Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Secret Mythology of the Fringe Glyphs

Fringe Glyphs v Peru Glyphs

The meaning of the Fringe glyphs, which make fleeting appearances between ad-breaks, was cracked earlier this year by Julien Sanchez. But for a while now, I’ve been wondering whether the symbols hold actual in-show meaning, especially since we’ve seen the leaf glyph appear quite prominently in an episode. The other day I came across something called the Nazca Geoglyphs – a group of gigantic symbols etched into the Peruvian dessert some 1500 years ago – these symbols bear more than a passing resemblance to our Fringe glyphs:

The drawings at Nazca, however, are unique because of their size and density within a 500 square kilometer area in southwest Peru. Straight lines that go on for hundreds of kilometers, only swerving out by a few degrees, huge trapezoids and spirals, and animal figures, some of which can be seen in their entirety from space – have been holding the attention of archaeologists since the 1920s. How did the Nazcans make them so precise? For whom? And why?

Could it be that the Fringe glyphs are based on the Peruvian Geoglyphs? The following season 1 scene makes be think it’s possible:

  • The Nazca Geoglyphs are found in Peru – In episode 106, Nina Sharp asked Peter for a favor in forging relations with the indigenous Aymara people of central Peru so that Massive Dynamic can access the soil beneath their land. Coincidence, or an indication that Massive Dynamic are after the special properties connected to the Nazca Geoglyphs?

This leads me to speculate that the Fringe glyphs are also ancient in origin. Perhaps they are scattered all over the world (or worlds) and together represent a larger code integral to the mythology of the show, or signify certain ’soft spots’ suitable for crossing between realities?

There are those who believe that the Nazca glyphs have alien connections – If the Fringe glyphs are indeed based on the Nazca glyphs we could simply substitute any alien angle with the alternate reality storyline, therefore preserving the Fringe “no-alien” policy.

Solution to the Fringe Glyph Cipher

Solution to the Fringe Glyph Cipher

April 7th, 2009 · 92 Comments


Within the last week, two things happened: I finally got around to checking out the Fox show Fringe, the first season of which I noticed sitting tantalizingly in the Playstation Store, and my Ars colleague Erica Sadun wrote an article exploring all the delightful little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the show. In particular she devotes some special attention to the so-called “glyph code”—a series of weird images flanked by glowing dots that appear as interstitial bumpers before commercial breaks. If I hadn’t been way nerdy for crypto before I started writing about the NSA habitually, that certainly pushed me over the edge, and I couldn’t resist taking a stab myself.

Now, here’s the part that pains me just a bit: Erica did a whole bunch of work that ultimately enabled me to crack the thing in a couple of minutes, but stopped just a hair short of the solution. From where she left off, it’s actually incredibly simple once you make one crucial assumption. Alas, there’s no deep dark mystery about the show’s arc concealed here, and the solution’s actually a bit anticlimactic, but it’s below the fold for those who are interested.

So the code is nothing fancy: It’s a simple one-to-one, monoalphabetic substitution cypher. But it’s isolated words, not a sentence, so handy strings like “the” or “and” don’t recur. Crucially, there are a couple of letters missing from Erica’s transcription of the pilot episode glyphs and possibly an extra glyph for episode 3, at least as compared with the list here. Also, it looks like there was a flub in the glyphs aired for episode 5. Throw a couple errors into the mix and a dictionary attack on a string of characters with no breaks becomes computationally infeasible. (If you want a reasonably quick result from your laptop, anyway.) But it’s trivial if you know where the word breaks are.

Well, by “trivial” I mean “trivial when someone else has already written a really solid algorithm for brute-forcing a ciphertext with a probability-weighted wordlist, and you can just use their code.” The “someone” in this case is UC Irvine computer science prof David Eppstein, whose program and dictionary made short work of the string I gave it despite several errors in that ciphertext. Basically, Eppstein and Erica Sadun did all the real work here, and I combined the products of their efforts with a few minor tweaks. [Update: And it strikes me I'm being sloppy here; "brute force" implies blindly running through possible keys and checking against a dictionary, which is emphatically not how Eppstein's very elegant program works—the curious should just read his explanation.]

Sometimes the answers that seem too obvious are correct: Each episode yields a single word, in most cases relating to a central theme of the episode. Glancing around the Internets, it looks like the key omission some other folks trying to solve it were making was a failure to take into account the orientation of the image and the position of the glowing dot that appears with each. If you don’t factor those in, of course, the cipher seems insoluble because you’re counting a whole series of distinct symbols as a single glyph. Anyway, the solutions for the episodes to date are:

3: AEGER [Latin for "sick"]
5: SURGG [should be SURGE?]

For those who want to play along at home, that makes the letter-to-glyph assignment as below. Not all letters have been assigned glyphs yet, obviously.


Between cracking that and writing this post, I’ve probably given this an hour, which is really more than enough, but if someone wants to Photoshop those together into a translation grid for easy reference so people can transcribe the word for the episode as they watch, I’ll happily post it here. (Done! See update below.)

Eyeballing the incomplete key so far, there do seem to be some obvious glyph clusters, and I should note the possibility that solving the substitution cipher is only step one. Think, for instance, of those acrostic puzzles you sometimes see in the New York Times Magazine, where you fill in responses to a series of clues, then rearrange the letters into an adjacent grid to form a quotation. For purposes of cryptanalysis we can just treat each glyph as though it were a distinct letter chosen at random. But the glyphs actually have internal structure too. They’re a combination of three features: Image, orientation (i.e. each image has a mirror version) and one of (at least) three positions for those glowing dots. Cracking the cipher puts those symbols in a natural order; conceivably there’s some further puzzle to be solved by analysis of that series. Or possibly not… again, I’ve probably given this one too much energy for now, but others might want to give it a look.

Update: Dennis at FringeTelevision has gone ahead and gotten his Photoshop on, producing a lovely, suitable-for-framing key to the glyph cipher. Apparently there’s a new episode tonight, and while I’ll have to wait for it to show up in the PS3 store, those of you with advanced “receiver” technology for your TVs can print out a copy and see what the magic word of the day is:

You can get a bigger version at the link above, or another printer-friendly key from the folks at Fringe Podcast.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture

Matthew Fuller, "Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture (Leonardo Books)"
The MIT Press 2005 | ISBN-10: 026206247X | 279 Pages | PDF | 2,8 MB

In Media Ecologies, Matthew Fuller asks what happens when media systems interact. Complex objects such as media systems—understood here as processes, or elements in a composition as much as "things"—have become informational as much as physical, but without losing any of their fundamental materiality. Fuller looks at this multiplicitous materiality—how it can be sensed, made use of, and how it makes other possibilities tangible. He investigates the ways the different qualities in media systems can be said to mix and interrelate, and, as he writes, "to produce patterns, dangers, and potentials."

Fuller draws on texts by Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze as well as writings by Friedrich Nietzsche, Marshall McLuhan, Donna Haraway, Friedrich Kittler, and others, to define and extend the idea of "media ecology." Arguing that the only way to find out about what happens when media systems interact is to carry out such interactions, Fuller traces a series of media ecologies—"taking every path in a labyrinth simultaneously," as he describes one chapter. He looks at contemporary London-based pirate radio and its interweaving of high- and low-tech media systems; the "medial will to power" illustrated by "the camera that ate itself"; how, as seen in a range of compelling interpretations of new media works, the capacities and behaviors of media objects are affected when they are in "abnormal" relationships with other objects; and each step in a sequence of Web pages, Cctv—world wide watch, that encourages viewers to report crimes seen via webcams.

Contributing to debates around standardization, cultural evolution, cybernetic culture, and surveillance, and inventing a politically challenging aesthetic that links them, Media Ecologies, with its various narrative speeds, scales, frames of references, and voices, does not offer the academically traditional unifying framework; rather, Fuller says, it proposes to capture "an explosion of activity and ideas to which it hopes to add an echo."

Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization

How Control Exists after Decentralization
(Leonardo Books)

Alexander R. Galloway,
"Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization (Leonardo Books)"

The MIT Press 2004 | ISBN-10: 0262072475 | 286 Pages | PDF | 2,5 MB

Is the Internet a vast arena of unrestricted communication and freely exchanged information or a regulated, highly structured virtual bureaucracy? In Protocol Alexander Galloway argues that the founding principle of the Net is control, not freedom, and that the controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible. He does this by treating the computer as a textual medium that is based on a technological language, code. Code, he argues, can be subject to the same kind of cultural and literary analysis as any natural language; computer languages have their own syntax, grammar, communities, and cultures. Instead of relying on established theoretical approaches, Galloway finds a new way to write about digital media, drawing on his backgrounds in computer programming and critical theory. "Discipline-hopping is a necessity when it comes to complicated socio-technical topics like protocol," he writes in the preface. Galloway begins by examining the types of protocols that exist, including TCP/IP, DNS, and HTML. He then looks at examples of resistance and subversion--hackers, viruses, cyber-feminism, Internet art--which he views as emblematic of the larger transformations now taking place within digital culture. Written for a nontechnical audience, Protocol serves as a necessary counterpoint to the wildly Utopian visions of the Net that were so widespread in earlier days.


Compatibility Mode

Compatibility Mode

How to Run a Program in Compatibility Mode in Windows 7
Published by Brink
Default Compatibility Mode

How to Run a Program in Compatibility Mode in Windows 7
Compatibility mode allows a older program written for an earlier versions of Windows to possibly run in Windows 7. You can also use Compatibility mode to always have a program to Run as an administrator.
If changing the Compatibility settings does not fix the problem, go to the program manufacturer's website to see if there is an update for the program.
Do not use Compatibility mode on older antivirus programs, disk utilities, or other system programs because it might cause data loss or create a security risk.
Here's How:
If you have use a hack to remove the Windows 7 watermark on the lower right corner of the desktop, then it may cause Compatibility Mode to no longer work properly or at all. I would not recommend using such a hack. To fix this, you will need to do a System Restore using a restore point dated before you applied the patch. If you can't do a System Restore, then you will need to do a Repair Install instead.
1. Right click on the program's shortcut, .exe file, or installation program.

2. Click on Properties.

3. Click on the Compatibility tab. (See screenshot below)
NOTE: If the Compatiblity options are grayed out, then it is a 64 bit program and cannot be changed.
4. To Run a Program in Compatibility Mode -
NOTE: Runs the program using settings from a previous version of Windows. Try this setting if you know the program is designed for (or worked in) a specific previous version of Windows.
A) Check the Run this program in compatibility mode for box. (See screenshot below)

B) Click on the drop down menu arrow and select which version of Windows the program was made for. (See screenshot below)
NOTE: Always pick the latest Windows version the program was written for to have a better chance of it running properly in Windows 7.
MSI files (right screenshot below) will only have the Previous version of Windows option available for it. This option will allow Windows 7 to automatically use the previous version compatibility mode it thinks is best for the MSI file to run properly as. You will not be able to do steps 5 and 6 below.
5. To Change the Settings for a Program -
A) Check or uncheck the settings you want for the program. (See screenshot below)
NOTE: See the table below the screenshot for a description of each setting.
Setting Description
Run in 256 colors Uses a limited set of colors in the program. Some older programs are designed to use fewer colors.
Run in 640 × 480 screen resolution Runs the program in a smaller-sized window. Try this setting if the graphical user interface appears jagged or is rendered improperly.
Disable visual themes Disables themes on the program. Try this setting if you notice problems with the menus or buttons on the title bar of the program.
Disable desktop composition Turns off transparency and other advanced display features. Choose this setting if window movement appears erratic or you notice other display problems.
Disable display scaling on high DPI settings Turns off automatic resizing of programs if large-scale font size (DPI) is in use. Try this setting if large-scale fonts are interfering with the appearance of the program.
6. To Change the Privilege Level of a Program -
NOTE: Runs the program as an administrator. Some programs require administrator privileges to run properly. If you are not currently logged on as an administrator, this option is not available.
A) Check or uncheck the Run this program as an administrator box to enable or disable this option. (See screenshot below)
7. To Change All of These Settings Above for All Users -
NOTE: Lets you choose settings that will apply to all users on this computer.
A) Click on the Change settings for all users button. (See screenshot below)
B) Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 in this window to apply them to all users on the computer. (See screenshot below)

C) Click on OK.
8. Click on OK to apply the changes. (See screenshot below step 3)

The Future of Television

The Future of Television

TV as we know it is being turned upside-down. Here's a look at some of what's coming to the viewing experience

Kiss Those Student Loans Goodbye

Kiss Those Student Loans Goodbye

There are lots of programs that help grads repay their student loans. A few will even wipe the slate clean. But qualifying isn't easy

Shawn Agyeman was down on his luck last fall, having just lost his job as a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, his alma mater. With looming monthly student loan payments of around $200 a month hanging over his head, the recent college graduate was starting to worry about how he'd meet his debt obligations, fearful that creditors would harass his parents—who co-signed his loans—if he couldn't come up with the money. Then he got a phone call from the director of a new grass-roots nonprofit that he says changed his life. Raymar Hampshire, co-founder of a volunteer group called SponsorChange.Org, presented Agyeman with a tempting offer: volunteer in the local Pittsburgh community several hours a week and receive a stipend that would help to cover his looming student loan payments.

"When I heard about it, I said: 'I'd almost be a fool not to do this,'" says Agyeman, 25, who signed up for the pilot program in the spring of 2009 and will be doing it again this fall, with plans to earn $1,000 for his efforts. "I jumped all over it."

Agyeman is one of thousands of people saddled with student loan debt looking for innovative ways to meet their monthly payments. Their plight has become even more severe as unemployed recent college graduates lose their jobs or continue to have trouble landing one, running the risk of not being able to pay back their student loans or, in the worst-case scenario, defaulting. Fortunately, there is a raft of programs that have emerged in the past year or two that can either help students and recent graduates make their student loan debt more manageable or, in some cases, get the loans either partially or completely forgiven. Some of these programs are oriented towards specific careers—such as teaching or nursing—while others are open to recent graduates who meet certain income and eligibility requirements. Still others are open to just about anyone. Some programs, such as SponsorChange, help graduates repay a portion of their student debt. Other programs help students, graduate or undergraduate, avoid student loan debt entirely,

Raising Awareness

Learning about these options and mapping out a plan to take advantage of them is not always as easy as one might think. Many students simply aren't even aware that some of these programs exist, and, as a result, may take out hefty private loans that they could have avoided with a little strategic planning, says Edie Irons, a spokeswoman for the Project on Student Debt, a nonprofit that raises awareness about financial aid. She recommends that students mapping out their education paths learn as much as they can about the different type of loan forgiveness programs available to students before taking out any new loans or additional ones. One point to keep in mind: Most of these loan programs apply only to federal student loans, with very few private loans qualifying.

"People should definitely plan ahead and learn about the loan-forgiveness programs that are out there," she says. "Be sure that you are in a position yourself to qualify for them and then, if you can make it work, go for it."

Here's a roundup of debt-reduction strategies for recent graduates, current students, or those thinking about going back to school:

VOLUNTEER: There are a number of volunteer programs that help people pay off their student loans, though most require a long-term commitment. Such programs could be a good short-term option for college graduates who have been unable to find a job, says Mark Kantrowitz, a student loan expert who runs FinAid, an online provider of student aid information. "If you're unemployed right now, you might as well volunteer and get a little bit of money to pay back your students loans," he says.

One of the best-known volunteer options is AmeriCorps, a national network of service programs, which requires students to volunteer for a year full-time. In exchange, they get a small living stipend and, when the year is up, an education award of $4,725 that can be applied to student loan debt or future education programs. The AmeriCorps program has seen a surge in popularity this year, receiving 177,099 online applications between November 2008 and July 2009, a 203% increase over the same period a year ago, says Siobhan Dugan, a spokeswoman for AmeriCorps. "We have seen the interest increase phenomenally," Dugan says, who says the spike is likely due to a combination of factors, including the economy and President Obama's call-to-service campaign.

Another popular program is the Peace Corps, which requires volunteers to make a two-year commitment to serve in a foreign country. Unlike AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps does not provide a student loan payment award. However, it does allow participants under several federal loan programs to defer their loan payments during their service. Those with federal Perkins loans are eligible for a partial cancellation benefit of 15% for one year of service up to 70% for four years. Another perk? The program provides participants with a $6,000 readjustment allowance after the two-year term of service is completed, a portion of which can be used to repay student loan debt, according to the Peace Corps Web site.

If you don't have the time or resources to devote to a year or two of full-time volunteer work, look for programs locally that can help you pay off your student loan programs while volunteering. For example, the SponsorChange.Org program in Pittsburgh allows working young professionals to volunteer during their free time, in exchange for student loan stipends paid for by donors. To be eligible, students have to have a bachelor's degree and proof of student loan debt (participants have, on average, $20,000 of debt), and they must fill out an online profile. The program puts the program's "volunteer fellows" in touch with local nonprofits—who pay a fee for the service—pairing them up with one that meets their interests and providing them with leadership training. This fall, 10 fellows will volunteer for 50 hours over a four-month period, earning $1,000 each. "It's sort of a win-win situation for both the nonprofit and the young professional," says Hampshire, the program's CEO and founder.

(page 2 of 3)

Andrea Proie, 26, who works as a hydrogeologist in Pittsburgh, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006 with about $40,000 in student loan debt, She did the SponsorChange.Org pilot program in April, serving as a volunteer manager at a local day camp, wellness center and senior citizen home, earning about $400. As a fellow in the program this fall, she expects to take in an additional $1,000, which she will put directly to her loan payments. "I like the feeling of helping people, so being able to go out and volunteer and get the added benefit of having your student loans paid back is just awesome," she says. Hampshire says his program, which is currently available only in Pittsburgh, is one that can eventually be replicated in major metropolitan areas across the country. "The student loan stipend is a big motivator," says Hampshire.

BECOME A TEACHER: Teaching has traditionally been one of the professions that offer students the most generous loan-forgiveness program. That has held true recently, with the introduction of several new federal loan programs aimed at easing loan burdens for those in the teaching profession.

One of the newer offerings is the Teach Grant, a program established by the College Cost Reduction & Access Act of 2007. It's geared towards teachers who commit to teaching in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families, enabling participants to earn up to $4,000 a year in grants that can be applied to student loan debt. The only catch? It requires a four-year commitment and if participants don't complete the program, the grants get converted into a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan—increasing the participant's total debt load instead of decreasing it. Some who've signed up are not aware of the consequences of withdrawing from the program, says FinAid's Kantrowitz, who recommends those interested should investigate the terms of the program thoroughly before committing. "The concern of a lot of financial aid administrators have is that students don't really know what they're getting into. They see the grant and don't hear about the loan until later," says FinAid's Kantrowitz.

For those wary of signing up for a program with such stringent conditions, there are other teaching programs that require a shorter time commitment in return for some student loan awards. Perhaps the most famous one is Teach For America, which this year selected 4,100 recent college graduates for training to serve as teachers in urban and rural schools for a two-year period. Those chosen receive a salary and benefits, plus an education award of $4,725 for each year of service, which can be applied to student loans or future education.

Even if you decide not to apply for the Teach Grant or Teach For America, you may still be eligible for loan forgiveness. The Federal Perkins Loan Program has a provision that allows certain teachers to be eligible for loan cancellation of up to 100% if they teach at a low-income school or in certain high-need subject areas. Likewise, teachers with Stafford loans who teach full-time for five consecutive years at a low-income school may also be eligible to have up to $17,500 in loans cancelled.

SWITCH CAREERS: Whether you're starting a new undergraduate program, or returning to get a graduate degree, one thing that should factor into your post-grad career plans is the availability of loan forgiveness. "I think the creativity needs to come before the fact, not after the fact," says Kevin Walker, CEO of, a student lending Web site. "People need to think more about that, so maybe they can then go into an area where this forgiveness is available to them."

Fortunately, with the recent passage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, also a creation of the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, people from a wide variety of careers can get their debt excused after 10 years of payments. People eligible for the program include teachers, government workers, social workers, law enforcement officers, nonprofit workers and those who hold jobs at public universities and public hospitals. The good news for people eligible for this program? If they work full-time in their respective field for 10 years, their student loan debt will be forgiven at that time period. The program is expected to be popular, but it's still too soon to tell how many people are taking advantage, says Irons, of the Project for Student Debt. "There are lot of people positioning themselves to take advantage of it, but it is still too early yet to know how many people will sign up," says Irons.

(page 3 of 3)

Participants in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can now make monthly loan payments through the new Income-based Repayment initiative, rolled out in July, which lets borrowers with student loans enroll in a plan that lets them cap their payments based on income and family size. It's a program geared towards those with a high debt load and low income. For most borrowers, the loan payments will be less than 10% of their income, and will be even less for those with low incomes, says Irons. Worth noting: this program is open to anyone with federal loans, regardless of what profession they are employed in.

Those looking for a field with especially hefty student loan-forgiveness options should look closely at the programs available to nurses and other healthcare professionals, Irons says. For example, the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment program provides up to $50,000, tax-free, in student loan forgiveness, for primary care health-care professionals—a category that includes dentists, psychologists, and physician assistants—who agree to work for two years at an approved site in an area designated a "health professional shortage area," typically a public hospital or clinic. "For two years of service, that's a pretty generous program," says Irons.

GET RETRAINED: A number of states have received millions in federal stimulus funding that allows unemployed workers to participate in job training programs at local community colleges or universities, often tuition-free. One of the most successful retraining programs to date is recession-battered Michigan's No Worker Left Behind program, which provides up to two years worth of tuition, up to $5,000, for laid-off workers looking to get retrained in a high-demand occupation such as nursing, emerging industries, or an entrepreneurship program. As of June 30, 81,667 had participated in the program, according to a state fact sheet on the program.

If you've been laid off recently and are looking to gain some new skills, short-term retraining programs at community colleges may be a more sensible option than going back to graduate school full-time, says FinAid's Kantrowitz. In some cases, unemployed workers may qualify for dislocated worker training funds that will pay for some or all of the tuition. He recommends that people interested in these opportunities start off by looking at the Web sites like America's Service Locator. "Retraining programs are much cheaper than four-year institutions, so if they have the right program for you and you don't need the full degree, you can get skills in a new area," says FinAid's Kantrowitz. "Often, you just need the skills and don't necessarily need to have a degree."

JOIN THE MILITARY: The military has always offered a number of programs that help people pay off or avoid taking out student loans. The army's Loan Repayment Program is perhaps the best know: for every year of service, new recruit get a portion of their student debt repaid. For those in the Army and the Navy, loans can be repaid up to $65,000. The Air Force's program, the College Loan Repayment Program, pays up to $10,000 a year per recruit.

One new program that those considering joining the military will want to take note of is the Yellow Ribbon Program, created under last year's GI Bill. This is not a loan-forgiveness program, but it does allow post-9/11 veterans to get full tuition and fees, plus housing stipends, covered at the most expensive public four-year university in their state. Some private colleges and universities have signed on as well, agreeing to pay any excess costs not covered by the program. "It is essentially a tuition waiver that they can take to any public college and also to any private college that agrees to accept it in lieu of tuition," says FinAid's Kantrowitz. "It seems like it is going to be very popular."

TAP EMPLOYER BENEFITS: Those fearful of racking up student loan debt may want to go the backhand route and see if their employer will pay the cost of graduation school. Some companies, even in this economy, still will pay 100% of the cost of tuition and fees for graduate school for promising employees. For example, professional services firm KPMG, tech company IBM, and even the IRS are a few of the employers that will completely foot the bill for a graduate education. Other companies will often partially sponsor a student and partially reimburse some of their education costs.

The only caveat? Students whose companies pay for their education are typically expected to go back to the firm after their education is completed, leaving a little less wiggle room for job-hopping. No matter what company you work for, it's always worth asking if they will help you pay for graduate school or any additional training that will help you move forward in your careers, says Irons, of the Project for Student Debt. "It's more efficient for a company to keep a valued employee than to lose you to graduate school and have to hire someone else," says Irons. "If you have a company that might be able to do that and you want to stay with them, it's always worth asking."

Damast is a reporter for

Obama Proposes College Finance Overhaul

Money Builder

Obama Proposes College Finance Overhaul

David K. Randall, 09.10.09, 04:00 PM EDT

Administration suggests changes to 529 savings plans and FAFSA form.


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The Obama administration released two proposals on Wednesday that may change how middle-class families pay for college. The goal of the suggested changes is to expand the use of state and federal programs by low- and middle-income earners by making them easier to use. The proposals would affect 529 college savings plans and the federal application required for almost all financial aid.

Currently, only 5% of families defined as middle class are enrolled in 529 plans, according to the Treasury Department. The majority of 529 savers have incomes in the 90th percentile or higher.

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So-called 529 savings plans are similar to Roth IRAs: a family contributes after-tax dollars into a fund and doesn't have to pay taxes on investment gains if the money is used for qualified education expenses like college tuition or room and board. Each state runs its own 529 plan with unique investment choices, and many offer state tax deductions for contributions to the plan. Families of college-bound students can pick any state's 529 plan, regardless of where they live.

The Obama administration wants 529 plans to be more effective for the average household by focusing more on index investing based on the age of the college-bound student, a low-cost investment style that mirrors the return of the broad stock market.

“Historically, index funds have performed well relative to actively managed funds because they have low fees,” a Treasury Department report states. “They are especially well suited for investors who do not wish to spend time acquiring information and evaluating the investment philosophy of actively managed funds.” Only 23 states currently offer an age-based index fund that becomes more conservative as the student gets closer to attending college.

The administration also wants to increase competition between 529 plans by eliminating state tax policies that favor the student's home state. Only five states provide income tax deductions to residents who contribute to another state's 529 plan.

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In addition, the Obama administration plans to limit the amount high-income families can put away for each college-bound student to reduce the total tax benefit they derive from 529 plans. While each state plan has its own contribution limits, the administration wants to close a loophole that allows a single student to have 529 plans in multiple states, thereby allowing a family to invest large sums in tax-deferred accounts. That move could free up federal funds for aid to low- or middle-income students, the administration claims.

Changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid may be more sweeping. Critics have charged that the 153-question FAFSA is needlessly complex and leaves many students with the erroneous belief that they are not eligible for any aid.

The administration wants applicants to be able to electronically retrieve family tax information from the IRS and transfer it to an online FAFSA form. It also wants to eliminate nearly 30 questions whose answers are not available on tax returns.

Biden says education funding is ‘big deal’

Bennett J. Loudon – Staff writer
Local News – September 10, 2009 - 3:00am
JEN RYNDA staff photographer
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Middle Class Task Force meeting on college access and affordability held at Syracuse University on Wednesday. The panel included the treasury and education secretaries.

SYRACUSE — Vice President Joe Biden knows how difficult it can be to afford a college education.

Before he became vice president, Biden was a Delaware senator, with an income consistently ranked among the lowest in Congress, at the same time he was putting three children through college.

This is real difficult stuff, especially when you have more than one child,” he told an audience of about 1,000 people Wednesday during a meeting of the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families at Syracuse University.

I wouldn’t have been able to do it without tapping into the rising equity of my home,” he said.

Unfortunately, many American families don’t have that option, he said.

Two of Biden’s children have completed law degrees and the third is in the process of earning a master’s degree, he said. But they all worked about 30 hours a week in college and still have tens of thousands of dollars of loan debt.

As chair of the Task Force, Biden has held a series of town hall meetings around the country on a variety of topics that affect middle class families, such as jobs, health care and the environment.

Wednesday’s meeting focused on college access and affordability.

He was joined at the Schine Student Center on the SU campus by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, SU President and Chancellor Nancy Cantor, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and other experts. Bill Destler, president of Rochester Institute of Technology, and Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester, also attended the session.

The President and I believe there is no better ticket to the middle class than a college education,” Biden told the crowd of students, faculty and parents.

It’s hard to believe how you get on that track to the middle class without a college education,” said Biden, who graduated from Syracuse University Law School in 1968.

Geithner joined Biden, he said, because the economy and the educational system of the country are intertwined.

It is critical to the health of the economy to create a better-educated workforce,” Geithner said.

Biden said $100 billion of the funding in the economic recovery bill will go toward improving education and making college more accessible and affordable.

He said the cost of a college education has risen 10 times as fast as the median income for middle-class families.

The average annual cost of a college education is $34,000 at a private school and $14,000 at a public school, he said.

Last year, college students borrowed $80 billion, a 16 percent increase over the year before.

This is not a minor issue. This is a big deal,” Biden said.

In response, the Obama administration has implemented a collection of initiatives: Increased tax credits for college tuition, increasing the maximum Pell grant from $4,700 to $5,500, more generous education benefits for military veterans, and cutting $9 billion in subsidies to banks for student loans to increase the amount of money available to students.

In addition to the monetary improvements, the administration is working to simplify the financial aid application for college students.

The student aid form itself is an obstacle,” Biden said.

Duncan noted that 30 percent of students in the United States drop out before they graduate from high school. And he emphasized a need to prepare students for college long before high school.

We have to do something dramatically different and we have to do it now,” Duncan said.

He said the economic recovery spending included $5 billion to improve early-childhood education, $70 billion helped save hundreds of thousands of jobs of teachers and related workers, and another $10 billion will fund new programs that “challenge the status quo.”

One woman asked the panel how she could get financial aid to get training in a new field after she has already earned a college degree, but lost her job. Duncan said Pell grants should be available and Biden promised to have staffers work with her after the meeting to get her help finding assistance.

Another woman expressed concerns that the strong efforts to improve the educational system might fade as time passes.

I can’t guarantee that Congress is going to reauthorize every program you think is important in the next five, 10 or 15 years,” Biden said.

We go through fads, but I’ve never seen a time before in my career when everybody seemed to be getting it,” he said.

An SU student asked the experts whether they feared that the efforts to provide more funding to keep up with escalating tuition might just perpetuate the problem.

Duncan said he is counting on the market to control the costs.

People can choose. People can shop. Some schools might price themselves out of the business,” he said.

And he hinted that financial aid for schools in the future might be tied to the schools’ efforts to control spending.

This is one of those places where people are going to be voting with their feet,” Biden added.

Audience members gave the panel high marks.

I think this was excellent. They actually discussed issues and solutions,” said Joan Nicholson, an SU trustee.

I think they are listening and I hope it’s the beginning of a continuing discussion about the issue of access,” said Christy Ashby, 35, a professor in SU’s School of Education.

And Pamela Galbato, a senior from Auburn, Cayuga County, was excited to have the vice president on campus.

I didn’t come here to hear a particular topic, but it really sparked my interest. It’s good to hear they are doing something for those who aren’t able to go to college so they can pursue what they want to do,” she said.

Pell Grant increases financial aid

An increase in financial aid is now in effect for students benefiting from the Federal Pell Grant award.

Eligible students will now receive a maximum of $5,350, an increase of $619, this year.

President Obama this year signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, adding to the increase in funds for the Pell Grant.

Although cuts in our state budget are continuing to take their toll on education and other programs, the Pell Grant is a federal grant and not subject to state cuts.

According to Dean of Student Support Services Kimberly Westby, “At the community college level, students receive the full Pell because we don’t have tuition like the CSUs or the UCs or Private institutions.”

Dean Westby also suggests students seek out other funds available on the financial aid newsletter on the Web site.

“I encourage everybody to access our Web site. It shows how to apply, all the grants offered, the SAP forms, Federal work, state loans, outreach efforts and how to contact us. We also have a 24/7 response where the students can leave us a message with information and we’ll respond within two days.”

Dean Westby also added that approximately half of the student body attending Cerritos College benefits from financial aid.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Mysterio by Todd Nauck.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance (Beck)
The Amazing Spider-Man #13 (June 1964)
Created by Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
In-story information
Alter ego Quentin Beck
Daniel Berkhart
Francis Klum
Team affiliations Sinister Six
Notable aliases (all)
Master of Illusion
Ludwig Rinehart
Abilities (Beck and Berkhart)
Special effects expert and masterful illusionist

Mysterio is the name of three fictional characters, all supervillains and enemies of Spider-Man in the Marvel Comics Universe. The original Mysterio (Quentin Beck) was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and first appears in Amazing Spider-Man #13, although it was later retconned that the aliens seen in Amazing Spider-Man #2 had been Mysterio and his men in disguise; it was revealed that he had been hired by the Tinkerer to disguise himself as an extraterrestrial and uncover military and industrial secrets. [1] In 2009, Mysterio was ranked as IGN's 85th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.[2]



[edit] Fictional character biography

[edit] Character overview

Debuting in Amazing Spider-Man #13, Mysterio is Quentin Beck, a special effects wizard and stunt man working for a major Hollywood studio with dreams of making a name for himself in the film industry. However, he came to see his career in special effects as a dead-end job, but realized that his expertise in illusions could make him an effective supervillain.

In his first battle with Spider-Man, Mysterio obstructs the hero's spider-sense with gas and dissolves his webbing with a chemical abrasive.[3] He later joins the Sinister Six in an attempt at revenge on Spider-Man.[4] Mysterio later creates the alias of world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Ludwig Rinehart, using technology and hypnosis in an attempt to make Spider-Man lose his mind.[5] Mysterio then establishes a brief partnership with the Wizard in a plot to kill Spider-Man and the Human Torch on a Hollywood movie set.[6] He goes on to convince Spider-Man he is 6 inches (150 mm) tall using a post-hypnotic suggestion.[7]

While incarcerated, Beck's cellmate Daniel Berkhart briefly becomes Mysterio on the original's behalf.[8] Out of prison, Beck resumes his Ludwig Rinehart identity to manipulate Spider-Man's Aunt May into revealing the whereabouts of a lost fortune hidden in her house.[9] Beck used bogus alien disguises to frighten May Parker into revealing the location of the fortune, but then learned that the money had long ago been eaten by silverfish.[10] In his next appearance, Mysterio tricks Spider-Man into believing that he had caused the death of a bystander.[11] Mysterio then attempts to scare the tenants from an apartment complex in real estate thwarted by the preteen superhero team, Power Pack.[12] He is recruited by Doctor Octopus to form the second Sinister Six, and battles Spider-Man.[13]

In other encounters, Mysterio has faked the death of Spider-Man's Aunt May, and made deals with demons from Limbo. Despite this, however, Mysterio was constantly beaten by Spider-Man and usually arrested. He joined Doctor Octopus' Sinister Six on several occasions, but this never gave him the edge against his foe that he desired. Eventually, he began to lose credibility as a supervillain with his defeat at the hands of Power Pack, being a particularly humiliating moment.

After his final imprisonment, Mysterio was given an early release, as he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and lung cancer, both caused by the chemicals and radiation from his equipment. He was given one year to live. Obsessed with enacting his final revenge on Spider-Man, he was disappointed when he deduced from newspaper articles that the current Spider-Man was just a clone, and saw no dignity in overpowering a 'copy' of the real thing (even though by then, the clone had been killed, and the current Spider-Man was indeed the original). Mysterio decided to change his plan and focus on Daredevil, who he had encountered recently during an insurance scam that the Man Without Fear had thwarted; he believed that he had found a 'kindred spirit' in Daredevil, in the sense that both were second stringers with little reputation outside their homes.

After the Kingpin gave Mysterio all the information he possessed about Daredevil's past, Mysterio developed an elaborate plot to drive Daredevil insane. Daredevil was nearly manipulated into killing an innocent baby (falsely accused of being the Antichrist), Karen Page was killed by Bullseye after Mysterio had convinced her that she was suffering from HIV due to her time as a porn star, Matt Murdock's partner Foggy Nelson was framed for murder after cheating on his current lover, and Daredevil nearly lost his mind as he appeared to be tormented by the forces of Hell.

However, Daredevil's will proved stronger than Mysterio expected, and he unmasked Mysterio as the mastermind, shattering the villain's helmet in fury and revealing his now languishing appearance. Beck had thought Daredevil would kill him upon discovery, which in his eyes, was a "grand way to end his final show". Daredevil denied him this and instead verbally abused Mysterio's plot and very existence, dismissing Mysterio's scheme as a basic 'B-Movie' plot and calling Mysterio a 'human xerox', incapable of having an original thought in his life; if nothing else, the Kingpin had already attempted to drive Daredevil insane, and he had used the 'supernatural intruding on our world' idea in a previous attack on J. Jonah Jameson. Broken in every sense of the word, Mysterio, saying he was stealing an idea from Kraven the Hunter, pulled out a gun and shot himself dead. While Mysterio has faked his own death several times in the past, this act was legitimate, as Mysterio had nothing left to live for.

[edit] Daniel Berkhart

Daniel Berkhart as Mysterio.

Someone claiming to be Mysterio appeared later with the revised Sinister Six, making references to his 'death', stating how after fighting Daredevil he had exited in a 'most spectacular fashion'. There was some confusion to this Mysterio's identity until Spider-Man: The Mysterio Manifesto hinted that it was Daniel Berkhart, an old friend of Beck and a previous Jack-O-Lantern who had taken over the mantle of Mysterio during a period when Beck had previously faked his death, and has reassumed it after Beck's death. This issue was not addressed again until a Mysterio briefly fought Spider-Man and was captured in Spider-Man Unlimited (Vol. III) #7. In a recent storyline in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #12, Berkhart was confirmed to be this second Mysterio by Quentin Beck.

[edit] Return of Beck

Mysterio unmasked in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #12. Art by Todd Nauck.

In Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11-13, a teleporting mutant named Francis Klum plots to destroy the recently unmasked Spider-Man in revenge for events shown in The Evil That Men Do. Klum purchases the Mysterio costume, and turns the school Peter Parker teaches at into a 'haunted house', filling it with death-traps. Klum's actions bring the attention of Daniel Berkhart, who arrives and prepares to team up with Spider-Man in order to defeat Klum.

Beck appears in the school auditorium in a dark red version of his costume and confronts Klum, before leaving him for Berkhart to deal with. Beck then confronts Miss Arrow, revealing that half his head is missing from the gunshot wound, and explains that, having gone to Hell for suicide, his "superiors" in the afterlife sent him back to Earth to maintain a cosmic balance. He also believes Miss Arrow to have a similar role, for the "other side", although she denies this.

In Amazing Spider-Man #581, a flashback shows that prior to his suicide, Beck had been hired by Norman Osborn to fake his son Harry's death. According to the letters page of #589, Beck is scheduled to make a return in a future Spider-Man story.

[edit] Powers, abilities and equipment

Quentin Beck did not possess superhuman abilities but was an expert designer of special effects devices and stage illusions, a master hypnotist and magician, and an amateur chemist and roboticist. He had extensive knowledge of hand-to-hand combat techniques learned as a stuntman.

Daniel Berkhart, a former friend and protégé of Beck's, had some of the same training and skills as Beck.

Francis Klum has the mutant ability to teleport both himself and other objects, and the ability to control other people's body parts, as well as an understanding of the technologies in the Mysterio suit.

Mysterio's suit has personal weaponry which include a helmet with a holographic projector and gloves and boots armed with nozzles which emit hallucinogenic gas. He developed a gas that can cancel Spider-Man's spider-sense, and when he is cloaked in his mist gases, he uses sonar to detect objects and beings nearby.

[edit] Other versions

[edit] Old Man Logan

In an alternate future of the Marvel Universe, Mysterio casts an illusion which makes Wolverine believe that the X-Men are various deadly villains of the Marvel universe, and Wolverine slaughters them all, only discovering the trick after he killed the last "villain" (Jubilee, who appeared as Bullseye), and the illusion cleared up.[14] Without the X-Men, the Red Skull's alliance of villains manages to conquer America and kill most of the heroes.[volume & issue needed]

[edit] Marvel Zombies

A Zombie Mysterio appears with five other Spider-Man villains attempting to eat civilians, but all six are repelled by Magneto and Wolverine.[volume & issue needed]

[edit] Marvel Zombies Return

A past version of Mysterio from Spider-Man's college days appears as a member of the Sinister Six and battles the reality hopping Zombie Spider-Man. This Mysterio has parts of his brain pulled out his dome head by the zombie and is infected, causing him to participate with other zombie members in eating Spider-Man's friends. Angered, the Zombie Spider-Man kills him.[volume & issue needed]

[edit] Ultimate Mysterio

An Ultimate version of Mysterio was introduced in Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3. In his first appearance, he had a police technician to set up surveillance equipments to the police department. However, after NYPD's police captain Frank Quiad asked Spider-Man to aid them to find the crook who somehow able to stay ahead of his unit. Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man's love interest, figured out how the criminal does it after the hero informed her of the situation. After the police arrested his accomplice, the villain vowed to get even with Spider-Man and then escapes.[volume & issue needed]

Mysterio appears again in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1, blasting Kingpin out the window of a skyscraper.[15]

[edit] In other media

[edit] Television

  • Mysterio was a villain in the 1960s Spider-Man animated series in two popular episodes from the first season, The Menace of Mysterio (one of two half-hour episodes of the season) and Return of the Flying Dutchman. Mysterio also appears in a third-season episode The Madness of Mysterio, although he he appears out of costume and has red hair and green skin. In all three episodes, he was voiced by Chris Wiggins; this portrayal of the character has since inspired later actors to give Mysterio a British accent.[citation needed]
  • He later appeared in the Spider-Man episode "The Pied Piper of New York Town", hypnotizing the youth of New York. He then made an appearance in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, in the episode "Spidey Goes Hollywood" voiced by Peter Cullen.[16] He blackmails a director to persuade Spider-Man to star in a movie, rigged with devices he created. The plot is similar to The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4 (where Mysterio and The Wizard summoned Spidey and the Human Torch), as well as the first appearance of the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man #14, where the Goblin cons Spidey and a Hollywood director into making a Spider-Man movie. In both "Spidey Goes Hollywood" and the Goblin's first appearance, the "movie" is actually a trap meant to destroy Spider-Man, and in both of these cases, the Hulk becomes involved.[citation needed]
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Mysterio, voiced by Gregg Berger.[17], was a supervillain who blames Spider-Man for ruining his reputation. In his first appearance, Mysterio frames Spider-Man for various crimes, but his plan is exposed by Spider-Man and Detective Terri Lee, and he is jailed. Later, he becomes a member of the Insidious Six in the episodes The Insidious Six and Battle of the Insidious Six, but the entire team fails and disbands to avoid being arrested. In Mysterio's final appearance in the series, The Haunting of Mary Jane Watson, he creates a studio in secret. He kidnaps Mary Jane Watson (or rather, her clone) and Spider-Man teams up with Mysterio, battling robot versions of villains Spider-Man fought in the past in a deathtrap Mysterio had designed to one day lure Spider-Man to and kill him (though not all the villains were exact copies, namely the Venom robot with firebreath). Spider-Man discovers that Mysterio was in love with a woman named Miranda Wilson, a former actress who was disfigured and planned the entire kidnapping to swap bodies with the similar-looking Mary Jane. The studio exploded, Spider-Man saved the Mary Jane clone, and Mysterio apparently died in the explosion, staying with Miranda to the end. In the five-part Six Forgotten Warriors storyline, in which the Kingpin hires the Insidious Six again, the Vulture replaces the late Mysterio.
  • . Quentin Beck appears in The Spectacular Spider-Man, voiced by Xander Berkeley. He, along with Phineas Mason, is one of the Chameleon's henchmen. After Chameleon impersonates Spider-Man and goes on a crime spree, the group are taken down by the real Spider-Man and the Black Cat. Quentin takes on the identity of Mysterio in the season two episode "Blueprints". He steals some mechanical objects from Tricorp and Oscorp, pretending to be a sorcerer. He defeats Spider-Man twice but Spidey discovers his lair and defeats him after realising that he doesn't use magic but technology and illusions. At the end, Mysterio is freed from the police by the Tinkerer and it turns out that they are both working for the enigmatic Master Planner. He returns in the episode "Reinforcement". Joining the Sinister Six, he attacks Spider-Man alongside Kraven the Hunter, and the trio end up in a mall. He doesn't really fight, but helps the hunter with robot duplicates of himself. When Kraven is defeated, Mysterio tries to escape but is stopped by Spidey's web fluid. He is the only member to be captured because the others are extracted by the Tinkerer before the police can arrive. [18] Quentin Beck reappears in "Identity Crisis", when he is interviewed by Ned Leeds on the matter of whether he believes that Peter Parker could be Spider-Man. In "Opening Night," Quentin Beck is seen as an inmate at the Vault during the time when Spider-Man was testing out its security system. Upon being released by Green Goblin, it turns out that the Quentin Beck present was actually a robot designed to turn into Mysterio. Which greatly annoyed Spidey who had suspected that Beck might have put a robot in his place.


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