Archive for March, 2011

When are you dead?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

When are you dead? – 2011 SPRING – Stanford Medicine Magazine – Stanford University School of Medicine

In a 2008 article in the journal Critical Care Medicine, he faulted the “unfortunately vague” guidelines of the Uniform Determination of Death Act for opening the door to what he describes as the “creative interpretation” of death. The problem, as Crippen sees it, is that no one in 1980, when the act was formulated, was thinking about how “irreversible” cardiopulmonary failure would be interpreted in light of DCD.

“In order to be dead enough to bury but alive enough to be a donor, you must be irreversibly brain dead,” Crippen says in a telephone interview. “If it’s reversible, you’re no longer dead; you’re a patient. And once you start messing around with this definition, you’re on a slippery slope, and the question then becomes: How dead do you want patients to be before you start taking their organs?”

Crippen acknowledges the rising demand for organs and the importance of transplantation in saving lives. But, in the article, he argues “history has shown that where there are rules, there are usually reasons.” He continues: “The passionate and highly publicized desire for organs promotes utilitarian workarounds of the rules to obtain these organs.”

Walter E. Williams on the Department of Injustice

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Department of Injustice by Walter E. Williams

There are a number of explanations for poor academic performance among black students, and they include students and parents who are indifferent, alien and hostile to the education process. There’s often a poor education environment where thugs are permitted to make education all but impossible. There are often poorly performing teachers and administrators. These problems are masked by fraudulent grades followed by fraudulent diplomas. Grades are meant to convey information to students, parents and the outside world about academic performance. If a student is given A’s and B’s, when academic performance is really at the D and F levels, the student, his parents and employers are misled. Because black graduates see their grades and diplomas equal to that of white graduates, they and others will understandably see differences in treatment by employers or colleges as racial discrimination.

The most tragic consequence of the DOJ actions is that it brings into question legitimate black achievement and possibly sours race relations. Some Dayton white police officers might see their fellow black police officers as affirmative action hires and have less respect and possibly bear a grudge for assumed differences in treatment.

Online Learning: Does It Help Low-Income and Underprepared Students?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

CCRC: Publication

Online learning has generated much enthusiasm for its potential to promote greater access to college by reducing the cost and time of commuting and, in the case of asynchronous approaches, by allowing students to study on a schedule that is optimal for them. The enthusiasm surrounding these and other innovative, technology-based programs has led educators to ask whether the continuing expansion of online learning could be leveraged to increase the academic access, progression, and success of low-income and underprepared college students. However, this review of the postsecondary literature on online learning strongly suggests that online coursework–at least as currently and typically implemented–may hinder progression for low-income and underprepared students. The paper explores why students might struggle in these courses, discusses current access barriers to online education, and offers suggestions on how public policy and institutional practice could be changed to allow online learning to better meet its potential in terms of improving both college access and student progression.

David Friedman on misrepresenting Adam Smith

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Ideas: Misrepresenting Adam Smith

I have recently been told twice, once in conversation and once online, that Adam Smith favored progressive taxation—on the second occasion at least, that he favored a progressive income tax. One passage from The Wealth of Nations was offered in support of the claim by both people, some additional ones by the online claimant. The passage:

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.

Taxation in proportion to revenue isn’t progressive taxation, it’s proportional taxation—in modern terminology, a flat tax. The quote not only isn’t evidence for the claim, it’s evidence against it—important evidence, since it is the first of the maxims of taxation with which Smith introduces his discussion of possible taxes.

Not only is Smith not endorsing a progressive income tax, he isn’t endorsing any sort of income tax. Reading further into the passage, he successively rejects taxes on income from capital, taxes on wages, and taxes on the income of professionals. The only income he approves of taxing is the income of government officials. What he is arguing for is a system of taxation whose effect is proportional to income, not a tax on income.

Amazon still has a gigantic growth opportunity

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

CHART OF THE DAY: Amazon Still Has A Gigantic Growth Opportunity, Even In Books And Electronics

Amazon still has tremendous growth opportunities ahead, Morgan Stanley analyst Scott Devitt writes today.

Despite Amazon’s growth so far, it still only represents 8% of global e-commerce, Devitt writes — and ecommerce is only 6% of retail.

Therefore, as Amazon continues to steal market share from retailers — Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Best Buy are immediate U.S. targets — Devitt thinks it can reach $100 billion in revenue by 2015. That’s more than double the $45 billion in sales that the Street expects from Amazon this year.

Even Amazon’s mature industries like books can still produce plenty of growth. Today’s chart shows Amazon’s media and “EGM” (electronics and general merchandise) sales — versus the competition, and versus the broader books and consumer electronics market.

On Spanier and Penn State’s cost controls

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

State College, PA – Spanier Quizzed over Penn State’s Cost Controls

State Rep. Cherelle Parker, a Philadelphia Democrat, reviewed the schools’ tuition rates and suggested perhaps it doesn’t matter if their state appropriations are cut in half, as Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed to do.

“You’re going to increase the cost of tuition, anyway,” Parker said to Spanier, Temple’s Ann Weaver Hart, the University of PIttsburgh’s Mark Nordenberg and Lincoln University’s Ivory Nelson. “You’ve been doing it the last 10 years.”

Similarly, state Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from Cumberland and York counties, asked Spanier to articulate how the university is trying to control its costs — “because it doesn’t look like anything (any effort), quite honestly,” is being made, he said.

But Spanier said Penn State has worked very hard to keep tuition increases as modest as possible. For each in-state student it enrolls, he said, the university receives about $3,000 in state funds — among the lowest levels of state support at public universities in the U.S.

WORKSHOP: Human enhancement

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The Department of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus will be hosting a workshop on Human Enhancement on Thursday, March 31. The workshop, which begins at 17:30, will include the following presentations:

1. Óscar Horta (University of Santiago de Compostela): “Is ‘Natural’ a Morally Relevant Feature? What Is at Stake with This Question?”

2. Blanca Rodríguez (Complutense University, Madrid): “What Is Human Enhancement?”

3. José Luis Perez Triviño (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona): “Doping in Sports: Where Is the Damage?”

4. Blanca Rodríguez (Complutense University, Madrid): “Procreative Beneficence”

All presentations will take place in the Rice Room, located in the University Library. The workshop is open to the public and all are welcome.


Renzo Llorente, Ph.D.
Department of Humanities
& the Arts
Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus


Exercises to boost brain power

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Exercises to Boost Your Brain Power

Your Brain-Building Plan
So, just how do you use this information to reap your own brain-boosting benefits? Try these great ideas to start exercising your own brain.

1. Read something new every day. Challenge your brain by reading an article (like this one!) on something you aren’t familiar with, or try reading a different type of literature like a poem or Shakespeare.

2. Get trivial. Once a week, get together with your friends and play Trivial Pursuit or another trivia-based game. Remembering historical facts or pop culture tidbits can help work that brain of yours in new ways! You can even try SparkPeople Trivia each day!

3. Eat brain-feeding foods. Nosh regularly on foods that are high in healthy fats, such as walnuts or salmon, both of which contain essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Not only are they good for you, they’re tasty too!

4. Keep up with your workouts! In many of the brain research studies, those who were the most fit reaped the most brain benefits, so keep exercising regularly and challenging your body.

5. De-stress regularly. Your brain can be negatively affected by stress, and studies performed at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital found that regular yoga and meditation practice can increase the size of the hippocampus.

6. Hit the hay early and often. Studies have found that you need an average of eight hours of sleep a night for optimal brain function. It’s also really good for your overall health and fitness—not to mention your mood!

7. Play mind games. Whether it’s a crossword puzzle, Soduku or Scrabble, engage your brain in some play most days of the week. And try to mix up your games. Just like building muscles, your brain will adapt as it grows stronger in one skill, so you have to keep challenging it in new ways.

On UK academics linking to business for increased university income

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Pressure on academics to forge links with businesses to generate alternative income for universities | Higher Education Network |

While the criteria which determines a university’s research status may become more commercially orientated, the UK’s research councils which are responsible for funding university research, have also shifted their focus. Councils are now more likely to back proposals for research which has the potential to make an economic impact and the possibility of commercial success, according to Professor John Fisher, deputy vice chancellor at Leeds and a professor in mechanical engineering who has been behind three spin-out companies and a number of patents. “The balance is changing because it allows the research councils to demonstrate to the government and the treasury the impact of the research,” he says.

The emergence of the research-development professional

Monday, March 28th, 2011

The Emergence of the Research-Development Professional – Manage Your Career – The Chronicle of Higher Education

There is a crisis in academe, and it extends beyond, and predates, our current financial woes. Limited budgets, skyrocketing costs and complexity, and growing competition, both domestically and abroad, have driven even those in the upper echelons of academe to devote ever-increasing portions of their time and energy to the money and management of research, rather than to the research and teaching itself.

From that crisis, a new career path is rapidly developing, and it is already having an impact. Research-development professionals—academic administrators who help faculty members plan and attract grants for their research—are being employed by a growing number of universities and institutes. In 2010 the National Organization of Research Development Professionals was established as part of a grass-roots movement to build a peer community. In June, I will become its second president.

Research in all fields is becoming more interdisciplinary and collaborative, with grants and contracts increasingly focused on team efforts. The pursuit of such large and complex projects, however, requires money and commitment beyond what many individual researchers are able to galvanize. Research-development professionals serve a critical role in guiding those efforts, and helping to forge teams that span disciplinary bounds and institutions.

The research environment has evolved enormously over the past 40 years, and many aspects of its operation barely resemble what they were in the post-Sputnik 60s, when so many of today’s leading university-research programs began to flourish.

Henry C Alphin Jr
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