Dallas Morning News reporters recognized with Goldsmith Award

first_imgThe 2019 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting was awarded Tuesday to J. David McSwane and Andrew Chavez of the Dallas Morning News, for their series “Pain and Profit.”In reporting “Pain and Profit” the Dallas Morning News found that thousands of sick and disabled Texans were being denied life-sustaining drugs and treatments by the private health insurance companies hired by the state to manage their care. While these private contractors made billions of dollars from the corporate management of taxpayer-funded Medicaid, some of the most vulnerable Texans were denied critical services, equipment and treatments, often with profoundly life-altering results. As a result of the investigation the Texas legislature pledged millions of dollars to more closely regulate the system, monitor instances of denials of care, and reform the appeals process.Learn more about how McSwane, Chavez, and the Dallas Morning News team found, investigated, and reported the story in a “how they did it” piece in Journalist’s Resource, and a podcast interview with the reporters.In addition to the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the 2019 Goldsmith Awards ceremony included awards for the Goldsmith Book Prize:AcademicMatthew Hindman“The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy”Princeton University PressMargaret E. Roberts“Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall”Princeton University PressTradeSteven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt“How Democracies Die”Crown PublishingTo view a video of the 2019 award ceremony and see a list of the Goldsmith finalists, visit the Shorenstein website. Read Full Storylast_img read more

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Saint Mary’s responds to petition with actionable steps to support Black students

first_imgIn response to a petition signed by active alumnae, the Saint Mary’s president and Board of Trustees outlined 13 commitments in an open letter to be implemented immediately to support Black students and improve race relations on campus.“We recognize that we need to do more work to make Saint Mary’s a truly diverse and equitable community, one with safety and inclusion at its center,” the letter said.To start, College President Katie Conboy asked for six community conversations to hear from students, faculty, staff and alumnae of color to be completed over the course of a week. These conversations will help guide the next steps the College will take to be more inclusive.“These conversations will be uncomfortable,” the statement said. “We are prepared for that discomfort and know that we must first sit with it if we are to begin creating real and meaningful change at Saint Mary’s College.”To attract a diverse student population, Saint Mary’s committed to creating a scholarship to be used exclusively to recruit Black students and vowed to build new admission events to make diverse prospective students feel welcome and represented at Saint Mary’s. The College also plans to establish a Diversity Dialogues-style program for Welcome Weekend for the first-years and improve upon resources for the physical, mental and emotional of students of color and LGBTQ+ students.In addition, Saint Mary’s committed to “report and promptly investigate any incident of hate/bias” and to increase funding for clubs and organizations that focus on diversity and inclusion. The College will prioritize the diversity of the faculty and staff and establish diversity training for all faculty and staff members.While Saint Mary’s has implemented changes to become more diverse and inclusive, the email acknowledged there are more steps to take.“In 2018, Saint Mary’s issued a strong statement pledging to disrupt the dehumanizing effects of ‘systemic and individual racism, both intentional and unintentional,’” the statement said. “We must continue our concerted efforts to bring these words to fruition.”Tags: Black lives matter, george floyd, Katie Conboy, Racismlast_img read more

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Spring Paddling/Biking Events

first_imgPhoto: Matt DaltonSpringtime in the Blue Ridge is a spectacular time.  Water levels are primed for the many rivers of the area, and mountain bike trails are running tacky and fast since the fall leaves have had time to clear out.Here are a few events this spring that are worth checking out in the area.  I’m not sure if I’ll make all of them, but I’m certainly going to do my best.Alabama Mountain Games (March 16-18)This event is a great opportunity for paddlers, bikers, and outdoors folks from all over to rally to an area that you may not otherwise visit and compete.  It used to be only a paddling event, but has transformed to include a number of other sports and activities.  Get ready for an infusion of Alabama culture too!http://alabamamountaingames.com/wordpress/Watauga Gorge Race (March 31… or the next Saturday with enough water)The Watauga River near Boone, NC is an amazing whitewater river with sections that cater to a variety of different skill levels.  This race is for class IV to V boaters, and it is a good one!40+ paddlers will line up in ascending order at the putin according to boat length… shortest to longest.  The heavy hitters are then put in the back of the pack so that they have to battle through every single other paddler for a chance at the victory.  The paddlers battle through 3+ miles of challenging whitewater and finish at 13 foot Stateline Falls in front of spectators.http://www.boatertalk.comETSU Nationals Qualifiers (April 14)The ETSU boys are known as a rowdy bunch of downhill, cross country and dual slalom athletes who know how to go fast AND have a good time.  These races will also serve as a qualifier for the National Championships, and are held a stone’s throw from campus.The downhill track is fast and flowy, and is very well suited to an aggressive all mountain or smaller travel freeride bike.  The dual slalom track is definitely one of the best in the region, and is always running fast with large features to separate the pack.http://www.facebook.com/events/221773121252396/Tallulah Fest (April 14-15)The Tallulah River is an amazing place that needs to be experienced by any class IV+ paddler.  This river is a pilgrimage every spring and fall when the waters are released for five weekends of recreational use.  This year there will be a full-on festival to reunite with paddlers after the long winter, share some beverages and tell lies about how hard-core you are.http://www.bbbpaddling.com/Details.phpNOC Shootout and Demo Days (April 20-22)Nantahala Outdoor Center is a mainstay in the paddling world, and always hosts a number of great events for paddlers of all ability levels.  The Shootout and Demo Days is an opportunity to watch some of the world’s best compete, paddle the class II-III Nantahala River, and try out the top gear in the industry.http://www.noc.com/noccom/festivals-a-events/noc-freestyle-shootout/Jerry’s Baddle (April 28)This is definitely one of my favorite events of the year.  This event was originally started in honour of Mr. Jerry Beckwith, an incredible individual who loved life in his kayak and on his bike, and who eventually passed away after a battle with ALS.The competition lives on after a number of years, and represents one of the most fun biathlons that you could possibly compete in.  It involves a class V kayak blast through the steepest sections of the Green River Narrows, and then a 26 mile bike ride through the surrounding mountains and the town of Saluda.  This is a great one because it often involves biker/kayaker tag teams, and features great food and beer afterwards.http://jerrysbaddle.org/I hope to see you at some of these events, and good lines in the meantime!last_img read more

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IADC Transforms to Continue its Relevance in Times of New Threats

first_imgBy Marcos Ommati/Diálogo February 17, 2017  Whether for operational reasons, to take advantage of opportunities that come up, or by mere coincidence, the last four deputy directors of the Inter-American Defense College (IADC) were Brazilian. Currently, the position is occupied by Brazilian Army Major General Rolemberg Ferreira da Cunha, who studied at IADC in 2011, and was also a teaching assistant at the institution. To talk about what it is like to be deputy director of an institution that has 64 students from 14 Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking countries,Diálogo interviewed Maj. Gen. Da Cunha at the IADC, in Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington D.C. Diálogo: How relevant is the Inter-American Defense College today? Major General Rolemberg Ferreira da Cunha: Even though the college is located here in the U.S. capital and is administered by a U.S. admiral, it is a completely Ibero-American teaching institution. Basically, the college is centered on the Latino community, the Spanish-speaking community, and the Portuguese-speaking community. Today, the college focuses on the challenges Latin America faces: drug trafficking, illegal immigration, natural disasters, arms smuggling, and human trafficking, among others. These are the issues in Latin America today, the so-called new threats. And what is the importance? The importance is spreading the word.The importance is the capillarity of the college. Just think about it: what college in the world today has representatives from 14 different countries? Not just that, but these are 14 countries that face the same issues. So, we have 14 countries and 64 military and civilian students. The military students have a considerable career span, and the civilians occupy high-ranking positions in their government-related institutions. They will be the ones spreading the ideas generated here, as well as all the work and studies conducted here, in all 14 countries of Latin America. Diálogo: But the problems you mentioned, which are extremely important and are shared by all of these nations, are they not more related to security than to defense? Maj. Gen. Da Cunha: You got to the heart of the matter.These days, we face more international threats. The traditional threats of the past, like a war between nations, do not exist currently in our region. They have been replaced, little by little, with cross-border illegal activities. Let me talk a little about what I see happening in Brazil.What are the problems Brazil faces today? In the defense area: none. Of course, the Army has to always be prepared, the forces have to be up-to-date with weapons, people, knowledge, and training. But you do not have an external threat. You have internal or cross-border threats which substantially affect life in the country. So, you cannot exclude the Armed Forces from this day-to-day situation, these issues, which are more related to security.The name of the college is Inter-American Defense College. But what is studied here is related to the areas of security and defense, so much so that a student leaves here with a diploma in hemispheric security and defense studies. Diálogo: How did you become deputy director at IADC? Maj. Gen. Da Cunha: The college is part of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). Some of the positions in the IADB system, such as the deputy director, the chief of studies here at the college, the chairman of the Council of Delegates, and the IADB secretary are elective positions.The countries submit their candidates, and then the election takes place. Of course, a lot of work has to be done to be allowed entry and to occupy this space. The countries are very interested in occupying theses spaces, which are leadership positions.There is an understanding that cycles can be renewed. Every time a country manages to appoint a person to one of these positions, the country itself is responsible for the flow of funds and, of course, the same country must have the capability to contribute these funds. Diálogo: But the cost-benefit ratio must be favorable to the country, don’t you agree? Maj. Gen. Da Cunha: Absolutely. Since it is a multi-national college, the more people one nation puts here, regardless of the nation, the more that country’s name is promoted. Thus, having a fourth consecutive Brazilian deputy director is a way to expand the name of Brazil, the name of the Brazilian Army, and the name of the Brazilian Armed Forces.It is a way to tell others about the work we have been carrying out. In fact, Brazil is represented here at the IADC not only in a management position. We currently have two Brazilian lecturers who are members of the college faculty: Dr. Paulo Edvandro Costa Pinto and Professor Carlos Eduardo Acevedo; we have two Brazilian teaching assistants; the head of the Protocol Department is also Brazilian, as is the head of the Registration Department.We also have some sergeants working under the various departments and in administrative functions. Today, both the country of Brazil and its Ministry of Defense consider it their vocation to have as much of a presence as possible within the college. Make no mistake, this is how the country projects itself; it is a way to show Brazil’s efforts, a way for Brazil to be increasingly inserted in the context of the Americas.Diálogo: You assumed this position in December of 2016. What do you expect to contribute to the college? Maj. Gen. Da Cunha: I think the best way I can participate at the college is by trying to convince the Brazilian government, or Brazil’s Ministry of Defense, of the need to contribute the resources the country can offer. Of course, I have my daily mission here as deputy director, I have duties and responsibilities as per the institution’s set regulations; they are my day-to-day missions here at the college. But I think an important role I have is to try to convince our Ministry of Defense of how important it is to contribute resources to the college, both in terms of personnel and financial resources. This is essential if the college is going to succeed in attaining its objectives.Now, one of the college’s main goals is to transform a simple school into a graduate school, i.e. to have a master’s degree program here. This requires a major contribution of funds, without considering the contributions that the Army, the Armed Forces, and the Ministry of Defense already make, which is providing for the personnel it maintains and pays for here. I think this would be my major function here today.We must bear in mind that Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States are the countries with the highest contributing capabilities, and this explains my most important job here, which is to ensure this liaison with the Ministry of Defense in order to accomplish the major goal of providing the maximum amount of funds and people to the college so it can continue to grow and accomplish its goals.Diálogo: What do you expect to take back from your experience here as a benefit to Brazil? Maj. Gen. Da Cunha: All this is of extreme value to my personal and professional training and career. You gain a lot when you work in such a multidimensional college, an institution where current, relevant topics are discussed. By participating in these discussions, you obtain a much broader vision of all the issues the Americas face. I will return to my country with a lot more knowledge of how the Americas, particularly South and Central America, see Brazil. It is important to know how these other countries see Brazil, what Brazil’s role is in relation to its neighbors, what role Brazil can play in the region and in the world, and not only in relation to the Armed Forces, but also politically.last_img read more

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Media Groups Push Back After Fake News Defined US Elections

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The Baltimore Gazette had its share of scoops leading up to the 2016 presidential election. But one stands out: Every presidential race since John F. Kennedy’s election was rigged.That blockbuster story spread quickly across social media, with readers praising the Gazette for having the guts to report “the truth.”Today, the Gazette’s website no longer offers any news. Instead, visitors find a statement that reads: “Our apologies, we appear to be experiencing technical difficulties.”The site, like many that thrived during the contentious 2016 election, offered fake news — sensational, untrue tales like the Gazette story about an Atlanta police officer who gunned down a mother as she breastfed her baby.A wildly partisan presidential election defined by deep ideological divides offered the perfect breeding ground for fake news sites to pander to readers craving information that affirms their views. And social media sites such as Facebook offered the extra turbocharge needed to blast these stories across countless networks of friends who all share the same sensibilities.“We like to believe more of what is already in line with what we believe,” said Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies International Fact-Checking Network. “And we tend to explain away, through motivated reasoning, stuff that doesn’t fit into that pattern.”A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in December found that 64 percent of Americans could not tell the difference between real and fake news. At least 23 percent acknowledged sharing a fake news story, either knowingly or not.Mantzarlis’ group and others want to fix that. He said his organization is creating a ready-made lesson plan for high school teachers to educate students about discerning fact from fiction in news, a solution widely viewed as the best long-term approach to creating news literacy.“Really now we need to teach about differentiating rather than searching and cross-referencing,” Mantzarlis said.Facebook also is offering help: Readers can flag content as fake news. Their complaints are passed along to the Poynter network, and to independent media groups that investigate the truthfulness of items (the first such groups to take part included ABC News, The Associated Press, FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes). Stories that flunk the fact check are pushed down in people’s news feeds, and anyone who wants to share the story is warned that it has been disputed.“That’s just one of the things we’re trying to do, but there are plenty of other plans also in the works,” Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said.Bounds pointed to a letter that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote to the site’s users on Feb. 16, reporting that his staff had extensively studied the filter bubbles people have developed and the abundance of fake news. As a result, Facebook was able to differentiate between sensational news and in-depth stories by the way people share the content: Stories that are not shared as frequently by users are identified by Facebook as potentially sensational or fake. In-depth stories thrive, Zuckerberg wrote.“There is more we must do to support the news industry to make sure this vital social function is sustainable — from growing local news, to developing formats best suited to mobile devices, to improving the range of business models news organizations rely on,” he wrote.The Trust Project at Santa Clara University in California is developing a system to help readers discern legitimate news sites from fake ones.The project has partnered with news organizations around the world to develop “trust indicators” signaling solid information, said program director Sally Lehrman. The idea is to develop ways for consumers to easily identify credible news sites and break through the reader’s information bubble that only allows content reinforcing their beliefs.Lehrman said trust indicators include whether the publication follows policies on best practices and corrections, or if it leans toward a particular political party. Other indicators include the author of the content and the number of sources included in the report.“What we hope to do is elevate the quality of journalism that you will see online,” Lehrman said.Similar to Twitter and Facebook, the Trust Project also is exploring ways to identify trusted sites and separate them from questionable ones.“With all of the fake news you see out there, people didn’t know where to turn to,” Lehrman said. “The project will help readers become better informed.”The Trust Project is working with sites Google, Facebook and others to promote credible news. Lehrman said Facebook recently adopted a button users can press to report fake news.Beyond technical advances and accountability projects, re-establishing a culture that recognizes and relies on credible news is the goal. The days when schoolchildren came home to find a newspaper on the kitchen counter are long gone, said Frank LoMonte, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Student Press Law Center.“We have to teach kids where to look for the information they can trust,” LoMonte said. “It’s no longer a trip to the library, but turn on the computer and start searching.”The erosion of independent school newspapers also leaves students with the impression that news is no longer important, he said. School administrators, for example, risk sending the wrong message when they spike a story because it may tarnish someone’s reputation.“That’s telling those students and their parents that it’s OK to not consider certain viewpoints, even if they’re controversial,” he said.The news industry should work to correctly identify news that may seem distorted or fake, said Ken Paulson, a former editor-in-chief of USA Today who is dean at the media school of Middle Tennessee State University and president of the Newseum’s First Amendment Center.“I think we need to stop using the term, ‘fake news,’ because it’s not that type of news at all,” Paulson said. “We have a better word, and it’s called a hoax.”last_img read more

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421 Indonesians arrested in Malaysian immigration raid

first_img“As many as 1,368 undocumented migrants have been detained and brought for documentation purposes to Kuala Lumpur’s immigration office,” the statement read.Of the arrested migrants, 421 came from Indonesia, 54 from India, six from Pakistan, 790 from Myanmar and 78 from Bangladesh. The rest were from other nations.All of them were questioned and those apprehended were a later declared negative for COVID-19 by the Malaysian Health Ministry.Read also: Migrant Care urges humane treatment, protection for TKI returning amid COVID-19 Topics : The migrants’ offenses allegedly included lacking proper identification, overstaying visas and holding false papers. Under Malaysian immigration laws, the detainees could be deported and banned from reentering Malaysia.Representatives of the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said they were aware of the situation but could not give further information.“The Malaysian authorities have not granted the embassy access to the detainees,” Agung Cahaya Sumirat, the head of the embassy’s information, social and cultural department, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.With 6,779 confirmed cases and 111 deaths as of Thursday, Malaysia has started to ease its movement control order (MCO) – the country’s term for a lockdown – but has intensified the tracking of people’s movement.The latest two raids have prompted critics from rights groups and the United Nations to speak up about the risks posed by packed detention centers.Last week, the United Nations urged Malaysia to avoid detaining migrants and to release all children and their caregivers, Reuters reported.Read also: Jokowi calls for tight monitoring of COVID-19 clustersYuyun Wahyuningrum, the representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) raised concerns that the raids had caused fears among migrants in Malaysia, especially those who had finished their contracts but were unable to return home because of the MCO.“These raids have deterred them from coming forward for voluntary testing for COVID-19 because of their fear of detention and deportation,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.While applauding the Malaysian government’s effective measures to flatten the curve, Yuyun reiterated calls from AICHR for ASEAN member states to integrate human rights protections into their efforts to tackle COVID-19, especially for those who were vulnerable and marginalized, such as migrant workers and refugees.center_img Malaysian authorities arrested more than 1,300 undocumented migrants, including 421 Indonesian citizens, in a raid on Monday. Authorities claimed the crackdown was a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.It was the second crackdown of the month after a raid on May 2 resulted in the arrest of more than 586 undocumented migrants, The Straits Times reported.The Malaysian Immigration Department said in a statement on Tuesday that authorities had screened 7,551 migrants at the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market, where the majority of them worked.last_img read more

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Involving local leaders key to successful COVID-19 education in NTT regency

first_imgMalaka regency in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) is among those areas that have been relative successful in promoting the government’s “3M” health protocols comprising wearing masks, washing hands with soap and maintaining physical distancing.In a video uploaded on Monday to the YouTube channel of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), BNPB Indonesia, journalist Frans Pati Herin of Kompas said that he had seen people following the health protocols, even in remote areas.During his visit to Manuela village, located 256 kilometers from the NTT capital of Kupang, he encountered a woman in her 60s who wore a mask while she was out walking alone. Frans recounted that the woman said that she always wore a mask whenever she went outside, and told him that she had learned about COVID-19 and the 3M protocols from the local administration and her local church.The head of the Malaka Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD Malaka), Gabriel Seran, said the agency had been collaborating with various organizations, including religious communities, to educate the public about the coronavirus since the beginning of the Indonesian outbreak in early March.Gabriel said that the local administration had asked for the agency’s help in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the regency, which prompted the Malaka BPBD to from its COVID-19 task force. The task force then invited all relevant parties, such as government agencies, religious communities and the military, to contribute to raising public awareness about COVID-19.Read also: Public must help curb virus falsehoods: Task force Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.Topics : #wearmask #mothermessage #keepyourdistance #avoidcrowd #usesoap #socialdistance #washyourhand #covid19taskforce “The ability to fight COVID-19 is in the hands of the people,” he said, stressing that the task force tried to disseminate correct and accurate information about the virus and the disease at all administrative levels, from villages to districts and on up to the regency level.“We also asked religious leaders [to inform their congregation] at religious forums,” he added.Father Edmundus Sako of the Malaka diaconate said that the Catholic Church was adhering to the government’s health and safety protocols. He added that the church was also working with other institutions to teach the people of Malaka about COVID-19.“As the deacon of and the head of the FKUB in Malaka, I always discuss this matter with [other members],” he said, referring to the Religious Communication Forum.Malaka regency in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) is among those areas that have been relative successful in promoting the government’s “3M” health protocols. (JP/Swi Handono)Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases around the globe, a survey by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has found that 17 percent of Indonesians believe it “impossible” that they would contract the disease.“It is a huge number,” national COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said during a virtual event on Friday. He said that given the country’s population of 270 million, this meant that 44.9 million people believed they would not be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.Doni stressed that the lack of public awareness was a contributing factor to the continuing spread of the disease in the country.“There are still many people who have yet to receive [complete] information about COVID-19,” he said. (jes)last_img read more

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Governor Wolf Announces More Reductions in Standardized Testing for Pennsylvania Students, Teachers

first_img Education,  Press Release,  Schools That Teach Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf joined parents, teachers and school administrators today to announce more improvements to standardized testing in Pennsylvania. After reducing the number of test days by two days this school year, starting next school year, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) will be condensed from three weeks to two weeks and shifted to later in the school year, easing stress on students and giving them up to two additional weeks to learn before taking the assessment.The new schedule builds on changes taking effect this school year to remove two sections of the PSSA – one in math and one in English language arts – and reduce questions in the science assessment, which is enabling the Department of Education to condense and move the testing window to later in the year.“We are continuing to respond to the concerns of students, parents and teachers about the amount of classroom time spent of standardized tests,” said Governor Wolf at Colonial Middle School in Montgomery County. “After reducing the classroom time devoted to the PSSA and moving the test window to later in the school year, students and teachers will have more classroom time to focus on learning before taking the test.”This year, the PSSA exams will take place during a three-week testing window which will begin April 9, 2018. Removing two sections of the assessment reduced the amount of classroom time by an average of two days in most schools, enabling the Department to shorten the test window to two weeks and provide school districts the flexibility to begin the assessment as late as April 25 in future years. Since school districts have already established their school calendar the new testing window will begin with the 2018-19 school year.“The changes Governor Wolf and the Department of Education continue to make to the PSSA are a step in the right direction,” said Sally Matthews, seventh grade math teacher at Colonial Middle School. “Moving the assessments later in the year will allow students more time to master grade level curriculum. I appreciate that the feedback provided from educators across the state has been heard, valued, and acted upon.”The Department identified the PSSA changes during discussions with stakeholders for nearly two years when developing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan. The plan is a federal requirement to replace the No Child Left Behind Act.“For years, we have heard from many education stakeholders – especially parents and teachers – about the need to refocus on learning,” said PDE Executive Deputy Secretary David Volkman. “This improved schedule, along with the changes we made to the structure of the tests earlier this year, will address those concerns while maintaining the accuracy of the assessment.”The Department of Education worked with experts and stakeholders to improve the PSSA and ensure the exams maintain rigor. Since standardized tests can interrupt learning and can be disruptive for students, even those in non-tested grades, the Department will continue to identify ways to further reduce those disruptions in coming years.“This is a great compromise between listening to the many parents concerned about the amount of time our children spend taking tests and the need to assess how students and schools are performing,” said Cathy Peduzzi, parent and Colonial School Board member. “The PSSA schedule change will allow our children to have more time to learn in their classrooms as well as in collaborative labs and maker spaces that reflect the realities of today’s world.”Improving standardized testing has been a priority for Governor Wolf. The requirement that students pass an end-of-course tests known as the Keystone Exams has been delayed, and career and technology education students can now demonstrate proficiency and readiness for high school graduation in an alternative pathway, when necessary.Governor Wolf has made clear his strong commitment to education in the commonwealth. Over the past three years Pennsylvania has:Provided historic funding for education to reverse devastating cuts of the past with $800 million for educational programs and to bring teachers back to the classroom.Doubled early childhood education access to provide nearly 8,800 more children access to Pre-K and Head Start programs to get a good start to their education.Increased graduation rates to among the highest in the nation for four-year cohorts from 85.5 percent in 2013-14 to 86.1 percent in 2015-16.Become a leader in STEM education with five nationally-recognized STEM ecosystems and 31 percent more students earning industry-recognized credentials as well as ranking fourth in the number of STEM graduates and in the top 10 of states for STEM jobs.Additionally, the department’s proposed Future Ready PA Index will serve as Pennsylvania’s one-stop location for comprehensive information about school success, and will use a dashboard model to highlight how schools are performing and making progress on multiple indicators.Once implemented, the Future Ready PA Index and ESSA Consolidated State Plan will focus on the individual student to create diverse measures of school success, invest in great teachers, and expand college and career readiness pathways for STEM innovation and capacity. Governor Wolf Announces More Reductions in Standardized Testing for Pennsylvania Students, Teachers December 06, 2017center_img SHARE Email Facebook Twitterlast_img read more

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UK regulator announces interim regime for DB superfunds

first_imgCharles CounsellCharles Counsell, chief executive officer of TPR, said: “We have taken bold action now to ensure that the market develops in the best interests of savers, particularly as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis may prompt some sponsoring employers and pension trustees to consider what they can do to meet defined benefit pension promises in the future.”‘High bar’TPR said its regime was tough, setting a “high bar” for superfunds to meet. It also said its guidance was not prescriptive, but “clear and directive”, and for superfunds as well as other new models.Under the superfund model, there is no employer covenant, so capital adequacy is one of the most important areas of the regulator’s interim regime.The PLSA expressed its full support for the guidance, noting protections such as strong capital buffers and a requirement to have a 99% certainty of being funded at levels set by the regulator.The guidance also sets out restrictions on profit-taking and guidance on investments, which the PLSA said were designed to ensure superfunds avoided over-concentrated portfolios and high risk assets.Joe Dabrowski, head of DB, LGPS and standards at the PLSA, said: “The regulator has clearly given a great deal of thought to create an appropriate and affordable supervisory regime, which protects members and the PPF.”“This will lead to considerable creativity in tackling the long-term funding challenges of Britain’s DB pension schemes”Gordon Watchorn, head of corporate consulting at LCPGordon Watchorn, head of corporate consulting at LCP, said publication of the new framework was “an extremely welcome step and will lead to considerable creativity in tackling the long-term funding challenges of Britain’s DB pension schemes”.The regulator has said trustees should only consider using a superfund or a new business model once TPR had completed its assessment, and that the regulator would be providing more information for schemes and employers in the coming months.Two consolidators have been actively marketing themselves, Clara Pensions and the Pensions SuperFund, and have said that they have deals in the pipeline. Clara today said TPR’s guidance “put it firmly on the path to regulatory approval and, once received, its first transactions”.  Rush of deals?Matt Cooper, head of DB consolidation in the pensions team at PwC, said PwC understood there were “significant pipelines”, and that “we could see several billion of pension liabilities transferred in the next 18 months, assuming the economics implied by the regulatory requirements can be supported by providers’ business models”. Adolfo Aponte, managing director at Lincoln Pensions, said the covenant adviser expected TPR’s guidance “to open the flood gates on the sale of the employer covenant links in exchange for a defined pot of capital, which could be transformational in the way that benefits are secured and how they are delivered to members”.“As with any innovation however, there is ample room for unintended consequences and the emerging regulatory regime should ensure members are not left wearing the innovation risk.”The Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) said the greater clarity and certainty on new commercial consolidation options would be of particular interest to schemes that could not afford to buy-out with an insurance company in the near future and “where the security of members’ pensions had been put at risk because of the recent COVID-19 business downturn”.However, ACA chair Patrick Bloomfield said the association did not expect a rush of deals to be signed straight away.“We support TPR’s intention to scrutinise each deal individually, checking that it is in the interests of pension scheme members.”Charles Ward, a professional trustee at Dalriada Trustees, said a superfund was likely to be appropriate for a narrow range of schemes.This was because of a ban on transfers from schemes able to buy-out via an insurance company or on course to do so within the foreseeable future, “and the difficulty that weaker employers will have in finding collateral to contribute to their scheme, even if this is less than the buyout deficit”.One of the aspects of the regime noted by experts is that it would not allow consolidators to extract profits in the first three years unless schemes were wound-up.Lesley Carline, president of the Pensions Management Institute, expressed concern that TPR might be creating a regulatory culture disincentivising the creation of consolidators.“Consolidators should be able to remunerate investors without undue regulatory restriction if the superfund concept is to succeed,” she said. “We believe this aspect of today’s announcement requires further clarification.“Apart from this, we are excited that scheme consolidation can finally proceed and see this as a positive development for the members of legacy DB schemes.”Superfunds à la TPR guidanceAccording to TPR, a superfund is a model that allows for the severance of an employer’s liability towards a DB scheme where one of the following conditions applies: The scheme employer is replaced by a special purpose vehicle employer. “This is, to all intents and purposes, a shell employer and is usually put in place to preserve the scheme’s PPF eligibility,” said TPRThe liability of the employer to fund the scheme’s liabilities is replaced by an employer backed with a capital injection to a capital buffer The replacement employer backed by a capital buffer will usually support a consolidator scheme, with important features such as:a bulk transfer of a ceding scheme’s liabilities to a consolidator scheme, which is prepared to accept the liabilities of a number of schemes from unconnected ceding employersits own governance and administration (these functions may be in-house, or outsourced)(usually) one trustee board “I look forward to learning from the experiences from the interim regime, which will provide valuable insights as we develop and finalise our plans for a longer term legislative solution.”Superfunds, which allow for the severance of an employer’s liability towards a DB scheme, were a recommendation of a Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) taskforce and the subject of consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2018.TPR published a first set of guidance in this area that year, but there has been what former pensions minister Steve Webb described as a “regulatory stalemate” on the issue of DB consolidators since then, the main stumbling block being concerns about unfair competition for the insurance industry.The effects of the coronavirus have added to anticipation in the pension industry of a greater regulatory clarity being provided about DB consolidators.  To read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine click here.center_img The UK pensions regulator has today set out guidance for how emerging so-called defined benefit (DB) “superfunds” should run, a move seen as opening the door for a market in new consolidation options for struggling company DB schemes.The regulatory regime is interim, bridging the period until such time as the government has legislated for a permanent framework, which it today said it was working towards.The pensions regulator (TPR) said it acted ahead of this to ensure clear rules were in place while DB superfunds and other new consolidation models emerged.Pensions minister Guy Opperman said: “The publication of today’s interim regime for DB superfunds is a big step towards a healthier and stronger pensions landscape.last_img read more

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JUST RELEASED: New Paper Says Puberty Blockers Aren’t the Answer to Gender Confusion

first_imgThe Daily Signal 20 June 2017Family First Comment: The bottom line for Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh is that “we frequently hear from neuroscientists that the adolescent brain is too immature to make reliably rational decisions, but we are supposed to expect emotionally troubled adolescents to make decisions about their gender identities and about serious medical treatments at the age of 12 or younger.” This new article in The New Atlantis should make all of us pause before embracing radical medical treatments for children.Exactly.Increasingly, gender therapists and physicians argue that children as young as nine should be given puberty-blocking drugs if they experience gender dysphoria.But a new article by three medical experts reveals that there is little scientific evidence to support such a radical procedure.The article, “Growing Pains: Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria,” published Tuesday in The New Atlantis, discusses over 50 peer-reviewed studies on gender dysphoria in children.It is co-authored by Dr. Paul W. Hruz, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine; Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, a scholar in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor at Arizona State University; and Dr. Paul R. McHugh, university distinguished service professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.Last year, Mayer and McHugh published an extensive report on sexuality and gender in general. Now, working with Hruz, an expert on pediatrics, they focus on children.As I explain in my forthcoming book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” the best biology, psychology, and philosophy all support an understanding of sex as a bodily reality, and of gender as a social manifestation of bodily sex.Biology isn’t bigotry, and we need a sober and honest assessment of the human costs of getting human nature wrong. This is especially true with children.And yet, pediatric gender clinics—and therapeutic interventions on children—are on the rise. In the past 10 years, dozens of pediatric gender clinics have sprung up throughout the United States.In 2007, Boston Children’s Hospital “became the first major program in the United States to focus on transgender children and adolescents,” as its own website brags.Seven years later, 33 gender clinics had opened their doors to our nation’s children, telling parents that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones may be the only way to prevent teen suicides.Never mind that according to the best studies—the ones that even transgender activists themselves cite—80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria will come to identify with and embrace their bodily sex.Never mind that 41 percent of people who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, compared to 4.6 percent of the general population.Never mind that people who have had transition surgery are 19 times more likely than average to die by suicide.These statistics should stop us in our tracks. Clearly, we must work to find ways to effectively prevent these suicides and address the underlying causes. We certainly shouldn’t be encouraging children to “transition.”The sad reality is that while the number of pediatric gender clinics is growing, very little is known about gender identity in children—and many therapies amount to little more than experimentation on minors.Professional standards of care are being promulgated that state children should receive puberty-blocking drugs at as young as age 9, and cross-sex hormones at age 16—but there have been no controlled clinical trials on puberty blocking for gender dysphoria, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved these drugs for treatment of gender dysphoria.Meanwhile, despite claims by advocates, there is no evidence that puberty blocking is “reversible,” nor that it is harmless. Most concerning of all is that these treatments run the risk that children may persist in their gender dysphoria.Blocking Puberty Could Cause Children to Persist in Gender DysphoriaIn their new article, Hruz, Mayer, and McHugh explain that transgender-affirming treatments of children “may drive some children to persist in identifying as transgender when they might otherwise have, as they grow older, found their gender to be aligned with their sex.”As the doctors note, “Gender identity for children is elastic (that is, it can change over time) and plastic (that is, it can be shaped by forces like parental approval and social conditions).”As a result, if “the increasing use of gender-affirming care does cause children to persist with their identification as the opposite sex, then many children who would otherwise not need ongoing medical treatment would be exposed to hormonal and surgical interventions.”Whereas 80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria will come to identify with and embrace their biological sex, none of the children placed on puberty blockers in the Dutch clinic that pioneered this treatment came to identify with their biological sex. All of them persisted in their transgender identity.READ MORE: http://dailysignal.com/2017/06/20/new-paper-says-puberty-blockers-arent-answer-gender-confusion/READ THE FULL ARTICLE http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/growing-painsFAQ https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/FAQs-New-Atlantis-on-puberty-suppression.pdfKeep up with family issues in NZ. Receive our weekly emails direct to your Inbox.last_img read more

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