Press one for viral videos
Ken and Meredith Williams enjoy the fruits of their labor
May 31st, 2012
04:13 PM ET

Press one for viral videos

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

(CNN) – Ken and Meredith Williams thought they were the ideal candidates for a home loan. They had good credit, steady jobs and they only wanted a modest loan.  "We put in an offer on September 8th," Ken recalls,  "we were told we would close October 7th."

That closing didn't happen. Then two more closing dates came and went. "It's just this black hole of nothingness," Meredith says. E-mail and phone calls went unanswered until finally the couple decided to "take the power back."

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How to motivate Congress? Dock their pay
May 30th, 2012
03:31 PM ET

How to motivate Congress? Dock their pay

By Lisa Desjardins, CNN

(CNN) – Take a look at the Congressional calendar and it shows lawmakers plan to be in Washington about 30 full days in the next five months. And during those weeks of work, lawmakers face massive policy battles, including a September 30 deadline to keep the federal government funded. (One of several deadlines leading up to the looming “Fiscal Cliff.") 

But in a time where more politicians are throwing knives than olive branches, what could possibly motivate Congress to come up with agreements to big policy deals?

“What if they stopped getting paid October 1st… if they hadn’t gotten the entire budget done?” asks Bill Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank. FULL POST

Summer 'brain drain' worse for poor kids
Studies show that children loose some of their skills over the summer if their brains are not stimulated.
May 28th, 2012
10:35 AM ET

Summer 'brain drain' worse for poor kids

By Jim Roope, CNN

(CNN) –Some call it "the summer slide." Some call it "the summer brain drain." Whatever you call it, summer learning loss is a real phenomenon that has plagued students since summer vacations began.

Fourth-grade teacher Marian Valdez said much of what students learned in 3rd grade they forgot over the summer.

“We spend the first couple of months, especially in math, reviewing, going back over the facts, time tests, those kinds of things,” said Valdez who teaches at Washington Elementary in Los Angeles.

The first known report about summer learning loss came in a 1906 New York Times article by William Allen. He tested students in math before and after their summer recess and found that they had lost math skills during that break.  For more than a hundred years, educators have been trying to stop the summer knowledge leak.


Texting while walking crackdown
Lucky Larroso didn't think she was in any danger as she crossed West 57th Street in New York while typing a text message.
May 25th, 2012
03:33 PM ET

Texting while walking crackdown

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

(CNN) - The old joke about a not-so-bright person goes, “He’s so dumb, he can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” Very little thought goes into either task. But what happens if you combine walking and texting?

“People aren’t watching where they are walking, they’re texting, they’re on their cell phones, they have their iPods on, and they’re just not aware of their surroundings,” said Thomas Ripoli, the Police Chief in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The number of pedestrians struck by cars in his town this year is growing. Four such incidents ended in death.

So Chief Ripoli went on a mission. He told his cops to look out for people who are not paying attention while crossing the street. “Our focus is to make people aware of their surroundings and to keep their eyes focused on where they’re going,” said Ripoli. FULL POST

High odds of the U.S. reaching fiscal cliff
May 24th, 2012
01:37 PM ET

High odds of the U.S. reaching fiscal cliff

By Lisa Desjardins, CNN

(CNN) – Forget about the election for a moment. The U.S. has a fiscal storm approaching that could have just as long-reaching effects on the nation as the choice for president. It’s called the fiscal cliff. Three major budget storms set to hit within months.

♦ Government spending will again hit the national debt limit, requiring an increase. That could happen sometime between November and  February.

♦ Across-the-board spending cuts, that both parties agree are not the wisest way to lower spending, are set to hit most of government. Those hit January 1.

♦ The Bush tax cuts will expire, a $5 Trillion dollar policy (over 10 years) that affects the majority of Americans. Also January 1.

“You’ve got three sort of big issues forcing Congress to act in coming months,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. But Congress is a long way from action.

In the past week, Democrats and Republicans have laid out opposing positions not just on the substance of the debates, such as which Bush tax cuts should be extended, but also on the process of the debate, with Republicans insisting on spending cuts attached to a debt ceiling increase.

These conflicts led to the country coming within hours of a government shutdown in 2011. Will they cause a government shutdown in 2012 or 2013? Experts are divided. But all agree that the Fiscal Cliff is so steep and politics so sharp that perhaps only the threat of a true, headlong fall, will force Congress to agree.

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