Sunday, October 28, 2007

Web 2.0 Mining: Analyzing Social Media

Abstract: "Social media systems such as blogs, photo and link sharing sites, wikis and on-line forums are estimated to produce up to one third of new Web content. One thing that sets these ”Web 2.0” sites apart from traditional Web pages and resources is that they are intertwined with other forms of networked data. Their standard hyperlinks are enriched by social networks, comments, trackbacks, advertisements, tags, RDF data and metadata. We describe recent work on building systems that analyse these emerging social media systems to recognize spam blogs, find opinions on topics, identify communities of interest, derive trust relationships, and detect influential bloggers." Source: Proceedings of the NSF Symposium on Next Generation of Data Mining and Cyber-Enabled Discovery for Innovation [via UMBC eBiquity]

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Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities

Abstract: "Microblogging is a new form of communication in which users can describe their current status in short posts distributed by instant messages, mobile phones, email or the Web. Twitter, a popular microblogging tool has seen a lot of growth since it launched in October, 2006. In this paper, we present our observations of the microblogging phenomena by studying the topological and geographical properties of Twitter’s social network. We find that people use microblogging to talk about their daily activities and to seek or share information. Finally, we analyze the user intentions associated at a community level and show how users with similar intentions connect with each other." Source: UMBC eBiquity Research Group consists of faculty and students from the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (CSEE) of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), located in Baltimore MD.

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Sustainable Homeownership – Market and Policy Implications for Communities

From the Press Release: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s National Housing Initiative, HOGAR, in partnership with NeighborWorks America, today released the findings of eight national focus groups with Latino-serving housing professionals and proposed its recommendations for policymakers, market players, and community advocates on how to prevent Latino home foreclosures. Source: Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute

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Teaching Economics Interactively: A Cannibal's Dinner Party

"This paper describes techniques that I use to teach economics principles "interactively". These techniques include classroom experiments and classroom clickers. The paper describes an experiment on market entry and gives examples of applications of classroom clickers. Clicker applications include the collection data about student preferences that can be used to construct demand curves and supply curves. Check on students' knowledge of central concepts. Play interactive games that illustrate economic concepts." Source: Ted C. Bergstrom, (October 26, 2007). Department of Economics, UCSB.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Parents, Teens and Technology

"Teens and their parents1 often have similar technology profiles in the gadgets they use and the frequency with which they use them. But teens are notably more likely than their parents to say that the internet and related technology has made their own lives easier: 89% of online teens say the internet and other devices in their lives like cell phones, iPods, and digital cameras make their lives easier, while 71% of their parents agree.

Furthermore, while a majority of parents with online teens still believe the internet is a beneficial factor in their children's lives, the number of parents who see the internet as a good thing for their children has declined since 2004.

At the same time, there has not been a corresponding increase in the percentage of parents who think the internet has been a bad thing for their children. Instead, more parents are neutral about the internet's impact, saying it has not had an effect on their child one way or the other. " Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project

Link to online report brief | Download report in pdf with topline questionnaire

Between Here and There: How Attached Are Latino Immigrants to Their Native Country?

"Most Latino immigrants maintain some kind of connection to their native country by sending remittances, traveling back or telephoning relatives, but the extent of their attachment varies considerably. Only one-in-ten (9%) do all three of these so-called transnational activities; these immigrants can be considered highly attached to their home country. A much larger minority (28%) of foreign-born Latinos is involved in none of these activities and can be considered to have a low level of engagement with the country of origin. Most Latino immigrants (63%) show moderate attachment to their home country; they engage in one or two of these activities."

"The Pew Hispanic Center's 2006 National Survey of Latinos collected data on a variety of transnational activities and a wide range of attitudes and beliefs. This report is based on a new analysis of that survey data, which for the first time examines the extent to which Latino immigrants with different characteristics maintain connections to their native lands and assesses how different levels of transnational activities are associated with an immigrant's views on key subjects. The analysis thus explores the question of whether maintaining connections to a country of origin is associated with more positive or negative views of the U.S., a greater or lesser sense of attachment to this country and a stronger or weaker sense of identity as an American." Source: Pew Hispanic Center

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Burma-U.S. Relations

"By the end of September 2007, the Burmese military regime had suppressed with force anti-regime protests that began in late August, escalated in midSeptember, and were led by Buddhist monks and pro-democracy activists. This drew new protests from the United States over the regime's abusive human rights record. According to human rights reports by the U.S. State Department and private organizations, Burma's poor record worsened in 2004, 2005, and 2006. These reports have laid out a familiar pattern of government and military abuses of civilians. As in the past, U.S. diplomatic initiatives in September 2007 did not prevent the regime's crackdown." Source: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

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U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States faced a challenge in enlisting the full support of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in counterterrorism. This effort raised short-term policy issues about how to elicit cooperation and how to address China's concerns about military action (Operation Enduring Freedom). Longer-term issues have concerned whether counterterrorism has strategically transformed bilateral relations and whether China's support has been valuable and not obtained at the expense of other U.S. interests. The extent of U.S.-China counterterrorism cooperation has been limited, but the tone and context of counterterrorism helped to stabilize -- even if it did not transform -- the closer bilateral relationship pursued by President George Bush since late 2001. China's military, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), has not participated in the counterterrorism coalition. Still, for almost four years after the attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush and other administration officials tended to praise the PRC's diplomatic and other support for the war against terrorism. Since 2005, however, U.S. concerns about China's extent of cooperation in counterterrorism have increased. In September 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick acknowledged that "China and the United States can do more together in the global fight against terrorism" after "a good start," in his policy speech that called on China to be a "responsible stakeholder" in the world. Source: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

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Mexico's Drug Cartels

"Mexico, a major drug producing and transit country, is the main foreign supplier of marijuana and a major supplier of methamphetamine to the United States. Although Mexico accounts for only a small share of worldwide heroin production, it supplies a large share of heroin consumed in the United States. An estimated 90% of cocaine entering the United States transits Mexico. Violence in the border region has affected U.S. citizens. More than 60 Americans have been kidnaped in Nuevo Laredo, and in July 2007, Mexican drug cartels reportedly threatened to kill a U.S. journalist covering drug violence in the border region. The United States and Mexico are reportedly negotiating a new counternarcotics initiative. Source: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World

"The practice of using a social network to establish and enhance relationships based on some common ground—shared interests, related skills, or a common geographic location—is as old as human societies, but social networking has flourished due to the ease of connecting on the Web. This OCLC membership report explores this web of social participation and cooperation on the Internet" Source: OCLC

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's Not Easy Being a Girl in a Man's World: The Daily Experience of Sexual Harassment for Adolescent Girls

"Girls experience sexual harassment every day in middle school. This harassment does not just affect a few girls- 90 percent of girls share this experience. More than half of all girls have been called a nasty or demeaning name or teased about their appearance by a male. Slightly fewer girls have been told a mean or embarrassing joke about their gender or sexuality. By high school, the harassment is more frequent and more extreme. By the end of high school, one-quarter of all girls have been teased, threatened, or bullied by a male and one-half have been touched or grabbed against their wishes by a male. These findings from a recent study (Leaper and Brown, 2007) of six hundred ethnically and geographically diverse middle school and high school girls highlight the difficult and complicated world girls learn to navigate as they enter adolescence." Source: UCLA Center for the Study of Women. CSW Update Newsletter.

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Global Rebalancing

"The global economic and financial picture is changing rapidly. A review of some of the key elements is in order, as the U.S. economy has slowed rapidly and the Federal Reserve has responded aggressively with rate cuts, while the Bank of England's tough policies pushed one of the United Kingdom's largest mortgage lenders, Northern Rock, to the brink of collapse as a bank run on that suddenly beleaguered institution ensued. Meanwhile, Japan, still the world's second-largest economy--though perhaps the least dynamic of the major ones--slipped into negative growth at a 1.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter after having initially reported growth over 2 percent. The rate-boost-obsessed Bank of Japan finally decided to stop raising rates, and, to add to the complexity of the picture, Japan's relatively new prime minister Shinzo Abe resigned, unable to provide the leadership sorely needed in a nation lacking economic and political direction." Source: Economic Outlook American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

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Seeing blue: American visions of the European Union

For six decades the United States has supported European integration, yet many Americans have an ambivalent attitude towards the European Union. American views of the EU influence transatlantic relations and shape options available to policymakers. Some Americans see the EU as the culmination of historic efforts to ensure peace, stability and democracy on the continent, while others consider the Union an elaborate scheme to create a rival to US hegemony. Still others dismiss the EU as irrelevant. While the US-EU relationship is less acrimonious than in 2003, there are still tensions in the relationship. Most of these are political, but some are structural. The political ones can be solved by changes in policies and policy-making personnel; the structural ones cannot. These have to be addressed and managed. The political issues concern different interpretations of interests among EU members and in the US. These are normal policy differences. On the structural side, there are differences in political institutions, economic strength and energy dependence. In the light of political and structural issues, how do Americans view the European Union and what effect do these perceptions have on transatlantic politics?
This Chaillot Paper explores American perspectives on the EU, particularly as a global strategic actor. Americans’ views of the EU do not simply run along party political lines; instead there is a complex range of opinion. This volume identifies and analyses different schools of thought. Building on this framework, the paper considers American views on themes ranging from the European Security and Defence Policy to European diplomatic engagement with China, Russia, and Iran, cooperation on global issues, and relations between the EU and NATO. The paper also considers transatlantic relations in the context of American electoral politics. Source: Institute for Security Studies

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Military expenditure in the three-year federal budget of the Russian Federation, 2008–10

"This Research Working Paper is an analysis of military expenditure in the new Russian budget for the period 2008-10, in which all military and security related spending has been subject to a degree of classification unprecedented in recent years." Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

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A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts

Facts about substance use among youth aged 12 to 17 are based on data from SAMHSA's 2006 National Survey on Drug Use & Health (NSDUH) and SAMHSA's 2005 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), and for clients under the age of 18 from SAMHSA's 2005 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS). Data are presented on first substance use, past year substance use, receipt of substance use treatment, and source of substance use treatment referrals "on an average day." Source: SAMHSA, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services

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Red Leaves and the Dirty Ground: The Cannibalism of Law and Economics

Abstract: William Faulkner's short story, Red Leaves, is a classic tale of cannibal, slave-and-plantation-owning Indians in the antebellum South. These Indians were figments of Faulkner's imagination that he used as a literary tool to critique the South -- and perhaps America. But Red Leaves is also a tale of economic theory, with these fictional Indians making a serious effort (in a fantastical setting) to analyze slavery and cannibalism from an economic perspective. My paper, prepared for the 4th Annual Indigenous Law Conference at Michigan State University College of Law, argues that Faulkner's stark portrayal of Indian people offers both a means of reconsidering Indian affairs policy and critiquing the emerging use of the law and economics method of study to analyze and even decide Indian law cases. Source: MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-11 Available at SSRN:

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Stanford teaches students how to develop Facebook applications, but is it worth the $2,500 in tuition?

Class at Stanford is full past overflowing. Students looking to cash in on popular social networking platform. Source: Fortune Magazine

Read full article online.

Beyond Myths: The Growth and Diversity of Asian American College Freshmen, 1971-2005

"The first-year student trends examined in this report help to address some common characterizations of Asian American students, particularly with respect to their educational success, that are often overstated and taken out of context. The examined trends do not support popular claims that Asian Americans are enjoying unprecedented, collective (or universal) academic success in U.S. higher education. The findings here suggest that Asian Americans still have to overcome a number of obstacles, such as levels of family income and financial aid, to earn a coveted spot in higher education. This report features data collected from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program's (CIRP) Freshman Survey. It is based on the 361,271 Asian/Asian American first-time full-time college students from 1971-2005, representing the largest compilation and analysis of data on Asian American college students ever undertaken." Source: UCLA

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Framing New Terrain: Older Adults and Higher Education

From the Executive Summary: "In 2004, 54.2 million people in the united states were between the ages of 55 and 79, constituting about 19 percent of the American population (u.s. census Bureau, 2004b). And that number is rising. recent surveys by AArP, civic Ventures, Merrill lynch, and other organizations indicate that a majority of adults in this age group plan to stay engaged in some form of work, community service, or learning activity— with obvious implications for higher education. How are colleges and universities adapting their policies and practices to meet these potential postsecondary needs for one-fifth of our nation? Reinvesting in the third Age: Older Adults and Higher education, the American council on education’s (Ace) two-year research project funded by Metlife Foundation, explores this question. this publication, Framing New Terrain, is the project’s first report. Based on an extensive review of research literature and conversations with higher education and other leaders, the report describes the changing demographics of adults aged 55 to 79, their motivations for participating in higher education, and the obstacles that prevent broader participation."
Source: American council on education

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The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States

"Dual enrollment programs enable high school students to enroll in college courses and earn college credit. Once limited to high-achieving students, such programs are increasingly seen as a means to support the postsecondary preparation of average-achieving students. Moreover, though dual enrollment programs typically have been reserved for academically-focused students, increasing numbers of career and technical education (CTE) programs are providing such opportunities to their students.

Despite the popularity and growth of dual enrollment programs, little is known about their efficacy. This report seeks to answer several questions regarding their effectiveness using rigorous quantitative methods. We examine the impact of dual enrollment participation for students in the State of Florida and in New York City. For both locations, we specifically examine postsecondary outcomes for participating CTE students; in Florida, we also examine the outcomes of dual enrollment participation for all students. We provide evidence that dual enrollment is a useful strategy for encouraging postsecondary success for all students, including those in CTE programs." Source: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

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Republican candidates stress immigration

Virginia Republicans campaigning to keep control of the General Assembly this year are vowing to crack down on illegal immigration. Out of the five states with state elections this November, illegal immigration is hottest as a campaign theme in Virginia, according to several political observers.

But the immigration question is also being raised on the campaign trail by candidates in the races for Kentucky and Louisiana governor and the Mississippi lieutenant governor’s contest. Candidates are capitalizing on voter anger over illegal immigration, especially after Congress failed this summer, for the second year in a row, to pass major immigration reforms. Source: Pew |

Link to online report

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Economic survey of Mexico

"Over the past decade, Mexico has made significant progress towards macroeconomic stability and has launched important structural reforms to further open the economy to trade and investment and improve the functioning of markets for goods and services as well as to develop the financial sector. These efforts have yielded relatively good performance. After a strong 2006, output growth is expected to be close to potential, between 3½ and 4% over the next two years. Potential GDP growth, however, is much too low to bridge the wide gap in living standards with wealthier OECD countries and tackle the still widespread poverty. To move the economy onto a higher and sustainable growth path, a renewed effort at reform on a broad front is required." Source: Organisation for Economic Development

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"Regulating Your Second Life: Defamation in Virtual Worlds"

"Although the issue of virtual harm has never been raised in real-world courts, virtual worlds like Second Life have become increasingly significant in terms of both time and money for their users. As such, it is important to develop theories of how the law may apply to and resolve disputes that originate in these worlds. This Note will therefore argue that because users have imported real-world concepts, specifically currency and economy, into the metaverse, it would behoove brick and mortar societies to provide for redress if a user suffers pecuniary loss in these worlds. This Note will also explore certain ambiguities inherent and unique to the virtual environment when traditional elements of defamation law are applied to it. Moreover, this Note will argue that real-world courts should be the proper forum in which to litigate defamation actions, where victims suffer pecuniary loss due to the fall of their reputations." Source: Brooklyn Law Review [via SSRN]

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North Korean Refugees in China and Human Rights Issues: International Response and U.S. Policy Options

"North Koreans have been crossing the border into China, many in search of refuge, since the height of North Korea's famine in the 1990s. The State Department estimates that 30,000-50,000 North Korean refugees currently live in China (some non-governmental organizations estimate the number is closer to 300,000) and believes those who are repatriated may face punishment ranging from a few months of "labor correction" to execution. A number of reports also document the difficult conditions faced by North Koreans who remain in China. The plight of the North Koreans focuses attention not only on those seeking refuge and their refugee status, but also points to the factors driving their decision to leave, primarily food shortages, deteriorating humanitarian conditions, and human rights violations. North Korea is generally characterized as one of the world's worst violators of human rights and religious freedom, an issue that some Members of Congress and interest groups say should assume greater importance in the formation of U.S. priorities towards North Korea. Congressional concern about human rights in North Korea and conditions faced by North Korean refugees led to the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA) in 2004. This report examines both the situation of North Korean refugees in China and human rights issues because they are frequently raised simultaneously, particularly in a congressional context. Although the issues surrounding those North Koreans seeking to leave their country and the situation for those who remain inside its borders pose different questions and may call for separate responses, both also focus on the nature of the regime in Pyongyang. Critics of the North Korean government have raised both issues together to put pressure on the regime, particularly when nuclear weapons program negotiations stalled. Some advocates decry the practice of linking refugee and human rights issues, claiming that the former calls for a quieter, cooperative approach, while the latter requires a more outspoken response to the North Korean government's practices. Although some policy experts insist that the United States has a moral imperative to stand up for the oppressed, others say that this creates obstacles in the nuclear disarmament negotiations. In 2007, the Bush Administration entered into bilateral talks with North Korea and linked the prospect of diplomatic relations and Pyongyang's re-entry into the international community with only the nuclear issue, leaving out human rights and refugee concerns. Nevertheless, North Korean human rights and refugee issues remain significant concerns and also have broader regional importance. China and South Korea want to avoid a massive outflow of refugees, which they believe could trigger the instability or collapse of North Korea. North Korean refugees seeking resettlement often transit through other Asian countries, raising diplomatic, refugee, and security concerns for those governments. South Korea, as the final destination of the vast majority of North Koreans, struggles to accommodate new arrivals and does not want to damage its relations with North Korea. This report will be updated as events warrant." Source: Congressional Research Service

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Veteran's History Project : Library of Congress

The United States Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000. The authorizing legislation (Public Law 106-380), sponsored by Representatives Ron Kind, Amo Houghton, and Steny Hoyer in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senators Max Cleland and Chuck Hagel in the U.S. Senate, received unanimous support and was signed into law by President William Jefferson Clinton on October 27, 2000.

"primary focus is on first-hand accounts of
U.S. Veterans from the following wars:

* World War I (1914-1920)
* World War II (1939-1946)
* Korean War (1950-1955)
* Vietnam War (1961-1975)
* Persian Gulf War (1990-1995)
* Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present)

In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are also invited to share their valuable stories."

The site has a database searchable by name, war, or branch of service.

Link to search site

Wall Street and Main Street: What Contributes to the Rise in the Highest Incomes?

Wall Street Journal Reports:
Income-Inequality Gap Widens
Boom in Financial Markets Parallels Rise in Share For Wealthiest Americans - Reported October 12, 2007.

The Tax Foundation supplies a Summary of recently released tax data.
Link to Summary
"This year's numbers show that both the income share earned by the top 1 percent and the tax share paid by the top 1 percent have reached all-time highs. In 2005, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 39.4 percent of all federal individual income taxes and earned 21.2 percent of adjusted gross income, both of which are significantly higher than 2004 when the top 1 percent earned 19 percent of AGI and paid 36.9 percent of federal individual income taxes."

WSJ Quotes Study by : Kaplan, Steven N. and Rauh, Joshua D.
"Wall Street and Main Street: What Contributes to the Rise in the Highest Incomes?"

Abstrect: "We consider how much of the top end of the income distribution can be attributed to four sectors – top executives of non-financial firms (Main Street); financial service sector employees from investment banks, hedge funds, private equity funds, and mutual funds (Wall Street); corporate lawyers; and professional athletes and celebrities. Non-financial public company CEOs and top executives do not represent more than 6.5% of any of the top AGI brackets (the top 0.1%, 0.01%, 0.001%, and 0.0001%). Individuals in the Wall Street category comprise at least as high a percentage of the top AGI brackets as non-financial executives of public companies. While the representation of top executives in the top AGI brackets has increased from 1994 to 2004, the representation of Wall Street has likely increased even more. While the groups we study represent a substantial portion of the top income groups, they miss a large number of high-earning individuals. We conclude by considering how our results inform different explanations for the increased skewness at the top end of the distribution. We argue the evidence is most consistent with theories of superstars, skill biased technological change, greater scale and their interaction." Source: Social Science Resource Network

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Africa’s missing billions: International arms flows and the cost of conflict

"Africa suffers enormously from conflict and armed violence. As well as the human tragedy, armed conflict costs Africa around $18bn per year, seriously derailing development. The most commonly used weapons in Africa’s conflicts are Kalashnikov assault rifles. The vast majority of these weapons and their ammunition – perhaps 95 per cent - come from outside Africa. To protect lives and livelihoods, the 2008 UN Group of Governmental Experts working on the Arms Trade Treaty must ensure swift progress towards a strong and effective Treaty. All governments have a role to play in ensuring its success." Source: Oxfam International

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Patriot Act national security letter ruling

"John Doe, American Civil Liberties Union, and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, v. Alberto Gonzales, Robert Mueller, et al., US District Court for the Southern District of New York, September 6, 2007 [ruling that national security letters demanding private information and imposing gag orders on recipients are unconstitutional without judicial review]." Source: ACLU [via U of Pittsburgh School of Law]

Download Full Text of opinion in pdf

Nation's Real Estate Slump Hits Wealthy Areas

"Public assessments of the nation's economy have fallen to a two-year low, and the nation's economic outlook remains relatively gloomy. In particular, faced with a steady stream of negative news about the U.S. housing market, Americans are substantially less inclined than they were even a few months ago to say they expect home prices to increase over the next few years. People living in areas with the most expensive homes and middle-income Americans are particularly likely to say that future home prices will decline." Source: Pew Research for People and the press.

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Burning Crosses, Hangman's Nooses, and the Like

"Almost half of the states outlaw cross burning with the intent to threaten as such. A few of these statutes cover the display of hangman's nooses and other symbols of intimidation as well. Moreover, the same misconduct also frequently falls under more general state prohibitions on coercion, terroristic threats, harassment, or hate crimes. Some of these laws feature a hate crime element without which conviction is not possible; others do not. In either case, there are obvious first amendment implications. The Supreme Court has explained that not all speech, particular expressive conduct, is protected by the First Amendment. However, in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, it held cross burning with the intent to annoy was protected and did not come within the "fighting words" category of unprotected speech. Shortly thereafter, in Black v. Virginia, the Court held that cross burning with the intent to convey a true threat was not protected. Some of the Justices noted another difference between the two cases: the ordinance in R.A.V. had a hate crime element -- the offense had to be motivated by racial or some other discriminatory animus; the statute in Black had no such element. In years since Black was announced, the lower courts have continued to recognize true threats as unprotected, but have also continued to analyze challenges to threat statutes under the First Amendment's overbreadth doctrine and the vagueness doctrine of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' due process clauses. These laws have generally survived such challenges, although an imprecisely worded statute has fallen victim to a vagueness attack upon occasion." Source: Congressional Research Service

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Spending by Employers on Health Insurance: A Data Brief

"To attract and maintain a skilled workforce, many businesses provide health insurance and other benefits for their employees. As the cost of health insurance rises, employers face a growing challenge paying for benefits while managing labor costs to succeed in a competitive market. All types of businesses report problems, including both small businesses and firms with thousands of employees and retirees. Despite concerns about the cost of benefits, small and large employers together provide health coverage for most Americans, about 60% of the population in 2006.1 But as the amount that employers pay for health insurance has been increasing -- both absolutely and as a share of labor costs -- the percent of the population covered has been decreasing. To describe employer contributions for health insurance, this report presents data from two employer surveys. The first, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, provides information on premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance. The second, from the Department of Labor, provides information on employer costs for employee compensation, including costs for wages and salaries, health insurance, and other benefits." Source: Congressional Research Service

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Regional Foundations for Internationalism in the Ancient Near East: The Case of Canaan

Abstract: "In the early 15th through 13th centuries BCE, the world of the Near East, from the Mediterranean to modern day Iran, was linked together in what historians today call the First International Age. Correspondence from that period found at El Amarna in Egypt and other sites in Mesopotamia and Anatolia details the diplomatic and economic exchanges between the “Great Powers” of the time (Babylon, Assyria, Mittani, Hatti, and Egypt), and contains letters from the Egyptian vassal kingdoms in the Levant, known as Canaan.

The complex diplomatic interchanges and active economic trade during this period were possible because of the status of Canaan as a series of semi-autonomous vassal states under the Egyptian empire. Canaan acted as the economic center for the entire region, linking the goods and kingdoms of southwest Asia, Africa, and southeastern Europe into a single trading system. Though under the nominal control of Egypt, Canaan served as neutral territory for all the powers, enabling complex political and diplomatic interchange throughout the region.

This paper explores the conditions within Canaan that allowed this system of exchange to flourish, and will show that a number of military, political, and cultural factors in Canaan, which were cultivated by the Egyptians, allowed the region to act as an international territory facilitating trade and political interaction between the Great Powers." Source: University of California World History Workshop.[via eScholarship Repository]

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Becoming Less Separate?: School Desegregation, Justice Department, and the Pursuit of Unitary Status

"The purpose of this report is to examine the effect that this increase in the number of school districts obtaining unitary status has had on the racial balance of schools that were previously under court order. In other words, do school districts tend to revert to racial clustering—as some would say, do they “resegregate”—after they are released from judicial supervision? Justice Stephen Breyer recently raised this very issue, when he claimed that many school districts are maintaining or extending their integration efforts because they fear what Justice Breyer calls “the evident risk of a return to school systems that are in fact (though not in law) resegregated . . . .”1 Justice Breyer’s argument implicitly raises an important question, which this report attempts to answer: Does judicial supervision appear, in the aggregate, to maintain racial integration and does that integration tend to erode as court orders are lifted?" Source: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

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Health Care Cost and Access Challenges Persist

"Little has changed in local health care markets since 2005 to break the cycle of rising costs, falling insurance coverage and widening access inequities, according to initial findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change’s (HSC) 2007 site visits to 12 nationally representative metropolitan communities. As intense competition among hospitals and physicians for profitable specialty services continues, employers and health plans are looking to consumers to take more responsibility for medical costs, lifestyle choices and treatment decisions. While consumer-directed health plans have not gained widespread adoption, other developments—including a heightened emphasis on prevention and wellness, along with nascent provider cost and quality information—are advancing health care consumerism. However, concerns exist about whether these efforts will slow cost growth enough to keep care affordable or whether the growing problem of affordability will derail efforts to decrease the rising number of uninsured Americans and stymie meaningful health care reform." Source: Center for Studying Health System Change

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Male Adolescent Athletes More Likely to Be Aggressors

Press Release: "For years, proponents of high school athletics have pointed out the positive aspects of youth sports, such as increased bonds to school, self-esteem, achievement, competition, and fair play. However, youth sports have also been marred with high-profile accounts of brawling, sexual assault, and bullying." Source: American Sociological Review, Oct. 2007 [via Newswise]
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Matching Owner-Managers' Cognitive Style and Organizational Demands in Family Firms

"Based on survey responses from 159 owners-managers in small, family firms, we examined the association between specific individual characteristics, firm characteristics, and the individual psychosocial outcomes of satisfaction, intentions to exit, and perceived fit. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated higher satisfaction, lower intentions to exit, and higher perceived fit for owner-managers whose dominant decision-making style complemented the levels of formalization in their firms. More specifically, the results suggested that owner-managers with intuitive decision-making styles were better fitted to the demands corresponding to less structured firm environments than their analytic counterparts. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed." Source: Social Science Research Network

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The Heart Has its Reasons: Examining the Strange Persistence of the American Death Penalty

"The debate about the future of the death penalty often focuses on whether its supporters are animated by instrumental or expressive values, and if the latter, what values the penalty does in fact express, where those values originated, and how deeply entrenched they are. In this article I argue that a more explicit recognition of the emotional sources of support for and opposition to the death penalty will have salutary consequences for the clarity of the debate. The focus on emotional variables reveals that the demarcation between instrumental and expressive values is porous; both types of values are informed (or uninformed) by fear, outrage, compassion, selective empathy and other emotional attitudes. More fundamentally, though history, culture and politics are essential aspects of the discussion, the resilience of the death penalty cannot be adequately understood when the affect is stripped from explanations for its support. Ultimately, the death penalty will not die without a societal change of heart. " Source: Social Science Research Network

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Blockbuster Culture's Next Rise or Fall: The Impact of Recommender Systems on Sales Diversity

\"This paper examines the effect of recommender systems on the diversity of sales. Two anecdotal views exist about such effects. Some believe recommenders help consumers discover new products and thus increase sales diversity. Others believe recommenders only reinforce the popularity of already popular products. This paper is a first attempt to reconcile these seemingly incompatible views. We explore the question in two ways. First, modeling recommender systems analytically allows us to explore their path dependent effects. Second, turning to simulation, we increase the realism of our results by combining choice models with actual implementations of recommender systems." Source: Social Science Research Network

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Never ending Friending: A consumer study of social networking

"In summary, we learned that social networking is a quantum change in how we interact – with each other, with bands and brands, and with the entire media landscape. We also learned there are indeed a set of best practices that will govern behavior in this
new world." Source: Forrester Research

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Ahmadinejad Visit Draws Large Audience

Burma Protests Barely Register with Public

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the U.S. drew a large news audience last week. Aside from the Iraq war it was the most closely followed news story, with 23% of the public following the story very closely, and 14% listing it as the single news story they followed most closely. Ahmadinejad’s visit, as well as broader issues relating to U.S.-Iranian relations, was the most heavily covered news story of the week. Fully 13% of the national newshole was devoted to this story." Source: Pew Research Center for people and the press

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Journalists' Privilege: Overview of the Law and Legislation in the 109th and 110th Congresses

"In Branzburg v. Hayes, the Supreme Court wrote journalists claim "that to gather news it is often necessary to agree either not to identify the source of information published or to publish only part of the facts revealed, or both; that if the reporter is nevertheless forced to reveal these confidences to a grand jury the source so identified and other confidential sources of other reporters will be measurably deterred from furnishing publishable information, all to the detriment of the free flow of information protected by the First Amendment." The Court held, nonetheless, that the First Amendment did not provide even a qualified privilege for journalists to refuse "to appear and testify before state or federal grand juries." The only situation it mentioned in which the First Amendment would allow a reporter to refuse to testify was in the case of "grand jury investigations ... instituted or conducted other than in good faith.... Official harassment of the press undertaken not for purposes of law enforcement but to disrupt a reporter's relationship with his news sources would have no justification." Though the Supreme Court concluded that the First Amendment does not provide a journalists' privilege in grand jury proceedings, 49 states have adopted a journalists' privilege in various types of proceedings; 33 have done so by statute, and 16 by court decision. Journalists have no privilege in federal proceedings. On July 6, 2005, a federal district court in Washington, DC, found Judith Miller of the New York Times in contempt of court for refusing to cooperate in a grand jury investigation relating to the leak of the identity of an undercover CIA agent. The court ordered Ms. Miller to serve time in jail. Ms. Miller spent 85 days in jail. She secured her release only after her informant, I. Lewis Libby, gave her permission to reveal his identity. Congress has considered creating a journalists' privilege for federal proceedings, and bills to adopt a journalists' privilege have been introduced in the 109th and 110th Congresses, in both the House and the Senate. These bills generally would provide for a more narrow privilege than the privileges provided by state laws."

Source: Congressional Research Service

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Congressional Investigations of the Department of Justice, 1920-2007: History, Law, and Practice

Legislative oversight is most commonly conducted through congressional budget, authorization, appropriations, confirmation, and investigative processes, and, in rare instances, through impeachment. But the adversarial, often confrontational, and sometimes high profile nature of congressional investigations sets it apart from the more routine, accommodative facets of the oversight process experienced in authorization, appropriations, or confirmation exercises. While all aspects of legislative oversight share the common goals of informing Congress so as to best accomplish its tasks of developing legislation, monitoring the implementation of public policy, and disclosing to the public how its government is performing, the inquisitorial process also sustains and vindicates Congress' role in our constitutional scheme of separated powers and checks and balances. The rich history of congressional investigations from the failed St. Clair expedition in 1792 through Teapot Dome, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and the current ongoing inquiries into the removal and replacement of United States Attorneys, has established, in law and practice, the nature and contours of congressional prerogatives necessary to maintain the integrity of the legislative role in that constitutional scheme. A review of the historical experience and legal rulings pertinent to congressional access to information regarding the law enforcement activities of the Department of Justice indicates that in the last 85 years Congress has consistently sought and obtained deliberative prosecutorial memoranda, and the testimony of line attorneys, FBI field agents and other subordinate agency employees regarding the conduct of open and closed cases in the course of innumerable investigations of Department of Justice activities. Source: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools, Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety

"This First Look report uses data from the 2005–06 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) to examine a range of issues dealing with school crime and safety, such as the frequency of school crime and violence, disciplinary actions, and school practices related to the prevention and reduction of crime and safety. SSOCS is the primary source of school-level data on crime and safety for NCES. Since 1999, it has been administered three times to the principals of a nationally representative sample of public primary, middle, high, and combined schools." Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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What Can Studies of e-Learning Teach Us About e-Research? Some Findings from Digital Library Research

Abstract: e-Research is intended to facilitate collaboration through distributed access to content, tools, and services. Lessons about collaboration are extracted from the findings of two large, long-term digital library research projects. Both the Alexandria Digital Earth Prototype Project (ADEPT) and the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) project on data management leverage scientific research data for use in teaching. Two forms of collaboration were studied: (1) direct, in which faculty work together on research projects; and (2) indirect or serial, in which faculty use or contribute content to a common pool, such as teaching resources, concepts and relationships, or research data. Five aspects of collaboration in e-Research are discussed: (1) disciplinary factors, (2) incentives to adopt e-Learning and e-Research technologies, (3) user roles, (4) information sharing, and (5) technical requirements. Collaboration varied by research domain in both projects, and appears partly to be a function of the degree of instrumentation in data collection. Faculty members were more interested in tools to manage their own research data than in tools to facilitate teaching. They also were more reflective about their research than teaching activities. The availability of more content, tools, and services to incorporate primary data in teaching was only a minimal incentive to use these resources. Large investments in a knowledge base of scientific concepts and relationships for teaching did not result in re-use by other faculty during the course of the project. Metadata requirements for research and for teaching vary greatly, which further complicates the transfer of resources across applications. Personal digital libraries offer a middle ground between private control and public release of content, which is a promising direction for the design of digital libraries that will facilitate collaboration in e-Research."

Source: UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. Publications.

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Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments

Presidential claims of a right to preserve the confidentiality of information and documents in the face of legislative demands have figured prominently, though intermittently, in executive-congressional relations since at least 1792. Few such interbranch disputes over access to information have reached the courts for substantive resolution, the vast majority achieving resolution through political negotiation and accommodation. In fact, it was not until the Watergate-related lawsuits in the 1970's seeking access to President Nixon's tapes that the existence of a presidential confidentiality privilege was judicially established as a necessary derivative of the President's status in our constitutional scheme of separated powers. Of the eight court decisions involving interbranch or private information access disputes, three have involved Congress and the Executive but only one of these resulted in a decision on the merits. The Nixon and post-Watergate cases established the broad contours of the presidential communications privilege. Under those precedents, the privilege, which is constitutionally rooted, could be invoked by the President when asked to produce documents or other materials or information that reflect presidential decisionmaking and deliberations that he believes should remain confidential. If the President does so, the materials become presumptively privileged. The privilege, however, is qualified, not absolute, and can be overcome by an adequate showing of need. Finally, while reviewing courts have expressed reluctance to balance executive privilege claims against a congressional demand for information, they have acknowledged they will do so if the political branches have tried in good faith but failed to reach an accommodation. However, until the District of Columbia Circuit's 1997 ruling in In re Sealed Case(Espy), and 2004 decision in Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice, these judicial decisions had left important gaps in the law of presidential privilege. Among the more significant issues left open included whether the President has to have actually seen or been familiar with the disputed matter; whether the presidential privilege encompasses documents and information developed by, or in the possession of, officers and employees in the departments and agencies of the Executive Branch; whether the privilege encompasses all communications with respect to which the President may be interested or is it confined to presidential decisionmaking and, if so, is it limited to any particular type of presidential decisionmaking; and precisely what kind of demonstration of need must be shown to justify release of materials that qualify for the privilege. The unanimous panel in Espy, and the subsequent reaffirmation of the principles articulated in Espy by Judicial Watch, authoritatively addressed each of these issues in a manner that may have drastically altered the future legal playing field in resolving such disputes. Source: Congressional Research Service

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Public Expresses Mixed Views of Islam, Mormonism

Benedict XVI Viewed Favorably But Faulted on Religious Outreach

The Muslim and Mormon religions have gained increasing national visibility in recent years. Yet most Americans say they know little or nothing about either religion's practices, and large majorities say that their own religion is very different from Islam and the Mormon religion.

A new national survey reveals some notable similarities, as well as major differences, in the ways that Americans view these faiths and their followers. Public impressions of both religions are hazy – 58% say they know little or nothing about Islam's practices, while 51% have little or no awareness of the precepts and practices of Mormonism. The number of people who say they know little or nothing about Islam has changed very little since 2001. Source: Pew Research

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Extraterritorial Application of American Criminal Law

Crime is usually territorial. It is a matter of the law of the place where it occurs. Nevertheless, a surprising number of American criminal laws apply outside of the United States. Application is generally a question of legislative intent, expressed or implied. In either case, it most often involves crimes committed aboard a ship or airplane, crimes condemned by international treaty, crimes committed against government employees or property, or crimes that have an impact in this country even if planned or committed in part elsewhere. Although the crimes over which the United States has extraterritorial jurisdiction may be many, so are the obstacles to their enforcement. For both practical and diplomatic reasons, criminal investigations within another country require the acquiescence, consent, or preferably the assistance, of the authorities of the host country. The United States has mutual legal assistance treaties with several countries designed to formalize such cooperative law enforcement assistance. Searches and interrogations carried out on our behalf by foreign officials, certainly if they involve Americans, must be conducted within the confines of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. And the Sixth Amendment imposes limits upon the use in American criminal trials of depositions taken abroad. Our recently negotiated extradition treaties address some of the features of our earlier agreements which complicate extradition for extraterritorial offenses, i.e., dual criminality requirements, reluctance to recognize extraterritorial jurisdiction, and exemptions on the basis of nationality or political offenses. To further facilitate the prosecution of federal crimes with extraterritorial application Congress has enacted special venue, statute of limitations, and evidentiary statutes. Source: Congressional Research Service

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Reports by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Summary of the 2007 Report

Part one gives an overview of critical themes relating to children and armed conflict and highlights significant developments over the reporting period. It emphasizes the role of field visits of the Special Representative as a key element of her advocacy strategy and outlines the main findings of missions to the Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The report also lists commitments made by parties to conflict during the course of those field visits, stressing the need for timely and systematic follow-up to ensure their practical implementation. Part one concludes that Member States should apply concrete and targeted measures against recalcitrant violators, particularly where they have refused to enter into dialogue or where such dialogue has failed to yield tangible protection for children.

Part two of the report presents the findings of a strategic review of the study by Graça Machel entitled “Impact of armed conflict on children” (see A/51/306 and Add.1), which marked the 10-year anniversary of that groundbreaking report. In view of the scope of that report, the strategic review was co-convened with the United Nations Children’s Fund, with which a special strategic review secretariat was established. The strategic review report was prepared with an inter-agency advisory group and featured a multi-stakeholder process involving United Nations system partners, Member States, non-governmental organizations and other representatives of civil society, as well as children themselves. The Special Representative presents part two of the report on behalf of the co-convenors as well as the multi-stakeholder partnership. Source: United Nations

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Reports from the Carsey Institute

The Carsey Institute builds knowledge for families and communities in the 21 st century by providing data and analysis in engaging publications that are accessible to the public. The Institute is currently producing reports and policy papers on rural America, New England, and women and work. Reports on children and youth are under development.

The Carsey Institute’s reports and policy papers provide historical perspective, incorporate the most recent data available, and explore policy implications. Community case studies illustrate critical challenges and useful strategies for rural areas and the nation as a whole.

Source: Carsey Institute, Univeristy of New Hampshire

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Available for download:
Rural America in the 21st Century
Demographic Trends

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Gender Justice, Citizenship and Development

Although there have been notable gains for women globally in the last few decades, gender inequality and gender-based inequities continue to impinge upon girls’ and women’s ability to realize their rights and their full potential as citizens and equal partners in decision-making and development. In fact, for every right that has been established, there are millions of women who do not enjoy it.

In this book, studies from Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are prefaced by an introductory chapter that links current thinking on gender justice to debates on citizenship, entitlements, and law and development. A concluding chapter situates the discussion of gender justice, citizenship, and entitlements in current development debates on poverty alleviation and social exclusion. The book brings together multidisciplinary perspectives from leading feminist scholars of sociology, political science and legal studies, among others, and in doing so, provides new insights for both advocacy and research. Edited by Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Navsharan Singh Source: International Development Research Center

Full book available online.

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The Sentencing Project - A 25-Year Quagmire: The War on Drugs and Its Impact on American Society

The Sentencing Project has released a new report that examines the burden of the "war on drugs" on the criminal justice system and American communities.

The report also provides policy recommendations that can help effectively reinvest government resources in community safety by encouraging comprehensive drug treatment and prevention strategies to address drug addiction.

Source: The Sentencing Project

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Prison Health Care: Is Contracting Out Healthy?

U.S Prison health care has recently been in the news and in the courts. A particular issue is whether prisons should contract out for health care. Contracting out has been growing over the past few decades. The stated motivation for this change ranges from a desire to improve the prison health care system, sometimes in response to a court mandate, to a desire to reduce costs. This study is a first attempt to quantify the impact of this change on inmate health. As morbidity measures are not readily obtainable, we focus on mortality. More specifically, we use a panel of state prisons from 1979-1990 and a fixed effects Poisson model to estimate the change in mortality associated with increases in the percentage of medical personnel employed under contract. In contrast to the first stated aim of contracting, we find that a 20 percent increase in percentage of medical personnel employed under contract increases mortality by 2 percent. Source: Department of Economics, UCSB.

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