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A question of judgment

Interviewers favour those seen first

Jun 16th 2012 | from the print edition



A NEVER-ENDING flow of information is the lot of most professionals. Whether it comes in the form of lawyers' cases, doctors' patients or even journalists' stories, this information naturally gets broken up into pieces that can be tackled one at a time during the course of a given day. In theory, a decision made when handling one of these pieces should not have much, if any, impact on similar but unrelated subsequent decisions. Yet Uri Simonsohn of the University of Pennsylvania and Francesca Gino at Harvard report in Psychological Science that this is not how things work out in practice.

Dr Simonsohn and Dr Gino knew from studies done in other laboratories that people are, on the whole, poor at considering background information when making individual decisions. At first glance this might seem like a strength that grants the ability to make judgments which are unbiased by external factors. But in a world of quotas and limits—in other words, the world in which most professional people operate—the two researchers suspected that it was actually a weakness. They speculated that an inability to consider the big picture was leading decision-makers to be biased by the daily samples of information they were working with. For example, they theorised that a judge fearful of appearing too soft on crime might be more likely to send someone to prison if he had already sentenced five or six other defendants only to probation on that day.

In this section

·                            Boundary conditions

·                            A gene thief

·                            Gene therapy

·                            »A question of judgment


To test this idea, they turned their attention to the university-admissions process. Admissions officers interview hundreds of applicants every year, at a rate of 4½ a day, and can offer entry to about 40% of them. In theory, the success of an applicant should not depend on the few others chosen randomly for interview during the same day, but Dr Simonsohn and Dr Gino suspected the truth was otherwise.

They studied the results of 9,323 MBA interviews conducted by 31 admissions officers. The interviewers had rated applicants on a scale of one to five. This scale took numerous factors, including communication skills, personal drive, team-working ability and personal accomplishments, into consideration. The scores from this rating were then used in conjunction with an applicant's score on the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, a standardised exam which is marked out of 800 points, to make a decision on whether to accept him or her.

Dr Simonsohn and Dr Gino discovered that their hunch was right. If the score of the previous candidate in a daily series of interviewees was 0.75 points or more higher than that of the one before that, then the score for the next applicant would drop by an average of 0.075 points. This might sound small, but to undo the effects of such a decrease a candidate would need 30 more GMAT points than would otherwise have been necessary.

As for why people behave this way, Dr Simonsohn proposes that after accepting a number of strong candidates, interviewers might form the illogical expectation that a weaker candidate “is due”. Alternatively, he suggests that interviewers may be engaging in mental accounting that simplifies the task of maintaining a given long-term acceptance rate, by trying to apply this rate to each daily group of candidates. Regardless of the reason, if this sort of thinking proves to have a similar effect on the judgments of those in other fields, such as law and medicine, it could be responsible for far worse things than the rejection of qualified business-school candidates.

from the print edition | Science and technology

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21 Jun 2012 – This top-down conception of the fashion business couldn't be more out of date or at odds with the frenzied world described in Overdressed


The high cost of cheap fashion


China has made well-designed cheap clothes possible. But is fashion designed to be disposable sustainable?

In the 2006 film version of The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly, the Anna Wintour stand-in played by Meryl Streep, berates her frumpy assistant for imagining that high fashion doesn’t affect her. Priestly explains how the cerulean color of the assistant’s sweater trickled down over the years from haute couture runways to department stores to the bargain bin in which the poor girl doubtless found her garment.

This top-down conception of the fashion business couldn’t be more out of date or at odds with the frenzied world described in Overdressed, Elizabeth Cline’s three-year investigation and indictment of “fast fashion.” In the last decade or so, advances in technology have allowed mass-market labels such as Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, and Forever 21 to react to trends more quickly and anticipate demand more precisely. Quicker turnarounds mean less wasted inventory, more frequent releases, and more profit. These labels encourage style-conscious consumers to see clothes as disposable—meant to last only a wash or two, although they don’t advertise that—and to renew their wardrobe every few weeks. By offering on-trend items at dirt-cheap prices, Cline argues, these brands have hijacked fashion cycles, rattling an industry long accustomed to a seasonal pace.

The victims of this revolution, of course, are not limited to couturiers. For H&M to offer a $5.95 knit miniskirt in all its 2,300-plus stores around the world, it must rely on low-wage overseas labor, order in volumes that strain natural resources, and use massive amounts of harmful chemicals. One day last August, Reuters reported, 284 workers in a Cambodian factory that made clothes for the Swedish chain collapsed after “smelling something bad that came from the shirts.” (The exact cause of the problem wasn’t determined, which illustrates the difficulty of proper oversight in such sweatshops.)

Overdressed is the fashion world’s answer to consumer-activist bestsellers like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Self-deprecating about her own lack of style—she has a thing for fleece-lined sweatshirts—Cline writes with the zeal of a reformed shopaholic. Like Pollan, she traveled extensively to follow her subject along the whole chain of production. She visited factories in China, gaining entry by masquerading as a clothier; learned sewing from Dominican seamstresses; and went shopping in Manhattan with “haulers,” fast-fashion addicts who brag about their purchases in YouTube videos. Haulers are Cline’s antiheroes.

Americans, she finds, buy roughly 20 billion garments a year—about 64 items per person—and no matter how much they give away, this excess leads to waste. The “clothing deficit myth” is what she calls the notion, comforting to fashionistas, that giving discards to charity offsets consumption. In fact, Cline reports, “charities long ago passed the point of being able to sell all of our wearable used clothes.”

Cline traces the fast-fashion ethos to Amancio Ortega Gaona, who founded Spanish powerhouse Zara in 1975. After a wholesaler canceled a big order, Ortega “got to work taking the risk out of selling clothes.” Since then, Zara has improved communication with factories to the point where it can now design a product and have it on shelves around the world within two weeks. Another advance was to have its 250 designers approximate existing runway looks, “as it did with French luxury label Céline’s spring 2011 collection.” Zara, like most of its cheap-fashion peers, has thus far steered clear of copyright infringement by making sure the clothes it sells are never exact replicas. Earlier this month, a French judge dismissed shoemaker Christian Louboutin’s 2008 suit against Zara, ruling that a red-soled stiletto sold by the latter for $70 could not be confused for the former’s $700 pump.

Fast fashion has made high style available to the masses. As Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld once told the London Independent, with uncharacteristic populism, “Everybody today can be well dressed because cheaper clothes are well designed, too. OK, so maybe the material used might not be extraordinary, but it’s no longer a fact that lower-priced things are lousy.” Granted, he was promoting his own line at H&M at the time, but he had a point. As far back as 1997, Consumer Reports rated a $7 polo from Target higher than similar items from established brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Cline argues that high-end labels have had to lower their standards to compete with fast fashion.

Toward the end of Overdressed, Cline introduces her ideal, a Brooklyn woman named Sarah Kate Beaumont, who since 2008 has made all of her own clothes—and beautifully. In her monastic dedication, she’s reminiscent of Joel Salatin, the fanatical grass farmer whom Pollan hails as a model of sustainability in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. But as Cline is the first to note, it took Beaumont decades to perfect her craft; her example can’t be knocked off.

Though several fast-fashion companies have made efforts to curb their impact on labor and the environment—including H&M, with its green Conscious Collection line—Cline believes lasting change can only be effected by the customer. She exhibits the idealism (or naïveté) common to many proponents of sustainability, be it in food or in energy. Vanity is a constant; people will only start shopping more sustainably when they can’t afford not to.

That day may come sooner than we think. China makes an astounding 41 percent of the clothes America imports, including half of the dresses in our stores. As that country develops, labour costs will rise, which will inevitably drive up the price of that miniskirt.


Microsoft and privacy

Change of track

Data on people’s online behaviour are worth both paying for and arguing over


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AN OLD saw has it that half of all advertising budgets are wasted—the trouble is, no one knows which half. In the internet age, at least in theory, this fraction can be much reduced. By watching what people search for, click on and say online, companies can aim “behavioural” ads at those most likely to buy.

In the past couple of weeks three deals and a quarrel have illustrated the value to advertisers (and their suppliers of software) of such fine-grained information. The first deal came on May 23rd, when Oracle said it was buying Vitrue, which helps firms run their marketing on social media, for a reported $300m. On June 5th it added Collective Intellect, which analyses what people say about companies on Facebook, Twitter and so forth, for an undisclosed sum. A day earlier, a cloud-computing company mustard-keen on social media, had said it would pay $689m for Buddy Media, a competitor of Vitrue's. Buddy should fit in with Radian 6, which, like Collective Intellect, monitors social media—and for which Salesforce paid $326m last year.

The quarrel is the latest round in a long-running argument. Should advertisers assume that people are happy to be tracked and sent behavioural ads? Or should they have explicit permission? Many people give scarcely a thought to being electronically snooped on as they browse, but some object furiously.

In this section


Related topics

·                                 Federal Trade Commission (FTC, United States)

·                                 Business

·                                 Advertising

·                                 Microsoft

·                                 Technology

In December 2010 America's Federal Trade Commission proposed adding a “do not track” (DNT) option to internet browsers, so that users could tell advertisers that they did not want to be followed. Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Apple's Safari all offer DNT; Google's Chrome is due to do so this year. In February the FTC and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), a consortium of trade bodies, agreed that the industry would get cracking on responding to DNT requests. In the European Union a new rule requires websites to ask before using “cookies” to gather data about users' behaviour.

On May 31st Microsoft set off the row. It said that Internet Explorer 10, the version due to appear with Windows 8, a new incarnation of, the software firm's operating system, would have DNT as a default.

Advertisers are horrified. Human nature being what it is, most people stick with default settings. Few switch DNT on now, but if tracking is off it will stay off. Bob Liodice, the chief executive of the Association of National Advertisers, one of the groups in the DAA, says consumers will be worse off if the industry cannot collect information about their preferences. People will not get fewer ads, he says. “They'll get less meaningful, less targeted ads.”

It is not yet clear how advertisers will respond. Getting a DNT signal does not oblige anyone to stop tracking, although some companies (including Twitter) have promised to do so. Unable to tell whether someone really objects to behavioural ads or whether they are sticking with Microsoft's default, some may ignore a DNT signal and press on anyway.

Also unclear is why Microsoft has gone it alone. After all, it has an ad business too, which it says will comply with DNT requests, though it is still working out how. If it is trying to rile Google, which relies almost wholly on advertising, it has chosen an indirect method: there is no guarantee that DNT by default will become the norm. DNT does not seem an obviously huge selling point for Windows 8—though the firm has compared some of its other products favourably with Google's on that count before. Brendon Lynch, Microsoft's chief privacy officer, blogged: “We believe consumers should have more control.” Could it really be that simple?


The future is bright for humanity

The more optimistic we are about the future of our species the better we can focus on today's challenges

Read more: "100,000 AD: Living in the deep future"

WHATEVER happened to the future? Up until a few decades ago, our visions of the future were largely - though by no means uniformly - glowingly positive. Science and technology would cure all the ills of humanity, leading to lives of fulfilment and opportunity for all.

Now utopia has grown unfashionable, as we have gained a deeper appreciation of the range of threats facing us, from asteroid strike to pandemic flu to climate change. You might even be tempted to assume that humanity has little future to look forward to.

But such gloominess is misplaced. The fossil record shows that many species have endured for millions of years - so why shouldn't we? Take a broader look at our species' place in the universe, and it becomes clear that we have an excellent chance of surviving for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years (see "100,000 AD: Living in the deep future"). Look up Homo sapiens in the IUCN's "Red List" of threatened species, and you will read: "Listed as Least Concern as the species is very widely distributed, adaptable, currently increasing, and there are no major threats resulting in an overall population decline."

So what does our deep future hold? A growing number of researchers and organisations are now thinking seriously about that question. For example, the Long Now Foundation, based in San Francisco, has created a forum where thinkers and scientists are invited to project the implications of their ideas over very long timescales. Its flagship project is a mechanical clock, buried deep inside a mountain in Texas, that is designed to still be marking time thousands of years hence.

Then there are scientists who are giving serious consideration to the idea that we should recognise a new geological era: the Anthropocene. They, too, are pulling the camera right back and asking what humanity's impact will be on the planet - in the context of stratigraphic time.

Perhaps perversely, it may be easier to think about such lengthy timescales than about the more immediate future. The potential evolution of today's technology, and its social consequences, is dazzlingly complicated, and it's perhaps best left to science-fiction writers and futurologists to explore the many possibilities we can envisage. That's one reason why we have launched Arc, a new publication dedicated to the near future.

But take a longer view and there is a surprising amount that we can say with considerable assurance. As so often, the past holds the key to the future: we have now identified enough of the long-term patterns shaping the history of the planet, and our species, to make evidence-based forecasts about the situations in which our descendants will find themselves.

This long perspective makes the pessimistic view of our prospects seem more likely to be a passing fad. To be sure, the future is not all rosy: while our species may flourish, a great many individuals may not. But we are now knowledgeable enough to mitigate many of the risks that threatened the existence of earlier humans, and to improve the lot of those to come. Thinking about our place in deep time is a good way to focus on the challenges that confront us today, and to make a future worth living in.

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1. Review & Outlook: Raising Arizona - - Cached

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25 Jun 2012 – On a five to three vote, the Supreme Court knocked out much of Arizona's immigration law Monday—a modest policy victory for the Obama


·                                 une 25, 2012, 7:31 p.m. ET

Raising Arizona


The Supreme Court unanimously rejects a White House power grab.


On a five to three vote, the Supreme Court knocked out much of Arizona's immigration law Monday—a modest policy victory for the Obama Administration. But on the more important matter of the Constitution, the decision was an 8-0 defeat for the Administration's effort to upset the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

In Arizona v. United States, the majority overturned three of the four contested planks of Arizona's controversial plan to have state and local police enforce federal immigration law. The Constitutional principles that Washington alone has the power to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization" and that federal laws pre-empt state laws are noncontroversial. Arizona had attempted to fashion state policies that ran parallel to the existing federal ones.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court's liberals, ruled that the state flew too close to the federal sun. On the overturned provisions—like making it a misdemeanor to apply for a job without citizenship or a visa—the majority held that Congress had deliberately "occupied the field" under pre-emption doctrine, and Arizona had thus intruded on federal prerogatives.

However, the Justices said that Arizona police will be allowed to verify the legal status of people who come in contact with law enforcement. That's because Congress has always envisioned joint federal-state immigration enforcement and explicitly encourages state officers to share information and cooperate with federal colleagues.

Two of the three dissenting Justices—Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas—agreed with this Constitutional logic but disagreed about which Arizona rules conflicted with the federal statute. The only major dissent came from Justice Antonin Scalia, who offered an even more robust if idiosyncratic defense of state prerogatives going back to the Alien and Sedition Acts. (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself.)

The 8-0 rebuke to President Obama turns on what Justice Samuel Alito describes in his dissent as "an astounding assertion of federal executive power." The White House argued that Arizona's laws conflicted with its enforcement priorities, even if state laws complied with federal statutes to the letter. In effect, the White House claimed that it can nullify any otherwise legitimate state law that it disagrees with.

Some powers do belong exclusively to the federal government, and control of citizenship and the borders is among them. But if Congress wanted to prevent states from using their own resources to check immigration status, it could. It never did so. The Administration was in essence asserting that because it didn't want to carry out Congress's immigration wishes, no state should be allowed to do so either. Every Justice rightly rejected this remarkable claim.

One lesson of this case is that the Roberts Court does not practice the radical activism of liberal myth. Its very careful jurisprudence is aimed at protecting the U.S. federalist system, in which states and the federal government share sovereignty and both possess rights that the other is bound to honor.

We happen to share the Obama Administration's desire for a welcoming, nonpunitive immigration policy, but it can't accomplish that by asserting power it doesn't have. Full marks to the Court for striking the proper Constitutional balance.


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Global issues: Make social sciences relevant

·                                 Luk Van Langenhove







(26 April 2012)



Published online


25 April 2012

The social sciences are flourishing. As of 2005, there were almost half a million professional social scientists from all fields in the world, working both inside and outside academia. According to the World Social Science Report 2010 (ref. 1), the number of social-science students worldwide has swollen by about 11% every year since 2000, up to 22 million in 2006.

Yet this enormous resource is not contributing enough to today's global challenges, including climate change, security, sustainable development and health. These issues all have root causes in human behaviour: all require behavioural change and social innovations, as well as technological development....

Despite these factors, many social scientists seem reluctant to tackle such issues. And in Europe, some are up in arms over a proposal to drop a specific funding category for social-science research and to integrate it within cross-cutting topics of sustainable development. This is a shame — the community should be grasping the opportunity to raise its influence in the real world....

Today, the social sciences are largely focused on disciplinary problems and internal scholarly debates, rather than on topics with external impact....

The main solution, however, is to change the mindset of the social-science community, and what it considers to be its main goal. If I were a student now, I would throw myself at global challenges and social innovations; I hope to encourage today's young researchers to do the same.


1. Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition - Page 42 - Google Books Result

Robert Pogue Harrison - 2008 - Architecture

This leads the authors to speculate that the gardens arise from a basic human need in the individuals who made them: the need for creative expression. There is ...





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1. Average Is Over -

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24 Jan 2012 – In an essay, entitledMaking It in America,” in the latest issue of The Atlantic, the author Adam Davidson relates a joke from cotton country ...

1. Average Is Over -

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24 Jan 2012 – In an essay, entitledMaking It in America,” in the latest issue of The Atlantic, the author Adam Davidson relates a joke from cotton country ...

In an essay titled “Making It in America,” in The Atlantic, author Adam Davidson relates a joke from cotton country about just how much a modern textile mill has been automated: The average mill has only two employees today: “a man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the man away from the machines.”

Mr. Davidson’s article is one of a number of pieces that have recently appeared making the point that the reason we have such stubbornly high unemployment and sagging middle-class incomes today is largely because of the big drop in demand because of the Great Recession, but it is also because of the quantum advances in globalization and the information-technology revolution.

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much access to so much more above-average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment.

Yes, new technology has been eating jobs forever, and always will. As they say, if horses could have voted, there never would have been cars. But there’s been an acceleration. As Mr. Davidson notes, “In the 10 years ending in 2009, (U.S.) factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs — about 6 million in total — disappeared.”

And you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In April, Annie Lowrey of Slate wrote about a startup called “E la Carte” that is out to shrink the need for waiters and waitresses: The company “has produced a kind of souped-up iPad that lets you order and pay right at your table. The brainchild of a bunch of MIT engineers, the nifty invention, known as the Presto, might be found at a restaurant near you soon. …

“Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table — making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter.”

What the iPad won’t do in an above-average way, a Chinese worker will. Consider this paragraph from Sunday’s terrific article in The New York Times by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher about why Apple does so much of its manufacturing in China:

“Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly-line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the (Chinese) plant near midnight. A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames.

Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,’ the executive said. ‘There’s no American plant that can match that.’ ”

And automation is not just coming to manufacturing, explains Curtis Carlson, the CEO of SRI International, a Silicon Valley idea lab that invented the iPhone program known as Siri, the digital personal assistant. “Siri is the beginning of a huge transformation in how we interact with banks, insurance companies, retail stores, health-care providers, information retrieval services and product services.”

Here are the latest unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Americans over 25 years old: those with less than a high school degree, 13.8 percent; those with a high school degree and no college, 8.7 percent; those with some college or associate degree, 7.7 percent; and those with bachelor’s degree or higher, 4.1 percent.

In a world where “average” is officially over, there are many things we need to do to buttress employment, but nothing would be more important than passing some kind of GI Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high-school education.


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Imagine a new immigration policy

·                                 Article by: ROBERTO SORO , Special to the Washington Post 

·                                 Updated: July 14, 2012 - 2:03 PM

We need to look beyond strict definitions of legal and illegal.

A century ago, the immigrants from across the Atlantic included settlers and sojourners. Along with the many folks looking to make a permanent home in the United States came those who had no intention to stay, and who would make some money and then go home. Between 1908 and 1915, about 7 million people arrived while about 2 million departed. About a quarter of all Italian immigrants, for example, eventually returned to Italy for good. They even had an affectionate nickname, "uccelli di passaggio," birds of passage.

Today, we are much more rigid about immigrants. We divide newcomers into two categories: legal or illegal, good or bad. We hail them as Americans in the making, or brand them as aliens fit for deportation. That framework has contributed mightily to our broken immigration system and the long political paralysis over how to fix it.

We don't need more categories, but we need to change the way we think about categories. We need to look beyond strict definitions of legal and illegal. To start, we can recognize the new birds of passage, those living and thriving in the gray areas. We might then begin to solve our immigration challenges.

Crop pickers, violinists, construction workers, entrepreneurs, engineers, home health-care aides and particle physicists are among today's birds of passage. They are energetic participants in a global economy driven by the flow of work, money and ideas. They prefer to come and go as opportunity calls them. They can manage to have a job in one place and a family in another.

With or without permission, they straddle laws, jurisdictions and identities with ease. We need them to imagine the United States as a place where they can be productive for a while without committing themselves to staying forever. We need them to feel that home can be both here and there and that they can belong to two nations honorably.

Imagine life with a radically different immigration policy: The Jamaican woman who came as a visitor and was looking after your aunt until she died could try living in Canada for a while. You could eventually ask her to come back to care for your mother.

The Indian software developer could take some of his Silicon Valley earnings home to join friends in a little start-up, knowing that he could always work in California again. Or the Mexican laborer who busts his back on a Wisconsin dairy farm for wages that keep milk cheap would come and go as needed because he could decide which dairy to work for, and a bi-national bank program was helping him save money to build a better life for his kids in Mexico.

Accommodating this new world of people in motion will require new attitudes on both sides of the immigration battle. Looking beyond the culture war logic of right or wrong means opening up the middle ground and understanding that managing immigration today requires multiple paths and multiple outcomes, including some that are not easy to accomplish legally in the existing system.

A new system that encourages both sojourners and settlers would not only help ensure that our society receives the human resources it will need in the future, it also could have an added benefit: Changing the rigid framework might help us resolve the status of the estimated 11 million unauthorized migrants who are our shared legacy of policy failures.

Currently, we do not do gray zones well. Hundreds of thousands of people slosh around in indeterminate status because they're caught in bureaucratic limbo or because they have been granted temporary stays that are repeatedly extended. President Barack Obama created a paler shade of gray this summer by exercising prosecutorial discretion not to deport some young people who were brought to this country illegally as children. But these are exceptions, not rules.

The basic mechanism for legal immigration today, apart from the special category of refugee, is the legal permanent resident visa, or green card. Most recipients are people sponsored by close relatives who live in the United States. As the name implies, this mechanism is designed for immigrants who are settling down. The visa can be revoked if the holder does not show "intent to remain" by not maintaining a U.S. address, going abroad to work full time or just traveling indefinitely. Legal residents are assumed to be on their way to becoming Americans, physically, culturally and legally. After five years of living here, they become eligible for citizenship and a chance to gain voting rights and full access to the social safety net.

This is a fine way to deal with people who arrive with deep connections to the country and who resolve to stay. That can and should be most immigrants. But this mechanism has two problems: The nation is not prepared to offer citizenship to every migrant who is offered a job. And not everyone who comes here wants to stay forever.

It may have once made sense to think of immigrants as sodbusters who were coming to settle empty spaces. But that antique reasoning does not apply when the country is looking at a long, steep race to remain competitive in the world economy, particularly not when innovation and entrepreneurship are supposed to be our comparative advantage. To succeed, we need modern birds of passage.
The challenges differ depending on whether you are looking at the high end of the skills spectrum, the information workers or at low-skilled laborers.

A frequent proposal for highly skilled workers comes with the slogan, "Staple a green card to the diploma." That is supposed to ensure that a greater share of brainy international students remain in the United States after earning degrees in science and technology. But what if they are not ready for a long-term commitment? No one would suggest that investment capital or design processes need to reside permanently in one nation. Talent today yearns to be equally mobile. Rather than try to oblige smart young people from abroad to stay here, we should allow them to think of the United States as a place where they can always return, a place where they will spend part, not all, of their lives, one of several places where they can live and work and invest.

Temporary-worker programs are a conventional approach to meeting low-skilled labor needs without illegal immigration. That's what President George W. Bush proposed in 2004, saying the government should "match willing foreign workers with willing American employers." An immigrant comes to do a particular job for a limited period of time and then goes home. But such programs risk replacing one kind of rigidity with another. The relatively small programs currently in place don't manage the matchmaking very well.

Competing domestic workers need to be protected, as do the migrant workers, and the process must be nimble enough to meet labor market demand. Nobody really has pulled that off, and there is no reason to believe it can be done on a grand scale. Rather than trying to link specific migrants to specific jobs, different types of temporary work visas could be pegged to industries, to places or to time periods. You could get an engineering visa, not only a visa to work at Intel.

Both short-term visas and permanent residence need to be part of the mix, but they are not the whole answer. Another valuable tool is the provisional visa, which Australia uses as a kind of intermediary stage in which temporary immigrants spend several years before becoming eligible for permanent residency. The U.S. system practically obliges visitors to spend time here without authorization when they've married a citizen, gotten a job or done something else that qualifies them to stay legally.

We also could borrow from Europe and create long-term permission to reside for certain migrants that is contingent on simply being employed, not on having a specific job. And, legislation could loosen the definitions of permanent residency so that migrants could gain a lifetime right to live and work in the United States without having to be here (and pay taxes here) more or less continuously.

The idea that newcomers are either saints or sinners is not written indelibly either in our hearts or in our laws. As the size of the unauthorized population has grown over the past 20 years or so, the political response has dictated seeing immigration policy through the stark lens of law enforcement:

Whom do we lock up, kick out, fence off? Prominent politicians of both parties, including both presidential candidates, have engaged in macho one-upmanship when it comes to immigration. So, President Obama broke records for deportations. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, vows to break records for border security.

Breaking out of the either/or mentality opens up many avenues for managing future immigration. It could also help break the stalemate over the current population of unauthorized migrants. No election result will produce a Congress that offers a path to citizenship for everybody, but there is no support for total deportation, either.

If we accept that there are spaces between legal and illegal, then options multiply.

Citizenship could be an eventual outcome for most, not all, people here illegally, but everyone would get some kind of papers, and we can engineer a way for people to work their way from one status to another. The newly arrived and least attached could be granted status for a limited time and receive help with returning to their home countries. Others might be offered life-long privileges to live and work here, but not citizenship. We'd give the fullest welcome to those with homes, children or long time jobs.

By insisting that immigrants are either Americans or aliens, we make it harder for some good folks to come and we oblige others to stay for the wrong reasons. Worse, we ensure that there will always be people living among us who are outside the law, and that is not good for them or us.


Roberto Suro is a professor of public policy and director of the Toms Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California. He is a coauthor of "Writing Immigration: Scholars and Journalists in Dialogue."

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6 Jul 2012 – E-mail, social media and the 24-hour news cycle are informational amphetamines that lead us to make mistaken split-second decisions. ... WHEN the Supreme Court announced its decision on the Affordable Care Act last month, the media went wild. The rush to judgment took seconds. CNN and Fox News 

  When the Supreme Court announced its decision on the Affordable Care Act last month, the media went wild. The rush to judgment took seconds. CNN and Fox News initially described the decision incorrectly, saying five justices had struck down the law. Even after corrections, the snap analysis that followed wasn’t very helpful. The multipart decision is complex, and its ramifications will take months or even years to understand.

  The blink response to this case is only the latest example of a troubling increase in the speed of our reactions. E-mail, social media and the 24-hour news cycle are informational amphetamines, a cocktail of pills that we pop at an increasingly fast pace — and that lead us to make mistaken split-second decisions. Economists label the problem “present bias”: we are vulnerable to fast, salient stimulation.

Fortunately, there is an antidote: the conscious pause. Scientists have found that although we are prone to snap overreactions, if we take a moment and think about how we are likely to react, we can reduce or even eliminate the negative effects of our quick, hard-wired responses.

  For example, countless studies have shown that physicians’ immediate, unconscious reactions to racial minorities lead them to undertreat black patients. In one study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2007, researchers asked several hundred doctors about a hypothetical 50-year-old male patient who showed up with chest pain. The researchers gave the doctors a photograph of the man, randomly varying his race. Half saw him as white; half saw him as black.

  Sure enough, although the doctors insisted they were not racially biased, they were more likely to prescribe thrombolysis, an anti-blood-clotting procedure, for the white patient, while giving the black patient a less-aggressive prescription. The doctors didn’t appear racist, yet their unconscious snap reactions led them to treat blacks differently — the very definition of racism.

  However, about one in four of the doctors guessed that the study was designed to test racial bias. They stopped for a moment and considered how they might react differently depending on race. The researchers found that this “aware” subgroup did not treat patients differently. Once they paused to consider whether race was an issue, race was no longer an issue.

  Snap decisions can be important defense mechanisms; if we are judging whether someone is dangerous, our brains and bodies are hard-wired to react very quickly, within milliseconds. But we need more time to assess other factors. To accurately tell whether someone is sociable, studies show, we need at least a minute, preferably five. It takes a while to judge complex aspects of personality, like neuroticism or open-mindedness. If we need to understand how nine justices resolved a difficult legal issue, we need even more time.

  But snap decisions in reaction to rapid, even subliminal stimuli aren’t exclusive to the interpersonal realm. Sanford DeVoe and Chen-Bo Zhong, psychologists at the University of Toronto, found that viewing a fast-food logo for just a few milliseconds primes us to read 20 percent faster, even though reading has little to do with eating. We unconsciously associate fast food with speed and impatience and carry those impulses into whatever else we’re doing. Subjects exposed to fast-food flashes also tend to think a musical piece lasts too long.

  Yet we can reverse such influences. If we know we will overreact to consumer products or housing options when we see a happy face (one reason good sales representatives and real estate agents are always smiling), we can take a moment before buying. If we know female job screeners are more likely to reject attractive female applicants, as a study by the economists Bradley Ruffle and Ze’ev Shtudiner shows, we can help screeners understand their biases — or hire outside screeners.

John Gottman, the marriage guru made famous in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book “Blink,” explains that we quickly “thin slice” information reliably only after we ground such snap reactions in “thick sliced” long-term study. When Dr. Gottman really wants to assess whether a couple will stay together, he invites them to his island retreat for a much longer evaluation: two days, not two seconds.

  Our ability to mute our hard-wired reactions by pausing is what differentiates us from animals: primates and dogs can think about the future only intermittently or for a few minutes. But historically we have spent about 12 percent of our days contemplating the longer term.

  The beginning of summer is supposed to be the time for us to slow down and take a breath. Go to the beach with a few books. Spend downtime with family. Tune out. But instead of jumping into the swimming pool, we have leapt into a whirlpool of news.

  Still, although technology might change the way we react, it hasn’t changed our nature. We still have the imaginative capacity to rise above temptation and reverse the high-speed trend. There are a couple of summer months left, and no time to waste.

Frank Partnoy is a law professor at the University of San Diego and the author of “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay.”


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Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf played a leading role in so-called “third-wave” feminism and as an advocate of “power feminism,” which holds that women must assert themselves politically in order to achieve their goals…

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Jun. 30, 2012 Email | Print

Why Women Still Can’t Ask the Right Questions


NEW YORK – We are just recovering, in the United States, from the entirely predictable kerfuffle over a plaint published by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and a professor at Princeton University, called “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” The response was predictable because Slaughter’s article is one that is published in the US by a revolving cast of powerful (most often white) women every three years or so.

Illustration by Dean Rohrer

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe article, whoever has written it, always bemoans the “myth” of a work-life balance for women who work outside the home, presents the glass ceiling and work-family exhaustion as a personal revelation, and blames “feminism” for holding out this elusive “having-it-all ideal.” And it always manages to evade the major policy elephants in the room – which is especially ironic in this case, as Slaughter was worn out by crafting policy.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe problems with such arguments are many. For starters, the work-family balance is no longer a women’s issue. All over the developed world, millions of working men with small children also regret the hours that they spend away from them, and go home to bear the brunt of shared domestic tasks. This was a “women’s issue” 15 years ago, perhaps, but now it is an ambient tension of modern life for a generation of women and men who are committed to gender equality.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphSuch arguments also ignore the fact that affluent working women and their partners overwhelmingly offload the work-family imbalance onto lower-income women – overwhelmingly women of color. One can address how to be an ethical, sustainable employer of such caregivers; nannies in New York and other cities are now organizing to secure a system of market-pegged wages, vacation time, and sick days. Or, as so often happens in a racist society, one can paint the women who care for the elite’s children out of the picture altogether.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphMoreover, an inflexible and family-unfriendly corporate environment is no longer the only choice for working women. Many, particularly in the US, have left that world to start their own businesses.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphMost importantly, Americans have a remarkable tendency to reduce problems that others addressed through public policy to a matter of private “choice” and even personal psychology. But the real question is not whether “women can have it all.” Rather, it is how a sophisticated foreign-policy professional can write as if countries like Canada and the Netherlands simply did not exist.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphIn Canada, couples with a baby may sequence six-month leaves of absence at up to 90% pay. In the Netherlands – the best scenario I have seen yet – families can take a day off each week, and the government subsidizes full-time daycare. This solution was not framed as a “women’s issue,” but as a family benefit. And Dutch women have simply moved on, focusing on other interesting goals in their personal and family lives.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphIn America, by contrast, the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests lobby hard to keep politicians from ever proposing such solutions. They know that billions of dollars are made from hiring women at lower income levels than men, and then ensuring that a work-family conflict derails women’s careers before they become too expensive to compensate fairly.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphOf course, Europe is not gender-equality Nirvana. In particular, the corporate workplace will never be completely family-friendly until women are part of senior management decisions, and Europe’s top corporate-governance positions remain overwhelmingly male. Indeed, women hold only 14% of positions on European corporate boards.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe European Union is now considering legislation to compel corporate boards to maintain a certain proportion of women – up to 60%. This proposed mandate was born of frustration. Last year, European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding issued a call to voluntary action. Reding invited corporations to sign up for gender balance goals of 40% female board membership. The Forte foundation in America has now followed suit with its own list of “board-ready women.” But Reding’s appeal in Europe was considered a failure: only 24 companies took it up.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphDo we need quotas to ensure that women can continue to climb the corporate ladder fairly as they balance work and family?

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraph“Personally, I don’t like quotas,” Reding said recently. “But I like what the quotas do.” Quotas get action: they “open the way to equality and they break through the glass ceiling,” according to Reding, a result seen in France and other countries with legally binding provisions on placing women in top business positions.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphI understand Reding’s reticence – and her frustration. I don’t like quotas either; they run counter to my belief in meritocracy. But, when one considers the obstacles to achieving the meritocratic ideal, it does look as if a fairer world must be temporarily mandated.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphAfter all, four decades of evidence has now shown that corporations in Europe as well as the US are evading the meritocratic hiring and promotion of women to top positions – no matter how much “soft pressure” is put upon them. When women do break through to the summit of corporate power – as, for example, Sheryl Sandberg recently did at Facebook – they garner massive attention precisely because they remain the exception to the rule.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphIf appropriate public policies were in place to help all women – whether CEOs or their children’s caregivers – and all families, Sandberg would be no more newsworthy than any other highly capable person living in a more just society. And laments like Slaughter’s would not be necessary.





1. How to eat well on a tight budget | Life and style | The Observer › Life & styleFood & drink - Cached

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13 Jul 2012 – The hugely popular blog the Skint Foodie chronicles how Tony balances his love of good food with living on benefits. After bills, Tony has £60 a ...

How to eat well on a tight budget

Combine good food and frugal ways with these tips from blogger The Skint Foodie

Pea and ham soup and terrine. Photograph: Jean Cazals

Floor-to-ceiling stacks of alphabetised books occupy the Skint Foodie's living room. In the kitchen, Le Creuset casseroles sit beside gleaming silver utensils and a big, floury bread paddle. He shuffles around, realigning the fruit bowl a few times, organising things. Everything is just so. But it's not always like this. The Skint Foodie – or Tony, as he'd like to be known – revels in his "anal retentiveness" because it's a marker of his mental state. Large portions of last year were swallowed by debilitating depression: periods when his pristine flat would be "full of fried chicken and Findus crispy pancake boxes" for months on end. As Tony says, "Depression strips you of any desire to nourish yourself, in any form."

The hugely popular blog the Skint Foodie chronicles how Tony balances his love of good food with living on benefits. After bills, Tony has £60 a week to spend, £40 of which goes on food, but 10 years ago he was earning £130,000 a year working in corporate communications and eating at London's best restaurants at least twice a week".

Then his marriage unravelled, his career burned out and his drinking became serious. "I assumed the end would be me drinking myself to death," he says, dryly. "But the community mental health team got me into a hostel and stopped me living on the street. They saved my life. And I felt like that again, to a certain degree, when people responded to the blog so well. It gave me the validation and confidence that I'd lost. But it's still a day-by-day thing."

Now he's living in a council flat and fielding offers from literary agents. He's feeling positive, but a book is not his top priority. "My mental health is. Once I've been stable for 12 months, I'll think about it seriously." In the meantime, he'll carry on blogging – not about eating as cheaply as you can – "there are so many people in a much worse state, with barely any money to spend on food" – but eating well on a budget. Here's his advice for frugal foodies.

Planning is everything

Impulsive spending isn't an option so plan your week's menu in advance, making shopping lists for your ingredients in their exact quantities. Being an anal-retentive, I have an Excel template for a week of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stop laughing: it's not just cost effective but helps you balance your diet. It's also a good idea to shop daily instead of weekly, because, being human, you'll sometimes change your mind about what you fancy.

Stick to what you need

This is where supermarkets and their anonymity come in handy. With them, there's not the same embarrassment as when buying one carrot in a little greengrocer. And if you plan properly, you'll know that you only need, say, 350g of shin of beef and six rashers of bacon, not whatever weight is pre-packed in the supermarket chiller.

Waste not, want not

You may proudly claim to only have frozen peas in the freezer – that's not good enough. Mine is filled with leftovers, bread, stock, meat and fish. Planning ahead should eliminate wastage, but if you have surplus veg you'll do a minestrone, and all fruits threatening to "go off" will be made into a compote or juiced.

Live like a peasant

This means eating the obvious things such as beans, pulses and abundant veg, but also cheaper fish such as mackerel, pouting and flounder, and cuts of meat such as beef shin, pork cheeks and offal. I love all that stuff, but it really is the only way to go, and easy to find if you make a bit of effort.

Shopkeepers are your friends

Everyone says this, but it really is a top tip for frugal eaters. Shop at butchers, delis and fishmongers regularly, even for small things, and be super friendly. Soon you'll feel comfortable asking if they've any knuckles of ham or prosciutto for soups and stews, or beef bones, chicken carcasses and fish heads for stock which, more often than not, they'll let you have for free.

Remember to treat yourself

You won't be eating out a lot, but save your pennies and once every few months treat yourself to a set lunch at a good restaurant – £1.75 a week for three months gives you £21 – more than enough for a three-course lunch at Michelin-starred Arbutus. It's £16.95 there – or £12.99 for a large pizza from Domino's: I know which I'd rather eat.


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