CQ Global Researcher Coverage on North Korea

North Korean state media announced the death of its country's leader, Kim Jong Il, this week. For CQ Global Researcher coverage on the North Korean regime, see Rob Kiener's report "North Korean Menace" (July 5, 2011).

This Week’s Report: “Fracking Controversy”

The natural gas industry has been under fire since the mid-2000s, when a controversial drilling method called hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – began to spread nationwide.

The technique involves injecting massive amounts of water, chemicals, sand and other material under high pressure into rock formations to release trapped gas. Critics charge that fracking fouls water wells and causes other unsafe conditions. This month the Environmental Protection Agency established the first scientific links between fracking and pollution of nearby drinking water. But industry officials say fracking is safe and efficient and is helping to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources.

Writer Daniel McGlynn delves deeply into the controversy in this week’s report, which provides rich background for classes, reports and debates dealing with environmental policy, energy development and government regulation.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 12/13/2011

Beyond Guantanamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorist Inmates
Scott Shane, The New York Times, Dec. 11, 2011

Synopsis: Federal prisons within the United States house some 269 inmates convicted of crimes tied to international terrorism, far more than the 171 inmates still held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. Congress has prohibited bringing Guantanamo inmates to the United States for trial, but the terrorist cases already prosecuted in civilian federal courts have been absorbed without undue difficulty, according to national security reporter Shane, and have resulted in long prison sentences. And those who have been released after convictions for lesser offenses are closely monitored by the Justice Department; few are reported to have returned to terrorism.

Takeaway: The prosecutions in federal courts contrast with the results from the military tribunals at Guantanamo, according to Shane, where cases have been “excruciatingly slow,”
“hugely costly” and strongly criticized within the United States and abroad.

For CQ Researcher coverage, see my reports “Closing Guantanamo,” Feb. 27, 2009, updated March 15, 2011; “Treatment of Detainees,” Aug. 25, 2006 (with Peter Katel); and “Prosecuting Terrorists,” March 12, 2010, updated May 26, 2011.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Personal Computer Is Dead
Jonathan Zittrain, Technology Review, Nov. 30, 2011

Synopsis: As the computing universe shifts from personal desktop machines loaded with software we own to “cloud” computers that store our programs and information remotely and are controlled by big tech companies, dreams that the Information Age will uniquely empower individuals are on the wane. So writes Harvard Professor of law and computer science Jonathan Zittrain, who describes how cloud owners such as Microsoft and Apple can subtly or not so subtly squelch individual freedom and technological innovation..

Takeaway: “Governments have come to realize that this framework makes their own censorship vastly easier: what used to be a Sisyphean struggle to stanch the distribution of books, tracts, and then websites is becoming a few takedown notices to a handful of digital gatekeepers. Suddenly, objectionable content can be made to disappear by pressuring a technology company in the middle.”

For more, see David Hatch’s Nov. 11 report, “Google’s Dominance,” and my Sept. 16 report, “Computer Hacking.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer

This Week’s Report: “Water Crisis in the West”

Severe drought, a warming globe and rising demand for water in states such as Arizona and California are spurring fears of an unprecedented environmental crisis in the West: the lack of enough water to sustain the region’s massive agricultural industry and urban-population boom, Staff Writer Peter Katel writes in this week’s report.

The problem is sparking bitter conflict among agricultural interests, environmentalists, housing developers and others who have a stake in the issue, Katel writes.

“The confluence of drought, climate change and new scientific data on the region’s natural history is prompting a wave of concern in a region where massive dams, reservoirs and canals were thought for most of the 20th century to have solved water problems in the region,” Katel explains. “Worries are especially acute in the sprawling seven-state Colorado River Basin and in Texas, a swath that includes the entire Southwest.”

This timely report is especially useful for classes, reports and debates on environmental and agricultural policy, land use, local and state governance, geography and political science.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 12/6/2011

Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress
Bob Ivy, Bradley Keoun and Phil Kuntz, Bloomberg Markets Magazine, January 2012 (post-dated)

Synopsis: The nation’s banks took generous advantage of below-market-interest loans that the Federal Reserve provided during the height of the financial crisis, borrowing heavily even as most of them professed no need for help and earning billions in profits by lending the funds out at higher rates. That’s the conclusion that reporters for Bloomberg Markets Magazine reached after poring over more than 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained after a protracted Freedom of Information Act battle with the agency.

Takeaway: The reporters stress that Congress and the public were kept in the dark about the program. “While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses,” they write, “details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see Marcia Clemmitt, “Financial Industry Overhaul,” July 30, 2010; Thomas J. Billitteri, “Financial Bailout,” Oct. 24, 2008, updated July 30, 2010; Kenneth Jost, “Financial Crisis,” May 9, 2008.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


GOP Filibuster Ends Tenure of Health Care Cost Cutting Expert
Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo, Nov. 23, 2011

Now Departed from his Tenure at The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Berwick Receives High Marks for his Tenure at the Agency
Harris Meyer, Health Affairs, Nov. 2011

Synopsis: Filibuster-threatening Senate Republicans have steadfastly refused to allow an up-or-down vote on widely respected Don Berwick, whom President Obama appointed last year to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He will leave the agency at year’s end. Ironically, in this era of fierce battles over how to balance government budgets, Berwick is one of the world’s leading experts on “comparative effectiveness” research -- figuring out how to improve care and save money. Republicans argue that the better approach is to turn over all health care to the private sector.

Takeaway: Berwick’s departure is lamented by many in the health-care field, writes Meyer. “Other Republicans with extensive health care experience also heap Berwick with praise,” he wrote. ‘He did a wonderful job, but Gandhi couldn’t have gotten confirmed in this environment,’ says Thomas Scully, a senior counsel at Alston and Bird, who headed CMS under President George W. Bush.”

For more, see my reports on “Health Care Reform” (June 11, 2010, updated May 24, 2011; and Aug. 28, 2009), “Universal Coverage” (March 30, 2007), and “Rising Health Costs” (April 7, 2006).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer
John Branch, Three-part series, The New York Times, Dec. 3,4,5, 2011

Synopsis: In a riveting, three-part series, reporter John Branch tells the tragic story of Derek Boogaard, who grew up in a small Canadian town dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League. Boogaard got his wish. But as a mediocre player, the only way the six-foot-three-inch, 250-pound skater could make it was as an enforcer---the player on each hockey team designated to duke it out – bare knuckles -- with the enforcer from the opposing team. Indeed, Boogaard became the most feared man in hockey.

Takeaway: The role exposed Boogaard to repeated head trauma, chronic pain and a deadly addiction to pain killers. He died at age 28 of an accidental overdose. A study of his brain showed massive deterioration from repeated concussions and, if he had lived, dementia in mid-life.

For background see “Preventing Memory Loss,” by Marcia Clemmitt, April 4, 2008

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

CQ Global Researcher Author on Public Radio

Alan Greenblatt, author of this week’s CQ Global Researcher on “International Adoptions,” will be interviewed on public radio in St. Louis on why foreign adoptions are declining, even as some 2 million orphans are still living in orphanages around the world. The program will air Tuesday (Dec. 6) at noon (EST) on KWMU public radio. Don Marsh, host of "St. Louis on the Air,” will interview Greenblatt along with Cory Barron, development aid director for Children’s Hope International and father of twin girls adopted from China in 1999. Trish Almond, who also has two children adopted from China -- one with special needs -- will join the discussion.

Podcasts are available for the show.

--Kathy Koch, Managing Editor, CQ Global Researcher

This Week’s Report: “Digital Education”

Computers are replacing – or at least supplementing -- teachers in American classrooms, and the fast-growing trend has led to both excitement and dread in education circles, as Staff Writer Marcia Clemmitt explains in this week’s report.

“While digital devices have become ubiquitous worldwide,” she writes, “debate is raging over whether – and which – technologies have proved their worth as learning tools. Some school systems have fully embraced technology. But critics argue that money for such programs would be better spent on teachers.”

Online learning is rapidly shaping curriculum decisions. Idaho requires high school students to complete at least two online courses to graduate. And a number of states, led by Florida, are creating “virtual” public schools that allow students to complete their entire high school education without ever stepping into a traditional classroom.

This report is a good foundation for debates, classes and papers on education policy, the role of technology in society and state and local allocation of public funds.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Amazon Rainforest Group Defeats Hydropower Project

In a major victory for indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest, the Brazilian company Odebrecht abandoned plans to build a hydropower project in Peru. The voluntary decision came after opposition by the 14,000-member Ashaninka community, which said its forests and farmlands would be destroyed by the proposed Tambo-40 plant.

Commercial enterprises rarely take such initiatives on their own, according to the Sept. 20, 2011, CQ Global Researcher, “Saving Indigenous Peoples.” The report describes widespread encroachment into indigenous territories around the globe by governments and multinational corporations pursuing energy extraction, despite international agreements to first obtain consent from indigenous populations. Brazil’s planned Belo Monte Dam in the Amazon and Bolivia’s proposed hydropower plant in the Madidi National Park are prime examples. Bolivian President Evo Morales, the nation’s first indigenous president and a champion of indigenous rights, has been accused of “reprehensible incoherence” for riding roughshod over the concerns of Madidi indigenous groups to make way for the plant.

See the report at http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2011092000.

--Brian Beary

Weekly Roundup 11/29/2011

Iraq’s young prepare to inherit a war-scarred nation after U.S. withdrawal
Dan Zak (story and photographs), The Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2011

Synopsis: Post reporter Dan Zak concludes a short tour in Iraq with portraits of Iraq’s young generation, who are “glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein but feel less safe — and therefore less free — than before 2003.” The front-page package includes individual portraits, among others, of bloggers trying to recreate an Arab Spring-style revolution, an activist seeking to energize a protest movement and a student hoping to help transcend ethnic divisions. The Web version includes a photo gallery.

Takeaway: Young Iraqis “view their government as a pseudo-regime that deprives them of basic rights” and “worry that their peers are being lured into the ethnic, sectarian and partisan traps of their elders.” They also think, Zak writes, that “the world is fixating on revolutions in other Arab countries while ignoring a rotting democracy in Baghdad and their generation’s struggle to live the freedom that was promised to them 8-and-a-half years ago.”

For CQ Researcher’s most recent coverage, see “America at War” (Aug. 13, 2010) and “Cost of the Iraq War” (April 25, 2008).

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


R.I.P. Lynn Margulis, Biological Rebel
John Horgan, Scientific American blogs, Nov. 24, 2011

Synopsis: Evolutionary biology lost one of its most remarkable minds last Tuesday, when Lynn Margulis, a professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, died unexpectedly of a stroke at the too early age of 73. Margulis faced intense early opposition to her idea that symbiosis – joint, cooperative functioning between organisms – rather than competition alone has been a major driver of evolution. How organisms with nuclei in their cells evolved from simpler older organisms that have no nuclei remained one of biology’s great mysteries until Margulis proposed that larger non-nucleated organisms may have engulfed smaller ones, creating symbiotically united organisms in which the smaller single-celled creatures became the nuclei of the larger ones.

Takeaway: “‘Evolution no doubt occurs, and it’s been seen to occur, and it’s occurring now. Everyone who’s scientific-minded agrees with that. The question is, how does it occur? And that’s where everyone parts company,’” Margulis told blogger John Horgan. “Ultra-Darwinians, by focusing on the gene as the unit of selection, had failed to explain how speciation occurs. Only a much broader theory that incorporates symbiosis and higher-level selection could account for the diversity of the fossil record and of life today, according to Margulis,” he wrote.

Virtual Schools Are Multiplying, but Some Question Their Educational Value
Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown, The Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2011

Synopsis: Full-time online schooling, mostly provided by for-profit companies, is becoming available to more students and younger students – including kindergarteners. But while some education theorists herald the development as a long-needed innovation that will save public dollars while giving students an invaluable chance to learn at their own pace, others say that online learning hasn’t yet proven its merits to the point that rapid deployment is warranted.

Takeaway: Possible social implications are one objection raised to full-time online schooling. “During recent deliberations over virtual schooling in Virginia, a member of the state Board of Education raised the issue of socialization,” write the Post reporters. “‘This would appear to make it possible to go from kindergarten through eighth grade without ever stepping into a real classroom,’ David M. Foster said. ‘I’m not sure I want to encourage that. . . . Collaborative problem solving, socialization, working with other people is key not just to the global economy but to getting along in life.’”

For more, see my CQ Researcher report on “Digital Education,” coming up Dec. 2.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


The Prosecution’s Case Against DNA
Andrew Martin, The New York Times, Nov. 27, 2011

Synopsis: Hundreds of convicted criminals have been exonerated by DNA evidence in the past quarter-century. But when DNA seemingly clears convicted criminals in Lake County, Ill., the new evidence doesn’t always set the men free. Instead, prosecutors often say it just changes the theory of how they committed the crime.

Takeaway: The issues raised by DNA exoneration have led to an overhaul of the nation’s criminal-justice system. But in some jurisdictions prosecutors are dubious about such new evidence. Some legitimately believe the new evidence is somehow flawed. “But legal scholars … suggest that prosecutors’ concerns about their political future and a culture that values winning over justice also come into play.”

For background see “Eyewitness Testimony” (Oct. 14, 2011) and “Wrongful Convictions” (April 17, 2009)

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

Weekly Roundup 11/22/2011

A Sensible Solution to Student Loan Debt
Richard Lee Colvin, Huffington Post, Nov. 12, 2011

Synopsis: To help students afford college and increase the repayment rate on college loans, the United States should follow Australia and other nations into making enrollment in income-contingent loan-repayment programs automatic, with repayment managed by the IRS. Currently, U.S. income-contingent programs are woefully undersubscribed and managed through the Department of Education.

Takeaway: “Income-contingent loans could encourage money-hungry colleges to boost tuition even further, so Congress should also provide incentives to colleges to keep costs down,” writes Colvin, executive director of the nonpartisan think tank Education Sector. “Colleges that didn't keep tuition hikes within limits could be barred from the income-contingent loan program, which could drive students away.”

For more, see Reed Karaim’s Nov. 15 CQ Global Researcher on “Expanding Higher Education” and my Oct. 21 report on “Student Debt.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Teaching Good Sex
Laurie Abraham, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Nov. 20, 2011

Synopsis: A frank human-sexuality course at a private Quaker school on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line “may well be the only one of its kind in the United States.” Teacher Al Vernacchio regards sexuality as “a force for good – even for teenagers.”

Takeaway: While Vernacchio extols the pleasure of sex, he also notes that sometimes it’s best left off the menu. At the same time, “I don’t necessarily see the decision to become sexually active when you’re 17 as an unhealthy one,” he says. “What if our kids really believed we wanted them to have great sex?” he asked at an evening talk for parents of ninth-graders who would attend his sex-ed course. “What if they really believed that we want them to be so passionately in love with someone that they can’t keep their hands off them? What if they really believed we want them to know their own bodies?”

See “Teen Sex,” (9/16/2005), CQ Researcher.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


MLS Deserves to Succeed

Ian Darke, ESPN, Nov. 22, 2011

Synopsis: Playing perhaps his final game in Major League Soccer (MLS), David Beckham capped off his five-year tenure with the L.A. Galaxy with his first league championship. Seen by many as a savior for the league when he arrived stateside in 2007, Beckham is now contemplating a return to a European club, which has prompted questions over the future of soccer in America should MLS lose its biggest celebrity.

Takeaway: The introduction of the Montreal Impact next season will bring the league’s team total to 19, nearly double the 10 teams it had upon inception in 1996 and approaching the 30 or so teams playing in other sports leagues such as the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. TV ratings and attendance have continually risen over the past decade. While pundits endlessly debate soccer’s place in the American sporting landscape, the league and its fans aren’t bothered if it remains a minority sport in the country because it’s increasingly becoming a significant one.

For historical background see “Soccer in America” (April 22, 1994).

--Darrell Dela Rosa, Assistant Editor

This Week’s Report: “College Football”

College football, the nation’s No. 3 spectator sport in popularity and a multibillion-dollar business, is under increasing scrutiny. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is proposing changes aimed at tightening academic standards and helping players, who earn millions for schools. But the NCAA has little power to control schools’ lavish spending on the sport.

The game has drawn even more critical attention in recent days because of the unfolding child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, which involves a former assistant coach and has resulted in the abrupt firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno.

Associate Editor Ken Jost explores the full range of issues surrounding college football in this week’s timely and highly informative CQ Researcher. The report is especially useful for classes and papers on sports management, higher education administration, ethics and contemporary culture.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 11/15/2011

Joe Paterno, and the end of the iconic, eternal college coach
John Feinstein, The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2011

Climate of secrecy led to crumbling of Camelot
Ron Bracken, Centre (Pa.) Daily Times, Nov. 11, 2011

Synopsis: The firing of Penn State’s legendary coach Joe Paterno last week (Nov. 9) in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal involving his former assistant Jerry Sandusky dominated not just the sports sections but the front pages. Noted sports journalist Feinstein opines that the dismissal helps confirm the end of the “iconic” coach. With the pressure for success intensifying, even a revered coach may be vulnerable after a losing season, much less a national scandal. Meanwhile, Bracken, former sports editor of the local newspaper in Penn State’s home county, recalls a climate of secrecy on the Penn State campus that long antedated the current controversy.

Takeaway: “The attitude that prevails at Penn State,” Bracken writes, is “[p]rotect the image at all costs, and if the truth has to be whitewashed to hide it, well, break out the buckets and brushes.”

For a broader look at gridiron controversies, watch for my report, “College Football,” being published later this week.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Tweaker
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, Nov. 14, 2011

Synopsis: The vast tide of recent post-mortem hagiography to the contrary, Steve Jobs was less a creative genius than an editorial expert – gifted at picking just the right configuration of details to make uniquely user-friendly products. As the saying goes, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” and Jobs was an artist-thief who achieved techno greatness. Apple’s graphical user interface – the screen icons and mouse – were invented by engineers at Xerox, where Jobs saw and appropriated them to create the then-unique Macintosh computer, in whose mold virtually all user interfaces are made today. But others borrowing Apple’s ideas made him furious.

Takeaway: When Bill Gates saw the Macintosh and knew that it was good, Microsoft Windows, a somewhat clumsier but obviously Apple-derived new system, quickly appeared. Jobs “summoned Gates…to Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters…. ‘You’re ripping us off!’ he shouted. ‘I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!’ Gates looked back at Jobs calmly….’Well, Steve,’ Gates responded. ‘I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.’”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer

This Week’s Report: “Google’s Dominance”

Google is much more than an iconic search engine, as technology writer David Hatch reports in this week’s CQ Researcher. The company’s vast portfolio includes airline ticketing, comparison shopping, social networking and mobile-phone software, among other things, and Google’s proposed $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility would greatly increase its reach in the wireless phone industry.

Google’s rapid and aggressive expansion has drawn intense criticism from competitors, who portray the company as a monopoly that leverages its power to bully rivals, and from federal regulators, who are investigating whether Google is violating antitrust laws.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, defends the company against charges of monopolistic behavior, telling a congressional hearing, “We live in great fear …that consumers will switch in extraordinary numbers to other services.” But a skeptical Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he was wary “of big companies that simultaneously control both information and the distribution channels of that information.”

This report is ideal for classes and reports dealing with business law and ethics, congressional oversight and the relationship between technology and culture.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 11/7/2011

A year from election day 2012, a dark mood awaits Obama and his GOP rival
Dan Balz, Jon Cohen and Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2011

Is Obama Toast? Handicapping the 2012 Election
Nate Silver, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Nov. 6, 2012

Synopsis: The American electorate is troubled about the economy, sharply polarized, frustrated with President Obama and disaffected with the Republican Party, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published one year before the 2012 election. In hypothetical matchups, Obama leads each of the three top GOP hopefuls – Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Perry – according to the survey even though a majority (53 percent) disapprove of the way he is handling the presidency. In a separate article, Balz, the Post’s chief political writer, analyzes what he calls the “strange” race for the Republican nomination. An accompanying graphic shows the schedule for presidential primaries and caucuses beginning with Iowa on Jan. 3. Meanwhile, Nate Silver, editor of the The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, concludes from statistics-based handicapping that Obama’s chances of re-election rise or fall depending on economic trends.

Takeaway: “It will be an intensely negative and bitter campaign,” a GOP congressman tells the Post. “And that will complicate things enormously for the winner . . . .”

With economic issues front and center in voters’ minds, here are some CQ Researcher reports worth a look: Marcia Clemmitt, National Debt, March 18, 2011; Peter Katel, “Jobs Outlook,” June 4, 2010.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


When ‘thank you for your service’ falls flat
Phillip Carter, The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2011

Don’t know what to say to veterans? Just listen
Paula J. Caplan, The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2011

Veterans Day this year follows President Obama’s announcement of that the U.S. military will leave Iraq by the end of the year’s end. As a long and deadly war nears its end-point, and with withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled in 2014, the spotlight turns to veterans and the futures they face. (CQ Researcher reported in September on the slow-motion crisis of suicide in the active-duty military and among veterans.). Iraq veteran Carter writes movingly and thoughtfully of his efforts to come to terms with the cliché civilian greeting for Iraq-Afghanistan veterans. Caplan, a psychologist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, proposes one way of bridging the divide between veterans and civilians that marks American life. Veterans make up a small fraction of the population. And their experiences, both writers note, threaten to isolate them from the country whose uniform they wore.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer


Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)
Christopher Drew, The New York Times, Nov. 4, 2011

Synopsis: This just in: College classes in hard science are hard. It’s fashionable to blame poor middle- and high-school preparation for the low number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) grads. But new studies show that the pipeline leaks steadily as it wends its way through college. How to change that? Might better college teaching help more students persist? Smaller classes? An atmosphere less focused on cutthroat competition, which is a special problem in pre-med studies? A greater emphasis in families and on the principle that hard work can be its own reward? No one knows for sure. Some, however, suggest one thing that might help: sprucing up freshman and sophomore STEM curricula to include interesting research projects -- similar to many middle- and high-school programs – rather than feeding aspiring STEM-ers a steady diet of 500-seat lecture courses that ignore the applied side of STEM disciplines.

Takeaway: “The National Science Board, a public advisory body, warned in the mid-1980s that students were losing sight of why they wanted to be scientists and engineers in the first place. Research confirmed in the 1990s that students learn more by grappling with open-ended problems, like creating a computer game or designing an alternative energy system, than listening to lectures,” writes Drew.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer

A New Measure of an Old Ill: Poverty

The New York Times reports today that the U.S. Census Bureau is about to release a long-awaited new standard for measuring poverty.

Demographic methodology doesn’t ordinarily prompt major news coverage. But poverty is looming larger on the national radar these days, as I explored in my Oct. 28 CQ Researcher report, “Child Poverty.” One reason is a recent Census Bureau report of 2010 poverty statistics.

These numbers – based on the old methodology – showed a marked increase in the number of people living below the poverty line. The increase was especially drastic for children, 22 percent of whom were categorized as poor.

I cited that statistic and related findings in my report, along with experts’ questioning of the validity of poverty-calculation methods.

One aspect of the statistical issue that emerged both from my reporting and that of The Times: Experts on both sides of the deep left-right divide over poverty policy agree that new methodology is needed.

Both sides want – and apparently will get – calculation methods that take into account the benefits of antipoverty programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. For experts on the left, accounting for this aid will show its value in helping people. On the right, the idea is to show the magnitude of government aid to low-income people, to bolster conservatives’ argument that no more help is needed.

At the lower reaches of the socioeconomic ladder, some of the struggling people I spoke with do receive food stamps and other assistance. But they said they still relied on donations from food banks to keep their families fed.

--Peter Katel

This Week’s Report: Managing Public Lands

The federal government manages millions of acres of publicly owned land, much of it concentrated in the West. Not only is the acreage – forests, deserts, marshes and tundra – home to a fascinating array of wildlife and plants, it also contains valuable resources such as timber, gold, rangelands for livestock grazing, oil and natural gas.

As veteran environmental writer Jennifer Weeks explains in this week’s report, “Managing Public Lands,” some conservatives want less federal control and more local authority over public lands so the acreage can be put to multiple uses – not just by hikers and campers but by industry as well. Environmentalists, on the other hand, argue that the lands need more protection from development, not less.

“For decades,” Weeks writes, “policymakers, industry and environmental advocates have argued over how to strike the right balance on multiple-use lands. . . .How much should public natural resources be conserved, and how much should they be exploited?”

This is an especially timely report for classes in public administration, environmental science, civics, business and federal policy.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 10/31/2011

The Genius of Jobs
Walter Isaacson, The New York Times, Oct. 30, 2011

Steve Jobs’ Biography Examines How Rule-Breaker Tied ‘Artistry to Engineering’
Interview with Walter Isaacson, PBS NewsHour, Oct. 29, 2011

Synopsis: Steve Jobs granted author Walter Isaacson hours of interviews and informal conversations for a biography published within days of Jobs’s death on Oct. 5. Isaacson, whose previous books include biographies of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, writes that Jobs was “a genius” but not exceptionally smart. In an op-ed in The New York Times and an interview on the “PBS NewsHour,” Isaacson elaborates on Jobs’s use of experience and intuition, more than technical knowledge, in creating devices such as the Mac, iPod and iPhone.

Takeaway: Isaacson sees in Jobs’ career evidence that the United States has an advantage over economic rivals in producing people who are “creative and imaginative” and who “know how to stand at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences.” “That is the formula for true innovation, as Steve Jobs’s career showed.”

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


I Spy Occupy
Alison Craiglove Hockenberry, Huffington Post, Oct. 28, 2011

Synopsis: Social media is becoming a key battleground for protest movements and the government and corporate powers that seek to limit their influence. Governments and, increasingly, corporate sectors such as the financial industry that feel themselves under threat, mine social networks for advance information about how public gripes and disgruntlement are developing. Meanwhile, hackers rush to develop new digital channels for public communications that are anonymous and sometimes transient, and thus tougher for eavesdroppers to suss out.

Takeaway: “Big business has long employed social media monitoring companies to track and analyze the ‘chatter’ about their products and brands. This infrastructure is a natural tool for confronting the Occupy Wall Street movement....The very openness of Twitter and Facebook makes them useful to corporations.” The ListenLogic surveillance company “claims it has analyzed more than one million social media posts and determined that its clients are "at risk"’ because of the Occupy movement.

For more, see my Sept. 17, 2010, report on “Social Networking;”and Patrick Marshall’s Nov. 6, 2009, report on Online Privacy (updated Sept. 14, 2010).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


U.S. Is Planning Buildup in Gulf After Iraq Exit
Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times, Oct. 30, 2011

Synopsis: U.S. defense policy is like a global chess game. That metaphor, of course, is not mine; it’s been used since time immemorial – or at least ever since the game was invented by, presumably, by the Chinese. But the metaphor came to mind after I read that the U.S. is likely to be repositioning new combat forces in Kuwait after it withdraws from Iraq at the end of the year.

Takeaway: The move comes after the Obama administration unsuccessfully pressed the Iraqi government to permit up to 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011. Also, concern about a belligerent (and nuclear armed) Iran is prompting the U.S. to expand military ties with the six-national Gulf Cooperation Council.

For background see “Future of the Gulf States,” CQ Global Researcher, Nov. 1, 2011

--Tom Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week's Report: "Child Poverty"

An astonishing one in five American children lives below the poverty line, and experts on both sides of the liberal-conservative divide say child poverty is causing the gap between rich and poor to widen, staff writer Peter Katel writes in this week’s expanded CQ Researcher report, “Child Poverty.”

Children who grow up in poverty often suffer lifelong effects. “Children who are reared in poor families are more likely to fail in school, drop out of school, get arrested,” a scholar at the Brookings Institution told Katel. “And the earlier the poverty starts…, the more likely those bad things are to happen.”

Yet, while liberals and conservatives agree that child poverty is among the nation’s most insidious social problems, they are far apart when it comes to pinpointing root causes. Liberals say fewer children would be poor of the government safety net were stronger and more parents could find jobs. Conservatives say out-of-wedlock births are the biggest cause.

This valuable report is ideal for classes in sociology, social policy, economics, government and demography and for papers dealing with child development and the income gap.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 10/24/2011

Revolution Won, Top Libyan Official Vows a New and More Pious State
Adam Nossiter and Kareem Fahim, The New York Times, Oct. 24, 2011

Mogadishu on the Mediterranean?
Christian Caryl, Foreign Policy, Oct. 20, 2011

The colonel is caught
The Economist, Oct. 22, 2011

What’s Next for Libya?
L. Paul Bremer III, The Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2011

Synopsis: The death of Libya’s longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi marks the end of an eight-month civil war, but the beginning of an uncertain transition. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the Transitional National Council, said the new government would be based on Islamist principles. Meanwhile, human rights groups were raising concerns about the killing of Gaddafi after he had been captured alive. In Foreign Policy, contributing editor Christian Caryl says the weak interim government may preside over a Somalia-style failed state. But The Economist views Gaddafi’s death as encouragement for democratic movements in the Arab world. And in the Washington Post, L. Paul Bremer III, the American diplomat who oversaw the U.S. occupation of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, says the new regime’s success depends on providing security and demonstrating real political change.

Takeaway: Gaddafi’s death “will not necessarily spell the onset of sweetness and light across the region,” The Economist writes. “But it is a turning point all the same.”

For CQ Global Researcher coverage, see “Turmoil in the Arab World,” May 3, 2011

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Information Is Cheap, Meaning Is Expensive
The European, Oct. 11, 2011

Synopsis: Historian of science George Dyson notes that computer technology is evolving rapidly and that because of digital technology’s nearly unimaginable complexity this evolution is occurring almost entirely out of human control. This poses some of the most profound ethical and philosophical challenges of our time, he writes. Computers already are far better than human minds at finding answers to many questions, for example. Just consider what happens when you type a query into the Google search engine. Human minds are still far better at posing the most important questions, though, Dyson notes. But there’s a danger we’ll allow the seductive ease of computer-assisted thinking to usurp our facility for doing so.

Takeaway: “The danger is not that machines are advancing. The danger is that we are losing our intelligence if we rely on computers instead of our own minds. On a fundamental level, we have to ask ourselves: Do we need human intelligence? And what happens if we fail to exercise it?... I spent a lot of my life living in the wilderness and building kayaks. I believe that we need to protect our self-reliant individual intelligence—what you would need to survive in a hostile environment. Few of us are still living self-reliant lives. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but we should be cautious not to surrender into dependency on other forms of intelligence.”

For more, see Patrick Marshall’s April 22, 2011, report on “Artificial Intelligence”; Alan Greenblatt’s Sept. 24, 2010, report, “Impact of the Internet on Thinking”; and my Sept. 17, 2010, report, “Social Networking.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


A jobs plan we shouldn’t bank on
Chris Edwards, The Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2011

Synopsis: Many people, myself included, think that government spending on infrastructure, such as new highways, can boost employment and the economy in general. Not always so, says the author, an analyst at the conservative Cato Institute.

Takeaway: “The recent infrastructure debate has focused on job creation,” Edwards writes. “The more important question is who is holding the shovel. When it’s the federal government, we’ve found that it digs in the wrong places and leaves taxpayers with big holes in their pockets. So let’s give the shovels to state governments and private companies.”

--Tom Colin, Contributing Editor


From Russia With Lies
Elena Gorkokhova, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 23, 2011

Soviet civilization belongs to history books. But its survivors still walk among us. One of them, an emigré to the United States who has written a memoir of growing up in the USSR, authored this jewel of a piece on a special category of lie that was part of Soviet life. This genre of mendacity lives on, she writes, pointing to a recent episode involving Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He too is a product of Soviet civilization, and it shows.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer

This Week’s Report: “Student Debt”

College students have borrowed so much for their education that the cumulative bill eclipses the nation’s entire credit-card debt, staff writer Marcia Clemmitt notes in this week’s report, “Student Debt.”

Critics say the loan system is flawed, in part because repayment requirements are far less forgiving than those for consumer debt. Unlike car-loan borrowers, for instance, students can’t escape their college debt through bankruptcy proceedings. But others say the tough rules are justified.

Congress has taken some steps to make the loan system fairer for struggling families, including giving them easier payment options. Lawmakers also have shifted more money into federal Pell Grants for low-income students, among other steps. But advocates want more.

This report is must reading for classes on economics, consumer finance, income inequality and the history of higher education – and for any student attending college or preparing to apply.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

U.S. Cracks Down – Sort of -- on Food Speculators

by Sarah Glazer

U.S. commodity regulators on Tuesday approved sweeping new curbs on speculative trading in food commodities, the most aggressive anti-speculation move by a government since food prices began to rise in recent years. But the vote may not be the end of the story.

The latest rules will limit trading by banks and investment funds, which consumer groups blame for the rising food prices. But after heavy lobbying by Wall Street, the rules passed Tuesday by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission were watered down significantly.

In addition, the commission-- aware that Wall Street could challenge the action in court -- agreed to delay many of its new rules for at least a year.

The European Union is considering similar rules but faces strong opposition from London, a major trading center. France had pledged to curb food speculators when the G-20 summit meets Nov. 3-4, but political leaders’ ardor has cooled in recent months, as we report in this week’s CQ Global Researcher on “Rising Food Prices.” Whether the American regulators’ latest action will influence Europe’s approach remains to be seen.

Weekly Roundup 10/17/2011

Parsing the Data and Ideology of the We Are 99% Tumblr
Mike Konczalaa, Rortybomb blog, Oct. 9, 2011

Synopsis: The “We Are the 99 Percent” blog -- http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/ -- houses a growing collection of photos and personal statements of Americans declaring themselves members of our economy’s “99 percent.” Most chronicle personal financial struggles and fears, while a few note that they’re doing okay but stand in solidarity with others seeking change. In a computer analysis of the posters’ text statements, liberal economic analyst Mike Konczal, of the Roosevelt Institute, finds these the top concerns: student debt, fears about being able to take care of children, unemployment, and health care. The list is basic, oddly old-fashioned and, perhaps, a bit scary and surprising in our high-tech era, often seen as afflicted mainly with overspending and inflated expectations – “affluenza” – Konczal says.

Takeaway: “The people in the tumblr aren’t demanding to bring democracy into the workplace via large-scale unionization, much less shorter work days and more pay. They aren’t talking the language of mid-20th century liberalism, where everyone puts on blindfolds and cuts slices of pie to share. The 99 percent looks too beaten down to demand anything as grand as ‘fairness’ in their distribution of the economy. There are no calls for some sort of post-industrial personal fulfillment in their labor – very few even invoke the idea that a job should ‘mean something.’ It’s straight out of antiquity – free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive.”

For more, see Peter Katel’s “Jobs Outlook” report, June 4, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010060400; Thomas J. Billitteri’s “Middle-Class Squeeze,” March 6, 2009, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2009030600; and my reports on “Income Inequality,” Dec. 3, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010120300; and “Student Debt,” coming up this week.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Amid fine weather, thousands help dedicate King Memorial on mall
Michael E. Raune, The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2011 (Oct. 17 in print edition)

Synopsis: The weekend dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial drew more than 10,000 people to the National Mall, including President Obama, to remember the late civil rights leader’s life and legacy.

Takeaway: “This day, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s return to the National Mall,” Obama said as he stood before the 30-foot statue of King, centerpiece of the memorial. “In this place, he will stand for all time.”

The Post’s full multimedia coverage is available here. For an archived webcast of the dedication ceremony, visit the memorial’s web site, here.

The CQ Researcher Archive includes scores of reports on racial issues, including “Civil and Social Rights of the Negro,” March 25, 1939, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1939032500; “Race Segregation,” Oct. 8, 1952, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1952100800; “Negro Voting,” Oct. 14, 1964, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1964101400; “Desegregation After 20 Years,” May 3, 1974, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1974050300; “Race and Politics,” July 18, 2008, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2008071800; and “Race in America,” July 11, 2003, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2003071100.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Bleakness of the Bullied
Charles M. Blow, The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2011

Synopsis: Bullying plagues a high percentage of schoolchildren in our country. A disturbingly large number of them are picked on so mercilessly that they commit suicide each year. Times op-ed writer Blow recalls that he too was bullied and in such pain that at the age of 8, he considered taking his own life.

Takeaway: Luckily, the love Blow received from his mother was enough to carry him through, though he suffered in silence. "I never even told my mother, and I am only here to share my gift with you because she coaxed me to sleep with t gift she didn’t believe she had.”

For background see “Preventing Bullying,” Dec. 10, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010121000; and “Cyberbullying,” May 2, 2008, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2008050200.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week’s Report: “Eyewitness Testimony”

Eyewitness identification can be crucial in bringing criminals to justice, as Associate Editor Kenneth Jost notes in this week’s report. “There isn’t any evidence more powerful than when a witness sits on the witness stand and points to the defendant in court and says, ‘That’s the guy,’” law professor and former public defender Jonathan Rapping tells Jost.

But eyewitnesses can be wrong, too, and their mistakes can lead to grave miscarriages of justice. Misidentifications played a role in three-fourths of the 273 wrongful convictions confirmed in the past two decades by DNA exonerations, Jost writes, citing the work of University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett.

Jost’s report delves deeply into this central tool of criminal investigation, providing rich material for classes and papers in civics, criminal justice, psychology, ethics, current events, political science and law.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Abortion Politics and the Millions of ‘Missing’ Girls

An estimated 160 million Indian and Chinese females who have been either aborted or murdered as newborns – just because they were girls, Rob Kiener reports in “Gendercide Crisis,” the latest CQ Global Researcher. Because they don’t appear in demographic tallies, they are known as the “missing” girls. In recent decades Asia’s traditional anti-female bias has combined with falling fertility rates, China’s one-child policy, new high-tech prenatal gender-detection tools and easy access to abortion to produce unprecedented gender imbalances in the region. Some of Asia’s skewed sex ratios stem from girls’ parents wanting to avoid having to pay exorbitant dowries. Women also leave home to care for their husbands and in-laws, while sons, by tradition, care for their elderly parents. Aside from causing the deaths of millions of baby girls, Asia’s gendercide crisis means that by 2021 India will have 20 percent more men than women, and by 2050, up to 50 million men will be unable to find wives in China.

Abortion politics also enters into the story. “Where are the feminists?” Steven Mosher, president of the conservative Population Research Institute, asked of Kiener. Why aren’t they outraged about this “terrible form of sex discrimination that is killing so many unborn baby girls?” Women’s-rights advocates told Kiener that feminist groups are silent because they don’t want to support any limits on a woman’s right to an abortion. Anti-abortion proponents like Mosher, they say, are using the gendercide issue to push for a ban on all abortions.

Asia’s gender imbalance already has led to increased kidnapping and trafficking in women and higher prostitution rates in the region. And experts worry that having so many unmarried men could threaten stability and security, leading to “the criminalization of society.”

See the report at: http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2011100400

--Kathy Koch, Managing Editor,
CQ Global Researcher

Weekly Roundup 10/10/2011

Occupy Wall Street (Wall Street Protests, 2011)
Times Topics, nytimes.com (visited Oct. 10, 2011)

A Walk in the Park
Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, Oct. 17, 2011 (post-dated)

Occupy Wall Street: Newcomers bring their hopes and worries to New York protest
Eli Saslow, The Washington Post, Oct. 9, 2011 (print edition: Oct. 10, 2011)

Synopsis: The loosely organized group calling itself Occupy Wall Street began its protest in the privately owned, open to the public Zuccotti Park on Saturday, Sept. 17, with an outcry against corporate greed and economic inequality. In an online chronicle, nytimes.com provides a succinct overview of events in New York and links to some of its coverage, including stories about the spread of the movement to other cities. Hendrik Hertzberg, a senior editor and staff writer for The New Yorker, gives an impressionistic account of the gathering in Zuccotti Park. And Washington Post political writer Eli Saslow ponders the future of the movement through the eyes of three newly arrived protesters.

Takeaway: As the protest moves into its fifth week, Saslow poses these questions about its future: “Can a leaderless group that relies on consensus find a way for so many people to agree on what comes next? Can it offer not only objections but also solutions? Can a radical protest evolve into a mainstream movement for change?”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see these reports: Marcia Clemmitt, “Income Inequality,” Dec. 3, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010120300; Marcia Clemmitt, “Financial Industry Overhaul,” July 30, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010073000; Peter Katel, “Jobs Outlook,” June 4, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010060400.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Everything You Need to Know About the New Facebook
Business Insider, Sept. 26, 2011

Synopsis: Full disclosure: I remain a social-media holdout. Nevertheless -- or therefore? -- I watch with fascination the reshaping of the world according to Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of radical transparency. This piece appears to be a pretty thorough summary of current and imminent Facebook changes that aim to create a complete virtual you on the Internet, along with tips about how to tailor some features to your liking or opt out of them.

Takeaway: “Do you remember Facebook Beacon? Originally, when it launched in 2007, it caused a lot of controversy because it pushed people into sharing actions with their friends that they might not necessarily want to share. For example, if you bought movie tickets from MovieTickets.com, it would share that with all your Facebook friends via your news feed. The service was shut down in September 2009 due to privacy concerns. Now, people are a lot more used to sharing their activities with their friends. We ‘check in’ to places, we share photos, etc. Facebook is banking on this new type of sharing to be less scary, and something you can opt into, just once. For example, if you join the new Guardian Facebook app, you'll add it to your Timeline, and share any article you read on the Guardian website with your friends.”

For more, see my Sept. 17, 2010, report on “Social Networking,” http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010091700, and Patrick Marshall’s Nov. 6, 2009, report on “Online Privacy,” updated in September 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2009110600.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Taken by Pirates
Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 9, 2011

Synopsis: This nail-biting story by the Times’ Africa correspondent describes the year-long torment that British sailors Rachel and Paul Chandler endured at the hands of the Somalian pirates who took them hostage in the Indian Ocean. It is a classic of the your-worst-nightmare genre that also provides a fascinating insider’s look at the out-of-control pirate “industry.”

Takeaway: The Chandlers’ almost miraculous survival is a testament to both their amazing courage and strength and the kindness and concern of others, including many Somali immigrants in England.

For additional reading see Alan Greenblatt, “Attacking Piracy,” CQ Global Researcher, August 2009, http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2009080000

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor

This Week's Report: "Legal-Aid Crisis"

As the economy teeters on the edge of recession, many poor and even middle-class people facing legal problems – mortgage foreclosure, bankruptcy, spousal abuse, divorce and so on – are finding it hard to afford a lawyer. Yet, government-financed legal-aid programs are being slashed because of state and federal budget cuts.

Veteran reporter Barbara Mantel takes a careful look at the problem in this week’s CQ Researcher report, “Legal-Aid Crisis.” She notes that as legal-aid programs shrink, more and more people are trying to represent themselves in court – and often coming out on the losing end. Meanwhile, big law firms that provide free legal help for the poor have been cutting back on such “pro bono” services as they too try to cope with bad economy.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Weekly Roundup 10/3/2011

Secret memo sanctioned killing of Alauqi
Peter Finn, The Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2011

Judging a Long, Deadly Reach
Scott Shane, The New York Times, Oct. 1, 2011

On Due Process and Targeting Citizens
Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare, Oct. 1, 2011

Synopsis: President Obama hailed he Sept. 30 killing of the American born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a CIA drone strike in Yemen as a “significant milestone” in the effort to defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates. But the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen raises significant legal issues. Indeed, the American Civil Liberties Union charged that the killing violates both U.S. and international law. Washington Post reporter Peter Finn reports on the secret Justice Department memo authorizing the killing, while the New York Times’s Scott Shane describes the debate over its legality. On the national security law blog Warfare, Brookings Institution senior fellow Benjamin Wittes says due process does limit the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, but he proposes a three-part test that he believes the attack on al-Awlaki satisfies.

Takeaway: The administration has so far declined to detail the legal basis for the attack on al-Awlaki, but the debate will continue.

For background, see Thomas J. Billitteri, “Drone Warfare,” CQ Researcher, Aug. 6, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010080600.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Why Wikipedia Blocks Social Media
Bianca Bosker, Huffington Post, Sept. 26, 2011

Synopsis: You won’t find a Facebook “Like” button or a “Google-plus” link on Wikipedia. Co-founder Jimmy Wales doesn’t embrace the “radical transparency” movement championed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and many other Internet gurus. What we choose to learn and explore remains our personal business, Wales argues.

Takeaway: “Things like sharing what you’re reading, that’s where Facebook bumps up against the line of what people find slightly weird and creepy,” Wales said. “If I go to read something on Wikipedia, that’s my own personal business…You should feel safe and private knowing that whatever you want to learn, you go to Wikipedia to learn it and you don’t have to worry that you’ve accidentally told Facebook you want to learn it.”

For more, see my report on “Social Networking,” Sept. 17, 2010, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2010091700; and Patrick Marshall’s Nov. 6, 2009, report on “Online Privacy” (updated Sept. 14, 2010).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Super People
James Atlas, The New York Times, Oct. 2, 2011

Synopsis: Thanks largely to their parents’ affluence, an increasing number of high-achieving students have accomplishments that are simply off the charts -- from perfect test scores to Mother Theresa-equivalent volunteer work in far-off nations to multiple ability in foreign languages and musical instruments. And much, much more too depressing to think about if you are just a “normal” student, like most of us.

Takeaway: Maybe, just maybe, all that striving is counterproductive, Atlas suggests. “In the end,” he writes, “the whole idea of Super Person is kind of exhausting to contemplate…A line of Whitman’s … has stayed with me; ‘I loaf and invite my soul.’ ”

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on the Famine in Somalia
Mwai Kibaki, Foreign Affairs, Sept. 30, 2011

Synopsis: The economies of many African nations are growing, and many have implemented economic and political reforms to enhance openness and transparency. And despite the conflict and famine in Somalia, there exists an opportunity for the country to escape the regional mess, according to the president of Kenya.

Takeaway: Somalia must first recognize that ethnic and tribal differences are not easily bridgeable. Efforts must be made to decentralize power to the country’s different ethnicities and geographical regions. To this end, Somalia can learn lessons from the independence of nearby South Sudan.

For background see the CQ Global Researcher report “The Troubled Horn of Africa” by Jason McLure, June 2009, http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2009060000

--Darrell Dela Rosa, Assistant Editor

This Week's Report: "Prolonging Life"

Life expectancy has been rising steadily in the United States, and by 2050 more than 1 million Americans will be at least 100 years old – 20 times the total in 2000. The trend has some politicians and policymakers worried about the impact of an expanding elderly population on Social Security and Medicare costs.

Nonetheless, as freelancer Beth Baker explains in this week’s fascinating report, scientists are working to prolong human life even more, with some envisioning a day when people routinely live far past the century mark –independently and in good health. Some futurists even talk of using therapies and technology to help humans remain hearty for hundreds – if not thousands -- of years.

But many gerontologists and ethicists say such notions are far-fetched. The human body has a limited lifespan, and the goal of science should be quality – not unbounded quantity -- of life, they argue. This report is ideal for classes focusing on the ethics of science, Social Security and Medicare policy, U.S. and global demographics and the sociology of aging.

(For other recent reports on aging, see Alan Greenblatt, “Aging Population,” CQ Researcher, July 15, 2011, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2011071500; and Greenblatt, “The Graying Planet,” CQ Global Researcher, March 15, 2011, http://library.cqpress.com/globalresearcher/cqrglobal2011031500.)

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor

Privacy on Court's Docket; Health Law Cases in Wings

By Kenneth Jost
Supreme Court Editor, CQ Press
      The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term on Monday with two closely watched privacy cases already on its docket and challenges to President Obama’s health care plan in the wings.
      Among other cases, the court will consider for the second time whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can punish broadcasters for “fleeting expletives.” And in a case being closely watched by advocacy groups across the ideological spectrum, the justices will consider whether to allow private suits challenging state laws on federal preemption grounds.
      More important than any of the 48 cases already granted review are the multiple challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Congress passed and Obama signed in March 2010 after a fiercely partisan legislative battle. Moves by both sides Wednesday in one of the cases appeared to make it all but certain that the justices can take up the issues in time for a ruling before the term ends next June, midway through a presidential election year.
      Three federal appeals courts have issued different rulings on the key issue in the cases: the constitutionality of requiring everyone to have health insurance or pay a penalty. The Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati upheld the law. The Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., rejected the challenges on procedural grounds. But the Atlanta-based Eleventh Circuit ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional in separate cases filed by Florida along with 25 other states and by the National Federation of Independent Business.
      Challengers have already filed their petition, Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, 11-117, asking the justices to review the Sixth Circuit decision. In separate moves on Wednesday, both sides in the Eleventh Circuit case asked the Supreme Court to review the decision in time to decide it this term. “We hope the Supreme Court takes up the case,” White House domestic policy adviser Stephanie Cutter wrote on the White House blog in late afternoon, “and we are confident we will win.” The government’s petition is U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services v. Florida, 11-398.
      Court watchers are anticipating two other major issues that the justices may decide to review this term. In Arizona v. United States, 11-182, the government is challenging Arizona’s immigration-related law known as SB 1070 that, among other things, makes it a state crime to fail to carry federally issued documentation. Critics call it the “show me your papers” law. The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court injunction blocking major provisions of the law. The state has appealed to the Supreme Court.
      In a second case, Fisher v. University of Texas, 11-345, an unsuccessful white applicant to the University of Texas’ flagship Austin campus is challenging UT’s admissions policy of treating race as a “plus factor” for minority applicants. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, upheld the policy; the full court rejected an en banc hearing by a 9-7 vote, over a forceful dissent.
      Even without those potential cases, the court starts with a challenging array of issues following a term that many observers rated as lacking blockbuster decisions. The new term opens with the same lineup as last year’s with a generally conservative bloc of five Republican appointees, headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and a liberal bloc of four Democratic-appointed justices, including Obama’s two appointees: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. In closely divided cases, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate conservative, sometimes votes with the liberal bloc to give it a majority.
      The two privacy cases may test the conservative-liberal fault lines. In United States v. Jones, 10-1259 (argument: Nov. 8), the government is claiming the right to track a drug suspect using a global positioning system (GPS) device attached to his car without first obtaining a search warrant. The D.C. Circuit ruled that a warrant is necessary. In another high-tech search case a decade ago, two conservatives — Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — joined three liberals in ruling that police need a warrant to use a thermal imaging device to “search” a home for evidence of indoor marijuana cultivation (Kyllo v. United States, 2001).
      Former acting U.S. solicitor general Neal Katyal, now in private practice, told a pre-term briefing sponsored by the American Constitution Society that a ruling to require a search warrant for GPS tracking could have “fairly dramatic consequences” for counterespionage and terrorism investigations conducted on U.S. soil. But Steve Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, rejected the government’s argument that GPS tracking does not invade personal privacy because it follows a suspect while he or she is out in public.
      “In a 21st century digital age, we can no longer think of privacy in binary terms,” Shapiro said at the ACLU’s annual preview session. “We have to think of privacy in a more nuanced way.”
      In a second case, Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, 10-945 (argument: Oct. 12), a New Jersey man arrested in error after a traffic stop is challenging the policy at two county jails of strip-searching all detainees even if held for minor offenses. The Third Circuit in Philadelphia, differing from some other circuits, upheld the policy on grounds of prison security.
      The fleeting expletives case, Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 10-1293 (argument: expected in January), stems from the FCC’s appeal of a Third Circuit ruling striking down as unconstitutionally vague its 2004 policy of penalizing even a single use of a vulgarism. The case involves proposed penalties on stations for prime-time broadcasts in which the entertainer Cher and the reality show celebrity Nicole Richie uttered taboo words. The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the FCC had a sufficient basis for adopting the strict anti-indecency policy, but sent the case back to the Third Circuit for a ruling on its constitutionality.
      The justices open the term on Monday with a seemingly technical case, Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, 09-958 (argument: Oct. 3), with potential stakes for interest groups of all stripes. Health care providers and Medicaid beneficiaries are challenging California’s decision to reduce reimbursements under the joint federal-state program. The plaintiffs argue the cuts are preempted by federal law.
      The Ninth Circuit allowed the suits to proceed, but the government says the Medicaid law does not permit enforcement by private parties. Interest groups ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund have filed friend-of-the-court briefs on the plaintiffs’ side, fearing the potential ramifications of a decision limiting private suits.
      Todd Garland, CQ Press legal intern, contributed to this story.

      On the Web: The U.S. Supreme Court provides docket information on cases: www.supremecourt.gov. The private SCOTUSBlog provides comprehensive coverage of pending cases, including links to all briefs: www.scotusblog.com. The ACA litigation blog has comprehensive information about challenges to the Affordable Care Act: http://acalitigationblog.blogspot.com/.