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West Virginia Rosie the Riveters to be Honored in Glenville

The Free Press WV

The four women on the left – Emily Withers, unknown, Nora Jones and Ruby Coberly - all temporarily left West Virginia during WWII to work at the Glenn L. Martin Aviation plant in Baltimore.

The mother of Senator Sue Cline (right) joined them there to produce thousands of aircraft that allowed the allies to win the war. 

Other West Virginia women worked at defense plants in Akron, Pittsburgh and throughout the nation

Gilmer County girl scouts have done bell-ringing events for them in the past.

Now a permanent monument to the “West Virginia Rosies” is being planned for unveiling Veteran’s Day in Glenville in November.

The public is invited and more information will follow.

This photo was taken recently in Charleston where 19 living Rosies were celebrated by Thanks! Plain and Simple, the WV organization that honors the women who were so vital in that victory.

Natural Gas Production Up for A 13th Straight Year in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Although the price of natural gas has been low for several years, production in West Virginia continues to grow stronger.  The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association reports for a 13th straight year, production increased in West Virginia, setting a new all time high in each of those years.  The increase for 2016 is only about 2.5 percent, but according to Association Executive Director Anne Blankenship, that’s still a positive.

“That is all due to the investments made in this state and the advancements in technology which allow our drillers to produce natural gas more efficiently,” she said on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.

Improved technology allowed for increased gas production without drilling additional gas wells.  The industry looked at those developments as positive since they reduce the footprint of the industry and its environmental impact.  But, according to Blankenship while West Virginia is seeing increased production, the level of increase pales in comparison to neighboring states.

“The disappointing part is we’re not increasing nearly as much as Ohio and Pennsylvania. ” Blankenship said. “Both of those states have mineral efficiency laws in place.  Ohio has pooling.  Pennsylvania has joint development and co-tenancy. Ohio saw a 43 percent increase in 2016.  Obviously they are doing something right there that we don’t have here.”

The legislature gave the gas industry a cool reception to those mineral efficiency proposals during the 2017 Regular Legislative Session, but Blankenship said despite failure of the legislation, progress was made and the industry hoped to keep up the momentum in next year’s session.

“There’s always a lot of education that needs to be done,” she said. “This is not a ‘taking of property rights’ it is a ‘basic majority rules’ concept so we can be in line with surrounding states.”

Blankenship added the lack of any of those efficiency laws along with a relatively high severance tax causes West Virginia to be viewed unfavorably by companies considering drilling in the Mountain State.  Many simply choose to cross the state line and set up according to her.

“We have nothing in place to deal with the inefficient manner in which we are having to produce right now,” Blankenship said. “That’s affecting our ability to bring in companies willing to drill in West Virginia.”

Judge Orderes EQT to Show Formulas Used in Royalty Payments

The Free Press WV

A Judge has ordered EQT to produce the documents and formulas its royalty owners have asked for in a dispute dating back to 2013.

The suit, filed four years ago by the Kay Company LLC and other lessors, accused EQT of improperly deducting post-production costs from their royalty payments.

EQT had been ordered by federal Magistrate Judge James Seibert to produce the information, despite the company’s characterization of the request as “unduly burdensome.“ EQT also contended the data was “protected work product.“

But U.S. District Judge John Bailey affirmed Seibert’s ruling in a 13-page order filed July 18. In it, Bailey noted that EQT had claimed there are “so many individual types of lease language that a class is improper and unmanageable.“

“This court is not totally convinced that the resistance is meritorious in that West Virginia has limited the categories of leases,“ Bailey wrote, pointing out the lessors were “seeking information as to how (EQT) classifies the numerous leases in the payment of royalties.“

“These attempts have been thwarted or delayed by the actions of the defendants,“ Bailey wrote. “For example, when asked about a list by which the defendants determine how to pay royalties to the various lessors, (EQT) took the position that such a list did not exist or that the list was work product. This court found such a position untenable.“

Bailey cited the transcript from the magisterial proceeding, in which Siebert had asked the lawyers who, at EQT, makes a mathematical calculation on how to pay and was told, “they look at it lease by lease.“

“Finally, after over four years, someone has admitted that they have two or more formulae for calculating royalty payments,“ Bailey wrote. “As a corollary, therefore, the defendants have to have a list as to which leases are determined by which formula.“

EQT’s legal team could not be reached for comment.

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • Trump’s Boy Scout Speech Bashed Obama, Praised Yachting, Reignited the War on Christmas  That’s at least three merit badges.    ESQUIRE


  • Concussion Research to Focus on Female Athletes:  It’s not just a man’s problem. Extensive research in recent years has yielded impressive, albeit disturbing, findings on the correlation between contact sports and concussions. But until now it’s focused almost exclusively on men. New research examining the effects of concussions on female athletes suggests they may be at even greater risk, due to higher physical susceptibility to injury and slower recovery time. Definitive answers are far off, but scientists making a concerted effort to study both genders — whether in mice or MMA fighters — could get ahead of the issue.    NPR


  • College Tuition Hikes Are Finally Slowing:    It’s about time. College tuition spiked by an average of 6 percent each year between 1990 and 2016, but now that trend is decelerating, with 2017 clocking a mere 1.9 percent increase. While demographic trends play a role — the number of 18- and 19-year-olds has declined by 7 percent since 2009 — a stronger economy and increasing unskilled jobs are luring prospective students away, prompting colleges to keep prices competitive. Yet with the class of 2025 poised to be the biggest ever, it’s unclear whether the trend will continue.      Quartz


  • Company Offers Employees Microchip Implants:  That’ll get under your skin. Three Square Market, a vending kiosk company in River Falls, Wisconsin, has announced it will offer free microchipping to employees at a “chip party” August 01. About 50 are reportedly taking the company up on the offer to have an implant between their thumb and forefinger that will facilitate logging into computers, opening doors and buying snacks. The company’s CEO says the implants will have no GPS tracking. Supporters say it’s basic biohacking, but others have voiced concerns about privacy and the potential for coerced chipping.  The Verge


  • Trump cuts $213m from teen pregnancy prevention programs:    “This month, 81 institutions around the country received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It said that federal funding that they’ve been getting for teen pregnancy prevention programs and research is going away. HHS quietly pulled the plug on a five-year grant program started under President Obama, a loss of more than $213 million.”    NPR


  • Meet the mothers being deported by the Trump administration.   Federal officials claim they are focusing their roundups of undocumented immigrants on those who have committed crimes or who pose a threat to public safety. In truth, the recent roundups also have taken in “a considerable number of women who have no criminal records and who are either the primary caretakers of young children, or the primary family breadwinners, or both.” Here are the stories of four such women.    The New Yorker

  • A veteran ICE agent, disillusioned with Trump, speaks out against the wave of arrests.  The New Yorker

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Trump shows the Boy Scouts how to start a political fire

No knot-tying demonstrations. No wood-carving advice. Donald Trump went straight to starting a fire in a speech at a national Boy Scout gathering.

Parents, former Scouts and others were furious after Trump railed against his enemies, promoted his political agenda and underlined his insistence on loyalty before an audience of tens of thousands of school-age Scouts in West Virginia on Monday night.

“Is nothing safe?” Jon Wolfsthal, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter, saying Trump turned the event into a “Nazi Youth rally.”

Trump, the eighth U.S. president to address the Scouts’ National Jamboree, was cheered by the crowd, but his comments put an organization that has tried in recent years to avoid political conflict and become more inclusive in an awkward position.

The knot-tying was left to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who said on Twitter that his stomach was in knots over the president’s over-the-top delivery.

“If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t,” Murphy said. “It’s downright icky.”

The Boy Scouts’ official Facebook page was barraged with comments condemning the speech. Several people posted links to the Scouts’ policy on participation in political events — which sharply limits what Scouts should do. Boy Scouts are typically 10 to 18 years old.

One woman wrote in disbelief that the Scouts started booing when Trump mentioned Obama.

Trump noted from the podium that Obama did not personally attend either of the two national Jamborees during his tenure. (Obama did address the 2010 gathering by video to mark the Scouts’ 100th anniversary. The Jamboree is typically held every four years.)

The pushback from Americans over the speech included members from both parties.

“I just don’t think it was appropriate,” said Rob Romalewski, a Republican and retired information-technology expert from suburban New Orleans who attained the rank of Eagle Scout as a teenager and has worked with the Boy Scouts all his adult life.

“It just doesn’t seem like he was talking to the boys,” Romalewski said. “He was more or less just using it as an excuse to babble on.”

Nancy Smith, a Democrat and elementary school teacher in Utica, Michigan, said she won’t encourage any of her six grandchildren to enter Scouting. Smith is asking for an apology from the national group.

The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement after the speech that it does not promote any one political candidate or philosophy. The organization did not immediately respond to questions about the blowback.

Trump kicked off his speech by saying, to cheers from the boys, “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” Yet much of what he had to say next was steeped in politics.

Trump began to recite the Scout law, a 12-point oath that starts with a Scout being trustworthy and loyal.

“We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” said the man who is alleged to have asked fired FBI Director James Comey for a pledge of loyalty.

In his speech, Trump also jokingly threatened to fire Health Secretary Tom Price — an Eagle Scout who joined him on stage — if lawmakers do not repeal and replace Obama’s health care law. He called Washington a “swamp,” a “cesspool” and a “sewer.” He repeatedly trashed the media, directing the crowd’s attention to the reporters in attendance.

In one aside, he told the boys they could begin saying “Merry Christmas” again under his watch. In another, he talked about a billionaire friend — real estate developer William Levitt — who sold his company, bought a yacht and led “a very interesting life.”

“I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did,” Trump teased. Then he said he had run into the man at a cocktail party. The moral of Trump’s tale was that Levitt “lost momentum,” something he said they should never do.

Levitt is often considered the father of postwar American suburbia, founding communities such as Levittown on New York’s Long Island, but was criticized for refusing to sell to blacks.

In the past few years, the Boy Scouts have retreated from the culture wars, dropping their ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders, and have tried harder to recruit minorities.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and co-founder of Scouts for Equality, a nonprofit group that has pushed to end discrimination against gay and transgender people in Scouting, said Trump’s remarks “really harmed the Boy Scouts’ ability to do that work, which is all about serving America.”

“The wrong speech at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Wahls said.


►  Historian speaking during Fort Henry commemoration

A historian and author will speak during the events commemorating the 240th anniversary of the first siege of Fort Henry and the 235th anniversary of the second siege.

Allan Spencer will present “War Process of Native American Warriors at Fort Henry.”

Spencer provides demonstrations at historic sites to try to show how Eastern Woodlands Native Americans lived and has researched and written on the culture.

The event is at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling.

The Wheeling chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Fort Henry chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution are co-hosting the yearlong program.

Spencer’s presentation is free and open to the public.


►  Man charged with setting West Virginia woman on fire

A California man suspected of lighting a West Virginia woman on fire has been arrested.

Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston Police Department tells local media that 34-year-old Carl Tramane Magee III was arrested Monday on charges that include attempted murder.

Cooper says the victim was asleep on her porch Sunday morning when Magee poured gasoline on her and lit her on fire. The woman suffered extensive burns and was taken to a hospital for treatment. Police say the victim is in critical condition.

Cooper says video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera shows Magee going up to the porch with a gas can and a fire igniting.

Police say Magee admitted to attempting to light another person on fire a short time later.

It’s unclear if Magee has an attorney.


►  Virginia woman admits stealing hospital patient information

A Virginia woman accused of taking hospital patients’ information has pleaded guilty to identity theft.

Forty-one-year-old Angela Roberts of Stephenson, Virginia, entered the plea Monday in federal court in Martinsburg.

Roberts admitted using someone else’s personal information to commit bank fraud in June 2016 in Berkeley County, West Virginia. She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to her indictment, Roberts obtained names, Social Security and driver’s license numbers and other sensitive information from the patient database of her employer, WVU Medicine University Healthcare in Martinsburg.

Another defendant, Ajarhi Roberts of Stephens City, Virginia, is accused of using that information to open credit card and other financial accounts in the patients’ names. The Roberts aren’t related.


►  Trump jokingly threatens to fire Price if health vote fails

Donald Trump on Monday jokingly threatened during a speech to thousands of Boy Scouts to fire his health secretary if a crucial vote to repeal “Obamacare” fails.

During a speech unlike any most of the crowd had heard at a Scout function before, Trump mixed a traditional message to Scouts of encouragement about loyalty, service to others and never giving up, with mentions of fake news, former President Barack Obama, a replay of how Trump won the election, fake polls, and how Washington is a swamp, or even worse “a cesspool or sewer.” Some in the crowd broke into chants of “USA, USA.”

Trump told more than 40,000 Boy Scouts, leaders and volunteers at a national gathering in West Virginia that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price “better get” the votes to begin debate on health care legislation Tuesday, lest Trump repeat his tagline from “The Apprentice,” the reality show he once starred in.

“Hopefully he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare,” Trump said, before turning to Price.

“By the way, you gonna get the votes? He better get ’em,” Trump said, adding: “Otherwise, I’ll say: Tom, you’re fired.”

The comment drew laughs from the crowd and Trump gave Price a friendly pat on the shoulder, suggesting he’d been joking. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she’d taken the comment that way as well.

Trump spoke at the National Scout Jamboree, and told them early: “Who the hell wants to speak about politics in front of Boy Scouts?”

But he couldn’t help himself as he shifted to themes in his typical stump speech from campaign days, with occasional references to scouting. It was clear that politics was very much on his mind.

Earlier he had earlier urged Republicans to make good on their promise to repeal and replace Obama’s signature health care bill, tweeting that, “Republicans have a last chance to do the right thing on Repeal & Replace after years of talking & campaigning on it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to call a vote Tuesday to begin debate on the legislation, though the outcome of the crucial roll call seemed an uphill climb.

Trump also singled out West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who has expressed reservations about the Republican health care bill.

“You better get Senator Capito to vote for it,” he told Price, adding: “You gotta get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time.”

Later, as he recited parts of the Scout oath, he paused at the word “loyalty.”

“We could use some more loyalty, I’ll tell you that,” he mused.

Trump is the eighth president to attend the National Scout Jamboree, which is typically held every four years. Obama did not attend during his two terms, although he addressed a 100th anniversary event in 2010 by video.

Each U.S. president serves as honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America, and the organization said in a statement that it does not promote any political candidate or philosophy.

Trump said that 10 members of his Cabinet were Scouts, including Mike Pence. The president introduced to the stage Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Scout who dressed in uniform, and also brought out Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Price.

“Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C., you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all that,” he said.

He said he would instead focus on inspiring the Scouts.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to the group on Friday. The organization is honoring Tillerson, an Eagle Scout himself, with the development of the Rex W. Tillerson Leadership Center at the West Virginia summit site.


►  When he travels, Trump favors states that voted for him

Donald Trump surveyed the crowd of thousands of Boy Scouts at their summit Monday and assessed, “There’s a lot of love in this big, beautiful place. And a lot of love for our country.” He singled out for affection West Virginia, a state that gave him his largest margin of victory in November.

“What we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted to make America great again,” he said as chants of “USA!” broke out among the Scouts, most of whom were too young to vote.

It’s a message that only works in Trump-backing corners of America. As president, he’s been drawn again and again to those comfort zones, while largely avoiding states where voters chose his Democratic opponent, a review by The Associated Press found.

Of his 33 domestic trips out of Washington, he’s set foot in non-Trump voting states only seven times other than to stay at his own golf property in Bedminster, New Jersey. The AP’s count does not include the president’s frequent day trips to his nearby Virginia golf course. He also has not journeyed too far, traveling west of the Mississippi River only once and so far dodging the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Trump’s quick Monday trip to West Virginia and his campaign rally planned Tuesday evening in Ohio follow that same pattern.

Trump tweeted early Tuesday: “Will be traveling to the Great State of Ohio tonight. Big crowd expected. See you there!”

Over the weekend, the president visited Norfolk, Virginia, to help commission the Navy’s USS Gerald R. Ford air craft carrier. Other stops in pro-Clinton states have been similarly brief and focused, including two for commencement addresses.

Far more common have been his sojourns to Trump country, where he can heap praise on voters without caveats.

He told thousands of fans at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, arena last month that they were bound by common values, including love of family and country. “With that deep conviction in your hearts,” he said, “you showed up on Election Day, November 8th, and voted to put America first.”

To a crowd in Louisville, Kentucky in March, he mused, “We’re in the heartland of America, and there is no place I would rather be than here with you tonight.”

Brendan Doherty, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who studies how presidents spend their time, said it’s noteworthy that Trump is sticking to places that like him — a break from how Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush shaped their first-year travel schedules.

Both, particularly Bush who won a nail-biter election and, like Trump, lost the popular vote, spent time in states they’d narrowly lost. Bush also traveled to states he’d decisively lost, while it took Obama more time to expand his travel itinerary to deep-red, or Republican-leaning, states.

Bush hit the road extensively in his first six months, making 62 domestic trips to places other than Maryland and Virginia, according to Doherty’s records. Obama made 55 such trips, his records show.

“It’s imperative for the president to be seen as president of all the people,” Doherty said.

Trump is also blazing a different trail by holding events that are more like general pep rallies than specific policy pushes. At his five political rallies this year, Trump revived his 2016 campaign trail style, disparaging perceived opponents, cheering his record and antagonizing the media. He hasn’t zeroed in on any policy themes or chosen his locations based on what he’s trying to accomplish as president.

For example, Trump hasn’t appeared in Nevada, a state he narrowly lost in November, even though its Republican senator is seen as crucial to passing Trump-backed health care proposals.

“The people in Nevada and especially the Republicans here would be excited to have the president come out here,” said Carl Bunce, chairman of the GOP organization in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. “If Trump were to visit, it would be a tremendous help to organize teams on the ground throughout the county and state.”

White House officials rejected the idea that Trump is only staying on friendly turf and noted that two of the states he’s visiting this week — West Virginia and Ohio — are home to senators pivotal to the health care vote. The upcoming rally is in Youngstown, Ohio, a county Trump lost in November’s election.

“The president has had an incredibly robust schedule, and it reflects the accomplishments and promises he’s made on issues like immigration, the economy and health care,” said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.

Although Trump’s base of support remains strong, other Americans have not warmed up to him. An ABC News/Washington Post survey at his six-month mark showed he had a 36 percent approval rating, the lowest at that point for any president in at least 70 years of polling. Both Obama and Bush had approval ratings hovering above 50 percent at the six-month mark of their first years.

Doherty said that a broader domestic travel agenda wouldn’t necessarily help Trump’s overall bottom line when it comes to approval. But he said local media coverage in the places a president visits tends to be positive, meaning he could strategically boost his appeal.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

WHAT’S NEXT FOR GOP HEALTH CARE BILL

Senators plan to vote on a Republican amendment repealing much of “Obamacare” and giving Congress two years to find a replacement, an initiative not expected to pass.


SENATE PANEL RESCINDS MANAFORT SUBPOENA

Trump’s former campaign chairman agrees to turn over documents and to continue negotiating about setting up an interview with investigators.


CARDINAL PELL FACES AUSTRALIAN COURT ON SEX CHARGES

The senior Vatican official vows to fight the allegations that have rocked Rome and threatened the Pope Francis’ image as a crusader against abusive clergy.


SCIENTISTS BUILD DNA FROM SCRATCH TO ALTER LIFE’S BLUEPRINT

A lab in New York is heading an international effort do to this in yeast, a stepping stone to tackling human DNA.


FATHER: EX-MARINE FROM FLORIDA ‘HAD A MISSION’

David Taylor, 25, believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.


MUSLIM CLERIC: PROTESTS TO GO ON DESPITE ISRAELI CONCESSION

Ikrema Sabri says that worshippers would not return to a contested Jerusalem shrine until Israel removes the new railings and cameras it installed after a deadly attack there.


HOW U.S. MUSLIMS VIEW AMERICA

A new survey finds they have experienced widespread suspicion about their faith since Trump’s presidency, but also have received more support from individual Americans.


COMING SOON ... THE ‘TEXTALYZER’

New York state is set to study the use of a device that would allow police to determine whether a motorist involved in a serious crash was texting while driving.


OHIO SET TO END 3-YEAR HIATUS WITH EXECUTION

Ronald Phillips, 43, was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter.


NCAA RULE ENDS TWO-A-DAY FOOTBALL PRACTICES

Officials are hoping the new policy reduces the head injuries that had become all too common in the preseason.


Google’s parent company Alphabet announced its second quarter earnings results, beating Wall Street’s general expectations thanks to $26.01 billion in revenue, a 21% year-over-year increase

However, some investors still expected more, and the company’s stock fell about 3% as a result.


Grab, a ride-hailing service that operates primarily in South East Asia, announced that it has raised $2 billion from Japanese tech investor Softbank as well as its Chinese counterpart, Didi Chuxing

The company’s hope is to raise another half-billion to bring the total investment to $2.5 billion, which would make it the biggest investment in a South East Asian tech startup.


Microsoft is planning to phase out its famous graphics editing program, Paint, after 32 years

The app won’t disappear all at once, and the Redmond company promised it will be available to download from the Microsoft Store, however support for it will end when the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update starts rolling out later this year.


Facebook has bought a content rights startup, Source3, to help fight video pirates who share illegally downloaded videos in private

Source3, which owns a technology that identifies intellectual properties shared without permission, will be fully integrated into Facebook and not operate as a standalone unit.


Microsoft is working on a second version of the HoloLens mixed reality headset, and is planning to integrate an AI-powered chip in it

The company aims to run artificial intelligence tasks directly on the device, without relying on the cloud, which is why it needs the power and optimization only a self-designed silicon can offer.


Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai is joining the board of parenting company Alphabet

Pichai served as CEO of Google since the birth of Alphabet in 2015, replacing Larry Page, and is now being added as Alphabet’s thirteenth member of the board.


A Microsoft AI-powered chatbot, “Zo,“ has gone off-script and is insulting the company’s own Windows operating system (OS)

Zo is not only claiming older versions of the OS are better than the more modern ones, but also straight up saying that some are “Windows’ latest attempt at spyware.“


Spotify is getting closer to striking a deal with Warner Music, the last big music royalty deal it would need before its U.S. listing

The Swedish startup sought to increase its revenue cut by promising to make new album releases available only to paying Premium customers, and it now seems likely that an agreement will be formally reached by September.


Workers at Facebook’s cafeterias at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California are unionizing to ask for increased wages, as they claim they can’t afford to live in Silicon Valley with their current pay

The company didn’t stop the union, but didn’t confirm whether it would reevaluate the $15 (£11) minimum wage either.


iRobot, the company behind the Roomba vacuum, has been collecting data of people’s houses and is now hoping to sell it to improve the future of smart house technologies

The company is reportedly looking to strike a deal with Amazon, Apple and Alphabet (Google).

National News

The Free Press WV


►  Brazilians detail abuses by U.S. church, shattered lives

At the Word of Faith Fellowship churches in the Brazilian cities of Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha, the signs of broken families are everywhere: parents separated from their children, siblings who no longer speak, grandparents who wonder if they will ever know their grandchildren.

Over the course of two decades, the U.S.-based mother church took command of both congregations in Brazil, applying a strict interpretation of the Bible and enforcing it through rigorous controls and physical punishment, The Associated Press has found.

Many of the more than three dozen former members interviewed by the AP in Brazil said they live in perpetual fear of retribution. Some have sought psychological help. Others ask themselves how they put up with the abuse for so long.

Former member Juliana Oliveira remembers when life was normal in the Sao Joaquim de Bicas church, but that was years ago, before the Americans came from Spindale, North Carolina. Before the Brazilian traditions were stripped away, she said, and the screaming and beatings began.

“When you are in a cult, you don’t know you are in a cult because little by little it all becomes ’normal,’” said Oliveira, 34. “It’s like a frog in a pot of water. By the time it’s boiling, he can’t jump out.”

The examination of Word of Faith Fellowship’s spread into Latin America’s largest country is part of the AP’s lengthy ongoing investigation into the evangelical church, founded in 1979 by Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband, Sam.

Based on exclusive interviews with dozens of former members, the AP reported in February that congregants in the U.S. were regularly beaten, punched and choked to “purify” sinners by expelling devils.

The AP also has detailed how Word of Faith Fellowship funneled a steady flow of young Brazilian members to the United States on tourist and student visas and forced them to work both at the church and companies owned by sect leaders.

Neither Whaley nor the pastors at both Word of Faith Fellowship branches in Brazil responded to requests for comment.

The church has nearly 2,000 members in Brazil and Ghana and its affiliations in Sweden, Scotland and other countries, in addition to 750 congregants in Spindale.

In Brazil, the takeover of the two churches was a slow evolution that culminated in drastic rules dictating almost every aspect of congregants’ lives, former members said.

Many of the edicts echoed Whaley’s mandates in North Carolina, such as a ban on wearing jeans and children talking to members of the opposite sex without approval.

In Franco da Rocha, former members said Whaley prohibited soccer as Brazil was getting ready to host the 2014 World Cup because she felt the church’s young males were focused on the event at the expense of God.

“We just dealt with a major ‘soccer devil’ down in Brazil two weeks ago,” Whaley told the Spindale congregation in a sermon transmitted to branches in Brazil and Ghana that was viewed by the AP.

When Oliveira was a teenager in the late 1990s, the evangelical school she attended was “strict but normal,” she said. The Bible was the guiding principle at Ministerio Verbo Vivo (Live Word), but general subjects were taught just like at any Brazilian school.

By the time she returned from college to teach at the school, life at Verbo Vivo was barely recognizable, said Oliveira, who broke with Word of Faith in 2009.

Schoolbooks reviewed by the AP show heavy redactions. Instead of human sexuality, for example, the life cycle is taught via plant reproduction.

“The influence of American pastors was getting stronger and stronger in the school and church,” Oliveira said, wiping away tears during an interview at her home in nearby Betim. “They stopped emphasizing the teaching of Portuguese, geography, mathematics — the normal things. It turned into mostly Bible study and a lot of abuse.”

Students deemed as “rebellious” were isolated from others during the school day, made to read the Bible or shouted at for hours to “expunge devils,” according to many former students and their parents.

When state inspectors visited, the long palm tree-lined driveway from the gate to the school provided plenty of time for school employees to pull out regular books and make things look “normal,” Oliveira said.

Over the years, former members say the Brazilian churches introduced physical assaults and “blasting” — a Word of Faith Fellowship practice where ministers and congregants surround members and scream in their faces for hours to drive out demons.

Flavio Correa said his oldest son was slapped so many times during a blasting session by pastors at the Franco da Rocha church that he suffered several cuts on his face.

“At the time I thought it was absurd, exaggerated,” said Correa, 52, who left the church last year after 23 years. “But I confided in them and you start to think it is good for the person. Today, I just think it’s stupid.”

___

THE TENTACLES INTO BRAZIL

Word of Faith Fellowship’s reach into Brazil began with John Martin, an American missionary who arrived in the late 1970s, married a local woman and served as pastor at a Baptist church near Belo Horizonte, one of the country’s largest cities.

Former members say Martin met Sam Whaley on an airplane in 1986, sparking a relationship that led both Whaleys and other ministers from Spindale to begin visiting Martin’s church.

Martin founded Verbo Vivo in Belo Horizonte in 1987 and, gradually, year by year, the Americans began to gain control of the parish, former members said.

In 2005, Martin moved his church to Sao Joaquim de Bicas, a small city about 45 minutes away. That same year, dozens of church families moved to a large plot of land in Betim, a small adjacent city.

Though land was cheaper outside Belo Horizonte, former members cite another motivation: Isolating the flock from the outside world.

Children attended school on church land — property ringed by an 8-foot-high fence topped with barbed wire — and returned home to a neighborhood with a manned gate and its own 8-foot-high fence.

Adult members had little contact with the outside world, going to work and returning straight home to the community. Some ex-members continue to live there, such as Juliana Oliveira’s family. Current congregants and former ones pass each other daily without speaking.

About 360 miles (580 kilometers) south, a similar transformation took place. Former members say evangelical pastors Solange Granieri and Juarez De Souza Oliveira, a married couple, met the Whaleys at a religious conference in Sao Paulo in the mid-1980s.

In 1988, De Souza Oliveira opened Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema, or Rhema Community Evangelical Ministry, which includes a church and a school, in the Sao Paolo suburb of Franco da Rocha.

Just as in Sao Joaquim de Bicas, congregants in the second branch were encouraged to buy land in a remote area outside the city, former members said. In both places, there was an emphasis on building close-knit communities modeled after the original sect in North Carolina.

In 2009, almost two decades after the founding of Verbo Vivo, the increasingly harsh treatment and strict rules imposed by the Americans led to a revolt by dozens of congregants in Sao Joaquim de Bicas.

Two Brazilian pastors left, contending in television interviews that Martin and the other American ministers who periodically visited were “brainwashing” and controlling congregants at Whaley’s behest.

Their departures created a rupture so great — and led to so many complaints — that the human rights committee in the Minas Gerais state legislature held hearings.

Two dozen ex-members testified about abuses, from forced isolation to being shaken and hit during services and at the church school. Former students recounted being spanked with wooden spoons and yelled at for extended periods in front of their classmates.

Andre Gustavo Morais de Oliveira, who is no relation to the other Oliveiras, testified he had been taken to Spindale four times as a teenager, starting at age 13. He said he was not put to work during the first trip, which lasted 27 days, instead spending his days praying and learning the church’s doctrine.

“The following trips, I was obligated to work as a painter, a gardener, everything for the sake of the sect,” he testified. When contacted by the AP, Morais de Oliveira stood by his testimony but declined to be interviewed.

Parents also testified that their children were sent to the U.S. and indoctrinated to the point that they turned against their families.

Eduardo Gonzaga, one of the pastors who left the church, said his 19-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter had broken off contact after traveling to North Carolina.

“Father, don’t try to speak to us anymore,” Gonzaga recounted them telling him during a phone call from Spindale on Father’s Day. All future communication must go through church leaders in Spindale, he was told.

Gonzaga testified that he tried repeatedly to reach his children, even traveling to Spindale. Since they are adults, he said, authorities could not intervene.

The hearings in Brazil created a stir, but ultimately no one was charged. Many of the abuse allegations came down to the word of former members against church officials, similar to the way investigations at the North Carolina parent church have stalled over the decades.

Martin, the lead pastor, denied the allegations and called the disciplinary rules “guidelines and not prohibitions,” according to news media reports at the time. He declined to offer fresh comment to the AP.

The turmoil did lead to at least one change: Former members said there was a sharp drop in Martin’s congregants, from about 600 to 300.

While the Franco da Rocha branch did not suffer the same internal strife, congregants who left in recent years estimate that the number of members there dropped from 700 a decade ago to 250 now.

Naara Abe, a member of the Franco da Rocha church for a quarter-century, said the dramatic changes in the church made her want to leave a decade ago but that she mustered the courage only last year.

The final straw, she said, was a conversation with Jane Whaley about her teenage son, who liked a fellow congregant but was not allowed to talk to her because the sexes are strictly separated. If she was a really good mother, Abe said Whaley told her, she would crack down on her son.

Today, Abe, 51, feels full of regret — from the birthdays not celebrated, because the church forbids it, to the tremendous strain on her marriage. Her husband, also a long-time member, had doubts about the church and argued for years that they should leave, she said.

“Little by little, the church makes you do more things, subtle things, that you don’t even notice,” said Abe, citing cutting off contact with friends who are not members.

“Then you are like a caged animal that no longer knows how to live outside,” she said.


►  Mexican officials: At least 25 people in truck were Mexican

The tractor-trailer was pitch-black inside, crammed with maybe 90 immigrants or more, and already hot when it left the Texas border town of Laredo for the 150-mile trip north to San Antonio.

It wasn’t long before the passengers, sweating profusely in the rising oven-like heat, started crying and pleading for water. Children whimpered. People took turns breathing through a single hole in the wall. They pounded on the sides of the truck and yelled to try to get the driver’s attention. Then they began passing out.

By the time police showed up at a Walmart in San Antonio around 12:30 a.m. Sunday and looked in the back of the truck, eight passengers were dead and two more would soon die in an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone tragically awry.

The details of the journey were recounted Monday by a survivor who spoke to The Associated Press and in a federal criminal complaint against the driver, James Matthew Bradley, who could face the death penalty over the 10 lives lost.

“After an hour I heard ... people crying and asking for water. I, too, was sweating and people were despairing. That’s when I lost consciousness,” Adan Lara Vega, 27, told the AP from his hospital bed. By the time he came to, he was in the hospital, where his ID bracelet identified him by the last name Lalravega. Mexican consulate and U.S. officials later told AP the correct spelling was Lara Vega.

Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Florida, appeared in federal court on charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. He was ordered held for another hearing on Thursday.

He did not enter a plea or say anything about what happened. But in court papers, he told authorities he didn’t realize anyone was inside his 18-wheeler until he parked and got out to relieve himself.

In addition to the dead, nearly 20 others rescued from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

Mexico’s foreign ministry released a statement Monday night that said “according to preliminary information,” 25 of the migrants inside the rig were Mexican.

Four of those who died and 21 of those hospitalized were Mexican, the statement said. Some of the others inside the truck were from Guatemala.

Many of the immigrants had hired smugglers who brought them across the U.S. border, hid them in safe houses and then put them aboard the tractor-trailer for the ride northward, according to accounts given to investigators.

“Even though they have the driver in custody, I can guarantee you there’s going to be many more people we’re looking for to prosecute,” said Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bradley told investigators that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. After hearing banging and shaking, he opened the door and was “surprised when he was run over by ‘Spanish’ people and knocked to the ground,” according to the criminal complaint.

He said he did not call 911, even though he knew at least one passenger was dead.

Bradley told authorities that he knew the trailer refrigeration system didn’t work and that the four ventilation holes were probably clogged.

The truck was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. President Brian Pyle said that he had sold the truck to someone in Mexico and that Bradley was supposed to deliver it to a pick-up point in Brownsville.

“I’m absolutely sorry it happened. I really am. It’s shocking. I’m sorry my name was on it,” Pyle said, referring to the truck. He said he had no idea why Bradley took the roundabout route he described to investigators.

Bradley told authorities that he had stopped in Laredo — which would have been out of his way if he were traveling directly to Brownsville — to get the truck washed and detailed before heading back 150 miles (240 kilometers) north to San Antonio. From there, he would have had to drive 275 miles (440 kilometers) south again to get to Brownsville.

“I just can’t believe it. I’m stunned, shocked. He is too good a person to do anything like this,” said Bradley’s fiancee, Darnisha Rose of Louisville, Kentucky. “He helps people, he doesn’t hurt people.”

One passenger described a perilous journey that began in Mexico, telling investigators he and others crossed into the U.S. by raft, paying smugglers 12,500 Mexican pesos (about $700), an amount that also bought protection offered by the Zeta drug cartel.

They then walked until the next day and rode in a pickup truck to Laredo, where they were put aboard the tractor-trailer to be taken to San Antonio, according to the complaint. The passenger said he was supposed to pay the smugglers $5,500 once he got there.

Another passenger told authorities that he was in a group of 24 people who had been in a “stash house” in Laredo for 11 days before being taken to the tractor-trailer.

Lara Vega told the AP that he was told by smugglers who hid him and six friends in a safe house in Laredo that they would be riding in an air-conditioned space.

The Mexican laborer from the state of Aguascalientes said that when they boarded the truck on a Laredo street Saturday night for the two-hour trip to San Antonio, it was already full of people but so dark he couldn’t tell how many.

He said he was never offered water and never saw the driver. Lara Vega said that when people are being smuggled, they are told not to look at the faces of their handlers — and it’s a good idea to obey.

Bradley told authorities that when he arrived in San Antonio, nobody met the tractor-trailer. But one passenger said six black SUVs were waiting to pick up the immigrants and were full in a matter of minutes. And San Antonio police said store surveillance video showed vehicles picking up some of the immigrants.

Lara Vega said he was deported from the U.S. three years ago but decided to take another chance because the economy is depressed where he lives with his wife, 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

“A person makes decisions without thinking through the consequences,” he said, “but, well, thanks to God, here we are.”


►  Investigators don’t know why driver wound up on rail tracks

Federal safety investigators haven’t been able to determine why the driver of an SUV drove her car into a railroad crossing and into the path of an oncoming train, causing a crash that killed six people outside New York City in 2015.

The National Transportation Safety Board met Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to detail the results of a two-and-a-half year investigation into the crash at a crossing in the town of Valhalla.

The impact sparked an explosion, and flames blasted into the passenger area, burning out the first car of the train. The driver of the SUV and five people aboard the train were killed. More than a dozen others were injured.

NTSB investigators found that the SUV’s driver, Ellen Brody, wasn’t on the phone, impaired or fatigued. Brody drove onto the tracks and when the gate arm came down onto her SUV, she got out and inspected the vehicle before getting back in and driving further onto the tracks.

Chairman Robert Sumwalt said her actions were the great mystery of the crash.

“There are numerous possibilities which may have contributed to why she got out of the car, why she did not realize the train was approaching,” he said. “We examined every possible situation and circumstance and we could not arrive at a definite conclusion.”

He said it was impossible to know what was in Brody’s mind, but he hypothesized that she had been inching along in traffic, watching the car in front of her, and wasn’t aware that the she had driven into a railroad crossing.

“I don’t think she realized where she was,” he said. “I think it was just a loss of situational awareness.”

Meanwhile, the engineer noticed something on the tracks and pulled the emergency brake when he noticed the SUV in the path.

Investigators found all the signals were working properly; the brakes worked and were pulled on time; the warning signs at the crossing worked and were properly marked; the train wasn’t speeding; the engineer wasn’t fatigued or distracted; the track wasn’t faulty; and the emergency exit windows worked.

But the design of the third rail providing power to the train also played a role, they said. They said the rail stayed in one piece, like a 340-foot-long spear, rather than break apart when it was ripped from the ground. The rail then sliced through a passenger car on the train, contributing to the death toll.

NTSB investigators said the lack of a controlled failure mechanism in third rail systems was a potential safety problem. It recommended that railways that use third rails evaluate the safety risks at grade crossings.

The Associated Press, relying on information from an official briefed on the NTSB’s findings, reported Monday that investigators had also raised concerns with the unusual third rail design in which power is transferred to the train via a metal shoe riding beneath the powered rail. NTSB officials said at the Washington briefing, however, that they had found no issues with that particular system.

NTSB investigators recommended risk assessments also be conducted for grade crossings. The town of Mount Pleasant where the crash occurred was weighing whether to close the crossing altogether.

But also, drivers must always be aware on railroad crossings, they said.

“There is a lesson drivers must learn, a lesson that has tragically been taught time and time again. The next train is always coming. ... Do not get trapped on the tracks,” Sumwalt said.


►  Appeals court blocks strict DC concealed carry permit law

A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a District of Columbia law that makes it difficult for gun owners to get concealed carry permits by requiring them to show that they have a good reason to carry a weapon.

A divided three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the law requiring people to show “good reason to fear injury” or another “proper reason” to carry a weapon infringes on Second Amendment rights.

“At the Second Amendment’s core lies the right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home, subject to longstanding restrictions,” Judge Thomas Griffith wrote for the majority. “These traditional limits include, for instance, licensing requirements but not bans on carrying in urban areas like DC or bans on carrying absent a special need for self-defense,” he wrote.

Judge Karen Henderson dissented, arguing that the court should defer to policymakers, who determined the law was necessary to ensure public safety. Henderson noted that D.C. has “unique challenges” as the home of the federal government, full of high-level officials, diplomats and protected buildings.

City law now requires residents to register guns kept at their homes or businesses. Anyone who wants to carry a weapon outside the home needs a separate concealed carry license.

The judges ordered a lower court to enjoin the city from enforcing the “good reason” law, but it remains in effect for now while D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine decides whether to ask for a full appellate review. If he does and the judges refuse to rehear the case, the order blocking the law would take effect shortly after, although Racine’s office could also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Racine said Tuesday that his office is committed with working with the mayor and city council “to continue fighting for common-sense gun reforms.”

“The District of Columbia’s ‘good reason’ requirement for concealed-carry permits is a common-sense gun regulation, and four federal appeals courts have rejected challenges to similar laws in other states,” Racine said in a statement.

Under the law, reasons to get a permit might include a personal threat, or a job that requires a person to carry or protect cash or valuables.

The ruling is the latest in a long-running battle over the city’s strict gun laws, which local leaders rewrote following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2008 striking down the city’s ban on handguns.

Lower court judges have been divided over the “good reason” law. In March, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sided with the city and declined to issue a preliminary injunction against enforcing it.

International News

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►  Trump, Lebanon leader pledge to fight terrorism

The Latest on the visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to the White House (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Donald Trump and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri are pledging to fight terrorism to the end.

Hariri is visiting the White House for talks with Trump and their respective delegations. A joint news conference is planned afterward.

Hariri said in brief remarks before an expanded meeting with aides that he hopes the partnership between the U.S. and Lebanon against terrorism will continue until terrorists are defeated.

Trump responded, “We will do that.”

Trump said Hariri is winning the fight against ISIS and others and that “ultimately you will win ... we have great confidence in you.”

__

2 p.m.

Donald Trump has welcomed Lebanon’s prime minister to the White House for talks.

Trump and Prime Minister Saad Hariri (sahd hah-REER’-ee) are scheduled to answer reporters’ questions during a joint news conference in the Rose Garden after they meet.

The White House said last week that the leaders would discuss terrorism, refugees and the economy, among other issues.

Hariri is likely to ask for U.S. financial aid to cope with the flood of Syrian refugees entering his country due to the civil war there. Syrian refugees make up about 25 percent of Lebanon’s population of about 6 million people.

Other items on the prime minister’s agenda are continued U.S. support for the Lebanese military, and plans by the U.S. to tighten sanctions on the militant group Hezbollah.


►  Charlie Gard’s parents ask court to let him die at home

Charlie Gard’s parents know their treasured son is about to die. They have one final wish — to take him home, put him to bed and kiss him goodbye.

The mother of the critically ill baby at the center of an international medical and legal battle returned to London’s High Court on Tuesday, asking a judge to let the family take Charlie home for “a few days of tranquility” before his ventilator is disconnected and he is allowed to “slip away.”

After months of court hearings over the 11-month-old baby’s fate that drew attention from Pope Francis, U.S. Donald Trump and people around the world, discussion came down to the mundane, heart-wrenching details of ending a life: How could Charlie be transported from a hospital to his parents’ west London home? Could ventilation be maintained on the way? Would his ventilator fit through the front door of the house?

“The parents’ last wish is to take Charlie home for a few days of tranquility outside the hospital,” family lawyer Grant Armstrong said in a written statement.

He accused London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie is being treated, of putting obstacles in the way of that outcome.

The hospital’s lawyer, Katie Gollop, said Great Ormond Street wanted “above all” to fulfill the parents’ last wish, but also had to take the baby’s best interests into account.

“The care plan must be safe, it must spare Charlie all pain and protect his dignity,” she said.

The hospital said Charlie would be able to die with dignity, surrounded by his family, in a hospice. Armstrong said Charlie’s parents regarded that as the second-best option, “a notch better” than the hospital.

Judge Nicholas Francis, who has dealt with the emotionally draining case for months, said the sensitive issues cried out “for mediation” — not for the ruling of a judge. But so far attempts to find agreement have failed.

At the end of a hearing attended by Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, Francis said he felt a hospice, rather than the family home, would be best. The judge said he would make his final ruling on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s fair to prolong their suffering any longer,” he said.

Charlie suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease. He has brain damage and is unable to breathe unaided.

His parents — Yates and her partner Chris Gard — have battled for months to take Charlie to the United States for an experimental treatment they believed would improve his condition. Doctors at Great Ormond Street opposed that, saying it would not help and could cause Charlie more suffering.

British courts and the European Court of Human Rights have all sided with Great Ormand Street, one of the world’s leading children’s hospital, in its bid to remove life support and let Charlie die naturally.

The case drew international attention after Charlie’s parents received support from the pope, Trump and some members of the U.S. Congress.

U.S.-based pro-life activists flew to London to support Charlie’s parents, and the case became a flashpoint for opposing views on health-care funding, medical intervention, the role of the state and the rights of the child.

Some commentators portrayed the case as a clash between family and the state, and U.S. conservatives used it to criticize Britain’s government-funded health care system.

The feverish commentary led the judge to criticize the effects of social media and those “who know almost nothing about this case but who feel entitled to express opinions.”

At its heart, the case pitted the right of parents to decide what’s best for their children against the authorities’ responsibility to uphold the rights of people who can’t speak for themselves. Under British law, children have rights independent of their parents, and it is usual for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child.

Offers of help for Charlie came from Dr. Michio Hirano, a neurology expert at New York’s Columbia Medical Center and from the Vatican’s Babino Gesu pediatric hospital.

Both said an experimental treatment known as nucleoside therapy had a chance of helping Charlie.

Great Ormond Street disagreed. It said the proposed treatment had never been tried on a human with Charlie’s exact condition and no tests had ever been done on mice to see whether it would work on a patient like Charlie.

On Monday, Charlie’s parents abandoned their battle for treatment, saying that time had run out and the proposed therapy would no longer be effective because Charlie had severe and irreversible muscular damage.

“We are about to do the hardest thing that we will ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go,” Chris Gard said.

The couple continues to insist Charlie could have been helped had he received the treatment sooner.

Bambino Gesu director Mariella Enoc shared that view, saying at a news conference Tuesday that experimental therapy “could have been an opportunity” to help Charlie, but it was now too late to start care.

“I don’t know if Charlie could have been saved, but I know that a lot of time was lost in many legal debates that served no purpose,” the ANSA news agency quoted Enoc as saying.


►  Thousands join Muslim prayer protests over Jerusalem shrine

Thousands of Palestinian Muslims prayed in the streets near Jerusalem’s most contested holy site Tuesday, heeding a call by clergy to not enter the shrine despite Israel’s seeming capitulation when it removed metal detectors it installed there a week earlier.

Muslim leaders said they would only call off the protests once they made sure Israel had restored the situation to what it was before the latest crisis.

Some Muslim officials alleged that Israel used the absence of Muslim clerics from the walled compound in the past week of protests to install new security cameras.

The continued standoff highlighted the deep distrust between Israel and the Palestinians when it comes to the shrine — the third-holiest in Islam and the most sacred in Judaism.

The 37-acre esplanade, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a lightning rod for rival religious and national narratives of the two sides. It has triggered major confrontations in the past.

Israel seemed eager to put the crisis behind it and restore calm after a week of prayer protests, street clashes and several incidents of deadly violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government also faced a growing backlash at home for what critics said was hasty decision-making and embarrassing policy zigzags.

In a face-saving compromise, Israel’s security Cabinet announced that in place of the metal detectors, it would employ nonintrusive “advanced technologies,” reportedly smart cameras that can detect hidden objects. The new security system is to be set up in the next six months at a cost of $28 million.

Meanwhile, Palestinian politicians and Muslim clerics demanded that Israel restore the situation at the shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City to what it was before July 14. On that day, three Arab gunmen opened fire from the shrine at Israeli police guards, killing two before being shot dead.

In response, Israel closed the shrine for two days for weapons searches and installed the metal detectors. The decision quickly triggered Muslim protests amid allegations that Israel was trying to expand its control at the site under the guise of security — a claim Israel has denied.

On Tuesday, hours after Israel removed the metal detectors, Muslim leaders said a technical committee would check the area in and around the compound carefully to see if Israel had made any unilateral changes during the time the shrine stood empty.

Protests would continue until the check was completed, they said.

By Tuesday evening, thousands of worshippers prayed at the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, one of the main flashpoints in recent days. They knelt on prayer rugs arranged in neat rows on the asphalt as Israeli riot police lined up nearby.

After the prayers, many in the crowd chanted, “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” as they raised their right index finger to the sky in a sign of religious fervor.

Khalil Abu Arafeh, a 67-year-old retiree, said he and the others would follow the lead of the Muslim clergy. “We will not go. We will keep praying here,” he said, alleging Israel hadn’t removed all of the new security measures.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some cameras remained “as part of the security measures to prevent terror attacks” in and around the Old City.

The Israeli daily Haaretz said the security Cabinet had decided to remove the metal detectors but leave in place the newly installed cameras.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said security coordination between his forces and Israeli troops in the West Bank would remain on hold until Israel has restored the situation at the shrine to what it was before July 14.

He had announced last week that he was freezing all ties with Israel until the metal detectors were down.

In the past two days, the crisis over the shrine had been closely linked to a parallel drama — a deadly shooting at the Israeli Embassy in Jordan.

The Sunday shooting, in which an Israeli guard killed two Jordanians after one attacked him with a screwdriver, had briefly led to a diplomatic standoff.

Jordan initially said the guard could only leave after an investigation, but eventually let him go. Embassy staff, including the guard, returned to Israel late Monday, after a phone call between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Jordan also serves as Muslim custodian of the Jerusalem shrine, and the sequence of events — return of the embassy staff followed by the removal of the metal detectors — suggested a broader deal had been struck.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi denied this, saying that “there’s no bargain here.” Safadi defended the government’s handling of the embassy shooting, saying it had followed routine procedures as in any criminal case.

There was widespread anger in Jordan over the shooting, given the unpopularity of its peace deal with Israel.

An acrimonious session of Jordan’s parliament was cut short as lawmakers walked out in protest after the interior minister presented the initial findings of the incident at the embassy.

One of the victims, the 16-year-old who had attacked the Israeli with a screwdriver, was buried Tuesday in Amman. More than 2,000 mourners joined his funeral procession, and they chanted slogans in support of the Jerusalem shrine and portrayed him as a “martyr” who had defended Muslim rights.

In other developments Tuesday:

—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to take over the holy sites in Jerusalem. Speaking to lawmakers of his party, Erdogan welcomed Israel’s removal of the metal detectors, but said Turkey would not accept measures that treat Muslims wanting to pray as “terrorists.”

— U.N. Mideast envoy Nikolai Mladenov warned that the Jerusalem crisis signaled the dangers of turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one.


►  Russia calls for tighter compliance with oil output cuts

Major oil producers need to show greater discipline in sticking to output cuts aimed at raising the price of crude, Russia’s energy minister said Monday.

OPEC and several non-OPEC states like Russia decided last year to rein in output, but prices have fallen below $50 a barrel in recent weeks amid concerns about higher production in the U.S., which was not part of the deal, and some countries’ lack of discipline in enforcing the cuts.

Following a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC countries in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Monday, Alexander Novak said complained that “some countries are not yet fully implementing” the cuts.

“Despite the high level of compliance with the agreement, we insist on all countries fulfilling their obligations 100 percent,“ he said, in comments reported by Russian state news agencies.

Novak added that he would be open to tighter monitoring of output, and a possible extension of the cuts beyond their scheduled end in March 2018.

The International Energy Agency has estimated that compliance with the OPEC output cut fell to 78 percent in June, from 95 percent the previous month.

Beyond high U.S. output, oil prices have also been pressured by production increases in OPEC members Libya and Nigeria, which have exemptions from the cuts due to political instability.


►  IMF warms to eurozone economy amid lower political risks

The International Monetary is more optimistic about the economy of the 19-country eurozone after a run of elections saw populist politicians defeated and risks to its outlook abated.

In an update to its April projections published Monday, the IMF revised up its growth forecasts for many eurozone countries, including the big four of Germany, France, Italy and Spain, after stronger than anticipated first quarter figures.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is projected to grow by 1.8 percent, up 0.2 percentage point on the previous estimate, while France is forecast to expand 1.5 percent, up 0.1 percentage point. Projections for Italy and Spain have been revised higher by a substantial 0.5 percentage point. The two are now expected to grow by 1.3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. All four are also expected to grow by more than anticipated in 2018.

Overall, the IMF expects the eurozone to expand by 1.9 percent this year, 0.2 percentage point more than its previous projection. That’s just shy of the IMF’s 2.1 percent forecast for the U.S., which was trimmed by 0.2 percentage point. However, it’s slightly ahead of Britain’s, whose projected growth was revised down 0.3 percentage point to 1.7 percent following a weak first quarter that raised concerns about the country’s economy ahead of its exit from the European Union.

The IMF’s eurozone upgrades come amid rising confidence in the bloc following a series of elections that saw populist politicians defeated, most notably in France, where Emmanuel Macron defeated the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in May’s presidential election.

At the start of the year, political risks were considered the major hurdle facing the eurozone. There had been fears that radical changes in government could have seen more insular economic policies and further questions over the future of the euro itself.

“On the upside, the cyclical rebound could be stronger and more sustained in Europe, where political risk has diminished,“ the IMF said in Monday’s report.

The lead eurozone economist at Oxford Economics, Ben May, thinks the IMF’s forecast may actually turn out to be too cautious. He’s predicting 2.2 percent growth as the region benefits from lower inflation, healthy global growth and a pick-up in business investment.

The IMF’s update came as a survey showed the eurozone economy slowed in July from a fast pace.

Financial information firm IHS Markit said Monday that its purchasing managers’ index for the region fell to a six-month low of 55.8 points in July from 56.3 the previous month.

The indicator still points to one of the strongest economic expansions in the past six years, with quarterly growth at a still-healthy 0.6 percent, down only slightly from the 0.7 percent signaled for the second quarter. Official second-quarter figures are due in early August.

Chris Williamson, the firm’s chief business economist, says it’s probably just a “speed bump,“ with the economy “hitting bottlenecks due to the speed of the recent upturn.“

He noted that forward-looking indicators, such as new order inflows, suggest robust growth. As a result, job creation is “booming” as companies expand to meet demand.

The survey is likely to inform the ECB’s deliberations as it mulls when to start reining back its monetary stimulus. Last week, ECB President Mario Draghi sought to be neutral, worried that any indication of any change of course could cause the euro to surge. More clarity is expected at the next policy meeting on September 07.

Much will depend on inflation. The chief purpose behind the ECB’s stimulus efforts, which has involved slashing interest rates and buying 60 billion euros ($69 billion) a month in bonds at least through the end of the year, is to get inflation up to its goal of just below 2 percent. In June, the annual rate of inflation was 1.3 percent.

Monday’s survey suggested that inflation pressures eased in July, which may reinforce Draghi’s belief that there isn’t “any convincing sign of a pickup in inflation.“


►  U.S. Navy fires warning shots near Iran ship in Persian Gulf

A U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots Tuesday near an Iranian vessel that American sailors said came dangerously close to them during a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf, the first such incident to happen under Donald Trump. Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guard later blamed the American ship for provoking the situation.

The encounter involving the USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship based in Bahrain as part of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, is the latest confrontation between Iranian vessels and American warships. It comes as Trump already has threatened to renegotiate the nuclear deal struck by his predecessor and after his administration previously put Iran “on notice” over its ballistic missile tests.

The Thunderbolt was taking part in an exercise with American and other coalition vessels in international waters when the Iranian patrol boat approached it, 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Ian McConnaughey said. The Iranian ship did not respond to radio calls, flares and horn blasts as it came within 150 yards (137 meters) of the Thunderbolt, forcing the U.S. sailors aboard to fire the warning shots, McConnaughey said.

“After the warning shots were fired, the Iranian vessel halted its unsafe approach,” the lieutenant said in a statement, adding that the Iranian vessel created “a risk for collision.” Large ships can’t stop immediately on the water, meaning getting close to each other risks a collision.

Video released by the Navy included a sailor giving a position off the eastern coast of Kuwait as the Iranian vessel sat directly in front of an American warship’s bow. Another video included images of the Iranian ship off the Thunderbolt as its horn blared. The sound of machine gun fire followed.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard instead blamed the Thunderbolt for the incident in a statement, saying the American vessel moved toward one of its patrol boats. It said the Thunderbolt fired into the air “with the intention to provoke and create fear.”

Iran and the U.S. frequently have tense naval encounters in the Persian Gulf, nearly all involving the Revolutionary Guard, a separate force from Iran’s military that answers only to the country’s supreme leader. The last one to involve warning shots happened in January near the end of then-President Barack Obama’s term, when the USS Mahan fired shots toward Iranian fast attack boats as they neared the destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. Navy recorded 35 instances of what it describes as “unsafe and/or unprofessional” interactions with Iranians forces in 2016, compared to 23 in 2015. Some analysts believe the incidents at sea are meant in part to squeeze moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s administration after the 2015 nuclear deal, like hard-liners’ arrests of dual nationals.

Of the incidents at sea last year, the worst involved Iranian forces capturing 10 U.S. sailors and holding them overnight. It became a propaganda coup for Iran’s hard-liners, as Iranian state television repeatedly aired footage of the Americans on their knees, their hands on their heads.

Iranian forces view the American presence in the Gulf as a provocation by itself. They in turn have accused the U.S. Navy of unprofessional behavior, especially in the Strait of Hormuz, the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil trade by sea passes.

Physical Agility Tests for West Virginia Natural Resources Police Officer Candidates

The Free Press WV

Physical Agility Tests (PAT) have been scheduled for anyone interested in applying for Natural Resources Police Officer (NRPO) positions available statewide.

All candidates for NRPO positions are required to pass a PAT. Applicants should report to the lobby of the South Charleston Community Center, at 601 Jefferson Street, either on Friday, August 25 at 9 a.m., or Saturday, August 26 at 9 a.m. Walk-ons will be accepted.

Applicants will also be required to take a written exam administered by the West Virginia Division of Personnel at the West Virginia State Police Academy after the PAT at approximately 1 p.m. on both days. Successful applicants will be invited to an interview September 06, 07 or0 8. Times and location will be announced at the PAT.

NRPOs in the WVDNR Law Enforcement Section are responsible for the prompt, orderly and effective enforcement of all laws and rules of the state and have full law enforcement authority statewide. They also protect West Virginia’s natural resources to the degree that they are not endangered by unlawful activities.

To be considered for this position, candidates must be willing to relocate and work in any county in the state; must be willing to work all shifts and be on call; and understand that this is a statewide position, and as such, county assignments may not be guaranteed.

Minimum qualifications include graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with preference given to majors in natural sciences, law enforcement, criminology or criminal justice. Candidates may substitute previous employment as a certified law enforcement officer under certain circumstances.

The PAT consists of three parts: a 37.5-yard swim; an agility test consisting of completing a minimum of 18 pushups in proper form in one minute and completing 28 sit-ups in proper form in one minute; and a 1.5-mile run in 14 minutes, 36 seconds or less. Failure to satisfactorily complete any part of the test is cause for disqualification and will eliminate candidates from further consideration. Candidates should bring long pants and a shirt for the fully clothed swimming test and a change of clothing for the running test.

Full details about the job description and an online job application form can be found at www.wvdnr.gov/lenforce/employment.shtm. For more information, contact the WVDNR Law Enforcement Section at 304.558.2784 or email .

Directions to South Charleston Community Center: From the east, take I-64 Exit 54, MacCorkle Avenue. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp and turn left again at the next traffic light onto Jefferson Road (Bob Evans Restaurant is on the corner). From the west, take I-64 Exit 54 and make two right turns onto Jefferson Road. The South Charleston Community Center is an eighth of a mile on the right.

Opinion: Tourism Commissioner Ruby says ‘Thank you, #AlmostHeaven West Virginia’

Chelsea Ruby
WV Tourism Commissioner
The Free Press WV

Thank you, West Virginia — and congratulations!

Last month, you pulled off one of the most successful social media campaigns by any state, ever. In a span of just two weeks you used #AlmostHeaven tens of thousands of times, and your posts reached more than 15 million people.

At its peak, #AlmostHeaven was one of the top 10 trending Twitter hashtags in the world. In just two weeks—336 hours—you left your mountaineer mark on the social world thanks to #AlmostHeaven.

The credit for this success goes to of each of you who used the hashtag and posted a picture, nominated a friend or shared a post. Social media reaches every corner of the connected world, so you showed the entire planet what you love about our state: spectacular sunsets, jaw-dropping mountaintop views, and outdoor adventure that never stops. And in the middle of it all was you—and the people you love—having the time of your life.

Our birthday celebration even included National Geographic. They came for the New River Gorge Bridge Walk, a heart-stopping trek over the bridge’s catwalk 876 feet in the air, and streamed it live for West Virginia’s birthday. It turned into their most-viewed Facebook Live. In just two days, the video received 375,000 views and was shared nearly 15,000 times. That number continues to climb as it’s shared by more and more people.

In thousands of comments, people from outside West Virginia gave their instant reactions to the campaign. They expressed awe at our beauty, surprise at seeing a side of West Virginia totally different from their expectations, and plans to visit destinations they’d never even heard of a month ago. When people from other states who have never considered coming to West Virginia are suddenly asking for information on activities and destinations across our great state, we know we’re onto something big.

Consider this statistic: Last year, 52 percent of Americans made travel plans based on something they saw on social media. From the vantage point of even 10 years ago, that number would be almost impossible to believe. But when you think about how we get our information in 2017, it makes perfect sense.

When it comes to promoting the state, social media is a powerful multiplier. It doesn’t replace other forms of advertising, but it does amplify them. Advertising thrives on repetition. When prospective visitors see a West Virginia ad on television or in a magazine and then see the same message reiterated on social media in posts from people they know, the repetition across multiple platforms drives home the point. Governor Justice fought hard to boost tourism funding in the last legislative session for just this reason. Imagine what we could do for tourism jobs with a major new investment in multi-platform marketing! If the Legislature agrees to increase our advertising budget the possibilities are endless for tourism in West Virginia.

All of this means we need you. Like never before, our success or failure in promoting the state’s image depends on your efforts. If half of Americans plan their vacations based on social media, all of us who love West Virginia have to get serious about singing its praises online. Tourism jobs depend on it.

West Virginia Day may be over, but that’s no reason to stop posting your West Virginia memories. Keep showing off those scenic views, big bucks, happy dogs, and laughing kids. Keep shining a light on the real West Virginia. And let’s make every day #AlmostHeaven.


07.25.2017
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Seriously? “Keep showing off those scenic views, big bucks, happy dogs, and laughing kids. Keep shining a light on the real West Virginia. And let’s make every day #AlmostHeaven.“

By Has she been to Gilmer County lately?  on  07.25.2017

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Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

WHAT KUSHNER TELLS SENATE INVESTIGATORS

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser appears before a Senate panel, saying that in four meetings with Russians, he never proposed any secret forms of communication and has “nothing to hide.“


MCCONNELL PLANS INITIAL VOTE ON HEALTH CARE BILL

But the Senate majority leader did not describe precisely what version of the GOP legislation senators would be voting on, which has caused some confusion and frustration.


‘I HEARD CRYING - PEOPLE CRYING AND ASKING FOR WATER’

Survivor Adan Lara Vega, a 27-year-old Mexican laborer, describes being inside a sweltering, pitch-dark tractor-trailer compartment during a botched smuggling attempt in which 10 immigrants died.


WHY PARENTS OF CHARLIE GARD SAY TIME HAS RUN OUT

Chris Gard and Connie Yates say their 11-month old’s rare genetic condition worsens and he will no longer benefit from medical treatment in the United States.


ISRAEL TO REMOVE METAL DETECTORS AT HOLY SITE

Muslims were incensed when Israel erected the metal detectors after Arab gunmen killed two policemen from inside the contested Jerusalem shrine.


HOW OUR AP TEAM IN THE NEW ARCTIC MANAGES SAFETY

Self-reliance is key on the MSV Nordica icebreaker ship - survival suits to wear if abandoning ship is required, and the crew is trained to fight fires themselves.


HOPE FOR HIV PATIENTS

A South African girl born with HIV has kept her infection suppressed for more than 8 years after stopping medications, and researchers think it’s due to early treatment as an infant.


FELLOW COPS FINISH SLAIN NY STATE TROOPER’S TREEHOUSE

The trooper had been building the treehouse for his daughter when he was shot and killed after responding to a domestic call.


FISHING CREW CATCHES 926-POUND SHARK OFF NEW JERSEY COAST

It’s the biggest shark catch in the state’s history, and the boat’s captain said it took more than two hours to pull it aboard.


WHEN MONEY CAN BUY HAPPINESS

Researchers in one study found that spending money to save time - for example, by paying someone to clean one’s house - made people happier than spending money on material goods.




The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV





The first “Pokémon GO” event turned out to be a disaster, and people are getting refunds and bonuses

The event took place in Chicago and hosted about 20,000 people in Grant Park, but a server outage made the game impossible to play.


China is forcing the citizens of Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority area, to install spyware on their phones

People who won’t cooperate risk up to 10 days in jail.


SoundCloud is stopping a group of people from downloading and storing its content

The team behind “The Archive Project” announced its intention to store all of SoundCloud’s files amid concerns that the company would shut down, but a request from SoundCloud itself put an end to the operation.


Amazon’s new Business division is off to a promising start

Burkland compared Amazon Business to the firm’s colossal Amazon Web Services arm, and said that Business is part of the company-wide commitment to create 5,000 new jobs in Britain.


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced that he’s partnered with Apple to co-star in an ad that features the Siri digital assistant

You can watch the entire clip, called “Dominate The Day,“ on Apple’s official YouTube channel.


Game of Thrones’ first episode has reportedly been illegally streamed over 90 million times across the globe

The figure trumps the 16 million figure HBO provided, which combines both television and the company’s own streaming service.


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has joined Instagram

His first post shows the Alabama factory that his Blue Origin space company will use to build the New Glenn rocket.


You can now buy a replica of Mark Zuckerberg’s signature t-shirt for $46

Vresh Clothing, the company behind the product, won’t offer the original $300 grey t-shirt Facebook’s CEO buys from designer Brunello Cucinelli, but will give its customers something “as close as possible to the original.“


People at Amazon have started moving into the firm’s new London headquarters

The move comes as a vote of confidence in spite of Brexit, and will see approximately 5,000 staff occupy the 600,000 sq. ft. building located between Shoreditch and the City of London.


The UK government wants to double down on drone security

A new bill proposal will ask owners of drones heavier than 250g to register their device and attend safety awareness courses.

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  West Virginia regulators seek comment on impaired waterways

West Virginia environmental regulators are accepting public comment on a draft list of the state’s impaired streams and lakes.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is required to update its list of impaired waters every two years. Such waterways failed to meet state water quality standards.

A draft list can be viewed on the agency’s website.

The agency is accepting public comments through August 21.


►  Lawsuit against county officials in West Virginia settled

A man alleging that several former West Virginia county officials forced his guilty plea to a drug charge has settled his lawsuit for $90,000.

Albert Childress Jr. filed a lawsuit including allegations against a former Mingo County judge. Childress’ attorney David Barney says the settlement was reached last week.

The state Risk and Insurance Management board hasn’t yet disclosed specific amounts each party paid.

Childress was jailed roughly eight months after sentencing by former judge Michael Thornsbury.

According to Childress’ lawsuit, corruption at the Mingo courthouse forced his March 2013 guilty plea because he was threatened with more serious charges and knew he’d be convicted despite being innocent.

Thornsbury is in a Florida federal prison after admitting to depriving another county man of his constitutional rights.


►  Coach accused of soliciting girl in West Virginia

A West Virginia high school football coach who led his team to three state championships faces felony charges in a solicitation case.

Media outlets report 34-year-old Bridgeport High coach Josh Nicewarner was arraigned Friday in Harrison County Magistrate Court on charges of soliciting a minor by computer and use of obscene matter with intent to seduce a minor.

Harrison County Sheriff’s Lt. Detective Rob Waybright says Nicewarner allegedly sent a lewd video to a teenage girl and asked her to send inappropriate photos of herself.

It wasn’t immediately known whether Nicewarner has an attorney to comment on the charges.

Nicewarner coached Bridgeport to Class AA football championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He’s been suspended from his position in addition to his job as a teacher at Liberty High School.


►  Comments in, vote next month on proposed changes to West Virginia school nutrition policy

Ahead of the start of the new school year in West Virginia, members of the state Board of Education will take up a proposed repeal and replacement of the Mountain State’s existing school nutrition policy during an August meeting.

Policy 4321.1 Standards for School Nutrition has not been fully updated since 2008.

As proposed, the policy aligns West Virginia’s state child nutrition standards with federal child nutrition standards and puts “additional health and nutrition safeguards in place for students in West Virginia public schools.”

“Our standards are not being lowered by the revision of this policy,” said Kristin Anderson, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Education.

“We’re just coming in line with what we’re already doing and what we’re already doing falls in line with the federal guidelines.”

Part of the proposed policy revisions prohibits counties from punishing students for unpaid or outstanding school meal debt with denial of meals, blocked access to extracurricular activities, graduation participation bans, refusal of transcript requests or other measures.

“They still go through the lunch line like every other student and they wouldn’t receive any other penalties outside of the lunchroom if their parents haven’t paid their outstanding meal debt,” Anderson explained.

“All communication addressing financial matters should be directed to parents/guardians,” the policy states. “Food and beverages shall not be offered as a reward and/or used as a means of punishment or disciplinary action for any student during the school day.”

The proposed policy revisions also address food brought into schools for classroom celebrations.

Baked goods from home are restricted, but commercially prepared and packaged items with identifiable nutrition labels or complete ingredient lists to address potential allergens are permitted, if in accordance with local wellness policies.

“Our counties really know what is best for their students, what works best for their students,” Anderson said.

In general, “It’s almost like this policy’s playing catch up with what we’re already doing in the classroom,” Anderson said of the proposal.

More than 180 comments, a larger number than usual, were submitted to the DOE prior to last week’s close of a public comment period on the policy revisions. Those comments are currently being reviewed, answered and organized for the state BOE.

The West Virginia Board of Education meets on August 09.

If approved, the policy change would be in effect for school years that begin as early as August 10 in parts of West Virginia.


►  Diseased snake discovered in Kanawha County

A juvenile Eastern milk snake in Kanawha County with crusty scales and abrasions on its head has tested positive for the causative agent of Snake Fungal Disease.

Snake Fungal Disease can cause injury and death in some snake species, but does not appear to be dangerous to humans. This is the first contemporary occurrence of Snake Fungal Disease in West Virginia.

“This is an alarming discovery,” said Kevin Oxenrider, a wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “Snake Fungal Disease is not well understood, but dramatic declines in snake populations, particularly rattlesnake populations further North in the United States, have been linked to this disease. The DNR will remain vigilant and continue to monitor snake populations throughout the state to better assess the threat this disease poses.”

Snakes are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem and help control populations of rodents, birds, invertebrates and even other snakes.

The DNR asks that anyone who captures snakes, either with a snake hook, snake tongs or by hand, to disinfect their equipment appropriately after use by using bleach or other materials found to be effective at killing the fungus. Effective decontamination will help prevent the spread of Snake Fungal Disease and protect West Virginia’s snakes.

Anyone who observes a snake displaying the clinical signs of Snake Fungal Disease should contact Kevin Oxenrider in the DNR Romney office by calling 304.822.3551 or sending an email to

“Affected snakes typically display swelling, crusty scabs or open wounds on the skin,” Oxenrider said. “Clinical signs are typically seen on the head of the snake, but can occur anywhere on the body.”

It’s (Loan) Shark Week: Families are Biting Back!

It’s Shark Week, but the most dangerous predators this year aren’t on TV or at the beaches – they are in Washington D.C., where they are menacing families with the help of their chums in Congress.

From payday loan sharks to Wall Street bottom-feeders, financial predators of all shapes and sizes are descending on our capital to take a bite out of financial protections.

The Free Press WV

Over the past six months, we’ve seen these sharks swarm in a feeding frenzy on our rights. GOP-backed Trumpcare wants to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, and take health care away from millions of Americans.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget slashes funds for public housing, food assistance and protecting the environment.

Newly appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is refusing to to forgive loans to students defrauded by for-profit colleges, while seeking to funnel millions of dollars into for-profit charter schools.

On issue after issue, the GOP, the president and his team prioritize corporate tax breaks and tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent.


Sharks Attack the CFPB

In their latest attack on everyday people, Trump’s corporate sharks have set their sights on our financial system’s lifeguard: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

After Wall Street speculation nearly sank our economy in 2008, Congress created the CFPB to stand up for consumers and give them a voice – and some equal footing – in dealing with banks and lenders.

The CFPB is a lifeguard for families making financial decisions. The CFPB is there when a shark gets us in their jaws through trickery or fraud – coming to the rescue and a chance for justice.

It was the CFPB that uncovered Wells Fargo’s massive effort to defraud consumers by opening fake accounts. Since it began, the CFPB has returned $11.8 billion to more than 29 million consumers defrauded by big banks and financial companies.

The CFPB rescues shark-attack victims; they issue rules that protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. Rules created by the bureau have prevented foreclosures, reduced racial discrimination in auto lending and stopped abusive debt collection practices.

The Free Press WV

Last year, the CFPB began working on a rule to rein in the worst abuses of the payday loan sharks, an industry that traps more than 12 million Americans in a cycle of debt and desperation every year and strips billions of dollars from local communities. People’s Action members submitted more than 100,000 comments in support of a strong rule to the CFPB.

Last week, the CFPB issued a rule that would stop banks and credit card companies from forcing consumers into arbitration, a process rigged in favor of the big banks. Just hours after the CFPB issued its arbitration rule to ensure that consumers who are wronged can go to court to get justice, top Senate Republicans announced an effort to kill the rule.


Whose CHOICE?

In May, Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced the CHOICE Act, a Wall Street dream-come-true. The CHOICE Act would eliminate the CFPB’s ability to examine banks, credit reporting agencies, debt collectors and lenders to ensure they are following the law.

CHOICE would stop the CFPB’s rule on payday lending before it’s even issued. It would repeal the requirement that investment advisers act in the best interest of their clients, and allow banks to charge more for debit cards.

The same sharks that caused a worldwide financial crisis are circling again. They are determined to dismantle as many regulations and protections as they can.

They think they can take the lifeguard off the beach and go back to soaking working families. Consumer advocates, faith leaders and everyday people are standing up and pushing back. We are demanding that our government stand up for families and our financial future.

We are putting the Wall Street sharks on notice: This Shark Week, we are biting back.

~~  Jessica Juarez Scruggs ~~

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • Democrats launch economic agenda ahead of 2018 campaign:    “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will unveil a broad economic agenda Monday, hoping to unite the disparate wings of their caucuses and win back working-class voters who fled the party last year. The party’s messaging strategy is the culmination of months of internal meetings and polling after a disappointing 2016 election that left Democrats reeling and many complaining they had no message to offer the public other than being against Donald Trump.”    Politico


  • Senate healthcare bill appears headed for failure:    “Senate Republicans plan to vote this week on revised healthcare reform legislation, but a number of serious problems mean that the chances of getting that bill passed are slim to none. The latest wallop of bad news for Republicans came Friday when the Senate parliamentarian announced that key provisions of the revised bill would not pass muster under the special budgetary rules that Republicans are using to pass the legislation with a simple majority instead of 60 votes.”    The Hill


  • Connecting McCain’s tragic diagnosis to Trumpcare ‘Is the Goddamn Point’:    “‘The personal hell that John McCain and his loved ones are walking through right now is the point of it all,” (Jon Pavlovitz) wrote Thursday in a blog post that started to go viral over the weekend… While acknowledging that McCain is one of the nation’s most recognizable political names and someone who holds a powerful position, Pavlovitz explains why his privilege and status exposes the inequality and shortcomings of a healthcare system that works for the haves, but not for the have nots.”  Common Dreams


  • Universal health care would save $17 trillion:  “Health care costs in the United States are estimated to grow at an average annual rate of 5.6 percent from 2016 to 2025… If we apply this growth rate over 10 years, and add up the costs, our current healthcare system will cost $49 trillion. $49 trillion (current system) — $32 trillion (single payer) = $17 trillion in savings. Over a 10-year period, universal health care or a single-payer system would save $17 trillion. Yes, you read that right … universal health care would cost $17 trillion less over 10 years. A universal health care system would save us $1.7 trillion a year.”    DailyKOS


  • Trump has no one but himself to blame for Mueller’s investigation.   And blaming Sessions “is a foolish bit of revisionist history.”    National Review

  • We are all “public interest lawyers” now.    Slate


07.25.2017
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Remember 30 years ago when mandatory auto insurance was going to save drivers big money?  Well, how did that carnival ‘barker’ deal work out for you?

Now we are told single-payer health insurance will save 17 trillion dollars.  Believe the government shills if you want. 

You forgot how Obamacare was going to save you 2500 dollars too?  didn’t you?

By SOME PEOPLE REMEMBER  on  07.25.2017

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