A new study suggests U.S. colleges still have a lot of growing to do before they can be considered the best; the Texas judge who ruled on the teenage drunk driver’s “affluenza” has decided not to give him any jail time for the deadly crash; meanwhile, pedestrians may be evolving to survive in a car-plagued world. These discoveries and more below.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

A New Kind of Study Seeks to Quantify Educational Quality Much of the debate about educational quality tends to pull toward extremes: Either America’s colleges are the envy of the world, or they’re of questionable worth.

Samuragochi’s Scurrilous Symphony: Between Fraud and Collaboration Mamoru Samuragochi’s original claim to fame lay in composing video game soundtracks.

As the Price of Art Rises, Is Its Value Plummeting? As 2013 came to an end, the art world took stock of its remarkable fortunes: Leading auction houses announced records for total sales, as new wealth and new collectors clamored for art and collectibles.

Art Thief Among 3 Held in Violin Heist The mystery of what happened to a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen in a stun gun attack was answered Thursday when Milwaukee police recovered the instrument and blamed the heist at least in part on an art thief who once stole a statue from a gallery and then tried to sell it back.

Do We Have a Genetic Preference for Where We Walk? Cars are the primary predators of the modern urban ecosystem.

Two Earthquakes Strike Near Fukushima Nuclear Plant Two magnitude-5 earthquakes struck off the coast of Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Texas Judge Again Rules Jail Time Isn’t Remedy for “Affluenza” Texas teenager Ethan Couch was back in court last Wednesday for his role behind the wheel of the drunk-driving crash that killed four people last year.

The Perils and Pitfalls of Patriotic History War is said to be too serious a business to be left to the soldiers.

Russia’s Potemkin Olympic Village Remember the year 2007? Russia was starting to look like a world power again.

Israeli Demolition of Palestinian Homes at Five-Year High: Aid Groups Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem expressed alarm on Friday at a spike in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property coinciding with renewed U.S.-backed peace negotiations.

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