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Employees who entered computer data at two Montgomery high schools say they witnessed school administrators violating school policy to help students achieve higher grades with little or no work.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported the allegations Thursday ( as state officials continue to investigate allegations of widespread cheating in the Montgomery County public school system.

Two-thirds of American college graduates left school last year with student loan debt hanging over their heads and the average amount they owed was $26,600, up 5 percent from the previous year. They also walked into a "tough job market" that was only marginally more friendly than in 2010, according to a report released today by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).



Earlier this week, a Japanese company announced a $20 billion bid for a majority stake in Sprint-Nextel, America's third-largest mobile carrier. The deal was launched by the CEO of Softbank - an executive who says he has a 300-year business plan and who is fond of making investments his peers call crazy.

Lucy Craft has this profile.

LUCY CRAFT, BYLINE: In a society where conformity, conservatism and harmony are virtues, CEO Masayoshi Son breaks all the rules, says his biographer, Shinichi Sano.

The percentage of Americans working in manufacturing fell under President Reagan. It also fell under Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama (respectively).

Which is to say, the decline of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. economy is not about who is president or what his policies are. It's the result of long-running, irreversible, historical factors (read: technology and globalization).

The attorney for Birmingham Board of Education President Edward Maddox says his client plans to resign from the board.

Lawyer Richard Jaffe tells ( that Maddox intends to step down from the board as part of an agreement with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

Maddox has been charged with using his public office for personal gain.

Construction Of New Homes Surges To Four-Year High

Oct 17, 2012

The rate at which builders began work on new homes surged to a four-year high, the Commerce Department said today.

The AP reports that September clocked the fastest pace since July of 2008. The AP adds:

"The Commerce Department says builders broke ground at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 in September. That's an increase of 15% from August.

Gov. Robert Bentley says people interested in serving in two open positions on the Auburn University board of trustees may submit their names to the trustee selection committee.

Bentley is president of the five-member committee. Bentley said the committee is looking for replacements for John Blackwell, who represents a seven-county area in the Tennessee Valley, and Sam Ginn, who has an at-large seat. The two men are not eligible to serve another term.

Why do so many people hate Monsanto?

Is it because this multinational corporation pioneered some enormously successful genetically engineered crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton?



Bank of America will release quarterly earnings tomorrow and once again, foreclosures will be part of the equation. The Charlotte-based bank's role in the 2008 housing crash has landed it on a fair number of lists of most hated institutions in America.

But, as Julie Rose of member station WFAE in Charlotte discovered, some of those most involved in cleaning up the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis are beginning to soften toward the bank.



And four major manufacturers say they will start offering financial support for the training of military veterans. The corporations are taking part in a program called Get Skills to Work Coalition. It has said its initial goal at training 15,000 vets.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Unemployment among veterans has been falling, as it has for everyone else. The jobless rate among vets serving after 2001 now stands at 9.7 percent, but that's still about 2 percentage points higher than the general population.

A three-member investigative team appointed by the state Department of Education is looking into allegations of mass grade changes at three public high schools in Montgomery. School Superintendent Barbara Thompson sought the department's help earlier this month after the Montgomery Advertiser reported that teachers who worked in Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and Sidney Lanier high schools said they witnessed or participated in the improper changing of hundreds of grades.

Some Book! 'Charlotte's Web' Turns 60

Oct 15, 2012

Sixty years ago, the book Charlotte's Web first appeared in print. This children's classic is often seen as a story of a spider and a pig. But when E.B. White recorded a narration of the book, he said something different: "This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself."

After days of rumors, the Japanese telecom Softbank announced it would buy a 70 percent stake of the American mobile carrier Sprint Nextel.

Two reasons this is important: Sprint had been overshadowed by mega companies Verizon and AT&T. When T-Mobile announced a merger with Mobile PCS, Sprint was left in a kind of nowhere land.

Japanese mobile phone company Softbank has announced it has agreed to buy 70 percent of Sprint Nextel for $20 billion. The deal would make Sprint Nextel a tougher competitor against its bigger rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T.



It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Two Americans have been awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Economics for work that has to do with matching in business, medicine and marriage. The two, whose work turned out to be a good match, are Alvin Roth of Harvard and Lloyd Shapely of the University of California, Los Angeles. They will share the $1.2 million prize.

The Last Word In Business

Oct 15, 2012



And our last word in business today, is supersonic.

A space jump and the brand behind it mesmerized viewers yesterday.


Felix Baumgartner wanted to jump from 24 miles up and travel faster than the speed of sound in freefall, which would be a first. From mission control, they went through a checklist.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Item 31. Your shoot integrity is checked and your parachutes are not deployed.

Willow Tufano became a homeowner earlier this year. This was newsworthy because Willow was 14 years old. She raised money to buy the house by selling stuff on Craigslist.

I spoke to Willow again last week and got an update. She's 15 now, and her life over the past few months was sort of surreal. She got caught up in two dramas: America's housing market and America's media circus.

A life well-worth noting has caught the attention of obituary writers:

-- "Andrew F. Brimmer, a Louisiana sharecropper's son who was the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board and who led efforts to to reverse the country's balance-of-payments deficit, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 86." (The New York Times)

More states and cities are turning to casinos to generate revenue and plug budget holes.

The latest to try its luck is Maryland, where groups are waging an expensive campaign over a ballot question that will be put to voters next month. Proponents promise jackpots of jobs and funding for public schools, but analysts say the gamble doesn't always pay off at the levels promised for public coffers.

"U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly rose to its highest in five years in October as consumers became more optimistic about the economy in a possible boost to President Obama's reelection hopes," Reuters reports.

A new kind of crop is being planted in the United States, and it doesn't require any land or fertilizer. Farming it improves the environment, and it can be used in a number of ways. So what is this miracle cash crop of the future?

It's seaweed.

Charlie Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, loves seaweed. In nature, he says, when seaweed turns a rich chocolate color, that means the plant is picking up nitrogen, a process called nutrient bioextraction.

Anheuser-Busch, Pabst and MillerCoors are among the big beer makers the Oglala Sioux tribe has accused of illegally selling millions of cans of beer each year in Whiteclay, Neb. The town borders Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is located across the state line in South Dakota and is dry.

The Oglala Sioux's federal case was thrown out, and the tribe is considering what to do next — legalize alcohol or go to state court.

The names Columbine and Virginia Tech have both become tragic shorthand for school shootings in America. In the wake of those shootings, schools have developed a fairly typical lockdown procedure when there's a threat: sound the alarm, call police, lock doors and stay put.

The standard school-lockdown plan is intended to minimize chaos so police arriving on the scene don't shoot the wrong people. Students practice following directions, getting into classrooms and essentially, waiting.

Here's an astonishing fact: Half of America's mushrooms are grown in one tiny corner of southeastern Pennsylvania, near the town of Kennett Square.

But why? It's not as though this place has some special advantage of climate or soil, the kind of thing that led to strawberry fields in Watsonville, Calif., or peach orchards in Georgia. Mushrooms can grow indoors. They could come from anywhere.

Students pay much more for a college education in the U.S. than they do in most other countries. But they also get a bigger return on their investment.

Here's a graphical breakdown comparing the cost and the payoff for a college education.

A few notes:

The data come from a recently published OECD report looking at educational data around the world. The cost of education includes tuition fees and living costs paid by the student, as well as earnings that students forgo by not working while they're in school.

RealtyTrac, an online industry group that follows the foreclosure market, says the number of foreclosed properties nationally dropped dramatically in September, down by seven percent from August. And the firm says since September 2011, foreclosures are down 16 percent — that's the lowest total since July 2007.

There were 339,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, a decrease from last week's revised figure of 369,000, the Employment and Training Administration says.

Reuters reports it's the lowest number in more than four years. Reuters adds:

"The prior week's figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Unless Congress acts, the Defense Department faces some $55 billion in cuts after the first of the year. The cuts are part of what's known as sequestration — automatic across the board spending cuts to both defense and nondefense government spending set in motion by last year's debt-ceiling fight.

Salaries for uniformed personnel are the one major thing that's protected. Otherwise, it's about a 10 percent cut to everything from Pentagon civilian staff to the acquisition of multimillion-dollar aircraft, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Affirmative action in higher education appeared to take a potentially lethal hit on Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments testing the constitutionality of a race-conscious admission program at the University of Texas, Austin.



I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Today we want to bring you into one of the most important conversations we are having in this country. It's about our schools. Welcome to our Twitter Education Forum. Today we are broadcasting from member station WLRN in Miami, but the conversation has actually already started.

For the past month on Twitter, using the hashtag npredchat, we've already been hearing from our radio audience and from our digital audience.