In every community there are people who,through their volunteer work and devotion to others,turn potentially anonymous neighbourhoods into friendly places to live.These people are the glue that binds our communities.

Every now and then the people realize the essential role community has played in their life.Perhaps you'll be inspired,and will speak to a neighbour you've never spoken to before. 

Александр Дуганов на сервере Проза.ру

Alexander Duganov 


A problem for senators hesitating over Trump nominees: The alternative might be worse

Senators have their doubts about Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state.

He was far too hesitant to condemn human rights abuses in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. He claimed, untruthfully, that Exxon had never lobbied against sanctions on Russia when he was its CEO. And he displayed a troubling lack of responsiveness at times, calling into question his commitment to accountability and transparency with Congress and the press.

Nonetheless, there is a deeper concern that may help Tillerson’s chances of Senate confirmation: the fear that not confirming him would lead to a worse outcome. If the Senate rejects Tillerson, his replacement could be even less palatable. And then Trump, a new president who knows little about the job he is entering, might have no one around who actually knows something about international relations, which Tillerson at least does.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ended an eight-hour hearing Wednesday by making a lengthy plea for Tillerson skeptics like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to give Tillerson a chance. The top priority, Corker said, was to make sure that Trump had someone around him who could offset his considerable ignorance of foreign policy.

“This is a very important decision. We have a president-elect who is coming into office also without a great deal of background,” Corker said. “For him to have someone who he has confidence in who’s sitting up under the hood, who’s helping him shape his views, to me is something that is very, very important.”

Later Wednesday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he was undecided about supporting Tillerson. He’d liked many Tillerson answers that contradicted some of Trump’s more inflammatory or careless past statements, but worried — like other senators — that Tillerson, rather than being able to execute a principled, strategic foreign policy, would be reduced to irrelevance by Trump’s constantly changing, unpredictable whims.

But Coons’ deeper worry was that if the Senate rejected Tillerson, the next nominee to be America’s top diplomat would be much inferior.

“I have frankly been reflecting on, if not Mr. Tillerson, who else might President-elect Trump choose?” Coons said. “He conducted a sort of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ review process to come up with a nominee for secretary of state, and he seriously considered Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton.

“And I tried to imagine how they would have fared in today’s confirmation hearings,” Coons said, obviously not enthusiastic about either, or at the idea of them coming before the Senate for a vote.

Corker also implied that Rubio might learn more about Tillerson’s true views on human rights — something Rubio pressed the nominee on repeatedly Wednesday — if he spoke with him away from the TV cameras.

“Give him an opportunity to sit down in front of people and discuss these things, especially in person where the media’s not there,” Corker said.

It was a subtle dig at Rubio’s reputation for grandstanding.

But Rubio, aware that he would be criticized for this very thing, had told Tillerson just a few minutes earlier that he was not trying to involve the former Exxon CEO in “a game of international name-calling.”

Rather, he said, the secretary of state is “the face of this country for billions of people … and particularly, for people that are suffering and they’re hurting.”

“Those 1,400 people in jail in China, those dissidents in Cuba, the girls that want to drive and go to school, they look to the United States,” Rubio said. “And when they see the United States is not prepared to stand up and say, yes, Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, Saudi Arabia violates human rights … it demoralizes these people all over the world.”

Senators continued on Thursday to express consternation about the president-elect and about the ability of his top Cabinet officers to constrain him.

“I continue to hope that the gravity of the office of the president and the magnitude of the challenges that our country faces would encourage him to be more conscientious and thoughtful with his comments. However, in the two months since his election, President-elect Trump has made a number of defense-related policy statements addressing North Korea’s ICBM capability, our trade relations with China and expansion of U.S. nuclear weapons,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said at the confirmation hearing for Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.

Reed told Mattis that many lawmakers supported him “because they believe you will be, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, the saucer that cools the coffee.”

Mattis told Reed: “I would not have taken this job if I didn’t believe the president-elect would also be open to my input.”

An American fault line: High school-only grads left behind


Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record.

The growing disparity has become a source of frustration for millions of Americans worried that they — and their children — are losing economic ground.

College graduates, on average, earned 56 percent more than high school grads in 2015, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute. That was up from 51 percent in 1999 and is the largest such gap in EPI's figures dating to 1973.

Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, college-educated workers have captured most of the new jobs and enjoyed pay gains. Non-college grads, by contrast, have faced dwindling job opportunities and an overall 3 percent decline in income, EPI's data shows.

"The post-Great Recession economy has divided the country along a fault line demarcated by college education," Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, said in a report last year.

College grads have long enjoyed economic advantages over Americans with less education. But as the disparity widens, it is doing so in ways that go beyond income, from homeownership to marriage to retirement. Education has become a dividing line that affects how Americans vote, the likelihood that they will own a home and their geographic mobility.

The dominance of college graduates in the economy is, if anything, accelerating. Last year, for the first time, a larger proportion of workers were college grads (36 percent) than high school-only grads (34 percent), Carnevale's research found. The number of employed college grads has risen 21 percent since the recession began in December 2007, while the number of employed people with only a high school degree has dropped nearly 8 percent.

Behind the trend is a greater demand for educated workers, and the retirement of older Americans, who are more likely to be high school-only graduates.

The split is especially stark among white men. For middle-age white men with only high school degrees — the core of President-elect Donald Trump's support — inflation-adjusted income fell 9 percent from 1996 through 2014, according to Sentier Research, an analytics firm. By contrast, income for white men in the same age bracket who are college graduates jumped 23 percent.

Long after the recession ended, many young college graduates struggled to find well-paying jobs in a slowly recovering economy, and stories about graduates working as coffee shop baristas abounded. But data collected by the New York Federal Reserve suggests that trend has faded as the economy has improved.

Yet few experts think the solution is simply to send more students to four-year colleges. Many young people either don't want to spend more years in school or aren't prepared to do so. Already, four in every 10 college students drop out before graduating — often with debt loads they will struggle to repay without a degree.

Rather, labor economists say, many high school grads would benefit from a more comprehensive approach to obtaining skills, especially involving technology, that are increasingly in demand.

"If the only path you offer them is a traditional college path, they're not going to be successful," says Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University.

Helping lift high school graduates' skill levels is critical, given the many ways they are lagging behind their college-educated peers:

— They're less likely to have a job. Just two-thirds of high school-only grads ages 25 through 64 were employed in 2015, down sharply from 73 percent in 2007. For college graduates in the same age group, employment dipped only slightly from 84 percent to 83 percent.

— They're less likely to be married. In 2008, marriage rates for college-educated 30-year olds surpassed those of high-school-only grads for the first time. And women with college diplomas enjoy an 8-in-10 chance of their first marriage lasting 20 years, according to the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics. That's double the odds for women with just high school degrees.

— High school-only grads are less likely to own homes. Sixty-four percent are current homeowners, down from 70 percent in 2000. By contrast, three-quarters of bachelor's degree holders are homeowners, down slightly from 77 percent in 2000, according to real estate data firm Zillow.

— A college-educated worker is now more likely to belong to a labor union than a high-school-only worker is, according to Pew Research Center. Unions have played a key role in raising pay for members. Yet just 6 percent of workers with only a high school degree now belong to one. Public employee unions, which often represent teachers and others with college educations, have generally maintained staying power while large industrial unions have deteriorated.

— College grads are more likely than high school-only graduates to contribute to a 401(k)-style retirement plan, according to research by Christopher Tamborini of the Social Security Administration and Changhwan Kim, a sociology professor at the University of Kansas. College grads contributed 26 percent more even when members of both groups had similar incomes and access to such plans, their research found.

Participation in 401(k)-style plans requires decisions — whether and how much to contribute and how to invest — that can become barriers for the less educated. That contrasts with traditional pensions, which automatically enrolled everyone eligible and provided defined benefits. But traditional pensions have been rapidly phased out.

— College graduates are more likely to move to find work than high-school-only workers are, says Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. Companies tend to recruit more broadly for high-skilled jobs than for low-skilled work.

"College graduates are essentially in a nationwide labor market," Moretti said.

All of this contributed to a sharp political split in the presidential election. College graduates favored Hillary Clinton by 9 percentage points. Non-college grads chose Donald Trump by 8 points, according to exit polls. That was the largest disparity between the two groups on record since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center.

"These are some of the largest (demographic) shifts in recent years," said Jocelyn Kiley, an associate director at Pew.

The gap is most pronounced among whites: Nearly two-thirds of white non-college grads voted for Trump, compared with just 45 percent of whites with college degrees.

Some of these trends might eventually reverse themselves if more high school grads acquire the skills needed for higher-paying work. Though many middle-income jobs don't require college, nearly all require some post-high school education or training.

What Holzer calls the "new middle" includes such health care jobs as X-ray technicians and phlebotomists, as well as computer-controlled manufacturing and some office occupations, like paralegals.

A typical X-ray technician, for example, earns nearly $60,000 a year and needs only a two-year degree, according to government data.

And these "new middle" positions are typically the same jobs for which employers have complained that they can't find enough qualified people to fill. Labor experts say the U.S. educational system is failing to help young people acquire such skills.

If they know where to look, high school graduates can choose from among numerous options for vocational skills training — from two-year programs to online courses to for-profit schools. Yet many aren't likely to get much help from high school guidance counselors.

Joseph Fuller, a professor at Harvard Business School, says counselors increasingly focus on things like substance abuse, discipline and standardized testing, rather than on career advice.

Nor do U.S. high schools funnel students into the kind of on-the-job apprenticeships that exist in some countries. Instead, Fuller says, U.S. apprentices are typically older workers upgrading their skills in areas like construction. The average age of an apprentice in Germany is 17, he notes; in the United States, it's 27.

"We have a very limited vision of how to get people from their graduation in high school onto a path that's going to lead them to have a successful, independent life," Fuller said.

Asia Howard, 26, of Jacksonville, Florida, is navigating that path right now. She was stuck in mostly retail and fast-food jobs after graduating high school, unable to get a job in banking, a profession she prized for its steady hours. A friend told her about a nonprofit called Year Up, which teaches such career skills as resume writing, interview techniques and time management.

Year Up participants also typically receive internships, which Howard spent at Everbank. She also took classes to upgrade her computer skills. Early last year, she began a job in mortgage lending at PNC Financial that pays nearly twice what she earned in previous jobs. She saw many people lose homes during the financial crisis. Now, she helps people buy them.

"It gives me a chance to see what that side of life is like," Howard said. And unlike in her previous jobs, "I can see a lot of room to grow." She is also studying for an associate's degree in business administration at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

The driving force for many of these changes was the recession, which reshaped the job market in ways that left far fewer opportunities for workers like Howard. Many routine jobs were replaced by computers or robots or were outsourced overseas.

There are nearly 1.5 million fewer office administrative and clerical jobs now than there were before the recession, according to an analysis by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce. That narrowed a long-time path to the middle class for high school graduates, particularly women.

Manufacturing employment is also 1.5 million lower than when the recession began in 2007. The construction industry had offered a lifeline to many high-school educated workers, particularly men, during the housing boom in the 2000s. Yet construction now employs 840,000 fewer people than it did nine years ago.

Since the recession, the fastest-growing industry for high school-only grads has been a mostly low-paying sector that includes restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, according to Georgetown's analysis.

Those are the types of jobs that Crystal Thompson, 35, of Seattle, has held since she finished high school. She has worked at Domino's Pizza for seven years.

"The only jobs that are out there are pretty much minimum wage jobs — coffee shops, restaurants, things like that," she said. "I'm pretty much stuck in fast food for now."

Her raises have come from minimum wage increases. She went on strike twice during Seattle's recent "Fight for $15" campaign, which led the City Council to approve a citywide $15 minimum wage.

Thompson, who has three children, wants to return to school to become a translator. She is mostly fluent in Spanish. Yet she has found it hard to do so in part because her work schedule can fluctuate and is typically distributed just a day in advance.

The closest community college lacks the classes in medical and legal translation she needs. Those classes are offered at another community college a half hour away, so she needs to buy a car to attend them.

"It's definitely one of my goals, to get some kind of career going," she says. "I want to be a productive member of society."


AP Writer Collin Binkley contributed to this story from Boston.


Follow Chris Rugaber on Twitter at .

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