Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Slump: It's a Guy Thing

Men, concentrated in the weakest sectors, are losing jobs in this downturn, while women make gains

They eat from the same dishes and sleep in the same beds, but they seem to be operating in two different economies. From last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, according to the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs. You might even say American men are in recession, and American women are not.

What's going on? Simply put, men have the misfortune of being concentrated in the two sectors that are doing the worst: manufacturing and construction. Women are concentrated in sectors that are still growing, such as education and health care.

This situation is hardly good news for women, though. While they're getting more jobs, their pay is stagnant. Also, most share households—and bills—with the men who are losing jobs. And the "female" economy can't stay strong for long if the "male" economy weakens too much.

The troubles for the American male worker, while exacerbated by the current slump, are hardly new. The manufacturing sector is in long-term decline, and construction goes through repeated booms and busts. Meanwhile women are graduating from college at higher rates than men. Some analysts even argue that men are less suited than women to the knowledge economy, which rewards supposedly female traits such as sensitivity, intuition, and a willingness to collaborate. "Men have tended to do better in the hierarchies, following orders and relying on positional power," says Andy Hines, a futurist at the Washington (D.C.) consulting firm Social Technologies, who previously worked for Kellogg and Dow Chemical.

Problem Industries

Whether you buy that argument or not, it's clear that right now men are in a bad spot. The share of all men aged 20 and over with jobs has fallen since last November, when private-sector employment peaked, going from 72.9% to 72.2% in April. For women the ratio rose, from 58.1% to 58.3%. The adult male unemployment rate has risen twice as much as the female jobless rate since November. Those figures from the BLS' household survey are echoed in its separate survey of employers.

To see why, go sector by sector. Manufacturing is over 70% male and construction is about 88% male. Meanwhile the growing education and health services sector is 77% female. The government sector, which has remained strong, is 57% female. The securities business, which is filled with high-paying jobs, is likely to be the next sector to get whacked—and more than 60% of its workers are men.


Men are having a harder time than women getting back on track after losing a job. "For a man to move from a $20- or $30-an-hour union job to being a Wal-Mart greeter is devastating," says Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor historian. Men also shy away from some of the growing fields, such as nursing. Only about 10% of nursing students nationwide are male, notes Harriet R. Feldman, dean of the Pace University School of Nursing. Some retired nurses are actually going back to work because their husbands have lost jobs, says Lois Cooper, vice-president for employee relations and diversity at staffing firm Adecco Group North America in Melville, N.Y.

The weakness of the male economy is squeezing people such as Brian Day, 45, a union carpenter in Ossian, Ind., who made about $35,000 in construction last year but only $1,500 so far in 2008. The family of five is living off his jobless benefits and the $35,000 salary of his wife, a supermarket supervisor. Says Day: "I feel guilty about it." Jeff Bainter, 53, a railroad worker in Muncie, Ind., has enough seniority to keep his job but sees younger men getting the ax. He says there's more security but lower pay in what his wife, Cynthiana, does for a living: medical billing.

Stubborn Pay Gap

The Presidential candidates haven't figured out how to play the disparity between men and women. In BusinessWeek interviews, advisers for all three said they want to help everyone. Austan Goolsbee, chief economic adviser to Senator Barack Obama, said: "Because the unemployed are disproportionately men, they may especially benefit from Obama's program to get us out of recession. But gender has nothing to do with the policy's design." Senator Hillary Clinton's economic policy director, Brian Deese, said: "The goal is not to appeal to men more than women."

One reason for the candidates to tread lightly is that even though men have done worse on jobs lately, they continue to earn more than women on average. Over three-quarters of people who earned over $100,000 last year were men, says Queens College political scientist Andrew Hacker. In fact, although the pay gap between men and women has been gradually narrowing, it actually widened a bit over the past year. Median usual weekly earnings for men grew 4.6% from the first quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2008, vs. 3.1% for women.

That might be evidence that the jobs women are landing aren't necessarily good ones. Says Eileen Appelbaum, director of Rutgers University's Center for Women & Work: "We had an expansion of jobs for home health aides, retail clerks, child-care workers. They're low-wage, they're dead-end, and they don't have any benefits."

Another reason politicians aren't making hay of the plight of males is that they are well aware that women are in no mood for it. Working-class and lower-middle-class women in particular, whether or not their men have jobs, are feeling economically stressed, says Bill McInturff, a pollster for Senator John McCain. He adds, "In focus groups they talk about how 'I'm taking care of my parents, his parents, buying groceries, taking kids to the doctor.' These women are tired."

There's no easy remedy for what ails the male economy. Edward J. O'Boyle, senior research associate at the Mayo Research Institute in West Monroe, La., says part of the solution is reviving manufacturing—a gargantuan task. On construction, he favors financial reforms to even out the booms and busts.

Economists are debating whether the overall economy is in a recession. For men, the evidence is clear.

With Maggie Gilmour and Jing Zhou in Chicago and Jane Sasseen in Washington, D.C.

Coy is BusinessWeek's Economics editor.

Copyrighted, Business Week. All rights reserved.
Original here

Almost Arrested for Taking Photos at Union Station

As some of you may know, I've been testing out a Gigapan panorama photo system over the last week, after I received a loaner of their robotic camera mount from Carnegie Mellon's robotics lab. I brought it in to NPR to demonstrate it to colleagues and go on a photo safari to photograph the architecture at Union Station. Apparently, as far as Union Station's security operations are concerned, that's a criminal offense, since we nearly got arrested.

Here's a low-res version of the photo. Click the image to see the extreme high-res, half-a-gigapixel Gigapan version. (Don't worry, it loads dynamically, so don't worry about the size of the pic.)

Earlier in the day, I did a brief demo of the Gigapan on the NPR roof. My NPR colleague Wright Bryan expressed interest in watching it in action elsewhere, so I offered to join him for a trip to Union Station, since it has some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. (Our photo editor was going to join us as well, but changed her mind at the last minute.)

We arrived at Union Station just before 4:30pm, where we set up the tripod and the camera at the western end of the main hall. I set the Gigapan to take a 180-degree sweep facing east, which took about 15 minutes to complete. We stood around chatting with passers-by, and were eventually joined by a journalist colleague of Wright's, who was visiting DC for a few days.

About halfway into the panorama, a security guard approached us and asked if we were taking pictures. We said yes, we were, to which she responded "okay" and left. She expressed no concern about our activities and didn't communicate anything with us otherwise.

After the panorama was complete, we relocated to the center of the main hall and proceeded to start the process of taking a 360-degree panorama. Since this would involve around 200 separate photos, it meant we got to stand around for at least 20 minutes. Wright's friend took a few pictures of us posing with the Gigapan, as commuters went about their business, a few giving us quizzical smiles.

Then the security guard returned. She informed us that we would have to cease taking pictures immediately and leave. I asked what the problem was, and she said that this is a private space, and we didn't have permission from management to take pictures. I told her that we were testing equipment for potential use by NPR, showed them our press passes, and noted there were plenty of other people walking around with cameras. She seemed sympathetic to our position, but said she was relaying orders she'd received from someone higher up. I asked if we could speak with them, then twittered it:

Just got told by security to leave. Asked to speak with a supervisor to explain why we can't take pictures at union station.

Soon a second security guard arrived; he said he wasn't a supervisor. He reiterated that we had to stop taking pictures and leave, or we would face arrest. I said we wanted to speak with a supervisor before we would comply. Again, I twittered.

Being asked to leave union station. Still asking to see supervisor.

By now a third security guard arrived. He noticed that the camera was still taking pictures. Not only did he ask us to stop immediately, he told us to erase the pictures, particularly any photos that might include images of them. The first guard repeated his demand we erase the pictures. We refused. The twittering

Union Station security official saying we'll be arrested if we don't comply. Also told to erase pics of security guards.

Throughout the conversation, which I should point out was conducted in a cordial, but firm tone, we received mixed messages from the security guards. One told us the problem was that we were using a tripod, while another insisted it was because we had "that thing" on top of our tripod. They then changed the story again, and said that journalists couldn't take pictures without permission from management, and that Union Station is a private space run by a private company, not a public space. They never gave us an answer as to why we were first allowed to take photos in the first location, but could not do the same here.

Contradictory messages. First they say tripod is problem, then the gigapan. Either way, cease or be arrested.

I debated them, telling them the story of the security guards who tried to prevent someone from photographing downtown Silver Spring by arguing it was a private space controlled by a private corporation, but was eventually overruled by local officials after much public lambasting. Their reaction was that they were just following orders. I said I wouldn't leave the premise until someone would go on record as to why we were being stopped, and would supply their name as well.

Meanwhile, the Gigapan continued to take photos. They'd ruined the panorama, of course; the first guard got in front of the camera at one point and obstructed the view. They reiterated that we were going to be arrested, so I finally tried to shut off the camera. But the damn thing wouldn't stop taking pictures. It never occurred to me that I'd have to learn how to abort a panorama under pain of arrest, so I fumbled for about a minute as it kept shooting pictures. (I think I heard Wright laughing at this point.)

I managed to shut the camera, and started to disassemble the Gigapan from the tripod as a fourth security person arrived. He was dressed differently than the other three people, and had a former-marine-turned-middle-management air about him. I twittered as he spoke:

Official saying Union Station is a private space, no right to photograph without approval.

I asked for his business card and he handed it to me: Robert H. Mangiante, Assistant Director, IPC International Corporation. He then summed up the situation: pack up your gear and leave now, or we'll arrest you. It's our choice. Our gear was already packed up at this point, and Wright and his friend had an event at the National Press Club anyway, so that was that. The Gigapan went into my backpack, I folded the tripod and we went our separate ways.

I'm still trying to sort out the incident. While I have no doubt that Union Station is managed by a private company, I think it's hard for them to argue it's a private space, and that journalists cannot take photographs there without permission. Granted, it's not a public street like the Silver Spring incident, but the situation is otherwise similar. I also question their right to demand that we erase photos, and am puzzled by the capriciousness of their overall position, given how they first allowed us to take photos but then changed their minds, offering mixed messages as to why.

What do you think? Were we within our rights or not? -andy

PS - Take a close look at the high-res version of the picture. You can make out the first security guard standing in front of the camera at one point, as the second one approaches from behind her, just to her right.

Original here

Vatican: It's OK to believe in aliens

VATICAN CITY - Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in an interview published Tuesday.

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, was quoted as saying the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

"How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?" Funes said. "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation."

In the interview by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Funes said that such a notion "doesn't contradict our faith" because aliens would still be God's creatures. Ruling out the existence of aliens would be like "putting limits" on God's creative freedom, he said.

The interview, headlined "The extraterrestrial is my brother," covered a variety of topics including the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and science, and the theological implications of the existence of alien life.

Funes said science, especially astronomy, does not contradict religion, touching on a theme of Pope Benedict XVI, who has made exploring the relationship between faith and reason a key aspect of his papacy.

The Bible "is not a science book," Funes said, adding that he believes the Big Bang theory is the most "reasonable" explanation for the creation of the universe. The theory says the universe began billions of years ago in the explosion of a single, super-dense point that contained all matter.

But he said he continues to believe that "God is the creator of the universe and that we are not the result of chance."

Funes urged the church and the scientific community to leave behind divisions caused by Galileo's persecution 400 years ago, saying the incident has "caused wounds."

In 1633 the astronomer was tried as a heretic and forced to recant his theory that the Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

"The church has somehow recognized its mistakes," he said. "Maybe it could have done it better, but now it's time to heal those wounds and this can be done through calm dialogue and collaboration."

Pope John Paul declared in 1992 that the ruling against Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

The Vatican Observatory has been at the forefront of efforts to bridge the gap between religion and science. Its scientist-clerics have generated top-notch research and its meteorite collection is considered one of the world's best.

The observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, is based in Castel Gandolfo, a lakeside town in the hills outside Rome where the pope has a summer residence. It also conducts research at an observatory at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.

Original here

Weapons Were Not Made In Iran After All

In a sharp reversal of its longstanding accusations against Iran arming militants in Iraq , the US military has made an unprecedented albeit quiet confession: the weapons they had recently found in Iraq were not made in Iran at all.

According to a report by the LA Times correspondent Tina Susman in Baghdad: "A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was cancelled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin. When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all."

The US, which until two weeks ago had never provided any proof for its allegations, finally handed over its "evidence" of the Iranian origin of these weapons to the Iraqi government. Last week, an Iraqi delegation to Iran presented the US "evidence" to Iranian officials. According to Al-Abadi, a parliament member from the ruling United Iraqi Alliance who was on the delegation, the Iranian officials totally refuted "training, financing and arming" militant groups in Iraq . Consequently the Iraqi government announced that there is no hard evidence against Iran.

In another extraordinary event this week, the US spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, for the first time did not blame Iran for the violence in Iraq and in fact did not make any reference to Iran at all in his introductory remarks to the world media on Wednesday when he described the large arsenal of weapons found by Iraqi forces in Karbala.

In contrast, the Pentagon in August 2007 admitted that it had lost track of a third of the weapons distributed to the Iraqi security forces in 2004/2005. The 190,000 assault rifles and pistols roam free in Iraqi streets today.

In the past year, the US leaders have been relentless in propagating their charges of Iranian meddling and fomenting violence in Iraq and since the release of the key judgments of the US National Intelligence Estimate in December that Iran does not have a nuclear weaponisation programme, these accusations have sharply intensified.

The US charges of Iranian interference in Iraq too have now collapsed. Any threat of military strike against Iran is in violation of the UN charter and the IAEA's continued supervision on Iran's uranium enrichment facilities means there is no justification for sanctions.

CASMII calls on the US to change course and enter into comprehensive and unconditional negotiations with Iran.

For more information or to contact CASMII please visit

Original here

Dead at 98: Heroic Irena Sendler, who helped save 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis

Hero: Irena Sendler worked as a social worker during the war and helped save 2,500 Jewish children

A woman who risked her life saving 2,500 Jewish children from the gas chambers died yesterday aged 98.

Irena Sendler, a social worker, smuggled them out of the Warsaw Ghetto and gave them false identities.

She died at a Warsaw hospital after she had been in hospital for a month with pneumonia.

Mrs Sendler was serving as a social worker with the city's welfare department during World War II when she masterminded the risky rescue operations of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Records show that her team of some 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and April 1943, when the Nazis burned the ghetto, shooting the residents or sending them to death camps.

"A great person has died - a person with a great heart, with great organizational talents, a person who always stood on the side of the weak," Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, told TVN24 television.

Under the pretext of inspecting the ghetto's sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, Mrs Sendler and her assistants went inside in search of children who could be smuggled out and given a chance of survival by living as Catholics.

Babies and small children were smuggled out in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.

Scroll down for more...

Terror: German soldiers round up Jews in Warsaw to be sent to concentrations camps

Teenagers escaped by joining teams of workers forced to labour outside the ghetto.

They were placed in families, orphanages, hospitals or convents.

In hopes of one day uniting the children with their families - most of whom perished in the Nazis' death camps - Sendler wrote the children's real names on slips of paper that she kept at home.

When German police came to arrest her in 1943, an assistant managed to hide the slips, which Sendler later buried in a jar under an apple tree in an associate's yard.

Some 2,500 names were recorded.

"It took a true miracle to save a Jewish child," Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler's team as a baby in 1942, recalled in an interview last year.

"Mrs Sendler saved not only us, but also our children and grandchildren and the generations to come."

Scroll down for more...

Gratitude: Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger personally thanks Mrs Sendler

Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members - a fate Sendler only barely escaped herself after the 1943 raid by the Gestapo.

The Nazis took her to the Pawiak prison, which few left alive. She was tortured and was left with permanent scarring on her body - but she refused to betray her team.

"I kept silent. I preferred to die than to reveal our activity," she was quoted as saying in Anna Mieszkowska's biography, "Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Story of Irena Sendler."

Zegota, an underground organization helping Jews, for which she worked at the time, paid a bribe to German guards to free her from the prison. Under a different name, she continued her work.

After World War II, Sendler worked as a social welfare official and director of vocational schools, continuing to assist some of the children she rescued.

In 1965, Sendler became one of the first so-called Righteous Gentiles honored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem for wartime heroics.

Poland's communist leaders at that time would not allow her to travel to Israel; she collected the award in 1983.

Despite the Yad Vashem honour, Sendler was largely forgotten in her homeland.

Only in her final years, confined to a nursing home, did she finally become one of Poland's most respected figures.

Original here