Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Morning Quick Hits

If you're sitting there thinking, gosh, I miss Blue Girl, and I'm really tired of this $#@%ing *&hole! Warren Street, well, I agree with you, completely and utterly.

Do not fret, she's safely on her way via train to Austin, Texas.

And she will be back on the blog when bandwidth and time and all that permits. Here are some quick hits:

If you loved the movie Repo Man, and I know we all did, then this is up your alley: While the recession means hard times for most people, it's a godsend for the repo man, the person who shows up -- often unexpectedly -- to snatch your property when you're behind on payments. At [Charlie] Clarke's employer, Fort Lauderdale boat repossessor and auctioneer National Liquidators, business has tripled in the last 18 months as higher maintenance fees, fuel and docking costs -- as well as the real-estate crisis -- have put boat owners behind on payments. The same is true for those repo (short for repossession) men -- and a few women -- who spend their days and nights hunting and snatching luxury cars and SUVs from distressed owners.

Bloggers under threat of subpoena
There is no better way to get a blogger talking than by telling him what he cannot publish — although you might forgive a government prosecutor for thinking otherwise. A grand jury subpoena sent by prosecutors in the Bronx earlier this year sought information to help identify people blogging anonymously on a Web site about New York politics called Room 8. The subpoena carried a warning in capital letters that disclosing its very existence “could impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with law enforcement” — implying that if the bloggers blabbed, they could be prosecuted.

Heckuva job on that economy, Bushie: Soaring costs for gasoline and food pushed inflation at the wholesale level up by a larger-than-expected amount in June, leaving inflation rising over the past year at the fastest pace in more than a quarter-century. The Labor Department reported that wholesale prices jumped by 1.8 percent last month, the biggest one-month rise since last November. Over the past 12 months, wholesale prices are up 9.2 percent, the largest year-over-year surge since June 1981, another period when soaring energy costs were giving the country inflation pains. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was better behaved in June, rising by just 0.2 percent, slightly lower than expectations. Old Bushie's fear of being a repeat of Jimmy Carter are well justified. The only thing is, Carter was never as unpopular as Bush for as long as Bush as been unpopular.

Title IX for equality in science? Until recently, the impact of Title IX, the law forbidding sexual discrimination in education, has been limited mostly to sports. But now, under pressure from Congress, some federal agencies have quietly picked a new target: science. The National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy have set up programs to look for sexual discrimination at universities receiving federal grants. Investigators have been taking inventories of lab space and interviewing faculty members and students in physics and engineering departments at schools like Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, M.I.T. and the University of Maryland. So far, these Title IX compliance reviews haven’t had much visible impact on campuses beyond inspiring a few complaints from faculty members. (The journal Science quoted Amber Miller, a physicist at Columbia, as calling her interview “a complete waste of time.”) But some critics fear that the process could lead to a quota system that could seriously hurt scientific research and do more harm than good for women. The members of Congress and women’s groups who have pushed for science to be “Title Nined” say there is evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences, but the quality of that evidence is disputed. Critics say there is far better research showing that on average, women’s interest in some fields isn’t the same as men’s.

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