Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer (2005)

You get two books in one here, in addition to describing the details of divinely inspired murders committed by Mormon fundamentalists, a detailed history of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints is also presented. From Joseph Smith's humble beginnings as a small time con artist, through the creation of the Mormon faith (which is the homegrown American religion, and very successful at it), to his mob lynching death. After the death of the prophet, the religion moved West, into a territory around the present day Utah, where the State of Deseret was proposed to be founded. In the process of becoming more mainstream, the church leadership prohibited polygamy/plural marriage and also spoke against divine revelations/prophecies not coming from the head of the religion. These prohibitions triggered the creation of splinter groups, the so called fundamentalist, who in addition also question the role of government in enforcing prohibition of religious practices (including plural marriages between consenting adults, although it seems that many of these marriages happen to underage girls). An excellent read.

Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn't So by Jay P. Greene (2005)

The author examines the various myths (as perpetuated by various special interests, in particular of teachers), on lack of resources (schools need more money, too much is spent on special education, student poverty hinders education, smaller class size should fix it all, teacher certification is a must, teachers are underpaid), on school results (school results are declining, most students graduate from high school, social issues prevent minorities from attending collage), on accountability (cheating on tests is rampant, exit exams cause dropouts, accountability is expensive), and on school choice/vouchers (vouchers are ineffective, private schools have more money and they kick out low-performing students, school choice harms public schools, private schools do not serve the disabled, private school do not promote civic values, private schools are racially segregated), and founds them all lacking substance. After dispelling the myths, a short chapter offers the first step on fixing the system, bring back the incentives rewarding teacher performance (and remove incentives for categorizing more children as "learning disabled", as a means of getting a bigger slice of the educational money pie). What strange concepts ...


Retail cash management (ARS/VRDO/VRDN)

ARS - Auction Rate Securities
VRDN - Variable Rate Demand Notes
VRDO - variable rate demand obligation
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