30 Nov 2015

College enrollment rates are dropping, especially among low-income students

Low-income high school graduates were far less likely to enroll in higher education in 2013 than in 2008, a downward trend that came at the same time the Obama administration was pushing to boost college access and completion, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data.
College enrollment rates have fallen for all students since 2008, which is not surprising given that the economy has improved since then and therefore more young people can find jobs right out of high school. But the enrollment rates among the poorest students has fallen much faster, according to the analysis, which is slated to publish in a forthcoming edition of the Presidency, a publication of the American Council on Education.
According to an annual Census Bureau survey, overall college enrollment rates dropped three percentage points between 2008 and 2013, from 69 percent to 66 percent.
But college enrollment among the poorest high school graduates — defined as those from the bottom 20 percent of family incomes — dropped 10 percentage points during the same time period, the largest sustained drop in four decades, according to the analysis. In 2013, just 46 percent of low-income high school graduates enrolled in two-year and four-year institutions, according to the data.

Source: “Where have all the low-income students gone?” in the Winter 2016 issue of the Presidency
Enrollment was dropping at the same time as federal and private grant aid was increasing and high school graduation rates were rising — two trends that higher education advocates hoped would boost college access for poor youth.
“We think that others and ourselves need to be asking some pretty hard questions about why might this have happened,” said Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, who co-wrote the report with ACE’s Christopher J. Nellum. “This information cries out for more analysis.”
Hartle said policymakers should be particularly concerned because more than half of the nation’s K-12 public school students are considered to be from low-income families. 
Hartle said that the trend could be due to fast-rising sticker prices at many colleges that lead low-income students to deem higher education unaffordable. Or it could be due to the economic recovery and the availability of more jobs. It could be, still, that the data are wrong: The data from the Census Bureau survey are the best available, he said, but the survey covers just one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. population.
Anthony Carnevale, a research professor who directs the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said that he wasn’t surprised by the findings. A low-income student’s decisions about college are more sensitive to broader economic trends and to sticker prices than a more affluent student’s might be, he said.
That’s in part because while affluent young people often think of themselves as students who might work on the side, low-income students tend to see themselves differently: “They see themselves as workers who are going to school,” Carnevale said, so going to school is about getting a better job.
Carnevale argues that college as it’s currently designed drives away low-income students because they often have to slog through two years of general requirements before they focus on their major and on skills that will make them more employable.
Many low-income families also don’t want to risk taking out loans, he said. Stronger counseling could help students minimize the risk and understand the earnings-potential boost that comes with a degree.
A strong comprehensive counseling program has helped the District push its college enrollment rates above the low-income average. The nonprofit organization D.C. College Access Program has counselors in every D.C. traditional and charter school, working with students to apply for college and for scholarships.
Enrollment rates have held steady since 2006, at between 58 percent and 62 percent, said Argelia Rodriguez, president and chief executive of D.C. CAP. Three-quarters of D.C. high school seniors complete the federal application for financial aid, a greater proportion than any state.

CBS News finds Peace Corps volunteers blamed, fired after reporting sexual assault

Nearly 7,000 Peace Corps currently serve in about 65 countries. Roughly one in five of them is sexually assaulted during that service, according to the results of a recent anonymous Peace Corps safety questionnaire, obtained exclusively by CBS News.
The report also shows that nearly half don't report the assaults.
Pressure to change a culture of victim-blaming goes back years, but some survivors still claim they are blamed or punished. One volunteer wrote that in reporting an assault, "I made myself a target." 
"My thought was they're going to rape me. These men are going to rape me," said Danae Smith, who volunteered in the remote Dominican Republic town of Los Mosquitos for eight months.
In April, two men with machetes forced the 23-year-old off the village's main road. Smith got away and reported the assault to the Peace Corps and within a week, the agency told her she was going home.
"They also told me that my attack had occurred because I had been walking in my site and that as a volunteer, it was my job to have been more proactive to prevent it from happening," Smith said.
More than 500 volunteers have reported experiencing a sexual assault in a little over two years. CBS News spoke with nearly a dozen who questioned how their recent cases were handled. They told us they felt criticized and were threatened they would be fired.
Five years ago, the Peace Corps - a government agency - faced intense scrutiny over its response to sexual assaults. Congress passed a law and the agency's director at the time vowed change.
"I hired a nationally recognized leader in victims' rights to be our first agency's victim advocate," former Peace Corps director Aaron Williams said during a congressional hearing in 2011.
That leader was Kellie Green.
"I'm getting phone calls and I'm getting emails from returned volunteers that are in tears because they can't get the help that they need," Green said.
CBS News found some Peace Corps employees attempting to limit the number of in-country counseling sessions for sexual assault survivors to a maximum of six.
In one 2014 email, a Peace Corps clinical psychologist said of a volunteer: the "need for ongoing therapy is an indication" the volunteer was "not a good fit for Peace Corps Service."
After another volunteer asked for additional counseling, a Peace Corps medical officer sent an email saying, "I'm sure this will make no difference in her behavior."
"I pushed the agency to really do what they have the capability of doing," Green said. "And that's what's so frustrating because they have the ability to do this and it is a choice not to."
Earlier this month, the Peace Corps suspended her without pay for allegedly creating a hostile work environment. But Green says she was punished for standing up for the victims she was hired to protect.
Bonnie Scott was a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania. Earlier this year, she says she alerted Peace Corps that one of its American officials was allegedly sexually assaulting Albanian women.
But shortly after the official sent this email saying he was resigning for personal reasons, the Peace Corps fired Scott for improperly filling out paperwork.
"He was given the option to resign rather than face misconduct charges, which meant that everything would be covered up," said Scott. "They basically kicked me out, 10 days after they let this sex offender just resign," Scott said.
Inspector General reports show multiple cases of Peace Corps personnel - accused in sexual assaults - resigning ahead of administrative action, then being allowed to re-apply to the agency.
A 2014 Inspector General report warned the Peace Corps' screening process for re-hiring was not detecting past misconduct.
One volunteer who admitted to violating the agency's sexual assault policy was later hired to work at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"That person is no longer employed by Peace Corps. But I will also say that we are putting in place systems, mechanisms that will make sure that that does not happen again in the future," said Peace Corps director Carrie Hessler-Radelet. "This is unacceptable to us and we are trying to change the culture."

An Iraq Vet And A Mother Of 2 Were Victims Of Planned Parenthood Shooting

The two civilians killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday were Ke'Arre Stewart, a father of two and Army veteran who served in Iraq, and Jennifer Markovsky, a mother of two who was reportedly at the clinic to support a friend.
The attack, which lasted several hours, also killed police officer Garrett Swasey, a father of two. Suspect Robert Lewis Dear is in custody. Dear referenced "baby parts"when he spoke to police after the attack, but police stress that his motives are still unclear.
Police have confirmed that the two civilians killed were "preliminarily identified" as Markovsky and Stewart.
Ke'Arre Stewart, 29, was an Army veteran who served one tour in Iraq, reports The Denver Post. He was originally from Texas, the newspaper says, and leaves behind two children.
His wife told KKTV that all the family wants is justice. On Facebook, Stewart's brother asked for help and support for the family. 
"He was caring, giving, funny and just a damn good person," Stewart's friend Amburh Butler wrote on a GoFundMe page raising money for his funeral expenses.
Jennifer Markovsky, born in Waianae, Hawaii, also leaves behind two children,reports Hawaii News Now.
"Her family said she was at the Planned Parenthood clinic supporting a friend," HNN reports. "Her friend was shot in the hand."
Markovsky, 36, was "a stay-at-home mom who was devoted to her children," reports the Denver Post. She leaves behind a young son, daughter and her husband, her family tells the paper. 
Markovsky's father, John Ah-King, says she was "the most lovable person," the paper reports:
"I couldn't believe it," Ah-King said through sobs. "I just messaged her Thursday to say happy Thanksgiving." 
Garrett Swasey, the police officer killed in the attack, also leaves behind two children, a son and a daughter. He was an elder at an evangelical church in Colorado Springs.
Swasey was a champion ice dancer in his youth, reports The Denver Post. After his successful skating career he found his calling in police work, his wife said in a statement.

Man in prison for rape convictions cleared by DNA testing after 16 years

A California man who spent 16 years behind bars for sexual assault convictions was cleared on Monday after DNA evidence linked the crimes to another man.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan exonerated Luis Vargas after DNA evidence linked the crimes to the so-called “teardrop rapist,” who is suspected of more than 30 rapes in the Los Angeles area since 1996 and has never been identified, AP reported. 
The teardrop rapist gained his nickname for a teardrop tattoo under his eye. The rapist was known for grabbing his victims and threatening them with a weapon before pulling them into a secluded area and raping them, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Vargas, lived near the area where several assaults took place and was misidentified as the rapist because of a similar teardrop tattoo, according to the Times. 
In 1999, he was sentenced to 55 years in prison for three sexual assaults, but as he sat behind bars the rapes continued, the Times reported.
Vargas, who has maintained his innocence, reached out to lawyers and students at the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law. He told them he believed the teardrop rapist committed the assaults of which he was convicted, according to AP. The group took up Vargas’ case in 2012.
After his name was cleared, Vargas, 46, was taken back into custody because his green card was revoked when he was convicted of the crimes, AP reported.
His lawyers told his family they believed Vargas will be free to go home soon. 
His daughter, Cristal Nora Vargas, told KABC-TV, she is ready to help her father take back his life.
"This is all I've ever wanted, and I thank God for this one because God knows the truth behind all of this," she told KABC. "It's a relief because I believed in my father's innocence the day he told me he was innocent. Growing up, I would cry myself to sleep. My father meant the world to me, and he still does."

Republican Officials Just Got Caught Joining Neo-Nazis in Anti-Refugee Rallies

Islamophobia has been on the rise across the country since the Paris attacks on November 13th. Mainstream politicians have endorsed and attended them at a time when 47 democrats voted to close the doors on Syrian refugees, at least 54 percent of Americans want to do the same, and major Republican front-runner Donald Trump supports forcing Muslims to wear ID badges.
In fact, anti-refugee protests are popping up all over the country. In Pennsylvania, Neo-Nazis from Keystone United, Tea Party members, patriot movement members, and Republican committee members are among the organizers of these protests.
“Keystone United” was known as the “Keystone State Skinheads (KSS)” until 2009. They are one of the most active single-state skinhead groups in the US, and the SPLC has categorized them as a “racist skinhead extremist group” and elaborated on their image and actions. 
These far right groups are responding to a recent decision by Governor Tom Wolf to support the refugees. Senator Bob Casey alsospoke publicly about accepting Syrian refugees in Pennsylvania.
Two anti-refugee rallies were held in Pennsylvania, both of which were attended by Keystone United and other far right groups.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 40 or so people protested at the State Capitol on November 2oth. Some of their signs and bannersread “Terrorist Invasion, No Refugees” and “Aiding a Foreign Invasion is Treason.”
The main organizer for the Harrisburg rally was Christian activist Barbara Metzler. She spoke at the event and without any sources claimed that “91% of Muslims are on welfare or food stamps.” 
Dan Gray, a speaker and writer with the Patriot Militia Movement in PA went a step further and said, “Islam is based on Mohammad, and he was a murderer,” he said. “Call me a bigot or racist, I don’t care.”
John Rentschler, who is a Republican committeeman and Civil War reenactor from Berks County, PA, shared Gray’s sentiments and saidhe “imagined the chorus of voices who would denounce him as a racist, as xenophobic, Islamophobic, as a bigot.” He followed up by saying, “What matters to me is MY family, MY home, MY people, MY state, MY country,” as the crowd said “Amen” after each declaration he made. He went on to claim that “our nation is being crushed by multiculturalism, political correctness, and race-guilting.”
Right behind him, member of Keystone United Ian Mccorts stood wearing a hoodie with his organizations logo holding a “NumbersUSA” sign behind each speaker.
At the end of the rally, neo-nazis from Keystone United unfurled their banner and posed for photos. 
In Scranton, PA, a highway overpass protest was organized and attended by Keystone United members on November 21st. About 11 people joined them, and the co-founder of the Keystone State Skinheads, current director of the of the European American Action Coalition (EAAC), and committee member for the Luzerne County GOP since 2012 stood front and center.
This is not the only connection between the GOP and neo-nazis in Pennsylvania.
Republican Chairwoman (Lackawanna County) Mary Ann Benitez was also present at the overpass protest. Benitez is pictured in the NEPA Patriots Facebook page’s cover photo, and regularly attends anti-immigrant protests. 
In 2014, she claimed to not know about Steve Smith’s association with racists, but their repeated association and photos taken together suggests otherwise.
Steve Smith pleaded guilty to ethnic intimidation and assault following his 2003 arrest, which landed him in jail for only 2 months. He works closely with local Tea Party groups who have protested with him several times at anti-immigration events. In 2012, the NY Daily News claimed that Steve Smith was “no longer affiliated with the skinhead’s group,” but he was there this Saturday protesting with them against Syrian refugees.

"Welcome to 2015, wherein people in the hinterlands are fearful of Islamic terrorists, willing to give up personal freedoms to make themselves feel safe, while their brethren are running around with weapons terrorizing the rest of the populace."

Why is it the same knee-jerk Republicans freaking out about ISIS are fostering terrorism in the homeland? Recruiting and influencing loonies to do their dirty work to eliminate the evil scourge known as abortion? Imposing their beliefs upon a populace that may not agree, in a nation founded upon religious freedom, never mind personal liberty?
Welcome to 2015, wherein people in the hinterlands are fearful of Islamic terrorists, willing to give up personal freedoms to make themselves feel safe, while their brethren are running around with weapons terrorizing the rest of the populace. 
There's chaos in the streets right now. And the problem isn't college students agitating against microaggressions, or the underprivileged demanding equal rights, but the so-called law and order party, which under the rubric of creating a safer America is making most citizens feel anything but.
Words have consequences. And the media has influence. And they're both trumped by corporations, who do what's right for themselves, not the country.Did you read the recent "Washington Post" story about companies' influence upon the public's belief in climate change? Turns out, by funding studies, energy producers muddied the water, they made people believe climate change wasn't real. Just read "Why are so many Americans skeptical about climate change? A study offers a surprising answer." 
And now we've got fanatical anti-abortion zealots demonizing Planned Parenthood, creating false videos, all in the name of eradicating abortion, which is the law of the land, even though it's nearly impossible to get one in many red states. Locations are few, and the underclass is poor. And doctors and patients are both afraid of being shot.
But taking the law into your own hands is a feature of the west back in the 1800s. We've progressed.
Or maybe we haven't. What if we got all those shooters to give up their mobile phones and videogame consoles. Then they might realize that times are different.
And you might say that the shooters are mentally ill. I'd say that 10% of the public is crazy and we don't know who they are. But by sending messages of terrorism, we are incentivizing them to take action, to become famous, to become martyrs for the cause.
I don't stop hearing the Republicans saying that Obama isn't tough on ISIS, that he isn't forceful enough, that Muslims are evil, and our national way of life must be preserved.
Then I see these same people under the banner of Christianity inciting disorder in our communities, insisting the rest of us must adhere to their beliefs. Sure, the Middle East is destabilized. Sure, it's scary. But does that mean we have to sacrifice all our personal freedoms here at home. Does that mean we can substitute the fear of religious rule by one faith for the domination of another? There's a supposed war on Christmas, which is like saying the NBA is challenged by tiddlywinks. The minions incited by the blowhards on Fox News are creating unrest which results in shootings, but the meek and unarmed are the true problem? 
That's right, this is a right wing problem, a Republican problem. You don't see lefties shooting up churches and you don't see Democrats insisting that everyone smoke dope. The white population is declining in influence and through a weird alliance of rich and poor, we've destabilized our entire nation while these same people keep protesting their innocence and deflecting attention upon ISIS and other bogeymen.
ISIS is real. I'd be lying if I said I was not afraid.
But I'm more afraid of some Bible-toting idiot worried his tax money is being used to fund sin deciding to shoot up my neighborhood in an effort to restore order.
A shooter descended upon my neighborhood a couple of years back, and when the sirens go off and the police cars scream and you've got no idea what's happening, you realize not only can it happen here, it does.
I did not get shot. 
But innocent students at Santa Monica College did. Those who were just going about their business, trying to improve their lives, bothering nobody in the process.
Your right to bear arms is no threat to a hacker who can threaten the government with the click of a mouse. And the more you try to protect yourself with arms the more you destabilize our entire community.
We all are responsible for what happened in Colorado. Because we refused to have not only effective gun control, we've been fanning the flames of discontent for decades, polarizing those in this great nation of ours, when the truth is we're really more together than apart.
Donald Trump has no chance of becoming President.
But the media follows him because he sells advertising.
Irresponsibility is rampant. How do we expect people to do the right thing when corporations are avoiding taxes and everyone believes they have the right to have things go their way all the time?
Read More:http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/gop-rages-isis-helps-create-homegrown-thugs-article-1.2449465

Beautiful & Touching Colourised Images from WWI (27 Pics)

Some were taken over 100 years ago. Think about how we take for granted the modern day image – we have more on our smartphones than ever before. Now take into account the fact that we are used to seeing WWI in black and white so when you see them in colour – they have a major impact. The war seems very ‘real’ all of a sudden. Brings a different dimension to it.

What Daily Life Is Like Inside Latin America's Toughest Prison (17 pics)

La Modelo is the most notorious prison in Nicaragua and also the most brutal in Latin America. Trying to survive a day in here is truly like trying to survive a day in hell.

Brutal life: Boxing matches on the wings are a way of passing the time - and also entertainment for all the inmates

Drugs: What appears to be marijuana is bagged up by prisoners. The drugs trade is the backdrop to their incarceration

Ingenious: Drugs smugglers go to great lengths to get the prisoners their fixes, hollowing out a banana and using the soles of shes

Sweltering: The inmates spend their days in the un-air conditioned wings, where they sit in their different gang affiliations. The crowds have gathered to watch television

Break from the boredom: Prisoners gather round a television for some entertainment

Highs and lows: On the left, a prisoner left brutalized and wounded in a beating. But they also find ways to relax, with one man (right) making a reptile his pet

Squalid: All life is on the wings, including drying the washing. Washing is done using water from the same hole in the floor which acts as a toilet

Gang affiliation: Gang signs and tattoos are used to delineate which group men are members of

Tedium: Each 15ft by 15ft cell is packed with eight men, who have to spend hour after hour banged up alongside each other

Recreation time: When they are let out of their cells, life takes place on the wings. Designed in the 1950s as - literally - a model prison, La Modelo has become a byword for violence

Audience: Prisoners gather to see a boxing match between two other inmates. Violence is part of everyday life

Outside time: The hard-packed earth of the exercise yard offers some view of the outside world. The prison is close to the Nicaraguan capital

Friends: A group of men pose for the camera smuggled into prison to record conditions there

All is not as it seems: A 'cake' send into an inmate turns out to be a device to bring in contraband - most likely drugs

Light relief: It looks like a bare knuckle fight but in fact the prisoners are break dancing for amusement on one of the wings

Squalid: Food is prepared in the same part of the cell as where the washing is done. Inmates complain it bears little resemblance to proper cooking

29 Nov 2015

What the Dalai Lama said when he was asked whether we should pray for Paris

Following the terror attack which left more than 100 people dead on the streets of Paris last week, one of the first reactions of many people, as in many horrific disasters, was to turn immediately to prayer.
While the hashtag #PrayForParis was prominent on social media and world religious leaders were praised for their condemnation of the attack, the Dalai Lama says the world must not ask God to fix man-made problems.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, speaking to German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle, said in reaction to the Paris attack:
People want to lead a peaceful lives. The terrorists are short-sighted, and this is one of the causes of rampant suicide bombings.
We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.
We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody's interest.
So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.
The 80-year-old added that many of the world's problems have been caused by "superficial differences" of religion and nationality.

Private school teacher complains girls 'cramming their heads full of facts'

A private school teacher has complained about how "today's girls aren't going on nature walks or learning poetry off by heart - they're cramming their heads full of facts". 
Blanche Girouard, who teaches religious education at the £20,000 a year St Paul's Girls' School, also suggested girls were happier when they were simply expected to marry rather than go to university.
Writing for The Oldie magazine, Ms Girouard praised an era when "everything seemed to be geared towards marriage" and "parents really didn't seem to care" about educating girls.
Although she later acknowledges "it seems heinous that parents had such limited ambition for their bright daughters," she adds: "And yet there are aspects of that era that are enviable."
Parents who had daughters at the school strongly disagreed with the teacher's comments.
After bemoaning how girls were "cramming their heads full of facts", she wrote: "It's time we backed off and gave today's girls the time and space to work out what they actually want.
"Happiness and success don't turn on A*s and a place at Oxford." 
One mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, told theDaily Mail: "I don't worry about my daughter having too much pressure in a school situation. My girl loves being in that environment."