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State may charge for Regents tests

Pencils down: Regents tests in areas like Spanish and physics could get cut if funds for testing don't come through from the state.
Rennett Stowe
via Flickr
Pencils down: Regents tests in areas like Spanish and physics could get cut if funds for testing don't come through from the state.

Testing fees
The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that schools could be charged nearly $6 per student per year to develop and administer Regents exams:

The idea of charging for Regents exams is outlined in a memo to the Board of Regents' Subcommittee on State Aid by John King, senior deputy commissioner for education. The imbalance between the available resources and the costs of administering the Regents exam program is "anticipated to be a recurring issue for the department," King said in the memo. "We are exploring the widest range of options."

The paper reports that the provision could kick in in the next budget year, if funds to administer the tests don't come through from the state budget.  Alternatively, Regents in non-required subject areas like foreign language, physics, and geometry could be cut entirely.

Lame duck session
We'll have a round-up of reports later today about what didn't and didn't get done at yesterday's lame duck session of the state legislature, but first this gem of a lede from the Times Union:

Gov. David Paterson's swan song ended up sounding like a cacophony of lame ducks.

In short, the budget didn't get fixed, some judges got confirmed, all the judges got their pay raised, the moratorium on hydrofracking passed the Assembly (but still needs the governor's signature), federal school aid didn't get appropriated, and the Brooklyn Battery tunnel did not get renamed for former governor Hugh Carey.

Senecas and Oneidas
Members of the Seneca tribe have signaled that they'll attempt to take over the lease at a hydropower plant built on their ancestral land. If the federal government grants them the right to operate the plant it could be a big moneymaker, reports the Buffalo News:

Power from the plant now gets sold into the regional energy grid, but the Senecas want to use the cheap power to encourage economic development on their reservations and throughout Western New York. In other words, just as Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, pressured the Power Authority to return more of the Niagara project's benefits to Western New York, the Senecas want to do the same thing with the Kinzua power plant.

Meanwhile, the city of Oneida is squaring off against the Oneida Indian Nation as they move cigarette manufacturing onto ancestral land, reports the Post-Standard.  The city has a deal with the nation to provide fire protection and water treatment, in exchange for compliance with property tax, development and city code agreements:

Nation officials say they have cooperated with requests for information, although they believe the facility’s location on the tribe’s 32-acre reservation makes it exempt from city oversight. “We keep a regular, open dialogue with Mayor Matzke, and we share his interest in ensuring that we continue to communicate on matters of health and public safety, including issues that may arise with new initiatives such as our factory,” nation spokesman Mark Emery said earlier this month. “It is a model arrangement we would have with any other government that wishes to cooperate with the nation.”

Buying green power
Consumer interest in green energy - hydropower, wind and biomass - is fading as the recession takes its toll, reports the Times Union.  While the state Public Service Commission reports that customers bought more green power between 2006 and 2008, utilities say their subscription rates for those services have dropped in recent year.

Cyber Monday
The consensus on the biggest online shopping day of the year is that it beat 2009's sales figures handily.  The Associated Press reports in the Buffalo News that enough marketing hype has transitioned Cyber Monday from a "gimmick" to a phenomenon:

It never really was the busiest online shopping day of the year, but like any good marketing angle, it spawned imitation. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. retailers offered some kind of Cyber Monday promotion this year, targeting shoppers who didn't want to venture out at 4 a.m. for those in-store deals. In 2007, 72 percent offered a Cyber Monday promotion. "Retailers are doing everything they can to build up and extend the event aspect of it -- tweeting deals every hour, running Cyber Monday ads -- like it's such a big thing you can't miss out on," said Stacy Landreth Grau, associate professor of marketing at Texas Christian University's Neeley School of Business.

The Democrat and Chronicle reports that 12 percent of cyber shoppers make their purchases at work:

...and online sales tend to spike at noon, when workers move on their computers from company business to their own. That's no surprise, said Jeff Valentine, CEO of Callfinity, a Rochester company that creates telecommunications software. His 35 employees know how to mix business and shopping without detracting from either, he said. "In fact, if someone comes up with a great tip, or finds a good shopping site, he or she will message around," Valentine said. "And I will, too."

And the Times Union took a look at a long weekend of shopping at Colonie Center mall:

At Colonie Center, "Friday was strong, Saturday was good, and by Sunday, people were all shopped out," General Manager Ken Huge said.

Didn't you see Jurassic Park?
Scientists at Binghamton University have received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study bacterial life trapped in preserved water droplets, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

The researchers sequence the DNA and culture the bacteria they find. The next step is to see what the organisms do, [professor J. Koji] Lum said. "It's possible that we can observe organisms evolving and see how they're reacting to climate change over geologic time," he said.

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