Saturday, January 21, 2012

Silicon Wadi in New York

Breaking News: Silicon Wadi in New York By SHLOMO MAITAL

01/16/2012 13:40

Israel can help America out of its economic crisis.

Photo by: Eduardo Munoz/ Reuters

America’s massive governmental aid to Israel, which began in 1949, is, I believe, underappreciated. According to the Congressional Research Service, from 1949 to 2010, official aid totaled over $150 billion, with more than half comprising military grants. That amounts to about two-thirds of Israel’s current annual Gross Domestic Product. At present, Israel receives $2.8 b. yearly in US foreign aid, all of it military.

Right now, it would be just and logical if the direction of the aid were reversed. While America struggles with deficits, joblessness and weak economic growth, Israel’s October unemployment rate was five percent, lowest since 1978, and nearly four percent lower than America’s. But how could Israel possibly help America?

Why not bring “Silicon Wadi,” the nickname given to Israel’s hightech start-ups, derived from America’s Silicon Valley, to “Silicon City” − which is what New York City, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, aspires to become? Why not bring “start-up nation” to help create “start-up city”? Bloomberg made a stunning announcement at a December 19 press conference. “Thanks to this outstanding partnership and groundbreaking proposal from Cornell and the Technion,” Bloomberg declared, “New York City’s goal of becoming the global leader in technological innovation is now within sight.”

The partnership Bloomberg referred to was the creation of a new applied sciences and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island, between Manhattan and Queens, to be called NYCTech Campus. Against all odds, and in the face of fierce competition, the Haifa Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Cornell University together had won a highly competitive bidding contest to build the campus, defeating such giants as Stanford University, the heart and brains of Silicon Valley.

“Of all the applications we received,” Bloomberg said, “Cornell and Technion’s was the boldest and most ambitious. In a word, this project will be transformative.”

Last March, led by Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, New York City called for bids to build a new graduate school of applied sciences. The City of New York would provide 11 acres of land and $100 m. for infrastructure. In return, the winner would create a two million square-foot science campus that would generate new technology, and start-ups and jobs based on it. Some 18 universities tossed their hats into the ring. Technion was specifically invited to participate.

Bloomberg, now in his third mayoral term, had a vision. He saw NYCTech Campus creating 600 spinoff companies and $23 b. in economic activity, generating $1.4 b. in added tax revenue along with 20,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs. New York City badly needs those jobs, with 8.8 percent unemployment, well above the New York State’s overall 7.9 percent, and with Wall St. rapidly shedding workers.

Eventually NYCTech will have 2,500 students and 280 professors. It will offer a dual Technion-Cornell Master of Applied Science degree, ultimately boosting the number of full-time graduate engineering students in NYC by 70 percent. The new campus will not have old-fashioned faculties but rather “hubs,” built around three interdisciplinary areas: Connective Media, Healthier Life and the Built Environment.

How did Technion and Cornell win the project? Some serious cloakand- dagger was employed. Cornell and Technion leaders met secretly in March, in Beijing, and then in Manhattan, in July. The alliance was announced publicly only on October 18, 10 days before the deadline for submitting proposals.

From the start, there were major synergies between the two universities and between their presidents, Cornell’s David Skorton and Technion’s Peretz Lavie. Both Skorton and Lavie have medical backgrounds. Lavie is a world-famous expert in sleep disorders. Skorton, an electrical engineer, is an expert in medical imaging. Cornell brings deep financial resources, a top-10 engineering school, and a strong New York presence. Technion brings, in Lavie’s words, “our experience in educating generations of engineers who are also entrepreneurs and have changed the Israeli economy.” At his press conference, Bloomberg mentioned that Israel has 121 companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, more than all of Europe combined, half of them founded and/or led by Technion graduates.

On December 3, when the five competing teams presented their proposals to Bloomberg and his team, Technion-Cornell presented last. Skorton ended the presentation with a surprise. “We have a $350 m. gift,” he announced, to fund the project. The gift came from billionaire Cornell alumnus Charles Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shoppers.

Bloomberg is now completing his third and last term as NYC Mayor. He is America’s 12th wealthiest person, with a fortune estimated at $19.5 b. Most of his wealth came from the namesake company he founded, after being fired by investment bank Salomon Bros., to supply high-quality business information. He still owns 88 percent of its shares. Unlike most politicians, Bloomberg is eager to create visionary long-term programs like NYCTech whose fruits will ripen long after he leaves office.

IF NYCTech is transformative for New York, it is equally for Technion a game-changer, instantly changing it from an Israeli university to a global one. But there is a nagging question. If NYCTech is so positive for New York City – why in the world is it not equally appealing to create a similar new campus in Israel to remedy a growing shortage of electronics and software engineers?

If a new “start-up nation” campus is so attractive for the world’s greatest city, why not build a new one in Israel, too?

The writer is senior research fellow, at the S. Neaman Institute, Technion.

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Rahm's "College To Careers" speech @ U.S. Conference of Mayors - Lynn Sweet

'Red Tails': History, George Lucas-Style - Atlantic Mobile

Emanuel touts City Colleges plan -

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

American Ertharin Cousin to head World Food Program | Agricultural Commodities | Reuters

Link: (sent via Shareaholic)


Celebrating one of the nation's, City of Chicago and North Lawndale's finest: Ambassador Ertharin Cousin

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

U.S. Homicides Hit Lowest Since 1962

U.S. Homicides Hit Lowest Since 1962
By Molly Peterson - Jan 11, 2012

U.S. life expectancy climbed to a new high in 2010 as fewer people died from heart disease and cancer, and homicide was no longer among the 15 leading causes of death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Homicides fell 3.6 percent in 2010, dropping off the CDC’s tally of leading causes of death and other vital U.S. statistics for the first time in 45 years, according to preliminary data released today by the agency. Life expectancy increased to about 78.7 years.

The homicide rate in 2010 was “the lowest it’s been since 1962,” accounting for 5.3 cases for every 100,000 people, Sherry Murphy, the report’s lead author, said today in a telephone interview. Killings have been among the top 15 causes of death since 1965.

Pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs caused by airborne irritants, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, replaced homicide as the 15th biggest cause of death in 2010, according to the report. While heart disease and cancer remained the top two leading killers, accounting for 47 percent of fatalities, deaths from heart disease declined 2.4 percent to 179 per 100,000 people, while cancer-related deaths dropped 0.6 percent to 173 per 100,000, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Living Longer

Almost 2.46 million people died in the U.S. in 2010, a 1.2 percent increase from the previous year, according to data compiled from death certificates provided by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Children born in 2010 can expect to live 37 days longer than those who entered the world just a year earlier, the CDC said.

The homicide findings aren’t a surprise because murders in the U.S. have been declining since the early 1990s, said John Eck, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati.

“It is a surprise to those who cling to the notion that bad economic times cause crime to go up,” Eck said today in an e-mail. “But the evidence for this has been weak at best and this idea has probably always been more of a myth than a reality.”

It’s a “a sign of the times” that homicide is no longer among the nation’s 15 top causes of death, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of thePolice Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit in Washington.

“I don’t think it’s possible to point to any one factor, but I do think we have seen major changes in how police and how the community respond to crime” over the past decade, Wexler said today in an interview.

Homicide Prevention

Los Angeles and Chicago are among cities where police now focus “not only on who did some crime, but on how they can prevent the next crime,” such as retaliation for a gang-related murder, Wexler said.

The national mortality rate, calculated according to 2010 census data, declined to a record low of 746.2 deaths for every 100,000 people, from 749.6 in 2009.

In addition to declines for heart disease and cancer, death rates dropped for five other leading causes of death. Influenza and pneumonia-related fatalities dropped by a combined 8.5 percent, while deaths from blood infections dropped 3.6 percent. Fatal respiratory diseases, strokes and accidents also declined.

Mortality rates increased for five leading causes of death, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rose 3.3 percent in 2010 to 25 fatalities per 100,000 people, while Parkinson’s-related mortality increased 4.6 percent to 7 deaths for every 100,000 people, according to the report. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s retained their rankings from the previous year as the nation’s 6th and 14th leading causes of death.

The increase in deaths from Alzheimer’s may be partly a result of “changes in terminology” on death certificates that specify the disease instead of a “more generic dementia term,” Murphy said.

The mortality rate from Parkinson’s has been “trending up” in recent years, “but we can’t really say why that’s happening,” she said.

Suicide also kept its spot as the 10th leading cause of death in 2010, as the number of Americans who took their own lives rose 2.4 percent to 37,793 from 36,909 in 2009.

While the CDC had previously reported that there were 36,547 suicides in the U.S. in 2009, and 741 deaths for every 100,000 people, the agency revised its 2009 mortality rates in today’s report based on population data from the 2010 census.

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mitchell: What’s the fuss over the new Obama book? - Chicago Sun-Times

One black woman's  take on new book about Obamas

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Paying a Price, Long After the Crime

From: Ron Tonn, COO, North Lawndale Employment Network

January 9, 2012

Paying a Price, Long After the Crime


IN 2010, the Chicago Public Schools declined to hire Darrell Langdon for a job as a boiler-room engineer, because he had been convicted of possessing a half-gram of cocaine in 1985, a felony for which he received probation. It didn’t matter that Mr. Langdon, a single parent of two sons, had been clean since 1988 and hadn’t run into further trouble with the law. Only after The Chicago Tribune wrote about his case did the school system reverse its decision and offer him the job.

A stunning number of young people are arrested for crimes in this country, and those crimes can haunt them for the rest of their lives. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Crime Commission found that about half of American males could expect to be arrested for a nontraffic offense some time in their lives, mostly in their late teens and early 20s. An article just published in the journal Pediatrics shows how the arrest rate has grown — by age 23, 30 percent of Americans have been arrested, compared with 22 percent in 1967. The increase reflects in part the considerable growth in arrests for drug offenses and domestic violence.

The impact of these arrests is felt for years. The ubiquity of criminal-background checks and the efficiency of information technology in maintaining those records and making them widely available, have meant that millions of Americans — even those who served probation or parole but were never incarcerated — continue to pay a price long after the crime. In November the American Bar Association released a database identifying more than 38,000 punitive provisions that apply to people convicted of crimes, pertaining to everything from public housing to welfare assistance to occupational licenses. More than two-thirds of the states allow hiring and professional-licensing decisions to be made on the basis of an arrest alone.

Employers understandably want to protect their employees and customers from risk. Yet at the same time, there is a growing public interest in facilitating job opportunities for those who have stayed crime-free for a reasonable period of time. The weak economy and a rethinking of the logic of mass incarceration — driven in large part by budget pressures — have also brought attention to the situations of ex-offenders like Mr. Langdon, who face the collateral consequences of conviction long after their involvement with the criminal justice system has ended. Federal authorities are beginning to pay attention. Last April, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. urged state attorneys general to review laws and policies “to determine whether those that impose burdens on individuals convicted of crimes without increasing public safety should be eliminated.”

It is well established that the risk of recidivism drops steadily with time, but there is still the question of how long is long enough. By looking at data for more than 88,000 people who had their first arrest in New York State in 1980, and tracking their subsequent criminal histories over the next 25 years, we estimate the “redemption time” — the time it takes for an individual’s likelihood of being arrested to be close to that of individuals with no criminal records — to be about 10 to 13 years. We also found that about 30 percent of the first-time offenders in 1980 were never arrested again, in New York or anywhere else.

Employers could apply their own judgments around those estimates, but the real problem is the state and local rules — often embedded in statutes — that restrict employment or licensing for the rest of the individual’s life. In New York, former offenders can be forever denied licenses for certain jobs, ranging from beer distributor to real estate broker. Such “forever rules” — which fall heavily on minorities, who are particularly likely to be arrested — are inherently unfair.

We propose that the “forever rules” be replaced by rules that provide for the expiration of a criminal record. We believe it is unreasonable for someone to be hounded by a single arrest or conviction that happened more than 20 years earlier — and for many kinds of crimes, the records should be sealed even sooner. The state, as well as private employers, should face a heavy burden to demonstrate the need for any rule that imposes consequences on someone who has remained crime-free decades after a single offense. Yes, there are legitimate exceptions for high-security positions in law enforcement and national security — and there can be exemptions in particular cases; banks cannot afford to hire someone convicted of financial fraud.

A number of states have placed limits on the availability of stale criminal records. Under a law that will take effect in May, Massachusetts will limit employers’ access to information about convictions to 5 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for felonies. And the new law will protect employers from due-diligence liability suits if someone they hire in accord with these restrictions commits a further offense.

Policies that encourage employers to hire people who made a mistake in the past but have since rebuilt their lives would not only help those people, but also our economy and our society. With unemployment so high, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to find jobs. And by embracing the principle that having paid the price for crime, there should be a limit on the time they are made to suffer, we would be giving true meaning to the ideals of rehabilitation and redemption.

Alfred Blumstein is a professor of urban systems and operations research at Carnegie Mellon University. Kiminori Nakamura is an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, College Park.


"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is."
                                                                                                                       - Francis Bacon - 


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