Economist 4/30/14

  1. Mr Steve Nelson contends that charters are not more efficient with money, as charter proponents say, but just have more of it.  Research has been mounting that shows that charter schools have in fact less money than their public rivals. This financial imbalance is confirmed by a new report from the University of Arkansas, published in the Journal of School Choice.Across the 48 major urban areas examined (where charter schools are more common), the deficit between public and charter schools was about $4,352 per pupil. The gap is smaller if averaged across all charter schools in the country, at $3,814. Still, this is a funding gap of 28%.The new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, entered office demanding that charter schools pay rent for their space inside public buildings. The administration has since backed down, but the city council has not.
  2.  School systems were being swamped by data—like every other sector of the economy.They created a computer system to store data in a secure, common format that gave the schools complete control over what data they collected, how it was used and with whom that data was shared. A non-profit organisation was formed to run it, backed with $100m from the Gates and Carnegie foundations. And so inBloom was born. But on April 21st, less than two years later, the group announced it is shutting down.Yet inBloom was grossly unprepared for the backlash against its technology. Instead of fighting critics directly, they left it to their customers—the school districts—to educate parents and make the case.
  3. TWO titans of religious life in the late 20th century are being canonised—recognised as saints—at a grand ceremony in Rome this weekend. Popes John XXIII (1958-63) and John Paul II (1978-2005) were both charismatic figures who, in multiple ways, transformed the world’s largest spiritual institution.Under his given name of Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John served as the Vatican envoy to Turkey from 1935 to 1944. He saved the lives of thousands of Jews, particularly in Hungary, by issuing them with false baptismal certificates. As pontiff he is credited with starting the process that led to Nostra Aetate, a landmark document which renounced Christian anti-Semitism and the idea that Jews bore any collective responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ. As for the Polish pope, he broke new ground by establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel and, in 2000, visiting Jerusalem, where he deplored the Christian persecution of Jews over the centuries and prayed at the Western Wall.
  4. On April 28th a deal was clinched between Slovakia and Ukraine to send natural gas from west to east, as part of efforts to reduce Kiev’s dependence on Russian gas. Ukraine receives about half of its 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) annual natural gas supply from Russia. In recent months Gazprom nearly doubled the price Ukraine pays for it. Slovakia recently renegotiated the terms and price of its own Russian gas and such contracts frequently include limitations on what Gazprom’s customers can do with gas once it is purchased.Bluntly, the Slovaks are not in full control of what they can do once the gas reaches their territory. About 40% of Russian gas imported by Europe comes through Slovakia.
  5. The fourth amendment requires a specific search warrant, with probable cause, before law enforcement can rifle through a suspect’s home, papers or effects. But there are exceptions, and cases have set precedents permitting warrantless searches of purses, briefcases, address books and pagers, where incoming messages might overwrite earlier ones. Now the Supreme Court justices are being asked to determine how mobile phoes fit into this legal landscape. The court seems to lack both a majority for a rule banning warrantless searches of mobile phones by police and a majority for a rule permitting them.The justices are expected to announce their decision in June.

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