Archive for October, 2011

Flooding in Thailand and Its Implications

As floodwaters inundate Bangkok, with more than a third of the country underwater, and with basic water/sanitation facilities rapidly deteriorating, it would do us well to re-read this important document, Climate Risks and Adaptation in Asian Coastal Megacities: A Synthesis Report. A joint report from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and Japan International Cooperation Agency, it examines the climate-related risks and remediation projects which cities along the coast or at sea level need to undertake; three megacities are included in the analysis: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. Another coastal megacity, Shanghai, is already sinking, and islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean have already vanished. And these problems are not limited to foreign lands; please read the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force: Report to the Legislature. (FYI, online maps of the flooding from various sources are available.)

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European Debt Crisis

The New York Times has put together a very informative package of materials concerning this latest economic crisis. The European Debt Crisis includes a recent timeline embedded with links, an interactive overview, a debt map of European countries, as well as a debt tracker;  free access to recent articles from this paper is available also. In addition, these sites also provide good overviews: BBC, CNBC, Der Spiegel, Financial Times (requires free registration), Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations. The Euro Summit Statement has been released along with the Main Results document.

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Open Access to Royal Society Publications

The Royal Society has announced that it has made its entire article archives open to the public. This allows researchers to review the Philosophical Transactions, the world’s first peer-reviewed journal, back to 1665. In addition, the Society’s Proceedings,  as well as its other titles, are now freely available. You can read articles by Fred Hoyle, Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Paul Dirac, Crick and Watson to name a few. Over 60,000 articles are available providing an historical glimpse into the development of science in the Western world. The search screen is found here. Enjoy!

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Highest Income Households Increase Their Wealth

A report issued from the Congressional Budget Office, Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007, shows that the top 1% of households in income saw their income increase 275% between 1979 and 2007; for the rest of us, it was all downhill.(Summary) An examination of how employer-sponsored health insurance contributed to income growth for the midddle percentile households is especially enlightening as New Jersey state workers now start to pay for part of their premiums.(Appendix C) The report states that “Employer-sponsored health insurance provides the biggest proportional boost to income in the middle of the distribution, with a smaller boost at both extremes of the distribution.”(44)

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Biographies of European Officials

With all the media coverage focusing on the debt crisis in Europe, we thought everyone could use some help in identifying all the players. Whoiswho is the official directory of the European Union; it provides searching by name, EU institution, or hierarchical listing. The information is fairly sparse, but it does identify everyone in the various EU entities and provides their title, telephone and fax numbers as well as their email and Internet site. Additional  information can be garnered from the biographies of the European Commissioners of the EU, and the members of the European Parliament. A non-EU site, the Council of Europe, provides personal data on its officials at its leaders page and its member states page.

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The Study of Reading

Most of us take reading for granted. This complicated process of assimilating ideas and concepts through, until recently, printed media has been a commonplace occurrence for awhile now. However, what we take for granted was not always so; the ruling classes at one time acted as gatekeepers to the written word. But the lower classes did ultimately gain access to the printed word, and The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (A very substantial portion of this work is available online through Google Books) details how this paradigmatic shift in the control and dissemintation of knowledge took place. Harvard University has put together an informative presentation entitled Reading: Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History with a foreword from Robert Darnton. It includes dozens of historical textbooks, readers, commonplace books, and other material that highlights the development of reading. In all, 800 books and 400 manuscript sources are included.

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We Eat Too Much Salt

In light of Campbell’s announcing that it was putting more salt in some of its products that are marketed as healthier for you (LA Times and ABCNews), it should come as no surprise that the CDC has issued a report – Usual Sodium Intakes Compared with Current Dietary Guidelines—United States, 2005-2008 – that shows that practically everyone in this country eats too much salt. The very first words of this document say it all: “High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke.” And this is certainly not a problem limited only to the United Staes; the World Health Organization has identified high sodium around the globe as a major health problem. Its document – Strategies to Monitor and Evaluate Sodium Consumption and Sources of Sodium in the Diet – simply states that “High blood pressure is responsible for 13% of deaths globally….The total dietary salt consumed is an important determinant of blood pressure levels….”(5) More information on salt consumption in your diet can be found here. On a personal note, we are always amazed at the amount of salt that television chefs dump into their recipes. We have not added salt to any homecooked dish in years, and as far as we know, no one has keeled over from salt deprivation.

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Occupy Wall Street Videos

From the Internet Archive, this growing collection of media concerns itself with the Occupy Wall Street movement and related protests. The New York Times has extensive coverage of OWS with many links to outside sources as well.

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Online Primary Sources for American Naval History

On this very special day in England, we thought it appropriate to mention some outstanding sources for naval history, primarily American. What we call the United States Navy ( a brief, scholarly history)  was established in 1794 by An Act to provide a Naval Armament that called for the building of six heavily armed frigates; one of this group, the USS Constitution, is still afloat (selected sources here). Collections of primary sources include:  Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships that includes every ship’s history from the Revolutionary War onward; Naval Records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788, a calendar of documents; Out-letters of the Continental Marine Committee and the Board of  admiralty; the seven-volume Naval Documents related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France; the six-volume Naval Documents related to the United States Wars with The Barbary Pirates; the three-volume The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History; and The American State Papers: Naval Affairs covering the period 1794 to 1836.  Biographies in Naval History leads to primary sources while Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion,1820-189o contains diaries, logbook, narratives, and business records. Numerous biographies can be found at HathiTrust; here are a few on the “Father of the American Navy,” and it is not John Paul Jones. We will follow with an entry on primary sources for English naval history.

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First Analysis of Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan

The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of both The Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, has released the first detailed examination of  Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. The report indicates that rather than reducing taxes, this plan would, in some cases, significantly raise the taxes of lower and middle class workers.

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Encyclopedia of Business and Economic History

Sponsored by the Economic History Association, this freely available online reference tool explores various topics through the lenses of business and economics. For example, the article on the Civil War eschews all mentions of battles and generals but concentrates on its place in economic history; i.e., was it a watershed moment in the economic development of the country,  did it act as a business stimulant? Economic Interests and the Adoption of the United States Constitution is an entry that really typifies the focus of this tool. Accompanying the encyclopedia are various historical databases as well as How Much Is That?, where you can find The Price of Gold, 1257 – Present or Daily Closing Values of the Dow Jones Average, 1885 – Present. Though decidedly American in orientation, articles dealing with ancient Greece, the Golden Age of the Dutch economy, or Hong Kong , to name a few, are also present.

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The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 3d ed, Is Online

Fanboys and fangirls alike! Rejoice! The beta edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fictions has been released! (In the spirit of transparency, we must reveal that we were a charter member and executive officer of the NYU Speculative Fiction Society and co-editor of its ‘zine – Aurora. And still read the stuff to this day.) To be completed at the end of 2012 with a word count north of four million, this iteration contains 3.2 million words of enlightenment. You can search via author, theme, media, or culture. The articles offer frank assessments of their subject matter, contain extensive author checklists, and are full of links. We’ll be reading this over the weekend; after all, we have finished going through the Internet.

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What the New Health Insurance Plans Look Like for New Jersey Local/State Employees

Aon Hewitt has submitted its recommendations for the new health insurance options that are to be offered by the state. These reports, called rate renewal reports, are available here. A major assumption is that workers will stay with the plans they already have, even if the premiums have gone up; for example,  the family coverage premium tops out at over $21,000.  In addition, most workers will not have to pay much more until July 1, 2012. Aon’s recommendations for 2012 start on p.54 of this document.  Some elucidation is provided by: NJBiz and The Bergen Record

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Highway Safety Laws for All 50 States

Published by the Governors Highway Safety Association, this site – State Highway Safety Laws and Funding – represents laws gleaned from disparate sources and presented in a fashion where the information can be accessed either by state or by type of law. Additional relevant links are included, whether the topic is cell phone use or mature drivers. Here are New Jersey’s laws.

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Attacks on Voting Rights for 2012 Election

This report from the Brennan Center for Justice (NYU School of Law) – Voting Law Changes in 2012 – shows how newly passed and proposed legislation is threatening the voting rights of five million people. From requiring photo IDs to abolishing Election Day registrations, it would appear that concerted efforts are underway to disenfranchise a significant number of voters. A summary of state laws and bills as well as an overview of this report are available. In New Jersey, S2996 will require a photo ID for any election after January 1, 2012, regardless if a person had been previously registered and allowed to vote. A discussion of these attempts to make voting harder for certain groups can be found at the Diane Rehm Show (starting at the 10:21:05 mark); this article from The New York Times – “New State Rules Raising Hurdles at Voting Booth” – can be supplemented by the paper’s Voter Registration and Requirements page.

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The Vanishing New Jersey State Workforce

Acording to the 2011 edition of the State Government Workforce Profile, the state has shed almost 3500 positions or 4.3% of all state workers over a two-year period from 2009 to 2010. Only two departments have registered any significant gains, Banking and Insurance along with the Governor’s Office. This report is replete with historical statistics and charts so one can readily trace the dwindling worker pool in the state. The report supplies some basic average/median figures (on p.4) that are supplemented by detailed enumerations further into the document. Some county-level information is found starting on p.63. Reportage is available from The Star-Ledger.

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2011 Nobel Prize Winners

Come here for the winners, bio-bibliographies,  and videos of the announcements. Past winners and various listings of them are found on this page.

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JSTOR Gives Free Access to Out-of-Copyright Articles

JSTOR has released 500,000 articles that have passed out from under copyright restrictions (in the United States, that means pre-1923, and for other parts of the world, it is pre-1870). What this means, especially for those in the humanities, is that you have access to both primary and secondary sources. For example, you can read Benjamin Franklin’s article on an “electrical kite” or “Of the Tides in the South Seas” by Captain James Cook or one of the first mentions of  climate change  in “An Attempt to Account for the Change of Climate, Which Has Been Observed in the Middle Colonies in North-America” from 1770. This “Early Journal Content” is accessible from here. Also included in this section are selected recent articles residing on external sites.

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Women and Their Economic Rights Under the Law: An International Perspective

The Gender Law Library from the World Bank has gathered thousands of legal documents that stipulate what rights women have in the economic sphere. The texts include treaties, statutes, constitutional articles, decrees and regulations from 183 countries ranging from topics such as working hours to parental benefits to inheritance rights. Most, but not all, the documents are in English. Of course, being a legal resource, some disclaimers are present:  “We update the collection regularly but do not guarantee that laws are the most recent version, nor is the library exhaustive. Translations are not official unless indicated.” Other resources include: Women & International Law (American Society for International Law); Women’s Rights (Human Rights Watch); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the Global Legal Information Network (Law Library of Congress).

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SAGE Publishers Makes Freely Available Top Downloaded Articles

SAGE, in a press release, has announced that it is allowing free access to the top three most downloaded articles from 39 separate disciplines for the years 2009-2010. In addition, it is offering free access to the top downloaded articles from its backfiles in these disciplines. So researchers will have access to the most recent top research as well as to those articles that have stood the test of time. For example, from the 2009-2010 batch, one may read: Islam, Women and Violence from Feminist Theology, Defining Dyslexia from The Journal of Learning Disabilities, or  Geographies of brands and branding from Progress in Human Geography while the backfile contains such works as Symbolic Power from the Critique of Anthropology, Leininger’s Theory of Nursing from Nursing Science Quarterly, or Doing Gender from Gender & Society. In total, more than 200 heavily downloaded articles are available; the 2009-2010 batch is here, and the backfiles are here.

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