Wednesday News: True public servant

DURHAM COUNCILOR CHARLIE REECE RESIGNS, HEADED TO EUROPE: Council member Charlie Reece announced Monday night that he will resign from the Durham City Council effective March 7. Reece said his wife will need to temporarily spend a substantial amount of time in Europe for business. “Early last year, our family business began exploring the idea of buying a European company in order to expand our business opportunities there,” Reece said. “Two months ago, we did just that, and as a result, our Chief Executive Officer, who also happens to be my lovely wife, Dr. Laura Helms Reece, will need to spend a lot of time working in Europe for the foreseeable future,” he said. Laura Reece has been the CEO of Rho, a full service contract research organization based in Chapel Hill, since 2011. You will be missed, but you leave a great example to follow.

MARK ROBINSON OPENS UP HIS PIE-HOLE AGAIN: Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Monday that North Carolina public schools have become unsafe places because disruptive students aren’t being disciplined for their bad behavior. Robinson told a legislative committee that restoring order and discipline in classrooms is key to transforming the state’s K-12 education system. Robinson said some teachers have told him they feel unsafe due to the lack of discipline. “Teachers have got to stop going to school in fear for themselves, and the same thing is true for our students,” Robinson, a Republican, told the House Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s Future. James Ford, a State Board of Education member, argued more context is needed behind the crime and discipline statistics that Robinson presented to legislators. Both Ford and Robinson are Black. Robinson also serves on the state board. “Again, 96% of suspensions are for NON-CRIMINAL offenses,” Ford tweeted Monday in response to Robinson’s comments. “But those who bear the brunt are Black and brown kids. Yes, let’s have tough conversations. “They talking about ‘tough on crime’ responses to Black students who are NOT committing crimes. Let’s be real.” Unfortunately, nuance is completely lost on demagogues like Robinson.

READ THIS, IT'S A REALLY BIG DEAL: Tens of thousands of North Carolinians whose driver's licenses were revoked for failure to pay traffic tickets could have a better shot of getting their licenses back—even if they can’t pay the fines. It’s part of a settlement that is expected to end a nearly four-year-old federal lawsuit against the state's Division of Motor Vehicles. A judge still has to sign off on the settlement, but indicated during a Tuesday hearing in Winston-Salem that he's inclined to do so, according to parties involved in the case. The settlement's key provision requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to tell people who are about to lose their driver's licenses for failing to pay that they can keep their licenses if they convince a judge that they can't afford the fines. The DMV will also send people a form to fill out and file as a motion with the court in their traffic cases, attesting to their inability to pay. Drivers have had this right for years under North Carolina law, but the DMV wasn't mentioning it in revocation notices it sent, instead telling people who were about to lose their licenses they needed to "comply" with the traffic ticket to keep their license. "As a result drivers rarely, if ever, invoke this process," the coalition said in its lawsuit, which was filed in 2018. It ain't rocket surgery, if you can't drive, you pretty much can't work. The same goes for keeping people locked up because they can't post bail, it's stupid, unfair, and counterproductive.

TRUMP GIDDY OVER RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE: Former president Donald Trump on Tuesday hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine and deploy troops into the rebel-held territory as “genius.” In an interview with the conservative “Clay Travis and Buck Sexton” radio show, Trump said he was impressed by news of Putin’s actions. “Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said. “So Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’” Trump said Putin will now “go in” to Ukraine “and be a peacekeeper.” “That’s strongest peace force … We could use that on our southern border,” he said. “That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy … I know him very well. Very, very well.” The former president then went on to say that Russia’s incursion “would have never happened” if he had been in office, and accused Biden of not having a proper response to Putin’s moves. Wait, what? It's a brilliant move, but you wouldn't have allowed it? Are you insane? That's a rhetorical question, of course he's insane.

WILDLIFE FORMULA USED TO ESTIMATE LOST MEDIEVAL LITERATURE: To estimate how much medieval literature once existed, book historians compare ancient book catalogs, which are incomplete, with the number and scope of surviving texts. To offer another, perhaps more informative, estimate of how much literature once existed, Kestemont and colleagues borrowed a technique from ecology called the “unseen species” model. Developed by co-author and statistician Anne Chao at National Tsing Hua University, the model uses a statistical approach to estimate how many species are missing from a field count—present but simply unobserved by scientists. The statistical model doesn’t care whether you’re comparing missing birds or books, explains co-author Folgert Karsdorp, a computational humanities researcher at the Meertens Institute. “It’s a very general method of bias correction,” he says. For instance, it’s also been used to estimate the number of bugs in long stretches of computer code. The researchers turned to lists of surviving medieval texts—and those suspected to have been lost—written between 600 and 1450 C.E. in Dutch, French, Icelandic, Irish, English, and German. There were 3648 texts in total. When they ran those numbers through the unseen species model, the algorithm suggested just 9% of medieval texts from that period survived to the present day, the researchers report today in Science. That’s rather close to traditional estimates of 7%. But the new study also broke things down by region: The model suggests only about 5% of English vernacular works have survived, compared with 17% and 19% for Icelandic and Irish vernacular works, respectively. That is both awesome and depressing as hell.