Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Foreign Affairs: The Dollar and the Deficits

Foreign Affairs
November/December 2009
Volume 88, Number 6

The Dollar and the Deficits: How Washington Can Prevent the Next Crisis
by C. Fred Bergsten, Peterson Institute for International Economics

iie.com - Peterson Institute of International Ecomomics

Tufts.edu (pdf)

Frontline: The Card Game

The Credit Card Game
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

As credit card companies face rising public anger, new regulation from Washington and staggering new rates of default and bankruptcy, FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates the future of the massive consumer loan industry and its impact on a fragile national economy.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

In The Card Game, a follow-up to the Secret History of the Credit Card and a joint project with The New York Times airing Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), Bergman and the Times talk to industry insiders, lobbyists, politicians and consumer advocates as they square off over attempts to reform the way the industry has done business for decades.

"The card issuers could do anything they want," Robert McKinley, CEO of CardWeb.com, tells FRONTLINE of the industry's unchecked power over consumers. "They could change your interest rate. They could impose an annual fee. They could close your account." High interest rates along with more and more penalty fees drove up profits for the industry, Bergman finds, as the banks followed the lead of an aggressive upstart: Providian Bank. In an exclusive interview with FRONTLINE, former Providian CEO Shailesh Mehta tells Bergman how his company successfully targeted vulnerable low-income customers whom Providian called "the unbanked."

"They're lower-income people-bad credits, bankrupts, young credits, no credits," Mehta says. Providian also innovated by offering "free" credit cards that carried heavy hidden fees. "I used to use the word 'penalty pricing' or 'stealth pricing,'" Mehta tells FRONTLINE. "When people make the buying decision, they don't look at the penalty fees because they never believe they'll be late. They never believe they'll be over limit, right? ... Our business took off. ... We were making a billion dollars a year."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Harvest for the World

All babies together, everyone a seed
Half of us are satisfied, half of us in need
Love's bountiful in us, tarnished by our greed
Oh, When will there be a harvest for the world

A nation planted, so concerned with gain
As the seasons come and go, greater grows the pain
And far too many, feelin' the strain
Oh, When will there be a harvest for the world

Gather every man, gather every woman
Celebrate your lives, give thanks for your children
Gather everyone, gather all together
Overlooking none, hopin' life gets better for the world

Dress me up for battle, when all I want is peace
Those of us who pay the price, come home with the least
And nation after nation, turning into beast
Oh, When will there be a harvest for the world

Yeah, yeah
When will there be
I wanna know now now
When will there be a harvest for the world
A harvest for the world

Friday, September 25, 2009

Frontline: Obama's War

Obama's War
Tuesday, October 13, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

Frontline examines U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Tens of thousands of fresh American troops are now on the move in Afghanistan, led by a new commander and armed with a counterinsurgency plan that builds on the lessons of Iraq. But can U.S. forces succeed in a land long known as the "graveyard of empires"? And can the U.S. stop the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan, where U.S. troops are not allowed and the government is weak?

In FRONTLINE's season premiere, Obama's War, airing Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS, veteran correspondent Martin Smith travels across Afghanistan and Pakistan to see firsthand how the president's new strategy is taking shape, delivering vivid, on-the-ground reporting from this war's many fronts. Through interviews with top generals, diplomats and government officials, Smith also reports the internal debates over President Obama's grand attempt to combat terrorism at its roots.

The National Parks: America's Best Idea by Ken Burns

The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska.

Full Episodes Online September 28th - October 9th, 2009

Saturday, September 05, 2009

NPR: How Tiny Nanoparticles Are Transforming Technology

How Tiny Nanoparticles Are Transforming Technology
NPR Talk of the Nation Science Friday, September 4, 2009

From cancer treatments to self-cleaning windows and clear solar panels, nanotechnology is revolutionizing medicine, renewable energy and computing. Chemists Mark Ratner and James Gimzewski discuss what's special about nanoscale particles, and how they may shape the future.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Human Family Tree

The Human Family Tree

The Human Family Tree: Tracing the Human Journey Through Time

Airs on National Geographic Channel Sunday, August 30, 2009, 9pm

The Genographic Project is creating a picture of when and where ancient humans moved around the world by mapping the genetic markers in modern peoples. These great migrations eventually led the descendants of a small group of Africans to occupy even the farthest reaches of the earth.

200,000 – 150,000 years ago: The genetic journey of everyone alive today began with one woman — “Scientific Eve” — who lived in Africa and passed along her DNA through special cell structures called mitochondria, which only women pass down to further generations.

195,000 years ago: No one knows when modern humans first appeared, but the oldest skulls and bones of anatomically modern humans were found in Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley by paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey in 1967. Our ancient homo sapien ancestors remained in Africa for as long as three-quarters of our history as a species.

150,000 years ago: The first branch point on our human family tree is marked by the earliest major movement of humans: One group headed to southern Africa and the other to eastern Africa — and later, to the rest of the world.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Aomori Japan

Aomori is the capital city of Aomori Prefecture, the Northernmost state of Japan's Tohoku region North of Akita, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The city faces the Tsugaru Strait via Mutsu Bay to the North and the Hakkoda Mountains to the South. It has the biggest seaport in the prefecture. Aomori ”青森” literally means blue/green forest. Snow and cold weather characterize the winter climate in Aomori. The city and its surrounding area is renowned for its heavy snowfall, which is said to be the heaviest among all Japanese cities. In 1981 the city recorded a maximum snow cover of 196 cm. Aomori is especially famous for its apple orchards.

The Seikan Tunnel is a 53.85 km (33.46 mi) railway tunnel in Japan, with a 23.3-kilometre (14.5 mi) long portion under the seabed. It is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. It travels beneath the Tsugaru Strait — connecting Aomori Prefecture on the Japanese island of Honshū and the island of Hokkaidō. Before the Seikan Tunnel opened, Aomori's port connected the city via ferry to Hakodate in Hokkaidō, serving as the main entrance to Honshū for passengers and cargo to and from Hokkaidō.

Lake Towada, a beautiful caldera, lies on the boundary between Akita and Aomori Prefectures. The Oirase river drains Lake Towada; in the summer it is refreshing and in the autumn the leaves are breathtaking. It is the largest caldera lake in Honshū island, Japan. Located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, it lies 400 meters (1,800 ft) above sea level and is 327.0m (1,073 ft) depth,. With a surface area of 62.2 km², Towada is Japan's 12th largest lake, its bright blue color due to its depth.

The Oirase mountain stream is the only stream that has Lake Towada as its source, and the upper reach of the stream runs for 14 km. The area around the stream is famous for its splendid landscape and the beauty of the colorful autumn leaves.

Tsugaru ben is one of the local dialects spoken in Northern Japan. It is not well understood by most Japanese people outside of Aomori.

The Tsugaru clan was a Japanese samurai clan originating in northern Japan, Mutsu Province. A branch of the local Nanbu clan, the Tsugaru rose to power during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It was on the winning side of the Battle of Sekigahara, and entered the Edo period as a family of lords (daimyo) ruling the Hirosaki Domain. A second branch of the family was later established, which ruled the Kuroishi Domain. The Tsugaru survived as a daimyo family until the Meiji Restoration, when Tsugaru Tsuguakira of Hirosaki and Tsugaru Tsugumichi of Kuroishi were relieved of office. Their extended family then became part of the new nobility in the Meiji era.

Nebuta Festival

The Nebuta Festival is a weeklong Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori City, Japan. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country's nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in Northern region. The festival was designated an important part of the country's folk culture in 1980. "Nebuta" refers to the float of a brave warrior-figure which is carried through the center of the city, while dancers wearing a unique type of costume called haneto and dance chanting "Rassera".

Nebuta floats are made of a wood base, carefully covered with this same Japanese paper, beautifully clolred, and lighted from the inner part with hundreds of light bulbs. In early August the colorful floats are pulled through the streets accompanied by people dancing in native Nebuta costumes, playing tunes on flutes and drums. One of the reasons for the popularity of the Nebuta festival is the free participation of the public. The sounds of the Nebuta drums and bamboo flutes inspire people to prepare costumes and begin practice of the Nebuta dances. The festival is held every year from August 2 to August 7, where the float is carried through the city during the evening from August 2-6, and during the daytime on August 7. A fireworks show is held on the evening of the final day while the float is carried into the sea.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Atlas of the Human Journey

The National Geographic Society, IBM, geneticist Spencer Wells, and the Waitt Family Foundation have launched the Genographic Project, a five-year effort to understand the human journey—where we came from and how we got to where we live today. This unprecedented effort will map humanity's genetic journey through the ages.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Frontline: Breaking the Bank

FRONTLINE Breaking The Bank
Originally Broadcast June 16, 2009

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

In Breaking the Bank, FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk (Inside the Meltdown, Bush's War) draws on a rare combination of high-profile interviews with key players Ken Lewis and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain to reveal the story of two banks at the heart of the financial crisis, their rocky merger, and the government's new role in taking over -- some call it "nationalizing" -- the American banking system.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Incredible Human Journey

The Incredible Human Journey is a five-episode science documentary presented by Alice Roberts first broadcast on BBC television in May and June 2009 in the United Kingdom. It considers the evidence for and against the theory of early human migrations out of Africa and subsequently around the world.

Episode 1 "Out of Africa"
Episode 2 "Asia"
Episode 3 "Europe"
Episode 4 "Australia"
Episode 5 "Americas"

Monday, April 06, 2009

This I Believe: I am Still The Greatest

This I Believe: I Am Still The Greatest

All Things Considered: This I believe
Muhammad Ali: "I am still the greatest"
Read by his wife Lonnie Ali
April 6, 2009 

Poem by Cassius Clay

This is the legend of Cassius Clay, The most beautiful fighter in the world today. 
He talks a great deal and brags indeedy, Of a muscular punch that's incredibly speedy. 

The fistic world was dull and weary, with a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary. 
Then someone with colour, someone with dash, brought fight fans a-running with cash. 

Yes, I'm the man this poem is about, I'll be Champ of the World, There isn't a doubt. 

Here I predict Mr Liston's dismemberment, I'll hit him so hard, he'll wonder where October and November went. 

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

Black and Blue (review)
Time Magazine
April 14, 1952

Black and Blue
Louis Armstrong

Cold empty bed, springs hurt my head
Feels like ole ned, wished I was dead
What did I do, to be so black and blue?

Even the mouse, ran from my house
They laugh at you, and all that you do
What did I do, to be so black and blue

I'm white, inside, but, that dont help my case
Thats life, cant hide, what is in my face

How would it end, aint got a friend
My only sin, is in my skin
What did I do, to be so black and blue?

How would it end, I ain't got a friend
My only sin, is in my skin
What did I do, to be so black and blue?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Carbon Nanotech

Nanotechnology is the study of the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller, and involves developing materials or devices within that size.

Nanotechnology is extremely diverse, ranging from novel extensions of conventional device physics, to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, to developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale, even to speculation on whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale.

Buckyball Discoverer Explores Nanotech Frontier
NPR Talk of the Nation Science Friday, March 20, 2009

Carbon nanotubes are allotropes of carbon with a nanostructure that can have a length-to-diameter ratio of up to 28,000,000:1, which is significantly larger than any other material. These cylindrical carbon molecules have novel properties that make them potentially useful in many applications in nanotechnology, electronics, optics and other fields of materials science, as well as potential uses in architectural fields. They exhibit extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties, and are efficient conductors of heat.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Frontline: Inside the Meltdown

Frontline: Inside The Meltdown
PBS.org, Original Broadcast Feb 17, 2009

"FRONTLINE investigates the causes of the worst economic crisis in 70 years and how the government responded. The film chronicles the inside stories of the Bear Stearns deal, Lehman Brothers’ collapse, the propping up of insurance giant AIG, and the $700 billion bailout. Inside the Meltdown examines what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke didn’t see, couldn’t stop and haven’t been able to fix.."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Looking for Lincoln

Looking For Lincoln

Talk of the Nation, February 11, 2009
Scholar Reappraises President Lincoln

Looking for Lincoln, PBS
January 12, 2009

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s quest to piece together Lincoln’s complex life takes him from Illinois to Gettysburg to Washington, D.C., and face-to-face with people who live with Lincoln every day – relic hunters, re-enactors, and others for whom the study of Lincoln is a passion. Among those weighing in: Pulitzer Prize winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner; presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and Lincoln scholars including Harold Holzer, vice chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; Harvard University’s president Drew Faust and history professor David Hebert Donald; Yale University history professor David Blight; and Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Post-American World

Amazon.com Review
Book Description

"This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." So begins Fareed Zakaria's important new work on the era we are now entering. Following on the success of his best-selling The Future of Freedom, Zakaria describes with equal prescience a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the "rise of the rest"—the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others—as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States. This economic growth is producing political confidence, national pride, and potentially international problems. How should the United States understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate? What does it mean to live in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.