‘Ole Miss’ Debates Campus Traditions With Confederate Roots – by SANDRA KNISPEL October 25, 2014 6:04 PM ET

University of Mississippi football is riding high these days; they’re undefeated and one of the top three teams in the nation.Mississippi Rebels fans cheer for their team prior to their game on October 18. The University of Mississippi has been in an ongoing effort to distance the state's flagship academic institution from its segregationist history.

Mississippi Rebels fans cheer for their team prior to their game on October 18. The University of Mississippi has been in an ongoing effort to distance the state’s flagship academic institution from its segregationist history.

Michael Chang/Getty Images

University of Mississippi football is riding high these days; they’re undefeated and one of the top three teams in the nation.

But as Ole Miss fans come together to root for their team, many other traditions are coming under scrutiny. The school’s been engaged in a long-running effort to remove potentially divisive, and racially charged symbols, to try and make the campus more “welcoming.”

At the corner of Fraternity Row, a short lane that runs past a chapel used to be called “Confederate Drive.” Newly painted over, the unassuming white street post now reads “Chapel Lane.”

“Obviously the name Confederate Drive can be seen as divisive by some people and could be seen as an effort by the university to embrace an ancient idea,” says university spokesman Danny Blanton.

A state historical sign marks the Confederate Soldiers Cemetery on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Miss.i

A state historical sign marks the Confederate Soldiers Cemetery on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Miss.

Emily Wagster Pettus/AP

The sign change is part of the latest effort to improve the public image of Mississippi’s flagship state school, and with it the ability to recruit and retain more minorities. Last year, freshmen were for the first time required to learn about Mississippi history and race relations.

Next, the school will place signs adding historical context to potentially controversial sites, like a statue of the Confederate soldier in the middle of campus. These changes come after a series of ugly race incidents; one egregious event happened in February, when a noose was hung around the neck of the statue of James Meredith, the first African American to attend the university.

“I did actually have a pretty big emotional breakdown. I came to campus and I, in all honesty, didn’t want my feet to even touch the pavement,” says Courtney Pearson.

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3 ways this election could transform money in politics – By Mark Schmitt – October 25, 2014, 1:00 p.m. ET

By Mark Schmitt 

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation.

At least since the first “billion-dollar election,” in 1996, money in politics has seemed like one of those perpetual problems that we wring our hands about but never fix. The numbers are always shocking, and the solutions always inadequate to the challenge.

But skyrocketing numbers are only part of the story. We often focus on how money affects elections — and it does. But it’s also true that elections affect the role of money and the influence it creates. The rise of intense partisanship, for example, with few independents and swing voters, changes the way money is used — encouraging mobilization of the base rather than persuasion — and thus the types of organizations that can influence elections. This, in turn, should change the way we define the problem of economic inequality reinforcing political inequality, and how we think about solutions.

This otherwise lackluster election might change the role of money in three important ways:

1)  Regulated, disclosed “hard money” contributions might soon become irrelevant

Over the course of the last decade, the system of public financing for presidential elections was effectively repealed, after candidates first began opting out of public financing in the primaries (which involved complex and obsolete limits on spending). In 2012, and then in 2012, both major party candidates chose to forsake public money in the general election, spending more than $1 billion each. But until recently, most political spending still came through the regulated system of campaign and party committees, political action committees and SuperPACs, that disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission and adhere to contribution limits. While the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC earlier this year received outsized attention because it effectively raised those “hard money” limits to the point where a single donor could give more than $3.5 million in one election cycle, more and more big donors have been recruited to support political committees that don’t disclose their donors at all, and aren’t bound by any limits as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates.

As of Oct. 8, with a month left before the election, groups that don’t disclose their donors had spent more than $100 million on congressional campaigns, much more than they had spent on congressional fights in all of the 2012 campaign cycle. In some of the tightest races, candidates have received more support from the combination of non-disclosing non-profits and candidate-specific SuperPACs (which can accept unlimited donations but are required to disclose their donors) than through their own hard-money campaign committees.

The spending we know about from these non-disclosing non-profits includes only broadcast advertising, reported by the stations, and only ads with specific calls to vote for or against a candidate. But much of the groups’ money is spent on ads focusing mainly on issues. In this highly polarized environment, issue ads don’t need to mention a candidate to get their point across. Groups such as those funded by the Koch Brothers ran ads that highlighted citizens who said they had been harmed by “Obamacare.” Some of them mentioned a candidate briefly, many didn’t. It doesn’t much matter: “Obamacare” is an intense partisan signifier. So is “minimum wage” for Democrats.

These non-disclosing organizations are proliferating so rapidly, and the innovations so clever, that this may be the last campaign where the traditional, regulated system really matters. Future reforms will have to deal with these changes, some of which cannot easily be reined in without infringing on core First Amendment rights.

While this change is frightening, the second and third possible changes to the role of money in politics hold some promise.

2) Broadcast television advertising might no longer drive campaign costs

Read the rest of the article here:


Bill Clinton fires up gay-rights group’s gala – By KATIE GLUECK | 10/25/14 9:53 PM EDT

Former President Bill Clinton is pictured. | AP Photo

‘Campaigns, the best of them, fire idealism and spark intensity,’ Clinton says. | AP Photo


Former President Bill Clinton on Saturday offered emotionally charged encouragement to a gala gathering of a prominent gay rights group while noting his wife Hillary Clinton’s support for gay rights when she served as secretary of State.

The fired-up crowd attending the Human Rights Campaign’s national dinner at Washington D.C.’s cavernous convention center was particularly enthusiastic whenever he mentioned Hillary Clinton, a likely 2016 Democratic candidate. The former president noted her support for gay rights during her time at State, when she said that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

“I love the HRC. The initials are great,” Clinton said as the crowd embraced the dual reference to the rights organization and his wife’s middle name, Rodham. Early on, the former president also mentioned Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who is thought to be a candidate to run Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential campaign.

(PHOTOS: Where same-sex couples can wed)

While Hillary Clinton had a testy exchange with a National Public Radio host earlier this year over when she came to publicly back gay marriage — something she did not support in her 2008 presidential bid (nor did then-candidate Barack Obama) — her name received a warm welcome at the event, where the theme of the night was “evolve.”

Bill Clinton noted several times how much has changed on the gay rights front — including court-sanctioned gay marriage in many places — since he addressed the organization in 1997.

“One thing we have learned is no human heart is immune to an honest outreach,” he said. “No one can forever ignore their personal experience. If you ask somebody who the most conservative member of the Bush administration was, most people say Dick Cheney. But Dick Cheney was for gay marriage [and] gay rights because of his daughter [one of whom is gay], because of his personal human experience.”

The mood at the gala dinner was celebratory. Couples who had gotten married in the last year were asked to stand up, and a sizable number of people in the room rose. But Clinton told the audience to stay focused on notching more wins through concerted campaigns, both legally and in the court of public opinion. He quoted former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who said one should campaign in poetry and govern in prose, and Clinton said the organization needs to do both at the same time.

(PHOTOS: Who’s endorsing Hillary Clinton for 2016?)

“Campaigns, the best of them, fire idealism and spark intensity,” he said.”They exhaust and exhilarate in equal measure, and they count on the fire of inspired determination to keep them going.”

Clinton has been a highly visible presence on the 2014 campaign trail, and lamented the focus of many midterms races.

“Our political season is a wash and a blizzard of ads that don’t have a thing to do with the way people will live beginning the day after the election,” he said.”We’ve got a lot of things we could be complaining about. We should be troubled about all these problems. But they all are manageable. There is no place better suited than we are here for the opportunities of the 21st century.”

He went on to detail the path forward in language many Democrats see as elements of his own legacy — broad-based prosperity; equal opportunities for children; and tolerance.

(On POLITICO Magazine: The Democrats’ royal families)

Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea Clinton just had her first child, said that “sometimes the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity.”

He urged attendees to remember that shared “humanity” as the HRC takes its campaign to the heart of America’s deep south —and to keep it in mind, “when you go to Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and the first person cusses you out.”

“Do we need national security? Absolutely,” he said. “Do we need border protection? Of course. Do we have to take prudent steps against terrorists? Yes. But we will prevail in a dangerous world if we have the best model of freedom and justice, equality and opportunity, the kind of things people want to be a part of, where everybody can be who they are.”


Read This Before You Buy a Plane Ticket on Sunday – Jessica Plautz October 24 2014


A recent report from the Airlines Reporting Corporation shows how the average price of tickets varies day by day throughout the week. According to the study, the average price of tickets sold is lowest on Sunday, at $432, and highest on Monday, at $503.

This has led more than one media outlet to report that Sunday is the best day for getting the lowest price on a flight.

It’s a tempting conclusion — but it’s wrong.

The report looks at tickets sold to travel agents, which are more often used by business travelers. It is also looking at sale prices, not available fares, meaning that the immediate need of a flight may have been more important to the purchaser than the best deal.

“All it means is that there’s a higher percentage of naturally more expensive business travel tickets being purchased during the week and a higher percentage of naturally less expensive leisure travel tickets being purchased on the weekend,” writes Brett Snyder at The Cranky Flier. “In other words, it tells us nothing about when to buy a ticket to save money.”

The Wall Street Journal partly credits higher weekday ticket prices to airline executives coming in Monday and wanting to raise profits. That could be true, but it is not what’s important to get from the Airlines Reporting Corporation study, and it’s not what a typical leisure traveler should be paying attention to.

The day of the week of a purchase is often less important to the price than how far in advance the purchase is made, the specific route and popular travel dates like the holidays.

Travelers looking to purchase holiday flights this year should book as soon as possible if they haven’t already. According to Fly.com, fares increase by as much as 18% from Oct. 25 to Dec. 15 last year, depending on the destination.

It should also be noted that average price analyses exclude price variations on different routes. If you know where you want to go ahead of time, set up a flight alert on one of the many available services — Airfarewatchdog and Hopper are two — to be alerted to cheap prices.

The more familiar you are with average prices on routes you want to fly, the better you will be able to tell when a great deal becomes available.

And of course, to be more familiar with a route, you should try to give yourself ample time before the purchase.

Travelers should also be aware that U.S. carriers are required by law to let a ticket be canceled within 24 hours of purchase without penalty (as long as the flight is more than seven days in the future). While getting a refund can sometimes take a while, it’s a good thing to know in case you change your mind or see a much better deal after you buy.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.


Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns – By Valerie Strauss October 24

A student takes notes at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Do teachers really know what students go through? To find out, one teacher followed two students for two days  and was amazed at what she found. Her report is in  following post, which appeared on the blog of Grant Wiggins, the co-author of “Understanding by Design” and the author of “Educative Assessment” and numerous articles on education. A high school teacher for 14 years, he is now the president of Authentic Education,  in Hopewell, New Jersey, which provides professional development and other services to schools aimed at improving student learning.  You can read more about him and his work at the AE site.

Wiggins initially posted the piece without revealing the author. But the post became popular on his blog and he decided to write a followup piece revealing that the author was his daughter, Alexis Wiggins, a 15-year teaching veteran now working in  a private American International School overseas. Wiggins noted in his follow-up that his daughter’s experiences mirrored his own and aligned well with the the responses on surveys that his  organization gives to students.

By Alexis Wiggins

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited 14 years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching my own classes; I am the High School Learning Coach, a new position for the school this year. My job is to work with teachers and administrators to improve student learning outcomes.

As part of getting my feet wet, my principal suggested I “be” a student for two days: I was to shadow and complete all the work of a 10th grade student on one day and to do the same for a 12th grade student on another day. My task was to do everything the student was supposed to do: if there was lecture or notes on the board, I copied them as fast I could into my notebook. If there was a Chemistry lab, I did it with my host student. If there was a test, I took it (I passed the Spanish one, but I am certain I failed the business one).

My class schedules for the day
(Note: we have a block schedule; not all classes meet each day):

Read the schedule and the rest of the article here:


The Physics of the Hendo Hoverboard – BY RHETT ALLAIN 10.24.14

Image: Hendo Hoverboards

Image: Hendo Hoverboards

This hoverboard looks like the real deal – unlike the recent fake hoverboard.  Although I’m not exactly sure how the Hendo Hoverboard works, I have a pretty good guess. Let’s look at electromagnetic repulsion physics that it might use.

If you read the description on the kickstarter page, it says:

“The magic behind the hoverboard lies in its four disc-shaped hover engines. These create a special magnetic field which literally pushes against itself, generating the lift which levitates our board off the ground.”

That “pushes against itself” makes me worried. You can’t make yourself fly by pulling up on your belt, can you?  No, you can’t. But there is a way that this could work.

Changing Magnetic Fields

Check out this simple experiment. Here I have a coil of wire connected to a galvanometer (which measures small electric currents). I also have a magnet. If I just hold this magnet inside the coil, nothing happens. Moving the magnet does something interesting.

InducedcurrentImage: Rhett Allain

A changing magnetic field induces a current in a conducting wire. Yes, that’s cool – but it’s also important. This physics principle behind many of the electric generators (but not all). The magnitude of this induced electric current depends on how fast the magnetic field is changing. Move the magnet faster and you get a larger current. Keep the magnet stationary and the magnetic field doesn’t change at all and you have zero current.

But now that there is an electric current in loop of wire, that induced current also makes a magnetic field. It turns out that this induced current makes a magnetic field that is in the opposite direction as the CHANGE in magnetic field due to the magnet. Yes. I know that is confusing. Maybe this diagram will help.


If the magnet was moving to the right, the magnetic field due to the magnet (which I labeled Bm) would still be pointing to left, but it would be decreasing in magnitude at the location of the coil. This means that the induced current (and thus the magnetic field due to the loop) would be in the opposite direction as shown in the diagram. Yes, I know this is hard to picture.

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Mark Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin during Q&A session in China – Agence France Presse in Beijing The Guardian, Thursday 23 October 2014 04.19 EDT

Mark Zuckerberg in a Q&A at Tsinghua University on 22 October

Facebook is blocked in China, but its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg appears determined to win over hearts and minds in Beijing – surprising a hall full of students by conducting a Q&A session in Mandarin.

Zuckerberg charmed his audience comprising Chinese and international students when he kicked off the half-hour session at the elite Tsinghua University with the words “Hello, everyone” in heavily accented Chinese.

The 30-year-old head of the US-based networking site elicited cheers and applause from the surprised crowd in a video of the event he posted on Thursday.

Zuckerberg discussed topics including his philosophy on founding a company and his view of Chinese innovation, as well as more personal matters such as his favourite colour, favourite Chinese dish and the Chinese-American family of his wife, Priscilla Chan.

“I want to study Chinese culture,” he said. “Studying the language helps me study the culture. So I’m trying to learn the language. Also, I like a challenge.”

Facebook has been inaccessible in mainland China since 2009, along with several major global social media sites including Twitter, YouTube and Instagram that are blacklisted by the ruling Communist party.

Despite the measures, many Chinese state news organisations and government bodies maintain social media accounts, and Facebook officials have made frequent trips to Beijing to speak at tech conferences and meet business and government leaders.

The company has an office in Hong Kong, where Facebook is not blocked, and has also reportedly rented office space in Beijing in a bid to boost its business selling online ads to Chinese companies and local governments seeking to promote themselves abroad.

Zuckerberg has visited China four times, he said at Wednesday’s event, and earlier this week his appointment was announced to the advisory board of Tsinghua’s School of Economics and Management, a further step towards strengthening the company’s China ties.

Asked about Facebook’s plans in the country, he maintained: “We’re already in China.”

“We help Chinese companies increase their overseas customers; they use Facebook advertising to find more customers,” he said. “So, we want to help different places in the world understand China.”

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