Friday, August 31, 2007

China kung fu monks seek apology for ninja affront

China kung fu monks seek apology for ninja affront

China's Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese kung fu, is demanding an apology from an Internet user who said its monks had once been beaten in unarmed combat by a Japanese ninja, Chinese media reported on Friday.

Shaolin Temple, in the northern province of Henan, became famous in the West as the training ground for Kwai Chang "Grasshopper" Caine in the 1970s "Kung Fu" TV series.

Ninjas -- professional assassins trained in martial arts -- date back to mediaeval Japan.

"The so-called defeat is purely fabricated, and we demand the Internet user to apologize to the whole nation for the wrongs he or she did," the Beijing News said, citing a notice announced by a lawyer for the Shaolin monks.

Relations between Chinese and Japanese are sensitive at the best of times, with emotions still running high over Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China in the first half of the 20th Century.

The Internet user, calling themselves "Five Minutes Every Day," said on an online forum last week that a Japanese ninja came to Shaolin, asked for a fight and many monks failed to beat him, the newspaper said.

"The facts that the monks could not defeat a Japanese ninja showed that they were named as kung fu masters in vain," the Internet user was quoted as saying in the post.

The Shaolin temple "strongly condemned the horrible deeds" of the user, the newspaper said.

"It is not only extremely irresponsible behavior with respect to the Shaolin temple and its monks, but also to the whole martial art and Chinese nation," it quoted the monks as saying.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Chicago GSB adds powerpoint to application

Top Business School Announces Creative Way for Applicants to Present Themselves Print
Written by EditorsChoice   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007

MBA students to present to submit up to four slides with application. A departure from text-only applications of past.

Chicago, Illinois (PRWEB) July 16, 2007 -- To enable prospective full-time MBA students to present a more complete picture of their candidacy, applicants to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, one of the top business schools in the world, will now submit up to four slides about themselves with their application, the school announced. (


In announcing the new requirement, the school noted that prospective students are asked to supply facts about themselves throughout the application, but the slides will allow applicants to be creative and tell the admissions committee about themselves using a medium that parallels the communication tools used for professional and social networking.


"This is a departure from the text-only application that we used in the past because under the old format we were unable to capture important information showing how prospective students define themselves," said Stacey Kole, deputy dean at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.


The slides may contain pictures, graphs, text or anything else that prospective students want to include, according to the school.     


The requirement applies to students seeking to start the MBA program in September 2008. Applicants must still submit two traditional essays as part of the application process in addition to a maximum of four slides. More information about the school's full-time MBA program is available at


"There is no right or wrong way to satisfy the new requirement," said Rosemaria Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions for the school's full-time MBA program. "The important thing is that applicants can express themselves in ways they could not before in essay form," she said.


In today's business environment, communication is fast and concise, Martinelli said. "Whether it be e-mail, PowerPoint or a two-minute elevator speech, successful businesspeople need to learn how to express their full ideas in very restrictive formats. We feel the new application requirement represents this very common challenge," she said. "But instead of using this tool to sell a product or request new business, applicants are using it to present themselves."


In addition to the slides, applicants for next year's entering class must also answer two essay questions. The first essay, limited to 1,500 words, is: "Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? What are your personal and professional goals and the role an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business plays in your plans to reach these goals?"


The second essay, limited to 500 words, asks: "If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, who would it be and why?"


"Feedback from our current students shows that one of the unique things about our MBA program is that it challenges people to think in different ways and to be prepared for the unexpected," Martinelli said. "We keep that in mind as we select our essay questions. The new requirement for slides just takes that to another level."


The slides submitted with the application will not be judged on technical ability but rather the self-expression that is revealed, the school said. "Slides allow people to stretch beyond just the written word and one inch margins into a different space where an applicant can be much more expressive," Martinelli said.


"The slides will be printed and placed in each applicant's file for review, which means all the bells and whistles such as Flash, video clips, embedded music and hyperlinks won't be considered in the evaluation process," she said. "This clearly levels the playing field for everyone."





Fewer Mexicans seen sending money home from U.S.

Fewer Mexicans seen sending money home from U.S.

Wed Aug 8, 2007 6:52PM EDT

By Adriana Garcia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lower percentage of Latin American workers living in the United States is sending money to family members back home, a report showed on Wednesday.

The percentage of Mexicans living in the United States who regularly sent remittances home fell to 64 percent in the first half of 2007, from 71 percent in the same period last year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) said in a study of remittance patterns.

The reduction was deepest in 40 U.S. states where Latin American immigration is a more recent trend, such as Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where it plunged to 56 percent this year from the average 80 percent in 2006.

"In the new destination states, around half a million migrants have stopped sending money home," said Donald F. Terry, the IADB's Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) official who commissioned the survey.

"This means that over the past years two million people in Mexico have lost a vital lifeline," he added. Mexico is the primary destination for U.S. immigrant remittances.

Remittances to Mexico grew 23 percent from January to June of last year, but grew by only 0.6 per cent on the same period of 2007, according to the Central Bank of Mexico.

Remittances sent by Central American immigrants, meanwhile, grew at 11 percent in the same period.

A major difference between them is that almost all Central American immigrants live in traditional destination states, like California or Texas, while about 18 percent of Mexicans have spread to the "new destination" states.

"They have been more adventurous and more aggressive in the search for new jobs," said pollster Sergio Bendixen of Bendixen Associates, a Miami-based firm that conducted the survey.

Bendixen says this group of Mexicans is facing difficulties that have made them less optimistic, such as the lack of well-paying jobs, education and proficiency in English, and lack of legal immigration documents.

He also suggested that immigrants might be saving more money, instead of sending it abroad because they feel uncertainty about their own future.

About half of the 900 immigrants, both Mexican and Central American, were interviewed for the survey were illegal immigrants, he added.

"They just don't feel welcome in the United States any longer," Bendixen said.

About one in three of the Mexicans living in the "new states" thinks they will go back to Mexico in the next five years, against one in four in more traditional states, according to the survey.

The same proportion of Mexicans think that discrimination is the main problem they face now in the United States, while Bendixen said fewer than 10 percent of Hispanics used to think that discrimination was their chief problem here.

The survey was done in June by telephone in 50 U.S. states, the margin of error is +- 3 percentage points.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"McFood" Better Than Food, Kids Say

"McFood" Better Than Food, Kids Say
Aug 6, 2007
(WebMD) Whether it's french fries or carrots, preschoolers say food tastes better when it comes in a McDonald's wrapper.

It's not the food, it's the brand name. Marketing strongly affects 4-year-olds' food preferences, find Stanford University pediatrics researcher Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., and colleagues.

Robinson and colleagues studied 63 low-income children enrolled in Head Start centers in California. The kids ranged in age from 3 years to 5 years.

Told they were playing a food-tasting game, the kids sat at a table with a screen across the middle. A researcher reached around either side of the screen to put out two identical food samples: slices of a hamburger, french fries, chicken nuggets, milk, or baby carrots.

The only difference between the pairs of food samples was that one came in a plain wrapper, cup, or bag, and the other came in a clean, unused McDonald's wrapper, cup, or bag. The kids were asked whether they liked one of the foods best, or whether they tasted the same.

In all cases, the majority of the kids said the "best" foods were those linked to the McDonald's brand, even though the only differences between the bags were the McDonald's logos (no special advertising materials were used).

  • 77 percent of the kids said the same french fries, from McDonald's, were better in a McDonald's bag than in a plain bag (13 percent liked the ones in the plain bag; 10 percent could tell they were the same).
  • 61 percent of the kids said milk tasted better in a McDonald's cup (21 percent liked milk in a plain cup; 18 percent could tell it was the same).
  • 59 percent of the kids said chicken nuggets tasted better in a McDonald's bag (18 percent liked them in a plain bag; 23 percent could tell they were the same).
  • 54 percent of the kids said carrots tasted better in a McDonald's bag (23 percent liked them in a plain bag; another 23 percent could tell they were the same).
  • 48 percent of the kids liked hamburgers better in a McDonald's wrapper (37 percent liked them in a plain wrapper; 15 percent could tell they were the same).

    Kids who preferred "McFood" tended to live in homes with a greater number of television sets and tended to eat at McDonald's more often than kids not influenced by the McDonald's brand name.

    "Children preferred the taste of carrots and milk if they thought they were from McDonald's," Robinson and colleagues conclude. "This is an opportunity for heavily marketed brands to respond to rising rates of childhood obesity by changing their product offerings."

    McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker says McDonald's is doing just that.

    "McDonald's is only advertising Happy Meals with white meat McNuggets, fresh apple slices, and low-fat milk, a right-sized meal of only 375 calories," Riker tells WebMD. "Additionally, our recent program with 'Shrek' was our biggest-ever promotion of fruits, vegetables, and milk, another indication of our progressive approach to responsible marketing."

    Riker says McDonald's own research "confirms that we've earned [parents'] trust as a responsible marketer based on decades of delivering the safest food, the highest quality toys, and the kind of choice and variety today's families are looking for."

    In December 2005, the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a CDC-funded study on food marketing to children. The study found that advertisers used highly sophisticated techniques to target children who are too young to know the difference between advertising claims and truth.

    As a result, the IOM study showed, companies succeed in getting children to eat ever more high-calorie, low-nutrient, and high-profit, junk food.

    The Robinson study appears in the August issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The journal last year published a series of studies linking media messages to harmful effects on children's health, including child obesity.

    Three-year-olds, one of the studies found, are three times more likely to be overweight if they spend two or more hours a day in a room with a TV on.

    "Past studies have shown that the content of children's TV commercials is overwhelmingly about junk food," University of Michigan researcher Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., told WebMD last year. "And if you show kids commercials, they ask for the junk food. So it may be the TV, even at this early age, is shaping their food preferences."

  • By Daniel DeNoon
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
    ©2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Monday, August 6, 2007

    FW: Interesting Boston Globe Article on Diversity and Civic Life

    The downside of diversity

    A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

    IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

    But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

    "The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

    The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation's social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam's research predicts.

    "We can't ignore the findings," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "The big question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we do about it; what are the next steps?"

    The study is part of a fascinating new portrait of diversity emerging from recent scholarship. Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable -- but discomfort, it turns out, isn't always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. At the same time, though, Putnam's work adds to a growing body of research indicating that more diverse populations seem to extend themselves less on behalf of collective needs and goals.

    His findings on the downsides of diversity have also posed a challenge for Putnam, a liberal academic whose own values put him squarely in the pro-diversity camp. Suddenly finding himself the bearer of bad news, Putnam has struggled with how to present his work. He gathered the initial raw data in 2000 and issued a press release the following year outlining the results. He then spent several years testing other possible explanations.

    When he finally published a detailed scholarly analysis in June in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies, he faced criticism for straying from data into advocacy. His paper argues strongly that the negative effects of diversity can be remedied, and says history suggests that ethnic diversity may eventually fade as a sharp line of social demarcation.

    "Having aligned himself with the central planners intent on sustaining such social engineering, Putnam concludes the facts with a stern pep talk," wrote conservative commentator Ilana Mercer, in a recent Orange County Register op-ed titled "Greater diversity equals more misery."

    Putnam has long staked out ground as both a researcher and a civic player, someone willing to describe social problems and then have a hand in addressing them. He says social science should be "simultaneously rigorous and relevant," meeting high research standards while also "speaking to concerns of our fellow citizens." But on a topic as charged as ethnicity and race, Putnam worries that many people hear only what they want to.

    "It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity," he writes in the new report. "It would be equally unfortunate if an ahistorical and ethnocentric conservatism were to deny that addressing that challenge is both feasible and desirable."

    . . .

    Putnam is the nation's premier guru of civic engagement. After studying civic life in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, Putnam turned his attention to the US, publishing an influential journal article on civic engagement in 1995 that he expanded five years later into the best-selling "Bowling Alone." The book sounded a national wake-up call on what Putnam called a sharp drop in civic connections among Americans. It won him audiences with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and made him one of the country's best known social scientists.

    Putnam claims the US has experienced a pronounced decline in "social capital," a term he helped popularize. Social capital refers to the social networks -- whether friendships or religious congregations or neighborhood associations -- that he says are key indicators of civic well-being. When social capital is high, says Putnam, communities are better places to live. Neighborhoods are safer; people are healthier; and more citizens vote.

    The results of his new study come from a survey Putnam directed among residents in 41 US communities, including Boston. Residents were sorted into the four principal categories used by the US Census: black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. They were asked how much they trusted their neighbors and those of each racial category, and questioned about a long list of civic attitudes and practices, including their views on local government, their involvement in community projects, and their friendships. What emerged in more diverse communities was a bleak picture of civic desolation, affecting everything from political engagement to the state of social ties.

    Putnam knew he had provocative findings on his hands. He worried about coming under some of the same liberal attacks that greeted Daniel Patrick Moynihan's landmark 1965 report on the social costs associated with the breakdown of the black family. There is always the risk of being pilloried as the bearer of "an inconvenient truth," says Putnam.

    After releasing the initial results in 2001, Putnam says he spent time "kicking the tires really hard" to be sure the study had it right. Putnam realized, for instance, that more diverse communities tended to be larger, have greater income ranges, higher crime rates, and more mobility among their residents -- all factors that could depress social capital independent of any impact ethnic diversity might have.

    "People would say, 'I bet you forgot about X,'" Putnam says of the string of suggestions from colleagues. "There were 20 or 30 X's."

    But even after statistically taking them all into account, the connection remained strong: Higher diversity meant lower social capital. In his findings, Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."

    "People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down' -- that is, to pull in like a turtle," Putnam writes.

    In documenting that hunkering down, Putnam challenged the two dominant schools of thought on ethnic and racial diversity, the "contact" theory and the "conflict" theory. Under the contact theory, more time spent with those of other backgrounds leads to greater understanding and harmony between groups. Under the conflict theory, that proximity produces tension and discord.

    Putnam's findings reject both theories. In more diverse communities, he says, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise. And in perhaps the most surprising result of all, levels of trust were not only lower between groups in more diverse settings, but even among members of the same group.

    "Diversity, at least in the short run," he writes, "seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."

    The overall findings may be jarring during a time when it's become commonplace to sing the praises of diverse communities, but researchers in the field say they shouldn't be.

    "It's an important addition to a growing body of evidence on the challenges created by diversity," says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser.

    In a recent study, Glaeser and colleague Alberto Alesina demonstrated that roughly half the difference in social welfare spending between the US and Europe -- Europe spends far more -- can be attributed to the greater ethnic diversity of the US population. Glaeser says lower national social welfare spending in the US is a "macro" version of the decreased civic engagement Putnam found in more diverse communities within the country.

    Economists Matthew Kahn of UCLA and Dora Costa of MIT reviewed 15 recent studies in a 2003 paper, all of which linked diversity with lower levels of social capital. Greater ethnic diversity was linked, for example, to lower school funding, census response rates, and trust in others. Kahn and Costa's own research documented higher desertion rates in the Civil War among Union Army soldiers serving in companies whose soldiers varied more by age, occupation, and birthplace.

    Birds of different feathers may sometimes flock together, but they are also less likely to look out for one another. "Everyone is a little self-conscious that this is not politically correct stuff," says Kahn.

    . . .

    So how to explain New York, London, Rio de Janiero, Los Angeles -- the great melting-pot cities that drive the world's creative and financial economies?

    The image of civic lassitude dragging down more diverse communities is at odds with the vigor often associated with urban centers, where ethnic diversity is greatest. It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.

    "Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that's challenging," says Page, author of "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." "But by hanging out with people different than you, you're likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive."

    In other words, those in more diverse communities may do more bowling alone, but the creative tensions unleashed by those differences in the workplace may vault those same places to the cutting edge of the economy and of creative culture.

    Page calls it the "diversity paradox." He thinks the contrasting positive and negative effects of diversity can coexist in communities, but "there's got to be a limit." If civic engagement falls off too far, he says, it's easy to imagine the positive effects of diversity beginning to wane as well. "That's what's unsettling about his findings," Page says of Putnam's new work.

    Meanwhile, by drawing a portrait of civic engagement in which more homogeneous communities seem much healthier, some of Putnam's worst fears about how his results could be used have been realized. A stream of conservative commentary has begun -- from places like the Manhattan Institute and "The American Conservative" -- highlighting the harm the study suggests will come from large-scale immigration. But Putnam says he's also received hundreds of complimentary emails laced with bigoted language. "It certainly is not pleasant when David Duke's website hails me as the guy who found out racism is good," he says.

    In the final quarter of his paper, Putnam puts the diversity challenge in a broader context by describing how social identity can change over time. Experience shows that social divisions can eventually give way to "more encompassing identities" that create a "new, more capacious sense of 'we,'" he writes.

    Growing up in the 1950s in small Midwestern town, Putnam knew the religion of virtually every member of his high school graduating class because, he says, such information was crucial to the question of "who was a possible mate or date." The importance of marrying within one's faith, he says, has largely faded since then, at least among many mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

    While acknowledging that racial and ethnic divisions may prove more stubborn, Putnam argues that such examples bode well for the long-term prospects for social capital in a multiethnic America.

    In his paper, Putnam cites the work done by Page and others, and uses it to help frame his conclusion that increasing diversity in America is not only inevitable, but ultimately valuable and enriching. As for smoothing over the divisions that hinder civic engagement, Putnam argues that Americans can help that process along through targeted efforts. He suggests expanding support for English-language instruction and investing in community centers and other places that allow for "meaningful interaction across ethnic lines."

    Some critics have found his prescriptions underwhelming. And in offering ideas for mitigating his findings, Putnam has drawn scorn for stepping out of the role of dispassionate researcher. "You're just supposed to tell your peers what you found," says John Leo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "I don't expect academics to fret about these matters."

    But fretting about the state of American civic health is exactly what Putnam has spent more than a decade doing. While continuing to research questions involving social capital, he has directed the Saguaro Seminar, a project he started at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government that promotes efforts throughout the country to increase civic connections in communities.

    "Social scientists are both scientists and citizens," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, who sees nothing wrong in Putnam's efforts to affect some of the phenomena he studies.

    Wolfe says what is unusual is that Putnam has published findings as a social scientist that are not the ones he would have wished for as a civic leader. There are plenty of social scientists, says Wolfe, who never produce research results at odds with their own worldview.

    "The problem too often," says Wolfe, "is people are never uncomfortable about their findings."

    Michael Jonas is acting editor of CommonWealth magazine, published by MassINC, a nonpartisan public-policy think tank in Boston. 

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