08/30/2014 (3:16 pm)

Shop class not for slackers as high school grads excel

Filed under: Finance, Lenders |

Two years out of high school, Evan Fischbach is earning $40,000 a year. His secret: shop class.

Fischbach, 19, has known he wanted to work on cars ever since he took an automotive class in his junior year of high school in Saline, Mich. His college-educated parents wondered if he was aiming too low.

Then when Fischbach was still a junior, a local auto dealer desperate for mechanics hired him as an apprentice in the service bay. Now he’s earning about three times as much as the average 19-year-old high school grad and slightly more than the national median, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Friends weren’t interested in auto shop when I suggested it, and now I think they wished they had tried it,” said Fischbach, who works at the LaFontaine Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Saline. “I’m not rich, but I’m not hurting, either.”

Fischbach is an all too rare success story that educators, legislators and executives are eager to replicate. With schools focused on preparing kids for college, shop class has gone the way of stenography class in much of the U.S. Companies from Toyota Motor Corp. to Siemens AG and International Business Machines Corp. are pushing high schools to graduate students with the real-world skills they need.

The message is getting through. This year, for the first time in a decade, the U.S. government boosted funding for high school and college vocational education, though the $1.125 billion war chest is $188 million smaller than it was in 2004.

Proponents say re-emphasizing vocational education will help reverse the hollowing out of America’s middle class and combat rising inequality. Wage growth since 2009 has been the weakest since World War II even as the rich get richer.

There are 29 million “middle-education” jobs that pay more than $35,000 a year, considered a threshold to the middle class, according to Georgetown University research. Of those, 22.9 million require only high school or some post high-school training. Fischbach’s job pays enough to launch him on a once-familiar trajectory: start a family, buy a home, pay taxes.

Fifty years ago, most American kids in middle and high school attended shop class, where they learned to make ashtrays, rebuild engines, weld metal and even market products. As the space race gave way to the high-tech era, policymakers decided such skills were unnecessary. College prep classes gradually supplanted shop, which by then was perceived as a place for slackers and stoners.

The average number of high school credits earned in career and technical education fell 15 percent from 1990 to 2009 at the same time core academic credits in study areas such as English, math and science rose 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“It became seen as a dumping ground for kids the regular school couldn’t figure out what to do with,” said James Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career & Technical Education in Louisville, Ky.

Those prejudices are even more prevalent now that many parents expect their offspring to attend a four-year college.

While many parents agree that more students should attend vocational training, the prevailing attitude is: not my kid.

“For a lot of parents, and policymakers, it’s easier to say we need to send more kids to college,” Stone said.

“Parents go, ‘Yes, that’s what I want to do. My kid will be successful.’ Then after four or five years, they come back with a lot of bills and they’re sleeping on the couch.”

Yet businesses can’t find enough people to fix cars and work in factories. Mike Hughes, the service manager who hired Fischbach, finds himself competing with rival dealerships to recruit kids right out of high school. If he can’t find candidates there, he has to train them from scratch.

“Nobody wants their kid to be a mechanic,” said Hughes, who estimates Fischbach eventually will pull down $60,000 a year. “They just don’t know how good of a living it is.”

Like many of his contemporaries, Mike Dales, 28, didn’t bother with shop class because he was told college prep classes were more important. His school even charged an extra fee to take shop.

After graduating, Dales dabbled in trade school before realizing that he wasn’t going to grasp the math needed for mechanical engineering. He ended up slinging crab claws at Red Lobster before taking a job last year at Area Tool & Manufacturing in Meadville, Pa., where he’s now making parts for the medical, automotive and tech industries.

“It always amazes me what I can come up with” after starting with a “chunk of steel,” said Dales, who wishes someone had pointed him toward a vocation when he was a teen.

LAID-OFF PARENTS

The parents most likely to be dubious about shop class held down manufacturing jobs themselves, only to watch them disappear. The U.S. lost 6.1 million such jobs from 1997 to 2009. Only 644,000 have been added since, according to the BLS.

“I mean, how do you walk into the classroom and talk to a 16- or 17-year-old kid about getting into the shop when he had a parent who used to work there but was laid off 10 years ago?” said Ashleigh Smith, office manager of the shop where Dales works. “It’s difficult to explain that the industry is coming back when you have that kind of personal experience.”

Advocates of vocational education are pushing high schools to identify students’ career interests earlier and guide them to both vocational and other classes to support that career whether the ultimate goal is college or not. Progress is patchy, and many of the newer programs require students to leave their neighborhood schools altogether or travel to class.

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08/19/2014 (8:48 am)

Allegiant adds flight to Florida from MidAmerica Airport

Filed under: Loans, Uncategorized |

Low cost airliner Allegiant is adding nonstop a flight from St. Louis MidAmerica Airport in Belleville to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. 

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co. resumed passenger flights from Belleville in late 2012 after a several-year-long hiatus. 

The new nonstop service from Belleville to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport begins begins Nov. 19 with on-way fares starting at $75, the airliner said Tuesday. The airliner also said it’s adding nonstop flights to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport from Bloomington, Ill., and Concord, N.C., and a flight from Peoria to Orlando Sanford International Airport payday advance online.

“We are thrilled to offer more convenient, low-cost vacation options to more communities,” Allegiant’s president and COO Andrew C. Levy said in a statement. “Allegiant is committed to providing our customers the opportunity to save money on their vacations by offering the lowest possible fares and nonstop travel service to world-class vacation destinations.”

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08/11/2014 (6:08 am)

Cowabunga! ‘Ninja Turtles’ bring box-office power

Filed under: UK, marketing |

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Studio estimates say “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” sliced off $65 million at the weekend box office.

The Paramount comic-book adaptation featuring Megan Fox alongside computer-generated renditions of the pizza-eating, sewer-dwelling superheroes lunged into first place in its debut weekend.

The studio announced plans Sunday for a sequel scheduled for June 3, 2016.

Marvel’s cosmic romp “Guardians of the Galaxy” starring Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana as members of an intergalactic band of do-gooders slid into second place in its second weekend, with $41 cash advance.5 million, bringing its total domestic haul to $175.9 million.

The Warner Bros. disaster film “Into the Storm” touched down in third place with $18 million.

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08/09/2014 (3:12 pm)

Caiman, bearded dragons, tarantula and others seized from Oshawa home

Filed under: Business, Rates |

Durham police have arrested a man after numerous animals were found abandoned in his Oshawa home.

Police were first alerted to the issue Aug. 2 around 5 p.m., when they were called to a townhouse on Taunton Rd. E. by neighbours who had been feeding the man’s dog, which had been left outside.

According to police the neighbours had heard two more dogs inside the unit. After entering the house to check on the safety of the owner, police were “overwhelmed by the offensive smell inside” according to a media release Friday.

The home owner was not present, but police did find two dogs in distress and a number of other animals. In all, they seized: an iguana, a caiman, two bearded dragons, nine red-eared sliders along with ten other turtles, five snakes, a frog, a tarantula and a raccoon.

The dogs and raccoon were loose in the home — all other animals were contained.

The OSPCA have been alerted and have assigned an investigator.

Jake Sheffield, 24, of Oshawa, was arrested Thursday. He faces four charges of failing to provide reasonable care for an animal. He was conditionally released from custody.

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07/22/2014 (9:00 pm)

Gaza rocket lands near Israeli airport; Israeli soldier reported missing

Filed under: Loans, term |

JERUSALEM—A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on many international flights, including Air Canada’s, amid worries stoked by the recent downing of a Malaysia Airlines airliner over Ukraine.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel since fighting began on July 8, but most have fallen harmlessly into open areas or were shot out of the sky by the “Iron Dome” defence system.

• Gaza’s Shifa Hospital improvises amid unending conflict

Nonetheless, international aviation authorities reacted swiftly. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibited American airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours “due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza.”

Later, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an advisory saying it “strongly recommends” airlines avoid the airport. Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia, KLM, easyJet, Turkish Airlines and Aegean Airlines were among those that acted.

Air Canada also quickly followed suit, cancelling Flight 84, its daily route from Toronto to Tel Aviv.

Israel, however, insisted that Ben-Gurion Airport, on the southeastern outskirts of Tel Aviv, was safe and there was no reason to “hand terror a prize” by halting flights.

The rare flight ban came as Israelis grappled with news that one of their soldiers went missing during an attack in the Gaza Strip on the weekend, raising the possibility he was abducted — a scenario that could complicate intense diplomatic efforts to end the two-week conflict.

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Tuesday’s rocket attack was the closest to the airport so far, said a police spokeswoman, and largely destroyed a house, slightly injuring one Israeli in a nearby suburb.

Celebrations ring out across Gaza after Hamas claims to have captured an Israeli soldier. (July 20, 2014)

“We will continue to evaluate the situation and provide updates as needed,” Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur told the Star’s Vanessa Lu in an email.

Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on the U.S. aviation authority to reconsider, saying Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system provided cover for civil aviation. “Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize,” his office said in a statement.

International airlines and passengers have grown more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

While Hamas rockets aren’t guided missiles, they still could cause massive damage to an aircraft if they got close. For instance, unguided mortar fire in Tripoli from a militia battling to control its international airport destroyed an Airbus A330 on the ground over the weekend.

The Tel Aviv airport is Israel’s main gateway to the world and Hamas militants have said they hoped to target it to disrupt life in Israel.

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza goes into its third week as the U.S steps up efforts to help bring about a ceasefire. Paul Chapman reports

Another Hamas objective was to abduct an Israeli soldier, and Israeli fears over such an occurrence were revived Tuesday when the military announced a soldier was missing in fighting with Hamas militants in Gaza cash advance loans.

The military said Sgt. Oron Shaul was among seven soldiers in a vehicle hit by an anti-tank missile on the weekend. The other six have been confirmed as dead, but no remains have been identified as Shaul’s. Hamas claims to have abducted him and has flaunted his name and military ID number to try to back that claim.

Israeli military officials say Shaul is almost certainly dead, but it would be a nightmare scenario for the Jewish state if even his remains were in the hands of Hamas.

Past abductions of Israeli soldiers have turned into painful drawn-out affairs and Israel has paid a heavy price in lopsided prisoner swaps to retrieve captured soldiers or remains held by its enemies.

The prolonged saga of Gilad Schalit, a soldier captured by Hamas-allied militants in 2006 and held for more than five years before he was swapped for more than 1,000 Palestinians prisoners, still weighs heavily in Israel.

“We understand the terror organization is looking for some leverage and as cynical as it sounds, one type of leverage is bargaining over parts of bodies,” said Lior Lotan, a reserve Israeli colonel and former head of its PoW and MIA department.

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Tsafrir Abayov / AP

Israeli airstrikes pummeled targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday as the UN chief and the U.S. secretary of state began an intensive effort to end fighting.

Israeli airstrikes continued to pummel Gaza tunnels, rocket launchers and militants on the 15th day of the war Tuesday as diplomatic efforts intensified to end fighting that has killed at least 630 Palestinians and 29 Israelis — 27 soldiers and two civilians.

Israel says its troops have killed hundreds of Hamas gunmen, while Gaza officials say the vast majority have been civilians, many of them children. Israel says it is trying hard to avoid civilian casualties and blames Hamas for using civilians as “human shields.”

The Israeli military said that after a firefight with Palestinian militants on Tuesday, troops saw some Palestinian gunmen flee the scene in an ambulance.

The military said soldiers “did not target the ambulance in light of the possibility uninvolved civilians were in it.”

Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional ceasefire, to be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007. But Hamas has rejected repeated Egyptian truce proposals.

Both UN chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry were in the region to make the highest-level push yet to end the deadly conflict.

Kerry met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and other senior officials in Cairo. He stopped short of advocating a new round of peace talks but left the door open for broad negotiations between Israel and Palestinian officials once a ceasefire is in place.

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07/14/2014 (4:16 pm)

Olivia Chow calls for handgun ban, John Tory says

Filed under: Lenders, legal |

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow reiterated her support for a federal ban on handguns on Monday. Rival John Tory called the proposal an “empty gesture.”

Chow, who endorsed a handgun ban during an April chat on thestar.com, officially added the idea to her platform in an announcement at Ephraim’s Place, the North York community centre named for Ephraim Brown, the 11-year-old who was shot dead in 2007.

“There’s no reason why anyone needs a handgun in a big city like ours,” she said.

Former mayor David Miller and former premier Dalton McGuinty both called on the federal government to implement a ban. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected their pleas, noting that handguns are already restricted by law to target shooters, collectors, and people who need them for their jobs or for the “protection of life.”

Tory said a ban would not be effective.

“Handguns are already strictly regulated by the federal government,” he said in a statement. “What Ms. Chow doesn’t seem to understand is that criminals and gang members don’t obey the law. Calling for such a ban isn’t leadership. It’s an empty gesture.”

Tory said he would work with the federal and provincial governments on a “coordinated approach that gets real results and keeps illegal guns off our streets.” He did not offer specifics.

Council passed a bylaw under Miller that restricted the manufacturing of guns in the city and forced shooting ranges on city property to close. Chow did not issue any proposals for new municipal action.

She used the appearance near Jane St. and Sheppard Ave. W. to contrast herself with incumbent Rob Ford, who has had relationships during his mayoralty with people accused of gun trafficking. Ford has opposed gun control proposals — though he has tabled a kind of people-control proposal, calling for gun criminals themselves to be banished from the city.

Chow spoke of the value of after-school programs and the youth outreach workers Ford’s 2012 budget sought to cut. She also called for the expansion of partnership programs in which the police are paired with community workers and organizations. And said she would work with other mayors to lobby the federal government to do more to stop the flow of illegal guns from the U.S.

“We need better gun control,” Chow said, flanked by children from the Ephraim’s Place summer camp. “We have a mayor that for the last four years justified the use of guns. He opposed the long-gun registry. What I want to do is work with big-city mayors to tighten control so there’s no illegal guns coming from the States. And we need a ban on handguns.”

Candidate David Soknacki said in April that he has seen no evidence that handgun bans are effective. He pointed to violence-plagued Chicago, which had a municipal ban on the possession and sale of handguns for 28 years.

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07/03/2014 (11:57 am)

Bull run continues for most mutual funds in 2Q

Filed under: News, legal |

NEW YORK (AP) — Go ahead and open the latest quarterly statements from your mutual funds when they arrive. It’ll likely be painless, just like it was a quarter ago. And the quarter before that. And the quarter before that.

Nearly all types of mutual funds made money last quarter, powered by continued gains in stock and bond markets around the world. Everything from plain-vanilla bond funds to broad stock index funds to potentially risky emerging-market stock funds rose from April through June. Of the 105 fund categories that Morningstar tracks, 99 posted gains in the second quarter. And the handful that lost money are generally niche funds that rarely play more than a supporting role in an investor’s portfolio.

That means making money was easy last quarter for most mutual fund investors: All they had to do was make sure not to sell. It’s been largely the same trend for years, with only a few hiccups since the stock market bottomed in March 2009 following the financial crisis. Last quarter was the sixth straight quarter of gains for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the benchmark for many stock mutual funds.

A look at some of the trends that drove performance:

— EMERGING-MARKET FUNDS HAD A RESURGENCE.

Worries were so strong last year about some developing economies that Wall Street came up with another catch phrase for them: the Fragile Five. Investors fretted that Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey and South Africa would struggle in particular as the Federal Reserve began easing on the accelerator of economic stimulus. Emerging-market stock funds lost 0.1 percent in 2013, which doesn’t sound terrible but was way below the 32.4 percent return of the S&P 500.

But emerging-market stock funds have rebounded and returned 6.6 percent last quarter. That beat the 5.2 percent return of the S&P 500. A surge in Indian stocks led the way. Investors are hopeful the country’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, can drive through reforms that will invigorate its economy. Indian stock mutual funds returned an average of 17.3 percent last quarter.

Funds that invest in bonds from emerging markets similarly got back up off the canvas after a tough 2013. They returned an average 4.4 percent last quarter, the second-best performance of the 32 bond fund categories that Morningstar tracks. They lost an average of 7.3 percent last year.

— WERE REPORTS OF THE DEATH OF BOND FUNDS WRONG OR EARLY?

In January, much of Wall Street was forecasting that bond mutual funds were due to decline. The bond market was coming off its first losing year since 1999, and most analysts expected interest rates to rise. When interest rates rise, prices for existing bonds fall because their yields suddenly become less attractive.

But interest rates instead dropped, and all 32 categories of bond funds that Morningstar tracks made money in the second quarter.

The biggest gains came from funds that invest in long-term Treasurys and other government bonds unsecured personal loans. Long-term bonds get the biggest boost from drops in interest rates because their yields are locked in for a longer time period, just as they feel the most pain when rates climb.

Even though the market went against their expectations in the first half of the year, most bond fund managers still expect rates to eventually rise. A strengthening economy will push up rates, the thinking goes.

— VALUE STOCK FUNDS LED THE WAY.

The S&P 500 index has set a record high more than 20 times this year, which has made some investors nervous because stock prices are rising faster than corporate profits.

That’s enhanced the allure of value stocks, ones that are selling at lower prices relative to their earnings than the rest of the market. Value stocks also tend to have higher dividend yields.

In the second quarter, value stock funds of all sizes beat their growth counterparts. The disparity was starkest among funds that focus on the stocks of medium or small-sized companies. Small-cap value stock funds returned 2.9 percent, for example, versus 0.6 percent for small-cap growth funds.

Investor interest is also clearly split: They put $972 million into small-cap value stock funds through the first five months of the year while pulling $2.4 billion out of small-cap growth funds.

— SMALLER-COMPANY STOCKS LAGGED.

Smaller company stocks had smaller gains during the second quarter than big company stocks, a break from prior years. Funds that invest in a mix of small-cap growth and value stocks returned 2.3 percent, for example. Their large-cap corollaries returned double that, 4.6 percent.

Many fund managers have been saying they expect large-cap stocks to begin leading the market. That’s because small-cap stocks became relatively expensive after years of outperforming the market. Stocks in the small-cap S&P 600 index trade at 19 times their expected earnings per share over the next 12 months, for example. Stocks in the large-cap S&P 500 index have a lower price-to-expected earnings ratio of 16.

— MUNICIPAL BOND FUNDS CONTINUED THEIR REBOUND.

Investors last year wanted nothing to do with bonds issued by local governments, even if their income is free from federal income taxes. First, worries about rising rates hurt them. Second, concerns about the financial health of Detroit, Puerto Rico and other issuers spooked the market. Investors yanked money out of municipal bond funds for 10 straight months from March through December, which forced some managers to sell bonds to raise cash.

But municipal bond funds rebounded this year as interest rates fell and default rates remained low. The largest category of municipal bonds by assets, intermediate-term national funds, returned an average of 2.1 percent in the second quarter.

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07/01/2014 (6:57 pm)

Hong Kong Defends Currency Peg for First Time Since 2012 - Bloomberg

Filed under: Loans, technology |

Hong Kong

06/26/2014 (8:01 pm)

Japan Prices Rise Most Since

Filed under: Loans, Rates |

Japan

06/25/2014 (5:05 am)

Brent crude falls as Iraq output fears ease

Filed under: economics, technology |

The price of global crude oil fell Wednesday, retreating from record highs after OPEC assured that Iraq’s production remained normal despite violence while U.S. crude rose after a report said export controls would be loosened.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery rose 28 cents to $106.28 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 14 cents to settle at $106.03 on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 65 cents to $113.80 a barrel in London.

U.S. benchmark crude futures rose after The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government was loosening a longstanding ban by letting two companies sell American oil internationally. The newspaper said the Obama administration would allow foreign buyers to purchase a type of ultralight oil known as condensate, which can be turned into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel business card.

International crude fell further from a nine-month high reached earlier this week after the head of OPEC , the group of major oil exporters, said that Iraq’s production was normal, with 95 percent of capacity in the south unaffected by the violence, which has been concentrated in the country’s north.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $3.08 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.8 cent to $4.53 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil fell 1.1 cent to $3.04 a gallon.

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