About the author  ⁄ MCT

Affirmative action, long one of America’s most divisive social issues, is about to grab headlines again. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a challenge to a state university’s use of race in selecting students. In many ways, the legal issues in Fisher v. University of Texas are the same as those that came before the court in 1978 and 2003. But the broader affirmative action debate has changed since those cases were heard, and in ways that could point toward compromises that might win broad public support. Since the late 1960s, the racial preference discussion has ...

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“So where is Waldo, really?” That’s not the kind of question most high school seniors expect to find on their college admission applications. But it is one of the essay options that applicants to the University of Chicago face this year in their quest for a coveted freshman berth. It is the kind of mind-stretching, offbeat or downright freaky essay question that is becoming more common these days as colleges and universities seek to pierce the fog of students’ traditional self-aggrandizing essays detailing their accomplishments and hardships. From Caltech in the West to Wake Forest University in the East, more ...

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“Housewives.” “Homemakers.” They don’t look like four-letter words, do they? But that’s what they became in the aftermath of the publication of Betty Friedan’s book about the “problem that has no name,” which gave a voice to the female yearning to be someone who was more than married to a house. It’s been 50 years since the late Ms. Friedan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique,” ignited a wave of bra-burning and contempt for men and domesticity. The women’s movement has ebbed and flowed over the decades, picking up steam from the civil rights movement and helping spawn the gay rights movement, only ...

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Smartphone carry a lot of things an identity thief would love to have: stored passwords to online accounts, banking information, email addresses and phone numbers. How can  anyone make sure private data stays private? Adam Levin, co-founder of the Identity Theft 911 website and former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, offers these tips: Lock phone with a password. It’s the most basic security step, but one that some people skip. Yes, a hacker could break in anyway, but they may not want to bother. “Most bad guys will simply move on to the next, easier target,” ...

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The furor began in October when Dr. Michael Anderson, a pediatrician who treats mostly children from low-income families in Georgia, said that he routinely prescribed ADHD medications for kids struggling in school. Red flags went up more recently when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last month that said Missouri is second only to Mississippi in the percentage of kids who are prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis. The study indicated that Missouri doctors also may be making the ADHD diagnosis too frequently. The data show that nearly 9 percent of children in Missouri have ...

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Forgot about Valentine’s Day? Love’s way can still be smoothed. Load your smartphone with the romantic application Couple, by TenthBit Inc. It’s free for Android and iPhone. Once you’ve signed up, Couple will email or text your beloved with the entreaty, “Let’s use Couple together.” Couple is like Facebook for just two people. You send goo-goo notes and videos, collect pictures on a mutual timeline, and share calendars and lists. A shared sketch-pad feature allows two to draw simultaneously on the touch screen, and Couple encourages lovers to “ThumbKiss” by pressing fingers on the same spot. Need to send an ...

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It seems fitting that he delivered the news in Latin, not in German, or Italian, or English, or the other languages he speaks. Pope Benedict XVI is a traditionalist in the Roman Catholic Church. So, Latin? Sure. But what he uttered on Monday certainly broke tradition. He is the first pope in six centuries to leave the helm of the church not by death, but by decision. Eight years after he was called to lead his church upon the death of Pope John Paul II, Benedict said he can no longer muster the mental or physical strength to lead the ...

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In the three weeks since President Barack Obama’s re-election victory, his most ardent foes, nearly 1 million people from all 50 states, have signed online petitions to take their opposition to the extreme: seceding from the United States. They’re doing it on the White House’s “We the People” website, taking advantage of a pledge to review any petition that gains at least 25,000 signatures. Texas was far ahead of the pack with 117,373 digital signatures on its petition by midday Monday. “Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, ...

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When Republicans in Congress say they are willing to put tax revenues on the table in budget talks with President Barack Obama, that offer obscures a divide within their ranks that could thwart a year-end fiscal compromise. Most Republicans are willing to limit popular income tax deductions as part of a tax overhaul that also lowers rates a combination they believe will spur economic growth and eventually produce more revenue. But some are less enthusiastic about simply capping those deductions alone, even on upper-income households as Obama prefers, which would create immediate revenue that can be applied to a broad ...

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It was the day the ocean came ashore. As Hurricane Sandy lurched into the East Coast, we watched in horror as floodwaters crippled Manhattan and inundated more than 70 percent of Atlantic City. This Frankenstorm has given us a hair-raising look at the power of nature—and the harm and heartbreak it can inflict. But as a scientist, I think it’s critical to understand these disasters are becoming more unnatural. The terrifying truth is that we face a future full of Frankenstorms because of manmade climate change. We’ve always had hurricanes, of course. But powerful scientific evidence shows that superstorms are ...

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Supporters of same-sex marriage reached a major milestone in Tuesday’s elections, when Maryland and Maine became the first states where voters upheld marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. While gay marriage has gained the support of courts, state legislatures and even President Barack Obama, voters have rejected the question every time it has appeared as a ballot issue. But Tuesday turned the tide. Washington state voters were poised to uphold gay marriage on Wednesday, with supporters of the referendum declaring victory. Voters in Minnesota turned down an effort to ban gay marriage in the state’s constitution. “We can’t underestimate ...

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Amazing how an enormous natural disaster has a way of silencing the barbed language and personal attacks of a razor-close presidential race. Amazing how trivial those mean campaign ads look on TV, sandwiched between footage of wiped-out homes, debris and destruction. Amazing how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both found ways to turn the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy into a call for the nation to come together. We’re not so naive as to suggest their actions aren’t, at least in part, politically motivated. Obama, no doubt, wants to milk this opportunity for all he can, to manage this disaster effectively ...

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You might think you know how to find the best rate for airline tickets. Just plug your travel dates into your favorite online portal and dig out your credit card. But you’re wrong. There are a whole lot of great insider tips to help you snag a great deal for the next time you travel by plane. First stop: Check out Matrix Airfare Search (or download the app for iPhone and Android) to unearth the lowest one-way or round-trip fares. You can’t book tickets through this software, but experts say that it is very accurate in rooting out the lowest ...

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Maybe President Obama forgot his debate with Mitt Romney was on TV. How else to explain his lack of dynamism before a worldwide television audience in the millions. Were it an actual debate, where participants are scored on the substance of what they say, the president might have fared better in post-debate polls. But the public reaction after Wednesday night’s tilt indicated viewers were more turned on by Romney’s energy than Obama’s ennui. Again and again, Obama matter-of-factly pointed out gaping gaps in Romney’s program for America. Again and again, Romney, with a smile on his face and certainty in ...

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In the 2010-2011 school year, approximately 903,630 U.S. public school graduates took at least one Advanced Placement exam and 540,619 achieved a passing score, according the College Board. That is a huge achievement: a rise of 34 percent from five years ago in the number of students passing, and a 40 percent increase in the same period for the number of students taking the exam. These gains are an important step for students preparing for the rigors of college-level courses. But those students who took the exam represent just under a third of the more than 3 million high school ...

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President George W. Bush became an object of scorn and near-pity eight years ago for some voters watching his first debate with Democratic challenger John F. Kerry. Sitting amid a group of 100 swing voters who assembled to watch the debate at a college auditorium in Pennsylvania, I heard some laugh. Others shook their heads in dismay, as the president smirked or stammered and groped for words, particularly as he tried to defend the troublesome war in Iraq.   The crowd had been given portable dial-rating devices to instantly register their feelings about the two presidential contenders. On almost every ...

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