Archive for September, 2008

State Statutes of Limitation for Credit Card Debt

Here is a state by state comparison of the statutes of limitation for credit card debt. By the way, New Jersey’s limit is six years, which is not the longest.

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Presidential Debates

Most sources state that the presidential debates as we know them began in 1960, when a strict format was developed as to the procedures to be employed. The Commission on Presidential Debates is the organizing force behind the debates and has sponsored them since 1988. Of course, as with anything political, this supposedly neutral body cannot really be considered as such as it is headed by the ex-chairpersons of both main political parties, meaning that third-party presidential candidates receive short shrift. The ever-reliable Poynter Online site has this truly comprehensive compilation with extensive links to past debates. The American Presidency Project has a debate section as well. Of course, many of us believe that the first presidential debates actually occurred during an 1858 Senate race – the famed Lincoln/Douglas debates. You may read these historic speeches here and here. These debates were widely covered by newspapers; click here for both the text of the debates as they appeared in local(Illinois) newspapers and for the accompanying commentaries on them. And browse through the Abraham Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress for mention of Stephen Douglas(this also includes letters written between the two men).

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Another Look at SATs and College Admissions

“The Commission encourages institutions to consider dropping the admission test requirements if it is determined that the predictive utility of the test or the admission policies of the institution(such as open access) support that decision….” (p.7, Italics added by the author) So reads The Report of the Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission. The report goes on to state “…college admission exams – such as the SAT and ACT – may not be critical to making good admissions decisions at many of the colleges and universities that use them”(p.7) This document also opines that minimum test scores for merit aid eligibility should be done away with; that test scores should be eliminated from the US News and World Report college rankings issue; that predicting first-year grades for ESL is extremely difficult; and that the College Board’s AP tests and the IB tests are better indicators of academic performance. Other recommendations and findings are also included in this 50+ page report. Check here to find the almost 800 schools that do NOT use the SAT or ACT as an admission tool.

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Government Bailout of Financial Institutions

The recent failure of financial houses and the government’s planned interventions are not new. The government has done this before and will probably have to do it again in the future. For a brief, understandable review of what has happened, along with a table outlining previous governmental rescues, please read this from CRS. Another CRS report looks at the bailout proposal itself, and once again it is in plain language. The full text of the draft legislation for the bailout is here. (Update as of October 3. Read the full version of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008). The Brookings Institution weighs in with some of its concerns. For those interested in the previous “S&L crisis” of the 1980s, check out this site from the FDIC, and also this report from Time Magazine.

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Absentee Voting Guide

Developed at Harvard, this is a list of the procedures necessary to vote with an absentee ballot; all fifty states are included. Links are also provided for those states that allow you to download an absentee ballot application.

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Latest Population Figures for Jersey City(and Elsewhere)

The Census Bureau has just released the 2007 American Community Survey, an annual investigation of the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of states, counties, and municipalities with populations exceeding 65,000 people. Over 3,000,000 households were surveyed for this survey, giving government planners more current data than those supplied by the decennial census(which is required by the Constitution, btw). So, if you come from a state, county, or municipality which has more than 65,000 people, you can get recent population information right here. And since Jersey City fits the above criterion, its figures can be accessed here.

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Rosenberg Grand Jury Transcripts Released

Recently, the National Archives released the grand jury transcripts for the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. This makes news on more than one level since grand jury proceedings are always sealed, but the historical significance of these transcripts was deemed so high that they had to be released. A review of the legal arguments concerning these documents may be found at the Jurist site. A good overview of the Rosenberg case, based primarily on government sources, can be accessed at this CCNY site. A very comprehensive treatment of the trial is here.

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1900 Galveston Hurricane

Now that Hurricane Ike has passed, Galveston once again faces a massive rebuilding/restoration program. For those who do not know, the reason for such trepidation with Hurricane Ike can be traced to the 1900 storm that battered Galveston, leaving 8000 dead. The New York Times has extensive material from its archives available for free perusal, along with pertinent links;  CNN also has a good site. There are three books, almost “instant” books that can be read on this devastating storm. All three were published in 1900 within weeks of the disaster. The books are: The complete story of the Galveston horror; The great Galveston disaster : containing a full and thrilling account of the most appalling calamity of modern times; and Galveston, the horrors of a stricken city . They can be read here.

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Political Fact Checking

“Fact-checking the candidates has long been an important part of campaign coverage. When news organizations blow the whistle on false statements by candidates, it tends to have an impact, said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. ‘I think it’s an extremely valuable role, keeping the players honest.’ ” This observation comes from an excellent article on fact checking written by the public editor for the New York Times, Clark Hoyt. With so much rhetoric and hyperbole being tossed around, how can we the voters be sure that what is being said is true? Luckily, there are several fact checking sources available to us. The most quoted site is FactCheck.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Another reliable source is a product of the St Petersburg Times and the Congressional Quarterly – PolitiFact.com. Here is the home of the “Truth-O-Meter” which indicates the veracity of candidates’ statements. The Washington Post has also started its own fact checking service – The Fact Checker– which features “The Pinocchio Test” for truthfulness. If you want to know where candidates stand on the issues, you can look at their voting records at VoteSmart, which also includes a look at all candidates running for the US Congress as well. Speaking of Congress, please also look at OpenCongress where “Everyone can be an insider.  And do not forget SourceWatch which cuts through the PR spin as it is generated on many levels. The latter two sites are sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy. Other sources to consult include: Federal Election Commission for detailed listings of campaign funding; and The Message Machine from NPR. Read/listen to Presidential Politics, The Media and the Search for Facts from the Diane Rehm Show. For New Jersey political fact checking, PolitiFact has a New Jersey section; a few other states are also covered.

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Online State Encyclopedias – Alabama

In two previous posts (here and here), we highlighted online state encyclopedias. We now welcome the state of Alabama into this growing field, bringing the total number of these electronic resources to 14.

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IMDb Finally Adds Video Content

From the “it’s about time” file, IMDb, considered one of the best movie(and now television) databases, has announced the availablity of 6000+ movies and tv shows that can be seen for free. This Amazon.com subsidiary will show video on a rotating basis within the United States only, due to licensing concerns. Shows as new as Heroes or as hoary as the original Star Trek may be viewed here. We ourselves were pleased to see that Master and Commander, based on two of Patrick O’Brian’s(one of our most favorite authors EVER) novels, was offered for viewing. While you are perusing IMDb, check out its On This Day movie history section.

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Osama bin Laden Statements Released

This 300 page volume contains interviews and statements by bin Laden from 1994 to 2004. They were compiled and translated by the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service(FBIS), now part of the Open Source Center. Additional information on bin Laden can be found at the New York Times, National Public Radio, PBS, and the Library of Congress.

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Constitution Day

“In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered…” Such were the words of Benjamin Franklin delivered before the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 as reported by James Madison. Franklin, who was so weakened by infirmity that he had to be carried into each session in a sedan chair, had his fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson read his words to those assembled. On that day, the Constitution was signed and copies were then subsequently made to make their rounds in the state legislatures for the acts of ratification.

The Library of Congress has an excellent site for this holiday; included in this site are: Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787; Elliot’s Debates…on the Adoption of the Constitution; and the Federalist Papers, among others.  For biographical information on the delegates, including those from New Jersey(which included William Paterson), the National Archives has a very informative page.

Did New Jersey and its delegates play a prominent role at the Convention. Ever hear of the New Jersey Plan?  As presented by William Paterson, this was an attempt to close a rift between the representatives of the larger populated states versus the representatives of the smaller populated states, who feared that the larger states would have more representational power in the new national legislature. For additional information on this and the other plans submitted at the Convention, please consult A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions. More of New Jersey’s presence can be seen in the Notes of William Paterson, and the Credentials of the State of New Jersey. If you want a more extensive look at New Jersey’s historical constitutional process, consult this Rutgers site. And lastly, if you want to know how New Jersey arrived at the Convention, please read these works: New Jersey’s Revolutionary Experience; New Jersey in the American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Documentary History; and Crossroads of the American Revolution in New Jersey

There are several additional constitutional sites which should be consulted for their depth and extent: the American Constitution document collection at the Avalon Project; Constitution of the United  States, Analysis and Interpretation; CRS Annotated Constitution(with thousands of links); and The Founders’ Constitution, a veritable goldmine of writings by those who hammered out this document and by those whose thoughts influenced these people(essential reading!!). A still influential work on the Constitution is Charles Beard’s book An Economic Interpretation of The Constitution of the United States.  The constitutions of other countries can be found at Constitution Finder, while U.S. state constitution are here.

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Today in History: Henry Hudson Sails Upriver

399 years ago after entering what is now New York harbor, Henry Hudson captained his ship the Half Moon up a river that will later bear his name – the Hudson River. This was his third trip(he would make four altogether) of exploration.  Following in the wake of previous English sailors( whose exploits may be read in Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, a multi-volume work that Hudson might have read), Hudson was searching for a  shorter water route to Asia which would cut down on the transit time of ships having to round the Cape of Good Hope. Employed by the Dutch East India Company, Hudson’s third voyage was supposed to explore the European northern latitudes in an attempt to find a quick passage to Asia. Leaving Amsterdam in April 1609 he journeyed north, but blocked by the cold and ice, Hudson sailed west, landed in Maine for provisions, sailed down to the Delaware Bay, and then returned north, and arrived in New York in September. In the hopes that the river would prove to be the way to Asia, he traveled up until he reached the shallower waters around Albany. Disappointed that the river was not the route to the East, he returned down the river and returned to England in November 1609. While he kept a ship’s journal in his role as captain, this document has never seen the light of day. The speculation is that this journal, which would have become the property of the Dutch East India Company, was sold along with the company’s archives in the early 19th century after the company had been previously dissolved. So the only eyewitness document we have of Hudson and New York is contained in the journal of Robert Juet(the original 1625 edition of Purchas His Pilgrimes, the successor to Hakluyt, is where Juet’s journal first appeared), Hudson’s first mate on his third and fourth voyages, and one of the mutineers that put Hudson, Hudson’s son, and some fellow crew members adrift in a small boat in the cold region of what would be called Hudson’s Bay. The abandoned party was never heard from again. The most comprehensive site on Hudson is The Life and Voyages of Henry Hudson. A replica of the Half Moon is at the New Netherland Museum, while the official quadrennial site will be found here. Many monographs have been written on Hudson; a couple of worthy online ones are: Thomas Janvier’s Henry Hudson… which contains excerpts of the trial of the mutineers(they were acquited by the way), and Henry Murphy’s Henry Hudson in Holland which contains translations of Dutch documents. Continuing to explore original sources, those interested in pre-British New York should consult the Narratives of New Netherland.

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9/11

 The following sites will provide extensive information on 9/11: September 11 Digital Archive; September 11 News.com; September 11 Newspaper Archive; and the New York Times Topics: September 11. Specialized 2008 reports include: Wasted Lessons of 9/11(US House of Representatives); Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7(NIST); Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector(CRS); A Look at Terrorist Behavior(NIJ); How Terrorist Groups End:Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida(RAND);Human Rights, Terrorism, and Counter-terrorism(UN); The Changing Nature of State Sponsorship of Terrorism(Brookings); Breaking the Failed-State Cycle(RAND); U S Army War College: Key Strategic Issues List; and the 2007 Country Reports on Terrorism(US State Department). For a New Jersey perspective, check out nj.com; 9/11 ceremonies in Bergen and Passaic counties can be found here; Jersey City ceremonies here. And do not forget the 9/11 Commission report.

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Home Prices in 340 North American Cities

Coldwell Banker has just released its 2008 Home Price Comparison Index.  With this instrument, you can estimate how much a house is worth in 340 separate cities/municipalities. If you had to spend $400,000 for a house in New Jersey, what would the same house cost in Vermont? For comparison’s sake, a house is defined as a single family dwelling unit of approximately 2200 square feet containing 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, and a family room. Burlington, anyone?

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Happy 10th Birthday, Google!

On September 7, 1998, Google was officially incorporated. Possibly the name derived from the term googol, which is ten raised to the hundreth power, denoting a vastness of information. Developed initially from an National Science Foundation(NSF) project at Stanford, Google has become such a ubiquitous presence that the OED has entered Google as a verb. You will also find google is a cricket term. Brief histories of Google can be accessed at Fortune and the NSF. A book of Google miscellany is here. The New York Times has a nice collection of information on Google as well. And if you want to see the latest Google filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission along with its annual report, you can find that as well.

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Today in History: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac Published

 “On the Road” is considered by many to be emblematic of the Beat Generation(corrupted into “beatniks”), along with Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Burroughs’ “The Naked Lunch.” Written in three weeks on one continuous taped-together sheet of paper, the work was the result of seven years’ worth of notes and observations. Critics and readers alike are still divided over its worth or lack thereof. Regardless, “On the Road” presents a perspective at odds with the prevalent ethos of the 1950s. It is a book that should be read; it is a book that needs to be read.( We have a yellowing, dog-eared copy in our office which we finished a couple of years ago after having read it in our youth. Years of experience and age can surely change one’s apprehension of literature!) Time Magazine considered it one of the 100 best novels for 1923-2005. The New York Times has a great deal of information on Kerouac, along with his obituary and chapter 1 from “On the Road.” Other useful sites for Kerouac include Dharma beat, and the American Museum of Beat Art. A 1968 interview with Kerouac appears in the Paris Review, and an NPR examination of Kerouac is also available along with video and audio clips. One of the best sites for examining the Beat Generation and which contains excerpts/full text writings is the Beat Page. And please do not forget the dozens of books and thousands of articles available in the Guarini Library on Kerouac and the Beats. And the beat goes on!

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School Daze

For both young and old alike, the beginning of the school year is met with anticipatory dread. Visit this Census Bureau site for lots of information, among the gems:  there are 17,000 students 30 years and older enrolled in elementary school; it now takes 5.6 years to earn a bachelor’s degree; and  56% of undergraduates are women. Additional statistics may be gleaned from the annual Digest of Education Statistics, which is a compilation of facts and figures obtained from private and public sources covering the field of education from prekindergarten through graduate school. Another worthwhile title is the yearly Condition of Education, which takes the latest statistical data available and examines the progress of education in this country, highlighting certain trends. For instance, the 2008 COE highlights community colleges while the 2002 report examines the nontraditional undergraduate. A plethora of information is available from the National Center for Education Statistics(NCES); hundred of reports can be freely downloaded from this site, ranging from school readiness of young children to historically black colleges. For a look at a non-governmental report detailing back-to-school actvities and surveys, please look at this National Retail Federation report.

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