economics

January 10, 2011

Shooting Fallout: Political Rhetoric Takes The Heat by Corey Dade A makeshift memorial outside Giffords office Enlarge Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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A makeshift memorial outside of the District Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Sunday. The sign sends this message: “violence solves nothing; love is greater than hate.”
A makeshift memorial outside Giffords office
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A makeshift memorial outside of the District Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Sunday. The sign sends this message: “violence solves nothing; love is greater than hate.”
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January 9, 2011

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has raised concerns about the effect of inflammatory language that has become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Saturday’s shooting spree, which killed U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and five others, followed years of hot political debate in Arizona. Both Roll and Giffords had been the subjects of threats in recent years.

Arizona has become one of the most reliably conservative states, particularly in the debates over immigration and health care — two issues that put Giffords, a moderate Democrat, and Roll at odds with many Arizonans.

Members of Congress and other elected officials say violent threats occasionally come with the job, but many politicians and others assert that the shootings reflect a national political culture that has become too heated and rife with instigation to violence.

“Hopefully this gives the nation pause, and we can temper down the vitriol toward politicians,” Rep. John Larson (D-CT) told reporters outside his home Saturday night. In a news conference Sunday, Larson said Democratic and Republican lawmakers this week will discuss taking new safety precautions, such as requesting a local police presence when they make official appearances in their districts.

In the Senate last year, the number of significant threats directed at members increased to 49 from 29 in 2009, according to the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms.

An April 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found “a perfect storm of conditions” contributing to Americans’ distrust of government, including “a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.”

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, says inflammatory political rhetoric has risen as a result of the immigration debate. And more recently, he says, the weak economy and the election of President Obama have led to a 50 percent increase in the number of so-called hate groups.

“Earlier in the decade, it was paramilitary groups and nativists who were reacting to illegal immigration,” Potok said. “But then you have the first black president and the economy, which just exacerbates the feeling among some whites that they are losing opportunities, or losing their country.

“Now you’re seeing a cross-fertilization between those groups from the early 2000s and the people who are upset over Obama and the economy.”

Some lawmakers remain circumspect about drawing such conclusions. Giffords’ colleague from Arizona, Republican Rep. Trent Franks, declined to say Sunday whether he believes the shootings were motivated in any part by heightened vitriol in public discourse.

The central element here is this unhinged lunatic that had no respect for innocent human life [who] was willing to make some grand statement. I don’t even know if he understands what statement he was trying to make.

– Arizona Rep. Trent Franks

“The central element here is this unhinged lunatic that had no respect for innocent human life [who] was willing to make some grand statement. I don’t even know if he understands what statement he was trying to make,” Franks said on CNN’s State of the Union. “There is really the central problem — a lack for respect for human life.”

Political Fallout In Congress

Lawmakers in both parties over the weekend avoided speculating about any political fallout from the shooting.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) decided to suspend legislative activity scheduled for this week, a move that at least temporarily prevents another potential escalation in the debate over the health care law. That issue has led to previous threats against Giffords and stirred much of the vitriol characterizing politics over the past two years.

Repealing the health care law is one of the Republicans’ top priorities in the new session. The measure is all but assured of passage in the Republican House and rejection by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

In a news conference Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the incident should remind his colleagues that their job “comes with a risk.” However, he said, “No act … must be allowed to stop us from our duty.”

Security personnel aren’t assigned to House members, and many lawmakers say they likely won’t scale back their public appearances. Often, though, large events in House members’ districts do include a local police presence.

Protecting lawmakers has become more difficult in the past decade, said William Pickle, a former Senate sergeant-at-arms. Appearing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, he said the availability of information on the Internet can guide would-be plotters — even as demands for lawmakers to make public appearances have increased.

“The very nature of being a public official is one where you have to press the flesh. You want as much exposure as you can possibly have. That’s not going to end,” Pickle said. “We are going to fall back into being complacent again. I hate to say that, but we will. We do not have the resources to protect 535 congressmen and senators.”

Pickle, also a retired Secret Service agent who once oversaw the protection of Vice President Al Gore, added that the threats are “impossible to stop. Until candidates stop campaigning, these things tragically are going to continue happening.”

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain people’s mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.

– Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

Feeling The Heat In Arizona

Some Arizona politicians from both parties say the incident demonstrates the need to defuse their state’s highly charged discourse.

The health care overhaul has been a flashpoint for Giffords’ constituents. In August 2009, when opponents of the health care bill held demonstrations across the nation, a protester at one of Giffords’ events was removed by police when a pistol he had holstered under his armpit dropped to the floor.

Last March, after the bill passed — with Giffords’ support — the windows of her Tucson office were broken or shot out by vandals. Similar acts of vandalism against other members of Congress were also reported, including a controversial allegation that a Tea Party demonstrator spat on an African-American congressman while other demonstrators shouted racial epithets. Tea Party leaders have challenged those claims.

But in Arizona, the most divisive issue has been immigration. Arizona is home to many of the staunchest opponents of citizenship for illegal immigrants. It also has the nation’s toughest law aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat and friend of Giffords, lambasted his home state on Saturday as “the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

“When you look at unbalanced people,” Dupnik said, referring to accused shooter Jared Lee Loughner, “how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain people’s mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”

Last year, Dupnik vowed that his deputies wouldn’t enforce the state’s new immigration law, calling it “racist” and “unnecessary.”

Also last year, Dupnik accused Tea Party activists of bigotry and stifling rational debate on immigration — adding that, “We didn’t have a Tea Party until we had a black president.”

Arizona Tea Party leaders vehemently denied Dupnik’s accusations and noted that they didn’t take a public position on the immigration law. On Saturday, local Tea Party leaders released statements expressing condolences to the shooting victims’ families. They also sought to distance their groups from any suggestion that Loughner was a Tea Party activist or that his attack was politically motivated.

Giffords narrowly won a third term in November against Jesse Kelly, a Republican backed by the Tea Party. Last June, Kelly held an event promoted with the message: “Get on Target for Victory in November … Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office … Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

“They’re jumping to this conclusion that it has to do with [Giffords’] hotly contested Congressional race,” Allyson Miller, a founder of Pima County Tea Party Patriots, told the website TalkingPointsMemo. “Well, apparently, from what I’ve seen so far … it’s looking like that’s not the case.”

Miller and other Tea Party leaders said they won’t change their aggressive tactics in the wake of the shootings.

The Cross Hairs Controversy

During the midterm elections, Giffords and other Democratic House candidates were featured on the website of Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs over their districts. Giffords, disturbed at the reference, said at the time, “When people do that, they have got to realize there’s consequences to that.”

In a Sunday interview with talk radio host Tammy Bruce, Rebecca Mansour, who works for Palin’s PAC, said the images of cross hairs weren’t intended to evoke violence: “We never, ever, ever intended it to be gun sights,” she said.

The images were removed from the website this weekend.

On Sunday, President Obama ordered flags at federal buildings to be flown at half-staff. He postponed his trip to a General Electric facility in New York scheduled for Tuesday.

He also called on the country to join him Monday at 11 a.m. ET in observing a moment of silence for the shooting victims.

“It will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer or reflection, keeping the victims and their families closely at heart,” the president said in a statement.

January 7, 2011

The 25 Weirdest Interview Questions of 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 4:50 pm
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That might sound like a ridiculous question, but to a job candidate—at least one reportedly applying for a job at Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS – News) — it might actually be an important one.

Glassdoor, a job-posting and community site for job-seekers, has compiled a list of the oddest interview questions of 2010, and that zinger—reportedly from Goldman—wins the number one slot. “Interviews can be an extremely nerve wracking experience, and by shedding light on the process we hope to give job seekers a leg up in their next interview,” says Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor.

Glassdoor combed through 80,000 interview questions shared by job candidates on its site to find the wackiest queries. Glassdoor is not able to independently verify that these questions were actually asked, or who asked them.

[See the Most Common Job Interview Mistakes]

BNET contacted all of the companies who made top 25, and among those who responded, none were able to confirm the origin of the questions. But none of them denied that the questions had been used, either (though some said these questions were not part of a standard set used by all interviewers), and some even offered a possible explanation as to what kind of answer the interviewer was after.

Think you’re prepared for your next interview? Well, if you can answer these, you probably are:

1. If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?

2. How many ridges are there around a quarter? (Reportedly from Deloitte)

3. What is the philosophy of martial arts? (A spokesperson for Aflac (NYSE: AFL – News), where this question was used, says she hopes the candidate quoted Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970s TV show Kung Fu: “I seek not to know the answers, but to understand the questions.”)

4. Explain to me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years (Reportedly from Boston Consulting)

5. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are (Reportedly from Capital One (NYSE: COF – News))

6. How many basketballs can you fit in this room? (Reportedly from Google (NasdaqGS: GOOG – News))

7. Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required? (Reportedly from Bloomberg LP)

8. If you could be any superhero, who would it be? (Reportedly from AT&T (NYSE: T – News))

9. You have a birthday cake and have exactly three slices to cut it into eight equal pieces. How do you do it? (Reportedly from Blackrock Portfolio Management (NYSE: BLK – News))

10. Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum number of guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint “higher” or “lower” for each guess you make? (Reportedly from Facebook)

11. If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner? (Reportedly from Amazon (NasdaqGS: AMZN – News))

12. An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents. How much is a pear? (Reportedly from Epic Systems)

13. There are three boxes. One contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of its box. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly? (Reportedly from Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL – News))

14. How many traffic lights are in Manhattan? (Reportedly from Argus Information and Advisory Services)

15. You are in a dark room with no light. You have 19 grey socks and 25 black socks. What are the chances you will get a matching pair? (Reportedly from Convergex)

16. What do wood and alcohol have in common? (Reportedly from Guardsmark)

17. How do you weigh an elephant without using a weigh machine? (Reportedly from IBM (NYSE: IBM – News))

18. You have 8 pennies. Seven weigh the same, but one weighs less. You also have a judges scale. Find the penny that weighs less in three steps. (Reportedly from Intel (NasdaqGS: INTC – News))

19. Why do you think only a small portion of the population makes over $150,000? (Reportedly from New York Life)

20. You are in charge of 20 people. Organize them to figure out how many bicycles were sold in your area last year. (Reportedly from Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB – News))

21. How many bottles of beer are [consumed] in the city [in a] week? (Reportedly from Nielsen)

22. What’s the square root of 2000? (Reportedly from UBS (NYSE: UBS – News))

23. A train leaves San Antonio for Houston at 60 mph. Another train leaves Houson for San Antonio at 80 mph. Houston and San Antonio are 300 miles apart. If a bird leaves San Antonio at 100 mph, and turns around and flies back once it reaches the Houston train, and continues to fly between the two, how far will it have flown when they collide? (Reportedly from USAA)

24. How are M&Ms made? (Reportedly from USBank)

25. What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle? (This question comes from Volkswagen (Stuttgart: VOW.SG – News). A spokeswoman for the company tells BNET while the question is certainly not standard, the company’s business analysts often have to take over and manage projects started by other people, so this question may have been a manager’s attempt to see how a job candidate would run a project they ‘inherited.’)

Surprisingly, it really is possible to hit these questions out of the park. In our next post, we’ll show you how. In the meantime, what was the weirdest interview question you were asked, and how did you answer it?

January 5, 2011

Can You Be Addicted to Foods? By RONI CARYN RABIN Marilyn Barbone

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 11:01 pm
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Many people tend to think that all obese people have to do to solve their problems is eat less and move more. Alcoholics, on the other hand, need treatment.

But are the two disorders really all that different? Is it possible that eating in today’s sweet and salty fast-food world is actually somewhat, well, addictive? Could people with a predilection to abusing alcohol and drugs just as easily abuse food?

A study published in The Archives of General Psychiatry this week is not the first to examine the neurobiological similarities between behaviors that drive obesity and those that drive substance abuse. The researchers, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, examined two large surveys of nationally representative samples of American adults questioned about alcoholism in their families. Each included about 40,000 adults; one survey was carried out in 1991 and 1992; the other was done a decade later, in 2001 and 2002.

The people surveyed were asked whether a relative had “been an alcoholic or problem drinker at any time in his/her life,” a question repeated for several types of relative — mother, father, brother, sister, half-sibling and children. Participants also reported their own weight and height, so body mass index could be calculated (B.M.I. is a calculation of weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, and a result of 30 or more is considered obese).

The first survey, from the early 1990s, found no link between a family history of alcoholism and obesity. “There was an almost perfect overlap between the B.M.I. distribution of people without a family history of alcoholism and people with a family history of alcoholism,” said Richard A. Grucza, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University and lead author of the new paper.

Ten years later the survey told a different story. In 2001 and 2002, adults with a family history of alcoholism were 30 to 40 percent more likely to be obese than those with no alcoholism in the family. Women were at particularly high risk: they were almost 50 percent more likely to be obese if there was family alcoholism than if there wasn’t. (Men were 26 percent more likely to be obese.)

Why the change over time? Dr. Grucza says our so-called obesigenic, or obesity-inducing, food environment has changed in the decade between the two surveys. The most likely culprit, he said, “is the nature of the food we eat, and its tendency to appeal to the sorts of reward systems, which are the parts of the brain implicated in addiction.”

Certain foods — loaded with sugar, salt and fat and specially formulated to appeal to consumers — might be cues that trigger overeating in people with the predisposition for addiction, appealing to the primitive reward centers of the brain, and reinforcing the addictive behavior. These types of foods, which the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. David Kessler has called “hyperpalatable,” may be more reinforcing of overeating than, say, green vegetables, Dr. Grucza said, and they’re more commonly and easily available than they were in the past.

In his book “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler describes how these highly palatable foods — the kind served at fast-food and chain restaurants — change brain chemistry, triggering a neurological response that stimulates people to crave more food, even if they’re not hungry. The sense some people have that they cannot control their intake may in fact be true, he argues, because these rich, sweet and fatty foods stimulate the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center. In the process, they rewire the brain, so that the dopamine pathways light up even at the thought of eating these foods.

Other explanations for the increased obesity among relatives of alcoholics are possible, however. For example, it may be that people from families with alcoholism are more susceptible to stress generally, or to suffer from underlying depression that leads them to drink or overeat.

No single gene is responsible for making someone obese or alcoholic, Dr. Grucza said. But people who eat or drink excessively may share critical characteristics like lack of impulse control and the inability to stop once they get started, a sort of “missing stop signal,” he said. Stress is also implicated in both behaviors.

“The notion of alcoholism being a disease can be oversimplified,” Dr. Grucza said. “At some point, it’s a behavior and a choice. It’s just that some people are more vulnerable to the effect of that choice than others. I think the same is probably true of overeating — some people just don’t have the predisposition to find certain kinds of food that pleasurable, or to eat that much.”

Meet a former professional liar

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 5:22 pm
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Clancy Martin is a tenured philosophy professor who used to sell luxury jewelry… and he wasn’t very honest about it.

The jewelry business — like many other businesses, especially those that depend on selling — lends itself to lies. It’s hard to make money selling used Rolexes as what they are, but if you clean one up and make it look new, suddenly there’s a little profit in the deal. Grading diamonds is a subjective business, and the better a diamond looks to you when you’re grading it, the more money it’s worth — as long as you can convince your customer that it’s the grade you’re selling it as. Here’s an easy, effective way to do that: First lie to yourself about what grade the diamond is; then you can sincerely tell your customer “the truth” about what it’s worth.

As I would tell my salespeople: If you want to be an expert deceiver, master the art of self-deception. People will believe you when they see that you yourself are deeply convinced. It sounds difficult to do, but in fact it’s easy — we are already experts at lying to ourselves. We believe just what we want to believe. And the customer will help in this process, because she or he wants the diamond — where else can I get such a good deal on such a high-quality stone? — to be of a certain size and quality. At the same time, he or she does not want to pay the price that the actual diamond, were it what you claimed it to be, would cost. The transaction is a collaboration of lies and self-deceptions.

December 29, 2010 Looking back at the Great Recession

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 6:06 am
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Some people use the end of December as an opportunity for a retrospective on the year. But I decided to take a look back at the last three years, by way of updating some comparisons I made in April 2009 between the Great Recession and the average characteristics of other postwar recessions.

My inspiration at the time came from Bill McBride (as my better inspirations often do). Bill had commented on a typical pattern in recessions that I summarized using the figure below.

Average cumulative change in 100 times the natural log of real GDP or its respective component beginning from the business cycle peak for the 10 recessions between 1947 and 2001. Horizontal axis denotes quarters after the peak.
rec_avg_dec_10.gif

The horizontal axis indicates the number of quarters since the start of the recession. The vertical axis gives the average percentage change (measured logarithmically) in real GDP or its components from the value at the business cycle peak, with the average calculated across the 10 U.S. recessions between 1947 and 2001. GDP reached a low point on average in the third quarter of the recession, at a value 1.6% below the peak, and was back to its pre-recession value after 5 quarters. Consumption spending tended to be more stable, often showing no dip at all. Investment spending has always been one of the more volatile components of real GDP, with housing construction down 8% at the trough, but typically rebounding to make a positive contribution a year after the recession began. Business purchases of structures and equipment were on average still 7% below peak even after GDP had returned to pre-recession levels.

The corresponding magnitudes are reported for the most recent recession in the figure below. Note that a change in scale is necessary for both the horizontal and vertical axis in order to accommodate the fact that the last recession was significantly longer and deeper than normal. Real GDP was down more than 4% at the low point and had still not returned to its pre-recession value after 2-3/4 years, though presumably the 2010:Q4 numbers to be reported at the end of January will finally put us back to a new high. The substantial and prolonged decline in overall consumption spending was also unusual. But the real outlier was housing, which was still making a new low 11 quarters after the recession started at a value almost 50% (logarithmically) below its level when the recession started.

Cumulative change in 100 times the natural log of real GDP or its respective component from the most recent business cycle peak. Horizontal axis denotes quarters after 2007:Q4.
rec_07_09_dec_10.gif

This is not to say that housing alone was responsible for the recession. Although the drop in percentage terms has been pretty spectacular, new home construction had been a relatively modest share of total spending to begin with. Home construction (quoted at a real annual rate) fell by $190 billion between 2007:Q4 and 2009:Q2, whereas real GDP fell by $554 billion.

With home sales bumping along the lowest levels on record, it’s hard to believe they could keep going lower. And any improvement, even to almost-but-not-quite record lows, would allow this sector to start making a positive contribution to GDP growth.

Source: Calculated Risk
nhs_dec_10.jpg

Of course, that’s also what I thought last summer.

But fortunately, this time I see that Bill McBride agrees with me.

Quarterly percent change (at an annual rate) of real GDP, 1947:Q2 to 2010:Q3, and three of its components. Data source: BEA Table 1.1.3. Shaded areas denote NBER recession dates.
gdp_dyn_dec_10.gif

Posted by James Hamilton at December 29, 2010 05:58 AM

Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 5:46 am
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ROSLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools.
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Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Sixth grade students Kaitlyn Zmek, left, and Madison Justice with an iPad during class at Pinnacle Peak Elementary School in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.

As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.

“It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” said Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn who now posts all his course materials online.

Technological fads have come and gone in schools, and other experiments meant to rev up the educational experience for children raised on video games and YouTube have had mixed results. Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically.

At a time when school districts are trying to get their budgets approved so they do not have to lay off teachers or cut programs, spending money on tablet computers may seem like an extravagance.

And some parents and scholars have raised concerns that schools are rushing to invest in them before their educational value has been proved by research.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”

But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses.

“If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later,” said Mr. Reiff, who said he now used an application that includes all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

Roslyn administrators also said their adoption of the iPad, for which the district paid $56,250 for the initial 75 (32-gigabyte, with case and stylus), was advancing its effort to go paperless and cut spending. In Millburn, N.J., students at South Mountain Elementary School have used two iPads purchased by the parent-teacher organization to play math games, study world maps and read “Winnie the Pooh.” Scott Wolfe, the principal, said he hoped to secure 20 more iPads next school year to run apps that, for instance, simulate a piano keyboard on the screen or display constellations based on a viewer’s location.

“I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” Mr. Wolfe said.

The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million; 300 went to Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, or enough for all 23 teachers and half of the students to use at the same time.

More than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants totaling $450,000. The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative that has replaced history and Advanced Placement biology textbooks at 11 schools. And six middle schools in four California cities (San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno and Riverside) are teaching the first iPad-only algebra course, developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Even kindergartners are getting their hands on iPads. Pinnacle Peak School in Scottsdale, Ariz., converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads — named the iMaginarium — that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal put it, “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.

ROSLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools.
Related

*
Times Topic: iPad

Enlarge This Image
Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Sixth grade students Kaitlyn Zmek, left, and Madison Justice with an iPad during class at Pinnacle Peak Elementary School in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Readers’ Comments

Share your thoughts.

* Post a Comment »
* Read All Comments (193) »

A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.

As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.

“It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” said Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn who now posts all his course materials online.

Technological fads have come and gone in schools, and other experiments meant to rev up the educational experience for children raised on video games and YouTube have had mixed results. Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically.

At a time when school districts are trying to get their budgets approved so they do not have to lay off teachers or cut programs, spending money on tablet computers may seem like an extravagance.

And some parents and scholars have raised concerns that schools are rushing to invest in them before their educational value has been proved by research.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”

But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses.

“If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later,” said Mr. Reiff, who said he now used an application that includes all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

Roslyn administrators also said their adoption of the iPad, for which the district paid $56,250 for the initial 75 (32-gigabyte, with case and stylus), was advancing its effort to go paperless and cut spending. In Millburn, N.J., students at South Mountain Elementary School have used two iPads purchased by the parent-teacher organization to play math games, study world maps and read “Winnie the Pooh.” Scott Wolfe, the principal, said he hoped to secure 20 more iPads next school year to run apps that, for instance, simulate a piano keyboard on the screen or display constellations based on a viewer’s location.

“I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” Mr. Wolfe said.

The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million; 300 went to Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, or enough for all 23 teachers and half of the students to use at the same time.

More than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants totaling $450,000. The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative that has replaced history and Advanced Placement biology textbooks at 11 schools. And six middle schools in four California cities (San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno and Riverside) are teaching the first iPad-only algebra course, developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Even kindergartners are getting their hands on iPads. Pinnacle Peak School in Scottsdale, Ariz., converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads — named the iMaginarium — that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal put it, “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.

Where to Draw a Line on Ethics By EDWARD L. GLAESER Today’s Economist

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 5:42 am
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Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard and the author of the forthcoming book “Triumph of the City.”

Last week, The New York Times reported that “faced with a run of criticism, including a popular movie, leaders of the American Economic Association, the world’s largest professional society for economists, founded in 1885, are considering a step that most other professions took a long time ago — adopting a code of ethical standards.”

As the American Economic Association begins its annual convention in Denver this week, should creating an ethical code for economists be at the top of its agenda?

Economists are no purer than anyone else, and I share the view of my fellow Economix blogger Nancy Folbre that we all have room to become better people. But I’m skeptical that the A.E.A. is well suited to arbitrate the ethics of the economics profession.

In one area, however, the A.E.A. can act productively: It can create clear conflict-of-interest disclosure rules for its prestigious journals.

The film “Inside Job” raised disturbing questions about whether economists who regularly wrote or opined on various policy debates failed to report relevant background information, such as board memberships or consulting arrangements. The accusations are serious, and it seems clear that the profession has been carelessly cavalier about conflicts of interest.

As individuals, most of us could do with higher moral standards, but what are the appropriate institutional remedies?

It would be nice to think that the American Economic Association could lay down a code of ethics that would solve everything, but that would be a vast institutional overreach. The biggest problem with that approach is that the A.E.A. is not a licensing or accrediting association, like the American Bar Association.

The A.E.A. publishes journals, organizes an annual meeting and gives out awards, such as the John Bates Clark Medal. Membership in the A.E.A. is not selective, and many economists choose not to join, without much harm to their professional reputation (I think I’ve let my own membership lapse).

Moreover, the economists who are elected to lead the A.E.A. are not chosen for their expertise in ethical matters. It is hard to see how they would be well positioned to draw up ethical codes.

Furthermore, were the A.E.A. to engage with ethics, highly contentious issues would arise, such as the ethics of giving advice to non-democratic states. Until “Inside Job,” the most serious ethical debate that I know of within the profession was over advising Chile’s Pinochet regime.

One view was that providing advice to any regime that abused human rights was wrong. Another view was that providing economic advice was ethical, because it would improve the lives of the people living under the regime.

If the A.E.A. took either view on this thorny topic, the organization would have weakened itself dramatically, by creating conflict and alienating a significant fraction of its members. Another danger, which seems more likely, is that it might craft an excessively mild code of conduct that angers no one but sets too low a bar.

That might be worse than no code of conduct at all, providing shelter to people who engage in inappropriate behavior but assert they are abiding by the A.E.A. code.

However, the A.E.A. journals are a different matter. Current events have made clear that academic publications need disclosure rules as stringent as those applied by news organizations.

The A.E.A. is not only within its rights to issue ethical guidelines for publications, including the American Economic Review – good management demands that it do so. Requiring the disclosure of any relevant conflicts on the first page of an article seems like a sensible starting point.

If the A.E.A. takes the lead on disclosure rules for its journals, the professions’ other publications are likely to follow suit. I certainly wish that we had followed such a policy during my 10 years editing the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

What about disclosure in other contexts, such as non-refereed publications, speeches or comments to reporters? In these cases, universities – not the American Economic Association – are the natural ethical authority. (Full disclosure: I am just starting to serve on Harvard’s universitywide Standing Committee on Individual Financial Conflict of Interest).

Universities have the resources to develop ethical guidelines and the power to enforce them. They are the employers of academic economists, and ethical lapses damage them, too. They are the natural institutional guardians of their employees’ professional behavior.

The American Economic Association has successfully operated for 125 years, and part of its success comes from staying above the fray. Its primary purpose is to encourage the exchange of ideas through meetings and journals. It can and should regulate those journals better, but it doesn’t have the authority to try to regulate other aspects of economists’

What’s QE2 accomplishing? Jan 4th 2011, 16:34 by R.A. | WASHINGTON

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 5:20 am
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BUTTONWOOD continues his scepticism of the value of the Federal Reserve’s new asset purchases in a post citing a study by David Ranson of Wainwright Economics. Mr Ranson has conducted a basic analysis tracking growth and inflation between 1950 and 2007, relative to change in the monetary base. He finds that growth is higher in years with slower monetary base growth, and Buttonwood concludes:

QE just expands claims on wealth, not wealth itself, and thus does not really help the economy.

As you might expect, I don’t find this particularly persuasive. For one thing, the monetary base doesn’t move off trend that much, and when it does its typically due to countercyclical Fed action:

The base drops as the Fed tries to cool an overheating economy, rises as the Fed tries to perk up a lagging economy, and soars when crisis strikes. It should be obvious that growth is generally the response to, rather than the cause, of an expectation of slowing growth.

The other significant point to make is that the changes in the monetary base are not ends in themselves, so far as the Fed is concerned. The Fed’s goals concern employment and inflation. And its actions influence those variables by their relation to public expectations. If the Fed observes that changes in the monetary base appear to be consistent with falling inflation expectations (which act as a proxy for growth expectations), then it will adjust the pace at which the the base is changing (and this could mean a slower decline just as much as a faster rise). That, in turn, will feed through to expectations.

That’s precisely what the Fed has done, and it has quite clearly worked. Inflation expectations have gone from falling last summer to rising. Growth expectations have risen sharply. And real economic variables are improving across the board. At this point, I think critics can still argue that QE2 could bring with it negative side effects (the most realistic of which, in my view, is the impact on emerging markets). But the case for QE2 impotency looks all but dead

How the Web Will Make Winners and Losers in 2011 See full article from DailyFinance: http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/five-trends-that-will-shape-the-web-in-2011/19785130/?icid=sphere_copyright

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 5:13 am
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Success on the Web often boils down to the ability to tap into trends just as they’re emerging. The makers of Angry Birds wouldn’t have had the hottest game of 2010 without the mainstream success of smartphones and iPads, and Groupon might not have grown as fast had the weak economy not pushed consumer demand for online discounts.

A year ago, hardly anyone was expecting either Angry Birds or Groupon to be among the rising stars of 2010. But the underlying trends that powered their success were plain enough. So while it’s nearly impossible to predict with much accuracy which companies will be the hits of 2011, here are five trends that may help separate the year’s winners from the losers.

1. Big Advertisers Go Social. Facebook’s estimated $2 billion in revenue is a fraction of the $26 billion in online ad spending. But it’s certain to grow larger as big advertisers spend more of their budgets on social networks — a market that for the time being, at least, Facebook dominates.

The most remarkable thing about that shift is that big brands like Coca-Cola (KO) don’t really understand why social network ads work, but they’re plunging in anyway. It’s enough to see that Coca-Cola is liked by 21.6 million people, and that click-through rates rise once a brand is liked by someone’s friends. Even though there’s still no surefire formula for effective Facebook advertising, deep-pocketed companies are learning to love being “liked.”

2. Local Gets Aggressive. The changes 2011 will bring will affect more than just the big advertisers — they’ll create new incentives for small, independent businesses to advertise online as well. E-coupon sites like Groupon are just the first wave. The mobile Web is ideal for helping mom-and-pop shops set up features to entice loyal customers into online relationships while reaching out to potential new customers.

However, there’s a catch: Local doesn’t just mean small businesses. As Groupon has grown, it has started offering more deals from big companies, moving past the small businesses it built its initial success on. Local Web advertising could quickly become a platform for big national chains, and the mom-and-pop entrepreneurs could get lost in the shuffle.

3. The Introverts Speak Up. With more than 500 million members, Facebook’s growth seems assured for some time. But its growth may reach saturation at some point. For every active Facebook member, there’s a holdout who’s concerned about privacy. For every new member who signs up, an old member stops signing in frequently because the site has lost its allure.

So social networks need to evolve to make the Web introverts — those who choose not to be visible on social networks — feel comfortable about signing on. If Facebook can’t preserve its members’ privacy in a way that appeals to these holdouts — or if it stops adding new twists to make its site an everyday draw — it will open up opportunities for rivals to eat into its market share.

4. Privacy Becomes a Corporate Priority. It seems like hardly a month passes without some news of regulators taking a hard look at Web privacy practices. Also growing common are class actions like the one filed against Apple (AAPL) last week, which claimed a breach of user privacy on iPhone apps.

Companies won’t stop collecting data, but they will have to take convincing measures to satisfy regulators, privacy advocates and, ultimately, consumers that they aren’t misusing the data they’re collecting. The problem is, all that information is crucial to their business models: The more data they collect, the more money they stand to make. Finding a balance will be a complex but essential task in 2011.

5. The Web Bubble Deflates. Now that Goldman Sachs has given Facebook a $50 billion valuation — 25 times the company’s estimated 2010 revenue — it’s hard to argue the Web isn’t in a bubble anymore. But this bubble seems contained to the private markets, and the disconnect with valuations in the public market is growing.

Sponsored Links
All it could take is one high-profile Web company braving the IPO process to change this. After all, it’s nearly impossible to short a stock in the private markets, but it’s done all the time in the public markets. An IPO — whether for Zynga, Groupon or Facebook — would almost certainly see a speculative surge early on. But any disappointment in the financial data would reverse the rally, sending shock waves throughout the venture capital market.

Of course, precisely when a bubble will end is one of the hardest things to predict. But though it will be somewhat painful, a correction would be a welcome event sooner rather than later. The longer it takes for the Web bubble to deflate, the more destructive the correction will be when it comes.

See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/gsrW9z

January 4, 2011

Wary Investors Turn to Lie Pros

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 7:42 pm

Deception detectors find a new niche.

When screening a fund manager, investors like to see experience and a consistent record or returns. Elizabeth Prial, however, looks for dilated pupils and uneven breathing.

Ms. Prial, a psychologist and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, has spent most of her career looking for lies in the statements of mafia hitmen and terrorists. Now, she is on the hunt for the next Bernard Madoff, selling her deception-detection skills to institutional investors and others with large pools of money who want to know if prospective fund managers are telling the truth.
It’s usually very clear,” she said. “I’m 90% confident in most of the things that I can see.”

Amid the rush to fortify the nation’s still-rickety regulations in the wake of the financial crisis, affluent investors are turning to behavioral specialists, looking to find things in faces and phrases that may not be revealed in financial statements.

J.J. Newberry, a lauded California-based human lie detector, has trained almost a dozen investment professionals in workshops typically reserved for police officers and government agents.

Mark Frank, another deception detection consultant who teaches at the University of Buffalo, said in recent months he has repeatedly turned down requests to analyze subjects for Wall Street firms
Eccentric screening techniques are nothing new to Wall Street. Seigmund Warburg, founder of the giant London-based investment bank S. G. Warburg & Co., was notorious for subjecting customers and employees to psychological tests. He was particularly diligent about evaluating hand-writing samples of would-be workers, in attempt to uncover character flaws.

Detecting Deception

There is no universal movement or “Pinocchio’s nose” that denotes a lie. But here are several things that people known as “deception detection” professionals look for when examining a money manager’s truthfulness.

• Pupils changing size:
Often corresponds to extreme emotion, including fear.

• Irregular breathing:
Can flag nervousness and agitation.

• Microexpressions:
Split-second facial expressions that portray various emotions (despair, fear or anger).

• Crossing legs:
Liars typically try to distance themselves from an untruth; crossed legs can be a manifestation of that.

• Motionlessness:
Often caused by the extreme focus associated with telling and maintaining a lie.

• Quick verbal responses:
Often indicates a premeditated, scripted statement.

Ms. Prial, 43 years old, has assessed almost 50 fund managers on behalf of prospective investors. Though she still consults for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, her private sector employer is Insite Security, a New York-based firm that also sells standard due diligence and workplace disaster-preparedness plans. Insite’s clients — pension funds, affluent families and private-equity companies — pay about $10,000 a meeting for the service.

Ms. Prial, slim, dark-haired and unassuming, is introduced as an associate and sits quietly while the would-be fund manager is interviewed by Insite’s client. She watches and listens for the myriad subtle signs that researchers have linked to lying: facial twitches, changes in breathing tempo, and shifts in language patterns.

Professional human lie detectors said that people are uncomfortable with untruths and will show that in certain ways, such as microexpressions — brief flashes of fear or other emotions in a face — or concealing motions like crossing one’s legs or touching one’s face. Lies in speech are often flagged by a switch from the first person to the third person, as when a subject suddenly begins speaking on behalf of “the firm” or “the team.”

“The most accurate indicator is the pupil size changing,” Ms. Prial said. “If you can be close enough to see that, then you’re golden.”

But deceptive “tells” are not universal, which is where the psychology comes into play. Human lie detectors said the practice is most effective when the analyst can establish a pattern of behavior and then flag transgressions from that pattern.

“I can’t say ‘Oh, when they scratch their nose, they’re lying,’ ” Ms. Prial said. “It’s more like: ‘What does this person look like when they’re telling the truth, and when do those characteristics disappear?'”

Traditional polygraphers and investigators employ many of the same interviewing techniques as Ms. Prial. Skeptics, however, abound. A federal initiative that trained about 3,000 airport screeners in similar techniques has sparked debate. In a May report, the Government Accountability Office called into question the effectiveness and the scientific foundation of deception-detection techniques.

[More from WSJ.com: Rewards Cards Lead to More Debt]

Jim Roth, founder of corporate intelligence firm The Langley Group, said the results can be inconsistent and less than telling.

“If you did nothing but deception detection, I don’t think it gets you very far,” he said. “In my world, I would characterize it as a small tool.”

Mr. Roth said straightforward analysis can be more useful. When investigating a company for potential weaknesses, his firm looks for less subjective things: an exodus in the ranks of middle management, a spike in the ratio of accounts receivable to revenue, and unusual share sales by top executives.

Even professional lie detectors say that their work is fallible. Humans lack “a Pinocchio’s nose,” and some people simply can’t be read with accuracy.

Insite wouldn’t reveal its clients, and Ms. Prial doesn’t keep any written record of her work. Christopher Falkenberg, a former Secret Service agent who founded Insite, said the value of the service is in identifying “hot spots,” areas where some more probing might reveal a lie or information that a subject is trying to conceal.

Mr. Falkenberg said the idea to hire Ms. Prial was triggered by the fraud cases against Mr. Madoff and Allen Stanford, who slipped by formal federal inquiries many times.

“It occurred to me that had the victims called us, we would have utilized very standard due diligence techniques,” he said. “But I can’t tell you that we would have been able to find the very nuanced covers that were evidence of these scams.”

[More from WSJ.com: Hard Call: When to Shut Down a Bank]

Ms. Prial, a relatively passive mutual-fund investor, is still getting used to the ways of Wall Street, after years spent analyzing criminals and terrorists.

People on Wall Street are better liars, she said. Fund managers she screens are more self-aware than common criminals or terrorists and thus more skilled at covering up their deceptions, she added.

Ms. Prial also said many honest investment professionals have behaviors that point to narcissism, a trait that often goes hand-in-hand with deception. She has had to learn that an inflated sense of self isn’t a suspicious anomaly on Wall Street

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