Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Extorting Alums: Colleges Withhold Transcripts from Grads in Loan Default -

Extorting Alums: Colleges Withhold Transcripts from Grads in Loan Default -
Students today are leaving college with huge debts and no job possibilities, an explosive mix

More than ten years ago, Pedro Rodriguez, a talented keyboard musician, came from his colonial homeland of Puerto Rico to go to Temple University. From a low-income family, he depended heavily on student loans to finance his four-year undergraduate study. Graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s of music, he went on to earn a master’s degree in music from Temple and then was hired for three years to teach there as an adjunct. By the end of college, he was $62,000 in debt but was making payments regularly until Temple laid him off, allegedly because of budget cuts. That’s when his problems began. (Pedro Rodriguez is a pseudonym to protect his identity.)

Unable to find a job as a music teacher in the current economic crisis, he eventually went into default on his loans, which included Stafford, Perkins and private bank loans. Then this year, he decided to go on to earn a PhD, which would make it possible for him to get hired in his field. He applied to a top-rated university in the Northeast, but when it was time to send his school transcripts, Temple froze him out. “They said as long as I was in default on my loans, they would not issue a transcript!” says Rodriguez.

A spokesman from Temple confirms that it is school policy to withhold official transcripts from graduates who are in default on their student loans. As it turns out, the school is not alone; this is the position taken by most colleges and universities, though there is no law requiring such an extortionate position. They do this despite the fact the colleges themselves are not out the money. They have received the students’ tuition payments in full and are in effect simply acting as collection agencies for the federal government.

The US Department of Education says only that it “encourages” colleges to withhold transcripts, a tactic which the department, in a letter to colleges, claims coldly “has resulted in numerous loan repayments.”...

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Weather Service to test more graphic tornado warnings - "Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods is likely" -

Weather Service to test more graphic tornado warnings - "Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods is likely" - 

The National Weather Service on Monday plans to begin a new initiative in Kansas and Missouri designed to make people in Tornado Alley sit up and take notice when potentially devastating twisters are headed their way. Under the new system, tornado warnings will be accompanied by stark language like, "mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors," according to the National Weather Service. Or even: "This storm is not survivable." "We call this 'impact-based warning," Dan Hawblitzel, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, said on Sunday. "The idea is to better convey the impact that a storm is likely to have on a community." Current National Weather Service tornado warnings generally cover portions of counties and urge people in the storm's path to take action. "There is quite a lot of over-warning going on; it's kind of the car-alarm syndrome," said Col Galyean, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel. "People who live in areas where tornadoes happen frequently, like Joplin, Missouri, for example, are kind of becoming desensitized to the warnings." A tornado slammed into Joplin last May, killing 161 people in the southwestern Missouri city and causing extensive damage. The new warnings will be tested in the two states through November 30. After that, a panel of social scientists and meteorologists will examine the responses and determine whether the system should be used nationwide, Hawblitzel said.

Messages such as, "Complete destruction of entire neighborhoods is likely" may get more people posting on social networking sites and taking instant action, Hawblitzel said.

Galyean and Hawblitzel say the more detailed warnings are largely made possible because of a new type of Doppler radar called dual polarization, which can measure both the horizontal and vertical properties of a storm system and can tell forecasters whether debris is being picked up by the storm, a sure sign of a destructive system.

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Babies treated in womb for obesity: Overweight mothers-to-be get diabetes pill to cut the risk of having a fat child -

Babies treated in womb for obesity: Overweight mothers-to-be get diabetes pill to cut the risk of having a fat child - 

Babies are being medicated in the womb in an attempt to prevent them from being  born obese.
In a world first, dangerously overweight mothers-to-be in four British cities have started taking a diabetes drug during their pregnancy.
The doctors behind the controversial NHS trial say that obesity among pregnant women is reaching epidemic proportions and they need to act now to protect the health of tomorrow's children.

However, there is likely to be unease about resorting to medication in pregnancy for a problem that can be treated through changes in diet and exercise.
If the strategy is a success, the treatment could be in widespread use in as little as five years, with tens of thousands of overweight but otherwise healthy mothers-to-be drugged each year.
The Daily Mail recently revealed the rise of the 'sumo baby', with the number of newborns weighing more than 11lb soaring by 50 per cent over the last four years.

More than 15 per cent of pregnant women are obese. This raises their odds of dying in pregnancy, of their baby being stillborn and of a host of pregnancy complications, some of which can be fatal.
Big babies are around twice as likely to grow into overweight adults, suggesting obesity and the lifetime of ill-health it can bring is 'programmed' in the womb. The trial involves 400 pregnant women in Liverpool, Coventry, Sheffield and Edinburgh.
They have started taking metformin, which has been safely used by diabetics for decades and is cleared for the treatment of diabetes in pregnancy. It costs just pence per tablet.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2123700/Babies-treated-womb-obesity-Overweight-mothers-diabetes-pill-cut-risk-having-fat-child.html

Eating fast food such as hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza and even baked items could push you into depression, says study -

Eating fast food such as hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza and even baked items could push you into depression, says study - 

Eating fast food such as hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza and even baked items could send you into a tailspin of blues. 

A recent study by scientists from the universities of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Granada, Spain, revealed that consumers of fast food were 51 per cent more likely to develop depression, compared to those who ate little or none. 

"The more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression," Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, who led the study, told SINC, ( Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology) the journal Public Health Nutrition reports. 

The study demonstrated that those participants who ate the most fast food and commercial baked goods were more likely to be single, less active and had poor dietary habits, which include eating less fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables and olive oil. 

Smoking and working more than 45 hours per week were other prevalent characteristics of this group, according to a statement of Granada and Las Palmas. 

Regarding baked goods, the results were equally conclusive. "Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression," pointed out Sanchex-Villegas from Las Palmas University. 

The study sample under SUN Project (University of Navarra Diet and Lifestyle Tracking Program), comprised 8,964 participants, who had never been diagnosed with depression or taken anti-depressants. 

They were assessed for an average of six months and 493 were diagnosed with depression or started to take anti-depressants. 

Depression affects 121 million people worldwide.

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April Fools' Tech Roundup: Kodak Kittens, Gmail Tap, and More! -

April Fools' Tech Roundup: Kodak Kittens, Gmail Tap, and More! - 
Kodak Kittens

Enjoying April Fools' Day yet? A day when all legitimate tech reporting grinds to a standstill, for what company would be foolish enough to make a market-changing announcement on a day reserved for jokes and pranks? Worse, it's a Sunday; nobody (save for AT&T and T-Mobile) likes Sundays.
To spare you from having to hunt down the official websites of every product manufacturer or company you care for to see all the craziness they've posted for today, we've gathered up our favorite April Fools' gags below. Use these to fuel your creative spirit as you think of all sorts of methods (or Facebook updates) with which to fool your friends and loved ones.
We've already covered gaming and Google Maps, but Google's 8-bit transformation was but the tip of its April Fools' Day iceberg. The company's since gone on to debut Gmail Tap(Morse code for your email), partnered up with NASCAR to launch autonomous car racing(run for the hills), launched Chrome Multitask Mode (multiple-cursor support), and finally allowed users to search for "subtext and innuendo" via its new Really Advanced Searchfeature.
Elsewhere, AdBlock – the popular browser extension that keeps one's Web surfing experience free of annoying advertisements – announced that it's now expanding its services to block cat pictures as well. But Kodak's actually gone and embraced cat pictures with its latest creation, a machine that actually allows you to print a real-life kitten from the comfort of your home.
Sony's debuted a quarter-sized "Ultrabook" in the hope that it can forever shut the door on the miniaturization race among laptop manufacturers (assuming one figures out how to type on the thing). It'll be tough to watch the $2.2-million YouTube collection on that tiny laptop — a 442,956-DVD set of every single video ever posted to YouTube (which costs nearly $60,000 to ship via standard trucks).
We think your best bet is to just stream your YouTube videos on your O2 On & On: A smartphone that comes with 1,000 hours of talk time and 92 days' worth of standby time. Or, if you really love YouTube, it only makes sense to pull it up on a new Toshiba Shapetablet.
Thanks to April Fools 2012, you can book an Airbnb trip to the International Space Station, you can take even crappier pictures on Flickr than what your favorite camera smartphone app could ever accomplish, and you can even book a trip to the center of the earth on Virgin Volcanic (and perhaps pay for it using a Branson). Or, if you prefer to hitchhike to a new destination (or charter a trip on the Millennium Falcon), flight-finding service Hipmunk has you covered.
Assuming, of course, you're still alive.
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