South Africa’s public school system, like most government school systems, is a disaster. According to the Associated Press’s Donna Bryson, “Only a third of third-graders in South Africa meet the minimum literacy and numeracy standards, according to national test results. Last year, a third of those taking final-year exams failed.” Bryson quotes the country’s education minister, Angie Motshekga: “We must acknowledge that there is poor teaching in many of our schools. Management in our schools is often weak and lacks leadership and commitment. Our systems are also often inefficient.”
Why has Africa, a continent rich in human and natural resources, remained mired in poverty while the rest of the world has generally become more prosperous? As a December 21 New York Times report indicates, one of the biggest reasons is the lack of property rights. Poor Africans who have worked tracts of land for generations “are discovering that African governments typically own their land and have been leasing it, often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come,” according to the newspaper:
Those full-body scanners the Transportation Security Administration has deployed in airports across the country have raised numerous privacy concerns. They can, after all, see right through clothing and provide a very detailed view of a person’s most intimate anatomical features — so detailed, in fact, that when a TSA screener’s genitalia were spotted by his coworkers during a training session and became an object of ridicule, the screener assaulted one of those making fun of his puny manhood.
“I just want to be on the right side,” Pat Robertson told the New York Times. “And I think on this one, I’m on the right side.”
A federal judge struck down a Maryland law requiring individuals to prove that they have “good and substantial reason” for seeking a handgun carry permit from the state.
Officially, the United States’ federal budget deficit for 2011 will be roughly $1.3 trillion, a staggering and almost incomprehensible amount of money. But this doesn’t even come close to the actual shortfall faced by the Treasury this year. “The $1.3 trillion budget deficit would be $4.2 trillion if the change in the current cost of Social Security and Medicare promises during fiscal 2011 were included,” according to a Washington Post op-ed by Bryan R. Lawrence, founder of New York-based investment partnership Oakcliff Capital.
Hundreds of families in the state of Maryland have just seen their source of fresh, raw milk dry up thanks to the U.S. government. The Justice Department, at the urging of the Food and Drug Administration, convinced a federal judge to impose a permanent injunction on Pennsylvania Amish farmer Dan Allgyer prohibiting him from selling his milk to willing customers on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line.
How well can a shrimp perform on a treadmill? It’s a question that has puzzled mankind for ages. Fortunately, some researchers at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, are in the process of answering it — at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of a mere $682,570 (and counting).
Travelers hoping to retain their dignity by taking buses, trains, or cars instead of airplanes are in for a rude awakening. “The Transportation Security Administration,” writes the Los Angeles Times, “isn't just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.”
“It’s infuriating,” Bruce Schneier remarked. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this — and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”