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Wolves’ Return To Oregon Brings Conflict And Opportunity

The Free Press WV

Wolves were once so plentiful in the abundant forests that would become Oregon that the earliest settlers gathered from far and wide to discuss how to kill them.

Those “wolf meetings” in the 1840s, spawned by a common interest, eventually led to the formation of the Oregon territory, the precursor for statehood in 1859.

Today, Oregon’s statehood is secure, but the future of its wolf population once more hangs in the balance. Wolves have returned after decades, and this time, humans are having a much more contentious discussion about what to do with them.

It’s a political debate playing out against the backdrop of a rapidly growing wolf population, a jump in wolf poaching and demands from ranchers and hunters who say the predators are decimating herds and spooking big game.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote in January on whether to adopt a new wolf management plan that could eventually open the door for a wolf hunt for the first time since bounty hunting wiped out wolves in the state 70 years ago. Idaho, which has a much larger population of the animals, allows wolf hunting.

Conservationists worry the plan will erode recent progress, particularly given a rash of unsolved poaching cases and an uptick in state-sanctioned wolf killings in response to wolf attacks on livestock. They are adamantly opposed to wolf hunting and say the population is a long way from supporting it.

The species lost its endangered status under Oregon law two years ago - when the population hit 81 wolves - and is no longer federally protected in the eastern third of the state. Wolves, which were wiped out in the continental U.S. in all but a slice of Minnesota, also are rebounding in other Western states, prompting similar debates about human co-existence.

Oregon wildlife officials have killed or authorized the killing of 14 wolves since 2009, including 10 in the past two years, and 12 more have been poached, including eight since 2015, according to state wildlife officials.

“When we had zero wolves 10 years ago, and now when we have 112 wolves, that’s certainly a success story - but we’re not done,” said Rob Klavins, a wolf specialist with Oregon Wild, a conservation organization. “Can you imagine if there were only 81 known elk in the state of Oregon, or if there were 81 salmon? We wouldn’t think of delisting them.”

Early explorers noted wolves were “exceedingly numerous” in what would become Oregon, and the so-called wolf meetings that led to the region’s first civic government established a bounty for wolves in 1843 that paid $3 per hide. The state later took over the bounty and offered $20 per wolf in 1913 - the equivalent of nearly $500 today.

The last bounty payment was recorded in 1947, and the wolf vanished from Oregon for decades.

In the mid-1990s, wolves were reintroduced to central Idaho, and in 1999, a lone wolf wandered into northeastern Oregon. It was trapped and returned to Idaho.

Two more were found dead in Oregon in 2000. But the first definitive proof wolves had returned to the state came in 2007, when a wolf was found shot to death. The following year, a wolf nicknamed Sophie by conservationists gave birth to the first litter of pups born in Oregon in decades.

Last year, state biologists counted 112 wolves in the northeastern and southwestern corners of the state - and they believe that is an undercount.

Wolf conflicts with ranchers have risen and, for the first time, an elk hunter this month reported killing a wolf in self-defense.

That wolf was previously unknown to biologists, and the case has become a flashpoint in the fight over wolves. A local prosecutor declined to press charges, prompting 18 conservation groups to petition Gov. Kate Brown to intervene without success.

Ranchers who run cattle and sheep in northeastern Oregon also believe there are more wolves than officially documented - and say they are paying the price.

Todd Nash, head of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, estimates he’s lost $50,000 in dead calves and in herds that are underweight from being too spooked to graze properly.

The state requires ranchers to prove wolves have killed two animals or killed one and attempted to kill three others before it will consider killing a wolf to protect livestock. The ranchers also must show they have tried other deterrents, such as special fencing and flashing lights.

The state killed four wolves this summer and authorized a rancher to kill one more, but Nash said it’s almost impossible to prove most cases because the wolves eat the carcasses or drag them away. Ranchers in his area are fed up because the bulk of Oregon’s wolves live in just a few remote counties where he says abundant cattle make easy prey.

Killing a few wolves “does nothing but infuriate the conservation folks, and it doesn’t serve to placate the ranchers because they know it’s not going to do any good,” Nash said.

Yet the fact that Oregonians are debating when and how to kill wolves at all is incredible given the predators didn’t exist here a decade ago, said Derek Broman, carnivore coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

As the point person on the upcoming wolf management plan, he hears from dozens of competing interests on what to do with wolves.

“It wasn’t all that long ago that people were worried about wolves blinking out and there just being a handful of them,” Broman said.

“Wolves are so contentious, and there’s a lot of baggage that comes with them - but there’s also a lot of interest, which is nice.”

Clue in Mail Bomb Sent to Obama: Cat Hair Under Label

The Free Press WV

A 46-year-old Texas woman faces a host of charges after she allegedly mailed explosives to then-President Barack Obama, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and former Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn Colvin. Julia Poff of Sealy had been repeatedly denied Social Security benefits and was also upset with the handling of a child support case dating back to when Abbott was Texas attorney general, an investigator testified at a Nov. 16 detention hearing, per KPRC. The packages mailed in October 2016 to Obama and Colvin were flagged by screening systems, but Abbott opened his. It contained black powder and pyrotechnic powder inside a cigarette pack, but “failed to explode because he did not open it as designed,“ court documents read, per NPR and the Houston Chronicle. The documents note an explosion could’ve caused “severe burns and death.“

  Among the evidence against Poff: cat hair. Authorities say hair beneath a label on the package sent to Obama was “microscopically consistent” with hair from Poff’s cat, report NPR and CNN. But it was an “obliterated” shipping label from an eBay order sent to Poff, found on Abbott’s package, that led authorities to Poff’s home, where they say they found latex gloves and fireworks among other evidence. The investigator testified that Poff worked at a fireworks stand for years. Another alleged clue: Abbott’s package contained a salad dressing bottle cap, and witnesses told authorities Poff bought that brand of dressing for her anniversary dinner. Poff is charged with mailing injurious articles, transportation of explosives with intent to kill, and more, and has been denied bail. A trial is set for January.

AAA Warns of Holiday Parking Lot Accidents

The Free Press WV

AAA reminds shoppers to keep a watchful eye out for vehicles and pedestrians this holiday season.

With Thanksgiving marking the official start of the holiday shopping season, the number of shoppers visiting stores will increase dramatically. Officials say vehicle and pedestrian accidents likewise will increase, and while authorities often warn drivers to be watchful while traveling, many collisions and injuries happen closer to home.

“It is easy to become distracted by the hustle and bustle of the season, but traffic safety should be at the top of everybody’s list,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs. “According to AAA data, in 2016, 29 percent of all vehicle collisions took place in parking lots.”

Podguski said shoppers can take steps to protect themselves and those around them.

  • Drive slowly inside parking lots and garages. Getting that great deal is not worth the risks of speeding around to find a space

  • Stay off your mobile device and always watch for pedestrians and other vehicles. Remember, they may not be paying attention to their surroundings.

  • Back out slowly from your parking space, especially if you’re near large vehicles. Pause once you can see beyond the vehicles parked next to you; this allows passing drivers to see you.

  • If you feel comfortable doing so, back into your parking space. This means you’ll be able to pull straight out of your spot with better visibility.

  • Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Parking further will help you avoid a possible collision, and you’ll likely face less pressure from impatient shoppers to find the “perfect” spot.

  • See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces- even in the daytime. The light will let other cars see you coming around turns and can make fitting into that tight parking space a little easier.

  • Don’t trap yourself. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard for you to back out of the space. If you can’t see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.

  • Keep an eye out for pedestrians and small children. Kids can be hard to see in busy parking lots and often make quick, unpredictable movements. When walking to and from the car, hold their hands to keep them safe in traffic.

  • Always wear your seatbelt. Even at a low speed, injuries can occur. Make sure all passengers are strapped in while the car is moving.

Podguski said while parking lot collisions may occur at slow speeds, even a crash wherein nobody is injured can put a damper on the holiday spirit and cost drivers thousands of dollars in repairs.

Sheriff: Man Left Children Surrounded By Trash, Animal Waste

The Free Press WV

Deputies in West Virginia say they have arrested a man who left two children younger than 10 years old surrounded by bags of trash, animal feces, bugs and moldy food.

Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley says deputies arrested 44-year-old Wayne Lee Kelly of Wriston on two counts of gross child neglect creating the risk of serious bodily injury or death.

Fridley says deputies found the children surrounded by unsanitary conditions at Kelly’s residence Monday at the request of Child Protective Services.

Kelly was transported to Southern Regional Jail on a $20,000 bond.

Fridley says exposing the young children to filthy conditions is unacceptable.

Loaded Gun Found In Man’s Luggage At West Virginia Airport

The Free Press WV

Federal authorities say they found a loaded gun in a man’s carry-on luggage on Thanksgiving day at the security checkpoint in a West Virginia airport.

According to a U.S. Transportation Security Administration news release, a TSA officer spotted the .380 caliber handgun loaded with three bullets early Thursday morning on a checkpoint X-ray monitor at Yeager Airport.

TSA says Yeager Airport Police responded and confiscated the gun. There was no impact to airport operations.

TSA says the man is from Huntington, West Virginia, but did not identify him further.

The agency says passengers who bring guns to the checkpoint are subject to possible criminal charges and civil penalties from TSA of up to $12,000.

West Virginia Congressman: Grant Awarded to Sheriff’s Office

The Free Press WV

The Cabell County Sheriff’s Department has been given a $125,000 federal grant for an additional sheriff’s deputy.

U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins announced the award from the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services.

Jenkins’ office said in a news release that he wrote a letter of support for the grant.

The release says the hiring program grants allow state and local law enforcement to respond to community needs and focus on preventing crime.

Jenkins said the grant will allow the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department to continue fighting the opioid and fentanyl problem.

U.S. Mail Truck Wrecks on Interstate 79

The Free Press WV

A truck hauling U.S. Mail wrecked on Interstate 79 Friday morning in Roane County.

The crash happened at just before 5 a.m. in the northbound lanes between the Amma and Wallback exits.

A piece of large equipment was dispatched to the scene to get the truck upright.

Traffic was moving again by 10:30 a.m.

There was no initial word on possible injuries.

Smooth Sailing So Far On $7.5M Makeover Of Pilgrim Ship

The Free Press WV

If you’re a fan of the Mayflower II, here’s something that will float your boat.

A year after craftsmen embarked on an ambitious effort to restore the rotting replica of the ship that carried the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620, the work “is going really great,” project manager Whit Perry says.

Britain built the vessel and sailed it to the U.S. as a gift of friendship in 1957. Usually it’s moored in Plymouth Harbor, where more than 25 million visitors have boarded it over the past six decades. But over the years, the elements, aquatic organisms and insects took their toll.

It’s now in dry dock at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, getting a $7.5 million makeover in time for 2020 festivities marking the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing.

The Associated Press caught up with Perry, director of maritime preservation and operations at Plimoth Plantation , for a progress report.

___

AP: You’re 12 months into a 2½-year project involving major structural repairs to America’s most beloved boat. Any unpleasant surprises?

Perry: Not really. I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress we’re making right now. We’ve had some major milestones since we began on Nov. 3, 2016. We have more than 100 new frames and floor timbers inside in the hold. Now we’re actually going to start the planking process on the outside of the ship, which is very exciting.

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AP: So nothing’s bugging you? This time last year, on top of water damage and dry rot, you had beetles chewing through the bottom of the boat.

Perry: Ah, yes, the wharf borer beetle. No, that’s been a minor issue. We did find evidence of (Teredo worms). This is a mollusk that can grow up to three feet long and eats through wood. On the bottom of the keel, there’s something called a “worm shoe” — a 4-inch-thick piece of wood that runs the whole length of the ship. It lets the worms have a field day but not get into the main structure of the boat. That’s where we found evidence of worms. The ship itself is OK.

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AP: The shipyard’s live webcam is pretty cool, but it’s hard to tell how many people are involved and what they’re doing. Can you tell us what we can’t see?

Perry: There are 20 people working on the Mayflower II at any one time. They’re working regular shifts, but we’re paying a little overtime so they don’t feel like they have to put down their tools if they’re in the middle of something. There are small teams working all over the ship. As we take things apart, we’re fixing anything with a question mark now, while we have the chance.

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AP: Sea water actually preserves a wooden ship like this one. What happens when it’s on dry land for so long? Is that bad for a boat?

Perry: It can be. We’re very proactive in spraying the boat with salt water and an antifungal agent. As we put the ship back together, we try to keep the humidity up with misters so it doesn’t dry out too much. We also have to leave a little play on the new planking beneath the waterline so it doesn’t buckle when the ship returns to the water and the wood starts to swell. It’s not an exact science.

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AP: In 2020, the eyes of the world will be on Plymouth. Sounds like you’re confident the ship will be ready?

Perry: It’s all going really great. We’re on budget and we’re on schedule. The ship will leave Mystic Seaport by late spring or early summer of 2019. And I’ve got to say, sailing the Mayflower II back to Plymouth is going to be quite a spectacle. Seeing the ship back under sail is going to be a beautiful sight.

Trump Credits Troops, and Himself, For Military Advances

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump thanked U.S. troops for their service assuring them “we’re really winning” against America’s foes as he celebrated Thanksgiving at his private club in Florida and provided lunch for Coast Guard men and women on duty for the holiday.

Using the occasion to pat himself on the back, Trump told deployed military members via a video conference that they’ve achieved more progress in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State group under his watch than had been made in years of the previous administration.

“Everybody’s talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it up,” he told the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose members are conducting operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan. “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces — we’re really winning.”

Speaking from a gilded room at his Mar-a-Lago club, Trump said: “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around, we’re fighting to win, and you people are really, you’ve turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody’s seen, and they are talking about it, so thank you very much.”

Turning to the 74th Expeditionary Fighters Squadron based at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Trump suggested the Obama administration hadn’t allowed soldiers on the ground to do their jobs.

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration,” he said. “And that’s because I’m letting you do your job.”

Throughout the day — at events and on Twitter — Trump boasted about the economy’s performance since he took office, pointing to recent stock market gains and the unemployment rate, along with his efforts to scale back regulations and boost military spending.

“So you’re fighting for something real, you’re fighting for something good,” he told the service members

Trump and his wife, Melania, also made a trip to a nearby Coast Guard station in Riviera Beach, Florida, where they delivered a lunch of turkey sandwiches, giant muffins, heaping baskets of fruit, chips and cookies to men and women on duty for the holidays.

During his remarks, Trump, singled out the service for its hurricane relief efforts during Harvey and the other storms that battered the country earlier this year.

“There’s no brand that went up more than the Coast Guard,” Trump told them “What a job you’ve done.”

Trump praised the superiority of U.S. military equipment, too, yet said he tries to make sure that equipment the U.S. sells abroad — even to allies — is not quite as good as that kept at home.

“I always say, make ours a little bit better,” Trump said. “Keep about 10 percent in the bag.” He added: “You never know about an ally. An ally can turn.”

Among the equipment admired by Trump is the F-35 stealth fighter jet, which he recalled asking “Air Force guys” about once.

“In a fight, you know a fight like I watch on the movies ... how good is it?” he recalled asking. “They said, ‘Well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it, even if it’s right next to it,’” Trump recounted, prompting laughs.

The F-35, plagued by development problems and cost overruns, is in fact not invisible to people nearby. Its stealth technology is designed to evade detection by radar and other sensors.

At the earlier video conference, Trump cleared the room of press after about 10 minutes so he could have “very confidential, personal conversations” with those on the line. Borrowing a line from his “Apprentice” days, he told the reporters “You’re fired,” then wished them a happy Thanksgiving, too.

On the Trumps’ own Thanksgiving menu for family and friends at Mar-a-Lago: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, red snapper, Florida stone crab, baked goods, local produce and cheeses, and a selection of cakes and pies for dessert.

U.S. Declares ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Against Rohingya In Myanmar

The Free Press WV

The United States declared the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to be “ethnic cleansing” on Wednesday, threatening penalties for military officials engaged in a brutal crackdown that has sent more than 620,000 refugees flooding over the border to Bangladesh.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Myanmar’s security forces and “local vigilantes” for what he called “intolerable suffering” by the Rohingya. Although the military has accused Rohingya insurgents of triggering the crisis, Tillerson said “no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued.”

“After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Tillerson said in a statement.

Although the designation carries no legal obligations for the U.S. to act, Tillerson said those who perpetrated the atrocities “must be held accountable.” He added that the U.S. wanted a full investigation and was considering “targeted sanctions” against those responsible — but not broader sanctions against the nation.

Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, seeking refuge from what Myanmar’s military has called “clearance operations.” The crisis started in August, when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces, leading to a brutal crackdown in which soldiers and Buddhist mobs have killed men, raped women and girls and burned homes and property to force the Rohingya to leave.

The declaration followed a lengthy review process by President Donald Trump’s administration to determine whether the violence met the threshold to be considered ethnic cleansing. The United Nations came to that conclusion in September, but the U.S. had held off, with Tillerson saying he needed more information even as he expressed deep concern about the crisis.

Last week, Tillerson traveled to Myanmar in the highest level visit by a U.S. official since Trump took office. U.S. officials dangled the possibility of an “ethnic cleansing” designation ahead of Tillerson’s trip, potentially giving him more leverage as he met with officials in Myanmar. In the capital of Naypitaw, Tillerson met with the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Myanmar’s powerful military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who is in charge of operations in Rakhine state, home to Myanmar’s Rohingya population.

The leader of a group that works to improve conditions for the Rohingya said Thursday he hopes the declaration will strengthen the call for accountability. Arakan Project director Chris Lewa said he thought Tillerson’s visit had been relatively appreciated and he hoped it would prove constructive.

I hope that it will have the impact that (Tillerson) used the correct word I think to describe what really is going on,” Lewa said. “And I hope that the military will listen more, but it’s always difficult to predict how the military will react and sometimes it’s like they are not listening to anything at all.”

Senior State Department officials said the determination was intended to ramp up pressure on the military and others in Myanmar to resolve the conflict and repatriate refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. Yet it was also likely to intensify calls for the Trump administration and Congress to move toward new sanctions. Earlier this month, a House committee passed a nonbinding resolution condemning “murderous ethnic cleansing and atrocities” and calling on Trump to impose sanctions on those responsible for abuses.

Yet sweeping sanctions targeting Myanmar’s economy or its military as a whole are off the table, officials said, adding that the Trump administration had determined they would not be productive either for ensuring accountability or for promoting broader U.S. goals in Myanmar. Instead, the U.S. is considering sanctions against individuals only, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.

Broad-based U.S. sanctions on Myanmar were eased under former President Barack Obama as the Southeast Asian nation inched toward democracy. U.S. officials have been concerned that slapping back sanctions or pushing Myanmar’s leaders too hard on the Rohingya violence could undermine the country’s civilian government, led for the last 18 months by Suu Kyi. That could slow or reverse the country’s delicate transition away from decades of harsh military rule and risks pushing Myanmar away from the U.S. and closer to China.

The State Department has also examined whether the violence in Rakhine meets the definitions for crimes against humanity or genocide, but have so far made no such determinations. Both designations carry significant legal consequences.

Ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, isn’t recognized as an independent crime under international law, according to the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention. The ethnic cleansing term surfaced in the context of the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia, when a U.N. commission defined it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.”

Human rights groups accuse the military of a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohinyga, who numbered roughly 1 million in Myanmar before the latest exodus. The Buddhist majority in Myanmar believes they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya families have lived for generations in Myanmar. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship.

Already, the United States has curtailed its ties to Myanmar’s military over the violence. Earlier this year, the U.S. restored restrictions on granting visas to members of Myanmar’s military, and the State Department has deemed units and officers involved in operations in Rakhine state ineligible for U.S. assistance.

General: Russia Likely To Scale Down In Syria

The Free Press WV

The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

The chief of the Russian General Staff says Russia is likely to scale down its military presence in Syria “significantly” before the year’s end.

Moscow embarked on an air campaign in Syria in October 2015 to prop up its longtime ally President Bashar Assad. Russia’s operation ultimately helped to turn the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies Thursday that the scale-down that Putin announced earlier this week will be “significant.”

Gerasimov said that two Russian bases and the Center for Reconciliation, which is responsible for monitoring truce in several areas in Syria, will stay as well as “a number of necessary structures to keep the situation where it is now.”

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4:30 p.m.

Syria opposition representatives meeting in the Saudi capital have called for direct and unconditional negotiations with the Syrian government that would lead to the launch of a transition period.

The opposition didn’t condition its participation in the U.N-based negotiations on the departure of President Bashar Assad from office.

However, in a final communique obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, they said a peaceful and unbiased transitional period will not be possible without Assad first leaving office.

It is the first time the opposition has called on the U.N. to arrange for direct talks with the government. It also signals a degree of flexibility on Assad’s role in the transition period.

Russia, the main backer of Assad, has been pushing for new political talks, saying “there is a real chance” to end the conflict. Moscow and opposition members it backs have demanded the launch of an “unconditional” process.

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4:05 p.m.

Russia’s chief military officer says the nation could reduce its military presence in Syria.

Thursday’s statement from Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the military’s General Staff, comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted counterparts from Turkey and Iran for talks on advancing peace process in Syria. Asked if the Russian force in Syria will be scaled down, Gerasimov said “it probably will,” according to Russian news agencies.

With the Syrian government controlling most of the country and Islamic State group fighters in disarray, Putin said during talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier this week that Russia’s military campaign in Syria is wrapping up — though he made no mention of the Russian presence in Syria, which Moscow is not likely to give up.

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1:25 p.m.

A top Turkish ruling party official says Ankara supports a political solution for Syria but retains its “red lines” on the subject of Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining president.

Mahir Unal, the spokesman of the Justice and Development Party, says Turkey made clear its reservations about Assad having any future role in Syria “after all these deaths” during a trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran that took place in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday.

Unal also said Turkey emphasized at the Sochi meeting that there must be negotiations between Assad and the opposition, which Ankara has supported from the start of the Syrian civil war.

Turkey also wants Syria to remain united and not break up, and opposes Syrian Kurdish fighters participating in negotiations on Syria’s future.

Thanksgiving 2017

The Free Press WV
On Thanksgiving Day we’re thankful for

Our blessings all year through,

For family we dearly love,

For good friends, old and new.


For sun to light and warm our days,

For stars that glow at night,

For trees of green and skies of blue,

And puffy clouds of white.


We’re grateful for our eyes that see

The beauty all around,

For arms to hug, and legs to walk,

And ears to hear each sound.


The list of all we’re grateful for

Would fill a great big book;

Our thankful hearts find new delights

Everywhere we look!
The Free Press WV

As we take a break from everyday life to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to contemplate the holiday’s meaning.

We’ve all heard the tale of the Thanksgiving celebrated in 1621 by early European settlers in the New World at Plymouth, in what’s now Massachusetts, but the date of our nation’s first Thanksgiving is subject to scholarly debate.

Leap ahead two centuries and we find one of our most-revered presidents had a hand in today’s holiday of thanks. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 that fixed the date in which all states would celebrate Thanksgiving, thereby bringing together various celebrations that had become a regular occurrence across the nation since the early 19th century.

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving much as we do, but in October. Our cousins in the United Kingdom celebrate the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving around the time of the autumnal equinox.

Germans celebrate the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival in early October – a celebration that’s more about religion than about feasting as it is here in the U.S. The Japanese celebrate Labor Thanksgiving Day – a national holiday established while American soldiers occupied Japan after World War II and designed to recognize workers, but which derives from an ancient Shinto harvest celebration. It happens around the time of our own holiday.

Today in the U.S., we often gather with family and friends; watch football; take part in pick-up games with our children and/or friends; and feast on turkey, or ham, with all the fixings, and indulge in pies of various kinds – or some combination of all of these things.

Thanksgiving in modern America has come to signify the calm before the retail storm that is Black Friday, our now-traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Even that’s cut short these days by the many stores that open sometime Thanksgiving afternoon or night to get a jump on the holiday shopping frenzy that helps to drive our nation’s economy.

Most of all, though, we should give thanks for the people in our lives, our families and friends; we should give thanks for what we have, be it our jobs, our homes or our possessions, modest though those possessions may be for many among us; and, if we are so inclined, we should give thanks to our God above – regardless of our religion – for this life that we have, and strive to make the most of that life to make this a better world for everyone.

We wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving.

New Poll: Most Want to Keep Politics Out of T-Day Table Talk

The Free Press WV

Thanksgiving is associated with bringing family together and a majority of Americans say they don’t want that spoiled by political talk over the dinner table.

Of people planning to celebrate the holiday Thursday, 58 percent told pollsters they dread talking about politics on Thanksgiving, with only 31 percent eager to engage on the topic.

Retired American studies professor Chris Lewis says even though the country seems very divided right now, Thanksgiving should remind us that we’re all part of a larger, national community.

“If you asked Americans what was the most important holiday for them throughout the year, the one that means the most to them is Thanksgiving,” he points out. “Why? Because Thanksgiving brings family and community together. Believe it or not, it still seems to hold and stand for national values.“

The survey by NPR, PBS and the Marist Poll group found that two-thirds of the Democrats polled and half of the Republicans said politics should not be dished up with the turkey on Thanksgiving.

The poll also found that 67 percent of survey respondents believe the tone and level of civility in Washington has gotten worse since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

Predictably, 79 percent of Democrats think so, but 60 percent of Republicans also agree.

Lewis contends America currently is lacking politicians who can unite the country.

“We don’t really have leaders with the stature of someone like Roosevelt or, of course, Lincoln to stand and call Americans together once again,“ he points out.

The survey found that Americans are much less pessimistic on the home front – with the majority saying the level of discourse in their local community is not worse since the 2016 election.

Lewis says that optimism is what Thanksgiving has traditionally been known for.

“It’s about sitting down and celebrating family and community and the year’s successes and failures and knowing that we are stronger as families and communities because we as Americans need that to keep going, to keep trying to make our society a better society,“ he states.

Both Republicans and Democrats agreed by a large margin that attacks by both political parties have crossed the line since the 2016 election and gone beyond acceptable boundaries.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

West Virginia Reports Increasing Lyme Disease Cases

The Free Press WV

Tick-borne Lyme disease has spread across West Virginia over the past six years with cases reported in 52 of the state’s 55 counties, according to state health officials.

Most cases are reported in the northern and eastern panhandles probably because of their proximity to the high-incidence states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Resources said.

In an advisory Monday to health care providers, Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta wrote that the increase could be from increased reporting or from more ticks infected with the bacteria. Most cases appear between May and September, but ticks have become more active in winter months, he said.

According to the department, 580 cases have been reported so far this year, up from 97 statewide in 2012.

“Based on the change, West Virginia is considered a high incidence Lyme disease state,“ Gupta wrote.

Patients treated early with antibiotics usually recover quickly. He recommended a two-step blood test to confirm evidence of antibodies against the Lyme disease bacteria.

Symptoms often include a circular rash around a tick bite and fever, headaches and fatigue, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

The CDC says there were more than 36,000 probable cases in the U.S. last year, with 26,203 confirmed.

Feds Threaten To Sue Harvard Over Asian-American Admissions

The Free Press WV

The U.S. Justice Department has threatened to sue Harvard University to obtain a trove of records as part of an investigation into the school’s admissions practices following a lawsuit from a group of Asian-American students.

A Nov. 17 letter from the department gives Harvard until Dec. 1 to turn over a variety of records that Justice officials requested in September, including applications for admission and evaluations of students.

The department said Harvard has pursued a “strategy of delay” and threatened to sue if it doesn’t meet the department’s deadline.

“We sincerely hope that Harvard will quickly correct its noncompliance and return to a collaborative approach,” the letter said, adding that “Harvard has not yet produced a single document.”

The inquiry is related to a federal lawsuit filed by a group of students in 2014 alleging Harvard limits the number of Asian Americans it admits each year. A similar complaint was made to the Justice Department.

A statement from Harvard on Tuesday said it will “certainly comply with its obligations” but also needs to protect confidential records related to students and applicants.

The university said it has been “seeking to engage the Department of Justice in the best means of doing so.”

Many elite schools defend admissions approaches that consider race among other factors as a way to bring a diverse mix of perspectives to campus. Harvard has previously said its practices are legally sound.

The Supreme Court last year upheld race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas but said the ruling didn’t necessarily apply to all other schools.

Edward Blum, the legal strategist behind the 2014 lawsuit against Harvard, applauded the investigation into what he called “discriminatory admissions policies.”

“Harvard’s Asian quotas, and the overall racial balancing that follows, have been ignored by our federal agencies for too long,” Blum said in a statement Tuesday. “This investigation is a welcome development.”

The school’s early correspondence with Justice officials suggested that the department only wanted to weigh in on the lawsuit, but later letters revealed Harvard is the target of an inquiry.

A Nov. 7 letter from a Harvard attorney said it was “highly unusual” for the department to open an investigation into a complaint more than two years after it was filed and while it’s still being decided in court.

The lawyer, Seth Waxman, demanded that investigators share their case files with Harvard, prove their authority for the inquiry and guarantee confidentiality of Harvard’s records.

In the Nov. 17 response, Justice officials said steps would be taken to shield Harvard’s records from the public, but refused to share their files.

“For obvious reasons, the Department of Justice generally does not share its civil investigative case files with the targets of its investigations,” the letter said.


11.22.2017 EducationNewsUnited States

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

I always thought a Harvard education was something special.  Well, I guess it is.  Just a week ago they had ‘sex week’.  One of the course offerings was analsex101.  That’s right.  Google it.  Plenty of coverage. True story.

By Harvard 'taint what it used to be?  on  11.23.2017

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