Legislative battles are being fought all over the country over whether or not to let home-schooled students play on public high school teams.
Roughly half of U.S. states have passed laws making them eligible to play on the teams. Advocates have dubbed them Tim Tebow bills, after the NFL quarterback who was home-schooled when he played on a high school team.
But an attempt by Indiana to find a middle ground may not have solved the problem in that state.
Somewhere In The Middle
In May, the Indiana High School Athletic Association changed its rules to make home-school students eligible to play, but they left it up to local schools to decide whether to allow these students on their teams.
"There are those within our membership that are not real excited about this rule change, and that was the reason why there was so much resistance to begin with," says Bobby Cox, who heads the organization.
Cox supported the compromise after lawmakers failed to pass a law in 2011 requiring all schools to allow home-schooled students on their teams. At the time, he lobbied against the bill — arguing it did not adequately guarantee that home-schooled students meet the same academic standards as public school kids.
Cox says a significant portion of the Athletic Association believes that when a child decides to be home-schooled they make a choice to forgo other opportunities.
"On the other side of that ledger we have those who are in agreement that says, 'well, a parent should always have the right to educate their child however they want to, however they ought to be able to pick and choose whatever opportunities that are available, from whatever institution or whatever agency,' " says Cox.
Kids At The Heart Of The Debate
Fifteen-year-old Noel Keeble is the type of student-athlete the Athletic Association ruled on. He is one of four children home-schooled by his mother, who has a master's degree in Education.
Keeble wants to be a professional soccer player and plays with a private club in the spring. In the fall, he does not have a team to play on.
"All of the club teams let the high school players play for their school team, I do not get seen as much, I do not get as much training as everyone else, and I do not stay as sharp and ready," he says.
Lake Central, the high school that Keeble is zoned to attend, is in a district that has decided not to let home-schooled students play on its sports teams. Aside from academic oversight, the district would require Keeble to take at least one class and pass certain state test — and the state does not reimburse districts for home-schoolers.
"It is difficult to justify allowing a true home-school student to participate in our activities when they don't necessarily have the same oversight exercised for our current full-time enrolled students," says Lake Central principal Robin Tobias.
Keeble's mom, Donna, says that is unfair. After a recent referendum, parents are paying higher taxes — she thinks athletics should be separate from academics.
"If the gym and the weight room and the soccer field are part of those facilities, I just want him to have access to it," she says.
Tradition Influences Laws
Bob Gardner, head of the National Federation of State High School Associations, says some of this conflict is rooted in tradition.
"One of the cardinal principles of all states when they began regulating high school athletics in their state was that a youngster only can participate on a school in which he is enrolled and taking academic and passing his academic classes," he says.
The members of Gardner's group are now almost evenly divided. Each year, a few states opt to reevaluate whether to allow home schoolers to play on public school teams.
In the meantime, kids like Keeble wait to see if it will ever be their turn on the team.
Steve Walsh reports for Lakeshore Public Media in Indiana.
Cities are defined by their skylines — while Paris is composed mostly of low-rise apartment buildings, New York is a city of tall office towers. But London is a city in transition. On Wednesday, Boris Johnson, the mayor of the British capital, attends a "topping out" ceremony for one of London's latest skyscrapers in a city where tall buildings cause a lot of controversy.
Until recently, London has been a low-rise city.? Even now, a 12-story building is considered rather tall.? But a spate of new skyscrapers is raising questions about the kind of city London should be.
The newest entrant is a building Londoners have dubbed the "Cheese-Grater." It's an unfinished, 52-story steel frame that looks, well, like a cheese grater. One entire facade of the building tapers down to the street at such a sharp angle, it just calls out for a block of English cheddar. Once complete, it will be London's second-tallest building.
Nigel Webb of British Land, the developer, says the building is designed so its smaller top doesn't obstruct the view of St. Paul's Cathedral, built by Christopher Wren in the 17th century. The church is many blocks away, but views of the building from around the city are protected by law.
"Had we designed the building so that it was like a traditional tower going straight up, it would have actually clashed with the dome of St. Paul's," says Webb.
This gets at why skyscrapers can be so difficult to build in London: The city boasts centuries of architectural history, and some observers are very worried about its changing skyline.
"You know nowadays, the landscape of London is completely transformed — has somehow burst into a kind of small Shanghai," says Francesco Bandarin of UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural organization for conserving world heritage. "But these changes have limits."
Bandarin says London's new skyscrapers threaten another important, London landmark, the Tower of London, which sits right in the shadow of the city's new buildings. Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, the tower oozes British history: A couple of Henry VIII's wives lost their heads here; it's home to the Crown Jewels. ? ?
UNESCO designates the Tower of London an official World Heritage Site, and Bandarin says it has warned the British government about the new development around it.
"We see now that it's very difficult to perceive the tower as it was in its very long millenary history because of the existence of these high-rise buildings," says Bandarin.
The British government is in talks with UNESCO to preserve what's left of the area. But Paul Finch, a critic at Architects' Journal, is concerned by what he says is the implication that instead of just preserving views of the Tower of London, UNESCO is urging the city to protect what visitors see from it. ?
"The idea that we're going to start protecting views from these historic monuments and places is a form of madness," says Finch. "There is a danger of ending up with great swaths of a city, which cannot accommodate taller buildings."?
Heated battles have already erupted. John Penrose, a former government minister for heritage in the U.K., is in favor of development. But he says The Shard — the tall, glass, spike-shaped building that now dominates the London skyline — was nearly scrapped because of conservationists' concerns over the Tower of London. And he has his own concerns.
"In the worst case," says Penrose, "UNESCO could withdraw the designation of being a World Heritage Site." ?
That's something the organization has done only once in Europe, when Dresden built a bridge UNESCO said degraded the views around the German city.? ?
In London's defense, Edward Lister, the city's deputy mayor for planning, says all of the new high-rises are essential for London to maintain its status as a global financial center.
"UNESCO is taking a very, very black-and white-position, and I'm afraid life's not like that," says Lister. "You cannot allow development to be stalled in a city like this. London's grown by 600,000 people in just the last five years. And we will be over 9 million people before New York. That's the pressure that the city's under." ?
Nevertheless, London has come up with new guidelines as a result of the furor over the city's building boom. Known as "The London Plan," it protects more views across the city. But some tourists at the Tower of London look up at the surrounding walls of glass and kind of like it. ?
"I think it shows how beautiful time was back in the 11th century, and just how beautiful the new creations are now in the 21st century," says Vanessa Lawson, visiting London from the nearby town of Hastings. "You know we kind of have to accept changes and go with them really."
And even more change is on the way. London has just approved proposals for tall buildings within view of another World Heritage Site, the Houses of Parliament, and UNESCO is concerned.
Whether it's a free upgrade on a hotel room or skipping ahead in the check-in line, many businesses give preferential treatment to some customers, hoping to make them more loyal. The practice often works — but a new study suggests that when we get perks we didn't earn, negative feelings can result. And they can make a surprise deal a little less sweet.
"The current research demonstrates that, although receiving unearned preferential treatment does generate positive reactions, it is not always an entirely pleasurable experience," write the study's authors, Lan Jiang, Joandrea Hoegg, and Darren W. Dahl.
The displeasing aspects of a treat tend to peak, they write, when the perks are given in public, in front of other customers who are no different than the recipient of the business's generosity.
"We propose that receiving something that others have just as much right to receive can activate concerns about negative evaluations, reducing the satisfaction with the preferential treatment," write the researchers, who teach marketing at business schools at the University of Oregon and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
The study's authors found that "satisfaction with receiving preferential treatment can be restored if the observer who does not receive such treatment reacts positively to the recipient's good fortune or if the observer is of a higher status than the recipient."
That's right. The test subjects enjoyed "the positive experience of 'beating' a superior'" so much, the authors say, that it brought "increased overall satisfaction."
It also helps if nobody's looking. To test that theory, the researchers conducted experiments to test "feelings of social discomfort" and try to determine where they come from. They found that even in the most seemingly fair context — a random drawing — the winner felt best about it if they were alone.
All of the tests placed participants in situations in which one person received a surprise bonus. In one case, a booth that was dispensing free product samples suddenly gave one subject more than the others. That was welcomed — especially if no one else was around.
"It's like they wanted to get out of there," co-author JoAndrea Hoegg tells The Globe and Mail. "It's the fear of negative evaluation. If you're getting something you don't deserve, you're thrilled - as long as no one is watching you."
All of this isn't meant to imply that businesses should stop giving people free perks, the researchers say. The trick is to be sure all customers know the deal — and why they're not getting it. Other options include using scratch-off game tabs and loyalty emails, which can be kept private, to connect with customers.
Such steps, they say, "would minimize the potential for negative emotions."
Six former employees and one contractor say Bank of America's mortgage servicing unit consistently lied to homeowners, fraudulently denied loan modifications and offered bonuses to staff for intentionally pushing people into foreclosure, according to a Salon.com report.
The allegations were made in sworn statements added to a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Massachusetts.
One of the former employees, Erika Brown, said in her statement that the bank's practice was to "string homeowners along with no apparent intention of providing the permanent loan modifications it promises."
Salon explained the process in more detail:
"The government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which gave banks cash incentives to modify loans under certain standards, was supposed to streamline the process and help up to 4 million struggling homeowners (to date, active permanent modifications number about 870,000). In reality, Bank of America used it as a tool, say these former employees, to squeeze as much money as possible out of struggling borrowers before eventually foreclosing on them. Borrowers were supposed to make three trial payments before the loan modification became permanent; in actuality, many borrowers would make payments for a year or more, only to find themselves rejected for a permanent modification, and then owing the difference between the trial modification and their original payment."
The employees' statements went on to describe a system of negligence, falsifying records and mass, systematic rejections of loan modification applications — called a "blitz" — all intended to force borrowers into foreclosure and allow Bank of America to collect additional fees from them.
The statements also described a system of cash bonuses, as well as gift cards for local retailers, offered by senior managers to employees who met quotas for pushing accounts into foreclosure.
Bank of America has said the statements paint a "false picture" of the bank's activities and that they are "rife with inaccuracies."