As of September, active service members who tap the military's tuition assistance program could be financially on the hook if they get bad grades.
Active members of the military can get up to $4,500 a year in tuition assistance. Under the current rules, they just have to pass classes they take off-duty to get tuition covered up to 100 percent, depending on the branch of the military they’re in.
But starting in early September, troops will have to earn a C or better in undergraduate classes, and a B or better in graduate work. And they can’t settle for grades of “incomplete.” Otherwise, they'll have to pay back the course tuition back.
“Tuition dollars and military student time is both limited and valuable,” says Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen. “So, we want to make sure they maintain focus and have an understanding of the expectations that are required of them.”
Christensen says the Pentagon could waive the requirements in certain cases and cut soldiers slack for events like deployments.
Emma Scherer of Student Veterans of America says the threat of paying back tuition for anything less than an average grade could scare people off.
“We don't want to put roadblocks in the way of service members or veterans getting to education, and this clearly does that,” she says.
Student financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com, says having to back-pay tuition could also disrupt service members’ long-term education plans.
“They’d either owe the military or owe the college, and that could have consequences for their ability to complete college,” he says.
The changes come as the Pentagon faces long-term budget cuts.
Ebola is spreading faster than efforts to stop it in West Africa, the World Health Organization says. Places hardest hit don't have enough doctors, nurses and medical equipment to contain the virus.
If you’re a restaurant server, it makes sense to be polite and greet a customer with “Ma’am” or “Sir.” But what do you do when a gender mistake turns that courtesy into a slight?
Server Anna Short would apologize, ask whether she made a mistake, and let the customer take it from there.
“Let them come in and say, ‘I would prefer if you use this term'," she says.
Short works at the Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar on Cleveland’s east side. The owners of this cozy eatery anticipate busy nights and full tables when Gay Games 9 arrive on Saturday.
About 30,000 visitors from all over the world are expected during the week-long event. Small businesses like the Grovewood prepared by attending one of several cultural competency workshops to learn the subtleties of serving LGBT patrons. After demonstrating its cultural competency, the tavern gets a window sticker, and inclusion on Gay Games promotional materials.
The goal is to generate buzz and get visitors to spots that aren’t close to their hotels. But Cleveland State University economist Candi Clouse says buzz is not enough. Far-flung establishments also need proximity to a well-known landmark.
“It’s a very reasonable expectation that people will venture from the center of the activity to visit a certain neighborhood because they’re looking for something specific, like an art district or a music district,” Clouse says.
The Grovewood is ten miles from downtown Cleveland, which is the heart of the Gay Games. But at least the tavern is close to one of the city’s top entertainment districts, the Waterloo neighborhood. Owner Beth Davis-Noragon says that combination has brought customers in the past, and predicts her tavern to be extremely busy. After all, Gay Games visitors are expected to bring $40 million to the area this coming week.
The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, unveiled in June, requires every state to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. But some states have tougher assignments than others. On paper, Kentucky’s target is among the most lenient. However, the state’s near-total reliance on coal means it may be hit especially hard by the plan’s costs.
Robert “R.J.” Dyrdek is energy manager at the army base, which has cut its energy use by 51 percent. He shows off a solar array, a geothermal pond — which prompts an unusual boast: "We have the best dirt," he says. "Simply put, it exchanges energy very well." — and a base-wide smart-thermostat system. Technicians monitor temperature and energy performance in every room on base, and tweak them in real time.
But Fort Knox has advantages that the rest of Kentucky can’t match. As Dyrdek says, "If you don’t have the dirt and the facilities, you can’t do it." Kentucky has the dirt, but not a completely planned, centralized, and self-contained economy and infrastructure.
Instead, Kentucky has politics — and the image of whole communities making a living from coal-mining has iconic power. So, coal has been a hot issue in Kentucky's senate race, which could make or break longtime Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
Here’s one of his ads:
His Democratic opponent has also taken a pro-coal stance — including a radio ad that hammers President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
But the loss of coal jobs isn’t necessarily the big economic threat. Kentucky only has about 12,000 coal-mining jobs left. Manufacturing provides more than 220,000.
"Most often what you hear about jobs in Kentucky are the loss of the mining jobs," says John Lyons, the state’s assistant secretary for climate policy. "But these manufacturing jobs — the reason we have the manufacturing jobs we do is because of our low electricity rates."
Kentucky has some big auto, stainless steel, and aluminum plants — all of which take a lot of electricity. Thanks to cheap coal power, Kentucky’s electric rates are among the lowest in the country.
"That why those facilities come here, and they bring very good paying jobs with them," says Lyons. Complying with the clean power plan will likely force those rates up. And Lyons thinks some of the jobs may then go away.
Corporate earnings reports for the spring quarter are mostly in by the first week in August. Overall, they paint a pretty rosy picture for America, Inc., as Bloomberg predicts profits at S&P 500 companies rose nearly 9.5 percent; sales rose more than 4 percent. So far, 75 percent of companies that have reported earned more than equity analysts predicted.
“The results have been really solid,” said chief economic strategist John Canally at LPL Financial in Boston. He said the results bode well for the second half of 2014, especially since GDP growth has picked up since the winter reversal.
Canally said companies are mostly plowing their profits back into the company; not adding to their payrolls, or investing in new plant and equipment.
“It’s mergers and acquisitions, increasing dividends, share buybacks,” Canally said. “Companies are doing what companies normally do: trying to boost share price for their shareholders. They’re just not doing a lot of hiring right now.”
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, said U.S. companies have increasing worries overseas — where a lot of their profits are earned — due to geopolitical and economic crises in Russia-Ukraine, Iraq-Syria, Israel-Palestine, Argentina, and Europe.
“Some of those geopolitical events have made people rethink how optimistic they are about the world economy over the next 12 months,” said Ashworth — Which, he said, explains some of the stock market's recent slump.