Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Latest Social Media Concern for Employers

By Jacob Gershman
A new video sharing app is emerging as the latest source of anxiety for employers worried about social-media risks at the office.
Workplace videos are sprouting on Vine, the new six-second video app developed by Twitter. And a lot of them aren’t pretty, says Daniel A. Schwartz, an employment law attorney at Pullman & Comley LLC in Hartford, Conn., who writes the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.
“Employers who are just concerned about what their employees are just doing onFacebook FB +0.31% are missing the bigger picture of how smartphones are infiltrating the workplace,” Mr. Schwartz told Law Blog. (Law Blog reached out to Twitter for comment and is waiting to hear back.)
By plugging in terms like “hatework” or “bored” or “work” into a Vine search box, he says he quickly pulled up a number of clips showing employees doing things that would make their bosses cringe.
For example, he found a user wearing a rental car company uniform who posted a video of himself smoking from a bong. Another user filmed herself leafing through what appears to be confidential business plans. Another worker seems to have filmed himself driving heavy machinery at an airport.
He also found a bunch of videos of employees venting about how much they hate their jobs, including one person who makes an obscene gesture at a grocery store where the person apparently works. (The person behind the camera also displays an employee badge.)
Food and retail establishments are “particularly susceptible,” said Mr. Schwartz. “Vine is one of the fastest growing social networks. And people aren’t posting what they had for breakfast anymore.”

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The AM Roundup: Role of Health-Law ‘Navigators’ Under Fire

Guide dogged: Lawmakers across the country are tussling over the Obama administration’s plans to create a small army of assistants to guide millions of Americans as they sign up for new health-insurance options available this fall. WSJ
Pot vote: Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide how Los Angeles should regulate medical marijuana storefronts that have cropped up over the past several years. AP
Miles to go: The Supreme Court will hear the case of a rabbi who argued his membership in Northwest Airlines’ elite frequent-flyer program was improperly revoked. WSJ
Taxing questions: There are still plenty of unanswered questions about how Internal Revenue Service agents in Cincinnati started targeting certain groups applying for tax-exempt status. WSJ
Faulty leak: A former top federal prosecutor in Arizona leaked internal documents to reporters in 2011, aiming to undermine a congressional investigation into the botched Fast and Furious gun-trafficking sting, the Justice Department inspector general said.WSJ
Shady: The company that administers the rights to Eminem’s music filed a lawsuit against Facebook FB +0.24%, claiming the social network lifted one of the rapper’s songs for the April launch of a new application called “Facebook Home.” Hollywood Reporter
Abu Ghaith case: A request by Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law to retain a former Legal Aid Society lawyer has been complicated by the fact that the attorney is under federal indictment in Syracuse and under federal investigation in Manhattan.
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New U.K. Edtech Entity To Spend Up To $77M Acquiring European E-Learning Firms Over Next 18 Months To Build Regional Giant

Edxus GroupExpect a swathe of consolidation in the European e-learning sector in the coming months. Edxus Group, a new London-based corporate operating edtech company, is planning to plough in €50-60 million ($64-$77 million) over the next 18 months to develop and acquire European e-learning businesses and build out a single regional player with the scale to compete against U.S. edtech giants, it said today.
Edxus plans to execute the first phase of its “buy and build” strategy over the next three to four months, deploying an initial €15-20 million to “consolidate a handful of European e-learning companies”.
It did not specify which companies it has in its sights but said the target is those serving the K-12/primary and secondary school market. Northern Europe and the U.K. are the initial markets for the first wave of investment, with other European regions “under assessment for future plans”. The aim is to bring together “complementary expertise and products in curricula, data and instructional systems”, it added.
Edxus said its overarching aim is to rival similar U.S.-backed moves. In the U.S. edtech giants such as Pearson, Blackboard, Macmillan, Kaplan and McGraw-Hill top the list of acquisitive e-learning companies. The European market is more fragmented and ripe for consolidation, according to Edxus — meaning a local scale player is needed to ensure U.S. companies don’t end up dominating the region too.
“The US e-Learning market is already a few years ahead of Europe,” commented Edxus Group co-founder and CEO Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet in a statement. “Unless we can create scale and a fertile ecosystem, the European e-learning space will be dominated by American content and software. This buy and build strategy is designed to help foster the consolidation, scale and operational efficiencies required in Europe to help e-Learning companies to thrive.”
Edxus’ initial investment funds come from its partner and backer: specialist media investment and advisory firm IBIS Capital. It’s unclear whether IBIS will fund the full program of consolidation, or just the first wave.
“The European e-Learning industry currently displays both disruptive innovation and rapid growth but it is highly fragmented and lacks a dominant player. These are all characteristics of an attractive pre-consolidation phase industry so we expect our strategy to help the marketplace as a whole meet its enormous potential,” said IBIS Capital’s co-founder and CEO, Charles McIntyre, in a statement.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Paramedics secretly film cardiac arrest patients with body cameras


Paramedics wearing body cameras have been filming their efforts to revive cardiac arrest patients as part of a research project designed to save lives and improve training.
Twelve paramedics in Edinburgh have been recording patients for study by the Resuscitation Research Group at University of Edinburgh.
The project is at a preliminary stage and its full results have yet to be published, a Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said.
Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie has raised concerns about the filming being carried out without prior publicity or patient consent.
The SAS spokesman said: "A camera is being used by a small team of 12 paramedics in Edinburgh as part of a project researching out-of-hospital cardiac arrests which has already saved lives and improved survival rates. It is providing valuable learning that will ultimately be shared to enhance patient care across the country.
"A small camera is worn by one of the team and operates when they are dispatched to a cardiac arrest. It is used to collect data for an audit of resuscitation practice as part of an ongoing pilot with the Resuscitation Research Group at the University of Edinburgh."
Ms Baillie said: "I am surprised that the ambulance service has chosen to take an approach of secrecy with this. I welcome research and training which will improve life-saving chances for people who suffer heart attacks, but for there to be no knowledge of filming, no consent sought and no transparency is simply unacceptable.
"At one of the most upsetting, vulnerable and private moments of a person's life, we must have respect for both the privacy of the patient and their next of kin. Before such programmes are introduced in the future, we must ensure that people know what is happening and have the opportunity to express their views."
The SAS spokesman said any footage recorded is encrypted and can only be viewed on a specific computer that is kept securely within the project group.
He said: "All footage is permanently deleted after use and it is not used for assessment of individuals. Footage is only used for research and learning purposes, undertaken according to strict governance and in accordance with rules for consent.
"The project has been running for several months and was discussed and agreed with staff and trade union representatives in Edinburgh before it started."

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Energy Journal: EU-China Solar Battle Escalates

By James Herron
Here’s your morning jolt of news, insight and analysis on the global energy business. Send us tips, suggestions and complaints: ben.winkley@wsj.com andjames.herron@wsj.com
Click here to receive this morning email newsletter
The usually tranquil world of European renewable energy just got exciting, as a plucky band of rebels led by EU ProSun and Solar World launched a last-ditch assault on the Chinese clean energy Death Star that has zapped 80% of their market.
At least, that’s the narrative the European Union would like to spread as it prepares to to slap tariffs of around 46% on imported Chinese solar panels, as the Wall Street Journal’s Matt Dalton reports.
The EU says imports of solar cells and silicon wafers from China  have damaged Europe’s solar industry because they are unfairly priced and have received subsidies from the Chinese government.
While there’s little doubt that companies like German manufacturer Solar World have been struggling, the story isn’t quite as simple as it appears at first glance.
In Europe, the tariffs plan pits supporters of the region’s solar panel makers against proponents of the expansion of renewable energy in more general terms.
While cheap Chinese imports have been bad for European manufacturers, they have been a boon for households that want to install them. In some European countries the holy grail of “grid parity”–where electricity from solar cells on your roof costs the same as power from the socket on your wall–has been reached far earlier than expected.
The Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy, which represents companies that install and maintain solar panels as well as those that make them, warned that higher prices resulting from EU tariffs could destroy 85% of demand for new solar panels on the continent and cost 242,000 jobs.
China’s solar industry is also not quite as menacing as it is depicted. Some of its largest manufacturers, notably Suntech Power Holdings, have financial woes of their own as the entire global industry struggles with an overcapacity that has built up over several years.
One of the oil and gas world’s biggest shindigs, the Offshore Technology Conference, kicked off on Monday.
As is often the case at industry conferences, big themes were carried over from previous years.
BP’s upstream chief, Lamar McKay, talked about the need to keep new recruits flowing into an industry that has long complained of skills shortages and a greying workforce, as reported by Harry Weber of the fuelfix blog.
Governors of some coastal states in the U.S. complained that the Deepwater Horizon disaster had cast too long a shadow over the oil and gas industry and called for more drilling off their coastlines, as the Journal’s Alison Sider reports.
Alaskan governor Sean Parnell cited many years of federal permitting delays, on top of one company’s operational issues, as the reason that offshore exploration in his state has failed to meet aspirations.
Beyond the walls of the conference center, there were signs that the big themes in the industry are shifting.
The multi-billion-dollar acquisition spree led by Chinese oil companies in recent years may be fading. Companies like CNPC, Cnooc and Sinopec have taken on more debt, which could limit their ability to buy big in the future, writes the Journal’s Yvonne Lee.
In Europe, energy companies awaiting the return of natural gas demand to its 2010 peak may have to accept that it won’t happen. The economic crisis, high gas prices and the growth of renewable energy could mean a “lost decade” for European gas demand, says the International Energy Agency. 
The Christian Science Monitor asks whether the recent terrorist attacks in Algeria, security worries in Libya, punch-ups in Venezuela’s parliament and killings in Nigeria mean the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is coming apart at the seams.
A meeting of representatives of OPEC member states currently happening in Vienna partly validates the newspaper’s thesis. They are gathering to discuss criteria for the selection of a new OPEC Secretary General–an issue that was supposed to be settled last  year, but was reopened after Iran complained because its candidate for the job failed to secure a recommendation from the selection panel.
Iran remains determined to have its man become the next Secretary General, reportsFARS News Agency. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are also vying for the job.
The prospect that Saudi Arabia and Iran could agree on who should take such an important job look slim, especially when they can’t even agree on a name for the body of water that separates their two countries. The National Iranian Oil Company has sent a letter of complaint to the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, about a marine atlas that carried a “fake name” for the Persian Gulf, the Iranaian Students’ News Agency reports.
Oil prices were taking a break Tuesday after their sharp rise last week as traders take profits, said Commerzbank. The Journal’s market report is here.
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Bedford School Board Election Q&A: Gerken, Grant & Solomon

Jennifer Gerken (courtesy photo)
Jennifer Gerken (courtesy photo)
On Tuesday, voters in the Bedford Central School District will go to the polls to vote, with school board seats and the proposed 2013-14 budget on the ballot. Three school board candidates are each running uncontested: incumbents Jennifer Gerken and Suzanne Grant and challenger Michael Solomon. Patch did a question-and-answer segment with each candidates and their answers are place in the same article. A biography, which is below, precedes the questions:
Jennifer Gerken, a 10-year Bedford resident, is running for a second, 3-year term to the board. She has two kids in the district, in Bedford Village Elementary School and Fox Lane Middle School.

Suzanne Grant is a 15-year Mount Kisco resident with two kids enrolled in the district. She is running for her second, 3-year term to the board. Prior to being elected for the first time she was on the Mount Kisco Elementary School Association (MKESA), a member of the district's Budget Advisory Committee and a co-chair of its In Focus community opinion initiative. Her husband, Mark, is a sports marketer and she has about two decades of advertising agency experience.

Michael Solomon, a Bedford resident, works at Ramirez & Co. as a managing director in its public finance department. He has about 25 years of experience working on budgeting, debt management and credit rating strategies with state and local governments. Prior to working at Ramirez, which he joined in 2011, his career included time at Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns. Solomon, who first made a bid for the school board in 2010, also served on the New York State Property Tax Commission and then on the Suffolk County Budget Review Task Force.


Patch: What are the school district's biggest challenges? 

Jennifer Gerken: The biggest challenge is preserving a high quality and unique educational experience for each of our students within the financial and regulatory constraints handed down by Albany.

Suzanne Grant: One of our biggest challenges is balancing Bedford Central’s own rigorous and innovative teaching curriculum with educational directives prescribed by the state and federal government. Teaching is as much art as it is science. While data- and assessment-driven evaluations have a role in student learning, inventive teaching, in-depth understanding and critical thinking are equally as important as standardized test scores. The potential for college and career readiness for our students is enhanced when we are given appropriate local control of our programs and expenditures.

Michael Solomon: Achieving sustainable, structurally balanced budgets while meeting the needs of all District stakeholders.

Patch: State-mandated employee pension contributions have been a significant driver of higher costs for the district in recent years. What changes, if any, would you like to see to the pension system?

Jennifer Gerken:
 The current pension system is unsustainable for most districts, particularly now with the tax levy cap in place. For the past several years, pension contributions alone have used the entire allowable tax levy increase. I strongly support reform that would give districts more local control over their budgets.

Suzanne Grant: It’s true that employee pension contributions eat up a significant portion of our district budget. They are by far BCSD’s most costly NYS legally required expense. Unfortunately, these non-negotiable benefit contributions are also entirely out of our local control. To avoid cutting deeper and deeper into student programs, we need state pension reform or tax cap exclusions to smooth pension spikes.

Michael Solomon: The good news here is that the two pension funds that our District participates in have performed well recently, which should provide real budget relief in a couple of years when annual pension contributions will no longer need to reflect 2008 -2009 market losses. In the interim, both pension funds now offer the ability for participants to defer a portion of their annual pension expenses, providing Districts with the opportunity to realize immediate budget relief.

Patch: Do you support repealing the Triborough Amendment to the state's Taylor Law, which preserves terms of expired union contracts until new deals are in place?
Jennifer Gerken: 
Whether or not the Amendment is repealed, if any district is to successfully navigate all of the challenges in this state, a new level of collaboration and partnership between administration and bargaining units will be essential. We need to reexamine past practices and work towards initiatives that support this effort.

Suzanne Grant: I support any measure that frees school districts to collaborate innovatively with their local units, enhance the professionalism of their staff, and direct resources towards student learning.

Michael Solomon: Yes

Patch: What are your thoughts on tenure for teachers and administrators?

Jennifer Gerken: 
By in large, the majority of teachers and staff are incredibly dedicated- constantly reflecting on and perfecting their practice. For those who do not perform their job ably, continued employment should be at the discretion of the district.

Suzanne Grant: In the many decades since tenure law was established in NY State, the role of teachers has evolved. While I think it makes sense to maintain some of the due process guarantees for teachers and administrators, I welcome making tenure more challenging to secure and to maintain. Currently BCSD’s gateway to tenure is quite rigorous and results in highly skilled and motivated faculty with a vested interest in building their careers here.

Michael Solomon: Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of tenure

Patch: The district is facing academic mandates from the state, such as continued administration of a new teacher and principal evaluation system and a shift to what are called common core standards. How do you think the district is doing in responding to these requirements? What else, if anything, would you like to see done? 

Jennifer Gerken: We are very fortunate that our Superintendent was out in front of the APPR issue and the collaboration between our administrators and teachers on reaching consensus should be a model for other districts. I am equally satisfied with how our administration is navigating the challenges of common core standards.

Suzanne Grant: I believe the district is doing an exceptional job of tailoring the state’s one-size-fits-all academic mandates into beneficial educational initiatives that fit BCSD well. Our district created a model APPR teacher/principal evaluation system and seamlessly integrated the Common Core standards into the curriculum. I would applaud more governmental funding for these costly mandates and less emphasis on standardized testing -- as well as more flexibility to balance state imposed programs with our own “homegrown” creative educational approaches.

Michael Solomon: I would like to defer my response to this question until I have had a chance to assess our District’s response to these mandates.

Patch: The school district faced a challenge this year when initial versions of the proposed 2013-14 budget included more cuts than those slated to go into effect. Examples included reducing the number of modified sports teams, music rotational time, a TV job and librarian jobs. Several of the original proposed cuts have since been recouped, with private funding playing some of the role in doing so. However, as Superintendent Jere Hochman has noted, the district could be in the same position in the future. In the long term, and assuming no major legislative changes to mandated costs, what measures would you support to help the district sustain services that have been eyed for cuts?

Jennifer Gerken: We have to assume Albany will be of little help in providing relief from State-imposed spending. Changes, which we have already begun, will have to come on several fronts. First, we have to identify new non-tax revenue streams, such as partnering with the community to preserve certain programs. We also need to reevaluate how we deliver some of our programs, which we will be doing in the coming year. And, we need to continue to work collaboratively with our bargaining units as we negotiate future contracts.

Suzanne Grant: When state mandated spending collides with the tax levy cap, it is inevitable that school districts like ours will have to make cuts to student programs and staff year after year. For the coming 2013-2014 school year, we bridged the budget gap by reevaluating or reducing some programs, sharing particular costs with the community, and through judicious use of district reserves. Looking ahead, I expect that we will need to become even more efficient in our program delivery and seek creative means of gaining additional outside funding for non-core programs that we consider valuable.
Michael Solomon: I’d shift the dialogue around the school budget to center on what’s best for the long- term. Ensuring our schools flourish and are affordable will, over time, be to everyone’s advantage and differentiate us from those Districts that continue to perpetuate the annual cycle of downsizing and tax hiking. Utilizing multi- year budgeting would be helpful in this regard.

Patch: The school board is slated to vote later this year to approve a capital plan of more than $30 million for a voter referendum, with bonding as the primary way to pay for it. The capital plan includes major structural changes to West Patent Elementary School, a cafeteria/multi-use space addition and renovations for the houses at Fox Lane Middle School, along with replacement of the track and turf at the Fox Lane campus. Do you support the current proposed scope of the capital plan or do you feel that it should be adjusted? If you would like to see the scope changed, should more items be included or should fewer items be included?

Jennifer Gerken:
 I do support the Capital Plan as it is proposed. As it stands, it includes what is necessary to meet health and safety standards and to maintain our physical plant. If the bond is approved, and should we realize any savings during the course of construction, I would be in favor of earmarking the funds for the semi-completed air-conditioning project in the three-story addition at the high school. In addition to completing an unfinished project from the last bond, having access to an air-conditioned space over the summer months could lead to additional revenue from rental of the space.

Suzanne Grant: After years of research and many months of opinion gathering and planning, the scope of the capital plan has been honed to the essentials that we need to keep our district facilities in good shape and safe for students. A centerpiece of our Fox Lane campus, I also support the renovation of our athletic field and track through a combination of district monies and community fundraising.

Michael Solomon: In general, I’m not going to support anything that we can’t afford or that impedes our financial flexibility. That is why we are in this fiscal conundrum. That being said, if we can find offsetting cuts in other areas, I would be supportive.

Patch: The state-mandated cap on annual tax levy increases will expire in June 2016 unless if it is renewed. If elected, this would happen near the end of your term. Do you support allowing the cap to expire or should it be extended? 

Jennifer Gerken: I support local control for school districts. Years before the tax cap was imposed, our community made it clear that taxes were too high and our district responded by lowering the annual budget-to-budget and tax levy increases. Over the last five years, the average annual tax levy increase has been less than 1.6%

Suzanne Grant: Years before the Governor’s legal tax cap, Bedford Central responded to taxpayer concerns with a self-imposed cap of sorts, resulting in average tax levy increases of less than 1.5% over the last five years. Because our district’s ultimate goal is a community partnership in support of school excellence, I expect that our local practice of fiscal prudence and community dialog will continue regardless of taxation mandates from the Albany.

Michael Solomon: I’d support its extension.

Patch:  The issue of personnel status disclosure has been in the news in the past year for the neighboring school districts of Chappaqua and Briarcliff. In Chappaqua's case it involved a longtime football coach and physical education teacher who was suspended and then resigned.In Briarcliff it involved the planned resignation of its current superintendent and quick selection of new superintendent. In both cases, school boards did not disclose the reasons for why the status changes were made, with limitations on being able to do so cited by board members. Is it appropriate for districts to not disclose personnel status when an individual is facing discipline or leaving, and would you support repealing limitation of school officials disclosing details of employee suspensions, terminations or resignations?
Jennifer Gerken: Barring illegal activity, an employees’ performance should be a private personnel matter. That being said, on all fronts, I believe districts should be as transparent as they can be under the law.

Suzanne Grant: I value Bedford Central’s robust dialog with the community, support maximum transparency as allowed by law, and personally endeavor to engage the community in all that we do.

Michael Solomon: I'm in favor of full disclosure on these matters as long as it doesn't inadvertently impact a student.
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