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Billy Hung
Works at Eastern Illinois University
Attended University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lived in Hong Kong
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Billy Hung

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Saw this article: http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/23/news/companies/mcdonalds-help-line-workers/index.html

And then made me look and dig deeper. 

In case anyone is wondering, McDonald's earnings (profit) for 2012 was $5.39 per share. At 999.6 million shares outstanding, that totals to $5.3 billion dollars plus some change. (source: http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/snapshot/snapshot.asp?ticker=MCD )

If the CNN Money article is right, McDonald's employees are using up $1.2 billion dollars of public assistance. If McDonald's pay their employees a living wage to cover that $1.2 billion dollars, they would still net over $4 billion dollars in earnings each year. 

Or, put another way, about 20% of that $5.3 billion profit is paid for by U.S. taxpayers in the form of subsidies to the workers who need assistance. Let me be clear - we should absolutely give public assistance to people in this working poor category. No questions. The issue here is that we shouldn't have to. I shouldn't have to pay for my hamburger and fries twice - once at the restaurant and once on April 15. 

Let us also be clear on another point - McDonald's is NOT the only big corporation out there doing this. WalMart, Home Depot, and many of the big chain stores that hire hourly workers all do this. The American workers are subsidizing the capital class, i.e., people who own stocks in these companies. While the extravagent CEO pay catches attention and ire easily, we shouldn't forget that the $5.3 billion dollars in profit (which means after wages and bonus paid to the higher levels of CEOs and such) got divided amongst all the share holders, too. If you are not a stock owner, you are subsidizing their wealth. 

There is a class warfare in the U.S., and the poor are losing. 
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Wow. Self-admission.
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Billy Hung

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Very nice simulation tool to help visualize the different scenarios concerning group immunity and vaccination. Great tool!
 
I was thinking about making a web based herd immunity simulator, but someone (Colin Jenkins) already made one, and it's probably better than anything I would have come up with.  This visually shows how herd immunity works with vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

The simulator can be found here:
http://op12no2.me/toys/herd/index.php
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This is a tough case to digest, where funding for higher education, racism, and the reaction to historical racism all intersect. I am ambivalent on this issue right now and will need to read more on it to decide one way or another. But it's definitely something to ponder as higher education moves forward, particularly in light of the SCOTUS rulings on affirmative action plans for admission. 
 
A Win for Public Black Colleges
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You say tomayto, and I say potayto. You say potahto, and I say tomahto.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24281192

#sciencesunday  
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'Tis the season for the finals, for those of us who earn a living in academia. So, in preparation, for inspiration and appreciation, I offer you this.

http://i.imgur.com/d9eFAUo.jpg

hat tip to one of my other internet friends from the F site. 
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It was a dark and stormy week in Science Blogging. 
 
+Bora Zivkovic has resigned from +Scientific American 
Statement: 
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Found this circulating in my Facebook stream, and thought some of you here might also enjoy it. 
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An article about the long-term health of our higher education system. Here's part of my response to it: 

The largest driving force in higher education is not, IMO, the few gold-star schools, but the steady, quiet state schools. Here, we see the shift in attitude about higher education the most clearly, when parents and students alike are concerned about prospective job outlooks upon graduation. And so they should, given the hefty financial investment they make in a college degree. We all know the benefits of a liberal arts education (though I am betting even some of out colleagues don't), but it is hard to convince people to invest 30k+ in learning how to think better and how to function in the world better. 

It is, ultimately, the refusal of the public to invest in higher education that we are standing at this cross road. If higher education were not as expensive to attain, then the cost-benefits analysis wouldn't be as starkly weighed towards the wage-earning potential in the minds of many people. When schools like Rutgers are signing deals with Pearson to basically sell their name and curriculum, it is no wonder the dollar value of education is heralded as the gold standard of success in higher ed. 

The larger problem here, I think, is class mobility, or the lack thereof in our society. People want their children to get a college degree because it still seems like the best path to move up on the SEC, particularly for first-generation students. If the paths to middle class were more varied, if our society value labor more and perhaps capital less, I think the pressure to pursue college will also be lessened. Some students really would do better in an environment other than college, but they are stuck here because that seems to be the only path upward.
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Read this article from NYT on the under-representation of women in STEM. Good reading. While it presents the issues fairly well, I am not sure that it has the best analysis. Still, for a piece aiming at general public I think it's a good read. Give it a try. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?pagewanted=1&_r=4
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Thanks for the tag +Rajini Rao yes, quite a few interesting viewpoints, including the ability to observe some persistent biases :P Here's the link to my post: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+BuddhiniSamarasinghe/posts/FM8QiRnFnCR
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Jeeez. Skipped out on G+ for a few months and came back to a completely revamped interface... 
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Thanks +Laura Gibbs !
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Saw this post: https://plus.google.com/u/0/117351898370193721811/posts/7L9oznWYunu

Here's my take:

Yes, scientists who work with dangerous material (chemical, radiation, pathogens, toxins, etc.) do so willingly and knowing the risk. 

That's not the point of contention, though.

According to that article you linked, the Principle Investigators are being charged with criminal negligence on account of the lack of training that the deceased graduate student had received regarding safety procedures for working with that dangerous chemical. 

I do not know the details of the case to say whether the charges are justified or not. I trust that the trial will sort that out. The fact that this is going to trial implies that a grand jury thinks that the evidenec warrants a full trial, at the least.

But on a philosophical level, I have no problems with charging PIs for criminal negligence if the evidence warrants it. Just because we're doing science it does not mean that we have immunity from our moral and ethical obligations to safeguard the health and life of our students, technicians, and staff scientists. It is one thing for a student to keep working on a project involving a bacterial pathogen, after being informed of the risk and been shown how to handle the material properly, but it's quite a different issue if the training was inadequate/absent or if the student was not properly informed of the risks involved. 

So, your absolution of the PIs in question seems rather too cavalier to me. If the progress of science needs to slow down a pace to make sure all our workers are safe, then I say that's worth it. 

I hope the jury will find the PIs not guilty. I cannot imagine the emotional distress that they would feel if trial declares that their negligence is responsible for the student's death. Already they are probably feeling guilty enough without the legal proclamation against them. But if the evidence do show avoidable and preventable lapses in safety training and procedure, then yes, I do think the PIs should face the appropriate punishment. This is not about impeding science - it's about holding employers responsible for the safety of their workers. 
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I work with radiological and chemical materials; there is a Hazard Communication Law in the US and if the PI did not inform the grad student of the hazard, the PI will be in violation of the HazComm standard.  And the sky is the limit for this violation which is the right thing.  There is NO EXCUSE.

http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/index.html
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Work
Employment
  • Eastern Illinois University
    Assistant Professor, 2008 - present
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
    Assistant Scientist, 2008 - 2008
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
    Post Doctoral Fellow, 2004 - 2007
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
    Ph.D Student, 1997 - 2003
  • University of Georgia Athens
    Undergraduate Researcher, 1995 - 1997
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Previously
Hong Kong - Lawrenceville, GA - Athens, GA - Madison, WI - Charleston, IL
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We are all in this together.
Introduction
In my work life, I am a faculty at the biology department at Eastern Illinois University with a focus on microbiology of extremophiles using molecular and genomics approaches. In addition to my work in microbiology, I am also engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). In my private life, I am a SF/F geek, gamer, amateur cook, mediocre gardener, and social justice junkie. 
Education
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Genetics, 1997 - 2003
  • University of Georgia
    Genetics, 1993 - 1997
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Billy