Infographic of the day

Age at which European students start learning foreign language and the number of languages they must learn via Pew:

Most Students in Europe Must Study Their First Foreign Language by Age 9

Wow– we are so woefully behind on this.  The worst part, of course, is that our late start to foreign language learning runs contrary to pretty much everything we know about the development of the human brain and language acquisition.  Frustrating.

I’m famous!

I always enjoy getting on a public affairs show where I get to have something to say for more than 5 second sound bites.  Here’s this week’s WRAL’s “On the Record” on the voter law trial underway in North Carolina.

[If you bother watching, you will note that I was not at all expecting a provisional balloting question to start this off.  Also, next time I’m sitting at a table I’m going to have to use my hands less when I talk– very distracting].

There was a nice Atlantic article on the matter earlier this week:

“The history of North Carolina is not on trial here,” Butch Bowers, a lawyer for Governor Pat McCrory, told a court in Winston-Salem on Monday.

Pace Bowers, that’s precisely what’s on trial over the next two weeks. A group of plaintiffs—including the Justice Department, NAACP, and League of Women Voters—are suing the state over new voting laws implemented in 2013, saying that they represent an attempt to suppress the minority vote.

The new laws were passed shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that required some jurisdictions to seek approval from the federal government before altering voting laws. All of those jurisdictions had been found to have voting practices that disenfranchised minorities; most of them were in the South…

In many ways, this case is similar to other ones around the country over the past few years. There’s little serious dispute that these tools were more heavily used by black voters than white ones. The arguments have been rehearsed over and over: Minority voters tend to be poorer and less educated; it’s more difficult for them to take time to wait in long polling lines, making early voting necessary; they’re more likely to miss a registration deadline or changes in voting spots.

But McCrory and his fellow Republicans in the legislature argue that the rules apply equally to everyone in the state, and that they’re necessary to guarantee the sanctity of the vote. The argument offers an appealing simplicity, but the problem is that repeated efforts have failed to find evidence of widespread, or even somewhat common, voter fraud. As a result, the laws seem to be solving a problem that doesn’t exist—while going out of their way to make it more difficult for people, and especially people of color, to vote.

We’ll have to see how it gets decided, but I’m intrigued by this possibility:

A second option would be for Schroeder to find that while the law is not a deliberate attempt to discriminate based on race, it still violates the Voting Rights Act by abridging minority voters’ ability to vote. In June, the Supreme Courtupheld federal housing laws that ban practices that have a “disparate impact” based on race, even when there’s no intent to discriminate. That could offer some precedent in this case, even though it concerns a different statute, Gerhardt said.

Oh, and the fun part of being on a reasonably widely-seen TV show?  Emails like this:

Disparate impact on minority voters in NC with the Voter ID law changes – ?  And why do you think minorities ‘become’ Democrats?

Because they are consistently told and led to believe they are VICTIMS!  And VICTIMS get handouts.
But look at the destruction Govt policy has had on the American Black family unit since the ‘60s ……..
end tenure now ….
End tenure and welfare and solve the country’s problems.  Sounds great.

Quick hits (part II)

1) We could use a solitary confinement case at the Supreme Court.  Maybe we’ll get one.  And Dahlia Lithwick on how Anthony Kennedy’s writing on solitary could (and should) be applied to the death penalty.

2) For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that the best evidence says we are way over-using statins.  Well, if I’m going to follow the science, maybe time to reconsider.

Two studies published Tuesday lend support to controversial new cholesterol guidelines that could vastly increase the number of Americans advised to takecholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.

One study suggests that the new guidelines are better at identifying who is truly at risk of a heart attack and should be given statins than the older guidelines are. The other suggests that treating people based on the new guidelines would be cost-effective, even with the tremendously increased use of statins.

Still not going to catch me on Lipitor anytime soon.

3) Really enjoyed this discussion of the Iran deal in the Atlantic.  The quote below is from Jeffrey Goldberg:

But on the matter at hand, the putative weakness of the current deal, well, I’m not so sure. No arms-control agreement is perfect—no arms-control agreement with the Soviet Union was perfect—but if this deal is properly implemented, it should keep Iran from reaching the nuclear threshold for at least 10, if not 20 years. I’m aware of the flaws, and I hope they get fixed. The lifting of the international arms embargo is a particularly unpleasant aspect of this deal. But I’m not going to judge this deal against a platonic ideal of deals; I’m judging it against the alternative. And the alternative is no deal at all because, let’s not kid ourselves here, neither Iran nor our negotiating partners in the P5+1 is going to agree to start over again should Congress reject this deal in September. What will happen, should Congress reject the deal, is that international sanctions will crumble and Iran will be free to pursue a nuclear weapon, and it would start this pursuit only two or three months away from the nuclear threshold. My main concern, throughout this long process, is that a formula be found that keeps nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs without having to engage them in perpetual warfare—which, by the way, would not serve to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the mullahs. War against Iran over its nuclear program would not guarantee that Iran is kept forever away from a bomb; it would pretty much guarantee that Iran unleashes its terrorist armies against American targets, however.

4) Surely you’ve read about Trump’s asinine comments about McCain’s war records.  What most struck me though about this article is how totally clueless he is in talking about religion.  Never going to work for a GOP candidate.

“I’m a religious person,” Mr. Trump told an audience of nearly 3,000 conservative Christian activists. “I pray, I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.”

Mr. Trump also struggled to answer if he had ever sought forgiveness from God, before reluctantly acknowledging that he had not.

“If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he said. “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

And Mr. Trump raised eyebrows with language rarely heard before an evangelical audience — saying “damn” and “hell” when discussing education and the economy — while also describing the taking of communion in glib terms.

“When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness,” Mr. Trump said.

Just wow.

5) A former Marine on the real barriers facing women marines.

6) Seattle is trying to aggressively enforce its recycling rules.  That means looking into people’s trash cans.  That’s where things get messy.

7) The best age to get married and avoid divorce follows a U-shaped curve.  Sweet spot is in the mid-to-late 20’s.  I’ve done well for getting married at 22.

8) Sure Trump is a joke and a clown, but Josh Vorhees makes an important point on why he does deserve substantial political coverage:

Trump’s candidacy is destined to fade away just as countless other novelty candidates have in primaries past.

None of that, however, is any reason for the media not to seriously cover Trump’s campaign today. The Donald may be a Twitter troll in a $5,000 Brioni suit, but he’s also the avatar of choice for a significant subset of the American electorate who sees themselves in his particular brand of belligerence. That view and those voters won’t disappear when Trump does. The press ignores that fact at its own peril—and at the public’s own loss.

9) Surfing as an Olympic sport?  What think you surfer friends?

10) I never eat raw tomatoes (part of my picky eating), but I certainly appreciate the dilemma that growers and supermarkets seem entirely uninterested in growing tomatoes that actually taste good.  The author doesn’t mention it, but when you look at how the Red Delicious apple has become completely overtaken by apples that taste good, I think that gives some hope for tomato lovers (the tomatoes are now out there– the trouble is getting the big growers and supermarkets to buy them).

11) And the long one… multimedia NYT feature on the lawlessness faces by stowaways on the high seas.

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