Saturday, April 14

Affirmative Action and its unforeseen circumstances

This was quite an interesting article. I quote

Students who receive large preferences and arrive on campus hoping to major in STEM fields (e.g., Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tend to migrate out of those fields at very high rates, or, if they remain in those fields, often either fail to graduate or graduate with very low GPAs. There is thus a strong tension between receiving a large admissions preference to a more elite school, and one’s ability to pursue a STEM career.

See how the people reacted when a story about Duke university cracked. The black student alliance went ballistic. Idiots. Check out the comments, fascinating debate…

Incidentally, on a separate note;

But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatal drowning rate of African-American children aged five-14 is three times that of white children.

A recent study sponsored by USA Swimming uncovered equally stark statistics.

Just under 70% of African-American children surveyed said they had no or low ability to swim. Low ability merely meant they were able to splash around in the shallow end. A further 12% said they could swim but had "taught themselves".

The study found 58% of Hispanic children had no or low swimming ability. For white children, the figure was only 42%.

"It is an epidemic that is almost going unnoticed," says Sue Anderson, director of programmes and services at USA Swimming.

Read the comments,, rather sad…

Friday, April 13

Now you see why people don’t trust politicians

Vince Cable made some interesting remarks last week. Not going to comment on the financial bits, but this was interesting.

Cable also revealed some of the frustration he feels at being in government. He said "arid" statisticians were thwarting ambitions for using the public balance sheet more aggressively to support industry. And he said that the decision to make the Office for National Statistics (ONS) independent, while taken out of an understandable wish to end political interference, had proved to be "a mistake" because the ONS now sat in a "God-like role" when it decided what did and did not score as public borrowing. He said it had "hemmed in" the government and prevented it from "doing all sorts of things" to boost industry.

Hmmm, now let me clear up the bias first. I consider myself to be a statistician, used to dabble around in statistics and still do, even went as far as to join the Royal Statistical Society. So I speak as one. And this winds me up somewhat terribly. So lets see what he is saying. This politician is saying that an independent body of statisticians charged with reporting data and facts does not allow you to ride rough shod over it and use MY taxes on your pet projects?

AWWWWW! lemme guess whose side I will take?

On the other hand, see what the politicians do to the statisticians…

The latest chapter in the complex saga begins in June 2010, a month after Greece signed its first loan agreement with the so-called troika — the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — when the former finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, appointed Mr. Georgiou to run the Hellenic Statistical Authority, known as Elstat.

A year earlier, Greece had been plunged into crisis when the newly elected Socialists announced that the 2009 budget deficit would be 12.4 percent of gross domestic product, twice the previous estimate. In April 2010, the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, revised Greece’s deficit upward again, to 13.6 percent, which forced Greece to seek a bailout. And in November 2010 Eurostat, working with Elstat and Mr. Georgiou, revised the deficit for 2009 upward a final time to 15.4 percent, leading the troika to demand additional budget cuts of $7.65 billion.

How that final calculation was conducted is now the subject of intense debate. Mr. Georgiou has said that it reflects Greece’s first-ever adherence to accepted European procedures. Yet some critics, including some who were on Elstat’s since-disbanded six-person board, said that Mr. Georgiou had actually applied standards that were stiffer than European norms, then tried to thwart them when they raised questions about the process.

Zoe Georganta, a professor of applied econometrics and productivity at Macedonia University of Economic and Social Sciences and Mr. Georgiou’s fiercest critic, said that the statistics czar, guided by two foreign experts hired by Eurostat, added the country’s money-losing public utilities to the government’s accounts, raising the budget deficits by three-quarters of a percentage point. This had been done before in other European countries, financial experts said, but usually to bring the deficit down, not pump it up.

Sighs..and this lack of transparency helps the stupid politicians no end.

In a telephone interview, Walter Radermacher, the director of Eurostat, acknowledged that it was not always clear how to classify public utilities, but said the larger issue was that Greece did not have accurate records. “The borderline of this general government is not something which is fixed forever, it changes more or less each year,” he said. “Our request is that all these companies are maintained in a statistics register. This register simply did not exist in Greece.”

We are in deep doo doo and the governments is frantically raising money through debt and taxes but it has no idea where the money is going. Its useless.

Thursday, April 12

The Race Card

This article about the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman made me blink. Several factors were quite startling.

"White Hispanic.” That’s how the New York Times, Reuters, and other media outlets have opted to describe George Zimmerman, a man who would simply be Hispanic if he hadn’t shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The term, rarely if ever used before this tragedy, is necessary in telling the Martin story in a more comfortable way.

What on earth is a white Hispanic??? Would it have been ok if a Brown Hispanic had killed Trayvon? Or how about a Black Hispanic?

Also, see these statistics

Martin’s tragic death is a statistical outlier. More whites are killed by blacks than blacks killed by whites (or “white Hispanics”). And far, far more blacks are killed by other blacks. Indeed, if we’re going to use the prism of race to analyze murder rates, then the real epidemic is that of black murderers. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute notes that recent data show black males age 14 to 24 commit homicides at a rate nearly ten times higher than that of young white and Latino males combined. Surely that’s worthy of some soul-searching, too.

And in another killing, a black 17 year old man, Shawn Tyson, killed two white British youths. In the same state. But that wasnt newsworthy in the USA. More importantly, Barak Obama said nothing about this killing. Was this because the white men being killed arent as important?

bah! ridiculous

Wednesday, April 11

Studying in school “unmanly”

This article was sad. When boys think that studying is unmanly, just what is supposed to be manly? Lets see, they want to have an extensive social circle and that will help them into medicine, law or engineering. I am gobsmacked, these kids are basically stupid, and the famed Swedish social model will struggle to cope with these idiots coming out.

I quote:

A new Swedish study shows that young male high school students, enrolled in the science programme, often downplay their schoolwork in order to culture the social aspect of their future career through making friends and networking.

“The young male science students think they need other resources than what they will be graded on in school to be able to compete on the labour market – and that includes culturing an extensive social circle,” said Ann-Sofie Nyström, doctor of sociology, at Stockholm University, to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
Many are hoping to take up high powered employment as lawyers, doctors and engineers, but they are counting on getting into these programmes through something other than high grades, namely the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (Högskoleprovet).
Failing to get into the Swedish programmes that way, however, many plan to study abroad.
The study shows that there is a very complex interplay between the teacher and the male and female students in the classroom, based on the way “you are supposed to be” if you are a girl or a boy.
It is okay for girls to be ambitious and take their schoolwork seriously, whereas for the boys, it is important to be seen as smart, well-read and knowledgeable, but with minimal effort seemingly required.
According to Nyström there was also a discrepancy between how the boys described their studying in a one-to-one conversation compared to in a group setting.
“I am pretty sure that they played down their studies. Because it is important to know a lot, be clever and well-informed. That gives high status in the group, but it has to seem effortless,” she said to DN.
According to the study, the boys see themselves as high achievers but rate the social aspects--being popular, getting invited to parties, and winning arguments--as the key to getting top jobs.
Those students that focus on their studies are seen as less intelligent and unlikely to get hired.
The girls that were interviewed found the boys’ attitude naïve. They also see themselves as high achievers but believe that studying is what is important to get anywhere in science.

Tuesday, April 10

1/3rd of Germans are part Hindu


Over a third of Germans believe in life after death, a new survey revealed on Saturday.

Around 36 percent of Germans said that they believed life continued beyond the grave when asked earlier in April.
Considerably fewer were those who said that they definitely did not believe that they would live on. For those 28 percent of Germans, death was the end.
A further 22 percent said they would live on through their offspring and in the memories of their friends and family according to the survey, which was published in the Bild daily newspaper on Saturday.
The number of Catholics who said they believed in life after death was 10 percent higher than among members of the Protestant church. At 49 percent, nearly half of those asked who were Catholic were gearing up for eternal life, opposed to just 39 percent of Protestants.
Ironically, fewer Germans who aligned themselves with the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said they believed in the afterlife than those who voted for the Green Party or the Pirate Party.
Around 35 percent of CDU voters said they believed in life after death, in comparison to 40 of Green Party voters and 39 percent of Pirate Party voters.

Given that belief in rebirth is one crucial element of Hinduism, and Jainism and Buddhism, it was amusing to read this. Go figure. See? I told you we are all Hindus Smile with tongue out

Monday, April 9

How volunteers are turning around families in distress

Home-Start UK's volunteers were meant to be a helping hand for families - now they feel more like firefighters. Channel 4 News meets some of the families struggling to cope in jobless Britain.

Britain's working families at 'tipping point'.

Politicians often talk about the financial pressure on Britain's families - they use phrases like the "squeezed middle" and the "working poor" to describe parents who hold down jobs but have been hit by economic uncertainty and rising prices, writes Victoria James.

But we have been told by charities working across Britain that money worries are just the start of people's problems. Until recently, national family support charity Home-Start UKtold us, a family might be able to weather a shock like unemployment. But with incomes stretched, people are now a lot less resilient. And when the financial problems can't be fixed, other ones pile up on top - depression, housing problems and ill-health. Families approach a "tipping point", barely able to keep things together, and on the brink of tumbling into crisis.

Home-Start UK allowed us access to their work in two areas that have seen a real rise in families at this tipping point, Birmingham and Bedford. As their family services specialist Julie Garbett told us, across the country they are seeing "more families, with many more needs". Once, Home-Start's volunteers were a helping hand for families - now, we heard, they feel more like firefighters.

• Home Start UK surveyed its more than 300 centres nationwide for Channel 4 News - of those responding, every one reported a significant increase in the number of families presenting for  support; 
• Birmingham has seen a 70 per cent rise in the number of families coming to Home-Start for help. Other parts of the country also saw a big rise in cases. In Newport in Wales there was a 30 per cent increase. And the figure is around 25 per cent in Doncaster and East Lindsay, in Lincolnshire.

Surge in referrals

We spent time with Anna, Russ and their twin boys, and heard how this once comfortably-off family was left struggling after health issues for the twins, tight finances and depression hit them in quick succession. In an already difficult situation, ongoing struggles for Russ to find and maintain work puts them under more pressure and ill-health means Anna's job at a local primary school is under threat.

The couple have begun selling off some of their possessions to keep afloat. And we met Rebecca, raising her two-year-old son Kieran and running a home on her partner's minimum-wage pay-packet. Her house has very little furniture - almost all of it is donated. Rebecca constantly juggles their budget - making a little go a long way - but when it came to Kieran's birthday this year, finding the money for a trip to a local play center is beyond what they have in the bank account.

As both families told us what life was like, they described a moment when they had gone from being able to juggle their daily demands, to that "tipping point" when they needed help to carry on. As the big problems overwhelm parents, simple daily tasks like getting the weekly shopping becomes too difficult. Once isolated parents don't know where to find the help the need to stop problems escalating. Its is at this point that charities like HomeStart have become a real lifeline, often the only support the family is receiving.

It was clear that concern to give their children the best future possible was a powerful motivator. And the latest research to emerge from the Millennium Cohort Study - a longitudinal research project tracking the lives of around 19,000 british children born in 2000-01 - offers some powerful insights into why these anxious parents are right.

The study looked at families struggling with multiple risk factors - things like worklessness, young parenthood, overcrowded housing and financial stress. Where two or more of those factors are present in a family, there are measurable threats to children's development. The researchers were surprised that the threshold for risk was so low. By their calculations, some 28 per cent of families in Britain are already over that threshold.

"These aren't extreme examples," said Research Director at the Institute of Education Dr Kirstine Hansen. "These are just very normal families. It's a very easy progression from zero risk factors to one, two or more."

Home-Start UK is bracing itself for a further surge in referrals. Already some of its centres are having to close their books or recruit more volunteers. It seems clear that for many more families, that tipping point is a lot closer than they think.

Dr Victoria James is executive producer of the Channel 4 News Film Fund.

French farmers challenge ban on GM maize

The entire debate about GM foods is now in fairly ridiculous territory. USA is merrily going about growing and using GM food. But here in Europe, its like its Frankenstein food. Which is also such a big reason why Europe is so much more expensive food wise and the poor end up spending more money on food. But then, never let it be said that the politicians can actually do something smart. They would prefer to ban GM food and say it benefits farmers. But here’s an interesting counterpoint. I quote

French maize growers and seed companies have appealed a ban on the cultivation of a strain of genetically modified maize to the country's highest court, saying it was unjustified and economically harmful for farmers.

France placed a temporary ban on the growth of Monsanto's MON810 GMO maize earlier this month after a previous moratorium was annulled by the country's top court in November on the basis that it was not sufficiently justified.

"This restriction does not rely on any serious scientific element, and maize producers, hit by [insects], sustain real financial damage," French growers group AGPM, French seed firms group UFS and the maize and sorghum producers federation FNPSMS said in a joint statement yesterday (29 March).

EU countries are able to restrict genetically modified crop cultivation under strict conditions asauthorisation licences are valid across the 27-country bloc, in accordance with the principles of the EU's single market.

Several member states have repeatedly invoked an EU safeguard clause enabling them to suspend the marketing or growth on their territory of GM crops that enjoy EU-wide authorisation, but the European Commission has never substantiated their applications and has always ordered the lifting of national bans.

France asked the European Commission in February to suspend authorization to sow the insect-resistant maize, the only GMO crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union.

The French government's request to the EU Commission was based on "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies, it said.

Global agribusiness company Monsanto said its GMO maize is perfectly safe.

French and European farmers have expressed concerns about the consequences of EU consumers' hostility to GMOs, saying it is likely to make them fall behind in the competitive world grain market.

The safety assessments performed by the European Food Safety Authority have come under criticism over the years. The EU executive has tried to introduce practical changes to the EFSA'sGMO-approval process. 

Of course it will fall behind, it is already behind and my taxes are currently going to keep these more efficient agricultural practises out and inefficiency in. Bah