Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "State of the Union 2003," Jan. 25, 2003

Temple tablet

A black stone tablet found in Jerusalem that details repair plans for Solomon's Temple is no fake, say experts from Israel's Geological Survey. The tablet, which the Israeli daily Haaretz reports comes from below the Temple Mount, contains script attributed to King Joash of Judah. According to the archeologists, the 15-line inscription describes Temple house repairs mirrored in 2 Kings 12:1-6, 11-17. If authentic, the legal-pad-sized artifact would be the first link between narratives found by archeologists and those in the Bible.

Money for nothing

Computers and Internet accounts don't necessarily improve schools. John Clare of London's Daily Telegraph reports on a UK study, which found that high-tech did not equal high scores. Even after "unprecedented levels of government investment," Britain's Department for Education found "no consistent relationship" between computer use and student success. Many pupils actually did better when computers were rarely or never used in class. The study examined 700 students between 1999 and 2002. Computers seemed to help most in English-though raising scores only by "a meager three marks"-when students used computers for word processing, writes Mr. Clare. However, 11-year-olds performed worse in science classes that used computers. The UK has spent over $1.6 billion on classroom technology over the last five years.

Protection racket?

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Internet publishers were socked in the jaw by a Supreme Court ruling last week upholding lengthy copyrights. Hundreds of thousands of books, movies, and songs will stay out of the public domain until at least 2018. The biggest winner in this case is Disney, which retains its hold on Mickey Mouse. Congress passed the 1998 copyright extension after heavy lobbying from media companies. Defenders said it was necessary to protect masterpieces like Gone with the Wind. Critics said that it stretched intellectual property law beyond the Framers' intent-and forced countless works to stay out of print due to neglect by their owners. Copyrights lasted only 14 years in 1790, but the duration is now 70 years after the death of the creator and 95 years for works owned by corporations. Justices voted 7-2 that Congress was within its rights in passing the most recent law. "We are not at liberty to second-guess congressional determinations and policy judgments of this order, however debatable or arguably unwise they may be," the court majority opinion said.

"A glimpse of heaven"?

Touched by an Angel leaves CBS after this season. Executive producer Martha Williamson promises "a glimpse of heaven" in a two-hour finale that airs this May. The show had 27 million viewers at its peak and was a top 10 show for four of its nine years, according to Variety. It has recently aired on Saturday nights, which is the ratings graveyard of network television. Angel aired more than 200 shows and provoked many strong reactions. Critics lamented the show's theological mushiness. Others lauded it for treating religion with respect. The show certainly revived the careers of actresses Della Reese and Valerie Bertinelli. Meanwhile, Ms. Williamson said she is developing a new show for CBS. "We have thousands of letters from people who said, 'Your show changed my life,'" she told Variety. "We'll have substantial stories to tell about Touched once this is over."

Diversity without quotas

America must open educational opportunities for minorities, but quota systems aren't the way to do it. That was the message President Bush sent last week as he lent administration support to a lawsuit that challenges admissions policies at the University of Michigan. Three white students are opposing in court that university's practice of giving minority applicants extra "points" in admissions evaluations because of their race. Mr. Bush called the policy a "fundamentally flawed" approach to affirmative action that "unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race" and that is "impossible to square with the Constitution." He praised race-neutral programs at public universities in California, Florida, and Texas that guarantee admissions for top students at those states' high schools. He argued that levels of minority attendance under these programs "are close to, and in some cases slightly surpass, those under the old race-based approach." The president instructed the Justice Department to file a brief with the Supreme Court in support of the students challenging the Michigan policy. The high court will likely hear the case in March.

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