from
Pando Networks Inc., performed really well in our tests -- even in its
current "beta," or trial, stage. It's simple, fast, and effective, and
it solves the large-attachment problem.
Pando works by merging the mechanism of email
with its own small program and a modified version of BitTorrent, a
back-end file-transfer system best known until now for speeding up the
downloading of large, unauthorized files, like pirated movies.
Here's how you use Pando. First, you download
and install the small Pando program. Then, you select the files you want
to send. These can be any type of files you want, or even whole folders
of files. Then, still using the Pando software, you type in the
addresses of the recipients, the subject, and a message. The software
then does three things: it creates a Pando Package, a small special file
that instructs the recipient's computer on how to fetch the files; it
sends an email containing that package file, plus any text you want; and
it uploads the files to a Pando server.
On the recipient's end, an email is received in
his or her normal email program containing the Pando Package as a tiny
attachment (one huge 94 megabyte attachment we sent required only a
22-kilobyte attachment). The recipient just opens the Pando Package
attachment, and it in turn launches the Pando software, which then
downloads the files or folders you sent. The first time the recipient
receives a Pando email, he or she will have to download and install the
Pando software. There's a link in the email to the download site.
Once downloaded onto the receiver's computer,
all Pando files can be found in a special folder that Pando
automatically creates. In Windows, it's called My Pando Packages and is
in My Documents. On the Mac, it's called Pando Packages and is in the
home folder. The files are also listed in the handy Received list in the
As a bonus, Pando can sometimes transmit these
large files faster than your email program or Web browser could. That's
because it uses a modified version of the speedy BitTorrent technology.
We downloaded and installed Pando in just a few
minutes. Opening the small Pando email attachment from Microsoft Outlook
on Windows or Apple Mail on the Mac prompted a little Pando window to
pop up, in which all sent and received files were organized. This window
is simple, showing a thumbnail image and text description of each file.
A list of received files shows who sent the file and when; the sent list
shows to whom you sent files and when.
We started out big, sharing a 95-megabyte,
high-resolution video. You must create a username and password to send
using Pando, which we did, entering our email and first and last names.
A simple "Send New" icon opens the email-like form, where we dragged and
dropped this big video file.
No Pando Package can total more than one
gigabyte, and an automatic tally shows you how large the Package is
becoming as you drag and drop more files into it.
Continued in article
From Mossberg's Mailbox
"How to Split Up MP3 Files," The Wall Street Journal, July 6,
2006; Page B4 ---
Q: I'm downloading some
lectures in MP3 format and then transferring each to an audio CD to
listen to while driving. An occasional lecture in the series is too
large to transfer to CD. Is there a program that will divide these into
two tracks so that they can be written to separate CDs?
A: Yes, there are multiple
little utility programs that can split (or join) MP3 files. I haven't
tested any of them, so I can't recommend one. But you can find them by
www.download.com and typing in "mp3 splitter."
Bob Jensen's audio helpers are at
"Are You Saving Enough for Retirement? A Guide to Figuring It Out and
Funding It," by Jonathan Clements, The Wall Street Journal, July
12, 2006; Page D1 ---
So what's your personal liability
and how can you trim it? Brace yourself: We're in for some scary math.
• Bridging the
"Corporate accounting requires companies to look at their pension
obligations, to use reasonable assumptions and to fund those
obligations on an annual basis," notes Charles Farrell, a financial
consultant in Medina, Ohio. "A little bit of that corporate
discipline can be helpful on the individual side."
Mr. Farrell's advice: Start by
deciding how much income you will need from your portfolio to supplement
whatever you expect from Social Security and any pensions you're
entitled to. Next, multiply your desired portfolio income by 20, to get
the target size of your retirement nest egg. (This assumes you use a 5%
withdrawal rate in the first year of retirement, and thereafter step up
your withdrawals with inflation.)
For instance, if you're looking
to garner $40,000 in initial retirement income from your portfolio, you
would need $800,000 saved. Let's say you have $300,000 salted away. That
means your current unfunded retirement liability is $500,000.
To find out how much you need to
save each month to amass this $500,000, head to
and call up the savings-goal calculator. One problem: Thanks to
inflation, your target retirement income and your required savings could
be whole lot bigger by the time you quit the work force. What to do? Mr.
Farrell suggests thinking in terms of after-inflation "real" rates of
To that end, when using the
dinkytown.net calculator, set inflation at zero and input what you think
your annual return will be, over and above inflation. If your portfolio
includes a decent helping of stocks and you're careful about investment
expenses, you might opt for a 4% real return.
Finally, enter your portfolio's
value, your current monthly savings and your time horizon. The
calculator will then tell you how much you really need to save each
month to accumulate your desired nest egg. But here's the key: To combat
inflation and ensure you have enough at retirement, you will need to
increase your monthly savings along with inflation.
• Raising the
Does your required savings rate seem a little steep? If anything,
you should probably be socking away even more, for two reasons.
First, many financial planners
consider a truly safe withdrawal rate to be 4.5% or even 4%. That means
you ought to amass as much as 25 times your desired $40,000, boosting
your retirement liability to $1 million.
This is clearly news to a lot of
ordinary investors. According to a study recently conducted for insurer
New York Life, 40% of those surveyed weren't sure how much they could
safely withdraw from a portfolio -- and an additional 29% thought that a
safe retirement withdrawal rate was 10% or more. "There's a pretty big
gap between expectations and reality," says Ted Mathas, chief operating
officer at New York Life.
Second, while you might want only
$40,000 a year in portfolio income, you should be prepared to spend as
much as $74,095 per person. That's the national average cost for a
private nursing-home room, according to insurer MetLife's Mature Market
Institute. In fact, if both you and your spouse need care at the same
time, you could have to fork over some $150,000 a year.
Assuming you get $20,000 a year
from Social Security, your out-of-pocket cost might be $130,000. Based
on a 5% withdrawal rate, that means you need $2.6 million socked away.
How's that for a retirement liability?
"Long-term care is a huge
potential cost," Mr. Farrell says. "If you're not rich enough to
self-insure, you've got to think about buying a long-term-care policy
that gives you at least minimal coverage."
• Trimming the
A long-term-care policy is one way to dial down your unfunded
What else can you do? To squeeze
more retirement income out of your assets, you could take out a reverse
mortgage and use maybe 25% or 50% of your savings to buy an
immediate-fixed annuity that pays lifetime income.
In addition, "you could try to
lower your fixed costs," Mr. Farrell says. "A smaller house is better,
because that should lower your property taxes and lower your utilities.
You might also want to reassess how many cars you have."
Of course, cutting back isn't
easy. "Try to downscale before you retire, to see if you're comfortable
with that," Mr. Farrell suggests. "If you're not, you might want to
retire a little later."
Postponing retirement --
unpalatable as it seems -- can transform your chances of a comfortable
retirement. By delaying, you will have more time to save and more time
for your investments to grow. You will also shorten your retirement, so
you can be more aggressive in spending down your nest egg.
As an added bonus, delaying
retirement will allow you to postpone taking Social Security and
purchasing an immediate annuity. Result: When you start Social Security
and when you buy your annuity, you will get even more income.
Bob Jensen's investment helpers are at
"Social Security: What’s the Magic Age? When to start collecting your
benefits," by Kathryn Garnett, Journal of Accountancy, July 2006
In determining the
age at which a worker should apply for Social Security
benefits, consideration should be given to current and expected future
sources of income, age of beneficiary and spouse, health issues that
could affect longevity and whether the beneficiary will continue to work
while receiving benefits.
There is no
“one-size-fits-all” answer for deciding when Social Security
benefits should be started. Many workers will benefit by beginning to
receive benefits at age 62 due to their circumstances and needs. For
others, waiting until full retirement age, or even later, will provide
higher annual income in the years ahead when their expenses might
outpace their resources.
How long does it
take to break even in the game of taking benefits at early vs.
normal retirement age? If two retirees are now 65 and one started
collecting Social Security benefits at age 62 and the other starts now,
they will collect the same total amount of money when they are 77 years
It’s important to
do preretirement calculations at least every three years, to
take into account any changing circumstances and/or changes in the rules
as they apply to Social Security benefits, pensions and investment
From Smart Stops on the Web, Journal of
Accountancy, July 2006 ---
Green Golden Years
CPA/PFSs can find retirement planning advice here, including information
on rolling over qualified plans, an IRA fact sheet and five reasons to
open a 401(k) plan. Take a quiz to see how much you know about the
basics of retirement planning, calculate 401(k) plan savings or sign up
for a free newsletter.
Wealth of Resources
Free registration at the Financial Planning Association Web site gets
planners access to a calculator that can figure the worth of your
client’s 401(k) at retirement. Find checklists on the documentation you
should ask clients to supply to begin working with them and questions
they may ask about your qualifications. Take an investment fraud
awareness quiz or research what to do with your retirement plan if you
lose your job.
Ready to Retire?
Read detailed Qs&As on retirement planning in the Ask the Experts
section at this e-stop to find out whether your clients are set for
their futures. Topics include annuities, general investing, Medicaid and
Social Security. Access calculators to figure out how much savings your
clients will need in order to quit working. Compare taxable and tax-free
investment returns and inflation’s impact on savings, get the free
Primer on Annuities report or register for free Webinars and the
Safe Money Advisory newsletter.
Older and WISER
The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) Web site offers
five things women need to do for retirement, as well as five reasons
retirement is a challenge for female workers. You can find 10 ways baby
boomer women can avoid retirement poverty, read up on issues related to
retirement plans, such as divorce and widowhood, or see how well you do
on a pension checklist.
Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek Web address fool you: CPAs looking for
pertinent information on retirement planning for themselves and their
clients will find it here. Links take users to Q&A discussions on
factors affecting 401(k) plans, such as active vs. passive plan
management and when payments kick in and tips on how to manage
Bob Jensen's investment helpers are at
Bob Jensen's threads on finding professional
help are at
In trading simulations students cheat just like real-world traders
At the end of the semester, the number of
students in a simulated trading room who were caught in misconduct or
misusing information for insider trading was significantly higher than
at the beginning. The students said, "You taught us how to do it," Buono
recalled. "For those of us who've spent our careers teaching this, it's
been a disappointing time," said Buono, who has taught at the Waltham,
Mass., college for 27 years. "Some of the most renowned names in the
corporate world are now jokes at cocktail parties. And they were led by
graduates of our business programs. "That made a lot of us sit up and
rethink the approach of what we're doing."
"Business Profs Rethinking Ethics Classes," SmartPros, June 19,
Gender Gap Grows
The proportion of college students who are men
continues to shrink — but that does not mean male students are being
shut out of higher education, the American Council of Education says in
a new report.
Doug Lederman, "Gender Gap Grows," Inside Higher Ed, July 12,
"Yes, College Women Work Harder," The New York Times, July
12, 2006 ---
One in four boys who have college educated parents cannot read a
newspaper with understanding
"Where the Boys Aren't," by Christina Hoff Sommers, The Wall Street
Journal, July 3, 2006; Page A10 ---
The reading scores of 17-year-old
boys overall have gone down in the past decade, hitting an all-time low
in 2004. Judith Kleinfeld, a professor of psychology at the University
of Alaska, has done a thorough analysis of the reading skills of white
males from college-educated families. Using Department of Education
data, she shows that at the end of high school, 23% of the white sons of
college educated parents scored "below basic." For girls from the same
background, the figure is 7%. "This means," Ms. Kleinfeld writes, "that
one in four boys who have college educated parents cannot read a
newspaper with understanding."
Education Sector's study concedes
that African-American, Hispanic and low-income white males "are in real
trouble." But it attributes their plight to larger social problems that
have little to do with gender. Ms. Mead does not seem to have noticed
that among these demographics, males are far behind their female
counterparts. For example, Ms. Kleinfeld found that 34% of Hispanic
males with college-educated parents scored "below basic" -- compared to
19% of Hispanic females.
Today, for every 100 women who
earn a bachelor's degree, just 73 men get one. Not to worry, says Ms.
Mead. It is actually good news for young men, because more of them are
going to college today than did in the '70s and '80s. By this reasoning,
we need not worry about the relatively low wages of women compared to
men, since in "absolute terms" women are doing better than in the past.
We are strikingly better at
educating young women than young men. Boys need our attention. It is
difficult to understand why an organization devoted to improving
education should regard the current concern for boys as a threat to
girls' progress. Education Sector would be more constructively occupied
if it looked for ways to help our boys keep pace with the girls.
Ms. Sommers is the author of "The War Against Boys"
(Simon & Schuster, 2000).
"Mindless Reading Seen As Fundamental," PhysOrg, July 3,
Ever read the same paragraph three times? Or
get to the end of a page and realize you don't know what you just read?
That's mindless reading. It is the literary
equivalent of driving for miles without remembering how you got there -
something so common many people don't even notice it.
In a new study of college students, researchers
from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of British Columbia
established a way to study mindless reading in a lab.
Their findings showed that daydreaming has its
The readers who zoned out most tended to do the
worst on tests of reading comprehension - a significant, if not
surprising, result. The study also suggested that zoning out caused the
poor test results, as opposed to other possible factors, such as the
complexity of the text or the task.
The researchers hope their work inspires more
research into why zoning out happens, and what can be done to stop it.
For now, they want the problem to be taken
"When you talk about this work at conferences,
it does lend itself to a lot of jokes," acknowledges University of
Pittsburgh professor Erik Reichle, co-leader of the study.
"It's so ubiquitous. Everybody does it," he
said. "I think that's one of the main reasons it's been overlooked. And
there's been a view that it is tough to study experimentally. Hopefully,
now, there will be more interest in the topic."
The federal government is showing some.
Reichle and fellow psychology professor
Jonathan Schooler did the study on a $691,000 grant from the Institute
of Education Sciences, an arm of the Education Department. It is one of
178 federally backed projects aimed at giving schools a scientific basis
for sound policies.
Over three experiments, students used computers
to read the first five chapters of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace."
(Reichle wanted some boring reading - better for zoning out.)
Reichle said the dry text itself did not skew
the results toward mindless wandering. After all, the students were on
alert, unlike the typical reader.
Participants were told to monitor and report
instances of zoning out as they read text on a computer. Half of them
got computer reminders, too: "Were you zoning out?"
Despite all that, many still reported zoning
out at a regular pace.
"That's the amazing thing," Reichle said. "It
shows how often this can happen even under conditions that are designed
to keep it from happening."
The students said as their eyes scanned the
words, their minds often were elsewhere.
They were hungry, or thirsty, or tired. They
were thinking about plans, worries or memories. Some drifted into
fantasies. Others stuck with the book, but their minds wandered into
tangents about the plot.
Karen Wixson, a nationally recognized reading
expert and professor of education at the University of Michigan,
cautioned not to read too much into all this.
"This is a long ways away from having
implications for reading instruction," Wixson said. "It could,
eventually, down the line. But to draw inferences about this as a
contributing factor toward reading comprehension would be a huge, huge
To apply to younger kids - the target audience
of reading classes - the findings would have to be replicated among
school-age children, Wixson said.
She said participants may have zoned more often
because they were reading off computer screens, and because they had no
real incentive to pay attention, as they would in school.
But at the International Reading Association,
Cathy Roller sees some direct payoff. She directs research and policy
for the association, which represents literacy professionals.
By recognizing zoning out as problem, she said,
teachers can do something.
Like asking students to put a checkmark next to
paragraphs as they finish them and then summarize what they just read.
Or having students scan all the pictures and
bold type before reading the text of a story, so that they have a
general understanding of what's to come.
Zoning out may simply mean that the prose isn't
interesting, Roller said. But it could also be a clear signal that
students don't understand the work.
"You don't want to generalize narrow studies
into large implications," Roller said. "But zoning out is probably not a
whole lot different than not comprehending. And telling people to start
using some good comprehension strategies is not likely to do any harm."
Roller knows. She had just been zoning out
while reading a literature review.
By the way, last sentence here. If you missed
anything, there's no shame in rereading.
Good Morning, Vietnam
Robert E. Rubin, "Good Morning, Vietnam," The Wall Street Journal,
July 12, 2006; Page A16 ---
Vietnam is close to having completed
negotiations for accession to the World Trade Organization. Once it does
join, Vietnam will become part of the multilateral global trading
system, with lower barriers to trade for the goods and services of its
trading partners, and lower trading barriers in overseas markets to
Vietnam's goods and services. This will be another major impetus for
economic growth and development in Vietnam, as well as for integration
with the rest of the global community.
However, for the benefits of Vietnam's WTO
membership to apply to the U.S., Congress must enact legislation that
eliminates the Cold War-era requirement that Vietnam each year receive
presidential certification of progress with respect to human rights.
This is exactly the same permanent exemption that was granted to China
in the 1990s, and reflects a view that increased engagement with the
international community best serves our national security interests and
also over time helps promote human rights and other values that lie at
the heart of the American political system.
The U.S. bilateral trading agreement with
Vietnam already provides good access to most Vietnamese markets, but now
this access would improve with respect to services, agriculture and
protection of intellectual property. More importantly, helping Vietnam
grow increases its market for our goods and services -- which could over
time be very substantial, given the country's large population -- and
also its efficiency in providing goods and services to us less
Continued in article
From Jim Mahar's Blog on June 29, 2006 ---
Greenbaum on Corporate
Stuart Greenbaum recently gave a very
interesting and important speech at the
Financial Intermediation Research Society Meetings in Shanghai
. Fortunately for those of who
did not go to China to attend the conference, the keynote
address is available through
. The abstract does not do the
speech justice, so I will provide some "visual bites" via some
*"Ben Hermalin and Michael Weisbach (2003) quote Adam Smith on
agency problems arising from separation of finance and
management....Berle and Means (1933) essay these same issues in
the context of public corporations with diffuse
ownership....Nevertheless, the current flowering of the
corporate governance issue, accompanied by a tsunami-like surge
of research...offers something new."
* "It was recently noted by Gillan (2006) that searching
"corporate governance"� on SSRN yielded 3500 items....being
impelled to reinterpret virtually all of Finance."
*"Finance may well become the business school's quintessential
normative discipline. Teaching business ethics, always something
of an embarrassment, may simply come to be teaching Finance
* "The corporate governance issue divides itself conveniently
into two complementary components of substance and
implementation. The former asks the question of corporate
purpose. Arguments in the corporation's alleged objective
function are the domain of inquiry. Shareholders versus
stakeholders is the vernacular phrasing."
"Tirole concedes three pedestrian reasons for the narrower
construal of corporate purpose [that is why we should focus on
shareholders] These include paucity of appropriable resources,
parsimony (workability) and avoidance of foot-dragging and
deadlocks in decision making (again, workability). There is no
doctrinal defense of share- or debtholders' property rights.
Tirole's concessions to shareholders' exclusivity as claimants
to both cash flow and control rights are unabashedly and
*"Whatever your personal predilection---and mine veers toward
the traditional, narrower view on Tirolean grounds--- it would
be wrong to ignore the tectonic drift in public sentiment toward
a greener, more European view of corporate purpose."
* "...the explosion of interest in corporate governance is too
easily misinterpreted as a theme, even a nuance, in Finance.
Nomenclature aside, corporate governance is a watershed,
comparable to the reinvention of the field beginning in the late
1950's by Modigliani, Miller, Scholes, Merton, Jensen, Fama, et
*"The corporate governance movement breathed life into
Behavioral Finance that sought explanations for anomalies of the
frictionless, efficient markets so integral to the earlier
recasting of Finance. But whereas Behavioral Finance deployed a
set of unrelated psychological constructs as explanations for
previously puzzling financial occurrences, corporate governance
offered a cohesive story originating at the epicenter, the inner
sanctum of corporate affairs"
Greenbaum then goes on to discuss the role of intermediaries:
*"...banks have been complicit in the more heralded corporate
scandals...In any case, this failure of banks to perform
expected monitoring was widespread. Standard explanations fell
into the "�my brother thinks he'�s a chicken" category. That is,
the fees paid to the intermediaries were too seductively large
to be jeopardized....This is the same reason Arthur Andersen and
Enron'�s lawyers were said to have looked the other way."
* He concludes: "The financial intermediaries, along with
boards, external auditors, lawyers, the stock exchange and
governmental regulators, are the guardians society depends upon
to protect corporate integrity. The intermediaries' role is to
monitor, but they are just as subject to subversion as those
they are charged with monitoring."
Well said and a great speech. Definitely I^3 (which is I think
the first time I have ever given a speech an I^3 rating.)
Greenbaum, Stuart I., "Corporate Governance and the Reinvention
of Finance" (June 20, 2006). Available at SSRN:
June 29, 2006 message from Carolyn Kotlas
TABLET PCS AND FACULTY USERS
Many recent studies on tablet PCs in higher
education have focused on student users. The purpose of the Seton Hall
University project described in "The Tablet PC For Faculty: A Pilot
Project" (by Rob R. Weitz, Bert Wachsmuth, and Danielle Mirliss in
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY, vol. 9, issue. 2, 2006, pp.
68-83) "was to test and evaluate faculty applications of tablet PCs
apropos their contribution to teaching and learning. Put another way,
how would real faculty teaching actual classes use tablets, and how
would they evaluate the utility of doing so?"
Some of the study's findings:
-- "only a fraction of faculty are motivated to
use tablet technology: roughly a third of faculty expressed an interest
in replacing their notebook computer with a tablet computer"
-- "generally, participating faculty did indeed
use tablet functionality in their classes and were convinced that this
use resulted in a meaningful impact on teaching and learning."
The paper is available online at
The Journal of Educational Technology & Society
[ISSN 1436-4522 (online), ISSN 1176-3647 (print)] is a peer-reviewed
quarterly online journal published by the International Forum of
Educational Technology & Society (IFETS). Current and past issues are
available in HTML and PDF formats at no cost at
Bob Jensen's threads on tricks and tools of the trade are at
In particular note the module on Tablet PCs at
June 28, 2996 message from David Fordham, James Madison University
Some might find this interesting:
(BTW, the Linksys WRT54GL is what we've been
using to stretch the working range of 802.11 wireless from 300 feet to
52 miles. It is currently the only router (that we know about) which
allows the user to re-program the protocol parameters (such as packet
retry time-out values, etc.) to allow for such lengthy signal paths.
I assume that [the reprogrammability of the
firmware] is why Fon is using them [the Linksys WRT54GL routers].
I made it sound as though Fon were using this
model router because it could be reprogrammed to allow for long-
distance networking. The long-distance aspect is probably unrelated to
Fon's selection. Fon is using them because they can re-program the
protocol parameters in OTHER ways, too.
The WRT54GL firmware is programmed in Linux,
and is user- loadable. This is unique for a commercially-manufacturered
router. It is also perfect for experimenters.
David R. Fordham
James Madison University
June 28, 2006 message from Andrew Priest
Thought this might be of interest.
CIRI Instigator is the latest in CIRI Lab's
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The Profile function allows you to read multiple documents in one easy
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Course Leader - Accounting
School of Accounting, Finance & Economics
Faculty of Business & Law, Edith Cowan
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"Nigerians foiled in black banknote scam in Vietnam," --- Thannnie
News, June 26, 2006 ---
Vietnamese police have foiled three Nigerians
in their scams duping thousands of dollars out of Vietnamese women who
lent them money to ostensibly buy chemicals to restore ‘blackened US
said they had been deported from Vietnam.
refused to reveal their names or say whether the three cases were
related, but they happened with different women earlier this year by
different Nigerians with the same trick.
one Nigerian befriended a café owner in southern Vung Tau resort city
and promised to give her a share in a restaurant he was about to open if
she lent him US$20,000 to buy chemicals to restore blackened banknotes
worth an astronomical US$1 billion.
he had purposefully blackened the notes to dodge customs screenings and
He then did
an experiment. After rubbing and cleansing in a ‘special solution’, he
managed to turn two blackened papers the size of US$100 banknotes into
generously gifted her the two notes.
gullible woman later lent him $7,000 before being handed a stack of
supposed banknotes wrapped in thick paper. He said the money had been
treated with chemicals but had to wait for eight hours in cold
temperatures before taking effect.
put the stack in her fridge and, after eight hours, opened it only to
discover they were just plain paper.
the ‘billionaire’ had fled.
case occurred the following month with a woman in Ho Chi Minh City, who
got to know a man claiming to be Brazilian through Internet chat.
‘Brazilian’, who is in fact Nigerian, flew to Vietnam and told her he
had inherited $6.5 million which he wanted to invest in Vietnam.
the $500,000 he had initially transported to Vietnam had turned black
and he needed $40,000 to buy chemicals.
woman also in Ho Chi Minh City was similarly defrauded of $30,000.
told Thanh Nien the tricksters secretly slid real banknotes
underneath the black papers during ‘chemical treatment’ and secretly
slipped the black papers out. The ‘chemical solution’ is just plain
water, he added.
Bob Jensen's threads on Nigerian frauds are at
Assessment of Learning Achievements of College Graduates
"Getting the Faculty On Board," by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, Inside
Higher Ed, June 23, 2006 ---
But as assessment becomes a national
imperative, college and university leaders face a major challenge: Many
of our faculty colleagues are skeptical about the value of external
mandates to measure teaching and learning, especially when those outside
the academy propose to define the measures. Many faculty members do not
accept the need for accountability, but the assessment movement’s
success will depend upon faculty because they are responsible for
curriculum, instruction and research. All of us — policy makers,
administrators and faculty — must work together to develop language,
strategies and practices that help us appreciate one another and
understand the compelling need for assessment — and why it is in the
best interest of faculty and students.
Why is assessment important? We know from the
work of researchers like Richard Hersh, Roger Benjamin, Mark Chun and
George Kuh that college enrollment will be increasing by more than 15
percent nationally over the next 15 years (and in some states by as much
as 50 percent). We also know that student retention rates are low,
especially among students of color and low-income students. Moreover, of
every 10 children who start 9th grade, only seven finish high school,
five start college, and fewer than three complete postsecondary degrees.
And there is a 20 percent gap in graduation rates between African
Americans (42 percent) and whites (62 percent). These numbers are of
particular concern given the rising higher education costs, the nation’s
shifting demographics, and the need to educate more citizens from all
At present, we do not collect data on student
learning in a systematic fashion and rankings on colleges and
universities focus on input measures, rather than on student learning in
the college setting. Many people who have thought about this issue
agree: We need to focus on “value added” assessment as an approach to
determine the extent to which a university education helps students
develop knowledge and skills. This approach entails comparing what
students know at the beginning of their education and what they know
upon graduating. Such assessment is especially useful when large numbers
of students are not doing well — it can and should send a signal to
faculty about the need to look carefully at the “big picture” involving
coursework, teaching, and the level of support provided to students and
Many in the academy, however, continue to
resist systematic and mandated assessment in large part because of
problems they see with K-12 initiatives like No Child Left Behind —
e.g., testing that focuses only on what can be conveniently measured,
unacceptable coaching by teachers, and limiting what is taught to what
is tested. Many academics believe that what is most valuable in the
college experience cannot be measured during the college years because
some of the most important effects of a college education only become
clearer some time after graduation. Nevertheless, more institutions are
beginning to understand that value-added assessment can be useful in
strengthening teaching and learning, and even student retention and
It is encouraging that a number of institutions
are interested in implementing value-added assessment as an approach to
evaluate student progress over time and to see how they compare with
other institutions. Such strategies are more effective when faculty and
staff across the institution are involved. Examples of some best
practices include the following:
- Constantly talking with colleagues about
both the challenges and successful initiatives involving
- Replicating successful initiatives (best
practices from within and beyond the campus), in order to benefit as
many students as possible.
- Working continuously to improve learning
based on what is measured — from advising practices and curricular
issues to teaching strategies — and making changes based on what we
learn from those assessments.
- Creating accountability by ensuring that
individuals and groups take responsibility for different aspects of
- Recruiting and rewarding faculty who are
committed to successful student learning (including examining the
institutional reward structure).
- Taking the long view by focusing on
initiatives over extended periods of time — in order to integrate
best practices into the campus culture.
We in the academy need to think broadly about
assessment. Most important, are we preparing our students to succeed in
a world that will be dramatically different from the one we live in
today? Will they be able to think critically about the issues they will
face, working with people from all over the globe? It is understandable
that others, particularly outside the university, are asking how we
demonstrate that our students are prepared to handle these issues.
Assessment is becoming a national imperative,
and it requires us to listen to external groups and address the issues
they are raising. At the same time, we need to encourage and facilitate
discussions among our faculty — those most responsible for curriculum,
instruction, and research — to grapple with the questions of assessment
and accountability. We must work together to minimize the growing
tension among groups — both outside and inside the university — so that
we appreciate and understand different points of view and the compelling
need for assessment.
Bob Jensen's threads on assessment are at
Bob Jensen's threads on controversies in higher education are at
"Some CPAs Escape State Disciplinary Action," AccountingWeb,
June 20, 2006 ---
There have been more than 50 accountants
sanctioned over 2005 and 2006 for professional misconduct and few of
them have compensated shareholders for their complicity or neglect. The
Associated Press reports that although sanctioned not to practice public
accounting for between one and ten years by the SEC, these accountants
still prepare, audit or review financial statements for public
They also remain able to perform these services
for private companies. While firms such as Arthur Andersen and others
have paid huge sums in accounting damages, the individual accountants
have escaped their professional penance, according to the Associated
The disconnect seems to be an established
communication system that would allow the SEC to advise state accounting
boards of federal sanctions against rogue accountants. Another aspect of
the disconnect is that state accountancy boards do not have staff to
handle the number or reach of financial scandals such as Cendant, Enron
Texas is one of many states facing this
situation. License renewals are not a verifiable method of finding out
about SEC sanctions unless without the accountant completing the
questions truthfully. A spokesman for the Georgia board told the
Associated Press that a CPA recently renewed his license online without
disclosing his disciplinary action by the SEC.
William Treacy, executive director of the Texas
State Board of Public Accountancy, told the Associated Press, “We don’t
have the staff on board to manage the extra workload that the profession
has been confronted over the last few years, so we contracted with the
attorney general’s office to provide extra prosecutorial power.”
One of the problems and potential fixes to this
situation may be to fine accountants. After a landmark SEC settlement in
which three partners at KPMG agreed to pay a combined fine totaling
$400,000 for their complicity in the $1.2 billion fraud at Xerox, the
Associated Press reports that one of the partners still holds his
license in New York.
David Nolte of Fulcrum Financial Inquiry told
the Associated Press, “The SEC has never sought serious money from
errant CPAs. Unfortunately, the small fines in the Xerox case set a
record of the amount paid, so everyone else has gotten off easy.”
With the heavy investment in internal controls
and procedures by CPA firms, the human element of accounting and
auditing helps even large CPA firms fail to identify accounting
problems. Members of an audit team can identify insufficient knowledge,
misrepresentation of information, sloppy accounting or even simple
misrepresentation of information but must be able to see the warning
signs of other risky behavior. The CPA Journal suggests a 360-degree
assessment of members on an audit team. As a structured, systematic way
to collect information, evaluators include the person’s boss, peers,
direct reports, and even clients.
Continued in article
The Sad State of Professional Discipline in Public Accountancy
"SEC Accountant Fines Largely Go Unpaid," SmartPros, June 7, 2006 ---
The Securities and Exchange Commission has taken
disciplinary action against more than 50 accountants in 2005 and 2006 for
misconduct in scandals big and small. But few have paid a dime to compensate
shareholders for their varying levels of neglect or complicity.
It also turns out that nearly half of them continue
to hold valid state licenses to hang out their shingles as certified public
accountants, based on an examination of public records by The Associated
So while the SEC has forbidden these CPAs from
preparing, auditing or reviewing financial statements for a public company,
they remain free to perform those very same services for private companies
and other organizations that may be unaware of their professional misdeeds.
Some would say the accounting profession has taken
its fair share of lumps, particularly with the abrupt annihilation of Arthur
Andersen LLP and the jobs of thousands of auditors who had nothing to do
with the firm's Enron Corp. account. Meantime, the big auditing firms are
paying hundreds of millions of dollars in damages - without admitting or
denying wrongdoing - to settle assorted charges of professional malpractice.
Individual penance is another matter, however, and
here the accountants aren't being held so accountable.
Part of the trouble is that there doesn't appear to
be an established system of communication by which the SEC automatically
notifies state accounting regulators of federal disciplinary actions. In
several instances, state accounting boards were unaware a licensee had been
disciplined by the SEC until it was brought to their attention in the
reporting for this column. The SEC says it refers all disciplinary actions
to the relevant state boards, so the cause of any breakdowns in these
communications is unclear.
Another obstacle may be that some state boards do
not have ample resources to tackle the sudden swell of financial scandals.
It's not as if, for example, the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy had
ever before dealt with an accounting fraud as vast as that perpetrated at
"We don't have the staff on board to manage the
extra workload that the profession has been confronted with over the last
few years," said William Treacy, executive director of the Texas board. "So
we contracted with the attorney general's office to provide extra
Treacy said his office is usually notified of SEC
actions concerning Texas-licensed CPAs, but the process isn't automatic.
With other states, communications from the SEC
appear less certain. If nothing else, many boards rely upon license renewals
to learn about SEC actions, but that only works if the applicants respond
truthfully to questions about whether they've been disciplined by any
federal or state agency. A spokeswoman for Georgia's board said one CPA
recently disciplined by the SEC had renewed his license online without
Ransom Jones, CPA-Investigator for the Mississippi
State Board of Public Accountancy, said most of his leads come from other
accountants, media reports and annual registrations.
"The SEC doesn't necessarily notify the board,"
said Jones, whose agency revoked the licenses of key players in the scandal
at Mississippi-based WorldCom.
Some state boards appear more vigilant than others
in policing their membership. The boards in California and Ohio have
punished most of their licensees who have been disciplined by the SEC since
the start of 2005.
New York regulators haven't yet penalized any
locals targeted by the SEC in that timeframe, though they have taken action
against two disciplined by the SEC's new Public Company Accounting Oversight
Board. It is conceivable that cases are underway but not yet disclosed, or
that some individuals have been cleared despite the SEC's findings. A
spokesman for the New York State Education Department said all SEC referrals
are probed, but not all forms of misconduct are punishable under local
statute. New rules now under consideration would strengthen those
disciplinary powers, he said.
Meanwhile, although the SEC deserves credit for
de-penciling those CPAs who've breached their duties as gatekeepers of
financial integrity, barely any of those individuals have been asked to make
No doubt, except for those elevated to CEO or CFO,
most accountants are not paid as handsomely as the corporate elite. That
said, partners from top accounting firms are were [sic] paid well enough to
cough up more than the SEC has sought, which in most cases has been zero.
Earlier this year, in what the SEC crowed about as
a landmark settlement, three partners for KPMG LLP agreed to pay a combined
$400,000 in fines regarding a $1.2 billion fraud at Xerox Corp. One of those
fined still holds his license in New York.
"The SEC has never sought serious money from errant
CPAs," said David Nolte of Fulcrum Financial Inquiry LLP. "Unfortunately,
the small fines in the Xerox case set a record of the amount paid, so
everyone else has also gotten off easy."
It's not that the CPAs found culpable in scandals
don't deserve a right to redemption, or just to earn a living. Most of the
bans against practicing before the SEC are temporary, spanning anywhere from
a year to 10 years.
But the presumed deterrent of SEC action is
weakened if federal and state regulators don't work together on a consistent
message so bad actors don't get a free pass at the local level.
Bob Jensen's threads on auditor fraud and incompetence are at
Bob Jensen's thread on proposed reforms are at
Updates from WebMD ---
Latest Headlines on
June 29, 2006
Latest Headlines on
July 1, 2006
Latest Headlines on
July 12, 2006
iVillage Diet and Fitness ---
WebMD's diet and fitness (under the Healthy Living Tab) ---
Bob Jensen's diet and fitness helpers are at
Camera Phones Help Fight Bulge
Sprint cell-phone subscribers can sign up for
MyFoodPhone, a service that gives diet advice when users e-mail cell-phone
photographs of their meals and post details of their dietary habits online.
The $10 monthly service (plus photo transfer fees) has been available on
Sprint's website for a few months and officially launched in May. In about a
month it should be available to all U.S. cell-phone customers. If current
statistics are any indication, MyFoodPhone has plenty of potential
customers. According to the CDC's 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults over age 20 are
overweight and a third of these are considered obese.
Rachel Metz, "Camera Phones Help Fight Bulge," Wired News, June 27,
"Lightning poses a threat to people who use mobile phones out of doors
during a thunderstorm, according to a case study reported in this week's
British Medical Journal," PhysOrg, June 23, 2006 ---
"Health Tip: Varicose Veins May Not Need Treatment: But talk to
your doctor if you have pain," HealthDay, June 27, 2006 ---
Varicose veins, also known as spider veins,
look dark blue or purple under the skin. They may also appear as twisted
clumps of veins that may cause the skin above them to harden and swell.
Although many people with varicose veins don't
have any other symptoms, the Cleveland Clinic says that some people may
have swelling or pain in the legs, itching, soreness or aching. Some
skin discoloration may also occur.
Varicose veins occur most often among women,
and may be influenced by a number of factors. Being older, overweight,
and having a job that requires standing all day may contribute to
varicose veins. Other factors may be heredity, crossing the legs often,
using birth control pills, or use of post-menopausal hormone therapies.
Treatment may not be necessary, according to
the clinic, unless you are experiencing pain. Support hose may help
reduce symptoms in some people, and lifestyle changes like losing
weight, exercise, and getting off your feet may also help.
"Allergy battle could be won in five years, says scientist,
, July 12, 2006 ---
Allergies such as
asthma, eczema and hay fever could be snuffed out within five years
thanks to pioneering work at The University of Manchester.
with colleagues at St George’s, University of London, are developing
drugs designed to stop allergens from entering the body, so
rendering them harmless.
Professor David Garrod said the research – recently shortlisted for
the Northwest Regional Development Agency’s Bionow Project of the
Year – takes a completely new approach to the treatment and
prevention of allergies.
“The technology is based on our earlier discovery of how allergens,
the substances that cause allergy, enter the body through the
surface layer of cells that protect the skin and the tubes of the
lungs,” he said.
“Allergens from pollen or house dust mites are inhaled and then
dissolve the binding material between the cells that form these
protective linings; they can then enter the body by passing between
the cells to cause an allergic response.
“The drugs we are developing – called Allergen Delivery Inhibitors (ADIs)
– are designed to disable these allergens so they can no longer eat
through the protective cell layer and block the allergic reaction
before it occurs.
“The effect will be like avoiding allergens altogether. Removing
carpets and rigorous cleaning of homes are established ways to avoid
allergens, but they are only partially effective because their
effects do not ‘travel’ with allergy sufferers.
"Allergy battle could be won in five years, says,"
Continued in article
Can removing a hemisphere of the brain save a child ?
DEEPEST CUT: How can someone live with only half a brain?" by
Christine Kenneally, The New Yorker, July 3, 2006 ---
A New Take on the Body Clock
Some drug companies developing treatments for jet
lag, insomnia, and depression might be on the wrong track.A new study
suggests that we may have to reverse our current understanding of the
mechanism underlying circadian rhythms -- the internal body clock that
regulates everything from our wake cycles to hormone production and heart
rate. If correct, this would have profound implications for any drugs being
developed on the basis of our previous understanding. "They are going to be
effective in the opposite direction," says
David Virshup, who carried out the study
together with colleagues at the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer
Institute and the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
Duncan Graham-Rowe, "A New Take on the Body Clock: Hamsters and
mathematical modeling provide new insight into our daily cycles," MIT's
Technology Review, July 12, 2006 ---
This begs the question of whether learning beats sex and/or bar
From Jim Mahar's Blog on June 21, 2006 ---
Addicted to learning?
Ok, so this is not strictly finance, it is
very interesting and would probably explain my ADhD. LOL..
"The "click" of comprehension triggers a
biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of
natural opium-like substances, said Irving Biederman of the
University of Southern California. He presents his theory in an
invited article in the latest issue of American Scientist.
"While you're trying to understand a
difficult theorem, it's not fun," said Biederman, professor of
neuroscience in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
"But once you get it, you just feel
The brain's craving for a fix motivates
humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge, he
"I think we're exquisitely tuned
to this as if we're junkies, second by second."
Now if I can just get my students
addicted to the finance version of this "drug".
However, Bierderman also found a reason for jumping from one thing
to another (MY PROBLEM!):
"Biederman also found that repeated
viewing of an attractive image lessened both the rating of
pleasure and the activity in the opioid-rich areas. In his
article, he explains this familiar experience with a
neural-network model termed "competitive learning."
In competitive learning (also known
as "Neural Darwinism"), the first presentation of an image
activates many neurons, some strongly and a greater number
only repetition of the image, the connections to the
strongly activated neurons grow in strength. But the
strongly activated neurons inhibit their weakly activated
neighbors, causing a net reduction in activity. This
reduction in activity, Biederman's research shows, parallels
the decline in the pleasure felt during repeated viewing."
I was kicking myself last night for
"wasting" so much time reading/ristening and even blogging about
things that are not finance related (for example
uploading pictures, writing on
nutrition for the
Park and Shop Blog,
efforts, and then even more random
stuff on my
Yahoo 360 blog). While I guess it is
better than sitting around watching TV (or drinking and doing
drugs etc), it is not helping finish any of the three papers I
had told myself I would have done by July 4 (1 basically done, 1
maybe 1/2, 1 not close)!
But at least I have an excuse now ;)
What donations to Harvard have been halted or put on hold to date since the
"forced" resignation of Lawrence Summers as President?
Supporters Withhold $390 Million From Harvard," by Zachary Seward, The
Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2006; Page B1 ---
The fallout from Lawrence H. Summers's
resignation as president of Harvard University has now hit the school's
pocketbook, impairing the largest fund-raising operation in higher
At least four major donations to Harvard,
totaling $390 million, have been scrapped or put on hold since Mr.
Summers announced his resignation in February, according to people
familiar with the matter.
The donors, who were supportive
of Mr. Summers and elements of his vision for Harvard, have separately
indicated that they won't contribute while the university is without a
permanent leader. Under attack from arts and sciences faculty, Mr.
Summers left office on June 30, and was succeeded on an interim basis by
a former Harvard president, Derek C. Bok.
A Harvard official wouldn't
comment on specific donations. "It is quite normal in situations of
leadership transition in any not-for-profit organization for donors who
are considering very major gifts to wait for a new leader to be in place
before finalizing and announcing a major commitment," said Donella
Rapier, Harvard director of development.
Ms. Rapier said Harvard's fund
raising in fiscal 2006, which ended June 30, "continued to be quite
strong into the fourth quarter," but said she didn't have year-end
Three of the withheld gifts would
have been the largest in Harvard's history. They included $100 million
from media mogul Mortimer Zuckerman to fund a neuroscience institute
that has generated intense interest among Harvard researchers, and $100
million from Richard A. Smith, a former member of Harvard's governing
board, to fund a 500,000-square-foot science complex planned for a new
campus in Boston's Allston neighborhood.
At least one of the contributions
was to be announced this spring: $75 million from David Rockefeller, the
banker and philanthropist, to fund study-abroad trips for every Harvard
undergraduate in need of financial assistance, a key element in Mr.
Summers's plan to expand Harvard's global scope. Instead, Mr.
Rockefeller downgraded his gift to $10 million, announced in May, for
Harvard's existing Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.
Also, as previously reported,
Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison recently reneged on a $115 million
gift, citing Mr. Summers's departure.
The lost contributions amount to
two-thirds of what Harvard raised in fiscal 2005, when the school was
the third-largest fund-raiser in higher education. It's unclear exactly
how close some of the gifts were to materializing, but all had been in
negotiations for several years, said people familiar with them.
Even for Harvard, which led all
U.S. universities with a $25.9 billion endowment as of June 30, 2005,
the loss of such huge gifts could be seen as a significant setback.
Adding to the blow, the gifts were to fund initiatives -- from study
abroad to scientific research -- at the very top of the university's
The donor reaction may make other
universities with smaller endowments think twice before casting off
controversial presidents with strong alumni followings, and may elevate
the impact of graduates in future power struggles at U.S. colleges
between administrators and faculty.
Mr. Rockefeller declined to
comment on his negotiations with Harvard. His spokesman, Fraser Seitel,
said, "Mr. Rockefeller regrets that Larry Summers won't be leading
Harvard in the future, but he continues to have great confidence in the
university, and he does look forward to working with the new president
when he or she is named."
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on the "Appearance Versus the Reality of Research
Independence and Freedom" are at
France has toppled the US as the world's top (head butting?) investor abroad
"France 'is top overseas investor'," Al Jazeera, June 28, 2006 ---
France has toppled the US as the world's top
investor abroad in 2005, a Paris-based trade body says.
Britain, widely regarded as a place to buy
companies without running into government objections, was the country
that drew in the most foreign direct investment, the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in a report on
Foreign direct investment into the 30 mostly
industrialised OECD countries rose 27% to $622 billion in 2005, and the
rise was strong in non-OECD countries such as China and India.
"This ... is the highest level of inflows since
the previous investment boom petered out in 2001," the OECD said.
The year 2005 was also the fourth best year on
record, with direct inward investment buoyed by high company profits,
low interest rates, high liquidity and corporate share prices as well as
a penchant for cross-border investment in property, it said.
Continued in article
The only things worse than weather data are accounting data
On a Web site promoting the awareness week, a
fact sheet filled with exclamatory lightning
stats says, "Lightning Kills About 100 People In The U.S. Each Year!" But
another page states, "In the United States, an
average of 66 people are killed each year by lightning." And the National
Weather Service's own
show that, over the past 10 years, the average
number of lightning fatalities has been 45. Deaths haven't topped 53 in a
single year since 1996.
Carl Bialak, "Lightning Stats Are Partly Cloudy," The Wall Street Journal,
June 16, 2006 ---
From the Scout Report on June 23, 2006
After Welfare [Real Player, Macromedia Flash
Over the past few years, the American
RadioWorks has raised the bar for like-minded radio documentary
programs, producing thought-provoking and insightful studies on topics
such as, Congressional reform, intelligent design, and international
adoption programs. In this recently released documentary, John Biewen
has created this introspective look into the world of welfare reform in
the United States, and how it has affected the lives of five different
women and their families. The women profiled come from a host of
different backgrounds, and visitors may be surprised at some of the
findings that Biewen presents in the documentary.
The site also includes an interactive feature that
allows users to find out how their own state ranks in terms of welfare
and foodstamp recipients, welfare check sizes, time limits, and
unemployment rates. Visitors can also look
over a list of additional external links of interest and also read the
complete transcript of the program.
Penny Illustrated Paper ---
In our own time, daily newspapers and other such materials provide
news, entertainment, gossip, and other such items that seem to both
delight and offend many segments of the populace. While it may be hard
to believe, the media landscape was once rather devoid of such rags, and
the Penny Illustrated was one of the first to hang its journalistic
shingle out there, in a matter of speaking. Published between 1861 and
1913, the paper’s publication was "With all the news of the week", and
readers were certainly not disappointed, as it contained a number of
sections dealing with sports, recreations, and "Foreign News". Recently,
the "Collect Britain" project at The British Library digitized the
entire run of the paper, and placed it online at this website. Visitors
can browse through the complete run at their leisure, or they may also
wish to look over some of the paper selected as a "Curator’s Choice".
StudioLine Photo Basic 3.4.13 ---
Summer is upon us, and it is certainly a time to make a visual record
of family gatherings, trips to the Atlas Mountains, or other such
StudioLine Photo Basic 3.4.13 is a good way to organize such
photographic memories, as users can sort their images into albums and
folders, and also utilize some of their 30 image tools to modify their
existing images. These tools can assist with exposure problems and the
seemingly omnipresent specter of red-eye. This version is compatible
with computers running Windows 98 and newer.
NetVeda Safety. Net 3.62 ---
The idea behind the NetVeda Safety Net application is a simple one:
to allow users to control access to certain websites on their computer
and to maintain firewall protection in the process. Users of the
application can define user access based on the time of day and for
content, if they so desire. As might be expected, the application also
contains privacy controls that block the sending of personal information
and that can also generate activity reports. This version is compatible
with all computers running Windows 95 and newer.
Law Enforcement Technology ---
From The Washington Post on June 28, 2006
EBay made two large acquisitions last year,
Skype and what other company?
Supply Side Economics Update
"Soaking the Rich," The
Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2006; Page A16 ---
Yesterday's political flurry over
the falling budget deficit shows that even Washington can't avoid the
obvious forever: to wit, the gusher of revenues flowing into the
Treasury in the wake of the 2003 tax cuts. The trend has been obvious
for more than a year (see our May 23, 2005, editorial, "Revenues
Rising"), but now it's so large that Republicans are trying to take
credit while Democrats explain it away.
Republicans do deserve some
credit, though not exactly the way they're claiming. Democrats are right
that the White House February estimate of a $423 billion budget deficit
in Fiscal Year 2006 was inflated, perhaps to be able to claim progress
later this election year. Also not very important is the White House
claim that it has already met its second-term goal of "cutting the
deficit in half." That was always a minor and political ambition.
The real news, and where the
policy credit belongs, is with the 2003 tax cuts. They've succeeded even
beyond Art Laffer's dreams, if that's possible. In the nine quarters
preceding that cut on dividend and capital gains rates and in marginal
income-tax rates, economic growth averaged an annual 1.1%. In the 12
quarters -- three full years -- since the tax cut passed, growth has
averaged a remarkable 4%. Monetary policy has also fueled this
expansion, but the tax cuts were perfectly targeted to improve the
incentives to take risks among businesses shell-shocked by the dot-com
collapse, 9/11 and Sarbanes-Oxley.
This growth in turn has produced
a record flood of tax revenues, just as the most ebullient supply-siders
predicted. In the first nine months of fiscal 2006, tax revenues have
climbed by $206 billion, or nearly 13%. As the Congressional Budget
Office recently noted, "That increase represents the second-highest rate
of growth for that nine-month period in the past 25 years" -- exceeded
only by the year before. For all of fiscal 2005, revenues rose by $274
billion, or 15%. We should add that CBO itself failed to anticipate this
revenue boom, as the nearby table shows. Maybe its economists should
rethink their models.
Remember the folks who said the tax cuts would
"blow a hole in the deficit?" Well, revenues as a share of the economy
are now expected to rise this year to 18.3%, slightly above the modern
historical average of 18.2%. The remaining budget deficit of a little
under $300 billion will be about 2.3% of GDP, which is smaller than in
17 of the previous 25 years. Throw in the surpluses rolling into the
states, and the overall U.S. "fiscal deficit" is now economically
This would all seem to be good news, but some
folks are never happy. The same crowd that said the tax cuts wouldn't
work, and predicted fiscal doom, are now harrumphing that the revenues
reflect a windfall for "the rich." We suppose that's right if by rich
they mean the millions of Americans moving into higher tax brackets
because their paychecks are increasing.
Individual income tax payments are up 14.1%
this year, and "nonwithheld" individual tax payments (reflecting capital
gains, among other things) are up 20%. Because of the tax cuts, the
still highly progressive U.S. tax code is soaking the rich. Since when
do liberals object to a windfall for the government?
The other favorite line of critics yesterday
was summed up by North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad, who said the deficit
would still "explode" in the long term because of the "coming retirement
of the baby boom generation." But this is a political bait-and-switch.
When Senator Conrad had the chance to do something about the "long term"
by reforming Social Security in 2005, he refused. But now that the tax
cuts he opposed are reducing the short-term deficit, he's back to
fretting about the long term. At least Mr. Conrad is consistent in
wanting a tax increase.
There surely is a long-term budget problem,
driven largely by fast-growing entitlements for seniors. Federal
spending is still climbing by 8.6% this year, with Medicare alone
growing at an astonishing rate of 15.5%, or $33 billion in the first
nine months of this fiscal year (which ends September 30). Thank the GOP
prescription drug benefit for that future taxpayer burden. The only
solution to the entitlement problem, short or long term, is to reform
both Medicare and Social Security.
As for the 2003 tax cuts, the current revenue
boom is one more argument for making them permanent. They are now set to
expire in 2010, and, even if they are extended, federal revenues will
continue to climb as a share of GDP as more taxpayers earn higher
incomes and move into higher tax brackets. If liberal Democrats are
really determined to soak the rich -- and we don't doubt it for a second
-- they'll also vote to make the tax cuts permanent.
Continued in article
"Has String Theory Tied Up Better Ideas In Field of Physics?" by
Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2006; Page B1 ---
Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli didn't suffer
fools gladly. Fond of calling colleagues' work "wrong" or "completely
wrong," he saved his worst epithet for work so sloppy and speculative it
is "not even wrong."
That's how mathematician Peter Woit of Columbia
University describes string theory. In his book, "Not Even Wrong,"
published in the U.K. this month and due in the U.S. in September, he
calls the theory "a disaster for physics."
A year or two ago, that would have been a
fringe opinion, motivated by sour grapes over not sitting at physics'
equivalent of the cool kids' table. But now, after two decades in which
string theory has been the doyenne of best-seller lists and the dominant
paradigm in particle physics, Mr. Woit has company.
"When it comes to extending our knowledge of
the laws of nature, we have made no real headway" in 30 years, writes
physicist Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada, in
his book, "The Trouble with Physics," also due in September. "It's
called hitting the wall."
He blames string theory for this "crisis in
particle physics," the branch of physics that tries to explain the most
fundamental forces and building blocks of the world.
String theory, which took off in 1984, posits
that elementary particles such as electrons are not points, as standard
physics had it. They are, instead, vibrations of one-dimensional strings
1/100 billion billionth the size of an atomic nucleus. Different
vibrations supposedly produce all the subatomic particles from quarks to
gluons. Oh, and strings exist in a space of 10, or maybe 11, dimensions.
No one knows exactly what or where the extra dimensions are, but
assuming their existence makes the math work.
String theory, proponents said, could reconcile
quantum mechanics (the physics of subatomic particles) and gravity, the
longest-distance force in the universe. That impressed particle
physicists to no end. In the 1980s, most jumped on the string bandwagon
and since then, stringsters have written thousands of papers.
But one thing they haven't done is coax a
single prediction from their theory. In fact, "theory" is a misnomer,
since unlike general relativity theory or quantum theory, string theory
is not a concise set of solvable equations describing the behavior of
the physical world. It's more of an idea or a framework.
Partly as a result, string theory "makes no new
predictions that are testable by current -- or even currently
conceivable -- experiments," writes Prof. Smolin. "The few clean
predictions it does make have already been made by other" theories.
Worse, the equations of string theory have
myriad solutions, an extreme version of how the algebraic equation X
squared equals four has two solutions (2 and -2). The solutions arise
from the fact that there are so many ways to "compactify" its extra
dimensions -- to roll them up so you get the three spatial dimensions of
the real world. With more than 10 raised to 500th power (1 followed by
500 zeros) ways to compactify, there are that many possible universes.
"There is no good insight into which is more
likely," concedes physicist Michael Peskin of the Stanford Linear
If string theory made a prediction that didn't
accord with physical reality, stringsters could say it's correct in one
of these other universes. As a result, writes Prof. Smolin, "string
theory cannot be disproved." By the usual standards, that would rule it
out as science.
String theory isn't any more wrong than preons,
twistor theory, dynamical triangulations, or other physics fads. But in
those cases, physicists saw the writing on the wall and moved on. Not so
in string theory.
"What is strange is that string theory has
survived past the point where it should have been clear that it wouldn't
work," says Mr. Woit. Not merely survived, but thrived. Virtually every
young mathematically inclined particle theorist must sign on to the
string agenda to get an academic job. By his count, of 22 recently
tenured professors in particle theory at the six top U.S. departments,
20 are string theorists.
One physicist commented on Mr. Woit's blog that
Ph.D. students who choose mathematical theory topics that "are
non-string are seriously harming their career prospects."
To be fair, string theory can claim some
success. A 1985 paper showed that if you compactify extra dimensions in
a certain way, the number of quarks and leptons you get is exactly the
number found in nature. "This is the only idea out there for why the
number of quarks and leptons is what it is," says Prof. Peskin. Still,
that is less a prediction of string theory than a consequence.
If fewer physicists were tied to strings might
some of the enduring mysteries of the universe be solved? Might we know
why there is more matter than antimatter? Why the proton's mass is 1,836
times the electron's? Why the 18 key numbers in the standard model of
fundamental particles have the values they do?
"With smart people pursuing these questions,
more might have been answered," says Mr. Woit. "Too few really good
people have been working on anything other than string theory."
That string theory abandoned testable
predictions may be its ultimate betrayal of science.
Flashback from The Wall Street Journal,
June 28, 1946
Junior soon may get a smaller bar of candy
for his nickel, but there's a good chance he can get more jelly
beans and penny items. That's the way candy manufacturers, in
Chicago for their first post-war convention, size up the
Aids for Teaching English as a Second Language
The (free) Internet TESL Journal ---
From The Washington Post on June 27, 2006
Digital entertainment exports contribute to
what percent of the U.S. gross domestic product?
"It's Time to Reduce the Tangle of Wires We Use for Gadgets," by
Walter S. Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2006; Page B1
He then ventured a guess as to
why Sony and others sell so many different chargers and adapters: "I
have a sneaking suspicion it's because the last three years, the most
profitable business at Sony was the component division," which makes
such accessories. When the crowd laughed, he said: "I'm serious."
The conversation led me to look
at the tangled collection of cables and chargers -- and spare batteries
-- I lug around everywhere, and ask why there isn't much more
standardization of these things. We are decades into the
portable-electronics revolution. These aren't novel devices anymore. Why
aren't there widely observed industry standards for the batteries and
electrical chargers for these gadgets?
The problem is threefold. First,
batteries, unlike in many analog devices, aren't held to common
standards and aren't interchangeable. Next, electrical adapters and
charger cables vary widely. Last, plugs and sockets for the cables,
unlike those for electric appliances or phones, aren't universal.
Besides Mr. Stringer's answer
that there are big profits in selling cables and batteries, with margins
that can exceed those of the gadgets they power, there is another major
reason. Some companies see the size, shape and weight of their batteries
and chargers as a competitive design advantage.
Motorola's superslim Razr phone
wouldn't be as svelte if it used the same battery as a conventional
phone. Lenovo's slender electrical adapters are a plus for its ThinkPad
laptops over the bulkier ones of its competitors. The sleek laptops from
makers like Sony and Apple depend on special battery designs.
But the profusion of batteries
and adapters goes well beyond a few extra-cool models. Dell's Web site
lists 57 different power adapters for its laptops and 61 different
laptop batteries. Most of these laptops are unremarkable commodity
models, similar to many competitive machines.
The Nokia Web site lists pages of
batteries and adapters for its cellphones. Some are so expensive that
Nokia posts a prominent notice saying, "a new Nokia phone may cost you
less than a battery, after rebates, with a new wireless-service plan."
It seems to me that the majority
of common laptops, cameras and phones could evolve toward using a few
standard battery and charger designs that could be made by third-party
battery companies and sold at drugstores. I'm talking about the large
category of devices that aren't aimed at the small, high-end sliver of
the market willing to pay more for ultraslim or unusual designs. Those
elite models might still use special batteries and chargers, but why
can't 80% of these things use standard parts?
And there's no reason at all I
can discern, other than greed or stubbornness, why even different
chargers and adapters can't use the same connectors or jacks. Last week,
my wife bought a new Sprint Samsung phone to replace one only a couple
of years old. The salesman told her the new phone would work with her
existing travel and car chargers. But when she opened the box, she
discovered it had an entirely different connector for the charger, and
that she'd have to buy new ones.
Similarly, I recently replaced my
old PowerBook laptop from Apple with a new MacBook Pro model. It uses a
totally different charger with a new magnetic connector that's supposed
to break away when you trip over the power cord, instead of pulling the
laptop onto the floor. It's a good idea, but not so valuable -- for me,
at least -- as to be worth tossing out the several spare Apple laptop
chargers I had bought for travel and for various locations around the
house. New spare chargers cost $79 each.
There are some third-party
products, like Mobility Electronics' iGo, that function as universal
chargers and power adapters for all of your gadgets. They have multiple
cables and accept a variety of tips that fit different connectors. But
the tips for your particular device can be hard to find and easy to
We need fewer types of
connectors, cables and batteries, not more accessories to buy.
Continued in article
New Laws and Regulations for Financing a College Education
For parents and their children preparing for
college, there are new rules and tax laws about college funding and
financial aid eligibility that could have a big impact how those students
and their parents fare financially. Even more complicated, those rules are
changing every year. If parents and their dependent students learn how to
make the right moves in the college financing game, the average family could
potentially lower college costs by thousands of dollars over the four year
period their child is in college. Win or lose – it’s how you play the game.
"College-bound Money: It’s How to Play the Game," PR Web, June 26,
Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing of course materials by
prestigious universities are at
How popular are these open sharing sites?
June 26, 2006 message from Jagdish S. Gangolly
I wanted to pitch for an article by my good
friend and colleague, Terry Maxwell:
"Universities, Information Ownership, and
The Journal of the Association of History and
Here is the teaser:
The recent decision by MIT to post the
information from all its 2,000 courses free to the Web has generated
tremendous excitement online, with more than 42 million hits recorded in
the first month, according to MIT statistics 1.
The project, entitled OpenCourseWare, was
initiated by MIT professors and funded by $11 million in grants from two
foundations. As of March, 2004, 700 courses, encompassing all five
schools and two-thirds of the faculty on the Cambridge, Massachusetts
campus, have been added to the site (ocw.mit.edu).
The project did not start as an effort to
populate the information commons. On the contrary, in 1999, Robert
Brown, MIT's provost, asked a faculty committee to study the idea for an
online for-profit equivalent to the physical school.
However, after researching the issue, the
faculty committee concluded that a profit-making venture was not viable,
suggesting instead that the university and its faculty make its course
material available for free online 2.
As reported by Charles Vest 2, the university's
president, the OpenCourseWare initiative has had impacts both inside and
outside the university. Within MIT, professors have begun using one
another's materials to supplement their own teaching efforts, and are
discovering interdisciplinary connections that could lead to new
innovations inside the institution. Outside the university, MIT alumni,
interested individuals, and other educators from around the world are
using the courseware as a means to keep current in their fields and as
models for new courses and curriculum.
The effort has generated interest in other
areas, particularly among Intellectual Property legal commentators, who
questioned the relationship between faculty-generated course notes and
university property rights 3. Given the fact that the project is
faculty-initiated and voluntary, intellectual property issues in the
curricular area between the university and professors have not yet come
to a head at MIT. However, the project has had to navigate the murky
waters of copyright in other respects, particularly with regard to the
negotiation for permissions with other information providers 4.
Nevertheless, the project still leaves open the
question of the relative information rights of professors and
In addition, it raises broader questions of the
roles both of professional disciplines and the institutional structures
developed to support them in a technological world in which traditional
boundaries between information transformation, production, and
dissemination are under strain. The following attempts to lay out some
of the relevant issues, focusing particularly on the role of the
university in an online world.
A Brief Look at the University in Society
Lying at the center of questions about
university and academic information ownership is a deeply contested
vision of the role of both scholarship and the institutions designed to
support research. Do scholars labor primarily as individual authors and
inventors, or are they members of what Enlightenment scholars termed a
res publica, loosely defined as a republic of ideas operating beyond
institutional and political boundaries? Are universities places of
sanctuary for ideas, separated from the marketplace, or information
dissemination institutions situated squarely in the market?
In her book "Who Owns Academic Work?," Corynne
McSherry 5 traces the history of modern American universities and makes
a strong case that these questions are largely unanswerable, because
they assume a stability in self-conception that is historically missing.
She argues that medieval universities and guilds were primarily
envisioned as mechanisms for monopoly control over ideas, with the
former focusing on professional control and the latter on control over
invention. With the coming of the Enlightenment, voluntary academic
societies sought to break down university monopolies on knowledge,
constructing a meritocracy based on open communication and communal
enquiry, and existing in cooperation with the growing commercial
marketplace. At the institutional level, nineteenth-century German
conceptions of the university, based on Kant's ideas in Conflict of the
Faculties, envisioned the university as a place apart from the
marketplace, yet poised to provide knowledge based on reason to
political rulers. In the United States, German models of scholarly
independence blended with the British tradition of liberal arts and
informed citizenship, leading to a tension between disinterested
scholarship and community. This admixture was further complicated by the
presence of private schools funded through religious and other
associations sitting cheek-and-jowl to land-grant public universities,
developed to provide practical assistance in the development of new
agricultural and mechanical techniques.
By the twentieth century, the split between
theoretical and practical knowledge within universities was
institutionalized through a separation of faculties of arts and science
from engineering and professional school. At the same time, the
continued compartmentalization of knowledge into disciplines supported
the rise of self-contained academic communities with different standards
of scholarship and practice.
To support the engagement of the university in
the marketplace, during the 1920's several American universities,
particularly those with large engineering components, inaugurated small
offices dedicated to technology transfer, particularly the processing of
patent applications for professors. However, in a major shift, the end
of the Second World War saw a major increase in government grant
programs for basic research, insulating the academy from a necessity to
rely on private funding sources and enhancing the traditional notion of
universities as the preferred site for basic objective research separate
from the commercial marketplace. At the same time, a greater integration
of the university into public life occurred, with the provision of GI
Bill grants to returning members of the military. University enrollments
doubled during the next 15 years, doubling again within another 8 years.
By the 1990s, the position of universities
within society began to shift again. Federal funding for research
slowed, along with other public financing sources. Pressure developed to
seek private financing through partnerships with foundations and
corporations. Universities undertook attempts at more aggressive
management of intellectual assets, often bringing them into conflict
with academic communities. The rise of the Internet signaled the
potential for developing new resource streams through the development of
online courses and degrees, but no one was sure where the dividing line
stood between individual and institutional ownership of course
Academic publishing, long a backwater in the
publishing industry, showed strong growth and consolidation as
publishers embraced electronic dissemination and new models of product
Here is another Terry Maxwell piece:
Toward a Model of Information Policy Analysis:
Speech as an Illustrative Example by Terrence A. Maxwell FM10 Openness
Jagdish S. Gangolly
Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing of course materials by
prestigious universities are at
Bob Jensen's threads on copyright issues and the horrible DMCA are at
Sharing from Princeton Online
The Incredible Art Department ---
Educators who do not choose to freely share their course materials may
try to sell them to other educators online ---
And now we can harness the internet's strengths in
order to bypass the educational publishing conglomerates and help
ourselves. Here, we will pay each other for our teaching materials and
evaluate one another's work with ratings and comments.
And the real winners will
be our students. They deserve what our best can create -- you can post
and find it here. Teachers paying teachers, an idea whose time has come.
- As sellers,
creative teachers will get credit and income for their ideas.
- As buyers, teachers
will save huge amounts of time and use the best teacher-created,
teacher-tested practical materials available.
June 29, 2006 message from Carolyn Kotlas
TEACHERS SELL LESSON PLANS ONLINE
Entrepreneur and former public school teacher
Paul Edelman has created Teacherspayteachers.com, an website where
teachers can sell lesson plans that they have created. Sellers pay an
annual fee, set their own prices, and 15% of each sale goes to Edelman.
Currently, almost all of the lesson plans cover K-12-level subjects, but
the site already includes some university-level materials covering math,
history, and criminology. To view the site's lesson plan collection, go
For more information, read "High-School
Teachers Can Buy and Sell Lessons at an eBay-Like Website."
For critical comment on the service, see
Capitalist that I am, I think there are too many externalities connected
with education materials for treating materials that can be distributed
virtually free (via modern technology) like capitalist goods and services. I
encourage that more consideration be given to free open-sharing of course
Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing of course materials by
prestigious universities are at
June 27, 2006 tidbit from the Issues in Scholarly Communications Blog at the
University of Illinois ---
Academic Journal Trends
A survey of 400 academic
journal publishers done by the Association of Learned and Professional
Society Publishers found that:
* 90 percent of the
journals are now available online
* A fifth of the publishers are experimenting with open access journals
* 40 percent of publishers use previous print subscriptions as the base
for pricing for bundles
* Most publishers make agreements for either one year or three years
* 91 percent of publishers make back volumes available online; 20
percent charge for access to back volumes
* 42 percent have established formal arrangements for the long-term
preservation of their journals
* 83 percent require authors to transfer copyright in their articles to
Can History Be Open
Roy Rosenzweig, a
history professor at George Mason University and colleague of the
institute, recently published a very good article on Wikipedia from the
perspective of a historian.
"Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the
Future of the Past" as a historian's
analysis complements the discussion from the important but different
lens of journalists and scientists. Therefore, Rosenzweig focuses on,
not just factual accuracy, but also the quality of prose and the
historical context of entry subjects. He begins with in depth overview
of how Wikipedia was created by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger and
describes their previous attempts to create a free online encyclopedia.
Wales and Sanger's first attempt at a vetted resource, called Nupedia,
sheds light on how from the very beginning of the project, vetting and
reliability of authorship were at the forefront of the creators.
Rosenzweig adds to a
growing body of research trying to determine the accuracy of Wikipedia,
in his comparative analysis of it with other online history references,
along similar lines of the Nature study. He compares entries in
Wikipedia with Microsoft's online resource Encarta and American National
Biography Online out of the Oxford University Press and the American
Council of Learned Societies. Where Encarta is for a mass audience,
American National Biography Online is a more specialized history
resource. Rosenzweig takes a sample of 52 entries from the 18,000 found
in ANBO and compares them with entries in Encarta and Wikipeida. In
coverage, Wikipedia contain more of from the sample than Encarta.
Although the length of the articles didn't reach the level of ANBO,
Wikipedia articles were more lengthy than the entries than Encarta.
Further, in terms of accuracy, Wikipedia and Encarta seem basically on
par with each other, which confirms a similar conclusion (although
debated) that the Nature study reached in its comparison of Wikipedia
and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The discussion gets more
interesting when Rosenzweig discusses the effect of collaborative
writing in more qualitative ways.
From the Scout Report on June 30, 2006
Mr. Tides 22.214.171.124
For persons who make their livelihood on the
world’s seas and oceans, the importance of understanding the motions of
the tides cannot be underestimated. Even for the casual visitor,
tracking the tides can be useful. With this application, visitors can
display current (and future) tide information for a variety of locations
around the world on their desktop. This version of Mr. Tides is
compatible with all computers running Mac OS X 10.1 and newer.
In our rather well “connected” times, people
can transmit streaming audio and video across continents, oceans,
mountains, and in some cases, just across the ever-so treacherous
adjoining cubicle wall. With SightSpeed 4.6, all of these boundaries can
be surmounted, and the application also offers free PC-to-PC voice calls
and video blog recording. Visitor to the application’s homepage can
learn about all of the related features of the program, and also offer
feedback on the application’s uses. This version is compatible with
computers running Windows 2000 and XP.
CREN Technology glossary
July 2, 2006 message from Geoff Cutter
Good Morning Bob,
On your page
CREN Core Technology Glossary
has moved to perhaps
regds Geoff Cutter Sunday, 2006-07-02
Bob Jensen's technology glossary and links to other glossaries ---
Is corporate diversification good or bad?
From Jim Mahar's Blog on June 22, 2006 ---
Corporate diversification may not be such
a bad thing afterall
SUPER SHORT VERSION: If facing expropriation,
managers may maximize shareholder wealth by diversifying their firm.
Diversification is bad
The standard line for the past 20 years has been that corporate
diversification is bad for shareholders. We have seen this in the
diversification discount work of
Comment and Jarrell (1995) and many other
papers (for instance
Megginson, Morgan, and Nail)
have shown that diversification lowers firm value.
Diversification is NOT always bad
More recently however, there has been some questioning of that
position. This strand of research has largely been driven by the
idea that for some firms diversification is good.
This school of thought won support in the
2005 Journal of Finance article by Rene Stulz
where he showed that diversification may lower
the risk of expropriation in countries with poor shareholder
protections (i.e. where there is a high risk of expropriation).
Now Beneish, Jansen, Lewis, and Stuart show the same thing happened
within the US tobacco industry. Namely that the tobacco industry's
diversifying deals (for instance when Philip Morris bought Kraft)
lowered the probability of (or minimally delayed) government
lawsuits and expropriation.
In the authors' words:
"Although prior work has often shown
diversification transactions to be negative net present value
projects, we propose that diversification created value in the
tobacco industry by building "political capital" and making
tobacco firms less attractive targets of regulation and
litigation by changing the composition of tobacco firms'
The authors then use three methods to back up
the theory that diversification in the face of high expropriation
risk can be good for shareholders. (the three methods are: the
examination of diversification-increasing announcement returns, the
positive association of thee returns with proxies for expropriation
risk, and the examination of the changed behavior of firms after the
1998 Settlement whereby expropriation became a reality)
The authors then measure how "good" this diversification is for
With admittedly noisy models, they conclude that in the case of
tobacco firms, diversification "protected from $5.7 to $15.3 billion
in shareholder value through delayed or reduced expropriation."
Lesson? Corporate diversification can be good for shareholders
facing a high risk of expropriation.
Beneish, Messod Daniel, Jansen, Ivo Ph.,
Lewis, Melissa Fay and Stuart, Nathan V., "Diversification and
Shareholder Payments in the Tobacco Industry: The Expected
Expropriation Cost Reduction Hypothesis" (June 8, 2006). Available
Computers aid in committing sexual
crimes, but the also aid in detection of such crimes
This link was forwarded by David Coy
"The Digital Detectives," by Brad Reagan,
Popular Mechanics, July 2006 ---
A six-year veteran of the Crimes Against
Children Task Force, Holtz suspected the answer to Cindy’s disappearance
was hidden within the girl’s upstairs computer. She also knew that it
might already be too late. If Cindy had fallen into the hands of a
killer, the statistics were grim: 74 percent of abducted children who
are murdered are dead within 3 hours.
knew that time was ticking and we couldn’t sleep until we found her,”
Holtz says. She turned to FBI forensic examiner Tony Pallone, one of the
bureau’s computer specialists, and asked him to drop all other projects
until he found something in the machine that could lead them to the
Pallone made a forensic image of Cindy’s
computer hard drive and settled in for a long night. He then ran a
program that analyzed the image--yielding thousands upon thousands of
numbers and letters scrambled together, amounting to little more than
gibberish to the untrained eye.
From Cindy’s personal Web page, Pallone knew
she called herself “goddessofall” and listed among her interests
witchcraft, hypnosis and mythology, so he searched the data for snippets
of those words hoping to discover other clues amid the jumble of
characters. He found some troubling information: “File residue” logs
showing the computer’s recent activities revealed that Cindy visited
chat rooms dedicated to sadomasochism. Potentially worse, Pallone
deduced from the gibberish that she chatted frequently with someone
going by the ominous screen name of “dcsadist.” Pallone searched the
Internet for references to anyone using that name but nothing surfaced.
By the evening of Jan. 3, Cindy’s parents began
to lose hope that she would be found alive. “You know the statistics,”
the girl’s mother later told Newark, N.J.’s Star-Ledger. “It’s a
one-in-a-million shot to see your child again.”
PALLONE is an examiner in the Pittsburgh FBI
office’s computer forensics lab. The operation is a small-scale version
of the FBI’s 10 multiagency Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories (RCFLs);
two more are slated to open this year. The FBI provides the RCFL startup
costs--about $3 million per lab--and state and local agencies contribute
staffers certified in computer forensics. As cases come in, examiners
pitch in on those with the highest priority, regardless of which agency
All told, 200-plus examiners at RCFLs and other
FBI teams across the country analyzed more than 1400 terabytes of data
in 2005--equal to a stack of paper 47,000 miles high. This new breed of
gumshoe, trained to study bytes the way old-school G-men studied
fingerprints, snares a predictable cast of hackers and insider traders
but also a surprising number of violent criminals.
Computer forensics is not only crucial to law
enforcement, it is critical to the business world, where digital
evidence-gathering tools are used for everything from fraud
investigations to employee monitoring. And government computer
investigators buy much of their software from the same commercial
vendors that supply big business. The dominant player in the field is
Pasadena, Calif.-based Guidance Software, makers of EnCase, a widely
used suite of programs that can dig deep into the memory of everything
from computer hard drives to MP3 players. The next generation should
even be able to search cellphones. Through its consulting arm, the
company also trains more than 3500 law enforcement officers each year.
“A computer is no different than a tape
recorder--it records everything you do,” says Andy Spruill, who oversees
the consulting division and works as a lead investigator with the
Westminster, Calif., police department’s computer forensics unit. “Right
now [computer forensics] is still a specialty, with few people having
the skills and resources to do it,” he says. “Think about where DNA was
10 years ago. Most cops didn’t even know about it. Now most patrol
officers carry DNA swabs. That is where [computer forensics] is going to
go, to the patrol level.”
“It is unusual today to have a case that
doesn’t involve computers,” explains Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. attorney
for the Western District of Pennsylvania. She adds that computers are
not just a source of evidence, but a source of better evidence. “Through
the use of computers, people store information they might not otherwise.
They might not even know it is being stored,” Buchanan says. “The value
[of the evidence] is also greater because that information is stored in
an organized manner and the computer leaves footprints of an
individual’s every action.”
In 2003 Kansas State University English
professor Thomas Murray’s computer turned into a witness against him.
For more than a year, local police suspected Murray in his ex-wife’s
stabbing death, but it was not until examiners in the Kansas City, Mo.,
RCFL searched his office computer that they found damning evidence. In
the months before his wife’s death, Murray had used such Internet search
terms as “how to kill someone quietly and quickly” and “murder for
hire.” A jury rejected Murray’s defense that he was researching script
ideas for a television show such as CSI and sentenced him to life in
The new breed of gumshoe is trained to study
bytes the way old-school G-men studied fingerprints.
The most famous case cracked using the skills
of computer forensics investigators is last year’s capture of the serial
killer known as BTK, short for “Bind, Torture and Kill.”
Responsible for 10 murders around Wichita,
Kan., between 1974 and 1991, BTK taunted police with letters that
boasted of his deeds but yielded few clues to his identity. He
resurfaced in 2004 with a letter to a local newspaper hinting that he
might be plotting more murders.
In February 2005, Wichita television station
KSAS received a translucent, purple floppy disk accompanied by a 3 x 5
index card with a message from BTK: “Any Communications will have a #
assigned from now on, encase [sic] one is lost or not found.”
The BTK task force enlisted the expertise of
Randy Stone, a 39-year-old Desert Storm vet who started in the Wichita
police department’s Forensic Computer Crime Unit in 1998. When Stone
checked the disk, it contained only one file, named “Test A.rtf.” The
text of the file instructed investigators to read the index card. No
Stone checked the disk properties to see the
previous user: someone named Dennis. Then he checked to see where the
disk was last used: Wichita’s Christ Lutheran Church. On the church Web
site’s list of officers, there was one Dennis, a man named Dennis Rader.
The police used DNA evidence to link Rader to
the crime scenes and in August 2005 he was given 10 consecutive life
sentences. After more than 31 years and 100,000 man-hours, Stone’s
digital detective work cracked the BTK case within 15 minutes of
receiving the disk.
“On a scale of one to 10, it was about a three
in terms of computer forensics,” Stone says. “As simple as that was, the
sad thing is 95 percent of law enforcement in the U.S. could not have
done something like that.”
Late on Jan. 3, 2002, as Pallone toiled away in
his lab, investigators looking for Cindy finally caught a break. An
anonymous Tampa man contacted the FBI and said he might know something
about the girl he’d seen in a missing child photo on the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette Web site. The tipster said he met a man in a bondage group
online claiming to have captured a teenager. “I think I got one,” the
man wrote the tipster in a message, showing video of a girl chained to a
wall, crying. The tipster thought the man lived in northern Virginia and
used the screen name “master for teen slave girls.”
Pallone’s co-worker, Tim Huff, arrived at the
office around 8 am, just as the tipster gave up the screen name. Of his
six years as a field agent, Huff has spent five working in computer
forensics. “I like putting bad guys in jail, that’s why I got into the
bureau,” Huff says. “I got into computer forensics because I like
Four others in the lab were pulled onto the
case to join Pallone in searching chat groups and elsewhere around the
Web for anyone using that screen name. Even with the new information,
they were still searching 90 minutes later.
Maybe, Huff thought, the name was not “master
for teen slave girls,” as the original agent wrote it down, but some
derivative using Web shorthand. Team members began to search for
variations on the name and, within minutes, one of the examiners found a
Yahoo Chat profile for a suspect using the handle
“master4teen_slavegirls.” In his profile, the man listed other online
aliases, including “dcsadist.”
It was a huge breakthrough--they quickly
matched the information from the girl’s computer with the tipster’s
information, making it a near certainty this was the guy holding Cindy.
But the profile didn’t say where he lived.
Holtz tried to contact Yahoo to get the
Internet protocol (IP) address of the profile, but it was 6:30 am at the
Yahoo corporate offices on the West Coast and she couldn’t get anyone on
the phone. Eventually, an agent in Sacramento, Calif., was reached, who
called a contact at Yahoo. Minutes later, Holtz faxed a letter to Yahoo
asking for the IP address, citing Section 212 of the Patriot Act.
Prior to the Patriot Act, which was passed in
October 2001, many corporations required search warrants or subpoenas
before granting government requests for customer information, mainly to
shield themselves from lawsuits. But Section 212 releases companies from
civil liability in cases where someone is at risk of “immediate danger
of death or serious physical injury.” This case was one of the first
times the provision was used.
Around 11 am, Yahoo faxed the Pittsburgh lab
the IP address. A quick search identified Verizon as the service
provider. Thirty minutes later, Verizon told Holtz the name and address
of the customer registered to the account, a 38-year-old Herndon, Va.,
man named Scott William Tyree.
With Tyree’s address confirmed, Holtz contacted
the Washington, D.C., field office, which dispatched a team of agents to
Tyree’s home. Cindy had been missing for almost three days; now Holtz,
Huff and the rest of the Pittsburgh office could only wait nervously for
word of her fate.
At Tyree’s suburban townhouse, agents burst
through the front door with guns drawn. The house appeared to be empty
until they found Cindy in an upstairs bedroom, collared and chained to a
bolt in the floor. The chain was just long enough to allow her to go to
the bathroom. Tyree, it turned out, had reported to work at a nearby
office of Computer Associates, but not before warning Cindy that he
would hurt her if she tried to escape.
By 3:30 pm, the investigators at the Pittsburgh
RCFL received word: Cindy was safe. Holtz, a six-year veteran of the
bureau, didn’t try to hold back her tears. Still sniffling, she walked
to a nearby conference room to give Cindy’s family the good news.
Tyree was picked up less than an hour later at
his office. He had no criminal record and exhibited few previous signs
of being a sexual predator. He was twice divorced and maintained a good
relationship with his only child, a 12-year-old girl who lived with her
mother in California. Tyree’s daughter had reportedly stayed with him
for most of December during school break, returning home on New Year’s
Day--the same day Cindy disappeared.
In subsequent interviews, investigators
determined Cindy was like many teenagers who get involved in dangerous
role-playing on the Web and draw the attention of predators like Tyree.
On New Year’s Day, she sneaked out of the house and met Tyree a few
blocks away. By the time Cindy realized the true intentions of her
captor, it was too late to escape. She now speaks to student groups
about the dangers of the Internet.
Buchanan, the lead prosecutor, says further
evidence obtained from Tyree’s computer by Huff and his staff was
instrumental in building her case and forcing Tyree to plead guilty. In
March 2003, he was sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison.
More than three years later, Huff says it
remains one of his most rewarding cases. “There is very little that I
have experienced that makes you feel as good as knowing you made a child
safe,” he says.
Find this article at:
"Identity Thief Finds Easy Money Hard to
Resist," Tom Zeller, Jr., The New York Times, July 4, 2006 ---
By the time of Shiva Brent Sharma's third
arrest for identity theft, at the age of 20, he had taken in well over
$150,000 in cash and merchandise in his brief career. After a certain
point, investigators stopped counting.
The biggest money was coming in at the end, postal inspectors said,
after Mr. Sharma had figured out how to buy access to stolen credit card
accounts online, change the cardholder information and reliably wire
money to himself — sometimes using false identities for which he had
created pristine driver's licenses.
But Mr. Sharma, now 22, says he never really
kept track of his earnings.
"I don't know how much I made altogether, but
the most I ever made in a quick period was like $20,000 in a day and a
half or something," he said, sitting in the empty meeting hall at the
Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., where he is serving a two-
to four-year term. "Working like three hours today, three hours tomorrow
And once he knew what he was doing, it was all
"It's an addiction, no doubt about that," said
Mr. Sharma, who inflected his words with the sort of street cadence
adopted by smart kids trying to be cool. "I get scared that when I get
out, I might have a problem and relapse because it would be so easy to
take $300 and turn it into several thousand."
That ease accounts for the sizable ranks of
identity-fraud victims, whose acquaintance with the crime often begins
with unexplained credit card charges, a drained bank account or worse.
The victims' tales have become alarmingly familiar, but usually lack a
protagonist — the perpetrator. Mr. Sharma's account of his own exploits
provides the missing piece: an insight into both the tools and the
motivation of a persistent thief.
Identity theft can, of course, have its origins
in a pilfered wallet or an emptied mailbox. But for computer-savvy
thieves like Mr. Sharma, the Internet has forged new conduits for the
crime, both as a means of stealing identity and account information and
as the place to use it.
The Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation have invested millions of dollars in monitoring Internet
sites where thousands of users from around the world congregate to swap
tips about identity theft and to buy and sell personal data. Mr. Sharma
frequented such sites from their earliest days, and the techniques he
learned there have become textbook-variety scams.
"Shiva Sharma was probably one of the first,
and he was certainly one of the first to get caught," said Diane M.
Peress, a former Queens County prosecutor who handled all three of Mr.
Sharma's cases and who is now the chief of economic crimes with the
Nassau County district attorney's office. "But the kinds of methods that
he used are being used all the time."
As far back as 2002, Mr. Sharma began picking
the locks on consumer credit lines using a computer, the Internet and a
deep understanding of online commerce, Internet security and simple
human nature, obtained through years of trading insights with
like-minded thieves in online forums. And he deployed the now-common
rods and reels of data theft — e-mail solicitations and phony Web sites
— that fleece the unwitting.
Much of this unfolded from the basement of a
middle-class family home in Richmond Hill, Queens, at the hands of a
high school student with a knack for problem solving and an inability,
even after multiple arrests, to resist the challenge of making a scheme
That is what worries Mr. Sharma's wife, Damaris,
21, who has no time for the Internet as she raises the couple's
1-year-old daughter, Bellamarie.
"I hate computers," she said. "I think they're
A Thief's Tool Kit
Mr. Sharma is soft-spoken, but he does not
shrink from the spotlight. He gained fleeting attention after his first
arrest, as the first person charged under a New York State
identity-theft statute — and later, at his high school graduation at the
Rikers Island jail, where he was the class valedictorian.
For a prison interview, he has applied gel to
his mane of black hair. He is Hollywood handsome, with deceptively
sleepy eyes and smiles that come as tics in reaction to nearly every
stimulus — a question, a noise. Prosecutors interpreted those smiles as
evidence of smug indifference.
A tattoo of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction
and his namesake, is just visible on Mr. Sharma's right arm, under the
short sleeve of his green prison jumpsuit.
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on identity theft are
Top books on Gettysburg:
Robert E. Lee fails to manage his
"Seven Score and
Three Years Ago," by Gabor Boritt, The Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2006 ---
1. "Gettysburg" by
Stephen W. Sears (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).
A first-class writer and
splendid historian--a combination to be cherished--gives us the best
book on America's most famous battle. Sears smoothly integrates
up-to-date scholarship that has enriched our understanding of the battle
since Edwin Coddington's "The Gettysburg Campaign" (1968), a classic but
one that few can slog their way through. Sears has strong opinions. His
Robert E. Lee fails to manage his subordinates well, and George Meade,
"unexpectedly and against the odds," thoroughly outgenerals him. Only
Civil War buffs will find things to argue about in this gripping account
of the military moment that helped save the nation.
2. "The Colors of
Courage" by Margaret Creighton (Basic Books, 2005).
The Civil War came, in
big way, to just one Northern town, and Creighton brings alive the time
and the place through the vivid stories of 15 individuals, obscure and
forgotten witnesses to the battle at Gettysburg. Through their
portraits, we're shown how the bloodletting that took place transformed
ordinary people, moving them to behave in extraordinary ways--as when a
young woman given to swooning at the very sight of blood is changed into
one who goes about nursing horribly mangled soldiers. Creighton does a
superb job of weaving these noncombatants' stories into those of the
3. "The Killer
Angels" by Michael Shaara (David McKay, 1974).
historians have in bringing the past to life stems from the need to
stick to facts--a problem fiction writers don't face. What a general Lee
or Longstreet actually felt as he struggled over tactics we can never
know. Novelist Michael Shaara nevertheless provides a persuasive
imaginative account of these soldiers and of the battle. Shaara conveys
the costs in graphic detail as we follow such actual participants as
Joshua Chamberlain--former college professor and determined Union
soldier: "He stood up. Pain in the right foot, unmistakable squish of
blood." Shaara skillfully takes us into the minds of the combatants--and
on an extraordinarily rewarding journey.
4. "Haskell of
Gettysburg" edited by Frank L. Byrne and Andrew T. Weaver (State
Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1970).
The best account of the
battle by a participant is to be found in a hundred pages of this volume
of letters, written by Union soldier Lt. Frank Haskell to his brother.
Many suspect that Haskell wrote with future publication in mind. It
doesn't matter. Despite using the era's flowery language, he succeeded
in transmitting details of the fighting accurately and with remarkable
immediacy. ("Men are dropping dead or wounded on all sides, by scores
and by hundreds, and the poor mutilated creatures, some with an arm
dangling, some with a leg broken by a bullet, are limping and crawling
towards the rear. They make no sound of complaint or pain. . . . A
sublime heroism seems to pervade all.") It is telling that when Haskell
returned to Gettysburg four months later for the battlefield's
dedication as a national cemetery, he left in mid-ceremony. The civilian
throngs, he said, despite their reverence, had no idea of the horrors
that had taken place on those grounds. Haskell died the following spring
at the battle of Cold Harbor.
5. "Lincoln at
Gettysburg" by Garry Wills (Simon & Schuster, 1992).
Around the world,
"Gettysburg" brings to mind not so much the battle as the name Abraham
Lincoln and the address he delivered there. In Wills's rendering, the
Civil War president managed, in some 270 words, to remake the U.S. into
a nation dedicated to equality of the races, creating out of
Gettysburg's ravages a new understanding, a new vision, for the country.
Wills's prose is scintillating, but his central message is a bit
overcooked. Lincoln was, indeed, the greatest of American presidents,
and the Gettysburg Address a sublime work. But the speech did not remake
America, much less the world, as Wills suggests. Still, that the book's
main thesis is dead wrong in its excess should take little away from the
pleasure of reading it.
Mr. Boritt, director of the Civil War
Institute at Gettysburg College, is the author of the forthcoming "The
Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows" (Simon &
Forwarded by Auntie Bev
These are the top 16 bumper stickers that everyone wants to see.....
Jesus loves you...but everyone else thinks you are an ass.
Impotence...Nature's way of saying "No hard feelings,"
Everyone has a photographic memory ...some just don't have any film.
Save your breath. You'll need it to blow up your date.
Your ridiculous little opinion has been noted.
I used to have a handle on life...but it broke off.
WANTED: Meaningful overnight relationship.
Guys...just because you have one, doesn't mean you have to be one.
Some people just don't know how to drive... I call these people "Everybody
Heart Attacks...God's revenge for eating His animal friends.
Don't like my driving? Then quit watching me.
If you can read this..I can slam on my brakes and sue you.
Some people are only alive because it is illegal to shoot them.
Try not to let your mind wander...It is too small and fragile to be out by
Hang up and drive!!
And The Number One Bumper Sticker you'd Like To See!!
Welcome to America ... now speak English!
another good one is Any woman looking for a husband has never had one!