Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Recent Participation in Formal Learning Among Working-Age Adults with Different Levels of Education

"This issue brief uses data from the 2001 and 2005 adult education surveys of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) to examine the participation of adults in formal learning activities during the 12 months preceding the survey, focusing on the participation of adults who at the end of the survey had the lowest levels of education (no high school diploma, or a GED). These adults with low levels of education were found to have participated at relatively high rates in adult basic education, ESL, and GED classes. However, for the most common types of formal learning activities—work-related courses and personal interest courses—adults with low levels of education participated at lower rates and for shorter periods of time than did adults with higher levels of education. Among the adults who did participate in these activities, those with lower levels of education at the end of the survey were less likely than those with higher levels of education to pay at least some course expenses themselves." Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Download pdf report | Link to online abstract

Monday, January 28, 2008

U.S. Key to Building Prosperity and Opportunity in Latin America

"The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) released new data demonstrating the United States’ contribution to prosperity in the Western Hemisphere. In conjunction with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA), ITA issued fact sheets which highlight the trade, investment and social development provided by the U.S. to countries in the hemisphere from Mexico to Argentina." Source: US Dept. of Commerce International Trade Administration.

Link to Fact Sheet download site
| Link to online annoucement

The Economic Approach to Cities

Abstract: "The economic approach to cities relies on a spatial equilibrium for workers, employers and builders. The worker’s equilibrium implies that positive attributes in one location, like access to downtown or high wages, are offset by negative attributes, like high housing prices. The employer’s equilibrium requires that high wages be offset by a high level of productivity, perhaps due to easy access to customers or suppliers. The search for the sources of productivity differences that can justify high wages is the basis for the study of agglomeration economies which has been a significant branch of urban economics in the past 20 years. The builder’s equilibrium condition pushes us to understand the causes of supply differences across space that can explain why some places have abundant construction and low prices while others have little construction and high prices. Since the economic theory of cities emphasizes a search for exogenous causes of endogenous outcomes like local wages, housing prices and city growth, it is unsurprising that the economic empirics on cities have increasingly focused on the quest for exogenous sources of variation. The economic approach to urban policy emphasizes the need to focus on people, rather than places, as the ultimate objects of policy concern and the need for policy to anticipate the mobility of people and firms." Source: Harvard JFK School of Gov't Faculty Working Papers

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| Link to online abstract

ACE Releases Working Paper to Guide Campuses on Conflict of Interest

"The American Council on Education (ACE) today released a working paper to guide trustees, presidents, administrators and faculty in strengthening institutional policies and practices in the area of conflict of interest.

The paper, which is a working document, proposes basic principles and identifies questions and criteria to guide review of policies and situations that may raise ethical concerns. The paper also includes a list of resources on this topic to which institutions may refer."

Source: American Council on Education

Download full pdf report | link to online Press release

"Playing in the Doll's House of Revolution": White Students and Activists Involved in the Black Power Movement

Abstract: When Stokey Charmichael first uttered the words “black power” to a crowd of civil rights supporters during the “March Against Fear” on June 16th, 1966, it marked an important – and disillusioning – moment for white students and activists involved in the movement, a shift from a civil rights struggle fought not only through nonviolent methods but also through coalitions between whites and blacks. In the years that followed, many of these white activists struggled to find a place in the burgeoning black power movement that often shunned them and the more pacifist approach to rights struggles associated with them. Many dropped out of the movement following this shift, or transferred their energies to other causes; others, however, found themselves involved in Black Power organizations such as the Black Panthers, or supporting their activities despite qualms about their policies and often-violent actions. The question thus must be asked: why did many whites join and support a movement that often excluded or devalued them as a matter of policy? This paper explores the complex social and psychological reasons behind many of these activists’ support for Black Power – as well as the implications of their involvement for race relations to this day.

Source: Siobhan C. Atkins,CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania, http://repository.upenn.edu/curej/75

Download full pdf publication
| Link to online Abstract

American Community Survey and Census Data on the Foreign Born by State

"While the foreign-born population of the United States increased by 6.4 million between 2000 and 2006, the impact of this growth varied considerably from state to state in terms of population size and characteristics. To facilitate analysis of these differences, the interactive map below provides state-by-state data on foreign-born populations from the 1990 and 2000 censuses and the 2006 and 2005 American Community Surveys." Source: Migration Policy Institute

Link to site: Click on US State to generate fact sheets

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Digital Future Report Highlights

"The Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School has been tracking a representative sample of the American population for over seven years, watching as people move on line and then move from modems to broadband. The project also carefully tracks those who drop off the net each year and whether they return and if so, when and what brings them back. At the end of seven years, we also have an unparalleled view of the non-users who do not go on-line. We carefully examine why they are not users and whether they are likely to ever go on-line." Source: Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School

Download pdf publication of Report Highlights

Peacekeeping Best Practices report

"Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 61/276, the present report provides an
overview of the policy on capturing best practices in peacekeeping, including how
information on best practices is being utilized in mission planning, as well as
efficiency gains and improvements in effectiveness made as a result of those efforts.
The report describes the methodology and tools that have been used for managing
best practices in peacekeeping operations since the introduction in 2005 of a new
system for these activities. This new system links the identification and sharing of
best practices in the field to the development of guidance materials (policies,
guidelines and procedures) that reflect those lessons. These guidance materials form
an institutional doctrine that is disseminated through training programmes, electronic
information management platforms and Best Practices Officers in missions. The
report includes an initial assessment of the early impact of the system, highlighting
the resulting improvements in efficiency and effectiveness as well as in mission
planning." Source: United Nations

Download full pdf report

Gobal Employment Trends Report

"Global Employment Trends have been produced and published on a yearly basis since 2003. The report analyses the impact on the labour markets of a wide range of factors, ranging from population and economic growth to economic turbulence stemming from the credit crisis in industrialized countries, rising oil prices, and a projected slowdown in economic growth." Source: International Labour Office (United Nations)

Download full pdf report (English)
| ILO also has Report in Spanish and French

Afro-Latinos in Latin America and Considerations for U.S. Policy

"During its second session, the 110th Congress is likely to maintain an interest in the situation of Afro-Latinos in Latin America, particularly the plight of AfroColombians affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. In recent years, people of African descent in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Latin America -- also known as "Afro-Latinos" -- have been pushing for increased rights and representation. Afro-Latinos comprise some 150 million of the region's 540 million total population, and, along with women and indigenous populations, are among the poorest, most marginalized groups in the region. Afro-Latinos have formed groups that, with the help of international organizations, are seeking political representation, human rights protection, land rights, and greater social and economic rights and benefits. Improvement in the status of Afro-Latinos could be difficult and contentious, however, depending on the circumstances of the Afro-descendant populations in each country. Assisting Afro-Latinos has never been a primary U.S. foreign policy objective, although a number of foreign aid programs benefit Afro-Latino populations." Source: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

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| Link to online summary

Housing Crisis More Visible Than Other Economic Problems

"Public interest in economic news soared last week amid continued stock market volatility and concerns about a possible recession. More than four-in-ten Americans (42%) followed news about the condition of the U.S. economy very closely and 20% listed this as the single news story they followed more closely than any other. That marks the highest level of public interest in economic news in five years. Interest was only somewhat greater during the recession of the early 1990s." Source: Pew Research center for People and the Press

Download full pdf report
| Link to online summary

Monday, January 21, 2008

Engineers of Jihad

"We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both realms. This is all the more puzzling for engineers are virtually absent from left-wing violent extremists and only present rather than over-represented among right-wing extremists. We consider four hypotheses that could explain this pattern. Is the engineers’ prominence among violent Islamists an accident of history amplified through network links, or do their technical skills make them attractive recruits? Do engineers have a ‘mindset’ that makes them a particularly good match for Islamism, or is their vigorous radicalization explained by the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries? We argue that the interaction between the last two causes is the most plausible explanation of our findings, casting a new light on the sources of Islamic extremism and grounding macro theories of radicalization in a micro-level perspective." Source: Department of Sociology, University of Oxford

Download full pdf report | Link to Department of Sociology, University of Oxford Working Papers

Ordinal Proportionality in Punishment: A Case against Capital Punishment for Child Rape Under the Eighth Amendment

"This article argues that various theories of justice in punishment adhere to a principle of ordinal proportionality - relative grading of penalties in measure to the relative severity of the crimes for which they are imposed. Ordinal proportionality is a demand of both deterrence and retributive theories of justice; in addition it is a tenet well entrenched in the Supreme Court's current Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. Under this principle the state cannot subject the crime of child rape to capital punishment because even a crime as horrendous as rape is not on par with murder in terms of harm and blameworthiness." Source: Yale University via SSRN

Download full pdf publication | link to online abstract

How We Talk about the “War on Terrorism”

"The Working Paper How We Talk about the “War on Terrorism” by Daniel Heradstveit, G. Matthew Bonham, Michiko Nakano and Victor M. Sergeev, focuses on how leaders in Western countries talk about the “war on terrorism.” The paper discusses the difficulties of defining “terrorism,” because, unlike Marxism or capitalism, “terrorism” is not an ideology. Instead the term may be used to designate actions that are used by members of non-governmental organizations against civilian targets." Source: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

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Is the GED an Effective Route to Postsecondary Education for School Dropouts?

"We use data from the Texas Schools Microdata Panel (TSMP) to examine the extent to which dropouts use the GED as a route to post-secondary education. The paper develops a model pointing out the potential biases in estimating the effects of taking the “GED path” to postsecondary education. Lacking suitable instruments that would allow us to directly address potential biases, our approach is to base our estimates on a set of academically “at risk” students who are very similar in the 8th grade. We observe that the eventual high school graduates in this group have much better postsecondary education outcomes than do the similar at-risk 8th graders who dropped out and obtained a GED. Our model explains the observed differences, and allows for a discussion of the policy challenges inherent in improving the postsecondary outcomes of dropouts." Source: Institute for the study of Labor

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Sexual Orientation, Disclosure and Earnings

"Gay/bisexual workers tend to earn less than other men. Does this occur because of discrimination or because of selection? In this paper we address this question and collect new information on workplace disclosure to separate out discrimination effects from selection effects. Using a large sample of recently graduated men in the Netherlands, we find that gay/bisexual workers earn about 3 to 4 percent less than other men. Our disclosure estimates, however, provide little evidence that the labor market discriminates against gay/bisexual workers. They rather support the selection story, most prominently observed among undisclosed gay/bisexual workers who concentrate in lower paid occupations, and earn about 5 to 9 percent less than other men." Source: Institute for the Study of Labor

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| Link to online abstract

Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices

"This paper analyzes the relationship between employee satisfaction and long-run stock performance. An annually rebalanced portfolio of Fortune magazine's "Best Companies to Work For in America" earned 14% per year from 1998-2005, over double the market return. The portfolio also outperformed industry- and characteristics-matched benchmarks; controlling for risk, it yielded a four-factor alpha of 0.64%. These findings have three main implications. First, employee satisfaction may improve corporate performance rather than representing inefficiently excessive non-pecuniary compensation. Second, the stock market does not fully value intangibles, even when independently verified by a publicly available survey. This suggests that intangible investment generally may not be incorporated into short-term prices, providing support for managerial myopia theories. Third, socially responsible investing ("SRI") screens need not reduce investment returns." Source:University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School via Social Science Resource Network (SSRN)

Download full pdf report |

What's Ahead for the Global Economy in 2008? Reports from the Knowledge@Wharton Network

"Though the subprime mess and rising oil prices slammed the U.S. economy during much of 2007, other emerging markets -- especially China and India -- seem to be on a roll. China's growth rate of more than 11% is likely to continue, and India, too, should be able to sustain a high rate of GDP growth, even if it slows from last year's 9%. Latin America, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic but could see a moderate decline in 2008. The Knowledge@Wharton Network sites -- including Universia Knowledge@Wharton, China Knowledge@Wharton and India Knowledge@Wharton -- spoke with Wharton faculty and other experts about what to expect during the coming year." Source: Knowledge@Wharton U. of Penn.

Download full pdf article | read article online

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

"Trafficking in people for prostitution and forced labor is one of the most prolific areas of international criminal activity and is of significant concern to the United States and the international community. The overwhelming majority of those trafficked are women and children. According to the most recent Department of State estimates, roughly 800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year. If trafficking within countries is included in the total world figures, official U.S. estimates are that some 2 to 4 million people are trafficked annually. However, there are even higher estimates, ranging from 4 to 27 million for total numbers of forced or bonded laborers. As many as 17,500 people are believed to be trafficked to the United States each year. Human trafficking is now a leading source of profits for organized crime syndicates, together with drugs and weapons, generating billions of dollars." Source: Congressional Research Service

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Foreign Ownership of U.S. Financial Assets: Implications of a Withdrawal

"This report provides an overview of the role foreign investment plays in the U.S. economy and an assessment of possible actions a foreign investor or a group of foreign investors might choose to take to liquidate their investments in the United States. Concerns over the potential impact of disinvestment have grown as national governments have become more active investors and as uncertainty over the risks associated with securities backed by sub-prime mortgages has increased volatility in financial markets. Actions taken by foreign investors to liquidate their holdings could affect the U.S. economy in a number of ways due to the role foreign investment plays in the United States and due to the current mix of economic policies the United States has chosen. The impact of any such action on the economy would also depend on the overall condition and performance of the economy and the financial markets." Source: Congressional Research Service

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In GOP Primaries: Three Victors, Three Constituencies

"The preferences of conservative Republicans are split along religious lines. Huckabee leads the field among conservative evangelicals, drawing 33% to 25% for McCain and just 12% for Romney. In the poll, conducted before the Michigan primary, Romney leads McCain and far outdistances Huckabee – and the rest of the GOP field – among non-evangelical conservative Republicans. "

Source: Pew Research Center for people and the press

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Information Searches That Solve Problems

"There are several major findings in this report. One is this: For help with a variety of common problems, more people turn to the internet than consult experts or family members to provide information and resources.

Another key insight is that members of Gen Y are the leading users of libraries for help solving problems and in more general patronage." Source: Pew Internet and American Life project

Download full pdf report | Download pdf Questionnaire | Link to online summary

Friday, January 11, 2008

Congressional Quarterly's 2008 Primary Guide

The CQ Primary guide features a map, a calendar for democratic and republican primaries as well as a separate section for congressional primaries.

Link to Congressional Quarterly's 2008 Primary Guide

7 Things You Should Know About Data Visualization

"Data visualization is the graphical representation of information. Information technology combines the principles of visualization with powerful applications and large data sets to create sophisticated images and animations. Representing large amounts of disparate information in a visual form often allows you to see patterns that would otherwise be buried in vast, unconnected data sets. Data visualizations offer one way to harness infrastructure to find hidden trends and correlations that can lead to important discoveries. Visual literacy is an increasingly important skill, and data visualizations are another channel for students to develop their ability to process information visually."
Source: Educause

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UNESCO's ICT Competency Standards for Teachers

The UNESCO Site "...hosts the released "English" versions of the UNESCO Standards related to ICT Competencies of Teachers. Please note that the available documents are officially released on January 8 of 2008..." The standards aim to "help educational policy-makers and curriculum developers identify the skills teachers need to harness technology in the service of education."

Link to site

Family Meals and Disordered Eating in Adolescents

"Disordered eating behaviors, such as unhealthy weight control practices and binge eating, are a concern for adolescent health, given their high prevalence and harmful consequences. In this 5-year longitudinal study of more than 2500 adolescents, Neumark-Sztainer and colleagues found that extreme weight control behaviors, such as using diet pills or laxatives or vomiting, were 3-fold more common among females than males. Having at least 5 family meals together per week lowered this risk by 30% among females. However, among males, regular family meals were associated with skipping meals and eating little. The reasons for these sex differences are unknown and need further investigation."

Source: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, January 2008.

Download full pdf article | Link to online article

Religion and Secularism: The American Experience

"Some of the nation's leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla., in December 2007, for the Pew Forum's biannual conference on religion, politics and public life."

Given the recent popularity of several high-profile books on atheism, the Pew Forum invited Wilfred McClay, a distinguished professor of intellectual history, to speak on the historical relationship between religion and secularism in America. McClay draws a distinction between what he calls "political secularism," which recognizes the legitimacy and even moral necessity of religious faith, while preventing any one faith from being established, and "philosophical secularism," which attempts to establish a common unbelief as a basis for government. McClay contends that the first understanding of secularism was at the heart of the founders' vision and, that it, aided by those features of Christianity prevalent in America, have resulted in a unique if imperfect mingling of religion and government in American public life.

Source: Pew Research Center | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Read full transcript and/or watch video online

Internet's Broader Role in Campaign 2008

Social Networking and Online Videos Take Off

"The internet is living up to its potential as a major source for news about the presidential campaign. Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the campaign from the internet, almost the double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%).

Moreover, the internet has now become a leading source of campaign news for young people and the role of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook is a notable part of the story. Fully 42% of those ages 18 to 29 say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet, the highest percentage for any news source. In January 2004, just 20% of young people said they routinely got campaign news from the internet." Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Explains Race and Ethnic Variation in Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Nonmarital Fertility?

"Over the past 20 years we have made enormous strides towards understanding racial and ethnic variation in marriage, nonmarital fertility, and family stability. Particularly strong contributions include the documentation of important constraints to stable family formation imposed by male unemployment, a deeper understanding of cohabitation and the transition from informal unions to marriage, and the incorporation of more ethnic groups into the analysis, particularly Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans, although more work in this direction is needed." Source: California Center for Population Research On-Line Working Paper Series. Paper CCPR-026-07.

Download full pdf publication | Link to online abstract via eScholarship Repository

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mathematics Coursetaking and Achievement at the End of High School: Evidence from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (

"This report documents and examines the relationship between the number and types of math courses taken in the 11th and 12th grade and growth in mathematics proficiency over the same time period. Using data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), the analysis identifies the coursetaking sequences most prevalent among contemporary high school students in their junior and senior years, sociodemographic characteristics of the students who follow these course sequences, and the association between specific courses and course sequences and mathematics gains over the last two years of high school. Because most students (94 percent) entered the second half of high school with a mastery of basic mathematics skills such as simple arithmetic and operations, most learning during this time was in intermediate-level mathematics skills and concepts. For example, the percentage of students with an understanding of simple problem solving skills grew from 53 to 65 percentage points over the two year period. In terms of learning in specific content areas, the largest gains in intermediate skills such as simple operations and problem solving were made by those who followed the geometry–algebra II sequence. The largest gains in advanced skills such as derivations and making inferences from algebraic expressions were made by students who took precalculus paired with another course. The smallest gains were made by students who took one mathematics course or no mathematics courses during their last 2 years."
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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| Link to online summary

Contemporary Art: A 'Global' and Local Perspective via New York's Chelsea District

ABSTRACT:Chelsea’s art gallery district on Manhattan’s Far West Side is now probably the most important location worldwide for sales of new works of Contemporary Art, so understanding Chelsea is crucial for the goal of mapping key cultural enterprises worldwide. We first view Chelsea in the context of the international Contemporary Art market, looking especially at art fairs and auctions. We then discuss detailed material from Chelsea. Our central finding is the major (though not total) irreducibility between two central spheres, on the one hand the economic markets in which the art is traded, and on the other hand the content of the art and its meaning for the audience as they view it displayed in the galleries Although the market is crucial in all kinds of ways, the content of the art that is traded and its meaning for the audience cannot typically be reduced to economics, or usefully be analyzed primarily in economic terms. This is not to argue for the ‘autonomy of aesthetics’ but it is to argue that the aesthetic domain here is in many ways shaped by, and responds to, a different set of dynamics than the market domain. Both spheres are important for understanding the world of Contemporary Art and modern society and to study one but not the other gives a misleadingly one-sided view. Source: California Center for Population Research. On-Line Working Paper Series. Paper CCPR-037-07.

Download full pdf publication | Link to eScholarship repository

Monday, January 07, 2008

Silicon Valley Shaped by Technology and Traffic

"Silicon Valley, home of Stanford and other universities, has long been the model of success for a modern regional economy, and policy makers worldwide have tried to emulate it by nurturing high-tech companies around universities. There have been a few winners, like the semiconductor manufacturing hub in and around Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan.

Yet a look at the microclusters within Silicon Valley demonstrates the business relationships, the social connections and the seamless communication that animate the region’s economy. It also suggests the human nuance behind the Valley’s success and shows why that success is not easy to copy, export or outsource.

“These microclusters turn out to be a very efficient way to innovate, to see what works and what fails, and do it extremely rapidly,” said AnnaLee Saxenian, an expert in regional economies and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley." Source: New York Times

Click here to read full article

Friday, January 04, 2008

Lessons from Rwanda : The United Nations and the Prevention of Genocide,

"an information and educational outreach programme run by the United Nations Department of Public Information.

The programme was established by the General Assembly on 23 December 2005 (A/RES/60/225) to “mobilize civil society for Rwanda genocide victim remembrance and education in order to help prevent future acts of genocide”.

The programme focuses on learning the lessons of the Rwanda genocide in order to help prevent similar acts in the future, as well as raising awareness of the lasting impact of genocide on the survivors and the challenges that they still face today."

Sections include "key documents," and "Audio/Visual Resources."

Link to main page of site

International Trade Statistics 2007

"The new edition of “International Trade Statistics” has been restructured. It now contains chapters on developments in world trade, merchandise trade by product and trade in commercial services by category. A chapter on “metadata” (technical notes and explanations) explains the concepts and definitions used to compile the statistics. The comprehensive appendix section includes tables with full time series data up to 2006.

The content of this new edition has also been expanded to meet increasing demand for data on international trade in services. It includes information on individual service sectors and bilateral trade flows. The revamped presentation includes new table layouts and highlighted messages as introductions to each of the chapters." Source: World Trade Organization

Link to the WTO site for download options

Seven Problems of Online Group Learning (and Their Solutions)

ABSTRACT: The benefits of online collaborative learning, sometimes referred to as CSCL (computer-supported collaborative learning) are compelling, but many instructors are loath to experiment with non-conventional methods of teaching and learning because of the perceived problems. This paper reviews the existing literature to present the seven most commonly reported such problems of online group learning, as identified by both researchers and practitioners, and offers practical solutions to each, in the hope that educators may be encouraged to “take the risk”. Source: Educational Technology & Society, 10 (4), 257-268. [via Information Technology Services Blog UNC]

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| Link to online abstract

Consider Learner Characteristics, Learning Conditions in Course Design

"In the early days of online learning, text was the primary medium of instruction. Now options abound, but finding the appropriate tools and using them effectively is another matter.

'The problem is that many instructors try to emulate what goes on in the face-to-face classroom without carefully considering learner characteristics or learning conditions,' says Steven Terrell, professor in the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University. 'It becomes almost didactic in nature. Either they’re not aware of the multitude of new tools that are out there that can support different learning styles and course objectives, or they may be aware of them but don’t know how to use them or don’t have the time or money to be able to use them.'"

Source: "Faculty Focus" Online News

Link to online article

Democracy Promotion: Cornerstone of U.S. Foreign Policy?

"One of President George W. Bush's stated reasons for starting the war in Iraq was to bring democracy to that country. He stated in December 2006 that "[We] are committed to a strategic goal of a free Iraq that is democratic, that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself." More broadly, the Bush Administration has viewed democracy promotion as an instrument for combatting terrorism. Arguably, the lack of a clear definition of democracy and a comprehensive understanding of its basic elements may have hampered the formulation of democracy promotion policy and effective prioritizing of democracy promotion activities over the years. Also, the lack of definition may have complicated coordination of democracy programs and the assessment of U.S. government activities and funding. Further, without a consensus on democracy definition and goals, what criteria will determine when, if ever, a country has attained an acceptable level of democratic reform and no longer needs American assistance?" Source Congressional Research Service

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The Effect of State-Legalized Same-Sex Marriage on Social Security Benefits and Pensions

"With the 2004 legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts,1 many have questioned how the legalization of such marriages at the state level may affect the eligibility for and payment of federal Social Security benefits and private pensions. Social Security benefits are currently paid to the spouses of disabled, retired, or deceased workers entitled to Social Security. However, under current law, same-sex spouses are not eligible for Social Security benefits because they are unable to meet the genderbased definitions of "wife" and "husband" in the Social Security Act and the genderbased definition of "marriage" established by the Defense of Marriage Act. Federal employee pensions and private-sector pensions regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are required to provide certain benefits to the spouse of a participant in the event of the participant's death. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, both federal pensions and private-sector pensions regulated by ERISA are required to define a spouse only as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." This report will be updated as legislative activity warrants." Source: Congressional Research Service

Download full pdf report | Link to online Summary

2007 marked by activism : State by State Summary of Legislation

"States are in rebellion over Washington’s actions — and inaction — on some of the nation’s most pressing problems.

Disgusted with federal gridlock, states are carving out their own global-warming and immigration laws and are warning they simply may ignore Uncle Sam’s costly plan for tough national standards for driver’s licenses.

And while proposals to expand health care to the uninsured are presidential campaign fodder going nowhere in Congress, at least a dozen states acted in 2007 to cover more uninsured children. They did so even though they were caught in a crossfire between Congress and the Bush administration over whether to boost federal funding for health care for low-income children."

Source: Stateline.org via Pew Research

Link to overall summary | Link to State by State listing

Gas Prices, Disasters Top Public’s News Interests In 2007

"Man-made and natural disasters dominated the list of the public's top news stories in 2007. Nearly half of Americans (45%) tracked news about the shootings of 33 students at Virginia Tech University very closely, while nearly as many paid very close attention to reports on the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the California wildfires.

As was the case in 2006, however, the rising price of gasoline attracted the largest audience of any news story. In May, 52% of Americans said they tracked rising prices at the pump very closely."

Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press

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Household Need for Liquidity and the Credit Card Debt Puzzle

In the 2001 U.S. Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), 27% of households report simultaneously revolving significant credit card debt and holding sizeable amounts of liquid assets. These consumers report paying, on average, a 14% interest rate on their debt, while earning only 1 or 2% on their liquid deposit accounts. This phenomenon is known in the literature as the “credit card debt puzzle.” In this paper, I pose and quantitatively evaluate the following explanation for this puzzle: households that accumulate credit card debt may not pay it off using their money in the bank, because they expect to use that money for goods for which credit cards cannot be used. Using both aggregate and survey data (SCF and CEX), I document that liquid assets are a substantial part of households’ portfolios and that consumption in goods requiring liquid payments may have a sizeable unpredictable component. This would warrant holding precautionary balances in liquid accounts. I develop a dynamic heterogeneous-agent model of household portfolio choice, where households are subject to uninsurable income and preference uncertainty, and consumer credit and liquidity coexist as means of consumption and saving/borrowing. The calibration of the model parameters is based on the simulated method of moments. The calibrated model accounts for 73% of the households in the data who hold consumer debt and liquidity simultaneously, and for at least 55 cents of every dollar held by a median household in the puzzle group. I argue that these results are a lower bound, and that the liquidity-need hypothesis is thus successful in rendering most of the puzzle a rational phenomenon. Source: Department of Economics, UCSD. Paper 2008-01.

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| Link to eScholarship Repository