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November 19, 2007

NyT Newsflash: If you read less, you will score worse on tests designed to measure reading ability

National Endowment for the Arts - Reading - New York Times

File this under: duh.

Harry Potter, James Patterson and Oprah Winfrey’s book club aside, Americans — particularly young Americans — appear to be reading less for fun, and as that happens, their reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students whose access to books is limited, and employers are rating workers deficient in basic writing skills.

That is the message of a new report being released today by the National Endowment for the Arts, based on an analysis of data from about two dozen studies from the federal Education and Labor Departments and the Census Bureau as well as other academic, foundation and business surveys. After its 2004 report, “Reading at Risk,” which found that fewer than half of Americans over 18 read novels, short stories, plays or poetry, the endowment sought to collect more comprehensive data to build a picture of the role of all reading, including nonfiction.

In his preface to the new 99-page report Dana Gioia, chairman of the endowment, described the data as “simple, consistent and alarming.”

New Zealand banning fat immigrants

British woman banned from entering New Zealand because she is too fat | the Daily Mail

A British woman planning to start a new life with her husband in New Zealand has been banned from entering the country - because she is too fat.

Rowan Trezise, 33, has been left behind in England while her husband Richie, 35, has already made the move down under leaving her desperately trying to lose weight.

When the couple first tried to gain entry to the country they were told that they were both overweight and were a potential burden on the health care system.

China and the post-apocalyptic recycling program of doom

China not fighting off e-waste nightmare - Yahoo! News

GUIYU, China - The air smells acrid from the squat gas burners that sit outside homes, melting wires to recover copper and cooking computer motherboards to release gold. Migrant workers in filthy clothes smash picture tubes by hand to recover glass and electronic parts, releasing as much as 6.5 pounds of lead dust.

For five years, environmentalists and the media have highlighted the danger to Chinese workers who dismantle much of the world's junked electronics. Yet a visit to this southeastern Chinese town regarded as the heartland of "e-waste" disposal shows little has improved. In fact, the problem is growing worse because of China's own contribution.

China now produces more than 1 million tons of e-waste each year, said Jamie Choi, a toxics campaigner with Greenpeace China in Beijing. That adds up to roughly 5 million television sets, 4 million fridges, 5 million washing machines, 10 million mobile phones and 5 million personal computers, according to Choi.

"Most e-waste in China comes from overseas, but the amount of domestic e-waste is on the rise," he said.

Minister/Clown/Pedophile tasered to death in prison

Quad-Cities Online

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Authorities say a former minister, police officer and clown who was accused of child sex crimes died after a Taser was used to subdue him in jail.

Officials initially said Amon Paul Carlock apparently died Friday from a medical condition.

But the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office later explained that the Springfield man began having problems after a correctional officer Tased him during a struggle.

Carlock was arrested last month on charges of sex tourism and possession of child pornography.

He had several jobs involving contact with kids, including performing as "Klutzo the Clown."

November 18, 2007

Shoplifting rings getting organized, using internet to maximize profits

Big-time crime at the mall - MSN Money

I busted a shoplifter at Borders once who was carrying a complex shopping list he had got from somewhere. It listed dozens of computer books, that he was trying to steal. I ended up wrestling with him and a security guard and falling down a flight of metal stairs. Ahh, good times.

The inventory of Levi's jeans at Mervyns stores in the Los Angeles area was mysteriously shrinking last year, and not because of hot-rinse cycles. After setting up surveillance cameras, the retailer's loss-prevention department realized why.

Organized gangs of thieves were swiping the pants from shelves, hustling them to waiting cars and whisking them to a couple of homes in the San Fernando Valley. The hot jeans were then sold in Los Angeles' garment district.

In the end, 30 people were arrested for what Mervyns estimates was more than $1 million in losses.

Shoplifting has gone big-time. Groups of thieves armed with store floor plans and foil-lined bags to evade security sensors are making off with vast quantities of merchandise.