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THE Class of 2011 from colleges in West Virginia graduated with an average student loan debt of just over $26,000. That is the cost of a mid-sized new car, and whether it is a good

investment depends on what fields students choose.

PayScale.com determined the starting salaries for graduates in 130 degree programs.

Topping the list was petroleum engineering, where starting salaries average $98,000 a year.

That's followed by aerospace engineering, actuarial mathematics, chemical engineering, nuclear engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering,

applied mathematics, computer science, statistics, and in 11th place, physics at a mere $51,200 a year in starting salaries.

At the bottom of the earnings list was child and family studies at $29,300 a year, followed by social work, elementary education, human development, special education, culinary arts, athletic training, sports medicine and theology.

The first Talking Barbie doll caused a controversy for saying, "Math class is tough."

They may be at first, but they pay well, as the PayScale.com survey shows. Today's students should bear that in mind when they invest in higher education.

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IN 2009, an earthquake struck central Italy and killed more than 300 people. Now a second tragedy has occurred: An Italian court convicted seven experts of "manslaughter" for failing to issue adequate warnings about the earthquake.

Among those convicted was Enzo Boschi, former head of the National Institute of Geophysics and

Volcanology. He and the others face as much as six years in prison.

"I am dejected, desperate," Boschi said after the verdict. "I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."

The scapegoating of scientists leads to ignorance. Who in their right mind would study volcanology in Italy after this?

"It's a sad day for science," said seismologist Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif., "It's unsettling

The upside is that the Italian seismologists, geologists and disaster experts cannot be jailed until their appeal is heard. Pray for the appellate court to have the common sense the trial judge lacked.

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PRESIDENT Obama has based much of his

re-election effort on a false claim that Republicans have a War On Women. Polls show, however, that women are not buying this — nor should they.  

The Associated Press-GfK Poll of likely voters Thursday showed Mitt Romney and the president tied at 47 percent each among women.

But Romney has the lead overall thanks to a 47-42 advantage among men. So it turns out that Obama is the one with the gender gap.


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