Monthly Archives: January 2013

Apple releases iOS 6.1 with additional LTE support

THANKS ; C!NET

Image

The first point update of iOS 6 brings support for more LTE networks as well as a movie ticket-buying feature within Siri.

(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

After five beta test versions, Apple today released iOS 6.1, the first major update to iOS 6 since September.

The software, which went out this morning as an over-the-air update as well as a download through iTunes, brings a few new minor features, along with bug fixes.

Chief among the new features is 4G LTE support for more carriers, along with a feature that lets users purchase movie tickets from Fandango after finding showtimes using Siri. Apple also returned the option for iTunes Match subscribers to download individual songs from iCloud, something that was quietly removed in a previous software release.

(Credit: CNET)

On the privacy side, the update also adds an option to reset Apple’s advertising identifier option, the “non-permanent, non-personal, device identifier” feature added as part of iOS 6.

Other, minor changes in iOS 6.1 include new boarding pass behavior in Apple’s Passbook software, tweaks to Safari, reworked music playback controls from the lock screen, and a back-end change in Apple’s mapping software.

The update comes less than two days after the release of a fifth beta version of iOS 6.1, which Apple oddly put out to developers during the weekend.

Apple’s last update to iOS 6 was iOS 6.0.2 in mid-December. That software, which went out to users only on Apple’s newest devices, fixed a handful of bugs, including one that kept iPhone 5 users from installing over-the-air software updates. It also fixed an issue with lines appearing on the software keyboard, and a bug that deleted meetings from calendars when accepting an invitation.

 

S&P Lowers Illinois Credit Rating, Blames State’s $96 Billion Pension Crisis

THANKS;NEWSMAX
Published;
Friday, 25 Jan 2013 08:21 PM

Illinois’ already disastrous financial situation worsened Friday as another credit rating agency downgraded its rating to the worst of any state in the country, blaming lawmakers’ ongoing failure to resolve a multibillion-dollar pension crisis.

Standard & Poor’s rating service said Friday that the rating on the state’s general obligation bonds was downgraded to A- from A. The agency also gave an A- rating to $500 million in general obligation bonds that the state plans to release next week. The agency says the outlook is negative, an indication it could take the unusual step of further downgrading the state if conditions don’t improve.

The downgrade is just the latest warning from the New York bond houses about the state’s ongoing credit deterioration. It means taxpayers will likely pay a higher interest when the state issues bonds, or borrows money, for big items such as construction projects.

Speaking at a press conference on an unrelated topic Friday, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said “the pressure is higher than ever” for lawmakers to pass pension reform — something they failed to do during a special legislative session last year and in a lame duck session that ended earlier this month, despite urgent pleas from Quinn and other leaders.

“We’ve got to put our seatbelts on here and understand the rating agencies won’t give us better marks until the legislature passes Senate Bill 1 and gets the job done,” Quinn said, referring to a recently proposed pension reform bill. “That’s really the message the credit rating agencies are screaming at the top of their voice. I’ve heard it, and I think the members of the legislature need to hear it as well.”

Illinois has a $96 billion unfunded liability in its five state-employee pension funds, due to decades of shorting or skipping its pension payments. To catch up, the state must allocate nearly one-third of its general revenue annually to pensions, putting a squeeze on money for services such as education and health care.

Standard & Poor’s analysts said Friday the new rating reflects what the agency sees as the state’s “weakened pension-funded ratios” and lack of action on reform measures.

“While legislative action on pension reform could occur during the current legislative session and various bills have been filed, we believe that legislative consensus on reform will be difficult to achieve given the poor track record in the past two years,” analysts said.

Moody’s Investors Service gave Illinois its worst rating of any state in January 2012. Earlier this month — days after lawmakers left the lame luck session without a pension deal — Fitch Ratings changed Illinois’ financial outlook to “negative” from “stable,” an indication that a ratings downgrade could be coming.

In its report Friday, Standard & Poors analysts said even if Illinois is able to pass pension legislation soon, the state is likely to face a legal challenge, so it could be years before the budget situation or the unfunded liability improve. That, along with an income tax increase that’s scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2015, contribute to the state’s negative economic outlook.

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a Republican who’s indicated he may challenge Quinn in the 2014 race for governor, said lawmakers’ inaction “has our great state headed for a fiscal disaster.”

“It is beyond irresponsible to let this continue,” he said.
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Which OS is loved the most?

January 18, 2013 @ 8:39 AM › JP Mangalindan, Writer

A new survey sheds light on which operating system users are most attached to.

FORTUNE — Chances are, if you’re an iPhone or iPad owner, you’re more likely than not to be very satisfied with your device. But that may not be the case if you use Android.

Results out this week from ChangeWave Research show of the 4,061 people surveyed, 71% of iOS users reported to be “very satisfied” with Apple’s (AAPL) popular mobile software, while just 48% of Google (GOOG) Android users felt the same way. More surprising was how Windows Phone fared. For a mobile operating that has gotten some flack in the media for some initially sluggish sales—a situation that may be changing—more than half (53%) of actual Windows Phone users claim they’re happy with their choice, more so than their Android counterparts.

Trailing a distant fourth was RIM (RIMM): just one-fourth, or 26%, of current BlackBerry owners are satisfied. The company will have the chance to fix that when BlackBerry 10 launches at the end of the month and compatible devices not long after. Whether it does so remains to be seen.

What do you think? Much of a surprise here?

Why We Should Remember Aaron Swartz

Thanks;Brendan Greeley

The Internet is not so old. Its graybeards live still. Vint Cerf, author of the Internet Protocol, has been installed as Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist,” a ceremonial title he chose himself. Tim Berners-Lee, who gave us HTML, has been knighted. He now sits at the head of his own foundation at MIT, a guardian of the language he wrote. And languages are the best way to think of these contributions.
The Internet is just a voluntary agreement, a group of languages we’ve all decided to have in common. The Internet Protocol allows computers to talk to each other. You could use a different language, but since the rest of the world already speaks IP, you’d be lonely, speaking only to yourself.
When he was barely a teenager, Aaron Swartz began playing with XML, an Internet language like Sanskrit or classical Greek–flexible, elegant and capable of great complexity. XML is most often used to move large amounts of information, entire databases, among computers. You open XML by introducing new terms and defining what they’ll do, nesting new definitions inside of the ones you’ve already created. Of this, Swartz created a kind of pidgin, a simple set of definitions called RSS.
Before RSS, the web was static, a place of bookmarks. You had to go to a site to see what was new. Swartz’s pidgin made it easy for updates to travel among websites. If you see a box on a web page that reads “New Headlines,” those headlines very likely arrived on the back of an RSS feed. At the age of 14, Swartz made the web move. He committed suicide on Jan. 11, at the age of 26.
Aaron Swartz was not the only author of RSS. Dave Winer, also often credited with the standard, wrote his own remembrance of Swartz; he also linked to his own chronology of the development of RSS, which does not mention Swartz at all. This uncertainty is endemic of the way the Internet moves forward. Its greatest advances have come from smart people trying to solve the same problem for free, together or at odds, and often in the orbit of a university. As a teenager, Swartz hung out at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law, where Winer was also later a fellow.
Commercial empires rely on these advances. Then they attempt to own them. When Apple (AAPL) decided to start accepting RSS as a way to get podcasts into iTunes, it marched all over the standard, muddying it with its own mostly superfluous Apple-centric definitions. It had the power to do this, back when it owned the market for portable MP3 players. Apple did not invent RSS, or podcasting, but it has won mightily from the work of Swartz and Winer. Twitter was founded as a podcasting company. It later used RSS as one of the ways to distribute its messages.
This is the tension at the heart of the Internet: whether to own or to make. You can own a site or a program–iTunes, Microsoft (MSFT) Word, Facebook (FB), Twitter–but you cannot own a language. Yet the languages, written for beauty and utility, make sites and programs useful and possible. You make the Internet work by making languages universal and free; you make money from the Internet by closing off bits of it and charging to get in. There’s certainly nothing wrong with making money, but without the innovations of complicated, brilliant people like Swartz, no one would be making any money at all.
RSS was just one of Swartz’s accomplishments. He helped found Reddit, a social networking site. He could have been Mark Zuckerberg, and the two traveled in the same circles in Cambridge. But where Zuckerberg built an empire, Swartz kept looking for fights. He challenged the practice of charging to download case law, which sits in the public domain. He snuck into a closet at MIT with a laptop and used the university’s connection to download much of the archive of JSTOR, a fee-based catalogue of journal articles, many written by taxpayer-funded academics. The Department of Justice prosecuted him for this; his family believes the harassment played a part in his death.
Swartz wasn’t an anarchist. He came to believe that copyright law had been abused, and was being used to close off what, by law, should be open. It is hard to find fault with his logic, and there is much to admire in a man who, rather than become a small god of the valley, was willing to court punishment to prove a point. The world will have no trouble remembering Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, and this is as it should be. But it should remember, too, people like Aaron Swartz, the ones who make those empires possible.
View on businessweek.com

51 Upcoming Gun Shows Ban Loaded Weapons To Promote ‘A Safe Environment’ Scott Keyes

If “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” as the NRA proclaimed in its post-Newtown press conference, why do so many gun shows prohibit attendees from carrying loaded firearms?
According to a ThinkProgress analysis, 51 gun shows in January ban attendees from bringing loaded guns onto the premises. In addition, ThinkProgress was unable to identify a single gun show this month that explicitly allowed people, even those with concealed-carry permits, to bring a loaded weapon with them.
For every event, their stated rationale for not permitting loaded weapons in the gun show was simple: safety. Crossroads Gun Show, a touring event across the western United States, explained on their website:
Q: Can I carry a loaded gun in the gun show? I have a Concealed Carry Permit.
A: We respectfully request that you do not bring any loaded firearm into the gun show. Safety is our Number One Priority, and a safe environment in the show can only be maintained if there are no loaded guns in the show.
At most shows, if an attendee brings a personal firearm, he or she must check it at the door and use a tie “so that they cannot be operated, be breached or loaded.”
Some events, like Bill Goodman’s Gun & Knife Shows across Ohio and Tennessee, even threaten prosecution for those who try to enter with a loaded weapon. “Patrons who bring loaded magazines or weapons into the show will be refused entry and may be subject to prosecution,” their website reads.
The widespread prohibition undermines the backbone of the NRA’s case against stronger gun safety laws. The powerful gun lobby argues that the best way to prevent more gun violence is for more people to have guns, supposedly deterring would-be criminals. The organization has succeeded in convincing every state but Illinois to enact laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons and conservative lawmakers are passing legislation to eliminate gun-free zones around schools and hospitals.

A full list of the 51 gun shows that explicitly ban people from carrying loaded firearms is below:
1. Oklahoma City Gun Show (January 11-12)

2. ABBA Shriners Gun & Knife Show (January 12-13)

3. Gibraltar Taylor Gun & Knife Show (January 11-13)

4. Akron Gun Show (January 12-13)

5. Binghamton Gun & Knife Show (January 12-13)

6. Dalton Gun Show (January 12-13)

7. Dayton (Vandalia) Airport Expo (January 12-13)

8. Farmington Gun Show* (January 12-13)

9. Ft. Lauderdale Gun Show (January 12-13)

10. Germantown Gun & Knife Show* (January 12-13)

11. Kansas City Gun Show* (January 12-13)

12. Maitland Gun Show (January 12-13)

13. Mesa Gun Show (January 12-13)

14. Morehead Gun Show* (January 12-13)

15. Nashville Gun Show (January 12-13)

16. San Angelo Gun & Blade Show (January 12-13)

17. San Francisco Gun Show (January 12-13)

18. Wichita Cessna Gun Show* (January 12-13)

19. Las Vegas Shot Show (January 15-18)

20. Ft. Pierce Gun Show (January 19-20)

21. Gonzales Gun Show (January 19-20)

22. Hendersonville Gun Show* (January 19-20)

23. Jackson Gun & Knife Show* (January 19-20)

24. Jacksonville Florida Gun Show (January 19-20)

25. Jefferson Gun Show (January 19-20)

26. Marietta Jim Miller Park Gun Show* (January 19-20)

27. Miami Florida Gun Show (January 19-20)

28. Paducah Gun Show* (January 19-20)

29. Phoenix Gun Show (January 19-20)

30. Springfield Gun Show* (January 19-20)

31. Topeka Gun Show* (January 19-20)

32. Venice Gun and Knife Show (January 19-20)

33. Des Moines Gun Show (January 25-27)

34. Canandaigua Gun Show (January 26-27)

35. Carlsbad Gun & Blade Show (January 26-27)

36. Costa Mesa Gun Show (January 26-27)

37. Fort Myers Gun, Knife, Civil War & Militaria Show (January 26-27)

38. Goodman Dayton Gun & Knife Show (January 26-27)

39. Gun Show in the Smokies* (January 26-27)

40. Kingman Gun, Knife, Coin & Collectibles Show & Sale (January 26-27)

41. Lawrenceville Gun Show* (January 26-27)

42. Macon Gun Show (January 26-27)

43. New Orleans Area Gun & Knife Show (January 26-27)

44. Oklahoma City Gun and Knife Show* (January 26-27)

45. Palmetto Gun Show (January 26-27)

46. Pensacola Florida Gun Show (January 26-27)

47. Sedalia Gun Show* (January 26-27)

48. Tulsa Gun Show* (January 26-27)

49. Watkins Glen Gun & Knife Show (January 26-27)

50. Wichita Coliseum Gun Show* (January 26-27)

51. Wichita Falls Gun & Knife Show (January 26-27)
*- Events sponsored by R.K. Shows Inc confirmed to ThinkProgress by phone that loaded weapons, even for those with concealed carry permits, are prohibited.
View on thinkprogress.org

Eurozone unemployment reaches new high

THANKS; BBC NEWS

08 January 2013 Last updated at 13:10

Eurozone unemployment reaches new high

The unemployment rate across the eurozone hit a new all-time high of 11.8% in November, official figures have shown.

This is a slight rise on 11.7% for the 17-nation region in October. The rate for the European Union as a whole in November was unchanged at 10.7%.

Spain, which is mired in deep recession, again recorded the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 26.6%.

More than 26 million people are now unemployed across the EU.

For the eurozone, the number of people without work reached 18.8 million said Eurostat, the official European statistics agency said.

‘Continuing saga’

Greece had the second-highest unemployment rate in November, at 20%.

The youth unemployment rate was 24.4% in the eurozone, and 23.7% in the wider European Union. Youth unemployment – among people under 25 – was highest in Greece (57.6%), followed by Spain (56.5%).

Overall unemployment was lowest in Austria (4.5%), Luxembourg (5.1%) and Germany (5.4%).

The eurozone and wider European Union economies are struggling with recession as government measures to reduce sovereign debt levels have impacted on economic growth.

However, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday that he believed the worst was over.

Mr Barroso said the turning point was last September’s promise from the European Central Bank to buy unlimited amounts of eurozone states’ debts, which has helped crisis hit countries borrow more cheaply.

But in the view of the UK’s Institute of Directors, whose members rely on demand from trading partners in the eurozone, this “has bought time, but that is all it has done”.

“It is clear that the economic implosion of several member states continues at a troubling pace,” said the business group’s chief economist Graeme Leach.

“The headline figures spell bad news, but that is compounded by the political and human impact of terrifying levels of youth unemployment in Spain, Greece and Italy.

“This saga is far from over, whatever President Barroso may believe, and it seems it is set to get worse in 2013.”

‘Very shocking’

BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker said: “The biggest rises, in percentage terms, were in countries at the centre of the eurozone financial crisis – Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal. One striking exception to that pattern was the Republic of Ireland where unemployment fell.

“The general trend however remains upwards and it makes it even harder for the governments concerned to collect the taxes they need to stabilise their debts.”

Rabobank economist Jan Foley said the rise in unemployment was “the other side of austerity or structural reform.”

“There is a very worrying picture painted by these numbers, and governments do need to wonder if they need more pro-growth strategies in the next few years,” she told the BBC’s News Channel.

The record low for the eurozone unemployment rate was 7.2%, which was recorded in February 2008, before the financial crisis that first gripped the banking sector spread to the real economy.

The historic low for the eurozone youth unemployment rate was 15% in March 2008. rate was 24.4% in the eurozone, and 23.7% in the wider European Union. Youth unemployment – among people under 25 – was highest in Greece (57.6%), followed by Spain (56.5%).

Overall unemployment was lowest in Austria (4.5%), Luxembourg (5.1%) and Germany (5.4%).

The eurozone and wider European Union economies are struggling with recession as government measures to reduce sovereign debt levels have impacted on economic growth.

However, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday that he believed the worst was over.

Mr Barroso said the turning point was last September’s promise from the European Central Bank to buy unlimited amounts of eurozone states’ debts, which has helped crisis hit countries borrow more cheaply.

But in the view of the UK’s Institute of Directors, whose members rely on demand from trading partners in the eurozone, this “has bought time, but that is all it has done”.

“It is clear that the economic implosion of several member states continues at a troubling pace,” said the business group’s chief economist Graeme Leach.

“The headline figures spell bad news, but that is compounded by the political and human impact of terrifying levels of youth unemployment in Spain, Greece and Italy.

“This saga is far from over, whatever President Barroso may believe, and it seems it is set to get worse in 2013.”

‘Very shocking’

BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker said: “The biggest rises, in percentage terms, were in countries at the centre of the eurozone financial crisis – Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal. One striking exception to that pattern was the Republic of Ireland where unemployment fell.

“The general trend however remains upwards and it makes it even harder for the governments concerned to collect the taxes they need to stabilise their debts.”

Rabobank economist Jan Foley said the rise in unemployment was “the other side of austerity or structural reform.”

“There is a very worrying picture painted by these numbers, and governments do need to wonder if they need more pro-growth strategies in the next few years,” she told the BBC’s News Channel.

The record low for the eurozone unemployment rate was 7.2%, which was recorded in February 2008, before the financial crisis that first gripped the banking sector spread to the real economy.

The historic low for the eurozone youth unemployment rate was 15% in March 2008.n

Top 10 Reasons Being a University Professor is a Stressful Job

20130107-222824.jpgJohns Hopkins University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Top 10 Reasons Being a University Professor is a Stressful Job

Being a university professor is in no way the least stressful job for 2013. In fact, 2013 is likely to be one of the worst years to be a university professor.

But many pixels are being spent across the Forbes.com platform at the site of Forbes staff columnist, Susan Adams. Adams has been a legal affairs columnist at Forbes since 1995 and writes widely on leadership and careers.

I don’t know Adams but I do know that working full-time for Forbes requires one to meet a very high bar. For example, many of my readers would know Matt Herper as one of the top pharmaceutical industry journalists in North America. Similarly, Bruce Japsen, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, is one of the best writers on health care in the US.

So I was extremely surprised and, frankly, disappointed that Adams would write such a misguided article, based apparently on a report from CareerCast.com and her perception of university faculty through one tenured professor she knows. Yesterday, Adams issued a mea culpa within the same post — and I give her credit for keeping the original post up. As of this writing her post has has 123,000 pages views and 351 comments (115 in the last 24 hr), primarily objections from faculty members on the front lines at US universities.

I don’t want to make the same mistake of a small sample size but I feel that my primarily academic biomedical research and teaching career (since 1992) gives me some latitude to make a few generalizations. I’ve worked at a state university’s top 25 academic medical center and pharmacy school, an elite private research university, a teaching-intensive, historically-Black college/university in a large state university system, and am now a half-time writing professor (in a department of English) at a state land-grant university. I also work half-time as a science communications director for a state natural sciences museum. The emphasis on teaching vs. research at each institution has varied. I’ve earned tenure twice, once in the traditional fashion at the 7th year of an assistant professorship and again at appointment as a professor and department chair.

With the caveats of my own experiences and those of colleagues with whom I’ve worked or otherwise interacted around the world, here are my top 10 reasons that being a university professor is stressful:

1. Performance, advancement, and almost every scholarly metric is dependent on anonymous peer-review

Write a grant application, get three anonymous reviewer critiques. Submit research results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, get anonymous reviewer critiques. Submit your tenure portfolio or post-tenure portfolio to a college promotion and tenure committee, get anonymous reviews. While one may know the general composition of grant review and promotion and tenure committees, you don’t know precisely who is gunning for you. Anonymity is sometimes useful but more often allows petty vendettas to occur that are independent of the work at hand.

2. In the biomedical sciences, universities rarely pay one’s full salary

Research universities, medical schools in particular, are highly-dependent on federal research funding to pay faculty salaries. So, you have to raise anywhere from a quarter to 100% of your salary. Some research universities typically hire more faculty than they can afford with the assumption that research project grants will generally cover a relatively stable percentage of faculty salaries. The National Institutes of Health has recently announced that it’s expected universities to step up over the next 20 years.

3. Faculty must provide salary and university benefits for research staff

If you’re in a tenured or tenure-track position, your salary will likely be covered for at least nine months (but everyone works 12 months regardless because you’re competing for research funds against others who will work 12 months even if they only have a nine-month salary).

However, if you have research staff, fellows, editorial assistants, etc., you have to pay for these folks off your research grants. That’s usually 100% of not only their salary but benefits as well. Research grant funds technically come to the university so salary and benefits are in effect paid by the university. But if you lose your grant, you lose your laboratory personnel – no backstop, no six-month severance. It’s here today, gone tomorrow. And all the investment, expertise, and institutional lab memory goes away. If you lose your personnel, it becomes more difficult for you to score subsequent funding. That then puts you in a position, even if you have tenure, of having lab space taken away and having more teaching and administrative committee work piled on you, making it even more difficult to score subsequent funding.

4. Faculty must provide universities with the teat of indirect grant costs

The pressure for faculty to obtain research funding is not just self-motivated. The common complaint among faculty is that if one is lucky to score a grant in this funding environment, the first thing a supervisor will ask is when they’re submitting the next one. Why? Because universities garner an additional 40-80% on top of what your laboratory requests for a project. Yes, if I get a grant for $200,000 per year, the university gets $80,000-$160,000 that I don’t see.

These funds are obviously necessary to cover indirect costs such as utilities, facilities and maintenance, and safety and security functions. But these funds are often squirreled away for other special projects of high-ranking administrators. At some universities, the funds are managed well — to provide recruitment packages for new tenure-track faculty. At other universities, the distribution of indirect cost recovery is questionable. More central functions that should be covered by indirect costs are now being billed directly to laboratories even though their grants provide the university with substantial indirect costs.

You can never have enough grants at most biomedical research universities.

5. Success rates for biomedical and science & technology grant funding is at an all-time low

Currently, grant funding rates across the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation are at their lowest percentages in history (see the dotted line on the figure at this DrugMonkey post). At the NIH, many institutes are funding at the 11th percentile (and I’ve seen some in single-digit percentiles). One is permitted a total of total of two submissions such that overall funding rates can sometimes approach 20%. Writing each grant generally takes four to six weeks but you don’t learn the grant scoring for three months, the actual funding possibility until six months (or longer if Congress is dragging their feet), and see the actual funding at nine to 12 months. In many cases, it can be over two years (or never) between conceiving an idea and seeing research support.

Page 2 of 2

David Kroll, Contributor

I’m a scientist who writes about the drugs and science in your life.

Page 2 of 2

The result is that this is the first time in 20 years that I’ve seen more than three people I know giving up their laboratories and moving on to 100% teaching positions or other careers entirely. That’s okay from the standpoint of personal satisfaction but the federal medical research enterprise has made tremendous investments in individuals. It’s a terrible waste to see well-trained scientists leaving the academy.

The system also penalizes women for being the gender that gives birth to our future citizens. The “tenure clock” normally doesn’t get delayed if one has a child and takes maternity leave. Some granting agencies are now allowing applicants to note that they may have had a break in productivity because of family or health issues. But, by and large, women are not treated kindly by the system.

And just in case you think 80% of science professors are complaining, consider this: one of the 2012 winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry lost his funding from a private research institute a few years ago. His work could not move forward because he had to let some research staff go. Fortunately, his wife is a scientist and has been working with him through thick and thin. He lives in a high-cost market and had to pick up side work (he was fortunately a physician) to be able to make his mortgage. Now he has a Nobel Prize. But most of us don’t.

David Kroll, Contributor

I’m a scientist who writes about the drugs and science in your life.

Page 2 of 2

The result is that this is the first time in 20 years that I’ve seen more than three people I know giving up their laboratories and moving on to 100% teaching positions or other careers entirely. That’s okay from the standpoint of personal satisfaction but the federal medical research enterprise has made tremendous investments in individuals. It’s a terrible waste to see well-trained scientists leaving the academy.

The system also penalizes women for being the gender that gives birth to our future citizens. The “tenure clock” normally doesn’t get delayed if one has a child and takes maternity leave. Some granting agencies are now allowing applicants to note that they may have had a break in productivity because of family or health issues. But, by and large, women are not treated kindly by the system.

And just in case you think 80% of science professors are complaining, consider this: one of the 2012 winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry lost his funding from a private research institute a few years ago. His work could not move forward because he had to let some research staff go. Fortunately, his wife is a scientist and has been working with him through thick and thin. He lives in a high-cost market and had to pick up side work (he was fortunately a physician) to be able to make his mortgage. Now he has a Nobel Prize. But most of us don’t.

6. Many US universities operate under a customer service model while accepting students unprepared for college-level coursework

“The customer is always right,” didn’t always apply to universities. Many places still require that students assume substantial personal responsibility for success. But I’ve seen some state universities kowtowing to student demands that undermine academic integrity. We’re even seeing helicopter parents contacting professors directly about their kids’ grades (disclosure is against federal law) and complaining to department chair and deans. The default reaction from administration is that the professor is at fault. Professors are also penalized if their course grades have too high of a percentage of D’s and F’s. At the same time, some of the same universities are allowing students to enroll in college with SAT scores of 800 or below — for combined math and verbal components. Even among populations that might not have the luxury of taking standardized test prep scores, that doesn’t account for the 300 or so more points that may of us establish as the minimum (I scored an 1120, by the way, so I was no genius). Too many professors are being expected to make up for the deficiencies of public high school education.

7. Increasingly reliance on adjunct teaching faculty

For teaching-intensive institutions, a new tactic to cut costs is to hire temporary faculty to teach courses. Rather than paying a professor $75,000 plus benefits, you can now hire from the ranks of unemployed scientists a no-benefits PhD at $3,000-$4,500 per 3 credit hour class per semester. I have seen some tenure-track faculty actually be threatened by their supervisors with being replaced by such adjunct faculty if they can’t score grant funding. The abuse of adjunct faculty by US universities is a travesty.

8. The public and some university administrators underestimate teaching effort

If I teach a 3 credit hour class, it may appear that I’m only working 3 hours/week. However, developing and updating course material takes time, especially in rapidly-changing fields like mine (pharmacology). At one of my former universities, we had a defined formula that I quite liked and agreed with: you get eight hours of time for each one hour of lecture time if it’s brand-new material and four hours of time for each one hour of lecture given if it’s an existing course. Those numbers are about right in my experience.

You also have student office hours of four to eight hours per week, time grading assignments (much more time-consuming now that I’ve become a writing professor) and exams, and professional development time where one might attend a seminar or off-campus conference to learn about your field of study. So, a 3 credit hour class can easily take 15-20 hours/week. Depending on the school, a full-load might be two or four classes. So, it’s pretty easy to get to 30-40 hours/week with just two classes. The average prof works about 60 hours/week so, uh, yeah, that’s a 50% effort.

9. Administrators underestimate online teaching effort

If you’re already teaching the class, it’ll be nothing to throw it up online, right? Universities are increasingly moving classes to online offerings, a genuinely useful approach for students working full-time. Unfortunately, some universities are simply stressing online classes because it brings in revenue without significantly increasing infrastructure costs. Professors are usually given less credit for online courses than for those in-person. Most professors I know who teach online classes say that much more effort is required for online classes.

10. Administrators overestimate the need for administrators

I know that accreditation guidelines, safety, development, grants and research compliance, and other administrative issues require dedicated administrative personnel. Jobs that used to be done by one person now often seems to require two or three and we’re seeing the number of assistant associate vice deans for whatever increasing over the last five to seven years. I used to be part administrator — I’d get additional salary for that, but not for increased teaching or university service — so I guess that I used to be part of the problem.

Oh, and why not 11:

11. “Tenure” is no longer tenure

Tenure is a hot-button item particularly for critics of state universities. Indeed, tenure had its purpose in allowing academic freedom of thought and opinion without institutional retaliation. Some people think it’s no longer necessary. But it is, particularly given the substantial dependence of universities on salary support for faculty. Most universities have also instituted more stringent post-tenure review processes, generally about every five years. I’ve rarely seen a tenured professor be fired but a professor with tenure who is deemed unproductive by whatever anonymous review can certainly be made to wish they didn’t have a job.

Now, I’m not saying that being a university professor is harder than highly dangerous jobs like being an oil rig worker, steel worker, logger, soldier, or deep sea commercial fisher. But I believe that Susan Adams was misguided and irresponsible in using CareerCast as a source in her initial post. Her large audience on this high-profile platform reflects some of the difficultly university faculty face with regard to public perception. I expect more of any Forbes contributor like me or my science writing compatriot, Emily Willingham, but certainly much more from a long-time Forbes staff writer.

I know that I’ve stressed the biomedical side so what do you have to add?

Worst of the Worst 2012: The World’s Most Repressive Societies

Photo Credit | Dr. Ebrahim Othman (pseudonym)
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More than 1.6 billion people—23 percent of the world’s population—have no say in how they are governed and face severe consequences if they try to exercise their most basic rights, such as expressing their views, assembling peacefully, and organizing independently of the state. Citizens who dare to assert their rights in these repressive countries typically suffer harassment and imprisonment, and often are subjected to physical or psychological abuse. In these countries, state control over public life is pervasive, and individuals have little if any recourse to justice for crimes the state commits against them.

In this year’s Worst of the Worst report, nine countries were identified by Freedom House as being the world’s worst human rights abusers in calendar year 2011: Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Two disputed territories, Tibet and Western Sahara, were also in this category. All of these countries and territories received Freedom in the World’s lowest ratings: 7 for political rights and 7 for civil liberties (based on a 1 to 7 scale, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free). Within these entities, political opposition is banned, criticism of the government is met with retribution, and independent organizations are suppressed.

Seven other countries fall just short of the bottom of Freedom House’s ratings: Belarus, Burma, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, and Libya. The territory of South Ossetia also is part of this group. All eight, which received ratings of 7 for political rights and 6 for civil liberties, offer very limited scope for independent discussion. They severely suppress opposition political activity, impede independent organizations, and censor or punish criticism of the state.

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PR and CL stand for political rights and civil liberties, respectively; 1 represents the most free and 7 represents the least free rating. The ratings reflect an overall judgment based on survey results. ▲ ▼ up or down indicates a change in political rights, civil liberties, or status since the last survey.

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Sadly, the Worst of the Worst and Threshold countries have endured on average for 37½ years without any transfer of power between competing political parties or forces. Few among them have risen above the Not Free rating in Freedom in the World for more than a few years. Of those that have, Belarus has received a Not Free rating since 1996, within two years of Alyaksandr Lukashenka becoming president; Eritrea has received the lowest possible ratings (6 or 7 out of 7) for political rights since independence in 1993; and Sudan has remained a Worst of the Worst country for every year since 1989, when a military coup brought the current leader, Omar al-Bashir, to power.

The news is not all bad however. The number of Worst of the Worst and Threshold countries has risen and fallen over the years, but the long-term trend is downward. From a peak of 38 such countries in 1984, the number declined to 15 countries in 2003, and stood at 16 countries for 2011. This decline was associated in large part with the move from one-party states and military dictatorships to multiparty systems in Africa and the collapse of communism in Europe.

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