Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spanish sentencing of Madrid terror bombers

Must be that Mediterranean diet , looks like they've discovered the secret of eternal life.

Or maybe they use some different European measurement standard, like the metric system vs the English/US usage of miles/feet/inches, since it appears that 30-40,000 years really equals 40 years, max :

The three lead suspects convicted of murder and attempted murder each received sentences ranging from 34,000 to 43,000 years in prison, although under Spanish law the most time they can spend in jail is 40 years. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

30-40,000 years sounds like 'cruel and unusual punishment' to me ... The World Court in the Hague should look into the Spanish legal system.

Accused Madrid bomb mastermind acquitted

By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 14 minutes ago

An Egyptian who allegedly bragged that he masterminded the 2004 Madrid terror bombings that killed 191 people was acquitted of all charges along with six other lesser suspects Wednesday.

Three other lead defendants were convicted of murder by the Spanish court, culminating a divisive trial over Europe's worst Islamic militant attack, which also wounded more than 1,800.

Four other top suspects — Youssef Belhadj, Hassan el Haski, Abdulmajid Bouchar and Rafa Zouhier — were acquitted of murder but convicted of lesser charges including belonging to a terrorist organization. They received sentences of between 10 and 18 years.

Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez read out the verdicts into the March 11 attacks in a hushed courtroom, with heavy security, including bomb-sniffing dogs and police helicopters, outside.

The three lead suspects convicted of murder and attempted murder each received sentences ranging from 34,000 to 43,000 years in prison, although under Spanish law the most time they can spend in jail is 40 years. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

The three are: Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan convicted of placing at least one bomb on one of the trains; Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a Spaniard who is a former miner found guilty of supplying the explosives used in the attacks; and Osman Gnaoui, a Moroccan accused of being a right-hand man of the plot's operational chief.

But Rabei Osman, an Egyptian accused of helping orchestrate the attacks, was acquitted. Osman, who is in jail in Italy, had allegedly bragged in a wiretapped phone conversation that the massacre was his idea. But his defense attorneys argued successfully that the tapes were mistranslated.

Six lesser suspects were also acquitted on all charges. Fourteen other people were found guilty of lesser charges like belonging to a terrorist group, bringing the total number convicted to 21 of the 28 defendants.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power after the attacks, welcomed the verdicts. "Justice was rendered today," he said.

"The barbarism perpetrated on March 11, 2004, has left a deep imprint of pain on our collective memory, an imprint that stays with us as a homage to the victims," said Zapatero.

Most of the suspects are young Muslim men of North African origin who allegedly acted out of allegiance to al-Qaida to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, although Spanish investigators say they did so without a direct order or financing from Osama bin Laden's terror network.

Bermudez said the probe had turned up no evidence of involvement by the armed Basque separatist group ETA, dismissing the initial argument of the conservative pro-U.S. government in power at the time of the attacks. The theory is still embraced by many Spaniards.

The blasts targeting crowded, rush-hour commuter trains on the morning of March 11, 2004 traumatized Spain and arguably toppled its government — the first time an administration that backed the U.S.-led Iraq war was voted out of power.

That day of carnage, wailing sirens and cell phones going unanswered amid the wreckage of blackened, gutted trains is etched in Spain's collective memory and is now widely known as simply 11-M, much as the term 9-11 conjures up so much pain for Americans.

The sentences of thousands of years for lead suspects are largely symbolic because the maximum jail time for a terrorism conviction in Spain is 40 years. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

Seven suspected ringleaders of the attacks — including the operational chief and an ideologue — blew themselves up in a safe house outside Madrid three weeks after the massacre as special forces who tracked them via cell phone traffic moved in to arrest them.

The attacks had profound political repercussions and left Spaniards deeply and bitterly divided between supporters of conservatives in power at the time of the massacre and Socialists who accused the government of making Spain a target for al-Qaida by supporting the Iraq war and sending in 1,300 peacekeepers.

The government of then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar initially blamed Basque separatists for the bombings, even as evidence of Islamic involvement emerged.

This led to charges of a cover-up to deflect attention away from the government's support for the war, and in elections three days after the bombings the conservatives lost to the opposition Socialists, who quickly brought the Spanish troops home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GM building more R+D in China

While GM claims this is happening because of an exploding market in China, this is pure spin.

The real reasons:

1) As the article finally gets to, engineers in China get less than 1/2 the compensation of American engineers. The reality is that the cost is probably on average much less than half.

2) China has demanded that companies that wish to do extensive business there MUST also include work at the cutting edge of design and engineering. They will not allow just cheap manual labor factories. So in order to get the advantage of cheap labor companies are willing to partner with China on the design and development of future technologies.

GM encourages American students to become engineers and laments about American technical and engineering skills. Why has no one asked GM how many engineers they plan to hire, either experienced or fresh out of school, in the US versus how many they are hiring overseas ??

Journalistic incompetence ? Or just the media's reluctance to ask tough questions to companies that they rely on for significant advertising revenue ? Probably both but with a decided emphasis on incompetence .

October 30, 2007

Seeking Control of Technology, G.M. Will Build Its Own Research Center in China

BEIJING, Oct. 29 — General Motors announced Monday that it would build an advanced research center in Shanghai to develop hybrid technology and other designs.

It was the latest research investment in China by a foreign automaker despite chronic problems with purloined car designs.

G.M. already has a 1,300-employee research center in Shanghai with its main Chinese joint venture partner, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. The separate, wholly owned research center announced Monday, for the most advanced vehicle engineering and development, could help G.M. keep greater control over new technologies than through the joint venture.

Kevin Wale, president of General Motors’ China operations, said that the company remained “very comfortable” with its partnership with Shanghai Automotive and that the partner’s recent introduction of its own sedans had shown “no significant impact” on G.M. sales.

Rick Wagoner, G.M.’s chairman, said it was essential to do advanced research in China to adapt technologies quickly to cars being sold locally. G.M.’s joint venture sales in China have grown to an estimated one million this year, from 20,000 in 1999, making it the company’s second-largest market after the United States.

Mr. Wagoner insisted that G.M. could keep control of intellectual property in China even while doing advanced research there. “We think it’s a prudent trade-off, and we think the risk is manageable,” he said.

Chen Hong, vice chairman of Shanghai Automotive, said nothing about the new G.M. project but welcomed a separate plan, also announced Monday, under which his company and G.M. would jointly provide a $5 million grant over five years for a much smaller research venture at Tsinghua University in Beijing. That project will give G.M. closer access to government officials.

Chinese automakers have repeatedly prompted confrontations with Western producers by introducing vehicles that appear identical to Western models, but there has not yet been a case of a Chinese automaker copying advanced Western engine technology.

G.M.’s largest hybrid-car research efforts will remain in the United States. But research will also be done collaboratively in China and information will be shared with the Chinese through G.M. partnerships with universities around the world, Mr. Wagoner said, adding that, “For us, it’s not a question of either/or.”

Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and other foreign automakers have all announced their own research centers in China in recent months, although none have been as aggressive as G.M. in transferring technology to China.

Monday’s announcement coincidentally came after the government’s National Development and Reform Commission disclosed Friday that it was drafting stringent local-content rules for alternative-fuel vehicles to qualify for expected subsidies. The rules will require that major components be made in China.

“They don’t want to give big incentives just for people to import stuff,” said Nick Reilly, the G.M. group vice president for Asia-Pacific operations.

The Chinese government’s move is aimed partly at Toyota, which assembles Prius gasoline-electric hybrid cars in China but ships critical components in sealed boxes from plants in Japan.

G.M.’s existing joint venture research center mainly takes vehicle designs from the company’s American and European operations and tailors them to the Chinese market. For example, wider pillars separating the rear side windows from the rear window are popular because they provide greater privacy for back-seat occupants in a land where many hire chauffeurs even for midsize cars.

But the joint venture may start to do development work for G.M. operations elsewhere.

The prospect of more vehicle development in this country has long alarmed engineers at G.M. operations in the Detroit area and in Australia, a base for G.M. engineering for Asian markets. The joint venture makes use of Chinese engineers who are paid considerably less than half what their American and Australian counterparts receive, though Chinese engineering salaries are climbing swiftly.

G.M. executives have insisted over the years that while G.M. and Shanghai Automotive engineers work side by side at the joint venture, elaborate computer fire walls prevent confidential G.M. information from reaching the Chinese partner.

Shanghai Automotive has rotated some of its best executives through the joint venture as part of a broad effort to learn the latest Western automotive technologies in preparation for eventual exports.

The new wholly owned G.M. research center will work on alternative fuels like ethanol; electric vehicle technology, including hybrids and fuel cells; and energy efficiency in the manufacturing process, including auto parts suppliers.

Lawrence D. Burns, G.M.’s vice president for research, development and strategic planning, said the Chinese government did not want to rely on ethanol from corn and other food crops, so the research would focus on grass and other nonedible plants.

Mr. Wagoner initially said that the company would spend $250 million on the new research center, but later corrected himself to say that G.M. would spend this amount on a new corporate campus in the Shanghai area that would include administrative offices as well as research operations. G.M. officials declined to provide the precise cost and employment at the new research center itself.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Demographics and corporate double-speak

Lately we're getting inundated with articles about the coming demographic catastrophe in the West concerning jobs. The basic assertion is that there are plenty of great jobs but not enough workers for them.

In reality most of the newer, better types of jobs involve working with digitized data and products and so can be done anywhere in the world. The ability of the western worker to compete with workers in developing countries who currently work for some fraction of western compensation with much fewer benefits is virtually impossible.

Particularly so for older workers most of whom have climbed the payroll ladder and are more expensive than new hires in western countries.

So the real problem is not that older workers are volunteering to leave the work force because of gov't or corporate largesse , but because corporations are choosing, in order to remain competitive, to do most of their hiring overseas.

A simple question to put to an executive such as this is , 'How many people are you hiring in Europe versus how many are you hiring overseas?' .

And , 'How many involuntary layoffs have you had in the past several years here in the West, and how many people were affected'?

And 'If you need people why are you laying off thousands?'

And 'If these people have the wrong skills for this moment, then why don't you offer them re-training given that you need these valuable skills?' .

And finally , 'What is your corporation doing to retain these critical, needed employees?'

There are basically 2 broad types of rewards in working , 1) financial and 2) psychic/emotional. So, 'What kind of rewards is your corporation offering in order to retain these critical, needed employees'?

The bottom line answer is that Western companies are all pursing lower economic costs in order to remain competitive. Skipping the moral and ethical questions about this process, it is incredibly disingenuous of corporate execs to pen op-eds such as this which place the blame on the workers and rich gov't programs .

It is really not so hard to figure . These executives continue to work because of the financial and psychic rewards opportunities and so would many lower-level employees if they had some of these incentives that could compete with their retirement options.

State of the Union

When I'm 64

By Hans Ulrich Maerki
929 words
29 October 2007
The Wall Street Journal Europe
(Copyright (c) 2007, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

"Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?"

-- Paul McCartney, 1967

Falling birth rates, longer life spans and the imminent retirement of the baby boom generation have combined to cast a long shadow over Europe. Between now and 2030, the Continent will lose 20 million workers. These are demographic changes of a magnitude not seen since consecutive world wars ravaged Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. The proportion of people over 65 years of age will rise by more than 50%. Instead of four workers to support every retiree, we'll have only two, with disastrous consequences for our pension systems.

The challenges, though, are more than just fiscal. Many of today's retiring workers have critical skills that Europe will need to stay competitive in an increasingly globalized economy. Whether or not we can maintain the pension plans we have now, we simply can't afford to be without those skills and manpower. If we can't produce enough younger workers to replace the retirees, at some point Europe may find itself with an unusual problem: more good jobs than skilled workers to fill them. The threats to Europe's economic growth prospects are self-evident.

The demographic problem is exacerbated by state pension plans that encourage employees to retire early. This contrasts with the original Bismarckian pension concept, which was more concerned with work incapacity. In the 19th century, a lifetime of hard labor meant a worker would be physically unable to continue working beyond the age of 60. One answer to both sides of this dilemma -- pension affordability and skill retention -- is to increase the work force participation rate in the 55-64 age group. This is not a new idea. In 2001, the European Union Council in Stockholm set a target of 50%. How are we doing? Not too well. In 2005, Italy was at 31%, Belgium and Austria at 32%, and in France and Germany the participation rates were 38% and 45% respectively.

We still have a long way to go, and it is not just about reforms of the pension and labor markets. What's necessary is also a cultural transformation: changing the preferences for early retirement among workers, while employers overcome their bias toward hiring younger workers. The demographic changes and the resulting bottleneck of skilled workers will evolve only gradually. But smart governments and businesses better start preparing for it now.

The British retailer Asda, for example, has more than 20,000 employees who are over 50 years old, representing 19% of its work force. Asda conducts over-50 workshops at local job-recruitment centers for anyone interested in continuing to work, and not just for Asda. And there are substantial corporate benefits. Stores with a higher proportion of older workers have absenteeism rates less than a third of Asda's average rate.

At IBM, we introduced in 2005 "Transition to Teaching," a program that provides tuition assistance to employees (usually nearing retirement age) who want to prepare for switching to a new career teaching math or science. This year, we expanded that idea to cover a transition to jobs in the public or nonprofit sectors.

Among European governments, Sweden was one of the first countries to step up to the issue of pension reform. Flexibility is a key feature of the new system: There is no formal retirement age anymore and pension credits can be added at any age, even while a worker may already be drawing a pension from previous work.

In terms of labor-market reforms, Denmark is perhaps the best-known example. Its "flexicurity" approach is credited with contributing to near-full employment, including among older workers. Germany has raised the retirement age to 67, and the French government has engaged industry and unions in negotiations on career development and more flexible employment contracts. The Netherlands is providing increased incentives to employers for hiring individuals with disabilities. Normally, we might think of that as social policy, but in the context of an aging work force it is also sound economic policy to increase the participation in a segment of the population where the proportion of disability invariably rises. In the U.K. there are "New Deal" programs targeting special assistance for "harder to help" groups, which includes people over 50.

Many older workers would like to keep on working, but can't because they would lose benefits by doing so, or because of inflexible corporate policies about part-time or flex-time work. These are all opportunities for action by governments and individual businesses to raise the level of voluntary work force participation in this age group.

More people than at any time in history get not merely compensation but pleasure and a sense of identity from their work. Most of us could imagine doing something interesting and fulfilling, as well as gainfully economic, after we reach eligibility for retirement. Keeping these people in work would be a triple win: It would reduce the strain on government resources even as it provides more skilled workers for businesses and more diverse and productive careers for people so that "living longer" really does mean "living better."

At the age of 64 plus 1, Sir Paul is not exactly "digging the weeds" either, is he?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Not very efficient at Princeton

There have been a number of lawsuits over the use of gifts to universities lately and this one involves a big one (both the lawsuit and the gift) .

But the second to last paragraph is inadvertently funny. To show that they are using the gift correctly and according to it's stipulations they point to a single graduate having utilized it to get an education and go into public service .

Reminds me of that t-shirt --> I spent $880 million and all I got was this one graduate!

I know that college costs have outpaced inflation for a couple of decades, but this seems pretty inefficient to me and for Princeton to bring this forward (a single graduate) shows something about the intellectual quality of it's administration at least.

Princeton argues that the original gift says students “may prepare” for careers in government service but does not require it and that the Wilson school has never been a narrowly focused vocational school. It notes that its graduates include Anthony Lake, a former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Gen. David H. Petraeus.

October 26, 2007

Princeton Faces Trial Over Use of Gift Now Worth $880 Million

In a legal battle watched nervously by universities around the country, a New Jersey judge yesterday sent to trial a dispute between Princeton University and the heirs of a supermarket fortune and left open the possibility that Princeton could lose a donation that is now worth $880 million.

In a set of rulings, the judge, Neil H. Shuster of Superior Court, established the ground rules for one of the largest lawsuits ever filed exploring how closely colleges must adhere to the original intent of donors.

The struggle has already cost Princeton and the descendants of Charles and Marie Robertson more than $20 million each, and will cost more when it comes to trial, possibly sometime next year.

The dispute centers on whether Princeton University has adhered to the Robertsons’ wishes; Mrs. Robertson, an heir to the A.&P. supermarket fortune, gave Princeton $35 million in 1961 for its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Her children say the money was intended to prepare students for work in federal government, especially in international affairs. They say, though, that few graduates have taken such jobs and that Princeton has used the money for many of its other needs.

Princeton says that the family narrowly interpreted the terms of the gift, which they say was intended to support the Wilson school in providing a broad education for graduate students.

Some of Judge Shuster’s rulings favored the Robertsons and some the university. He supported Princeton in ruling out a jury trial and in finding that it was within its rights to spend not only interest and dividends earned on the gift, but also gains realized on investments.

He sided with the Robertsons in saying that Princeton’s role as sole beneficiary of the gift should be decided in the trial. That opens the possibility that Princeton could lose the whole gift, although the judge said he would take the Robertson Foundation away from Princeton only under “the most egregious and nefarious of circumstances.”

He also said he would allow the family to reach back many years in its questioning to determine whether Princeton’s spending was appropriate; Princeton had hoped to limit the questioning to just a few years.

Both sides said they believed they would ultimately triumph.

“Even if things stopped right now, this is a huge victory for donors everywhere,” Ronald H. Malone, the lead lawyer for the Robertson family, said yesterday. “It shows that no matter how high and mighty a university might be, the law imposes on them a moral and legal obligation to use the money only for the purpose to which it was given.”

Kenneth R. Logan, a lawyer for the university, said, “We are very confident that once the evidence is presented, he will decide our way.”

The case has already affected how colleges and graduates approach fund-raising, prompting donors to be more vigilant and colleges to be more careful about gift restrictions at a time when they are hungry for contributions. Colleges and donors these days are drawing up detailed agreements to prevent disputes over how money should be spent.

Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and an author of “The Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving,” said in a statement that the rulings were “a resounding victory for all who believe that colleges must be accountable to the people on whose dollars they rely.”

Joseph Nye, a former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard who was a witness for Princeton, said, “If the heirs of donors are allowed to micromanage an academic institution a generation after a gift has been given, it will seriously curtail the creativity and initiative that has marked the recent administration of the Wilson school as well as set a bad precedent for other academic institutions.”

Yale is among the universities that have faced similar disputes. It returned $20 million to Lee M. Bass, a billionaire alumnus, after he said the university had not created the classes he had requested in its Western civilization curriculum.

The Robertson children, led by William Robertson, who has served on the foundation board and helped oversee the investment of funds, originally filed their suit in 2002 to protest the handling of the investments after the university sought to change the management of the funds. The family later expanded the suit. Looking back to the cold war in making their case, they said that the donation made by their mother and shaped by their father, a Princeton graduate, was intended to benefit the American people by helping Princeton send students into the foreign service and other government jobs.

William Robertson said he hoped the court would return control of the money to the family. He said he has already talked to six or seven other colleges to learn “more about their programs and about their potential plans if they were to be recipients of the foundation’s funds.”

He said that he had talked to Texas A&M University, George Washington University, Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse and Indiana, and that Harvard and Duke refused to talk to him.

He said he would not structure future gifts the way his parents had structured theirs, giving it all to one university or relinquishing control of the money.

“We propose to have it operated by the family and outside experts,” he said. “And we would be more careful in looking for performance measures.”

Princeton argues that the original gift says students “may prepare” for careers in government service but does not require it and that the Wilson school has never been a narrowly focused vocational school. It notes that its graduates include Anthony Lake, a former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Gen. David H. Petraeus.

Douglas S. Eakely, another lawyer for Princeton, said that under the university’s stewardship, the Robertson Foundation “has achieved extraordinary success” and that the Wilson school today is “one the pre-eminent schools of public and international affairs” where “students may, and do, prepare for positions of leadership in government and related fields.”

Monday, October 22, 2007

Globalization's next step ?

Perhaps the solution to this 'monkey menace' is actually a part of the long range strategic plans of Western corporations.

As salaries rise overseas to meet the demand for 'skilled workers' , eventually less developed countries may be able to employ their underutilized wild animal 'resources', who are currently congregating around public places with nothing to do except panhandle and annoy hard-working citizens.

This can be done by either :

1) Placing a thousand monkeys at a thousand terminals ... eventually one will answer a help-line query correctly.


2) Making the work so easy that even a monkey could do it .

And payment in bananas and peanuts , with no need for any benefits!

Report: Man dies in monkey attack
Story Highlights
New Delhi deputy mayor reportedly dies from balcony fall after monkey attack
Many buildings in New Delhi are overrun by Rhesus macaques
City has been reprimanded by courts for not stopping monkey attacks
Many Hindus believe monkeys are manifestations of monkey god Hanuman
NEW DELHI, India (AP) -- Wild monkeys attacked a senior government official who then fell from a balcony at his home and died Sunday, media reported.
New Delhi Deputy Mayor S.S. Bajwa was rushed to a hospital after the attack by a gang of Rhesus macaques, but succumbed to head injuries sustained in his fall, the Press Trust of India news agency and The Times of India reported.
Many government buildings, temples and residential neighborhoods in New Delhi are overrun by Rhesus macaques, which scare passers-by and occasionally bite or snatch food from unsuspecting visitors.
Last year, the Delhi High Court reprimanded city authorities for failing to stop the animals from terrifying residents and asked them to find a permanent solution to the monkey menace.
Part of the problem is that devout Hindus believe monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman and feed them bananas and peanuts -- encouraging them to frequent public places.
Over the years, city authorities have employed monkey catchers who use langurs -- a larger and fiercer kind of monkey -- to scare or catch the macaques, but the problem persists.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Depressing work

Working at a nursing home would seem to be a triple whammy , according to the first sentence .

They make no mention of farm work .... or slaughterhouse work .... or numerous other work that is physically and emotionally difficult . Again take results like these with a grain of salt .

I have heard that depression is at least partly the result of a feeling of powerlessness . These results indicate that ... seniors will be getting no better , in general over time, so the more effort put into the work goes 'unrewarded' . Child care does not fit this mode. The mirror side of this powerlessness theory is the financial rewards and opportunities that the jobs offer . All the depressing jobs pay at the lowest end of the scale and there is little or no possibilities of advancement except to work/study your way out of the job .

So, any job whose 'product' has little chance of improving , and also the job itself is dead-end , will lead to more depression among it's workers .

Doesn't seem worthy to spend money on a study to 'find' this out. It's not rocket science or brain surgery ( both jobs which should have a low depression rate!) .

Article published Oct 14, 2007
Some jobs just too depressing

October 14, 2007

Associated Press - People who tend to the elderly, change diapers and serve up food and drinks have the highest rates of depression among American workers.

Overall, 7 percent of full-time workers battled depression in the past year, according to a government report made available yesterday.

Just working full-time, however, would appear to be beneficial in preventing depression. The overall rate of depression for full-time workers, 7 percent, compares with the 12.7 percent rate registered by those who are unemployed.

Women were more likely than men to have had a major bout of depression, and younger workers had higher rates of depression than their older colleagues.

Almost 11 percent of personal care workers — which includes child care and helping the elderly and severely disabled with their daily needs — reported depression lasting two weeks or longer.

During such episodes there is loss of interest and pleasure, and at least four other symptoms surface, including problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration and self-image.

Workers who prepare and serve food — cooks, bartenders, waiters and waitresses — had the second highest rate of depression among full-time employees at 10.3 percent.

In a tie for third were health care workers and social workers at 9.6 percent.

The lowest rate of depression, 4.3 percent, occurred in the job category that covers engineers, architects and surveyors.

Government officials tracked depression within 21 major occupational categories. They combined data from 2004 through 2006 to estimate episodes of depression within the past year. That information came from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which registers lifetime and past-year depression bouts.

Depression leads to $30 billion to $44 billion in lost productivity annually, said the report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Routine physcal?

Ted Kennedy gets a routine physical and winds up finding a blocked carotid artery. What type of health insurance covers an MRI for a 'routine' physical ? Well, one for congressmen perhaps, paid by US taxpayers, the vast majority of whom would not be covered for an MRI during a routine physical.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Firms to Older Women - We want you ! ... or not

I would have thought that older people entering (or re-entering as is the case here) would have more limited options and issues with good salaries, etc .... this article starts off talking optimistically, the title of the article ' MBA Programs pay off for Women .... ' and then the first paragraph ' ...have started to yield results. '

But down at the next to last paragraph, if the reader makes it there, indicates a totally different story .... half the women are unable to find anything after months of looking and the time and many thousands of dollars invested in this program .... seems to me that the ones that found something either had contacts in their old firms or settled for a lesser position ('American Kennel Club ... director of publicity' ... true, most dogs are not very articulate and would need a 'spokesperson' )

Bottom line ... this story 'spins' the results of the program and winds up :

1) painting a false picture of a failed Dartmouth program
2) trying to paint corporate America as open to both older workers and specifically in this case, to women (in higher non-entry level positions)

Using the business skills that the students presumably learned in this program to analyze the results would undoubtedly result in a much different conclusion about the program and it's results, rather than a puff piece like this.

October 5, 2007
M.B.A. Programs Pay Off for Women Seeking a Return to Wall Street
Efforts on Wall Street to re-engage women who are trying to return to the work force, many of whom left for family obligations, have started to yield results.
During the last few years, some of the nation’s premier business schools began to address that demographic group with executive M.B.A. programs. Of those, perhaps the most encompassing is the annual program started last fall by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, with a curriculum that combined academics and career opportunities.
With a median age of 47 and an average of eight years out of the work force, 41 students — 35 women and 6 men — participated in the first Tuck program, known as Back in Business. Of those, slightly more than half have found high-level and often high-paying work, according to the program’s director, Anant Sundaram.
He said that of those, “one or two ended up with consumer products companies, four with nonprofit organizations and a dozen with banks or financial services firms.” Three others returned to their own businesses, one went on to graduate school and another “had great offers but has postponed getting back into the work force.”
Those in the program said that the biggest issue facing them was not whether their skills were rusty; rather, it was the confidence that they had lost while not working. As Diana Allan, a graduate, said when polled by another program graduate, she realized that she should “never apologize for being out of the market.”
Several Tuck graduates landed at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citi, where Hans Morris, an early champion of the program, was chief financial officer of the markets and banking division before becoming president of Visa Inc. in September.
One, Janine Abbatecola, 40, a 1989 Cornell graduate who left her job at Credit Suisse in 2003, landed at Goldman Sachs, she said, because of Tuck’s “career evening where eight, nine companies, one of which was Goldman Sachs, came.” She subsequently “came to an event at Goldman, wound up connecting with a recruiter and meeting with a group, and everything took off from there.” She took a job as a vice president in Goldman’s equities division, a position similar to the one she had held at Credit Suisse. (Goldman has hired six other women through its own initiative for those who have taken career breaks.)
Another Tuck participant, Bette Rice, 50, joined Merrill Lynch in the late 1980s but left in 2002 when “my kids were in middle school,” when she was a director working on fixed income products. Ms. Rice decided to try the Tuck program when her daughter was applying to college, and she found that it “contributed a lot to the soft skills — how to put together your approach to re-entry and to think through the job market, my skills, résumé and core competencies.”
While she interviewed at several places, she decided in January to return to Merrill Lynch.
Not all of the Tuck graduates have joined Wall Street firms. Some have opted to try their hand at entrepreneurship while others, like Anne Donoghue, turned to the nonprofit world.
Ms. Donoghue, a publicist, did some consulting work after being laid off at Warner Brothers in 2001, but she devoted time to her nieces and nephews after her brother-in-law died in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The program, she said, “gave me the confidence that I had something to contribute.” Ms. Donoghue, now 44, eventually decided that she wanted to work at a nonprofit organization. She learned through a networking site that the American Kennel Club was looking for a director of publicity.
While the need to explain their career gaps was not an issue, the women interviewed said, compensation, as expected, was a question. Those interviewed said their pay at least equaled their earlier earnings.
As Catherine Tanelli, 46, who now works in Citi’s investment banking division put it: “If you do the math, and look at straight numbers, my salary is higher now although it is five years later. I don’t know what it would have been had I stayed, because I probably would have had one or two promotions, with commensurate salary increases. My new position is as if time stood still.”
While there are many successes, Professor Sundaram said that consumer products companies have been more reluctant to hire those who have taken time off. “In part, many organizations don’t have champions like Hans Morris,” he said, adding that “some in H.R. have trouble dealing with this demographic and are struggling with how to appropriately place these people.”
Tuck is not the only business school with this type of executive program. Harvard Business School, for example, has had a program for its alumni for five years. Wharton started its first program in March, according to Professor Monica McGrath, who is directing the program.
Professor Sundaram said that the Tuck faculty is now reviewing applications for the next class, set to begin this month. He said that Tuck would adjust the program slightly this year, concentrating more heavily on refreshing financial knowledge as well as career skills, with less emphasis on leadership. The program has three sessions — two on the Dartmouth campus and one in New York. The cost is $13,500, but more than half is underwritten by corporate sponsors, which this year include Citi, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and MetLife. The participants pay for the rest.
While Professor Sundaram is pleased with the results to date, he acknowledged the difficulties in placing these high-level professionals. “It’s been a slog — out of 41 participants in the charter class, maybe 22, 23 are in positions close to what they are looking for. A handful, when confronted with the reality of the workplace, have recalibrated and decided they’re not quite ready. But there are a dozen who are very talented and hungry to do things, and who are, nine months later, still looking.”
Ms. Allan, 52, is one participant who is still looking. She said, “It’s a little harder to re-enter when you’re trying to change industries at the same time. It’s possible, because I’m talking to some people, but it’s finding the right fit — the right industry, the right level and where the job is challenging. The world is not as open to returnees as you would hope, but it’s getting there. I’ve been pleased with how people look at the résumé and accept that’s what I did.”