Austerity good for world peace? That and other evening reads

*Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s former deputy, is expect to win today’s snap presidential election in Venezuela.

*The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is reporting that world military spending fell in 2012 – the first time it has dropped since 1998.

Sadly, the decline doesn’t appear the case of nations deciding to beat swords into plowshares. It appears to be the result of “deep cuts in the United States and Europe which made up for increases in countries such as China and Russia.”

*You couldn’t make it up if you tried – a NASCAR fan fatally shot himself in Texas today while attending a race called the – wait for it – NRA 500.

*A former top drug adviser to the British government blamed the 2008 financial collapse on the disco dust. David Nutt “said that the banking crisis was caused by too many workers taking cocaine.”

Prof Nutt said that too many bankers who took the drug were “overconfident” and so “took more risks” and said that not only did it lead to the current crisis in this country, but also the 1995 collapse of Barings bank.

He said cocaine was perfect for their “culture of excitement and drive and more and more and more”, adding: “Bankers use cocaine and got us into this terrible mess. It is a ‘more’ drug.”

No dissent here.

*Here’s a story that isn’t getting the attention it deserves: USA Today reported last Thursday that an internal memo shows corporate education reform darling Michelle Rhee may have helped cover up a cheating scandal that further casts aspersions on the effectiveness of her high-stakes standardized testing-based “accountability” movement.

[D.C. Public Schools] officials have said they take all cheating allegations seriously, but it’s not immediately clear how they responded to Sanford’s warnings. Only one educator lost his job because of cheating, according to DCPS. Meanwhile, Rhee fired more than 600 teachers for low test scores — 241 of them in one day in 2010.

The cheating issue first came to light in 2011, after USA TODAY reported that, between 2008 and 2010, 103 schools had test-erasure rates that surpassed districtwide erasure-rate averages at least once.

Best of luck with Monday, everyone.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.