Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Source: The Economist, July 23, 2009
In an era of drones and spy satellites, it may seem odd that crude simple radio transmitters can still make huge mischief. But the scale and sophistication of broadcasting has mutated downwards as well as upwards. In the mid-20th century, totalitarian dictators found national radio stations were a handy way to foment hate and fear; and non-state actors (from communist guerrillas to churches) have been using radio for almost as long. In recent years the medium has been exploited in ever darker ways by petty warlords as well as by big-time tyrants.
At least some of the developing regions of the world have tried to establish effective regional intellectual property rights systesm.
As America’s first female cabinet secretary, Perkins masterminded the introduction of unemployment insurance and Social Security (public pensions), with crucial ramifications. She spearheaded a radical overhaul of labour laws, introducing a minimum wage, a 40-hour work week and a ban on child labour. During her tenure, which lasted for all 12 years of Roosevelt’s presidency, workers won the right to collective bargaining, and union membership exploded.She is the subject of a new biography:
The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labour and His Moral Conscience. By Kirstin Downey.Nan A. Talese; 458 pages; $35.Buy from Amazon.com.
Source: BENEDICT CAREY, The New York Times, July 27, 2009.
In the past two years, an Army researcher, Steven Burnett, has overseen a study into human perception and bomb detection involving about 800 military men and women. Researchers have conducted exhaustive interviews with experienced fighters. They have administered personality tests and measured depth perception, vigilance and related abilities. The troops have competed to find bombs in photographs, videos, virtual reality simulations and on the ground in mock exercises.Comment: Still another example of the fact that we think with our brains, not our (conscious) minds. In this case, people get good at getting lifesaving hunches and save lives. Indeed, this may be a living example of an ability with survival value. JAD
The study complements a growing body of work suggesting that the speed with which the brain reads and interprets sensations like the feelings in one’s own body and emotions in the body language of others is central to avoiding imminent threats.
“Not long ago people thought of emotions as old stuff, as just feelings — feelings that had little to do with rational decision making, or that got in the way of it,” said Dr. Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. “Now that position has reversed. We understand emotions as practical action programs that work to solve a problem, often before we’re conscious of it. These processes are at work continually, in pilots, leaders of expeditions, parents, all of us.”
- "Science" is involved in the creation and dissemination of knowledge,
- "Technology" is involved in the applications of knowledge to practice, in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, environment, mining, forestry, fisheries, etc.
- "Innovation" is the process of introducing new knowledge and technology into a society, and in this context, especially to the economic systems of a society.
- "Policy" is often used to indicate an entire range of concerns from policy to strategy to tactics.
- "Capacity building" would include education and training to build human capacity, but also organizational development and the development of other institutions (such as the markets for technological services or professionalization instittuions).
In February, a letter was sent to all ICSU Members regarding delays in the processing of visa applications for scientists entering the USA. This problem related particularly to some nationalities and was not only limited to the USA.
In June, Deliang Chen, the ICSU Executive Director, paid a visit to the US State Department, with the assistance of the National Academy of Sciences (ICSU's National Member in the US). The issue of visa difficulties was raised with David Donahue, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Many international scientists have experienced problems when applying for visas, particularly for attending conferences in the US. During the open discussion Mr Donahue outlined recent progress on this issue and encouraged ICSU to help identify specific cases so the problems can be redressed.
Monday, July 27, 2009
"It was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra, our magnetic compass and tools of navigation, our mastery of pens and printing, our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."
Bridges is a very good science policy magazine published by the Austrian Embassy in Washington, and made available free on the Internet. Here are three articles that I found interesting:
- Reestablish the Committee on International Science, Engineering and Technology (CISET) and Get Funding for its Programs by Norman Neureiter
- Science Diplomacy Goes “Big-Time” by Norman Neureiter
- The Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) Program at the US National Science Foundation by Julia Lane
- We spend twice as much on health services but have lower life expectancy.
- We murder each other more often, and keep guns in our homes for protection from each other more often.
- We use a lot more oil and contribute a lot more to global warming than do the Europeans.
- We are more prejudiced against blacks and Hispanics.
- We spend more on the military. more frequently invade other countries, and over the past half century have been more often at war.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
A new Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is to be elected in the Fall of 2009. Nine people were nominated by member nations and their candidacies are to be considered by the Executive Board, with the final election by the General Conference on the basis of the Board's recommendation. I have created a website, using a blogging platform, to provide an overview of the process and information on the eight active candidates. Comments are permitted.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Report stresses the importance of ICT as a catalyst for growth in the current global turmoil
Denmark and Sweden once again lead the rankings of The Global Information Technology Report 2008-2009, released for the eighth consecutive year by the World Economic Forum. The United States follows suit, up one position from last year, thus confirming its pre-eminence in networked readiness in the current times of economic slowdown. Singapore (4), Switzerland (5) and the other Nordic countries together with the Netherlands and Canada complete the top 10.
The Report underlines that good education fundamentals and high levels of technological readiness and innovation are essential engines of growth needed to overcome the current economic crisis. Under the theme “Mobility in a Networked World”, this year’s Report places a particular focus on the relationship and interrelations between mobility and ICT.
The Top 10
Comment: The United States population is much larger than those of the other nine countries on the list. If one were comparing California, New England and the Washington-Maryland-Virgina area with comparably sized European areas, several U.S. areas might appear in the top ten.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
G8 leaders meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, unveiled a plan to commit US$20 billion of funding to the development of agriculture and said they would tackle persistent food shortages in developing countries.
The three-year initiative will also help developing countries develop scientific research in agriculture; foster international collaborations and improve the dissemination of research.
Barack Obama was the child of a high status black Kenyan and a upper middle class white American, brought up by his white grandparents in the most racially integrated state of the United States, educated in elite institutions, who had achieved a high economic status via his writing. His socio-economic class was quite within the range of American presidents of the 20th century.
The website provides a 100 page executive summary that can be downloaded free, as well as table of contents and selected figures from the report. The full report can be purchased in digital form.
Comment: Jerome Glenn provides a great service producing updates of this important report periodically. JAD
This year's report was the subject of an article by Jonathan Owen in The Independent (U.K.). The article begins:
An effort on the scale of the Apollo mission that sent men to the Moon is needed if humanity is to have a fighting chance of surviving the ravages of climate change. The stakes are high, as, without sustainable growth, "billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse".
This is the stark warning from the biggest single report to look at the future of the planet – obtained by The Independent on Sunday ahead of its official publication next month. Backed by a diverse range of leading organisations such as Unesco, the World Bank, the US army and the Rockefeller Foundation, the 2009 State of the Future report runs to 6,700 pages and draws on contributions from 2,700 experts around the globe. Its findings are described by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, as providing "invaluable insights into the future for the United Nations, its member states, and civil society".
Constitutional liberalism is about the limitation of power, illiberal democracy is about accumulation and use of power. Constitutional liberalism has meant a political system marked not only by free and fair elections, but also by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. Illiberal democracy is an elected regime routinely ignoring constitutional limits on their power and depriving their citizens of basic rights and freedoms.Zakaria in his 1997 article in Foreign Affairs wrote:
Illiberal democracy is a growth industry. Seven years ago only 22 percent of democratizing countries could have been so categorized; five years ago that figure had risen to 35 percent. n2 And to date few illiberal democracies have matured into liberal democracies; if anything, they are moving toward heightened illiberalism. Far from being a temporary or transitional stage, it appears that many countries are settling into a form of government that mixes a substantial degree of democracy with a substantial degree of illiberalism. Just as nations across the world have become comfortable with many variations of capitalism, they could well adopt and sustain varied forms of democracy. Western liberal democracy might prove to be not the final destination on the democratic road, but just one of many possible exits.Comment: It seems that Constitutional Liberalism is about liberty and personal freedom. I suspect that if one had to choose, personal freedom would be preferred by most people to participation in elections. Indeed, my neighbors seem not to come out to vote even though they enjoy the privalege, except in a few of the most heavily publicized elections. (I think the last primary local election got a six percent turnout in my precinct!)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
"Three years ago, the World Health Organization estimated that as many as one in four pharmaceutical drugs sold in the developing world were counterfeit." As part of the effort to reduce the traffic in fake drugs "an informal group of researchers and government officials spanning Africa, Asia and the United States who have teamed up with Interpol, the international police agency, to use cutting-edge technology in tracking fake drugs that claim to treat malaria."
One of the tools of this network is a mass spectrometer with an added ion gun "which emits a jet of helium gas and captures a minute amount of the material, instantly identifying its component parts." The device, created in the lab of Facundo Fernández at George Tech, can check the chemical composition of hundreds of pills a day.
Others in the network are using forensic science to identify the sources of the counterfeit products in the hope that police powers can be used to interrupt or at least diminish the flow of counterfeits.
In 2003, researchers at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel. They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America’s roadways.According to the article, not only did the agency fail to carry out the proposed study, it also refused to disseminate the evidence that government scientists had compiled suggesting the danger.
Comment: This is outrageous1 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is specifically chartered to develop and disseminate information that will enhance highway safety. I am not sure which is worse -- failing to do a study that no other agency could or would do that would appear likely to provide evidence to allow policies to enhance safety, or failing to disseminate the evidence that had been compiled and assessed by the Agency's scientists.
I do not believe that the Congress is so dominated by industrial interests that it would not as a whole support highway safety over the interests of the cell phone industry (which in any case would be little threatened by regulations on cell phone use while driving). The Bush administration has a reputation of failing to regulate in areas where industrial constituents of the Republican party oppose regulation.
Now Civil Society will disseminate the available information. Perhaps the Obama administration will reevaluate the need for such a study in light of the original proposal and any information that has subsequently come to light, and will take the appropriate steps. JAD
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Robert Bell, foreground, and Chris Volinsky, both of AT&T, are collaborating with other scientists to improve Netflix's personalized film ratings.Source: STEVE LOHR, The New York Times, July 18, 2009
(A) look at recent cases and new research suggests that open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators.......Comment: Too often people assume that a good idea is all that is necessary, but it seems that good implementation is usually the key, and good implementation usually involves someone working smart and working hard! JAD
The Netflix Prize is a stellar example of crowdsourcing. In October 2006, Netflix, the movie rental company, announced that it would pay $1 million to the contestant who could improve the movie recommendations made by Netflix’s internal software, Cinematch, by at least 10 percent.......
The contest will end next week because a contestant finally surpassed the 10 percent hurdle on June 26, and, according to the rules of the competition, rivals have 30 days from that date to try to beat the leader. The frontrunner is a seven-person team, and its members are statisticians, machine learning experts and computer engineers from the United States, Austria, Canada and Israel. It is led by statisticians at AT&T Research.
“The Miracle of Microfinance? Evidence from a Randomised Evaluation” by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Rachel Glennerster and Cynthia Kinnan, May 2009. “Expanding Microenterprise Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts in Manila” by Dean Karlan and Jonathan Zinman, July 2009.The article suggests that there is very little evidence from methodologically sound studies of the effectiveness of these programs. While there are lots of true believers, there are also skeptics as to the utility of the programs.
The two research projects suggest that the microfinance project which they studied did not reduct poverty, although one suggested that in the short term effect was to switch purchases into longer term, more durable materials and The Economist inferred that that might have a long term beneficial impact on poverty.
The Economist article states that
despite growing interest from private investors, 53% of the $11.7 billion that was committed to the microfinance industry in 2008 still came at below-market rates from aid agencies, multilateral banks and other donors.Of course, if microfinance does not reduce poverty, one should question the allocation of scarce donor funding to microfinance programs. On the other hand, it might be the case that the donor subsidies for loans to poor people are a reasonable approach to humanitarian aid since the loans tend to generate new forms of matching funds. I assume that there is a welfare improvement when people can borrow to make an immediate purchase, paying back the loan later.
The Economist has a touching faith that since microfinance programs trigger investment in microenterprises, they should have an eventual economic benefit. I wonder how much money is lost by incompetent entrepreneurs encouraged by the availability of microfinance to invest in businesses they are incompetent to run well.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
But we still have whole domains we can't talk about. One of the great dangers in the psychology of individual differences is self-censorship. For example, when I was a student, it was widely accepted that black self-esteem was much lower than white self-esteem, and that was a cause of differences in achievement between the twogroups. Now that's been completely overturned—there is virtually no racial difference in self-esteem. But people had enormous amounts of data [showing this] that they didn't publish because it did not fit the prevailing belief system. How much wasted effort was generated by the flawed self-esteem work as an explanation of the black-white IQ difference? Now a days, I'm sure there are people who are not publishing stuff on sex differences.Comment: I suspect that he is right in that we fail to have access to important scientific knowledge that its holders fail to publish because it does not fit the prevailing belief system (or that reviewers fail to recommend and journals fail to publish for the same reason). JAD
The struggles against world poverty are more challenging than ever, given the global financial crisis. At the London G-20 summit in April, leaders of the world's largest economies acknowledged that financial recovery could be sustained only if progress is made in alleviating world poverty. Thus, the path to stable worldwide recovery requires that the issues of economic growth, development, and poverty be seen as linked with the key drivers of food, water, and health, just as climate change is now linked to the key drivers of energy and environment........Comment: This is an important editorial from a man who has served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Undersecretary of State.
The world still looks to the United States for leadership in such work because of our scientific capabilities and our wealth. We are already demonstrating commitment in a few of these areas, notably in the last administration's multibillion dollar program to relieve the impact of HIV/AIDS, principally in Africa. But overall, U.S. foreign assistance programs have been lagging in the food, water, and health areas, with funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) declining from $8 billion to $6 billion per year over recent decades. Moreover, the numerous federal agencies that provide science and technology–based international aid suffer from lack of coordination in their efforts. Another National Academies study that I co-chaired concluded that USAID, bolstered by new senior administrators with science and technology expertise, should play a major part in overseeing this much-needed coordination.
In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”Amazon apparently is learning to check for ownership of copyright before selling digital copies.
On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.
We are all learning that what we regard as our property may not be our property, simply because we have paid for it. Apparently Amazon not only removed the book from the memories of Kindles owned by its customers, but did so without prior warning, and in the process removed their bookmarks and notes made on the books, which should clearly have been the intellectual property of the authors of those notes. Indeed, I would guess that sufficient annotation, bookmarking and other inputs might constitute a transformation of the original document, and if so might give the Kindle owner/user intellectual property rights to the materials taken from their property by Amazon.
The article also says:
While the copyright on “1984” will not expire until 2044 in the United States, it has already expired in other countries, including Canada, Australia and Russia. Web sites in those countries offer digital copies of the book free to all comers.The controversy caught my attention in part because I have been involved in a discussion with copyright issues with respect for Zunia, the new portal for international development information which has replaced the Development Gateway "knowledge communities". This whole area of distribution of digital documents is hard to understand, and hard to get on top of.
- 13.3 years of HD-TV video
- 10 million yards of books on a shelf
- 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text
- 250 million mp3 songs
Thursday, July 16, 2009
(I)t now appears likely the UC system, in this current fiscal crisis, will be ordered by Sacramento to absorb yet another $800-plus million in additional cuts. Its 2009-10 core budget will be reduced by an estimated 20 percent. This will bring the amount of state investment in the University down to $2.4 billion - exactly where it was in real dollars a decade ago.I have degrees from three campuses of the University of California system and it is dear to my heart. (Fortunately I was never eligible for the prison system.) The idea that the state which brought us the movies, much of modern aviation and electronics, and the benefits of Silicon Valley spending more on prisons than on higher education is truly ugly, not to mention frightening, JAD
In the same time frame, by the way, funding for state prisons has more than doubled, from $5 to $11 billion. It’s been reported that, based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget soon will overtake that of the state’s universities and community colleges.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Graduate S&E enrollment reached 516,199 in 2007 . Of these students, 72% were enrolled full-time, 56% were men, and 71% were U.S. citizens or permanent residents.Thus there were about 145 thousand foreign graduate students in science and engineering in the United States that year. They help pay for the system, and they staff the laboratories of the graduate universities. Many of them stay when they achieve their degrees, and the external benefits of thousands of scientists and engineers are important to our economy.
The article describes research conducted by two behavioural researchers, Stephen Garcia at the University of Michigan and Avishalom Tor at the University of Haifa in Israel, in which they have demonstrated the likelihood that people put out less competitive effort the larger the group of people against which they are competing.
In their report on the matter in Psychological Science, Dr Garcia and Dr Tor dub their discovery the “n-effect” since “n” represents any numerical value in mathematics. If confirmed, it may mean not only that examination halls should be kept small— or, at least, the same size for all participants so that the playing field is level—but also that other competitive activities should be scaled down for best results.Comment: I suspect this is a result that it is worth pursuing. For example, in organizations it may be useful to divide competitive classes into relatively small comparison groups to stimulate high performance by the individuals. JAD
Well aware that he would face hostility in Congress, Adams nevertheless proclaimed in his first Annual Message a spectacular national program. He proposed that the Federal Government bring the sections together with a network of highways and canals, and that it develop and conserve the public domain, using funds from the sale of public lands. In 1828, he broke ground for the 185-mile C & 0 Canal.
Adams also urged the United States to take a lead in the development of the arts and sciences through the establishment of a national university, the financing of scientific expeditions, and the erection of an observatory. His critics declared such measures transcended constitutional limitations.
Friday, July 10, 2009
"it is better to remember simplified pictures than to forget accurate figures"The quotation comes from a nice posting on the Data Designed for Decisions conference (my friend Julianne told me about it).
I would add a corollary:
Unless of course the simplified figures are wrong!
- I have been using Babelfish for machine translation, and was reminded that our funding helped the Pan American Health Organization develop a system for computer aided translation. That system was actually used to increase the efficiency of PAHO translators who faced time pressure to produce great translations of many reports. The work was important for the whole field.
- There was a recent television program exploring the use of diamonds in modern technology which mentioned the potential of diamonds for computer chips -- faster, smaller, etc. Some of the trailblazing work in that field was done in Russia prior to the fall of Communism, and we brought the researchers responsible for that work to an American lab to transfer the knowledge gained and begin collaborative work after the fall of Communism.
- We funded a Brazilian researcher studying biological Nitrogen fixation. Under our funding she discovered a microorganism that lives within the sugar cane plant and fixes Nitrogen from the air, supplying it directly to the plant. Thus the expensive purchase of Nitrogen fertilizer could be avoided. I have been told that as much as one-third of the sugar cane grown in Brazil was from cultivars infected with this organism -- and that is a lot of sugar cane!
- We funded a network of researchers in developing countries studying the causes of pneumonias in children. The results of that work were not only published in a special issue of a globally important journal, but together with other research results enabled the World Health Organization to revise its protocols for treatment of the disease. Respiratory disease is not only a serious cause of morbidity but of mortality, and of course the treatment of these diseases costs a huge amount globally.
It is a sobering time for the world’s most fragile countries—virulent economic crisis, countless natural disasters, and government collapse.
Using 12 indicators of state cohesion and performance, the Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, and Foreign Policy magazine compiled through a close examination of more than 30,000 publicly available sources, ranking 177 states in order from most to least at risk of failure. The 60 most vulnerable states are listed in the rankings. This is the fifth annual issue of the report on the Index of Failed States.
A session at the World Conference on Higher Education discussed cyber universities, the challenge of equal access and the growing carbon footprint of information and communication technologies. This UNESCO webpage provides a summary of that discussion, including comments from leaders from the Virtual University of the French-speaking world, Canada’s open Athabasca University, Shanghai Television University and the University of South Africa (UNISA), Institute for Open and Distance Learning. The leaders noted the radical changes that had already been made in their institutions, lending credibility to the hypothesis that schools would have to adopt the technology or fail to attract students.
It seems to me that there are lessons from the development of the book that might also inform our analysis of the future educational implications of the Information Revolution. Surely schools today depend on books, at least in societies rich enough to afford books. However, books and printing have transformed society requiring that everyone learn to read and write, and requiring more and more education of the general population.
In our future wired society, there will be requirements for forms of information literacy that go far beyond what we recognize today. I suspect that as books and printing lead to an expansion of the number of years of schooling per student, so too the wired society will demand still further learning opportunities, and indeed something approaching lifelong learning.
The Information Revolution has already started to transform our perceptions of valued skills and abilities as computers took over everything from drafting to formating documents to spell and grammar checking. Remember the classes to train people in engineering drawing and secretarial schools? As technology takes over added responsibilities the roles of humans will change, and their education will change accordingly.
The participants in the WCHE session realized that the demands students are making on institutions of higher education are changing, but I am suggesting that society is changing and with the changes in society the educational system will have to adjust; the changing technological opportunities for teach and the changing student demands on universities are only two of the many forces driving educational change in response to the Information Revolution.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Description: "We swim in a sea of information, but filter out most of what we see or hear. New analysis of data from dozens of studies sheds new light on how we choose what we do and do not hear. The study found that while people tend to avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe, certain factors can cause them to seek out, or at least consider, other points of view."Comment: I hope that I use much better decision making approaches in important decisions than in trivial ones, Thus I am more likely to seek out various opinions and take into account dissonant information if I am buying a house than buying a snack.
I have taught risk analysis (to adult university students) and I believe that it is quite possible to train people to take information from people who oppose their partially formed views as well as people who agree with those views,
I also hope that we are putting the people who are best at looking at all sides of a question into jobs where the most important decisions are being made. JAD
Research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Trials studied randomized clinical trials (RCT) in some Chinese medical journals during 1994 to 2005. The study concluded that the design of a remarkable 93 percent of 2235 so-called RCTs published in that period had flawed study designs.
Less than seven percent of self-described RCTs published in some Chinese medical journals meet criteria for authentic randomisation. The researchers looked at both conventional and traditional Chinese medicine trials, but there was no difference between these in terms of study authenticity rates. However, all RCTs of pre-market drug clinical trial were authentic, and RCTs conducted at hospitals affiliated with medical universities were more likely to be authentic than trials conducted at lower tier level three and level two hospitals. More than half of the trials at university-affiliated hospitals met RCT criteria, which means lower-tier hospital research is the least rigorous in design terms.Comments:
- Good research design is not easy,
- Serious professional review of methods is important if one seeks really credible results.
- Poor methodology means results are untrustworthy, not that they are wrong.
- I tend to assume that university hospitals tend to be the top not only in technical breadth and ability in the delivery of health services, but also in the quality of research.
- It may well be that pre-market clinical trials and clinical trials done in teaching hospitals inform decisions that affect more people or potentially affect them more gravely.
The article is from the Forbes issue on Artificial Intelligence.
And free software to implement the Baysian Network Editor and Too Kit.that can be used to implement some of the approaches Pearl described.
"La gente está dejando de creer en los medios de comunicación. Un estudio publicado en enero de este año por la universidad del Sagrado Corazón de los Estados Unidos y reseñado por el instituto Poynter reveló que apenas el 19.6% de los norteamericanos cree en la totalidad o la mayoría de los reportes noticiosos, casi un 8% menos que hace cinco años. ¿Por qué la desconfianza de los norteamericanos? ¿Qué tiene esto que ver con la libertad de expresión?
"El 87.6% de las 800 personas encuestadas en los Estados Unidos dijo sentir que los medios de comunicación trataban de influir en la opinión pública, no los veían como “imparciales”; pero más delicado aún, el 86% opinó que los medios buscaban influir en las políticas públicas a través de las noticias que publicaban."
Comment: I suppose I am in the one-fifth of Americans who believes most of the reported news as I am in the seven-eights of the population who believe the media are not always impartial and sometimes seek to influence policy with their reporting.
I can do somewhat better by comparing news from various sources, including foreign sources and the blogosphere and twittersphere.
Still, I suppose the situation is getting better in that I think the media in the 19th century were even worse, and I suppose people have lots of practice from their exposure to commercials in picking and choosing what data to treat with how much credance. JAD
The concern may be relevant to the candidacy of Farouk Hosny, long time Minister of Culture of Egypt, for the post of Director General of UNESCO. Do the actions of his Ministry over more than two decades indicate that Hosny would be a strong defender of modern cultural diversity and of the diverse aspects of cultural heritage?
Community colleges could become a tool to help economic recovery in the United States and a model for developing countries debating how to improve their education systemsThe article also states:
There are almost 1,200 community colleges among the 4,100 public and private higher-education institutions in the United States, serving almost 12 million students.......Comment: Community colleges are a great resource to students and their families, communities and the nation, providing affordable and accessible opportunities and graduates to fill many key roles in the society. There have been efforts for many years to spread the community college model to developing nations, and I think those efforts should continue. They are not a complete solution to educational needs, but they can form an important, cost effective component of national and regional systems of higher educaiton.
That message resonated in a report released Tuesday by the World Bank, which said countries that aspire to build “world-class universities” to drive development and compete in global rankings of the best international universities may be “chasing a myth.”
Of course I am a product of the Californian higher education system of the 1950s and 60s in which junior colleges, state colleges, the University of California system and a variety of private institutions were combined successfully. JAD
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
The authors of the report (Philip G. Altbach Liz Reisberg and Laura E. Rumbley) are from the Center for International Higher Education, Boston College. The report was prepared as an input to the World Conference on Higher Education 2009, and published by UNESCO.
I have been following the process of the election of a new Director General of UNESCO. (The nominations are now in, the Executive Board of UNESCO is expected to endorse a candidate in September, and the election will take place during the General Conference meeting in October.) I have been posting on the process in:
- UNESCO's Friends group on LinkedIn, of which I am a manager,
- The Americans for UNESCO Twitter site, which I manage
In part that feeling is based on an informal agreement among nations that the top offices of the intergovernmental organizations should be "fairly" distributed among nations. There is, in my mind, merit to that perception.
Over its history, the top job in UNESCO has always gone to men (which is especially odd since women play so important a role in education and culture, and are playing a more and more important role in science, libraries, and communications). Most of the Directors General have come from wealthy nations, indeed disproportionately from Europe and the United States. If one assumes that each Director General leaves an imprint on the organization, then it makes sense that there should be balance among the Directors General, with women as well as men chosen and people from developing as well as developed nations.
It is estimated that there are 6.67 billion people in the world. It would be fatuous to think that only one of them is "best qualified" to lead UNESCO or that there would be any possibility of identifying that "best qualified" candidate. Still, given the potential of UNESCO to make a real difference in the world's efforts to promote peace, education, science, culture and communications, and the real difference that the quality of the Director General can have in realizing that potential, it is important that a strong and capable person be elected to the post of Director General. That has not always happened, and the current candidates do not seem measure up to past Directors General such as Julian Huxley (a very talented scientist and scientific administrator) and Luther Evans (who had been Librarian of Congress, managing the world's largest and arguably most important library).
Since the Director General is elected by a vote of the representatives of the member states of UNESCO, and since developing nations have agreed to vote as a block, they have the right under UNESCO's Constitution to choose the next Director General. That right carries with it a responsibility. In the first case, the member nations have the responsibility to nominate candidates who would do a good job, and in the second, to elect the best candidate. If the nations have failed to nominate a really great candidate from a developing nation, then they would seem to have the duty to elect one from a developed nation (or to call for a new set of nominees--UNESCO has been lead by an acting Director General in the past).
There are four women among the nine people who have been nominated for the post. Two of the nominees are from North Africa, two from sub-Saharan Africa, one from South America, and four from Europe. I have met none of them, but it seems clear that they are not all comparably likely to do a good job if elected Director General. I sincerely hope that the representatives of the member states do their duty and elect the best qualified candidate. I fear, however, that that objective may be lost in the political machinations that will surely take place over the next few months.
If there is a lesson from Robert McNamara's life it is the limits of rationality and the inadequacy of our understanding. Vietnam was terrible, with an even worse loss of life to the Vietnamese that to the Americans, but it seems to me that the most important objective in the 1960s was to avoid a third world war or a war fought with weapons of mass destruction. That objective was accomplished in the 1960s and for the whole of the Cold War. History changes as historians discover more facts and choose different facts to emphasize in their histories. Perhaps at some future date McNamara's service as Secretary of Defense will be reinterpreted. Indeed, perhaps his service as President of the World Bank will be given more importance.
McNamara is reported to have had enormous energy and an unequalled ability to obtain, organize and recall information, but in retrospect said that he had not understood Asia nor Vietnam adequately. It has been said that he failed to obtain and listen to dissenting views adequately. Perhaps one of his failings was in in the choice of the information to which to attend.
Still, it seems like a lot of lesser men criticizing a very competant man for what in retrospect appear to have been failings in his policy.