K-12 Tax & $pending climate: Americans spend more on health care than any other nation.



Aimee Picchi:

While 55% of Americans are “cost secure,” meaning they can afford care and medicine, that’s a decline from 61% who fell into that category in 2022, the study found. 

Americans spend an average of $12,555 per person annually on health care, according to the Peterson-KFF Health Care Tracker. By comparison, typical health care spending across other developed nations is about $6,651, their analysis found. 

“What we found as we string together the trend of data points is really quite concerning,” Lash said. “It’s that health care affordability has been getting worse — it shines a light on the number of families that can’t afford things like prescription drugs.”

Rising insurance costs

The average family insurance deductible in the U.S. stood at about $3,800 in 2022, up from $2,500 in 2013, according to KFF. The IRS considers insurance for families with deductibles of $3,200 or more to be high deductible plans.




The Role of Single Motherhood in America’s High Child Poverty 



David Brady, Regina S. Baker and Ryan Finnigan

Many claim a high prevalence of single motherhood plays a significant role in America’s high child poverty. Using the Luxembourg Income Study, we compare the “prevalences and penalties” for child poverty across 30 rich democracies and within the United States over time (1979–2019). Several descriptive patterns contradict the importance of single motherhood. The U.S. prevalence of single motherhood is cross-nationally moderate and typical and is historically stable. Also, child poverty and the prevalence of single motherhood have trended in opposite directions in recent decades in the United States. More important than the prevalence of single motherhood, the United States stands out for having the highest penalty across 30 rich democracies. Counterfactual simulations demonstrate that reducing single motherhood would not substantially reduce child poverty. Even if there was zero single motherhood, (1) the United States would not change from having the fourth-highest child poverty rate, (2) the 41-year trend in child poverty would be very similar, and (3) the extreme racial inequalities in child poverty would not decline. Rather than the prevalence of single motherhood, the high penalty for single motherhood and extremely high Black and Latino child poverty rates, which exist regardless of single motherhood, are far more important to America’s high child poverty.




How to raise the world’s IQ



The Economist:

Pepple are much cleverer than they were in previous generations. A study of 72 countries found that average IQs rose by 2.2 points a decade between 1948 and 2020. This stunning change is known as the “Flynn effect” after James Flynn, the scientist who first noticed it. Flynn was initially baffled by his discovery. 




Faddish thinking is hobbling education in the rich world



The Economist:

That the pandemic messed up schooling is well known. Between 2018 and 2022 an average teenager in a rich country fell some six months behind their expected progress in reading and nine months behind in maths, according to the oecd. What is less widely understood is that the trouble began long before covid-19 struck. A typical pupil in an oecd country was no more literate or numerate when the coronavirus first ran amok than children tested 15 years earlier. As our special report argues, education in the rich world is stagnating. This should worry parents and policymakers alike.

In America long-running tests of maths and reading find that attainment peaked in the early 2010s. Since then, average performance there has gone sideways or backwards. In Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands, among other places, scores in some international tests have been falling for years. What has gone wrong?




Notes on Chicago k-12 tax & $pending challenges



Austin Berg:

NEW: Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is rejecting Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s calls for a state bailout to pay for the Chicago Teachers Union’s contract demands.

This is one of the most consequential public embarrassments yet for the mayor and his largest campaign backer.

Here’s what it means.




Civics: Can We Let the Voters Decide—Not the FBI, CIA, DOJ, Lawyers, Prosecutors, and Judges?



Victor Davis Hanson

Yet here we are in mid-July 2024 and Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, is alive and leads incumbent Biden—either because of, or despite, the crude efforts to destroy him.

After nearly a decade of utter madness, can we finally order the FBI, DOJ, and CIA to butt out of our elections?

Can a bankrupt media cease whipping up hysterias about a supposed Nazi-like takeover?

Can the left stop relying on washed-up British spies, corrupt ex-spooks, and teams of clownish partisan prosecutors?

Instead, why not, at last, just let the people choose their own president?




How one man’s DNA became a pillar of genetics



Ashley Smart

To this day, the story of how and why RP11 came to be the centerpiece of one of biology’s crowning achievements has largely escaped public scrutiny. Even the scientists who helped orchestrate it disagree about the particulars.

To piece the story together, Undark reviewed more than 100 emails, letters, and other digital documents housed within the History of Genomics Archive at the National Human Genome Research Institute. The documents, provided to Undark through an institutional research collaboration agreement, reveal that the project’s sourcing of human genetic material was more ethically fraught than official publications portrayed it to be, and included DNA harvested from a cadaver, and from one of the project’s own scientists. The records, along with interviews with many of the project’s central figures and with experts in law and bioethics, paint a picture in which high-ranking project officials — constrained by their own experimental protocols and accelerated timelines — veered from their guiding principles and pushed the boundaries of informed consent.

“We were panicking,” recalled Aristides Patrinos, who led the Department of Energy’s efforts in the Human Genome Project and, along with National Human Genome Research Institute director Francis Collins, helped steer the project to completion. “So a lot of these issues were not front and center. That’s no excuse, but it was a reason. We were under a lot of pressure to make sure we finished by the time we finished.”




On Being a Digital Minimalist Family in a Tech-Saturated World



Katherine Johnson Martinko:

Plus, it’s a basic math problem. There are limited hours in a day, and every hour spent scrolling on social media or watching YouTube videos takes time away from what I see as more valuable activities, even if it is just sitting alone with one’s thoughts.

Instead, the emphasis in our family is on creative play, physical exploration, and face-to-face interactions. Childhood is seen as a time to develop practical life skills and get plenty of sleep and exercise. It’s a chance to get comfortable with boredom, while learning when and how to focus on important tasks. By the end of it, I hope my sons have a rich repository of childhood memories that will someday make them smile, laugh, and possibly even cringe.

I’m not anti-tech. My entire career as a writer and editor has been enabled by the Internet, and I wouldn’t want to go back to a time without it. But great tools don’t automatically make great toys, and I want my kids to learn the difference. Nor is my goal to shelter them. My kids are not naïve; we talk regularly about fraught, complicated topics that would likely surprise many families.

Being a digital minimalist parent can feel lonely, and there are times when I feel badly that my kids are the ones who get singled out for my unorthodox approach. “Conformity is overrated,” I tell them jokingly, but that is small consolation when you are the only kid going into tenth grade without a smartphone. My oldest son wants a phone badly because everyone else has one, but that’s not a compelling enough reason to buy him one. I stand firm, reiterating that he won’t get one before 16 (and then will have to pay for it himself). This recommendation comes from Dr. Jean Twenge, who puts smartphone ownership on par with having a driver’s license, an analogy I love and cite far more often than my son would like to hear. 




The Erie Canal: The manmade waterway that transformed the US



Robin Catalano:

Two hundred years ago, it helped spread people, ideas and goods across the US. Now, it’s become a paddler’s paradise with more than 700 miles of continuous, navigable waterways.

Inside Lock 11 on the Erie Canal in Amsterdam, New York, the metal-on-metal grinding of gears signalled the closing of the gate behind us. With our teal kayaks lined up along the walls of the lock – an aquatic “lift” that raises or lowers boats on sections of the canal where water levels are unequal – we looked like a befuddled shiver of sharks. “Is it too late to go back?” the paddler behind me whispered, hands gripping the rope hanging along the wall beside her, as the water began to drain.

Ten women and men had come out on a sunny June morning to take part in On the Canals, a state-funded recreational programme along the Erie: the US’ most important manmade waterway, which celebrates its bicentennial in 2025.




Civics: notes on governance, Lawfare and constitutional powers



Steven Cslabresi:

Judge Cannon’s opinion shows that each Section of the U.S. Code, which Smith relied on, neither delegates to the Attorney General the power two create inferior offices, nor does it create the office of the Special Counsel. Her argument is irrefutable. I have yet to read a response to her opinion that is remotely as persuasive as the opinion itself.

Judge Cannon also discusses, but does not decide whether an office like the office of Special Counsel, if it existed, would be a Principle or Inferior Office for Appointments Clause purposes. Her discussion of that issue is good as any judicial opinion since one written by Justice David Souter concurring in Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651 (1997).

In addition, Judge Cannon discusses what I think is a very serious Appropriations Power issue in the case. She quite rightly concludes that the Justice Department should lose on both grounds, but she correctly relies only on the Inferior Office Appointments Clause and the statutory arguments before her as deciding the case.




Academic journals are a lucrative scam – and we’re determined to change that



Arash Abizadeh

If you’ve ever read an academic article, the chances are that you were unwittingly paying tribute to a vast profit-generating machine that exploits the free labour of researchers and siphons off public funds.

The annual revenues of the “big five” commercial publishers – Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Springer Nature, and SAGE – are each in the billions, and some have staggering profit margins approaching 40%, surpassing even the likes of Google. Meanwhile, academics do almost all of the substantive work to produce these articles free of charge: we do the research, write the articles, vet them for quality and edit the journals.

Not only do these publishers not pay us for our work; they then sell access to these journals to the very same universities and institutions that fund the research and editorial labour in the first place. Universities need access to journals because these are where most cutting-edge research is disseminated. But the cost of subscribing to these journals has become so exorbitantly expensive that some universities are struggling to afford them. Consequently, many researchers (not to mention the general public) remain blocked by paywalls, unable to access the information they need. If your university or library doesn’t subscribe to the main journals, downloading a single paywalled article on philosophy or politics can cost between £30 and £40.

The commercial stranglehold on academic publishing is doing considerable damage to our intellectual and scientific culture. As disinformation and propaganda spread freely online, genuine research and scholarship remains gated and prohibitively expensive. For the past couple of years, I worked as an editor of Philosophy & Public Affairs, one of the leading journals in political philosophyIt was founded in 1972, and it has published research from renowned philosophers such as John RawlsJudith Jarvis Thomson and Peter Singer. Many of the most influential ideas in our field, on topics from abortion and democracy to famine and colonialism, started out in the pages of this journalBut earlier this year, my co-editors and I and our editorial board decided we’d had enough, and resigned en masse.




Nemo: “A state-of-the-art 12B model with 128k context length”



Mistral:

Today, we are excited to release Mistral NeMo, a 12B model built in collaboration with NVIDIA. Mistral NeMo offers a large context window of up to 128k tokens. Its reasoning, world knowledge, and coding accuracy are state-of-the-art in its size category. As it relies on standard architecture, Mistral NeMo is easy to use and a drop-in replacement in any system using Mistral 7B.

We have released pre-trained base and instruction-tuned checkpoints checkpoints under the Apache 2.0 license to promote adoption for researchers and enterprises. Mistral NeMo was trained with quantisation awareness, enabling FP8 inference without any performance loss.




USPS shared customer postal addresses with Meta, LinkedIn and Snap



Zack Whittaker:

The U.S. Postal Service was sharing the postal addresses of its online customers with advertising and tech giants Meta, LinkedIn and Snap, TechCrunch has found.

On Wednesday, the USPS said it addressed the issue and stopped the practice, claiming that it was “unaware” of it.

TechCrunch found USPS was sharing customers’ information by way of hidden data-collecting code (also known as tracking pixels) used across its website. Tech and advertising companies create this kind of code to collect information about the user — such as which pages they visit — every time a webpage containing the code loads in the customer’s browser. 

In the case of USPS, some of that collected data included the postal addresses of logged-in USPS Informed Delivery customers, who use the service to see photos of their incoming mail before it arrives.




The explosion in time series forecasting packages in data science



Arthur Turrell:

There have been a series of sometimes jaw-dropping developments in data science in the last few years, with large language models by far the most prominent (and with good reason). But another story has been the huge explosion in time series packages.

Were you really a tech firm circa 2020–2023 if you didn’t release your own time series package? Looking at what’s available and from who, maybe not: Facebook/Meta got the ball rolling with Prophet, but since then we’ve seen ones from Uber, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, and Meta again. And it’s not hard to see why time series forecasting might be so valuable at these digital-first, data-rich firms. Just as with data orchestration tools, everyone else is seeing some benefit from their labours.

In the rest of this post, we’ll look at the new(ish) time series packages that are around, who built them, and what they might be good for.




Estimated Childhood Lead Exposure From Drinking Water in Chicago



Benjamin Q. Huynh, PhD; Elizabeth T. Chin, PhD; Mathew V. Kiang, ScD

Question  What is the extent and impact of lead-contaminated drinking water in Chicago, Illinois?

Findings  In this cross-sectional study, an estimated 68% of children younger than 6 years in Chicago are exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water, with 19% of affected children using unfiltered tap water as their primary drinking water source. Predominantly Black and Hispanic blocks were disproportionately less likely to be tested for lead yet disproportionately exposed to contaminated drinking water.

Meaning  Childhood lead exposure from drinking water is widespread in Chicago, with racial inequities in both testing rates and exposure levels.




An Abundance of Katherines: The Game Theory of Baby Naming



Katy Blumer, Kate Donahue, Katie Fritz, Kate Ivanovich, Katherine Lee, Katie Luo, Cathy Meng, Katie Van Koevering

In this paper, we study the highly competitive arena of baby naming. Through making several Extremely Reasonable Assumptions (namely, that parents are myopic, perfectly knowledgeable agents who pick a name based solely on its uniquness), we create a model which is not only tractable and clean, but also perfectly captures the real world. We then extend our investigation with numerical experiments, as well as analysis of large language model tools. We conclude by discussing avenues for future research.




England’s school reforms are earning fans abroad



The Economist:

On paper, Mercia School in the north of England is a forbidding and unfashionable place. Teachers focus unrelentingly on “the acquisition of knowledge”, if its intimidating website is any guide. Lessons are “didactic”, delivered to pupils sitting in orderly rows. Youngsters form lines in the playground before processing silently into class. Failure to bring a pen can earn a demerit. Chatting in the corridors is banned.

Yet on a cloudy morning in May the secondary school in Sheffield is a far cheerier place than its pen portrait suggests. In its airy dinner hall 12-year-olds in PE kit prepare to tackle an orienteering course set across school grounds. During a noisy breaktime, two youngsters explain how they won the badges that hang in thick bunches from their lapels (for good attendance, speaking up in class and the like). The school is oversubscribed, absence rates are low and expulsions rare, says Dean Webster, its headteacher. Last year it ranked third in England for how much progress children make between the ages of 11 and 16. For boosting disadvantaged youngsters, it came top.




Notes on Eureka Labs, “ai for education”



Andrej Karpathy:

How can we approach an ideal experience for learning something new? For example, in the case of physics one could imagine working through very high quality course materials together with Feynman, who is there to guide you every step of the way. Unfortunately, subject matter experts who are deeply passionate, great at teaching, infinitely patient and fluent in all of the world’s languages are also very scarce and cannot personally tutor all 8 billion of us on demand. However, with recent progress in generative AI, this learning experience feels tractable. The teacher still designs the course materials, but they are supported, leveraged and scaled with an AI Teaching Assistant who is optimized to help guide the students through them. This Teacher + AI symbiosis could run an entire curriculum of courses on a common platform. If we are successful, it will be easy for anyone to learn anything, expanding education in both reach (a large number of people learning something) and extent (any one person learning a large amount of subjects,

eurekalabs.ai

Our first product will be the world’s obviously best AI course, LLM101n. This is an undergraduate-level class that guides the student through training their own AI, very similar to a smaller version of the AI Teaching Assistant itself. The course materials will be available online, but we also plan to run both digital and physical cohorts of people going through it together.

Today, we are heads down building LLM101n, but we look forward to a future where AI is a key technology for increasing human potential. What would you like to learn?




Civics: The End of Joe Biden—and the Democratic Establishment



Martin Gurri:

Thanks to a few very big, very lucky breaks, this human weathervane eventually found himself in the White House. Just a few years later, however, President Biden’s luck looks to be running out. A disastrous performance in last month’s presidential debate pulled back the curtain, in the style of The Wizard of Oz, to reveal the president as the sad, confused old man most of us already knew him to be. Then the attempt on Donald Trump’s life, and the former president’s courageous reaction in the moments following the incident, cast Biden’s shortcomings and infirmities in an even more glaring contrast. Biden is now increasingly alone, abandoned by the very establishment that created him. For both the king and what was once his court, a terrible reckoning has arrived. 




K-12 tax & $pending climate: Madison’s possible referendum(s)



Lucas Robinson:

At a crossroads in the struggle to balance Madison’s budget, the city will either rely on $22 million from a property tax referendum or $6 million in cuts to city services, according to two versions of a five-year budget unveiled by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Rhodes-Conway is touting the referendum plan as a long-term fix to the city’s budget, which has faced a mismatch between revenue and spending for over decade amid declining support from the state and limits in state law on how it can raise money.

Both versions of the five-year budget count on raising millions from new charges billed to residents every month to further close the budget gap. Twenty-five million dollars from the city’s reserves, or so-called “rainy day fund,” will be spent by 2030 under the plans, though a referendum could reduce the need to dip into that fund. Ongoing budget efficiency measures will make up what’s left of the gap in both versions of the budget.




K-12 tax & $pending climate: Madison’s possible referendum(s)



Lucas Robinson:

At a crossroads in the struggle to balance Madison’s budget, the city will either rely on $22 million from a property tax referendum or $6 million in cuts to city services, according to two versions of a five-year budget unveiled by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Rhodes-Conway is touting the referendum plan as a long-term fix to the city’s budget, which has faced a mismatch between revenue and spending for over decade amid declining support from the state and limits in state law on how it can raise money.

Both versions of the five-year budget count on raising millions from new charges billed to residents every month to further close the budget gap. Twenty-five million dollars from the city’s reserves, or so-called “rainy day fund,” will be spent by 2030 under the plans, though a referendum could reduce the need to dip into that fund. Ongoing budget efficiency measures will make up what’s left of the gap in both versions of the budget.




Civics: “Contempt, real or perceived, is a massive part of this.”



Tyler Cowen:

Clearly it has happened, and it has been accelerated and publicized by the Biden failings and the attempted Trump assassination.  But it was already underway.  If you need a single, unambiguous sign of it, I would cite MSNBC pulling off Morning Joe for a morning, for fear they would say something nasty about Trump.

Another way to put it is that Trump was a highly vulnerable, defeated President, facing numerous legal charges and indeed an actual felony conviction.  Yet he now stands as a clear favorite in the next election.  In conceptual terms, how exactly did that happen?

I had been thinking  it would be a good cognitive test to ask people why they think the vibes have changed, and then to grade their answers for intelligence, insight, and intellectual honesty.

For instance, I used to read people arguing “Trump is popular because of racism,” but now that view is pretty clearly refuted, even if you think (as I do) that racism has some marginal impact on his support.  Or other people have attributed the development to “polarization.”  Whether or not you agree with the polarization thesis, it begs the question here, as we could be polarized with Trump as a big underdog.

In any case, thought I should start this process by offering my answers.  Here they are, in a series of bullet points:




Secretary Cardona Makes the Case for Abolishing the US Department of Education



By Frederick M. Hess | Michael Brickman

In 2022, Cardona’s team broke with more than two decades of careful efforts to keep the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at arm’s length from politics, using the NAEP release as a chance to let political appointees tout Biden’s spending proposals and distribute administration talking points. He has pushed to cut funding for charter schools while denouncing Republican efforts to expand school choice as an effort to “attack our schools” and “privatize education.”

You might think that Cardona, responsible for the disastrous failure to execute the Congressionally-mandated revamp of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), would focus on quietly cleaning up that mess. At a minimum, you might think that a man who oversaw the biggest debacle in his Department’s history would be leery of impugning those who argue his Department should do only what Congress has actually empowered it to do. You’d be wrong. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, put it well, telling us:




Notes on free range parenting



Andy Welch:

Of course, free-range parenting does rather fit in with perceptions outsiders often have about Scandinavian people. Look at them all, with their hygge, and their sky-high living standards, low crime rates, enviable maternity and paternity rights and exceptional aesthetics. Norway is indeed seventh on the World Happiness Report. It also has the world’s 10th highest GDP, along with the world’s largest wealth fund and one of the world’s lowest crime rates. But this is a philosophy that runs deeper than Norway’s pockets, and it’s been around far longer than the country’s well-funded public services have.

There’s evidence that Viking children as far back as the ninth century were raised in a relatively similar way: treated as adults and expected to chip in with whatever work needed to be done. It’s a way of life, deeply ingrained to the point that most Norwegians I’ve spoken to can’t understand either the fascination with their method, or why anyone would do it differently.

This more nuanced modern take – more conversations about feelings, less pillaging – rose to prominence in the aftermath of the second world war, says Willy-Tore Mørch, emeritus professor in children’s mental health at the University of Tromsø. Much of the country’s infrastructure had been devastated by the years of Nazi occupation. Rising to the challenge, the newly formed Labour government believed that all Norwegians should contribute to the rebuilding – children included.

“The children had to be strong and hardened, and trained to be independent and loyal,” says Mørch. “Perhaps most parents today are not aware of this history, but building trust between parents and children remains a basic relational quality in modern Norwegian child-raising.”




Google gaming



Matt Taibbi:

So instead of if you search for let’s just say Trotskyism. Instead of getting the world’s leading Trotskyist website, which is the World Socialist Website, you will get it like a New York Times story about Trotskyism instead.

They want to push you towards the “authoritative” source. But that’s subjective and again it’s hierarchical and it’s away from the spirit of how we would like to ingest information which is just let’s see all of it and make our own decision.”




“But what happens when this citation system is manipulated?”



Lonni Besançon, Guillaume Cabanac and Thierry Viéville

recent Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology articleby our team of academic sleuths – which includes information scientists, a computer scientist and a mathematician – has revealed an insidious method to artificially inflate citation counts through metadata manipulations: sneaked references.

Hidden manipulation

People are becoming more aware of scientific publications and how they work, including their potential flaws. Just last year more than 10,000 scientific articles were retracted. The issues around citation gaming and the harm it causes the scientific community, including damaging its credibility, are well documented. 

Citations of scientific work abide by a standardized referencing system: Each reference explicitly mentions at least the title, authors’ names, publication year, journal or conference name, and page numbers of the cited publication. These details are stored as metadata, not visible in the article’s text directly, but assigned to a digital object identifier, or DOI – a unique identifier for each scientific publication. 

References in a scientific publication allow authors to justify methodological choices or present the results of past studies, highlighting the iterative and collaborative nature of science. 

However, we found through a chance encounter that some unscrupulous actors have added extra references, invisible in the text but present in the articles’ metadata, when they submitted the articles to scientific databases. The result? Citation counts for certain researchers or journals have skyrocketed, even though these references were not cited by the authors in their articles.




“Technical Skills”



Sasha Laundy:

I’m going to define “technical” skills and then make the case that they’re everywhere and severely underrated. Handwaving over them allows us to dismiss the work of wide swaths of the population. And noticing them will light up your life and unlock new worlds. 

The specific moment that forever changed how I saw this came right at the end of the movie Free Solo. It’s about the first person to climb up El Capitan without any kind of rope or safety device. As the credits rolled, my friend Sam said something offhand like “it was so cool to see the technical details.”




Notes on Chicago’s latest k-12 budget



Mila Koumpilova:

But in a $9.9 billion proposed budget for next year released this week, Chicago Public Schools has avoided this approach. The district increased funding at charter schools by about 2.5% — even as some charters with shrinking enrollments are in line for steep cuts in the new budget blueprint.

This year, CPS overhauled budgeting for traditional campuses to deemphasize enrollment size and prioritize student needs. But for now, the district is sticking with so-called student-based budgeting for charters, which is more closely tied to enrollment; CPS says state requirements make it trickier to change budgeting for charter campuses. Yet as the district prepares a strategic plan to revitalize neighborhood schools, anxiety about how that vision will impact charters persists.

With roughly 55,000 students, charters serve about a fifth of Chicago’s public school student population. State law requires districts to provide charter schools money proportionate to what it spends at district-run campuses.

On a per-pupil basis, proposed funding for Chicago charters in the budget released this week grew less than 1% over last year, with average spending at about $16,200 per pupil, according to a Chalkbeat analysis.




Average confidence in institutions remains historically low, at 28%



Megan Brenan:

Americans’ confidence in the police increased eight percentage points over the past year to 51%, the largest year-over-year change in public perceptions of 17 major U.S. institutions measured in Gallup’s annual update. The slim majority of U.S. adults who express confidence in the police includes 25% who say they have “a great deal” and 26% “quite a lot.”

Gallup first measured confidence in the police in 1993. Between then and 2019, a majority of Americans expressed high confidence in the institution, including a record high of 64% in 2004. Faith in the police fell in 2020 to 48%after George Floyd was murdered while in police custody. After increasing to 51% in 2021, confidence in the police dropped again in 2022 and dipped further last year, to a record low of 43%.

Over the past year, confidence in the police has risen among most major demographic subgroups of Americans, particularly three that previously expressed lower levels of confidence in the police: those aged 18 to 34, people of color and political independents.




Minnesota autism providers under investigation, lawmakers consider adding ‘guardrails’



Jessie Van Berkel:

Investigators are examining potential Medicaid fraud among Minnesota autism services, and state lawmakers say they will consider licensing the providers, whose numbers have increased dramatically across the state.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has 15 active investigations into organizations or individuals providing certain autism services and has closed 10 other cases, the agency told the Star Tribune. The investigations were first reported by the the Reformer,which wrote last month that the FBI is looking into fraud by autism service providers.

Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that he’s “not aware” of an FBI investigation, but is concerned about the allegations of fraud.

Officials with DHS were not available for an interview Wednesday, but the department issued a statement saying: “Early identification and access to services are life-changing for people with autism — especially children. That’s why it’s so important to make sure every dollar spent on services is accounted for.”




“The Science of Mathematics and How to Apply It”



Siobhan Merlo

Australian students’ results on international tests of mathematics (TIMMS) and numeracy (PISA) lag behind many comparable countries and have stagnated or declined compared to previous years. Around two-thirds of Australian Years 4 and 8 school students achieved the TIMMS 2019 National Proficient Standard — compared to 92-96% of students from highest ranking countries including Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan (Thomson et al, 2020). Australian 15-year-olds scored around three years behind Singapore on the PISA test in 2022, with around half achieving the national proficiency standard (OECD 2022).

Low mathematics achievement in standardised testing has real consequences for what students know and can do. For instance, one respondent in the 2021 Knowledge and Skills Gap survey of 164 Years 7-10 teachers reported the following:

Students are coming from primary school without fundamentals such as knowing their multiplication tables. They have no concept of number and reasonableness of results. They do not predict answers through estimation to understand the reasonableness of ‘calculator’ answers.” (Walker, 2021 p.5)

Policy responses to address disappointing educational outcomes have enjoyed limited overall success. For instance, strategies ordained by the landmark Gonski Review, such as increasing teacher-to-student ratios and channelling funding towards disadvantaged groups, are not currently yielding intended outcomes (Australian Financial Review, September 14, 2022 p.2).




A psychology for pedagogy: Intelligence testing in ussr in the 1920s.



Leopoldoff

This article examines a case of intelligence testing conducted in the mid-1920s, while considering the broader political and scientific context of Soviet life. Guided by questions about the status and influence of mental measurement in Russian society, previously and after the revolution, as well as asking about the main actors in the fields linked to testing, such as psychology, pedagogy, and pedology, during this tumultuous period. To answer these questions, journals and difficult-to-access archival sources were used, which provided evidence regarding the enthusiasm psychological testing had on scholars in the 1920s and the institutional support they received for their surveys. The article offers some hints concerning why this was so and why this situation changed completely a decade later.




Peer review is essential for science. Unfortunately, it’s broken.



Paul Sutter:

To makes matters worse, many of the software codes used in science are not publicly available. I’ll say this again because it’s kind of wild to even contemplate: there are millions of papers published every year that rely on computer software to make the results happen, and that software is not available for other scientists to scrutinize to see if it’s legit or not. We simply have to trust it, but the word “trust” is very near the bottom of the scientist’s priority list.

Why don’t scientists make their code available? It boils down to the same reason that scientists don’t do many things that would improve the process of science: there’s no incentive. In this case, you don’t get any h-index points for releasing your code on a website. You only get them for publishing papers.

This infinitely agitates me when I peer-review papers. How am I supposed to judge the correctness of an article if I can’t see the entire process? What’s the point of searching for fraud when the computer code that’s sitting behind the published result can be shaped and molded to give any result you want, and nobody will be the wiser?




Notes From a Formerly Unpromising Young Person



Rachel Louise Snyder:

On that day in 1985, I became one in a population of children who are still far less acknowledged than their brilliant counterparts, those who garner headlines for their perfect G.P.A.s, their athletic prowess, their unflagging service to the community. Kids like me don’t get headlines unless they are part of the crime blotter or they take their own lives. The number of young high school dropouts has been slowly falling with time, but there are still around two million out there. I think I know some of what they’re going through: That day in 1985, I felt unseen, forgotten before I’d even begun to beanything at all.




Civics: “The Silky: The Two Deep State Coups of Barack Obama”



John Kass:

Obama, The Silky himself, the Mozart of the American Deep State, the guy who cut his political teeth backstabbing rivals in the political sewers of Chicago.

He orchestrated both of these coups. And now he’s pushing Biden off the board in plain view.

It started with the  coup hatched in the Oval Office against Republican President-elect Donald J. Trump. It was it was “by the book.” Have you forgotten?

On Jan. 5, 2017,with Obama World in panic after Trump shocked the political establishment by defeating Hillary Clinton for the presidency, Obama convened a White House meeting of his Deep State  commanders.  They had to stop Trump. John Brennan of Obama’s CIA was at that meeting, and then Vice President Biden. James Comey, then of the FBI, was there, as were national security adviser Susan Rice (who lied for the Obama White House about the Benghazi disaster) and other intelligence bosses.

What followed?




Plagiarism and Disparities: There is no reason to expect an even distribution of academic dishonesty



Christopher Rufo:

Journalism, in part, is the work of turning up stones. Sometimes a reporter finds nothing underneath. Other times, he uncovers shock, scandal, or corruption.

An entire twentieth-century lore, beginning with The Jungle and culminating in the Watergate reporting, portrays the reporter as a man who stands against the corruption of institutions. But as the Left, which invented muckraking, has consolidated its power over those same institutions, the story has been recast.

Now, reporters for prestige publications defend, rather than interrogate, the organs of power. They seek to propagate official narratives and to discredit those who would question them. The establishment’s watchdogs have become its guard dogs.

I have observed this dynamic in recent months regarding academic plagiarism. I have been one of a handful of reporters, including Christopher Brunet, Aaron Sibarium, and Luke Rosiak, who flipped the rock in academia and discovered widespread fraud, plagiarism, and dishonesty. We exposed the president of Harvard, several DEI administrators, and professors in the grievance disciplines.

——-

It’s true: by failing to plagiarize, Harvard’s white African-American studies professor, @Jenniferhochsc2, is contributing to racial disparities in plagiarism. She is the new face of white supremacy.




Teachers Use AI to Grade Student Work. It’s Harsher Than They Are.



Sara Randazzo:

Generative artificial intelligence is spilling into the classroom—and not just from students looking for shortcuts.

Teachers are embracing new AI grading tools, saying the programs let them give students faster feedback and more chances to practice. Used properly, teachers say, AI helpers can provide consistency and remove bias from assessments of student work—although not everyone trusts AI to give out grades.

Education-focused AI startups tend to offer grading in writing-heavy disciplines like English and history, along with some in math and science. These bots generate a numeric score and offer up critiques on topic sentences, persuasive arguments and other elements. Teachers can choose to use the AI feedback as a guide, or pass the feedback directly to students. They say they typically tell parents and students when they use the programs.




Civics: an update on taxpayer funded censorship



Steven Nelson:

A damning new congressional report shows how a little-known advertising cartel that controls 90% of global marketing spending supported efforts to defund news outlets and platforms including The Post — at points urging members to use a blacklist compiled by a shadowy government-funded group that purports to guard news consumers against “misinformation.”

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), which reps 150 of the world’s top companies — including ExxonMobil, GM, General Mills, McDonald’s, Visa, SC Johnson and Walmart — and 60 ad associations sought to squelch online free speech through its Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) initiative, the House Judiciary Committee found in an interim report released Wednesday.

“The extent to which GARM has organized its trade association and coordinates actions that rob consumers of choices is likely illegal under the antitrust laws and threatens fundamental American freedoms,” the Republican-led panel said in its 39-page report based on internal organizational records.




Chicago School Scores Drop After Doubling Spending



Khaleda Rahman

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has almost doubled its spending per student over the past decade, but test scores are dropping.

The district is spending $29,028 per student in the current school year—a 97 percent increase since 2012, according to a recent analysis by Illinois Policy.

The analysis, using data from the Illinois State Board of Education about the 2022-23 school year, found proficiency in math has dropped by 78 percent since then, while proficiency in reading has declined by 63 percent.

It comes as students across the country are struggling to make up for COVID-19 losses. Nationally, they have recovered one-third of what they lost in math and one-quarter of the losses in reading, according to the Education Recovery Scorecard, an analysis of state and national test scores by researchers at Harvard and Stanford.




Supreme Court Avoids Final Decision on State Regulation of Social Media



Jan Wolfe::

he Supreme Court on Monday said social-media platforms’ content-moderation policies can be protected by the First Amendment. The justices sidestepped a ruling on the validity of laws in Texas and Florida that sought to restrict Facebook, YouTube and other internet giants from suppressing user speech.

“The parties have not briefed the critical issues here, and the record is underdeveloped,” Kagan wrote.

All of the justices agreed that the legal challenge to the two laws needs to be further litigated in lower courts, but they were divided in how they saw the arguments by NetChoice, a trade group that counts Google and Facebook parent Meta Platforms as members.

Kagan’s opinion—which drew support from five other justices—was skeptical of government attempts to force social-media platforms to take a more hands-off approach to content moderation. Her opinion adopted NetChoice’s central argument that social-media platforms have a First Amendment right to decide what to include and exclude in their curated feeds.

But she was wary of making any sweeping pronouncement about the constitutionality of laws targeting internet censorship.




Today’s Students Are Dangerously Ignorant of Our Nation’s History



By Michael B. Poliakoff & Bradley Jackson

When Benjamin Franklin famously said, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it,” he was, as usual, prescient.

This summer, the democratic republic known as the United States of America is 248 years old, and civically minded organizations around the country are already busily working on plans to celebrate our nation’s 250th birthday in 2026. Such a milestone is a cause for real celebration; by most reckonings, we are the longest-lasting democracy in history. Democracies are fragile: The Athenian democracy never made it to 200. Americans should use this anniversary as an opportunity for sober reflection on the current state, as well as the future, of our own democratic republic.

There is much for which to be thankful, as America’s free market economy and all-volunteer military force are still the envy of the world. There is also much to give us pause regarding the durability of our institutions, the moral fiber of our leaders, and the prospects for free government at home and abroad. It should be obvious: Challenges to election integrity—typically a sign of disease in a free body politic—an assault on our Capitol, and a looming election in which 25% of voters are dissatisfied with both major candidates are not cause for carefree celebration. 




Notes on a discrimination lawsuit against Northwestern



John Ransom:

A new lawsuit against Northwestern University has been filed alleging discrimination, this time against white males who were candidates as professors at the university’s law school.

Accusations of falsifying publication records for minority professors seeking tenure, improperly pressuring instructors to increase grades for favored minorities, threats to withhold staff bonuses if they don’t vote to hire unqualified minority candidates and other questionable practices litter the lawsuit filed against the school.

Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences (FASORP) filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to stop “Northwestern’s discriminatory faculty-hiring practices and expose the corrupt faculty and administrators who enable and perpetuate these violations of federal law.”

“This is the first of many lawsuits that will be filed against universities that refuse to implement colorblind and sex-neutral faculty-hiring practices. Our client [FASORP] has standing to sue any university we want, and any professor who has incriminating evidence should reach out to us.” saidJonathan F. Mitchell, the lead counsel in the case.




How To Stop Critical Race Theory In Your Local Schools: Advice From A School Board Member



Georgia Howe

Since I began covering the spread of critical race theory into public school curriculum, I’ve received one question more than any other: what concrete actions should we be taking to get this stuff out of kids’ classrooms? 

This morning, I spoke to Vicki Manning, school board member with the Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS). Vickie has been on the frontlines of the battle against CRT in her district for the past 7 months. Here’s her advice: 

Show Up

First and foremost, Vickie urges parents (and concerned citizens) to attend local school board meetings. “Show up, speak up, and write to the board”, Vickie suggests. Showing up in person is best (or via zoom when necessary), but letters and emails go a long way. In terms of swaying the school board, there is power in numbers. 

According to Vickie there is reason to be hopeful. In her experience, many parents in her purple district are concerned and willing to get involved. She believes the wave of parent resistance to critical race theory is poised to grow in other districts as well. 

An easy first step is contacting your local school board to ask their stance on critical race theory and what policies, if any, are in place to ensure students are protected from ideological indoctrination at school. 




“It is curious why districts seem to only want transparency when it comes to vouchers” – outcomes?



A curious WPR article:

The Kickapoo Area School District passed a resolution this spring calling for lawmakers to stop using public tax dollars to fund private school vouchers. The district is also asking that public spending on private school be outlined on property tax bills. 

During the 2023-24 school year, 11 students in the Kickapoo school district received a private school voucher. The district is based in the tiny community of Viola, which has about 700 residents. Taxpayers there contributed $113,811 toward the cost of private school education for those students, an increase of more than 400 percent from the previous year, according to the resolution. 




In U.S. Gender Medicine, Ideology Eclipses Science. It Hurts Kids.



Pamela Paul:

“The reality is that we have no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress,” Cass concluded. Instead, she wrote, mental health providers and pediatricians should provide holistic psychological care and psychosocial support for young people without defaulting to gender reassignment treatments until further research is conducted.

After the release of Cass’s findings, the British government issued an emergency ban on puberty blockers for people under 18. Medical societies, government officials and legislative panels in Germany, France, Switzerland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Belgium have proposed moving away from a medical approach to gender issues, in some cases directly acknowledging the Cass Review. Scandinavian countries have been moving away from the gender-affirming model for the past few years. Reem Alsalem, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, called the review’s recommendations “seminal” and said that policies on gender treatments have “breached fundamental principles” of children’s human rights, with “devastating consequences.”

But in the United States, federal agencies and professional associations that have staunchly supported the gender-affirming care model greeted the Cass Review with silence or utter disregard.




AI Overview Study for 8,000 Keywords in Google Search



Philip Petrescu:

Understanding how search engines display information is crucial in today’s digital landscape. One of Google’s latest developments is AI Overviews – AI-generated summaries providing quick, relevant information directly in search results. This feature changes how users interact with search engines and affects organic traffic to websites.

In this study, we examine the frequency, placement, and impact of AI Overviews in Google Search. We explore how these summaries affect visibility and traffic and the types of queries and domains most commonly featured. Our goal is to offer insights for adapting your SEO strategy to this major change in Google search.

We also consulted several SEO experts who analyzed this data and provided their insights, which are embedded throughout the text.




“reveals a tight-knit relationship between university professors, federal law enforcement, and the news media”



James Rushmore:

What is the Media Forensics Hub? Described as “an interdisciplinary team of researchers working to study and combat online deception,” the project kicked off in 2017. That was the year communications professor Darren Linvill and economics professor Patrick Warren joined forces to “uncover and expose” millions of tweets they attributed to Russian trolls. Sponsored by the taxpayer-funded South Carolina Research Authority, the Hub was officially launched in May 2020. Two years later, along with the University at Buffalo and several other institutions, it received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Last May, Racket filed a FOIA request with Clemson. Our search produced a series of emails that make explicit reference to the university’s dealings with federal law enforcement agencies (providing Clemson “help with resources,” among other things), social media companies, and the news media. The Clemson files are difficult to summarize, but offer probably the most comprehensive portrait we’ve gotten yet of the role such ostensibly non-governmental “anti-disinformation” research institutions can play as middleman organizations. These emails also document the high degree of influence the school had with federal agencies and media, even if Twitter was not always as cooperative. 

A summary of key communications is listed below, while three new batches of documents have been uploaded to the Racket FOIA library, where as always, they’re not paywalled.




Civics: What Do You Do with a Failed Coup?



Dave Seminara:

When I was a desk officer in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, I hated coup attempts. My phone never stopped ringing, round-the-clock task forces were organized, and bosses demanded endless reports because important people in Washington, D.C. had become interested in countries they otherwise ignore. Sometimes, I rooted for the aging dictators to cling to power, so that I could simply go home on time. The media’s failed coup attempt on President Biden, by contrast, was more entertaining than those affairs, even if there are parallels between the president and various African leaders who survived coup plotters even more malicious and duplicitous than the American media.

 Before the debate (BD), virtually every Democrat and most in the media assured us that Biden was totally up to the job. In case you’ve already forgotten the long-ago BD era that ended a few weeks ago, Matt Orfalea has compiled a brilliant video compilation of these folks claiming that Biden was “sharp as a tack,” or variations on this phrase. But just moments into the AD (after the debate) era, the dam broke and almost every media outlet and figure, even Biden superfan Joe Scarborough, turned on him. The same gang who have been warning us about the threat to democracy posed by Donald Trump, all suddenly determined that the 14 million votes Biden got (87 percent of those cast) in the  primary process (admittedly rigged in his favor) didn’t matter. He needed to step down because they said so.

 Scarborough, Van Jones, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times editorial board, and others pledged their undying affection for Biden AD, enthusing about what a wonderful fellow he is, as they plunged the dagger in the teetering president’s back. For a few days, it looked like the walls were closing in, as the talking heads would say in the Trump era. But then, as with most coup attempts, the media-led insurrection fizzled. Most Democratic politicians remained loyal to Biden, and polls revealed that other Democrats might fare even worse than the cognitively challenged president.

 The New York Times conducted polls right before and after the debates to track movement, and the results are revealing. Among men, Trump’s lead grew from 13 to 22 points. But Biden’s one-point advantage with women before the debate expanded to six points after it. Perhaps some women felt sorry for the president or, after spending 90 minutes with Trump for the first time in years, remembered that they despise him. Whoopi Goldberg said that she’d vote for Biden even if he pooped his pants on stage, given who his challenger is; apparently this sentiment isn’t confined to her.




Forbidden Fruit and the Classroom



James Varney:

The Biden administration initially sought to remove those questions, saying it wanted to avoid data duplication, but it backtracked after fierce criticism it was doing so as a sop to teachers unions. Consequently, the question will be included on future questionnaires, but, as of today, the Department of Education “has no data,” a spokesperson told RCI. These days, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, even a cursory review of local news reporting brings disquieting revelations of teachers accused of or arrested for alleged sexual relations with a student. In just the past month:

  • In California, multiple students filed a lawsuit against a male music teacher who had taught at three different schools in the San Jose area. The teacher is already serving prison time for previous convictions in sexual misconduct cases with students.
  • In New Jersey, a female middle school teacher was arrested for an alleged ongoing sexual relationship with a student.
  • In Texas, a male teacher was arrested for allegedly having a sexual affair with a 12-year-old student. 
  • In Illinois, a female substitute teacher faces charges of “grooming and predatory criminal sexual assault” for an alleged relationship with a sixth-grader.
  • In Washington, the arrest of a male high school teacher on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor represented a repeat nightmare for a school district that previously had a psychologist convicted on the same charges.
  • Just last weekend, a 36-year-old New Jersey teacher was arrested on multiple assault charges involving a sexual relationship with a teenage student.

These stories hold a lurid appeal to some. Sensational accounts of seductions of students by teachers, typically by high school female teachers, are tabloid catnip. The topic has provided material for standup comics, Hollywood writers, and pop tunes that didn’t begin or end with Van Halen’s 1984 hit “Hot For Teacher.”




College Social Mobility Elevator Rankings



Education Reform News:

The possibility of attaining a higher socioeconomic status than the one you were born into has been a core principle of the American experiment since our founding, even if that principle has never been fully realized or extended to all Americans. From the founding of historically Black colleges and universities to the creation of the G.I. Bill, higher education has long played a crucial role in driving social mobility in America.

Our Social Mobility Elevator rankings look at how well four-year colleges and universities help to realize social mobility by providing access to students from low-income households and students of color who are underrepresented in higher education and the support all students need to graduate. The rankings are designed to shine a light on institutions of higher education that help transform students, families, and communities and to make the case for sending more resources their way so they can have an even greater impact.

——

Joanne Jacobs:

If “transformative” means providing upward mobility, then Georgia State, State University of NY, Cal State U system, and the like are the champs.

More.




Lawfare and Wisconsin’s Reading improvement plans



Corrinne Hess:

This week, Underly sent a letter to Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, expressing frustration the money has not been released. 

“Despite the JCF’s and legislative leadership’s failure to act, the DPI continues to work in good faith to implement all components of this statute,” Underly wrote. “But as the DPI has told you repeatedly, the long delay in releasing these funds is now putting full implementation of this statute at risk. Schools are well into preparations for the fall semester, and teachers are already being asked to take classes, learn new skills, and prepare new curricula.”

Tom McCarthy, deputy superintendent, filed a declaration to the Dane County lawsuit, saying DPI has been covering the costs to implement the new reading law, but the department needs to $50 million to continue. 

“The (Supreme Court) ruling is a message to the legislature, that type of behavior, that sort of we’re going to require you to do all the things with the string attached, and then pull the rug back when an agency has acted in good faith to implement the law is not constitutional,” McCarthy said. “The court is now saying that is not a legal means to do partnership and work together.” 

Born and Marklein did not respond to requests for comment from WPR. Their attorney, Ryan Walsh, with Madison law firm Eimer Stahl, released the following statement. 

“Neither the Department of Instruction’s letter nor the declaration filed in Dane County refer to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision or suggest that this is a ‘win’ for DPI,” Walsh said. “The holding of that decision does not apply to the lawsuit pending in Dane County. The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision concerns a different function of the Joint Committee on Finance, one that is not at issue in the Dane County lawsuit.”

——-

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-




Google Search Ranks AI Spam Above Original Reporting in News Results



Reece Rogers:

Recently, I was using Google and stumbled upon an article that felt eerily familiar.

While searching for the latest information on Adobe’s artificial intelligence policies, I typed “adobe train ai content” into Google and switched over to the News tab. I had already seen WIRED’s coverage that appeared on the results page in the second position: “Adobe Says It Won’t Train AI Using Artists’ Work. Creatives Aren’t Convinced.” And although I didn’t recognize the name of the publication whose story sat at the very top of the results, Syrus #Blog, the headline on the article hit me with a wave of déjà vu: “When Adobe promised not to train AI on artists’ content, the creative community reacted with skepticism.”

Clicking on the top hyperlink, I found myself on a spammy website brimming with plagiarized articles that were repackaged, many of them using AI-generated illustrations at the top. In this spam article, the entire WIRED piece was copied with only slight changes to the phrasing. Even the original quotes were lifted. A single, lonely hyperlink at the bottom of the webpage, leading back to our version of the story, served as the only form of attribution.

A list of news articles within Google’s search results show an AI spam version of a WIRED story listed at the top, with the original reported story listed second.




Teaching General Problem-Solving Skills Is Not a Substitutefor, or a Viable Addition to,Teaching Mathematics



John Sweller, Richard Clark, and Paul Kirschner

Problem solving is central to mathematics. Yet problem-solving skill is not what it seems. Indeed, the field of problem solving has recently under- gone a surge in research interest and insight, but many of the results of this research are both counterintuitive and contrary to many widely held views. For example, many educators assume that general problem-solving strategies are not only learnable and teachable but are a critical adjunct to mathematical knowledge. The best known exposi- tion of this view was provided by Pólya (1957). He discussed a range of general problem-solving strat- egies, such as encouraging mathematics students to think of a related problem and then solve the current problem by analogy or to think of a sim- pler problem and then extrapolate to the current problem. The examples Pólya used to demonstrate his problem-solving strategies are fascinating, and his influence probably can be sourced, at least in part, to those examples. Nevertheless, in over




The case for criminalizing scientific misconduct



Chris Said

In 2006, Sylvain Lesné published an influential Naturepaper showing how amyloid oligomers could cause Alzheimer’s disease. With over 2,300 citations, the study was the 4th most cited paper in Alzheimer’s basic research since 2006, helping spur up to $287 million of research into the oligomer hypothesis, according to the NIH.

Sixteen years later, Science reported that key images of the paper were faked, almost certainly by Lesné himself, and all co-authors except him have agreed to retract the paper. The oligomer hypothesis has failed every clinical trial.

Lesné’s alleged misconduct misled a field for over a decade. We don’t know how much it has delayed an eventual treatment for Alzheimer’s, and it was not the only paper supporting the oligomer hypothesis. But if it delayed a successful treatment by just 1 year, I estimate that it would have caused the loss of 36 million QALYs(Quality Adjusted Life Years), which is more than the QALYs lost by Americans in World War II. (See my notebook for an explanation.)

Lesné is not alone. This year we learned of rampant image manipulation at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, including in multiple papers published by the institute’s CEO and COO. So far 6 papers have been retracted and 31 corrected. The 6 retracted papers alone have 1,400 citations and have surely polluted the field and slowed down progress. If they delayed a successful cancer drug by just 1 year, I estimate they would have caused the loss of 15 million QALYs, or twice the number of QALYs lost by Americans in World War I.




‘Urban Family Exodus’ Continues With Number of Young Kids in NYC Down 18%



Tracy Alloway and Laura Nahmias

A total of about 800,000 people moved out of large urban counties last year, or twice the pre-pandemic rate, EIG said. Moves out of the city have combined with lower birth rates to drag down the number of young children in big urban counties. Birth rates there have fallen at twice the rate of those in rural areas over the past decade or so, EIG found.

The loss of families with small children is persisting as cities like New York grapple with rising childcare and housing costs, and questions about whether those financial pressures are driving New Yorkers — particularly middle-income families — to leave.

In a separate report released recently, the left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute found that households with children under the age of six were 47% more likely than the rest of the population to leave the state of New York post-pandemic.




NYC new math curriculum & the Common Core standards



Talk Out of School

Now, think about what that means for a minute. Effectiveness is not stage one. You could have a very effective program, and we do have some very effective programs that have been shown to teach kids math and to teach kids how to read, that were rejected by Ed Reports because they’re not Common Core compliant.

So that’s what Ed Reports does. And they have given, it’s called all green, they use these color codes. They’ve given all green to Illustrative Math, so they have approved Illustrative Math.

No one’s terribly surprised by that. One of the three co-authors of the math standards for Common Core is Bill McCallum, and he’s also the founder of Illustrative Math. So it’s not really shocking that this particular program would be seen as in conformity with Common Core.

And you talk about Gates 2 and 3. None of them really have anything to do with any proven effectiveness. Is that right or independent research showing that they were?

They don’t have a gateway that says, is it effective? And what’s the evidence that this particular program was affected?

Yeah, see, I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand.

They feel like if it’s been evaluated and given a high mark by this, suppose, an independent organization, that means that it’s sort of validated in some objective sense. And I just haven’t seen that to be true.




Notes on the University of Arizona and DIE



Ellie Cameron:

The DEI mandate is part of a general education curriculum update at the University of Arizona and takes effect in fall 2026. In the meantime, it has prompted criticisms from a high-profile conservative think tank in the state.

Students “will be forced to take courses with academically unserious content that adds nothing to their education,” Timothy Minella, a researcher with the Goldwater Institute, told The College Fix.

Minella authored the institute’s report criticizing the DEI mandate. Published this month, it argues “general education programs were originally intended to help students gain knowledge and skills essential for thoughtful citizenship and successful careers.”

But the new DEI requirements “instead promote politically activist ideologies to a captive audience of students, who must complete the programs in order to receive a degree,” it adds.




Raises for most chancellors will be tied to student retention



This is the second pay bump this year for eight of the chancellors. In April,the Regents approved raises for all chancellors in the system, bringing leaders in line with the 6 percent salary increase all UW employees received in the biennial budget. 

Mnookin is getting an additional 10 percent pay raise. Alexander, Evetovich and King are getting an extra 5 percent, and Akey, Frank and Wachter will see another 2 percent bump. 

——-

More.




Laid-off tech (related) workers advised to sell plasma, personal belongings to survive



Ariana Bindman:

Nina McCollum has been laid off so many times that the 55-year-old is basically an unofficial expert. That’s how she describes herself, at least. 

The marketing writer, who went viral in 2019 for documenting how she submitted over 200 applications during her two-year unemployment period, eventually landed her dream job at a major human resources tech company in the Bay Area. But then, in March 2023, she was let go — and suddenly back at square one. 

“My chances of obtaining another great-paying FT job are next to zero,” she wrote to SFGATE in an email. 

McCollum is not alone. Over the past two years, major tech companies in the Bay Area have hemorrhaged high-salaried workers, sending a chill throughout an industry that once seemed untouchable. Meta has let go of at least 21,000 workers, while Google has handed pink slips to hundreds of employees across San Francisco, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Though the state government boasts about California’s growing economy and low unemployment rate, multiple people who spoke with SFGATE painted a bleak picture.  




The thought behind the thought



Henrik Karlsson

What follows is a series of meditations about thinking through writing provoked by, but not faithful to, Lakatos’s book. I’ve divided it into two parts. The first part covers the basic mental models that are useful to most people (if you write a diary, for example, and want to get clarity about things in your life). The next part goes into more complex patterns of thinking which I suspect is mostly useful if you do research or engage in some other kind of deep creative work.

A warning. If you aim to write and publish stuff, this essay might tie you up in knots. It is about thinking, not about crafting beauty or finishing things in a finite time.




The Biggest Problem in Mathematics Is Finally a Step Closer to Being Solved



Man on Bischoff:

Number theorists have been trying to prove a conjecture about the distribution of prime numbers for more than 160 years

The Riemann hypothesis is the most important open question in number theory—if not all of mathematics. It has occupied experts for more than 160 years. And the problem appeared both in mathematician David Hilbert’s groundbreaking speech from 1900 and among the “Millennium Problems” formulated a century later. The person who solves it will win a million-dollar prize.

But the Riemann hypothesis is a tough nut to crack. Despite decades of effort, the interest of many experts and the cash reward, there has been little progress. Now mathematicians Larry Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Maynard of the University of Oxford have posted a sensational new finding on the preprint server arXiv.org. In the paper, “the authors improve a result that seemed insurmountable for more than 50 years,” says number theorist Valentin Blomer of the University of Bonn in Germany.




“Doctors Are Not Trained to Think Critically”



Cathy Wield

I already felt disadvantaged; one of the lecturers had broadcast that any student who did not have ‘A’ level Physics should not have been granted a place at medical school. I was one of those students. I had done Maths ‘A’ level instead. My school didn’t do physics or chemistry and I had had to cycle to a neighbouring school just to get the mandatory ‘A’ level Chemistry lessons.

I clearly remember the time when I dared to pose a question during one of our lectures: We were learning about asthma, and I asked why it was that I suffered from wheezing after a thunderstorm but at no other time.

“Impossible,” said the lecturer, “grass pollen is the wrong size and cannot provoke any kind of allergic reaction in the bronchioles (small airways in the lungs).”

I felt humiliated—he had just denied my experience in front of 80 students.




How to Catch a Lab Leak



Santi Ruiz:

In April and May 1979, between 66 and 300 people died from anthrax in the Russian city of Sverdlovsk, now called Yekaterinburg. The Soviet authorities seized doctors’ records and quickly rolled out an explanation: the deaths were an accident caused by contaminated meat. 

But American intelligence agencies suspected a more nefarious explanation: the Soviets were secretly developing biological weapons.

Last week, we interviewed Matthew Meselsonabout his key role in convincing Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon to ban biological weapons research in the early 1970s. After the Sverdlovsk incident, Meselson was brought in by the CIA to help assess the potential explanations. For more than a decade, he led scientific investigations into the incident. In 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the truth finally came out: the Sverdlovsk incident was a bioweapons lab leak, the most deadly confirmed lab leak in history.




Act 10 and the public sector unions



WILL

For the better part of the last decade, no piece of legislation has loomed larger in public policy debates in Wisconsin than Act 10, the collective bargaining reform law passed in 2011. The controversial budget repair bill, introduced by Governor Scott Walker in the first weeks of his first term, represented a fundamental break with the past and a new era for state and local governments in the Badger State.

WILL has been on the forefront of examining the impact of Act 10 on education, the teaching workforce, and puncturing the myths that persist about the law.

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2010: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Much more on Act 10.




So Now the Feds Will Monitor Research Integrity?



Scott Turner:

In its first year, the Biden administration launched a fast-track Scientific Integrity Task Force, intended to “lift up the voices of Federal scientists of many perspectives and backgrounds” and put scientific integrity “paramount in Federal governance for years to come.” The task force took a “whole-of-government” approach to ensuring the scientific integrity of federally funded research and included representatives from the 21 federal agencies that maintain scientific-research programs. For those with a high pain threshold, the final report may be seen here.

Prominent among the move’s critics have been the Council on Governmental Relations (a consortium of research universities) and the Association of Research Integrity Officers (university staff who conduct in-house investigations into alleged research misconduct). Together, these groups submitted nearly 200 comments representing their respective institutions, most of them opposing the proposed rule changes.




“Meta-analysis: On average, undergraduate students’ intelligence is merely average”



Bob Uttl, Victoria C. Violo and Lacey Gibson

According to a widespread belief, the average IQ of university students is 115 to 130 IQ points, that is, substantially higher than the average IQ of the general population (M = 100, SD =15). We traced the origin of this belief to obsolete intelligence data collected in 1940s and 1950s when university education was the privilege of a few. Examination of more recent IQ data indicate that IQ of university students and university graduates dropped to the average of the general population. The decline in students’ IQ is a necessary consequence of increasing educational attainment over the last 80 years. Today, graduating from university is more common than completing high school in the 1940s.Method. We conducted a meta-analysis of the mean IQ scores of college and university students samples tested with Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale between 1939 and 2022.Results. The results show that the average IQ of undergraduate students today is a mere 102 IQ points and declined by approximately 0.2 IQ points per year. The students’ IQ also varies substantially across universities and is correlated with the selectivity of universities (measured by average SAT scores of admitted students).Discussion. These findings have wide-ranging implications. First, universities and professors need to realize that students are no longer extraordinary but merely average, and have to adjust curricula and academic standards. Second, employers can no longer rely on applicants with university degrees to be more capable or smarter than those without degrees. Third, students need to realize that acceptance into university is no longer an invitation to join an elite group. Fourth, the myth of brilliant undergraduate students in scientific and popular literature needs to be dispelled. Fifth, estimating premorbid IQ based on educational attainment is vastly inaccurate, obsolete, not evidence based, and mere speculations. Sixth, obsolete IQ data or tests ought not to be used to make high-stakes decisions about individuals, for example, by clinical psychologists to opine about intelligence and cognitive abilities of their clients.




Jump to BibliographyDear Julia, Dear Yuri:A mathematical correspondence



by Allyn Jackson:

I became so excited I wanted to telephone Leningrad and find out if it were true but the mathematicians here [in Berkeley] said not to — after all the world has waited 70 years without knowing the answer to Hilbert’s tenth problem, surely you can wait a few weeks more. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. On Wednesday, John McCarthy called from Stanford University to say that he had heard a lecture by Ceĭtin in Novosibirsk on your proof. I received his notes yesterday and now I know it is true, it is beautiful, it is wonderful.
 — Julia Robinson to Yuri Matiyasevich, 22 February 1970

Julia Robinson was 50 years old when she learned that Yuri Matiyasevich had resolved Hilbert’s Tenth Problem. He was just 22; she had been pondering the problem almost since the time of his birth. In the letter quoted above she conveyed her ecstatic response to his achievement. The notes about the proof were sketchy, but long experience with Hilbert’s Tenth Problem allowed her to quickly fill in the details — and also to see just how close she herself had come to solving this iconic problem.
It would have been understandable had she felt envy, disappointment, anger. But her letter is entirely free of such emotions. And in her subsequent correspondence with Matiyasevich, comprising about 150 letters, one sees that the ardent sincerity of that first letter was a hallmark of her character. It set the tone for their collaboration and for the warm friendship they shared until her death in 1985, at the age of 65.1




Why the most intuitive explanation for ideas getting harder to find is wrong



Seeds of Science:

But without knowing the underlying kinetics of science and economic growth, this inertia model is just a guess. There are lots of other explanations which are consistent with the observation of diverging fuel use and acceleration. Our car could be going up a hill, or over a rough and rocky road. Or our engine could be depreciating or using the extra fuel inefficiently. Similarly, the ideas we produce might face growing barriers before they can materialize as physical products and buildings which affect productivity. Or our institutions of science are squandering the extra resources they receive with inefficient institutional designs.

The title of my post was “Something Is Getting Harder But It’s Not Finding Ideas” but I really only end up proving that Something Is Getting Harder And We Aren’t Sure What. This post gets closer to fulfilling my original promise by addressing one of the most common arguments for why ideas really are getting harder to find: the burden of knowledge.




Alzheimer’s scientist indicted for allegedly falsifying data in $16M scheme



Beth Mole:

The work underpinned an Alzheimer’s drug by Cassava, now in a Phase III trial.

A federal grand jury has indicted an embattled Alzheimer’s researcher for allegedly falsifying data to fraudulently obtain $16 million in federal research funding from the National Institutes of Health for the development of a controversial Alzheimer’s drug and diagnostic test.

Hoau-Yan Wang, 67, a medical professor at the City University of New York, was a paid collaborator with the Austin, Texas-based pharmaceutical company Cassava Sciences. Wang’s research and publications provided scientific underpinnings for Cassava’s Alzheimer’s treatment, Simufilam, which is now inPhase III trials.

Simufilam is a small-molecule drug that Cassava claims can restore the structure and function of a scaffolding protein in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s, leading to slowed cognitive decline. But outside researchers have long expressed doubts and concerns about the research.




8 years of maintaining standards in Primary Writing in England & Wales



Chris Wheadon and Daisy Christodoulou

In the summer of 2016 we ran our first writing pilot with 5 schools and 256 pupils aged 10 to 11. Our idea was to use Comparative Judgement to help schools measure their pupils’ progress in their writing over time and to be able to compare the progress of their pupils to pupils in other schools. Since then we have assessed over 2 million pieces of writing from pupils aged 4 to 16 globally.

Thank you for reading No More Marking. This post is public so feel free to share it.

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We started the project because schools at the time were disenchanted with the assessment of writing that was required at that time by the Department for Education. The disenchantment was at two levels. Firstly, schools felt that the assessment was unfair as different standards were being applied in different areas of the country, and that they may be disadvantaged by local authorities applying harsh or generous standards in the absence of any national system of moderation. Secondly, they felt that the approach constrained the teaching of writing and rewarded mechanical features over freedom of expression.

So why did we think that we could improve on the current system? We had been using Comparative Judgement for a number of years for various research projects and had begun to understand its power. Typically the advantages of Comparative Judgement are considered to be the following:




The History Crisis Is a National Security Problem



Bret Devereaux:

The United States is rapidly shedding historians—and the national security implications are dire. Even as it grapples with challenges and conflictsrooted in complicated regional histories, the United States continues a decade-and-a-half-long path of defunding history departments and deprioritizing history education. This threatens to produce a generation of policymakers and advisors whose view of the world is increasingly, and dangerously, shallow.

History is in an unprecedented crisis. Battered by budget cuts and a refusal to replace retiring historians, university history departments are now rapidly shrinking; a 2022 study of Midwestern history departments found that the number of permanent departmental faculty had declined by nearly a third since 2010. That decline continues to accelerate as university hiring of historians remains stuck at levels well below what is necessary to replace retirements.

As a consequence, trained historians struggle to find jobs in the field: The rate at which people with history PhDs find tenure-track employment within four years of graduation has declined dramatically, from 54 percent for the 2013 PhD cohort to just 27 percent for the 2017 cohort. In 2022, only a miserable 10 percent of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts were employed as full-time faculty members. Departments have responded with drastic cuts to the number of historians they train; since 2010, the number of PhDs earned in history—which had tracked with jobs in the field since the 1970s—has dropped by 31.9 percent.




Notes on UW System governance amidst declining enrollment



By Andrew Bahl and Becky Jacobs

Following a showdown between the Legislature and Universities of Wisconsin over funding last winter, a new group will study the future of the state’s public universities and issue recommendations.

The legislative study committee includes lawmakers, business leaders and professors among its 18 members, who will contemplate a range of issues facing public higher education in Wisconsin. Those topics are expected to vary from state funding levels to declining enrollment to the possibility of separating UW-Madison from the rest of the UW system.

The group will meet a handful of times, starting on July 11. Typically, these types of committees are intended to be a nonpartisan forum for crafting policy ideas that can be considered by legislators when they return to Madison next year.

“The study committee is, I believe, an opportunity to have some very public, open and honest conversations about where we see the Universities of Wisconsin headed in the years to come,” said state Rep. Amanda Nedweski, R-Pleasant Prairie, who is chairing the committee. “And to get input from a wide variety of stakeholders as to how they see the university’s role working as a component of our economy in the next 50 to 60 years.”

But after more than a decade of budget battles over the state’s public universities, some are skeptical the debate will happen in good faith.

“I think the study committee may already be a farce before it starts,” said state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, a member of the committee.




How Safetyism and Social Media are damaging the kids



matija

The net effect of this is that kids have far more extended boundaries set on them (except on their phones!). For example, nowadays, parents expect their children to be free to go and do groceries alone or play outside without adult supervision only at around the age of 10 to 12 (if not even higher). Gen X, in his research, remembers this as having happened for them around ages 6, 7, or 8. On one hand, I feel like this claim rings true; on the other, I’m also wondering if there might be a case of some rosy retrospection or wishful thinking.

Far from stopping there, he mentions other significant societal efforts that are thwarting children’s growth, such as having playgrounds where kids don’t exhibit any risk of harming themselves. Instead of preparing the kids and making them capable of (literally in this case) tackling obstacles, we’re removing obstacles and coddling them.

Kids also become overprotected in other ways, such as not hearing other views or not being able to handle opposing views. No wonder academia is nowadays the exact opposite of free speech and the scientific method.




Civics: The Constitution Protects ‘Fake Electors’



Larry Lessig:

Arizona has joined Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin in seeking to prosecute Donald Trump’s 2020 electors. Mr. Trump and his party’s lawyers encouraged them to meet and vote on the date set by Congress, Dec. 15. Because Joe Biden carried those states, Democrats and journalists call these Trump electors “fake.” But the effort to prosecute them is unconstitutional, and the campaign to vilify them is stupid. A twist on a plotline from the HBO series “Succession” illustrates why.

In season 4, episode 8, a fire at a Milwaukee “vote count center” destroys more than 100,000 ballots, throwing Wisconsin—and the election—to the Republican candidate. Imagine a more complicated story: After the fire, the governor invokes federal law to order voting in Milwaukee be reopened. A state court holds that action unconstitutional. Democrats appeal.

While the litigation unfolds, the clock ticks. Imagine that the question isn’t resolved by electors day (designated by statute as the Tuesday after the second Wednesday in December). Which slate of electors should meet and vote?

Both, under a precedent set in Hawaii in 1960. Richard Nixon had been declared the winner of the Aloha State. A recount eventually went for John F. Kennedy—but not until after electors day. Both Nixon’s and Kennedy’s electors met to cast their ballots. On Jan. 6, 1961, Vice President Nixon, overseeing the count in Congress, counted Kennedy’s votes, not his.




The College-Admissions TikToker Who Tried to Crack the Code



Erin Gretzinger:

Daniel Lim waves his hands, shaking the table underneath him and making his phone camera wobble. “This is the most insane college application I’ve ever seen in my life!” he exclaims in the opening shot of a TikTok video.

An anonymous student’s stats flash across the screen: 4.2 GPA, 1560 SAT, and top 10 percent of his class. “NYTiMeS bEstSelLeR at 16 yRs oLd” is written in hot pink, the random capitalization parroting an iconic meme format.

“I’m gonna try to guess which universities he got into,” Lim declares.




Here’s What $200 Billion in Covid Money Did for Students



:

The federal government sent nearly $200 billion to U.S. schools in the past few years to help address Covid-era learning challenges. Now the first studies are out showing what the money accomplished—and hinting at what could happen when it goes away this fall.

The money helped students gain some academic ground and made the biggest difference for the nation’s poorest schools, which received the most money, according to two studies released Wednesday. Schools spent on summer programming, tutoring, additional staff, and building upgrades, among other things.

But the overall impact of the federal money was modest, and the remaining dollars won’t be enough to get students back to where they were before the pandemic, the researchers projected. The findings come as the money is running out and some schools are cutting academic-recovery programs.

“The pandemic dollars helped with recovery, but the recovery won’t be done,” said Tom Kane, a Harvard University professor and co-author of one of the new studies.




Finishing schools for the age of TikTok



The Economist:

A century after Post’s magnum opus, people are again saying “yes please” to politeness. A host of influencers offer etiquette lessons online, preaching on posture and teaching table manners. #Etiquette posts on TikTok have been viewed more than 5bn times. William Hanson, a British etiquette coach with some 5m fans on Instagram and TikTok, leads The English Manner, an “etiquette and protocol institute”. Sara Jane Ho, a Chinese instructor, has taken niceties to Netflix. “Mind Your Manners”, a reality show, was nominated for an Emmy award in 2023.




Elsevier withdraws plagiarized paper after original author calls journal out on LinkedIn



Retraction Watch:

In late May, one of Sasan Sadrizadeh’s doctoral students stumbled upon a paper with data directly plagiarized from his previous work. 

Sadrizadeh, a researcher at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, was the last author on “Supply-demand side management of a building energy system driven by solar and biomass in Stockholm: A smart integration with minimal cost and emission,” published in September 2023 in Energy Conversion and Management.

The paper with matching data, “Optimizing smart building energy systems for sustainable living: A realistic approach to enhance renewable energy consumfaption [sic] and reduce emissions in residential buildings,” appeared online as an “article in press” in Elsevier’s Energy and Buildings in May. 

Sadrizadeh told us the methodology reported in the article was “so amusing that I felt compelled to share it” on LinkedIn. In his post, Sadrizadeh calls out “unique Stockholm data magically transformed into an Iraq case study, courtesy of 16 authors from six different countries!” He also included the following picture of data presented in the two papers: 




Notes on student loan debt politics



John Ekdahl:

I’m curious how much student loan debt “Annie, Ashley, and Anthony” are carrying.

Via axios:

  • They particularly focus on Deputy Chief of Staff Annie Tomasini, the first lady’s top adviser Anthony Bernal, and longtime aide Ashley Williams, who joined the deputy chief of staff’s office when Tomasini ascended to the role earlier this year.
  • Those close aides have many duties. But officials recall instances of them helping Biden make up for mental lapses, including prompting him to remember people he has known for a long time.
  • Such moments could be dismissed as normal lapses. But many Biden aides now wonder whether they were signs of something deeper.
  • One former Biden aide told Axios: “Annie, Ashley and Anthony create a protective bubble around POTUS. He’s staffed so closely that he’s lost all independence. POTUS relies on staff to nudge him with reminders of who he’s meeting, including former staffers and advisers who Biden should easily remember without a reminder from Annie.”

and.

Ann Althouse:

But it’s too late not to pitch the old man overboard. They’ve let it show that they’ve been lying miserably for years about this presidency. And yet there is no way to begin to tell the truth. Old lies are better lies… usually. I would think.




AI cheating is destroying higher education; here’s how to fight it



Wilson Tsu:

First, they must decide what is worth teaching. As the tech tools available to students change, education should change as well. Take cursive writing, for example. It looks nice, but is it necessary, particularly in the age of computers? Just as many schools no longer teach cursive, educators in a variety of disciplines may determine that elements previously included in their curriculum are no longer a valuable use of students’ time and effort, and choose to focus on teaching durable skills such as critical thinking and collaboration.




Should Government Hinder Private-School Growth? Wisconsin District Calls It ‘Fiscally Responsible’



Ryan Mills:

For nearly 150 years, what is now St. Thomas Aquinas Academy has been providing a Catholic education to the residents of Marinette, a small northern Wisconsin city on the shore of Lake Michigan.

About 160 students now attend what board chairwoman Cheryl Sporie describes as a “very small, family-oriented parochial school.”

But for a couple of decades the academy has been bifurcated: While the main school building that houses the high school and middle school is in the heart of Marinette, near the mouth of the Menominee River, the smaller elementary school is in Peshtigo, a small town eight miles to the …




The Fifth Circuit’s Public Library Police



Wall Street Journal:

Seven library patrons in Llano County, Texas, population 21,000, are litigating the unshelving of 17 books. Amid public complaints, one county commissioner had urged the librarian to “pick her battles.” This was a no-no, says the lead opinion in Little v. Llano County. “If a government decisionmaker removes a book with the substantial motivation to prevent access to particular points of view, he or she violates the First Amendment,” writes Judge Jacques Wiener, a George H.W. Bush appointee.

Libraries cull their stacks regularly. In Judge Wiener’s view, what matters is intent. If the Llano County librarian genuinely changed her mind about the value of Farting Larry, she could trash him. Yet she testified, the judge says, that she “ordered the ‘butt and fart’ books because she thought based on her training that they were age appropriate, and her ‘opinion about the appropriateness of these books as the head librarian never changed.’”

Perhaps Llano County might have hired a librarian who better shares the local sensibility. Still, Judge Wiener’s interpretation enshrines librarians as a priestly class whose opinions on children’s books must be accepted as final. In reality, they’re government employees, hired by taxpayers and voters to do a job. This is not censorship, in a land where virtually any book can be bought online.




Wisconsin Watch Commentary on School library choices



Rachel Hale:

An increasing part of library specialists’ and district administrators’ jobs has become dealing with requests. Records showed hundreds of internal emails related to scheduling reconsideration meetings and addressing parent concerns. Administrators oversee books across numerous buildings and are struggling with the balancing act of appeasing parent concerns while maintaining appropriate grade interest levels for thousands of other students. 

Districts’ criteria took into account a book’s alignment with curriculum and state standards, the readability and appeal of texts to diverse students, the grade-level appropriateness, the significance and reputation of a book’s author, popular appeal and reviews from sites such as Scholastic and Common Sense Media.

——

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”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?




Diversity Was Supposed to Make Us Rich. Not So Much.



James Mackintosh:

When management consulting firm McKinsey declared in 2015 that it had found a link between profits and executive racial and gender diversity, it was a breakthrough. The research was used by investors, lobbyists and regulators to push for more women and minority groups on boards, and to justify investing in companies that appointed them.

Unfortunately, the research doesn’t show what everyone thought it showed.

There are obvious benefits of diverse corporate leadership for society, both in providing role models and in showing a commitment to promoting the best people, irrespective of skin color or gender. But doing it because it is the right thing is not the same as doing it because it makes more money.

Since 2015, the approach has been tested in the fire of the marketplace and failed. Academics have tried to repeat McKinsey’s findings and failed, concluding that there is in fact no link between profitability and executive diversity. And the methodology of McKinsey’s early studies, which helped create the widespread belief that diversity is good for profits, is being questioned.




K-12 tax & $pending climate: Chicago’s pension crisis



By: Nick Binotti and Ted Dabrowski

Chicago’s pension shortfall across the city’s four major retirement funds – Municipal, Laborers, Police and Fire – rose to $37.2 billion total in 2023. That’s a 5% increase from $35.4 billion reported the prior year. Most of the increase is attributed to changes in actuarial assumptions and recent legislation that sweetened the cost-of-living pension benefit for thousands of police and firefighters.

Add in the Teachers Pension Fund’s $15.8 billion shortfall and Chicagoans are on the hook for $53 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. That’s over $45,000 owed per Chicago household to be paid off over time.

The Chicago teachers and municipal pension funds have the highest unfunded liabilities with both just under $16 billion. The police pension fund is next with nearly $14 billion. The fire and laborers pension systems have unfunded liabilities of $5.7 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively.

Chicago’s five largest systems are only 30% funded collectively. Only the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund has a funding ratio above 40%. Chicago’s municipal, police and fire pension systems each have funding ratios around only 22%, among the worst in the country for major pension funds.




Civics: “He could not spend too much time out in the wild”



Olivia Nuzzi:

Yet Biden’s comment also served as an unintentional reminder of the concerns about his own leadership. Just the day before, the Wall Street Journal had published a report that described how the president’s “frail” appearance and inconsistent “focus and performance” presented challenges on the world stage. At the G7 summit in Italy in June, Biden had the distinction of being the only world leader who did not attend a private dinner party where candid diplomatic talks would happen off-camera. At a European Union summit in Washington in October, Biden “struggled to follow the discussions” and “stumbled over his talking points” to such a degree that he required the intervention of Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (The White House denied the Journal’s reporting.)

——-

“‘Stories the New York Times would have totally passed on two weeks ago’… for $800, Alex”

More.

Matt Stoller:

First comment: “My problem with this piece is Nuzzi writes about a conspiracy to hide Biden’s condition without acknowledging that she was a conspirator. She’s known since early this year that Biden was declining sharply but never wrote about it until after the secrecy was blown”

Jennifer Haberkorn and Eleana Schneider

Of the 16 people who have maxed out to the president’s joint fundraising committee, 11 had a small meeting at the White House, visitor logs show.




The Democratic Party Awaits Its GorbachevCivics:



Niall Ferguson:

The most impressive feature of Thursday’s debate between Brezhnev and Andropov—sorry, Trump and Biden—is that anyone watching was in the least surprised by what it revealed.

The president is senile. The former president is a blowhard. Both these truths have been obvious for years. Yet somehow The New York Times editorial board, the hosts of Pod Save America, and numerous other eminent liberal authorities were shocked by what CNN broadcast from Atlanta.

It all put me in mind of Donald Rumsfeld’s typology of knowledge from back in 2002. “As we know,” he told journalists at a briefing about the alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

This framework can be traced back to a 1955 paper by the psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. Rumsfeld himself attributed it to NASA administrator William Graham, with whom he had worked in the 1990s on the congressional Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States

But the category Rumsfeld omitted—the one I’ve been thinking of since Thursday—is the category of “unknown knowns.” These are perfectly obvious dangers that decision-makers unconsciously or willfully ignore because they do not accord with their preconceptions. 




Civics: Notes on US Politics



Eugene Volokh

[1.] It seems to me that the current situation highlights the major problems with the Democratic Party. Many Democrats must have been aware of Biden’s cognitive decline. They must have been aware that it’s a danger to the country, and a danger to their own election prospects.

They had ample opportunities to press the President to step aside graciously in time for a substitute candidate who could exploit Trump’s vast political weaknesses. To the extent they were worried that Harris would be the obvious substitute, and that she would make a losing candidate, it didn’t take a masterful political chess player to anticipate in 2020 that this might be a problem. And even though it’s obviously difficult to get a President to step down—indeed, though it’s difficult to get most people to acknowledge their own cognitive decline—the job of a well-functioning party is to be able to accomplish such tasks.

[2.] The current situation highlights the major problems with the Republican Party. Even if you support Trump, and agree with his policies, answer honestly: Would you have, twenty years ago, wanted someone like him as your candidate? Set aside whether you think he’s the lesser evil: Do you trust him to be calm and collected in a foreign policy crisis? Do you think he’s an inspirational leader? Do you think he’s a worthy heir to the presidents you admire (whether Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, Coolidge, or whoever else)?

Even if you think his behavior on January 6, 2021 isn’t as bad as it was painted, do you think it actually speaks well of his character and his trustworthiness? Do you believe what he tells you?

And even if you just want to stop the Democrats, how good a job has Trump done with that? In his time as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, he had one victory (2016) followed by three defeats (2018, 2020, 2022). Much of the public, including not just the far Left but many swing voters (and even some Republicans), views him extremely negatively—surely not a great quality for a political candidate.

Say the Democrats do persuade Biden to step aside, and persuade Harris to do so as well, and the Democratic Convention chooses a successful purple-state Democratic governor or senator. How confident are you that Trump will win then? Wouldn’t there be some Republican candidates who would have been more effective at capitalizing on Biden’s historically disastrous debate performance?




Civics: “and what the ‘arbiters’ of truth allow us to say.”



Joe Nocera:

And how did the hosts and guests on Morning Joe react to this well-reported story with its wealth of telling details? With venom. Instead of acknowledging that it might have some validity, they derided the article. “This does have the feeling of Trump acolytes laundering their attacks through a reputable, prestigious news organization,” said co-host Willie Geist. 

“This was a classic, classic hit piece, probably ordered up by the 93-year-old, fifth-time married Rupert Murdoch over the weekend,” added Morning Joe regular Mike Barnicle.

In fact, it was anything but a hit piece. Rather, it was the product of journalism’s essential function: finding out the truth, and then bringing that truth to the public. Indeed, according to the Journal, Biden’s problems—problems most elderly people face sooner or later—were not some kind of new phenomenon. One of the meetings the Journal recounted took place 14 months ago, in May 2023.




How Solzhenitsyn Found Himself—and God



Gary Saul Morton:

Uncompromising atheism was the fundamental principle of Soviet ideology. It’s thus remarkable that three of the greatest Soviet literary masterpieces—Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago,” Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”—were avowedly Christian. Woven into Solzhenitsyn’s account of torture, starvation and hard labor in the gulag—evil that many would take as evidence that a benevolent God doesn’t exist—is the story of how he found faith, not in spite of but because of these conditions.

At the time, he had never thought for himself. “I was committed to that world outlook which is incapable of admitting any new fact or evaluating any new opinion before a label has been found for it from the already available stock: be it the ‘hesitant duplicity of the petty bourgeoisie,’ or the ‘militant nihilism of the déclassé intelligentsia.’ ” Now he asked himself, for the first time, what he believed and found no answer.

Soviet conditions, Solzhenitsyn came to understand, followed directly from materialism and atheism. If people are nothing but material objects, if there is nothing resembling what we call the soul, then concepts like “the sacredness of human life,” “human dignity” and “the inviolability of the person” are merely bourgeois mystification. Absolute values don’t exist, only those of one or another social class, and since the Communist Party represents the proletariat, history’s most progressive class, anything that serves its interests is moral.




Civics: “Democrats and their allies sue to keep RFK Jr. off the ballot in several states”



CBS:

As independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ramps up efforts to secure ballot access in all 50 states, he faces stiff resistance from Democratic political opponents attempting to block his November election bid with multiple lawsuits.

Kennedy vowed to be on the ballot in every state by the end of July. With just over a month to go, he’s made it on the ballot in five states: Utah, Michigan, Delaware, Oklahoma and Tennessee. But Kennedy is also facing legal challenges in five states —  Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Delaware and New Jersey. In some of those states, he’s submitted signatures for ballot access. Several of his political opponents say they’re not finished filing lawsuits against him, calling him a spoiler candidate who will likely throw the election in former President Trump’s favor. 

More.




Notes on Chicago’s k-12 tax and $pending climate



Austin Berg:

Mayor Brandon Johnson and his largest campaign funder are starting to realize they can’t magically wish away Chicago Public Schools’ ~$400 million looming deficit next year and ~$700 million the year after.

They won’t cut costs to cover the gap, even though CPS spends ~$30K per student. But Johnson is so unpopular and distrusted in Chicago that he can’t make a case for higher taxes. Same goes for more funding from Springfield.

So Martinez is the latest scapegoat.

——

And:

“The facts here aren’t flattering, assuming the mayor would like to be perceived as a strong leader capable of running his own administration and making his own decisions. They’re also dismaying for Chicagoans concerned about the influence of what some describe as the new Chicago political machine, helmed by the extreme leftists at CTU.”




Civics: “criminal prosecution for his official acts. Where the President violates the law, he’s subject to impeachment. You can’t impeach a King”



Ann Althouse:

But the Supreme Court didn’t say “the President can ignore the law.” The Biden Administration just got hemmed in by law — the law that prevents it from criminally prosecuting the former President, waging lawfare to fight a political rival. And the Supreme Court only protected the President from criminal prosecution for his official acts. Where the President violates the law, he’s subject to impeachment. You can’t impeach a King. 

And it’s funny how that ad refers to revolution twice, first to uphold it as a glorious ideal — “America was founded in defiance of a king” — and then to denounce it — “He’s already led an insurrection.” But the ad isn’t about coherence. It’s a montage of fear.




A 6-3 majority ducks the First Amendment problem when government pressures tech platforms to limit speech it doesn’t like. Justice Alito writes a powerful dissent.



Wall Street Journal:

States and individuals sued numerous federal officials for violating their First Amendment speech rights by pressuring social-media platforms to suppress their posts. While lower courts ruled for the plaintiffs, six Justices held that they failed to show they had legal standing to sue. Plaintiffs must show that a “particular defendant pressured a particular platform to censor a particular topic before that platform suppressed a particular plaintiff’s speech on that topic,” explains Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority opinion.

She writes that “the platforms moderated similar content long before any of the Government defendants engaged in the challenged conduct” and “continued to exercise their independent judgment.” She was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts along with Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the three liberal Justices.

The majority rebukes lower courts for glossing over “complexities” in the evidence. “Different groups of defendants communicated with different platforms, about different topics, at different times,” Justice Barrett writes, adding that “the links must be evaluated in light of the platform’s independent incentives to moderate content.”




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