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New York fails Common Core tests

Just 23 percent of charter students scored proficient in language arts, compared with 31 percent in public schools overall. That’s a greater gap than had shown up in last year’s exams. In math, charter schools beat the public school average in each of the past two years — but not this year. On the new tests, just 31 percent of charter students scored proficient, the same as in public schools…

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Mars Curiosity rover sings ‘Happy Birthday,’ dares Earth to collect royalties

  One year ago today, NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on the surface of Mars and began studying the planet. The rover may be lonely out there on its first birthday, but it won’t go entirely without celebration: NASA has repurposed Curiosity’s soil analysis system to play the tune of “Happy Birthday to You” out loud for all of Mars to hear. Though the analysis system doesn’t include a loudspeaker, it does…

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US regulators demand clamp down on Apple e-book contracts

I made a lot of impulse Kindle purchases during the phase when so many books were $9.99. I’ve never bought an iBook… whenever possible, I buy via Kindle instead, as a consumerist means of protesting Apple’s meddling with the price of books. US regulators have called for Apple to be forced to cancel certain e-book contracts with major publishers. They added Apple should be hit with a five-year ban on…

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Telegrams were always better plot devices than USPS letters

I can’t summon up actual nostalgia for the postal service. Telegrams were always a much a better plot device: “It’s a telegram from my Aunt Sadie, you know, the one I’ve never mentioned before but whose pet allergies would no doubt disrupt Junior’s new dog-walking business. It seems she’s in town, but she doesn’t say where she’s staying. Junior, will you pick up those poodles and go see who just…

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Tolkien v. Orwell: Who understood modern surveillance best?

Interesting set of observations exploring the limits of omniscience and the sheer scale involved in watching an entire population. Failures in empathy lead to misinterpretation of anonymous rebellion in plain sight. Tolkien’s most potent and intimidating image of centralized surveillance, the Eye of Sauron atop a tower, taking in the whole world, has resonated with those who are paranoid about government monitoring. But it’s Sauron’s vulnerability that has the most…

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NTSB Blames Intern for Confirming Offensive Fake Names of Asiana Flight 214 Pilots

Blogging this so I can find it when I teach my “News Writing” class this fall. People do like to prank journalists with fake names. In this case, the reporter did what you’re supposed to do — get confirmation — but sheesh. KTVU reports fake racist names of Asiana Airlines 214 pilots from NTSB intern — MSNBC. The National Transportation and Safety Board later released a statement saying that “a…

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Ben Franklin Sings about Your Rights as a Photographer

If you’re legally present on a public street or sidewalk, you can legally photograph anything in plain view. (This includes children and crime victims… but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea.) If law enforcement engages you, ask whether you are free to go; if so, then move out of the way. Don’t interfere with a crime scene or traffic. Don’t record private conversations or telephone…

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Juror’s Creed

While researching my obligations for #juryduty Thursday, I came across this “Juror’s Creed.” The gender-specific reference to men, the instruction to reflect upon the virtues of democracy, and the instruction to respect the judge’s education all hint at a historical context for the creed. Institutions never put their creeds into writing unless they feel those creeds are threatened in some way. I am a juror, I accept the position not…

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NAVY TO DROP ALL-CAPS COMMUNICATIONS

Caps off to the Navy’s plan to drop all-caps. OFFICIAL COMMUNICATIONS AND ORDERS HAVE BEEN IN ALL CAPS SINCE 19TH CENTURY. YOUNG SAILORS ACCUSTOMED TO TEXTING SEE ALL-CAPS ORDERS AS A FORM OF SHOUTING! NAVY WANTS ITS ORDERS AND OFFICIAL MESSAGES TO BE MORE READABLE AND LESS RUDE. “WHILE THIS DECISION WAS MADE TO SAVE MONEY AND GAIN EFFICIENCIES, IF AN ANCILLARY BENEFIT IS THAT SAILORS READING MESSAGE TRAFFIC NO…