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Schooled
August 26, 2014
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The college rankings of U.S. News and World Report have many well-known problems, the worst of which is that they basically recapitulate the existing hierarchy of status and wealth among schools. As a result, many others have gotten into the rankings game in an attempt to provide an alternative metric, and of those, the Washington Monthly's College Guide (full disclosure, I used to work for the magazine) has probably the most principled effort.

Here's how they set up their rankings:

We ask a different question: What are colleges doing for the country? ...To identify the most public-minded institutions, we rank every four-year college and university in America based on three criteria: social mobility, research, and public service. Instead of crediting colleges that reject the most applicants, we recognize those that do the best job of enrolling and graduating low-income students. Our rankings measure both pure research spending and success in preparing undergraduates to earn PhDs. And by giving equal weight to public service, we identify colleges that build a sense of obligation to their communities and the nation at large.

The Monthly's 2014 rankings are out, and as usual they have some rather surprising top schools:

-Top National University: UC San Diego

-Top Liberal Arts College: Bryn Mawr

-Top Master's University: Creighton University

-Top Baccalaureate College: Elizabeth City State University

This year, they've also got a Best Bang for the Buck measure, ranking the most extreme bargains in each category, and a new "Affordable Elite" measure, ranking traditional highly-selective schools based on how much of a break they give their poor students. Also worth checking out is an article on America's worst colleges, heavily featuring private, for-profit institutions.

Check out the full guide here. Ryan Cooper

terrorism
July 4, 2015
Fethi Belaid/Getty Images

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency in Tunisia on Saturday, the state news agency reports. In June, a gunman killed 38 foreigners and injured 39 others in a beachside terrorist attack. Security officers killed the gunman after the attack had stopped.

It's the second terrorist attack Tunisia has seen in three months, The New York Times reports. The state of emergency allows Essebsi to authorize military operations in Tunisia's own cities. Julie Kliegman

hot diggity dog
July 4, 2015
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Eight-time defending champion Joey Chestnut met his match Saturday in Matt "Megatoad" Stonie, who won Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Stonie downed 62 dogs and buns in 10 minutes, two ahead of Chestnut.

"I trained hard for this, and I came prepared," Stonie said.

Chestnut still has claim to the contest record, though, since he polished off 69 dogs in 2013 — good news for those of you who worried the man famous for binge-eating fast food might've lost his dignity with his defeat. Julie Kliegman

Pot economics
July 4, 2015
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The legal pot market began in Washington on July 8, 2014, and just one year later, it's making bank. The state's 160 stores earn $1.4 million per day. Between state and local governments, pot sales have rolled in about $70 million in taxes, The Associated Press reports.

Business might be good, but all those taxes — on top of federal ones — hurt growers.

"I'm basically doing this for free," James Lathrop, who owns Seattle's first legal shop, told AP. "Nobody's gone out of business, but I'm not driving a new truck either."

So next time you're in Washington, maybe you should think about kicking back with some weed — you know, just for the sake of supporting small business. Julie Kliegman

tied to the whippin' post
July 4, 2015
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Donald Trump took to Fox & Friends to defend the comments on Mexican immigrants that landed him in hot water this week with companies like NBC, Macy's, and most recently NASCAR.

"The crime is raging and it's violent. And if you talk about it, it’s racist," he said, referring to accusations against his presidential campaign kickoff that many Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug users.

Trump admitted he didn't realize the backlash would be quite so severe, calling himself a "whipping post." Watch the full interview here. Julie Kliegman

you're fired
July 4, 2015
Scott Olson/Getty Images

NASCAR joined a long list of companies cutting ties with billionaire and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump following his controversial remarks last month about Mexican people. The auto racing governing body will not hold its Xfinity and Camping World Truck series banquets at the Trump National Doral Miami as originally planned, USA Today reports.

"Our company will not stand to support any person or organization that associates with such beliefs and we feel strongly about distancing ourselves from any negative and discriminatory comments made against any gender, ethnicity, age group or so forth," said Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, who vowed to not attend the awards if held at Trump's hotel. "I would hope that the entire NASCAR organization would agree with my sentiments."

In his campaign kickoff, Trump classified most Mexicans immigrating to the U.S. as rapists and drug users. NASCAR joins companies like NBC Universal, Univision, and Macy's in denouncing the comments. Julie Kliegman

Awwww
July 4, 2015

A Florida judge had one unusual question for the burglary suspect in her bond court: Did you go to middle school with me?

Arthur Booth, 49, was arrested in Hialeah on charges of burglary, grand theft, fleeing, and resisting arrest, NBC 6 South Florida reports. Judge and former middle school classmate Mindy Glazer's question shocked him. He immediately teared up, held his head, and repeated "Oh my goodness."

Glazer had some encouraging words for the man she called "the nicest kid in middle school."

"Good luck to you sir," she said. "I hope you are able to come out of this OK and just lead a lawful life."

Watch the full encounter below. Julie Kliegman

Cuba Libre
July 4, 2015
Matthew Hinton/AFP/Getty Images

JetBlue ran its first official direct flight from New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport to Havana's José Martí International Airport on Friday, the first in a planned series of weekly charter flights.

It's the first major airline to do so, though smaller outfit Sun Country was the first to start servicing the two cities, Time reports.

JetBlue also runs flights to Cuba from Florida cities following the easing of travel restrictions earlier this year as the two nations work to restore diplomatic ties after half a century without relations. Julie Kliegman

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