Archive for August 2013

U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget’ summary

U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the government’s top-secret budget.

This summary describes cutting-edge technologies, agent recruiting and ongoing operations. The Post is withholding some information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods. Sensitive details are so pervasive in the documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables and charts online.

More on this from the Washington Post by clicking here

Are men or women more likely to commit corporate fraud?

Women are less likely than men to commit corporate fraud, according to a team of sociologists.

A team of researchers from Penn State University say that when women are involved in corporate fraud, they generally have a lesser role to play — and make far less money than men. However, typically women choose not to be part of shady dealings.

Darrell Steffensmeier, professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State said that about three out of four conspiracies to commit corporate fraud were all-male, and there was no report of an all-female conspiracy.

More than half of females involved in corporate fraud made either no money or a “trivial” amount, whereas 26 percent of males earned between $500,000 and $999,000 and 33 percent made more than $1 million.

The team’s report is based on corporate fraud cases from the U.S. Department of Justice between 2002 and 2009.

Steffensmeier believes that female executives may improve ethical standards, or the findings could suggest that women generally take fewer risks and self-censor more in the corporate world due to feeling “they are under greater surveillance” than male colleagues. In addition, women may not have as much access to top corporate positions — and so less opportunity to profiteer.

“Women are less likely to be recruited as co-conspirators in male-orchestrated schemes and less likely to be able to recruit co-offenders should they wish to initiate a corporate fraud,” Steffensmeier said. “The glass ceiling effect for involvement in corporate corruption is likely as great or greater than the ceiling that keeps women from climbing the corporate ladder.”

This article came from and can be found here.

The findings have been reported in the current issue of the American Sociological Review.

The wisdom of crowds is easily manipulated

Online ratings, internet reviews… these don’t always reveal the best choice, according to a new MIT study. A massive controlled experiment of web users found that such ratings are highly susceptible to irrational “herd behavior” — and that the herd can be manipulated. ScienceNOW reports.

Sometimes the crowd really is wiser than you, especially when it comes to the average of many people’s choices. But what if you’re judging something like quality?

According to one theory, the wisdom of the crowd still holds — measuring the aggregate of people’s opinions produces a stable, reliable value. Skeptics, however, argue that people’s opinions are easily swayed by those of others…

To test which hypothesis is true, you would need to manipulate huge numbers of people, exposing them to false information and determining how it affects their opinions.

A team led by MIT’s Sinan Aral conducted an experiment using a website that aggregates news stories, where users make comments and vote others up or down — like Reddit though he won’t say which exactly. He wanted to know how much the crowd influences the individual, and whether it can be controlled from outside.

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