National / International News
The Israeli prime minister said his country had a "profound disagreement" with the White House on nuclear talks with Iran, and it was his duty to speak up on an issue that affects Israel's survival.
California lets kindergartners start school as long as they've had the first dose of all required vaccines. But some schools aren't tracking whether such kids end up getting all the doses they need.
Yesterday we told you about the economics of the testing regime in the modern American education system. Today we present an interview about the British company that has an outsized influence in that industry.
British publishing giant Pearson produces textbooks, standardized tests, student data systems, online classes and a whole lot more. It has the profits to match.
Stephanie Simon has a long investigative piece about Pearson in Politico. It's called "No Profit Left Behind." Simon finds "that public contracts and public subsidies — including at least $98.5 million in tax credits from six states — have flowed to Pearson even when the company can’t show its products and services are producing academic gains."
Simon writes in Politico:
The state of Virginia recertified Pearson as an approved “school turnaround” consultant in 2013 even though the company had, at best, mixed results with that line of work: Just one of the five Virginia schools that Pearson cited as references improved both its math and reading proficiency rates against the state averages. Two schools lost ground in both math and reading and the other two had mixed results. State officials said Pearson met all the criteria they required of consultants.
Simon says Pearson has benefited from the American obsession with academic achievement and standardized testing. And the company has amassed a serious trove of student data.
White House spokesman Joshua Earnest would not say if the hostage was being held by the Islamic State, but he said that the U.S. was aware of at least one other American being held in Syria.
Sometimes people say the craziest things.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, is on trial in France for "pimping," running sex parties in Washington, D.C., and a couple of cities in France.
Anyway, at his trial yesterday, Strauss-Kahn said: "The prosecution gives the impression of unbridled activity. There were only 12 parties in total – that is four per year over three years."
Over the next several days Google is unveiling a product that presents key information in a new way about the 400 most searched health conditions, like measles, diabetes and frostbite. Info that includes most common symptoms and treatments.
Arming patients with better information when they visit the doctor could potentially help improve patient health. Dawn Mautner, who practices family medicine at Jefferson Hospital in downtown Philadelphia, says she's optimistic.
"We’re all trying to get to the right answer," Mautner says. "The better the information the patient comes in with, the better our interaction is going to be … that’s going to wind up improving outcomes as well as saving costs."
Strategically, Google has put the healthcare industry on notice that it’s getting into the health information game just as consumers are being pressed into making more healthcare decisions.
The real shakeup will come if the company and its big data power gets into rating patient safety and healthcare value.
There are only three U.S. companies with Standard & Poor’s highest AAA rating: ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft.
Microsoft's stellar rating is one reason investors eagerly snapped up $10.75 billion of corporate bonds Microsoft issued Monday. Even though bonds offer relatively low returns, investors’ demand for these relatively safe investments currently outstrips their supply, says Brian Rehling of Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
Microsoft has plenty of cash on hand, says David Tsui, a credit analyst at Standard & Poor's, but the company may have issued these bonds to avoid having to bring some of that cash from overseas into the U.S., which would trigger taxes.
It may also be looking to lock in low interest rates ahead of potential increases, says Jeremy Siegel, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The company says its plans to use the new billions for “general corporate purposes.” Marilyn Cohen, president of Envision Capital Management, says that may include stock repurchases, debt repayments and possible increases in its dividend.
In other words, shareholders might see some cash or a boost in stock price, the company gets cheap money, investors get the bonds they want. Cohen calls it “a win-win-win.”
Mega-supply store Home Depot plans to add about 80,000 temporary workers for the spring season.
At Home Depot, hiring occurs each spring when the company brings in temp workers for around three months. In this regard, it's no different than any other retailer, says Stephan Holmes, a Home Depot spokesman.
“Our busy season is actually in the spring, in fact, we call that our Christmas,” Holmes says.
Still, 80,000 workers is big number, especially when you consider that the U.S. has more temp workers than ever. But economist Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research says it isn't fair to lay blame for this at the feet of the Home Depots of the world.
“Seasonal hiring is very common in industries like construction, wholesale, manufacturing, etcetera,” Houseman says. Roughly half of Home Depot’s seasonal hires end up with permanent positions, she says.
There are other ways to address seasonality while still providing permanent jobs with benefits.
“It’s also true that there are a lot of companies out there that are in seasonal industries that have a much different approach,” says Roland Zullo, a University of Michigan labor market researcher. Many seasonal industries find it beneficial to keep workers on, Zullo says.
“Instead they keep them on to do other things, other kind of maintenance work, and then when the peak season hits they give people a lot of overtime," he says. This approach helps companies save on training and planning, he says, while building a more loyal workforce with a better quality of life.
An Oklahoma Senate panel approves a bill that provides "civil immunity for damage or destruction of a drone on personal property."
The deteriorating security situation in Yemen is leading the U.S. embassy in Sanaa to reduce staff and suspend consular operations.
The Aam Aadmi [Common Man] Party won 67 seats, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party won three. The Congress Party, which until recently ruled India, and Delhi, won nothing.
Current military action against ISIS relies on a Bush-era vote by Congress authorizing force against al-Qaeda. The Obama administration is drafting language for a new authorization specific to ISIS.