June 22, 2007

Not Liking What I See at UC

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:57 pm

NOTE: This post, which originally went up early this morning, has been moved to the top for the rest of the day.

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The Cincinnati Business Courier did a very thorough report last Friday on the financial situation at the University of Cincinnati. It’s an especially telling counterweight to the disgraceful puff piece Cliff Peale of the Cincinnati Enquirer put out in early March about the University and its off-campus development projects.

The financial situation at UC is awful:

The University of Cincinnati is now bogged down by $1.2 billion in debt and carries a $165 million hole in its balance sheet – operating losses that piled up over the last five years.

Off-campus real estate investments, including a $16 million land purchase in the Calhoun Street corridor and the Stratford Heights housing complex, could add millions in new red ink.

A cash flow crunch is so severe that trustees recently agreed to borrow up to $100 million in quasi-endowment funds (money given by donors with no strings attached) to cover short-term operating expenses – a move one expert compared to using your IRA to make a mortgage payment.

….. Ultimately, the budget woes could cost UC a chance to compete among the nation’s elite universities.

Who’s to blame? Some point to state budget cuts, unexpected jumps in utility and health care costs or a lax board of trustees. Some blame former President Joseph Steger and Dale McGirr, former senior vice president of finance, whose policies made UC a voracious borrower. Others argue President Nancy Zimpher worsened the problem by pulling back on two major revenue initiatives and failing to control spending sooner.

“The new administration walked into a situation that they did not fully understand,” said Ann Welsh, a management professor in the UC College of Business and chairwoman of the Faculty Senate. “Now, I think they understand it.”

Balanced budgets will mean higher costs for students. Already more expensive than many of its peers ….. UC has not yet announced whether it will agree to freeze tuition next year in exchange for higher state subsidies.

Nancy Zimpher has been in charge since 2003. The learning-curve excuse rings very, very hollow.

UC is the most expensive public university in the Big East conference.

Oh, about those off-campus development projects:

(Trustees loaned) endowment funds to off-campus developments, including the Village at Stetson Square, the Stratford Heights student housing complex and smaller developments on Calhoun Street and Jefferson Avenue. The endowment’s off-campus loans now stand at about $86 million, including interest. Six nonprofits that owe the money collectively have a negative net worth of $520,000.

….. neighborhood nonprofits (floated) their own bond debt, backed by UC guarantees or lease agreements. Many deals cost more than planned. Others failed to meet projections – forcing UC to subsidize operations. A review of trustee resolutions, bond documents and purchasing records found at least $140 million in extra costs for six projects since 2001.

I find it very offensive that recent parents and students had to endure several years of 9% or so tuition and fee increases to support the university’s routine fiscal missteps, and that current and future parents and students have been and apparently will continue to in effect bail out its years of development-project mismanagement.

I also wonder when “the community,” whose name Zimpher so often invokes, signed on to the idea of transforming what used to be an affordable, well-run choice for students of average means to get a college degree at an urban school into a ridiculously expensive faux-elite institution.

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Selected Previous Posts:
- Mar. 8 — A Pitiful Puff Piece on UC’s Development Consortium That Can’t Slide by Without Comment
- Jan. 29, 2007 — City of Cincinnati and Co-Conspirators Smacked Down on Calhoun Street Eminent-Domain Project
- July 11, 2006 — Cincinnati Is on the Verge of Another Eminent-Domain Nightmare

W-W-W-Wait a Minute: When Did THIS Data-Theft Number Go Up? (Answer: Maybe It Didn’t It Sure Did)

Filed under: Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:15 am

Last I heard, the state had lost data relating to about 67,000 employees and 225,000 others, or roughly 300,000.

The press is reporting that the number has inexplicably jumped (bold is mine):

(AP Article published Friday, June 22, 2007)
Report prepared in Strickland transition warned of data risk

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Months before a computer device containing the Social Security numbers and other personal information of more than 500,000 Ohioans was stolen from an intern’s car, the state was warned it was vulnerable to data theft, The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.

Before he took office in January, Gov. Ted Strickland asked teams of experts to evaluate key areas of state government and submit findings and recommendations.

The team studying the Office of Information Technology concluded the state had “little to no policy guidance or standards” for protecting Social Security numbers and other sensitive information, according to a report prepared as part of Strickland’s transition team.

“Ohio’s lack of a robust, unified privacy/security capacity lays it open to the type of data spills and breaches that have been plaguing the government and the corporate sectors in increasing numbers over the past few years,” the report said.

The report concluded the state needed clear policy and standards set in cooperation with the Legislature, plus proper monitoring and auditing, or the danger of a data breach “will continue to grow.”

When did the number of those affected go from 300,000 to 500,000? It’s not an AP typo: The Dispatch report AP refers to also reports the number as 500,000, but I believe they’re double-counting:

The Ohio Department of Taxation provided a list yesterday showing that the list of affected taxpayers contains 210,930 individuals and 224,058 checks because some people received both refund checks.

Zheesh — If Dispatch reporter Mark Niquette added the “individuals” and the “checks” to the affected state employee count of about 67,000 to get to about 500,000 “Ohioans,” he’s definitely double-counting. The correct number of affected individuals may still be roughly 300,000 (June 23 — see Update below).

Regardless of whether it’s 300,000 or 500,000, I believe the Dispatch article is understating the cost, which it still pegs at about $900,000. Since the state has extended its offer of assistance to all affected, the final cost could be as high as $3 million – $5 million, assuming about $10 per affected person for a year of credit monitoring, plus the state’s administrative costs.

As suspected earlier, there is some ability for the current crew to blame the past one. But the the Dispatch report notes that the problem has been flagged for about six months, which should have been more than enough time for the administration to at least have done something. But it appears little if anything was done until Governor Strickland issued his June 15 Executive Order.

But the big issue that remains is how the known scope of the problem grew in the days after the data theft. Two words describe what’s needed ASAP: Independent Investigation.

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UPDATE, June 23 — The complete roster of affected people, assembled from this Cincinnati Enquirer article Thursday evening, includes:

- 64,000 state employees and 75,500 of their dependents.
- 77,000 Medicaid providers.
- 84,000 recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
- Unspecified school district and local government bank accounts.
- (considered “new” victims in the Enquirer article) About 225,000 taxpayers with uncashed state or local income tax refunds going back to 2005
- (considered “new” victims in the Enquirer article) 602 Ohio Lottery winners who have not cashed checks during the past three months; their names and Social Security numbers also were on the device.
- (considered “new” victims in the Enquirer article) 2,488 Ohioans who have not cashed checks for unclaimed fund payments.
- (considered “new” victims in the Enquirer article) Up to 1,000 Ohioans whose electronic fund transfers of state payments failed to go through to their bank.

The total works out to just short of 520,000.

The Enquirer article also references “338,634 files of data.” Presumably some files had multiple individuals’ data.

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Previous Posts:
- June 21 — What the ???? (Ohio Data Theft Update; Time for an Independent Investigation)
- June 19 — What the ???? (Stolen State Data Was NOT Encrypted)

Couldn’t Help But Notice (062207)

This is why, as suggested in a previous post, you should resist being a camera hound and NOT reveal who you are if you win a big lottery prize:

Police in Montreal say they’ve foiled a bizarre extortion and murder plot apparently aimed at a couple who pocketed a $27 million lottery jackpot last month.

An 18-year-old Mexican citizen was arrested Monday afternoon in a Montreal neighbourhood and arraigned yesterday for conspiracy to abduct, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.

Edwin Scarlotte Mata Lima, who arrived in Canada four months ago, is alleged to have planned the murder of Zenovij Pacholuk and Dolores Coffey, winners of the second-largest lottery windfall in Quebec history.

Before leaving this item — It isn’t necessarily so, but doesn’t it seem like the report, in describing someone “who arrived in Canada four months ago” and is a “Mexican citizen,” is carefully avoiding the use of the term “illegal immigrant”?

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From the “Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department:

The faculty at Antioch College said Thursday they blame “gross mismanagement” by trustees as the cause for the undergraduate campus’ decline and will take legal action to keep the college open.

On June 12 the Antioch University board of trustees decided to close the college in 2008, citing a lack of money caused by declining enrollment and poor fundraising. The college has watched enrollment drop from its 1960s heyday of about 2,000 students to 400 today.

Enrollment declined 80% in 40 years. Does anyone think the faculty count dropped by a similar percentage? It looks from here that the faculty workload has steadily dropped over a protracted period of time, while their pay surely didn’t. At one level, it’s nice to have that kind of situation while it lasts, but playing the outrage card when the gravy-train days come to an end isn’t going to get a lot of sympathy from the real world.

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Think Progress has issued a report — “The Right Wing Domination Of Talk Radio And How To End It.” In essence, they want the government to do it for them, when the solution is for “progressives” to figure out how to engage and entertain the audience instead of talking down to them.

In “totally unrelated” news, Roseanne Barr is ending her brief foray into talk radio. With “engaging” guests from across the political spectrum like Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Maxine Waters, and Christopher Hitchens, I can’t understand why. (/sarcasm)

Update: I suppose this is Talk Radio’s fault too.

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Dagger of the DayIn the latest episode of “As the Mythical EU ‘Consensus’ Collapses”:

Polish premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski ….. invoked their country’s Nazi past as a negotiating ploy.

He claimed Poland deserved more votes because its population was still recovering from more than six million deaths during the Second World War.

Mr Kaczynski accused the Germans of “incomprehensible crimes” against his country, turning what was already set to be an acrimonious meeting into a confrontation between historical enemies.

Positivity: Twins Recall World First

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From New Zealand:

12.06.2007

Jon VINCENT met up with his identical twin Tim this month — after years apart — and in Masterton celebrated the medical miracle that saved his life a decade earlier.

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the first day of a world-first stem cell transplant involving the brothers that within three weeks had forced into remission an aggressive cancer that was killing Jon.

Eight-and-a-half-million stem cells were harvested from Tim, now 44, and transplanted into Jon, who had undergone intense radiation treatment to utterly deplete his immune system in the lead-up to the therapy.

In 1983 Jon had been diagnosed HIV-positive and was the sixth foreigner in America officially recognised with the condition.

It was his HIV practitioner Cassie Workman who had suggested the pioneering procedure.

The therapy was conducted at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, where both brothers were then living, after Jon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma that was attacking 18 locations in his body, including the back of his left eye and the base of his brain.

Go here for the rest of the story.