26 March, 2023

The Legacy of inBloom


Many people in the area of educational technology still discuss the story of inBloom. InBloom was an ambitious edtech initiative funded in 2011, launched in 2013, and ended in 2014. We asked ourselves why the story of inBloom is important, and conducted a year-long case study to find the answer. For some, inBloom’s story is one of contradiction: the initiative began with unprecedented scope and resources. And yet, its decline was swift and public. What caused a $100 million initiative with technical talent and political support to close in just one year? A key factor was the combination of the public’s low tolerance for risk and uncertainty and the inBloom initiative’s failure to communicate the benefits of its platform and achieve buy-in from key stakeholders. InBloom’s public failure to achieve its ambitions catalyzed discussions of student data privacy across the education ecosystem, resulting in student data privacy legislation, an industry pledge, and improved analysis of the risks and opportunities of student data use. It also surfaced the public’s low tolerance for risk and uncertainty, and the vulnerability of large-scale projects to public backlash. Any future U. S. edtech project will have to contend with the legacy of inBloom, and so this research begins to analyze exactly what that legacy is. 

Saved from the grave (2005)


Years after her death, the record keeping of a forensic scientist is freeing innocent men in Virginia.

‘Dad said: We’re going to follow Captain Cook’: how an endless round-the-world voyage stole my childhood


Almost without thinking, I picked it up, flicked through its pages and dialled the number for Childline.

“I don’t understand,” said the counsellor. “Where are your parents?”

“They’ve gone sailing.”

“When are they coming back?”

“November, I think,” I said, and the tears started.

I took a breath.

Then, in a rush: “I don’t know where they are. I don’t know when they’ll call again.”

“Are there any adults who can help you?”

“My parents have a friend called Pam, but she lives several hours away.

I caught my breath and kept answering the counsellor’s questions: “No, I’m not going to school. I sit here on my own all day, trying to teach myself.” My voice quavered.

24 March, 2023

Famed Antiwar Protester Was Once Cog in Russia’s Propaganda Machine


For 20 years, Marina Ovsyannikova worked for Russian state TV. What compelled her, shortly after Ukraine was invaded, to storm a live broadcast and tell viewers they were being lied to?

As refugees, Ms. Ovsyannikova and her mother relocated to the outskirts of Krasnodar, in southern Russia. After studying journalism in college and working as a regional TV anchor, Ms. Ovsyannikova joined Channel 1 in Moscow in 2002. Her job: monitoring Western broadcasts to cherry-pick news that showed the West in a bad light to air on the network’s shows.

“In the minds of Russians, there had to be an image that all Americans were L.G.B.T supporters who killed Black people and abused adopted children from Russia,” she writes in “Between Good and Evil,” an autobiography to be released in the United States this month.

For those too young to have lived through what happened twenty years ago, a thread of self-styled left/liberal types endorsing the invasion of Iraq


"Goes without saying that virtually everyone in this thread continued to fall upwards thereafter; also that the effect of their work in 2003 was to legitimise the claims made more honestly (though less decorously) by the neocons - see Jonah Goldberg (from 2002) below"

19 March, 2023

u/Sariel007 on parole


Am I advocating for my brother to go free? Every parole hearing requires an extensive psychological examination that confirms that is what is wrong in his brain is too severe to respond to treatment. It’s very nature tells itself that it does not need treatment or change. So, no. I do not. My brother is diagnosed as a psychopath and a narcissist. He is and will always remain a danger to society. It is clear that had he not been caught after his first murders he would likely have continued killing as it suited him. So, with the victim’s families at my side, supporting each other, I address the parole board and ask that they do not grant him parole. We try and hold each other up, listening, crying, and even celebrating happy occasions.

The victim’s families and I also share one other thing… the belief that if my brother had put in the extraordinarily hard work to accept responsibility for his crimes, to understand and empathize with those he left behind, devoted himself to help others, and could show evidence of a sincere and prolonged effort to do everything in his power to make the world better a better place going forward we would all support giving him a second chance. Not because we don’t value the lives he stole but because we acknowledge the normal, healthy life that was stolen from him and the belief that a society that failed the child owes the man a second chance to be who he could have been.

My mother, the troll: ‘I think she lost sight of the McCanns’ humanity’


Brenda Leyland spent her life hiding – by making things up, and concealing herself behind fake names and avatars. After she died, Ben examined her Twitter account closely. There were friends in the McCann trolling community who grieved her passing. But, by and large, after she was exposed people on social media were cruel and unforgiving. In her final days, the troll was trolled mercilessly. “On Twitter people said things like, ‘I hope you beg for mercy, I hope you get gang raped orally, anally and vaginally,’” Ben says. “They Photoshopped pictures of her to make her look like she had fangs and was a zombie with blood pouring out of her.” As Brenda had forgotten about the McCanns’ humanity, so her critics forgot about hers. Ben believes in her final hours she would have read some of these tweets.

Nine years on, he no longer blames the Sky News exposé for his mother’s death. It was inevitable that at some point she would be exposed for one thing or another, he says. There were so many things she was ashamed of that she had never addressed – her mental health problems, her mythomania, her anger, her lack of purpose. “That’s what killed my mum,” Ben says. “It was encrusted layers of shame over the years that made it impossible for her to do more than allude to stuff that she had to deal with. Her inability to say, ‘I need help’; her inability to say, ‘I am not OK.’”

18 March, 2023

The Secret Weapons of Ukraine


A journey through the strange, semiprofessional world of volunteers and foreign fighters who, one year into Russia’s invasion, are risking everything to defeat the invaders.

The air-raid siren sounded again through the defiant city, but William McNulty refused to be bothered by it. After a long morning of meetings in Kyiv with Ukrainian partners in need of medical tourniquets and cold-weather clothing, the man had earned an afternoon nap. The air flowing through the hotel room’s open window nipped of brittle autumn, and sunlight was leaking through gray clouds; winter, as the Ukrainians liked to quip, was coming.

Fuck it, McNulty thought. The chances of getting hit by a drone strike in a city of three million people seemed low. A U.S. Marine veteran from Chicago who’s served in Iraq and done humanitarian work in dozens of conflict and natural-disaster zones, he’s grown numb to the frequent sirens that are now a mainstay of life in Ukraine. Since Russia’s latest invasion began in February of last year, he’s traveled throughout the country, by train and van, to rural villages and the front, delivering supplies to those fighting at democracy’s edge. His nonprofit group, Operation White Stork, makes no quibble about supporting Ukraine in the war. He’s had his fill of messy wars and ambiguous purposes. He believes this is it, the real deal, the righteous cause that people of action always not-so-secretly crave.

Toxic school: How the government failed Black residents in Louisiana's 'Cancer Alley'


For decades, a rubber plant near an elementary school has been spewing a carcinogenic chemical into the air. Residents wonder why it’s still allowed to remain in operation.

17 March, 2023

I am now the voice of my parents


I remember how, during the Passover seders, after we finished our meal, my father and I would try to set up the 16-millimeter projector, threading the film of a 1953 episode of "This Is Your Life" to watch my very young-looking mother become the first Holocaust survivor to appear on national television. As it played, my mother, Hanna Bloch Kohner, would stay in the kitchen doing dishes. I guess she didn't want to watch it. But for me, it was part of our annual ritual: When Ralph Edwards said, "....upon arriving at Auschwitz, they handed you soap, and you went to the showers. Your shower had water, others were not as fortunate, like your mother, father and your husband, Carl. They all lost their lives in Auschwitz."

In a strange way, I think I just took the idea of this for granted.

I don't know when I learned about it, but by the time I was a teen I knew that my mother had had an abortion in Auschwitz in order to survive. Her first husband, Carl Benjamin, was killed upon arrival, but, miraculously, my Uncle Friedl was a doctor in the camps and arranged for her procedure, which saved my mother's life. However, she was told that she would never be able to carry a child again. That didn't stop her from trying, however: After eight miscarriages and months of bed rest, I was born on July 4, 1955.

Louis DeJoy's Surprising Second Act


There have been other victories and vindications. Last winter, he worked with the White House to deliver half a million COVID-19 test kits to Americans nationwide. Tim Manning, then the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 supply coordinator, says his team arranged a call with DeJoy’s underlings in December 2021 to float the idea. DeJoy heard about it and invited himself. “Louis jumped on and said, ‘Yeah, we’ll make this happen,’” Manning tells me. A month later, the test kits went out; roughly 60% of the orders were fulfilled within 24 hours, 90% within 48 hours. Meanwhile, there’s no longer an ethical cloud hanging over DeJoy’s head. Both the Federal Election Commission and the FBI closed investigations into him related to campaign contributions, and the USPS Inspector General said he met “all applicable ethics requirements related to disclosure, recusal, and divestment” pertaining to his holdings with Postal Service contractors upon taking the job. And the midterms went exceedingly well—99% of all 2022 election mail was delivered within three days.

Yet it hasn’t all been a redemption tour for perhaps the most famous Postmaster General since Benjamin Franklin. DeJoy remains a favorite target of the left. Over the last three years, progressive organizations have sent out “Fire Louis DeJoy” fundraising emails like clockwork. In the last few months, Democrats like Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and groups like the Democratic Governors Association have bought Facebook ads to raise money off calling for DeJoy’s ouster. Some of DeJoy’s allies, on both the right and left, cynically suspect that some Democrats secretly relish having DeJoy in his role as a foil, especially with Trump out of office. Neither Baldwin nor the DGA responded to a request for comment.

I was wrong about Israel. I apologized. Then President Carter gave me a lesson in grace


Perhaps Carter’s most important achievement was the Camp David Peace Accord between Israel and Egypt. This peace treaty has endured for 44 years, and spared thousands of lives on the Israeli-Egyptian border. It also saved hundreds of billions of dollars in military costs that the two countries would have needlessly spent.

President Carter warned everyone in 2006 that we all had the choice of Peace Not Apartheid. Some have made deliberate choices on the matter of Israeli occupation; some have walked in a stupor, blaming the other for their shortcomings. Others still blame the messenger for the message.

In his response to my apology, Carter wrote a simple and touching message:

“You have no reason to apologize, but I accept your wonderful letter as you obviously intend it. I sympathize and understand the feelings of my many friends, who reacted as you did. Best wishes, Jimmy Carter.”

I was shaken and inspired by his humility. Carter owed me nothing, yet gave me a sense there is a capacity within us all for unconditional love.

12 March, 2023

Asteroid lost 1 million kilograms after collision with DART spacecraft


One factor is that the spacecraft hit a spot around 25 metres from the asteroid’s centre, maximizing the force of its impact. Another is that large amounts of the asteroid’s rubble flew outwards from the impact. The recoil from this force pushed the asteroid further off its previous trajectory. Researchers estimate that this spray of rubble meant Dimorphos’ added momentum was almost four times that imparted by DART4.

Although NASA has demonstrated this technique on only one asteroid, the results could be broadly applicable to future hazards, researchers say. “It means that we can quickly design a mission to deflect an asteroid if there is a threat, and we know that this has a very high chance of being effective,” says Franck Marchis, from the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California who is also chief scientific officer at the telescope manufacturer Unistellar in Marseille.

“If you had asked me 30 years ago, ‘Can we be confident we won’t be wiped out by a giant killer asteroid a week from next Tuesday?’ I would have had to say no,” adds Tom Statler, DART’s programme scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington DC. Now that astronomers have surveyed the skies to identify nearly all the dangerous asteroids — and now that DART has been shown to work —“we will know what to do about it when something new is found”, he says.

07 March, 2023

The Daring Ruse That Exposed China’s Campaign to Steal American Secrets


Although China publicly denies engaging in economic espionage, Chinese officials will indirectly acknowledge behind closed doors that the theft of intellectual property from overseas is state policy. James Lewis, a former diplomat now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, recalls participating in a meeting in 2014 or so at which Chinese and American government representatives, including an officer from the People’s Liberation Army, discussed the subject. “An assistant secretary from the U.S. Department of Defense was explaining: Look, spying is OK — we spy, you spy, everybody spies, but it’s for political and military purposes,” Lewis recounted for me. “It’s for national security. What we object to is your economic espionage. And a senior P.L.A. colonel said: Well, wait. We don’t draw the line between national security and economic espionage the way you do. Anything that builds our economy is good for our national security.” The U.S. government’s response increasingly appears to be a mirror image of the Chinese perspective: In the view of U.S. officials, the threat posed to America’s economic interests by Chinese espionage is a threat to American national security.