Teachers’ group gives DeVos an ‘F’ for her first year

Teachers’ group gives DeVos an ‘F’ for her first year

By Karen DeWitt   
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (Photo: U.S. Department of Education)

WASHINGTON — One year after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was sworn in, teachers’ groups delivered “report cards” to her place of employment, grading the secretary on her performance protecting students’ civil rights, ensuring educational equity and providing funding for students of color and low-income students, according to USA Today.

They gave her all “Fs.”

The teachers’ groups, which have largely been adversarial during DeVos’ tenure, also delivered what they said were 80,000 individual teachers’ evaluations of DeVos, along with comments about what she’d see if she visited their classrooms.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten says 90 percent of the teachers “frankly gave Betsy DeVos a failing grade.”

1,000 flights canceled as snowstorm slams Midwest

Heavy snow and strong winds already are pounding Chicago and Detroit, where major public school systems opted not to open today, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

Chicago is bracing for its biggest snow since 2015, with snow coming down through the weekend.

More than 25 million Americans are under winter weather alerts as an arctic front pushes from Montana through the Midwest, CNN meteorologists said.

Chicago could get around a foot of snow  8 to 14 inches  by late today, plus 4 more inches through the weekend, forecasters said.

Four major US airlines  Delta, United, Frontier, and Southwest Airlines — have issued weather waivers for passengers as a result of the winter weather, allowing travelers to change their reservations without incurring a fee.

Let the games begin!

The opening ceremony kicks off the 2018 Winter Olympics today.

Vice President Mike Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, will attend.

Athletes from the two Koreas will march together under one flag at the opening ceremony’s parade of nations alongside competitors from over 90 countries.

Erin Hamlin, a four-time Olympian luger, will carry Team USA’s flag in the parade. The ceremony will be broadcast live at 6 a.m. ET and aired again at 8 p.m. ET, with commentary from hosts Katie Couric and Mike Tirico.


Trump not happy with Chief of Staff John Kelly

President Trump reportedly called former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to complain about the job performance of his successor, John Kelly.

The New York Times cites people close to the president saying that Trump phoned several people including Priebus to complain about Kelly’s performance.

The call comes as the chief of staff, who has brought some order to a chaotic White House, finds himself at the center of criticism over the White House response to allegations of domestic abuse leveled against White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned this week after facing allegations from two ex-wives.

Kelly initially defended Porter but issued a second statement saying he was “shocked” by the allegations.

Trump has been asking advisers their thoughts about Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, possibly serving as chief of staff, two sources tell the Times. Mulvaney currently also serves as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Athletes lose last-ditch appeal to join the Winter Olympics

Dozens of Russian athletes have lost an 11th-hour bid to join the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected their appeal, CNN reports.

The athletes asked CAS to overturn a decision by the International Olympic Committee to drop them over doping concerns, but its rejection means they won’t be joining the 150 competitors from Russia cleared to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

Russian athletes who petitioned the court, some of whom traveled to South Korea in the hope they would be granted the right to compete.

One of the athletes’ whose Olympic dream was ended by the decision was Viktor Ahn, a highly decorated speed skater who was born in South Korea and competed for the country before becoming a naturalized Russian citizen.

Bad week for the Dow – the worst since the 2008 financial crisis

Fears about inflation and soaring bond yields sent the Dow plunging 6.5% through the first four trading days of this week  the steepest decline in any week since October 2008, according to CNN.

After losing a record 1,175 points on Monday, the Dow tumbled 1,033 points more Thursday. It landed in a correction, a 10 percent decline from previous highs. The S&P 500 has shed 6.6 percent so far this week, its second-worst since 2008.  All the Nasdaq’s gains for the year have been wiped out.

The market turmoil follows a prolonged period of booming stock prices with virtually no sharp declines. Such a rapid rise is unusual, and market analysts long warned that a pullback was overdue.

Trump proposes reduction of drug costs under Medicare

President Trump plans to propose lowering prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing them to share in rebates that drug companies pay to insurers and middlemen, an administration official tells the Associated Press.

Pharmaceutical companies now pay rebates to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to help their medications gain a bigger slice of the market. Insurers apply savings from rebates to keep premiums more manageable.

Under Trump’s proposal, part of his 2019 budget plan to be unveiled next week, seniors covered by Medicare’s popular “Part D” prescription benefit would be able to share in the rebates for individual drugs that they purchase at the pharmacy.

Trump’s budget would also expand Medicare’s “catastrophic” drug benefit so that many seniors, who are now responsible for 5 % of the very high costs of their medications, would not face copayments.

Buyer beware — hackers may control your smart TV

If you’ve snapped up a smart TV, with built-in Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and other Web connections, heads up on this warning — your smart TV could make you vulnerable to hackers and is probably monitoring more of your viewing than you realize, according to Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports just analyzed smart TVs from five big U.S. TV brands — Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL and Vizio — and found several problems. All can track what consumers watch, and two of the brands failed a basic security test.

Asteroid close to Earth: Don’t worry, we’re safe

Another asteroid is headed our way — the second this week — but there’s no need to worry.

The newly discovered space rock will pass within 39,000 miles of Earth this afternoon. That’s less than one-fifth the distance to the moon.

Designated 2018 CB, the asteroid is an estimated 50 feet to 130 feet size, possibly bigger than the one that exploded over Russia five years ago this month, according to the Associated Press.

The manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, Paul Chodas, says asteroids this size usually don’t come this close — just once or twice a year.

Poll: Nearly half of Iowans won’t vote for Trump in 2020

Nearly half of Iowa voters say they won’t vote for President Trump in the 2020 election, according to a poll of likely voters released by the Des Moines Register.

The poll found that 48 percent of voters said they would “definitely” vote for a candidate besides Trump, while 20 percent said that they would consider it. Just 26 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Trump in 2020.

Iowa traditionally holds the first caucuses of the presidential nominating process, and is set to be the first battleground for Democrats looking to run in 2020.

According to the poll, 40 percent of Iowans say the country is heading in the right direction, compared to just 29 who said the same in December.

Many animals can count, some better than you

If you’ve ever tried to score more than someone else in a sport by counting points compared to your competitor’s, animals may do it better, according to an article in The New York Times.

Take the tiny South American frog tweets who out its appeal to females, undisturbed until another male enters the picture.  Frog A ups its tweets.  Frog B does likewise.  Back and forth they go, pulsing out more and more tweets,  because females are keeping count to decide who to mate with, scientists discover

Gary Rose, a biologist at the University of Utah, says the frogs’ neurons are counting the numbers and if the process breaks down—can’t keep up with the competition — it’s “game over.”

Scientists now know that animals across the spectrum did very well in math class:  they’re able to distinguish not just bigger and smaller, but two from four, four from 10,  40 from 60.

Five major psychiatric diseases have overlapping patterns of genetic activity

Certain patterns of genetic activity appear to be common among five distinct psychiatric disorders — autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and alcoholism — according to a new study in the journal Science.

Scientists analyzed data from 700 human brains, all donated either from patients who suffered one of these major psychiatric disorders or from people who had not been diagnosed with mental illness.

The scientists found similar levels of particular molecules in the brains of people with autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; other commonalities between bipolar and major depression; and other matches between major depression and alcoholism.

Says Daniel Geschwind, a neurogeneticist at the University of California at Los Angeles and a leader of the study, “We’re on the threshold to using genomics and molecular technology to look at [mental illness] in a way we’ve never been able to do before.”

#MeToo movement lawmaker investigated for sexual misconduct allegations

California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia — whose high-profile advocacy of the #MeToo movement earned her national media notice — is herself the subject of a state legislative investigation in the wake of a report that she sexually harassed and groped a former legislative staffer, according to Politico.

Time magazine announced that “Silence Breakers” who spoke out against sexual harassment were its Persons of the Year in December and Garcia’s face was prominently included in the art accompanying the cover story.

But Daniel Fierro of Cerritos tells POLITICO that in 2014, as a 25-year-old staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, he was groped by Garcia, a powerful Democratic lawmaker who chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee.

India plans to remove gas-powered vehicles from its roads by 2030

India’s ambitious goal of removing gas-powered vehicles from its roads by 2030 has automakers revving up.

Nearly all the companies at the country’s biennial Auto Expo near New Delhi, which opens today, have at least one electric vehicle on display. Some, such as Mahindra & Mahindra (MAHMF) and Tata (TTM), have several — including an electric bus each.

South Korea’s Kia Motors, which is expecting to open a $1 billion Indian manufacturing plant in 2019, announced plans for an “India-exclusive” electric vehicle.

Sugato Sen, deputy director general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, tells CNN, “Battery-operated vehicles are becoming a serious option. The Indian government has expressed its desire to move in that direction.”

Motorcycle and scooter manufacturers also unveil more than a dozen electric models at the show. India is the world’s largest market for two wheels, with over 17 million bikes sold in the year ending March 2017.

George Soros key funder in campaign to reverse Brexit

Billionaire George Soros is pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign looking to reverse  British voters’ 2016 decision to leave the European Union, according to Fox News

The U.K. Daily Telegraph is the first newspaper to report that Soros has given $560,000 to the anti-Brexit “Best for Britain” campaign via his Open Society Foundations, Fox News says.

He also hosted big-money donors at his London home as part of the group’s goal to raise support to nix the implementation of the Brexit referendum.

Best for Britain is currently led by Lord Mark Malloch-Brown — a former diplomat and U.N. deputy secretary-general — and is reportedly planning a massive ad campaign to push for a second referendum to make voters rethink the decision to leave the E.U.

Democrats introduce ‘PARADE’ Act aimed to thwart Trump’s military parade

House Democrats introduced the “PARADE” Act — otherwise known as the Preventing the Allocation of Resources for Absurd Defense Expenditures bill — which aims keep taxpayers from footing the bill if President Trump’s dreams of a military parade come to fruition, according to USA Today.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, introduced the legislation “to prevent taxpayer funded resources to bring an authoritarian-inspired show-of-force to life,” a statement from his office reads.

Veasey says in a statement, “As a strong supporter of our military and their families, I know we are all beyond thankful for the sacrifices our military make on behalf of our country every day… An expensive political ploy whose sole aim is to boost Trump’s approval ratings is an insult to their service and detracts from resources needed to provide meaningful assistance to veterans and current service members.”

School accused of preventing same-sex couple from attending prom together

An Alabama teen, given a one-day of in -school detention after staging a “prmomposal” invitation to her girlfriend, prompted her parents to seek legal counsel, thinking it was a first step to ban her from taking her girlfriend to the prom, according to CNN.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an LGBT civil rights organization, sent a letter to the Calhoun County School District on their behalf seeking written assurances that they will be able to attend the March 10 dance together — and threatening legal action if they didn’t receive them by February 14.

Principal Mack Holley tells the Anniston Star that the teen was only disciplined because it’s against school rules to do promposals at school events, but he also admonished the couple the next day over the school’s public announcement system, saying, “this is a Christian school” with “Christian values.”

Holley told the local newspaper that the teens can’t be banned from prom just for being a same-sex couple, because “it’s probably against the law.”

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