Thursday, January 30, 2014

How Business Can Save Schools From The Digital Divide; Forbes, 1/29/14

Debra Donston-Miller, Forbes; How Business Can Save Schools From The Digital Divide:
"Too many U.S. public schools are dealing with a new kind of digital divide — where the technology available in many students’ homes, and even in their pockets, is several generations ahead of what’s available in the classroom. This gap has big implications for the future. “A well-trained workforce is essential to economic growth and competitiveness, and the skills of the entire workforce depend critically on the educational foundation established during the K-12 school years,” states the paper “Unleashing the Potential of Educational Technology,” from the Executive Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisers...
As technology becomes more and more entwined with the personal lives of even the youngest students, many schools are adopting the BYOD (bring-your-own-device)model. By embracing BYOD, schools that don’t have the resources for a robust infrastructure can enable (if not actually provide for) the use of updated technologies. Of course, even with students bringing their own devices to school, there is still the need for servers, security software, wireless infrastructure and training.
That’s where businesses can come in. Companies have the means and the know-how to support the technology needs of K-12 schools, and any investment in time and money will pay off in future human capital dividends — the students that businesses support now may become their future skilled employees."

Obama faces digital divide growing wider on heels of FCC court ruling;, 1/27/14

Barnini Chakraborty,; Obama faces digital divide growing wider on heels of FCC court ruling:
"The great digital divide that President Obama repeatedly has pledged to fix could grow even wider, after a recent federal court ruling put the president's promise of leveling the tech playing field in jeopardy...
Last year, the president pitched a plan aimed at making sure "99 percent of students across the country" would receive access to high-speed broadband and wireless Internet at their schools within the next five years. During his 2011 State of the Union address, he stressed the need to upgrade all Americans.
"This isn't just about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls," Obama said at the time. "It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."
But on Jan. 14, a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order pertaining to so-called "net neutrality." The decision paves the way for Internet service providers to potentially block any website or app of their choosing...
Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association, argues that by allowing ISPs to preferentially charge for a tiered access, not only will public libraries suffer, but so will the communities that rely on them. She believe the hardest hit would be school children in grades K-12.
"Schools, public and college universities rely upon public availability of government services, licensed databases, job-training videos, medical and scientific research, and many other essential services," she wrote in a Jan. 16 opinion piece on"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Google's New A.I. Ethics Board Might Save Humanity From Extinctionn;, 1/29/14

Bianca Bosker,; Google's New A.I. Ethics Board Might Save Humanity From Extinction:
"In 2011, the co-founder of DeepMind, the artificial intelligence company acquired this week by Google, made an ominous prediction more befitting a ranting survivalist than an award-winning computer scientist.
“Eventually, I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this,” DeepMind’s Shane Legg said in an interview with Alexander Kruel. Among all forms of technology that could wipe out the human species, he singled out artificial intelligence, or AI, as the “number 1 risk for this century.”
Google’s acquisition of DeepMind came with an estimated $400 million price tag and an unusual stipulation that adds extra gravity -- and a dose of reality -- to Legg’s warning: Google agreed to create an AI safety and ethics review board to ensure this technology is developed safely, as The Information first reported and The Huffington Post confirmed...
Before we get there, ethicists, AI researchers and computer scientists argue Google’s soon-to-be-created ethics board must consider both the moral implications of the AI projects it pursues, and draw up the ethical rules by which its smart systems operate."

3D printing human tissue and organs to 'spark ethics debate'; Telegraph, 1/29/14

Rhiannon Williams, Telegraph; 3D printing human tissue and organs to 'spark ethics debate' :
"Known as bioprinting, the medical application of 3D printing to produce living tissue and organs is advancing at such a rate, a major ethical debate on its use is likely to ignite by 2016...
3D printing's ability to manufacture highly customised human organs and anatomical parts will raise inevitable ethical and moral dilemmas, said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner.
He said: "3D bioprinting facilities with the ability to print human organs and tissue will advance far faster than general understanding and acceptance of the ramifications of this technology...
The rapid emergence of 3D printing will also create major challenges in relation to intellectual property (IP) theft."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Librarians Protest Canada Cutbacks; Chronicle of Higher Education via New York Times, 1/26/14

Karen Birchard and Jennifer Lewington, Chronicle of Higher Education via New York Times; Librarians Protest Canada Cutbacks:
"A move by the Canadian government to shrink the number of its departmental research libraries is drawing fire from some academics, who fear a loss of data and trained personnel and damage to the country’s ability to carry out research.
The closing of seven regional libraries in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the quiet elimination of more than two dozen libraries in other departments, might otherwise have passed largely unnoticed, given the modest cost savings...
Gail Shea, head of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or D.F.O., adamantly denied any book burning. “Our government values these collections and will continue to strongly support it by continuing to add new material on an ongoing basis,” she said in a statement. “All materials for which D.F.O. has copyright will be preserved by the department.”
Despite such assurances, some academic researchers and librarians remain skeptical.
“My overwhelming feeling is that we don’t know exactly what some of the ramifications are for my future research or other people’s research because of the nonsystematic way it has been done,” said John Reynolds, a professor of aquatic ecology at Simon Fraser University who uses federal government fisheries data on British Columbia streams for his study of salmon sustainability.
He questioned why the government had failed to publish an inventory of library materials before and after the downsizing, including documents not covered by copyright."

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Life and Business, Learning to Be Ethical; New York Times, 1/10/14

Alina Tugend, New York Times; In Life and Business, Learning to Be Ethical:
"LOTS of New Year’s resolutions are being made — and no doubt ignored — at this time of year. But there’s one that’s probably not even on many lists and should be: Act more ethically.
Most people, if pressed, would acknowledge that they could use an ethical tuneup. Maybe last year they fudged some numbers at work. Dented a car and failed to leave a note. Remained silent when a friend made a racist joke.
The problem, research shows, is that how we think we’re going to act when faced with a moral decision and how we really do act are often vastly different."

What are the ethics of human-robot relationships?; Guardian, 1/27/14

Eleanor Robertson, Guardian; What are the ethics of human-robot relationships? :
"A few years ago, the Danish Council of Ethics released a report that tried to engage with some of these questions, and I wish I could go back in time and hand Jonze a copy before he sat down to write Her. One of the Council's concerns is social robots, which are designed to seem as though they have inner lives. These emotional simulations encourage us to treat their artificial feelings as real, potentially leading to "relationships", in which humans instrumentalise objects with very convincing similarities to real people.
Films that involve artificial intelligence should invite us to think about those intuitions, rather than using robots as a lazy novelty. Her could have been a chance to get stuck in to this stuff, but you'd probably get more intellectual depth from watching a few episodes of The Jetsons."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Point of View: The ethics of the driverless car; BBC News, 1/24/14

Adam Gopnik, BBC News; A Point of View: The ethics of the driverless car:
"There is a problem, though, I've discovered, reading eagerly on. It is that human drivers are engaged every day not just in navigating roads, but also in making ethical decisions as they drive, and these too will have somehow to be programmed into the software of the self-driving car. Each self-driving car will have to have its own ethical engine...
Yet the one thing that all philosophers and engineers are agreed on, is that no one is yet nearly as good, as flexible, as vigilant - not to mention as perpetually self-justifying - at these things as people are. We are our own best ethical engines. And who more expert than those of us, that small persecuted class, the non-drivers, who have been watching the road without the distraction of actual driving for years?"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chapel Hill Researcher’s Findings on Athletes’ Literacy Bring a Backlash; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/24/14

Robin Wilson, Chronicle of Higher Education; Chapel Hill Researcher’s Findings on Athletes’ Literacy Bring a Backlash:
"Scholars at Chapel Hill say the way the university has responded to Ms. Willingham’s research has implications beyond her work. By halting it because of concerns over the anonymity of her subjects, and at the same time criticizing her findings, the university appears to be using the IRB as a tool to thwart her inquiry, say some faculty members.
“This looks vindictive,” says Frank R. Baumgartner, a distinguished professor of political science at Chapel Hill. “It puts the university in a defensive posture, where they could instead be taking the initiative and saying, Let’s have a national conversation to find the right balance between athletics and academics.”
Instead, says Mr. Baumgartner, the university’s attack on Ms. Willingham’s research has a “chilling effect” on any scholarly work that could make the university look bad.
Daniel K. Nelson, director of the university’s office of human-­research ethics, who oversees the institutional review boards, issued a statement saying he had not been pressured by university administrators into requesting that Ms. Willingham seek IRB approval.
He said it had simply become clear with the release of her research results that identifying details were in fact maintained in her data set. (Ms. Willingham has never publicly identified her research subjects.)"

Are adjunct professors the fast-food workers of the academic world?; Guardian, 1/24/14

James Hoff, Guardian; Are adjunct professors the fast-food workers of the academic world? :
"I am what's called an adjunct. I teach four courses per semester at two different colleges, and I am paid just $24,000 a year and receive no health or pension benefits. Recently, I was profiled in the New York Times as the face of adjunct exploitation, and though I was initially happy to share my story because I care about the issue, the profile has its limits. Rather than use my situation to explain the systemic problem of academic labor, the article personalized – even romanticized – my situation as little more than the deferred dream of a struggling PhD with a penchant for poetry.
But the adjunct problem is not about PhDs struggling to find jobs or people being forced to give up their dreams. The adjunct problem is about the continued exploitation of a large, growing and diverse group of highly educated and dedicated college teachers who have been asked to settle for less pay (sometimes as little as $21,000 a year for full-time work) because the institutions they work for have callously calculated that they can get away with it. The adjunct problem is institutional, not personal, and its affects reach deep into our culture and society.
Though there are tens of thousands of personal stories like mine of economic hardship and lives ruined or put on hold, it is not to these stories that we should turn when we consider the exploitation of adjuncts in academia, but to our universal sense of justice. For the continued exploitation of adjuncts is, to put it bluntly, nothing less than unjust. Here's why..."

Truth and Consequences for a War Photographer; New York Times, 1/24/14

James Estrin, New York Times; Truth and Consequences for a War Photographer:
"The ethical commandments on the digital manipulation of photographs in journalism are simple and direct: you do not add or subtract any element of an image in post processing. Ever. If a photo didn’t turn out exactly how you had imagined, there is no laptop digital do-over.
These standards are accepted by the major international wire services and most newspapers in the United States.
On Wednesday, The Associated Press announced that it had severed its relationship with Narciso Contreras, a Pulitzer prize-winning freelance photographer who has covered the Syrian war extensively. The cause was a single image in which the photographer digitally removed a video camera from a corner of the frame.
This type of ethical lapse happens with alarming frequency despite the clarity of the rules and the severe consequences that have befallen transgressors...
But unlike previous occurrences in which the violation was discovered by readers, bloggers or other photographers, this week’s case had a twist: Mr. Contreras — facing a moral dilemma and knowing the consequences — turned himself in...
By his reckoning, it would have been worse to have kept silent.
“What would happen if I said nothing to them — if the picture was ever moved more widely it could bring more serious consequences,” he said. “It would put in doubt the credibility of me who shot the picture and A.P. who was distributing the picture.”
“It has serious consequences — but it’s for me,” he said. “I broke up my working relationship with A.P., but I was able to bring to light a mistake that I did.”

A Code of Honor, Not a Referee, Keeps Curlers Honest; New York Times, 1/23/14

Mary Pilon, New York Times; A Code of Honor, Not a Referee, Keeps Curlers Honest:
"Curling is the rare Olympic sport that largely relies on self-policing. Historically seen as a gentleman’s game, curlers are expected to call attention to their own errors.
While some officials line curling arenas, they are chiefly relegated to timekeeping and measuring tasks around the button, or bull’s-eye, of the game’s court. Curlers at the amateur and elite levels are expected to admit their own infractions, be they swearing, touching a moving stone with their foot or broom slamming, a practice that is frowned upon."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why Associated Press was right to sever ties with Narciso Contreras; Guardian, 1/23/14

Roger Tooth, Guardian; Why Associated Press was right to sever ties with Narciso Contreras:
"Except that the major wire agencies and their clients rely on their images being totally authentic; that's why news organisations like the Guardian spend many thousand of pounds each year on their contracts. In a news environment it's all about a chain of trust: from the photographers through to the agencies, newspapers and websites, and then to the readers. If that chain is broken, any picture could be suspect, and that can't be allowed to happen."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gay Marriages Confront Catholic School Rules; New York Times, 1/22/14

Michael Paulson, New York Times; Gay Marriages Confront Catholic School Rules:
"For Catholic school and church leaders across the country, the issue is clear. The Roman Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, and school officials, including Mr. Zmuda, generally sign contracts saying they will abide by church teachings so that their lives can be models for their students.
But for some young Catholics, the firings are mystifying, particularly given the new tone set by Pope Francis. At Eastside Catholic, some students have taken to crafting banners with the quotation “Who am I to judge?,” words uttered by the pope when asked about gay priests; others have been trying to reach the pope via Twitter, hoping he will somehow intercede.
“He made it safe for people to raise issues and questions that, in the past, they were shut down for,” said Nancy Walton-House, whose son attended Eastside. “There’s a lot of hope, and maybe some naïveté, about how fast things can happen.”
Eastside’s senior-class president, Bradley Strode, a 17-year-old wrestler and lacrosse player, is seeking a meeting with the archbishop of Seattle, arguing that even if the church’s doctrine does not change, its employment practices should."

Chinese Web Outage Blamed on Censorship Glitch; New York Times, 1/22/14

Amy Qin, New York Times; Chinese Web Outage Blamed on Censorship Glitch:
"Chinese authorities on Wednesday suggested that a major disruption of the Internet in China this week was the work of hackers. But others blamed the massive outage on a malfunction of the government’s own Great Firewall, the sprawling, hidden infrastructure used to restrict what ordinary Chinese can see online.
Millions of Internet users in China attempting to access a range of websites on Tuesday afternoon were rerouted to servers run by a small American firm dedicated to fighting web censorship. For more than an hour, Chinese users reported being unable to access websites ending in .com, .net, and .org, including the popular search engine Baidu and microblogging platform Sina Weibo. The problem is said to have affected as much as two-thirds of Internet traffic in China."

Yale Students Tangle With University Over Website; New York Times, 1/21/14

Ariel Kaminer, New York Times; Yale Students Tangle With University Over Website:
"The idea did not seem controversial at first: Peter Xu and Harry Yu, twin brothers who are seniors at Yale University, set out to build a better, more user-friendly version of the university’s online course catalog. But as Mark Zuckerberg found when he decided to build a better version of Harvard’s undergraduate student directory, these things can take on a life of their own.
Yale shut down the brothers’ website last week, helping to turn a local campus issue into something of a civil rights cause. Now, after a few days of controversy, a similar tool is up and running, and it appears to be Yale that has gotten a schooling...
Yale opted for more decisive action: It shut the site down.
To Mr. Xu and Mr. Yu, that seemed like a violation of free speech — a right held dear by both academics and Internet activists, many of whom rallied to the brothers’ cause as The Yale Daily News, The Washington Post and other news organizations reported on the shutdown.
Brad Rosen, a lecturer in Yale’s computer science department who teaches “Law, Technology and Culture,” said the debate got at a central tension of contemporary life. “Different stakeholders have different assumptions about how information is going to flow,” he said."

AP severs ties with Pulitzer-winning photographer for ethics breach;, 1/22/14; AP severs ties with Pulitzer-winning photographer for ethics breach:
"The Associated Press has ended its relationship with a freelance photographer after he alerted editors that he manipulated a photograph taken for the wire service. The photographer, Narciso Contreras, digitally removed a camera from the corner of the image above, taken during his time in Syria in September 2013. The AP responded to the incident in a blog post:
“AP’s reputation is paramount and we react decisively and vigorously when it is tarnished by actions in violation of our ethics code,” said Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crowded Out of Ivory Tower, Adjuncts See a Life Less Lofty; New York Times, 1/19/14

Rachel L. Swarns, New York Times; Crowded Out of Ivory Tower, Adjuncts See a Life Less Lofty:
"Mayor Bill de Blasio has turned the spotlight on the issue of income inequality in this city. We know about the struggles of low-wage workers without college degrees, the widening gap between rich and poor and the erosion of job security in corporate America. But seismic shifts have shaken the academy, too, creating a society of haves and have-nots, outsiders and insiders, among instructors...
From 1993 to 2011, the percentage of faculty members without tenure surged nationally from 57 percent to 70 percent, according to the American Association of University Professors, a research and advocacy group. Of those faculty members, a vast majority are adjunct professors like Mr. Hoff...
They are increasingly restive, prodding universities over late pay and classes that are canceled at the last minute. Adjuncts say they are typically excluded from university governance and decision-making regarding the classes that they teach. And there are smaller indignities that grate, like being denied keys to the supply cabinets or access to offices after hours. “They feel a lack of dignity, a lack of respect, a lack of visibility,” said Barbara Bowen, the president of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, who said her union would demand increased job security for adjuncts in coming contract negotiations."

Monday, January 20, 2014

The death of Dr V: ethics should matter more to journalists than storytelling; Guardian, 1/20/14

Bronwen Clune, Guardian; The death of Dr V: ethics should matter more to journalists than storytelling:
Hannan employed transparency in his detailed, first person writing style as a journalistic device employed to make him seem accountable. But here’s the thing: as journalism moves to a more commendable open format, transparency does not absolve responsibility. There needs to be some deeper thinking on what constitutes ethically responsible journalism in the age of transparency. We cannot hide behind it as a defence when our actions are wrong – they are wrong whether behind closed doors or out in the open. Hannan’s piece should never have been published; there was no obvious news interest outweighing Vanderbilt's right not to be outed.
There is no divinely-granted permission to journalists as an authority on what constitutes truth, or what is and is not news, and what should and should not be pursued (referred to as journalists' “priesthood syndrome”). Transparency doesn’t account for the fact that a journalist’s truth is not greater than that of their subjects. Part of a journalist’s role is to know that, and perhaps it’s time to add this to journalists’ code of ethics. As a side note, guidelines for transgender reporting would not go astray either.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Online Avengers; New York Times, 1/15/14

Emily Bazelon, New York Times; The Online Avengers:
None of the OpAntiBully members ever met in person, but they began spending hours working together online, using encrypted email accounts or chat rooms for anything they deemed sensitive. Katherine set up a Twitter account, @OpAntiBully, and encouraged young people who felt victimized to seek them out. OpAntiBully members posted links to resources for depressed teenagers and responded to pleas for help. Sometimes they would offer informal online counseling or send a flurry of encouraging messages to a desperate-sounding soul out in the ether. Other times they would take more aggressive measures, tracking down and exposing the identities of supposed wrongdoers who the group felt had not been brought to justice. Public shaming is a standard tool for this kind of activism, and it was part of OpAntiBully’s approach from the start — “it can be great fun to bully the bullies,” Ash says. This kind of outing, known as doxxing, involves scouring the Internet for personal data (or documents, the source of the word “doxx”) — like a person’s name, address, occupation, Twitter or Facebook profile — and then publicly linking that information to the perpetrator’s transgression. The process can be as simple as following a trail the target has left behind or it can involve tricking someone into revealing the password to a personal account or hacking into a website to obtain private information. The exposure, Ash says, is its own punishment. “People need to learn from their mistakes,” he said. “If it takes shocking or scaring them to do that, so be it. And sometimes we have apologies coming in, because people realize that what they’ve done is wrong.”

Koch brothers finally cave: Company gives in on employee Facebook posts;, 1/16/14

Josh Eidelson,; Koch brothers finally cave: Company gives in on employee Facebook posts:
A Koch-owned company will backtrack on restricting workers’ Facebook posts, under a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board. Under the December settlement, first reported by In These Times’ Mike Elk, Georgia Pacific – a paper company within Koch Industries – will post workplace notices announcing, “WE WILL repeal our Social Media Policy and WE WILL NOT issue policies that interfere with your right to share information relating to wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment with others, including on social media sites.”...
Tweeting and “liking” aren’t the only outside-work activities that Georgia Pacific has been accused of trying to control. In 2012, Elk reported that Georgia Pacific required that employees get permission between joining nonprofit boards or running for office, and sent its employees a voter packet identifying favored candidates and warning that if the wrong people won, “then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ethics rules bar Wellesley firefighters from cruise; Boston Globe, 1/16/14

Jaclyn Reiss, Boston Globe; Ethics rules bar Wellesley firefighters from cruise: "The four Wellesley firefighters who received Caribbean cruise tickets from Ellen DeGeneres this week for a dramatic dog rescue had to decline the trip because state ethics law prohibits them from accepting gifts worth $50 or more. “It was a nice gesture on Ellen’s part, and the firefighters were surprised by that, but state statute is very clear, so we FedExed the vouchers back to the Ellen show,” said Wellesley Fire Chief Richard DeLorie. DeGeneres gave Wellesley Fire Captain Jim Dennehy, Lieutenant Paul Delaney, Dave Papazian, and Joan Cullinan the cruise tickets this week after she feted them on her show for rescuing a golden retriever named Crosby from an icy Charles River last month... DeGeneres also bestowed monogrammed bedazzled orange life vests to the firefighters, including a doggie vest for Crosby. DeLorie said the firefighters are allowed to keep the life vests, since they are considered a novelty item with no value other than sentimental... State law prohibits officials from accepting gifts worth $50 or more because of something they have done in their official job capacity, including payment of travel expenses, which the cruise would probably have fallen under. However, the department allowed the show to pay for their plane tickets to California for the show’s taping. DeLorie, who is the appointed authority to decide on such matters in his department, said he had to pore over disclosure forms from his firefighters before agreeing that accepting the flights was legal. He cited exemptions to the state ethics law, noting that it might be legal to accept a gift if it if a gift does not provide a conflict of interest and proves to advance public interest. “In this case, these guys were flying out Sunday and coming home right after the taping on Monday night,” DeLorie said. “That’s not a pleasure trip; that’s to promote a good public service story. and that met the test, in my opinion, that it was for more public than private benefit.”"

“Blackfish” Snubbed -- Outrage Ensues; The Dodo, 1/16/14

Melissa Cronin, The Dodo; “Blackfish” Snubbed -- Outrage Ensues: "Some of the most surprising snubs in the category in recent years have been “Gimme Shelter” (1970), Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), Moore’s “Roger & Me” (1989), Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” (2005), “Last Train Home” (2010) and Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (2010). As John Anderson writes at the New York Times, the panel of documentarians that votes on the category “tends to favor inspiring stories about struggle and triumph, not examinations of darker subjects with ambiguous conclusions.” The film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival last January, and was picked up by CNN for a wider release. The plot revolves around the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed when an orca whale with a history of violence dragged her by her ponytail and she drowned. The issue of orcas in captivity is at the heart of the film -- a practice which it comes out as strongly against."

Cheating Accusations Among Officers Overseeing Nuclear Arms; New York Times, 1/15/14

Helene Cooper, New York Times; Cheating Accusations Among Officers Overseeing Nuclear Arms: "The Air Force said on Wednesday that 34 officers responsible for launching the nation’s nuclear missiles had been suspended, and their security clearances revoked, for cheating on monthly proficiency tests that assess their knowledge of how to operate the warheads. At a news conference, Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, said the officers, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, either knew about or took part in texting answers to the routine monthly tests. Eleven Air Force officers — including two accused in the Malmstrom cheating scandal, as well as one other nuclear missile officer — have also been the focus of suspicion in an illegal drugs investigation, defense officials said. Although the Air Force has been plagued in recent years by scandals, the current revelations are particularly alarming because they involve America’s nuclear arsenal, where errors could be catastrophic."

Pointing a Finger on Facebook; New York Times, 1/15/14

Jacob Bernstein, New York Times; Pointing a Finger on Facebook: "Itay Hod has been a journalist for more than 15 years. He has reported on health issues for NY1, done segments for CBS News on gay rights, covered the Oscars for Logo, and written articles for The Daily Beast about lesbian pornographers and “American Idol” winners. But nothing he has done the past few years has garnered him as much attention as a post on his Facebook page this month, in which he suggested that an unnamed Republican congressman, whom he described as being hostile to gay rights, was himself gay."

Israel’s Efforts to Limit Use of Holocaust Terms Raise Free-Speech Questions; New York Times, 1/15/14

Judi Rudoren, New York Times; Israel’s Efforts to Limit Use of Holocaust Terms Raise Free-Speech Questions: "Israel is on the brink of banning the N-word. N as in Nazi, that is. Parliament gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a bill that would make it a crime to call someone a Nazi — or any other slur associated with the Third Reich — or to use Holocaust-related symbols in a noneducational way. The penalty would be a fine of as much as $29,000 and up to six months in jail... But critics, including some with deep connections to the Holocaust, say the proposed law is a dangerous infringement on free speech and an overreach impossible to enforce."

The Questionable Ethics of Teaching My Son to Love Pro Football; Atlantic, 1/16/14

Peter Beinart, Atlantic; The Questionable Ethics of Teaching My Son to Love Pro Football: "In their book American Grace, Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell note that American Christians didn’t suddenly jettison their anti-Semitism after the Nazis gave Jew-hatred a bad name. But they grew more ashamed of it, and thus didn’t transmit it to their kids. I suspect something similar has happened in recent years when it comes to smoking cigarettes, littering brazenly, and denigrating gay people. These behaviors have declined somewhat among older Americans, but the bigger shift has come via generational replacement, because even people who still act in these ways raised children who do not. I’m not claiming that watching football is as bad as all those other activities. But it’s bad enough, especially when you remember that the people you’re watching brutalize themselves didn’t randomly choose to do so. They were steered toward the NFL by a society that offers poor black men few other, less violent, ways to attain wealth."

Blind student sues Miami University over alleged discrimination;, 1/13/14

Maxim Alter,; Blind student sues Miami University over alleged discrimination: "A blind student is suing Miami University over claims the school discriminated against her because of her disability. Aleeha Dudley, who is pursuing a degree in zoology, alleges Miami University deliberately failed to make “necessary modifications” so she could complete her coursework... According to the suit, the university failed to provide textbooks and course materials in accessible formats, including Braille... But former Miami student Heather Komnenovich said that cannot be the case. Komnenovich, a 2005 graduate, said she also struggles with multiple disabilities and believes the faculty at Miami "bent over backwards" to help her succeed. "(The director of the Office of Disability Resources) has done everything in his power to help me out so I didn't flunk my studies, and I had some issues," Komnenovich said. "He went out on a limb so I could graduate. I know he would make sure Aleeha was getting the same treatment.""

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Test Scandal in Atlanta Brings More Guilty Pleas; New York Times, 1/6/14

Kim Severson and Alan Blinder, New York Times; Test Scandal in Atlanta Brings More Guilty Pleas: "Dr. Hall, who for more than a decade had been celebrated as an erudite, data-driven superintendent of a once-failing urban school district that became a model of improvement, was at the center of the inquiry from the start. The report implicated at least 44 schools and 178 teachers and principals, and said cheating may have been going on for years. It was so pervasive that some administrators even held what investigators said were “erasing parties” to fix the tests. More than 80 of the educators confessed and many resigned. The investigation found that Dr. Hall and her administration “emphasized test results and public praise to the exclusion of integrity and ethics.” The result, it said, was a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation that led to a conspiracy of silence."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Listen to Pandora, and It Listens Back; New York Times, 1/4/14

Natasha Singer, New York Times; Listen to Pandora, and It Listens Back: "People’s music, movie or book choices may reveal much more than commercial likes and dislikes. Certain product or cultural preferences can give glimpses into consumers’ political beliefs, religious faith, sexual orientation or other intimate issues. That means many organizations now are not merely collecting details about where we go and what we buy, but are also making inferences about who we are. “I would guess, looking at music choices, you could probably predict with high accuracy a person’s worldview,” says Vitaly Shmatikov, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies computer security and privacy. “You might be able to predict people’s stance on issues like gun control or the environment because there are bands and music tracks that do express strong positions.”... In its privacy policy, Pandora describes the types of information it collects about users and the purposes — music personalization and ad customization — for which the information may be employed. Although users may elect to pay $36 annually to opt out of receiving ads, advertising on the free service accounts for the bulk of Pandora’s revenue. Out of $427.1 million in revenue in the 2013 fiscal year, advertising generated $375.2 million. Pandora’s inferences about individuals become more discerning as time goes on. How we think about the ethics and accuracy of algorithms is another matter. “I’m optimistic that the benefits to society will outweigh the risks,” Professor Shmatikov says. “But our attitudes will have to evolve to understand that now everybody knows more about who we are.”"

Can Data Be Evil?; New York Times, 1/3/14

Chuck Klosterman, The Ethicist, New York Times; Can Data Be Evil? : [Question] "Some knowledge about hypothermia comes from brutal Nazi medical experiments conducted on prisoners of war. Considering the data came from the destruction of others’ lives, are there ethical issues when modern-day scientists use it? Could it be considered a form of collaboration with the Nazis? Or does the origin of the data matter if the data is useful? Declaring the data off-limits could lead to preventable deaths, while using the data seems coldheartedly clinical. ISAAC MAYER, SAN DIEGO"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A’s for Athletes, but Charges of Fraud at North Carolina; New York Times, 12/31/13

Sarah Lyall, New York Times; A’s for Athletes, but Charges of Fraud at North Carolina: "In the summer of 2011, 19 undergraduates at the University of North Carolina signed up for a lecture course called AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina. The professor was Julius Nyang’oro, an internationally respected scholar and longtime chairman of the African and Afro-American studies department. It is doubtful the students learned much about blacks, North Carolina or anything else, though they received grades for papers they supposedly turned in and Mr. Nyang’oro, the instructor, was paid $12,000. University and law-enforcement officials say AFAM 280 never met. One of dozens of courses in the department that officials say were taught incompletely or not at all, AFAM 280 is the focus of a criminal indictment against Mr. Nyang’oro that was issued last month. Eighteen of the 19 students enrolled in the class were members of the North Carolina football team (the other was a former member), reportedly steered there by academic advisers who saw their roles as helping athletes maintain high enough grades to remain eligible to play. Handed up by an Orange County, N.C., grand jury, the indictment charged Nyang’oro with “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously” accepting payment “with the intent to cheat and defraud” the university in connection with the AFAM course — a virtually unheard-of legal accusation against a professor. The indictment, critics say, covers just a small piece of one of the biggest cases of academic fraud in North Carolina history. That it has taken place at Chapel Hill, known for its rigorous academic standards as well as an athletic program revered across the country, has only made it more shocking."