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26 April 2008

In Chicago, a Volunteer Group Offers Students Safe Passage

A rash of violence against young people in Chicago has prompted some parents to escort children to school.
NYT > Home Page 4/26/08 3:40 PM murders and attempted murders education and schools chicago (ill

25 April 2008

Text-Message Shorthand Invades Schoolwork : NPR


Text-Message Shorthand Invades Schoolwork

Listen Now
Morning Edition, April 25, 2008 ·
Teens today are just as likely to be writing on their phones as talking on them. They're texting, blogging, instant messaging — forms of communication that have their own language. A new study says that shorthand is making its way into teens' schoolwork. Two-thirds of teens say they've used acronyms and sideways smileys in formal school assignments...MORE

Getting an Education for Afghan Girls


Getting an Education for Afghan Girls
Via UN News Centre:
UN Dispatch 4/25/08 11:46 AM Vanessa Valenti

Although over 6 million children returned to Afghanistan's classrooms a month ago at the start of a new school year, United Nations agencies said today that half of the war-torn country's young people are excluded from receiving an education, the bulk of them girls...MORE

Paying Cash? That'll Cost Extra


Paying cash? That'll cost extra
Rhonda Payne went to an AT&T Wireless store in Calhoun, Ga., recently to pay her phone bill in cash. She'd been hit by ID theft and was forced to close her checking account, so she was worried she wouldn’t be able to mail a check on time. But when she arrived at the store, she was in for a surprise.

Paying in person, she was told, costs extra -- $2 extra...MORE

What's Inside: For a Refreshing Hint of Tear Gas, Light Up a Cigarette

Find out the delightful components that make up your typical cigarette: castoreum, culled from secretions in glands located near a beaver's genitals; acetophenone, a prime component of tear gas; and, gamma-heptalactone, which efficiently keeps nicotine in your bloodstream longer.

Wired News 4/24/08 9:00 PM Patrick di Justo

24 April 2008

Judged by the Company We Keep?

We all know that the U.S. is by far the largest debtor to the United Nations. In fact, the U.S. represents 94% of all debt to the U.N. regular budget. This means that 6% of the debt to the UN regular budget comes from other countries.

Often people will respond by saying, "Of course the U.S. has the largest debt, since they are the largest contributors." This is certainly a valid point. The U.S. is expected to pay 22% of the UN's regular budget--more than anyone else in the world. Obviously then, if we miss any payment at all, it will represent a large percentage of the debt. The question then, is this:

How does the U.S. proportion of the debt stack up to others when compared to the amount they are expected to pay?

I crunched these numbers, and I found out something interesting. There are two countries that stand out when you compare their percentage of the debt and their expected payment: the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both of these countries have a percentage of the total debt to the UN regular budget that is 426% of what they are expected to pay annually. For comparison, Japan's debt stands at just over 5% of what they are expected to pay each year.

This statistic says a lot about comparative attitudes toward the UN and engagement with the rest of the world. If this is the preferred measure of those who would withhold funding from the UN, it should give them pause to realize the company they keep by doing so.

UN Dispatch 4/24/08 2:36 PM Kenneth Bledsoe finance

22 April 2008

American Exception: Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’

The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world's population but almost a quarter of its prisoners.
NYT > Home Page 4/22/08 10:19 PM united states sentencing project prisons and prisoners crime and criminals

The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog: Rhode Island: Debtor's Prison


"While debtors' prisons are thought to be a thing of the past, they still exist in Rhode Island," Family Life Center Executive Director Sol Rodriguez said. "People with criminal records who are trying to get their lives together need support, not a system which throws them back in jail for having trouble paying court fees."

The report found people were sent to the Adult Correctional Institutions 2,446 times in 2007 for missing "ability to pay" hearings, spending an average of three days and two nights behind bars. While most were released after a few days, "several hundred a year spend a week or more just for court debt," the report said...MORE

Osmo Wiio: Communication usually fails, except by accident

Osmo Wiio is a Finnish researcher of human communication. He has studied, among other things, readability of texts, organizations and communication within them, and the general theory of communication. His laws of communication are the human communications equivalent of Murphy's Laws.

  • If communication can fail, it will.
  • If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm.
  • There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message.
  • The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.

And I particularly like his observation that anytime there are two people conversing, there are actually six people in the conversation:

  1. Who you think you are
  2. Who you think the other person is
  3. Who you think the other person thinks you are
  4. Who the other person thinks he/she is
  5. Who the other person thinks you are
  6. Who the other person thinks you think he/she is

If you find this interesting, you can read more about Osmo and his theories on communication.

Signal vs. Noise 4/22/08 11:21 AM Jason

Ga. Program Pays Low-Income Students to Study

Some kids in Fulton County, Ga., are earning a paycheck just for doing their homework. A pilot project sponsored by a local foundation offers a group of low-income students $8 an hour to go to after-school study sessions twice a week. The kids say the program is helpful, but some educators are troubled by it.

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21 April 2008

Million dollar blocks

An innovative analysis by Eric Cadora highlights "million-dollar blocks" -- individual city blocks where more than one million dollars per block per year are spent to incarcerate individuals from that block.  Some blocks cost over five million dollars per year...A million dollars, coincidentally, is roughly what it would cost to pay for one patrol officer, twenty-four hours a day, every day for one year.

That is from Peter Moskos's Cop in the Hood: My Year Spent Policing Baltimore's Eastern District.  In Brooklyn of 2003, there were 35 million dollar blocks.  Here is more information, plus maps and graphs.

Marginal Revolution 4/21/08 7:17 AM Tyler Cowen law

20 April 2008

One Million High School Dropouts in U.S. Each Year

"When more than one million students a year drop out of high school, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," retired General Colin Powell, founder of America's Promise Alliance. "It's time for a national 'call to arms,' because we cannot afford to let nearly one-third of our kids fail." His statement of urgency came during a press conference announcing the release of a study that details why nearly one in three U.S. high school students drops out before graduating and how his group plans to reverse the downward spiral of retention. Front Page 4/20/08 2:18 AM


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