The New York Police Department's Demographics Unit reportedly carried out systematic surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods to root out terrorist threats, but it never produced a single usable lead.
The country's Supreme Court handed down a decision that acknowledges for the first time India's large population of eunuchs and transvestites.
“I’m somewhat of a night owl,” says Christine Brown, executive director of K-12 and college prep products at Kaplan Test Prep. “I’ll probably be online this evening keeping an eye on things.”
From the big players like Kaplan to small mom-and-pops, test prep companies will be scrambling to overhaul their offerings in time for the new test’s debut in the spring of 2016—and hoping to capitalize on an expected surge in demand.
“When the new SAT comes up, business just goes through the roof,” says David Benjamin Gruenbaum of Ahead of the Class, a California-based tutoring company.
He expects another bump in business this time around, even though the College Board is teaming up with the nonprofit Khan Academy to offer free help.
As Marketplace has reported before, the college application process is a huge -- read: expensive -- endeavor. Standardized tests cost from registration to score reports:
Just taking the SAT costs upward of $51.00. Tack on individual subject tests required by some colleges, and you're adding another $24.50 in initial registration fees, plus $13-24 for every individual subject.
The ACT costs $36.50. The ACT Plus Writing Test, required by some colleges, costs $52.50.
SAT and ACT tutoring costs an average of $125 per session. Private tutoring for the tests will range in costs by tutor. Princeton Review's 24-hour private tutoring program will set a family back $3000. One independent tutor we spoke with charges almost $550 an hour for his services.
The Consumer Price Index (both the overall rate, and the ‘core’ rate excluding food and energy) rose 0.2 percent in March 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CPI is up 1.5 percent for the past 12 months. Big drivers of price rises in March were food (up 0.4 percent m/m and 1.7 percent y/y) and shelter costs, especially rent (up 0.3 percent m/m, 2.9 percent y/y). Economists were predicting a smaller rise in inflation at the consumer level.
Food prices, both at home and in restaurants, are facing multiple inflationary pressures, including a spate of bad weather—severe drought in California, deep freezes in the South—as well as higher-priced food imports. Leading the surge were meat and eggs (up 1.2 percent in March), dairy (up 1 percent) and fruits and vegetables (up 0.9 percent).
Shelter costs have been rising steadily for renters and owners. The latter face higher home prices and mortgage rates; the former face a shortage of rental units, which drives up rents. Homebuilding (especially of multifamily apartment buildings and condos) has started to pick up after coming to a virtual halt through the Recession. But it will take many years for inventory to catch up with demand, says Ethan Handelman, VP for Policy and Advocacy at the National Housing Conference.
“The pain [of rising rents] really goes pretty broadly," says Handelman. Handelman says low-income people usually can’t afford a rent hike—they’ve got no cushion and may be thrown into homelessness. He says middle-class people aren’t seeing their paychecks rise much. “Many of them are paying more than a third—and some are paying more than half—of their income for housing."
Among major product categories, only gasoline and airfare prices have fallen in the past twelve months (Gasoline is down 4.7 percent, and airfares have fallen 4.1 percent).
The uptick in inflation so far is not alarming most economists. Inflation rates are still well below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.
But economist Sarah Watt House at Wells Fargo Securities says average Americans might have a different experience of inflation going forward.
“Even if you have a moderate rate of inflation,” says Watt House, “if you’re still not getting commensurate pickup in wage growth, and that starts to eat away at real income gains, I think it could be a little bit concerning to folks.”
By Shea Huffman/Marketplace
Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. Patients and addicts often mix them with prescription painkillers — sometimes to deadly effect.
Even if you’ve never been to south Georgia, you’ve probably tasted the region’s most famous vegetable. It’s almost time for this year’s Vidalia onions to start showing up in the produce aisle.
Some Georgia farmers are beginning to harvest the $120 million crop this week. But that's not going over well with some other growers -- or Georgia's agriculture commissioner, who wants farmers to wait to pack and ship onions until next Monday, April 21.
The dispute centers around what's best for the Vidalia brand. To be labelled a Vidalia, onions must be certain approved varieties, and must be grown in a 20-county region in southeast Georgia. They're know for their sweetness, a product of the soil and water conditions in the region.
"Matter of fact, they only make you cry when they’re gone," says Delbert Bland, by all accounts the biggest grower of sweet onions in the nation.
Standing in a field of onions, with narrow green shoots sticking out of the ground, Bland says Vidalias grow rapidly during the final two or three weeks before harvest.
Close-up of the onion shoots. (Sarah McCammon/Marketplace)
"If you come out here tomorrow, you’ll see cracks all over this dirt," Bland says. "That’s just how fast they grow at the very end."
His company, Bland Farms, raises close to 3,000 acres of onions. He says a lot of them are ready to harvest and sell.
But the leader of Georgia’s agriculture department, Commissioner Gary Black, says farmers have been rushing onions to market to take advantage of higher prices early in the season. He says some grocers are complaining to him about quality.
"Quality," Black says, "meaning taste, shelf life, appearance."
As guardian of the Vidalia trademark, Black says he wants to make sure onions aren’t in stores before they’re ready. So he set April 21 as the official packing date. That means farmers who harvest and pack early could be fined as much as $1,000 per illicit onion bag.
"In most growers’ minds, that’s been the earliest date that a real, true reliable Vidalia onion could be put into the marketplace," Black says.
But harvesting too late carries its own risks, says George Boyhan, a vegetable specialist with the University of Georgia Extension.
"In my professional opinion, that’s insane," he says.
Boyhan started working with Vidalia farmers in the late 1990s. He says harvesting too late can expose the crop to diseases.
"Onions we’d harvest in the second or third week in May, we always had problems with those bacterial diseases," Boyhan says.
But many farmers support a later start to the season. Bo Herndon is chairman of a growers’ advisory panel that helped choose the April 21 pack date. Herndon says he won’t harvest until early May - even though some of his competitors are starting earlier.
"I think it’s all about the dollar," Herndon says. "And if they pick right now they’re not gonna be ready. They’re gonna be green and whoever gets them isn’t gonna be happy with them."
Bland, meanwhile, has pushed back, taking the agricultural commissioner to court. He says it's not good business to wait to harvest - even if other farmers would like him to.
A road sign for Bland's farm. (Sarah McCammon/Marketplace)
"They don't want someone to go to market before they do," Bland says. "We're all onion growers, and yet we all compete with each other or market share."
This year, that competition isn’t just playing out in the grocery aisle, but also in Georgia courtrooms.