Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reclaiming lost numbers ...

That the green-card system in the US is quite messed up is pretty well known. Every year, about 140,000 green cards can be issued in the "employment-based" (EB) categories. The inefficiencies in the processing has meant that over the years, lots of these go unused (currently estimated at ~ 218,000). Obviously, this unused figure is not because of a lack of applicants.

Congress did not foresee this situation arising, and never provided for the unused visa numbers to roll over to the next year. As a result, the only way to "reclaim" those lost green card numbers is by new legislation. Even in the best case scenario, the USCIS seems to be able to use about 95% of the visa numbers. As a a result, this new legislation is almost imperative.

So finally, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced a bill (H.R. 5882) two weeks ago to “recapture” employment-based (EB) green cards that Congress authorized in the past but that went unused before the end of the fiscal year because of government processing delays. Being an election year, its unlikely that the visa numbers will get increased - this bill getting through seems to represent a best-case scenario for those waiting for years to get their GCs. Zoe Lofgren has been at the forefront of the greencard debate - no surprises, she represents most of San Jose and Santa Clara (where Indian, Chinese and Hispanics dominate the populace), just smart politics I suppose. No wonder she is serving her seventh term in the House.

Hopefully, the bill prevails and prevails soon ...

Waste of resources ...

Every year, I get 3 big fat telephone books and yellow pages. This is despite the fact that I do not own a land line (although I did own one till about 2 years ago). Yesterday, I took all my phonebooks, some old magazines and some old newspapers and dropped them off at the local recycling center. Now, I ended up driving about 12 miles extra to drop off the stuff (which weighed about 45 lb, most of it was the phone books). It got me wondering ... was it worth going out of the way to drop it for recycling (as against just dumping it in the regular trash)?

I am trying to figure out answers to the following questions:
* The cost of the gas not withstanding, was the pollution from driving 12 miles justified by recycling 45 lb of paper?
* Why do I get those big fat phone books at all? I never even use them - whatever information I need I can get online! What a colossal waste ...
* Is there a better way for companies like AT&T or YellowBook to get money from companies who advertise in these publications and not dump so much garbage on society. Even if one believes that a good chunk of it gets recycled, its like trying to clean up a spill that never should have happened in the first place ...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fear and Greed

Quotable quote of the month:
I always say you should get greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. But that's too much to expect. Of course, you shouldn't get greedy when others get greedy and fearful when others get fearful. At a minimum, try to stay away from that.
-Warren Buffet (Fortune magazine)

Of course, easier said than done Mr. Buffet ...

Friday, April 25, 2008

50 + 5 years today ...

Its DNA Day today (April 25) - it is 55 years since the day that James Watson and Francis Crick published their paper in Nature on the helical structure of DNA. It commemorates the day in 1953 when James Watson and Francis Crick's paper on the structure of DNA was published in the journal Nature. There is another reason why this day is such a landmark day - its exactly five years since the completion of the Human Genome Project. The HGP was a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA, and determining aspects of its function. A working draft of the human genome sequence was announced in June of 2000, an initial analysis was published in February of 2001, and a high-quality, reference sequence was completed in April 2003. This was a monumental event in science and the fact that it coincided with the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest breakthroughs in biology is just remarkable.

I therefore consider myself incredibly fortunate that I got an opportunity to listen to Francis Collins on this day. Francis Collins, MD, PhD, is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He led the successful effort to complete Human Genome Project and has been at the forefront of pushing genomic research to improve human health.

As the understanding of the human genome grows and is applied towards developing diagnostic tests for genetic predisposition to diseases and therapeutics to treat them, it has also raised issues about legislation to protect patient rights. To make the story even perfect, the Senate unanimously passed legislation yesterday that prevents discrimination by insurance companies and employers based on genetic profiling. The news had not even hit the wires, when Dr. Collins made this announcement during his talk yesterday afternoon. The legislation has been stuck in Congress for about 10 years now, and will finally get signed into law within the next few days. Both the House and the Bush administration are expected to back it fully.

A remarkable day today ... DNA day ... celebrate some of the greatest scientific achievements of man, and pay tribute to the outstanding scientists whose hard work has brought us thus far.

Check out the superb chronological map of the progress in genetics from the early studies of Gregor Mendel to the completion of the HGP. It appeared in the April 24 issue of Nature (2003) and lays out the NHGRI's vision for the future of genomics research (Collins et al., Nature, Vol. 422, No. 6934, April 24, 2003, p. 835-847).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Return ...

Its been nearly a year since my last post, and what an action packed year it has been - on both the personal and professional front. Several improvements at work, and then came the green card fiasco from the USCIS last summer. Then late summer and the entire Fall went in preparing applications to business schools. The process was exciting and incredibly exhausting, but its finally over. I will be headed to India for a vacation, and then relocating to join business school in July.

Hopefully, this blog will see more entries going forward.