Valentine’s Day 2016
Have a Very Happy Valentine’s Day
The Gilmer Free Press
The Free Press WV
Have a Very Happy Valentine’s Day
The Gilmer Free Press
The Free Press WV
An undercover journalist for a nonprofit organization captured candid video of a national textbook company’s sales executive making inflammatory remarks about federal Common Core standards and textbook companies’ support of them.
Project Veritas, a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct,” interviewed now-former Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Accounts Manager Dianne Barrow about why educational publishing companies generally support the federal education standards.
‘What Are You, Crazy?’
“You don’t think that the educational publishing companies are in it for the education, do you?” Barrow said in the recording. “It’s all about the money. What are you, crazy? It’s all about the money.
“I hate kids,” Barrow said later in the video. “I’m in it to sell books. Don’t even kid yourself for a heartbeat.”
Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, an independent national research organization established in 1989 to review and monitor the history textbooks used in government schools, says Barrow’s candid remarks are not surprising.
“Textbook companies [and] publishers are in business to make a profit,” Sewall said. “Textbook publishers are subsidized; their buyers are governments. The word I have for you, the word which captures my view of textbook publishers, is ‘mercenary.’ They are in the business of selling what teachers and curriculum supervisors want to buy.”
Stephen Gordon, a spokesman for Project Veritas, says most of the support for Common Core is based on financial concerns, not pedagogical ones.
“Almost every teacher I know hates Common Core,” Gordon said. “There are a lot of liberals speaking out against Common Core. There is even a lot of opposition within various teachers’ unions. It seems the only people who benefit from Common Core are the publishing companies and the politicians to whom they send their donations.”
Gordon says he hopes his organization’s undercover journalism gets people talking about education reform.
“We’d like to see politicians at all levels making Common Core more of a priority,” Gordon said. “If Common Core became a hot debate topic among the presidential candidates, the mainstream media would be forced to provide the issue the coverage it deserves.”
~~ Andrea Dillon - Holly Springs, North Carolina ~~
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative and provocative judge who died at age 79, was known for pointed language, fiercely held opinions and a sardonic wit that at times invoked fairy tales, foreigners and hippies.
Since joining the court in 1986, Scalia weighed in – often colorfully and memorably – on the major issues of the day, including guns, gay marriage and the death penalty.
Some of the significant opinions he wrote for the court’s majority – as well as the dissents for which he is perhaps even better known:
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER, 2008
Scalia was responsible for the majority opinion in a seminal Second Amendment case, writing for the court in a 5-4 ruling that upheld the right to have guns for self-defense in the home.
Turning aside a District of Columbia ban on handguns, Scalia leaned on English and colonial history in declaring that the individual right to bear arms clearly exists and is supported by the ‘historical narrative.“
In the concluding lines of the opinion, which divided the court’s liberals and conservatives, he acknowledged the views of those who considered the Second Amendment “outmoded” at a time of serious gun violence and when “our standing army is the pride of our nation.“
“That is perhaps debatable,“ he wrote, “but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.“
BROWN v. ENTERTAINMENT MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION, 2011
In an opinion that name-dropped Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Homer’s Ulysses, Scalia rejected attempts by California to restrict the sale or rental of violent video games to children.
A state, he wrote in the majority decision, has the authority to protect children from harm, “but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.“
California’s argument would make more sense, he added, if there was a longstanding tradition of restricting “children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none.“
What to make, he wrote, of how Cinderella’s evil stepsisters get their eyes pecked out by doves? Or of Odysseus, a hero of Greek mythology, blinding Polyphemus the Cyclops with a heated stake?
“And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven,“ he wrote.
ROPER v. SIMMONS, 2005
Scalia famously dissented from a 5-4 decision that declared the execution of juvenile criminals to be unconstitutional. He took a similar stance in 1989 when he wrote the opinion, Stanford v. Kentucky, that allowed states to use capital punishment for killers who were 16 or 17 when they committed their crimes.
In his biting Roper v. Simmons dissent, he ridiculed the notion that states that had abandoned capital punishment altogether should be included in a discussion about the juvenile death penalty.
Consulting states that had no death penalty about making an exception for offenders under 18, he wrote, “is rather like including old-order Amishmen in a consumer-preference poll on the electric car. Of course they don’t like it, but that sheds no light whatever on the point at issue.“
And he took particular exception to the majority’s willingness to take guidance from foreign courts and legislatures, saying that the meaning of the Eighth Amendment should not be “determined by the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners.“
OBERGEFELL v. HODGES, 2015
Scalia’s dissent in this landmark 5-4 case, which gave same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide, was in some ways vintage Scalia: mocking, angry and unabashedly sarcastic.
He noted bluntly that the Constitution did not mention a right to same-sex marriage before going on to lampoon the majority’s opinion – written by Justice Anthony Kennedy – as pretentious, egotistic and, at times, “profoundly incoherent.“
Had he joined in an opinion written like Kennedy’s, he observed wryly in one footnote, “I would hide my head in a bag.“
“Today’s decree says that my ruler, and the ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court,“ he said at one point.
Elsewhere, he ridiculed the other side’s assertion that a couple, through marriage, can discover freedoms “such as expression, intimacy and spirituality.“
“Really?“ he wrote incredulously. “Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think freedom of intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.“
LAWRENCE v. TEXAS, 2003
Twelve years before the Obergefell decision, Scalia dissented from a seminal gay rights opinion that struck down a Texas law banning sodomy.
The 6-3 opinion in Lawrence v. Texas reversed an earlier ruling from the court, Bowers v. Hardwick, that upheld the constitutionality of a law banning gay sex acts.
While the majority decision stressed the importance of respect for personal privacy, Scalia, taking the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench, accused his colleagues of having “taken sides in the culture war” and having largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.
He maintained that even though he had “nothing against homosexuals,“ the opinion could open the door to same-sex marriage.
The decision would represent, he warned, “the end of all morals legislation.“
Bridgeport, WV —The TownePlace Suites by Marriott Bridgeport/Clarksburg partnered with United Hospital Center Pediatrics to spread cheer by creating handmade blankets for patients.
In the fall of 2015 the group was able to assemble 60 blankets that are sure to bring smiles all around the North Central West Virginia community.
(L-R) Sharon Mitchell, RN, nurse manager of pediatrics at UHC;
Pat Geiger, General Manager at TownePlace Suites by Marriott;
Trent Bourgeois, guest service manager at TownePlace Suites by Marriott;
Dwayne Thornton, director of sales at TownePlace Suites by Marriott; and
Tiffany Brinkley, RN, clinical supervisor pediatrics at UHC.
This annual blanket-making program, now in its fifth year, is part of TownePlace Suites’ real giving™ program, serving the community to benefit children in local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals across the United States and Canada.
“Pediatrics at UHC is extremely appreciative for the donated blankets that were made with great care and love for the children of our region who need to be hospitalized,” said Mitchell. “For a young child a stay in the hospital can be a traumatic experience, these blankets help to calm that fear.”
Through volunteer service and donation opportunities, this heart-warming program engages TownePlace Suites guests, owners, franchisees and team members to work together with local volunteers, establish partnerships with local hospitals and benefit people in their local communities.
This year, the TownePlace Suites brand is celebrating its continued commitment to the real giving™ program with a goal of donating 10,000 blankets to children in hospitals. Across the United States and Canada, hotels are raising money to pay for materials, organizing blanket-making events and making deliveries to children in local hospitals.
► Bill would prohibit first responders from photographing corpse
CHARLESTON, WV — The first reading of House Bill 2122, which would make it illegal for first responders to photograph a corpse, took place on Friday.
Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, said the main problem is pictures of corpses can be photographed for illegitimate reasons and can be painful when shown to family members.
“Certainly a corpse can be photographed for legitimate purposes,” Gearheart said. “The stimulus of this came from an emergency service worker who took some pictures of a mutilated body and sent them back to the family. I think this is the impetus for this.”
According to Gearheart, social media could be one avenue through which hurtful images are circulated.
The bill currently reads, “Relating to making it illegal for first responders to photograph, film, videotape, record or otherwise reproduce in any manner the image of a corpse or person being provided medical care or assistance.”
First responder is defined in the bill as law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and other similar individuals authorized to respond to calls for emergency medical assistance.
A person who would violate this law (first offense) could be facing a misdemeanor charge and could be fined between $50 and $500. A person facing a second offense will be confined to jail for 24 hours and be fined between a $100 and $750 fine.
If approved the bill would be known as “Jonathan’s Law.” “I think that’s the individual that sort of started this situation,” Gearheart said.
The bill will be read a second time Monday, Gearheart said. “I’m not aware of any opposition.”
► Reality tempers optimism in coal country after court ruling
MADISON, WV — The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a commodity that is hard to come by in coal country: hope.
Hope that by blocking a new federal rule cutting power-plant emissions, the court has turned the tide after years of regulations and declining production. Hope that the jobs that once brought good wages to people who desperately needed them will come back.
But these hopes have been tempered by another, grimmer thought — that this development might be too little, too late. That it’s false hope.
For the long-suffering communities that depend on coal, last week’s Supreme Court ruling was seen as a rare victory. The justices ruled 5-4 Tuesday to freeze the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce the nation’s carbon-dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030 while legal challenges against the regulations are pending.
Those regulations, a key component of President Barack Obama’s plan to fight climate change, focus on cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants and are viewed as a possible knockout blow to a staggering industry. The high court’s surprising decision to issue a stay even before the Court of Appeals heard the case was seen by many as an indication it was hostile to the regulations.
To Joshua Johnson, 29, the Supreme Court’s ruling was as welcome to him as a sunny day in spring in southern West Virginia. He still wears his Independence Coal mine jacket two years after he was laid off, as he struggles financially to take care of his three kids full-time since his divorce.
“I’d love to get back underground today,“ he said. “Coal will open back up. I think once we get a new president, coal will come back up. I think he was just so against coal.“
For elected leaders of both parties in coal-producing states, “Obama” has been the easy answer to why the coal jobs are going away. So it’s no wonder the Supreme Court’s ruling was hailed by politicians as a “real ray of hope.“
“Things are not going to change overnight but we have an opportunity to have a comeback now,“ West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. “This is the decision we’ve been waiting for and now we get to move forward and try to put people back to work.“
But the reality is more complicated. Pointing out that free-market forces — higher mining costs, decreasing demand and cheaper natural gas — are dragging production down doesn’t pack as much of a punch as roasting the White House’s environmental initiatives.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, whose district comprises most of coal-producing eastern Kentucky, acknowledged the Supreme Court’s action may not be enough, even if the courts overturn the EPA regulations.
“Certainly the decision is favorable. But much of the damage has already been done,“ said Rogers, the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Many of these coal-fired power plants have already switched away from coal. And it would be very expensive to switch back.“
Some of the nation’s largest utilities started making the switch even before Obama’s Clean Power Plan was announced about two years ago. They saw how the long-term trends stacked against the industry: Cheap natural gas, a declining global market and decades-old pollution laws just coming into play.
Meanwhile, output from coal mines across the U.S. continues to drop. Production is projected to total 834 million tons this year. That would be the smallest amount mined since 1983, and a 17 percent drop from just two years ago, according to data released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
American Electric Power, which has 5.4 million customers in the South and Midwest, generated 74 percent of its power using coal a decade ago. That’s down to 51 percent, spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said.
“The company was based in coal country. The fuel was there,“ McHenry said. “Now things have changed and we’re looking to diversify our fuel mix.“
AEP will retire 11 coal plants by the end of 2016 in a process that started last year. The utility wanted to avoid the cost of retrofitting the aging facilities and is putting its money instead into alternatives such as electricity from natural gas and wind turbines.
Duke Energy Corp. the largest electric company in the U.S. serving 7.3 million customers across the Southeast and the Midwest, has spent $9 billion over the past decade to scrap a quarter of its coal-burning capacity and build eight new natural gas plants in North Carolina, Florida and Indiana, along with two more efficient coal plants.
Similar changes are underway in the West. Washington-based Puget Sound Energy is pushing legislation that would enable it to close down two of the four power-generating units at one of the largest coal plants west of the Mississippi, the Colstrip Steam Electric Station in eastern Montana that the utility co-owns.
Despite these trends, industry supporters say the stay of the Obama administration’s plan prevents an even harsher future for coal, at least temporarily.
If implemented, the federal rule would drive down mining production from the largest coal state, Wyoming, between 20 to 45 percent by 2030, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.
“Anybody who tells you that the Clean Power Plan wasn’t all that important anyway either doesn’t understand the industry or is being a little disingenuous,“ said Jeff Holmstead a former EPA official turned coal industry lobbyist. “There still may be retirements in coming years, but it will be nothing like what would have happened.“
On a recent morning, two long coal trains snaked their way through Madison, West Virginia, surprising Ronald Nelson, who was holding court at the Barker Hardware store.
“That’s not happened in months,“ he said.
The longtime railroad engineer estimated in Boone County alone, the railroad runs 75 to 150 carloads of coal each day, compared with up to 2,500 per day several years ago.
The appearance of those two trains doesn’t shake Nelson’s belief that what’s done is done, and that the Supreme Court’s actions will only delay coal’s downward spiral.
“It’s inevitable,“ he said, before adding: “I hope it’s not.“
That ambivalent pessimism is shared by miners and former miners who have stared down the black hole of the industry’s future and aren’t convinced that a stay of execution by the Supreme Court is likely to last.
The black soot on Jason Ferrell’s face from a long night of mining was as dark as the cloud hanging over his future. The 32-year-old Alpha Natural Resources miner was among hundreds who had received layoff notices in recent months. His time with the company could be over at the end of March.
He’s lived in Chapmanville his entire life, but now he and his wife are asking themselves questions they never thought they’d have to consider.
“I know my wife won’t move,“ Ferrell said. “But I’ll have to go somewhere.“
For him, it’s clear what will happen if the courts don’t permanently block the federal emissions rule.
“If they don’t overturn it, I think coal will be gone,“ he said.
► Travel MD offers in-home care for older patients
HUNTINGTON, WV — As sunlight streamed into Dorothy McGinnis’ dining room window, Dr. Cindy Pinson slid the base of her stethoscope across McGinnis’ back and listened.
“She had a bout of pneumonia in the winter,“ Pinson said of McGinnis. “She was really, really sick, but she’s really come out of it.“
McGinnis, 86, has lived in her house on Willow Glen Road in Huntington for nearly 60 years. For 51 of those years — since the birth of her youngest child — she has avoided doctors’ offices as a rule. Her daughter, Suzanne Oxley, said her mother had taken good care of herself over the years, but when it became apparent she would need regular medical care, the solution was waiting for them right there in Huntington —Travel MD, a Huntington-based practice that performs house calls for patients in Cabell, Putnam, Kanawha, Wayne and Lincoln counties.
“She was agreeable to letting someone come to the house, but it couldn’t be just anybody,“ Oxley said. “Dr. Pinson and her office have been fabulous in the relationship they’ve developed, and mom has felt very comfortable with her. It’s been a win-win.“
In the seven years Pinson has been seeing McGinnis, the older woman has had to leave her house once for medical care, for a screening that required hospital equipment.
For Pinson, who founded Travel MD in 2005, care akin to what she has been able to offer McGinnis has always been the goal. The business has steadily grown, and late last year, Travel MD opened an office in South Charleston in order to create a base of operations for staff working primarily in Kanawha County. Pinson said the success of Travel MD was something she had only dreamed of when, as an office-practice doctor at a Kentucky hospital, she began researching the success of house call practices in other states.
“I wanted a practice where I could have some control over the time I spent with patients,“ Pinson said. “In office practice, we had a really short amount of time to spend with patients. ... I thought, ‘Well, I have nothing to lose.‘“
Pinson, who attended both undergraduate and medical school at Marshall University, said that as a medical student and resident, she had thought treating geriatric patients was one of the last things she wanted to do.
But nearly all of Travel MD’s patients are elderly, and for Pinson, her experience treating older patients is something she wouldn’t trade.
“Once I matured, I had a different sense of life,“ she said. “The love I have for older people really started once I set out to do this. I was going to take care of these people at home, and I was hooked from the very beginning — I loved it. They were just precious people who had a lot to give; they had a lot of wisdom, a lot of endurance and such a good outlook on life.“
Pinson doesn’t make as many house calls as she did in the beginning — the Huntington office has three other doctors and six nurse practitioners. She still visits McGinnis and several other patients, however, and Oxley is grateful for the level of attention and care her mother receives.
“It’s very reassuring. I know she’s getting quality care and, at some levels, better care, because she’s calmer and in her own environment,“ she said. “Some people are more receptive to your traditional medical practice, but I don’t think mom would have had the same medical success with a more traditional treatment route. They’ve been really efficient in the delivery of care. ... I’ve had the opportunity to watch (Travel MD) grow and refine over the years.“
McGinnis agreed. “I think she’s been just what we need here,“ she said. “I think she knows what she’s doing, and she’s there when you need her.“
Pinson said she and the other doctors at Travel MD have “big dreams” for expanding the practice in the future — they hope to continue to grow and reach more patients, and the office provides a special geriatric rotation for medical students at Marshall, which Pinson hopes will encourage young doctors to consider geriatric medicine.
“Our mission is to provide competent and compassionate care,“ Pinson said. “I’m hoping the rotation will make geriatrics more attractive to students, and give them some insight so that they can see older people through my eyes, through our eyes, and see that this is a very worthwhile field to go into.“
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is just the tip of the iceberg. We are living in a nation of Flints, thanks to racial bias, economic inequality, austerity and conservative governance. We can’t afford to kid ourselves about what it will take to fix it.
Clean water is vital to human life. Our bodies are 60 percent water. We may live for weeks without food; Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation. But without water, we’d most likely be dead within three to five days.
That’s why the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has such a visceral impact. That we should be able to trust the water that comes out of our taps feels like as much of an inalienable right as being able to trust the air that we breathe. For a city of 100,000 to be poisoned by its own water for almost two years is unthinkable. That thousands of children were exposed to lead contamination, and its lifelong consequences, is unconscionable. Yet, that’s what happened in Flint.
By now the, the story is well known.
● In April of 2014, Flint changed its municipal water source from the Detroit water system to the Flint River. The state emergency manager for Flint made the decision in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”
● By the summer, residents complained of discolored, foul-smelling water that caused rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it. E. Coli and coliform bacteria were found in Flint’s water. General Motors stopped using Flint River water in its plants after workers noticed it corroded engine parts.
● In January 2015, Flint’s water was found to have high levels of trihalomethane, a carcinogenic byproduct of water disinfectants. Detroit offered to reconnect Flint to its water system at no cost. The emergency manager rejected the offer.
● In March, 2015, the city council voted to “do all things necessary” to switch back to the Detroit water system. The city’s new emergency manager “nixed” the vote.
● The state government spent the next year ignoring citizen’s increasing complaints, and downplaying or denying outright the scope of the problem — all the while supplying state workers with bottled water.
● In January 2016, Governor Rick Snyder declared s state of emergency for Genesee County, where Flint is located. Later, Snyder announced a link between the Flint River water and a spike in cases of Legionnaires’ disease, which killed 10 people.
The story of Flint’s poisoned water began in the middle of the previous century, when the auto industry brought jobs and prosperity to the city.
General Motors’ plants lined the waterfront, and their toxic wastes went right into the river. When deindustrialization, encouraged by tax policies that rewarded companies for shipping jobs offshore, swept across the country’s industrial centers, the GM plants abandoned the city, leaving the toxic wastes behind, and Flint ill prepared to deal with it.
Flint’s water crisis is no isolated event. Lead poisoning is a pervasive problem in our inner cities, where some children have higher levels of lead contamination than those in Flint.
● In Washington, D.C.’s historically low-income Stadium-Armory neighborhood, lead levels in the soil were found to be 10 times higher than the accepted standards of other developed countries.
● In Baltimore, the percentage of black households with lead contamination has increased, while the percentage of white households has decreased.
● Eighteen cities in Pennsylvania and 11 in New Jersey have higher shares of children with elevated levels of lead than Flint.
● Last month, schools in Sebring, Ohio were closed after elevated levels of lead in pipes serving some homes and buildings in the village. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a criminal investigation after the operator of a water treatment plant failed to tell the public that high levels of lead and copper had been detected in some homes last summer.
It’s not just inner cities either, and it’s not just lead.
● In Herculaneum, Missouri, half of the children within a mile of the nation’s largest lead smelter suffered lead poisoning. A jury returned a $320 million verdict against the Fluor Company, which has appealed the verdict and moved its smelter to Peru.
● In 2014, agricultural runoff and crumbling infrastructure led to an algae bloom in Lake Erie that made Toledo, Ohio’s drinking water unsafe.
● Also in 2014 a chemical spill in West Virginia contaminated the Elk River, which supplied tap water to hundreds of thousands of people.
● In August, 3 million gallons of contaminated water were released into the Animas River, pushing lead levels to 3,500 times normal, and arsenic levels to 300 times normal.
The reason is a concentration of polluting industries is low-income areas. (n Baltimore, for example, the concentration of polluting industries correlated for decades with low-income neighborhoods and low-educational attainment. A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters this week found that just five percent of industrial polluters are responsible for 90 percent of the toxic emissions in the U.S., and they tend to cluster in low-income and minority communities. A 1987 study found that the racial make-up of an area was the single most important factor in determining where polluters were located.
Companies locate in these places because it’s easier than anywhere else. These communities usually don’t have the economic and political power to stop polluters from setting up shop in their backyards, or to demand the enforcement of existing environmental regulations. Dr. Sacoby Wilson, assistant professor of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, told The Huffington Post, ”These communities become dumping grounds because they’re the avenues of least resistance. I call it contamination without representation.”
Flint is merely the latest intersection where racial bias, austerity, and inequality collided with disastrous results.
The same discriminatory policies that created communities like Ferguson, Mo. made places like Flint sitting ducks for environmental inequality. The New Deal programs meant to help Americans afford homes incorporated racial redlining into lending guidelines. In places like Flint and Ferguson, government subsidized “white flight,” as white families moved to the suburbs and left concentrations of black people stuck inside city limits. Local zoning hemmed in black neighborhoods with industrial zones and businesses that white neighborhoods didn’t want, devaluing the property of blacks who lived in those neighborhoods.
Richard Rothstein, research associate at the Environmental Policy Institute, quoted in Think Progress, said, “Whites were able to leave because the federal government financed the suburbs. African Americans couldn’t leave because they were prohibited by federal law from moving out of the city.”
In Flint, austerity was a means of disenfranchising the predominantly black city. Michigan has one of the toughest emergency manager laws in the country, which allowed the governor to appoint unelected agents to take over local governments deemed to be in a “financial emergency.” The managers have sweeping powers to override democratically elected local governments. So, when Flint’s city council voted to switch back to the Detroit water system, the city’s emergency manager simply vetoed the idea. The citizens of Flint were left without the protection of a democratically elected government that answered to the people.
Austerity was also the driving force behind the decision to switch Flint’s water source. Rick Snyder campaigned as a business-oriented candidate, a “small government” conservative who would run the state government “like a business.” Snyder’s appointed emergency manager made the decision in order to save money with his eye on the bottom line. With the switch, the state government no longer added anti-corrosion chemicals to Flint’s water, allowing rust, iron, and lead to leach from the pipes and into the water. The cost of the anti-corrosion chemicals was about $140 per day.
Who will pay for what happened to Flint?
The only way to truly save Flint is to replace the city’s lead pipes. The cost of doing so is now estimated at $767 million to $1.5 billion. No one knows where the money will come from. (For context, that’s equal to the cost of between eight and 15 F-35 fighter jets, a plane that the Pentagon has yet to determine if it will work as designed. So far, it doesn’t.) Senate Democrats have proposed legislation that would provide $600 million in help for Flint, with much of it going to infrastructure. But Republicans complained that the costs were not completely offset by cuts in other federal spending. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) warned that aid to Flint must not add to the national budget deficit for “what is a local and state problem.”
President Obama submitted his final budget proposal to Congress. Despite the widely publicized crisis going on in Flint, the president’s $4 trillion budget proposal doesn’t set aside any money for the ongoing water crisis in Flint. It provides money for loans that may be used to rebuilt the city’s infrastructure, as well as other cities.
The president seeks an 18 percent increase in spending on water infrastructure. That’s a $157 million increase for the whole country. But the added money for drinking water comes from cuts to programs to make the water cleaner and safer overall. It cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s program to improve state and local system by one quarter.
It’s not enough. Flint and cities in similar predicaments need to be made whole again. Generalized programs aimed at improving things overall might improve outcomes for such places, but effectively addressing the crisis in Flint – and similar crises nationwide – requires that we specifically address lead contamination and the problems that led to it. In the meantime, generations of children in Flint and places like it will pay the highest price for what happened in sacrificed futures.
~~ Terrance Heath ~~
► Ex-Priest Charged in Beauty Queen’s 1960 Murder
Schoolteacher and beauty queen Irene Garza was found raped and bludgeoned to death in a canal in 1960, days after confessing to a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. More than 50 years later, that priest has been charged with her murder. John Feit, the main suspect in the case for years, was arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday and is now awaiting extradition to Texas, reports KFOR. Items found near Garza’s body, including a candelabra, were traced to the church where Feit worked about a mile away, while a film-slide viewer belonged to Feit himself, reports the Dallas Morning News. Less than a month before Garza was killed, Feit had also been arrested for attacking a woman at a church 10 miles from McAllen; he pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and paid a $500 fine.
During early investigations, Feit—then a 27-year-old visiting priest, per NBC News—told police he last saw Garza standing outside of the church but failed lie detector tests. Later, two priests came forward claiming Feit made incriminating statements to them before he left the priesthood in the 1970s. A grand jury decided not to indict Feit in 2004, but a jury in Texas heard the case again last week and returned a different verdict, reports KTXS. It isn’t clear if any new information was presented. A cousin of Garza, who was just 10 years old when she was killed, says accusing a priest of murder was no easy feat 56 years ago. “It was impossible for a priest to do such a deed. I mean, if you thought of it, that would be sacrilegious,“ she says. She alleges authorities at the time protected Feit in some kind of “cover-up.“
► A Hoverboard Turned This $1M Home Into Rubble
Brian Fox lost his $1 million Nashville home on January 09. He nearly lost something much more precious. “I thought, ‘I’m going to lose two of my four children today,‘“ recounts Fox, whose two elder children found themselves trapped on the home’s second story after a hoverboard caught fire on the first floor. A Nashville Fire Department rep tells the Tennessean that Hailey, 16, and Matthew, 14, heard noises downstairs around 11:40am. Fearing a possible intruder, they hid upstairs, reports WKRN. Those noises turned out to be the hoverboard, and they soon found themselves trapped; Matthew tried to open a door only to burn his hand on the knob.
He ultimately broke a bedroom window and escaped using a ladder Fox had retrieved after catching his daughter in his arms after she leaped from a bathroom window. The teens sustained minor injuries. The more than 4,000-square-foot house was “destroyed” by the toy, with the family only able to save a few pictures, reports NewsChannel 5. The Foxes bought the “FITURBO F1” for their son for Christmas on the recommendation of friends, reports Nashville Public Radio; the friends’ “FITURBO F1” also caught fire, though it was a small blaze. After an investigation, the fire department believes “the lithium batteries are at the root cause of these fires.“ A press release from the State Fire Marshal’s Office advises owners to always be present when the device is charging and to not leave it charging overnight.
► Black Lives Matter Activist Kills Self Outside Statehouse
A Black Lives Matter activist is dead after shooting himself outside the entrance of the Ohio Statehouse where he previously attended protests. Police say MarShawn McCarrel II was pronounced dead on the scene around 6pm Monday. “We don’t have any evidence to know the reason why he did it,“ a State Highway Patrol rep tells the Columbus Dispatch. But the Washington Post notes McCarrel’s social media posts “oscillated between joy and despair.“ “I love y’all,“ the 23-year-old tweeted Monday morning. At noon came his final tweet: “Let the record show that I ###### on the statehouse before I left.“ Then this Facebook post around 3pm: “My demons won today. I’m sorry.“
A former teacher describes McCarrel as the student he was proudest of in his 27 years on the job. “I saw him as a shining star in the future of civil rights.“ Indeed: McCarrel was named one of just 15 Radio One Hometown Champions, attended the NAACP’s Image Awards on Friday, helped organize Black Lives Matter protests in Ohio after the shooting of Michael Brown, founded a youth mentorship program, and worked with the homeless. “He had so much to do,“ his mom tells the Dispatch. “He forgot to take time for himself.“ A fellow activist says “the statehouse was no accident. We’ve been working so hard, and yet the conditions for the people in our community ... are still so hard.“ McCarrel was “an activist to his soul,“ a friend adds on Facebook. He “fought tirelessly in Ohio and beyond for the rights of oppressed people … Brother—we’ll keep fighting. You rest, now.“
► Missing Woman’s Body Sat in Walmart Lot for Months
Authorities say the body of a 22-year-old woman who went missing in California in mid-November after leaving a rehab center was found in her car in a Walmart parking lot on February 3—and it had likely been there for months, KTLA reports. The car in which Lauren Moss was discovered had tinted windows and a sunshade on the windshield, though employees who work at the Salinas store say the car, which they’d noticed in the lot for some time, didn’t seem suspicious, per the Salinas Californian.
It was only when workers finally started peering into the car last week that they noticed what appeared to be a decomposed body and called police. Security video showed the car had been parked there since at least mid-December, though the footage only goes back 60 days. No cause of death has been determined, but cops suspect Moss killed herself, and her sister tells KSBW a suicide note and drug needle were found in the car.
► Dad’s Cheeky Absence Note Takes on Standardized Testing
A Chicago girl was sick from school on Wednesday, so her dad had to pen a note to explain her absence. And Jeff Jenkins didn’t hold back in describing both why she missed class and how he feels about standardized testing, CBS Chicago reports. After noting his child had been ill, Jenkins wrote, in an obviously sarcastic tone: “She is feeling much better today and is eager to get back to school in hopes of achieving a high score on any number of Standardized Tests that will be given this year to insure that Private Corporations continue to receive huge and profitable contracts from [Chicago Public Schools] voted on by the Appointed Board of Education.“ Jenkins joins an outspoken number of parents who are raising a ruckus about what they say is a “toxic culture of testing,“ per CBS News.
Although students are made to take state tests once a year in grades three through eight and once more in in high school, states and districts often pile on their own tests, many tied to Common Core standards. The Council of the Great City Schools found that students end up taking an average 112 standardized tests during their pre-K-to-12th grade career, spending about 25 hours per school year on such exams. But many parents and students are now rebelling against the tests and joining the “opt-out” movement (the Sun-Times reported 11% of Chicago students skipped the new PARCC test last year). In regard to his own rant, Jenkins tells CBS 2 that “using humor and irony to point out injustice and hypocrisy can be an effective way to promote dialogue and change.“
► Fargo Shaken by First Line-of-Duty Cop Death Since 1882
The death of a Fargo police officer in the line of duty has shaken the city, North Dakota’s largest. Officer Jason Moszer, 33, died Thursday of a gunshot wound suffered while responding to a domestic disturbance hours earlier. The six-year veteran of the force, who had a wife and two children, is just the second Fargo officer to die in the line of duty and the first in more than a century. Moszer was hit while standing outside a house near downtown around 7pm Wednesday, and police had warned overnight he wasn’t expected to survive. The suspected shooter, Marcus Schumacher, 49, was found dead shortly before dawn Thursday. Police said they weren’t sure whether Schumacher died of a police bullet or shot himself.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said in a statement the city was “profoundly saddened” by the death of Moszer, who won a Silver Star commendation after he and another officer were credited with risking their lives in 2011 to rescue two children from an apartment fire, the AP reports. The only other Fargo police officer killed in the line of duty was Frederick Alderman, who was shot to death July 5, 1882, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a national nonprofit group that keeps records of fallen officers. He was shot in a case of mistaken identity after going to the wrong house while looking for a drunk who had used a stolen watch to pay a fine.
► After 30 Years, Missing Man Remembers Who He Is
Almost 30 years after he went missing from a group home in Kitchener, Ontario, at the age of 21, Edgar Latulip remembered something very important last month: his name. Police say the 50-year-old, who has a developmental delay and functions at a child’s level, has spent the last 30 years living in St. Catharines, around 80 miles from where he disappeared, CTV reports. From what investigators can piece together, Latulip took a bus to Niagara Falls in September 1986 and ended up in St. Catharines, where he suffered a head injury and “effectively forgot who he was” until this year, when he told a social worker he remembered. Before his disappearance, Latulip had attempted suicide at least once, leading to fears he may have killed himself.
Police officer Duane Gingerich, who investigated the disappearance, tells the Guelph Mercury that he’s thrilled that Latulip has turned up alive. “I had hopes that he was out there somewhere,“ he says. “For us as investigators, this is great, this is awesome. It’s satisfying because most of these cases don’t turn out this way. You expect the worst when a person is missing for that period of time.“ A DNA test confirmed Latulip’s identity and police say a reunion with his mother, who moved to Ottawa years ago, is being arranged. In a 2014 interview, she told the Mercury she was still haunted by the disappearance. “This is always at the back of my mind. Having an answer would mean closure,“ she said.
► U.S. Navy Is Pretty Mad About Iran’s Crying Sailor Video
Iran’s state television has released a new propaganda video that includes images of a US sailor crying while in Iran’s custody—and the US Navy is not happy. “We are disgusted by the exploitation of our sailors in Iranian propaganda,“ says Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesperson for Naval Forces Central Command, per the Navy Times. The crying sailor and other images in the video (including a shot of the soldiers kneeling with their hands behind their heads, per ABC News) were taken while Iran briefly held 10 US sailors in January after they accidentally strayed into Iranian waters. “The detention of our personnel was outrageous and unacceptable,“ Stephens’ statement continues.
Legal experts have said the detention by Iran likely violated the sailors’ “innocent passage” rights under international law, and Stephens says Iran should have instead simply escorted the sailors out of Iranian waters. “Professional mariners understand that it is a duty and obligation to assist other mariners who suffer mechanical problems or who find themselves off track at sea,“ he says, adding that the US Navy has helped Iranian mariners who were in distress seven times since 2012. “It’s outrageous and unacceptable that our sailors were held at gunpoint and detained.“
► Young Suicide Bomber Sees Her Siblings, Surrenders
Two young women welcomed into a Nigerian shelter for people fleeing Boko Haram turned on their newfound campmates on Tuesday, the New York Times reports, blowing themselves up and killing at least 58 people (Reuters puts the number at more than 60, while Al Jazeera notes it’s upward of 70) and injuring 78. The suicide bombers were actually accompanied by a third female who balked at the last minute for a very personal reason. “There were three female bombers who entered the camp around 6:30am disguised as displaced persons,“ the head of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency said, per CNN. “Two of them set off their explosives ... while the third refused after realizing her parents and siblings were in the camp.“ The third suspect informed military officials that they were sent by Boko Haram, which was planning on using more females to carry out future attacks.
Boko Haram has indeed been tapping more women and girls for missions, as well as other methods: The Times documents an instance in which a bomb was hid in okra, and attackers have been told to pretend they’re mentally ill. Tuesday’s bombing is said to be retribution for an attack on a Boko Haram market by Nigerian soldiers, who killed more than 100 Boko Haram members and liberated up to 1,000 women and girls being held as sex slaves, per the Times; those freed were brought to the Dikwa camp. Thanks to the efforts of new President Muhammadu Buhari, forces have driven Boko Haram out of many outposts, though that hasn’t stopped the group from hitting well-populated soft targets. Meanwhile, in neighboring Cameroon, a pair of suicide bombers reportedly from Nigeria killed 10 and injured 40 at a wake Wednesday, per the AP. (Boko Haram isn’t showing signs of slowing.)
► How a U.S. Diplomat Solved U.S. Nuns’ Infamous Murder
In 1982, a low-ranking diplomat by the name of Carl Gettinger received one of the State Department’s highest honors for his “creative dissent.“ The ceremony was public, but the details were highly classified. Now a story at ProPublica reveals those details, which revolved around the infamous 1980 murders of three American nuns and a fourth US woman, a missionary, in El Salvador. It was because of Gettinger that the Salvadoran soldiers who raped and killed the women were eventually convicted. “The full story of how one of the most junior officers in the US embassy in San Salvador tracked down the killers has never been told,“ writes Raymond Bonner. “It is the tale of an improbable bond between a Salvadoran soldier with a guilty conscience and a young American diplomat with a moral conscience.“
The piece describes in fascinating detail how Gettinger established a relationship with that Salvadoran lieutenant. Even though the White House pushed back aggressively against any investigation that would implicate the Salvadoran government, Gettinger wouldn’t be deterred. He convinced his informant to work with him on the case—at one point, the informant tape-recorded a conversation about the killings with the officer in charge of the operation—and they eventually turned up the names of those involved. The killings and subsequent trial remain “a pivotal event in the history of US interventions in Central America,“ writes Bonner, and it’s largely thanks to this unlikely pair. “Different as they were, both men shared a willingness to risk their lives in the name of justice.“ Read the story in full here.
► Man Skips Work for 6 Years, No One Notices
A 69-year-old Spanish man was fined this week after officials discovered he hadn’t shown up to work for at least six years, the Guardian reports. Ironically, the civil servant was discovered only when the deputy mayor attempted to give him an award for 20 years of “loyal and dedicated” service in 2010. “I thought, where is this man?“ the Guardian quotes the deputy mayor. “Is he still there? Has he retired? Has he died?” According to the Independent, a legal case was launched against the man—Joaquín García—that year. It finally wrapped up this week, with García, who retired in 2011, losing an appeal and being issued a fine of approximately $30,000, the Times reports. That’s the equivalent of one year’s salary after taxes, and was the most that could legally be reclaimed.
The investigation into García determined he hadn’t been to his office for at least six years—and possibly as long as 14 years—and had done “absolutely no work” between 2007 and 2010. He was supposed to be supervising the construction of a water treatment plant, the BBC reports. But the water company thought the city council was in charge of García, while the city council thought the water company was in charge of him. A water company manager admitted to not having seen García for years despite having an office across from him. García argues he was bullied and given a job with no actual work to do because of his socialist politics. As for what he did with all his free time: The Guardian reports he became “an avid reader of philosophy and an expert on the works of Spinoza.“
CAIRO, WV – Biologist Janet Clayton with the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) will present an evening program, “Mussels –Why They’re Important to West Virginia,” at North Bend State Park February 25, 2016.
The 6:30 p.m. program will cover the importance of mussels in streams, habitats, threats to survival of species, and survey programs.
The program is open to the public without charge.
WVDNR Biologist Janet Clayton on a mussel survey,
will be at North Bend State Park February 25 to present
a program on the importance of mussels in West Virginia waters
We can learn about the quality of the water in our rivers and streams by observing the health of the species that live in it. Mussels, an important indicator of water quality, are freshwater versions of marine clams: bivalve mollusks that live in fresh water. The Ohio River system has more than 120 different species of the 225 known species in North America. Fifty-five of these reside in the West Virginia portion.
The program will help attendees understand these unique creatures, identify threatened and endangered mussels, and invite interested volunteers to assist in surveys. The evening is sponsored by the Friends of the Hughes River Watershed Association, WVDNR and North Bend State Park.
To learn more about mussels, visit www.molluskconservation.org/MUSSELS/
► Dominion outlines new national forest route for pipeline
Energy companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have carved a new proposed route through parts of West Virginia and Virginia in response to federal concerns about the national gas pipeline’s initial path through sensitive national forest areas.
The alternate released Friday by Dominion Resources Inc. would reduce by one-third the pipeline’s footprint through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests, but add 30 miles to the 550-mile project. The alternate route would also affect 249 new landowners in both states, Dominion said.
Dominion said it worked extensively with the U.S. Forest Service to select the new route after foresters rejected the initial plan, in part because of fears it would harm a salamander that lives in high elevations in the Shenandoah Mountains and is found nowhere else in the world.
Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for the energy company, said Dominion believes the new path will satisfy Forest Service concerns.
A Forest Service spokesman on Friday confirmed receipt of the new route and said it would begin its review.
“The screening will determine if the proposed route meets required criteria for protecting sensitive resources,“ spokesman Jason Kirchner wrote in an email. He said the agency had not yet determined how long the review would take.
Dominion is the lead company proposing the 42-inch pipeline from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina. While politically popular, the energy project has found scattered opposition along its route from landowners, environmental groups and conservation officials.
With the enthusiastic support of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, pipeline proponents have said it will generate thousands of jobs, enrich local tax collections and attract businesses seeking relatively cheap natural gas from fracking fields in West Virginia and elsewhere.
The Forest Service rejected the initial national forest routes because of their feared impact on two types of salamanders, including the cow knob salamander. The Virginia Herpetological Society lists the blunt-nosed salamander with white or yellow spots as having a “high risk of extinction.“
Its range includes several counties in Virginia and West Virginia at elevations of 2,500 feet or more.
In rejecting the first proposed route, the Forest Service cited a 1994 conservation agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service aimed at shielding the salamander from actions that would place it under the Endangered Species Act.
The Forest Service listed Cheat Mountain salamanders and northern flying squirrels as other “highly sensitive resources” in the path of the pipeline’s original route. It also had concerns about a red spruce hardwood ecosystem.
Dominion’s alternate route would generally go south of the original path of the pipeline and enter Bath County in Virginia, which was not on the first route. The alternate would also go through Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia and Highland and Augusta counties in Virginia.
Dominion said it has begun contacting landowners.
The route would reduce the total number of miles through the national forests from 28.8 miles to 18.5 miles, Dominion said.
The proposed new route will be submitted next week to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the final say on interstate pipelines.
► Guide helps communities deal with dilapidated properties
A clinic at the West Virginia University College of Law has published a free legal guide for dealing with dilapidated properties.
Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic Director Katherine Garvey says the book grew out of the clinic’s experience working with local governments. Garvey says communities were complaining about dilapidated properties, which can be health and safety hazards as well as eyesores. But the complex legal issues around the properties were preventing communities from dealing with them.
“From Liability to Viability: A Legal Toolkit to Address Neglected Properties in West Virginia” identifies tools available to attorneys, mayors, code enforcement officers, land use planners and community leaders.
The book is available from download at wvleap.wvu.edu. Hard copies are available from the clinic.
► Insurance industry highlights contributions to WV
CHARLESTON, WV — Wednesday was insurance day at the state capitol and the Independent Insurance Agents of West Virginia used the occasion to spotlight the contributions the industry has made to West Virginia.
“For more than 150 years insurance professionals have been operating in every city and town in West Virginia,” said Jan Vineyard, Lobbyist for the organization. “The insurance industry has been protecting our citizens and our businesses’ property and assets since the state was founded in 1863.”
Today there are 2,600 insurance related entities and 9,000 licensed agents in West Virginia. Vineyard said the industry is local and works within the smallest and largest of West Virginia’s communities.
She also highlighted the surcharges paid on insurance policies in West Virginia. Known as the Premium Insurance Tax $156 Million annually. West Virginia has the highest such tax in the nation, but Vineyard added it benefits a lot of critical line items in the state.
“General Revenue gets $115 Million, multiple pensions get $17.3 Million, volunteer fire departments $19.7 Million, state Fire Marshal $1.9 Million and even teachers retirement gets $2.7 Million,” she said.
Vineyard said however, for the price West Virginians get a great value out of their hometown insurance agent. Nobody likes to pay the premium, but when you need them, they are there.
“That’s why we call ourselves the trusted choice,” she said. “You have your local agent who’s in your community and knows you, knows your business, and knows your family. You’re putting your safety and your trust in their hands.”
► Pre-Check temporary enrollment center at Bridgeport airport
BRIDGEPORT, WV — Northern West Virginia residents will have a chance to enroll in the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program through a temporary enrollment center at the North Central West Virginia Airport.
Pre-Check is an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt; keep their laptops in their cases; and leave their liquids and gels bag in a carry-on.
The enrollment center will be open March 14-18 from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Travelers wishing to enroll can make an appointment online or simply walk in and apply.
Enrollment is open to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents
The application fee is $85, and the enrollment lasts for five year
► West Virginia House approves religious-exemptions bill
CHARLESTON, WV — Amid growing opposition from the business community, West Virginia’s Republican-led House of Delegates cleared a bill Thursday that proponents say would ensure freedom of religious expression and opponents say would sanction discrimination.
In a 72-26 vote, delegates approved the measure that would let people cite religious objections to state actions in certain court proceedings.
The bill resembles laws in 21 states that are largely modeled off existing federal law. However, newer laws have garnered attention after the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage.
The most high-profile example has been Indiana, which may have lost out on $60 million from groups that decided not to hold conventions in Indianapolis because of a similar law, according to the tourism group Visit Indy.
On Thursday, more than a dozen Democrats voted with the Republican majority, while a handful of Republicans opposed it.
The proposal moves to the Senate, where Republican Senate President Bill Cole hasn’t taken a position on it.
“That’s going to be a tough one,“ Cole told reporters Monday. “There’s no question.“
Proponents said the bill protects freedoms to express religious beliefs, unless there’s a compelling state interest to restrict them. They said it essentially doesn’t change how the law currently works in West Virginia and doesn’t go as far as the Indiana law did.
“This bill will, if not eliminate, at least reduce the chilling effect of the way our society has become so paranoid about expressing the devotion that we feel to what is the foundation of this nation, and that’s religion,“ said Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer.
Opponents say the bill sanctions discrimination — particularly targeting gay marriage — and could put seven cities’ nondiscrimination policies for gay and transgender people in jeopardy. The state doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity in its employment and housing protections, so some cities have instituted their own.
They also pointed to backlash in Indiana, which ultimately scaled back its law after national scrutiny.
“We can forget about being open for business,“ said Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio. “We’re open for bigotry after today.“
Meanwhile, the list of business groups publicly expressing concerns about the bill continues to grow. They include AT&T; Dow Chemical Company; West Virginia American Water; chambers of commerce for Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown; and the Marriott and the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
“Dow has proudly called the U.S. home for the past 118 years, and on behalf of the more than 25,000 Dow women and men nationwide, we support full inclusion of our LGBT colleagues,“ said Kevin Kolevar, Dow Chemical vice president for government affairs and public policy. “We should be focusing on policies that make West Virginia more competitive and economically sound, instead of taking actions that divide us.“
Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he “would have to consider a veto” if the bill passes, citing the state’s tepid economy and Indiana’s experience.
“That should have sent a signal to West Virginia of what the consequences may be if you pass a divisive bill like that,“ Tomblin told The Associated Press.
► Lawmakers Override Veto, Will Make WV Right-to-Work
West Virginia is set to become the 26th right-to-work state.
Senate votes to override veto by Governor Tomblin’s veto on Right-to-Work.
In House and Senate party-line votes Friday, lawmakers rebuked Thursday’s veto by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Some House Republicans voted no.
A simple majority was required.
So-called “right to work” states prohibit companies from requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Unions are still required to represent every worker. The law applies to new collective bargaining agreements.
Democrats said right to work undermines unions without clear benefit. Republicans contended that a new path is needed for the suffering state, and contended that right to work would drive in business.
In his veto, Tomblin wrote that right to work would produce little-to-no economic growth and could lower wages.
The law becomes effective 90 days from passage.
► Lawmakers Decide to Proceed with Repeal of Prevailing Wage
West Virginia is eliminating its prevailing wage for public construction projects.
In House and Senate Republican party-line votes Friday, lawmakers rebuked Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto Thursday. Some House Republicans voted no.
A simple majority was required, a relatively easy bar compared to other states.
Republicans believe the wage is inflated and say repealing it would save taxpayer money. Democrats say the repeal wouldn’t produce savings, but would reduce pay and benefit out-of-state contractors.
Unions starkly opposed the repeal, though the wage applies to union and non-union contracts.
Republican leaders aren’t happy with a compromise last year that let Tomblin’s administration retool the wage.
In his veto, Tomblin said last year’s agreement was “all for naught.“
The repeal becomes effective 90 days from its original passage.
► Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, the intellectual cornerstone of the court’s modern conservative wing, died Saturday, according to news reports and the Texas governor’s office. Scalia was nominated to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
► 2 Deputies Killed After Man Opens Fire Inside Busy Panera Bread
Two sheriff’s deputies are dead after a man opened fire in a busy Panera Bread during lunchtime Wednesday in Maryland, Fox News reports. According to the Washington Post, a deputy was called to the restaurant because a man was acting suspiciously. Fifteen-year-old Sophia Faulkner, who had decided against sitting near the man, described him as “sketchy.“ The deputy arrived and sat next to the man to talk to him, and the man shot him in the head. “Everyone started screaming,“ Faulkner tells Fox. “I was freaking out so much, and everybody was running to one side of the store. Families were huddling together. I didn’t really know what was going on.“ The man took off running.
A second deputy caught up with the suspect and was shot, ABC News reports. He later died at the hospital. Two more deputies arrived at the scene and fatally shot the suspect. Sheriff Jefrey Gahler says he believes the first deputy was shot because he was wearing a uniform. The identities of the deputies have not been released. “They’re both two outstanding deputies who served the citizens of this county for 16 and 30 years respectively,” the Post quotes Gahler. The suspect has been identified as 67-year-old David Evans. He was wanted on two outstanding warrants, including one for assaulting a police officer in Florida. No citizens were injured during the shootings.
► Wave Sweeps Couple Into Ocean, Only One Survives
A 60-year-old man from Northern California is dead after he and his wife were swept out to sea by a powerful wave on Tuesday afternoon, CBS San Francisco reports. It appears Larry and Claudia Moore were walking along the beach near Pacifica Pier when a sneaker wave pulled Claudia Moore into the ocean, according to KRON. Larry Moore attempted to rescue his wife but was swept further out by a rip tide, reports ABC7. A witness tells KTVU that Larry Moore tried to fight the rip tide, while his wife let it carry her further out, which may have saved her life. Another bystander dove in and rescued her: “I grabbed her and helped her get up the beach,“ surfer Trevor Griffiths tells ABC 7.
Coast Guard rescuers in a helicopter later pulled Larry Moore from the water—accounts say he was in there anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour—and he was pronounced dead five minutes after the rescue. Claudia Moore tells KTVU that she had told her husband to go for help instead of trying to rescue her, because she felt she could stay afloat. Signs warn visitors about rip tides and sneaker waves all along Sharp Park Beach. “We’ve had a lot of people pass away here, unfortunately,“ one person tells ABC7.
► ‘John Doe Duffel Bag’ Convicted in Serial Killings
A clothing salesman on trial for the serial slayings of three New York City shopkeepers has been convicted of murder. Jurors deliberated for less than half an hour Wednesday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn before finding Salvatore Perrone guilty of three counts of murder. A police detective testified the 67-year-old Staten Island man had carried a duffel bag containing a sawed-off rifle, a bloody knife, screwdrivers, switchblades, bleach, and a bloody handkerchief; he had been nicknamed “John Doe Duffel Bag” before he was caught.
The three storekeepers had been shot. One also had his throat slit. Perrone denied the charges against him and had several outbursts in court. He argued he didn’t shoot anyone and was being framed. He faces a penalty of up to life in prison when he’s sentenced on March 04.
► Feds Seize $1.6M in Counterfeit Hoverboards
Federal officers recently seized nearly 2,400 counterfeit—and possibly prone to explode—hoverboards in shipments that arrived at South Carolina’s Port of Charleston, the Charleston City Paper reports. The hoverboards, which were made in China, would have been worth more than $1.6 million retail, according to US Customs and Border Protection. In addition to being a fire risk—possibly due to faulty lithium ion batteries—the counterfeit hoverboards also run afoul of US trademark law.
“Remember next time you go down to the docks to get your hands on a fresh shipment of hoverboards, you’re not only putting yourself in danger—you’re putting America in danger too,“ the City Paper states. Counterfeit hoverboards have been an ongoing problem since the holidays, with more than 50,000 seized around the country.
► Flint Investigators: Manslaughter Charges Possible
Michigan AG Bill Schuette formed a nine-person team in January to look into the Flint water crisis—including an ex-FBI head who came out of retirement for “the biggest case in the history of the state of Michigan,“ per MLive.com. Now the team’s special counsel says the investigation may lead to criminal charges or civil actions, including manslaughter, the Detroit News reports. “We’re here to investigate what possible crimes there are, anything [from] the involuntary manslaughter or death that may have happened to some young person or old person because of this poisoning, to misconduct in office,“ Todd Flood said Tuesday. At least nine people have died in Flint from Legionnaires’ disease since the city’s water switch-over in 2014, and it wouldn’t be “far-fetched” for involuntary manslaughter charges to arise if those deaths or others are connected to “gross negligence” or “breach of duty,“ Flood told reporters. He also noted he could seek restitution for residents by going after private companies and government entities that may have contributed to the crisis.
But not everyone is so sure this is a great idea—or on the up-and-up. Some state lawmakers are complaining about the cost of the probe (each team member is getting an hourly rate between $20 and $400), and others are suspicious of the team’s agenda, including that of Flood, who’s contributed money to both Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder. “Bill Schuette’s ‘independent investigation’ seems more focused on rewarding campaign contributors with state contracts than getting to the bottom of why Flint’s water was poisoned with lead,“ Common Cause Michigan’s director said in a statement, per the News. But Schuette is moving forward. “To try to capture in words the tragedy of what occurred in Flint is almost beyond description.“ Schuette said. “My job as attorney general is to enforce the law, and we’re going to determine what laws were violated.“ (The Washington Post documents some of the finger-pointing that’s been going on.)
► Cleveland Mayor Apologizes for Ambulance Bill Sent to Tamir Rice
Cleveland is sorry for sending an ambulance bill to the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old fatally shot by a city police officer while he held a pellet gun. After news broke of the $500 claim filed against Rice’s estate, Mayor Frank Jackson apologized Thursday, Cleveland 19 reports. The mayor says the billing process is routine, but Rice’s bill should have been “red flagged” and not actually submitted. He says he’ll investigate to see if disciplinary action is needed. CBS News reports that city officials say all claims have been withdrawn.
► All 4 Oregon Occupiers Have Surrendered
As promised, four occupiers of the Oregon wildlife refuge who’ve been holed up there since January have surrendered to the FBI after a tense couple of hours in which one of the four refused at first to come out, the Oregonian reports. Shortly before 9:40am local time, Sean Anderson yelled that he and his wife, Sandy, were coming out of the Malheur, and they were arrested without incident, the New York Times reports. A couple of minutes later, Jeff Banta emerged and was also peacefully taken into custody. That’s when the last holdout, David Fry, apparently decided to renege on the deal to give himself up. “Unless my grievances are heard, I won’t come out,“ he reportedly shouted, informing officials he was feeling suicidal as he sat alone in a tent.
He then added: “I have to stand my ground. It’s liberty or death. I will not go another day as a slave to this system.“ Among his grievances, per the Times, is that his tax money is being used to fund abortions. Just before 11am PST, Fry announced on the live feed that he was having one more cigarette and cookie, and then he said he was going out to meet with the authorities. The FBI confirmed at 11am that Fry was in custody, per the Oregonian. Gavin Seim, a right-wing activist who had set up the live feed, said after Fry had walked out that “America needs to learn from what just happened here. David’s concerns and his fears reflect what all of America feels.“ Meanwhile, another feed moderator, KrisAnne Hall, started sobbing when it was all over and said, “I need a hot tub and a massage.“
► 2 Girls, Both 15, Dead After Shooting at Arizona School
Two 15-year-old girls are dead in Arizona after a shooting at Independence High School in Glendale Friday morning. Details are vague—the sophomores were shot at what CNN describes as “a covered patio area near the main building” and cafeteria prior to 8am, and authorities don’t believe there are any suspects at large. ABC 15 reports that there are no persons of interest and that the shooting is considered an isolated incident. “This is not an active shooter situation, and we realized that once we got on scene,“ a police officer tells the Arizona Republic.
But authorities won’t say whether the situation could be a double suicide or a murder-suicide. It’s not clear what, if any, relationship existed between the two 10th-graders, who were found close to one another with a single gunshot wound each; a gun was found nearby.
► WWII Sweethearts Share a Squeeze—70 Years Later
It was the hug he’d been waiting 70 years for. World War II vet Norwood Thomas, 93, greeted his wartime sweetheart Joyce Morris, 88, in person on Wednesday for the first time since their brief love affair in London in 1944, per NBC News. “This is about the most wonderful thing that could have happened,“ Thomas said after flying 10,000 miles from Virginia to Adelaide, Australia, where he’ll spend the next two weeks. “We are going to have a wonderful fortnight together,“ Morris added, telling reporters she still remembers when the couple “snogged” decades ago “when it was dark and nobody could see us.“ On Wednesday, reports ABC News, they shared a kiss on the cheek; they plan to spend Valentine’s Day together as well.
► Backpackers Escape Living Nightmare on Remote Beach
Two female backpackers have escaped a living nightmare near Adelaide, Australia. Police say a German and Brazilian, both in their 20s, met a man in a rural area of South Australia who drove them to a remote beach campsite in Coorong National Park on Tuesday, per 7 News and the Guardian. There, police say the man sexually assaulted the women, then tried to kill them. One was hit in the head with a hammer while the other was reportedly run over by a car. Incredibly, both managed to escape and run in different directions, reports the BBC. One was recaptured, but the other found a group of fishermen. “She ran straight to the car yelling. She opened the back door, jumped straight in and [was] like, ‘get me out of here, get me out of here. He’s going to kill us all,‘“ one man says. “She had no clothes on so we just straight away gave her our jacket.“ Another witness says she had “blood all over her.“
A dozen or so locals eventually set out in search of the second woman and found her barely conscious in sand dunes. A 59-year-old South Australian man—7 News reports he is of German heritage—was arrested later Tuesday in Coorong National Park and faces charges of kidnapping, unlawful sexual intercourse, and attempted murder. The man cannot be named for legal reasons, but neighbors say police have raided his home several times over the last year, taking items including computers. A photo on Facebook shows him holding a gun, while a fishing knife and hook were found at the campsite. “He’s never put hands on family. At least not on me or the kids,“ his ex-wife says. He’s due in court in April. Both victims were admitted to a hospital, where the German backpacker remained in stable condition on Thursday.
► Why History Will Happen in Cuba’s ‘Threadbare’ Airport
Pope Francis is joining up with Patriarch Kirill in Havana on Friday, a historic event that marks the first time the head of the Roman Catholic Church is meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, notes NBC News, which outlines all the background behind this “religious rendezvous.“ Other developments:
► Vatican: Bishops Need Not Report Abuse to Cops
Catholic bishops who suspect clerical child abuse need not report it to police. That’s apparently the opinion of the Vatican, spelled out in a training document for newly appointed bishops. “According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police, or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,“ the document written by a French monsignor states, per the Guardian. Instead, it notes it’s a bishop’s duty to report the abuse internally, and let victims or their family members share the claims with police.
The document appears to have been created with no help from the special commission Pope Francis formed to develop “best practices” to prevent and address clerical abuse, reports Cruxnow.com. Indeed, a church official says the commission would likely take issue with the document since it views reporting abuse to civil authorities as a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not.“ An advocate for victims of clerical sexual abuse calls the document “unfathomable,“ per UPI. “It’s infuriating, and dangerous that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse,“ a rep for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests adds.
► Dozens Dead in Mexico Prison Riot
Scores of inmates at a prison in the Mexican city of Monterrey are dead following a predawn riot on Thursday. The state governor in Nuevo Leon says 52 were killed and 12 more injured, reports the AP. Gunshots and explosions were reportedly heard from within the prison, where a fire broke out, apparently after an escape attempt, per the BBC. Relatives on-site for conjugal visits reported seeing inmates with burns.
A public security rep in the state of Nuevo Leon says the riot began around midnight, noting, “The authorities formed a security cordon and nobody escaped. Everything was under control at 1:30am.“ Local media, however, reported seeing police vehicles combing the streets near the prison in search of possible escapees. The riot comes only a day before Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive for his first papal visit to Mexico. He plans to visit a notorious prison in Ciudad Juarez, once considered one of the most violent cities in the world, next week.
► After 5 Brutal Years, Glimmer of Hope for Syria
After five brutal and unrelenting years of civil war, there may finally be a glimmer of hope for Syria—or what’s left of it. After extensive talks in Munich, world powers have agreed upon what they refer to as a “cessation of hostilities” between the regime and rebels that could lead to a lasting ceasefire, reports the BBC. The deal is set to take effect next week in what appears to be a compromise between Russia, which is backing a major Syrian regime offensive and wanted to wait until March 1 for a ceasefire, and the US, which wanted the fighting to stop immediately. The deal announced Friday morning by John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would mark the first real halt in fighting since the anti-government uprising began, reports the New York Times.
But while a major rebel coalition has welcomed the agreement and humanitarian aid may reach besieged areas in the days to come, diplomats warn that the deal is fragile and may not be worth the paper it’s written on, the BBC notes. The only certainty is that the fighting is not going to stop entirely: The deal does not include ISIS or the Nusra Front, which have been designated terrorist organizations, meaning that Russia and the US can continue airstrikes against the groups, per the Los Angeles Times. The Guardian reports that on Thursday night, Saudi officials repeated that they are willing to send ground troops to Syria to fight ISIS, despite the opposition of the regime, Russia, and Iran.
The AFTER CHURCH BUFFET LUNCH WILL BE AT 12:00 (N00N) TO 3:00 NOT AT 11: TO 2:
HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL