World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Apple’s Profits Rise 47 Percent On Strong Mac Sales

Apple, in its recent history, has overcome nearly every obstacle thrown its way. Now it has surpassed another: the burden of high expectations.

Apple managed to surprise optimistic investors, posting a 47 percent increase in profit in the fourth quarter and handily beating Wall Street’s estimates. Renewed sales of Macintosh laptops and the continued popularity of the iPhone around the world helped to lift Apple’s bottom line.

Shares of Apple have already nearly doubled this year, and on Monday, Apple rose $11.58, or 6 percent, in after-hours trading, after closing at $189.96 in the regular session. Shares passed $200 for the first time since late 2007.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., said it sold 3.05 million Macs in the quarter, up about 17 percent from the 2.6 million it sold in the same quarter last year. Global PC sales rose 2.3 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to the market tracking firm IDC.

Study Finds Growing Work For High School Counselors

The struggling U.S. economy has taken a toll on those directly responsible for advising students about the college admission process.

Nearly half of public schools have raised the caseloads of high school counselors this year, compared with last year, with the average increase exceeding 53 students, according to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

At the same time, the report said, the pressures on applicants (and, by extension, their counselors) are growing, as the number of applications to four-year colleges continued to rise, along with the number of students applying to colleges under early-decision programs.

In many respects, the report, “2009 State of College Admission,” seeks to quantify the extent of the frenzy engulfing many of today’s college applicants.

For example, about 22 percent of students who enrolled in college in the fall of 2008 applied to at least seven colleges, up from about 19 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the average acceptance rate at four-year colleges declined slightly, to 66.8 percent in 2007, the last year for which the report provided full data in that category, from 71.3 percent in 2001.

Basic Medicare Premium To Rise 15 Percent Next Year

The basic Medicare premium will shoot up next year by 15 percent, to $110.50 a month, federal officials said Monday.

The increase means that monthly premiums would top $100 for the first time, a stark indication of the rise in medical costs that is driving the debate in Congress about a broad overhaul of the health care system.

About 12 million people, or 27 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, will have to pay higher premiums or have the additional amounts paid on their behalf. The other 73 percent will be shielded from the increase because, under federal law, their Medicare premiums cannot go up more than the increase in their Social Security benefits, and Social Security officials announced last week that there would be no increase in benefits in 2010 because inflation had been extremely low.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, urged the Senate to approve a bill, already passed by the House, to block the scheduled increase in Medicare premiums.