It has been two years since Gilead Sciences Inc. rolled out its $1,000-a-pill hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, priced at $84,000 for a course of treatment and met with disbelief from patients, insurers and health care professionals. After an 18-month investigation the Senate Finance Committee concluded prices did not reflect Gilead’s development costs and that the drug maker cared about “revenue” not “affordability and accessibility.” The committee also found that Sovaldi and a related pill, Harvoni, cost taxpayers $5 billion in 2014.
It’s been one year since Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. hiked the price of a once-daily form of Wellbutrin, a 30-year-old antidepressant, to $1,400 a month despite the existence of a $30 generic and refused to lower prices on the millions hospitals pay for its life-saving heart medicines.
And it has been only a few months since a smirking Martin Shkreli, former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, gave a figurative finger to Congress by refusing questions about why his company raised the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim, crucial for AIDS patients, from $13.50 a tablet to $750 per tablet.
Now, in the latest extortion pricing from Big Pharma, the Pharma company Mylan has jacked the price of its EpiPen, an emergency allergy treatment that saves lives, to $600 up from the $100 it only recently cost. Even as patients, health providers and former Mylan spokesperson Sarah Jessica Parker expressed outrage, the Pharma company announced it would supply financial assistance for poorer people.
“Financial assistance” for low-income patients is a PR ruse that Pharma uses to dodge the accusation that it is killing people who cannot afford its drugs. It is a bald-faced example of “cost shifting” in which taxpayers and people with private health insurance involuntarily cover Mylan’s “generosity”—and the drug giant still gets its obscene, extortion pricing. When drug prices begin to cost four digits a month—think Abilify or Humira—Pharma always rolls out its we-have-a-heart price assistance and coupon ruse.
Who Is Mylan?
Mylan has grown from a generic drug company that saved people money from brand-name drugs to an aggressive specialty drug company and serial company acquirer, acquiring eight companies including Merck KGaA over the years. Employing 30,000 and selling drugs in more than 150 countries, Mylan is a drug giant. But like many Pharma companies it does not think it should have to pay U.S. taxes just because it lives on them, hugely financed by Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the VA and other government health plans. In 2015, Mylan enacted a “tax inversion” by merging with a company in the Netherlands and establishing its corporate headquarters abroad.
There is an irony to Mylan’s growth and desire to dodge U.S. taxes. Its CEO, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) who is among many federal lawmakers against the overseas tax dodges. Ethical questions have swirled about Bresch herself as well as the company’s persistence in manufacturing drugs for lethal injections when other Pharma companies have stopped.
And there are other questions. Mylan spent $4 million lobbying Congress, resulting in the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, that sold EpiPens through school subsidies.
Why Is Pharma Pricing Drugs at Extortion Prices?
It is no secret that Pharma began charging four and even five digits a month for its drugs at the exact moment its pricy billion-dollar blockbuster drugs like Lipitor went off patent and it was in danger of no longer being a Wall Street darling. At the center of the extreme-priced drugs are “biologics”—liquids such as Humira and Enbrel that are not just costly but are not as easily duplicated by generic drugs as pills, allowing more profits. Just as noteworthy are the new Hep C drugs mentioned above; a new injectable biologic that lowers cholesterol called Praluent that Pharma hopes will replace statin profits and costs $14,600 a year; and a new anti-osteoporosis drug, Radius, to cash in on the lucrative bone market. Radius will compete with the bone drug Forteo, say industry watchers, a drug that costs $3,100 for a four-week supply and whose price manufacturer Lilly has raised twice per year by 9 to 15 percent in recent years.
Pharma PR Campaign Targets Lawmakers
With Congress looking at the price of Hep C drugs like Sovaldi and Harvoni, calling Martin Shkreli to testify, looking at Pharma companies trying to flee taxes by incorporating abroad and no doubt soon to look at EpiPen prices, Pharma has launched a charm offensive to lawmakers. Don’t cut us off, says the “Hopes to Cures” campaign launched by Pharma’s lobbying group PhRMA.
Running mostly in Washington D.C., to reach lawmakers, the campaign is designed to defend Pharma’s new extreme prices through showing patients whose lives were saved or lengthened by Pharma medicines. Launched in 2014, industry group PhRMA plans to add a “massive” amount of money to the tearjerker campaign as it anticipates political battles over drug prices. Already this year PhRMA has spent $11.7 million lobbying lawmakers.
Parading sick patients in front of the FDA and state officials to see the “good” the high drug prices are doing is a time-tested tactic of Pharma. Co-opted patients (sometimes called astroturf because they are not really grassroots) “appear before public and consumer panels, contact lawmakers, and provide media outlets a human face to attach to a cause,” writes Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times, “when insurers balk at reimbursing patients for new prescription medications.”
The Hopes to Cures campaign continues the manipulative tradition. Like “Ask Your Doctor” ads, the soft focus videos in the campaign are full of rainbows, puppies and Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch whose lives are improved by Big Pharma. Except that it is hooey.
By focusing on drugs that treat thyroid cancer or HIV/AIDS, the vignettes of patients deliberately imply Pharma’s high-priced drugs are all life saving and that price regulation would threaten the patients’ lives by jeopardizing “research.” Yet according to sources including the national watchdog group Public Citizen, Pharma’s actual research is one-fifth of what it claims, and taxpayers kick in a big portion of it.
Nowhere in the PhRMA charm offensive to lawmakers are actual costs mentioned like the 12 cancer drugs that cost above $100,000 a year, though many do not clearly even extend life. Instead the videos talk about rare diseases and rare cancers that presumably would not be cured if lawmakers curtail Big Pharma profits. Also, nowhere in the campaign does Pharma admit that it sells a lot more thyroid, cholesterol, ADHD and acid reflux drugs than life-saving cancer drugs. PhRMA’s Hope to Cures campaign even claims high-priced meds help the economy by creating jobs, like for “sheet metal workers.” Riiiiight.
But of course the EpiPen as well as Daraprim, the drug desperately needed by AIDS patients whose price Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals gouged, do save lives. That is why Pharma’s extortion pricing—pricing not on what a drug costs but what people’s lives are “worth”—is evil.
~~ Martha Rosenberg ~~
Financial & Economy | G-Fin™ | Grants
Opinions | Commentary | G-LtE™ | G-Comm™ | G-OpEd™
Politics | Government | Election
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
It must be an unhappy work environment this Epi-pen scandal has wrought.
Now two of their public spokes gals have resigned. One is mentioned in this article.
By mylan has no shame on 08.29.2016
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Braxton County’s Cottrill named AARP Scholar Athlete of the Week
Heath Cottrill of Braxton County High School has been selected as the AARP West Virginia/MetroNews Scholar Athlete of the Week for the week of August 28.
A junior, Heath is a 4.0 g.p.a. AP Honors student. He is actively involved in student council activities, serving as his class president, and is a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). He is the son of Scott and Pam Cottrill of Heaters.
Entering his second season as starting quarterback for the Eagles’ football team, Cottrill is coming off a record-setting season as a sophomore. As a starter the final seven games of the 2015 season, Cottrill completed nearly 60 percent of his passes. He set single season individual school records for touchdown passes (15) and passing yards (1,482). Heath is also a two-year member of the Eagles basketball program.
On a community level, Heath is actively involved in volunteer and service activities in the Braxton County area through Gassaway Baptist Church and his school. He has served as a volunteer on service and faith-based mission trips, working on projects in the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and assisting with rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
Closer to home, he serves as a volunteer on a community garden project at the Braxton County Senior Center and assists with home improvement projects to aid elderly and low-income residents in his community.
Heath is still considering his college and career options. He hopes to attend West Virginia University.
During the 2016 fall sports season, one high school student athlete will be selected each week as the AARP West Virginia Scholar Athlete of the Week and recognized on the popular West Virginia MetroNews High School GameNight program, which airs 9:30 p.m. – midnight each Friday night on nearly 40 radio stations across the Mountain State.
West Virginia student athletes in Grades 11 and 12 with a minimum 3.0 grade point average are eligible for the award. Nominees should excel in one or more athletic program, and be active within their community through service and community involvement.
CommunityConcerns™: What’s Next WVBOE For The County’s Smarter Balance Test Results?
Each year student achievement testing occurs in the State’s schools and preliminary results for 2016 are available for Gilmer County.
The scores were for Normantown, Sand Fork, and Gilmer Elementary grade schools, and the Gilmer County High School.
Testing occurred for English and language arts (ELA), math, and science.
This is a breakdown of results with percentages of students who tested proficient and those who did not as indicated within parentheses: Proficient%(Not Proficient%).
- 3rd grade 75(25)
- 4th grade 75(25)
- 5th grade 85(15)
- 6th grade 80(20)
- 3rd grade 42(58)
- 4th grade 69(31)
- 5th grade 54(46)
- 6th grade 73(27)
- 4th grade 63(37)
- 6th grade 67(33)
- 3rd grade 39(61)
- 4th grade 52(48)
- 5th grade 48(52)
- 6th grade 65(35)
- 3rd grade 39(61)
- 4th grade 27(73)
- 5th grade 19(81)
- 6th grade 42(58)
- 4rd grade 24(76)
- 6th grade 61(39)
- 3rd grade 53(47)
- 4th grade 20(80)
- 5th grade 14(86)
- 6th grade 80(20)
- 3rd grade 41(59)
- 4th grade 20(80)
- 5th grade 7(93)
- 6th grade 40(60)
- 4th grade 13(87)
- 6th grade 50(50)
Gilmer County High School
- 7th grade 51(49)
- 8th grade 45(55)
- 9th grade 36(64)
- 10th grade 48(52)
- 11th grade 35(65)
- 7th grade 33(67)
- 8th grade 37(63)
- 9th grade 24(76)
- 10th grade 23(77)
- 11th grade 21(79)
What will the WVBOE do with the test results considering that they represent cumulative effects from complicated factors impacting the County? Some of those factors, as suggested by K-12 educators, are Listed below for consideration.
- Students receive inadequate mentoring at home which is critical for enhanced performance at school.
- Too much standardized testing to cause students to be under-motivated to do their best plus the lack of incentives to encourage their maximum performance.
- Students come from homes without computers to diminish their skills at taking computerized tests at school.
- Failure for school systems to be administered with reliance on plans written by professional school system planners with proven expertise in improving student achievement.
- Administrators in county school systems who lack skills and aptitudes for using quantitative assessment data for use in obtaining continual student achievement improvements.
- The failure to hold school system administrators accountable for student achievement.
- Under involvement of school boards in continual monitoring of achievement results and setting standards to be a serious governance failure.
- Blaming low student achievement primarily on local cultural traits to deflect public attention away from need to deal with a school system’s deficiencies.
- Test results are withheld from citizens and the embargoes impede community awareness and demands for improved student achievement.
- Frequent changes of testing programs to prevent access to meaningful trend data for administrative decision-making designed to continually improve student achievement.
It is too soon to know how the 2016 Smarter Balance results will affect the WVBOE’s assignment of a letter grade to our two schools with use of its A-F system. The letter grades are scheduled for release in November. If updates become available for scores in this CommunityConcerns™, Mr. Gabriel Devono is requested to respond.
Opinions | Commentary | G-LtE™ | G-Comm™ | G-OpEd™
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
This is the Troy way of thinking. What goes into the high school is better than what comes out.
More evidence of the WV Board’s incompetence. It has been in control more than 5 years to be 100% responsible for what is not working.
Before the State’s takeover Gilmer County was doing OK and after it happened it has been downhill all the way.
Let teachers, parents, and people we elected for the County’s school board work together to end blight the State sent here.
While we are at it we need to hire a superintendent to look out for the County’s children instead of the WV Board.
By Troy on 08.29.2016
Thank you Mr. Ramezan for your community service in getting Gilmer’s test scores out to the public.
Anytime government hides information from its citizens, bureaucrats in charge are scared and they want cover ups.
We cannot forget the statement at a board meeting that people here cannot understand information and besides they don’ care.
We fully understand implications of the test scores.
Our children are not going out into the world to be able to compete as well as they should.
For the sake of our children we need to get the WVBOE off our backs.
By It Points To the WVBOE And The WVDOE on 08.29.2016
For any score less than 60 for the high school, it got an F based on the A-F scale used in schools.
The cry is already going out that wait a minute we are doing s well as anyone.
Parents know about the “everyone is doing it” excuse and we demand better for our children.
It is clear that the WVBOE got Fs for what it did to us.
By Glenville Parent on 08.29.2016
REGIONAL COUNTY SUMMARY
Proficient Reading Language Arts:
By Hang In There Kids on 08.29.2016
Grades like this from the high school shows how deep seated the WVBE failure really is?
By more remediation needed for GCHS students on 08.29.2016
5 years of state control, the HS looks to be a big problem?
The new grade system going into place.
These HS grades, would they equate to the state taking over the high school?
By grade system on 08.29.2016
The difference with Gilmer County and other counties in the region is that the WVBOE, that is supposed to be the State’s premiere A-Z expert on K-12 education, has controlled our County for over 5 years.
You would expect that with all the expertise down there our scores would have gone through the roof. Didn’t happen did it?
Gilmer County’s teachers will be scapegoats for the failed WVBOE leadership and parents will be blamed too.
By Get Ready For Scapegoating on 08.29.2016
Here is something for Gilmer County to consider because the WVBOE’s intervention does not nullify WV State Law—18-5-14.
A)Request the superintendent to provide your board with all recent test results for it to review.
B)Invite parents to attend a public meeting to provide advice on corrective actions to take to improve student achievements.
C) Your board can go directly to a LCIS and faculty senates while bypassing administrators to obtain advice on how to correct low test scores.
D)Should it be learned that the superintendent failed to provide requested achievement information require the individual to attend your next meeting to discuss issues and to make recommendations for correcting achievement problems.
If any of the board’s actions are blocked by the State it is understood that the interference would violate the Statute.
Ask Mr. Minigh to check out the Statute for his interpretation of what you can do while intervened or better yet get Bowles and Rice to provide legal advice.
Remember that if a State law is violated and nothing is done about it, for legal purposes nothing happened.
By Follow The Law GCBOE on 08.29.2016
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West Virginia Economy Ranked Last In The Nation
As if there were not already enough evidence that West Virginia needs new ideas about jobs and development, Governing magazine this week ranked the state’s economy the worst in the nation.
The editors looked at six variables - the current state unemployment rate; the improvement in the state unemployment rate over the past year; the per capita state GDP in 2015; the percent change in real state GDP between 2014 and 2015; the percent change in state personal income per capita, from the third quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016; and the percentage growth in year-to-date increases in jobs for 2016.
Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of the rankings is that our neighbors in every direction are doing better - often a lot better.
Tennessee’s economy was ranked No. 6, Virginia’s No. 9, and Maryland No. 10. Other states affected by the coal industry’s downturn are faring better as well Ohio ranked 30th, Kentucky 37th and Pennsylvania 39th.
What’s the difference? Each of our neighbors has done a better job of looking beyond its traditional industries and finding new ways to work and grow.
What is the new plan for West Virginia? That is what our gubernatorial candidates and state leaders need to be talking about.
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
For 80 years we West Virginians have elected losers to public office.
As long as that continues, we keep West Virginia in the “rut of failure”.
By WE HAVE ELECTED LOSERS TO OFFICE on 08.29.2016
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Sending Our Kids Off To College Helps Keep Them Here At Home
Over the past few weeks, families across the state hugged their children goodbye and sent them off to college. For many, it was a bittersweet and emotional moment filled with both pride and sorrow, worry and relief.
But we can all take heart. Because earning a college degree puts students on a path to fulfilling their dreams – and for many, that path leads back home.
A recent study commissioned by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and conducted by researchers at the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that the majority of the Mountain State’s in-state college graduates ultimately live and work in West Virginia.
Our state’s public higher education institutions not only serve as economic drivers – contributing $2.7 billion annually to the state’s economy – but also play a crucial role in developing the next generation of leaders for our great state.
As Governor, I’ve worked closely with our legislature and higher education officials to preserve funding for financial aid programs and keep the cost of college low. As a result, West Virginia ranks ninth in the nation in the amount of college financial aid provided for each student and is among the top ten states for lowest tuition.
That’s good news for students, as more than a third of all West Virginia college graduates finish their degrees without incurring any student loan debt. And these investments yield considerable returns for the state, because students who benefit from West Virginia’s financial aid programs are working and living in West Virginia at high rates.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the PROMISE scholarship – and there’s cause for celebration. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that nearly sixty percent of all PROMISE grads are working in West Virginia. And because PROMISE scholars tend to pursue advanced degrees (and thus take longer to enter the workforce), those numbers are likely to increase. For example, between 75 and 80 percent of PROMISE scholars from the program’s earliest graduating classes are now contributing to the state’s workforce.
Recipients of the state’s need-based grant program, the West Virginia Higher Education Grant Program, are also making good on our investment in their futures. This year’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research analysis shows that approximately two-thirds of these grant recipients are now working in West Virginia.
Our two-year and four-year colleges and universities and technical training centers are key players in ensuring the growth and vitality of our communities. To compete in today’s economy, we absolutely must commit to helping more West Virginia students pursue education or training beyond high school – and we must support programs to retrain adults for new and emerging careers. Doing so will fuel entrepreneurship, attract new employers and enhance the overall quality of life for all West Virginians.
By supporting students’ educational journeys, we are building a better place for them to call home.
In West Virginia….
► $2,285,049 EDA grant awarded to Upshur County Development Authority
The Upshur County Development Authority has been awarded a $2,285,049 EDA grant for the Upshur County Knowledge and Innovation Business Center.
This project consists of the construction of the new Business Center on property donated by the City of Buckhannon, which will host a small business development center to be managed by the Upshur County Development Authority.
“Today is a great day for Upshur County and a great day for West Virginia. The culmination of months of hard work and determination came to fruition this morning,” said Rob Hinton, executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority.
Small business development support services will be targeted to IT and other technology-based business interests.
The Center will also provide flex-office and incubator space. Broadband access will be available at the facility as a result of a privately-funded initiative to address the current lack of broadband access in Upshur County.
“I am extremely grateful to all of the partners that made this possible and I’m looking forward to seeing this project and the opportunities it presents becoming a reality,” Hinton added
One technology company has already committed to locating in this facility. The project will create and retain 78 jobs and leverage $8,500,000 in additional investment.
► WV Tax department to close 4 offices to save money
The West Virginia Tax Department announced plans Friday to close three satellite offices and one regional office in connection with state budget cuts.
A total of eight workers staff the four offices and all will keep their jobs, state Tax Commissioner Mark Matkovich said.
The closings take effect September 26 at the satellite offices in Logan, Morgantown and Princeton and the regional office in Huntington.
“Consolidating our footprint without losing our valued employees allows us to reduce our facility operations costs while still serving our taxpayers and protecting our employees’ jobs,” Matkovich said in a news release.
The five workers at the Huntington regional office and the lone worker at the Logan office will transfer to tax department headquarters in Charleston. The lone worker at Princeton will transfer to the Beckley regional office and the lone Morgantown worker will transfer to the Clarksburg regional office.
It was easier to close the one-worker offices, Tax Department Director of Operations Danny Morgan told MetroNews.
“The satellites were low-hanging fruit to some degree. Because of that, assigning the staff to other offices, gives them the opportunity to work with other staff on a regular basis,” Morgan said.
The agency has to cut about $500,000 out of its current budget. The office closings will are expected to save more than $67,000 from eliminating rent, technology requirements and other office expenses, Morgan said.
Morgan met with workers Friday and told them about the changes.
“They were trepidatious about the overall situation but obviously thankful that we were able to just close the offices and retain the staff and do a reassignment,” he said.
Recent technology upgrades also soften the blow of the office closures, according to Matkovich. The website tax.wv.gov received a major overhaul last year.
► Morrisey fires staffer after story posted about controversial video
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says a staff member who was part of a controversial video several years before he hired her no longer works for his office.
Morrisey announced the firing of Assistant Director of Communications Carrie Bowe Thursday afternoon shortly after the Charleston Gazette-Mail posted a story about the “The Stop White Genocide Video” that contains statements and slogans used by white supremacists, the paper said.
Morrisey posted a message on Twitter shortly after the story was posted:
“I completely reject the conduct and statements made by a former employee of the Office, which I learned about today.”
Morrisey’s Communications Director Curtis Johnson also released a statement:
“The employee’s conduct and statements, which occurred years before being employed by the Attorney General’s Office, were not previously disclosed until today, which is contrary to the transparency requirements for being a member of this office, do not reflect the opinion or the perspective of the Attorney General or this office.”
The Gazette-Mail’s report quotes a recent Facebook post by Bowe that said she was never able to view the finished edit adding she was “working with all my power” to remove the content.
Bowe was hired in 2015 about three years after the video first appeared.
Del. Doug Reynolds (D-Cabell) is trying to upend Morrisey in the race for attorney general in the November 8 General Election. A spokesperson for his campaign, Lynette Maselli, also released a statement Thursday criticizing Morrisey.
“The comments by Ms. Bowe are not only disheartening but disgraceful. There is no place in our State for such hate; however, after repeatedly witnessing such contemptible behavior from our attorney general I’m unfortunately not surprised such a person would serve as an extension of his office,” Maselli said.
Did You Know?
REBELS BACKED BY TURKEY MAKE MAJOR GAINS IN N. SYRIA
It’s part of a determined campaign by Ankara to push the Kurdish-led militants east of the Euphrates River.
WHY OBAMACARE IS STRUGGLING IN MANY PARTS OF U.S.
The health care law is troubled by double-digit premium increases and exits by big-name insurers.
ITALY VOWS TO PROBE IF NEGLIGENCE CONTRIBUTED TO QUAKE DESTRUCTION
Investigations are focusing on a number of damaged structures, including a school that crumbled despite being renovated in 2012 to resist earthquakes.
WHICH QUESTION THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN CAN’T SEEM TO ANSWER
Trump says he’ll make a speech on illegal immigration on Wednesday, after a week of speculation about whether he will keep a promise to boot people living in U.S. illegally.
WHOSE WILD BEHAVIOR IS TROUBLING NATIONAL PARKS
From Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon of Arizona, major parks are grappling with illegal camping, vandalism, theft of resources, wildlife harassment and other mischief by visitors.
2 CHICAGO MEN CHARGED IN DEATH OF NBA STAR WADE’S COUSIN
Two brothers on parole for prior criminal activity have been charged with first-degree murder in the deadly shooting.
“WE WILL COME OUT OF THIS STRONGER THAN WE CAME IN”
Shannon Womack, interim police chief in Denham Springs, Louisiana, speaks to the resilience of residents working to rebuild their homes and village in the wake of historic flooding.
WHO ANNOUNCED HIS EXIT ON SUNDAY’S BROADCAST
CBS’ Charles Osgood said he is ending 22 years as the host of ‘Sunday Morning.‘
MTV VMAs TO FEATURE KANYE WEST, A PERFORMANCE BY BEYONCE
Beyonce is the leading nominee with 11, and Kanye’s “Famous” music video is nominated for best male video and video of the year.
WHY 49ERS QB REFUSES TO STAND FOR NATIONAL ANTHEM
Colin Kaepernick plans to sit through the national anthem before games for as long as he feels is appropriate to call attention to race relations.
► 10 Least Visited National Parks
The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week, and you can mark the occasion by visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which spans North Carolina and Tennessee. With 10 million annual visitors, it is by far the most visited of all the national parks, notes National Geographic. But if sparser crowds are your thing, this list from 10best.com runs down the parks with the least number of annual visitors:
- Gates of the Arctic, Alaska (11,000)
- Lake Clark, Alaska (18,000)
- Isle Royale, Michigan (19,000)
- North Cascades, Washington (21,000)
- Katmai, Alaska (38,000)
- Dry Tortugas, Florida (71,000)
- Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska (80,000)
- Congaree, South Carolina (86,000)
- Great Basin, Nevada (116,000)
- Guadalupe Mountains, Texas (170,000)
Click FOR MORE on what makes these parks special.
► America Has Lot to Learn From National Lynching Memorial
A civil-rights lawyer is proposing a $20 million national memorial to the victims of lynching, and Charles Pierce at Esquire says it’s far past time for America to build it. “This country has needed a serious homegrown kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission literally for centuries now,“ he says. The memorial, to be located in Montgomery, Alabama, would include jars of soil from the sites of more than 360 documented lynchings that took place in the state between 1877 and 1950. It would also include a call to any county in the US where a lynching took place to take a piece of the memorial and erect it there.
Pierce says the memorial, which would be the first of its kind in the US, would be a “spur to a permanent and honest discussion of our history.“ He notes that anti-lynching laws were still being opposed in the middle of the 20th century, quoting at length from a Florida congressman’s opposition to one in 1948. The congressman based his opposition on the 10th Amendment, an argument still widely used today to fight everything from clean water to National Parks. Pierce says the memorial would be a reminder that “radical Tentherism ends in strange fruit.“ Read the full piece HERE .
► Scams, waste loom as charity millions donated after Orlando
The more than 430 fundraisers posted on the GoFundMe website after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando have exposed weaknesses inherent in these popular do-it-yourself charity campaigns: waste, questionable intentions and little oversight.
The fundraisers – an average of more than four for each of the 49 killed and 53 wounded – include travelers asking for cash, a practitioner of ancient healing, a personal safety instructor who sells quick loaders for assault rifles, and even convicted identity impostors.
“There was a deluge,“ said Holly Salmons, president of the Better Business Bureau for Central Florida. “It was almost impossible for us or anyone else to be able to vet.“
The crowdfunding sites operate outside traditional charitable circles and often beyond the reach of government regulation. Appeals can be created in minutes by almost anyone and shared around the world.
The officially sanctioned Equality Florida campaign raised more than $7 million via GoFundMe, but another $1.3 million went to smaller appeals – mostly set up by people with little or no charity experience.
The Associated Press examined 30 campaigns chosen from throughout the lengthy list produced by a GoFundMe search for “Orlando shootings.“ Within a month of the June 12 shootings, they had raised more than $265,000.
Half said donations would be used for legitimate-sounding purposes: to cover funeral, medical and other costs. Some campaign organizers were relatives of the dead or wounded. A high school basketball coach raised $15,297 for the family of Akyra Murray, a star player who had just graduated before dying in the attack.
But most campaigns lacked key details, such as exactly what the donations would cover or even who was asking for them. Only nine of the 30 organizers agreed to interviews.
One man wanted money for travel costs to Orlando to shoot independent news video. He hadn’t raised anything two months later. Another organizer raised just $25 for travel money to hold a community healing ceremony inspired by ancient shamanic rituals. She dropped that plan in favor of sending painted rocks with an inspiring word of support.
Jackson Yauck of Victoria, British Columbia, put up a lighthearted appeal to let the highest donor burn a pair of skimpy gold-colored shorts he wore to gay-pride events. He had created the appeal on January 1 on behalf of other charities and when he tried to switch it to benefit the Orlando victims, GoFundMe froze his account for at least a week, he said. He agreed to transfer the donations to Equality Florida, and GoFundMe let the appeal go forward.
Yauck said he knew all but one of his 11 donors personally and didn’t feel a need to tell them of the switch. “It was just for fun. If you look at the bigger picture, we raised $600 off a pair of underwear,“ he said.
Several businesses asked for contributions. One appeal raised $1,375 from 14 donors within two months to keep open a hair salon run by partners killed in the attack. A counseling center raised $150 to subsidize services to victims but closed its campaign when it found grant money elsewhere. GoFundMe helps make refunds when contributions go unused.
Weapons-accessory dealer Craig Berberich, of Bradenton, Florida, proposed holding public classes on personal safety. He posted a link to his business at the bottom of his appeal. He said he “wasn’t trying to promote my business.“ Then he added: “I hope we didn’t give the impression that we were a charity.“
He said he was shutting down his appeal. It remained online over a month later – but with only $100 in donations. Among his store products: a high-speed loader for assault weapons.
Efe Atalay, of Clermond, Florida, raised $1,145 from 81 donors to buy security wands for nightclub entrances, but didn’t say which clubs and spoke vaguely of lobbying politicians to require such security measures. He didn’t respond to emails sent to his GoFundMe address.
Florida charities law generally requires no filings by crowdfunding campaigns meant for particular victims or their families or in support of other established charities. That accounts for the vast majority of appeals. Other states apply a patchwork of laws.
Yet, crowdfunding campaigns can distribute aid more quickly than large bureaucratic funds. And they have less overhead than traditional charities, with only 8 percent of donations on GoFundMe going to the website and credit card fees.
Bobby Whithorne, a GoFundMe spokesman, said the website’s staffers were vetting the Orlando campaigns before releasing funds, and only a small fraction of a percent of past appeals involved outright fraud.
GoFundMe froze funds from entertainment company manager David Luchsinger’s campaign when donations piled up quickly. Luchsinger said he was asked for more details of his plans to replace the ruined equipment of one of his deejays who was working at the club during the attack. Luchsinger set an initial goal of $5,000, and raised $8,742 in one month.
Asked about the website’s vetting process, he replied, “Was it so strenuous that you couldn’t fake it? No, you could definitely fake it.“
Despite his good intentions, things got mixed up. He didn’t realize someone else had launched a GoFundMe appeal for his deejay, who got his name removed from the second appeal. Two companies eventually replaced the equipment for free, so the deejay kept some of the donations to replace his lost salary and shared the rest with other club deejays, Luchsinger said.
Several big funds have joined forces in an official centralized campaign that raised more than $23 million, including the $7 million from Equality Florida’s GoFundMe campaign.
The donations to the central fund are generally tax-deductible, since they go to registered charities. Donations to a crowdfunding site are typically not tax-deductible, unless the organizer is a tax-exempt charity.
The bigger charities – unlike many crowdfunding campaigns – give timetables for distributing aid, and detail recipients and how decisions are made. Ken Feinberg, administrator for the centralized fund, has already held two town hall meetings with survivors and family members of the victims.
In one crowdfunding campaign, friends Guardini Bellefleur and Demetrice Naulings asked for $25,000 to set up a vaguely defined foundation in memory of Eddie Justice, a friend of Naulings killed in the shootings. They said the money would pay for Justice’s funeral and victim counseling.
Six people donated $253.
Wilhemina Justice said no one consulted her about the appeal in her son’s name or made arrangements to give her proceeds. “To me, it’s fraud,“ she said.
Florida bars anyone convicted in the past decade of certain crimes, including identity fraud, from running a charity. Yet, court records show Bellefleur was convicted in 2012 of buying $3,570 worth of furniture by impersonating the son of an account holder, and Naulings was convicted in 2008 of giving police a false name and driving with a suspended license.
“We’ve all done some bad things that we would want to change, but this was my moment to change,“ Naulings said.
Naulings acknowledged he never consulted Justice’s mother or helped pay for his funeral, but said, without offering details, his future nonprofit would someday help her.
Bellefleur did not respond to repeated messages, but in an online video, rejected the idea the pair wanted the money for themselves.
► U.S. wants to force lower speeds on truck and bus drivers
The U.S. is seeking to forcibly limit how fast trucks, buses and other large vehicles can travel on the nation’s highways.
A new proposal Friday would impose a nationwide limit by electronically capping speeds with a device on newly made U.S. vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds. Regulators are considering a cap of 60, 65 or 68 mph, though that could change. Whatever the speed limit, drivers would be physically prevented from exceeding it. The proposal, which comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, does not force older heavy vehicles to add the speed-limiting technology, but the regulators are still considering it.
The government said capping speeds for new large vehicles will reduce the 1,115 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks that occur each year and save $1 billion in fuel costs.
While the news is being welcomed by some safety advocates and non-professional drivers, many truckers said that such changes could lead to dangerous scenarios where they are traveling at much lower speeds than everyone else.
The rule has been ensnared in a regulatory maze in the decade since the nonprofit group Roadsafe America issued its first petition in 2006. The group was founded by Atlanta financial adviser Steve Owings and his wife Susan, whose son Cullum was killed by a speeding tractor-trailer during a trip back to school in Virginia after Thanksgiving in 2002. The nonprofit was later joined by the American Trucking Associations, the nation’s largest trucking industry group.
Owings said he will continue to push NHTSA to force older heavy vehicles to limit their speeds.
“We are dismayed and outraged to learn the proposed rule will be for newly manufactured trucks and will not apply to the millions of trucks with which we continue to share the roads today,“ he said.
NHTSA said retrofitting vehicles made after 1990 with the speed-limiting technology could be too costly, and it is still seeking comments and additional information. NHTSA said it could cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000 per vehicle, depending on when the vehicle was made. Changes to some engines could also be required, increasing the costs, NHTSA said. Heavy vehicles made before 1990 don’t have the capacity to add the technology.
The government agencies involved will take public comment for 60 days, then determine the final limit and decide if the regulation should be put in place.
To James Chapman, a big rig driver from Spartanburg, South Carolina, 68 mph would be the best option and he’d accept 65. But 60 would be too big of a difference from cars that go 75 or more.
“To me it would be a safety hazard unless it slowed everybody else down,“ he said while refueling his truck Friday along interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio.
The agencies said that limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60 mph could save as many as 498 lives annually. Limiting it to 65 mph could save as many as 214 lives, and limiting it to 68 mph could save as many as 96 lives. There are 3.6 million big rigs on U.S. roads.
The agencies said the proposal is based on available safety data and the additional benefit of better fuel economy.
But Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the 157,000-member Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, said her group has opposed the speed limiters because they create dangerous interactions between vehicles as faster cars slow down for trucks. “Differentials in speed increase interactions between vehicles, which increases the likelihood of crashes,“ Taylor said.
Yet there is another compelling reason to limit truck speeds. An investigation last year by The Associated Press found that 14 states have speed limits for big trucks that are equal to or higher than their tires were designed to handle. Most truck tires aren’t designed to go faster than 75 mph, and tire manufacturers say traveling faster than that can cause tires to fail and blow out, creating safety issues.
Most of the states with the higher speed limits are west of the Mississippi River. Of the 14, five have speed limits of 80 mph or more and allow trucks to exceed the capability of their tires. NHTSA has said the speed limiters should take care of the discrepancy between state speed limits and truck tire capabilities.
Most of the states with speed limits of 80 or above either didn’t know about the truck tire speed ratings or didn’t consider them. States set their own speed limits, having been given sole authority to do so by Congress in the mid-1990s.
► Mylan boosts EpiPen patient programs, doesn’t budge on price
The maker of EpiPens offered patients more help to pay for its costly emergency allergy shots but didn’t budge Thursday on the $608 price.
The announcement from Mylan N.V. triggered a new round of condemnation from politicians and consumer groups, who accuse the company of price-gouging on a potentially life-saving treatment.
Critics stressed that insurers, employers and taxpayers will still foot most of the cost for EpiPens. Over time, that drives up insurance premiums and the country’s burgeoning health care tab.
“Everybody suffers, except the Mylan investors,“ said Sabrina Corlette of Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.
This week, Mylan joined other drugmakers such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Turing Pharmaceuticals, who’ve been blasted for mammoth price increases.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch defended her company’s price hikes Thursday, telling CNBC that lowering the price was not an option. Bresch said the company only receives $274 of the $608 for a twin-package of EpiPens. She said insurers, pharmacies, prescription benefit managers and distributors divvy up the rest.
Instead of a price cut, Mylan said it was expanding programs that help people pay for EpiPens or give them out free. It doubled the limit for eligibility for its patient assistance program, so a family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket. It also said it will offer $300 copay cards, up from the current $100 per-prescription savings. That would cut the bill in half for patients who have to pay full price.
People will eventually be able to order the injected medicine directly from the company, to lower their cost.
“This step seems like a PR fix more than a real remedy, masking an exorbitant and callous price hike,“ Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said in a statement.
EpiPens, which have little competition, are used in emergencies to treat severe allergies to insect bites and foods like nuts and eggs that can lead to anaphylactic shock. People usually keep a number of EpiPens handy at home, school or work. The syringes, prefilled with the hormone epinephrine, expire after a year.
How much an individual pays depends on insurance coverage. Private insurers often negotiate discounts off the list price, and patient out-of-pocket costs vary by plan. Customers of Express Scripts Holding Co., the nation’s largest prescription benefits manager, pay $73.50. Mylan has said that many people get EpiPens with no out-of-pocket cost.
The list price for a pair of EpiPens has been raised repeatedly from $93.88 in 2007, when Mylan acquired the product, according to Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ database of prices set by manufacturers.
Numerous members of Congress and other politicians this week have called for congressional hearings on Mylan’s pricing, an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and action by the Food and Drug Administration to increase competition by speeding up approvals of any rival products.
After one EpiPen competitor was pulled from the market last year, only one rival product is available, Adrenaclick, which carries a list price of $461. But EpiPen, introduced in 1987, is so well known that most doctors prescribe it without considering an alternative.
At least two companies are trying to get U.S. approval to sell a rival brand or generic version of EpiPen. None is likely to hit the U.S. market until well into next year.
Relief could come sooner from Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding pharmacy that prepares medicines to fill individual prescriptions. It said it might be able to sell a version in a few months and would likely charge around $100 for two injectors.
Meanwhile, actress Sarah Jessica Parker, whose son has severe nut allergies, wrote on Instagram that she’s cut ties with Mylan and is “disappointed, saddened and deeply concerned” over EpiPen’s price. Parker was paid to participate in a Mylan campaign.
Several congressional committees have held hearings since last fall on price hikes by Valeant, Turing and a handful of other drugmakers, but prices for many drugs remain high. Unlike other countries, the U.S. doesn’t regulate medicine prices, so drugmakers can charge as much as they want.
Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said in a statement Thursday, “I’m tired of playing whack-a-mole with these pharmaceutical companies that are grabbing obscene profits while they have a monopoly.“
Now many members of Congress from both parties, along with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, are demanding answers from Mylan.
Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV — Mylan head Heather Bresch’s father, wasn’t so harsh.
“I look forward to reviewing (Mylan’s) response in detail and working with my colleagues and all interested parties to lower the price of prescription drugs,“ he said in a statement.
Carolyn Janis, 35, of Middlefield, Connecticut, is waiting to fill a new EpiPen prescription for her 2-year-old son, Noah, that’s needed before he starts daycare next month. He’s allergic to eggs and all nuts.
She paid $175 under an old insurance plan but now has a high-deductible plan and she’s already exhausted her health savings account. Janis said she’d explore the patient assistance Mylan is offering.
“I am anxious about how much it’s going to cost,“ she said.
In The World….
► Mounties, Scottish Police Add Hijabs to Uniform
While cops in France crack down on burkinis, police forces in two other countries have decided to embrace the hijab. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have decided to allow female officers to wear a hijab while on duty in a bid to encourage diversity among the Mounties, the Independent reports. Police officers in Scotland were already allowed to wear the hijab, but only with approval from senior officers, the Telegraph reports. The headscarf has now been made an official part of the uniform.
“Like many other employers, especially in the public sector, we are working towards ensuring our service is representative of the communities we serve,“ Scottish chief constable Phil Gormley said in a statement. In Canada, officials say they hope the shift in uniform policy will encourage more Muslim women to join the mounties, the AP reports. They note that hijabs were already allowed by police in Toronto as well by forces in Sweden, Norway, and London, which added the hijab to the uniform in 2001.
► Runner Searches for Dog That Followed Him Across Desert
The dog ran 80 miles across a Chinese desert for him, so it seems only fitting that ultramarathon runner Dion Leonard would ignore the odds and comb a city of 3 million people for the missing pup. Earlier this year, Leonard was running a six-day marathon through the Gobi desert when he was joined by a small dog for the final four days, the Washington Post reports. The dog, which Leonard dubbed Gobi, outran “some pretty damn good athletes” to stick alongside him. Leonard has no idea why Gobi is so attached to him, but he decided to bring her back to Scotland with him. According to the BBC, Leonard left Gobi with friends while the dog awaited quarantine, but she disappeared Sunday.
Leonard rushed back to China from Scotland and launched a massive search in the city of Urumqi, enlisting social media, volunteers, posters, and TV news. Despite having little hope of finding Gobi in such a huge city, Leonard stayed up 34 hours straight looking for her, NPR reports. Finally on Wednesday a man called Leonard and said he and his son found Gobi in the park while walking their dog. Leonard was skeptical, but as soon as he walked in their home Gobi “was running up my leg and jumping all over me and squealing with delight.“ Leonard tells the BBC that finding Gobi was “one of the best days of my life.“ He hopes Gobi will be finished with quarantine in time to join him for Christmas in Scotland.
► Ireland’s Future Priests Allegedly Can’t Keep Off Grindr
There are “strange going-ons"—in the words of the Archbishop of Dublin—at Ireland’s major seminary, where trainee priests are being accused of using Grindr, the Telegraph reports. “An app like that is something which would be fostering promiscuous sexuality, which is certainly not in any way the mature vision of sexuality one would expect a priest to understand,“ the BBC quotes Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as saying. But priests-to-be using a gay hookup app is just one of the accusations being leveled at St. Patrick’s College. According to the Irish Times, there are also reports of students at the seminary using the straight hookup app Tinder, former seminarians allege bullying and harassment, and college trustees say there is an “unhealthy atmosphere there.“
St. Patrick’s has been tasked with reviewing its social media policies for trainee priests and figuring out ways to get its students to mingle with more women and families, something suggested by Pope Francis. In the meantime, Martin is sending prospective priests in Dublin to study in Rome instead of at St. Patrick’s because of its alleged “atmosphere” and “gay culture.“
► Colombian rebels announce final conference of peace talks
Top commanders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are preparing to gather one final time in mid-September to ratify a peace accord reached this week with government negotiators and map out the group’s political strategy without weapons.
“The historic importance of this event merits that the people of Colombia and the world see firsthand the development and conclusions of what will be the last conference of our armed organization,“ the FARC said in a statement Saturday inviting media to cover the 10th conference.
The summit will take place September 13-19 in jungled surroundings of San Vicente del Caguan, an area where the rebels have long been dominant and which was the center of a Switzerland-sized demilitarized zone ceded to the FARC during a previous attempt at peace more than a decade ago.
Some 200 delegates are expected to attend, including 29 members of the FARC’s central command, a top decision-making body. Several foreign dignitaries it didn’t name are also invited.
The 297-page peace accord reached this week in Cuba seeks to bring an end to Latin America’s oldest guerrilla war, which has caused more than 220,000 deaths and driven 5 million people from their homes over five decades. As part of the deal, FARC members must turn over their weapons within six months after the deal is formally signed and instead seek to persuade skeptical Colombians that it’s ready to play by the rules of democracy.
In exchange, the FARC’s still unnamed future political movement will be granted a minimum 10 congressional seats – five in the lower house, five in the Senate – for two legislative periods. In addition, 16 lower house seats will be created for grassroots activists in rural areas traditionally neglected by the state and in which existing political parties will be banned from running candidates, a move critics of the peace process say will further boost the rebels’ post-conflict political power.
After 2026, both arrangements will end and the former rebels will have to demonstrate their political strength at the ballot box.
The FARC last held a major summit in 2007, in the midst of a U.S.-backed military campaign that decimated its ranks and led to the killing of several top commanders.
Colombians will also be given a chance to ratify the accord in a national referendum October 02. Polls say most Colombians loathe the rebel group but will likely endorse the deal anyway.
► Bolivian president, opposition spar over official’s killing
President Evo Morales and his political opponents traded recriminations Friday over the shocking beating death of a high-ranking government official by protesting miners who had blockaded a highway.
The killing of Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes underscored how Morales, a former coca growers’ union leader, has increasingly found himself at odds with the same kind of popular social movements that fueled his rise to power and have made up his political base.
“This is a political conspiracy, not a social demand,“ Morales said at a news conference, accusing his political opponents of backing the miners’ cause. He called for three days of official mourning, criticized the “cowardly attitude” of the protesters and insisted that his government had “always been open” to negotiation.
He ordered prosecutors to find and bring to justice those responsible for Illanes’ killing as well as anyone who may have ordered it.
Businessman and opposition leader Samuel Doria Medina rejected Morales’ comments about the opposition and said the government should try to make peace.
“The prices of minerals have gone down and the costs of production have increased,“ he said. “That is the cause of the protest.“
“Morales would do well to be critical of himself and set aside false conspiracy theories blaming the right wing and the media,“ former President Jorge Quiroga said, “when the undercurrent of these protests is the crisis.“
Mourners brought flowers to a funeral Mass for Illanes on Friday in the capital, La Paz, where a red-uniformed honor guard carried his coffin into the government palace. Lawmakers and government officials paid their respects.
Illanes’ kidnapping and killing followed weeks of tension over dwindling paychecks in a region of Bolivia that has been hit hard by falling metal prices.
The miners began blocking the highway in the town of Panduro, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of La Paz, on Monday, to demand they be allowed to work for private companies, which promise to put more cash in their pockets.
The issue has bedeviled Morales, who began as a champion of the working class and nationalized oil and gas interests, only to see his support crater amid the financial downturn. Miners say Morales has become a shill of the rich and done little to help them make ends meet as the economy slows.
Illanes, who was also a lawyer and university professor, had traveled to the scene of the protests in an effort to negotiate with the strikers, who had armed themselves with dynamite and seized several highways, stranding thousands of vehicles and passengers.
Instead he was taken captive by the miners Thursday morning. At midday he said via Twitter: “My health is fine, my family can be calm.“
But later in the day Illanes’ body was found abandoned on the side of the highway, his car burned. An autopsy found he died from trauma to the brain and thorax. Police raided the offices of the miners’ union and detained 15 people.
Illanes “was kidnapped, tortured and murdered,“ Morales said.
His driver escaped.
The fatal beating came after the killings of two protesters in clashes with police Wednesday, deaths that likely fueled the tensions.
The highway was clear on Friday as the miners returned to their camps and their leaders stayed out of sight.
Bolivia’s informal miners number about 100,000 and work in self-managed cooperatives producing primarily zinc, tin, silver and gold.
It’s rough work in the barren, high-altitude “altiplano” region of the Andes, where the miners live in camps and work with picks and dynamites in nearly tapped-out mines.
They want to be able to associate with private companies but are currently prohibited from doing so. The government argues that if they associate with multinational companies they will no longer be cooperatives.
The influential National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia, a strong ally of Morales in years when metals were more valuable, was organized in the 1980s amid growing unemployment in the sector that followed the closure of state mines.
Federation members went on an indefinite protest after negotiations over mining legislation failed. Strikers are also demanding access to new mineral deposits and subsidized electricity to help them handle the crisis in the mining sector.
Morales says they have “exaggerated ambitions.“
Bolivia has seen increased social agitation as a financial slowdown hit an economy heavily dependent on natural gas and minerals, which account for over 70 percent of foreign export sales. Export earnings fell by about a third in the first half of the year. Though down from recent years, Bolivia is still expected to see GDP growth of about 3.9 percent in 2016, outperforming its South American neighbors.
► Beer mega merger: what court ruling means for troubled deal
A British court has ruled that two groups of shareholders in brewing company SABMiller should vote separately on the 79 billion pound ($104 million) takeover offer made by rival Anheuser-Busch InBev, effectively giving smaller investors an outside chance to derail the deal.
The decision Tuesday is seen as a concession to smaller shareholders who complained that their payout plummeted in relation to larger investors after the pound fell following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. While smaller shareholders will receive cash for their stakes, SABMiller’s two biggest investors will get cash and euro-denominated shares that have appreciated since the deal was announced in November.
SABMiller’s board has in principle accepted the deal, which would create a company controlling nearly a third of the global beer market.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
AB InBev, the maker of Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois, is trying to buy SABMiller in a massive deal that would merge the world’s two largest beer makers. The complicated takeover had to pass regulatory hurdles around the globe. But just as the deal was nearing completion, Britain voted to leave the EU.
Since then, AB InBev shares, which are priced in euros, have risen 3.2 percent and the pound has plunged against the European currency. That reduced the value of the cash-only offer compared with the cash-and-stock option tailored for two big shareholders — U.S. tobacco company Altria and BevCo, an investment vehicle of the Santo Domingo family, which together own 40 percent of SABMiller and want to remain shareholders of the new company.
Some smaller shareholders, like Aberdeen Asset Management, whose stake in SABMiller is just above one percent, argue that the offer undervalues SABMiller and favors the company’s two biggest shareholders.
AB InBev sweetened its bid by one pound a share after the complaints, but smaller shareholders say it isn’t enough.
WHY IS IT THE COURT RULING IMPORTANT?
Altria and Bevco, which have already backed the deal, hold such large stakes that it would have been virtually impossible for smaller shareholders to block the merger if all of the investors were lumped together in a single vote.
Aberdeen Asset Management and other smaller investors demanded a separate vote on the transaction and now they will get it.
“We are pleased the court has acknowledged the reality of the situation which will help to ensure that the views of the rest of the investor base have due weight,“ Aberdeen said in a statement. The firm invited “other investors who value good corporate governance and recognize the superior long-term value from continuing to hold SABMiller as a standalone entity” to vote against the deal on the grounds it undervalues the company.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
A shareholder vote will take place September 28. Some 75 percent of the smaller shareholders must approve the deal for it to go forward.
CAN THE DEAL BE STOPPED?
Maybe. But analysts say it’s not clear that those who want to block the deal have enough support.
“We continue to believe opposition to announced deal terms is low,“ said Mark Swartzberg, who follows the firms for Stifel, a brokerage and investment banking firm.
Wesleyan’s Religious and Spiritual Life to Offer Outreach Events
West Virginia Wesleyan College hosts a myriad of activities throughout the year for students and community. Under the leadership of Chris Scott, director of religion and spiritual life, and students Jordan Danko, Wilson Harvey and Clay Todd, the Chapel Office will offer a series of outreach events on campus. “Ignite,” a three-day series of speakers, music, and fellowship, will kick off the fall semester.
September 06: The Great Gathering featuring Bil Lepp, Wesley Chapel, 11 a.m. & 7 p.m.
Lepp, a storyteller and humorist, spins tall-tales and tells outrageous stories. He has gained national recognition that made him a two-time West Virginia Liars competition champion. This event is free and open to the public.
September 07: New Community Church Band of Buckhannon, Chapel Green, 6-8 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public.
September 08: Adrian Branch, retired NBA player, Rockefeller Physical Education Center, 7:30 p.m.
Considered to be one of the nation’s most powerful speakers, Branch will deliver a message of hope and encouragement. Drafted in the 2nd round by the Chicago Bulls, Branch went on to win a World Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1987 with “Magic” Johnson and Kareem Abduhl-Jabbar. He has worked with Sportsworld Ministries, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Young Life, Youth for Christ, Youth With A Mission (YWAM), Athletes in Action (AIA), and Sports Power International. Branch has spoken to over a half million youth in school assemblies, colleges, correctional facilities, juvenile homes, youth groups, and many professional and collegiate athletic teams.
In West Virginia….
► Regulators Sticking with Water-Quality Standards Change
West Virginia regulators are sticking with their proposal to change the way water-quality standards are calculated.
A document made public Friday insists the decision “does not automatically” translate into an increase in the amount of cancer-causing chemicals allowed to be discharged into state rivers and streams.
The state Department of Environmental Protection also revealed that it’s dropping another proposal that would have eliminated a requirement for public notices in newspapers for some types of air pollution permits.
The DEP’s decisions on both of the rule changes were filed with the Secretary of State’s Office on Friday, along with other annual agency rule changes. The filing was to meet a legal deadline for the rules to be submitted for legislative review next year.
► Authorities: chlorine leak in WV under control
Authorities say a chlorine leak in West Virginia that sent at least two people to a hospital is under control.
Media reports say the leak was detected Saturday when emergency authorities said a chemical cloud from the Axiall Corp. plant headed south. Marshall County emergency officials say two people were taken to a hospital with unspecified injuries.
The U.S. Coast Guard says a portion of the Ohio River was closed near Proctor, West Virginia. It says the release of liquid chlorine was reported from a rail car at the plant. It says an unknown amount of the product was released into the ground and air, creating a plume traveling downriver.
The leak caused WV 2 to be shut down in the area and the evacuation of the Kent neighborhood.
► Teacher Faked Attack on Himself for Some Reason
A Washington state high school teacher who claimed he was attacked in his classroom last May admitted Thursday he made the whole thing up, the Seattle Times reports. Bothell High School shop teacher Calvin Pygott, 63, was found by a fellow teacher in the hall outside his classroom. He claimed he had been knocked unconscious from behind and woke up covered in blood with a head wound and a zip-tie around his neck. According to Q13, school was closed for a day and extra security was brought in. The district superintendent says it was a “really difficult and emotionally wrenching” experience for staff, KUOW reports. But Pygott told Q13 in May that he wasn’t going to let it “turn me into a victim.“
That’s probably true, as it looks more likely to turn him into a criminal. Police say there were holes in Pygott’s story from the beginning. On Wednesday, he was asked to take a polygraph test, then invited to make a new statement. Pygott allegedly confessed to staging the whole thing: injuring himself, placing the zip-tie around his neck, and leaving a note that said “this man is not god.“ Pygott was placed on administrative leave Thursday and could be charged with making false statements and obstruction. It’s unclear why Pygott, who created an award-winning carpentry program, would fake an attack on himself. Police haven’t said whether he told them his motivation.
► Headstone of Civil War soldier to be fixed after 154 years
Some mistakes are never too late to fix.
A Civil War soldier misidentified when he was buried at an Ohio cemetery more than 150 years ago is to get a new headstone.
Confederate soldier Augustus Beckmann was fatally wounded in the Battle of Shiloh on April 7, 1862. But he was buried at the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus under the wrong name, A. Bergman, and wrong company, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Beckmann’s brother’s great-great-grandson, Greg Beckman, discovered the error when he visited Camp Chase last Memorial Day.
Beckman, who teaches government at a high school in Placentia, California, pulled together the necessary documentation and asked the National Cemetery Administration to fix the headstone. He recently learned his request was approved.
An administration spokeswoman says approved stones are typically in place within 60 days.
Beckman’s great-great grandfather, William Beckmann, was Augustus’ brother. The two came to America from present-day Germany between 1858 and 1860 and enlisted in the 2nd Texas Infantry in Galveston.
“William never learned the fate of his brother, as August was buried under the wrong surname of Bergman all those years,“ Beckman said. “The last time they saw one another was on the battlefield of Shiloh.“
August Beckmann was buried under the name Bergman at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, and the incorrect name followed him when his remains and those of 30 other soldiers were removed in 1869 and reinterred at Camp Chase.
Beckman said he was happy to visit his relative’s gravesite, but wasn’t content with the incorrect inscription.
“I knew something had to be done about it,“ he said.
► How Meth Users Are Polluting Streams
Are the nation’s streams tainted with illegal drugs? If they’re near urban areas, the answer is likely yes based on a new study that found hard drugs polluting water sources in Baltimore, CNN reports. Researchers who tested samples from six streams around the Maryland capital found them tainted with methamphetamine and amphetamine. Those drugs got there after they were flushed down the toilet by users either purposefully or, er, naturally. Limited filtering systems at wastewater treatment plants or “leaks in the sewer” enable the release of the drugs into the environment, researcher Emma Rosi-Marshall tells CNN. The victims? Any living presence in those streams from moss to water bugs—and the creatures that eat them like fish and birds.
A 2014 study found that meds flushed into the environment could be causing a global wildlife crisis, reported the Guardian. What’s new about this study, explain the researchers, is that “few [others] have examined the ecological effects of illicit drugs” (though traces of cocaine were found in Ontario’s drinking water in 2015, per the CBC). In order to measure the impact of the drugs they detected, the researchers created an artificial stream and laced it with the same levels of drugs they found in nature. Within weeks, insects showed signs of altered development and drugs suppressed the growth of biofilms, the organisms that coat rocks, the authors write in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The study underscores the importance of investing in “our aging underground water infrastructure,“ says Rosi-Marshall.
► Michigan Judge Delivers $500K Blow in Revenge-Porn Case
Those contemplating getting under an ex’s skin by publicizing pictures showing too much skin may want to check this case out of Michigan first. In what’s being billed as possibly the state’s first “revenge porn” suit to end with a monetary payout, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson on Wednesday awarded $500,000 (with interest) to a woman whose ex-boyfriend had plastered the Internet with nude photos of her, the Detroit Free Press reports. Kyle Bristow, the attorney for the unidentified woman, says that as a result of this cyber blitz, his client was “tormented” for a year and a half before he stepped in as she tried to get the photos taken down in what he describes as a “horrific game of Whack a Ball.“
And Bristow is apparently a decent advocate to have in one’s corner: Since at least 2012, he’s been representing victims by the dozen (mostly women) and trying to shutter sites that host these types of images and videos. Per the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 34 states and DC have revenge-porn laws on the books, and Michigan is one of them, having passed a law in April that makes it illegal to put sexually explicit pics or videos of someone online without that person’s consent, per CBS Detroit. The ex in this particular case was also instructed by Anderson to immediately destroy the woman’s photos and never post them to third-party sites again, or else risk prison time or more fines in contempt of court. “We are truly winning the battle,“ Bristow tells the Free Press.
► Mom’s Arrest Underscores Ambiguity of Leaving Kids Alone
A Maryland mom who made a food run while vacationing in Rehoboth Beach, Del., probably wishes she had just microwaved some pizza bagels. Rehoboth Beach Police Lt. Jaime Riddle says 55-year-old Susan Terrillion was arrested Tuesday and charged with endangering the welfare of her 8-year-old and 9-year-old kids after she left them in their vacation rental while she went to pick up their dinner order at an eatery about 5 miles away, the News Journal reports. She was gone for at least 45 minutes, which was enough time for the kids to go outside and lose control of their dogs, who then apparently dashed in front of a man’s car, Riddle says. That witness tells cops he helped the kids rein the animals in, then found out there was no adult around supervising them.
Woman’s Day points out such a situation can often prove tricky from a legal standpoint: There’s no federal law mandating a minimum age at which kids can be left alone, and state rules vary. In Delaware’s case, there’s no “appropriate age” to use as a gauge, but the “Division of Family Services will accept for investigation any report of a child under the age of 12 being left alone.“ Terrillion was arrested and released on $500 bail; the kids and dogs are said to be OK. In another case of child endangerment in Rehoboth Beach, per Delaware State News: A Canadian dad was arrested last week for allegedly letting his 13-year-old daughter lure a seagull into a hole with food, then hit it with a plastic shovel, killing it.
► Guy Jumps Fence, Strips, Crashes Truck Into Plane
Cops in Omaha believe a suspect they arrested at Eppley Airfield Thursday night was on some very strong drugs, and it’s not hard to see why: After parking his truck outside the airport’s perimeter and screaming that people were trying to kill him, the man scaled a barbed-wire fence, stripped down to his boxers, got into a pickup truck, and drove into the nose gear of a plane as officers pursued him, the Omaha World-Herald reports. No passengers on the Southwest plane, which had just begun boarding, were hurt, but a pilot sustained a minor knee injury.
Police say the suspect was taken into custody, and there is no sign of links to extremism, reports Reuters. He was treated at a hospital and will be charged with felony destruction of property and vehicle theft. Police say the FBI has been notified of the incident and the NTSB will be conducting its own investigation, NBC reports. The investigation will likely look into, among other things, how the man was able to make off with the Southwest Airlines pickup truck, which he found unlocked and with its engine running outside airlines offices.
► After Months of Fighting, Toddler Abruptly Taken Off Life Support
Israel Stinson, 2, had a bad asthma attack on April 1, went into cardiac arrest, and was declared brain-dead at UC Davis Medical Center. Nearly five months of legal battling ensued, as the California toddler’s parents—who did not agree with the prognosis—fought to keep him on life support. The fight ended abruptly Thursday, after what the Sacramento Bee calls a “surprise ruling” by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that the boy be removed from life support. He stopped breathing almost immediately. “He’s gone,“ Israel’s mom Jonee Fonseca tells the Bee. At the beginning of the saga, she and Israel’s dad, Nate Stinson, initially had Israel transferred from Davis to Kaiser Permanente in Roseville; that hospital also determined he was brain-dead, the Washington Post reports.
They refused to sign a California death certificate issued by Kaiser, started a GoFundMe campaign, and filed an injunction to stop Kaiser from removing him from the ventilator. All the while, they posted videos and updates for their supporters and got pro bono support from lawyers. A federal judge rejected the injunction in May, so Israel’s parents took him to Guatemala, where, according to his parents, an electroencephalogram showed brain activity. Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles then accepted Israel, and he was brought there about two weeks ago—but doctors at Children’s agreed he was brain-dead and sought to take him off life support. Israel’s parents were granted a temporary restraining order, but the hospital successfully appealed.
► Inside the Futile Search for ‘Inchworm’ on the Trail
The discovery of a 66-year-old hiker’s body off the Appalachian Trail last year made headlines in part for the poignancy of the journal and letters she left behind. “When you find my body,” wrote Jerry Largay, “please call my husband George ... and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me.“ The Boston Globe now takes an in-depth look at the futile hunt for Largay, who got lost in July 2013 after leaving the trail to go to the bathroom. The woman whose hiking moniker was “Inchworm” lived for at least 19 days as search teams roamed the woods of Maine. And as the Globe explains, some faulty information may have hindered the search.
It seems that some young hikers reported seeing a woman they thought was Largay at a particular hiking station, and rescuers adjusted their search accordingly. The boys described her as quiet, however, which didn’t mesh with the gregarious Largay. “I’m thinking, that’s not Gerry,“ says a lieutenant with the Maine Warden Service. “But I’m like, but maybe she’s having a hard hike that day, maybe she’s not feeling so good. I tried to force it to fit.“ Days later, they would discover that the hikers had confused Largay with another older woman on the trail, and they readjusted back to the original “last place seen” location. It was still to no avail, though Largay wrote about hearing the search planes in the distance. Click for the full story, which points out that Largay had covered 900 miles of the trail, including some of its toughest sections, before her death.
► Retired Pennsylvania Marine seeks return of fallen comrades
Ed “Zimmo” Zimmerman Thursday returned from Vietnam for the third — and hopefully — last time.
Zimmerman served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, having spent 13 months “in country” and participating in some 26 battles during a 13-month tour in 1968-69.
In 2014, he guided a group of U.S. Military personnel to the exact spot where he last saw two fallen Marines after the 73-day siege at Khe Sanh in April, 1968. Those two Marines — Pfc. Anthony John (Tony) Pepper, 20, of Richmond, Virginia, and Cpl. James Mitchell Trimble, 19, of Eureka, California — were never recovered and never returned home to their families.
On Thursday, Zimmerman again returned from Vietnam to a waiting crowd of family and friends after helping a U.S. Military Search Team locate the site where the Marines were left behind.
Zimmerman said he had no problem directing the U.S. government’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, search team to the exact spot where he last saw Pepper and Trimble. The search team will now begin excavating the site for up to 30 days to locate the remains of the two soldiers.
“They want to find them as much as I do,“ Zimmerman said of the search team members. “They’ll do whatever it takes.“
The 67-year-old Bear Creek resident, who formerly resided in Edwardsville, left Aug. 10 for Vietnam to assist the recovery effort to search and, hopefully, recover the remains of his two Marine “brothers.“
As Zimmerman walked slowly through the terminal at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Thursday, his wife, Cathy, their three daughters, Lori Kosierowski, Leah O’Boyle and Nadine Burney, his grandchildren and several friends waited with open arms.
“Welcome back, Marine,“ said Don Wilmot, of Sterling, a fellow Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam.
Zimmerman appeared a little weary from the long plane ride and the emotional experience of having the opportunity to get closer to finding Pepper and Trimble, ending a nine-year ordeal during which he managed to convince the U.S. military to undertake the search.
“It’s really been a journey,“ he said as his family took turns hugging him. “It’s been a non-stop whirlwind from the time I left.“
Zimmerman was a 19-year-old Marine helping his unit clean up after a battle at Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, on April 6, 1968. A member of F Company, 2nd Battalion of the 26th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, he was with his unit when he saw the bodies of the two Marines in a ravine. They were members of G Company, the other unit in the battle at Khe Sanh.
The image of the two Marines lying in that ravine has been with Zimmerman since 1968, and it heightened in 2009 when he learned their bodies had never been recovered. Since then, he has devoted much of his life to convincing the government and the military to return to the site to search for their remains.
Zimmerman said he has had many restless, sleepless nights and plenty of nightmares over the years. Finding the two Marines will bring peace to him and closure to the families of the two soldiers.
“I’m still trying to filter it all,“ he said. “While I was there, a lot of memories came back to me.“
Wilmot reminded Zimmerman of the 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam.
“They only got a one-way ticket,“ Wilmot said.
Zimmerman will be notified when the remains of the two Marines are found. He plans to attend their burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The families of Pepper and Trimble have been supportive in his efforts and keep in touch with him. He wishes he could have stayed in Vietnam to aid the search.
“They wouldn’t let me dig,“ he said. “I’ve done all I could. It’s up to the search team now.“
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