Monthly Archives: April 2013

“Death By Fire”

Frontline tells the chilling tale of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man put to death in Texas in 2004. 

Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it’s the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham — convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children — that’s now at the center of the national debate.


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April 30, 2013 · 6:44 pm

Lollipops, Politics, and Economics: It’s Complicated

NPR’s Planet Money recently ran a story titled “The Lollipop War.” The story illustrates why regulating economic policy can be difficult.

Sugar costs more in the U.S. than in the rest of the world. If you’re in the candy business — if, say, you make 10 million lollipops a day — that’s a big deal.

On today’s show, we visit a candy factory in Ohio (where they want U.S. sugar to be cheaper) and a sugar-beet field in Minnesota (where they don’t). And, perhaps inevitably, we hear from Washington, where the fight over sugar has been playing out for years.

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April 29, 2013 · 4:43 pm

MOOCs: The Future of Higher Education?

Top universities are increasingly offering MOOCs, or massive open online courses.  

Don’t ever email the professor. Never friend the teacher on Facebook. Those are some of the rules A.J. Jacobs learned when he joined the ranks of millions enrolled in massive open online courses, MOOCs. Harvard, MIT and Stanford are among universities offering virtual classes free of charge


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April 28, 2013 · 10:18 am

Is Islam More Violent Than Other Major Religions?

This was the topic being debated in the wake of the Boston Bombings on Real Time with Bill Maher. On its face, this proposition appears patently offensive.  However, Maher debated

Brian Levy, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, about the Boston Marathon Bombers’ Muslim faith playing a role in their terrorism

“It’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it,” Levy claimed. “We have hypocrites across faiths, Jewish, Christian who say they’re out for God and end up doing not so nice things.”

Maher, true to form, called his guest out and said his premise was “liberal bullshit.”

Maher concedes the obvious, that not all Muslims are terrorists.  Instead, Maher makes a slightly more subtle argument, that Islamic extremists are more violent than Christian and Jewish extremists.  

Is this empirically true? If so, does it mean anything? Does admitting this “truth” cause more harm than good? Undoubtedly, Levy’s point is also true, that such a stereotype harms the vast majority of peaceful Muslims.   

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April 27, 2013 · 11:23 am

Boston Bombings Coverage: The Ugly

Yesterday’s post featured Part II of our three-part series “Boston Bombings Coverage: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.”  Part II, “The Bad,” was Jon Stewart’s satire of CNN’s embarrassing Boston bombings blunder.   Part I, “The Good,” featured  Fareed Zakaria’s shrewd take on the Boston bombings.  Today’s post discusses another Jon Stewart clip and “The Ugly”–Fox News contributors falling over themselves to shred the Constitution in wake of the Boston Bombings. 



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April 26, 2013 · 3:02 am

Boston Bombings Coverage: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Tuesday’s post featured Fareed Zakaria’s take on the Boston bombings, some of the rare “good” coverage of the attack.  Jon Stewart, on the other hand, makes a living covering the “bad” and the “ugly” of American news.  Today’s post features the “bad,” CNN’s embarrassing Boston bombings blunder.  

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April 25, 2013 · 10:36 am

“The GOP Must Seize The Center or Die”

That was the proposition being debated on NPR’s Intelligence Squared.  It is perhaps the most important debate in American politics today.  

The Intelligence Squared website describes the debate as follows: 

2012 was a disappointing year for Republicans. The failure to win key swing states in the presidential election and surprising losses in the House and Senate have prompted some reflection. Was their embrace of small government, low taxes, and a strong conservative stance on social issues at odds with shifting American demographics? Or did the GOP embrace the right platform, but the wrong candidates? 

The debaters included David Brooks (The New York Times) and Mickey Edwards (former US Congressman (R-OK)) arguing in favor of the motion and Laura Ingraham (The Laura Ingraham Show) and Ralph Reed (Faith & Freedom Coalition). 

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April 24, 2013 · 10:12 am