“A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future.” President Obama, speaking to students at the University of Buffalo during a two-day bus tour to emphasize college affordability on August 22, 2013
WEEK OF AUGUST 19, 2013
Nation: School shooting thwarted.
On Tuesday afternoon in Decatur, Georgia, school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff negotiated with a potential school shooter, Michael Hill, who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition; Tuff talked him into standing down and surrendering after a brief standoff with police where shots were fired but no one was hurt. Tuff was on the phone with 911 operators recounting the shooter’s demands while also talking directly to the gunman. She divulged personal struggles in her attempts to calm him and ultimately convinced him to give up and lie down. Being hailed as a “true hero” for her courage, President Obama called Tuff to thank her on Thursday.
World: More suspicion of chemical weapons use in Syria.
As many as 1400 were killed in Syria on Wednesday in an attack that has been tied to chemical weapons. If confirmed, the attack on rebel-held parts of eastern Damascus would be the most serious use of chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein’s 1988 massacre of thousands of Kurds in Halabja. The Syrian government has acknowledged the attack, but strongly denies any use of chemical weapons. At this time, very little information is available, but France is pushing outside powers to respond “with force” if the use is confirmed, and Israel says its intelligence estimates look bad. “According to our intelligence assessments, there was use of chemical weapons,” said Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli minister of strategic and intelligence affairs and international relations “and this of course was not for the first time.” Having previously chosen to stay out of the conflict, this incident could significantly alter the U.S. course of action.
Politics: Higher education feeling the federal pressure?
President Obama unveiled a massive proposal on Thursday that would use sharp federal pressure to make college more affordable, potentially opening the gates of higher education to more families scared off by rising tuitions. “We’ve got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt,” the president said to students at the University of Buffalo, noting that “college has never been more expensive.” He announced plans to create a federal rating system that would allow parents and students to easily compare colleges based upon “best value,” aiming to change incentives for colleges that are not doing enough to keep costs down. Ultimately, the plan requires approval by Congress, but we hope this conversation continues.
Business: A nasty glitch took down the Nasdaq.
Nasdaq Stock Market-listed securities ground to a halt on Thursday after a technology problem forced the exchange to issue an alert telling traders to stop until further notice. Normally this kind of glitch would be quickly overcome, but because the problem involved the data feed from which prices are derived, everything had to shut down. Unfortunately, bigger glitches like this are becoming more of a problem as earlier this week Goldman Sachs had a glitch of their own that flooded U.S. stock-options markets with erroneous orders; most of the orders were later canceled but Goldman’s error is fuel for critics of America’s electronic market structure. “This unfortunately was an error, and in the financial world an error can be a million-dollar error,” said Chip Hendon, a senior fund manager at Huntington Asset Management.
Science: The fires keep blazing.
On Thursday afternoon, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for a wildfire near Yosemite National Park that has burned more than 84 square miles and is only 2 percent contained (in other words, the fire is now nearly twice the size of San Francisco). According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 51 major uncontained wildfires burning throughout the West. On Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service, the nation’s top wildfire-fighting agency, said that it is running out of money to fight the fires. Amid this grueling, deadly wildfire season $600 million (in addition to the $1 billion already spent this year) will be diverted from other areas to fill the gap, hoping to slow down the blazes.
Women’s Affairs: A crazy-good pro surfer from the east coast? You bet.
A young surfer from Montauk, New York is competing this week in the Swatch Girls Pro for a spot on the world professional tour. If selected, Quincy Davis (age 18) would become the first New Yorker, male or female, to break into the top tier of professional surfing. Currently, there are 17 spots on the world tour with just three spots from the United States and none of those hail from the east coast. This is Davis’ first year on the qualifying circuit; right now she’s ranked 30th overall (and the 3rd ranked junior surfer in the world). Davis said about the competition, “I’m just going to do my best.” The Swatch Girls Pro will likely be her last qualifying contest this season, but you can bet we’ll be rooting for her in the next. Looks like this trailblazing female surfer is set to make big waves!