Mark Zuckerberg Is Totally Out of His Depth And so are all the big boys of tech.

Cathy O’Neil:

That leaves hiring humans to filter everything that emerges from the firehose of meaningless updates, cat pictures and lies, possibly with an automatically generated list of ranked things to worry about (which, to be clear, is not AI, it’s just an automatically generated list of things to worry about). Yet there are major problems here, too. For instance:

If you use people, you’re admitting that you have a policy of censorship, and users don’t like that, especially when they get censored. (Of course you already had censorship-by-algorithm before, but it was nice — and very inexpensive! — to imagine that it wasn’t censorship, when it totally was.)
You have to create a censorship policy, but you’re a rich nerd boss and you have no idea how to do that, which doesn’t feel great.
It’s expensive to hire people to do censorship. And if you try to save money by hiring people in other countries who can’t possibly understand the context, you’re asking for trouble.

Cathy O’Neil wrote “Weapons of Math Destruction”.

Civics: DEA planning to expand its national, solar-power license-plate reader surveillance network

US Federal Government:

The US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intends to make a sole source award to Mobile Solar. Mobile Solar is the sole source provider of the technologies required by the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA operates an extensive network of LPR cameras across the US, with demands from the field to expand the program by installing new LPR sites and increasing the national footprint. The program utilizes multiple LPR vendors in order to integrate with state and local partners who utilize specific LPR brands, which require proprietary integration. Mobile Solar previously provided operational equipment for DEA, and is well versed with existing engineering requirements and standards needed for this solution. Mobile Solar design is specifically configured for the current DEA/government owned equipment, with which it must be compatible.

Women to watch in Asian tech


As Silicon Valley struggles to shed its male-dominated “brogrammer” culture and bring more women into the technology industry, Asia can proudly point to a long list of female tech entrepreneurs — including a number of self-made billionaires. Each of them has a remarkable story to tell.

For this special report, Nikkei Asian Review journalists interviewed five women who are thriving in a famously male-dominated industry.

Doris Hsu, raised in a poor farming community in Taiwan, runs a top global semiconductor supply company. Shilpa Vyapari’s software firm competes in one of the most promising areas of tech: the internet of things. Carman Chan launched two startups of her own before becoming a successful venture capitalist, while Bai Xue and Han Mei both left top positions at Alibaba to pursue their entrepreneurial visions.

A coke-snorting generation of hypocrites

Clare Foges:

The late Robin Williams once called cocaine “God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money”. The rich man’s drug is now cheaper and use is rising. Last week Home Office figures revealed that cocaine use among young people is at its highest level for a decade. Nearly 9 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds had used Class A drugs in the past 12 months. Britain has the highest rate of cocaine use among young adults in Europe, their consumption being almost double that of other nations on the continent.

‘I Don’t Want To Be Here’

Carrie Arnold:

Laws are being passed in the USA that make it possible to compel people to receive treatment for health problems they don’t believe they have.

On 3 July 2014, Misty Mayo boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Los Angeles. Desperate to escape her hometown of Modesto in Stanislaus County, 300 miles north in California’s Central Valley, the 41-year-old thought the 4th of July fireworks in LA would be the perfect antidote.

Even a mugging at the Modesto bus station didn’t deter her. When she arrived in LA the next morning with just a few dollars in her pocket, Misty immediately asked a police officer for directions to the fireworks display. She also knew she would need to find a Target pharmacy to refill her medication, but decided it could wait until later.

Later came and went. With no money in a strange city, Misty found the bus system too confusing to navigate. The longer she went without her cocktail of antipsychotics to keep the worst symptoms of her schizoaffective disorder at bay, the more difficult it became to remember that she even needed medication. In the sweltering July heat, Misty roamed the streets of Santa Monica, trying to grab a few minutes of shut-eye where she could. Mostly, she was too afraid to sleep.

Misty’s worsening mental state left her combative and paranoid. Her memories of this time are vague at best, but hospital records show a series of psychiatric hospitalizations during July and August. She was arrested at least once. By now, Misty no longer recognized that she had a health problem. Not surprisingly, she didn’t take her medications once out of hospital, and the cycle repeated itself over and over.

The Age That Women Have Babies: How a Gap Divides America

Quoctrung Bui & Claire Cain Miller:

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. In Todd County, S.D., and Zapata County, Tex., it’s half a generation earlier, at 20 and 21, according to the analysis, which was of all birth certificates in the United States since 1985 and nearly all for the five years prior. It was conducted for The New York Times by Caitlin Myers, an economist who studies reproductive policy at Middlebury College, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Civics and Open Records

Shelly Mesch:

State Attorney General Brad Schimel is calling on local and state government agencies to more accurately reflect the actual costs of fulfilling open records requests, saying they cannot make a profit when charging requesters for print or digital documents.

The fees suggested by Schimel for printed pages are 1.35 cents for black and white and 6.32 cents for color pages, down from the 15 to 25 cents per page open records advocate Bill Lueders said is a common charge for requested records.

“It reminds custodians that the public is entitled to these records and they should be provided at cost,” Lueders said.

Why the Left Is So Afraid of Jordan Peterson

Caitlin Flanagan:

Around the country, all sorts of people were listening to these podcasts. Joe Rogan’s sui generis show, with its surpassingly eclectic mix of guests and subjects, was a frequent locus of Peterson’s ideas, whether advanced by the man himself, or by the thinkers with whom he is loosely affiliated. Rogan’s podcast is downloaded many millions of times each month. Whatever was happening, it was happening on a scale and with a rapidity that was beyond the ability of the traditional culture keepers to grasp. When the left finally realized what was happening, all it could do was try to bail out the Pacific Ocean with a spoon.

The alarms sounded when Peterson published what quickly became a massive bestseller, 12 Rules for Life, because books are something that the left recognizes as drivers of culture. The book became the occasion for vicious profiles and editorials, but it was difficult to attack the work on ideological grounds, because it was an apolitical self-help book that was at once more literary and more helpful than most, and that was moreover a commercial success. All of this frustrated the critics. It’s just common sense! they would say, in one arch way or another, and that in itself was telling: Why were they so angry about common sense?

The critics knew the book was a bestseller, but they couldn’t really grasp its reach because people like them weren’t reading it, and because it did not originally appear on The New York Times’s list, as it was first published in Canada. However, it is often the bestselling nonfiction book on Amazon, and—perhaps more important—its audiobook has been a massive seller. As with Peterson’s podcasts and videos, the audience is made up of people who are busy with their lives—folding laundry, driving commercial trucks on long hauls, sitting in traffic from cubicle to home, exercising. This book was putting words to deeply held feelings that many of them had not been able to express before.

A PhD should be about improving society, not chasing academic kudos

Julian Kirchherr :

When you look at the stats, it’s hard not to conclude that the current PhD system is fundamentally broken. Mental health issues are rife: approximately one-third of PhD students are at risk of having or developing a psychiatric disorder like depression. The high level of dropouts is similarly worrying – and possibly another symptom of the same problem. Research suggests that on average 50% of PhD students leave graduate school without finishing – with numbers higher at some institutions.

What’s more, aspiring scientists who manage to finish usually take much longer than originally planned. For instance, a PhD in Germany is supposed to take three years, according to university regulations, but most students need five years to complete one. In the US, meanwhile, the average completion time for a PhD in education sciences surpasses 13 years. The result is that in most countries, PhD students usually don’t graduate until they are well into their 30s.

Although 80% of science students start their PhD with the intention to pursue a career in science, theirenthusiasm typically wanes to the point that just 55% plan to continue in academia when nearing graduation. In any case, most are unlikely to be able to continue. One study found that for every 200 people who complete a PhD, only seven will get a permanent academic post and only one will become a professor.

The Hole at the Heart of China’s Silk Road A seething and repressed Xinjiang can’t become a hub for trade.

Mihir Sharma :

Nobody pretends the People’s Republic of China is an entirely benign power, least of all its leaders in Beijing. Yet, even by the standards of what continues to be a remarkably repressive state, the stories that are emerging from behind the Great Firewall about the crackdown on Xinjiang’s Uighur Muslim population are deeply disturbing and deserve more of the world’s attention.

The one country on earth which should best understand the danger and futility of such efforts has reportedly set up “reeducation centres” across the length and breadth of its largest province, where political prisoners are instructed to repeat mantras about the greatness of the Chinese state and of President Xi Jinping. They write self-criticisms late into the night. Observant Muslims are forced to drink alcohol.

The Chinese Typewriter: A History by Thomas S. Mullaney

Jamie Fisher:

Nominally a book that covers the rough century between the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s and that of computing in the 1950s, The Chinese Typewriter is secretly a history of translation and empire, written language and modernity, misguided struggle and brutal intellectual defeat. The Chinese typewriter is ‘one of the most important and illustrative domains of Chinese techno-linguistic innovation in the 19th and 20th centuries … one of the most significant and misunderstood inventions in the history of modern information technology’, and ‘a historical lens of remarkable clarity through which to examine the social construction of technology, the technological construction of the social, and the fraught relationship between Chinese writing and global modernity’. It was where empires met.

Do children have a right to their parents’ medical information?

Shaun Raviv and Mosaic:

I told the Pates about ABC’s case and the worry that it could theoretically push the duty of care too far in the U.K. They said that their lawyer mentioned a similar concern with Heidi’s case back in the early 1990s, when HIV was still essentially untreatable and killing thousands of Americans. The lawyer said the judges would not want to set a precedent that if you have HIV, your doctor would have to tell every person you’ve ever had sex with. “They wanted to put some sort of a dam up to hold that back, because they didn’t want to turn this into a free-for-all,” Heidi tells me. But in the end, the Florida court’s decision to allow Heidi to argue her case did no such thing. It did not open any floodgates.ABC’s lawyer, Jonathan Zimmern, believes that clinical geneticists are already practicing medicine in the manner that ABC wishes her father’s doctors had. He’s spoken, informally, with many clinical geneticists about the case. “They all feel that what we were fighting for is what clinical geneticists do on a daily basis,” he tells me.Clinicians “already act and feel as though they have a professional duty to someone other than their patient or the person who provided the original genetic sample,” Zimmern says. And if they already practice this way, he doesn’t understand why the NHS is so adamant about denying ABC in court. “It seems to me they are fighting a battle on behalf of doctors who don’t want the battle to be fought.”That said, ABC could alter the law by legally extending a doctor’s obligations. “It’s a very minor extension of the duty that clinicians were already operating under,” says Zimmern, “but it is kind of a significant development in the law, just because we’ve always had that line in the sand—that the clinician’s duty is only to the patient and to no one else.”Zimmern says that the U.K. Court of Appeal has, in a sense, already pushed past a new boundary. An important legal precedent has already been set: that arguably in genetic cases there is a duty of care to someone other than the patient. “If we win the underlying case now, it’s kind of just reinforcing what is already there. But if we lose, it doesn’t overturn the Court of Appeal decision,” says Zimmern. “As the years or the months go by, if any other case arises like this, everyone is going to rely on that decision, and it’s likely to become law.”A common saying among legal practitioners is that hard cases make bad law. “My concern as a lawyer is I don’t really trust the law,” says Graeme Laurie. “I don’t trust the law not to run away with the precedent and introduce more uncertainty into the doctor-patient relationship.”Whether ABC will, or should, open the floodgates is a difficult question. Any precedent that will change the dynamic of doctor and patient must take into account a nearly infinite number of complexities. Perhaps it’s better to keep things simpler, to maintain that doctors are responsible to their patients only, except in truly extraordinary circumstances. “It’s a genuine dilemma,” Laurie says. “It’s not absolutely clear what is the right thing to do.”This post appears courtesy of Mosaic. Graeme Laurie and Anneke Lucassen receive funding from Wellcome, which publishes Mosaic. We want to hear what you think. Submit a letter to the editor or write to Shaun Raviv is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Twitter Mosaic is a digital magazine that focuses on science. It is published by the Wellcome Trust.
Jul 14, 2018

The Ethics of Neuroscience

Adrian Carter:

The Ethics of Neuroscience’ which is episode four of ‘A Different Lens’ examines the fundamental questions being raised by our growing understanding of the human brain.

New technologies are allowing us to have control over the human brain like never before. As we push the possibilities we must ask ourselves, what is neuroscience today and how far is too far?

The world’s best neurosurgeons can now provide treatments for things that were previously untreatable, such as Parkinson’s and clinical depression. Many patients are cured, while others develop side effects such as erratic behaviour and changes in their personality.

Not only do we have greater understanding of clinical psychology, forensic psychology and criminal psychology, we also have more control. Professional athletes and gamers are now using this technology – some of it untested – to improve performance. However, with these amazing possibilities come great ethical concerns.

Facebook Wanted Us to Kill This Investigative Tool

Kashmi Hill and Surya Mattu:

The episode demonstrated a huge problem to us: Journalists need to probe technological platforms in order to understand how unseen and little understood algorithms influence the experiences of hundreds of millions of people—whether it’s to better understand creepy friend recommendations, to uncover the potential for discrimination in housing ads, to understand how the fake follower economy operates, or to see how social networks respond to imposter accounts. Yet journalistic projects that require scraping information from tech platforms or creating fictitious accounts generally violate these sites’ terms of service.

For 1,500 years, Western Europe ‘forgot’ how to swim, retreating from the water in terror. The return to swimming is a lesser-known triumph of the Enlightenment.

Eric Chaline:

By the medieval period, the majority of Western Europeans who were not involved in harvesting aquatic resources had forgotten how to swim. Swimming itself was not forgotten – but the ability to do so hugely decreased. Bodies of water became sinister ‘otherworlds’ populated by mermaids and sea monsters. How do we explain the loss of so important a skill? Humans have never given up running, jumping or climbing, so why did so many abandon an activity that was useful to obtain food and natural resources, vital to avoid drowning and pleasurable to cool down on a hot summer’s day?

It’s shocking we can’t talk about migration in an honest manner because of Facebook’s censorship.


Zoltan, who was working as one of Facebook’s moderators during the Hungarian general election campaign recalled the events of early March. The video in question was uploaded by Janos Lazar, who was the right hand man of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban at the time. During the 2,5-minute clip, Lazar attempts to show the impact recent migration had on a certain district in Vienna. The video was initially taken down by Facebook due to the violation of the community standards, then it was made available again after a few hours.

It’s shocking we can’t talk about migration in an honest manner because of Facebook’s censorship.

This is what Lazar said on the day of his video’s removal in another clip uploaded to Facebook titled “We stand against censorship”. Following his lead, the whole pro-government media machine swung into motion, saying that the Western liberal elite aided by Facebook is trying to interfere with the Hungarian election process. This is the line of thinking PM Viktor Orban followed, and took even further during his annual summer speech at Băile Tușnad. In late July, a few months after winning a landslide victory at the parliamentary elections, Orban spoke about the end of free speech and democracy in the West. Exhibit no. 1: Western leaders conspire with Facebook to suppress negative news related to migration.

Why It’s a Crime to Be Poor in America

Katie Dallas:

Option 1: You plead guilty to the crime, even if you didn’t do it, rather than await trial. And because the vast majority of people are charged with low-level, nonviolent crimes that would not even receive a custodial sentence, for many that means they go home that day. When you hear what options two or three are, you will understand why more than 90% of people end up pleading guilty if they can’t afford bail and suffering all of the debilitating consequences of a criminal record.
Option 2: You plead your innocence and sit in jail. That’s right, if you plead guilty, you go home; if you maintain your innocence, you must go to jail, for as long as it takes for your case to come to court, which in some instances can take years. Yet even if it is only much shorter than that, the consequences are far reaching. As attorney Josh Saunders from Brooklyn Defender Services, which provides legal representation to people who cannot afford to retain an attorney, explained on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonightepisode on bail, “Our clients work in jobs where if you’re absent, you’re fired. Our clients live in shelters or in transitional housing places, where if you’re not there for the night, you’re gone. So there’s a lot of different ways in which incarceration, even for a short period of time, can really destroy a person’s life.”

Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade: The bureaucracy defies a state law on selling vacant buildings

The Wall Street Journal:

Teachers’ unions and their liberal allies are desperately trying to preserve the failing public school status quo. Witness how the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system is defying a state mandate to sell vacant property to charter and private schools.

Milwaukee’s public schools are a mess. Merely 62% of students graduate from high school in four years, and proficiency rates are 15% in math and just over 20% in English. Families are escaping to charter and private schools, which has resulted in 11,000 vacant seats and a budget shortfall that’s expected to swell $130 million within five years.

Milwaukee’s recalcitrance is denying thousands of students a better education—St. Marcus Lutheran alone has 264 students on its wait list—while draining tax dollars. Annual utility bills for vacant buildings cost $1 million, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty calculates that the district could recover $5 million from selling its unoccupied real estate.

The legislature ought to punish Milwaukee for flouting the law by, say, snipping its share of state funding. But State Superintendent Tony Evers, the Democratic front-runner to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in November, would likely do the opposite. He wants to freeze and then phase out vouchers, which help nearly 28,000 low-income students across Milwaukee attend private schools.

If Democrats defeat Gov. Walker and take the statehouse in November, there will be nothing to stop Milwaukee or any other district from barricading students into lousy public schools.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most.

Understanding the Complexities of Charter School Financing in Milwaukee

Anne Chapman, Betsy Mueller and Rob Henken:

Because enrollment is the primary driver of Wisconsin’s system of funding K-12 schools, a shrinking student population is one of the foremost financial challenges MPS faces. In a 2012 analysis of MPS’ fiscal condition,3 we noted that one of the strategies MPS had adopted to help stabilize its enrollment – and the revenue streams attached to it – was to increase the pace at which it was establishing its own charter schools. Since that time, however, the district’s efforts to establish or expand charter schools have faced occasional opposition from both internal and external MPS stakeholders. This resistance has stemmed, in part, from perceptions regarding the manner in which MPS funds its charter schools.
In this report, we intend to provide clarity and lend an objective voice to the facts surrounding the financial relationship between Milwaukee’s charter schools and their authorizers. Specifically, we seek to answer the following questions:

What is the process and methodology under which schools chartered by MPS receive their funding, and how does this compare to the process employed by Milwaukee’s two other charter school authorizers – University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) and the City of Milwaukee?

What are the financial impacts for both MPS and its charter schools when they elect to contract with each other?

What are the legal, fiscal, and administrative frameworks surrounding charter schools in comparable states and school districts?

What potential policy changes should policymakers in Milwaukee and Madison consider to improve charter school funding policies?

Will Flanders:

Excellent work by @WisPolicyForum highlights $16 million @MilwaukeeMPS withholds from non-instr. #CharterSchools in MKE. These are the highest performing schools in the city, and should not have to do with so much less than low performing MPS schools.

From Tokyo to Paris, Parents Tell Americans to Chill


A mother in Sweden says she often didn’t know where her elementary-school-aged son went for the afternoon after school.

A father in Paris says he sends his daughters outside to the playground nearby — alone.

And a mother in the Netherlands says parents don’t feel compelled to stick around for children’s birthday parties — they drop off their little ones, and then leave to run their errands.

In much of the world, parents tend to regard such free-range parenting practices as developing a child’s self-reliance. But as a popular Sunday Review article by Kim Brooks, a writer in Chicago, pointed out, many in America see these practices as neglectful.

Some have called the police or child protective services after witnessing a parent leave a child in a car to run into Starbucks or attend a job interview.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Bankruptcy Filings Surge Among Older Americans Authors of recent study cite reductions to social safety net, shift from pensions to 401(k)

Anne Tergesen:

The rate at which Americans age 65 and older are filing for bankruptcy has more than tripled since 1991 amid reductions in the social safety net and a shift away from pensions, according to a new study.

“Older Americans are more likely than ever to find themselves in bankruptcy court, seeking protection from creditors,” said the study written by academics at institutions including the University of Idaho and University of Illinois. It also said that among Americans in bankruptcy, the percentage of older people “has never…

Social media is making children regress to mentality of three-year-olds, says top brain scientist

Charles Hymas:

Social media and video games are creating a generation of children with the mental and emotional immaturity of three-year-olds, one of Britain’s most eminent brain scientists has warned.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, a senior research fellow at Oxford University and former director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, said she was concerned children were losing their ability to think for themselves, empathise and communicate with each other.

The Useless French Language and Why We Learn It

Colin Marshall:

JE SUIS la jeune fille: though I’ve never formally studied French, I’ve had that phrase stuck deep in my linguistic consciousness since childhood. So, surely, have most Americans of my generation, hearing it as we all did over and over again for years in the same television commercial. Frequently aired and never once updated, it advertised a series of language-instruction cartoons on videotape. Even more memorable than the French words spoken by that young girl were the English ones spoken by the product’s both grandmotherly and severe pitchwoman: “Yes, that’s French they’re speaking, and no, these children aren’t French, they’re American. And they’ve acquired their amazing new French skills from Muzzy.”

In those same years, an early episode of The Simpsons saw Bart sent off to France, an ostensible student exchange meant to punish him for his constant pranks. He spends two months in the French countryside mistreated by a couple of crooked vintners who, in a plot point ripped from the headlines of the era, spike their product with antifreeze. When a shoeless and disheveled Bart finally spots a passing gendarme, he can’t make himself understood in English. Only when he reaches the brink of emotional breakdown does he realize that, unconsciously and effortlessly, he has internalized the French language: “Here, I’ve listened to nothing but French for the past deux mois, et je ne sais pas un mot. Attendez! Mais, je parle Français maintenant! Incroyable!”

Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth

Keith Kahn-Harris:

We are all in denial, some of the time at least. Part of being human, and living in a society with other humans, is finding clever ways to express – and conceal – our feelings. From the most sophisticated diplomatic language to the baldest lie, humans find ways to deceive. Deceptions are not necessarily malign; at some level they are vital if humans are to live together with civility. As Richard Sennett has argued: “In practising social civility, you keep silent about things you know clearly but which you should not and do not say.”

Just as we can suppress some aspects of ourselves in our self-presentation to others, so we can do the same to ourselves in acknowledging or not acknowledging what we desire. Most of the time, we spare ourselves from the torture of recognising our baser yearnings. But when does this necessary private self-deception become harmful? When it becomes public dogma. In other words: when it becomes denialism.

The multimillion-dollar school: Support and resources pour into LeBron’s I Promise School opening Monday


What does it take to get some of education’s best practices into one school and off the ground?

For the I Promise School, it’s taken one superstar athlete, one force of a foundation, one willing school district, one traveling food truck and at least 35 other community partners that provide an army of volunteers — and millions of dollars in funding.

And that’s just the beginning.

“We’ve brought this amazing family of partners together to eliminate many of the barriers our students and families face, and we believe it’s truly going to change lives,” said Michele Campbell, director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. “… It’s all because of LeBron’s commitment to Akron and his ability to rally people around these kids and support them so they can have a better future.

“That’s how generational change is created, and LeBron, his foundation and our partners are in this for the long haul.”

The I Promise School, opening to 240 academically at-risk third- and fourth-graders on Monday, began as an idea by Akron native and NBA All-Star LeBron James, who is expected to be at the school on opening day. That idea has grown to engulf dozens of partners from the local to national level.

Civics: Trump Contra Mundum Conrad Black’s sweeping and insightful look at an unprecedented president

Edward Short:

After finishing Conrad Black’s luminous anatomy of Donald Trump’s rise to the American presidency, I was reminded of a passage from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, in which Gulliver observes of his conversation with the King of Brobdingnag:

I remember very well, in a discourse one day with the king, when I happened to say, “there were several thousand Books among us written upon the Art of Government,” it gave him (directly contrary to my intention) a very mean Opinion of our Understandings. He professed both to abominate and despise all Mystery, Refinement, and Intrigue, either in a Prince or a Minister. He could not tell what I meant by Secrets of State. . . . He confined the Knowledge of governing within very narrow Bounds, to common Sense and Reason, to Justice and Lenity, to the Speedy Determination of Civil and criminal Causes . . . And he gave it for his Opinion, “that whoever could make two Ears of Corn, or two Blades of Grass, to grow upon a Spot of Ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of Mankind, and do more essential Service to his Country, than the whole Race of Politicians put together.”

One can say many things about Trump’s relationship to our own race of politicians. Certainly, most progressives and many conservatives continue to look upon him as a bounder, an outsider without the necessary credentials to hold public office responsibly. For them, he remains the rankest of amateurs. The epithet most often thrown at Trump is “unfit to govern.” The columnist Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., to take just one example, has argued that the 25th Amendment needs revising to respond to what he describes as “the stunning eccentricities of Donald J. Trump.” For Yoder, the problem with the amendment is that it “leaves us with no workable constitutional resort, even when the manners and mental fitness of a president are reasonably in question.” Yoder is insistent: “We need a serious discussion of this defect in our constitutional machinery, which today encumbers presidential discipline with petty legalism and shields a clownish misfit. ‘High crimes and misdemeanors’ still lack useful definition but the need is today more glaring than ever.” In other words, our laws should be made more malleable so that we can criminalize presidents whom we oppose.

The “clownish misfit” about whom Black writes may not have impressed Gulliver—Trump can hardly be said to exemplify the “art of government” as practiced by most politicians in Swift’s day, or in ours—but he would certainly have met with the approval of the King of Brobdingnag. Black makes this clear when he notes how “To a man of Donald Trump’s self-confidence, the idea of his becoming president of the United States of America was not at all outrageous.” Having frequently met with politicians and presidents before entering politics, Trump “was not at all intimidated by them and did not believe that they had any special powers or talents or mystique that he lacked.” In fact, he had qualities that they clearly did not possess, not least a lively skepticism with regard to the shibboleths of politicians. Without this belief in his own lights, he might never have won the primaries, let alone the presidency. Since entering the White House, he has continually confounded his enemies by remaining true to those lights.

Civics, law enforcement and cameras

Chris Rickert:

The Madison Police Department has launched an effort to catalog the locations of private surveillance cameras so the video they produce can be more easily tapped in police investigations.

“This will provide investigators with quick contact information when they are searching for video evidence,” the department said in a statement posted online Tuesday. “Currently, officers and detectives need to canvass areas where crimes have occurred to see what cameras might be present. The process can be time-consuming and time is often of the essence when criminals are on the run.”

Owners of cameras can register them online. The city is asking for their locations, descriptions of the views they offer and information on whom to contact to get emergency access to recordings.

“This is increasing that partnership with the community to fight crime,” said police spokesman Joel DeSpain, as the explosion in surveillance cameras has provided police with a powerful investigatory tool.

Seven times US companies gave in to pressure from China

Karen Chiu:

Google might be due for a major comeback in China soon. Leaked documents have revealed it’s planning to launch a custom search app that would filter blacklisted websites and block sensitive queries, according to The Intercept.

A Google spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post that the firm “does not comment on speculation about future plans”.

When Google pulled its search engine from mainland China in 2010, the company says it was due to censorship concerns, so if this is true, it would mark a major turnaround.

But it also wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen American companies caving in to China’s demands to gain access to the world’s largest internet market.

How the U.S. Saved the World From Financial Ruin

Matthew Klein:

The Fed lent abroad in such magnitudes because its officials appreciated America’s dependence on Europe’s banks. Collectively, those banks were too big and too important for U.S. financial intermediation to be allowed to fail. In the years before the crisis, European banks borrowed from American money-market funds and provided credit to Americans by buying asset-backed securities.

By the end of 2007, foreign banks had accumulated more than $6.5 trillion in claims on U.S. borrowers, of which $4 trillion could be attributed to banks in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Banks in other European countries, particularly Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain, accounted for another $1 trillion. For perspective, U.S.-chartered commercial banks had extended only $7.5 trillion of credit on the eve of the crisis.

Want to Remember Everything You’ll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm

Gary Wolf:

SuperMemo is based on the insight that there is an ideal moment to practice what you’ve learned. Practice too soon and you waste your time. Practice too late and you’ve forgotten the material and have to relearn it. The right time to practice is just at the moment you’re about to forget. Unfortunately, this moment is different for every person and each bit of information. Imagine a pile of thousands of flash cards. Somewhere in this pile are the ones you should be practicing right now. Which are they?

Fortunately, human forgetting follows a pattern. We forget exponentially. A graph of our likelihood of getting the correct answer on a quiz sweeps quickly downward over time and then levels off. This pattern has long been known to cognitive psychology, but it has been difficult to put to practical use. It’s too complex for us to employ with our naked brains.

Twenty years ago, Wozniak realized that computers could easily calculate the moment of forgetting if he could discover the right algorithm. SuperMemo is the result of his research. It predicts the future state of a person’s memory and schedules information reviews at the optimal time. The effect is striking. Users can seal huge quantities of vocabulary into their brains. But for Wozniak, 46, helping people learn a foreign language fast is just the tiniest part of his goal. As we plan the days, weeks, even years of our lives, he would have us rely not merely on our traditional sources of self-knowledge — introspection, intuition, and conscious thought — but also on something new: predictions about ourselves encoded in machines.

Websites not available in the EU because of GDPR


On 25 May 2018, the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came in to force, this resulted in organisations (mainly US based newspapers) blocking people living in the European Union and European Economic Area from accessing their websites. This dataset lists websites that are or were blocked, along with links to archived versions of the websites and archived block messages. This dataset is incomplete.

False Advertising for College Is Pretty Much the Norm It’s not just for-profit institutions. The most prestigious universities also claim to help students, and also fail to prove that they do.

Miles Kimball:

The administration of President Donald Trump just made it easier for for-profit colleges to get away with making fake promises about things like graduation rates and job placements. That’s regrettable. But let’s not let prestigious institutions off the hook. They aren’t exactly rigorous when they tout the benefits of higher education, either.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed new rules to make it harder for students to get loan forgiveness from schools that lured them with false advertising. Notably, the government wants to make aggrieved students show that the schools actually intended to defraud them, a high burden of proof.

The problem is that the prestige schools have undermined the case for making it easy to go after the bad ones, which just pretend to provide an education without really delivering. Though most colleges and universities mean well, they are also responsible for false advertising and don’t always deliver the education they promised. If all institutions of higher education were held to higher standards, it would be easier legally to penalize the worst.

Google’s Secret China Project Sparks Fury Among Workers

Mark Bergen:

Google staff awoke on Wednesday to surprising news: Their company is working on a search app tailored, and censored, for China. The project, kept secret from all but select teams and leaders, sparked a furious internal debate.

Yet the move couldn’t have been entirely surprising for Googlers.

Sundar Pichai, 46, chief executive officer since 2015, has made no secret of his desire to take the search giant back to mainland China. The executive is more pragmatic about the world’s largest internet market than Google’s founders, who pulled search from the mainland in 2010 over censorship concerns.

Under Pichai, Google has invested in Chinese companies, met with its leaders and made it a priority to spread Google’s artificial intelligence technology across the country. But bringing search back would be Pichai’s boldest move yet and will put his personal stamp firmly on the company.

Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin built Google to “organize the world’s information and make it universally available.” They viewed China as a threat to the company’s stance as a defender of the open web. Pichai, in contrast, sees China as a hotbed of engineering talent and an appealing market.

RANSOM: Routing Around Nation-States: Overlays and Measurements


An increasing number of countries are passing laws that facilitate the mass surveillance of Internet traffic. In response, governments and citizens are increasingly paying attention to the countries that their Internet traffic traverses. In some cases, countries are taking extreme steps, such as building new Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), which allow networks to interconnect directly, and encouraging local interconnection to keep local traffic local. We find that although many of these efforts are extensive, they are often futile, due to the inherent lack of hosting and route diversity for many popular sites. By measuring the country-level paths to popular domains, we characterize transnational routing detours. We find that traffic is traversing known surveillance states, even when the traffic originates and ends in a country that does not conduct mass surveillance. Then, we investigate how clients can use overlay network relays and the open DNS resolver infrastructure to prevent their traffic from traversing certain jurisdictions. We find that 84% of paths originating in Brazil traverse the United States, but when relays are used for country avoidance, only 37% of Brazilian paths traverse the United States. Using the open DNS resolver infrastructure allows Kenyan clients to avoid the United States on 17% more paths. Unfortunately, we find that some of the more prominent surveillance states (e.g., the U.S.) are also some of the least avoidable countries.

A visual history of the future

Nick Dunn, Dr Paul Cureton and Serena Pollastri:

This paper is concerned with how future cities have been visualised, what these projections sought to communicate and why.

The paper is organised into eight sections. Each of the first seven sections is highly illustrated by relevant visualisations to capture the main ways in which the thematic content is evident within future cities. We present a brief summary at the end of each section to understand the key issues.

First, we describe the relevance and power of imagined cities and urban visions throughout popular culture, a multi-disciplinary discourse, along with an explanation of the methods used.

Second, we examine the role of different media and its influence upon the way in which ideas are communicated and also translated, including, but not limited to: diagrams, drawings, films, graphic novels, literature, paintings, and photomontages.

Third, we interrogate the ‘groundedness’ of visualisations of future cities and whether they relate to a specific context or a more general set of conditions.

Fourth, we identify the role of technological speculation in future city scenarios including: infrastructure, mobility, sustainability, built form, density and scale.

Fifth, we examine the variations in socio-spatial relationships that occur across different visualisations of cities, identifying the lived experience and inhabitation of the projected environments.

Sixth, we consider the relationship of data, ubiquitous computing and digital technologies in contemporary visualisations of cities.

Seventh, we establish the overarching themes that appear derived from visualisations of British cities and their legacy.
In conclusion, we establish a synthesis of the prevalent patterns within and across legacies, and the diversity of visualisations, to draw together our findings in relation to overarching narratives and themes for how urban life has been envisaged and projected for the period under scrutiny.

H.F. Lenfest Made Fortune on Cable, Then Focused on Giving Most of It Away

Jakes Hagert:

Wendy Kopp was riding a train to New York one winter morning 17 years ago when a chatty older man sat next to her. She tried to cut the conversation short and get back to work on her laptop. He persisted. She finally told him all about the charity she founded, Teach for America, which sends teachers to work in low-income areas.

Giving away money became Mr. Lenfest’s mission after he sold the cable-TV company Lenfest Communications in 2000. He and his wife, Marguerite, preferred to give most of their wealth away in their lifetimes rather than creating a perpetual foundation whose trustees might stray from their vision. So far, their gifts total more than $1.2 billion.

Mr. Lenfest, who died Aug. 5 at age 88, relied on his instincts about people in making gifts. His wife was more deliberative. She kept a note on the refrigerator reminding him to remember two words when people asked for money: “no” and “why.”

In 2014, Mr. Lenfest acquired the ailing publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and for about $88 million. Two years later he donated that company to a nonprofit, now known as the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, charged with preserving quality journalism in Philadelphia and testing ideas that might sustain fact-based news reporting elsewhere.

“I can’t think of any cause that we support that’s more important than the support of the newspapers,” Mr. Lenfest said in 2014. He avoided interfering in editorial policy, other than by objecting when reporters described him as a billionaire. He explained to one editor that his purchase of newspapers had instantly deflated his net worth.

New data on college majors confirms an old trend. Technocracy is crushing the life out of humanism.

Ross Douthat:

The analyst is a historian named Ben Schmidt, who just five years ago wrote an essay arguing that the decline of the humanities was overstated, that enrollment in humanistic majors had declined in the 1970s, mostly as women’s employment opportunities began switching to more pre-professional tracks, but that since then there has been a basic stability, at best a soft declension.
But now he’s revised his argument, because the years since the Great Recession have been “brutal for almost every major in the humanities.” They’ve also been bad for “social science fields that most closely resemble humanistic ones — sociology, anthropology, international relations and political science.” Meanwhile the sciences and engineering have gained at the expense of humanism, and with them sports management and exercise studies — the “hygiene” and “sport,” if you will, from Auden’s list of Apollonian concerns.

Notably this trend is sharper among elite liberal arts colleges, the top thirty in the US News and World Report rankings, where in the early 2000s the humanities still attracted about a third of all students, but lately only get about a fifth. So it’s not just a matter of the post-Great Recession middle class seeking more practical degrees to make sure their student loans get repaid quickly; the slice of the American elite that’s privileged enough and intellectually-minded enough to choose Swarthmore or Haverford or Amherst over a state school or a research university is abandoning Hermes for Apollo at the fastest clip.

UWM engineering camp offers hands-on opportunities for high school girls

Jennifer Walter:

On the fourth day of EnQuest, Chris Beimborn stopped 20 campers outside a classroom in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Engineering and Mathematical Sciences building for an announcement.

“We’ve got bad news,” she said. “The 3D printer failed overnight.”

The campers were supposed to make casting patterns in a foundry on Wednesday, but they couldn’t do it without the 3D-printed pieces — and it would take 15 hours to make new ones.

Like engineering projects in the real world, things don’t always go as planned.

“This is sort of what happens all the time when you’re working on a project that has a lot of facets,” Beimborn said.

What’s important is the ability to be flexible.

Beimborn coordinates EnQuest, a six-day engineering camp exclusively for high school girls. Campers work on real-world projects and network with college students and professionals from an array of engineering-related disciplines.

The camp seeks to inspire more women to pursue STEM and engineering disciplines. Beimborn gives opportunities for the girls to design and build projects themselves and gives them some autonomy to choose what they want to do in a day.

City of Madison Initiative Demonstrates Lack of Transparency

Anna Welch and Mckenna Kohlenberg:

Local watchdogs and litigators say a City of Madison initiative and its multiple committees should provide the public with greater transparency.

In a unanimous 2017 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that committees created by local governmental bodies in Wisconsin are themselves governmental bodies subject to the state’s open meetings law.

Wisconsin open meetings law states: “All meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”

Public bodies are required to give notice of the time, date, location and general agenda of all meetings at least 24 hours in advance. Even when, “for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical…in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of [a] meeting.”

Internal Facebook Note: Here Is A “Psychological Trick” To Target Teens

Ryan Mac:

When Facebook purchased TBH last October it got more than just a viral polling app that amassed 2.5 million daily users, mostly teens, a few months after launch. The social network also acquired a carefully honed growth strategy targeted toward high school kids.

An internal document from Facebook, obtained by BuzzFeed News, shows TBH’s leadership explaining a well-tested method the startup used to attract teens at individual high schools to download its app. The note provides a window into Facebook’s growth-at-any-costs mentality and the company’s efforts to keep a key demographic engaged as its popularity among teens declines and it simultaneously runs out of people in the connected world to bring to its platform.

“Our team obsessed with finding ways to get individual high schools to adopt a product simultaneously.”
In the confidential memo, TBH’s founders told their new colleagues of “a psychological trick” that they employed to acquire teenage users en masse — a combination of scraping Instagram for high schoolers’ accounts, playing to youthful curiosity, and taking advantage of class dismissal hours.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the note or on questions about whether the company employed the growth tactics learned from TBH.

Onora O’Neill: “I wonder whether we will have democracy in 20 years”

Elena Cue:

As you well said, trust is one of the foundations of society. What do you believe to be the reason we have reached such a general widespread lack of trust today?

The empirical evidence for the lack of trust is much worse than people think. When we actually look at the polls, we find variations in different countries, but the polling evidence in the UK, for example, shows trust in certain people, such as politicians and journalists, was very low 25 years ago and remains low to this day.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sets goal of topping nation in high school grads in four years

Molly Beck:

Gov. Scott Walker said he wants Wisconsin high school students to graduate at a rate higher than any other state in the nation by the end of his third term should he be re-elected this fall.

Walker, who in an interview late Monday called himself “an education governor,” set the goal to coincide with the release of a new television advertisement promoting his most-recent state budget, which gave schools millions more in new funding.

The ad also features a Racine public school teacher touting Walker’s signature legislation known as Act 10, which all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers, as a way for school boards to spend more money in classrooms.

“I’m an education governor and I want to be an even better education governor going forward,” Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We need every one of these young people to graduate and to be ready for the next step.”

Scott Walker notes and links.

Stretch targets.

Civics and Discourse

Victor Davis Hansen:

That last alternative seems most likely since Caputo then escalated and called them collectively “garbage people.” Or rather, in the manner of a cowardly age of social media, he tweeted that slur when safely at a distance.

What did “garbage people” mean? That by birth or training such toothless, smelly people were subhuman, like refuse? And if Caputo had substituted any other racial minority for his slurs, would he still have his job according to the cannons of progressive censure and Internet lynching? Could he have said something similarly degrading about the attendees of after an open borders or Black Lives Matter rally and still have his job?

Sarah Jeong’s Struggle
Last week, the New York Times named tech writer Sarah Jeong to its editorial board with apparent knowledge of her long history of racist tweets, as well as verbal attacks on police and males in general. Perhaps such gutter venom was proof of militant orthodoxy to be appreciated rather than medieval racism to be shunned. Her mostly empty résumé seems compensated by her identity and her politics—as the Times more or less confessed in its sad defense of her racist outbursts.

Tony Evers’ Election Rhetoric (running for Governor), despite presiding over disastrous reading results

Jessie Opoien:

There was once a time when Tony Evers didn’t like cheese. But there was also a time when he didn’t see himself running for governor, and now multiple polls show him leading the field of Democrats vying for a chance to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Evers, 66, won his third statewide victory as Superintendent of Public Instruction in April 2017. Before he was elected to head the state Department of Public Instruction, Evers served for eight years as deputy superintendent of schools. He grew up in Plymouth, and worked as a science teacher, high school principal and district superintendent in Baraboo, Tomah, Oakfield and Verona.

Two Marquette University Law School polls over the course of the summer have shown Evers leading the eight-person Democratic primary field, and an NBC News/Marist Poll released last month showed him leading Walker in a hypothetical match-up.

Tony Evers notes and links.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s Education (Governor campaign) Rhetoric

Matthew DeFour:

Soglin offered some of the sharpest zingers aimed at Walker. Asked how he would “undo the damage Walker has done to public education,” Soglin said, “We understand the purpose of education is not a career and a technical job, the purpose of an education is to teach young people how to think, which scares the hell out of Scott Walker.”

Yet, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.



Madison spends far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

2011: A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

2018 update; And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Paul Soglin notes and links.

Google Censorship Plan Is “Not Right” and “Stupid,” Says Former Google Head of Free Expression

Ruan Gallagher:

GOOGLE’S FORMER HEAD of free expression issues in Asia has slammed the internet’s giant’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China, calling it a “stupid move” that would violate widely–held human rights principles.

As The Intercept first reported last week, Google has been quietly developing a search platform for China that would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to internal Google documents.

Lokman Tsui, Google’s head of free expression for Asia and the Pacific between 2011 and 2014, read the leaked censorship plans and said he was disturbed by the details. “This is just a really bad idea, a stupid, stupid move,” he told The Intercept in an interview. “I feel compelled to speak out and say that this is not right.”

SHSAT Predicts Whether Students Will Succeed in School, Study Finds

Tyler Pager:

Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed during his first mayoral campaign in 2013 to overhaul the admissions process for New York City’s specialized schools. After years of inaction, Mr. de Blasio announced in June his plans to scrap the SHSAT.

In the debate over the test for New York City’s elite high schools, one question had seemed to be unanswered: Whether there was evidence that the exam was a good predictor of how well students would do at the schools.

But on Friday, the city’s Education Department released for the first time a study it had commissioned in 2013 that showed a strong positive relationship between doing well on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test and high school academic performance.

Girls get crash course in AI and robotics through Maydm summer program

Erik Lorenzsonn:

LaShya Washington, an 11-year-old Mendota Elementary School student, sat with a laptop in a classroom in the School of Human Ecology building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on Tuesday afternoon, typing instructions to a robot.

“You can make it turn, move, say things,” said Washington, setting the Finch robot on the ground near her chair. She hit the space bar on her laptop, and the robot — a shoe-sized gizmo on wheels that looks like a lilywhite blobfish — “spoke” using text-to-voice technology. “I love STEM and Maydm,” it said, in a tinny voice.

Maydm is a nonprofit dedicated to exposing youth, particularly girls and children of color, to science, technology, engineering and mathematics — also known as the STEM fields. It was the organizing force behind RoboSmarts, a new summer course in artificial intelligence and robotics that was responsible for honing Washington’s skillset with the Finch.

A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter

Li Yuan:

Wei Dilong, 18, who lives in the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou, likes basketball, hip-hop music and Hollywood superhero movies. He plans to study chemistry in Canada when he goes to college in 2020.

Mr. Wei is typical of Chinese teenagers in another way, too: He has never heard of Google or Twitter. He once heard of Facebook, though. It is “maybe like Baidu?” he asked one recent afternoon, referring to China’s dominant search engine.

A generation of Chinese is coming of age with an internet that is distinctively different from the rest of the web. Over the past decade, China has blocked Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as thousands of other foreign websites, including The New York Times and Chinese Wikipedia. A plethora of Chinese websites emerged to serve the same functions — though they came with a heavy dose of censorship.

Now the implications of growing up with this different internet system are starting to play out. Many young people in China have little idea what Google, Twitter or Facebook are, creating a gulf with the rest of the world. And, accustomed to the homegrown apps and online services, many appear uninterested in knowing what has been censored online, allowing Beijing to build an altern

Secret Recording Reveals Nashville Taxpayer Supported Schools’ Plan To ‘Bypass’ Lead Filters

Phil Williams:

A secret recording, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, reveals a plan to sabotage efforts to protect Nashville school children from toxic lead in their drinking water.

That plan, developed by the man in charge of Metro school buildings, was never meant for parents to hear.

“It’s stunning,” said parent Chelle Baldwin. “It’s stunning, the callousness of it.”

For the past nine months, NewsChannel 5 Investigates exposed data kept secret by the district showing high lead levels in some Metro schools.

In response, a number of schools installed special fountains that were supposed to filter out the lead.

But the recording, from inside a meeting of Metro Schools maintenance employees, reveals a plan to dismantle those efforts.

Global Interventionism and a New Imperial Presidency

Ted Galen Carpenter:

Recent debate about U.S. policy with respect to Lebanon, Central America, and South Africa suggests that the United States may be entering a new phase in the recurring conflict between Congress and the executive branch over the control of foreign affairs. This conflict does not merely involve constitutional or partisan political matters—as important as those might be—but reflects competing conceptions about substantive policy issues.

The current White House occupant is seeking to weaken or eliminate congressional restraints imposed on the executive during the 1970s, in order to regain the flexibility he believes is necessary to pursue America’s cold war objectives. His congressional opponents are attempting to preserve those constraints not simply to enhance the power and prestige of the legislative branch, but because they fear that an unfettered president may pursue policies that would contravene fundamental American values or again plunge the United States into ill-advised military interventions. As before in our history, the conflict will likely determine the substance of American foreign policy, as well as which branch shall chart its course.

Report: Japanese Medical School Deducted Points From Exam Scores Of Female Applicants

Merrit Kennedy:

The scandal has been reported in multiple Japanese news sources, including state broadcaster NHK. All cite unnamed sources from the university, and NPR has not independently verified the allegations.

Tokyo Medical University spokesman Fumio Azuma told Reuters that the university is conducting an internal investigation.

A university official told NHK that “it was concerned that a large increase in the number of women posed a serious problem for the future of the university hospital, because female doctors tend to quit after marrying or starting families.”

The points deduction was apparently aimed at keeping the number of female students at about 30 percent of the class or less, the media reports state. And it followed a regular pattern. The Asahi Shimbun, citing university officials, said, “A specific coefficient was used to automatically reduce the exam scores of all female applicants.”

Who Goes to Private School? Long-term enrollment trends by family income

Richard J. Murnane, Sean F. Reardon, Preeya P. Mbekeani and Anne Lamb:

To explore these questions, we examine enrollment and family-income data from the past 50 years at Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian private elementary schools (that is, schools serving grades K–8). Our analysis finds that private schools, like public schools, are increasingly segregated by income. In particular, the share of middle-income students attending private schools has declined by almost half, while the private-school enrollment rate of wealthy children has remained steady. Much of the decline among middle-income students is due to falling enrollment at Catholic schools, which have closed in droves in the past 20 years. Meanwhile, private-school enrollment among affluent students has shifted from religious to nonsectarian schools.

Google consumes one-third of our digital minds

Sara Fischer:

Google — and its products like YouTube and Waze — combined to account for 34.2% of all time on digital media in June, according to Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser.

The details: Pivotal found that as Google increases its foothold into America’s daily routines, Facebook is seeing declines in time spent at a faster rate than before.

Core Facebook use (including Messenger) fell 10% in aggregated time spent for all content measured.
Even including Instagram and WhatsApp, Pivotal says it still observed a 6% decline.

Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance

David Bernstein and Noah Isackson:

few months before last February’s citywide elections, Hal Baskin’s phone started ringing. And ringing. Most of the callers were candidates for Chicago City Council, seeking the kind of help Baskin was uniquely qualified to provide.

Baskin isn’t a slick campaign strategist. He’s a former gang leader and, for several decades, a community activist who now operates a neighborhood center that aims to keep kids off the streets. Baskin has deep contacts inside the South Side’s complex network of politicians, community organizations, and street gangs. as he recalls, the inquiring candidates wanted to know: “Who do I need to be talking to so I can get the gangs on board?”

Baskin—who was himself a candidate in the 16th Ward aldermanic race, which he would lose—was happy to oblige. In all, he says, he helped broker meetings between roughly 30 politicians (ten sitting aldermen and 20 candidates for City Council) and at least six gang representatives. That claim is backed up by two other community activists, Harold Davis Jr. and Kublai K. M. Toure, who worked with Baskin to arrange the meetings, and a third participant, also a community activist, who requested anonymity. The gang representatives were former chiefs who had walked away from day-to-day thug life, but they were still respected on the streets and wielded enough influence to mobilize active gang members.

Information Civics

Paul Frazee:

Even the most casual technology-user can recognize the inescapable role that the Internet plays in modern life. Its services drive our lives, yet as users, we’re completely disconnected from their governance.

The disconnect is a motivating force for the decentralization movement, which includes Bitcoin, Ethereum, Freenet, Secure Scuttlebutt, IPFS, Dat, Blockstack, and the Beaker Browser among others. Their motivations vary from the assertion of personal liberties to economic empowerment, but they all aim to somehow distribute political authority within a technical system.

Authority defines a network’s behavior and the powers of its participants. To change the distribution of authority, we should study how authority works. We should ask: When is authority within a computer network appropriate? How should it be assigned? Once assigned, how can it be constrained?

Photography Composition: The Definitive Guide

Anton Gorlin:

This article summarizes all my knowledge, experience and 6 months of work. I believe, anyone, newbie or pro, could find some new useful info inside of it. There are already hundreds of articles, dozens of guides. And some of them are really good. However, there was still a need for the comprehensive composition guide nicely presented and easy to follow. I did my best to keep it simple, concise and easy to understand with lots of goodies to download for future reference. Also, I keep it as short as possible with zero fluff for such a massive amount of material. Less talk, more practical info with examples, charts and graphs.

Strengthening Reading Instruction through Better Preparation of Elementary and Special Education Teachers (Wisconsin DPI, lead by Tony Evers, loophole in place)

Elizabeth Ross:

This study examines all 50 states’ and the District of Columbia’s requirements regarding the science of reading for elementary and special education teacher candidates.

Chan Stroman:

“Report finds only 11 states have adequate safeguards in place for both elementary and special education teachers.” Make that “10 states”; with Wisconsin PI 34, the loophole (created by a succession of emergency rules) waiving the Foundations of Reading Test is now permanent.

Much more on Tony Evers and Scott Walker, along with Act 10 and the DPI efgort to undermine elementary teacher english content knowledge requirements.

Foundations of Reading


A capital conversation.

At Democratic forum Matt Flynn says Scott Walker will eat Tony Evers for lunch

Matthew De Four:

It wasn’t until the end of Wednesday night’s Democratic gubernatorial forum at the Madison Public Library that someone took a swing at the candidate who has led in all of the polls.

Former party chairman Matt Flynn in his closing statement called State Superintendent Tony Evers “Republican lite” and criticized him for describing Gov. Scott Walker’s most recent budget as “pro-kid.” Evers, given a chance to respond, called Flynn’s attack “an outrageous comment” to which Flynn replied that Walker would “eat you for lunch.”

Much more on Tony Evers and Scott Walker, along with Act 10 and the DPI efgort to undermine elementary teacher english content knowledge requirements.

Foundations of Reading


A capital conversation.

The ethics of computer science: this researcher has a controversial proposal

Elizabeth Gibney:

In the midst of growing public concern over artificial intelligence (AI), privacy and the use of data, Brent Hecht has a controversial proposal: the computer-science community should change its peer-review process to ensure that researchers disclose any possible negative societal consequences of their work in papers, or risk rejection.

Hecht, a computer scientist, chairs the Future of Computing Academy (FCA), a group of young leaders in the field that pitched the policy in March. Without such measures, he says, computer scientists will blindly develop products without considering their impacts, and the field risks joining oil and tobacco as industries whose researchers history judges unfavourably.

The FCA is part of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in New York City, the world’s largest computing society. It, too, is making changes to encourage researchers to consider societal impacts: on 17 July, it published an updated version of its ethics code, last redrafted in 1992. The guidelines call on researchers to be alert to how their work can influence society, take steps to protect privacy and continually reassess technologies whose impact will change over time, such as those based in machine learning.

Touring a county with ‘special energy’ – using a 1939 guidebook


She shows me tourist information leaflets on Somerset’s churches and guided heritage walks. She assures me that a few people do still ask for them but admits that today’s tourist generally has different priorities.

“Your 1939 guide barely mentions children. It was about what adults wanted,” she says.

“Now it’s all about the family holiday. And today’s children, with all the TV and advertising they’re exposed to, do want a bit more than sitting on the beach staring at seagulls. They’re looking for activity like the waterpark or adventure park and the fun rides.”

Winbolt referred to Weston as a “most astonishing mushroom” that suddenly grows in the holiday season. And it still is.

How Technology Grows (a restatement of definite optimism)

Dan Wang:

I consider Definite Optimism as Human Capital to be my most creative piece. Unfortunately, it’s oblique and meandering. So I thought to write a followup to lay out its premises more directly and to offer a restatement of its ideas.

The goal of both pieces is to broaden the terms in which we discuss “technology.” Technology should be understood in three distinct forms: as processes embedded into tools (like pots, pans, and stoves); explicit instructions (like recipes); and as process knowledge, or what we can also refer to as tacit knowledge, know-how, and technical experience. Process knowledge is the kind of knowledge that’s hard to write down as an instruction. You can give someone a well-equipped kitchen and an extraordinarily detailed recipe, but unless he already has some cooking experience, we shouldn’t expect him to prepare a great dish.

A Number Theorist Who Bridges Math and Time

Erica Klarreich:

At the playground on the leafy campus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, one afternoon in May, the mathematician Akshay Venkatesh alternated between pushing his 4-year-old daughter on the swing and musing on the genius myth in mathematics. The genius stereotype does the discipline no favors, he told Quanta. “I think it doesn’t capture all the different kinds of ways people contribute to mathematics.”

Venkatesh’s other daughter, 7, wandered somewhere with her friends on the serene grounds of the institute’s visitor housing complex, which lends itself to the kind of free-range childhood that has become rare these days. Venkatesh had been visiting IAS for the past year, on leave from Stanford University; as of mid-August he will join the institute’s permanent faculty, whose previous members include Albert Einstein, Kurt Gödel and quite a few winners of the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics.

Politics, Civics and K-12 Climate: Newton, MA Commentary

Ilya Feoktistov:

It was late on a cold and snowy New England evening in February 2017, and Newton North history teacher Isongesit Ibokette was venting at his keyboard about the new guidelines for avoiding bias in teaching. They had been sent out by Newton North’s principal that morning, prompted by the general ill will among teachers for the new occupant of the White House.

The guidelines asked teachers to remain objective while teaching about historical and current events; and to treat all students, regardless of political opinion, with respect. Teachers were told: “For current controversial issues (health care, immigration, environmental policies, gun laws), teach students that there are different perspectives and present the reasoning of those who hold those different perspectives.”

Ibokette was having none of it. He typed this reply: “I am concerned that the call for ‘objectivity’ may just inadvertently become the most effective destructive weapon against social justice,” and sent it to the members of Newton North’s history department.

Ibokette was responding to an email from another Newton North history teacher, David Bedar. Bedar was same teacher who hosted the anti-Semites at Newton North, and has played a significant role in the years-long controversy over anti-Jewish bias in the public schools of the heavily Jewish suburb.

Earlier that February day, Bedar sent an email to fellow Newton North history faculty, accusing President Trump and his supporters of “nativism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc.,” and objecting to the following “don’ts” that the Newton North principal had asked teachers to avoid:

Newton School District (12,674 students, with a recent annual budget of 227,560,263, or $17,954 per student, somewhat less than Madison).

Interestingly, Newton’s 2019 budget presentation slides (PDF) concisely summarize their spending, in one screen. Oh, that we had a simple presentation of Madison’s annual spending, and ongoing increases….

On the Other Side North Korean women have been escaping to the South in search of freedom and happier lives. But what happens when hope leads to disappointment?

Ann Babe:

Years ago in Yonsa, a small North Korean town near the Chinese border, residents gathered to watch a man die. Executioners tied him by his neck, chest, and waist to a log in the town square, then shot 90 bullets into him. When it was over, all that remained were two legs.

The man, an executive at a trading company, had been ratted out for illegally cutting down and selling trees to China. When the police came to his property, they found his ceiling papered with money and a getaway boat filled with wads of cash. Or so the story goes among locals.

*Names have been changed.

But it was what became of this man’s daughter that haunted a 12-year-old Kim So Won*. The daughter was tall and beautiful and made small but daring fashion statements. “I remember she wore earrings and tight jeans,” says So Won, “and she wore a tight red jacket” — none of which was officially allowed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Rumors circulated that the girl could jump incredible distances, that she could fly across a room. “She was a star.”

Then one day, in 2007, not long after her father was publicly executed, the daughter vanished. No one ever saw or heard from her again. But So Won would always remember the earrings, the skinny jeans, the red jacket.

Is Climbing the Research Rankings Worth the Price?

The Chronicle:

While you may gain prestige, grant money, and talented researchers, be prepared for high costs and steep competition – and make sure your goals align with your values.


Saint Louis University has a lot going for it: a billion-dollar endowment, more than a dozen academic programs ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News & World Report, and a place among just seven Roman Catholic colleges listed in the Carnegie Classification’s second-highest tier of research institutions. (That tier, called Research 2, designates “Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity.”)

But the university’s leaders have even loftier goals: They want to double the amount of grants, private contracts, and donations awarded for faculty research — to $100 million — in just five years. They also hope to join the exclusive group of universities classified by Carnegie as R-1, or Research 1, which would put them in the company of institutions like Georgetown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The criteria for reaching that classification include several measures of research spending, staff levels, and the number of doctorates an institution awards. …

[T]he path to the pinnacle of academic research is narrow and crowded. In 2015, the last year Carnegie updated its classifications, just 115 institutions held R-1 status, seven more than in 2010. About 150 universities spend more than $100-million a year on research. Among those striving to raise their research profiles are the Universities of Memphis, Montana, and Nevada at Reno. All three share St. Louis’s R-2 classification.

To reach the top often requires significant costs to build laboratory space, recruit star faculty researchers, and pay graduate-student stipends. And the competition for both faculty members and coveted federal research grants is growing, while federal spending for those awards is stagnant. Meanwhile, critics wonder whether going for more research money and a higher Carnegie classification really has more to do with elevating institutional image, and comes at the expense of academic quality — particularly for undergraduates.

“It’s a huge investment on the part of the institution,” says George D. Kuh, founding director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Based at Indiana University at Bloomington, the institute studies ways to improve undergraduate education. “There are so many other universities around that have already captured the prestige.”

Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.

Barbara Oakley:

For parents who want to encourage their daughters in STEM subjects, it’s crucial to remember this: Math is the sine qua non.

You and your daughter can have fun throwing eggs off a building and making papier-mâché volcanoes, but the only way to create a full set of options for her in STEM is to ensure she has a solid foundation in math. Math is the language of science, engineering and technology. And like any language, it is best acquired through lengthy, in-depth practice.

But for girls, this can be trickier than it looks. This is because many girls can have a special advantage over boys — an advantage that can steer them away from this all-important building block.

A large body of research has revealed that boys and girls have, on average, similar abilities in math. But girls have a consistent advantage in reading and writing and are often relatively better at these than they are at math, even though their math skills are as good as the boys’. The consequence? A typical little boy can think he’s better at math than language arts. But a typical little girl can think she’s better at language arts than math. As a result, when she sits down to do math, she might be more likely to say, “I’m not that good at this!” She actually is just as good (on average) as a boy at the math — it’s just that she’s even better at language arts.

Something is Amiss in the History Profession

David Bernstein:

No, this isn’t another post about that horrible Nancy MacLean book, but it is related. As an early, vociferous critic of the book, I wound up in email, blog, and Twitter debates with some of her defenders among fellow historians, especially those who purport to specialize in intellectual history. And what I learned from this was troubling. While I’m sure there are many excellent historians around, I found that the historians I interacted with not only tended to reason backwards from their political priors, but that their standards of how one makes an appropriate inference from existing evidence are such that they would be laughed out of any decent philosophy or law school academic workshop.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

Where Title IX Went Wrong

Christina Hoff Summers:

Title IX, the 1972 legislation banning sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial support, was a reasonable equality-of-opportunity law in its original form. So what explains the scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports carried out in its name? Why has it been used to deny students and professors due process and free speech in sexual harassment cases? When a Massachusetts district court judge reviewed Brandeis University’s Title IX–inspired harassment proceedings, he declared them “closer to Salem 1692, than Boston 2015.”

How did we get here?

I have been reading and writing about weird applications of Title IX for years. Until now, I didn’t fully understand the source of the weirdness. In his new book, The Transformation of Title IX, Boston College political science professor R. Shep Melnick provides the answer: the transformation happened slowly and incrementally and involved a strange symbiosis between government officials, federal judges, and activists. Melnick’s calm, lucid analysis shows how a law once intended to increase educational and athletic opportunities for girls and women came to diminish those opportunities for men and women alike.

Responsibility for administering Title IX falls to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This small agency has the power to issue rules and regulations and to deny federal funding to schools that fail to meet them. But Congress has placed clear constraints on OCR rule making. New rules must be approved by the president after a “notice-and-comment” proceeding that allows affected parties—colleges and universities, civil liberties organizations, policymakers, activist groups, students, parents—to ask questions, raise objections, and request clarifications and revisions to proposed rules before they become binding policy.

Civics: US Senate draft internet regulation document

Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

Titled “Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms,” the draft policy paper—penned by Sen. Mark Warner and leaked by an unknown source to Axios—the paper starts out by noting that Russians have long spread disinformation, including when “the Soviets tried to spread ‘fake news’ denigrating Martin Luther King” (here he fails to mention that the Americans in charge at the time did the same). But NOW IT’S DIFFERENT, because technology.

“Today’s tools seem almost built for Russian disinformation techniques,” Warner opines. And the ones to come, he assures us, will be even worse.

Here’s how Warner is suggesting we deal:

Mandatory location verification. The paper suggests forcing social media platforms to authenticate and disclose the geographic origin of all user accounts or posts.

Mandatory identity verification: The paper suggests forcing social media and tech platforms to authenticate user identities and only allow “authentic” accounts (“inauthentic accounts not only pose threats to our democratic process…but undermine the integrity of digital markets”), with “failure to appropriately address inauthentic account activity” punishable as “a violation of both SEC disclosure rules and/or Section 5 of the [Federal Trade Commission] Act.”

Bot labeling: Warner’s paper suggests forcing companies to somehow label bots or be penalized (no word from Warner on how this is remotely feasible)

Election Year Taxpayer Spending Rhetoric: Tony Evers Edition


“Tony misspoke,” his campaign spokeswoman Maggie Gau told us. “We acknowledge it’s not correct. As much as we try to prevent them, no one is perfect and mistakes happen on the trail.”

UW System’s funding streams

The UW System is composed of 13 campuses, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that offer four-year and advanced degrees, and 13 campuses that offer two-year degrees. Currently, its operating budget is about $6 billion per year, with about $1 billion — 17 percent — coming from state funding.

To see whether that percentage has changed during Walker’s tenure as governor, we turned to a state agency, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. (Federal funding and tuition are the two other largest sources of funding, and there are others, as well.)

Here is how much of the UW System operating budgets has come from state funding since the year before Walker took office as governor:

Mr. Evers currently serves as the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, an organization fighting attempts to improve elementary teacher English content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading).

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.


A capitol conversation

Wear glasses. Earn more A trial shows how much spectacles can increase productivity

The Economist:

“AT THE end of the day I would be anxious,” says Anil Awasthi, a 44-year-old garment worker in Delhi, “thinking what mistakes of mine would be pointed out.” He was worried about what was going to happen as his sight deteriorated, until—courtesy of VisionSpring, an American social enterprise—he got reading glasses. “I’m confident now that my work will meet my boss’s expectations,” he says. “I go home satisfied.”

For the rich, the worst consequence of long sightedness is having to wear the world’s most ageing accessory. For the poor, things are more serious. “It’s the 42-year-old seamstress or tailor,” says Jordan Kassalow, VisionSpring’s founder. “If they can’t see, they can’t do their jobs, and if they can’t do their jobs they end up breaking rocks by the side of the road.”

The first randomised control trial to measure the impact on productivity of reading glasses was carried out recently in a tea estate in Assam, in north-eastern India, paid for by Clearly, a charity. Nathan Congdon, a professor of ophthalmology at Queen’s University, Belfast, and his colleagues gave spectacles to half of a group of 751 tea-pickers aged over 40. The other half got none. Over 11 weeks, the productivity of those whose sight had been corrected rose by 39%. It rose for the others, too, showing the importance in such trials of having a control group. But that rise was only 18%. The rise in productivity for those with glasses was the largest caused by a medical intervention that has ever been shown in such a trial (others have been of mosquito nets and micronutrients). Since tea-picking is piecework, productivity translates directly into money.

As Google Maps Renames Neighborhoods, Residents Fume

Jack Nicas:

For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut.

The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google’s map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.

“It’s degrading to the reputation of our area,” said Tad Bogdan, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. In a survey of 271 neighbors that he organized recently, he said, 90 percent disliked the name.

An Innovator Who Brings Order to an Infinitude of Equations

Kevin Hartnett:

This spring, not long after Caucher Birkar learned that he would be receiving the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics, he shared a memory from his undergraduate years. Even by that time he had come a long way. Born and raised in a rural subsistence farming village in the Kurdish region of western Iran, Birkar had made his way to the University of Tehran, one of the pre-eminent universities in the country. There, at the math club, he recalled studying the pictures of Fields medalists lining the walls. “I looked at them and said to myself, ‘Will I ever meet one of these people?’ At that time in Iran, I couldn’t even know that I’d be able to go to the West.”

There was a lot about his future that Birkar couldn’t have predicted at that time: his flight from Iran, his request for political asylum, the push to rekindle a nearly abandoned field of mathematics. And today, at a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, the honor of being selected as one of four winners of the Fields Medal, a prize conferred every four years by the International Mathematical Union on the most accomplished mathematicians in the world under the age of 40 at the beginning of the year in which the prize is awarded. “To go from the point that I didn’t imagine meeting these people to the point where someday I hold a medal myself — I just couldn’t imagine that this would come true,” said Birkar, who turned 40 in July.

Google Is Not What It Seems

Julian Assange:

We ate and then took a walk in the grounds, all the while on the record. I asked Eric Schmidt to leak U.S. government information requests to WikiLeaks, and he refused, suddenly nervous, citing the illegality of disclosing Patriot Act requests. And then, as the evening came on, it was done and they were gone, back to the unreal, remote halls of information empire, and I was left to get back to my work.

It was at this point that I realized Eric Schmidt might not have been an emissary of Google alone. Whether officially or not, he had been keeping some company that placed him very close to Washington, D.C., including a well-documented relationship with President Obama. Not only had Hillary Clinton’s people known that Eric Schmidt’s partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her as a back channel.

While WikiLeaks had been deeply involved in publishing the inner archive of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. State Department had, in effect, snuck into the WikiLeaks command center and hit me up for a free lunch. Two years later, in the wake of his early 2013 visits to China, North Korea and Burma, it would come to be appreciated that the chairman of Google might be conducting, in one way or another, “back-channel diplomacy” for Washington. But at the time it was a novel thought.

I put it aside until February 2012, when WikiLeaks—along with over thirty of our international media partners—began publishing the Global Intelligence Files: the internal email spool from the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. One of our stronger investigative partners—the Beirut-based newspaper Al Akhbar— scoured the emails for intelligence on Jared Cohen.

The people at Stratfor, who liked to think of themselves as a sort of corporate CIA, were acutely conscious of other ventures that they perceived as making inroads into their sector. Google had turned up on their radar. In a series of colorful emails they discussed a pattern of activity conducted by Cohen under the Google Ideas aegis, suggesting what the “do” in “think/do tank” actually means.

Cohen’s directorate appeared to cross over from public relations and “corporate responsibility” work into active corporate intervention in foreign affairs at a level that is normally reserved for states. Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s “director of regime change.”

According to the emails, he was trying to plant his fingerprints on some of the major historical events in the contemporary Middle East. He could be placed in Egypt during the revolution, meeting with Wael Ghonim, the Google employee whose arrest and imprisonment hours later would make him a PR-friendly symbol of the uprising in the Western press. Meetings had been planned in Palestine and Turkey, both of which—claimed Stratfor emails—were killed by the senior Google leadership as too risky.

Only a few months before he met with me, Cohen was planning a trip to the edge of Iran in Azerbaijan to “engage the Iranian communities closer to the border,” as part of a Google Ideas’ project on “repressive societies.” In internal emails Stratfor’s vice president for intelligence, Fred Burton (himself a former State Department security official), wrote:

Many school districts, including Madison, use Google services.

New Federal Reserve Paper: State Corporate Taxes Hurt Entrepreneurship

Scott Drenkard:

The way the researchers compare policies is quite interesting. Their report uses the newly-constructed Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) firm age dataset, which allows researchers to isolate effects on new versus established firms. It also has local granularity that enables a comparison of economic outcomes in states against adjoining border counties in other states.

In essence, this allows you to hold demographic and industrial characteristics constant (because you are examining areas right next to each other), while examining impacts of changes in policy in one place against another.

How History Classes Helped Create a ‘Post-Truth’ America

Alia Wong:

In 1995, the University of Vermont sociologist and historian James W. Loewen published a book that sought to debunk the myriad myths children were often taught about the United States’ past. Framed largely as a critique of the history education delivered in America’s classrooms but also serving as a history text itself, Lies My Teacher Told Me was the result of Loewen’s analysis of a dozen major high-school textbooks. It found that those materials frequently taught students about topics including the first Thanksgiving, the Civil and Vietnam Wars, and the Americas before Columbus arrived in incomplete, distorted, or otherwise flawed ways. Take, for example, the false yet relatively widespread conviction that the Reconstruction era was a chaotic period whose tumult was attributable to poor, uncivilized governance of recently freed slaves. Textbooks’ framing of the history in this way, according to Loewen, promoted racist attitudes among white people. White supremacists in the South, for example, repeatedly cited this interpretation of Reconstruction to justify the prevention of black people from voting.

Loewen didn’t veer from his conclusions with the second-edition release of Lies My Teacher Told Me in 2007, for which he analyzed six new history textbooks. The books’ treatment of what were then new developments, such as 9/11 and the Iraq War, reinforced his belief that history education in the U.S. is fundamentally broken.

Real Talk About Segregation in Boston Public Schools

Keri Rodrigues:

Here’s the executive summary:

White children are not smarter than black and brown children. Parachuting white families into majority “minority” schools will not automatically improve academic performance.

Black and Latino children ARE more than capable of achievement. Just because a school is majority “minority” does not make it a failing school.

Student diversity is positive and is linked to better student achievement for all students.
The segregation in Boston Public Schools has more to do with class and poverty than race, although systemic racism and income inequality perpetuating the cycle of poverty hits communities of color a hell of a lot harder than white families — especially in Boston. If you want to understand why a school might be poor performing, take a look at the income levels of the students’ families before you even think about the racial diversity of the students. Family income will tell you a whole lot more about the educational challenges of the kids than their race.
All of these things are true.

This is also true: People who can afford to buy $3 million condos in Boston are not going to send their children to underperforming schools in the opposite part of the city. They just AREN’T. Ever. No matter how progressive they claim to be. And if you think there is any amount of political pressure you can put on Marty Walsh to make him attempt to force it to happen — you’re nuts.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

We spend far more than most, yet have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Wikipedia bans agenda-driven editor from British politics, but punishes the messenger too

Five Filters:

Wikipedia’s arbitration committee (ArbCom) has finally voted to ban editor Philip Cross from the topic of ‘post-1978 British politics’. He had spent years making agenda-driven edits on the site. Having spent some time documenting his hostile edits and his conduct toward his Wikipedia subjects on Twitter, it’s good to see Wikipedia finally taking action:

Modern SAT solvers: fast, neat and underused (part 1 of N)

Martin Hořeňovský :

Before I started doing research for Intelligent Data Analysis (IDA) group at FEE CTU, I saw SAT solvers as academically interesting but didn’t think that they have many practical uses outside of other academic applications. After spending ~1.5 years working with them, I have to say that modern SAT solvers are fast, neat and criminally underused by the industry.


Boolean satisfiability problem (SAT) is the problem of deciding whether a formula in boolean logic is satisfiable. A formula is satisfiable when at least one interpretation (an assignment of true and false values to logical variables) leads to the formula evaluating to true. If no such interpretation exists, the formula is unsatisfiable.

What makes SAT interesting is that a variant of it was the first problem to be proven NP-complete, which roughly means that a lot of other problems can be translated into SAT in reasonable[1] time, and the solution to this translated problem can be converted back into a solution for the original problem.

As an example, the often-talked-about dependency management problem, is also NP-Complete and thus translates into SAT[2][3], and SAT could be translated into dependency manager. The problem our group worked on, generating key and lock cuttings based on user-provided lock-chart and manufacturer-specified geometry, is also NP-complete.

Silicon Valley Thinks Politics Doesn’t Exist

Nora Khan and Fred Turner:

Nora Khan: You’ve written at length on the New Communalists, their rejection of politics, their attempts to build a pure new world on the edge of society. This ethic was translated into tools, infrastructure, and material for the technological world we are in today.

But, as you’ve argued so well, that rejection of politics, embedded in tools, has given us a series of disasters. To me, it seems the most insidious effect is when this claim suggests more advanced technologies are apolitical, amoral, or neutral. It seems particularly absurd when you start talking about machine vision, predictive policing and their algorithmic phrenology, databases sorting people by their employability, or psychographic maps.

I often hear tech activists and critics decry technology companies’ claims that their tools and platforms are neutral. I also do the same. But where does this idea of technology as neutral, come from? Is it similar to how business leaders claim the market is amoral?

Fred Turner: Well, I’ll speculate, and I hope it’ll be useful speculation. There are a couple of sources. One is chronologically proximate, and one is probably a little bit more distant. The proximate one remains professional engineering culture and its educational system. Engineering education is a system in which explicitly political questions are generally relegated to other fields entirely: political science, sociology, history, English, and on down the line.

Why so many poor kids who get into college don’t end up enrolling

Alvin Chang:

This means that a huge number of disadvantaged students — who had to overcome more obstacles than the average student to make it to the doorstep of college — never even go in the door.

”They’ve already made it through so much. They’ve come so far; they’re so close,” said Holly Morrow, who works at uAspire, which helps disadvantaged kids get to college. (uAspire provided data to Page and Castleman for this research.)

So why is this happening?

One high school counselor compared it to the story of Hansel and Gretel. She told researchers that during the school year, the counselors set out bread crumbs for students to follow. But once high school ends, “all of a sudden, the bread crumbs are gone and they have no idea where to go.” And that leads them to drift off the college-bound path.


Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – NOT! (2006)

What Duluth Can Teach America About Declining Political Civility

Gerald F. Seib:

The decline of civility in political debate was alarming. Harsh rhetoric was getting in the way of resolving bitter disputes.

Worse yet, the nasty tenor of political discourse was so turning off young people that they were walking away from it, saying they didn’t want to get involved in such a nasty process.

Sounds like Washington today, right? Actually, it was Duluth, Minn., more than a decade ago as tensions rose over local budget strains. Then, as now on the national political stage, nastiness was becoming the norm, preventing well-intentioned people from coming together to solve problems.

The difference is that the leaders of Duluth decided to do something about it. Civic leaders launched something called Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project. They drew up a list of nine guidelines for civilized debate so simple they could and did fit on a wallet card.

Then, a funny thing happened. People took the idea to heart. All six major units of regional government—city and county boards and school districts—adopted the guidelines. As debate improved, so did the process of addressing problems. Today, Duluth’s mayor, Emily Larson, credits the civility project for helping the city work through an emotional, two-year debate over a new ordinance requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, which was adopted in May.

Is it naive to think that the experience of a city of 86,000 can be useful on a national scale? Perhaps. And maybe Minnesotans are just nicer than the rest of us.

What to Do When Each Department Uses Different Words to Describe the Same Thing

Thomas Redman:

We’ve all experienced some version of this problem: Ask “how many customers do we have?” and the marketing team provides one answer, sales a second, and accounting a third. Each department trusts its own system, but when the task at hand requires that data be shared across silos, the company’s various systems simply do not talk to one and other.

The problem arises because different systems employ different definitions of key terms. Thus, the term “customer” can mean a potential buyer to the marketing department, the person who signed the purchase order to sales, and the legal entity that it bills to accounting. Then people misunderstand the data and make mistakes. These issues grow more important as companies try to pull more and more disparate data together — to develop predictive models using machine learning, for example.

Specialized vocabularies develop in the business world every day to support new or specialized disciplines, departments, problems, and innovative opportunities. The term “customer” means different things to different departments because, at some point, each required the term to mean something specific to them. Language constantly grows and divides, becoming increasingly subtle and nuanced. But over time, systems don’t agree, which can cause tension and conflict in organizations.

Civics, education and politics

Victor Davis Hanson:

Universities grew not just increasingly left-wing but far more intolerant than they were during the radicalism of the Sixties — but again in an infantile way. Speakers were shouted down to prove social-justice fides. “Studies” courses squeezed out philosophy and Latin. History became a melodramatic game of finding sinners and saints, rather than shared tragedy. Standards fell to accommodate poorly prepared incoming students, on the logic that old norms were arbitrary and discriminatory constructs anyway.

The curriculum now was recalibrated as therapeutic; it no longer aimed to challenge students by demanding wide reading, composition skills, and mastery of the inductive method. The net result was the worst of all possible worlds: An entire generation of students left college with record debt, mostly ignorant of the skills necessary to read, write, and argue effectively, lacking a general body of shared knowledge — and angry. They were often arrogant in their determination to actualize the ideologies of their professors in the real world. A generation ignorant, arrogant, and poor is a prescription for social volatility.

Frustration and failure were inevitable, more so when marriage and home-owning in a stagnant economy were now encumbered by $1 trillion in student loans. New conventional wisdom recalibrated the nuclear family and suburban life as the font of collective unhappiness. The result was the rise of the stereotypical single 28-year-old — furious at an unfair world that did not appreciate his unique sociology or environmental-studies major, stuck in his parents’ basement or garage, working enough at low-paying jobs to pay for entertainments, if his room, board, and car were subsidized by his aging and retired parents.

Texas Schools Arresting More of Their Students After Parkland and Santa Fe School Shootings

Doyin Oyeniyi:

In the aftermath of a tragedy like a school shooting, one of the first things people try to figure out is what can be done to prevent another such tragedy. That routine happened again following two prominent school shootings this year. The shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14 left seventeen people dead. On May 18, ten people were killed at Santa Fe High School in Texas. At the end of May, Governor Greg Abbott published a “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan” and lawmakers, including the Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security, began hearings to address school violence. Meanwhile, many Texas schools responded to the issue of school violence by simply arresting more of their students, according to a report by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit for social and economic justice.

The report, titled “Collateral Consequences, The Increase in Texas Student Arrests Following the Parkland and Santa Fe Tragedies,” documents a sharp increase in the number of referrals to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for students charged with either “terroristic threat” or “exhibition of a firearm.” From 2017 to 2018, referrals for terroristic threats increased by 156 percent, the report concluded. And there was a 600 percent increase of referrals for exhibition of firearms (a majority of which, 66 percent, did not actually include possession of a firearm). It may seem that these schools are being proactive in following up on potential safety threats, but Deborah Fowler, the executive director of Texas Appleseed, says that schools are falling back on a zero-tolerance approach to addressing school violence, an approach that doesn’t accurately assess threat levels and that research has proven ineffective in keeping schools safe. Examples of arrests made in the report exemplify the disproportionate response of zero-tolerance policies, such as a 17-year-old student who was taken to jail for pulling a school fire alarm and a 12-year-old student with a disability who was arrested for pointing a finger gun at imaginary creatures in an empty hallway. In another incident, a 15-year-old was arrested for making a terroristic threat after a teacher asked him to remove his backpack and he joked, “It’s not like it’s going to blow up.”

Little sick pay problem solved, big sick pay problem looms

Joan Quigley:

New Jersey workers recently celebrated the signing of a bill requiring most employers to offer sick days for every job. Legislators celebrated themselves for having enacted it.

It not only was the right thing to do, it made a lot of sense. Who needs a chef sneezing in the soup or a salesclerk coughing as he wraps your package? Who wants to sit next to the accountant sweating, sniffling and exhaling germs into your cubicle while she fights the flu? And you sure don’t need a child care worker with an itchy rash bathing your infant.

Gavin Mueller — Digital Proudhonism


In a passage from his 2014 book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free author and copyright reformer Cory Doctorow sounds a familiar note against strict copyright. “Creators and investors lose control of their business—they become commodity suppliers for a distribution channel that calls all the shots. Anti-circumvention [laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits subverting controls on the intended use of digital objects] isn’t copyright protection, it’s middleman protection” (50).

This is the specter haunting the digital cultural economy, according to many of the most influential voices arguing to reform or disrupt it: the specter of the middleman, the monopolist, the distortionist of markets. Rather than an insurgency, this specter emanates from economic incumbency: these middlemen are the culture industries themselves. With the dual revolutions of personal computer and internet connection, record labels, book publishers, and movie studios could maintain their control and their profits only by asserting and strengthening intellectual property protections and squelching the new technologies that subverted them. Thus, these “monopolies” of cultural production threatened to prevent individual creators from using technology to reach their audiences independently.

Facebook to Banks: Give Us Your Data, We’ll Give You Our Users

Deepa Seetharaman:

That hasn’t assuaged concerns about Facebook’s privacy practices. Bank executives are worried about the breadth of information being sought, even if it means not being available on certain platforms that their customers use. It is unclear whether bank customers would need to opt-in to the proposed Facebook services or what other privacy protections might be offered.
 JPMorgan isn’t “sharing our customers’ off-platform transaction data with these platforms, and have had to say no to some things as a result,” said spokeswoman Trish Wexler.
 Banks view mobile commerce as one of their biggest opportunities, but are still running behind technology firms like PayPal Holdings Inc. and Square Inc. Customers have moved slowly too; many Americans still prefer using their cards, along with cash and checks.
 In an effort to compete with PayPal’s Venmo, a group of large banks last year connected their smartphone apps to money-transfer network Zelle. Results are mixed so far: While usage has risen, many banks still aren’t on the platform.
 In recent years, Facebook has tried to transform Messenger into a hub for customer service and commerce, in keeping with a broader trend among mobile messaging services.
 A partnership with American Express Co. allows Facebook users to contact the card company’s representatives. Last year, Facebook struck a deal with PayPal that allows users to send money through Messenger. Mastercard Inc. cardholders can place online orders with certain merchants through Messenger using the card company’s Masterpass digital wallet. (A Mastercard spokesman said Facebook doesn’t see card information.)

Apple Is Removing Alex Jones And Infowars’ Podcasts From iTunes

John Paczkowski and Charlie Warzel:

Apple has removed the entire library for five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcast apps, BuzzFeed News has learned. Among the podcasts, which were removed from Apples’ iTunes directory, are the show “War Room” as well as the popular Alex Jones Show podcast, which is hosted daily by the prominent conspiracy theorist.

Following the move, Spotify and Facebook have also acted to remove content made by Jones.

Apple’s decision to remove all episodes of Jones’ popular show — rather than just specific offending episodes — is one of the largest enforcement actions intended to curb conspiratorial news content by a technology company to date. Apple did not host Jones’s shows, but it offered an index that allowed anyone with an iPhone to find and subscribe to them. Though Apple is far from Jones and Infowars’ only distribution platform, the decision to pull Jones’ content will considerably limit the outlet’s audio reach — as of 2018, Apple’s Podcasts platform amassed 50 billion all-time downloads and streams.

Increased segregation of Boston schools could deepen racial, economic divides, say advocates

John Hilliard and Emily Williams

The increase in segregation of the Boston Public School system — decades after court-ordered busing strove to help diversify the city’s schools — will worsen divisions among families along racial and economic lines, parents and education advocates said Sunday.

The concerns came a day after the Globe reported that more of the city’s schools are segregated now than they were two decades ago — in many cases, leaving students of color increasingly isolated in low-performing schools.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

France bans smartphone use in schools

Makena Kelly:

Many French students will have their social media scrolling forcibly ended during school hours this upcoming year, after French lawmakers voted to ban smartphone use in schools.

On Monday, lawmakers decided that students under the age of 15 must leave their cellphones at home, or at least have them turned off during the school day. French high schools will be allowed to decide whether they implement the ban in their classrooms.

The measure prohibits the use of tablets, computers, and other internet-connected devices as well. There are exceptions in place for students with disabilities and for the educational use of devices in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities. This was a campaign promise of French president Emmanuel Macron, and after the measure was passed he tweeted, “Commitment held.”

Nearly half of Americans are lonely. Here’s how leading organizations are responding.

Clare Wirth and Tomi Ogundimu :

Decades of research substantiate the devastating effects of social isolation. Loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and increases the risk of death by 26-45%, which is on par with risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and lack of exercise.

Learn more: How to integrate psychosocial risk factors into ongoing care

Isolation is not only unnerving, it is also widespread. Cigna’s recent survey of 20K+ people revealed 46% of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone. Although striking, this finding is not surprising to those following former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has argued for years that the scale and impact of this issue make it an epidemic.

How leading organizations are addressing the loneliness epidemic

Student fees and social justice.

Toni Airaksinen:

The University of California-Los Angeles has hired 18 students at $13 per hour to combat “social injustices” and “privilege and oppression” following a semester-long recruitment campaign.

Hosted by the UCLA Intergroup Relations Program, the Diversity Peer Leaders project is a year-long internship during which students facilitate workshops on social justice issues in exchange for leadership training and compensation from UCLA.

Little mean girls: Helping your daughter swim in those choppy social waters

Carol Kaufmann:

The girls in my daughter’s class began to divide themselves into groups. Reports of comments that someone was “fat” or not “cool enough” directed at girls I’d known since they were 5 became prime topics of discussions at home. I heard cruel insults about my child, because her loyal friends told her about them.

I figured my daughter would eventually stumble into mean-girl territory, and that subversive manipulation, social rejection and alliance-building would leave her occasionally on the curb. But not until middle school, at the earliest. Right?


“The mean-girl thing is happening much sooner than everyone realizes,” our elementary school counselor told me when I called to talk it through. “I see it all the time.”

On Political Correctness

William Davies:

Keeping going, in this instance, didn’t quite deliver what Peterson, Harris and Murray are best known for. All three men owe their reputations to their professed willingness to criticise ‘political correctness’ in one guise or another, and a refusal to tiptoe around sensitive subjects. Harris, whose background is in neuroscience, became part of the ‘new atheist’ movement in the mid-2000s, courting controversy with a series of attacks on Islam, Catholicism and Judaism. Murray is equally provocative on the topic of Islam, most recently in his book The Strange Death of Europe, which whips up every fear imaginable regarding the threat posed by immigration from the Middle East and North Africa. A Darwinian thread runs through the work of both, which issues in the idea that we must be brave enough to face up to the existence of biologically innate inequalities.

Peterson’s name was barely known this time last year, yet it was his involvement in the O2 event that made its scale possible. His recent book, Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, blends a defence of patriarchal tradition with self-help and psychoanalytic mysticism, drawing on Carl Jung and religious fables to produce such peculiar tips as ‘Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street,’ alongside more menacing advice on how to physically discipline your child. His public profile is so high thanks to a series of online videos in which he attacks the arguments of trans rights activists and feminists. His eagerness to call out ‘postmodernists’, a catch-all for anyone who questions the superiority of dominant Western political and scientific institutions, is perfectly geared towards those in the younger generation who feel alienated from identity politics.

If Peterson, Murray and Harris have one thing in common, it is a brand (always carefully tended) of intellectual and political fearlessness. The logo for the O2 event, titled ‘Winning the War of Ideas’, consisted of a grenade made out of a human brain, surrounded by black and yellow hazard stripes suggesting mortal danger. But on the night the risks were few and far between. At one point Murray, trying to inject some edginess into the proceedings, asked why they were ‘having to hide in a sports stadium to address serious issues’. Harris dutifully tossed out a couple of mildly derogatory remarks about Islam, but you sensed that his heart wasn’t really in it. Peterson was avuncular to a fault.

The English language reigns now, but look at the fate of Latin

The Guardian:

Jacob Mikanowski (How the English language is taking over the planet, 27 July) writes with unconscious irony: “Behemoth, bully, loudmouth, thief: English is everywhere, and everywhere, English dominates. From inauspicious beginnings on the edge of a minor European archipelago…”

I can’t wait to read more of what he says about English syntax affecting German and changing the grammar of Scandinavian languages, but he seems to ignore the English language’s penchant for borrowing from other languages. Behemoth (actually plural) is from Hebrew and archipelago is Greek.

The point is made graphically by a famous description attributed to James Nicoll: “We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary”.

Native English speakers are fortunate that theirs has become the universal language, and it is even more fortunate that there is one. Polish and all the other colourful and beautiful languages that seem to be in its shade are still available for private conversation among native speakers.

How to Cure Your Dread of Public Speaking

Art Markman:

Public speaking is so stressful for so many people that it is routinely used as a stress manipulation in psychological studies. Tell undergrads they have 10 minutes to prepare a speech that will be evaluated by experts, and their levels of the stress hormone cortisol shoot through the roof.

Yet success in many roles requires speaking in public. In addition to presenting in my classes, I typically give a talk per week in front of groups. People ask me if speaking gets me nervous. It does not. And I give a lot of credit to my fascination with stand-up comedy. While I’m not a comedian myself, I’ve been a fan of comedians and their process for a long time, and I think there are three lessons that anyone can learn from them about public speaking.

Follow the New Silk Road

Jon Watts:

In the first part of a week-long series revealing the effects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative on cities around the world, Jon Watts journeys from the steppes of Central Asia to the Black Sea and into Europe, as Beijing’s grand plan radically remakes the lives of people in its path

The Silk Road setting feels timeless: an expanse of desert scrub below the Tianshan Mountains, where weather-beaten farmers herd flocks of sheep much as their ancestors might have done in Marco Polo’s day.

Rising up surreally in their midst, however, are the new landmarks of a modern development: the gleaming yellow gantries of the world’s biggest dry port and the shopping mall towers of a duty-free zone the size of a city.

Welcome to Khorgos, China’s new land gateway to the mineral-rich resources of Central Asia and the consumer-rich markets of Europe. Further from the sea than almost anywhere on Earth, it is both the middle of nowhere and the centre of Beijing’s plans for a new world order.

China is opening new commercial routes across Eurasia. The construction of a new network of Silk Roads – as well as railways, pipelines, ports and ferry routes – is part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Way of the Future: Self-Reliance (with equity?)

Matthew Ladner:

In a previous post I basically made the case that a majority of American states failed to show much academic progress between 2003 and 2017 and that the nation’s fiscal problems are closing. While state constitutions guarantee K-12 funding, making it about as close to a permanent institution as you get in American life, the looming crunch in state budgets between K-12 and Medicaid/Pension shortfalls does not look to be pretty. For instance, consider these projections from the Texas Comptroller’s Office:

Curated Education Information