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Oklahoma, Kentucky public schools close as thousands of teachers strike

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“It is a heartfelt thing. It’s not just something to do, a way to get attention,” he said. “This is the heart of education … This is what it’s all about. It’s about people pulling together for the betterment of our kids, which is going to help Oklahoma in the long run.”

Heather Caram, another teacher at the protest, told MSNBC she would soon be leaving Oklahoma to accept a job in Georgia. Her sign read, “Oklahoma’s #1 export is teachers.”

“We have too many uncertified teachers teaching in Oklahoma and I have two daughters … We’re looking at the front end of a serious teaching crisis and I want better for them, that means leaving the state, unfortunately,” Caram said.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, who attended the Oklahoma rally, said educators who are tired of 20-year-old text books held together by duct tape had gathered to say “enough is enough.”

“This wasn’t caused by a natural disaster. This is a man-made crisis,” she said.

Oklahoma teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation, according to the National Education Association, have followed the tactic of teachers in West Virginia and Kentucky, who recently walked out to demand higher wages.

West Virginia’s nine-day strike resulted in a 5 percent raise for teachers. Kentucky teachers continued to strike on Monday, leading to the shuttering of all public schools in the state.

The Kentucky Education Association began Monday’s rally at union headquarters in Frankfort. It will be followed by a march to the Capitol.

A small group of teachers and school employees had already gathered early Monday outside the Capitol Annex, where lawmakers have their offices. A large sign displayed outside the Annex said, “We’ve Had Enough.” Outside the Capitol, a sign said, “You Make Us Sick.”

Teachers have rallied several times during this year’s legislative session to protest a pension bill. But Monday’s event is shaping up as their biggest event as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a new budget.

Teachers in Arizona are also considering a strike over their demands for a 20 percent salary increase.

The wave of red-state teacher strikes stems partially from the fact that they don’t have strong collective bargaining laws, according to Agustina Paglayan, an incoming assistant professor of political science and public policy at the University of California, San Diego, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Global Development.

In an analysis for The Washington Post published Monday, Paglayan explained that teachers in states with tighter collective bargaining laws — typically more liberal and wealthy states — have more to lose by striking. She notes these laws aren’t necessarily the cause of an increase in funding, but bluer states that have them typically spend more on education anyway.

Collective bargaining laws first really gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1960s, when public sector strikes were a problem, Paglayan said. However, these bargaining rights came at a price.

In 19 of 33 states that have introduced collective bargaining rights, they also heavily penalize teachers and unions that went on strike — with loss of pay, fines and suspension of existing bargaining agreements, among other penalties.

The remaining states either didn’t require bargaining laws or prohibited it. In 2011, Republicans in 11 states, including Oklahoma, cut back teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

“Since the 1960s, mandatory collective bargaining laws have not only helped maintain peace in public-sector labor relations — they also haven’t caused governments to spend more on teachers and schools,” Paglayan wrote. “Ironically, conservative lawmakers who cut back these laws could inadvertently cause even more public-sector strikes.”

Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation that would raise teachers’ pay for the first time in a decade. The legislation increases taxes on cigarettes, fuel and oil and gas production to provide teachers with raises of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent.

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The new revenue measures are expected to generate about $450 million, with the bulk going to teacher raises and about $50 million going to general education funding.

But many educators say it’s not enough.

The teachers are asking for a $10,000 pay raise over three years, and an additional classroom funding of $75 million. The teachers hope the funding will be put toward replacing outdated textbooks, broken chairs and desks, reinstate foreign language and arts classes, and end four-day school weeks.

Oklahoma ranks 47th in the nation in public school revenue per student, nearly $3,000 below the national average, while its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranks 49th, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association.

“A lot of teachers are just tired of the promises,” said Alberto Morejon, a junior high history teacher from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who launched a teacher walkout page on Facebook that quickly reached more than 70,000 followers.

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association teachers union, said Monday’s rally could lead to a longer walkout as teachers from across the state press their demands that lawmakers approve more funding for state classrooms.

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“It’s day-by-day, depending upon the Legislature fulfilling their promise,” Priest said. “We’re going to say that our Legislature started the process and they have a moral obligation to invest in our children and our children’s future. That obligation has not been met yet. Funding for our students is an issue in every schoolhouse in the state of Oklahoma.”

The teacher’s union has also criticized House and Senate leaders for passing a measure repealing a $5-per-night hotel and motel tax that was part of the original education package. Repeal of the hotel tax reduces the total package by about $45 million.

“It’s just one more broken promise that our educators have seen over the last 10 years,” Priest said.

Although many public schools had shuttered on Monday, some in Oklahoma are offering free meals to students aged 18 or younger while various churches, faith organizations and charitable agencies are providing free day-care services.

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La Palma: Residents in limbo as pressure in the Cumbre Vieja volcano drops – but eruption threat remains | World News

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Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes to escape rivers of lava cascading from La Palma’s erupting volcano.

But 160 of them will now be allowed to return, after local authorities said their houses were no longer in the path of the molten streams moving down the side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano range.

The rest of the evacuees will have to wait, including Eliza Gonzales.

Eliza Gonzales with her dog, Luna
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Eliza Gonzales has been separated from her dog Luna

I met her at an improvised animal sanctuary on the island. She had come to see her dog Luna. They’ve been separated for days.

Ms Gonzales was told she had to leave Luna behind when she fled her home.

Thankfully the rescue centre called to tell her they had saved Luna. But the reunion is bittersweet. Ms Gonzales is staying in temporary accommodation and no dogs are allowed.

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What’s next for La Palma?

“It’s very bad,” she says.

Luna will be fostered while Ms Gonzales waits to go back home.

“I’m happy there are good people that offered their houses for the dogs to stay in and be calm.”

There are several dogs at the sanctuary, waiting for their owners to come for them. They all bark whenever someone new arrives.

But the centre can only care for abandoned animals. Those who were badly injured during the eruption have to be taken for specialist care.

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Volcano eruptions ‘could last for months’

They rescued a goat whose udders were severely burnt and took it to the vet, hoping it can recover from its wounds.

Scientists say the pressure inside the volcano has decreased, but that doesn’t mean the eruptions are about to stop.

The experts can’t predict when the explosions of lava will end, they think it could last till December.

With each day that passes, people are becoming more desperate.

Volcanic dust is damaging the 'plátano' skin leaving farmers including Mr de Paz Perez fearing they won't be able to sell their produce to supermarkets.
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Volcanic dust is damaging plátano skins, leaving farmers including Mr de Paz Perez fearing they won’t be able to sell their produce

Ernesto de Paz Perez is a banana farmer. The plant is known as “plátano” here, they are slightly smaller than bananas from Latin America.

Mr de Paz Perez, 75, started working on a plátano farm when he was 14.

La Palma depends on the fruit for around half of its economic output.

Banana farmer Ernesto de Paz Perez fears there will be 'many losses' due to the damage caused by the eruption.
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Banana farmer Ernesto de Paz Perez fears there will be ‘many losses’ due to the damage

But the volcanic dust is damaging the fruit’s skin and farmers fear they won’t be able to sell their produce to supermarkets.

The eruption has also cut off the water supply to Mr de Paz Perez’s plants.

If it [the eruption] keeps going for a long time it will cause a lot of damage. If the plátano fields are not watered we will lose them. There will be many losses,” he said.

Elsewhere on the island they’re trying to get back to normal. The airport is open after closing because of an ash cloud, but flights haven’t immediately resumed.

The whole of La Palma just wants to repair and return to how their lives were before the volcano erupted, but when that will be, no one knows.

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Lewis Hamilton hails ‘magical moment’ as he wins 100th Formula One race | UK News

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Lewis Hamilton has spoken of the “magical moment” of winning his 100th Formula One race at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, 36, used his driving and overtaking skills, and his strategic thinking in the rain, to fight back from seventh place on the first lap to a landmark victory.

He is the first driver to reach 100 victories.

It was his fifth win of the season and his first since the British Grand Prix in July.

“It’s taken a long time to get to 100 and at times, I wasn’t sure it would come,” the British driver said.

“It is a magical moment. I could only have dreamed of still being here, to have this opportunity to win these races, and to drive with such phenomenal talents this late on in my career.”

“I am so proud of everything we have done with Mercedes, on and off the track, and this is a special moment for everyone that has been part of it.

“My dad called me last night and he has always been that one to reassure me and to continue to support me. I feel incredibly grateful for the amazing support that I have had.”

The victory takes Hamilton two points clear of Max Verstappen in the title race with seven rounds to go.

It also denied Lando Norris of his first victory following a thrilling finale.

Norris, 21, appeared on course to keep Hamilton at bay, and become the youngest British Formula One winner.

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Vladimir Putin pictured fishing and hiking on Siberian forest holiday | World News

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The Kremlin has released pictures showing Russian President Vladimir Putin on a fishing and hiking holiday in Siberia.

Mr Putin, 68, was joined by defence minister Sergei Shoigu, his regular holiday companion, for the short break earlier this month.

Mr Putin visited the Primorye and the Amur Region of the Russian Far East earlier this month Pic: AP
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Mr Putin visited the Primorye and the Amur Region of the Russian Far East earlier this month. Pic: AP

The Russian premier stopped off for a few days after a working trip to the Primorye and the Amur Region of Russia‘s Far East.

He appeared relaxed while walking through meadows against a dramatic mountain backdrop, casually dressed in a khaki-coloured hat and jacket.

The Kremlin released the images of Mr Putin on Sunday, 26 September Pic: AP
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Mr Putin appeared relaxed while walking through meadows against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Pic: AP
President Putin leans against a tree in a forest on a short break earlier this month Pic: AP
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President Putin leans against a tree in a forest on a short break earlier this month Pic: AP

He took a moment to lean against a tree while staring into the distance in another shot.

And he couldn’t disguise his delight as he smiled proudly while holding aloft a fish he caught in a nearby lake.

Video footage, released alongside the pictures by the Kremlin on Sunday, also showed Mr Putin driving an amphibious vehicle through a river in the region.

Days after the break, the Russian leader was forced to spend a “few days” in isolation after dozens of people in his inner circle caught COVID-19.

Mr Putin was joined on the fishing trip by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu Pic: AP
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Mr Putin was joined on the fishing trip by defence minister Sergei Shoigu. Pic: AP

The outbreak prompted Mr Putin to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.

He has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and is feeling healthy, the Kremlin said.

The Russian leader is known for his love of the great outdoors and has often been pictured bare-chested in an apparent bid to cultivate his macho image.

Mr Putin on a fishing trip during a mini break in the Siberian Tyva region in August 2017 Pic: AP
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Mr Putin on a fishing trip during a mini break in the Siberian Tyva region in August 2017. Pic: AP

He was most famously pictured shirtless atop a horse on a mountain holiday in southern Siberia’s Tuva region in 2009 where he paraded his bare chest and his fishing prowess.

Mr Putin later stripped down to the waist before plunging into an icy lake as part of evens to mark Orthodox Epiphany in January 2018.

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