‘Strap In’ for Child Passenger Safety Week

The Free Press WV

The majority of forward-facing car seats aren’t being used properly, so advocates say, “Remember to strap in.“

Safe Kids Worldwide has launched a campaign called “Take Time to Tether” to get everyone to use the strap on the back of a forward-facing car seat that secures the top of the seat to an anchor.

Since 2001, every car seat has included the tether, but Lorrie Walker, the training manager at Safe Kids, says a study last year showed 64 percent of children were in seats that didn’t have the tether attached.

“There’s a hook on the end of this special strap that holds the top of the car seat behind the child’s head firmly against the vehicle seat so that the child doesn’t pitch forward when you stop suddenly or have a crash,“ she explains.

Walker says the good news is that education works. During research, Safe Kids found parents and caregivers who are told about the importance of the strap are very likely to use it.

The organization offers free lessons on how to properly install car seats and use the straps properly. To find a local site, go to

Walker says people often are shocked to learn how much that tether can help prevent serious injury. She adds that it reduces the distance a child’s head could travel when the driver slams on the brakes or is in an accident by four to six inches.

“And if you think of that in a small car, the child could hit the back of the driver’s seat, could hit the console, and could hit other passengers who are also riding in the vehicle,“ she warns.

The Take Time to Tether campaign coincides with Child Passenger Safety Week, which runs through Saturday.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Does Your Child’s Backpack Make the Grade?

The Free Press WV

Backpacks are one of the best ways to tote homework and school supplies; however, an overloaded or improperly worn one can be where your child’s pack receives a failing grade.

“The way a backpack is worn certainly affects your health, said Eric J. Radcliffe, M.D., program director of UHC Family Medicine Residency Program. “The height of the backpack should extend from approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist. It is also recommended that individuals evenly distribute the weight of the backpack by wearing it on both shoulders.”

The Free Press WV

Carrying too much weight in a backpack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain and strain. Parents can take steps to help children load and wear backpacks the correct way, to avoid health problems later. About 55 percent of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guidelines of 10 percent of the student’s total body weight.

“At UHC Family Medicine we want to make sure families learn about the proper weight and how to appropriately choose, pack, lift, and carry backpacks,” said Dr. Radcliffe. “That is why UHC Family Medicine will be at the Meadowbrook Mall Food Court from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 20 on National Backpack Awareness Day.”

In a study on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health, nearly 8 out of 10 middle school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their back, necks, and shoulders. UHC Family Medicine, along with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), urges parents and caregivers to consider the following when selecting a backpack this school year:

  •  Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back.

  •  Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.

  •  Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.

  •  If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside the pack.

  •  If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school permits these.

  •  Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain and discomfort.

  •  Select a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.

  •  Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backward and strain muscles.

  •  Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backward and strain muscles.

  •  The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.

  •  School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as with enough room for necessary school items.

  •  Just as your child will try on clothes and shoes, it is important to try on backpacks, too.

  •  A child who wears a backpack incorrectly or carries a backpack that is too heavy is at risk for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and musculoskeletal pain especially in the lower back.

  •  More than 2,000 backpack-related injuries are treated annually at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and clinics.

“Don’t let your child become a part of these statistics,” said Dr. Radcliffe. “Make sure your child tells you if they are in pain or have discomfort from wearing their backpack, before a serious problem occurs.”

Right-to-Work Withstands Legal Challenge

The Free Press WV

Last week I wrote about the ongoing legal battle over West Virginia’s right-to-work law. The headline was, “Right-to-work arguments in WV go on… and on.”

I was wrong… because that was before the state Supreme Court issued its decision overturning the lower court’s preliminary injunction preventing the right-to-work law from taking effect.

The majority opinion by Justice Menis Ketchum and the concurrence by Chief Justice Allen Loughry left no avenue for a possible appeal and no room to suggest they might be convinced that the right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

First, Ketchum established this is a legislative matter not a judicial one. “Whether a law is fair or unfair is not a question for the judicial branch of government,” he wrote.  But then he went on to make clear his belief about the union argument.

“Twenty-seven other states have adopted right-to-work laws similar to West Virginia’s, and the unions have not shown a single one that has been struck down by an appellate court,” Ketchum wrote.

Chief Justice Loughry was even more direct.  “In absence of any legal authority supporting its constitutional challenge and in the face of United States Supreme Court holdings undermining their (the unions’) position, the respondents’ (the unions’) action fails on all fronts.”

Justice Robin Davis dissented and will issue a separate opinion and Justice Margaret Workman concurs in part and dissents in part and also reserves the right to issue her opinion.  However, the lean of the majority of the court—Loughry, Ketchum and Beth Walker—is clear.

The case is now remanded back to Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey for a final hearing.  It would be wise for her to heed the not-so-subtle criticism from the court.

Justice Ketchum wrote in a footnote, “Because of the far-reaching effect of Senate Bill 1 (the right-to-work bill) and its potentially substantial impact upon the public interests, in the future, we encourage the circuit court to act with greater celerity in bringing this case to a resolution.”

Chief Justice Loughry was again a little more direct. He called Judge Bailey’s issuance of the injunction “inexplicable” and added, “I further encourage the circuit court to assiduously avoid further delay and grant this matter its foremost attention.”

The unions may continue their legal challenge, and Judge Bailey may even make an ill-advised ruling contrary to the strong message from the high court, but from a legal perspective this issue is settled.  Right-to-work opponents should put their efforts into changing the make-up of the Legislature or the Supreme Court if they hope to prevail on this issue.


The Free Press WV

  • In Washington, and beyond, the plot has thickened.  Federal investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort before and after the election, and that information has been shared with Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into the Trump team’s ties to Russia.  CNN

  • A portrait emerges — likely from defense sources — of an aggressive prosecution team working to keep key witnesses, targets, on edge.  The New York Times

  • Wait, there may actually be tapes after all?    Lawfare

  • And: What we know — and don’t know — about the state of special counsel Mueller’s investigation.    Politico

  • You’ve got mail. You would be surprised at how many of your fellow citizens try to ship illegal opioids through the mail each day. Most of the drugs come from China, where thousands of underground pharmacies produce counterfeits. Customs officials say they are getting better at identifying which packages merit closer attention and which do not.  USA Today

  • We don’t just lead the world in incarceration rates. We lead the world in the consumption of opioids, too. By a lot.  Vox

  • A rebuttal: Actually, Jeff Sessions is restoring the “rule of law” to the Justice Department after the excesses of the Obama administration.  National Review

  • Inching closer to a nationwide right to breastfeed behind bars. Reformers see progress at both the state and federal levels.    The Huffington Post

  • What Netflix’s “The Confession Tapes” teaches us about the fallibility of interrogations.  Scientific American

  • U.S. Initiates Criminal Probe Into Equifax:  Is its credit still good? Earlier this month, Equifax disclosed a massive hack that compromised 143 million Americans’ personal information — and now the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the breach. The credit-reporting agency could also face an insider trading probe: Three top executives sold $1.8 million in shares shortly before the hack was disclosed, but claimed they had no knowledge of the incident — though it was later revealed that a similar breach had occurred in March. Equifax shares have tumbled 35 percent since early September.  Bloomberg

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stuns central Mexico, killing over 100 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust.


Donald Trump vows to “totally destroy North Korea” if the U.S. must defend itself or its allies against the renegade nation’s nuclear weapons program.


This year’s U.N. gathering of world leaders put an immediate spotlight on deep differences on how to tackle crises from North Korea to global warming.


Hurricane Maria slammed into the Caribbean island of Dominica ripping the roof off even the prime minister’s residence and causing what he called “mind-boggling” devastation.


With a September 30 deadline, President Trump and Republican Senate leaders dove into a frantic hunt for votes in a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace “Obamacare.“


A 23-year-old Baton Rouge man is accused of killing two black men and firing on a black family.


Senator Richard Burr says Facebook should testify as part of its probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, and that the social media giant “seems to have been less than forthcoming” with Congress.


A rights group says Myanmar has virtually erased persecuted ethnic Rohingya Muslims from a huge swath of land they once called home.


Lawyers for former NFL players eligible for concussion settlement payments say they’ve found evidence third-party claims servicers are taking advantage of players with significant brain damage.


Kansas City’s Alex Gordon hit Major League Baseball’s 5,694th home run of 2017, breaking a season record set in 2000.

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

The public is invited to Mollohan’s Restaurant at Glenville State College on Thursday, September 21 from 4:30 until 7:15 p.m. for September’s Premium Night.

The dinner menu includes:

  • grilled marinated flank steak with au jus and horseradish sauce
  • rotisserie chicken quarters
  • radiatore pasta alfredo
  • roasted Yukon and red potatoes
  • rice pilaf
  • southern style green beans
  • assorted cheese platters
  • vegetable trays with dip
  • salad bar
  • seafood bisque soup
  • dinner rolls
  • cornbread

The dessert selections include:

  • fruit fondue with chocolate dipping sauce
  • an assortment of cakes and pies

Costs for the September Premium Night are $14.00 for guests, $13.00 for seniors, $13.06 for faculty and staff using Flex Dollars, $10.76 for students using Flex Dollars, and $8.00 for children under 12.

Call ahead for reservations, which may be left on the voice mail.

To make reservations or for more information, contact the GSC Dining Services Office at 304.462.6360.

The Free Press WV

Following Equipment for Equipment Disposal:

Harrison Lathe 3ph horizontal Lathe.

Good condition.

If interested send or drop off a sealed Bid to the

Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center
5260 Little Kanawha HWY Grantsville
Phone: 304.354.6151

C/O   Carl Collins

Please Mark Sealed Bid on the envelope

Final date for bids will be 09.22.17 at 3:30 pm

The Free Press WV

Students in Glenville State College’s Theatre program will be performing The Miracle Worker, their first full show of the fall 2017 semester. The performance will run for three evenings, Thursday, September 21 through Saturday, September 23, and begins at 7:00 p.m.

The Miracle Worker retells the story of two remarkable women who changed the world’s view of the boundaries of human nature.  Annie Sullivan is hired by the Keller family to care for and teach their daughter, Helen. Helen was blinded and deafened by a fever as a toddler who was just beginning to speak. Having no contact with any human communication, Helen grew to the age of eight with no more control or understanding than a toddler would have. She became a danger to herself and to others.

Annie quickly realizes that Helen’s upbringing without discipline is a huge part of the problem. She resolved to teach the girl, with or without her family’s cooperation.

The ensemble cast includes Chase Rakes as the doctor, Sam Edsall as Captain Keller, Samantha Wolford as Kate Keller, Victoria Guillory as Viney, John Chambers as Percy, Shiann Smith as Martha, Isabel Morris as Hellen Keller, Lois Miller as Aunt Ev, Joshua Smith as James Keller, Mitchell Blackburn as Anagnos, Catherine Chambers as Annie Sullivan, Isom Jacob Bailey as the workhouse supervisor/servant, Hannah Curfman as Alice, and Kelly Trippett as Sarah. Katie Miller is serving as the stage manager. Sara Smith and Katelyn Summerfield are providing other assistance backstage including lighting and sound.

The play will be presented in the Presidents Auditorium in the Heflin Administration Building. Admission is free for GSC students and $3.00 for general admission. The play is suitable for all audiences.

The Free Press WV

WVSSAC CLASS AAA Football Ranking

Rank School Rating Won Lost Scored Allowed Points Bonus
1 UNIVERSITY 13 4 0 154 81 48 4
2 MUSSELMAN 12.67 3 0 113 31 33 5
3 HUNTINGTON 12.25 4 0 129 72 45 4
4 MARTINSBURG 12 4 0 213 29 45 3
5 CAPITAL 10.25 3 1 159 115 36 5
6 HEDGESVILLE 9 3 1 148 66 36 0
7 HURRICANE 8.5 3 1 111 97 27 7
8 SPRING VALLEY 8.33 2 1 74 28 24 1
9 HAMPSHIRE 7.33 2 1 78 81 21 1
10 CABELL MIDLAND 6.75 2 2 180 142 24 3
10 RIVERSIDE 6.75 2 2 112 120 24 3
12 RIPLEY 6.5 2 2 125 89 24 2
12 SOUTH CHARLESTON 6.5 2 2 99 122 24 2
12 WHEELING PARK 6.5 2 2 121 97 24 2
15 MORGANTOWN 6.25 2 2 72 89 24 1
15 SPRING MILLS 6.25 2 2 76 134 24 1
17 ST. ALBANS 6 2 2 85 112 21 3
18 JOHN MARSHALL 5 2 2 106 104 18 2
19 PARKERSBURG 4.33 1 2 91 85 12 1
20 BUCKHANNON-UPSHUR 4 1 2 47 82 12 0
21 WOODROW WILSON 3.25 1 3 60 139 12 1
22 GREENBRIER EAST 3 1 3 71 130 12 0
22 PARKERSBURG SOUTH 3 1 3 69 115 12 0
24 PRESTON 2.75 1 3 76 114 9 2
25 GEORGE WASHINGTON 2.5 1 3 50 83 9 1
26 BROOKE 0 0 3 27 93 0 0
26 JEFFERSON 0 0 4 45 181 0 0
26 PRINCETON 0 0 3 26 105 0 0
26 WASHINGTON 0 0 4 65 172 0 0

WVSSAC CLASS AA Football Ranking

Rank School Rating Won Lost Scored Allowed Points Bonus
1 BLUEFIELD 12.25 4 0 178 34 45 4
2 FAIRMONT SENIOR 11 4 0 128 46 36 8
2 MINGO CENTRAL 11 4 0 217 99 36 8
4 LIBERTY (Harrison) 9.33 3 0 140 56 24 4
5 NICHOLAS COUNTY 9 4 0 146 36 33 3
6 OAK HILL 8.5 4 0 154 55 30 4
7 JAMES MONROE 8.25 3 1 116 68 30 3
8 BRIDGEPORT 8 3 1 114 48 30 2
8 NORTH MARION 8 3 1 135 96 30 2
8 WEIR 8 3 1 146 53 30 2
11 POINT PLEASANT 7.75 3 1 143 71 27 4
11 SISSONVILLE 7.75 3 1 107 113 27 4
13 KEYSER 7.33 2 1 70 77 18 4
14 GRAFTON 6.5 3 1 87 71 24 2
15 BRAXTON COUNTY 6.33 2 1 66 62 18 1
15 ELKINS 6.33 2 1 70 55 18 1
15 SCOTT 6.33 2 1 94 75 15 4
18 WESTSIDE 6.25 3 1 91 26 24 1
19 LINCOLN 6 2 2 117 128 21 3
19 WAYNE 6 2 1 104 77 15 3
21 CLAY COUNTY 5.25 3 1 107 60 21 0
21 WINFIELD 5.25 2 2 138 99 18 3
23 CHAPMANVILLE 5 2 2 94 105 18 2
23 ROBERT C. BYRD 5 2 2 117 93 18 2
23 SHADY SPRING 5 2 2 74 61 18 2
26 PHILIP BARBOUR 4.5 2 2 90 91 15 3
27 PETERSBURG 4.25 2 2 107 97 15 2
27 POCA 4.25 2 2 89 90 15 2
29 LINCOLN COUNTY 4 2 2 60 88 15 1
29 PIKEVIEW 4 2 2 67 40 15 1
31 OAK GLEN 3 1 2 56 136 9 0
32 WYOMING EAST 2.75 1 3 44 131 9 2
33 HERBERT HOOVER 2.5 1 3 54 133 9 1
33 INDEPENDENCE 2.5 1 3 24 71 9 1
33 NITRO 2.5 1 3 53 95 9 1
36 BERKELEY SPRINGS 2.25 1 3 69 143 9 0
36 LOGAN 2.25 1 3 80 131 9 0
38 FRANKFORT 1.5 1 3 95 106 6 0
39 EAST FAIRMONT 0 0 3 23 73 0 0
39 LIBERTY (Raleigh) 0 0 3 21 101 0 0
39 LEWIS COUNTY 0 0 4 30 122 0 0
39 MAN 0 0 3 38 85 0 0
39 RIVER VIEW 0 0 3 52 88 0 0
39 ROANE COUNTY 0 0 4 14 101 0 0

WVSSAC CLASS A Football Ranking

Rank School Rating Won Lost Scored Allowed Points Bonus
1 ST. MARYS 9.33 3 0 156 25 21 7
2 EAST HARDY 8 4 0 138 40 27 5
2 SOUTH HARRISON 8 3 0 116 26 18 6
4 WEBSTER COUNTY 7.33 3 0 94 61 18 4
5 FAYETTEVILLE 7.25 4 0 118 66 27 2
5 MIDLAND TRAIL 7.25 4 0 125 35 27 2
7 CAMERON 7 3 0 146 32 18 3
7 MADONNA 7 3 0 104 12 18 3
9 MOUNT VIEW 6.25 3 1 124 125 24 1
9 VAN 6.25 3 1 112 58 21 4
11 TUG VALLEY 6 3 1 98 43 18 6
12 POCAHONTAS COUNTY 5.25 3 1 115 75 18 3
13 MONTCALM 5 3 1 102 80 18 2
14 SHERMAN 4.5 3 1 120 24 18 0
14 WIRT COUNTY 4.5 3 1 128 79 18 0
16 CLAY-BATTELLE 4.33 2 1 115 49 12 1
16 RAVENSWOOD 4.33 2 1 60 58 12 1
18 VALLEY (Wetzel) 3.75 2 2 57 98 12 3
19 SUMMERS COUNTY 3.67 1 2 85 85 9 2
20 DODDRIDGE COUNTY 3.25 2 2 138 61 12 1
20 MAGNOLIA 3.25 2 2 127 79 12 1
20 TUCKER COUNTY 3.25 2 2 74 89 12 1
23 RITCHIE COUNTY 3 2 2 78 76 12 0
24 WHEELING CENTRAL 2.33 1 2 49 68 6 1
25 TYLER CONSOLIDATED 2 1 3 110 141 6 2
26 NOTRE DAME 1.75 1 3 109 184 6 1
26 PENDLETON COUNTY 1.75 1 3 139 157 6 1
26 TOLSIA 1.75 1 3 50 97 6 1
26 WILLIAMSTOWN 1.75 1 3 121 154 6 1
30 BUFFALO 1.5 1 3 34 107 6 0
30 HANNAN 1.5 1 3 47 94 6 0
30 RICHWOOD 1.5 1 3 123 107 6 0
30 TYGARTS VALLEY 1.5 1 3 64 127 6 0
34 CALHOUN COUNTY 0 0 4 6 178 0 0
34 GILMER COUNTY 0 0 4 40 172 0 0
34 GREENBRIER WEST 0 0 4 45 106 0 0
34 HUNDRED 0 0 4 30 202 0 0
34 MEADOW BRIDGE 0 0 4 12 142 0 0
34 MOOREFIELD 0 0 4 17 129 0 0
34 PADEN CITY 0 0 3 30 143 0 0
34 PARKERSBURG CATHOLIC 0 0 3 12 128 0 0
34 VALLEY (Fayette) 0 0 4 46 126 0 0
34 WAHAMA 0 0 4 53 123 0 0

Hackers breached Equifax not once but twice, with the firm learning about a major breach in March, before the second, massive hack which compromised customers’ financial details

Equifax never disclosed the first hack, and it isn’t clear whether any personal details were leaked.

Apple’s iOS 11 update for the iPhone and iPad is out

New features include a Files app, extra photo filters, and a customizable Control Center.

Anyone who downloaded CCleaner between mid-August and mid-September probably got an unexpected extra — malware

Hackers hijacked the popular PC cleanup tool to distribute a trojan, affecting almost 3 million users.

Facebook is reportedly ‘silencing’ persecuted Rohingya activists in Burma, removing posts which document the ethnic cleansing currently underway

They told the Daily Beast their accounts are often suspended or posts are taken down.

Uber is suing an ad agency for alleged click fraud

The firm has filed a lawsuit alleging that Fetch, owned by Japan’s Dentsu Aegis group, claimed credit for app downloads it had nothing to do with.

Chipmaker Intel said it’s been working with Google’s Waymo on self-driving cars since 2009

CEO Brian Krzanich revealed the firm supplied chips, field programmable gate arrays for machine vision, and gigabit ethernet for the autonomous vehicles.

Amazon’s algorithms reportedly suggest customers buy dangerous groupings of products which could create explosives

If you buy certain chemicals, Amazon’s suggested products algorithm encourages you to buy other products that would make a deadly combination.

Samsung is rolling out an update that will finally let owners of the latest Galaxy phones disable the dedicated button for Bixby, the Korean firm’s virtual assistant

People still won’t be able to map a new function to the button though.

Apple’s new A11 chip, which powers the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, is more powerful than 2017’s MacBook Pro models

The phones are all considerably faster than any competition out there at the moment.

Google is trying to avoid another massive EU fine, by offering to show rivals’ shopping sites via an auction in its search results

But EU regulators dismissed Google’s suggestions as inadequate, according to Reuters.

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Legislature: Future of construction managers on school building projects questioned

The role of state School Building Authority-hired construction managers on school construction projects continues to be an issue of controversy. It generated lengthy discussion Monday before the legislative interim committee looking at government waste.

Some architects and contractors are questioning the value of construction managers while those who perform the service say they’ve saved the state millions of dollars in construction costs.

Scott Raines, SBA director of School Planning and Construction, told the committee he’s asked contractors to give him specific complaints about construction managers but he hasn’t received any.

“If you don’t want to bid our work because of that CM (construction manager) what is the reason? I’ve not had that answered from any party,” Raines said. “Because I would claim the reason that they don’t is that they don’t want the accountability of someone looking over their shoulder.”

A committee of the SBA is reviewing the construction manager issue. At a meeting earlier this month a former construction manager told committee members he was shocked at how much money the SBA is currently paying for some of the services.

Raines defended the practice, telling lawmakers that just last week a construction manager made a suggestion at a bid opening on a Fayette County job that could eventually save the state a lot of money in site preparation costs. He also said construction managers do a good job reviewing change orders from contractors.

“When you’re in a non-bid environment contractors can put pretty much whatever markup or whatever cost they want to–to that change order,” Raines said. “So the CM (construction manager) says is the fee for this in the average range of what the market is showing today?”

Delegate Erikka Storch (R-Ohio), whose family company Ohio Valley Steel was involved in the construction of the new Cameron High School in Marshall County, said what was being said in favor of construction managers at Monday’s meeting was “dribble” and “bogus.”

“One of our largest problems we had with the construction manager on Cameron High School was their lack of coordination,” Storch said. “(It) created so many problems from the beginning of the building design through the construction phase, all the way to the end of the project where the project was completely screwed up.”

Storch said the construction manager would arbitrarily cut change orders.

“There was never any justification for why,” Storch said.

Raines agreed with some lawmakers who said it may be time to take construction managers off of less expensive school construction jobs. He floated a proposal about hiring agents who would work with the SBA and county school systems to rightly fit a construction manager, construction analyst or a clerk of the works with particular projects.

“It’s a least a place we could start and get things moving in the right direction,” Ranies said.

Monday’s discussion was before the Joint Committee on Government Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency.

►  Repealing personal property taxes for businesses may be next tax reform move

It would take the passage of a Constitutional amendment but supporters of a proposal to eliminate the personal property taxes businesses pay on machinery and equipment is well worth the look.

State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, state Development Office Director Kris Hopkins and others spoke in favor of the elimination during a meeting of lawmakers at monthly interims taking place Monday at the state capitol.

Thrasher said it’s time to go right at the “core issues” that make West Virginia non-competitive.

“Without question we are an outlier in this situation,” Hopkins said.

There’s no personal property tax on machinery and equipment in Pennsylvania or Ohio and Virginia’s rate is low with an exemption on machinery and equipment, Hopkins told the committee.

“This really does move the needle when we’re in a regional competition (for jobs),” Hopkins said. “I think we’re losing out to projects on this issue.”

One of those areas is natural gas-fired power plants, Hopkins said.”In Ohio, they’re developing 18 natural gas-fired power plants right now. In Pennsylvania, 25. How many in West Virginia do we have? Zero,” Hopkins told lawmakers.

Here’s the problem, personal property taxes brought in $589 million in 2016 with about 27 percent of that total going to counties with county school boards picking up the majority of that percentage.

West Virginia Association of Counties Executive Director Jonathan Adler said the counties understand how important business recruitment is but they can’t afford to lose any more revenue.

“I think everybody recognizes that hurt to the counties and I think everybody wants to make sure that’s not done,” Adler said. “Listening to Secretary Thrasher (Monday), they want to help us find a way to fill that hole, that loss, and I think we can do that.”

Thrasher said the county hurdle isn’t a reason not to consider the repeal.

“We obviously can’t cut the counties and cut education–that’s important to maintain those, no question about it,” Thrasher said. “But I am going to suggest to you that if your response is that we’re not going to do that because of that then you’re not addressing the core problem.”

One of the options could be increasing the rate on property taxes. Hopkins told lawmakers property isn’t mobile like machinery. He said companies can move their machinery and products to other states to avoid the personal property tax and the inventory tax.

The state does have a pilot program that it can it use with businesses to reduce taxes called ‘payment in lieu of taxes’ but Hopkins said eyes “glaze over” when he explains it to business owners in recruitment discussions. Thrasher said that’s why it’s important to address the core issues rather than trying to invent ways around them.

“Without question if we make fundamental changes on how we go about doing business you will see an uplift in this economy, maybe way more than you ever expected,” Thrasher said.

Interim Committee Chair Charles Trump (R-Morgan) indicated Monday the discussion would be on the fast track, hoping to get a lot of work done on the issue before next year’s regular session. Thrasher agreed.

“We very much share that same perspective. These are complicated issues and when you are in the heat of the session it’s not the time to have an in-depth analysis and decide which direction you want to go,” Thrasher said.

The state Senate considered Senate Joint Resolution 8, which focused on similar issues, during the regular session earlier this year. It stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

►  “Significant delays” projected as DEP takes steps toward additional review of pipeline project

The developers of the proposed 303-mile long Mountain Valley Pipeline still cite late 2018 as the target in-service date for the natural gas pipeline despite planned additional review from West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

“The MVP project team shares the West Virginia DEP’s interest in protecting the environment along this important project’s proposed route,” a statement read.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Department and other stakeholders to ensure the state’s Section 401 Water Quality Certification complies with federal requirements.”

Last week, the DEP formally filed a motion in federal court to invalidate its earlier approval on the water quality component of the large project that, as proposed, would cross 631 streams total.

It was not immediately clear when there would be a ruling on that motion.

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, predicted any additional DEP review would take several months causing “significant delays” in planned construction which hinges on state certifications that the interstate gas pipeline will not have significant effects on water quality.

The target date for the start of construction had been before the close of 2017.

“They’re going to have to look really closely at these streams affected and be able to have the information available and the assurances that, in fact, water quality will not be impacted,” Rosser said.

“I think it will be very interesting to see what they find.”

Several environmental groups, including Rosser’s, challenged the 401 certification in court.

“The main concern is around erosion and sedimentation, that there aren’t the controls in place to keep runoff from polluting the stream and that can have pretty dramatic effects, negative effects on the water quality and also the aquatic life within these streams,” she said.

“It’s going to take awhile,” Rosser said of the additional DEP review. “We’ll be watching the process and be very interested in what they have to come back with.”

The 401 certification covers activities that may discharge fill into waters. Developers are proposing mitigation for the streams and wetlands in the pipeline’s path.

In June, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, called FERC, gave environmental approval, but not overall final approval to the $3.5 billion MVP project following three years of project planning and development.

FERC’s regulators determined the developers were taking appropriate precautions to control erosion and sediment.

As proposed, the pipeline would span more than 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia with about 195 of those miles of pipeline along with compressor stations, meter stations and access roads in 11 West Virginia counties.

Those counties are Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers and Monroe. Compressor stations are identified for Wetzel, Braxton and Fayette.

The companies involved in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of several currently under DEP review, include EQT Midstream Partners, NextEra US Gas Assets, Con Edison Transmission, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream.

Other proposed pipeline projects to move natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales include Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, running from central West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina along with TransCanada’s Mountaineer XPress Pipeline from Marshall County to Wayne County.

“These are several hundred mile long pipelines and very big — 42 in. — something that we’ve never seen constructed in some of our mountainous terrain before,” Rosser told MetroNews.

“The steep slopes that they’re dealing with and the number of streams being impacted, this is just something unprecedented that the state has never had to deal with before.”

►  WVU professor to use grant to encourage healthy lifestyles

A West Virginia University researcher will lead a project to further develop the tools to address the causes of West Virginia’s obesity problem following a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Melissa Olfert, an associate professor at WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, will use the $650,000 grant for HomeStyles, a program focused on helping parents create practices for establishing healthy lifestyle trends with their children, including positive diets and physical activity.

The program is in conjunction with WVU, Rutgers University and the University of Florida. The institutions will also use the grant to expand HomeStyles’ scope.

The five-year grant, from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, was awarded after a new study reported West Virginia had the highest adult obesity rate in the United States at 37.7 percent. The project, “The State of Obesity,” also found high rates of obesity among children, including 18.5 percent in children from 10 to 17 years old.

The study was a joint effort between the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Olfert, a guest on MetroNews “Talkline” last week, said West Virginians have multiple obstacles in creating healthy lifestyles.

“Grocery stores, in general, we are kind of an isolated area, and we qualify as a food desert region,” she said. “We also have an environment that isn’t necessarily easy to get out and be physically active with sidewalks and where you can create an environment where you can be more mobile and have a great deal of family interaction and physical activity.”

Olfert added families are rushed in their daily activities, thus having less time to prepare healthy foods and adjust their lifestyles.

“Culinary skills are missing. Understanding how to navigate through the grocery store is missing. Understanding how to plan ahead and even food safety,” she said. “What keeps in a care and how can you have this bite-sized and appropriately portion-sized for your children.”

HomeStyles is aimed at initially educating the parents of preschool children about healthy lifestyles through instructional guides and other forms of support. Participants will be asked to select topics to help children make better decisions

“We know parents are the busiest people out there and if you’re a parent, you’re trying to juggle everything,” she said. “HomeStyles was really created to enable parents and to help motivate parents as well.”

Olfert said while the obesity rate is high, it does not have to continue to rise.

“I really feel that we can empower those who are paying attention and want to make positive changes,” she noted. “They just need the tools to do it.”

According to the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, topics of the program include rethinking beverage choice, the impacts of technology on diet and encouraging breakfast.

►  High levels of mold and carbon dioxide close high school

A West Virginia high school will close for the rest of the week after high levels of mold and carbon dioxide were found inside nearly a third of its buildings.

News outlets report Capital High School in Charleston announced Monday that what caused the elevated levels is unknown, but that they could have stemmed from problems in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. School officials say the hope is to clean, retest and open classrooms by next Monday.

Kanawha County public schools Communications Director Briana Warner says classes were dismissed at the regular time Monday and there has not been an influx of students reporting issues.

Capital was one of 14 Kanawha schools that underwent HVAC system maintenance during the summer before school started this year.

►  Jefferson County Teacher Named 2018 West Virginia Teacher of the Year

The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) announced Katlin Thorsell, an Agriculture Education teacher at Washington High School in Jefferson County, as the 2018 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine, announced Thorsell as the state’s representative at a ceremony Monday night that recognized the Teacher of the Year nominees from 53 counties.

“I am very proud to have Katlin serve as West Virginia’s representative as teacher of the year,” Paine said. “She is passionate about helping each of her students reach their full potential and continually looks for innovative ways to keep students engaged through hands-on learning.”

Thorsell makes sure her students understand the importance of community involvement. As an Agriculture Education teacher and FFA advisor, Thorsell ensures that her agriculture students have the ability to complete Supervised Agriculture Experiences (SAE) allowing real-world training in a supervised environment. A volunteer firefighter and EMT, Thorsell also allows graduating seniors to receive hands-on CPR and First Aid training.

Thorsell was selected by a committee of educators and WVDE staff that evaluated six finalists from the 53 county Teacher of the Year representatives. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Teacher of the Year program is the longest running awards program honoring classroom teachers in the country. The first national awards were granted in 1952; West Virginia has participated in the program since 1964.

Other finalists for the 2018 Teacher of the Year include: Teresa Thorne, Slanesville Elementary School, Hampshire County; Tammy Ann Spangler, Ripley Middle School, Jackson County; Tammy J. Bittorf, Berkeley Springs High School, Morgan County; Adriane L. Manning, Wheeling Middle School, Ohio County and Leslie Lively, Short Line School, Wetzel County.

The West Virginia Teacher of the Year program identifies, recognizes and promotes representatives of excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. As the 2018 winner, Thorsell will receive a car for use for Teacher of the Year engagements throughout the year from Toyota, a classroom technology package from SMART Technologies and $5,000 from both Highmark West Virginia and The Horace Mann Companies. The Horace Mann Companies also provide $300 to each of the five other state finalists. This year, the West Virginia Lottery is also providing a $300 grant to each of the county Teacher of the Year winners to use in their classrooms.

Thorsell will go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year Award. The national winner will be announced in April.

Jeanette Riffle: Learning To Parallel Park

The Free Press WV

I was on the phone with our granddaughter, Shelby Riffle, of Taylor, Michigan, recently and she was telling me she has to practice parallel parking more before she takes her driver’s test. My mind went back to when I went through that. It is one of the hardest things to learn for most teens. My boyfriend, who is now my husband, taught me how to drive. I did fine with everything until I got to the parallel parking test. I didn’t get in close enough to the curb. This was held down at Grantsville, WV and a State Trooper did the test. Nowadays, it is given at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Anyway, Duane was standing behind the car where I could see him in the side view mirror and he was motioning with his hand which way for me to turn the steering wheel to get in closer and I passed that test. We had Dad’s Chevy.  I think it was his third car. Before that he had Studebakers. I learned on those old manual shift cars. Nothing was automatic. The first car he brought home was a grey 1950 Studebaker that looked like an airplane. Mom didn’t like it but like she said, it got us where we needed to go. A few years later, he traded that one in on a black 1954 Studebaker. We liked it better. It was shaped more like a car.

When I was a small child, not very many people had vehicles. They got around on horses. This week, we went to see my youngest brother, Brent Stewart, and wife, Debbie Hale Stewart, that live down at Newark, and we were reminiscing about old times and our relatives. I am nine years older than him and I was telling him about men going by our house on horses to a country store.  You couldn’t go very far. It took too long to get there and back.  Our great grandfather, Ben Stewart, and wife, Rebecca Ross Stewart, came all the way from Doddridge County to the Middle Run, up a hollow from Lockney. She had Ross relatives already there and they wanted to go live near them. They probably came with a wagon load of belongings and team of horses. How many days would that take? And, I wondered if it rained on them. Surely they came in good weather. I don’t remember asking Dad about that when I would hear him talking. Ben Stewart was the only son of an only son and his father was sheriff of Doddridge County.  Ben and Rebecca raised a big family on the Middle Run.

Our new puppy is growing so fast and he just acts like he can’t get enough to eat. We feed him his Puppy Chow twice a day and we have to separate dogs at feeding time. The big dog eats his food in the garage and we have to bring little Rascal inside with us. Otherwise, he dives headfirst right into the big dog’s pan and tries to eat those big pieces of dog food. Buddy is tolerant to a certain extent, though. They are getting along pretty good, now.  We are enjoying these cooler fall mornings and evenings.

Colors should peak here by the middle of October. I was reading that they are farther along in the Blackwater Falls area and are expected to peak in about two weeks. Until next time, just enjoy the fall weather and colors changing, and take care. God bless!

Beware Back-to-School Stories Celebrating Online Education

The Free Press WV

This year, there’s a certain type of “back-to-school” news story you’re bound to see in local newspapers.

The stories typically start with: “[Student A] goes to school in her pajamas, and [student B] often does her lessons with a pet dog or cat on her lap.” Instead of attending “typical schools,” these students get their education via a computer connected to the internet.

The internet-based schools have different names – cyber, virtual, online – but the gist of these stories is that “thousands of students head back to class without leaving their homes,” and it’s all good.

“It’s the first day of school for Sophia Riella, but the 8-year-old never had to change out of her pajamas. All she had to do was log on to her computer at her Northwest Reno home,” a Nevada news outlet gushes. The instruction, via computer, is really much more “personalized” than being in a classroom with a live teacher and other students, Sophia’s mom enthuses, and the curriculum is more “customized,” (despite the fact it’s created by a multinational education conglomerate headquartered in the United Kingdom).

These stories often spotlight the benefits to individual students, like an Arizona student whose flexible online school schedule allowed him to pursue a career as a professional dancer, or a California online school student operating a cooking blog and perfecting her yoga, or a Oklahoma student becoming the youngest member of the U.S. competitive kayaking team while attending an online school.

These stories rarely consider how well these online schools serve the needs of most students and families, however, especially whether they are the best use of precious tax dollars devoted to education.

In situations like the stories cited above, for example, parents must have time, flexibility, and resources to provide the guidance and support their children would normally receive at a traditional public school.

And startlingly absent is any objective evidence of the academic performance of these online schools. A 2012 study of the nation’s largest online school operation, K12 Inc., found its students “lag behind their counterparts on federal and state measures of math and reading proficiency.”

And rarely do reporters seem to even bother looking for “another side” to online schools’ “success” stories. If they did, the would be richly rewarded with reams of negative press.

An eight-month investigation by Education Week found, a Colorado cyber charter school with a 19 percent graduation rate; an Ohio cyber that inflated student attendance by nearly 500 percent; a Pennsylvania cyber founder who siphoned $8 million in public money (including $300,000 to buy himself an airplane); and a Hawaii cyber founder who hired her nephew as the athletic director—for a school with no sports teams.

There are exceptions to the one-sided reporting. A Pennsylvania reporter interviewed an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Alabama who explained that, “every time they do a study that looks purely at academics, the cyber charter schools underperform compared to the traditional public schools.” The reporter also cited a well-known national study from Stanford that found, “compared to similar students at traditional schools, cyber students were 72 days behind in reading, on average. They fell 180 days, or a full school year, behind in math. In Pennsylvania, cyber charters consistently perform worse than brick-and-mortar schools on state accountability measures.”

An Ohio journalist revealed that nine online schools in the state have been “ordered to refund money to the Ohio Department of Education for overstating their enrollment.” One virtual school isn’t opening this school year, “after being ordered to repay $4.2 million for students who weren’t logging on.” Another, the state’s largest online charter school, “is on the hook for $60 million, and has laid off hundreds of staff members.”

But these caution signs are invariably buried at the bottom of these articles, under all the hype about “innovation” and “customization.”

A likely source for the rash of online school puff pieces is the online education industry itself, which uses well-oiled public relations machinery to bombard time-strapped, under-resourced local reporters with glowing publicity. There are numerous examples of this PR at work in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, and Minnesota.

Cherry picking feel-good stories about individual students who have benefited from a particular circumstance is part of a reporter’s job. It’s all well and good that an online school can be a good fit for a student here and there. But to bury evidence that, on balance, these schools are not for the vast majority of families, and often provide loopholes for bad actors to make a buck off the public taxpayer, is a disservice to local communities.

~~  Jeff Bryant ~~

National News

The Free Press WV

►  Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy, but keeps stores open

Toys ‘R’ Us, the toy retailer struggling with $5 billion in debt and intense online competition, has filed for bankruptcy protection ahead of the key holiday shopping season — and says its stores will remain open for business as usual.

The company said the proceedings are a way for Toys ‘R’ Us to work with its creditors on restructuring the debt beleaguering it. And it emphasized that its stores worldwide will serve customers while it works with suppliers and sells merchandise.

Filing for bankruptcy protection “will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business ... and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide,” Chairman and CEO Dave Brandon said.

The move comes as retailers head into the busiest shopping time of year. The company said it was “well-stocked as we prepare for the holiday season and are excited about all of our upcoming in-store events.”

Retailers of all kinds are struggling. The Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy filing joins a list of at least 18 others since the beginning of the year — including shoe chain Payless Shoe Source, children’s clothing chain Gymboree Corp. and the True Religion jean brand — as people shop less in stores and more online.

“Toys ‘R’ Us had little choice but to restructure and try to put itself on a firmer footing, said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. However, he added, “even if the debt issues are solved, Toys ‘R’ Us still faces massive structural challenges against which it must battle.”

Toys ‘R’ Us, a major force in toy retailing in the 1980s and early 1990s, started losing shoppers to discounters like Walmart and Target and then to Amazon. GlobalData Retail estimates that in 2016 about 13.7 percent of toy sales were made online, up from 6.5 percent five years ago.

And children are increasingly moving more toward mobile devices as playthings. “For many children, electronics have become a replacement or a substitute for traditional toys,” Saunders said.

Toys ‘R’ Us has struggled with debt since private-equity firms Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust took it private in a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005. The plan had been to take the company public, but that never happened because of its weak financial performance.

With such debt levels, Toys ‘R’ Us has not had the financial flexibility to invest in its business. Marc Rosenberg, a toy marketing executive, said Toys ‘R’ Us hasn’t been aggressive about building its online business, and let those sales migrate to rivals. And he says the company should have also thought of new ways to attract more customers in its stores, such as hosting birthday parties.

“Everyone is shopping online and using the store as a showcase,” he said.

Randy Watson of Fort Worth, Texas, used to pick up items at Toys ‘R’ Us for his kids. But now with his grandchildren, he uses the store to see what’s available and then shops elsewhere to get lower prices.

“We will go to Toys ‘R’ Us to check out the current toys, and while we are at the store, we will be looking up prices on the phone on and Amazon,” he said.

What he finds on the shelves might be a question. Jeffries analyst Stephanie Wissink said she expects that Toys ‘R’ Us suppliers, who were already shifting some of their orders to other stores amid talk there’d be a bankruptcy filing, will keep doing so. For most multinational toy suppliers, the Toys ‘R’ Us business roughly accounted for 10 percent of total sales, she said.

While toy sales overall have held up fairly well, they are shifting toward discounters and online companies. U.S. toy sales rose 6 percent last year on top of a 7 percent increase in the prior year, says NPD Group Inc., a market research firm. That was the biggest increase since 1999 and was fueled by several blockbuster movies.

But for the first half of 2017, sales rose 3 percent. That puts more pressure on the later part of the year, when most toy sales occur, for the industry to meet NPD’s estimate for a 4.5 percent annual increase. Lego is laying off 1,400 workers after saying profits and sales dropped in the first half. And the nation’s two largest toy makers, Mattel and Hasbro, reported disappointing second-quarter results.

Toys ‘R’ Us, based in Wayne, New Jersey, announced the filing late Monday. It said it was voluntarily seeking relief through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, and that its Canadian subsidiary would be seeking similar protection through a Canadian court in Ontario as it seeks to reorganize.

The company said separate operations outside the U.S. and Canada are not part of the filings and its online sales sites worldwide remain open for business during the court-supervised process.

“The company’s approximately 1,600 Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us stores around the world — the vast majority of which are profitable — are continuing to operate as usual,” the company statement said. “Customers can also continue to shop for the toy and baby products they are looking for online.”

Toys ‘R’ Us said it expects to continue honoring return policies, warranties and gift cards, and customer loyalty programs should stay the same.

The company has nearly 65,000 employees worldwide.

►  Thousands of Haitians find ‘Mexican dream’ near US border

Jose Luis Millan found a new crop of star employees at an upscale Tijuana car wash where customers cross the border from the U.S. to pay up to $950 to have their prized possessions steamed and scrubbed for hours. They’re never late, always hustle and come in on days off to learn new skills, traits that he says make them a model for their Mexican counterparts.

They are among several thousand Haitians who came to Mexico’s northwest corner hoping to cross the border before the U.S. abruptly closed its doors last year. The Mexican government has welcomed them, with a visa program that helps them fill the need for labor in Tijuana’s growing economy.

In a country whose population is 1 percent black, Tijuana’s Haitians stand out. They share tight living quarters, sending much of their meager wages to support family in Haiti. Haitians earn far less than they would in the United States but enough to forsake the risk of getting deported by heading north.

Two new Haitian restaurants downtown serve dishes with mangoes and mashed plantains. Dozens of Haitian children attend public schools. Factories that export to the U.S. recruit Haitians, who can also be found waiting tables and worshipping at congregations that added services in Creole.

“It’s the Mexican dream for many of them, a sense that they belong,” Millan said. “Mexico has given them opportunity. Mexico has opened up and let them achieve their dreams.”

Millan, who lived in the Los Angeles area for two decades until he was forced to leave last year for employing dozens of people illegally at his party planning company, sees parallels to Mexicans in the U.S. Their teamwork sets an example. Some customers ask for them.

Haitians, he says, “fight hard, fight strong, and they don’t stop.”

The Haitians took an accidental route from their impoverished Caribbean homeland to Tijuana, a city of about 2 million that borders San Diego and also has large pockets of Chinese and Korean immigrants.

Brazil and its neighbors took in the Haitians after that country’s 2010 earthquake. As construction jobs for the 2016 Summer Olympics ended and Brazil descended into political turmoil, they crossed 10 countries by plane, boat, bus and on foot to San Diego, where U.S. authorities let them in on humanitarian grounds.

Then President Barack Obama shifted course in September and started deporting Haitian arrivals. Many decided to call Mexico home.

After struggling as a schoolteacher in Haiti, Abelson Etienne moved to Brazil in 2014 to work at a factory that made cable for lighting products. He arrived in Tijuana in December after a harrowing journey with his wife who, despite the U.S. policy shift, was allowed in on humanitarian grounds, presumably because she was seven months’ pregnant.

Etienne, a 27-year-old who studied chemistry in college in Haiti, settled into a routine of six-day weeks and three double shifts, earning him 1,900 pesos (a little over $100), mostly for his wife in New York City and the infant son he hasn’t seen. On Sundays, he sleeps until the afternoon and goes to church.

“There’s so much work in Tijuana,” he said while a pot of fish stew with mangoes and tomatoes simmered on an electric burner in the two-room apartment that he rents with three other Haitians. “I’ve been treated very well in Mexico.”

The Mexican government is giving Haitians one-year, renewable visas that allow them to work but not bring family. Rodulfo Figueroa, the region’s top immigration official, says Mexico is practicing what it asks of the U.S. and other countries.

“We believe that there’s a humanitarian case to be made for these people to find better lives in Mexico,” said Figueroa, the National Migration Institute’s delegate in Baja California state, which includes Tijuana. “Our policy is to have the Haitian population do what they need to do to have status in Mexico.”

The new arrivals, currently numbering around 3,000, are manageable in a country of 122 million. Central Americans, who come illegally in much larger numbers, are typically deported, although Mexico is granting asylum more often.

Rodin St. Surin, 36, is among hundreds of Haitians who found work at Tijuana’s export-oriented factories. CCL Industries Inc., a Toronto-based company that makes Avery office products for retailers including Staples, Wal-Mart, Target and others, needed help after moving manufacturing from Meridian, Mississippi, last year.

The plant hired St. Surin and 15 other Haitians in May for its workforce of 1,700 during peak back-to-school season. They inspected and packaged binders at the back of a giant, spotless floor where machines also churn out labels, folders and markers around-the-clock.

“I’m very comfortable with these people,” said Mario Aguirre, the plant’s operations director and a 43-year industry veteran. “They have given us very good results. They don’t miss work, they always arrive on time. We’d like to see the same attitude in everyone.”

The factory offered 1,500 pesos (about $85) for a six-day week, with health coverage, paid vacation and a free shuttle to work. St. Surin, who left Brazil with hopes of joining a cousin in Miami, sends earnings to a caretaker for his three children in Haiti, whom he hopes to bring to Tijuana.

“Mexico could become my home,” he said outside a crowded, graffiti-covered building where a nun allows about 50 Haitians to live rent-free on a street shared by cars and stray dogs. They tap a neighbor’s hose for water to bathe, and cook meals on a campfire under a large canopy.

The Ambassadors of Jesus Church, which sits on a rugged dirt road lined by agave and used tires, housed up to 500 Haitians last year on floors strewn with mattresses, making it perhaps the largest religious or civic aid group. Its pastor, Jeccene Thimote, wants to build a “Little Haiti” of 100 houses nearby at the bottom of a canyon where the sound of peacocks and roosters and smell of pigs permeate the air. He built three houses before the city halted construction for lack of flood controls.

Thimote, 32, survives on two hours’ sleep, rising to pray at 5 a.m., serving as foreman for a crew of 10 Haitians building a house in one of Tijuana’s wealthiest neighborhoods, and working the night shift at RSI Home Products Inc., a California-based company that makes cabinetry for The Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Thimote, who was among 160 Haitians still living rent-free at the church this summer, sends his earnings to Haiti to settle family debts and support a 3-year-old daughter. He hoped to join a cousin in New York when he left Ecuador last year, but considers Mexico better than Haiti, saying, “There’s more poverty there than here.”

The church has adapted. Every Wednesday night, Haitians gather for a rousing sermon in Creole. Mexicans attend a Sunday service in Spanish. A Haitian and Mexican recently announced plans to marry at the church.

►  CIA acknowledges legendary spy who saved Hamid Karzai’s life – and honors him by name

Up until Monday, the CIA had never publicly released the full name of its legendary spy. Even former director George Tenet couldn’t completely identify him for his 2007 bestselling memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,“ which reveals only his first name and last initial: Greg V.

Within the halls of Langley and in the pages of prominent newspapers, Greg V. enjoyed his fair share of lore. When the U.S. military accidentally bombed the location of Hamid Karzai in December 2001, it was Greg V. who reportedly dove on top of the future Afghanistan president, saving his life.

But on Monday, on the 70th anniversary of the agency’s founding, the CIA let the world know that Greg V. is officially Greg Vogle, in a ceremony honoring him as the 83rd recipient of its Trailblazer award. Journalists, national security professionals, and foreign governments had long known Vogle’s name. The New York Times, in fact, was the first news organization to publicly reveal it in 2015, over the CIA’s objections, in a story about the agency’s personnel who oversee drone strikes. (Ironically, Vogle’s first appearance in the mainstream press was botched: The Times misspelled his last name as “Vogel.“)

Vogle, who lives in the Washington region and retired in 2016 as the head of the agency’s covert operations branch, follows a long history of CIA officers - some unsung, some senior managers - who have won the Trailblazer, the agency’s equivalent of a Hall of Fame award. The medal honors officers and teams of officers who “by their actions, example, innovation, or initiative have taken the CIA in important new directions and helped shape the agency’s history,“ according to the agency’s announcement.

Launched in 1997, the award has been given to current, former and deceased operatives. Recently, the agency’s museum unveiled a small exhibit that provides a history of the Trailblazer award. Some of the previous winners include some of the CIA’s most admired directors:

- General Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, who in the 1950s instituted Langley’s directorate system, dividing the work between analysts and operatives.

- Allen W. Dulles, director from 1953 to 1961, who spearheaded the building of the CIA’s sprawling headquarters in Northern Virginia, and established the standards for clandestine tradecraft and handling human asset handling.

- Richard Helms, the first career intelligence professional to become director, who recruited and supervised some of the CIA’s most important spies during the Cold War. Helms might be the only Trailblazer to have been convicted of a federal crime: In 1977, he pleaded no contest for failing to testify fully before Congress about the agency’s role to push out Chile’s leftist regime. But the plea was viewed like a badge of honor among CIA veterans who believe agency personnel shouldn’t be spilling agency secrets to anyone, including Congress. Happily, a group of CIA retirees paid his paid Helms’ $2,000 fine.

Other Trailblazers never became director, but achieved their own renown, such as: Tony Mendez, an expert forger and disguiser, who concocted a fake movie to help spirit six U.S. diplomats out of Iran in 1980 - a ruse dramatized in the 2012 Ben Affleck film, “Argo.“ Or, Robert Ames, a leading Arabist who cultivated as a source a top Palestinian intelligence officer. In 1983, Ames was killed in a truck bombing in Beirut, and was given the agency’s ultimate honor: a star on the agency’s white marble Memorial Wall.

But there are other, less well-known recipients who made their mark in equally important ways:

- Omego J.C. Ware, Jr., an African-American officer who grew up in Washington, and was picked in the 1970s to become the first director of the agency’s office of equal employment opportunity. Known as the “Jackie Robinson of Intelligence,“ Ware pushed the mostly-white CIA at the time to increase the hiring of minorities and women.

- Elizabeth Sudmeier, who joined the agency at its 1947 founding, and four years later, entered the clandestine service as one of the branch’s few women members. She specialized in the Middle East, and even recruited an agent with knowledge about Soviet fighter aircraft and other hardware. Sudmeier always planned to rendezvous at local coffeehouses, where the agency would supply her with volumes of technical equipment that she would get copied and return. In the 1960s, she was given an Intelligence Medal of Merit, but only after her colleagues protested over “whether it was appropriate for a female who was not listed as an operations officer” to win the award, according to the CIA. After she retired, she remained loyal to the CIA, frequently cancelling her subscription to the Washington Post whenever her former employer came under scrutiny she deemed unfair.

- Eloise R. Page, a Richmond, Virginia native, who began as a secretary to the OSS, the CIA’s precursor, and later transferred to the CIA, eventually becoming the agency’s first female station chief in 1978, assigned in Athens. She also became the third-highest ranking officer in the vaunted directorate of operations.

Vogle’s contributions have been written about extensively in CIA memoirs. In Tenet’s book, “Greg V.“ was the CIA contact in late 2001 for Hamid Karzai, then a tribal leader opposing the Taliban. On November 3, 2001 as Karzai’s tribe came under increasing attack, he called Vogle, asking for a helicopter extraction.

“Greg quickly contacted CIA headquarters and made the case that Karzai represented the only credible opposition leader identified in the south. His survival, Greg said, was critical to maintaining the momentum for the southern uprising,“ Tenet recalled.

Soon, Tenet said, the airlift got the greenlight.

Two weeks later, with Karzai in a new location, the Taliban found him again. This time, Karzai’s forces got skittish and ran away.

“Greg V. took command of the situation, sprinting from one defensive position to another, telling the Afghans that this was their chance to prove their worth and make history,“ Tenet wrote. “‘If necessary, die like men!‘ he shouted. Backbones stiffened; Karzai’s forces repulsed the Taliban attack.“

On December 5, Vogle, a former Marine, may have saved Karzai’s life. The Afghan leader was commanding his troops into Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold. As U.S. military air strikes were being ordered, one soldier apparently swapped out the batteries for his GPS device, forgetting that his machine would reset itself at its own location. It was a disastrous move: A circling B-52 dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on the soldier’s own position, killing three Americans and five Afghans.

“Karzai might have [died], too, if Greg V. hadn’t thrown himself on him, knocking him to the ground just as the bombs struck,“ Tenet wrote. “It turned out to be an eventful Wednesday. That same day, he was selected to be the interim prime minister of Afghanistan.“

But the story might have been inflated. Gary Schroen, a CIA officer sent into Afghanistan shortly after the September 11 attacks to pursue al-Qaida, wrote in his own 2005 memoir, “First In” that “Craig” was actually launched into Karzai from the bomb’s blast. The men were in a meeting, surrounded by a map and teacups, when “a tremendous wall of air and heat traveling at incredible speed smashed into and through the building, crumbling the walls and slamming [Vogle] into Karzai, tumbling the two like rag dolls across the room,“ Schroen wrote.

After it was over, Vogle, a career paramilitary officer, crawled to Karzai, lying twisted on the floor, and pulled him onto his back. He felt for Karzai’s body for any major wounds or broken bones, but only found small cuts and quickly forming bruises. Schroen wrote that Vogle “felt as though he had been hit by a truck; his entire body ached and tingled. . . .He did not know what happened except that something big had exploded close by.“

Vogle continued playing a major role as an envoy between Karzai and the American government, all under the cloak of anonymity. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal profiled Vogle, without using his name, calling him a “pivotal behind-the-scenes power broker in Kabul.“ Recently, the agency rolled back his cover, freeing itself to name Vogle. Now, the former undercover operative has his own bio on the web site of The Third Option Foundation, a non-profit that provides financial assistance to the families of fallen agency special operations officers.

In its announcement Monday of Vogle’s Trailblazer award, the CIA was deliberately vague and understated about the man’s accomplishments. It listed his numerous agency awards and included a statement from CIA Director Mike Pompeo calling him a “true agency hero.“ But there was no photograph released and no mention, for instance, of his attempt to save the life of Karzai. Or other acts of derring-do the former spy might have pulled off.

“Details of his many accomplishments,“ the press release said, “remain classified.“

►  Environmental, outdoor groups vow to fight national monument reductions

Environmental and outdoor recreation groups threatened Monday to sue if Donald Trump adopts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s leaked proposal to alter nearly a dozen national monuments, while grazing, fishing and other groups welcomed the recommendations.

Zinke’s plan to reduce the size of at least four federally protected areas in the West, while altering management practices at another half-dozen, was obtained and published by The Washington Post on Sunday night. The White House is still reviewing the memorandum, which Zinke submitted in late August after conducting a four-month review of how presidents of both parties have applied the 1906 Antiquities Act since 1996.

The secretary urged Trump to shrink four large monuments on federal land – Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou – as well as possibly two Pacific Ocean marine monuments, the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll. He proposed amending the proclamations for 10 monuments, largely to allow for commercial activities restricted in these areas, such as logging, grazing and mining.

Zinke endorsed allowing commercial fishing operators in three marine monuments – the two in the central Pacific Ocean, and one, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument, in the Atlantic.

Eric Reid, general manager of Seafreeze Shoreside in Narragansett, Rhode Island, said in a statement that the recommendations “make us hopeful that we can recover the areas we have fished sustainably for decades. We are grateful that the voices of fishermen and shore side businesses have finally been heard.“

But Mystic Aquarium senior research scientist Peter Auster, whose institution pushed for heightened protections for an area 130 miles off the southeast coast of Cape Cod, noted that federal catch data shows that landings of mackerel and butterfish – two of the main species targeted by local fisherman near the monument – have risen this year compared with 2016, when the monument was established.

Auster said that to allow trawlers, pots and pot gear in the monument, which spans 4,913 square miles, “will have significant effects on conservation of marine wildlife in the monument.“

Former Interior secretary Sally Jewell, who oversaw several of the monument designations Zinke is proposing to alter, said in an interview Monday that, “the protections that are written into the proclamations are in many cases what he’s tryingto undo, in his recommendations to Trump.

“It’s a monument in name only if all the activities that are identified by Secretary Zinke are allowed to occur,“ she added.

Grazing advocates also welcomed the idea of providing ranchers with more access on five different monuments, including not only Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Gold Butte but also the New Mexico monuments Rio Grande Del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

Ethan Lane, who directs the Public Lands Council at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in an email that, “It sounds like the voices of western communities are finally being heard and the promise to preserve grazing inside monuments might finally be kept by the federal government. This action would be a win for any western community that depends on ranching to stay afloat.“

Utah politicians, who have lobbied Trump since he was elected to revisit several Antiquities Act designations, praised his administration’s push to scale back these areas. Utah Governor Gary Herbert, R, said Thursday that after having talked with Zinke about Grand Staircase-Escalante, which Bill Clinton established in 1996, “I think there’s the possibility of carving it up into smaller monuments, you know, two or three that actually protects the area that needs protection.“

Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch’s spokesman Matt Whitlock said his boss “is grateful for Secretary Zinke’s thorough, fair review that has given Utahns on all sides of the issue a voice in the protection of Utah lands.“

But a broad array of monument supporters, including environmental and outdoor recreation activists, pledged to fight any changes to existing protections in court.

“Trump, Zinke and Herbert are going to come out on the wrong side of history,“ said Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Legal Director Steve Bloch.

University of Colorado law professor Mark Squillace, an expert in the Antiquities Act, said in an email that Zinke’s proposal raises a host of legal issues given that no president has considered making so many changes to previous designations.

“Decisions to protect certain objects (and not others) involve judgment call that courts have shown an inclination to respect,“ he said. “The significant legal issues aside, if we allow presidents to second guess the judgments of their predecessor there would no end to the mischief that would create.“

Although Zinke has proposed amending all 10 monuments’ proclamations to shift the way they are managed, the majority of the management plans for these monuments have not been finalized because they take between five and six years to complete.

Randi Spivak, public lands program director for the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, said any proclamation change “would be subject to challenge” and “any proposed management plan changes will need to formally go through the same legal and administrative processes again, subject to the same administrative appeal and litigation requirements.“

“This process will be very legally vulnerable because it will have to deal with all the scientific, environmental and social conclusions produced during the first round of management plan creation,“ she said. “This would be a massive hurdle for the administration.“

►  Mattis asks Pentagon’s No. 2 general, new deputy defense secretary to help determine the future of transgender military service

The Pentagon’s No. 2 general and new deputy defense secretary will take a leading role as the Defense Department scrutinizes whether to allow transgender service members to stay in the military, according to a new Pentagon memo.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis selected Air Force General Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to make evidence-based recommendations on the way forward, according to the memo released Monday.

This memo follows similar ones - released by the White House on August 25 and the Pentagon on August 28 – giving Mattis until February 21 to establish a plan for carrying out Donald Trump’s controversial ban on transgender personnel.

The president’s surprise announcement via Twitter came July 26, saying he would not allow “transgender individuals to serve in any capacity.“ A day later, the Pentagon’s top officer, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford, indicated the military will comply with Trump’s directive, but not before a new policy is finalized.

The Obama administration repealed a longtime ban on transgender military service in July 2016, saying there should be no barriers for qualified people who wish to serve. Trump and other critics have questioned whether such personnel are disruptive and cost money that should be spent elsewhere.

Mattis’s new memo - labeled “Military Service by Transgender Individuals - Interim Guidance” – reiterates that the Defense Department will not take any adverse action against transgender service members this year. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria will be provided with treatment, and policies put in place by the Obama administration will remain in effect for the time being.

Moreover, transgender troops who are “otherwise qualified” also may to reenlist as the Pentagon sorts through its next policy, Mattis wrote.

“First and foremost,“ the memo says, “we will continue to treat every Service member with dignity and respect.“

The Pentagon will reestablish a “Central Coordination Cell” in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. That post is being filled on a temporary, acting basis by Anthony Kurta, who Trump has nominated to serve as the deputy undersecretary in the office. Trump’s nominee to head the office, Robert Wilkie, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

In August, Mattis said the Defense Department’s soon-to-be arriving political appointees would play an important role in crafting its new transgender policy.

Shanahan was confirmed as the Pentagon’s deputy defense secretary in July. He previously spent more than three decades with Boeing, most recently as its senior vice president for supply chain and operations.

Selva has been the Pentagon’s vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since July 2015, and faced a second Senate confirmation hearing in July at which he was asked to address how the Pentagon is reviewing its transgender policy, and whether there would be any unintended consequences from Mattis’s prior decision to delay until 2018 the acceptance of transgender military recruits.

The general told lawmakers that he was an “advocate of every qualified person who can meet the physical standards to serve in our uniformed services to be able to do so,“ and that the decision to delay new accessions was focused on a disagreement about how mental health care and hormone therapy would help solve medical issues associated with gender dysphoria.

►  New health-care push reflects high stakes for GOP if they can’t replace Obamacare

A final GOP effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act burst into view this week in the Senate, where leaders began pressuring rank-and-file Republicans with the hope of voting on the package by the end of the month.

The renewed push comes nearly two months after the last effort to overhaul the law known as Obamacare failed in a dramatic, early-morning vote, dealing a substantial defeat to Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and prompting many to assume the effort was dead.

The latest proposal would give states control over billions in federal health-care spending, repeal its key mandates and enact deep cuts to Medicaid, the federally funded insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled. It would slash health-care spending more deeply and likely cover fewer people than the July bill that failed because of concerns over those details.

The appearance of a new measure reflected just how damaging Republicans viewed their inability to make good on a key campaign promise of the past seven years - to “repeal and replace” former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

But trying again brings its own perils. It remains far from certain that McConnell can marshal the 50 votes he needs to pass the measure. Already under fire from Trump for falling short in the earlier effort, McConnell’s standing with the president and other Republicans could suffer even more if he fails again.

Even Republicans who support the bill, including chief sponsors Bill Cassidy, R-La., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., acknowledged the uncertainty of the moment. And McConnell has not committed to bringing the bill to the floor.

“I just told Bill Cassidy he’s a grave robber,“ said Senator John Thune, R-S.D., one of McConnell’s top lieutenants. “This thing was six feet under, and I think he’s revived it to the point where there’s a lot of positive buzz and forward momentum. But it still comes down to, in the Senate, getting 50 votes.“

Still, the fresh flurry of activity marked the most serious attempt since the failed July vote to revive the seven-year Republican pledge to undo a law that has been vilified on the right. Among those joining the effort is Mike Pence, who has been making calls to Republican senators and governors in support of the bill, according to a senior administration official granted anonymity to describe the vice president’s private talks.

Part of the hurry results from the need to act before September 30, when procedural rules expire that allow the Senate to pass legislation related to taxes and spending with a simple majority - and without any Democratic votes.

For McConnell, the path forward is a politically perilous. His relationship with Trump has grown toxic since the July vote - prompting the president to approach leading Democrats to discuss a tax-code overhaul as well as a potential deal protecting undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children.

Another failure for McConnell could embolden Trump - and Democrats - to continue working with each other.

But if the embattled Senate leader can shepherd a health-care bill to passage, sending the effort to fulfill a core Republican promise over to the House of Representatives, he could set himself on a path to restoring his footing in other talks. Such an outcome could also help Republican senators facing reelection in 2018 who are coming under increasing attacks from insurgent conservative challengers over the failure to repeal Obamacare.

In addition to the political turmoil, the unexpected return to health-care legislation has put the nation’s insurance industry in a state of uncertainty. After concluding that the effort was all but dead in July, some Republicans senators reached out Democrats to shore up the insurance marketplaces created under the ACA.

Now, industry officials must once again prepare for the possibility of a fresh and dramatic overhaul.

Cassidy has stopped short of predicting that his bill will pass, telling reporters that it was his goal to write a bill that sets a marker for conservative health-care policy.

“We’re trying to set up good policy,“ Cassidy said Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press. “Whether it’s done now or later, the good policy will still be there.“

With Democrats united firmly against it, Senate GOP leaders can afford to lose only two of 52 Republican votes, enabling to pass the bill with a tiebreaking vote from Pence. They lost three in the July vote: Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

None of those three committed to voting for the bill Monday, expressing reservations if not outright opposition.

“We need more information. I need to talk to the governor again,“ said McCain, whose home-state governor, Republican Doug Ducey, endorsed the bill Monday. Ducey had also endorsed the previous bill, so his current stance is not necessarily a clue as to what McCain will do.

McCain warned against rushing ahead. “We just need to have a regular process rather than, ‘Hey I’ve got an idea, let’s run this through the Senate and give them an up-or-down vote,‘“ he said.

Murkowski said she was trying to learn more about the proposal’s impact on Alaska and consulting with her governor. On her way to McConnell’s office Monday afternoon, she wouldn’t say whether she was leaning for or against it.

Collins, who is seen by many Republicans to be the strongest opponent of replacing the ACA, said Monday that she worries that millions could lose coverage under the plan.

Adding to the challenge for Republican leaders: Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Monday that he is a firm no at this point.

“I think this is a game,“ Paul said. “I think this is a game of Republicans taking money from Democratic states. What happens if Democrats take power back?“

The proposal slashes health-care spending more deeply and would likely cover fewer people than the July bill that failed precisely because of such concerns. Starting in 2021, the federal government would lump together all the money it spends on subsidies distributed through the ACA marketplaces and expanded Medicaid programs covering poor, childless adults living at up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

This approach would generally result in less money for states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA and more money for states that didn’t. That’s because the bill would redistribute the money allotted to the 30 states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA and spread it out among all 50 states.

Congress’ nonpartisan budget analyst said Monday it is working to provide a “preliminary assessment” of the bill by early next week but will not estimate how the measure would affect health insurance premiums or the number of people with medical coverage until later.

The notice from the Congressional Budget Office angered Democrats, who have warned that any attempt to vote on the GOP legislation poses a serious threat to ongoing negotiations on a plan to stabilize the current health care markets and strengthen subsidies for out of pocket expenses.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., dismissed the GOP plan as a way to hide a massive cut to Medicare and criticized GOP leaders for moving forward without a complete assessment of who would be covered and how much it would cost.

“It would be outrageous for our Republican colleagues to vote for this bill without knowing its effect on people,“ Schumer said. “That, whatever your ideology, would be nothing short of a disgrace.“

Democrats have virtually no way to stop the legislation from being approved if at least 50 Republicans unite. But Schumer vowed to use every procedural tool available to create roadblocks.

Schumer also warned Monday that the renewed GOP repeal push could upset talks between Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and the committee’s top Democrat, Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., to offer a different approach that could pass the Senate with votes from both parties.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it faces an uncertain outlook in the House.

“It’s too early to tell whether all the Freedom Caucus guys will be supportive or not because we don’t know what amendments will get added to the Senate bill,“ said Representative Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. The bill could also meet resistance from Republican members from states that expanded Medicaid, given the sweeping changes it proposes.

Republicans are on a tight deadline to vote before September 30 if they hope to avoid being blocked by Senate Democrats. Senate budget rules allow some tax and spending measures to pass with 51 votes, instead of the 60 needed for most legislation - meaning the 52 Senate Republicans could pass a bill on their own. But those rules, which were written specifically to enable the health-care law, expire at the end of the fiscal year, and GOP leaders hope to write next year’s rules to focus on hoped-for changes to the tax code.

McConnell did not mention the health-care push when he opened Senate business Monday afternoon.

“We’re having a serious discussion, but it’s still preliminary,“ said Senator Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, McConnell’s top deputy.

Asked how the process of securing votes was going, he replied: “That’s one of the things I’m not talking about.“

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Trump’s talks of UN ‘potential’ at luncheon

The Latest on Donald Trump at the United Nations (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Donald Trump is hailing the “unlimited potential” of the United Nations at a luncheon.

Trump says at the Tuesday gathering hosted by the U.N. secretary general that he has been a critic, but has “also been someone that said the United Nations has tremendous potential.”

Trump is sitting at the head table with leaders from Lithuania, Turkey, Guinea, Liberia, Jordan, South Korea, Ecuador, Switzerland and Japan.

Trump, who gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, toasted to the “great, great potential of the United Nations.”

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate. And some aides within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.


11:35 a.m.

Israel’s prime minister is praising Donald Trump’s address to the U.N. that condemned Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu said, “In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.” He said Trump “spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”

Trump said in his speech that Iran’s main export is violence. He accused Iran of supporting terrorists and threatening Israel. He criticized the 2015 nuclear deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Israel and Iran are bitter enemies. Israel views Iran as an existential threat because of calls by Iranian leaders for the destruction of the Jewish state along with Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs.


11 a.m.

Donald Trump has concluded his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, a speech of more than 40 minutes marked by tough talk for North Korea and Iran.

The president referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.” And he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States is forced to defend itself or allies against the North’s aggression.

Trump also said the Iranian government is an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

Trump said the world can’t allow the “murderous regime” to continue its destabilizing activities. And he knocked the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying world leaders “cannot abide” by the agreement if it “provides cover” for Iran to build its nuclear program.


10:56 a.m.

Donald Trump says the socialist government in Venezuela has brought a once-thriving nation to the “brink of collapse.”

Trump accused its President Nicolas Maduro (nee-koh-LAHS’ mah-DOO’-roh) of stealing power from elected representatives to preserve his “disastrous rule.”

He said: “The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing.” He called that situation “completely unacceptable.”

Trump said his administration has imposed tough sanctions on the government and vowed further action.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump also took aim at the “corruption and destabilizing regime” in Cuba.

He said his administration won’t lift U.S. sanctions on the communist government until it makes fundamental reforms.


10:54 a.m.

Iranian state TV broadcast Donald Trump’s first speech at the U.N. General Assembly live with a Persian translation voice-over.

During Tuesday’s speech, Trump called Iran an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

He accused Iran of supporting terrorists and threatening Israel. He also criticized a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that capped Tehran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Iranian TV has broadcast the speeches of previous U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama.


10:53 a.m.

Donald Trump says in a major speech before the United Nations General Assembly that he believes that trade must be fair and must be reciprocal.

Trump has long argued that free trade deals have damaged the U.S. economy and hurt U.S. workers.

He says the country’s middle class, which was once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind. But he says that, under his presidency, “they are forgotten no more.”

Trump also says he will continue to purse cooperation with other nations, but says his ultimate responsibility rests in taking care of his citizens.


10:50 a.m.

Donald Trump says the United States will have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies against the North’s aggression.

In his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, Trump says the North Korean government is a “depraved regime.”

Trump is calling on other nations to work together to isolate North Korea until its ceases what he says is its hostile behavior.

But if forced to defend itself or its allies against North Korea’s continued threats, Trump says “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”


10:45 a.m.

Donald Trump says “it is a massive source of embarrassment for the United Nations” that some countries with human rights violations sit on the international body’s human rights panel.

Trump made the remark in his debut address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, part of a broader call for the UN to make reforms.

He said, “It is a massive source of embarrassment for the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.” The panel’s 47 members include, for example, China and Saudi Arabia.

The council’s web page says the UN General Assembly “takes into account the candidate states’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.”


10:44 a.m.

Donald Trump is calling Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government a “criminal regime.”

Trump is making his debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.

The president says “no society can be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread.” He is calling for a peaceful solution that honors the will of the Syrian people.

In April, Trump ordered the firing of dozens of Tomahawk missiles at an air base in central Syria, marking the first time the U.S. has directly struck Assad’s forces during the country’s six-year civil war.


10:43 a.m.

Donald Trump is criticizing “uncontrolled migration” as “deeply unfair” to both sending and receiving countries.

Trump says at the United Nations General Assembly that countries that send migrants are less likely to implement reforms.

For receiving countries, the president says the costs are overwhelmingly borne by “low-income citizens” whose concerns are often neglected by the government and the media.

Trump is pointing to the work that the United States has done to address famine and AIDS relief.


10:41 a.m.

Donald Trump says “strong sovereign nations” are necessary for diverse countries to “work side by side.”

Trump is making his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.

Trump says America does not expect different countries to share the same traditions or government systems. But he says countries must respect their people and the “rights of every other sovereign nation.”

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate and some within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.


10:30 a.m.

Donald Trump says at the United Nations that the Iranian government is an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

Trump is telling world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly that the world cannot allow the “murderous regime” to continue its destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles.

The president is questioning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He says world leaders “cannot abide” by the agreement if it “provides cover” for Iran to eventually build its nuclear program.

The administration last week extended sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark agreement.


10:29 a.m.

Donald Trump is talking tough on terror as he delivers his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump tells world leaders in a major speech that “it is time to expose and hold responsible” nations that provide funding and safe harbor to terror groups.

He says all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and “the Islamic extremist that inspires them.”

He says: “We will stop radical Islamic terrorism, because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation and, indeed, to tear up the entire world.”


10:28 a.m.

Donald Trump says the United States seeks harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife on the world stage.

Trump says: “The United States will forever be a great friend to the world.” But he’s warning that his country must not be taken advantage of.

He’s also touting the benefits of his “principled realism” philosophy and says actions must be guided by outcomes and not ideology.

Trump is addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time as president.


10:27 a.m.

Donald Trump says the world must reject threats to sovereignty. And he is lumping in Ukraine as an example, in a rarely implied criticism of Russia.

Russia in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region. It also has backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Trump also cites the South China Sea as a threat to sovereignty.

There, China has aggressively asserted control over disputed waters and islands.


10:26 a.m.

Donald Trump says “strong sovereign nations” are necessary for diverse countries to “work side by side.”

Trump is making his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday.

Trump says America does not expect different countries to share the same traditions or government systems. But he says countries must respect their people and the “rights of every other sovereign nation.”

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. during the election, and some aides within his White House believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes on the sovereignty of individual countries.


10:25 a.m.

Donald Trump is telling the United Nations General Assembly that he will “always put America first” and the U.S. can no longer be taken advantage of in its dealings around the globe.

Trump says he will “defend America’s interests above all else.” He says the U.S. will “forever be a great friend to the world,” including its allies, but the U.S. can no longer be taken advantage of and get nothing in return.

The president was making his first address to the U.N. General Assembly and giving world leaders his view of the “America first” mantra that he used as a candidate in the 2016 election.


10:15 a.m.

Donald Trump is opening his maiden address in front of the United Nationals General Assembly by praising his accomplishments in office so far.

He’s also sending thanks to the leaders of countries that have offered assistance to the U.S. as it recovers from a pair of damaging hurricanes.

Trump is praising the American people as “strong and resilient” and says the U.S. has done “very well” since his election.

He’s pointing to the stock market and the employment rate and says the U.S. military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.


3:40 a.m.

Elected on the slogan “America First,” Donald Trump is making his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly.

He’s expected to argue Tuesday that nations should act in their own self-interest, yet rally together when faced with a common threat such as North Korea. He plans to address other crisis points, too, such as Iran’s nuclear agenda, the instability in Venezuela and the fight against terrorism in Syria and elsewhere.

Trump frequently belittled the U.N. as a candidate and his White House has been infused with forces that believe the U.N acts as a global bureaucracy that infringes the sovereignty of nations.

But Trump is expected to argue that U.N. member states should unite to face global dangers.

►  U.S., allies won’t rebuild Syria without political process

The Islamic State is rapidly losing control of territory in Syria, but donor countries will not reconstruct the war’s damage until a “credible” political process emerges from negotiations, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

David Satterfield, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near East affairs, told reporters that was the consensus of diplomats from 17 countries and organizations from Europe and the Middle East who met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Satterfield said the war against the militants in Syria and Iraq is progressing faster than anticipated.

“The defeat of ISIS is underway,“ he said, using another acronymn for the Islamic State.

“We are all committed to humanitarian aid,“ he added. “And that will continue to flow, of course. But the reconstruction of Syria depends very much on that credible political process.“

Their biggest lever, Satterfield said, is that without a political process, “you’re not going to get the kind of investment by the international community that’s really necessary for the reconstruction of Syria.“

The coalition that met in New York does not include Russia, which has troops in the country and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Earlier Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Syrian and Russian forces had crossed the Euphrates River near the Islamic State stronghold of Deir el-Zour and forced out militants. It said the troops were heading eastward and “broadening the seized foothold.“

Their advance could threaten a confrontation with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, whose fighters have waged a separate offensive against the Islamic State. Two days earlier, the SDF said Russian airstrikes hit its fighters, which Russia denied.

Satterfield noted the United States and Russia have lines of communications known as “deconfliction,“ trying to avoid face-offs.

“We’re engaged in working with Russia, deconfliction with Russia, as we each move on defeating ISIS,“ he said. “It’s not a rivalry. It’s not a contest.“

►  Pentagon chief says he was asked about reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis acknowledged Monday that his South Korean counterpart defense minister inquired recently about reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

Mattis, speaking to a gathering of reporters at the Pentagon, confirmed that he and Defense Minister Song Young-moo discussed the weapons during an August 30 visit in Washington. The Pentagon chief did not say whether he’d support such an idea, however. Song has advocated for the move, calling it an “alternative worth a full review.“

Asked about the exchange, Mattis said “we discussed the option,“ but he declined to elaborate.

“We have open dialogue with our allies on any issue they want to bring up,“ Mattis said.

The United States maintained nuclear weapons in South Korea during much of the Cold War, but President George H.W. Bush ordered their removal after the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991. At the time, Bush saw it as a way of bolstering demands that North Korea not pursue its own nuclear weapons.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said several times that he is against having nuclear weapons returned but he faces opposition on that point from many conservative leaders in his country. Tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes called nonstrategic nukes, are designed to strike military targets like bunkers and tunnels, but are still considered immensely powerful in their own right and a potential gateway to larger nuclear attacks.

Some senior U.S. military officials, such as Air Force General Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have advocated generally for more “small-yield” nuclear weapons, arguing that the United States need to have the ability to respond to an attack using a smaller nuclear bomb with something of a similar size.

But Air Force General John Hyten, who oversees U.S. nuclear weapons as the chief of U.S. Strategic Command, took exception Thursday to even calling smaller nuclear weapons tactical. Speaking with reporters at his headquarters in Nebraska, he called the phrase a misnomer and “actually a very dangerous term” because there are significant consequences to using nuclear weapons in any format.

“To call it a tactical weapon brings into the possibility that there could be a nuclear weapon employed on a battlefield for a tactical effect,“ Hyten said. “It’s a not a tactical effect, and if somebody employs what is a nonstrategic or tactical nuclear weapon, the United States will respond strategically, not tactically, because they have now crossed a line, a line that has not been crossed since 1945.“

Mattis said last week that he would not discuss whether he is looking at reintroducing nuclear weapons in South Korea.

“It’s simply a longstanding policy so the enemy . . . our adversaries never know where they’re at,“ he said. “It’s part of the deterrent that they cannot target them all. There’s always a great big question mark.“

►  UN chief: Nuclear threat at highest level since Cold War

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the world’s leaders Tuesday that the threat of a nuclear attack is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War and “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.”

In his first state-of-the-world report since taking the reins of the United Nations on January 1, Guterres put “nuclear peril” as the leading threat warning that “we must not sleepwalk our way into war.”

The U.N. chief told presidents, prime ministers and monarchs at the opening of the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting that millions of people are living in fear “under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests” of North Korea.

His message on “fiery” rhetoric was implicitly directed at North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, but also at the United States and Donald Trump, who has warned of “fire and fury” if North Korea does not back down.

Guterres said a solution to the North Korea must be political and stressed to leaders: “This is a time for statesmanship.”

Beyond the nuclear threat, Guterres painted a grim picture of a troubled world facing grave challenges with many people “hurting and angry” because they “see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.”

“Societies are fragmented,” he said. “Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.”

“We are a world in pieces,” Guterres said. “We need to be a world at peace.”

But Guterres said there are seven threats and tests that stand in the way: nuclear peril, terrorism, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law, climate change, rising inequality, unintended consequences of innovation, and people on the move.

These issues are expected to dominate the six-day meeting. But on day one, the spotlight was on Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron — both of whom were also making their debuts at the General Assembly.

Many world leaders, concerned about U.S. priorities and role in the world, will get their first chance to hear and meet Trump. He spoke after Guterres and Brazil’s president, who for more than 35 years has been the first leader to address the 193-member General Assembly.

Brazilian President Michel Temer, charged last week with obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organization, continued the tradition.

He said the U.N. has represented “hope and prospects for a more just world” for the last 70 years and at “this time in history, marked by so much uncertainty and instability, we need more diplomacy not less — and “we need the U.N. more than before.”

But Temer said it is imperative to reform the U.N., particularly to expand the powerful Security Council to align it with the reality of the 21st century. Brazil is part of a group with Germany, India and Japan seeking permanent seats on the council.

Trump told leaders that the United States seeks harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife on the world stage, but he warned that nobody should take advantage of America.

He threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies against aggression. He called Iran an “economically depleted rogue state” whose chief export is violence.

And Trump said all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and “the Islamic extremists that inspire them. And “it is time to expose and hold responsible” nations that provide funding and safe harbor to terror groups, he said.

Not far behind North Korea on the list of issues needing urgent international attention is the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, victims of what Guterres calls a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that has driven nearly 400,000 to flee into Bangladesh in the past three weeks.

Facing accusations of ethnic cleansing from Guterres and the U.N. human rights chief, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier Tuesday defended the government and said her country does not fear international scrutiny. She invited diplomats to see some areas for themselves.

Guterres told leaders in his General Assembly speech that “I take note” of Suu Kyi’s speech.

“We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State,” he said. “The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.”

The secretary-general has repeatedly focused on the major challenge posed by climate change.

The world leaders gathered as Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, smashed the small Caribbean nation of Dominica with 160 mph winds. It ripped the roof off even the prime minister’s residence and caused what he called “mind-boggling” devastation. The storm was on a track to strike Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

On Monday, Guterres and top government officials from several countries devastated by the other Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma, addressed a hastily called U.N. meeting and appealed for help to rebuild following that storm’s destruction.

Guterres called this year’s hurricane season “the most violent on record” and warned that extreme weather linked to climate change is having an impact all over the world, “including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa.”

Website Offers Second Chance for Job Seekers

The Free Press WV

It can be hard to find a job, but imagine doing it with a criminal record.

An estimated 70 million people have records and they often struggle to find companies willing to hire them.

That’s why Richard Bronson started 70 Million Jobs, a website that works with employers who understand the applicants have records and are willing to give them a second chance.

Bronson himself used to work at the brokerage firm made famous in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,“ and served 22 months in federal prison for securities fraud.

He understands the powerful and far reaching effects of employment.

“I’ve seen firsthand when folks get jobs, families get reunited, and kids look up to parents, and wives look up to husbands,” he states. “And when families come together, communities come together. And when communities come together, the country is a much better place.“

Job seekers can go to to apply.

After launching the site this year, the company announced it is partnering with the City of Los Angeles on a three-month pilot program.

Bronson says many of the employers on his website feel it’s their moral responsibility to provide second chances.

He adds the plan is to offer video resumes in the future, so that employers can get more accurate pictures of the applicants.

Bronson says traditional resumes for people who have spent a lot of time in prison are woefully sparse.

“And yet, if you were to meet this same person, you might discover that this person is incredibly thoughtful and bright, and personable and nice, and has a wonderful personality,” he states. “But you’d never, ever know that by just looking at their resume.“

Recidivism rates are especially high for those who are unemployed. Nearly 80 percent of people released from prison will be rearrested within five years, and about 90 percent of that group will be unemployed at the time of their arrest.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

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