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West Virginia Receives National Recognition for Physical Activity In Schools

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia received a national recognition for becoming the first state in the nation to enroll all 441 public elementary school in Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS). LMAS is the national initiative, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, to ensure that 60 minutes of physical activity day is the norm in schools across America. LMAS is a resource to equip teachers with easy ways of integrating more physical activity before, during and after the school day.

Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, presented the recognition to State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Martirano and State Board of Education President, Mike Green today during the 2016 KidStrong conference at the Charleston Civic Center.

“I celebrate this achievement because we know physical activity helps improve academic achievement, self-esteem and classroom discipline,” Martirano said. “Simply put, active students make better learners and it is critical for the future of our state that we educate our students on the importance of being active every day and living healthy lifestyles.”

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a proclamation in celebration of the achievement which congratulated West Virginia schools and educators for their commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle for West Virginia’s children.

Enrollment in the program means providing teachers across the state with the resources needed to seamlessly integrate physical activity into the school day. This achievement placed West Virginia in the national spotlight, earning direct praise from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and sets a standard for states across the country.

For more information, visit, www.letsmoveschools.org or contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Communications Office at 304.558.2699 or .

West Virginia Floodings 2016

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Governor Tomblin Announces Approved Federal Disaster Declaration - FEMA declaration to provide individual assistance in three counties following floods

CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today announced his request for a Federal Disaster Declaration has been granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist West Virginians after extreme flooding on Thursday and Friday.
The declaration will provide individual assistance, which includes emergency medical support, housing and addresses a number of immediate needs, to residents in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. Damage assessments continue in many areas, including Clay, Fayette, Monroe, Ritchie, Summers and Webster counties, and additional requests may be submitted to FEMA.
“This federal support will provide much needed assistance to severely-impacted regions,” Governor Tomblin said. “As emergency response efforts continue, with members of the National Guard and local emergency responders hard at work helping our neighbors, we will continue pursuing additional assistance for all affected areas.”
FEMA teams will be working with state officials to evaluate the damage in the coming days and additional requests for federal assistance.

West Virginians needing assistance should contact their local offices of emergency management. Contact information for each county office can be found HERE .


►   Governor Tomblin Requests Federal Declaration in Response to WV Floods - Major Disaster Declaration would support individual assistance for affected counties

CHARLESTON, WV –  Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has requested a federal Major Disaster Declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide individual assistance for Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, which were severely affected by floods beginning June 23, 2016.

“We appreciate the support of FEMA and our congressional delegation as we work to provide assistance to affected families as quickly as possible,” Governor Tomblin said. “We realize many other counties experienced significant damage and we will be following up in those areas, but the scope of damage in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties allowed us to proceed with that request immediately. A federal Major Disaster Declaration would provide our residents with the support they need to rebuild and move forward.

Governor Tomblin made an expedited verbal request to FEMA this morning for individual assistance, which provides help to residents and families such as housing and crisis counseling.

West Virginians needing assistance should contact their local offices of emergency management. Contact information for each county office can be found HERE.


►   Murray Energy Strikes Five-Year Agreement with Coal Miner Union

America’s largest coal-mining company says it’s reached a tentative labor agreement with unionized miners.

Murray American Energy announced Friday a 5-year pact struck between the United Mine Workers of America and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, representing mine operators in Ohio and West Virginia.

The union plans a membership vote next week on the contract, which would run from June 30 through 2021.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray American and chairman of the association, said the agreement “will go a long way” in ensuring union employees are able to continue working “even in this very depressed coal marketplace.“

UMWA President Cecil Roberts said the “rapidly deteriorating status” of the U.S. coal industry required locking in the best terms and conditions six months before the current contract expires.


►   MANCHIN STATEMENT ON EXTREME FLOODING IN WEST VIRGINIA

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement after touring damage in areas of West Virginia affected by extreme flooding including in Elkview, Clendenin, Craigsville, Richwood, Birch River and Camden on the Gauley.

“The flood waters have absolutely devastated 44 counties throughout West Virginia and Gayle and I are sending our prayers to the family and friends of those who we have lost, those missing and everyone impacted by this tragedy. I have toured the damage left by the flood waters in Elkview, Clendenin and surrounding areas and am working with Governor Tomblin, the entire West Virginia Delegation and the White House on assisting those affected. I urge all West Virginians to listen to local advisories, to stay safe and to contact my office at 304.342.5855 with concerns. If you need assistance, and if you are elderly, disabled or ill and cannot access water, please call the Emergency Operations Center at 304.746.8828.”


►   PGA Tour cancels Greenbrier Classic amid West Virginia flood

BETHESDA, MD — The PGA Tour announced Saturday that the Greenbrier Classic scheduled for next month has been canceled because of the devastating flooding in West Virginia.

The tournament had been scheduled for July 7-10 at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, which was inundated with floodwaters after heavy storms rolled into the state Thursday. Tour officials say the Old White TPC, the host course, suffered extensive damage and “is beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament.“

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said officials were heartbroken by the devastation in West Virginia and offered their thoughts and prayers.

“Canceling the Greenbrier Classic is certainly the most prudent course of action as our foremost concern is the well-being of those who are having to live through this tragic situation,“ Finchem said.

Greenbrier County claimed 15 of the 23 deaths attributed to the flooding.

This is the first time a PGA Tour event has been washed out since the Viking Classic in Madison, Mississippi, in 2009. Unplayable conditions also led to the cancellation of the 1996 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

More than 150 players had committed to playing the Greenbrier, which was set to follow the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. The PGA Tour is at Congressional this weekend for Tiger Woods’ Quicken Loans National.

The Greenbrier was supposed to be the final chance to qualify for the British Open at Royal Troon on July 14-17, with one spot available to the highest finisher who was not already eligible. Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations, said the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which runs the British Open, was deciding what to do with that spot.

One possibility is to award it to the Barracuda Championship, to be played next week opposite the WGC-Bridgestone.

At the Greenbrier, owner Jim Justice said the focus is on helping the people of West Virginia.

“So many have lost loved ones, their homes, and have no place to go,“ Justice said. “All of us are united with only one common goal: to help the people through this terrible time.“

The Greenbrier Classic began in 2010. The PGA Tour is committed to holding the event through 2021.

“We know we will have the opportunity to return again next year, and we look forward to that time,“ Finchem said. “But for now, that is of secondary concern. The priority is safety of the residents and their recovery from this disaster.“


►   FEMA registration begins Sunday

CHARLESTON, WV — Flood victims in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Nicholas counties can apply for individual disaster assistance with FEMA beginning Sunday.

Application can be made either online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1.800.621.FEMA (3362). The number will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Individual assisstance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs, FEMA said.

The disaster declaration also includes public assistance for the three counties. Governor Earl Tomblin is expected to seek assistance for other counties once damage assessments are completed.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Dozens of Homes Burn in California Brush Fire

Dozens of homes burned to the ground as a wildfire raged over ridges and tore through rural communities in central California, authorities say. The streaking blaze that burned at least 80 homes and other buildings northeast of Bakersfield around Lake Isabella came just as many others across western states were calming, the AP reports. It broke out late Thursday afternoon amid heat in the 90s and single-digit humidity, climbing over at least three ridges into hillside neighborhoods, Kern County fire Capt. Tyler Townsend says.

No injuries were reported, but some homes are already little more than embers on the ground. “I’ve never been in a wildland fire where I’ve seen so many homes burn,“ Townsend says. “It’s one of the most devastating I’ve ever seen.“ The fire has burned over seven square miles, and about 1,500 homes are under threat. Several thousand people are under evacuation orders, but some are refusing to evacuate, says Townsend, who warns that many houses in the area have propane tanks, adding to the danger. Elsewhere in the state, cooler weather helped crews fighting two fires that burned more than 8 square miles of chaparral and brush in the Angeles National Forest and foothill communities northeast of Los Angeles.


►   10 years after housing peaked, U.S. is more of a renter nation

It’s a troublesome story playing out across America in the 10 years since the housing bubble peaked and then burst in a ruinous crash: As real estate has climbed back, homeowners are thriving while renters are struggling.

For many longtime owners, times are good. They’re enjoying the benefits of growing equity and reduced mortgage payments from ultra-low rates.

But for America’s growing class of renters, surging costs, stagnant pay and rising home values have made it next to impossible to save enough to buy.

The possible consequences are bleak for a nation already grappling with economic inequality: Whatever wealth most Americans possess mainly comes from home equity, meaning that the increase in renters gives fewer people that same level of financial security.

Nearly two-thirds of adults still own homes. And some who rent do so by choice. Yet ownership has become a more distant dream for the many Americans, as rental prices and demand has surged in areas that offer the best job prospects as well as those that have been battered by foreclosures.

“It doesn’t paint a pretty picture,“ said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, the online real estate database company. “You’re really blocking out a group of buyers from owning a home. They’re truly living paycheck to paycheck, and that does not put them into a good position to buy.“

Joe Fabie and his wife face just such a bind.

They moved to Mount Pleasant, just over the bridge from historic Charleston, South Carolina after law school in Pittsburgh. The suburb’s pastel-hued harbor vistas, tin-roofed houses and Spanish moss-adorned live oaks were enchanting.

But the rising rent on their one-bedroom apartment made it impossible to save enough to buy a home. So the couple moved to a cheaper suburb in hopes of saving for a starter home.

“The best school district is Mount Pleasant, and we would like to be there,“ said Fabie, 27. “But if you’re lucky you can get some beat-up homes for around $300,000.“

An exclusive analysis by The Associated Press of census data covering over 300 communities found that two major forces are driving a wedge between the fortunes of renters and homeowners:

—Historically low mortgage rates have enabled homeowners to refinance and shrink their monthly payments, thereby reducing a major household cost. The median annual mortgage expense for a U.S. homeowner has dropped by $1,492 since 2006.

—A combination of foreclosures and new college graduates crowding into the strongest job markets has raised demand for rentals. Renters accounted for all the 8 million-plus net households the United States added in the past decade. Home ownership has dipped to 63.5 percent, near a 48-year low.

That demand has driven up rents, which, in turn, have prevented or delayed people from buying first homes. Outside of a pocket of relative stability seen in parts of the Midwest such as Minneapolis and St. Louis, the momentum has moved away from ownership.

The residue of the housing bubble remains achingly visible in Las Vegas. Thousands of houses are stuck in the foreclosure pipeline, controlled by banks, and could flood the market should prices recover enough. Nearly half of Las Vegas now rents, compared with less than 40 percent a decade ago.

Consider the shift toward renting in Piedmont Park neighborhood of Apopka, a former agricultural hub outside of Orlando now crowded with housing developments.

Where one in 10 homes once was a rental, now more than a third are. Many are owned by Wall Street investment firms that bought them out of foreclosure at deep discounts.

Erika Pringley, a 42-year-old police dispatcher, rents with her husband a three-bedroom ranch house. Through a string of subsidiaries, the house is owned by Blackstone, the world’s largest real estate private equity group.

At that price paid by investors, the equivalent of the monthly mortgage would be under $500.

Pringley’s rent: $1,310 a month.

Pringley, who works for the Florida Highway Patrol, hopes to buy a home — if she can emerge from debt.

“At my age, I want to own something that’s my own, have something that’s my own,“ she said.

Higher rents are closing the path of accruing wealth through ownership. On average, homeowners have a net housing wealth of $150,506, according to figures soon to be released by the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Center.

Elsewhere, rising prosperity is the reason why renters are stuck.

Just as the economy tanked nearly a decade ago, millennials began flooding the best job markets after college and graduate school where rents are disproportionately higher.

Over the past decade, the number of under-35 college graduates in Washington rocketed up more than 50 percent to nearly 100,000. Bistros, boutiques and posh apartments opened along the once-downtrodden 14th Street corridor.

All this has created a paradox in Washington: Incomes are rising — normally fuel for home buying — even as homeownership is declining.

Ultra-low mortgage rates below 4 percent have enabled Jim Phillips, 51, to capitalize on the influx, buying condos and renting them at a profit.

“With more and more younger people moving into the city, it’s creating an opportunity for me,“ Phillips said. “So far, I have two condos. My goal is to buy, basically, one a year.“

The opportunities are there for people who have money — or those who are already homeowners.

Alpana Patel and her husband landed a house in San Marcos, California, about 35 miles from San Diego, in 2007. To buy their $845,000 home, they took out an interest-only mortgage with an adjustable rate starting 6.7 percent. Including property taxes and insurance, their monthly costs totaled about $6,000.

The couple refinanced in 2013 at a rate of just 3.75 percent, which shrank their monthly payment by $2,000.

The couple eventually decided to rent out that house at a price that covers nearly all their mortgage costs and to buy a second, larger home where they could live.

“Now, we’re able to own two homes because we hung in there,“ Patel said.


►   Teens Fired After Girl Asks for Equal Pay

When Jensen Walcott and her good friend, Jake Reed, both got hired at Pizza Studio in Kansas City, Kansas, on the same day, the 17-year-olds were initially excited. Then Reed mentioned to Walcott that he’d be making $8.25 per hour. Walcott would only be making $8 per hour, even though she was hired for the same position and had the same degree of experience. Thinking there must have been a mix-up, she called her boss just an hour after being hired to ask about the wage discrepancy—and was promptly fired, she tells Fox 4 KC. Jensen says the manager told her it’s against company policy to discuss wages with co-workers, but both teens say that policy was never mentioned to them before the phone call. Reed was also fired.

“At face value it appears, that the young lady was terminated because she complained about unequal wages. That’s illegal,“ an attorney tells the station, adding that, per the National Labor Relations Board, it is perfectly fine for colleagues to discuss wages. He thinks Jensen may have a legal claim on her hands, but for now, Jensen just wants to bring some attention to what happened. Fox 4’s story came out last Friday, and the station noted that when it reached out to a corporate rep for Pizza Studio, he promised to investigate but never called the station back. Fox 4 hasn’t offered any updates since then, but the story got wide pickup this week, with many outlets decrying the fact that Walcott was apparently terminated for requesting to be paid as much as a male counterpart.


►   Man Admits to Lying About Escaping Auschwitz

A 91-year-old Pennsylvania man has admitted to lying for years about being an Auschwitz survivor, even going so far as to have an actual prisoner’s number tattooed on his arm, the AP reports. Joseph Hirt has lectured to numerous school groups and organizations about his experience escaping from Auschwitz. But Hirt’s story drew the suspicions of New York teacher Andrew Reid, who questioned his timeline of events, during a lecture in April, according to Penn Live. Reid’s investigation into Hirt turned into a 25-page report sent to any media outlet that had written about him and any organization that had hosted him. Hirt’s own nephew confirmed that Hirt made the whole thing up. He said Hirt’s family left Poland before Germany invaded.

While Hirt originally fought back against Reid’s claims, he delivered a letter of apology to Lancaster Online this week, asking for forgiveness. “I did not intend to lessen or overshadow the events which truly happened there by falsely claiming to have been personally involved,“ Hirt writes. He says he only lied about escaping Auschwitz as a “60-pound skeleton with skin” to “enhance the important truth of the suffering and death of so many.” “I used poor judgment and faulty reasoning,“ Hirt writes. Hirt says he was inspired by a visit to Auschwitz years after the end of WWII. “I determined at that moment to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of the truth about wartime life (and death) at Auschwitz,“ he writes.


►   Hawaii Will Put Gun Owners Into FBI Database

Hawaii has positioned itself on the leading edge of gun control after Governor David Ige signed a bill Thursday that would put the state’s gun owners into an FBI database, the AP reports. According to Hawaii News Now, Hawaiian gun owners will be entered in the “Rap Back” system, which will notify police if a Hawaiian gun owner is arrested anywhere in the country. Rap Back has been used for teachers, bus drivers, and others in “positions of trust” around the country, but this is the first time it’s been used for gun owners, Fox News reports. “This is about our community’s safety and responsible gun ownership,“ Hawaii News Now quotes Ige as saying. “This system will better enable our law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of all Hawaii residents and visitors to our islands.“

An attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence calls the bill “groundbreaking.“ But critics say gun owners shouldn’t be entered in a database just for exercising their constitutional rights. “This is an extremely dangerous bill,“ Fox quotes an NRA spokesperson as saying. “Exercising a constitutional right is not inherently suspicious.“ Ige signed two other gun-control bills Thursday. One bans stalkers and sexual abusers from owning guns. Another allows police to take guns away from someone disqualified from owning them due to mental health issues.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Pope to Armenians: Never forget the genocide, but reconcile

YEREVAN, Armenia — The world should never forget or minimize the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians, Pope Francis declared Saturday even as he urged Armenians to infuse their collective memory with love so they can find peace and reconcile with Turkey.

Turkey, though, didn’t budge. In its first reaction to Francis’ recognition of the 1915 “genocide,“ Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli called the comments “greatly unfortunate” and said they bore the hallmarks of the “mentality of the Crusades.“

Francis began his second day in Armenia by paying his respects at the country’s imposing genocide memorial and greeting descendants of survivors of the 1915 massacres, who have been emboldened by his comments upon arrival that the slaughter of Armenians a century ago was a planned “genocide” meant to annihilate an entire people.

Francis presented a wreath at the memorial and stood, head bowed, in silent prayer before an eternal flame as priests blessed him with incense and a choir sang haunting hymns.

“Here I pray with sorrow in my heart, so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good,“ Francis wrote in the memorial’s guest book. “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.“

Francis also greeted descendants of the 400 or so Armenian orphans taken in by Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI at the papal summer residence south of Rome in the 1920s. Also approaching Francis was Sosi Habeschyan, 68, and her sister; their mother was a genocide orphan adopted and raised by Danish missionary Maria Jacobsen, who worked in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and wrote about the massacre.

“A blessing has come down on the land of Mt. Ararat,“ said Andzhela Adzhemyan, a 35-year old refugee from Syria who was a guest at the memorial. “He has given us the strength and confidence to keep our Christian faith no matter what.“

Francis returned to the theme of memory during a Mass in Gyumri, where several thousand people gathered in a square for his only public Catholic Mass of his three-day visit to Armenia. Nestled in the rolling green hills and wildflower fields of northwestern Armenia, Gyumri has long been a cradle of Christianity, and Francis came to pay homage to its faith even in times of trial.

“Peoples, like individuals, have a memory,“ he told the crowd from the altar. “Your own people’s memory is ancient and precious.“

Francis again raised the importance of memory at an evening prayer in Yerevan’s Republic Square, which drew the largest crowds of his visit, some 50,000 according to Vatican estimates. With the patriarch of the Apostolic Church, Karekin II, by his side and President Serzh Sargsyan in the front row, Francis said even the greatest pain “can become a seed of peace for the future.“

“Memory, infused with love, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation, where hope arises for a better future for everyone,“ he said.

He specifically called for Armenia and Turkey to take up the “path of reconciliation” and said: “May peace also spring forth in Nagorno-Karabakh.“

The Vatican has long held up the landlocked nation of 3 million mostly Orthodox Christians as a bastion of faith and martyrdom in a largely Muslim region and the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301.

“We were saved by the Christian faith, which in the years of the genocide helped our grandfathers and great-grandfathers,“ 38-year-old Vardui Simonyan, a granddaughter of genocide survivors, said after the pope’s visit to the genocide memorial. “The fact that one of the main people in Christendom is with us is inspiring.“

Upon his arrival Friday in the capital, Yerevan, Francis added the politically charged word “genocide” to his prepared text, listing the 1915 Armenian genocide alongside the Holocaust and Stalinism as the three great mass slaughters of the 20th century.

Turkey rejects the term, saying the 1.5 million deaths cited by historians is an inflated figure and that people died on both sides as the Ottoman Empire collapsed amid World War I. When Francis first used it last year, Turkey withdrew its ambassador for 10 months and accused Francis of spreading lies.

On Saturday, the deputy prime minister, Canikli, said the term “does not comply with the truth.“

“Everyone knows that. We all know it, the whole world knows it, and so do the Armenians,“ he added.

In a largely Orthodox land where Catholics are a minority, Armenians have seemed genuinely honored to welcome a pope who has long championed the Armenian cause from his time as an archbishop in Argentina and now as leader of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church.

“We have the memory of the genocide in our genes,“ said 45-year-old Alexander Rubenyan from Yerevan. “It used to be a gene of sadness, but with every visit of people like the pope the Armenian gene is becoming more alive and full of optimism.“


►   Zoo Closing After 140 Years to Give Its Animals a Better Life

The Buenos Aires zoo, one of the city’s major tourist attractions, will be shutting down after 140 years to give its animal residents a shot at a better life, the Guardian reports. According to the BBC, the zoo had come under fire in recent years over the condition of its animals and infrastructure. Of particular concern was the suffering of the zoo’s polar bears during Buenos Aires’ sweltering summers. The zoo’s last remaining polar bear, Winner, died in part because of hot temperatures and poor conditions. And while the zoo was originally built on the edge of Buenos Aires, the city had grown around it, putting animals in close proximity to buildings and busy streets, the AP reports.

“This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them,” Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said during a ceremony Thursday, per the Guardian. Most of the zoo’s animals—sources have them numbering between 1,500 and 2,500—will be moved to animal sanctuaries in Argentina and elsewhere. About 50 animals too old or sick to move will stay behind, though not on public display. Among those animals is Sandra the orangutan, who made news two years ago when a court gave her rights as a “non-human person.“ The 44-acre zoo will be transformed into an ecological park that will promote conservation and rehabilitate animals rescued from illegal trafficking.


►   What the UK’s Late-Night Brexit Googling Reveals

So the United Kingdom voted for Brexit, PM David Cameron announced his resignation, and scores of people starting frenetically Googling “What happens if we leave the EU?“—just a few hours after they already voted en masse to do so, the Verge reports. Google Trends tweeted there was a 250% spike in just one hour for that search term after the polls had closed. And Friday morning, even more confused people didn’t seem to understand what had gone down the day before, with Google Trends reporting a 2,450% spike in the somewhat panicked “Are we in or out of the EU?“ Other after-the-fact queries that saw a boost included: “What happens to foreigners if we leave the EU?,“ “What happens if we stay in the EU?,“ and the search term that Ars Technica dubs to be perhaps the most worrisome: “What is Brexit?“

All of this leads the Verge to ponder why such a “wildly complex” issue of the UK defecting from the EU was left to a people’s referendum instead of in the hands of “independent experts” who may have had a better grasp on the issues. “Referendums are a brute-force political engine, a numbers game designed to spit out a yes or no answer on a simple question,“ the site notes. But UK residents had apparently “had enough of experts"—at least according to the country’s justice minister, Michael Gove, who had recently made controversial comments comparing pro-EU economists to Nazi sympathizers, per the Guardian. At least some UK citizens seem to have wrapped their head around what the Brexit vote could mean for them: The search term “getting an Irish passport” jumped 100% Friday morning—although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, Ireland proper is independent of it.

Governor Tomblin Issues Statement on Flooding Response Effort

Damage extensive in parts of state
The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said today that state and local emergency officials are working to ensure the safety of residents across the state.

“The flooding we experienced Thursday and into today is among the worst in a century for some parts of the state,” Governor Tomblin said. “Our team in the Emergency Operations Center worked through the night and continues to coordinate efforts with local officials today.

“On Thursday evening I declared a State of Emergency for 44 counties, including all but the Northern and Eastern Panhandles. I have authorized the deployment of up to 150 members of the West Virginia National Guard to assist local emergency responders as we continue to evaluate the situation today.

“We understand many counties continue to experience significant problems and some waters continue to rise. Joanne and I are thinking continually about those affected by this disaster, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones. I appreciate the tireless efforts of first responders across the state, many of whom have volunteered to travel long distances to help those in the most affected areas.”

A State of Emergency declaration does not restrict travel or mandate the closing of businesses. In addition, a State of Emergency declaration does not mean the state will receive federal assistance.

West Virginians needing assistance should contact their local offices of emergency management. Contact information for each county office can be found HERE .

To read the proclamation in its entirety, click HERE .

G-Eye™: WV State Folk Festival Parade 2016

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Families With Kids Still Recovering From Recession

New data from the KIDS COUNT Data Book suggests that families with children have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. Most economic indicators are still below prerecession levels, and the nation’s child poverty rate remains stuck at 22%.

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In this year’s ranking of states on the economic well-being of kids, Wyoming moved into the top spot, and Louisiana dropped to last.

Summer Safety for Children

Bridgeport, WV - As summer approaches, parents must take all the necessary safety precautions to ensure their child’s wellbeing. Hot weather provides opportunities for children to enjoy the outdoors; however, they may fall, crash, slip and tumble during summertime fun activities. 

“Parents must remember that summer should be a time of enjoyment for their children,” said Mary-Ann Kroll, MD, pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Bridgeport.  “While they need to let their kids play outdoors, parents must at the same time be careful to take a common-sense approach with safety.”

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Dr. Kroll says that summer is a time where we face several safety hazards.  Parents will need to know what steps they can take to prevent an emergency. It is important to be on the lookout for risks ranging from water safety, to how to deal with potentially deadly insects.


SWIMMING

Swimming and other water activities are excellent ways for your child to get the physical activity and health benefits needed,” said Dr. Kroll. “However, drownings are the leading cause of injury or deaths for children between the ages of one to four years of age in the United States.”
There are some simple preventative measures that parents can take.  If a parent can swim, they should also teach their child to do so. Both the YMCA and Red Cross provide swimming lessons in most areas.
If for some reason you are unable to ensure your child receives swimming lessons, make sure he or she wears some sort of flotation device when in or around water. “The average adult has trouble sustaining their breath for 30 seconds, that average is even lower for young children,” said Dr. Kroll. “Taking your eye off your child for just a second around a body of water could lead to the unthinkable. When taking your children around water, please, take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety.”

Dr. Kroll also wants to help prevent you and your family from getting a recreational water illness. “This is an illness caused by germs and chemicals found in the water in which we swim,” said Dr. Kroll.  “I recommend that you take frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers hourly, as to avoid an accident in water. This tip will help to keep germs out.”


HEAT AND SUN

Dr. Kroll says that heat and sun can be very dangerous to children and even adults.  Children and adults exposed to too much sun can face serious heat exhaustion and sunburns. The first steps in prevention are staying well hydrated and wearing light, loose fitted clothing. A sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher should be applied periodically throughout the day.


TICKS AND MOSQUITOS

“Ticks and Mosquitos are on the rise each year,” said Dr. Kroll. “ We must take preventative measures to stop the spread of the Zika virus, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.”

Parents should keep their lawn cut short and reduce the time their children spend near wooded locations. These are areas where ticks and mosquitos often hide. Spraying down with insect repellent or putting on long articles of clothing before venturing outdoors will greatly reduce the number of bug bites received by both ticks and mosquitos.
Playgrounds and Recreation

“Playgrounds and recreational activities are responsible for more than 200,000 emergency department (ED) visits annually by children 14 and younger,” said Dr. Kroll. “Parents need to analyze each playground for faulty structures before allowing their children to play on them.”

It is important to ensure that a playground is well maintained and that each part is working as it should. Children must always wear the proper equipment before ever participating in any sports or recreational activity.


POISON IVY

“Your children need to be aware of the plant-related dangers around them when playing outdoors,” said Dr. Kroll. “In fact nearly 85 percent of people are allergic to poison ivy, and it affects as many as 50 million Americans each year.” Poison ivy can be found in every state in the United States except for Hawaii, Alaska, and some deserts in Nevada.

The best way parents can keep their children from having to deal with this plant is by teaching them what the plant looks like. If you are not an outdoorsmen you can simply search online at Redcross.org to find images of poison ivy, as well as where it is most likely found.

You will also find how to treat the infected area if you believe you have touched poison ivy. You must first wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Next you will want to wash any clothing or equipment that may have rubbed against the plant that day.

“Accidents will happen, but by being aware and educated about any potential risk, you can reduce your child’s chance of being affected,” said Dr. Kroll. If you have further questions concerning these summertime safety tips or other medical questions concerning your child, call Dr. Mary-Ann Kroll at 304.842.5777.

Kids’ Day at Gilmer county Farmers’ Market - Today

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The Budget Battles to Come in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

The Governor and legislators worked on and off from late last year until the middle of June to develop a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1st.  It was an agonizing process marked by contentious public and private debates that focused on how to fill a $270 million hole created by declining tax collections.

Governor Tomblin and lawmakers finally settled on a combination of a tobacco tax increase, budget cuts and borrowing from the Rainy Day Fund.  The Governor quickly approved the budget and exhausted lawmakers left town, relieved to finally have the spending document in place while avoiding a government shutdown.

However, the exercise was only a precursor. The new budget did not end West Virginia’s budget woes; it only tamped them down for fiscal year 2017. There’s more trouble ahead.

Revenue collections are expected to continue to lag, creating shortfalls in FY ’18 and ’19.  It’s difficult to project the size of the shortfalls because of the volatility of the state’s economy, but they could be between $200 million and $300 million each year.

The state is prohibited from running a deficit, so that means the new Governor (Tomblin’s term ends in January 2017) and the next Legislature will be facing another series of difficult choices.

The state’s been cutting spending in some areas for several years now, while trying to avoid impacting public education, higher education and health care. These are three critical functions of government and they also constitute the largest expenditures of taxpayer dollars.

Will lawmakers and the new Governor look to those areas to save money?  A better option would be to conduct a top down review of all functions of government and then prioritize; what are the services government must provide, what does the state want to provide and what would it like to provide if it had the money.

Lawmakers could always try to raise more revenue with higher taxes, but that will be a challenge, especially if Republicans maintain control of the House of Delegates and the Senate. Governor Tomblin struggled mightily to get enough Republicans and Democrats on board with a .65 cent increase in the cigarette tax, so a broader based tax increase next year seems unlikely.

The Rainy Day Fund is another option, but that account is supposed to be for emergencies and not an annual source of revenue to balance the budget. The fund has a balance of about $800 million, but $70 million is being withdrawn for the FY ’17 budget.  Additionally, the Governor may have to dip back into the fund in the coming months if revenues fall below projections.

One of the reasons lawmakers needed a 17-day special session to craft the FY ’17 budget is that these are really difficult decisions, ones where deeply-held philosophical differences on the role of government collide.

This is the new normal for West Virginia, at least for awhile. Barring a dramatic economic turnaround, budget battles will dominate the Legislature for the next two years.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

Cheat River in Middle of a “Rebirth”

More than a decade of efforts, along with federal funding, have contributed to what’s being called a rebirth of the Cheat River.

“A lot of folks at the state level and local level in cooperation with the EPA have really focused on the Cheat to turn the story around,” explained Jon Capacasa, Director for Water Protection Division of EPA’s Mid Atlantic Region. “Their efforts are paying off.”

Parts of the goals of the non-profit Friends of the Cheat are being met through Clean Water Act funds.

“Cheat River restoration efforts have received more than $5.1 million in support. $2.6 million of that is from EPA’s non point source program. It’s a Clean Water Act program that funds projects to reduce pollution from area sources,” Capacasa added.

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Friends of the Cheat released an update that detailed the toll acid mine drainage took on the river.

“The recovery has been dramatic since 1994 when, in the first of two incidents, torrents of polluted water from an illegally-sealed underground mine blew out a hillside and poured into Muddy Creek and then the Cheat River, turning the river orange for 16 miles on the way to Cheat Lake, killing everything in its aquatic path, and bringing greater attention to a history of AMD problems affecting the Cheat.”

Capacasa said funding has helped pay for a passive treatment system.

“Limestone rocks are used to neutralize the acid coming out of these abandoned mines so that before they hit the stream they are made more minimal to aquatic life and the health of the stream.”

Significant changes are noticeable from the work that was underway from 2000 to 2013.

“Restoration work there has reduced acid mine drainage related pollution more than 1.7 million pounds,” Capacasa noted. “More neutral water is more amenable wildlife and aquatic life to survive in.”

Today, the Cheat is host to bass fishing tournaments, a healthy perch population and even pollution-sensitive walleye, according to Friends of the Cheat.

All the while, outdoor enthusiasts are coming back to the Cheat for the thrill of the rapids.

“It means a lot of local outfitters are and small businesses are benefitting with huge numbers of recreational users that are coming back to the river, Capacasa said. “It’s a great economic engine not just a clean water story.”

~~  Sunshine Wiles ~~

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   FEMA sending teams to West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV — Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will soon be heading into the most flood-ravaged areas of West Virginia.

On Friday, FEMA Region II began deploying an Incident Management Assistance Team and Preliminary Damage Assessment teams to West Virginia to help start the application process for a Federal Disaster Declaration.

“There’s been a lot of displacement here. Businesses are out, no power,” said U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) from White Sulphur Springs, one of the spots she visited Friday to see flood damage.

She spoke with FEMA Region III officials earlier in the day about possible help from the federal level.

“That’s really important for community assistance, but it’s especially important for individual assistance,” Capito noted.

The FEMA teams will join state officials, local officials and those with the U.S. Small Business Administration in Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Webster and other counties to assess damages and the effects on communities.

If the destruction goes beyond what a state is capable of handling, federal assistance is a possible option.

A formal request for a Federal Disaster Declaration must be submitted.

In addition to West Virginia, the jurisdiction for FEMA Region III includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.


►   24 killed in West Virginia floods that swept preschooler away from grandfather’s reach

As storms have swept West Virginia, roads have turned into rivers, cars have been swallowed whole and at least 26 people have been killed — including a preschooler who fell into floodwaters that carried him away.

By early Friday evening, officials said at least 26 had died in the destructive and deadly thunderstorms that have swept the state, according to the Associated Press. Of those, at least 15 had been killed in Greenbrier County, according to the state’s division of Homeland Security.

One victim was 4-year-old Edward McMillion, whose body was recovered from a small stream Friday morning, a day after search-and-rescue crews started scouring the area to find him, Jackson County authorities said.

Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs said the boy was playing in his back yard Thursday afternoon in Ravenswood, a small town along the Ohio River, when he either fell or jumped into the fast-moving water.

The boy’s grandfather tried to grab him, police said, but the current was simply too strong.

“He saw him; he chased him,” Boggs told The Washington Post. “He got close to him — and he may have even grabbed him. But he couldn’t get him out.”

Authorities said the 4-year-old’s body was recovered Friday from a small but rushing stream not far from where he went in.

Because the water runs into a nearby creek that dumps into the Ohio River, authorities said, first responders from several surrounding cities started searching for the boy late Thursday afternoon, but had to halt their operation for a short time when another storm hit.

“A major storm came through during the search, and we had to get people out for safety reasons,” Boggs said. But, he added, by that time, the operation was “being treated like more of a recovery than a rescue.”

The search stopped late Thursday night when it got too dark to see.

Officials from Ripley Fire and Rescue called it “Tragedy in Ravenswood.”

“With what seemed to be the entire town of Ravenswood helping in the search, several reports of possible sightings of the boy were investigated but nothing was found,” according to a statement from the fire and rescue squad.

Boggs said there was an “unsubstantiated” sighting that was never confirmed.

Early Friday morning, about 85 first responders came together to pray and plan out the second day’s search, according to ABC affiliate WCHS. By late morning, his body was found, according to the station.

Earlier this week, the National Weather Service warned that these thunderstorms — called a derecho — might develop Wednesday and move across a corridor from Iowa to West Virginia.

As the Capital Weather Gang reported:

Derechos, which from Spanish translate to “straight ahead,” frequently produce widespread wind damage over a long path (at least 240 miles long).  They move at very fast speeds, often 60 or 70 mph, covering vast territory in a short time.

The term has existed in meteorological lexicon for over a century but became mainstream on June 29, 2012, when a violent derecho raced from eastern Iowa to the Mid-Atlantic coast, resulting in 28 fatalities, $2.9 billion in damages and 4.2 million power outages.

Noting the potential for “a derecho-related significant swath of wind damage” Wednesday, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has placed much of the potentially affected region in a moderate risk zone for severe thunderstorms. This zone includes Chicago, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, where it says straight-line winds could exceed 70 mph and that storms could contain embedded tornadoes and large hail.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) issued a state of emergency Thursday for 44 counties.

On Friday, he said, officials are working to keep residents safe amid severe flooding that he called among “the worst in a century for some parts of the state.”

“We understand many counties continue to experience significant problems and some waters continue to rise,” he said in a statement. “Joanne and I are thinking continually about those affected by this disaster, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones. I appreciate the tireless efforts of first responders across the state, many of whom have volunteered to travel long distances to help those in the most affected areas.”

Another boy, 8-year-old Emanual Williams, was found unresponsive Thursday, hours after he slipped and fell into Big Wheeling Creek in Ohio County while walking with his mother and sister along a creek bank, authorities told NBC affiliate WTOV.

The boy’s mother reached for him as he fell into rushing water some 20 feet deep.

Wheeling’s Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball told WTOV that the child was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Kimball told the news station.


►   Rivers falling from record levels

CHARLESTON, WV – The flooding that has devastated portions of West Virginia was caused by record or near-record water levels in several rivers.  Here’s the report on several river flood levels as of 5 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

–The Elk River surged to just over 33 feet at Queen Shoals early Friday morning. That’s 14 feet above flood stage and just above the previous record of 32 feet. NWS says the Elk has been falling gradually and should be back below flood stage by 4 a.m. Saturday.

–The Kanawha River reached 28 feet Friday morning and began to drop, but then started to rise again.  At mid-afternoon Friday the Kanawha at South Side Bridge was at 27.5 feet and should drop after that. Flood stage on the Kanawha is 30 feet.

–The Greenbrier River crested at 22 feet Thursday night, two feet shy of the record, and has been slowly dropping.

–The New River reached flood stage of 19 feet at Thurmond Friday afternoon, just shy of the record of 20 feet.


►   West Virginia University Receives Grant for Nursing Students

West Virginia University School of Nursing is using a $1.2 million federal grant to train advance practice nursing students.

The university says the three-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration will be used to implement the “Improving Nursing Scholarship, Practice, Innovation, Research and Education to Care for WV,“ or INSPIRE to Care for WV project.

The School of Nursing intends to collaborate with new and expanded health care partners in West Virginia to strengthen the education of family nurse practitioner students to care for state residents who are vulnerable or live in rural and underserved areas.

In USA….

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►   Thirsty Thieves Steal 78K Bottles of Beer

Maybe they were planning an epic party? Police in Atlanta say thieves stole two refrigerated trucks carrying 3,272 cases of beer—or about 78,500 bottles worth $90,000—from a craft brewery on Tuesday. By the time officers tracked down the trucks, both were empty, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. About a quarter of the stolen cases were later found at a warehouse, but will be destroyed over storage concerns. Police say to keep a look out for SweetWater Brewing’s Summer Variety Cases, which are only to be sold at Costco, per CBS46.


►   Man Collapses, Dies Next to $12M Worth of Pot

When police received a report Monday that a man was slumped over next to a white van and tractor-trailer in Norcross, Ga., they were likely more focused on the man than on the van. And it turned out the man, 31-year-old Johnny Taylor of Bridgeport, Conn., was dead, apparently of natural causes, the AP reports. But as they were waiting for medical examiners to show up, deputies say they caught a whiff of something coming from the van, per WRDW—the pungent smell of pot. When the officers checked out the van, they found a box with sealed bags of marijuana inside. They spotted similar boxes in the back of the truck and obtained a warrant, after which they found several hundred pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $12 million.

Security surveillance shows a man dropping off the tractor-trailer the night before, then leaving in a car; the white van pulled up alongside it shortly after. Cops have been able to interview the man who dropped off the tractor-trailer, per WXIA: He showed back up on Monday to the parking lot while cops were still there and told them the deceased had asked him for lessons on driving the truck. He hasn’t been arrested and may have been in the dark about what Taylor planned to put into the truck.


►   Marines Conclude Man Was Misidentified in Iwo Jima Pic

A long-standing debate behind World War II’s iconic Iwo Jima photo appears to have been settled. A Marine Corps investigation used facial recognition technology and other photos taken that day to conclude, with “near certainty,“ that one of the six men IDed in the famous image taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal was not a Navy corpsman by the name of John Bradley, but Pvt. 1st Class Harold Schultz, a Marine who died in 1995, USA Today reports. As for Bradley, it appears he’s not in the photo at all, but Charles Neimeyer, a Marine Corps historian who was on the panel that scrutinized the image, says Bradley may have legitimately thought he was in the photo: There had been two US flag-raisings on Feb. 23, 1945, and Rosenthal’s picture captures the second one. Bradley may have been involved with the first; the gear he was wearing that day doesn’t sync with what is captured in the photo.

Although Schultz, who received a Purple Heart for his war efforts, never publicly acknowledged any possible role, his stepdaughter tells the New York Times that one fleeting dinner conversation about Iwo Jima in the early 1990s led her to believe he was in the photo. “My mom was distracted and not listening and Harold said, ‘I was one of the flag raisers,‘“ Dezreen MacDowell says. “I said, ‘My gosh, Harold, you’re a hero.‘ He said, ‘No, I was a Marine.‘“ She said he never brought it up again, being a “self-effacing Midwestern person.“ Schultz’s name will be swapped in for Bradley’s in any references to the photo. The other five men in the photo are, per the Atlantic, Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Michael Strank, and Rene Gagnon.


►   LGBT People Need More Guns, Not Fewer

When Nicki Stallard first started her journey from a male body to a female one, she got a “preposterous” piece of safety advice that left her feeling insulted: Carry a whistle. “I didn’t need a whistle; I had a gun,“ she writes in her New York Times opinion piece, which advises other members of the LGBT community to similarly arm themselves, especially in the wake of the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando. “If anyone should be concerned about protecting the individual right to bear arms, it’s LGBT people,“ she writes, dismissing calls for further gun control laws and noting that LGBT members are subject to “frenzied” attacks, often from more than one perpetrator, that can lead to death.

Stallard notes that the number of people in Pink Pistols, her pro-gun LGBT Facebook group, jumped from 1,500 to 6,500-plus after Orlando, and that LGBT members have been rushing out to buy firearms since. Although she agrees that “violence is rarely the answer,“ she’s ready to use her gun if need be, as she doesn’t think any laws (or law enforcement) can necessarily save gay or transgender people during an attack. “This is a call to LGBT people to take their own defense seriously, and to question the left-leaning institutions that tell them guns are bad, and should be left to the professionals,“ she writes. “Become a professional. … That’s what the Second Amendment is for. We can fight back when our lives depend on it.“ Her entire take HERE .


►   Teen Dies From Brain-Eating Amoeba After Rafting Trip

An Ohio woman who went whitewater rafting in North Carolina has died of an infection after being exposed to an amoeba naturally present in warm fresh water, the AP reports. Lauren Seitz of Westerville, Ohio, visited North Carolina with her church group. The 18-year-old’s only known underwater exposure was thought to be when her raft overturned at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services said the US Centers for Disease Control suspects Naegleria fowleri, a one-celled organism that can cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis. The organism does not cause illness if swallowed, but can be deadly if forced up the nose. The CDC said only 10 cases or so are reported each year, nearly all of them fatal.

The National Whitewater Center said in a statement that it gets its water from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Department and two wells located at the site, a system of concrete channels designed to imitate various classes of rapids. The water is filtered and disinfected with chlorine as well as ultraviolent radiation sufficient to “inactivate” the amoeba, a process the center described as 99.99% effective. The center’s water is not inspected by the county or state because the man-made system is not considered to be a public pool, said Dr. Marcus Plescia, Mecklenburg County’s health director. But the center “is as safe as any body of water. Any time you go into a lake or pond, there are things in the water that can cause illnesses,“ he said. “We’re not going to close every lake and pond.“

In The World….

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►   Things Are Getting Desperate in Venezuela

A shortage of beer and Coke is the least of concerns in Venezuela, where residents are facing hunger, drought, power shortages, and the world’s highest inflation rate at 480% amid a worsening economic crisis brought about by plummeting oil prices. The latest:

  • The New York Times explains 87% of the population can’t afford to buy food. It’s no surprise, then, that more than 100 food stores were looted last week alone, per Quartz. At least five people were killed.
  • ABC News provides the basics on how the nation got to this point.
  • “We’re living worse than in a war situation,“ a woman in Caracas tells the CBC, adding people wait hours in line at supermarkets for a loaf of bread and go without soap and toothpaste.
  • The US sent a top diplomat to Venezuela on Tuesday. Reuters explains what he’ll try to accomplish.
  • A process is underway to validate some 2 million signatures on a petition calling for a referendum to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The BBC explains the next steps, while Telesur TV notes the date of a referendum would be crucial.
  • Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez at Foreign Policy tells how his friend, an opposition activist helping verify signatures, was detained on Monday and hasn’t been heard from since.
  • Kenneth Rapoza at Forbes explains why Venezuela is a “failed state” and can’t afford to pay its short-term debt. Meanwhile, the political left blames America.


►   Man’s Revenge Site So Extreme Ex Wants to ‘Disappear’

A man who created a revenge website to “destroy” his ex-wife is now in custody and facing charges of criminal harassment. His ex says her only hope is that he’ll be held long enough to give her time to change her identity and “disappear” before he is freed, reports the National Post. Vancouver resident Patrick Fox, also known by his birth name Richard Riess, was arrested by US border patrol agents in Washington state after trying to cross into the US illegally. He has since been deported to Canada, where he is facing weapons charges in addition to the harassment charges. Previously, he told the CBC that he’d keep his website up and running until ex-wife Desiree Capuano is dead or “destitute and homeless.“ Capuano lives in Arizona with their teenage son, and says she’s lost job opportunities and is “more scared now than I’ve ever been in my entire life.“

The revenge site, which is still live, harasses and defames Capuano, accusing her of being a stripper, a drug addict, an unfit mother, a white supremacist, and more. Fox also posted emails between himself and his teenage son that include him writing that he’d have “no qualms” killing Capuano if it were legal to do so. A judge in Arizona has upheld Capuano’s protection order against Fox, calling his actions “domestic abuse.“ Fox emailed Capuano when the site went up last year, writing that he would “do everything in my power and capabilities to make your life as miserable as possible ... to the point that you ultimately commit suicide.“ Fox is in custody awaiting a bail hearing in Vancouver. Says Capuano: “The only chance I have of having a normal life is to disappear.“


►   Families of Slain Hostages to Obama: Save Austin Tice

American journalist Austin Tice—believed to be the only US reporter held hostage anywhere in the world—was captured in Syria in August 2012. Since then, US hostages James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller, and Steven Sotloff have been killed, and their families fear Tice’s parents will soon have to share in their heartbreak. “We are four families bonded together by tragedy and terror,“ they write in an open letter to Obama at McClatchy. “But there is something that still can be done: Bring Austin Tice safely home.“

The letter comes a year after Obama promised the US would improve on how it dealt with hostages. “You told us in person that if it were your daughters, you would do anything in your power to bring them home,“ says the letter. “We are not asking the White House to put anyone in harm’s way, nor compromise national security,“ but to “engage boldly and use all appropriate means to bring Austin Tice safely home as soon as possible.“ The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee is backing the families. “The US military has a solemn creed: No soldier left behind,“ it writes. “The same should hold true for Austin Tice.“ A State Department rep tells McClatchy that Tice’s case “has the attention of the highest levels in the US government and the administration.“


►   Suspect in German Theater Dead; No Serious Injuries

Officials say a suspect in an incident at a movie theater in southwest Germany is dead, reports AP. The dpa news agency quotes Interior Minister Peter Beuth as saying the man was shot dead. Police earlier said there was a “threat situation” at the Kinopolis movie theater in the town of Viernheim that probably involved a weapon. Whether he actually had a gun and fired it remain unclear. German media is reporting that about 20 people suffered injuries in the incident, apparently the result of police tear gas, reports the BBC. Police thought he “was holding hostages and because of that he was shot dead,“ says Beuth.


►   UK Votes for Brexit

The BBC, among others, has called it: The UK has voted to leave the European Union, sending shock waves through the EU and world economies. With almost all results in, the vote stands at 52% for Leave and 48% for Remain, the Guardian reports. Signaling discord ahead for the UK, different regions voted differently, with Remain winning easily in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London, and Leave sweeping much of England and Wales. “Let June 23 go down in history as our independence day,“ jubilant UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage told reporters. The British pound, meanwhile, tumbled to its lowest level against the dollar in more than 30 years.

Britain is the first nation ever to vote to leave the EU, which will now shrink from 28 nations to 27. As the rest of the Europe woke up to the news, anti-immigration parties in countries including the Netherlands called for their own countries to hold votes on leaving the bloc, while a senior German lawmaker warned that Britain will receive “no special treatment” and exit negotiations must be concluded within two years, reports the Telegraph, which calls the Brexit vote the biggest crisis in EU history. In Scotland, meanwhile, Scottish National Party leaders are already calling for a second referendum on leaving the UK.


►   After Brexit Vote, UK PM Announces Resignation

Britain is leaving the European Union, and David Cameron is leaving 10 Downing Street: The prime minister says he will resign by the fall and insists the British people’s will must be respected after voters chose to leave the 28-nation European Union. Cameron, who spoke to the media Friday morning, says there can be no doubt about the result of Thursday’s historic vote but that he is not the “captain” that will steer the ship through difficult negotiations with the EU. He says he will resign by the time of the Conservative party conference in the fall. British stocks are plunging as the market opens as investors scramble to react to the news, and the pound has hit a 31-year low, the AP reports. Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who campaigned for leaving the EU, is seen as Cameron’s most likely successor.


►   Lindsay Lohan Live-Tweets Brexit Vote

Lindsay Lohan—British politics junkie? Lohan—or somebody using her Twitter account—delivered some surprisingly in-depth and passionate commentary Thursday night as the results from the UK’s “Brexit” referendum. She praised people in the Shetland Islands and London for voting remain, shared her dismay about the falling British exchange rate and, in one tweet, even praised European safety directives for reducing workplace fatalities. As results rolled in, she wondered where places like Kettering were and insisted her account had not been hacked, reports the Telegraph. She shared a photo of herself with the #remain hashtag on Instagram and called it a night before the Brexit win was confirmed.


►   Cops Help Man Find Buried Treasure Lost in Floods

German authorities say an elderly man in Bavaria has recovered his fortune, which he’d hidden at home for safety only to have recent floods make the building uninhabitable, the AP reports. Police in the town of Simbach am Inn said Thursday the 81-year-old initially told them he’d hidden the money in his house, which is now in danger of collapse. When they didn’t find it there, he told them he had buried the cash in the garden. They brought in heavy machinery to dig through the garden, eventually coming across the treasure in a metal box more than six feet below the surface. They say the “five-digit sum” of cash is being deposited in the man’s bank account. Simbach, on the Austrian border, was badly hit by flooding in early June.


►   Montreal Priests Won’t Be Allowed Alone With Kids

Some Catholic churches in Canada have banned priests from being alone with children—and more are about to start. The Catholic Church of Montreal says it will bar priests, volunteers, educators, and anyone else in “the orbit of the church” from being alone with children at 10 parishes beginning in September, reports the Toronto Star. The chancellor of the Montreal Archdiocese, François Sarrazin, says the pilot program, dubbed “Responsible Pastoral Ministry,“ is about “protecting victims, protecting families, protecting the church.“ In his comments, Sarrazin focuses on the sometimes untrue nature of allegations: “To give [their story] importance, a child can give an account of an incident that isn’t always true.“

“Imagine if you are alone in a room and a child accuses you of hitting them, how will you react?“ Sarrazin continues. “Whether it’s true or not, you need a witness. Not being in the room alone with someone who is vulnerable is simply being prudent.“ Even confession will take place with a priest and child within view of the child’s parent, though out of earshot. Similar preventative policies are already in place in other churches in Ontario and New Brunswick, reports the National Post, which notes the directive will eventually include all 194 parishes in Montreal. New employees will also face a police check. Quebec’s Association of Victims of Priests, however, says the new policy is only “a baby step. [The church] needs to do an awful lot more.“


►   Brexit: Now What Happens? Welcome to ‘Article 50’

Britain has voted to leave the European Union, but any such split is still years away. Here’s a look at what happens next:

  • Thursday’s vote isn’t legally binding, meaning Britain must still formally notify the EU of its intention to leave. To do so, it would invoke the never-before-used Article 50 of the EU treaty, which in turn sets off a two-year period of negotiations over the exit, explains CNN.
  • But when that two-year clock starts ticking is still unclear. In theory, outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron could inform the EU at a meeting as early as next week. But Cameron said Friday he thinks it makes more sense for his successor to do so, notes the New York Times. That would push back the notification at least a few months.
  • Even after the clock starts ticking, the exit won’t necessarily be figured out within two years. A quote from the BBC: “It’s not possible to predict exactly how long it would take, but comparable international trade deals have taken on average between four and nine years.“
  • The Telegraph: “Untying Britain from the old membership is the easy bit. Harder would be agreeing [on] a new trading relationship, establishing what tariffs and other barriers to entry are permitted, and agreeing on obligations such as free movement. Such a process, EU leaders claim, could take another five years.“
  • Why are things so vague? “The Treaty of Lisbon was drafted with the idea that [Article 50] would not be used, and to make it pretty hard to exit in a smooth way,” a Cambridge lecturer tells the Independent.
  • And there’s this: Because Thursday’s vote isn’t legally binding, “there are a few ways it could theoretically be blocked or overturned,“ notes Vox. The Guardian suggests one: Parliament could instruct the prime minister not to invoke Article 50.
  • Also possible: A second referendum to undo the first.


►   After Brexit Vote, UK PM Announces Resignation

Britain is leaving the European Union, and David Cameron is leaving 10 Downing Street. The prime minister told reporters Friday morning that after the Leave victory in the Brexit vote, he is not the “captain” to steer the country through exit negotiations with the EU, the AP reports. Cameron—who choked back tears as he spoke, reports Reuters—didn’t give an exact date for his departure, but he said there should be a new leader in place by the time the Conservative Party holds a conference in October. He said the new leader should make the decision “about when to trigger Article 50 and start the process of leaving the EU.“ In other developments:

  • Donald Trump praised the referendum result when he arrived at his Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland Friday morning, the Guardian reports. He told reporters it was a “great thing” that the British had “taken back their country,“ adding that they have a lot in common with American voters. “They are angry over borders, they are angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even noticing,“ he said. “They are angry about many, many things.“
  • Boris Johnson, the maverick former London mayor who campaigned heavily for the Leave campaign, is now the odds-on favorite to succeed Cameron as prime minister. Before Thursday’s vote, he tweeted that Britain should make the day “our Independence Day.“
  • The BBC rounds up the reactions from EU leaders, who are calling for unity as well as reform in the face of demands for referendums in other countries. “Europe must be more operational, flexible, less bureaucratic, and much more perceptive to the diversity that its member states represent,“ said Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka, who stressed that this “is not the end of the world and it’s absolutely not the end of the EU.“
  • The Brexit vote has led to renewed talk of splitting up the UK, the Guardian reports. In Scotland, where most voters supported staying in the EU, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to call for a second independence referendum in a speech Friday.
  • A majority of voters in Northern Ireland also voted Remain, prompting Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness to call for a referendum on leaving the UK and joining with the Republic of Ireland, ITV reports.
  • Bloomberg reports on the fallout for financial markets. The British pound has plummeted to its lowest level since 1985, and the FTSE 100 index has taken its biggest hit since the financial crisis. Oil prices and currencies including the euro are also down, while gold prices and the yen have surged.

06.25.2016
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KINGSTON, JAMAICA JUNE 24, 2016 -  Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness says “the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have international impact and there is no doubt that this will have implications for our country on several levels.

In a statement issued by Jamaica House today, today Prime Minister Andrew Holness described the outcome of the UK Referendum on its Membership in the European Union as historic and said “the people of the UK have decided to leave the EU as is their right to do in a democratic process.“

He noted “Prime Minister Cameron’s principled decision to allow for a new Prime Minister to lead the transition process, “ and said “the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have international impact and there is no doubt that this will have implications for our country on several levels.“

Prime Minister Holness pointed out that the Government of Jamaica was “actively monitoring and assessing the evolving global environment, to position our country to advantageously manage these developments, and said “The Government of Jamaica remains committed to working with both our UK and EU partners, particularly in relation to trade, security, investment and development cooperation.

He said Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU “is clearly a momentous decision as is evidenced by the reaction in the financial markets and capitals across the world.  The outcome of the referendum has set in motion a process that will require the UK to withdraw from the EU in keeping with the provisions of the EU treaties.“

“We recall that under Prime Minister Cameron’s leadership, initiatives were taken to re-engage the Commonwealth Caribbean, notably through the UK Caribbean Infrastructure Programme (UKCIF) and other projects within the Commonwealth,“ he said.

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