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Indefinite detention bill passes in Senate December 16, 2011


December 15, 2011

by legitgov

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Breaking: Indefinite detention bill passes in Senate 16 Dec 2011 (rt.com) Exactly 220 years to the date after the Bill of Rights was ratified, the US Senate today voted 86 to 13 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, allowing the indefinite detention and torture of Americans. After a back-and-forth in recent days between both the Senate and House yielded intense criticism from Americans attempting to hold onto their Constitutional rights, NDAA FY2012 is now on its way to the White House, where yesterday the Obama administration revealed that the president would not veto the legislation, cancelling a warning he offered less than a month earlier.

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Tiger wins his first tourney in 2 years December 5, 2011

(CNN) — Tiger Woods won his first golf tournament in more than two years, narrowly defeating fellow American Zach Johnson to capture the Chevron World Challenge title Sunday.

Woods finished three strokes under par for the day, allowing him to leapfrog Johnson for the one-stroke win at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, according to the PGA Tour’s website.

The victory was the 35-year-old golfer’s first since capturing the Australian Masters title in November 2009.

“It feels awesome,” said Woods on his official website, tigerwoods.com. “It was a lot of fun coming down the stretch.”

The five-time winner was one stroke behind Johnson going up the 17th, before he birdied the final two holes — including a 16-foot putt at 17 — to clinch the title.

“If I don’t make that putt it’s in Zach’s control,” Woods said. “That putt was huge.”

Despite the disappointing finish, Johnson was quick to pay tribute to his rival.

“He made two great putts,” he said, in quotes carried by tigerwoods.com. “You just tip your hat. I’m proud of how I handled the situation and continued to fight.”

Woods the hero as United States retain Presidents Cup

There were 18 players total in the Chevron field, far fewer than in more traditional tournaments. Even so, the PGA Tour website noted that Woods moved up 20 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking with the win.

Woods had reigned as golf’s No. 1 for a record 623 weeks between 1997 and 2010, until his career stalled amid a slew of injuries and well-publicized reports of affairs that led to the end of his marriage.

In October, he dropped out of the world’s top 50 for the first time in 15 years.

The PGA Tour’s 2012 “regular season” schedule officially begins the first week in January at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii. In April, Woods likely will be among those battling in the season’s first major, The Masters, which he has won four times.


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In other news: silent but deadly | Ana Marie Cox November 11, 2011

We have named this column. To celebrate, I am writing this column, despite my feeling like I should not rely on this column too much.

Here is a series of clips of Ryan Gosling being poignantly silent.



‘What is this boy thinking?’ A Rick Perry campaign mailer sent out in Iowa. Photograph: guardiannews.com

• Apparently, we are supposed to like Rick Perry because he was once a child. To be fair, this does distinguish him from Mitt Romney.

• Did the Senate refuse to hold a hearing on the appointment of Edward DuMont to a federal court because he’s gay?

• A proposition so simple it has to be announced in the op-ed pages of the New York Times: end bonuses to bankers. Some logic that clearly you have be an economist to understand:

“Bonuses are particularly dangerous because they invite bankers to game the system by hiding the risks of rare and hard-to-predict but consequential blow-ups.”

• More economics: with the McRib, “McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market.”

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Occupy Wall Street: protesters fear eviction October 13, 2011

3.18pm: Occupy Wall Street have said the statements by police and Brookfield amount to “attempt to shut down #OWS for good”.

The demonstration is calling for protesters to gather at Zuccotti Park at 6am tomorrow – an hour before cleaning is due to begin – to “defend the occupation from eviction”.

Occupy Wall Street statement:

Last night Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD notified Occupy Wall Street participants about plans to “clean the park”—the site of the Wall Street protests—tomorrow starting at 7am. “Cleaning” was used as a pretext to shut down “Bloombergville” a few months back, and to shut down peaceful occupations elsewhere.

Bloomberg says that the park will be open for public usage following the cleaning, but with a notable caveat: Occupy Wall Street participants must follow the “rules”. These rules include, “no tarps or sleeping bags” and “no lying down.”

So, seems likely that this is their attempt to shut down #OWS for good.

The clean up of the park is set to take 12 hours, Brookfield has said. Tomorrow could be a very long day.

NYPD confirmed to the Guardian that there will be police present to facilitate the clean-up from 7am. If there is an influx of protesters at 6am, things could get quite interesting tomorrow morning.

2.58pm: Just spoke to NYPD. They say protesters will not be completely cleared from Zuccotti Park, it will be cleaned in thirds, and protesters allowed to be present while cleaning takes place.

However a police spokesman confirmed that protesters would not be allowed to keep sleeping equipment in the park.

The notice posted by Brookfield, which you can view here (opens), reads:

Zuccotti Park is a privately-owned space that is designed and intended for use and enjoyment by the general public for passive recreation.

For the safety and enjoyment of everyone, the following types of behaviour are prohibited in Zuccotti Park:

Camping and/or the erection of tents or other structures

Lying down on the ground, or lying down on benches, sitting areas or walkways which unreasonably interferes with the use of benches, sitting areas or walkways by others.

The placement of tarps or sleeping bags or other covering on the property.

Storage or placement of personal property on the ground, benches, sitting areas or walkways which unreasonably interferes with the use of such areas by others.

The use of bicycles, skateboards and roller blades.

Removal of objects from trash receptacles.

Any other activities prohibited by law or statute.

It’s pretty comprehensive. Lying down on the ground or lying on benches pretty much prevents people from living there, as does the placement of tarps or sleeping bags on the property.

2.41pm: Protesters will not be allowed to bring sleeping bags and other camping gear back to Occupy Wall Street after Zuccotti Park is cleaned tomorrow, police have said.

Police commissioner Ray Kelly told the New York Post all demonstrators will have to leave the park while cleaning takes place – contrary to reports which suggested the park would be cleaned in sections, allowing occupation to continue – and while they will be allowed back, they will not be able to bring any of the items they have been using to camp out.

From the Post:

The party’s over!

The city’s top cop said today that the Occupy Wall Street protesters who clear out of Zuccotti Park tomorrow so their filthy makeshift campsite can get a much-needed cleaning can come back when the job is finished — but they can’t take their tents, coolers and other gear with them.

“People will have to remove all their belongings and leave the park,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “After it’s cleaned, they’ll be able to come back. But they won’t be able to bring back the gear, the sleeping bags, that sort of thing will not be able to be brought back into the park.”

Pamplets were handed out to protestors by security guards hired by the park to inform them of the changes. The order would put an end to the campout at the park that began on September 17.

This morning Occupy Wall Street protester Ed Needham told the Guardian protesters would not leave the park, for fear of not being allowed to return by police.

2.27pm: Video of Tom Morello at Occupy Wall Street this afternoon:

Earlier Morello, who performs under the name the Nightwatchman, tweeted: “Today at noon The Nightwatchman will Occupy Wall Street. Will you?”

1.58pm: New take on tomorrow’s clean-up from AP:

City officials have informed protesters that they will need to leave Zuccotti Park on Friday so that it can be cleaned, but that they’ll be allowed to return afterward.

As a steady drizzle fell Thursday over the park, owned by Brookfield Properties, confusion was high over when the protesters will be ordered out and where they’ll go during the evacuation.

“The cleanup is a pretext to remove us from the camp. And we can return only if we abide by the rules of Brookfield Properties,” said Justin Wedes, 25, a public high school science teacher from Brooklyn who was sweeping the pavement with others. “We’re redoubling our efforts today.”

Brookfield did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the cleanup. City officials remained mum on logistics.

“This is the cleanest protest I’ve ever witnessed,” said Emilio Montilla, 29, a laid-off teacher’s assistant. “We take care of ourselves. We’re self-sufficient.”

1.01pm: Protesters will stage a demonstration in Times Square on Saturday, according to Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page.

This Saturday, October 15th, hundreds of cities across the country will host demonstrations in support of the #Occupy movement. In New York City, dozens of community groups, unions, student organizations and lots and lots of regular folk are taking to the streets in a mass protest that will culminate in Times Square at 5pm, then moving (by train party!) downtown.

You are invited to be a part of it. Come join the Occupation Party and participate in a stunning moment expressing hope and a new vision for the future – and showing our solidarity with the people who have already been occupying Wall Street for weeks.

Meet at the TKTS kiosk in the north section. From our street carnival in Times Sq. we will take the protest party to the trains and head downtown.

12.27pm: Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame has been performing to Occupy Wall Street protesters this afternoon. I’m hunting around for video footage, will post shortly.

12.15pm: OWS has raised over $150,000 dollars, reports CNN.

This massive fundraising was made through donations via mail, two websites — occupywallst.org and nycga.cc — and in person to members of what the movement calls its “Finance Working Group.”

Separately, four days ago, “Occupy Wall Street Media” successfully raised over $75,000 worth of donation pledges to be used toward the protest’s official publication, The Occupy Wall Street Journal, according to the online funding platform Kickstarter.

In addition to overseeing fundraising, members of the Finance Working Group, distinguishable by their gold dollar sign armbands, are also charged with disbursing funds to the other groups within the movement. These groups, which range from more permanent teams like Security and Media, to temporary teams assigned to isolated tasks, become eligible for funding upon approval by the general assembly.

11.57am: According to Reuters, Occupy Wall Street protesters have “threatened to block any efforts by clean-up crews to enter their camp”.

Occupy Wall Street pledged to resist any effort by cleaning crews or police to enter the park, asking protesters to create a human chain around the area to “peacefully/non-violently stand our ground,” according to a post on its Facebook page.

The movement, which began on September 17, plans to undertake its own massive clean-up effort and sent out requests for mops, brooms, garbage bags and power washers. But protesters also objected to Bloomberg’s description of the camp.

I can’t find the post the report refers to on Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page, and this seems to contradict what I was told by activists this morning. More as we get it.

11.28am: Amanda Michel, engagement editor at ProPublica, is in Italy and tweeting pictures from an occupy movement in Rome.

@amichel Pic: Here in Rome people are organizing #occupiamobancaditalia near Banca Italia twitpic.com/6zoyfl



Occupy Wall Street has inspired a similar occupation in Rome Photograph: Amanda Michel

@amichel Pic: You can see police camped out down street from #occupiamobancaditalia twitpic.com/6zozvs

@amichel Pic: What #occupiamobancaditalia in Rome looks like at the moment twitpic.com/6zp2sr

11.12am: The son of US business magnate (and third wealthiest person in the world) Warren Buffet has come out in support of Occupy Wall Street.

Howard Buffett, director of the Berkshire Hathaway Inc, told Bloomberg that Wall Street protesters were provoked by abuses from corporations amid a widening disparity between rich and poor.

“I think it takes that to make things happen sometimes,” Howard Buffett, 56, said of the demonstrations in an interview yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa. Over the past 15 years, “we saw large corporations really screw people.”

Occupy Wall Street has drawn out protesters from New York to Seattle and gained empathizers among the top executives at Citigroup Inc. (C) and Blackrock Inc. Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest person, has said he is concerned about inequity in the U.S. The younger Buffett, a farmer and philanthropist, said obtaining enough food has become more difficult for more people.

“There has never been a larger gap between earnings in this country,” said Howard Buffett, who was in Des Moines to deliver a speech at the World Food Prize conference. “There has never been a time in my lifetime when the government is going to cut an incredible amount of programs that support poor people and feed them.”

10.57am: Four Occupy Austin protesters were arrested this morning after refusing to leave a protest outside City Hall, according to Austin police.

The protesters were arrested for criminal trespassing when they would not move to allow workers to clean the area.

Reuters report:

The majority of the protesters agreed to leave City Hall while they cleaned up,” police spokesman Corporal Anthony Hipolito told Reuters. “Four refused to leave.”
Hipolito said the four did not resist arrest.

The protest later resumed, and by 8:15 a.m., there were about a dozen protesters at City Hall.

The Austin protest is one of many being held across the country by demonstrators who say they are angry over economic inequality and what they see as Wall Street greed.

“There wasn’t really any reason for them to get arrested,” said protester Lex Simko, 26, a musician. “Maybe they could have been gently escorted away instead.” In general, though, he said, the protesters and the police have been getting along smoothly.

One day last week, for example, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo mingled with the crowd, stopping to pose for photos with a protester who carried a sign that said “Shame on NYPD, God bless APD.”

And on Thursday morning, a protester approached a police officer to offer him a flower.

10.34am: I’ve just spoken to Ed Needham from Occupy Wall Street about tomorrow’s cleaning effort, who said protesters will remain at Zuccotti Park in a bid to ensure it is not seized by police.

“We’d like to take people at their best intentions,” Needham said. “But this has been a tactic used by police departments around the world – police come in and dissolve what’s going on. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Needham said Occupy Wall Street intend to have “plenty of people on the ground” while the clean up takes place, in order to remain entrenched in Zuccotti Park.

“We won’t be leaving the place [while the park is being cleaned],” he said.

10am: Good morning. Mike Bloomberg visited Occupy Wall Street on Wednesday, briefly chatting with protesters and announcing that Zuccotti Park would be cleaned on Friday.

Associated Press reports:

Bloomberg told them park owner Brookfield Properties plans to clean the public space on Friday, and said they would be allowed to return after the park is clean.

Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement that the protest has “created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park.” He said Brookfield Properties asked for police help to clear the park so it can be cleaned.

Although protesters have been told they will be able to return to the park after it has been cleaned, some are wary of the motives behind the cleansing.

Beth Bogart told the Guardian: “They’re gonna try and move us on Friday, if you read between the lines.”

She said similar tactics were used to evict M15 demonstrators in Spain, who also held occupied protests.

“There is an awareness that this is a pretext to shutting down Occupy Wall Street,” Bogart added.

Bloomberg’s visit came after another day of protest marches organised around OWS. On Wednesday hundreds of Wall Street office cleaners marched near Wall Street on Wednesday demanding good jobs and protesting economic inequality.

From Reuters’ report:

More than 750 cleaners, security guards and other building service workers converged on the financial district to march for better-paying jobs, while at a nearby rally outside a JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) skyscraper police said about 100 people walked around the building and then returned to their camp in the park. Police said they arrested four people at the bank building.

Barricades had been placed outside the JPMorgan Chase building in preparation for the protest, and many police officers stood on duty.

The building service workers union, Service Employees International Union, which organized the march, said contracts for tens of thousands of workers were about to expire.

“We’re out here because there’s no jobs and we’re about to lose our jobs. We’re tired and we’re fed up and we need these people in here to hear us,” said Carla Thomas, 47, a building security guard, gesturing toward Wall Street.

Today around 90 US college campuses are holding rallies in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, while Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine is due to visit Zuccotti Park at 12 noon.

I’ll post updates through the day on protesters reaction to the cleaning of the park and latest developments from elsewhere. Share your views by commenting below or tweeting me @AdamGabbatt

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Yahoo and ABC to share news October 3, 2011

Yahoo and ABC News have announced a deal to share news stories across their websites, starting with a live interview with Barack Obama to be broadcast online on Monday.

The tie-up will see ABC News publish Yahoo News stories while sharing its own video reports, including the popular Good Morning America, with the internet company’s website.

Yahoo.com and ABCNews.com have a combined monthly audience of 100 million unique users. Yahoo.com is the most popular US news website according to figures published last week by web metrics firm Nielsen.

Online traffic for the Yahoo News website and ABC News will be reported together as part of the new arrangement.

George Stephanopoulos, co-anchor of Good Morning America, will interview the US president live on the two websites on Monday afternoon, with questions submitted by Yahoo and ABC News readers.

The Obama interview will be the first video event shared across both sites, before the launch of a Newsmakers series featuring high-profile ABC News anchors Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts.

Christiane Amanpour will front a series on global news, and Bill Weir will host an online series on new technology.

The two news providers will maintain editorial control over their content, although they will share “integrated bureaux” in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

Monday’s announcement builds on a video-sharing deal announced by the pair in 2005, which saw ABC News provide video reports for Yahoo’s news website.

Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, said: “This relationship will give ABC News an unrivaled ability to reach across the web, combining Yahoo’s vast distribution and cutting-edge technology with our award-winning journalism. For years, we’ve proudly proclaimed that more Americans get their news from ABC News than any other source.

“Going forward, we will greatly expand this leadership by building a connection with a whole new online audience.”

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook

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A Survival Guide to the Deluge of Daily Deals October 1, 2011

Daily deal sites have become the new golden child of the Internet. Ever since Groupon turned down a $6 billion offer from Google, these sites have multiplied faster than GOP candidates for president.

For consumers, the array of daily deals can be a bit overwhelming. Not only are there now hundreds of sites clamoring for our attention, but once you sign up for one, your inbox gets flooded with deals many of us have no time to read.

[See 10 Ways to Start Earning Extra Money Now.]

Thankfully, there are tools to help folks manage their daily deals and ensure you get the most bang for your buck. We will review two of these tools and discuss exactly how you can use them to organize your deals. First, let’s review some of the popular daily deal sites.

Local Daily Deals: Sites like Groupon and Living Social offer deals each day from local merchants in your area. These sites do a good job of covering just about every area in the United States, and they offer a variety of deals. You can elect to receive updates via email or access the deals right from your Smartphone. Once you purchase a deal, you can either print off a voucher or show the merchant the voucher right from your phone.

Product Daily Deals: Some sites focus on product deals instead of deals from local merchants. For example, 1SaleaDay.com buys products in bulk at large discounts and pass the savings on to consumers. As the name suggests, it features one sale each day. More established websites like Amazon and eBay also have daily sale pages.

Specialty Sites: Finally, some daily deals sites focus on unique specialties. Restaurant.com, for example, focuses on all things dining. Zozi.com specializes in outdoor activities, like hot air balloon rides and paintball outings.

[See How to Handle Awkward Money Situations.]

For an exhaustive list of daily deal sites, you can check out a list we put together at DoughRoller.net. And as you can see from the variety of sites, managing these accounts can get overwhelming. Two of the tools we are going to cover are Citypockets.com and Manilla.com, both of which are available to help you keep tabs on your deals.

Citypocket.com. Citypockets.com offers subscribers two great features. First, the site automatically imports all your daily deal vouchers from the various deal sites so you can keep track of them in one place. City Pockets also sends you email updates reminding you when your deals expire so you don’t miss out on the savings.

The second feature is a secondary market for daily deal vouchers. If you have ever had a deal expire on you, then you’ll see the value in this feature. If you can’t use a daily deal you’ve already purchased, you can list it for sale on City Pockets. While you’ll likely have to sell it for less than what you paid, it’s better than letting the voucher expire. And if you are in the market for a daily deal, you may want to check out these sales first.

[See The Secret to Living Well on $40,000 a Year.]

Manilla.com. Manilla is an online service that allows you to manage your bills, financial accounts, and travel rewards programs. Now Manilla also lets you manage your daily deals. Recently, Manillia partnered with Groupon and Living Social so users can keep track of their deals from these sites within Manilla. The downside to Manilla is that there are many daily deal sites that are not part of its program.

DR is the founder of the popular personal finance blog, the Dough Roller, and author of 99 Painless Ways to Save Money.

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D.C., Maryland and Washington State Hold Highest Concentration of STEM Jobs

STEM-related job growth is booming in Washington, D.C., Washington, Virginia and Maryland, according to a new analysis by EMSI, an employment data company.

Those places have the highest concentration of STEM-related workers per capita. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of jobs in STEM-related fields in Washington, D.C. grew 13,758, an 11 percent increase. The firm estimates that there are more than 8 million STEM-related jobs in the U.S.,, 3.7 percent more than in 2001.

California, with more than 1 million workers in STEM-related fields, is still the nation’s leader in the industry. Over the past decade, however, the state lost more than 19,000 STEM jobs as the dot-com bubble burst and the recession hit.

Tennessee, Nevada, and Mississippi had the fewest relative concentration of STEM workers, compared to the national average.

EMSI estimates that men hold nearly 75 percent of all STEM-related jobs, and that 20 percent of the STEM workforce is 55 or older.

For a more detailed look at the numbers, check out EMSI analyst Joshua Wright’s article at newgeography.com.

 

 Have something to share? Send news and submissions to stem@usnews.com.

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What Should Students Know About Studying Abroad? September 29, 2011

The allure of studying abroad grabs hold of most every student at some point in their high school and college careers. The choice, however, has more to do with money and being separated from one’s family for a few months. It also includes relevant experience for a student’s major, cultural exposure, and so on. This week, we ask the Unigo Expert Network:

Q: What should students know about studying abroad? Pros and cons?

A: Plan thoughtfully to avoid the cons.
James Montoya, vice president of higher education, The College Board

Whether you participate in a study abroad program offered by your university or one affiliated with another university, choose a program that will have you speaking a foreign language. (In other words, avoid solely hanging out with other Americans while abroad.) Before heading out, do two things: Confirm that your course credits earned abroad will transfer back to your home institution, and arrange for campus housing for your return. Two advantages of studying abroad in the spring (vs. the fall) are that you will not be returning to your home campus midyear, and that you may have the summer to travel.

A: Take advantage of studying abroad.
Stacey Kostell, director of admissions,
University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign

No matter your major, there are so many benefits to studying abroad. You get to select nearly any location and immerse yourself in that culture for a few weeks, semester, or year. You will grow both academically and personally in ways that you can’t do by staying on campus. You will be exposed to new people, new ideas, new ways of living, perhaps a new language, new classes, and a new way of viewing the world. Plus, by going through your university you will receive credit for graduation. Many times the cost is very similar to staying on campus. The only con may be completing the paperwork that is necessary for credit transfer and studying in a different country, but most schools have departments to help you with those details. So, when deciding on a college, take a look at their study abroad program to see how you like it. Then you can go learn the world.

[Consider studying abroad for graduate school.]

A: Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; take advantage if you can!
Katherine Cohen, founder and CEO, IvyWise and ApplyWise.com

Studying abroad affords students the rare opportunity to live in another country, experience a new culture, and gain independence. If you’re considering studying abroad, look for immersive programs that allow you to further your coursework and explore areas of interest. Many courses integrate offsite, hands-on learning experiences with classroom seminars and lectures, providing a more stimulating learning experience. Studying overseas also presents an opportunity to solidify foreign language skills and put them to practice in daily conversation. Go for a semester or a whole year and try to take the same course load as you would at your college. Studying abroad may not be for you if you: plan to graduate early; are majoring in a subject that has many course requirements; will incur additional expenses beyond your school’s normal tuition, room and board etc.; or have family/other obligations that require you to be at home.

[Find scholarships to study abroad.]

A: Read the fine print.
Michele Hernandez, president and founder, HernandezCollegeConsulting.com and ApplicationBootCamp.com

Check who runs the program you are investigating and how the grades will transfer to your school. Some colleges like Dartmouth College run their own programs with Dartmouth professors and standard Dartmouth level grading. Those are the “purest” type of study abroad programs as the grading and level of classes is exactly the same as it would be on campus. Not all schools are this meticulous; if you go an another school’s foreign study program, find out beforehand if the professors are from that college or from a local school and how your grades will transfer. Will the costs be the same? If your goal is to become fluent in a language, be sure to pick a program where you live with a host family, not in a dorm with other English speaking students. In short, there is a huge different in the quality of foreign study programs. Research carefully before committing to one.

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for 25 more experts telling you about the pros and cons to studying abroad, and to have your own questions answered.

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Get Your College Textbooks Cheap September 27, 2011

Your professors will probably be podcasting, and you may listen on your iPhone while reading a novel and checking Facebook. But one mode of information exchange on campus has remained a constant: the expensive textbook.

The average full-time student spent nearly $700 on course materials in the 2009-2010 academic year, calculates the National Association of College Stores. And textbook prices are rising at about four times the rate of inflation, says Nicole Allen, the affordable-textbooks advocate at the Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups), a national federation of state nonprofits.

But the tide may be turning. During the spring 2010 semester, students spent 13 percent less on textbooks than in spring 2009, thanks to growing competition in the textbook marketplace and the mushrooming availability of rental texts, e-books, and even online “open textbooks” that professors can customize and students can download and print for free. A new federal law requires schools to list textbook ISBNs online to allow for comparison shopping and enough time for the books to arrive from an e-tailer.

[Read about 4 ways to get textbooks for free.]

Students who buy may recoup some of their cost by reselling texts on Craigslist, Facebook, or Amazon, or schlepping them back to the bookstore. But all of this takes effort, and you may get only a few dollars if a new edition is out.

Renting will generally be the least expensive option, says Allen. (At one popular website, the $155 Molecular Biology of the Cell was recently going for $69.74 used and $59.49 as a rental.) More than half of college bookstores have set up a rental program. But not all books are available for rental, and you won’t be able to go crazy with your highlighter.

A drawback of e-books is that you can print only 30 percent of the text. The electronic version can run as much as 60 percent lower in cost—even cheaper if you’re just buying chapters you need. But that’s no bargain if you also end up buying a hard copy out of frustration. For a test drive, you can download one of 12,000 e-books for seven days from textbook wholesaler Follett at CafeScribe.com.

[Learn more about digital textbook services.]

More than 50 websites have sprouted up to help you compare prices and buy, rent, or sell books cheap, with new ones launching all the time. Some of the biggest players:

BigWords.com: Type in a book’s name or author and up pops a list of the cheapest options, with shipping costs listed separately. The site lets you filter out third-party sellers if you don’t want to accept the risk of, say, relying on a random person to get you your book pronto.

CampusBooks.com: Allows you to buy, rent, and sell textbooks, to and from other students. A price comparison engine compares the cost of renting and buying.

CengageBrain.com: Launched by Cengage Learning, one of the country’s largest textbook publishers, this site lets students buy only the book chapters they need as an e-book. It also rents (by summer, quarter, or semester) and sells.

Chegg.com: The name comes from a mashup of “chicken” and “egg,” and the concept is that you rent books for as little as 15 percent of the original price. You can also buy books and sell them back for cash or credit.

eCampus.com: Rent, buy, and sell textbooks or download electronic versions. Free shipping is available on purchases of more than $59.

FlatWorldKnowledge.com: This is an open license model start-up that allows professors to edit textbooks to fit their course needs and students to get the book online for free. Other formats, such as print and e-book, are available for a price.

Half.com: Powered by eBay, this website is a portal where sellers list and buyers pay according to the condition of the textbooks.

Textbooks.com: Given the inventory of more than 7 million books, chances are you’ll find what you need here. In addition to renting, buying, and selling, this website carries e-books. Shipping is free on purchases over $25.

ValoreBooks.com: Buy, sell, or rent. The site promises to match any lower rental prices found elsewhere within seven days of your deal.

Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.

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A figleaf in the face of TSA intrusion | Jennifer Abel September 21, 2011

Today’s lesson in vulgar Americanisms is “camel toe”, a slang term meaning “the front half of a woman’s genitalia, or the shape thereof”. To properly use it in a sentence, you can say, “Those tight trousers give her such camel toe, when you talk to her, you hear echoes” or “the Transportation Security Administration demands to see or feel the camel toe of every female airline passenger in America, in case she’s smuggling weapons there.” (Male passengers don’t get camel toe, so the TSA focuses on their sausage and meatballs instead.)

Thus, I’m not optimistic about the financial viability of companies like Scannershirts.com, though I agree completely with their business philosophy:

“Airport security screenings now include the use of x-ray machines called ‘body scanners’. These are highly sophisticated devices which can see through your clothing. They are capable of creating a ‘nude’ image of your private body parts, in revealing detail. At ScannerShirts.com, we are sensitive to your desire to maintain your personal dignity consistent with safe air travel. As such, we have designed the products below as privacy wear for family travel. Our garments have been imprinted with a special ink, which tests have shown will create an opaque blur to help keep the details of your private body parts private.

Except the TSA won’t let you. Other companies have already tried selling similar privacy garments, so last January, Curtis Robert Burns (the TSA propagandist who writes under the name Blogger Bob) warned travellers against “the products folks have created that are designed to shield private areas of passengers going through our Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). […] If there is something shielding an area and we don’t know what’s under it, we have to conduct a pat-down.”

“Patdown”, uttered by a TSA apologist, is another vulgar Americanism meaning “a form of government-mandated sexual humiliation requiring people to adopt submissive-criminal poses while latex-gloved flunkies feel them up.” The ACLU database of passenger complaints about patdowns makes for sickening reading:

Joe in New Mexico reported, “The method used to search my body was on par with a sexual massage by a stranger of the same sex. My penis was touched by a man. My anus and groin were rubbed by a man. My scalp was rubbed by the same person. How can this be acceptable?”

Janet from Maryland said, “The patdown was so invasive that the woman doing it stuck her thumb through my jeans into my vagina, significantly more than simple resistance. She cupped each of my breasts, and ran her hand inside the waistband of my jeans … I am upset, humilated, degraded and feel abused and criminal, when I am guilty of nothing.”

Actually, Janet was guilty of not letting TSA see her camel toe. Last November, when the scan-or-be-groped policy was still new, a TSA agent openly admitted that the whole point of the patdowns is to be so humiliating and unpleasant, passengers will opt for the scanners instead.

Though even submitting to a scan is no guarantee you’ll avoid a patdown. In February, Alaska state representative Sharon Cissna was barred from flying for refusing one after the scanner showed her mastectomy scars. Two months later, six-year-old Anna Drexel had already gone through the scanner when a TSA agent decided to feel her because … well, theTSA never did explain why the little girl registered on their threat radar.

The explanation is simple: TSA policy is to focus on genitalia at the expense of the security checks they should be doing. Last week, the House subcommittee on homeland security said the TSA was to blame in the death of a teenage stowaway who hid in the wheel-well of a parked airplane. (If a thoughtless teenager can do it, a terrorist with a bomb can, too.) TSA also fired or suspended 28 baggage screeners in Honolulu who weren’t screening checked bags for explosives. Checking the cargo hold’s contents, checking the plane itself – all take a back seat to checking what’s in our underwear, because only the latter lets the TSA live up to the motto that was posted in its training center shortly after its founding: “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.”

Today’s last Americanism is “land of the free and home of the brave”, which is how we say “a once-great nation now so imprisoned by its own cowardice, it thinks ‘obscured camel toe’ is a national security threat”. It’s not fear of terrorists that keeps me off planes, these days; it’s fear of mistreatment at the hands of the TSA.

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