Archive for November, 2011

Income/Poverty Statistics for New Jersey Counties and School Districts

The Census Bureau has just released its 2010 version of the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program. According to the press release: “The data represent the only current, single-year income and poverty estimates for all sizes of counties and school districts.” However, this sentence is in our opinion infelicitously phrased; while poverty estimates are indeed available for over 3100 counties and 14,000 school districts, median income statistics are only available at the county level. Be that as it may, one can trace over time poverty numbers at these local levels while also pulling up county-level income statistics. A highlights report is available as are numerous separate tables. FYI, Hudson County has 24.4% of its children under 18 living in poverty; Jersey City School District has 9059 children between 5 and 17 living with families in poverty.

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Database of National Legislatures

Parline, sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, contains information on the 190 national parliaments currently in existence. It is an updated site with recent parliamentary election results from around the world.  (At the time of this writing, results from Zambia’s national elections of September 20 are available.) This repository contains election overviews (some quite detailed), past election results, and provides a wealth of additional data; i.e., breakdown by members’ sex and age; special mandates; specialized national entities; and the office of the legislative presidency in variuous countries and guises. In addition, it gives you the links to each parliament. A worthwhile adjunct for up-to-date information on political systems throughout the globe.

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Who’s Who in Dr. Seuss

Delightfully composed descriptions of persons, words, and phrases populate Who’s Who and What’s What in the Books of Dr. Seuss. Each entry not only discusses the subject but also points the reader to the book in which it appeared, from And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1937) to Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! (1998). For additional information, please read The Beginnings of Dr. Seuss: An Informal Reminiscence by Theodore Seuss Geisel; it discusses his early career until 1937 and is based on taped conversations from 1975. Both sites are courtesy of Dartmouth College, of which Geisel was an alum. Links to his political cartoons for World War II and his advertising work are at this University of California at San Diego site. The NEA’s Read Across America program that supports reading among children is an annual event held on his birthday of March 2. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

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Is Your Lawyer Registered to Practice in Your State?

This list provides links and phone numbers to ascertain if your attorney is qualified to practice law in your state. Please read the notes and disclaimers.

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Thanksgiving: History, Primary Sources, Timeline

A brief overview of thanksgivings in this country dating back to the Spanish explorers is found in this teacher’s guide. A timeline for Thanksgiving from 1541-2001 is here; you can also find links to supporting documentation (pictures, historical proclamations, photos) for the holiday as well. As far as we can determine, there are only two primary sources for the celebration at Plymouth that is the foundation for Thanksgiving: Edward Winslow’s Mourt’s Relation; A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth and William Bradford’s Of Plimouth Plantation. Historical addresses, discourses, and sermons are available in plentitude courtesy of HathiTrust and the Internet Archive. Facts for this Thanksgiving Day are here. For those who are turkey-challenged, try these hotlines.

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Inside the Minds of College CFOs

Inside High Ed also ran a survey of 606 college business officers. An hour-long webinar is available as well as a great overview. An insightful quote is found here: “Many of my financial colleagues think that the academic program is over-budgeted and sometimes even bloated, so cuts may seem to them to be restoring the proper balance.”

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Inside the Minds of College Presidents

Presidential Perspectives is an outgrowth of a survey by Inside Higher Ed that was conducted at the annual ACE meeting. 956 “campus executives” participated in the survey that dealt with presidential concerns and their strategies in dealing with them. Not surprisingly, budgetary problems topped the list, while not far behind was the drop in state funding. A good overview of the process is provided here along with a section entitled “Faculty as Target.” In this review is also the salient point that: “…results prompted some survey respondents and commentators on the results to fret that college leaders may be underestimating the extent to which the current financial climate represents a permanent shift in higher education financing, and failing to respond dramatically enough.”

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Distance Education Statistics

Embedded within this GAO report – Higher Education: Use of New Data Could Help Improve Oversight of Distance Education – are some very recent figures and statistics on distance education. This document was produced as a result of the Department of Education requesting the GAO to investigate: the characteristics of distance education;  student characteristics; quality assessment of distance education; and how well the billions of dollars allocated for this are being spent and monitored. Figures reveal, for example, that 33% of HSIs (of which NJCU is one) offer distance education (figure 3), and figure 5 shows the number of students enrolled in distance ed by the type of school attended. Another 2011 report of interest, though more limited, comes from NCES – Learning at a Distance: Undergraduate Enrollment in Distance Education Courses and Degree Programs. As distance education options increase, however, keep in mind this August 2011 report from Pew, The Digital Revolution and Higher Education: College Presidents, Public Differ in Value of Online Learning, in which one can find that while 51% of college presidents affirm that online learning is as good as a classroom environment, only 29% of the public agrees with them on that point.(1)

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Millionaires Collecting Unemployment and Social Security, and Other Financial Misdeeds

This document from Republican Senator Tom Coburn, Subsidies of the Rich and Famous, reports that those earning more than $1 million a year receive government subsidies in the amount of $30 billion annually in the form of mortgage interest write-offs, unemployment checks, Social Security payments, and various other tax credits. Using government data, he tabulates the number of millionaries who have received subsidies; for example, 38,217 millionaries received $1.14 billion in Social Security payments in 2009. And of that number the 1,430 who have annual incomes in excess of $10 million collected over $47 million in retirement checks.(6) He names Ted Turner and Jon Bon Jovi, among others,  for their receipt of farm subsidies.(13) These findings, in combination with the release of the Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers 2008-10 study that revealed how massive subsidies were given to 280 Fortune 500 business in excess of $223 billion, certainly gives one pause for thought. And let’s not forget the excessive salaries/bonuses going to the top executives at Fannie and Freddie Mac where $170 billion of taxpayer monies went to keep them afloat. Is it any wonder people are so angry and frustrated? (UPDATE as of 1-23-13. The Congressional Research Service has issued a relevant report: Receipt of Unemployment Insurance by Higher-Income Unemployed Workers (“Millionaires”)

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Climate Change (Especially in Africa) and U.S. Security

In a entry more than three years ago, we wrote of the effects of climate change, especially in Africa, on national security. Our observations have now been reinforced by the release of Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security from the Defense Science Board. This report does not deal with stopping or combating climate change, but rather concentrates “on the need to manage consequences”(vii) The devastating results of climate change are readily apparent in Africa where the inability to secure adequate amounts of potable water have led to destabilizing conflicts.(47) Water, or more precisely, the lack of water, is highlighted on pages 51-57; a list of recommendations will be found on pages xvi-xxii. A sobering read. Suggested additional readings: Africa Water Atlas (United Nations, 2010); Africa’s Water Crisis and the U.S. Response  (House Hearings, 2007); Africa (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007); Water Security for Development: Insights from African Partnerships in Action (Global Water Partnership, 2010); Conflict, Climate Change, and Water Security in Sub-Saharan Africa (Peace and Conflict Monitor, 2011); Climate Change and Africa (African Partnership Forum, 2007); “Water Sector Governance in Africa,” volume 1 and volume 2 (African Development Bank, 2010); and The Brewing Storm? Climate Change, Rainfall, and Social Conflict in Africa (Strauss center, 2011).

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How Other States Have Changed Pensions/Retirement Plans in 2011

The National Conference of State Legislatures has published a listing of all changes to states’ pensions and retirement plans for 2011 through September 30. In all, 27 states made major enactments. So if you want to see how New Jersey has fared against what other states have done, this is the place to find it.

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Iran’s Nuclear Program

According to this recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency – Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran - Iran over the years actively pursued the weaponization of nuclear material. In a separate annex to this report, the IAEA lays out its reasonings and shows that Iran has all the component parts for a nuclear weapon or is investigating those components that go into the construction of such a device. The Institute for Science and International Security(ISIS) has issued its analysis of the IAEA document, stating that: “Included in this report is the most comprehensive detail to date that the IAEA has gathered on evidence of nuclear weaponization-related actvities conducted by Iran.”(3) Iran’s responses to the IAEA report can be followed at this Middle East Media Research Institute site. Both the IAEA and ISIS maintain extensive sites on Iran’s nuclear program: the former is called IAEA & Iran, the latter is known as  Nuclear Iran.The New York Times also offers extensive coverage at Iran’s Nuclear Program. Additional relevant sites include: The New IAEA Report and Iran’s Evolving Nuclear and Missile Forces (Center for Strategic and Iinternational Studies); Q&A: Iran Nuclear Issue (BBC); Crisis Guide: Iran (Council on Foreign Relations);  Iran (Brookings); Iran’s Nuclear Future (RAND); Iran: Braking the Nuclear Deadlock (Chatham House); Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, Iranian Nuclear Sites, Iran’s Nuclear Program:Status, (all CRS); Iran (Nonproliferation Policy Education Center); Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran (Strategic Studies Institute); Iran Threat (Heritage Foundation); Can Iran Be Deterred? (Hoover Institution);  and Iran Security Initiative (Washington Institute for Near East Policy);

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Digital Dictionaries of South Asia

Spearheaded by the University of Chicago, the twenty-eight modern literary languages of South Asia are being represented online in this freely accessible site: Digital Dictionaries of South Asia. Ranging from Assamese to Urdu, the dictionaries, primarily from the previous two centuries,  were chosen by language experts and digitized. As of this writing, eighteen languages have digital dictionaries. Needless to say,  this is an ongoing project as more works are expected to be added. In addition, primers and readers in some of these languages are also online.

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Ex-President Nixon’s Watergate Grand Jury Testimony

The files and actual testimony of Mr Nixon have just been released. The Watergate Special prosecutor had Mr Nixon interviewed in California in the presence of two grand jury members. For those who need a refresher, please come here and here.

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The Eleventh Hour of the Eleveneth Day of the Eleventh Month

Of 1918 is when the guns ceased, marking the end of The Great War. (Obviously, it was not called “World War I” yet; that would happen later. Please read “World War IV – Naming World Wars” for a succinct overview even though we do contest the reference to the Sept 11, 1938 issue of Time Magazine; it should be the Sept 11 1939 issue.  Also,  this entry from the Oxford English Dictionary should be consulted.) For the convoluted history of Veterans Day, please come here; for facts and figures as compiled by the Census Bureau, visit here; and a listing of New Jersey observances is here. New Jersey’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs offers assistance to veterans as does the Veterans Resources Search Engine. Thousands of online veterans’ interviews can be found at the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress. (Just tick off the “yes” option in the Digitized Collection section to limit to online videos/transcripts.) And, as mentioned in an earlier entry, New Jersey veterans are found at this Rutgers site.

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2011 Best Books

Here they come! (This list will be expanded as new sites appear.) Amazon (spread over 20 categories);  Publishers Weekly (multiple categories); Young Adult Library Services Association (including picks for reluctant readers); 100 Notable Books of 2011 (The New York Times); Best Books of 2011 (Kirkus Reviews); 2011 USA Best Books; Top 25 Academic Titles for 2011 (Choice);

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2011 New Jersey Election Results

Vote tallies (as of this writing still unofficial) for ballot questions, local races, and Assembly and Senate contests are all here as well as a county-by-county breakdown. NJ Spotlight, as usual, provides an informative overview as does The Star-Ledger, and The Bergen Record.

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2011 New Jersey State Legislature Elections: Candidates, Polling Places, and Races

Almost 300 candidates can be found, along with brief biographical information and answers to topical questions. Polling place locations are here. Assembly and Senate race information is here, along with links to local press coverage. NJ Spotlight has an excellent review of the pertinent contests. Financial disclosures can be perused as well as their voting records and interest group ratings.

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NJCU Graduating Seniors Carry One of the Lowest Debt Loads in the State

According to Student Debt and the Class of 2010, more than two-thirds of all graduating seniors in the nation have an average debt $25, 250 ; New Jersey’s averages $23,792; and NJCU’s averages $17,699. In fact, NJCU’s average debt load is among the lowest in the state among all 4-year institutions. States’ figures, including data for over 1000 colleges/universities, can be accessed here.

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Crime in U.S. Schools, Including Bullying

This biennial report, Student Victimization in Schools, released on November 2, is based on the 2009 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. It examines “serious violent,” “violent,” or “theft” crimes within the school setting, both victims and nonvictims, as well as student reports of bullying, gangs, weapons, and drug use. Highlights of the report are on pages iii-iv; bullying statistics are found on pages 10-11.

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