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News Briefs, part 2

Va. School District to Require Students Get Workplace Experience

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

At one end of Chantilly High School in Fairfax County, Va., 18-year-old Rich Rogers was sanding tables in a noisy, high-ceilinged workshop, doing the sort of work that he hopes to find after graduation.

Upstairs in another part of the school, honors student Kristen Ford, who plans to go to college, was talking with a teacher about her Spanish homework and other course work as she carried an overloaded book bag through carpeted hallways.

Students such as Rogers and Ford traditionally have rarely crossed academic paths. But now Fairfax school officials plan to bring such teenagers together more often, saying that both need to be better prepared for careers in an increasingly unpredictable work world.

Last week, the county school board approved a plan to require all students to have workplace experience - either as interns, volunteers or paid employees - before graduating. Under the plan, college-bound students will be expected to take an expanded range of technical classes, such as electronics and computer graphics, and vocational students will have to take more advanced math and science.

It's an ambitious approach that mirrors similar efforts across the nation, and Fairfax school officials are certain that many parents will object to a requirement that their children take technical classes. "They need to know that what's needed in the work force is not built around A's, B's and C's," said Teresa Fleming, director of the program that until last week was called vocational education and now is dubbed professional technical studies.

Charges Dropped Against Man In Endangered Rat Case

Los Angeles Times
FRESNO, Calif.

The federal government has dropped all criminal charges against a bamboo farmer accused of killing five kangaroo rats last February - a surprise move applauded by private property groups seeking to defang the Endangered Species Act.

Taung Ming-Lin, the 52-year-old Taiwanese immigrant who became a cause celebre for conservatives nationwide, no longer faces the threat of jail time or a personal fine.

Instead, U.S. prosecutors will pursue a case only against his family corporation, Wang Lin Farms, which pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts of violating the federal Endangered Species Act.

"This is a big victory for Mr. Lin and a big victory for farmers and private property rights groups nationwide," said Loron Hodge of the Kern County Farm Bureau and the Coalition to Protect and Preserve Private Property Rights.

Hodge credited a series of rallies and demonstrations in California's Central Valley and support from conservative leaders nationwide with forcing the government to re-evaluate its case.

But federal prosecutors downplayed the effect of public pressure.

"This removes some of the more emotional elements that frankly were getting in the way of the case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Kalmanir. "It's only going to streamline the issue of an unlawful taking of three endangered species."