Archive for February, 2015

Biographies of Historic Figures

The BBC has produced Historic Figures, a site featuring brief biographies of the hundreds of individuals who have been featured in BBC works. They range from John Adams to Georgi Zhukov.

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NJ Pension Commission’s Final Report

Entitled Report of the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission, this document presents a roadmap for closing the immense deficits in both the pension and health benefits systems for state retirees. Among its recommendations:

Freeze the existing pension plans; benefits earned to date would not be affected, but taxpayers cannot afford additional benefits to be earned under the existing plans

Align future public employee retirement benefits with private-sector levels; this is the sensible thing to do on its own merits and the savings will make funding more secure for employees and less painful to taxpayers

Also align public employee health benefits with private-sector levels; get ahead of the curve in controlling these staggering costs before they crowd out retirement benefits from State and local budgets

Fairly realign State and local responsibility for new and sustainable pension and health benefits; this will produce the best result from the perspective of employees and the State’s taxpayers as a whole

Lock in fixed and certain pension funding with a constitutional amendment; this will protect employees and retirees from the vagaries of politics and the annual budget process, improve the State’s financial condition, and make clear to all that the people of New Jersey have taken ownership of the problem and the solution

Transfer the assets, liabilities and risks of the existing pension and new retirement plans to employee entities willing and able to assume this obligation; allow those who receive the benefits to have the power and assume the risk of managing the plans to ensure that the available funds are sufficient to pay for the provided benefits.(2-3)

Analyses/reportage at: NJ.com, The Wall Street Journal, Asbury Park Press, NJEA, and NJ 101.5 (featuring reactions from all sides of the argument).

 

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2016 New Jersey Budget Address

Compelled to fund the pension system in full and with crumbling infrastructure that requires an increase in the gasoline tax, Governor Christie’s budget address will be listened to/watched to divine portents for the short-term as well as the long-term. It will be broadcast on NJTV starting at 2pm.

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Judge Orders Governor Christie to Fund Full Pension Payment

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson has issued her opinion that Governor Christie broke the law in not fully funding this year’s pension payment; the full text of her 130 page opinion is online as well as key excerpts. This means that Governor Christie has to find $1.6 billion by the end of June and almost $3 billion for next fiscal year’s pension payment. Analyses/reportage are found at: NJ Spotlight, PolitickerNJ, The New York Times, NJ.com, Asbury Park Press, and The Washington Post.

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As Far As Climate Change Goes, What Happens in New York City Will Affect Jersey City As Well

The New York City Panel on Climate Change has just issued its 2015 report; the predictions are less than rosy. It states “Climate risks in the New York metropolitan region are increasing and are projected to continue to increase throughout the 21st century. Higher temperatures, heavy downpours, sea level rise, and intensified coastal flooding are the major climate hazards projected for the region.” (107) Here is its 2010 report.

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Additional News on NJCU’s New Business School

This recent article from nj.com provides additional information as well as a rendering of the floor plan for the new school.

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Year-end Review of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Activities

The Hubble Science Year in Review provides the reader with a re-capitulation of the previous year’s work with the Hubble Space Telescope. Accompanied by gorgeous photography (hence the large files), this annual publication presents articles that can be apprehended by the educated layperson; the articles themselves are accompanied by linked references. Well worth a perusal by anyone worthy of the appellation “space cadet”. Here are other Hubble accomplishments.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: The Strategic Bombing Survey

As World War II was winding down, an assemblage of 800 military and civilian personnel were tasked with issuing impartial reports on the effects of Anglo-American air campaigns in Europe; this investigation was subsequently extended to cover Japan. Over 300 volumes of the Strategic Bombing Survey were eventually published (some are online; more are here, such as corporations reports); among the most important are the following: Summary Report (Europe); Summary Report (Japan); The effects of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and Interrogations of Japanese officials. This thesis –  The United States Strategic Bombing Survey And Air Force Doctrine – offers an oversight.

 

 

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The “Rolling Stone” Ranks All 141 SNL Cast Members

That’s 141 critiques of their work on SNL and nowhere else. We don’t think anyone will be surprised by No.1.

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Megadroughts To Be the New Normal

According to Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains (Science Advances), climate change will have a devastating impact on the West and Southwest from mid-century on. Drought conditions lasting decades are predicted, based on seventeen different computer modeling programs. Here is an overview on this topic from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Persistent drought in North America: a climate modeling and paleoclimate perspective (2014); other worthwhile reads are A 1,200-year perspective of 21st century drought in southwestern North America (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010); Assessing the Risk of Persistent Drought Using Climate Model Simulations and Paleoclimate Data (Journal of Climate, 2014); Pan-Continental Droughts in North America over the Last Millennium (Journal of Climate, 2014); Megadroughts in North America: placing IPCC projections of hydroclimatic change (Journal of Quarternary Science, 2009); and Severe and sustained drought in southern California and the West: Present conditions and insights from the past on causes and impacts, (Quarternary International, 2007).

 

 

 

 

 

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800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta

Considered the cornerstone of English constitutional law, the Magna Carta was the first document to codify the monarchy’s subjection to the law. Many of its 63 clauses were changed or expunged over time, but it still stands as a fundamental legal agreement guaranteeing certain rights. The British Library’s Magna Carta: An Introduction is a good place to start as is this A Brief History of the Magna Carta from the House of Lords. 25 Barons of the Magna Carta provides biographical information on those individuals who, under Clause 61, were to see that the king abided by the document. An English translation is available online courtesy of the British Library.

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50 Radio Shack Stores Closing in New Jersey

Here is a listing of the NJ stores slated for closure; there are more than 1700 nationwide that will shut. Here is an interactive national map.

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Online Primary Sources: World War I Pamphlet Collections

The importance of pamphlets as historical literature cannot be stressed enough. Although ephemeral in nature, “As primary documents, pamphlet literature offers researchers rare and unique evidence of events occurring within the politics, history and mores….” of particular times, the above quote coming from the French Pamphlet Planning Project’s planning meetings at the Newberry Library in 2013. Here are several collections worth perusing: World War I Pamphlets (the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) featuring over 400 items ranging from Toynbee’s polemic against the Turks to an eyewitness account about visiting the front; the World War 1 Pamphlet Collection (University of Pennsylvania) containing 240 titles, among them George Prothero’s (President of the Royal Historical Society and observer/consultant at the Paris Peace Conference) Our duty and interest in the war and the Spectre of navalism by Julian Corbett, a pre-eminent British naval historian; World War 1 Pamphlet Collection (University of Colorado at Boulder) hosting over 1000 items from After twelve months of war by Charles Masterman, head of the British War Propaganda Bureau to America can’t quit by William Howard Taft, ex-President of the United States; and Columbia University’s WWI Pamphlets 1913-1920 including Winston Churchill’s Conduct of the War by Sea. A subset of the Pamphlet Collection of the Harvard College Library contains over 2500 items of interest. Among these five collections, there is some overlap, and some of the writings are not in English, but all in all, they offer valuable insights into this conflict from a wide variety of perspectives.

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EdTech Reports – January 2015

Social Media Update 2014 (Pew) tracks use of the main social media outlets. Google has released Bringing Learning Online, a blueprint for introducing technology into schools.

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Hundreds of Online Town and County Histories

Published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these hundreds of tomes span the states. Want to read a 1910 history of Jersey City? Or an 1888 treatment of Kingston, N.Y.? How about an 1860 history of Burlington, Vt.? Almost every state is represented.

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National Security Reports – January 2015 Update

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Fiscal Year 2016 Budget of the United States Government

This tome contains “…the President’s budget message, information on the President’s priorities, and summary tables….”(2)

 

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Minimum Wages in the European Union

Most if not all the EU countries have national policies determining this wage benchmark. This table presents the most recent information; unless otherwise stated, the minimum wage level is calculated on a monthly basis. An overview of this topic is provided by the European Parliamentary Research Service.

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The More Education You Have, The More You Make

Various statistical comparisons in a graphic format are presented; additional data on wages and salaries can also be accessed. As far as unemployment goes, the more education you have, the less chance you have of being out of work.

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Union Membership Statistics in 2014

Data for private sector vs. public sector are given as well as a breakdown by profession/industry; these latter indicators offer a comparison between 2004 and 2014. An accompanying chart shows the decline in union membership since; additional information, such as the number of union members in New Jersey, can be found here.

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