April 5, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Jindal education overhaul gets final passage (MELINDA DESLATTE, 4/05/12, AP) 

Gov. Bobby Jindal won his bid to overhaul the shape of public education in Louisiana, when the House gave final legislative passage Thursday to the governor's centerpiece proposals.

The bills will make it tougher for teachers to reach the job protection called tenure, establish a statewide voucher program for private school tuition, make it easier to create charter schools, expand online schools and restructure public financing of education.

"We want to make sure that every child has the opportunity to get a great education," Jindal said. "These bills coming to my desk are a great step forward for Louisiana's children."
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Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Chart of the day: Low and stable inflation (ALEX HERN, 04 APRIL 2012, New Statesman)

The chart above shows the Cleveland Fed's summation of market expectations of inflation rates [...]. If it makes one thing clear, it is that at no point in the next thirty years does the market expect the long run inflation rate to even hit 2 per cent, let alone rise above it. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


The 13 Best Baseball Books: From 'The Art of Fielding' to 'Moneyball': 'Loveliest of trees, the cherry now,' and spring means baseball is back. From The Natural to Moneyball, find out where to extract the soul of the diamond, and tell us what we left out. (Jimmy So, 4/05/12, Daily Beast)

The Summer Games by Roger Angell

From spring to fall and from decade to decade, baseball changed in the mezzo years between 1962 and 1972--the hot summer when leagues were expanding, franchises were moving, owners were getting richer, players were getting bigger, and television was altering the game. The New Yorker writer's pitch-perfect essays from the 1960s gave birth to modern baseball writing, the way that A.J. Liebling was the heavyweight of boxing literature. Read Angell, and you can practically feel the summer breeze blowing through the outfield bleachers. The smell of spring is in the air. [...]

Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris

The four-part story of Henry Wiggen begins with The Southpaw, which was published a year after The Natural. It, too, has the tendency to knock big hitters out cold, since Harris likes the vernacular so much it can look as if he's throwing nothing but fastballs that blow by you. But true to its title, Bang the Drum Slowly stays the flash of the high heat and centers on the poignant life of Bruce Pearson, Wiggen's catcher and roommate, who's dying slowly of cancer. [...]

Waugh, the accountant protagonist of the metanovelist Coover's strange fiction, might have gotten along with Gould. Each night after work, he becomes the god of something like a fantasy baseball league, tossing dice to dictate the plays of players like "bowlegged old Maggie Everts" or "Hatrack Hines." The conceit might sound pretentious, but it works, and the fun this book offers must be read to be believed.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Is public option the last one? (Robert I. Field, 4/04/12, Philadelphia Inquirer)

In her questioning, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that there is a model for federal social insurance that mandates participation by all Americans and is unquestionably constitutional: Social Security. It covers everyone, whether we want to be covered or not, and it requires that we pay a special tax to fund it. In other words, despite the controversy over whether the federal government can force you to obtain private insurance, there is no doubt that it can force you to accept government-run insurance.

What about Medicaid? In a telling exchange, Justice Elena Kagan asked Paul Clement, attorney for the 26 states challenging the health-care law, whether a ruling that the expansion of Medicaid is coercive would invalidate the entire program. Clement's noncommittal response was "not necessarily."

However, once again, there is a federal insurance program that would clearly pass constitutional muster. That is Medicare, which covers the elderly and is run entirely by the federal government. Medicare gives no role to the states and therefore does not coerce them into anything. If the opponents of health-care reform prevail, Congress would be able to expand public health-care coverage only if the federal government does it alone.

A large majority of the citizenry prefers a single-payer plan.  The Right would just be giving it to them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


The First Fuel Is Efficiency: A startup weaves meter readings and weather data into insights about buildings. (MICHAEL FITZGERALD, 4/04/12, Technology Review)

Patrick Goddard doesn't like energy audits. For him, as director of facilities for the town of Lexington, Massachusetts, an audit means a day spent walking around one of 22 buildings owned by the town, peering at insulation on windows and finding the keys to the HVAC room.

Worse, auditors "don't understand how the buildings operate," Goddard complains. "They see it at one point in time and do an analysis on what they see." Usually, their report comes back weeks later recommending more equipment, new windows, or more insulation.

So when a Lexington resident named Swapnil Shah approached Goddard at a meeting of the town energy committee and asked if the town was interested in a "virtual" audit, Goddard said yes.

He gave Shah a year's worth of data from the electricity meter of a town building. A few hours later, Shah sent Goddard a report showing that the building seemed to be using nearly as much energy after hours as during the day, suggesting it wasn't getting shut down properly. Eventually, Shah examined seven of Lexington's buildings and discovered problems that an auditor might have missed--for example, that the library's heating system was powering up at 4 a.m., hours before staff arrived in the mornings.

It was "absolutely better" than an on-the-ground audit, says Goddard, who expects simple efficiency fixes to save him $90,000, or about 3 percent of his annual operating budget.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington (Vivian Salama, Apr 5, 2012, Daily Beast)

In a milestone for the Islamist Egyptian group, delegates from its affiliated Freedom and Justice Party are meeting with lawmakers in Washington, talking up "Sharia principles, not Sharia rulings" and the upcoming presidential election.

There was once a time when U.S. officials shunned Arab Islamist parties, frowned on their election victories, and denied them U.S. visas. But times are changing.

Delegates from Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party, a group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, are in Washington for their first official visit since Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year. Only days after announcing their party's candidate in the first presidential election since the revolution, the visiting delegates have met with members of Congress and White House officials and held public discussions at Georgetown University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


Black boxes in cars cut crashes by 20 per cent for young drivers (The Telegraph, 4/05/12)

Many insurance companies have brought in 'black box' telematics systems which keep track of speed and driving behaviour.

Now Co-op Insurance has analysed the driving habits of 10,000 young drivers who have been fitted with the new technology and found that they were 20 per cent less likely to have a crash than those with standard insurance.

Telematics customers also had less serious accidents, with a typical claim 30 per cent less than ordinary customers.