Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Body Counter

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012   No comments

BY TINA ROSENBERG
The choreography of a typical human rights investigation goes like this: Researchers interview victims and witnesses and write their report. The local media cover it -- if they can. Then those accused dismiss it; you have nothing more than stories, it's one word against another, the sources are biased, the evidence faked. And it goes away

On March 13, 2002, in a courtroom in The Hague, something different happened. In the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, Patrick Ball, an American statistician, presented numbers to support the case that Milosevic had pursued a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. "We find evidence consistent with the hypothesis that Yugoslav forces forced people from their homes, forced Albanian Kosovars from their homes, and killed people," Ball said.

Ball made this statement under cross-examination by Milosevic's lawyer, who was, in fact, Milosevic himself. Over two days, the former president of Yugoslavia used his time to rage at Ball: The evidence was fabricated. The organizations that gathered the data were anti-Serb, trying to "galvanize public opinion and raise hostility against the Serbs and the desire to punish them," Milosevic insisted. War is chaos, he said -- how can you be so simplistic as to think that outcomes have a single cause? Why didn't you examine Serb refugee flows? How can you, a self-described supporter of international law, be considered objective?


Arab spring cleaning: Why trade reform matters in the Middle East

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012   No comments

A YEAR after the start of the Arab spring, no government in the Middle East has attempted serious economic reform even though it is obvious both that economies are distorted and that discontent over living standards has played a big part in the uprisings. The main reaction by governments has been to buy off further protests by increasing public spending. Saudi Arabia boosted government spending by over 50% between 2008 and 2011.

Although higher oil prices have been enough to finance these rises, much of the extra spending has gone into public-sector wages and consumer subsidies. Food and fuel subsidies are often huge: over 10% of GDP in Egypt. In the region as a whole, fuel subsidies rose from 2.3% of GDP in 2009 to 3.2% in 2011.
These subsidies benefit the rich, keep loss-making firms alive and damage the economy. According to the IMF, the richest fifth of Jordanians capture 40% of fuel-subsidy gains; the poorest fifth get 7%. More important, subsidies exacerbate the region’s most important economic problem, which, argue Adeel Malik of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Bassem Awadallah*, a former Jordanian finance minister, is “that it has been unable to develop a private sector that is independent, competitive and integrated with global markets”. By distorting domestic prices, subsidising energy-guzzling firms and increasing public-sector wages relative to private-sector ones, the past year’s actions have made it even harder to develop a flourishing private sector.

It was hard enough before. The Middle East has strikingly few private companies, less than one-third of the number per person in eastern Europe. Everywhere the state dominates the economy. In Egypt the public sector accounts for 40% of value-added outside agriculture—an unusually large share for a middle-income country. Such private firms as do exist tend to be large and closely connected to the state. The average Middle Eastern company is ten years older than in East Asia or eastern Europe because new entrants are kept out by pervasive red tape. The authors reckon it costs roughly 20 times the average annual income to start a firm in Syria and Yemen (assuming anyone would want to), just over twice the average globally. In a few Arab countries, like Tunisia, some notorious personifications of crony capitalism have fallen foul of political change but the practice has by no means ended.
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Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012   No comments

by Justin Elliott
Last August, the Associated Press launched a series detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes have been committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD's activities is being disputed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads, is now arguing that, as he said last week, "Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional." Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 that prohibits profiling by law enforcement personnel based on religion.

This week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee that the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.

To get a better understanding of the rules governing the NYPD — and whether the department has followed them in its surveillance of Muslims — we spoke to Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law.

The NYPD did not respond to our request for comment about allegations it has violated the law.


Poems: Fireflies

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012   No comments
by Oman Musa





Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Imperial Way: American Decline in Perspective

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012   No comments

by Noam Chomsky

In the years of conscious, self-inflicted decline at home, "losses" continued to mount elsewhere. In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all U.S. military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organization, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the U.S. and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in American decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as "the backyard."

Even more serious would be the loss of the MENA countries -- Middle East/North Africa -- which have been regarded by planners since the 1940s as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history." Control of MENA energy reserves would yield "substantial control of the world," in the words of the influential Roosevelt advisor A.A. Berle.

To be sure, if the projections of a century of U.S. energy independence based on North American energy resources turn out to be realistic, the significance of controlling MENA would decline somewhat, though probably not by much: the main concern has always been control more than access. However, the likely consequences to the planet's equilibrium are so ominous that discussion may be largely an academic exercise.

The Arab Spring, another development of historic importance, might portend at least a partial "loss" of MENA. The US and its allies have tried hard to prevent that outcome -- so far, with considerable success. Their policy towards the popular uprisings has kept closely to the standard guidelines: support the forces most amenable to U.S. influence and control.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Race Finished

    Monday, February 27, 2012   1 comment
Book Reviews
by Jan Sapp
RACE?: Debunking a Scientific Myth. Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle. xviii + 226 pp. Texas A&M University Press, 2011. $35.
RACE AND THE GENETIC REVOLUTION: Science, Myth, and Culture. Edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan. xiv + 296 pp. Columbia University Press, 2011. $105 cloth, $35 paper.

Few concepts are as emotionally charged as that of race. The word conjures up a mixture of associations—culture, ethnicity, genetics, subjugation, exclusion and persecution. But is the tragic history of efforts to define groups of people by race really a matter of the misuse of science, the abuse of a valid biological concept? Is race nevertheless a fundamental reality of human nature? Or is the notion of human “races” in fact a folkloric myth? Although biologists and cultural anthropologists long supposed that human races—genetically distinct populations within the same species—have a true existence in nature, many social scientists and geneticists maintain today that there simply is no valid biological basis for the concept.

The consensus among Western researchers today is that human races are sociocultural constructs. Still, the concept of human race as an objective biological reality persists in science and in society. It is high time that policy makers, educators and those in the medical-industrial complex rid themselves of the misconception of race as type or as genetic population. This is the message of two recent books: Race?: Debunking a Scientific Myth, by Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, and Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture, edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan. Both volumes are important and timely. Both put race in the context of the history of science and society, relating how the ill-defined word has been given different meanings by different people to refer to groups they deem to be inferior or superior in some way.

Before we turn to the books themselves, a little background is necessary. A turning point in debates on race was marked in 1972 when, in a paper titled “The Apportionment of Human Diversity,” Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin showed that human populations, then held to be races, were far more genetically diverse than anyone had imagined. Lewontin’s study was based on molecular-genetic techniques and provided statistical analysis of 17 polymorphic sites, including the major blood groups in the races as they were conventionally defined: Caucasian, African, Mongoloid, South Asian Aborigines, Amerinds, Oceanians and Australian Aborigines. What he found was unambiguous—and the inverse of what one would expect if such races had any biological reality: The great majority of genetic variation (85.4 percent) was within so-called races, not between them. Differences between local populations accounted for 8.5 percent of total variation; differences between regions accounted for 6.3 percent. The genetic divergence between geographical populations in the course of human evolution does not compare to the variation among individuals. “Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance,” Lewontin concluded.



Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bombing Iran

    Saturday, February 25, 2012   No comments


For years Iran has practised denial and deception; it has blustered and played for time. All the while, it has kept an eye on the day when it might be able to build a nuclear weapon. The world has negotiated with Iran; it has balanced the pain of economic sanctions with the promise of reward if Iran unambiguously forsakes the bomb. All the while, outside powers have been able to count on the last resort of a military assault.

Today this stand-off looks as if it is about to fail. Iran has continued enriching uranium. It is acquiring the technology it needs for a weapon. Deep underground, at Fordow, near the holy city of Qom, it is fitting out a uranium-enrichment plant that many say is invulnerable to aerial attack. Iran does not yet seem to have chosen actually to procure a nuclear arsenal, but that moment could come soon. Some analysts, especially in Israel, judge that the scope for using force is running out. When it does, nothing will stand between Iran and a bomb.





Thursday, February 23, 2012

Preliminary Historical Observations on the Arab Revolutions of 2011

    Thursday, February 23, 2012   No comments

by Rashid Khalidi
Towards the end of his long, eventful life, in 1402, the renowned Arab historian Ibn Khaldun was in Damascus. He left us a description of Taymur’s siege of the city and of his meeting with the world conqueror. None of us is Ibn Khaldun, but any Arab historian today watching the Arab revolutions of 2011 has the sense of awe that our forbear must have had as we witness a great turning in world affairs.

This juncture may be unprecedented in modern Arab history. Suddenly, despotic regimes that have been entrenched for 40 years and more seem vulnerable. Two of them – in Tunis and then in Cairo – crumbled before our eyes in a few weeks. Others in Tripoli and San’a are fighting to survive. The old men who dominate the rest suddenly look their age, and the distance between them and most of their populations, born decades after them, has never been greater. An apparently frozen political situation has melted overnight in the heat of the popular upsurge that began in Tunisia and Egypt, and now is spreading.  We are all privileged to be experiencing a world-historical moment, when fixed verities vanish and new potentials and forces emerge. Perhaps one day some of us can say, as Wordsworth said of the French Revolution, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”

These have so far mainly been revolutions fashioned by ordinary people peacefully demanding freedom, dignity, democracy, social justice, accountability, transparency and the rule of law. Arab youth at the end of the day have been shown to have hopes and ideals no different from the young people who helped bring about democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, Latin America and South, Southeast and East Asia. These voices have been a revelation only to those deluded by the propaganda of the Arab regimes themselves, or by the Western media’s obsessive focus on Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism whenever it deals with the Middle East. This is thus a supremely important moment not only in the Arab world, but also for how Arabs are perceived by others. A people that has been systematically maligned in the West for decades is for the first time being shown in a largely positive light.

  

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Two Indias: Astounding Poverty in the Backyard of Amazing Growth

    Monday, February 20, 2012   No comments

by KENTARO TOYAMA  
"Incredible India" is the brand this country's Ministry of Tourism has been pushing in a global marketing campaign launched in 2002, and it couldn't be more fitting. Over the last decade, India has witnessed a stunning acceleration of rapid changes, both good and bad, that it began in the 1990s.

The most widely noticed metamorphosis is economic. Over the last ten years, India's GDP has grown between 7-9% per year, second only to China's sustained growth rates. In 2011, Forbes counted 57 Indian billionaires, up from only four a decade before. The same period saw Indian corporations vaulting onto the international stage. Tata Motors shocked the automobile industry with an acquisition of the British Jaguar Land Rover business in 2008. India's famed business-process outsourcing industry has expanded beyond call centers and software development to medicine, law, tax preparation, animation, and even music-video production. And, several IT giants have turned the tables on offshoring: No longer are jobs only "Bangalored." Today, Indian companies employ thousands of Americans on U.S. soil.
All of this is striking for an economy that languished for decades. From 1947, when India won its independence, through the 1980s, annual per-capita income grew at 1.3% per year, a snail's pace oft-derided by the Indian elite as the "Hindu rate of growth." Today, though, any social theorists walking the bustling streets of Mumbai might be tempted to revise Max Weber's classic treatise: The Hindu Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Economic change has been accompanied by a less noted, but no less significant, political inflection point. Alongside the enthralling Arab Spring and China's stillborn Jasmine Revolution, something that might be called the "Turmeric Revolution" has been bubbling over in India.

Though theoretically a democracy, India's governance has resembled something of a feudal system in practice. Politicians and bureaucrats often act like dukes and barons with term limits. They routinely apply a corrupt layer of graft for their personal benefit.
  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Uncovering Civilization's Roots

    Friday, February 17, 2012   No comments

by Andrew Lawler
BAHRA, KUWAIT—Camels are picking at scrub in the desert here, while archaeologist Piotr Bielinski puzzles over the jumbled remains of a 7000-year-old village in this desolate spot. Although the skyscrapers of Kuwait City form a distant backdrop 40 kilometers away, today there is little here to draw people. This site is a long walk to the Persian Gulf, has no obvious water source, and seems to lack valuable resources. In summer, the surrounding desert is a furnace, while bitter winter winds blow unimpeded from neighboring Iraq. But long ago, some 100 people created a tidy and prosperous settlement here, and the remains of their village may provide clues to the subsequent emergence of the world's first cities.

Why settle here? The riddle confronting University of Warsaw scientist Bielinski is part of an ambitious attempt to explain how humans made the momentous leap from village life to urban sprawl. That transformation first happened in Mesopotamia sometime during the 4th millennium B.C.E. in what archaeologists call the Uruk phase, named after a southern Iraq metropolis some 300 kilometers north of Bahra. But recent excavations in Kuwait, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia provide mounting evidence that the origin of the urban revolution is to be found in the prior era, called the Ubaid, which began around 5500 B.C.E and lasted until about 4000 B.C.E. (see timeline, p. 792). Piecing together how and where that mysterious culture began, spread, and evolved “is a particularly hot topic right now,” says Harvard University archaeologist Jason Ur. Adds University of Chicago archaeologist Gil Stein: “This is the earliest complex society in the world. If you want to understand the roots of the urban revolution, you have to look at the Ubaid.”

At Bahra, archaeologists have found the oldest permanent settlement south of Mesopotamia. The finds come on the heels of a joint U.S.-Syrian discovery of a surprisingly large and sophisticated Ubaid town on the northern fringe of the Mesopotamian plain. Data from both sites contradict the old assumption that Ubaid culture was spread by precocious southern Mesopotamians who colonized their more primitive neighbors—a harbinger of the militaristic Mesopotamian empires to come. Instead, these and a handful of other sites suggest that a loose network of local peoples from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf helped shape a way of life that eventually spawned cities.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s alternative abortion history

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012   No comments

by Irin Carmon
Last Friday, some of the most distinguished scholars and litigants working on gender and the law gathered to honor a foremother and inspiration, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Columbia University Law School marked the 40th anniversary of Ginsburg becoming the first tenured female professor there.

But there was another 40th anniversary as well, one less-known, but very much on Ginsburg’s mind. It has been 40 years since she filed a brief before the Supreme Court for a case she wishes had established the abortion right instead of Roe v. Wade.

That was the case of Capt. Susan Struck, who had become pregnant in 1970. The Air Force demanded she either terminate the pregnancy — abortions were being conducted on bases back then — or leave her post. Struck, a Catholic, said she wouldn’t have an abortion but would put the child up to adoption without taking off any unusual amount of medical leave. Though she lost both at the district court and the circuit-court level, she appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear her case until Solicitor General Erwin Griswold persuaded the Air Force to simply waive her discharge and change the rule. Ginsburg was disappointed.

“I thought if Susan’s case came first,” she said — before Roe, which would be heard a year later — it would be preferable for the goals of women’s equality, because “her choice was birth. Solicitor General Griswold saw to it that we did not have that opportunity.” (This was the same Griswold who, as dean of Harvard Law School, asked the rare women in Ginsburg’s class how they justified taking spots that should have gone to men. Ginsburg later transferred to Columbia Law School.)



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Experiment in Teaching Writing: A Look Inside the Sausage Factory

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012   No comments
by Chad Orzel
As I've said a bazillion times already this term, I'm teaching a class that is about research and writing, with a big final paper due at the end of the term. Because iterative feedback is key to learning to write, they also have to turn in a complete rough draft, which I will mark up and have them revise.

One of the many, many problems with teaching writing is that too many students regard the writing of drafts as pointless busy-work. Others have no real concept of what a rough draft is-- when I've collected drafts in the past, I often get things that would barely qualify as an outline, let alone a draft. Already this term, I've had to explain severl times that when I ask for a draft of the final paper, I want a draft of the whole thing.


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There are signs that the Syrian regime may become still more violent

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012   No comments
Media review: Here is how the Economist sees the crisis in Syria: 

SECURITY men, most in plain clothes, speckle the main market square of Deraa, a town of 350,000 near Syria’s border with Jordan. Yet in the brief time given for visiting journalists to stray from a scripted tour that highlights “terrorist” attacks on state property, a few ordinary citizens dare to speak. “We are so scared,” says a woman clutching a boy’s hand. “I come out to buy food, which costs more every day, but never know if I can make it home again.” A young man with burning, bloodshot eyes lifts his shirt, revealing two bullet scars. “We will never give up,” he declares as men in leather jackets approach to hustle him off. A middle-aged shopper pauses briefly before slipping into an alley. “God help us,” he whispers in deliberate English.

It was in Deraa that Syria’s uprising began last March, with riots protesting against the arrest and nail-pulling torture of teenage boys who, inspired by other Arab revolts unfolding on satellite television, had daubed a wall with the words, “The people demand the fall of the regime”. An ongoing government crackdown has left perhaps 1,000 civilians dead in the town and surrounding villages, imposing an ice-thin calm. Most shops and schools are open only some of the time. Internet-video footage reveals daily combat between chanting, rock-throwing citizens and soldiers shooting live rounds. Officials speak of sporadic “terrorist” attacks on sandbagged checkpoints. As proof they parade a collection of captured pipe bombs and rusted firearms. Clearly though, should the government withdraw its armoured vehicles, combat troops, rooftop snipers and gun-toting thugs, then Deraa would swiftly revert to rebel rule.


  

Monday, February 13, 2012

U.S. officials: Al Qaida behind Syria bombings

    Monday, February 13, 2012   No comments

by Jonathan S. Landay
The Iraqi branch of al Qaida, seeking to exploit the bloody turmoil in Syria to reassert its potency, carried out two recent bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and likely was behind suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 28 people in the largest city, Aleppo, U.S. officials told McClatchy.

The officials cited U.S. intelligence reports on the incidents, which appear to verify Syrian President Bashar Assad's charges of al Qaida involvement in the 11-month uprising against his rule. The Syrian opposition has claimed that Assad's regime, which has responded with massive force against the uprising, staged the bombings to discredit the pro-democracy movement calling for his ouster.

The international terrorist network's presence in Syria also raises the possibility that Islamic extremists will try to hijack the uprising, which would seriously complicate efforts by the United States and its European and Arab partners to force Assad's regime from power. On Friday, President Barack Obama repeated his call for Assad to step down, accusing his forces of "outrageous bloodshed."

  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

British, Qatari troops already waging secret war in Syria?

    Thursday, February 09, 2012   No comments
British, Qatari troops already waging secret war in Syria?



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why do women have casual sex? Casual Sex: Are Men and Women So Different?

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012   No comments

A researcher upends traditional thinking and argues that both genders are looking for the same thing: Pleasure.

“Sperm are cheap and eggs are expensive.”  For decades, psychologists have relied on this mantra to explain why women are sexually choosy and men are sexually promiscuous.  However, if women are so prudish, who exactly are men getting lucky with?  Perhaps “sperm are cheap and eggs are expensive” is only half of the story, and something besides the scarcity of their eggs drives female sexuality … In a classic study by Clark and Hatfield (1989), women solicited a one-night stand to male strangers and men solicited a one-night stand to female strangers on a college campus.  Results showed that men were much more willing to accept sex with a stranger than were women.  In fact, women declined casual sex offers 100 percent of the time; men only declined casual sex offers 25 to 31 percent of the time.  These findings dramatically demonstrated that men and women differ in their mating behaviors, with women appearing sexually prude compared to men.  The study became quite influential in academic psychology, and it has been cited in over 350 published reports.
Despite the startling results of Clark and Hatfield’s (1989) study, it is possible that differences in the solicitors influenced the results.  That is, women might have perceived male solicitors as aggressive and violent, while men might have perceived female solicitors as nurturing and warm.  Perhaps women avoid casual sexual encounters with unfamiliar partners because they want to avoid potentially unpleasant or dangerous sexual experiences, and men accept these encounters more readily because they expect women to be nurturing, pleasant sexual partners.
Psychologist Terri Conley (2011) recently explored these possibilities by reconstructing the Clark and Hatfield study with several new manipulations.  In particular, Conley (2011) found that women and men do indeed have different perceptions of one another in a casual sex scenario: female solicitors were considered warmer, more generous, and better sexual partners overall than were males.  To test whether these perceptual differences influenced peoples’ willingness to accept casual sex offers, she examined whether bisexual women were more likely to accept a casual sexual encounter with another woman than with a man.  As expected, bisexual women were much more likely to accept casual sex offers from women than from men.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tunisian Minister: “A Foreign country is intent on destabilizing Tunisia”

    Tuesday, February 07, 2012   No comments

Arab Spring News Digest:
On February 4, and two days after the Tunisian security forces killed two members of an armed group and arrested a third, the Education minister accused a foreign country of “pumping large sums of money to destabilize the country." Moucef  Ben Salim, minister of higher education and member of Ennahda, made his accusation in Sfax, the scene of the deadly clash that left a policeman and three soldiers wounded, one of them critically, according to the state news agency. He said the Interpol is conducting an investigation to track the source of funding for "terrorist groups."

The incident took place in the southern region of Bir Ali Ben Khalifa. Ali Laaridh, Interior Minister, described it as “serious.” The armed group, consisting of three “bearded men” opened fire with assault rifles at a checkpoint then escaped into a nearby olive forest. Police announced that they found weapons and lists of names of people from all over the country in the get way car.

The interior minister indicated that police seized more than 600 weapons in 2011, believed to be coming through Libya. Many Tunisians accuse some of the Gulf States of using Tunisia to arm radical Salafi Libyan groups that participated in the overthrow of Qaddafi. Many Tunisians protested the Qatar rulers interference in the region. Others are angry because Saudi Arabia refuses to handover the former dictator, Ben Ali. The presence of the Salafis in Tunisia, generally seen as a Saudi influenced movement, as an attempt to spread Saudi ideology in North Africa.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Could a College Scorecard Backfire? It Did for Law Students

    Sunday, February 05, 2012   No comments

In an ostensibly unrelated story a few days later, a group of lawyers filed suits against a dozen different law schools accusing them of using rosy, and grossly distorted, jobs data to dupe students into applying. They followed three similar suits filed last year, including one against Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which is the largest law school by enrollment in the country. The cases are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars, tuition refunds, and reforms to the way law schools calculate and present their jobs data. 

Yes, these cases sound like a bad joke -- If a law school loses a suit to its recently graduated students, does that make it a terrible law school or a great one? -- but they offer a lesson that the administration should keep in mind if it's serious about pushing schools to collect job numbers. Bad data can be much, much worse than no data at all. And without serious oversight, there's a good chance you'll end up with some terribly misleading numbers. 


  

Taking More Seats on Campus, Foreigners Also Pay the Freight

    Sunday, February 05, 2012   No comments

by TAMAR LEWIN
SEATTLE — This is the University of Washington’s new math: 18 percent of its freshmen come from abroad, most from China. Each pays tuition of $28,059, about three times as much as students from Washington State. And that, according to the dean of admissions, is how low-income Washingtonians — more than a quarter of the class — get a free ride.

With state financing slashed by more than half in the last three years, university officials decided to pull back on admissions offers to Washington residents, and increase them to students overseas.

That has rankled some local politicians and parents, a few of whom have even asked Michael K. Young, the university president, whether their children could get in if they paid nonresident tuition. “It does appeal to me a little,” he said.

There is a widespread belief in Washington that internationalization is the key to the future, and Mr. Young said he was not at all bothered that there were now more students from other countries than from other states. (Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as foreign students.)

“Is there any advantage to our taking a kid from California versus a kid from China?” he said. “You’d have to convince me, because the world isn’t divided the way it used to be.”

If the university’s reliance on full-freight Chinese students to balance the budget echoes the nation’s dependence on China as the largest holder of American debt, well, said the dean of admissions, Philip A. Ballinger, “this is a way of getting some of that money back.”

By the reckoning of the Institute of International Education, foreign students in the United States contribute about $21 billion a year to the national economy, including $463 million here in Washington State. But the influx affects more than just the bottom line — campus culture, too, is changing.

While the University of Washington’s demographic shifts have been sharper and faster — international students were 2 percent of the freshmen in 2006 — similar changes are under way at flagship public universities across the nation: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and University of California campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles all had at least 10 percent foreign freshmen this academic year, more than twice that of five years ago. And at top private schools including Columbia University, Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania, at least 15 percent of this year’s freshmen are from other countries.


  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Exercise and longevity: Worth all the sweat

    Thursday, February 02, 2012   No comments

ONE sure giveaway of quack medicine is the claim that a product can treat any ailment. There are, sadly, no panaceas. But some things come close, and exercise is one of them. As doctors never tire of reminding people, exercise protects against a host of illnesses, from heart attacks and dementia to diabetes and infection.

How it does so, however, remains surprisingly mysterious. But a paper just published in Nature by Beth Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre and her colleagues sheds some light on the matter.

Dr Levine and her team were testing a theory that exercise works its magic, at least in part, by promoting autophagy. This process, whose name is derived from the Greek for “self-eating”, is a mechanism by which surplus, worn-out or malformed proteins and other cellular components are broken up for scrap and recycled.

To carry out the test, Dr Levine turned to those stalwarts of medical research, genetically modified mice. Her first batch of rodents were tweaked so that their autophagosomes—structures that form around components which have been marked for recycling—glowed green. After these mice had spent half an hour on a treadmill, she found that the number of autophagosomes in their muscles had increased, and it went on increasing until they had been running for 80 minutes.

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