Category: WTF

Creepy journal accepts bogus study requesting removal from mailing list

An open-access “predatory” academic journal has accepted a bogus research paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist titled Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.

The paper, originally written by American researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohle in 2005, consisted of the title’s seven words repeated over and over again. It also featured helpful diagrams.

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Dr Peter Vamplew, a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Federation University in Victoria, submitted the paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology earlier this year after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the publication and other journals of dubious repute.

“There’s been this move to open-access publishing which has often meant essentially a user-pays system,” Vamplew said. “So you pay to have the paper published and it’s available to the public for free.”

An academic librarian at the University of Colorado, Jeffrey Beall, told Nature magazine last year that up to 10% of open-access journals were exploiting the model by charging a fee to proofread, peer-review and edit a research paper without actually carrying out the work.

“They’re predatory journals, preying on young, inexperienced researchers who unwittingly don’t realise they’re of questionable quality,” Vamplew said.

Weeks later he received good news: “It was accepted for publication. I pretty much fell off my chair.”

BTW, they still haven’t taken him off their mailing list – even with the event going viral in Australia and elsewhere.

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Want to help poor kids succeed: make them actually go to school

Here’s a deceptively simple way to close part of the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students: make sure that poor students are in school as much as their richer peers.

A recent study found that absentee rates could explain up to 25 percent of difference in math scores between low-income students and less disadvantaged ones. Getting kids to come to school seems like an obvious way to help them score better on tests and eventually graduate. But it’s often overlooked in favor of more complicated, more controversial, and more interesting interventions. Here’s why attendance is incredibly important, and why it’s a tough problem to solve.

Going to school is required by law, and studies tend to assume that schools are following through. Schools aren’t required to report how many students are chronically absent, so very little national data exists on how often students miss school. Even the definition “chronically absent” varies, although the generally accepted definition is around 20 days of school per year…

Missing school means they fall even farther behind. Children who are chronically absent in preschool and kindergarten are more likely to be held back in the third grade. As early as sixth grade, whether a child is going to school is a good indicator for whether she’ll ever graduate high school.

The opportunism of New Mexico politicians is almost beyond comprehension. When it became obvious kids were falling behind – checking grades, accomplishments by 3rd grade, 6th grade – the solution that guaranteed the most votes for state legislators is called the social pass. If the school determines a child’s grades are so poor they shouldn’t be passed along to the next grade – that kid’s parents can demand a social pass and the child moves along to the next grade with their classmates – so their feelings aren’t hurt.

K-12 attendance can even predict college graduation rates: Johns Hopkins cites a study in Rhode Island found students who were chronically absent in high school, but still managed to graduate and enroll in college, were more likely to drop out during their freshman year than students with regular attendance records.

RTFA. Lots more of the same examined from different perspectives. My BITD look doesn’t surprise me because I saw examples of this laissez-faire crap starting up in the 1950’s into the 1960’s. Students graduating high school who were functional illiterates. They didn’t have to study literature, build reading skills, learning skills, if they didn’t feel like it. That was sufficient reason.

Just walk that along each decade through attendance, any other standards you care to examine.

Billionaires Party(s) retain control of Congress

A new poll indicates that billionaires are likely to retain control of the United States government.

The poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, shows that the proxy candidates of billionaires are likely to win ninety-eight per cent of…Tuesday’s races, with the remaining two per cent leaning billionaire.

Although the poll indicates that some races are still “too close to call,” the fact that billionaires funded candidates on both sides puts the races safely in their column.

Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, said that…Tuesday should be “a big night for oligarchs” and that both houses of Congress can be expected to grovel at the feet of their money-gushing paymasters for at least the next two years.

Calling the billionaires’ upcoming electoral romp “historic,” Logsdon said, “We have not seen the super-rich maintain such a vise-like grip on the government since the days immediately preceding the French Revolution.”

I think most folks who wander by this blog would be hard-pressed to consider this piece to be satire. I think it’s as accurate as anything available through the whole bloody election cycle.

Let’s save it for 2016.

The psychology of irrational fear

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Last week Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, laid out the threat of Ebola in America thusly, to CNN: “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they’re contagious and you can catch it from them.”

That statement is, of course, not true, unless the person is symptomatic, in which case he or she would not be up for hummus and chardonnay. But it’s not as untrue as what Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, also a medical doctor, wrote to the CDC:

“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”

If Gingrey were to consult a map, he might be relieved to find that West Africa is several thousand miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. And that, Ebola being what it is, someone in the throes of the hemorrhagic fever would be unlikely to muster the strength to fly to Mexico and then sprint through the South Texas desert…

It’s a big time of the year for fear. Not only is it Halloween, a holiday more recently known for sexy hamburgers but originally famous for its spookiness, but also because the U.S. has had four (now one) cases of Ebola diagnosed on its soil. Maybe it’s the combination of the two that helps explain the abundance of ridiculous statements like the above in recent weeks…

Of course, Ebola is partly a stand-in for our ongoing collective anxieties, ever simmering and child-leash-purchase inducing. In calmer times, we might instead be wringing our hands over gluten, swine flu, or that illegal immigrants are coming here to “steal our jobs.”

A recent survey from Chapman University found that Americans are most afraid of walking alone at night, identity theft, safety on the Internet, becoming the victim of a mass shooting, and having to speak in public.

The study also found that Democrats were most likely to be worried about personal safety, pollution, and man-made disasters. Republicans, meanwhile, had the highest levels of fear about the government, immigrants, and “today’s youth.” It also found that having a low level of education or watching talk- or true-crime TV was associated with harboring the most types of fear. Despite the fact that crime rates have decreased over the past 20 years, most Americans, the survey found, think all types of crime have become more prevalent…

RTFA. A compendium of silliness we get to view every day of our lives in what is reputed to be the leading modern nation on this planet. I’m more certain of the silliness than the leadership part.

Thanks, Mike

School officials sued for banning girl – they were afraid of (you guessed it) Ebola


Connecticut’s Democrat governor proves he can be as dumb as any Tea Party Republican

A Connecticut father sued a school district for barring his daughter from class because of fear she may be infected with Ebola after a trip to a family wedding in Nigeria, in what may be the first such U.S. lawsuit over the virus.

Stephen Opayemi said he and his 7-year-old daughter, who is in the third grade, returned to the U.S. Oct. 13. He was told by Milford School Superintendent Elizabeth Feser that his daughter would be removed by the police if she went to school Oct. 20, according to a complaint filed yesterday in New Haven federal court.

Actually…on Oct. 20, Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization after no new cases were reported in 42 days…

Opayemi said his daughter didn’t have a fever or other symptoms of Ebola, and that he offered to have them both tested for it. He accused the school district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying access to an education. He seeks damages for her emotional trauma and an order allowing her to return to school immediately.

Feser denied the suit’s allegations, blah, blah, blah!

Throughout the GOUSA, the safe qualification for school administration continues to be ignorance.

It helps when you’re backed up by an governor who has “quarantined” more people than any other US official. Even when they’ve tested negative for ebola.

Do your baby wipes smell bad — before you use them!

Baby Butts

A Pennsylvania company is recalling all 10 brands of baby wipes it makes, including those made for Walgreens and Diapers.com, as some packs may contain a bacteria known to pose a risk to people with certain health problems.

Nutek Disposables is recalling baby wipes it made that were sold under 10 brands: Cuties, Diapers.com, Femtex, Fred’s, Kidgets, Member’s Mark, Simply Right, Sunny Smiles, Tender Touch, and Well Beginnings. The products were distributed before Oct. 21 to Diapers.com, Family Dollar, Fred’s, Sam’s Club and Walgreens, according to an Oct. 25 statement from the company that was posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.

Nutek tested its products after…complaints about odor and discoloration, and found the presence of a bacteria called Burkholderia cepacia, or B. cepacia, in some products.

Nutek said it has received numerous complaints including fever, gastrointestinal issues, irritation, infections, rash and respiratory problems, but said the reports haven’t been confirmed to be related to its products. The company said it is still trying to find the cause of the problem and for now has stopped shipping baby wipes made at its facility.

The bacteria found in the wipes “poses little medical risk to healthy people,” but people with health issues such as weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases, particularly cystic fibrosis, “may be more susceptible to infections with B. cepacia,” according to the company’s statement.

Bring ‘em back to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. Or call the company at 855-646-4351 with questions, shouts, imprecations or rude noises.

Eeoough!

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to film in New Mexico


Morocco, Shmorocco – I can’t tell the difference either

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was scheduled to shoot in Africa, but with the Ebola virus epidemic going on there, it’s probably best to stay home. Instead, it looks like Deming, New Mexico will be filling in as a replacement location. Henry Cavill News spotted a posting on the New Mexico Film Office website, which was looking for extras for a Warner Bros. movie back in September…

According to the casting notice, entire families age 8 and older are needed to re-create an African village scene. The deserts in New Mexico can easily pass for Morocco, the location in Africa that they originally wanted to shoot at. The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice crew is expected to film in New Mexico in mid-November, right after they’re done in Chicago, Illinois…

Holy Javelina, Batman!

Thanks, Mike

Tech firms adopt warrant canaries — the Feds try to shut them up!

Warrant canaries — which tech companies are using to tell people that the government is NOT using secret orders — are the new frontline in the legal fight over surveillance.

Tech companies from Apple to Tumblr, faced with a growing number of secret orders from the government, have resorted to a clever legal tactic known as a warrant canary: the “canary,” popularized by libraries in the wake of the Patriot Act, is a sign that tells the public that an organization is not being investigated by the FBI. If the canary disappears, well, you can assume the worst:

Now, the federal government is trying to snuff out the use of canaries altogether, telling Twitter that it is forbidden from using “zero” when it reports on security demands in its Transparency Reports, the semi-annual documents used by Twitter and other tech companies to report on FBI and NSA demands.

The fact this there is a fight over “zero” and warrant canaries is revealed through a close reading of the lawsuit that Twitter filed against the Justice Department this week. The lawsuit, which claims the government security demands violate Twitter’s free speech rights, repeatedly asks the court to declare that it may use “zero” when stating whether it has been subject to various secret legal orders from the government…

Through its lawsuit, Twitter claims it has a First Amendment right to use warrant canaries to say whether or not it has received various categories of so-called NSL letters and FISA requests — secret orders that can subject the companies to criminal prosecution if they even disclose the existence of the letters in the first place…

I feel no need to sit around and discuss whether or not our government has the right not only to limit speech but ban your right to tell anyone it’s happening. This is as corrupt as anything attempted by dictators in any epoch in modern history. It is the polar opposite of transparency.

We sit here facing such limitations under a so-called liberal administration, one which campaigned for transparency in law and governance. I hate to break it to True Believers in the 2-party crappola; but, just as American foreign policy since the inception of the Cold War is indistinguishable between Democrat or Republican – attempts to shut down free speech, freedom of thought and inquiry are just as likely under administrations controlled by either wing of our corporate electoral police.

It doesn’t matter whether the donations and control come mostly from Wall Street and Silicon Valley – or Big Oil and the Military-Industrial Complex. We get screwed, our rights are under attack and transparency is a myth.