In the Autumn of Life in the Autumn of 2006 in New Hampshire's White Mountains
From Our Living Room About a Mile from Robert Frost's Old Farm House
Three mountain ranges are visible in the above picture taken in an earlier foliage week:
The Kinsman Range (about 10 miles away showing the pointy-headed Garfield, Baby's Cradle, and Lafayette)
The Twin Mountain Range (about 20 miles away showing North Twin and South Twin)
The distant Presidential Range (about 30 miles away showing part of Mt. Washington with its wind-swept dome in the clouds)
Our closest mountains (Cannon, Three Graces, North Kinsman, and South Kinsman) are to the right and not visible above.
It's been an absolutely breath-taking foliage season this year under a nightly awe-inspiring full moon this week.
We've been blessed!

Tidbits on October 10, 2006
Bob Jensen

Foliage Network ---
Foliage in New Hampshire's White Mountains ---
Fall Foliage ---
Foliage Pictures ---

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Online Video, Slide Shows, and Audio
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 ---

American Heroes (Until We Meet Again) ---
Poem from fallen soldier honors the brave ---

All mortal beings, which God brought forth, die the same
Man is not exempt

All will inevitably end as the dust from whence we came
It matters not of age

Do not mourn me if I should fall in a foreign land
Think this of my passing

In a far-off field a finer soil mixed with the foreign sand
A dust that is American

A dust that laughed, cried, and loved as an American
On this plot there shall be

A little piece of America, a patch for the free man
Which no oppressor can take

From this soil grows grass shimmering a little greener
Brilliant emerald ramparts

A Breeze whisping White Poppies with scent a little sweeter
Flowers towards heaven

Mourn not my terrible death but celebrate my cause in life
Viewed noble or not

I would have sacrificed and gave all that I had to give
Not to make man good

But only to let the good man live.

— Aaron Seesan

Bravo America ---

Interactive Dig Black Sea: The Pisa Wreck ---

Ocean Symphony with Jack Black (ocean pollution video) ---

NOVA: Mystery of the Megavolcano --- ---

Professors Sharing Their Lectures on Video
Take Five from the University of Texas
Also see

Free music downloads ---

Asleep at the Wheel: Driving Western Swing ---

Unearthing an Unexpected Musical Treasure ---

From the Discovered Tapes
* 'Roll on Waters' - Woody Guthrie * 'This Land Is Your Land' - Woody Guthrie

'Rogue's Gallery:' Songs of the Sea ---

For Chico Hamilton, the Beat Goes On ---

New Island Sounds from Cuba's Young Guard ---

Audra McDonald: A 'Theater Geek' Turns to Pop ---

Teoria (interactive music learning tutorials) ---

New York Fetes Composer Steve Reich at 70 ---

Live a Life That Matters ---

Photographs and Art

Foliage Pictures ---

The Nikon Small World Photo Competition (From Time Magazine) --- Click Here  

Amazing Andromeda Galaxy ---

Smithsonian Photography Initiative ---

Museums and the Web ---

New Seven Wonders of the World ---

Digitalmedia Center (photographs from around the world) ---

Beautiful Earth (with audio) ---

From the University of Washington
Lawrence Denny Lindsley Photographs ---

Barbara Cole's Paintings ---

Night aerial photography by Jason Hawkes ---

The Art of Madalina Iordache ---

Spiral Gallery ---

Tavares Photography ---

Richard Branson unveiled the interior of SpaceShipTwo on Thursday at Wired's NextFest ---


Online Books, Poems, References, and Other Literature
In the past I've provided links to various types electronic literature available free on the Web. 
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---

From the University of South Carolina
Celebrating the Works of F. Scott Ftzgerald ---

CELT Corpus of Electronic Texts ---

Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) --- Click Here

Virginibus Puerisque by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) --- Click Here

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. ---

The Adventure Of The Dancing Men by Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) --- Click Here

The Paris Review: Interviews --- 

From the Pew Research Center
Looking Backward and Forward, Americans See Less Progress In Their Lives ---

Homer Simpson's Words of Wisdom ---

Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!
Karl Marx (1818-1883). Purported to be his last words --- Click Here 

I know you have come to kill me. Shoot, coward. You are only going to kill a man.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967). Purported to be his last words --- Click Here 
Jensen Comment
But only free for a while. The Bolivian Army executed Che without a trial after he was captured by U.S. Special Forces.

Hold the cross high so I may see it through the flames!
Saint Joan of Arc (1412-1431). Purported to be her last words --- Click Here 

Dream and you will be free in spirit, fight and you will be free in life.
Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967) ---

Every word has been, at sometime, a neologism.
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) ---

The people we should thank are the innovators and entrepreneurs, the individuals who see new opportunities and risk exploring them -- the people who find new markets, create new products, think out new ways to handle commodities commercially, organize work in new ways, design new technology or transfer capital to more productive uses. The entrepreneur is an explorer, who ventures into uncharted territory and opens up the new routes along which we will all be traveling soon enough. Simply to look around is to understand that entrepreneurs have filled our lives with everyday miracles.
Johan Norberg, "Humanity's Greatest Achievement," The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2006; Page A11 --- Click Here

The uneven sheds stretch back
Shed behind shed in train
Like cars that have long lain
Dead on a side track
Robert Frost in a newly-discovered World War I poem entitled as quoted by Scott McLeMee in "War Thoughts at Home," Inside Higher Ed, October 4, 2006 ---

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.
John Burroughs as quoted in a recent email message from Paula.

Do Wall Street investment banks favor the GOP with cash donations?
Hint: The answer will probably surprise you.

Wall Street has shifted its allegiance in the 2006 election cycle by donating more to Democrats than Republicans who have been the investment banks' usual benefactors, U.S. Federal Election Commission data show. Five leading firms Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bear Stearns Companies Inc.,Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. have contributed $6.2 million so far to candidates before the November elections, with about 52 percent going to Democrats . . . "People give ideological money and they give money to people they think are going to win," said Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. "It looks like it's going to be a good year for Democrats."
Tim McLaughlin, "Wall Street's political cash favors Democrats," Reuters, October 6, 2006 ---
Jensen Comment
Although the economy is in relatively good shape and tax revenues are pouring into Washington DC and state houses across the land, there is also a general feeling that the GOP-controlled House and Senate blew their chances for major reforms on health care, Medicare, Social Security, and education reforms. Huge worries arise from the GOP failures to control government spending and corruption. There is a high degree of Wall Street resentment toward some legislation, particularly Sarbanes-Oxley costly fraud prevention accounting rules. Doubts have also arisen, long before Bob Woodward's book, about GOP incompetence and corruption, an image that was long "Delayed."  All these things have strengthened the campaigns of Democratic candidates, and Wall Street bets on winners. Change is in the wind (and "wind" is the correct term for candidates from both parties).

House Republicans have done a lousy job of policing themselves
The larger problem for House Republicans is that they've amassed a poor record of policing themselves amid a succession of scandals. Even as Duke Cunningham, Tom DeLay and Bob Ney tarnished the party's image, no one other than a few "moderates" who don't have much sway in the caucus took the lead in called for drumming any of them out of the ranks. It's also notable that none of these three men survived their respective scandals. Cunningham is serving time in the federal pen after pleading guilty to corruption charges late last year. Mr. Ney abandoned plans to run for re-election a few weeks ago after it became clear a federal investigation was heading straight for him.
Brendan Miniter, "The Problem Isn't Foley:  House Republicans have done a lousy job of policing themselves," The Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2006 ---

Sex, lies and power games are just the latest symptoms of a Republican Party that has strayed from its ideals
"The End of a Revolution," by Karen Tumulty, Time Magazine Cover Story, October 8, 2006 --- Click Here

But after controlling both houses of Congress and the White House for most of Bush's six years in office, the party has a governing record that has come unmoored from those Grand Old Party ideals. The exquisite political machinery that aces the elections has begun to betray the platform. To win votes back home, lawmakers have been spending taxpayer money like sailors on leave, producing the biggest budget deficits in U.S. history. And the party's approach to national security has taken the country into a war that most Americans now believe was a mistake and that the government's own intelligence experts say has shaped "a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."

One of the problems is that after the Republicans got into power, the system began to change them, not just the other way around. Among the first promises the G.O.P. majority broke was the setting of term limits. Their longtime frustrations in the minority didn't necessarily make them any better at reaching across the aisle either. Compromise, that most central of congressional checks and balances, has been largely replaced by a kind of calculated cussedness that has left the G.O.P. isolated and exposed in times of crisis.

Continued in article

Is the GOP manipulating fuel prices for purposes of winning votes?
Answer from the Liberal Left

"Gas Pump Politics," by Nicholas von Hoffman, The Nation, October 3, 2006 ---

Do the Democrats lose 50,000 votes every time the price of gasoline drops a penny? We'll have the answer to that question in a few weeks, but in the meantime cheaper gasoline raises some interesting questions.

The first of which is whether or not the Republicans have arranged to lower them to prevent what had seemed to be defeat in November. Certainly, the timing of the price drop might cause even the credulous to entertain a suspicion or two.

You may be sure that the Republicans are delighted to see gasoline fade from the list of voter irritations. You may also be sure that the Republicans would have arranged for prices at the pump to swoon if they could, but can they?

Not likely. To make the price of gasoline come down in Ohio, where the GOP is in big trouble, the prices have to drop everywhere. No special walled-off Ohio oil market, or even an American oil market, exists. If the price of oil is going to go down in Cincinnati, it is going to have to go down in Shanghai. Oil, as the economists say, is fungible.

There are times when energy prices are manipulated, California's electricity cost being an example. A few years ago, by closing certain generating plants and refusing to sell electricity from certain other plants, an artificial shortage was created, which drove up the price of electricity and drove ordinary Californians to the poorhouse.

But California is not part of a world electricity market. As opposed to oil prices, those electricity prices could be forced upward without worrying about how would-be suppliers in Canada or elsewhere would react. If California had been part of a world market, when the prices went up outside suppliers of electricity would have rushed in to sell and the prices would have been forced down again.

Because oil must be refined, it is possible to play some games with gasoline prices. Refineries can be pulled off line for no good reason except to drive the price of the products up. The operative word here is "up."

Driving prices down is another matter. Manipulators make money when the price goes up. Manipulators do not make money when the price goes down.

Down is going to cost somebody a lot of money. For practical purposes, the only way to make prices go down is to sell gasoline at a loss because you must sell it under the going price. Not quite the same as giving it away, but it's close.

And you have to sell a lot of it under the going rate. Last winter, for example, we saw President Bush's good friend the devil-defying Hugo Chávez, sell heating oil to poor Americans at lower-than-market prices, and guess what effect that had on the price of heating oil generally? None.

Last winter Chávez, through Citgo, owned by Venezuela, dumped 16 million gallons of heating oil at below-market prices in eight states, and if it pushed down the price of heating, nobody could see it. Imagine how many million barrels of oil it would take to depress the entire gasoline market--and how much it would cost. Rich Republicans, who are desperately clinging to every nickel out of fear the death tax will pauperize their heirs, are not about to make a campaign contribution of this magnitude. If that's the cost--and it would be--of keeping Denny Hastert in the House Speaker's chair, they'll take their chances with Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats, posing as the champions of the great unwashed as they do, dare not show their apprehension at the slump in gas prices even as they watch votes melt away. Nevertheless, every time gas prices drop, people kid themselves into believing the oil is going to flow forever and that we can go on living as we have forever.

If the past is any kind of a guide, the numbskulls in Detroit will postpone the design and production of truly energy-efficient automobiles, a decision that will ultimately put them out of business. Lower prices will bring research and development on more expensive alternatives to a halt. The thousands of undertakings, great and small, that can increase efficiency will be put off yet longer.

There will be no politicians of note who command national attention (Al Gore aside) to tell us that we are once more frittering away precious lead time between now and when (a) the oil runs out and (b) the environment crashes.

The American religion of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost has made it a point of pride never to plan ahead, never to be ready and never to prepare. So in war after war we are caught with our pants down and in peace each Katrina is worse than the last one.

Whatever danger, no matter how real, how close or how certain, the response is, "Oh, the free market will take care of it" or "Aw, don't worry, technology has our back covered." So instead of throwing ourselves into energy conservation to postpone the day of disaster, we hear speeches about energy independence and ethanol.

As of now all ethanol can do is win the Midwestern farm vote. Yet the Democrats ought not to give up hope. The Republicans seem to have an inexhaustible supply of crooked pederast Congressmen, and there is one deep truth, which is that oil prices, like all prices, fluctuate. Next time the Ds may catch 'em on the down cycle.

"Why Are Saudis Approving Cheaper Oil? Short term, the kingdom fears economic disruption from price spikes. Long term, though, it seeks to manage the market with boosted capacity," by Stanley Reed, Business Week, October 4, 2006 ---
Click Here

Unbelievable as it may sound, Saudi Arabia is practically applauding the 22% plunge in global oil prices since July. On Sept. 19, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi called a price of about $60 per barrel "reasonable." Analysts think the Saudis could even live with a price in the mid-$50's per barrel. "The Saudi price target is probably lower than the rest of OPEC; they are still happy at $50 per barrel," says David Kirsch, an analyst at PFC Energy in Washington.

Why would the kingdom, which boasts the world's largest oil reserves, cheer a price slump? In fact, the Saudis never felt comfortable with $70 oil, fearing that sky-high prices might kill off the global appetite for their single source of wealth.

"There is concern that the volatility in the markets is so beyond anyone's control that it could cause severe damage to the world economy," says Sadad Al Husseini, the retired exploration and production chief of Saudi Aramco, the national oil company. The Saudis, he says, "are determined to try and manage better."

That's not to say the Saudis want to see prices continue to drop. In the short term, they're trying to keep them from crashing below $50 per barrel by gradually withdrawing oil from the market. But they're also investing tens of billions of dollars to build spare capacity.

At a mid-September OPEC meeting in Vienna, Oil Minister Naimi said Saudi Arabia plans to expand production in seven fields to add 2.4 million barrels per day of capacity, boosting its total to about 12.5 million barrels per day by 2009. On Oct. 1, the Saudis announced they would start work in early 2007 on a new oilfield called Moneefa, which will have 900,000 barrels of capacity and come on line in 2011.

The Saudis want to be able to pump more so they can manage prices by adding supply when markets are tight, and removing it when inventories fatten. Of the major OPEC producers, only the Saudis currently have significant spare capacity. But by 2004 they had allowed their buffer to dwindle to around 700,000 barrels per day, not enough to cover a major outage such as a shutdown of Iranian production. Like the rest of the industry, they were caught napping by the big surge in demand beginning in 2004, which triggered a doubling of prices over the following two years.

The new production won't come cheap. The cost of expanding production will exceed $24 billion, figures Nawaf Obaid, managing director of the Saudi National Security Project, a Riyadh consultancy. He says the Saudi leadership under King Abdullah wants to "decouple energy and foreign policy" by building up enough spare capacity to offset a cutoff of crude from Iran as well as another major producer such as Venezuela or Nigeria. They also want to tamp down criticism from U.S. politicians.

For now, Venezuela and Nigeria say they are cooperating with Saudi Arabia’s short-term goal. Oil ministers from the two nations in late September promised to cut production by 170,000 barrels per day, which should help the Saudis steady prices without reducing their own 30% share of OPEC production. But some market watchers think the Saudis will eventually have to shoulder nearly all of the cuts of 1 million barrels per day or more that may be required to keep oil above $50 per barrel.

"We have seen the peak [in prices] for a while unless something blows up," says Leo Drollas, an analyst at the Center for Global Energy Studies in London. Even so, the Saudis want an insurance policy of extra capacity in case prices spike again.

From Columbia University
Having wreaked havoc onstage, the students unrolled a banner that read, in both Arabic and English, "No one is ever illegal."

"At Columbia, Students Attack Minuteman Founder," by Eliana Johnson, The New York Sun, October 4, 2006 ---

Students stormed the stage at Columbia University's Roone auditorium yesterday, knocking over chairs and tables and attacking Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minutemen, a group that patrols the border between America and Mexico.

Mr. Gilchrist and Marvin Stewart, another member of his group, were in the process of giving a speech at the invitation of the Columbia College Republicans. They were escorted off the stage unharmed and exited the auditorium by a back door.

Having wreaked havoc onstage, the students unrolled a banner that read, in both Arabic and English, "No one is ever illegal." As security guards closed the curtains and began escorting people from the auditorium, the students jumped from the stage, pumping their fists, chanting victoriously, "Si se pudo, si se pudo," Spanish for "Yes we could!"

The Minuteman Project, an organization of volunteers founded in 2004 by Mr. Gilchrist, aims to keep illegal immigrants out of America by alerting law enforcement officials when they attempt to cross the border. The group uses fiery language and unorthodox tactics to advance its platform. "Future generations will inherit a tangle of rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling cultures with no common bond to hold them together, and a certain guarantee of the death of this nation as a harmonious ‘melting pot,'" the group's Web site warns.

The pandemonium that ensued as the evening's keynote speaker took the stage was merely the climax of protest that brewed all week. A number of campus groups, including the Chicano caucus, the African-American student organization, and the International Socialist organization, began planning their protests early this week when they heard that the Minutemen would be arriving on campus.

The student protesters, who attended the event clad in white as a sign of dissent, booed and shouted the speakers down throughout. They interrupted Mr. Stewart, who is African-American, when he referred to the Declaration of Independence's self-evident truth that "All men are created equal," calling him a racist, a sellout, and a black white supremacist.

A student's demand that Mr. Stewart speak in Spanish elicited thundering applause and brought the protesters to their feet. The protesters remained standing, turned their backs on Mr. Stewart for the remainder of his remarks, and drowned him out by chanting, "Wrap it up, wrap it up!" Mr. Stewart appeared unfazed by their behavior. He simply smiled and bellowed, "No wonder you don't know what you're talking about."

"These are racist individuals heading a project that terrorizes immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border," Ryan Fukumori, a Columbia junior who took part in the protest, told The New York Sun. "They have no right to be able to speak here."

The student protesters "rush to vindicate themselves with monikers like ‘liberal' and ‘open-minded,' but their actions, their attempt to condemn the Minutemen without even hearing what they have to say, speak otherwise," the president of the Columbia College Republicans, Chris Kulawik, said. On campus, the Republicans' flyers advertising the event were defaced and torn down.

The College Republicans expressed their concern about the lack of free speech for opposing viewpoints on the Columbia campus in the wake of the evening's events. "We've often feared that there's not freedom of speech at Columbia for more right-wing views — and that was proven tonight," the executive director of the Columbia College Republicans, Lauren Steinberg, said.

The Minutemen's arrival at Columbia drew protesters from around the city as well. An hour before Messrs. Stewart and Mr. Gilchrist took the stage, rowdy protests began outside the auditorium on Broadway, where activists chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Minutemen have got to go!"

Continued in article

Mr. Bollinger (President of Columbia University), a legal scholar whose specialty is free speech and the First Amendment, quickly condemned this week’s disruption. “Students and faculty have rights to invite speakers to the campus,” he said yesterday in an interview. “Others have rights to hear them. Those who wish to protest have rights to do so. No one, however, shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers.” He added, “There is a vast difference between reasonable protest that allows a speaker to continue, and protest that makes it impossible for speech to continue.”
Karen W. Arenson and Damien Cave, "Silencing of a Speech Causes a Furor," The New York Times, October 7, 2006 ---

With Columbia University again under fire over speech issues, the president is condemning anyone who prevents another’s speech from taking place. On Wednesday, protesters stormed a stage where Jim Gilchrist, head of the Minuteman Project, a “vigilance operation” opposing illegal immigration, was speaking, forcing him to stop his talk. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia’s president, pledged that the university would investigate the incident and procedures for making sure that speakers can give their talks. In a statement, he said: “This is not a complicated issue. Students and faculty have rights to invite speakers to the campus. Others have rights to hear them. Those who wish to protest have rights to do so. No one, however, shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers. This is a sacrosanct and inviolable principle.”
Inside Higher Ed, October 9, 2006

  • Frightened Into Ignorance
    Iraq's school and university system is in danger of collapse in large areas of the country as pupils and teachers take flight in the face of threats of violence. Professors and parents have told the Guardian they no longer feel safe to attend their educational institutions. In some schools and colleges, up to half the staff have fled abroad, resigned or applied to go on prolonged vacation, and class sizes have also dropped by up to half in the areas that are the worst affected.
    "Iraqi education system on brink of collapse." Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, October 4, 2006 ---,,1887450,00.html

     If the George Bush has this supernatural power, the whole world should be scared
    THE followers of Moqtada al-Sadr believe that the US invaded Iraq to prevent the return to Earth of their sect’s messiah-like figure, the Mahdi, or 12th imam. Hojatoleslam al-Sadr claims that his militia is preparing for the day when the Mahdi, the last direct descendent of the revered Shia figure Ali, reappears. Shia believe that the Mahdi, who disappeared in 868, will bring justice to Earth.

    "Waiting for the imam's return to Earth," London Times, October 3, 2006 --- Click Here

    "Why Are There Wars Without End?" PhysOrg, October 6, 2006 ---

    "Paz to supply gas to Palestinian Authority:  Israeli energy company to refine oil for Authority it in it's recently purchased Oil Refineries in Ashdod. Deal estimates to worth about NIA 1.5 billion (roughly USD 30 million)," by Tani Goldstein, Ynet, October 5, 2006 ---,7340,L-3311320,00.html

    The Paz energy company began supplying gas to the Palestinian Authority Wednesday, after signing an agreement with the PA to start providing it with petrol in three months.

    Sources in the Israeli energy industry and the PA claim that contract went into effect immediately after the Alon Oil Company, the PA's previous supplier, stopped providing the Palestinians with gas on Tuesday.

    Paz acquired the Ashdod Oil Refineries from the government this week for a sum of NIS 3.25 billion (roughly USD 764 million).

    According to the deal signed between the PA and Paz, the energy company will refine crude oil for the Palestinians, who will purchase the oil directly from the Arab countries. This is set to be the first time since its establishment in 1994 that the PA buys oil independently, and not from Israel.

    It is estimated that Paz will sell the petrol to the Palestinians for a lower price than will be charged in Israel.

    According to estimates in the energy industry, official purchase of oil in the PA amount to NIS 1.5 billion (roughly USD 30 million) per year.

    The North Korean Motives are Obvious
    Kim Jong-il’s methods have paid off handsomely. Each act of brinksmanship has brought cash, supplies, oil, nuclear reactors, or additional concessions from the West. Within two months of the Taepo Dong missile scraping across Nippon in August 1998, President Clinton sent North Korea a multi-million dollar aid package and reopened bilateral negotiations.
    Ben Johnson, "The Left's Diplomacy Pays Off," FrontPage Magazine, October 9, 2006 ---

    "Pyongyang Phooey," by Nicholas Eberstadt, The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2006; Page A20 ---

    North Korea has been called a "rogue state" by some, a "terrorist state" by others, and fair enough -- but while those terms carry opprobrium, they lack real descriptive content. The North is better understood as a "revisionist state" -- bitterly dissatisfied with the international environment it faces, and intent upon overturning that order. Its main grievances with the international system are: (1) the predominance and success of the capitalist world economy, particularly its global trade and financial arrangements, which are fundamentally incompatible with Pyongyang's Stalin-style economy; (2) the Northeast Asian security structure of military alliances built and maintained by its superpower enemy, the U.S.; and (3) the florescence of a prosperous, democratic South Korean state on the landmass that the Kim family claims the right to rule unconditionally.

    These grievances are not merely aesthetic. Since each of these features of the international system places the survival of their own system in jeopardy, North Korea is exceedingly unlikely to be reconciled to them through "international dialogue." Making the world safe for Kim Jong Il requires nothing less than upending the contemporary economic, political and military order in Northeast Asia -- preposterous as such an outcome may sound to South Korean, Japanese or American ears.

    Nevertheless, North Korean policy is relentlessly focused on achieving just such an upending. The carefully chosen tools for the job are nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. The point of vulnerability -- the focus of these WMD -- is the U.S.-South Korea military alliance. By training missiles on U.S. territory, Pyongyang's goal of breaking the alliance would be promoted most efficiently -- and its objective of unconditional unification with South Korea would be directly advanced. Why? Because placing U.S. territory in North Korea's nuclear crosshairs inescapably undermines the credibility of American security guarantees in a time of crisis on the Korean peninsula. If U.S. policy makers were deemed unwilling to expose Seattle in order to honor commitments to Seoul, the security alliance would be worthless, America's unparalleled military might notwithstanding.

    For over half a century, Pyongyang has endured the reality of U.S.-imposed "deterrence." For Kim Jong Il, the geopolitical keys to the kingdom lie in deterring the deterrer -- and North Korea's otherwise puzzling and bellicose behavior should be regarded through the prism of this long-term project.

    The seemingly stalled six-party talks, for example, are actually not stalled at all: North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs have apparently been progressing quite nicely during the three-plus years of conferencing. There is an eerie similarity between the "conference diplomacy" involving North Korea today and earlier episodes of "conference diplomacy" in Europe between World Wars I and II. While the particulars are obviously different -- Germany was the strongest state in its region, while North Korea is the weakest -- the dynamics are almost exactly the same: The status quo powers want to talk; the revisionist powers want to arm -- and both parties get their wish.

    When North Korea launched its missiles in July, the move was judged in many quarters to be impetuous, even irrational. In fact, it was coolly calculated, displaying the regime's confidence that it could manage subsequent international events while pushing its game up to a potentially much more dangerous level.

    Even so, Pyongyang could not have known how much its own project -- inflaming the U.S.-South Korea military alliance -- would be abetted by the hapless Roh Moo Hyun government. In the immediate aftermath of the launches, South Korea's President Roh studiously avoided criticism of North Korea -- and instead harshly scolded the Japanese for (among other things) bringing the matter before the U.N., averring that Tokyo's actions could "lead to a critical situation in the peace over Northeast Asia"! The Roh administration also stated that its multibillion dollar joint-venture scheme within North Korea, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, should be insulated against any political fallout from the missile episode. It continued the subsidies for the project and insisted that North Korean products "made in Kaesong" should receive privileged treatment in the pending U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

    Most portentously of all, Mr. Roh fixated on switching wartime operational control (Opcon) of the U.S-South Korea combined forces command from U.S. to South Korean hands. It seemed to matter little to him that many military specialists in South Korea itself -- including a large number of retired generals and former ministers of national defense -- went on record to warn that the South's forces were not prepared for such a transition, and that readiness might suffer. The true reasoning behind Mr. Roh's adamant Opcon lobbying may have been revealed by one of his advisers at a public seminar in Seoul last month. He argued that South Korea's control of troops during wartime is critical to maintain security on the peninsula as it prevents the U.S. military from unilaterally conducting military operations in the case of an emergency on the peninsula.

    Opcon, in other words, was a proxy for the Roh government's distrust of its U.S. ally -- a feeling evidently so powerful that it could not be restrained even under the pressure of North Korea's missile tests. In the light of such official South Korean reactions, Pyongyang made its own calculations about the risks and benefits in moving its agenda on to nuclear tests. * * *

    If the flower children in charge of South Korean national security policy these days have acquitted themselves poorly, the record of the self-proclaimed grownups who took charge of Washington's policies in 2001 does not look that much better. Passive-aggressive in the face of North Korean brinkmanship, irritable and reactive in the face of mounting frictions in the relationship with Seoul, the Bush administration's main achievement to date in "alliance management" seems to have been the drawdown of U.S. forces in South Korea, with more in store. It is not even clear that our statesmen understand the stakes of the game they are embroiled in. All this, of course, will hardly dissuade Pyongyang from pressing the U.S.-South Korea alliance ever harder.

    With his latest nuclear gambit, Kim Jong Il has just reset the clock on the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, moving the hands palpably closer to midnight. If we listen closely, we can hear the ticking.

    Mr. Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is author of "The North Korean Economy Between Crisis and Catastrophe," forthcoming from Transaction Publishers.

    Do professors who expound political beliefs to their students affect political beliefs of their students?

    "All in the Family," by Arthur C. Brooks, The Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2006; Page A26 ---

    Parents have just sent their kids off to college, full of hope that the knowledge and enlightenment they acquire will prepare them for the rigors of the modern economy. But a worrying possibility is keeping some of these parents -- especially the conservative ones -- up at night: the prospect that their children will be hopelessly corrupted by the faculty.

    In one popular book about campus politics, the author writes, "We all know that left-wing radicals from the 1960s have hung around academia and hired people like themselves. . . . [T]hey spew violent anti-Americanism, preach anti-Semitism, and cheer on the killing of American soldiers and civilians -- all the while collecting tax dollars and tuition fees to indoctrinate our children." If the author is right, then the fears about the minds of our children might seem like a lot more than just right-wing paranoia.

    Most studies of the subject have indicated that, indeed, upward of 90% of college professors at many universities hold liberal political views. In some schools and departments, faculties are virtually 100% left-wing. It is one thing to lament this ideological lopsidedness in the academy. But it is quite another to assume that professors actually bend the little minds in their care toward a liberal point of view, or even a radical one. Imagine a student with God-fearing Republican parents exposed to the depredations of an English professor aiming to use his class as a Bolshevik training camp. Will the professor succeed in turning the kid into a Red? The evidence says, probably not: When it comes to politics, people from conservative families follow their parents, not their professors.

    The most recent evidence on this subject comes from the mid-1990s, in the University of Michigan's National Election Studies. These survey data uncover two facts. First, people who go to college are more likely to vote Republican than those who don't go to college. Adults 25 and under from Republican homes are, for example, 11 percentage points more likely to vote Republican if they attended college than if they didn't. And young adults from Democratic households are 11 percentage points less likely to vote Democrat if they've gone to college than if not.

    Second, nearly everybody grows more likely to vote Republican as they age -- but especially college graduates. It is no shock that the vast majority of people of all educational backgrounds from Republican homes vote Republican by age 40. It may come as more of a surprise that 40-year-olds with Democrat parents are far less likely to vote Democrat if they've gone to college than if they haven't. In fact, while three-quarters of the uneducated group still vote Democrat, the odds are only about 50-50 that the college graduates vote this way. And they've not all become skeptical political independents: Fully a third are registered Republicans.

    Obviously, some kids turn left in college -- but this appears to be the exception, not the rule. Does all this mean that our colleges and universities are actually breeding grounds for conservatism? Hardly. What the statistics really show is that higher education by itself doesn't affect political views very much. Rather, in addition to the strong influence of parents, it is higher incomes -- which typically reward a college education in America -- that push people to the right politically. In Republican families, the income effect reinforces parents' influence on their kids. In Democratic families, the two effects work against each other.

    To fearful Republican parents, then: Sleep tight. When it comes to politics, your kids are in good hands -- yours.

    Professor Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs, is the author of "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism," forthcoming in November from Basic Books.

    "No Return To IRA Terror," Sky News, October 4, 2006 ---,,30000-13545616,00.html

    The IRA no longer considers a return to terrorism "a viable option", according to Northern Ireland's ceasefire watchdog.

    The conclusion of the Independent Monitoring Commission comes in its 12th report on the peace process in the province.

    It says the IRA has disbanded its military structures and is no longer involved in "terrorism, training, recruiting, targeting, procurement or engineering".

    The Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain welcomed the conclusions of the IMC.

    "There is now convincing evidence of the IRA's continuing commitment to the political path and ... it is no longer credible to suggest otherwise," he said.

    The Irish PM Bertie Ahern called the findings "positive and clear-cut", adding they were "of the utmost importance and significance".

    Continued in article

    "Blair: Northern Ireland final settlement within reach," by Matt Weaver, The Guardian, October 4, 2006 ---,,1887436,00.html

    Senate Voting on Two Bills to Fence Off U.S.-Mexico Border

    Jensen Comment
    An iron curtain between Mexico and the U.S. may keep out some migrant workers, but it gives me very little feeling of safety from terrorists who will easily enter the U.S. with a bit of imagination and money. The easy passage of this bill is heavily based upon voter sentiment against a rising tide of illegal immigration across the southern border of the U.S.

    Senator Chafee is the only Republican voting against the fence on the second bill. Given business lobbying against the fence, it's surprising that all other Republicans did not follow Chafee's lead. Many businesses opposed to fencing want the added, and generally inexpensive, labor supply.

    The Democratic leadership split markedly on these bills with Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Tom Harkin, Chuck Schumer, and Ron Wyden voting Yea for both fencing bills versus Senators Durbin, Feingold, Lieberman, and Sarbanes voting Nay both times. A few other leading Democrats joined in the Nay vote on the second bill. Labor union lobbying for the fence probably accounts for much of this split among Democrats. Noted switchers between the first and second fencing bills are highlighted below. Senator Kennedy abstained on the second vote, but his press releases are negative regarding fence building.

    Here's How Our U.S. Senators Voted on Both Fencing Bills:

    Senator Name With the May 17, 2006 Vote Followed by the September 29, 2006 Vote
    Kennedy (D-MA), Nay then Abstain

    Chafee (R-RI),
    Yea then Nay
    Kerry (D-MA), Yea then Nay
    Leahy (D-VT), Yea then Nay
    Levin (D-MI),
    Yea then Nay
    Reid (D-NV), Yea then Nay
    Salazar (D-CO), Yea then Nay

    Akaka (D-HI), Nay
    on both
    Bingaman (D-NM), Nay
    on both
    Cantwell (D-WA), Nay
    on both
    Durbin (D-IL), Nay
    on both
    Feingold (D-WI), Nay
    on both
    Inouye (D-HI), Nay
    on both
    Jeffords (I-VT), Nay
    on both
    Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nay
    on both
    Lieberman (D-CT), Nay on both
    Menendez (D-NJ), Nay
    on both
    Murray (D-WA), Nay
    on both
    Reed (D-RI), Nay
    on both
    Sarbanes (D-MD), Nay
    on both

    Dodd (D-CT), Nay then Yea
    Obama (D-IL), Nay then Yea
    Rockefeller (D-WV), Abstain then Yea


    Alexander (R-TN), Yea on both
    Allard (R-CO), Yea on both
    Allen (R-VA), Yea on both
    Baucus (D-MT), Yea on both
    Bayh (D-IN), Yea on both
    Bennett (R-UT), Yea on both
    Biden (D-DE), Yea on both
    Bond (R-MO), Yea on both
    Boxer (D-CA), Yea on both
    Brownback (R-KS), Yea on both
    Bunning (R-KY), Yea on both
    Burns (R-MT), Yea on both
    Burr (R-NC), Yea on both
    Byrd (D-WV), Yea on both
    Carper (D-DE), Yea on both
    Chambliss (R-GA), Yea on both
    Clinton (D-NY), Yea on both
    Coburn (R-OK), Yea on both
    Cochran (R-MS), Yea on both
    Coleman (R-MN), Yea on both
    Collins (R-ME), Yea on both
    Conrad (D-ND), Yea on both
    Cornyn (R-TX), Yea on both
    Craig (R-ID), Yea on both
    Crapo (R-ID), Yea on both
    Dayton (D-MN), Yea on both
    DeMint (R-SC), Yea on both
    DeWine (R-OH), Yea on both
    Dole (R-NC), Yea on both
    Domenici (R-NM), Yea on both
    Dorgan (D-ND), Yea on both
    Ensign (R-NV), Yea on both
    Enzi (R-WY), Yea on both
    Feinstein (D-CA), Yea on both
    Frist (R-TN), Yea on both
    Graham (R-SC), Yea on both
    Grassley (R-IA), Yea on both
    Gregg (R-NH), Yea on both

    Hagel (R-NE), Yea on both
    Harkin (D-IA), Yea on both
    Hatch (R-UT), Yea on both
    Hutchison (R-TX), Yea on both
    Inhofe (R-OK), Yea on both
    Isakson (R-GA), Yea
    Johnson (D-SD), Yea on both
    Kohl (D-WI), Yea on both
    Kyl (R-AZ), Yea on both
    Landrieu (D-LA), Yea on both
    Lincoln (D-AR), Yea on both
    Lott (R-MS), Yea on both
    Lugar (R-IN), Yea on both
    Martinez (R-FL), Yea on both
    McCain (R-AZ), Yea on both
    McConnell (R-KY), Yea on both
    Mikulski (D-MD), Yea on both
    Murkowski (R-AK), Yea on both
    Nelson (D-FL), Yea on both
    Nelson (D-NE), Yea on both
    Pryor (D-AR), Yea on both
    Roberts (R-KS), Yea on both
    Santorum (R-PA), Yea on both
    Schumer (D-NY), Yea on both
    Sessions (R-AL), Yea on both
    Shelby (R-AL), Yea on both
    Smith (R-OR), Yea on both
    Snowe (R-ME), Yea on both
    Specter (R-PA), Yea on both
    Stabenow (D-MI), Yea on both
    Stevens (R-AK), Yea on both
    Sununu (R-NH), Yea on both
    Talent (R-MO), Yea on both
    Thomas (R-WY), Yea on both
    Thune (R-SD), Yea on both
    Vitter (R-LA), Yea on both
    Voinovich (R-OH), Yea on both
    Warner (R-VA), Yea on both
    Wyden (D-OR), Yea on both


    Can we fence off the Pacific Ocean?

    "SEX TRAFFICKING:  San Francisco Is A Major Center For International Crime Networks That Smuggle And Enslave," San Francisco Chronicle, October 6, 2006 --- Click Here

    Many of San Francisco's Asian massage parlors -- long an established part of the city's sexually permissive culture -- have degenerated into something much more sinister: international sex slave shops.

    Once limited to infamous locales such as Bombay and Bangkok, sex trafficking is now an $8 billion international business, with San Francisco among its largest commercial centers.

    San Francisco's liberal attitude toward sex, the city's history of arresting prostitutes instead of pimps, and its large immigrant population have made it one of the top American cities for international sex traffickers to do business undetected, according to Donna Hughes, a national expert on sex trafficking at the University of Rhode Island.

    "It makes me sick to my stomach," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "Girls are being forced to come to this country, their families back home are threatened, and they are being raped repeatedly, over and over."

    Because sex trafficking is so far underground, the number of victims in the United States and worldwide is not known, and the statistics vary wildly.

    The most often cited numbers come from the U.S. State Department, which estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked for forced labor and sex worldwide each year -- and that 80 percent are women and girls. Most trafficked females, the department says, are exploited in commercial sex outlets.

    Relying on research from the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department estimates there are 14,500 to 17,500 human trafficking victims brought into the United States each year -- but does not quantify how many of those are sex victims. Some advocacy groups place the number of U.S. victims much higher, while others criticize the government for overstating the problem.

    "The number will always be an estimate, because trafficking victims don't stand in line and raise their hands to be counted, but it's the best estimate we have," said Ambassador John Miller, director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The CIA won't divulge its research methods, but based its figures on 1,500 sources, including law enforcement data, government data, academic research, international reports and newspaper stories.

    Women trafficked for the sex industry are predominantly from Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union and South America -- lured to the United States by promises of lucrative jobs as models or hostesses, only to be sold to brothels, strip clubs and outcall services and extorted into working off thousands of dollars in surprise travel debts to their new "owners."

    Federal investigators say that even those who come to the United States with the idea of working as high-society call girls cannot imagine the captivity and the degrading workload they face.

    "Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar business. In terms of profits, it's on a path to overtake drug and arms trafficking," said Barry Tang, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in South Korea. "There's a highly organized logistical network between Korea and the United States with recruiters, brokers, intermediaries, taxi drivers and madams."

    The United States is among the top three destination countries for sex traffickers, along with Japan and Australia. Once in the United States, traffickers most often set up shop in California, New York, Texas and Las Vegas.

    It's an underground world, but in more than 100 interviews with federal agents, experts and sex trafficking victims in California and South Korea, a picture emerges about how international traffickers buy and sell women between Asia and the West Coast.

    Overseas, the trafficker is usually a woman. She recruits from clubs, bars, colleges, pool halls and restaurants, said Deputy Special Agent Mark F. Wollman, who oversees San Francisco for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Recruiters fill the want ads in papers and the Internet, targeting vulnerable young women with fake job offers for waitresses, models and hostesses in America.

    Traffickers fly the women to Canada or Mexico, and walk or drive them into California. In Canada, they slip through Indian reservations off-limits to the U.S. Border Patrol, often at night, and sometimes along snow-packed trails.

    In Mexico, the traffickers lead the women over the same treacherous desert paths worn down by migrants heading to "El Norte" for work. More women come through airport customs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, using fake passports and student or tourist visas made for them by their traffickers.

    It's relatively easy for traffickers to evade authorities at the checkpoints -- land, air or sea -- because women still don't realize at that point that they are being tricked.

    "It's not like the movies where you open a trunk and you interview them and they tell you everything," said Lauren Mack, special-agent-in-charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. "They aren't going to tell you they're victimized because they aren't -- yet."

    Once in California, the women are taken most often to Los Angeles or San Francisco, where they are hidden inside homes, massage parlors, apartments and basements, only to learn that the job offer was just a ploy. Typically they are locked inside their place of business, forced to have sex with as many as a dozen men a day. Sometimes victims are forced to live in the brothel, too, where five or six "co-workers" are crammed into one room.

    Their "owners" confiscate their travel documents until the women pay off exorbitant sums. Often captors will ensure the women never pay off their debts, by tacking on fees for food, clothing or rent. Some fine the women for displeasing customers, being late to work, fighting or a host of other possible transgressions.

    Yuki, 25, who fears for her safety and only gave her first name to The Chronicle during an interview in Seoul, said she was trafficked from South Korea to a karaoke bar in Inglewood (Los Angeles County), where she was assured that she would simply be serving drinks to men. Once there, she was ordered to sell $3,000 worth of drinks each month. When she failed, she was sent to the "touching room," a private suite where men could have their way with her for $400.

    Sex slaves who work in massage parlors and bars are often locked in their place of business by double security doors, monitored by surveillance cameras and only let outside under the guard of crooked taxi drivers who ferry them to their next sex appointment.

    Women report being beaten, raped and starved by their keepers. Kim, who also withheld her last name, told The Chronicle in an interview in South Korea that she was forced to pay $4,400 for plastic surgery to open her eyes and make her nose thinner and pointier, "like Marilyn Monroe."

    Both women eventually escaped their captors and now live as shut-ins in Seoul, spending their time on the phone or the Internet or watching TV, too afraid to go outside and cross paths with someone from the network that trafficked them.

    They are scared because sex trafficking rings are often run by criminal organizations that aren't afraid to use violence to protect the billions they generate.

    Although it's not known how much money the San Francisco market generates for sex traffickers, federal agents confiscated $2 million in cash from 10 Asian massage parlors during a San Francisco raid in summer 2005.

    Local police say the bust didn't make a dent in the illegal sex trade.

    Continued in article

    The president and co-owner of a Wilmington-based temporary labor service company pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to conspiring to provide work for hundreds of illegal aliens. Maximino Garcia, president of Garcia Labor Co. in Ohio Inc. and Tennessee-based Garcia Labor Co. Inc., entered a plea agreement that requires him to forfeit $12 million and face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Garcia's sister, Dominga McCarroll, who is also the former vice president of both companies and Gina Luciano, Garcia Labor Co. Inc. director of human relations, also pleaded guilty to the same charge and will face the same possible penalties, minus the $12 million forfeiture.
    "Business owner pleads guilty in illegal alien case," Business Courier, October 3, 2006 ---

    Analogous to "clear-cutting the forest to catch a squirrel"

    "Bush Seeks Ban on Destructive Fishing," PhysOrg, October 3, 2006 ---

    President Bush called for a halt to all types of destructive fishing on the high seas Tuesday, saying the United States will work to eliminate practices such as bottom trawling that devastate fish populations and the ocean floor.

    Bush's memo directs the secretaries of the State and Commerce departments to promote "sustainable" fisheries and to oppose any fishing practices "that destroy the long-term natural productivity of fish stocks or habitats such as seamounts, corals, and sponge fields for short-term gain." Bush also said the United States would work with other nations and international groups to change fishing practices and create new international fishery regulatory groups if needed.

    On the high seas, where the vast marine life knows few laws, hundreds of boats drag huge nets along the sea floor scooping up orange roughy, blue ling and other fish - but bulldozing nearly everything else in their path.

    "It's like clear-cutting the forest to catch a squirrel," said Joshua Reichert, head of the private Pew Charitable Trusts' environment program, which has been leading an international coalition of more than 60 conservation groups seeking to halt the practice known as bottom trawling on the high seas.

    Continued in article

    Al-Qaida instructed terrorists to release sarin gas
    Al-Qaida commanders allegedly ordered the suicide bombers to get jobs at Edgbaston Cricket Ground and wipe out the Australian and England players. They were instructed to release sarin gas, a highly toxic nerve agent that is one of the world's most dangerous chemical weapons. But cricket-loving terrorist Shehzad Tanweer apparently objected and instead the terrorist cell perpetrated the July 7 underground Tube and bus bombings that killed 56 people and injured more than 700.
    Fiona Hudson and Mark Dunn, "Ashes death plot revealed," Australia's Herald Sun, October 9, 2006 ---,21985,20547173-661,00.html 

    Facts from Naomi Ragen's Home Page ---

  • Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published six internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play in Israel's National Theatre. Naomi also publishes a regular email column, to which you can subscribe by sending an empty email message to:


    Common Cartridge
    A Serious New Commercial Advance for Online Training and Education

    "Opening Up Online Learning," by Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, October 9, 2006 ---

    This has not exactly been a season of peace, love and harmony on the higher education technology landscape. A patent fight has broken out among major developers of course management systems. Academic publishers and university officials are warring over open access to federally sponsored research. And textbook makers are taking a pounding for — among other things — the ways in which digital enhancements are running up the prices of their products.

    In that context, many may be heartened by the announcement later today at the Educause meeting in Dallas that three dozen academic publishers, providers of learning management software, and others have agreed on a common, open standard that will make it possible to move digital content into and out of widely divergent online education systems without expensive and time consuming reengineering. The agreement by the diverse group of publishers and software companies, who compete intensely with one another, is being heralded as an important breakthrough that could expand the array of digital content available to professors and students and make it easier for colleges to switch among makers of learning systems.

    Of course, that’s only if the new standard, known as the “Common Cartridge,” becomes widely adopted, which is always the question with developments deemed to be potential technological advances.

    Many observers believe this one has promise, especially because so many of the key players have been involved in it. Working through the IMS Global Learning Consortium, leading publishers like Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill Education and course-management system makers such as Blackboard, ANGEL Learning and open-source Sakai have worked to develop the technical specifications for the common cartridge, and all of them have vowed to begin incorporating the new standard into their products by next spring — except Blackboard, which says it will do so eventually, but has not set a timeline for when.

    What exactly is the Common Cartridge? In lay terms, it is a set of specifications and standards, commonly agreed to by an IMS working group, that would allow digitally produced content — supplements to textbooks such as assessments or secondary readings, say, or faculty-produced course add-ons like discussion groups — to “play,” or appear, the same in any course management system, from proprietary ones like Blackboard/WebCT and Desire2Learn to open source systems like Moodle and Sakai.

    “It is essentially a common ‘container,’ so you can import it and load it and have it look similar when you get it inside” your local course system, says Ray Henderson, chief products officer at ANGEL, who helped conceive of the idea when he was president of the digital publishing unit at Pearson.

    The Common Cartridge approach is designed to deal with two major issues: (1) the significant cost and time that publishers now must spend (or others, if the costs are passed along) to produce the material they produce for multiple, differing learning management systems, and (2) the inability to move courses produced in one course platform to another, which makes it difficult for professors to move their courses from one college to another and for campuses to consider switching course management providers.

    The clearest and surest upside of the new standard, most observers agree, is that it could help lower publishers’ production costs and, in turn, allow them to focus their energies on producing more and better content. David O’Connor, senior vice president for product development at Pearson Education’s core technology group, says his company and other major publishers spend “many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year effectively moving content around” so that ancillary material for textbooks can work in multiple course management systems.

    Because Blackboard and Web CT together own in the neighborhood of 75 percent of the course management market, Pearson and other publishers produce virtually all of their materials to work in those proprietary systems. Materials are typically produced on demand for smaller players like ANGEL, Desire2Learn and Sakai, and it is even harder to find usable materials for colleges’ homemade systems. While big publishers such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill have sizable media groups that can, when they choose to, spend what’s necessary to modify digital content for selected textbooks, “small publishers often have to say no,” O’Connor says. As a result, “there are just fewer options for people who aren’t using Blackboard and WebCT, and more hurdles to getting it.”

    Supporters hope that adoption of the common cartridge will allow publishers to spend less time and money adapting one textbook’s digital content for multiple course platforms and more time producing more and better content. “This should have the result of broadening choice in content to institutions,” says Catherine Burdt, an analyst at Eduventures, an education research firm. “Colleges would no longer be limited to the content that’s supported by their LMS platform, but could now go out and choose the best content that aligns with what’s happening in their curriculum.”

    Less clear is how successful the effort will be at improving the portability of course materials from one learning management system to another. If all the major providers introduce “export capability,” there is significant promise, says Michael Feldstein, who writes the blog e-Literate and is assistant director of the State University of New York Learning Network. “This has the potential to be one of the most important standards to come out in a while, particularly for faculty,” says Feldstein, who notes that his comments here represent his own views, not SUNY’s. “It would become much easier for them to take rich course content and course designs and migrate them from one system to another with far less pain.”

    But while easier transferability would obviously benefit the smaller players in the course management market — and ANGEL and Sakai plan to announce today that their systems will soon allow professors to create Common Cartridges for export out of their systems — such a system would only take off if the dominant player in the market, the combined Blackboard/WebCT, eventually does the same. “I’m not sure how excited Blackboard would be about making it easier for faculty to migrate out of their product and into one of their competitors,” says Feldstein.

    Chris Vento, senior vice president of technology and product development at Blackboard, was a leading proponent of the IMS Common Cartridge concept when he was a leading official at WebCT before last year’s merger. In an interview, he acknowledged the question lots of others are asking: “What’s in it for Blackboard? Why wouldn’t you just lock up the format and force everybody to use it?” His answer, he says, is that by helping the entire industry, he says, the project cannot help but benefit its biggest player, too.

    “This will enable publishers to really do the best job of producing their content, making it richer and better for students and faculty, and more lucrative for publishers from the business perspective,” says Vento. “Anything we can do to enable that content to be built, and more of it and better quality, the more lucrative it is eventually for us.”

    Blackboard is fully behind the project, Vento says. Having endorsed the Common Cartridge charter, Blackboard has also committed to incorporating the new standard into its products, and that Blackboard intends to make export of course materials possible out of its platform. “Exactly how that maps to our product roadmap has not been finalized,” he said, “but in the end, we’re all going to have to do this. It’s just a question of when.” There will, he says, “be a lot of pressures to do this.”

    That pressure is likely to be intensified because of the public relations pounding Blackboard has taken among many in the academic technology world because of its attempt to patent technology that many people believe is fundamental to e-learning systems. O’Connor of Pearson says he believes Blackboard could benefit from its involvement in the Common Cartridge movement by being seen “as the dominant player, to be someone supporting openness in the community.” He adds: “There is an opportunity for them to mend some of the damage from the patent issue.”

    Like virtually all technological advances — or would-be ones — Common Cartridge’s success will ultimately rise and fall, says Burdt of Eduventures, on whether Blackboard and others embrace it. “Everything comes down to adoption,” she says. “The challenge with every standard is the adoption model. Some are out the door too early. Some evolve too early and are eclipsed by substitutes. For others, suppliers decide not to support it for various reasons.”

    Those behind the Common Cartridge believe it’s off to a good start with the large number of disparate parties not only involved in creating it, but already committing to incorporate it into their offerings.

    Yet even as they launch this standard, some of them are already looking ahead to the next challenge. While the Common Cartridge, if widely adopted, will allow for easier movement of digital course materials into and out of course management systems, it does not ensure that users will be able to do the same thing with third-party e-learning tools (like subject-specific tutoring modules) that are not part of course management systems, or with the next generation of tools that may emerge down the road. For that, the same parties would have to reach a similar agreement on a standard for “tool interoperability,” which is next on the IMS agenda.

    “This is only one step,” Pearson’s O’Connor says of the Common Cartridge. But it is, he says, an important one.

    Bob Jensen's threads on education technology and distance education are linked at

    Who are the 50 hottest professors according to

    Answer ---
    It helps to teach huge classes!
    The top seven have six red peppers
    The hottest professor is a Canadian psychology professor.
    Four of the top seven teach in Canadian universities.
    There are a surprising number of mathematics professors near the top.
    There's a scarcity of business professors near the top, although Business Policy professor Laura Allan from Wilfrid Laurier University (in Canada) is hot at Rank 11.
    Accounting professors are ice cubes in these rankings of hot professors.

    What topic dominates instructor evaluations on (or RATE for short)?
    Answer --- See 

    Bob Jensen's critical threads on teaching evaluation controversies are at

    October 5, 2006 reply from Dee (Dawn) Davidson [dgd@MARSHALL.USC.EDU]

    But there’s also this list on Business Week. Our Merle Hopkins is here.
    Click Here 

    dee davidson
    Leventhal School of Accounting
    Marshall School of Business
    University of Southern California 

    October 5, 2006 reply from Bob Jensen

    Dee's link mentioning the popularity of Professor Hopkins illustrates how misleading the outcomes can be for Even though Professor Hopkins has huge classes, only 12 students bothered to send any ratings into the ---

    There are definitely small (Epsilon?) sample problems, outlier problems, and a non-random/self-selecting sampling problems at Also there is a tendency for disgruntled students to be more self-selecting than satisfied students. This is the case for Merle Hopkins.

    Bob Jensen

    October 5, 2006 reply from David Albrecht [albrecht@PROFALBRECHT.COM]

  • Congratulations Merle!

    The B-week list only lists faculty from their top b-schools. There could be other top accounting faculty, they just aren't at the few schools selected for the recognition.

    Dave Albrecht

  • Camtasia 4
    And another important new feature of Camtasia 4 – you can create Camtasia VIDEOS of your lectures in Ipod format. So the students can now study 24x7, wherever they are!

    Richard Campbell, October 3, 2006

    Bob Jensen's threads on Camtasia are at

    Women in MBA Programs

    September 29, 2006 message from Priscilla Reis [reispris@ISU.EDU]

    While these questions have nothing to do with technology, I'm sure someone on the list will have some insight. The gender balance of our undergraduate accounting program tends to fluctuate between 40 and 50% female. However, our population of female MBA applicants, and thus, students (combined accounting students and those concentrating in other areas), has gone down to less than 20%.

    Are other schools also suffering from a paucity of female MBA applicants/students? Does anyone know of any recent studies on gender balance in MBA programs? Has anyone developed effective methods for attracting more female students?

    Priscilla R. Reis, Ph.D., CMA
    Department of Accounting
    College of Business
    Idaho State University
    Box 8020 Pocatello, ID 83209

    September 29, 2006 reply from Ellen Glazerman, Ernst & Young LLP [ellen.glazerman@EY.COM]

    Research has been done by the University of Michigan and C200. The percentage of women in MBA programs nationally is 30% (or less). this year has seen a slight increase in these numbers at the most competitive business schools in the US. GMAC has some of this most recent data. There is a Foundation - Forte Foundation: Inspiring Woman Business Leaders - that is a unique partnership between business schools and companies. You should get some good information from their website: I hope it is helpful!


    September 29, 2006 reply from Bob Jensen

    Women now make up more than 60 percent of all accountants and auditors in the United States, according to the Clarion-Ledger. That is an estimated 843,000 women in the accounting and auditing work force.
    AccountingWeb, "Number of Female Accountants Increasing," June 2, 2006 ---

    Since most states require at least 150 credits to sit for the CPA Examination, most of the men and women at the entry level have masters degrees.

    It is possible to check on the male/female proportion for selected programs at

    Member schools have access to all sorts of data on graduate and undergraduate business programs in the AACSB's huge databases ---

    Also see the Management Education at Risk report

    October 2, 2006 reply from Tracey Sutherland [tracey@AAAHQ.ORG]

    It seems there's some recent evidence that more women managers bring equity to women in their companies (link below). On the other hand, our colleagues in sociology have been tracking for some time effects related to increased numbers of women in professions - one related to lower salaries is illuminated below in a fairly recent report from psychology.  Related to Bob's posting that women now make up about 60% of accountants, it's interesting to consider the possible implications of the trend over time.

    Tracey Sutherland
    Executive Director
    American Accounting Association

    From the Journal of Applied Psychology (2003) - Pay of Both Men and Women Managers is Less When Managers’ Subordinates, Peers and Supervisors are Women, Study Finds. Specific findings regarding gender and pay indicate that:

    • Managerial pay becomes substantially lower as the percentage of females that the manager supervises increases. For example, on average, a male or female manager whose subordinate group is comprised of 80% female receives approximately $7,000 less in pay than a manager whose subordinate group is 80% male.
    • Managerial pay remains relatively constant when the percentage of females that the manager supervises is less than 50%. However, once females become the majority in the workgroup, both male and female managers pay decreases sharply as the percentage of female subordinates in the workgroup increases. For example, a manager who supervises a group comprised of all women receives approximately $9,000 less than one who supervises a group comprised of 50% women.
    • On average, managerial pay decreases by approximately $500 for each 10% increase in the percentage of his or her female peers.
    • On average, a manager whose supervisor is female receives approximately $2,000 less pay than one whose supervisor is male.

    Women breaking the glass ceiling seems to help other women in the company -

    October 3, 2006 reply from Linda Kidwell, University of Wyoming [lkidwell@UWYO.EDU]

    Thanks for the story Tracey.

    In reading the news story, there is some confusion as to whether they are discussing snapshots or trends. What I'm getting at is this: Is it that "as women move into management positions" in general, or as women in traditionally male or female fields move into management? If you read the piece through, it sounds like the real story is that women are starting to break the glass ceiling in traditionally male fields. Thus more of their subordinates are men, pay has traditionally been higher, thus pay continues to be higher. Where there are many junior management women, they are looking at traditionally female areas, and pay is lower, as it has always been. They haven't attempted any time series analysis to see what happened within any given industry as women entered management ranks. I don't really see that they've made the case that women at high ranks bring other women into better pay, or that women in lower ranks have a negative trending effect on men who work for them. So I don't really anticipate the influx of women into accounting depressing the pay of men in the profession. They are moving into (taking over? :-) ) a traditionally male field, so their pay should come up to par in accounting rather than bringing down the pay of men in the field.

    Perhaps I'm naive, but that's been my experience -- any pay differentials I've experienced have been when I taught at teaching focused smaller colleges (more female domain) relative to research focused universities (male domain), rather than a male/female differential within either type of school. And before I changed careers, I was clearly in traditionally female jobs, being paid peanuts. Working within the financial administration at Harvard at the beginning of the unionization movement among staff and lab workers, I still remember the organizers' slogan: "You can't eat prestige!" Pay at Harvard for staffers, most of them women, was a disgrace. But that's off point, I suppose, or is it?


    October 4, 2006 reply from Bob Jensen

    An encouraging sign in terms of breaking the glass ceiling in accounting firms has been Deloitte's "Women's Initiative" commenced 12 years ago. Results to date are linked at,1042,sid%253D2261,00.html


    WIN 2005 Annual Report
    Women’s Initiative teams delivered more than 235 programs in 2005 and were honored with seven national awards. Our number of women partners, principals and directors rose along with our women in leadership positions. Learn about these and more achievements in the 2005 Annual Report.

    Blog Excerpts
    One way the Women's Initiative connects with our people is through the WIN blog on the Deloitte intranet site. The blog covers personal perspectives on topics ranging from work/life balance to gender bias to the power of networking. Read some recent excerpts.

    This week Deloitte's program for maintaining training programs and re-entry initiatives for women who take out time to raise a family made the national news in a very positive way.

    It also helped that Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers were recognized as two of the best (in the Top 10) companies in the U.S. for working mothers, according to an annual survey by Working Mother magazine.

    Progress in terms of working women and women planning career re-entry after raising a family  is probably greater in accountancy than in most industries.

    Bob Jensen

    "E&Y, PwC Top Employers for Working Mothers," SmartPros, September 27, 2006 ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on women in accountancy and law professions are at

    "Trading in Harrah's Contracts Surges Before LBO Disclosure:  Options, Derivatives Make Exceptionally Large Moves; 'Someone...Was Positioning'," by Dennis K. Berman and Serena Ng, The Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2006; Page C3 ---

    Trading in Harrah's Entertainment Inc. options and derivatives contracts reached a fevered pitch in the days leading up to news of a potential leveraged buyout of the gambling giant, making it the latest in a string of recent deals marked by unusual trading activity.

    At one point last week, the volume of "call" options, contracts to buy a specific number of shares by a fixed date at a specified price, increased to almost six times the August average. At about the same time, movements in the credit-default swap market suggested that traders in the sophisticated financial instruments were anticipating a potential buyout.

    Harrah's said Monday that it had received a $15.1 billion buyout offer from private-equity firms

    Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group. The $81-a-share offer caused Harrah's shares to jump 14% and its bonds to fall 11% as the company's credit ratings were cut to "junk" by Standard & Poor's. Yesterday, the shares fell 1.3%, or 97 cents, to $74.71 as of 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The Las Vegas company is reviewing the buyout proposal and isn't certain a transaction will be sealed.

    Last Thursday, two trading days before the offer was announced, options traders exchanged 23,597 call contracts, nearly six times the August volume, according to Options Clearing Corp.

    "Clearly, someone out there was positioning for some movement in Harrah's," said Stacey Briere Gilbert, Susquehanna Financial Group's chief options strategist. "I don't know whether they were positioning for an LBO, but for something."

    Derivatives tied to Harrah's bonds also moved. The price of a five-year credit-default swap that protects an investor against a default in $10 million of Harrah's bonds climbed 24% last week to $114,000 annually, according to Markit Group.

    The price of Harrah's swaps more than doubled to $265,000 after Monday's announcement.

    These derivatives, which trade over the counter and are much more active than the bonds to which they are tied, are lightly regulated and traded mostly by big banks and hedge funds. Some investors use them to hedge against a debt default, while others use them to speculate on whether a company's default risk is rising or falling.

    As the options and derivatives markets experienced abnormal swings, Harrah's publicly traded shares were relatively flat last week. "The stock market is by far the slowest to respond," Ms. Briere Gilbert said.

    In a leveraged buyout, the company being acquired often ends up taking on additional debt, increasing its risk of default and causing the price of the swaps to rise. The firm's existing bonds also tend to fall in value on such news, pushing their yields higher as investors demand greater returns to compensate for the additional risk.

    In a market awash in rumor, speculation, and sometimes dumb luck, it can be hard to pinpoint who was trading and why such trading began. Often, an options trade unrelated to a deal can set off "piggyback" buying from traders hoping to catch a lucky break. Many such rumors -- as with a recent round of talk about Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. -- create a trading stir that ends in a whimper. No deal ever materialized for Starwood.

    Bob Jensen's "Rotten to the Core" threads are at

    October 5, 2006 message from Carolyn Kotlas []


    The Public Library of Science will launch its first open peer-reviewed journal called PLoS ONE which will focus on papers in science and medicine. Papers in PLoS ONE will not undergo rigorous peer review before publication. Any manuscripts that is deemed to be a "valuable contribution to the scientific literature" can be posted online, beginning the process of community review. Authors are charged a fee for publication; however, fees may be waived in some instances. For more information see

    For an article on this venture, see: "Web Journals Threaten Peer-Review System" By Alicia Chang, Yahoo! News, October 1, 2006 ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on peer review are at

    The Global Technology Revolution 2020 ---

    Is Harvard's curriculum tantamount to no curriculum?
    What does it take at a minimum to have an undergraduate education?

    "As Goes Harvard. . . ," by Donald Kagan

    Harvard University is Making Another Stab at Defining a Core Curriculum Requirement

    "Direction and Choice," by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, October 5, 2006 ---

    On Wednesday, the university released a new plan for undergraduate education that would designate certain subjects as ones that must be studied. As a result, every Harvard undergraduate would have to take a course on the United States and a course dealing with religion, among others. Few top colleges and universities have such requirements. But students would be able to pick within those broad topics, with the idea that many courses would meet the requirements.

    . . .

    The report goes on to say that general education “prepares students to be citizens of a democracy within a global society” and also teaches students to “understand themselves as product of — and participants in — traditions of art, ideas and values.” General education should also encourage students to “adapt to change” and to have a sense of ethics, the report says.

    The general education proposed by the faculty panel would have students take three one-semester courses in “critical skills” in written and oral communication, foreign languages, and analytical reasoning.

    Then students would have to take seven courses in the following categories:

    Within these categories, there would be a broad range of courses that could fulfill the requirements. Each would have to meet certain general education requirements, such as providing a broad scope of knowledge and encouraging student-faculty contact. But the subject matter within categories could vary significantly.

    For instance, courses suggested as possibilities for the cultural traditions requirement include “The Emergence of World Literature,” “Art and Censorship,” and “Representations of the Other.” Courses for study of the United States could include “Health Care in the United States: A Comparative Perspective” and “Pluralist Societies: The United States in Comparative Context.” The reason and faith requirement, which would involve all students studying religion in some form, might have courses such as “Religion and Closed Societies” and “Religion and Democracy.”

    In explaining the rationale for a faith and reason requirement, the Harvard professors noted that most college undergraduates care about religion and discuss it, but “often struggle — sometimes for the first time in their lives — to sort out the relationship between their own beliefs and practices, the different beliefs and practices of fellow students, and the profoundly secular and intellectual world of the academy itself.”

    The report also noted the many tensions around religion in modern society — including fights over school prayer, same-sex marriage, and stem cell research. “Harvard is no longer an institution with a religious mission, but religion is a fact that Harvard’s graduates will confront in their lives both in and after college,” the report said, explaining why a religion requirement is important. At the same time, it added: “Let us be clear. Courses in reason and faith are not religious apologetics. They are courses that examine the interplay between religion and various aspects of national and/or international culture and society.” In the ethics requirement, students will consider how to make ethical choices, but in religion, students “will appreciate the role of religion in contemporary, historical or future events — personal, cultural, national or international.”

    ‘Activity Based Learning’

    Beyond the various course requirements, the Harvard panel called for the university to consider new ways to link students’ in-class and out-of-class experiences.

    “The big thing for many Harvard undergrads tends to be their extracurricular activities. It’s almost a cliché that they spend more time out of the yard than in the yard,” said Menand. “We don’t want to bureaucratize that, but we think there is a natural connection between the classroom and what takes place out of the classroom.”

    This part of the report is more vague and less prescriptive, and in fact the panel calls for another panel to consider how to carry out the idea of promoting “activity based learning.” Generally, the report said, the pedagogical idea it wants Harvard to embrace is that “the ability to apply abstract knowledge to concrete cases — and vice versa.” Examples given to show the value of this kind of learning include the statements that “studying the philosophy of the 17th century might inform the production of a classic play by Molière” and “working on a political campaign can bring to life material in a course on democracy.”

    In a course, this link might be made through optional papers that students could write on how an outside activity helped the student understand course material or how course material influenced a planned activity. If several students participate in the same out-of-class activity, team work might be involved in and outside of class. And in either case, the report said, closer faculty-student contact would be encouraged.

    What It Means in Cambridge and Beyond

    At Harvard, a series of meeting are now being scheduled for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to review the report and — eventually — to vote on it. Menand said that while the review would take months at least, it need not wait for Harvard to have a new permanent president.

    Schneider of the Association of American Colleges and Universities said she thought the report might have a positive impact. “I think that what this is doing is restoring the purpose of general education requirements, which is to connect learning with real world citizenship.”

    She said it made a lot of sense for Harvard to say that students need to study the United States, and the world, and science, and religion, etc., rather than using broad distribution requirements. “Let’s think about what’s going on in American high schools. Students have one year of American history or maybe two, but they may never study the United States again,” she said. Harvard’s proposal would mean that they would study the United States again, and at a deeper level than they could in high school.

    Continued in the article

    Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies are at

    An Agenda for Harnessing Globalization ---

    "PC World's 100 Fearless Forecasts," by Richard Baguley and Eric Dahl, PC World via The Washington Post, September 29, 2006 ---

    From inexpensive 20-megapixel cameras to 50-terabyte DVDs, here's our definitive list of technologies we're looking forward to seeing.
    PC World, September 29, 2006 ---,127152/article.html

    "New Nikon Can Send Its Photos Via Wi-Fi So It's More Useful," by Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2006; Page B1 ---

    For the past few weeks, I've been testing Nikon's $350 Coolpix S7c, a camera with built-in Wi-Fi wireless technology. The S7c captures photos, logs into your nearest Wi-Fi network and sends the photos in an email that contains thumbnail images and a link to Nikon's Coolpix Connect Web site. Recipients can download the photos or view them in a slide-show format on the site.

    I found that emailing images with the Coolpix S7c was fast, simple and efficient. It took only a few minutes to set up, and I was comfortable using the camera's other basic features after taking just a few photos. Though the S7c's Wi-Fi receiver wasn't as strong as the one in my laptop, it worked well.

    Wi-Fi technology isn't as widely available as cellphone networks are, but it's not unusual to find bookstores, coffee shops and schools with Wi-Fi. To help you along, Nikon includes a free year of T-Mobile HotSpot Wi-Fi service with its camera. This works in Starbucks, airports, Borders bookstores and many other places.

    Other digital cameras with integrated Wi-Fi have been introduced within the past year by Eastman Kodak and Nikon. But Kodak's EasyShare-one digital camera didn't link up to the network consistently, and Nikon's Coolpix S6 -- astonishingly -- would send images only to the photographer's computer.

    The Coolpix S7c (the "c" stands for connect) boasts an edgy gun-metal gray casing, a generous three-inch viewing screen and a smart rotary dial that eases navigation and photo scrolling. Its beauty is backed up with brains, including a maximum resolution of 7.1 megapixels -- more than enough for normal users -- and a 3x optical zoom lens.

    MojoPac Versus GoToMyPC

    With MojoPac, you can go to any Windows XP computer in the world, plug in your MojoPac device, and bring up your MojoPac PC. The experience is exactly as if you are logging into your Personal Computer, complete with your desktop, shortcuts, applications and preferences ---

    If you are online, it is a bit easier to do this with GoToMyPC where you personal computer is back in the office and you are any online computer in the world (unlike MojoPac, nothing needs to be installed on the remote access computer) ---

    With GoToMyPC you are actually operating your office computer from a remote site. There is a fee for GoToMyPC, but the fee is quite reasonable for the service rendered.

    Full Disclosure to Consumers of Higher Education?

    "Regulating the New Consumerism," by John V. Lombardi, Inside Higher Ed, September 27, 2006 ---

    One of the themes in the much commented on report of the Spellings Commission highlights the need to fully inform higher education consumers about everything. For some, accountability not only means being responsible about teaching and research, but also delivering some form of full disclosure. This trend reflects the continued move of higher education from a specialized product sold to well-informed customers to a generic product sold in widely varying formats to large numbers of often unsophisticated consumers.

    As is usually the case with high profile commissions, this one responds to a mature trend, not something new and different. The proliferation of rankings and ratings of every conceivable type is the clearer example of the commodity college degree, but the commission, because it speaks for at least one part of the government, has a coercive capacity where the ratings have only a demonstrative capacity.

    What, then, is the full consumer information we need? Much current university and college published data is actually not very helpful. As a normal practice, we produce measures of central tendency — averages or means — or we provide ratios of one kind or another. So we talk about average class size or average student/faculty ratios; average discount rate on tuition and fees; and the average financial aid package or the average debt on graduation. Universities and colleges provide information on the average endowment or average state investment per student.

    All of these, and many others, provide an average representation of the reality of campus life. If universities and colleges managed, as do other high tech, high quality enterprises, by reducing the variation around the mean to produce a homogeneous product, these average numbers might have some usefulness. That’s not how higher education works.

    Instead, colleges and especially large public universities manage in ways that appear to maximize the variation they can sustain in the quality and diversity of their students. They admit students with SAT scores ranging from 900 to 1600 perhaps, students whose parents have no taxable income and those whose income reaches above six or seven figures. They admit students who are the fourth generation of college attendees and the children of migrant workers whose home experience includes no prior engagement with higher education. Universities pride themselves on the wide diversity in the ethnicity and economic capability of their students and they speak eloquently of the wide range of socioeconomic circumstance from which their students come.

    This is all to the good, but it illustrates why the average numbers we often discuss as the tokens of accountability disguise more often than they inform. Instead of average class size, we might display the percentage of students in classes under 25, 26 to 50, 51 to 100, and over 100. Even that is not as helpful, for example, as providing a transcript analysis of the graduating class. The aggregate measures that tell us how many classes are under 50 students tells us how the faculty teach, but not what individual students take. Students in engineering may have mostly classes smaller than 50 while students in humanities or social sciences may have mostly classes larger than 100. We may find that 30 percent of our graduating students never took a class under 50 even though such classes were available. Knowing what kinds of class contexts are available is a helpful overall indicator, but it does not tell the interested consumer what students actually choose to do or are advised to do.

    We call for better information on the cost of college. By this, we mean both the “costs” of what colleges spend on providing an education and the “price” that students pay for that education. The latter is a very slippery number. Everyone knows that there is a sticker price and a discounted price. Everyone knows that students receive discounts for various reasons.

    What we do not provide very often are data that describe the characteristics of students who receive discounts and reveal the relationship between particular characteristics and the discounts the institution provides. For example, we do not know the relationship between the marker for merit (SAT, GPA) and the amount of merit aid provided (for those institutions that provide merit aid). If we did, we might find that not all students with a 1350 SAT will get the same merit aid package.

    Almost all institutions provide a wide range of need based aid, some from federal or state sources that are regulated and some from institutional sources that are not. Institutions create need based packages to achieve enrollment goals, and sometimes following a formula based on the federal guidelines and sometimes using ad hoc packaging to achieve balance in our student populations. This is especially so when institutions are under clear directions from their boards to change the composition of the student body in some way, for example to prefer legacies or first generation students, or to increase the percentage of men or women.

    Student debt is a mystery number because the data on average debt deal with only a fraction of the student population. Average debt refers to the average institutionally managed debt of those graduating seniors who have debt. So it does not tell us about the debt of those students who in addition to institutionally managed debt have private debt from a local bank, from credit cards, or from other sources. It also does not tell us about those students who do not qualify for any institutionally managed loans but nonetheless borrow money from local banks, credit cards, and other sources. Nor does it tell us how much of the debt students contract is required by the formal cost of attendance and how much responds to lifestyle issues related to housing, transportation, illness, family obligations, and entertainment among other issues.

    In the real world of higher education — rather than the idealized world of commissions and homogenizing government regulations — higher education institutions, while they produce a standardized product, do so for widely varying market niches made up of customers with widely varying characteristics.

    Many of the proposed measures that we see coming from commissions and regulators speak to some mythical average student experience, usually reflecting the idealized type of the elite private four-year college. As such they may satisfy some, but will surely fail to provide more accurate information to individual consumers. How, we might ask, am I to know whether my child is average and therefore likely to have the average experience the data highlight? How many of the graduates actually participated in the average experience, or did most of them pass through the institution at the upper or lower edges of the experience represented by the calculated average?

    Continued in article

    Learning Accountability
    The Spelling Plans for carrying the recommendations of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education

    Education Secretary Margaret Spellings plans a many faceted campaign to carry out the recommendations of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education, including providing matching funds to colleges and states that collect and publicly report how well their students learn, building a “privacy protected” database of college students’ academic records, and streamlining the process of applying for federal student aid.
    Doug Lederman, "The Spellings Plan," Inside Higher Ed, September 26, 2006 ---

    It may not have seemed that way at times, but Charles Miller, the chairman of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, apparently felt constrained in what he could say during his time at the helm of the panel. In a letter containing “personal observations” about higher education, which he shared with Secretary Margaret Spellings when he formally gave her the panel’s final report this month and shared in public at a forum at the Cato Institute Wednesday, Miller makes many of the same points about higher education’s problems that he did when he spoke up during the commission’s deliberations. But he adopts tougher language in some cases, referring repeatedly to the “dysfunctional” nature of higher education finances and describing higher education as being “replete with opaque, complex information systems which are not informative for governing boards, policymakers and the public.” And while Miller continues to criticize private colleges for their “special resistance to accountability,” a theme he hit repeatedly during the commission’s life, he takes special aim at the nation’s elite research universities, which largely escaped his wrath over the last year. Because their “research expenditures are a major ‘cost driver’ in higher education,” he wrote in his letter to the secretary, those institutions “need the same intense examination and skeptical analysis other financial issues require, especially since most of these are public funds.” He added: “I think there is ample evidence that our great universities have much to account for—-and have great intellectual and financial resources to contribute—-yet often come to the public arena without taking full responsibility for their own imperfections while at the same time demanding more of the scarce public resources.”
    Inside Higher Ed, September 29, 2006

    Spellings Announces Plan to Improve Higher Ed ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies are at

    They've Got to be Kidding!
    Myths versus Realities of "America's Most Innovative College"

    So do you know which U.S. college or university was cited for “innovation in curriculum development and program delivery” in the commission’s report? The winner is Neumont University, in Salt Lake City. The final version of the Spellings commission report, released September 19, states that “Salt Lake City-based Neumont University is educating the most sought-after software developers in the world” (p. 25). . . . But honestly, is Neumont really one of the best, most innovative colleges in the country? Perhaps, at least against the criteria outlined by Miller. But with due respect to Neumont’s students, faculty, and founders, and also to Miller’s comments about the need for risk and innovation, is this really the best example of a replicable curricular innovation that might “trickle over” to other sectors, as opposed to being cloned by other, aspiring for-profits eager to tap the demand for technology degrees and training? Ample research confirms that individual and organizational change occurs with some, but not too much, dissonance: individuals and organization eager to change need to be able to visualize their capacity to do so. But by highlighting Neumont, the commission has selected a model that is just probably too dissonant and too distant for the vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities.
    Kenneth C. Green, "The Most Innovative College in America?" Inside Higher Ed, October 9, 2006 ---

    Congressional Crooks are Democrats and Republicans
    "Politicians preying on the public," by Mychal Massie, WorldNetDaily, October 3, 2006 ---

    "Lender Overcharged U.S. $1 Billion, Audit Finds," by Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, October 2, 2006 ---

    For many months, student loan watchdogs have been charging that lenders have taken advantage of a loophole in federal law to reap billions of dollars in profits to which they were not entitled. Late Friday, the U.S. Education Department’s inspector general strongly backed their view, releasing an audit that accused the National Education Loan Network (Nelnet) of having received $278 million in federal subsidy payments for which it was not eligible and of inappropriately charging the government for as much as $882 million more.

    The inspector general’s office urged Education Secretary Margaret Spellings to order Nelnet to return the improper payments it has already received and to instruct the company to revise its estimates for future payments to exclude funds for the contested loans. Meanwhile, officials at Nelnet, a Nebraska-based company, disputed the audit’s findings but said they would work with the department to resolve them.

    At issue in the case is Nelnet’s use of an exemption in federal law that allowed lenders that financed the student loans they issued using tax-exempt bonds issued before 1993 to earn a government subsidized interest rate of 9.5 percent. Congress engaged in several aborted attempts to fully close the loophole throughout the 1990s and the early part of this decade, but some lenders continued to find ways to take advantage of it by recycling the pre-1993 loan funds, before Congress, as part of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act, finally closed it permanently this year.

    In the audit, the inspector general describes a process by which Nelnet seemed quite purposefully to try to expand its pool of loans that would qualify for the 9.5 percent “special allowance” payments from the federal government. “Through Project 950,” as the company’s effort was called, “Nelnet used a series of transactions to increase the amount of loans ostensibly funded by tax-exempt obligations from approximately $551 million” in March 2003 to $3.66 billion in June 2004, according to the audit.
    The company, the inspector general found, moved loans into and then — “as little as one day later” — out of a non-taxable trust estate with the goal of making those loans qualify for the 9.5 percent rate.

    The audit recounts exchanges in 2003 and 2004 in which Nelnet sought and believed it had gained Education Department approval for its practices regarding the 9.5 percent loans. But the inspector general says that Nelnet’s inquiries did “not appear to reflect a comprehensive disclosure by Nelnet of the nature or effect” of its effort to increase its volume of loans eligible for the higher rate.

    A 1993 letter outlining the practice, the audit says, “did not identify the eligible source of funds that would be used to purchase and qualify loans for the 9.5 percent floor, did not state directly that the process would be repeated many times, and did not state that the process would result in a substantial increase in the amount of loans billed under the 9.5 percent floor.”

    The audit incorporates a response that Nelnet officials submitted to an earlier draft of the audit this summer, which the inspector general notes “strongly disagrees with our finding and recommendations and requested that our draft report be withdrawn.”

    In a prepared statement, Nelnet said company officials believe the inspector general’s report is “incorrect” because it is “inconsistent with the Higher Education Act, applicable laws, policy, department regulations, and the guidance to student loan companies previously issued by the Department.”

    Nelnet will “seek a resolution of this matter with the Department and will also examine all other available remedies that prove the merits of our position,” said Mike Dunlap, the company’s chairman and co-chief executive officer.

    Critics of the lenders’ continued use of the 9.5 percent loophole heralded the inspector general’s audit. “The depth and breadth of Nelnet’s failure to comply with the law is breathtaking, and the cost to taxpayers is staggering,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. “In an era of high budget deficits, we must be vigilant about ensuring that available tax dollars are used to provide affordable college loans to families, not to provide excessive subsidies to banks.”

    Miller and others, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who pushed the Education Department to look into the Nelnet matter, and watchdog groups like the Project on Student Debt, urged Spellings to back the inspector general. “The secretary of education should make sure that Nelnet pays back every penny they’ve wrongly claimed and should use the near $1.2 billion saved to help students and families pay for college,” said Michael Dannenberg of the New America Foundation, who has aggressively criticized the 9.5 percent rate practice.

    Continued in article

    Bob Jensen's fraud updates are at

    The National Centers for Career and Technical Education ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on alternatives for online education and training ---

    Abolishing the Core Computer Science Curriculum in an Effort to Attract Majors
    The Georgia Institute of Technology is today unveiling what some experts believe is a much broader approach to the problem. The institute has abolished the core curriculum for computer science undergraduates — a series of courses in hardware and software design, electrical engineering and mathematics. These courses, in various forms, have been the backbone of the computer science curriculum not just at Georgia Tech but at most institutions.
    Scott Jaschik, "New ‘Threads’ for Computer Science," Inside Higher Ed, September 26, 2006 ---

    The other, perhaps more costly alternative, is to maintain a core of required courses that are no longer silos in terms of specialized content ---

    Students may take the easiest way out in customizable curricula ---

    Zaba Search free database of names, addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers. Social security numbers and background checks are also available for a fee ---

    Click Here for Specialized Search Engines (including shopping catalogs)

    Government Questions Tax Exempt Status of Division I NCAA Athletics
    The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee has sent the National Collegiate Athletic Association a pointed eight-page letter asking the sports group to justify the tax-exempt status of big-time collegiate sports. The letter, from Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) to Myles Brand, the NCAA’s president, is framed as part of the committee’s broader examination of the nonprofit sector, which, like a parallel review in the Senate Finance Committee, has touched on the pay and oversight of college presidents, among other things. Thomas’s letter asks 25 questions related to the association’s finances and educational mission, on such topics as coaches’ compensation and the alleged lack of rigor of many athletes’ academic programs, and demands extensive information from NCAA officials. And its underlying theme is summed up in such pointed statements as this one, posed as as question: “How does playing major college football or men’s basketball in a highly commercialized, profit-seeking, entertainment environment further the educational purpose of your member institutions?” Thomas’s letter seeks a reply by October 30.
    Inside Higher Ed, October 5, 2006 ---

    Also see "Ball’s in the NCAA’s Court," by Elia Powers, Inside Higher Ed, October 6, 2006 ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on athletics controversies in higher education (including "Rewarding Stupidity of Top Athletes") are at

    What may be the largest criminal tax fraud prosecution in U.S. history?

    "Prosecutors in KPMG Tax Shelter Case Offer to Try 2 Groups of Defendants Separately," Lynnley Browning, The New York Times, October 5, 2006 --- Click Here

    Last year, 16 former KPMG employees, as well as a lawyer and an outside investment adviser, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan on charges that they conspired to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by creating and selling certain questionable tax shelters.

    The proposal to split the group comes after Judge Kaplan raised concerns about some prosecutorial tactics in the complex case. KPMG narrowly averted criminal indictment last year over certain questionable shelters and instead reached a $456 million deferred-prosecution agreement. Judge Kaplan has criticized prosecutors for pressuring KPMG to cut off the payment of legal fees to the defendants.

    His concerns how appear to extend to the indictments of the defendants.

    According to a transcript of the hearing on Tuesday, Judge Kaplan said: “The government indicted 18 people knowing that the effect of doing that would be to put economic pressure on people, along with whatever else puts pressure on people to cave and to plead, because they can’t afford to defend themselves and because perhaps there are other risks involved in a joint trial. That is the patent reality of this case.”

    A representative for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan did not have a comment on the letter yesterday.

    The letter, which was not filed under seal but did not appear on the court’s docket, was confirmed by two persons close to the proceedings.

    Under the proposal, the junior defendants would include Jeffrey Eischeid, the rising star who was in charge of KPMG’s personal financial planning division; John Larson, a former KPMG employee who set up an investment boutique that sold shelters; David Amir Makov, a onetime Deutsche Bank employee who later worked with Mr. Larson’s investment boutique, Presidio Advisory Services; and Gregg Ritchie, a former partner; among others.

    The senior defendants would include Jeffrey Stein, a former vice chairman who was the No. 2. executive at the firm; John Lanning, a former vice chairman in charge of tax services; Richard Rosenthal, a former chief financial officer; Steven Gremminger, a former associate in-house lawyer; Robert Pfaff, a former KPMG partner who worked with Mr. Larson to set up Presidio Advisory Services; David Greenberg, a former senior tax partner; and Raymond J. Ruble, a former lawyer at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood; among others.

    Lawyers for the defendants maintain that their clients did nothing illegal, while prosecutors contend that they created and sold tax shelters, some involving fake loans, that deprived the Treasury of $2.5 billion in tax revenue.

    Bob Jensen's threads on this and other KPMG litigations are at

    SEC Accuses Ex-CFO of Lantronix CFO of Channel Stuffing
    The Securities and Exchange Commission has accused the former chief financial officer of Lantronix Inc. of engaging in a scheme to overstate financial results for personal gain. On Wednesday, the Commission noted in its cease-and-desist proceedings against the company that Steven Cotton, the former CFO, allegedly inflated revenues for the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2001, its fiscal year 2001, and the first quarter of fiscal year 2002. He reportedly did this primarily through artificially boosting sales by offering distributors special terms to induce them to purchase more product than they needed, which is called channel stuffing, according to the SEC complaint . . . The regulator claims that Lantronix deliberately sent excessive product to distributors and granted them expanded return rights and extended payment terms. In addition, as part of its alleged channel stuffing scheme and to prevent imminent product returns, Lantronix loaned funds to a third party to purchase Lantronix product from one of its distributors, noted the complaint. The third party later returned the product, said the document.
    Stephen Taub, "SEC Accuses Ex-CFO of Channel Stuffing The regulator alleges that one-time Lantronix CFO overstated revenue while understating losses," September 28, 2006 ---

    Bob Jensen's threads on channel stuffing (including Coca Cola) are at 

    Doral Financial Settles Financial Fraud Charges
    The Securities and Exchange Commission on September 19, 2006 filed financial fraud charges against Doral Financial Corporation, alleging that the NYSE-listed Puerto Rican bank holding company overstated income by 100 percent on a pre-tax, cumulative basis between 2000 and 2004. The Commission further alleges that by overstating its income by $921 million over the period, the company reported an apparent 28-quarter streak of “record earnings” that facilitated the placement of over $1 billion of debt and equity. Since Doral Financial’s accounting and disclosure problems began to surface in early 2005, the market price of the company’s common stock plummeted from almost $50 to under $10, reducing the company’s market value by over $4 billion. Without admitting or denying the Commission’s allegations, Doral Financial has consented to the entry of a court order enjoining it from violating the antifraud, reporting, books and records and internal control provisions of the federal securities laws and ordering that it pay a $25 million civil penalty. The settlement reflects the significant cooperation provided by Doral in the Commission’s investigation.

    The independent auditor for Doral Financial is PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) --- Click Here for Doral's 10-K
    PwC's charges to Doral increased from $2.2 million in 2004 to $5.6 million in 2006.

    Bob Jensen's threads on PwC are at

    From Ernst & Young:  Financial Management: The Primary Challenge
    Financial management still has an image problem, but those who regard it as the domain of the ‘bean counter’ are behind the times. In the modern organization the CFO and finance function are called upon to fulfil many varied roles, ranging from corporate governance and disclosure, to strategy and business process engineering. Yes, it’s challenging, but it’s also empowering and exciting.Leading academics from the world’s most respected business schools have contributed to a series of articles on this subject in a sponsored Financial Times series, and we have our own perspectives on this too.
    "Financial Management: The Primary Challenge," Ernst & Young, September 2006 --- Click Here

    "Zune Won't Kill the IPod," Leander Kahney, Wired News, October 3, 2006 ---,71896-0.html?tw=wn_index_2

    Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Zune MP3 player is a sure-fire iPod killer -- if you believe what you been reading in the press recently.

    There's nothing the press likes more than a good fight, and the Zune looks like a worthy contender for the iPod's heavyweight crown.

    The tech press loves the Zune because of its specs. They tally up the features and conclude the Zune is better because there's more stuffed inside.

    When it launches next month, the Zune will cost $250 for 30 GB -- just like the equivalent iPod. But the Zune also has Wi-Fi for wirelessly trading songs; a larger, 3-inch screen (good for widescreen movies); and will connect to Microsoft's Zune Marketplace music service, which will sell songs at 99 cents each and offer a $15 a month subscription plan.

    The Zune will definitely have an impact. That's guaranteed by Microsoft's clout, and is why music labels, movie studios and accessory makers are jumping on the Zune bandwagon.

    But although the Zune looks good on paper, it's not going to kill the iPod because of three things:

    1. It's not cool and never will be.

    The iPod is streets ahead in the things that really matter: ease of use, aesthetics and -- here's the tough one -- cool. The Zune is not cool. You can tell that at a glance. Take the choice of colors. It'll come in black, white and brown.

    Wait a sec -- brown? Surely this is some sick joke gone horribly wrong. Or are they trying to rip off LG's Chocolate phone?

    The Zune's best bet is waiting it out until the iPod becomes passé, which seems unlikely given that Apple is constantly redesigning and refreshing the device.

    2. The Zune will be locked down tighter than the queen's knickers.

    The Zune's interesting features -- Wi-Fi sharing and the music subscription plan -- will be subject to a strict digital rights management scheme, and given Microsoft's reputation in this area (PlaysForShit) -- I'll bet the Zune will drive customers to the iPod.

    After all, PlaysForSure is such a technical and marketing disaster Microsoft is abandoning it altogether in favor of the Zune, which will attempt to tightly integrate hardware, software and services, just like the iPod.

    But whereas Apple's FairPlay digital rights management scheme seems to be working very well (surprisingly, there aren't widespread reports of glitches and problems), Microsoft's penchant for complex and glitchy verification systems bode ill for the device.

    3. Wi-Fi song sharing will not catch on in public.

    The Zune's only original feature is Wi-Fi song sharing, which will allow Zune owners to search for others nearby and temporarily trade songs over the air. Traded tunes will be playable up to three times over three days, and can be flagged on the player for later purchase online. Otherwise they disappear.

    But while it's obvious that sharing songs will be fun with friends at school or college, it's not an activity that will take off in public. It'll largely be confined to peer groups.

    Also see

    "The New iPod: Ready for Battle?" by Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2006, Page D1 ---

  • Next month marks the fifth anniversary of one of the most successful products of the digital era, Apple Computer's iPod music player. Since 2001, potential iPod-killers have come and gone like autumn foliage. Apple claims an astonishing 76% market share in the U.S. for the iPod and an equally amazing 88% share of the U.S. legal music download market for its companion iTunes online store. Over 60 million iPods and 1.5 billion songs have been sold.

    . . .

    So, this holiday season Apple has made some of the biggest changes to the iPod and iTunes in years. It has redesigned the iPod Nano and Shuffle, cut prices and/or raised capacities on all models, introduced a new iPod search feature, added color games and movie playback to the full-sized iPod, and more. Plus, it has given the iTunes software its biggest overhaul ever, making the software both simpler and more fun to use.

    Oh, and it has started selling downloadable feature films, which can be played on computers, iPods, and, soon, via a forthcoming new device, on TV sets.

    We've been testing the new iPods and iTunes for several weeks, as well as the new movie download service. Our review of the hardware and software follows here. See the accompanying article for our take on the movie downloads.

    Our verdict: the new iPods are more versatile and less costly than ever, but the new iTunes software is an even bigger improvement, although it has one big downside -- its coolest new feature is so graphically demanding that it doesn't work right on some older computers.

    For the main iPod, the biggest changes are in capacity, price, battery life and software. The base version, which holds 30 gigabytes, is now $249, a $50 price cut presumably intended to put pressure on Microsoft. The higher-end model, at $349, is also $50 less than last year's version, even though it holds 80 gigabytes, up from 60 gigabytes last year. Battery life for video playback has been greatly improved, to 3.5 hours on the base model, up from just two hours on last year's model. The bigger model has 6.5 hours of video playback time, up from 4 hours. (Battery life for music is unchanged.)

    The iPod's screen is also now 60% brighter. But what's now on the screen is even more interesting: There's now a search feature that lets you find items alphabetically, by using the scroll wheel to select letters. In our tests, it worked well. And, in addition to viewing full-length movies on the full-sized iPod, you can now play classic color games, such as Tetris, Pac-Man, Bejeweled, Poker and Mahjong. Apple sells these games via iTunes for $4.99 each.

    In our tests, playing even very familiar games with a scroll wheel instead of a mouse or joystick took some adjustment. But, eventually, we got the hang of it, and the color and detail of the games on the iPod's screen was impressive.

    The iPod Nano also has the new search feature, but it can't play the movies or games. It has been given a new aluminum skin, like the old iPod Mini had. This has two advantages: It resists the scratches that affected the first Nano models last year, and it allows for a range of bright colors. It's even a teeny bit thinner and lighter than the amazingly small original Nano. We liked the new Nano and found it worked well.

    The Nano still comes in three versions, but the capacities for each have been doubled while the prices remain the same. The base $149 Nano now holds 2 gigabytes and comes in silver only. The middle $199 Nano now holds 4 gigabytes and comes in four colors, including a hot pink. And the $249 top-of-the-line Nano now holds 8 gigabytes and is black only.

    Even greater changes have been made in Apple's iTunes software, the biggest overhaul since it came out in 2001. ITunes is one of the world's most popular software programs, much more popular than the iPod itself. That's because many people use iTunes, which is free, to manage and download music on their Windows and Macintosh computers, even if they don't own iPods.

    But iTunes had been growing long in the tooth. It didn't do as good a job with video as with music, and was visually boring. So the new iTunes 7, which is still nearly identical on Windows and Macintosh, has lots of new stuff.

    The coolest new feature is called Cover Flow, an optional way of viewing your music library. In Cover Flow, the top half of your screen is filled with an array of all your album covers, and as you scroll through your songs with the mouse or keyboard -- or, as songs play -- the album cover for each appears in the center of the array. Sometimes, if you're skipping around in a large library, the covers flip by at high speed, finally settling on the one you're playing.

    In a way, it's just a parlor trick, and it sounds like it's no big deal. But we loved it, because it reminded us of flipping through a box of old vinyl albums or watching an old jukebox in a diner. It actually helped remind us of albums we'd forgotten about.

    If you don't have the album covers for all your songs, iTunes 7 will fetch them online free, so Cover Flow can work. Cover Flow also works with video clips, displaying either the official art supplied by iTunes, for purchased videos, or just a still from the video for other clips.

    Unfortunately, Cover Flow puts such heavy demand on computer graphics systems that it doesn't work properly or at all on some machines, especially older or more limited Windows computers. While it worked fine on our Macs and on our Dell and Hewlett-Packard Windows desktops, it failed on Katie's Toshiba laptop and in a virtual Windows machine running under the Parallels software on a MacBook Pro laptop.

    Apple has released a revision of iTunes 7 to address Cover Flow issues and some other problems, but the revision didn't do the trick on our problem machines.

    Beyond Cover Flow, iTunes 7 sports numerous other new features. It can now detect when albums were meant to be played without gaps between songs, as on many classical albums and a few rock albums, such as the Beatles' Abbey Road. In fact, it will go through your library, find all such albums, and eliminate the gaps. This "gapless playback" feature also extends to the new iPods.

    This latest iTunes also sports separate libraries for music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks and games. And, when you attach an iPod, it offers a much cleaner and more comprehensive tabbed interface for managing the synchronization of music, videos, photos, and other content.

    And, finally, you can use your iPod to move content from one computer to another, although this feature only works with content you purchased from Apple.

    It's impossible to know if Apple can sustain its remarkably high market shares in the face of new competition, but it is going into the battle with better products at better prices.

  • Question
    How much have workers shared in recent economic growth?

    "Coming of Wage," by Allan Hubbard and Edward. P. Lazear, The Wall Street Journal,  October 2, 2006; Page A10 ---

    The U.S. economy has faced challenges from recession to corporate scandals to terrorist attack to natural disasters. And through it all, the economy has proven to be resilient and responsive. In the past three years our economy has grown 3.7% per year, faster than any other major industrialized economy, and added more than 5.7 million payroll jobs, more than all the jobs added in the European Union and Japan combined.

    Yet questions understandably arise about whether this economic expansion is paying off for U.S. workers. American workers are among the hardest working and most productive in the world. They deserve to receive their share of the gains in this economic expansion, as they have in past expansions.

    A pattern that prevails as the economy moves from recession to recovery, and then into a sustained expansion, is that productivity grows first. The higher productivity growth means higher profits for businesses, which induce them to expand output and then employment. Later, as fewer workers are available for hire, wages grow, profit rates fall, and workers' share of the gains rises. This is what we observed during the last expansion. After the recession in the early 1990s, wage growth was flat. It did not pick up until the last few years of the decade.

    We are seeing the same pattern in this economic expansion. Productivity growth has been exceptionally strong in the past five years, well above the historical average. And now employee compensation per hour has also picked up. Over the first half of this year, compensation growth has averaged a remarkable 6.3%, at an annual rate adjusted for inflation. This growth is much faster than in previous years.

    As has been the case for many years, higher health-care costs mean much of the growth in compensation goes to benefits. Although benefits are important, workers also naturally care about whether their paychecks are going up.

    Recently, nominal wages of production workers have also grown considerably. At an annualized rate, nominal wage growth has been about 4% so far this year, faster than at this point in the last economic expansion. Nominal wages are now growing faster than the past couple of years and are growing at about the same rate as they were in the late 1990s.

    The difference between this economic expansion and the last expansion is that higher-than-expected energy prices have consumed much of this strong nominal wage growth. Inflation-adjusted wage growth without the increase in energy prices is similar to past economic expansions. The issue here is energy prices, not wage growth. Workers' paychecks are going up, but they have had to use much of that increase for energy purchases like gasoline.

    The recent news on energy prices is good for workers. Nationwide gasoline prices have fallen by about 65 cents per gallon since early August and market data suggest that inflation will fall below the levels of the past few months. This decline, coupled with the nominal growth rates that we see in both compensation and wages, means that workers should enjoy more real earnings in the months ahead.

    The Bush administration is pursuing a variety of short and long-term measures to address high energy prices. Last year, the president and Congress enacted the first major energy bill in over a decade. It is a significant first step toward a long-term vision of achieving greater energy security through diversification of energy sources, improved efficiency and increased domestic production. In addition to implementing the new law, the administration is pursuing new ideas for alternative technologies and clean domestic production. For example, the administration and Congress are working to increase research in alternative fuels, and to safely increase domestic oil and natural gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf and Alaska. These and other pro-growth policies will benefit both the overall economy and workers.

    Most importantly, American entrepreneurs and companies are investing billions of dollars in creative ideas for new fuels, power resources and better efficiency. Our flexible economy that rewards risk-taking and boosts productivity will also help us produce reliable and cost-effective energy.

    With some politicians and commentators criticizing tax relief, free trade, immigration and labor policies, it is important to recognize the truth about wages and the distinctions between this economic expansion and past expansions. Increasing the tax and regulatory burden on our economy will not increase wages or make the current expansion more rewarding for workers. Without the tax relief, workers would be taking home a smaller portion of their paychecks. Higher taxes and a higher regulatory burden would just slow the strong productivity growth that we need to remain competitive in the global economy and increase standards of living.

    Mr. Hubbard is director of the National Economic Council. Mr. Lazear is chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

    From Jim Mahar's blog on October 3, 2006 ---

    Will stocks go Boom?

    Canada's National Post gives us all something to worry about it its series on the impact of an aging labor force. In the second part of the series, the paper examines whether as baby boomers retire if they will drive down stock prices.

    Will stocks go Boom?:
    "In the United States, for example, the ratio of workers to retirees is expected to fall to just 2.6 in 30 years, from 4.9 today. In Japan, the ratio of retirees to active workers is expected to fall even further, to one to one by about 2050.

    In other words, the number of potential stock buyers will soon begin a steep decline....No less an authority than Jeremy Siegel, the famous Wharton finance professor and author of Stocks For The Long Run, has sounded the alarm, calling the ageing population the most critical issue facing the developed world."
    What about the impact on finance? Not only will the changing workforce impact pension funds, social security, and health care costs, but it will likely drive down the stock market as the boomers end saving and begin to draw down their portfolios.

    Now before you panic, the coming tidal wave of retirees in the developed world may be offset by other factors (notably foreign investment as more lesser developed countries develop and formerly impoverished people become investors) but it is something to consider and "gameplan".

    Most likely outcome? As baby boomers age they will shift money out of stocks and this will be a factor that keeps returns lower than their historical averages. Which means we should all lower our projected returns. This unfortunately means we will have to save more for a comfortable retirement be it personally, in corporate pension funds, or in government sponsored "social security" accounts.

    And if this analysis is wrong and the market continues to earn higher than historical norms? We will have set aside more than needed and you will have more money in your portfolio than expected, which is not the worst thing in the world!

    Some past articles on this topic:

    Will bomers drive down markets? (October 2004)

    Porterba on impact of Boomers (November 2004)
  - Easy credit can mean long-term hardship for college students

    I am torn on this one. On one hand it is inarguable that many people (including no doubt a higher percentage of college students) do get into financial difficulty stemming from excessive use of credit cards. However, the ban on marketing of the credit cards on campus does seem a tad much. Credit cards do have their upsides as well: they help build credit and lower transaction costs.

    On the other hand, many 18 year olds are not ready for credit cards and do succumb to overspending.
    From :
    Easy credit can mean long-term hardship for college students: "College students tend to have less financial experience than older adults, making them more susceptible to these pitches....Nearly a dozen states, including New York and California, have made it harder for card companies to market on public campuses. And a growing number of colleges, on their own, have begun to impose restrictions."
    Of course the credit card companies do not want to lose this market.

    So what to do? If you are a college student who is mature enough to use (and not misuse) a credit card, I would recommend highly getting one to build credit and for ease of use. However, get one with no fee and pay off the bill completely every month. If you find this progressively more difficult to do, stop using it until it is paid off.


    Updates from WebMD ---

    Latest Headlines on September 30, 2006

    Latest Headlines on October 2, 2006

    Latest Headlines on October 3, 2006

    Latest Headlines on October 4, 2006

    Latest Headlines on October 9, 2006


    "Do Dieting Monkeys Live Healthier and Longer Lives?" by Katherine Bourzac, MIT's Technology Review, October 3, 2006 ---

    An ongoing study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in which rhesus monkeys are being fed an extremely calorie-restricted diet gives preliminary evidence that the regime prevents age-related diseases. For decades, scientists have known that a diet of about 30-percent fewer calories than normal extends the lifespan of mice by 10 to 20 percent, reduces their incidence of cancer, and prevents the deterioration of learning and memory in the rodents. And similar effects have been shown in lower organisms from yeast to fruit flies. But such life extension has not been proven yet in primates.

    Researchers at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center have been studying a group of 76 rhesus monkeys, half of them on calorie restriction and half on a normal diet, for 18 years, to determine whether or not the restricted diet has the same health benefits in primates as it does in other animals. The study will likely go on for at least another decade, since the monkeys are only now entering old age. Captive rhesus monkeys usually live to around 25 years old, which is now about the average age of the monkeys in the study. An age of 40 for a rhesus monkey is similar to 120 for a human--the apparent maximum lifespan.

    Although there is now strong evidence that caloric restriction prevents diabetes in the primates (the disease is a major killer of captive rhesus monkeys), it's still too early to assess the diet's effects on their lifespan, according to Richard Weindruch, professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin, who is heading up the study.

    But preliminary evidence suggests that the diet is preventing loss of muscle mass, arthritis, menstrual irregularities, and other signs of aging. "Over the next 10 years, survival differences will come out," predicts Ricki Colman, a scientist on the study. Meanwhile, eight of the monkeys on a normal diet have died of age-related causes such as cancer and diabetes; five on the restricted diet have died of these causes.

    As the monkeys enter old age, the researchers are beginning gene expression profiling on them--the first step toward finding the molecular mechanisms that connect the extreme diet to its effects in the animals. The monkeys will also undergo MRIs and be tested for mental acuity, to assess whether or not the diet prevents age-related deterioration of learning and memory.

    Even if a diet of 30-percent fewer calories proved to extend healthy human lifespan, however, it's unlikely that most people could be able to stick with it. (A group of individuals following such a diet, called the Calorie Restriction Society, seem to have some health benefits. See "Human Study Shows Benefits of Caloric Restriction".)

    Researchers studying caloric restriction in animals, including Colman, say that, in general, such a diet is "not a long-term possibility in humans." Rather, the primary goal of their study, Colman and Weindruch agree, is to learn about aging and to understand how caloric restriction changes metabolism and gene expression.

    In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S.
    In a large number of studies, prescription fish oil has been shown to improve survival after heart attacks and to reduce fatal heart rhythms. The American College of Cardiology recently strengthened its position on the medical benefit of fish oil, although some critics say that studies have not defined the magnitude of the effect. But in the United States, heart attack victims are not generally given omega-3 fatty acids, even as they are routinely offered more expensive and invasive treatments, like pills to lower cholesterol or implantable defibrillators. Prescription fish oil, sold under the brand name Omacor, is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in heart patients.
    Elizabeth Rosenthall, "In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S.," The New York Times, October 2, 2006 ---

    Autism undergoes biggest-ever US study
    The largest US study ever of the causes of autism, the poorly understood developmental disability that affects more than one million Americans, is under way. The five-year, 5.9 million-dollar study will involve 2,700 children and five separate research institutes aiming to identify causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in young children, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on October 6.
    "Autism undergoes biggest-ever US study," PhysOrg, October 9, 2006 ---

    Is metabolic syndrome a real disease or a figment of the drug industries greedy imagination?

    "The Thin Pill 75 million Americans may have something called metabolic syndrome. How Big Pharma turned obesity into a disease – then invented the drugs to cure it," by Thomas Goetz, Wired Magazine, October 2006 ---

    But some wonder if metabolic syndrome really identifies anything new. Skeptics, which include the American Diabetes Association, suggest that researchers, physicians, and pharmaceutical companies have been so hasty to embrace the disease (each for their own reasons), they've overlooked evidence that the science behind the diagnosis is flimsy and conjectural. These critics say that so-called metabolic syndrome lumps together risks we already recognize and monitor – or worse, that it's just a fancy way to describe obesity. By accepting it, we medicalize a lifestyle condition that we already know how to treat: with diet and exercise.

    The debate is hardly academic. The pharmaceutical industry has spent millions of dollars developing dozens of drugs aimed at obesity generally and metabolic syndrome in particular. Many of those drugs are now or will soon be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. At the same time, the industry is lobbying the FDA to recognize the syndrome as a disease and to reconsider its approach to obesity drugs, a shift that would accelerate demand for new drugs.

    Continued in article

    "U.S. Health-Care System Gets a 'D'," Business Week, September 21, 2006 --- Click Here

    The U.S. health-care system is doing poorly by virtually every measure. That's the conclusion of a national report card on the U.S. health-care system, released Sept. 20. Although there are pockets of excellence, the report, commissioned by the non-profit and non-partisan Commonwealth Fund, gave the U.S. system low grades on outcomes, quality of care, access to care, and efficiency, compared to other industrialized nations or generally accepted standards of care. Bottom line: U.S. health care barely passes with an overall grade of 66 out of 100.

    The survey was carried out by 18 academic and private-sector health-care leaders, who rate the system on 37 different measures. The poor grade is particularly discomfiting, the researchers note, because the U.S. spends more on medicine, by far, than any other country. Approximately 16% of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) is devoted to health care, compared with 10% or less in other industrialized nations.

    Health care is also responsible for most new job creation, according to BusinessWeek's Sept. 25 cover story (see, 9/25/06, "What's Really Propping Up The Economy"). Yet the U.S. ranks 15th out of 19 countries in terms of the number of deaths that could have been prevented. The study estimates that each year 115 out of 100,000 U.S. deaths could have been avoided with timely and appropriate medical attention. Only Ireland, Britain, and Portugal scored worse in this category, while France scored the best, with 75 preventable deaths per 100,000.

    BELOW POTENTIAL. The U.S. ranks at the bottom among industrialized countries for life expectancy both at birth and at age 60. It is also last on infant mortality, with 7 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 2.7 in the top three countries. There are dramatic gaps within the U.S. as well, according to the study. The average disability rate for all Americans is 25% worse than the rate for the best five states alone, as is the rate of children missing 11 or more days of school.

    The report found that quality of care and access to care varied widely across the country, and it noted substantial gaps between national averages and pockets of excellence. The authors concluded that, if the U.S. improved and standardized health-care performance and access, approximately 100,000 to 150,000 lives could be saved annually, along with $50 billion to $100 billion a year.

    Continued in article

    "Taming Peanut Allergy Takes Researchers Down Uncertain Road," by Jane Zhang, The Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2006; Page B1 ---

    In a world of wheat-free cookies and dairy-free ice cream, the peanut industry is helping fund the quest for a "nut-free" peanut.

    Peanuts aren't nuts at all, of course, but legumes, or seeds, as are beans and lentils. An estimated 1.5 million Americans, including some 600,000 children, experience allergic reactions to peanuts, ranging from hives to nausea to sometimes-fatal anaphylactic shock. With most of the annual 150 food-allergy deaths blamed on peanuts, many schools have created peanut-free zones or gone totally "peanut free."

    The number of children with peanut allergies has skyrocketed, doubling from 1997 to 2002, according to a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. And it's a mystery why peanut allergies are causing more problems. One explanation is that physicians are more adept at detecting them. Another is that the modern environment may be, in a sense, too clean: If the human immune system were exposed to more allergens, a peanut might not send it into overdrive.

    An approved asthma drug, Xolair, may be useful in treating peanut and other food allergies; injected into patients, it would reduce certain antibodies that are thought to cause anaphylactic food allergy. Last year, though, clinical trials came to a halt after two children, who had been given peanut protein in a screening to gauge the severity of their allergy, experienced anaphylactic reactions. The drug's makers -- Genentech, Novartis and Tanox -- are working with the Food and Drug Administration to design a new trial, Genentech says.

    Determined scientists, in some cases with peanut-industry funding, are trying to develop other therapies, or a vaccine, to prevent or reduce the severity of peanut reactions. A nut-free peanut would be genetically altered so that it is less likely to set off an immune response. Peanut farmers and food processors have given $5.6 million over the past decade to eight scientists, mainly for peanut-allergy work, says Howard Valentine, of the American Peanut Council.

    Two researchers -- Wesley Burks, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, and Hugh Sampson, his counterpart at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine -- are trying to create a vaccine. They have slightly modified the three peanut proteins responsible for most reactions so they don't trigger such strong reactions from human mast cells. By administering the modified proteins to subjects in slowly increasing doses, they hope to condition their immune systems to tolerate more. They have tested the therapy on mice and plan to start on humans in a year or so.

    Another experimental therapy aims to reduce the severity of reactions. Dr. Burks's team administers powdered or liquid peanut proteins to patients in incrementally increasing doses, starting with 0.001 peanut the first day, to one whole peanut six months later. They hope one day to develop a drug or a physician-administered therapy. In a trial completed on eight patients, Dr. Burks says the subjects tolerated 13 peanuts before experiencing a reaction -- enough, in theory, to save an allergic child's life in case of accidental ingestion.

    Peanut interests have helped to fund the work of Peggy Ozias-Akins, a horticulture professor at the University of Georgia, Tifton. She wants to develop a plant whose peanuts are free of the three major protein allergens.

    Screening the genetic structure of peanuts harvested on an experimental farm, Dr. Ozias-Akins is searching for ones with a defunct Ara h 2 gene, which is responsible for a protein that causes reactions in about 90% of patients with peanut allergy. When she finds plants with the defunct gene, she'll use them in a traditional breeding program to produce less-allergenic plants. She expects it will take at least three years to breed the plants and test them in animals.

    Dr. Ozias-Akins's team also is trying to disable the Ara h 2 gene by modifying the peanut plant's genetic structure. She shoots cloned copies of the gene into a peanut, which can create a disabled gene that suppresses the function of the original one. Her team is growing plants with a disabled Ara h 2 gene in the greenhouse and testing whether the peanuts contain the allergy-causing protein.

    Success is a long way off. Without the protein, other genes may compensate for its loss, making the new plants more, not less, allergenic than regular peanuts. As a result, any new genetically modified food product would have to go through animal testing and human clinical trials.

    And even if Dr. Ozias-Akins gets there, it isn't clear that the world will embrace the results of her work. Says Duke's Dr. Burks, "If you take out all those proteins that cause allergic reactions to the peanut, then you no longer have a peanut."

    Consumers may reject a genetically modified nut-free peanut. Dr. Ozias-Akins is aware of the skeptics but hopes the benefits will outweigh concerns. "Nothing -- or very little -- we eat today is natural or hasn't been exposed to artificial selection," she says.

    "It's the best solution on the horizon right now," says Don Koehler, executive director of Georgia Peanut Commission. "We may never have an allergen-free peanut, but you've got to try. You've got to dream a little."

    National Alliance for Hispanic Health ---

    Online Radiology Teaching Files and Medical Image Atlas and Database ---

    "Cranky? You may be smarter than you think," PhysOrg, September 27, 2006 ---

    People who are readily disagreeable in their youth may end up being smarter than their laid-back contemporaries in their golden years, a new U.S. study says.

    The study by psychology professor Jacqueline Bichsel of Morgan State University in Baltimore found that cranky people maintain a higher level of intelligence from about age 60 and up than more easy-going seniors.

    "These individuals have a higher vocabulary," she told The Baltimore Sun. "They have a better use of words, a better knowledge of facts."

    Her study, conducted with Thomas Baker of York University in Toronto, found grumpy old men and feisty old women are often smarter in some ways than young people.

    It concludes that an ability to be open to new situations may predict intelligence earlier in life, but disagreeableness may predict intelligence later in life.

    Elephants Becoming Mad Rapists and Killers
    Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is causing alarm but also the singular perversity — for want of a less anthropocentric term — of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990’s, for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the journal Pachyderm, has been reported in ‘‘a number of reserves’’ in the region. In July of last year, officials in Pilanesberg shot three young male elephants who were responsible for the killings of 63 rhinos, as well as attacks on people in safari vehicles. In Addo Elephant National Park, also in South Africa, up to 90 percent of male elephant deaths are now attributable to other male elephants, compared with a rate of 6 percent in more stable elephant communities.
    Charles Siebert, "An Elephant Crackup?" The New York Times, October 8, 2006 ---
    Jensen Comment
    Much of the bad behavior in young male elephants is attributed to the loss of role models and controlling adults.

    From the Scout Report on September 29, 2006

    Avvenu 2.2.1 --- 

    If you find yourself away from your computer and you need a file, or perhaps an image, what might you do? You could rush home, or perchance, you might have already installed Avvenu. Avvenu allows users to access their home or office computers remotely, and as a result, might very well save them cab fare or perhaps a lengthy trip back home via subway, bike, or ferry. This version also gives users the option of allowing other trusted persons access to their files. Interested parties will be heartened to find out that this application may be operated on all computers running Windows XP.

    OpenPlanning 2.1.11 ---

    There is nothing wrong with bringing together complex (or not-so-complex) projects together over the internet, and OpenPlanning can help users make it happen seamlessly. With this latest version, users can use their community project planning environment to bring together other professionals who may work from great distances. Additionally, there is a repository of previously created projects that may provide new users with some ideas about what has been done with the application so far. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS X 10.3 and newer.

    Experts continue to explore the nature and origins of hysteria Is Hysteria Real? Brain Images Say Yes [Free registration required] 

    Sigmund Freud: Conflict & Culture 

    Emotions and Disease: Psychosomatic Medicine 

    Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive 

    Hysteria by T.S. Eliot 

    Nerves and Narratives: A Cultural History of Hysteria in 19th-Century British Prose 

    The history of the condition formerly known as hysteria (now formally known as “conversion disorder”) dates back several millennia. Hippocrates once suggested that the most appropriate treatment for the condition was marriage, and for hundreds of years, the condition was erroneously considered to primarily affect women. While interest in this relatively unexamined condition waned in recent decades, a number of researchers and scientists have once again begun to embark on more complex projects to search for the origins of this condition. Despite the fact that functional neuroimaging devices such as PET scans can record changes in brain activity, there remains dissent within the scientific community about how the condition should be classified, and what criteria should be used to evaluate various aspects of the condition. For many, one of the most important discoveries about the nature of hysteria was posited by Sigmund Freud, who in working with that very famous patient, Anna O., was able to observe that the body might be acting out the internal dramas of the mind. While work continues in the field, many scientists remain optimistic about the search for greater understanding about the condition, and many would agree with Dr. Peter Halligan, a professor of neuropsychology, who recently commented, “We’re only at the beginning”. [KMG]

    The first link will take users to a fine article from this Tuesday’s New York Times that provides both some background about the nature of hysteria, and the current research that is being done on the condition. Moving along, the second link will take visitors to an insightful online exhibit about Freud’s work with Anna O. that includes both selections from his journals and images of historical documents, such as his classic, “Studies in Hysteria” from 1895. The third link leads to an online exhibit created by staff members at the National Library of Medicine that explores the early attempts by the French clinician Jean-Martin Charcot to learn more about the origins of hysteria through observation and research with patients. The forth link will whisk users away to a fantastic site that provides visitors with dozens of primary documents (including maps, first-hand accounts and monographs) that tell the story of the Salem Witch Trials, which at the time, were supposed to have been partially caused by “hysteria”. The fifth link leads interested literary types to the full text of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Hysteria”. Finally, the last link will take users to the complete text of a recent monograph that explores the representation of hysteria in 19th century British prose. Authored by P. Melville Logan, the work contains chapters titled “Narrative and Self-Violence” and “The Body in Need of Nerves”.

    Alleged High Tech Cheating in Championship Chess Tournaments

    "Chess Mess," by Gary Kasparov, The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2006; Page A10 ---

    It usually takes a scandal to get the world's pre-eminent mind sport into the news these days. The latest example comes from the current world chess championship in Elista, Russia. The match between Russia's Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria was intended to unify the chess championship that has been divided since my challenger and I broke away from the international chess federation (FIDE) in 1993 in an attempt to professionalize the sport.

    The first four games of Kramnik-Topalov -- the match was scheduled for 12 games -- received scant attention in the world press. That changed when the Bulgarians published a complaint about Mr. Kramnik's frequent trips to the restroom during the games, calling his behavior "suspicious" and threatening to abandon the match. The appeals committee governing the match agreed, and ruled to close the players' private restrooms, which would be replaced by a shared one. (How it pains me to see such distasteful events driving the coverage of a world championship.) Mr. Kramnik protested the decision by sitting out the fifth game and was forfeited. Currently the match sits suspended.

    The clear implication of the original protest was that Mr. Kramnik might be cheating during his restroom visits. In recent years the chess world has been rife with such suspicions thanks to the rise of powerful microcomputers and transmitting technologies. Several amateur chessplayers have even been caught using such devices to cheat in tournaments. I should add that Mr. Kramnik was leading 3-1 at the time of Mr. Topalov's protest, although it was mostly thanks to very shaky play by his opponent, not a display of suspiciously superhuman skill.

    Adding irony to the tragedy is the fact that for the past year and a half Mr. Topalov himself has been the subject of rumors and even public accusations that he has cheated with computer assistance. Hard evidence is lacking, with some pointing to odd behavior by his assistants and other critics saying there is simply no other explanation for Mr. Topalov's sudden ascent to the top of the rating list after my retirement.

    Chess has a long history of scandal and controversy at the highest level. The last world championship game to be decided by forfeit was Bobby Fischer's loss to Boris Spassky in their legendary match in Reykjavik in 1972. Mr. Fischer was well known for such protests and lived up to his reputation by complaining about the conditions in the playing hall after game one, and then not appearing to play the second game. Mr. Spassky, a gentleman -- too much so, perhaps -- agreed to Mr. Fischer's demands, even playing the next game in a small back room usually reserved for table tennis. (Notably, Mr. Fischer accepted the forfeit almost meekly.) Mr. Spassky's 2-0 lead didn't help him in the end. Mr. Fischer won the match convincingly and, while he was clearly the superior player, I am one of many who believe that by making concessions off the board Mr. Spassky was psychologically unable to play his best at the board.

    Until last Friday, that was the last forfeit in world championship history. It's still not clear if this will be the first match cancellation since 1985. After five months of grueling play, my first world championship contest with Anatoly Karpov was abruptly cancelled by the FIDE president. Instead of having a set number of games, our match was to go to the first player to reach six victories, a goal that had proved unreachable despite Mr. Karpov's jumping out to a 5-0 lead. After I won games 47 and 48 to move to the score to 3-5, the match was abruptly cancelled. The Soviet sports authorities who had such influence in FIDE didn't want to take the chance I would win another game. Their loyal favorite, Mr. Karpov, hadn't won a game in months, and I -- the outspoken youngster from Baku -- was getting too close for comfort.

    Mr. Fischer may have been difficult and unstable, but he was a sportsman whose complaints were based on principle and a sincere desire to improve the standards of the chess world. Tournament conditions and prize funds improved immeasurably thanks to his efforts. My battles with the power-hungry thugs who ran the Soviet and international chess world were politically driven. To me they represented a backwards and corrupt system. They saw me as a threat to their control.

    The protests and conflicts seen in the current match are of a very different nature and reflect the complete loss of professionalism in the sport. The event is taking place in the capital of the Russian republic of Kalmykia under the auspices of its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also the president of FIDE. He has created a vertical column of power that would be familiar to any observer of Russia today. He runs the chess world in the same authoritarian way he runs his impoverished republic. After a decade of such mistreatment, the only place that could be found to host this match was his own capital. Serious sponsors rarely want anything to do with Mr. Ilyumzhinov and his organization.

    Even his closest cronies in FIDE failed Mr. Ilyumzhinov this time. He stocked the match's appeals committee with FIDE officials, but while he was away, their decision created the crisis that now seems likely to end the match in ruin. Recognizing the failure of his stated goals and low methods, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has lately taken steps to unify the chess world and make long overdue moves to professionalize the organization of events. This terrifies the fixers who would be the first to go under a professional administration.

    Combine this collapsing power structure with players and managers concerned only with self-interest and making money, and what happened in Elista was practically inevitable. In fact, most of the principal actors in Elista stand to gain from the cancellation of the match. Mr. Topalov was losing at the game and so he switched to gamesmanship. If the match is aborted he can claim he wasn't defeated and so maintain his status as FIDE champion.

    Mr. Kramnik rose to the provocation and now may walk off with the same faded title he took from me in 2000. For years he avoided both a rematch and unification with FIDE. If this chaos isn't resolved he can go on to claim "champion for life" standing outside of FIDE.

    Just like their brothers in spirit in the Kremlin, the chess nomenclatura hope to prolong the anarchy and corruption from which they have profited for so long. Mr. Ilyumzhinov needs this match to continue, but it is he who sowed the seeds of its downfall.

    For a game associated with brainpower, chess's leaders and its leading players have displayed remarkably little in recent years. They are now paying the price by having their pettiness and incompetence splashed across front pages around the world.

    Mr. Kasparov is the former world chess champion and the current chairman of the United Civil Front in Russia.


    "Why We Read:  The books that inspired me to champion literacy," by Laura Bush, The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2006 ---

    1. "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1963).

    Selecting books with the most personal meaning is very difficult for a librarian--it's like asking which are your favorite children. Among children's books, "Hop on Pop" has a lot of personal meaning for me. It features Dr. Seuss's typically wonderful illustrations and rhymes ("SEE BEE THREE Now we see three"), of course, but the main thing for me is the family memory--the loving memory--that the book evokes of George lying on the floor and reading it to our daughters, Barbara and Jenna. They were little bitty things, and they took "Hop on Pop" literally, and jumped on him--we have the pictures to prove it.

    2. The "Little House" Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Harper, 1932-43).

    I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and I identified with Laura because of her name and her brown hair. But there were other reasons that they were important to me: I read them with my mother, and they gave me a whole sense of our country--the sense of what life was like as a pioneering family traveled across 19th-century America. You followed along as Laura grew up, and then you moved on to the young-adult books of the series, like "These Happy Golden Years," when Laura becomes a teacher and marries her suitor, Almanzo. These books--about a loving and warm family life, about parents who expected the best for each and every one of their children--represent what I view as genuine American values.

    3. "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1880).

    As I grew up I found "The Brothers Karamazov" to be one of the deepest, most interesting of books I read--one that was the most fun to re-read. Maybe I shouldn't say "fun," given that it is about spiritual struggle, but to read it over and over again at various times in my life was always rewarding. That includes the time I read the book while sitting by a swimming pool in Houston, when I worked as a teacher in the early 1970s. Though the book was Russian, there was always a sort of Texas heat about this memory. Later, when George and I lived in Dallas, I took literature courses at the Dallas Institute, and of course we read "The Brothers Karamazov." But it is such an endless well of ideas on human character that this book is always one I'd be ready to pick up and read again.

    4. "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott (1868).

    "Little Women," Louisa May Alcott's book about a Civil War family, is one I remember vividly, first from reading with my mother when I was little. She read it to me before I could read. The impression it made just shows how important it is to have parents who read and who read to you. That's how every one of us librarians ended up where we did: making our careers out of reading because we loved it so much. First I was a teacher and then, since what I liked best about teaching was reading and sharing literature with children, I became a librarian. Now it is the whole focus of my life, really. And it all started with my mother's love of reading books like "Little Women" to me. I went on to read it on my own, then with friends and my own children.

    5. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain (1884).

    "Huckleberry Finn" is another of those books that I value greatly, that I read a number of times. It is a classic American work--with its themes of freedom and independence and Huck's coming of age as he flees on a raft down the Mississippi to avoid "sivilizing" back home--and one that is important to our country. The pleasure to be had from reading a book like "Huckleberry Finn" is one reason why, I believe, there is a renewed interest in reading in this country. There are book clubs all over. I see that my girls and their friends all read, and they love to trade books and talk about books they like. Reading has been such an important part, such an incredible center of my life, that I would like for everyone, especially American students, to know how rewarding it can be.

    Mrs. Bush is hosting--with James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress--the Library of Congress's National Book Festival in Washington this weekend.


    Note the serious medical finding:
    "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage"
    Jensen Comment
    This type of therapy has been shown to distract patients from almost all their maladies.

    The 2006 Ig Nobel Prize Winners ---

    The 2006 Ig Nobel Prize winners were awarded on Thursday night, October 5, at the 16th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre.

    The ceremony was webcast at . Recorded video will be posted here soon.

    Two days after the ceremony -- on Saturday, October 7 -- the new winners will give free public lectures at the
    Ig Informal Lectures.

    ORNITHOLOGY: Ivan R. Schwab, of the University of California Davis, and the late Philip R.A. May of the University of California Los Angeles, for exploring and explaining why woodpeckers don't get headaches.
    REFERENCE: "Cure for a Headache," Ivan R Schwab, British Journal of Ophthalmology, vol. 86, 2002, p. 843.
    REFERENCE: "Woodpeckers and Head Injury," Philip R.A. May, Joaquin M. Fuster, Paul Newman and Ada Hirschman, Lancet, vol. 307, no. 7957, February 28, 1976, pp. 454-5.
    REFERENCE: "Woodpeckers and Head Injury," Philip R.A. May, Joaquin M. Fuster, Paul Newman and Ada Hirschman, Lancet, vol. 307, no. 7973, June 19, 1976, pp. 1347-8.

    NUTRITION: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, for showing that dung beetles are finicky eaters.
    REFERENCE: "Dung Preference of the Dung Beetle Scarabaeus cristatus Fab (Coleoptera-Scarabaeidae) from Kuwait," Wasmia Al-Houty and Faten Al-Musalam, Journal of Arid Environments, vol. 35, no. 3, 1997, pp. 511-6.

    PEACE: Howard Stapleton of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, for inventing an electromechanical teenager repellant -- a device that makes annoying noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults; and for later using that same technology to make telephone ringtones that are audible to teenagers but not to their teachers.
    WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY: Howard Stapleton planned to attend, but his plans were interrupted by a family medical situation.

    ACOUSTICS: D. Lynn Halpern (of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and Brandeis University, and Northwestern University), Randolph Blake (of Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University) and James Hillenbrand (of Western Michigan University and Northwestern University) for conducting experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails scraping on a blackboard.
    REFERENCE: "Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound," D. Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand,  Perception and Psychophysics, vol. 39,1986, pp. 77-80.
    WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY: Lynn Halpern and Randolph Blake

    MATHEMATICS: Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed
    REFERENCE: "Blink-Free Photos, Guaranteed," Velocity, June 2006,
    CONTACT: Nic Svenson, Communications Officer, CSIRO Industrial Physics, Phone: +61 (2) 9413 7643, Fax: +61 (2) 9413 7644,
    CONTACT: Dr. Piers Barnes, Post Doctoral Fellow, CSIRO Industrial Physics, Office: +61 2 9413 7179, Mobile: +61 410 273 353, Fax: +61 2 9413 7200, <>

    LITERATURE: Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University for his report "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly."
    REFERENCE: "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly," Daniel M. Oppenheimer, Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 20, no. 2, March 2006, pp. 139-56.

    MEDICINE: Francis M. Fesmire of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, for his medical case report "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage"; and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven of Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, for their subsequent medical case report also titled "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage."
    REFERENCE: "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage," Francis M. Fesmire,  Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 17, no. 8, August 1988 p. 872.
    REFERENCE: "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage,"
    Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven, Journal of Internal Medicine, vol. 227, no. 2, February 1990, pp. 145-6. They are at the Department of Internal Medicine, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.
    REFERENCE: "Hiccups and Digital Rectal Massage,"  M. Odeh and A. Oliven, Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, vol. 119, 1993, p. 1383.

    PHYSICS: Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, for their insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces.
    REFERENCE: "Fragmentation of Rods by Cascading Cracks: Why Spaghetti Does Not Break in Half," Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch, Physical Review Letters, vol. 95, no. 9, August 26, 2005, pp. 95505-1 to 95505-1.
    REFERENCE: video and other details at <>
    WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY: Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch

    CHEMISTRY: Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito and José Bon of the University of Valencia, Spain, and Carmen Rosselló of the University of Illes Balears, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain,  for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature."
    REFERENCE: "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature," Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito, José Bon, and Carmen Rosselló, Journal of Food Science, vol. 64, no. 6, 1999, pp. 1038-41.
    WHO ATTENDED THE IG NOBEL PRIZE CEREMONY: The winners delivered their acceptance speech via video recording.

    BIOLOGY: Bart Knols (of Wageningen Agricultural University, in Wageningen, the Netherlands; and of the National Institute for Medical Research, in Ifakara Centre, Tanzania, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna Austria) and Ruurd de Jong (of Wageningen Agricultural University and of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Italy) for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.
    REFERENCE: "On Human Odour, Malaria Mosquitoes, and Limburger Cheese," Bart. G.J. Knols, The Lancet, vol. 348 , November 9, 1996, p. 1322.
    REFERENCE: “Behavioural and electrophysiological responses of the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae (Diptera: Culicidae) to Limburger cheese volatiles,” Bulletin of Entomological Research, B.G.J. Knols, J.J.A. van Loon, A. Cork, R.D. Robinson, et al., vol. 87, 1997, pp. 151-159.
    REFERENCE: "Limburger Cheese as an Attractant for the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.s.," B.G,J. Knols and R. De Jong, Parasitology Today, yd. 12, no. 4, 1996, pp. 159-61.
    REFERENCE: "Selection of Biting Sites on Man by Two Malaria Mosquito Species," R. De Jong and B.G.J. Knols, Experientia, vol. 51, 1995, pp. 80–84.


    For prior years' awards go to


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