LEGO ready to launch Female Scientist minifigure collection

Lego, the Denmark-based toy company, has approved designs for a new collection titled “Research Institute,” an all-female line with characters such as an astronomer, paleontologist and chemist. The project was submitted to Lego Ideas, a fan-based online community that allows the Lego lovers to vote on potential collections.

The designer of this particular collection, Swedish geochemist Ellen Kooijman, was voted for over 10,000 times.

“As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available Lego sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures,” Kooijman wrote in her blog post.

“It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female minifigures in interesting professions to make our Lego city communities more diverse,” Kooijman wrote.

When Lego released its “FRIENDS” line in 2012, it sparked controversies over gender stereotypes in the toy industry. The line portrayed girls modeling on a catwalk, baking cupcakes, and hanging out on a beach. A petition was made on Change.org, calling out the company to stop reinforcing the gender stereotype to children.

Overdue.

Thanks, Mike

During the Great Recession, the states that already spent less on education made even bigger cuts

Our governor keeps her concealed carry gun permit up-to-date

Public schools have struggled during the long, slow economic recovery…I noted that urban districts — especially big-city districts — have been hit particularly hard. But there’s also tremendous variation by state.

Idaho, for example, spent 12 percent less per student in the 2011-2012 school year than in 2008-2009, after adjusting for inflation. More than 80 percent of Idaho’s school districts experienced cuts. North Carolina’s cuts were slightly smaller (11 percent on average) but even more widespread: Nearly all its districts reduced spending.

Compare those states to North Dakota, where per-student spending is up 8 percent since 2009, or New Hampshire, where it’s up 6 percent.

What’s going on? Given the disproportionate impact on urban districts, you might think the hardest-hit states would be those where the highest proportion of students live in cities. But it turns out there’s no clear relationship there: City-heavy California has experienced big school funding cuts, but even more urban New York has seen per-student spending increase…

What turns out to make a difference is actual spending levels. States that spend less per-student, such as Idaho, Utah and many Southern states, have made significantly bigger cuts (on a percentage basis) than states, such as New York and Connecticut, that spend more. The relationship isn’t perfect: Arkansas, a low-spending state, has increased funding, while big-spending Hawaii has made big cuts. But…there’s a clear relationship.

How does your state rank? Click here to see the table.

We have a game we play here in New Mexico. If there’s bad economic news, PR about mediocre healthcare, poverty, education – we look to see if we’re worst or second worst. That gives you an idea of the sum of decades of over-relying on the federal dole from military bases, extractive industries like oil, gas, lumber. Couple that with state government dominated by Conservative Democrats and Republicans.

Right now we have a Republican governor who tries to be all things to all people. She lies a lot. Elected because she ran against a truly forgettable Dem who was nominated “because it was her turn” – Susana Martinez was inevitable. We’re consistent in New Mexico politics; so, her challenger for a second term is Gary King, son of a previous governor. Now, it’s his turn to be governor as far as Democrat party hacks are concerned.

And Governor Susana campaigns on “her” improvements in education among other lies. The reality is the Albuquerque Public School system – normally run like most state highway departments – brought in someone with knowledge and smarts a couple years ago and he’s turned things around a bit. Since he’s in charge of a third of the schoolkids in the state – he makes a difference. No one, including me, has any idea of his politics. Frankly, I don’t know why many good teachers are working anywhere in our state’s schools – given mediocre pay and little voice in direction.

That doesn’t matter to Governor Susana. She’ll gladly take credit.

Thanks, Helen

Interests, ideology and climate


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.

But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?

I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism…

Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost…

Think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.

And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed.

While the general point of my personal blog is commentary upon well-done journalism, my reaction to issues and answers – there is little or no need for that following one of Paul Krugman’s excellent Op-Ed pieces.

Show the red card to FIFA bureaucrats!

Blatter style

Most people associate FIFA, the organization that oversees international soccer, with the quadrennial joy of the World Cup. But as the 2014 tournament begins next week in Brazil, FIFA is plagued by levels of corruption, graft and excess that would shame Silvio Berlusconi…

FIFA was founded in 1904 in Paris as a simple rule-making committee that aimed to regulate the guidelines for a new, rapidly expanding sport when played between nations. Because it was founded in Paris, the organization took its acronym, FIFA, from the French: Fédération Internationale de Football Association. What began as an effort to make sure that practices like punching one’s opponents would not be seen as a legitimate part of the game, morphed over time into one of the most successful and disreputable organizations in the history of sports.

Under the iron-fisted leadership of Sepp Blatter, FIFA has been steeped in rotating scandals for so long, it’s difficult even to imagine its not being immersed in one public relations crisis or another. Mr. Blatter succeeded his mentor, the similarly scandal-plagued João Havelange in 1998. Under his stewardship, FIFA officials have been accused of financial mismanagement, taking bribes and projecting a level of sexism and homophobia that seems to come from another century…

FIFA is supposed to police match-fixing, yet a New York Times investigation revealed that only six people on its staff of 350 are responsible for that enforcement. It is supposed to monitor corruption, but it’s not clear it does. There have long been allegations that bribes secured the 2022 World Cup for Qatar.

The head of FIFA’s own independent governance committee (which was recently disbanded) suggested holding a new vote for the right to host the 2022 World Cup. And the European football federation’s representatives to FIFA have threatened to protest against Mr. Blatter when he declares his intention this week to seek yet another term as FIFA’s head…

Finally, the world is seeing FIFA for what it is: a stateless conglomerate that takes bribes while acting as a battering ram for world leaders who want to use the majesty of the World Cup to push through their development agendas at great human cost.

People don’t have to be displaced and workers don’t need to die for soccer. The World Cup can be staged in countries with existing stadiums and infrastructure. Moreover, the secret bidding process for host countries must end so that soccer isn’t abused for economic and political ends.

It is past time to abolish FIFA. It is like a gangrenous limb that requires amputation before the infection spreads and the beautiful game becomes decayed beyond all possible recognition.

Soccer is worth saving. FIFA needs to take its ball and go home.

Overdue.