Governor David Paterson: EPIC FAIL

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — College students in New York don’t just worry about tests, graduation and spring break any more. They can’t afford to.

Besides a $600 tuition increase at public colleges, hundreds of thousands of students who get money through the Tuition Assistance Program could be hurt by Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to cut the grants and enforce stricter requirements to be eligible for help. Paterson is trying to ease some of the burden with a plan to help students get loans with an interest rate significantly below private loans.

“Given the current credit squeeze, the governor’s proposal will help students,” said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Unfortunately, with this governor, what one hand giveth the other taketh away. The governor’s making it easier for students to get loans while proposing to cut their financial aid, which makes no sense.”

But good government groups argue the $47 million cuts to TAP grants would reduce higher education access, because it would require students to take more credits — 15 instead of nine. That means students who work, support dependents, or need time with their children would have to spend more time in school instead.

That could force some students to decide between dropping out, keeping their job and caring for family members. According to the Division of the Budget, the credit requirement could help some students by forcing them to finish school before their TAP grants run out.

With tuition increases, tuition at State University of New York schools is $4,970 per semester while City University of New York campuses cost $4,600 per semester. It costs a New Yorker about $15,000 a year, including living expenses and fees, to attend a state school.

Roberto LoBianco, 20, pays his tuition at Queensborough Community College, a CUNY school, through TAP. He plans to transfer to Hunter College in the next year, and to get a job to offset the tuition increase and help his family with bills.

“I’m probably going to have to start helping with some of the expenses,” LoBianco said. “Right now my Mom isn’t getting as many hours at work as she used to.”

But if Paterson’s plan to raise the credit requirement goes into effect, he’ll have to take an additional class to maintain his aid, and his course load would make it impossible to work.

Paterson also proposes increasing the minimum grade point average for eligibility from 1.1 to 1.8 and requiring that public pensions be counted as income when calculating a student’s economic eligibility. Private pensions are already counted.

The New York Higher Education Loan Program, known as NYHELPS, might help students like LoBianco secure loans with an interest rate lower than those currently available in the private loan market — about 8 percent. That’s as much as 10 percent less than current rates for conventional private bank loans.

The partnership between the state, private lenders and schools would help about 45,000 New York state residents who are enrolled in a public or private school in the state. They could get as much as $10,000 a year through the program if they’re already getting all state and federal student aid they’re entitled to.

“This new student loan program will help ensure New Yorkers have access to the funds they need to finance their college educations,” said Matt Anderson, a spokesman with the Division of the Budget. “Even in times of fiscal difficulty, we need to make smart investments in New York’s future.”

To get the loans, students would have to be enrolled at least half time, and have an eligible co-signer in New York.

For students attending two-year colleges, the total amount that may be borrowed is $20,000. Four-year undergraduate students may borrow a total of $50,000, and a total of up to $70,000 may be borrowed for undergraduate and graduate study.

In 2009-10, the State of New York Mortgage Agency would issue $350 million in tax-free bonds to finance the new fixed rate loans. NYHELPS would also offer a variable rate option, and would set aside $50 million to address student defaults, so their interest rates remain low.

The burden of paying for college has increased for all families, but substantially more for low- and middle-income families, according to a report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.

Nationally, families in the lowest-income group — the bottom 20 percent of the population — pay 55 percent of their income to attend public four-year colleges and universities, even after accounting for all student financial aid, according to the report. In 2000 that number was 39 percent.

The wealthiest families in the top 20 percent of the population pay 9 percent of their income — up from 7 percent in 2000 — toward higher education.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

The following essay was written by Barack Obama for the Washington Times:

On the day of the first inauguration to take place in this city, a small band of citizens gathered to watch Thomas Jefferson assume office. Our young and fragile democracy had barely finished a long and contentious election that tested our founding ideals, and there were those who feared our union might not endure.

It was a perilous moment. But Jefferson announced that while we may differ in opinion, we all share the same principles. “Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind,” he said, urging those assembled to begin anew the work of building a nation.

In the more than two centuries since, inaugurations have taken place during times of war and peace, depression and prosperity. Beneath the unfinished dome of the Capitol, a young lawyer from Illinois swore an oath to defend the Constitution a divided nation threatened to tear apart. In an era of unprecedented crisis, an optimistic New Yorker refused to allow us to succumb to fear. In a time of great change, a young man from Massachusetts convinced us to think anew with regard to serving our fellow man.

At each and every moment, the American people have joined with one heart and one mind – not just to commemorate a new president, but to celebrate those common ideals, share our hopes for a brighter future and resolve to advance our bold experiment.

Tomorrow, we’ll gather at a new time of great challenge for the American people. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in turmoil. We have much work to do toward restoring prosperity and renewing the promise of this nation.

And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our Founders displayed. What is also required is that we break free from rigid ideology and small thinking, and together grab hold of this opportunity to bridge partisan divides and deliver change for the American people.

The state of our union and challenges of a new century demand that we move beyond the old debates and stale arguments. We must focus today not on the dogmas of left and right, but on practical answers to the difficult problems of our times.

The impetus for that change will come from the American people, where the ultimate power in our democracy lies.

That is why the events of this week are not simply about the inauguration of another American president – they are a celebration of our democracy. We have made this inauguration the most open and accessible in our history, with the sole purpose of involving more citizens than ever before. And as we gather on a mall, in our neighborhoods and in our homes to begin our new journey together, we remember that our greatest strength has always been found in one another.

For the first time ever, we’re opening up the entire length of our National Mall for an inauguration. We’ve invited ordinary citizens from across the country, welcomed local schoolchildren and their families to the parade, and worked with local organizations to distribute free inaugural ball tickets to D.C. residents and military families. And we’ll broadcast and webcast the first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball so that all Americans can join us – wherever their neighborhood may be.

We’ve heeded Jefferson’s words by involving Democrats, Republicans and independents in all aspects of this inauguration. Tonight, we will hold a series of dinners to honor leaders whose lifetime of public service has been enhanced by a dedication to bipartisan achievement, including my former opponent, Sen. John McCain.

We will couple the spirit of this inauguration with the celebration of the life of a preacher who once stood and shared his dream for America on the very mall where we’ll gather tomorrow. Martin Luther King lived his life as a servant to others, and today, ordinary citizens all across the country honor that legacy through the more than 10,000 service projects they’ve created on USAservice.org. And I’m asking the American people to answer the call and turn today’s efforts into an ongoing commitment to enrich the lives of Americans in their communities, their cities and their country.

After all, it’s that commitment to one another that’s always led us forward as a people. Because from those first citizens to the millions technology will connect this week, through times of great challenge and great change, we have remembered that fundamental American truth – that what unites us is always more powerful than what divides us.

That is the spirit that has always sustained us. That is the principle that must drive us now. And I am confident that if we come together and summon that great American spirit once again, we will meet the challenges of our time and write the next great chapter in our American story.

Moore’s Law

Internet Growth Follows Moore’s Law Too

(PhysOrg.com) — Originally, Moore’s Law described the number of transistors that can fit on an integrated circuit, which doubles approximately every 18 months. Now, a team of researchers from China has discovered that Moore’s Law can also describe the growth of the Internet. In a recent study, the researchers have predicted that the Internet will double in size every 5.32 years.

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Thought:  If technology expands exponentially, how does the growth of the internet relate to the change in the way in which it is viewed?  Especially when there is exponential growth in exponential growth?

SexyArchaeology.org

Boy,I’ve been busy.

Between determining my dissertation project, working on an analysis paper for last term and an essay and presentation for my archaeology unit I’ve barely had a minute to relax.  So what have I decided to do amidst all this other stuff?  Launch a website!

SexyArchaeology.org is off the ground.  The website is an idea I’ve had for a while now.  I’ve always been interested in going beyond my blog and producing a fully functioning site where archaeologists around the globe can interact.  Movie enthusiasts have them, so do music fans, but not archaeologists!  Archaeology is constantly in the public eye, and thanks to film and television, it’s been portrayed as an exciting and interesting field.  My thought was, why not seize upon this?  Two things I wanted to have… first a catchy name.  Done.  Second, an eye popping design.  Well, that’s not done yet, but hopefully it’s coming soon.

Over the next few weeks I plan to dig up (get it?) a handful of people who like the idea and want to help take it forward.

So if you haven’t already check out the site, become a member and contribute!


‘Hobbit’ fossils a new species, anthropologist says

Here’s another article based on information from this months report in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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An analysis of an 18,000-year-old fossil, described as the remains of a diminutive humanlike creature, proves that genuine cave-dwelling “hobbits” once flourished in Southeast Asia, according to a Long Island anthropologist who conducted X-ray studies of a skull.

Karen Baab, the Stony Brook University anthropologist, said her evidence is the most compelling to date bolstering the existence of a tiny early human ancestor who stood no more than 3 feet 2 inches tall.

They’re the closest cousins in the evolutionary tree of life resembling fictional hobbits of “Lord of the Rings” yore. She posits the creature represents a new species in humanity’s chain of evolution and is not a group of modern humans who were merely small.

“These hobbits – hominids – appear to have survived when modern humans were all over the Earth at this time,” Baab said, referring to the evolutionary dating that places the population on the planet at the same time as taller, stronger – and apparently smarter – modern humans.

Modern humans are known as Homo sapiens. The tiny ancestor, she said, has been dubbed Homo floresiensis, or “man of Flores,” after the Indonesian island where they were discovered in 2003.

Baab said the creature would have had a striking appearance, notable for its tiny head, a condition known medically as microcephaly.

Using 3-D modeling techniques, Baab and colleague Kieran McNulty of the University of Minnesota compared the cranial features to those of a simulated fossil human to determine how they differed.

McNulty calls advances in knowledge about Homo floresiensis some of the most exciting in the last 50 years.

But as alluring as the notion of real-life hobbits seems, it is also steeped in controversy and persists as one of the hottest debates in science. Scientists with countervailing opinions say Baab and her colleague have gotten it all wrong.

Robert Eckhardt, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State University, has conducted studies on the same fossil, which was found in a cave with six to 12 other tiny individuals. He has concluded the fossils are not only modern humans, they are very similar to a population of short Indonesians who live in that area now.

He says the tiny skull probably means the person was sick and was microcephalic for a medical reason. “We are working very hard to find out what it was,” Eckhardt said. “When you search the developmental genetic literature there are about 400 conditions that have microcephaly as a symptom,” he said, “so we are tracking down which one it is, and it won’t be easy.”

Baab is undaunted by naysayers of her hobbit theory. “The shape of the skull does not look like modern humans,” she said “It looks humanlike. Other people here at Stony Brook have looked at the arms and legs and say they don’t look like modern humans at all.”

Reason #3,141,592 Olivia Munn is the Perfect Woman

Television host Olivia Munn keeps the masses entertained five days a week on G4’s Attack of the Show.  Aside from being strikingly beautiful, Munn’s sense of humor and knowledge of all things geek make her a formidable foe for any CW sweetheart or primetime Panettiere.  Any girl that can dress up like Princess Leia and dance with a stormtrooper in the middle of the street deserves the recognition.

Here’s to Olivia Munn.