Observing Minard Observing Napoléon

Norbert Landsteiner:

Observations on textual strategy in infographics by the example of the “Greatest Infographic of All Times”.

In November 1869, at age 88, a year short before his death in October 1870, Charles Joseph Minard published a sheet with two graphs, one of them titled “Carte Figurative des pertes succesives en hommes de l’Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813”, commonly known as “Napoleon‘s March on Moscow”. It is this final work of the French master of statistics and visualization, which survived in collective memory still to the present day, about 150 years later, which is probably much like it was intended by its author. Thanks to authorities of the field, like Howard Wainer (Visual Revelations – Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot. Copernicus, 1997) and Edward Tufte (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Graphics Press, 1983), who suggested that this “may be well the best graphic ever produced”, Minard’s March on Moscow enjoys an even increasing popularity, with Tufte’s careful suggestion soon becoming the trope of “the greatest infographic of all times”. — But, is it?

While commonly praised, Minard’s masterly work has been placed under some substantial scrutiny, as well, as others, like Michael Friendly (Visions and Re-Visions of Charles Joseph Minard. In: Journal of Educatiational and Behavioral Statistics, Spring 2002, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 31-51) have proposed revisions (implying at least the possibility of improvement), or have even, like Nicholas Jenkins, criticized Minard’s graphic for observable deficiencies. — So, is it rather Minard’s historic failure, just like the epic campaign it depicts? Does it actually deserve the recognition, it universally enjoys?

Let’s find out.

Google, Apple and 13 other companies that no longer require employees to have a college degree

Courtney Connelly:

Recently, job-search site Glassdoor compiled a list of 15 top employers that have said they no longer require applicants to have a college degree. Companies like Google, Apple, IBM and EY are all in this group.

In 2017, IBM’s vice president of talent Joanna Daley told CNBC Make It that about 15 percent of her company’s U.S. hires don’t have a four-year degree. She said that instead of looking exclusively at candidates who went to college, IBM now looks at candidates who have hands-on experience via a coding boot camp or an industry-related vocational classes.

Related: The Deflation of the academic brand, and U. of Akron Will Phase Out 80 Degree Programs and Open New Esports Facilities.

(Can’t) Picture This: An Analysis of Image Filtering on WeChat Moments

Jeffrey Knockel, Lotus Ruan, Masashi Crete-Nishihata, and Ron Deibert:

WeChat (the most popular chat app in China) uses two different algorithms to filter images in Moments: an OCR-based one that filters images containing sensitive text and a visual-based one that filters images that are visually similar to those on an image blacklist

We discovered that the OCR-based algorithm has implementation details common to many OCR algorithms in that it converts images to grayscale and uses blob merging to consolidate characters

We found that the visual-based algorithm is not based on any machine learning approach that uses high level classification of an image to determine whether it is sensitive or not; however, we found that the algorithm does possess other surprising properties

For both the OCR- and visual-based algorithms, we uncovered multiple implementation details that informed techniques to evade the filter

Prominent health policy researcher plagiarized colleagues’ work, Dartmouth investigation finds

Alison McCook:

Dartmouth College investigation has concluded that Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, one of the country’s most prominent health care policy scholars, committed research misconduct in connection with a paper published in a top medical journal.

Welch plagiarized material from a Dartmouth colleague and another researcher at a different institution, according to a letter from the college’s interim provost obtained by Retraction Watch. The material was included in a 2016 paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The work found that breast cancer screening was more likely to overdiagnose tumors (leading to unnecessary treatments) than pick up early cases that are destined to become life-threatening.

Welch is a well-known critic of unnecessary medical screening and interventions, and has written several popular books on the topic. He is frequently quoted in media discussions of health care costs.

Gender Is a Construct—Except When It’s Not

Heather Mac Donald :

A foundational tenet of academic feminism holds that alleged differences between males and females are socially constructed. This credo usually maximizes the opportunities for charging sexism, yet it will be discarded in an instant if acknowledging the innate biological and psychological differences between men and women yields an additional trove of feminist complaint. The current issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine shows how the game is played.

For years, medical research neglected “sex and gender differences” in health, according to the magazine. “Historically, the narrative of medicine has been driven by data derived from white men around the age of 40,” the associate dean for curriculum at the Yale Medical School told the magazine’s reporter. Clinical trials only occasionally included females and when they did, the results were rarely analyzed by sex. It’s mysterious why this alleged neglect should matter, if sex differences are “socially constructed.” If males and females are the same psychologically and physically before the patriarchy starts assigning sex roles, then medical research need not distinguish between males and females, either.

Man sues over Google’s “Location History” fiasco, case could affect millions

Cyrus Farivar:

As a result of the previously unknown practice, which was first exposed by the Associated Press last week, Google has now been sued by a man in San Diego. Simultaneously, activists in Washington, DC are urging the Federal Trade Commission to examine whether the company is in breach of its 2011 consent decree with the agency.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court last Friday in San Francisco, attorneys representing a man named Napoleon Patacsil argued that Google is violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the state’s constitutional right to privacy.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status, and it would include both an “Android Class” and “iPhone Class” for the potential millions of people in the United States with such phones who turned off their Location History and nonetheless had it recorded by Google. It will likely take months or longer for the judge to determine whether there is a sufficient class.

Cuts to Liberal Arts at Goucher

Colleen Flaherty:

College says it’s eliminating programs such as math, physics and religion, in attempt to keep costs down.

Goucher College is the latest institution to announce a series of program cuts following an academic prioritization process. Majors and minors in math, music, physics, religion, Russian and elementary and special education are being phased out, as are majors in studio art and theater, the college said this week. Book studies, German and Judaic studies will also be eliminated as stand-alone majors.

All current and incoming Goucher students will be able to graduate with their intended major under the current program, but the changes take effect thereafter.

Impact of Google Returning to China Will Reach Beyond Chinese Market

Maria Repnikova:

In the summer of 2008, when I interviewed for an internship at Google London headquarters, one of the questions was whether I would have supported Google’s entry into the Chinese market in 2006. This was two years prior to Google’s official and dramatic exit from China on account of ethical considerations.

My answer at the time was yes. I argued that some information access is better than none. In my view, the polarizing human rights narrative about the Chinese market is more concerned with our Western sensibilities than with the actual demands of Chinese citizens. While we want them to be liberated from the chains of the Communist Party, Chinese citizens may be more concerned with food safety, clean air, and consumer rights – information they may find on Google.

Eight years after its exit, Google faces a similar dilemma, but some things have changed. China’s tech sector became competitive on the global market and Chinese citizens experience more intensive censorship and surveillance than they had back in 2010. China became simultaneously more globalized and more closed. And American tech giants, including Google, are dealing with more regulations in Western markets and competition from Chinese artificial intelligence.

Once again, a number of human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, but also Google’s own employees who have been kept in the dark about this project, are decrying this decision as unethical.

The ethical lines, however, remain blurry.

The Dangers in the Trump-Brennan Confrontation

Jack Goldsmith:

But Trump and his allies are not the only culprits here. In reaction to perceived evils by Trump campaign and transition officials, members of the intelligence community—intelligence bureaucrats or outgoing Obama national security officials, or both—contributed a lot to diminishing trust in the intelligence community when they leaked, early in the Trump administration, a great deal of U.S.-person information collected from FISA warrants in order to bring down Trump’s national security adviser and achieve other anti-Trump goals. As Wittes and I wrote last year, “these leaks violated the core [Grand Bargain] commitment not to politicize the use of surveillance tools or the fruits of their use.” The leaks hurt Trump, but they also hurt the intelligence community a great deal, and probably for a longer term, by making Trump’s politicization charges credible. It was an unnecessary shot in the foot since the issues that the leaks sought to shed light on were under full official investigation.

This leads to the second unfortunate trend during the Trump era: the president’s uncanny ability to induce his critics to break norms in response to his norm-breaking behavior, in the process lending credibility to his critiques. This was a major theme of my Atlantic essay last fall. The FISA leaks break norms and confirm to many that the intelligence community in general and the Russia investigation in particular are politicized. The press often overreacts to Trump by (in Bob Woodward’s words) “binge-drinking the anti-Trump Kool-Aid,” thereby lending credence to Trump’s charges of bias and the shortcomings of “the fake-news media.” Some early lower-court reactions to the Trump immigration orders confirmed to many the appearance of such bias when they issued heated opinions that failed to pay the president proper deference and respect in cases touching on immigration and national security.

The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)

Jon Henschen:

Throughout grade school and high school, I was fortunate to participate in quality music programs. Our high school had a top Illinois state jazz band; I also participated in symphonic band, which gave me a greater appreciation for classical music. It wasn’t enough to just read music. You would need to sight read, meaning you are given a difficult composition to play cold, without any prior practice. Sight reading would quickly reveal how fine-tuned playing “chops” really were. In college I continued in a jazz band and also took a music theory class. The experience gave me the ability to visualize music (If you play by ear only, you will never have that same depth of understanding music construct.)

Both jazz and classical art forms require not only music literacy, but for the musician to be at the top of their game in technical proficiency, tonal quality and creativity in the case of the jazz idiom. Jazz masters like John Coltrane would practice six to nine hours a day, often cutting his practice only because his inner lower lip would be bleeding from the friction caused by his mouth piece against his gums and teeth. His ability to compose and create new styles and directions for jazz was legendary. With few exceptions such as Wes Montgomery or Chet Baker, if you couldn’t read music, you couldn’t play jazz. In the case of classical music, if you can’t read music you can’t play in an orchestra or symphonic band. Over the last 20 years, musical foundations like reading and composing music are disappearing with the percentage of people that can read music notation proficiently down to 11 percent, according to some surveys.

Related: Madison’s periodic battle over the elementary strings program.

On the Path to Becoming a Teacher: The Landscape of Student Teaching in Chicago Public Schools

Molly F. Gordon, Jennie Y. Jiang, Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Matthew Ronfeldt, Hillary Greene Nolan, and Michelle Reininger:

Key findings teacher preparation programs may be interested in:

Student teachers’ self-reports of their own level of preparation at the end of student teaching were not related to their performance in their first year of teaching.
Mentor teachers’ instructional support and guidance mattered more impactful than their own qualifications (years of experience or status as National Board Certification). What mattered most was mentor teachers’ modeling effective teaching practices, and coaching with constructive feedback in a safe learning environment.
Key findings districts and principals may be interested in:

Student teachers were placed unevenly in schools across the district. Student teachers were less likely to be placed in low-performing schools and more likely to train in schools that served fewer low-income students.
Mentor teachers’ assessments of their student teachers’ instructional practices were good indicators of student teachers’ performance in their first year of teaching.

Related: Foundations of Reading amd the endless battle over teacher content knowledge requirements.

Google Data Collection Research

Digital Content Next:

In “Google Data Collection,” Professor Douglas C. Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, has fully cataloged how much data Google is collecting about consumers and their most personal habits across all of its products and how that data is being tied together.
 The key findings include:
 A dormant, stationary Android phone (with the Chrome browser active in the background) communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period, or at an average of 14 data communications per hour. In fact, location information constituted 35 percent of all the data samples sent to Google.
 For comparison’s sake, a similar experiment found that on an iOS device with Safari but not Chrome, Google could not collect any appreciable data unless a user was interacting with the device. Moreover, an idle Android phone running the Chrome browser sends back to Google nearly fifty times as many data requests per hour as an idle iOS phone running Safari.
 An idle Android device communicates with Google nearly 10 times more frequently as an Apple device communicates with Apple servers. These results highlighted the fact that Android and Chrome platforms are critical vehicles for Google’s data collection. Again, these experiments were done on stationary phones with no user interactions. If you actually use your phone the information collection increases with Google.
 Google has the ability to associate anonymous data collected through passive means with the personal information of the user. Google makes this association largely through advertising technologies, many of which Google controls. Advertising identifiers—which are purportedly “user anonymous” and collect activity data on apps and third-party webpage visits—can get associated with a user’s real Google identity through passing of device-level identification information to Google servers by an Android device.
 Likewise, the DoubleClick cookie ID—which tracks a user’s activity on the third-party webpages—is another purportedly “user anonymous” identifier that Google can associate to a user’s Google account. It works when a user accesses a Google applica

Facebook is rating the trustworthiness of its users on a scale from zero to one

Elizabeth Dwoskin:

Lyons said she soon realized that many people were reporting posts as false simply because they did not agree with the content. Because Facebook forwards posts that are marked as false to third-party fact-checkers, she said it was important to build systems to assess whether the posts were likely to be false to make efficient use of fact-checkers’ time. That led her team to develop ways to assess whether the people who were flagging posts as false were themselves trustworthy.
 “One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles,” Lyons said in a follow-up email. “For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false-news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false-news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”

Choose Life: the ongoing battle – China’s Proposed ‘No Child Tax’ Stirs Controversy: “First Forced Abortions, Now Pressured Into Pregnancy”

What’s on Weibo:

A recent article, in which two Chinese academics propose the implementation of some sort of ‘tax’ for people under 40 who have no second child, has sparked outrage on social media. “The same woman who had to undergo a forced abortion before, is now pressured to get pregnant,” some say. A controversial ‘no child tax’ measure proposed by two Chinese academics has set off a wave of criticism on Chinese social media this week. The proposal was published in Xinhua Daily, a newspaper controlled by the Jiangsu Communist Party branch, on August 14, and was authored by Nanjing University economics professors Liu Zhibiao (刘志彪) and Zhang Ye (张晔). In their proposal, Liu and Zhang suggest various measures to prevent a supposed demographic crisis in mainland China. Their idea of imposing taxes on those who do not have a second child particularly sparked anger online. The authors plead for a so-called ‘maternity fund system’ (生育基金制度) in which citizens under the age of 40, regardless of gender, have to pay a certain percentage of their income in some sort of ‘tax fund’ as long as they do not bear a second child. They write:

Tom Whipple on “Editing a Human”:

Doudna was in for a shock. “One attendee [at the conference] pulled me aside and said three manuscripts had been submitted to journals involving experiments on human embryos. He said, ‘You should know this is happening.’” The labs in China had destroyed the embryos they had developed, and the modification had been only partial. Far sooner than predicted, a threshold had been crossed.

The Francis Crick Institute in London is conducting its own experiments on creating fully edited human embryos, though as its goal is scientific discovery not designer babies, it destroys the embryos.

Terrency Jeffrey:

“The production of TKO-BLT mice to obtain healthy mice with high level reconstitution of human cells and tissues requires specialized methods that are presented in detail,” says the abstract at the top of the article.

“The methods in this manuscript will help prevent duplication of the empirical work done to optimize this humanization protocol and maximize the future success of others endeavoring to produce TKO-BLT mice,” the researchers say in their introduction.

The researchers stated that they “routinely produced cohorts of approximately 40 TKO-BLT mice from a single tissue donor.”

They indicated that the human tissue donors were at 17 to 22 weeks gestational age and that their tissue was provided to the researchers by Advanced Bioscience Resources, which is a non-profit organization located in Alameda, Calif.

This summary of recent newsfeed items reminds me of Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time lyrics:

Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.

One in five genetics papers contains errors thanks to Microsoft Excel

Jessica Boddy:

Autoformatting in Microsoft Excel has caused many a headache—but now, a new study shows that one in five genetics papers in top scientific journals contains errors from the program, The Washington Post reports. The errors often arose when gene names in a spreadsheet were automatically changed to calendar dates or numerical values. For example, one gene called Septin-2 is commonly shortened to SEPT2, but is changed to 2-SEP and stored as the date 2 September 2016 by Excel. The researchers, who published their analysis in Genome Biology, say the issue can be fixed by formatting Excel columns as text and remaining vigilant—or switching to Google Sheets, where gene names are stored exactly as they’re entered.

Hong Kong and Macau students will face compulsory military training at top mainland Chinese university for first time

Phila Siu & Su Xinqi:

China’s prestigious Tsinghua University will require first-year students from Hong Kong and Macau to go through a mandatory three-week military training programme that was previously only compulsory for mainland students, the South China Morning Post has learned.

Two worried Hong Kong teenagers admitted to the top Beijing university told the Post on Sunday that the training would begin this Friday at the university’s campus but they still did not know details of the programme.

“As a girl, I am afraid that I am not physically strong enough,” said Carrie Li, 17, who was admitted to Tsinghua’s law school and only found out about the military training requirement from an information booklet they received from the university.

Another teenager, Leung Kwok-sum, 18, enrolled in the economic and management school, was also anxious.

U. of Akron Will Phase Out 80 Degree Programs and Open New Esports Facilities

Emma Pettit:

The U. of Akron announced on Wednesday that it would phase out 80 degree programs. The next day, it announced it would open “the largest amount of dedicated esports space of any university in the world to date.”

The University of Akron will phase out 80 degree programs, about 20 percent of what it now offers, in part, to save money for the future, the university announced on Wednesday.

The cuts come after a yearlong review of Akron’s degrees and degree tracks. Among the university’s strengths are nursing, biosciences, engineering, dance, and music, Akron’s Board of Trustees said in a statement. The 10 Ph.D. programs, 33 master’s programs, 20 bachelor’s programs, and 17 associate-degree programs that will be phased out suffered low enrollment or were duplicates of prosperous programs at other, similar institutions.

Vox’s Consistent Errors on Campus Speech, Explained

Musa al-Gharbi:

The Free Speech Project (FSP), based out of Georgetown University, attempts to document “incidents in which Free Speech has been challenged or compromised in recent years, and collect analysis from various points of view of the struggle to sustain First Amendment Values.”

This is a great initiative. In fact, Heterodox Academy recently ran a post emphasizing the importance of projects like this: if we want to understand the scope of the problem – and how it is evolving – we need to be looking at behaviors, rather than whether or not people say they support free speech in polls. Many who strongly support civil liberties in the abstract are perfectly happy to declare “states of exception” against those they detest in the “real world.”

So far, FSP’s “Free Speech Tracker” has pulled together 137 incidents of (attempted) free-speech suppression. Nearly 2/3 of these (88) occurred on college campuses.

Surveying just over 90 incidents from this database in a recent Medium post, FSP Director Sanford Ungar came to the following conclusions:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Greece Bailouts end + Grim Demographics

Giorgos Christides:

The school on the small Greek village of Kerasochori looks like the set of a disaster movie. Everything is still there: the black board, the math books, tables and chairs, the sports equipment, the map of Greece on the wall. Even the class registers are still in the corner. A layer of dust covers everything. About 20 boys and girls once went to school here, but 12 years ago it was closed down. That’s where it began. There were no longer enough families in Kerasochori to keep it running.

Konstantina Kalli, 34, has unlocked the door and stands helplessly in the ruins of the past. “Anyone who leaves doesn’t come back,” she says. “The village is shrinking.”

Kalli is Kerasochori’s hope. She has a three-year-old daughter and is six months pregnant, with a girl. The birth will likely be difficult. There is no medical clinic nearby, and she has had to drive to Athens for every checkup, a journey of five hours by car along many winding mountain roads. Kerasochori doesn’t have any child care. The nearest school is in the neighboring village, as long as there are enough children for it to remain in operation.

Kalli works for the local government, the biggest employer in Kerasochori. Together with two colleagues, a mayor, a priest and a police officer, she runs the district. About 100 people still live here in the village, most of them retirees. The average income is about 300 euros per month. There is almost no work — the main sources of income are beekeeping and a bit of forestry. There’s no tourism, even though, according to UNESCO, the air here is cleaner than almost anywhere else in Europe.

When China Rules the Web Technology in Service of the State

Adam Segal:

For almost five decades, the United States has guided the growth of the Internet. From its origins as a small Pentagon program to its status as a global platform that connects more than half of the world’s population and tens of billions of devices, the Internet has long been an American project. Yet today, the United States has ceded leadership in cyberspace to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has outlined his plans to turn China into a “cyber-superpower.” Already, more people in China have access to the Internet than in any other country, but Xi has grander plans. Through domestic regulations, technological innovation, and foreign policy, China aims to build an “impregnable” cyberdefense system, give itself a greater voice in Internet governance, foster more world-class companies, and lead the globe in advanced technologies.
 China’s continued rise as a cyber-superpower is not guaranteed. Top-down, state-led efforts at innovation in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, and other ambitious technologies may well fail. Chinese technology companies will face economic and political pressures as they globalize. Chinese citizens, although they appear to have little expectation of privacy from their government, may demand more from private firms. The United States may reenergize its own digital diplomacy, and the U.S. economy may rediscover the dynamism that allowed it create so much of the modern world’s technology.
 But given China’s size and technological sophistication, Beijing has a good chance of succeeding—thereby remaking cyberspace in its own image. If this happens, the Internet will be less global and less open. A major part of it will run Chinese applications over Chinese-made hardware. And Beijing will reap the economic, diplomatic, national security, and intelligence benefits that once flowed to Washington.

Kunduz Test Prep App


Kunduz is democratizing access to test prep by building a service that’s 10x cheaper and faster than traditional options. On Kunduz’s mobile app, a student takes a photo of a problem and Kunduz farms the solution out to its network of 7,000 tutors. Students typically get an explanation and answer within 10 minutes. They’re launched in Turkey and have solved 3 million questions asked by students across the country. The founding team attended a prestigious public high school and college in Turkey and witnessed a large discrepancy in university entrance exam preparation due to financial resources. They started Kunduz to level the playing field.

Fact sheet: School-based health and medical-legal partnerships

medical legal partnerships:

Integrating health services into a school-based setting ensures more equitable access to health care for children and adolescents. Yet social inequities—related to family, housing, income, and education—can negatively affect their performance in school as well as their health. School-based health center (SBHC) staff are increasingly working to identify and address these social determinants of health (SDOH). Many barriers to adequate and equitable child health are rooted in structural problems that health care alone cannot solve. To truly meet the complex needs of these young patients, health care teams benefit from legal expertise to help navigate problems that go well beyond the clinic’s door. School-based health centers with medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) provide patients with legal services to deal with issues that directly affect their health, further increasing the efficacy of health interventions.

Civics: James Comey Has A Long History Of Questionable Obstruction Cases

Mollie Heningway:

Following countdown clocks on cable outlets and dramatic claims in the media about what devastating testimony to expect, James Comey sat down before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. The hearing ended up being a bit of a let-down for critics of President Trump who hoped to get him impeached (or removed via the 25th amendment!) as soon as possible. Comey admitted that Donald Trump had told the truth when he wrote that the former FBI director had thrice told him he was not under investigation in the Russia meddling probe. Comey admitted that Trump had twice encouraged him to get to the bottom of the Russian meddling issue.

But the media chose to run with a dramatically different narrative. That narrative was if James Comey had not proven obstruction, he came pretty darn close.

“Is Trump Guilty Of Obstruction Of Justice? Comey Laid Out The Case,” was the big takeaway from NPR’s Domenico Montanaro.

An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep

Jane Brody:

Attention all you happy high school graduates about to go off to college, as well as the many others returning for another year of higher education. Grandsons Stefan and Tomas, that includes you.

Whatever you may think can get in the way of a successful college experience, chances are you won’t think of one of the most important factors: how long and how well you sleep. And not just on weekends, but every day, Monday through Sunday.

Studies have shown that sleep quantity and sleep quality equal or outrank such popular campus concerns as alcohol and drug use in predicting student grades and a student’s chances of graduating.

Although in one survey 60 percent of students said they wanted information from their colleges on how to manage sleep problems, few institutions of higher learning do anything to counter the devastating effects of sleep deprivation on academic success and physical and emotional well-being. Some, in fact, do just the opposite, for example, providing 24-hour library hours that encourage students to pull all-nighters.

(I did that only once, to study for an exam in freshman year, and fell asleep in the middle of the test. Lesson well learned!)

An all-nighter may help if all you have to do is memorize a list, but if you have to do something complex with the information, you’ll do worse by staying up all night, J. Roxanne Prichard, an expert on college sleep issues, told me. After being awake 16 hours in a row, brain function starts to decline, and after 20 hours awake, you perform as if legally drunk, she said.

TLS 1.3 is Coming – an Opportunity for Amazon, Google and Microsoft to End Censorship

Privacy News:

SNI is also used for another purpose. It allows censored services to “look like” uncensored ones to automated censorship systems. These systems mistake a banned website as a permitted one and allow it to load, rather than blocking the user or redirecting them to a more friendly government approved content.

Currently, SNI in TLS 1.2 has a flaw that allows censors to differentiate between a “real” service and a “fake” service if they are savvy enough to figure it out. Interestingly, SNI in TLS 1.3 fixes this problem by hiding all of the information about the service behind encryption.

This means that services like VPNs and Tor can bypass censorship systems entirely by impersonating servers at Google, Amazon, or Microsoft. These three names are actually very important to the censorship issues of 2018 and beyond, because they are, in essence, a majority of the Internet we know. If Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure allow domain fronting with TLS 1.3, censorship countries like China are faced with a binary choice. They can either block gigantic swaths of the Internet (and face enormous backlash) or allow SNI to work, which means a serious setback for censorship around the world.

Napoleon was the Best General Ever, and the Math Proves it.

Ethan Arsht:

Ranking Every* General in the History of Warfare

*Almost every

When Africanus asked who, in Hannibal’s opinion, was the greatest general, Hannibal named Alexander… as to whom he would rank second, Hannibal selected Pyrrhus… asking whom Hannibal considered third, he named himself without hesitation. Then Scipio broke into a laugh and said, “What would you say if you had defeated me?”
— Livy
Like Hannibal, I wanted to rank powerful leaders in the history of warfare. Unlike Hannibal, I sought to use data to determine a general’s abilities, rather than specific accounts of generals’ achievements. The result is a system for ranking every prominent commander in military history.

The Method

Inspired by baseball sabermetrics, I opted to use a system of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR is often used as an estimate of a baseball player’s contributions to his team. It calculates the total wins added (or subtracted) by the player compared to a replacement-level player. For example, a baseball player with 5 WAR contributed 5 additional wins to his team, compared to the average contributions of a high-level minor league player. WAR is far from perfect, but provides a way to compare players based on one statistic.

I adopted WAR to estimate a given military tactician’s contributions beyond or below an average general. My model, which I explain below, provides an estimate for the performance of an average general in any given circumstances. I can then evaluate a general’s quality based on how much they exceeded or fell short of a replacement general in the same circumstances (assuming a replacement general would perform at an average level). In other words, I would find the generals’ WAR, in war.

Myth Busted: Public Charter Schools Do Not “Cream” District Students

Ildi Laczko-Kerr and Eileen Sigmund:

Contrary to the common myth that charters skim the “cream of the crop” from school districts, the average student who transferred to a charter school over the summer in 2015 from a district school performed below the state average on AzMERIT in both math and English language arts. At the same time, districts that received students from charter schools during summer transfer actually enrolled higher performing students; begging the question: Who’s creaming whom?

Chicago: 15-year-old boy killed, 14-year-old wounded outside basketball tournament: ‘He got hit. He was trying to breathe’


Madeline Buckley
Kenwon Park was running, then suddenly fell.

His friend Kimmy stopped, knelt down and tried to talk to the 15-year-old. The teenage girl watched Kenwon struggle to breathe as chaos erupted around them.

They had been at the fieldhouse in Garfield Park on the West Side for a basketball tournament when a fight broke out around 9 p.m. Thursday, according to Chicago police. As police dispersed the crowd, gunfire exploded outside.

Kimmy, who only wanted to give her first name, saw teens run in all directions, including her friend. “He got hit,” she said. “He was trying to breathe.”

Kenwon suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital. Another boy, 14, was hit in the abdomen and was in serious condition at Stroger.

12 Things Mentally Strong People Do That Nobody Else Does

John Rampton:

10. They don’t compare themselves to others.

Remember, the mentally strong are stingy with their time and energy. So why waste it on worrying about what others are doing? Feelings like jealousy and resentment aren’t just exhausting; they’re pointless.

Instead, they appreciate others and celebrate their accomplishments with them. This creates optimism — which is a win-win for everyone. According to a Harvard University study, a sense of optimism may be able to reduce the risk from dying of major causes, such as cardiovascular disease.

Gender, Ethnic Studies profs earn about $12k more than peers

Celine Ryan:

A report released by The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) reveals that the average salary for professors of “Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies” during the 2017-2018 academic year was about $15,000 more per year more than for Biology, Math & Stats, and Science professors.

According to the report, “Area, Ethnic, Cultural, Gender, and Group Studies” professors earned an average of $105,656 last year, while professors of Physical Sciences earned only $90,422. Mathematics and Statistics professors made an average of $89,691, and Biology and biomedical professors earned just $88,792.

US Spending On Interest Hits All Time High As Budget Deficit Soars To $684 Billion

Tyler Durden:

The US’ spending problem is starting to become a major issue.

According to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement, in June, the US collected $225BN in tax receipts – consisting of $110BN in individual income tax, $91BN in social security and payroll tax, $4BN in corporate tax and $20BN in other taxes and duties- a drop of 2.9% from the $232BN collected last July and a reversal from the recent increasing trend…

Civics and equal protection: Rand Paul, Trump Should Keep Revoking Ex-Obama Officials’ Security Clearances

Joe Seyton:

So it came as no surprise that Paul lauded Trump for taking away Brennan’s security clearance. “I urged the President to do this. I filibustered Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2013, and his behavior in government and out of it demonstrate why he should not be allowed near classified information,” Paul said in a statement. “He participated in a shredding of constitutional rights, lied to Congress, and has been monetizing and making partisan political use of his clearance since his departure.”

In an interview yesterday with WKU Public Radio, Paul said he wants other ex-Obama administration intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, to lose their clearances as well.

According to the Kentucky Republican, Clapper lied before the Senate Intelligence Committee when he was asked in March 2013 by Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) if U.S. intelligence was spying on American citizens. “When he was asked by Sen. Wyden if the NSA was collecting information on Americans, private information, he said no and that was a lie,” Paul said. “Later, Edward Snowden revealed that they were collecting all Americans’ phone information.”

Civics: A Brief History of the CIA’s Unpunished Spying on the Senate

Conor Friedersdorf:

Late last week, that internal “accountability board” announced the results of its review. If you’ve followed the impunity with which the CIA has broken U.S. laws throughout its history, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that no one is going to be “dealt with very harshly” after all. “A panel investigating the Central Intelligence Agency’s search of a computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were looking into the C.I.A.’s use of torture will recommend against punishing anyone involved in the episode,” The New York Times reports. “The panel will make that recommendation after the five C.I.A. officials who were singled out by the agency’s inspector general this year for improperly ordering and carrying out the computer searches staunchly defended their actions, saying that they were lawful and in some cases done at the behest of John O. Brennan.”

Done at the behest of Brennan, who once feigned ignorance about the actions in question, going so far as to declare them beyond the scope of reason! “While effectively rejecting the most significant conclusions of the inspector general’s report,” the story continues, “the panel, appointed by Mr. Brennan and composed of three C.I.A. officers and two members from outside the agency, is still expected to criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress.” Who’d have guessed that a panel appointed by Brennan to look into malfeasance presided over and in some cases ordered by Brennan would decide that neither Brennan nor any of the people Brennan leads should be held accountable?

Civics: Ocasio-Cortez bans press from town hall

Christopher Barca:

According to the Democratic nominee in the 14th Congressional District, she and the dozens of area residents who attended the event “talked about race, immigration, healthcare, disability rights and housing.”

But unless you were in the room on Sunday, you won’t know what specific community problems were mentioned or how Ocasio-Cortez planned to address them once she is sworn in.

That’s because her campaign banned members of the media from attending the event, which was otherwise open to the public.

In the seven weeks since she pulled off one of the most remarkable upsets in recent American political history — defeating longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) by 15 points in June’s Democratic primary — Ocasio-Cortez has become a political star.

A high bias low-variance introduction to Machine Learning for physicists.

Pankaj Mehta, Marin Bukov, Ching-Hao Wang, Alexandre Day, Clint Richardson, Charles Fisher, David Schwab. :

Information about notebooks: There are are a total of 20 notebooks that accompany the review. Most of these notebooks are new. However, others (mostly those based on the MNIST dataset) are modified versions of notebooks/tutorials developed by the makers of commonly used machine learning packages such as Keras, PyTorch, scikit learn, TensorFlow, as well as a new package Paysage for energy-based generative model maintained by Unlearn.AI. All the notebooks make generous use of code from these tutorials as well the rich ecosystem of publically available blog posts on Machine Learning by researchers, practioners, and students. We have included links to all relevant sources within each notebook. For full disclosure, we note that Unlearn.AI is affiliated with two of the authors Charles Fisher (founder) and Pankaj Mehta (scientific advisor).

The notebooks are named according to the convention NB_CXX-description.ipynb where CXX refers to the corresponding section in the review (e.g. a notebook for Section VII about Random Forests will have a name of the form NB_CVII-Random_Forests.ipynb).

Economics: Venezuela Hikes Salaries in 95% Devaluation Amid Hyperinflation

Fabiola Zerpa and Jose Orozco:

Venezuela devalued its currency by about 95 percent ahead of the Aug. 20 rollout of a new bolivar, while raising its minimum wage as part of a 90-day economic recovery plan that seeks to loosen the grip of hyperinflation on the country.

The new currency will be called the sovereign bolivar and will be based on the country’s Petro cryptocurrency, now valued around $60 or 3,600 sovereign bolivars. The minimum wage will be set at 1,800 sovereign bolivars, President Nicolas Maduro said in a speech broadcast on state television. The Petro, which will fluctuate, will be used to set prices for goods.

Tying the new currency to the Petro value effectively amounts to a 95 percent devaluation on the last week’s central bank foreign exchange auction results.

Maduro’s historic devaluation comes as Venezuela sinks into a severe economic depression and wrestles with hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund estimates will reach 1 million percent by the end of this year.

‘Like you just have no brain after the game.’ Inside a UNC lineman’s concussion ordeal.

Andrew Carter:

One year has passed since Tommy Hatton took his final hit on a football field, the one to the side of his head that resulted in his fourth concussion – the one that made him decide, after months of headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity and pain, that he could no longer risk his future.

Before that hit, Hatton had been perhaps the most respected member of The University of North Carolina football team’s offensive line, a player who took great pride, in his words, in “just physically dominating dudes for four quarters.” He’d been a freshman All-American, a leader among his teammates. At 6-2 and 305 pounds, he was an undersized but ambitious player set on reaching his goal of playing in the NFL.

After a relatively routine blow to the head on Aug. 3, 2017, he felt debilitating effects that caused him to fear for his long-term health. Hatton remembers little about the hit, or what he felt in the immediate aftermath. The next morning he felt sick. He said it was “like I drank three bottles of Smirnoff.” And so began his journey from football player to case study.

During the past year, Hatton’s story has played out amid a national dialogue about football, concussions and the potential consequences of repetitive head trauma. His story has unfolded, too, amid the backdrop of a prominent university whose opposing interests accentuate the conflict between the violence of football and the scientific quest to understand the carnage unseen.

Can engineers from Google or Facebook solve whiteboard questions easily?

Franz Wong:

I work for Google and have never been good at the “Here’s an NP-hard problem you haven’t heard of, write correct code for nlogn solution on whiteboard in language of choice” question. I had to train extensively (reading CLR, practicing) to be able to pass.
However, large numbers of engineers at Google are very good at solving whiteboard questions. A lot of it comes from practice, a lot comes from knowing the common problems and solutions, and a lot comes from knowing the algorithmic primitives from which modern algorithms are born.
For many, whiteboard questions are “fun”- in the same way my parents like to do crossword puzzles for the intellectual exercise, Googlers like to discuss challenging, abstract-but-related-to-ads-or-search questions.

Civics: When Digital Platforms Become Censors

Glenn Reynolds:

Call 2018 the “Year of Deplatforming.” The internet was once celebrated for allowing fresh new voices to escape the control of gatekeepers. But this year, the internet giants decided to slam the gates on a number of people and ideas they don’t like. If you rely on someone else’s platform to express unpopular ideas, especially ideas on the right, you’re now at risk. This raises troubling questions, not only for free speech but for the future of American politics and media.

Civics: U.S. government seeks Facebook help to wiretap Messenger – sources Dan Levine, Joseph Menn


The previously unreported case in a federal court in California is proceeding under seal, so no filings are publicly available, but the three people told Reuters that Facebook is contesting the U.S. Department of Justice’s demand.

The judge in the Messenger case heard arguments on Tuesday on a government motion to hold Facebook in contempt of court for refusing to carry out the surveillance request, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Facebook and the Department of Justice declined to comment.

Academia a ripe target for satire in ‘The Shakespeare Requirement’

Rob Thomas:

One might think that when Julie Schumacher walks into a roomful of her colleagues in the English department at the University of Minnesota, everybody goes quiet.

After all, Schumacher has had a great time poking fun at a fictional English department in her last two novels. “Dear Committee Members,” 2014, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, was a book entirely made out of fictional letters of recommendation written by Jason Fitger, a hapless, failed novelist turned English professor.

Her new book, “The Shakespeare Requirement,” is more of a traditionally structured novel. It revisits the travails of Fitger, now the chair of his department, as he deals with administrators who think resources should be directed away from the arts and toward more profitable departments like economics. While very funny, the book takes a sobering look at the state of higher education. Schumacher is well aware of the controversy at UW-Stevens Point over a plan to eliminate humanities majors, part of a larger struggle over the role of the arts on college campuses.

Secret CPS report spotlights big vacancies, lopsided options for students School choice

Adeshina Emmanuel:

An unreleased report by a school choice group backed by the business community paints in stark detail what many Chicagoans have known for years: that top academic schools are clustered in wealthier neighborhoods, and that fewer black and Latino students have access to those schools.

The report highlights startling figures: About 27 percent of black students are in the district’s lowest-rated schools, compared with 8 percent of Latino students and 3 percent of whites. It also says that while Chicago Public Schools has more than 150,000 unfilled seats, 40 percent, or 60,000 of them, are at top-ranked schools. That surplus will grow as enrollment, which has been plummeting for years, is projected to decline further by 5.1 percent over the next three years. What that means is the cash-strapped district is moving toward having nearly one extra seat for every two of its students.

The document effectively shows that, in many areas of the city, students are skipping out on nearby options, with less than half of district students attending their designated neighborhood schools.

In a city still reeling from the largest mass school closure in U.S. history, this report could lay groundwork for another round of difficult decisions.

The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”

Jennifer Kobe:

Over the weekend, allegations emerged surrounding the use of Facebook user data by a data analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica. But while they have allegedly broken Facebook’s rules, the real problem is Facebook’s business model. And it’s a model that isn’t unique to Facebook. It originated with Google, which realised that the data gathered as people used its search engine could be analysed to predict what they wanted and deliver targeted advertising, and it’s also employed by most ‘free’ online services.

This isn’t just a problem with Facebook. It’s a problem with the internet as it exists today.

AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not

Ryan Nakashima:

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you “pause” a setting called Location History.

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account.

The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.

Storing location data in violation of a user’s preferences is wrong, said Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau. A researcher from Mayer’s lab confirmed the AP’s findings on multiple Android devices; the AP conducted its own tests on several iPhones that found the same behavior.

“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Mayer said. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

Google says it is being perfectly clear.

Let’s talk about King LeBron’s Wink-Wink ‘totally-not-a-charter-school’ Charter School

Citizen Stewart:

I mention that routine because last week I felt like a victim of Sandburg’s non-wrath when Twitter’s anti-school reform voices suggested school reformers were wearing facial egg because “King” LeBron James’ celebrated new school opened in Akron, Ohio as a “traditional” public school rather than a charter.

Frankly, I didn’t get the joke.

Why would charter school supporters feel rebuffed by a new school opening in a city that desperately needs new schools?

Diane Ravitch and her digital accessories told us. I guess reform robots are such one-dimensional creatures that we expect every new school to be a charter.

“I salute LeBron James for investing his funding in a public school, not a charter school,” Ravich crowed.

That’s a tired language trick intended to frame charters as unpublic. It’s an intentional mark of dishonesty. As she said years ago: “charter schools are public schools.”

Commentary on (local) School Board Governance

Citizen Stewart:

“I shared it, and I’m not sorry I did…And I meant it because it shows hypocrisy in our country. Some people can get away with it and some people can’t. It was not racist…It had nothing to do with color. It had nothing to do with race…I’ve seen all kinds of people say vile, ugly remarks on the media, on television and some of ’em get in trouble. Some of ’em don’t. I thought that was a way to show the hypocrisy that happens.”

Were Pike easily disregarded as one sock lost in the dryer we could move on.

But she is not aberrant. She’s more common than we think. Elections are weak. It takes little to win a board seat in many of America’s podunks.

If you watch school boards as I do, you get to see just how nutty then can be, and it should worry you.

Watch a few of Seattle’s or Minneapolis’ school board meetings for instance and you’ll likely feel as though someone put peyote in your tea and turned on Mork and Mindy reruns.

Boy, 11, hacks into replica U.S. vote website in minutes at convention


An 11-year-old boy managed to hack into a replica of Florida’s election results website in 10 minutes and change names and tallies during a hackers convention, organizers said, stoking concerns about security ahead of nationwide votes.

The boy was the quickest of 35 children, ages 6 to 17, who all eventually hacked into copies of the websites of six swing states during the three-day Def Con security convention over the weekend, the event said on Twitter on Tuesday.

The event was meant to test the strength of U.S. election infrastructure and details of the vulnerabilities would be passed onto the states, it added.

The National Association of Secretaries of State – who are responsible for tallying votes – said it welcomed the convention’s efforts. But it said the actual systems used by states would have additional protections.

66% of Millennials have nothing saved for retirement

Katie Lobosco:

That’s no surprise. After paying bills, rent and making student loan payments, there’s often not much leftover each month for young people, many of whom entered the workforce at a time of stagnant wages and high unemployment.

But a new report shows just how far off track they might be. About 66% of people between the ages of 21 and 32 have absolutely nothing saved for retirement, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. The report is based on Census data collected in 2014.

“I see in practice that a lot of us are putting retirement down the goal priority list, in favor of paying off student debt or buying homes,” said Douglas Boneparth, a certified financial planner and author of The Millennial Money Fix.

The 10:1 rule of writing and programming

Yevgeniy Brikman:

First, it looks like similar 10:1 rules show up in film, journalism, music, and photography! How cool is that?

Second, a common response is that even a single character change may show up in Git as an “inserted line” or “deleted line”, so when you see 100,000 lines were changed, it doesn’t mean that all the text in those lines was rewritten. This is true, but as I wrote above, there are also many types of changes missing from the data:

I don’t do a commit for every single line that I change. In fact, I may change a line 10 times, and commit only once.
This is actually even more pronounced for code. While doing a code-test cycle, I may change a few lines of code 50 times over, but only do one commit.
For my books, a lot of edit rounds and writing happened outside of Git (e.g., I wrote some of the chapters in Google Docs or Medium and O’Reilly does copyediting in a PDF).
My guess is that these two factors roughly cancel out. It won’t be exact, of course, and the actual ratio may be 8:1 or 12:1, but the order of magnitude is probably correct, and 10:1 is easier to remember.

Notes Nearing Ninety: Learning to Write Less

Donald Hall:

Suppose I am the hundred-fifty-year-old maple outside my porch. When winter budges toward spring, I push out tiny leaves, which gradually curl yellowish green, then enlarge, turning darker green and flourishing through summer. In September, flecks of orange seep into green, and October turns the leaves gorgeously orange and red. Leaves fall, emptying the branches, and in December, only a few remain. In January, the last survivors flutter down onto snow. These black leaves are the words I write.

Back then, I wrote all day, getting up at five. By this time, I rise scratchy at six or twitch in bed until seven. I drink coffee before I pick up a pen. I look through the newspaper. I try to write all morning, but exhaustion shuts me down by ten o’clock. I dictate a letter. I nap. I rise to a lunch of crackers and peanut butter, followed by further exhaustion. At night I watch baseball on television, and between innings run through the New York Times Book Review. I roll over all night. Breakfast. Coffee.

When Jane was alive, our dog Gus needed walking every day. Jane walked him when she woke, feeling sleepy before breakfast. When they left, I lifted my hand from the page, waving goodbye. Midday, we had lunch and a nap, and then I walked Gus. In my car, I drove him up New Canada, the dirt road near our house, and parked where the single lane widened. We walked the flat earth, not for long because I wanted to get back to the manuscript again. Now when someone brings a dog to the house, I barricade myself in a big chair. An attentive dog would break my hip.

Unexpected Student-Discipline Trends in California: Suspensions Peak in Middle School, Black Kids More Likely to Be Disciplined in Segregated Schools & More

Mario Koran:

It could also be a function of school size. Data suggest that larger schools tend to suspend students at higher rates, and some California middle schools serve between 2,000 and 3,000 students.

“You put 3,000 13- to 14-year-olds together, there are bound to be problems. Big schools are tough to manage,” Loveless said.
He found that small- and mid-sized schools suspended black students at below-average rates, while a larger share of big schools — those with 1,300 students or more — have above-average suspension rates.

Only 16.7 percent of schools that have 200 or fewer students have high suspension rates for blacks, defined by rates that are 5 percent or higher. That jumps to 38 percent for schools that serve 1,300 students or more.

2011: A majority of the Madison School Board voted against the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

2018: “I’m going to call it Madison Prep“.

You Cannot Serve Two Masters: The Harms of Dual Affiliation

Ben Recht, David A. Forsyth, and Alexei Efros:

Facebook would like to have computer science faculty in AI committed to work 80% of their time in industrial jobs and 20% of their time at their university. They call this scheme “co-employment” or “dual affiliation.” This model assumes people can slice their time and attention like a computer, but people can’t do this. Universities and companies are communities, each with their particular missions and values. The values of these communities are often at odds, and researchers must choose where their main commitment lies. By committing researchers to a particular company’s interests, this new model of employment will harm our colleagues, our discipline, and everyone’s future. Like many harms, it comes with benefits for some. But the harm in this proposal outweighs the benefits. If industry wants to support and grow academic computer science, there are much better ways to achieve this.

The proposal will harm our discipline, because it will distract established talent from the special roles of academics: curiosity driven research. Academic scholarship has an excellent record of pursuing ideas into places that are exciting and productive, even if they don’t result in immediate, tangible benefits and especially if they ruffle the feathers of established, powerful institutions. You can’t do that if 80% of your time is spent not annoying a big company. Though big companies belabor promises of complete intellectual freedom to faculty, that can’t and won’t happen because the purpose of companies is to make money for shareholders.

On Not Being Able to Read

Tajja Isen:

They told me I wouldn’t be able to read anymore. That the pleasure of the text, like a lover in a non-law degree, would slowly grow opaque to me — if pleasure were something I even had time to consider. In exchange, I’d learn how to do other things with words: plow through pages of bad legal prose and extract the principle like an animal’s delicate skeleton. Hold up the skull to the dim courtroom light and proclaim its equivalence to the fossils of a different era, a strange phrenology. Memorize the divots in the bones of critters past. Legal education calls this “learning to think like a lawyer.”

After a few weeks of living that story, my body and I revolted at cross-purposes. The stresses of the program congealed into physical illness, which offended me; more often, panic meant productivity. Rather than resting, I hauled myself to a campus book sale I can only recall in feverish splashes — an indiscriminate hunger to grab and possess; the close press of bodies in airless rooms; violent shivers that kept sending my stack of books askew — and somehow came home with a shelf’s width of volumes: Stendhal and Dickens and DeLillo and Mann; Maugham and Poe and Davies and Irving; Gallant and Munro and Atwood and Moore. Mostly men, all of them white, and completely in violation of my network of rules for used book condition. More striking still was that nothing in the stack seemed to call to me, which was likely strategic. Even fever-drunk — a state in which, apparently, I backslid into canonical reverence — I sensed that it would lessen my feelings of loss if the books I kept around me were not ones I burned to read. Loading up my shelves was more gestural than practical; a finger to the mythos of the law school and a memorial to a version of myself that I refused to let disappear entirely.

In ceasing to read — to truly read; to give myself over to the absorptive, ecstatic obliteration of deep reading — I was giving up what made me.

A few nights a week, I’d make a feeble attempt at proving the world wrong, swimming up through my exhaustion to pick up a novel and push through its pages. Sentences were newly terrifying; tiny minefields of meaning where I might miss a principle I’d later be called upon to produce, freshly plucked. I labored for months over what had once taken me days. I told myself that this was pleasure; that these motions were sufficient proof that I hadn’t allowed myself to be drained of joy and filled with something else.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Rise of the Promotional Intellectual

Jeffrey Williams:

The main tasks of a professor are to teach and do research. The two sometimes vie for priority, but together they encapsulate what we expect professors to do, and they take the bulk of weight in yearly evaluations, tenure judgments, and other professional measures.

Now, it seems, a new task has been added to the job: promotion. We are urged to promote our classes, our departments, our colleges, our professional organizations. More than anything, we are directed to promote ourselves. The imperative is to call attention to one’s writing, courses, talks, ideas, or persona in media new and old. It could be about your new book on Shakespeare or the history of haberdashery, or something you did, or simply yourself, but the key is to get your brand out there — if not in The New York Times, then on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or just the department newsletter. And if not quite to the general public, at least to administrators, boards, funders, students, and other professors.

The conventional standards — teaching your classes well, publishing in reputable journals or with academic presses — no longer are enough. You do not exist unless you fire up your personal publicity machine.

Promotion runs through the institution. At my university, besides the central public-relations office, a few years ago a media person was hired to promote the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and last year we added one solely for the English department, who regularly sends out email blasts. We have meetings where we are asked to tap our inner marketer to figure out ways to promote our programs — worrying about a dip in enrollment, as if the problem is not the price of tuition, or the messages in our culture against the value of the humanities, or the pressure for an explicitly practical degree, but simply that we’re not promoting English enough. Besides providing course descriptions on our regular departmental list, we now advertise underenrolled classes with glossy posters.

“Write a Sentence as Clean as a Bone” And Other Advice from James Baldwin

Emily Temple:

Ninety-four years after his birth (and more then thirty since his death) James Baldwin remains an intellectual, moral, and creative touchstone for many Americans—whether writers, critics, or simply people trying to live well in the world. Baldwin was an accomplished novelist, a legendary essayist, and an important civil rights activist—and most importantly for our purposes here, the man knew how to write a great sentence. His birthday is as good an excuse as any to revisit some of his teachings about the craft, and to that end, I’ve collected some of his best literary bon mots from essays and interviews below.

Write to find out.

When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.

-in a 1984 interview with The Paris Review

The Deflation of the Academic Brand

Victor Davis Hanson:

But do the degreed classes, at least outside math, the sciences, engineering, and medicine, merit such esteem anymore?

Anthony Scaramucci’s Harvard Law degree seemed no guarantee of the Mooch’s circumspection, sobriety, or good judgement.

Bruce Ohr’s similar degree did not ensure either common sense or simple ethics. Or, on the contrary, perhaps at Harvard he learned that progressive ends justify any means necessary to obtain them. In any case, Ohr thought there was nothing wrong in keeping quiet about his spouse’s work on the discredited Steele dossier, or indeed in aiding and abetting the seeding of it, while he was the fourth-ranking official at Trump’s Department of Justice.

The Mueller team — along with a group of now disgraced, reassigned, and retired officers at the top echelons of the FBI, the descent of ex-CIA head John Brennan and ex-DIA chief James Clapper into caricature, the shenanigans of unmaskings and leaking at the Obama National Security Council, the warping of the FISA courts, the disingenuous operatives at Fusion GPS, and the implantation of informants into the Trump campaign — recalls the arrogant self-righteousness of the degreed geniuses who took us into Vietnam.

But this time around, the “best and brightest” (remember the media’s hagiographic praise of Mueller’s “all-stars” and “dream team”) would save us from Trump — much as John F. Kennedy’s and Lyndon Johnson’s whiz kids would deliver us from the North Vietnamese.

The liberal Washington Post recently fact-checked some of the claims of the new socialist candidate for Congress in New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has often boasted of her college erudition. (“How many other House Democrats have a degree in economics like I do?”) Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez has repeatedly noted that she graduated fourth in her class at Boston University, with a joint degree in economics and international relations. Yet most of her major statements that she has made since coming onto the national scene have proven either wrong or unhinged.

In an interview on the rebirthed Firing Line, the international-relations major was forced to admit that she knew relatively little about the facts on the ground in the Israeli–Palestinian dispute, other than boilerplate left-wing anti-Israeli talking points. She claimed that the unemployment rate is low because “everyone has two jobs” In truth, only one in 20 do, about 5 percent of the American workforce.

How intermittent breaks in interaction improve collective intelligence

Ethan Bernstein, Jesse Shore, and David Lazer :

Many human endeavors—from teams and organizations to crowds and democracies—rely on solving problems collectively. Prior research has shown that when people interact and influence each other while solving complex problems, the average problem-solving performance of the group increases, but the best solution of the group actually decreases in quality. We find that when such influence is intermittent it improves the average while maintaining a high maximum performance. We also show that storing solutions for quick recall is similar to constant social influence. Instead of supporting more transparency, the results imply that technologies and organizations should be redesigned to intermittently isolate people from each other’s work for best collective performance in solving complex problems.

People influence each other when they interact to solve problems. Such social influence introduces both benefits (higher average solution quality due to exploitation of existing answers through social learning) and costs (lower maximum solution quality due to a reduction in individual exploration for novel answers) relative to independent problem solving. In contrast to prior work, which has focused on how the presence and network structure of social influence affect performance, here we investigate the effects of time. We show that when social influence is intermittent it provides the benefits of constant social influence without the costs. Human subjects solved the canonical traveling salesperson problem in groups of three, randomized into treatments with constant social influence, intermittent social influence, or no social influence. Groups in the intermittent social-influence treatment found the optimum solution frequently (like groups without influence) but had a high mean performance (like groups with constant influence); they learned from each other, while maintaining a high level of exploration. Solutions improved most on rounds with social influence after a period of separation. We also show that storing subjects’ best solutions so that they could be reloaded and possibly modified in subsequent rounds—a ubiquitous feature of personal productivity software—is similar to constant social influence: It increases mean performance but decreases exploration.

Male, pale and stale university professors to be given ‘reverse mentors’

Camilla Turner:

The EPSRC, a government agency, is funding eleven “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” projects as part of an £5.5 million anti-discrimination drive in engineering and physical sciences.

It has previously been claimed that Oxford porters should be given “unconscious bias” training, amid claims that they assume black students are trespassing when they enter College grounds.

The university’s students’ union published their Liberation Vision document, which recommends that porters should also be trained in how to respond to reports of sexual violence and mental health issues among students.

The document says that and cleaners, known as “scouts”, tutors, supervisors and senior tutors should also partake in the training.

Censorship Does Not End Well

Matt Taibbi:

Last week, we saw another flurry of censorship news. Facebook apparently suspended VenezuelaAnalysis.com, a site critical of U.S. policy toward Venezuela. (It was reinstated Thursday.) Twitter suspended a pair of libertarians, including @DanielLMcAdams of the Ron Paul Institute and @ScottHortonShow of Antiwar.com, for using the word “bitch” (directed toward a man) in a silly political argument. They, too, were later re-instated.
More significantly: Google’s former head of free expression issues in Asia, Lokman Tsui, blasted the tech giant’s plan to develop a search engine that would help the Chinese government censor content.

First reported by The Intercept, the plan was called “a stupid, stupid move” by Tsui, who added: “I can’t see a way to operate Google search in China without violating widely held international human rights standards.” This came on the heels of news that the Israeli Knesset passed a second reading of a “Facebook bill,” authorizing courts to delete content on security grounds.

Few Americans heard these stories, because the big “censorship” news last week surrounded the widely hated Alex Jones. After surviving halting actions by Facebook and YouTube the week before, the screeching InfoWars lunatic w

Are Facebook and YouTube quasi-governmental actors?

The Economist:

ONE of the internet’s most odious conspiracy theorists has had his videos and podcasts removed from Apple, YouTube, Spotify and Facebook. Alex Jones (pictured), who has a radio show and runs a few websites, including Infowars, has raised doubts about the murders of 26 children and teachers in the Sandy Hook mass shooting, claiming the story was manufactured by gun-control advocates. He has suggested that America’s government was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1993 and the September 11th terrorist attacks. He says that vaccinating children will give them autism. He repeatedly warns that America is on the brink of another civil war.

Mr Jones’s websites peddling this rubbish are still fully operational. But with the worlds’ biggest media platforms removing his pages and links over the past few days, he has lost direct access to millions of listeners and viewers. Mr Jones has, naturally, seen machinations in this too: the decisions by Apple, swiftly followed by others, to remove his material from their platforms feed with comic precision into his conspiracy theorising about mainstream media. “Apple, Spotify, Facebook and YouTube all banned Infowars within 12 hours of each other”, an Infowars writer wrote on August 6th. This is proof that the “purge was a co-ordinated effort” to meddle with the mid-term elections November rather than a good-faith effort to enforce the sites’ rules about hate speech.

City of Madison Initiative Demonstrates Lack of Transparency: MOST fails to provide public with information and access to meetings and records

Anna Welch and Mckenna Kohlenberg:

In the five years since the group’s inception, MOST has not given the public notice of its meetings times, dates, locations, and agendas, allowing little to no oversight.

According to an internal document from a 2014 meeting, MOST formalized an “Action Team” that began meeting twice a month starting July 2013. But, the group did not make meeting notices publicly available. The same handout said the City’s Education Committee adopted MOST as one of its “key initiatives” in November 2013.

According to MOST meeting notes sent only to MOST participants by the former coordinator, Jennifer Lord, on Nov. 3, 2013, concerns about the committee’s need to comply with open records laws were discussed. In response, city employees cited a desire to want to remain an “independent coalition.”

But, a desire to remain an “independent coalition” is not sufficient to grant MOST immunity from open meetings laws. Nor does this desire grant MOST immunity from open records laws.

Tom Kamenick is a deputy counsel and litigation manager at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a non-profit organization that advocates for open government and civil liberties. WILL successfully litigated the 2017 Supreme Court case.

Kamenick said in an email to Simpson Street Free Press that after briefly reviewing MOST, he was unable to definitively determine if the group qualifies as a public body. But, he also said the Attorney General has stipulated open records and meetings laws should be “applied expansively.”

According to Kamenick, there is a five-factor test for determining if groups must comply with open records and open meetings laws; whether the group is funded government money, whether the group serves a government function, whether the group appears to be a government entity, whether the group is subject to some level of government control, and whether a governmental body can access to group’s records.

MOST is a publically funded city initiative staffed by government officials on the city payroll.

Taxpayer funded MOST’s website.

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 letters@theatlantic.com. 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 Philly.com 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.