I don't know about you, but back when I was working a nine-to-five gig that forced me to wear pants and show up on time, I had days at work where I wanted nothing more than to knock everything off my desk and set the office on fire. I'm betting it's a feeling that former U.S. Army Sergeant John T. Skipper can relate to.
During a training exercise back in 2016, Sgt. Skipper, now a former member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, decided that he'd totally be into finding out what happens to a Humvee when its parachute straps are tampered with during a tactical airdrop from a C-130 Hercules.
The answer: As this YouTube video captured by spectators on the ground illustrates, nothing good. However, the premise that a vehicle that reaches terminal velocity during a fall will be destroyed on impact with the ground can't be taken as gospel. An experiment has to be repeated, with the same result, for it to become a fact that you can rely on. So, apparently in the name of Science, Skipper cut the straps on not one, but three Humvees during the course of the exercise.
This past week, Sgt. Skipper was court-martialled for his dabblings with gravity. As a result, he was convicted of three counts of destroying military property with a value of more than $500 and providing a false official statement. "More than $500" is an understatement. While you can buy a well-loved Humvee at auction for a few grand, these days, the ones still in service, or bought new, have an estimated worth of starting at around $70,000. Read the rest
Last November, evil Trump-supporting billionaire Joe Ricketts shut down Gothamist (and its sister sites) to punish its staff for forming a union. Read the rest
“The worst part of my whole encounter with Oreskes [was] the fact that he utterly destroyed my ambition,” says one victim.
Michael Oreskes is now NPR’s Senior Vice President of news. He is accused by two women of sexual harassment dating back a number of years, including “unwanted physical contact with them” while he was employed by another news organization “nearly two decades ago.” Read the rest
NPR celebrated July 4 by tweeting the Declaration of Independence, one line at a time: when they got to "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people," America's fragile right-wing broflakes went berserk, unhinged by reality's well-known liberal bias. Read the rest
One of the things I love about long summer weekends is catching up on podcasts and filling my mind with something other than bummer political news. The third season of NPR's most popular podcast, Invisibilia, just launched, and I'm really enjoying it.
David A Banks argues that the boom in NPR explainer podcasts -- Radiolab, Note to Self, Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio and others -- are ideologically bankrupt, presenting individual, often neurological explanations for social phenomena -- rather than turning to the traditional social science accounts of these issues, so that the weird, broken, messed up things in our world are the result of our human "hardwiring" rather than the outgrowth of policies and ideology. Read the rest
One after another, ex-Wells Fargo employees have come forward to reveal that when they blew the whistle of millions of frauds committed against the bank's customers, the bank's management fired them and blackballed them from the banking industry for life, by falsifying claims of wrongdoing on a semi-secret list of corrupt bankers that is consulted by the industry before they make new hires. Read the rest
Nationally the High School graduation rate has been on the rise. NPR reports the rise is due to a combination of hard work that benefits students, and some states simply lowering standards so they earn passing grades.
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While the graduation rate continues to climb, the improvement comes at a time when the scores of high school students on the test known as the "Nation's Report Card," are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.
As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.
"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.
Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."
In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.
Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted "in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college."
It's difficult to know which states earned this uptick in graduation rates through high standards and hard work and which states achieved it through shortcuts and lowered expectations.
Boing Boing pal Isabel Lara writes to give us a heads up about a new NPR series, “Changing Minds.” NPR launched the project this week and it looks at stories of people who’ve changed their positions in what has become a cultural moment of partisan polarization and extremism. The stories so far focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Read the rest
In an NPR report from 1984, a revelation: There are people who do not like to go shopping and some of them might enjoy buying things from the comfort of their own home with the help of a computer. I know. It's crazy. Bonuses: Description of a kludged-together, TV-based system that "will eventually be replaced by a home computer" and an early version of the audio editing and production style now famous from its use on Radiolab. Read the rest
I got to join in a great conversation yesterday on KCRW's "To the Point" with guest host Madeleine Brand and several people involved in the future of space travel — especially commercial space travel. I was there to talk about my recent NYT Magazine story on the risks of boredom in space, but the rest of the conversation was also great, ranging from the profit motives of space exploration to Brand's excellent questioning of the founder of Mars One. Read the rest
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the hosts of NPR's fantastic science story show, Radiolab, are doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything today. It's been underway for a while, so it's probably late to get a new question in, but it's a great thread so far. Worth a read! Read the rest
Remember how scientists discovered alien-esque life forms in California and the Internet was all, "Oh, sheeeet!" But then other scientists started critiquing the research and there was a giant debate about whether one scientist could call out another scientist for bad data on a blog, rather than in a peer-reviewed journal, except that the peer reviewed critiques basically said the same thing and the "discovery" turned out to be totally incorrect? I'm making light of arsenic life here just a bit, but this story of de-discovery continues to be interesting and important. Today, on NPR's Science Friday, science journalist extraordinaire Carl Zimmer will explain why, and will talk about what happens when scientists are wrong. Read the rest