2015 Text 1
King Juan Carlos of Spain once insisted “kings don?t abdicate, they dare in their sleep.” But embarrassing scandals and the popularity of the republican left in the recent Eu
ro-elections have forced him to eat his words and stand down. So, dies the Spanish crisis suggest that monarchy is seeing its last days? Does that mean the writing is on the wall for all European royals, with their magnificent uniforms and majestic lifestyle? The Spanish case provides arguments both for and against monarchy. When public opinion is particularly polarized, as it was following the end of the Franco regime, monarchs can rise above “mere” politics and “embody” a spirit of national unity. It is this apparent transcendence of politics that explains monarchs? continuing popularity polarized. And so, the Middle East expected, Europe is the most monarch-infested region in the world, with 10 kingdoms (not counting Vatican City and Andorra). But unlike their absolutist counterparts in the Gulf and Asia, most royal families have survived because they allow voters to avoid the difficult search for a non-controversial but respected public figure. Even so, kings and queens undoubtedly have a downside, symbolic of national unity as they claimed to be, their very history—and sometimes the way they behave today - embodies outdated and indefensible privileges and inequalities. At a time when Thomas Piketty and other economists are warning of rising inequality and the increasing power of inherited wealth, it is bizarre that wealthy aristocratic families should still be the symbolic heart of modern democratic families should still be the symbolic heart of modern democratic states. The most successful monarchies strive to abandon or hide their old aristocratic ways. Princes and princesses have day-jobs and ride bicycles, not horses (or helicopters). Even so, these are wealthy families who party with the international 1%, and media intrusiveness makes it increasingly difficult to maintain the right image. While Europe?s monarchies will no doubt be smart enough to survive for some time to come, it is the British royals who have most to fear from the Spanish example. It is only the Queen who has preserved the monarchy?s reputation with her rather ordinary (if well-heeled) granny style. The danger will come with Charles, who has both an expensive taste of lifestyle and a pretty hierarchical view of the world. He has failed to understand that monarchies have largely survived because they provide a service - as non-controversial and non-political heads of state. Charles ought to know that as English history shows, it is kings, not republicans, who are the monarchy?s worst enemies.
2015 Text 2 Just how much does the Constitution protect your digital data? The Supreme Court will now consider whether police can search the contents of a mobile phone without a warrant if the phone is on or around a person during an arrest. California has asked the justices to refrain from a sweeping ruling, particularly one that upsets the old assumptions that authorities may search through the possessions of suspects at the time of their arrest. It is hard, the state argues, for judges to assess the implications of new and rapidly changing technologies. The court would be recklessly modest if it followed California?s advice. Enough of the implications are discernable, even obvious, so that the justice can and should provide updated guidelines to police, lawyers and defendants. They should start by discarding California?s lame argument that exploring the contents of a smart phone- a vast storehouse of digital information is similar to say, going through a suspect?s purse .The court has ruled that police don't violate the Fourth Amendment when they go through the wallet or pocket book, of an arrestee without a warrant. But exploring one?s smart phone is more like entering his or her home. A smart phone may contain an arrestee?s reading history, financial history, medical history and comprehensive records of recent correspondence. The development of “cloud computing.” meanwhile, has made that exploration so much the easier. But the justices should not swallow California?s argument whole. New, disruptive technology sometimes demands novel applications of the Constitution?s protections. Orin Kerr, a law professor, compares the explosion and accessibility of digital information in the 21st century with the establishment of automobile use as a digital necessity of life in the 20th: The justices had to specify novel rules for the new personal domain of the passenger car then; they must sort out how the Fourth Amendment applies to digital information now.
2015 Text 3
The journal Science is adding an extra round of statistical checks to its peer-review process, editor-in-chief Marcia McNutt announced today. The policy follows similar efforts from other journals, after widespread concern that basic mistakes in data analysis are contributing to the irreproducibility of many published research findings. “Readers must have confidence in the conclusions published in our journal,” writes McNutt in an editorial. Working with the American Statistical Association, the journal has appointed seven experts to a statistics board of reviewing editors (SBoRE). Manuscript will be flagged up for additional scrutiny by the journal?s internal editors, or by its existing Board of Reviewing Editors or by outside peer reviewers. The SBoRE panel will then find external statisticians to review these manuscripts. Asked whether any particular papers had impelled the change, McNutt said: “The creation of the ?statistics board? was motivated by concerns broadly with the application of statistics and data analysis in scientific research and is part of Science?s overall drive to increase reproducibility in the research we publish.” Giovanni Parmigiani, a biostatistician at the Harvard School of Public Health, a member of the SBoRE group, says he expects the board to “play primarily an advisory role.” He agreed to join because he “found the foresight behind the establishment of the SBoRE to be novel, unique and likely to have a lasting impact. This impact will not only be through the publications in Science itself, but hopefully through a larger group of publishing places that may want to model their approach after Science.” John Ioannidis, a physician who studies research methodology, says that the policy is “a most welcome step forward” and “long overdue.” “Most journals are weak in statistical review, and this damages the quality of what they publish. I think that, for the majority of scientific papers nowadays, statist review is more essential than expert review,” he says. But he noted that biomedical journals such as Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet pay strong attention to statistical review. Professional scientists are expected to know how to analyze data, but statistical errors are alarmingly common in published research, according to David Vaux, a cell biologist. Researchers should improve their standards, he wrote in 2012, but journals should also take a tougher line, “engaging reviewers who are statistically literature and editors who can verify the process”. Vaux says that Science?s idea to pass some papers to statisticians “has some merit, but a weaknes is that it relies on the board of
reviewing editors to identify ?the papers that need scrutiny? in the first place”.
2015 Text 4
Two years ago, Rupert Murdoch?s daughter, Elisabeth, spoke of the “unsettling dearth of integrity across so many of our institutions”. Integrity had collapsed, she argued, because of a collective acceptance that the only “sorting mechanism” in society should be profit and the market. But “it?s us, human beings, we the people who create the society we want, not profit”. Driving her point home, she continued: “It?s increasingly apparent that the absence of purpose, of a moral language within government, media or business could become one of the most dangerous foals for capitalism and freedom.” This same absence of moral purpose was wounding companies such as News International, shield thought, making it more likely that it would lose its way as it had with widespread illegal telephone hacking. As the hacking trial concludes—finding guilty one ex-editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, for conspiring to hack phones, and finding his predecessor, Rebekah Brooks, innocent of the same charge—the wider issue of dearth of integrity still standstill. Journalists are known to have hacked the phones of up to 5,500 people. This is hacking on an industrial scale, as was acknowledged by Glenn Mulcaire, the man hired by the News of the World in 2001 to be the point person for phone hacking. Others await trial. This long story still unfolds. In many respects, the dearth of moral purpose frames not only the fact of such widespread phone hacking but the terms on which the trial took place. One of the astonishing revelations was how little Rebekah Brooks knew of what went on in her newsroom, how little she thought to ask and the fact that she never inquired how the stories arrived. The core of her successful defence was that she knew nothing. In today?s world, title has become normal that well-paid executives should not be accountable for what happens in the organizations that they run perhaps we should not be so surprised. For a generation, the collective doctrine has been that the sorting mechanism of society should be profit. The words that have mattered are efficiency, flexibility, shareholder value, business-friendly, wealth generation, sales, impact and, in newspapers, circulation. Words degraded to the margin have been justice fairness, tolerance, proportionality and accountability. The purpose of editing the News of the World was not to promote reader understanding to be fair in what was written or to betray any common humanity. It was to ruin lives in the quest for circulation and impact. Ms Brooks may or may not have had suspicions about how her journalists got their stories, but she asked no questions, gave no instructions—nor received traceable, recorded answers.