So now the public is not ALLOWED to attend Gilmer County Commission meetings? According to Larry Chapman himself and echoed by Sheriff Gerwig. This explains lack of any information, videos, minutes, for any other information that concerns this county.
The cost of education goes up every year but quality of education remains stagnant or declines.
Why? Teachers unions whose concern is their own pay benefits and has nothing to do with quality of education or the children they teach.
DeVos has an opportunity to change that. I wish her luck. If she can break the strangle hold of the teachers unions she will have done more good “for the children” than the teachers unions have ever done.
Don’t believe there is any magic wand can be waved to fix six years of intervention. Devono will not play nice and give a board that worked to get rid of his money anything without a fight. When did he ever follow the orders of his state boss? When did he ever listen to his state mentor?
When the man is gone things will start improving.
The first priority for the school board should be to get finances under control.
Do you have enough money to continue operating the school system as is, are there no-bid awards for goods and services to be looked at for elimination, are there ways to be more efficient in using money to allocate greater amounts to educating children, is there waste and unnecessary expenses to eliminate, does tightening up need to be done in the central office to cut down on expenses, are salaries in the central office in line with work loads and responsibilities in the smallest school system in West Virginia with the lowest numbers of pre-K through 12 students and only two schools?
All of the above and more need to be looked at in minute detail including ways to allocate money better to aid teachers to do their difficult jobs.
Citizens are counting on the school board to get an accurate handle on finances quickly as possible after more than five years of information being kept secret by the State.
Look at the type of lumber used to construct a cheapbass guardrail! That will need replaced in 5 years if it doesn’t wash away or slip away first. Like the classroom doors in the new school that are falling off their hinges already.
Makes a lie out of the old saying…..you get what you pay for. Not in this Gilmer County school deal!
Gilmer County should sue the State and all responsible parties for making decisions causing the Leading Creek school and the under built GCES school fiascos plus all the other failures during intervention.
No matter how overcrowding at the GCES is solved it will cost Gilmer County extra money and worse yet our innocent children will be jacked around.
Remember the State hiring a principal for Troy and the individual did not show up for work yet pay and benefits were paid out for a year? That blunder was another one among many to add to the long list.
The series of blunders by the State are in the “you could not make them up” category. What better examples of broken State government could you come up with?
ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO I RECEIVED A PHONE CALL THAT I HAD WON A FREE CARIBBEAN CRUISE AND I TOLD THEM THAT I DID NOT WANT TO GO TO ANY AIRPORT OR GO ON ANY CRUISE SHIP WHILE OBAMA WAS IN CHARGE BECAUSE OF THE MOSLIM TERRORIST. THAT MAY HAVE SEAMED A LITTLE ODD BUT IF WE HAD GONE ON THE TRIP WE WOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE FLORIDA AIRPORT WHEN THAT SHOOTING TOOKE PLACE.
My dear self-claimed lover,
Sorry for making you wait for response. I hope it does not jeopardize our relationship. I am still very puzzled with your logic and your inconsistency. I strongly believe in what is good for goose should also be good for gander. If you are a true American, you should be loyal to our great country rather than political interests. I find it upsetting when I see the people who are not going to gain anything when they keep supporting a party and falling for their untruthful promises. I hope you are not one of them because we will definitely have conflicts. I am going with your claim, giving Clinton era successes to Reagan because you say it takes time for policies to show results. If that is the case the who should be getting the credit in next 4-8 years if our country is successful? Should it be Obama or Trump? What if the results are bad? Be consistent now, dear!
How many watched Devono on Channel 12 last evening? He expressed intent to establish another school in the County.
He oversaw the failed Cedar Creek project and he pivoted to his lead role in building the too small GCES after the County’s money was wasted at Cedar Creek.
The mystery about the GCES is why didn’t Devono do a head count of students going to the school followed by use of simple math to determine how many classrooms would be needed before that project began?
To be fair to Devono his answers to clear up the space mystery would be appreciated. Was there miscalculation by a staff member or was Charleston responsible for the SNAFU?
The good news is that Mr. Minigh and his fellow board members finally have authority to reverse the way school business has been done to include ending secrecy with information.
Most likely you will never see those financial records. Devono’s Charleston handlers have all ready told him to chuck everything into the circular file. Remember Blankenship’s last days? Doubt even FOIA’s would get it.
The inauguration of Donald Trump as President today brings with it provocative questions about what is ahead.
We know why Trump was elected; he tapped into the broad swath of anger and anxiety among white working class voters, while Hillary Clinton failed to generate the same level of voter enthusiasm as Barack Obama.
We know that Trump has mastered and manipulated social media like no other politician before him, allowing him to communicate directly with supporters, but also providing a steady stream of fodder for his critics.
We know he’s a counter puncher, one who will seize on what he believes is an opponent’s mistake by striking back, hard, to try to gain a tactical advantage. Trump’s willingness to respond with force may make some of his critics think twice, but the strategy risks swamping him in a series of never ending fights and a growing list of enemies.
But we really don’t know what kind of President he’s going to be. Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger writes that’s he’s unsure what is ahead, but Trump’s election does bring into focus the previous failings of government.
“Today, that administrative state, like an old dying star, is in destructive decay. Government failures are causing global political instability,” he writes. “This is the real legitimacy problem and is the reason many national populations are in revolt. Some call that populism. Others would call it a democratic awakening.”
Henninger believes government elites have lost their credibility to determine the national purpose and their ability to “mollify myriad constituencies” with more and more stuff. “The state’s carrying capacity has been reached.”
When Trump says it’s time to “make America great again,” does that mean he is going to do it or that it’s up to us? The modern template is for politicians to promise what they are going to do for us, but it has not always been that way. We used to be more self-reliant.
President John Kennedy, during his 1961 inaugural address, deftly shifted responsibility back to the people, to a new generation of Americans. “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.”
Four paragraphs later, the young President challenged citizens with his immortal words: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
The 2016 election determined a winner, but it did not unite the country, and President Trump assumes office with an approval rating of just 40 percent (WaPo/ABC News Poll). However, the environment today is like a church social compared to the cavernous divide when Abraham Lincoln assumed the Presidency and put his faith in the people.
Still hoping to avoid a fight with the southern states, Lincoln appealed to “the better angels of our nature.” Four years later, Lincoln in his second inaugural address asked for “malice toward none, with charity for all.”
That was a high calling for Americans considering the immeasurable cost of the four-year-long Civil War.
Lincoln, Kennedy and other great leaders have always understood that the inherent strength of the country lies with “we the people” and our ability to “form a more perfect union.” Government is a mechanism, not a master.
Henninger suggests that the wisest course “is not to be distracted by the larger-than-life person in the Oval Office,” whoever it might be.
AG’s Office Warns Consumers To Beware Of Grandparent Scam
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office is urging residents to be wary of callers alleging to be grandchildren in need of help.
Scammers have been known to call senior citizens pretending to be their grandchild. They often claim to be out of state or country and in dire need of money due to an emergency.
“Most grandparents are incredibly generous and would do anything to help a grandchild in trouble,” Morrisey said in a press release. “Those receiving such calls must be cautious. Think carefully before handing over money in this situation.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division recently received reports of the scam circulating in the state. Other popular times for the scam to surface are during vacation season and when students head off to college.
Scammers rely on the good will of grandparents to shield grandchildren from potential punishment. This may result in those receiving such calls deciding not to check with the child’s parents.
Consumers can follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim:
Stay calm and don’t react out of immediacy.
Get a call-back number.
Call the grandchild’s known number or other family members to see if there really is an emergency.
Never give bank routing numbers or credit card numbers to anyone via phone.
Be skeptical of any request for a wire transfer or to use a pre-paid debit card, regardless of who the requestor says they are.
Do not wire money until a third party verifies the alleged child really is in trouble. Check local jails and/or hospitals.
Consumers who believe they have been the victim of this scam are asked to call the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or visit http://www.wvago.gov.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is requesting original color wildlife paintings for the 2018 edition of the award-winning West Virginia Wildlife Calendar, according to DNR Wildlife Resources Section Chief Paul Johansen. The deadline for submitting artwork is February 17, 2017.
Paintings may depict popular game and fish species or feature the state’s other wildlife such as snakes, frogs, turtles, salamanders, bats, songbirds, small mammals and nongame fish.
“This calendar offers a wonderful opportunity for artists to feature their work,“ said Johansen. “Besides distribution in West Virginia, our calendars are enjoyed by people all over the United States.“
An electronic image of each entry capable of being sized at 14½ inches wide by 11½ inches high at 300 dpi is preferred, although a high quality print will be accepted. Artists may send in multiple entries.
Artists are reminded that the calendar format is horizontal, with measurements of 14 inches wide by 11 inches high, and should keep this ratio in mind when creating paintings.
Paintings not chosen in previous years may be resubmitted. All artists, especially those from West Virginia, are encouraged to submit their work. A $100 prize is awarded for each painting chosen, with $500 going to the artist whose artwork is picked for the cover. Paintings are chosen based on overall composition and quality, along with anatomical and contextual accuracy. The quality of the electronic image or submitted print is very important for judging the artwork.
To obtain 2018 calendar art rules or to purchase a 2017 calendar, please contact the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Calendar Art, P.O. Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241, phone 304.637.0245. Electronic images should be emailed to:
► Despite WV Economic Woes, WVU Medicine is Booming
In a state with above-average unemployment, the state’s premier hospital system is booming.
WVU Medicine hired 2,228 staff last year, has openings for 699 more and expects further expansion in its high-level specialties.
That follows this week’s opening of a new 10-story tower housing its Heart & Vascular Institute.
As the West Virginia economy slumped, this corner of the state’s health care industry has been thriving, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act.
The law, which Republicans in Washington have said they intend to repeal, added $12 million to the hospital’s bottom line in 2015, according to WVU Medicine Chief Executive Albert Wright. About 70 to 75 percent of its patients are on government-funded Medicaid or Medicare.
West Virginia is among the nation’s poorest states, with median household income of $41,000, unemployment at 6 percent, and 18 percent of its 1.8 million people under the poverty line, according to federal data. It also has one of the highest cancer rates. And a 2015 report said it had the nation’s second-highest rate of adult obesity, a condition linked to multiple health problems.
West Virginia University Health System is now now the state’s largest employer, with nearly 14,000 people on staff. It received 63,435 job applications last year, but its needs are particular. It’s been offering $10,000 hiring bonuses for registered nurses and recruiting from the state’s two nursing schools as well as looking out-of-state.
Demand for its hospitals services is at an all-time high. It’s anchored by Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, which has been running at 98 percent capacity, with patients on waiting lists for its 531 beds.
The tower’s five new patient floors filled up as soon as they were opened this week.
“There’s almost an insatiable appetite for everything we do,“ Wright said. “We open a bed, the bed fills. We open a clinic, the clinic fills. And the physician’s working at 75 percent productivity in no time.“
Doctors and nurses in an intensive care nursery provide care for newborns including addictions treatment. Other specialties planned for expansions are women and children’s health, cancer, neurology and critical care. The hospital gets many patients from the rural state’s smaller hospitals, including the seven in its network, facilities that cannot spend the millions of dollars for the expensive technology used for certain advanced care, he said.
“We have been recruiting intentionally very sub-specialized physicians,“ he said. “You call WVU and they have somebody who does that.“
Most patients come from West Virginia, with increases from all 55 counties as well as some from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Wright said. “What I’ve found, and I’ve only been here two-and-a-half years, is if WVU does something and does it well, people from West Virginia would prefer to come here.“
The hospital was recently ranked sixth among 102 academic medical centers across the U.S. for delivering high-quality care. Among other measures, its rate of hospital-acquired infections, a problem at many large teaching hospitals that often have sicker patients, is low.
The health care industry has high turnover, especially among new nurses, which explains some of last year’s hires. However, WVU Medicine added 818 net new positions in Morgantown — roughly half licensed medical professionals — while expanding toward 645 private rooms through tower construction and renovating older space.
As the academic hospital affiliated with West Virginia’s land grant university, its job is to take care of anyone who walks through the door, Wright said. If the law known as “Obamacare” were repealed and not replaced, the system “would take a hit,“ Wright said, providing more free care with no reimbursement. WVU Medicine, “a large financially viable organization,“ would survive but many smaller hospitals wouldn’t be able to take the hit, he said.
But patients would still get the care they need because of the hospital’s commitment to its mission.
“We do not say no to care,“ Wright said. “If we say no, there’s nobody else to take care of them.“
► State Unemployment Rate Dips in December
West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell slightly in December to 5.9 percent.
WorkForce West Virginia says the number of unemployed residents dropped by 1,100 to 46,800.
Among the employment gains were 1,100 in construction, 1,000 in educational and health services, and 400 in trade, transportation and utilities.
Job declines included 10,100 in government, due almost entirely to election workers at the local level.
There also were job declines of 500 in financial activities and 300 in leisure and hospitality.
Since December 2015, total nonfarm payroll employment statewide has increased by 2,200.
The national unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.7 percent in December.
► Bought Milk? You Could Be Due a Refund
If you live in one of 15 states and you buy milk, you could be entitled to some cash back. USA Todayreports that some people who bought dairy products since 2003 are due refunds as part of a $52 million settlement spun out of the alleged mass slaughter of 500,000 cows. The class-action lawsuit filed in 2011 charged that Cooperatives Working Together paid its members—dairy farmers who produce 70% of the nation’s milk—inflated prices for their dairy cows, which were then prematurely killed, reports Bloomberg. The alleged goal was to reduce the supply and bump up prices. A University of Missouri professor tells USA Today the 2003-2010 “herd retirement program” did just that, cutting our milk supply by some 1.2 billion gallons while doubling the price of raw milk.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs called the program a “classic price-fixing scheme”; the milk producers denied the charges but said they settled to avoid expensive litigation. Milk products included in the deal are cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, half and half, cream cheese and sour cream. The states involved are Arizona, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, plus DC. Refunds will vary according to how many people apply, per Time. The deadline to apply is January 31. See www.boughtmilk.com, which as of this writing projects individuals can get up to $20.
► West Virginia Ethics Commission Sets Deadline for Financial Disclosure Reports
West Virginia Ethics Commission announced that public employees and officials, who are required to complete Financial Disclosure Statements, must have their completed forms filed with the Ethics Commission before February 01, 2017.
The following categories of public servants are required to file a FDS form:
• All elected officials in West Virginia;
• Persons elected to statewide offices;
• All county elected officials;
• Officials elected in Charleston and Fairmont municipal elections;
• Members of county Boards of Education;
• County school superintendents;
• Members of state boards, commissions and agencies who were appointed by the Governor;
• Secretaries of Departments;
• Commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners;
• Directors, deputy directors and assistant directors;
• Department heads, deputy department heads and assistant department heads;
• Candidates for elected statewide and county public offices, and
• Candidates in Charleston and Fairmont municipal elections.
Disclosures may also be filed directly through the Commission’s website. Those individuals who did not receive PIN numbers may contact the Commission.
Any questions may be directed to the West Virginia Ethics Commission at 304.558.0664 or at
► Justice Names Abraham and Garcia To Legal Team
Governor Jim Justice announced that Brian Abraham will serve as his general counsel and Joey Garcia will serve the office as senior counsel for legislation and policy.
“Brian Abraham and Joey Garcia have the legal talent to really help our team, and I am thrilled they will bring their experience to help get things done for the people of West Virginia,“ said Governor Jim Justice. “Brian is a veteran and an accomplished attorney, and I know he will continue to make our state proud in this new job. Joey helped navigate the West Virginia Legislature for Governor Tomblin and worked hard to keep our state on a responsible course. Both men love our state and the have the skills to help me transform West Virginia.“
Brian Abraham—General Counsel:
Brian will serve as the top legal advisor to Governor Jim Justice. Abraham currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the West Virginia Army National Guard. He served on active duty in Iraq with 18th Airborne Corps as an operational law officer and as a prosecutor of suspected insurgents. After returning from an active duty Army mobilization, Abraham founded the law firm Abraham & Ilderton, PLLC, in Logan, West Virginia. In his practice, he has extensive litigation experience and has represented businesses, individuals and government agencies. Previously, he was the elected Prosecuting Attorney for Logan County from 1999 until 2009 where he was responsible for the prosecution of thousands of cases.
Abraham is a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law and also received a B.S. in business administration from Fairmont State University. He was previously honored by the West Virginia State Bar as the Citizen-Soldier of the year.
Joey Garcia—Senior Counsel for Legislation and Policy:
Joey Garcia served over two years as Director of Legislative Affairs for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and, prior to that appointment, was Deputy General Counsel to Governor Tomblin. He brings expertise and experience in providing legal counsel and developing strategy for accomplishing policy and legislative goals. Before serving in state government, Garcia practiced law at the firm of Spilman, Thomas & Battle, PLLC in Charleston. Garcia, a native of Fairmont, West Virginia, earned his undergraduate degree and law degree from West Virginia University.
► West Virginia Ethics Commission Schedules Lobbyist Training for January 27, 2017
The West Virginia Ethics Commission will present a one-hour training course regarding the provisions of the Ethics Act relevant to lobbyists on Friday, January 27, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. in the Capitol Room of the WV State Training Center (Building 7) on the State Capitol Complex.
Lobbyists must complete at least one training course for the 2017-2018 registration period.
Attendance at the January 27, 2017, session should be confirmed in advance by contacting Lobbyist Registrar Teri Anderson at 304.558.0664 or by e-mail at
Lobbyists also may fulfill the statutory training requirement by viewing a training video on the Ethics Commission’s website at www.ethics.wv.gov and submitting a Lobbyist Training Verification Form to the Ethics Commission.
► Raleigh County Schools to Cut Nearly 100 Positions
The Raleigh County school board is set to cut nearly 100 positions within the school system.
At a special meeting of the Board of Education Wednesday, officials said Raleigh County is facing an $8.9 million budget deficit after a decline in county, state and federal funding. As a result, 94 employees will be laid off for the 2017-2018 school year.
The cuts amount to 42 professional positions and 52 service positions. Many of the cuts include janitors and cooking staff.
Superintendent Miller Hall stressed that the cuts are being made to positions — not people. Hall says a number of employees are expected to retire or resign by the end of the year.
Employees will be notified of the layoffs by the end of the month.
► Italian Manufacturer Bringing Jobs to Weirton, WV
An Italian manufacturing company is moving forward with plans to invest $9 million toward a new facility on West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.
News outlets report that local officials met with representatives of Pietro Fiorentini USA on Friday to officially sign off on a land purchase agreement at a business park in Weirton. The planned industrial facility was first announced in 2013.
The project is set to create an initial 41 jobs in the first phase. There would be up to 150 positions when fully operational. Workers will be producing pressure regulators, valves and pressure reducing and meter systems for the natural gas industry.
This will be the first manufacturing facility in the U.S. for Pietro Fiorentini, which is based near Vicenza, Italy.
► Wheeling to Spend $35K to Demolish Fire Damaged Homes
The city of Wheeling is going to spend $35,000 to demolish a row of houses on Wheeling Island that were damaged in a fire earlier this month.
The City Council unanimously approved the expenditure this week to demolish the five homes.
Investigators believe the January 02 fire was caused by a space heater. No injuries were reported and many of the houses were vacant.
City Manager Robert Herron says two of the five homes were insured, and insurance settlements will contribute to the total demolition cost. He says the city will place liens on the three uninsured properties, meaning the city can recoup its expense if the properties are ever sold.
Fire officials said it was the city’s largest fire since 2011.
► Justice Cuts Back Vehicles Used by the Governor’s Staff
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says he’s cutting five vehicles that were previously used by the governor’s staff.
According to the governor’s office, that’s intended to set an example for every department in the state government now facing a budget crisis.
Spokesman Grant Herring says the giveback of five vehicles to the state fleet leaves four others for use by Justice’s staff.
Justice says the state won’t be able to climb out of the budget ditch, which has been projected at $400 million next year, “until we really dive into the books to find cuts and cost-saving measures.“
The new governor says he’s asking his entire cabinet to explore ways to cut waste no matter how small.
► One dead, one on the run after Clay County shooting
West Virginia State Police say a man is dead and another is on the run after a shooting in Clay County.
Troopers say Craig Holcomb, 41, from Clay County is wanted for wanton endangerment and is a suspect in the murder of Christopher Belknap, 38, of Clay County.
Troopers say 911 was called around 8 a.m. Thursday morning from a trailer on Blue Knob Road in Maysel.
When authorities got on scene, they spoke to seven people in the trailer and found no one had been hit, but shots were fired into the trailer.
There is no evidence showing anyone who was in the trailer at the time fired shots.
Authorities then found Belknap laying in the woods.
Troopers say Holcomb should be considered armed and dangerous.
► Kroger launching online grocery ordering program ‘ClickList’ in Clarksburg, Morgantown
The Kroger Co. is launching its online grocery ordering service, called ClickList, at the Kroger stores on Emily Drive in Clarksburg and Suncrest Centre in Morgantown this week.
The store in Morgantown will begin accepting online orders at 8 a.m. Thursday, and the store in Clarksburg will begin at 8 a.m. Friday.
The locations will be the second and third in the state to offer the ClickList service.
Michael Herrod, e-commerce manager for the Emily Drive store, said the program has already created jobs locally.
“It’s actually a whole new department, so we do have new staffing,” Herrod said. “As of right now, there are 11 of us.”
Herrod said staff will get a list of online orders each day, gather the items in a cart and deliver them to customers’ cars in designated parking areas.
“The list online contains everything we have in stock,” Herrod said. “So customers just have to make their list and tell us when they’ll be here to pick it up.”
Kroger spokesman John Lambert said only about 400 of the company’s 2,800 or so stores nationwide offer the service.
The first Kroger store to offer ClickList in West Virginia was in Barboursville, which launched the service on January 12.
“We’ve been delighted with the success of ClickList in Barboursville,” Lambert said. “The primary benefits of ClickList are the convenience and the time saved for our customers.”
George Anderson, Kroger e-commerce manager, said customer response to the ClickList program has been favorable.
“Kroger has been testing online ordering in select stores since November 2014, and the feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive,” Anderson said. “Customers say their usual weekly shopping takes 90 minutes or more. Using ClickList reduces the time to 20 minutes.”
Lambert said the company has found the ClickList program is especially beneficial to people with mobility impairments, as well as senior citizens, mothers with small children and households where job schedules make it difficult to find time for grocery shopping.
“The program includes curbside pickup,” Lambert said. “Someone who doesn’t have the time to go shopping can simply get on their smartphone, fill their cart and enter what time they will be at the store. Then they’ll go to a designated parking space at that time, and an attendant will bring them their groceries and accept payment.”
► Appeals court affirms conviction of coal CEO in deadly blast
A federal appeals court has affirmed the conviction of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in connection with the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down the opinion Thursday, saying it found no reversible errors in trial rulings.
Blankenship’s attorneys had argued that jury instructions made it too easy to conclude that he willfully violated safety rules at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine before the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.
He was convicted in 2015 of a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate safety standards and sentenced to one year in prison.
Blankenship reported to a California federal prison May 12 to begin serving the sentence.
How your used books can give hope (and literacy) to women in prison. DNAInfo
Seniors Aren’t Exempt From Student Loan Debt Woes: This isn’t just a millennial problem. A new report shows that people over 60 are now the fastest-growing demographic in the American student loan market, and many are already in serious debt. Over the past 10 years, seniors’ debts have quadrupled as parents and grandparents take out loans on behalf of college-age relatives. A generation ago, it wasn’t common for grandparents to be involved with paying for their grandchildren’s education. But now, skyrocketing school costs have left 2.8 million over-60s in debt to student loan companies. NPR
Steve Harvey Apologizes for Joke About Asian Men: It’s no laughing matter. The comedian apologized yesterday for a segment on The Steve Harvey Show in which he joked that books about Asian men dating Black or white women should be one page long, ending with, “No thank you.“ Then he dissed Chinese food. After a torrent of online criticism, Harvey tweeted that he did not intend “malice or disrespect.“ The 60-year-old Family Feud host also caught flak for a recent meeting with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss a possible role in shaping housing policy. Entertainment Tonight
Trump Completes Cabinet With Ag Chief; Nominees Show Distance: We have a full roster. Donald Trump tapped former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary, completing his Cabinet - the first since 1988 without a single Latino member. Meanwhile, nominees distanced themselves from some of Trump’s positions in confirmation hearings: Gov. Nikki Haley, up for ambassador to the U.N., was tougher on Russia than her prospective boss, while would-be EPA chief Scott Pruitt said he doesn’t think climate change is a “hoax.“ But potential health secretary Tom Price, questioned about Trump’s promised Obamacare replacement, kept answers vague. AJC
2016 Set Another World Temperature Record: It’s not a mark to celebrate. Data released yesterday by NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration showed 2016 was the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1879. It’s the third consecutive record-breaker, continuing a 40-year rising trend, and data shows the Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe. While El Niño was a factor, researchers say it only accounts for a fraction of the increase. A cooling La Niña system this year may prevent another heat record, but won’t reverse the disastrous trend. Gizmodo
Secretary of State Warner Responds to Media Reports
Secretary Warner’s vision for the office will fundamentally transform and improve its operation for citizens, voters and businesses in West Virginia. Among the initiatives underway are:
Modernize recordkeeping with a paperless system to improve efficiency and reduce costs;
Update equipment, facilitate user-interface, and improve cyber security to provide an improved user experience.
Vastly improve outreach to county officials and business owners, providing training and support as needed by way of field representatives.
Clear voter rolls of deceased and duplicate voters to reduce fraud and irregularities.
Provide timely resolution of complaints which languished under the prior administration.
Unfortunately, in our four days in office, this new administration has instead been harangued by inaccurate claims of wrongful termination by a trial lawyer, and sabotaged by intentional acts by prior officials of this office. While taxpayers deserve a peaceful transition of power once elections are over, the prior Secretary of State’s administration has done anything but yield a smooth transition.
Here are the facts:
With respect to personnel matters, we vigorously deny the allegations that employees not retained were illegally or improperly “fired.” Unlike the former officeholder, we will not discuss specifics as these issues remain, at their core, personnel matters potentially subject to privacy concerns and, as threatened repeatedly in the press, potential litigation. Yet, we eagerly await the opportunity to introduce to the people of West Virginia our office staff, including the majority of the staff who were retained, as the public will see a very experienced, diverse, energetic and talented Secretary of State’s staff already performing assigned duties. Our office is completely open, and we invite the public to visit as the opportunity presents itself for a social call.
The reference to sabotage above includes the following intentional acts:
We are deeply disturbed by former Secretary of State Tennant allowing taxpayer office space for a private sector trial lawyer to set up shop and solicit business from employees inside the State Capitol.
This trial lawyer and his wife both provided maximum donations to Secretary Tennant’s campaign. And, in an apparent attempt to elevate his profile to receive an appointment as a Kanawha County Commissioner, the attorney went on statewide media outlets to discuss his spurious, slanderous and malicious claims.
Despite a signed acknowledgement by the outgoing Deputy Secretary of State that any and all records would be retained, the former Secretary of State executive level management disposed of emails, phone records, faxes and profiles.
Just hours before the former administration ended, staff members threw away bins of envelopes, stationery and other office supplies. The potential fraud, waste and abuse could have been in the order of magnitude of thousands of dollars, not to mention the hindrance to the on-going function of this office. Thanks to the vigilant work of current staff, most of these items were retrieved and reconfigured to continue our mission to serve the people of West Virginia.
Secretary Tennant ordered the online business portal be taken offline in the final minutes of her regime — an act intended to disrupt the incoming administration and thwart on-line registrations of new businesses and updating of current businesses. To override this order, and to provide continuity to office functions, Mac Warner was sworn in at 12:01 a.m. on January 16, 2017. In this way, he had official authority to restore service to the feature within minutes of Tennant’s shutdown. In anticipation of this potential obstacle to a seamless transition by the prior administration, over 1,200 businesses formed and/or filed necessary reports on Inauguration Day alone, businesses that would have otherwise had to wait.
Secretary Warner was elected to represent the Office of the Secretary of State of West Virginia honorably and professionally – and that is what he will to do each and every day. The activity described above demonstrates a politically-driven agenda by the former administration that is now taking up valuable time and resources from the new team tasked with moving this State forward. It is time for the former administration to respect the will of the people of West Virginia expressed clearly through the election process, and let the new administration do the work and the will of the people. We do not intend to continue entertaining this media-driven gamesmanship and look forward to its end.
Trying to figure out where to go to college? Just like living in close proximity to tweed-clad-professorial types? The American Institute for Economic Research has ranked the top 20 college towns in the US based on things like youth unemployment, rent, arts and entertainment, diversity, bars and restaurants, and innovation. Here are the 10 college towns that top the AIER’s list:
► Trump: My Cabinet Has The Highest IQ of Any Ever Assembled
Speaking from a leadership luncheon at Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump praised his cabinet nominees as Democrats continue to stonewall their approval ahead of Friday’s Inauguration ceremony.
Trump’s nominee to serve as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry are testifying on Capitol Hill Thursday. Earlier this week, nominees Betsy DeVos, Dr. Tom Price and others were grilled by Democrats, who are slow walking the confirmation process.
At this point in President-elect Barack Obama’s process, seven nominees were confirmed.
► Foreclosed Mall Sold for $100 - Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills’ previous owners owed $143M
A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for just $100. Wells Fargo Bank was owed the money from a 2006 loan and submitted the winning—and only bid—for the 1.1 million-square-foot Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills on Wednesday, the AP reports. The bank was acting as trustee for MSCI 2007 HQ11, the trust that bought the mall in suburban Frazer Township. Wells Fargo foreclosed last year on the mall, which opened in 2005. The mall once was worth $190 million but recently was appraised at just $11 million and is slightly more than half occupied.
Analysts say that in this kind of “consensual foreclosure” situation, it’s normal for there to be no other bidders. Steve Jellinek at Morningstar Credit Ratings tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that regional malls are struggling and lenders may find it difficult to minimize their losses. “The problem of regional malls is the loss severity tends to be higher than ones located in or near big cities,“ Jellinek says, adding that it can be hard for malls to recover after they lose big tenants like Sears, which left Pittsburgh Mills in 2014. “Then you see a marked decrease in cash flow and it’s harder to repurpose and refill.“
► Virginia Executes Man Who Saw Open Door, Killed Family
A man convicted of killing a family of four, slashing their throats, and setting their home ablaze after they left their front door open while preparing for a New Year’s Day party in 2006, was executed Wednesday. Ricky Gray was pronounced dead at 9:42pm following a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va., the AP reports. The 39-year-old inmate showed no emotion as he was walked into the execution chamber wearing blue jeans and handcuffs. Asked if he had any final words, Gray responded, “Nope.“ Gray was condemned to death in 2006 for the murders of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and 4-year-old sister Ruby, and sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of their parents, Bryan and Kathryn Harvey. Bryan Harvey was a guitarist and singer for the rock duo House of Freaks.
The family was getting ready to host friends for a chili dinner and Gray and his nephew, Ray Dandridge, were looking for a home to rob when they spotted the open door. Court records show they tied up the family in the basement and Gray slashed their throats and bashed their heads with a hammer before setting their home on fire and fleeing with a computer, a wedding ring, and a basket of cookies. Gray also confessed to participating in the slaying of 21-year-old Ashley Baskerville, her mother Mary Baskerville-Tucker, and stepfather Percyell Tucker days after the Harvey deaths, but he wasn’t tried in that case. Gray was the first Virginia inmate executed since convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto received a lethal injection in October 2015. Just six inmates remain on Virginia’s death row.
► Anti-Trump Protester: ‘I Tried to Set Myself on Fire’
A man protesting the election of Donald Trump outside Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, on Tuesday night was taken to the hospital for burns after a small fire erupted in a pile of debris. But the reason the story is making headlines is this: “I tried to set myself on fire as an act of protest,“ the man tells NBC Washington. He used a lighter and some kind of accelerant and ended up with third-degree burns on 10% of his body, reports the Washington Post. He has been identified only as a 45-year-old from California, and it was unclear whether he would face charges. He told the TV station he started the blaze “to protest the fact that we’ve elected somebody completely incapable of respecting the Constitution of the United States.“ He also called Trump a “dictator.“
► After Huge Search, Missing Hunter Found in Jail
Searchers spent hours looking for a missing hunter in north Alabama until officers realized he was actually in jail. Relatives of 50-year-old Randy Keith Holt of Hartselle reported the man missing Monday afternoon after he failed to return from a hunting trip, the AP reports. Holt didn’t have a cellphone with him, so no one could contact him or track him. The Limestone County Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, firefighters, dog handlers, a helicopter, and others joined in a search. But officers realized Holt was in the Limestone County Jail once they heard his last name. He had been arrested for public intoxication near the search site before the manhunt began.
Police say they found Holt sitting on a rock by the side of the road around 2pm Monday when they responded to a call about a man wandering around with his pants down. “Holt told the deputy he was waiting for a friend who was hunting,“ a sheriff’s spokesman tells AL.com. “The deputy observed that Holt appeared intoxicated as he had difficulty standing and speaking clearly.“
► Neo-Nazi Blogger Had a Secret Jewish Wife
The founder of a neo-Nazi blog and major figure in the alt-right movement has resigned after he was revealed to have a Jewish wife. A post published on Medium over the weekend claimed Mike Enoch of The Right Stuff—whose Daily Shoah podcast has 100,000 subscribers—is actually Mike Peinovich, a New York City web developer with a “liberal family” and a Jewish wife. Peinovich, who often discussed killing Jewish people, denied the report to Salon before confirming it on the TRS forum. He then resigned. As several others involved in TRS were outed recently, Mic reports its future is now unclear, though National Policy Institute head Richard Spencer says Peinovich “will continue to be a force on the alt-right in the future,“ per the Guardian.
The revelation came less than a month after a former alt-right vlogger described a major alt-right player as “married to a Jewish woman,“ without naming names. Peinovich’s wife appeared on the Daily Shoah podcast numerous times. In one 2015 episode, she read a neo-Nazi parody of The Night Before Christmas of which she was “very proud,“ Peinovich said at the time. If her Jewish heritage “makes you want to leave the movement, or to have nothing to do with TRS, then I understand,“ Peinovich wrote on the TRS forum this week. The response from the movement was less than understanding, with one user suggesting the pair were “actors in the same play being orchestrated by the Jews,“ while other memes showed Peinovich and his wife in gas chambers.
► Student Was Pulled Over by Cops, Then She Disappeared
Family members fear a missing student was abducted after she vanished in Missouri early Sunday. Toni Anderson, 20, a student at University of Missouri-Kansas City, was last seen leaving the Kansas City bar where she worked around 4am after telling coworkers she was going to a gas station. She never got there but sent a text to a friend 30 minutes later saying she had been pulled over by police, reports WDAF. Authorities initially said there was no record that Anderson had been stopped, which raised fears that she had met someone impersonating an officer. Late Tuesday, however, police said Anderson had in fact been pulled over by a North Kansas City officer, per KSHB.
Officers have offered no details about the traffic stop but say they are trying to determine where Anderson went afterward. Anderson’s cell phone hasn’t been turned on since her disappearance, reports the Kansas City Star, and family members fear she may have been abducted. “Let her go. Let her be with us. Let her go have her wonderful life,“ Anderson’s mom tells WDAF, adding it’s not like her daughter to remain out of touch with family. “She’s social. You pretty much always know where she’s at.“ Anderson, a music blogger originally from Wichita, Kan., is described as 5’5” with blonde hair and green eyes. She was last seen driving a 2014 black Ford Focus with Kansas license plate 989 GAX.
► Flight Attendants Still Sick, Garb Still Not Definite Cause
American Airlines flight attendants demanded a full recall of their new uniforms last month, convinced the new attire was making many of them sick—but after a slew of testing, the airline still can’t definitively say what the issue is, or if the uniforms are involved at all, Bloomberg reports. AA has ponied up more than $1 million so far for toxicological tests to see why its flight attendants have been wheezing, scratching at rashes, and suffering from sore throats, itchy eyes, and dizziness since they started wearing the new garb—a mix of wool, polyester, and spandex in the blazers and pants, cotton in the shirts, per NBC News—in September. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said in a Thursday message around 10% of its 25,000 flight attendants have reported bad reactions and that the “serious and growing problem” won’t disappear unless the airline takes further action.
The workers believe there’s likely a chemical in the uniform that’s setting everyone off, but the airline, the union, and the uniform supplier, Twin Hill, have all commissioned experts to check out the issue, and AA and Twin Hill have come up empty in their probes. The union is still running tests (and says it wants the airline to pay it back for the $20,000 it’s spent so far, plus any future expenses). The union’s national president, Bob Ross, wonders if testing so far has looked at levels for separate chemicals, but has not looked into whether a problem arises when various chemicals in the uniforms mix. “Synergistically, how do they interact?“ he says, per Bloomberg. Meanwhile, AA’s 15,000 pilots haven’t had an issue with their new Twin Hill wool outfits.
It may produce a short-lived boom. Then, look out.
Donald Trump’s administration will implement large tax cuts and substantial financial deregulation. President Trump may also change U.S. policies on trade, although precisely what he will do is less clear—and the shift may be more rhetorical than real. Trump is also likely to substantially cut or privatize federal spending. To the extent that his policies add up to a coherent economic strategy, they are reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s, but with an extra dose of cronyism and the wild card of economic nationalism.
Trump himself and several of his key appointees are also poster children for oligarchy and even kleptocracy—government operated to serve the business interests of elites, including top officials. The intermingling of business, family, and government as the Trump administration takes shape unfortunately parallels what I have observed in corrupt developing countries over the past 30 years, including during my time as chief economist for the International Monetary Fund.
Despite emerging contradictions between his presidency and who he purported to be during the campaign, President Trump is likely to please his supporters in the short run. His tax cuts, promoted by supporters for their supposed supply-side benefits, could provide a temporary Keynesian jolt to demand. His gestures on trade, like pressuring Carrier to keep jobs in Indiana, will strike a tough posture and save a very small number of jobs. But over time, Trump supporters—and the rest of the country—will become profoundly disappointed as economic security, opportunity, and prosperity are undermined for most Americans.
Taxing, Spending, and Obfuscating
Amid this muddle, one thing is clear. There will be a big tax cut for upper-income Americans—this is the implication of Trump’s pledges during the presidential campaign, and this is also what Senate and House Republicans want. Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for Treasury secretary, says there will be no reduction in the amount of tax actually paid by rich Americans—arguing there will also be a limit on the deductions they can take. But the math of Trump’s proposals is quite straightforward, and the result of the planned reductions in personal, corporate, capital gains, and inheritance taxes is that the rich will undoubtedly pay less.
In other words, we will re-run a version of the economic experiment previously conducted in the 1980s under Reagan and again under George W. Bush. James Kwak and I wrote a book, White House Burning, on this issue, and there is really very little disagreement among careful analysts on what happened over the past 30 years. Lower taxes on rich people led to higher post-tax income for them and not much by way of higher incomes for others; inequality went up. Despite supply-side claims, reduced revenues increased budget deficits, giving Republicans a pretext for deeper spending cuts. During the same time period, manufacturing jobs declined, the median wage stagnated, and the job market became increasingly polarized.
As for economic insecurity—an issue emphasized by Mr. Trump—this is about to get much worse. Health insurance will be stripped away and partly privatized at the behest of House Republicans, who also hope to turn Medicare into some form of voucher program—effectively reducing benefits for older and lower-income Americans. They may face some resistance from their colleagues in a closely divided Senate, but Medicare already has a (voluntary) voucher component, the so-called Medicare Advantage program, which enrolls about a third of Medicare recipients. To provide greater space for tax cuts, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (previously known as food stamps) will likely become some form of block grant (a preset transfer amount to state and local government)—which is really just a way to cut these forms of assistance to people in need (many of whom have jobs, but are paid very low wages).
It is literally impossible to have a rational conversation—either about the data or about what happened in our recent economic history—with some leading House Republicans. Now this House Republican belief system appears likely to motivate and guide economic policy—Trump needs their support to pass legislation, and he is working closely with them, including Mike Pence, formerly a leading House Republican, as vice president, and Representative Tom Price, the nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As for measuring potential loss of revenue from tax cuts, not to worry—the House Republicans have already changed the rules to reflect so-called “dynamic scoring.” The Tax Policy Center estimates that under Trump’s tax plan, “federal revenues would fall by $6.2 trillion over the first decade before accounting for added interest costs. Including interest costs, the federal debt would rise by $7.2 trillion over the first decade and by $20.9 trillion by 2036.” But the official scoring by the Congressional Budget Office will likely show no such loss of revenue—because the Republican Congress has already mandated that tax cuts will stimulate economic growth by an enormous (and implausible) amount. The alternative (i.e., distorted) reality of Trump’s campaign rhetoric is about to show up also in the driest possible budget documents.
Watch carefully what happens on “infrastructure.” During the campaign, Trump seemed to support upgrading our national road, rail, and air transportation systems—and the need for renewal across the country goes much deeper. But as more detailed plans become evident, it seems likely that the actual Trump infrastructure program will just be a cover story for tax credits and privatizations—not genuine public infrastructure.
Expect a very large increase in our budget deficit and national debt, exactly as was forecast by reputable analysts during the election campaign. This might provide some short-term stimulus to the economy, as my colleague Olivier Blanchard suggests. In that scenario, there are longer-term problems in the form of higher deficits and more debt. As Blanchard points out, inequality is very likely to increase.
And in light of what has happened since the election, it’s not entirely clear that economic growth will pick up—keep in mind we are already in a recovery and the job creation numbers have been good for a long while (nearly 200,000 net new jobs per month since early 2010). And in recent weeks, stock prices have increased, but the yield on bonds has also jumped higher (up to 2.2 percent on the ten-year Treasury bond on November 15 and now around 2.4 percent; compared with 1.8 percent immediately before the election). This is a big and unexpected move, signaling that investors are worried about the potential impact on inflation.
It has been a long time since we had significant inflation in the United States, and many people seem to have forgotten how unpopular it is. Ronald Reagan told Americans they should care about the “misery index”—the sum of inflation and unemployment. And inflation is almost always bad for people on lower incomes, including pensions (which will not be fully indexed to rising costs). Trump’s supporters will not be so delighted once the full implications of his tax cuts and other macroeconomic policies begin to sink in.
Any Trump boom could also be short-circuited by the deepening crisis in Europe, even without the added assault of Trump-style protectionism. With the fall of the Italian government and Italy on the verge of a banking crisis—on top of the UK’s Brexit (planning to leave the European Union), and the rise of far-right Marine Le Pen in France—the European Union and its elements are coming under increasing pressure.
Ironically, the instigators of Europe’s latest economic crisis are Trump-style populists—and they draw explicit inspiration from Trump’s political brand. But their success will weaken the European economy, and hurt the U.S. economy and Trump’s brand at home.
House Republicans are dead set on repealing financial regulation—rolling back the rules to what they were before 2008. Excessive financial deregulation leads to a predictable cycle of boom-bust-bailout, in which rich people do very well, and millions of people lose their jobs, their homes, and their futures.
During the last crisis, presumptive Treasury Secretary Mnuchin bought IndyMac, a distressed bank, receiving a great deal of help from the government—and then sold it at a large profit. At the same time, millions of Americans lost everything in the housing crash and their appeals for assistance of any kind fell on deaf ears. In fact, appeals for the reasonable restructuring of loans made by IndyMac were apparently also turned down; this lender has a reputation as ruthless (and careless) in its foreclosure practices.
If the Treasury Department ends up being headed by someone who gains from economic volatility, how careful would officials really want to be? Trump himself spoke of the housing crisis as a great opportunity—for him, that is. Rich and powerful people often do well from extreme booms and busts; most Americans do not.
Deregulating finance is always sold with the claim that it will boost growth, and in the short run perhaps the headline numbers will improve—but only because we do not measure the economy with any regard for macroeconomic risk. If we had risk-adjusted employment and output (and corporate profits) during the George W. Bush years, we would have realized that economic expansion was based on unsustainable risk-taking in the financial sector—manifest in the crisis of September 2008 and the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
Trump himself spoke of the housing crisis as a great opportunity—for him, that is. If the Treasury Department ends up being headed by someone who gains from economic volatility, how careful would officials really want to be?
In the House Republican mantra, honed over six years of refusing to cooperate with President Barack Obama, financial deregulation did not contribute to the meltdown of 2008. These congressional representatives fervently believe that growth has been slow because of a supposedly high burden of regulation on business—despite the fact that the United States is one of the easiest places in the world to do business.
In reality, growth has been slow in recent years precisely because the financial crisis was so severe—and deregulation will set us up for another crisis. The question is just how long this will take to become evident to voters.
On finance, as well as on taxes, Trump and the House Republicans are likely to work hard and effectively together—creating what will become a more extreme version of the unequal and unstable George W. Bush–era economy. Expect consequences that are similar to what happened during and after the Bush regime.
There were some defects in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as both presidential candidates discussed during the election campaign. But refusing to implement the TPP agreement or altering the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is not likely to bring back manufacturing jobs—just as gutting the Environmental Protection Agency would not bring back coal.
There is a defensible version of economic nationalism, which includes investing in people (education and opportunities), building public infrastructure, and working to ensure that new technology creates jobs. Transitioning to a lower-carbon and greener economy can create both jobs and exports.
But Trump’s strategy is very far from this. In the short run, Trump may score some points with his supporters by talking tough on trade, although his corporate allies are likely to reduce that to mostly rhetoric. The president is likely to have a number of high-profile photo ops, when he strong-arms (or pays) a few corporations to keep a small number of jobs in the United States.
The key part of reality missing from Trump’s vision is that manufacturing jobs have disappeared in recent decades primarily because of automation—not because of trade agreements or the supposedly high burden of taxation and regulation on business; again, the United States is one of the best and easiest places in the world to start and run a company.
The surge in imports from China in the early 2000s did have a negative impact on manufacturing, but this effect is hard to undo—and threatening a trade war (or talking on the phone with the president of Taiwan) will either have no significant effect or prove disruptive. Imposing tariffs on Chinese imports will result in retaliation; trade wars do not typically lead to higher growth or better jobs.
And one impact of Trump—a sharp appreciation of the dollar since his election—runs directly against what he wants to achieve. A stronger dollar means it is harder for firms to export from the United States, while imports become cheaper. The U.S. trade deficit (exports minus imports) will increase if the dollar remains at its current level.
If Trump’s fiscal policies push interest rates higher, as currently seems likely—either because of the market reaction or how the Federal Reserve feels compelled to respond—that will further strengthen the dollar and undermine manufacturing jobs in the United States. Again, the question is how long it will take his supporters to notice that Trump oversold them on what he would do. At some point, perhaps, this tips over into the perception that they—and everyone else—have actually been deceived.
Special Interests and Crony Capitalism
For now, Trump will retain some popularity, courtesy of a fiscal stimulus and economic nationalism. But over a longer period of time, reality will catch up with him. And at the heart of what will go wrong with the Trump administration—in perception and reality—is the role of special interests.
Candidate Trump made a big deal of wanting to “drain the swamp,” by which he meant reducing the power of special interests, including corporate lobbyists. Perhaps his highest-profile pledge in this regard was to introduce term limits for members of Congress—in fact, this was the first in a long list of commitments made in his Gettysburg speech on October 22, 2016. But one day after the election, Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate, said that there will be no such term limits. This takes the issue completely off the table.
On swamp-related issues more broadly, lobbyists were running Trump’s transition team, and the appointment process looks like a feeding frenzy for special interests, as they compete to get industry-friendly people into key positions and to advance their legislative agenda.
The bad news for the broader economy is that the Trump circle could allocate to themselves tens of billions of dollars, through government contracts, insider trading, and other mechanisms. The U.S. Constitution cleverly creates an intricate set of checks and balances precisely to put constraints on executive authority. But with Republicans in control of the executive branch, the legislature, and much of the judiciary (including the Supreme Court), there will not be much by way of disclosure, let alone effective oversight.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, chair of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says he will further investigate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. How exactly that will help ensure good governance over the next four years is unclear. The potential self-dealing of President Trump, his family, and his colleagues will cry out for serious investigations, but there will be no congressional venue for that unless Democrats take back the House or the Senate in 2018.
The United States is a rich nation, with the most advanced economy, military, and technology the world has ever seen. We also have its most advanced oligarchy. In the Trump iteration, special interests seem likely to focus a great deal of attention on enriching themselves and their friends—“the rules are for other people” seems likely to become the motto of this presidency.
Trump has already indicated that he may pursue foreign policy in ways that advance his (or his family’s) private business interests. And of course, Trump is famously proud of how he legally manipulates the bankruptcy system—a skill he shares with Wilbur Ross (incoming commerce secretary) and Steven Mnuchin (Treasury secretary).
None of these people inspire confidence in the outcomes for the broader economy. Most likely their policies will further enrich powerful insiders, cut effective worker earnings, and add little if anything to the productive economy.
All oligarchs always say the same thing—their projects are good for the country. And in the end, the outcomes are always identical: They have the yachts and the offshore accounts; everyone else gets nothing.
In Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson documented the myriad ways in which powerful people around the world help themselves to economic riches and, along the way, undermine political institutions. There is often some short-term growth, seen in the headline numbers, but oligarch-centric economies are never inclusive—and lasting benefits always prove elusive. In fact, as those authors emphasize, oligarchic control is often a prelude to nations running into serious crisis and state failure.
If, by the time of his inauguration, Trump refuses to divest himself from his business interests—and if he continues to refuse to publish his tax returns (which would presumably show the full extent of his foreign relationships)—then we are just another profoundly oligarchic country, albeit with nuclear weapons.
What would be the U.S. role in the world if this happens? Probably we will have little sway. How can you lead other democracies when you are a laughingstock? Some other corrupt countries might want to cooperate, but this is worth very little. We are in the world of G-Zero. No one is in charge and there is chaos in many places. Only people who thrive on chaos will do well.
► Alibaba Founder: U.S. Spent $14T on the Wrong Thing - ‘You’re supposed to spend money on your own people,‘ not war, Jack Ma said
Tempted to blame China for your economic woes, America? Take a look in the mirror instead. That was the message of Alibaba founder Jack Ma Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he wagged a finger at the US for blowing $14 trillion on war efforts over the past three decades while letting US infrastructure languish, CNBC reports. “It’s not that other countries steal jobs from you guys,“ Ma said, instead citing an error in US strategy, per the South China Morning Post (which is owned by Alibaba). While globalization has enriched us, the country ends up funneling money to Wall Street and Silicon Valley instead of to Main Street USA and people “not good at schooling,“ he said, adding “not everybody can pass Harvard like me.“
He also asked where billions of dollars made by major multinational corporations like Microsoft and IBM has gone, which Investopedia sees as a reference to the cash they’ve squirreled way abroad. Ma’s comments come in the wake of campaign warnings from Donald Trump that the US could hit China with tariffs on its exports here, though Ma says he’s met with Trump sees him as “open minded and … listening,“ per SCMP. In other big Alibaba news, an Olympic-sized announcement: CNN reports the Chinese e-commerce company has made a deal to supply technology and other services for the next six Olympic Games.
► Burning High-Rise Falls, Kills 30 Firefighters
A 17-story building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday, killing at least 30 firefighters and injuring some 75 people, state media reported, per the AP. Iran’s state-run Press TV announced the firefighters’ deaths, without giving a source for the information. Local Iranian state television said 30 civilians were injured, while the state-run IRNA news agency said 45 firefighters had been injured. Firefighters from 10 firehouses had battled the blaze at the iconic Plasco building for hours before the collapse. Police tried to keep out shopkeepers and others wanting to rush back in to collect their valuables.
The building came down in a matter of seconds, shown live on state television, which had begun an interview with a journalist at the scene. A side of the building came down first, tumbling perilously close to a firefighter on a ladder spraying water on the blaze. A thick plume of brown smoke rose over the site after the collapse. Onlookers wailed in grief. The Iranian military sent units to help with the disaster, state television reported. The tower, located near several embassies, was built in the early 1960s and was the tallest building in the city at the time of its construction.
► ‘Many Dead’ After Avalanche Buries Hotel
An avalanche buried a mountain hotel in an earthquake-hit region of central Italy Wednesday evening, leaving at least 30 people missing, authorities say. The civil protection agency said that it was working to get rescue vehicles to the Hotel Rigopiano through roads covered in snow, joining initial rescue efforts overnight by alpine rescue teams, the AP reports. “There are many deaths,“ the head of a rescue team said, per the BBC. About 12 hours after the avalanche, only two survivors had been rescued, one of them a guest at the hotel who was outside at the time, reports Reuters. “I am alive because I went to get something from my car,“ Giampiero Parete explained.
Italian media also was reporting that people trapped in the hotel texted emergency numbers pleading for assistance. “Help, we’re dying of cold,“ one couple reportedly said. But a rescue-team member says though rescuers have called out, they’ve gotten no answer. Earthquakes hit the region on Wednesday, including one with a 5.7 magnitude, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the temblors triggered the avalanche at the three-story hotel in the Abruzzo region. Mountain rescue teams reached the hotel by skis around 4am, according to reports in the Italian media. Video footage showed rescuers with shovels digging through a wall of snow, and at least one man being led through the cleared path.
► 300K Plead for Closure of ‘Soul-Destroying’ Zoo
Video shot at Indonesia’s Bandung Zoo in May shows sun bears begging for food, their ribs visible, though the zoo says thin bears aren’t necessarily unhealthy. Another bear was filmed apparently consuming its own feces in what one expert says may signal “extreme boredom”; Gabriella Fredriksson of the International Union for Conservation of Naturedescribes the scene to the BBC as “soul destroying,“ and animal activists are outraged. Though a video shot by the Scorpion Foundation this month appears to show fatter bears, concerns about animal cruelty at Bandung Zoo remain, activists tell Australia’s ABC. Other videos show elephants in chains and a deer with a nasty skin condition at the facility, which didn’t have a veterinarian on staff for a time and was last year accused of neglect in the death of an elephant found with bruises.
On TripAdvisor, visitors describe Bandung Zoo—which has since July had two vets on staff—as “hell on earth,“ while an investigator with the Scorpion Foundation tells Mashable it’s “one of the worst zoos in all of Indonesia.“ A rep for the zoo’s operator has brushed off complaints, telling the Jakarta Post that the animals do have enough to eat. The secretary general of the Indonesia Zoo Association says that during his visit he found “the carnivores are even too fat.“ Bandung’s mayor previously said he didn’t have the authority to shut down the privately run zoo, but several petitions are asking President Joko Widodo to do just that, including one with more than 300,000 signatures.
► Canadian PM Rapped for Speaking French
How do you say “he stepped in it” in French? Though he leads an officially bilingual country, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was rapped for slipping into the language of Moliere instead of sticking to Shakespeare. No fewer than three official complaints were lodged with Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages after Trudeau decided to speak only in French, even when answering questions posed in English, Tuesday night at a town hall forum in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, CBC News reports. One attendee tells CBC the move was “very insulting” to the anglophone minority there. Another huffed that Trudeau’s words were “as if someone had just walked up to me and hit me in the stomach. I lost my breath.“
If the PM thought he’d find solidarity among francophones, he was wrong. CBC says even they “appeared puzzled.“ As his political opponents complained about his “arrogance,“ Trudeau seemed to have second thoughts. While emphasizing “the importance of speaking French” in Quebec, he told reporters maybe he should’ve replied in English, per the Star. The youthful PM’s gaffes have been a running meme on social media. Trudeau was ridiculed worldwide in November for his warm words after the death of Fidel Castro, with nary a mention of the dictator’s abysmal human rights record.
Recently, a friend posted on a face book that there is a Farmer Barbie Doll. It was easy to see they didn’t use me as the model. No matter how hard I try, my hair will never bounce like that. My coveralls and sweatshirts are leftovers from our growing farm children. I am pretty good at not wearing competing implement or seed dealer apparel at the same time.
With a bit more research, I discovered ‘Barbie’ has a lot of agriculture related items. Interesting… But when you think about it, all Barbies ever designed encompasses the many different roles of a farm wife/farmer.
Almost every farmer’s wife is a farmer in some way. It may not be verbalized aloud in the wedding vows, but when you marry a farmer, the livestock and the dirt comes right along with him, so to speak.
All rural church pastors know very few farmers, male or female, will be able to attend meetings planned during certain weeks of the year. They’ll be busy in the tractor, planting or harvesting or out in the barn feeding hungry mouths that will later feed other hungry stomachs.
The pastor could ‘skype’ his meeting, but there would be a lot of interruptions from the buzzing of monitors to the loud bawling of a newborn calf.
It’s a good thing Barbie is so versatile, because that is how we farm women need to be.
The athletic Barbie comes in handy every day as we juggle time and energy to get the work done. The tennis racket might be replaced with a pitchfork, and instead of a cute little convertible, we find ourselves at home in a tractor cab. The only thing that doesn’t change is the happy smile, right?
Surely, those chore clothes are definitely needed. Rarely is the work around livestock the job of one person. It helps to have a set of extra hands, especially when trucks of baby chicks or turkey poults arrive. Or when sows are farrowing, calves need weaning and the goats are out and the windrower is stuck in the waterway. And sometimes, all of these events occur simultaneously.
Nurse Barbie comes in pretty handy when that occasional nasty bug hits the farmhouse. A tender touch and calm mind are important when there’s a broken bone or other major health issue.
Somewhere in time, there had to be an Office Barbie. Someone to make sure the bills get paid, bookwork done for taxes and regulation paperwork done. The level of her involvement varies from farm to farm, but those office management skills come in handy.
Chef Barbie is any easy one – our cooking skills are born of necessity and perfected thanks to all the experience that comes from feeding a hungry, hardworking family several meals every day.
It’s no wonder we (I) don’t exactly look like the Model Barbie.
Grandma Barbie is a special one. Our eyes really do sparkle when those little ones come to visit. Thankfully, the Barbie designers remembered that sometime we do need a little sleep and even made a Sleepy-time Barbie. It’s always a debate as to who really needs the nap.
Ah yes, the Dress-Up Barbie. Is there any woman who doesn’t like the splendor of a night out with her favorite farmer? The glamour of exchanging blue jeans for a special dress, heels and jewelry. Yes, we do clean up quite well.
I think the creators of the various Barbie dolls may have had farm wives in mind all along. We farmwomen are a diverse group, yet we have many similarities, especially when it comes to doing the best we can, no matter what fashion describes us at the time. Even when it is multiple roles in the same day.
If Barbie’s creators look to farmwomen, there will never be a shortage of inspiration for the next model.
Renae Vander Schaaf - This was written in honor of the many farmwomen, past and present, that I admire so much and inspire me in many ways.
Scholarships Available for Vocational & Technical Students
The Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and Regional Affiliates (PACF) announces the availability of vocational/technical scholarships for students from throughout the Foundation’s service area of Wood, Calhoun, Gilmer, Doddridge, Roane, Wirt, Ritchie, Jackson, Mason, and Pleasants counties in West Virginia and Washington County, Ohio. The Foundation uses one consolidated online application that allows students to apply for multiple scholarships with one application. To access the application and apply, visit www.pacfwv.com/Scholarships/Apply and select the PACF Consolidated Scholarship Application. The application deadline is March 01, 2017.
The Foundation administers more than 140 scholarship funds, some of which include vocational/technical scholarships. The following scholarships are offered to include students seeking a vocational or technical degree:
• Dave Couch Memorial Scholarship
• Hino Motors Scholarship
• Parkersburg-Marietta Contractors Association Scholarship
• Dr. David Monroe Ritchie Scholarship
• West Virginia Nurses Association District #3 Scholarship
• Mary K. Smith Rector Scholarship
• Harrisville Lions Club Scholarship
• William Reaser Scholarship
• Chester H. Bruce Scholarship
• Robert Storck Scholarship
• “Sig” and Kate Barker Memorial Scholarship
• Dave Elmo Memorial Scholarship
• Little Kanawha Area Community Foundation Scholarship
• Marcus McPhail Memorial Scholarship
• Marbie McCartney Smith Memorial Scholarship
• Nancy C. Barton Scholarship
• Doddridge County Vocation Scholarship
• Andrea Bailes Honary Scholarship
For additional information, please contact PACF’s Regional Scholarship Officer, Rachel Brezler, at 304.428.4438.