Maryland Moments, December, 2010
On CampusPurple Reign: President Wallace Loh and the Purple Line
Rethink College Park: " 'This may be the most important decision of your presidency.' This is how new University of Maryland President Wallace Loh reports a piece of advice that he received from the federal Department of Transportation, when discussing the preferred alignment for the Purple Line. No pressure. The DOT only holds the keys to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential funding, without which the light rail project is unlikely to ever get off the ground. Based on his remarks at a recent faculty forum, it appears that Loh is taking the Purple Line alignment very seriously. Although he has not yet recommended a specific alignment, his comments should be encouraging to many readers of this blog. According to Loh, 'whether you choose Campus Drive or some other alignment is fundamentally a question of your vision for the next 50 years.' He regards the Purple Line as essential to the future of the university, the region, and the state. He expects that 20-30 years from now College Park will be a less suburban environment than it is now, fewer students will be driving cars, and fewer faculty and staff will want to drive cars, as the region becomes increasingly congested. Interestingly, Loh reported that he compared notes with officials at Portland State University, which recently saw the opening of a TriMet MAX line that goes right to the center of its campus. It seems that the folks at PSU are quite proud of their new accessibility, and the train is so attractive to students that the university is updating its promotional materials to highlight the light rail. Loh recognizes that students increasingly want quick, sustainable access all over the region. Loh also commented that the state's case for federal funding for the Purple Line would be helped by a unified vision from the university and the surrounding community. Community support for the Campus Drive alignment is overwhelming. The protracted dispute between the local community and Loh's predecessor C. Dan Mote over the choice of alignment probably would not meet the definition of 'unified vision.' Loh's official recommendation to the Chancellor and Governor is not due for a couple of months, but these signs are encouraging."
Wylie: Purple Line Planners Move on to Details
Washington Post: "Ed Dabolt hopes any Purple Line station near his Hyattsville neighborhood will be modern and inviting. Chevy Chase residents want a bridge to allow children, joggers and cyclists to safely cross a Purple Line's tracks, and the University of Maryland is pushing for a train tunnel beneath its College Park campus. As the Maryland Transit Administration analyzes a Purple Line light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, the focus is narrowing from the larger vision to the nitty-gritty details: where, exactly, stations should be, what kind of landscaping and sound walls should buffer nearby residents, and how pedestrians and vehicles should cross train tracks. Negotiations are well underway on the project's two most controversial details: how trains would travel through the University of Maryland campus and along the Georgetown Branch Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. This month, the MTA also will begin holding work sessions with residents along the 16-mile route to examine the trains' impacts and how they might be reduced. Even those who welcome transit in their communities say they want to help determine how a Purple Line would operate. The state continues to negotiate with the University of Maryland over concerns that electromagnetic interference from trains along Campus Drive would affect sensitive lab equipment. Madden said the state has proposed burying some of the overhead electrical wires on campus and paying for equipment that would eliminate any remaining interference. The MTA also has proposed reducing train speeds to 15 mph along Campus Drive, a route state planners say would serve the most people. Planners are reexamining a tunnel option, Madden said, but it has been deemed too expensive. He said other light rail lines operate safely on college campuses. 'We're confident we'll reach an agreement with them,' Madden said of the university. Ann Wylie, the university's vice president of administrative affairs, said researchers probably would want to move to buildings farther from a Purple Line rather than have to compensate for trains' electromagnetic interference. She said university officials remain concerned about the 25,000 people who cross Campus Drive daily, many of them concentrated during 10-minute breaks between classes. Hatch Mott MacDonald, an engineering consultant hired by the university, found that light rail trains traveling downhill can take longer to brake than buses. Campus Drive is on a 6 percent grade, according to the consultant's report. Students in nearby classrooms also could end up hearing train operators using horns or bells to alert pedestrians, the consultant found. MTA spokesman Terry Owens said the 250 Purple Line trains expected to travel on Campus Drive daily would stop at all crosswalks and for any pedestrians who cross the tracks outside of a crosswalk, as buses do now, he said."
Coaching Terps Is 'Dream Come True' for Edsall
Former UConn coach introduced as Friedgen's replacement.
Baltimore Sun: "Saying that he is ready to take the Maryland football team 'on this journey to greatness,' Randy Edsall was introduced as Ralph Friedgen's successor today at an afternoon news conference in the auditorium of the Gossett Team House. A native of Glen Rock, Pa., who recalled seeing his first college football game at Byrd Stadium as a teenager and later attending legendary basketball coach Lefty Driesell's basketball camp for four straight years, Edsall, 52, called athletic director Kevin Anderson's offer to coach the Terrapins 'a dream come true'. Putting on a red Maryland cap that Anderson handed him at the podium, the former Connecticut coach turned to his family seated in the front row. 'I look pretty good in red, don't I?,' he said, smiling broadly. 'It's not every day in your life that you get the opportunity to do something that you really wanted to do once you entered the career field that you chose,' Edsall said. 'It's not every day that you get to do something that you like 70 miles from your home, at an institution that I think has everything that you need to be successful as a football student-athlete because of what the University of Maryland stands for academically, what it has done in the past athletically and the people you're surrounded by. I'm honored and I'm priviledged to be the head football coach at the University of Maryland.' Edsall said that he knew he had the job at around 5:45 p,m. Sunday when he signed the contract, terms of which were not announced. Edsall, whose package at Connecticut was reportedly worth around $1.5 million a year, is expected to make around $2 million at Maryland. Anderson said that Edsall was one of two candidates that came to the College Park campus for interviews recently. The other, according to various media reports and multiple sources, was former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. At the news conference, Anderson denied speculation that Dr. William E. Kirwan, the chancellor of the University of Maryland system and former president of the school, quashed Leach's candidacy. A spokesman for Kirwan said earlier in the day that Kirwan labelled his involvement 'totally untrue.' "
CIA Director Urges Stronger Focus on Foreign Languages
Education Week: "At a national summit yesterday, Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta called for a strong national commitment to ensuring that Americans master foreign languages, saying the issue is vital to U.S. security and competitiveness. 'A significant cultural change needs to occur,' he said, according to a CIA press release. 'And that requires a transformation in attitude from everyone involved: individuals, government, schools and universities, and the private sector.' U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also spoke at the event, which was jointly hosted by the CIA and the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language. In his remarks, Duncan defended a plan to consolidate an existing federal foreign-language program into a broader, competitive fund. Panetta said that foreign-language skills offer an important window into other peoples and cultures. 'Mastery of a second language allows you to capture the nuances that are essential to true understanding,' he said. 'This is not about learning something that is helpful or simply nice to have. It is crucial to the CIA's mission.' In May 2009, Panetta launched a five-year language initiative that aims to double the number of CIA analysts who are proficient in foreign languages and increase by half the number of officers serving in other countries who have the needed proficiency skills. In a recent story I wrote about growing efforts by the Chinese government to promote -- and help pay for -- Mandarin language instruction in the United States, I noted that the University of Maryland's language center administers the federal STARTALK program. That initiative, launched by President George W. Bush in 2006, provided about $20 million this year for K-16 summer programs for teachers and students in 'critical need' languages viewed as vital to U.S. national security, such as Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. More than half that money went for Chinese-language programs."
Graduation Success Brings University of Maryland Commencement Changes
UM release: "The University of Maryland's success at graduating higher numbers of undergraduate and graduate students is bringing a change to campus-wide commencement ceremonies. Senior Vice President and Provost Nariman Farvardin, writing to the campus community, said the changes will enhance safety, accessibility and logistics for graduates and their guests. Farvardin said: 'Due in large part to the university's efforts over the past ten years to improve student retention and graduation rates, I am pleased to report that the number of bachelor's degrees conferred has increased from 5380 to 6605, master's degrees from 1696 to 2337, and doctoral degrees from 432 to 604. Consequently, we have reached logistical and safety limits in our ability to hold 31 individual college, school, and program ceremonies in one day.' The changes accepted by Provost Farvardin include:
* Moving the main Commencement ceremony from an evening event to 10 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, May 19.
* Individual college, school and program ceremonies will be held on the afternoon of May 19 and all day on Friday, May 20."
UM's Center for Social Value Creation Expands Grassroots.org Social Venture Consulting Program to MBA Students Nationwide Business Journals, UM release: "The Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business is expanding its Grassroots.org Social Venture Consulting Program in partnership with Grassroots.org, an organization that provides free technologies and resources to nonprofits. The innovative experiential learning program matches MBA students with nonprofit organizations around the country for semester-long consulting projects. Make Change! Trust provided a $120,000 grant to expand the program and the Center for Social Value Creation is inviting students nationwide to participate. Since 2006, the competitive program has served more than 75 organizations and involved nearly 300 students, providing MBAs with practical consulting experience and the opportunity to give back to their community. Make Change! Trust has supported the program since its inception. 'This program provides a valuable service to nonprofits around the country and gives our students the hands-on experience coming up with innovative solutions to solving social issues,' said G. 'Anand' Anandalingam, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. 'This type of experiential learning is what all MBA students need to develop as the next generation of leaders. We're happy we can help provide this beyond Smith to students around the nation.' "
Questioning a Degree's Value
Inside Higher Ed: "The value of a master's degree in education -- in monetary, philosophical and educational terms -- is under fire as conflicting camps are responding to increasingly high-profile criticism of merit pay systems. The debate over how teachers are paid -- and how to attract the best teachers -- has been going on for years. But U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and education mega-philanthropist Bill Gates went further -- perhaps not coincidentally, within two days of one another -- in using recent speeches as opportunities to call on school districts to reward teachers based on their students' performance and other measures of merit -- not based on whether the teachers have earned master's degrees. That puts Duncan and Gates at odds with the traditions of many school districts, which typically do pay teachers more if they have earned master's degrees. And any shift away from such pay policies worries those at education schools that offer master's degrees. 'We are concerned about the fact that this comment really does kind of take the wind out of the sails of teachers when they are really excited about doing graduate work,' says Donna L. Wiseman, dean of the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park. 'This could make them feel like it's not worth their time to enroll in graduate school. And that's counter to what we think, of course.' Duncan and Gates targeted pay increases for degree type and years of experience as wasteful spending that should be redirected to teachers who either prove their ability to perform or who take on areas where they're most needed, such as low-income schools or larger classes. While Gates mentioned master's degrees but focused primarily on seniority, Duncan's focus on master's degrees hinted at the complexities of the debate over merit pay systems. ... Wiseman, the Maryland dean, is troubled by an implication that the only reason to pursue higher learning is to make more money. 'I can't erase the fact that when teachers have master's degrees it doesn't improve student achievement,' she says. 'But I don't think a master's degree is worthless because of that.' "
Apple of Their Eye?
Inside Higher Ed: "Following the iPad's cotillion ball in April, colleges were lining up to try out the Apple computing tablet before Steve Jobs had kicked off his tennis shoes. Campus technologists greeted news of the device -- consistent with the tide of mobile computing but lacking an obvious 'killer app' in the education world -- with curiosity, enthusiasm, and some skepticism. Could the iPad unseat the laptop as students' portable computer of choice? Might it finally convince students to buy e-books? Or would it prove to be little more than the latest classroom distraction? One semester of campus pilots has hardly resolved those questions. But early returns from a number of institutions offer some clues about the iPad's applications, and limitations, on college campuses. Many colleges observed what iPad's critics had foretold: that the device is great for consuming content, but not so great for producing it. At Seton Hill University -- which has used its decision to give iPads and Apple MacBook laptops to every full-time student as the basis for a major marketing effort, which now includes a microsite -- technology officials used a network-access controller to distinguish iPad activity and MacBook activity on the campus wireless network. The network registered twice as much activity coming from the iPads as from the laptops. ... Students participating in an iPad pilot at George Fox University, in Oregon, also suggested that the tablet might be better as a complement to the laptop than as a replacement. ... Matt Kirschenbaum, director of the digital cultures and creativity program at the University of Maryland at College Park, asked the students in that program (all of whom were given iPads at the beginning of the semester) if they'd ever left home in the morning toting their iPads but not their laptops. Only a third said they had. 'I think the consensus among students is it is what it's advertised as, which is a consumption device,' said Kirschenbaum. A useful one, he added, but not a miracle machine, and probably not a game-changer."
How Will Students Communicate?
Inside Higher Ed: "If students are in fact moving away from e-mail in their personal lives, institutionally provided student e-mail accounts will probably diminish in popularity over the next few years, campus technologists say, and that could force colleges to rethink the most reliable ways to stay in touch with their students. At the same time, several technologists contacted by Inside Higher Ed say that e-mail is unlikely to disappear, if only because it remains the most suitable medium for the sort of official communications routinely sent to students from non-peer, non-professor sources. ... At the University of Maryland at College Park, one of the roughly 25 percent of nonprofit colleges that are currently reviewing their student e-mail systems, internal research indicates that while students don't much care for the university's in-house e-mail client, they still use e-mail in general, according to Tomek Kott, a graduate student there. Kott is part of a committee tasked with advising university officials on their next move on e-mail. The option of ditching institutional e-mail as obsolescent is "not part of the equation," says Kott. Yet the committee still faces a challenge in figuring out 'how to best integrate the communications that go on between students and faculty into some coherent [stream] so there's not ten places to go for contact," he says. Jeff Keltner, a business developer at Google -- which hosts student e-mail for more than half of the 57 percent of the nonprofit colleges that have outsourced that service, according to the Campus Computing Project -- says his company has not seen a dip in e-mail use on those campuses. Students in fact are 'using it at equal or greater rates' than they did in years past, he says. Yes, messaging among college-age adults has become more fragmented, says Keltner, but students still 'want a place where all that communication comes together.' "
Hard Times Sharpen the MLA's Lens on Labor and the Humanities
More Attention to Digital Work
Chronicle of Higher Education: "For scholars in the digital humanities, though, this year's meeting felt more like high times. Digital-humanities work has been around for a long time in various forms. It didn't attract much mainstream notice at the MLA, however, until the association's previous meeting, held in Philadelphia in December 2009. The rising generation made itself heard in a big way this year. It dominated much of the conference talk on Twitter (hashtag #mla11). It packed sessions on the history and future of the field, critical-code studies (that's code, as in computer code), and 'computational methods of literary research,' like the large-scale text-mining that has gotten a fair bit of publicity lately in the mainstream media. Neil Fraistat, a professor of English who directs the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland, described what he called 'a generational sea change' in the profession. He observed how much more energy one could feel in the digital-humanities sessions than in many of those devoted to traditional subject areas, like his field, Romanticism. In another sign that digital humanities has arrived, practitioners carried on public debates -- in sessions and on Twitter -- about how to define the field and who qualifies as a digital humanist. Do you have to know how to code as well as how to run a computer program, for instance?"
RankingsKiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges Kiplinger's Personal Finance: UM is ranked No. 5 in value for in-state tuition rates and No. 6 for out-of-state rates. Both are historical high marks for Maryland -- last year it was No. 8 for in-state tuition and No. 11 for out of state tuition.
(Kiplinger's is the gold standard for value rankings. Its credibility stems from its long-term history of ranking colleges for value.) Other Maryland schools on the list:
St. Mary's - #40
Salisbury - #60
Towson - #78
UMBC - #91
Peers in Top 50:
UNC - #1
UVA - #3
UC Berkeley - #16
U of Mich - #22
U of Illinois - #45
Graduation Rates Over Time: Public Research Institutions
University of Maryland: 82 percent, up a remarkable 11 points between 2003 and 2008. Chronicle of Higher Education: "We compare here the graduation rates at four-year colleges for the six years ending in 2008 with the rates for the six years ending in 2003. Because rates can spike up or down in a particular year, we also show a separate comparison that tends to reduce the effect of those outliers on differences in colleges' rates over time. To make this comparison, we averaged each college's rates in 2003 and 2008 with rates in the immediately preceeding years, then compared the averages. To further illustrate changes over time at each college, we show in boldface type any rate that increased over the one in the immediately preceeding year.
Institution Change in Pct Pts. Change in Avg Grad Rate San Diego State U 17 18 George Mason U 12 11 Georgia State U 12 12 Temple U 12 12 U of Pittsburgh 12 12 U of Minnesota 11 10 U of Maryland 11 11 Utah State U 11 0 Illinois State U 11 9 U of Louisville 11 11 Texas Woman's U 11 6 Ohio State U 11 12 Ball State U 11 11 U of Louisiana, Lafay 11 11
Off CampusCommission Appointed to Study Impact of Immigration in Md. Needs Another Year
Maryland Daily Record: "Despite the continuing debate about immigration policy, it took two years for the Commission to Study the Impact of Immigrants in Maryland to be appointed, and the members will now be asking for another year to do their work. In 2008, Del. James Malone Jr., D-Baltimore and Howard, and Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery, were the lead sponsors of the bills to form the commission. The commission was created to put together a comprehensive study on how immigrants are shaping Maryland, and make recommendations for policy going forward. Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill into law in May 2008, giving the commission until Dec. 31 of this year to come up with its report. The commission itself remains active until May 2011. No members were appointed to the commission until this year, and their first meeting as a group was in May. Since then, the commission has met several times, poring over reports and listening to speakers talking about demographic and economic data. In a meeting at the University of Maryland, College Park, on Monday, members talked about the five-page summary of their research so far, which they plan to submit to O'Malley and the General Assembly. It is not the comprehensive report that the legislation calls for, but members and staff said that since the commission is now fully formed and meeting, it should only take an additional year for that report to be written. 'At the very end of this, we need to make clear that we want to keep serving as a commission,' said Chairman Larry Shinagawa, director of the Asian American Studies program at the University of Maryland. ... For Monday's meeting, Jeffrey Werling, executive director of the University of Maryland's Inforum economic forecasting project, and a staff member of the commission, drafted a brief report that talked about research on some of the topics the commission is supposed to investigate. This includes immigrants' impact on education, workforce development, demographics of immigrants in Maryland, and the economic and employment status of the state's immigrants. The draft, which will be reworked by members of the commission before it is completed this month, also includes a review of immigration enforcement policies. Enforcement was not included as one of the issues to be addressed in the initial law establishing the commission, but it has become one of the most talked-about topics in the nation's immigration debate in the last year. Werling added language to the draft indicating that the commission would be remiss in its mission if it did not address the issue."
Smith School of Business and Gettysburg Foundation Take Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom Business Journals, UM release: "The University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business has partnered with the Gettysburg Foundation to develop customized leadership programs that integrate lessons from the historic Civil War battle. The intensely experiential programs will push participants to think differently about individual and organizational challenges through engagement in action-oriented sessions, both on the renowned Pennsylvania battlefield and in the classroom. 'As one of the most well-documented and studied battles in American history, the Battle of Gettysburg offers a rich set of characters, personalities, and examples of leadership decision-making that resonate in many organizations even today,' said Greg Hanifee, executive director of the Office of Executive Programs at the Smith School. 'The programmatic ties between leadership education and history in the Gettysburg programs are truly unique, but our process of customizing content around each client's culture, goals, and needs is the same successful model we use in all of our custom executive education programs.' "
Engaged StudentsO'Donnell Earns Top Honor
Philadelphia Inquirer: "Katie O'Donnell, a Wissahickon High School graduate and a senior at the University of Maryland, won the 2011 Honda Sports Award Thursday as the nation's top female college field hockey player. The award is based on the results of balloting among 1,000 NCAA schools as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program and qualifies O'Donnell to become a top-three finalist for collegiate women's athlete of the year. That winner will be announced June 27 in New York. The Honda Sports Award is given annually to the top women's athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports. The other field hockey nominees were Connecticut's Melissa Gonzalez, Virginia's Paige Selenski, and Princeton's Kathleen Sharkey. O'Donnell led Maryland to the NCAA Division I championship and was named the national player of the year and offensive MVP by womensfieldhockey.com, and sportswoman of the year by the Women's Sports Foundation."
Change You Can Invest In: Social Entrepreneurship
Incubating Ideas In The Classroom
NPR: Morning Edition: "According to one estimate, 500 professors are teaching courses on social entrepreneurship worldwide. On a recent day at the University of Maryland, students took their seats for the final class in a course called 'Transformative Action: Effective Methods for Social Change.' Part of the business school's Center for Social Value Creation, it requires students to come up with a viable business idea by the end of the semester. One student, John MacDonald, wears a yellow striped tie and a nervous smile for his group's presentation. The Leaf Academy is the group's idea for a charter school that would teach kids about the outdoors. 'Imagine a world where children play together outside,' MacDonald tells his fellow students, 'where they are given an opportunity to experience nature around us.' It's a nice idea, but would anyone fund it? To find out, the university has brought in two nonprofit venture capitalists, guys who help fund social ventures in the real world. Steve Lynott, with an outfit called the 1901 Group, listens patiently to their ideas, and then responds. 'My big recommendation to you,' he says, 'is [to] narrow the aperture. Find a particular problem in schools that you want to look at. Right now it's just a bit too broad.' After class ends, the other venture capitalist in the room, Drew Bewick of Tree House Ventures, says that just like traditional businesses, many social startups stall because they don't see themselves as a business. 'I see a lot of them fail after a year, because they didn't think of that sustainable piece,' he says. 'They're almost afraid to describe it as a business model.' "
Borrowing an English Tradition
Gazette Newspapers: "Holiday tradition trumps glitz and glamour in the University of Maryland, College Park's 'Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols' performance Friday in Memorial Chapel. 'It's really all about the music and the text and the old tradition,' said Stephen Holmes, conductor of the University of Maryland's Men's Chorus. 'There's something comfortable about that.' This year marks the university's ninth performance, modeled after King's College's annual Christmas Eve performance in Cambridge, England, which dates back to 1918. The featured choirs are the University of Maryland Men's and Women's choruses, the University of Maryland Chamber Singers, The Maryland Boy Choir, Femmes de Chanson, MannerMusik and Maryland Palestrina Choir. Like the Cambridge performance, the university's approximately 90-minute show begins with one boy soprano in the rear of the chapel singing the old Christmas carol 'Once in Royal David's City' a cappella, Holmes said. 'Then the [Maryland Boy Choir] processes out to the front of the church.' The show continues with readings of Bible passages related to Christmas, each followed by an a cappella song that relates to the passage."
Arcade Fire: 'Gamer Symphony Orchestra'
Washington Express: "Dismiss it as a gimmick if you want to, but the enormous Gamer Symphony Orchestra, a University of Maryland organization that re-scores video game music for the classical set, is attempting to bring generations together by playing the 'Donkey Kong' theme like you've only heard it in your most tripped-out dreams. It's like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but geekier. Hey! We mean that as a compliment! Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Dekelboum Concert Hall, University of Maryland, College Park; Sat., 2 p.m., free."
Prefab Homes: The LEAFHouse
Cover story, Natural Home Magazine: Solar panels and ample skylights lend this green prefab natural lighting and off-grid capabilities.
The following is an excerpt from 'Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home' by Sheri Koones (Abrams, 2010). The excerpt is from the Introduction.
"In green design, symbolism is sometimes as important as substance. In the LEAFHouse, designed and built by students at the University of Maryland, symbol and substance became one. The three goals of the team were straightforward: to advance sustainable design and construction, to use nature as inspiration for design, and to demonstrate that solar technology is practical for everyday life. LEAFHouse was designed and built using the best of traditional knowledge about construction married with new and innovative technologies, and utilizing readily available materials in creative and innovative ways. The signature example of this approach is the central "stem" of skylights that run the length of the house. Constructed from FSC-certified wood, ordinary structural steel, and a polycarbonate skylight system, the roof provides an integrated solution in which structure, thermal performance, and daylighting strategies come together. This prototype house was built at the university and transported to the Mall in Washington, D.C., for the Solar Decathlon in 2007. The University is planning on working with a modular company to develop a version of LEAFHouse to market to consumers."
UM Jazz Ensembles Stay True to the Music in Big Band Lineup
Washington Post: "The very earliest of American jazz men would probably be surprised to learn not only how far the musical genre has come while pretty much remaining the same, but also that there are today jazz degree programs in many universities and music schools worldwide. It is little surprise, then, that Chris Vadala -- professional jazz saxophone and woodwind player, director of University of Maryland's jazz studies program and one of just a handful of the university's Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award recipients this year -- is justly proud of his students as they present their annual Big Band Showcase under his direction on Wednesday. 'Big,' 'Band' and 'Showcase' sum up the work beautifully, since the performance features three groups. The UM Jazz Ensemble is made up of what Vadala refers to 'the premier group' of graduate students and jazz majors, while the UM Jazz Lab Band features undergraduate music and jazz majors. The third group, one that Vadala recently put together, is a blend of advanced jazz and music majors, advanced players who aren't music majors, and other musicians campuswide.
College Park Public Leadership Students Award $20K to Two Prince George's Local Nonprofits
UM release: Students who are part of the University of Maryland's College Park Scholars Public Leadership Program have learned through a semester of hard work that it's not easy to give away more than $20,000. After conducting in-depth research, participating in class-wide debates, combing through applications, conducting phone interviews and site visits, 60 sophomores under the direction of University of Maryland Public Policy Professor Robert Grimm finally came to a consensus. During a December 9th award ceremony on campus, the students announced grants to two nonprofit organizations in Prince George's county that work to empower youth through innovative educational programs: Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection and Cultural Academy for For Excellence (CAFE). The event highlighted a semester-long journey for the Maryland sophomores enrolled in the College Park Scholars' Art and Science of Philanthropy course - the capstone for the Public Leadership undergraduate honors program.
NSO's 'Messiah' Beautifully Concentrates Slimmed-Down Ensemble
Washington Post: "You have to hand it to 'Messiah.' George Frideric Handel's mighty oratorio has long been saddled with "holiday music" status, trundled out every year with the turkey, the mistletoe and (at our house, anyway) 'Alvin and the Chipmunks Sing Christmas Hits..'" It's performed with such ear-numbing regularity -- there are no fewer than 18 performances around town this month .--- that even die-hard Handel lovers could be excused for getting a little tired of the thing. But despite all that, 'Messiah' can still triumph magnificently, as the Italian conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini demonstrated in a trimmed-down, high-octane performance at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Thursday night. Alessandrini has made a name for himself over the past decade by rethinking and reinvigorating the early music repertoire, and he pared 'Messiah' down to its essentials, using a mere 30 players from the National Symphony Orchestra, a similarly modest choir from the University of Maryland and the four soloists. The lean ensemble let Alessandrini fly through the work, sometimes at a devil-may-care tempo, with precise, beautifully articulated counterpoint and extraordinary detail. The usual large-forces 'Messiah' can sometime bulldoze listeners into rapture, but Alessandrini's take was an exhilarating revelation."
PeopleObama Names Sperling to Head National Economic Council Washington Post: "President Obama on Friday named Gene Sperling director of the National Economic Council, choosing a veteran of the Clinton administration budget battles to navigate the rocky shoals of record budget deficits, high unemployment and a Congress dominated by resurgent Republicans. ... Obama on Friday also announced other changes on the economic team. Jason Furman, who has served as (Larry) Summers's deputy on the NEC since the start of the administration, will receive a new title: principal deputy director of the NEC and assistant to the president for economic policy. Heather Higginbottom, who is currently deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will move to the White House budget office as deputy director under Jacob Lew, another Clinton veteran. Higginbottom's post requires Senate confirmation. And Obama nominated economist Katharine G. Abraham to the three-member Council of Economic Advisers, a post that also requires Senate confirmation. Abraham is a professor in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology and a faculty associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Maryland. A graduate of Harvard and Iowa State, Abraham served as commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Labor Department from 1993 to 2001."
Art Project Turning Md. Barns into Canvases
Curator hopes to have a work in each of state's counties
"Tucked between two grain silos in the gray and white of winter is an old Maryland dairy barn spray-painted with monsters. There's a droopy-eyed Technicolor slug with fangs and horns and a catlike character with big teeth and plump Hollywood lips. The creatures are the first offspring of a rural street-art experiment launching from Montgomery County that intentionally avoids lovely country scenes and sunsets. The goal is to bring contemporary art to pastoral places by painting a barn in each Maryland county and pairing the artwork with poetry. The project is being curated by John Shipman, director of the University of Maryland's art gallery. He likes the idea of presenting jarring works to people who don't show up in the cloistered world of art exhibits. In his years perusing galleries throughout the country, he's encountered snobbery, boorishness and revelation between bright gallery walls. 'I think probably 90 percent of it is bunk,' Shipman said. 'The 10 percent of it you get is possibly life-altering.' Eventually, Shipman said, he hopes to have one barn-canvas in each of Maryland's 23 counties. The artist he chose for the project is Bill Dunlap, a former designer for the Travelocity website whose wild, playful and disturbing images have been pasted along New York streets. Now, they are staring from a weathered barn on Hawkins Creamery Road, 30 miles north of the White House. Shipman's summers in rural Maryland left him captivated by the beauty and artistic opportunity of farm buildings. A stunning gallery he visited in a converted feed-and-seed store stuck in his memory, as did the work of the Barnstormers, a group of New York and Tokyo-based artists who have painted barns and farm equipment in rural North Carolina."
Maryland Professor Aims to Dispel Myths About Immigrants
The Sentinel: "During a lecture at the Embassy of Argentina in Washington, D.C., Professor Judith Freidenberg took participants on a journey that began with her grandparents in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century and continues today in Prince George's County. The journey is one that has shaped her career and continues to influence her research and public appearances. On Nov. 11, Freidenberg discussd an exhibit she curated, "The Immigrant Experience in Prince George's County," at the Driskell Center at the University of Maryland. Her hope, she said, is to change the dialogue about immigration in Prince George's County, just as she worked to change it in other communities. Freidenberg's grandparents immigrated from Russia, Romania and Lithuania to Argentina to escape anti-Semitism in Europe. Her parents moved from northeast Argentina to the country's capital city of Buenos Aires for better education opportunities. Slumped comfortably in a chair in her College Park office, Freidenberg explained her own contribution to the family's immigration equation. 'I came to this country in the '70s. I was 25 or 26. The motive for my coming was professional advancement,' she said. Both she and her husband at the time wanted to undertake graduate studies, she said. Their plan was to go back to Argentina in three years. More than three decades later, Freidenberg is still in the United States. A professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland, Freidenberg studies the life cycles of immigrants in the United States and abroad. While her family story contributes to this interest, she said she is ultimately driven by larger ambitions: to debunk commonly held myths about immigrants and to disseminate the truth. She hopes her exhibit this week will help."
Ronald Walters (1938-2010): He Refused to Trade His Dignity for Lunch
Washington Post: Ronald W. Walters did not bring his lunch that spring day in 1958, and he didn't have a car to drive home from his new job in downtown Wichita. So he decided to walk over to the F.W. Woolworth drugstore to grab a bite. A 19-year-old college student at the time, Walters crossed the street and pushed open the door. Wichita might as well have been the Deep South. Segregation was subtle, without many "whites only" signs. But people knew where to go and where not to go, knew where to sit and where not to sit. If you were black and sat down in the wrong place, you might have waited for a long time, until a waitress finally arrived and said, 'We don't serve Colored here.' Walters stood in line at Woolworth that day to order as the lunch counter bustled with the clang of plates, voices chattering, ice cubes in Coca-Cola. Whites sat on spinning stools covered by red vinyl. Black people stood and ate, or took their food home, banned from taking a seat. Even then, Walters had a quiet, thoughtful reserve. He was a young scholar who would one day become one of the country's foremost authorities on race and politics, called upon by presidents and reporters for his insight. He would become a political science professor at Howard University; and then a professor, distinguished leadership scholar at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland at College Park in 2009, when he would be named in retirement a professor emeritus."
Congress Takes on Mountaintop Mining
Washington Independent: "The administration has struggled to find a balance between applying stricter environmental standards to mountaintop mines and being careful not to hobble a powerful economic engine in the process. Indeed, after vowing to reassert its powers to scrutinize pending mountaintop permits, the EPA last month authorized 42 -- and rejected just six -- new coal projects in the Appalachian states. Most of those are surface mines -- including mountaintop removal projects -- that will fill scores of valleys and bury miles of tiny streams representing the headwaters of larger rivers below. At least one project will fill six valleys alone. In announcing that decision, an EPA spokesperson said it was the agency's 'understanding' that the projects wouldn't 'permanently impact high value streams that flow year round.' Those criteria, however, concern many scientists, who argue that streams flowing only periodically are no less important to the health of ecosystems than those that run perennially. Margaret Palmer, environmental scientist at the University of Maryland, told lawmakers Thursday that headwater streams -- even if ephemeral -- perform vital tasks like water purification and nutrient cycling, processes essential to the health of food webs downstream. 'Headwater streams,' Palmer said, 'are exponentially more important than their size would suggest.' "
Galston, Frum Create 'No Labels Solution to Washington Gridlock'
Chronicle of Higher Education: "Last week, William Galston, professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland and President Clinton's first Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy, joined with David Frum, conservative pundit and former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, to issue a call in the Washington Post for a 'No Labels Solution to Washington Gridlock.' Their idea is that we can restore civil debate in the United States if we reward elected officials that 'reach across the aisle' and 'criticize those who do not.' They are especially concerned to rule out of order two widely-deployed labels: racist and socialist. In their views, the terms applied to 'legitimate policy differences' undermine 'democratic discourse.' To stop this, Galston and Frum are launching a new movement at an event in New York on December 13, which they are calling 'No Labels.' It will carry forward their promise to 'call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems,' and 'establish lines that no one should cross.' "
Madieu Williams Named Vikings Community Man of the Year
Minneapolis-St. Paul City Pages: "It hasn't exactly been a stellar season for the Vikings. First there was Brett Favre Penisgate. Then Randy Moss's bizarre self-interview. Then Coach Brad Childress got kicked to the can. And over the weekend, the Metrodome collapsed. So it's nice to know that there is still a little bit of good news coming from the Vikings -- even if it happens off the field. The good news is in the form of Safety Madieu Williams, who just got named as the team's Community Man of the Year. Williams, who is in his third year of a six-year, $33 million contract with the Vikings, has already used his wealth to build a primary school in his native country, Sierra Leone, and is now working on a secondary school. Earlier this year, he helped bring doctors and dentists to the schools to provide free care. Here in Minnesota, Williams has worked with the North Community YMCA, United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy. He gives season tickets to kids lucky enough to be part of his 'Dieu's Crew.' He also donated $2 million donation to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at the University of Maryland, where he played football. The center will work on public health issues for Prince George's County in Maryland, as well as in Sierra Leone. Williams is now the team's representative for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which is given at the Super Bowl."
Gayle King Is Ready to Do Her OWN Thing
USA Today: "Gayle King is guzzling pear juice. No, wait. She's done with that. Now she's opening a bottle of something green called Mellow Love. 'They give it a fancy title,' she confides. 'Let's see what's in it. Cucumber, celery, spinach, parsley I drink six of these a day -- with different flavors.' Not every day. Just today. Explains King, as she tugs on her form-fitting navy dress, 'I'm on my cleanse after Australia. I was a pig!' King, 56, isn't shy about sharing. There's nothing guarded about her. She doesn't need a team of publicists to sit in on an interview and lay down ground rules. She is a confident, curious, opinionated force of nature, not unlike her best pal Oprah Winfrey, who took King along Down Under in December with 300 Oprah Winfrey Show audience members. Where Winfrey goes, King often follows. They've been friends since 1976. And when you spend time with King, you realize why Winfrey described her in that recent teary Barbara Walters interview as 'the sister everybody would want.' King, who majored in psychology and sociology at the University of Maryland, can talk non-stop about anything, as she does every day with her Gayle King Show radio audience. She zooms through topics from Don't Ask, Don't Tell to Lindsay Lohan's rehab to superglue mishaps. Whatever King finds interesting, she'll throw out on the air, giving her opinion, asking callers for theirs, bringing in a guest (she often gets Oprah on the line) to give another point of view. It is that instant feeling of accessibility that has helped make King a success on radio. The Gayle King Show has aired on SiriusXM/Oprah Radio since 2006. (It's also syndicated by Westwood One to terrestrial stations.) And on Monday, the second hour of the show will be televised on the new Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN, which launched Jan. 1. The network is off to a good ratings start. It averaged 1 million primetime viewers on Saturday and 846,000 Sunday, according to preliminary Nielsen figures, a sharp increase from the 242,000 that predecessor Discovery Health averaged in primetime last fall. The Gayle King Show will be the only live show in the OWN programming lineup."
Vibrant StateMC2 Launch: Bill Aims to Make Information Superhighway Safer
Cardin showcases UM's cybersecurity center
Business Gazette: "U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin announced plans Thursday to introduce a bill to require the private sector to come up with minimum standards for Internet security. Cardin announced the bill at the launch of the University of Maryland's new cybersecurity center. Cardin (D) of Pikesville said everyone who uses a computer to connect to the Internet is vulnerable to criminals and spies who could steal identities, financial records and government information. 'We live in a digital world, and we need to take steps to protect all forms of Internet communication,' Cardin said. Failure to improve cybersecurity could lead to 'untold havoc for millions of Americans and businesses as well as our national security,' Cardin said. Cardin, who currently is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, said the Internet and Cybersecurity Safety Standards Act would require the federal government to work with the private sector to develop safety standards for users of computers and other devices that connect to the Internet. Maryland is looking to be at the forefront of Internet security. Last year, U.S. Cyber Command was established at Fort Meade to protect the nation against electronic attacks on the Internet. Cardin announced the new bill at the launch of the University of Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2) in the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building at College Park. ... The keynote speaker for Thursday's event was Mike McConnell, the former director of national intelligence under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who said more security is needed to prevent potential chaos caused by computer hackers knocking out the nation's electronics grid or destroying financial records. The nation needs to step up efforts to erect Internet defenses, just as it fortified military defenses during World War II and the Cold War, McConnell said."
UM Energy Research Center Works for Better Energy Future
UM release: "The University of Maryland is taking a proactive role in shaping the future of energy policy and innovation. The UMD Energy Research Center (UMERC) is a collaboration of more than 50 faculty members from departments across campus who are seeking new ways to generate and capture energy. Administered by the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the cross-collaborative center's mission includes:
* Develop energy efficient and environmentally sustainable technologies and practices
* Educate the public about energy and environmental technologies
* Inform the larger policy debate on urgent, global issues of sustainable energy and environment
* Improve U.S. energy security by developing indigenous and environmentally sustainable energy resources while promoting energy policies that have a positive impact on the environment"
UM Business School Offers Training for Community Board Members
Business Journals: "The University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business is teaming with the state's bankers association on a new training program for board members at community banks. The series of short courses aims to help business leaders who serve on boards at community banks navigate through new financial regulations. The program with the Maryland Bankers Association will be offered in six four-hour modules, beginning in January 2011 on the University of Maryland's College Park campus. The first course on credit risk management will be taught by Clifford Rossi, executive-in-residence at the school's Center for Financial Policy. Other topics include corporate governance and deposit insurance. The program costs between $315 and $350 per person, per session depending on how many directors from the same bank attend. There are more than 700 executives currently serving on the boards of Maryland's community banks, said Kathleen Murphy, CEO of the Maryland Bankers Association."
Martek Buyout Second Big Win for Mtech
Business Journals: "Martek Biosciences Corp. wasn't always the algae-based food supplement giant we know today. The Columbia biotech, which has agreed to a more than $1 billion buyout by Dutch vitamin maker Royal DSM, was born at a University of Maryland incubator as a fledgling company with little more than an idea. Today, it is that College Park incubator's second-biggest acquisition behind medical diagnostics company Digene Corp., which sold to Qiagen NV for $1.6 billion in 2007. Martek, despite its exodus years ago from Prince George's County for available bioscience space in Howard County, remains a point of pride for the Technology Advancement Program, known as the TAP incubator, part of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech). Martek -- which originally applied to TAP under the name 'Algatex' -- joined the local incubator in 1985. At that point, the company had developed microalgae from which it could extract essential oils -- it thought originally for aerospace purposes -- but didn't know if it could make the product on a commercial scale, said Martha Connolly, director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program. 'It's sort of like saying -- if I can make one cupcake, can I make 30,000 cupcakes?' Connolly said. The company helped solve this problem in another local Mtech asset: the Bioprocess Scale-up Facility, which boasts large-scale fermentation equipment and other capabilities. Today, Martek employs about 600 and is a top supplier of omega-3 fatty acids for baby formula, as well as other food products. The biotech has $450 million in annual net revenue."
Smith School to Walk Bank Directors Through Dodd-Frank Rules
Washington Post: "Regulators may still be hashing out the finance reform rules of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, but with the legislation's implementation looming, the Center for Financial Policy at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business has begun guiding local banks through the labyrinth of laws now. Starting this month, the center, in partnership with the Maryland Bankers Association, plans to launch the 'bank director training program,' a six-part series on the changing regulatory environment held at the College Park campus. The initiative is aimed at the more than 700 business leaders who serve on the board of directors at community banks in Maryland. Community bank board members often hail from outside the banking industry and may not be well versed in the complexities of federal reform. Yet they must carry out critical assessments of an institution's operations, a task that requires a fair amount of knowledge of industry regulations. Faculty and staff from the Smith School plan to teach courses on subjects such as asset liability, corporate governance and credit risk management."
University of Maryland to Double Its For-Rent Biotech Lab
Business Journals: "The University of Maryland next month will double the size of a for-rent lab facility that helped launch fledgling Washington-area biotechs Digene Corp. and Martek Biosciences Corp. into billion-dollar companies. The lab, called the Bioprocess Scale-up Facility, has lent its research capabilities and training to a veritable who's who of the Maryland life sciences sector. Its list of past contracts spans from giants MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences Inc. all the way down to incubator-level companies with a bit of promising intellectual property. The facility, which brings to the university about $300,000 in annual revenue, is part of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (dubbed Mtech). Just about any biotech company can use the facility, though Maryland ones are likely to get priority. And while there's often a waiting a list, there are no other strict qualifications. For Digene and Martek, the lab bridged the gap between an idea and a viable product by helping the companies prove their technology could work on a commercial scale. All this in two modest rooms containing about $3 million or $4 million in equipment, including a 1959 milk separator now used to extract cells from liquids. 'The work that we charge you $1,000 or $10,000 here is going to be much more expensive if you went to a private contract research organization,' said Martha Connolly, director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships, another MTech program."
Global CommunityGeo-Engineering Could Slow Climate Change
CCTV, China: "Some scientists believe it's already too late to stop the dangerous effects of climate change.But some say there is one possible way to at least slow the damage. CCTV correspondent Jeff Napshin has more on the controversial concept of geo-engineering. It happens every time there's a major volcanic erruption. Clouds of ash enter the atmosphere blocking the sun and lowering the temperature. That gave climate scientists an idea that's led to the development of geo-engineering: a man-made effort to modfiy the climate in order to fight global warming. Mike Maccracken, Climate Institute, said, 'It's something that's gonna be necessary.If we don't do it the damage will be so severe that we just won't wanna tolerate it.' Mike MacCracken is chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington. He says geo-engineering is intended to slow the effects of climate change -- which many believe is raising global temperatures and sea levels while changing weather patterns. But some experts say you shouldn't play god with Mother Nature. Ning Zeng, Professor of University of Maryland, said, 'I think some of them could be potentially dangerous.' Professor Ning Zeng is an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland. He says geo-engineering is just beginning to be studied. Professor Zeng supports well known efforts like re-forrestation -- which adds trees in an effort to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But he believes other ideas are potentially dangerous. For example, some scientists are foccussed on reducing solar radiation: from intentionally brightening clouds to dropping sulphate particles into the air. He said, 'You inject them into the atmosphere for a longer life so they can stay there and mimic the process of a volcanic erruption.' The idea is to gradually lower the earth's temperature. But problems range from controlling the level of sun blockage to the impact on precipitation patterns which could result in a drought."
Older People Who Eat Healthy Diets 'Lead Longer Lives'
Older people who follow healthy diets may live longer, a study suggests
BBC News: "Research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found those who ate a low-fat diet that contained lots of fruit and vegetables lowered their risk of dying over 10 years. The study compared the diets of 2,500 US adults aged 70 to 79. Those who ate a high fat diet rich in ice cream, cheese, and whole milk, had the highest risk of death. The study showed that 12 extra people in every hundred survived over the ten years, if they ate healthily. Participants were split into six different groups, according to how often they ate certain foods. The groups were: healthy foods; high-fat diary products; meat, fried foods and alcohol; breakfast cereal; refined grains and sweets and desserts. Those who had a hhealthy foods' diet ate more low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables. People in this group had healthier lifestyles too; smoking less and being more active than other participants."
* The high fat dairy products cluster contained 332 people. 109 of them died over the 10 year period - 34%.
* The "sweets and desserts" cluster contained 339 people. 104 of them died over the 10 year period - 32%.
* The healthy foods cluster contained 374 people. 77 of them died over the 10 year period - 21%.
"They also ate lower amounts of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. The 'high fat dairy products' cluster ate more ice cream, cheese and whole milk and yogurt. They ate less poultry, low fat dairy products, rice, and pasta. Researchers found that those who followed a predominantly high fat, dairy products diet, had a higher death risk than those in the healthy food group. No significant differences in death risk were seen between the 'healthy foods' eaters and the 'breakfast cereal' or 'refined grains' eaters. Lead researcher, Dr Amy Anderson, from the University of Maryland, said the results suggest 'older adults who ...consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality'." http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12038794
Easier Way to Detect Dangerous Flu
Singapore Straits Times: "A NEW, fully automated method to detect potentially dangerous changes in the flu virus has been developed in a joint collaboration between the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the University of Maryland. Scientists from the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), a biomedical research institute of A*Star, and the University of Maryland, developed the software package named GiRaF (Graph-incompatability based Reassortment Finder) , which can analyse large databases of influenza genomes to detect reassortments. This approach, published this month in Nucleic Acids Research, is the result of a three-year collaboration between Dr Niranjan Nagarajan, Senior Research Scientist, Computational and Mathematical Biology at the GIS and Prof Carl Kingsford, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland. ... Professor Steven Salzberg, Director of the Center for the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Maryland added, 'This system represents the first truly sophisticated computational method for finding reassortments in the influenza virus genome. Today, with the growing amount of influenza genome sequence data and with the GiRaF algorithm, we can finally begin to track these major genetic shifts in the composition of the virus,' he said."
IRIS: Mobile Money Revolution Aids Kenya's Poor, Economy
NPR: All Things Considered: "When you think 'financial innovation,' East Africa doesn't leap to mind. But for the past several years, millions of Kenyans have been using their cell phones as mobile bank accounts. They pay bills, buy goods and send money to family members -- all by mobile phone. Kenya's mobile money revolution is helping poor people and boosting local economies. Saimon Outiri works as a cook in a restaurant in Kibera, a sprawling, crowded community in Nairobi and one of Africa's largest slums. Like most people in Kibera, Outiri doesn't earn very much -- just $4.37 a week. He would like to put that money in a bank, but he can't afford to. 'If I want to open up a bank account, it will cost me some charges, which I am unable to incur,' he says. So Outiri deposits his salary onto his cell phone with the help of an M-PESA agent in a kiosk in Kibera. M-PESA is the first mobile money transfer system of its kind in Africa. 'M' stands for 'mobile,' and 'Pesa' means 'money' in Kiswahili. ... Outiri says M-PESA also provides security. He'd rather store money on his cell phone than carry cash in Kibera, a place so dicey, some businessmen collect payments surrounded by guards with AK-47s. Safaricom, Kenya's leading mobile phone company, launched M-PESA several years ago. Originally, the service was just a marketing tool. The company was targeting people without bank accounts -- the vast majority of Kenyans -- to get them to subscribe to Safaricom. But Waceke Mbugua, M-PESA's marketing manager, says the service proved surprisingly popular and useful. 'It has grown faster than we expected it to grow,' Mbugua says. In less than four years, M-PESA now has more than 13 million users and 23,000 agents. Transferring money to a person anywhere in Kenya costs about 37 cents. Paying a bill is free. The University of Maryland's Iris Center [ http://www.iris.umd.edu/ ], which does economic research, interviewed 300 M-PESA users, agents and community leaders last year. Sherri Haas, a co-author of the study, says the M-PESA is clearly having an economic impact. For instance, she says the flood of money transfers from urban areas boosted consumer spending in the countryside. 'Now that locals were able to receive money into these areas, they were spending their money there as well. Shop owners would report that they had more business because there was more money circulating within these local communities,' Haas says. M-PESA also allows some small-business owners to increase their speed and expand their reach."
Living on the Edge
Low-lying deltas are home to half the world's population and much of its wealth, but they are also on the frontlines of climate change. Olivia Boyd looks at the challenges.
China Dialogue: "This year, officials in Jakarta realised they had a serious problem: rain -- and more rain. Indonesia's wet months are famously soggy and rainstorms nothing new for the capital. But this time around the downpours continued long after they were meant to have passed. 'We have noticed there is no more dry season,' said Fauzi Bowo, the governor of Jakarta. 'We use the dry season to repair and prepare our infrastructure for the rainy season. Now we have no chance. It rains every day.' Jakarta, at the mouth of the Ciliwung River, is just one of many major global cities situated in low-lying, coastal deltas and already grappling with the effects of climate change. Deltas are areas of land formed from sediment where a river flows into the sea or another body of water. They are home to more than half the world's population and many of its most valuable assets. The Nile Delta, for instance, accounts for more than 50% of Egypt's economic activity through agriculture, industry and fisheries. But while proximity to water - and therefore global connections - has brought immense prosperity to many low-lying coasts, it also carries great risks, such as heavy rainfall, flooding and saltwater intrusion. These risks are now growing. ... Precipitation patterns are just one of a host of concerns. Rising sea-levels in many places will compound existing flood risks and threaten freshwater supplies, as saltwater migrates upstream into rivers, and salinisation of coastal groundwater continues. Coastal floods will also threaten vital infrastructure, stressed Gerald Galloway, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maryland, in the United States: corrosion of pipes and flooding of water-treatment facilities and desalination plants, which need to be located near to the sea, could restrict the ability of societies to provide essential water services to their populations."
Semiconductor Memory Stores Spins
Physics World UK: "Physicists in the US and the UK have found a way to store and read data in nuclear spins using electronic pulses. The breakthrough could help in the development of spintronic systems that process information using spins - and could also find applications in quantum computation. Spintronics is an emerging area of solid-state physics that attempts to use the spin as well as the charge of electrons to process data more efficiently. But a problem with electron spins is that they have a fairly short lifetime, which in practice would lead to corrupt data. For this reason scientists have been looking for new and better ways to store and retrieve information from spin systems. One place to store spin-based information is in nitrogen-vacancy defects of a diamond crystal, and in recent years this has shown some promise. But the trouble with using diamond is that it is not compatible with conventional silicon-based electronics - a must if spintronic devices are ever to be integrated into computers. Now, Dane McCamey of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and colleagues from Florida State University, Tallahassee, and University College London have found a way to store, and read, spins in a widely used semiconductor: phosphorous doped silicon (SiP). Their work marks the first time anyone has taken an electrical readout of data held in atomic nuclei. ... " Must be flexible and easy to use "Whether the scheme develops into further applications in spin quantum computation or spin electronics would depend a lot on whether this technique is flexible and relatively easy to use by the community," said Sankar Das Sarma, a condensed-matter theorist at the University of Maryland. "It's too soon to tell. What I can say is that I am quite impressed by the clever electrical read out technique used by the authors here, and I hope that this has a future in spintronics."
America and the Middle East -- Great Sacrifices, Small Rewards
Has America's obsession with this region been worth it?
The Economist: "America's Middle East policy now looks thwarted at every turn. Its closest ally, Israel, which has received more than $27 billion in American military aid over the past decade, has rebuffed pleas, backed by offers of yet more aid and diplomatic support, to pause in its building of illegal Jewish settlements in occupied territory. Another Middle Eastern friend and aid recipient, Egypt, has cocked a snook at American requests to set an example of democratic reform. It rejected a call by Barack Obama to let international observers monitor a recent, garishly fraudulent election. Iraq, where America has expended so much blood and treasure, took nine months to form a shaky government that looks more to Iran's liking than America's. And Iran seems undiminished in its determination to pursue its nuclear ambitions, no matter how much America and its allies rattle sabres and pile on sanctions. Even the popularity of Mr Obama, which surged among Arabs and Muslims after his inauguration, has fallen back. Shibley Telhami, of the University of Maryland who has long experience in polling regional opinion, notes two trends. Arabs used to distinguish between a dislike for American policies and a liking for Americans as people; now they tend to dismiss both. And when asked which leaders they admire, Arabs continue to cheer those who stand up to America and to its ally Israel. This year Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan tops the list, followed by Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's yanqui-baiter-in-chief."
Indictment Could Be Blow to Lebanon's Hezbollah
Associated Press: "Hezbollah says looming indictments by a U.N. court for the assassination of a former prime minister are of no concern to the group. Hezbollah's leader, in fact, says he is so relaxed he sleeps an extra hour every night. Behind the veneer of confidence, however, analysts say the Shiite Lebanese group is deeply worried at the impact of what will likely be charges against some of its members. At the least, it could be a blow to one of the movement's most important foundations -- its reputation. ... The Netherlands-based tribunal has not said who it will indict, but Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said he has information it will be members of his group. ... 'In a recent speech, Nasrallah denied he was worried, saying, 'I have been sleeping an extra hour each day for the past few months.' Talking tough, Hezbollah has threatened to 'cut off the arm' of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members. But Bilal Saab, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland who advises the U.S. government on Lebanon, said Hezbollah faces hard choices, none of which are good. 'Right now, Hezbollah is thinking of ways to weather the storm,' he said. He said a violent reaction by the group can throw the country into turmoil and reawaken the various armed Sunni jihadi groups that are present in Lebanon. A political reaction that seeks to overthrow the government may buy Hezbollah some time but is not sustainable in the long term, he said."
Majority of Americans Favor U.S. Role in Resolving Mideast Dispute
Poiltico: "A poll to be released Thursday at the Brookings Institution shows that two-thirds of Americans polled believe that the Arab-Israeli issue is among the top five American interests in the world, while one quarter believe it is one of top three American interests. The findings 'are really striking,' the poll's coordinator, Shibley Telhami told POLITICO on Wednesday. 'The American public thinks this is a big-time issue.' Telhami is the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland and a nonresident fellow at Brookings. With 71 percent of those polled supporting American diplomatic efforts to mediate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, President Barack Obama can't just walk away from the issue, Telhami said. The poll also showed striking partisan differences in attitudes toward the conflict, with 46 percent of Republicans wanting American diplomacy to lean toward Israel, compared to 11 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats. The poll's release comes as the Obama administration announced this week that it is abandoning an effort to get a new Israeli settlements moratorium as a way to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak about the peace process in a speech to the Saban Center Friday. She will also meet with Israeli peace negotiator Yitzhak Molho at the State Department Thursday, as the U.S. seems to be moving towards negotiating separately with the parties to try to advance an agreement. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell is also expected to return to the region next week, the State Department said Wednesday. Telhami discusses his findings at the Brookings Institution Saban Center for Middle East Studies on Thursday at 2 p.m."
MasterCard Site May Be Target Of WikiLeaks Backers
NPR: "MasterCard's website experienced intermittent technical problems Wednesday in what appeared to be the latest cyberattack launched in support of WikiLeaks and its jailed founder, Julian Assange. The apparent denial-of-service attack occurred a day after the company said that it would join Amazon.com, eBay, PayPal and EveryDNS in stopping the process of forwarding donations or providing computer services to WikiLeaks. MasterCard's decision also came the same day that Assange was arrested in Britain on a Swedish warrant for alleged sex crimes. A MasterCard spokesman, James Issokson, would not say whether it believed WikiLeaks supporters were involved. The website was inaccessible at times throughout Wednesday. Issokson said the problems started early morning Eastern time. He said consumers could still use their credit cards for secure transactions. The troubles at MasterCard occurred on the same day as cyberattacks on websites for Swedish prosecutors, the Swedish lawyer whose clients have accused Assange of sexual crimes, and the Swiss authority that froze Assange's bank account. ... Patrick O'Shea, a professor at the University of Maryland's Cybersecurity Center, says ' "coordinated" ' isn't really the right word.' Some experts label public calls on the Internet for others to help bring down a site a 'swarm' attack, but O'Shea says it's more accurate to compare it to crowdsourcing -- the online practice of asking a large group of people to help gather information. Many of the people who respond to Anonymous' call to arms are responding more to the issue at hand than the desire to be part of the hack, O'Shea said. 'It's not just a technology or computer problem,' he said. "Now, it becomes a social problem, too.' "
WikiLeaks Revelations Don't Shock Climatologists
Live Science: "For drama, the annual rite of climate talks that ended last week in Cancun, Mexico, had nothing on the maneuvering that took place last year in Copenhagen, which failed to produce a binding international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases. That drama has been brought out into the open only now, by the unauthorized release of U.S. diplomatic communications through the website WikiLeaks. Summaries of the leaked diplomatic cables, which appeared in two European publications on the last day of the Cancun talks, paint a less-than-flattering picture of an American administration pushing for the less-restrictive Copenhagen Accord and the gritty deal-making behind it. The German publication Der Spiegel declared that the United States and China 'joined forces to stymie every attempt by European nations to reach agreement.' Meanwhile, an article in the British publication The Guardian describes the 'mucky realpolitik' of Americans seeking 'dirt' on nations opposed to the Copenhagen Accord, and talks of linking U.S. monetary aid to nations' support of the accord. [Copenhagen Climate Summit: What You Need to Know] Instead of committing nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by certain levels, the Copenhagen Accord contained more-flexible pledges determined by individual nations. The WikiLeaks cables provide details of the goings-on leading up to this agreement -- revelations that come as little surprise to those who follow international climate negotiations. Many observers met the new details with shrugs of distaste. 'I am almost not surprised by anything that I hear from Copenhagen,' said Elizabeth Malone, senior research scientist with the Joint Global Change Research Institute (http://www.globalchange.umd.edu/). 'It's certainly not news that almost every country or small bloc of countries showed up with an agenda that prevented countries from reaching an agreement.' Nathan Hultman, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, agreed. 'Basically, I am not terribly surprised by what I have read here,' said Hultman, who attended last year's talks in Copenhagen as well as the negotiations in Cancun. 'When I read these stories, I think they are making a bigger deal out of it than they maybe should be.' Referring to Der Spiegel's statement that the United States and China 'colluded,' Hultman said, 'Countries talk to each other all the time.' For instance, he said, the biggest emerging economies, a group called BASIC (for Brazil, South Africa, India and China), have common interests and communicate among themselves. 'You could say they coordinate or maybe they share information, but this is not scandalous, this is how negotiations work,' Hultman said."
Does the Muslim World Have Political Cartoons?
You bet it does.
Slate: "Two blasts rocked Stockholm's shopping district on Sunday, killing the bomber and injuring two. Minutes before the explosions, a Swedish news agency received an e-mail complaining about unflattering depictions of the prophet Muhammad in political cartoons. While it's not yet clear whether the bomber and the e-mailer were one and the same, Islamic extremists still seem fixated on these caricatures more than five years after their initial publication. Are political cartoons -- blasphemous or not -- a big deal in the Muslim world? Yes. Most state-run and independent newspapers in Muslim countries carry political cartoons. If anything, the art of the political cartoon is more vibrant in those places than it is in Europe and the United States. For one thing, it's safer in some countries to express controversial ideas in caricature than to spell them out in sentences and paragraphs. Literacy rates also make a difference in the Muslim world: About half the people in Pakistan and Yemen can read, 28 percent of Afghans, and 84 percent of the populations in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. In these places, political cartoons offer a reliable way to get a point across to a sizable group who can't read anything else in a newspaper. In the 1870s, when Thomas Nast was working in the golden age of American political cartoons, the national literacy rate was 80 percent. Now it's 99 percent, and the cartoons are much less influential. Cartoonists in the Muslim world don't shy away from controversy. They have slammed the Yemeni regime for manipulating polling data and criticized the Iranian government's response to election protests. But artists working in some countries have to be careful. Daniel Corstange, a professor at the University of Maryland, surveyed (PDF) Yemeni political cartoonists about censorship in 2007. Most agreed that caricatures of the president would be met with punishment, while many also confessed to avoiding other important government officials, army figures, or tribal sheiks. As a result, cartoons tend to depict anonymous people, or to use objects as representations of political figures. (Kind of like Doonesbury.) Religion isn't a taboo topic, but it's not particularly popular. Off-limits subjects include sexuality, sectarianism, and women's rights."
Science & TechnologyTired of Our Winter Weather? Great White Storm Spotted on Saturn Is Half the Size of Earth
Daily Main UK: "Britain may have been battered by some impressive winter blizzards this month, but they are nothing compared to those experienced on Saturn.An image captured by Nasa's Cassini Spacecraft has revealed a storm on Saturn's northern hemisphere where the central squall measures half the size of Earth. While the main spot is about 3,600 miles across the whole system including the tail streaming off to the right is more than 36,000 miles long. The raw, unprocessed image was taken by Cassini on Christmas Eve and received on Earth on 27 December. It was taken from around one million miles away using a green filter and also shows the dark shadows of the planet's rings on the disk. Scientists believe the spot appears white because it is made of ammonia ice crystals. Storms shoot warm gas up from Saturn's lower atmosphere and through a thick upper mantle of old, smog-stained ammonia ice. As the gas expands in the upper atmosphere, fresh crystals of ammonia condense on the cooling vapour, forming the white region visible from Earth. Bridget Hesman, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, said: 'A balloonist floating about 100 kilometres down from the bottom of Saturn's calm stratosphere would experience an ammonia-ice blizzard. These blizzards appear to be powered by violent storms deeper down -- perhaps another 100 to 200 kilometres down -- where lightning has been observed and the clouds are made of water and ammonia.' The phenomenon -- which is a lesser known equivalent of Jupiter's giant red spot -- was first picked up by amateur astronomers in mid December."
NIST's New Scanning Probe Microscope is Supercool
NIST: "The discoveries of superconductivity, the quantum Hall effect and the fractional quantum Hall effect were all the result of measurements made at increasingly lower temperatures. Now, pushing the regime of the very cold into the very small, a research team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the University of Maryland, Janis Research Company, Inc., and Seoul National University, has designed and built the most advanced ultra-low temperature scanning probe microscope (ULTSPM) in the world. Detailed in a recent paper, the ULTSPM operates at lower temperatures and higher magnetic fields than any other similar microscope, capabilities that enable the device to resolve energy levels separated by as small as 1 millionth of an electron volt. This extraordinary resolution has already resulted in the discovery of new physics.... The NIST team had to overcome many technical challenges to achieve this level of precision and sensitivity, according to Young Jae Song, a postdoctoral researcher [CMPS-Inst for Research in Electronics & Applied Physics] who helped develop the instrument at NIST. Past designs used mechanical systems to move the probe tip that did not work over a wide range of temperatures. Researchers overcame this by creating piezoelectric actuators that expand with atomic scale precision when voltage is applied.
Study Says 'Alien' Bombardment Brought Gold to Earth
Asian News International: "A new research has suggested that massive planetoids which crashed into the Earth late in its formation some 4.5 billion years ago might have brought gold and other precious metals to our planet. The findings provide new evidence that the gold, platinum, palladium and other iron-loving elements found in the crusts and mantles of the Earth, Moon and Mars arrived on mini-planet-sized impactors during the final phase of planet formation in our solar system A team of researchers from the University of Maryland, the Southwest Research Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanographys said these massive collisions occurred within tens of millions of years of the even bigger impact that produced our Moon. 'Our understanding of the formation of Earth and other planets with iron cores and silicate mantles suggests that iron-loving elements are pulled into the planet cores as they form,' said Richard Walker, Geology professor at the University of Maryland and one of the authors of the study. 'Thus, we should have an Earth that essentially has no gold or other iron-loving metal ores in its crust for us to mine,' he added. The fact that we do, Walker said, has long suggested that something must have happened to bring new iron-loving elements to Earth after completion of the separation of the metallic core and silicate mantle. What scientists did not know until now was whether this late accretion of material occurred in big chunks over a relatively short period of time or as a 'rain' of smaller pieces of material over a longer time. To determine the answer, Walker and colleagues used numerical models to see what size objects would best match the needed criteria."
Mutation-Prediction Software Rewarded
California contest looks to boost software that can analyse genetic data.
Nature: "A computer program that predicts the effects of gene mutations has earned its author a doctorate, a stack of journal publications -- and now a dancing wind-up toy named Molly. Yana Bromberg, a bioinformatician at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, won the toy for her program, SNAP, in an experimental contest that culminated on 10 December in Berkeley, California. The competition, called the Critical Assessment of Genome Interpretation (CAGI), asks researchers to predict the biological effects of different mutations, and compares their results against unpublished experimental data. The contest was conceived by Steven Brenner, a computational genomicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and John Moult, a computational biologist at the University of Maryland [Institute for Bioscience & Biotechnology Research. ... Their goal is to accelerate the development of software that can quickly interpret large amounts of genetic data -- for example, the whole genome sequence of a tumour from a biopsy."
Some Dinosaurs Went Vegetarian
New evidence by Field researchers shows that some species gave up meat in favor of plant-only diet
Chicago Tribune: "It just wouldn't have been the same if the velociraptors in the epic dinosaur movie 'Jurassic Park' had been crashing around in the kitchen hunting down a salad bar instead of two human children. Velociraptors -- part of a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods -- were, in fact, strict carnivores, as was the most ferocious theropod of them all, Tyrannosaurus rex -- one of which snacked on a lawyer in the film. But, according to research from two paleontologists at the Field Museum, the diet of their direct ancestors took some surprising turns over the years. As theropods evolved over tens of millions of years, some shifted away from a meat diet, becoming herbivores or omnivores, which eat both plants and meat, according to a study that appeared in Monday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 'Most theropods are clearly adapted to a predatory lifestyle, but somewhere on the line to birds, predatory dinosaurs went soft,' said Lindsay Zanno, a Field Museum postdoctoral student. 'Our common historical image of theropods is out of date.' The study showed a handful of theropod species -- including the velociraptor's direct genetic ancestors -- went from eating meat to plant diets and then inexplicably returned to meat diets after millions of years. ... Zanno and Makovicky's paper 'looked at all the little details that hinted of a dietary change by carnivores and laid out a whole branch of the family tree, a carnivorous dinosaur group that became more diverse because it stopped eating meat,' said paleontologist Thomas Holtz of the University of Maryland. 'They really provide the step-by-step evidence, leaving us whole new criteria for determining what is a plant-eater and what is a meat-eater,' Holtz said."
Society & CulturePIPA Study: Some Viewers Were Misinformed by TV News
New York Times: "News organizations can educate voters about public policy and economic conditions, but they can also misinform voters. As if to prove the point, a study released Friday found that "substantial levels of misinformation" seeped out to the electorate of the United States at the time of the midterm elections this year. The study was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a project that is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. According to the study, which can be reviewed online, in most cases, the more a person watched and read the news, the less likely they were to have been misled about the facts. But 'there were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue,' the study's authors wrote. In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects. The study found other cases where greater exposure to media meant greater misinformation on a subject. Regular viewers of MSNBC, which tilts to the left in prime time, were 34 percentage points more likely than nonviewers to believe 'that it was proven that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.' Consumers of public broadcasting were 25 points more likely to believe the same. But the study found many more instances that involved Fox News."
PIPA Poll: University of Maryland Official -- Fox News Response To Misinformation Report 'Bizarre'
Media Matters: "A top professor at the University of Maryland School for Public Policy, which released a scathing report last week ranking Fox News a leading source of misinformation, said the network's response to the report was bizarre.' Prof. I.M. (Mac) Destler is on the advisory board of WorldPublicOpinion.org, which released the report titled, 'Misinformation on the 2010 Election: A Study of the U.S. Electorate.' The New York Times reported that the report found, among other things, 'regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.' But when the Times asked Fox News for reaction to the survey, Michael Clemente, Fox senior vice president of news editorial, said in a statement: 'The latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having 'Students Who Study The Least' and being the 'Best Party School' -- given these fine academic distinctions, we'll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was "researched" with.' Destler called the response 'bizarre' and 'irrelevant.' 'That was bizarre. It's a silly response,' Destler told Media Matters Monday. 'At least that particular [Fox] spokesman chose not to challenge the study on its merits but to make an essentially irrelevant criticism of the university. And probably a dubious criticism of the university.' Destler added, 'I thought it was interesting that they didn't say the report is based on a bad sample or the questions were the wrong questions, they try to characterize the place as a party school. Whether or not that is true, it has nothing to do with what scholars and analysts associated with the university do. It is totally irrelevant.' Destler went on to point out what he believed were key elements of the findings as relates to Fox News coverage of certain issues. 'The stuff to me that is most amazing is about the stimulus, that more people think it hasn't worked than people think it has,' Destler said. 'But the fact that you pour all that money into the economy and it doesn't make a difference is not very plausible.' Asked what part Fox had in that viewpoint, he said, 'Fox is among those who are active in promoting critical views of the administration and they have a substantial audience so I am sure they play a role. Like a lot of people, I think it is unfortunate that the sort of advocacy journalism in which a network seems to believe it must push a certain point of view rather than tell it straight is troublesome and Fox has been the most successful in following this particular mode, that's a problem.' Destler also pointed to Fox's part in climate change misinformation: 'There is clearly a consensus that climate change is going on and the prospects are that it will accelerate in the future if further action isn't taken. The notion that there isn't a consensus is wrong. If the media is where a lot of people get their information from, the media must be responsible.' 'I think Fox is by general consent the leading and most successful practitioner of that sort of news reporting with a point of view. Opinion journalism is very important, but the problem is blurring the line between [news and opinion].' "
Blacks, Women, Now Gays: Military to Adjust Again
Associated Press: "Two decades after integration of the U.S. military, race riots flared on Navy warships in the Vietnam era. Long after servicewomen were officially placed on an equal footing with men, sexual harassment is still pervasive. Now the military has a new social challenge: Allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the ranks. It is expected that commanders will dutifully implement the policy, and overall it will likely be judged a success, but recent history provides some cautionary lessons. ... Several military-policy scholars suggested that the armed forces had done better in regard to racial equality than it has in curtailing harassment of women. 'With race, the military led the way,' said David Segal, a University of Maryland sociologist who has studied military personnel policies. 'It was not that way with gender -- lots of other workplaces were ahead, and I'm surprised it has taken us this long to get to where we are now.' "
Depression, Not Ideology, Drives Suicide Bombers
The Atlantic: "The Boston Globe article is not the only one on this theme. This summer University of Maryland social psychologist Arie Kruglanski explained the mindset of a terrorist to the research-based magazine Miller-McCune. His analysis falls in line with many observations in the Globe article: 'Terrorists feel that through suicide, their lives will achieve tremendous significance. They will become heroes, martyrs. In many cases, their decision is a response to a great loss of significance, which can occur through humiliation, discrimination or personal problems that have nothing to do with the conflict in which their group is engaged. Sometimes, this loss of significance is felt by individuals who are deviating from the norms of the group, such as women who are infertile or were divorced by their husbands or are accused of extramarital affairs. In traditional societies, they suffer a tremendous amount of humiliation. To compensate for them, some of them do something that is held in extremely high regard by their community: self-sacrifice for the sake of their cause.' "
Black Scholars Reach into Their Own Pasts to Help Beleaguered Young Black Men
Chicago Tribune: "Joseph Richardson Jr., who has a doctorate in criminology and is an assistant professor in the African-American studies department at the University of Maryland, College Park, studied a group of black and Latino males in Harlem. He found that in many instances, 'uncles' -- who were biologically related to the young boys or not -- were as integral to the family's support system as grandmothers. In one case, a man who worked in Manhattan but lived outside the city, stayed with his sister in Harlem during the week to help her rear his nephews. As the boys entered adolescence, the time when getting into trouble was more likely in their neighborhood, the uncle started taking them to his home in the suburbs on the weekends to further insulate them. Richardson, 42, told me that as he saw this dynamic in his research, he was reminded of it in his own childhood. 'I began to think about the uncles who served as surrogate fathers to me,' Richardson said. 'I had friends who also said the same thing about such men in their lives.' Richardson said some of his favorite television shows -- 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' and 'The Bernie Mac Show' -- had similar images of strong black men shepherding young boys who otherwise would have foundered."
In Converts, Authorities See Threats
Muslims worry about some newcomers to the faith following bombing attempt in Catonsville
Baltimore Sun: "At Faizah-e-Madina Mosque in Woodlawn, some expressed fear that their religion has drawn those who seem to be on political or criminal rather than spiritual quests. 'That is not Islam,' said Arshad Raja, who recognized Martinez from news coverage. Raja, a cabdriver who lives in Pikesville, said he now feels he has to worry about those who express a desire to join the faith. 'If another one comes here, we have to be careful of that person.' Much remains unknown about Martinez, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen of Nicaraguan heritage -- what led him to Islam, to turn against the United States, or to allegedly attempt to detonate what he believed to be a bomb Wednesday at the military recruiting center in Catonsville. The device was actually inert and was provided by an undercover FBI agent as part of a sting operation. 'You have some people who come in because of a grievance,' said Gary LaFree, who directs the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. 'Others have a girlfriend, a boyfriend or someone they play soccer with. Sometimes you have a group conversion, a whole group upset at something the government has done.' 'One of the things that seems to be happening is that a lot of the folks are operating more as lone wolves,' LaFree said. 'Sometimes they seem more similar to wannabes -- you find the same thing among gang members: There's a core group and then hangers-on.' LaFree, whose consortium is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said people such as Martinez can get drawn to radical Islam through the Internet. According to federal agents, Martinez wrote on his Facebook account that 'the sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease' and 'Any 1 who opposes ALLAH and HIS Prophet Him I hate u with all my heart,' posted links to apparent pro-jihadist websites, and was observed viewing videos of Osama bin Laden and men in traditional Muslim attire firing assault rifles."
Fear of 'Long Wolf' Misplaced
Obsession with independently acting terrorists is not warranted by the level of threat they actually pose
Baltimore Sun: "But should the American public panic over this shadowy enemy? Is the lone wolf really so scary after all? Not if its record of lethality is any indication. The four lone wolf attacks since Sept. 11 managed to kill just one civilian, a brave onlooker who bull-rushed Major Hasan with a chair before backup could arrive. Three of the four attacks -- including that one -- were actually cases of fratricide directed against fellow American soldiers. And the perpetrators used weapons no more powerful than a gun. Historically, lone wolf misfires have greatly outnumbered massacres. Since the advent of international terrorism in 1970, none of the 40 most lethal terrorist attacks has been committed by a person unaffiliated with some terrorist group, according to publicly available data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, which is funded by the Department of Homeland Security and stored at the University of Maryland. In fact, lone wolves have carried out just two of the 1,900 most deadly terrorist incidents over the last four decades."
Gap Between Rich and Poor in U.S. Drawn Along Geographic Lines
Business Week: "The gap between the haves and have- nots in the U.S. is being drawn along geographic lines, Census Bureau data showed yesterday. The number of counties where median household income decreased is almost 10 times the number that saw an increase, according to a Bloomberg analysis of Census figures comparing an average of the years 2005-2009 with 2000. The government figures also showed a concentration of wealth and education in coastal states. 'The dispersion of income is larger than it's ever been,' said Douglas Besharov, a professor at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. 'There used to be a much wider spread of incomes within geographic areas than there is now. There's much more of a clumping together.' The Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey cover more than 670,000 communities, including cities, counties and neighborhoods, and represent about one in 10 U.S. households. The estimates, compiled from surveys conducted over five years on topics such as poverty, housing costs and commuting times, are the last look at the U.S. population before the Census Bureau releases figures from its 2010 decennial count on Dec. 21. The Washington metropolitan area emerged as the wealthiest and most educated region of the past five years. The only three communities with median household incomes higher than $100,000 are in suburban counties in Virginia. Maryland, which also borders the nation's capital, saw income levels in Howard County increase at the eighth-fastest pace in the U.S. since 2000."
The Other Deficit
Bringing the U.S. budget into balance will only damage the economy, unless our trade issue with China is addressed
Baltimore Sun: Peter Morici, professor of business, writes an op/ed: "The economy added 103,000 jobs in December -- less than expected. Unemployment did fall to 9.4 percent, largely because 260,000 adults dropped out of the labor force and are no longer counted as unemployed by the government. Clearly, our economy is nowhere near out of the woods. The president's $800 billion stimulus package gave the economy a lift, and additional tax cuts in 2011 will help too, but those did not address structural problems holding back jobs creation -- and principal among those is the huge trade deficit. Since July 2009, spending by consumers, businesses, and federal and state governments has increased at a 3.8 percent annual pace, but imports and the trade deficit have jumped 17 percent and 37 percent. Simply, too many stimulus dollars are being spent on goods from China, and too few of those dollars return to purchase U.S. exports."
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