Tidbits
News you may have missed...

web posted January 22, 2001

Study finds errors abundant in science textbooks

Twelve of the most popular science textbooks used at middle schools nationwide are riddled with errors, a new study has found.

Researchers compiled 500 pages of errors, ranging from maps depicting the equator passing through the southern United States to a photo of singer Linda Ronstadt labeled as a silicon crystal.

None of the 12 textbooks has an acceptable level of accuracy, said John Hubisz, a North Carolina State University physics professor who led the two-year survey, released earlier this month.

"These are terrible books, and they're probably a strong component of why we do so poorly in science," he said. Hubisz estimated about 85 percent of children in the United States use the textbooks examined.

"The books have a very large number of errors, many irrelevant photographs, complicated illustrations, experiments that could not possibly work, and drawings that represented impossible situations," he told The Charlotte Observer.

The study was financed with a $64,000 grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. A team of researchers, including middle school teachers and college professors, reviewed the 12 textbooks for factual errors.

"These are basic errors," Hubisz said. "It's stuff that anyone who had taken a science class would be able to catch."

One textbook even misstates Newton's first law of physics, a staple of physical science for centuries.

Errors in the multi-volume Prentice Hall "Science" series included an incorrect depiction of what happens to light when it passes through a prism and the Ronstadt photo. Hubisz said the Prentice Hall series was probably the most error-filled.

Prentice Hall acknowledged some errors, partly because states alter standards at the last minute and publishers have to rush to make changes.

"We may have to change a photograph because of a new content objection, and the caption isn't changed with the photograph," Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Prentice Hall's parent company, Pearson Education, told the Observer. "But we believe we have the best practices to ensure accuracy."

Last year, the company launched a thorough audit of its textbooks for accuracy and posted corrections on a Web site, she said.

Textbooks are generally reviewed by teachers, administrators, parents and curriculum specialists before the books are used in a classroom. But Hubisz, president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, said many middle-school science teachers have little physical science training and may not recognize errors.

The study's reviewers tried to contact textbook authors with questions, Hubisz said, but in many cases the people listed said they didn't write the book, and some didn't even know their names had been listed. Some of the authors of a physical science book, for example, were biologists.

Hubisz said educators need to pressure publishers to get "real authors" for textbooks.

"They get people to check for political correctness ... they try to get in as much cultural diversity as possible," he said. "They just don't seem to understand what science is about."

Hubisz said the researchers contacted publishers, who for the most part either dismissed the panel's findings or promised corrections in subsequent editions.

Reviews of later editions turned up more errors than corrections, the report said.

Clinton diagnosed with cancer

The flat lesion removed from President Clinton's back recently has tested positive for skin cancer, the White House said January 16.

White House press secretary Jake Siewert said pathology results confirmed the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma. The lesion was discovered at a January 12 physical at Bethesda Naval Hospital in suburban Maryland.

"This is a relatively common form of skin cancer, 800,000 to 1 million cases a year," Siewert said. "The lesion was removed, so while the president, it can be said, had skin cancer, that has been removed and he no longer has it." When doctors removed the lesion, the tissue around it also was treated with a "scraping and burning" technique, a common procedure, Siewert said.

He said pathologists noted that the entire lesion was removed and that the possibility of recurrence is low.

Clinton will have a follow-up visit with the dermatologist in six months, Siewert said.

"If there's no evidence of new lesions at that time, it will be followed up on an annual basis," he said. After the exam, Dr. David Corbett, retired chairman of the hospital's dermatology department, said Clinton has had "sun-damage spots" before, but this is the first time such spots raised suspicions of skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most curable form of skin cancer. It is a slow-growing cancer usually confined to the surface of skin -- and thus doctors almost always can remove it all with a shallow incision.

The sun-caused tumors usually begin as a small, waxlike nodule on the skin, sometimes looking like pearly white scars. They also can form scabs that alternately bleed and heal.

Besides the skin cancer and a slightly elevated cholesterol level, doctors pronounced Clinton in good health as he prepared to leave the White House.

Ontario privacy commissioner to investigate covert casino surveillance

Ontario's privacy commissioner is launching an investigation into the police use of facial-scanning technology in the province's casinos.

Obviously disturbed by newspaper reports of the "covert casino surveillance," Ann Cavoukian compared the digital photos to mug shots in a police database.

"I have asked the government again and again to please consult with us before launching any program that may impinge on privacy," Cavoukian said in a release on January 16.

"I have no idea if the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario or the Ontario Provincial Police even conducted a privacy impact assessment of this project to assess the risk to privacy."

The Hamilton Spectator reported earlier that day that police are secretly scanning the faces of customers at all provincial casinos for match-ups with mug shots in a special police database of people convicted of gaming offences.

The paper said the provincial government bought the high tech face-recognition system so provincial police gaming enforcement teams can find criminals more easily inside casinos.

Calls to Bob Runciman, Ontario's Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, were not returned.

The province's privacy commissioner said her office was now in a "fact-finding mode" to find out exactly whose faces are scanned, who has access to the scans and how long they are kept.

"This type of covert surveillance could lead us down a slippery slope," said Cavoukian.

"You could now have on file a facial biometric, comparable to a fingerprint, just by walking into a casino," she said. "This leaves us with many unanswered questions."

The system, which allows police to compare images from live video surveillance inside the casino to a database of mug shots, is working 24 hours a day.

That means patrons of Casino Niagara, Casino Rama and Casino Windsor, and five charity casinos in cities such as Brantford, are subject to possible face-recognition scanning by police.

Police say they do not need special authority to operate the system because there is "no expectation of privacy" at a casino, provincial police Det. Supt. Ken Smith told the Spectator.

"Certainly in casinos, it's well known to the population that they're subject to video monitoring upon entry," the officer said.

Many U.S. casinos and a few in Canada use privately assembled photo databases and face recognition to monitor customers.

But this is thought to be the first time in Canada that police have used a system on casino premises to find "hits" in their own sensitive criminal files.

Provincial police say they have assembled the database themselves and are only looking for people convicted of gaming offences under the Criminal Code.

Smith said the Ontario casino system is not connected to any of Canada's live criminal databases.

Mounties use secret cameras at Pearson

The Mounties are using a controversial computer face-recognition system to identify drug dealers and other criminals at Pearson International Airport.

The system is similar to one at Ontario casinos, which lets the Ontario Provincial Police feed a suspect's image into a criminal database, looking for mug shot matches.

Ontario's privacy commissioner has launched an investigation into the face-scanning at Ontario casinos after concerns sparked by a Hamilton Spectator story, which revealed police were secretly using their own high-tech system to find cheats.

Even a security adviser for the company that makes the system the RCMP is using admits the practice raises serious privacy concerns.

The RCMP's system uses face scans when a suspicious person is spotted and then detained to check identity and criminal record.

There is no general video scanning of travellers at any time, according to RCMP spokesperson Michele Paradis. It is the first time a face-scanning system has been used at a North American commercial airport.

The system is made by Imagis Technologies Inc., a Vancouver firm whose chairman of the board is Oliver (Buck) Revell, former deputy director of the FBI and an anti-terrorism expert.


Reid Morden, who was director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in the late 1980s and now advises Imagis, said face scans are an effective tool against drugs, terrorism and organized crime.

"I bet every time you went through Heathrow Airport, you didn't know that if you walk up a certain ramp, somebody is taking a good look at you," said Morden, chairman of the corporate intelligence unit for KPMG consultants.

"But if you were faced, as the British are, with the kind of random violence of the IRA, is that a justified invasion of your privacy? I think it probably is."

But he said rules would be needed soon for what he called the "Wild West that's out there" in new surveillance technology, and he acknowledged the risk of privacy invasion is increased.

Still, Morden added, "There's been a lot of criticism about our extremely porous border, which has certainly raised the political temperature in the U.S."

"I don't think we've had that same level of criticism from the people who are counterparts of the Canadian agencies, the American immigration service, the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. "

Morden said Canada has a reputation as a gateway for illegal immigration, and he said borders must tighten even while budgets are cut.

Biometric techniques like face-scanning are cheaper because they need less manpower, but privacy advocates say they are invasive.

Biometrics refers to the electronic identification of a person by measuring distinctive biological characteristics, such as faces, fingers or hands.

Face recognition is popular because so many photos of individuals already exist.

The casino system the OPP is using has drawn fire from Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's privacy commissioner.

"It's an instance of covert surveillance . . . covert in that the public doesn't know it's taking place. That's what makes this so egregious. The innocent public, the tourist, the retirees who go there have no idea this activity is taking place and that's an enormous threat to privacy."

But Duncan Brown, of the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission, has defended use of the casino system as "an investigative tool that is targeted at the bad guys."

The technology used at the casinos lets the OPP compare images from live video surveillance inside the casinos to a digital database of criminal mug shots.

The systems can search thousands of faces on file to produce matches, according to what police have asked for.

The system is not foolproof, but the technology is rapidly improving, says Iain Drummond, chief executive of Imagis.

"We use a mathematical process that picks up about 250 areas of the face, looking for difference in gradation, things like curvature of the eye socket," says Drummond.

A criminal might be able to change appearances, things like moustache, hair colour, even some features with plastic surgery. But bone structure does not change, making it possible to nab suspects who otherwise would pass.

"They must sound to the public like they're engaged in some sort of James Bond activity," says Gary Jonosko, a Lakehead University professor specializing in surveillance.

"But this is a fairly common practice around the world. It's new to Canada, perhaps, but not exactly new."

Face-recognition emerged in the past decade, at first because England needed to identify leaders of soccer hooliganism in the early 1990s.

For the past two years, the English community of Newham has scanned faces in a pilot project with over 300 cameras. They are hooked up to a control room which scans passersby for matches with criminals.

Many businesses already use face scans to confirm customer identity, and scans are emerging as a security check for automated bank machines.

Face-scanning is also used internally by law enforcement agencies across North America, including the RCMP.

About 30 regular RCMP detachments, including in Newmarket, western Canada and the Maritimes, use face scans.

When a suspect is fingerprinted, photographed and processed, the system enters the data digitally into each detachment's database. This means officers in a cruiser can later take a digital picture of an offender and compare it with the local database.

Jesse Jackson acknowledges fathering child out of wedlock

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson revealed on January 18 that he had an extramarital affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter. "I fully accept responsibility and I am truly sorry for my actions," he said.

Jesse JacksonJackson, a Baptist minister and one-time aide to Martin Luther King Jr., issued a statement admitting that he fathered the child, now 20 months old, and has provided "emotional and financial support" since her birth. "As her mother does, I love this child very much," he said.

"I was born of these circumstances, and I know the importance of growing up in a nurturing, supportive and protected environment," Jackson said. "So I am determined to give my daughter and her mother the privacy they both deserve."

Jackson did not say why he issued the statement. His New York-based spokesman, John Scanlon, said later that Jackson acted to get out in front of anticipated tabloid reports about the child, who Scanlon said was the result of an affair Jackson had with a woman who worked in the Washington office of Jackson's advocacy group, the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition.

"He's obviously concerned for his family, for his child and the child's mother," Scanlon said.

"This is no time for evasions, denials or alibis," Jackson's statement said. "No doubt, many close friends and supporters will be disappointed in me. I ask for their forgiveness, understanding and prayers."

Jackson was a steadfast presence at President Clinton's side as the president struggled with the public revelation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment proceedings that followed. It was Jackson who went to the White House to pray with Clinton's family on a grim weekend in August 1998, as Clinton admitted the truth to his wife and daughter and, in a nationally televised speech, to the nation.

Last August, Clinton awarded Jackson the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. At that time, Jackson lavished praise on his wife, Jackie, and his five children for supporting him in his long civil rights career.

Jackson said his family was aware of the situation with the child and was experiencing "an extremely painful, trying and difficult time."

"I have asked God and each one of them to forgive me, and I thank each of them for their grace and understanding throughout this period of tribulation," Jackson said. "We have prayed together, and through God's grace we have been reconciling."

Jackson said he would be taking an indefinite hiatus from his activist activities, which included opposing the confirmation of President-elect Bush's attorney general nominee John Ashcroft, to "revive my spirit and reconnect with my family."

Scanlon said Jackson's break from public life would not be immediate. "We'll honor some of the earlier commitments he had and ... take a look at what the other short-term commitments are," the spokesman said.

Clinton gives thanks, advice in farewell speech

Bill Clinton bade farewell to Americans on January 18, thanking them for working together for change, urging them to remain engaged internationally and advising continued fiscal prudence.

"I am grateful to be able to turn over the reins of leadership to a new president, with America in a great position to meet the challenges of the future," Clinton said in a nationally broadcast address.

He said the country had experienced an"era of great American renewal"during his time in office, reflecting his efforts to give citizens the tools to build a strong economy, cleaner environment and safer world.

He cited the 22 million new jobs created under his administration, unemployment rates at 30-year lows and the longest economic expansion in history -- which has only recently begun to show signs of slowing.

"Working together, America has done well," he said.

The outgoing president said he and his family "join all Americans in wishing our very best to the next president, George W. Bush, to his family and his administration."

But he cautioned against a withdrawal from international responsibilities, which Democrats warned during last year's presidential campaign would be a consequence of a Bush presidency.

"America cannot, and must not, disentangle itself from the world,"he said.

Clinton also said it was essential to stay on course to repay the national debt by the end of the current decade, an implicit warning against the $1.3 trillion tax cut Bush has proposed.

"America must maintain our record of fiscal responsibility,"he said."If we choose wisely we can pay down the debt, deal with the retirement of the baby boomers, invest more in our future and provide tax relief."

The speech lasted about seven minutes -- a very brief address, especially by Clinton's standards.

He made no reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to his trial and acquittal as only the second U.S. president to be impeached.

Clinton admits misleading testimony, avoids charges in Lewinsky probe

Brokering a deal with the independent counsel's office, President Clinton publicly admitted on January 19 that he gave misleading testimony in a 1998 lawsuit about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. In exchange, the president will face no criminal charges upon leaving office.

Under the agreement with Independent Counsel Robert Ray, Clinton's law license will be suspended, but he will face no criminal charges once he leaves office. In return, Ray will end the 7-year-old Whitewater probe that has shadowed most of Clinton's two terms.

Bill Clinton"I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely, but I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal and am certain my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false," Clinton said in a written statement released by the White House.

The admission, which came on the president's last full day in office, stems from the same allegations that led to Clinton's 1998 impeachment by the House of Representatives, and the later acquittal by the Senate.

In a statement minutes later, Ray said "the nation's interest has been served" by Clinton's admission.

"This matter is now concluded," Ray said. "May history and the American people judge that it has been concluded justly."

The agreement also closes the Arkansas disbarment proceedings pending against Clinton, who will pay a $25,000 fine and acknowledge that he violated one of the Arkansas Bar's rules of conduct.

"The president has acknowledged making a mistake, one that he regrets, mostly because of the personal pain on his family," White House Press Secretary Jake Siewert told reporters. He said Clinton "wanted to put this particular episode behind him and move on."

Clinton's statement dealt only with his sworn testimony in his January 1998 deposition in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit -- but not his testimony to the grand jury investigating whether he lied during his deposition in that case.

"I have apologized for my conduct and I have done my best to atone for it with my family, my administration and the American people," Clinton said. "I hope my actions today will help bring closure and finality to these matters."

Sources said the deal was negotiated between Ray and David Kendall, the first family's private attorney. Clinton wanted to remove any legal cloud as he leaves office, and sources in both camps said Ray recognized the growing political consensus that his investigation should be brought to a close as a new administration takes power in Washington.

With Clinton leaving office, some -- including Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the once and future Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- urged Bush to end the matter by pardoning Clinton once he is out of the White House.

The Whitewater investigation began with an inquiry into the financial affairs of Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, now the junior senator from New York. It later expanded to deal with such White House controversies as the firing of travel office workers and the handling of FBI files from background checks of previous Bush administration workers.

Starr sought to expand his investigation to include the Lewinsky matter, arguing it might have been connected to his review of other allegations of misconduct by the president and his associates. In April 1999, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright found Clinton in civil contempt of court for his "willful failure" to obey her repeated orders to testify truthfully in the Jones case.

Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, sued Clinton in 1994. She accused him of making a crude sexual advance in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991, while he was the state's governor.

Wright dismissed the lawsuit in April 1998, but Jones appealed the decision. Jones and Clinton settled the lawsuit in November 1998, with no admission of wrongdoing by Clinton.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5




Current Issue

Archive Main | 2001

Musings - ESR's blog

E-mail ESR


Loading

Send a link to this page!

 


Home

1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.