The college ratings racket exposes the deep problems in the higher education

In the US, colleges compete to get students. The colleges that are not prestigious do so often by means of lower price and not being too selective in whom they admit. The more prestigious and selective colleges do so by means of reputation, and one of the measures by which reputation is measured is by the rankings issued by various bodies. The one that is most looked at is the annual one issued by the publication US News & World Report. It uses measures such as the faculty-to-student ratio, the percentage of classes taught by full-time faculty, the admission scores of the students, the reputation among its peers, graduation rates, and other items. Many of the data are submitted by the institutions themselves and one can see how that can lead to temptation by administrators to fudge the data in order to increase the ranking.

Now a whistleblower at Colombia University, a mathematics professor there, has said that some of the data submitted by his university were incorrect. As a result, the ranking of the university plummeted from 3rd to 18th.
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Is Trump capable of doing a genuine act of kindness with no thought of reward?

There are many stories about the heavy drinking of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The latest comes from yet another book about the Trump administration. This is by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York.

At a law firm dinner in New York in May 2016, an “unhinged” Rudy Giuliani, then Donald Trump’s suggested pick to head a commission on “radical Islamic terrorism”, behaved in a drunken and Islamophobic manner, horrifying clients and attorneys alike.

According to a new book by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York (SDNY), at one point Giuliani turned to a Jewish man “wearing a yarmulke [who] had ordered a kosher meal” and, under the impression the man was a Muslim, said: “I’m sorry to have tell you this, but the founder of your religion is a murderer.”

“It was unbelievable,” Berman writes. “Rudy was unhinged. A pall fell over the room.”
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Well played, commenters!

In response to my post about how some comment threads can go on and on and wander far into areas that have nothing to do with the original post, the resulting comment thread was a true marvel, an exemplar of that phenomenon, with around 70 posts dealing with such topics as Wookies, Klingons, free will, Batman, nunchucks, and other exotica. The amount of detailed knowledge introduced on some of these topics was truly impressive.

It was fun to read, even though I have almost no knowledge of most of the topics being discussed.

Reducing child poverty

Poverty is a terrible thing, and even more so when children are involved. To not be sure of where one’s own next meal is coming from or if one can pay the rent or take care of medical emergencies is bad enough but when one cannot provide those things for one’s children, it can be heartbreaking.

Children are not responsible for their economic state and so the state has a responsibility to make sure that at least that section of the population is taken care of. So the news that child poverty was cut in half in 2021 due to the enhanced child tax credit enacted during the pandemic is excellent news. It shows that government policy can do a lot ameliorate that problem.

The US child poverty rate fell by nearly half in 2021, largely thanks to enhanced child tax credits, new census data shows.

The child poverty rate fell to a low of 5.2% compared with 9.7% the year before.

Experts noted that increased child tax credits provided low-income families with much-needed resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Overall, US child poverty levels have been falling for decades. Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993 with rates declining in all 50 states, the New York Times reported.

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Just give me the facts: Part 2

I posted before about my irritation with journalists who do not provide basic facts about elections, such as the date of the election they are discussing or the vote tallies after the event, instead giving us their commentary and conclusions. This failure was clearly apparent in the special election that was held on August 16 to complete the term for the single congressional seat in the state of Alaska vacated by the death of the incumbent. On August 31, Democrat Mary Peltola was declared to have won the election, defeating two Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.

The election was notable in that Peltola becomes the first Native Alaskan to go to Congress and the reports dutifully reminded us of that fact. But there was another very interesting feature in the election. It was the first time that Alaska was using a combination of an open primary, in which all the candidates were pooled together on one ballot (with over 45 competing) with the top four going on to the general election, and then using ranked choice voting to decided the winner among those four, provided none of the four got more than 50% of the vote in the first round.
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Police shows as propaganda

I have never watched any episodes of the extremely popular Law and Order and its multiple spin-offs and after watching John Oliver’s critique of it as essentially police propaganda, I am not likely to. He says that these shows get the assistance of police departments to produce them (thus greatly reducing their production costs) and in return portray the police and the US justice system in a very favorable light, as consisting of people who always have justice as their goal and almost always close their cases, which is simply not true. The shows, while claiming to get their material from real life, ignore the systemic problems that exist in the system and the many real life cases of police atrocities.

Sri Lanka wins Asian netball championship

While Sri Lanka goes through major political and economic crises, their sports teams are achieving considerable success. I wrote about the men’s win in the Asia Cup cricket tournament on Sunday. This news overshadowed that on the same day, their women’s team won the Asia Netball Championships, defeating Singapore 63-53 in the final.

Netball is a game played in over 80 countries, primarily by women. It is similar to basketball in that the they have a similar court and ball and hoops at each end where you score goals. It is different from basketball in that you cannot dribble or bounce the ball. The player in possession has to remain stationary, hence ball progression is achieved entirely by passing to team mates, which makes team work and accurate passing very important. It is not a game where one virtuoso player can carry the team. There are seven players on a side and physical contact between opposing players is minimal.
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Walking away from endless arguments

As regular readers are aware, some of the comment threads to my posts go on and on, with later comments having little or no connection to the original post. This is a common feature of internet discussion boards. Some recent examples are the one in which I referred to speculations that dinosaurs may have used fire. That generated 386 comments, most of them dealing with creationism and evolution and nothing to do with dinosaurs. A post on free will generated 105 comments. Even more surprising was the response to a posting of a New Yorker cartoon that has 102 comments. A mere cartoon!
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Watering while Black

The list of ordinary things that you can get arrested for simply by being Black keeps growing. Add watering flowers to the list , at least in the eyes of some Alabama police.

“What you doing here, man?” the white police officer asked an African American man quietly watering flowers in a front garden in Childersburg, Alabama.

“Watering flowers,” was the man’s reply.

Two minutes later, the man, the Rev Michael Jennings, 56, a pastor at the local Vision of Abundant Life church, was put into handcuffs. Three minutes after that he was placed in a police vehicle, under arrest for “obstructing governmental operations”.

The arrest, first reported by NPR, was captured on the police officer’s body camera. The man identified himself without being asked as “Pastor Jennings” and said he lived across the road.

He was told an anonymous neighbour had made a 911 call reporting “suspicious” activity outside the house of someone who had gone out of town.
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