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Curses, Foiled Again

Police responding to a home-burglary call in Kennewick, Wash., found Nathan Watkins, 31, making a slow-speed getaway on a stolen riding mower in broad daylight, towing a trailer of other lawn-care equipment and a second riding mower. (Tacoma’s News Tribune)

Police investigating the theft of petty cash from a church in York, Pa., identified Allen Larry Dawes, 28, as their suspect after they found his birth certificate at the crime scene. (Associated Press)

Dumbing Up

Law schools at New York University, Georgetown and eight other universities have made their grading systems more lenient in the past two years, so their graduates will appeal to prospective employers. And in June, Loyola Law School Los Angeles announced it’s inflating its grades by a third and making the change retroactive. “If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law-school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” said former Duke University geophysics professor Stuart Rojstaczer, who now studies grade inflation, “so you artificially call every student a success.”

Duke, the University of Texas at Austin and other law schools now offer their students stipends to take unpaid public-interest internships. And Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law recently began paying for-profit law firms to hire its students. (New York Times)

New York kept its promise not to dumb down statewide exams that determine whether students advance to the next grade; however, it awarded partial credit for wrong answers on the state math test. A miscalculation by a fourth-grader that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is “partially correct,” for example, if the student uses the right method to verify the wrong answer. A student who answers that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches long gets half credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12. State Education Department official Tom Dunn defended the scoring, explaining that students are asked to show their work, and the scoring guidelines, called “holistic rubrics,” require that points be given for answers that indicate “a partial understanding of the mathematical concepts or procedures embodied in the question,” even if that understanding leads to fully wrong answers. (New York Post)

Half-Baked Idea

Researchers developed a potato-powered battery they say produce electrical energy five to 50 times cheaper than conventional batteries. Haim Rabinowitch and Alex Golberg of Israel’s Hebrew University and Boris Rubinsky of the University of California at Berkeley reported in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy that they discovered how to construct an efficient battery using zinc and copper electrodes and a slice of potato. Further research found that boiling the potato increased electric power tenfold over a raw potato. (Reuters)

Emergency Dating Service

Authorities said Audrey Scott, 57, of Alliance, Ohio, called the 911 emergency line five times looking for a husband. “You need to get a husband?” the dispatcher asked. Scott replied, “Yes.” When told she could face arrest for misusing 911, Scott responded, “Let’s do it.” She was sentenced to three days in jail. (Alliance’s The Review)

How the West Was Lost

When Natcore Technology, a New Jersey company that holds the license to make solar panels that are cheaper, more efficient and less toxic to the environment than regular panels, tried to commercialize the technology in the United States, state and federal bureaucracies stalled its progress. Natcore president Chuck Provini said that attempts to work with elected officials, for instance, rarely got past staff members. Meanwhile, Chinese officials called Provini and offered to speed the project along. “We didn’t contact them. They contacted us,” said Provini, adding, “We wanted to do business in the United States, and we went to different agencies and we said, ‘Here’s what we have going on in China. Can you help us replicate this?’ And, frankly, we kind of rang on deaf ears.”

Officials in charge of developing China’s clean and alternative energy helped Provini find a production partner to provide capital and manufacturing capabilities and create 250 to 400 jobs. “They’ve cut through the red tape to be responsive,” Provini explained. “It’s almost embarrassing that whatever you ask for, they deliver it.” (ABC News)

Curses, Foiled Again

Police responding to a home-burglary call in Kennewick, Wash., found Nathan Watkins, 31, making a slow-speed getaway on a stolen riding mower in broad daylight, towing a trailer of other lawn-care equipment and a second riding mower. (Tacoma’s News Tribune)

Police investigating the theft of petty cash from a church in York, Pa., identified Allen Larry Dawes, 28, as their suspect after they found his birth certificate at the crime scene. (Associated Press)

Dumbing Up

Law schools at New York University, Georgetown and eight other universities have made their grading systems more lenient in the past two years, so their graduates will appeal to prospective employers. And in June, Loyola Law School Los Angeles announced it’s inflating its grades by a third and making the change retroactive. “If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law-school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” said former Duke University geophysics professor Stuart Rojstaczer, who now studies grade inflation, “so you artificially call every student a success.”

Duke, the University of Texas at Austin and other law schools now offer their students stipends to take unpaid public-interest internships. And Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law recently began paying for-profit law firms to hire its students. (New York Times)

New York kept its promise not to dumb down statewide exams that determine whether students advance to the next grade; however, it awarded partial credit for wrong answers on the state math test. A miscalculation by a fourth-grader that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is “partially correct,” for example, if the student uses the right method to verify the wrong answer. A student who answers that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches long gets half credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12. State Education Department official Tom Dunn defended the scoring, explaining that students are asked to show their work, and the scoring guidelines, called “holistic rubrics,” require that points be given for answers that indicate “a partial understanding of the mathematical concepts or procedures embodied in the question,” even if that understanding leads to fully wrong answers. (New York Post)

Half-Baked Idea

Researchers developed a potato-powered battery they say produce electrical energy five to 50 times cheaper than conventional batteries. Haim Rabinowitch and Alex Golberg of Israel’s Hebrew University and Boris Rubinsky of the University of California at Berkeley reported in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy that they discovered how to construct an efficient battery using zinc and copper electrodes and a slice of potato. Further research found that boiling the potato increased electric power tenfold over a raw potato. (Reuters)

Emergency Dating Service

Authorities said Audrey Scott, 57, of Alliance, Ohio, called the 911 emergency line five times looking for a husband. “You need to get a husband?” the dispatcher asked. Scott replied, “Yes.” When told she could face arrest for misusing 911, Scott responded, “Let’s do it.” She was sentenced to three days in jail. (Alliance’s The Review)

How the West Was Lost

When Natcore Technology, a New Jersey company that holds the license to make solar panels that are cheaper, more efficient and less toxic to the environment than regular panels, tried to commercialize the technology in the United States, state and federal bureaucracies stalled its progress. Natcore president Chuck Provini said that attempts to work with elected officials, for instance, rarely got past staff members. Meanwhile, Chinese officials called Provini and offered to speed the project along. “We didn’t contact them. They contacted us,” said Provini, adding, “We wanted to do business in the United States, and we went to different agencies and we said, ‘Here’s what we have going on in China. Can you help us replicate this?’ And, frankly, we kind of rang on deaf ears.”

Officials in charge of developing China’s clean and alternative energy helped Provini find a production partner to provide capital and manufacturing capabilities and create 250 to 400 jobs. “They’ve cut through the red tape to be responsive,” Provini explained. “It’s almost embarrassing that whatever you ask for, they deliver it.” (ABC News)

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Roland Sweet

Bio:
Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.

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