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Billy Hung
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We are all in this together.
We are all in this together.

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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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It was a dark and stormy week in Science Blogging. 

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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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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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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. 

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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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You say tomayto, and I say potayto. You say potahto, and I say tomahto.

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

#sciencesunday  

Jeeez. Skipped out on G+ for a few months and came back to a completely revamped interface... 
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