Princely online appeals


Staff & Wire Reports



FILE - In this May 17, 2009 file photo, Italian actress Asia Argento arrives on the red carpet for the screening of "Vengeance" during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, France. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

FILE - In this May 17, 2009 file photo, Italian actress Asia Argento arrives on the red carpet for the screening of "Vengeance" during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, France. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)


FILE - In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Italian actress and director Asia Argento arrives at the ninth annual Women in the World Summit in New York. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)


Actor says he feared speaking out about Argento assault

By ANDREW DALTON

AP Entertainment Writer

Thursday, August 23

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A young actor who alleged in legal documents that Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento sexually assaulted him when he was 17 said Wednesday that his trauma resurfaced when Argento came out as a victim of sexual assault herself last year.

“I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me,” Bennett, now 22, said in a statement released through Attorney Gordon K. Sattro.

The comments were his first made publicly since a Sunday New York Times story saying Argento reached a $380,000 legal settlement with him last year over an alleged sexual assault in a California hotel room in 2013.

“I have not made a public statement in the past days and hours because I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative. I was underage when the event took place, and I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time.”

Bennett said he believed there was a stigma to being sexually assaulted as a male, and that he “didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”

His comments come a day after the 42-year-old Argento denied having a sexual relationship with him. She said in a statement Tuesday that she was linked “in friendship only” to Bennett, who played her son in a film in 2004.

She said the $380,000 payment, made in response to a notice of intent to sue for $3.5 million in damages that Bennett had filed, was undertaken by her boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who killed himself in France in June.

“Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life,” Argento’s statement said.

Earlier Wednesday, TMZ published a photo that showed Argento and Bennett lying together, their heads touching as they lay on a pillow, their shirts apparently off. The celebrity website did not say how it obtained the photo. A previous picture on TMZ showed the pair embracing but sitting up and fully clothed.

The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department said it is looking into the allegations and seeking to talk to Bennett. No police report was filed at the time, the department said. The age of consent in California is 18.

Argento became one of the leading figures of the #MeToo movement after she told the New Yorker magazine last year that Weinstein raped her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21. Weinstein has been indicted on sex crime accusations involving three women, but not including Argento. He has denied having engaged in any nonconsensual sexual acts.

Bennett said in his statement that Argento’s emergence as a Weinstein accuser brought back his own trauma, and the movement as a whole has prompted him to address the experience.

“Many brave women and men have spoken out about their own experiences during the #MeToo movement, and I appreciate the bravery that it took for each and every one of them to take a stand,” Bennett’s statement said.

Actress Ashley Judd, another Weinstein accuser, spoke out Wednesday against anyone who would use the Argento allegations to undermine the #MeToo movement.

“We hold any and every abuser accountable, regardless of their gender, race, socio-economic status, public visibility or popularity,” Judd said on Twitter. “Sexual violence is wrong, full stop.”

Also Wednesday, Argento backed out of curating a Dutch music festival.

Organizers of the “Le Guess Who?” festival said in a statement that “due to the volatile nature of the accusations surrounding Ms. Argento, she has chosen to withdraw from her curatorship of this year’s edition, while these issues remain open.”

Follow Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton .

The Conversation

Why ‘Nigerian Prince’ scams continue to dupe us

August 3, 2018

Frank T. McAndrew

Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox College

Disclosure statement

Frank T. McAndrew does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

With cryptocurrency fraud and IRS scams making headlines, I had thought Nigerian email schemes were a thing of the past, akin to the bygone days when a scammer might offer to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

So I was surprised to recently come across an article about a 62-year-old Swedish divorcee named Maria Grette. She had set up a dating profile and soon received a message from a 58-year-old Danish man named Johnny who was working as an engineer in the United States.

They wrote back and forth, starting chatting on the phone, and a relationship blossomed. Her new love interest had a son who was studying at a university in England, and the man said that he was looking to retire to Sweden. They made arrangements for a trip to meet in person there. However, before heading to Europe, Johnny needed to take a side trip to Nigeria for a job interview.

That’s when things took a turn.

Maria received a desperate call from Johnny. He and his son had been mugged, the son had been shot in the head, and they were in a Lagos hospital without any money or identification.

They desperately needed funds transferred into his British bank account to pay for medical expenses and a lawyer, and Maria eagerly obliged.

Several thousand euros later, she realized that she had been had.

As a psychologist, I was struck by the tenacity of this scam and others like it. I wanted to know how they operate – and what psychological tendencies the Nigerian scammers exploit to continue duping people to this day.

The many flavors of ‘419 scams’

“Nigerian Prince” scams are also known as “419 scams,” a reference to the Nigerian penal code designed to deal with them. They are notoriously difficult to prosecute for both Nigerian and foreign authorities. Victims are often too ashamed to pursue the case, and even when they do, the trail quickly goes cold.

In its earliest incarnations, the scam involved someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince sending a target an email saying he desperately needed help smuggling wealth out of his country. All the target needed to do was provide a bank account number or send a foreign processing fee to help the prince out of a jam, and then he would show his gratitude with a generous kickback.

These scams really do appear to have begun in Nigeria, but they can now come from almost anywhere – people posing as Syrian government officials is one the current favorites. Nevertheless, the “Nigerian Prince” moniker persists.

But today’s 419 scams can involve dating websites, like the one that ensnared Maria Grette. Wealthy orphans claiming to need an adult sponsor, lottery winners saying they’re required to share their winnings with others, and inheritances trapped in banks due to civil war are also common ploys.

Reporter Erika Eichelberger spent time with Nigerian scam artists in 2014. She found them to be surprisingly forthcoming.

She reported that most scammers tended to be ordinary people, such as university students or people working low-paying jobs, who discovered that they could make fabulously more money – as much as $60,000 per year – scamming.

In most cases, after establishing a connection and cultivating a relationship, the scammers eventually get around to persuading their targets to provide their bank account or credit card information. They prefer to pursue 45-to-75-year-old widowed men and women. The thinking goes that this demographic is most likely to have money and be lonely – in other words, easy marks.

Exploiting human vulnerabilities

With all of the recent advances in computer security and anti-virus software, we might think we’re immune. But 419 scams don’t exploit technological vulnerabilities.

Instead, they exploit human ones.

We did not evolve to live in a world of strangers. Our brains are wired to live in relatively small tribes in which everyone’s character and past behavior is well-known.

For this reason, we overconfidently ascribe qualities to someone we’ve never met in person but have corresponded with. Relationships – and trust – can form quickly over email and social media.

This inherent naivete makes us easy prey.

In addition, most of us profess unrealistic optimism about our own futures – our grades will be better next semester, a new job will be much better than an old one, and our next relationship will be the one that lasts forever.

Furthermore, research shows that we consistently overestimate our knowledge, our skills, our intelligence and our moral fiber. In other words, we truly believe that we are savvy and that nice things are likely to happen to us.

The good fortune coming our way courtesy of Nigeria may not seem so far-fetched after all.

Then there are the scammers’ methods. They utilize the foot-in-the-door technique – a small, innocuous request – to draw their targets in, perhaps something as simple as asking for advice about what to see on vacation in the mark’s home country. When victims acquiesce, they begin to perceive themselves as someone who provides help. Through a series of baby steps, they move from doing small favors that cost little to giving away the store.

Studies have shown that once people publicly commit themselves to a course of action, they’re unlikely to reverse course even when the circumstances change. Other studies have shown that people seem to have an irresistible urge to escalate commitments to bad decisions.

Changing course is cognitively difficult because not only is it an admission of a bad decision, it also means giving up any hope of recouping our losses. So once someone invests money into something risky – whether it’s a pyramid scheme or a day at the casino – they may keep throwing good money after bad because it seems like the only way to get anything back.

Is this what happened to Maria Grette?

In a remarkable turn of events, she eventually tracked down the 24-year old man who had claimed to be “Johnny” and went to Nigeria to meet him. Incredibly, they formed a genuine friendship, and Grette ended up giving “Johnny” financial assistance so he could finish a degree at an American university.

And no, “Johnny” never did return the money – his scam turned out better than even he could have ever imagined.

Opinion: Billions in the School Supplies ‘Poorhouse’

By Vicki Alger

InsideSources.com

It’s back-to-school season, and parents aren’t the only ones spending a small fortune on supplies.

Parents spend about $166 per elementary-school child and around $300 per middle- and high-school child for supplies, based on data from the Huntington Backpack Index. Altogether that’s a staggering $20.4 billion in school-supply spending just by public-school parents — not counting the hordes of extra donations they’re often asked to haul in on the first day of school.

That amount also doesn’t include all the extras parents pay for, including school fees, field trips and gym uniforms, which combined cost more than $100 per child. Additional fees for sports, band, music rentals, and college prep materials cost hundreds of dollars more.

Other school supplies spending estimates are much higher. The National Retail Federation, for example, reports that families plan to spend an average of $685 on supplies this year, totaling nearly $83 billion.

The good news is the cost of school supplies dropped by as much as 9 percent this school year compared to last year. Still, many parents struggle to pay for supplies — and they’re not alone.

Last year “The Panhandling Teacher,” Teresa Danks, made national headlines when she took to the streets begging for spare change to help pay for the classroom supplies she couldn’t afford to buy. Danks ultimately raised $40,000 last year through in-person and online donations.

Nationwide public school teachers spend $1.4 billion on school supplies, averaging around $500 each according to the U.S. Department of Education. Principals also spend about $680 each on supplies for their public schools, adding an additional $48 million to the school-supply kitty.

On top of that, enterprising Bronx High School history teacher Charles Best founded the DonorsChoose website nearly 20 years ago so people could contribute to teachers’ classroom project requests. Teachers at 80 percent of public schools nationwide now post their classroom projects on the site, and since 2000 contributions have exceeded $715 million, including nearly $90 million so far this year.

This means that altogether parents, teachers, principals and private donors are conservatively kicking in at least $26 billion for school supplies — an amount that approaches the annual revenue of some Fortune 100 companies.

But what most people probably don’t realize is that school districts already get more taxpayer-subsidized supplies funding than Facebook makes in a year: over $44 billion combined.

Even after removing all the supplies spending associated with school district administration, overhead, maintenance, transportation, food service and “other” support services, that leaves close to $17 billion for supplies associated exclusively with instruction and student support. That’s about $340 per student, which is $8,000 to $9,000 per classroom.

That funding alone is more than enough to pay for every single item on a typical school-supplies list — enough, in fact, for two of each item on a standard elementary school list — including pricey backpacks and calculators as well as facial tissue, plastic baggies, paper towels and hand sanitizer.

The upshot is many taxpayers are paying twice for school supplies. So, the next time district officials claim the supply cupboard’s bare, parents, teachers, principals and private donors should demand those officials open up the books before opening up their wallets.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Vicki Alger, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, is the author of “Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.” She wrote this for InsideSources.com.

The Conversation

Despite predictions of their demise, college textbooks aren’t going away

August 23, 2018

Norm Friesen

Professor, Boise State University

Disclosure statement

Johns Hopkins University Press provides provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Partners

Boise State University

Boise State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The textbook has been declared dead many times over. Progressive educator John Dewey decried the “text-book fetish” back in the 1890s. Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wished out loud for textbooks to become obsolete. Articles on the demise of textbooks regularly appear with each new school year. They describe these books as only so much content, as an indifferent information dump, as a dead tree version of information that would be better presented interactively, via multiple media.

This article is different. As the author of book titled “The Textbook and the Lecture,” I’ve compiled a list of five reasons why I believe textbooks are here to stay:

1. Textbooks make money

Textbooks represent an US$11 billion dollar industry, up from $8 billion in 2014. Textbook publisher Pearson is the largest publisher – of any kind – in the world.

It costs about $1 million to create a new textbook. A freshman or sophomore textbook will have dozens of contributors, from subject-matter experts through graphic and layout artists to expert reviewers and classroom testers. Textbook publishers connect professors, instructors and students in ways that alternatives, such as Open E-Textbooks and Open Educational Resources, simply do not. This connection happens not only by means of collaborative development, review and testing, but also at conferences where faculty regularly decide on their textbooks and curricula for the coming year.

It is true that textbook publishers have recently reported losses, largely due to students renting or buying used print textbooks. But this can be chalked up to the exorbitant cost of their books – which has increased over 1,000 percent since 1977. A reshuffling of the textbook industry may well be in order. But this does not mean the end of the textbook itself.

2. Textbooks are active and interactive

While they may not be as dynamic as an iPad, textbooks are not passive or inert. For example, over the centuries, they have simulated dialogue in a number of ways. From 1800 to the present day, textbooks have done this by posing questions for students to answer inductively. That means students are asked to use their individual experience to come up with answers to general questions. Today’s psychology texts, for example, ask: “How much of your personality do you think you inherited?” while ones in physics say: “How can you predict where the ball you tossed will land?”

Experts observe that “textbooks come in layers, something like an onion.” For the active learner, engaging with a textbook can be an interactive experience: Readers proceed at their own pace. They “customize” their books by engaging with different layers and linkages. Highlighting, Post-It notes, dog-ears and other techniques allow for further customization that students value in print books over digital forms of books.

Engaging with a textbook can be an interactive experience. GaudiLab/www.shutterstock.com

3. Shift happens

Thomas Kuhn, who coined the phrase “paradigm shift,” saw textbooks as indispensable for establishing scientific paradigms. Textbooks do this, he said, by getting students to work through problems that lie at the foundation of a scientific discipline. Textbooks “exhibit, from the very start, concrete problem-solutions that the profession has come to accept as paradigms, and they then ask the student, either with a pencil and paper or in the laboratory, to solve (these) for himself.” Paradigms, the models or archetypes that serve as a foundation for a discipline, might eventually shift, but it is textbooks that establish the paradigms in the first place.

Kuhn went so far as to say that “scientific education remains a relatively dogmatic initiation into a pre-established problem-solving tradition that the student is neither invited nor equipped to evaluate.” I’ve talked about this with both theorists and practitioners in science education. The theorists – all professors – insist that students should be given time to explore and “authentically re-discover” Kuhn’s paradigms for themselves. But instructors in undergraduate science courses point to time and teaching limits. They see textbooks’ tightly integrated and meticulously organized labs and problem-questions as indispensible. They’re generally glad to have the textbook help them connect students with the breadth of their discipline and its underlying paradigms. Kuhn was not entirely wrong, it seems, when he talked of science education as a “relatively dogmatic initiation.”

4. Concrete examples

Textbooks use the “art of the example” to illuminate, illustrate and make things more concrete. Today’s diagrams, simulations, narratives and cases work like inductive questions from 1800: They connect the concrete and specific with things that are much more abstract and difficult to grasp. An image of a hydrogen atom exemplifies the structure of all atoms. A business case stands for a range of entrepreneurial possibilities. Asking “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” leads to examples from adult work life. This is a secret behind all good educational content. And textbooks often work with the art of the example in a way that is itself exemplary.

5. Education is resistant to change

Like oil and water, educational practice and the latest technologies don’t easily mix. This has been called education’s “technology deficit”. When technologies are actually adopted – like smart boards or laptops – they fit in with the larger patterns of the classroom, rather than “disrupting” them. The reason for this is that education, unlike, say, pop music or gas-guzzling cars, isn’t just another “industry” ripe for disruption. It doesn’t produce commodities for consumers, but is about sustaining equilibrium between diverse stakeholders: students, employers, accreditation bodies, the larger community and others.

As I show in my recent book, higher education is expected to reproduce and revise very complex subjects, many of which have been developing for hundreds of years. This activity is thus done in ways that themselves stay remarkably stable. The lecture hall, the textbook, even the dissertation and the oral defense have been in place for centuries – almost a millennium. For this reason, I’d say it’d be better to understand how textbooks have enabled knowledge to be transmitted and developed over time, rather than yet again declaring them dead or obsolete.

Could college textbooks soon get cheaper?

August 23, 2018

Jenny Adams

Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Michael Ash

Professor of Economics & Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

How much money do students spend on college textbooks? The answer is: too much.

Since 1982, the price of new textbooks has tripled even after taking inflation into account. Since 2006, it has outstripped the rate of increase for college tuition. In contrast, the price of recreational books, a rough indicator of the cost of book production, has over roughly the same period fallen by almost 40 percent.

If this market seems unsustainable, it is. It might not be the “Death of Textbooks.” Nevertheless, four things suggest that the textbook market is in the middle of a major shift.

1. Technological changes

In many ways technology has caused the current price spike. On the most basic level, it has allowed the major textbook publishers, who monopolize textbook production, to churn out new editions at ever faster rates. This means that used copies become obsolete more quickly as instructors demand the most current edition. Textbooks also increasingly come with instructors’ manuals, lecture slides, online computer-graded problem sets, banks of ready-made test questions, and companion websites that come bundled as one product. For busy faculty, such features are appealing as they cut down on time dedicated to course prep. And just to be sure that students cannot collectively buy or resell their course materials, publishers guard them with access codes that prohibit sharing.

Yet even as technology locks students to specific textbook editions, it has also cleared space for resistance. In classes where faculty shun bundles or remain flexible, students can rent books or snag online PDFs of earlier versions from sites like 4shared.com. For non-bundled texts, students often purchase a single textbook – hard copy or electronic – to share. This is an illegal yet common practice.

Professors bypass standard publishing restrictions by putting free materials on course websites. Some dance at the edge of copyright law to create customized readers. Others write their own electronic open-source textbooks. Faculty also draw on large archives like JSTOR and Project Muse, which make academic articles available to college communities.

2. Globalization

Textbook publishers have taken advantage of global markets to increase their sales. But again, this push for globalization also complicates sales. The latest edition of “Economics,” by Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, lists for US$219.88 from publisher McGraw-Hill and $205.87 from Amazon. Yet this book is priced differently outside of the United States. A copy may be had for 425 rupees ($6.09) in India. In order to compete in large lower-income foreign markets such as China and India, publishers price differently for different markets, producing international editions with identical content at lower prices.

Anyone who hopes to sell the same product at different prices can’t play this game for long. Resourceful students often locate these foreign editions. Similarly, we know firsthand of teachers who ignore the “Not for use in the U.S.” stamp on the title page of an otherwise standard English-language version. Global markets have also helped the sales in the legal used edition market. On Amazon.com buyers can find many listings from U.K. booksellers who can use the weakening pound to undercut U.S. used book dealers.

3. History

History shows what is happening now has happened before. When European colleges and universities started in the 12th century, medieval students, like students today, needed texts for their courses. But most students could not afford to buy books – or more accurately, manuscripts, books written by hand that took weeks (if not years) to produce. In the 1380s, a copy of Gratian’s “Decretum,” a standard legal textbook, might have cost around six and a half pounds – somewhere between $10,000 to $100,000 today. Manuscripts were so expensive that students and faculty used them for collateral for loans.

Recognizing their students’ difficulty paying for books, schools built libraries and chained manuscripts to tables or shelves, or locked them in chests for use on the spot. By the mid-13th century, as student populations grew, universities also supported “stationarii,” or in English “stationers.” By law stationers had to keep authorized copies of works used for university courses. Students and instructors could then hire official scribes to copy the parts of these works they needed for a class. Called the “pecia” system, this practice predominated in the 14th and 15th centuries. At the University of Paris, university officials set pecia rates to protect students from being overcharged.

The college textbook market changed in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press. Print did not initially impact book prices. But by the early 16th century, prices began to drop as technological improvements enabled lower-cost mass production. Libraries unchained their books and private collections grew.

The shift to printing reshaped the English book market in particular. Although English printers like William Caxton created a market for luxury books and, eventually, for less expensive volumes, continental printers dominated the academic market. Printers in the Netherlands and Germany had more success at inexpensive large-scale production, and they soon drove Oxford- and Cambridge-based printers out of business.

In sum, technology has frequently changed the textbook market, which was in flux from the moment of its inception.

4. University and public alternatives

Change is also coming from universities themselves, which maintain libraries, support thousands of journal subscriptions, and have increasingly encouraged faculty to write and use open-source textbooks.

In the medium run, universities could go even farther by using their buying power to hold down prices, like their early university counterparts. More daringly, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research has proposed public-domain textbooks with public financing that would enhance consumer sovereignty and academic freedom.

In the short term, students are finding alternatives such as re-importation and collective ownership. And tomorrow’s students, like their medieval predecessors, just might enjoy more regulated and lower textbook prices than this current generation.

FILE – In this May 17, 2009 file photo, Italian actress Asia Argento arrives on the red carpet for the screening of "Vengeance" during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, France. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121212235-517d86bc8c4e408b9c7dda9ff960292a.jpgFILE – In this May 17, 2009 file photo, Italian actress Asia Argento arrives on the red carpet for the screening of "Vengeance" during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, France. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

FILE – In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Italian actress and director Asia Argento arrives at the ninth annual Women in the World Summit in New York. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121212235-be8f4f79d62549daa2ee21b4b126fcd1.jpgFILE – In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Italian actress and director Asia Argento arrives at the ninth annual Women in the World Summit in New York. Argento, one of the most prominent activists of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, recently settled a complaint filed against her by a young actor and musician who said she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, the New York Times reported. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Staff & Wire Reports