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Economy Growth in Africa Profiled; Common Core Standards in Education Scrutinized; U.S. Economy Continues Slow Recovery; Chinese eCommence Giant Alibaba to Offer IPO

Aired May 10, 2014 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Big business of the reprehensible kind. I'm Christine romans. This is YOUR MONEY. How does the terrorist group that has horrified the world, Boko Haram, make its money?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a market for selling orphans.


ROMANS: This problem isn't new in Nigeria as 26 percent of the world's kidnappings has in that country. On the black market, girls like those taken in April can be sold across the border for amounts ranging from $4,000 to $50,000, while foreigners can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom.

Our own business correspondent Zain Asher knows well how this horror story plays out, having attended school in Nigeria. Rana Foroohar, CNN's global economic analyst is in Abuja, Nigeria, for the World Economic Conference going on this week, a conference once meant to shine a light on Nigeria's emerging economy, now making quite a different impressions.

Zain, let me start with you. Nigeria is now Africa's largest economy having overtaken South Africa, fueled by the export of natural resources like crude oil. With 37.1 billion barrels of proven crude reserves, it is a top OPEC producer. How does Boko Haram effect this growing economy?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, listen, the cost of security, the cost of rebuilding is the equivalent of two percent of the country's economic output. I want to talk about the economy in northern Nigeria where a lot of this is going on. It's completely crippled by this. You're talking about factories closing down, stores closing down, people not going to school. So it not only it affects small businesses but it affects people's ability to provide for their families. That's number one.

I know you're very passionate about education. Boko Haram are against western education. You have people not going to school, because they're too afraid. A country's economic future lies in the education of its people.

ROMANS: Absolutely. ASHER: So what is going to happen to Nigerian middle class 20, 30 years from now if you have all of these school children not going to school because they're too afraid?

ROMANS: Unbelievable. Rana, these international investors, how concerned are they about what's going on? It's ironic that there is this conference happening right now that you're reporting on at a time when the international focus is not for a development but for human rights, the most basic decency.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Absolutely. But, you know, interesting that the two are very much connected here. The World Economic Forum actually started with a moment of silence for these girls. And I've been talking to local investors, foreign investors, western investors. They are all concerned about the government's inability to provide basic security in this country. You know, probably a big oil deal, big financial deals are going to continue to go through, but there are a lot of companies that are planning on a rising African middle class, and that means girls staying in school, people becoming entrepreneurs, this growing, rising Africa we've been hearing about. If they can't even guarantee basic security that growth story comes into real question.

ROMANS: Zain, the fact 1,500, there have been, Zain, 1,500 deaths or abductions in the first quarter of the year alone, and until the world was shining a light on this 200 girls, that was sort of business as usual --

ASHER: Right.

ROMANS: -- in this country. How does Boko Haram get its money?

ASHER: OK. So pretty much any illicit activity you can think of. You're talking about bank robberies, kidnapping people and holding them ransom. They might kidnap foreigners, westerners, hold them for ransom from anywhere between $200,000 and several million dollars. But you know, you have this situation now in Nigeria where Boko Haram, the insurgents, the terrorists, are better armed and equipped than the Nigerian military themselves.

And I do want to make one thing clear. This is something I'm very passionate about. Anytime you have extremism, the root cause is always poverty. Youth, unemployment in Nigeria, is 40 percent. I honestly believe if the young men in Nigeria felt that they had other ways to fed their families, they wouldn't be joining terrorist groups like Boko Haram.

ROMANS: Rana, a quick last question to you. What if they can solve, or even get a hold of security issues in the north part of the country, what could happen to the economy there? I mean, the economy could keep growing, right?

FOROOHAR: Absolutely. Africa has so much going for it. Nigeria in particular. About 60 percent of the world's remaining arable land is in this continent. There are huge mineral resources here. Agriculture could boom. They could go through a green revolution. But it requires security for that. And it's interesting. I had an interview with Africa's richest man while I was in here, and he said basically we've got to create more jobs, because if we don't, even if we get rid of Boko Haram, another group like that will take its place.

ROMANS: Rana Foroohar for us in Abuja, thank you so much for that. Also, Zain Asher. Thank you, Zain.

All right, coming up, the most controversial story in U.S. education knew, Common Core standards -- parents, kids, celebrities, politicians, everybody's angry about the new tougher standards. Is it time to rethink Common Core, or are we just coddling U.S. kids to the detriment of their education?


ROMANS: Kids feeling overwhelmed, parents tearing their hair out, even bipartisan bashing. Hey, at least Washington can agree on something. And comedians, they're having fun as well. What's not funny, all of the above are talking about the new education standards meant to transform America's classrooms. The idea behind the Common Core is noble. Replace a hodgepodge of state standards with one set of rigorous national standards. But implementation has been messy, raising this question -- have we failed our kids again?


ROMANS: Protests by parents and students, fodder for late-night comedians.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": As it turns out Common Core testing prepares our students for what they'll face at adults, pointless stress and confusion.


ROMANS: And 44 states adopted new English and math standards known as the Common Core. They outline what students in every grade should know for future success. New York is one of the first states to test children in grades three through eight.

LIZ PHILLIPS, PRINCIPAL, P.S. 321: Honestly, seeing these tests was just appalling.

ROMANS: At P.S. 321 in Brooklyn, Principal Liz Phillips says the English exam given by New York state was long and confusing.

PHILLIPS: What was being tested had no bearing on whether children are really great readers or not. And that felt so wrong.

ROMANS: She wants the state to make the test public, and so do parents.

OLGA GARCIA-KAPLAN, P.S. 321 PARENT: When I hear that the material isn't appropriate, I want to know what that means. I can't see what my fourth grader was being tested on. It's a problem for me.


ROMANS: Despite protests, New York state says it can't release the test, because it can't afford a whole new one next year. But across the country, parents say the rollout of the Common Core is stressing kids out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We feel like the pressure's too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It puts entirely too much stress on the teachers. It puts entirely too much stress on the students.

ROMANS: Stress on students and on parents, too, trying to help with homework as the curriculum transitions. This math work sheet went viral after a frustrated North Carolina dad posted it on Facebook. He wrote on the bottom, quote, "I have a bachelor of science degree in electronics engineering. Even I cannot explain the Common Core mathematics approach." Comedian Louis CK went on a similar rant on Twitter. He says his kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry.

But Education Secretary Arne Duncan stands firmly behind higher standards.

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: There have been bumps. I promise you, there will continue to be bumps and there will be hurdles to jump over. If we can stay the course over the next couple of years and as a nation move to higher standards we will change education in a profound way.

ROMANS: At Fenger High School profiled in CNN's "Chicagoland," Principal Elizabeth Dozier is a fan.

ELIZABETH DOZIER, PRINCIPAL, CHRISTIAN FENGER ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL: We're just trying to raise our expectations across the board. So the Common Core, they believe it hits the critical thinking skills.

ROMANS: Back in New York, Principal Phillips says Common Core standards aren't the problem.

PHILLIPS: We're not complaining about high standards. We're complaining about the nature of the test.

ROMANS: Testing that at this point means more for teachers than students. New York state says test scores simply measure student progress and have no bearing on grades. But for teachers, student performance accounts for 20 percent of their evaluation.


ROMANS: Make no mistake, you're going to hear more about Common Core, whether or not you have a child in the classroom. Pedro Noguera is an education professor at New York University. Pedro, thank you for coming here. I want to look at this math problem that went viral. "Jack, a fictional student, use a number line to solve 427 minus 316. Find his error and write Jack a letter telling him what he did right and when he should do to fix his mistake." Parents freaked out about this. The said this was too hard for a grade-schooler.


ROMANS: Are we coddling our kids or should they know how to do that?

NOGUERA: I think what they should be able to do explain their reasoning. That's what the Common Core is trying to get at.

ROMANS: And that's good.

NOGUERA: And that's a good thing because those are the kinds of skills when kids get them do in fact help them when they get to college. We have clear evidence that too many kids right now are not sufficiently prepared for college.

ROMANS: And that's the whole point.

NOGUERA: That's the problem.

ROMANS: The people who got together to fix this are employers and colleges who have said, look, the kids turned out of the public school system don't have the skills we need in college and in the workplace. Now the implementation is the tough part.

NOGUERA: Exactly. That's where we're stuck, because what we've done, and New York I think epitomizes the problem, is we've started with the tests. The tests have bon been sufficiently field tested so that we could work out the kinks. And the tests are driving the curriculum and I think creating all this anxiety and stress in families. So that's the problem. I think there should be much more accountability on the testing companies that are making quite a bit of profit out of this than there is right now.

ROMANS: Is there a little bit here of coddling, though, that we have, maybe, we don't want to admit are kids aren't as smart as we think they are? Arne Duncan, the education secretary, had to walk back some comments he made not too long ago where he said white suburban moms don't want to admit that their kids are not above average.

NOGUERA: I think it's possibly part of it, too. People want to see their kids doing well. They love those stickers, "My child is an honor student." But we want to know that our kids are actually prepared. We have evidence from the National Assessment of Educational Progress we haven't made much progress over the last several years.

ROMANS: I can show you those. It shows 12th graders made no progress in math and reading in the last four years. We know they have to do better.

NOGUERA: Under 50 percent of kids grade graduating from high school are reading at a proficiency level. That's something that should scare all of us.

ROMANS: A teacher said to me if it doesn't hurt that means you're not changing enough in education, which is a really interesting viewpoint to take. It's going to hurt if you're going to raise standards.

NOGUERA: Right. It shouldn't be easy. And we have too many kids sailed through schools with A's and really haven't been pushed very hard.

ROMANS: So I'll tell you what a lot of my friends with kids in second grade, kindergarten, kids who are starting to bring this homework home. They say, Christine, you've studied this, you do education on your show so much. What are we supposed to think about Common Core? Is it good or bad? I'm asking you that question?

NOGUERA: I challenge anyone to look at those standards and say there's something wrong with the standards. The standards make a lot of sense. These are things kids should be able to do. The problem is, are we putting the curriculum in place? Are we preparing teachers? Are we developing tests that will allow us to get a good sense of what our children can do? And I think the answer to those three questions is right now, no. We haven't done enough.

HANNITY: Nice to see you, thank you so much.

NOGUERA: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: So, can you do third grade Common Core math? We won't put you on the spot. But dim the lights. Lock the door. Don't tell your kids what you're doing. And check out CNN Money for some sample test questions like this one -- which measure best represents the distances from zero to point n on the line below? The answer and more Common Core conundrums on CNN Money.

Coming up, the winter coats back in the closet, you're feeling the thaw. But why are you not feeling an economy that's warming up as well? The truth behind why you and your government leaders aren't talking about a strengthening economy, next.


ROMANS: It's getting warmer, and I don't just mean the spring. The economy is thawing, though you may not be feeling it. The strength of the U.S. economy showing is for real, but is an underlying crisis of confidence hiding that strength? Take housing. Mortgage rates just hit a 2014 low, now 4.21 percent for a 30-year fixed. But buyers aren't rushing in and the banks don't have the confidence to really, really lend aggressively. And some potential sellers aren't confident enough to put their home on the market. That's keeping inventories very tight. Plus younger Americans, they're pretty happy paying rent, not mortgage payments.

Second, let's look at the stock market. The Dow is trading near record highs yet again and the broader market surged from February lows. But only half the country is invested, and a lot of those people are worried about a pullback into the summer.

Finally, the unemployment rate doesn't look so bad. It's down to 6.3 percent in April, the lowest level since September, 2008. But the labor force participation rate is awful, fewer people confident enough to reenter the workforce.

So is this a crisis of confidence that's holding back the economy or is the economy better than you think? Ken Rogoff is a professor at Harvard University and the former chief economist at the IMF. People still aren't feeling good about their money. They aren't. You look at a CNN/ORC poll, 62 percent of Americans think economic conditions are poor. What will it take to make people feel better about the economy?

KEN ROGOFF, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Time. We got hit by a monster financial crisis recession, worst since the Great Depression. And they're right. We may be growing again. I think we actually are growing pretty well again.

ROMANS: You think show?

ROGOFF: Yes, but from a low base. We just caught up on a per-person basis from where we started. And so, yes, they're feeling it. Obviously, people who lost their jobs, people who pulled out of the labor force, it's a very a rough period. And maybe it's gotten better, but after a long time.

ROMANS: It's gotten better, but from a very low base. I'm calling this the reaction among the Washington and economists sort of the cautious coalition. Everybody is caution even when they see signs of strength. Even Janet Yellen, the new Fed Chief, is part of this group. She's concerned about housing. She's concerned about long- term unemployment. But what will it take, I guess, to get that caution out of the way? Could that be holding us back? If we remain too cautious we're not inspiring confidence businesses need to start investing, lending, and hiring?

ROGOFF: You're right, that's a big piece of that. Businesses investing, that's the leg that hasn't been turning. That's what hasn't been working. But it is picking up. You know, the credit is loosening. It's not loosening enough yet that we're feeling normal, but it is changing. You know it is getting better, but there's a long healing process.

ROMANS: Is the economy better than we think?

ROGOFF: I think the economy is better than we think. I think we're a bit shell shocked. It has stabilized. Europe doesn't look like it's falling apart. The government looks like it isn't going to shut down the economy. We're seeing unemployment come down, and some people, though long-term unemployed are coming back, this thing just doesn't go away overnight when you're experienced what we have.

ROMANS: Your lips to the ears of the corporate elite so they can start investing and hiring again. That would be great.

ROGOFF: I hope so.

ROMANS: Ken Rogoff, nice to see you.

ROGOFF: Thank you. ROMANS: What's the price of being cool? Apparently it's $3.2 billion. That's reportedly what Apple is paying for Beats, the headphone and music streaming service started by rapper Dr. Dre and the music mogul Jimmy Iovine. No comment from Apple or Beats on the "Financial Times" report. But this video appeared on Facebook.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Billionaire Boys club for real, homey. Huh? Fix your face. Fix your face. Oh, the "Forbes" list just changed.


ROMANS: Yes, ladies, that's Tyrese Gibson. But don't forget about Dre. Despite Beats popularity, some Apple analysts are dissing the deal, saying it doesn't make sense with Apple's other businesses. Then again, Polaroid didn't evolve from the instant camera. Sony didn't evolve from the Walkman. And some analysts have been calling for months for new products from Apple, even though the company bought 24 companies in the past 18 months. Regardless, the move is so 2014. Apple buys Beats and the news is confirmed by a video on Facebook.

Move over Facebook. Here comes Alibaba. The China eCommerce giant, Alibaba filed for a $1 billion initial public offering in the U.S. But don't let the number fool you. It's likely to go up. This IPO could be bigger than Facebook's $16 billion offering. Maybe even the largest IPO of all-time. It's time for the "Buzz" with Paul La Monica. Put 90 seconds on the clock. And the reason we have Yahoo! here is because Yahoo! has a huge stake in Alibaba.

PAUL LA MONICA, CNN MONEY CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, more than 20 percent. There had been a lot of excitement about what Yahoo! cashing in on Alibaba would door for its shares. But if you look here, the filed on Tuesday. The stock plunged on Wednesday. I think it's a classic case of sell the news. There weren't enough details I think in the IPO filing to get Yahoo! investors excited again.

ROMANS: It's a real entree for Alibaba into the U.S. market, though?

LA MONICA: Definitely. It's going to be very interesting to see how well this company does and whether or not they expand in the U.S., too.

ROMANS: Let's talk about Twitter, now, because this is another big mover this weekend. By "mover" I mean loser.

LA MONICA: Yes. Twitter is just getting its butt kicked, really, in the market right now, shares plunging because of the lockup expiration. All the insiders that were able to start selling started doing so. Look at how high it was and then it fell. I think a lot of people looked at that ride up and said, uh-oh, we're now seeing momentum going in the other direction.

ROMANS: That's reality. Right? It's not making any money. They don't like what they see underneath the hood of the car. LA MONICA: Right. This isn't Facebook. Facebook is a very profitable company with a billion users. Twitter doesn't have that scale and that's why people are concerned.

ROMANS: Let's talk about Whole Food here, another terrible week for Whole Foods.

LA MONICA: Whole Foods has warned about its outlook three times in the past few months. As I said in the video a few days ago what is going on here, you can buy tofu at other places now. It's no longer unique.

ROMANS: And you can buy it cheaper at other places.

LA MONICA: Trader Joe's, Wal-Mart and Kroger, organic. It's a real market.

ROMANS: You used to be you had to take your yoga mat to get your kiwi only at Whole Foods. Now you can almost go anywhere and get it.

LA MONICA: If you can go to Wal-Mart, that's trouble for Whole Foods.

ROMANS: So Whole Foods, do you think it's a buy here?

LA MONICA: I'd be wary.

ROMANS: Be wary. Paul La Monica, thank you.

LA MONICA: Thank you.

ROMANS: Coming up, for $1,500 you can buy this -- Google Glass. But for less than a tenth of thyat price you could buy all the parts. We take apart the hottest wearable on the market, next.


ROMANS: So maybe you've seen people walking around with a pair of these, Google Glass. Its hooked up to Android phones and it displays information, takes picture and video, among other things. The price tag, $1,500, that's if you can get one. But the parts add up to much less. took apart this device, broke it down by cost.

For example, the display screen runs about $3. The camera costs about $6. The most expensive part is the processor. That's about $14. There you go. Overall add it together, parts cost just $80. That's right. It's $1,500 to buy Google Glass. A Google spokesperson said this estimate is wildly off and that it costs significantly more to produce. For comparison, the parts in an iPhone 5S cost around $200, sells for $650 without a contract. You can check out a full video of the Google Glass teardown at CNN Money.

But for more stories that matter to your money, give me 60 seconds on the clock. It's "Money Time."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: Think your iPad or iPhone is hook-proof? Maybe not. A security expert says Apple's encryption of e-mail attachments is flawed, leaving your private files you vulnerable. Apple says, it's aware of the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:, send me to college.

ROMANS: And 20 years and 1 million babe babies later, is launching the Match Made scholarship. The $50,000 college prize is for kids whose parents met on the dating site.

Add this to the costs of college, interest rates on government student loans will rise nearly a full percentage point this fall. That's about $2,000 more in interest over four years of college. Rates are rising because they're tied to the market for treasury bonds. And more debt equals more misery. A new study find students graduating with no debt were seven times more happy than those with more are than $40,000 in loans.

From racists rants to marketing gold -- after banning Donald Sterling for his offensive comments about minorities, the NBA is now selling "We are One" t-shirts. The money raised will go to organizations that promote tolerance.


ROMANS: Thanks for spending Saturday smart with us. Take a moment and auto-record "YOUR MONEY" and you will never miss the money news that matters to you. Set your DVR. Have a happy Mother's Day. CNN Newsroom starts right now.