AI, facial recognition, online exams, glitch
The author writes, “A professor at Suffolk University Law School is calling on ExamSoft to fix a serious bug with its test-taking software: failure to recognize faces. It’s a problem that can delay test takers — or bar them from starting their exams altogether — and reports say it disproportionately impacts people with dark skin tones.” Photo credit: Pxhere

GOP Senators Remove Lt. Gov. From Running First Day of New Session ; What You Need to Know About Brexit ; and More Picks 1/6

GOP Senators Remove Lt. Gov. Fetterman From Running First Day of New Session (Dan)

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “The new session of the Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start Tuesday, with Republicans refusing to seat a Democratic senator whose election victory has been certified by state officials. Amid high emotions and partisan fingerpointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session. They apparently did so because they did not believe Fetterman was following the rules and recognizing their legislative motions. Democrats, in turn, responded by refusing to back Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre) from assuming the chamber’s top leadership position — an unusual maneuver on what is most often a largely ceremonial and bipartisan vote.”

China Muzzles Research Into Virus’s Origins (Russ)

The author writes, “Deep in the lush valleys of southern China lies the entrance to a mine shaft that once harbored bats that carried the closest known relative to the coronavirus. The area is of intense interest — it may hold clues to the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has killed more than 1.8 million people worldwide — but has become a black hole of information because of political sensitivity. A bat research team that visited recently had its samples confiscated, two people familiar with the matter said. And a team of Associated Press journalists was tailed in cars by plainclothes police who blocked access to sites in late November.”

‘Losing a Generation’: Fall College Enrollment Plummets for 1st-Year Students (Dan)

The author writes, “According to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate enrollment this fall declined by 3.6% from the fall of 2019. That’s more than 560,000 students and twice the rate of enrollment decline seen last year. Most of that decline occurred at community colleges, where enrollment fell by more than 10%, or more than 544,000 students. … For students who graduated from high school in the class of 2020, the number of graduates enrolling in college is down by 21.7% compared with last year, based on preliminary data. For graduates at high-poverty high schools there was a 32.6% decline in attending college, compared with a 16.4% decline for graduates of low-poverty schools.”

The Bogalusa Lesson (Doug)

The author writes, “As I watch images of violent white-supremacist mobs in the streets and armed Trumpites threatening to lynch election officials, I’m reminded of the lessons that we of the 1960s Freedom Movement learned from the Bogalusa struggle in 1965. Back then, Bogalusa Louisiana (pop 23,000) was still a thoroughly-segregated company town in open defiance of the Civil Rights Act that we had forced through Congress the year before. Cops and Klan were joined at the hip, working together to enforce segregation and white-supremacy with jail, clubs, mob violence, and gunfire.”

‘They Just Sort of Showed Up’: The Amish Find a Home in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “On a darkening December day several years ago, the temperature dropping to 10 degrees, a van with out-of-state tags pulled off I-91 and up beside the Sunoco station near this rural town. The passengers were 10 men carrying the whiff of barns and cattle. Most had bushy, untrimmed beards. All dressed plainly, as their faith demands — coarsely woven dark suits and broad-brimmed straw hats. These soft-spoken men hailed from Pennsylvania and Ohio. The driver was a hireling, not one of them, in keeping with their refusal to operate motor vehicles. They were looking for land. Derelict farms. Abandoned pasture that might once again provide goodly graze to sheep and cows. Decent soil to be turned by horse-drawn plows and planted with oats and hay.”

Brexit: What You Need to Know About the UK Leaving the EU (Sue)

From the BBC: “The UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and officially left the trading bloc — it’s nearest and biggest trading partner — on 31 January 2020. However, both sides agreed to keep many things the same until 31 December 2020, to allow enough time to agree to the terms of a new trade deal. It was a complex, sometimes bitter negotiation, but they finally agreed a deal on 24 December.”

A Gang of Squirrels Is Terrorizing People in New York City (Dana)

From BGR: “We’re all more than a little stressed out these days. That’s just what happens when the world is in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has changed everyone’s lives in so many ways. Perhaps our anxious, agitated attitudes are rubbing off on Mother Nature, because it looks like squirrels have started openly attacking people in NYC. … Squirrel attacks have been happening with startling regularity in one Queens neighborhood, with multiple people stating that they’ve gotten into physical altercations with the animals, sometimes resulting in serious injury.”


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