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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

1:02 p.m. ET
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A Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday revealed that 45 percent of President Trump's supporters believe that white people encounter "the most discrimination in America." Meanwhile, 17 percent of Trump voters said that Native Americans face the most discrimination, 16 percent said that African Americans do, and 5 percent said that Latinos do.

The poll also found that a majority of Trump voters — 54 percent — believe that Christians face the most discrimination of any religious groups in the U.S. Twenty-two percent said that Muslims do, while 12 percent said that Jews do.

Public Policy Polling suggested the fact that there's "a mindset among many Trump voters that it's whites and Christians getting trampled on in America that makes it unlikely they would abandon Trump over his 'both sides' rhetoric," referring to the president's tack of blaming "both sides" for the violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In fact, Trump doubled down on his remarks at a Phoenix rally Tuesday night, accusing the "dishonest" media of downplaying the actions of anti-fascists.

The poll surveyed 887 registered voters from Aug. 18-21. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. Becca Stanek

12:57 p.m. ET

Taylor Swift announced her sixth studio album, Reputation, in a series of Instagram posts on Wednesday. The album will be out Nov. 10.

Swift also released the artwork for her new record:

A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

The first single from the album will be released Thursday night, Swift added.

Reputation is the follow-up to Swift's 2014 album 1989, which sold nearly 1.3 million copies within its first week. Jeva Lange

12:10 p.m. ET

President Trump's science envoy resigned on Wednesday, leaving critics of the commander-in-chief a secret acrostic message to discover in his letter:

The first letter of each paragraph of Professor Daniel Kammen's letter spells "impeach," some readers noticed.

An energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Kammen cites Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and his failure to clearly condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville as "a broader pattern that enables sexism and racism, and disregards the welfare of young Americans, the global community, and the planet."

While he was Trump's science envoy, Kammen "focused on building capacity for renewable energies," The Sacramento Bee writes, adding that "the science envoy program draws on scientists and engineers to leverage their expertise and networks to build connections and identify opportunities for international cooperation."

Members of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities also resigned with a secret message in their letter earlier this month. Jeva Lange

11:53 a.m. ET

After the disastrous recall of its Galaxy Note 7 phone last year, Samsung on Wednesday unveiled the next phone in its Note line, the Galaxy Note 8. The successor to the discontinued and sometimes flammable phone features a sizable infinity screen measuring 6.3 inches diagonally; two 12-megapixel color cameras; fingerprint, facial, and iris scanning capabilities; an updated S Pen stylus that can now translate full sentences; and an impressive 64 gigabytes of built-in storage.


Samsung also made a point of independently verifying that the Note 8 battery meets safety standards, a key step to winning back consumer trust since the Note 7 battery was prone to overheating. On top of that, the company now completes an "eight-point battery safety check during its manufacturing process," Time reported.

The Galaxy Note 8 is available for presale on Aug. 25. It's slated to hit stores on Sept. 15, pitting it against Apple's upcoming 10th-anniversary iPhone. Becca Stanek

11:40 a.m. ET
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Snapchat plans to host original scripted content through Snapchat Shows before the year is over, Variety reports. The announcement from the company's head of content, Nick Bell, follows Snapchat's successful rollout of TV companion programs for shows like The Voice and The Bachelor.

"Mobile is the most complementary thing to TV that has been around," Bell said.

Snapchat's first attempt at original scripted content, though, was widely panned. Literally Can't Even aired on the app in 2015, Tech Crunch reports, "inspiring headlines including 'We Literally Can't Even with Snapchat's new original series' and 'Snapchat's First Original Series is Here and It's Awful."

Bell said Wednesday the company had been hesitant to break into scripted content — production is expensive — but that it is "an interesting next juncture" for the app and could create "fundamentally a new medium."

The new shows will be tailored to Snapchat's mobile platform, likely running approximately three to five minutes in length, Variety adds. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m. ET

As the climate continues to warm, the permanently frozen ground underneath much of Alaska is starting to thaw. While the loss of permafrost would obviously have big consequences for the state's population, wildlife, and infrastructure, perhaps even more alarmingly, it would also have a huge impact on the already increasing global temperature, The New York Times reported Wednesday:

Starting just a few feet below the surface and extending tens or even hundreds of feet down, it contains vast amounts of carbon in organic matter — plants that took carbon dioxide from the atmosphere centuries ago, died and froze before they could decompose. Worldwide, permafrost is thought to contain about twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere.

Once this ancient organic material thaws, microbes convert some of it to carbon dioxide and methane, which can flow into the atmosphere and cause even more warming. Scientists have estimated that the process of permafrost thawing could contribute as much as 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit to global warming over the next several centuries, independent of what society does to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and other activities. [The New York Times]

The complete thaw of the Arctic's "always-frozen ground" is estimated to be millennia away, but already the melting ground is believed to be contributing to rising carbon emissions in the region. One calculation estimates that right now, thawing permafrost worldwide emits about 1.5 billion tons of fossil fuel annually, which the Times noted is "slightly more than the United States emits from fossil-fuel burning."

“There's a massive amount of carbon that's in the ground, that's built up slowly over thousands and thousands of years," said Max Holmes, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center studying Alaska's permafrost melt. "It's been in a freezer, and that freezer is now turning into a refrigerator."

Read more on the alarming thaw at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

10:14 a.m. ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is either slowly transforming into a Proverbs Twitter bot or he has found a particularly clever way to subtweet the president of the United States.

As Newsweek recently observed, this Rubio tweet in June came "the day after Trump tweeted 'The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!'"

Another Rubio subtweet spotted by Newsweek followed Trump's declaration that "Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie!"

There are plenty of other examples:

The latest Rubio subtweet follows Trump's off-script rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday:

Subtle? Jeva Lange

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