Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News

  • Vocational education advocates battle ‘enormous’ prejudices

    Rowe: AP/Paul KizzleMike Rowe, the host of the Discovery Channel show "Dirty Jobs," may seem like an unlikely voice in the country's contentious debate on the public education system.

    But the television personality has become a leading advocate for vocational education programs in the nation's schools. He forcefully testified in front of Congress last month that the country needs a "a national PR campaign for skilled labor" in order to battle prejudices against it in society. His speech praising the country's plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, and other tradesmen clearly struck a chord--it was shared by tens of thousands of people on Facebook.

    "We've elevated the importance of 'higher education' to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled 'alternative,'" he said. "Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as vocational consolation prizes, best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of 'shovel ready' jobs for a society that doesn't encourage people to pick up a shovel."

    Fortunately for Rowe, a few influential voices in K-12 education are now on his side, after decades of deep skepticism about shop class and other vocational programs, where education reformers worried teachers warehoused under-performing kids they didn't want in regular classrooms.

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  • FIRST LOOK: GE chief says American workers need more skills

    Welcome to First Look, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • Forty years after they first leaked, the U.S. government is releasing the Pentagon Papers. (AP)

    • U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he'll change No Child Left Behind on his own if lawmakers don't--by waiving certain states from the law's requirements. (WSJ)

    • The chief of GE said Americans aren't skilled enough for millions of open jobs in manufacturing. (CNN)

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  • Bloodthirsty pack of dogs take out 350-lb. llama

    Wild dogs: Stevens County Sheriff's Office

    Local law enforcement officials in Northeast Washington state are worried about a pack of dogs that have attacked at least 100 animals since March. The pack, they fear, is now "killing for fun."

    The wild dogs took out a 350-lb llama on Tuesday night, the latest in a string of attacks that have left more than 100 goats and other farm animals dead in the ranching community of Stevens County. The dogs, whose breeds are so far unknown, emerge only at night, but residents in their predatory range in the valleys and mountains near Spokane are afraid the canines may be getting bolder.

    "I think they are capable of do anything at this point," Deputy Sheriff Keith Cochran told KXLY4, adding that he's worried the animals may just be preying on area creatures for the sport of it. Undersheriff Lavonne Webb told the AP the pack is " killing for the sake of killing."

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  • Alabama immigration law pressures schools to check immigration status

    AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser/ Mickey WelshAlabama's new immigration law is drawing comparisons to SB1070, the anti-illegal immigration crackdown signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer last year before a judge quickly blocked it from going into effect.

    But Alabama's new law is actually much broader and much tougher than SB 1070--most notably for a provision that asks school administrators to check the immigration status of their students.

    Supporters say the law will help the state determine how much public money goes to educating undocumented children.

    "That is where one of our largest costs come from," Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale told The Montgomery Advertiser. "It's part of the cost factor."

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  • After-midnight ‘heat burst’ surprises Kansans

    Temperatures near Wichita: KSNWichita, Kan., residents are still reeling from a bizarre weather system that spiked temperatures 20 degrees in a matter of minutes in the early hours of Thursday morning.

    KSN Channel 3's meteorologist JD Rudd explained the causes of the rare nighttime temperature spike, known as a "heat burst." First, winds gusted up to 69 miles per hour at around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, when temperatures were still in the 80s. At 12:22 a.m., temperatures were at 85 degrees in the region. Less than 20 minutes later, the temperature spiked to 102 degrees, and winds continued to gust at about 50 miles per hour.

    By 3:00 a.m., the temperatures had again fallen and the winds stopped.

    Heat bursts are a very rare phenomenon, meteorologists told The Wichita Eagle.

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  • Fake foreclosure notices panic some Detroit residents

    Ambassador Bridge: APA conservative group is refusing to apologize for plastering Detroit homes with phony eviction notices earlier this week in a bid to get out their message of opposition to a proposed bridge project.

    "It was meant to startle people," Americans for Prosperity state director Scott Hagerstrom told The Detroit Free Press."We really wanted people to take notice. This is the time that their opinions need to be heard. We wanted people to read it." One of the group's founders is billionaire Koch Industries executive vice President David Koch, and the organization has played a prominent role in organizing tea party and conservative events.

    The flyers said "eviction notice" in big block letters and then warned residents that the state of Michigan could take their homes to make way for a new proposed bridge to Canada, the New International Trade Crossing bridge.

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  • Woman weightlifter fights to compete in hijab

    Abdullah in a February competition

    A 35-year-old weightlifter is battling to be able to compete in the sport she loves while wearing a hijab instead of the body-hugging uniform that's required.

    Kulsoom Abdullah, who was born in the United States to Pakistani parents, discovered weightlifting at her gym, Crossfit, in Atlanta in 2008. She entered her first open competition last year, and was thrilled to find out that she was actually pretty good in the competitive sport. She can lift 70 kilos (about 154 pounds) to her shoulders, and 60 kilos (or about 132 pounds) over her head, in a move called the "clean-and-jerk." Last December, she qualified for the American Open Weightlifting Championships, which would have been her first national competition.

    But when her coaches asked whether she would be able to wear her modified uniform--which covers everything but her face, hands, and feet--the organizers told told them no.

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  • Millionaire dog dies at age 12

    Leona Helmsley and TroubleA millionaire heiress died at age 12 in December, and the world is just finding out now.

    Don't feel too bad, though. Trouble Helmsley, perhaps the world's most pampered pet, was 84 in dog years when she succumbed to illness and died, according to the New York Daily News.

    She also, unbeknownst to her, outlasted several vows to bring her to a more violent end. Trouble received multiple death threats from people angry that her doting owner, billionaire real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley, left her a stunning $12 million in her will.

    While Trouble hit the jackpot, Helmsley also unceremoniously cut two of her grandchildren out of her will. They sued, arguing that their grandmother wasn't of sound mind when she signed the document in 2005. Disgruntled grown grandchildren Craig Panzirer and Meegan Panzirer Wesolko each received several million in the ensuing deal, and a judge knocked $10 million off Trouble's inheritance, putting the sum back in the $8 billion Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

    Carl Lekic, the general manager of the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel and the Maltese's caretaker until her death, told lawyers in 2008 that $2 million would be "enough money to pay for Trouble's maintenance and welfare at the highest standards of care for more than 10 years, which is more that twice her reasonably anticipated life expectancy."

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  • College-educated immigrants outnumber unskilled immigrants

    Map of high vs. low-skilled immigration cities: BrookingsA new Brookings report finds that college-educated immigrants now outnumber those who enter the United States with just a high school degree. The disparity is especially striking in urban areas, with college-educated immigrants outnumbering their high school diploma-lacking counterparts by 25 percent in 44 major U.S. cities. Overall, 30 percent of working-age immigrants have a college degree now, compared to just 19 percent in 1980. Only 28 percent of immigrants in the United States lack a high school education.

    And the trend appears to have escalated. More college-educated immigrants came to the United States in the past 10 years than immigrants lacking a high school education, in part due to increased demand from U.S. employers. Half of all skilled immigrants are overqualified for their current jobs, the report finds. The Washington Post summarized the Brookings findings in a front-page report today, and found that some regional employers are increasingly favoring a foreign-born workforce.

    Some employers may say they prefer immigrants to native-born workers. When Samir Kumar needs to hire employees for his Northern Virginia-based IT business, he often looks overseas. Not only do workers from India and Ukraine have the required training, but their expectations are lower, he said.

    "They actually don't demand a very high amount of salary, and the expectations are kind of grounded and they don't jump around so much" between companies, said the 39-year-old Ashburn resident, an immigrant from India. U.S.-born technology and business analysts are hard to find and hard to retain, he said, while immigrants with the same skills and education "are much easier to manage."

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  • Education Department says it doesn’t send SWAT teams after loan defaulters

    Screenshot: Wright/ABCA Stockton, Calif., man says a SWAT team broke his door and dragged him out of his house during an unexpected 6 a.m. raid targeting his estranged ex-wife.

    Kenneth Wright, who has no criminal record, told ABC News 10 he complained to the local cops about the raid. But according to Wright, the Stockton police denied ordering the raid, saying instead it was the handiwork of the federal Department of Education.

    Wright told the station that the Education Department was after unpaid federal loans owed by his ex-wife. "They busted my door for this," Wright says. The claim has been repeated by numerous news outlets who picked up the story, including Fox News, The Huffington Post, and Gawker. (UPDATE: The station has replaced the story with a newer version that does not make the claim the raid was for late loan payments.)

    But Education Department Press Secretary Justin Hamilton said in a statement to The Lookout that the department "does not execute search warrants for late loan payments." He said the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) "conducts about 30-35 search warrants a year on issues such as bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds." Hamilton said the department cannot comment on this particular case until the investigation is over, but did add that the claim the warrant was executed for late loan payment is untrue. The raid was related to a criminal investigation of Wright's wife.

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