Month: March 2014

Their move (UPDATED!)

More scam email fun!

—–Original Message—–
From: David [mailto:]
Sent: Sunday, March 30, 2014 12:01 PM
Subject: Did you authorise Helena Chang to contact us?

Dear Beneficiary,

This is my second mail to you since I did not hear from you the first time.

Mrs. Helena Chang, 58 from China is claiming that you authorised her to receive a fund that has been deposited on your name since 2010 with our bank here.

Please for record purposes; do confirm that you asked her to do so on your behalf.

We will not be held responsible for any wrong payment as a result of you not responding to our mails. Please reply through my private email id:


David Gill


Dear David,

Sorry I missed your earlier email. Our emailman has been on vacation and now I’m digging through hundreds of important emails just like yours that he delivered in one bunch! What a mess!

Hey, did you know you can enlarge your pen1s naturally without drugs? That’s what one of the emails tells me. Who knew? Science is an amazing thing.

Anyway, down to the business at hand. Yes, I authorized Helena Chang to contact you. She has my permission to receive funds deposited in my name.

You may or may not know it, but she does this for lots of people.

In fact we call her Helena Cha-ching because of all the money she collects in our names.

So please go ahead and give it to her. Maybe you can throw in a coffee mug or calendar too as a reward for her persistent efforts. It’s good for business.

You can put it on my tab.


Ben E. Ficiary



Holy crap! I got a response. It reads, in full: 

if anyone had advised you earlier than now to stop drugs, u will hate that person but look at your life now.




Sexual assaults on campus: A journalist talks about the “frustrating search for justice”


Kristen Lombardi

In January, President Obama launched the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to help colleges and universities combat what he called “the prevalence of rape and sexual assault at our nation’s institutions of higher education.”
The announcement came as a growing number of young women have filed federal complaints against colleges around the country over the mishandling of sexual assault cases. How such cases are adjudicated was the focus of a landmark 2010 investigative series from the Center for Public Integrity called “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice.” The report revealed campus judicial proceedings that were often confusing, shrouded in secrecy, and marked by lengthy delays. Kristen Lombardi, lead journalist on the report, says that regarding the number of sexual assaults on campuses, she was startled to see “statistics that haven’t changed in decades.” She spoke to UB after President Obama’s announcement.

How did the “Sexual Assault on Campus” report come about?
I had met some victim advocates who worked on college campuses. They encouraged me to look into how colleges and universities adjudicate campus rape. While telling me their own experiences, they described this shadowy campus judicial system. My gut reaction was one of disbelief—“What do you mean colleges adjudicate rape?” I had no understanding of how cases of campus sexual assault were handled on college campuses until then.

Did you get a sense of how widespread the problem is?
There were some startling statistics that propelled me forward very early. The first is one you often hear—that one in five college women will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates. That’s 20 percent of all college women. For me, thinking about that as a crime rate, I thought it was remarkable that such a substantial crime rate could persist for so long. That suggested to me that whatever attempts had been done in the past systematically and institutionally weren’t working.
The second statistic is that only 5 percent of student victims end up reporting their alleged assaults to authorities—either campus authorities or local police. Those two statistics suggested that this is not a minor problem and it is not isolated. There was a way to connect dots and to see larger commonalities and trends that suggest systemic problems and failures with the way colleges and universities handle these cases. We have the Clery statistics—the campus crime statistics, which tell you how many sexual offenses are reported—but that’s not the same as telling you how many reports of sexual assault a school adjudicated. That’s just not the same thing.

Why do so many cases go unreported?
There are institutional barriers that encourage students to stay quiet. Students who come forward and report being the victim of sexual assault on campus often face a litany of barriers that leave them feeling victimized again. For the 5 percent that make it through the process, they’ve really jumped amazing hurdles to get there.
Some of it is cultural and unique to a campus, like the social peer pressure that exists especially at a small school. There is a lot of disbelief when a student does come forward, even among her peer group. And there is a lot of pressure not to do anything, especially if the accused student is a friend of that peer group or is particularly popular or influential on campus. The social peer pressure is not the same in the general public.
Most of these women are victimized during their first year of school, and often during the first semester. That’s a student who’s 18. To be sexually assaulted at the age of 18 is still a pretty heavy thing to consider and to grapple with. One thing that struck me in interviewing these women was, initially, they didn’t even grasp what had happened to them. They didn’t define what had happened to them as sexual assault. It just wasn’t something that they got. And then once they realized what had happened to them, they didn’t want to handle it.

You wrote: “Data suggests that on many campuses, abusive students face little more than slaps on the wrist.” Can you elaborate?
One of the big things we found through our reporting was that students who have been “deemed responsible” for sexual assaults on campus—which is the equivalent of guilty in the college judicial system—often face little or no punishment from school administrations, while their victims’ lives are frequently turned upside down.
We looked at a database of sexual assault proceedings at colleges and universities nationwide. It is maintained by the Justice Department’s Office On Violence Against Women, which gives campus grants to help institutions improve their response to and adjudication of sexual assaults and other forms of sexual violence. Our analysis showed that “responsible” students were expelled only 10 to 25 percent of the time.

Why is there a reluctance to expel culpable students?
We interviewed dozens of people who are familiar with this problem and the campus adjudicatory process. Most of the administrators I talked to were very thoughtful and genuinely seemed to care about how to properly adjudicate these cases. But, at the same time, they seemed to have a visceral reaction to the idea of expulsion.
It’s anathema to the educational philosophy. College disciplinary processes are kicked off when a student is accused of violating the school’s conduct code. That can include sexual assault, but it also includes other acts, like plagiarism, cheating, vandalism and dorm drinking.
In those other conduct cases, the idea is to educate students who are found responsible. That’s why we found so many examples of educational penalties being handed down in these cases, like writing a research paper on sexual violence.

But isn’t that trivializing it?
A lot of administrators really bristle because they don’t want to be compared to the criminal justice system. Their role is not to punish. Their role is to educate. One former university counsel told me, “For an educator, expulsion is often seen as failure on their part to do their job.”
A student affairs administrator told me that to officials like himself, expulsion is the equivalent of the death penalty. It’s reserved for the worst of the worst and you just don’t do it. But in interviewing 50 administrators, my sense was there is a disconnect between the gravity of a sexual assault and the fact that a sexual assault is being treated in the same way that plagiarism or cheating or vandalism might be treated on campus.

In one of the cases you highlight, the young woman who reported her attacker wound up as the target of retaliation. Is that common?
Let’s just say the concept of discipline for students who come forward is not uncommon. In one instance, a student was told that if she spoke about her case to anyone, she would be the subject of a disciplinary hearing for violating the confidentiality policy.
In the case you mentioned, Margaux J. was charged with alcohol violations for hosting dorm guests who had been drinking. She and her parents were very angry about the punishment that the school meted out to the accused student who was found responsible—he was suspended for a summer semester when he wasn’t going to be in school anyway. Margaux’s family appealed to the deans for harsher punishment. During that appeal process she was charged with violating the alcohol policy.
It turned out to be a mistake. Margaux’s roommate had used her name and had hosted dorm guests who had been drinking. The school rescinded the charges, and explained to me that it was an error on their part. But, of course, it did have a chilling effect on Margaux.

A Wall Street Journal editor recently said that sexual assaults on campus are victimless crimes in which both parties are equally guilty. What do you make of that?
That writer articulates a sentiment I heard from a number of administrators—that these cases are typically incidents of miscommunication between two drunk students. They genuinely believe that. But this sentiment overlooks some pretty chilling research. According to several studies, over half of student rapists are actually repeat offenders who rape an average of six times. They are predatory in nature over half of the time.
The writer mentions schools are at risk of facing liability for expelling students unjustly. I think any lawyer would tell you that schools face far more liability from student victims under Title IX—because that is a civil rights law—than they do from students who are found responsible for sexual assaults.
So that’s the real issue. Schools need to treat these cases as civil rights cases. We are definitely beginning to see a push among college administrators to understand these cases in that way.

The secret to closing the achievement gap


M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan, best known for writing and directing such films as The Sixth Sense and The Village, recently took on the role of education researcher, trying to discover the “secret recipe” to successful education in the United States. What started as an informal “think tank dinner on education” among friends soon became a multi-year project as Shyamalan and a team of academics culled through stacks of research to learn what worked and what didn’t and, more importantly, how one “ingredient” could help or hinder another. “I’m obsessive,” Shyamalan says. “My Ph.D. wife would say clinically so.”
The result of this work was I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap (2013, Simon & Schuster). Shyamalan spoke about the project and the deeper problems he realized during its completion.

This project grew out of a desire to improve education in your city of Philadelphia.
Right. At the time I had the bias that most people have, which is that Philadelphia educators just weren’t doing the obvious or were dysfunctional in some way. My first instinct was to find a school district in the United States that was working, copy what they were doing and bring it back Philadelphia. But we quickly learned that whatever flaws I thought were specific to Philadelphia are actually endemic to the whole system. That meant my initial feeling that it was a negligence issue was wrong, too.
Then we asked educational leaders what works. Everyone gave us a different list. There was no common set of knowledge. So, I decided to make that list.
Our research team went back as far as the ’80s, sometimes the ’70s, and looked at every legitimate study that passed our standard for effect size and control groups and amount of people involved, and so on. It quickly got confusing. At that point you can pretty much cherry pick whatever you wanted, which is, I think, what helped get us to this point. If you favored small schools, you could find research to back it up. If you favored vouchers, you’d probably find the study that backed you.

This ultimately led to what you call your “House moment?”
Right. If you’ve seen Hugh Laurie’s House M.D. show, you know he’s often stuck on a problem until the last 10 minutes when he gets a flash of inspiration—that’s “the House moment.” So, one night I was at dinner with Kevin Fosnocht, chief medical officer at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. I asked him how he taught the residents. He said, “I teach them something fundamental on their first day. If they tell their patients this simple advice—sleep eight hours a day, eat a balanced diet, exercise three times a week, don’t smoke and pay attention to your mental health both at work and at home—their chances of getting disease drops dramatically.” The body is a system and it wants to be healthy, and it will be if you just give it the opportunity to be healthy. Then he added, “But I tell my residents, ‘If your patients don’t do one of those five things, their chances of getting all diseases starts returning back to the norm.’”
That was the House moment for me. I insitinctively knew that was the answer. Education is a system that’s not being treated systematically.

How did you come up with the list of five keys to closing the achievement gap?
At that point, we had spent about four-and-a-half years deep in the data, but we dove back in to see whether there were groups of things that, when done together, always work and, when done collectively, have a supercharged effect. And, lo and behold, they were there. Suddenly, we saw an overwhelming consistency in the research that wasn’t apparent when we looked at it the other way.
The next step was to check our answers in the real world. We visited schools in the U.S. that were successfully closing the gap—and we prayed that they had done these five things.
Remarkably, not only were they all doing them, they were doing all of them. And when we showed them our list, the leaders of these schools said, “This is it. This is what we do, but we had to learn it through trial and error.”
It was a wonderful moment. There was, in fact, a systematic answer and approach to this that these amazing people had figured out. If everyone started to move toward the data, we could implement this on a large scale.

You wrote that charter schools were not the answer, yet several examples in the book are charter schools.
Yes. On the surface that seems confusing, but this is not a pro-charter book. Charter schools simply allow the opportunity to be able to follow all five keys. Traditional public school systems can’t do that right now. The charters’ lack of rules allows them to do these five things. But, that also means there’s an opportunity for horrible things to be enacted. Some of the worst schools in the country are charter schools, because it’s lawless. It’s the wild, wild west. But just like in the wild west, some people found a way to make healthy towns.

You call for smaller schools, but you also say smaller classrooms do not equal success. What’s the distinction?
It’s funny because I’ve been in the research for so long that those two don’t even seem related in any way. We looked at hundreds of research papers on classroom size and hundreds on small schools. I know they seem like they’re cousins, but they have completely different effects on student achievement.

How so?
Let’s start with class size. The research on classroom size is inconclusive in terms of its positive effect on student achievement; sometimes it’s almost negligible. In early school years there is some impact you can have on student achievement, but it requires a dramatic reduction of classroom size. But that reduction puts such a stressor on cost and teachers and everything else you need, that it has never been a part of the prescription to close the achievement gap. And in schools where they are closing the gap, small classrooms are not part of the equation.
Instead, it’s all about intensity—how much teachers are aware of the kids, how much feedback and support the teachers get, how much the teachers are trained and observed by the principals, how intensely the principals are involved in the teachers’ lives.

You can’t do that in a large school?
It gets diluted. The principal, for example, needs to spend 80 percent of his or her time teaching teachers. It’s not possible to consistently deliver that intensity if you double the amount of classrooms and double the amount of teachers. The teachers fall back on their own again. They’re all islands again. And the principal is not having the needed impact.

What has been your biggest revelation from working on this project?
I realized that our national conversation has been incorrect. We’ve been talking about this the wrong way. We’ve been asking what’s wrong with our inner-city schools and the teachers and principals. The answer to that is “nothing.”
That’s where we place the blame, but the data says something else. The problem isn’t in the schools—it’s what happens to these inner-city kids the moment they walk out the door until they are back in school. It’s about the message they are getting from this country. For these high-poverty, inner-city kids—98 percent African-American and Hispanic—the message is: “This is not your country. You are powerless. You are not meant to succeed.” That’s their real life. That’s what they hear at home, from their friends, from the media—everything.
And the data backs it up. Take two kids, one from an inner city school and the other a white, suburban kid in a public school. They graduate second grade in June at exactly the same level of achievement. But when they return in September, the inner-city kid is three months behind in learning. And the white, suburban kid is one month ahead. From those months that they were not in school, not the responsibility of the principal and the teacher, there is now a four-month gap between these two children.
So the teachers and principals have 60 to 80 days to get them caught up to where they were in June. Does that mean that the school sucks? Does that mean the teachers suck? No. That’s a different child that’s walking in, a different cohort of students that they need to deal with.
We have to train teachers to teach these particular kids in a different way because they come in with this incredible challenge to overcome.
It isn’t what’s wrong with our schools or our teachers. It’s what’s wrong with our country.