Friday News: Monumental screwup


AUTHOR OF REVISION TO NC SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM STILL A MYSTERY: DPI is distancing itself from the monument recommendation for third-grade students. Lori Carlin, DPI section chief for K-12 social studies and arts education, noted that students already learn about monuments in 4th- and 7th grades and in high school. “We were pleased with the objective in draft one and are unsure as to where or why the writing team determined a more specific focus was necessary for the 3rd grade,” Carlin said in an email. “At this time, we are recommending that draft 3 revert to the original language from draft 1.” Scioli, a social studies teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, said they’ve been unable to find out how the changes were included because the teachers on the writing teams signed a confidentiality notice. “I think the lack of transparency in the process prevents us from feeling great about the process,” she said.

NC RESTAURANT OWNERS SAY THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO OPEN WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING: “We are eager to reopen as quickly as possible, but we’re not in favor of opening at reduced capacity,” said Elizabeth Turnbull, who signed the letter and owns Cuban restaurant COPA in Durham with her husband, Roberto Matos. “We have the number of seats we have in the restaurant because that’s what we need to be financially solvent. ... (Reopening with reduced capacity) feels like it’s something that’s more symbolic than useful.” The letter argues that partial reopening favors corporate chains with larger dining rooms, not small independent restaurants. The restaurants say that takeout is a better option until full dining rooms can reopen. “Rather than reopen under conditions that would almost certainly ensure failure, we ask that you help us maintain the status quo of curbside takeout and delivery service until we can operate safely at full capacity,” the letter states. “The narrative will be restaurants are open, not restaurants are partially open,” Turnbull said. “It puts us in an impossible position with our lenders and for people needing payment deferments and rent abatement. Those people are going to say, ‘What’s your problem? You’re open.’”

HUGE DROP IN NON-CORONA TESTING FORCES NC'S LABCORP TO SEND WORKERS HOME: Burlington-based LabCorp, which has become a critical source of testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, is furloughing employees as its non-coronavirus testing business fell by half in recent weeks. The company, which employs around 9,000 people in North Carolina and has a large presence in Research Triangle Park, added that it will also freeze hiring, let go of temporary and contract workers, and suspend 401(k) contributions because of the impacts from the coronavirus. The pandemic, the company said in a filing, has caused a 50% decline in its overall testing numbers compared to its normal levels. LabCorp makes a majority of its money conducting routine tests, like drug testing employees for private companies or cholesterol tests for patients with cardiovascular disease. The company breaks down its business into two segments: Testing and drug development. The testing segment, which includes 5,000 offered tests, made up 60% of the company’s revenue in 2019. “Unfortunately, the health crisis is impacting our regular business in the form of clients postponing studies and programs, and lower demand for monitoring patient health and regular diagnostics work,” Kushner said in the email.

PANDEMIC CAUSES AN 8% DROP IN GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS: Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to plunge nearly 8 percent this year, the largest drop ever recorded, as worldwide lockdowns to fight the coronavirus have triggered an “unprecedented” decline in the use of fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency said in a new report on Thursday. But experts cautioned that the drop should not be seen as good news for efforts to tackle climate change. When the pandemic subsides and nations take steps to restart their economies, emissions could easily soar again unless governments make concerted efforts to shift to cleaner energy as part of their recovery efforts. “This historic decline in emissions is happening for all the wrong reasons,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director. “People are dying and countries are suffering enormous economic trauma right now. The only way to sustainably reduce emissions is not through painful lockdowns, but by putting the right energy and climate policies in place.” The report also noted that, after past crises, global emissions have typically shot back up to previous levels once the initial shock passed. And if countries like China try to help their ailing economies by relaxing environmental rules or subsidizing polluting industries like coal or steel, the resulting rebound in emissions could be even larger than the decline.

TALIBAN IS SURGING DURING TRUMP'S "PEACE" DEAL: Facing an emboldened Taliban, and with less U.S. military support, Afghan forces have suffered heavy casualties during a two-month surge in violence across the country that is threatening to jeopardize a fragile peace deal between the United States and the Taliban. A U.S. military assessment describes Taliban attacks on Afghan forces in March as “above seasonal norms,” according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). According to the Afghan National Security Council, the Taliban has carried out an average of 55 attacks a day since March 1 —­­­ a spike that has doubled casualties among Afghan security forces in some parts of the country, officials say. The increase in violence comes as U.S. officials struggle to keep the Taliban peace deal on track. The February agreement ended offensive operations between U.S. forces and the militant group and set a deadline of March 10 for the beginning of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Those talks have yet to begin, and some fear the violence could be sapping what little momentum followed the signing of the deal. The U.S. military command in Kabul refused to release more-specific data on Taliban attacks, citing concerns surrounding sensitive negotiations with the Taliban. This marks the first time the U.S. military command in Kabul has restricted the release of such data since SIGAR began using it in 2018 to track the levels and locations of violence.



It's Friday, dammit...

I am determined to be slightly happier, or slightly less unhappy, so I've decided this is going to be a 3-day weekend. I'm thinking about watching a beach movie to celebrate...