Virginia Tech

Attention, elected officials and candidates for office from the states of Michigan and Ohio: Do you want a free, slam-dunk issue?

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Nuclear Standoff

As is often the case with tales of great discovery, the details of how buried treasure came to be found beneath the rolling countryside of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, have grown a little gauzy over the last 30 years. But here is the story as the prospectors tell it. One day, in March 1979, a man named Byrd Berman, a geologist by training, was driving down a road through cattle pastures when the scintillometer sitting on the dashboard of his Hertz rental car began to beep. The device, similar to a Geiger counter, was designed to detect the gamma radiation naturally emitted by uranium.

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James Fallows writes: One consequence of having been alive through a lot of modern American history is remembering a lot of mass shootings. I was working at a high school summer job when news came over the radio that Charles Whitman had gunned down more than 40 people, killing 14, from the main tower at the University of Texas at Austin. I was editing a news magazine during the schoolyard killings in Paducah, Kentucky in 1997 and sent reporters to try to figure out what it all meant.

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by Jeffrey Herf Here are three more steps readers of the Open University can take in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre. 1. If Federal law had been enforced in Virginia, the killer would not have been able to purchase those two handguns. Faculty, students, and staff at colleges and universities and parents of students attending them should ask their administration--deans, provosts, and presidents-- how their institution complies with the federal laws that prohibit people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill from purchasing or possessing guns.

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Admissions Office

The WaPo's Marc Fisher answers a question that occurred to me: If Seung-Hui Cho was so obviously disturbed even as a young child, how did he ever get into Virginia Tech? Blame it on a depersonalized admissions process. According to Fisher, Tech seeks students with at least a B+ average and an SAT score of at least 1130. Fisher writes: Virginia Tech makes its admission decisions purely and entirely on the basis of those numbers. Its application includes no requirement for interviews or teacher recommendations.

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Just to follow up on Jason's post on Garance's comments on the Virginia Tech tragedy -- while it's obviously devastating that police didn't act faster and thus prevent further bloodshed, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly sexist about this decision. Had the initial murders been related to drugs or gambling rather than romance, I can't imagine that officials would have behaved differently. An incident like this -- like, say, a major terrorist attack or tsunami -- is extraordinary because it beggars our conception of worst case scenarios.

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Pop Warner

Mark Warner and I had each had a couple of cocktails. They say up in the air one drink feels like two, and so things were, as Warner would later remind me the day he announced he wasn’t running for president, “a little foggy.” We were aboard a campaign donor’s jet, flying back to Virginia after two intense days of New Hampshire politics. Democrats who show up to listen to presidential hopefuls stump in the dead of August two years before the election are a tough crowd.

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