Friday, October 24, 2014

Suffer the little children

Saw this on Gawker. Seems appropriate today.

Another fake academic conference in Hawaii

And today's email brings an extended call for papers from another fake academic conference in Hawaii, the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, not to be confused with the Hawaiian fake academic conference, Hawaii University International Conferences (HUIC) on Education and STEM, which emailed me a few days ago. This one lists as topic areas:
·         American Studies
·         Archeology
·         Architecture
·         Art
·         Art History
·         Art Management
·         Dance
·         English
·         Ethnic Studies
·         Film
·         Folklore
·         Geography
·         Graphic Design
·         History
·         Landscape Architecture
·         Languages
·         Literature
·         Linguistics
·         Music
·         Performing Arts
·         Philosophy
·         Postcolonial Identities
·         Product Design
·         Religion
·         Second Language Studies
·         Speech/Communication
·         Theatre
·         Visual Arts
·         Cross-disciplinary areas of Arts and Humanities
·         Other Areas of Arts and Humanities

"Product design?" Whatever. It promises to be a heckuva conference, with value- added cross -fertilizing syncretic multi-disciplinary surfing, snorkling, conferring.

Hooray, we're all poor

Paging Thomas Piketty:
The new, harsh reality is that the bottom 90 percent of households are poorer today than they were in 1987.
This is actually a much more dramatic statement than it sounds. While the Federal Reserve has already told us that the median households is worth less now than it was in 1989 -- that's the household right in the middle -- it turns out that everybody but the richest 10 percent of Americans are worst off. That includes the poor, the entire middle class, and even what we would consider much of the upper class.

 But these days of shared prosperity have come to an end, gradually and then suddenly. It started in the 1980s when the top 1 percent awoke from their long postwar slumber, thanks to the combination of lower taxes, financial deregulation, and new technology. It wasn't a total disaster for the bottom 90 percent. Even as most Americans saved much less, accumulating far less wealth, stock markets and housing prices continued to rise. Until they didn't, coming crash down in 2007 and 2008.
The problem was that middle class doesn't own that much in stocks, but went into debt to buy lots of housing. So the housing crash turned their biggest financial asset into an albatross, wiping out their equity but not their debt. And the housing recovery hasn't done much to fix this, since it's struggled to move beyond the "nascent" stage.
Take a look at Matt O'Brien's charts and read his whole piece at the Washington Post.

Researchers reprogram skin cells into neurons

This could be a game-changer:
Writing in the journal Neuron, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL), MO, report how they used a particular combination of microRNAs and transcription factors to reprogram the skin cells into a particular type of brain cell known as medium spiny neurons.
The medium spiny neurons they produced - which survived for at least 6 months after injection into the brains of mice - are important for controlling movement and are the main type affected in Huntington's disease.
 Because they used adult human skin cells in the study - and not mouse cells or human cells at an earlier stage of development - the team believes the work shows the potential for using patients' own cells in regenerative medicine. This is important because therapies can use readily available cells and also avoid the problem of immune rejection.
For their study, Dr. Yoo and colleagues cultured the skin cells in an environment that mimics that of brain cells. In previous work, they had already discovered that exposing skin cells to two small RNA molecules called miR-9 and miR-124 can turn them into different types of brain cell.
 The team also showed that when the skin cells are exposed to the transcription factors alone, without the small RNA molecules, the skin cells do not convert successfully.
The team also carried out extensive tests to show the new brain cells had the hallmarks of native medium spiny neurons. They expressed the right genes for their specific type and did not express genes for other types of neurons.
And, when transplanted into the brains of mice, the converted cells looked like native medium spiny neurons and behaved like them.
The team is now using skin cells from patients with Huntington's disease and converting them into medium spiny neurons using their new approach. They also plan to inject the cells into mice with the disease.
Now the wait begins to see whether this result is real.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Predatory lenders bribe lawmakers to pass laws hiking interest rates

The New York Times has a story that will make you want to throw up a little: Citibank and other predatory lenders  have been bribing state legislatures to pass laws increasing the interest rates and fees they can impose on people, including many serving in the military, with low credit scores.
Under the previous law, lenders could charge 30 percent interest on loans up to $1,000 and 18 percent on a remaining balance of $6,500. The new law allows for rates of up to 30 percent on the first $4,000 of a loan and 24 percent on the next $4,000.
North Carolina lawmakers, meanwhile, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the consumer finance industry. Speaker Thom Tillis, who supported the bill in the House, was one of the biggest beneficiaries. Mr. Tillis, a Republican who is running for United States Senate, has received more money from the American Financial Services Association than any other Senate candidate, according to
Mr. Tillis’s campaign manager, Jordan Shaw, said the donations did not sway his voting record. “He wanted to make sure that people still have these loans as an option,” Mr. Shaw said.
How about paying people a living wage? Is some of the pressure against raising wages coming from the banks which literally make out like bandits charging obscene rates on their impoverished customers?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another real email from a fake academic conference

Undoubtedly because I am such a leading, nay, 'on the platform ', researcher in Education or STEM fields, I received a 'call for papers' from the organizers of this conference.
The 2015 Hawaii University International Conferences (HUIC) on Education and STEM welcomes and invites papers (in English only) from all areas of Education, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and related fields. The conference will be held from June 13 to 15 (Saturday through Monday) at the Ala Moana Hotel, in Honolulu Hawaii.

The conference main objective is to provide a platform for researchers, engineers, and academicians as well as industrial professionals from all over the world to present their research results and development in their related fields.
'What fields?', you may ask.  And the organizers answer:

  • Academic Advising and Counseling
  • Art Education
  • Adult Education
  • Business Education
  • Counselor Education
  • Curriculum, Research and Development
  • Distance Education
  • Early Childhood Education/Elementary Education
  • Human Resource Development
  • Indigenous Education
  • Kinesiology & Leisure Science
  • Language Education
  • Music Education
  • Reading Education
  • Rural Education
  • Science Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Social Studies Education
  • Special Education
  • Student Affairs
  • Educational Administration
  • Educational Foundations
  • Educational Measurement and Evaluation
  • Educational Psychology
  • Education Technology
  • Education Policy and Leadership
  • Health Education
  • Higher Education
  • Teacher Education
  • Second Language Studies
  • Sociology
  • Social Science
  • Speech/Communication and Translation
  • Theatre
  • Urban and Regional Planning
  • Visual Arts
  • Women's Studies
  • Inter-disciplinary and other areas of Education

Science Topics & Focus Areas
Original contributions on topics covered under broad areas but not limited to:
  • Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology
  • Animal Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Biological Engineering
  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Environmental Science
  • Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Forensic Sciences
  • General Biology
  • Health Science
  • Human and Health Services
  • Information and Computer Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Medical Technology
  • Microbiology
  • Natural Resources and Environmental
  • Management
  • Natural Science
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • The Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology
  • Inter-disciplinary Areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Technology and Engineering Topics & Focus Areas
Original contributions on topics covered under broad areas but not limited to:
  • Low Power VLSI Design
  • 3 D Integrated Circuit Design
  • Current Trends in Semiconductor Devices
  • Programming and Logic Devices
  • Wireless Communications
  • Embedded Technology
  • Biomedical Engineering and Technology
  • Mechatronics/MEMS/NEMS/Robotics/Automation
  • Renewable and Non-renewable Conventional Energy Sources
  • Bioinformatics
  • Material science and Engineering
  • Nanotechnology
  • Reliability Engineering
  • Optimization Technologies
  • Non-traditional Manufacturing Process
  • Agile, Lean and Jet Manufacturing
  • Industrial Engineering and Management
  • Education Technology
  • Entrepreneurship Development
  • Partnership Between Academia and the Corporate World

Math Topics & Focus Areas

Original contributions on topics covered under broad areas but not limited to:
  • Algebra
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Calculus
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Foundations of Mathematics
  • Financial Mathematics
  • Finite Mathematics
  • Fractals
  • Geometry
  • History of Mathematics
  • Logic
  • Mathematics Education
  • Number Theory
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Philosophy of Mathematics
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Probability
  • Psychology of Teaching and Learning Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Topology
  • Inter-disciplinary Areas of Mathematics
  • Other Area Related to Mathematics Research and Practices
It looks to be a hellava conference, focused like a laser beam on the beach and padding cv's.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin riots

Rioting while white in New Hampshire:
Keene, New Hampshire’s 24th Annual Pumpkin festival burst into a riot Saturday night, requiring riot cops, tear gas, pepper spray, and even a response from the governor’s office. The festival has a history of violence, with over 140 arrests last year, and the city has been unable to figure out a way to contain the chaos.
There must be some pathology deep within white culture that generates this annual white-on-white violence, this pumpkin fueled mayhem, this thuggish disrespect for the Halloween traditions that true Americans hold sacred.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Contagious incompetence

I'm filing this under: "I've had it up to here with this bullshit":

"It may make sense for us to have one person ... so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process just to make sure we are crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's," Obama said Thursday of the possibility of naming an "Ebola czar."
Dumb question: Wouldn't it make sense to have someone overseeing the Ebola effort to actually know what the crossed T's and dotted I's spell? Like someone in medicine?Like, perhaps a surgeon general?
Klain is currently the president and general counsel of the investment firm Revolution. He previously served as the chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and led former Vice President Al Gore's Florida recount effort.
So Obama is turning to a proven incompetent hack, someone who ran Gore's 2000 campaign into the ground, and didn't exactly cover himself in glory in his subsequent political hackery roles, someone with absolutely no background in infectious disease, public health or medicine, but who sucks on the teat of the financial industry with no particular notable success.

I've been trying to figure out why this pisses me off so much since it is just one more tired instance of the familiar pattern of governance in the waning years of the US empire: proven failures recycling through high level appointments, being promoted upward each time they fail. But this one makes my gorge rise. Maybe it's because Ebola is, you know, real, and the terrorized response we are seeing in the media can lead to real harm. And maybe  the entrenchment of incompetence is the infectious disease we should all be worrying about.