BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors say they have filed terror charges against two men they say are members of the Islamic State group who traveled to Syria via Turkey in May 2014.Federal prosecutors said Thursday that 27-year-old Ayoub B. and 26-year-old Ebrahim H. B. — whose surnames were withheld under German privacy rules — have been charged with being members of a foreign terror organization.The 27-year-old allegedly underwent weapons training and later took part in fighting near Syria’s Iraqi border. Prosecutors said the 26-year-old volunteered to carry out a suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, but the plan collapsed after some of the IS members he traveled with were arrested.The men returned to Germany in late August and September last year.They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Comments Share Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies
Marina Rodriguez, a 26 year-old dental hygienist, recently signed a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in suburban Chicago.“The idea of buying is a little scary — it’s a huge financial obligation,” she said. “I would rather rent and travel and be year-to-year then be locked down.”Builders are tapping into the rental market. Nearly all the 7.4 percent increase in June building permits came from apartment complexes, the government said last week. The three-story townhomes that Chicago-based REVA Development Partners once sold to first-timers and empty-nesters are now being rented.“There has been a fundamental shift in people’s attitudes toward home ownership,” said the Matt Nix, the firm’s principal.There’s also evidence that construction is topping out, a potential blow to overall economic growth. The American Institute of Architects said its index that tracks billings for houses and apartments has reached a four-year low. There’s often a nine- to 12-month lag between drawing up blueprints and a groundbreaking, a sign that builders view the current demand as short-lived.“What we’re seeing now is going to hit construction in 2016,” said Kermit Baker, the institute’s chief economist. “It does look like that market is getting close to peaking.” Sponsored Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility But an unusual trend has taken hold: Stronger home sales have yet to motivate many people to put their homes on the market. Listings for existing homes have barely edged up in the past year. And the pace of home building remains subpar compared with previous economic expansions.With buyer demand outstripping supply, the national median sales price for homes last month reached $236,400, the highest ever recorded, the Realtors said.For many would-be buyers, those higher prices are manageable if mortgage rates remain ultra-low. In June, the average 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.8 percent. The average has since topped 4 percent as the Federal Reserve has moved toward raising a key interest rate from its near-zero level. When the Fed last prepared to curtail its stimulus efforts in 2013, rates spiked and home sales sank.Though only modestly up, the higher mortgage rates are having a dampening effect, according an index of buyer demand released Thursday by the national real estate brokerage Redfin. It expects a slowdown in the growth of sales and prices as buyers pursue less expensive homes.“Interest rates are having an effect,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. “It’s making buyers a bit more conservative.” Comments Share Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The main problem is also the simplest: There just aren’t enough homes available. Robust demand has failed to draw many sellers into the market. And few in the industry foresee a flurry of home listings arriving soon.Other pressures will also likely slow sales. Steadily rising home prices can put ownership out of reach for some. What’s more, builders are increasingly focused on apartment construction rather than single-family homes.And then there are mortgage rates, which have crept up from recent lows and made it incrementally harder for some would-be buyers already struggling to afford a purchase. Some buyers are rushing to finalize deals for fear that rates will keep rising — a trend that could depress demand later this year.“What we fear is next is if interest rates rise and prices rise,” said Deborah Heffernan, a Boston-area broker. “That combination will definitely eliminate people from the market.”Early this spring, buyers leapt back into the market. Mortgage rates were just slightly above their 2012 lows, and nearly two years of solid job growth had generated millions of new paychecks.Sales of existing homes have surged 9.6 percent in the past 12 months, according to the National Association of Realtors. In June, they hit an annual rate of 5.49 million, a pace last achieved before the recession began. And sales of new homes have jumped 21 percent through the first half of 2015, the government reported Friday. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day (AP Photo/John Bazemore) New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Four benefits of having a wireless security system In some key markets, prices have begun to stagnate as buyers seem to be retreating. A majority of homes in Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., either lost value or basically flat-lined during May, according to a study by Weiss Residential Research.Weiss’ analysis points to a contributing factor for the shortage of available homes: Many homeowners can’t find affordable homes themselves and so can’t list their own properties for sale.“The reason why demand is high relative to supply is that homeowners are having a hard time moving up,” said Allan Weiss, founder of Weiss Residential Research. “There is gridlock.”In addition, many Americans remain squeezed by sluggish pay raises and have chosen to continue to rent. And some who do want to buy are unmoved by the limited selection and have decided to wait, said Tony Smith, a real estate broker in Charlotte, North Carolina.“Buyers are leaving the market because they don’t have anything to buy,” Smith said. “Some of them get frustrated and sign another lease.”Indeed, home ownership is declining, and renting has surged. Fewer than 64 percent of Americans own homes, the lowest level since 1989, according to the Census Bureau. The share of people under age 35 who own has dropped to around 35 percent from a high of 44 percent in 2004. WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. housing market has sizzled this summer, lifting expectations that home sales will finally help drive an economic expansion now in its seventh year.Or will it?Signs are emerging that housing’s momentum may be destined to falter in coming months. Analysts note that some of the key foundations needed to sustain a brisk pace of home-buying in the long run appear to be missing.The U.S. economy had only just begun to derive strength from housing for the first time since the Great Recession began in 2007. If home sales flag, that strength would fizzle. Top Stories
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: C.F Globus hosted an Italian coffee class at Sydney’s Barista Basics Coffee Academy last Thursday to mark the launch of its new 2011 Italy and Spain program.As a celebratory launch offer, Globus has announced amazing savings of up to $300 per couple on its all-inclusive 13-day Italian Mosaic tour, now priced from $2529* per person twin share. The discount is valid for all bookings made until December 15, 2010 and travellers can also save an additional 2.5 per cent on all tours paid in full four months prior to departure.The Italian Mosaic tourincludes two-night stays in the country’s most famous destinations, including Rome, Florence, Lake Maggiore, Venice and Sorrento plus a night in Assisi. Highlights of the Italian Mosaic tour include guided visits to the Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo’s David and Santa Croce Basilica in Florence and St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa as well as Pompeii and the Isle of Capri.Globus also offers other popular tours in Italy, which range from seven to 15 days and include the 10-day Italy at Leisure tour and the 12-day Highlights of Sicily and Southern Italy.In its new 2011 program, Globus has introduced five tours to Spain and Portugal, ranging from nine to 16 days.Priced from $2419* per person twin share, the popular two-week Iberian Vacation begins in Madrid, visiting Toledo, Granada and the Costa del Sol before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to spend a night in the Moroccan port of Tangier. Travellers will then return to Madrid through Andalusia to explore Seville, Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon and the university town of Salamanca. Known as the ‘premier coach touring company in Italy’, Globus tours offer accommodation in superior hotels, first class coach transport, professional tour directors and local guides, entry to many attractions and ample leisure time. *Prices are per person twin share, land-only, subject to availability and conditions. Globus Marketing Manager Australasia Christian Schweitzer and Globus Product Brand Coordinator Kate White
Authorities in the north have requested the removal of an Unficyp camp located near a university in Famagusta in the north so that they can turn it into a park for residents in the area, it was reported on Thursday.According to Turkish Cypriot media, ‘foreign minister’, Kudret Ozersay, announced that during their recent visit to New York they demanded the removal of an Unficyp camp located near the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta.The camp in question has been in that area since 1964, Ozersay said, but today it sits among dormitories that house thousands of university students. Therefore, he said, it was not appropriate for the area to be used for military purposes.It is located in the Karaolos area.The camp has a helicopter pad and a large number of military vehicles, he said, adding that they had formally filed the request during recent visits to the island of UN officials to inspect Unficyp operations and during contacts he had in New York. Ozersay said that they proposed to the UN officials another area where the military camp could move.Ozersay said on his social media profile that they conveyed this to the UN officials in New York with the reason being that as a result of the increase in the number of residences “we do not find the use of this military camp, which is in the midst of a residential area, appropriate.”He also pointed out that following the removal of the camp, the site could be turned into a green area or a park to be used for social activities.This, he said, is not only about UN camps also about the other camps located in the middle of inhabited or tourist areas.Ozersay said that the matter would be discussed within the coming days with competent authorities in the north.Unficyp spokesman, Aleem Siddique, told the Cyprus News Agency, they had seen Ozersay’s statement and registered it but had nothing to say on the matter.You May LikeUltimate Pet Nutrition Nutra Thrive SupplementAdd This One Thing To Your Dog’s Food To Help Them Be HealthierUltimate Pet Nutrition Nutra Thrive SupplementUndoAngels And EntrepreneursRobert Herjavec Announce Venture Could Make You RichAngels And EntrepreneursUndoDr. Marty ProPower Plus Supplement3 Dangerous Foods People Feed Their Dogs (Without Realizing It)Dr. Marty ProPower Plus SupplementUndo Turkish Cypriot actions in Varosha ‘a clear violation’ of UN resolutions, Nicosia saysUndoConcern over falling tourism numbersUndoPensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoby Taboolaby Taboola
In exactly a week, we honour the fallen: the men and women who gave their today for our tomorrows. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – a time and date which commemorate the formal cessation of hostilities in 1918 – we recall all those who died not just in The First World War, but in conflicts great and small around the world.This year, the date is particularly special. Not only does November 11 actually fall on a Sunday (thus neatly coinciding with Remembrance Sunday ceremonies) but it also marks the centenary. One hundred years on from the end of the Great War, nations everywhere will hold services of remembrance, laying wreaths at war memorials, cenotaphs, and churches. Even here, in the bright and sunny Mediterranean, we pay tribute to those who fell in the dark days of war: the many Cypriots – Greek and Turkish alike – who signed up of their own free will; over 16 000 in WWI (roughly 25 per cent of males of military age, the majority of whom joined the ranks of the indispensable Macedonian Muleteer Corps), and the more than 30,000 who served with the Allied Forces in WWII.While each nation honours its dead in its own way, perhaps one of the most universal means of remembrance is the Poppy Appeal. Operating since 1921, and commemorating military personnel killed action, the poppies of this charitable Appeal have long been associated with battlefields, and were the notable element in John McCrae’s famous WWI poem, In Flanders Fields – three poignant verses which speak volumes.Created and distributed by The Royal British Legion (TRBL), a charity which provides financial, social and emotional support to veterans, these paper poppies are made by ex-forces personnel – a practical way of supporting those who have been injured in service. But the good they do doesn’t stop there. While the very first Poppy Appeal – using silk poppies made by widows in France – raised £106,000, today, millions of pounds are raised by the 50,000,000 poppies distributed worldwide annually. The poppies go to over 120 countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, France, Germany, Malta, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Argentina… And, of course, Cyprus, where our four local branches of The Royal British Legion are accountable for their distribution and the consequent disbursement of the monies raised.“The four branches – in Limassol, Larnaca, Kyrenia, and here in Paphos – are responsible for the approximately 300,000 poppies sent to the island each year,” explains David Perry, Honorary Branch Secretary of The Royal British Legion Paphos Branch and retired Lance Corporal of the Royal Engineers. His is the newest of the branches on the island, formed just five years ago (the Limassol Branch is the oldest, at three decades in age), but nonetheless an integral part of ensuring the success of the Poppy Appeal in Cyprus.“In our entirety, we distribute the poppies to hundreds of outlets across the island, including 184 in Paphos alone,” David reveals, mentioning the Hospice Shop in Polis, the Phoenix Club, and the majority of local hotels as a few of the places the poppies can be found. “The number of outlets is increasing year on year,” he continues. “We used to go round and ask if various shops and the like would take a box; 30 years on from the launch of the Poppy Appeal in Cyprus, we find they’re ringing us and asking! We’ve raised,” he adds, “a great deal of money over the years: hundreds of thousands across the island; €16,257 last year in the Paphos district alone.”The money from the Appeal stays right here in on the island, used to assist ex-forces, ex-forces’ widows and dependants, some serving forces, and members of the Cyprus Veterans Association. “Owing to confidentiality, the number of people we’ve helped over the years is very hard to estimate,” David explains. “But rarely a month goes by without myself, my wife Chris, or Allan Hodgson our padre” – the three designated TRBL Welfare Case Workers for the Paphos District – “assisting with anything ranging from the purchase of medical equipment to funeral expenses, travel necessities, home and hospital visits, or quality of life care.“I think all of TRBL case workers on the island feel a lovely sense of satisfaction from being able to help others. And it also brings real joy to the heart to see people wearing their poppies at this time of year: you realise that people do remember, and the memory of those who have fallen will hopefully prevent conflicts from happening again. TRBL are the custodians of remembrance,” David adds, “so we’re also responsible for the Remembrance Day Services across the island.”He himself usually attends the Service at the Paphos Fort, an event which – though only in its fourth year – is thought to be the biggest in the Mediterranean, with more than 2,500 people in attendance last year. Presided over by Paphos Royal British Legion Padre A. Hodgson, who is assisted by the Reverend G Hill, the service echoes those held worldwide on Remembrance Sunday, with hymns, readings, the Exhortation (‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them’), the playing of the Last Post, two minutes’ silence, reveille, and a reading of the Kohima Epitaph, before wreaths are laid and prayers are said.“As the numbers have risen, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support for the Poppy Appeal here in Cyprus,” David smiles. “Those without often buy their poppies on the way in; in 2017, we filled five or six collection tins! It’s really a very important charity, and gives us the only income for welfare we have all year. And,” he concludes, “it helps all of us, whether we’ve lost loved ones or not, to remember the sacrifices of others. Lest we forget…”The Poppy AppealFor more information email PaphosBranch@gmail.com The Remembrance Service at the Paphos Fort will take place this coming Sunday, from 10am. All are very welcome. Poppies are also available at The Cyprus Mail offices. 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The Michigan House today overwhelmingly approved a funding bill urgently needed to address health and safety issues related to the Macomb County sinkhole emergency.The bill approved with bipartisan support includes $3 million from the state to help protect people, property and the environment from potential sewage overflows as crews continue to address the sinkhole that developed in late December. A state of emergency continues in the area.“Time is of the essence when it comes to the sinkhole emergency,” said Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, who sponsored the funding bill approved by the House. “We have to act now to protect public safety and health. If we have another heavy rain, we can’t afford to have raw sewage backing up into our residents’ homes and polluting the Clinton River, Lake St. Clair and beyond. Our Great Lakes are too important to not just Macomb County, but the entire Great Lakes region, so we can’t afford any delays in this project.”Republicans and Democrats joined forces to support the bill with a sense of urgency. The House Appropriations Committee approved the measure earlier in the day.“Hard-working families have enough to worry about without adding sinkholes and infrastructure problems to the list,” said Rep. Patrick Green, D-Warren. “I’m grateful that the state Legislature is moving quickly to repair the sinkhole in Macomb County and to take steps to make sure this won’t happen again.”“I am pleased to see Macomb County receive additional funding to deal with the sinkhole disaster,” said state Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores. “This tells homeowners and businesses that we are focused on doing all we can to help with these massive infrastructure repairs.”The money approved by the House would go toward building a long-term bypass around the sewer collapse that started the sinkhole. The project is needed to prevent sewage from backing up into homes and waterways.“We need to make sure we do what we can to protect people in our communities, as well as the environment and our precious natural resources,” said Rep. Diana Farrington, R-Utica. “This funding is an essential part of that effort.”Legislators praised the bipartisan support and quick action.“I am glad to be a part of this effort to continue helping our Macomb County communities affected by this sinkhole disaster,” said state Rep. Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights. “Acting now to send additional help will prevent the situation from worsening.”The Macomb County sinkhole started along 15 Mile Road in Fraser, but its effects have spread across the region.“The impact is broad and devastating,” said Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township. “This disaster affects more than 500,000 people, nearly a dozen communities and Selfridge Air National Guard Base. These residents need and deserve our help, and the Legislature must deliver that help.”Rep. Bill Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, echoed those sentiments.“Many residents and businesses of my district are severely impacted, along with several families having lost their homes, due to this infrastructure collapse,” Sowerby said. “I am pleased to join my Macomb County colleagues and vote for this additional money to help with the infrastructure repairs.”Many local communities remain urged to limit water usage to avoid strain on the system.“Due to the urgency of this situation, we need to move swiftly to approve this legislation to clear the financial obstacles Macomb is facing,” said Rep. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township.Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, agreed.“You can’t see sewer pipes. You can’t see water pipes. But they need to be kept in good repair, just like the roads and bridges we see every day do,” Lucido said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in support of this help for Macomb County.”Said Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville: “I’ve heard from many constituents who are concerned about the state of our infrastructure since the sinkhole opened up, and I’m glad that I’ll be able to tell them that the state is taking action to address the problem. Moving forward, I will work to see our state invest in maintaining and updating our infrastructure to prevent another sinkhole opening up here or anywhere else in Michigan.”The bill approved today by the House now goes to the Senate for consideration. 22Mar Michigan House approves urgent funding for Macomb County sinkhole Categories: Marino News
Categories: News,Yaroch News 31Mar Rep. Yaroch supports more career-oriented classes for students A Merit Curriculum bill package got a ‘yes’ vote from state Rep. Jeff Yaroch Thursday, giving high school students and their families added options toward graduation on the way to post-high school career preparation.“This legislation gives more control to the students while also helping the Macomb County region get more professionals in skilled trades and information technology,” said Yaroch, of Richmond. “Our education system is based on preparing high school students for life after graduation. This will allow better opportunity to meet that important goal on a student-by-student basis.”The four bills in the legislative package will allow statistics, computer coding and certified safety program courses to count toward graduation requirements, and give students an option to fulfill a 21st Century Skills requirement by completing a combination of career/technical education (CTE) or visual/performing arts courses.“Career options have changed a lot over the past 10 years, just as the demand for young professionals prepared in vocational education classes has increased,” Yaroch said. “We must help our education system adapt to that demand. My vote was to help our students today prepare for what’s available to them tomorrow.”House Bills 4315-4318 advance to the Senate for consideration.#####
01Dec Rep. Crawford bills contribute to reforms protecting police, firefighter retiree benefits State Rep. Kathy Crawford of Novi said today new legislation in the Michigan House will help safeguard retiree benefits for police, firefighters and other municipal employees.The reforms will identify local government retirement plans in severe financial trouble due to underfunding, then set up a system to help them avoid financial crisis. Crawford introduced three bills in the broad, multi-bill package.“The most important item in these reforms is doing all we can to keep the promises made to firefighters, police and other local government employees for their retirement,” Crawford said. “We want to provide a structure to help local governments develop plans for the best path forward.”A task force earlier this year, assembled by Gov. Rick Snyder, explored the critical challenges posed by Michigan’s underfunded local government employee retirement systems – which have unfunded liabilities approaching $20 billion. The Michigan Legislature is following up the task force report with a multi-bill package to address mounting local retiree healthcare and pension costs.The legislation creates a reporting system with uniform financial and accounting standards for local government retirement plans. An early detection system will help local governments and the state identify potential funding problems and act quickly to mitigate them. Communities will be vetted through a state treasurer’s fiscal impact evaluation and retirement systems will be flagged as underfunded when municipalities aren’t meeting set criteria to alleviate their debts.Local governments will have plenty of opportunity to address issues on their own. But if that fails, a financial management team with local and state representation will step in to force changes to put programs back on firm financial footing.Crawford’s bills help develop the framework to ensure all local units of government have the same sorts of requirements under the new system.#####Rep. Crawford’s legislation: House Bills 5303, 5304 and 5305. Categories: Crawford News,News
Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell is seeking outstanding educators throughout the 86th House District to present with an Outstanding Educator Award.Each month, from January through May, one educator will be recognized for their amazing work and will be presented with a tribute from Rep. Albert’s office. All citizens of the 86th House District are invited to nominate a K-12 educator they believe goes above and beyond in the classroom.“Educators deserve recognition for the tremendous job they do,” Rep. Albert said. “I encourage everyone who has been positively affected by an educator to contact my office.”To nominate an educator, please visit Rep. Albert’s website listed below and click on the Outstanding Educator Award tab: http://gophouse.org/representatives/westmi/albert/.If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact Rep. Albert’s office at ThomasAlbert@house.mi.gov or by phone at (517) 373-0846. 04Jan Rep. Albert to present Outstanding Educator Award Categories: Albert News
25Jan Rep. García votes to give Michigan families, seniors broader tax relief State Representative Daniela R. García today voted to approve a package of bills aimed at providing substantial income tax relief for families and seniors.The bills continue and increase personal exemptions for Michigan taxpayers and their dependents on their income taxes, while providing additional relief for senior citizens.Representative García, of Holland, voted for the three-bill package that will enable people to keep more of their hard-earned money.“The federal tax reforms offer much-needed tax relief, but Michigan families also deserve a break on their state income taxes,” Representative García said. “The action we took today ensures residents will continue to receive personal exemptions and provides additional relief to improve the quality of life for families and senior citizens in Ottawa County.”The legislation, House Bills 5420-5422, will:Ensure Michigan taxpayers can continue claiming personal exemptions on income taxes after federal tax reforms signed into law last month, and increase the state personal exemption from the current $4,000 to $4,300 for the 2018 tax year, with gradual increases reaching $4,800 for 2020;Certify taxpayers in Michigan cities with an income tax will continue to be able to claim exemptions; andHelp senior citizens in addition to the personal exemption increase by providing a $100 income tax credit for a single filer age 62 or older – or $200 for joint filers.House Bills 5420-5422 now go to the Senate for consideration.### Categories: Garcia News
PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Bronna Kahle today hosted Madison Township Fire Chief Ryan Rank (left) and Blissfield Chief of Police Dale Greenleaf (right) for the House’s Sept. 11 Memorial Service. The observance at the state Capitol memorializes Michigan first responders and military members who died in the line of duty in the past year. ### 06Sep Rep. Kahle hosts Lenawee County public safety officers for Michigan House Sept. 11 ceremony Categories: Kahle News,News
25Sep State Rep. Hank Vaupel Weekly Column: Sept. 16, 2018 A resolution I introduced that is scheduled for action by the House next week will declare September as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Month in Michigan. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) pose a serious threat to the health of our future generations and is entirely preventable. I strongly urge residents to increase their knowledge of the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, to increase their levels of compassion for individuals affected by FASD, and to reduce the incidences of FASD that can cause birth defects, mental disorders and learning disabilities.***Next week, I will introduce a bill to request the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to prepare a comprehensive state plan on mental health and substance disorder services. This plan will identify the needs and resource requirements for providing services and support to individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities or substance use disorders.***On Saturday, the Livingston Centre Historical Village hosted the 4th annual Fall Festival. The goal of the Livingston Centre Historical Village is to preserve the history of the community. The village is a reminder of Livingston County’s culture. I want to thank the agricultural society and community volunteers for collectively working to make this yearly event a fun experience for families in our county.***I also attended the Pregnancy Help Clinic Chocolate Walk. I want to thank the walkers and volunteers who attended the event. They make a difference to individuals that need help the most within our community.***Pastor Ryan Guenther and members of the Victory Baptist Church in Hartland, along with Pastor Tim Christoson and members from the Bible Baptist Church in Howell, visited my office in Lansing on Wednesday. I want to thank them for their service in the community.***Thank you to all who attended my September office hours. I hope you’ll be able to join me again next month on Friday, Oct. 18 at the following times and locations:• 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Fowlerville Farms, 941 S. Grand Ave. in Fowlerville;• 4 to 5 p.m. at Biggby Coffee, 11325 W. Highland Road in Hartland; and• 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at All Star Coney Island, 934 Michigan Ave. in Howell.***If you have any ideas, comments or questions for my office, please do not hesitate to call us at 517-373-8835 or send an email to HankVaupel@house.mi.gov.We are happy to hear from you!###PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Hank Vaupel (right) welcomed Pastor Ryan Guenther (second from left) and other members of Victory Baptist Church in Hartland to Lansing on Sept. 19. Categories: News,Vaupel News
04Jun House panel hears Rep. Albert plan promoting safety at fairs and amusement centers Categories: Albert News Legislator authors plan better protecting Michigan carnival-goersChanges could be coming for carnivals just in time for the start of festival season across Michigan, state Rep. Thomas Albert said today before the House Regulatory Reform Committee.Albert, of Lowell, testified in support of his plan to better protect customers at fair and carnival amusement centers. Albert said he brought the legislation forward after a Grand Rapids family experienced tragedy at a local family amusement center.“After a constituent came to me with a story of how her sister was tragically injured at a family amusement center, we did some digging to reveal that Michigan could be doing much more to prevent accidents and emergency situations, as well as ensure residents are safe while having family fun,” Albert said. “The voluntary programs we are trying to create with these bills are modeled after North Carolina law, and will recognize businesses that take great care to train their staff and ensure emergency situations are properly handled. These programs will signal to families which amusement centers and fairs across the state go above and beyond to keep riders safe.”Albert invited Corri Sandwick to join him in testifying about the importance of stricter safety at amusement parks. Sandwick’s sister, Rachel Gibbs, was tragically injured in a go-kart accident at AJ’s Family Fun Center near Grand Rapids. Albert says he is very grateful for Sandwick’s insight and guidance during the drafting process of the legislation.Two measures in the four-bill package will create voluntary programs within both the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) that businesses, state fairs and festivals may participate in. The programs will focus on recognizing businesses that place a high value on staff training and patron safety. Albert’s third and fourth measures help ensure adequate funding for safety inspections of carnival rides and ski area lifts through increased operating permit fees.Albert noted the programs would act as incentives for businesses, as carnival-goers would prefer being customers at fairs and amusement parks that provide them the peace of mind knowing they are safe.“We want to incentivize businesses to take rider safety and staff training more seriously without overregulating the industry,” Albert said. “This plan accomplishes that by establishing voluntary programs giving recognition to amusement operators who meet the high standards set by it. Amusement centers with a gold star rating and fairs and festivals who partner with the state will be recognized on the State of Michigan’s website, easily allowing residents to see which locations meet the new safety standards.”In addition to the creation of the Michigan Safety and Amusement Star Program and the Fair and Festival’s Partners Program, Albert’s plan will gradually raise the fees paid by amusement ride and aerial lift operators. Albert says that current fees, which have not been raised since the 1960’s, underfunds the division that inspects the safety and operation of carnival rides by roughly $600,000 annually. This is leading to permitting delays for carnival rides, which is both bad for business operators and patrons.“My goal in bringing these bills forward is not only to try to help prevent this from happening to other families, but also to encourage and promote carnival and amusement owners to train employees to prevent accidents and be prepared in their response when incidents do occur,” Sandwick said.House Bills 4584-4586 and 4652 remain under consideration in the House Regulatory Reform Committee.Photo Information: State Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell and Corri Sandwick testify before the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday.
Share17TweetShare1Email18 SharesJuly 9, 2015; Salon and Washington PostThe numerous issues that have been at the center of a growing controversy about public education place the policies of President Obama in the spotlight. The debate has become integral to the U.S. Congress’s efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (née No Child Left Behind), the vehicle through which the federal government influences the direction of public education at a state and local level.Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education throughout the years of the Obama presidency, has led the administration’s efforts and is the champion for the themes that have become the center of debate. He has been a strong advocate for “school choice” and expanding the use of charter schools, including those operated by private for-profit organizations. He has strongly supported the adoption of the Common Core as a national set of curriculum education standards. He has worked to increase the use of standardized testing as the mechanism for assessing student performance and as a key component of school and teacher evaluation and rating. He has led the effort to reduce the power of teacher’s unions and expand the number of teachers who do not come from traditional sources (through programs like Teach for America.) And he has been aggressive in using federal funding as the lever to bring schools into alignment with the administration’s strategy.Six years in, the backlash to these efforts has become more frequent and louder. And it threatens to severely limit the ability of the national government to have a coherent national policy to ensure all children receive an equal, high quality education.Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University, sees Duncan’s years at the DoE as being much more harmful.“When Obama was elected, many educators and parents thought that Obama would bring a new vision of the federal role in education, one that freed schools from the test-and-punish mindset of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. But Arne Duncan and Barack Obama had a vision no different from George W. Bush and doubled down on the importance of testing, while encouraging privatization and undermining the teaching profession with a $50 million grant to Teach for America to place more novice teachers in high-needs schools. Duncan never said a bad word about charters, no matter how many scandals and frauds were revealed.”“This era has not been good for students; nearly a quarter live in poverty, and fully 51 percent live in low-income families. This era has not been good for teachers, who feel disrespected and demeaned by governors, legislatures, and the U.S. Department of Education. This era has not been good for parents, who see their local public schools lose resources to charter schools and see their children subjected to endless, intensive testing.”“It will take years to recover from the damage that Arne Duncan’s policies have inflicted on public education. He exceeded the authority of his office to promote a failed agenda, one that had no evidence behind it. The next president and the next Secretary of Education will have an enormous job to do to restore our nation’s public education system from the damage done by Race to the Top. We need leadership that believes in the joy of learning and in equality of educational opportunity. We have not had either for 15 years.”Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post education reporter, in a recent profile of Secretary Duncan saw the impact of his tenure as having a more global impact. She quoted Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said, “I’ve never seen both Democrats and Republicans want to curb the authority of the federal Department of Education the way they want to now.” Jack Jennings, founder of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy and author of a new book about education politics, told Layton that he saw little good from Duncan’s efforts. “The record will show these policies brought about minimum improvement…they also did considerable harm”The loss of the national perspective will be a concern beyond the debate over specific strategies and tactics. It is the vantage point from which we can ensure that all children are being given an opportunity for high quality education, a concern of critical importance if we are to overcome the growing gap that are rooted in racial and socioeconomic differences.—Marty LevineShare17TweetShare1Email18 Shares
Share15TweetShare6Email21 SharesFebruary 22, 2016; New York TimesAs public schools shift more towards using technology for the completion of homework assignments, there is concern that a phenomenon called the “homework gap” will only become wider. The “homework gap” affects school-age students, largely from low-income families, who do not have access to high-speed Internet at home. According to a Pew Research Center survey, it is estimated that about 5 million homes with school-age children living in it do not have high-speed Internet. Students who live in a home without Internet access are more likely to fall behind in schoolwork, as reported in The Atlantic. They may not be able to turn in assignments through a required online portal, use the Internet to research an assignment, or collaborate outside of classroom hours with other students on a group project. Not having the ability to complete assignments online, outside of regular school hours, may cause some students to receive less than full credit.However, there are two possible solutions on the horizon to help combat the homework gap issue. First, there’s the proposed expansion of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Lifeline program. Established in 1985 to provide local phone service to low-income citizens, the program has evolved as new communication technologies have emerged. The most recent program expansion was the “Obama Phone” program. That program provides a cell phone to people who are also utilizing other government assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program or Medicaid. The FCC is now considering adding household broadband accessibility to the Lifeline program as way to help close the homework gap.Another solution is the Digital Learning Act of 2015. Proposed last September, the Digital Learning Act is focused more on providing grants to state agencies and community organizations to tackle the lack of broadband Internet access outside of school walls. At least a third of the grants in the proposed legislation have been earmarked for rural areas of the country. Whereas, in urban communities, students are able to access wireless Internet in fast-food restaurants and public libraries, students in rural communities may not be able to find free wireless Internet access as easily. That could be especially challenging, as some rural school districts are not even able to offer in-school Internet. This puts students in rural areas at greater risk for digital illiteracy. This can carry the repercussions of the digital divide with them as they enter the job market.Some communities have put local solutions in place. The Coachella Valley Unified School District equipped its fleet of school buses with wireless routers, allowing students to access the Internet on their bus ride to and from school. Other students ask to complete assignments at a friend’s home, which has Internet access. And nonprofit organizations such as Everyone On are working to provide Internet access to low-income households in places like Charlotte, North Carolina. Until in-home broadband Internet access becomes universally available, some low-income students will have to continue to rely on these types of resources to use the Internet.—Kelley MalcolmShare15TweetShare6Email21 Shares
Share12Tweet3Share3Email18 SharesJanuary 3, 2017; Charlotte ObserverA required annual state report on charter schools will be presented to a legislative committee in North Carolina this week, and it generally reflects good news for the state’s charter schools.Charter school attendance in North Carolina has doubled since 2011, when the state removed a 100-school cap. Almost 92,000 students attend charter schools in North Carolina, representing about 6 percent of the state’s 1.5 million students enrolled in public schools. Traditional public school enrollment has remained flat or declined slightly.Alexis Schauss, the state’s director of school business, said the state’s growth is “being absorbed by charter schools and home schooling.”Enrollment in homeschooling in the state is far more difficult to ascertain, with the U.S. Department of Education estimating that 3.4 percent of children are homeschooled, while homeschool advocates dispute the federal methodology and claim far larger numbers. Meanwhile, enrollment in private schools has remained fairly constant at 98,000 students.State officials expected even more rapid growth in charters, which are independent public schools administered by nonprofit boards. The Observer reports that both federal and state officials are exploring ways to expand the number and role of charter schools in the state while efficiently improving or closing charters that fail in their missions. In North Carolina, public school revenues fund operational expenses for charter schools but do not fund school buildings. This makes charters an especially attractive option for school districts with increasing populations, where increased enrollment requires building construction.Charter school growth has been more pronounced in the state’s urban centers. School district reactions to this growth have been decidedly mixed. On the one hand, districts seek to compete by establishing their own themed schools; on the other hand, they worry about the charter schools’ ability to pull students from multiple school districts (or even statewide using online charters) and complicating districts’ geography-based attendance planning.School officials claim that charters serve fewer low-income students, with 30 percent of charter students and 50 percent of traditional students identified as low income. Charter representatives point out that income status is often reported based on students’ participation in the federal school lunch program. Some charter schools don’t participate in the program, so their low-income students aren’t counted or reported in statewide statistics.Easier similarities and differences to identify include attendance by race/ethnicity and academic performance. Charters have more white students (57.1 percent vs. 49.5 percent) and fewer Hispanic students (8.4 percent vs. 16.6 percent) than school districts, according to the report. Black and Asian enrollment was nearly identical, at 26 percent and 3 percent, respectively.The most disturbing statistic in the report is the disparity between charters and traditional public schools in the percentage of college-ready students. According to the Observer article, “The report notes that 38 percent of charter schools had at least 60 percent of students earning college-ready scores on state exams, compared with 5 percent of district schools hitting that mark.”Based on the news article, the state’s annual report has little additional information on school and individual student performance, which is key information necessary to evaluate the relative merits and value of the state’s two competing public school models. There is enough critical and even pejorative research on charters that it seems only prudent for North Carolina to expand its assessment parameters in future state reports.—Michael WylandShare12Tweet3Share3Email18 Shares
Share3Tweet15Share2Email20 SharesBy Ramon Corvera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsAugust 3, 2017; WiredIn Argentina, as in the U.S., a handful of corporate media companies control the airwaves. That was very much by design; in 1980, when Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship, community groups and nonprofits were banned from broadcasting on television and radio. But, though the law is still in place, you can only silence people for so long before they find a way to be heard. And now hundreds of Argentinian communities are offering their own programs, as reported by Wired magazine.“It’s not ideologic,” said Anita Pouchard Serra in a recent Wired interview. “It’s just the point of view of the inhabitants, the people in the street.”Serra spent three years with DTL! Comunicacion Popular, a collective that erects radio towers to enable the voices of poor and working-class communities to be heard.“The radio is a way to create solidarity and collective action,” Serra said in Wired. “It’s an opportunity for them to tell their story.”In the U.S., as we know, the cries of political bias and “fake news” come from even the most powerful. But these community radio stations are about more than filling in one side or another. It’s about allowing whole communities that have been shut out of the dominant media to talk about what it’s important to them. Sometimes that means broadcasting in indigenous languages; sometimes that means covering controversial stories, such as police brutality or the environmental impact of a mining project.“We don’t have authentic public media in Latin America,” Martin A. Becerra, a communications professor at the University of Buenos Aires, said in a Wired interview. “So in order to exercise freedom of expression, communities build their own media.”What DTL! Comunicacion Popular does is offer the infrastructure—communication towers and recording studios—that allow communities to build their own media.The collective began about 10 years ago with a single television station in an impoverished neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Since then, Wired magazine reports, it has launched 150 radio stations and 20 television stations. It costs about $2,500 to build a studio and tower that can broadcast a mile in urban areas and 30 miles in the countryside.Community groups in the U.S. should take note. While in the U.S. there is nothing so blatant as a military dictatorship’s unilateral ban of community groups from the airways, the economic landscape for journalism is one of a progressively tighter squeeze in which corporate consolidation has thrived. More than a third of U.S. newspapers have changed ownership since 2004, according to a 2016 study from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The study found that corporate consolidation also increased. In 2004, the three largest companies owned 487 newspapers. By 2016, that had increased to nearly 900.And when newspapers change hands or simply go up for sale, the focus is rarely on reinvesting in journalism. The norm is cost-cutting to make the businesses more attractive to investors and profitable for shareholders. According to the Poynter Institute, in the last decade, hundreds of newspapers have either shut down or cut back (such as dailies becoming weeklies). The result can be “news deserts,” in which news important to local communities goes unreported.NPQ has reported on efforts to address the lack of diversity in news coverage, such as the Madison 365 project in Wisconsin. Many of the most prominent nonprofit journalism models in the U.S., like ProPublica, seek to find new ways to create and distribute work done by professional journalists. The DTL! approach in Argentina is to engage citizens directly in the production of their news.“When you read about slums in the media, it’s always about violence and drugs,” said Serra, who documented DTL!’s work in a photo series entitled Communication is not a Merchandise. “In the radio they try to show another side. It might be good actions performed by neighbors.”—Nancy YoungShare3Tweet15Share2Email20 Shares
UK media regulator Ofcom reportedly received over 45,000 submissions to its review of media plurality by last Friday’s deadline. The review was initiated following News Corp’s bid to acquire 100% of pay TV operator BSkyB, which was aborted as a result of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.Ofcom received about 50 submissions from organisations and individuals, with the bulk of the remainder resulting from public campaigns organised by groups Avaaz and 38 Degrees, with the majority of the submissions related to the campaigns focusing specifically on the power wielded by News Corp and the Murdoch family in the UK.Ofcom had originally been asked to assess the impact of the News Corp bid for Sky on media plurality grounds, which had led to News Corp offering to spin off its Sky News channel into a separate organisation. However, following the collapse of the bid as a result of the hacking scandal, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt asked the regulator to look into ways to protect plurality more widely, including how practical it would be to set limits on media ownership to protect plurality. Ofcom invited comments on what were the options to measure media plurality, whether it was practical and advisable to set absolute limits on news market share, what could trigger a plurality review in the absence of a merger, whether the framework to measure plurality should include websites and whether or not the framework should include the BBC.
Russian mobile operator Megafon is trialing an OTT service in preparation for a full launch within the next few weeks.The company will launch a TV service delivered via its own broadband network and plans to roll it out to smaller operators without a TV offering. Megafon is yet to reveal whether it will subsidies the cost of OTT set-top boxes but the service is also expected to be made available via computers, smartphones and tablets.
Access network CDN specialist Broadpeak and digital home operating platform provider SoftAtHome have tamed up to provide technology for OTT delivery. Broadpeak has used the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam to unveil an addition to its nanoCDN framework, which will be combined with SoftAtHome’s latest SOP6 software. The pair say that the integration will reduce peak loading on the broadband access network for both live and VoD OTT consumption, by transforming gateways or set-top boxes into active components of the content delivery network.“OTT traffic is growing on Broadband operators’ networks, and has a direct impact on their infrastructures. Bringing a solution, to improve quality of service for end user while optimising costs, is a clear advantage. Network Operators can benefit from this latest version of Broadpeak nanoCDN technology to cost-effectively manage the consumption peaks of live and VoD OTT,” said Michel Degland, CEO of SoftAtHome.“We are excited to extend our collaboration with SoftAtHome. By combining our nanoCDN technology with their popular software solution, we are able to leverage gateways and boxes to evolve them into the perfect and ultimate edge servers. By leveraging home gateways with SoftAtHome‘s SOP6, nanoCDN helps operators to dramatically reduce infrastructure investments and enable them to more efficiently deliver high-quality OTT and managed video services to end users,” said Jacques Le Mancq, CEO and President of Broadpeak.