HANOVER, N.H. — Sirey Zhang, a first-year student at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, was on spring break in March when he received an email from administrators accusing him of cheating.
Dartmouth had reviewed Mr. Zhang’s online activity on Canvas, its learning management system, during three remote exams, the email said. The data indicated that he had looked up course material related to one question during each test, honor code violations that could lead to expulsion, the email said.
Mr. Zhang, 22, said he had not cheated. But when the school’s student affairs office suggested he would have a better outcome if he expressed remorse and pleaded guilty, he said he felt he had little choice but to agree. Now he faces suspension and a misconduct mark on his academic record that could derail his dream of becoming a pediatrician.
“What has happened to me in the last month, despite not cheating, has resulted in one of the most terrifying, isolating experiences of my life,” said Mr. Zhang, who has filed an appeal.
Dartmouth recently accused of cheating on remote tests while in-person exams were shut down because of the coronavirus. The allegations have prompted an on-campus protest, letters of concern to school administrators from more than two dozen faculty members and complaints of unfair treatment from the student government, turning the pastoral Ivy League campus into a national battleground over escalating school surveillance during the pandemic.
insecure, unfair and inaccurate.
cease using the exam-monitoring tools.
“These kinds of technical solutions to academic misconduct seem like a magic bullet,” said Shaanan Cohney, a cybersecurity lecturer at the University of Melbourne who researches remote learning software. But “universities which lack some of the structure or the expertise to understand these issues on a deeper level end up running into really significant trouble.”
At Dartmouth, the use of Canvas in the cheating investigation was unusual because the software was not designed as a forensic tool. Instead, professors post assignments on it and students submit their homework through it.
That has raised questions about Dartmouth’s methodology. While some students may have cheated, technology experts said, it would be difficult for a disciplinary committee to distinguish cheating from noncheating based on the data snapshots that Dartmouth provided to accused students. And in an analysis of the Canvas software code, The Times found instances in which the system automatically generated activity data even when no one was using a device.
“If other schools follow the precedent that Dartmouth is setting here, any student can be accused based on the flimsiest technical evidence,” said Cooper Quintin, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, who analyzed Dartmouth’s methodology.
Seven of the 17 accused students have had their cases dismissed. In at least one of those cases, administrators said, “automated Canvas processes are likely to have created the data that was seen rather than deliberate activity by the user,” according to a school email that students made public.
The 10 others have been expelled, suspended or received course failures and unprofessional-conduct marks on their records that could curtail their medical careers. Nine pleaded guilty, including Mr. Zhang, according to school documents; some havefiled appeals.
Dr. Compton acknowledged that the investigation had caused distress on campus. But he said Geisel, founded in 1797 and one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, was obligated to hold its students accountable.
“We take academic integrity very seriously,” he said. “We wouldn’t want people to be able to be eligible for a medical license without really having the appropriate training.”
Instructure, the company that owns Canvas, did not return requests for comment.
A Hunt Begins
In January, a faculty member reported possible cheating during remote exams, Dr. Compton said. Geisel opened an investigation.
To hinder online cheating, Geisel requires students to turn on ExamSoft — a separate tool that prevents them from looking up study materials during tests — on the laptop or tablet on which they take exams. The school also requires students to keep a backup device nearby. The faculty member’s report made administrators concerned that some students may have used their backup device to look at course material on Canvas while taking tests on their primary device.
administrators held a virtual forum and were barraged with questions about the investigation. The conduct review committee then issued decisions in 10 of the cases, telling several students that they would be expelled, suspending others and requiring some to retake courses or repeat a year of school at a cost of nearly $70,000.
Many on campus were outraged. On April 21, dozens of students in white lab coats gathered in the rain in front of Dr. Compton’s office to protest. Some held signs that said “BELIEVE YOUR STUDENTS” and “DUE PROCESS FOR ALL” in indigo letters, which dissolved in the rain into blue splotches.
Several students said they were now so afraid of being unfairly targeted in a data-mining dragnet that they had pushed the medical school to offer in-person exams with human proctors. Others said they had advised prospective medical students against coming to Dartmouth.
“Some students have built their whole lives around medical school and now they’re being thrown out like they’re worthless,” said Meredith Ryan, a fourth-year medical student not connected to the investigation.
That same day, more than two dozen members of Dartmouth’s faculty wrote a letter to Dr. Compton saying that the cheating inquiry had created “deep mistrust” on campus and that the school should “make amends with the students falsely accused.”
In an email to students and faculty a week later, Dr. Compton apologized that Geisel’s handling of the cases had “added to the already high levels of stress and alienation” of the pandemic and said the school was working to improve its procedures.
The medical school has already made one change that could reduce the risk of false cheating allegations. For remote exams, new guidelines said, students are now “expected to log out of Canvas on all devices prior to testing.”
Mr. Zhang, the first-year student, said the investigation had shaken his faith in an institution he loves. He had decided to become a doctor, he said, to address disparities in health care access after he won a fellowship as a Dartmouth undergraduate to study medicine in Tanzania.
Mr. Zhang said he felt compelled to speak publicly to help reform a process he found traumatizing.
“I’m terrified,” he said. “But if me speaking up means that there’s at least one student in the future who doesn’t have to feel the way that I did, then it’s all worthwhile.”
As glaciers melt and shrink in the Alps of Northern Italy, long-frozen relics of World War I have been emerging from the ice.
They include cups, cans, letters, weapons and bones with the marrow sucked dry. They were found in cave barracks not far from the frigid summit of Mount Scorluzzo, which reaches more than 10,000 feet over sea level in Northern Italy, near Switzerland.
The Austro-Hungarian soldiers who occupied those barracks were fighting Italian troops in what became known as the White War. There in the Alps — removed from the more famous Western Front, a site of bloody trench warfare between Germany and France — troops climbed to precarious heights in the stinging cold to carve fortifications into the rock and snow.
The weather that tested the troops on Mount Scorluzzo ultimately preserved their barracks, freezing the entrance shut after soldiers abandoned their post at the end of the war in 1918. The structure was essentially impenetrable for decades — until 2017, when enough of the ice and snow had melted, allowing researchers to enter.
have now been excavated, revealing the items that were left behind and offering a fuller glimpse of the people who lived in the cramped space more than a century ago.
museum dedicated to the White War already exists in the nearby town Temù, and staff members there are now working to restore the relics found in the barracks.
Luca Pedrotti, a scientific coordinator at the park, said the relics held lessons in environmental science as well as history. Extremely cold weather killed soldiers in Northern Italy more than a century ago; today, warmer conditions present a different kind of threat.
Mr. Pedrotti, who lived in the park as a child, said he had watched the glaciers recede over decades. He has seen changes in the flora and observed cold-loving animals move up toward the mountaintops, clinging to habitable zones that continue to shrink.
“I think it is important that we use the park as a study area to raise awareness about climate change,” he said.
Italy at War,” a book published in 1918.
frozen corpses of people who fought in the White War have appeared nearby. Researchers did, however, find at least one sign of life, said Alessandro Nardo, the director of the park.
“When I first came here to manage Stelvio National Park, in the end of 2018, one of the things that attracted my curiosity was a small pot on a desk with a green wild geranium,” he said.
“I asked my colleague what was it, and he said it had germinated from the seeds found in the mattresses of the barrack of Scorluzzo.”
KALANCHAK, Ukraine — A makeshift dam of sand and clay, covered with patches of grass, blocks one of Europe’s great canals. Beyond it, swans drift in the trickle of water that remains. A duck slides into a wall of reeds below the bare, concrete banks.
This quiet spot just north of Crimea may not look like much. But some Ukrainians fear it could be the thing that ignites an all-out war with Russia.
“Putin could send his troops in here at any moment,” said Olha Lomonosova, 38, explaining why she had packed a getaway suitcase this year at her home upstream. “He needs water.”
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered some of the troops he had massed on Ukraine’s border this spring to pull back last month, but as many as 80,000 remain within striking distance, and many Ukrainians believe that the threat of a new invasion remains. A prime reason is the 250-mile-long Northern Crimean Canal linking Crimea with Ukraine’s Dnieper River: the main source of water for Crimea until Mr. Putin annexed it in 2014 and Ukraine, in a secret operation, hastily built the dam to block the canal’s flow.
Mr. Putin’s showdown with the West.
assurances that even tourists to Crimea will not go thirsty.
Blocking the canal, a senior official in the de facto Russian government controlling Crimea said in February, represented “an attempt to destroy us as a people, an attempt at mass murder and genocide.” Moscow has pledged to spend $670 million to address the water shortage, but this year reservoirs have been running dry and water is being rationed.
Ukrainian officials are unmoved. Under the Geneva Convention, they say, it is Russia’s responsibility as an occupying power to provide water, and they add that sufficient underground aquifers exist to provide for the population. The Kremlin says that Crimea willfully joined Russia in 2014, aided by Russian troops, after the pro-Western revolution in Kyiv; nearly every government in the world still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine.
“No water for Crimea until de-occupation,” said Anton Korynevych, the representative for Crimea of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, spelling out government policy. “Period.”
visit to the trenches at the Crimean border last month. Even though Russian troops are withdrawing, he warned, Ukraine must be prepared for them to return at “any moment.” In Washington, senior American officials believe that an incursion to secure the water supply remains a real threat, though the costs and difficulty of such a move appear to have been sufficient to dissuade Russia for now.
trove of ancient Scythian treasure.
The canal even has its own anthem, still framed on the wall of the canal’s headquarters. “We built the canal in peace, along with the whole great and powerful country,” the words go. “Keep it, as dear as your breath, for your children and grandchildren!”
But when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, a senior aide in the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Senchenko, organized the damming of the canal as a way to strike back. Before the canal’s annual springtime opening, he directed workers to pile up a pyramid of bags of sand and clay near the border with Crimea. And he had them put up a sign saying they were installing a flow-measurement mechanism, to put Russian intelligence on the wrong track.
He is convinced that blocking the canal was the right decision because it imposed costs on Moscow, much as military resistance would have.
“In order to cause as much damage to the Russian Federation as was caused by seven years of blocking the canal, tens of thousands would need to have died at the front,” Mr. Senchenko said.
tell it, Ukraine’s leaders since 2014 have forced Russian speakers in the country to “renounce their identity or to face violence or death.” The reality is different in Kherson, where many residents still value some common bonds with Russia, including language — but want no part of a further military intervention by Mr. Putin.
A hill outside the city of Kakhovka, near the canal’s beginning, bears another reminder of historical ties to Russia: a towering Soviet monument of Communist revolutionaries with a horse-drawn machine gun, marking the fierce battles here in the Russian Civil War a century ago. Kyiv in 2019 demanded that the monument be taken down, calling it “insult to the memory of the millions of victims of the Communist totalitarian regime.” The city refused, and the monument still stands, overlooking rusty, dismantled lampposts.
Tending her mother’s grave at an adjoining cemetery, Ms. Lomonosova, a gardener, and her father, Mikhail Lomonosov, 64, said they did not want the monument torn down.
They spoke Russian, described themselves as “little Russians,” and said they occasionally watched Russian television. But if Russian troops were to invade, Ms. Lomonosova was ready to flee, and Mr. Lomonosov was ready to fight against them.
“We may have a Russian last name, but we are proud to be Ukrainian,” Ms. Lomonosova said. “Everyone has their own territory, though all have a shared past.”
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Costs of Living
I live and work in a small European country where the cost of living is less than in the United States. I have someone clean for a half day each week. When I asked for her hourly rate when I hired her, she told me a price much lower than I expected and much lower than I paid in the U.S. I asked several sources, and it seemed to be about the “going rate” for household cleaning. I thought it was enough to be a living wage. It is clear to me now that it is not, and we have raised it to a more just level, I hope.
But I would appreciate your thoughts on how to determine if you are being a just employer when you are a temporary resident of a foreign culture. I am pretty sure some co-workers would think me foolish for paying above the norm, and some would — and have — argued that I am doing her a long-term disservice, because she is unlikely to get the same salary from her next employer. I’m OK with being thought foolish but hope the second part is wrong. What do you think?
There is nothing foolish about paying someone well or, at the very least, paying them fairly. The mental gymnastics your co-workers are engaging in by suggesting you are doing someone a disservice by paying them too much, are ridiculous. It is a poor reflection on them and how they value the people among whom they live and work. In general, yes, you pay people the wage expected for a local area, but this is not something that should be exploited. The reality is that, particularly for domestic work, people are almost always underpaid. You are not paying your employee too much. In fact, pay her more. Treat her kindly and respectfully. Treat her the same way you would treat an American employee whose labor you value. That is the just thing to do.
Today in Business
No More Social Media
I am a photo archivist for a large corporation, recently hired to preserve its historic photography collection. As I process the images, I pull out interesting photos each month to create an internal newsletter showing ones never seen before. Naturally, the social media group wants to use them, and I provide those I have scanned and search for others on request. Recently, members of that team have asked me to write copy for Facebook and Instagram posts. I have done it, but I don’t love it, mostly because the posts are written as a quote with my name attached. I’m comfortable writing background information, not copywriting. Now they are asking me to “do little videos, just 30 seconds long” to talk about my favorite photos. I have severe stage fright and no desire to be on social media. I have expressed my concerns and they are dismissed, and even laughed at. The head of social media used to be a television news reporter, is always camera-ready, and doesn’t understand my trepidation.
I am lucky to have kept this nonessential job during the pandemic and I don’t want to be seen as difficult, but shouldn’t the social media department create this content? Am I out of line?
— Anonymous, Colorado
You are not out of line to not want to add social media content creation to your workload. That is a specialized field beyond your purview. You are not difficult for having professional boundaries and thus far, you have been as much a team player as anyone could expect. That’s lovely of you and it’s something most of us are willing to do, within reason. I am guessing you’re being asked to do this work because as the archivist, you’re the person who works with these images every day and knows them best. That said, you clearly don’t want to do it. Your concerns matter and shouldn’t be dismissed or mocked. Given that your reluctance to make these posts is related to both stage fright and an aversion to social media, it would be totally reasonable to say you’re not willing to do it. Hold that line. It’s also often easier to say no to a request by offering an alternative. Maybe suggest that you can offer two or three talking points for others to draw from as they produce the videos. I don’t get the impression that you report to the social media team, so if you can’t work this out with them, it may be time to discuss the issue with your supervisor so that he or she can clarify, to the social media team, your work responsibilities, and allow you to do the work you were hired for and do best.
Internet service providers funded an effort that yielded millions of fake comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of so-called net neutrality rules in 2017, the New York attorney general said on Thursday.
Internet providers, working through a group called Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million on the project, Attorney General Letitia James said. The effort generated roughly nine million comments to the agency and letters to Congress backing the rollback, almost all signed by people who had never agreed to the use of their names on such comments, according to the investigation. Some of the names had been obtained earlier, in other marketing efforts, officials said.The agency approved the repeal in late 2017.
Broadband for America’s members include some of America’s most prominent internet providers, like AT&T, Comcast and Charter, as well as several trade groups.
Supporters of the repeal regularly cited the number of comments opposing the rules. Investigators said Broadband for America had “commissioned and publicized a third-party study” of how many comments were being submitted, and then briefed F.C.C. officials on their findings as part of their push.
net neutrality rules, which forbade them to block content, slow it down or make people pay more to deliver it faster.
Ajit Pai, then the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced a plan to repeal the rules in April 2017. Around the same time, Broadband for America started to pay providers of lead generation services millions of dollars to generate comments at the F.C.C. and letters to Congress supporting the repeal.
Investigators said Broadband for America had acted to give Mr. Pai “cover” to repeal the broadband regulations. The internet providers have staunchly opposed attempts to regulate the industry for years, including by pushing for Congress to approve weaker rules instead.
In total, about 18 million of the 22 million comments sent to the F.C.C. during the debate over the net neutrality rules were fake, the investigation found. More than nine million fake comments were filed at the F.C.C. supporting the rules, arguing that repealing them would leave consumers paying more for a slower internet, according to investigators. A 19-year-old computer science student was responsible for more than 7.7 million of them.
The activist group Fight for the Future and several news outlets raised early concerns about the possibility that some of the comments were fake, after individuals whose names appeared on messages to the F.C.C. said they had not signed on to them.
“The public record should be a place for honest dialogue, but today’s report demonstrates how the record informing the F.C.C.’s net neutrality repeal was flooded with fraud,” Jessica Rosenworcel, the agency’s acting chairwoman, said in a statement. “This was troubling at the time because even then the widespread problems with the record were apparent.”
HONG KONG — The glossy pamphlet from the police, delivered to newsrooms in Hong Kong, declared: “Know the Facts: Rumors and Lies Can Never Be Right.” With it was a letter addressed to editors, decrying the “wicked and slanderous attacks” against the police.
The 12-page magazine, distributed Wednesday to news outlets including The New York Times, described the police’s efforts to push back against misinformation. In one instance, the department countered rumors that officers had attended a banquet with gang members, saying the police had held their own private dinner. In another, it accused a local TV station of smearing the police in a parody show.
“Fake news is highly destructive,” read one graphic carrying the hashtag #youarewhatyousend.
Officials in Hong Kong are increasingly seizing on the label of “fake news,” a common authoritarian refrain. The city’s leader, Carrie Lam, said on Wednesday that the government was looking at laws to tackle “misinformation, hatred and lies.” The city’s police chief has said a fake-news law would help fight threats to national security.
The rhetoric is raising fears among activists that the label could be used as a new tool to muzzle dissent.
traditionally unfettered news media, known for coverage that has been critical of the establishment, has been under attack for months. The national security law, which calls for increased regulation of the media, has given the police and local officials powerful tools to constrain the press, but they are seeking more.
Mrs. Lam, the city’s chief executive, has said that the government was exploring legislation to curb fake news, which she said spread online during the protests and the pandemic.
“We have seen the internet, especially social media, flooded with doxxing, hateful and discriminatory remarks and fake news,” she said in remarks to lawmakers in February. Mrs. Lam has said that the proposed legislation had yet to be drafted because the government was still examining how such laws were handled elsewhere.
a 14-month prison sentence for protesting in 2019, and is accused of fraud and colluding with a foreign country.
The police have also bristled at coverage by RTHK, a government-funded public broadcaster with a tradition of independent coverage. The police complained about a parody program that portrayed officers as trash, with an actor portraying an officer in a garbage can.
The government has moved to rein the broadcaster in, replacing its top editor with a civil servant with no journalism experience in February. Under the new leadership the broadcaster has cut two radio programs known for sharp political commentary and added a new show hosted by Mrs. Lam, the city’s leader, discussing an electoral overhaul imposed by Beijing that critics say would cripple the opposition.
The broadcaster was also at the center of a closely watched court case last month in which a former freelance producer for RTHK was convicted of making false statementsto obtain public records for a report that was critical of the police. The journalist, Choy Yuk-ling, used the records for a documentary that examined how the police were slow to respond to an attack by a mob on protesters at a train station in 2019.
On Thursday, Ms. Choy’s documentary was honored in Hong Kong with a human rights award. “Chasing the smallest clues, interrogating the powerful without fear or favor,” wrote the judging panel, which called it an “investigative reporting classic.”
The broadcaster has said that it would not accept the award.
Facebook’s suspension of Donald Trump will continue for now, the company announced yesterday. But it still has not resolved the central problem that Trump has created for social media platforms and, by extension, American democracy.
The problem is that Trump lies almost constantly. Unlike many other politicians — including other recent presidents, from both parties — he continues to make false statements even after other people have documented their falseness. This behavior undermines the healthy functioning of American democracy, particularly because Trump has such a large following.
His lies about the 2020 election are the clearest example. They have led tens of millions of people to believe a made-up story about how Joe Biden won. They have become a loyalty test within the Republican Party.
In Congress, Republicans are moving to oust Liz Cheney as one of their leaders after she said that people who repeated Trump’s “big lie” were “turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” In several states, Republican legislators are using Trump’s made-up story to justify new laws that make voting more difficult, especially in heavily Democratic areas. There is a direct connection between Trump’s lies about the election and the weakening of voting rights.
justified its suspension of Trump in January not based on his lies but instead on his incitement of violence, before and during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters. Facebook continues to allow politicians to spread many falsehoods, saying it does not want to police truth. Distinguishing among truth, opinion and falsehood can indeed be tricky — but Trump’s claims about electoral theft are not a nuanced case.
The issue here isn’t the enduring philosophical question of what constitutes truth; it’s whether Facebook is willing to tolerate obvious and influential lies. So far, the company has decided that it is. It has drawn a line somewhere between blatant untruths and incitement to violence.
“Facebook’s approach to Trump’s attempts to undermine confidence in the integrity of the election was weak and ineffective,” Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, told me. When Trump last year falsely described mail-in voting as corrupt, for example, Facebook left up the post and instead added a link to a website where people could find general election information, as Hasen describes in his forthcoming book, “Cheap Speech.” Twitter, he notes, has taken a more aggressive position.
Yesterday’s decision officially came from a Facebook-appointed panel of speech experts that the company calls its Oversight Board. The board has no actual power to regulate the company, but it may have some influence on Facebook executives. In their statement, board members criticized Facebook for levying an indefinite suspension on Trump and said it should choose in the next six months between a permanent ban and a time-limited one: “In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the board wrote.
points out in her latest newsletter). The board wrote:
… context matters when assessing issues of causality and the probability and imminence of harm. What is important is the degree of influence that a user has over other users. When posts by influential users pose a high probability of imminent harm, as assessed under international human rights standards, Facebook should take action to enforce its rules quickly.
That passage highlights the crux of the issue. Facebook has evidently decided that undermining the credibility of democratic elections does not violate international human rights standards. If it maintains that position, Trump may be back on Facebook six months from now.
What is the Facebook Oversight Board? Cecilia Kang has written an explainer, and Ben Smith has written a column.
The board’s message to Facebook’s C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg: “This problem is yours,” Kevin Roose writes.
Nick Clegg, a former deputy prime minister in Britain, is steering the company’s response. Read a profile of him.
How the suspension has mattered: Politico’s Michael Kruse traveled to Ohio recently and was struck by how little many Republican voters knew about Trump’s recent comments.
THE LATEST NEWS
The Biden administration supported waiving patents for Covid vaccines to boost supply in lower-income countries.
Support from the White House is not a guarantee that a waiver will be adopted. It needs support from all members of the World Trade Organization.
The E.U. is considering whether to follow the Biden administration’s decision.
Supporters cast the move as a moral imperative that would get shots to India and other countries.
Pharmaceutical companies reacted angrily, saying it would hamper future vaccine development and do little to increase short-term supply.
Jim Geraghty and the political scientists Frances Lee and James Curry in The Atlantic.
Biden’s economic plans address one of the New Deal’s glaring omissions: women, Binyamin Appelbaum writes in The Times.
Lost and Found: His ship vanished 176 years ago. DNA offered his descendants a clue.
A Times Classic: What happened to Bob Ross’s paintings? We found them.
Lives Lived: Tamara Press was a dominant Soviet shot-putter and discus thrower in the 1960s. But amid questions about her physique, she pulled out of a major event that required sex testing. She died at 83.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Amanda Hess writes in The Times: The former “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings infused shows with a Trebek-like intellect, while the Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers brought an outsider’s earnestness. Others, like Dr. Mehmet Oz, have worked less well, trying to outshine the show with stories and jokes.
petition calling for LeVar Burton, the former star of “Reading Rainbow,” to be the next host received more than 250,000 signatures — and helped get him a guest spot beginning July 26.
One strategic wrinkle: Contestants seem to be struggling to adapt to the variation in the hosts’ speaking styles and aren’t sure exactly when to buzz in, Claire McNear notes in The Ringer. That has created a randomness that has prevented any long winning streaks.
Regardless of who gets the permanent job, Hess argues that the clues, “which are precisely written and briskly dealt,” are the show’s real draw.
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What to Cook
today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Vuitton of fashion (five letters).
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P.S. Tuesday night’s episode of “Jeopardy!” featured an answer about The Times. (Scroll to the bottom for the solution.)
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Two years ago, on a soggy January day at the University of Oregon, Peter Laufer, a journalism professor, picked up a copy of The New York Times and presented his students with a reporting challenge.
He read from a feature at the bottom of Page 2 that highlights an article from The Times’s archives each day. It covered the experience in early 1960 of a fourth grader in Roseburg, Ore., not far from the college. She had written to her congressman for the names of Russian schoolchildren with whom she and her classmates could be pen pals, but the State Department denied the request, fearing they would be influenced by Soviet propaganda. The headline on the article read: “U.S. Bars a Girl’s Plea for Russian Pen Pals.”
“Find that girl!” Mr. Laufer told the class, an exercise designed to teach his students the skill of locating a source and, possibly, a bigger story. He thought she might still be living nearby.
For nine students, that simple instruction turned into a journalism project, which included an on-the-ground reporting trip in Nevada, digging through F.B.I. files from the National Archives and meeting face to face with modern-day fourth graders in southern Russia. This year, they published their findings in a book, “Classroom 15: How the Hoover F.B.I. Censored the Dreams of Innocent Oregon Fourth Graders.”
“It is such a small story, but it resonates so much with the time that it was in,” said Julia Mueller, who worked as the project’s managing editor and wrote a chapter in the book.
Using public records and online databases, the students located the subject of the article, Janice Hall, now married and living near Las Vegas. Her name had been misspelled as “Janis” in the original article, which made it more difficult for the class to locate her.
In 1960, during a tense period of the Cold War, a time when both the United States and the Soviet Union saw every move by the other country as a tactic aimed at world domination, Ms. Hall never had the chance to correspond with Russian students. The reporters were determined to understand why.
They abandoned the syllabus, renamed the course Janice 101 and devoted the rest of the term to unpacking the story.
Each student took a slightly different angle. One examined the fear of communism that had gripped the United States. Another reporter, who was headed to Las Vegas for a spring break trip with her sorority, made a detour to meet Ms. Hall. Yet another interviewed the family of Ray McFetridge, the teacher who had conceived of the pen-pal project and who had died years earlier. Students even obtained the F.B.I. case files on the incident through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Why wouldn’t you want people to be friends with people across borders?” asked Zack Demars, the lead reporter on the project, outlining the students’ central question.
“I think we discovered that it was because of the level of fear at the time,” he added.
Mr. Laufer, a former NBC News correspondent, thought that a reporter needed to go to Russia to meet with current pupils. He wanted his journalism students to explore what would happen if they tried to connect schoolchildren today.
“We decided that we were not going to leave this hanging,” Mr. Laufer said. “If they couldn’t do it in 1960, we were going to do it in 2020.”
The class decided to take letters written by fourth graders in Yoncalla, Ore., and deliver them to Russian students.
In December 2019, months after the course ended, Mr. Demars took a 13-hour train ride from Moscow to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where Mr. Laufer had a contact who agreed to act as a guide.
Mr. Demars met with Russian fourth graders and gave them the letters from their American counterparts. They peppered him with questions: Did he have pets? Did he play sports? What did he think of Ariana Grande?
He also spoke with a group of high schoolers. They discussed American schools and movies and asked to follow him on Instagram. He thinks of these new followers as modern pen pals.
“I don’t talk to them all that often,” he said. “But we interact every now and then, and we have that level of human connection.”
Mr. Demars is now working as a reporter at a small local newspaper in Oregon. During the project, he learned the value of recording individual experiences, which can offer future generations insight into a particular era.
“When I’m out reporting, I’m looking for those things that are commonplace right now but deeply unique to the time period,” he said.
Ms. Hall, 70, said she was amazed to hear from the college students, who are about the age of her grandchildren.
She was also awed by the project, and particularly by Mr. Demars’s persistence: “He hooked up these two fourth grades,” she said, “which is exactly what we were trying to do.”
BERLIN — The police in Germany have arrested a 53-year-old man with a history of support for the far right in connection with a series of death threats sent to well-known progressives, including a lawyer, a politician and a comedian, the authorities said on Tuesday.
The threats usually included information known only to the authorities, such as the names of the targets’ children or their home addresses, initially leading investigators to suspect that police officers were involved and adding to concerns about the increasing influence of far-right extremists within the ranks of law enforcement.
Peter Beuth, interior minister for the central state of Hesse, where most of the victims lived, told reporters on Tuesday, “The threatening letters had raised very serious suspicions about the police.” But, he added, “According to everything we know today, no Hessian police officer was ever responsible.”
The authorities said on Tuesday that the suspect, who has not been publicly identified in keeping with German privacy laws, had never worked as a police officer. Many of the notes were signed “NSU 2.0,” a reference to a far-right terrorist group that killed 10 people, laid bombs and committed robberies for more than a decade, starting in 1999.
The authorities in Hesse said that the death threats began in 2018 and were sent mostly to women known for their work on behalf of migrants.
The suspect was detained in Berlin at the request of the authorities in Hesse as part of an investigation that began in 2019.
The man has a criminal record that includes unspecified right-wing crimes, according to the Hesse State authorities. Several news outlets reported that he had obtained at least some of the personal information by contacting public registries and demanding access while impersonating a police officer.
The campaign of threats also inspired copycats. Last summer, a former police officer in Bavaria and his wife were arrested on charges of sending similar threatening letters.
Corporations across the country find themselves at the center of a swirling partisan debate over voting rights. With Republicans in almost every state advancing legislation that would make it harder for some people to vote, companies are under pressure from both sides. Democratic activists, along with many mainstream business leaders, are calling on corporations to oppose the new laws. At the same time, a growing chorus of senior Republicans is telling corporate America to keep quiet.
On Thursday, Republicans in Florida passed a new bill that would limit voting by mail, curtail the use of drop boxes and prohibit actions to help people waiting in line to vote, among other restrictions. Its passage came just weeks after more than 400 corporations issued a national statement supporting expanded access to voting and implicitly criticizing the restrictive efforts. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to sign the state’s bill.
In the past, opposition from big business has helped squash restrictive legislation at the state level, and many companies have spoken out on the voting issue.
But as Republicans step up their attacks on “woke corporate hypocrites,” as Senator Marco Rubio put it, that criticize the party’s agenda, many other companies are proceeding cautiously. After companies including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola publicly opposed the voting law that Georgia Republicans passed in March, Mr. Rubio, Republican of Florida, excoriated them in a video on Twitter, and former President Donald J. Trump called for a boycott.
Soon after, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, told chief executives to “stay out of politics.” And in recent days, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, have criticized corporations, accusing them of supporting the Democratic agenda.
The letter from Fair Elections Texas has been in the works for weeks, as a group of political operatives, Mr. Kirk and coalition members, including Patagonia, tried to persuade companies to sign on. National organizations like the Civic Alliance and the Leadership Now Project also helped corral companies.
“We stand together, as a nonpartisan coalition, calling on all elected leaders in Texas to support reforms that make democracy more accessible and oppose any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot,” the letter reads. “We urge business and civic leaders to join us as we call upon lawmakers to uphold our ever elusive core democratic principle: equality.”