Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

1. Berkeley in the News will take a break Friday, October 21, resuming publication on Monday, October 24.

2. Grade Point: Here's a new college ranking, based entirely on other college rankings
Washington Post (*requires registration)

With the proliferation of college rankings, each based on different criteria, the results can be confusing with some institutions placing high on some lists, lower on others. A new, experimental ranking combines the results of leading rankings --including U.S. News and World Report, Washington Monthly, Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, Money, and Forbes and comes up with composite scores. There are caveats to this approach, of course, but, as this article reports: "The goal of these composite rankings is to use the top-line numbers for each school that are presented to consumers through the various rankings. ... In general, the usual suspects do well in all the rankings. Those known as Top 10 schools are basically Top 10 across the board, with some re-arranging: Stanford, Harvard, MIT and the like." In the 2016 composite ranking, Berkeley occupies that top bracket, in 9th place. Another story about the proliferation of rankings appeared in the Washington Post.
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3. Consumer deception? That 'Buy Now' button on Amazon or iTunes may not mean you own what you paid for
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

A common deception in the digital marketplace is costing consumers billions of dollars a year, and we need new federal regulations to address the practice, a new study co-authored by information professor Chris Hoofnagle reports. The trick is used when companies like Amazon or Apple's iTunes Store, for example, lure online shoppers to "buy now" and "own it in HD," when, in fact, the buyer won't own anything at all, due to license agreements accompanying the sales. What they are buying is conditional access to the products, and according to the researchers' survey, a vast majority of buyers did not understand the difference.
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4. The debate guest list has become the ultimate weapon

The new intimidation tactic of presidential candidates inviting provocative guests to sit front and center at the last couple of presidential debates is proving controversial, and public policy professor Jack Glaser predicts the Commission on Presidential Debates will be updating its rules to deal with the problem. He says he hadn't heard of the practice before, but he was skeptical it would work anyway. "I don't think it's going to work on Hillary. ... She's been under attack for decades and she's withstood it. ... This election has broken all the norms, it's utterly different from past elections."
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5. 2 San Francisco-area earthquake faults found to be connected
Washington Post (*requires registration)

A new study has confirmed that the Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults are connected, which means they could rupture simultaneously, potentially unleashing a devastating 7.4 earthquake. The Hayward Fault is the most dangerous fault in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it runs through Berkeley. The Rodgers Creek Fault connects to the Hayward beneath San Pablo Bay, continuing north through wine country. The evidence is "really quite convincing," says earth and planetary science professor Roland Burgmann. "Having a continuous fault does certainly make it easier for an earthquake rupture coming from either the north or the south to continue straight through." This story appeared in more than 100 sources. Other versions appeared in New Scientist and Cosmos.
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6. The Burning Question in the East Bay Hills: Eucalyptus Is Flammable Compared to What?
Bay Nature

Without explanation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has withdrawn $3.5 million in funding to the City of Oakland and UC Berkeley campus for fire mitigation efforts in the Oakland/Berkeley hills. The plan had been to reduce fire risk in the area by clearing especially flammable plants, like Eucalyptus. This article takes a comprehensive look at the issues involved. The key question is whether or not Eucalyptus trees are really such a threat. According to fire ecologist Scott Stephens: "Eucalyptus is flammable. ... But the thing that's most concerning is the volume of material it can produce," which includes small sticks, bark, and leaves, known as "fine fuels." For more on this, see the campus statement on the Real Estate site. Another story on this topic appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.
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