Archive for December, 2013

National Security Reports – December 2013 Update

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Economic Crisis – December 2013 Update

Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014 to 2023 (Congressional Budget Office); Financial Institutions, the Market, and the Continuing Problem of Executive Compensation (University of Denver); and  Impact of the Great Recession on Retirement Trends in Industrialized Countries (Brookings).

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Translations of Greek and Roman Authors

For those who need reliable translations of Greek and Roman writers, the following sites should prove of great value: Early Church Fathers  (from 100AD to 600AD); Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome (full text and selections from many authors); Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece (full text and selections from many authors); Internet Classics Archive (59 authors, 441 works); and Loeb Classical Library Books Online (hundreds of volumes); and Early Christian Writings (including Gnostic works among others).

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39 Vehicles Named Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

If you are looking for the safest vehicles to lease/buy, the IIHS has just brought out its list of cars that exceeded or matched its strict criteria for crash safety.

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Major Changes to Jersey City’s Pension System

Some of the provisions of A4536 are listed below. The bill

“Raises the minimum age of eligibility for ERS’ deferred, service, or early retirement benefit from the age of 60 to the age of 65;

Increases the number of years of service necessary for service retirement from 20 years to 25 years;

Raises the number of years of service necessary for early retirement from 25 years to 30 years;

Reconfigures the retirement benefit penalty for insufficient service time from 1/12 of 1% for each month preceding age 60 to 3/12 of 1% for each month preceding age 65;

Expands the averaging period in calculating a final salary for determining retirement benefits from three years to five years; and

Maintains State-Administered Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) membership for new employees under the age of 40 who are members of PERS based on prior employment.

For current and new members of ERS, the bill makes the following changes to ERS benefits:

Reduces the percentage of the Consumer Price Index used for the calculation of cost-of-living adjustments from 100% to 50%;

Authorizes the purchase of up to three years of service credit, at full cost, for qualified employment rendered before becoming an ERS member, subject to restrictions.  Qualified employment includes public in-State employment that was eligible for credit in a State-administered retirement system or military service in the United States Armed Forces.

Changes conditions attached to member loans from ERS to comply with the federal Internal Revenue Code” (Statement)

The bill was voted out of the Assembly, passing by a 79-0-1 tally. It next goes to the Senate under S3096; it is identical in wording to the Assembly bill.

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EdTech Reports – December 2013

The State of Digital Divides from Pew Internet gives the latest information on who does and does not use the internet and why. Demographic characteristics , along with educational attainment, are among the factors that play a major role in accessing the digital world. Wireless Networks: Technological Challenges and Policy Implications shows the inherent difficulties with mobile telecommunications versus landlines: “As a result, wireless networks adopt different approaches to error correction and congestion management than do wireline networks, which results in significantly heavier network management in ways that violate the Internet’s commitment to the absence of per-flow state and its supposed adherence to the absence of prioritization.”(abstract) Does that mean that the increasing reliance on wireless devices might have an effect on provision of services to schools? A Compendium of MOOC Perspectives, Research, and Resources is pretty self-explanatory; it contains numerous current references. How “flipped classrooms” are turning the traditional school day upside down from PBS says it all, don’t you think? Penn GSE Study Shows MOOCS Have Relatively Few Active Users, With Only a Few Persisting to Course End results from tracking one million course takers enrolled in sixteen classes offered by Coursera.

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The Presidential NSA Committee Report

Called Liberty and Security in a Changing World, the report from the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology calls for forty-six recommendations based upon certain core principles outlined in the beginning of this 300+page document.(14+) In essence, the NSA is to limit its data mining (27, 38); in addition, the report proposes that the NSA stop undermining encryption.(24, 220) This report comes right after a federal judge excoriated the government over its data collection, calling it a violation of the Constitution.(Klayman vs. Obama, 62)  The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post provide informative analyses.

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How Much Do Private College Presidents Earn?

A lot, in many cases. This Chronicle of Higher Education report, Executive Compensation at Private Colleges 2011, lists the salaries and benefits of 550 presidents. The list is topped by Robert Zimmer of the University of Chicago at almost $3.4 million. Clicking on the full profile of each individual reveals pay history, the pay of key employees at the institution, and pay in context (institutional budget, faculty pay, etc).  The first 42 names all earn in excess of $1 million per annum. You can also look at compensation by state; see the top earners in New Jersey. This 2011 article from The Star-Ledger, Contracts for presidents of N.J.’s public colleges packed with lucrative bonuses and perks, contains the actual presidential contracts for both 4-year and 2-year colleges.

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2013/14 Library Winter Intersession Hours

We’ll be closed Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22. We’ll be open Monday, December 23 and Tuesday, December 24 from 8:30am to 4:30pm.(Although historically the University closes early on the 24th.) We will re-open after the holiday break on Thursday, January 2. The Library hours from January 2 to Friday, January 17 will be: Monday-Friday, 8:30am to 4:30 pm. We resume regular operating hours on Tuesday, January 21.

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2012/13 New Jersey Violence/Vandalism Report for School Districts Released

The 2012/13 Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools has just been released. Among its findings: reported incidents dropped by 20% (2), and vandalism declined by 21% over a four-year period.(3) In addition, the five major categories (violence, bullying, vandalism, weapons, and substance abuse) all recorded declines over the previous year.(3) Appendix D contains district totals by county; reports back to 1999/2000 can also be consulted online. NJ Spotlight provides a succinct explanation of the report and its implications. Comparative statistics on violence in schools nationwide can be gleaned from Indicators of School Crime and Safety:2012 jointly published by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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Pope Francis is Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”

Pope Francis has been selected as the Person of the Year by Time. The justification for this award is included along with his biography. The runners-up, one of whom is Edward Snowden, are also included in this feature.  Prior selections can also be accessed from this site.

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Live Broadcast of Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela

Courtesy of C-SPAN.

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World Religions Explained

The BBC’s Featured Religions and Beliefs contains multiple articles on twenty beliefssystems ranging from Atheism to Zoroastrianism. Different aspects of each religion are examined, from holy days to rites and rituals to texts; many are accompanied by additional links to internal and external sites. The texts are not available here, but the Internet Sacred Text Archive would be a great place to find representative works. Another reliable site, authored by academics, is Overview of World Religions detailing doctrines, history, symbols, adherents, and headquarters of each sect.  For a plethora of statistics on thousands of religions, is recommended. For in-depth reporting on religion in the United States, go to the Religion & Public Life Project from Pew; this six-hour programGod in America – from PBS is worth a look as well.

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School Closings

New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut school closings, from elementary to college, are updated at 1010WINS.

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Demographic Profile of the American Military

The aggregate demographic profiles of active and reserve components of all branches of the American military are included in 2012 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community. How many service members are male or female? What is the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel in each service? Pay rates? Marital status? Ethnicity or race? These data and much more are found in this report.

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Text of Open Letter to President Obama From Eight Tech Companies Asking for Limitations on NSA Activities

Eight of the largest tech companies, normally adversaries in the business world, have banded together to present President Obama a set of reforms aimed at limiting the NSA incursions into private personal data. The letter states: “While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.” It goes on to list five reform principles that should guide data gathering, including respecting the free flow of information(#4). These reforms mirror legislation introduced in Congress – USA Freedom Act (its actual title is the mind-numbing  “Uniting and  Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act”). More information is available at three sites providing extensive coverage of the entire NSA scandal: The Guardian; The Washington Post; and The New York Times. Also, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an informative site along with a detailed and current timeline; the Electronic Privacy Information Center has a great deal of information as well.

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Extended Library Hours for Fall 2013 Finals

The Library will have extended hours for finals. Good luck to everyone!

Monday, December 9 to Thursday, December 12: 7 am to 11 pm
Friday, December 13: 7 am to 5 pm

Saturday, December 14: 9 am to 5 pm
Sunday, December 15: 11 am to 5 pm

Monday, December 16 to Thursday, December 19: 7 am to 11 pm
Friday, December 20: 7 am to 5 pm

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Online Official Histories of World War II

Official histories are at times greeted with suspicion and praise, sometimes at the same time. Be that as it may, they do answer the need for getting the details out in the open. A good discussion of them is found here at Official Histories. The “Green Books” is the nickname for the massive U.S. Army in World War II Series now numbering about eighty volumes; there is a 1992 Reader’s Guide to the series. The U.S. Navy curiously had its multi-volume history published by a commercial house – Little, Brown and Co. so it is not online. It was written by a master historian – Samuel Eliot Morison –  and published in fifteen volumes over the space of fifteen years. (For more information, please read Revisiting Samuel Eliot Morison’s Landmark History.) The Air Force was not a separate service then; its activities are covered in The Army Air Forces in World War II series. The Marines Corps is represented by its History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II along with its Historical Monographs and Commemorative Series. The Coast Guard’s involvement is examined in the multi-volume Coast Guard at War. We’re not the only country with official histories; there are several other series of value: the fifty-volume Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War; Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War (this site also contains naval and air force histories); the twenty-plus volume Australia in the War of 1939-1945; Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939-45 (selected volumes); and British History of the Second World War (a huge undertaking, but only a very few volumes are online, among them those dealing with the RAF).

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How the Great Recession and Federal Stimulus Monies Affected NJ Schools

This New York Federal Reserve paper – Precarious Slopes? The Great Recession, Federal Stimulus, and New Jersey Schools —  examines the impact of recent economic downturns on school funding. It should come as no surprise that wealthier districts survived better than their less affluent counterparts: ” For example, the high-poverty and urban groups sustain the largest declines (relative to their respective trends) in the post-recession era. The most extreme examples in the poverty-level heterogeneities are the shifts in spending on student services and instructional support in 2010. The high-poverty districts show large, statistically significant declines in these categories, while the affluent districts show large, statistically significant increases. These variables capture the expenditure on services to support, assess, and improve students’ well-being, including social work, health services, technology, library costs, and student guidance.”(57-58) Buttressed with charts and tables, this report is worth a perusal. Another Federal Reserve report is also of interest – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: A Review of Stimulus Spending in New York and New Jersey

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Statistical Portrait of 2012 U.S. Doctoral Recipients

A statistical goldmine of information on doctoral recipients as well as the institutions that award them is presented in Doctoral Recipients from U.S. Universities and Colleges.  Seventy tables “…present detailed data on the demographic characteristics, educational history, sources of financial support, and postgraduation plans of doctorate recipients.”

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