Baldwin suspended by MSNBC over remarks

Alec Baldwin’s “Up Late” program will not air tonight or next Friday on MSNBC in the wake of comments, including  homophobic slur, images the actor made while dealing with reporters seeking to question him about a salacious court case in which he is involved. Variety reports:

“I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have – and for that I am deeply sorry,” Baldwin said in a statement posted on MSNBC’s website. “Words are important. I understand that, and will choose mine with great care going forward. What I said and did this week, as I was trying to protect my family, was offensive and unacceptable. Behavior like this undermines hard-fought rights that I vigorously support. I understand “Up Late” will be taken off the schedule for tonight and next week. I want to apologize to my loyal fans and to my colleagues at MSNBC – both for my actions and for distracting from their good work. Again, please accept my apology.”

“Baldwin, who testified this week at a trial of a woman accused of stalking him, was asked about the case by a reporter from WNYW, a Fox-operated TV station in New York. Baldwin brushed by the reporter, but then turned and confronted him, saying, “If you’re still here when my wife and kid come out, you’re going to have a big problem, you know that?” He then insulted the reporter, saying, “You are as dumb as you look. You are with Fox, right?”

“On Thursday, Baldwin warded off photographers he felt were getting too close to his family. At one point during the confrontation, he was heard using an anti-gay slur.  Baldwin later used Twitter to call attention to the offensiveness of such language.  Continue reading “Baldwin suspended by MSNBC over remarks”

Art grads, good jobs & happiness

Think that art school dooms graduates to a life of unemployment? The numbers paint a very different picture, reports none other than the Wall Street Journal

“Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives.”

“A 2011 report from the center found that the unemployment rate in the first two years for those graduating with bachelor of fine arts degree is 7.8%, dropping to 4.5% for those out of school longer. The median income is $42,000.”Artists’ income is comparable to other liberal-arts majors,” he says. “They do a little better than psychology majors, since counseling and social work is a very low-wage occupation.” For artists who go on to graduate degrees, the most common of which is the master’s of fine arts, the unemployment rate for recent graduates drops to just under 5%, and their median yearly income increases to roughly $50,000.

“Other studies have also found relatively high levels of employment and satisfaction. The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University conducted a survey of 13,000 graduates of visual and performing college-arts programs between 1990 and 2009; 2,817 were in the fine arts.

“Among the findings: Almost 83% worked the majority of their time in some arts occupation, such as art teaching or in a nonprofit arts organization.

“Arts graduates are resilient and resourceful,” says Curb Center Associate Director Steven J. Tepper. Sixty percent of the fine-arts graduates in the survey work more than one job, he says, “but they are happy with what they put together.” Bruno S. Frey, research director of the Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts at the University of Zurich, echoes that finding. He says he has done “happiness research for some time” and found that “artists generally are happier than the rest of the population.” Of all arts professions, fine artists, writers and composers were found to be the happiest, because “the profession they have chosen gives them autonomy, and that makes them happy,” he says. “Actors and musicians, on the other hand, are less happy, because they are disciplined by various rules and have less autonomy.”


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Binge drinking and critical thinking abilities

It’s well-documented that students who binge drink tend to have lower grade point averages and focus less on academics than students who don’t.

It might follow, then, that binge drinking is also associated with lower levels of critical thinking, reports InsideHigherEdimgres

“The authors of a new paper addressing this question did indeed find that many students who binge drank over their four years in college had “significantly lower” critical thinking skills upon graduating than did those who didn’t binge drink. But that was true only for students who enrolled with already comparatively low critical thinking ability.

“Those are the students that we really want to gain from college, and if binge drinking gets in the way of that, then I think that creates a real problem,” said Teniell L. Trolian, a paper co-author and doctoral student in higher education and student affairs at the University of Iowa. “That’s where the real effect is. So I think prevention educators and other administrators on campus who are trying to assist students to be academically successful and attain all of the cognitive outcomes that we expect of college — I think that would be a great place to focus their efforts.”

“Trolian and her co-authors, the Iowa education professors Ernest T. Pascarella and Brian P. An, are presenting their paper at this week’s annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, in St. Louis. They sought to examine the link between binge drinking and critical thinking because although the latter is now considered one of the most important outcomes of higher education, it hadn’t been the subject of such research. Continue reading “Binge drinking and critical thinking abilities”

The new media violence moral panic

images-1The medical and mental health communities are now famous for their unsophisticated condemnations of media violence–often quickly assuming the link to real world crime and mayhem based on observations of small children or from uncritically accepting spurious research.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is back on the warpath again, spurred on by recent mass shootings, as reported in the Los Angeles Times

“When the first “Die Hard” and “Terminator” movies landed in theaters in the 1980s, both were rated R. But their sequels arrived with PG-13 marks — even though the level of violence had actually escalated.

“Critics have blasted Hollywood’s movie ratings for years, claiming that the Motion Picture Assn. of America takes a prudish view of sex and foul language but a very liberal one when it comes to mayhem and bloodshed.

“A new report provides strong evidence for that critique, concluding that gunplay has tripled within PG-13 films since 1985, the first full year the rating was used. Last year, PG-13 films were actually more violent than films rated R.”We were absolutely stunned,” said Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, co-author of the report published Mondayin Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The MPAA website clearly says that R-rated films contain more violence. But PG-13 films now contain significantly more violence than R-rated films.”  Continue reading “The new media violence moral panic”

School dress codes and gender policing

Last month, the fifth grade parent group at my daughter’s school had the first of many conversations about how to mark our children’s transition to junior high, writes Marianne Mollman on HuffPost Gay voices:

“Unfortunately, the issue we discussed — whether the kids would be wearing caps and gowns at the end-of-year celebration — sidelined a much more important issue: what the kids would be wearing under these gowns. (My daughter’s school had sent out a notice to parents that boys must wear one thing and girls another.)


“For many children, a gendered dress code may be just another imposition by adults, and to some it may seem small compared with decisions related to bedtime, computer usage, and the precise meaning of the phrase “clean up your room.” But to others it is a big deal. Indeed, clothing is such an essential expression of who we are that international law recognizes it as a human right to wear what we want, barring reasonable restrictions for the purposes of safety or to protect the rights of others.

“And it is precisely because clothing can project our identity so concisely that the clothing associated with particularly stigmatized populations is vigorously policed around the world. For example, several European countries and some North American jurisdictions place restrictions on head coverings. These restrictions are closely linked to discomfort with Islam and are based on the negative and erroneous stereotype that Muslim women are “oppressed” and “submissive.” In fact, even where headscarves are not explicitly prohibited by law, women can be fired for wearing them, and many are discriminated against even before landing a job.

“Likewise, many jurisdictions enforce strictly gendered dress codes in public by either requiring specific attire or criminalizing cross dressing. These restrictions are tied to stereotypes about sexuality and sex. Continue reading “School dress codes and gender policing”

Rising numbers of international students

imgresThe 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released today, finds the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by seven percent to a record high of 819,644 students in the 2012/13 academic year, The 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released today, finds the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by seven percent to a record high of 819,644 students in the 2012/13 academic year,while U.S. students studying abroad increased by three percent to an all-time high of more than 283,000.

“In 2012/13, 55,000 more international students enrolled in U.S. higher education compared to 2011/12, with most of the growth driven by China and Saudi Arabia. This marks the seventh consecutive year thatOpen Doors reported expansion in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education. There are now 40 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than a decade ago, and the rate of increase has risen steadily for the past three years. International students make up slightly under four percent of total student enrollment at the graduate and undergraduate level combined. International students’ spending in all 50 states contributed approximately $24 billion to the U.S. economy.

“The number of U.S. students who studied abroad for academic credit increased by three percent to 283,332 students in 2011/12, a higher rate of growth than the one percent increase the previous year. More U.S. students went to Latin America and China, and there was a rebound in those going to Japan as programs reopened in Fall 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades, from approximately 71,000 students in 1991/92 to the record number in 2011/12. Despite these increases, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years.

“Findings of the Open Doors report, published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the subject of a briefing in Washington, D.C. on November 12, led by Assistant Secretary of State Evan M. Ryan and IIE President and CEO Allan E. Goodman. Continue reading “Rising numbers of international students”

On instructional autonomy

Individual professors largely retain the right to choose what they teach and how, even when they’re teaching sections of the same course as other professors. That’s the American Association of University Professors’ take on individual vs. collective responsibility for course design, as laid out in its new statement on the matter, reports InsidehigherEd.

“The freedom to teach includes the imgresright of the faculty to select the materials, determine the approach to the subject, make the assignments, and assess student academic performance in teaching activities for which faculty members are individually responsible, without having their decisions subject to the veto of a department chair, dean, or other administrative officer,” reads AAUP’s “The Freedom to Teach.”

“It continues: “In a multisection course taught by several faculty members, responsibility is often shared among the instructors for identifying the texts to be assigned to students. Common course syllabi and examinations are also typical but should not be imposed by departmental or administrative fiat.” Essentially, beyond the shared choice of textbook among professors teaching the same course, which may make logistical sense, other pedagogical freedoms remain “undiluted,” AAUP says. Greg Scholtz, director of academic freedom, tenure and governance for AAUP, said no particular incident or institution prompted the statement. Rather, who decides who teaches what was something the organization had been meaning to address, in the same statement, for some time. Previously, different parts had appeared in various AAUP documents — but there is one notable change. The new statement includes entirely new language saying such principles “apply equally” to all faculty — including adjunct faculty, who often feel that course materials are “imposed” on them, Scholtz said.

“The statement comes at a time that technology makes it possible for multisection courses to get quite large, and when an increasing number of instructors may not be teaching such courses in structures that designate someone as the lead professor. Don Eron, a full-time, non-tenure-track professor writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is part of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which drafted the statement. In his opinion, he said via email, individual vs. collective responsibility for course design is the “probably the central academic freedom issue” confronting adjuncts — particularly for those teaching core courses, which are more likely to be subject to administrative calls for standardization across sections.”

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TV is hipper than the movies

For decades, it was mostly a one-way journey. Television was a steppingstone for directors,images writers, producers and executives who wanted to break into the film business, reports the LA times:

“In the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood mainstays including Mel Brooks, Garry Marshall and Carl Reiner all got their starts in television but segued to the film world — and are now best known for their big screen work.

“The film business proved a seductive force for many years, and for good reason. Movies had the glamour, perks, press coverage and accolades. Nothing could match the glitter of the Academy Awards.

“Now, entertainment professionals are migrating eagerly in the opposite direction. Many cite HBO’s “The Sopranos” as opening the door after it burst onto the scene in 1999, or A-list filmmakers like producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who got into the TV business in the late 1990s. Others look to film producer Mark Gordon (“Speed,” “The Patriot”), who transitioned into television with hits “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Criminal Minds” in the 2000s — or, more recently, “Fight Club” director David Fincher, who made this year’s “House of Cards” for Netflix, and “Traffic” director Steven Soderbergh, who was at the helm for HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra” TV movie and is directing Clive Owen in the forthcoming Cinemax series “The Knick.”The movement undoubtedly started with actors making the leap to television, but that it has spread to the executive, director and producer ranks is astounding to many old-school business operators, who never imagined they’d view TV as more attractive than the movies. Several producers and filmmakers said they dreamed of working in film but now find themselves in television — drawn to the money, opportunity, cultural heft or creative control. Continue reading “TV is hipper than the movies”

My brain made me do it

Criminal courts in the United States are facing a surge in the number of defendants arguing that their brains were to blame for their crimes and relying on questionable scans and other controversial, unproven neuroscience, a legal expert who has advised the president has warned.

Nita Farahany, a professor of law who sits on Barack Obama’s bioethics advisory panel, told a Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego


that those on trial were mounting ever more sophisticated defences that drew on neurological evidence in an effort to show they were not fully responsible for murderous or other criminal actions.

Lawyers typically drew on brain scans and neuropsychological tests to reduce defendants’ sentences, but in a substantial number of cases the evidence was used to try to clear defendants of all culpability. “What is novel is the use by criminal defendants to say, essentially, that my brain made me do it,” Farahany said following an analysis of more than 1,500 judicial opinions from 2005 to 2012.

The rise of so-called neurolaw cases has caused serious concerns in the country where brain science first appeared in murder cases, reports The guardian: “The supreme court has begun a review of how such evidence can be used in criminal cases. But legal and scientific experts nevertheless foresee the trend spreading to other countries, including the UK, and Farahany said she was expanding her work abroad.

“The survey even found cases where defendants had used neuroscience to argue that their confessions should be struck out because they were not competent to provide them. “When people introduce this evidence for competency, it has actually been relatively successful,” Farahany said.

“Few cases turn solely on neuroscience evidence, but scans and other techniques have swayed judgments in the past. In 2009, an Italian woman called Stefania Albertani pleaded guilty to murdering her sister, setting fire to the corpse and later attempting to kill her parents. She received a life sentence, but in 2011 Judge Luisa lo Gatto at a court near Milan considered new evidence based on brain scans and genetics. Experts argued that Albertani’s crime was driven by abnormalities in the anterior cingulate gyrus, which is involved in impulsivity, and the insula, which has been linked to aggression. The judge reduced Albertani’s sentence to 20 years.

“Despite the fact that the science is often poorly understood, and that some experts say it is too flimsy to use in court, such evidence has succeeded in reducing defendants’ sentences and in some cases clearing them of guilt altogether.”


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Transphobia, California-style

The state that brought you Proposition 8 is about to witness another hate campaign.imgres-1

The latest battle in California is over 37 words. They are the final clause in a law that Gov. Jerry Brown signed this summer affirming the rights of transgender students to use facilities and play on sports teams that align with their gender identity. On Friday, groups led by the same strategist who masterminded the successful drive to ban gay marriage in California will submit a petition to the state that could lead to the landmark measure being overturned, reports Time Magazine.

“Opponents of the statute, the first of its kind in the United States, say the language is too broad and that it neglects the privacy rights of most students for the benefit of a few. Supporters say the measure helps foster acceptance for transgender students, who can feel alienated by the rigid gender distinctions of his-or-her bathrooms and school sports teams.

“The law’s challengers need to submit 505,000 valid signatures from California residents, roughly 5% of voters who cast ballots in the most recent governor’s race, to get a referendum to overturn it on the ballot in November. Frank Schubert, the consultant who spearheaded the Proposition 8 effort to ban gay marriage that was overturned by the Supreme Court this summer, has rallied social conservatives. He says by Monday they hope to turn in more than 700,000 signatures, amassed over three months by volunteers, paid workers, direct mail and more than 750 churches.

“Here is the passage at the heart of the matter:

“A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.

“Schubert says there would not be a push for a referendum if the language had included more caveats, like requiring that transgender students had an established history of presenting themselves as male or female. As it’s worded, he believes that non-transgender teenagers will abuse the law, though he concedes there are no documented cases to back up those fears. “Somebody claiming to be a girl can go into the girls’ showers and bathroom and the locker room and can play on the girls sports team,” he says. “There are no procedures to balance the interest of all students.”


Read more: Transgender Student Rights: California Law Could Be Challenged |

Mandating coverage for mental health and addiction

The Obama administration today completed a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment, as reported in the New York Times

“The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing


gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders.

“In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes a

fter the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14.

“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

“While laws and regulations dating to 1996 took initial steps in requiring insurance parity for medical and mental health, “here we’re doing full parity, and we’ve also taken steps to extend it to the people covered in the Affordable Care Act,” the senior official said. “This is kind of the final word on parity.” Continue reading “Mandating coverage for mental health and addiction”

The new global depression

Depression can have a profound impact on a person’s life, work, and relationships. But a new study shows the true toll of mental health conditions on a global scale.imgres

“New research led by Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland and the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research in Australia found that depression is the second leading cause of the global disability burden.

“Depression, defined as a persistent state of sadness or disinterest in things once found pleasurable, is one of the most common mental disorders.

“The World Health Organization states that approximately 350 million people worldwide have depression, or about four percent of the world’s population.

“While many people have chronic depression that ultimately leads to a disability, it’s common for it to become debilitating immediately. It’s not necessarily something that builds and becomes worse over time,” Dobrenski, who was not involved in the study, said. “Unfortunately, the system moves very slowly so it can take a long time for someone to become qualified [for mental health care], even though they are ‘eligible’ within days.”   However, he added, some types of depression can fade away just as quickly, so it’s sometimes a disservice to designate someone as disabled so quickly. The new study, appearing in the journal PLOS Medicine, shows that rates of major depressive disorder (MDD) vary by country and region, but are highest in Central America and Central and Southeast Asia. Afghanistan, which has seen political turmoil and war since long before the U.S. occupation began 2001, leads the world in rates of depression, the researchers discovered. Japan, on the other hand, has the lowest rate of depression disability worldwide. To reach their conclusions, researchers scoured published studies on MDD, or clinical depression, and dysthymia, which is a milder form of depression. Continue reading “The new global depression”

Football pros and cons

 While people around the sports world see the suspended Richie Incognito as a bigoted bully, retired NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley thinks it’s perfectly plausible that the Miami Dolphins guard was carrying out orders from his coaches to toughen up teammate Jonathan Martin.

Turley said he was given those enforcer responsibilities in college and the pros, reports the LA Times

“I took on that leadership role,” Turley said. “The coaches gave me those reins.“I’m sure in this situation — not to justify the rhetoric or terminology that Incognito used — but I understand if this was the role that was given to him. … It’s absurd for the real world to accept this, and nobody should, but this is not the real world. This is football.”

“Incognito is at the center of a league investigation into the Dolphins, and is accused of harassing and threatening fellow offensive lineman Martin, a second-year tackle who walked away from the team last week, with voice and text messages that included racial slurs. Incognito, a nine-year veteran with a history of being kicked off teams, is a member of the Dolphins’ leadership council.

“What Incognito has done on the line since he’s been in Miami is he’s proven himself to be worthy of that role,” said Turley, 38, who like Incognito was considered among the NFL’s dirtiest players during his 10-year career.

“The coaches apparently enlisted him to be the leader of that offensive line. ‘This is your line now. We need you to get these guys in shape and together.’ The culture is to direct players. They say, ‘You’re the leader. We need you. We’re coaches; we don’t play the game. These guys need to respect you. It’s your duty.'” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday appointed Ted Wells, a senior partner of the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to oversee an investigation of the Dolphins’ workplace conditions. The findings will be made public once the case is completed, the league said. Also on Wednesday, in a twist that runs counter to the notion that Incognito is the classic bully, several Miami players voiced their support for him. Continue reading “Football pros and cons”

Testosterone replacement kills

Ads have been popping up in recent years, which urge middle-aged men to seek testosterone drugs to enhance their energy, strength, and libido. As a result, prescriptions for testosterone replacement have increased by 500% in the past decade.

A new study suggests that such treatments also enhance the risks of heart disease and related death, as reported in MedPageToday.images

“Testosterone therapy was associated with a higher risk of adverse outcomes in male veterans undergoing coronary angiography, a study showed.

“After adjustment for the presence of coronary artery disease, testosterone therapy was associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, and ischemic stroke 3 years after angiography (25.7% versus 19.9%; HR 1.29, 95% CI 1.04-1.58), according to P. Michael Ho, MD, PhD, of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver, and colleagues.

“The relationship remained consistent among those with and without coronary artery disease, they reported in the Nov. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“These results differ from a previous retrospective VA study of testosterone therapy that found a 39% reduction in mortality risk among patients given testosterone. But that study included a cohort with a lower incidence of heart disease, and used an analysis that didn’t account for differences in time from study cohort entry to the initiation of testosterone therapy, the authors wrote.

Steven Nissen, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, characterized the study results as a red flag that demands “attention not just from physicians but also from regulators.”

Nissen, who was not involved the study, noted that he is among a group of physicians who “have been worried about testosterone replacement therapy, which is increasingly commonly prescribed and largely fueled by direct-to-consumer advertising that’s urging men to get tested for low testosterone and then to seek replacement.” Continue reading “Testosterone replacement kills”

The body as password

You’re probably well-acquainted with one of life’s little annoyances: the password.images

Your voicemail. Your email. Your smartphone. Maybe you’ve got a different one for each — which means you’re bound to slip up, reports NPR: “Or maybe you use the same one for everything — a security no-no. The number of sites and services that demand a password or PIN seems to have grown exponentially. And keeping track of the ones you’ve got? Forget about it.

“Well, Silicon Valley titans are getting tired of them, too. At the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference in September, Google’s top security executive, Heather Adkins, declared that passwords are dead. And that’s straight from a founding member of the security team at Google, home to 425 million email accounts. Adkins says startups tying their future to passwords might as well give up now, given how much work it takes to keep customers’ passwords secure.

“But if passwords are a thing of the past, what will replace them? Wall Street is betting on biometrics. Now that Apple is adding a fingerprint sensor to its newest iPhone, companies that make similar technology have seen their share prices jump. And industry analysts say the market for fingerprint scanners could top $10 billion in the next five years. Other biometrics companies are looking more competitive as well. Take one of Apple’s partners, Nuance Communications, a voice recognition company. You’ve probably heard their technology if you’ve called an airline or reserved a hotel room — particularly if you’ve heard, “Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes.” Nuance Communications is gathering data to improve its voice-recognition technology. The goal is to eventually do away with the whole username and passcode business altogether, says Robert Weideman, one of the company’s executive vice presidents.  Continue reading “The body as password”

Child care costs outpace family income

In 2012, the cost of child care in the U.S. grew up to eight times faster than family income, according to a new study of the average fees paid to child care centers and family child care homes, reports NPR.

“Child care is an increasingly difficult financial burden for working families to bear,” said Lynette M. Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. “Unlike all other areas of education investment, including higher education, families pay the majority of costs for early education.”

“According to the new findings, some families are spending more on child care than on food or rent, as NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports for our Newscast unit:

“In most states, average child care center fees for an infant are higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a public college. …

“Factor in two kids, and the study finds average fees higher than the median rent in all states, and higher than the average food bill in all regions.”

In compiling its report, Child Care Aware of America looked at the costs of child care centers, including those run by religious organizations and family care homes. The findings don’t include other options such as nannies, or friends and relatives who look after children. To compare the costs of caring for two children, the organization used data from the price of care for an infant and a 4-year-old. The study ranked U.S. states according to the affordability of child care (as a share of median income for single or married parents), not by the overall cost of child care.

“The dollar cost of center-based care for infants was actually highest in Massachusetts” at nearly $16,500 yearly, according to the report, “compared to just over $13,450 per year in Oregon; however, as a percentage of median income for married couples with children, care was least affordable in Oregon.” Oregon was also found to be the least affordable state for center-based care for a married couple with a 4-year-old, ahead of New York, Minnesota and Vermont. The overall price of raising kids has also risen, according to government figures. Parents who had a child in 2012 can expect to pay $241,080 to raise him or her for the next 17 years, as Eyder reported for The Two-Way this past summer.The high numbers may cause parents to groan, but Child Care Aware of America says it doesn’t see cheaper child care as the sole solution.”


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U.S. obesity hits all time high at 27%

The adult obesity rate so far in 2013 is 27.2%, up from 26.2% in 2012, and is on pace to surpass all annual average obesity rates since Gallup-Healthways began tracking in 2008.

The one-percentage-point uptick in the obesity rate so far in 2013 is statistically significant and is the largest year-over-year increase since 2009, Gallup reports:


“The higher rate thus far in 2013 reverses the lower levels recorded in 2011 and 2012, and is much higher than the 25.5% who were obese in 2008. The increase in obesity rate is accompanied by a slight decline in the percentage of Americans classified as normal weight or as overweight but not obese. The percentage of normal weight adults fell to 35.3% from 35.9% in 2012, while the percentage of adults who are overweight declined to 35.5% from 36.1% in 2012. An additional 1.9% of Americans are classified as underweight in 2013 so far.

“Since 2011, U.S. adults have been about as likely to be classified as overweight as normal weight. Prior to that, Americans were most commonly classified as overweight.

“Gallup and Healthways began tracking Americans’ weight in 2008. The 2013 data are based on more than 141,000 interviews conducted from Jan. 1 through Oct. 28 as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Gallup uses respondents’ self-reported height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores. Individual BMI values of 30 or above are classified as “obese,” 25 to 29.9 are “overweight,” 18.5 to 24.9 are “normal weight,” and 18.4 or less are “underweight.”

“Obesity rates have increased at least slightly so far in 2013 across almost all major demographic and socioeconomic groups. One exception is 18- to 29-year-olds, among whom the percentage who are obese has remained stable. The largest upticks between 2012 and 2013 were among those aged 45 to 64 and those who earn between $30,000 and $74,999 annually. The obesity rate within both groups increased by 1.8 points, which exceeds the one-point increase in the national average. At 35.7%, blacks continue to be the demographic group most likely to be obese, while those aged 18 to 29 and those who earn over $75,000 annually continue to be the least likely to be obese.”


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Fed college rating system due in Spring

images-1Unsatisfied by the college ratings generated by popular news magazines, the Obama administration expects to have a first draft of its college rating system by this spring, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said. As InsideHigherEd reports:

“After soliciting public input at town hall discussions and hearings at college campuses across the country this fall, the department will convene a “technical symposium” early next year to discuss ratings methodology before releasing a preliminary version for public comment at some point in the spring, Duncan said. The administration’s goal is to implement the ratings system in the 2014-15 academic year and eventually persuade Congress to link federal student aid funding to the ratings system.

“It is an ambitious timeframe,” Duncan conceded on a call with reporters on Wednesday, in which he again emphasized that the administration has not yet decided on the metrics that will make up the federal college rating system that the president proposed in August. “We’ve seen some articles [about] people who are already opposed to the ratings plan, which is a little bit funny to me because it literally doesn’t exist,” he said. Many college and university leaders — and the associations that represent them in Washington — have been skeptical, if not critical, of measuring student outcomes based on metrics such as earnings and graduation rates. Some have also decried the availability and quality of data needed to carry out a ratings system.

“Data is always imperfect and we will use the best data we have,” Duncan said, adding that the administration would produce new iterations of the metrics “as better data becomes available.” Education Department officials also said Wednesday that they planned to host, in collaboration with the White House, a “datapalooza” in the early spring that will bring together innovators and app designers to look at better ways to package and provide access to existing federal data on colleges and students, such as the government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, known as IPEDS.  Continue reading “Fed college rating system due in Spring”

Back to the darkroom

“Digital images are inherently less interesting just because everyone does it,” said the 22-year-old photography student. He brushed some of the liquid on the wood, one step in developing photos using platinum, a technique that was last widely used before World War I.

“When someone sees something like this, it’ll hold their attention longer because it catches them off-guard,” Willie Wenzlau said.

Wenzlau is voicing an interest growing in recent years from students wanting to learn traditional analogue photography techniques. Wenzlau is part of the Southern California’s Art Center’s efforts to plan a potential graduate photography degree, in part by taking a step back to the future, as the LA Times discusses:

“The Pasadena school began offering elective courses in these old-fashioned techniques about two years ago, hoping that students would get a better grasp of photography history while also mastering methods that will help them stand out in a field where everyone with a phone can be a photographer. Students are using boxy Ansel Adams-style cameras mounted on tripods, developing photos with antique processes and spending more time in the film darkroom.

“Earlier this year, the school received a $75,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation to study the ways that the photography and imaging department could change to fit the digital age. Administrators looked backward instead, and found that learning the basics will only help the new photographers. The course electives have been so successful that they plan to incorporate more traditional methods into their graduate courses, which could begin in several years.

“We want to build a graduate program on top of firm foundations,” said Dennis Keeley, the department’s chair.

“The Art Center, located near the Rose Bowl, has produced alumni such as film director Zack Snyder and one of the advertisers behind the “Got Milk?” ad campaign, but the majority of undergraduates major in illustration. The four-year school costs undergraduate students about $18,000 per term in tuition, school officials said.

“It’s not unusual for art schools to offer classes in antique processes. The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore has long had classes in Van Dyke printing, a process that involves ferric ammonium citrate and tartaric acid, among other old-fashioned methods, said Lynn Silverman, a professor.”


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Raised by robots?

A growing number of select colleges have turned to off-kilter questions like this one, from Brandeis University: “You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?”  As the New York times today reports, “this year’s most-discussed question, from Tufts University, was about the meaning of “YOLO,” an acronym for “you only live once,” popularized by the rapper Drake.images

“And even those are tame compared with some choices from the last few years, like “If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs or aliens, who would you pick?” (Brandeis), or “What does Play-Doh have to do with Plato?” (Chicago).

“For the colleges, such questions set them apart, though the applications invariably give a choice of subjects, including some that are closer to traditional. And at a time when some elite colleges worry that high school students are more likely to be high achievers than independent thinkers, oddball essay questions offer a way to determine which of the A-student, high-test-score, multi-extracurricular applicants can also show a spark of originality. Most elite colleges use the Common Application, which contains fairly standard essay questions, and require their own supplemental applications, with more writing exercises.

“In the day of the Common App, there’s such a sense of sameness in applying to the different schools, so we’re trying to communicate what’s distinctive about us and determine what’s distinctive about our applicants,” said Andrew Flagel, the senior vice president for students and enrollment at Brandeis. A quirky essay subject can seem like a burden to students who, already stressed out by the application process, find that being diligent and brilliant is not enough — that colleges also want them to be whimsical and creative. Teenagers pepper social media with complaints about the questions, though they do not want to be interviewed, for fear of alienating their colleges of choice. But others embrace the chance to express themselves, seeing it as a welcome relief from the ordinary applications. Continue reading “Raised by robots?”