September 23, 2006

This Anti-Plagiarism Defense by Universities Goes Too Far

From Techdirt (links within excerpt are to prior Techdirt posts) — Students are Uuset that schools are uploading papers to a gigantic database. I didn’t know this, and I don’t think it’s right:

It’s been nearly four years since we wrote about students and parents being upset that online services that check student homework for plagiarism were also uploading and storing a copy of every paper they checked. It got to the point, earlier this year, that at least one university banned the use of Turnitin, one of the most popular services in this field. It seems that the student rebellion against such tools is growing, as many more students are questioning the legality of such tools, and asking their schools to stop using them. They’re not just upset about the uploads, but about the assumption of guilt.

My big problem is the presumption that a student’s term papers essentially become de facto university property. Last Friday’s Washington Post article noted the objection that adding papers to Turnitin’s 22-million paper database violates intellectual property rights. I suppose the universities could make giving up those rights a condition of enrollment, but I think it’s safe to say almost none of them have. At a minimum, I would think that paper authors ought to have the right to have their papers pulled from Turnitin’s database, but I’ll bet they don’t. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a student put conditions on a paper he or she turned in on time (e.g., “This paper has been turned in on time complies with all of the instructor’s requirements. You cannot review the paper until you acknowledge that although you have my permission to test this paper for plagiarism, you will not add it to any software database, and you will destroy this paper after you issue my grade for this class.”)
I would also have to think that no matter how good the software is, the chances of false positives and incorrectly ruined reputations get unacceptably high in a database of tens of millions of papers.

Weekend Question 2: Is China Going to Leave Hong Kong’s Economy Alone Forever?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 2:08 pm

ANSWER: It doesn’t look like it. And that’s not good news.


A Friday subscription-only Wall Street Journal editorial tells us what’s happening:

Hong Kong boasts one of the world’s wealthiest, most flexible economies. In the 1960s, the city industrialized; in the 1970s, it exported; in the 1980s, it moved its manufacturing base to mainland China; in the 1990s, its service sector blossomed. Today, average unemployment hovers between 3% and 4%; growth is forecast at around 6.2% this year, 5.5% next year.

(Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed chief executive Donald) Tsang has a better idea. The government needs “to act when there are obvious imperfections in the operation of the market mechanism,” he wrote. Perhaps he’s forgotten a few recent government ventures. Take Hong Kong Disneyland, to which the territory shelled out HK$23 billion ($2.95 billion) in subsidies. After a year, the park has proved a flop. Or Cyberport, a government-backed entree into the hi-tech era. Now it’s just another property development.

Maybe Beijing can help, Mr. Tsang says. At an economic summit earlier this month, he lectured Hong Kong policy makers on the need to pay close attention to China’s latest five-year plan.

China would be well-advised to leave Hong Kong alone, as it has mostly done for the nine or so years since Great Britain handed over its former colony. In fact, the mainland should be imitating Hong Kong if it wants to break through once and for all from Third World squalor to First World player. The kind of state control of supposedly “private” enterprises exercised by Beijing is NOT the long-term answer.

Weekend Question 1: Who Ended The Cold War?

Filed under: Quotes, Etc. of the Day,TWUQs — Tom @ 10:01 am

All this time, most of us thought Ronald Reagan, Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher ended the Cold War. Some on the left cling to the notion that Mikael Gorbachev was the key person. Far-left loons have convinced themselves that it would have happened anyway.

They’re all wrong. Now it can be told. Ted Turner ended the Cold War (HT Brent Baker at NewsBusters). He told us on David Letterman’s show Thursday night:

Recalling for Letterman his activities in the 1980s, Turner implied that he ended the Cold War: “I was trying to bring the Cold War, help bring it to and end with the Goodwill Games and a bunch of our initiatives that we worked on with the Russians and it worked.”

Thanks, Ted. For ending the Cold War, and for no longer being in charge of a broadcast network.

Positivity: Little Girl’s Tragic Death Is Memorialized in Newborn’s Name

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:02 am

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, a little girl has been named after the person whose organ donation saved her brother’s life:

Transplant boy’s new sister is named after girl whose heart saved him
By Sarah Brett
18 September 2006

The mother of Ulster heart swap boy Paul Donnelly was today celebrating after giving birth to a daughter named after the young girl whose heart saved his life.

Little Nicole Donnelly – named after tragic Portadown youngster Nicole Black – was born in Londonderry last week.

Eight-year-old Nicole died tragically in June after a freak accident while pretending to be a horse in the garden, and her heart was used to save the life of the four-year-old Derry boy, who suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy – an incurable enlargement of the heart.

Paul had two pacemakers fitted during the four years of his life before he was rushed to Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in June and given his new heart.

Proud new mother, Bella Donnelly, said today she never had any doubt that she would name her new child after the young donor, once she found out she was carrying a girl.

She said: “I always knew I was having a girl, and when I found out about this wee girl (Nicole Black), I needed to know who she was.

“She’s 100% perfect. She’s beautiful. It’s such a big relief that it’s all over us now.

“Because Paul was so sick from the start I’m a bit panicky with Nicole but I’m told she’s perfectly healthy.”

Paul is also delighted with the new arrival, and wants to help look after his new baby sister who weighed in at 8lbs 6oz at birth.

“He wants to help with her,” said Bella.

“When he holds her, it’s like they have a special bond, they’re so at ease with each other. I couldn’t ask for anything else, a happy ending.”

Bella said Paul’s illness, and the wait to find out if he would get a new heart in time, proved a difficult period. But he has since amazed everyone with the speed of his recovery.

“When I look back at the last year I don’t know how I got through it with wee Paul,” she said.

“When I found out he was getting the transplant it was like somebody had handed me £9m.

“Paul still goes to Newcastle every fortnight and up to Belfast every other week. He’s still on 11 different types of medication but they hope to wean that down to two eventually.

“He never mentions the operation.”

Bella spent 12 hours in labour while Nicole was making her entrance into the world, but said: “It was so worth it.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph recently, Nicole Black’s mum Barbara described Bella’s intention to call her new child Nicole as “marvellous news”.

The Portadown girl died in June in a tragic accident. Nicole and a few other children were pretending to be show jumping horses when she tripped and hit her head on the ground.

Although Nicole was fully conscious, her condition eventually deteriorated after arriving at accident and emergency.

After being told hope had gone, the family decided to offer Nicole’s organs for transplant.

Bella Donnelly said today: “What can you say to someone who’s done that? Nicole . . . there’s no better name.”