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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Daily Drift

Psycho!

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Today in History

1529 Ottoman armies under Suleiman end their siege of Vienna and head back to Belgrade.
1582 The Gregorian (or New World) calendar is adopted in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal; and the preceding ten days are lost to history.
1783 Francois Pilatre de Rozier makes the first manned flight in a hot air balloon. The first flight was let out to 82 feet, but over the next few days the altitude increased up to 6,500 feet.
1813 During the land defeat of the British on the Thames River in Canada, the Indian chief Tecumseh, now a brigadier general with the British Army (War of 1812), is killed.
1863 For the second time, the Confederate submarine H L Hunley sinks during a practice dive in Charleston Harbor, this time drowning its inventor along with seven crew members.
1878 Thomas A. Edison founds the Edison Electric Light Co.
1880 Victorio, feared leader of the Minbreno Apache, is killed by Mexican troops in northwestern Chihuahua, Mexico.
1892 An attempt to rob two banks in Coffeyville, Kan., ends in disaster for the Dalton gang as four of the five outlaws are killed and Emmet Dalton is seriously wounded.
1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer, is arrested for betraying military secrets to Germany.
1914 Congress passes the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which labor leader Samuel Gompers calls "labor's charter of freedom." The act exempts unions from anti-trust laws; strikes, picketing and boycotting become legal; corporate interlocking directorates become illegal, as does setting prices which would effect a monopoly.
1924 German ZR-3 flies 5000 miles, the furthest Zeppelin flight to date.
1941 Odessa, a Russian port on the Black Sea which has been surrounded by German troops for several weeks, is evacuated by Russian troops.
1945 Vichy French Premier Pierre Laval is executed by a firing squad for his wartime collaboration with the Germans.
1950 President Harry Truman meets with General Douglas MacArthur at Wake Island to discuss U.N. progress in the Korean War.
1964 Nikita Khrushchev is replaced by Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union.
1966 Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale establish the Black Panther Party, an African-American revolutionary socialist political group, in the US.
1969 Rallies for The Moratorium to End the War  in Vietnam draw over 2 million demonstrators across the US, a quarter million of them in the nation's capital.
1987 The Great Storm of 1987 strikes the UK and Europe during the night of Oct 15-16, killing over 20 people and causing widespread damage.
1989 Canadian hockey player Wayne Gretzky makes his 1,851st goal, breaking the all-time scoring record in the National Hockey League.
1990 Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the USSR, receives Nobel Peace Prize for his work in making his country more open and reducing Cold War tensions.
1997 Andy Green of the UK becomes the first person to break the sound barrier in the Earth's atmosphere, driving the ThrustSSC supersonic car to a record 763 mph (1,228 km/h).
2003 China launches its first manned space mission, Shenzhou I.
2007 New Zealand police arrest 17 people believed to be part of a paramilitary training camp.
2008 Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets 733.08 points, the second-largest percentage drop in the Dow's history.
2011 Protests break out in countries around the globe, under the slogan "United for Global Democracy."

Non Sequitur

http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ucomics.com/nq131014.gif

Arrest made in ‘Baby Hope’ case

Police say charges to be filed against child's relative in 22-year-old mystery

 

More than 22 years after Anjelica Castillo, aka “Baby Hope” was found murdered in the woods of upper Manhattan police have made an arrest in the case.
In a press conference on Saturday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said a man named Conrado Juarez, 53, has been arrested and will be charged with Castillo’s murder. The New York Post reports that Juarez was 30 at the time of Castillo’s death in 1991.
"A tip produced a lot of investigative work, and with great detective work we were able to track people down and interview them," Kelly said. "We finally came up with Anjelica’s sister, and that broke the case through.”
In an emotional moment, Kelly noted that while Castillo was known only as "Baby Hope" for the past 22 years, detectives on the case had paid for a headstone for the young girl inscribing it with the words, "Because we care."
During his press conference, Kelly said that Juarez allegedly kidnapped Castillo and sexually assaulted and smothered her with the help of his wife, Balvina Juarez. When he realized that Castillo was dead, Juarez allegedly summoned his sister, now deceased, for help. Castillo was living with Juarez and other relatives at the time while her parents were going through a separation, Kelly said.
Kelly says Juarez and his sister then took a livery cab to Manhattan where they disposed of the body. "Juarez returned to The Bronx and his sister returned to Queens, never to speak of this heinous act again, that is until our investigation caught up with them,” Kelly said at the press conference.
NBC News reports that the arrest came after police stepped up their investigation into the case this summer. The New York Daily News reports that the arrested individual is expected to be charged in connection with the case.
The renewed investigation efforts led to Castillo being identified in early October, the first time her actual identity has been discovered since her body was first found inside a cooler in the woods in 1991. On Friday, a tip led police to identifying Castillo’s father. Police told CNN they do not currently have enough evidence to arrest the man but are attempting to contact him about the case. We're very interested in him,” an anonymous official told CNN.
Police have also recently identified Castillo’s sister and mother. Castillo is believed to have been between 3 and five years old at the time of her death. NBC 4 New York reported that Castillo’s mother told authorities she lived in fear of the baby’s father, which is why she did not report her child as missing back in 1991.
"They made it their mission to identify this young child, to lay her to rest and to bring her killer to justice," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement released on Saturday.

Golden Showers

McCrony to spend $230,000 in taxpayer funds on bathrooms at the Governor’s mansion

Pat McCrony (r-N.C.) feels ‘entitled’ to spend up to $230,000 in taxpayer funds remodeling bathrooms in his private living quarters at North Carolina’s Executive Mansion even as he demands cuts to public schools and social programs One of these is necessary, the other is not.
McCrony is taking the term ‘Golden shower’ literally.
McCrory
And yet, North Carolina just reversed its callous decision to stop issuing baby formula vouchers because of the federal government shutdown, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday evening.
According to WRAL.com, Department director Aldona Wos said the state had secured contingency funds and money left over from the previous fiscal year to reopen the program.
They were actually going to cease WIC payments during the shutdown, yet McCrory will spend almost a quarter of a million dollars on remodeling bathrooms in his private living quarters. That’s during the shutdown while federal workers are furloughed.
According to the AP, planned upgrades include new marble, tubs and fixtures for six bathrooms on the upper floors of the Victorian-era home in Raleigh. The changes were included in a long list detailing $90 million in repairs and renovations to government buildings sent to legislative leaders last week by state budget director Art Pope. The $90 million was included in the state budget for the current fiscal year.
The Associated Press reports:
A written estimate provided to The Associated Press shows $100,710 of planned work to the governor’s master bathroom, including a new shower, tub, two lavatories and a water closet. The estimate also includes $15,800 for marble, ceramic tile and paint. All told, the project breaks down to about $420 per square foot.  
The $420 he’s spending on just one square foot could feed some of the poor and elderly in that state, let alone the amount of money McCrory is spending on toilets and such.
The decision to press ahead with the new work at the mansion comes just after (about a month ago) McCrory signed a state budget which affords big tax cuts for the wealthy while including no raises for teachers, dropping per-pupil school spending to among the lowest rates in the nation and slashing a program that provides dental work to low-income children.
Not to mention: How much is voter suppression efforts costing the taxpayers in North Carolina? It’s supposed to be for integrity, however, I see no integrity with this Governor or his repugican colleagues.
‘Fiscal Conservatives’, my ass.
North Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Ben Ray said, ”This is an junta and a legislature that rejected health care for 500,000 North Carolinians. So to drop $230,000 on a bathroom renovation just shows that Pat McCrony’s priority is not North Carolina, but himself.”
And that’s just the bathrooms. He’s having other work done at the mansion too.
Get his pampered ass out of the Governor’s mansion.

Obama Smacks Down a Disrespectful Ted Cruz During White House Meeting

obama-finger
Things didn’t go well for Ted Cruz when he tried to confront President Obama at the White House, as the president shot down his demand for changes to the ACA.
According to Politico, Sen. Cruz told President Obama:
I told the president exactly the same thing I have told you here today: That we need to work together and fund the government and at the same time provide substantial relief to the millions of people who are hurting because of Obamacare, who are losing their jobs, being forced into part-time work and losing their health insurance,” Cruz said. “If the outcome doesn’t impact people who are struggling, who are hurting because of Obamacare, then I don’t think it would be a good outcome.

I’m glad that we are finally having discussions. That is an improvement. There was an awful lot of talk but then, at the end of the day, the president still said he wouldn’t negotiate,” Cruz said. “We began talking, that was good today. But he continued to maintain that he will not negotiate or compromise on anything. And if that is the position, that’s not going to lead to a resolution.
Ted Cruz had the nerve to try to make demands to the President of the United States in the White House, and was immediately shot down. Ted Cruz thought that his grandstanding ACA lies would work on Obama, and by his own admission, was swatted away by the president.
Cruz is supposed to be the new leader of the repugican cabal, but he couldn’t hold a serious discussion without resorting to his same old debunked Obamacare talking points. Ted Cruz isn’t a leader. He is an empty suit. President Obama must have had a difficult time keeping a straight face while Cruz claimed that the ACA was killing jobs, full time employment, and healthcare.
Obama isn’t going to be bullied by Ted Cruz. The difference is that Ted Cruz is pretending that he is a leader with power, while Barack Obama is the twice elected President of the United States. President Obama has the numbers on his side. The American people are clamoring for Obamacare. Thanks to the Cruz led government shutdown, the ACA is getting more popular each day.
Foolish Ted Cruz believed all the nonsense that tea partiers like to think is true about President Obama, but the man he met today wasn’t some weak kneed socialist. Sen. Cruz met the real President Obama, who looked him in the eye, and told him no.
Ted Cruz better stick to fooling gullible repugicans with Obamacare lies, because he doesn’t have what it takes to challenge President Obama.

The Koch Brothers Seditious Shutdown Conspiracy Should Get Them 20 Years in Prison

The DOJ will have an easy time prosecuting and convicting the Kochs because there are money trails leading directly to PACs whose primary purpose was inciting opposition to… koch-brother-star-in-clear-and-present-danger-axis-of-evil
There is a saying in the entertainment industry that any publicity is good publicity, and although it is primarily true for entertainers, it is not the case for politicians. For the dark money and puppeteers behind wingnut politicians, anonymity is the preferred state and any publicity is inherently bad regardless if they fund extremist politicians or schemes to shut down the government. After news broke that the billionaire oil magnates the Koch brothers funded the culprits behind the still-ongoing government shut down, they finally spoke out in a letter to Senators claiming their innocence and denying they had any part in teabagger and repugican machinations to hold the government hostage in exchange for killing the Affordable Care Act.
The Koch brothers’ letter claimed they had no part or took no position “on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding ObamaCare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding ObamaCare,” but like their repugican lackeys; they are filthy liars. The Koch-funded FreedomWorks issued a letter in February that said, “Wingnuts should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare.  This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.” If paying a surrogate to demand repugicans and teabaggers tie defunding the Affordable Care Act to keeping the government operating is not taking a position on the government shutdown and the continuing resolution, then the Sun rises in the West and the Earth orbits the moon.
Obviously the bad publicity frightens the Koch brothers and doubtless they are legitimately concerned they will lose influence with their right wing conservative base who are taking a beating in the public sphere for their fervent support of the government shutdown. Likely, the Koch’s are not happy their reputation could be further sullied for backing the lunatic fringe wing of the repugican cabal led by Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, and Steve King who championed the government shutdown strategy to eliminate the health law. It is also likely they did not miss Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s accusations they were behind the shutdown, or the articles, petitions and calls for the Justice Department to investigate them for sedition that never had a snowball’s chance in Hell of touching the Kochs.
However, there is a statute in the U.S. Code that does apply to the Koch brothers and every other wingnut that spent the past three years attempting to prohibit implementation of the Affordable Care Act and it is a legitimate and actionable offense the DOJ can prosecute with extreme prejudice. In 18 USC § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy, it plainly says; “If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspires to oppose by force the authority of, or prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.” For the Americans affected by the government shut down, and those who live in repugican states that rejected free Medicaid expansion written in the Affordable Care Act, it is highly likely they would support fining and imprisoning the Koch brothers for twenty years.
The U.S. Code says “if two or more persons” are involved in a conspiracy to oppose the authority of, prevent, hinder, or delay any law they shall be punished and that means that every single repugican, teabagger, wingnut media, and libertarian belief tank is in line to be prosecuted for seditious conspiracy by the Department of Justice. Every repugican in the House that voted to tie defunding the Affordable Care Act is part of the conspiracy, and that also applies to repugicans who voted in lockstep to prevent the law’s implementation by tying defunding the law to passing a continuing resolution to open the government.
The repugicans in leadership positions in the House and Senate are particularly culpable for preventing the law’s enactment and not because they wasted taxpayer time and money voting over forty times to repeal the law, but because their propaganda, lies, and misinformation incited hostility in the states to oppose the authority of the law. In states such as Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, and Missouri The repugicans refused to enforce the law, and after the general election at least three repugican states voted to arrest any federal official who tried to implement the law making them part of the seditious conspiracy as much as the Koch brothers who paid hundreds-of-millions to hinder the law’s implementation. One former repugican, Joe Walsh (r-IL) actually went so far as to provoke his supporters to “defy and or break the law” if faced with what he called “restrictions” in the federal health law. Three repugican cabal-controlled states openly voted to “nullify” the law.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and yet repugicans have never admitted it is the law of the land. It is true that after the 2012 general election Speaker of the House John Boehner had a moment of clarity and said “Obamacare is the law of the land,” but he, and his fellow wingnuts treat the law as if it is a piece of legislation still up for debate and negotiation. Since the law is over three-and-a-half years old, every repugican, teabagger, wingnut think tank, and even wingnut media is guilty of conspiring to oppose the authority of, or prevent, hinder, or delay the ACA and it is incumbent on the Department of Justice to charge every last one of them with seditious conspiracy under U.S. Code 18 USC § 2384, but especially Charles and David Koch.
The DOJ will have an easy time prosecuting and convicting the Kochs and their conspirators because there are money trails leading directly to PACs whose primary purpose was inciting opposition to the established law. There are also videos, angry screeds, and floor speeches from repugicans in the House and Senate demanding the ACA be defunded and delayed that would give any prosecutor an easy task of proving seditious conspiracy.
Americans have put up with criminal sedition from the Kochs and Republicans for too long and they cannot be held to a different standard or above the law because they are rich and powerful. In fact, their violation of the U.S. Code may well be the easiest, and only, means of stopping their continued assault on America’s representative democracy. Obviously the Koch brothers were rattled by charges they were behind the government shutdown through their funding efforts to hold the government hostage in exchange for eliminating the ACA or they would not have written a letter lying about their involvement. But they, their think tanks, PACs, and cohort in Congress and the states cannot deny they are guilty of seditious conspiracy to “oppose the authority of, or prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” and no American should be satisfied until they are fined or imprisoned for twenty years. If there is any justice left in this corrupt nation, they will get both.
Author note:
The fact that states voted to arrest federal officials attempting to enforce the health law, coupled with the growing threats of armed violence against the government due to the health law’s enactment meets the definition of “by force” originally omitted in the U.S. Code’s description. By definition, a conspiracy means the planners, inciters, and funders are guilty the same as Osama bin Laden was guilty for recruiting, planning, and funding al Qaeda terrorists who flew commercial airliners into American buildings.

House Democrats Pull an End Around To Try To Overthrow Boehner and Reopen Government

186 Democrats signed a petition to demand a vote as soon as October 14th to reopen government, using the repugicans own bill against them.… demandavote
Remember when I wrote that Democrats were planning to use repugican’s own bill against them in order to fund the government? They signed the petition today. Democrats are trying to bypass Speaker Boehner in order to allow a quick vote on a bill to reopen the government.
So far, 186 Democrats have signed a petition to demand a vote as soon as October 14th to reopen government. This discharge petition only needs a majority of House members; it doesn’t rely upon repugican leadership.
The method of using discharge petitions to bring legislation for consideration is not unprecedented.
According to a Congressional Research Service study cited by Democrats, “seven discharge petitions have received 218 signatures over the last 30 years. And in all seven cases, the majority party agreed to bring the measure to the House floor.”
But then, they weren’t dealing with these repugicans.
“The only thing standing between this Congress and an open government is Speaker Boehner’s refusal to allow a vote on a clean continuing resolution,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “This measure can remove the Speaker’s undemocratic roadblock and finally allow a clean vote in the House of Representatives to open the government.”
What Democrats are trying to do here is reestablish the rule of the majority, thereby bypassing the tea party strangle hold on repugican cabal leadership. This CR would fund the government at levels set by the Senate if a majority of House Members sign onto a discharge petition. Click here to read what Democrats filed on the 4th to allow the signing of the petition today.
If Democrats can get to 218, the remaining two steps would be 1) Discharge the resolution from the Rules Committee for immediate House consideration. 2) Then debate a CR with the House and Senate agreed spending levels. This would be a substitute to H.R. 1164 – a repugican bill introduced more than 30 days ago. Then, they’d take an up or down vote.
The bill would then need to be passed by the much saner Senate.
“There is a growing number of repugicans who want the opportunity to work with us to end this crisis. We have seen it in press reports. And I have heard it in my own private conversations with my repugican colleagues,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). “Today, we are offering my repugican friends, and the American people, a way forward.”
We’ll see if any of the House repugicans who have indicated that they want to end this shutdown have the courage to sign the petition.
If they don’t, this is a perfect example of why we can’t trust even moderate repugican lawmakers in the current repugican cabal. If repugicans try to shut down this attempt at democracy, the people must demand a vote.

National Cancer Institute director warns staff of increasingly dire effects of shutdown on science

National Cancer Institute headquarters, Bethesda, Maryland.
Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, sent this email today to "NCI staff, grantees, advisors, reviewers and others," warning of increasingly damaging effects the ongoing federal government shutdown will have on cancer research and treatment at NCI. Even worse than the litany of known, present harm, is this grim prediction: the damage won't end when the government reopens.

Here's a copy of the aforementioned email:


I am writing to keep you abreast of the ways in which the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and its extramural and intramural research programs have been --- and are likely to be --- affected by the current shutdown of the federal government. And I am also writing to ask for your help in responding to the difficult situation that we are likely to face when the government is reopened. As you have doubtless seen in the media, if not experienced directly, the NCI, along with the rest of the NIH, has been obliged to place on furlough many valuable employees, presently about 80 percent of our staff. While all components of the NCI have furloughed many personnel, most of those we have been able to exempt from furlough are in our intramural programs and needed to preserve ongoing research protocols, ensure laboratory safety, care for experimental animals, and, especially, serve our patients at the Clinical Research Center. This situation has been hard for everyone, particularly for many of our trainees, who have been told to limit their activities on campus to those permitted during the shutdown. They, like regular staff members, are unable to travel to scientific meetings or to perform much of the research they came to NCI to do.
Although the shutdown has been felt most acutely by our staff and investigators in the intramural program, the effects on the extramural research community are likely to become progressively greater as the situation persists. Presently, the vast majority of NCI’s extramural staff is furloughed, which means that many NCI staff members are unable to provide their usual administrative and programmatic support services to extramural grantees. Furthermore, many grantees, especially those responsible for planning collaborative work, including clinical trials, have been limited in their abilities to conduct important meetings that require NCI staff and support. Still, we have been able to exempt from furlough some program officers who provide oversight and guidance for clinical trials that were initiated prior to the shutdown. Moreover, the length of the shutdown has not been great enough to affect most ongoing research activities at extramural sites. Since the Payment Management System has remained operational, we also continue to process requests to obtain expected funds for most of the grants awarded to our extramural investigators. However, that may not be possible if an award was made with restrictive terms or if a request triggers a need for additional interactions.
Now that the shutdown is nearing the end of its second week, however, further consequences are coming into view. While grant applications can be accepted and stored at grants.gov, the NIH Office of Extramural Research has discouraged submissions, and applications will not be processed further until normal business operations are restored through Congressional appropriations. (See the OER’s message at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-13-126.html). Furthermore, NCI’s Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) has postponed until undetermined dates several site visits to evaluate re-competing centers and large grant applications, and it has postponed more than a dozen meetings to review grant applications. Thus, the NCI’s grant review cycle could be significantly delayed, threatening a smooth restart of NCI’s support of extramural research, even if the NIH reopens relatively soon.
This situation could have serious effects on the review and funding of virtually all NCI programs, including NCI-designated Cancer Centers, program project and SPORE grants, training awards, and individual research project grants. Questions or concerns about these matters should be sent to John Czajkowski, NCI Deputy Director for Management ([email redacted]), or to Dr. Paulette Gray, Director of the Division of Extramural Activities ([email redacted]).
Part of the reason I am writing at this time is to prepare you for the possibility that we at the NCI (and presumably others at the NIH) will be asking reviewers and advisors to adapt to abrupt and inconvenient changes in the scheduling of meetings to review grant applications and oversee programs. These changes may require you to alter long-standing plans to attend worthwhile events. But avoiding a major crisis in grant-making and program development this year may be possible only if all members of the NCI communities are willing to help alleviate the consequences of the shutdown.
Needless to say, all of us at the NCI hope that the current situation is resolved quickly, but we have no way to know when the shutdown will end. In the meantime, I encourage all of you to monitor major media outlets regularly, as we do, for updates on the status of federal operations. As long as the shutdown continues, the NCI will remain committed to advancing our common cause---research to control cancer---as best we can within the limits of the law. Your patience, persistence, and flexibility are very much appreciated during this unhappy and uncertain time.
Harold Varmus
Director, NCI


American education's use of "value added measures" is statistically bankrupt

by Cory Doctorow 

American teachers are widely assessed on the basis of "value added measures," a statistical tool for analyzing the outcomes of their teaching. But as Jerry Genovese points out, this is statistically completely bankrupt -- unless you randomize your samples, you get no insight into the quality of the teaching. I asked my father, Gord Doctorow -- a mathematician, math teacher, and professor of education -- what he thought of Genovese's piece, and he sent me some great material, which you'll find after the jump.
In the past few weeks I have been analyzing data from a research project. The topic is not important for our discussion here, the methodology, however, is. The approach I am using is called a gain score analysis. Participants are assigned to one of two groups, each group will receive a different intervention. For each group we measured our outcome variable at baseline, that is before treatment. After the intervention we will measure our outcome variable again. Gain score is defined as the final measurement minus the baseline measurement. In other word the magnitude of the change. By focusing on the magnitude of the change we don’t have to worry about the fact that the baseline scores were not identical. We use a statistical test to see if one group gained significantly more that the other.
A value added measure of teaching is also a gain score analysis. They measure the students’ performance at the beginning of the year and then measure their performance again at years end. The difference would be the gain score or, as it is called in education, the value added. The average gain score for a group of students is said to be the value added by the teacher.
What is wrong with this approach? After all it seems to be identical to what my colleagues and I are doing in our research. Unfortunately, there is a crucial difference. In my study the participants were randomly assigned to the two groups. A gain score analysis can not be valid if the group assignments are not random.
Here's what my Dad added:
I agree with Jerry Genovese. There are several methodological problems with value-added evaluations of teachers, as I understand the concept from Jerry's blog. First, the issue of comparisons: he's right that sampling has to be random. Not only that, the sample size has to be sufficiently large (sufficient power) and representative. To be representative, the proportions of certain demographically defined groups of students have to be proportionally represented in the comparison groups. Besides that, there is the issue of what constitutes an appropriate measure of value. In the case of student scores, we need to know whether the tests of student performance are good predictors of future success. In Finland, the students are not exposed to such tests until later on when they compete in the PISA, which is an international test of performance by country. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, this lack of emphasis, they greatly outperform American kids. The value that Finns use to compare teachers is based on rigorous standards of pre-service education, including attainment of a Master's degree, and very competitive salaries. These teachers are expected to be knowledgeable and innovative. In the U.S., the teachers are expected to get their students to attain scores on standardized tests in a high stakes environment, which inevitably leads to cheating and sacrifice of creative learning opportunities.
Finally, in order to do a proper comparison of teacher performance, you have to eliminate (control for) variations in the student populations being served. Students learn at different rates, are subject to cultural influences, have varying degrees of home encouragement and support, and the list goes on. There can be no meaningful comparison among teachers who have vastly different student populations because a significant variable plays a confounding role.
Value added measures of teachers are invalid


Random Celebrity Photos

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Dulce Marilyn
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In The News

Study: Farmer and hunter groups 'kept their distance' from each other in Stone Age 

"When farmers showed up from the Near East about 7,500 years ago, eager to grow their grains in the soil of Central Europe, they were met by indigenous hunters and gatherers. The locals, apparently, did not welcome them with open arms." New research suggests that "for some 2,000 years, these distinct groups refused to mesh and would rarely cross their cultural boundaries to find a mate."

What effect does mass surveillance have on journalism in the US? We're finding out. It's not good. 

" Mass surveillance of the kind practiced by the NSA produces a chilling effect on journalism, because sources do not feel they can have a private conversation with a reporter." That's the takeaway from a public comment issued by a group of scholars, journalists, and researchers from Columbia Journalism School and the MIT Center for Civic Media, responding to the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies convened by President Obama. [Tow Center for Digital Journalism] 

New head of CIA's National Clandestine Service profiled in Newsweek

In Newsweek, Jeff Stein profiles Frank Archibald, who was named head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service earlier this year. Stein describes him as "a nice guy in a killer job – literally;" an "affable, hulking former Clemson University football player, 57," who is now the guy in charge of the CIA division that handles the "agency's spies and hunter-killer teams, like the ones dispatched to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere in search of al Qaeda and other terrorist spore."

Father walking across US to raise bullying awareness after gay son committed suicide is killed

"An Oregon man who lost his gay son to suicide and was walking across the country to raise awareness about bullying is dead after being hit by a truck in eastern Colorado." Joseph Bell of La Grande, OR, who was 48, died on Wednesday after a truck hit him on a rural two-lane highway. "Investigators believe the driver fell asleep." 

Lavabit files opening brief in important online privacy case 

Kevin Poulsen, Wired News: "Secure email provider Lavabit just filed the opening brief in its appeal of a court order demanding it turn over the private SSL keys that protected all web traffic to the site." 

Judge fines self $50 for allowing his phone to go off during sentencing hearing 

Judge Hugh B. Clarke, Jr. of Lansing District Court in Michigan fined himself $50 after his cellphone went off at a sentencing hearing. The Judge told the WSJ he made a call during a recess and forgot to silence his phone when he returned to court in a hurry. “I don’t know why I even had it,” he said. 

US gov shutdown means imminent death for thousands of lab mice

NPR's "All Things Considered" did a piece this week about what the shutdown means for thousands of lab mice used in medical research at government facilities. In a word, death. 

Patriot Act author pushes bill to put NSA's data dragnet 'out of business'

"Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who worked with president George W. Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after the September 11 terrorist attacks, said the intelligence community had misused those powers by collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claimed it was time 'to put their metadata program out of business."

What Your Favorite Flavor Says About You

by Diana Stanczak  

Maybe you really are what you eat. People who have sweet tooth's are more likely to lend a hand and be cooperative, finds new research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Researchers had 55 college students answer questions about their personality and also rate how much they liked 50 different foods broken up into the five major flavor profiles: spicy, salty, bitter, sour, and sweet. Those who rated the sweet foods higher had a higher level of agreeableness.

In another study the same researchers found that when the students were given a sweet food like chocolate milk over a plain cracker or no food, they were more willing to volunteer their time for a professor.
It's not the first time scientists have found a link between flavor preferences and personality.

Can't keep your hand out of the cookie jar? Drool at the thought of a juicy ribeye? Here's what it all means:
Men's Health - Sweet Foods





In the new study, participants who ate something sweet were more willing to volunteer their time than their sugar-free counterparts.
Mens Health - Spicy Foods





Can't put down the sriracha? You may be a thrill-seeker, according to a study from Penn State. Students who scored high on a risk-taking behavior test also reported enjoying spicy flavors, while those who generally played it safe were more cautious about their food choices.
Men's Health - Savory Foods





Foods composed of fat and protein spark your evolutionary craving for sustenance, but also trigger a social cue in your mind, according to researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center. Since hearty meals are usually enjoyed with friends or family, the scent of bacon frying triggers memories of good times.
Men's Health - Salty Foods





Water attracts salt, so those who crave it are literally more likely to "go with the flow," according to researchers at the University of Natural Medicine. Take this with a grain of salt, though; too much sodium is associated with high blood pressure levels.
Men's Health - Bitter Food





Researchers at the City University of New York found that bitter tastes are linked with harsher judgement. When people were asked to give their opinions on certain scenarios after sipping either a bitter drink or water, the first group was 27 percent tougher in its assessment than those who had H2O. Skip the cranberry juice at your next happy hour to view your surroundings in a sweeter light.

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Take Place at the Same Time This Year

So Celebrate Thanksgivukkah

In 167 B.C., Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, tried to compel the Jews in Judah to give up their religious customs and values. They rose up in rebellion for seven years in what became known as the Maccabean Revolt. Once they liberated Jerusalem, they set about purifying the Temple. This eight day event is marked by the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
This year, Hanukkah lasts from November 27 to December 5. The American Christian (albeit secularized) holiday of Thanksgiving marks a 1621 feast celebrated by the colonists at Plymouth, Massachusetts. It falls on November 28 this year. For the first time since 1888, the two holidays overlap. Some Americans have taken to calling November 28 “Thanksgivukkah.” The event is inspiring creative responses among celebrants:
Not to be outdone is Asher Weintraub, a 9-year-old New Yorker who has created what he dubs the Menurkey—a menorah, the candelabrum that is the centerpiece of the holiday, in the shape of a turkey. With help from his filmmaker parents, Asher funded his project with a successful $25,000 campaign on Kickstarter, a fundraising website, over the summer (it netted $48,345). The family is now hoping to sell as many as 2,500 of his creation in versions both ceramic (for $150) and plaster ($50).
The Weintraubs are also expanding on the concept in other ways, from a Menurkey iPhone app to a Menurkey theme song. Sample lyric: "Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, come light the Menurkey. Once in a lifetime, the candles meet the turkey."
Part of what's driving the Thanksgivukkah fervor is that Hanukkah is a holiday "with room for creativity," says Jennie Rivlin Roberts, founder of ModernTribe.com, an online store that specializes in contemporary Jewish items. Ms. Roberts own contribution? A game called No Limit Texas Dreidel that she started marketing in 2007—it is a modern take on the holiday pastime of spinning the dreidel, a kind of Hanukkah-themed top. […]
Synagogues and Jewish organizations are also joining in the Thanksgivukkah chorus. In Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, a local fundraising group, has created a website, ThanksgivukkahBoston.com, to promote the holiday and suggest ways to celebrate it (one example: making Hanukkah-themed corn-husk dolls). As project director Jeff Levy explains, the occasion is too significant to go unheeded. "This is like the new millennium," he says.
At Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, Calif., synagogue member Hollis O'Brien, a caterer, is leading a Thanksgivukkah cooking class at the end of October, replete with recipe tips for such hybridized holiday dishes as sweet-potato latkes and a Jewish-style brisket with a cranberry glaze. And since doughnuts are also popular at Hanukkah as part of the holiday's emphasis on oil and fried foods, Ms. O'Brien has plans to showcase them as well. "Usually, I fill them with strawberry jelly, but this year, I'm going to use pumpkin cream," she says.

The Age of Internet Empires

Mark Graham (@geoplace) and Stefano De Sabbata (@maps4thought) of Information Geographies, a project to provide "mapping of contemporary geographies of knowledge" over at the Oxford Internet Institute has released a map of featuring the websites most frequently visited by different countries in the world.

The map, titled Age of Internet Empires, uses data from web analytics company Alexa. It is visualized in the style of an old colonial map and named after the popular computer game Age of Empire.
Read more over at Information Geographies
See more featured images over at Spotlight

Random Photos

Amazon requires publishers to use Kindle DRM


A leaked Amazon ebook contract [PDF] shows that Amazon's default terms for ebook publishers is that they must use DRM, unless they can convince Amazon to leave it off.
Like most DRM vendors -- Apple and Google, for example -- Amazon spends a lot of time implying and flat-out stating that it only uses DRM because the big dumb media companies require it of them. The reality is that DRM's primary beneficiary is the DRM vendor. Once your book is sold with Amazon's DRM on it, only Amazon can give your readers permission to move them out of the Kindle jail and onto another device of your choosing. Of course Amazon wants to force copyright holders and creators to use its DRM -- it's a one-stop way of converting the writer's customer into Amazon's customer. Forever.
Remember: Any time someone puts a lock on something of yours and won't give you the key, that lock is not there for your benefit.
Please note that this is an Amazon contract and that Amazon is the one who is insisting on the DRM. That makes this an interesting contrast, IMO, with Bezos’ statements that “If the rights owner wants DRM, we do DRM. If the rights owner doesn’t want DRM, we don’t do DRM.”
The contract clause mentioned above is by no means agnostic on the topic of DRM. It unequivocally tells us that Amazon is the one who gets to decide whether the ebooks have DRM. It also tells us that Amazon _will_ be adding DRM to Kindle ebooks unless the other party can talk them out of it.
Amazon’s position (on DRM) in this contract is far from agnostic, and it is in fact much closer to their stated position for audiobook DRM.



New York City's undercover cop problem is totally out of control

An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator marches in front of a group of police officers in riot gear in New York.
Reporting in the New York Times about the ever-expanding operations of undercover police in NYC, led in part by a former CIA agent, Jim Dwyer writes,
The unrestrained surveillance in New York public life is the physical embodiment of what has been taking place online over the last decade under operations of the National Security Agency revealed by Edward J. Snowden. To borrow the title of a 1918 novel about nosy Irish villagers, we have become The Valley of the Squinting Windows.  But it was all O.K. because the mayor and the police commissioner said so, though from the outside, no one could really say what they were up to.

San Francisco City Hall hears horrifying tales of cops' hostility to cyclists


Dozens of cyclists attended a hearing on police hostility to cyclists at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week. They told stories of undercover cops threatening to beat them up after cutting them off on their bikes; of cops refusing to take action against drivers who had attempted or threatened vehicular homicide; and of a systematic refusal to investigate cases where cyclists were injured or killed by drivers.
Before the inevitable, victim-blaming round of "but cyclists are so aggressive and horrible," please read this (tl;dr: statistical analysis of cyclist behavior does not bear out the caricature of the lunatic rider, who is significantly less common -- and less dangerous -- than the lunatic driver cohort).
When Sarah Harling was hospitalized by a minivan driver who made a left turn into her at a stop sign intersection, she says the SFPD officer who filed the police report included a fabricated statement from her claiming that she “approached the stop sign without stopping.”
Harling said she tried to submit a response to the numerous “factual errors” in the police report, but an officer at SFPD’s Richmond Station “raised his voice to lecture me about how traffic laws apply to cyclists too, how he’d never let his children ride bikes in the city, and then told me repeatedly, ‘I’m not telling you you can’t leave this here, but you just need to understand that sometimes things get lost.’”
“I left the station in tears,” she said.
Harling later hired an attorney, who collected witness statements and a photo, which showed the driver to be at fault and led the driver’s insurance company to settle for his or her maximum amount of coverage available.

Man Sawed His Own Leg Off Because He Couldn't Afford Hospital's Amputation Bill

One day in 2012, farmer and factory worker Zheng Yanliang from a small Chinese village experienced some pain in his right leg. Doctors diagnosed it as an arterial embolism, of which there's no cure. His leg had to be amputated.
Problem was, Zheng had no money for the procedure. So he was sent home and given three months to live. The pain became so intense yet no doctor was willing to treat him.
That's when Zheng decided to take matters into his own hands:
Mr Zheng wrapped a piece of wood with a cloth and placed it in his mouth to bite on.
He then began to cut his leg using the saw and the knife.
His wife said that when she found him, his leg had been removed and the pain had resulted in three of Mr Zheng's teeth being forced out from his biting on the wood.
Read the rest over at Sky News 

Ohio Told Man That He Must Stay Legally Dead

When a dead man is found alive and well (and ahem, not a zombie), does he remain dead? He does, according to Ohio.
Here's the strange story of Donald Miller, who was declared dead, then found alive, then told by a judge that he has to stay legally dead. Confused? Read on.
The story, according to ABC News, began when Donald Miller of Ohio disappeared in 1986 after losing his job. He left behind his wife and two children. Years later, his wife sought to have him declared legally dead so she could collect his Social Security benefits for their two minors. In 1994, Miller was declared dead.
Fast forward to today, when Miller came back to Ohio and tried to re-establish his social security number. He went up to the judge, who said that according to Ohio legal statute, there could be no changes to death rulings after three years have passed.
So, according to the State of Ohio, Donald Miller is (legally) dead and must remain so, despite that the man is still walking around amongst the living.

Dieting 100 Years Ago


How about some diet tips from the early 20th century? The Week has some excerpts from various books on the subject of dieting and nutrition. Most of them basically tell you to exercise, go outside, and don't eat so much. But then there's some weird advice from Helen Follett Jameson in her 1899 book The Woman Beautiful.
Do not drink much water. A little lemon juice added to it will make it less fattening.
There's this from Countess C, in the 1901 book Beauty's Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful.
First and most important, drink very little, as little as possible, and only red or white wine, preferably Burgundy, or tea or coffee slightly alcoholized.
And from the 1892 book Beauty, Its Attainment and Preservation:
In America the number of fat people is growing larger every year and the suffering endured by this usually good-natured class of people is tremendous. As a matter of fact, a great deal of this discomfort might be avoided if people would not drink such an inordinate quantity of ice water and could be made to understand that thirst does not lie in the stomach and that it is not satisfied by pouring down water by the glassful.
The theory of water being fattening makes you wonder how much of what we "know" today will be laughed at in another 100 years. More at The Week.

Awesome Pictures

The desert strikes back

Coccidiomycosis ("Valley Fever") used to be a relatively exotic disease, familiar only to a few pulmonary disease specialists.  But now as more Americans move into desert ecosystems to live, more are becoming infected with this fungus, as reported in Vice:
The debilitating affliction has reached epidemic proportions in the Southwest, with infection rates rising at least tenfold in the last 15 years... 

Doctors in the West got their first inkling of the disease in the 1930s and 1940s, when thousands of new Californians settled in the Central Valley, driven west to escape drought-wrecked prairielands that had devolved into the infamous Dust Bowl. It’s also when World War II delivered soldiers, prisoners of war and interned Japanese Americans to some of the fungus's most fertile breeding grounds. Valley fever took hold among the unfortunate new arrivals.

But then the disease lolled and was largely ignored by the medical establishment, which came to regard the occasional infection as an exotic disease. Now it’s “reemerging,” to borrow from bureaucratic parlance, and its range appears to be growing. More than 22,000 cases were confirmed in the US in 2011—up from 1,200 in 1995. Between 1990 and 2008, 3,089 deaths linked to the disease were documented...

Research published last month in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases concluded that valley fever hospitalization rates more than doubled in California between 2000 and 2011, with medical costs exceeding $2 billion during that time. The CDC suspects that as many as 150,000 people who are infected annually don’t seek treatment or aren’t properly diagnosed...

Construction work, archeology, and farming are particularly dangerous trades in cocci-infected regions, which stretch from Mexico up through California; from Texas to Utah. Patches of Argentina are also affected. Anything that kicks up dust increases the hazards. Taylor said Californian dust storms in the 1970s blew spores north to infect Oregonians and west to San Francisco...

The growing rate of diagnoses does reflect a growing awareness among doctors of the disease and its symptoms. People are also increasingly moving out of cities and into dusty exurbs, migrating into regions that are rich with cocci. “There’s an influx of na├»ve hosts,” Taylor said. “They’re now putting homes outside the cities in more rural areas, where they’re disturbing the desert.”

New ideas for how Earth core formed

New ideas for how Earth core formedEarth layers graphic

Experiments on samples of iron and rock held at immense pressures have led to new ideas of how Earth's core formed.

Huge Secret Tunnels Found Beneath the Ice of Antarctica

Popular Science reports that scientists from UK universities and the British Antarctic Survey have found enormous tunnels beneath the ice cap of Antarctica. Radar readings from aircraft indicate that these tunnels are up to 820 feet tall. As you can see from diagram above, that’s almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower.
What made these tunnels? Well, the Stargate series tells us that the Ancients maintained a substantial presence in Antarctica. Alternatively, it may have been escaped Nazis, given the long rumors of such activity. Perhaps Iron Sky, the 2012 movie about Nazis escaping to a moon base in 1945, was just a distraction from the real threat.

Bear Attacks Man, Man Grabs Bear's Tongue and Yanks on It

“It’s like…an extreme sport.” That’s how Gilles Cyr of Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada describes his fight against a wild brown bear.
Mr. Cyr had no warning. Suddenly, while tending to his woodlot, a bear attacked him from behind. The bear struck at him with his claws. Mr. Cyr saw the bear’s tongue lolling out of his mouth. He grabbed it and wouldn’t let go. He says that his reasoning was, “If you hurt me, I’m going to hurt you, too.”
Mr. Cyr fled behind a tree. The bear struck at him again, then lost interest the fight and left. Mr. Cyr was treated for minor injuries.

Midnight house intruder turned out to be huge kangaroo

A huge kangaroo kept police busy overnight after it broke into a home near Gin Gin, south-west of Bundaberg in southern Queensland, Australia. Sergeant Graham Bub says a family at Moolboolaman phoned about an intruder thumping around their home at about midnight on Friday. However when police arrived the kangaroo had escaped through a window. Sergeant Bub says it took the owners a while to work out who and what the trespasser was.
He says the family was shocked to find a large kangaroo thumping around their living room. "A couple of ladies with their children were at the residence and they'd seen these eyes glowing in the dark," he said. "Eventually they realized it was a kangaroo that had become trapped in their house. It was a fair size and they can be quite aggressive." The Gin Gin resident, who does not want to be named, says a huge kangaroo will not be welcome back in her home.
She says she moved to Moolboolaman from Cairns five days ago and has never had a kangaroo in her house before. "I was woken up to what sounded like something going through the rubbish outside and then I heard a crash through the window," she said. "I ran down the hallway and locked myself in my friend's bedroom. It did make quite a crash and it had some heavy thudding, so all we knew was it was something pretty big and yes, it was quite scary."

Sergeant Bub says the family did the right thing by hiding in other rooms while waiting for help. "They had concealed themselves in one room and were afraid for their own safety," he said. There was a child in another room. Kangaroos do have those large talons on their legs and if the animal is cornered and afraid, they're just defending themselves. There could have been injuries to people so the best thing to do is - if you can avoid them and go away. If you're trapped of course conceal yourself somewhere safe and call the police."

Deer spotted with basketball stuck in antlers

Andy Kovac spotted this buck roaming his backyard in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday.
“That was a classic, my wife called me down, I grabbed my camera, and luckily you can see he wasn’t in a big hurry,” Kovac said.

"Unbelievable! I can't understand how he got the ball caught in his antlers," he added.

The Kovacs call their back yard a wildlife sanctuary and have many pictures of wild turkeys, deer, possum, groundhogs, skunks and racoons.

Animal Pictures