Yet another sad obvious murder case…

… involving a professor killing his wife gets going this week. As in other such cases – Professor Zinkhan, Professor Robb - you’ve got a husband pissed with his wife because he thinks she’s unfaithful, or because she wants a divorce, or because he wants child custody and doesn’t want to pay alimony and just because, you know, he wants her out of the picture altogether as in dead.

There was never any mystery as to who fatally shot/beat the unfortunate women married to Zinkhan and Robb, and this latest case is even more obvious than those cases.

University of Pittsburgh professor Robert Ferrante ordered cyanide a couple of days before his wife died of cyanide poisoning. Then, “someone used Ferrante’s computer days after [Autumn Marie] Klein died to learn whether treatments she received after falling ill would have removed poison from her system.” No shit. Wonder who.

Ferrante’s a real sweetie.

[Klein] wanted a second child and exchanged text messages [with her husband] about how the energy supplement creatine could help them conceive hours before police say Ferrante laced it with cyanide, according to a police complaint.

“Will it stimulate egg production too?” Klein said in one text.

Court documents say Ferrante responded with a smiling emoticon.

Here are the major players in the trial, including a lead prosecutor who last Friday got beaten up in a domestic violence incident. You can’t make this shit up.

“Jonathan Reiner @JReinerMD · Mar 22 Most disgusting tweet of the day @washingtonpost: The price of bacon is increasing because of a pig diarrhea epidemic”

UD‘s George Washington University colleague Jonathan Reiner has a lively Twitter page, featuring, most recently, his claim that the CDC’s protective equipment rules for the prevention of infection by Ebola are inadequate.

Pesky Ventilation System Always Breaks Down Near Naked Women

One of UD‘s erstwhile colleagues (he was a visiting lecturer at George Washington University) gets down and dirty with his building’s ventilation system.



A highlight of the menu at the Char Bar kosher restaurant in Washington is the items named for some of its more prominent Orthodox clientele. One is the Freundel. Its namesake, Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown, was arrested Tuesday by D.C. Metro police and charged with voyeurism.

But owner Sima Soumekhian says he isn’t pulling the Freundel sandwich from his menu.

“At this point everybody is entitled to due process,” Soumekhian said Wednesday.

The Freundel features grilled pastrami and smoked turkey, with Chipotle sauce on a rustic bun.

Jean Tirole, tamer of corporations…

… wins the economics Nobel.

Here’s the man himself, giving a lecture in English.

(Tirole looks a bit like the young Marlon Brando as Napoleon.)

(So far, biographical information is mainly available in French, and I’m not finding anything quirky, I’m afraid.

Né à Troyes, d’un père médecin et d’une mère enseignante en lettres, Jean Tirole se dirige d’abord vers les mathématiques, intègre l’Ecole Polytechnique, et découvre l’économie sur le tard, à 21 ans.

Eventually we’ll find out something of interest to people who read novels. Something more exciting than his having discovered economics at the strikingly advanced age of 21. But not yet.)

Here’s a good discussion of his work, with plenty of links. (Scathing Online Schoolmarm forgives Tyler Cowen for not knowing where to put semi-colons; he’s too excited.)

Shaping up to be a good year for the French. They also got the literature award.

Here’s some of what Tirole says in the lecture I just linked to.

Voting is a very crazy thing because we are never going to affect the outcome of an election. It’s a zero-benefit activity… We engage in pro-social behavior without any apparent benefit to ourselves… If you are paid to give blood, you give blood less often… It’s very hard to explain such so-called crowding-out effects… These are examples in which price is not very effective as an incentive device…

Do we do these things because we’re being watched? Because we’re trying to up our self-esteem? Social esteem?

You want to feel good about yourself. So if you give, you’re going to feel better about yourself.

But this can’t explain the phenomenon very well.

Generosity is a very very complex concept…



‘[C]hew-toys for halfwits.’

Derek Lowe is talking about conspiracies, and the fun people like Delaware State University professor Cyril Broderick have with them. Broderick

has written an article for a newspaper in Monrovia telling Liberians that the Ebola virus is a manufactured bioweapon from the pharmaceutical companies and the US Department of Defense. And he goes on to say the the WHO, Doctors Without Borders, and the CDC are all in on the plot. Isn’t that nice?

This in a region where suspicions run so high that doctors, officials, and aid workers are being killed by angry mobs already. Now Prof. Broderick has given his Liberian countrymen more reason to fear some of the people who are best equipped, of anyone on this suffering world, to actually help them.

“During the late night office hour session, he told the student he had sex with students in his office before, showing her how he would cover up the webcam and windows, according to the official student complaint.”

The techno-paranoid part of this (covering up the webcam) is postmodern; but the metanarrative hasn’t shifted in ages: Professors exchange A’s for sex and/or professors threaten F’s for no sex…

This particular case of purported sexual harassment, at the University of Delaware, seems to have been handled way quickly and quietly, with the professor (apparently nailed by his own emails – he thought to throw a cloth over the camera but not to avoid communications full of incriminating statements) scooting asap…

Yet now it’s not quiet at all on the University of Delaware campus. Now there are rallies with hundreds of students and faculty protesting what they see as the university’s lack of transparency on sexual harassment.

As the David Pitts Story Burns Out of Control…

… it’s worth asking a question often posed when a professor dangerously implodes: Why didn’t anyone who knew or worked with him say or do anything? Did someone do something? If so, why was Pitts running a high-profile program at American University up to the moment of his arrest?

As in this sad recent case at Yale, the culminating implosion in the Pitts case was indeed a culmination, and it’s hard to believe no one at AU was remotely aware that Pitts might be a danger to himself and others. (Yale had put Samuel See on unpaid leave.) As his pyromania and drug theft spree around the Washington region (he is now being investigated for the fires at the Marriott Hotel during the APSA convention, which he attended) comes to an end with his arrest, and as interviewed AU students say the obvious (they’re scared that this man was until a few days ago teaching at their school), attention inevitably turns toward American University and its policies.

It is of course possible that Pitts was able to hide from everyone on campus what looks to have been a massive drug addiction and a perilously deteriorating mental state; but assuming some people noted disturbing behavior in him, the question is: What ought they to have done? UD is fully aware that when it comes to possibly unhinged people around you – especially people in positions of authority – your response typically has everything to do with denial and with vaguely hoping that someone else will say or do something.

The most frightening recent campus case of this syndrome involved Professor Amy Bishop, the mass murderer at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Quite a few people there report having been seriously creeped out by this woman (she turned out to have another murder, plus an attempted bombing, in her past), but no one seems to have tried to have her put on leave or whatever. They did indeed deny her tenure, but she decided to kill as many colleagues as she could before leaving.


David Pitts has been busy, in the last few days, in UD‘s neighborhoods, trying to burn down buildings full of people. If suspicions are correct, he began with a hotel building housing a large number of his fellow political scientists from all over the world. He then seems to have moved to a shopping mall steps from AU’s campus. One assumes he would eventually have gotten around to torching AU itself.

Well, we’ve dealt with faculty breakdowns on this blog before…

… and this certainly looks like another one – just down the street from UD.

The chair of the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University has been arrested for breaking into a shopping mall and setting a fire there.

David Pitts was apparently found with “matches, lighters, gloves, a newspaper and black liquid substance. Plus, there was evidence of a small fire still visible.”



WHOA. Read some of his recent tweets.

This one in particular: August 29, from the Marriott Hotel, where all the people there for the annual American Political Science Association convention had to evacuate because of a fire.


More details of Pitts’ arrest here.


Could there be a link between the fire at the Washington Marriott that Pitts reports on via tweets – Pitts reports from the scene and seems to have attended the convention- and this more recent local fire?

Next week’s guest …

lecturer: Lee Joon-seok.

The Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado Boulder…

… is the focus of this address by the chancellor to that university’s community; his larger subject is a culture of sexual harassment and assault on campus. The significant history at CU Boulder has to do with the football team ten years ago, but these new allegations are broader than that, and seem to touch on all aspects of the campus.

So far the philosophy department has gotten a lot of attention.

The university has begun dismissal proceedings against one of the department’s tenured professors. He’s accused of retaliating against a female student who filed a sexual assault report with the university against a male philosophy grad student. The professor was the grad student’s mentor, and he decided to launch his own investigation of the incident.

[Professor David] Barnett, who is not the alleged sexual assailant, is accused of compiling a 38-page report painting the victim as “sexually promiscuous” and alleging she falsified the report of the assault, according to a notice of intent to sue CU filed by the victim last month.

The university has settled with the victim.

Dear Tom: Here’s what you need to understand.

Tom Izzo, the $3.4 million a year Michigan State basketball coach, is hurt and angry and confused. Why don’t MSU professors work with him on his players’ academic performance?

– After being in constant contact with professors in his early years at Michigan State as an assistant, Izzo said he now can’t initiate conversations with professors about his players’ academic performance.

“If I see them on the street or at the grocery store, otherwise I’m afraid to,” Izzo said. “That sounds a little ridiculous and a little venom to it, but I’m telling you the truth. I do not like the way we’ve done it, personally.”

The reason for the separation between coaches and professors is that administrators fear coaches will apply pressure to make their players eligible. Izzo said that fear is unfounded.

“I just can’t see myself doing it, strong-arming a prof, number one, or a prof taking my strong-arm number two. I just don’t understand that,” Izzo said.

One of the reasons Izzo is confused is that there’s really no difference between him and any other MSU professor:

“I am an educator, my degree’s in education,” Izzo said. “And so that bothers me that we do not get the opportunity, because I’m a professor in my own right too, I’m a teacher in my own right too.”

Why then when an MSU professor sees Izzo does she skadizzo? Why won’t she, like the Air Force Academy professors we’ve been reading about lately, “hook up” with him?

[T]he Department of Management, which teaches management courses, would “hook-up” athletes – slang for giving athletes advantages in class.

Why won’t professors at MSU play ball?

Well, Tom, let’s consider.

I know it’s petty of her, but Professor I Don’t Brake for Izzo has trouble seeing you as another faculty member. It’s not about snobbery, Tom; it’s about the disparity between your salaries. Talk about income inequality! She can’t help wondering, while you’re bending her ear at the Kroger, why one of the teachers at her school earns fifteen trillion or so more than she does… Than anyone she knows or ever has known or ever will know does… It makes her nervous around him. He must be very important.

And that’s Point Two, Tom. To you, it’s a simple neighborly chat at the grocery; to her, it’s a command performance with the actual president of the university. The actual governor of the state! She knows your salary mops the floor with the titular president’s salary, and with the governor’s salary. She knows that’s because few people on campus – and certainly in the state – give a shit about anything but sports. It’s all there in the numbers. Why should she risk everything in talking to someone of your stature and power? She’d feel compelled to do anything you asked her with a student – pretty much anything at all – because of your state-wide, not just university-wide, influence. (Do you have the highest public salary in the state? She’s sure you’re way up there…)

Okay, and here’s another reason you’re unpopular with faculty, Tom. Every morning professors at your school get up and read about really sickening and endless and humiliating athletics scandals at Penn State and Chapel Hill and the Air Force Academy and all. It’s not so much that your faculty is immediately afraid of the same thing happening at MSU; rather there’s a basic continuous disgust that’s been generated by all of the stories. You are closely associated with the world (university and professional) generating the disgust, and I’m sorry but that makes you kind of gross to be around. It’s not your fault! UD understands. But it’s your world. UD recommends you send a scout out before you enter public spaces – someone to issue trigger warnings so that people liable to experience the disgust/evasion response can exit the area.

Hard to think of a more clearly targeted killing than Dan Markel’s.

He was pulling into his driveway while talking on his cell phone. He remarked to the person he was talking to that someone was in his driveway.

The killer was waiting for Markel outside his home in Tallahassee’s Betton Hills section, a source told ABC News, and followed Markel into the garage, shooting him in the side of the head through the window of his car.

This case is getting enormous national attention, which possibly means it will be solved as tips from all sorts of people come in.

It was an ambush, using exactly the same technique as this recent ambush. Hélène Pastor was the victim of a hitman hired by family members.

UD thanks a Florida State University reader…

… for this most recent update of the Dan Markel murder. It confirms what UD has been feeling as she reads accounts of Markel’s death — that this sounds like a targeted, not at all random killing.

“The initial investigation has provided no indication that this case is connected to a burglary or robbery and investigators are assuring residents there is no evidence this was a random act,” a police press release says. “Neighbourhood residents should continue to be vigilant but it appears at this time that Mr. Markel was the intended victim in this incident.”

The only thing that stands out in what UD has so far read about Markel’s life is that he had been going through an ugly, protracted divorce.


Update: Details on the divorce and litigation here.

A law professor at Florida State University…

… is gunned down in his house, apparently by an intruder. His community of students, colleagues and bloggers remembers him here.


From Dan Markel’s review of Deborah Lipstadt’s book, History on Trial:

From the outset, Lipstadt makes plain that various aspects of the Holocaust are the subject of legitimate and competing historical interpretations, and that it was not her goal, either in scholarship or at the trial, to shut down rivalling understandings…

[I]t turns out that this reminder was vitally important, because certain well-known historians improperly chastised Lipstadt about the purported “chilling effect” inflicted by her hard-fought victory [over David Irving].

Their concern is arrant tripe.


This update suggests Markel was murdered “after opening the door of his home, though whether as part of a robbery or something else is unclear.”

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