New Jersey Family Files Discrimination Lawsuit Over ‘Under God’ In Pledge Of Allegiance

FREEHOLD, N.J. (UPI) — The American Humanist Association has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an unidentified family against a New Jersey school district alleging the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is discriminatory toward atheist children.

The suit against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District contends the phrase “marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots.”

“Public schools should not engage in an exercise that tells students that patriotism is tied to a belief in God,” David Niose, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in an AHA press release. “Such a daily exercise portrays atheist and humanist children as second-class citizens, and certainly contributes to anti-atheist prejudices.”

According to the lawsuit, “under God” violates the state constitution, not the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The AHA has more than 24,800 members and at least seven affiliates in New Jersey.

“Among these members and supporters are numerous parents of children who are, or will be, attending New Jersey public schools, including some who attend or will be attending the public schools of the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District,” the lawsuit said.

Report: Oscar Pistorius Took Acting Lessons For His ‘Days In Court’

PRETORIA, South Africa (UPI) — A South African journalist claims Olympian Oscar Pistorius took acting lessons to help prepare him to give testimony during his murder trial for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Jani Allan, a former columnist for the South African Sunday Times, made the allegations about Pistorius in a post on her blog. “I have it from a reliable source that you are taking acting lessons for your days in court,” Allan wrote in the post. “Your coach has an impossible task.”

Pistorius threw up and sobbed while giving testimony in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Allan reiterated her allegations while speaking with The Sunday People. “I have this information from extremely reliable sources,” she said. “I have it on very good authority that Oscar is being coached on his court performance by a close actor friend, who is also famous in South Africa.”

Steenkamp’s mother June also questioned whether his testimony was an act. “He has been very dramatic, the vomiting and crying. I think he’s just about keeping himself together,” she said. “I don’t know whether he’s acting.”

The “Blade Runner” is facing 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted.

Miss America Asks School Not To Suspend Student For Asking Her To Prom

YORK, Pa. (UPI) — Miss America has spoken up in support of a Pennsylvania high school senior who was suspended for asking her to prom during a school assembly last week.

Patrick Farves was told not to approach the stage during an assembly at Central York High School, but he did it anyway so he could speak to Nina Davuluri.

The 18-year-old got a 3.5-day in-school suspension for his efforts.

Although she didn’t accept the offer, Davuluri did stick up for Farves.

“Yesterday, a student invited me to prom and gave me a flower while I was giving a presentation in York, Pennsylvania,” she said in a statement. “I was flattered by the gesture although I am unfortunately unable to attend due to my travel schedule. I later learned of the disciplinary action taken and reached out to the school in hopes that they will reconsider their decision.”

Unfortunately for the young man, it doesn’t sound like it will matter.

“The student was instructed not to do something,” Michael Wagner, the president of Central York School District’s board of school directors, told the York Dispatch “He chose to do it anyway, and there are consequences. I don’t think it has anything to do with Miss America being offended or not.”

Even though he didn’t get a date, Farves has at least gotten himself some publicity. “I’m still in shock to this moment,” Farves said. “I’m on my way to be flown out to New York to go to the ‘Today’ show.”

Easter Ad For Seattle Sandwich Shop Shows Jesus Smoking A Joint In Honor Of 4/20

SEATTLE (UPI) — Not everyone is high on an ad a Seattle sandwich shop ran that shows Jesus smoking a joint to promote a special Easter deal.

Since Easter Sunday fell on April 20 this year, Lunchbox Laboratory decided to acknowledge the holiday and the date with a two-for one deal on its “Burger of the Gods” dish.

An ad for the promotion, showing Jesus with a sandwich and a joint, was sent to the 15,000 people on the restaurant’s email list.

Not everyone was impressed after the pot-smoking Jesus ad made its way across social media.

“I’m not your moral guide in life, I’m selling burgers” Lunchbox Laboratory owner John Schmidt told KOMO. “It’s not an anti Christian message, it’s a very peaceful message, Jesus enjoying a sandwich and a blunt.”

Despite the controversy, Schmidt plans on resurrecting the ad next Easter, although Jesus won’t have the joint because the holiday will fall on 4/5 instead of 4/20.

“If Jesus was holding a goblet of wine you wouldn’t be interviewing me right now, but you put a joint in his hand a very peaceful drug, its blasphemy,” Schmidt said.

Skydiver Falls To His Death In The Middle Of New Jersey Family’s Easter Egg Hunt

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (UPI) — The Dye family of New Jersey had their Easter egg hunt interrupted Sunday when a skydiver fell out of the sky in a fatal accident in Washington Township.

The diver, 49-year-old Arkady Shenker, jumped out of a plane operated by Freefall Adventures Skydiving School. He was wearing a special “wing suit” that may not have worked correctly. According to the school’s website, their divers jump from 13,500 feet.

The Dyes were having their annual hunt when they saw the skydiver having problems.

“I saw the jumpers. Then I noticed one, and he kind of looked like he was conscious. He was just spinning,” Annie Marie Dye told 6ABC.

Shenker fell into a nearby backyard, where witnesses say he appeared to be breathing though unconscious. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“We seen him coming down. He was going around and around and the chute was here and he was here,” Lamont Dye told NBC 10. “As soon as I seen that I knew he was in trouble.”

The Washington Township Police Department, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and Federal Aviation Administration are all investigating the accident.

Ancient Plant Fragments Preserved By Meteorite Impact Glass

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (UPI) — Meteorites have the potential to cause widespread ecological damage. But a new study suggests that “impact glass” from an asteroid collision can also help preserve ecological history — trapping bits of organic material and offering geologists a snapshot of ancient plant life.

A team of researchers at Brown University have located fragments of leaves and organic compounds preserved inside the impact glass from several ancient meteorite collision sites in Argentina. Impact glass is the rock formed via shock metamorphism, a result of the extreme heat and high pressure of impact events.

The scientists involved on the study say their findings are counterintuitive, as one would expect plant material to be carbonized at such high temperatures. But when attempting to replicate shock metamorphism in the lab, researchers were able to show that traces of plant material are preserved when rocks are formed at above 1,500 degrees Celsius.

“I was surprised to find the amount of plant matter preserved,” Kathie Thomas-Keprta — a researcher at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston — told BBC News.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Geology this week, say their discovery demonstrates how meteorite fragments could hold the key to finding evidence of alien life.

“Next we need to evaluate if microbes can also be preserved by this mechanism,” Thomas-Keptra said. “Then, we need to collect the appropriate samples on Mars.”

Lyrid Meteor Shower Expected To Light Up Skies Late Monday Night, Early Tuesday Morning

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Lyrids, a meteor shower that arrive every year from April 16 to April 26, are expected to peak late tonight and into Tuesday morning.

The meteors that splash into the Earth’s atmosphere and light up the night sky every spring are the debris trail left behind by Comet Thatcher — a long-period comet estimated to orbit the Earth once every 415 years.

The Lyrids are so named because the shower’s shooting stars are seen within the vicinity of the constellation Lyra. Much of the action will occur near Lyra’s brightest star, Alpha Lyrae. At the shower’s peak, viewers with clear skies should be able to witness as many as 20 shooting stars per hour.

Those cursed by clouds can stream the meteor shower live via Slooh, a free online observatory.

Researchers Spot Rare Bowhead Whale In Cape Cod Bay

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (UPI) — Researchers have spotted a rare bowhead whale cruising Cape Cod Bay off the coast of Massachusetts, only the second time in history the species has been seen this far south.

The bowhead (Balaena mysticetus) was identified by researchers at the Center for Coastal Studie who were an aerial survey of the coast. CCS scientists were responsible for the only other Massachusetts bowhead sighting in 2012, off of Outer Beach in Orleans.

Unlike all other large baleen whales — filter feeders that subsist on plankton and other small crustaceans — which migrate out of Arctic waters to feed and reproduce, bowheads spend their entire lives in the polar regions.

“This is yet another remarkable sighting in what has been a remarkable several years in our studies of Cape Cod Bay,” said Charles “Stormy” Mayo in a press release. Mayo is the director of CCS’s Right Whale Research program.

The newly arrived bowhead was seen swimming and feeding alongside a group of right whales.

“Two years ago we saw our first bowhead, an animal that should be 1,000 miles from Cape Cod,” Mayo added. “These observations along with extraordinary number of rare right whales in Cape Cod Bay seem to be pointing to profound changes in the coastal habitat, to which the whales are responding.”

Bowheads aren’t quite as long as some of the world’s largest sea mammals, but it’s outweighed only by the blue whale. Its bulky, broad frame supports a blubbery body that can tip the scales at up to 110 tons. The bowhead is named for its large, thick skull, which is used to break through Arctic ice when the whale is in need of fresh air.

An early whaling target, the bowhead population was dangerously thin before a 1966 moratorium helped the species rebound. They remain protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Glowing Meteor Soars Across Russian Sky

MURMANSK, Russia (UPI) — When you’re the largest country in the world — at more than 6.5 million square miles — the probability of meteors exploding atop your horizon increases. At least that seems to be the case for Russia, whose skies have hosted two burning meteors in the last two years.

Over the weekend, Russian dash cams — yet again — caught the bright, flashing streak of a meteor burning up in its atmosphere. Seen by dozens of night owls at 2 a.m. in the northern Russian city of Murmansk, the meteor left a bright blue trail across the night sky before exploding in midair.

According to Russia Today, emergency authorities in Murmansk have confirmed that no injuries were reported as a result of the apparent meteor flash.

That wasn’t the case last year for residents of the Ural city of Chelyabinks, in the south of Russian, where a meteor exploded in the morning sky creating a sonic boom that blasted out windows and sent more than 100 people to the hospital.

Approximately 80 Percent Of Syrian Chemical Weapons Removed And Destroyed

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (UPI) — The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and United Nations Joint Mission announced that the Syrian government is nearing the goal of removing and destroying its chemical weapons by April 27.

As of April 19, “the Syrian Arab Republic has removed or destroyed in-country approximately 80 percent of its chemical weapons material,” confirmed the Joint Mission.

Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Damascus, was optimistic that the government will meet the looming April 27 deadline. “The renewed pace in movements is positive and necessary to ensure progress towards a tight deadline.”

UN Security Council Resolution 2118 for the “Scheduled Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons” was adopted on September 27, 2013.

Obama Plans To Expand Clemency Criteria, Thousands Of Drug Offenders Could Apply

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Department of Justice will be releasing new clemency criteria guidelines aimed at potentially releasing thousands of nonviolent drug offenders convicted of using crack cocaine.

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” said Holder. “The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Fair Sentencing Act, a measure aimed at reducing the disparity in sentencing guidelines between crack cocaine and the powdered form of the drug.

The law is meant to foster more equitable justice by removing racial bias from sentencing — as crack cocaine had much stiffer sentencing guidelines than the powdered form of the drug, and the African American community was disproportionately impacted by this double standard.

But Congress did not make the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive.

“There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime — and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime,” Holder said. “This is simply not right.”

Last December, Obama commuted the sentences of eight crack cocaine offenders dealing with this inequity in our justice system, but according to the Los Angeles Times, advocates say as many as 7,000 more are in the same situation.

Obama also recently commuted the sentence of an inmate serving an extra 3.5 years due to a typo, demonstrating “the importance of clemency as a fail-safe mechanism,” as White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said last week. According to The Washington Post, Ruemmler said Obama has instructed the Department of Justice to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applicants.

Holder has said that to prepare for the expected flood of clemency applications, the DOJ is planning to assign dozens of new lawyers to its small pardon attorney’s office.

Yemeni Official Says ‘Massive And Unprecedented’ Joint Operation Against AQAP Is Underway

SANAA, Yemen (UPI) — A “massive and unprecedented” military operation targeting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is underway in Yemen, according to an unnamed Yemeni official.

A senior Yemeni government official spoke to CNN about the ongoing operation. At least 65 suspected militants were killed since Saturday in the provinces of Abyan, al-Bayda, and Shabwa. The drone strike in al-Bayda killed 10. The operation in Abyan and Shabwa is still underway.

On Sunday night, Yemeni special forces ambushed militants believed to be high-value targets in AQAP, killing them. Yemeni commandos also exchanged gunfire with militants in a vehicle on a highway in Shabwa.

The official added that suspected American drone strikes over the weekend in Abyan killed at least a dozen AQAP fighters. Abyan, the official noted, is the area where AQAP followers had recently gathered to hear Yemen al-Qaida leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi speak.

Another Yemeni official expressed skepticism about the success of the alleged U.S.-Yemen joint operation, saying, “I’m worried this is an attempt to convince Yemenis that the U.S. and Yemen have turned a corner and are in the process of destroying AQAP… At this hour, the numbers of militants being reported as being killed keeps changing, and we still aren’t sure if any civilians have been killed or wounded in these strikes.”

Russia Accuses Ukraine Of Violating Geneva Peace Agreement

MOSCOW (UPI) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Ukraine of violating the peace accords agreed upon last week in Geneva between Russia and Ukraine.

“The most important thing now is to prevent any kind of violence. This is the first point of the Geneva agreement, the first demand to all those confronting each other in Ukraine. But in this and other aspects, the Geneva agreement is not being implemented and moreover, steps are being taken above all by those who seized power in Kiev that crudely violate the Geneva agreement,” said Lavrov in a press conference Monday.

Lavrov said the firefight that broke out near the town of Sloviansk is proof that the government in Kiev is not interested in controlling extremists. The new mayor of the pro-Russian-controlled town of Sloviansk has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to send peacekeeping troops. The increasing violence is threatening to dissolve the attempts at the peace accord between the two countries.

The U.S. is warning that more sanctions and further isolation from the west could be in store for Russia if they do not stop stirring unrest in the eastern region of Ukraine.

Justice Ginsburg Sought Retirement Advice From Former Justice Stevens

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sought the advice of former Justice John Paul Stevens on the timing of her retirement.

“I said she doesn’t need my advice. She really doesn’t,” said Stevens on when Ginsburg should retire.

Ginsburg has made no move to retire despite pressure from liberals who worry if she waits then there is a likely chance that if a Republican wins the Presidency in 2016, they will choose her successor to be on the already right-leaning court. Ginsburg says that she believes justices should serve until they are no longer fit to do so rather than retire due to pressures of political timing. Stevens believes that as a justice, one must think of who may succeed them.

“I think it’s a natural, appropriate thing to think about your successor,” said Stevens. “If you’re interested in the job and the kind of work that is done, you have to have an interest in who’s going to fill your shoes.”

Ginsburg is 81 years old and was appointed to the court by former President Bill Clinton in 1993.

New York Times: Jeb Bush’s Business Dealings Could Cause Problems In Campaign

NEW YORK (UPI) — Some of Jeb Bush’s business activities since he left office as Florida Governor in 2007 could cause him problems in a Presidential campaign, The New York Times reports.

In a front-page story Monday, The Times detailed Bush’s activities as an adviser to Lehman Brothers while the bank was sliding into bankruptcy in 2008 and as a board member for InnoVida, a Miami building materials company whose founder was jailed for defrauding investors. Bush has been named as a defendant in lawsuits filed by shareholders in Swisher Hygiene, where he also served on the board.

Even one of the more solid companies on Bush’s resume, Tenet Health Care, could hurt him in Republican Presidential primaries. The hospital owner has strongly supported the Affordable Care Act and encouraged U.S. residents to sign up for insurance plans through healthcare exchanges.

Bush has not yet said whether he plans to run for the Republican nomination in 2016, although some of his recent activities suggest he is considering it. If he does, it would mean giving up a lot of money.

Barclays Bank, which took over Lehman Brothers, pays Bush $1 million a year as an adviser, The Times said. He makes $50,000 a pop for many of his corporate speeches and has made more than $3 million from his corporate directorships, some of the money in the form of stock grants.

“Jeb Bush had a successful career in commercial real estate and business before serving as Florida’s governor,” a spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell, said. “After eight rewarding years in public service leading the state, he is enjoying running his own business again.”

Man Finds Nearly 6.2 Carat Diamond In State Park

MURFREESBORO, Ark. (UPI) — A man found a 6.19 carat diamond in Crater of Diamonds state park in Arkansas.

David Anderson was searching for diamonds when he came across a 6.19 carat diamond he has dubbed “The Limitless Diamond.” Anderson moved to Murfreesboro just so he could constantly search for diamonds.

The park reports that it is the 15th largest diamond found at the park in the last four decades, and is about the size of a jelly bean.

Anderson says he plans to sell the diamond and donate the money he receives to charity.

4,000 Peruvians Evacuated From Homes Surrounding Erupting Volcano

QUERAPI, Peru (UPI) — Regional governments in the south of Peru, as well as several local municipalities, have declared a state of emergency and begun evacuating more than 4,000 citizens, as the the country’s 18,750-foot-tall Ubinas volcano continues to erupt.

The volcano has been smoldering and slowly erupting for a couple weeks now, but yesterday the mountain top spewed a giant cloud of ash two miles into the sky, an escalation that prompted officials to issue evacuation orders in nearby towns like Querapi.

Ubinas lies some 470 miles southeast of Peru’s capital, Lima.

Jose Machare, of the Peruvian Institute of Geophysics, told BBC news that the chance of this latest development evolving into an “unusual eruption that could be very big” was still low.

Still, geologists and public safety officials in Peru are playing it safe. In 2006, thousands were evacuated in the wake of a similar eruption of ash and toxic gases; dozens of livestock were killed in that incident when they grazed on grass covered in toxic cinders.

NASA’s LADEE Probe Purposefully Crashes Into The Moon

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (UPI) — Self-destruction, or self-sabotage, is usually regarded with disdain in society. But if you’re a NASA spacecraft, self-sacrifice is called science.

Last night, NASA’s lunar probe LADEE transmitted its last pieces of imagery and bid sweet goodnight to its creators, smashing into the surface of the moon. It’s a sad ending, but one that was inevitable, as LADEE’s low-altitude orbit was bound to become unstable.

LADEE, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, was launched in September of last year, and in its short time orbiting the moon, it captured a plethora of new information about Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor. The probe gathered detailed data on the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere, and became the first spacecraft to orbit the moon over 100 times at such a low altitude. But that low orbit finally became compromised last night, and LADEE tumbled out of it — yet another victim of gravity.

“At the time of impact, LADEE was traveling at a speed of 3,600 miles per hour — about three times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet,” said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “There’s nothing gentle about impact at these speeds — it’s just a question of whether LADEE made a localized craterlet on a hillside or scattered debris across a flat area. It will be interesting to see what kind of feature LADEE has created.”

Still, LADEE will be remembered for its scientific accomplishments, not its ill fate. While in orbit, the probe became the first spacecraft to rely entirely on laser-based communication, instead of radio waves. Using lasers, LADEE was able to beam back images to its command center and enable record-breaking download speeds.

Science or no science, it has to be painful any time a $280 million piece of equipment disintegrates in several hundred degree heat.

“It’s bittersweet knowing we have received the final transmission from the LADEE spacecraft after spending years building it in-house at Ames, and then being in constant contact as it circled the moon for the last several months,” said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames.

Centipede And Viper Eat Each Other To Death In Macedonia

GOLEM GRAD ISLAND, Macedonia (UPI) — Nature can be a cold and grisly place. Scientists perusing the Macedonian island of Golem Grad in Lake Prespa found that out the hard way when they happened upon a dead young female nose-horned viper with a centipede protruding halfway out the snake’s stomach.

The two animals had, quite literally, eaten each other to death.

The viper was found without most of her guts, suggesting that after swallowed, the centipede ate its way out of the snake’s insides. But alas, chomping its way out for one last breath of air was all the centipede could manage before joining the viper in endless sleep.

The researchers — from the University of Belgrade in Serbia — who came upon the crime scene detailed their findings in a report for Ecologica Montenegrina.

“Nose-horned vipers usually feed on small mammals, lizards, other snakes, amphibians and birds,” the researchers wrote. “On Golem Grad Island, adult vipers feed on lizards, dice snakes, and small rabbits, while juveniles consume lizards and S. cingulata [the centipede found in the discovery].”

This particular nose-horned viper apparently bit off more than she could chew, swallowing a centipede that actually weighed more than she did.

“[W]e found that only the snake’s body wall remained — the entire volume of its body was occupied by the centipede),” researchers wrote, “which led us to suppose that the prey caused chemical or mechanical damage to the predator’s digestive organs.”

For The First Time, Scientists Find Female Animals With Penises

LAVRAS, Brazil (UPI) — In the many dark, extremely dry caves of Brazil, scientists have discovered four new species of insects with sex-reversed genitalia. That’s right, the females have penises and the males have vaginas.

If they have penises, then what makes them female? Well, they still give birth.

These strange female insects use elaborate erectile penis-like organs to penetrate and wrest the necessary sperm via their male’s vagina-like opening.

The discovery was announced this week in the journal Current Biology.

“There’s nothing that [this] can be compared to,” study co-author Rodrigo Ferreira, a professor at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil, told National Geographic. “This elaborate female penis is completely unique.”

The four species are members of the Neotrogla genus, relatives of a group of insects commonly known as booklice or barklice.

During the unusual intertwining of these randy barklice, the females get more than just sperm — in sapping the males of their reproductive fluids, females usurp little sacks of nutrients referred to as “nuptial gifts.” In barren, dry caves, these nuptial gifts could be vital for survival, and help explain why the insects evolved to swap roles.

Nuptial gifts are so sought after, some females begin copulating before their developed enough to reproduce.

It’s understandable why females would want a little bit of a nutritional pick-me-up after sex, copulation can last up to 70 hours. Such is the exhausting sex life of Neotrogla.

Neotrogla aren’t the only species featuring males without penises, but scientists believe the four species offer the first example of truly reversed sexual roles, with choosy males and sexually-aggressive females. Scientists hope to study the Neotrogla in a more controlled environment for a better understanding of their behaviors — to find out what turns them on, so to speak.

Michaels Says Security Breach Affected Nearly 3 Million Payment Cards

IRVING, Texas (UPI) — Michaels, the crafts chain, confirmed Thursday a security breach that lasted eight months, affecting nearly 3 million customers.

The confirmation comes three months after the store said it had learned of a possible breach. The nation’s largest crafts store has been investigating the breach. Micheals said nearly 3 million customers’ information had been stolen from their point-of-sale systems.

The breach occurred between May 8, 2013 and Jan. 27, 2014 and affected about 7 percent of transactions made with cards during that period. The company said that not all stores were affected and only a limited number of cards have been used fraudulently since then.

Aaron Brothers, a subsidiary of Michaels, was also affected by the breach between June 2013 and February 2014. The stolen information includes credit and debit card numbers and expiration dates. Customer names, addresses and Personal Identification Numbers were not stolen.

“The affected U.S. systems contained certain payment card information, such as payment card number and expiration date, about both Michaels and Aaron Brothers customers,” a statement from the company read.

Jobless Rate Highest In Rhode Island At 8.7 Percent, Lowest In North Dakota

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Unemployment rates fell in 21 States and payrolls climbed in 34 States in March, showing a strengthening of the labor market after a slow start to the year.

Joblessness was significantly lower than the U.S. unemployment rate of 6.7 percent in 24 States, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates in 12 States and the District of Columbia saw no change from their February mark.

Florida led the Nation with 22,900 new jobs, followed by North Carolina with 19,400.

Such increases in hiring should improve consumer confidence and spur personal and household spending.

“We’re seeing broad-based employment gains from coast to coast,” said Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The job market is healing, though not as quickly as we’d like.”

Ohio registered the largest drop in joblessness, dropping from 6.5 percent in February to 6.1 percent, the lowest it has been since April 2008. Rhode Island, despite lowering its unemployment rate, the state continued to have the highest unemployment rate in country at 8.7 percent. Nevada was second, with a rate of 8.5 percent, followed by Illinois at 8.4 percent.

North Dakota, which has seen a boom on account of the oil and gas industry, had the lowest unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, which has been stable since January.

Americans Are Working More, Getting Paid Less Than Other Countries

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Americans are now working more and getting paid the same, creating more productivity but less personal time than people in other countries.

France recently signed a contract with one of the largest workers unions to stop employees from engaging in work related communication from 6 p.m. to They are not the only ones attempting to help create a work-life balance in the age of technology.

Sweden is experimenting with shortening the work week to 35 hours. They are starting the experiment in the town of Gothenburg, where they are splitting into two groups — one will work eight-hour days and the other six-hour days at the same pay rate.

In Australia, the minimum wage is about $15.15 which is about double the $7.25 minimum wage in the U.S. Other countries are giving up to 50 days of time for parents to spend with children under the age of 8 or for mandatory vacation time.

Though the U.S. is the country that introduced the 40-hour work week and the concept of a weekend, it is falling behind in trying to make sure that workers are getting the time and money they need for their work. Americans are working more than ever but getting paid the same, resulting in corporations making record profits.

The U.S. also saw unemployment benefits for millions of Americans expire when Congress failed to pass an extension, and there is no movement toward a minimum wage increase.