Betsy DeVos’s Back-To-School Message At Odds With What Parents Want

The Free Press WV

While the vast majority of American parents are addressing Back to School season by buying supplies, readying their children, and joining with other families in preparing for a hopefully successful new year, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is traveling cross-country in a bus to spread a very different message completely at odds with the hope, anticipation, and resolve parents and their communities feel about public education.

Just how far at odds DeVos’s views about public education are with the average American parent’s views became apparent in a new survey released during her bus tour.

DeVos, who says she fully supports “great public schools,” christened her bus tour with the theme “Rethinking Schools,” which somewhat assumes there’s something wrong with public schools to begin with. Her stated purpose for the tour is to promote “innovation” in our education system, which seems fine itself.

But in the first stop of the tour in Wyoming, DeVos’s strongest comments were aimed at the the negative message  she’s been spreading about public schools ever since she was nominated.

As education journalist Valerie Strauss reports on her at the Washington Post, DeVos’s remarks to an audience of  public school school children were anything but an upbeat message. Instead of raising their hopes for the year, she said “most students” are starting the new year at schools that are “a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons, and denies futures.”

She contrasted an idealized version of the pioneering spirit that settled the West to the “education system” she rejects – “There’s no such thing,” she said – despite the historic role of public schools in settling the West.

In Colorado, DeVos visited a private school known for specializing in educating children with autism. As a state based media outlet reports, DeVos’s tour chose the school because of its “role in the landmark Supreme Court case” that led to raising the standard schools must meet to educate students with disabilities.

“During her comments,” the reporter writes, “DeVos did criticize ‘artificial barriers schools create to meet the needs of students.’ She did not identify those barriers.”

A barrier DeVos could have identified is the fact that the federal government has never lived up to its legal obligation to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While Congress authorized the federal government to pay 40 percent of each state’s obligations to educate children with disabilities, current levels of federal spending are less than half that. And the budget President Trump and DeVos have proposed in no way addresses for this chronic shortfall.

Then in Nebraska, DeVos chose to visit more private schools – one supported by a local wealthy foundation, and the other a Catholic school – which seems to suggest her notion of rethinking schools is to reconceive them as private schools.

While DeVos’s bus tour paints a bleak and failing portrait of our nation’s public schools, a new survey reveals that parents’ attitudes toward public education are very different

As Education Week reports, the national poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, finds, “Most parents like their public school and want to support teachers, whom they trust more than anyone else to make choices for education.” The survey was conducted for the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers’ union.

Contrasting to DeVos’s message about public schools as being “a mundane malaise,” 73 percent of parents responding to the poll “said their public school was ‘excellent or good,’ 20 percent said it was ‘adequate,’ and just 7 percent said their public school was ‘not so good or poor.‘”

In contrast to DeVos’s promoting more expansions of private schools and charter schools, the poll found, “Over 70 percent of parents said they would prefer a good quality neighborhood public school for their children over the ability to have more choice of what schools they can send their children to.”

In contrast to DeVos’s proposals to keep our schools inadequately funded, “most parents” responding to the survey “disapprove of reducing spending on traditional public schools and using the funds to increase spending on charter schools.”

Given the results of the survey, there’s little surprise members of Congress are not exactly rallying around the DeVos agenda for public education. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill are generally rejecting most of her budget cuts and her plans to send more public funding to private schools. Yet, at the same time, Congress seems to have no plans to enact the stronger support for neighborhood public schools parents prefer.

What’s not at all clear is where we go now from this place where we have a presidential administration horribly out of step with the people, a population which seems fairly unified on its priorities, and a Congress in a “mundane malaise” about  the conflicted agenda.

~~  Jeff Bryant ~~

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Attorney General Morrisey Returns More Than $22K To Families, Schools Wronged By Charter Bus Company

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently mailed checks totaling $22,682 to groups and individuals, refunding their payments for canceled services from a charter bus company.

The checks follow the Attorney General securing an agreed upon order requiring Cav’s Coach Company, LLC and its owner, Christopher Todd Cavender, to refund money paid for canceled field trips at Kermit Area School and Crum Middle School, as well as a canceled family vacation.

“I am pleased to return hard-earned dollars to the groups and individuals who did not get what they paid for,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “In just a short time, our staff was able to secure more than $22,000 in refunds for those affected. This litigation emphasizes how seriously we take consumer protection and holding companies accountable for delivering promises made.”

The mailings return $10,382 to Kermit Area School, $7,500 to Crum Middle School and $4,800 split between two private citizens. Each amount fully satisfied balances not refunded by the company prior to the Attorney General’s lawsuit.

The July court order that led Cav’s Coach and its owner to refund the money also required the defendants to cease operations for the duration of the state’s litigation. Additionally, the order froze the company’s assets, provided access to corporate and personal bank records and required the company turn over all trip records dating back to January 2013.

The $22,682 does not include civil penalties, which will be argued as part of the ongoing case, or additional refunds owed to other consumers found to have lost money as part of the continuing investigation.
The lawsuit, filed on June 26, alleges Cav’s Coach Company defaulted on its agreement to fully refund the canceled field trips, both scheduled to celebrate eighth-grade graduations.
The field trips, involving students at Kermit Area School and Crum Middle School in southwestern West Virginia, were canceled for different reasons, but in both instances the lawsuit alleges Cav’s Coach refunded less than one-fifth of the money students and faculty had paid.

The company has a history of defaulting on its contractual obligations at least six times since it began operating in 2005, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to Cav’s Coach and its owner, the lawsuit lists affiliate AllAboard Tours and Charters LLC as a defendant. All are based in Cross Lanes in western Kanawha County.

►  Terminal Expansion in store for North Central West Virginia Airport

The North Central West Virginia Airport may soon see a $1.3 million terminal expansion.

Airport Director Rick Rock said the goal is to start construction at the beginning of summer 2018.

“It may be a little aggressive goal, but we want to make sure we do it right first and foremost, make sure that we have a good project, a good scope and contractors,” he said.

The last expansion that the airport’s terminal underwent increased passenger capacity from 24 to 177, but Rock said the terminal still gets cramped during busy travel times.

“With the multiple flights with 118 passenger jet in a week, we’ve outgrown the space we have. What we want to see is it built out on the opposite end of our terminal similar to the one we already have done,” Rock said.

“It will create additional area for passenger comfort,” he added. “In the case that there are delays or anything, we can easily accommodate two planes.”

The Benedum Airport Authority gave Rock the go-ahead to proceed during its Wednesday meeting. The project is still awaiting FAA approval.

“It’s something that will work very well as we move forward until we have a longer-term solution,” Rock said. “We’d really like to see, at some point, a new, modern terminal, but right now that’s probably a few years away, so we need to make sure we make the most out of the current space that we have.”

With SkyWest added to the airport’s offered airlines, Rock said that extra space will be even more needed.

“I certainly see added growth that’s going to just increase our needs for additional space, so the time was now to go ahead and make the move,” he said. “We have the time and funds available.”

The $1.3 million project will be funded by AIP, or airport improvement program funding, which is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Just over a month remains until SkyWest joins the North Central West Virginia Airport, and Rick Rock says all is running smoothly flights to begin November 1.

“That is, I think, a game changer for our state,” he said. “It’ll really go a long way toward improving the economic climate for business travelers who are bringing people back into West Virginia and just to make West Virginia to have all of the amenities other states and urban areas have.

“We have great support from the community, and this is just another positive that comes out of supporting your local airport.”

Tickets are on sale now, and Rock says the airport is already gearing up for a busy holiday season.    ~~  Brittany Murray ~~

National News

The Free Press WV

►  Chapel stirs up controversy in small Oklahoma college town

A small chapel nestled on a university campus in a rural central Oklahoma town is at the center of a firestorm over the use of religious symbols on public property after a Washington, D.C.-based group insisted that a cross be removed from atop its steeple.

At first, East Central University — a public university with 4,000 students in Ada, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City — complied with the request from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, removing Bibles and other Christian-themed items from the colonial-style chapel that was donated by a longtime regent in 1957. But before the cross could be taken down, the matter had drawn the attention of religious leaders as well as Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general, who is running for re-election next year.

Now the university is letting Attorney General Mike Hunter handle the matter while it waits to find out whether Americans United for Separation of Church and State will sue.

While some conservatives see the letter that Americans United sent this summer as an effort by out-of-state atheists to impose their values on the Bible Belt, the group says it took action after someone in the community raised concerns and that it’s just asking the university to follow the law.

“The display of a Latin cross on government property violates basic Establishment Clause rules,” the letter from Americans United states, referring to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits governmental entities from endorsing a religion. “Please remove or cover the religious displays and items.”

Many students, however, said the chapel should remain as is.

“We’re in the Bible Belt of America, and this is a Christian-background community,” said 20-year-old Caleb Watson, a sophomore from the nearby community of Tupelo. “You can go to another country and they’re going to express their religious values and expect you to assimilate.”

It’s not the first time religious artifacts at a public university in the U.S. have sparked controversy. The president of the College of William and Mary in Virginia put one of the nation’s oldest schools at the center of the church-state debate when he ordered a cross removed from its historic chapel in 2006 in an attempt to make the chapel more welcoming to students of all faith. After a public backlash, the cross was returned and placed in a glass case.

Still, Alex Luchenitser, an attorney for Americans United, said the case is unusual.

“We’ve received complaints involving public schools displaying religious items on school property, and we’ve written complaint letters, but often the religious items were removed without having to go to court,” said Luchenitser, adding that his group is still deciding whether to sue.

After a local pastor and founder of a Christian radio network jumped into the fray, the university heard from people across the country, said East Central spokesman Brian Johnson.

In a video posted live on social media, pastor Randall Christy of Union Valley Baptist Church, said, “They’re about to cut that cross off the top of that steeple. They’re about to bring a crane in and literally cut it off, and we’re not real happy about this.”

That’s when Hunter stepped in and accused Americans United for Separation of Church and State — which he called “an out-of-state interest group” — of trying to “bully the university and the state of Oklahoma.”

“We absolutely reject the demand to remove the cross or other religious material or icons in the church,” he said.

The university now refers questions about the chapel to Hunter, who has promised to defend the university in court if necessary.

But legal experts say religious monuments on government property clearly raise constitutional concerns that the government is endorsing a particular faith. Just last year, Oklahoma’s highest court ordered a granite monument of the Ten Commandments be removed from the Capitol.

“The constitutionality of the chapel with its cross and Christian iconography, ironically, depends on whether those symbols have retained their religious meaning, which would make them more suspect, or whether they now come across as more historical or artistic than holy,” said University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai. “Controversies such as this one over religious monuments and symbols on public property have spawned litigation across the country, with wins and losses on both sides, stirring up the very kind of religious divisions that the First Amendment was adopted in part to prevent.”

►  Obama campus assault guidance gets scrapped under Trump

The Trump administration is scrapping Obama-era guidance on investigating campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim instructions for universities. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said the Obama rules were unfairly skewed against the students accused of assault.

In a statement Friday, DeVos says, “Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on.” But she adds, “The process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.”

The temporary guidance will be in place while the Education Department gathers comments and comes up with new rules.

►  Pay hike, Tricare fees might take months to set

Military folks likely won’t learn until December what their January pay raise will be, or whether pharmacy co-pays through mail order and retail outlets will rise sharply, or whether working-age retirees will see Tricare fees jump next year.

Also, service members with children and married to other members likely won’t know for a few more months whether their combined Basic Allowance for Housing will drop significantly as soon as they’re reassigned.

And 69,000 surviving spouses impacted by the so-called SBP-DIC offset won’t know until December if the partial relief they enjoy from a monthly Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance will expire after May 2018 or become a permanent payment at $310 a month, plus annual adjustments to keep pace with inflation.

The fate of these key elements of compensation is uncertain because the Senate and the House treat them differently in separate versions of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (HR 2810) bill. The Senate passed its bill Monday. A House-Senate conference committee will set to work immediately to shape a final defense bill, but conferees can’t finish until lawmakers reach a budget deal to set topline funding levels for defense and all other federal departments.

That deal could shear billions of dollars from the final defense bill. Even deeper cuts could occur if no deal is reached and Congress allows automatic cost-cutting across government under the 2011 Budget Control Act with its mindless sequestration tool. In most recent years, lawmakers have worked around the sequestration threat with late-hour agreements. This year, defense bills assume topline increases sharply higher than BCA allows. The Senate-passed bill would exceed the BCA cap by $91 billion, making deep late-hour cuts much more likely.

As the October 1 start of a new fiscal year drew near, Congress and the White House agreed for a ninth straight year to have government operate under a continuing resolution. This one lasts until December 8, freezing spending at fiscal year 2017 levels and delaying new program starts for 10 weeks into fiscal year 2018.

Advocacy groups for military members, families and retirees had hoped Senate champions might offer amendments during floor debate to sideline the more worrisome personnel-related provisions in the Senate bill, such as plans to trim housing allowances for dual service couples or to raise Tricare fees on nondisabled retirees under age 65. But bill managers packaged only blocks of inconsequential amendments behind closed doors and approved them by unanimous consent. Not a single senator rose, for example, to criticize the plan to cap the next military pay raise at 2.1 percent or to fight higher co-pays planned for Tricare drug prescriptions filled by mail order or at retail outlets.

One powerful lobbying force, Military Officers Association of America, is particularly concerned that the Senate supports the administration’s call to raise Tricare fees and deductibles on under-age-65 retirees. It would do so by removing a “grandfather” clause enacted last year to require Tricare to apply a higher set of fees only to future force retirees – 
those who first enter service on or after January 1, 2018, and then serve long enough to retire.

Defense officials complained this went absurdly too far to shield current members and retirees from higher out-of-pocket medical costs. For almost the next 50 years, “until all the grandfathered beneficiaries reach Medicare eligibility,” officials told Congress, Tricare would have to administer two separate benefit packages. Also, the savings from raising fees on working-age retirees, which the services need to address other readiness needs, would be stunted, officials said.

The Senate defense authorization bill passed Monday would remove the grandfather protection so higher Tricare fees would begin to impact the under-65 population of retirees and dependents immediately. MOAA wants House-Senate conferees to resist this change in negotiating a final bill.

“We do not think raising Tricare fees through repeal of last year’s grandfathering, which is now law, is in any way fair to beneficiaries,” said retired Navy Capt. Kathy Beasley, MOAA’s government relations director for health affairs. “The House saw fit to maintain the existing grandfathered fee structure and to maintain focus on implementation of (other) current Tricare reform efforts.”

Beasley said a “further insult to beneficiaries” is the Senate-passed plan to adjust the higher Tricare fees using “an arbitrary medical inflation index.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that extending the higher fees to current under-65 retirees and spouses would save almost $4 billion over just the next five years. Providing only a 2.1 percent military pay raise in January, rather than the 2.4 percent hike in the House bill to match recent wage growth in the private sector, would save another $1.4 billion over the same period, CBO said.

The Senate also voted for a plan to raise pharmacy fees in ways to encourage greater use of generic drugs, on-base pharmacies and mail order. For example, co-pays for a 30-day supply of a brand drug at retail, or a 90-day supply by mail order would be set at $28 in 2018 and climb to $45 by 2026. Co-pays for generic drugs at retail would be set at $10 in 2018 and increase to $14 by 2026.

The Senate would go farther than Tricare proposed to encourage use of base pharmacies where drugs would stay free of charge. It would add a $10 co-pay for mail order generic in 2018 and let it rise to $14 by 2026. Generics by mail currently are free. The Senate said the generic co-pay on mail order would partially offset current shipping and administrative costs and would be consistent with cost shares charged for generics at Tricare retail outlets. Exempt from co-pays would be survivors of members who die on active duty and disabled retirees.

Projected savings from the pharmacy changes are $2.1 billion through 2022. Some of those savings, the Senate committee explained, would be used to make permanent the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance.

Congress first approved SSIA in 2008 to ease the impact of a dollar-for-dollar offset in Survivor Benefit Plan payments that occurs when surviving spouses also qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. DIC is payable when a member dies on active duty or from a medical condition in retirement that VA has rated 100-percent disabling.

The SBP-DIC offset is very unpopular but also costly to eliminate. Congress decided only to soften it affect by creating SSIA. It began at $50 a month and climbed to $310, but under current law, it would sunset after May 2018.

The House Armed Services Committee promised not to let SSIA expire but left it to senators to devise a solution. The Senate voted to make it permanent but also to adjust the payment annually, starting in 2019, to keep pace with inflation.

SSIA still could be at risk and the fight by military associations to derail moves to dampen compensation blunted, if sequestration or a last-hour budget deal slices billions of dollars off final defense authorization and appropriation bills.

►  Police use of ‘Stingray’ cellphone tracker requires search warrant, appeals court rules

A device which tricks cellphones into sending it their location information, and has been used quietly by police and federal agents for years, requires a search warrant before it’s turned on, an appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled Thursday.

It is the fourth such ruling by either a state appeals court or federal district court, and may end up deciding the issue unless the government takes the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, or convinces the city’s highest court to reverse the ruling.

The case against Prince Jones in 2013 involved D.C. police use of a “StingRay” cell-site simulator, which enables law enforcement to pinpoint the location of a cellphone more precisely than a phone company can when triangulating a signal between cell towers or using a phone’s GPS function. Civil liberties advocates say the StingRay, by providing a person’s location to police without court approval, is a violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment right not to be unreasonably searched. The D.C. Court of Appeals agreed in a 2 to 1 ruling, echoing similar rulings in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and federal district courts in New York City and San Francisco.

“This opinion,“ said Nathan Wessler of the American Civil Liberties Union, who helped argue the case with the D.C. Public Defender Service, “joins the growing chorus of courts holding that the Fourth Amendment protects against warrantless use of invasive, covert technology to track people’s phones. . . . We applaud today’s opinion for erecting sensible and strong protections against the government violating people’s privacy in the digital age.“

The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington declined to comment on the ruling. The prosecutors could ask for a rehearing by the three judge panel or the entire appeals court, and if those are denied take the case to the Supreme Court, though Wessler noted that the high court might not be inclined to take a case where there is no dispute among the lower court rulings.

The Justice Department issued policy guidance to its agencies in 2015 that a search warrant must be obtained for all StingRay uses, and though that is not binding on state and local police, the Metropolitan Police Department has said it would abide by that rule. The ACLU has counted 72 cell-site simulators in use in 24 states and the District, but believes there could be many more. Both D.C. and Baltimore police had signed an agreement with the FBI not to disclose or discuss their StingRay device publicly, court records show, and an FBI agent sat with prosecutors during Jones’s trial to advise them on how to handle questions about the device.

The ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals resulted in all the evidence in the case against Jones being thrown out, and a nine-count felony conviction for sexual abuse, kidnapping, armed robbery and threats being vacated.

Jones was arrested after he allegedly assaulted and robbed two women in separate incidents, after arranging to meet with them through for sexual liaisons. In both cases, the perpetrator took the victims’ cellphones.

After the second incident, D.C. police compared the call records of the victims and found that the same phone number had been used to arrange both meetings. The police then obtained the mobile identification number for the man’s phone, as well as the identification numbers for the victims’ phones, and with the help of the phone companies obtained a general location for the phones, which police said appeared to be traveling together.

Once in the vicinity of the phones, the police turned on the StingRay, court records show, and punched in the identification number (different from the phone number) of the assailant’s phone. The StingRay acts like a cell site antenna, and convinces cellphones to connect to it instead of a real cell site, providing the phone numbers and locations of the phones that connect. The phones are useless during this time because they aren’t connected to an actual network, only the StingRay.

Before long, the assailant’s prepaid cellphone was found on Jones, sitting in a parked car in northeast Washington, as were the phones stolen from the victims, police said. The appeals court ruled, and the defense agreed, that if the police had used the StingRay on one of the victims’ phones, instead of Jones’ phone, the search would have been legal because the victims consented to the search.

The judge in Jones’s trial declined to suppress the phone seizure, which in turn led to the knife apparently used in the robberies, the discovery of the victims’ phones and incriminating statements made by Jones and his girlfriend. But the ruling written by Associate Judge Corinne Beckwith, joined by Senior Judge Michael Farrell, threw out all of that evidence as “fruit of the poisonous tree,“ namely the StingRay.

“Locating and tracking a cell-site simulator,“ Beckwith wrote, “has the substantial potential to expose the owner’s intimate personal information,“ particularly their movements and whereabouts. “A cell-site simulator allows police officers who possess a person’s telephone number to discover that person’s precise location remotely and at will.“

For that reason, Beckwith said, “the use of a cell-site simulator to locate Mr. Jones’ phone invaded a reasonable expectation of privacy and was thus a search.“

Prosecutors argued that everyone knows that the location of a cellphone can be tracked, and at oral argument one noted that every fleeing criminal on television dramas throws away or destroys their phone. Beckwith disregarded that approach, saying that “a person does not lose a reasonable expectation of privacy merely because he or she is made aware of the government’s capacity to invade his or her privacy.“

Associate Judge Phyllis Thompson dissented, though she wrote that under ordinary circumstances, she agreed that the government’s use of a StingRay “likely violates the legitimate expectation of privacy.“ But Thompson said Jones forfeited that privacy when he drove around with the victims’ stolen cellphones. Beckwith responded that Jones had not been charged or convicted of stealing the phones at the time of the search.

The StingRay issue is separate from another cellphone issue pending before the Supreme Court - whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant before obtaining a cellphone’s historical location data from a phone company. Phone companies record which cell towers are used when a call is made, which police often use to demonstrate a person’s whereabouts at the time of a crime. Those records can be obtained with a court order, and a lower standard of proof, rather than a warrant. The ACLU’s Wessler said that Thursday’s ruling was a “recognition that constitutional protections must keep pace with advancing technology, and is an important reminder of what is at stake as the Supreme Court takes up the issue of police requests for historical cellphone location data.“

►  Marine Corps plans to have a female infantry officer among its ranks

The Marine Corps plans to assign a woman as an infantry officer, a historic first, following her anticipated graduation from the service’s grueling Infantry Officer Course, service officials said Thursday.

The lieutenant and her male colleagues completed a three-week combat exercise Wednesday that includes live fire at the service’s training center at Twentynine Palms, California, on Wednesday, the service said in a statement Thursday after The Washington Post first reported the news. That exercise marked the final graded requirement in the 13-week course, which is widely seen as some of the toughest training in the military. About 25 percent all students typically wash out.

The woman is the first of three dozen women who attempted the course to complete it. She is expected to lead a platoon of about 40 infantry Marines in a service that is often seen as the most resistant to full gender integration in the military. It has grappled this year with a scandal in which more than a 1,000 current Marines and veterans were investigated for sharing photographs of nude female colleagues online.

The class will mark its graduation Monday with a “warrior breakfast” 35 miles south of Washington, in Quantico, Virginia, said three officials with knowledge of the course. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the graduation has not yet occurred. All that remains between now and then is returning equipment used during training, and a few administrative days, they said.

The historic moment arrives nearly two years after then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the military’s last remaining restrictions for women, part of an effort by the Obama administration to make the armed forces fully inclusive. Officials shared few details about the lieutenant Thursday, and two said it is unlikely that she will agree to do any media interviews, preferring to be a “quiet professional” and just do her job.

The Marines first opened the Infantry Officer Course to women on an experimental basis in 2012, allowing them to attempt it as a part of broader research across the Defense Department examining how to integrate all-male units. Thirty-two women tried the course before the research ended in spring 2015, and none completed it.

Four additional female Marines have attempted the course since the Pentagon opened all jobs to women in December 2015, including the lieutenant expected to graduate Monday. At least one of those four women attempted the course twice, but did not complete it.

The course requires both proficiency as a military officer in the field and the stamina to carry loads of up to 152 pounds for long periods of time. The school begins with a day-long combat endurance test that includes grueling hikes through Quantico’s rolling, wooded hills, an obstacle course and assessments of skills like weapons assembly and land navigation. About 10 percent of students historically fail the first day.

The lieutenant will join a part of the military that has long been seen as being critical of serving alongside women.

Three out of four active-duty infantrymen said they were opposed to full gender integration in a 2012 survey of 54,000 Marines obtained last year through the Freedom of Information Act. Ninety percent of male Marines said in that survey that they were concerned about intimate relationships between Marines in the same combat unit becoming a problem, and more than 80 percent said they were concerned about false sexual allegations, fraternization and women receiving preferential treatment.

Marine officials have argued those sentiments have waned in the last few years, but it’s unclear how much.

Kyleanne Hunter, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Advisory Committee for Women in the Services and former Marine helicopter pilot, said that the new infantry officer will deal with two major issues once she is assigned to her battalion. One will be winning over Marines under her command, Hunter said, and the second will be coping with outside attention and critics who want to see her fail.

“I think people are rightfully excited,“ she said. “She did something that is really hard, and it’s hard physically and it’s hard mentally. But at the same time, too much attention can take away from her operational requirements. Her first challenge is going to be to remain anonymous, for lack of a better term, and just do her job.“

►  1980 GOP debate moderator who tried to silence Reagan dies

The former New Hampshire newspaper editor who prompted a testy “I am paying for this microphone” retort from Ronald Reagan in a 1980 presidential primary debate has died.

Jon Breen was executive editor of The Telegraph of Nashua when he moderated the televised debate February 23, 1980.

The Hyder Family Hospice House says Breen died at the Dover residence September 14. He was 81.

Reagan campaign money financed the debate but the newspaper set the ground rules and invited only the front-runners, Reagan and George H.W. Bush. At the start, Reagan insisted all the GOP candidates should participate.

Breen disagreed and finally asked that Reagan’s microphone be turned off.

Reagan fired back: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green,” flubbing Breen’s name.

Reagan went on to win two terms.

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Theresa May: UK seeks 2-year transition period after Brexit

Britain is prepared to abide by European Union rules and pay into the bloc’s coffers for two years after leaving the EU in March 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday in a conciliatory speech intended to revive foundering Brexit talks.

May traveled to Florence, Italy — birthplace of the Renaissance — in hopes of rebooting negotiations with the EU that have stalled over issues including the price the U.K. must pay to leave and the rights of EU citizens in Britain.

With 18 months to go before Britain leaves the EU, Brexit negotiations have made little progress, and the bloc’s senior officials have accused Britain of offering mixed signals and vague proposals. May’s speech was intended to kick-start the process before talks resume next week. But while it was strong on praise for the EU and shred European values, the few concrete details in the speech are far from addressing Brussels’ concerns.

May tried to offer an olive branch to the bloc without incensing members of her own Cabinet — several of whom are pushing for a clean break from the bloc.

And although the speech was directly aimed at the 27 other EU nations, none of their leaders was in the audience to listen to it.

Standing in front of a backdrop reading “Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Future,” May said Britain and the EU share “a profound sense of responsibility” to ensure that their parting goes “smoothly and sensibly.”

She urged the EU to be “creative” and forge a new economic relationship not based on any current trade model. She rejected both a free-trade deal like the one Canada has struck with the bloc and Norway-style membership in the EU’s single market, saying neither option would be best for Britain or the bloc.

“Instead, let us be creative as well as practical in designing an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people,” May said.

May proposed a transition period of “around two years” after Britain leaves the EU for the two sides to work out the kinks in the final Brexit deal.

“People and businesses - both in the U.K. and in the EU - would benefit from a period to adjust to the new arrangements in a smooth and orderly way,” she said.

May also signaled that the U.K. will pay a Brexit bill for leaving the bloc, saying Britain “will honor commitments we have made.”

The speech came before a new round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels next week.

Britain triggered a two-year countdown to leaving from the EU in March, but negotiations have yielded little progress on key issues such as the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial commitments to the bloc.

EU officials say talks can’t move on to future relations with Britain until key divorce terms — the Irish border, the financial settlement and the rights of EU and British citizens hit by Brexit — have been agreed upon.

Britain, however, wants to begin discussing future links, including trade and security cooperation. British negotiators hope EU leaders will decide at an October meeting that “sufficient progress” has been made on the divorce terms to move talks on to future relations and trade.

So far, the signs are that British hopes are in vain.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Thursday that “there is still today major uncertainty on each of the key issues of the first phase.”

“To make progress, we are waiting for clear commitments from the U.K. on these precise issues,” Barnier told Italian parliamentarians in Rome. He said he would “listen attentively and constructively to Theresa May’s important speech.”

May wanted her speech to break the logjam, but she is hamstrung by deep divisions within her Conservative government. It is split between supports of a clean-break “hard Brexit,” including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and those such as Treasury chief Philip Hammond who want to soften the economic impact of Brexit through a long transition period.

On the Brexit bill, May said other EU members need not worry “that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave.”

The current EU budget runs until 2020.

She did not cite a figure, and said “some of the claims made on this issue are exaggerated and unhelpful.” Reports of the amount the EU is seeking have gone as high as 100 million euros ($120 million).

►  North Korean leader Kim called Trump a what? A ‘dotard’

Famous for using bombastic, derogatory and often-awkward English slams against enemies, North Korean state media sent people scrambling for dictionaries Friday with a dispatch that quotes leader Kim Jong Un calling Donald Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

The what?

Dotard means a person in a feeble or childish state due to old age. It’s a translation of a Korean word, “neukdari,” which is a derogatory reference to an old person.

It was used in an unusual direct statement from Kim that the Korean Central News Agency transmitted verbatim in response to Trump’s speech at the U.N. this week, in which he mocked Kim as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission,” and said that if the U.S. is “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Past KCNA reports have used the Korean word against South Korean conservatives, but they rarely translate it as dotard.

Sometimes, it is translated into the neutral “old people” or omitted, depending on the context or the importance of the statement. KCNA last used the word in February to describe supporters of ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye, whom it also called “neukdari” and a “prostitute.” Before that, KCNA called Park’s conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, “the traitor like a dotard.”

So why did KCNA use the word again?

It may have simply resorted to a Korean-English dictionary. Putting “neukdari” into a popular online Korean-English dictionary in South Korea returns two English equivalents: an “aged (old) person” and a “dotard.”

There has been a widening linguistic divide between the rival Koreas, but “neukdari” has the same meaning in North Korea as in the South, according to a South Korean organization involved in a now-stalled project to produce a joint dictionary.

The Korean version of Friday’s dispatch places “michigwangi,” which means a mad or crazy person, before “neukdari,” so a more accurate translation might have been a “crazy old man” or an “old lunatic.”

In the past, KCNA has occasionally not published English versions of crude insults directed at U.S. leaders or officials in an apparent effort to differentiate its statements for domestic audiences and outsiders.

KCNA called President Barack Obama a “monkey” in 2014, but attributed the remarks to a factory worker and did not issue an English version. Later the same year, an unidentified North Korean defense commission spokesman called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a wolf with a “hideous lantern jaw,” but again only in Korean.

After Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” in August, General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the North’s strategic rocket forces, was quoted in a KCNA Korean dispatch as saying Trump showed his “senility” again. But the KCNA English dispatch omitted that word.

►  Spain to send extra police to try to halt Catalan referendum

Spain will deploy police reinforcements to Catalonia to help maintain order if an independence referendum pledged by Catalan officials but opposed by the national government goes ahead, officials said Friday.

The measure came amid rising tension between Spanish and Catalan authorities over the planned October 01 ballot.

Civil Guard police this week arrested around a dozen regional government officials and seized about 10 million ballot papers. Street protests against those measures grew ugly, with demonstrators vandalizing two police cars, and a prosecutor asked Friday for Spain’s National Court to consider investigating demonstrators for sedition.

Authorities in the wealthy northeastern region insist the vote will take place, even though Spain’s Constitutional Court has ordered it to be suspended and the Madrid-based national government insists it is illegal.

An Interior Ministry statement said the extra agents would provide backing for the Catalan regional police, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

The statement said the Catalan Interior Ministry had been informed. It did not say how many extra police would be sent. Three ferries docked at Barcelona’s port will provide accommodation for the extra officers.

Also Friday, a Catalan regional judge ordered the release with restrictions of six people arrested Wednesday in the crackdown on referendum preparations. A statement said the six declined to testify.

They remain under investigation for disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement in relation to the planned ballot and must appear before the court each week.

A large and noisy demonstration lasting more than 24 hours in Barcelona against the raids and arrests dispersed Friday afternoon after the officials were released.

Some 2,000 students were still staging a separate pro-referendum demonstration at one of Barcelona’s main universities, however. They occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university officials. Student union representatives urged the protesters to remain over the weekend.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s 1.1-trillion-euro ($1.32 trillion) economy and enjoys wide self-government. The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters. Polls consistently show the region’s inhabitants favor holding a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.

►  Stalin’s bust unveiled in Moscow as part of Rulers’ Alley

A Russian government-sponsored association has unveiled a series of busts of the nation’s Soviet-era leaders, including Josef Stalin, in a move that has drawn criticism from those who see it as part of efforts to whitewash his crimes.

The Russian Military-Historic Society, an organization founded by President Vladimir Putin and led by his culture minister, unveiled the sculptures Friday to expand its “alley of rulers” at a Moscow park, which until now had featured busts of Russian monarchs. It described the new display as part of efforts to preserve Russian history.

The Kremlin has distanced itself from the move with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying he was unaware of it and referring all questions to the organizers.

Polls show a rising number of Russians admire Stalin as a strong leader.

National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration to be held at Stonewall Resort State Park

Outdoor enthusiasts are invited to Stonewall Resort State Park in Lewis County for West Virginia’s Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day, September 23-24.

The event is the state’s largest outdoor hunting and fishing show, with more than 50 vendors exhibiting hunting, fishing and conservation-related merchandise and information.

Staff from the Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources, Law Enforcement and State Parks sections will be available throughout the weekend to assist visitors in learning skills and to answer any questions.

The Free Press WV

Byron Ferguson, longbow exhibition shooter, will perform hourling shows at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. both days.

Returning this year is Neal James of Animal Planet’s “Call of the Wildman” show. He will be on-site to meet visitors and play his banjo. Additionally, James will be visiting local schools, retailers and th Veterans Affairs Hospital in Clarksburg before performing at the National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration.

The Outdoor Youth Challenge will take place both Saturday and Sunday.

Youth ages 6-18 may participate and will be eligible to win prizes, such as a lifetime hunting and fishing license and other hunting- and fishing-related items.

Youth who compete in the five scored events also can win a scholarship to Conservation Camp.

Seminars on wild game cooking, snakes, coyote calling and hunting, waterfowl hunting with dogs and recording your own hunts will be presented each day.

The event is open Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is $6 for adults and free for children 15 and younger.

Complete schedules are available at under the “Special Opportunities” heading. The event is cosponsored by the WVDNR and the West Virginia Wildlife Federation.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Found in West Virginia Deer

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has found deer in eight counties that have died from a hemorrhagic disease that causes extensive bleeding.

This year, deer in Boone, Brooke, Hancock, Lincoln, Marshall, Ohio, Tucker and Wayne counties have died from a disease caused by the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (EHDV). The disease has also been confirmed in deer herds in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia this year. Hemorrhagic diseases can also be caused by the Blue Tongue Virus, but no BTV-infected deer have been detected in West Virginia.

This disease is not contagious to humans and EHDV is not related to chronic wasting disease, which has only been detected in Hampshire and Hardy counties.

“The disease disappears with the first frost because the spread of the virus is dependent on small midges called culicoides, which are killed by cold temperatures,” said Gary Foster, DNR’s assistant chief in charge of game management.

Samples from West Virginia were sent to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine, where the virus was isolated and identified. Although this disease usually does not have a major impact on the deer population, DNR is surveying the extent of the outbreak. EHDV may cause local reductions in the deer population by usually 20 percent or less.

Outbreaks of this disease do not affect West Virginia deer every year. The last large outbreaks occurred in 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2012. EHDV does not persist in deer that survive infection. Although hunters should never consume meat from an obviously sick animal, deer affected by EHDV are usually safe to eat. Landowners and hunters are urged to report sick or dead deer to their nearest DNR district office.

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Area Contractor Are Held Accountable With Threat of Jail Time

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Friday his office recently secured a court order holding an area contractor in contempt with the threat of jail time should the contractor continue his failure to comply with an agreement to stop home improvement contracting and pay more than $24,500 in fines and restitution.

The contempt order requires Roger Province to cease contracting with consumers for home improvement services and make payments to the Attorney General’s Office. Failure to abide by those terms will result in a six-month jail sentence.

“Contractors must adhere to the rule of law and respect orders of the court,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This case underscores our commitment toward holding bad actors accountable.”

The Attorney General’s Office sought the contempt order in a petition filed this summer against Province. The defendant did business under his own name and a host of others – Roger’s Home Improvement, Roger Province Home Improvement, Rogerson Home, Handy Man Service, Roger’s House Doctor, Roger Province Contracting, Roger’s Construction, Seal Right Waterproofing, Forever Dry, Forever Dry Waterproofing, We Do It All and Freedom Handyman Service.

The petition stems from three settlements dating back to October 2005, in addition to new allegations in Charleston and Dunbar that Province provided substandard contracting, failed to refund monies and engaged in home improvement work in violation of his agreement to cease such activities.

The contempt order, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, requires Province pay $2,900 restitution toward the new complaints, along with $16,747.99 in restitution and a $5,000 civil penalty associated with the earlier agreement.

Read a copy of the order HERE  and this summer’s petition HERE .

►  French Creek Elementary Receives Grant Thanks to Alumna

Approximately 150 second through fifth grade students at French Creek Elementary will benefit from a grant written by recent West Virginia Wesleyan College alumna Molly Broadwater ’15, MEd ’17.  The Dollar General Literacy Fund Grant Program awarded the small Upshur elementary school $2,000 to provide low level, high interest fictional texts for classrooms.

Broadwater, from Clarksburg, WV, wrote the grant as part of Tammy Samples’ Literacy Leadership course during the 2016-2017 school year.  Each year, Samples, associate professor of education, encourages her students in this course to complete grants for each practicum placement.  Broadwater worked with Christy Suder, Title I teacher and reading specialist at French Creek Elementary, for her project entitled “Choose Your Own Adventure.”

“I knew I wanted to try for the Dollar General Literacy Grant because there had been other students awarded in previous years, and I thought that I had a good chance to get the grant because of the demographics of the school,” stated Broadwater.  “Our needs seemed to fit with the grant description very well.”

Broadwater chose to write the grant in such a way that would benefit students who were behind on their reading levels by providing books of interest for second through fifth graders but are written on a lower reading level.

“Students who are behind in reading can be at any grade level,” mentioned Samples.  “If there is a fifth grader that reads at second grade level, they cannot read the books in their classroom.  The books provided by the grant are high interest for fifth graders but with low readability text that matches their literacy level.”

Broadwater agreed.

“I thought this grant was important because one way to increase reading level is to get students reading more,” she said.  “The students at the school, particularly the students in the upper grades, need books that they can read on their level that are also fun.  If the books are more appealing to the students, they will be more likely to pick them up and start reading.”

This partnership between Wesleyan and the public school system has been ongoing, thanks to Samples.  Other schools outside of Upshur County have also benefited in the past.

“My students are placed in various counties, and we have had Harrison County and Randolph County students benefit,” Samples stated.

Broadwater received her bachelor of arts in secondary education and English literature in 2015 and her master of education in reading specialist in 2017.  She is currently employed as a seventh grade reading and language arts teacher at Robert L. Bland Middle School in Weston, WV.

►  New members start on PEIA board just in time for heavy lifting of benefits plans

A newly-composed Public Employees Insurance Agency finance board heard fairly positive news during its first meeting.

Year-end financial numbers look reasonably strong, based in part on solid investment performance.

Based on preliminary results for the past fiscal year that were presented Thursday: Investments outperformed projections by $59 million, and expenses finished lower than projections by $40 million,

This results in PEIA finishing better than its plan by $20 million and the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund finishing better than plan by $60 million.

“We had a great year in the stock market so that always helps the plan,” PEIA director Ted Cheatham said after Thursday afternoon’s monthly meeting.

“The other thing is, operationally we performed better than planned, which is always a good thing.”

But the board may have difficult decisions just around the bend, as PEIA prepares for a series of public meetings focusing on insurance plans for the coming year.

Hearing about PEIA’s status for the first time Thursday was a newly-restructured board.

A new law reduced the board’s membership from 10 in the past to 8 now. The legislation passed this year eliminated the requirement that one member of the board represent organized labor. It also bars registered lobbyists from serving.

That meant Elaine Harris, who lobbies for the Communication Workers of America, and Josh Sword, president of the state AFL-CIO, lost their seats.

Another board member, Troy Giatras, had his term expire June 30. And there were two other prior vacancies.

So when the board gathered today, many members were getting an introduction. New appointments included:

Jared Robertson of Greenbrier County, representing education employees; Raymond Whiting of St. Albans, representing public employees; Jason Myers, city administrator for Parsons, representing political subdivisions; Geoff Christian of Charleston, an executive at Commercial Insurance, as an at-large member; Amanda Meadows of Scott Depot as an at-large member and Lee, Diznoff, a certified public accountant from Charleston.

Two board members had been reappointed: Bill Milam, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees, representing retired employees on the board, and Michael Smith of Milton, an at-large member.

With all the changes, PEIA had canceled its August board meeting and annual board retreat.

The retreat was happening throughout the day this Thursday in Charleston to help new board members get up to speed.

“They seemed all right but we are having a retreat today,” Cheatham said. “And so we are trying to get them up to speed on the financials. They’re not there yet.”

The board’s main responsibility is to approve PEIA health insurance benefits plans for public employees and retirees.

Up next for the board is to start a review of options for the coming year.

Cheatham announced tentative dates for public hearings: November 6 in Morgantown, November 14 in Beckley and November 15 in Charleston. There will also be a couple of virtual meetings online where the public may stream information sessions.

“Public meetings in the month of November, and we’ll have a projected plan hopefully for the board at the next board meeting in October. That’s when we’ll present what we’ll take to public hearing,” Cheatham said.

The next finance board meeting is set for 1 p.m. October 19.

Last year the board approved more than $50 million in plan benefit cuts. That followed the Legislature’s approval of a $43.5 million increase in employers’ PEIA premiums.

►  Manchin opposes latest ACA replacement proposal; Capito reviewing measure

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin opposes a new effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, while U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito is still reviewing the measure to assess its effects on West Virginia.

The latest measure gaining steam is Graham-Cassidy, proposed by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Among concerns are the effects to the population covered by Medicaid expansion. According to The Washington Post, the measure would redistribute money to states through block grants, and would generally result in less money for states that expanded Medicaid and more money for states that didn’t.
Manchin said after reviewing the repeal bill, he could not support it. Among his concerns are that millions of people, including West Virginians, could lose their health insurance.

“This bill will directly hurt all of these people and I cannot support it,” Manchin said in a released statement. “Graham-Cassidy is not the solution we need and it is a bad deal for West Virginians. It will leave West Virginia with significantly fewer resources to provide health coverage for both our most vulnerable citizens and our middle class families.

“Under the new formula, our state will get penalized for expanding Medicaid and will have to pay more just to keep the coverage we have today. West Virginia’s economy is just starting to rebound, but our state is still facing large budget shortfalls and cannot afford to pay another $500 million bill.”

Manchin added, “After multiple attempts to rip health care away from millions of people, I think we’ve proven that health care reform needs to be done on a bipartisan basis and I still believe that Republicans should take repeal off of the table and sit down with us to address the challenges our health care system is facing.”

Ashley Berrang, spokeswoman for U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito said Capito is reviewing the proposal.

“Senator Capito is evaluating the Graham-Cassidy proposal to determine its impact on West Virginians,” she said in an emailed statement.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is reviewing the measure and how it could affect West Virginians, his Communications Director Butch Antolini said.
“One-third of West Virginians benefit from Medicaid,” Antolini said. “What’s taking place and movement being made on it, we are keeping close eye on it because we don’t want to put West Virginians in jeopardy. It’s vitally important to our people. The governor is keeping a close eye on that and he will have a comment in the not too distant future. We want to see exactly what’s taking place out there and I know he is consulting with our DHHR people and we want to get a real idea on what this legislation can do and how many people it can affect.”

A number of other governors have publicly stated opinions on the bill, including Ohio Governor John Kasich who spoke out against the measure.

Tuesday, a group of governors sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, asking them not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts.

“We ask you to support bipartisan efforts to bring stability and affordability to our insurance markets,” the letter said. “Legislation should receive consideration under regular order, including hearings in health committees and input from the appropriate health-related parties. Improvements to our health insurance markets should control costs, stabilize the market, and positively impact coverage and care of Americans including many who are dealing with mental illness, chronic health problems, and drug addiction.”

The letter was signed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Kasich, Alaska Governor Bill Walker, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker, Virginia Governor Terence McAuliffe, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Vermont Governor Phil Scott.  ~~  ANDREA LANNOM ~~

2017: Area High School Football Scoreboard: Week 5

The Gilmer Free Press

Area High School Football Scoreboard
2017: Week  Games
Calhoun County (0-5) 0 #15 Braxton County (3-1) 37
Tyler Consolidated (2-3) 63 Roane County (0-5) 16
Liberty Raleigh (0-4) 14 Ritchie County (2-3) 0
Clay County (4-1) 38 Doddridge County (3-2) 61
Moorefield (0-5) 3 #16 Ravenswood (2-2) 14
#2 South Harrison (4-0) 48 Williamstown (2-3) 52
Notre Dame (1-4) 26 #7 Cameron (3-1) 12
#4 Webster County (4-0) 48 Shenandoah, OH 28
#4 Liberty Harrison (4-0) 24 Richwood (2-3) 28
#14 Grafton (3-2) 21 #12 Pocahontas County (3-2) 13
#8 Bridgeport (4-1) 34 Paden City (1-3) 54
Robert C. Byrd (2-3) 20 Hundred (0-5) 6
Tucker County (A) (2-3) 6 Buckhannon-Upshur (2-2) 25  (2OT)
Philip Barbour (3-2) 35 Greenbrier East (1-4) 23
Marietta, OH 10 John Marshall (3-2) 40
Parkersburg (2-2) 45 Parkersburg South (1-4) 14
Lewis County (AA)  (1-4) 35    
 Preston (1-4) 14    
BYE WEEK:  Gilmer County, Lincoln, Meadow Bridge, Nicholas County, Parkersburg Catholic, St. Marys, Valley (Wetzel), Wirt County

National News

The Free Press WV

►  Tiffany Trump attends a law school lecture by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Hey, isn’t that . . . first-year law school student and first daughter Tiffany Trump, caught on C-SPAN cameras during a lecture to students by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday afternoon?

The jurist/pop culture icon was a guest speaker at Georgetown Law, and among the aspiring legal eagles in attendance was a woman who was instantly recognizable as the younger first daughter, who began classes last month. Trump, wearing a headband, looked attentive – at least more so than the guy to her left, who was maybe taking a snooze (something Ginsburg knows a bit about).

Kind of an interesting moment, because there’s zero love lost between Donald Trump and RBG. Ginsburg took the unusual step of publicly labeling Trump a “faker” in July, prompting a signature POTUS tweet: “Her mind is shot – resign!“

►  A 4-year-old was looking for candy, instead, she found a gun

When the 4-year-old slipped her hand into her grandmother’s purse, she was searching for something sweet, her father told the Tampa Bay Times.

Shane Zoller told the newspaper that his daughter, Yanelly, was looking for candy while visiting her grandparents last week in North Tampa, Florida. Instead, she found a handgun, then accidentally shot and killed herself, Zoller said.

“I was driving to pick her up with her bathing suit in my car to take her to the splash pads,“ Zoller told the Times. “When I pulled up, that’s when I saw all the police lights.“

Authorities confirmed that the child, called “Nelly,“ found a firearm at the home in Tampa on September 14 and shot herself.

Her grandparents, Michael and Christie Zoller, were both home at the time, authorities said. A Tampa police spokesman told The Washington Post on Thursday that it appears the shooting was accidental, but authorities are still investigating.

“She just wanted some damn candy,“ Shane Zoller told the Times on Wednesday, the day before his daughter’s funeral.

The Hillsborough County medical examiner’s office said Yanelly died of a gunshot wound to the chest, which perforated her lungs, aorta and esophagus. The manner of death was listed as an accident.

As The Post’s John Woodrow Cox reported last week, an average of 23 children were shot each day in 2015, according to a review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet every 63 minutes.

That year, an estimated 8,400 children were struck, and 1,458 of them died - more than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll amounted to more than the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan over the past 10 years.

According to Florida law, “a person who stores or leaves, on a premise under his or her control, a loaded firearm . . . and who knows or reasonably should know that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the lawful permission of the minor’s parent or the person having charge of the minor, or without the supervision required by law, shall keep the firearm in a securely locked box or container or in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or shall secure it with a trigger lock.“

One exception, the law states: “When the person is carrying the firearm on his or her body or within such close proximity thereto that he or she can retrieve and use it as easily and quickly as if he or she carried it on his or her body.“

Failing to secure a firearm “in the required manner” is a misdemeanor, if a minor gains access to it without permission.

Yanelly’s obituary said she enjoyed watching the cartoon “Shimmer and Shine” and bouncing on the couch, the Tampa Bay Times reported. She also loved spending time with her grandparents, her father said.

“She was extremely close to them and would get so excited when she got to stay at her nana’s house,“ Zoller told the Times. “She was attached to her nana’s hip.“

A Facebook page matching the grandmother’s name was filled with photos of the child, whom she called her “pop tart.“ A day after the shooting death, Christie Zoller wrote: “God please answer me why did you take her.“ Then: “Good night sweet Angel nana loves you more than words could ever say.“

By Thursday afternoon, the same day Nelly Zoller was to be buried at Sunset Memory Gardens in Thonotosassa, Florida, a GoFundMe page had raised more than $1,700 for her funeral costs, and a YouCaring campaign had raised about $400.

“So many broken hearts who are waiting to be told this is all one big nightmare,“ read a message on the YouCaring page. “The shock and disbelief is real. The death of a child turns the world upside down and leaves unanswered questions of why? The only answer that half way makes sense is Heaven needed another angel. Her star shines bright. Our beautiful angel was taken by a freak accident, one that is difficult to discuss.“

The message end with: “Please love your children . . . please let them know you love them and never go to bed without giving them their little kisses and there hugs because you never know when it’ll be the last time you’ll say good night.“

►  Puerto Rico faces weeks without electricity after Maria

The eye of Hurricane Maria was nearing the Turks and Caicos early Friday as Puerto Rico sought to recover from the storm’s devastation.

Two days after Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, flooding towns, crushing homes and killing at least two people, millions on the island faced the dispiriting prospect of weeks and perhaps months without electricity. The storm knocked out the entire grid across the U.S. territory of 3.4 million, leaving many without power.

The loss of power left residents hunting for gas canisters for cooking, collecting rainwater or steeling themselves mentally for the hardships to come in the tropical heat. Some contemplated leaving the island.

“You cannot live here without power,” said Hector Llanos, a 78-year-old retired New York police officer who planned to leave Saturday for the U.S. mainland to live there temporarily.

Like many Puerto Ricans, Llanos does not have a generator or gas stove. “The only thing I have is a flashlight,” he said, shaking his head. “This is never going to return to normal.”

Maria’s death toll across the Caribbean, meanwhile, climbed to at least 27. There were at least 15 deaths on Dominica and six on Puerto Rico. Other islands reporting deaths were Haiti, three; Guadeloupe, two; and Dominican Republic, one.

As of Friday morning, Maria was passing northeast of the Turks and Caicos with winds of 125 mph (205 kph). A hurricane warning remained in effect for those islands as well as the southeastern Bahamas. The storm is expected to veer into the open Atlantic and pose no threat to the U.S. mainland.

In Puerto Rico, the grid was in sorry shape long before Maria — and Hurricane Irma two weeks ago — struck.

The territory’s $73 billion debt crisis has left agencies like the state power company broke. It abandoned most basic maintenance in recent years, leaving the island subject to regular blackouts.

“We knew this was going to happen given the vulnerable infrastructure,” Governor Ricardo Rossello said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would open an air bridge from the mainland on Friday, with three to four military planes flying to the island every day carrying water, food, generators and temporary shelters.

“There’s a humanitarian emergency here in Puerto Rico,” Rossello said. “This is an event without precedent.”

He said his administration was trying to open ports soon to receive shipments of food, water, generators, cots and other supplies.

The government has hired 56 small contractors to clear trees and put up new power lines and poles and will be sending tanker trucks to supply neighborhoods as they run out of water. The entire island has been declared a federal disaster zone.

Mike Hyland, senior vice president of engineering services for the American Public Power Association, a utility industry group that is sending repair crews into the Caribbean, refused to speculate on how long it would take to restore power in Puerto Rico.

“Let’s see what the facts tell us by the end of the weekend,” he said. But he acknowledged: “This is going to be a tall lift.”

Maribel Montilla already had two large barrels filled with water but worried about how long it would last for her, her daughter, her son-in-law and six grandchildren.

“You know what I think? We’re going to be without power for six months now,” she said.

Cellphone and internet service collapsed in much of Puerto Rico. The only radio station that remained on the air during the hurricane — WAPA 680 AM — was relaying messages to help connect friends and families.

Other concerns were more prosaic. Across the street, someone yelled at a neighbor, “Listen, do you have Netflix?!”

Jaime Rullan, a sports commentator, has a gas stove at home but tried not to think about the lack of air conditioning on an island where the heat index has surpassed 100 degrees (37 Celsius) in recent days.

“We’re used to the lights going out because of storms here in Puerto Rico, but this time, we’re worried,” he said. “We should prepare ourselves mentally to be at least a month without power.”

Deysi Rodriguez, a 46-year-old caretaker for elderly people, does not have a gas stove. And unlike others who have been lining up at the few fast-food restaurants that have reopened, Rodriguez is a diabetic and has to be more careful about what she eats.

Rodriguez said she might temporarily move to New Jersey if the situation gets worse.

Pedro Cartagena, a 57-year-old dock supervisor, said he planned to shower, eat and sleep at his company’s office. He plans to buy food at the few restaurants that are open and operating on generators.

“That’s going to drain my bank account,” he said, “but if I want to eat, that’s my only option.”

In an upscale neighborhood in San Juan, 69-year-old retiree Annie Mattei’s condominium has a generator. But she said maintenance will shut it off between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to save fuel.

“This has been devastating,” she said as her eyes welled with tears.

In the Dominican Republic, Maria knocked down trees and power lines. But Joel Santos, president of the country’s hotel association, said the hurricane did not damage the tourism infrastructure, even though it passed close to Punta Cana, the major resort area on the eastern tip of the island.

In hard-hit Dominica, where Maria laid waste to hundreds of homes and was blamed for at least 15 deaths, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wept as he spoke to a reporter on the nearby island of Antigua.

“It is a miracle there were not hundreds of deaths,” he said. He added: “Dominica is going to need all the help the world has to offer.”

►  Public shaming likely but GOP wary of new laws after Equifax

Prospects are good for a public shaming in the Equifax data breach, but it’s unlikely Congress will institute sweeping new regulations after hackers accessed the personal information of an estimated 143 million Americans.

Since early this year, Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress have strived to curb government’s influence on businesses, arguing that regulations stifle economic growth. Lawmakers have repealed more than a dozen Obama-era rules and the House voted in June to roll back much of Dodd-Frank, the landmark banking law created after the 2008 economic crisis that was designed to prevent future meltdowns.

Several bills unveiled after Equifax are so far missing a key ingredient for success: Republican co-sponsors.

And most important, there is history. Despite numerous high-profile security breaches over the past decade at companies such as Target, Yahoo, Neiman Marcus and Home Depot, legislation that would toughen standards for storing customer data has failed to gain the necessary traction.

Jessica Rich, a vice president at Consumer Reports, said she has questioned over the years what event it would take for lawmakers to impose tougher data security regulations.

“I’m hoping this is the final wake-up call for Congress,” Rich said.

Consumer advocacy groups seek legislation that would enhance the standards for companies that store consumer data and require prompt notification to affected Americans when breaches do occur. They also seek tough civil penalties for those who break the law. But, so far, Congress has opted to let states handle the issue.

Business groups are also worried that federal regulation will stifle innovation.

“When it comes to security, attempts to regulate today will become outdated tomorrow,” said a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Senate and House Republicans say they are in fact-gathering mode before moving on any legislation. Separate hearings are scheduled the first week in October, with Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard Smith slated to testify — and likely to get a public thrashing from lawmakers.

Representative Greg Walden, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he’s not ruling out new regulations as a result of the data breach at the credit agency, “but first we’ve got to get the facts.”

Democrats will be watching closely.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., described the Equifax breach as a test, asking on the Senate floor will “we act quickly to protect American consumers, or are we going to cave in to firms like Equifax who have spent millions of dollars lobbying to Congress for weaker rules?”

Democrats have introduced several bills. One would require credit reporting companies to place a freeze on a consumer’s credit report without charge if that company is hacked. Currently, all 50 states have laws allowing consumers to place a security freeze on their credit report, but the freeze often comes with a fee.

Chi Chi Wu, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said such freezes are the single most important step consumers can take to prevent new accounts from being opened in their name.

Democrats are also using the Equifax breach to reprise more longstanding concerns about the work of credit reporting companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee and 30 Democratic co-sponsors are backing legislation that would protect prospective employees from being forced to disclose their credit history as part of a job application process.

Wu said credit checks are used as warning flags about potential employees.

“A lot of people have impaired credit, black marks on their credit report because something bad happened to them,” Wu said. “It was not because they were bad or irresponsible people. They were unlucky.”

Meanwhile, Representative Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is taking another crack at legislation designed to help consumers correct entries in their credit report.

Under her bill, creditors who send negative information to a reporting agency must also give a heads-up to the consumer. Credit reporting companies would also have to dedicate sufficient resources to handling consumers’ appeals. The appeals staff would have to meet minimum training and certification requirements.

Waters’ bill would also reduce the time that most adverse credit information may remain on reports. The time period would drop from seven to four years.

The bill reflects frequent consumer angst about the information on their credit report. Last year, Americans submitted about 54,000 complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about credit reporting issues. Three-quarters of those complaints alleged incorrect information in credit reports.

Even if the Equifax breach fails to bring about the passage of new legislation, it has scuttled one bill in the works. On the day of Equifax’s announcement, a House subcommittee examined legislation that would have decreased the potential consequences when consumer reporting agencies falsely malign someone. Such mistakes can haunt consumers for years.

The bill would have eliminated punitive damages for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., said the legislation was aimed at curbing frivolous lawsuits and would not have granted any immunity to Equifax for the data breach. “Nevertheless, given the unfounded attacks on me and the rampant misinformation circulating about this legislation, the Financial Services Committee has not scheduled further action on any bill at this time.”

Wu, who testified against Loudermilk’s bill, said she believes that legislation providing for the free credit freeze probably has the best chance of passage.

“I’m skeptical this particular Congress will be up for wholesale reform,” Wu said.

►  FACT CHECK: Kimmel’s take on health care harder to refute

Who’s right — Donald Trump and Senator Bill Cassidy, or late-night host Jimmy Kimmel?

None of them have really captured the complexity of the debate over who might lose insurance protections in the latest Republican health care bill. But of the three, the TV guy is the hardest to refute.

Trump insists in a tweet that the bill covers pre-existing conditions, a point also made by Cassidy, a sponsor of the legislation. But there’s a catch. It allows states to get a waiver from “Obamacare” requirements that insurers charge the same to people with health problems as they do to healthy people.

The potential result: unaffordable premiums for people in poor health.

Here’s a look at Trump’s assertion, the facts and the Kimmel-Cassidy feud:

TRUMP: “I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace.”

THE FACTS: Such coverage may be included but it’s far from assured.

The health care law enacted by President Barack Obama in 2010 offers two levels of protection for people with pre-existing conditions. The GOP bill would allow states to undermine one of them. That loophole could lead to policies priced out of reach.

To start with, “Obamacare” requires insurers to take all customers, regardless of health problems. On top of that, it prohibits insurers from charging more on account of medical conditions.

Under the GOP bill moving toward a Senate vote next week, insurers would still be required to accept people with pre-existing conditions. But here’s where the catch comes in:

States could seek waivers that allow insurers to charge people more on account of health problems. That would allow insurers to offer lower-premium plans to healthier customers.

And states could also get waivers that allow insurers to tailor benefits so that people with costly conditions are discouraged from signing up. For example: plans that don’t cover treatment for substance abuse problems.

“If I was a person with a pre-existing condition, I would say I don’t have any guarantee of getting health insurance if the bill passes,” said Gary Claxton of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on the private health insurance system.

“Insurers can charge people with pre-existing conditions much higher rates, making it essentially a denial,” added Claxton.

Dr. Michael Munger of Kansas City, Kansas, estimates that 4 in 10 of the patients in his family medicine practice have some sort of condition that could result in higher premiums.

“Individuals that I care for have had a previous cancer diagnosis, underlying diabetes complications, previous heart attacks and heart surgeries,” he said. “I am very worried about affordable coverage. We have had a lot of gains and this is certainly something I don’t want us to go backward on.”

Munger is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which is among the major doctors’ groups opposing the GOP legislation.

Supporters of the bill, named for its chief sponsors Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Louisiana’s Cassidy, point out that the legislative text says states seeking federal waivers must explain how they will “maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

But Claxton says there’s nothing in the text to define what “adequate and affordable” means and, as he reads it, it’s unclear if the federal government would even have authority to deny a state waiver application. The bill also reduces federal money, adding to the pressures on states.

The health insurance industry is on record saying the bill would create problems by “pulling back on protections for pre-existing conditions,” according to a letter to lawmakers from the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Cassidy is in a public battle with TV host Kimmel about whether the bill meets the “Jimmy Kimmel test.” That’s a phrase coined by the senator this year after Kimmel gave a heartfelt account of how his infant son got surgery to correct a birth defect, and declared that all American families should have access to high-level care.

Kimmel says the senator should stop using his name. “This new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, but a different Jimmy Kimmel test,” said Kimmel. “Your child with a pre-existing condition will get the care he needs if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel.”

Cassidy says Kimmel doesn’t understand the legislation.

Kimmel’s critique goes to the core of the issue. But it’s more nuanced than either he or Cassidy acknowledges, says insurance industry consultant and blogger Robert Laszewski. He points out that governors and legislatures would have to take action to weaken insurance protections guaranteed in federal law under Obama. Those state lawmakers would face pushback from consumers and medical groups, so it’s not a given that such protections would be lost.

Nonetheless, Laszewski says Republicans have created a problem for their legislation.

“I think they made a huge mistake by leaving a crack open,” said Laszewski. “And Jimmy Kimmel and the Democrats are going to try to drive a truck through it.”

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Kim fires off insults at Trump and hints at weapons test

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lobbed a string of insults at Donald Trump on Friday, calling him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and hinting at a frightening new weapon test.

It was the first time for a North Korean leader to issue such a direct statement against a U.S. president, dramatically escalating the war of words between the former wartime foes and raising the international nuclear standoff to a new level.

Trump responded by tweeting that Kim is “obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”

In a lengthy statement carried by state media, Kim said Trump would “pay dearly” for his recent threat to destroy North Korea. He also called Trump “deranged” and “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire.”

Kim said his country will consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history,” a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon, but didn’t elaborate.

His foreign minister, asked on a visit to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly what the countermeasure would be, said his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

“I think it could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Ri Yong Ho said, according to South Korean TV. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

Kim’s statement was unusual because it was written in the first person. North Korean state TV later showed a solemn-looking Kim, dressed in a gray Mao-style suit, reading the statement. South Korea’s government said it was the first direct address to the world by any North Korean leader.

Some analysts saw a clear sign that North Korea will ramp up its already brisk pace of weapons testing, which has included missiles meant to target U.S. forces throughout Asia and on the U.S. mainland.

An H-bomb test in the Pacific, if realized, would be considered a major provocation by Washington and its allies. North Korea has conducted six nuclear test explosions since 2006, all at its northeastern underground test site.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera noted a Pacific test could mean a nuclear-armed missile flying over Japan. He said North Korea might conduct an H-bomb test with a medium-range or intercontinental ballistic missile, given its recent advances in missile and nuclear weapons development.

“We cannot deny the possibility it may fly over our country,” he said.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear strategy expert at MIT, said such a test could pose a danger to shipping and aircraft, even if North Korea declares a keep-out zone.

“And if the test doesn’t go according to plan, you could have population at risk, too,” he said. “We are talking about putting a live nuclear warhead on a missile that has been tested only a handful of times. It is truly terrifying if something goes wrong.”

North Korea was slapped with new, stiffer sanctions by the United Nations after its sixth and most power nuclear test on September 3. In recent months, it has also launched a pair of still-developmental ICBMs it said were capable of striking the continental United States and two intermediate-range missiles that soared over Japanese territory.

North Korea says it needs to have a nuclear deterrent because the United States intends to invade it. Analysts say the North is likely to soon achieve its objective of possessing nuclear missiles capable of reaching any part of the U.S. homeland.

Kim’s statement was in response to Trump’s combative speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday in which he mocked Kim as “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission” and said that if “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Kim said Trump’s remarks “have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.” He also said he would “tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”

Hours before Kim’s statement, Trump announced stiffer new sanctions on North Korea as he met his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in New York.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said as he joined South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for lunch.

Trump’s executive order expanded the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system.

Trump also praised China for what he called an instruction to its banks to cut off business with North Korea. But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Trump’s announcement was “not consistent with the facts,” though he gave no indication what steps China might be taking.

“In principle, China has always implemented the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions in their entirety and fulfilled our due responsibility,” Lu Kang, the Chinese spokesman, told a regular briefing.

China, North Korea’s largest trading partner and last major diplomatic ally, has cut off imports of coal, iron ore, seafood and other goods from North Korea in line with U.N. sanctions.

The South Korean government, which has sought a dialogue with North Korea, called Kim’s statement a “reckless provocation” that would deepen the North’s international isolation and lead to its demise.

►  Melania condemns bullying – and raises some eyebrows – in her first UN speech

Melania Trump gave her most expansive remarks as first lady Wednesday, condemning bullying and calling on world leaders to take their responsibility for guiding the next generation seriously.

“By our own example we must teach children to be good stewards of the world they will inherit,“ Trump said at a luncheon she hosted for the spouses of world leaders at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. “We must remember that they are watching and listening. . . As adults we are not merely responsible. We are accountable.“

Trump’s mention of bullying was immediately complicated because of her husband’s bellicose approach to public life.

From his sneering nicknames for political opponents (“Low Energy Jeb,“ “Little Marco”) to his claim that a news anchor was “bleeding badly from a facelift” to his recent promotion on Twitter of a spoof video purporting to show him toppling Hillary Clinton with a golf ball strike to the head, Donald Trump has drawn frequent criticism that he himself is something of a bully-in-chief.

The first lady’s speech made no mention her husband as she urged the world to “ensure that our children’s future is bright.“

“No child should ever feel hungry, stalked, frightened, terrorized, bullied, isolated or afraid, with nowhere to turn,“ Trump said. She added: “We must teach each child the values of empathy . . . kindness, mindfulness, integrity and leadership which can only be taught by example.“

Eyebrows were immediately raised across the social-media universe of political commentators. “Irony is dead,“ tweeted Joy-Anne Reid, a liberal MSNBC host.

Trump has stood by her husband’s tweets in the past. And when he was under fire for past crude remarks he made about women, she explained it away as locker-room talk.

Asked how the first lady’s stance squared with the president’s actions, her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said that Trump “will not avoid doing what she knows is right, because others think it is a bad idea.“

“This is not about politics,“ Grisham added. “This is about using her role as first lady to help as many children as she possibly can.“

Last year, late in her husband’s campaign, she first floated the idea of taking on the cause of cyberbullying. Wednesday was the first time since she entered the White House that she revisited the topic.

Her speech, which lasted seven minutes, was devoid of clear policy prescriptions or a push for any specific program, though she said she plans to follow up with social media leaders and educators on the topic.

It came amid a busy week for Trump, who until recently has seemed reluctant to fully embrace the public platform of her new role. On Thursday, she visited hurricane-devasted Florida and hosted a reception for the White House Historical Association. On Friday, she visited a youth center at Andrews Air Force Base, and on Saturday she will make her first solo trip abroad as first lady to Toronto for the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games.

The luncheon seemed to reflect her style. A small orchestra played, and the first ladies were seated at round tables decorated with floral tablecloths. After she spoke, Trump took a seat between Sophie Trudeau of Canada and Brigitte Macron or France, and the 100 or so attendees seemed to receive her warmly.

Trump was involved in crafting her remarks and designed the luncheon alongside New York event-planner David Monn, said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director.

Her remarks had much in common with the general themes advanced by previous first ladies, who have often focused their advocacy on children.

“If we look at the present state of children in any society, we will see the future that our world can expect tomorrow,“ Trump said. “Together, we must acknowledge that, all too often, it is the weakest, most innocent and vulnerable among us, our children, who ultimately suffer the most from the challenges that plague our societies.“

Later, she said: “It remains our generation’s moral imperative to take responsibility for what our children learn. We must turn our focus right now to the message and content they are exposed to on a daily basis, social media, the bullying”

Throughout its history, the United Nations has been an important forum for first ladies to advance their ideas and policy agendas. Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the United Nations Human Rights Commission the year after she left the White House, cemented her legacy as a human rights activist through her work on the commission.

One of Hillary Clinton’s defining moments as first lady came when she addressed the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, declaring that “women’s rights are human rights.“ In 2014, Michelle Obama delivered the keynote address at a United Nation’s education event focusing on providing girls around the world with quality education.

►  Pope Francis acknowledges Catholic Church’s bad practices during sex abuse crisis

Pope Francis acknowledged that the Catholic Church was slow to address the sex abuse crisis, including its widely criticized but not publicly acknowledged practice of moving priests who had abused children to other churches instead of reporting them to the police, saying “the church’s conscience came a bit late.“

The pope gave off-the-cuff remarks to a commission he created to tackle the issue, acknowledging the slow pace of church trials and an overall lack of awareness of the problem inside St. Peter’s walls.

“Pedophilia is a sickness,“ Pope Francis said. “Today one repents, moves on, we forgive him, then two years later he relapses. We need to get it in our heads that it’s a sickness.“

The pope announced he would do away with Vatican appeal trials for cases where evidence of abuse against minors is proven. “If there’s evidence, that is final,“ he said.

“Those who’re sentenced because of sexual abuses against minors can indeed appeal to the pope and ask for a pardon, but I’ve never signed one of those, and I never will,“ he said. “I hope this much is clear.“

The pope’s rationale for doing away with an appeal process - according to Italian news outlets’ transcripts of his words - lies in his own experience. Faced with such a case at the very beginning of his papacy, he said he’d opted for “the more benevolent path” instead of defrocking a priest. “After two years, though, the priest relapsed,“ he said, which became a learning experience for the pope.

A well-placed Vatican source confirms that these words convey the pope’s own “personal bitterness, as well as the difficulty of curing [pedophiles], as it was once thought possible, which instead ended up being quite a failure.“ According to the source, the pope was probably specifically referring to the case of Mauro Inzoli, whom he “definitively” defrocked earlier this summer. An appeal trial for Inzoli, who was convicted of child sex abuse in an Italian court, began Thursday.

The pope’s comments and recent events draw attention to his larger efforts to strengthen the church’s fight against abuse, as advocacy groups have called for sweeping changes within the Vatican hierarchy.

Last week, the Catholic Church recalled diplomat Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella back to the Vatican because U.S. investigators suspected him of crimes involving child pornography.

And earlier this year, Cardinal George Pell, one of the most powerful officials in the Vatican, was charged by Australian police for “historical sexual assault offenses,“ and returned to his home country “to clear his name,“ according to a statement from the archdiocese of Sydney.

The Catholic Church in some countries, including in the United States, put systems in place to protect children, and after he became pope, Francis created an ambitious reform commission addressing sex abuse.

He appointed Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who inherited the clergy abuse scandal from Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, as president of the commission, calling him one of the church’s “prophets.“

Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of clergy sexual abuse, quit Francis’s commission in March because she thought that few of the changes they recommended were being implemented by the Vatican hierarchy. She said that when the pope makes a statement like this, it helps to break down denial from many church leaders.

“I suppose [Pope Francis is] stating what is obvious,“ Collins said. Since the beginning of his papacy, Francis has spoken of the horrors of abuse and spoken to survivors of abuse, asking for forgiveness several times.

However, Collins believes this may be the first time the pope has addressed how the church handles priests. Some bishops would move priests accused of abusing children to other churches, allowing them to continue their abuse.

“We’re getting an admission of problems that were there,“ she said. “The less denial there is, the more chance there is for change.“

Francesco Zanardi, an Italian survivor of clergy sex abuse, said he believes it’s the first time the pope has acknowledged the practice of moving priests around.

“It’s an admission all right, but it comes a bit too late, I just can’t be optimistic about it,“ said Zanardi, president of “Rete l’Abuso” or Abuse Network, an Italian association of’ survivors of abuse by clergy.

Many people are beginning to wonder whether the pope’s rhetoric will turn into Vatican action, such as the idea of tribunals, said John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries” and who was a longtime correspondent for the Catholic News Service.

“The question is whether he institutionalizes some forms of closer control over bishops who have made bad decisions,“ he said. “That seems to be a sticking point.“

The pope’s defenders say he has made strides to hold bishops and priests accountable. Last summer, Francis issued a decree that diocesan bishops could be removed for failure to report suspected abuse. In 2014, he fired a bishop in Paraguay who was accused of covering up abuse, and in 2015, he accepted the resignation of a bishop in Kansas City who was convicted of covering up abuse.

►  One of Trump’s nominees may have voted illegally in Virginia

As Donald Trump’s controversial commission on voter fraud seeks to gather evidence, it won’t have to look far for some suspicious activity: a ballot cast in last fall’s presidential election in Virginia by Jeffrey Gerrish, Trump’s nominee to be a deputy U.S. trade representative.

Gerrish, whose nomination is pending in the Senate, sold a home in Fairfax County, Virginia, in July 2016 and bought a home in North Bethesda, Maryland, the same month, according to public records of the sales, which list the Maryland home as Gerrish’s “principal residence.“

Yet Gerrish, a Washington lawyer, voted four months later in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Gerrish did not return calls or email this week seeking an explanation. Under Virginia law, voting in the state is limited to residents, with some exceptions, including those who move out of the jurisdiction within 30 days of a presidential election. Voting by nonresidents is a misdemeanor.

A senior administration official familiar with Gerrish’s situation said that his family moved to Maryland last summer after living in Virginia more than 18 years. At the time, Gerrish had a Virginia driver’s license and was still registered to vote in Virginia.

Gerrish understood there was a grace period for switching voter registration but did not know the length, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the issue more freely. Gerrish did not register to vote in Maryland until February, according to state records.

Edgardo Cortes, commission of the Virginia Department of Elections, declined to discuss Gerrish’s case in particular but said defining residency for voting purposes is a “complex issue” that is ultimately decided locally.

Gerrish’s nomination is under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee, which was briefed on his voting history on Tuesday, according to a senior congressional aide.

Following inquiries by The Washington Post, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement backing Gerrish’s nomination as deputy United States trade representative for Asia, Europe, the Middle East and industrial competitiveness.

“I fully support the nomination of Jeff Gerrish as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative,“ Lighthizer said. “He has been practicing international trade law on behalf of American companies for nearly 20 years. He is one of the foremost experts on U.S. trade law and policy and is preeminently qualified for this position.“

Gerrish is currently head of the International Trade Group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Whatever the exact circumstances surrounding Gerrish’s situation, it’s the kind of case that has drawn attention from members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the early stages of its work. Leading members of the commission have sought to highlight cases in which people are registered in multiple states or are on the voter rolls illegally.

In some situations, what appears on the surface to be fraudulent turns out to have a rather benign explanation.

In January, for example, as Trump was calling for an investigation into his baseless claim that millions of fraudulently cast ballots had cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton, it came to light that Stephen Bannon, then the White House chief strategist, was registered to vote in New York and Florida for several months.

That situation persisted even though Bannon had sent a letter trying to get himself removed from the rolls in Florida.

Voters Can Start Casting Ballots Today for Road Bond Special Election

The Free Press WV

Polls open Friday across West Virginia for early voting ahead of the October 07 Special Election on the Roads to Prosperity Amendment.

If approved, it would clear the way for the Mountain State to borrow $1.6 billion for road projects.

“The time is upon us to start getting involved in the process,” said Secretary of State Mac Warner.

After Friday, early voting runs through October 04.

Weekday hours for early voting follow regular local courthouse hours, according to Warner.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on two Saturdays during the early voting period: September 23 and September 30.

Most West Virginians will be voting on paper ballots.

“What the Governor has agreed to compensate, reimburse the counties for, is a paper ballot election,” Warner said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“The paper ballots are typically less expensive to run, but if a county wants to use their machines they can, they would just incur those extra costs.”

Voter turnout in West Virginia for single-issue elections like this one usually comes in at between a low 10 percent and 15 percent.

“Typically, these special elections do not garner a lot of attention and a lot of participation,” said Warner.

On Election Day, polls will be open statewide from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Click Fix Our Roads WV | West Virginians for Better Transportation to check out the projects.

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