May 19, 2014 7:00 am

32 years ago, experts foresaw much of today’s digital world

Alcatel Minitel communication terminal, France, 1983.
An Alcatel Minitel videotex terminal from 1983. Credit: Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images

In a new Pew Research Center report, nearly 1,600 technology experts give their thoughts about how the “Internet of Things” — wearable computers, processor-embedded products and other digital advances — will alter society over the next decade. Many (though not all) of the experts foresee, in the words of the report, “a global, immersive, ambient networked computing environment” that will change the way we do everything from stocking our fridges to finding our soulmates.

"Teletext and Videotex in the United States," by Tydeman, Lipinski et al. (1982)Such predictive exercises have a long history, going back at least to H.G. Wells at the beginning of the 20th century. More than 30 years ago, the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, produced a book-length report on the development and potential impacts of electronic information technologies. What’s impressive is how much the report’s authors got right even though their fundamental assumption — that teletext and videotex, two nearly-forgotten platforms, would be in general use by the turn of the century — didn’t pan out.

Back in 1982, when the report was published, not only was the internet nonexistent but its ancestor, ARPANET, had fewer than 300 host computers, mostly at universities, government agencies and the military. At the time, many observers believed that teletext (one-way communication) and videotex (two-way), delivered to televisions or special-purpose terminals via telephone lines or coaxial cable, would be the main vehicles for bringing electronic information services to the masses.  Read More

Topics: Emerging Technology Impacts, Future of the Internet, Internet Activities

May 16, 2014 4:54 pm

Public school enrollment disparities exist 60 years after historic desegregation ruling

Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, holding that racial segregation in public schools violated the Constitution. But while schools have become more integrated, in part due to broad demographic trends, white students remain significantly less likely than minorities to attend diverse schools, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by the Pew Research Center.

Student enrollment at majority-minority public schoolsIn 2010, some 15.9% of whites attended a school where minorities made up at least half of all students. By comparison, more than three-quarters of Hispanics and blacks (and six-in-ten Asians) attended these “majority-minority” schools. White students, while still a majority in the nation’s public school classrooms, have shrunk in number. From 1990 to 2010, the number of white students decreased by 2.1 million. Meanwhile, the number of black, Hispanic and Asian students in those schools has increased by 8.9 million. White students in 2012 made up 51% of public school students, down from 68% in 1990.

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Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity

May 16, 2014 3:08 pm

Chart of the Week: Who really drinks the most?


It’s always nice when a graphic not only presents its information clearly and attractively but when it leads you to look at things in a new way, as this chart from The Economist does. Russia and other former Soviet republics and countries of the former Soviet bloc have long been considered among the heaviest-drinking places in the world. And in fact, a new World Health Organization report finds that nine of the 10 countries with the highest per-capita consumption — 13 liters or more of pure alcohol per year for everyone aged 15 and up — are former Soviet-bloc countries. (The exception: tiny Andorra, wedged between France and Spain.)

But even in those nations not everyone drinks. Indeed, when the analysis is restricted only to those people in a country who do drink, the consumption rankings change dramatically.

As the chart shows, Chad and the United Arab Emirates have by far the heaviest drinkers in the world, averaging respectively 33.9 and 32.8 liters of pure alcohol a year (or 71.8 and 70.9 grams a day) — even though there aren’t many drinkers in those countries. Russia falls from 4th (total per-capita) to 30th (drinkers only), just ahead of Belarus. As a rule, the biggest disparities between per-capita and drinkers-only consumption are in countries where there are legal prohibitions or strong religious or cultural taboos against alcohol use.

Topics: Health

May 16, 2014 10:01 am

As Jill Abramson exits the NY Times, a look at how women are faring in newsrooms

Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times
Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The departure of Jill Abramson marked an abrupt end to the reign of the first woman to run The New York Times, a role that made her a journalistic pioneer in her own right. Her dismissal comes during the same week as the retirement of Barbara Walters, who broke a glass ceiling at ABC in 1976 by becoming the first woman to sit at a network anchor desk. Both events have prompted a debate about the role of women in American journalism and how much—or how little—has changed over the years.  Read More

Topics: Gender, Newspapers

May 15, 2014 12:00 pm

Latinos in the U.S. have a strong belief in the spirit world

A majority of American Catholics see Pope Francis as a major change for the Catholic Church. But in one area, Francis may be the most traditional pope in a generation: He has “not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have,” according to a recent Washington Post article, “but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces of evil at his beck and call.”

Francis is the first pope from Latin America, where “mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region,” according to the Post. Last week, Catholics from 33 countries gathered in Vatican City for a conference on exorcism. The Post estimated the number of “official exorcists” to be between 500 and 600, “the vast majority operating in Latin America and Eastern Europe.” Read More

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Religious Beliefs and Practices

May 15, 2014 10:15 am

By many measures, more borrowers struggling with student-loan payments

Student Debt Delinquency RatesThe growing pile of student-loan debt has become a significant burden for millions of Americans, particularly younger people. Not only is the overhang of student debt impeding wealth accumulation among younger adults, as a new Pew Research Center report concludes, but more and more Americans are having trouble paying down their student loans on time.

In 2012, according to analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than 30% of student-loan borrowers who moved into their repayment cycles were delinquent (that is, they’re 90 days or more behind in their payments), up from 20% just eight years earlier. That “effective delinquency rate,” which excludes people who aren’t yet on the hook to start repaying their loans, has risen among all age groups but is highest among borrowers younger than 30: 35% of that subgroup was delinquent in 2012. Read More

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances, Student Loans

May 15, 2014 9:12 am

Veterans Administration critics include the soldiers who served in post-9/11 wars

Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs Secretary
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifies at a Senate Budget committee hearing.
Credit: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is expected to come under sharp questioning at a Senate panel today about case backlogs handled by his department, including reports that veterans have died while awaiting treatment. Among Shinseki’s critics is the head of the American Legion, Daniel Dellinger, who last week called for his resignationRead More

Topics: Federal Government, Military and Veterans, Wars and International Conflicts

May 15, 2014 7:00 am

Net neutrality: A made-for-web debate

The complex issue of net neutrality is not likely to be dinner conversation for many in the U.S. Still, the Federal Communications Commission vote expected today could dramatically impact the flow of digital content Americans receive, not to mention the bottom line for many major U.S. technology and content companies.

So, where could the public find news about this issue? A new analysis of media attention to the topic from January 1 – May 12, 2014 finds coverage in national television news all but absent, and sparse in most major newspapers. Instead, during key developments, interested members of the public turned to Twitter and online searches to learn more or share their FT_14.05.15_Net-Neutrality_2 (1)own insights.

Net neutrality is the principle that all digital information should be treated equally by companies that provide the cables and networks that make up the Internet. The FCC is expected to vote today on whether to propose new rules announced last month by Chairman Tom Wheeler that included a “fast track” provision which would allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge companies fees for faster access to the ISP’s customers. The decision could impact the speed and quality of different kinds of digital content (such as video and music) that consumers receive.  It could also dramatically affect the economics and balance of power of technology and content companies – so much so that 150 technology companies, including Google, Amazon and Twitter, signed on to a letter that  strongly opposed the new rulesRead More

Topics: Digital Media, News Content Analysis, Newspapers, Social Media, Television

May 14, 2014 2:43 pm

In Europe, sentiment against immigrants, minorities runs high

As the EU prepares for next week’s European Parliament elections, anti-immigrant and anti-minority sentiments are running high, especially on the political right. Political parties such as Britain’s UKIP, France’s National Front, and Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn have made opposition to immigration a cornerstone of their populist platforms. And as a recent Pew Research Center poll illustrates, there is clearly a base of support for anti-immigration appeals in many European countries.

Many in Europe see immigrants in their countries as an economic burdenAmong the seven nations surveyed, Greeks and Italians express particularly negative views about immigration. Eight-in-ten or more in both countries want less immigration, as do majorities in France and the UK. Public opinion is more closely divided in Spain, Germany and Poland, between those who want fewer immigrants admitted to their countries and those who say current levels should stay about the same. However, there is very little desire for allowing more immigrants in any of these seven nations – the percentage who hold this view ranges from 14% in Germany to only 1% in Greece.

Views on immigration are strongly linked to ideology. In six of the seven nations polled, respondents who place themselves on the right of the political spectrum are significantly more likely than those on the left to favor reducing immigration. The right-left gap is especially large in France, where 73% of those on the right want fewer immigrants, compared with 40% of people on the left.

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Topics: Europe, Immigration, Immigration Attitudes

May 14, 2014 12:55 pm

15 states with the highest share of immigrants in their population

Top 15 states with highest percentage of immigrants, California, New Mexico, New YorkA sharp rise in the number of immigrants living in the U.S. in recent decades serves as a backdrop for the debate in Congress over the nation’s immigration policies. In 1990, the U.S. had 19.8 million immigrants. That number rose to a record 40.7 million immigrants in 2012, among them 11.7 million unauthorized immigrantsRead More

Topics: Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Immigration Trends, Migration