The Scout Report
October 9, 2015 -- Volume 21, Number 39
A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Research and EducationRoy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Colonial Williamsburg Journal
RealClearPolitics: Election 2016
Living in the Chinese Cosmos: Understanding Religion in Late-Imperial China
WSDOT: Visual Engineering Resource Group (VERG)
Addressing the Empathy Deficit: Beliefs about the Malleability of Empathy Predict Effortful Responses when Empathy is Challenging
General InterestShipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise (PDF)
FOTOFOLIO: Adams, Strand, Weston, Weston, White
Explore the Nobel Prize Talks Podcast
To Live and Dine in L.A.
Rare Book Room
In the NewsThe World Bank Announces a Major Milestone in the Fight Against Extreme Poverty
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Research and Education
The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has been using digital media and computer technology to "democratize history" since 1994. On the site, readers will find three broad categories: Teaching + Learning, Research + Tools, and Collecting + Exhibiting. While each section is packed with fascinating tidbits, the Teaching + Learning category will be especially interesting to educators searching for ways to incorporate digital resources, tools, and strategies into their history lesson plans. For instance, Sea of Liberty is an interactive online tool for exploring the life and ideas of Thomas Jefferson, while 100 Leaders is a site that invites students to "think about different qualities of leadership in a meaningful way and explore the legacy of significant leaders." Other topics include explorations of professional development for teachers, women in world history, and the year 1989 as a pivotal point in history. [CNH]
Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a grand experiment in the restoration and representation of colonial history in the United States. For those fascinated by the prospect of stepping back in time, but unable to travel to this small town in Virginia, the Colonial Williamsburg Journal may provide a welcome supplement to the study of colonial history. Educators of young children, especially, will find much to take advantage of in this colorful, educational, and entertaining periodical, which is published four times a year and can be accessed for free on this website. Users may select either Explore the Latest Issue or View past issues to get started. In addition, the Current Index shows all of the issues dating back to Autumn 1978, when the magazine was founded. Recent articles have explored such topics as the impact of the Magna Carta on Virginia's governance and the recreation of the Williamsburg Market House. [CNH]
This site from RealClearPolitics offers readers daily updates on polls, interviews, speeches, and other news related to the 2016 election. For instance, at the time of this writing, a USA Today/Suffolk poll put Hillary Clinton 18 points above Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries nationally, while a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll placed Donald Trump 11 points ahead of Jeb Bush in Governor Bush's home state of Florida. Other news items included an article about Clinton's 41 percent drop in fundraising in the third quarter of the fiscal year and traded barbs between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. For educators teaching current events, as well as anyone who has developed a taste for this most unusual election cycle, this site will provide a continual stream of useful information. [CNH]
For educators who are looking for ways to communicate the excitement and discovery that accompany classes and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields, the STEM-Works website can be a rich and multifaceted resource. Here readers will find whole categories full of STEM-related Articles and Activities on a wide range of science subjects. For instance, recent articles have covered Medical Innovations, Robotics, Space, the Animal Kingdom, and Video Games, among other subjects, while posted activities have included building whistles out of straws, studying gravity with marbles, and a breathing experiment that teaches students about human physiology. Career Counselors will also find a lot to share from the Cool Jobs section, which highlights the careers that depend on STEM skills. [CNH]
This site from Columbia University's Asia for Educators program traces the complex tapestry of Chinese culture during the late-imperial period (1644-1911). Here readers will find four extraordinarily informative sections, including Popular Religion & Beliefs and Religion, the State, & Imperial Legitimacy. Within each topic heading, readers will find informative subcategories. For instance, within the Institutional Religion category, readers may peruse sections on Daoism, Buddhism, and the Confucian Tradition. These then branch out to offer extensive notes on cultural norms, beliefs, philosophies, and practices. The Buddhist section is especially noteworthy and features articles that explore ideas of karma, the Buddha, and the different schools of Buddhism in China, among other topics. Living in the Chinese Cosmos provides hours of interesting source material on religion in this fascinating epoch of Chinese history. [CNH]
In 2013, the Comparative Constitutions Project, in collaboration with Google Ideas, launched Constitute, an incredible online tool that lets readers read, search, and compare 194 constitutions from nations around the world. Through a simple and inviting interface, readers may search for the constitutions of countries as diverse as Albania and Angola, Malta and the Marshal Islands, Norway and Sri Lanka. Just reading the first lines of several of these fundamental documents is an educational experience. For instance, the constitution of Afghanistan, written in 2004, begins, "In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful," while Iceland's constitution begins by stating that "Iceland is a Republic with a parliamentary government." Readers may scout the constitutions by topic, which range from Culture and Identity to Rights and Duties, or by using the Compare function, which can be found on the left-hand side of the page. In all, Constitute gives the impression of the world's constitutions as living documents, a lesson any civics teacher will likely embrace. [CNH]
The Visual Engineering Group (VERG) at The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) "provides clear and effective communication of project development, design, and delivery issues through visual media made with a wide range of 3D modeling, animation, video, and other graphic software packages." For readers who can't get enough of infrastructure (highways, bridges, culverts, roundabouts, and more), the VERG site offers some significant engineering eye candy. The site is organized into three sections: Visualization (which includes still images and animations); Video Production (which offers short videos of important projects); and Commercial Digital Photography (which highlights VERG's professional, high-resolution oblique aerial views). [CNH]
Readers may download this excellent, peer-reviewed psychology article from the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory for free. Authored by psychologists Karina Schumann, Jamil Zaki, and Carol Dweck, the study examines issues of empathy across seven studies. What they found has implications for everything from teacher training to law enforcement. In essence, empathy changes not only based on situation, but also mindset. Specifically, those participants who believed that empathy can be developed were significantly more likely to make an effort in challenging contexts than those people who believed that empathy was a fixed trait. This was true both for participants who came into the study with their own views and for those who were primed into one group or the other. As the researchers note, "these data suggest that people's mindsets powerfully affect whether they exert effort to empathize when it is needed most." [CNH]
Before he won a MacArthur Fellowship, before he won the Aga Kha Prize for Fiction, before he was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and before he became a literary legend and the reluctant voice of a generation, David Foster Wallace was just a novelist scraping by and writing occasional essays for Harper's Magazine. This essay, published only a month before his groundbreaking novel, Infinite Jest, made him famous, is classic Wallace, chockfull of never-ending, manic footnotes, crushing sadness, side-splitting insights, and, perhaps above all, beautiful, almost magical, sentences. Take these first lines, for example: "I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as 'Mon' in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that looked computer enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line." For readers who are looking for a brief introduction to this prodigious talent, this essay will provide the entry they've been looking for. [CNH]
Launched in 2012, Quartz is a web-based (i.e. "digitally native") news publication with a scrolling stream designed primarily for tablets and mobile phones. Aimed at "business people in the new economy," the writing tends toward the laconic, rarely saying anything in 1,000 words that could be stated equally well in 500. Recent articles have argued against loosening Twitter's 140 character limit, exposed Big Pharma's habit of massively increasing drug prices, and covered the increasingly commonplace practice among executives of commuting across the globe for their jobs. In addition to scrolling down the screen for the latest news stories, readers may also scout the site using tools, such as The Brief (which offers a single short paragraph of each of the latest stories, with links), Our Picks, and Popular, Latest. A powerful built-in search engine also helps. [CNH]
This online collection from the Portland Art Museum offers readers a look into some of the best-known photography portfolios created during the five decades between 1940 and 1990. As the site explains, these portfolios were "considered documents rather than works of art, they were typically made for governments or captains of industry. They covered a variety of subjects, including Roman ruins, the topography of the American West, and even new railroad systems." Select an individual photo to read the title, artist, collection area, category, and other credits, as well as a brief description of the work. For instance, selecting the photograph "Willie," by Edward Weston, brings readers to a page where they may learn that Weston was "renowned for his detailed and luxurious photographs of sand dunes, vegetables, and nudes." Readers may also select "View all 77 artworks" to navigate to a page that shows all images from FOTOFOLIO at once, for easy viewing. [CNH]
Three reporters from the online magazine, InsideClimate News, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for their work uncovering a giant, and largely unpublicized, Canadian oil spill. Since then, the magazine has continued to publish hard-hitting journalism on a range of climate-related topics. Coverage of Exxon's own research into global warming in the 1970s - and its subsequent public campaign to discredit and block further investigation - is a case in point. In this multi-part series, published in late September of 2015, InsideClimate News reporters examine primary sources, including internal company files, to expose Exxon's outright war on the science of global warming. Readers may also scout the site by eight other categories, including All Stories, Carbon Copy, Tar Sands, Clean Economy, Today's Climate, Gas Drilling, ICN Books, and Big Oil, Bad Air. [CNH]
There are few honors on earth as significant as winning a Nobel Prize. For readers who are curious about the scientists, authors, thinkers, and doers who have been awarded Nobels, this site provides the perfect window into the characters and curiosities of these most unusual women and men. For instance, May-Britt Moser, the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, describes her passionate co-investigation with her co-Laureate and husband, Edvard Moser, saying, "We didn't care about salaries and having a nice car. We just cared about science and were really ambitious." In fact, the passion for discovery runs through most of these narratives. As Tim Hunt, who won the prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001, puts it, "If we really understood things, there would be no sense of discovery." [CNH]
This site, assembled from the Menu Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library, offers readers a glimpse into the wide and changing gastronomic world of Los Angeles. Here readers will discover film footage from a 1946 drive through downtown L.A., with glimpses of classic eateries, a 1956 advertisement for the 24-hour drive-in, Scrivner's, a menu from the 1895 Chamber of Commerce banquet in celebration for the organization's 7th year, and many more fascinating glimpses into the history of food in Southern California. In addition, readers may "follow" ToLiveAndDineInLA and receive updates whenever there are new posts. [CNH]
ArtStories, from the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), combines vivid images with cogent descriptions to create a fulfilling online museum experience. Readers may scroll sideways across the various images to see what's on offer (selecting Explore more ArtStories expands the display). To enlarge an image, simply click to reveal an up-close image and a sidebar with epigrammatic and entertaining prose, such as this description of a piece of Red-and-blue-laced Armor from the Kii Tokugawa Family: "This Japanese armor was probably never worn in battle. Too bad- it was frightening and frighteningly well-built. The suit includes a helmet, face-mask, shoulder guards, cuirass (breast plate and back plate), forearm sleeves, thigh guards, shin guards, and bear-fur boots." Other pieces on view include a painting by Van Gogh, a Roman sculpture of the ideal male body, and a Chuck Close photo-like portrait painting. [CNH]
The Rare Book Room is a somewhat eclectic collection; it consists of about 400 digitized books contributed from libraries all over the world, including the US Library of Congress, The British Library, the American Antiquarian Society, universities as diverse as Stanford, Southern Methodist, and Oxford, as well as a few private collectors. The books were photographed at a high resolution, "in some cases at over 200 megabytes per page," which means that viewing can be a delight. A search box is provided, but it's also possible to select from lists of subjects (Category), Authors, and donating Library. In addition, a list of all titles can be retrieved. Once at the all-title list, however, selecting the Rare Book Room link will take visitors to the company that scanned the books, Octavo (http://www.octavo.com/ ), although the Octavo pages have not been updated since the mid-oughts. And yes, there are both Arthur Rackham- and John Tenniel-illustrated editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Rackham in Dutch, English, and French, and Tenniel in French, German, Hungarian, Spanish, and English. [DS]
Grammarly is an online spelling and grammar checker that is easy to use and simple to install as a free browser extension on either Chrome or Safari. The service flags grammar or spelling issues and suggests alternatives while explaining the reasoning behind its suggestions. Like most products of this kind, there is a free browser extension, which corrects about 150 types of grammar and spelling errors, and a premium version that will spot and correct more than 250 kinds of errors. Most people find that the free version is sufficient. However, those who are writing professionally or particularly concerned with their grammar may want to upgrade to the pay version in order to access the full service. Once installed and an account is created, Grammarly automatically becomes active during all your online writing, including email and social media. [CNH]
Designed as an add-on for Google Chrome, Privacy Palette is a web app that allows users to "regain control" over their web browsing. Using Privacy Palette, readers may clear private data from their computers or browsers within seconds, making it difficult for advertisers to gather information by disabling tracking, controlling ad tracking, managing privacy on Facebook, deleting cookies, clearing caches, and more. To install, simply click Add to Chrome. From there, readers can choose from the simple menu what services they would like Privacy Palette to implement. For instance, Browsing History clears the history of all previously visited websites, while Cache clears the previously stored data from visited websites. [CNH]
In the News
World Bank Forecasts Global Poverty to Fall Below 10% for First Time; Major Hurdles Remain in Goal to End Poverty by 2030
How did the global poverty rate halve in 20 years?
Our World in Data: World Poverty
Sustainable Development Goals
World Bank's new vision on tackling poverty 'very unambitious'
Factsheet: The IMF and the World Bank
This Sunday the World Bank announced that in 2015, for the first time in recorded history, the portion of the world's population living in extreme poverty would likely fall to below ten percent. While many commentators have debated the merits of the Bank's programs, citing concerns about income inequality and environmental degradation possibly related to some lending practices, the announcement is nothing short of remarkable. Only 25 years ago, when the Bank began tracking income, 37.1 percent of the global population was living in extreme poverty. That means that, since 1990, the number of people living below the extreme poverty line has fallen from just shy of two billion to about 700 million. Or, to put it another way, about 1.3 billion people have managed to pull themselves out of extreme poverty in the past 25 years. Of course, as the World Bank's announcement makes clear, there is a long way to go. The gains still leave billions of people in moderate poverty, and populations in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer from disproportionately high rates of extreme poverty. In addition, the voices of critics who cite growing inequality and environmental concerns should be taken seriously. [CNH]
The first link takes readers to the press release that announced these new numbers. Next, a 2013 article in the Economist explains what may have led to the decreases in extreme poverty worldwide. Meanwhile, the third link navigates to an Oxford economist's data analysis of the last 200 years of World Poverty, while the fourth link takes readers to the U.N.'s recently released 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including targets that focus on eliminating poverty and hunger completely, reducing inequality, protecting the oceans, and combatting climate, among others. The fifth link in the series highlights critiques of the World Bank's visions, calling the anti-poverty goals "unambitious." Finally, readers will find a fact sheet concerning the workings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, including their strategies for reducing poverty.
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