International Math Competition Defeat Prompts Soul Searching in China

Charlotte Yang:

Chinese high school students generally outperform their western peers at math — at least, that’s what many in the country believe.

That assumption was shattered Monday, when China placed a mediocre sixth at the 2019 Romanian Master of Mathematics (RMM), a major math competition for pre-university students. The U.S. won the championship for best team, while the highest individual prize went to an Israeli candidate.

Math competitions like the RMM are serious business in China, where participation can give students a leg up in university admissions.

China’s defeat on Monday prompted social media users to ask if recent Ministry of Education curbs on math competitions were misguided.

Since the ministry requested that universities limit preferential admissions for math competition participants, interest in the subject has fallen, one Weibo user said, in a comment that received 2,200 likes.“Chinese parents still take a utilitarian approach toward education.”

Others said the government should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and encourage participation from truly talented students.

Related: Connected math

Singapore Math

Discovery Math

Math Task Force

Madison schools superintendent pens open letter following Whitehorse incident, calls for action

Negassi Tesfamichael:

In an open letter to the community released Thursday morning, Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham acknowledged that the district “cannot be silent” on issues of racial justice.

The letter comes eight days after media reports surfaced regarding an alleged assault at Whitehorse Middle School. In that incident, which is still being investigated by the Madison Police Department, a white staff member allegedly pushed an 11-year-old girl and pulled her braids out. Rob Mueller-Owens, the staff member facing accusations in the Whitehorse incident, is a positive behavior support coach. He is currently on administrative leave and will not return to Whitehorse, according to MMSD.

Cheatham said in her letter that the incident at Whitehorse was “especially horrific” and said there was failure on part of the district regardless of what comes out of the police investigation.

The letter:

February 28, 2019

Dear Madison Community,

I have talked with enough people in Madison to know that racism is a problem in our community and has been for a long time. We are not immune to it. It is at times intentional and unintentional. It is everywhere, every day. It is within us and surrounds us. Any school district is a microcosm of the society we live in.

The polarization in our country today puts a tremendous amount of pressure on young people and the people who work in schools to somehow get it right, while the rest of society gets it wrong.

But as a school district that exists to protect children and cultivate the beauty and full worth of every single child, we must be held to the highest possible standard.

The series of racial slur incidents that have occurred this school year and caused harm to Black students, their families, and our community are indefensible. They run counter to our core values and our commitment to serving youth and families.

The most recent incident at Whitehorse Middle School was especially horrific. No matter what comes out of the police investigation, there was a failure on our part. We will review every fact to understand what happened so that we can take aggressive action.

If we are serious about our vision — that every school is a thriving school — we have to disrupt racism in all of its forms. We cannot be silent. We cannot perpetuate it. We must examine everything. In no way can we, as a community of educators, accommodate or make excuses for actions that hurt the very students we have dedicated our lives to help.

As the superintendent of this school district, as a leader for racial justice, as a mother, I know I’ve been charged with making changes that will disrupt this pattern, and even more, uplift the students we serve. I embrace that charge and will continue to do so.

For those who are demanding meaningful change, I want you to know that there are many inside this institution who are already actively engaged in making it, including our staff of color and white coconspirators. It is through their unwavering commitment and continual push for change that we have a clearer path forward, more momentum, and cause to move faster. There are a number of critical actions currently underway. Those include:

A new system for staff, students, and families to report incidents of racism or discrimination that will launch this spring

A full review of investigation and critical response protocols to ensure they are culturally responsive, grounded in restoration, and more transparent Revision and consistent application of the MMSD equity tool to ensure current and future HR policy and practice, as well as Board policy recommendations, are developed through a racial equity lens

A refresh of the School Improvement Planning process to ensure that race, rigor and relationships are central to school based decision making

A new required professional development series for all staff on racial identity, implicit bias, and racial inequity in the United States, along with a refined support and accountability system to monitor progress

We are also committed to working alongside our community and will hold several facilitated community meetings in the next two months dedicated to building trust and ensuring our collective actions support the students and families we serve.

Last fall, we reaffirmed, more strongly than ever before, our belief in the inherent brilliance, creativity and excellence of Black youth, families, and staff. We know that requires an equal commitment to confront the practices, policies, and people that stand in the way of Black Excellence shining through.

I promise this community that we are going to work hard to get it right. I know we will continue to be challenged. More issues will likely surface. And we will be relentless in our efforts. This is the work we signed up for. Most important, we will listen and learn in a way that models the best instincts of this community that we love.

In partnership,


Jennifer Cheatham

Related: Graduation rates and non reading in the Madison School District:

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at East, especially if you are black or Hispanic. But when 70 percent of your minority students earn diplomas and fewer than 20 percent of them are able to read at grade level, what does that high school diploma mean?

East ninth-graders who don’t know how to read might not want to go to school (because they don’t know how to read!) and thus might be chronically absent. They might not want to go to class (because they don’t know how to read!) and thus might engage in disruptive activities elsewhere. And they might not be able to keep up (because they don’t know how to read!) and thus might fail.

Rather than focus so heavily on attendance, behavior, and socioemotional learning, as described in the article, teachers and administrators should prioritize teaching students how to read. Students who know how to read are more likely to come to school, go to class, work hard, and have a meaningful and rewarding post-high school life.

David Blaska:

But nothing about holding parents and students responsible for their actions. Nothing about requiring children to obey their teacher. Nothing about parents’ responsibility to read to their children and instruct them to be good citizens. Nothing about maintaining civility at school board meetings.

What is more, Cheatham appears to have thrown that vice principal at Whitehorse middle school under the bus. Perhaps the superintendent is in a position to know the whole story. Perhaps she is yielding to the strongest voices.

“No matter what comes out of the police investigation, there was a failure on our part.”

In would be interesting to know exactly what was that failure?

Top Chinese officials plagiarised doctoral dissertations

Tom Hancock & Nicolle Liu:

Several senior Chinese officials have apparently copied portions of their university thesis from other authors without citation, an FT analysis has found, highlighting how an “academic arms race” among the political elite may be fuelling plagiarism.

China’s politicians are on paper among the world’s best educated: the elite politburo, composed of the 25 most senior Communist party officials, boasts seven doctoral graduates including Xi Jinping, the president, who obtained a law doctorate from Beijing’s Tsinghua University in 2002.

But the doctoral dissertation by Chen Quanguo, a politburo member and head of the Communist party in the northwestern Xinjiang region, features dozens of paragraphs identical to earlier works that are not cited.

Civics: Jihadi brides and the meaning of citizenship

Royal Khalaf:

There’s at least one for every country. They have names like Shamima, Mathilde and Hoda. Some are barely adults; others are now nearing middle-age. Some are repenting their sins; others remain defiant.

These are the western women lured to Syria and Iraq to marry Isis fighters. Just a few years ago, they were the cause of much soul searching in western societies and a fair amount of tension within Muslim minorities. With the Isis caliphate now collapsing, and the captured women demanding to return home with their children, a new debate is raging. This time, it is over the responsibility of states towards them and the rights and obligations attached to citizenship.

From London, to Paris and Washington, governments are trying to wash their hands of the women. Some are turning a blind eye to their existence, while others seek to strip the dual nationals among them of their citizenship (international law prohibits revoking citizenship only if it renders the person stateless). In the US, the authorities have argued that Hoda Muthana from Alabama should have never been given her American citizenship in the first place.

In effect, governments are shifting responsibility for their nationals on to other actors far less equipped to deal with them. In the UK, the case of Shamima Begum, the 19-year-old of Bangladeshi heritage, has been much publicised. The Home Office says her citizenship will be revoked, arguing that she has an alternative nationality, though Bangladesh insists it will not grant it. For now at least, she will remain in a internment camp in Syria. Her case, which is likely to play out in the courts, has raised an important question: are citizenship rights for dual nationals more conditional than those of single nationals?

“We Know Best”, Redux

Margot Cleveland:

Two recent bills proposed by state legislators in Illinois and Iowa reveal a disturbing perspective on parental rights that’s becoming more prevalent in our country: the belief that parents cannot be trusted to care for their children.

The Swiftly-Defeated Illinois Bill

In Illinois, a little over a week ago, Democratic state Rep. Monica Bristow introduced House Bill 3560. That bill sought to amend the school code to require the Child Protective Service unit of the Department of Children and Family Services to investigate the home of a child being homeschooled “to ensure there is no suspected child abuse or neglect in the home.” The proposed law would have applied to every child being homeschooled, even when there was no reason to suspect neglect or abuse.

The response of homeschooling families was swift. “We live in such a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ culture,” Amy Kwilinski, an Illinois homeschooling mom of six (including four with special needs) told The Federalist. “It seems like our culture is headed toward a mistrust of homeschooling, which might send us dangerously toward a German-like ban,” Kwilinski added, noting that she plans to contact all of her elected officials.

Other homeschooling parents apparently felt similarly, because within days of Bristow’s bill being referred to the Rules Committee, the sponsor filed a motion to table the bill. In less than a week, HB 3560 was dead.

Former Madison School Board member Ed Hughes:

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wage Stagnation: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

Scott Alexander:

Median wages tracked productivity until 1973, then stopped. Productivity kept growing, but wages remained stagnant.

This is called “wage decoupling”. Sometimes people talk about wages decoupling from GDP, or from GDP per capita, but it all works out pretty much the same way. Increasing growth no longer produces increasing wages for ordinary workers.

Is this true? If so, why?

Locally, Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district spends far more than most, now around $20,000 per student.

Researcher: School boundaries and segregation are linked

Roger McKinney:

He said each instance where schools are rezoned can be an opportunity to address segregation. He said very few districts draw bad boundaries that exacerbate racial segregation.

He said many studies show that the achievement gap between black and white students is closed when schools are desegregated and the gap widens when they are segregated. The achievement gap has been a persistent issue in Columbia Public Schools.

“School districts desegregate when it seems to be badly needed,” Monarrez said. “Desegregation involves more travel. This is sort of the price of desegregating the school.”

He said it’s a trade-off that districts can consider.

“The only way to desegregate schools is to make people travel farther,” he said. Monarrez said districts seem to think about these issues when they’re drawing boundaries.

Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Civics: Outrage culture is out of control

Nancy Rommelmann:

It was 9:30 at night when my husband slid his iPad across the bed to me. On it was an email an ex-employee had sent to current and former staff of his coffee-roasting company in Portland, Ore. The ex-employee explained that a new YouTube series I was hosting, #MeNeither Show, in which another journalist and I discussed, among other topics, some excesses of the #MeToo movement, was “vile, dangerous and extremely misguided.”

She considered the show hostile to assault survivors, and felt it her duty to alert several newspapers that my opinions posed a potential threat to my husband’s female employees and the community at large.

I told my husband it would blow over. After all, there was no suggestion in the email that he’d ever been inappropriate; only that my views were dangerous. And I hadn’t worked in the business in anything but a supportive capacity for two years.

Independent Students Slam China-Backed Intimidation on Overseas Campuses

Radio Free Asia:

An independent group of overseas Chinese students has hit out at Communist Party-backed student groups on overseas campuses, following reports that they threatened and harassed Uyghur and Tibetan activists campaigning against Beijing’s human rights violations.

The Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in USA (IFCSS) said it was “deeply concerned” about reports that have emerged from universities in the United States, Canada, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands of the coordinated targeting of activists campaigning against China’s treatment of ethnic minorities.

It said that “apparently organized pro-CCP (Chinese Communist Party) students harassed, abused and threatened Uyghur and Tibetan students, concerned scholars and activists,” in incidents at McMaster University and the University of Toronto in Canada, and Duke University in the U.S.

Similar reports have also emerged from students at the University of Strasbourg in France and University College Dublin and from activists in the Netherlands, it said.

Politicized Schools Are Radically Transforming Our Nation

Jay Schalin:

If somebody wanted to fundamentally transform society to its roots, where would he or she start?

The most logical starting point would be education. And if there were one part of the educational system that would produce this transformation most broadly, effectively, and efficiently, it would most likely be at our schools of education that train teachers for the K-12 classroom. That’s where ideas from the rest of academia are inserted into the curriculum for elementary and high school students, and where politically unsophisticated young people are turned into classroom teachers. Control the schools of education, and the education system will eventually be yours to forward your political agenda.

Remarkably, that is just what has happened in this country. Over 100 years ago, when our education schools were just starting up or growing from two-year normal schools to university status, Progressive educators set out to transform the nation into one that was based on social science theories, collectivism, and central planning.

How successful were they? Several years ago, I started an investigation into how politicized education schools have become. Today, the Martin Center is releasing the results of that investigation in a new report, titled “The Politicization of University Schools of Education.”

Oscar-Nominated Minding the Gap Director Bing Liu on America’s Masculinity Crisis

E. Alex Jung:

For all the conversation lately about portraits of masculinity in the Midwest (or lack thereof), one of the most quietly stirring comes from Bing Liu’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Minding the Gap. Centering around a love of skateboarding, the documentary initially follows three skaters living in Rockford, Illinois — Keire Johnson, Zack Mulligan, and the filmmaker himself — before revealing what these lost boys had in common: a life marked by domestic violence. Slowly, the narrative digs into deeper grooves, and we see Zack become abusive to his girlfriend Nina, and Liu discussing his own childhood abuse at the hands of his stepfather in a raw discussion with his mother. Liu filmed most of the footage over a five-year span between 2012 and 2017, but he also draws from a well of archival footage that captures the inexorable loss of childhood. In a conversation over coffee in New York, we discussed the curious intimacy of interviews, how the violence he experienced was racialized, and his Oscar nomination.

How does it feel to be interviewed, as opposed to being the interviewer?
It’s been an opportunity to reflect, and it’s almost part of the journey, because I get to understand and explore the meaning of the film and dissect it as if I were just a critic deconstructing the film.

UW officials address sweeping changes affecting Wisconsin campuses, say layoffs avoided at Stevens Point

Margaret Cannon:

A proposal at UW-Stevens Point to cut majors in the humanities as part of a restructuring that could also lead to faculty layoffs grabbed national headlines.

But Cross said Wednesday that Stevens Point had pared back the restructuring and was able to avoid laying off tenured faculty.

“Never in the history of the United States, have we needed the humanities more than we do today,” Cross said.

Is It in Facebook’s Interest to Protect the Privacy of Users?

Tekla Perry:

Facebook’s business model is about trust, not about collecting data and monetizing it, and if it could just communicate that concept more clearly, everything would be better.

That’s the message Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, Rob Sherman, tried to get across to a crowded auditorium at Stanford University earlier this month. Sherman was speaking at a session of a Stanford Continuing Studies course titled “The Ethics of Technological Innovation.” The panel of Stanford faculty and staff members, along with representatives from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reviewed a wide range of privacy issues in an increasingly connected world. But the discussion kept coming back to Facebook, and whether anyone really believes the social media company is out to protect users and their privacy.

All panelists agreed that privacy is an important right. Sherman was quick to point out, however, that privacy is not a simple on-off switch. “People are on Facebook because they want to share information about themselves,” he said. “A lot of privacy is being able to choose what you are sharing and with whom, [and] knowing who has information about you and how they are using it.” Facebook’s goal is to make privacy “right for what each person wants,” he added.

Life and society are increasingly governed by numbers

The Economist:

MEASUREMENTS PERVADE life and society. Infants are weighed the moment they blink into the world. Pupils are graded. Schools are judged on their students’ performance, universities on graduates’ job prospects. Companies monitor the productivity of employees while CEOs watch the share price. Countries tabulate their GDP, credit-rating agencies assess their economies, investors eye bond yields. The modern world relies on such data. It would cease to function without them.

North Carolina proposes lowering ‘F’ grade to just 39 percent

Jeff Tavss:

Student grades would be unaffected by the changing scale system, but would allow underperforming schools to continue operating.

Related: Yet: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Kaleem Caire:

“If we don’t reach our benchmarks in five years, they can shut us down”. There is no public school in Madison that has closed because only 7 to 9% of black children have been reading at grade level for the last 20 to 30 years”.

2009: 1 year summary of Madison’s “standards based report cards”.

Resisting taxpayer oversight and the open records law at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Jessie Opoien:

A WILL spokesman said on Tuesday that the organization had received the documents and its attorneys are currently reviewing them.

“It is deeply disappointing it has taken DPI months to comply with our request,” said WILL deputy counsel Tom Kamenick in a statement. “The public has a right to know how DPI is spending their money and whether any laws are being violated. Hopefully next time, DPI will do a better job at promptly responding to open records requests to avoid litigation.”

In response to the lawsuit and the judge’s ruling, DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said earlier this month that the records WILL had requested required redaction and staff time to prepare. McCarthy said the agency was following the open records law and would continue to do so.

According to the lawsuit, WILL first requested three sets of ESSA-related records in August 2018, then sent a follow-up email the following month. A DPI employee said the request was in progress on Sept. 21, 2018.

Kamenick followed up again on Nov. 12, and the request was partially fulfilled the following day. Portions of the request were denied for being “insufficiently specific” and “unreasonably burdensome,” and WILL send a narrowed request the following month, which DPI acknowledged on Dec. 13.

Related: The DPI, lead by Mr. Evers, granted thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirement exemptions.

Yet: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America

Casey Newton:

Over the past three months, I interviewed a dozen current and former employees of Cognizant in Phoenix. All had signed non-disclosure agreements with Cognizant in which they pledged not to discuss their work for Facebook — or even acknowledge that Facebook is Cognizant’s client. The shroud of secrecy is meant to protect employees from users who may be angry about a content moderation decision and seek to resolve it with a known Facebook contractor. The NDAs are also meant to prevent contractors from sharing Facebook users’ personal information with the outside world, at a time of intense scrutiny over data privacy issues.

But the secrecy also insulates Cognizant and Facebook from criticism about their working conditions, moderators told me. They are pressured not to discuss the emotional toll that their job takes on them, even with loved ones, leading to increased feelings of isolation and anxiety. To protect them from potential retaliation, both from their employers and from Facebook users, I agreed to use pseudonyms for everyone named in this story except Cognizant’s vice president of operations for business process services, Bob Duncan, and Facebook’s director of global partner vendor management, Mark Davidson.

How should we read Thucydides?

Johanna Hanink:

On August 11, 1777, John Adams, then a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in session in Philadelphia, wrote a letter to his ten-year-old son, John Quincy. In light of the ongoing War of Independence and with a mind to other wars and “Councils and Negotiations” that the future might hold for the boy, Adams urged him “to turn your Thoughts early to such Studies, as will afford you the most solid Instruction and Improvement for the Part which may be allotted you to act on the Stage of Life.” He gave one recommendation in particular: “There is no History, perhaps, better adapted to this usefull Purpose than that of Thucidides.” For Adams, Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War contained within it insight of every possible “usefull” sort: “You will find it full of Instruction to the Orator, the Statesman, the General, as well as to the Historian and the Philosopher.”

For centuries, Thucydides has been made to wear each of those very hats. Politicians and military personnel, historians, political scientists, and classicists have all laid claim, often in radically different ways, to his work and wisdom. Today, the History enjoys a status—in university curricula, among political theorists, and in military and policy communities—as a foundational source for theorizations of democracy, international relations, war, and human and state behavior. Thucydides himself might not be disappointed to know this, for toward the beginning of his History he announces that he has composed his work with future ages in mind:

Transgender runners finish 1-2 in Connecticut Women’s track event

Pat Eaton-Robb:

She recently finished second in the 55-meter dash at the state open indoor track championships. The winner, Terry Miller of Bloomfield High, is also transgender and set a girls state indoor record of 6.95 seconds. Yearwood finished in 7.01 seconds and the third-place competitor, who is not transgender, finished in 7.23 seconds.

Miller and Yearwood also topped the 100-meter state outdoor championships last year, and Miller won the 300 indoors this season.

Critics say their gender identity amounts to an unfair advantage, expressing a familiar argument in a complex debate for transgender athletes as they break barriers across sports around the world from high school to the pros.

“I have learned a lot about myself and about other people through this transition. I always try to focus most on all of the positive encouragement that I have received from family, friends and supporters,” Yearwood said. “I use the negativity to fuel myself to run faster.”

Connecticut is one of 17 states that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to, which tracks state policies in high school sports across the country. Seven states have restrictions that make it difficult for transgender athletes to compete while in school, like requiring athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate, or allowing them to participate only after going through sex-reassignment procedures or hormone therapies.

The other states either have no policy or handle the issue on a case-by-case basis.

Civics: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the Center for Strategic & International Studies Event on Defending Rule of Law Norms

Rod Rosenstein:

Good afternoon. I am grateful to the Center for Strategic and International Studies for hosting this discussion about the rule of law.

A prosperous and safe society needs to vest people with the power to govern – the ability to set enforceable rules, punish violations, and act on behalf of the people. The question is how the governing power shall be exercised. One of our nation’s founders, John Adams, advocated “a government of laws, not of men.” The goal is for the people who exercise government power to act in accordance with neutral principles and fair processes, while respecting individual rights.

The idea dates at least to the fourth century BC, when Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens.”

Last year, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation explaining that “we govern ourselves in accordance with the rule of law rather [than] … the whims of an elite few or the dictates of collective will. Through law, we have ensured liberty.”

As the President recognized, law provides the framework for freedom. At its best, law reflects moral choices; principled decisions that promote society’s best interests and protect citizens’ fundamental rights.

John MacArthur Maguire described law as a system of “wise restraints that make men free.” The restraints preserve liberty because they are prescribed in advance, and they apply to everyone, without regard to rank or status.

China tries to stop academics from taking its constitution literally

The Economist:

A year before Xi Jinping became China’s leader, a 47-year-old professor at Peking University, Zhang Qianfan, delivered a talk to mark the 100th anniversary of the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty, in 1911, charting the history of efforts since then to instil respect for constitutional principles. Students unable to find seats in the packed lecture theatre stood shoulder-to-shoulder around the walls. They grinned and clapped when he started by saying: “I have written down my true feelings…They may sound fierce. Forgive me if they cause offence.”

The thin, bespectacled academic held his audience spellbound. Those who, unable to find space in the room, had crowded by the doorway, were still there when he finished, almost two hours later. That was fortunate, because his final point was the most powerful in a lecture packed with indictments of China’s failure to implement the guarantees of its constitution, including freedom of speech, of assembly and of association. Mr Zhang wrapped up by listing 12 places where authoritarian rule had (at least briefly) crumbled, from the Soviet Union to Taiwan to countries that had recently experienced the Arab spring. “What [their] people can do,” he said, “the Chinese”—and here he paused briefly while the audience began to laugh and clap—“people can certainly do.” Wild applause ensued. Someone cried, “Good!”

The telling

Jesse Bering:

frayed leather wallet. A broken watch. Some coins. A ballpoint pen missing a screw. For 11-year-old Maddy Reid, this was all that remained of her soft-spoken accountant father … an assortment of 59-year-old George Reid’s meagre belongings emptied onto the kitchen table. ‘It’s gruesome, I know, but I think they still had his blood on them.’

And then there was the music; those hauntingly familiar tunes. ‘For years growing up, there were songs that immediately made me think of him,’ said Maddy, now a 49-year-old artist living in Cornwall. ‘Like, this is going to sound ridiculous, but you know that old song Big John? It’s such an old one, a Western. Dad grew up in Belfast but he was born in Georgia, and he seemed to have an American influence in his musical taste.’

On 25 March 1980, Maddy and her brother, Philip, 14, had just got home from school when there was an unexpected knock at the door. There, were two policemen, solemn-looking, hats removed, asking to speak with their mother. ‘You just think, what’s going on? What’s this about?’ said Maddy. ‘Mum goes into another room with them. They leave, she comes back into the kitchen, sits down at the table and – I’ll never forget this – she has that clear plastic bag with my dad’s stuff in it. “Right,” she tells us. “Your father’s dead. He’s killed himself. He jumped in front of a train. Here’s what he had on him.”’

Is the Campus Free-Speech Crisis Overblown?

Wall Street Journal:

The Real Snowflakes

“Is it as crazy as it looks?” As a student at the University of California at Berkeley, that’s one of the first questions my parents’ friends ask. No, I tell them, it’s not that bad. There is a loud minority that gets disproportionate attention in the news. But most of us on campus enjoy the free exchange of ideas.

It’s true, there’s a liberal bias. Conservatives sometimes hold back their opinions in the classroom for fear of opprobrium. There’s an irony here: The same students who mock “snowflakes” asking for safe spaces are often the ones complaining they’re uncomfortable voicing their beliefs in the classroom. The social pressure is real enough; but if safe spaces aren’t necessary, speak up. The professor isn’t going to fail you. Well, not most of them, anyway.

—Patrick Laird, University of California at Berkeley, business and political science

Madison school board’s chickens are roosting

David Blaska:

Tony Gallli, dean of the Madison’s broadcast journalists at WKOW-TV27, asked our favorite candidate for Madison School Board Seat #4:

Any concerns over using a live feed into the MMSD auditorium Monday evening to satisfy the Open Meetings requirement, as the school board met in a room closed to the public?

Blaska answered: “None whatsoever. They did what they had to do. But they have also reaped the bitter fruit of their policy of bowing and scraping.”

The disruption of Monday’s Board of Education meeting is of a piece with the disruption in our classrooms. The same sense of victim entitlement. Rules allowing everyone gets to speak for three minutes? Just another sign of white supremacy. Shout down those with whom you disagree. Good behavior, optional. The school board does the same run-and-hide practiced by that former principal at Sherman middle school. When the kids act up, go to your office and close the door.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison School Board moves to closed room after middle school incident sparks outrage

Logan Wroge:

Throughout the public comment period, board members faced accusations of racism and white supremacy for not doing enough to improve the school environment for students of color.

Brandi Grayson, co-founder of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, said black children act out in school because they are “dehumanized every day, all day.”

“Because it’s under your watch, you are accountable,” Grayson said of the Whitehorse incident.

Several people connected the Feb. 13 incident at the East Side middle school to the contentious issue of school-based police officers at Madison’s four comprehensive high schools, saying both are based on systems of institutional racism.

“We demand that you dismantle school policing systems,” said Zon Moua, a staff member of social justice organization Freedom Inc. “We demand that you divest from law enforcement and school militarization.”

Madison School Board Takes Cover:

… Blaska was speaking heresy to the apostles of the Cult of Victimhood who have indicted an entire school district, its elected school board and its teaching staff of racism most foul here in liberal-progressive-socialist Madison….

Blaska agreed with the idea of accountability and ran with it when it was his three minutes to address the school board. He further suggested that parents and students should also be held accountable. This drew loud opprobrium from the masses behind me, to the effect that such a sentiment evinced white supremacism.

Blaska should have stated that teachers can teach all they want but children will not learn unless they are so disposed. The fact (insofar as we know the facts) is that the 11-year-old ignored and/or resisted the classroom teacher’s instruction. Now, is it so very antediluvian to suggest that a student ought to obey a teacher’s command? Or should the teacher respond, “Well, if you really don’t want to, never mind”?


Related: 2019 Madison School Board election.

Gangs and school violence forum.

Yet: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

China’s social credit system shows its teeth, banning millions from taking flights, trains

He Huifeng:

Millions of Chinese individuals and businesses have been labelled as untrustworthy on an official blacklist banning them from any number of activities, including accessing financial markets or travelling by air or train, as the use of the government’s social credit system accelerates.

The annual blacklist is part of a broader effort to boost “trustworthiness” in Chinese society and is an extension of China’s social credit system, which is expected to give each of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score.

The social credit system assigns both positive and negative scores for individual or corporate behaviour in an attempt to pressure citizens into behaving.

Electronic Contracts and the Illusion of Consent

Brett Frischmann:

Yet electronic contracting and the illusion of consent-by-clicking are a sham.

I was excited to see the editorial board of the New York Times publish “How Silicon Valley Puts the ‘Con’ in Consent” on February 2, 2019. They dispelled the illusion and asked the obvious question: “If no one reads the terms and conditions, how can they continue to be the legal backbone of the internet?” If only they’d provided answers.

I’ll give some below, but first, let me explain where the Times got sidetracked.

In diagnosing the “con,” the editors emphasize privacy. It’s all about the data. Contracts and the illusion of consent by clicking enable surveillance and complex, hidden and varied data flows. The editors argue for “strong privacy protections,” which makes good sense.

Privacy is a necessary thing to talk about, but it’s just a copse of trees. The forest is humanity. As Evan Selinger and I argue in our book Re-Engineering Humanity, especially the chapter titled “Engineering Humans with Contracts,” the more fundamental concern is how the click-to-contract human-computer interface nudges humans to behave automatically, without thinking, like simple machines. Much more is surrendered than hidden data flows. The click-to-contract script is dehumanizing.

U.S. Is a Rich Country With Symptoms of a Developing Nation

Noah Smith:

The other day I was late to dinner, but it wasn’t my fault. Traffic was backed up throughout the city of San Francisco, because chunks of concrete had started falling from the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a particularly unusual occurrence — in 2016, the Bay Bridge was shut after concrete chunks began to fall from the walls of a tunnel. Nor are such issues limited to bridges — the $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center was closed in late 2018 when cracks were discovered in the beams.

These little examples are the kind of incidents that one might expect to see in a developing country where things are built cheaply or badly. But California has ruinously high construction costs; Governor Gavin Newsom recently canceled most of the state’s high-speed rail plan after the price tag ballooned from $45 billion to $75 billion. And these problems aren’t limited to California; across the country, construction costs for both the public and private sectors have swelled as productivity has stagnated or fallen. It costs much more to build each mile of train in the U.S. than in heavily unionized France. No one seems to be able to put their finger on the reason — instead, the U.S. simply seems riddled with corruption, inefficient bidding, high land-acquisition costs, overstaffing, regulatory barriers, poor maintenance, excessive reliance on consultants and other problems. These seemingly minor inefficiencies add up to a country that has forgotten how to build. Unsurprisingly, much of the country’s infrastructure remains in a state of disrepair.

At this fast food drive through, the person taking your order might not be a person at all

Peter Holley:

The drive through window is often considered the most harrowing assignment inside a fast-food restaurant.

A nonstop whirlwind of multitasking, the gig involves organizing multiple orders, communicating with the kitchen, counting money and negotiating with an endless stream of customers who range from polite and coherent to angry and inebriated — all for a minimum wage reward.

If that juggling act wasn’t hard enough, a giant timer hangs in many drive through kitchens, adding urgency to each task, former workers say.

Though the drive through gantlet has broken many a fast food worker, the newest employee at Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in Denver will not be feeling the heat anytime soon. That’s because she’s an artificially intelligent voice assistant — emotion-free and immune to stress — with the ability to operate a drive through window without fatigue, bathroom breaks or compensation.

Is the World Getting Better or Worse?

Bruce Eau:

2018 marked the fiftieth anniversary of what I think of as the last great revolution—the chaos of 1968, when the Vietnam War began to turn, student protests erupted, and the Prague Spring came to a crushing end. Today, North America is facing not one but two revolutions: a revolution of possibility and a revolution of negation.

This may not feel like a particularly revolutionary time. But, if we look closely, we can see current economic, social, and political forces pulling us in two directions. One direction will accelerate us forward, the other backwards. We will decide our fate by the revolution we embrace.

The revolution of possibility is driven by education, science, innovation, and design. It is a cluster of scientific and technological revolutions, all feeding one another. It is about access to wealth, health, and personal freedom.

The revolution of negation is driven by superstition and fear. It is a different sort of cluster—of ignorance, despair, greed, racism, and hatred. It is about shutting other people out and protecting only ourselves. In one version of events, we act collectively; in the other, we hoard our wealth and act alone.

PISA Is a Unique Resource for Testing Educational Attainment of 15-Year-Olds in 78 Countries. Adding 40 More Would Be a Mistake

Mark Schneider:

In a recent commentary in Ed Week, I discussed two emerging problems in PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). I identified OECD’s insufficient attention to research and development (driven in part by its pursuit of “innovative” topics) and the too-short three-year testing cycle (which is outdated by new assessment technologies). Here I want to focus on yet another emerging problem: OECD’s global ambitions for PISA.

OECD serves as a forum in which the governments of 36 advanced democracies with market-based economies plus the European Union work together to address common problems and identify best practices. Since 1961, it has been a source of market-friendly, evidence-based research and policy advice.

As OECD has expanded its membership from its original 20 countries, the number of nations administering PISA has grown even faster, from 32 in the year 2000 to 78 last year (including some Chinese provinces and other subnational entities). With that growth, the composition of the countries participating in PISA has changed dramatically. Member nations represented almost 90 percent of PISA participants in 2000 but less than half in 2018. By 2030, OECD wants to add some 40 more countries to PISA, further diluting the representation of its members.

PISA is a unique international resource, so it is not surprising that many countries want to participate in the assessment, something encouraged by OECD’s secretariat. But the logistical challenge of the undertaking is already formidable. In 2018, PISA assessed nearly 1 million 15-year-olds across the globe, accommodating 131 languages in communities ranging from rural impoverished to urban affluent. Adding 40 more countries will amplify these challenges.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Three New Governors Face Three Old Pension Disasters

Brian Chappatta:

Illinois, among other things, wants to issue $2 billion of debt and inject the proceeds directly into its pensions, on top of its annual payment:

The potential borrowing is part of a broader plan by the new governor to tackle Illinois’s $134 billion debt to its pension funds, one that also includes raising taxes and potentially handing government assets like office buildings over to the retirement system. [Deputy governor Dan] Hynes said last week that the $2 billion would supplement Illinois’s annual contribution — not be used to cover it — in a wager that the investment earnings will reduce what the state owes.

Pritzker’s approach, if enacted as proposed, would mark a break from how previous governors used pension bonds to cover their annual payments or hold down such contributions. That practice drove Illinois deeper into the hole as it failed to set aside enough money each year to ensure that the state will be able to pay for all the benefits that have been promised to employees.

Connecticut, which last year took the unprecedented step of bailing out its capital, Hartford, is considering a plan to shift a quarter of its teachers’ pension costs to municipalities 1 :

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Favorite Literature Books


I am often asked by journalists for a list of my “favorite books” –I don’t know what “favorite” means for a journalist. I treat books as friends; you miss them when you don’t see them for a while. Perhaps the best test of one’s appreciation for a novel is whether one craves it at times, enough to reread it. Rereading a novel is far more enjoyable than reading it for the first time. Many I have read more than twice, some (like Il deserto dei tartari, un taxi mauve, Paulina 1881,…), more than five times.

Up to the age of 25, you read wholesale & in a mercenary way, to “acquire” a possession, to build a “literary culture”, & do not tend to re-read except when necessary. After 25, you lose your hang-up and start re-reading –and it is precisely what you re-read that reveals your literary soul, what you like.

As with friendship: you do not judge friends, you do not mix business & friendship; I even physically separate literature from more functional books (different libraries; I feel I am corrupting literature by having scientific or the philistinic “nonfiction” in the same area).

Four new DNA letters double life’s alphabet

Matthew Warren:

The DNA of life on Earth naturally stores its information in just four key chemicals — guanine, cytosine, adenine and thymine, commonly referred to as G, C, A and T, respectively.

Now scientists have doubled this number of life’s building blocks, creating for the first time a synthetic, eight-letter genetic language that seems to store and transcribe information just like natural DNA.

In a study published on 22 February in Science1, a consortium of researchers led by Steven Benner, founder of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Alachua, Florida, suggests that an expanded genetic alphabet could, in theory, also support life.

“It’s a real landmark,” says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. The study implies that there is nothing particularly “magic” or special about those four chemicals that evolved on Earth, says Romesberg. “That’s a conceptual breakthrough,” he adds.

Normally, as a pair of DNA strands twist around each other in a double helix, the chemicals on each strand pair up: A bonds to T, and C bonds with G.

For a long time, scientists have tried to add more pairs of these chemicals, also known as bases, to this genetic code. For example, Benner first created ‘unnatural’ bases in the 1980s. Other groups have followed, with Romesberg’s lab making headlines in 2014 after inserting a pair of unnatural bases into a living cell.

Gene-edited Chinese babies may have enhanced brains, scientists say

Sarah Zheng:

Controversial Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who shocked the world with claims he helped create the first gene-edited babies, may have unintentionally enhanced the brains of the children whose genes he altered, according to scientists.

He, who was found to have “seriously violated” Chinese laws in the pursuit of his work, likely changed the cognitive functions of twin girls when he used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to disable the CCR5 gene that allows HIV to infect human cells, the MIT Technology Review reported.
Neurobiologist Alcino J. Silva, from the University of California, Los Angeles, who co-authored a 2016 study that found CCR5 was linked to deficits in learning and memory, said the gene editing likely affected the babies’ brains, though the exact effect was impossible to predict.
“The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” Silva was quoted as saying.

Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

Molly Beck:

He said in the Milwaukee program especially, enrollment freezes in private voucher schools would disproportionately affect children of color living in low-income households.

“Most of our families don’t have the kind of income where they would have realistic choices,” he said at the time.

Under Evers’ proposal, voucher schools also would be banned from charging tuition for students living in poverty under the proposal and would be required to allow students to opt out of religious activities.

All teachers working in schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers would be required to be licensed like public school teachers, and all voucher schools would be required to be accredited before receiving taxpayer funds, under Evers’ proposal.

In another provision, increases in the amount of money private voucher schools receive per student would be tied to increases in the amount of money school districts could raise in revenue and receive through the state’s funding formula.

Suspend charter school expansion

Evers in his spending plan also would suspend programs created by Republicans in recent years to expand independent charter schools in school districts that have persistent gaps in academic achievement between groups of students.

The University of Wisconsin System Office of Educational Opportunity, which was created in 2015 and may authorize independent charter schools over the objection of school district officials, would be barred from authorizing new schools until 2023.

The budget proposal also seeks to prevent a flurry of new independent charter schools from opening.

Under state law, charter schools may be authorized by technical colleges, the City of Milwaukee, all UW System chancellors, the state’s tribal leaders, and the Waukesha County Executive. Evers’ budget proposal suspends the organizations’ authority to authorize new charter schools until 2023.

A spokesman for UW System did not respond to a request for comment on the proposals to suspend the system’s ability to create new charter schools.

Another program known as the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program would be eliminated. The program was created in 2015 and required public school districts receiving persistent failing grades from the state to be taken over by county officials.

The program, which was created to address low-performing schools in Milwaukee, requires the county executive to appoint a special commissioner to take over a select number of schools in a district receiving failing grades and turn them over to an outside operator.

Scott Bauer:

Evers is also calling for requiring all teachers working in private schools that accept taxpayer-funded voucher students to be licensed like public school teachers. He also wants to give taxpayers more information on property tax bills about how much of their money is going to fund voucher schools. He’s also calling for a cap on enrollment in the voucher program for students with disabilities.

Jesse Opoien:

Evers is set to deliver his first budget address Thursday evening, but has shared some details from the spending plan with reporters in the weeks leading up to it. His plans for voucher and charter schools were first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday, then shared with other reporters later that day.

Aides to the governor framed the proposal as a way to reduce property taxes and to discuss funding sources for the voucher program without affecting currently-enrolled students.

Opponents of the plan accused Evers of favoring teachers’ unions over students.

“Evers’ budget would end school choice as Wisconsin knows it,” said C.J Szafir, executive vice president of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, in a statement.

Related: The DPI, lead by Mr. Evers, granted thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirement exemptions.

Yet: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Civics: IRS analyst charged with leaking financial documents on Michael Cohen

Washington Post:

An Internal Revenue Service employee has been charged with leaking confidential government reports that described financial transactions made by President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

John Fry, an investigative analyst with the IRS in San Francisco, was charged with the unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity reports, or SARs. Such reports are meant to flag potentially unlawful financial conduct to government investigators but do not necessarily indicate wrongdoing.

According to the documents, unsealed in federal court in San Francisco, Fry is accused of sharing the reports’ contents with Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who rose to national prominence representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in litigation arising from her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump more than a decade ago. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to arranging hush-money payments to Daniels and another woman who alleged affairs with Trump.

Behind the Teacher Strikes

Wall Street Journal:

Protest signs hoisted by more than 2,600 Denver teachers would have you think this week’s school strike was “for the kids” or simply about higher wages. But the standoffs in Denver and elsewhere in recent months are also about something else: unions rejecting accountability for student performance.

Monday marked the first time in 25 years that the Denver Public Schools (DPS) faced a strike from its Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a union of 5,700 that teaches 92,000 students. The two sides reached a deal early Thursday morning that offers teachers higher base wages, but the real reason for the strike can be found in a new salary schedule that undercuts pay-for-performance bonuses.

DPS agreed to union salary demands, offering an average base salary increase of 7% to 11% for individual teachers for the 2019 school year, as well as at least cost-of-living increases in teachers’ salaries and incentives for 2020 and 2021. DPS is also boosting the bonus for teachers at priority schools to $3,000 from $2,500.

Data leak reveals China is tracking almost 2.6m people in Xinjiang

Yuan Yang:

China is closely tracking the locations of almost 2.6m people in its north-west region of Xinjiang, where Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are under a police lockdown, a data leak has revealed.

A facial-recognition company and police contractor called SenseNets collected nearly 6.7m GPS co-ordinates in one database in a 24-hour period, according to security researcher Victor Gevers who found the database.

This location data was matched to names — many of which were Uighur — as well as ID numbers, home addresses, photos, and employers, said Mr Gevers, who said he also discovered a large number of organisations were connecting to the database, including police stations, hotels, and various companies.

Over the past two years Beijing has placed more than 1m Muslims in detention in internment camps in Xinjiang, putting the region in lockdown. Beijing argues its policies are to prevent extremism.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Open Letter From New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica Regarding Amazon

State of New York
budget Director

“First, some labor unions attempted to exploit Amazon’s New York entry. The RWDSU Union was interested in organizing the Whole Foods grocery store workers, a subsidiary owned by Amazon, and they deployed several ‘community based organizations’ (which RWDSU funds) to oppose the Amazon transaction as negotiation leverage. It backfired. Initially, Whole Foods grocery stores had nothing to do with this transaction. It is a separate company. While Amazon is not a unionized workforce, Amazon had agreed to union construction and service worker jobs that would have provided 11,000 thousand union positions.

“New York State also has the most pro-worker legal protections of any state in the country. Organizing Amazon, or Whole Foods workers, or any company for that matter, is better pursued by allowing them to locate here and then making an effort to unionize the workers, rather than making unionization a bar to entrance. If New York only allows unionized companies to enter, our economy is unsustainable, and if one union becomes the enemy of other unions, the entire union movement – already in decline – is undermined and damaged.

“Second, some Queens politicians catered to minor, but vocal local political forces in opposition to the Amazon government incentives as ‘corporate welfare.’ Ironically, much of the visible ‘local’ opposition, which was happy to appear at press conferences and protest at City Council hearings during work hours, were actual organizers paid by one union: RWDSU. (If you are wondering if that is even legal, probably not). Even more ironic is these same elected officials all signed a letter of support for Amazon at the Long Island City location and in support of the application. They were all for it before Twitter convinced them to be against it.

“While there is always localized opposition, in this case it was taken to a new level. The State Senate transferred decision-making authority to a local Senator, who, after first supporting the Amazon project, is now vociferously opposed to it, and even recommended appointing him to a State panel charged with approving the project’s financing. Amazon assumed that the hostile appointment doomed the project. Of course the Governor would never accept a Senate nomination of an opponent to the project and the Governor told that to Amazon directly. The relevant question for Amazon then became whether the Senate would appoint an alternative who would approve the project.

The Obama Presidential Library That Isn’t

Jennifer Schuessler:

More broadly, there’s concern that the creation of a privately run presidential museum undermines the ideal of nonpartisan public history.

Timothy Naftali, the former director of the Richard Nixon library, where he is credited with overhauling museum exhibits to give a more honest accounting of Watergate, called the decision “a huge mistake.”

“It was astounding to me that a good presidency would do this,” Mr. Naftali said.

“It opens the door,” he added, “to a truly terrible Trump library.”

What is the role of the school board?

Donna Vukelich-Selva, via a kind email:

So, back to Madison. What is the role of the school board? What should it be? School board members must have a vision, a critical eye and a willingness to question the status quo. While some may call this “adversarial” (the same perspective that scolds an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and wants public servants to shut up and make nice), a willingness to speak truth to power, whether that power be Pearson or an administrator tangled up in data points and educator effectiveness, is at the core of being an effective advocate for our schools. We need a critical and unflinching eye that can take on the corporatist narrative and joy-killing agenda that, often with the best of intentions, has infiltrated too many public schools, including those in Madison. We need to honor the local wisdom already in our schools and community (for instance, providing a pathway from high school through a teacher education program and then back into the Madison schools) and bring in voices even when they may dissent from the administrative status quo.

To borrow from the legendary John Lewis, we need board members willing to make “good trouble”. Our schools depend on that.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School Board election, here.

KitchenAid’s Key Ingredient: Investing in Workers. ‘It’s Not a Dead-End Job Anymore.’

John Stoll:

Jennifer Hanna would be a dream hire for the many companies wrestling with talent shortages these days. Having worked in factories since 1991, she is responsible for more than 1,000 people building KitchenAid stand mixers that sit on countertops around the world.

Ms. Hanna, though, has worked for KitchenAid’s owner Whirlpool Corp. since she was a high-school graduate figuring how to pay for college. It would be hard to lure her away.

Who says Rob Mendez can’t be a head football coach?

Wayne Drehs:

IT’S THE BIGGEST weekend of the year in Gilroy, California, with more than 100,000 people visiting for the annual garlic festival. But on this late July night, 30-year-old high school football coach Rob Mendez has a taste for sushi. A young boy holds open the door as Mendez approaches his favorite spot. The coach nods and says “thank you.”

Earlier in the day, Mendez flew home from Las Vegas, a 48-hour escape before the insanity of the season begins. The lift mechanism on his wheelchair broke on the trip. And his roommate is resting back at home, exhausted from a pair of Vegas nights. But Mendez won’t give up that easily. He’s meeting me at the bar.

He rolls in wearing a plain white T-shirt and faded red San Francisco 49ers hat. Most everyone recognizes him and says hello. He’s like Norm from “Cheers.” Without his wheelchair working properly, he can’t raise its height to sit next to me at the bar. I suggest we move to a lower table and make things easier. He scoffs.

“Screw that,” he says. “I’m sitting right there at the bar next to you. Can you lift me out of my chair?”

I panic. How do you move a fully grown adult with no arms and legs? Where do I put my hands? What if I drop him? Mendez gives me directions. I unbuckle the belt around his waist and weave it through the slits torn on the sides of his shirt. I lean over, wrap my hands around him and lift him out of his chair. “Put me on your shoulder,” he says.

Survey: 51% Of Tech Industry Workers Believe President Trump Has A Point About The Media Creating Fake News

Joseph Bernstein:

Indeed, more than half (51%) of tech industry professionals “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement that “President Trump has a point when it comes to the media producing fake news.” A separate survey conducted by BuzzFeed News, of 1,000 Americans representing the national population, found that only 42% somewhat or strongly agree with that statement.*

This finding puts in new context Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s much-publicized desire to build a site for tracking journalists’ credibility — a campaign many dismissed as eccentric grandstanding but which appears to arise from a pervasive sentiment in the industry, one that appears to be stronger than in the country at large. Older employees (over 55), employees of larger tech companies, and employees of companies with over $1 billion in revenue were more likely to have a negative opinion of the media than younger employees (18-49), employees of smaller companies, and employees of companies with less than $1 billion in revenue. In addition, women in the tech industry are less likely to hold a positive opinion of the media than their male counterparts.

Tech workers’ mistrust of the press seems to stem from several sources, one of which is the perception of identity-based bias in the media’s coverage of tech companies.

Nearly 4 in 10 of tech workers (38%) and nearly half of men in the industry (45%) surveyed believe “the media has become too feminist.” (A separate survey conducted by BuzzFeed News* found that the national percentage of people who believe the media has become “too feminist” is 39%.) Over the past several years, dozens of stories have focused on the relative dearth of women working in the industry — specifically in technical jobs — and the difficulties faced by the women who work in tech.

Related: The state of journalism: 2018.

Even at Top Colleges, Graduation Gaps Persist for Poor Students

Melissa Korn:

Even at schools where at least two-thirds of students who started in 2011 graduated within six years, the gap was 6.4 percentage points. Pell recipients at those colleges stood a better chance of graduating than elsewhere, but still often significantly lagged behind their classmates. Students with Pell grants had graduation rates at least 10 percentage points lower than other students at schools including Baylor University, Catholic University of America and the University of Pittsburgh.

As selective liberal arts schools and flagship public universities open their doors wider to students from modest backgrounds, the figures show many of those schools don’t serve poor students as well as they do others.

“Access without success is a pretty hollow promise,” said Jim Spain, vice provost of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri. Based on the data, about 53% of students at Missouri who received Pell grants graduated from the school within six years, while 73% of those who didn’t receive the grants completed their programs.

The Measles Success Story In California Shows Signs Of Fading

Harriet Blair Rowan:

A rash of recent measles outbreaks in New York, Texas and Washington state shines a light on California’s largely successful effort in recent years to suppress the disease — though some of the shine might be fading.

A serious measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December 2014 and carried over into 2015 contributed to a steep increase in vaccination rates among California kindergartners over the following three years. But the gains stopped last year, according to the most recent available data.

In the 2013-14 school year, which immediately preceded the Disneyland outbreak, the percentage of kindergartners enrolled in schools boasting vaccination rates of 95 percent or above — considered the optimal level to avoid contagion — stood at 57 percent. By the 2016-17 academic year, the percentage of kindergarten pupils in schools with optimal vaccination rates had hit 90 percent. In 2017-18, however, it dipped slightly back below 90 percent.

Measles has again gained attention because of five outbreaks so far this year in the U.S., including a serious one in Washington state. Through the first week of February, 101 measles cases have been reported across 10 states. That’s compared with a preliminary count of 372 for all of 2018 and 120 in 2017.

Is British education the BeSt? You judge!

Leigh Turner:

The UK is a famously modest place and we don’t like to brag about the excellence of our universities (if you really want to know, click here). So instead I thought I’d list a few fun facts about universities in the UK.

Durham is the UK’s most haunted university (the link has the Top 10, including Exeter, York and Royal Holloway).
At Oxford all new students must swear an oath promising to protect and preserve the contents of the Bodleian Library. The oath reads: “I hereby undertake not to remove from the library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the library; and I promise to obey all rules of the library.”
University College London (UCL) was the first to admit female students on the same campus as men in 1878.
Edinburgh University boasts the UK’s Oldest Student Newspaper. ‘The Student’ was established in 1887. The paper was established by Robert Louis Stephenson, author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Civics: How the US has hidden its empire

Daniel Immerwahr:

Contrary to popular memory, the event familiarly known as “Pearl Harbor” was in fact an all-out lightning strike on US and British holdings throughout the Pacific. On a single day, the Japanese attacked the US territories of Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island and Wake Island. They also attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and they invaded Thailand.

At first, “Pearl Harbor” was not the way most people referred to the bombings. “Japs bomb Manila, Hawaii” was the headline in one New Mexico paper; “Japanese Planes Bomb Honolulu, Island of Guam” in another in South Carolina. Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, described the event as “an attack upon Hawaii and upon the Philippines”. Eleanor Roosevelt used a similar formulation in her radio address on the night of 7 December, when she spoke of Japan “bombing our citizens in Hawaii and the Philippines”.

That was how the first draft of FDR’s speech went, too: it presented the event as a “bombing in Hawaii and the Philippines”. Yet Roosevelt toyed with that draft all day, adding things in pencil, crossing other bits out. At some point he deleted the prominent references to the Philippines.

Why did Roosevelt demote the Philippines? We don’t know, but it’s not hard to guess. Roosevelt was trying to tell a clear story: Japan had attacked the US. But he faced a problem. Were Japan’s targets considered “the United States”? Legally, they were indisputably US territory. But would the public see them that way? What if Roosevelt’s audience didn’t care that Japan had attacked the Philippines or Guam? Polls taken slightly before the attack show that few in the continental US supported a military defense of those remote territories.

Roosevelt no doubt noted that the Philippines and Guam, although technically part of the US, seemed foreign to many. Hawaii, by contrast, was more plausibly “American”. Although it was a territory rather than a state, it was closer to North America and significantly whiter than the others.

Yet even when it came to Hawaii, Roosevelt felt a need to massage the point. So, on the morning of his speech, he made another edit. He changed it so that the Japanese squadrons had bombed not the “island of Oahu”, but the “American island of Oahu”. Damage there, Roosevelt continued, had been done to “American naval and military forces”, and “very many American lives” had been lost.

An American island, where American lives were lost – that was the point he was trying to make. If the Philippines was being rounded down to foreign, Hawaii was being rounded up to “American”.

Teachers with Guns

Thomas Baxter:

This essay is featured in Boston Review’s Winter 2019 issue Left Elsewhere: Finding the Future in Radical Rural America.

“I’m a teacher,” I mumble under my breath. The instructor yells another command, and we collectively pull our triggers, setting off an angry crackle of handgun fire. Twenty-three paper intruders recoil quicker than senses can register. The entire scene has the atmosphere of sport; the targets do not bleed or shoot back. Squinting through the sun’s glare, I look for the impact point, the void that would bleed the life from my hypothetical foe.

After the Newtown shooting, parents demanded to know how we would protect their children; locked doors and security cameras were not enough.

“This person is killing your students!” an instructor berates, fuming at our inadequacy.

The humanoid targets are faceless, sexless, standing over six feet tall. An hour before, the instructors informed us that most school shooters are male students. But few students, even high school males, are this tall. On the range this comparison is unspeakable, but I can’t shake the thought: we are being trained for the contingency that we have to kill a student.

“Fire!” the instructor yells again. The barrage continues.

K-12 Intimidation Climate: GO Public Schools condemns harassment of leader at home

Go Public Schools:

On the morning of Friday, February 22nd, a group of people carrying cameras banged on the door of a leader of local nonprofit GO Public Schools, awakening his family and frightening his children.

The group left leaflets with neighbors related to the Oakland teachers strike, signed only as “Oakland Community Members.” Among them were leaders of Parents United for Public Schools.
GO is a nonprofit founded 10 years ago, primarily by educators in the Oakland district, to advocate for strong public schools for all students in Oakland. The organization has advocated, among other things, for every measure to increase district funding since its inception.

Ai Weiwei’s segment was cut from ‘Berlin, I Love You’ to appease China, artist and producers say

Melissa Chan:

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s contribution to the film anthology “Berlin, I Love You” was cut from the final version released in the U.S. earlier this month. The artist and two producers say it’s because his participation was seen as a liability for securing future funding and access to China.

“The reason we were given for the episode’s removal,” Ai said, “was that my political status had made it difficult for the production team.”

The Berlin film is the latest in the series of “Cities in Love” filmmaker collaborations, which previously included New York and Paris.

Ai was blindsided. His segment had been the first completed. He only learned it had been deleted after the release of the film.

“I was completely shocked when I learned the news,” he said. “To cut the part they used to say they loved the most.”

In the course of his own query, he said he learned that one of the executive producers involved in “Berlin, I Love You” intended to create a Shanghai installment of the series and felt that an association with Ai, who frequently speaks out against the Chinese government, would reduce the chances for the next project’s access to the country.

Claus Clausen and Edda Reiser, two of the film’s producers, confirmed Ai’s story, adding that there had been no creative differences.

“It was a very special project, especially the Ai Weiwei segment,” Clausen said. “I am furious that it’s not in there.”

How 18th-Century Writers Created the Genre of Popular Science

Lorraine Boissoneault:

The story began with a warning: “I have attempted to compose a book that shall neither be too abstruse for the gay, nor too amusive for the learned,” the author wrote. “Possibly in attempting to find a middle way which would accommodate philosophy of every class, I have chosen one that will not be agreeable to any.”

So started Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, a dramatic work by French philosopher Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle. In the best-seller, published in 1686—one year before Newton’s groundbreaking Principia—Fontenelle introduced the lay public to Cartesian philosophy and the early science of the natural world. The story features two speakers, a man and a woman, discussing the features of our solar system and the use of scientific inquiry to illuminate the laws of nature. The writing proved so popular and accessible that Fontenelle’s work went through six editions during his life and was reprinted another six times by 1825.

Not only did the book pave the way for other natural philosophers (the word “scientist” wasn’t coined until 1834), it inspired an entirely new genre of writing: popular science. And with scientific subjects suddenly in vogue, more and more European citizens were swept up by the Enlightenment, that murkily defined period in the 18th-century that ushered in a new way of thinking about and exploring the world.

For Parents of Ill Children, a Growing Recognition of PTSD

Amy Dockser Marcus:

Post-traumatic stress disorder in combat soldiers is receiving greater attention and wider societal recognition. Now doctors and researchers are trying to do the same for a group that has similar symptoms: parents of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Shelly Miller of Bridgetown, Ohio, has a teenage son named Dylan who can’t walk or talk due to a rare genetic disorder. One day more than five years ago, after her husband picked him up at a summer camp, Dylan suddenly began vomiting and seizing. They raced to the emergency room, where doctors told them Dylan had suffered a concussion; the parents didn’t know how it had happened.

Although years have passed, Ms. Miller says she still has flashbacks to that summer afternoon. She replays the memory of her husband running in from the car with their child in his arms, shouting, “something is not right!” She avoids going past the camp.

It is only in recent months that Ms. Miller, after reading online about the high incidence of post-traumatic stress symptoms among parents of medically fragile children, suddenly had a name for her experiences. “I recognized myself,” she says. “It felt like an awakening.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Airbus’s Lesson for Young Socialists

Holman Jenkins, Jr.:

This should guide us in our thinking about what kind of “socialism” is possible today. Governments can tax their own people until they rebel at the ballot box, refuse to pay, or emigrate. They have no power, in our world, to dictate what kinds of goods and services and technologies (green or otherwise) the global marketplace will accept.

When the end came, it came because the A380’s last dedicated customer, the government-backed Emirates Airline of Dubai, gave up on the superjumbo. Planes in pristine condition were lingering unsold on the used-plane market. A 10-year-old jet was recently retired by Singapore Airlines . Now it’s being broken up for scrap, proving once again socialism’s knack for making grown men cry.

Boeing’s management was vilified at the time for declining to compete with Airbus to replace its own fabulously successful 747 jumbo jet. But Boeing treated its business like a business. Its forecasts showed the market was likely to evolve in ways unfavorable to another very large passenger plane.

French and German politicians ignored such considerations. They were more interested in making a showy statement about Europe’s technological prowess. Boeing chafed for decades at the subsidies they poured into Airbus. Airbus, for its part, was not above portraying the money U.S. taxpayers spent defending the free world as a backdoor handout to Boeing through its defense business. This debate is likely now to get an ugly second wind if U.S. negotiators insist that Airbus pay back the estimated $20 billion in “launch aid” the A380 failed to recoup (the answer will certainly be no).

The parallel to California’s bullet train hardly needs to be drawn. Gov. Gavin Newsom seems already to be walking back his apparent cancellation of the grossly over-budget project. He may hope that Green New Deal dollars from Washington will become available after 2020 to replace the funds California isn’t willing to provide.

Is It Good to Cooperate? Testing the Theory of Morality-as-Cooperation in 60 Societies

Oliver Scott Curry, Daniel Austin Mullins and Harvey Whitehouse:

What is morality? And to what extent does it vary around the world? The theory of “morality-as-cooperation” argues that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. Morality-as-cooperation draws on the theory of non-zero-sum games to identify distinct problems of cooperation and their solutions, and it predicts that specific forms of cooperative behavior—including helping kin, helping your group, reciprocating, being brave, deferring to superiors, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior possession—will be considered morally good wherever they arise, in all cultures. To test these predictions, we investigate the moral valence of these seven cooperative behaviors in the ethnographic records of 60 societies. We find that the moral valence of these behaviors is uniformly positive, and the majority of these cooperative morals are observed in the majority of cultures, with equal frequency across all regions of the world. We conclude that these seven cooperative behaviors are plausible candidates for universal moral rules, and that morality-as-cooperation could provide the unified theory of morality that anthropology has hitherto lacked.

10 worst colleges for free speech

Foundation for individual rights in Education:

Every January, FIRE staffers convene to compile our list of the previous year’s worst colleges for free speech. Reviewing the lowlights of the year reminds each of us that campus censors can be pretty creative. Just when you think you’ve seen everything — and over FIRE’s 20-year history, we’ve seen a lot — some enterprising college trots out a new way to clamp down on unwanted, unpopular, or simply dissenting speech.

And this year’s 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech list has a little something for everyone. No matter your political allegiances or partisan commitments, we’re willing to bet that some of you might find yourself uncomfortably sympathetic to the censors at some point reading the list.

As you’ll discover, targets of this year’s censors include an altered American flag, a sex educator, a fraternity skit, a couple of student newspapers, and two professors who testified on behalf of a former student accused of sexually assaulting a minor. So we fully anticipate that at least a few rage-tweets will soon be headed our way, as some outraged readers ask us how we can possibly stand up for that kind of expression.

Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Gail Heriot in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Report on Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation

Gail Herriot:

In January of 2018, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report entitled Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing concentration of Poverty and Resegregation. This Statement was part of that report. It critiques the report on the ground that, contrary to the what the report attempts to establish, the evidence shows that, while pockets of underfunding exist, on average, school districts that serve large numbers of minority or low-income students get somewhat more money than average. That shouldn’t end the matter though. As Commissioner Heriot’s dissent states, the biggest problem is that schools serving low-income students arguable need more money. She asks, “Is there some reason the Commission can’t be more clear and upfront about that?”

Men as Campus Minorities

George Korda:

Why men are opting out of college

The latter subject is meaningful in terms of what some professionals see as a salient reason for the decline of males in the college ranks. An Aug. 8, 2017, article in The Atlantic, headlined, “Why men are the new college minority,” explored a variety of racial, economic, and societal reasons men are opting out of college.

Jim Shelley, Men’s Resource Manager at Lakeland Community College in Ohio, weighed in on the men-as-predators issue. “Through 21 years running one of the few campus support centers exclusively for men I’ve thought it can only get better. But it just has gone nowhere. Not only are there not programs like ours that are supportive of male students, but at most college campuses the attitude is that men are the problem. … I’ve had male students tell me that their first week in college they were made to feel like potential rapists.”

Google and Facebook have become “antithetical to democracy,” says The Age of Surveillance Capitalism author Shoshana Zuboff

Eric Johnson’s:

“You cannot have a well-functioning democracy with massive inequalities of knowledge and power,” Zuboff added. “That’s eroding democracy from the big institutional level, but now from the individual level, from the inside out. The fact that our autonomy is comprised, that these things are happening outside of our awareness, that they can take hold of our behavior and shift it and modify it in ways that we don’t know.”

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google and Facebook (owns instagram, as well) services, including Madison.

The Historical Profession is Committing Slow-Motion Suicide

Hal Brands and Francis Gavin :

The result of these changes is a discipline that feels remarkably parochial to students or anyone outside the ivory tower. As Harvard’s Jill Lepore, the profession’s leading exception to these trends, recently pointed out, “The academy is largely itself responsible for its own peril. The retreat of humanists from public life has had enormous consequences for the prestige of humanistic ways of knowing and understanding the world.”

The second issue, closely related to the first, is the hostility toward certain kinds of historical inquiry. Decades ago, the subfields of political history, diplomatic history, and military history dominated the discipline. That focus had its costs: Issues of race, gender, and class were often deemphasized, and the perspectives of the powerless were frequently ignored in favor of the perspectives of the powerful. During the 1960s and after, the discipline was therefore swept by new approaches that emphasized cultural, social, and gender history, and that paid greater attention to the experiences of underrepresented and oppressed groups. This was initially a very healthy impulse, meant to broaden the field. Yet what was initially a very healthy impulse to broaden the field ultimately became decidedly unhealthy, because it went so far as to push the more traditional subfields to the margins.

Two historians, Fredrik Logevall and Kenneth Osgood, have noted that “American political history as a field of study has cratered … What was once a central part of the historical profession, a vital part of this country’s continuing democratic discussion, is disappearing.” Political history, however, is a growth industry compared to diplomatic history and military history. Scholars who study strategy and statecraft, diplomacy and policymaking, and the causes and consequences of war are often labeled as old-fashioned, methodologically unimaginative, and ideologically conservative. As a recent chair of a prominent history department recently explained to us, the discipline of history does not consider exploring and understanding the decisions of state leaders or military officials to be interesting, important, or innovative. Not surprisingly, those who study these subjects are a dying breed within major American history departments.

According to the American Historical Association, only three percent of practicing historians self-identified as diplomatic historians in 2015, as compared to seven percent in 1975. Only 44 percent of all history departments employed a diplomatic historian in 2015, compared to 85 percent four decades earlier. During the 2014–15 academic year, only nine out of 587 history jobs advertised with the American Historical Association were for positions in diplomatic or international history. During the 2015–16 academic year, the tally was three out of 572 — around one half of one percent. If anything, these dire numbers actually understate the problem. In an understandable effort at self-preservation within an inhospitable field, many self-identified diplomatic and military historians study questions far removed from the exercise of state power or the causes of war and peace. They are more likely to focus on the role of sports, gender, or culture in international and military affairs than on traditional aspects of statecraft.

Will history survive?

Roger Kimball:

The news that the University of Notre Dame, responding to complaints by some students, would ‘shroud’ its 12 134-year-old murals depicting Christopher Columbus was disappointing. It was not surprising, however, to anyone who has been paying attention to the widespread attack on America’s past wherever social justice warriors congregate.

Notre Dame may not be particularly friendly to its Catholic heritage, but its president, the Rev. John Jenkins, demonstrated that it remains true to its jesuitical (if not, quite, its Jesuit) inheritance. Queried about the censorship, he said, apparently without irony, that his decision to cover the murals was not intended to conceal anything, but rather to tell ‘the full story’ of Columbus’s activities.

Welcome to the new Orwellian world where censorship is free speech and we respect the past by attempting to elide it.

Over the past several years, we have seen a rising tide of assaults on statues and other works of art representing our nation’s history by those who are eager to squeeze that complex story into a box defined by the evolving rules of political correctness. We might call this the ‘monument controversy,’ and what happened at Notre Dame is a case in point: a vocal minority, claiming victim status, demands the destruction, removal, or concealment of some object of which they disapprove. Usually, the official response is instant capitulation.

Mark Zuckerberg Promised A Clear History Tool Almost A Year Ago. Where Is It?

Ryan Mac:

Facebook spent most of 2018 embroiled in one scandal or another. But there was a point early on in the year when Mark Zuckerberg thought he could turn down the heat by offering a fix for the public’s privacy concerns. It was just weeks after the news broke that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had surreptitiously obtained and employed the personal data of millions of people. And as the company headed into its annual F8 developers conference in May, the chief executive proposed a dramatic change ahead of a rehearsal for the keynote address: What if they announced a tool that let users clear web-browsing information that Facebook uses to target users with ads?

The suggestion caught people involved in the event’s production, where planning begins at least six months in advance, off guard. “Clear History” didn’t exist; it was barely an idea. But organizers still scrambled to build its announcement into Zuckerberg’s F8 keynote address. They’d already scrapped plans to unveil Portal, a video calling device that Facebook’s leadership thought might be seen as too invasive given the company’s predicament.

It was a bold public relations play. And for those familiar with the origins of the Clear History announcement, it demonstrated not only Zuckerberg’s unilateral power over product direction, but also Facebook’s long history of prioritizing optics and convenience over substantive protections for the people who use it. Company sources who spoke to BuzzFeed News characterized Zuckerberg’s proposal as “reactionary,” a response intended to ease the negative attention on the company following the Cambridge Analytica firestorm. They also said it might explain why the Clear History tool, whose announcement was proposed on the fly by Zuckerberg, is still not available nearly a year after he introduced it on stage at F8.

Politics and Anti-Trust

Gehl Porter:

Our political system will not be self-correcting. The problems are systemic and structural, involving multiple factors that are self-reinforcing. This means that the only way to reform the system is by taking a set of steps to change the industry structure and the rules that underpin it—shifting the very nature of political competition.

Many well-meaning reform ideas—such as term limits, electing better candidates, promoting bipartisanship, instituting a national primary day, improving civics education, establishing bipartisan issue-advocacy groups, and others—won’t matter much absent changes in the underlying industry structure.

In thinking about realigning competition, it is important to recognize that historically, transformational changes in the U.S. have often begun at the fringes—in decidedly non-moderate camps. Eventually, however, change must be enacted by a majority in democratically elected legislative bodies. It is here that bipartisan, pro-problem solving, consensus-seeking moderates are crucial for delivering practical solutions, and it is precisely this genre of elected officials that our current political competition has rendered almost extinct. From a strategy standpoint then, we believe that restructuring the election process, reducing barriers to entry, and reinvigorating electoral opportunities for the rational middle must be a central premise of political reform.

China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise

Suri-Lee Wee:

The authorities called it a free health check. Tahir Imin had his doubts.

They drew blood from the 38-year-old Muslim, scanned his face, recorded his voice and took his fingerprints. They didn’t bother to check his heart or kidneys, and they rebuffed his request to see the results.

“They said, ‘You don’t have the right to ask about this,’” Mr. Imin said. “‘If you want to ask more,’ they said, ‘you can go to the police.’”

Mr. Imin was one of millions of people caught up in a vast Chinese campaign of surveillance and oppression. To give it teeth, the Chinese authorities are collecting DNA — and they got unlikely corporate and academic help from the United States to do it.

China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.

More, here.

Liberalism and the Invisible Hand

Adrian Vermeule:

The “invisible hand” as a phrase, as a shorthand for this characteristically indirect approach to the good, is of course associated with Adam Smith. Smith uses it first in a treatise on astronomy in an explicitly theistic way, then in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, and finally in The Wealth of Nations.9 The phrase’s background, however, is an enormously rich tradition of providentialist theorizing about politics and society that anticipates many of the ideas and problems of liberal theory.10 It even anticipates some of liberalism’s conclusions. Consider, for example, that Theodoret of Cyrus argued in the mid-fifth century AD that all are better off with a society featuring a division of labor, differences of wealth, and a division into rulers and ruled than they would be in an unspecialized and egalitarian society.11 Theodoret, of course, justifies his conclusions on entirely different grounds than liberal theorists would over a millennium later. For him, the social benefit represents a regulation instituted by divine Providence for the benefit of mankind, rather than a (solely) mechanical system-level consequence of decentralized self-interested interaction. The history of liberalism’s adaptation of the invisible hand, then, is a history of putative secularization, in which the superintending design of Providence is replaced by mechanisms in which system-level goods emerge without anyone necessarily intending that they do so.12 Later I will question the extent to which this arc is best described as “secularization” at all. In Smith, the secularization process is barely even underway.13

College students denounce ‘Trump’ immigration quotes until realizing Democrats said them

Leandra Bernstein:

Students were also upset with the tone of a 2005 remark by then-Senator Barack Obama who said, “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented and unchecked.” Less than a year later, Obama and 25 other Senate Democrats voted for the Secure Fence Act, the 2006 legislation that authorized the construction of 700 miles of barriers along the southern border.

Phillips also read a statement Hillary Clinton made on the campaign trail in 2015, where she defended her numerous votes to “spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in.” She underscored, “I do think you have to control your borders.”

Some of the students laughed nervously when they learned the statements were made by Democrats. Others were at a loss for words. One student smiled and noted, “That’s interesting.”

President Trump took office with a signature campaign promise to build a wall, a proposal that has been denounced as wasteful, unnecessary and “medieval” by his critics. But over the past decade, Democrats have supported billions of dollars in funding for physical barriers and taken a hard line against illegal immigration.

In light of these changes in the party’s approach to border security and the coverage of the issue, Phillips wanted to conduct an experiment. He told Sinclair Broadcast Group, “I wanted to go out and to see if people would view the quotes differently if they thought they came from President Trump.”

Socialism as a Millennial religion

Arthur Chrenkoff:

Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, as George Santayana once said. Slightly before him, Karl Marx claimed that history repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. Both of these Dead White Males are arguably right, if only the latter still continues to inspire people, though not with this particular quote.

Throughout the developed world – with the notable exception of Poland – Gen Ys or the Millennials veer strongly to the left. Young people have always done so, but the current crop would make even their proud Baby Boomer grandparents blush in their enthusiasm for collectivism. It’s not just that in countries like the United States or Australia two thirds of them vote for the parties of the left – after all, the left can be a broad church, from Tony Blair to Jeremy Corbyn – but they positively heart socialism: 63 per cent of Australian university graduates and over the half of the American cohort. Those who literally cannot remember the past are very keen to repeat it – let’s hope that this time only as a farce.

The Millennials can’t remember very much – and they don’t learn very much either. It’s easy being hot for socialism or communism when you actually have a very little idea of what it is and what it did throughout the 20th century. And the Ys have that ignorance in spades; one third of them think that George W Bush killed more people than Stalin and 42 per cent have never heard of Mao – but over 70 per cent agree with Bernie Sanders. Some research suggests that only 15 per cent actually have a correct understanding of socialism. It’s not just politics; the Millennials are the most woefully undereducated and miseducated generation in a very long time. To be fair, that’s not strictly their fault; that attaches itself again to their Boomer grandparents who have been in charge of our failing education systems during this time. Combine the modern indoctrination-cum-dumbification taking place in schools and universities with the attention span-killing impact of information technology and social media, and you have a barely literate cohort, which is simply not equipped with the necessary mental tools to learn about the real world even if they wanted to.

Tutorial: Machine Learning Data Set Preparation, Part 5


I encounter a lot of doom and gloom regarding machine learning. Some conflate artificial intelligence with automation, and criticize the field for its potential to steal jobs. The following results, which came about as a half-serious attempt at translating self-referential behavior/incompleteness results, to the context of machine learning, show that the human element will never cease being a factor.

The exact mathematical expression being captured by the following is “this picture of a cat, which says “cat” is not classifiable as a cat”

Very Old MacDonald Won’t Quit the Farm

Alistair MacDonald:

n the canteen of a livestock auction near Stirling, Bobby Maclarty jokingly asked a group of men in their mid-80s whether they were the “old boys’ club.” They invited him to sit and join them for breakfast.

“I’m not old enough,” said the 81-year-old, who was there to sell rams with his 57-year-old son, Iain Maclarty.

Inside, around 20 men had gathered to bid on sheep, which were being walked around a sawdust ring by workers in white overalls.

Older farmers at the auction, surrounded by rock-dappled hills, said they were fit enough, even if they can’t do as much of the physical work they once did.

“You work out by working—no need for Jane Fonda here,” said 73-year-old sheep farmer Hamish MacDonald, referring to Ms. Fonda’s popular exercise videos from the 1980s, while eating a bacon roll.

Hobbling on a walking stick, John Paul, 61, of the region of Fife, said he recently had a hip operation.

“Then people tell you you’re not the only one, that, ‘Aye, he’s had one, and he’s had one,’ ” he said.

Technology has made it easier for Drew Pringle, 73, to get around. Thirty years ago, he walked everywhere. He now drives around his farm in Kinross on an all-terrain vehicle, with heating, music and power steering.

Most Americans don’t realize what companies can predict from their data

Emilee Rader:

Sixty-seven percent of smartphone users rely on Google Maps to help them get to where they are going quickly and efficiently.

A major of feature of Google Maps is its ability to predict how long different navigation routes will take. That’s possible because the mobile phone of each person using Google Maps sends data about its location and speed back to Google’s servers, where it is analyzed to generate new data about traffic conditions.

Information like this is useful for navigation. But the exact same data that is used to predict traffic patterns can also be used to predict other kinds of information – information people might not be comfortable with revealing.

For example, data about a mobile phone’s past location and movement patterns can be used to predict where a person lives, who their employer is, where they attend religious services and the age range of their children based on where they drop them off for school.

13 Classic Mathematics Books for Lifelong Learners

Ali Kayaspor:

When I was a college student, I saw a list of essential math books on a blog. I promised to myself to read all those books in 10 years because there were 50 books on that list. I am still trying to finish the list. And now it is time to share some of them with you.

Mathematics is beautiful and astounding. There is a lot of joy in understanding mathematics, for instance, how the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem or the secrets of pi, e, epsilon…

Anyway, if you passed a lot of math courses but failed to make any sense out of them during your education, those books were written for you.

CNN and Censorship (owned by AT&T)

Kevin Gosztola:

CNN went in search for a story about a Russian-funded digital media project that produces viral videos aimed at undermining American democracy. When CNN journalists could not find what they were looking for, they effectively manufactured the news by giving Facebook a pretext for removing the project’s pages used to share videos. Now, the cable news network had their story.

Four CNN journalists worked on the report, “Russia is backing a viral video company aimed at American millennials.” It appeared online late in the day on February 15 and broke the news that Maffick Media had their Facebook pages for three video channels suspended.

Maffick also produces In The Now, which Facebook took down as well.

Facebook never required pages to include information about their parent companies nor has the social media company ever labeled state-sponsored media, which CNN acknowledged. Yet, since the project involves funding from Russian state media, CNN believed Facebook may want to require the pages to disclose such details.

Civics: New Poll, Majority of Voters Want a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Attempted Coup Against Trump

Katie Pavlich:

Now according to a new Rasmussen Report, the majority of voters believe crimes were likely committed by DOJ and FBI officials and they want a special prosecutor to investigate.

Most voters say top Justice Department and FBI officials are likely to have acted criminally when they secretly discussed removing President Trump from office and think a special prosecutor is needed to investigate.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe senior federal law enforcement officials are likely to have broken the law in their discussions in May 2017 to oust Trump, with 37% who say it is Very Likely. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 36% consider that unlikely, with 19% who say it’s Not At All Likely that they broke the law.

Fifty-one percent (51%) think a special prosecutor should be named to investigate the discussions among senior Justice Department and FBI officials in May 2017 to remove the president from office. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree, but 11% are undecided.

In China, some parents seek an edge with genetic testing for tots

Michael Standaert:

In Shenzhen, even kindergartners have homework. You can see it in the workbook-laden backpacks weighing them down as they waddle through the school gates at 8 a.m. and back out again at 5 p.m. Many are not headed home yet. There are dance classes, piano lessons, English tutors, kung-fu sessions to get to. After classes, after dinner, it is time to tackle that homework. They are lucky to get to bed by 10.

Fears of seeing their children fall behind their peers have left Chinese parents searching for anything to give them a leg up.

Some are now turning to genetic testing companies that claim they can find children’s hidden talents within their DNA. There isn’t much scientific basis to the tests, but judging from the number of clinics sprouting up in cities like Shenzhen, it appears that “talent testing” is one reason for China’s fast-growing genetics industry.

I visited the office of China Bioengineering Technology Group (also called CBT Gene) on the 14th floor of a high-rise in Shenzhen’s Nanshan startup district. It is half is half medical clinic, half high-end spa. Glittering gold wallpaper covers the walls. Elegantly dressed sales agents share the space with serious-looking medical staff in white smocks. Besides genetic testing, the clinic offers everything from plastic surgery to a variety of traditional Chinese medicine treatments.

The day I visited, an agent produced a thick book listing over 200 indicators the clinic will test a child for. They include potential hereditary conditions; musical, mathematical, and reading abilities; physical talents; attributes like shyness, introversion, extroversion, and memory.

The truth about Hannibal’s route across the Alps

Philip Ball:

The Romans had presumed that the Alps created a secure natural barrier against invasion of their homeland. They hadn’t reckoned with Hannibal’s boldness. In December he smashed apart the Roman forces in the north, assisted by his awesome elephants, the tanks of classical warfare. Many of the animals died of cold or disease the following winter, but Hannibal fought his way down through Italy. For 15 years he ravaged the land, killing or wounding over a million citizens but without taking Rome. But when he faced the Roman general Scipio Africanus at Zama in north Africa in 202BC, his strategic genius met its match. So ended the second Punic war, with Rome the victor.

Hannibal’s alpine crossing has been celebrated in myth, art and film. JMW Turner made high drama of it in 1812, a louring snowstorm sending the Carthaginians into wild disarray. The 1959 sword-and-sandals epic movie, with Victor Mature in the eponymous title role, made Hannibal’s “crazed elephant army” look more like the polite zoo creatures they obviously were.

Teachers Strike to Kill Student Choice

Wall Street Journal:

Readers who still think teachers are striking over money should look at what just happened in West Virginia. A year after the state’s 20,000 teachers struck to get a 5% pay raise and no reductions in rich benefits, they walked off the job Tuesday to kill an education reform bill that would have increased school choice and accountability.

The West Virginia Education Association gave the walkout order to defeat legislation that would have allowed all of seven charter schools in the state over the next three-and-a-half years. The bill would also have created educational savings accounts for private or online schools and removed seniority as the only criterion for teacher layoffs. Competition and judging teachers by student performance are mortal threats to the union K-12 monopoly.

Sorry to say, Republican Gov. Jim Justice surrendered so fast that West Virginians should start calling him the former Governor. On Tuesday he promised to veto the reform if it passed, and legislators in the state House of Delegates shelved the bill indefinitely. The de facto Governor now is teachers union chief Dale Lee. The losers are the state’s children, who score below the national average in test results.

Cal State slams the brakes on Title IX proceedings after courts repeatedly rule against universities

Greg Piper:

UC will continue slanted trials ‘until we are absolutely legally required’ to stop

California appellate courts have repeatedly affirmed the rights of accused students in campus sexual misconduct proceedings in recent years.

Three of the rulings came against the University of Southern California, including two less than a month apart.

As it becomes increasingly clear that their procedures won’t survive judicial scrutiny, California’s largest university system has slammed the brakes on Title IX proceedings and others are rushing to comply with the growing body of law, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Rhetoric and Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

Negassi Tesfamichael:

“We initially started as a way to create a safe space for black educators, whether it’s teachers, staff, anyone who has contact with children,” said Rachelle Stone, a fourth-grade teacher at Huegel Elementary School. “We first pushed the district to make sure the curriculum was culturally relevant. It wasn’t until this year that we focused on combating these incidents and white supremacy.”

Stone said the demands were aimed at teachers the group feels are unqualified to teach in the district.

“Our goal is to get at the root of the problem and really recognizing that there are some teachers who should not be in classrooms, that having them in our district is harming our black students when they use racial slurs and derogatory language,” Stone said.

Stone said she’s hopeful the district will hold itself accountable in light of these incidents.

“Teachers and anyone who is interacting with kids has to have an anti-racist mindset in order to dismantle white supremacy,” Stone said. “It’s not enough to say we’re are culturally competent because we did a read-along or have some posters. The district has a lot of work to do around that, whether it’s really changing the recruitment processes, how we deal with situations where a person is not working with black students, etc. The district has a lot to think about how it serves its black students.”

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Federal Early Childhood Education, Care Don’t Benefit Kids. Here Are the Facts.

Lindsey Burke:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., unveiled Tuesday a proposal to subsidize universal early education and child care through federal subsidies.

According to The Huffington Post, “no family would have to spend more than 7 percent of its household income on child care, no matter the number of kids.” Providers would have to meet safety and curriculum standards, and the proposal would be financed through a “tax on wealth.”

But the fact is that a new large-scale federal subsidy day care is unlikely to improve educational outcomes for children. It will cost billions—according to one estimate, $700 billion over 10 years for the Warren plan—and furthermore, it may not reflect the preferences of families when it comes to their children’s care in their formative years.

Although the Warren plan talks about day care subsidies rather than “preschool” subsidies, the reference to “curriculum standards” suggests the effort will be about more than child care for parents.

Warren’s plan reportedly calls for “requiring child care providers that receive federal funds [to] meet standards similar to those that now apply to Head Start.”

Well, Head Start is far from a success story when it comes to participant outcomes.

Ministry to ban teachers from assigning homework via WeChat, QQ

China’s Ministry of Education said on Friday that teachers in primary schools must not assign homework through the social media app WeChat or QQ messaging service, nor should they shift the duty of correcting homework to parents.

The statement was a written reply to a proposal submitted at the first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body.

Regional educational authorities in China have already introduced similar regulations amid a national initiative to free teenagers from homework overload.

For a Black Mathematician, What It’s Like to Be the ‘Only One’

Amy Harmon:

It was not an overt incident of racism that prompted Edray Goins, an African-American mathematician in the prime of his career, to abandon his tenured position on the faculty of a major research university last year.

The hostilities he perceived were subtle, the signs of disrespect unspoken.

There was the time he was brushed aside by the leaders of his field when he approached with a math question at a conference. There were the reports from students in his department at Purdue University that a white professor had warned them not to work with him.

One of only perhaps a dozen black mathematicians among nearly 2,000 tenured faculty members in the nation’s top 50 math departments, Dr. Goins frequently asked himself whether he was right to factor race into the challenges he faced.

The Merchandising of Virtue

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

I will always remember my encounter with the writer and cultural icon Susan Sontag, largely because it was on the same day that I met the great Benoit Mandelbrot. I took place in 2001, two months after the terrorist event, in a radio station in New York. Sontag who was being interviewed, was pricked by the idea of a fellow who “studies randomness” and came to engage me. When she discovered that I was a trader, she blurted out that she was “against the market system” and turned her back to me as I was in mid-sentence, just to humiliate me (note here that courtesy is an application of the Silver rule), while her female assistant gave me the look, as if I had been convicted of child killing. I sort of justified her behavior in order to forget the incident, imagining that she lived in some rural commune, grew her own vegetables, wrote on pencil and paper, engaged in barter transactions, that type of stuff.

Civics: The Dawn of the Little Red Phone

David Bandurski:

Gone are the days when you can simply ignore that stack of Party newspapers in the corner of the office, or switch off the Party’s nightly newcast, “Xinwen Lianbo.”

The app’s name, “Xi Study Strong Nation,” or Xue Xi Qiang Guo (学习强国), is derived from a now widely used official pun on the surname of China’s top leader. The surname “Xi” is also the second character in the Chinese word xuexi (学习), meaning “to study.” The app, designed and built by the Propaganda and Public Opinion Research Center of the Central Propaganda Department of the CCP (中共中央宣传部宣传舆情研究中心), an office previously known as the “Research Center on Ideology and Political Work” (思想政治工作研究所), is organised into several sections. These include, to name just a few, “Important News” (要闻), “New Thought” (新思想) and “Summary of Current Politics” (时政综合), all aggregating the speeches and statements of Xi Jinping, as well as audio and video content.

The platform has been designed with a built-in “Xi Study Points” system (学习积分系统) that allows users to accumulate points on the basis of habitual use of the platform, from reading and viewing of content to the posting of comments and other forms of engagement. It has been widely promoted by local governments and ministries and departments across China, and there have also been reports that some work units have ordered employees to attain specified point levels, with disciplinary measures to be imposed for those who fail to comply.

Here is one post to the official WeChat account of the district of Songhan (松山), in the Inner Mongolian city of Chifeng (赤峰), that reports on a “work training” for 170 Party and government employees on the “Xi Study Strong Nation” app.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Closed-door meetings on unions preceded Amazon’s withdrawal

Michael Gormley:

A series of tense, closed-door meetings during which Amazon was pressed to hire union workers at its proposed Queens headquarters preceded the company’s abrupt pullout on Thursday, which shocked even insiders, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

Two days before, in his 38th floor office in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo met with four Amazon executives, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO.

The prize was clear: A promised 25,000 jobs with an average salary of $150,000, but Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio were urging Amazon to hire a union workforce.

The 8,000-word memorandum of understanding signed by Amazon and state and city leaders on Nov. 12 made no mention of unions or collective bargaining, and Amazon was, at the time, facing calls for strikes at its facilities in Germany and Spain.

That left perhaps the stickiest issue to be worked out, three months after New York was chosen for a headquarters in a nationwide competition for what would have been the state’s biggest economic development coup in history.

La Follette student Krystyn Jones uses music and words to help hospitalized kids

Erik Lorenzsonn:

Jones, a singer and one half of the local R&B duo Trend-N-Topic, has launched a national concert tour visiting children’s hospitals, in which she speaks to and sings to young patients. So far, she’s stopped at the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, and at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She has 10 other stops lined up.

She has also written an untitled children’s book on her life and hospital experiences, currently in production at the faith-based publishing house Faith Works.

Jones said her message with both endeavors is simple: “Hospitals aren’t as scary as they seem.”

She said she felt compelled to share her story with other children after a particularly prolonged hospital stay in 2017. Jones was hospitalized at American Family for a surgery to fix an untethering of her spinal cord. As with many of her operations, the procedure was high-risk: There was a 50-50 chance that the surgery would render her unable to walk again, she said.

U.S. Student Debt in ‘Serious Delinquency’ Tops $166 Billion

Alexandre Tanzi:

Student-loan delinquencies surged last year, hitting consecutive records of $166.3 billion in the third quarter and $166.4 billion in the fourth.

Bloomberg calculated the dollar amounts from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s quarterly household-debt report, which includes only the total owed and the percentage delinquent at least 90 days or in default.

That percentage has remained around 11 percent since mid-2012, but the total increased to a record $1.46 trillion by December 2018, and unpaid student debt also rose to the highest ever.

Is the younger generation really digitally superior? Not in my experience

Angela Misri:

I can see how it would be unsettling to be laughing with your friends, far from the eyes and interruptions of the adult world, when suddenly your mother takes over your computer screen and demands that you call her. What is it like to be a teenager whose mom knows how to remotely turn off your technology when you refuse to answer your phone, text, email, and FaceTime? Keep in mind, I’m the person who fixes my teen’s phone when they can’t figure out why their apps have disappeared. I’m the person who set up a Tumblr for them to upload the stop-motion videos I also taught them how to do. And I’m the one they’ll will come to when their first job requires them to learn the latest software.

It’s a common stereotype: if you need to figure out a new piece of technology, you hand it to the youngest member of the family. The media has been publishing articles about adults’ apparent tech ignorance for nearly two decades. In 2000, The Economist claimed the “family tech guru” was “far more likely to be a teenager than the father of the house.” Perhaps they should have checked with the mother, because that’s never been true in my house, where I live with my husband and sixteen-year-old kid.

Proposal would govern use of metal detectors at Madison schools

Logan Wroge:

Madison students could face random and “as-needed” metal-detector screenings under a proposed policy being considered by a Madison School Board committee.

The proposal comes months after a student was injured in a shooting near La Follette High School, which resulted all students being screened with hand-held wands for two days.

The plan would establish policy governing the use of metal detector wands. No district policy on the use of metal detectors currently exists.

“It gives us another tool in our toolbox to keep schools safe,” said Joe Balles, the safety and security coordinator for the Madison School District.

The Alter Bible

Adam Kirsch:

The Bible is a refractory book, never behaving quite as we expect it to. Indeed, much of the creativity of Jewish tradition has been devoted to harmonizing the actual Bible with Judaism’s changing expectations of what it should be. The rabbinic genre of midrash tries to make sense of the text’s many narrative contradictions and ethical perplexities. The Talmud assumes that every word in the Torah is there to teach a point of halacha, while Maimonides insisted that the Bible actually teaches the same truths as Greek philosophy, though it uses an allegorical method that can easily mislead the ignorant. And the mystical Zohar, written in medieval Spain, says that if all there were to the Torah were its surface meaning, it would be easy to write a better book: It is only the hidden, esoteric content of the Torah that makes it sacred.

The one thing the Bible could not be, for most Jews throughout history and many still today, is mere literature. After all, literature is a secular art, a product of the human imagination, while the Bible is supposed to be a sacred text, the product of divine inspiration. Perhaps the first person to openly suggest otherwise was Baruch Spinoza, the 17th-century Jewish philosopher, who daringly wrote that the books of the Bible ought to be studied in just the same way we would study Greek and Italian poetry.

Why Highly Efficient Leaders Fail

Rebecca Zucker:

With ever-increasing demands at work for both mid-level and senior leaders, the ability to execute and get things done is a key driver of success. But it can ultimately become a leader’s downfall, resulting in unintended costs for the individual, as well as for their teams and organizations.

The high levels of efficiency that allow highly task-focused leaders to be so productive often come at the expense of a more people-based focus. Things like building relationships, inspiring a team, developing others, and showing empathy can fall by the wayside. Highly efficient leaders often lose their focus on people due to a limiting belief that more people-focused activities will slow them down and impede their ability to execute, and to ultimately be successful.

The irony is that an intense focus on efficiency and getting things done (consistent with the pacesetting leadership style in Daniel Goleman’s classic Leadership that Gets Results) makes these leaders less effective overall. The result is often a negative impact on organizational climate and burnout of team members. In a 2017 study by Kronos and Future Workplace, burnout was highlighted as the biggest threat to employee engagement, with 95% of HR leaders citing it as a key driver of employee turnover.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Amazon and taxes: a simple primer

Tyler Cowen:

The main reason Amazon as a corporate entity does not pay much in taxes is because the company so vigorously reinvests its profit. The resulting expensing provisions lower their tax liabilities, in some cases down to zero or near-zero. That is in fact the kind of incentive our tax system is supposed to create, and does so only imperfectly, noting that many economists have suggested moving to full expensing.

(NB: You can’t hate both share buybacks and profit reinvestment!)

Amazon pays plenty in terms of payroll taxes and also state and local taxes. Nor should you forget the taxes paid by Amazon’s employees on their wages. Not only is that direct revenue to various levels of government, but the incidence of those taxes falls somewhat on Amazon, which now must pay higher wages to offset the tax burden faced by their employees. Not everyone wants to live in NYC or Queens! (Do you agree with Paul Krugman’s charge that the Trump tax cuts are mainly a giveaway to capital? If so, you probably also should believe that the wage taxes paid by Amazon employees fall largely on capital.)

There is no $3 billion that NYC gets to keep if Amazon does not show up. That “money” was a pledged reduction in Amazon’s future tax burden at the state and local level.

How did the police know you were near a crime scene? Google told them

Tony Webster:

The suspects in an Eden Prairie home invasion last October wore gloves, dressed in black, and covered their faces with masks. But despite their efforts to remain unseen, a trail of evidence was left behind — not at the crime scene, but with Google.

Knowing the Silicon Valley giant held a trove of consumer mobile phone location data, investigators got a Hennepin County judge to sign a “reverse location” search warrant ordering Google to identify the locations of cellphones that had been near the crime scene in Eden Prairie, and near two food markets the victims owned in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The scope of the warrant was so expansive in time and geography that it had the potential to gather data on tens of thousands of Minnesotans.

The technique has caught the attention of civil liberties lawyers who worry such warrants — deployed increasingly by police in the Twin Cities and around the country — are a digital dragnet ripe for abuse, and that judges may not realize the technical details or broad scope of the searches they’re authorizing.

“What is so problematic is that it can scoop up completely innocent people who are in an area for legitimate reasons, and who should not be treated as suspects,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the ACLU of Minnesota.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Law Prof Commentary On The U.S. News Faculty Scholarly Impact Rankings

Robert Anderson:

There are several lines of criticism. One group worriesthat releasing such a ranking will create incentives for law schools to focus too much on scholarship as opposed to teaching or cutting tuition. I don’t have much to say to this group in this post, because that’s a broader debate. Another group worries not about placing greater priority on scholarship, but about the idea of quantifying scholarly impact. Although there are real problems with quantifying scholarly impact, that too is a different debate. Scholarly impact or reputation is already quantified, it’s just quantified through the use of a somewhat haphazard survey distributed by US News.

More, here.

Oakland Teachers Plan to Strike

Roland Li:

Teacher salaries range from $46,750 per year to $83,724 per year, according to school district data, which the union said is the lowest rate in Alameda County. The school district spends an additional $13,487 per teacher annually to provide full health benefits for educators and their families.

The pay is for 186 days a year, which works out to just more than 37 five-day weeks.

The school district is offering a 5 percent retroactive wage increase from 2017 to 2020. The teachers union wants a 12 percent raise over the same time period. Brown said teachers will strike for as long as it takes to reach a deal. In 1996, a strike by Oakland teachers lasted for five weeks.

A fact-finding report released Friday recommends 3 percent in retroactive raises for both the last school year and the current school year, and new wage negotiations for the 2019-20 school year. Each 1 percent salary increase for teachers would cost the district about $1.9 million per year. The recommendations by Najeeb Khoury, an arbitrator appointed by the state’s Public Employee Relations Board, are nonbinding.

The district plans to keep schools open and hire substitute teachers in the event of a strike, which would affect 36,286 students in 87 district-run schools.

Nico Savidge has more

Leaky Database Reveals Horrifying GPS Surveillance of China’s Uyghur Muslims

Dell Cameron:

A misconfigured online database has exposed new details of China’s tyrannical surveillance apparatus, which the country’s government has used to further suppress one of its most persecuted populations.

In the past year, there’s been an uptick of reporting on China’s oppression of the Uyghurs. In August, for instance, Business Insider detailed how the mostly Muslim minority group, largely confined to China’s Xinjiang region, came to occupy “one of the most intrusive police states in the world.” That same month, a story in the Atlantic described how a million Turkic Muslims in China are being detained in so-called interment camps; forced, on top of being tortured and killed, to renounce the very faith that underpins their social identity—to adopt in its place a philosophy more consistent with that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Here we see, at gunpoint, the involuntary “re-education” of entire communities and the manual obliteration of a culture through an apartheid predicated on extreme religious prejudice. Nothing could be worse.

Behind all of this is a grotesque technological achievement whereby billions of dollars have been poured into the intensive monitoring of a people who, by the sheer mathematics of it all, could pose no real extremist threat to the security of the Red Giant. There’s no question that China has unleashed a surveillance apparatus unprecedented in its scale to collect even the most granular details about the daily lives of its citizens. New examples of that seem to arrive each day.

This week, one security researcher reportedly found himself peering through the looking glass after stumbling upon a massive database reportedly controlled by a Chinese firm called SenseNets, which had inadvertently left its shades undrawn.

China’s brightest children are being recruited to develop AI ‘killer bots’

Stephen Chen:

A group of some of China’s smartest students have been recruited straight from high school to begin training as the world’s youngest AI weapons scientists.

The 27 boys and four girls, all aged 18 and under, were selected for the four-year “experimental programme for intelligent weapons systems” at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) from more than 5,000 candidates, the school said on its website.

The BIT is one of the country’s top weapons research institutes, and the launch of the new programme is evidence of the weight it places on the development of AI technology for military use.

Unbalanced Literacy

Erica Meltzer:

Over the last year or so, an education reporter named Emily Hanford has published a series of exceedingly important articles about the state of phonics instruction (or rather the lack thereof) in American schools. The most in-depth piece appeared on the American Public Media project website , but what are effectively condensed versions of it have also run on NPR and the NY Times op-ed page.

If you have any interest in how reading gets taught, I highly recommend taking the time for the full-length piece in APM: it’s eye-opening and fairly disquieting. While it reiterates a number of important findings, its originality lies in the fact that Hanford takes on the uneasy truce between phonics and whole language that supposedly put an end to the reading wars of the 1980s and ‘90s, and points out that so-called “balanced literacy” programs often exist in name only.

In principle, this approach recognizes that both development of sound-letter relationships and consistent exposure to high-quality literature are necessary ingredients in helping students become proficient readers. What Hanford does, however, is expose just how vast a chasm exists between theory and reality. In many schools, phonics is largely neglected, or even ignored entirely, while discredited and ineffective whole-language approaches continue to dominate.

Researchers Find Further Evidence That Schizophrenia is Connected to Our Guts

Roni Dengler:

More than 21 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia, a profound mental illness that interrupts thinking, language and perception. Quite a few schizophrenic people experience delusions and hear voices. Many of the disease’s symptoms stem from faulty communication between brain cells. And, for decades, scientists have searched for a cure in the brain.

Now researchers say they’ve discovered that the way to heal schizophrenia might be through the gut. There’s an ecosystem of bacteria and microbes that live in our digestive tracts, known as the gut microbiome. And these may lead to some features of schizophrenia, an international team of scientists announced this week in the journal Science Advances. The discovery could revolutionize treatment options for schizophrenia.