Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut on March 31, 2005 · Page A09
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Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut · Page A09

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Thursday, March 31, 2005
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Page A09
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A proposal by the Education Department would force every college and university in America to report all their students’ Social Security numbers and other information about each individual — including credits earned, degree plan, race and ethnicity, and grants and loans received — to a national databank. The government would record every student, regardless of whether he or she receives federal aid, in the databank. The government’s plan is to track students individually and in full detail as they complete their post-secondary education. The threat to our students’ privacy is of grave concern, and the government has not satisfactorily explained why it wants to collect individual information. Researchers at the Education Department say this mammoth project would give them better information on graduation rates and what students pay for college. Perhaps this would be interesting information to collect, but at what cost to individual privacy? At what cost in time and effort to the government and the educational institutions? As a college president who has spent her career in higher education, I know that a system is already in place to collect statistics. This system meets the government’s need to inform public policy without intruding on students’ privacy. Since 1992, every college or university whose students receive federal financial aid has been required to submit summary data on enrollment, student aid, graduation rates and other matters via the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Under the proposal that will soon be submitted to Congress, instead of aggregate statistics, colleges and universities would be required to feed data on each student to the Education De- partment’s National Center for Education Statistics. Should an institution refuse, the government could take away federal grants, loans and work-study funds from every student at the college, a penalty that would fall on students in need while leaving more affluent students unaffected. Such a proposal is unacceptable, and we should work hard to defeat it. The creation of a gigantic database containing educational records and other personal data on millions would be a costly and troubling assault on privacy. This information could all too easily be shared with other government agencies or even with the private sector. The potential for abuse of power and violation of civil liberties is immense. The database would begin with 15 million-plus records of students in the first year and grow. These student records would be held by the federal government for at least the life of the student. Collecting and compiling data for such a system would increase college and university costs for hardware, staffing and training. Such costs would join surging health care and energy expenses in pushing tui- tions up. Federal officials have shown no compelling public policy need that outweighs Americans’ basic expectations of privacy. The Education Department’s proposal to gather unprecedented amounts of personal data on individual students is dangerous and poorly conceived. Congress must reject this measure. Alma Mater As Big Brother KATHERINE HALEY WILL Perhaps this would be interesting information to collect, but at what cost to individual privacy? At what cost in time and effort to the government and the educational institutions? JON KRAUSE Katherine Haley Will is president of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. She wrote this for The Washington Post. Zone: 1S PAGE: A9 Typesetter: GUSS50BQueue: 68 Date: 03/30Time: 21:54 Plate: CMYK CMYK THEHARTFORDCOURANT M THURSDAY, MARCH31, 2005 A9 OTHER OPINION T oo much bubbly can be dangerous. So concluded an international team of scientists in explaining what mysteriously killed 1,800 people in 1986 near Lake Nyos in Cameroon, West Africa. Thanks to the work of many investigators with funding from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), this unusual natural hazard — dubbed a lake eruption — has effectively been eliminated from the list of things we have to worry about on planet Earth. This elegant case study of science serving humanity gives me hope for the future. At a time of heightened international tension and strained political relations, it’s nice to know that scientists from France, the former colony of French Cameroon and the United States can team together. At a time when the integrity of the United Nations is being questioned, I’m pleased to report they got this initiative really right. Though earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, volcanoes and floods continue to claim human lives, lake eruptions have been rendered impotent with life-saving technology as simple as a drinking straw. Here’s what happened. One night in August 1986, the world woke up to strange news. The bodies of the villagers, their pets and their livestock lay dead on the ground as if struck down by some evil spirit. Everything else looked completely normal. No height where the overlying fresher water wasn’t heavy enough to prevent bubbles from forming. The first few bubbles forming at depth in the lake initiated a chain reaction, creating a fizz, then a foam, then an explosion that rose to the surface of the lake and released the gas. From there, it flowed over the victims like an evil wind. Within a week, scientific detectives began moving in. Within a year, a solid hypothesis had been proposed. Within a decade, technical papers had been written and presented at international conferences. Within the following decade, an experiment was being conducted to prevent arecurrent tragedy. Recently, the final results of a successful long-term mitigation experiment were reported. The technological fix consists of a non- corrosive plastic pipe inserted into the base of the lake. All the engineers had to do was pump up enough water to initiate the fizzing reaction, then let the process sustain itself at non-lethal rates of gas release. About 2.8 million cubic meters of bubbly fizz out of the lake annually as if from a never-ending bottle of cream soda that was shaken too hard. Now, that’s what I call a happy ending. Residents of this developing nation no longer fear suffocation by their beautiful, beguiling lake. massacre had taken place. There was no property damage or evidence of disease, or release of radioactivity or poison gas. No witnesses survived, except those who heard a distant explosion. We now know that the unfortunate souls near Lake Nyos drowned in an invisible cloud of gas that bubbled up out of the lake, then flowed silently over the village in a stealthy flood of carbon dioxide. Lake Nyos is an unusually deep lake lying within the crater of an extinct volcano. Seeping into it are naturally carbonated springs of mineral water similar to what can be found on the shelf of a grocery store. Under normal conditions, springs release most of their dissolved gas upon nearing the surface, where the confining pressure is lower. Something similar happens when we pop the cork, pull the top, tap the keg or unscrew the cap from any carbonated beverage. Opening the container lowers the pressure, which allows the harmless gas to bubble out of solution. The bubbles rise to the top and pop, releasing the gas into the atmosphere. The degassing of a bottle of champagne is similar to what happened in Cameroon. In that country’s case, however, there was so much carbon dioxide near the ground that the victims couldn’t breathe in enough oxygen. The cap on Lake Nyos wasn’t a bottle cork. Instead, it was the sheer weight of the water column above the slightly heavier basal layer of carbonated water. With a constant groundwater inflow of gas-enriched water to the bottom of the lake, it was only a matter of time before the gas- enriched layer thickened to the Deadly Lake Defanged ROBERT M. THORSON CAMEROON’S LAKE NYOS, seen in 2001, killed 1,800 people when it released a deadly cloud of carbon dioxide in 1986. ASSOCIATED PRESS Robert M. Thorson is a professor of geology at the University of Connecticut and a member of The Courant’s Place board of contributors. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at profthorson@hotmail.com. T he power to tax involves, as Chief Justice John Marshall said, the power to destroy. So does the power of tax reform, which is one reason Rep. John Linder, a Georgia Republican, has a 133-page bill to replace 55,000 pages of tax rules. His bill would abolish the IRS and the many billions of tax forms it sends out and receives. He would erase the federal income tax system — personal and corporate income taxes, the regressive payroll tax and self-employment tax, capital gains, gift and estate taxes, the alternative minimum tax and the earned income tax credit — and replace all that with a 23 percent national sales tax on personal consumption. That would not only sensitize consumers to the cost of government with every purchase, it would destroy K Street. “K Street” is shorthand for Washington’s lawyer-lobbyist complex. It exists to continually complicate and defend the tax code, which is a cornucopia from which the political class pours benefits on constituencies. By replacing the income tax — Linder had better repeal the 16th Amendment, to make sure the tax stays gone — everyone and all businesses would pay their taxes through economic choices, and K Street’s intellectual capital, which consists of knowing how to game the tax code, would be radically depreciated. Under his bill, he says, all goods, imported and domestic, the average small business $724 to collect and remit $100. In 1945, corporations paid more than one-third of the government’s revenues. Now they pay only 11 percent because corporations, especially multinationals, are voluntary taxpayers. In a world increasingly without borders that block capital movements, corporations pay where the burden is lowest. Linder says $6 trillion in offshore accounts would have an incentive to come home under his plan. With no taxes on capital and labor, multinationals would, Linder thinks, stampede to locate here, which would be an incentive for other nations to emulate America. “This,” Linder says, “would unleash freedom around the globe.” Critics argue that ending the income tax, with its deductibility of charitable contributions, would depress giving. Linder says: Piffle. In 1980, when the top personal income tax rate was 70 percent, a huge incentive for giving, individual charitable contributions were $40.7 billion. In 1986 the top rate was reduced to 28 percent, and by 1988 charitable giving was $86.7 billion. The lesson, says Linder, is that we give more when we have more. This year, House Speaker Dennis Hastert added Linder to the Ways and Means Committee. Linder cheerfully says his bill would reduce Ways and Means to “a B committee” by ending the political fun of making the tax code ever more baroque for the benefit of K Street’s clients. Bliss. would be treated equally at the checkout counter, and all taxpayers — including upward of 50 million foreign visitors annually —would pay “as much as they choose, when they choose, by how they choose to spend.” And his bill untaxes the poor by including amonthly rebate, for every household, equal to the sales tax on consumption of essential goods and services, as calculated by the government, up to the annually adjusted poverty level. Today, the percentage of taxpayers who rely on professional tax preparers is at an all-time high. The 67 percent of tax filers who do not itemize may think they avoid compliance costs, which include nagging uncertainty about whether one has properly complied with a tax code about the meaning of which experts differ. But everyone pays the cost of the tax system’s vast drag on the economy. Linder says Americans spend 7billion hours a year filling out IRS forms and at least that much calculating the tax implications of business decisions. Economic growth suffers because corporate boards waste huge amounts of time on such calculations rather than making economically rational allocations of resources. Corporations do not pay payroll and income taxes and compliance costs, they collect them from consumers through prices. So the 23 percent consumption tax would allow taxpayers to stop paying the huge embedded cost of corporate taxation. Linder says the director of the Congressional Budget Office told him it costs individuals and businesses about $500 billion to remit $2 trillion to Washington. And studies show that it costs Who Would Mourn For Tax Code? GEORGE F. WILL George F. Will is a syndicated writer in Washington. Plan the Plan the Perfect Vacation Perfect Vacation And Win a And Win a Free Trip! Free Trip! It’s easy. Order your free vacation brochures and be automatically entered to win a free trip for two at the Winwood Inn in Windham, NY. Enjoy a two-night stay and two days of golf. Log on to www.courant.com/getaways for your chance to win through April 15. 1.TO ENTER: You must be 18 years of age or older and a resident of Connecticut. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes begins March 13, 2005 and ends April 15, 2005.To enter, go to www.courant.com/get- aways, and fi ll out the registration form completely. To enter by mail, fi ll out and mail the entry form printed in the Hartford Courant’s Vacation Getaways advertising section on March 13, 2005 and mail to Getaways Sweepstakes, Hartford Courant Advertising Department, 285 Broad Street, Hartford, CT 06115. Only one entry per household. One entry per computer. Subsequent entries from a single computer will delete earlier entries from that computer. All entries must be received by April 15, 2005. Entrants must use their own name. Copies or other mechanical reproductions, facsimiles, entries containing technical or electronic reproductions, e-mail entries containing attached fi les, mail entries stamped with a private postage meter, and entries which do not comply with these rules are not eligible and will be rejected. Entries become the property of the Hartford Courant company and will not be returned. The Hartford Courant company and Tribune Interactive (TI) are not responsible for lost, incomplete, damaged, illegible, late, postage due or misdirected entries, or for errors in mechanical transmission, technical diffi culties or inability to transmit Internet entries. 2. PRIZES: One fi rst-prize winner will receive one, two-day trip for two persons to the Winwood Inn in Windham, NY; 1 day of golf for 2, 18-holes with cart at Christman’s Windham House; and 1 day of golf for 2, 18 holes with cart at WIndham Country Club. (approximate value: $424).Airfare, ground transportation, meals, incidental expenses and other costs are not included unless specifi cally stated in these Rules. Winners must pay their own transportation and/or other expenses to claim their prize.All prizes will be awarded. Prizes must be claimed within 10 business days of notifi cation or will be awarded to another entrant selected in the same manner as the winner of the unclaimed prize. Prizes are non-transferable, non-negotiable and not redeemable for cash, credit or merchandise. One prize per household. If any prize becomes unavailable for any reason, The Hartford Courant company reserves the right to substitute a prize of comparable value. 3. WINNERS: Winners will be selected by random drawing from among eligible entries. Winners will be notifi ed by e-mail, U.S. mail or telephone on or before April 19, 2005. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Entrants agree TI has the sole right to decide all matters and disputes arising from this Sweepstakes and that TI’s decision is fi nal and binding. Winner must come to the offi ces of the Hartford Courant at 285 Broad Street, Hartford, CT within 10 business days after notifi cation and execute an affi davit of eligibility, liability waiver and present photo identifi cation and social security card and fi ll out a Form W9. Entrants agree to allow use of their name, voice, photograph, likeness and any information provided on entry form, in any medium of communication, including print, Internet, radio and/or television and for any purpose, including advertising, promotional or other purposes, by the Hartford Courant, TI, its affi liates or sponsors, without additional compensation. Winners, by acceptance of their prize, agree to release, indemnify and hold harmless The Hartford Courant company, TI, its parent companies and affi liates, and each of their employees, representatives, contractors, sponsors and advertisers, from any and all liability, loss, damage, costs or claims related to any allegation regarding the award of, the receipt of, or the use of their prize. The Hartford Courant company and TI is not responsible for personal injury of any prize winner incurred in connection with the use of their prize. Winners assume all applicable tax liability for their prize. For a list of winners, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope after May 30, 2005 to: Winner’s List, Getaways Sweepstakes, Hartford Courant Advertising Department, 285 Broad Street, Hartford, CT 06115. 4. ELIGIBILITY: Sweepstakes is not open to employees of TI, The Hartford Courant company, Tribune and affi liates, or their immediate family, or to employees or immediate family of any of their affi liated companies, licensees, advertising or promotional agencies, or sponsors. Sweepstakes is operated by The Hartford Courant company, 285 Broad Street, Hartford, CT 06115.Void where prohibited or restricted. 5. INTERNET: If for any reason, the Internet-related portion of this Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, tampering, fraud, technical failure, or any other cause which corrupts or threatens the administration, security or integrity of the Sweepstakes, TI reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate or suspend the Sweepstakes or any portion of the Sweepstakes. ANY ATTEMPT TO DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE FAIR AND LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES WILL RESULT IN DISQUALIFICATION FROM THE SWEEPSTAKES. Information submitted in Internet entries, including entrant’s name, address, e-mail address, etc., may be used by TI for marketing, promotional or other purposes. Sweepstakes rules shall be governed and enforced pursuant to Connecticut law, excluding choice of law provisions. Windham Country Club

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