Oddly Enough

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Potty professors: Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have completed an in-depth study of toilet training. Potty chairs, parental encouragement and "tangible rewards" such as sweets are apparently the most effective means of training young children. One of the least effective techniques, the researchers found, was smacking. The college said the new data, presented to a convention of paediatricians, should help harried parents. "Toilet training is universal and the process is often frustrating and stressful for parent and child," said Timothy Schum, the professor of paediatrics who headed the project. The study, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in San Francisco, developed a new "weighted progress scale" to help doctors and parents understand each child's journey to self-sufficiency.

Graduate Godfathers: Taiwan's criminal gangs are reportedly paying the tuition fees of hard-up university students in exchange for their services as accountants or other skilled professionals after graduation. Gang fronts operating as finance companies will pay school fees and monthly stipends of pounds 600-pounds 800, according to a police report on gang recruiting tactics. Students then sign a "contract" agreeing to work for the gangs for an unspecified number of years. College graduates apparently make up the majority of the Taiwan gangs' "literary" bosses, who handle business dealings.

College playboys: The president of Wesleyan University in Connecticut has ordered a review of a class that he says may be too liberal for the liberal arts college. The course, "Pornography: Writing of Prostitutes", examines pornography as a cultural and political practice. Its reading list includes the Marquis de Sade and academic critiques of Hustler magazine. A practical forms the final project, wherein students must produce their own work of pornography. Professor Hope Weissman, a self-described feminist who helped develop the women's studies programme at the school, said: "I push people over the line, but only when I think they can go there and come back." William Holder, a spokesman for Wesleyan, denied that the university is compromising academic standards. He said the class went through the traditional approval process when it debuted last year.

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