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Governor Justice Addresses West Virginia’s Recent Credit Downgrade

Governor Jim Justice held a press conference at the State Capitol to discuss West Virginia’s credit downgrade from Moody’s Investors Service.

“This just makes me sick,“ said Governor Jim Justice. “It’s going to get worse if we don’t act. I didn’t create this mess, but I will fix it. There is no chance we can cut our way out of this. I’ve put together a plan that will put West Virginia on a path to prosperity. We need to pass the Save Our State Budget to create jobs and fix our state’s finances.“​

Can ‘Sober High’ Schools Keep Teenagers Off Drugs?

A school-based approach to help fight a drug epidemic

Skinny and teeming with nervous energy, Matt Langley grew up with an outlook that was anything but upbeat. “I guess I was never comfortable in my own skin,” he says. “Everything that came out of my mouth, I would second-guess.”

Drugs relieved him of that burden, starting with marijuana, which he said a friend’s mother introduced him to at age 13.

Over the next six years, more powerful substances followed: acid, Ecstasy. Then, he says, “A friend of mine asked if I’d like to try Xanax.” That was in January 2016. For the next six months, he took Xanax every day. “I’ve never experienced such euphoria,” he said. He crash-landed at a state-funded detox center, where he stayed for a month.
The Christian Science Monitor

This story also appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

When he came out, he says, “I knew I couldn’t stay sober by myself.”

Seeking help, he enrolled at Independence Academy in Brockton, Mass., where posters and signs covering the walls bear such messages as “My worst day sober is better than my best day high.”

Matt and the school’s 21 other students — many of whom, like Matt, abused drugs for years — face a daily struggle to stay clean.

Independence Academy is one of 33 so-called recovery schools in the United States, public high schools that serve students whose lives and educations have been derailed by drug abuse. While national surveys indicate that adolescent drug use has fallen across the board in recent years, some 1.3 million 12- to 17-year-olds still met the criteria for a substance use disorder in 2014, and studies find that 9 in 10 adults with addiction problems began their chemical dependency before age 18.

Providing early treatment for teens is seen as critical to addressing Massachusetts’ growing opioid crisis. In 2016, unintentional overdoses claimed 1,465 lives statewide, up from 613 in 2011. Among the fatalities were a confirmed 114 individuals under age 25.

In Brockton – a once-prosperous town called “shoe city” until the last of its footwear factories closed in 2009 – drugs are plentiful. A tainted batch of heroin hit the streets in January 2016, causing 40 overdoses in just two days.

Most teenagers at Independence Academy struggle with alcohol and marijuana abuse. To be admitted, they must pledge to abstain from using and submit to random drug testing. Students are referred by residential drug-treatment programs, school districts, or parents desperate for help.

Once in, the hope is that a culture of “positive peer pressure” will help teens stay sober. They also receive intensive counseling to find ways to stave off addictive urges and to address whatever got them using in the first place. Schools like Independence Academy have been called “sober high schools,” but while abstinence is the goal, the reality is more complex.

Independence Academy, in Brockton, Massachusetts serves 22 students. Its doors opened in January, 2012. Photo: Austin Haeberle

Like Matt, many students here come to Independence Academy after a stay in detox. Going back to their old school could hinder their progress.

“My friends are all proud of me,” Matt says, “but they’re all addicts and I can’t be around them or I’ll start using.”

Independence Academy opened its doors in 2012, and is now one of five such schools in the state funded and overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter led the campaign to open the school. He has direct experience with teenagers and addiction. “Twelve years ago, my son became addicted to heroin while he was a student at Brockton High School,” he says.

As a parent, Mr. Carpenter said he tried to do all the right things for his son. “We did 90-day residential programs followed by intensive outpatient, and then we’d get him back to school because I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do – get your 16-year-old back in school,” Carpenter said. “What I should have understood at the time – and didn’t – was that we were throwing him back into the fire.”

During the period right after treatment, when teenagers return to school and reconnect with friends, the risk of relapse runs high. Schools like Independence Academy offer an alternative.

“Instead of going back to your old group of friends, who are going to encourage you to go back to drug use, you’re now in a completely different environment of support,” Carpenter says. “You have other kids like yourself that are fighting some of the same struggles.”

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Matt started at Independence last July and likes the small size: With just 22 students, it’s among the smallest high schools in the state. “I’ve made new friends here,” he said. “Probably the first new friends that I’ve made in years.”

The vibe is different, too. Independence Academy’s entryway is piled high with skateboards, scooters, and bikes. Students are encouraged to use them whenever they feel like it. “If I’m getting stressed-out in math class, I can just say to the teacher, ‘I need to go out,’ ” Matt said. “I’ll grab a bike and ride for a little while, come in again and get right back to math.”

While the academic program here leads toward a regular Massachusetts high school diploma, the teaching is often tailored to address individual areas of weakness. Most classes meet in a large central room that feels part art studio, part living room. Murals and paintings decorate the walls, while couches and comfy armchairs invite students to relax. The students often work independently, on laptops, with headphones plugged in. It’s a tranquil space that reflects the school’s philosophy.

“It’s similar to the way you’d approach trauma,” says teacher Shawn Kain. “Kids who are stressed-out, kids who are anxious, are not going to retain new information.”


Catching up

Teachers here say they spend about half their time just getting students caught up. Amber, who is 17 and whose last name is being withheld to protect her identity because she is a minor, started using marijuana in fifth grade. A couple of years later she discovered Xanax, among the fastest-acting and most addictive drugs of its kind.

Bianca (left) and Hailey, students in recovery at Independence Academy. Photo: Austin Haeberle

“I’d wake up in the morning, pop a bar of Xanax, smoke a couple blunts,” she says. “I’d do Xanies before school and I’d be half asleep in class and no one would say anything to me.”

Drug use, suspensions, and expulsions have put many students here far behind academically. While Massachusetts high schools adhere to the relatively tough Common Core academic standards, at Independence Academy the priority is on meeting students where they are. “The standard is what’s appropriate,” Mr. Kain says. “If you give students an expectation that stresses them out and it’s overwhelming, then they shut down.”

It’s hard to know how Massachusetts’ recovery high schools perform academically. While regular public high schools report graduation rates and scores on standardized tests, the same data isn’t widely available for recovery schools, because many are so small they fall below the threshold for reporting.

What’s more, for many students the stay at a recovery high school is short. The schools often serve as “soft-landing” zones, allowing students to slowly transition back to their regular high schools. At Massachusetts’ five recovery high schools, the average stay is six to seven months.

Some indication of academic results, however, can be found in a 2011 study by Thomas Kochanek, PhD, for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Examining five years of data from two of the recovery schools in operation at that time, he found that 41 percent of students graduated; 41 percent transferred back to their home school or a GED program; and 13 percent transferred to a treatment facility or program or were incarcerated. The remaining 5 percent were either expelled or dropped out.


Limited course offerings

All recovery high schools face one potential problem — limited course offerings. “I don’t have AP classes, Russian literature, or robotics because we don’t have the critical numbers to staff those,” says Michael Durchslag, the director at PEASE Academy (which stands for Peers Enjoying a Sober Education), a recovery high school in Minneapolis, Minn., that currently enrolls 50 students, according to administrators.

Limited course offerings at PEASE cause parents of some prospective students to think twice about enrolling, fearing that their teenager will miss out. Mr. Durchslag seeks to reassure them. “I know that students who come here don’t give up a quality education,” he said. “I mean, I have a graduate who just finished up her third year of residency in medical school, so I don’t think it’s going to hold anyone back.”

At Independence Academy, Kain also isn’t terribly concerned about course offerings. “Sometimes the specific facts that children know are overrated,” he says. While his school does have partnerships with other local high schools allowing students who are academically ready to take classes off-site, Kain says that what most students need is more fundamental. “We are very good at customizing education and getting kids into a good school routine,” he says. “If you’re focused on recovery, and go into the academic classroom and it’s somewhat stressful, that stress has the potential to cause a relapse.”

Like most recovery high schools, Independence Academy goes to great lengths to prevent students from relapsing. At Independence, for example, a full-time clinical social worker, Karin Burke-Lewis, meets with each student two or three times per week for intensive, one-on-one recovery counseling.

n the small conference table in her office, Ms. Burke-Lewis keeps a large red bucket plastered with a Boston Red Sox logo. Inside, it’s full of squishy, brightly colored toy stress balls. Students pop in all the time to dig through her collection, and Burke-Lewis, who’s quick to get them talking, comes to know them well.

“Many of these students come from really complex struggles – stress, abandonment, and abuse are common,” Burke-Lewis says. “Before coming here, the way they’ve handled that was to pick up a substance.”


Visualizing goals, managing feelings

Working closely with each student, she designs a “relapse prevention plan” that involves helping students clarify and visualize their goals. “It could be graduating from high school, it could be sustaining employment, it could be ‘I want to not use for a month, consistently,’ ” Burke-Lewis says.

In addition to providing one-on-one help, Independence Academy seeks to create peer-to-peer support. Each Thursday afternoon students meet for a session of SMART Recovery, an abstinence-based curriculum that aims to teach students how to cope with urges and manage their thoughts and feelings.

On Fridays, the students gather with Burke-Lewis to make plans for the weekend. “We worry about long weekends and vacations the most,” she says. “And we worry because these kids will be making decisions about whether or not to pick up substances with lethal implications.”

Despite these and other efforts to keep students sober, relapses are frequent. “If I were to give you a percentage, maybe 40 percent to 50 percent come in after a weekend and have used,” Burke-Lewis says. She does not, however, see that as a sign that her school’s efforts are not working. “Recovery with this population is about stops and starts.”

Medical experts would agree. “I don’t think we can expect kids who’ve been severely addicted to drugs and alcohol to automatically become sober,” says Joseph Shrand, an adolescent psychiatrist and addiction specialist who serves on Independence Academy’s advisory board.

Dr. Shrand believes relapse should be treated not as a failure but as an opportunity to learn. “That’s where sober high schools can be really useful,” he said. “Some kids are going to relapse; how do you then use that as a way to help the kid not relapse a second time?”

That said, he adds, relapses should never be taken lightly. “The real problem with the one kid who is using over the weekend but can stop for the week is that they may trigger a kid who cannot stop,” he says.


Taking things seriously

Taron, a ninth-grader at Independence Academy, said he feels it when classmates go back to using. “Some students aren’t serious about recovery,” Taron says. Tall, soft spoken, and into motorcycles and music, Taron got hooked on marijuana and spent several weeks in treatment. Since enrolling at Independence Academy, he’s been sober for seven months. “When we’re trying to have a recovery meeting and some kids aren’t taking it seriously, that gets on my nerves,” he says.

Data on just how effective recovery high schools are in helping students stay sober is complicated. Researchers would like to track two groups of students: those who leave a formal drug treatment program and attend a recovery high school; and those who leave treatment and attend a regular high school.

“The problem is we can’t ethically direct children down one road if that would mean depriving them of treatment,” said Dr. Andrew Finch of Vanderbilt University, who studies recovery high schools.

With only 33 recovery high schools operating nationwide, however, it’s already the case that most teenagers exiting drug treatment will not get to attend a so-called sober high school. Researchers have been tracking how these adolescents have fared and have found that their relapse rates run from about 50 percent to 75 percent, depending on the study.

Are outcomes better for students attending recovery high schools? Dr. Finch is currently collecting and analyzing data on 293 teens who completed formal drug treatment, half of whom then went to a recovery school, the other half to a regular school. “Recovery high schools appear to have a positive effect on reducing alcohol and drug usage, relative to nonrecovery high schools,” Finch says of his preliminary findings.

In the case of some specific drugs, Finch said the effect was large. Six months after treatment, for instance, students at recovery schools had 17 fewer days of marijuana use compared with their peers at regular high schools. There were fewer days of use of other drugs, too, but “it was not statistically significant,” Finch said in an email.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s 2011 study also found positive effects. On entering recovery schools, students reported using alcohol and marijuana – on average – one to two times per week. Upon exiting (graduation or returning to a regular high school) their reported average use had fallen to one to two times per month.


Need to change the ‘disease’ model?

But if recovery schools are making a difference, too few students seem interested. State-run drug treatment centers in Massachusetts discharged more than 1,000 teenagers this year, according to Tom Lyons, director of communications for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Only 116 students were enrolled in the state’s five recovery high schools as of early December. The same dynamic is playing out across the country.

Independence Academy, with 22 students, has room for twice as many. To some, low enrollment has a simple explanation. “I think we have to do a better job of letting families know that this option is available,” Carpenter, Brockton’s mayor, says.

To Finch, the explanation has to do with changes in education. “There are more options these days,” he said. “In some states, parents can choose from virtual schools, charter schools, home school, and they may be choosing those instead of recovery schools.”

Others blame low enrollments on the way recovery schools handle treatment. Most embrace a 12-step model, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, in which the first step is admitting “we were powerless” over drugs, often for life.

“The idea of an incurable and intractable disease model, I think, has continued to create a stigma around recovery schools,” Shrand, the psychiatrist, said. “It may be the reason why we don’t have more students in sober high schools, because their parents, their families, their school systems do not want to see their kids as somehow bad, defective, and deficient.”

Shrand also worries about the disease model’s message to students. “Many of these kids started using because they were worried they were broken,” he said. “Quite inadvertently, we run the risk of making them feel like they have less value, which is the exact opposite of what we want to do.”

One sure way to head off any debate is to prevent teenagers from developing addiction problems in the first place. Drug prevention and education usually fall to the schools, and Brockton is attempting to do its part.

“We have a certified health educator in every school building,” says Mary Ellen Kirrane, director of wellness for Brockton Public Schools.

Lessons start in kindergarten with “what is medication?” Drug prevention continues in middle and high school. “We talk about choices and decisions and peer pressure and we talk to students about getting help,” says Ms. Kirrane. Every student participates in classes like this for a half-hour each week.

Kirrane said that Brockton pays for drug prevention on its own because state and federal grants – once as much as $500,000 each year – disappeared long ago. Even though Brockton has one health teacher for every school, Kirrane says that’s actually down from two or three per building when she became the health director here in the early 1990s. Still, she feels fortunate. “When we look at other school systems, we’re like the Cadillac version,” Kirrane says.

The US will need more than just health teachers, though, to stem the crisis. Of the 1.3 million teenagers in the United States with drug abuse problems in 2014, some 340,000 – or 28 percent – also reported having a major depressive episode in the last year. “There are millions of children in the United States that need psychiatric care, and yet there are only 8,300 licensed child psychiatrists,” says Shrand.

In response to the current opioid crisis, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is earmarking $500,000 for new school-based drug prevention efforts. They’ll arrive too late for Matt Langley, who struggles every day with addictive urges.

“The thing about my disease is it’s a selfish disease,” he says. “You put anything in front of me – weed, coke, whatever – and I’ll do it. Once it’s in front of my face, everything just goes out the window.”

Matt has six months to shore up his defenses: He graduates in spring 2017.

~~  John D. Tulenko ~~

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • 34 days. 132 false or misleading claims:    Throughout President Trump’s first 100 days, the Fact Checker team will be tracking false and misleading claims made by the president since Jan. 20. Here’s a breakdown of the president’s claims so far, sorted by topic and source.    THE WASHINGTON POST


  • ‘Respect Center’ Rips Trump Over Anti-Semitism Comments:    Donald Trump commented on the growing rise in anti-Semitic threats to the Jewish community while at the National Museum of…  HEAVY


  • Muslim Activists Raise Funds to Fix Vandalized Jewish Graves:    This is solidarity. After more than 150 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, Muslim activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi have crowdfunded more than $57,000 for repairs. Unused funds will go to other Jewish graveyards that have been vandalized. No arrests have been made in the case, which was condemned by President Trump as “a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done.“ Both Muslim and Jewish communities fear the increasing number of racist attacks and discrimination in the U.S.    Miami Herald


  • UPS Tests Drone Deliveries:    It’s not quite ready to fly. Drones might still be years away from delivering packages to your doorstep, but logistics giant UPS is planning ahead. On Monday it showed off its HorseFly octocopter, which launches from a custom-built delivery truck with a sliding roof and robotic arms. The driver-controlled drone can carry a 10-pound package for up to 30 minutes and is intended to complete last-mile deliveries, reducing trucks’ mileage. After one successful delivery, though, a malfunction aborted the second attempt, which might bring people’s expectations back down to earth.  THE VERGE

FBI Warns of Phone Scam That Uses the FBI’s Name to Threaten Arrest

The Free Press WV

The FBl’s Pittsburgh Division is warning the public to be on alert for a phone scam that spoofs or fakes the FBl’s name on the recipient’s voicemail.

Scammers have targeted residents around the region, claiming to be the FBI stating they are an “officer” of the FBI, Department of Tax and Crime Investigation.  The intended victim is told that this is their final notice and that their physical address is under investigation and an arrest warrant has been issued under their name.

The public is reminded that the FBI does not call private citizens threatening arrest or requesting money and to never give out unsolicited requests for personal information to callers that you don’t know.  Individuals receiving such calls can file a complaint through the FBl’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.

To avoid becoming the victim of a scam:

*  Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls

*  Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact

*  Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up

For more information about the FBI or to reach a specific FBI Office visit WWW.FBI.GOV.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

EARLY SCHOOL DISMISSAL ON FRIDAY

Gilmer County High School and Gilmer County Elementary School will have an early dismissal at 1:00 PM on Friday. Leading Creek Elementary School will have two-hours early dismissal on Friday.


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION LIFTS TRANSGENDER BATHROOM GUIDANCE

Now it will be up to states and school districts to determine whether students use restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity, or with their biological sex.


ASTRONOMERS DISCOVER SEVEN EARTH-SIZE PLANETS THAT COULD HOLD LIFE

Conditions on four of the planets are just right, but scientists say they need to study their atmospheres before determining whether they could actually support life.


MEXICO SIGNALS IT’S IN NO MOOD TO BE LECTURED BY U.S.

After the Trump administration’s announcement that it will deport to Mexico all people who cross the border illegally, Mexico has hinted it could challenge that policy at the United Nations or other international bodies.


WHERE DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE PROTESTERS ARE NOW

Most abandoned their protest camp ahead of a government deadline, though about 50 remain. About 10 others were arrested.


NORTH KOREA BLASTS INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH OF LEADER KIM JONG UN’S HALF BROTHER

North Korea called the probe in Malaysia full of “holes and contradictions” amid speculation that North Korean agents masterminded Kim Jong Nam’s assassination.


WHERE A BRUTAL GANG WAR DEGENERATED HORRIBLY

More than 50 prisoners were brutally killed and dismembered during the New Year’s Day massacre at the Manaus prison complex in Brazil.


WHY SOME CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS ARE STAYING HOME

Republicans who rode a wave of Tea Party discontent at town halls are now skipping them to avoid giving Democrats the opportunity to strike back with the same tactic.


DOCTOR WHO TREATED ELITE FEMALE U.S. GYMNASTS CHARGED WITH SEXUALLY ASSAULTING NINE GIRLS

Dr. Larry Nassar worked at Michigan State University, where he treated gymnasts with back or hip injuries.


SMALL UTAH TOWN STRUGGLES WITH GIRL’S BRUTAL ASSAULT

Prosecutors say two teenage boys plotted to rob and kill the 14-year-old before shooting her in the head and leaving her critically wounded in a ditch.


DAVID BOWIE, GEORGE MICHAEL HONORED AT TOP BRIT AWARDS

Bowie, who died last year, won British male artist of the year and British album of the year for “Blackstar.“ Coldplay singer Chris Martin performed a moving rendition of a George Michael song as a tribute to the late singer.


Snapchat met with prospective investors in New York and faced tough questions

The mood in the room was “respectful but somewhat skeptical,“ one investor said.


An Uber engineer says the company’s sexism scandal “is everyone’s problem”

Aimee Lucido said she is “most surprised at how surprised everyone else seems to be.“


Apple’s share price has hit another all-time high

It comes after Morgan Stanley raised its target price for the stock.


Ad tech company Rubicon Project’s president Greg Raifman is leaving, along with 6 other top execs

It is part of a broader restructuring first announced in November.


Someone stole Nintendo’s new games console two weeks before it launches

Footage of a Nintendo Switch in the wild recently appeared online.


New leaked photos appear to reveal more details about Samsung’s Galaxy S8

It looks like it will have an almost edge-to-edge screen.


Jay Z is launching his own venture capital firm

The rapper is reportedly teaming up with Roc Nation president Jay Brown.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says Bill Gates’ original mission “always bothered me”

The company set out to put “a computer on every desk and in every home.“


The iPhone 8 could have a next-generation selfie camera

It’s rumoured to be able to sense 3D space and work with facial recognition tech.


Microsoft has launched a Skype Lite Android app for India and other emerging markets

TechCrunch reports that it is optimised for low internet connections.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Requirement for 180 separate days of school instruction dropped in Senate bill

A bill moving at the State Capitol two weeks into the 2017 Regular Legislative Session would end West Virginia’s existing requirement for 180 separate days of instruction in the Mountain State’s schools.

“I think that, in the end, you’ll have better results with this,” predicted Senate Education Committee Chair Kenny Mann (R-Monroe, 10) who spoke in favor of the bill that’s been altered only slightly from the version of the bill the Senate approved last year.

He called it a “great step in the right direction” before the Senate advanced SB 242 with a 33-0 vote.

It removes the word “separate” as it pertains to instructional days in the school calendar from state code.

Additionally, it designates one non-instructional day for teachers as a preparation day for opening school and another day for closing school; allows teacher preparation days to be used for certain other purposes at teacher discretion and increases the number of two-hour blocks for faculty senate meetings from four to six.

It also allows accrued minutes to be used for lost instructional days and addresses the use of “re-imagining student instructional days,” which include work assigned for home on snow days, to meet the 180 instructional day requirement.

Such days should exhausted before accrued school minutes are used for lost instructional days, the bill says.

Mann saw the bill as an important teacher morale booster.

“As a businessman, I’ve always been the kind of person that, if I can’t afford to pay you right now what you’re worth, I’m going to back it up in appreciation,” said Mann. “I think this is something (like that).”

Flexibility is the goal, Mann said. “I don’t want this to be about a dollar bill or just a numbers game. I want it to be, ‘Use your time wisely.‘”

If approved in the House of Delegates and signed by Governor Jim Justice, the changes would take effect on July 01, 2017.

Before the Senate floor session, Mann was a guest on MetroNews “Talkline” which originated from the State Capitol where the session continues through Saturday, April 08.


►  Higher education personnel bill clears committee

The House Education Committee has passed and sent to the floor legislation designed to streamline personnel decisions by state colleges and universities. West Virginia University is leading the fight for HB 2542 to give higher education institutions more flexibility on hiring and firing practices.

According to an information sheet circulated by WVU, the changes “are designed to empower institutions with more authority relating to personnel decisions on their campuses.”

Higher ed has seen significant state funding reductions over the last several years, but colleges and universities argue they are hamstrung when it comes to making personnel changes to try to save money. Governor Justice’s proposed budget for next fiscal year cuts WVU and Marshall by another 4.4 percent. WVU has been cut by $35 million since 2011 (including Justice’s reductions for next year).

One of the more controversial provisions of the bill provision gives colleges greater discretion when layoffs are necessary, taking into account job performance and skill set. Currently, those decisions are tightly regulated by state code, giving senior employees added protections.

House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) says the bill would eliminate “bumping” and recall rights and enable institutions to look more closely at the qualifications of the individuals.

The bill now goes before the full House.

►  WV Senate approves bill dealing with unemployment benefits for striking workers

Striking workers who are on picket lines voluntarily would not be eligible for unemployment benefits with a bill the state Senate has sent to the state House of Delegates.

“It’s important because the taxpayers, the people who pay into that (unemployment) fund, should not be subsidizing a strike,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Trump (R-Morgan, 15) during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Later Wednesday, Trump spoke in favor of the bill on the floor of the state Senate before the Senate approved the bill with a 22-11 vote and sent it on to the House.

“Our bill distinguishes between a strike and a lockout,” Trump said. “It says clearly that, if employees are locked out, they are eligible to apply for and receive unemployment benefits.”

In questions of Trump, though, both Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso (D-Marion, 13) and Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison, 12) argued the bill was unnecessarily redundant when compared to existing state law and placed unnecessary new burdens of proof on employees.

Both voted “no” on the bill.

“The burden’s always been on the employee to show that they’re locked out, but now we’ve created specific standards to prove that lockout,” Romano said. Meeting that burden of proof, in his view, would be more difficult if SB 222 becomes law.

“Nobody said that locked out employees were a drain on the unemployment fund,” Romano told his fellow Senators. “What’s a drain on our unemployment fund is our people aren’t working.”

In December, West Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent compared with the national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.

Trump conceded the bill does strip administrative judges of some discretion.

Here is part of the text of the bill:

A lockout is not a strike or a bona fide labor dispute and no individual may be denied benefits by reason of a lockout. However, the operation of a facility by non-striking employees of the company, contractors or other personnel is not a reason to grant employees of the company on strike unemployment compensation benefit payments. If the operation of a facility is with workers hired to permanently replace the employees on strike, the employees would be eligible for benefits.

For the purpose of this subsection, an individual shall be determined to leave or lose his or her employment by reason of a lockout where the individual employee has established that: (i) The individual presented himself or herself physically for work at the workplace and identified that he or she was reporting for and prepared to work on the first day of such lockout or on the first day he or she is able to present himself at the workplace or herself; and (ii) the employer denied the individual the opportunity to perform work.

Trump cited a fiscal note that indicated the bill could result in $177,000 in savings this fiscal year at a time when the unemployment fund has been propped up with help from the Rainy Day Fund.

“To me,” Trump said, “It’s a question of are we going to make sure that the money that’s paid into that unemployment compensation fund by taxpayers’ employers is preserved for the people whom we all agree truly deserve it?”

Wednesday was Day 15 of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session which continues through Saturday, April 08.


►  AEP ready to move ahead with transmission line

Now that the state Public Service Commission has approved the permit for a new transmission line in northern Kanawha and Roane counties, the next step is getting the route for the line established.

“We’re now going to start contacting landowners and getting permission to survey,” said George Porter with American Electric Power Company. “Our right of way department will start that process by looking at property values and then contacting landowners directly. ”

The project will run 25 miles of 138 kv line between Clendenin in Kanawha County and Walton in Roane County.  Along the route the project will include construction of three sub-stations and distribute power in all directions of the region.

“Reliability is not at it’s best, it’s in dire need of transmission improvement,” Porter said. “Once this project is complete in 2019, it will insure that reliability to AEP customers in both Roane and Kanawha counties.”

The project plan calls for use of “H” structure towers to carry the lines.  There is no start date until all easements and the line route are finalized.  Porter expected that to happen later this year.  The project is expected to be completed around 2019.  Total cost is estimated to be around $75 million.


►  Harrison County schools dealing with flu outbreak

The Harrison County Board of Education sent a letter to parents earlier this week warning of an outbreak of flu in schools that has affected up to 15 percent of students in the county.

“This is the first year that I can recall that we’ve seen this many children out at one given time with the flu,” Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department Nurse Director Margaret Howe-White said Wednesday.

Flu or cold-like symptom related absences have led to an absence rate ranging from two to fifteen percent since flu season began.

“In Harrison County, it’s widespread,” Howe-White said. “We have flu in almost every school in the county.”

“As far as community outbreaks, the schools seem to be the most hard hit this year.”

The Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department did not advise the Board of Education to close the schools.

“The germ lives two to eight hours on the surface,” she said. “Therefore, at the end of the day your children go home. By the next morning, those germs are gone.”

Howe-White said students who make multiple classroom and/or desk switches during the school day face greater risk.

“Touch that surface, put your hands around your face, mouth, or nose?” she said. “You end up with that infection.”

The Health Department offered a number of suggestions for parents, but Howe-White said the most important item is caution.

“If you are ill, stay home,” she said. “If you have an ill child, keep them home until 24 hours after the last fever that was un-medicated. This gives that time to get out of the body and be non-infectious to other people.”

Howe-White said that there is a fear of infection spreading to those who could potentially be at greater risk.

“Anytime someone is ill with something that could be infectious to others, they need to remove themselves from that environment to prevent the spread and risking other people,” she said. “Especially those that might be immunocompromised or have other underlying health issues from becoming ill is something that would be very hard for them to fight off.”

Additionally, Howe-White said those who believe they have contracted flu should seek out medical assistance, alert the doctor’s office of their symptoms, and be treated with anti-virals.

The flu season is expected to continue into March.


►  West Virginia funeral home settles complaint over contracts

The West Virginia attorney general’s office has settled a complaint with the operators of a Putnam County funeral home over its business practices.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the settlement Wednesday.

Morrisey filed a complaint in 2015 alleging Gatens-Harding Funeral Home of Poca violated state law by cashing in on pre-need funeral contracts before the customers’ deaths.

Under the settlement, the funeral home and any its owners are prohibited from selling such contracts or accepting payments for funeral services prior to a customer’s death. Existing contracts will be subject to occasional audits, and current pre-need customers also will be given the option to transfer their contracts to another funeral home.

The funeral home also must pay $25,000 to cover the state’s investigation.


►  U.S. inmate admits threatening to blow up government buildings

A federal inmate in West Virginia has admitted he threatened to blow up government buildings in several major U.S. cities.

37-year-old Jeremy Edward Smith pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Clarksburg to making the threats in a 2015 letter he wrote while in solitary confinement at a U.S. penitentiary in Hazelton.

Prosecutors say that in the letter, Smith threatened to blow up government buildings in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons had reviewed the letter and alerted the Secret Service.

Smith faces a maximum sentence of 10 additional years in prison.

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  Fire, Prayer Mark End of Pipeline Protesters’ Camp

The last people remaining at a Dakota Access pipeline protest camp prayed and set fire to a handful of wooden structures on Wednesday, hours ahead of a deadline set by the Army Corps of Engineers to close the camp. Protesters said burning the structures—which appeared to include a yurt and a teepee—was part of the leaving ceremony, the AP reports. The Corps has set a 2pm deadline for the camp to be emptied ahead of potential spring flooding. A massive cleanup effort has been underway for weeks, first by protesters and now with the Corps set to join in removing debris left over several months. Morton County Sheriff’s deputies can arrest people who won’t leave. Army Corps rangers can’t make arrests, but they can write citations for various offenses, including trespassing, that carry a maximum punishment of a $5,000 fine or six months in jail.

A Morton County Sheriff’s rep warns that though there could be large-scale arrests, “we prefer to handle this in a more diplomatic, understanding way.“ She adds that a transition center will be set up to help protesters who don’t have a place to go. The protest camp, on federal land in southern North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the pipeline route, has at times housed thousands of people, though it’s dwindled to just a couple of hundred as the pipeline battle has largely moved into the courts. Some protesters plan to move, but others are ready to go to jail and “will engage in peaceful, civil resistance,“ per an activist.


►  Homicide or Tragic Accident? Old Shooting Still Haunts

What’s not in dispute is this: On March 28, 2001, 37-year-old Jill Wells was fatally struck in the head by a bullet. What’s very much in dispute is the original explanation by police: They said Wells’ 6-year-old son, Tanner, accidentally shot his mom as they were target shooting in rural Colorado. As 9News explains in an investigation, the story was relayed to police by Wells’ husband, Mike, who says his son had asked to use an adult rifle but struggled to control it; the child allegedly turned and the gun went off. The sheriff signed off after being at the scene less than two hours. No ballistic tests, no autopsy, only a cursory interview with Tanner (conducted in the presence of his dad, against protocol). Case closed. Wells’ sister never bought the conclusion for a host of reasons, including a life-insurance policy beefed up just weeks before, money problems, and Jill’s suspicions that her husband was cheating.

She got police to reopen the case in 2008, and they were stunned to see how shoddy the initial investigation was. Deputy Albert Leach dug into the case and says he looked forward to bringing in Mike to ask, “Why’d you shoot your wife?“ Before he could so, however, Mike died of what appears to be an accidental meth overdose. An exhumation of Jill’s body was inconclusive, and the case officially remains open, though nearly everybody involved (including the original sheriff and coroner) now have their doubts about Mike’s innocence. Everybody except Tanner. In a letter, he made clear that he believes he shot his mom that day. “When people find out about it I tell people that I don’t remember so I don’t have to re-live that event in my head,“ he writes. “But the truth is that in that moment my gun fired in my hands.“ Click for the FULL STORY.


►  Woman’s Warning About Windshield Shirt Goes Viral

Who drives around with a shirt draped over their windshield? A 19-year-old in Michigan did, and now her tale—which includes a chilling warning—has gone viral. WDAF reports Ashley Hardacre had just finished up working an evening shift at Flint’s Genesee Valley Center on Thursday and had gotten into her car in the dark parking lot and locked it when she spotted something strange: a blue flannel shirt on her windshield, tucked around a wiper. At first Hardacre thought maybe someone had tossed it onto her car “for some odd reason,“ she explained in a Facebook post, so she tried to toss it off by turning on her wipers. When the shirt stubbornly remained, however, Hardacre suddenly remembered something that prompted her to do the unexpected: Instead of getting out of the car to unravel the shirt from the wiper, she started driving.

What came to mind before Hardacre hit the gas, she tells CBS News, is something she’d heard from her mom and on social media about tricksters planting things on women’s cars to lure them out. She had also noticed two cars near her own as she pondered the mystery shirt, one with its engine running, and she “immediately felt uneasy,“ she wrote on Facebook. Hardacre drove just far enough to where she felt safe, rolled down her window, and pulled the shirt off. “It had to have been intentional the way it was put on there,“ she says. A Flint Township Police detective saw Hardacre’s post and got in touch with her, and both cops and mall security are now working to track down the shirt-placer. Hardacre says she hopes her post, which has been shared nearly 103,000 times, will “inform others.“


►  Deadline looms for Dakota Access pipeline protest camp

As dawn breaks over an encampment that was once home to thousands of people protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline, a few hundred holdouts rise for another day of resistance.

They aren’t deterred by the threat of flooding, nor by declarations from state and federal authorities that they must leave by Wednesday or face possible arrest. They’re determined to remain and fight a pipeline they maintain threatens the very sanctity of the land.

“If we don’t stand now, when will we?“ said Tiffanie Pieper, of San Diego, who has been in the camp most of the winter.

Protesters have been at the campsite since August to fight the $3.8 billion pipeline that will carry oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners began work on the last big section of the pipeline this month after the Army gave it permission to lay pipe under a reservoir on the Missouri River. The protest camp is on Army Corp of Engineers land nearby.

The protests have been led by Native American tribes, particularly the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, whose reservation is downstream. They say the pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites. ETP disputes that.

Faced with the prospect of spring flooding, some protesters are considering moving to higher ground, though not necessarily off the federal land. Some may move to the Standing Rock Reservation, where the Cheyenne River Sioux is leasing land to provide camping space even though Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault has urged protesters to leave.

“We have the same goals,“ Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier said of himself and Archambault. “We don’t agree on whether or not the water protectors should be on the ground.“

On Monday, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum talked with Archambault on the telephone about efforts to clean up and vacate the protest camp, Burgum’s office said. Burgum and Archambault both stressed the importance of keeping lines of communication open, including a one-page flyer that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs will distribute in the camp, reminding protesters that the main camp will be evacuated at 2 p.m. Wednesday and re-entry will not be allowed, Burgum’s office said.

Archambault said Monday he continues to ask that there be no forced removal of remaining campers. He said the state has notified the tribe that law enforcement will enter the camp Wednesday and “will peacefully ask those to vacate.“

“We ask that everyone keep public safety their top priority at this time,“ Archambault said in an email to The Associated Press.

More than 230 truckloads of debris have been hauled out as of Monday, according to the governor’s office. Archambault said plans call for continuing the cleanup after Wednesday.

Those urging the protesters to leave say they’re concerned about possible flooding in the area as snow melts.

“The purpose of this is to close the land to ensure no one gets harmed,“ said Corps Capt. Ryan Hignight.

One concern is that floodwaters could wash tons of trash and debris at the encampment into the nearby rivers.

“One of the biggest environmental threats to the Missouri is the camp itself,“ Burgum said.

Many in camp think authorities are exaggerating the flood threat and trying to turn public sentiment against them.

“They’re talking like it will be a flood that will wipe out all of existence,“ said Luke Black Elk, a Cheyenne River Sioux from South Dakota. Some flooding is likely, he said, but “most of it won’t be that bad.“

The camp has been the site of numerous and sometimes violent clashes between police and protesters who call themselves “water protectors,“ with more than 700 arrests. The camp’s population has dwindled as the pipeline battle has largely moved into the courts.

Protesters who remain say they’re prepared to be arrested, but will remain peaceful.

“We’ll make it difficult for them to handcuff us, but there will be no forceful opposition,“ said Bryce Peppard, from Oregon.

The Corps and the governor say they would rather there were no arrests.

“The ideal situation is zero arrests are made because everybody figures out that it’s not a place where you want to be when the flood starts to happen,“ Burgum said.


►  Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument Vandalized

The National Park Service says graffiti has been found at the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial, the AP reports. US Park Police spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Rose said Tuesday that the messages written in permanent marker were discovered over the holiday weekend. Similar graffiti was found on a power box along the National Mall. Rose says the message written on the Washington Monument references President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the 9/11 attacks, but did not provide specifics. Authorities think the graffiti was left by the same person.


►  Man Who Shot Officer Is Newly Paroled Gang Member

“This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be,“ says a California police chief after a gang member paroled earlier this month allegedly killed a relative and a police officer. At least two officers had responded to the scene of a vehicle accident in Whittier around 8:30am Monday and were told the 26-year-old man, with tattoos on his face and neck, had rear-ended another vehicle, authorities tell KTLA. Noting the man’s “gang attire,“ the officers—who were wearing bulletproof vests—ordered him out of his vehicle and were about to pat him down “when he pulled out his gun and … started shooting,“ a rep for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tells CNN.

Keith Boyer, a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department, died at the hospital while Patrick Hazel, a three-year veteran, was admitted in stable condition. Neither officer had realized the suspect—who was injured in the gunfight and is in intensive care—had been driving a car stolen from East Los Angeles, where he’d fatally shot his 46-year-old cousin around 5:30am, authorities say, per the Los Angeles Times. The gunman’s identity has not been released, nor have details about his prior criminal record. Whittier’s police chief says the man was released from jail early because of new laws meant to reduce prison stays, which he says actually make cities less safe. “We need to wake up,“ he said through tears, describing Boyer as “the best of the best.“


►  ‘Dr. Death’ Sentenced

Mary Efurd came out of back surgery in 2012 unable to use her legs and missing a third of her blood. Her Texas neurosurgeon has now been sentenced to life in prison as a result, reports the Dallas Morning News. A jury found Christopher Duntsch, 45, guilty of intentionally causing injury to an elderly person last week before delivering his sentence in a Dallas County court on Monday after an hour of deliberation, per CBS DFW. Though the trial focused on Efurd’s case, the jury heard how two patients died after surgery performed by Duntsch. More than 30 others said Duntsch left them with chronic pain, permanent nerve damage, or surgical waste inside their bodies, while one man said he awoke from surgery to find he was paralyzed on one side of his body.

In Efurd’s case, a doctor said Duntsch had “done virtually everything wrong,“ including drilling a screw into her spinal cavity and attaching implants to muscle instead of bone. “It’s as egregious as you can imagine,“ he said. Lawyers for Duntsch—who was stripped of his medical license in 2013, per the Dallas Observer—argued he was “not a skilled surgeon” and “was on his own and doing the best he could.“ But prosecutors pointed to disturbing emails in which Duntsch referred to himself as “something between god, Einstein, and the antichrist” and said he was “ready to … become a cold-blooded killer,“ per D Magazine, which nicknamed him “Dr. Death.“ “He obviously knew at some point that what he was doing was criminal,“ one prosecutor said.


►  Targets of Racist Graffiti Now Getting Fined for It

When Heather Lindsay and Lexene Charles discovered the n-word painted across their garage door on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, their first instinct wasn’t to remove it. The interracial couple says their home in Stamford, Conn., has been vandalized several times and three neighbors have called Charles the n-word. In each case, police would “sweep it under the table,“ Lindsay tells the Stamford Advocate. Not this time. The couple chose to leave the graffiti for the whole neighborhood to see—and they could now go to jail as a result. A police chief tells NBC New York that the couple could face arrest after the city issued a blight citation, meaning Lindsay and Charles face a $100 fine for each day the slur remains visible.

Though officers are investigating the “disgusting” incident on January 14, no witnesses have been found and neighbors are complaining the graffiti is “disturbing the peace,“ the city’s director of public safety says. “There are kids in this neighborhood,“ says one. “Why do we have to subject them to that?“ But Lindsay, 59, says the graffiti won’t be removed until police “do their job” and “not just cover it up … as they have done in the past.“ “I’d like to find out who did it, because this has to stop,“ Charles, 56, adds, per ABC 7. The couple, who plan to fight any fines in court, are now asking police to investigate certain neighbors. “Act like you give a damn and make sure these people are protected,“ says a NAACP Representative.


►  Grad Student Keeps Finding Lost Whitman Works

A University of Houston grad student poking around in the Library of Congress’ archives stumbled across a long-lost novel from the mid-19th century—and it’s a discovery the editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review tells the Houston Chronicle is “going to change everything we thought we knew” about the American poetry legend his publication is named for. English PhD candidate Zachary Turpin’s find: Whitman’s Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, originally offered to readers in 1852 as a six-piece series in New York’s Sunday Dispatch. The New York Times describes the then-anonymously written 36,000-word piece as a “quasi-Dickensian tale” (which it notes shows hints of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, published in 1855) about an orphan, with a bevy of compelling characters and “more than a few unlikely plot twists and jarring narrative shifts.“

Turpin, who hit Whitman gold in 2015 when he found a lost Whitman advice series, told the Times last year that his obsession with searching for unattributed Whitman works is “kind of a sickness I have in off-hours.“ This time around, his quest had him plumbing an archive that contained various Whitman notes, drafts, and other miscellaneous records, per the Guardian. One set of scraps featured a bunch of character names, including “Jack Engle,“ and when Turpin plugged those names into databases of Victorian-era newspapers, up popped a tiny Times ad for the upcoming Engle serial set to appear in the Dispatch, which Whitman was known to have written for. “I couldn’t believe that, for a few minutes, I was the only person on Earth who knew about this book,“ Turpin says. Read the story at the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.


►  Rise in premiums lays bare 2 Americas on health care

Michael Schwarz is a self-employed business owner who buys his own health insurance. Subsidized coverage through “Obamacare” offers protection from life’s unpredictable changes and freedom to pursue his vocation, he says.

Brett Dorsch is also self-employed and buys his own health insurance. But he gets no financial break from the Affordable Care Act. “To me, it’s just been a big lie,“ Dorsch says, forcing him to pay more for less coverage.

Schwarz and Dorsch represent two Americas, pulling farther apart over former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Known as the ACA, the law rewrote the rules for people buying their own health insurance, creating winners and losers.

Those with financial subsidies now fear being harmed by Donald Trump and Republicans intent on repealing and replacing the ACA. But other consumers who also buy their own insurance and don’t qualify for financial help feel short-changed by Obama’s law. They’re hoping repeal will mean relief from rising premiums.

The ACA sought to create one big new market for individual health insurance in each state. It required insurers to accept all customers, regardless of medical problems. And it provided subsidies to help low- and moderate-income people afford premiums.

These newly vested ACA customers joined consumers already in the market, to make a new insurance pool. Policies offered to all had to be upgraded to meet new federal standards for comprehensive benefits, raising premiums. And many of the new customers turned out to be sicker than insurers expected, pushing rates even higher.

Consumers who didn’t qualify for government financial help wound up bearing the full cost of premiums. They also faced the law’s new requirement to carry health insurance or risk fines.

“One (group) is angry and one is incredibly grateful,“ said Robert Blendon of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. If Trump and congressional Republicans aren’t careful, their actions could stoke fresh grievances without solving longstanding problems of access and cost.

Consider what happened to Schwarz and Dorsch this year, as premiums for a standard plan through HealthCare.gov jumped an average of 25 percent.

Schwarz and his wife are in their mid-20s and live in Tampa, Florida. He has his own commercial photography business and she’s pursuing a graduate degree in speech-language pathology.

The sticker price of their HealthCare.gov policy went up about 20 percent, but what they pay monthly is about $115 lower than last year. Not only did their subsidy cover the rise in premium, they’re also getting more help because their income went down when Schwarz’s wife returned to school full time.

“Being uninsured is not an option,“ said Schwarz. If Republicans take away his subsidy, “I would have to change careers and find a job that offered health insurance,“ he said.

Dorsch and his wife live in Wilmington, Delaware, and are in their mid-50s. He has a wholesale business supplying electronics to retail stores and has been buying his own health insurance for years. He gets no financial help from the ACA.

Dorsch said their insurance company wanted to raise the monthly premium to $2,050, or nearly $25,000 a year. They settled for a skimpier plan that still costs $1,350 a month and has a very high deductible.

“In four years my health insurance has more than doubled and I have less coverage,“ said Dorsch. “It’s ludicrous.“

He voted for Trump. “He saw the reality that Obamacare has been a nightmare for most Americans, unless you are poor or in a very difficult situation,“ said Dorsch.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the pool of people buying individual health insurance is basically split down the middle among subsidized customers like Schwarz and those who get no help, like Dorsch.

Republican proposals to tie tax credits to age, not income, would help Dorsch. But they may not be generous enough for Schwarz.

“It’s trying to find the way to help the one without hurting the other that’s really tricky,“ said Nicholas Moriello, a health insurance broker from Newark, Delaware. “If we had a way to help the person whose premium has become unaffordable without hurting the person we are currently subsidizing.“

Caroline Pearson, of the consulting firm Avalere Health, studied consumers on government marketplaces like HealthCare.gov — where nearly 90 percent get subsidies — and compared them with those who purchase directly from an insurer and pay full cost.

Among Avalere’s findings:
— The majority of consumers in the government marketplaces live in lower-income neighborhoods with high unemployment. However, among those who purchase directly from an insurer, about 30 percent live neighborhoods with a median income of $100,000 or more.

— Consumers in the subsidized market are generally costlier to cover. For those with a standard plan, per-person medical claims averaged $376 per month in 2015, compared to $312 for unsubsidized customers who bought policies directly from an insurer.

— The subsidized market is important in states that voted for Trump. In Florida, for example, 70 percent of individual policyholders purchase through HealthCare.Governor In Georgia, it’s 62 percent.

“Obamacare helped a lot of lower-income people with high health needs who previously couldn’t afford insurance,“ said Pearson. “It overlooked the fact that there are a lot of people who are relatively healthy and who didn’t want the increased benefits. More sick people drove up premiums, which is resulting in some people feeling like they are worse off.“


►  Teens Allegedly Left Girl for Dead, Kept ‘Memento’

Two teenage boys charged with shooting a 14-year-old girl in the back of the head and leaving her wounded in a ditch lured her to the spot in a small Utah town with a plan to rob and kill her, prosecutors said. The 16-year-old boys set up a meeting by promising to sell Deserae Turner a knife, reports KSL. They originally planned to stab her with knives of their own, according to newly filed charging documents. After they arrived, one boy decided instead to use a gun he had brought and shot Deserae, prosecutors said Tuesday. They took $55 from her purse, tossed her backpack in a trash bin and destroyed her cellphone and iPod, prosecutors wrote. Deserae is in critical condition in a medically induced coma, reports the AP. One teen told police that greed made them do it, investigators said.

Deserae was reported missing Thursday evening when she didn’t return home from school and was found around 12:45am Friday in the dry canal in Smithfield. “She is in the fight of her life right now,“ says a rep for her family. The teen who brought the gun gave the spent shell casing to the other boy when he asked to keep it “as a memento,“ the charges state. Officers later found it displayed on his bedroom windowsill. Investigators say text messages between the boys indicate they planned the robbery and shooting together, the Salt Lake Tribune reports, and footprints in the canal allegedly match the shoes the boys were wearing. KSL reports, per charging documents, that one teen “provided a written apology to (Deserae’s) family in which he stated, ‘I’m so so so sorry.‘“ The boys face attempted aggravated murder charges, among others.


►  3 Guys Busted in Theft of 200K Diapers

Perhaps they wanted to start a daycare? Authorities in Rhode Island have made a third arrest in the case of 200,000 stolen diapers, reports ABC6. According to police, a truck driver was to deliver 2,000 boxes of diapers, worth $90,000, to an Amazon distribution facility on February 9 but instead sold them, reports the Providence Journal. Rodney Dalzon, 44, who was arrested Tuesday, had leased a Providence storefront where 800 boxes were found last Wednesday, per WPRI. Another 600 boxes were found at a Providence home. Dalzon, 59-year-old Aubrey Bettis, and 41-year-old Damon Martin are charged with larceny, conspiracy, and other charges.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Author’s Joke at Her Home May Have Given Killer an Idea

While giving a tour of her $1.6 million home in 2013 with her partner in tow, children’s author Helen Bailey noted that the cesspit beneath the garage would be a “good place to hide a body,“ according to court documents. Prosecutors said that’s exactly how Ian Stewart got the idea to bury Bailey’s body there three years later after suffocating her with a pillow, reports the BBC. Stewart, 56, was found guilty of his fiance’s 2016 murder in a UK court Wednesday in a case that now has authorities re-examining his wife’s death in 2010. Prosecutors say Stewart fed Bailey sleeping drugs for weeks before smothering her on April 11—the same day he increased the monthly sum moved from Bailey’s bank account into the couple’s joint account from $750 to $5,000.

Stewart initially told police that Bailey vanished after leaving a note saying she was staying in Kent. He later said business associates of her late husband kidnapped Bailey and blackmailed him—a story the prosecution argued was “bizarre nonsense.“ Prosecutors instead painted Stewart as a cold and calculating “narcissist” playing “the long game” to steal Bailey’s $5 million fortune, noting that he attempted to sell an apartment Bailey owned and went on a two-week holiday to Spain shortly after the 51-year-old’s death, per the Guardian. Authorities say there’s “no indication” of foul play in the 2010 death of Stewart’s wife after an epileptic seizure, but the case will be re-examined. However, the Telegraph notes that her body was cremated. Stewart will be sentenced Thursday.


►  Artist Begins Weeklong Stay ... in a Boulder

A French artist has kicked off a weeklong stay inside a 13-ton boulder. Sounds awful, right? Well, it’s only the start of what Abraham Poincheval calls “an inner journey to find out what the world is.“ After seven days confined to a sitting position in a limestone rock shaped like an egg at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo museum—a feat that began Wednesday—Poincheval will spend 23.5 hours a day sitting on chicken eggs in order to hatch them, a process that’s expected to take three or four weeks. While it certainly won’t be a comfortable endeavor, Poincheval should generally know what to expect. He’s previously spent eight days buried underground, a week on top of a 65-foot pole, and two weeks inside a stuffed bear, reports AFP.

The Free Press WV

Poincheval says he’s been preparing for months for the “Stone” performance—with the goal “to feel the aging stone inside the rock,“ he tells Quartz—and has all the kinks worked out. In addition to some padding, according to one witness, he’ll also have access to air, a toilet, an emergency phone line, and a heart monitor as he munches on dried meat, soup, and other liquids. Once outside the egg, he’ll eat plenty of ginger—allowing his blood vessels to expand, increasing body heat—to help him keep the chicken eggs at a minimum of 98 degrees while inside a glass encasement at the museum in a performance dubbed “Egg.“ After the eggs hatch, the chicks will “go and live with my parents,“ Poincheval says.


►  Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Reportedly Turns ISIS Bomber

A man compensated by the UK government following his release from Guantanamo Bay in 2004 has reportedly died in a suicide bombing targeting a military base in Iraq. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack Monday, sharing a photo of the smiling British suicide bomber it identified as Abu Zakariya al-Britani moments before he is said to have driven one of four explosive-laden SUVs toward the base in Mosul, per the Sun. A relative tells the Times the man is Jamal al-Harith, born Ronald Fiddler. Al-Harith was held at Guantanamo for two years after US forces found him imprisoned by the Taliban in 2002 and determined he had tried to join the terrorist group and was involved in a “terrorist attack against the US.“

But al-Harith was never questioned about an attack and the Taliban viewed him as a British spy, reports the Guardian. He was eventually freed and awarded $1.25 million for alleged mistreatment after the British Home Secretary said he wouldn’t be “a threat to the security of the British people.“ A former counterterror strategist for the UK government admits “we failed to be aware of what Fiddler was up to” in the years after his release even though he was a “high-profile figure,“ per the Guardian. Al-Harith’s wife previously said he joined ISIS in Syria in 2014. At least two vehicles reportedly penetrated the military base in Iraq on Monday before exploding. It’s unclear how many people died or were injured, but ISIS has claimed “many casualties.“


►  Someone Really Wants to Get to Kim Jong Nam’s Body

As Malaysian cops seek out a North Korean diplomat for questioning in the poisoning death of Kim Jong Un’s half brother, the morgue where Kim Jong Nam’s body is being held is having its own issues. Khalid Abu Bakar, head of the country’s police force, told the Malay Mail someone tried to bust into Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s mortuary and that “precautions” are now being taken. He also suggested police are clued in on who attempted the break-in. “We know who they are. There is no need for me to tell you,“ he said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bakar says both Hyon Kwang Song (the sought-after diplomat) and Kim Uk Il (a man linked to Air Koryo, North Korea’s state airline) are still in Malaysia and have been “called in for assistance,“ the Guardian reports.


►  Lawyer: Portugal to extradite ex-CIA agent to Italian jail

A former CIA agent will be handed over to Italy in the coming days to serve a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of involvement in a U.S. program that kidnapped suspects for interrogation, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Sabrina de Sousa spent the night in a women’s prison near Lisbon after a Portuguese court ordered police to extradite her, her Portuguese lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, told the Associated Press in an interview.

He said she was detained Monday after a two-year fight against extradition and would be put on a plane once formalities between Portuguese and Italian police were concluded.

De Sousa, 61, was among 26 Americans convicted of kidnapping suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on February 17, 2003. She denied involvement in the abduction.

The U.S. rendition program, under which terror suspects were kidnapped and transferred to centers where they were interrogated and tortured, was part of the anti-terrorism strategy of the Bush administration following the September 11, 2001, attacks. Former President Barack Obama ended the program years later.

The U.S. government expressed concern with De Sousa’s treatment.

“We are deeply disappointed in her conviction and sentence,“ acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “This is a matter that U.S. officials have been following closely. We have asked our European counterparts what their next steps may be, but we are not in a position to detail those discussions.“

De Sousa lost several appeals against extradition since her arrest at Lisbon Airport in October 2015 on a European warrant. She had argued she was never officially informed of the Italian court conviction and couldn’t use confidential U.S. government information to defend herself.

Once in Italy, De Sousa is expected to be taken to a women’s prison in Milan, but her Italian lawyer Dario Bolognesi said he would immediately appeal to the Milan court to defer her imprisonment pending a decision on her years-long request for clemency. Other Americans convicted in the case have received clemency from the Italian president.

Bolognesi met Tuesday with Justice Ministry officials who are reviewing the clemency request and emerged optimistic. Regardless, he said he would also request that De Sousa be granted semi-freedom and serve any sentence doing social work.

He disputed the written ruling by the Lisbon judges that said that the verdict in Italy that provided the grounds for the European arrest warrant was “not final.“ He said the Italian case went all the way to the highest court and is final.

Magalhaes e Silva, de Sousa’s Lisbon lawyer and a human rights expert who said he took her case pro bono, said the European arrest warrant guaranteed de Sousa the possibility of a new trial or an appeal. Those assurances persuaded the Lisbon court to send her to Italy, he said. But last June the Italian authorities retracted that promise in a letter to the court, he said.

“It will be interesting to see what the Italian courts do when there’s an extradition based on a European arrest warrant in which Italy guaranteed to Portugal that it would respect certain rights, then like a pariah state it turns around and says no,“ he said.

De Sousa, who was born in India and holds both U.S. and Portuguese passports, has said she had been living in Portugal and intended to settle there. She was on her way to visit her elderly mother in India with a roundtrip ticket when she was detained.


►  ‘Never Have I Seen a Man Fallen From Such a Height’

A former leader of Hong Kong was sentenced Wednesday to 20 months in prison for misconduct after failing to disclose plans to rent a luxury apartment for his retirement from a businessman applying for a broadcasting license, the AP reports. It was a stunning downfall for Donald Tsang, 72, who served as Hong Kong’s leader, or chief executive, from 2005 to 2012. He becomes the highest-ranking official sent to prison for wrongdoing in the Asian financial hub, which prides itself on a reputation for clean governance. “Never in my judicial career have I seen a man fallen from such a height,“ Justice Andrew Chan said as he handed down the sentence in Hong Kong’s High Court. Tsang showed little emotion as the sentence was read out in a packed courtroom; his wife said he plans to appeal.

Jurors ruled 8-1 he committed misconduct when he failed to disclose that the penthouse in neighboring Shenzhen in mainland China was owned by a businessman whose company was applying for and ultimately granted a digital radio license. Willy Lam with the Chinese University of Hong Kong tells Time the case is “particularly relevant today” as the reach of Chinese businesses claws deeper into the semiautonomous territory. “Despite the anti-corruption campaign in China after Xi Jinping came to office, corruption is still a way of life for many Chinese businesspeople,“ he says. Time notes Tsang is not the only chief executive in the hot seat: The current one, Leung Chun-ying, is being investigated over allegations he accepted $6.4 million from Australian engineering company UGL in 2012.


►  Kim Suspects Coated Their Hands in Poison

The women suspected of fatally poisoning Kim Jong Un’s half brother were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals and wipe them on his face, police said Wednesday, announcing they were now seeking a North Korean diplomat in connection with the attack. Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said authorities are searching for two new North Korean suspects, including the second secretary of North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur and an employee of North Korea’s state-owned airline Air Koryo, the AP reports. We hope that the Korean embassy will cooperate with us, allow us to interview them and interview them quickly,“ he said. “If not, we will compel them to come to us.“

Khalid said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials during the attack at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. “We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained to do that. This is not just like shooting a movie,“ he told reporters. Khalid couldn’t confirm whether North Korea’s government was behind the February 13 death of Kim Jong Nam, but added, “What is clear is that those involved are North Koreans.“ Police have already arrested four people, including the two women. At least one of the women has claimed she was tricked, believing she was taking part in a comedy prank TV show.

Justice Introduces Legislation Mandating More Efficient Use of State Vehicles

Governor Jim Justice announced that he is cutting wasteful spending on state vehicles by creating a centralized inventory for the state entire fleet. The bill comes after the Justice Administration has already eliminated over 200 state cars.


“To make our state operate more like a business, we must get a handle on all of our assets and liabilities,“ said Governor Jim Justice. “Keeping track of every state vehicle will ensure that state government isn’t wasting money on replacing vehicles. This is a way to streamline government, and when someone asks how many cars the state owns, we will have an exact answer.“

The Governor’s proposal will expand the duties of the Fleet Management Office to keep track of all state vehicles, including fuel usage, mileage, maintenance, and purchases made by all agencies.  These changes will provide for a centralized inventory of all state vehicles, and requires registering and re-titling of all state vehicles.  The Fleet Management Office would maintain a pool of vehicles for short-term rentals for agencies instead of purchasing more vehicles.​

West Virginia Debt Rating Downgraded by Moody’s

The Free Press WV

The Justice administration says Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the state’s general obligation debt rating, citing growing structural instability between the government’s financial resources and expense liability.

Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy says Moody’s downgrade from AA1 to AA2 follows similar moves last year by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s.

Gov. Jim Justice says state borrowing “just got more expensive” and criticized legislative proposals to refinance some of the state’s pension debt.

The Democrat has proposed fractional sales and corporate tax increases, establishing a surplus safety fund and a bond-funded highway reconstruction program to close a projected $500 million state deficit in the coming year and boost West Virginia’s economy.

Republican legislative leaders have criticized the tax proposals.


02.22.2017
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

We were downgraded at least once, maybe twice under Gov. Tomblin.

This downgrade belongs to Earl Ray as well.  Justice just got in office.

Justice and the Republican controlled Legislature need to actually FIX the budget problem, not just TALK about it.

By THIS BELONGS TO EARL RAY  on  02.22.2017

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WV’s Colleges and Universities Seek More Flexibility With Staff

The Free Press WV

The House of Delegates Education Committee will take up a bill Wednesday that supporters say will give the state’s colleges and universities more flexibility in several areas including personnel.

House Education Committee Chairman Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) said on MetroNews “Talkline” the measure (HB 2542), which is supported by West Virginia University, would allow the schools to have the more appropriate mix of staff so they can meet the needs of their students.

“It would eliminate those bumping and recall rights and enable institutions to look very closely at the qualifications of the individuals they have on staff and also be able to take into consideration documented job performance as they’re looking to make those decisions,” Espinosa said.

Current state code makes it difficult for colleges and universities to lay off workers especially those with many years of service. Espinosa said places like WVU and Marshall have been asked to operate with fewer state dollars in recent years and they should be given more flexibility.

“Our higher education institutions can use the same logic that is used routinely in the private sector. You really pick the individuals based on what the needs of the institution are,” Espinosa said.

The bill allows the institutions to craft severance packages.

Classified staff at the schools are concerned about longtime employees losing their jobs. Espinosa said there’s been extensive conversations with the groups. He said they’ve tried to emphasize the flexibility would allow the schools to make better decisions.

“This will help the institutions be more successful and I think to the extent they are more successful that has to be good for all parties concerned,” he said.

The House Education Committee is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Click HERE  to read the bill.

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • British MPs Clash Over Trump State Visit:    No one was mincing words. A packed Westminster Hall saw Britain’s Parliament quarrel over whether President Trump’s planned state visit to the U.K. should be canceled. Over the three-hour debate - prompted by an online petition with nearly 2 million signatures - Trump was branded a “bully and a bigot” and “immoral” by MPs from both sides of the aisle. Government sources say there’s no way the visit will be canceled, but Britain’s Speaker of the House has made it clear that Trump won’t be allowed to address Parliament.  BBC


  • Yiannopoulos Loses Book Deal After Pedophilia Comments:  There are some things you can’t say. Right-wing editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos lost his already controversial $250,000 Simon and Schuster book deal after video surfaced of him appearing to condone statutory rape and sexual relationships between young boys and adult men. Yiannopoulos, already banned from Twitter for inciting hatred against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, was to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, but his invitation has now been rescinded. He responded on Facebook, blaming the video’s “deceptive editing” and asserting, “This will not defeat me.“    NPR


  • SCOTUS will hear the case of a Mexican teen who was fatally shot by border patrol — and it could mean big things for non-citizens:    In 2010 an unarmed Mexican 15-year-old, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, was fatally shot by a United States Border Patrol agent from across the United States-Mexico border. Guereca’s parents tried to sue the Border Patrol agent, Jesus Mesa Jr., for violating their son’s rights, but were dismissed on the grounds that Guereca wasn’t in the U.S. and therefore is not protected by the American legal system. They next petitioned the Obama administration to extradite Mesa so he could be charged in Mexico, where they live. Their request was denied. But on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, the Supreme Court will hear the family’s appeal — and the case could set a precedent for the ability of non-U.S. citizens to access the American judicial system.  MIC


  • Texas v. Trump:    When it comes to requiring a conviction before asset forfeiture the Lone Star State needs to stand up to police and presidential tyranny.  Austin American-Statesman


In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Sutton students donate to Brown Bags for Vets program

Sutton Elementary School students donated more than 250 bags to local veterans through the Brown Bags for Vets Program as their December project.

The Brown Bags for Vets program consists of food items that are distributed to those veterans who travel to Pittsburgh for medical procedures that usually require fasting. Because there is little time before they have to board the van back to Clarksburg, they need to eat. This meets that need.

The Free Press WV


The brown bags are also distributed to the hospice department of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, the Clarksburg Mission’s Veterans program, the Clarksburg Housing Authority and the Mustard Seed, which work in serving veterans.

“The Brown Bags for Vets program is so helpful to the veterans and greatly appreciated,” said Chuck Hall of the Clarksburg Mission’s Veterans Program.

To participate in the program, contact the Harrison County WVU Extension office at 304.624.8657.


►  Troy Clemons Gets Another Year as WVU Mascot

Greenbrier County native Troy Clemons has been named West Virginia University’s mascot for another year.

Clemons beat out three other finalists. His selection by a committee of faculty, staff and students was announced at the WVU men’s basketball game with Texas on Monday night.

The Free Press WV


The other Mountaineer Mascot finalists were Trevor Kiess, of Elkins, Jesse Lackey, of Salem, and Savannah Lusk, of Covel.

Kiess will be asked to take the role as alternate Mountaineer Mascot.

According to a WVU press release, Clemons is the 64th Mountaineer Mascot and is a graduate student majoring in business administration from Maxwelton. A recipient of the PROMISE and WVU Mountaineer scholarships, he earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management from the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Science in May of 2016.

“It is a huge honor to represent the University and West Virginia, my home, as the mascot for another year,” Clemons said in the release. “My love and appreciation for Mountaineers everywhere has only grown over the past year and I look forward to seeing what the upcoming year will bring.”


►  Justice takes his agenda straight to the people of WV

Governor Jim Justice continues to use his most powerful tool to work on getting his agenda through the legislature. He’s bypassing the legislature altogether and taking his message straight to the people. He’s treating his agenda much the way he treated his campaign for the office.

He used another non-traditional method on Tuesday when he appeared live on the Big John and Company Morning Show on MetroNews Affiliate WDGG-FM in Huntington.  Typically a music radio station isn’t the place politicians go to air out their political ideas, but Justice continues to show he isn’t a typical governor.

Using some of the same language he used during his State of the State Address to lay out his plan, Justice again referred to the state’s financial situation as an “18 karat dog’s mess.”  The governor restated his plan to increase taxes to get the state back on a firm financial footing and his roads plan as a way to jump start the state’s economy.  He acknowledged his plans have hit resistance at the Capitol and called on listeners to help him change hearts and minds.

“It’s not that our legislators are misinformed or bad people, they’re good people and they want good things too. But too many of them want to be politicians,” he said. “The people have got to get on the phone and be talking to their legislators. They need to say, ‘Listen we think Justice is going to take us out of this mess and we love his pathway out of this mess. We know we’re going to have to suffer a little bit and pay a little bit more, but it’s going to take us where West Virginia can really and truly prosper and be proud of itself.‘”

The radio show appearance comes as Justice launches into a statewide tour to tout his plans directly to the people.  He appeared Sunday along the completed portion of the Coalfields Expressway in Raleigh County and this Friday will appear on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval live from the State Capitol taking calls from the people of West Virginia to talk about his proposed remedies to the state’s fiscal calamity.

“They need to be calling their legislators and saying, ‘Listen you didn’t have a plan. You got us into this mess, now Justice is trying to take us out of this mess and he’s going to take us somewhere because he doesn’t want anything,‘” the Governor said on WDGG. “You see, I don’t care about running for some other office.  I don’t care about getting reelected.”

Justice touched on his other “big ideas”for the timber, gas, and coal industries in West Virginia.  He also has grand ideas about agriculture and furniture manufacturing returning to the state.  He claimed those ideas are still several years away, but the financial difficulties are here and now with no other alternative to be repaired.

“We’ve got to have something now,” he said. “We’ve got to stabilize the patient and have a jump start now.  How we get there?  I don’t care how we get there, we’ve just got to get there.”


►  Health departments, others receiving naloxone

Less than a month after West Virginia’s first statewide naloxone distribution project launched to increase access to the medication, the deliveries are well underway across the Mountain State.

The Hancock County Health Department is scheduled to receive 300 boxes, or 600 doses of the the opioid overdose reversal drug which comes in packages of two, as early as this week.

That naloxone will largely be distributed at no cost to community members through the health department’s naloxone training classes in Chester, New Cumberland and Weirton, according to Donna Gialluco, HCHD administrative services assistant.

“Administration of this Narcan (the brand name for naloxone) works on the young and the old as well as the people who are struggling with drug addiction,” she told MetroNews.

West Virginia University’s Injury Control Research Center has partnered with the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities and Bureau for Public Health for the distributions.

“Our ultimate goal would to be to get as much naloxone (as possible) out on the streets to help decrease opioid overdoses,” said Sheena Sayres, public health outreach specialist for WVU’s Injury Control Research Center.

She is overseeing the ongoing program allocations.

In all, there are 8,000 kits containing two doses each for 16,000 total naloxone doses that will be rolled out in two separate phases over the next couple of months.

The organizations already receiving naloxone include the following: the Cabell-Huntington, Kanawha-Charleston and Wheeling-Ohio County health departments along with officials in Brooke County and non-EMS first responders like the Huntington Fire Department, Huntington Police Department and Charleston Police Department.

Last week, kits were distributed to non-EMS first responders in Monongalia, Marion and Harrison counties.

Up next on the distribution list are organizations in counties that include Berkeley, Mercer, McDowell and Raleigh.

A priority list for the naloxone was created using risk scores, according to Sayres.

“Their scores are based on the type of program they have,” explained Sayres. “Also, where they’re located in the state which is based on the opioid overdose risk and then on their need for actual naloxone.”

She continued, “Some of the organizations already had a bunch of naloxone, so they only needed a few doses. Some of them don’t have any, so they needed a lot,” Sayres said.

For Gialluco, the distributions are about saving lives.

“You’d be surprised, in the past trainings that we’ve done, we’ve had parents come in and say they’re embarrassed to tell their doctor, but they’re pretty sure their kids are on something and (ask) can they have it,” she said.

Accidental overdoses for the elderly who may be confused about medication timings or young children who get into something mistakenly, Gialluco said, are also a real concern in Hancock County.

“That relief that comes over their face knowing that they pray to God they never have to use this, but if there is that incident that they need to do that with their child or their sister or an adult — anybody, that they have that backup.”

Naloxone typically costs $75 per box and may or may not be covered by insurance.

The statewide free naloxone distribution project is being largely funded through a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

MILLIONS COULD BE TARGETED FOR DEPORTATION UNDER NEW TRUMP RULES

Any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly.


TRUMP CONDEMNS THREATS AGAINST JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTERS

With his somewhat delayed denunciation, Trump sought to reset his relationship with American Jews.


WHY IMMIGRANTS ARE RUSHING TO APPLY FOR US CITIZENSHIP

Since Trump’s executive orders on immigration, legal service organizations in Los Angeles, Maryland and New York said they’ve been fielding a rising number of calls and questions about how to become a citizen.


ISRAELI SOLDIER SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR KILLING WOUNDED PALESTINIAN

Leading nationalist Israeli politicians called any jail time unfair and urged an immediate pardon, while Palestinians dismissed Israel’s justice system as a “joke.“


DEADLINE LOOMS FOR DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE PROTEST CAMP

The Army Corps of Engineers says it won’t extend a Wednesday deadline for Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents to vacate their encampment on federal land in North Dakota.


WHAT TESTOSTERONE TREATMENT DOES NOT DO FOR OLDER MEN

It did not improve older men’s memory or mental function in the latest results from landmark government research that challenges the anti-aging claims of popular supplements.


OWNER OF BURGER KING AND TIM HORTONS IS BUYING POPEYES

Restaurant Brands International will pay $1.8 billion for the fried chicken chain with plans to accelerate its growth.


HOW FORMER WHITE SUPREMACISTS ARE HELPING OTHERS LEAVE HATE BEHIND

Groups and individuals are offering counseling, education and understanding to extremists seeking a way out.


KANSAS GOVERNOR TO VETO BIPARTISAN BILL TO HIKE INCOME TAXES

Governor Sam Brownback has criticized the measure as harmful to middle-class families and small business owners but supporters say it’s necessary to help close projected budget shortfalls.


MILO YIANNOPOULOS RESIGNS AS EDITOR OF BREITBART NEWS

The polarizing right-wing writer was by turns apologetic for comments he made about sexual relationships between boys and men and adamant he had been the subject of “a cynical media witch hunt.“


Uber hired ex-U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to investigate allegations of sexual harassment at the company

An ex-Uber engineer wrote in a blog post she faced harassment and gender bias, and that HR lied to her about it being his first offense.


Snapchat has started selling its Spectacles camera glasses online

They’re retailing for $130 (£105), but they are still only available in the US.


Samsung’s reputation has dropped dramatically over the Note 7 exploding phone debacle

It has dropped 42 places in Harris Poll’s research, from 7th to 49th.


WhatsApp launched an encrypted Snapchat Stories clone called Status

It’s the latest attempt from Facebook to copy Snapchat’s features.


Apple said Brussels made “fundamental errors when calculating its $13.8 billion tax bill

Apple is on the hook for billions in unpaid taxes in Europe.


A startup has a grand vision to make hydrogen trucks a reality by 2020

Nikola Motor Company plans to build over 300 hydrogen stations across the US so its trucks can cross the country.


Snap spent Monday trying to woo skeptical investors in London ahead of its IPO

The Snapchat parent company has kicked off its IPO roadshow.


Apple will reportedly release 4 iPads in March 2017

The Cupertino company is rumored to be preparing a major refresh of its tablet lineup.


A U.S. panel has endorsed limited genetic modification of humans

“Although heritable germline genome editing trials must be approached with caution ... caution does not mean prohibition,“ the National Academy committee said.


Amazon has updated its Fire TV device

It now comes with Alexa built in, letting you control TV with your voice.

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