Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

Erin Richards:

In 2015-’16, Wisconsin was home to just over a million school-aged children. About 860,000 attended public schools. About 123,000 attended private schools: about 90,000 who paid tuition, and about 33,000 who used vouchers. About 20,000 children were home-schooled.

Vouchers are taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies that help children attend private schools, the vast majority of which are religious. In Wisconsin, the annual voucher payments will rise to about $7,500 per K-8 pupil and around $8,000 per high school student this fall.

To qualify for a voucher in the statewide program, students have to come from families earning no more than 185% of the federal poverty level, or about $45,000 for a family of four or about $52,000 if the parents are married. The income limit for the Racine and Milwaukee programs is 300% of the federal poverty level.
Vouchers are different than charter schools, which are fully public schools that are privately operated, often by nonprofits. Charter schools receive freedom from some state rules and school district oversight in exchange for demonstrating higher-than-average student achievement, the terms of which are outlined in their charters, or contracts.

“School choice” refers to vouchers and charters and other options parents can choose outside their assigned neighborhood school. But vouchers are the most controversial because they usually support religious schools that don’t have to follow all the same rules as public schools. Private schools that accept vouchers are not legally obligated to serve all children with special needs, and they do not have to disclose all the same data as public schools.

Voucher schools spend substantially less per student than traditional taxpayer funded school districts.

Locally, Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student annually, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results

Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads

Julia Angwin Noam Scheiber and Ariana Tobin:

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance. For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

Out of the Quagmire of Words: Ordinary Language Philosophy and Literary Study

V. Joshua Adams:

IN 1979, the California poet Robert Hass published his now-famous poem, “Meditation at Lagunitas.” Hass’s poem criticized poststructuralist literary theory (which he called “the new thinking”) for disregarding particulars in favor of “the luminous clarity of a general idea,” and for adopting a pathologically mournful philosophy of language in which “a word is elegy to what it signifies.” As a consequence of this sort of thinking, Hass wrote, “everything dissolves: justice, / pine, hair, woman, you and I.” This eloquent lament did not stop the rise of literary theory (neither did Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels’s blistering essay “Against Theory,” published a few years later). And, although much has changed in the intervening years — theory is no longer all “about loss,” in Hass’s words — the place of theory in the academy seems secure. Fewer people may “do” theory now, but it survives as a kind of conventional wisdom, a default approach to how literary scholars treat language and read texts.

Nevertheless, if theory was as problematic as Hass’s poem intimated 40 years ago, shouldn’t we be more suspicious of the conventional wisdom that is its legacy? According to Toril Moi, the answer is yes. Her important new book, Revolution of the Ordinary, makes a case for rejecting the approach to language that the “theory project” produced. Like the speaker of Hass’s poem, Moi believes that the way literary theories think about language has corrosive ethical and political consequences. Unlike Hass, she does not counter theory with poetry. Nor does she offer a substitute theory to correct the problems of the old. Instead, she looks to philosophy, particularly to “ordinary language philosophy” — by which she means the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and, to a lesser extent, J. L. Austin, as interpreted by Stanley Cavell. For Moi, this philosophical constellation promises to renovate literary studies by reconnecting our language to the world from which theory severed it.

17 Years After Being Convicted of a Grisly Murder in Vegas, Kirstin Lobato Sees Her Charges Dismissed

Jordan Smith:

The state’s theory of the crime fell apart this past October, when Potkin and a team from the Innocence Project presented nearly a week’s worth of testimony from several renowned entomologists and a medical examiner, each of whom demonstrated why the state’s narrative never made any scientific sense. In short, had Bailey been slaughtered in the pre-dawn hours and his body left outside all day in the summer heat, as the state claimed, blowflies — nature’s swift and ubiquitous first responders to scenes of death — would have quickly colonized his remains, leaving visible clusters of eggs in his various wounds.

Still, the prosecution would not be bowed: At the October hearing, prosecutor Sandra DiGiacomo tried to peddle the notion that flies in Las Vegas behave unlike flies everywhere else in the world. It didn’t work. In a detailed opinion filed December 19, Judge Stefany Miley concluded that the testimony of Lobato’s experts was credible, and had a jury heard such evidence, she might have been acquitted. Miley granted Lobato a new trial.

Urban Pulse


Urban Pulse is a framework that uses computational topology techniques to capture the pulse of cities. This is accomplished by first modeling the urban data as a collection of time-varying scalar functions over different temporal resolutions, where the scalar function represents the distribution of the corresponding acitivy over the city. The topology of this collection is then used to identify the locations of prominent pulses in a city. The framework includes a visual interface that can be used to explore pulses within and across multiple cities.

What sugar does to your brain

Liam Mannix:

To tell the story of what sugar does to your brain, you have to start with the thought that triggers your need for a hit of sweetness.

It often happens in the afternoon when your brain, which runs on sugar, starts to get hungry.

To satiate the craving your brain activates a string of neurons, often referred to as the reward pathway, which pump the chemical dopamine into your brain.

All of a sudden you need a chocolate bar or that sweet pastry you saw at lunchtime.

If you act on that craving, the reward pathway then switches mode, pumping chemicals such as beta-endorphins into your brain, generating feelings of pleasure.

Metrics and Their Unintended Consequences

Megan McArdle:

In December, doctors at a VA hospital in Oregon decided to admit an 81-year-old patient. He was dehydrated, malnourished, plagued by skin ulcers and broken ribs — in the medical professionals’ opinion, he was unable to care for himself at home. Administrators, however, overruled them.

Was there no bed for this poor man? No, the facility had plenty of beds; in fact, on an average day, more than half of the beds are empty, awaiting patients. Was there no money or medicine to care for him? No, and no. Reporting by the New York Times suggests that Walter Savage was, perversely, turned away because he was too sick. Very sick patients tend to worsen the performance measures by which VA hospitals are judged.

Home alone: Why people believe others’ social lives are richer than their own.

Deri S and J Pers:

Although decades of research show that people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, we present evidence that people have a surprisingly grim outlook on their social lives. In 11 studies (N = 3,293; including 3 preregistered), we find that most people think that others lead richer and more active social lives than they do themselves. We show that this bias holds across multiple populations (college students, MTurk respondents, shoppers at a local mall, and participants from a large, income-stratified online panel), correlates strongly with well-being, and is particularly acute for social activities (e.g., the number of parties one attends or proximity to the “inner circle” of one’s social sphere). We argue that this pessimistic bias stems from the fact that trendsetters and socialites come most easily to mind as a standard of comparison and show that reducing the availability of extremely social people eliminates this bias. We conclude by discussing implications for research on social comparison and self-enhancement. (PsycINFO Database Record.

Is it possible to beat Google?

Mark Nuzzilo:

Not only is it possible, but it is becoming more and more likely to happen soon.

The reason it hasn’t happened yet is because nobody has applied the correct strategy yet. I do not think it would take heroic feats of execution, given the right strategy. In order to compete with Google’s strategy, or understand why it can be beaten in the first place, it is helpful to understand it:

Despite Google’s profits, talent, and maturity, the number of ways a user can possibly search for something is very limited. The way that Google Search presents results to the user, given an input query, is also out of the user’s hands. The user, no matter how savvy, cannot instruct Google to use a different kind of search algorithm. Nor can the user see the details of the algorithm that is chosen for them, as it is a highly guarded trade secret.

This is of course a deliberate choice on Google’s part. There are a few reasons, in my opinion, why Google’s strategy is successful:

The Three Students Who Uncovered ‘Dieselgate’


Arvind, Hemanth and Marc actually only came to the United States to attend university. Arvind Thiruvengadam and Hemanth Kappanna are both from India, from Chennai and Bangalore, respectively, while Marc Besch is from Biel, Switzerland. They all ended up in West Virginia, not exactly the America you dream of when you come from Chennai or Bangalore. Probably not even when you come from Biel.
 Attached to West Virginia University is an institute for emissions research – also, perhaps, not the field of study you dream of when you’re around 30 and aspiring to a career in auto engineering. The institute is called the Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE), located in an unprepossessing corrugated iron structure in a clearing in the hills of West Virginia. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is Morgantown, the nearest place you might have heard of, Pittsburgh.
 This is where Arvind, Hemanth and Marc began measuring emissions. First truck emissions and then passenger cars – until they accidentally uncovered a scandal that brought the world’s biggest carmaker at the time to its knees. The emissions tests carried out by Arvind, Hemanth and Marc have already cost the Volkswagen company around 25 billion euros, mainly in buybacks, fines and settlements, and that is by no means the end of it. Because of a study written by these three students, former VW managers are wanted by the FBI, one has been arrested in the U.S. and others are in custody in Germany. One German politician called the diesel scandal “the biggest industrial scandal since World War II.”

Two students found with BB guns at La Follette High School, principal says

Logan Wroge:

Storch said, “We noticed behavior that (led) us to search the belongings of two students” that turned up individual BB guns on school property. The high school’s educational resource officer, a Madison police officer dedicated to each of the city’s four high schools, was notified, and the students were taken to offices, according to Storch.

Related: Police calls to Madison schools.

Call to fine UK schools that illegally exclude poorly performing pupils

Michael Savage:

Ministers are being urged to fine schools that are informally excluding poorly performing pupils, amid mounting evidence that some institutions are attempting to game the exam system.

Hundreds of cases of children being removed from schools on tenuous and potentially illegal grounds have been reported to a charity offering legal advice to parents. Experts blame the rise of so-called “off-rolling” on schools that are under pressure to improve performance.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are thought to be the most affected by the informal methods designed to move them out of a school without recording their departure as an official exclusion. With pressure mounting on the Department for Education to act, Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said some schools were “abandoning their responsibility” to give a decent education to their children. She told the Observer it was “increasingly clear that some schools are gaming the system by taking children they think won’t get good results off their rolls before they sit their exams. Any school that does this is abandoning their responsibility to children, passing the buck to others who are often ill-equipped and don’t have the support they need to provide a good education. As a result, very vulnerable children are falling through the gaps in the education system, increasing the chances they will then go on to lead difficult adult lives.

No more library fines for most young readers in L.A. County

Howard Blume:

Leilany Medina, 11, loves books so much that she’d like to become a librarian. But even she sometimes forgets to return books on time, especially if she hasn’t quite finished. And she’s racked up some late fines.

But local libraries are providing a way out for such book lovers, and creating new lures for other children, who haven’t caught the reading bug, by doing away with late fees, automatically signing up students for library cards through their schools and allowing them to “read away” their fines and fees.

The most recent move was a vote last week by Los Angeles County supervisors to end late fees for patrons under 21 at county-run libraries, effective immediately. That did not help Leilany because officials offered no amnesty for past fines.

So on Thursday, Leilany went to the East Los Angeles Library, a county facility, to read off $4 in late fees. Students can eliminate debt at a rate of $5 an hour under a program that took effect in June.

“You tell them you’ll read and they’ll sign you in and you start,” said Leilany, a fifth-grader at Morris K. Hamasaki Elementary in East L.A. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.”

She’s especially fond of fairy tales and Megan McDonald’s “Judy Moody” series, about a third-grader with many notable emotional states.

When all online tests are invalidated, blame Mr. Robot

via reddit:

I manage the Linux labs at my college campus, but I also maintain the Windows and Distance Learning Center labs from time to time, especially during testing periods. During finals week, this can be incredibly frustrating, since sitting in a lab, watching students take a final is so much more boring than taking the final itself. I’m not even allowed to have a phone.

Most Finals are boring, unrestricted ones, but a few online professional certifications and placement tests are very strict in their requirements. How we set up for these tests is to boot the computer into a temporary Live OS, which does not save any settings, and automatically opens Firefox full screen in Incognito mode.

Firefox is the only thing that is allowed to run, and if the window closes, the computer reboots, resetting the OS back to defaults. If the user leaves the page set by the test taker, the browser closes. If they open a terminal or other program not allowed by that test (like a calculator) then the system is locked until a proctor (usually me) unlocks the screen.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy

Melissa Chadburn:

Last year I worked undercover at a temp agency in Los Angeles. While I took the assignment for an article I was working on, I’d also been unemployed for over a year. It seemed I was in that middling space of over-qualified for entry-level jobs, under-qualified for the jobs I most desired, and aged out or irrelevant as a labor union organizer, where I’d gained the bulk of my work experience.

One altered resume later I joined a temp agency and became the biggest ghost of them all, a member of America’s invisible workforce: people who ship goods for big box stores like Wal-Mart or Marshalls, sort recyclables for Waste Management, fulfill online orders for Nike, bottle rum for Bacardi. I’d found my squad, a cadre of screw-ups, felons, floozies, single moms, the differently abled, students, immigrants, the homeless and hungry, the overqualified and under-qualified, all of us ghosted by the traditional marketplace.


Are Educators Skeptical Of Charters Because They’re Blind To Inequality?

Peter Cook:

How could so many teachers, principals, and superintendents believe that minority students have equal educational opportunities, when study after study has shown that minority students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school? How could they be unaware of the statistics that show clear racial disparities in graduation rates and college attendance? Although the achievement gap has been at the center of our national conversation on education for decades, many educators seem blissfully (or intentionally?) unaware of it. It’s dumbfounding.

At the same time, this may help explain why so many educators across the country take a dim view of charter schools, most of which enroll low-income students of color who have been underserved by the traditional public school system. If you have deluded yourself into believing that things in traditional district schools are fine for kids of color, then of course there isn’t any need for charter schools.

Educational opportunity in early and middle childhood: Variation by place and age

Sean Reardon:

I use standardized test scores from roughly 45 million students to describe the temporal structure of educational opportunity in over 11,000 school districts—almost every district in the US. For each school district, I construct two measures: the average academic performance of students in grade 3 and the within-cohort growth in test scores from grade 3 to 8. I argue that third grade average test scores can be thought of as measures of the average extent of educational opportunities available to students in a community prior to age 9. Growth rates in average scores from grade 3 to 8 can be thought of as reflecting educational opportunities available to children in a school district between the ages of 9 and 14.

I document considerable variation among school districts in both average third grade scores and test score growth rates. Importantly, the two measures are uncorrelated, indicating that the characteristics of communities that provide high levels of early childhood educational opportunity are not the same as those that provide high opportunities for growth from third to eighth grade. This suggests that the role of schools in shaping educational opportunity varies across school districts. Moreover, the variation among districts in the two temporal opportunity dimensions implies that strategies to improve educational opportunity may need to target different age groups in different places. One additional implication of the low correlation between growth rates and average third grade scores is that measures of average test scores are likely very poor measures of school effectiveness. The growth measure I construct does not isolate the contribution of schools to children’s academic skills, but is likely closer to a measure of school effectiveness than are measures of average test scores.

Locally, Madison spends far more than most, achieving average results.

Civics: Before and After: What We Learned About the Hemisphere Program After Suing the DEA

Dave Maass:

As the year draws to a close, so has EFF’s long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Agency about the mass phone surveillance program infamously known as “Hemisphere.”

We won our case and freed up tons of records. (So did the Electronic Privacy Information Center.) The government, on the other hand, only succeeded in dragging out the fake secrecy.

In late 2013, right as the world was already reeling from the Snowden revelations, the New York Times revealed that the AT&T gives federal and local drug enforcement investigators access to a phone records surveillance system that dwarfs the NSA’s. Through this program, code-named Hemisphere, police tap into trillions of of phone records going back decades.

It’s been five long years of privacy scandals, and Hemisphere has faded somewhat from the headlines since it was first revealed. That was long enough for officials to rebrand the program “Data Analytical Services,” making it even less likely to draw scrutiny or stick in the memory. Nevertheless Hemisphere remains a prime example of how private corporations and the government team up to help themselves to our digital lives, and the lengths they will go to to cover their tracks.

A comparison of Teacher Tenure in the Madison School District

Amber Walker:

To determine where the most experienced teachers work in the Madison School District, the Cap Times analyzed staff data from the 2016-2017 school year collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. DPI’s all-staff report catalogs salary, position, experience level and demographic data of all faculty and staff in the state’s public schools.

The analysis found Madison’s most experienced teachers work at Metro High, the school housed inside the Dane County Jail. The five teachers at Metro High School have an average of 19.4 years of teaching experience. Badger Rock Middle School on Madison’s south side had the least experienced teachers with an average of 6.5 years in the classroom. Across the district, the average teacher has 12.18 years of experience. Statewide, the average is 14 years. The Cap Times excluded teachers who were not assigned to one school from our analysis.

Why is writing down mathematical proofs more fault-proof than writing computer code?


I have noticed that I find it far easier to write down mathematical proofs without making any mistakes, than to write down a computer program without bugs.

It seems that this is something more widespread than just my experience. Most people make software bugs all the time in their programming, and they have the compiler to tell them what the mistake is all the time. I’ve never heard of someone who wrote a big computer program with no mistakes in it in one go, and had full confidence that it would be bugless. (In fact, hardly any programs are bugless, even many highly debugged ones).

Yet people can write entire papers or books of mathematical proofs without any compiler ever giving them feedback that they made a mistake, and sometimes without even getting feedback from others.

Alma Deutscher on homeschooling and Mozart

Laura Battle:

u see, I have this skipping rope, and I just wave it around, and I let my imagination go free,” says Alma Deutscher, trying to explain the inexplicable. “Before this I would pick up sticks and wave them around, and some sticks were better than others but this was the best.”

She brings a purple plastic skipping rope out from under the table, and strokes the silver tinsel tassels at either end. It’s the sort of toy favoured by children in playgrounds everywhere but for Deutscher this rope is also a tool — a kind of divining rod — that aids and inspires a quite astonishing flow of creativity. As well as being a talented pianist and violinist, this little girl has already composed two concertos, a symphonic piece and a full-length opera — and she is 12 years old.

We are seated in a corner of Café Rouge in Dorking, just south of London, a week before she flies out to San José to begin rehearsals for the US premiere of Cinderella, the opera she started composing at the age of eight.

Civics: Records show D.C. Police used an LRAD sound cannon to “direct crowd flow” during the Women’s March

Curtis Waltman:

Since the first documented use of an LRAD sound cannon on protesters by Pittsburgh Police during the 2009 G20 summit, LRAD use by police against activists appears to be on the rise. The Pittsburgh Police Bureau used it again in 2011 during the Super Bowl, the New York Police Department has used it several times including the Eric Garner protests and during Occupy, the Oakland Police Department also used it against Occupy protesters, and more recently and perhaps most prominently, an LRAD was deployed during the Ferguson unrest and the Standing Rock protests.

How to Write Articles and Essays Quickly and Expertly

Stephen Downes:

From time to time people express amazement at how I can get so much done. I, of course, aware of the many hours I have idled away doing nothing, demur. It feels like nothing special; I don’t work harder, really, than most people. Nonetheless, these people do have a point. I am, in fact, a fairly prolific writer.

Part of it is tenacity. For example, I am writing this item as I wait for the internet to start working again in the Joburg airport departures area. But part of it is a simple strategy for writing your essays and articles quickly and expertly, a strategy that allows you to plan your entire essay as you write it, and thus to allow you to make your first draft your final draft. This article describes that strategy.

Begin by writing – in your head, at least – your second paragraph (that would be the one you just read, above). Your second paragraph will tell people what your essay says. Some people write abstracts or executive summaries in order to accomplish this task. But you don’t need to do this. You are stating your entire essay or article in one paragraph. If you were writing a news article, you would call this paragraph the ‘lede’. A person could read just the one paragraph and know what you had to say.

But how do you write this paragraph? Reporters will tell you that writing the lede is the hardest part of writing an article. Because if you don’t know what the story is, you cannot write it in a single paragraph. A reporter will sift through the different ways of writing the story – the different angles – and find a way to tell it. You, because you are writing an article or essay, have more options.

How Whiteness is Preserved: The Racialization of Immigrants & Assimilation in Education

Hadiel Mohamed:

This research aims to answer how educators can incorporate ethnic/racial identity development in the classroom for youth of color who are driven to pursue Whiteness. This quest begins by understanding Whiteness and its role within ethnic/racial identity and educational systems. The societal avoidance of discussing race furthers the perpetuation of Whiteness as the norm and removes the value of marginalized histories and voices. We can witness the preservation of Whiteness through immigration laws, the void of ethnic/racial identity exploration in schools, and the mono-cultured representation in classrooms. Therefore, this research explores assimilation and the racialization of immigrants through a macro-, micro-, and meso-level analysis.

This qualitative research incorporates interviews from five educators in an attempt to capture their experiences with assimilation, their insights for classroom environment, and their reflections on the ethnic/racial identity journey of youth. Findings from these educators are categorized into three themes: 1- Assimilation, Shame, and Validation, 2- Exploration & Inclusion of Ethnic/Racial Identity, 3- Educators’ Identities and Reflections. This research emphasizes that positive ethnic/racial identity is not grounded in the belittlement of others or superiority of oneself, but the celebration of all. Implication for future professional practice is intentional ethnic/racial identity exploration in adults and youth to further empowerment and empathy.

In a Divided Nation of Big Cities and Small Towns, Caity Cronkhite Thought She Knew Where She Belonged

Michael Phillips:

Quick and eager, she was labeled a gifted student, only to discover, she said, that meant receiving less attention from teachers. When she asked for challenging work or encouragement, she said, some teachers warned her about being too big for her britches.

Beginning in middle school, her parents sent her to summer academic programs at Purdue University, where she learned how other students could take advanced-placement classes for college-credit at their high schools.

Before her freshman year at Covington High School, she wrote in her diary: “I do want to get out of here as soon as possible, & everyone knows it.”

The teenager set her sights on the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities, a state-sponsored boarding school for bright high school juniors and seniors. Her mother was immovably opposed.

Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

Selena Hoy:

It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.

They wear knee socks, polished patent leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as six or seven, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.

Parents in Japan regularly send their kids out into the world at a very young age. A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.

“What may be surprising, however, is…the fact that these growth opportunities are at best weakly correlated with early opportunities and with socioeconomic status”

Kevin Drum:

In other words, third-grade scores are probably strongly influenced by poverty and home life, while growth from third to eighth grade is probably more influenced by the quality of schooling. They have little to do with each other:

Growth rates better isolate the contribution to learning due to experiences during the schooling years. Grade 3 average scores are likely much more strongly influenced by early childhood experiences than the growth rates….Some caution is warranted in interpreting the average growth rates as pure measures of school effectiveness. Nonetheless, relative to average test scores (at grade 3 or any grade), the growth rates are closer to a measure of school effectiveness.

If we take the growth rates, then, as rough measures of school effectiveness, then neither socioeconomic conditions nor average test scores are very informative about school district effectiveness. Many districts with high average test scores have low growth rates, and vice versa. And many low-income districts have above average growth rates. This finding calls into question the use of average test scores as an accountability tool or a way of evaluating schools.

Locally, Madison spends far more than most, for average results.

Hong Kong tabloid with China links tails visiting US-Australian academic

Kate Lyons:

When Kevin Carrico landed back in Australia on Monday after spending a week in Hong Kong, his friend sent him a link to the front page of a Hong Kong tabloid.

It was covered with pictures of Carrico and details of his trip.

It seems reporters for the paper, Wen Wei Po, which is believed to have close ties to Beijing, had been following him all week, reporting details of who he met, where he went, even when he returned to his hotel to change his shirt.

There were photographs of the US-Australian academic, who works for Macquarie University in Sydney where he researches Chinese history and society, standing in the street. Another shows him at the airport about to leave the country and a third shows him in conversation with a friend in a restaurant, that was clearly taken by someone sitting a few tables away.

“Wen Wei Po is very, very closely linked with the Liaison Office, which is Beijing’s office in Hong Kong,” Carrico said. “I don’t know if this is an attempt to build up pressure to get me banned from Hong Kong, or to intimidate me from returning to Hong Kong.”

Carrico is a US citizen and Australian permanent resident and has just received a large research grant from the Australian government to undertake a project examining tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong.

Parents and superkids, then and now

Ann Hulbert:

In the fall of 1909, when two wonder boys converged on Harvard—among the first, and for a time the most famous, prodigies of the modern era—their parents proudly assumed a Pygmalion role. Norbert Wiener, the nearly 15-year-old son of the university’s first professor of Slavic languages, Leo Wiener, arrived as a graduate student in (at his father’s direction) zoology. William James Sidis (namesake and godson of the renowned Harvard psychologist who had been a mentor to his father, Boris Sidis) was admitted at 11 as a “special student” after strenuous lobbying by his father.

The two superprecocious sons of two very upwardly mobile Russian immigrants, outspoken men with accents and bushy mustaches, inspired suspense. The arrival of these brilliant boys with unusual pedigrees fit the mission of Harvard’s outgoing president, Charles William Eliot, a liberal Boston Brahmin and staunch believer in equality of opportunity. He aimed to open the university’s doors to “men with much money, little money, or no money, provided that they all have brains.” And not just brains, Eliot warned complacent WASPs, who mistook “an indifferent good-for-nothing, luxurious person, idling through the precious years of college life” for an ideal gentleman or scholar. Eliot had in mind an elite with “the capacity to prove by hard work that they have also the necessary perseverance and endurance.”

Chemists provide theoretical interpretations of experimental observations

Steve Carr:

In a lot of ways, understanding quantum mechanical equations in an effort to predict what will happen between reactants such as atoms and molecules resulting in complex phenomena in chemistry can be exhausting, and mind boggling to many. Yet, without the theoretical insights, experimental chemists would largely be unable to understand what they are observing.

Researchers at The University of New Mexico, led by Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Hua Guo, have been working with experimentalists to help them gain an understanding by providing theoretical interpretations of experimental observations.

“When scientists probe molecules they see spectral features, but it is very difficult to interpret those features because they are just lines in the spectrum,” said Guo. “That’s where we come in and provide a theoretical interpretation of their experimental observations.”

Facebook, Google and WhatsApp among tech titans told to join fight against terror or face tax blitz

Tim Shipman:

Internet giants face a multimillion-pound tax raid unless they agree to help combat the terrorist threat to ­Britain, which is at its worst “for 100 years”, the security minister revealed last night.

Ben Wallace accused internet firms of being “ruthless profiteers” that cost government a fortune by failing to assist the security ­ser­vices in identifying terrorists and stamping out extremism online.

MSU scholars find $21 trillion in unauthorized government spending; Defense Department to conduct first-ever audit

Mark Skidmore and Andy Henion:

Earlier this year, a Michigan State University economist, working with graduate students and a former government official, found $21 trillion in unauthorized spending in the departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998-2015.

The work of Mark Skidmore and his team, which included digging into government websites and repeated queries to U.S. agencies that went unanswered, coincided with the Office of Inspector General, at one point, disabling the links to all key documents showing the unsupported spending. (Luckily, the researchers downloaded and stored the documents.)

Now, the Department of Defense has announced it will conduct the first department-wide, independent financial audit in its history (read the Dec. 7 announcement here).

The Defense Department did not say specifically what led to the audit. But the announcement came four days after Skidmore discussed his team’s findings on USAWatchdog, a news outlet run by former CNN and ABC News correspondent Greg Hunter.

“While we can’t know for sure what role our efforts to compile original government documents and share them with the public has played, we believe it may have made a difference,” said Skidmore, the Morris Chair in State and Local Government Finance and Policy at MSU.

Living in a parking lot amid Santa Barbara’s wealth is a kind of middle-class homelessness

Steve Lopez:

You might ask why people of lesser means don’t head to less expensive areas than Santa Barbara — it’s a fair question, and I’ve written about people who eventually did make such a move. In Santa Barbara, the answers I got were the same ones I’ve heard elsewhere in coastal California. People hold open the option of leaving, but many are connected to specific places by history, family and employment connections, and they’re not quite ready to give up on a turnaround, move to a place they don’t know, and start over from scratch.

Besides that, local economies rely on those of lesser means, so where are they supposed to live?

Civics: NSA Secretly Helped Convict Defendants in U.S. Courts, Classified Documents Reveal

Trevor Aaronson:

“The government intercepts Americans’ emails and phone calls in vast quantities using this spying law and stores them in databases for years,” said Patrick Toomey, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “FBI agents around the country then go searching through that trove of data as a matter of course, including in domestic criminal investigations. Yet, over almost a decade, only a handful of individuals have ever received notice.”

America’s Antitrust Enforcement Credibility Crisis

Scott Cleland:

First this white paper spotlights: the failure of America’s antitrust enforcement to “protect the process of competition,” from three enduring and extending, intermedia monopolies and four active market cartelizations; and the causes of this systemic failure, i.e. lax and asymmetric antitrust enforcement driven by an anticompetitive U.S. Government Internet-first industrial policy and law.
The U.S. Government is the problem here. America’s Internet-first industrial policy experiment and law in the bipartisan 1996 Telecom Act1 and in the bipartisan 1997 U.S. Framework for Global Electronic Commerce,2 has proven twenty years later to be an inherently pro-monopolization policy in heavily-favoring the economic and competitive interests of Internet intermediary platforms and technologists over non-Internet competition or consumer interests. This bipartisan Internet policy failure, calls for bipartisan solutions.
This paper summarizes the evidence of America’s three standard monopolizing distribution networks — Google Standard Data, Facebook Standard Social, and Amazon Standard Commerce — and how U.S. lax and asymmetric antitrust enforcement facilitated their respective dominances and consumer harms. Then this paper summarizes four ignored, derivative cartelization dynamics taking control of America’s information economy today: i.e. intermedia cartelization bottlenecking the economy; digital advertising cartelization; search ecosystem cartelization; and cartelization of U.S. Internet startup financing.
Second, this white paper spotlights how U.S. Internet-first industrial policy standards have conflicted with, undermined, and arbitraged U.S. antitrust enforcement, and the otherwise sound Chicago School antitrust consumer welfare standard, for online intermediary platforms. These competition-distorting, Internet-first industrial policy standards are: 1) Competition Double Standard, where the 1996 Telecom Act now regulates the same technologies oppositely, despite the full Internet convergence of communications and information technologies since 1996; 2) Wild West Standard, that makes it U.S. policy that Internet companies be unfettered by Federal or State regulations that apply to every other business; and 3) Tech Welfare Standard, that uniquely protects “interactive computer services” with immunity from responsibility for negligence or consumer endangerment. No surprise that standards designed to heavily-advantage Internet companies, succeed and spawn serial monopolizations and cartelizations. Inputs drive outputs.

Civics: Facebook stops putting “Disputed Flags” on fake news because it doesn’t work

Sarah Fischer:

Facebook announced that it will no longer use “Disputed Flags” — red flags next to fake news articles — to identify fake news for users. Instead it will use related articles to give people more context about a story.

Why it’s happening: The tech giant is doing this in response to academic research it conducted that shows the flags don’t work, and they often have the reverse effect of making people want to click even more. Related articles give people more context about what’s fake or not, according to Facebook.

Why it matters: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook is a technology company that doesn’t hire journalists. Without using editorial judgement to determine what’s real and what’s not, tackling fake news will forever be a technology experiment.

Remembrance of Things Past

Lapham’s Quarterly:

To assist this weakness of our nature, many methods have been proposed, all of which may be justly suspected of being ineffectual; for no art of memory, however its effects have been boasted or admired, has been ever adopted into general use, nor have those who possessed it appeared to excel others in readiness of recollection or multiplicity of attainments.

There is another art of which all have felt the want, though Themistocles only confessed it. We suffer equal pain from the pertinacious adhesion of unwelcome images as from the evanescence of those which are pleasing and useful; and it may be doubted whether we should be more benefited by the art of memory or the art of forgetfulness.

An update on teacher workforce trends in metro Milwaukee

Anne Chapmen & Rob Henken:

In April 2016, the Public Policy Forum published Help Wanted: An analysis of the teacher pipeline in metro Milwaukee.2 This was the third in a series of reports on public school educators in the Milwaukee area. Help Wanted set out to better understand how the public teacher workforce in the Greater Milwaukee region had changed in recent years, whether the region faces a shortage of teachers, and how conditions are likely to trend in the future. Overall, the report found a challenging situation characterized by a shrinking supply of new teachers to replace a steady stream of existing teachers leaving the workforce.

Since the report’s release, national teacher workforce studies, local and national media reports, and anecdotal accounts from K-12 stakeholders have continued to point to teacher shortages as an ongoing reality of the K-12 landscape. That is the case in both public and private schools, and across both Greater Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin as a whole. While debate about this issue often focuses on its potential relationship to Wisconsin Act 10 – Wisconsin’s controversial 2011 law that restricted public employee collective bargaining – nationwide evidence of teacher shortages suggests Wisconsin’s struggles to maintain a stable teacher supply are related to a larger set of forces.
A key feature of Help Wanted was the use of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) data to analyze the pace at which teachers were moving in and out of the metro Milwaukee and Wisconsin teaching workforce, and how those teachers were distributed in terms of age and years of experience. With two additional years of data now available, this report provides an update on trends in these indicators that we hope will be useful to education leaders, policy makers, and stakeholders.

Whereas the first report spanned the 2009-10 through and 2013-14 school years, this updated analysis encompasses 2009-10 to 2015-16. We place particular emphasis on areas in which we observe considerable changes in trends over the two subsequent years. Our intent is to help inform policymakers and citizens about the dynamics of the teacher workforce in metro Milwaukee. We do acknowledge, however, that each district possesses its own distinct experiences, challenges, and successes with regard to teacher retention and recruitment.

Strawn ends historic season with 6-man state football title

Ryan Cox:

Strawn capped off an historic season with a dominating 78-42 win over Balmorhea to claim the Class 1A Six-Man Division II state championship Wednesday at AT&T Stadium.

The Greyhounds went 15-0 en route to the title — the second in school history — by compiling 488 yards of total offense. Strawn’s top-ranked defense held Balmorhea, the state’s top-ranked offense, to 394 yards and a season-low in points.

Strawn kicker K-Lani Nava not only made school history, but also state history as the senior became the first female to play and score in a championship football game. Nava converted 9 of 10 extra point attempts for the Greyhounds.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/dfwvarsity/prep-football/article190908829.html#storylink=cpy

The life behind Little House on the Prairie

Susie Boyt:

Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a subtle, intelligent and quietly explosive study not just of a woman whose Little House books have sold more than 60m copies in 45 languages, but of a very particular way of life, the life of the American pioneer. Looking deeply at the circumstances of the small farmers of the Great Plains, it examines how intricately connected their existence was to popular ideas about the American character. Prairie Fires is also an investigation of the practice of writing: of myth-making versus truth-telling, of the art of consolation, and of a strange sort of hair-raising, unboundaried, literary interdependence that developed in later life between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her writer daughter Rose Wilder Lane.

Laura Ingalls was born in Wisconsin in 1867, two years after Abraham Lincoln died, living until 1957 when “All Shook Up” by Elvis topped the charts. The backdrop to her birth was one of extreme violence, race hatred and revenge played out in the US-Dakota (or Sioux) war of 1862, culminating in a massacre clearing the way for “thousands of white families to seek their fortunes on the Great Plains”. The Ingallses were one such family. Charles Ingalls, Laura’s father, was “charming, cheerful, and musical”. He was also “an incomparable storyteller”. Laura’s mother, Caroline, who grew up close to destitution with a widowed mother and five siblings, was serene by nature, “not passive but quietly powerful”.

During the many long journeys the Ingallses undertook in their basic wagon, continually seeking better conditions in which farming and family might somehow thrive, Caroline calmly fried corncakes and brewed coffee, keeping morale afloat against the stunning landscape.