318 WORDS FOR SNOW: HOW TO PRESERVE THE INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES OF THE ARCTIC

Sami people near their lavvu, a temporary dwelling.
When American linguistics scholar Lenore Grenoble began her career, she knew she wanted to use her knowledge to do something of social value. But what? A gathering of linguists at an international conference in 1992 provided the answer: support communities speaking endangered languages. Grenoble began by studying Evenki (a language spoken by indigenous peoples of Siberia) and eventually transitioned to Greenlandic. While in that icy country, she was directed by a friend to a symposium being held in Tromso, Norway. She knew little about what would be discussed there, but her friend assured her that it was an important subject. So Grenoble went. What she learned there reshaped her career.
“Cloudberry picking with my mom is our arena of transferring local knowledge and language,” Gunn-Britt Retter told the crowd assembled at a conference hall in Tromsø, Norway. “She would talk all the time and tell about the places we pass and what to keep in mind to find our way. She would repeat the same every time when we take that very route, knowing it’s difficult to remember it all once and that I might not always pay enough attention to what she’s telling.”
Retter went on to explain the ways in which her Saami language captured environmental nuances. The language, she said, shouldn’t be separated from the knowledge system it belongs to—one that includes precise information about the Arctic environment. In fact, she came to the 2008 Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium to pursue the link between linguistic preservation and biological diversity in the Arctic.

Since the 1800s, 21 languages have become extinct, and another 28 are listed as critically endangered.

American linguistics scholar Lenore Grenoblefound herself in the audience of the same symposium, a forum created to address issues facing Arctic people, for similar reasons. “This is the first meeting that the permanent participants (of the Arctic Council) had ever called on their own,” Grenoble said of the symposium years later. “Here you have massive climate change in the Arctic—and what they wanted to work on was language.”
In the context of all the other threats to their homes and livelihoods, it seemed almost unbelievable that six indigenous groups of the Arctic region (the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Gwich’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami Council) chose to mobilize for the sake of dying languages. But to the people fighting to keep their languages alive, it made all the sense in the world. And for Grenoble, who has built a career on studying indigenous Arctic languages, it was an opportunity to turn her scholarly work into social activism.
What resulted from that 2008 gathering of scholars, activists, and politicians was an ongoing effort to document, preserve, and revitalize indigenous Arctic languages. The ultimate goal was not only that the indigenous people would benefit from speaking their own languages, but also that the environment would reap rewards from their stewardship. For a region that’s warming faster than any other place on Earth, these kinds of efforts could mean the difference between livable conditions and a mass exodus.
* * * 
Until the arrival of empire-building European nation-states, the Arctic was filled with small groups of people who survived despite the enormous odds against them. Today, the number of nonindigenous peoples far surpasses the number of original inhabitants, and prospectors interested in the region’s abundant natural resources are shaping its future. When these colonizers first arrived–be they Danish or Swedish or Russian or American–indigenous languages were often eliminated by reeducation programs that forced children to speak the language of the colonial power. Bit by bit, Arctic indigenous languages slipped out of existence. Since the 1800s, 21 languages have become extinct, and another 28 are listed as critically endangered.
“When I first started working with Alaskan native languages in the mid-to-late ’90s, things looked pretty awful,” said documentary linguist Gary Holton. “People were down, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm. Then I start looking around and see things like people posting videos on YouTube and starting Facebook pages, just trying to communicate a little.”
The younger generation has moved past the historical baggage their elders carry, Holton thinks. Instead of feeling depressed and disenfranchised, they’re actively working to incorporate the language into their lives. And a big part of their lives is the rapidly changing environment. Arctic sea ice is declining, which will impact the animals indigenous people hunt. Patterns of snow cover and depth are shifting, forcing reindeer-herding peoples like the Saami to change their routes. All around them, indigenous Arctic people see a world in flux, the changes beyond their control.

There’s a reason one of the Saami dialects has 318 words for snow.

“The indigenous people that I know from the Arctic, they feel like they’re the recipients of climate change but not the causers,” Grenoble said. “Whereas the language they feel they can take ownership of and—this is my interpretation—it’s something they feel was taken away from them by colonization.”
Undoubtedly, reclaiming one’s language is a way of connecting to heritage and history, and Grenoble sees a great deal of emotion involved in the fight to preserve endangered languages. If the language has been suppressed by colonizing powers, reclaiming it is also political. But as far as what is lost for the world at large when a language goes extinct, the answer is far murkier.
“It’s a much more nuanced story than this dramatic language death. There’s some number out there that every two weeks a language is lost. Nobody thinks that’s actually right; there’s no data for it,” Grenoble said.
The difficulty in defining the value of a language for people who aren’t its speakers is encapsulated by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Also known as linguistic relativity, the hypothesis states that the structure and lexicon of a language directly affects its speakers’ worldview. In other words, your language shapes your reality. Scholars have been arguing over this hypothesis for decades. Some say that just because a word can’t easily be translated from one language to another doesn’t mean the concept doesn’t exist in the second language in a different form. Others argue that languages are more than simple communication tools. As one scholar writes, “Languages are perspectives, and…perspectives affect one’s way of seeing and, more importantly, one’s way of explaining the world.”
Arctic languages exhibit a unique connection to the environment. As Gunn-Britt Retter said, there’s a reason one of the Saami dialects has 318 words for snow. You need those minute variations to carry out your day-to-day life. You also need them if you want to measure, understand, and adapt to rapid climatic changes.
“There are so many layers in traditional knowledge,” Retter said in an interview. “Observation and local involvement in order to know what conditions you have, but the other thing is deeper knowledge in the terminology.”

The Saami language offers one example of successful collaboration between indigenous people and Western scientists. Working with NASA, Saami reindeer herders were able to provide observational data about changing snow conditions.

A Saami alphabet primer from USSR, 1933. Via Wikimedia Commons
Particularly important in these observations was the snow’s stratigraphy (what its layers are like), which isn’t easily measured from afar, even with advanced technology. The Saami have monitored it for generations, because it impactsreindeers’ access to vegetation. Other studies support the data provided by Saami herders and indigenous people, withscholars concluding that their observational information almost always corresponds to instrumental observations.
The Saami aren’t the only indigenous people collaborating with scientists to better document the effects of climate change. A number of hunters in Alaskan native communities along the northern Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea provided information about changing sea ice patterns and polar bear behavior. The scientists concluded: “The hunters also provided information about local abundance that is complementary to research on larger scales, but which could not have been gained in any other way.” Basically, because of their connection to the environment, the hunters saw and knew things that scientists did not.
“It’s not that things are untranslatable,” said Holton, the documentary linguist, on the topic of lost languages. He works with Alaskan native communities to record local place names and samples of their languages in hopes that they won’t die out or be forgotten. “You just lose a subtlety for how you view the world. You can’t recover that sense of intimacy, that ability to express things in a certain way that can’t be captured by other languages.”
And this might be exactly why the six permanent members of the Arctic Council chose to focus their efforts on language revitalization. In doing so, they might be able to protect their homes and ways of life–or, at the least, show resilience in the face of enormous change.
“Neither nature nor language can be permanently conserved; there would be only a record of that time. Living language and living environment will always change,” Retter said. “Our challenge now is how fast things are changing. When you don’t use things your vocabulary goes to sleep. When nature is changing, you might have vocabulary for it that goes to sleep.”

318 Words for Snow: How to Preserve the Indigenous Languages of the Arctic

Business Of Disaster: Insurance Firms Profited $400 Million After Sandy

Business Of Disaster: Insurance Firms Profited $400 Million After Sandy
By Laura Sullivan
May 24 2016
This story is Part 1 of a two-part series. See our second piece about local recovery programs that are struggling to help homeowners
On a cold rainy day last fall, dozens of people gathered in a plaza across the street from New Jersey’s state Capitol. They held press conferences and slept overnight in lawn chairs.
Everyone had come to make the same point: They’d made it through Superstorm Sandy, which hit the shores of New Jersey and New York in October 2012. But three years later, many hadn’t made it home.
Doug Quinn, a 51-year-old from Toms River, N.J., had been in the plaza for two days.
“I should be at home in my house and part of my community and instead I’m here doing this,” said Quinn. “I thought it’ll be all right; my insurance will take care of what needs to be taken care of and I’ll be back home in three to four months. It’s [been] three years and I’m still not anywhere close. I look back now and think how naive I was.”
Superstorm Sandy wasn’t a disaster for everyone, though. For some, it was big money.
NPR and the PBS series Frontline have spent the past year investigating the business of disaster and have uncovered a complex system in which private companies profit and homeowners and clients suffer.
At the center of that system is the National Flood Insurance Program, which is designed to help in disasters like Sandy. Almost everyone with a mortgage who lives near water pays for flood insurance through the program, so more than three years later most residents expected to be home.
But in many cases that didn’t happen. While thousands of homeowners like Quinn said they have not received the recovery help they need, our investigation found that their private insurance companies that administer the government’s flood program made as much as an estimated $240 million to $406 million in profit annually over the past four years.
We reached out to flood insurers — including some of the nation’s largest firms — that represent the majority of homeowners affected by the storm and all declined to comment on this story. Records show that nearly 80 firms participate in the government’s flood program.
Robert Hartwig, head of an industry group funded by the insurance companies, said insurance companies price their services to make a reasonable profit, like any business.
“It is always going to be the case — in the event of a major catastrophic loss where hundreds of thousands of people will have seen damage or complete destruction of their property — in some instances that they will believe they are due more than in fact the claim was ultimately adjusted for,” he said.
“This is a fee-for-service operation,” said Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute. “The federal government determines what the appropriate payment is.”
Still, FEMA’s top flood official acknowledged that the program needs fixing and told NPR and Frontline that he is pursuing reforms. Government auditors asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency seven years ago to impose stricter oversight of the program, including insurers’ profit margins. But little has been done.
“What I can tell you is that I am focused on those policyholders and insuring that they get the resources and the payouts they are entitled to,” said Roy Wright, who runs FEMA’s flood program. He acknowledged that the program does not provide enough oversight of the firms. “Because when I go back and look, while we were providing oversight, it was not enough.”
And after our reporting, FEMA announced Monday it will include more transparency in and oversight of the National Flood Insurance Program. That includes overhauling its contracts with private insurance companies and assigning a person to help policyholders through an appeals process.
‘The Game Was Stacked Against Us’
To understand the challenges homeowners are facing, we set out for Toms River, N.J., where Quinn’s house used to be.
[snip]

Pell Grant scams high school students

DUAL ENROLLMENT EXPERIMENT
Last week, the Department invited 44 postsecondary institutions to participate in an experiment that — for the first time — allows students taking college-credit courses to access federal Pell Grants as early as high school.  As part of the experiment, an estimated 10,000 high school students will have the opportunity to access approximately $20 million in Pell Grants to take dual enrollment courses provided by colleges and high schools throughout the nation.  About 80% of the selected sites are community colleges.
Dual enrollment, in which high school students enroll in postsecondary coursework, is a promising approach to improve academic outcomes for students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.  During the 2010-11 academic year, more than 1.4 million high school students took courses offered by a college or university for credit through dual enrollment.  A growing body of research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to better grades in high school, increased enrollment in college after high school, higher rates of persistence in college, greater credit accumulation, and increased rates of credential attainment.  Yet, cost can be a barrier.  At nearly half of the postsecondary institutions with dual enrollment programs, most students pay out of pocket to attend.
Under the experimental sites authority of the Higher Education Act, the Secretary is waiving existing federal aid rules that prohibit high school students from accessing Pell Grants.  Through this experiment, the Department hopes to learn about the impact of providing earlier access to financial aid on low-income students’ college access, participation, and success (fact sheet).
 

Kids can already get College Credit in High School for free.

One of the biggest perks of AP classes is that you can get college credit as long as you score well on the AP Exam at the end of the semester. AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Many colleges accept a score of 4 or 5 on an AP exam as college credit in that subject area. In some cases, even a 3 is accepted for college credit.
While most colleges accept AP credits, there’s definitely a difference in how strict the requirements are. About 58% of public colleges give credit for a score of 3; meanwhile, only 33% of private colleges accept this score. The more selective an institution is, the more likely they are to require higher AP scores in order to receive college credit. For example, the highly selective Northwestern University only accepts a 3 in one course (AP chemistry) – a 4 or a 5 is required in other AP courses. Meanwhile, University of Wisconsin, Madison accepts a score of 3 on all AP exams.
Wondering if your dream school accepts AP classes for credit? Check out the CollegeBoard database on AP credit policy info. You can search through hundreds of schools’ AP credit policies with the click of a mouse.

AP Classes for College Credit: Quick Facts

  • There are 34 AP courses covering everything from Chinese Language and Culture to Psychology. Talk to your guidance counselor to find out which AP classes your high school offers.
  • You don’t have to take the AP class to take an AP exam. If you feel like you’re really knowledgeable in a certain area, you can sit for the AP exam. If your scores meet your college’s standards, you can receive college credit even though you didn’t take the test.
  • There are lots of options for students who get college credit for AP exam scores besides saving on tuition – you can graduate from college early, take more upper-level courses, pursue a double major or even study abroad.

NOLAN BUSHNELL father of the video game industry.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRWc0MT1Cz4]

NOLAN BUSHNELL AT A GLANCE

Nolan Bushnell is a technology pioneer, entrepreneur and engineer. Often cited as the father of the video game industry, he is best known as the founder of Atari Corporation and Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater. AtariOver the past four decades he has founded numerous companies, including Catalyst Technologies, the first technology incubator; Etak, the first digital navigation system; ByVideo, the first online ordering system; and uWink, the first touchscreen menu ordering and entertainment system, among others. Currently, with his new company, Brainrush, he is devoting his talents to enhancing and improving the educational process by integrating the latest in brain science. Additionally, he enjoys motivating and inspiring others in his speeches on entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and education.

Read more…

Earliest beer recipe—and the earliest known use of barley—in China.

Earliest beer recipe—and the earliest known use of barley—in China.
Archaeologists at Stanford University, while digging along China’s Wei River, made an intriguing discovery: A marvelously complete set of brewing equipment. And at the bottom of that equipment was something even more wonderful: Residue from the drink it once brewed.  After scrapping that gunk from the pots, researchers analyzed it and confirmed that it was, indeed, leftover froth from a 5,000-year-old beer. They were also able to pin down the recipe of that beer to an unlikely, but delicious-sounding, combination of broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers. The recipe was just published in the journal PNAS.

How Genius annotations undermined web security

How Genius annotations undermined web security
Until early May, when The Verge confidentially disclosed the
results of my independent security tests, the “web annotator”
service provided by the tech startup Genius had been routinely
undermining a web browser security mechanism. The web
annotator is a tool which essentially republishes web pages in
order to let Genius users leave comments on specific passages.
In the process of republishing, those annotated pages would be
stripped of an optional security feature called the Content
Security Policy, which was sometimes provided by the original
version of the page. This meant that anyone who viewed a page
with annotations enabled was potentially vulnerable to
security exploits that would have been blocked by the original
site. Though no specific victims have been identified, the
potential scope of this bug was broad: it was applied to all
Genius users, undermined any site with a Content Security
Policy, and re-enabled all blocked JavaScript code.
– snip –

What’s driving Silicon Valley to become ‘radicalized’

What’s driving Silicon Valley to become ‘radicalized’
By Elizabeth Dwoskin May 24 at 5:00 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Like many Silicon Valley start-ups, Larry Gadea’s company collects heaps of sensitive data from his customers.
Recently, he decided to do something with that data trove that was long considered unthinkable: He is getting rid of it.
The reason? Gadea fears that one day the FBI might do to him what it did to Apple in their recent legal battle: demand that he give the agency access to his encrypted data. Rather than make what he considers a Faustian bargain, he’s building a system that he hopes will avoid the situation entirely.
“We have to keep as little [information] as possible so that even if the government or some other entity wanted access to it, we’d be able to say that we don’t have it,” said Gadea, founder and chief executive of Envoy. The 30-person company enables businesses to register visitors using iPads instead of handwritten visitor logs. The technology tracks who works at a firm, who visits the firm, and their contact information.
“Engineers are not inherently anti-government, but they are becoming radicalized, because they believe that the FBI, in particular, and the U.S. government, more broadly, wants to outlaw encryption,” said prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in a recent interview. Andreessen’s firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Envoy.
snip
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/05/24/what-is-driving-silicon-valley-to-become-radicalized/

The college debt crisis is even worse than you think

The college debt crisis is even worse than you think
We tell students they need a bachelor’s degree to get ahead. But for too many, the numbers no longer add up.
By Neil Swidey
May 18 2016
http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2016/05/18/hopes-dreams-debt/fR60cKakwUlGok0jTlONTN/story.html
IT’S ONE OF THE MOST enduring selling points for the value of higher education: The best route out of poverty is through the college quad. Spend four years in college, and all that book learning, mind opening, and network expanding will help even the lowest-income student jump up several rungs on the economic ladder. Nowhere is that message preached as often or with as much evident authority as in Massachusetts, the nation’s historic capital of private, nonprofit higher education, where the concentration of colleges in some areas is surpassed only by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.
But just how true is this truism about college lifting low-income students out of their circumstances, Horatio Alger style? In fact, like the actual story of author Horatio Alger, who was born into a well-established family and graduated from Harvard, there’s more myth than truth. That’s been especially so in recent years, as nonselective private colleges from around the region have increasingly filled their freshman classes with low-income students — often the first generation in their families to go to college — from Boston and other urban areas. Quite a few of these small schools are former junior colleges and women’s colleges with rich histories of opening doors to students traditionally shut out from higher education, an admirable pursuit that officials refer to as “access.” Many of the colleges are also in tough financial straits, struggling with rising costs, stunted endowments, and declining enrollments.
So whether they are actively recruiting these low-income students for reasons of open-the-door altruism or keep-the-lights-on capitalism — or, more likely, some combination of the two — there has been a huge, largely hidden byproduct of this dramatic increase in access: These students are often being loaded up with staggering debt that is completely out of whack with the earnings boost they’ll likely get from a degree at a nonselective or less selective college. Already, average student loan debt is higher in Boston than any other metro area in the country, 44 percent above the national average, according to Credit Karma. But  more troubling, many of these low-income students — and, at some colleges, most of them — are not graduating. That means these non-completers are leaving campus saddled with lots of debt but none of the salary gains that traditionally come with a bachelor’s degree.
Dean College sits on a pretty, leafy campus in Franklin. A former two-year college, it began offering a selection of bachelor’s degrees only about a decade ago. It now accepts about 70 percent of the students who apply, the same rate as Fitchburg State University. Last year, Dean sent a financial aid award letter to an accepted student whose family, the federal government had determined, was so poor that the “expected family contribution” (EFC) to that student’s education was zero. The college awarded the student a Dean Presidential Grant of $17,000 and another nearly $13,000 in institutional, federal, and state grants, meaning that almost $30,000 of the bill was covered and never had to be paid back. Sounds great, right? Yes, until you look at the larger numbers on the award letter. The total cost of attendance — tuition, room, board, and fees — was $53,120. That meant the gap that this “zero-EFC” student had to cover through loans and other means in order to attend was more than $23,000. Per year. Over four years — and with only modest rises for inflation factored in — that total gap could be expected to climb to around $100,000, not counting future interest payments. That’s a ton of debt, particularly for a degree from a college whose median annual salary for alumni 10 years after enrolling is just $32,700.
To Dean’s credit, about half of its students who pursue a bachelor’s degree manage to graduate. Contrast that with Becker College in Worcester. On its website, Becker talks about being able to trace its roots back to two signers of the Declaration of Independence. It does not, however, mention what US Department of Education data from 2012-2013 show: namely, that just 16 percent of Becker’s students managed to graduate in four years, a number that inches up only to 24 percent when the time frame is extended to six years, the federal standard for completing a bachelor’s degree. In other words, 3 out every 4 students who enrolled as freshmen at Becker failed to graduate. Nor does the website mention that, after all grants and discounts are applied, a typical zero-EFC low-income student is required to come up with more than $25,000 every single year to cover the costs of attending Becker.
This seems to be the operating calculus at many small, private, nonselective or less selective colleges across the region, which routinely accept more than 60 percent of applicants. Consider the average annual “net” prices — after discounts and grants have been deducted — that these colleges are charging students coming from families whose total adjusted gross annual income is $30,000 or less. At a surprising number of colleges, this annual net price represents nearly all of that family’s total income for the year.
So the net price for one year at Wheelock College would consume 80 percent of a family’s $30,000 total income. Same at Becker. The figure is 81 percent at Endicott College, 82 percent at Emmanuel College and Mount Ida College, and 92 percent at Lesley University. At Fisher, a former junior college in Boston, it’s 94 percent, a cost that’s basically the same as the $28,200 median annual salary that Fisher alumni are making 10 years after enrolling.
[snip]

Linkedin Notice of Data Breach

 

LinkedIn
Notice of Data Breach
You may have heard reports recently about a security issue involving LinkedIn. We would like to make sure you have the facts about what happened, what information was involved, and the steps we are taking to help protect you.
What Happened?
On May 17, 2016, we became aware that data stolen from LinkedIn in 2012 was being made available online. This was not a new security breach or hack. We took immediate steps to invalidate the passwords of all LinkedIn accounts that we believed might be at risk. These were accounts created prior to the 2012 breach that had not reset their passwords since that breach.
What Information Was Involved?
Member email addresses, hashed passwords, and LinkedIn member IDs (an internal identifier LinkedIn assigns to each member profile) from 2012.
What We Are Doing
We invalidated passwords of all LinkedIn accounts created prior to the 2012 breach that had not reset their passwords since that breach. In addition, we are using automated tools to attempt to identify and block any suspicious activity that might occur on LinkedIn accounts. We are also actively engaging with law enforcement authorities.
LinkedIn has taken significant steps to strengthen account security since 2012. For example, we now use salted hashes to store passwords and enable additional account security by offering our members the option to use two-step verification.
What You Can Do
We have several dedicated teams working diligently to ensure that the information members entrust to LinkedIn remains secure. While we do all we can, we always suggest that our members visit our Safety Center to learn about enabling two-step verification, and implementing strong passwords in order to keep their accounts as safe as possible. We recommend that you regularly change your LinkedIn password and if you use the same or similar passwords on other online services, we recommend you set new passwords on those accounts as well.
For More Information
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Trust & Safety team at tns-help@linkedin.com. To learn more visit our official blog.