Monday, July 30, 2012

Top 100 University in world 2012

Top 100 University in world 2012

1 California Institute of Technology United States 
94.8
2 Harvard University United States 
93.9
2 Stanford University United States 
93.9
4 University of Oxford United Kingdom 
93.6
5 Princeton University United States 
92.9
6 University of Cambridge United Kingdom 
92.4
7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States 
92.3
8 Imperial College London United Kingdom 
90.7
9 University of Chicago United States 
90.2
10 University of California Berkeley United States 
89.8
11 Yale University United States 
89.1
12 Columbia University United States 
87.5
13 University of California Los Angeles United States 
87.3
14 Johns Hopkins University United States 
85.8
15 ETH Zürich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich Switzerland 
85
16 University of Pennsylvania United States 
84.9
17 University College London United Kingdom 
83.2
18 University of Michigan United States 
82.8
19 University of Toronto Canada 
81.6
20 Cornell University United States 
80.5
21 Carnegie Mellon University United States 
78.4
22 University of British Columbia Canada 
77.4
22 Duke University United States 
77.4
24 Georgia Institute of Technology United States 
77
25 University of Washington United States 
76.5
26 Northwestern University United States 
76.2
27 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States 
75.8
28 McGill University Canada 
75.5
29 University of Texas at Austin United States 
74.9
30 University of Tokyo Japan 
74.3
31 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign United States 
74.2
32 Karolinska Institute Sweden 
73.1
33 University of California San Diego United States 
73
34 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 
72.3
35 University of California Santa Barbara United States 
72.1
36 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom 
72
37 University of Melbourne Australia 
71.9
38 Australian National University Australia 
71.2
38 University of California Davis United States 
71.2
40 National University of Singapore Singapore 
70.9
41 Washington University in St Louis United States 
70.5
42 University of Minnesota United States 
70
43 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States 
69.3
44 New York University United States 
69
45 Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Germany 
67.6
46 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland 
66.3
47 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom 
66
48 University of Manchester United Kingdom 
65.7
49 Brown University United States 
65.6
49 Peking University China 
65.6
51 Pennsylvania State University United States 
64.9
52 Kyoto University Japan 
64.8
53 Pohang University of Science and Technology Republic of Korea 
64.6
54 Boston University United States 
64.2
55 University of Southern California United States 
64
56 King's College London United Kingdom 
63.2
57 Ohio State University United States 
63
58 University of Sydney Australia 
62.4
59 École Normale Supérieure France 
62
59 University of Pittsburgh United States 
62
61 University of Zürich Switzerland
61.9
62 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
61.7
63 École Polytechnique France
61.5
64 University of Massachusetts United States
61.1
65 McMaster University Canada
61
66 University of Bristol United Kingdom
60.9
67 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Belgium
60.8
68 Utrecht University Netherlands
60.4
69 Georg-August-Universität Göttingen Germany
60.3
70 Vanderbilt University United States
59.6
71 Tsinghua University China
59.5
72 Rice University United States
59
73 Universität Heidelberg Germany
58.7
74 University of Queensland Australia Australia
58.6
75 Emory University United States
57.4
75 Wageningen University and Research Center Netherlands
57.4
77 University of Colorado Boulder United States
57.3
77 Tufts University United States
57.3
79 Leiden University Netherlands
57
80 Lund University Sweden
56.9
81 University of Rochester United States
56.8
81 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey United States
56.8
83 Durham University United Kingdom
56.4
84 Université Pierre et Marie Curie France
56
85 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
55.7
86 University of California Irvine United States
55.4
87 Uppsala University Sweden
55.2
88 Technische Universität München Germany
55.1
89 University of Notre Dame United States
55
90 Dartmouth College United States
54.9
91 University of Helsinki Finland
54.8
92 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
54.7
93 Case Western Reserve University United States
54.6
94 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Republic of Korea
54.5
94 University of Maryland, College Park United States
54.5
96 Michigan State University United States
54.4
97 University of Arizona United States
54.2
98 Purdue University United States
54
99 University of Sussex United Kingdom
53.9
100 University of Alberta Canada
53.7

Saturday, July 28, 2012

VPN software is not created equal

                    VPN software is not created equal 

With IP Security VPNs established as a preferred method of remote access, businesses now must weigh an array of options that can make deploying and managing these VPNs less daunting.
Optional features range from automatic installation of VPN client software to policy checkers that deny VPN access if personal firewalls aren't turned on and configured properly. The features differ among VPN client software, so customers have to shop carefully.
Remote-access VPNs call for single PCs and laptops to connect to the Internet and establish a VPN tunnel with centrally located VPN concentrators, an architecture that presents two main challenges: first, how to distribute and manage software on a large numbers of remote machines with minimal manpower; second, how to ensure that these machines don't threaten the security of the corporate network.
In the early days of VPNs, these clients weren't deployed in large enough numbers to make distributing and updating them a problem. But today, for large, remote-access VPN deployments, automated distribution and configuration tools are a must, says Larry Bolick, CIO of Aquent, a Boston IT consulting firm that uses Nortel Contivity VPN equipment. Otherwise, updates and policy changes would become too unwieldy to handle, he says.
Most vendors have solved the problem with downloadable software that installs itself so end users can handle it without IT assistance. "The help desk gives them the password to install, and after that, it's all silent and automated," says Gary Gatten, senior network engineer for LabOne, a medical testing firm in Lenexa, Kan., that uses Avaya VPN products.
Once remote-access VPN clients are up and running, policies control the use of their IPSec tunnels. The policies also dictate a variety of parameters such as the VPN concentrators to which they can connect and what level of encryption to use. The clients also must be informed of the removal or addition of new devices to the network.
To handle this task efficiently, Check Point, Cisco, NetScreen Technologies and others offer policy servers that update clients with new policies that have been added since the last time the client machine logged on. These servers can store multiple policies for different groups or individuals. In addition to keeping policies current, this arrangement means no policy remains on the client machine when the VPN connection is severed. This eliminates the security risk that the information would pose if the machine were stolen, Gatten says.
This type of auto-update feature is important because it keeps end users out of the equation when it comes to updating policies, says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group. Users might put off retrieving updates, especially if they tie into the VPN over slow connections. "No matter how simple you make a client, if it interfaces with an end user, you are going to have problems," Kerravala says.

Dents in the armor

Even with current policies in place, remote PCs can become chinks in the armor of a corporate network, so many VPN vendors are bundling personal firewalls with their client software to block hackers from using a remote machine as a backdoor to the corporate network, says Dave Kosiur, an analyst with Burton Group. But installing the firewall is no guarantee they are being used, so automatic scanning of remote machines for properly configured firewalls is also important, he says. The same is true for virus-scanning software that also is becoming part of VPN client bundles.
The VPN client should support the policy server's verification that this additional security software is turned on and that the correct version is running before allowing a VPN session. This compliance check is important not only within a business, but also in dealings with clients and partners, Aquent's Bolick says.
In addition to firewalls and virus scanning, vendors are including security elements such as intrusion detection and content filtering. "You want to embed as many of these security features as possible in the client," Kerravala says. Having them all integrated - something no vendor has done yet - would make enforcement of corporate policies easier, Gatten says. LabOne keeps strict tabs on what Internet sites employees visit, so content filtering in conjunction with the VPN client would simplify monitoring. "That would be ideal," Gatten says.
Another way to secure remote machines is via a feature called split tunneling. Split-tunneling technology lets a remote machine connect to a VPN at the same time it connects to other sites on the Internet without compromising the secure tunnel.
That way general Internet traffic does not have to be shuttled through the VPN then onto the Internet via the Internet connection at the central site. This is attractive because it reduces the amount of traffic flowing through the central site, but at the same time, it isolates the VPN traffic from general Internet traffic, Gatten says.
"It lets you protect your endpoint," says Lawrence Pingree, global network security architect for PeopleSoft.
Turning off split tunneling can simplify enforcement of corporate restrictions on Internet use, Gatten says. If all Internet traffic is forced through the central site, it is easier to log, he says. But he also can appreciate Pingree's argument. "It's great to have the option either way," he says.

Crossing firewalls

In addition, Kosiur says users should look for clients to encapsulate VPN traffic inside protocols that can cross firewalls easily. "This is important to roaming users who might want to create a connection from behind a hotel firewall or different company's firewall," Pingree says.
If VPN traffic passes through a device - typically a firewall - that changes its header source address, the device that is supposed to receive it will reject it because of the alterations. To get around this, vendors wrap IPSec packets in some other protocol that easily passes through the device that translated the address. When it arrives at the destination the outer packet is stripped off and the IPSec payload can be decrypted.
Without this capability, firewalls effectively can block tunnels from being established. Check Point uses User Datagram Protocol (UDP) encapsulation and can adopt it on the fly when it encounters a device that would disrupt a VPN tunnel, Kosiur says. Major VPN vendors such as Cisco, Nortel, Enterasys Networks and NetScreen do this in one form or another as well.
In addition to working from behind firewalls, it is desirable for clients to work with gateways made by other vendors, according to Kerravala. "If you have to deliver results to a business partner, it's really handy to make a VPN connection with whatever they have at the other end," Gatten says.

And when companies merge, such interoperability can remove some of the pain and expense of merging networks. "If you're in that world where you're acquiring companies with installed infrastructure, you're not going to want to take out a $50,000 gateway because it was made by somebody else," Gatten says.
Because most vendors follow the IPSec set of standards, their VPN gear can be configured to interoperate at some level with other vendors' equipment, Kerravala says. This is good because it lets businesses create heterogeneous networks that don't rely on a single vendor, he says.
While all vendors don't have all features, they constantly add more to stay competitive. "They're all playing catch-up with each other," Kosiur says.
They also face a threat from outside the IPSec arena from Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) remote-access vendors that use standard browsers as remote clients, a simpler and satisfactory means of meeting many remote access needs, Kerravala says. And, he notes, the SSL option costs half as much.
Read more about security in Network World's Security section.
     

What is VPN

What Makes a Virtual Private Network Private?

VPN

Using a public network — usually the Internet — to connect securely to a private network, such as a company's network is the basis of a VPN or virtual private network.

Companies and organizations will use a VPN to communicate confidentially over a public network and to send voice, video or data. It is also an excellent option for remote workers and organizations with global offices and partners to share data in a private manner.
One of the most common types of VPNs is a virtual private dial-up network (VPDN). A VPDN is a user-to-LAN connection, where remote users need to connect to the company LAN. Here the company will have a service provider set-up a NAS (network access server) and provide the remote users with the software needed to reach the NAS from their desktop computer or laptop. For a VPDN, the secure and encrypted connection between the company's network and remote users is provided by the third-party service provider.

Another type of VPN is commonly called a site-to-site VPN. Here the company would invest in dedicated hardware to connect multiple sites to their LAN though a public network, usually the Internet. Site-to-site VPNs are either intranet or extranet-based.


intranet

extranet

An extranet refers to an intranet that is partially accessible to authorized outsiders. Whereas an intranet resides behind a firewall and is accessible only to people who are members of the same company or organization, an extranet provides various levels of accessibility to outsiders. You can access an extranet only if you have a valid username and password, and your identity determines which parts of the extranet you can view. Extranets are becoming a popular means for business partners to exchange information.

Other options for using a VPN include such things as using dedicated private leased lines. Due to the high cost of dedicated lines, however, VPNs have become an attractive cost-effective solution.

Securing a VPN

If you're using a public line to connect to a private network, then you might wonder what makes a virtual private network private? The answer is the manner in which the VPN is designed. A VPN is designed to provides a secure, encrypted tunnel in which to transmit the data between the remote user and the company network. The information transmitted between the two locations via the encrypted tunnel cannot be read by anyone else.
VPN security contains several elements to secure both the company's private network and the outside network, usually the Internet, through which the remote user connects through. The first step to security is usually a firewall. You will have a firewall site between the client (which is the remote users workstation) and the host server, which is the connection point to the private network. The remote user will establish an authenticated connection with the firewall.

VPN Encryption

Encryption is also an important component of a secure VPN. Encryption works by having all data sent from one computer encrypted in such a way that only the computer it is sending to can decrypt the data. Types of encryption commonly used include public-key encryption which is a system that uses two keys — a public key known to everyone and a private or secret key known only to the recipient of the message. The other commonly used encryption system is a Symmetric-key encryption system in which the sender and receiver of a message share a single, common key that is used to encrypt and decrypt the message.

VPN Tunneling

With a VPN you'll need to establish a network connection that is based on the idea of tunneling. There are two main types of tunneling used in virtual private networks. Voluntary tunneling is where the client makes a connection to the service provider then the VPN client creates the tunnel to the VPN server once the connection has been made. In compulsory tunneling the service provider manages the VPN connection and brokers the connection between that client and a VPN server.
There are three main network protocols for use with VPN tunnels, which are generally incompatible with each other. They include the following

IPSec

A set of protocols developed by the IETF to support secure exchange of packets at the IP layer. IPsec has been deployed widely to implement VPNs. IPsec supports two encryption modes: Transport and Tunnel. Transport mode encrypts only the data portion (payload) of each packet, but leaves the header untouched. The more secure Tunnel mode encrypts both the header and the payload. On the receiving side, an IPSec-compliant device decrypts each packet. For IPsec to work, the sending and receiving devices must share a public key. This is accomplished through a protocol known as Internet Security Association and Key Management Protocol/Oakley (ISAKMP/Oakley), which allows the receiver to obtain a public key and authenticate the sender using digital certificates.

PPTP

Short for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, a new technology for creating VPNs, developed jointly by Microsoft, U.S. Robotics and several remote access vendor companies, known collectively as the PPTP Forum. A VPN is a private network of computers that uses the public Internet to connect some nodes. Because the Internet is essentially an open network, PPTP is used to ensure that messages transmitted from one VPN node to another are secure. With PPTP, users can dial in to their corporate network via the Internet.

L2TP

Short for Layer Two (2) Tunneling Protocol, an extension to the PPP protocol that enables ISPs to operate Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). L2TP merges the best features of two other tunneling protocols: PPTP from Microsoft and L2F from Cisco Systems. Like PPTP, L2TP requires that the ISP's routers support the protocol.

VPN Equipment

Depending on the type of VPN you decide to implement, either remote-access or site-to-site, you will need specific components to build your VPN. These standard components include a software client for each remote workstation, dedicated hardware, such as a firewall  or a product like the Cisco VPN Concentrator, a VPN server, and a  Network Access Server (NAS).
Key Terms To Understanding  virtual private networks: VPN
A network that is constructed by using public wires to connect nodes. For example, there are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data.

VPDN
A network that extends remote access to a private network using a shared infrastructure.

tunneling
A technology that enables one network to send its data via another network's connections. Tunneling works by encapsulating a network protocol within packets carried by the second network.

split tunneling
The process of allowing a remote VPN user to access a public network, most commonly the Internet, at the same time that the user is allowed to access resources on the VPN.
encryption
The translation of data into a secret code. Encryption is the most effective way to achieve data security. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables you to decrypt it. There are two main types of encryption: asymmetric encryption (also called public-key encryption) and symmetric encryption.

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.       

Monday, July 23, 2012

Genes Influence Whether Psych Drugs Lead to Weight Gain

FRIDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have discovered two genetic variants associated with substantial, rapid weight gain in people taking antipsychotic medications.
The researchers said the findings could eventually be used by doctors to identify which patients have the variations so they can be treated without the risk of weight gain, which can lead to obesity and health problems including diabetes and heart disease.
"Weight gain occurs in up to 40 percent of patients taking medications called second-generation or atypical antipsychotics, which are used because they're effective in controlling the major symptoms of schizophrenia," Dr. James Kennedy, of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, said in a center news release.
Kennedy, senior author of a study published online recently in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, pinpointed a variation near the melanocortin-4 receptor gene, which is known to be linked to obesity.
The study of patients in Europe and the United States being treated with atypical antipsychotics found that those with two copies of the variant gained about three times as much weight as those with one or no copies -- about 13 pounds vs. 4 pounds.
"The weight gain was associated with this genetic variation in all these groups, which included pediatric patients with severe behavior or mood problems, and patients with schizophrenia experiencing a first episode or who did not respond to other antipsychotic treatments," Dr. Daniel Muller, study co-author and Center for Addiction and Mental Health scientist, said in the news release.
"The results from our genetic analysis combined with this diverse set of patients provide compelling evidence for the role of this [melanocortin-4 receptor] variant," Muller said. "Our research group has discovered other gene variants associated with antipsychotic-induced weight gain in the past, but this one appears to be the most compelling finding thus far."
Kennedy and Muller also were involved in another study that identified a different variation near the melanocortin-4 receptor gene that was associated with weight gain in patients taking antipsychotic drugs. The study was published earlier this year in The Pharmacogenomics Journal.
Although the researchers found that the melanocortin-4 receptor gene variant was associated with rapid weight gain, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about mental-health medications.

Malaysia star Lee recovers on diet of porridge




Malaysia badminton star Lee Chong Wei, whose Olympic dream was threatened by a serious ankle injury, targetted a medal on Saturday in a campaign fuelled by porridge and hot soup.
Lee, the world number two, who has been receiving stem cell treatment on torn ankle ligaments sustained at the Thomas Cup in China in May, said the injury helped take some of the gold medal pressure off his shoulders.
"I have just come back from injury and there is less pressure. But it is my last Olympics so I want to medal for my country," said Lee, who also lost the world number one ranking to arch-rival Lin Dan of China during his recovery period.
"I don't feel the pressure but there is still a week. Maybe when I get to London I will start to feel the Olympic feeling and maybe then I will feel the pressure."
Lee became world number one in 2008 after the Beijing Olympics, but that achievement was overshadowed by having lost the gold medal match to Lin.
"A gold medal will validate my career. I don't have an Olympic gold medal, my country doesn't have an Olympic gold medal, this gold is important for me and for my country," said the 29-year-old.
Malaysian team physio Sandra Fielder said Lee had made impressive progress from his injury.
"An injury like this would usually take six weeks to heal. Lee started earlier because we are so close to the Olympic Games," she said.
"He stayed off it for three-and-a-half weeks and started training again, which is fast for that kind of injury. It was quite a severe ankle sprain."
Meanwhile, the Malaysians are struggling to come to terms with the wet, chilly weather in Britain although temperatures are expected to reach the high 20s by Friday when the Olympics get underway.
"We bring our own chefs. This is cold weather for Malaysia. So we need hot herb soup, porridge and rice," said team nutritionist Chai Wen Jin.

National Weather Service Issues Rip Current Warning For Shore Towns





PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The National Weather Service says a “high rip current risk” is in effect until 9 p.m. Saturday night for shore towns in New Jersey.
Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Captain Renny Steele says such days at the shore are actually more frequent in August.
“It’s a little early to get this kind of surf in this kind of weather in July. Typically, the tropical storms and hurricanes out at sea create bigger surf for us.”

He says on these high risk days for rip currents, danger can come at any time.
“Things happen quickly on days like today. In other words, you can be standing waist deep and all of a sudden you’re over your head and it happens very, very quickly. So you want to be very cautious.”
He says certain beaches could restrict flotation devices like boogie boards or rafts for example so he stresses listening to any instruction from lifeguards.

Bacteria outbreak in Northern Europe due to ocean warming, study says

LONDON (Reuters) - Manmade climate change is the main driver behind the unexpected emergence of a group of bacteria in northern Europe which can cause gastroenteritis, new research by a group of international experts shows.
The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday, provided some of the first firm evidence that the warming patterns of the Baltic Sea have coincided with the emergence of Vibrio infections in northern Europe.
Vibrios is a group of bacteria which usually grow in warm and tropical marine environments. The bacteria can cause various infections in humans, ranging from cholera to gastroenteritis-like symptoms from eating raw or undercooked shellfish or from exposure to seawater.
A team of scientists from institutions in Britain, Finland, Spain and the United States examined sea surface temperature records and satellite data, as well as statistics on Vibrio cases in the Baltic.
They found the number and distribution of cases in the Baltic Sea area was strongly linked to peaks in sea surface temperatures. Each year the temperature rose one degree, the number of vibrio cases rose almost 200 percent.
"The big apparent increases that we've seen in cases during heat wave years (..) tend to indicate that climate change is indeed driving infections," Craig Baker-Austin at the UK-based Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, one of the authors of the study, told Reuters.
OCEAN WARMING
Climate studies show that rising greenhouse gas emissions made global average surface temperatures increase by about 0.17 degrees Celsius a decade from 1980 to 2010.
The Vibrio study focused on the Baltic Sea in particular because it warmed at an unprecedented rate of 0.063 to 0.078 degrees Celsius a year from 1982 to 2010, or 6.3 to 7.8 degrees a century.
"(It) represents, to our knowledge, the fastest warming marine ecosystem examined so far anywhere on Earth," the paper said.
Many marine bacteria thrive in warm, low-saline sea water. In addition to warming, climate change has caused more frequent and heavier rainfall, which has reduced the salt content of estuaries and coastal wetlands.
As ocean temperatures continue to rise and coastal regions in northern regions become less saline, Vibrio bacteria strains will appear in new areas, the scientists said.
Vibrio outbreaks have also appeared in temperate and cold regions in Chile, Peru, Israel, the northwest U.S. Pacific and northwest Spain, and these can be linked to warming patterns, the scientists said.
"Very few studies have looked at the risk of these infections at high latitudes," Baker-Austin said.
"Certainly the chances of getting a vibrio infection are considered to be relatively low, and more research is focused on areas where these diseases are endemic or at least more common," he added.
Previous Vibrio outbreaks in colder regions have often been put down to a sporadic event or special conditions rather than a response to long-term climate change.
This is because the effects of global warming can be more pronounced at higher latitudes and in areas which lack detailed historical climate data, the study said.
Baker-Austin said there was a growing realization that climate and the emergence of some infectious diseases were closely linked but there are some "huge data gaps in that area which need addressing."
(Editing by Tim Pearce)

U.S. Students Struggling to Pay Back $150 Billion in Private Loans

Americans have racked up a whopping $150 billion in private student loan debt, a sum many are struggling to repay, according to a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"Too many student loan borrowers are struggling to pay off private student loans that they did not understand and cannot afford,” Richard Cordray, director of CFPB, said in a statement.
The $150 billion is just a small chunk of the $1 trillion total student debt in the U.S. — but there are hefty risks and consequences associated with these private loans. Private loans are different from federal ones in that they do not have fixed interest rates and often have fewer protections for borrowers who are struggling to pay.
MORE: These 10 Colleges Leave New Graduates With the Most Debt
The report explains that during the last decade, private loans grew significantly during the boom and then dropped dramatically in the financial crisis. During the growth period, restrictions were looser, meaning that lower minimum credit scores were needed to acquire a loan and lenders could circumvent schools to sign up needy students. Many students ended up borrowing more than they needed to, despite the fact that they couldn’t afford it. This lead to more defaults on loans over the last four years.
The confusion over differences between federal versus private loans did not help either, as many students didn’t realize they still had federal loan options before they turned to private loans. Federal loans are more popular, accounting for $864 billion of the $1 trillion debt mountain. One difference is federal loans have a fixed interest rate, while private loans are often variable. This can sometimes cause debt payments to balloon unexpectedly.
“We still have some work to do to ensure that students who take out private student loans have the same kinds of protections offered by federal loans,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “In the meantime, if you have to take out a loan to pay for college, federal student aid should be your first option.”
Lending practices for private loans have tightened since 2008, including requiring a co-signer and school approval for the loan in most cases. However, many recent grads are still saddled with debt that is difficult to repay.
“Moving forward, we must do our best to leave the next generation in a better place than we are today, rather than buried under a mountain of debt," Cordray said.
Are you saddled with student loan debt? Share your story in the comments below.
Related stories on TakePart:

Canadian territory hopes for shale oil riches

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A new oil prospect in Canada's Northwest Territories could give the sparsely populated region a boost after years of costly delays in approving a big natural gas pipeline had frustrated economic hopes, a government official said on Thursday.
The Canol shale deposit near Norman Wells, in central Northwest Territories, has been the target of brisk bidding for drilling rights, David Ramsay, the territory's minister of industry, tourism and investment said, with the value of work commitments by oil companies now at C$628 million ($623 million).
Recoverable oil resources in what is known as the Sahtu region are estimated at 2 billion to 3 billion barrels. Ramsay said in an interview that industry and government officials hope that development of the deposit could mirror what has happened in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Saskatchewan, where shale oil production has surged in recent years,
"The same technology will be used to extract the oil from the shale in the Northwest Territories as in the Bakken," he said. "It's a very exciting time for us. We have the opportunity to transform the economy in the region and in the territory."
Companies that have amassed land in the area include Husky Energy Inc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, ConocoPhillips and MGM Energy Corp.
The vast northern territory has been waiting for years for the start of construction of the C$16.2 billion Mackenzie Gas project, which would ship 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas a day to southern markets from fields on the coast of the Beaufort Sea.
First envisioned in the 1970s, the project has been touted as a way to provide badly needed jobs and economic development.
During a years-long regulatory process, however, the North American gas market changed with the development of shale gas supplies much closer to major markets, and now the project's viability is questionable with prices for the fuel stuck near decade lows.
However, drilling and completion technology used for shale gas, including horizontal wells and hydraulic rock fracturing, is now transforming conventional oil and liquids-rich gas prospects across the continent.
Ramsay pointed out that the Norman Wells region is no stranger to oil development. Imperial Oil first started producing crude there in the early 1920s.
He said one major benefit of the deposit is that there is already a 39,400 barrel a day pipeline, operated by Enbridge Inc, that extends 870 km (540 miles) to Zama in northern Alberta from Norman Wells. It is running at about 20 percent capacity.
"This coming winter we'll probably see at least a three- or fourfold increase in activity, so there's going to be a lot of opportunities for people to work. We've got some smaller communities in the Sahtu and that's where as a government we've been challenged to try to tackle the high unemployment."
($1=$1.01 Canadian)
(Editing by Peter Galloway)

Canada national chief re-elected, vows to give voice

  • Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo speaks during a news conference in Ottawa January 25, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie


TORONTO (Reuters) - The national chief of Canada's First Nations aboriginals was re-elected on Wednesday in a vote of confidence for his non-confrontational approach with the Conservative federal government over its pro-development policies.
Even though critics have said Shawn Atleo's relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper is too close, the British Columbia native leader cruised to victory in the third round of voting by chiefs at an assembly in Toronto.
"All voices must be heard," said Atleo, addressing a conference hall packed with hundreds of chiefs and First Nations members from across Canada. "It's also equally, if not more important, that all voices are understood. Every one of our citizens has a right and responsibility to share in this effort with us."
The national chief heads the Assembly of First Nations, an executive committee of 10 regional chiefs. The advocacy group lobbies the federal government on aboriginal and treaty rights, along with issues like education and resource development.
A record eight candidates, including four women, were on the first ballot on Wednesday, with Atleo winning in the third round with 341 votes, or 67 percent of the vote.
The chief from the Ahousaht First Nation in British Columbia has strong support in his home province, which has the largest number of votes on the national level.
First elected in 2009 after then leader Phil Fontaine stepped down, Atleo was criticized ahead of the vote for his comfortable relationship with the federal government.
CONTENTIOUS PIPELINE
Canada recently changed its policy to speed up environmental reviews of major energy, mining and pipeline projects. Some fear the new review process will result in less consultation with First Nations people, who claim ownership to much of the land where resource projects are located.
One of the most contentious issues is Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway pipeline, which would connect Alberta's tar sands to Kitimat, British Columbia, where it would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to markets in Asia and the United States.
Atleo has not made clear his stance on the controversial pipeline and some chiefs were eager for a national leader willing to take a more confrontational approach with the federal government to ensure their voices were heard.
"We're not opposing to any development, but we want that development done with us at the table and certainly it should be done at our own pace," said Alfonz Nitsiza, chief of the Tlicho Government in the Northwest Territories. "These massive developments will create a lot of issues environmentally and will have social impact on our First Nation people."
But Atleo's supporters said that he was making good progress in getting more recognition for aboriginal rights simply because of his ability to work closely with the federal government.
"I think you need to have a close relationship to get the respect that all aboriginals deserve and have earned and that's the only way we're going to move forward," said Ron Giesbrecht, chief of Kwikwetlem First Nation in British Columbia.
In second place throughout the three rounds of voting was Pamela Palmater, a Toronto-based Mi'kmaq lawyer and academic who had vowed to take a stronger line with the ruling Conservatives on policy decisions.
As candidates failed to reach the minimum 15 vote threshold, criticism mounted over the system, whereby the national chief is decided by 633 chiefs-in-assembly who are meant to represent First Nations bands across Canada.
Some argue that all First Nations people should be allowed to vote directly, a move that they say would give the organization more authority with its people and the Canadian government. Others are seeking weighted votes for chiefs based on the number of treaty Indians they represent.
First Nations people, who make up around 1.2 million of Canada's 34.5 million population, suffer high levels of poverty and crime. Unemployment and suicide levels are highest among aboriginals, especially on the remote reserves and settlements that dot the country's north.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon, Editing by Frank McGurty and Jackie Frank)

US poverty on track to rise to highest since 1960s

  • In this July 16, 2012, photo, Laura Fritz, 27, left, with her daughter Adalade Goudeseune fills out a form at the Jefferson Action Center, an assistance center in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. Both Fritz grew up in the Denver suburbs a solidly middle class family, but she and her boyfriend, who has struggled to find work, and are now relying on government assistance to cover food and $650 rent for their family. The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net. Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections. (AP Photo/Kristen Wyatt)In this July 16, 2012, photo, Laura …
  • This July 16, 2012, photo shows new parents Garrett Goudeseune, 25, Laura Fritz, 27, left, with their daughter Adalade Goudeseune, as they pose for a photo at the Jefferson Action Center, an assistance center in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. Both Fritz and Goudeseune grew up in the Denver suburbs in families that were solidly middle class. But the couple has struggled to find work and are now relying on government assistance to cover food and $650 rent for their family. The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net. Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections. (AP Photo/Kristen Wyatt)This July 16, 2012, photo shows …


WASHINGTON (AP) — The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.
The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965.
Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.
"I grew up going to Hawaii every summer. Now I'm here, applying for assistance because it's hard to make ends meet. It's very hard to adjust," said Laura Fritz, 27, of Wheat Ridge, Colo., describing her slide from rich to poor as she filled out aid forms at a county center. Since 2000, large swaths of Jefferson County just outside Denver have seen poverty nearly double.
Fritz says she grew up wealthy in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, but fortunes turned after her parents lost a significant amount of money in the housing bust. Stuck in a half-million dollar house, her parents began living off food stamps and Fritz's college money evaporated. She tried joining the Army but was injured during basic training.
Now she's living on disability, with an infant daughter and a boyfriend, Garrett Goudeseune, 25, who can't find work as a landscaper. They are struggling to pay their $650 rent on his unemployment checks and don't know how they would get by without the extra help as they hope for the job market to improve.
In an election year dominated by discussion of the middle class, Fritz's case highlights a dim reality for the growing group in poverty. Millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes.
"The issues aren't just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy," said Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy.
He pointed to the recent recession but also longer-term changes in the economy such as globalization, automation, outsourcing, immigration, and less unionization that have pushed median household income lower. Even after strong economic growth in the 1990s, poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, launched in 1964, that created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs.
"I'm reluctant to say that we've gone back to where we were in the 1960s. The programs we enacted make a big difference. The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon," Edelman said.
Stacey Mazer of the National Association of State Budget Officers said states will be watching for poverty increases when figures are released in September as they make decisions about the Medicaid expansion. Most states generally assume poverty levels will hold mostly steady and they will hesitate if the findings show otherwise. "It's a constant tension in the budget," she said.
The predictions for 2011 are based on separate AP interviews, supplemented with research on suburban poverty from Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution and an analysis of federal spending by the Congressional Research Service and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.
The analysts' estimates suggest that some 47 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 6, were poor last year. An increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 15.2 percent would tie the 1983 rate, the highest since 1965. The highest level on record was 22.4 percent in 1959, when the government began calculating poverty figures.
Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew.
Demographers also say:
—Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years. Several predicted that peak poverty levels — 15 percent to 16 percent — will last at least until 2014, due to expiring unemployment benefits, a jobless rate persistently above 6 percent and weak wage growth.
—Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8 percent, will increase again in 2011.
—Part-time or underemployed workers, who saw a record 15 percent poverty in 2010, will rise to a new high.
—Poverty among people 65 and older will remain at historically low levels, buoyed by Social Security cash payments.
—Child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010.
Analysts also believe that the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the poverty level, will remain near its peak level of 6.7 percent.
"I've always been the guy who could find a job. Now I'm not," said Dale Szymanski, 56, a Teamsters Union forklift operator and convention hand who lives outside Las Vegas in Clark County. In a state where unemployment ranks highest in the nation, the Las Vegas suburbs have seen a particularly rapid increase in poverty from 9.7 percent in 2007 to 14.7 percent.
Szymanski, who moved from Wisconsin in 2000, said he used to make a decent living of more than $40,000 a year but now doesn't work enough hours to qualify for union health care. He changed apartments several months ago and sold his aging 2001 Chrysler Sebring in April to pay expenses.
"You keep thinking it's going to turn around. But I'm stuck," he said.
The 2010 poverty level was $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for an individual, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income, before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership, as well as noncash aid such as food stamps and tax credits, which were expanded substantially under President Barack Obama's stimulus package.
An additional 9 million people in 2010 would have been counted above the poverty line if food stamps and tax credits were taken into account.
Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, believes the social safety net has worked and it is now time to cut back. He worries that advocates may use a rising poverty rate to justify additional spending on the poor, when in fact, he says, many live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.
A new census measure accounts for noncash aid, but that supplemental poverty figure isn't expected to be released until after the November election. Since that measure is relatively new, the official rate remains the best gauge of year-to-year changes in poverty dating back to 1959.
Few people advocate cuts in anti-poverty programs. Roughly 79 percent of Americans think the gap between rich and poor has grown in the past two decades, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/RNS Religion News survey from November 2011. The same poll found that about 67 percent oppose "cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor" to help reduce the budget deficit.
Outside of Medicaid, federal spending on major low-income assistance programs such as food stamps, disability aid and tax credits have been mostly flat at roughly 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product from 1975 to the 1990s. Spending spiked higher to 2.3 percent of GDP after Obama's stimulus program in 2009 temporarily expanded unemployment insurance and tax credits for the poor.
The U.S. safety net may soon offer little comfort to people such as Jose Gorrin, 52, who lives in the western Miami suburb of Hialeah Gardens. Arriving from Cuba in 1980, he was able to earn a decent living as a plumber for years, providing for his children and ex-wife. But things turned sour in 2007 and in the past two years he has barely worked, surviving on the occasional odd job.
His unemployment aid has run out, and he's too young to draw Social Security.
Holding a paper bag of still-warm bread he'd just bought for lunch, Gorrin said he hasn't decided whom he'll vote for in November, expressing little confidence the presidential candidates can solve the nation's economic problems. "They all promise to help when they're candidates," Gorrin said, adding, "I hope things turn around. I already left Cuba. I don't know where else I can go."
___
Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt in Lakewood, Colo., Ken Ritter and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas, Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami and AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
___
Online:
Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov
National Association of State Budget Officers: http://www.nasbo.org

George W. Bush skipping Republican convention

Former President George W. Bush at a baseball game in Arlington, Texas. (LM Otero/AP)
Add former president George W. Bush to the list of no-shows at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. (The Democrats have their own issues on the convention-skipping front).
Bush, who has mostly kept out of sight since leaving office in January 2009, was "grateful" for an invitation to the gathering that will formally nominate Mitt Romney. "But in keeping with his desire to stay off the political stage at this point in the post-presidency, he respectfully declined the invitation," spokesman Freddy Ford said in a statement.
"He supports Governor Romney and wants him to succeed.  President Bush is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great President," Ford said.

President Obama offers comfort to victims of Colorado’s movie theater massacre


President Barack Obama talks about one of the victims and her injury during a statement from the University of …
[Updated at 10:45 p.m. MST]
AURORA, Colo. - President Obama emerged from University Hospital here Sunday evening with a story of survival which he said should inspire everyone to focus on the miracles from Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater.
After three hours of private visits with the shooting victims and their families, Obama said his last stop in the hospital was with Allie Young, a 19-year-old woman who had been shot in the neck. She survived the attack because her 21-year-old friend, Stephanie Davies, laid by her side and applied pressure to her wound while the gunman continued his rampage.
"Allie told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go -- instead, actually, with her other hand, called 911 on her cell phone," the president said. "Because of Stephanie's timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs, and she is going to be fine."
He lauded their courage.
"As tragic as the circumstances of what we've seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it's worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what's best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come," Obama said.
Obama said many hugs were shared and tears shed on Sunday.
"I come to them not so much as president but as a father and a husband," Obama said. "I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations, but that my main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day."
He said he encouraged the people he met on Sunday not to dwell on the evil caused by suspected gunman James Holmes.
"In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy," Obama said.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mine That Gold Miner

Mine That Bird was the long shot horse to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby with 50-1 odds. Weaving through the rest of the field, jockey Calvin Borel guided Mine That Bird through a small hole on the rail and onto winner's circle. For all the gamblers willing to take a chance on the long shot that day, a $2.00 bet paid out $103.20. Since the beginning of 2011, the Arca Gold Miners index has lost 27% while both gold and the S&P 500 index have positive returns over the same time period. The disparity of performance has left many investors wondering if gold miners are an undervalued long shot deserving another look.
The gold miners ETF (GDX) seeks to replicate the performance of the Arca Gold Miners index. The index represents a blend of small-, mid-, and large-cap gold mining stocks. Two of the top holdings within GDX are Goldcorp Inc (GG). and Newmont Mining Corporation (NEM). Together, the two account for over 25% of the total assets within the index. Although gold mining firms primarily produce gold, it is some of gold's by-products price performance that is contributing to driving gold mining stocks lower.
A by-product is an additional product derived from producing the main product. Assume for a moment that a mining company knows there is gold 100 feet below the surface in a specific area of land so they start digging. 50 feet into the dig they hit a pocket of copper. Since the copper has significant value, the miner will extract and sell the copper in the market. In this example, the copper is the by-product. By-products from mining gold include copper, silver, lead, and zinc.
The total cash cost to extract an ounce (oz.) of gold on a by-product basis is calculated by deducting by-product sales revenues from total production costs. In the example above, if it costs the miner $500 to dig the hole and extract the gold and he can sell the copper for $100 than the by-product cost to extract the gold is $400. Another way to calculate the cost to produce an oz. of gold is called the co-product cost. Plain and simple, the co-product cost method does not subtract by-product credits, so the cost per unit to extract the product will be higher. In the example above, the co-product cost to extract one oz. of gold would be $500.
The larger the gap between the cash cost on a co-product cost versus the by-product cost, the greater the amount of other products the company is mining relative to the amount of gold. You can see from the chart below that Goldcorp has a much larger gap between its co-product cost and its by-product cost relative to Newmont.
(click to enlarge)
Generally speaking, the large gap for Goldcorp means that they are producing more by-products such as copper than Newmont. As a result, on paper they are able to lower their cost of producing gold because of the by-product credits. It also means that Goldcorp is more exposed to the by-product prices and Newmont is more exposed to gold prices. The amount of exposure to these various metals can have a significant influence on a company's stock price since each metal is used for different purposes and the price fluctuations can vary significantly.
Copper is the primary by-product when mining gold. While gold is primarily used as a "safe haven" investment and a hedge against inflation, copper is primarily used in building construction and power generation and transmission. As a result, copper has a much higher correlation with global economic growth. A look at the prices between the two metals shows that copper has declined 20% and gold has gained 14% since January 1st 2011. As I stated in the opening paragraph, the gold miners index is down 27% over the same time period. The chart below shows the performance of the two metals versus the stock price performance of Goldcorp using an index starting value of 100. It is apparent from the chart below that the lower copper price over the past year and a half has had a significant impact on its stock price.
(click to enlarge)
By-product prices are just one component that affects a gold miner's bottom line. The three largest operating cost categories consist of 22% labor, 14% contractors, and 17% fuel and power costs. Based on an average price of $1,572 per oz. of gold in 2011, Newmont's operating margin (revenue less co-product cost per oz.) was roughly $971. This is a significant margin considering that in 2009 gold was trading as low as $811, well below their 2011 operating margin. Many investors are left wondering if gold miners are undervalued and if they are the horse to bet on to gain exposure to gold instead of the underlying metal.
Once the global economy begins to recover and the demand for copper and inflation protection increases, the gold miner index will be the horse you will want your money on. Under these circumstances the trifecta wager would more than likely be miners to win, copper to place, and gold to show. However, due to the current economic environment and projected global growth over the near term, the odds of accelerated global growth and high inflation are closer to the odds that Mine That Bird saw back when he won the Kentucky Derby.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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