Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Collapse of Doha World Trade Talks

This might be one of the major stories of the year, or several years. Or it may just be a blip.

Globalization is based on some commonly held assumptions:
  • People all over the world play well together and hold 99 and 44/100ths the same values the lowest cost producer(s) should be allowed to 'win'
  • Globalization is a win-win paradigm for everyone from workers to corporate moguls

These talks collapsed because:
  • All countries want to protect their industries, particularly their farmers and the ability to produce their own food the BRIC countries now have some leverage with the Western economies and don't want reciprocal terms but rather terms in their favor.
  • There has never been a 'free trade' world economy and there won't be one in our lifetimes

The article implies that this strikes a major blow against the pace of globalization but in reality it opens up bilateral and regional negotiations. So in the short term globalization will not retrench.Corporations will continue to invest in the developing countries and workers in the West will fall victim to these policies.

History shows that many times, regional and bilateral agreements have a tendency to lead to aggressive competition among nations and war is one of the many by-products of this.

Number of interesting quotes:

“It is a massive blow to confidence in the global economy,” said Peter Power, spokesman for the European Commission. “The confidence shot in the arm that we needed badly will not now happen.”
The collapse of the talks will not bring an end to world trade, of course, which will continue under current agreements, many of which are between two or more countries rather than under the W.T.O.

But it is a big setback, particularly to the hopes of smaller and poorer developing countries, which were counting on gaining greater access to consumers in the United States, Europe and Japan.
Deep skepticism about the advantages of free trade was on vivid display during the Democratic primaries and it is growing in Europe, particularly as France, Italy and other countries have fallen into an American-style economic malaise.
He said the sticking point this time was countries like China and India, which have become more aggressive in advancing their interests. “Maybe they’re now thinking, ‘We’re big enough that we don’t even need the process,’ ” Mr. Macrae said.

Like the United States and Europe, he said, China and India might find it more advantageous to negotiate bilateral agreements in which they can apply more pressure on a single trading partner.
Talks foundered on the right of India and other developing nations to protect sensitive agricultural products from competition in the event of a surge of imports that would make their own farmers less competitive. The United States argued that such protection, which is not permitted now, would mean moving backward on current world trade commitments.

July 30, 2008
After 7 Years, Talks on Trade Collapse
GENEVA — World trade talks collapsed here on Tuesday after seven years of on-again, off-again negotiations, in the latest sign of India’s and China’s growing might on the world stage and the decreasing ability of the United States to impose its will globally.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, could not bridge differences between a group of newly confident developing nations and established Western economic powers. In the end, too few of the real power brokers proved committed enough to make compromises necessary to deliver a deal.

The failure appeared to end, for the near term at least, any hopes of a global deal to further open markets, cut farm subsidies and strengthen the international trading system.

“It is a massive blow to confidence in the global economy,” said Peter Power, spokesman for the European Commission. “The confidence shot in the arm that we needed badly will not now happen.”

After nine consecutive days of high-level talks, discussions reached an impasse when the United States, India and China refused to compromise over measures to protect farmers in developing countries from greater liberalization of trade.

Supporters of the so-called Doha round of talks, which began in 2001, say a deal would have been a bulwark against protectionist sentiments that are likely to spread as economic growth falters in much of the world.

The failure also delivers a blow to the credibility of the World Trade Organization, which sets and enforces the rules of international commerce. It could set back efforts to work out other multilateral agreements, including those intended to reduce the threat of global warming.
The collapse of the talks will not bring an end to world trade, of course, which will continue under current agreements, many of which are between two or more countries rather than under the W.T.O.

But it is a big setback, particularly to the hopes of smaller and poorer developing countries, which were counting on gaining greater access to consumers in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Economists and trade experts predicted that negotiators, having come this close, might not find the conditions for a broad deal among the 153 members of the trade organization for years, if ever again.

Deep skepticism about the advantages of free trade was on vivid display during the Democratic primaries and it is growing in Europe, particularly as France, Italy and other countries have fallen into an American-style economic malaise.

“It’s important to move forward when the world is in a slowdown and is tempted to think of protectionism rather than opening up,” said Norbert Walter, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank.

He said soaring food prices provided another rare opportunity for a deal, since European and American farmers are prospering. It may never be easier to reduce farm subsidies, one of the most delicate issues in trade talks.

“The feeling went from ‘Who cares?’ to a surge of excitement and sense of breakthrough to ‘Oh, no, not again,’ ” said Rory Macrae, a partner at GPlus Europe, a communications consulting firm in Brussels, who was on the sidelines of the negotiations in Geneva.

He said the sticking point this time was countries like China and India, which have become more aggressive in advancing their interests. “Maybe they’re now thinking, ‘We’re big enough that we don’t even need the process,’ ” Mr. Macrae said.

Like the United States and Europe, he said, China and India might find it more advantageous to negotiate bilateral agreements in which they can apply more pressure on a single trading partner.

On Tuesday night, ministers were still discussing whether any of the agreements reached in principle could be salvaged.

But there seemed little prospect for that any time soon, in part because the presidential campaign in the United States will make it all but impossible for Washington to take part until a new administration takes over.

Talks foundered on the right of India and other developing nations to protect sensitive agricultural products from competition in the event of a surge of imports that would make their own farmers less competitive. The United States argued that such protection, which is not permitted now, would mean moving backward on current world trade commitments.

Mari Elka Pangestu, the Indonesian trade minister, said the failure of the talks reflected the inability of the rich industrial powers to deal with the growing influence of China, India and Brazil in the global economy.

She complained that what she called “a reasonable request” had been blocked because the United States “is not going to show flexibility.”

Susan C. Schwab, the United States trade representative, challenged assertions by some developing countries that the United States had been the chief obstacle to sewing up the deal. She added, “The U.S. commitments remain on the table, awaiting reciprocal responses.”
She said, “It is unconscionable that we could have come out with an outcome that rolled the global trading system back not by one year or 5 years but by 30 years.”

Ms. Schwab said it would be possible to help developing nations address surges in imports in ways that could not “be used as a tool of blatant protectionism.”

One official said that the relatively technical nature of the cause of the breakdown underlined a lack of political will to reach an agreement that would be a tough sell to voters in many countries.

The Indian trade minister, Kamal Nath, in a briefing with reporters, said he was “very disappointed” but that developing countries were “deeply concerned about issues which affected poor and subsistence farmers.”

Washington’s negotiating team was also under pressure from the country’s powerful farm lobby, and the European Union was under pressure from its own.

Lourdes Catrain, a trade partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, said the real danger created by failure after getting so close was “that the seven years of hard negotiations will be lost and there will be no guarantees on the starting point of a future round.”

The proliferation of bilateral deals and the continuing expansion of exports from both developing and developed countries have raised doubts among some Doha skeptics about the necessity of a global agreement. But experts said it was important, particularly as a bulwark against rising protectionist sentiments.

“There are people who argue that no Doha outcome is better than a weak Doha outcome, but I don’t agree,” said Katinka Barysch, the deputy director of the Center for European Reform in London.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The latest WTO Doha negotiations

Camaraderie from the frontlines of globalization and 'free trade' .

While we have globalization going on for thousands of years, 'free trade' is like the abominable snowman (or cold fusion) ... some claim to have seen him and he exists in theory, but he has never been captured or studied in practice .

Interesting comment, from France no less:

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said: "And we in France and Europe say: 'Stop, we can't just open the floodgates and leave the next 14 years to the Chinese to prepare themselves as if they were an emerging country'."

'As if they were an emerging country' .... you can't have the 2nd largest economy in the world and still consider yourself an underdeveloped country, and the leader of the developing nations.

They are on the wrong side of the fence.

This is the same as giving affirmative action to millionaire minorities . Just because you are Asian (and not Japan) doesn't mean you are a developing nation .

July 29, 2008
WTO Talks Close to Collapse Amid Farm Stand - Off
Filed at 7:51 a.m. ET
GENEVA (Reuters) - Talks to rescue a world trade deal were close to collapse on Tuesday over measures intended to help poor countries protect their farmers, trade officials said. (aka 'tariffs' on food imports ... they want the US and Europe to tear away current subsidies while they maintain their own ... free trade !! globalization !!)

Developing countries like China and India are at loggerheads with food exporters like the United States over the issue of safeguards against food import surges, and differences on several other fundamental parts of a deal are also unresolved. (It's OK for China to flood the US with goods and thereby destroying American manufacturing , but it is NOT OK for the US to 'flood' China with food, thereby destroying China's agriculture industry ... free trade !! globalization !!)

Ministers were mulling a new compromise proposal on the safeguards as talks entered their ninth day -- the longest WTO ministerial-level meeting, trade officials said.

Failure remained a real possibility.

"If people don't want this deal, there's no better deal coming along and we just have to consider, if this fails, what they will lose," European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told reporters on his way into the negotiations.

The talks aimed at salvaging the seven-year-old Doha trade round had been "a minute away" from being called off in the early hours of Tuesday over safeguards, one trade official said, but there was no sign of agreement over the new compromise.

"We cannot go on like this much longer," a diplomat said.

But Indonesian Trade Minister Marie Elka Pangestu said: "Some of us are willing to stay as long as it takes. We will stay a few more days if it is necessary."

The negotiations for a global deal trade began in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks on the United States, in the hope of boosting the world economy and helping poor countries.

They have lurched from crisis to crisis and risk further years of delay without a breakthrough now because of the U.S. presidential election in November and other factors.

Negotiators from the United States, China and India were digging in their heels on the details of a "special safeguard mechanism" against import surges in food products such as rice.

The proposal also pits developing farm exporters like Paraguay and Uruguay against other poor nations who are worried about their farmers' survival, especially in Asia. (free trade !! globalization !!)


China, the world's new export powerhouse, participating in a WTO negotiating round for the first time, accused the United States of making excessive demands on developing countries.
"The crux of the current serious difficulties that have arisen in the Doha round negotiations is that, having protected its own interests, the United States is asking a price as high as heaven," Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming as saying late on Monday.

A U.S. official said Washington could not agree to a deal that would reverse trade openness.
Adding to concerns that compromises last week to rescue the talks could disintegrate, nine EU states -- a third of the total and including EU heavyweight France -- demanded better terms for the bloc on Monday.

But Germany, the world's biggest exporter, remained in favor of a deal, an EU diplomat said.
France has warned that a final deal based on the current proposals might be rejected next year by European capitals.

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said: "And we in France and Europe say: 'Stop, we can't just open the floodgates and leave the next 14 years to the Chinese to prepare themselves as if they were an emerging country'."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tariffs and Free Trade

We always hear that the developed nations use subsidies to support certain industries, and that prevents cheaper, more efficient producers of goods in the developing world from making inroads.

Well here is a more rounded discussion. The developing world, including some of the biggest economies in the world such as China and India, want the 'rich' nations to give up subsidies and tariffs while they increase theirs, to protect small farmers and nascent industries.

Another example of Free Trade ! Where does it exist on the planet ?

Why shouldn't every country protect critical industries such as farming? You can't and shouldn't outsource farming to other countries and leave yourselves vulnerable to possible future political manipulations.

Incidentally India is the same country that doesn't allow foreigners to invest there without an Indian 'partner' owning 51% of the endeavor. It would be nice if this same rule applied to the U.S. !

U.S. issues angry trade rebuke to China, India

  • Story Highlights
  • United States accuse China and India of threatening new global trade pact
  • U.S. criticizes India for rejecting package laid out by WTO chief Pascal Lamy
  • China also attacked for backing out of terms it agreed to last week

GENEVA (AP) -- The United States accused China and India on Monday of threatening seven years of work on a new global commerce pact, using some of the strongest language yet at a crucial set of talks at the World Trade Organization.

David Shark, a U.S. trade official, told the WTO's 153 members that the U.S. had "swallowed hard and accepted" a compromise proposal to open up trade in manufactured goods and agriculture.

But he criticized India for rejecting the package laid out by WTO chief Pascal Lamy, and China for backing out of terms it agreed to last week.

"Their actions have thrown the entire Doha round into the gravest jeopardy of its nearly seven-year life," Shark said, according to a copy of his statement obtained by The Associated Press.

Rich and poor countries have clashed repeatedly since the round was launched in Qatar's capital in 2001. The trade body is hoping for agreement this week on a deal that would lower tariffs and subsidies on agriculture and manufactured goods, setting the stage for an overall trade accord by the end of the year. Signs of a breakthrough last Friday were followed by more entrenchment over the weekend.

India said the standoff was the result of unreasonable demands from the U.S. and other rich nations.

"If blocking means not accepting whatever the developed countries say, so be it," Kamal Nath, India's trade minister, told reporters. "It's not only India. We have 100 countries saying the same thing. It's the large economies that are isolated."

Shark said the two emerging powers are insisting on allowances to raise farm tariffs above even their current levels. That violates the spirit of the trade round, the U.S. and other agricultural exporters argue, because it is supposed to help poorer countries develop their economies by boosting their exports of farm produce.

But China and India are not alone. Faced with rising food prices, a number of developing nations have sought wide loopholes against opening up their farm markets -- either by blocking certain strategic products such as rice or grains or through rules that would allow them to spike tariffs if faced with a sudden flood of imports.

Shark accused China of trying to carve out cotton, sugar, rice and other commodities from any tariff cuts under a WTO deal. He said Beijing and Delhi were working to protect their own interests by controlling a large group of even poorer nations.

"Ironically, these policies would have their most serious detrimental effects on precisely those poorer developing countries that already have such limited agricultural export capabilities," he said.

Cuba, Haiti, Indonesia, Philippines and Venezuela and are among over 30 WTO countries allied with India and China in WTO agriculture negotiations. The group also includes richer countries like South Korea, and often works closely with other WTO coalitions of developing nations from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Developing countries have sought steeper cuts in rich-world farm subsidies, which they blame for distorting global commodities prices and hindering Third World development. The U.S. and the European Union have demanded new market opportunities for their industrial goods and service providers in exchange. Washington also wants better conditions for farm exports.

After nearly a week of fruitless talks, a compromise proposal on Friday by Lamy finally cajoled major countries into making tough decisions.

It called for cutting limits on European farm subsides by 80 percent and on U.S. payments by 70 percent. That, however, would not entail a reduction in overall spending for the U.S., which paid out only $9 billion last year in trade-distorting support to American farmers but would still be allowed to increase that to about $14.5 billion.

In goods trade, there were concessions for both rich and poor countries. Lamy's offer gave developing countries a choice for industrial tariff caps from 20 to 25 percent. The steeper the cuts developing countries chose, the more loopholes they receive to protect strategic industries such as automobiles. (Increase tariffs ! a 'free trade' agreement!)

While Brazil and China bit by tentatively accepting the compromise, India held firm. But diplomats from developing countries grumbled all weekend that Beijing's support was wavering.

Shark said unless China and India "immediately reverse course to become problem solvers rather than obstacles to the round, all of us will leave Geneva empty-handed."

Globalization - Free trade but not Free trade of energy

Energy is one of the critical inputs to the production of goods and bringing those goods to market.

And relatively cheap energy is the 'blood' of the world economic engine.

Globalization depends heavily on cheap energy, if it to work as a model. If energy becomes expensive, then the costs of creating and bringing goods to market will spiral and it may become cost-effective to produce those goods closer to home.

You might think that high fuel costs are only causing pain and havoc in the US and Europe, based upon most news reports here. Economists talk about how the new BRIC countries seem unaffected by the rise in energy prices . Mere 'blips' on their economic radar screens.

Well, most of them (Russia excluded since it exports oil and gas) subsidize oil, which continues to allow these countries to maintain a competitive advantage.

Take away the subsidies and :
  1. prices of making and bringing goods to market will increase significantly.
  2. workers will clamor for higher wages to offset the increase in cost-of-living. Increased wages in turn will drive the price of finished goods higher .
Result? High Inflation (double-digit) , just like we are seeing here.

What's that the 'experts say : It's different over there ? or It's different this time around ? Take your money and run the other way when you hear this. You cannot defy gravity or basic economic laws either.

These governments cannot afford this subsidization for long. Not if they also want to build an infrastructure of roads, schools, power plants, Dams, sewage plants, etc . Unless they raise taxes, which would indirectly transfer the true cost of energy onto consumers, or they go deficit spending. Probably a combination of both, but either way it leads to inflation .

And inflation makes them less competitive, especially with a weak dollar.

So, what to expect with energy being expensive?

A massive slowdown of globalization until a more cheap and plentiful energy source is found and implemented. When that happens globalization will again grow quickly.

July 28, 2008

Fuel Subsidies Overseas Take a Toll on U.S.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — To understand why fuel prices in the United States have soared over the last year, it helps to talk to the captain of a battered wooden freighter here.

He pays just $2.30 a gallon for diesel, the same price Indonesian motorists pay for regular gasoline. His vessel burns diesel by the barrel, so when the government prepared for a limited price increase this spring, he took to the streets to protest.

“If the government increases the price of fuel any more, my business will collapse totally,” said the boat captain, Sinar, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

From Mexico to India to China, governments fearful of inflation and street protests are heavily subsidizing energy prices, particularly for diesel fuel. But the subsidies — estimated at $40 billion this year in China alone — are also removing much of the incentive to conserve fuel.

The oil company BP, known for thorough statistical analysis of energy markets, estimates that countries with subsidies accounted for 96 percent of the world’s increase in oil use last year — growth that has helped drive prices to record levels.

In most countries that do not subsidize fuel, high prices have caused oil demand to stagnate or fall, as economic theory says they should. But in countries with subsidies, demand is still rising steeply, threatening to outstrip the growth in global supplies.

President Bush warned about the effects of subsidies on July 15. “I am discouraged by the fact that some nations subsidize the purchases of product, like gasoline, which, therefore, means that demand may not be causing the market to adjust as rapidly as we’d like,” he said.

Indeed, the biggest question hanging over global oil markets these days may be how much longer countries can keep paying the high cost of subsidizing their consumers. If enough countries start passing the true cost of oil through to their citizens, many economists believe, demand growth will slow, bringing the oil market into better balance and lowering prices — although the long-term economic rise of China and other populous countries makes it unlikely that gasoline prices will plunge back to the levels of several years ago.

China raised gasoline and diesel prices on June 21, though still keeping them below world levels. World oil prices plunged more than $4 a barrel within minutes on the expectation that Chinese demand would slow.

In Indonesia, the government spends six times as much on energy subsidies as it does on agricultural investments, even as rice prices have skyrocketed this year.

Many countries, like India, have raised oil prices considerably in recent months, only to watch world prices climb even further, pushing up the cost of subsidies once again. China’s estimated $40 billion in subsidies this year is up from $22 billion last year, mainly for this reason, although consumption has also risen, with Chinese buying 18 percent more cars in the first half of this year than in the period a year earlier.

Political pressures and inflation concerns continue to prevent many countries — particularly in Asia, where inflation has become an acute problem — from ending subsidies and letting domestic prices bounce up and down.

“You talk about subsidies, you’re not only talking about the economy, you’re talking about politics,” said Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Indonesia’s minister of energy and mineral resources. He ruled out further price increases this year beyond one in May that raised the price of diesel and regular gasoline to $2.30 a gallon.

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said that subsidies were clearly a big factor contributing to the mismatch in supply and demand that has helped push up world oil prices. “We think the price mechanism is not working enough to make consumers more efficient,” he said.

Indonesia spends more on fuel subsidies, $20 billion this year, than any country except China. Some economists estimate that fuel use in Indonesia would fall by as much as a fifth if the government were to eliminate subsidies entirely.

Malaysia’s government incited public anger on June 4 when it raised gasoline prices by 40 percent. The prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, announced the following week that he would retire, although he has since said that he will not do so until 2010.

Before adjusting the prices, Malaysia was spending 7.5 percent of its entire economic output on fuel subsidies, a greater share than any other nation. Indonesia follows with 4 percent.

Coming elections in Indonesia and India make further subsidy reductions less likely in both countries. And big oil exporters like Saudi Arabia have so much revenue right now that they can easily afford to subsidize fast-growing domestic demand.

Chinese fuel policy is the hardest to predict: the country’s leaders are struggling to reduce inflation and are not expected to take any action on fuel until after the Olympics, at the earliest. But they are also campaigning for greater energy efficiency and less reliance on fuel imports.

Many in Asia bridle at being told to reduce oil use, particularly by the United States, a country of sport-utility vehicles and big houses.

“What about the energy consumption in the United States? Isn’t it one of the highest in the world?” said Irvan Saefurrohman, a student activist in Jakarta who organized a fuel-price demonstration in May that turned violent as protesters threw rocks at police and set cars on fire.

Making matters worse, Asia’s own oil production has barely risen over the last decade.

Indonesia, with extensive oil fields that made it a top target for Japanese conquest during World War II, became a net oil importer in 2004. Output from its aging fields has fallen almost 40 percent since 1995, and the country plans to withdraw from OPEC at the end of this year.

So Asian nations increasingly compete with the West to import oil from the Mideast and Africa.

In Asia, subsidies have been particularly prevalent for diesel, although many countries subsidize gasoline as well. The subsidies have been an important reason diesel prices have climbed almost twice as quickly as gasoline prices have over the last year in the United States.

Many governments see diesel as more important because truckers and ship captains need it to distribute goods; if diesel prices rise, consumer prices often follow. Diesel is essentially the same fuel as heating oil, so high diesel prices mean high prices for heating oil. Spiraling prices already have some in the Northeast United States worried about how families will afford to heat their homes this winter.

To be sure, subsidies are not the only cause of high crude oil prices. Strong global economic growth, particularly in Asia, is requiring a lot of energy. Political tensions between the United States and Iran and market psychology have played a role.

Additional factors have contributed to strong demand for diesel in particular. European automakers have been shifting toward the production of more cars with diesel engines, which typically get more miles to the gallon than gasoline-powered cars — although the cost advantage of burning diesel is disappearing with higher prices.

When Vietnam reduced fuel subsidies on July 21, it raised domestic gasoline prices by 31 percent, to $4.22 a gallon for 92-octane fuel. But Vietnam increased diesel prices by only 14.3 percent, to $3.54 a gallon.

The fast-growing demand in China is skewed toward diesel as well. Automakers are on track to sell half as many gas-powered cars in China this year as in the United States. But in China they already sell at least 50 percent more medium- and heavy-duty trucks, the workhorses of a manufacturing economy. Virtually all of those run on diesel.

The cheapest fuel per gallon in many Asian countries is not diesel but kerosene, commonly used for cooking by the very poor. In India, for example, the government subsidizes kerosene so heavily that it sells for just 97 cents a gallon, compared with $5 a gallon in the United States.

While the subsidies encourage greater consumption, eliminating them is not easy. “If you reduce the subsidy for kerosene, people are likely to forage in the forests for fuel, and environmentally that is very bad,” said Ifzal Ali, the chief economist of the Asian Development Bank.

Kerosene is similar to jet fuel, so strong Asian demand has helped push up costs for airlines.

Some spending on subsidies is simply wasted: Mr. Yusgiantoro, the Indonesian official, said that fishing boats take drums of subsidized diesel out to sea for resale to foreign fishing vessels. But a lot of subsidies are delaying what could otherwise be a slowing of economic activity.

Mr. Sinar, the freighter captain, said that his vessel hauls cement to outlying islands with limited cement production of their own. Higher diesel costs would make it much costlier to move the cement, which would force builders to accept the prices of their local cement producers and probably cause a construction slowdown.

The nearly 30 percent increase in prices for low-octane gasoline, which Indonesia put in place in May, has already prompted some less affluent families to drive less. Subrata, a 34-year-old who sells gasoline in glass bottles to local motorcyclists in Karawang, Indonesia, said that the increase had halved his sales — and that plenty of motorists were upset.

If the price rises further, he said, “people will not buy it and it will be a heavy blow for the lower classes.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

Counterintuitive - Girls SAT scores equal Boys scores

Interesting how pretzel logic is employed to 'interpret' these study results.

The study also analyzed the gender gap on the math section of the SAT. Rather than proving boys’ superior talent for math, the study found, the difference is probably attributable to a skewed pool of test takers. The SAT is taken primarily by seniors bound for college, and since more girls than boys go to college, about 100,000 more girls than boys take the test, including lower-achieving girls who bring down the girls’ average score.

So, this means that more less-qualified girls take the SAT than boys ? i.e. there is a greater proportion of lesser-qualified girls taking the SAT.

What empirical evidence leads them to this conclusion, that there is a greater proportion of lower-qualified girls taking the SAT than the proportion of boys ?

These extra 100,000 girls ALL score on the lower end ?

Very interesting ...

Then for the Verbal SAT scores, which boys score lower on average than girls ... how to explain this ? Less boys taking the test ... right .... therefore overall better SAT candidates .... right again ... but these better candidates score worse than the girls with their excess lower-scoring brethren ....

Doesn't seem to hold up , this reasoning, does it ?

July 25, 2008

Math Scores Show No Gap for Girls, Study Finds

Three years after the president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers, got into trouble for questioning women’s “intrinsic aptitude” for science and engineering — and 16 years after the talking Barbie doll proclaimed that “math class is tough” — a study paid for by the National Science Foundation has found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests.

Although boys in high school performed better than girls in math 20 years ago, the researchers found, that is no longer the case. The reason, they said, is simple: Girls used to take fewer advanced math courses than boys, but now they are taking just as many.

“Now that enrollment in advanced math courses is equalized, we don’t see gender differences in test performance,” said Marcia C. Linn of the University of California, Berkeley, a co-author of the study. “But people are surprised by these findings, which suggests to me that the stereotypes are still there.”

The findings, reported in the July 25 issue of Science magazine, are based on math scores from seven million students in 10 states, tested in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The researchers looked at the average of the test scores of all students, the performance of the most gifted children and the ability to solve complex math problems. They found, in every category, that girls did as well as boys. (To their dismay, the researchers found that the tests in the 10 states did not include a single question requiring complex problem-solving, forcing them to use a national assessment test for that portion of their research.)

Janet Hyde, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who led the study, said the persistent stereotypes about girls and math had taken a toll.

“The stereotype that boys do better at math is still held widely by teachers and parents,” Dr. Hyde said. “And teachers and parents guide girls, giving them advice about what courses to take, what careers to pursue. I still hear anecdotes about guidance counselors steering girls away from engineering, telling them they won’t be able to do the math.”

Girls are still underrepresented in high school physics classes and, as noted by Dr. Summers, who resigned in 2006, in the highest levels of physics, chemistry and engineering, which require advanced math skills.

The study also analyzed the gender gap on the math section of the SAT. Rather than proving boys’ superior talent for math, the study found, the difference is probably attributable to a skewed pool of test takers. The SAT is taken primarily by seniors bound for college, and since more girls than boys go to college, about 100,000 more girls than boys take the test, including lower-achieving girls who bring down the girls’ average score.

On the ACT, another college entrance test, the study said, the gender gap in math scores disappeared in Colorado and Illinois after the states began requiring all students to take the test.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reversing the image

How would something read if you changed the target group with another group ?

This is a good basic test to check for bias.

If the meaning changes dramatically and for the worse, then the article is written to a strict PC perspective and is not objective truth or knowledge.

I call it 'reversing the image'

For example in this article everywhere the word 'women' is used, change this to 'white males' and see how it then sounds.

When this is done it reverses the meaning of the article and makes it sounds as if strong white male discrimination is going on, rather than the benign helping of affirmative action for and by women .

Women on boards bring more women to top U.S. jobs

514 words
23 July 2008
09:02 pm GMT
Reuters News
(c) 2008 Reuters Limited

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters Life!) - As women struggle to crack corporate America's so-called glass ceiling, they may find more success in breaking the job barrier from the top down, a study said on Wednesday.

The more women on a company's board of directors, the more women are likely to be among that company's senior management, according to the study by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that researches and helps promote women in business.

Firms with 30 percent of women board directors in 2001 on average had 45 percent more women corporate officers by 2006, compared with ones with no female board members, it said.

Companies with the lowest percentages of women board directors in 2001 on average had 26 percent fewer female corporate officers than those with the highest number five years later, the study said. Those with two or more women board members in 2001 had 25 percent more female corporate officers by 2006 than those with just one woman board member.

"What this shows is that the number of women, or more women, more directors today, predicts pretty reliably more women in leadership five years from now," said Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst.

"There is a very strong correlation and a very strong predictor ability," she said.

The number of Fortune 500 companies with 25 percent or more women on their boards is growing as well, Catalyst said. In 2001, 30 companies fit that criteria and that number grew to 68 in 2007, according to Catalyst data.

"Companies that build up the representation of women on the board and, especially if they're at 25 percent today, this shows them a road map, a path, for how they can increase women in leadership tomorrow," Lang said.

Catalyst said it studied 359 companies in the Fortune 500 in 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007.

Despite fresh statistics showing women are leaving the work force at the same rate as men amid the current economic downturn, Lang said plenty of women are available to move into the top ranks of corporate management.

"There still is a very healthy, robust pipeline of women in the work force," she said. "The supply is much higher than they've been able to realize in those top leadership jobs."

Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics, The New York Times reported this week the rate of women in the work force, growing since the 1960s, had fallen of late due to layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages and other economic woes.

The proportion of women age 25 to 54 with jobs peaked at 74.9 percent in 2000 but last month was 72.7 percent, it said. It said the rate was essentially similar for well-educated or less-educated women, married or never married, white or black.

The Catalyst study, entitled Advancing Women: The Connection Between Women Board Directors and Women Corporate Officers, was sponsored by Chubb Corp, Citizen Communications and IBM Corp. (Editing by Bill Trott)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Modern Banking 101

Easy to overlook this item way down in the article. Normally I wouldn't notice anything strange about this, nor probably do just about every reader:

' ... The bank also had hired The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to conduct an analysis of its loan portfolio and advise it on strategic alternatives. '

A 'bank', and one of the largest banks in the USA, needs some other firm (in this case an Investment Bank - Goldman Sachs ) to figure out it's loan portfolio?

What exactly does a 'bank' do , if not give out loans? Isn't this their prime business ? What firm outsources the work of managing and understanding their main core business?

This implies that modern mortgage bundling is so new and convoluted in comparison to the old standard management of bank loans/mortgages , that it is basically unfathomable to a 'bank'.

So it is a business that is not part of a bank's core business and perhaps it is one that they shouldn't be in .

Or maybe they bought Golden West Financial and had no idea what they were buying and relied on an investment house (Goldman Sachs again?) to advise them on that acquisition.

In both cases upper management is the primary culprit.

Top management has already been let go at Wachovia .
Did they get golden parachutes?
Did they profit handsomely over the past few years when they seemed to be mis-managing the company?
Did they have to return past financial rewards ?

No. But over 6,000 workers will lose their jobs due to their horrendous management.

Wachovia loses $8.9B, cuts 6,350 workers, dividend

By IEVA M. AUGSTUMS, AP Business Writer2 hours, 21 minutes ago

Wachovia Corp. reported a surprisingly large second-quarter loss Tuesday, deflating Wall Street's hopes that the nation's big banks are weathering the credit crisis well. The nation's fourth-largest bank by assets said it lost $8.86 billion, is slashing its dividend and eliminating 10,750 positions after losses tied to mortgages soared.

Even excluding one-time items, the results substantially missed Wall Street estimates.

"These bottom-line results are disappointing and unacceptable," Chairman Lanty Smith said in a statement. "While to some degree they reflect industry headwinds and weaker macroeconomic conditions, they also reflect performance for which we at Wachovia accept responsibility."

Wachovia said it lost the equivalent of $4.20 per share in the April-June period. In the same timeframe last year, the bank earned $2.34 billion, or $1.22 per share.

Excluding $6.1 billion in write-downs to the value of its intangible assets and merger-related and restructuring charges of $128 million, Wachovia lost $2.67 billion, or $1.27 per share. Second quarter results include the bank's October acquisition of A.G. Edwards Inc.

Analysts on average expected a loss of 78 cents per share on revenue of almost $8.4 billion.

Earlier this month, Wachovia had projected a $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion quarterly loss, equal to $1.23 to $1.33 per share, excluding goodwill items.

The Charlotte-based bank cut its quarterly dividend to 5 cents per share from 37.5 cents, which will conserve approximately $700 million of capital per quarter. In April, Wachovia slashed its dividend 41 percent.

As part of a plan to cut 2009 expenses by $1.5 billion, the bank said it would lay off 6,350 workers and eliminate 4,400 open positions and contractors.

During the quarter, the Wachovia boosted its provision for loan losses to $5.57 billion from $179 million a year ago, and added $4.2 billion to its reserves for bad loans.

Wachovia has been suffering from its 2006 acquisition of Golden West Financial Corp. The bank paid roughly $25 billion for the California mortgage lender known for exotic loans.

The so-called "Pick-a-Payment" loans, which Wachovia inherited from Golden West, have proved a headache for the bank and a lightning rod for shareholders, defaulting at higher rates than other mortgages.

Wachovia recently discontinued offering the "Pick-A-Payment" loan option, which allows customers to pay a less-than-full interest payment on all new home loans. The bank also had hired The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to conduct an analysis of its loan portfolio and advise it on strategic alternatives.

Late Monday, Wachovia announced plans to leave the wholesale mortgage lending business. And beginning Friday, the company will no longer offer mortgages through brokers, joining other lenders making similar moves to exit the troubled sector.

Big banks, such as Bank of America Corp. and National City Corp., have stopped making loans through brokers entirely, relying instead on their loan officers. National City said it was forced to do so by a continuing downturn in loan demand, while Bank of America said it saw better "long-term opportunity" in working through its own loan officers.

Wachovia spokesman Don Vecchiarello said in a statement that the company "recognized some opportunities to re-position our business" given the current market conditions.

Earlier this month, Wachovia named former Treasury Undersecretary and Goldman Sachs executive Robert Steel as chief executive, replacing the ousted Ken Thompson. Within a week of being on the job, the bank's shares tumbled to a new 17-year low.

Buy American - but what is American? Part II

From an article today about the new Chevrolet Camaro coming in 2010:

Most of the engineering for the Camaro was done in Australia, where rear-wheel-drive cars are more common than in the United States. The cars will be produced in Canada, however.

It didn't mention where the parts themselves are being built but it wouldn't surprise me if much of them are produced in Brazil and other countries, with final assembly in Canada.

So what is American about this car, besides the corporate headquarters ?

This is the model for American companies nowadays ... the corporate and financial center in the US, where most of the main decisions are made, e.g. build a Camaro or not ? And virtually all the remaining design, development, manufacturing and final assembly done outside US borders.

This model can't hold. At some point the corporate headquarters must shift to lower-cost and lower-tax countries. This will be a lot harder to accomplish as taxes and politics are heavily involved, but the inevitable inertia of this off-shoring process is for companies to seek the lowest cost in everything , including taxes and financial aid .

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

US science majors still dwindling

The critical question about any new 'report' is 'Who is funding it?' .

Egg producers sponsor reports that eggs are not bad for you.

Drug companies create reports that their medicines are beneficial with no side-effects.

And , surprise, surprise ... CEOs and business organizations claim, in this report, that Americans aren't pursuing science careers .

Perhaps there are several reasons for this:
  • most job growth is overseas not in the US or Developed countries
  • initial salaries are not high compared with other professions and future salary growth is especially low.
During the initial boom days it was hard to find an opening in a Comp Sci program in any college since there were fortunes to be made. After the bust and subsequent moving of tech jobs overseas, comp sci depts have few students/majors and many may close shop soon.

Foreign workers can make multiple times most local salaries working in the US , so the incentives to get into these fields are huge. People can live upper-middle class lifestyles on the salaries compared to other options in their home countries. For Americans the reward of a science degree, which are difficult studies, is mediocre initial salaries and very poor career opportunities as jobs shift to cheaper overseas countries.

Why study so hard for this race to the bottom?

Report: U.S. lagging in sci-tech grads

  • Story Highlights
  • Business groups warn a lack of sci-tech experts is a threat to U.S. competitiveness
  • They set a goal of 400,000 annual new graduates in science and tech fields by 2015
  • But new report states that new degrees in those fields have stalled at about 225,000
  • CEO: "This [issue] is on the top three CEO agendas of every company I know"

(AP) -- A high-profile push by business groups to double the number of U.S. bachelor's degrees awarded in science, math and engineering by 2015 is falling way behind target, a new report says.

In 2005, 15 prominent business groups warned that a lack of expert workers and teachers posed a threat to U.S. competitiveness, and said the country would need 400,000 new graduates annually in the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields by 2015.

In an update published Tuesday, the group reports the number of degrees in those fields rose slightly earlier in the decade, citing figures from the years after 2001 that have become available since the first report was published. But the number of degrees has since flattened out at around 225,000 per year.

The coalition, representing groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Defense Industrial Association, said there has been substantial bipartisan support in Washington for boosting science training, including passage last year of the "America Competes Act," which promotes math and science.

But Susan Traiman, director of education and work force policy for the Business Roundtable, an organization of corporate CEOs, said there's been insufficient follow-through with funding to support the programs. Other countries, she said, are doing more to shift incentives toward science training.

"The concern that CEOs have is if we wait for a Sputnik-like event, it's very hard to turn around and get moving on the kind of timeline we would need," said Traiman, referring to the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957, which prompted a massive U.S. commitment to science investment.

"It still takes a minimum of 17 years to produce an engineer if you consider K-12 plus four years of colleges," she said.

Some critics have called concerns from business about the number of science graduates overblown and self-serving. They have argued that if there really were a pent-up demand for scientists, more students would naturally move toward those fields -- without massive incentives from taxpayers.

But William Green, CEO and chairman of Accenture, a giant global consulting company, called such criticisms "nonsense," adding the whole country benefits from competitive companies.

"This is on the top three CEO agendas of every company I know," Green told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Green said Accenture, which will hire about 58,000 people worldwide this year, will spend $780 million on training. (but where? most of this is for overseas workers )

"I feel like I can step up to the table and say I'm doing my part. Other companies are doing the same thing," Green said. "What I'm suggesting is I really could use more raw material. That's about having federal leadership."

Elsewhere in the world, he sees "a laser focus," both in the public and private sectors, on developing work forces for competitive companies.

The report by the group Tapping America's Potential, which has grown to represent 16 business groups, also argues that the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform has hurt U.S. competitiveness by making it difficult to retain high-skill workers who study at American universities. (again lobbying for bringing in foreign workers. Many times they study here paid by their governments. Maybe our government should pay for science education!)

While there appears to be, if anything, a surplus in the job market of scientists with doctoral degrees, the case for boosting bachelor's degrees is stronger -- particularly for people who go into teaching, where teachers who have college-level subject training are generally more effective.

Last week, The National Research Council -- a group that provides policy advice under a Congressional charter -- issued a report calling for more support for professional master's degrees programs. The idea would be to provide advanced training to more people in fields like chemistry and biology, which require less time and money than doctoral degrees.

Now that's inflation !

Last month the US government said the inflation rate was 4.2% which seemed to me to be extraordinarily low. I would think that inflation has been running over 10% for a couple of years but this past year, because of oil, it may be over 20%.

But it could be worse. Zimbabwe is suffering an unimaginable rate. At some point .. 100,000 or 1 million .... this statistic should be retired and they need to just say that the currency has absolutely no value and no one has any faith in that government.

July 16, 2008

Zimbabwe Inflation Hits 2.2 Million Percent

Filed at 7:53 a.m. ET

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate, already the highest in the world, has hit 2.2 million percent, central bank Governor Gideon Gono said on Wednesday.

"Some independent economists say our inflation is 7 million percent annually but the CSO (Central Statistical Office) says it's 2.2 million percent," Gono said at the launch of a government program to supply basic goods.

The last official inflation figure of 164,900 percent year-on-year for February was released in April.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forming a matriarchal society

Boy I wish I was college-age today. Women now get most of the degrees and now get many of the best jobs.

You just have to find the right one to marry and you're all set !

A total role reversal in 50 years.

Even with blue-collar work ... last week Atlanta decided to change it's 'Men at Work' street signs since a couple of workers on the crews were female .

July 15, 2008

A New Frontier for Title IX: Science

Until recently, the impact of Title IX, the law forbidding sexual discrimination in education, has been limited mostly to sports. But now, under pressure from Congress, some federal agencies have quietly picked a new target: science.

The National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy have set up programs to look for sexual discrimination at universities receiving federal grants. Investigators have been taking inventories of lab space and interviewing faculty members and students in physics and engineering departments at schools like Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, M.I.T. and the University of Maryland.

So far, these Title IX compliance reviews haven’t had much visible impact on campuses beyond inspiring a few complaints from faculty members. (The journal Science quoted Amber Miller, a physicist at Columbia, as calling her interview “a complete waste of time.”) But some critics fear that the process could lead to a quota system that could seriously hurt scientific research and do more harm than good for women.

The members of Congress and women’s groups who have pushed for science to be “Title Nined” say there is evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences, but the quality of that evidence is disputed. Critics say there is far better research showing that on average, women’s interest in some fields isn’t the same as men’s.

In this debate, neither side doubts that women can excel in all fields of science. In fact, their growing presence in former male bastions of science is a chief argument against the need for federal intervention.

Despite supposed obstacles like “unconscious bias” and a shortage of role models and mentors, women now constitute about half of medical students, 60 percent of biology majors and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.’s. They earn the majority of doctorates in both the life sciences and the social sciences. They remain a minority in the physical sciences and engineering. Even though their annual share of doctorates in physics has tripled in recent decades, it’s less than 20 percent. Only 10 percent of physics faculty members are women, a ratio that helped prompt an investigation in 2005 by the American Institute of Physics into the possibility of bias.

But the institute found that women with physics degrees go on to doctorates, teaching jobs and tenure at the same rate that men do. The gender gap is a result of earlier decisions. While girls make up nearly half of high school physics students, they’re less likely than boys to take Advanced Placement courses or go on to a college degree in physics.

These numbers don’t surprise two psychologists at Vanderbilt University, David Lubinski and Camilla Persson Benbow, who have been tracking more than 5,000 mathematically gifted students for 35 years.

They found that starting at age 12, the girls tended to be better rounded than the boys: they had relatively strong verbal skills in addition to math, and they showed more interest in “organic” subjects involving people and other living things. Despite of their mathematical prowess, they were less likely than boys to go into physics or engineering.

But whether they grew up to be biologists or sociologists or lawyers, when they were surveyed in their 30s, these women were as content with their careers as their male counterparts. They also made as much money per hour of work. Dr. Lubinski and Dr. Benbow concluded that adolescents’ interests and balance of abilities — not their sex — were the best predictors of whether they would choose an “inorganic” career like physics.

A similar conclusion comes from a new study of the large gender gap in the computer industry by Joshua Rosenbloom and Ronald Ash of the University of Kansas. By administering vocational psychological tests, the researchers found that information technology workers especially enjoyed manipulating objects and machines, whereas workers in other occupations preferred dealing with people.

Once the researchers controlled for that personality variable, the gender gap shrank to statistical insignificance: women who preferred tinkering with inanimate objects were about as likely to go into computer careers as were men with similar personalities. There just happened to be fewer women than men with those preferences.

Now, you might think those preferences would be different if society didn’t discourage girls and women from pursuits like computer science and physics. But if you read “The Sexual Paradox,” Susan Pinker’s book about gender differences, you’ll find just the opposite problem.

Ms. Pinker, a clinical psychologist and columnist for The Globe and Mail in Canada (and sister of Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist), argues that the campaign for gender parity infantilizes women by assuming they don’t know what they want. She interviewed women who abandoned successful careers in science and engineering to work in fields like architecture, law and education — and not because they had faced discrimination in science.

Instead, they complained of being pushed so hard to be scientists and engineers that they ended up in jobs they didn’t enjoy. “The irony was that talent in a male-typical pursuit limited their choices,” Ms. Pinker says. “Once they showed aptitude for math or physical science, there was an assumption that they’d pursue it as a career even if they had other interests or aspirations. And because these women went along with the program and were perceived by parents and teachers as torch bearers, it was so much more difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that the work made them unhappy.”

Ms. Pinker says that universities and employers should do a better job helping women combine family responsibilities with careers in fields like physics. But she also points out that female physicists are a distinct minority even in Western European countries that offer day care and generous benefits to women.

“Creating equal opportunities for women does not mean that they’ll choose what men choose in equal numbers,” Ms. Pinker says. “The freedom to act on one’s preferences can create a more exaggerated gender split in some fields.”

Applying Title IX to science was proposed eight years ago by Debra Rolison, a chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory. She argued that withholding federal money from “poorly diversified departments” was essential to “transform the academic culture.” The proposal was initially greeted, in her words, with “near-universal horror.”

Some female scientists protested that they themselves would be marginalized if a quota system revived the old stereotype that women couldn’t compete on even terms in science. But the idea had strong advocates, too, and Congress quietly ordered agencies to begin the Title IX compliance reviews in 2006.

The reviews so far haven’t led to any requirements for gender balance in science departments. But Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has written extensively about gender wars in academia, predicts that lawyers will work gradually, as they did in sports, to require numerical parity.

“Colleges already practice affirmative action for women in science, but now they’ll be so intimidated by the Title IX legal hammer that they may institute quota systems,” Dr. Sommers said. “In sports, they had to eliminate a lot of male teams to achieve Title IX parity. It’ll be devastating to American science if every male-dominated field has to be calibrated to women’s level of interest.”

Whether or not quotas are ever imposed, some of the most productive science and engineering departments in America are busy filling out new federal paperwork. The agencies that have been cutting financing for Fermilab and the Spirit rover on Mars are paying for investigations of a problem that may not even exist. How is this good for scientists of either sex?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Illiterate illegals

If the immigrants 'could not read or write' as the interpreter claims then should they have been allowed to work in a meatpacking plant? An industry with one of the highest labor accident/injury rates, where the understanding of written safety rules and guidelines in the work environment are critical to minimize accidents?

Does he mean that they were unable to read and write in Spanish also ?

If they could not read safety manuals or understand signs in the plant this would undoubtedly lead to more accidents and is probably a violation of labor laws.

If true then the owners should be tried in criminal court for knowingly hiring illiterate workers and putting them at risk of serious injury.

And, if true, the government is doing the right thing by protecting these workers, whether legal or illegal, from this abuse.

July 11, 2008

An Interpreter Speaking Up for Migrants

WATERLOO, Iowa — In 23 years as a certified Spanish interpreter for federal courts, Erik Camayd-Freixas has spoken up in criminal trials many times, but the words he uttered were rarely his own.

Then he was summoned here by court officials to translate in the hearings for nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers arrested in a raid on May 12 at a meatpacking plant. Since then, Mr. Camayd-Freixas, a professor of Spanish at Florida International University, has taken the unusual step of breaking the code of confidentiality among legal interpreters about their work.

In a 14-page essay he circulated among two dozen other interpreters who worked here, Professor Camayd-Freixas wrote that the immigrant defendants whose words he translated, most of them villagers from Guatemala, did not fully understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived.

In the essay and an interview, Professor Camayd-Freixas said he was taken aback by the rapid pace of the proceedings and the pressure prosecutors brought to bear on the defendants and their lawyers by pressing criminal charges instead of deporting the workers immediately for immigration violations.

He said defense lawyers had little time or privacy to meet with their court-assigned clients in the first hectic days after the raid. Most of the Guatemalans could not read or write, he said. Most did not understand that they were in criminal court.

“The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on,” Professor Camayd-Freixas said in the interview. “The great majority were under the impression they were there because of being illegal in the country, not because of Social Security fraud.”

During fast-paced hearings in May, 262 of the illegal immigrants pleaded guilty in one week and were sentenced to prison — most for five months — for knowingly using false Social Security cards or legal residence documents to gain jobs at the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in nearby Postville. It was the largest criminal enforcement operation ever carried out by immigration authorities at a workplace.

The essay has provoked new questions about the Agriprocessors proceedings, which had been criticized by criminal defense and immigration lawyers as failing to uphold the immigrants’ right to due process. Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee, said she would hold a hearing on the prosecutions and call Professor Camayd-Freixas as a witness.

“The essay raises questions about whether the charges brought were supported by the facts,” Ms. Lofgren said.

Bob Teig, a spokesman for Matt M. Dummermuth, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, said the immigrants’ constitutional rights were not compromised.

“All defendants were provided with experienced criminal attorneys and interpreters before they made any decisions in their criminal cases,” Mr. Teig said. “Once they made their choices, two independent judicial officers determined the defendants were making their choices freely and voluntarily, were satisfied with their attorney, and were, in fact, guilty.”

Mr. Teig said the judges in the cases were satisfied with the guilty pleas.

“The judges had the right and duty to reject any guilty plea where a defendant was not guilty,” Mr. Teig said. “No plea was rejected.”

The essay by Professor Camayd-Freixas, who is the director of a program to train language interpreters at the university, has also caused a stir among legal interpreters. In telephone calls and debates through e-mail, they have discussed whether it was appropriate for a translator to speak publicly about conversations with criminal defendants who were covered by legal confidentiality.

“It is quite unusual that a legal interpreter would go to this length of writing up an essay and taking a strong stance,” said Nataly Kelly, an analyst with Common Sense Advisory, a marketing research company focused on language services. Ms. Kelly is a certified legal interpreter who is the author of a manual about interpreting.

The Agriprocessors hearings were held in temporary courtrooms in mobile trailers and a ballroom at the National Cattle Congress, a fairgrounds here in Waterloo. Professor Camayd-Freixas worked with one defense lawyer, Sara L. Smith, translating her discussions with nine clients she represented. He also worked in courtrooms during plea and sentencing hearings.

Ms. Smith praised Professor Camayd-Freixas’s essay, saying it captured the immigrants’ distress during “the surreal two weeks” of the proceedings. She said he had not revealed information that was detrimental to her cases.

But she cautioned that interpreters should not commonly speak publicly about conversations between lawyers and clients. “It is not a practice that I would generally advocate as I could envision circumstances under which such revelations could be damaging to a client’s case,” Ms. Smith said.

Professor Camayd-Freixas said he had considered withdrawing from the assignment, but decided instead that he could play a valuable role by witnessing the proceedings and making them known.

He suggested many of the immigrants could not have knowingly committed the crimes in their pleas. “Most of the clients we interviewed did not even know what a Social Security card was or what purpose it served,” he wrote.

He said many immigrants could not distinguish between a Social Security card and a residence visa, known as a green card. They said they had purchased fake documents from smugglers in Postville, or obtained them directly from supervisors at the Agriprocessors plant. Most did not know that the original cards could belong to Americans and legal immigrants, Mr. Camayd-Freixas said.

Ms. Smith went repeatedly over the charges and the options available to her clients, Professor Camayd-Freixas said. He cited the reaction of one Guatemalan, Isaías Pérez Martínez: “No matter how many times his attorney explained it, he kept saying, ‘I’m illegal, I have no rights. I’m nobody in this country. Just do whatever you want with me.’ ”

Professor Camayd-Freixas said Mr. Pérez Martínez wept during much of his meeting with Ms. Smith.

Ms. Smith, like more than a dozen other court-appointed defense lawyers, concluded that none of the immigrants’ legal options were good. Prosecutors had evidence showing they had presented fraudulent documents when they were hired at Agriprocessors.

In plea agreements offered by Mr. Dummermuth, the immigrants could plead guilty to a document fraud charge and serve five months in prison. Otherwise, prosecutors would try them on more serious identity theft charges carrying a mandatory sentence of two years. In any scenario, even if they were acquitted, the immigrants would eventually be deported.

Worried about families they had been supporting with their wages, the immigrants readily chose to plead guilty because they did understand that was the fastest way to return home, Professor Camayd-Freixas said.

“They were hoping and they were begging everybody to deport them,” he said.

Ms. Smith said she was convinced after examining the prosecutors’ evidence that it was not in her clients’ interests to go to trial.

“I think they understood what their options were,” she said. “I tried to make it very clear.”

Legal interpreters familiar with the profession said that Professor Camayd-Freixas’ essay, while a notable departure from the norm, did not violate professional standards.

Isabel Framer, a certified legal interpreter from Ohio who is chairwoman of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, said Professor Camayd-Freixas did not go public while the cases were still in court or reveal information that could not be discerned from the record. Ms. Framer said she was speaking for herself because her organization had not taken an official position on the essay.

“Interpreters, just like judges and attorneys, have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the process,” she said. “But they don’t check their ethical standards at the door.”