News of the News

Here are some sundry news items of note that I find interesting but can’t otherwise turn into a narrative:

On WBUR’s Here and Now podcast, I heard an interview with Ruben G. Rumbaut of the Immigration Policy Center who has c-written “The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation.” The study find that immigrant populations in the United States — both legal and illegal — commit far fewer crimes than the native born populations. The report is based not only on current research but on data going back one hundred years. Sadly, the research also shows that children and grand-children of immigrants born in the United States do assimilate into criminal behavior. Fascinating stuff. Even a liberal, pro-immigration person like myself always assumed that immigrant populations would be more likely to be drawn into crime.

Scientific American reports that for the first time in 200 years, a wild beaver is living in New York City. The beaver named José is building his damn on the Bronx River in the area of the Bronx Zoo. That José is settling in a relatively wild, protected area like the zoo as opposed to say Astor Place makes the story a little less interesting, but good news all the same.

The New York Times contains a biographical sketch on Stuart Brand, Environmental Heretic. An interesting article on an interesting character.

“My trend has been toward more rational and less romantic as the decades go by,” he says. “I keep seeing the harm done by religious romanticism, the terrible conservatism of romanticism, the ingrained pessimism of romanticism. It builds in a certain immunity to the scientific frame of mind.”

I personally have never been able to figure out how to properly make words that end in “s” possessive. For example, Jesus’s always looks right to me but most people write it Jesus’. Now Arkansas wants to make it law that “Arkansas’s” is the proper possessive punctuation for the state. It’s good to see Arkansas take the lead on important issues of punctuation. Linguist David Crystal sums up the causes of the problem:

The trouble is, he explains, that “we are trying to make punctuation do two jobs at once. Two incompatible jobs. We are using it to reflect the sound of the voice; and we are using it to organize grammar.”

That is, punctuation is not simply a tool for marking grammatical relationships, as some language neatniks seem to believe. It also represents — in varying degrees — the rhythms and stresses of spoken language, even in prose we’ll probably “hear” only inside our heads.

Finally, two things that aren’t news but made me laugh.

I think I may have just set a record for the most tags I’ve applied to one post, and I could probably add more, but I won’t.