Uh, oh…Trump isn’t going to like this

The New York Times reports the U.S. economy did not enjoy a rip-roaring first quarter to 2017.

The economy barely grew, expanding at an annual rate of only 0.7 percent.

• The growth was a sharp decline from the 2.1 percent annual rate recorded in the final quarter of last year. It was the weakest quarterly showing in three years.

• Consumption, the component reflecting individual spending, rose by only 0.3 percent, well below the 3.5 percent rate in the previous quarter.

The Takeaway

The first-quarter performance upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017.

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Posted in economics | Leave a comment

Ohio State doesn’t care about journalism; thankfully, Ohio University does

Photo: Anthony Moretti

Almost two decades ago, Ohio State University opted to ditch its journalism program. (There’s a story there…I’m not going into right now.)

Now, that school is prepared to hand over a prized graduate journalism program to Ohio University. The Columbus Dispatch has the story.

The Kiplinger Foundation says no decision has been made about moving its Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism from OSU to Ohio University. However, OSU said it’s willing to transfer program funds “as requested by the Kiplinger Foundation” to its new home. That could mean the program’s endowment value of about $4.9 million, along with an additional $1 million or more that Ohio State was supposed to spend on the program in recent years but didn’t.

Excellent. Send the program to a university that will ensure that it thrives.

Many of you know I earned my MA in journalism from one of these schools and my PhD from Ohio University.

Posted in future of journalism, Journalism education, Ohio University | Leave a comment

Uh, what? Purdue University buys for-profit Kaplan University

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the details.

“The new university will be distinct from others in the Purdue system, relying only on tuition and fund raising to cover operating expenses,” Purdue University said in a news release on Thursday. “No state appropriations will be utilized. It will operate primarily online, but has 15 locations across the United States, including an existing facility in Indianapolis, with potential for growth throughout the state. Indiana-resident students will receive a yet-to-be-determined tuition discount.”

Posted in colleges and universities, higher education, Purdue University | Leave a comment

Fears remain evident in Saudi capital about Vision 2030 and more

The Wilson Center offers a detailed explanation of why Saudi citizens remain uneasy about Vision 2030, a plan to reinvent the country’s economic picture.

“The main question for 2030 is: Does it depend on one person only, or is there a state behind it?” remarked Abdullah al-Shammri, a former Saudi diplomat and policy analyst who noted that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef , who is also interior minister, has no personal stake in the venture.

Made public with much fanfare a year ago this month, Vision 2030’s multitude of goals includes sweeping social reforms, and it initially aroused enormous public enthusiasm. This was true particularly among Saudi Arabia’s restless youth delighted by its promotion of entertainment in the face of strong opposition from the kingdom’s ultra conservative Wahhabi clerics.

But an economic downturn plus controversial first steps taken to implement the vision have noticeably dampened this enthusiasm. Consumer spending has crashed and the overall economy ground almost to a standstill, with the IMF lowering its estimate for growth this year from 2 percent to 0.4 percent. The government faces a $85 billion deficit in its current budget even after putting $266 billion in projects on hold. Still, the kingdom is hardly about to go bankrupt.

The Wilson Center and Business Insider noted the government reversed itself recently. As Business Insider noted,

Back in September, the kingdom announced it was slashing ministers’ salaries by 20%; cutting salaries of the members of the Shura Council, which advises the monarchy, by 15%; and canceling bonus payments for state employees. That caused consumer confidence to tumble further from already depressed levels and promoted a backlash on social media.

On Sunday, the Saudi government reversed at least some of that policy.

“The Saudi government’s decision to reinstate benefits for civil servants appears to be a U-turn on one of the more unpopular austerity measures,” Capital Economics Middle East economist Jason Turvey wrote.

There is a geopolitical reason why the success or failure of Vision 2030 will be watched carefully in the region and around the world. Writing on Al Jazeera’s website, Martin Reardon, who is senior vice president of a security and intelligence group, states

Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in their own decades-long strategic rivalry for power and influence in the Middle East, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf and Arabian Sea. It is built mostly along sectarian and ideological lines – Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, and Iran as the leader of the Shia Muslim world.

He adds that the deep differences between the two nations makes a rapprochement unlikely.

Meanwhile, plans to expand its solar power efforts could create 7,000 jobs.

Posted in Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

WATCH: Protesters storm Macedonian parliament; leader bloodied

Flag of Macedonia; public domain image

RFE/RL has the video showing the anger that erupted in the Macedonian parliament today. The video includes the Social Democratic leader bloodied after being hit likely by a chair and a woman getting her hair violently pulled.

What caused the unrest? As Reuters reports,

Protesters stormed into Macedonia’s parliament and assaulted the leader of the Social Democrats on Thursday after his party and ethnic Albanian allies voted to elect an Albanian as parliament speaker, witnesses said.

Live television footage showed Social Democratic leader Zoran Zaev with blood trickling from one side of his forehead, not long after he announced that the majority coalition led by his party had elected Talat Xhaferi as parliament speaker.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Quite an interview: Katie Couric interviews Russian embassy spokesperson Maria Zakharova

The Kremlin’s walls

A fascinating roughly 25:00 interview between Yahoo! News’ Katie Couric and Maria Zakharova, the Russian Embassy spokesperson in the U.S.

Among the highlights:

  1. Zakharova immediately challenges Couric for suggesting Vladimir Putin heads a “regime.”
  2. Zakharova bemoans the development of fake news about Russia in the U.S. during President Obama’s eight years in the White House; she doesn’t place the blame on Obama personally but makes clear her belief that fake news gained strength while he was the head of state.
  3. Zakharova suggests that in the absence of evidence, it is not fair to claim her country tried to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Moreover, she says that Russia has no interest in who wins an election in any other country but its own. (This article from the Atlantic suggests that Kremlin interference is clear to anyone who looks.)
  4. Zakharova called the recent airstrikes in Syria “unacceptable.”
  5. Zakharova draws parallels to the immediate judgment in the West that it was Syrian president Bashar al-Assad who ordered a chemical attack against his people to Colin Powell’s claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
  6. Zakharova says Russia is investigating whether gays are being tortured in Chechnya, though she desperately tried to dodge questions about the issue.
  7. Zakharova argues that it is the United States that continues to stoke aggression along the Korean peninsula. She insists that diplomacy is the way to solve the crisis.
  8. Zakharova says it is up to Edward Snowden to decide how long he wishes to remain in Moscow.
Posted in America, diplomacy, Obama administration, Putin, Russia, Syria, Trump administration, United States, Vladimir Putin | Leave a comment

7:45 p.m. UPDATE: Pink-slip day at ESPN

Photo: Anthony Moretti, March 14, 2017

13th UPDATE: 7:45 p.m. EDT:

You can add Jade McCarthy, Darren Haynes, Jerry Punch, Roger Cossack, Marysol Castro and Reese Waters to the list of those let go today.

12th UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. EDT:

A couple reasons why ESPN fired a whole bunch of people today:

  1. More and more people are cutting the cable cord (that figure could be as high as 10-million)
  2. ESPN spent far too much money on television rights (and at a time when ditching cable wasn’t happening at the levels it is today)

The following “reasons” did not factor into the decision:

  1. ESPN is a liberal-loving network masquerading as a sports network
  2. Reverse discrimination

ESPN’s leaders bought some time today, but the reality is that substantial changes — such as not bidding on future contracts and not showing as many live sports events– are inevitable. Let’s say that ESPN considers the “Big Four” sports rights to be MLB, NFL, NBA and the NCAA. It will jettison at least one.

At some point in the past, ESPN enjoyed its so-called Golden Age. That era will never come around again.

11th UPDATE: 3:50 p.m. EDT:

Ashley Fox, Chantel Jennings, and Justin Verrier have taken to Twitter to announce they have been canned by ESPN.

10th UPDATE: 2:30 p.m. EDT:

As the list of ESPN firings continues to grow, I hope that as people take a look at the names that they also will remember this same thing happens to professional athletes, journalists, secretaries, accountants and more every single day.

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but just because you feel a kinship with some of the people who have been fired (and I admire many of the people whom ESPN has dismissed, and I used to work with one of them) doesn’t make what has happened today unique.

Disappointing, yes. And especially since some of the people let go were A-list journalists, writers and reporters. Remember to feel the same thing when you read of significant layoffs within companies you know nothing about.

Calvin Watkins, Ted Miller, Melissa Isaacson, Len Elmore and Jay Crawford are gone. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Jay and I worked at a Columbus television station together roughly 20 years ago.)

9th UPDATE: 1:55 p.m. EDT:

Brett McMurphy takes to Twitter to announce he’s been let go

8th UPDATE: 1:35 p.m. EDT:

Trent Dilfer says goodbye

7th UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. EDT:

Jayson Stark announces his dismissal

6th UPDATE: 1:15 p.m. EDT:

Jane McManus is the latest to announce she’s been let go

5th UPDATE: 1:05 p.m. EDT:

Adding several names, all of whom announced their dismissals on Twitter: Max Olson, Doug Padilla, C.L. Brown, Paul Kuharsky, Austin Ward and Mark Saxon.

4th UPDATE: 12:58 p.m. EDT:

Add Danny Kanell to the canned list

3rd UPDATE: 12:48 p.m. EDT:

Add Johnette Howard to the canned list

2nd UPDATE: 12:40 p.m. EDT: 

It hasn’t taken long for the firestorm of criticism to be directed at ESPN. Let’s throw some cold and realistic water on all of this:

  1. Every single person, no matter where he or she works, can be fired. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to people I know. But when it happens to you, it stinks. Have some empathy.
  2. The people who were let go have families to feed, mortgages to pay, clothes to buy and more. Whether you agree or disagree with what happened to them today, please remember their lives are a heck of a lot more unsettled than they were 24 hours ago.
  3. You decide what you think about today’s decision by opting to watch ESPN.

1st UPDATE: 12:24 p.m. EDT:

You can add Dana O’Neil, Jeremy Crabtree and Derek Tyson

ORIGINAL POST: One day before the NFL Draft and deep into the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN is blowing out men and women who cover those — and other — sports.

Among the people who have posted their dismissals on Twitter:

Ed Werder

Scott Burnside

Pierre LeBrun

The list will swell as the day progresses, but it appears more than a few dunderheads will remain in place. I’ll leave it to you to decide who they are.

Posted in ESPN | Leave a comment