Monday, January 31, 2011

Connecticut Library To Show 'Sicko' After All; Library Journal, 1/26/11

Library Journal; Connecticut Library To Show 'Sicko' After All:

"Dutcher said he would attempt to "balance" the films that are shown, as the critics have demanded, but that Sicko had to be shown; he said also that he had assurances from Coppler that library policy and the management of the library would not change, and that as director he maintained the authority to make decisions about programming at the library...

Some have said seeking balance could create a trap of false equivalencies (do you "balance" Schindler's List with a holocaust denier?), but Dutcher said if that arose he would deal with it.

"One of the things that really influenced me was the television programs where everybody has to yell at everyone else and nobody gets anywhere because nobody listens to one another. People ask, 'Why can't we sit down and work it out?' and that's the method we are attempting here," he said."

New Partners in the Plagiarism-Detection Business; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/26/11

Eric Hoover, Chronicle of Higher Education; New Partners in the Plagiarism-Detection Business:

"The latter runs essays through a database of Internet content, journals, books, and previously submitted writing. It then provides a report listing the number—and type—of matches that might indicate all sorts of word-recycling. In one study Turnitin for Admissions reviewed 450,000 personal statements and found that 36 percent contained a significant amount of matching text (more than 10 percent). Those matches tended to come from Web sites offering “sample” personal statements. Other tests have found questionable similarities among 8 to 20 percent of applications...

“A lot of jaws are dropping,” Mr. Lorton said of admissions officials surprised by the levels of matching they’ve seen. “There are people seeking an advanced degree at the most selective institutions who can’t even write their own personal statements.”"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Republican Congressman Proposes Tracking Freedom of Information Act Requests; New York Times, 1/29/11

Eric Lipton, New York Times; Republican Congressman Proposes Tracking Freedom of Information Act Requests:

"But his extraordinary request worries some civil libertarians. It “just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking,” said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. “It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good.”...

Yearly, the federal government receives about 600,000 FOIA requests, as they are called, a vast majority from corporate executives seeking information on competitors that might do business with the government. A much smaller number comes from civil libertarians, private citizens, whistle-blowers or journalists seeking information on otherwise secret government operations."

House Ethics Committee Clears 3 of Conflict of Interest; New York Times, 1/27/11

Eric Lipton, New York Times; House Ethics Committee Clears 3 of Conflict of Interest:

"The House ethics committee, in one of its first official acts since the start of the new Congress, dismissed cases involving three members accused of creating an appearance of a conflict by holding fund-raising events with financial industry executives and lobbyists in the days before major votes on legislation revamping the nation’s financial regulations.

The decision came as a relief to lawmakers. If the ethics committee had found violations, ground rules for fund-raising would have radically changed in Washington, where popular restaurants and bars around Capitol Hill sometimes host two or three events each night."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

High Price for India’s Information Law; New York Times, 1/23/11

Lydia Polgreen, New York Times; High Price for India’s Information Law:

"Mr. Jethwa was one of millions of Indians who had embraced the country’s five-year-old Right to Information Act, which allows citizens to demand almost any government information. People use the law to stop petty corruption and to solve their most basic problems, like getting access to subsidized food for the poor or a government pension without having to pay a bribe, or determining whether government doctors and teachers are actually showing up for work.

But activists like Mr. Jethwa who have tried to push such disclosures further — making pointed inquiries at the dangerous intersection of high-stakes business and power politics — have paid a heavy price. Perhaps a dozen have been killed since 2005, when the law was enacted, and countless others have been beaten and harassed."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

G.O.P. Grants Reprieve to House Ethics Office; New York Times,

Ron Nixon,New York Times; G.O.P. Grants Reprieve to House Ethics Office:

"Before the 2010 midterm elections, speculation was rampant that if the Republicans took over the House, they would kill the fledgling Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that investigates complaints of misbehavior."

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Florida, Virtual Classrooms With No Teachers; New York Times, 1/18/11

Laura Herrera, New York Times; In Florida, Virtual Classrooms With No Teachers:

"Under the state’s class-reduction amendment, high school classrooms cannot surpass a 25-student limit in core subjects, like English or math. Fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms can have no more than 22 students, and prekindergarten through third grade can have no more than 18.

Alix Braun, 15, a sophomore at Miami Beach High, takes Advanced Placement macroeconomics in an e-learning lab with 35 to 40 other students. There are 445 students enrolled in the online courses at her school, and while Alix chose to be placed in the lab, she said most of her lab mates did not.

“None of them want to be there,” Alix said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.”

School administrators said that they had to find a way to meet class-size limits. Jodi Robins, the assistant principal of curriculum at Miami Beach High, said that even if students struggled in certain subjects, the virtual labs were necessary because “there’s no way to beat the class-size mandate without it.”"

Google Co-Founder Page To Replace Schmidt As CEO; NPR, 1/20/11

NPR; Google Co-Founder Page To Replace Schmidt As CEO:

"In October, Schmidt drew fire for responding to a hypothetical question posed at a forum in Washington, D.C., about an implant that would let Google know what its users were thinking. He responded that Google's policy is to "get right up to the creepy line and not cross it," and an implant would cross the line.

He also said that as users voluntarily share information online, it doesn't need users to type in search queries for the company to tailor the results. "We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about," he said.

Such comments have been repeated in online musings that portrayed Schmidt and Google as "creepy.""

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Radio Ban Elicits Protests; New York Times, 1/16/11

Ian Austin, New York Times; Radio Ban Elicits Protests:

"Over the last quarter-century, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits has moved from the Top 40 to the playlists of classic rock stations all over the world. But last week, a broadcast industry standards council ruled that the song was unfit for Canada’s airwaves.

The issue focused on the use of an antigay slur. At least three radio stations, including CIRK-FM in Edmonton, Alberta, defied the ban with marathon broadcasts of the song, indirectly underlining the lack of power held by the industry’s self-regulatory body."

2 AOL Tech Blogs Face Off in a War of Insults; New York Times, 1/17/11

Verne G. Kopytoff, New York Times; 2 AOL Tech Blogs Face Off in a War of Insults:

"Last week, Mr. Arrington started a five-day online sparring session with Engadget, a sister blog at AOL, accusing it in multiple online posts of being “immensely unethical” and a “plasticized caricature of a real blog.”...

"AOL’s management has taken a low-key approach to the family feud, at least from Mr. Topolsky’s perspective.

Executives, he said, have advised that he keep a cool head and move on, although it is unclear whether they echoed that message to Mr. Arrington, who has not responded to Mr. Topolsky’s demand for proof of ethical missteps."

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Globes scandal: What integrity?; Boston Globe, 1/16/11

Ty Burr, Boston Globe; The Golden Globes scandal: What integrity? :

"Yes, apparently there's a reason that "Burlesque" and "The Tourist," both violently bad films, received multiple nods beyond the accepted need to stock the Globes telecast with stars. Yet is anyone actually surprised to hear the HFPA might have an ethics problem?"

[Podcast] African Americans And The Internet; NPR's Morning Edition, 1/17/11

[Podcast] NPR's Morning Edition; African Americans And The Internet:

"African Americans are more likely than whites to access the Internet by mobile phone, and they are twice as likely to use Twitter. Mobile devices have expanded access to the Internet, but they also limit the experience. NPR's Renee Montagne talks with IT consultant Anjuan Simmons about Internet trends among blacks."

Tennessee Tea Parties demand textbooks contain no mean things about Founding Fathers;, 1/13/11

Alex Pareene,; Tennessee Tea Parties demand textbooks contain no mean things about Founding Fathers:

"Tennessee Tea Party groups have introduced a proposal to take what few minorities there are in American history textbooks out of American history textbooks, along with any negative portrayals of the wealthy white men who led this young nation in its infancy."

Texting, 'friending' a morass for educators; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/16/11

Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Texting, 'friending' a morass for educators:

"When Sidney Alvarez became Avonworth public relations director, he thought a Facebook page might be a simple way to spread the word about goings-on in the school district.

But as Mr. Alvarez and school employees nationwide have discovered, when it comes to students and social media, nothing is simple.

The school now has a robust Facebook presence, with updates every few hours that reach more than 700 students, parents and community members. But Mr. Alvarez and the Avonworth administration have had to make countless ethical and policy decisions balancing the ease of communication versus student safety and decorum. Should comments be allowed? What about student photos? Should the district allow its logo to be used on parent-created fan pages for sports teams?"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

[Op-Ed] Send Huck Finn to College; New York Times, 1/16/11

[Op-Ed] Lorrie Moore, New York Times; Send Huck Finn to College:

"EVER since NewSouth Books announced it would publish a version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” with the “n-word” removed, reaction has split between traditionalists outraged at censorship and those who feel this might be a way to get teenagers, especially African-American boys, comfortable reading a literary classic. From a mother’s perspective, I think both sides are mistaken."

Too Much Information; New York Times, 1/9/11

Lisa A. Phillips, New York Times; Too Much Information:

"A FEW weeks after I started a tenure-track job last semester at the State University of New York at New Paltz, an e-mail message landed in faculty in-boxes relaying the news that an online textbook-rental company had requested records for all grades awarded on campus since 2007.

The company,, wanted grade distributions — how many A’s, B’s, C’s, etc., were given — organized by semester, course section and instructor, without individual student information. The request was made under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, which allows the public to access state government records. That definition covers grades at state universities, according to SUNY New Paltz lawyers. So the administration had to give up the goods."

Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks; Guardian, 1/16/11

Ed Vulliamy, Guardian; Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks:

"Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands and employee of the powerful Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information.

He is also – at a time when the activities of banks are a matter of public concern – one of a small band of employees and executives seeking to blow the whistle on what they see as unprofessional, immoral and even potentially criminal activity by powerful international financial institutions."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

[Podcast] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Public Imagination; On the Media, 1/14/11

[Podcast] On the Media; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Public Imagination:

"On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. did what he’d done countless times before, he began building a sermon. And in his sermons King relied on improvisation - drawing on sources and references that were limited only by his imagination and memory. It’s a gift – and a tradition - on full display in the 'I Have A Dream' speech but it’s also in conflict with the intellectual property laws that have been strenuously used by his estate since his death. OTM producer Jamie York speaks with Drew Hansen, Keith Miller, Michael Eric Dyson and Lewis Hyde about King, imagination and the consequences of limiting access to art and ideas."

[Podcast] 10 Years of Wikipedia; On the Media, 1/14/11

[Podcast] On the Media; 10 Years of Wikipedia:

"Wikipedia, the free, web-based, crowd-sourced, multi-lingual encyclopedia, turns 10 years old this month. Brooke talks to Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, about the challenges of maintaining an online democracy that doesn't descend into chaos, and also about what it's like to be targeted by Stephen Colbert's horde of vandals."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Scientists Fault Universities as Favoring Research Over Teaching; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/13/11

Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education; Scientists Fault Universities as Favoring Research Over Teaching:

"The authors recommend that universities take steps that include helping their science faculty members improve their teaching practices, and basing tenure and promotions on teaching skills.

Mr. Mann said he saw a direct correlation between universities' promoting and paying for those teaching skills, and improving the quality of science research. Among other problems, he said, universities rely heavily on the integrity of their faculty to produce trustworthy science. "As the pressures become higher for people to generate grant income to support their salaries and their enterprise," he said, "then the pressure for the absence of integrity gets higher."

Avengers Academy #8, p. 6, ["Superhuman Ethics"];, 1/14/11; Avengers Academy #8, p. 6 ["Superhuman Ethics]

Snooping Tucson Hospital Workers Fired In Records Breach; NPR, 1/14/11

Scott Hensley, NPR; Snooping Tucson Hospital Workers Fired In Records Breach:

"Earlier this week, management at University Medical Center fired three employees and let go a nurse working for a contractor because they'd snooped on confidential computerized medical records of patients injured in the shooting.

The hospital released a statement late Wednesday, saying the people violated a "zero tolerance policy on patient privacy violations." The hospital notified the patients' families about the breach and said nothing from the records appears to have been made public."

[Podcast] 'Dr. No' Becomes Diplomat, Continues A Family Story; NPR's Morning Edition, 1/14/11

[Podcast] Ari Shapiro, NPR's Morning Edition; 'Dr. No' Becomes Diplomat, Continues A Family Story:

"After two years as White House "ethics czar," Norm Eisen is leaving Washington this month to become the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. He will return to his mother's home country and complete a circle that began more than half a century ago."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

1986 Privacy Law Is Outrun by the Web; New York Times, 1/10/11

Miguel Helft and Claire Cain Miller, New York Times; 1986 Privacy Law Is Outrun by the Web:

"The rules established by the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act depend on what type of information is sought and how old it is. And courts in different jurisdictions have interpreted the rules differently.

But in many cases, the government does not notify people that they are searching their online information or prove probable cause, and if the government violates the law in obtaining information, defendants are generally unable to exclude that evidence from a trial, Ms. Freiwald said."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Teaching philosophy with Spider-Man; BBC News, 8/12/10

Katie Connolly, BBC News; Teaching philosophy with Spider-Man:

"Now, philosophy professors are finding superheroes and comic books to be exceptionally useful tools in helping students think about the complex moral and ethical debates that have occupied philosophers for centuries...

"I usually have students read Plato, Aristotle and Hume in introduction to philosophy courses. They often find it interesting, but get scared away by just how hard it is to read the stuff," Mr Bartel told the BBC.

"Comic books can provide really good illustrations of these philosophical ideas without scaring them off."...

For Christopher Robichaud, who teaches ethics and political philosophy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Tufts University, superhero-based thought experiments can help people grapple with ethical dilemmas in an unsentimental fashion."

Is Law School a Losing Game?; New York Times, 1/9/11

David Segal, New York Times; Is Law School a Losing Game?:

"“Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm,” says William Henderson of Indiana University, one of many exasperated law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to overhaul the way law schools assess themselves. “Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty.”

IT is an open secret, Professor Henderson and others say, that schools finesse survey information in dozens of ways. And the survey’s guidelines, which are established not by U.S. News but by the American Bar Association, in conjunction with an organization called the National Association for Law Placement, all but invite trimming.

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too...

“Law school might not be worth it for another 10 or 15 years,” [Michael Wallerstein] says, “but the riskier approach always has the bigger payoff.”

True, say Professor Henderson and his allies. But he contends that law schools — which, let’s not forget, require students to take courses on disclosure and ethics — have a special moral obligation to tell the truth about themselves."

Renault Probes Ethics Complaint; Wall Street Journal, 1/6/11

David Pearson, Wall Street Journal; Renault Probes Ethics Complaint:

"French car maker Renault SA said Wednesday it has suspended three employees, including one management committee executive, on suspicion of breaches of company ethics.

A spokeswoman for Renault said the company's compliance committee had been alerted to possible unethical practices involving the three employees at the end of August, and the three individuals were suspended on Monday."

U.S. Subpoenas Twitter Over WikiLeaks Supporters; New York Times, 1/9/11

Scott Shane and John F. Burns, New York Times; U.S. Subpoenas Twitter Over WikiLeaks Supporters:

"Prosecutors investigating the disclosure of thousands of classified government documents by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks have gone to court to demand the Twitter account activity of several people linked to the organization, including its founder, Julian Assange, according to the group and a copy of a subpoena made public late Friday."

[Podcast] Environmental Wikileaks; Living on Earth, 1/7/11

[Podcast], Living on Earth; Environmental Wikileaks:

"The classified documents made public by WikiLeaks are revealing closed door discussions on hot-button environmental issues, including whaling, climate change and genetically engineered crops. LOE’s Jeff Young looks at WikiLeaks through a green lens."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

[Podcast] Seth Mnookin on The Panic Virus; NPR's On the Media, 1/7/11

[Podcast] NPR's On the Media; Seth Mnookin on The Panic Virus:

"This week the British Medical Journal concluded an extensive investigation into a study that claimed a link between childhood vaccination and autism. Their conclusion? The study WAS A FRAUD. And yet, after a decade of no convincing evidence of a link, the panic remains and vaccination rates are down. Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, explains why it’s so hard to dislodge misinformation and fear."

Friday, January 7, 2011

WikiLeaks Relocations Possible For Exposed Sources, Warns U.S.;, 1/7/11; WikiLeaks Relocations Possible For Exposed Sources, Warns U.S.:
"The State Department on Friday warned foreign governments not to retaliate against human rights activists or others whose dealings with American officials were disclosed in secret diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks."

CLE Commission Sanctions 407 Attorneys; Supreme Court of Ohio and Ohio Judicial System, 12/21/10

Supreme Court of Ohio and Ohio Judicial System; CLE Commission Sanctions 407 Attorneys:

"The Supreme Court of Ohio Commission on Continuing Legal Education today issued sanctions for 407 attorneys who failed to comply with their CLE requirements.

Attorneys are required to complete a minimum of 24 hours of continuing legal education every two years. Judges are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing legal education every two years."

[Podcast] Looking Back At The 'Tremendous Hate' Of Bullies; NPR's StoryCorps, 1/7/11

[Podcast] NPR's StoryCorps; Looking Back At The 'Tremendous Hate' Of Bullies:

"Recent stories about bullying — and the people who have spoken out publicly against it — inspired Rob Littlefield to tell his own story of abuse, and how it affected his family."

Blow the Whistle!; NPR's On the Media, 1/11

NPR's On the Media; Blow the Whistle!:
"On December 22nd, in the face of seemingly unanimous bipartisan support, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act was killed at the last minute when a mystery Senator placed what’s called an anonymous hold on the bill...

We’re asking our listeners to call, write, email their Senators and ask them “did you kill this bill?” However they answer, email us at and we will post information as we receive it on the website. Hopefully we can blow the whistle on the Senator that would refuse protections to government whistleblowers."

New Jersey Governor Signs Anti-Bullying Bill Into Law; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/6/11

Chronicle of Higher Education; New Jersey Governor Signs Anti-Bullying Bill Into Law:

"Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has signed into law an anti-bullying bill that’s among the strongest in the country, The Star-Ledger, a local newspaper, reported this morning."

Judge Orders College to Reinstate Student Who Posted a Placenta Photo Online; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/6/11

Chronicle of Higher Education; Judge Orders College to Reinstate Student Who Posted a Placenta Photo Online:

"A federal judge in Kansas on Wednesday ordered Johnson County Community College to reinstate a nursing student who sued after being dismissed for posting a picture of a human placenta on Facebook, The Kansas City Star reported."

Jailed Sisters Released for Organ Transplant; New York Times, 1/7/11

Timothy Williams, New York Times; Jailed Sisters Released for Organ Transplant:

"The kidney donation was the sisters’ idea, and is supported by the N.A.A.C.P. and other civil rights organizations. But the unusual nature of the arrangement has been criticized by some medical ethicists.

Legal experts said that suspending a prison sentence contingent on an organ donation is highly unusual and may be unprecedented...

Many questions remain unanswered, including who will pay for the kidney transplant operation. The sisters’ advocates say the family cannot afford the procedure on their own and that it is unclear whether they will qualify for Medicaid."

Journal’s Paper on ESP Expected to Prompt Outrage; New York Times, 1/6/11

Benedict Carey, New York Times; Journal’s Paper on ESP Expected to Prompt Outrage:

"One of psychology’s most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.

The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the paper, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn."

Blog Gives Superheroes and Supervillains Their Day in Court; New York Times, 12/21/10

John Schwartz, New York Times; Blog Gives Superheroes and Supervillains Their Day in Court:

"...[A] new blog and the interest it is generating shows that there are people who look at an epic battle between superheroes and supervillains and really, really want to know who should be found liable for the broken buildings and shattered streets.

Those people now have a blog called Law and the Multiverse: Superheroes, supervillains, and the law. Kicked off on Nov. 30, it addresses questions like: “What if someone is convicted for murder, and then the victim comes back to life?” And whether mutants are a legally recognizable class entitled to constitutional protection from discrimination."

Effort to sanitize Twain is pure insanity; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/7/11

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Effort to sanitize Twain is pure insanity:

"Twain once described "Huckleberry Finn" as "a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat."

It holds a mirror to our times just as it did Twain's. Like the novel's original audience, we're a society that has subconsciously internalized racist assumptions and values, whether we acknowledge it or not.

"Huckleberry Finn" is a book about a racist who tried to grow up in the American wilderness. The best many of us can ever hope to be is as good as Huck. What's the point of trying to blunt such a two-edged sword?"

Light Out, Huck, They Still Want to Sivilize You; New York Times, 1/7/11

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times; Light Out, Huck, They Still Want to Sivilize You:

"To censor or redact books on school reading lists is a form of denial: shutting the door on harsh historical realities — whitewashing them or pretending they do not exist.

Mr. Gribben’s effort to update “Huckleberry Finn” (published in an edition with “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by NewSouth Books), like Mr. Foley’s assertion that it’s an old book and “we’re ready for new,” ratifies the narcissistic contemporary belief that art should be inoffensive and accessible; that books, plays and poetry from other times and places should somehow be made to conform to today’s democratic ideals. It’s like the politically correct efforts in the ’80s to exile great authors like Conrad and Melville from the canon because their work does not feature enough women or projects colonialist attitudes.

Authors’ original texts should be sacrosanct intellectual property, whether a book is a classic or not."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review Of Juan Williams' Firing Done; NPR News Exec Resigns; NPR, 1/6/11

Mark Memmott, NPR; Review Of Juan Williams' Firing Done; NPR News Exec Resigns:

"As NPR's David Folkenflik reports for our newscast, after Williams' dismissal "conservatives blasted NPR, and Fox News' most prominent opinion hosts made a cause of it. Republican lawmakers threatened to cut federal funding for public broadcasters."

As for the review done by Weil, Gotshal & Manges, David summarizes the findings this way: "It found that the termination of Williams' contract was entirely legal. But the board said the report called for a full review of the company's policies on ethics and outside appearances and for them to be applied consistently to all personnel.""

[Editorial] Survival of Ethics Oversight; New York Times, 12/23/10

[Editorial] New York Times; Survival of Ethics Oversight:

"The House’s incoming Republican majority has wisely concluded the quasi-independent Office of Congressional Ethics better not be dismantled."

Where to Draw a Line on Ethics; New York Times, 1/4/11

Edward L. Glaeser, New York Times; Where to Draw a Line on Ethics:

"In one area, however, the A.E.A. can act productively: It can create clear conflict-of-interest disclosure rules for its prestigious journals.

The film “Inside Job” raised disturbing questions about whether economists who regularly wrote or opined on various policy debates failed to report relevant background information, such as board memberships or consulting arrangements. The accusations are serious, and it seems clear that the profession has been carelessly cavalier about conflicts of interest.

As individuals, most of us could do with higher moral standards, but what are the appropriate institutional remedies?

It would be nice to think that the American Economic Association could lay down a code of ethics that would solve everything, but that would be a vast institutional overreach. The biggest problem with that approach is that the A.E.A. is not a licensing or accrediting association, like the American Bar Association."

Shadow Elite: Do Economists Need a Code of Ethics?;, 1/6/11

Janine R. Wedel and Linda Keenan,; Shadow Elite: Do Economists Need a Code of Ethics?:

"An ethical code for economists? That's a bit like adopting a chastity vow at the [Playboy] Bunny Ranch."

-reader comment to the New York Times,
January 4, 2011

This comment is striking, and not just because it manages to put "economists" and "Bunny Ranch" in the same unlikely sentence. It shows the stark disillusionment many feel towards some in the profession who have presented themselves as impartial when dispensing economic advice, even when they may well have a personal interest at stake."

Huck Finn Expurgated And Other Censored Books (PHOTOS);, 1/6/11; Huck Finn Expurgated And Other Censored Books (PHOTOS):

"In 1818 American Thomas Bowdler published a series of Shakespeare translations, which he edited heavily for content that he considered offensive. The resulting texts were tamed versions of the originals. Since then, the act of edited or removing offensive content has been deemed "bowdlerizing" and it has taken place many times.

From Darwin to Dolittle, books have been bowdlerized for over two centuries at least. Here are just 7 instances to share. What are some other notable instances? Do you think books should be edited for objectionable content? Or should we let the originals be?"

Censoring Twain; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/5/11

John L. Jackson, Jr., Chronicle of Higher Education; Censoring Twain:

"Should teenage students read novels filled with n-word references? Is that even appropriate for public school curricula? At least one publisher doesn’t think so."

Hip-Hop and Copyright Law in the [sic] Classroomleg; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/5/11

Ben Wieder, Chronicle of Higher Education; Hip-Hop and Copyright Law in the [sic] Classroomleg:

"Kembrew McLeod’s youthful interest in 1980s hip-hop became a life-long scholarly pursuit when some of the groups he’d listened to as a teenager were sued in the early 1990s for using samples of previously recorded music.

“The issue—how the law affects sampling—is the entire reason I’m a professor,” says Mr. McLeod, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa.

It’s the subject of his second documentary film, Copyright Criminals, co-directed by Ben Franzen, which ran last year as part of PBS’s Independent Lens series and will be released on DVD in March. It is also available at"

Iranian-American Group Calls on Stanford to Censure Professor; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/5/11

Josh Keller, Chronicle of Higher Education; Iranian-American Group Calls on Stanford to Censure Professor:

"An Iranian-American group has asked Stanford University to censure a professor for what it calls "racially discriminatory and inflammatory" comments to an Iranian student who was asking him about admission to Stanford."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Scientists behaving badly; Economist, 10/7/10

Economist; Scientists behaving badly:

"Fang Shimin claims that Xin Yu Si (New Threads), the website he runs, posts about 100 allegations of scientific fraud a year, and he has become a folk hero as a result. China has no proper procedures for dealing with such fraud and Dr Fang believes that, in the absence of such official channels, a platform of the sort his website provides is indispensable to the fight against misconduct in science."

[Podcast] Baltimoreans To Businesswoman: Not So Fast, Hon; NPR, 1/3/11

[Podcast] Jamie Tarabay, NPR; Baltimoreans To Businesswoman: Not So Fast, Hon:

"The word "hon" has been part of Baltimore, Md.'s lexicon for decades, and it's an inherent part of the city's working-class roots.

But now locals have learned their favorite term of endearment has been trademarked for commercial use by a local businesswoman, and some are protesting the co-opting of what they say is a "Baltimore thing.""

When Employees Blast Your Company Online; Forbes, 10/25/10

Alexander F. Brigham and Stefan Linssen, Forbes; When Employees Blast Your Company Online:

"If a company's executives feel an employee has unfairly criticized the organization online, should they take legal action? Is that always even ethical?

The executives might argue that the suits are simply meant to intimidate. There's even a word for that: "Slapp," for "strategic lawsuit against public participation." Many states, including California, have enacted anti-Slapp laws, outlawing such suits as detrimental to freedom of speech and criticism."

A Clear Danger to Free Speech; New York Times, 1/4/11

Geoffrey R. Stone, New York Times; A Clear Danger to Free Speech:

"If we grant the government too much power to punish those who disseminate information, then we risk too great a sacrifice of public deliberation; if we grant the government too little power to control confidentiality at the source, then we risk too great a sacrifice of secrecy. The answer is thus to reconcile the irreconcilable values of secrecy and accountability by guaranteeing both a strong authority of the government to prohibit leaks and an expansive right of others to disseminate information to the public."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You; New York Times, 1/2/11

Steve, Lohr, New York Times; Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You:

"“Machines will definitely be able to observe us and understand us better,” said Hartmut Neven, a computer scientist and vision expert at Google. “Where that leads is uncertain.”...

At work or school, the technology opens the door to a computerized supervisor that is always watching. Are you paying attention, goofing off or daydreaming? In stores and shopping malls, smart surveillance could bring behavioral tracking into the physical world...

“With every technology, there is a dark side,” said Hany Farid, a computer scientist at Dartmouth. “Sometimes you can predict it, but often you can’t.”"

Academic Economists to Consider Ethics Code; New York Times, 12/31/10

Sewell Chan, New York Times; Academic Economists to Consider Ethics Code:

"Academic economists, particularly those active in policy debates in Washington and Wall Street, are facing greater scrutiny of their outside activities these days. Faced with a run of criticism, including a popular movie, leaders of the American Economic Association, the world’s largest professional society for economists, founded in 1885, are considering a step that most other professions took a long time ago — adopting a code of ethical standards."