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WEST Virginia has great vocational and technical education available for students, Gary Clay of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association told a legislative work group.

The problem?

"We don't have students for those programs."

Businesses report a shortage of skilled workers, so  state leaders are taking a fresh look at vo-tech.

The students steered toward such classes today are not necessarily motivated to be there, said Kathy

D'Antoni, assistant state superintendent for career and technical education.

"The majority of them are put there because they don't know what else to do with them," she said.

But vocational training, if made to work better, makes plenty of sense. Unlike college, it comes without a huge student-loan debt. Also, solid technical skills means not having to wait four years to begin earning money. Plumbers earn about what a teacher makes.

Adults need to make sure students understand their options.

The valedictorian of the class of 1934 at Mark Twain High School did not go straight to college.

Instead, he became a butcher, and later a shipyard welder. This did not stop Robert C. Byrd from becoming a congressman and later, a senator.

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VIRGINIA Gov. Robert McDonnell wants to eliminate that state's 17.5 cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and replace it with a 1 percent

increase in the sales tax on everything else.

The state would continue to tax the diesel fuel used mainly by the trucking industry.

License fees would rise by $15 a year — $100 a year for alternative-fuel vehicles.

People would still pay the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.

Opponents say people driving through Virginia would get a free ride by filling up in Old Dominion without paying the state a tax.

But the governor's plan may also boost revenues, as people from out of state would buy coffee and other products when they fill up. That is how station owners make their money. Why not the state?

By the way, not only is Virginia's gasoline tax 13 cents a gallon cheaper than West Virginia's, its sales tax is only 5 percent.

Lower taxes are one reason why Virginia has grown over the decades as West Virginia stagnated.

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IN August 2008, the Guardian reported that

London Mayor Boris Johnson "launched a strategy, claimed as the first for a major world city,

detailing the action that needs to be taken in London to cope with global warming."

But as snow piled up along the Thames this week and temperatures hovered below freezing, Johnson was reconsidering his options.

There is more to weather than carbon dioxide

levels. Astrophysicist Piers Corbyn has for years

predicted a mini Ice Age as the result of diminished sunspot activity, the mayor noted.

"I am speaking only as a layman who observes that there is plenty of snow in our winters these days, and who wonders whether it might be time for government to start taking seriously the possibility — however remote — that Corbyn is right," Johnson wrote in the London Telegraph.

"If he is, that will have big implications for agriculture, tourism, transport, aviation policy and the economy as a whole."

The adjustments needed would thus be different from the ones being urged upon society in the name of global warming.

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A centerpiece of gun control efforts in 2013 is background checks at gun shows. Liberals call not requiring background checks at gun shows a "loophole."

The problem is that such gun checks are not really effective.

One study cited by the Washington Post found that  only 1.8 percent of gun transactions were made at gun shows.

Another study looked at inmates who used handguns to commit their crimes. Only 1.7 percent

acquired their weapons at gun shows.

Emotional reactions to tragedies are expected, but efforts would be better directed at getting guns off the streets. That's where 37.5 percent of the inmates said they acquired their handguns.

Sensible policy is made based on facts, not the emotions of the moment.

JAMES Cyrus Gilbert requested three vanity license plate tags, GAYLIB, GAYPWER and GAY GUY. The Georgia Department of Driver Services rejected them, leading to a lawsuit.

Other states have had similar problems, which throws into question whether states should issue vanity license plates.

The purpose of a license plate is to tax and identify vehicles in a jurisdiction. States found that they could make a few extra bucks by issuing vanity plates, but that also required the state to be a censor, because the state felt certain words should not be displayed in public.

The list of banned words grew in Georgia.

Being a car-plate censor is a full-time job in Georgia. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reviewed the records and found the state had rejected or banned 10,214 plate tags while accepting 91,151 tags.

Here is hoping Gilbert wins his case. Censors acted based on politics, not profanity.

Perhaps the time has come for states to drop vanity plates. Bumper stickers work just as well and do not require Mother-May-I permission from the bureaucracy.


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THE American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 62 percent of West Virginia households own a pet, ranking the state eighth in the nation. Massachusetts, with 50.4 percent of households owning a pet, is at the bottom of the list.

But only 21.9 percent of people in the nation's capital have a pet.

Just one more illustration of how out of touch the people in Washington are with the rest of the country.



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