Gilmer’s Stout Takes Aim at Barnes’ Shot Put Record
Already this season, Gilmer County’s Nathan Stout has propelled the shot put farther than anyone in state meet history. Twice.
You read that correctly. Stout, a Class A athlete, has sent the iron ball farther than Olympic champion and St. Albans graduate Randy Barnes ever did at the Class AAA state meet in the 1980s, and longer than Poca’s Christian Buckley, who broke some of Barnes’ marks before capping his Class AA prep career last spring.
A week ago, Stout put the shot 61 feet, 9 inches in the Cline Invitational at Doddridge County, then on Tuesday went 62-3 1/2 in another meet. By comparison, Barnes’ best at the state meet was 61-7 and Buckley’s 61-1 1/2.
“I’m pretty excited about that,’’ Stout said Friday before winning the Class A discus at 162-10 during the opening day of the Gazette-Mail/Friends of Coal Relays.
“In my current program, I wasn’t really expecting the bigger numbers to come until a little bit later in the year. Every once in a while, you pop one out there.’’
As yet, Stout’s efforts really don’t count as anything more than meet or school records. State meet records can only be set during the state meet, and Barnes’ all-time best in high school — which did not come at the state meet — is 66-9 1/2.
Still, it’s a big deal for a kid from a Class A school — and one who’s not all that large of frame — to get mentioned in the same sentence as Barnes.
“It’s pretty amazing,’’ Stout said. “I feel great about it.
“It’s definitely the technique. I spend a lot of time perfecting my technique, and I’m also in the weight room a lot. What I lack in size I make up for in strength, speed and technique.’’
Stout, who swept the shot put and discus in last year’s state meet, has already signed a grant-in-aid with Division I Southern Illinois. He’s set to compete in the shot Saturday.
So how far can Stout take this thing? How far can he go in the shot this year?
“I’d like to get to 64 this year,’’ he said, “because I’ve always wanted to throw 64 feet. But I’d take 66 if that happens because that’s Randy Barnes’ all-time state record. That’s a little bit out there, though.’’
It has been a big couple of weeks for Huntington’s Safiyyah Mitchell, and she celebrated by doing what she does best on Friday night — running fast.
Mitchell set a Gazette-Mail/Friends of Coal Relays record with a time of 14.6 in the 100-meter high hurdles preliminaries and followed that up by finishing second among preliminary times in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, qualifying for the finals in all three events to be run on Saturday.
As a junior last year, Mitchell set the state meet record in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 43.67 and finished second to St. Albans’ Anacia Hines in the 100 hurdles.
But Mitchell hardly rested on those laurels, and her continued on-track performance this year led to her signing a letter of intent with Marshall on April 18.
“I just feel more comfortable there than anywhere else,” Mitchell said. “I’m really excited to run for Marshall. I think it will be a good experience.”
Mitchell entered the Relays with the best times in the state in both hurdle events and also the fourth best mark in the 100.
She said that sweeping the two hurdle events at this year’s state meet would certainly be sweet, but added that her goals are more geared toward the stopwatch than the competition.
“I’m going to do the best I can,” Mitchell said. “I mainly try to focus on beating myself and my time before. If I can do that, then I’ll be fine and I’ll be proud of it.”
While Mitchell is trying to end on a high note, South Harrison’s Freddy Canary has to figure out how to top last year’s performance over the next three years.
Just a freshman last year, Canary finished second in the 100-meter dash, first in the 200, anchored the Hawks’ third-place 4x200 team and finished fifth in the long jump to claim high-point honors.
Canary is off to quite a start at Laidley Field this week, having claimed meet records on Friday in the 100 trials (10.94 seconds) and the 200 trials (22.44), breaking his own record in the latter. He also finished fourth in the long jump. His time in the 100 was better than the existing state meet record of 10.98.
Having already accomplished the highest individual honor in his state-meet debut last year, Canary is simply hoping for a repeat this year.
“It really took me by surprise,” Canary said of last year. “I didn’t even think I’d be in the running for that. But when I got it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just got high point.’ I didn’t even think I was going to get it.”
Track and field had to grow on Canary, who said he only did it in middle school to stay in shape for football, where he plays defensive back. But he obviously took to it naturally and now hopes it will present an opportunity to compete at the next level.
“I started in sixth grade but I was just doing it for football,” Canary said. “But I found out I was actually fast at it, so I kind of stuck with it to see where it was going to take me.
“I’m really serious about it now. Hopefully this is a ticket out for me now.”
~~ Rick Ryan and Ryan Pritt - Gazette-Mail ~~
GSC Students Host and Attend Workshop
Glenville, WV – Students in Glenville State College’s International Educational Honor Society, Kappa Delta Pi, hosted an English Language Learners (ELL) Workshop on Saturday, April 23, 2016.
ELLs can be diverse groups of students who are defined by the National Council of Teachers of English as active learners of the English language who may benefit from various types of language support programs.
GSC ELL Workshop participants (L-R) Kelsey Jett, Teddy Richardson, Tonya Lyons, Kennedy Cochran,
Katie Stover, Jared Fitzwater, Sarah Gillespie, and Larisa Gordon
The term mainly is used to describe K-12 students. Participants of the workshop at GSC learned the history of ELL practice and current mandates.
They also learned effective language acquisition strategies for the classroom and developed skills for working with ELLs.
“The English Language Learners Workshop was a huge success,” said student Sarah Gillespie. “Kennedy Cochran and I had the opportunity to facilitate the event and assist the group in better understanding how to work with English Language Learners. Kappa Delta Pi looks forward to hosting more workshops in the future.”
Along with Gillespie and Cochran, participants of the event included Kelsey Jett, Teddy Richardson, Tonya Lyons, Jared Fitzwater, Lauren “Katie” Stover, and Larisa Gordon.
Public Comments On The Proposed A-F Grading System For All Public Schools Continues Through May 16
The first grades for West Virginia’s public schools could be out by November.
The state Board of Education is now accepting comments on a policy change clearing the way for A-F grades for elementary, middle and high schools in the Mountain State, a grading system that grew out of the 2013 education reform law.
Dr. Michael Martirano, state superintendent of schools, said the straightforward structure will allow parents, students and school officials to monitor progress in student achievement.
“I’m looking at this as a model of support so that we provide feedback to our schools so that they can use that data to make adjustments in terms of their performance,” Martirano said.
The comment period for Policy 2320, A Process for Improving Education: Performance Based Accreditation System, ends on May 16.
The revised rule establishes an accountability system for West Virginia public schools and an approval process for school systems based on (1) multiple measures of academic achievement and student success standards and (2) a system of reviews through which school and district quality is examined and publicly reported.
Factors that will be considered in determining school grades include student academic growth, testing proficiency scores, attendance rates, graduation rates, career and college readiness standards and progress in closing achievement gaps among groups of students with an emphasis on improvements in student and school performance.
Martirano sees the future comprehensive school report cards as “feedback” that school officials at the local level can use to make adjustments.
Once the policy is fully implemented, grade calculation will be handled through the West Virginia Department of Education.
“If we’re truly about improving student achievement, we have to have accurate data in the hands of our superintendents and our principals and teachers so they can use that daily to help improvement,” Martirano said.
“The work that occurs in our schools is extremely important because we’re talking about the lives of young children and we want to make certain that every child is performing at a high level.”
To comment on Policy 2320, click HERE .
Commencement Ceremony is May 07, 2016 at GSC
GLENVILLE, WV – The 142nd Glenville State College Commencement Ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 07 beginning at 10:00 a.m. in the college’s Waco Center.
The GSC class of 2016 will walk across the graduation stage to receive their degrees in a variety of programs including business, education, land resources, criminal justice, science, music, and more. The grads hail from throughout West Virginia, ten other states, Washington D.C., and Serbia.
Glenville State College graduate and longtime Professor of Physical Science Dr. J. Joe Evans will deliver the keynote address to graduates and guests. Evans, who has been an instructor at his alma mater for 46 years, has elected to retire at the end of this academic year.
In recognition of an ongoing tradition at Glenville State College, alumni who graduated fifty years ago have been invited back to campus to join the current graduates at the ceremony. Members of the class of 1966 will be recognized as ’50 Year Graduates’ during the event.
Graduates are permitted to bring as many guests with them as they like and no tickets are required. The GSC Bookstore will have a satellite location open at the Waco Center with a selection of items for sale before and after the ceremony.
For more information about the Commencement Ceremony, click here or contact 304.462.4115.
Secretary of State Announces Early Voting Totals From First Week
Charleston, WV – Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant announced today that 63,205 people have voted during the first seven days of West Virginia’s early voting period. This figure represents votes cast in all 55 counties during early voting, from Wednesday, April 27, through close of the polls on Wednesday, May 04.
Comparative numbers from the first seven days of early voting in previous primary elections are as follows:
2014 primary election – 27,252
2012 primary election – 36,303
2010 primary election – 11,428
2008 primary election – 17,505
*Note, early voting lasted 20 days rather than 10 days in 2008 and 2010.
“I am very excited to see that early voting numbers are up in this 2016 primary election,” Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said. “Voting is a right and a duty, and it’s so important to make sure our voices are being heard. Whether voting during the early voting period or on May 10, I urge West Virginians to take patience to their polling place as they vote a ballot that may be longer than in years past.”
The ten-day early voting period ends on Saturday, May 07. Voters can cast their ballot during early voting at their county courthouse, courthouse annex or at a community voting location designated by the county. Early voting times, locations and contact information for all 55 counties can be found HERE on the Secretary of State’s website.
Early voting has been an option for West Virginians since its implementation for the 2002 primary election.
Secretary Tennant reminds eligible West Virginia voters that if a voter witnesses what they believe to be a violation of election law they should contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 304.558.6000.
Primary election day in West Virginia is Tuesday, May 10. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Voters can find sample ballots, information about candidates, campaign finance reports, the Voter’s Bill of Rights and information about the different voting systems used in West Virginia on the Secretary of State’s website at www.govotewv.com.
National Expert in Estate Planning and Taxation Coming to the Mid-Ohio Valley
PARKERSBURG, WV —Charles “Skip” Fox IV, one of the nation’s leading estate planning and taxation attorneys, is coming to Parkersburg! Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Mid-Ohio Valley Estate Planning Council (MOVEPC), Parkersburg Area Community Foundation (PACF) and the Marietta Community Foundation, local financial planners, bankers, attorneys, accountants and insurance agents will have the opportunity to participate in a day-long, educational seminar presented by Mr. Fox.
Fox is a partner in McGuireWoods of Charlottesville, VA and chairs the firm’s private wealth services team. He lectures nationwide, providing seminars on estate planning and trust administration, for many audiences including the prestigious Heckerling Estate Planning Institute of the University of Miami. His extensive experience also includes audits of estate tax returns involving unique assets, trust and estate litigation, and the formation and operation of public and private charities, as well as providing counsel to corporate fiduciaries on a variety of issues. Skip is a member of the faculty of the National Trust School and National Graduate Trust School, where he has taught for over twenty-five years and the author of numerous field publications. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia Law School.
The seminar will be held May 25, 2016 at the Parkersburg Country Club from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm and focus on the current issues in estate planning. Continuing education credit for the day-long event will be offered (up to 7 hours, depending on profession) for lawyers, accountants, insurance and financial planning professionals, and banking staff in Ohio and West Virginia.
“This is a great opportunity for local advisors to benefit from a first-class presentation by a key instructor at a very modest cost,” said Chip Ferrell, Trust Legal Counsel with United Bank, and President of the MOVEPC. “Thanks to generous sponsorships from Peoples Bank, WesBanco, United Bank and Bowles Rice, the cost of the event, which is all-inclusive, is only $250 to the public and $200 for MOVEPC members. Given that we’re approaching the end of the current reporting period, this is a particularly good opportunity for local attorneys to obtain their continuing legal education.“
To register to attend the seminar or to learn more, contact PACF by phone at 304.428.4438 or by email at
. Registration forms may also be obtained on the PACF website at www.pacfwv.com/publications-documents and payment may be made online, if that is desired, by following the instructions on the registration form.
Did You Know?
ONE SURE THEME AT PARTY CONGRESS IN NORTH KOREA
Get ready for wall-to-wall praise of Kim Jong Un and his efforts to strengthen the North’s nuclear-weapons program.
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS STORED AWAY TO TARGET TRUMP
Priorities USA, the lead super PAC backing Hillary Clinton, has already reserved $91 million in television advertising that will start next month and continue through Election Day, the AP learns.
HOW AUTHORITIES HOPE TO MOVE PEOPLE DISPLACED BY WILDFIRE
Canadian officials will start shuttling thousands of people from work camps north of devastated Fort McMurray in a mass convoy if the highway is safe from the huge wildfire raging in Alberta.
MAN CONVICTED IN ‘GRIM SLEEPER’ SERIAL KILLINGS
Lonnie Franklin Jr., 63, shows no emotion as the verdicts are read in the Los Angeles court, while victims’ family members quietly weep.
WHO COULD MAKE POLITICAL HISTORY IN LONDON
Sadiq Khan, a 45-year-old Labour lawmaker, is the favorite to be elected the city’s mayor. He’d be the first Muslim to hold the job.
HUNDREDS OF MOURNERS GATHERING IN NEW MEXICO
They’ll remember an 11-year-old girl who was killed after being abducted along her school bus route on the Navajo Nation.
NO LACK OF JOBS, DESPITE SLUGGISH ECONOMY
Most economists believe hiring in the U.S. will continue at a healthy clip, even as the economy has slowed to an anemic pace.
FRESH QUESTION RAISED ABOUT JOE PATERNO
Insurers in litigation with Penn State reportedly allege that a boy told the head football coach in 1976 that he had been molested by Jerry Sandusky.
LITTLE-KNOWN CZECH COMPANY RIDES VINYL WAVE
As vinyl records make a global comeback in popularity, GZ Media is establishing itself as one of the world’s biggest record manufacturers.
WHY TV CHARACTER KEPT CALLING HIMSELF A ‘REALTOR’
On ABC’s “Modern Family,“ Phil Dunphy explains the difference between a Realtor and real estate agent - in a segment paid for by the Realtors association.
In West Virginia….
► Over 5,800 pounds of prescription drugs collected on Take-Back Day
CHARLESTON, WV — Over 5,800 pounds of unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs were collected last Saturday in West Virginia for National Drug Take Back Day, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA.
Participating law enforcement agencies in West Virginia took in a total of 5,876 pounds from citizens and households around the state.
“Prescription drug abuse is an issue that touches all West Virginians,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Carol Casto. “DEA’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events continue to be successful here because all of us want to take an active role in preventing drug abuse. Removing unused prescription medication from the home and properly disposing of it helps keep our communities safer.”
There were over 100 collection sites set up across the state.
► Jury to Decide Contaminated Wells Case Against Coal Company
A jury in West Virginia will decide whether a coal company owned by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice contaminated the drinking water wells of residents in Wyoming County.
Local media outlets report the jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Thursday in the case against Justice-controlled companies Dynamic Energy Inc. and Mechel Bluestone Inc.
Fifteen families who live near Dynamic Energy’s surface mining complex at Coal Mountain say the operation contaminated their wells to the point that the water is no longer safe to drink.
If the jury rules in their favor, the families could seek a court order to force the companies to provide long-term treatment to clean up their wells.
During the trial, Billy Shelton, a lawyer for Dynamic Energy and Mechel Bluestone, told jurors the residents had no case.
► Residents from Va and WV to Weigh in on New Pipeline Path
Residents in three western Virginia counties will have a chance to weigh in a proposed new path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said this week that it will collect comments from the public and agencies on changes to the $5 billion natural gas pipeline proposal.
The companies behind the project revised the route in February to avoid sensitive animal habitat in national forests in Virginia and West Virginia. The new route would affect about 249 additional landowners in Highland, August and Bath counties and parts of West Virginia.
Federal officials will take public comment on the proposal during hearings in Marlinton, West Virginia, on May 20 and Hot Springs, Virginia on May 21.
► West Virginia Repeal of State Prevailing Wage Takes Effect
West Virginia has eliminated its prevailing wage for new public construction projects.
The repeal passed this winter by the Republican-led Legislature took effect Thursday. Lawmakers overrode a veto by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, which required a simple majority of the Legislature.
Republicans believe the wage is inflated and said repealing it will save taxpayer money. Democrats said the repeal won’t produce savings, but will reduce pay and benefit out-of-state contractors.
Unions starkly opposed the repeal, though the wage applies to union and non-union contracts.
The repeal applies to new public construction contracts from Thursday onward. Existing contracts aren’t affected.
A 2015 law eliminated the prevailing wage for projects costing $500,000 or less and let Tomblin’s administration change how the wage was calculated. GOP leaders weren’t happy with the recalculation.
► Fact Check: Trump Unlikely to Bring Coal Jobs Back
Donald Trump says he would bring back lost coal-mining jobs, and he is positioning for the November election in big coal states by portraying Hillary Clinton as a job killer.
Trump, however, has yet to explain exactly how he will revitalize Appalachia’s coal industry. To pull it off, he will have to overcome market forces and a push for cleaner fuels that have pummeled coal.
Coal’s slump is largely the result of cheap natural gas, which now rivals coal as a fuel for generating electricity. Older coal-fired plants are being idled to meet clean-air standards.
Another hurdle for reviving coal mining in Appalachia: less coal. Reserves of coal still in the ground are smaller than in western states like Wyoming, the leading coal producer.
TRUMP: “We’re going to get those miners back to work ... the miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week, Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.“
THE FACTS: It is unclear what Trump would do to increase mining jobs. He has long criticized the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, saying that its proposals to tighten emission standards on coal-burning power plants are killing American jobs. A Trump adviser said that a Trump administration would review many EPA regulations including those affecting the coal industry.
While the requirements have raised the cost of operating coal-fired plants, experts say a bigger factor in coal’s decline has been cheaper natural gas. Drilling techniques such as fracking have sparked a boom in gas production, driving down prices and prompting utilities to switch from coal.
As recently as 2008, about half the electricity in the U.S. came from burning coal and one-fifth from burning natural gas. Today, each accounts for about one-third — nuclear, hydroelectric and renewables like solar and wind make up most of the rest. Weak economic growth has hurt demand for Appalachian coal used in making steel.
U.S. coal production fell 10 percent last year. The Energy Department predicts it will drop 16 percent this year, the biggest one-year decline since 1958.
John Deskins, director of an economic-research bureau at West Virginia University, said government’s ability to boost coal production is limited.
“It is very unlikely we will see a return to levels of coal production like we observed in 2008,“ the most recent peak in the state, Deskins said. Easing EPA restrictions — the industry is challenging EPA in court — would help over the long run, but not enough to offset the loss of market share to natural gas, he said.
There is another limitation on coal’s future in Appalachia: After decades of heavy production, there is less of it to be mined.
Wyoming, with rich reserves of low-sulfur coal near the surface, is the largest coal-producing-state and has the most coal still in the ground at producing mines. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wyoming has three times as much recoverable reserves at producing mines as West Virginia and about twice as much as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio combined.
TRUMP: “I want clean coal, and we’re going to have clean coal and we’re going to have plenty of it. We’re going to have great, clean coal. We’re going to have an amazing mining business.“
THE FACTS: Clean coal covers a range of technologies, some already in use, to reduce pollution. Many types of emissions from coal-fired plants have been reduced, but the capturing and storing of carbon dioxide, the emission that scientists say is most responsible for climate change, has been harder to accomplish on a significant scale.
A model carbon-capture plant being built in Mississippi has encountered repeated delays and huge cost overruns that will make it one of the most expensive power plants ever built. The coal industry complains that carbon capture has not received the government incentives showered on renewable energy.
TRUMP: “We’re not going to be Hillary Clinton. I watched her three or four weeks ago when she was talking about the miners as if they were just numbers, and she was talking about she wants the mines closed and she will never let them work again.“
THE FACTS: Trump is hitting Clinton for comments she made in March on CNN and which continue to dog the presumptive Democratic nominee on the campaign trail. But the remark was part of a longer answer.
Clinton said she had a policy to help coal country benefit from creating renewable energy “because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?“ That was quickly followed by “We’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.“
This week an out-of-work coal miner in West Virginia confronted Clinton about the remarks, even handing her a photo of his family. Clinton said she had made “a misstatement.“
“What I was saying,“ she told the voter, “is that the way things are going now we will continue to lose jobs.“
Gilmer County Commission Regular Meeting - 05.06.16 - Today
GILMER COUNTY COMMISSION
AGENDA for REGULAR MEETING
May 06, 2016 @ 9:00 AM
Gilmer County Courthouse – Commission Office
10 Howard Street, Glenville, WV
I. CALL TO ORDER
II. PLEDGE of ALLEGIANCE TO THE U.S. FLAG
III. PUBLIC COMMENTS
9:15 –Carol Beam-Gilmer County Board of Health Members
9:30-Jim Bailey-Duck Run Bridge &Historic Landmarks Commission Bank Account
9:45-Marge Burke-Resolution to Declare May as Eleanor Roosevelt Month
10:00- CEOS-Proclaiming May 15-21, 2016 CEOS Week
V. ROUTINE BUSINESS
Discussion and/or action on:
1) Exonerations and/or Consolidations
2) Approve Estate Qualifications and Estate Settlements
3) Board Appointments and/or Resignations:
a) Board Seats open on the:
i. Unsafe Buildings & Lands Enforcement Agency - DeKalb/Troy & Glenville Corporation
ii. Appoint Gina L. Taylor as Trustee to the Stalnaker Cemetery
4) Budget Revisions
5) Budget Control Report
6) Approve Invoices for Payment
7) Approve County Commission Minutes
8) Receipt of County Board Minutes:
a) Gilmer County Historical Society minutes-January 16, 2014-December 10, 2015
b) Gilmer County Board of Health minutes-March 15, 2016
VI. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
VII. NEW BUSINESS
Discussion and/or action on:
a) Need to have Special Session for Canvass for May 16, 2016 (Monday) & will need a Special Session to Certify results 48 hrs. after declaring
VIII. OTHER BUSINESS
a) Limited Bingo License-Glenville State College Foundation-FYI
b) Received Audit Report for Gilmer County Board of Health-Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2015
c) Handicapped access at courthouse
IX. EXECUTIVE SESSION AS NEEDED
NEXT MEETING: May 20, 2016
► September 11 families seek answers in secret pages from inquiry
NEW YORK — Fifteen years after the attacks that killed her husband, Lorie Van Auken thinks she still hasn’t been told the whole truth about 9/11.
She wants to know what’s in 28 classified pages locked away in a basement room of the U.S. Capitol. They describe investigative leads about “specific sources of foreign support” for the terrorists and might shed light on possible Saudi connections.
The secrecy “gnaws at you every day,“ Van Auken says. “Fifteen years is long enough. We want to stop guessing.“
She soon may. President Barack Obama has hinted that at least portions of the 28 pages may be released shortly amid growing calls to reveal what some see as a hidden chapter in the explanation of September 11.
Victims’ relatives say they and the public deserve full transparency about the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and some argue that continued secrecy raises troubling questions about who or what is being shielded, and why.
Some September 11 families expect the pages’ contents will help them sue the Saudi Arabian government, since a former lawmaker has said the 2002 document casts suspicion that the terrorists got financial help from the kingdom, though U.S. investigations later concluded otherwise.
But the push to unveil the pages stirs mixed feelings among victims’ families, and sometimes even within them.
Diane Massaroli, who lost her husband, is convinced responsibility for 9/11 extends beyond al-Qaida. She and sister-in-law Joann Massaroli find suspicions of Saudi links compelling, and they lament that important questions have been left unanswered.
“To see us get to the bottom of the financial paper trail ... would give me tremendous satisfaction,“ Joann Massaroli says. “To me, those pages hold something that’s going to be revealing.“
Diane’s son, Michael, doubts it. He favors releasing the pages but thinks the idea of Saudi complicity doesn’t add up, and he wonders about the point of grasping for what he sees as fragments of data.
“There’s no information out there that’s going to bring my father back, that’s going to bring any of these people back,“ says Michael, 20, a college senior and his father’s namesake. “I’m at as much peace as I will ever be with what happened.“
The classified pages come from a congressional inquiry into the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people when hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field in 2001.
Republican President George W. Bush decided releasing the pages could divulge intelligence sources and methods. Former Representative Tim Roemer, a Democrat who has viewed the document, has likened it to a “preliminary police report,“ including unvetted tips and allegations that were later investigated.
The congressional inquiry, the subsequent 9/11 Commission, a review commission and a CIA inspector general report last year found no reliable evidence that the Saudi government or senior officials knowingly supported the 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudi citizens.
The Saudi government vociferously denies involvement and says it would welcome release of the 28 pages to clear the air.
But former Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat who co-chaired the congressional inquiry and has also read the document, told CNN the pages point to “a connection at the highest levels between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the 19 hijackers.“ He has also said the U.S. government covered up the link to preserve its relationship with a key Middle East ally.
Kathy Owens believes that, reluctantly. Widowed on September 11, she initially trusted in Washington’s vow to hold everyone involved responsible.
But in recent years, she has felt increasingly bothered by the secret pages and the Democratic president’s opposition to changing federal law to let September 11 families sue Saudi Arabia, after a judge dismissed claims against the country on grounds of sovereign immunity.
“I feel betrayed, really,“ Owens says. “Something is more important than justice for all those 3,000 people ... oil money, arms money, donation money, whatever it is.“
It doesn’t feel that way to Donald Goodrich, who lost his son.
He would like the 28 pages released, though he accepts that the government may have a plausible, security-related argument for withholding them.
Regardless, he’s skeptical of allegations of Saudi government responsibility for September 11, and he doesn’t expect the documents to change how he understands or lives with it.
“The important issue, for me, is not the little bits and pieces of the puzzle that are missing,“ says Goodrich, who with his late wife founded a girls’ school in Afghanistan as a tribute to their son. It’s “a more nuanced appreciation of the historical precursors of 9/11 that is important to me — and how to address them.“
► San Andreas Fault ‘Locked, Loaded, Ready to Roll’: Scientist
It’s the most well-known US fault, but the San Andreas Fault’s southern section hasn’t been behind a major earthquake since a 7.9-magnitude temblor in 1857—and that’s got Thomas Jordan worried, the Los Angeles Times reports. “The springs on the San Andreas system have been wound very, very tight,“ Jordan, the director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, told Wednesday’s National Earthquake Conference. “And the southern San Andreas fault, in particular, looks like it’s locked, loaded, and ready to go.“ The area (which includes Los Angeles on its periphery) is due for a major quake, Jordan says, adding it’s imperative Southern California continue to prepare, following the example of LA in pushing quake retrofits for buildings, as well as protecting telecommunications and water systems. “An earthquake on the San Andreas would really affect all of Southern California,“ said Jordan’s SCEC colleague, Mark Benthien, per CBS Los Angeles.
In tectonics-speak, the San Andreas Fault—which Curbed Los Angeles calls a “ticking ... time bomb"—is where the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate meet, and the Pacific Plate is shifting northwest of the North American one at a rate of 16 feet or so every century, ScienceAlert notes. That’s a lot of tension that needs to be released, which would be devastating: A 2008 USGS study found a 7.8-magnitude quake on the San Andreas Fault’s southern portion could cause 1,800 fatalities, 50,000 injuries, and $200 billion in damage. Other parts of the fault have also remained dormant even longer, including in San Bernardino County (no major shakeup since 1812) and near the Salton Sea, more or less steady since the late 1600s. “We are fortunate that seismic activity in California has been relatively low over the past century,“ Jordan said last year. “But we know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs … making big quakes inevitable.“
► ‘Dedicated’ Ex-Chemist Was High at Work for 8 Years
Even Walter White knew not to sample the wares, a lesson that could have served Sonja Farak well. The now 37-year-old former chemist for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts State Police was arrested in 2013 and sentenced in 2014 to 18 months in jail for getting high on the job using drugs lifted from the Amherst lab where she worked, per NPR. But on Tuesday the full extent of her activities discovered during the state’s investigation were released, and it wasn’t just an occasional drug dalliance that caused her troubles: From 2005 to 2013, Farak was a heavy user of cocaine, LSD, and meth at the lab, among other drugs, and she even whipped up her own crack cocaine using lab supplies—which could call into question 30,000 cases she handled, per the New York Daily News. And throughout her entire binge, no one noticed a decline in her work, with one colleague even calling her “meticulous” and “dedicated to her work.“
Farak’s first experience with the lab’s testing (aka “standard”) drugs was with meth, which she admitted she tried one year into her Amherst stint out of “curiosity,“ per the state AG’s report; she researched the drug and thought, “That’s the one I am going to try if I am going to try it.“ She enjoyed the high and moved on to other drugs, including ones brought in by trafficking cops, after she ran through almost all of the lab’s meth, trying coke, LSD, and a host of others. She narrowly avoided discovery during at least two visits from State Police, and co-workers finally started noticing her “deteriorating” appearance and persistent inquiries about drug deliveries. In 2013 drugs were discovered missing, and she pleaded guilty in 2014 to evidence tampering, larceny of controlled substances, and unlawful possession charges. “This is a statewide scandal, and I think it’s going to take an enormous toll on the system,“ Luke Ryan, a lawyer who reps some of the defendants whose samples Farak tested, tells the Boston Herald.
► California Governor Approves New Smoking Age
California has become the second state in the nation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, starting the clock for opponents to ask voters for a reversal this November, reports the AP. Governor Jerry Brown’s signature on Wednesday means, beginning June 9, it will be a crime in California to sell or give tobacco to anyone except military personnel under age 21. He did not say why he signed the measure along with others regulating e-cigarettes, setting annual tobacco license fees, pushing for all charter schools to be tobacco free, and expanding existing requirements for tobacco-free workplaces to include small businesses, break rooms, and hotel lobbies. Tobacco interests have threatened to target the changes at the ballot box.
Industry or other opponents would need to collect 366,000 valid signatures by early August to ask voters to reject the new laws in November. But supporters of the law—which follows similar ones passed in Hawaii, New York City, and San Francisco—say it aims to deter adolescents from nicotine addiction. The Institute of Medicine reports that 90% of daily smokers began using tobacco before turning 19. A March 2015 study noted increasing the smoking age would immediately deter 15% of people 18-20 from taking up a lasting tobacco habit and “mean that those who can legally obtain tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.“ Lawmakers and health advocates applaud the move and expect other states to follow California’s lead.
► Army Captain Sues Obama for Fighting ISIS
It’s not that Army Capt. Nathan Michael Smith doesn’t want to take out the Islamic State. It’s just that he doesn’t think President Obama has the authority to wage war against ISIS without Congress’ OK. That’s the crux of the 28-year-old intelligence officer’s lawsuit filed Wednesday in US District Court in DC, in which he cites his “conscience” and the promise he made as a serviceman to uphold the Constitution, the New York Times reports. “To honor my oath, I am asking the court to tell the president that he must get proper authority from Congress, under the War Powers Resolution, to wage the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria,“ he says in the 53-page document. Smith, who’s currently stationed in Kuwait, lodged his complaint on the heels of the president’s recent announcements that he’s sending more troops to both Iraq and Syria.
Obama has said before that he doesn’t need Congress’ approval because the current campaign falls under the umbrella of 2001’s Authorization for Use of Military Force, put into place to authorize the president (then George W. Bush) to go after any “nations, organizations, or persons” that had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates. But it gets sticky with ISIS: Although the group is an al-Qaeda offshoot, it didn’t exist in 2001 and has since been officially cut loose by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. But a senior analyst with the RAND Corporation said in 2014 that it’s a little more involved than that, and that although ISIS may not be part of al-Qaeda anymore, “they are organizations from the same swamp.“ What could make Smith’s case difficult to win, a Harvard Law School professor tells the Times: the fact that Congress has appropriated money to put toward the current ISIS conflict, which could signify it’s on board with the president’s initiative.
► Feds: North Carolina LGBT Law Violates Civil Rights
A North Carolina law limiting protections to LGBT people violates federal civil rights protections and can’t be enforced, the US Justice Department said Wednesday, putting the state on notice that it’s in danger of being sued and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, the AP reports. In a letter to Governor Pat McCrory, the Justice Department said federal officials view the state law as violating federal Civil Rights Act protections barring workplace discrimination based on sex. Provisions of the state law directed at transgender state employees violate their anti-discrimination protections, the letter said. “The state is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees and both you, in your official capacity, and the state are engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance” of their rights, the letter said.
McCrory’s office didn’t respond to email and text messages Wednesday. In the past, the governor has defended the law and said he didn’t think it would have any financial impact, either on the economy in general or on federal school funding in particular. But shortly after it was passed, PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte, Deutsche Bank froze expansion plans near Raleigh, and convention officials reported some meetings were avoiding the state. The Justice Department has also notified the University of North Carolina that the state law violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in education based on sex. That could lead to North Carolina losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal school funding. The letter effectively serves as a warning to the state to proceed at its own peril or risk being sued.
► Obama to Flint: ‘I’ve Got Your Back’
Sipping filtered city water to show it’s again drinkable, President Obama promised Wednesday to ride herd on leaders at all levels of government until every drop of water flowing into homes in Flint, Michigan, is safe to use. He also promised that the aging pipes that contaminated the water with lead will be replaced, but cautioned that the project will take time, the AP reports. Obama said he wanted to use the crisis to make long-term improvements to the city, where more than 40% of residents live in poverty. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we have to get started,“ he told hundreds of people gathered in a high school gym. The president spoke after he was briefed on the federal response to the water contamination and had met privately with nine residents.
“I’ve got your back,“ Obama said. “I will not rest and I’m going to make sure that the leaders at every level of government don’t rest until every drop of water that flows to your homes is safe to drink and safe to cook with and safe to bathe in.“ He called providing safe drinking water a basic responsibility of government. And while he said he didn’t want to go over every “screw-up that resulted in contaminated water,“ he blamed an overarching attitude that less government is better. “It’s an ideology that undervalues the common good,“ Obama said After coughing several times during his remarks, the president asked for and drank from a glass of water.
In The World….
► China: Stop Calling President ‘Big Daddy Xi’
It seemed a good idea at the time, but China’s propaganda officials are now reportedly walking back one particular attempt to paint President Xi Jinping as the “people’s president” by asking state media to stop referring to him by his nickname, per the Guardian. That nickname is “Xi Dada,“ or “Big Daddy Xi,“ and while the intent of the moniker was, as another Guardian article frames it, to “craft the image of an approachable public servant,“ it seems to have instead created a cult of personality that some fear is reminiscent of Mao Zedong. Sources tell Bloomberg that both the Xinhua News Agency and the 21st Century Business Herald were “cautioned” last month about using “Xi Dada,“ even though the name doesn’t appear to have been blocked from online searches or scrubbed online, and no explicit written ban seems to have been issued. The nickname got its start after a fan club started circulating it in 2012, per the People’s Daily, and Xi himself gave it the thumbs-up in 2014.
There’s even a series of songs that have been dedicated to Big Daddy Xi, including “Our Xi Dada“ and “Xi Dada Loves Peng Mama” (referring to his wife). “I thought the Chinese system had moved beyond one-man-rule and personality cults,“ noted Chinese scholar David Shambaugh scoffs to the Guardian. “I do not think it is good for China. This is not the 1960s.“ Experts speculate it’s that sort of thinking that may have caused officials to try to pull back the name, even blocking the Economist website for posting a cartoon Xi in a Mao-style getup next to the headline, “Beware the cult of Xi.“ Some say Xi is likely not pleased. “That’s a big-time propaganda failure,“ the author of a book on Xi’s rise tells the Guardian. “I can imagine that in their five-minute-a-month meeting with Xi Jinping, the head of publicity got told: ‘Whose bright idea was that [nickname]? Send him or her to Gansu [in China’s far west]!‘“
► Italy: Stealing Food Not a Crime if You’re Starving, Homeless
This week, Italy’s highest court ruled it’s not illegal for a starving homeless person to steal food needed to survive, the Guardian reports. The ruling stems from a 2011 incident in which a homeless man named Roman Ostriakov paid for a bag of breadsticks at a supermarket while concealing a small amount of cheese and sausage. Ostriakov was sentenced to six months in jail and a fine in 2013, but that conviction has now been overturned by Italy’s supreme court. “The condition of the defendant, and the circumstances in which the seizure of merchandise took place, prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of an immediate and essential need for nourishment,“ CNN quotes the court as saying.
The decision was hailed by many. One Italian columnist writes the ruling shows the “right to survival prevails over property,“ the BBC reports. That same columnist says it’s a ruling that would be “blasphemy in America.“ “The supreme court has established a sacrosanct principle: a small theft because of hunger is in no way comparable to an act of delinquency, because the need to feed justifies the fact,” the Guardian quotes the president of a consumer rights group as saying. Others complained that it took a three-part trial over the theft of less than $5 worth of food just to conclude that no crime had been committed.
► Canada Wildfire Torches 1.6K Homes
Alberta declared a state of emergency Wednesday as crews frantically held back wind-whipped wildfires that have already torched 1,600 homes and other buildings in Canada’s main oil sands city of Fort McMurray, forcing more than 80,000 residents to flee. Whole neighborhoods have burned, but an Alberta Emergency Management Agency spokesman says flames are being kept from the downtown area thanks to the “herculean’” efforts of firefighters. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley flew up to survey the situation, while officials in the evacuation center had to bolt to the south of the city as flames edged closer. There were haunting images of scorched trucks, charred homes, and telephone poles, burned out from the bottom up, hanging in the wires like wooden crosses.
The blaze effectively cut Fort McMurray in two late Tuesday, forcing about 10,000 north to the safety of oil sands work camps. The other 70,000 or so were sent streaming south in a bumper-to-bumper line of cars and trucks. Resident Breanna Schmidt tells the AP that evacuating almost felt like an apocalypse. “We had to literally drive through smoke and fire, vehicles littered all over the sides of the road, and we had to drive as fast as we could and breathe as little as we could because the smoke was so intense and we could feel the heat from inside the vehicle,“ she says. The Edmonton Journal reports that on Wednesday night, winds expanded the fire and the evacuation zone, forcing hundreds of people to flee the blaze for a second time.
► UAE Wants to Build a Mountain to Control the Weather
Even with a major downturn in the oil business, the United Arab Emirates still has enough money to look at a few modest construction projects—including building a mountain in the desert. The Gulf nation, which is desperately short of rain, has paid $400,000 to the Colorado-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to study the possibility of boosting rainfall with an artificial mountain, Arabian Business reports. The UAE spent $558,000 on cloud-seeding last year alone, and lead researcher Roelof Bruintjes explains that a mountain would cause air to rise, creating more clouds to seed, though they’re not entirely sure how tall the mountain should be. “Building a mountain is not a simple thing,“ he says. The next step will be to submit the team’s plan to an engineering firm.
Experts seem to think the idea is as outlandish as it sounds. “I really doubt that it would work,“ Oxford physics professor Raymond Pierrehumbert tells Vocativ. “You’d need to build a long ridge, not just a cone, otherwise the air would just go around,“ he explains, adding that even if that was possible, under local conditions, “it’s really unlikely to work as there is very little evidence that cloud seeding produces much rainfall.“ He says no mountain will change the fact that the area is a desert, and the UAE would be far better off “putting the money into solar-powered desalination plants.“ Exactly how much money the project would cost isn’t clear, though the Washington Post notes that a plan to give the Netherlands its first mountain had an estimated price tag of $230 billion—and that’s if the mountain was hollow.
► Woman’s Defiant Pose Strikes Chord in Sweden
A 42-year-old black woman has become the “talk of Sweden” after striking a defiant pose against neo-Nazi marchers, reports the Local. Tess Asplund stood in the path of the marchers with her fist raised in a photo captured by David Lagerlof of the anti-racism group Expo. “It was an impulse. I was so angry, I just went out into the street,” she tells the Guardian. “I was thinking, ‘Hell no, they can’t march here! I had this adrenaline.“ The incident took place in the city of Borlange between Asplund and members of the Nordic Resistance Movement, and police quickly hustled her away. The image, however, has resonated on social media in the country, notes the Independent. “Tess has captured one of the conflicts of our time,” says another member of Expo.
The Local notes that many are comparing the image to an iconic photo from 1985 of a woman hitting a neo-Nazi demonstrator with her handbag, though “I really don’t want to go that far,“ says photographer Lagerlof. He recalls the scene: NRM leaders are “slowly walking towards her, and it looks like hers and the leader’s eyes meet, that they are staring at each other,“ he says. “When they are quite close to each other the police come along and push her away.“ For her part, Asplund says she hopes the image leads to positive change, though she admits being a little unnerved by the attention. “These guys are big and crazy,“ she says. “It’s a mixed feeling, but I am trying to stay calm.“
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