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Monthly Archives: August 2013

The current occupant of the White House thinks we need to respond militarily to the Syrian government’s supposed use (the administration offers no evidence to prove it; other accounts indicate it was the Syrian rebels who actually used them against their own people) of chemical weapons against its civilian population. He’s not bothered yet to get any go-ahead from Congress – who needs those guys when you’re the imperial president? Apparently, though, any military response should not be too big of a deal: we don’t want Iran or Russia to get riled up about it. So, says an unnamed official, the attack should be “just muscular enough not to get mocked.” Making that statement sets up Wile E. Obama’s administration for just that.

White House officials cautioned that Obama was still considering the options, but the administration appeared positioned to act quickly once he chooses a course. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a visit to Brunei that the Pentagon was prepared to strike targets in Syria and hinted that such a move could come within days.

Some experts said U.S. warships and submarines in the eastern Mediterranean could fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets as early as Thursday night, beginning a campaign that could last two or three nights. Obama leaves next Tuesday for a four day trip to Sweden and Russia, which strongly supports Assad’s government, for the G-20 economic summit.

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.”

They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.

Obama and his top aides have shared intelligence with key members of Congress. But White House aides made it clear Tuesday that Obama would not wait for Congress to return from its monthlong recess on Sept. 9, and House and Senate leaders signaled no plans to call members back for an emergency session.

via Syria chemical weapons response poses major test for Obama – latimes.com.

The biomedical engineering professor in the article has the best line, when referring to the rows of administrative offices: “I have no idea what these people do.” I suspect there’s a lot of folks that have no idea what they do, and if examined closely, you’d find that the University could probably get along swimmingly without them. Check out the differential between administrator pay, and what the average full professor makes. If you hop over to the full article, you see one administrator claim that they’re running about as lean as possible. (H/T Speedmaster)

J. Paul Robinson, chairman of the Purdue University faculty senate, walks the halls of a 10-story tower, pointing out a row of offices for administrators. “I have no idea what these people do,” says the biomedical engineering professor. Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000-a-year chief diversity officer. Among its 16 deans and 11 vice presidents are a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief. The average full professor at the public university in West Lafayette, Ind., makes $125,000.

The number of Purdue administrators has jumped 54 percent in the past decade—almost eight times the growth rate of tenured and tenure-track faculty. “We’re here to deliver a high-quality education at as low a price as possible,” says Robinson. “Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?”

Purdue is among the U.S. colleges layering up at the top at a time when budgets are tight, students are amassing record debt, and tuition is skyrocketing. U.S. Department of Education data show that Purdue is typical: At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty. “Administrative bloat is clearly contributing to the overall cost of higher education,” says Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas. In a 2010 study, Greene found that from 1993 to 2007, spending on administration rose almost twice as fast as funding for research and teaching at 198 leading U.S. universities.

via The Troubling Dean-to-Professor Ratio – Businessweek.

This is cool. I’d read that big trees like Sequoias lived for this long, but I didn’t realize fruit trees could, too. This one was planted in 1630 by John Endicott.

When the first European settlers stepped foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620, the landscape they encountered must have felt like the epitome of wildness. In time, of course, cottages and farmhouses, roads and footpaths would sprout up even there as ‘civilization’ took root. But little could they have guessed, from those fragile early shoots, that the whole wild continent would be tamed in just a few short centuries.

It may be hard to believe, however, but one of America’s earliest settlers is still alive today — and still bearing fruit after 383 years.

Among the first wave of immigrants to the New World was an English Puritan named John Endicott, who in 1629, arrived to serve as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Charged with the task of establishing a welcoming setting for new arrivals upon the untamed land, the Pilgrim leader set about making the area around modern-day Salem as homey as possible.

In approximately 1630, as his children watched on, Endicott planted one of the first fruit trees to be cultivated in America: a pear sapling imported from across the Atlantic. He is said to have declared at the time: “I hope the tree will love the soil of the old world and no doubt when we have gone the tree will still be alive.”

The tree did outlive all witnesses to its planting — as well as generations and generations that followed.

via One of the first fruit trees planted in America is still alive and well at age 383 : TreeHugger.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano nearly did, as his spacesuit malfunctioned, and began filling his helmet up with water.

Writing in his online blog Luca Parmitano described how the water sloshed around inside his helmet outside the International Space Station (ISS) and gradually rose to cover his nose and eyes.

The former test pilot wrote: “By now, the upper part of the helmet is full of water and I can’t even be sure that the next time I breathe I will fill my lungs with air and not liquid.”

Mr Parmitano, 36, a major in the Italian Air Force making just his second spacewalk, wasn’t sure which direction to head to reach the station’s hatch.

He tried to contact his spacewalking partner, American Christopher Cassidy, and Mission Control. Their voices grew faint, and no one could hear him.

“I’m alone. I frantically think of a plan. It’s vital that I get inside as quickly as possible,” he wrote.

Read the whole thing: Astronaut Tells Of Near-Drowning On Spacewalk.