Category Archives: Uncategorized

What Is It Like To Understand Advanced Mathematics?

Ji Li:

You can answer many seemingly difficult questions quickly. But you are not very impressed by what can look like magic, because you know the trick. The trick is that your brain can quickly decide if a question is answerable by one of a few powerful general purpose “machines” (e.g., continuity arguments, the correspondences between geometric and algebraic objects, linear algebra, ways to reduce the infinite to the finite through various forms of compactness) combined with specific facts you have learned about your area. The number of fundamental ideas and techniques that people use to solve problems is, perhaps surprisingly, pretty small — see for a partial list, maintained by Timothy Gowers.

You are often confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof for it (this happens especially often in geometry). The main reason is that you have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true to maintain the harmony of the conceptual space. It’s not so much that you can imagine the situation perfectly, but you can quickly imagine many other things that are logically connected to it.

How Women Got Crowded Out of the Computing Revolution

Stephen Mihm:

Why aren’t there more female software developers in Silicon Valley? James Damore, the Google engineer fired for criticizing the company’s diversity program, believes that it’s all about “innate dispositional differences” that leave women trailing men.

He’s wrong. In fact, at the dawn of the computing revolution women, not men, dominated software programming. The story of how software became reconstructed as a guy’s job makes clear that the scarcity of female programmers today has nothing at all to do with biology.

Who wrote the first bit of computer code? That honor arguably belongs to Ada Lovelace, the controversial daughter of the poet Lord Byron. When the English mathematician Charles Babbage designed a forerunner of the modern computer that he dubbed an “Analytical Engine,” Lovelace recognized that the all-powerful machine could do more than calculate; it could be programmed to run a self-contained series of actions, with the results of each step determining the next step. Her notes on this are widely considered to be the first computer program.

One Statistics Professor Was Just Banned By Google: Here Is His Story

Zero Hedge:

Statistics professor Salil Mehta, adjunct professor at Columbia and Georgetown who teaches probability and data science and whose work has appeared on this website on numerous prior occasions, was banned by Google on Friday.

What did Salil do to provoke Google? It is not entirely clear, however what is clear is that his repeated attempts at restoring his email, blog and other Google-linked accounts have so far been rejected with a blanket and uniform statement from the search giant.

Here is what happened, in Salil Mehta’s own words.

Don’t do a googol of evil

Freedom is not free unless corporations who exert a large influence in our lives believe in our well-being. I am a statistics professor and understand that there needs to be reasonable standards to control a large social network and make sure everyone is able to enjoy it freely. Invariably people disagree (we all see this), but some principles, such as simply showing probability and statistics with the sole hope of educating others, should be acceptable and in the middle of the distribution. I am for a higher standard, and a higher purpose. There is great care that I have taken to make sure that people treat one other well, admit faults, and present math and probability education to a wide audience.

In troubling times, we count on educators more than ever

Alan Borsuk:

You’re involved in something hugely important. Particularly to all who are going to be teaching this year, the factors that make it hard and often frustrating work are often linked closely to the factors that make it so valuable. For those teaching low-income and/or minority kids, the chances are so high that a good future for any one of them is connected to the great work teachers will do for that student along the way.

For those of us who don’t go to school every day, our support and appreciation for the work being done within all those walls are valuable. As a whole, we fall short on this so often. It’s a new school year. In a way that is broad but can also be deep, it’s a fresh time to support educational success for all kids.

Lexicon of Lies: Terms for Problematic Information

Propaganda, disinformation, misinformation: The words we choose to describe media manipulation can lead to assumptions about how information spreads, who spreads it, and who receives it. These assumptions can shape what kinds of interventions or solutions seem desirable, appropriate, or even possible.

This guide is intended to inform commentators, educators, policymakers, and others who seek appropriate words for describing the accuracy and relevance of media content. Media historian and theorist Caroline Jack traces the specific origins and applications of several forms of problematic information, unpacking lazy usage habits and uncovering buried cultural origins.

Lexicon of Lies attempts to provide nuance to current debates around truth and trust in the public sphere. The lexicon is the second in a series of outputs from the Data & Society initiative on Media Manipulation.

Symmetry, Algebra and the Monster

Scott Martin:

You could forgive mathematicians for being drawn to the monster group, an algebraic object so enormous and mysterious that it took them nearly a decade to prove it exists. Now, 30 years later, string theorists — physicists studying how all fundamental forces and particles might be explained by tiny strings vibrating in hidden dimensions — are looking to connect the monster to their physical questions. What is it about this collection of more than 1053 elements that excites both mathematicians and physicists? The study of algebraic groups like the monster helps make sense of the mathematical structures of symmetries, and hidden symmetries offer clues for building new physical theories. Group theory in many ways epitomizes mathematical abstraction, yet it underlies some of our most familiar mathematical experiences. Let’s explore the basics of symmetries and the algebra that illuminates their structure.

We are fond of saying things are symmetric, but what does that really mean? Intuitively we have a sense of symmetry as a kind of mirroring. Suppose we draw a vertical line through the middle of a square.

SEO Uber Alles

Adrian Jeffries:

Mic started riding the Facebook wave early in 2012. Individual stories kept going viral, pulling in 2 million, 3 million, 5 million unique visitors per piece. Former staffers described the viral power of Mic’s stories as a fluke, something they’d never witnessed before and have never seen again. Every month brought a new record, former staffers told me. It felt like Mic was unstoppable — but it was not to last. In August 2015, Mic’s Facebook traffic dropped dramatically, former staffers said. This happened every so often; traffic would dip, the audience and editorial teams would adjust a bunch of levers, and the crisis would blow over. This time was different, possibly due to changes made by Facebook that included a penalty for clickbait, as indicated by readers clicking on a story but not spending much time with it.
 Mic had already exhausted its outrage vocabulary by the time Trump’s election supercharged civil rights violations
 Mic, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, had already hired Bleacher Report veteran Michael Cahill in May 2015 as its director of search engine optimization. His task was to translate Mic’s Facebook optimization process to Google. This meant analyzing search trends in order to generate key phrases — everything from “What time is the convention” and “Watch Trump’s speech live” to “How to pick up women” — and assigning those key phrases to a staff of SEO writers, who then reverse-engineered stories around them. “He starts building this little team. They’re off in their own world. Garbage shit. Typos everywhere. ‘Keyword keyword 2017 colon how when where why.’ These poor kids are writing like ten of these a day,” said the former staffer who left in late 2016. “That strategy just kind of overtook the entire newsroom. The desk editors would have weekly meetings with his little lackey… they would have a spreadsheet of like 50 different story ideas that had a bunch of keywords in them, and we had to sit down and assign them to writers together

School choice opponents’ arguments against voucher schools ring hollow

Will Flanders::

While creating an incentive to improve, school choice has not come at a cost to the public schools. If, as Taylor claims, school choice is designed to “siphon” money from public schools, it’s making a mess of the job. Per-pupil spending is higher today than it was before the start of the voucher program. And because the voucher amount is substantially less than the amount spent on children attending public schools, the program actually saves money which could, if the Legislature desired, be further redirected to public schools. Under current law, school districts can continue to receive funding for students they no longer educate if they choose to go to a private school with a voucher, meaning that a student leaving actually increases the district’s per-student revenue in the short term. Taylor conveniently ignores these facts.

By repeating the false narrative about school choice, Taylor seeks to propagate a system where Wisconsin families most in need of educational alternatives are stuck in failing schools. An honest look at the voucher sector shows a system that is cheaper for Wisconsin taxpayers and produces better outcomes. Unlike Taylor, I refuse to sacrifice the education of Wisconsin’s children at the altar of the public school establishment. While public schools are and will remain an important part of our educational system, it is time for “advocates” of government-run schools to recognize that they are better served by devoting their energies to education and not politics. Instead of working to deny families choice, they should concentrate on offering a product that parents will choose.

Indeed, Madison school spending grows annually, now approaching $20,000 per student. This, despite its long term, disastrous reading results.

Ongoing Status Quo Madison School Board Governance

Karen Rivedal

The Madison School Board’s narrow rejection of a proposed five-year contract for a public Montessori charter school on Monday isn’t deterring supporters and may not represent the end of the process around the proposal.

Ali Muldrow, described in the proposed contract as one of the school’s seven founders, said Tuesday she isn’t giving up on the fight to see Isthmus Montessori Academy (IMA), a private school since 2012 on Madison’s North Side, become a public school known as Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School (IMACS) for grades 4K-9.

“We’re absolutely going to keep trying,” said Muldrow, a former School Board candidate who lost to Kate Toews in the April election. Toews voted against the charter school contract in Monday’s 4-3 vote, along with Anna Moffit, TJ Mertz and fellow board newcomer Nicki Vander Meulen.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Preporatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison spends more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student, while tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Eurasian who went to British boarding school in the 1950s breaks his silence over abuse

Ian Gill:

Collins instituted a new system of administering punish­ment. Whereas Farmer had dealt with boys as they presented their “notes”, Collins told boys to meet him outside his office after supper. The idea was to beat them all in one go.

His office was small, so he made boys kneel outside, in a row, with their heads touching the floor and backsides in the air. The line would frequently include a dozen or more boys and would extend into the well of a playroom so that others, sitting on lockers and supposedly engaged in silent reading, had a clear view of the ritual.

I was sometimes one of the kneeling boys, looking left under the tunnel of arched bodies, listening as the thwacks and the whimpering drew ever closer. Being beaten was unenviable, but it was short and sharp. Watching the perfor­mance, however, left a long-lasting impression.

Collins’ “rules” could be whimsical. I copped it once for jumping down a couple of steps instead of walking down them. A friend was beaten for coming in from the rain with wet shoes.

Collins would sometimes be so enraged he would hit us on the spot. A favoured method was to grab a boy by the leg of his short pants with one hand, lift it, and strike his exposed thigh with the other.

Mineral Rights Start Gushing Cash for Colleges

Janet Lorin

At the time OU received the gift in 1976, the mineral rights generated about $30,000 a year. According to the foundation’s records, the attorney who handled the estate expected their value to decline as wells were depleted and sealed. Yet the Mosiers’ mineral rights—which are spread all over Oklahoma, including the patch of land in Kingfisher County pictured below and elsewhere in the so-called Scoop and Stack plays—are located in the third-most active area in the U.S. for oil and gas development and acquisition. As hydraulic fracturing unlocked oil and gas reserves, the donation spun more money for OU. Last year the Mosier mineral rights generated $763,000 in cash flow. In 2014, with a lease bonus, they produced $2.35 million.

“Both track and pharmacy have benefited tremendously from the Mosiers’ largesse—and in a way that Henry and Ida could have never imagined,” says Guy Patton, chief executive officer of the University of Oklahoma Foundation, which oversees investments for OU’s $1.1 billion endowment. The donation helps pay tuition for about a third of the school’s pharmacy students and provides the equivalent of full tuition for about 20 members of the 100-strong track team. It’s also funded new buildings including an indoor track facility.

Texas could seize control or close campuses if four Dallas ISD schools don’t improve

Corbett Smith:

Despite making big strides with its lowest-performing campuses, Dallas ISD still has a massive task for the upcoming school year: If four campuses don’t do better, the state will either shut them down or take over the whole district.

“The statute provides no discretion,” wrote Texas education commissioner and former DISD trustee Mike Morath, in a letter sent last week to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and school board President Dan Micciche.

The four long-struggling schools must perform better on state assessments and shake off the “improvement required” label for the upcoming school year or the state will be required to act. Three DISD schools have been on the state’s failing list for five years — Carr and Titche elementary schools and Edison Middle Learning Center — and one elementary campus has missed marks for four years: J.W. Ray Learning Center.
“If one out of 230 schools, one of those four doesn’t make it, our whole conversation changes,” Hinojosa told trustees during last Friday’s board meeting.

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

Genetic Confounding of the Relationship between Father Absence and Age at Menarche

Nicole Barbaro, Brian Boutwell, JC Barnes and Todd Shackelford:

Research in evolutionary psychology, and life history theory in particular, has yielded important insights into the de- velopmental processes that underpin variation in growth, psychological functioning, and behavioral outcomes across individuals. Yet, there are methodological concerns that limit the ability to draw causal inferences about human de- velopment and psychological functioning within a life history framework. The current study used a simulation-based modeling approach to estimate the degree of genetic confounding in tests of a well-researched life history hypoth- esis: that father absence (X) is associated with earlier age at menarche (Y). The results demonstrate that the genetic correlation between X and Y can confound the phenotypic association between the two variables, even if the genetic correlation is small—suggesting that failure to control for the genetic correlation between X and Y could produce a spurious phenotypic correlation. We discuss the implications of these results for research on human life history, and highlight the utility of incorporating genetically sensitive tests into future life history research.
© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

For years, Richard Florida preached the gospel of the creative class. His new book is a mea culpa.

Sam Wetherell

Geographer David Harvey has argued that the biggest shift in urban economies over the last forty years has been the move from managerialism to entrepreneurialism. City governments that once provided services for their residents in the form of welfare and infrastructure now market themselves to global pools of capital, tourists, and educated workforces.

The notion that creativity could solve these urban problems — either from above, with monumental art galleries, or from below, with bearded clusters of hipsters, is a symptom of this profound transformation.

Richard Florida was right when he said that the “creative economy” is the new way of the world. But its development didn’t happen how he imagined. Rather than launching humanity into a new phase of prosperity, the new economy simply holds the different elements of late capitalism together — making it palatable for some but deepening its crises and contradictions for others.

Poland’s oldest university denies Google’s right to patent Polish coding concept

The Jagiellonian University will demand the withdrawal of a patent application filed by Google in the US on a solution, developed by Dr. Jaroslaw Duda, an employee and lecturer of the university, told PAP the University’s spokesman Adrian Ochalik.  
On Friday, the private Radio ZET broadcaster reported about the issue, involving a patent application on Asymmetrical Numeral Systems coding (ANS), which allows data compression in computers and other electronic devices. Currently it is used by Apple, Facebook and Google. iPhones and Macintosh computers use ANS to register data.
Several years ago, Duda, a lecturer at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, posted his method on the Internet. “I’m a scientist. I didn’t patent this method as I believe such concepts should be complimentary and accessible to everyone”, Dr. Duda told PAP.
Duda added that since 2014 he had been communicating with Google via e-mail and a public forum – and helping the IT giant to adapt the ANS method for video file compression. “The patent application, filed in the USA, contains exactly the same concepts I wrote for Google. (…) I never meant anyone – including Google – to limit access to this solution by patenting it”, underlined Dr. Duda. “I intend to file an objection with the US Patent and Trademark Office”, he said.

Open Academic Graph

Open academic graph:

This data set is generated by linking two large academic graphs: Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) and AMiner.

The data set is used for research purpose only. This version includes 166,192,182 papers from MAG and 154,771,162 papers from AMiner. We generated 64,639,608 linking (matching) relations between the two graphs. In the future, more linking results, like authors, will be published. It can be used as a unified large academic graph for studying citation network, paper content, and others, and can be also used to study integration of multiple academic graphs.

The overall data set includes three parts, which are described in the table below:

Madison’s Status Quo Governance: Board Majority Rejects a Montessori (sort of) Charter School Proposal

Karen Rivedal:

But Cheatham urged the board not to see it as an us-vs-them proposition, noting the charter school and its students would be fully part of the district if the contract was approved. The district also should “honor and value” grass-roots proposals that come from the community, she said, especially one like this promising to help the district address its achievement gaps for students of color.

“Many of us see the hope and opportunity there, even if the impact is small,” she said. “We think it’s worth it.”

Burke noted the projected cost per student would be around $9,000, which would rank it on the low side for elementary schools in the district, and Howard made an impassioned plea to his fellow board members to approve the contract to explore whether doing things differently results in better outcomes for minority students.

“It’s all about access,” he said. “All the data around kids of color shows we have not gotten it right. Every one of us has a part of getting it wrong for students of colors.”

“We owe it to our community of color here in Madison to give this a shot, to learn from it,” Burke agreed.


A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Preporatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison spends more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student, while tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

One Statistics Professor Was Just Banned By Google: Here Is His Story

Salil Mehta:

Freedom is not free unless corporations who exert a large influence in our lives believe in our well-being. I am a statistics professor and understand that there needs to be reasonable standards to control a large social network and make sure everyone is able to enjoy it freely. Invariably people disagree (we all see this), but some principles, such as simply showing probability and statistics with the sole hope of educating others, should be acceptable and in the middle of the distribution. I am for a higher standard, and a higher purpose. There is great care that I have taken to make sure that people treat one other well, admit faults, and present math and probability education to a wide audience.

On Friday afternoon East Coast Time by surprise, I was completely shut down in all my Google accounts (all of my gmail accounts, blog, all of my university pages that were on google sites, etc.) for no reason and no warning. A number of us were stunned and unsure, but clearly we know at this point it wasn’t an accident. Here are some examples commented from best-selling author Nassim Taleb, and they have been retweeted by government officials, and the NYT and WSJ journalists.

Even his email was disabled by Google.

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) August 19, 2017

My ads-free blog itself is a probability theory site, with 27 million reads and has somewhere near 150k overall followers. It’s been read by Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Nobel Laureates, multiple governments, celebrity athletes around the world, deans of many universities (on the syllabi of same), and a number of TV news anchors. So it’s been a great boon for Google to be noticed so kindly by essentially a charitable site promoting math education. What great people from all corners of the world and at all levels who can enjoy Google, until it suddenly died Friday afternoon.

Mizzou Pays a Price for Appeasing the Left

Jillian Kay Melchior:

Timothy Vaughn dutifully cheered the University of Missouri for a decade, sitting in the stands with his swag, two hot dogs and a Diet Coke. He estimates he attended between 60 and 85 athletic events every year—football and basketball games and even tennis matches and gymnastics meets. But after the infamous protests of fall 2015, Missouri lost this die-hard fan.

“I pledge from this day forward NOT TO contribute to the [Tiger Scholarship Fund], buy any tickets to any University of Missouri athletic event, to attend any…

But it will soon involve the heart of Google’s business: surveillance capitalism

Jonathan Taplin

The effects of the darker side of tech culture reach well beyond the Valley. It starts with an unwillingness to control fake news and pervasive sexism that no doubt contributes to the gender pay gap. But it will soon involve the heart of Google’s business: surveillance capitalism. The trope that “if you are not paying for it, you aren’t the customer — you’re the product” has been around for a while. But now the European Union has passed the General Data Protection Regulation, which will go into effect next May. This regulation aims to give people more control over their data, so search engines can’t follow them everywhere they roam online. It will be an arrow to the heart of Google’s business.

We have an obligation to care about the values of the people who run Google, because we’ve given Google enormous control over our lives and the lives of our children. As the former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris points out, “Without realizing the implications, a handful of tech leaders at Google and Facebook have built the most pervasive, centralized systems for steering human attention that has ever existed, while enabling skilled actors (addictive apps, bots, foreign governments) to hijack our attention for manipulative ends.”

The future implications of a couple of companies’ having such deep influence on our attention and our behavior are only beginning to be felt. The rise of artificial intelligence combined with Google’s omnipresence in our lives is an issue that is not well understood by politicians or regulators.

Paul Graham blocked me on Twitter

Wendy Liu:

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Paul Graham used to be one of my heroes.

My memories of my first steps into the world of software development are no longer crisp. The texture of it, the day-to-day, the mechanisms by which my skills solidified —that’s all faded. Mostly what I remember is the people I looked up to, people whose writing shaped my understanding of software culture and served as rose-tinted windows into a culture I wanted so desperately to be a part of. Some of my favourites: Eric S. Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar; Neal Stephenson’s In The Beginning was the Command Line; Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture; Jeff Atwood’s Coding Horror blog. Most of all, Paul Graham’s essays, because he had managed to translate software competency into real-world success.

I remember two Paul Graham essays that particularly resonated with me — Hackers and Painters, and Why Nerds Are Unpopular. They were the gateway to a more vibrant and meaningful world that I, trapped in a high school I hated and feeling alienated from my peers, could only dream of. They appealed to me on a level that I can’t really put into words and frankly feel embarrassed thinking about, even now. Here was this brilliant and successful person telling me that I was special, and that immersing myself in this fledgling community would be my ticket to success. A community whose figurative leaders included Paul Graham. How could I not have looked up to him?

The Tenure Track Is Too Rigid to Help Diversity

Tyler Cowen:

Tenure systems don’t always mesh well with potential professors’ child-bearing plans. Let’s say a person starts graduate school at age 26, finishes at 32, and then faces a six- or seven-year tenure clock. That intense period of study, and the resulting race to publish, comes exactly during prime child-bearing years. And many individuals start along this track at later ages yet. I fear that this rigidly structured system, where candidates are go “up or out,” discourages many talented women from pursuing academic careers. Yet this path is the norm at virtually all top or mid-tier research universities, as well as at most highly rated liberal arts colleges.

I don’t think there is a single correct way to restructure all tenure systems, but we could start with more experimentation, as would befit the decentralized system of U.S. higher education. Imagine a greater variety of academic jobs, in areas that are not always valued highly by peer review. They might include jobs devoted to producing policy work, to teaching, to producing materials for online education, and to bringing the lessons of academia to broader audiences, such as through blogs and opinion columns. Furthermore, “up or out” provisions could be weakened, so if an individual didn’t succeed on a research track, but excelled in other areas, employment could be continued with different achievement criteria.

Wisconsin Educrats Have a Proposal—but It’s Dull and Conventional

C.J. Szafir and Libby Sobic , via a kind email:

Today state legislators all over the country are deciding how to comply with ESSA. When the last deadline for submitting proposals arrives this September, we may see a crop of promising plans for the future of K-12 education. Yet in Wisconsin, the planning process has been so flawed that Sen. Alexander’s vision of “innovation” and “ingenuity” seems like a pipe dream.

Wisconsin’s woes have little to do with ESSA itself, which largely delivers on the promise of greater flexibility. To receive funding from Washington, states must submit plans that comply with Titles I through IX of the federal education code. The requirements for these plans are basic: States must maintain a statewide report-card system for public schools, establish methods to measure teacher effectiveness, set policies to reform low-performing schools, and so forth. Each plan must be granted final approval by the Education Department.

The Badger State ought to be taking full advantage of the freedom ESSA provides to enact bold education reform. After all, Wisconsin already has a broad range of educational options, including successful voucher programs and charter schools. Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature have established a strong record on education.

The problem is that Wisconsin’s plan for complying with ESSA has fallen to the state’s education agency, the Department of Public Instruction. Its leader, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, is a notorious opponent of education reform. Mr. Evers’s greatest hits include calling the expansion of school vouchers “morally wrong” and routinely criticizing Gov. Walker’s Act 10 reforms of public-employee unions. It’s worth noting that in opposing the governor, Mr. Evers may have more than the students’ interest in mind. He recently filed paperwork to enter Wisconsin’s 2018 gubernatorial race, hoping to upset Mr. Walker’s shot at a third term.

So far, the department has cleverly worked to avoid any oversight of its ESSA plan by the legislature. To create the illusion of accountability, Mr. Evers formed the Equity in ESSA Council, an advisory board made up of legislators, school administrators, union leaders and education reformers. In truth, however, the council has no power to set the agenda or control the provisions of the state’s ESSA proposal.


Tony Evers

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison spends far more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Peanut allergy cured in majority of children in immunotherapy trial

Australian Associated Press

Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in the treatment of peanut allergy in children.

A small clinical trial conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has led to two-thirds of children treated with an experimental immunotherapy treatment being cured of their allergy. Importantly, this desensitisation to peanuts persisted for up to four years after treatment.

“These children had been eating peanut freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed,” said the lead researcher, Prof Mimi Tang.

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, and one of the most common causes of death from food allergy.

To combat this Tang, an immunologist and allergist, pioneered a new form of treatment that combines a probiotic with peanut oral immunotherapy, known as PPOIT. Instead of avoiding the allergen, the treatment is designed to reprogram the immune system’s response to peanuts and eventually develop a tolerance.

It’s thought that combining the probiotic with the immunotherapy gives the immune system the “nudge” it needs to do this, according to Tang.

iPhones are not destroying teenagers

Elizabeth Nolan Brown:

The worst example of this in recent memory was Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, a particularly panicky Atlantic cover story by psychology professor, corporate consultant, and onetime millennial-whisperer Jean M. Twenge. The Atlantic has a particular affinity for this kind of trendy worrying dressed up as somber big-think — remember Is Google Making Us Stupid? — and Twenge delivered it in droves here, arguing that the time today’s teens spend alone with smartphones is poisoning them forever.

Twenge has been on the youth-scare beat for a while, and it’s notable that she has now turned to post-millennial fearmongering. I first encountered her work back in the mid-2000s, around the time when Twitter was launching and Time magazine was declaring us all “Person of the Year.”

Her first major foray into millennial thinkery was her 2006 book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—And More Miserable Than Ever Before. Twenge expanded on the theme in 2009 with The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.

These books pandered to the same complaints old people have been making about young people since time immemorial, with just enough techno-scare to make them seem fresh and relevant. And they established Twenge as a go-to quote factory for cranky think-pieces on millennials, ushering in a new wave of hand wringing over our supposed shortcomings.

“Why are young adults so miserable?” asked a 2006 Today Show segment on Twenge’s work. “Are social norms steadily unraveling?” wondered USA Today the same year. “Too much self-esteem can be bad for your child,” warned Alternet. Many teens are “overconfident” and “have wildly unrealistic expectations,” said Fox News. A 2009 ABC story on Twenge’s work was headlined “Today’s Teens More Anxious, Depressed, and Paranoid Than Ever.”

Twenge’s “narcissism epidemic” narrative fit perfectly with popular confusion and fears regarding social media, technology, reality TV stars, changes in parenting styles, the disintegration of 20th century social institutions, and the changing workforce. It also echoed popular criticism of the self-esteem movement, and the “participation trophy” fears that our cranky elders had already established about the generation then commonly called “Gen Y.”

In Vietnam, the Best Education Can Lead to Worse Job Prospects

Nguyen Dieu TuUyen:

Nguyen Van Duc graduated two years ago with a bachelor’s degree in economics from one of Vietnam’s best universities. Today, he earns about $250 a month as a motorbike taxi driver in Hanoi.

Duc, whose parents took second jobs so he could be the only one of three children to attend college, is among thousands of Vietnamese college graduates who can’t land jobs in their chosen field, even though the nation’s unemployment rate is just 2.3 percent.

“In university, we only received heavy theoretical training and a lot of Ho Chi Minh’s ideology with communist party history,” the 25-year-old said.

While Vietnam’s schools equip students with basic skills for low-wage assembly-line work, its colleges and universities are failing to prepare youth for more complex work. As wages rise and basic manufacturing leaves for less expensive countries, that may threaten the government’s ambition to attain middle-income status, defined by the World Bank as per capita income of more than $4,000, or almost twice the current rate.

Is the open office layout dead?

April Kilcrease:

Today, the open office layout is back with a vengeance. In a 2013 survey by CoreNet Global, an association for corporate real estate managers, more than 80% of respondents said their company had moved toward an open space floor plan. And once again, the backlash has begun. In the last five years, a slew of articles with alarmist titles like “Death To The Open Office Floor Plan!” and “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” have assailed the supposedly progressive design.

So what exactly is wrong with the modern open office layout and how can we create spaces that fulfill the promise of a happy and collaborative workplace?

What isn’t working

By design, colleagues are more accessible in an open office layout. The minute a question pops into your head, you can easily hop over to a co-worker’s desk, or simply swivel your chair to face them. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned intrusions can lead to real problems.

First among those is reduced productivity. According to a study on the cost of interrupted work, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. Even worse, people often take up to 25 minutes to refocus on the original task.

And without physical barriers to block it out, noise may be the number one problem with open office plans. Together, loud phone talkers, gossipy co-workers, and that guy chomping on an apple every afternoon can frazzle your auditory system. Researchers have found that the loss of productivity due to noise distraction doubles in open office layouts compared to private offices, and open office noise reduces the ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.

As anyone who’s had to call their doctor from their desk knows, one of the worst parts of open office layouts is that you can’t control who you hear—or who hears you. In a 2013 study about the privacy-communication trade-off in open offices, 60% of cubicle workers and half of all employees in partitionless offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem.

The two faces of the 1 per cent The public elite nurse constant material worries, the private elite worry that they are not very interesting

Janan Ganesh:

On top of its book sales, film adaptation and third life as an opera, The Bonfire of the Vanities achieved a rare feat. It turned its author into a 56-year-old enfant terrible. Thirty years have passed since Tom Wolfe’s first novel imagined New York City as an opulent failed state, where millionaires are one wrong turn from barbarian mobs and race card-players on the make.

Critics recognised the virtuosity of the prose but also, in the stereotypes and the gleeful trampling on taboos, an illiberal malice. America’s cognoscenti has since treated Wolfe as somehow below stairs: a shock jock with a poet’s command of the language.

Read now, however, the book has more to say about 2017 than anything written of late. There are the obvious thematic echoes — the besieged rich, racial panics — but also one that Wolfe might never have intended. Bonfire can be read as a book about two different kinds of elite. You might characterise them as the moneyed and the cultured. Or as private enterprise and public life

Schools superintendent Tony Evers to make run for Wisconsin governor official Wednesday

Jason Stein

State schools superintendent Tony Evers will formally announce his gubernatorial run Wednesday, making him the third Democrat to commit to a bid and the first statewide office holder to challenge GOP Gov Scott Walker.

Evers, who heads the state Department of Public Instruction, will announce his run at a suburban Madison park for children, according to an email sent to supporters Sunday and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The venue at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg will highlight Evers’ main credential for voters – his years working on behalf of children as a local school leader and state education official.

“On Wednesday, Tony will officially announce his run for governor because we need a real change here in Wisconsin. That change starts with putting our kids first, investing in our schools, and rebuilding Wisconsin’s middle class,” according to an email sent from the personal account of Jeff Pertl, a top aide to Evers in the superintendent’s office.

The Evers campaign had no comment except to note that Pertl is a volunteer.

Much more on Tony Evers, here.

Hot Spot for Tech Outsourcing: The United States

Steve Lohr:

For years, American companies have been saving money by “offshoring” jobs — hiring people in India and other distant cubicle farms.

Today, some of those jobs are being outsourced again — in the United States.

Nexient, a software outsourcing company, reflects the evolving geography of technology work. It holds daily video meetings with one of its clients,, where team members stand up and say into the camera what they accomplished yesterday for, and what they plan to do tomorrow. The difference is, they are phoning in from Michigan, not Mumbai.

“It’s the first time we’ve been happy outsourcing,” said René Lacerte, the chief executive of, a bill payment-and-collection service based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Nexient is a domestic outsourcer, a flourishing niche in the tech world as some American companies pull back from the idea of hiring programmers a world away.

Dunces app

Audrey waters:

ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO, a cluster of new technologies began to migrate through the nation’s schools like a gaggle of fall geese. Schools have long devised policies and procedures to manage and shape students’ behavior. Sticker charts. Detentions. Referrals. Rewards. Educators routinely point to classroom management as one of the most important skills of being a great teacher, and new teachers in particular are likely to say this is one of their most significant challenges. These novel apps, bearing names like ClassDojo and Hero K12, promised to help by collecting students’ behavioral data and encouraging teachers to project the stats onto their classroom’s interactive whiteboard in order to keep students “on task.” It is, they claim, all part of a push to create a “positive classroom culture.”

The apps come with the assurance of making schools operate more efficiently. But such management technologies don’t simply reflect Taylorism, schoolwork monitored and fine-tuned; they are part of a resurgence of behaviorism in education, and in education technology in particular.

In Ivy League institutions, behaviorism took hold way before the smartphone. Harvard University psychologist B.F. Skinner claimed that he came up with the idea for his “teaching machine” in 1953 while visiting his daughter’s fourth grade class. Skinner believed that all learning was a matter of shaping behaviors and he contended that, much like the animals he trained in his lab, students should be taught through a system of rewards and reinforcement. Machines, he considered, could do this much more reliably than teachers. This machine, Skinner argued, would address a number of flaws in the education system: it would enable students to move at their own pace through lessons and, on top of this, students would receive immediate feedback on their work.

Why didn’t electricity immediately change manufacturing?

Tim Harford:

But given the huge investment this involved, they were often disappointed with the savings. Until about 1910, plenty of entrepreneurs looked at the new electrical drive system and opted for good old-fashioned steam.
 Why? Because to take advantage of electricity, factory owners had to think in a very different way. They could, of course, use an electric motor in the same way as they used steam engines. It would slot right into their old systems.
 But electric motors could do much more. Electricity allowed power to be delivered exactly where and when it was needed.
 Small steam engines were hopelessly inefficient but small electric motors worked just fine. So a factory could contain several smaller motors, each driving a small drive shaft.
 As the technology developed, every workbench could have its own machine tool with its own little electric motor.
 Power wasn’t transmitted through a single, massive spinning drive shaft but through wires.
 A factory powered by steam needed to be sturdy enough to carry huge steel drive shafts. One powered by electricity could be light and airy.
 Steam-powered factories had to be arranged on the logic of the driveshaft. Electricity meant you could organise factories on the logic of a production line.
 More efficient
 Old factories were dark and dense, packed around the shafts. New factories could spread out, with wings and windows allowing natural light and air.
 In the old factories, the steam engine set the pace. In the new factories, workers could do so.

“i always believe you get it back three fold,” he says of doing the right thing.


When Central High School football player Kameron Grigsby, 17, who works at an HEB grocery store, found a wallet with $1500 in cash inside he didn’t pocket the money he turned it in.

Football players are trained to make tough decisions on the field but for Grigsby, who is a senior this year, that skill carries into his everyday life too.

“You can always do the right thing, like our coach says, the right way. You don’t have to always go astray. Stay on the right path and stay focused,” Grigsby told 12News.

He’s an honest young man who finds personal items left behind by shoppers all the time.

When asked about the wallet containing $1500 he said “I turned it in. My first mind was this could be somebody’s bill money, car note, house note or mortgage.”

Grigsby, works at the HEB Plus as a parking lot attendant, often finds items left behind in shopping carts and he always turns them in to his manager like he’s supposed to do.

Incoming Newark second graders make literacy gains over the summer

Mark Bonamo, via a kind email:

In a few weeks, more than 750 Newark Public School students will be entering second grade better prepared to read proficiently thanks to an innovative program between the district one of the city’s highest performing charter schools.

Over the summer, the students attended the “Rising Second Grade” program, a collaborative effort between NPS and Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy.

The need for the program came after the district identified a disturbing trend among many of their second graders – they were reading below grade level.

“At the end of kindergarten, it looks like kids are reading well,” said Samantha Messer, special assistant of literacy instruction at Newark Public Schools

“Then something happens between the fall and winter of first grade,” Messer said. “We noticed the decline in January.”

The Battle Against Affirmative Action Continues After Fisher v. UT Austin

Doyin Oyeniyi:

Since the New York Times‘ report, there have been other articles exploring how wealth affects the admissions process more than affirmative action. Even in Fisher’s suit against UT Austin, she was unable to support her claims of being racially discriminated against in the admissions process. In fact, in a ProPublica report, Nikole Hannah-Jones notes that though there were students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher admitted into UT, most of them—42 applicants—were white. Only five were black or Latino. The majority of UT Austin’s admissions is made up of students who graduated in the top 7 percent (it was originally the top 10 percent and most recently the top 8 percent) of Texas high schools. The remaining students are admitted using a holistic process, which does include race, but only as “a factor of a factor of a factor,” rather than as an extra point or to fulfill any racial quota. Still, Fisher believed that race should not have been any sort of factor in UT’s admissions process.

What opponents of affirmative action tend to miss is why affirmative action exists in the first place. As Richard Reddick, an associate professor in Educational Administration, explained after the Fisher v. UT Austin decision, affirmative action is in place to account for inequalities in access to resources and education that still exist to this day:



The Wikipedia corpus is one of the favorite datasets of the machine learning community. It is often used for experimenting, benchmarking and providing how-to examples. These experiments are generally presented separate from the Wikipedia user interface, however, which has remained true to the early hypertext vision of the web. For this experiment, Encartopedia, I used machine learning techniques and visualization to explore new navigation possibilities for Wikipedia while preserving its hypertextual feel. With Encartopedia, you can map the path of any journey through Wikipedia, or use the visualization to jump to articles near and far.

New York City’s “sidelined” Teachers

Kate Taylor

This limbo was largely the result of a deal that the Bloomberg administration struck with the teachers’ union to give principals more control over who worked in their schools. Under the deal, teachers could not simply be fired, so they were put in a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve.

But now, saying the city cannot afford expenditures like the $150 million it spent on salaries and benefits for those in the reserve in the last school year, the education department plans to place roughly 400 teachers in classrooms full time, possibly permanently. They will be placed in schools that still have jobs unfilled by mid-October. Principals will have little, if any, say in the placements. Neither will the teachers.

The department, which announced the plan in July, has in the past deflected questions about the makeup of the pool. But on Friday, it released some data. Of the 822 teachers in the reserve at the end of the last school year, 25 percent had also been in it five years earlier. Nearly half had been in it at the end of the 2014-15 school year. The average salary was $94,000 a year, $10,000 more than the average salary of teachers across the school system.

How activists of color lose battles against Facebook’s moderator army

Aaron Sankin:

Mary Canty Merrill was fed up. So she turned to Facebook.

“Dear White People: The terminology we use to define a problem determines how we attempt to solve it,” she wrote in an April 4 Facebook post.

“You are so accustomed to defining racism as people of color being the problem that you want to fix us, patronize us, save us and heal us. You rarely perceive yourselves as the problem (which is where its root lies). Thus, your interventions are most often ill-informed, misdirected and yield no meaningful or sustainable results.”

She logged in the next day to find her post removed and profile suspended for a week. A number of her older posts, which also used the “Dear white people” formulation, had been similarly erased.

China’s embrace of embryo selection raises thorny questions

David Cyranoski:

Getting time with Qiao Jie is not easy. At 7:30 a.m., the line coming out of the fertility centre that she runs blocks the doorway and extends some 80 metres down the street. Inside, about 50 physicians on her team are discussing recent findings, but Qiao, a fertility specialist and president of Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing, is still in an early-morning consult.

When she finally emerges, she jumps to the topic at hand: spreading awareness of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a procedure that helps couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) to avoid passing on genetic mutations that could cause disease or disability in their children. Qiao typically refuses interview requests, but she’s concerned that people aren’t getting the message about PGD fast enough. “Now, more and more diseases can be stopped — if not immediately, in the generation after next,” she says.

K-12 Tax & spending climate: benefit costs and Dr. Jonathan Gruber

Rutland Herald:

Former Gov. Peter Shumlin sought to create the single-payer system, known as Green Mountain Care, but eventually walked away from the plan after determining it would cost too much. The attorney general’s office’s began the investigation into Gruber’s billing after receiving a referral by State Auditor Doug Hoffer.

Donovan said Thursday his office and Gruber reached an agreement to settle the state’s potential legal claim that Gruber submitted false claims to the state under Vermont’s Civil False Claims Act. Donovan said his office concluded that Gruber’s conduct violated the Vermont Civil False Claims Act. Gruber denied a violation, but in order to resolve the case, he agreed to forgo any further payments from the state that he might be owed.

25% of Madison’s 2014 2015 budget was spent on benefits.

Madison’s spending has increased significantly the past few years (now nearly $20,000 per student).

North Fond du Lac cancels varsity football season

Steve Clark

“We had low numbers in the junior and senior classes and several of those players were out for football for the first time,” North Fond du Lac athletic director Matt Bertram said. “It became a safety issue. If someone gets hurt, the next player up in many cases was a freshman. With the strength of our conference and who we play, it was not a safe situation to have.”

Bertram — who took over as athletic director this summer — said the school identified a possible issue last spring when a sign-up for football was held and the numbers were low.

However, there were an additional 10 to 12 upperclassmen that signed up to play but did not report when the season started last week.

“They said they were coming out, but it just never materialized,” Bertram said.

The Art of Teaching Math and Science

Kyoto Hamada:

“There’s nothing that has no relationship to science,” Comer said after the class. “It’s very important to me that students know how the world around them functions.”

But learning science is like learning another language, she said, and only 10 percent of Baychester’s students read English at or above grade level. Complicating matters, elementary school teachers vary widely in their interest or ability to teach science. By the time kids arrive in Comer’s sixth-grade class, some have had virtually no science, some have only read textbooks, while others have been doing full-on experiments. Even at the middle school level, she said, “science is not a priority because of testing. The high stakes of math and [language arts], that’s what kids get promoted based on and what teachers get rated based on.”

Complicating matters further, the school sits opposite the borough’s largest public housing complex, with 42 buildings, 2,000 apartments and a history of gang violence.

Louisiana State University Sues Elsevier for Breach of Contract

Krista Cox:

Louisiana State University (LSU) filed a lawsuit on February 27, 2017, against international science publisher Elsevier B.V. for breach of contract resulting from the publisher’s exclusion of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine from accessing content licensed by the LSU Libraries. In filing the lawsuit, LSU exercised sound financial stewardship of its public resources.

According to the LSU Libraries, Elsevier blocked access in January 2017 to its research materials from the Internet protocol (IP) ranges that correspond to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. The LSU Libraries’ license with Elsevier provides for unlimited, simultaneous access by all LSU faculty, staff, and students of the main campus in Baton Rouge, including the School of Veterinary Medicine. LSU requested that access be restored, and Elsevier refused.

LSU’s complaint states, “Elsevier is well aware that LSU, like other universities, is heavily reliant upon the various types of research and educational content for which Elsevier enjoys monopolistic market powers…Elsevier is unfairly abusing its leverage to coerce LSU into paying additional and unnecessary subscription fees for research and educational content that LSU has already contracted for.”

When Teens Don’t Drive Safely, Toyota’s Clever App Plays Their Parents’ Embarrassing Music

Lauren Johnson:

Here’s a sure-fire way to get teen drivers to stay safe behind the wheel: Threaten to embarrass them by playing mom and dad’s favorite tunes.
 That’s the idea behind Toyota’s new app from Saatchi & Saatchi London that basically functions as a teen’s virtual parent while they’re driving. First, both a parent and teen download the Safe and Sound app, which is available on all Android devices in Europe.
 When a teen asks to borrow a parent’s car, parents click a button and the app pulls in Google Maps API to track how fast the driver is going. After it senses that the vehicle is moving faster than 9 mph, it automatically flips into ‘do not disturb’ mode that blocks all incoming calls and social media notifications.
 The app also plugs into Spotify to link up a parent’s and child’s playlists. If the driver tries to touch the phone or speeds while listening to Spotify, the app begins to play the parent’s playlist on Spotify, which the agency expects will include some embarrassing music from artists who kids may find dated like say, Milli Vanilli. “There’s nothing teenagers fear more than being seen as uncool,” says Saatchi & Saatchi London in a statement.
 Once the teenager takes his or her hand off the phone or slows down, the driver’s own playlist will resume playing. The app sends the parent and child a message at the end of the drive containing a summary of the trip.

Building, Not Rebuilding, Public Education

Lois Werner:

Schools in the United States have been affected by inequality outside their walls, while also functioning in ways that both challenge and reproduce it. We have a remarkable body of high-quality empirical scholarship describing “schools as places where social reproduction occurs but also where human agency matters and makes a difference in students’ lives.”

Social movements effectively challenged the inequality of outcomes in education, but in the end were unable to sufficiently disrupt social processes in schools. In good part this occurred because schooling was made to carry a weight that it cannot by itself bear and because education is enmeshed in social, political, and economic conditions that support or undercut what can be accomplished in classrooms.

Wall Street Trader Chris Arnade Seeks Redemption for ‘Intellectual Grift’

Matt Wirz

The 52-year-old Mr. Arnade says the new career is a conscious attempt to reconcile his multiple identities, and perhaps atone for his time in finance.

“This is more comfortable to me,” he says, waving his hand at the foot traffic around the Bakersfield McDonald’s. “This is what I grew up with.”

Tall and unshaven with shoulder-length graying hair, Mr. Arnade has swapped his trader’s khakis and button-down shirts for jeans and T-shirts, usually worn several days in a row. He radiates frenetic energy, walking everywhere at a rapid clip and conversing in a hopscotch that jumps from one topic to another.

Most nights on the road he sleeps in the van or at cut-rate motels. He woke to yelling on a recent night at a Bakersfield Days Inn and found police officers investigating a murder across the hall.

“I peeked into the room and there was a lot of blood,” Mr. Arnade says. “Then I went back to bed.”

International Religious Freedom Report for 2016

US State Department

It has been 19 years since the enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act, landmark legislation that placed the promotion of religious freedom as a central element of America’s foreign policy. The United States promotes religious freedom as a moral imperative. As importantly, we promote religious freedom because countries that effectively safeguard this human right are more stable, economically vibrant, and peaceful. The failure of governments to protect this right breeds instability, terrorism, and violence.

This annual report to Congress provides a detailed and factual overview of the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries and territories, and documents reports of violations and abuses committed by governments, terrorist groups, and individuals.

America’s promotion of international religious freedom demands standing up for the rights of the world’s most vulnerable populations. ISIS’ brutal treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East has drawn a great degree of attention over the last few years. The 2016 Annual Report details these atrocities.

ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and death. ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities. The protection of these groups – and others who are targets of violent extremism – remains a human rights priority for the Trump Administration.

This report serves as a resource for governments and citizens alike, helping to inform the work of faith leaders, lawmakers, rights advocates, academics, business leaders, multilateral institutions, and non-governmental organizations.

Diversity in newsrooms has been bad for decades and it probably won’t get better: study

Karen Ho:

A NEW STUDY SAYS SOME OF THE BIGGEST NEWSROOMS in the country are still failing to fulfill a nearly 50-year-old pledge to increase the employment of people of color in top masthead positions, despite repeated reviews and greater coverage of the issue.

The report, titled “Missed deadline: The delayed promise of newsroom diversity” and conducted by student reporters in the Asian American Journalists’ Association’s Voices program, analyzed the mastheads of several news organizations to examine how closely they reflected the nation’s demographics.

In 1978, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) made a pledge to achieve parity with the percentage of people of color in the general population by the year 2000. After that deadline was blown and a new one was set for 2025, data in the Voices report shows many American newsrooms are still nowhere close to achieving this goal.

The report focused on the mastheads of five national newspapers—The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal—as well as NPR, Fox News, and CNN.

Primary Student’s Moving Essay on Teacher’s Abuse Goes Viral on Chinese Social Media

What’s on Weibo:

A primary school student’s essay about a teacher’s scoldings and beatings has gone viral on Chinese social media. “Teacher, What I Want To Tell You” has stirred widespread discussions about emotional abuse and corporal punishment in China’s classrooms. An essay of 2000 characters written by a primary school student from Lüliang in Shanxi province has gone viral on WeChat and Sina Weibo. The essay, titled “Teacher, What I Want to Tell You” (“老师我想对您说”), has triggered thousands of shares and comments from Chinese netizens. Over recent year, the issue of corporal punishment at school has been a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media. In the much-shared essay, a fourth grader writes about how she1 feels when her teacher punishes and degrades her. In seven pages, she writes down what she wants to tell her teacher after suffering abuse since the first grade. China’s first graders in primary school are usually around the age of 6; fourth graders are 9-10 years of age.

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An algorithm sorts out how to efficiently transport 30,000 Boston public-school students each day

Jo Craven McGinty

A trio of MIT researchers recently tackled a tricky vehicle-routing problem when they set out to improve the efficiency of the Boston Public Schools bus system.

Last year, more than 30,000 students rode 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million.

In hopes of spending less this year, the school system offered $15,000 in prize money…

Ships fooled in GPS spoofing attack suggest Russian cyberweapon

David Hambling

Reports of satellite navigation problems in the Black Sea suggest that Russia may be testing a new system for spoofing GPS, New Scientist has learned. This could be the first hint of a new form of electronic warfare available to everyone from rogue nation states to petty criminals.

On 22 June, the US Maritime Administration filed a seemingly bland incident report. The master of a ship off the Russian port of Novorossiysk had discovered his GPS put him in the wrong spot – more than 32 kilometres inland, at Gelendzhik Airport.

After checking the navigation equipment was working properly, the captain contacted other nearby ships. Their AIS traces – signals from the automatic identification system used to track vessels – placed them all at the same airport. At least 20 ships were affected.

Write No Matter What: Advice For Academics

Jolie Jenson

With growing academic responsibilities, family commitments, and inboxes, scholars are struggling to fulfill their writing goals. A finished book — or even steady journal articles — may seem like an impossible dream. But, as Joli Jensen proves, it really is possible to write happily and productively in academe.

Jensen begins by busting the myth that universities are supportive writing environments. She points out that academia, an arena dedicated to scholarship, offers pressures that actually prevent scholarly writing. She shows how to acknowledge these less-than-ideal conditions, and how to keep these circumstances from draining writing time and energy. Jensen introduces tools and techniques that encourage frequent, low-stress writing. She points out common ways writers stall and offers workarounds that maintain productivity. Her focus is not on content, but on how to overcome whatever stands in the way of academic writing.

Why English is such a great language for puns

The Economist:

Away With Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions. By Joe Berkowitz. Harper Perennial; 273 pages; $15.99 and £8.99.

LAST week’s issue of this paper contained the following headlines: “Rooms for improvement” (in a story about British housing); “Though Mooch is taken, Mooch abides” (on the firing of Anthony Scaramucci); and “LIBOR pains” (on interbank loan rates). The Economist is not alone in its taste for wordplay. Our colleagues at the Financial Times routinely sneak subtle jokes into their headlines (July 17th: “Why China’s global shipping ambitions will not easily be contained”) while those at the tabloids indulge themselves more obviously. On the arrest of a famous golfer for drink-driving: “DUI of the Tiger”.

This Nationwide Program Is Teaching Millions of Students to Become Leftist Snowflakes

Grant Strobl:

Parents beware: A program called Challenge Day that applauds a culture of victimhood is planting the leftist agenda into young minds under the guise of anti-bullying education.

The program uses the power of peer pressure and groupthink to impress upon high school students the idea that everyone is a victim.

Challenge Day is no small initiative. According to the program’s website, it has been held at more than 2,200 high schools nationwide and reached millions of students.

Challenge Day purports to teach tolerance and acceptance, yet nearly every member of its board of directors and Global Leadership Council is politically left of center.

Of the 17 members of Challenge Day’s board of directors, 15 openly support leftist leaders and causes, and two have an unknown affiliation, according to Federal Election Commission records and personal social media accounts. Of their 22-person Global Leadership Council, 17 of the members support leftist leaders and causes.

$147,000 for a One-Year Master’s? In Journalism?

Nick Roll::

For those with an extra $147,514 lying around, there is a new a master of science in data journalism from Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

For everyone else, dropping just over $106,000 for tuition and fees — plus $41,232 in living expenses, per Columbia’s estimate — for a master’s degree in an unstable, layoff-ravaged industry where the median annual salary is less than $40,000 might seem ludicrous, or at least deserving of mockery.

“The higher ed Institution is crumbling,” journalist Josh Sternberg wrote on Twitter. “A $100,000 master’s of science in data journalism degree?”

Chicago Tribune editor Charlie J. Johnson put his feelings more succinctly.

“A $100,000 master’s degree in journalism is a stupid thing,” he tweeted.

Disaster: Philly’s Soda Tax Has Produced Miserable Results

Matt Vespa:

Philadelphia’s city council had a revolutionary idea. Let’s tax the poor to increase revenue and the soda tax was born. After its implementation, you could have probably guessed the results: soda is now more expensive than beer. Also, the tax on diet soda that was meant to raise money for education hasn’t been fully allocated to the children. About half of the money raised has gone to local Pre-K programs. Liz Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon broke down the Tax Foundation’s report on the subject:

Three Young Voices vs. A Superpower

New York Times

Will Hong Kong jail its first political prisoners this Thursday? If it does — and it looks likely — the event will be a watershed in Hong Kong’s modern history and should set off further alarms about China’s intentions for the territory.

Joshua Wong, one of the three young men bracing for this verdict, has been a hero of his hometown’s democracy movement since he was 14 years old. He’s still too young to buy a beer in the United States. The pinnacle of Mr. Wong’s activism came during 2014, when he and a group of students led hundreds of thousands of their neighbors in an extraordinary 79-day demonstration defending Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing’s increasing encroachment. The protest, known as the Umbrella Movement, named for its protection against the elements and police pepper spray, was one of the largest in the city’s history.

Three years later, Mr. Wong and his colleagues, including Nathan Law and Alex Chow, are still being punished for their courage. Several are under threat of bankruptcy thanks to onerous legal fees, and others are being stymied in their chosen fields because of their criticism of the Communist Party. But what is by far most troubling is the prospect that Mr. Wong, Mr. Law and Mr. Chow might be thrown in prison this week on charges for which they have already served sentences.

For better learning in college lectures, lay down the laptop and pick up a pen

Susan Dynarski:

Do computers help or hinder classroom learning in college? Step into any college lecture and you’ll find a sea of students with laptops and tablets open, typing as the professor speaks.

With their enhanced ability to transcribe content and look up concepts on the fly, are students learning more from lecture than they were in the days of paper and pen?

A growing body of evidence says “No.” When college students use computers or tablets during lecture, they learn less and earn worse grades. The evidence consists of a series of randomized trials, in both college classrooms and controlled laboratory settings.

Students who use laptops in class are likely different from those who don’t. They may be more easily distracted or less interested in the course material. Alternatively, they may be the most serious (or wealthiest) students who have invested in technology to support their learning.

Can You Cough Up $20K a Year? Welcome To The Top New Jersey “Public” Schools!

Laura Waters

What you see here is a section of the Princeton Regional Public School Board’s April 2015 Minutes that set tuition rates for non-resident students. Ho hum? Not to Charlie Barone, director of policy at Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now. In a piece published today, he throws shade on the conceit that traditional schools are really “public”: after all, you have to buy your way into great schools through the housing market.

But in a few school districts — Princeton, for example — parents can fork over $19K for elementary students and just under $18K for high schoolers, even if they don’t live there.

Has Iceland Eliminated Down Syndrome Through Abortion?


The report does not suggest that, however. It suggests that nearly 100 percent of the 80 to 85 percent of people who take the test choose to abort their pregnancy. There are similar termination rates after fetal diagnoses of Down syndrome in other European countries. In Denmark, for example, the rate is about 98 percent, CBS News reported. In the United States, for comparison’s sake, the rate of mothers choosing to terminate their pregnancy after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis is about 68 percent.

“Babies with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland,” Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, in which around 70 percent of Icelandic children are born, told CBS News.

Mother Teresa on abortion. Eugenics. Margaret Sanger. 10 commandments. Planned Parenthood. Roe vs wade.

Baby in womb photos.

Abortion statistics.

Stop tech-driven problem-solving

Lars de Ridder

Let me give you a concrete example: Blockchain. The next big thing. A game changer. The biggest new technology since the Internet. However, nobody has any use case that needs a distributed consensus on a public ledger, except for Bitcoin / virtual currency that is. Most, if not all problems that can be solved with a blockchain, can be solved more efficiently with existing technology.

None of this has stopped a Dutch organization for municipalities to investigate how to apply Blockchain to make it easier for handicapped people to get a parking card (link in Dutch).

Seriously, what?
And this isn’t the only organization. I’ve read about a lot more organizations that try to solve mundane problems with a Blockchain. They start to change and perverse the concepts to fit into their niche, they talk about “private blockchains” and specialized coins, while instead, they could just call any Software Engineer worth its salt and he would solve their problem, without unnecessarily added technologies.

AI Superstar Andrew Ng Is Democratizing Deep Learning With A New Online Course

Daniel Terdiman:

That’s the vision of Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain deep learning project, and former head of AI at Baidu–a position he left in March–who is today announcing a set of five interconnected online courses on the subject. Participants in the “Deep Learning Specialization,” available only through Coursera, will be steeped in neural networks, backpropagation, convolutional networks, recurrent networks, computer vision, natural language processing, and more. They’ll get hands-on experience using the technology in healthcare, visual object recognition, music generation, language understanding, and other applications.

“Today, if you want to learn deep learning, there are lots of people searching online, reading [dozens of] research papers, reading blog posts, and watching YouTube videos,” Ng tells Fast Company. “I admire that, but I want to give people that want to break into AI a clear path of how to get there.”

Today, the major breakthroughs in the field are coming from the world’s largest tech companies, which have in-house AI departments and are investing significantly in the field. As Ng sees it, getting to an AI-powered economy is going to take the work of much more than any one, or even several companies. It’s going to take huge numbers of newly trained experts.

How Instagram hacked your operating system to make you an addict.

Will Chang:

Your outdated hardwiring isn’t a secret. Every company in every industry needs to persuade you to buy their product. Hacking your hunter-foraging operating system is the most effective way to do so. Marketers use tactics like social proof, tapping into our need for the tribe to keep us safe from danger.

As you know, Big Food puts sugar in everything because it’s more addictive than cocaine. As builders of technology products, we also try to put our own version of sugar into our products. Nir Eyal codified it for us as the Hook. Building a habit-forming product is our holy grail. Instagram, Snapchat, Candy Crush — we revere those that have done it the best and aspire to be like them.

Two Teachers Sacked, School Closed As Police Probe Alleged Abuse Of Autistic Children

South China Morning Post

The facility, which claims to be a specialist research institute and training centre for autistic children aged two to six has been closed pending further investigations, the report said.

The spokesperson said the centre had 41 children on its books but that 10 of them had been withdrawn after the video footage appeared online.

A parent surnamed Zhang was quoted as saying that he decided to take his son out of the school after seeing its “abnormal” methods. He added that he had been paying tuition fees of 9,400 yuan (US$1,400) a month.

You Are the Product

John Lanchester:

At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month. It is hard to grasp just how extraordinary that is. Bear in mind that thefacebook – its original name – was launched exclusively for Harvard students in 2004. No human enterprise, no new technology or utility or service, has ever been adopted so widely so quickly. The speed of uptake far exceeds that of the internet itself, let alone ancient technologies such as television or cinema or radio.
 Also amazing: as Facebook has grown, its users’ reliance on it has also grown. The increase in numbers is not, as one might expect, accompanied by a lower level of engagement. More does not mean worse – or worse, at least, from Facebook’s point of view. On the contrary. In the far distant days of October 2012, when Facebook hit one billion users, 55 per cent of them were using it every day. At two billion, 66 per cent are. Its user base is growing at 18 per cent a year – which you’d have thought impossible for a business already so enormous. Facebook’s biggest rival for logged-in users is YouTube, owned by its deadly rival Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), in second place with 1.5 billion monthly users. Three of the next four biggest apps, or services, or whatever one wants to call them, are WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, with 1.2 billion, 1.2 billion, and 700 million users respectively (the Chinese app WeChat is the other one, with 889 million). Those three entities have something in common: they are all owned by Facebook. No wonder the company is the fifth most valuable in the world, with a market capitalisation of $445 billion.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Federal Debt Is Now $19,845,021,514,944

The Concord Coalition:

Why the budget process isn’t working

There are many signs that public trust has eroded when it comes to confidence in elected leaders’ budgetary decisions, and it is equally clear that budget reforms would help Congress act in a more fiscally responsible manner. Greater public confidence in the budget process will be necessary to make tough choices on our largest fiscal issues. One way to restore the trust of the American people is to reform the system through which Congress spends taxpayer dollars.

EFF Urges Supreme Court to Take On Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance, Reverse Dangerous Ruling That Allows Massive Government Spying Program

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn an unprecedented ruling allowing the government to intercept, collect, and store—without a warrant—millions of Americans’ electronic communications, including emails, texts, phone calls, and online chats.

This warrantless surveillance is conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law is exceedingly broad—Section 702 allows the government to conduct surveillance of any foreigner abroad­—and the law fails to protect the constitutional rights of Americans whose texts or emails are “incidentally” collected when communicating with those people.

German universities take on Dutch publishing giant Elsevier

Chemistry world

A consortium of German universities, research institutes and public libraries has rejected the latest offer from Dutch publishing giant Elsevier for a new country-wide licensing agreement for its research portfolio. Germany’s chief negotiator says the offer does not meet the requirements of German researchers.

The rejection in early July, comes after nearly a year of negotiations during which time rock-hard positions on both sides have scarcely budged, leaving a huge gap yet to be bridged. The German side, represented by a consortium founded in 2014 called Project DEAL, includes the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Fraunhofer–Gesellschaft, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Helmholtz and the Leibniz associations, and the Max Planck Society. Backed by these research giants plus dozens of universities, Project DEAL is demanding a nationwide contract from Elsevier that includes fair pricing, open access in Germany to all papers authored by researchers at German institutions, and permanent full-text access to all electronic journals published by Elsevier. Project DEAL will also lead negotiations for nationwide licensing agreements with Springer Nature and Wiley.

Civics: United States Expatriation at an All-Time High


Expatriation has been increasing each year by roughly 30% since 2010, which featured abnormally high expatriation rates, most likely attributable to the economic turndown of the Great Recession which began in the United States as a result of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. American citizenship is often sought after for the economic opportunity that comes along with the passport, as the ability to work and do business in the country is heavily restricted or regulated, and with the value of that investment or opportunity in question, it is unsurprising that the number of investors in the system, that is, new citizens, would fluctuate. It seems appropriate to call naturalization an investment because of the nature of the process, which is long, complicated, and often quite expensive similar to a long-position that will cost more at purchasing time but promises high returns after reaching maturity.

The peak, or more appropriately, valley of the global recession occurred in 2009 when the global GDP contracted causing a decline in the median familty income of about five percent.

In Defense of School Choice

Will Flanders:

Unfortunately, the public schools have not responded as well to increased competition. Aided by politicians like Representative Taylor, public schools leaders have chosen to not to embrace competition but to seek protection from it, fighting the growth of better educational alternatives at every turn.

While creating an incentive to improve, school choice has not come at a cost to the public schools. If, as Representative Taylor claims, school choice is designed to “siphon” money from public schools, it’s making a mess of the job. Per pupil spending is higher today than it was before the start of the voucher program. And because the voucher amount is substantially less than the amount spend on children attending public schools, the program actually saves money which could, if the legislature desired, be further redirected to public schools. Under current law, school districts can continue to receive funding for students they no longer educate if they choose to go to a private school with a voucher, meaning that a student leaving actually increases the districts per student revenue in the short term. Representative Taylor conveniently ignores these facts.

Julian Assange, a Man Without a Country

Raffi Khatchadourian::

Before Assange gained notoriety, he lived a reclusive, rootless life. While he was growing up, in Australia, his mother moved the family dozens of times, and the habit of motion seems to have persisted; he once wrote software on the Trans-Siberian Express. When I first got to know him, in 2010, he was traversing Europe, in possession of what he claimed was a roster of modest international leaks: documents about the BBC, Canadian detainees, Hungarian finance, Romanian police, Israeli diplomacy, and “some Russian and Chinese stuff that I can’t read.” None of it compared, though, to the trove of classified documents that a young Army private, Chelsea Manning, had just provided him: half a million military records from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a quarter of a million diplomatic cables from the State Department, among other things. Suddenly, he was walking around with gigabytes of secrets belonging to a superpower, and his worry about being surveilled had grown extreme. “There’s all sorts of aggressive intelligence action happening,” he told me. “Lots of spying.” He was trying to fly to Iceland, to connect with activists there, and he suggested that I come immediately to meet him.
A few days later, I stepped off an airport shuttle bus at Reykjavík’s station a little after dawn, uncertain whether I would find him, but there he was, dressed in a silver full-body snowsuit. (He had been out all night with friends to see a volcano that had recently erupted.) “You didn’t call,” he chided me, in a way that mixed humor and irritation. We climbed a hill from the bus station into town, and on the way to his base, in a rented clapboard house, we got lost; Assange has a terrible sense of direction. That morning, he showed me an Army video that Manning had given him, and we went through it moment by moment. He had known me for only a few hours, but back then he trusted journalists readily. A few months later, I wrote about the footage, which he released as “Collateral Murder,” and about his personal history, in a piece for this magazine titled “No Secrets.” I did not imagine that there would be so many secrets to come.

Since then, in addition to Manning’s releases, he has published millions of documents, including hacked e-mails from corporations and public figures, international trade agreements, and foreign government records. Some of these publications have brought real harm to the documents’ owners, some have altered public perceptions about war and state power, and some have been damaging to individual privacy, with no public benefit. In his confinement, Assange has become a quixotic cultural icon, helping to give the solitary act of whistle-blowing the contours of a movement. Dr. Martens has issued boots in his name, sculptors have cast him in alloy, and lyricists have memorialized him in song. He has inspired a Bond villain, and the fiction of Jonathan Franzen; he has mixed with A-list musicians, like Lady Gaga, and A-list dissenters, like Noam Chomsky. At the same time, he has had to navigate myriad legal and managerial complications: multiple F.B.I. investigations, crippling staff mutinies, venomous fights with journalists.
Whether you see Assange as a “fallen man” depends on how you viewed him to begin with. He has detractors who believe that he is a criminal, or a maniac, or both, and supporters who consider him an immaculate revolutionary. There have been calls for his assassination, and for him to be given a Nobel Peace Prize. Assange often describes himself in simple terms—as a fearless activist—but his character is complicated, and hard to reconcile with his considerable power. He is not merely the kind of person who will wear socks with holes; he is the kind of person who will wear socks with holes and rain fury upon anyone who mentions the holes in public. He can be mistrustful to the point of paranoia, but he can be recklessly frank. He tends to view human behavior as self-interested, driven by a Nietzschean will to power, but he runs an organization founded on the idea that individuals can be selflessly courageous. He is a seeker of hard, objective truths who often appears to be unable to see past his own realities. He can be quick in the moment, an impressive tactician, and he is often fairly blind to the long arcs of strategy.

Assange is a difficult person, and he knows it. The people who care for him see a driven, obstinate man who has constructed around himself a maze of deflections, but they see this behavior as evidence of vulnerability, rather than of malice or narcissism. They recognize that his urge to resist conformity is often greater than his urge to be understood. Beyond the noise of his persona, they see the chief custodian of a technology that can be used for transformative good; whatever the hostility that he provokes, they maintain that there is no way his work could proceed without angering people.

“Surveillance is now the business model of the Internet. Companies make money spying on you,

Liz Reid

But critics say there’s a catch.
 “Surveillance is now the business model of the Internet. Companies make money spying on you,” says Bruce Schneier, an Internet security expert and the chief technology officer at IBM’s cybersecurity arm. “When the app says I can detect when you’re out of paper towels, they’re not doing it for your best interest. They’re doing it because they want to sell you paper towels.”
 Schneier pointed to Roomba, the little automated vacuum from iRobot. The company’s CEO said last month that the device could soon start mapping your home, raising concerns that that data could be sold for a profit. The company swiftly clarified that it would collect and share data only if customers consented.
 Despite Its Promise, The Internet Of Things Remains Vulnerable
 Despite Its Promise, The Internet Of Things Remains Vulnerable
 But on top of the issue of surveillance, Schneier says makers of Internet of things devices just aren’t prioritizing security.
 “We’re building a world-size robot without even realizing it,” he says.

Why Men Are the New College Minority

Jon Marcus:

This fall, women will comprise more than 56 percent of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year. And the trend shows no sign of abating. By 2026, the department estimates, 57 percent of college students will be women.

The new minority on campus? Men.

That’s an irony not lost on Jennifer Carlo, the vice president of student engagement and student affairs at Carlow University, which is trying all kinds of ideas to bolster its supply of men—including showcasing male college-success stories as examples to prospective applicants.

“It didn’t used to be that you were worried about providing role models and mentors for males,” Carlo mused.

Started as an all-women’s college by an order of nuns, Carlow has had a longer road to travel than most other institutions to balance its enrollment by gender; although it has admitted men to its degree programs for nearly 50 years, it has recruited them aggressively only since 2004.

The university is adding sports teams to attract more men, including men’s track and field this fall, and men are disproportionately represented in the promotional photos on its website and marketing materials. There are also new degree programs in fields such as business meant in part to appeal to men.

On Living, and Thinking, in Two Languages at Once

Camille Bordas:

People ask me whether I think in French or in English now that I’ve lived in the US a while. I lie when I answer this. I say it depends on what I’m thinking about—English for work, French for family and curse words. This answer is usually welcomed as logical: a language for the intellect, another for the feelings. Of course. The truth is I have no idea what language I think in, and because I’m a hypochondriac, I worry that this might mean I have a brain tumor. I end up wondering if I ever actually think of anything. In my head, it’s mostly blurry images, or blocks of sense memories colliding with whatever I’m presently seeing. Rarely a fully formed thought—unless I’m actively trying to make sense of something, the way I am doing right now. In conversation, though, some words come to me in English and others in French, and I have to pause for a second to find the correct translation.

I did this the other day, on the phone with my sister. She was having a hard time and needed to vent, and we acknowledged the fact that she was venting, except I’d forgotten the proper French phrase for venting and so I used a literal translation of the English word before the French expression finally found its way back to me. The way you say you’re venting in French is you’re “emptying your bag.” Unpacking. I love both the images. The bag and the vent. They work. I kind of don’t want to choose between them.

Time-Travelling with Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Leif Batuman:

I like to think that I know a lot of words, but I definitely don’t know all of them. The other day I came across a new one, on page 2 of Michael Robbins’s new book, “Equipment for Living,” in a quote from the critic Kenneth Burke: “Surely the most highly alembicated and sophisticated work of art, arising in complex civilizations, could be considered as designed to organize and command the army of one’s thoughts and images.” I did not feel, at first, that I had to look up “alembicated,” because it was clear from the context that the word basically meant “sophisticated,” and also because I knew that an alembic was some kind of glassware, and this seemed, at the time, like enough knowledge. But then I came to a second instance: “I assume that what Burke says about poetry applies, mutatis mutandis, to the songs of Def Leppard, though they are hardly alembicated at all.” This usage sounded somehow more specific than the first, and it made me realize that I didn’t know the lyrics to even one Def Leppard song. Now I felt inadequate, and had to Google something.
I thought for a while about which to investigate, Def Leppard or “alembicated,” and decided on the latter. Indeed, it basically meant “sophisticated,” like something boiled for a long time in an alembic, or, to quote Merriam-Webster, “overrefined as if by excessive distillation.” Then, just as I was about to leave the dictionary’s Web site, I noticed something new: next to the earliest known year that a word appears in print—for “alembicated,” 1786—Merriam-Webster now offers a link to a list of all the other words that were first used in the same year. The feature is called Time Traveler, and it has indeed enabled me to travel in time, because once I start looking at it I find that hours have passed. What could be more bewitching than to see, under a given year, all the words that it birthed, like a squirming litter of word-kittens? In an effort to save the public some of the time I myself have lost in this fashion, I will endeavor to summarize my findings.

With a quiz to comment, readers test their article comprehension

Ståle Grut:

Since February our readers must pass a mandatory quiz to comment on our articles. But the world famous quiz has found another use too.

First, some navel–gazing and context.

NRKbeta is the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NRK) tech-site and R&D-blog. This February we launched a new experiment.

Readers wanting to comment on a story had to pass a mandatory test about the articles content.

Despite other websites abandoning their comments section, ours has mainly remained a positive space the last ten years.

Comments from our audiences have solved difficult problems for us. It has gathered fantastic and crazy ideas from our audience that we have tried out. It’s even helped us hire talented people! In short: a valuable arena we dedicate a lot of time and effort to maintain and improve.

Vermont Medical School Says Goodbye To Lectures

Audie Cornish:

For students starting medical school, the first year can involve a lot of time in a lecture hall. There are hundreds of terms to master and pages upon pages of notes to take.

But when the new class of medical students begins at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine next week, a lot of that learning won’t take place with a professor at a lectern.

The school has begun to phase out lectures in favor of what’s known as “active learning” and plans to be done with lectures altogether by 2019.

Ironically, the man leading the effort loves lectures. In fact, William Jeffries, a dean at the school, wrote the chapter on lectures in two prominent textbooks on medical education. But he’s now convinced they’re not the best way to learn.

Jeffries spoke with All Things Considered about the thinking behind this move. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Weingarten slanders Milwaukee choice program

Mikel Holt & Collin Roth::

National teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten has a message for the thousands of students, parents, and teachers enrolled or teaching at private voucher schools: You are the pawns of bigots.

In a recent speech to the American Federation of Teachers annual convention, Weingarten said, “Make no mistake: This use of privatization, coupled with disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” Weingarten went on to say, “The real pioneers of private school choice were the white politicians who resisted school integration.”

For Milwaukee residents, home to the country’s oldest private voucher program, Weingarten’s comments ought to raise a few eyebrows. Indeed, for those with any real memory of the voucher program’s origins, particularly the black and Hispanic citizens who lobbied for it, the feelings range from indignation to insult.

Weingarten’s attack centers on the rare, but shameful, experience of some counties in the South where vouchers were sometimes used to allow whites to flee desegregated public schools. But that’s not what happened here. Milwaukee’s voucher program may have its roots in segregation, but not in the way Weingarten suggests.

In the late 1960s, before the federal courts “forced” the Milwaukee Public Schools District to end “separate and unequal” public education, it was black community leaders who petitioned the School Board to apply for a federal voucher grant that would have helped them escape a segregated and failing system. Two decades later — amid a desegregated but still unequal district, MPS Superintendent Robert Peterkin proposed the idea of a “school choice” program. While Peterkin’s attempt failed, success came in Madison. State Rep. Annette Polly Williams — an African-American liberal Democrat — helped shepherd a pilot voucher program to the desk of a supportive Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Weingarten would have a hard time accusing the pioneers of Milwaukee’s voucher program of being the tools of racists. Peterkin, his successor Howard Fuller, the late Virginia Stamper, Zikiya Courtney and state Sen. Gary George, are all African-Americans who played critical roles in advancing choice legislation. What is more, thousands of African-American school leaders, teachers, volunteers and parents commit their lives daily to improving education outcomes through Milwaukee’s voucher program.

The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice

Eric Bellman:

The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one.
 Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers—“the next billion,” the tech industry calls them—is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them.

Is LIBOR, Crucial Financial Benchmark, a Lie?

Matt Taibbi:

The admission comes by way of Andrew Bailey, head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority. He said recently (emphasis mine):
 “The absence of active underlying markets raises a serious question about the sustainability of the LIBOR benchmarks. If an active market does not exist, how can even the best run benchmark measure it?”
 As a few Wall Street analysts have quietly noted in the weeks since those comments, an “absence of underlying markets” is a fancy way of saying that LIBOR has not been based on real trading activity, which is a fancy way of saying that LIBOR is bullshit.
 LIBOR is generally understood as a measure of market confidence. If LIBOR rates are high, it means bankers are nervous about the future and charging a lot to lend. If rates are low, worries are fewer and borrowing is cheaper.
 It therefore makes sense in theory to use LIBOR as a benchmark for borrowing rates on car loans or mortgages or even credit cards. But that’s only true if LIBOR is actually measuring something.
 Here’s how it’s supposed to work. Every morning at 11 a.m. London time, twenty of the world’s biggest banks tell a committee in London how much they estimate they’d have to pay to borrow cash unsecured from other banks.
 The committee takes all 20 submissions, throws out the highest and lowest four numbers, and then averages out the remaining 12 to create LIBOR rates.
 Theoretically, a fine system. Measuring how scared banks are to lend to each other should be a good way to gauge market stability. Except for one thing: banks haven’t been lending to each other for decades.
 Up through the Eighties and early Nineties, as global banks grew bigger and had greater demand for dollars, trading between banks was heavy. That robust interbank lending market was why LIBOR became such a popular benchmark in the first place.
 But beginning in the mid-nineties, banks began to discover that other markets provided easier and cheaper sources of funding, like the commercial paper or treasury repurchase markets. Trading between banks fell off.
 Ironically, as trading between banks declined, the use of LIBOR as a benchmark for mortgages, credit cards, swaps, etc. skyrocketed. So as LIBOR reflected reality less and less, it became more and more ubiquitous, burying itself, tick-like, into the core of the financial system.

Why Are Police Officers More Dangerous Than Airplanes?

Pagan Kennedy:

“It’s 2:30 in the morning and my phone rings. My daughter says, ‘Daddy, you need to come to the hospital,’ ” Michael Bell told me, of the moment in 2004 when he learned that his son had been shot by a police officer in their hometown, Kenosha, Wis.

Twenty-one-year-old Michael Bell Jr. died that night from a bullet wound to the head. In the nightmarish hours that followed, his father expected independent investigators to arrive on the scene and find out what had gone wrong. A former Air Force pilot, he knew that when an accident happened in the military, a forensic team performed an exhaustive review. Above all, he wanted to make sure that if a mistake had contributed to his son’s death, it would be identified and fixed, so that nothing like it would happen again.

AUGUST 10, 2017| Disruption, Diversity, Google, Markets, sociobiology, Tenure, Travis Kalanick, Uber, University Comparing the Ideological Bubbles of Google and the Elite University

John McGinnis:

oogle and our elite universities appear to inhabit the same ideological bubble and intone the same diversity mantras. And that is not surprising, because almost everyone at Google is a product of the modern university and those at its HR department the likely product of its more PC inflected half—the humanities or soft social sciences. And Google must live within the world of mainstream media and government regulation, and these two sectors are also dominated by elite university graduates of the last quarter century.

But nevertheless the institutions and their employees operate under different constraints. Google is the elite university without tenure and the elite university is Google without market discipline. You might think that tenure is the more important obstacle to enforcing an orthodoxy like modern diversity policy. After all, a professor at an elite university would not be fired for making the largely accurate factual claims about the average differences in temperament between women and men that the Googler did in the memo that got him sacked. Nor would she be let go for arguing that it would be better to judge people as individuals and hire on merit alo

Measuring the Fiscal Health of State Pension Plans

Greg McGinnis:

A state pension plan’s annual funded ratio gives an end-of-fiscal-year snapshot of the assets as a proportion of the accrued liabilities. In aggregate, the funded ratio of these plans dropped to 72 percent in 2015 from 75 percent in 2014. Across the country, funded ratios for plans reviewed by The Pew Charitable Trusts ranged from 37 percent in New Jersey to 104 percent in South Dakota.

The underlying funding differences among pension plans and states reflect policy choices, including plan design, contribution policies, and investment return assumptions, in addition to pension fund performance in the stock market. Pew’s issue brief “The State Pension Funding Gap: 2015,” published in April 2017, outlines these differences in detail.

Studies Are Usually Bunk, Study Shows

Andy Kessler:

Many of the studies quoted in newspaper articles and pop-psychology books are one-offs anyway. In August 2015, the Center for Open Science published a study in which 270 researchers spent four years trying to reproduce 100 leading psychology experiments. They successfully replicated only 39. Yes, I see the irony of a study debunking a study, but add to this a Nature survey of 1,576 scientists published last year. “More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments,” the survey report concludes. “And more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.”

Bunk medical studies are worrisome, but who really cares about pop behavioral science? It’s easy to write this off as trivial, except millions take these studies and their conclusions seriously. The 2008 book “Nudge,” from academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, called for “libertarian paternalism” to push people in the right direction. But who decides what’s the right direction? Turns out the answer is Mr. Sunstein. He was hired by the Obama administration in 2009 to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Call it psychobabble authoritarianism.

This University President Can’t Take a Joke

Ted Balaker:

No. The disturbing event was a campus screening of my documentary, Can We Take a Joke? The film examines the clash between comedy and outrage culture, and in it comedians ranging from newbie college jokesters to successful veterans such as Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Christina Pazsitzky, Adam Carolla, Lisa Lampanelli, and Jim Norton push back against the “Outrage Mob” and stand up for comedy and free speech.

The film includes a variety of free speech scholars, and pays special attention to the college scene. It explains how universities have taught generations of students that they can shut down opinions they don’t like simply by declaring they’re offended.

Being offended is much easier than formulating a persuasive argument for your point of view, and in the upside-down modern college environment, parading your offendedness actually confers an air of enlightenment. What’s worse is that students bring the muzzler mentality with them after they graduate, and make society at large less tolerant and less fun.

What happened when eight states outlawed race-conscious admissions at colleges


To have an equal chance of admission as a black applicant, an Asian applicant to a top college needs as much as 450 additional points out of 1600 on the SAT (a whopping amount to those unaccustomed to American psychometrics). Encouragingly, research by David Card and Alan Krueger, two economists, shows that talented minority students apply at the same rate to leading universities with or without affirmative action.

On Segregation, Sacrifice and Scolding Both Sides

Mike Antunucci:

Rachel M. Cohen has written a piece in The American Prospect titled “Under Trump, Liberals Rediscover School Segregation” that almost seems designed to rile both sides of the education policy debate.

These kinds of articles always get my attention, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to tell people exactly what they want to hear. The next easiest thing is to tell your opponents what they don’t want to hear.

Telling your allies what they don’t want to hear gets really awkward, at best.

Cohen applauds the newfound focus on school segregation, but thinks “the timing sometimes seems politically convenient.” She notes a previous lack of liberal interest in the segregation found not only in traditional schools, but in charters when supported by a charter-friendly Obama Administration.

Charter advocates aren’t going to love the notion that they, as well as voucher advocates, are contributing to segregation. But unions aren’t going to love Cohen’s implication that they tend to fight segregation only when they don’t have to sacrifice anything:

Global Sex Differences in Test Score Variability

Stephen Machin and Tuomas Pekkarinen:

Do boys and girls differ in their intel- lectual and cognitive abilities and, if so, in what way? These questions have raised considerable debate, both in terms of average performance and in terms of variability around the average.
Empirical research on gen- der differences in achievements produces mixed conclusions, with some evidence that favors boys and some that favors girls (1–4). In many countries, girls show superior performance in school examinations, which is also reflected in higher rates of attendance in tertiary educa- tion. In addition, girls have been improving their position rela- tive to boys (5, 6). In countries with a more gender-equal cul- ture, the gender gap that is usu- ally in favor of boys in average mathematics test scores is erased or even reversed in favor of girls (7).

St. Augustine’s results, not its facilities, will determine voucher school’s impact

Alan Borsuk:

Every school on the south side is in fear of what Augustine Prep will mean, a leader of a different school told me recently. Some are at least expressing good wishes. Some are not, especially privately.

The biggest thing to watch over the next several years will be enrollment at a lot of the schools on the south side. Augustine, which is a private, Christian school where 100% of students will receive public voucher money, will debut with about 660 students in early elementary grades, sixth grade and ninth grade, said Ramirez and the school’s superintendent, Alfonso Carmona.

The plan is that it will fill out, grade by grade, to become a K-12, with 1,700 students. The intention is to build a second building immediately to the east and for enrollment to grow to 3,000 by a few years from now. If that comes to pass, Augustine most likely would be the largest school operation in Milwaukee, outside of MPS.

The population on Milwaukee’s south side and the population of Hispanics, the dominant portion of the Augustine enrollment, are growing. But it’s hard to envision so many kids going to Augustine without other schools losing enrollment.

St. Augustine Preparatory Academy.

Dear mums: don’t let the bottle bashers get you down

Katie Martin:

Still, it rankles, because it’s hard to overstate just how much pressure mums are under to banish the bottle. The bottle bashers are just one part of an overbearing commercial, social and medical enterprise that tells mums that whatever they do, however hard they try, they’re doing it wrong.

I noticed the start of the bullying in my first pregnancy, when I did what many middle-class parents do: paid to make new friends by going to tree-huggy childbirth classes. There, I was told by a lady who’d had her babies in her bathroom that real mums didn’t need to go to hospital to give birth, didn’t need pain relief in childbirth (“epidurals are for wimps!”), that newborns didn’t need vitamin K injections (they absolutely definitely do) and you can make your own mind up about vaccinations but, really, if Baby needed those chemicals, then nature would provide them, don’t you think? Oh, and, no matter how hard it is, get that baby on that boob. Bottles are bad.

After the joy of childbirth, which the lady said would be a doddle but might well have killed me and/or my daughter without some heavy-handed intervention, the midwives and health visitors kick in. Are you breastfeeding? You must breastfeed. Finding it painful? Running a fever? Whatever. (I’m a farmer’s lass, from a cattle farm, but hadn’t realised that mastitis could affect humans.) Are you crying day and night because the baby’s screaming the house down, losing weight, can’t latch on? That’s just how it goes. No bottles. We won’t discharge you until we know you’re breastfeeding. Say hello to “the Breastapo”.

How a School Ditched Awards and Assemblies to Refocus on Kids and Learning (Spends Far Less Per Student Than Madison)

Linda Flanagan:

When Paula Gosal took over as principal of the Chilliwack Middle School, she walked smack into the middle of a long-standing debate among the staff over awards. It wasn’t exactly a rumble that Gosal was tossed into so abruptly in the fall of 2016. Most of the teachers at this school for seventh- through ninth-graders in British Columbia had read the literature on awards, and were looking for feedback and support from their new principal. The majority wanted to do away with the school’s awards and awards assemblies, and needed the backing of their principal to make it happen.

“I did not have to be persuaded,” Gosal said. She called for a vote, and the staff unanimously decided to stop handing out awards.

Though data on the extent of school award-giving is scarce, the practice of delivering them is so customary that the Common Application to U.S. colleges includes spaces to report honors and other forms of recognition. Alongside their ubiquity, however, is abundant research showing that awards, rewards and other external incentives undermine intrinsic motivation.

“This is one of the most robust findings in social science—and also one of the most ignored,” wrote Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pursuit of the trinket or prize extinguishes what might have been a flicker of internal interest in a subject, suffocating the genuine sources of motivation: mastery, autonomy and purpose. “To say ‘do this, and you’ll get that’ makes people lose interest in ‘this,’ ” said Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards. Awards are that much worse than rewards, Kohn added, because they are simply prizes made artificially limited.

The Chilliwack School District plans to spend C$153,673,539 during the 2017-2018 school year for about 14,000 students. (US$121,340,626). That’s $8,667 per student, or less than half of Madison’s nearly $20,000.

The Future of Truth

Sam Lessin:

The Not Too Distant Future: A World Awash of Fake Video, Audio and Photos

In the last several months videos have been floating around the web showing how video and audio can be easily manipulated to make it appear that almost anyone is saying almost anything. A good recent example, from University of Washington professors, uses former President Barack Obama’s speech patterns to demonstrate one form of the technology. Another good demonstration, from Stanford last year, shows face expression-matching research.

In a sense, this isn’t new. For a long time, Hollywood studios have been creating believable fakes, bringing back deceased actors or grafting live actors onto increasingly expressive cartoon scaffoldings.

Much like weapons proliferation, however, the ability to create believable fakes isn’t too scary when it is extremely time consuming and expensive to access. It is far more dangerous, however, when the technology gets good enough that almost anyone can generate believable fake media with access to the internet, hundreds of dollars of equipment, and a few hours. That’s the direction in which we are marching.

Academic Publishing Meets Capitalism

Charlie Martin:

Quite a long time ago now, I reviewed a book for IEEE Spectrum (I think) on the “Reification problem” in formal methods of software development. (“The what?”, you ask? “Reification” is to make something less abstract. This was a book on how to convert beautiful proven programs on paper into ugly proletarian real computer code.)

The contents were normal for this kind of book – I’d just had a chapter published in a similar book, so I was familiar with the process – a collection of chapters which were provided in typeset form to the publisher by the authors and printed using photo-offset printing. The book itself was the cheapest sort of academic hardcover binding: sewn signatures in a cloth spine, hardboard covers and the sort of cheap plastic surface that would break and peel off in a semester’s hard use.

What struck me was what the book cost: over $200. I no longer remember the exact price and page count, but the number burned into my memory was that it was 62.5¢ per page. Making Xerox copies of the book would have cost 10¢ a page. The actual production costs of the book were as low as they could possibly have been in hardback, with no design, no typesetting, and cheap binding.

Now, there are some reasons why it would be expensive, but the reason they could get away with it was that thousands of research libraries were buying this sort of book for $200+ each so they could maintain the currency of their library.

Formal journals were — and are — even worse. You needed to produce your paper in typeset form to match the journal’s standards, after which the journal would charge “page fees” or a “publication fee”. Those fees are pretty significant now: up to $3000 in some journals. The journals are also published online, but if you want access to more than the abstract, you need to pay a fee — $30–$40 usually. (Here’s an example.)

Lighthouse Christian School moving to bigger digs after voucher-fueled enrollment growth

Karen Rivedal:

Lighthouse Christian School, which has operated since 2004 out of Lighthouse Church at 5202 Regent St., will gets its own building at 6400 Schroeder Road, with space for up to 260 elementary students. The $3.6 million, two-phase project will increase classrooms from eight to 19 and will add a cafeteria, a library with computer lab and a gymnasium, among other improvements such as broader hallways, more storage, a bigger playground and better equipment.

“This is the first time each grade level will have its own classroom,” said the Rev. Tia Sierra, the school’s principal and church co-pastor with her husband, the Rev. Marcio Sierra.

Madison’s government funded schools have long resisted governance diversity.

Civics: “Liberals” should reject the divisive, zero-sum politics of identity and find their way back to a unifying vision of the common good

Mark Lola:

The results of this shift are now plain to see. The classic Democratic goal of bringing people from different backgrounds together for a single common project has given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition. And what keeps this approach to politics alive is that it is cultivated in the colleges and universities where liberal elites are formed. Here again, we must look to the history of the New Left to understand how this happened.

After Reagan’s election in 1980, conservative activists hit the road to spread the new individualist gospel of small government and free markets and poured their energies into winning out-of-the-way county, state and congressional elections. Also on the road, though taking a different exit on the interstate, were former New Left activists heading for college towns all over America.

Conservatives concentrated on attracting working people once attached to the Democratic Party—a populist, bottom-up strategy. The left concentrated on transforming the outlook of professional and party elites—a top-down strategy. Both groups were successful, and both left their mark on the country.

Up until the 1960s, those active in the Democratic Party were largely drawn from the working class or farm communities and were formed in local political clubs or on union-dominated shop floors. That world is gone. Today they are formed primarily in our colleges and universities, as are members of the overwhelmingly liberal-dominated professions of law, journalism and education.

Liberal political education, such as it is, now takes place on campuses that are far removed, socially and geographically, from the rest of the country—and particularly from the sorts of people who once were the foundation of the Democratic Party. And the political catechism that is taught is a historical artifact, reflecting more the idiosyncratic experience of the ’60s generation than the realities of power politics today.

The experience of that era taught the New Left two lessons. The first was that movement politics was the only mode of engagement that actually changes things; the second was that political activity must have some authentic meaning for the self, making compromise seem like a self-betrayal.

These lessons, though, have little bearing on liberalism’s present crisis, which is that of being defeated time and again by a well-organized Republican Party that keeps tightening its grip on our institutions. Where those lessons do resonate is with young people in our highly individualistic bourgeois society—a society that keeps them focused on themselves and teaches them that personal choice, individual rights and self-definition are all that is sacred.

The big lesson from the world’s best school system? Trust your teachers

John Hart:

Finnish education is rarely out of the news, whether it’s outstanding Pisa results, those same results slipping, the dropping of traditional subjects, not dropping subjects, or what makes Finnish teachers special.

I worked in England for two years as a teacher before moving to Finland eight years ago. My colleagues in the UK were supportive and the headteacher gave me subject leadership in my second year. I didn’t want to leave but the pull of home for my Finnish wife was too strong, so we upped sticks.

Finland’s education policies have been highly praised and the country has started to export its model around the world. Much of what has been written about this has, understandably, focused on policy, but it’s somewhat reductive to think in such narrow terms. The ethos of the schools and the society in which the policies are implemented are equally important.

No grammar schools, lots of play: the secrets of Europe’s top education system

Naysayers might argue that demographic differences between Finland and the UK (among other countries) make comparing education policies pointless. The population of Finland is homogeneous; just 5% of the population was born outside the country and don’t speak either Finnish or Swedish. This puts less strain on schools to plug linguistic and cultural gaps that exist elsewhere, but it only tells half the story. The economic homogeneity of the population, and the equity of society that is reflected in its schools, has contributed to Finland’s success. And this isn’t limited to education.

Cal State will no longer require placement exams and remedial classes for freshmen

Rosanna Xia:

Cal State plans to drop placement exams in math and English as well as the noncredit remedial courses that more than 25,000 freshmen have been required to take each fall — a radical move away from the way public universities traditionally support students who come to college less prepared than their peers.

In an executive order issued late Wednesday, Chancellor Timothy P. White directed the nation’s largest public university system to revamp its approach to remedial education and assess new freshmen for college readiness and course placement by using high school grades, ACT and SAT scores, previous classroom performance and other measures that administrators say provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of students’ knowledge.

Cal State will no longer make those students who may need extra help take the standardized entry-level mathematics (ELM) exam and the English placement test (EPT).

The new protocol, which will go into effect in fall 2018, “facilitates equitable opportunity for first-year students to succeed through existing and redesigned education models,” White wrote in a memorandum to the system’s 23 campus presidents, who will be responsible for working with faculty to implement the changes. The hope is that these efforts will also help students obtain their degrees sooner — one of the public university system’s priorities. Cal State has committed to doubling its four-year graduation rate, from 19% to 40%, by 2025.