Wolf vs. Coyote?

by WCE

This ODFW quiz will help you learn to distinguish between wolves and coyotes. (15 questions) It also showed me how I can improve in an area in which I initially have no knowledge. I am more confident that I could distinguish a wolf from a coyote at a glance after taking this quiz. Previously, I had just assumed all such animals are coyotes, since coyotes are more common.

Coyote and Gray Wolf Identification

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Volkswagen emissions scandal

by WCE

I was interested in this article’s vague referrals to how differences in the legal system meant different consequences to Volkswagen for violating emissions standards in the U.S. and Europe. I continue to be interested in this scandal because I had wondered for years how Volkswagen met emissions standards that the Korean researchers I edit for struggled to approach in their diesel engine emissions optimizations.

Do you think Volkswagen’s corporate culture is atypical? Can someone explain more about the differences between European and U.S. legal systems, in that the consequences to Volkswagen for violating environmental law are so much more severe in the U.S.? Does anyone see parallels to the $20 billion payout from British Petroleum for the 2010 Gulf Oil spill?

Volkswagen’s Diesel Scandal Was 80 Years in the Making

Is the world too complicated for us?

by WCE

Our world outsmarts us
Social problems are fantastically complex, while human minds are severely under-engineered. Is democracy doomed?

Given our ongoing discussions of human frailty, weakness and variation, this article seemed appropriate. The description of the “intuitive response” to the false positive test appealed to me and reminded me of my favorite picture of that.

Kangaroo Care

by WCE

When I read this article on kangaroo care for premature babies in poor countries, it gave me joy. The world is a better place because premature babies in developing countries are receiving good care from their parents. My first three children were 37 and 35 weekers and I remember the hours spent fighting jaundice, helping them eat, and, once they were six weeks past their due dates, spending hours calming their reflux-y selves. What has recently brought you joy?

Saving Babies’ Lives by Carrying Them Like Kangaroos

Favorite Museum Exhibits

by WCE

This WSJ article discusses the visit of historic medieval manuscripts from Oxford College to the Folger museum in Washington, D.C. (starts Feb. 4) and then to New York’s Center for Jewish History in May.

Most of the works in “500 Years of Treasures From Oxford” will be making their U.S. debut. Among them are some historic best sellers. A 15th-century manuscript of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” includes an elaborate floral border around rows of exquisitely rendered Middle English text and penciled-in instructions, never erased, for the book’s decorations. A 15th-century manuscript of Homer’s “Iliad,” in Greek, features unusual red-orange designs that run alongside the text and are attributed to the scribe Ioannes Rhosos of Crete.

…. the collection contains 13 rare Hebrew manuscripts, an extraordinary number for one library. A 12th-century prayer book once owned by a Sephardic Jew who traveled to England contains notes that use Hebrew characters to write Arabic words on the fly-leaves—the only such example from medieval England. A 13th-century book of psalms includes side-by-side Latin and Hebrew versions. The college’s scholars likely would have used these works, which will be part of the tour, to learn Hebrew.

The rarity and scale of the exhibit reminds me of a King Tut exhibit I visited ~15 years ago in the Bay Area. If I were closer to Washington, D.C. or New York City, I would want to visit this display and I would take my children along, whether they claimed to be interested or not.

For those of you near one of those cities, do displays like this appeal to you? What museum exhibits do you find most memorable?

An Oxford College Sends Renaissance Rarities to the U.S.

Overemphasis on quarterly earnings?

by WCE

This article discusses emphasis on quarterly, rather than long-term, earnings. This is one of the biggest changes at my employer in my career. Managers used to be focused on technical aspects of projects and developing people, and now they spend a lot of time managing quarterly finances. (Cash flow is not an issue at the company.)

How to Stop Short-Term Thinking at America’s Companies

My favorite fact was one I’ve tried to find unsuccessfully in the past: 8% of stocks were held by institutional shareholders in 1950 compared to 70% of stocks today. I don’t know how 401(k) accounts are considered in that allocation, but pension funds will definitely have their returns affected by any increase in corporate taxes.

Despite the emphasis on profitability, the S&P including reinvested dividends has had historically moderate growth for the past couple decades. Since I opened a 401(k) in ~December 1998, the S&P (with dividends reinvested) has increased by 3.0% annually after inflation. Is there any agreement on the long-term expectation and whether this is expected to be typical? I’ve long been skeptical of the graphs by financial planners, but I’m 20 years into my career and I’m even more skeptical. Or am I missing something?

Calculator here:
S&P 500 Return Calculator, with Dividend Reinvestment

‘Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious’

by WCE

This article detailing an alternative to Copernicus’ view that planets travel around the sun intrigued me, because correct hypotheses in science are usually the ones we learn and remember. It reminded me of the modern controversy over short term global cooling and warming trends and how to interpret the past 50 years of planetary temperature data, in light of limited historical data. Had you heard of Locher? Does he remind you of any other scientist? Does the controversy remind you of any other scientific controversy?

Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious

‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’

by WCE

Only rarely do my interests in history, software modeling, Biblical interpretation and astronomy come together, so when I read a modern hypothesis of what the Magi (aka wise men) saw that brought them from “the East” to King Herod in Jerusalem, I was intrigued. Many of the events recorded in the Bible are so long ago, and recorded in such a way that it is difficult or impossible to understand what was written in its historical context. I had long considered “the Star” that brought the Magi from “the East” to be an example of such a mystery. However, use of astronomical modeling software makes trivial calculations that were excessively laborious for Kepler, who used his laws of planetary motion to attempt to understand the mystery of “the Star in the East” soon after discovering the laws.

Unfortunately, Kepler relied on a copy of the works of Josephus printed after 1544, which contained an error that caused Kepler to believe Herod had died in 4 BC, and so Kepler searched the skies for the two years prior to Herod’s death. Subsequent scholarship has identified an error in the 1544 printing of the works of Josephus and 1 BC is now believed to be the year Herod died, so the hypothesis of interest focuses on 2/3 BC. In September of 3 BC at the time of the Jewish New Year, the planet Jupiter came into conjunction with the star Regulus. The Babylonians called Regulus “Sharu” and the Romans called Regulus “Rex”, both of which mean king, so the Magi observed the King Planet come into conjunction with the King Star, which happens every 12 years. However, due to retrograde motion, a triple conjunction occurred due to a wobble in Jupiter’s orbit, which is much less common.This triple conjunction occurred within the constellation Leo. The expected Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), which was represented by a lion (Leo). Leo is followed by the constellation Virgo and the expected Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), so it seems possible that the Magi (some of whom may have been Jews whose ancestors were left behind in Babylon) would associate kingship, Leo and Virgo with the expected Messiah.

Regardless of whether this hypothesis regarding the astronomical event that brought the Magi from “the East” (probably Babylon or Persia) is correct, some event caused the Magi to travel an extraordinary distance, to inquire of King Herod and to set off a slaughter of male infants in Bethlehem, a slaughter that was recorded by the historian Josephus and the apostle Matthew. It seems apparent that the Magi were priest-astronomers and had no idea their inquiry would result in infant slaughter. Philo the Elder of Alexandria wrote about Magi from the East with great respect for their knowledge of the natural world. The response of Herod and the priests in Jerusalem suggests that they respected the Magi as well. It is possible that Magi gained awareness of Jewish culture during the Babylonian captivity, when the Jewish elite including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became officials in the Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a Chief Magus. Even though we don’t know how the Magi gained knowledge of Jewish culture and writings, a few hundred years after the Babylonian captivity, the Magi had sufficient interest in the birth of a Jewish king to travel to Jerusalem and to inquire of Herod.

After being informed by Herod and the chief priests that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, the Magi proceeded from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and did not return to Jerusalem in order to inform Herod about what they had found, a situation which made Jesus’ birth one of if not the best-documented birth in ancient history. His death is, if the hypothesis is correct, equally well-documented. Passover begins on the 14th day of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan. Jesus must have died in a year on which that 14th day was a Friday, and Pilate was Roman procurator from 26 to 36 AD, so inquiry should focus on that date range. In 30 AD, Passover began on the equivalent of Friday April 7 and in 33 AD, Passover began on the equivalent of Friday April 3. The latter date is likely correct for a couple of reasons. First, Pilate seems reluctant to crucify Jesus. Sejanus, a notorious anti-Semite and regent for Emperor Tiberius, was killed in 31 AD for being a traitor and official Roman policy became to let the Jews alone. In 33 AD, Pilate would have every desire not to upset the Jews. Second, there was a lunar eclipse from noon to three on April 3, 33 AD, and an earthquake centered in Bithynia. A lunar eclipse resulted in a “blood moon”, which had particularly dark significance to ancient people. The lunar eclipse and earthquake just before the beginning of Passover (which began at sundown) made that Passover particularly memorable.

I found this hypothesis so convincing that I believe Jesus died at age 35 and not age 33, as has long been thought. Can you think of any other situations where astronomical information allows us to re-interpret ancient literature? Does any information in this summary surprise, frustrate or intrigue you, or change your thoughts about Epiphany, the traditional Christian feast to celebrate the visit of the Magi, held on January 6? (That’s just after the 12 days of Christmas.)

Biblical Reference:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. [WCE comment: A reference to Micah 5:2]

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12, King James Version

Kepler Reference:De Stella Nova (1606); De vero anno (1614)

Educational Spending and Inequality

by WCE

I enjoyed this map detailing the difference in educational spending between typical and high poverty rate schools by state. Missouri has the biggest gap in spending. What I found more interesting than the within-state gap, however, was the gap between states. Wyoming, Alaska and some New England states have per capita spending in the high teens. Most southeastern states, Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho have below average spending, around $7000. I would guess the national population-weighted average (not the average of 50 states) is $10,000/student, without knowing how technicalities like the need for new buildings being greater in some states is handled.

The site notes that some states have determined that unequal funding between districts within a state is unjust, but this gap is negligible compared to the gap between states. Do you think the inequality between states is unjust? What, if anything, do you think should be done about it? Other than New York, it appears that many states with the poorest students and the most ESL students have the lowest funding.

Map: 41 States are Shortchanging their Neediest Students

Corporate Malfeasance

by WCE

I recently read two articles that made me ponder the role of whistleblowers in revealing corporate malfeasance.

The WSJ article (first) discusses how the medical testing company Theranos used its attorneys to intimidate a young Stanford grad who went to work at Theranos and observed irregularities in its medical testing methodology. I identified with Tyler’s youthful idealism and interest in data. I also thought about our legal system, compared to other “loser pays” systems and thought about its disadvantages. I suspect that pressure to conform to the vision of a startup is not uncommon. The NY Times article (second) describes how Princess Cruise Lines is being fined $40 million for improper waste dumping around the world on many ships from ~2004-2013. The illegal dumping was observed and reported by a new engineer who observed the illegal dumping and promptly reported it to the British authorities and quit his job at the port of Southampton.

Do you think government regulatory bureaucracy can/should do a better job of protecting potential whistleblowers? Do you think boards of directors should do a better job of overseeing internal company practices? Have you pondered the complexities of international environmental regulatory compliance, from both a legal and an engineering point of view? How can governments do a better job of seeking out likely cases of illegal behavior, both to avoid the behavior and to protect ethical competitors? (Volkswagen emissions and Wells Fargo also come to mind.)

Theranos Whistleblower Shook the Company—and His Family

Princess Cruise Lines to Pay $40 Million Fine for Illegal Dumping

The Electoral College over time

by WCE

After Trump’s strong showing in the Rust Belt, I thought about how the electoral college has changed over time. When my kids asked whether New York or Texas had more electoral votes, we had to look it up — it turns out Texas is way ahead, and New York is tied with Florida.

This link projects changes for 2020 that reflect ongoing Rust Belt emigration and population increases in Texas (3!), Colorado, Florida, California, North Carolina and maybe Virginia, Oregon and Arizona.

Updated 2020 Reapportionment Projections

This link shows the electoral college and how each state voted over time. I was surprised to learn that Kansas and California each had 10 electoral votes for the 1908 election and Florida had only 5. New York’s share of the U.S. population peaked in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when it had 47 electoral votes. I find the chart fascinating and I also admire the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for creating a system that added (later apportioned) electors based on a census every decade.

Historical Timeline

How common is your surname?

by WCE

This website tells you how common your surname is around the world. Both my maiden name and my married name are relatively uncommon, with a few hundred or a thousand people around the world who have each. Is your surname common or rare? If it’s common, where in the world is it common? Are there any surnames you input for fun where something about the results surprised you?

Search for Meanings & Distribution of 11 Million Surnames

On the fundamental inequality of the sexes

by WCE

I’ve never found a Fertility and Sterility medical journal article that seemed appropriate for The Totebag, but this article on the tradeoffs of healthy pregnancy/babies as a function of maternal age and career choices seems ripe for a Totebaggy discussion. I am somewhat vocal on the blog about my view that male/female career/social equality is difficult or impossible, and this article is a good summary of the statistical reasons.

Do you think people (men and women) should think about these facts when planning their lives? Do you think both sexes will?

If the link doesn’t work and you care, the article may be available from your library login.

Reproduction at an advanced maternal age and maternal health by Mark Sauer 

For those not interested in/unable to access the whole article, the summary paragraph is this.

It is difficult to publically challenge convention, and it seems that these days it is politically correct to portray women enjoying the best of both worlds when it comes to family and work. However, if this is achieved by delaying pregnancy then the risk of complicated pregnancy, infertility, and childlessness must also be understood and accepted. The goal should be to promote earlier efforts at procreation, while condemning myths suggesting “you can have it all” by delaying reproduction until a time that it is convenient. Starting a family is never convenient and it never has been. A social re-engineering back to a more conventional time may be difficult, if not impossible to do, but a failure to do so will result in increasing numbers of women left childless and without adequate medical interventions to reconcile their needs. To succeed in this endeavor doctors will need to enlist the support of partners in all aspects of life: educators, employers, lawyers, theologians, and legislators. Finally, accurately portraying the difficulties faced by both older patients attempting pregnancy and those who are experiencing it is long overdue. Realistic characterization should not scare patients away from trying to have children but rather serve as a warning of the perils of postponement and be sobering reminders that all stages of life are fleeting and pregnancy is still best accomplished while young.

Our uncivilized public lands

by WCE

As Homeless Find Refuge in Forests, ‘Anger Is Palpable’ in Nearby Towns

In many western states (see Time magazine link for details by state), the federal government owns a majority of the land, either as national forest or as Bureau of Land Management land. This allows for great hiking and camping opportunities, as well as grazing, firewood cutting and mushroom hunting, but so much open land has disadvantages as well.

The NY Times article discusses the mess and risks associated with disadvantaged people who live on public lands. Two of my friends who are PhD wildlife biologists have confirmed that there are significant risks when hiking and camping on public lands. Unlike cities, which are usually well-policed, forest lands have very limited law enforcement. Growing marijuana and drug trafficking are probably the most common crimes. A single officer may be responsible for hundreds of square miles. Even with the cooperation of local law enforcement and fire departments, crime and wildfires are very problematic. The federal government has reduced/tried to eliminate “payment in lieu of property taxes” for forest lands, so the costs of busing kids to school in these areas is high and borne by counties with an artificially low tax base.

Do you have any thoughts (or maybe questions, since there are a few of us in states with lots of federal land) about how federal land should be managed? Do you agree or disagree that it is under-resourced in terms of fire/police protection? Any other thoughts about how federal land ownership affects western states?

What’s So Special About Finland?

by WCE

This Atlantic article discusses differences between the U.S. and Finland. I liked the emphasis that speaking English as a first language is a natural advantage that people in the United States have. I enjoyed the part about what citizens receive in return for high taxes, because in the U.S. model, upper middle class citizens pay taxes at marginal rates comparable to those in Scandinavia but must still pay significant amounts toward childcare, healthcare and college for their children. I think that the diversity of the U.S. compared to Finland in terms of the background and culture of its citizens is both a benefit and a disadvantage, depending on the situation. Discuss!

What’s So Special About Finland?

“In terms of immigration, if you have a situation like you have now in Europe—huge numbers of immigrants coming in all of a sudden—that’s a very difficult situation for any country. But if a lot of these immigrants also [have] education levels [that] do not help them in this society to find work, then this puts strain on the system. The system is built on the idea that everybody works, everybody pays taxes, and then they get these things in return. Whereas in the United States you don’t really have any [government-provided] benefits. That’s not so much of a problem in terms of immigration.

In higher education, the Nordic approach of offering everyone free tuition is a really good system for educating the whole population well. On the other hand, the U.S. has fantastic research institutes, leading Ivy League universities [that] are amazing, [and] their resources are very different from the resources that Nordic [universities] have.

Friedman: Many Americans might say, “This all sounds great, but you guys are paying sky-high taxes. We don’t want anything to do with that.” How would you respond?

Partanen: First of all, the taxes are not necessarily as high as many Americans think. One of the myths I encounter often is that Americans are like, “You pay 70 percent of your income in taxes.” No, we do not. For someone who lives in a city like San Francisco or New York City—where you have federal taxes, state taxes, city taxes, property taxes—the tax burden is not very different [than the tax burden in Finland]. I discuss my own taxes in the book and I discovered this to be true: that I did pay about the same or even more in New York than I would have paid on my income in Finland. I’ve talked to many Nordics in the U.S. who say the same thing.

The second thing is that there’s no point in discussing the levels of taxes in different countries unless you discuss what you get for your taxes. Americans in many states, certainly, or cities—they might pay less taxes [on] their income or [on] property than Nordics do. But then, on top of that, they pay for their day care, they pay for their health insurance, they pay for college tuition—all these things that Nordics get for their taxes.

A link between neurotic unhappiness and creativity

by WCE

Creative and neurotic: Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?

This article positing a link between neuroticism and creativity discusses a correlation with no known mechanism, so we can speculate unencumbered by data. Mr WCE and I both have trouble turning off, and for him especially, that leads to sleep difficulties. I can’t tell how neurotic I am, but I know I spend a lot of time living inside my own head. When I spent a month in the hospital before my twins were born, it was hard to read books and so I mostly did Sudoku puzzles and thought, with some listening to music. Apparently not everyone is like that.

Is it crazy to believe in the devil?

by WCE

As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession.

Dr. Gallagher writes about his efforts to distinguish mental illness from possible demon possession. He added this explanatory comment after the article was published.

Dr. GALLAGHER responds: Greetings to all. Since this essay garnered such enormous interest, I will add some context. I was asked to write this piece by the Post, not the reverse. As the superb editor made clear, it was NOT to be a scientific article about the evidence for or against possession, but rather my experience as a psychiatrist involved with suffering people. Yes, many of these individuals presented to me with paranormal and tormenting symptoms — and one is free to believe me or not, but I KNOW that to be unequivocally true. These cases are rare and they are not patients of mine. Further, despite the misleading title (which I did not assign the piece), I do not “diagnose” possession, as I stated, but just inform pro bono various clergy (not all Christian btw), as also stated, that as a very experienced physician these features may (or may not) go beyond medical pathology. I make no apology that I am expertly trained to do so (unlike some armchair experts). An article arguing for the reality of demonic possession, a complex and highly controversial subject, would require a much longer essay and a very different way of marshaling the evidence; I was not asked to do that. I thank the many readers who appreciated the piece and I predicted others would react with (many juvenile) ad hominem and sometimes ignorant and anti-Christian vitriol. What else is new?…

Terrorism is not hate

by WCE

As media elites have become, in my view, more narrow in their viewpoints, it becomes harder to find well-written essays that contradict what “everyone knows”. I liked this essay arguing that violent incidents with roots in a political decision are different from violent incidents with roots in hate. What do you think?

TERRORISM IS NOT HATE

… The violence he will commit is properly called terrorism. It is motivated by a political judgment, and committed by reactionary non-state actors in an asymmetric warfare with military powers. It is fundamentally different from incidents in which the perpetrator is deranged by some strong emotion—“hate”—as were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. We don’t call the Columbine massacre “terrorism.” Nor do we call the Sandy Hook massacre, with its mentally ill shooter, “terrorism.” In both cases, violence had psychological roots and no political meaning.

Terrorism has political roots. One could say that the Italian anarchists who (most historians assume) bombed Wall Street in 1920, killing thirty and injuring hundreds, “hated” capitalism. But their feelings about capitalism were incidental. Their judgment of capitalism—that it was unjust, and that in the interest of humanity it should be destroyed—was decisive. The same could be said for Alger Hiss. He was a communist spy not because he “hated” America, but because he thought history was on the side of communism. He made a political judgment and acted on it. The same could be said for Timothy McVeigh. He saw the United States government as an enemy of the people. Having formed this political judgment, he acted on it.

The same should be said for Muslim terrorists, including Omar Mateen. So why do our leaders, when speaking of the Orlando shooting, have recourse to “hate”?

Because our leaders cannot imagine a rational anti-Americanism. This is due in part to the narrowing effect of multiculturalism. Paradoxically, instead of broadening our capacity to entertain ways of thinking not our own, multiculturalism has made us parochial. We compliment ourselves endlessly for our tolerance, inclusiveness, and diversity. Since we are so tolerant of others, we assume, there is no reason others shouldn’t tolerate us. Since we are never offended, we must be inoffensive.

Overinvestment in College Lending

by WCE

College Loan Glut Worries Policy Makers

I was intrigued by this article, because both of my babysitters hoped to “go to college to improve themselves” but in my opinion, would have been more suited for a vocational program or apprenticeship.

I think that government continues to loan money to people who are poor risks (housing followed by education) because government is unwilling or unable to discern who is a worthy borrower without appearing racist or classist. Lending laws affecting banks and private lenders may or may not have similar effects, depending on how they are written and enforced. Lending money requires judging people and that’s hard for both social and policy reasons. Repayment depends in part on family/cultural background and not just on individual, statistical creditworthiness, which makes judgement even more complicated in a society where credit decisions are based solely on individual (or possibly married couple) attributes.

Agree or disagree? What do you think about a European-style approach to higher education, where slots are more subsidized but limited to applicants with higher demonstrated academic aptitude?

Excerpt:

The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, productivity and economy. A big portion of that investment has now turned toxic, with echoes of the housing crisis.

The investment was in “human capital,” or, more specifically, higher education. The government helped finance tens of millions of tuitions as enrollment in U.S. colleges and graduate schools soared 24% from 2002 to 2012, rivaling the higher-education boom of the 1970s. Millions of others attended trade schools that award career certificates.

The government financed a large share of these educations through grants, low-interest loans and loan guarantees. Total outstanding student debt—almost all guaranteed or made directly by the federal government—has quadrupled since 2000 to $1.2 trillion today. The government also spent tens of billions of dollars in grants and tax credits for students.

New research shows a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay. Policy makers worry that without a bigger intervention, those borrowers will become trapped for years and will ultimately hurt, rather than help, the nation’s economy.

Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin compares the 7 million student-loan borrowers in default—and millions of others who appear on the same path—to homeowners who found themselves underwater and headed toward foreclosure after the housing crash.

“We needed individual households to stabilize property values and help revive communities,” she said. “We want to stabilize this generation of student borrowers and revive their prospects for the future. I think students are essential to our future economic growth and contributions to productivity.”…

The Obama administration faced criticism that it was too slow to help ailing homeowners during the foreclosure crisis, which impeded the economy from recovering more quickly from the recession. The administration is determined to avoid similar criticism with student-loan borrowers.

It has already put forth an array of programs to help borrowers, including slashing monthly bills by tying payments to incomes, and forgiving some of their debt. But this time they face a different challenge: How to get borrowers to pay anything—even a penny—for an asset they never received.

Informational graphics (and some housing information)

by WCE

Why the Great Divide Is Growing Between Affordable and Expensive U.S. Cities

Given my abstract interest in demographics and my practical interest in moderate cost of living areas, I enjoyed this article on how housing prices have changed since 1980. I especially enjoyed the graphic below.

Did anything in the article surprise or trouble you, or is it all “old news”? What do you like or dislike about the graphic, which I’ve also pasted below?

20160422.TotebagWSJCitiesGreatDivide

 

Effects of increasing international student populations on college campuses

by WCE

I have friends who are STEM academic advisers at OSU and UIUC. My OSU friend confirmed the accuracy of this article. When I was in graduate school, my department was ~75% international students. I think people can learn the fundamentals of engineering in the U.S. with a limited grasp of English, but I’m not sure that other disciplines, especially language-intensive ones, are suitable for people with limited English proficiency. I was surprised to see how high the percentage of international students at Mt Holyoke and Bryn Mawr is (28%) and I wonder if the education there is affected. One of my acquaintances left his engineering professorship in part over how repeated cheating by international students was handled by the local university.

Do you think a US college education will continue to be valuable? Do you share my concern about students with limited English requiring slower instruction in language-intensive disciplines?

On a recent Monday, 22-year-old [Shao] woke up in the apartment he shares with three Chinese friends. He walked to an engineering class at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he sat with Chinese students. Then, he hit the gym with a Chinese pal before studying in the library until late into the night. He recalls uttering two fragments in English all day. The longest was at Chipotle, where he ordered a burrito: “Double chicken, black beans, lettuce and hot sauce.”

At first glance, a huge wave of Chinese students entering American higher education seems beneficial for both sides. International students, in particular from China, are clamoring for American credentials, while U.S. schools want their tuition dollars, which can run two to three times the rate paid by in-state students. On the ground, American campuses are struggling to absorb the rapid and growing influx—a dynamic confirmed by interviews with dozens of students, college professors and counselors.

Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses

The effect of stress on health

by WCE

This article on stress levels and cholesterol made me think. How much does avoiding stress affect your work/life choices? I’m curious about whether control affects the perception of stress. When I have a lot going on, but I have control over it, I am less stressed than when I am subject to someone else’s arbitrary schedule or needs. I think my Dad and MIL, who each cared for a terminally ill spouse, were affected as caregivers in ways that affected their long-term health.

Why do you think there is so much research on diet/exercise and so little research on stress?

Stress Raises Cholesterol More Than You Think