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News and Trends
January 30, 2006


Mining India's Talent
Hail to the Chief Juror?
An NBA Makeover
Float Like a Butterfly
Saying !!#%! Means Paying $$$$
College Lectures On the Go

Mining India's Talent
Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, is launching a contest this month to identify promising software students in India. The top prize is a one-year internship with Gates's technical team at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. The eight-month-long talent search— called "Code4Bill"—coincides with another contest in India: the race between increasingly popular low-cost "open source" software and proprietary software like Microsoft Windows. Companies like Microsoft worry that they will lose India's top software talent to the open-source movement. Gates, who will invest $1.7 billion in India over the next four years, says the contest will showcase the high quality of work being done in that country. Twenty finalists will receive internships with Microsoft India before a final winner is selected to join Gates's U.S. team.

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Hail to the Chief Juror?
Due to a scheduling conflict, a certain McLennan County rancher was unable to report on Dec. 5, 2005, for jury duty in Waco, Texas. "The President has other commitments," said the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan. No problem, said Judge Ralph T. Strother of the State District Court, although President Bush's name had popped up on a random list of Texans summoned for jury service. Strother has given the President—whose permanent home is a 1,600-acre ranch near Crawford, Texas—a choice of six other dates in 2006. Does the judge really expect Bush to show up? Yes, says Strother, adding that the White House has assured him that "the President considers it an important civic responsibility and duty." Elected officials who have served on juries while in office include former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004. Other high-profile people who have reported for jury duty in recent years include talk-show hosts Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, and actors Matthew Broderick, Richard Gere, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

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An NBA Makeover
When the National Basketball Association imposed a business-casual dress code this season, many players grumbled about having to modify their off-court attire. The baggy jeans, hats, oversize jerseys, and do-rags favored by players like Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers are now off limits when on team or league business. Some teams, like the New York Knicks, already had strict dress codes. But NBA Commissioner David Stern decided that the league's image—battered by a brawl in 2004 between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands—needed a makeover. Suits like Shaq's aren't mandatory, but players must wear dress pants or jeans with a dress shirt and proper shoes (no sneakers, sandals, or flip-flops). Chains, pendants, and medallions are out, along with wearing sunglasses indoors. Violators of the code are subject to fines.

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Float Like a Butterfly
This past November, Francisco Gutierrez fulfilled a long-held dream: He became a butterfly. GutiƩrrez flew some 4,375 miles in an ultralight plane, following monarch butterflies as they migrated from Montreal to Michoacan State in the western part of Mexico. The pilot, who is from Michoacan, says he undertook the trip to dramatize the need for Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. to work together to save the butterflies. Illegal logging has eaten away at the monarchs' Mexican habitat, while pesticides in the U.S. and Canada have wiped out the milkweed on which monarchs feed and lay their eggs. "I can now feel what they face in some of the different parts of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico," says Gutierrez. The World Wildlife Foundation, a sponsor of Gutierrez's flight, has set up a $6.5 million fund to pay people living near Mexican butterfly reserves to report on illegal logging instead of harvesting trees.

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Saying !!#%! Means Paying $$$$
Students at two high schools in Hartford, Conn., are finding that foul language is not only offensive, it can also be expensive. Police officers at Bulkeley and Hartford high schools now issue tickets to students for cursing. The fine: $103. School officials say that it's already working: Fights have decreased and classrooms are calmer. But some experts disagree with this approach. "If a student is frustrated or angry, you don't want just to fine them for swearing," says Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. "You want to teach them how to deal with their frustrations."

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College Lectures On the Go
Podcasts—online audio recordings that can be downloaded onto an iPod or other MP3 player—are increasingly being tested as an educational tool. Now, every word of every lecture in a semester can be made available to students with access to an MP3 player. Students can replay the lectures anytime, anywhere. Until last year, Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., provided lectures recorded on cassette tapes, but they were seldom used. The university now offers podcasts of at least 60 courses, and the lectures have been downloaded more than 10,000 times this school year. Duke University in Durham, N.C., now makes hundreds of iPods available to students enrolled in courses that use podcasts. (Duke also hosted the first academic conference on podcasting in September.) At Drexel University in Philadelphia, all freshmen in the School of Education received an iPod this fall. Every course incorporates the devices, with students encouraged to record interviews during their field work and to maintain podcast blogs—or "plogs," as Drexel calls them. Some faculty members had worried that students would simply skip the classroom lectures and listen to the podcasts later. So far, this has not been a problem. William Lynch, director of Drexel's education school, says that another major concern was that students would use their iPods only for listening to music. "We weren't afraid of that," Lynch counters. "This age group carries iPods around all the time. It's part of their natural daily behavior."

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