More Contractors Than Troops Now Dying in U.S. Wars
Posted by Mark Thompson
Well, here's something you figured would happen eventually: during the first six months of this year, more U.S. contractors (232) than U.S. troops (195) were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Contractors supporting the war effort today are losing more lives than the U.S. military waging these wars," Steven Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at The George Washington Law School, and Collin Swan, a student there, report.
They go on to note that while some 5,500 U.S. troops have died in the two wars, more than 2,000 contractors also have been killed -- and the proportion of contractors is on the rise. That shouldn't come as a surprise, given the fact that contractors now outnumber troops, 207,600 to 175,000, in the two war zones, according to this July report from the Congressional Research Service. The pair's article -- Contractors and the Ultimate Sacrifice -- (emphasis in the original) is in the latest issue of Service Contractor magazine, a journal (surprise!) for government contractors (you can download the full September issue here; the article begins on pg. 16).
Schooner and Swan, Service Contractor, September 2010
"To the extent that the mainstream news media has failed to give these disturbing trends sufficient attention, the public remains largely ignorant of the extent of the contractor community's sacrifice," they write. "That's a serious problem."
Actually, the really serious problem is that this report is simply another data point in a series highlighting the disconnect between accountability and responsibility:
-- First, Congress has adopted a strictly hands-off approach when it comes to declaring war. That's one of its key responsibilities, according to the Constitution, but it hasn't happened since World War II. In its ultimate abdication of power, CYAongress has subcontracted the entire effort out to the Executive Branch. That way, when things go wrong -- as they always do in war -- Congress can criticize the White House without getting spattered with too much blood.
-- Secondly, with the abolition of the draft, only a tiny slice of America now wages this nation's wars. The number commonly tossed around is that about 1 percent of the population has a family member involved in either of the two conflicts. So the citizenry has subcontracted the war out to a professional warrior class -- the opposite of the citizen-soldiers who fought and beat the British in the American Revolution.
-- Thirdly, today's citizenry and Congress are borrowing huge sums of money to wage these wars, which -- when all costs are tallied -- are likely to be in the $3 trillion range. They have subcontracted the costs of paying for these conflicts to our children and grandchildren.
-- Finally, contractors -- hired guns -- are doing most of the dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our military is subcontracting most of the casualties they would otherwise be suffering to a mercenary class.
This trend is not sustainable.
Okay, so what does this mean to us? Is the use of PMC's a good or a bad thing? Why? Plato thought it was a good idea. What's your opinion?
In an experiment published last month, researchers recruited schoolchildren, ages 9 and 10, who lived near the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois and asked them to run on a treadmill. The researchers were hoping to learn more about how fitness affects the immature human brain. Animal studies had already established that, when given access to running wheels, baby rodents bulked up their brains, enlarging certain areas and subsequently outperforming sedentary pups on rodent intelligence tests. But studies of the effect of exercise on the actual shape and function of children’s brains had not yet been tried.
So the researchers sorted the children, based on their treadmill runs, into highest-, lowest- and median-fit categories. Only the most- and least-fit groups continued in the study (to provide the greatest contrast). Both groups completed a series of cognitive challenges involving watching directional arrows on a computer screen and pushing certain keys in order to test how well the children filter out unnecessary information and attend to relevant cues. Finally, the children’s brains were scanned, using magnetic resonance imaging technology to measure the volume of specific areas.
Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socioeconomic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains.
Meanwhile, in a separate, newly completed study by many of the same researchers at the University of Illinois, a second group of 9- and 10-year-old children were also categorized by fitness levels and had their brains scanned, but they completed different tests, this time focusing on complex memory. Such thinking is associated with activity in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain’s medial temporal lobes. Sure enough, the M.R.I. scans revealed that the fittest children had heftier hippocampi.
The two studies did not directly overlap, but the researchers, in their separate reports, noted that the hippocampus and basal ganglia regions interact in the human brain, structurally and functionally. Together they allow some of the most intricate thinking. If exercise is responsible for increasing the size of these regions and strengthening the connection between them, being fit may “enhance neurocognition” in young people, the authors concluded.
These findings arrive at an important time. For budgetary and administrative reasons, school boards are curtailing physical education, while on their own, children grow increasingly sluggish. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that roughly a quarter of children participate in zero physical activity outside of school.
At the same time, evidence accumulates about the positive impact of even small amounts of aerobic activity. Past studies from the University of Illinois found that “just 20 minutes of walking” before a test raised children’s scores, even if the children were otherwise unfit or overweight, says Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology at the university and the senior author of many of the recent studies.
But it’s the neurological impact of sustained aerobic fitness in young people that is especially compelling. A memorable years-long Swedish study published last year found that, among more than a million 18-year-old boys who joined the army, better fitness was correlated with higher I.Q.’s, even among identical twins. The fitter the twin, the higher his I.Q. The fittest of them were also more likely to go on to lucrative careers than the least fit, rendering them less likely, you would hope, to live in their parents’ basements. No correlation was found between muscular strength and I.Q. scores. There’s no evidence that exercise leads to a higher I.Q., but the researchers suspect that aerobic exercise, not strength training, produces specific growth factors and proteins that stimulate the brain, said Georg Kuhn, a professor at the University of Gothenburg and the senior author of the study.
But for now, the takeaway is clear. “More aerobic exercise” for young people, Mr. Kuhn said. Mr. Hillman agreed. So get kids moving, he added, and preferably away from their Wiis. A still-unpublished study from his lab compared the cognitive impact in young people of 20 minutes of running on a treadmill with 20 minutes of playing sports-style video games at a similar intensity. Running improved test scores immediately afterward. Playing video games did not.
Question: How should we (teachers and students) use this information?
Time Magazine says at 13 you should know this about money:
Teens spend about $200 billion a year on toys, games, clothing, movies, live events, arcade games and electronics — all forms of immediate gratification that run counter to sound long-term money practices. [The] 13-year-old is about to chart a course through this wasteland of spending and would benefit from having a grip on a few core concepts. By now, [he or] she should be well acquainted with saving and understand how impulse and peer pressure can set back her longer term goals. She should be able to research products, comparison shop, and make good decisions about what offers the most value. The budding teen should also be skeptical about advertising claims and familiar with identity theft. He/She should know how to fill out a job application, be able to set up a personal spending budget, and understand the difference between stocks and bonds and mutual funds. Her three jars should be emptied; the money should be in a bank account with check-writing and ATM card privileges and she should know how to make deposits and withdrawals and track her balance.
At 18 you should know this:
Here come the college years and very likely the last chance to make any kind of real impression on a child's money habits. He/she will go off to school (or work) and navigate his finances from here on out pretty much on his own. By now, he should have a credit card in addition to an ATM card and understand all about late fees, interest expense, the importance of paying bills on time and the scourge of making only minimum monthly payments. Young adults are often appalled to learn that a $5,000 balance can take 20 years to pay off through minimum payments. Meanwhile, the card company will reward them with an ever greater credit limit if their payments are on time, and before they know it they have more debt than they can repay. "They shake their head and say, 'Hey, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong,'" notes JumpStart's Levine. Knowing about credit is most essential at this age, and that includes understanding what a credit score is and how to find it and why it's important. But he should also be able to do things like evaluate if financial information is objective and current and use an online calculator to research things like car loans and mortgages. He should understand that student loans must be repaid with interest and have some idea what career he'll be pursuing before loading up on student loans he may never be able to repay.
Question: Do Nanke Bilingual students know enough about money? Why or why not? Please post a response.
dystopia: (n) an imaginary place or condition in which everything is bad.
This definition from the Oxford English Dictionary would seem fitting in relation to the situations and societies often depicted in dystopian literature. When we think about the dystopian novel, what first comes to mind is often George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. First published in 1949, it was Orwell's final work. In it he prophesied the advent of a flawless totalitarian society, in which the individual is of literally no significance. However, as it happened, the year 1984 came and went and we did not find ourselves slaves to the Party...
The critic Bernard Richards once said 'dystopias are useful; they warn us about what might happen'. This seems fair enough; you can finish a copy of 1984 and breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that you don't live in the repressive state of Airstrip One in Oceania.
If we take this view, the dystopian novel is a comforter to the human psyche; we like to read about death and corruption, as long as we know that it can't happen to us. Or do we?
Mr. C's question:
Okay, so how realistic are dystopian novels/ short stories? Should we be worried? Please post a response.
Record Number Take SAT, but the Scores of Blacks and Puerto Ricans Lag
By JACQUES STEINBERGThe number of graduating high school students who took the SAT climbed to 1.55 million last spring, a record figure that represents an increase of 1.2 percent, or nearly 18,000, over 2009, the College Board said Monday.
For those readers of The Choice wondering how they measured up, the mean scores over all were 501 in the critical reading section of the test, 516 in math and 492 in the writing section, for a total of 1509. (A perfect score on the three-part exam is 2400.)
The board, the nonprofit organization that oversees the college entrance exam, emphasized the impact of a rigorous high school curriculum on student performance. It said students who took four years of English, and three or more years of math and science, scored, on average, 151 points above those who did not.
But the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or Fair Test, a critic of the SAT, noted a decline in overall scores since 2006, when the federal No Child Left Behind testing mandates went into effect. When those figures were aggregated by race or ethnicity, the average scores of Asian-Americans climbed 36 points over that period, according to the Fair Test analysis, while those of black and Puerto Rican students fell 14 points, and those of white students decreased by 2 points.