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June 27, 2012

This Is What's Wrong With The Media: CNN journalist writes column asking us to not look into anything the government does

Click through to see Glenn Greenwald excoriate him. CNN journalist: don’t be nosy - Salon.com
We are a nosy country. Though to be fair, it’s not entirely our fault. Between the 24/7 news cycle, social media and reality TV, we have been spoon fed other people’s private business for so long we now assume it’s a given to know everything. And if there are people who choose not to disclose, they must be hiding something. Being told that something’s “none of your business” is slowly being characterized as rude, and if such a statement is coming from the government, it seems incriminating. Times have changed. Yet, not everything is our business. And in the political arena, there are things that should be and need to be kept quiet. . . . You see, freedom isn’t entirely free. It also isn’t squeaky clean. And sometimes the federal government deems it necessary to get its hands a little dirty in the hopes of achieving something we generally accept as good for the country. . . . And maybe it’s better for us not to be so nosy, not to know everything because, to paraphrase the famous line from the movie “A Few Good Men,” many of us won’t be able to handle the truth.

Read This: Privatizing halfway houses leads to a broken system and murderers on the streets

In New Jersey Halfway Houses, Escapees Stream Out as a Penal Business Thrives - NYTimes.com
After serving more than a year behind bars in New Jersey for assaulting a former girlfriend, David Goodell was transferred in 2010 to a sprawling halfway house in Newark. One night, Mr. Goodell escaped, but no one in authority paid much notice. He headed straight for the suburbs, for another young woman who had spurned him, and he killed her, the police said. The state sent Rafael Miranda, incarcerated on drug and weapons charges, to a similar halfway house, and he also escaped. He was finally arrested in 2010 after four months at large, when, prosecutors said, he shot a man dead on a Newark sidewalk — just three miles from his halfway house. Valeria Parziale had 15 aliases and a history of drugs and burglary. Nine days after she slipped out of a halfway house in Trenton in 2009, Ms. Parziale, using a folding knife, nearly severed a man’s ear in a liquor store. She was arrested and charged with assault but not escape. Prosecutors say they had no idea she was a fugitive. After decades of tough criminal justice policies, states have been grappling with crowded prisons that are straining budgets. In response to those pressures, New Jersey has become a leader in a national movement to save money by diverting inmates to a new kind of privately run halfway house. At the heart of the system is a company with deep connections to politicians of both parties, most notably Gov. Chris Christie. . . .

June 14, 2012

How to cheat in online classes

As more classes go online and more money gets thrown at getting as many students enrolled into online classes as possible, expect online cheating to become massive. The easy way around this, of course, is to have small class sizes with dedicated teachers who would personally tailor material and grade essays and such. But that would eliminate or at the very least greatly reduce the cost savings schools hope to have from offering online classes. Some of the online classes Stanford is offering can have literally thousands of students enrolled in a single session. Thousands. There is no teacher interaction there. There are no personalized touches. They are basically watching someone else read a book to them and taking multiple choice quizzes at the end. As long as the system prioritizes efficiency over efficacy, cheating will be easy. Schneier on Security: Cheating in Online Classes
In the case of that student, the professor in the course had tried to prevent cheating by using a testing system that pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities. The online tests could be taken anywhere and were open-book, but students had only a short window each week in which to take them, which was not long enough for most people to look up the answers on the fly. As the students proceeded, they were told whether each answer was right or wrong. Mr. Smith figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers. The schemers would go through the test quickly, one at a time, logging their work as they went. The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. They took turns going first. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score. "So the grades are bouncing back and forth, but we're all guaranteed an A in the end," Mr. Smith told me. "We're playing the system, and we're playing the system pretty well."