Yosemite’s snow; Yosemite’s woe

The great news in California's High Sierra this January is that its fabled snowpack, for years underfed by an apparently vengeful Skadi, is almost back to normal after a week of roiling storms left some measuring stations over 100 percent of what is normal for an average April. That means come the spring, the waterfalls tumbling into Yosemite Valley ought to be spectacular — awesome perhaps. That might not be so good for the park.

What now for J-Schools?

It was a sobering moment.

The new director of the University of Iowa's School of Journalism and Mass Communications, David D. Perlmutter, last December distributed a chart to members of his school's professional advisory board. It showed that applicants to the school were so flat this past year that practically anybody who applied was approved for admission to the two-year undergraduate program. It begged the question many people in the field are asking, to wit, what's a journalism school to do?

Schools, schmools. Who needs ’em, anyway?

Jack and Jill went up the hill. Jack got robbed. Jill got jobbed.

Shortchanged J & J
Shortchanged

It isn’t the classic nursery rhyme but it is what students may learn this year as school budgets across the country are gutted.

From Oshkosh, Wis. to Puyallup, Wash., schools will suffer the axe this year as districts and states continue to grapple with big budget holes due to the recession.

The Oshkosh School District, for example, is debating the closure of middle and elementary schools, larger classes and culling around 35 positions, according to WLUK-TV in Green Bay.

Oshkosh’s problems arose after Wisconsin ended the fiscal year with a $2.71 budget gap. Varying by state and district, schools are usually funded by a combination of local, state and federal money.

Thousands of miles away, the Puyallup School District faces a 21 percent budget cut that could result in layoffs, larger classes and a possible school closing, according The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.

Regulators Swipe at Electronic Cigarettes

Smokeless electronic cigarettes may win converts, following new Centers for Disease Control evidence that secondhand smoke can raise the risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent in nonsmokers. The devices are battery operated, and dispense with burning tobacco; instead, users inhale a nicotine-infused vapor as the tip of the e-cigarette glows with a small red light. Proponents say that hit of nicotine doesn't have the same health risks, especially for non-users. E-cigarettes have no odor and produce no smoke from combustion, which means e-smokers can get around smoking bans in public places. But no smoke doesn't mean no fire.

When High-Speed Internet Isn't, Try a Carrier Pigeon

South Africa's largest Internet service provider has been one-upped by a carrier pigeon with a four gigabyte memory stick strapped to its leg. Winston, the bird in question, took off for a 60-mile trip at the same time that four gigabytes of data were transmitted to a computer at the destination. The plucky pigeon got there first, beating out Telkom's ADSL service by more than an hour, according to BBC and other sources. Wealthy nations, as well as the developing world, are often plagued by poor Internet connectivity -- and the slow speeds come at a cost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted in an August study that rural economic growth and broadband go hand in hand.

Across the Heartland, U.S. Military Suicides Spike

From Ohio to Texas, newspapers around the United States are running local stories on a surge in suicides and trauma involving members of the U.S. military. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is looking at the apparent suicide of Army Pvt. Keiffer Wilhelm. At Fort Hood, in Texas, multiple soldiers have committed suicide every year since the Iraq war began, the Austin American Statesman reports. The Indianapolis Star did a four-part series in September that detailed how Sgt.

Public Transit Users Looking for a Lift

Got a clunker? At least until late August, that could get you cash. Ride the bus or rapid transit? Too bad, so sad; you pay instead. Across the country, local governments are reducing service and raising fares for municipal bus, train and light rail lines, according to a new study by Transportation for America, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Homeless Gain Further Hate Crime Protections

Homeless people are gradually being included in hate crimes laws, as the number of fatal attacks on the homeless remains steady even as overall attacks decline. Last November, Newsdesk.org tracked reports of sometimes deadly attacks on homeless people around the nation, and noted both skepticism about claims of a trend in hate crimes, as well as new protections against such attacks. At the state level, these included emerging regulations in Florida, California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Ohio and Washington. Now, other states are starting to give homeless individuals the same legal status afforded other groups protected by hate-crime legislation, according to recent reports in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. In May, Maryland became the first to take action, when a Republican lawmaker added homelessness to a hate-crimes bill -- to illustrate what he thought was the absurdity of assigning certain groups protected-class status.