- Created on 14 December 2012
(The Root) -- On Wednesday, less than two months after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Mississippi officials for systematically incarcerating African-American children, the Senate heard its first-ever testimony about the "school-to-prison pipeline" -- the label assigned to the nationwide pattern of young people being sent to police stations, courtrooms and juvenile-detention centers for minor or trivial offenses.
The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, and chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), was attended by students, parents, civil rights advocates and other community leaders.
No huge surprise: According to Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of civil rights organization the Advancement Project, who provided testimony at the hearing, black and Latino students are punished more harshly than white youths for the same minor infractions.
Dianis, a pioneer of the movement to end the school-to-prison pipeline, offered expert testimony criticizing the unnecessarily harsh practices as ineffective in improving school achievement and safety, and a waste of taxpayer resources.
"Overly harsh discipline policies lead to high dropout rates, lower academic achievement and students not getting the help they need," she said.
Other witnesses include former Chicago public school student Edward Ward; Judge Steven Teske of the Clayton County Juvenile Court in Georgia; Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine; Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education; Melodee Hanes, acting administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and Andrew Coulson, from the Cato Institute. Plus, students added to the record written accounts of their experiences in high-security schools with extreme discipline policies.
In addition to putting the national spotlight on the school discipline problem, witnesses explored proven alternatives to harsh discipline practices. Their hope, as Dianis put it, is to replace the pipeline with an approach that "keeps kids in school and on a pathway to a career or college, not prison."
- Created on 13 December 2012
We knew working at McDonald's wasn't the greatest gig in the world, but we didn't know it was this bad.
After 20 years cooking burgers and manning the fryer for the national chain, Tyree Johnson still makes just the minimum wage, Bloomberg reports. That's $8.25 an hour in 44-year-old Johnson's hometown of Chicago, where he works at two different McDonald's restaurants.
The CEO of McDonald's, Bloomberg points out, made $8.75 million last year.
In an emailed statement, a McDonald's spokesperson pointed out that the majority of the company's restaurants are independently owned. "We value our employees' well-being and the contributions they make to our restaurants, and thank them for what they do each and every day," wrote Cheryll Ocampo Forsatz.
Johnson is not alone. Other fast-food and retail companies offer fairly low wages. Walmart caps annual raises at 60 cents per hour at most, according to internal documents reviewed by The Huffington Post. Walmart also keeps many of its hourly employees part-time so that it does not have to give them an array of benefits.
Restaurant jobs have been booming, and the service economy more broadly is growing, but these jobs do not pay well. Food service workers were paid an average of just $18,130 in 2010, and retail sales jobs on average paid $20,990 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Underemployment still is rampant. 14.4 percent of American workers were unemployed, marginally attached to the workforce, or working part-time despite wanting to work full-time in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Low wages are hurting the economy, as consumer spending comprises roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy. A November study by Demos found that raising retail workers' wages to $25,000 per year would lift 734,075 people out of poverty and create 100,000 to 132,000 new jobs.
- Created on 12 December 2012
(AP) — White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043.
The new government projection is a year later than previous estimates, made before the impact of the recent economic downturn was known.
The nation continues to grow and become more diverse due to higher birth rates among minorities, but no longer at a torrid pace as immigration wanes.
The total U.S. population should climb to 420 million by 2060, with whites making up 43 percent. Hispanics, currently 17 percent of the population, will jump to 31 percent, or nearly 1 in 3 residents. Blacks will make up 14.7 percent, up slightly.
The point when minority children become the majority is expected to occur in 2019; last year, minorities became the majority among U.S. newborns.
- Created on 13 December 2012
(CNN) -- Dorothy Segal went to veterinary medicine school at a time when she was very much a minority. She remembers being one of two women who graduated in her class in 1943.
Now 96, Segal recalled what the dean of the Michigan State University veterinary school said to her at the time: "Go back to the kitchen."
Segal went on to have a successful practice, treating everything from birds to big cats in the circus.
They used to say treating animals was no job for a lady. So Segal never wore pants.
"I made myself feminine," she said.
Segal was a trailblazer for women in her profession. When she began practicing in 1944, there were about 55 women vets in America. She was part of the first real growth spurt in female vets, who multiplied after the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act.
Today, there are as many female as there are male veterinarians. It's a field in which women have excelled more than others.
Women's representation increased greatly in several occupations from 2006 to 2010, according to the latest U.S. census data.
Women make up 50% of all vets, increasing from 40% in 2000. About 32% of physicians and surgeons are women, increasing 5% from 2000. Women dentists went up from 18% to 23%.
Bonnie Beaver, a professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, said an anecdotal reason for more women going into medicine is that they are more caring. So why have the numbers of women in human medicine not spiked in the same way?
"That has do with requirements on education," said Beaver, a former president of the American Veterinary Medicine Association.
Practicing as a vet does not require a residency like human medicine. Nor is it an all-consuming career. Women have to make time for children. Often they are caring for elderly relatives, Beaver said, or have other family obligations.
"Many, many surveys have shown that men, while they talk the talk, they don't walk the walk," Beaver said. "That certainly has changed, but (family) still is primarily the responsibility of women."
Still, the gains in numbers of women in certain professions have been tremendous, said Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Women, for instance, account for a third of all lawyers now, the census data showed.
The gains began after universities opened up law and medicine schools to women -- Hartmann remembers only six women in her husband's 1969 Yale law class. The women's movement and equal opportunity laws added to the growth, she said.
But while women have diversified in the workforce, Hartmann said they still earn less than their male counterparts.
In 2011, median weekly earnings for female full-time workers were $684, compared with $832 per week for men, according to the institute.
Women do well in the public sector -- teaching, law enforcement, military and especially, the civil service -- where pay information is open and less likely to be the result of discrimination, Hartmann said.
Women have also not made significant strides in blue-collar professions in which, typically, an employee is hired by a personnel office and trained by the employer. They include carpentry, plumbing and office machinery repair.
"A lot of these occupations have preconceptions," Hartmann said. "In some instances, it's bias. But in many cases, it's just the way it has been."
More women (3.8 million) are employed as secretaries and administrative assistants than in any other occupation, the latest census data showed. About 2.8 million are employed as cashiers and 2.7 million as elementary and middle-school teachers.
Secretary has been the largest occupation category for women since the 1970 census, which was the first repository of equal employment opportunity data. But Hartmann pointed out that the numbers for women in that profession have remained about the same.
"So, there's less concentration," she said.
It used to be that 75% of women were employed in female-dominated professions, Hartmann said. Now, the number is down to half.
Segal, the veterinary pioneer, said she encourages young women to take up the profession. She still has her license to practice, though she has been long retired. Animals, she said, miss her.
- Created on 11 December 2012
If you're craving a Twinkies (and you're in the Chicago area), you may have one more chance to get a box of the Hostess-baked cakes, but you have to be fast and lucky.
The last Twinkies shipment from the bankrupt baker will hit Chicago area Jewel-Osco supermarkets Tuesday morning, Hostess spokesman Tom Becker told TODAY.
Over 20,000 boxes were in the shipment from the Twinkies plant in Columbus, Ga. They will sell for regular retail face value ($3.59 for a box of 10) until supplies run out, with no per customer limit. Jewel-Osco posted a delivery schedule on their Facebook page with the locations of all their stores that will receive the final batch of creme-filled delights and their expected time of delivery.
After this final batch of Twinkies runs out, there will be no more Twinkies on store shelves until (if and when) the brand is bought and restarted. Twinkies lovers will have to turn to secondary markets like eBay, Craigslist, or some guy selling them out of a storage locker he's stacked full of hoarded Twinkies.
When negotiations with its unions failed this winter, Twinkies-maker Hostess declared bankruptcy and began liquidating the company. Having received hundreds of inquiries from interested buyers, it's likely that much like the product itself, Twinkies will never die. They just might not be baked or delivered by union hands, and those hands might not be American.