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U.S. Government refuses to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s death, sparks controversy in America

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By Julia Sayers

The decision by the U.S. government to not release the photos of Osama bin Laden’s death has sparked controversy in America and all over the world.

There has been a large range of opinions on whether or not the photos should be released. Many of the people who want to see the photos are victims of the September 11 attacks, but there has also been a demand for the photos from U.S. officials and even allies of bin Laden. However, many people feel that the photos should not be released, for various reasons. According to a poll by NBC News, nearly 2/3 of Americans support the government’s decision to not release the photos. But 24 percent strongly believe the photos should be released.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon said that bin Laden’s body had been put in the North Arabian Sea after following traditional Islamic procedures. Before burying him, the U.S. used multiple methods to identify the body as bin Laden. A woman believed to be his wife identified him during the raid that killed him and a DNA analysis proved the body was bin Laden.

Many people, including the Taliban, refuse to believe the government until they see photographic proof. However, Shereen Elgamal, assistant professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, said that no method will ever satisfy.

“There will always be those who have their doubts,” Elgamal said. “So no matter which way the government goes, I don’t think any level of explanation will be enough.”

Like Elgamal said, simply telling U.S. citizens this doesn’t seem to be enough.

“It has been as much of a societal struggle the past 10 years to hunt him down as it has been for the government and I think we as a people have earned the right to see the photos,” said Elon University senior Devan Scott.

Bin Laden is the fifth person to be on the cover of Time magazine with the red x, something reserved for "history's worst." Photo courtesy of Time.

The government doesn’t want to release the photos due to the graphic nature of them and the fear that they could be a threat to national security. The photos have been said by officials show bin Laden with a gunshot wound in his forehead, the insides of his head visible.

President Barack Obama made the announcement on May 4 that the photos would not be released as proof.

“It’s important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as propaganda tools,” he said in an interview with “60 Minutes.” “That’s not who we are – we don’t trot this stuff out as trophies.”

Sarah Carideo, an Elon junior, also said bin Laden’s death shouldn’t be flaunted more than it already has been.

“We’re already getting enough bad reactions to the way we’re treating the capturing and killing of bin Laden and shoving it into peoples faces,” Carideo said. “I think its something we should be happy we’ve accomplished but it’s not something that will resolve all the issues we have.”

Elgamal worries that the photos could not only incite violence, but may also help to gain followers of bin Laden’s cause.

“It may stir emotions and instigate more violence and more hatred. I think its a negative cycle and if we can stop it, it really needs to stop,” Elgamal said. “I really am unable to see something positive with spreading around somebody’s picture with his brain tissue all over. It may even backfire by drawing sympathizers who were not originally supporting him. By looking at the poor man with his head partially blown off, it may cause others to feel for him and sympathize with his cause and question why he wasn’t brought to justice through the criminal justice system.”

Freshman Jordan Johnston also worries that releasing the photos could be dangerous for the U.S.

“I don’t think the pictures should be released because it would cause a lot of controversy and could be a threat to our national security if other countries see we’re showing his dead body everywhere,” she said. “I don’t think that will make them very happy.”

Other people think releasing the photos would be disrespectful.

“There is a certain level of respect that should be associated with life and death,” Elgamal said. “There is no need for the photos, but if people want actual assurances this death took place, maybe there are other ways than just releasing it to everyone. Because of the dignity of a human life, it is not about the person behind the life, it is the fact that somebody left this world.”

Leah Hoyland, an Elon senior feels the same way.

“Keeping the photos from the public is respectful,” she said. “He was still a person. If it were you, would you want to see photos of your dead family member all over the news? We’re acting like we won the lottery.”

NPR and Fox News have filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photos to be released. People have also suggested the Obama administration invite key opinion leaders to view the death photos and report back to the public on the authenticity of them.


Written by juliasayers

May 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Bette Midler, Vietnam, NFL: Bob Owens’ “strange” life

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By Julia Sayers

Bob Owens is the assistant coach for the men's and women's tennis teams. Photo by Julia Sayers

Bob doesn’t sleep.

This is just one part of Bob Owens’ interesting, or as he prefers “strange,” life. Not many people can say they’ve had experiences comparable to Owens, the assistant men and women’s tennis coach at Elon University.

Owens’, 65, experiences started young. Since his father was in the navy, his family moved around a lot, living in Japan, Alaska and Hawaii. Owens attended Radford High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, the same high school Bette Midler attended, who was in the grade ahead of Owens.

“I knew Midler and she knew me because I was an athlete,” Owens said. “She was very active in the student government and had a nice voice even then. She was in the chorus and did all those musical theater plays.”

Owens played baseball and football in high school, but excelled at football.

“I liked the contact sport, for a teen with all the hormones running it was a good way to release a lot of energy,” Owens said. “I was the oldest of 13 kids so my frustrations of having to take care of them were taken out on the field. I couldn’t hit the younger kids but I could hit people in football.”

“But you’ve got a bullet in your back” 

After high school, Owens was drafted into the military. After boot camp, he tried to outsmart the system by taking extended training in jump school and then going with Special Forces to Georgia, but was eventually sent to south Vietnam to fight in the war.

“I kept thinking I could spend my time in the service just going through classes, but that wasn’t what happened,” Owens said.

Owens was stationed in Quang Tri Province in the northern highlands of south Vietnam. It was an 18-month tour of duty in Vietnam, but Owens was there for just short of nine months. His regular army unit of 65 men was assigned to intervene with north Vietnamese and Viet Kong infiltration of south Vietnam.

“They were bringing supplies in and our job was to cut them off,” Owens said.

However, while on patrol on October 28, 1965, Owens was shot in his stomach. The bullet came in below his belt and went out his back, leaving a part of the bullet still in his back. He spent the first few weeks recovering in a field hospital but was then moved to hospitals in the Philippines, Japan and Virginia before finally being discharged home to Honolulu.

“All I wanted was someone to make the hurt go away,” Owens said. “It felt like someone was inside me with a settling torch trying to burn their way out. The idea of dying, it’s not that you don’t think about it, but it’s not important. For me it was like I don’t care what you do but just make the pain go away. The idea of my mortality did not enter my mind.”

The bullet, which doesn’t bother Owens nor has any need to be removed, still surprises doctors when they see it.

“It’s actually become a comical part of my life. I broke my back in college and as the doctor was looking at my x-rays, he goes ‘you’ve got a bullet in your back’ and I said ‘I know that’ and he kept saying ‘but you’ve got a bullet in your back,’” Owens said. “I said ‘look, can we not let this bullet go to rest here? Find out what the hell is wrong with my back so you can fix me.’”

Five Years of Headaches 

After four years in the military, Owens attended Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. He had been recruited right after high school by the football coach and was able to get in touch with him again after returning home from service.

“He asked if I could play football and I asked the doctor on one of my checkups what I could do and he said ‘Well how dumb are you?’ And I said ‘Well I can’t be a physicist,’” Owens laughed. “But specifically I asked if I could play football and he said he didn’t see why not.”

Owens, left, played wide receiver for Guilford College's football team. Photo submitted.

Owens went on to play wide receiver for Guilford in 1968, graduating as a two-time All American in football. While in college, Owens met his first wife, Katherine Byrd.

“While I was in college I met a girl. Surprise right?” Owens said. “We got a long pretty well. We started seeing each other socially and as it got more serious I got to know her more than just thinking she was cute and all the stuff associated with young love.”

After dating for a little while, Owens found out Byrd’s uncle was the governor of the state of Georgia and she was from a very well-off political family. After getting married and divorced three years later, her uncle, Jimmy Carter, ended up becoming President of the United States.

“I found that out after working with Bob for three or four years,” chimed in Michael Leonard, men’s tennis coach at Elon. “He just threw it in like that’s just normal.”

“Well it’s not like I have a business card that says ‘I got shot. I married Jimmy Carter’s niece. Bette Midler was in my class in high school’.” Owens said. “If you live long enough, something funny is going to happen to you. It’s not like I planned these things out.”

While Owens was in graduate school in France, the World Football League was formed and Owens received two letters from their scouting organization, one for the Birmingham Americans and one for the Philadelphia Bell. These letters were sent to every college football player who wasn’t in the NFL. Open tryouts were held for the Bell in New Jersey, and Owens, who hitchhiked to the tryouts, was signed as a free agent in 1974. The team did really well the first two years, even playing in the first round of the playoffs. However, financial problems came up and the league folded. Many players from the league went on to join the NFL, and the Philadelphia Eagles signed Owens in 1976.

“I had a headache for five years,” Owens said. “Nowadays they yank you out of the game and won’t let you back in until your five days free of symptoms. But back then they would give you a whiff of ammonia and send you back in. So the most vivid thing I remember was five years of headaches. It was just a constant headache. Three weeks after the season is over, the headache will go away and you feel good but then you go into summer camp and someone will hit you and the headache starts and then never goes away because from that point on someone will hit you for the rest of the season.”

Owens ended his football career in 1979.

“I got tired of the headaches,” said Owens. “But the deals were rebuilding and it doesn’t take a genius to realize they start drafting certain players so you just call it a career.”

A teacher, a coach, a husband and a Lollipop 

After Owens’ football career, he started teaching at public schools in North Carolina. His undergraduate major was social sciences so he taught AP U.S. History, AP Psychology and AP European History. He got certified to be an athletic trainer, which also certified him in science, so he taught anatomy, physiology and sports medicine. Owens taught for 33 years.

Owens and his wife Wanda have two twin boys, Jay and Todd (pictured) and daugther, Amber. Photo submitted.

In 1979, Owens met his current wife, Wanda, on a blind date. They got married in 1980 and had three children, twin sons Jay and Todd, 32, and daughter Amber, 27. Owens also has a grandson named Brody, 5, from Amber.

“We call my wife Lolli, which is partly my fault,” Owens said. “When I found out I was having a grandkid I said I’d be damned if I’d be called grandpa or granddad. So Wanda asked me if l didn’t mind ‘Pop’ and I said I liked that. And then our names became ‘Lollipop’.”

Owens, who started playing tennis in college and is currently a member of the United States Tennis Association, came to Elon in 2000 under Coach Parham, the men’s tennis coach, and started working with summer camps. When Parham retired and Leonard took over, Owens became assistant coach for the men’s tennis team. A few years later, Owens also decided to help out with the women’s tennis team. He also teaches the tennis class at Elon. Owens has really enjoyed his time coaching the teams.

“The guys are extraordinarily easy to bond with,” Owens said. “They’re good people, they’re easy to get along with and they’re very coachable. They’re good citizens and hard workers.”

No sleep tonight 

Due to his experiences in Vietnam, Owens doesn’t sleep. He rests, but he doesn’t sleep. He stays in the “sleep onset” stage of sleep.

“I hear things; I listen to monotonous noise, like a fan moving, and if something happens that breaks it, I’m instantly aware of it,” Owens said. “And if you ask me something you’ll swear I’ve been awake all night because I talk just like I’m talking now.”

When Owens arrived in Vietnam, he was told there were snakes everywhere.

“When you’re in your tent sleeping, you have mosquito netting around you and the wind will blow through and run across the hairs on your legs and arms so I’d think it was a snake,” Owens said. “From that point on, I was just terrified, and it just established me to go into this one stage and stay there.”

In the sleep onset stage, Owens motors down, his metabolic rates and breathing slows, and he rests.

“I’m not an insomniac because I can motor down and lay down and get the kind of rest I need,” Owens said. “But I don’t have to have this idea of 6 or 7 hours of deep sleep. It’s not something I’ve done consciously or practiced. But it’s worked out fine for me. I need to rest but I don’t need to have what everybody else is getting in order to be refreshed in the morning.”

It has become second nature to Owens now. He always gets the rest he needs, even when he was playing football.

“It’s like the old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Owens said. “It’s the way I’ve been for so long, it’s not even an issue.”

While most people find this interesting, Owens just thinks it’s strange, as he reiterated many times. He says anyone can have as many interesting experiences as he has had.

“If you live long enough, a lot of things are going to happen to you,” Owens said. “It’s not something you plan, it’s just life constantly doing things that are unusual and strange. Some aren’t always good, but it’s just the way it is. And it can happen to anybody. And it does, it happens to everybody.”

Written by juliasayers

May 9, 2011 at 8:54 am

The Abridged Math Tools for Journalists: Wickham Briefing chpts. 9-12

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Directional Measurements

         Directional measurements are things like time, rate and distance, and are necessary to journalism. When working with time, rate and distance, you have to make sure the units stay the same. The formula involving these three things is: Distance = rate x time. This can be rearranged also as Rate = distance/time and Time = distance/rate.

Example 1

A train is approaching a station at 70 mph, and is 200 miles from the station. When will the train arrive at the station? 

Time= 200/70

Time = 2.9 hours 

Other directional measurements are speed, velocity, acceleration, g-force and momentum. Be careful not to get speed and velocity confused. Speed measures how fast something is going where as velocity also indicates its direction. Most reporters will only have to figure out speed. The most useful formula for speed is average speed, which is calculated by dividing distance by time. Acceleration is also useful to find out. The formula is acceleration = (ending velocity – starting velocity) / time. To come up with ending velocity for a free falling object, you can plug 9.8 meters/second into the acceleration formula. But if you only know the distance it fell, you can use the formula ending speed = square root of (2(acceleration x distance)). One last measurement is momentum, determined by mass x velocity.

Area Measurements

Area measurements can often by done through visual analogies by journalists, but sometimes the reader might not understand the analogy, and that is where numbers come in. Analogies also fail to give exact numbers. Following are basic formulas for all areas of measurement.

Perimeter = (2 x length) + (2 x width)

Area = length x width

Area of a triangle = .5 base x height

Circumference = 2p x radius

Example 2 

A reporter wants to find out the circumference of a trampoline. The distance from one end of the trampoline to the other is 10 feet. 

Circumference = 2pi x 5

Circumference = 31.4 feet 

If you wanted to later find the area of a circle, you would use the formula Area = pi x radius^2.

Volume Measurements 

            Volume measurements are also essential to journalism. To understand liquid measurements, journalists must know common liquid conversions. For example, 16 ounces equal 1 cup and 4 quarts equal 1 gallon. To find the volume of a rectangular solid, use the formula Volume = length x width x height.

Example 3 

What is the volume of a treasure chest measuring 7 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 3 inches tall? 

Volume = 7 x 4 x 3

Volume = 84 cubic inches 

One last measurement is the ton. There are different types of tons: a short ton (2000 pounds), a long or British ton (2240 pounds) and a metric ton (1,000 kilograms or 2204.62 pounds).

The Metric System 

Even though it is not commonly used in America, it is very important that journalists understand the metric system, especially if they are dealing with international commerce. The metric system is based on multiples of ten and the decimal system. Users can change from one unit to another by multiplying or dividing by multiples of ten. Unit names are meter (length), gram (mass) and liter (volume). These are changed to make greater or smaller numbers by adding prefixes like kilo, centi, mili. When it comes to length, to change from American lengths to the metric system, there are set conversions:

–       inches by 25.4 for millimeters or 2.5 for centimeters

–       feet by 30 for centimeters or .3 for meters

–       yards by 90 for centimeters or .9 for meters

–       miles by 1.6 for kilometers

Example 4 

The length of garden tract was 50 feet. The requirements for the tract were 20 meters. Did the tract meet the requirements? If not, how long would the tract have to be in feet? 

50 feet x 0.3 = 15 meters

No, it did not meet the requirements.  So use the formula to determine length in feet. 

Length x .03 = 20

Length = 20/.03

Length = 66.67 feet 

Style points:

–       All units are lower case

–       Units are plural only when the numerical value that precedes them is more than 1

–       Symbols are never pluralized

–       A space is used between the number and the symbol it refers to

–       Periods are not used after unit names, unless at the end of a sentence

[All credit goes to Kathleen Woodruff Wickham]

Written by juliasayers

May 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

Steve Riley speaks about importance of investigative reporting

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Steve Riley speaks to students about the role and importance of investigative reporting. Photo by Julia Sayers.

By Julia Sayers

Steve Riley, senior editor for enterprising at the Raleigh News and Observer, spoke Wednesday about investigative reporting.

Riley started out as a sports writer but soon after found a job in news, where he was able to write more hard-hitting stories. In 1993, he attended a conference for investigative reporters where Robert Caro was speaking. After this conference he became interested in investigative reporting. Riley liked investigative reporting because he could say “I did the work.”

When writing an investigative piece, journalists must present a fair picture but not necessarily a balanced picture, Riley said.

“You must write with authority,” Riley said. “You spent the time, you did the work, so you are able to tell the reader what the truth is.”

The purpose of investigative reports is to tell the reader what the truth is. Riley said in investigative reports, readers will see a lot of flat statements and assertions.

Riley also spoke about the purpose and importance of editors in the newsroom.

“Editors are not just there to correct your comma splices and move paragraphs around,” Riley said. “They are involved in story development, decide the people we go see and the questions we ask, they make sure we don’t waste time and they make sure stories will have high impact.”

Since investigative journalism is about exposing the truth, the reports must have an impact. Riley said his paper doesn’t want to waste time on stories that won’t do anything. Investigative reporting is important for the country.

“Good journalism is indispensable to the future of the country,” Riley said.

Written by juliasayers

May 5, 2011 at 11:51 pm

SURF Day: Not just for science majors

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When students think of SURF Day, Elon’s spring undergraduate research forum, they often think of it as just being scientific research. However, many students proved this to be untrue by conducting research on dance, advertisements and technology. The following are profiles on four SURF presentations.

Lauren Kolodrubetz studied Time Magazine advertisements during the Cold War to see if the war was a prominent factor in the ads. Photo by Julia Sayers.

Name: Lauren Kolodrubetz

Presentation Title: Cold War Cultural Influences: A Content Analysis Study of Time Advertisements

Research Summary: Kolodrubetz looked at advertisements in Time magazine during the time of the Cold War to see how they were influenced by the war. She compared ads during times of high tension and low tension. Her hypothesis was that there would be more ads during the high tension time, however this was found to not be true. The content actually decreased in a steady decline throughout the war, but there was a consistency of pro-American ads.

Inspiration for topic: “I’m an honors fellow and I took a class called ‘Cold War and the Media’ where we had to conduct original research,” Kolodrubetz said. “There was little to no research on this topic so I chose to do it.”

What’s next: “For my honors thesis, I’m using this information and also conducting a three magazine study for the years 1952-1953 on ads involving safety and security,” Kolodrubetz said.

Amy Kenney researched how American students used Facebook as compared to how international students used it and what they use it for. Photo by Julia Sayers.

Name: Amy Kenney

Presentation Title: French and American Perceptions Regarding the Role of Social Media in Their Undergraduate Study Abroad Experience

Research Summary: Kenney looked at how students studying abroad and international students use Facebook – how much they use it, why, what purposes and how it affects their experiences. She found that American students abroad used it to keep in touch with family and friends while abroad, whereas international students used it when they came to America to connect with students at their universities. American students used it much more than international students and felt that it really affected their experiences, since they wouldn’t be able to stay in touch as easily without it. International students felt that it didn’t really make a difference and their experience would have been the same with or without it.

Inspiration for topic: “I’m going abroad to France in the fall and my advisor (Sophie Adamson) helped me come up with the topic,” Kenney said. “Facebook is everywhere so I thought this would make an interesting connection.”

What’s next: “I’m going to study this more while I’m abroad, kind of make it a case study of myself and see how I use Facebook and how important it is for me,” Kenney said.

Elizabeth Cooper did research on whether text and e-mail messages help in supporting young girls in the Alamance Girls in Motion program. Photo by Julia Sayers.

Name: Elizabeth Cooper

Presentation Title: The Effect of Supplemental Support Via E-Mail and Text Messages on Perceptions of Body Image, Self-Esteem and Social Support in 4th and 5th Grade Participants in Alamance Girls in Motion

Research Summary: Alamance Girls in Motion is a face-to-face mentoring program that pairs young girls in Alamance County with girls from Elon University. Cooper added an e-mentoring program to see if it would cause a difference, since face-to-face mentoring for a year doesn’t always maintain a difference later. An experimental group was put in the e-mentoring program, but Cooper found that there wasn’t a significant difference in perceived social support.

Inspiration: “I was a mentor for Alamance Girls in Motion and wanted to come up with a way to help,” Cooper said.

What’s next: “I’m going to continue to help out with Alamance Girls in Motion after the year, probably throughout the summer,” Cooper said.

Krysten Malcolm, an Elon senior, researched muscle activation in dancers. Photo by Julia Sayers.

Name: Krysten Malcolm

Presentation Title: Kinetics and Kinematics of Passé Relevé Balance in Dancers

Research Summary: Malcolm tried to find the pattern of core activity in one-leg balance while trying to pinpoint the muscle activity and body position involved in stability. She compared core muscle activity of trained ballet dancers and untrained counterparts by looking at the kinematic and kinetic measures of core stability. She found that dancers balanced longer in the positions and contract their obliques on the opposite side of the fall direction while non-dancers tended to sway more and contract on the same side of the fall direction. She also found that individuals engage different contraction patterns depending on external disturbance.

Inspiration: “I’ve been dancing for 19 years and wanted to research the methods of dance, specifically ballet,” Malcolm said.

What’s next: “I’m graduating and going to Physical Therapy school at George Washington University,” Malcolm said.

Written by juliasayers

May 2, 2011 at 8:57 am

The Abridged Math Tools for Journalists: Wickham Briefing chpts. 5-8

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By Julia Sayers

Polls and Surveys

Journalists use polls and surveys as important supplemental elements to their work. Polls are the public’s opinions on a single question or topic while surveys are the public’s opinions on a series of questions. In order to do a survey, ideally researchers would like to interview every person in the population but that is not possible so they often rely on samples. There are many different ways to get a sampling. Cluster sampling involves surveying a specific group, such as students enrolled in a class. Systematic sampling involves choosing a number, such as seven, and then calling every 7th person in the phone book. Probability sampling involves putting all subjects into a hat and then drawing out a particular percentage. These are just a few ways sampling can be done. Two important terms to understand are margin of error and confidence level. Margin of error indicates the degree of accuracy of the research based on standard norms. It is expressed as a percentage based on the size of the sample. The more people polled, the smaller the margin of error. Confidence level is the level or percentage at which researchers have confidence in the results of their research. Confidence level is determined in advance and varies from field to field.
Journalists should also understand z scores and t scores. A z score shows how much a particular figure differs from the mean. It is used to compare figures that are hard to compare in raw form. The formula for a z score is: (raw score – mean) / standard deviation. The t score is used when the sample size is smaller than 100.


The business beat in reporting involves the most math of all beats. Sources come from things like press releases, financial statements, quarterly earnings reports and annual reports. Profit and loss reports are some of the most important documents for a company. They show if the company is making money. They do this basically by subtracting expenses from income. The difference between costs of goods sold and selling price is the gross margin.

Example 1

The cost of making a pair of jeans for a company is $30. However, they sell the jeans for $70. What is their gross margin?

Gross margin = selling price – costs of goods sold
70-30 = $40 gross margin

However, this is not the total profit for the company, since other things must be figured in like overhead and all the other expenses of the company.
Other important formulas:
Gross profit = gross margin x number of items sold
Net profit = gross margin – overhead
Assets = Liabilities + Equity
If you have the facts, the formulas are easy to fill in and figure out.
Ratios are also important for business reporting. The most popular is the current ratio, which is found by dividing current assets by current liabilities.

Example 2

A soda company has $205.3 million in current assets and $194.6 million in current liabilities. What is the current ratio?

205.3 million / 194.6 million = 1.05

A ratio of 1.05 means the soda company has $1.05 in assets for each dollar in liabilities.

Other ratios formulas:
Quick ratio = cash/ current liabilities
Debt-to-asset ratio = total debt / total assets
Debt-to-equity ratio = total debt / equity
Return on assets = net income / total assets
Return on equity = net income / equity
Price earnings ratio = market price or share / earnings or share

Stocks and Bonds

Stocks are an important part for all corporations, and sometimes individuals. Corporations make money by selling stocks and when an individual buys stock in a company, they become part owner in a company. The more popular a stock is, the higher the price is. Corporations also make money by selling bonds, which is similar to a loan from an investor to the government or other organization. They earn low-rate interest and are low-risk investments. Until the bond reaches maturity, the owner will annually get the interest. When the bond reaches maturity, the owner will often get the face value he paid for the bond. However bonds fluctuate on the market, so in turn the current yield (return on the bond) does too. Many reporters are interested in calculating the cost of a bond issued by a municipality. This can be done by the formula: Bond cost (interest) = amount x rate x years.

Example 3

The town of Hickory, NC decided to issue $7 million worth of 15 year bonds to pay for new parks. If the coupon is 5%, how much will Hickory have to pay in interest over the life of the bonds?

Bond cost = 7 million x .05 x 15
Bond cost = 5.25 million

Journalists might want to explain to readers that this means $12.25 million will go to the new parks.

Property Taxes

Property taxes are the largest source of income for local government, school districts and other municipal organizations. The property tax rate is determined by taking the total amount of money the governing body needs and dividing that among the property owners in that taxing district. The amount each owner pays depends on the value of his property. Property taxes are expressed in mills, 1/10 of a cent. Key things to remember when writing about property taxes is the reappraisal value, taxes imposed by other governing bodies and the type of the property, as many are assessed differently. Appraisal value is based on the use of the property and the characteristics, such as location, square footage, age, quality, amenities, etc. To find the assessed value of a property, multiply the appraisal value by the rate. To calculate tax on a property, use the formula: tax owed = tax rate x (assessed value / $100). If the amount is assessed by amount per 1000, divide by 1000 instead of 100.

Example 4

Hickory is raising its local property tax from 65 cents per $100 to 77 per $100. How much more will the owner of a $350,000 house pay next year if the assessed value is based on 20% of the appraised value?

First you must find assessed value.

350,000 x .20 = 70,000

Then use the assessed value to find the taxes paid at the old rate and at the new rate.

Old rate taxes paid = .65 x (70,000/100)
Old tax = $455

New rate taxes paid= .77 x (70,000/100)
New tax = $539

To find out how much more the owner is paying, simply subtract the old rate from the new rate.

539 – 455= $84

So the homeowner will pay $84 more dollars in taxes next year.

[All credit goes to Kathleen Woodruff Wickham]

Written by juliasayers

April 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm

International Student Increase

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Why international students choose to study in the United States and the role they play in helping others to become global citizens

By Julia Sayers

A map in Bill Burress' office has red pins to represent where Elon University's international students are from.

Elon University has 49 different countries represented in its student population, with international students comprising three percent of the total enrollment.  In the past ten years, many schools, including Elon, have been seeking to diversify and globalize their campuses by recruiting more international students.

“We’re trying to be more representative of the world,” said Cheryl Borden, director of international admissions at Elon University. “It’s a lofty goal but it would benefit both students and faculty.”

Graphic courtesy of Open Doors

The number of international students in the United States has increased significantly since 1999.

In the past school year, 2009-2010, there was a 2.9 percent increase in international students in the U.S. over the previous year, from 671,616 to 690,923 students. This trend is expected to grow steadily. These increased numbers come as a result of U.S. colleges attempting to diversify their campuses and the students’ desire for higher education.

Lions on the back porch — Overcoming stereotypes

As part of the Elon University Commitment and 10-year strategic plan, Elon leaders say they hope to provide a global experience for all students, even while they are on campus.

“You hear the phrase ‘global citizenship’, and you can achieve this with study abroad, learning about new languages and religions, and having students go out in the world. But why not have that in day-to-day experiences?” Borden asked.

Toorialey Fazly, an Elon freshman from Kabul, Afghanistan, recognizes these day-to-day experiences are an important part of college life.

            “The international students are contributing a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill to the system,” Fazly said. “They do this in formal ways through research, in class and in organizations, and informally as promoting awareness, having discussions in dining halls, parties and the library.”

Borden says celebrating and understanding global diversity includes having people from various cultures, backgrounds and religions on campus.

“Not only does it make our students well prepared for the world, but it educates staff and makes people more tolerant and aware of differences,” Borden said.

François Masuka, director of international student services at Elon University, says it’s good that Elon is trying to increase the number of students, but this shouldn’t be the end goal.

“The goal is to take advantage of every encounter you have,” Masuka said. “To learn and teach what each country has to offer, culturally, politically and economically. When we interact, we open the doors for each other to see what the other culture has to offer, and you respect them for that.”

Bill Burress, international programs advisor at Elon, says seeing what other cultures have to offer will help students to see similarities between each other.

“The presence of students from foreign countries helps us to realize most people have the same goals and similar values, like hard work, family, good education,” Burress said. “It’s humanizing the other culture, making alien cultures have a face. It also helps the foreign students put a face to those in the United States, instead of knowing us only by our government policy.”

Many people have stereotypes of what different cultures are like, but when they actually meet someone from that culture, their views are changed.

“It’s funny to hear some of the questions the international students get asked,” Burress said. “People will ask the African students things like ‘Do you have lions on your back porch?’ They find out that their lives aren’t really that much different than their own.”

Elon’s international students also recognize the role they play in helping other students to become global citizens.

“So far I have seen that international students are providing first hand information for most domestic students on issues that can not be found out through media or online resources,” Fazly said. “It definitely contributes to the knowledge of domestic students in being global citizens.”

Burress also says these first-hand accounts are vital to learning.

“Any time you have someone in class discussing something like the Arab conflict, it’s always better to have a first-hand source of information,” Burress said. “You can read in a book about it all you want, but having someone who has lived there all their life and can say ‘this is the way it is from my perspective’ is so much better.”

The nature of the current times is also an influential factor of the increase in international students, Masuka says.

“We’re living in an age that’s challenging any notion of boundaries, countries, economic, political, linguistic and social barriers,” he explained. “Technology changes things and the world is flatter than it has ever been, so it only makes sense that we have peoples from different countries and cultures.”

Draws of the United States education system

One of the reasons Fazly, age 26, came to the United States was because of the lack of institutional leadership in Afghanistan. He said many students come to the United States for school because of the richness of the education system.

“In Afghanistan, there is a lack of equipment and resources in the educational systems,” Fazly said. “There is a lot of information for research for students here. I can come up with any question and no matter what it is, the answer is easy to find. Back home it’s very different because of the lack of resources.”

            Many students say the reputation of the education system in the United States is the reason for the increase in international interest.

“The education system is obviously the best in the world,” said Marzia Faraz, also from Kabul, Afghanistan. “If you have a degree from a university in the United States, it means a lot when you go to get a job.”

Borden has similar views.

“For many years, the U.S. has been the premier destination to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree,” Borden said. “Other countries in the last few years have started to more actively recruit international students, but what helps the U.S. is the diversity of schools it has to offer students.”

This diversity refers to the size of the schools, the region and the majors and degrees offered. Beth Pryor, an employee of Student Recruitment Media in the United Kingdom, a company focused on international students and students interested in studying internationally, says that the broadness and diversity of the education system in the United States is one of the main draws for students.

“The U.S. is thought to be harder because you have to take so many more classes, whereas in the United Kingdom you literally take your degree subject and that’s it,” Pryor said. “People who want a broader education may choose the United States.”

            The options for a diverse and broad education also factor into students’ desire for new experiences. Chris Spalding, an Elon senior from Costa Rica, wanted to do something different than his friends.

“I always knew coming to the United States would be better than staying home and seeing the same friends and doing the same things,” Spalding said. “A lot more people are wanting to have a different experience than what they know and the United States seems like a great place to do it.”

Students can choose to go to schools in big cities such as New York or Los Angeles or schools in small towns, like Elon. Teri Horn, an Elon student from Bangkok, Thailand, explained that most international students only know of the big-name schools in the United States.

“The thing that’s hard about being international is that the schools we know about in the U.S. are like Yale, San Diego, the big name schools,” Horn said. “I had no idea about Duke or Chapel Hill. We only know of small schools through what comes to us. It’s really how the information gets to us, and Elon is great with that.”

The Recruitment Process

North Carolina is ranked number 17 out of all 50 states in the amount of international students enrolled. According to the Open Doors data report for 2010, North Carolina State University had the highest international population, with a total of 3,262 students out of a total enrollment of 34,376. The leading places of origin for foreign students in North Carolina are China (at 20.4 percent), India, South Korea, Canada and Taiwan. The institution with the highest number of international students in the United States is the University of Southern California.

Elon University’s number of international students has grown throughout the years. These numbers have increased from 37 students in the 1997-1998 school year to 120 students in 2009-2010, a 224 percent increase.

Elon admissions counselors focus their recruitment in specific regions of Asia, Europe, Central America, Latin American and the Middle East. To help choose which areas to focus on, they use Open Doors data reports, part of the Institute of International Education, to track where international students are coming from and what the top countries are regionally. Other strategies are to look at where students currently at Elon are from and where alumni are from.

Borden and her colleagues travel in groups with other schools to recruit students from foreign countries. They hold college fairs where they meet students and discuss their programs and contact schools in particular cities that they have had students from or schools known as good places at which to recruit students. Part of the reason Elon is successful in recruiting internationally is its active involvement with organizations that support international student recruitment such as NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling, which promotes international exchange.

Horn heard about Elon through one of the college fairs the school held and then was contacted afterward by an admissions counselor.

“I got a lot of personal attention, which was nice,” Horn said. “The counselor would e-mail me to see how things were going, and if I needed anything I would e-mail him specifically and he would e-mail me back right away.”

Duke University, ranked second highest in North Carolina for the number of international students, has a similar recruiting process to Elon in that counselors travel to international high schools and keep in contact with students. In 2010, Duke had 2,325 international students enrolled, according to the Open Doors data report for North Carolina. Anne Sjostrom, associate director of undergraduate admissions and director of international admissions at Duke, says one of best ways to recruit international students is to bring a personal aspect to the process.

“We try to give every applicant as much personal attention as possible by keeping up correspondence,” Sjostrom said. “Personalization is really important. It’s a human process, and without that contact the student could feel anonymous.”

Another resource for recruitment is the leaders from all over the world who travel to universities to speak.

“I was referred to Elon by our embassy in D.C. because our political counselor, Ashraf Haidari, had been invited to give a speech at Elon,” Fazly said. “He had been briefed by Elon’s president and had information on majors they offered and other information that was given to me when I contacted the embassy.”

Fazly says that schools could recruit even more students if they took advantage of the United States embassies in other countries.

“Prior to my arrival, it was hard to find anyone who knew about Elon,” Fazly said. “One of the easiest ways would be to go through the U.S. government. The U.S. has embassies in different countries, and those embassies have educational programs for citizens seeking information. If Elon has an information packet or campaign to share with them, that would help to put its name out there.”

However, not all schools are trying to increase their international population simply to have a higher percentage.

“We’re not necessarily trying to recruit more international students at Duke,” Sjostrom said. “We’re not led by a particular percentage. The number we’ll have in the future depends on compelling applications. We’re just eager to have the best and broadest selection of students we can have.”

The Duke international population is not evenly distributed, with more students in the freshman and sophomore classes. International students make up 12 percent of the class of 2014 at Duke.

“I’m really pleased with the size of our international class this year, and if we could stabilize at that level, I think it would be great,” Sjostrom said.

How do international students continue to affect Americans even after graduation?

            Attending a globally diverse school is not only effective in helping students to become global citizens but also in sparking a desire to see more of the world and learn about other cultures.

“If you have a friend from France, you are more likely to be interested in going to France,” Faraz said. “It makes you want to go there to see your friends and when they speak to each other, it makes you want to learn the language.”

Having students from all over the world interacting with American students can be a life changing experience.

“When you graduate you have a sense of what someone from Afghanistan thinks,” Masuka said. “You don’t go with the media and the stereotype it’s putting out there. You’ve met them, you’ve learned from them and you feel comfortable with them. Your life is changed forever.”

Written by juliasayers

April 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm