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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Combating Tech’s Conflict Minerals with Disclosure

Some of our most advanced technology products have helped finance the deadliest conflicts of our time. Perhaps, if tech companies change some of their habits, that can change.

An essential part of most cellphones is the mineral tantalite, which is frequently obtained from the Democratic Republic of Congo under murky circumstances. Tin, tungsten and gold also finance armed groups in Congo on their way to our laptops and tablets.

Hewlett-Packard on Monday is expected to announce that it is publishing a list of 195 ore smelters, located around the world, that are identified with the minerals inside the company’s products. Within about two years, the company says, it wants its parts suppliers, which buy from these smelters, to make sure its minerals were not obtained from conflict zones.

“We believe the upshot of this is, over time, to lower violence and repression,” said Tony Prophet, who runs the global supply chain for H.P.’s personal systems group. “The smelters are the chokepoint. Once you locate them, you can start to pressure them to set a standard.”

While H.P. may be as much as four steps away from the smelters in the supply chain, Mr. Prophet said, as a major purchaser it can still compel good behavior.

In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission also adopted a rule requiring all publicly traded companies to disclose their use of certain conflict minerals beginning next year, although that rule is facing a court challenge.

The issue illuminates a chaotic underside to the clean orderliness of high-tech products. Over the last 15 years, some nine nation’s armies, and perhaps 15 or more armed groups, have fought in Congo. The body count for the region’s wars is estimated to be over five million, making it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

This coincides with the rise in popularity of mobile devices, which has increased demands for minerals found in Congo. That, in turn, attracts warlords.

Despite all the killing, supplies have been stable. The minerals, it turns out, are aggregated through a series of middlemen, much the way illicit drugs are gathered from small-scale growers.

Teams of miners, sometimes carrying a few bags of rocks on dirt tracks, deliver the raw goods to négociants, who in turn sell the material to comptoirs, or trading posts. From there, the goods are consolidated by an exporter, and then go to smelters in Indonesia, China, Russia and elsewhere.

When the minerals come out of a region where there is war going on, there is a good chance that an armed group is being financed. At over 900,000 square miles, or one-quarter the size of all Europe, other areas of the country are also stable.

Under the new program, “when the smelters source from the region, they will need to have documents showing the sources of the minerals,” said Jay Celorie, H.P.’s program manager for the conflict minerals project. “If we limit the number of aggregators, we can start to source responsibly, from the country’s pockets of stability.”

If almost no one buys from conflict regions, the theory runs, that creates incentives for peace, or at least some stability, to break out.

The smelters documentation will be audited by H.P., in conjunction with Solutions for Hope, a nongovernmental organization trying to end the trade in conflict minerals.

The move follows earlier efforts by H.P. to shine a light on its manufacturing. H.P. has publicly identified its top 100 parts suppliers, both by name and address, and created a supplier self-assessment around things like labor practices.

It is an imperfect system. Last year, The New York Times reported on labor violations in China by Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that makes products for H.P., Dell and Apple, among others. In February, H.P. imposed rules limiting student labor by its contractors.

Mr. Prophet said H.P. would seek to enlist other companies, many of which already have some affiliation with nongovernmental organizations, to join the smelter program.

“Outreach is the only way to really make a difference,” Mr. Prophet said. “It took awhile to identify all of the smelters, but putting pressure on them is relatively easy.”

Data Science Careers Take Off

Data Science: The Numbers of Our Lives

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW calls data science “the sexiest job in the 21st century,” and by most accounts this hot new field promises to revolutionize industries from business to government, health care to academia.


The field has been spawned by the enormous amounts of data that modern technologies create â€" be it the online behavior of Facebook users, tissue samples of cancer patients, purchasing habits of grocery shoppers or crime statistics of cities. Data scientists are the magicians of the Big Data era. They crunch the data, use mathematical models to analyze it and create narratives or visualizations to explain it, then suggest how to use the information to make decisions.

In the last few years, dozens of programs under a variety of names have sprung up in response to the excitement about Big Data, not to mention the six-figure salaries for some recent graduates.

In the fall, Columbia will offer new master’s and certificate programs heavy on data. The University of San Francisco will soon graduate its charter class of students with a master’s in analytics. Other institutions teaching data science include New York University, Stanford, Northwestern, George Mason, Syracuse, University of California at Irvine and Indiana University.

Rachel Schutt, a senior research scientist at Johnson Research Labs, taught “Introduction to Data Science” last semester at Columbia (its first course with “data science” in the title). She described the data scientist this way: “a hybrid computer scientist software engineer statistician.” And added: “The best tend to be really curious people, thinkers who ask good questions and are O.K. dealing with unstructured situations and trying to find structure in them.”

Eurry Kim, a 30-year-old “wannabe data scientist,” is studying at Columbia for a master’s in quantitative methods in the social sciences and plans to use her degree for government service. She discovered the possibilities while working as a corporate tax analyst at the Internal Revenue Service. She might, for example, analyze tax return data to develop algorithms that flag fraudulent filings, or cull national security databases to spot suspicious activity.

Some of her classmates are hoping to apply their skills to e-commerce, where data about users’ browsing history is gold.

“This is a generation of kids that grew up with data science around them â€" Netflix telling them what movies they should watch, Amazon telling them what books they should read â€" so this is an academic interest with real-world applications,” said Chris Wiggins, a professor of applied mathematics at Columbia who is involved in its new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering. “And,” he added, “they know it will make them employable.”

Universities can hardly turn out data scientists fast enough. To meet demand from employers, the United States will need to increase the number of graduates with skills handling large amounts of data by as much as 60 percent, according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute. There will be almost half a million jobs in five years, and a shortage of up to 190,000 qualified data scientists, plus a need for 1.5 million executives and support staff who have an understanding of data.

North Carolina State University introduced a master’s in analytics in 2007. All 84 of last year’s graduates in the field had job offers, according to Michael Rappa, who conceived and directs the university’s Institute for Advanced Analytics. The average salary was $89,100, and more than $100,000 for those with prior work experience.

“This has become relevant to every company,” said Michael Chui, a principal at McKinsey who has studied the field. “There’s a war for this type of talent.”

Because data science is so new, universities are scrambling to define it and develop curriculums. As an academic field, it cuts across disciplines, with courses in statistics, analytics, computer science and math, coupled with the specialty a student wants to analyze, from patterns in marine life to historical texts.

Claire Cain Miller is a technology reporter for The Times.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 14, 2013, on page ED18 of Education Life with the headline: The Numbers of Our Lives.

Cornell Builds a Better Tech School

Building a Better Tech School

Viktor Koen

IF all the hopes and hype are warranted, a nondescript third-floor loft in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan offers a glimpse of the future, for New York City and for Cornell University. In truth, it doesn’t look like much â€" just cubicles and meeting rooms in space donated by Google. But looks deceive; here, with little fanfare, Cornell’s new graduate school of applied sciences is being rolled out.

Rajit Manohar, associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell Tech, teaching a physical computing class.

The sparkling, sprawling new campus on Roosevelt Island filled with gee-whiz technology â€" still just ink on paper. The thousands of students and staff, the transformative effect on the city’s economy, the integration with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology â€" those all remain in the future, too.

But just 13 months after being awarded the prize in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s contest to create a new science school, Cornell NYC Tech got up and running. Eight students enrolled in January in what is being called the beta class, a one-year master’s program in computer science. And Cornell has made it clear that, in many ways, this is not the usual university program.

Not long ago, three young high-tech entrepreneurs sat with the students, talking about failure. They talked about questionable technical, financial or personnel decisions in start-up businesses they had created or worked in, about companies they had seen disintegrate, and about detours into projects they later discarded.

A question was asked about Andrew Mason, co-founder of Groupon, who had been fired a day earlier as the company’s chief executive.

“We should all be so lucky as to build a company that the investors care enough about to fire us,” Tim Novikoff, the C.E.O. of a small company making mobile phone software, said with a wave of his arm around the table, prompting laughter from the students and knowing nods from the Cornell Tech staff. A rail-thin man with the deep-set eyes of someone who could use a little more sleep, Mr. Novikoff is in his early 30s, making him the oldest of the three visitors.

“It’s a miracle if a start-up gets off the ground,” he said. “The last six months I’ve had no income, I have no health insurance. But I got to fly out to a C.E.O. conference and talk with Ashton Kutcher about mobile video for 10 minutes.”

The visitors urged the students to take risks but to expect, at least at first, a precarious existence, riddled with setbacks, that will require obsessiveness and a thick skin â€" and they made it sound like the grandest of adventures. None of them made the reference, but they could all have been citing Samuel Beckett’s maxim: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Scenes like this play out each week at Cornell Tech, part of an unorthodox curriculum designed to eschew the traditional detached, highly academic approach to learning. Instead, business, technology and real-world experience is baked into the coursework.

“There’s no parallel to that in any traditional computer science program I’m aware of,” said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech. “We’re taking a page from business schools.”

The practicums are organized by Greg Pass, a Cornell alumnus who was the chief technology officer at Twitter and now is the chief entrepreneurial officer of the graduate school. They are held in an informal setting each Friday with entrepreneurs from the city’s blooming tech sector, who are often no more than a few steps ahead of where the students are.

Reinforcing the sense that the work produce practical results, the United States Commerce Department has stationed a patent officer on the premises to help with patent applications and commercial strategies â€" an arrangement that federal officials say is a first.

A business class is mandatory, in addition to the usual technical courses. And the students are required, in each semester, to work with mentors from the private sector to design and create new products. Two of the students, Alex Kopp and Andrew Li, are working with a Google engineer on open-source software that predicts the severity of weather events.

“In Ithaca, you take a bunch of classes and then you have your one master’s project â€" you work on it alone,” said Mr. Kopp, who transferred from a master’s program at Cornell’s main campus. “It typically doesn’t have a business aspect to it, or you might be working on something that a professor is doing. This has a very different feel to it.”

Information technology is the common thread through the eight degrees the school plans to offer. Three will be dual master’s degrees from Cornell and the Technion, based on three “hubs” rather than traditional departments. One hub program, “connective media,” has largely been mapped out â€" though professors warn that it is subject to change as technology changes â€" and will deal with designing the mobile, fragmented and endlessly malleable technology that makes everyone a media creator as well as consumer. The other hubs, still under development, are being called “healthier life” (systems to improve health care delivery as well as personal technology) and “built environment” (computing applied to the physical world around us, from robotic devices to smart building design to real-time traffic information).

Richard Pérez-Peña covers national higher education for The Times.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 14, 2013, on page ED14 of Education Life with the headline: How Cornell is creating a high-tech graduate school from scratch (very seat of the pants)..

Updates: Reaction to the Death of Margaret Thatcher

The Lede posted reaction to the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Monday.

7:50 P.M. Obits Recall Mrs. Thatcher's Leadership Differently

PoliticsHome, a leading Web site in the United Kingdom has linked to the various obituaries published online Monday about Margaret Thatcher that represent that she was both loved and loathed in the United Kingdom.

The Daily Telegraph:

For more than a decade Margaret Thatcher enjoyed almost unchallenged political mastery, winning three successive general elections. The policies she pursued with ferocious energy and unyielding will resulted in a transformation of Britain's economic performance.

The resulting change was also political. But by discrediting socialism so thoroughly, she prompted in due course the adoption by the Labour Party of free market economics, and so, as she wryly confessed in later years, “helped to make it electable”.

The Guardian:

Margaret Thatcher, who has died aged 87, was a political phenomenon. She was the first woman elected to lead a major western power; the longest serving British prime minister for 150 years; the most dominant and the most divisive force in British politics in the second half of the 20th century. She was also a global figure, a star in the US, a heroine in the former Soviet republics of central Europe, a point of reference for politicians in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In Britain, the Thatcher years were a watershed. After them, the ideals of collective effort, full employment and a managed economy â€" all tarnished by the recurring crises of the 1970s â€" were discredited in the popular imagination. They were replaced with the politics of me and mine, deregulation of the markets and privatisation of the state's assets that echoed growing individual prosperity. Thatcher did not cause these changes, but she legitimised and embedded them. Her belief in the moral authority of the individual and the imperative of freedom of choice led left as well as right to reappraise the welfare state. Her perception of economics, society and Britain's place in the world continue to shape British politics.

The Times:

Indomitable Prime Minister whose unswerving belief in free enterprise transformed the political and social landscape

Margaret Thatcher was one of the greatest British politicians of the 20th century. The first woman prime minister in Europe, she held the job for 11 years. In the 20th century no other prime minister had been in office for such a long unbroken period, and no one since Lord Liverpool (1812-27) had had such a long continuous run as Prime Minister.

The Independent:

There has been no other leader quite like Margaret Thatcher in post-war Britain. No other post-war Prime Minister has been so admired, or so reviled. She was the first woman to lead a major political party in Britain, the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 20th century, and almost the only Prime Minister whose name is synonymous with an ideology. “Thatcherism” remained in political diction when the holder of that name was an elderly frail, lonely widow.

She was never much loved, though she would have liked to have been. She believed that she had a direct line to the British people, or at least the section of it from which she sprang: the hardworking, law-abiding, self-denying lower middle class. Although she dominated her party and the government machine, her self-image was of an outsider battling with an inert establishment. Evening visitors to the flat above Downing Street would sometimes find her and her husband, Denis, watching the news, and grumbling about the state of the nation, wanting something done.

The Evening Times, the evening newspaper of the Herald and Times Group in Scotland:

Margaret Thatcher was loved and hated in equal measure throughout Britain. As her popularity in Conservative strongholds in the south of England increased with election victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987, in parallel her reputation in Scotland worsened and here she became one of the most despised politicians of the modern age.

There will be no national show of grief, civic sentimentality or spontaneous public floral tributes here for a woman whose very name being mentioned can still get the blood of many a Glaswegian boiling … even more than 20 years after leaving office.

Her premiership saw the decline of heavy industry and factory closures in Glasgow and elsewhere leading to mass unemployment in communities and a spiralling of associated problems such as debt, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Battles with unions, with nurses, teachers and most notably the miners going on strike provided defining social images of the 80s.

In Glasgow the social legacy of her era was economic decline, a cycle of inter-generational unemployment and a right-to-buy housing policy that robbed the social sector of its most desirable homes.

- Jennifer Preston

7:13 P.M. Video Report on Thatcher's 1984 Battle with Miners
A report from ITN on Margaret Thatcher's battle with the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984.

Curbing the power of trade unions, as our colleagues reported was a top priority for Margaret Thatcher when she came to power in 1979.

A major test came in early 1984 when the government announced plans to shut down several coal mines that were nationalized in 1947. In response to the government's action to eliminate 20,000 jobs, the union's president called for a walkout.

Violent clashes ensued between hundreds of miners and the police with images shown night after night on television news broadcasts.

Mrs. Thatcher vowed not to back down.

The union's leader, Arthur Scargill, lost public support for the strike, including among some Labour leaders and his own members, when he did not quickly condemn actions that led to the death of a taxi driver taking a miner to work that fall. The driver was killed when a concrete slab was dropped on his cab.

Some of Mr. Scargill's union members sought to have the strike declared illegal. Meanwhile, Mrs. Thatcher was depicted in newspaper cartoons using her purse to flail a cowering Mr. Scargill. The strike ended after 362 days, without a settlement, paving the way for Mrs. Thatcher and the Conservative government to move ahead with the party's “popular capitalism” platform that led to the privatization of other state-run industries and 900,000 jobs.

- Jennifer Preston

5:21 P.M. Thatcher and Reagan
CNN's Nic Robertson on the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan

Margaret Thatcher was known particularly for her close working relationship alliance with President Ronald Reagan, with whom she shared a profound ideological rejection of cold war Communism. In a statement released Monday, Nancy Reagan even called her husband and Mrs. Thatcher “political soul mates.”

It is well known that my husband and Lady Thatcher enjoyed a very special relationship as leaders of their respective countries during one of the most difficult and pivotal periods in modern history. Ronnie and Margaret were political soul mates, committed to freedom and resolved to end Communism. As prime minister, Margaret had the clear vision and strong determination to stand up for her beliefs at a time when so many were afraid to “rock the boat.” As a result, she helped to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of millions of people.

In her eulogy for Mr. Reagan in 2004, Mrs. Thatcher called the former president “a dear friend.”

In his lifetime, Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world and to free the slaves of Communism. In the terrible hours after the attempt on his life, his easy jokes gave reassurances to an anxious world. They were evidence that in the aftermath of terror, and in the midst of hysteria, one great heart at least remained sane and jocular. They were truly grace under pressure. And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper kind. Ronnie himself certainly believed that he had been given back his life for a purpose.

Read the full text of the eulogy on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation's Web site

4:59 P.M. Thatcher on Gorbachev: ‘We Can Do Business Together.'
Associated Press

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the former Soviet Union, issued a statement, describing Mrs. Thatcher as a “great politician.”

He recalls that their relationship, when it began in 1984, was difficult at times but grew to be more friendly. He said that eventually their ability to reach an understanding about each other and their countries contributed to changing the relationships between their countries, and between the former Soviet Union and the West.

In a 1984 television interview with the BBC's John Cole, Mrs. Thatcher said she was “cautiously optimistic” about her relationship with Mr. Gorbachev.

I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together. We both believe in our own political systems. He firmly believes in his; I firmly believe in mine. We are never going to change one another. So that is not in doubt, but we have two great interests in common: that we should both do everything we can to see that war never starts again, and therefore we go into the disarmament talks determined to make them succeed. And secondly, I think we both believe that they are the more likely to succeed if we can build up confidence in one another and trust in one another about each other's approach, and therefore, we believe in cooperating on trade matters, on cultural matters, on quite a lot of contacts between politicians from the two sides of the divide.

- Jennifer Preston

3:54 P.M. Thatcher on '60 Minutes'

“It's not the job of a politician to do only those things which you think will be popular,” Margaret Thatcher told Diane Sawyer during this interview on “60 Minutes” in 1985.

Around the nine-minute mark, Mrs. Thatcher talks about the 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where she and others had been staying for a Conservative Party conference. The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the attack that killed four people and wounded more than 30. Mrs. Thatcher went on to address the party as scheduled the next day.

Asked whether she thinks about that attempt on her life, Mrs. Thatcher said, “Look, every person in politics in the Western world takes that risk, and you just carry on, and we don't really think of it. We're deeply grateful to those who protect us. One day it may happen. My goodness me, the gunman is not going to stop us from carrying out the business of democracy. Ever. He will fail. And people must help him to fail by cutting off the money and supply of armaments he needs.”

4:02 P.M. Labour Leaders Recall Disagreements and Respect
Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader, remembers Margaret Thatcher

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, said that his party disagreed with much of what Mrs. Thatcher did and that she would always remain a “controversial figure.” But he said at the time that we “also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.”

“She will be remembered as a unique figure,” he said. “She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain's first woman prime minister. She moved the center ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.”

Tony Blair, the former leader of the Labour Party, noted that some of the changes that Mrs. Thatcher made were retained by the Labour government in 1997 and “came to be implemented by governments around the world.”

Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure. Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world. As a person she was kind and generous spirited and was always immensely supportive to me as Prime Minister although we came from opposite sides of politics. Even if you disagreed with her as I did on certain issues and occasionally strongly, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain's national life. She will be sadly missed.

Other comments by Labour leaders, including Gordon Brown, were gathered by LabourList.org.

Mr. Brown said that those who disagreed with Mrs. Thatcher “never doubted the strength of her convictions and her unwavering belief in Britain's destiny in the world.”

Sarah and I have sent messages to Lady Thatcher's son Mark and daughter Carol, offering our condolences to them and to the Thatcher family and commemorating Lady Thatcher's many decades of service to our country. She will be remembered not only for being Britain's first female prime minister and holding the office for 11 years, but also for the determination and resilience with which she carried out all her duties throughout her public life. Even those who disagreed with her never doubted the strength of her convictions and her unwavering belief in Britain's destiny in the world. During our time in No. 10, Sarah and I invited Lady Thatcher to revisit Downing Street and Chequers â€" something which we know she enjoyed very much. But it was sad for her and her family that she lost her devoted husband Denis almost 10 years ago and that she was unable to enjoy good health in the later years of her retirement.

- Jennifer Preston

3:18 P.M. Margaret Thatcher, Cultural Icon
A puppet of the former prime minister from Spitting Image, a satirical series that ran in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s.Alastair Grant/Associated Press A puppet of the former prime minister from “Spitting Image,” a satirical series that ran in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s.

“The lady's not for turning,” Margaret Thatcher famously said in an early speech. But almost from the moment she moved into 10 Downing Street in 1979, Mrs. Thatcher, who died Monday at 87, was most definitely for filming, recording and generally excoriating by British artists and writers who saw a rich target in her stiff-necked conservative politics and stiffer coiffure. Our colleague Jennifer Schuessler takes a look at Mrs. Thatcher's influence on culture.

1:35 P.M. Sullivan: ‘I Was a Teenage Thatcherite'

The writer Andrew Sullivan, who credits his “entire political obsession” to Margaret Thatcher posted a tribute on his blog, The Dish:

I was a teenage Thatcherite, an uber-politics nerd who loved her for her utter lack of apology for who she was. I sensed in her, as others did, a final rebuke to the collectivist, egalitarian oppression of the individual produced by socialism and the stultifying privileges and caste identities of the class system. And part of that identity â€" the part no one ever truly gave her credit for â€" was her gender. She came from a small grocer's shop in a northern town and went on to educate herself in chemistry at Oxford, and then law. To put it mildly, those were not traditional decisions for a young woman with few means in the 1950s. She married a smart businessman, reared two children and forged a political career from scratch in the most male-dominated institution imaginable: the Tory party.

1:22 P.M. Quotable Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was known for her sharp wit, which was evident in many of her public statements. Even at age 9, she had a quick tongue, credited with saying “I wasn't lucky; I deserved it,” when she received a prize at school.

Following is a video collection of selected speeches by Mrs. Thatcher - from remarks at the end of the Falklands war to her fight against European integration:

1:21 P.M. Video of Margaret Thatcher Delivering Speech in 1996
Excerpt of a speech delivered by Margaret Thatcher on the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's famous “Iron Curtain” speech.

In 1996, Margaret Thatcher traveled to Fulton, Mo., and delivered remarks on the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College.

Mrs. Thatcher compared diplomacy and the state of international affairs in 1996 with 1946. She discussed the duality between optimism and uncertainty in the post-cold war era to the years after World War II. She also displayed her sense of humor, noting in the opening of her remarks that, unlike Mr. Churchill, she did not play poker with the president of the United States before the speech.

“I don't have the face for it,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the state where Fulton, home to Westminster College, is located. It is in Missouri, not Mississippi.

- Jennifer Preston

12:36 P.M. TimesCast: Thatcher's Economics

The Times's Graham Bowley on how the former prime minister's fiscal policies linger in Britain.

12:20 P.M. Video of Thatcher Embracing Soviet ‘Iron Lady' Slur
Archival video of Margaret Thatcher joking about being called an “Iron Lady” by a Soviet newspaper in 1976.

As the Russian newspaper Pravda explained a few years ago, Margaret Thatcher was first called an “Iron Lady,” by the Soviet defense ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, or Red Star, in 1976. Within days, Mrs. Thatcher joked about the slur, telling fellow Conservatives:

I stand before you tonight in my Red Star chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the ‘Iron Lady' of the Western world. A Cold War warrior, an Amazon philistine, even a Peking plotter. Yes, if that's how they wish to interpret my defense of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life. And by they, I mean that somewhat strange alliance between the comrades of the Russian defense ministry and our own defense minister. They're welcome to call me what they like if they believe that we should ignore the build-up of Russian military strength.

Robert Evans, who was the Reuters bureau chief in Moscow at the time, explained Monday that he first reported on the Soviet article.

Leafing through the text-heavy and highly lookalike newspapers of the day, I came across a catchy headline â€" and there weren't many of those in the Soviet media â€" in the army mouthpiece Red Star, or Krasnaya Zvezda in Russian. “Zheleznaya Dama Ugrozhayet,” it declared â€" “The Iron Lady Wields Threats.” The story below, by reporter Yuri Gavrilov, berated the woman who was then leader of Britain's Conservative opposition for a speech warning of the danger posed by Soviet weaponry.

“She is known by her compatriots as the Iron Lady,” Gavrilov asserted. As an exile Briton running Reuters' Moscow bureau, I had never heard the term applied to her and decided â€" in the absence of other news â€" that it was worth a story of my own. “British Tory leader Margaret Thatcher was today dubbed ‘the Iron Lady' by the Soviet Defense Ministry newspaper Red Star,” my piece read. It won wide play in the British media â€" without credit as is so often the fate of news agency reports.

Within a week, Thatcher â€" clad in scarlet â€" was herself demurely playing it up, clearly delighted at the term.

In an article on Mrs. Thatcher's death on Monday, the editors of Red Star saluted her spirited response to their barb. It had come, they explained, in response to a speech she had made on Jan. 19, 1976, in which she said:

The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. The men in the Soviet politburo don't have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns.

Mrs. Thatcher continued to embrace the nickname in later years, as Russia Today, a satellite news channel financed by the Russian government, noted in a video report on her death. “The Russians said that I was an ‘Iron Lady,'” Mrs. Thatcher said later. “They were right. Britain needs an Iron Lady.”

Video of Margaret Thatcher boasting of being called an “Iron Lady.”

- Robert Mackey

11:43 A.M. Video: Friendly Banter and a Dire Warning

In this video from 1990, Margaret Thatcher warns in a farewell parliamentary debate that a single currency would be used to end parliamentary democracy in Europe.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her opposition to a single European currency.

Full video of Mrs. Thatcher's final session of Prime Minister's Question Time.

11:22 A.M. Cameron: ‘She Saved Our Country'
Prime Minster David Cameron speaks about Margaret Thatcher.

Prime Minister David Cameron and London's mayor, Boris Johnson, offered tributes to Mrs. Thatcher, with Mr. Cameron describing her as “a great leader, a great prime minister, a great Briton.”

Mr. Cameron, who cut short a visit to Continental Europe to return to Britain, also said she deserved to be considered “the greatest British peacetime Prime Minister.”

“Lady Thatcher didn't just lead our country, she saved our country,” Mr. Cameron in a statement posted to Twitter.

11:17 A.M. Washington Reacts to Thatcher's Death

As our colleague Sarah Wheaton reports, Americans, especially those on the right, revered Margaret Thatcher, the three-term prime minister of Britain, as an important partner of President Ronald Reagan in the fight against communism.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said in a statement, “A great ally and admirer of the United States and a trusted partner of Ronald Reagan during some of the most challenging days of the cold war, Margaret Thatcher never hesitated to remind Americans of their own obligations to the cause of freedom and of the need for political courage and confidence in the face of long odds.”

Updates on the Gun Debate | April 9, 2013

President Obama made an impassioned plea for gun control measures at a rally in Connecticut. Families who lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School descended on Washington to press their case with lawmakers. Senate Republicans threatened to prevent gun control legislation from even coming up for debate as states around the country decide to both strengthen and weaken gun laws.

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Filmmakers Capture Chaos After Airstrikes in Syria

A Human Rights Watch video report on Syrian government air strikes.

Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian authorities Thursday of ordering “indiscriminate and in some cases deliberate airstrikes against civilians,” in a report released on Thursday along with a video summary that included dramatic footage of the chaos and bloodshed on the ground in the immediate aftermath of such attacks. According to the rights group, its report, “is based on visits to 50 sites of government air strikes in opposition-controlled areas in Aleppo, Idlib, and Latakia governorates, and more than 140 interviews with witnesses and victims.”

The report was published just days after PBS Frontline released video of an air strike on the Syrian village of al-Bara which took place as the British filmmaker Olly Lambert was recording an interview with a rebel commander. Mr. Lambert's footage offers a harrowing look at the impact of such bombings on the ground. The video was posted on the Frontline Web site with the filmmaker's complete new documentary, “Syria Behind the Lines.”

A video report on the bombing of the Syrian village of al-Bara by Olly Lambert for PBS Frontline.

Updates on the Gun Debate | April 10, 2013

Two senators announce a bipartisan compromise on background checks. Michelle Obama wades into the gun debate. Newtown families urge Republican senators to vote instead of filibuster.

10:43 P.M. Proposed Gun Bill Violates Constitution, N.R.A. Says

A proposed bill to greatly expand background checks on gun buyers that appears set to come up for debate in the Senate contains provisions that “would unfairly infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners,” the National Rifle Association said in a letter sent to senators on Wednesday.

The letter, signed by Chris W. Cox, the head of the N.R.A.'s Institute for Legislative Action, singled out as “misguided” a compromise measure on background checks put forward by Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania.

That measure, which is meant to broaden the appeal of the overall gun-control bill currently under discussion, would include fewer gun buyers in the newly expanded background checks, but provide for record keeping that would allow law enforcement agencies to track guns used in crimes. It would not cover sales between family members and neighbors as Democrats had wanted.

“As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools,” the statement said. “Given the importance of these issues, votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in N.R.A.'s future candidate evaluations.”

The statement called on senators to replace the current provisions with ones “focused on addressing mental health inadequacies; prosecuting violent criminals; and keeping our kids safe in their schools.”

- Michael Schwirtz

7:05 P.M. Michelle Obama: ‘Hadiya Pendleton Was Me'

Michelle Obama stepped into the national debate over guncontrol on Wednesday, speaking before hundreds of business leaders in Chicago and issuing a deeply personal, at times emotional, message about violence.

“Right now my husband is fighting as hard as he can and engaging as many people as he can to pass common-sense reforms to protect our children from gun violence,” Mrs. Obama said. “And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress.”

But Mrs. Obama focused mainly on efforts outside the political sphere to stem violence that has troubled cities like Chicago. She urged the business leaders, who hope to raise $50 million in private funds aimed mainly at helping at-risk youth, to take a serious role in efforts to mentor youths, to create after-school programs and to encourage neighborhood coalitions.

Mrs. Obama spoke of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old high school student who was fatally shot not far from the Obamas' Chicago home and whose funeral she had attended in February.

“As I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya's funeral, I couldn't get over how familiar they felt to me,” said Mrs. Obama, who grew up in Chicago. “Because what I realized was Hadiya's family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me. And I was her. But I got to grow up. And go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine.”

Mrs. Obama spoke of Chicago's neighborhoods â€" and the deep divide between the city's gleaming downtown and some of its troubled neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. She reminded the 800 business leaders gathered in a downtown hotel that some city youths may only imagine downtown from the distant skyline because they are instead “consumed with watching their backs” in their neighborhoods.

She also visited students at Harper High, a South Side school in a neighborhood where violence has been prevalent.

Last year, more than 500 homicides occurred in Chicago, many of them shootings and involving young black men. Killings dropped significantly in the first quarter of 2013, compared to a year ago.

Still, many in Chicago remain focused on questions of violence and young people, and $33 million has been raised in recent months by the private sector to help.

“This is my passion,” Mrs. Obama told the group that included Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Garry McCarthy, the city's police superintendent; and other political leaders. “It is my mission and for me, this is personal.”

Again and again, Mrs. Obama spoke of Ms. Pendleton, who had performed during events at President Obama's inauguration just days before her death.

“Hadiya's family did everything right,” Mrs. Obama said. “But she still didn't have a chance. And that story â€" the story of Hadiya's life and death â€" we read that story day after day, month after month, year after year, in this city and around this country.

“So I'm not talking about something that's happening in a war zone halfway around the world. I am talking about what's happening in the city that we call home, the city where we're raising our kids, the city where your businesses operate.”

- Monica Davey

2:36 P.M. Live Video: Names of Gun Victims Read Aloud
The names of victims of gun violence area are read aloud in Washington, D.C.

On the day before the Senate is expected to take up stricter gun measures, gun control advocates read aloud the the names of the 3,000 people killed by guns since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

1:05 P.M. Bloomberg Praises Agreement on Guns

Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Thomas M. Menino of Boston, the co-chairmen of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, issued statements after the announcement of a bipartisan Senate agreement on background checks, thanking Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, for their determination to find common ground that both Democrats and Republicans can support.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City:

Over the last few months, Americans across the country and in both parties have demanded that those in Washington take commonsense steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the seriously mentally ill. Today, Senators Manchin and Toomey have forged a bipartisan compromise agreement to extend background checks to cover commercial gun sales, including online and at gun shows. In addition, the bill preserves the same record-keeping practices of the past 40 years that have helped law enforcement solve crimes. I want to thank Senators Manchin and Toomey for their determination to find common ground on a bill that Democrats and Republicans can fully support. This bill will not only help keep guns out of the wrong hands â€" it will help save lives and keep our communities safe. Our bipartisan coalition of more than 900 mayors strongly supports this bill and looks forward to working with other leaders, including Senators Schumer and Kirk who have worked tirelessly on thi s issue, to do all we can to ensure its passage.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston:

Today's announcement of a bipartisan Senate agreement to require background checks for virtually all commercial gun sales shows that, even in an age of Washington gridlock, both parties can work together to reform our gun laws in a way that makes sense and keeps Americans safe. I applaud Senators Toomey and Manchin for putting forth a commonsense bill that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We've seen far too many American lives lost over the years â€" now is the time for the rest of Congress to stand with the American people and pass sensible gun reform for the sake of our neighborhoods, our families, and our children.

12:18 P.M. Cuomo Criticizes Senate Deal on Background Checks

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who pushed New York to become the first state to enact strict new gun laws after the Newtown, Conn., massacre, on Wednesday called the bipartisan deal in the Senate to expand background checks for gun buyers “better than nothing, but it's only better than nothing.”

“We're not talking about a significant package of gun control anymore,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said. “We lost that in the discussion along the way, and it's a shame, because I don't believe there's going to be a moment where people will be more cognizant of the danger and more unified.”

Mr. Cuomo said in an interview on a public radio program, “The Capitol Pressroom,” that the absence of a broader agreement on gun control was “a damning commentary on this Congress, and the extremists in the Congress.”

“It's just unbelievable that this Congress is going to fundamentally fail to act on a societal scourge that the majority of the people in this country support,” Mr. Cuomo said. “The majority of Americans want reasonable gun control - gun owners also. And this is a Congress that is captive of the extremists, and there's no clearer proof than this.”

The negative appraisal by Mr. Cuomo, a possible presidential candidate in 2016, was notable in part because he has persistently refrained from commenting on national politics as governor. His comments on Wednesday were among his most critical in recent memory.

Mr. Cuomo said he did not blame President Obama for the lack of broader legislation on gun control. “I think what happened is the White House has had to recalibrate, given the recalcitrance of the Congress,” Mr. Cuomo said.

- Thomas Kaplan

12:12 P.M. Michelle Obama Travels to Chicago

The first lady, Michelle Obama, is scheduled to speak at a conference on youth violence in Chicago, a city that finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun crime.

12:12 P.M. N.R.A. Responds to Agreement on Gun Measure

The National Rifle Association said in a statement Wednesday that “expanding background checks to gun shows will not prevent the next shooting.” The statement was issued shortly after Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, announced an agreement on a bill that would expand background checks to gun purchases made at gun shows and over the Internet:

Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools. While the overwhelming rejection of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg's “universal” background check agenda is a positive development, we have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedy in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson. We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone. President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers.

10:58 A.M. Video: Senators Announce Bipartisan Gun Agreement
Senators Manchin and Toomey describe bipartisan agreement.

Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, announced Wednesday an agreement on a bill that would expand background checks to gun purchases made at gun shows and over the Internet.

Emphasizing that the agreement would not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, the senators said they were hopeful their agreement would replace the bill that is expected to be considered on the Senate floor Thursday, as my colleague Jennifer Steinhauer reports.

“Pennsylvania has a long bipartisan tradition of supporting gun rights,” Mr. Toomey said. “I am a gun owner, and the rights that are enshrined in the Second Amendment are important to me personally.”

He said that extending criminal and mental health background checks now required for gun purchases at gun stores to gun shows and online sales made sense. “I don't consider criminal background checks as gun control,” he said. “I think it is common sense.”

When asked by a reporter whether he now worried his support for background checks would cost him his A-rating with the National Rifle Association, Senator Toomey replied: “What matters to me is doing the right thing. I think that this is the right thing.”

Mr. Manchin said that he spoke with friends who are gun rights advocates in his state and that he did not run into major objections to the plan.

Both senators also called for the creation of a commission to examine the culture of violence and school security efforts in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and 6 educators dead.

What's next?

10:07 A.M. Bipartisan Agreement on Background Checks

As our colleagues Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman report, an announcement is expected late Wednesday morning on a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers.

Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said that they had agreed on a measure that would most likely replace the current bill.

The Washington Post has published this graphic showing where members of Congress stand on gun issues.

BBC Won\'t Ban ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,\' Adopted as Anti-Thatcher Anthem

The original version of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Last Updated, 6:13 p.m. The BBC on Friday rejected loud calls to ban the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from its airwaves after the apparent success of a Facebook campaign to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher, the divisive former prime minister, by driving sales of the tune from “The Wizard of Oz” up the British singles chart.

In a statement, the controller of BBC Radio 1, Ben Cooper, said that while he found “the campaign to promote the song in response to the death of Baroness Thatcher as distasteful as anyone,” the channel's weekly review of the most popular singles could not simply “ignore a high new entry which clearly reflects the views of a big enough portion of the record-buying public to propel it up the charts.”

By way of compromise, Mr. Cooper said he had decided “that we should treat the rise of the song, based as it is on a political campaign to denigrate Lady Thatcher's memory, as a news story.” So, he said, the BBC “will play a brief excerpt of it in a short news report during the show which explains to our audience why a 70-year-old song is at the top of the charts.”

While acknowledging that the broadcast could offend Mrs. Thatcher's family and supporters, Mr. Cooper added, “To ban the record from our airwaves completely would risk giving the campaign the oxygen of further publicity and might inflame an already delicate situation.”

Mrs. Thatcher herself made famous use of the same metaphor in 1985, shortly after the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 by Islamist militants, when she argued:

We must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend. In our societies we do not believe in constraining the media, still less in censorship. But ought we not to ask the media to agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, a code under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists' morale or their cause while the hijack lasted?

In a television interview on Friday, one of the organizers of the Facebook campaign, Mark Biddiss, said that for many people, buying the record was “a very cathartic experience,” even if it also enriched the corporate owners of the rights to the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack.

An interview with Mark Biddiss, one of the organizers of a Facebook campaign to buy the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher.

Other supporters of the campaign noted with satisfaction that the lyrics to the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack were written by E. Y. Harburg, an American songwriter best known for his Depression-era classic “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Mr. Harburg, who died in 1981, was blacklisted in the 1950s for his left-wing politics.

According to his Songwriters Hall of Fame biography:

Harburg, who had been a member of several radical organizations but never officially joined the Communist Party, was named in Red Channels. This pamphlet, distributed to organizations involved in employing people in the entertainment industry, listed 150 people who had been involved in promoting left-wing causes. This, along with his affiliation with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, led to his blacklisting by the film industry as well as the revocation of his passport.

He was not helped by the failure of his next project with composers Sammy Fain and Fred Saidy. “Flahooley” opened on Broadway in 1951 to negative reviews. Set in a toy factory, Harburg parodied the rabid anti-Communist sentiment and witch hunts that pervaded 1950s America.

While the Yip Harburg Foundation does not own the publishing rights to the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, a spokeswoman confirmed on Friday that it would get a small percentage of profits from the recent sales.

Yip Harburg singing his “Over the Rainbow” in 1979.

Asked what his father might make of the controversy, Mr. Harburg's son, Ernie Harburg, said on Friday that he would have been amused by it. In a statement sent to The Lede, he wrote:

Yip Harburg, lyricist of “The Wizard of Oz” film, would have been amused that “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” rose to the top of the charts when Margaret Thatcher died. W. S. Gilbert and George Bernard Shaw taught Yip Harburg, democratic socialist, sworn challenger of all tyranny against the people, that “humor is an act of courage” and dissent.

Those who sang the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” in the film “The Wizard of Oz” celebrated the end of tyranny at the hands of the Wicked Witch of the East. That celebration was not in L. Frank Baum's book. Yip's artistic leadership put it into the film. (Yip also brought the rainbow, also not in the book, into the film.)

Yip said, “Humor is the antidote to tyranny” and, “Show me a place without humor and I'll show you a disaster area.” Yip believed tyranny is caused by the policies of austerity, imperialism, theocracy and class supremacy, which deny most people human rights and economic freedom from poverty and want. A song - music and lyrics - allows singers and audiences to “feel the thought” of the lyric. “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” is a universal cry against the cruelty of tyrants and a protest against the ban on laughter at that cruelty. For the 99 percent, laughing and joy are required at the funeral of a tyrant. According to Yip, humor gives us hope in hard times.

A 1966 cover of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” performed by Barbra Streisand and Harold Arlen, who composed the music.

In Britain, where Mrs. Thatcher's supporters are still fuming at the taboo on speaking ill of the dead being flouted, the BBC's attempt at compromise predictably inflamed partisans at both ends of the political spectrum. On the right, the editors of The Daily Mail attacked the BBC for caving to a “campaign by left-wing agitators” by playing even a few seconds of the song.

From the left, there were accusations that the BBC had, in fact, caved to pressure from outlets like The Mail by declining to play the whole song.

Still, some conservatives - including Louise Mensch, a former member of Parliament, and Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party - agreed with the argument that banning the record would violate principles of free speech and might prolong the argument over the song.

Others, like the political blogger who writes as Guido Fawkes, supported a late effort to drive another song, the punk anthem “I'm in Love With Margaret Thatcher,” to the top of the singles chart.

What makes the viral campaign to associate the real death of Mrs. Thatcher with the fictional liberation of the Munchkins from the tyranny of the Wicked Witch of the East still more complex is that the “Wizard of Oz” film was adapted from a children's book that has been read as an allegory of late-19th-century American politics.

As Henry M. Littlefield wrote in “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism,” an essay published in 1964, after the film version had displaced the book in the popular imagination, the original story was written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum, a journalist whose fairy tale might have been inspired by debates over American monetary policy and imperialism at the time.

In the book, Mr. Littlefield observed, “Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road wearing the Witch of the East's magic Silver Shoes,” which he interprets as a parable about the use of gold and silver as money. (In the film version, the shoes were made ruby instead of silver.) The Emerald City, he suggested, “represents the national Capitol. The Wizard, a little bumbling old man, hiding behind a facade of papier-mâché and noise, might be any president from Grant to McKinley.”

Google Introduces a Tool for Planning for Your Digital Afterlife

One of the most haunting questions facing Web companies and their users is, what happens to the stuff of our digital lives after we die?

Are our Facebook status updates, Flickr photos and Gmail messages like physical journals and photo albums for our families to flip through? Should our iTunes playlists be like records passed down through generations? Would we rest easier knowing that our digital lives would exist for eternity, or that our private postings would stay that way?

On Thursday, Google announced a new tool for managing your digital afterlife. Google users can choose whether they want their information deleted or to name a beneficiary, as in a will. Users can have different directives for different products - deleting Gmail and Drive but sharing Picasa and YouTube content, for instance.

“We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife - in a way that protects your privacy and security - and make life easier for your loved ones after you're gone,” Andreas Tuerk, a Google product manager, wrote on the company's public policy blog.

Google users choose whether to activate the feature after their accounts are inactive for three, six, nine or 12 months. Google will send a text message and e-mail before taking any action. The feature, called Inactive Account Manager, is accessible on the account settings page.

Before, survivors could gain access to data stored with Google only with a court order, and that was rare.

Google introduced the feature as states begin to pass laws about what happens to digital remains. Federal privacy laws do not generally address the issue, but Congress is considering it. Google often says it prefers technological solutions to legislative ones.

Other companies are also thinking about the issue. Facebook has grappled with how to confirm that users have died - so the site doesn't suggest becoming friends with them, for instance - and how to handle it when survivors use a deceased person's page as a memorial.

And Evernote is working on Evernote Century, which would guarantee that information stored on Evernote is accessible for 100 years and let people designate who can have access to it, even if Evernote goes out of business.

Of course, if we reach the Singularity, as many in the tech world believe we will, we will not need these tools because we will all live forever.

Education Life: Teaching the Techies

Data science is the hot new pursuit in higher education, a field spawned by the enormous amounts of data that modern technologies create - be it about the online behavior of Facebook users, tissue samples of cancer patients or crime in cities. Data scientists crunch the data, use mathematical models to analyze it, create narratives or visualizations to explain it, then suggest how to use the information to make decisions.

In the Education Life section of The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller writes about this trendy new field. In the last few years, dozens of programs have sprung up in response to the excitement about Big Data.

Because data science is so new, universities are scrambling to define it and develop curriculums. They cannot roll out programs fast enough to meet employer demand. North Carolina State University introduced a master's in analytics in 2007, and all 84 of last year's graduates had job offers, according to Michael Rappa, who conceived of and directs the university's Institute for Advanced Analytics. The average salary was $89,100, and more than $100,000 for those with prior work experience.

At the University of San Francisco, the charter class of students with master's in analytics will soon graduate. And in the fall, Columbia is introducing master's and certificate programs heavy on data crunching; New York University will have two new degrees lined up. Meanwhile, the University of Washington has opened the eScience Institute for studying data across disciplines and has a new Ph.D. program in Big Data.

In a related article, “Geek Appeal: New York vs. Seattle,” Ms. Miller takes note of how New York and Seattle are dueling to be the next hotbed for data education.