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September ‘We Card’ Awareness Month

The Free Press WV

In an effort to combat underage tobacco use, Governor Jim Justice joined with the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association and the West Virginia Wholesalers Association to proclaim September “We Card” Awareness Month.

The initiative is designed to encourage all retailers to successfully identify and prevent age-restricted product sales to minors.

“The West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association and the West Virginia Wholesalers Association — organizations representing the companies that sell these products — want to make sure that they don’t get in the hands of kids,” said Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association and executive director of the West Virginia Wholesalers Association.

The West Virginia Wholesalers Association and OMEGA strongly encourage retailers to train or re-train employees by taking advantage of We Card’s award-winning training courses offered online through We Card’s eLearning Center at www.wecard.org or through licensing to retailers and other organizations.

For additional information, call 304.343.5500 or visit www.Omegawv.com.

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  West Virginia’s top court clears ‘right-to-work’ law

West Virginia’s highest court ruled Friday that a judge made a mistake blocking the state’s “right-to-work” law from taking effect after it was passed last year while the court challenge against it continued.

The Supreme Court, divided 3-2, concluded the unions opposing the law “failed to show a likelihood of success” in challenging its constitutionality.

They didn’t identify any federal or state appellate court that struck down such a law based on similar challenges in more than 70 years, Justice Menis Ketchum wrote. He noted that similar laws have been enacted in 27 other states.

The state AFL-CIO and other unions argued the law constitutes illegally taking union assets since they still have to represent all employees in a union shop, including those that the law would allow to stop paying union dues. They also asserted that it violated their rights to freedom of association and their liberty interests.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey granted the preliminary injunction, saying enforcement could cause irreparable harm to unions and workers until the legal questions are resolved.

The law doesn’t affect existing contracts, only future agreements the union and employers have not yet negotiated or accepted, Ketchum wrote. “The unions therefore have no protected property right that the Legislature has taken,” he wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Allen Loughry wrote that issuing the injunction “was not merely imprudent, but profoundly legally incorrect.” The Taft-Hartley Act expressly allows states to prohibit compulsory union membership or dues remittance, and the U.S. Supreme Court “has essentially spoken on all critical aspects of this issue,” he wrote.

The law was passed in early 2016 by the Legislature’s majority Republicans. They contended it would attract businesses and give workers freedom by prohibiting companies from requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Democrats argued the measure solely aimed to undermine unions for political reasons, allowing workers to benefit from union representation without paying dues. Democrats also argued the economic benefits were unproven and wages would drop.

Justice Robin Jean Davis dissented in an opinion that wasn’t available from the court Friday. Justice Margaret Workman agreed in part and dissented in part in an opinion that also was not immediately available.


►  West Virginia gets $3.7M for drug, mental health services

West Virginia’s U.S. senators say 22 health centers and rural health organizations are sharing nearly $3.7 million in federal funding to increase addiction and mental health services.

Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito say it’s for personnel, information technology and training.

Individual amounts range from $123,080 to $175,700.

Recipients include Belington Community Medical, Cabin Creek Health, Camden-on-Gauley Medical, Change Inc., Clay Battelle Health Services, Community Care of West Virginia and Lincoln County Primary Care Center.

Others are Minnie Hamilton Health Care, Monroe County Health, New River Health, Preston-Taylor Community Health, Rainelle Medical and Ritchie County Primary Care.

The rest are Roane County Family Health, Shenandoah Valley Medical Systems, St. George Medical Clinic, Tug River Health, Valley Health, Valley Health Systems, Williamson Health and Wellness, Wirt County Health and WomenCare.


►  Tourism office tasked with helping tell state’s story

When “The Glass Castle” premiered in Welch on August 11, part of what it showcased — besides the state of West Virginia — was the behind-the-scenes work of the West Virginia Film Office.

“We assisted with scouting locations, working with the city to close down roads because they needed to have control of a couple of areas during filmmaking,” said former Film Office director Pam Haynes.

“We assisted with connecting with some local crew available for hire. We were pleased with that,” said Haynes of the film, which is based on a memoir by Jeannette Walls about her harrowing childhood that included growing up in Welch.

But things have changed since the Film Office played that small, but essential role in the making of the nationally released film.

Haynes quit her role and returned to her previous job as a paralegal with a Charleston law firm after it became clear the West Virginia Legislature intended to cut the entire $341,000 budget for the office — founded in 1994 — in a cost-saving move. Legislators left in place a $5 million state film tax investment credit, intended to lure film and video productions to the state.

Many functions of the Film Office as a clearinghouse and guiding hand for film and video projects have since been absorbed by the Division of Tourism in the West Virginia Department of Commerce.

Chelsea Ruby, the commissioner of tourism, said her office is in the process of adapting to the new responsibilities that have been transferred to her staff.

“The Film Office is still open, but we are undergoing some restructuring due to the loss of funding for the office,” she said.

Bill Hogan, a managing member of Image Associates LLC, a West Virginia-based advertising and media production house, spent many hours lobbying legislators about the significance of the Film Office’s work. Cutting funding for the office was “penny-wise and pound foolish,” he said.

“It was the dumbest move that could have been made. Myself and many other filmmakers expended endless energy, visited with virtually everybody on both bodies of our Legislature to convince them of that. Politics got in the way,” he said.

Hogan said he has spoken with the Tourism Office about its new role in guiding film production in the state, which involves everything from location scouting to training in-instate film production crews, but he is concerned about the changed circumstances.

“I don’t want to dismiss their efforts in trying to deal with something that has fallen in their laps. They are clearly trying to be proactive about maintaining the Film Office,” he said. “But without a point person available it leaves not only producers, but the entire film community wondering who we can speak with.”

There is no film commissioner or staff for the film commissioner, said Hogan.

“There is no Pam Haynes a producer can pick up the phone to speak to or a location manager when they’re shopping for locations,” he said. “We really have been used to great communication through a single funnel. There’s no one who is experienced.”

Ruby said members of the tourism staff are taking on Film Office duties.

“It’s not necessarily that we’re devoting specific people,” she said. “What we’re doing is cross-training and taking other folks in our office and incorporating film into their day-to-day duties.”

She has met with other state tourism offices that run state film programs.

“Other states have done this very successfully, and we believe if we do this right, we’ll be better positioned to tell West Virginia’s story,” Ruby said.

Some promotion of the Film Office is underway, she said, with a new website soon to launch and an exhibit planned at this year’s American Film Market to promote shooting in the state.

“We continue to take the day-to-day calls of the office and administer the tax credit program,” she said.

The Film Investment Tax Credit program offers up to $5 million in annual tax credits to production companies to encourage them to film in West Virginia.

A production company can earn a tax credit of 27 percent if it spends at least $25,000 in West Virginia. The credit goes up to 31 percent if the company hires 10 or more West Virginia residents as crew or talent during a shoot, a measure intended to help grow film production talent in the state.

A production company can then sell the tax credit to a West Virginia business or individual wishing to reduce corporate or individual tax burdens.

Since the Film Office’s inception, a host of film, video, commercial and still-photography shoots have taken place in West Virginia, ranging from portions of high-profile productions such as “We Are Marshall” and the J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg film “Super 8,” to five Stephen David Entertainment miniseries for AMC and other cable channels. There have been hundreds of other productions, including numerous projects by state businesses.

The tax credit program has been key to the decision of many in-state and out-of-state production companies to locate a project in the state.

The Film Office’s 2016 annual report stated, from its enactment in July 2007 through December 2016, the Film Investment Tax Credit program has “spurred a large increase in business prospects that have spent more than $54 million in direct in-state expenditures, including wages, construction, fuel, transportation, airfare, lodging, heavy equipment rental and more.”

Ruby noted, for the first time since the tax credit program’s inception in 2007, all $5 million worth of tax credits were applied for in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Already in the new fiscal year, about $1.3 million in tax credits have been awarded, she said.

Despite cancellation of the Film Office budget, Ruby said the state’s film production industry will carry on.

“West Virginia is a great location for film, and we’re starting to make a name for ourselves as a state that welcomes film,” she said. “We look forward to building on that reputation and welcoming new films to West Virginia.”


►  Ex-coal CEO asks court to toss conviction in mine explosion

Attorneys for former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship have made a last pitch to the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out his conviction connected to a 2010 West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

Attorneys for Don Blankenship say in the appeal that the high court should hear it so that other corporate executives aren’t subject to similar prosecutions for workplace safety violations.

The lawyers want the court to reverse Blankenship’s 2016 conspiracy conviction. Blankenship was not charged in causing the disaster, but the charge focused on safety violations at the Upper Big Branch mine. His appeal is considered a longshot.

Blankenship was sentenced to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine, both the maximum allowable for a criminal mine safety violation.

Let’s Make America Free Again: 230 Years After the Constitution, We’re Walking a Dangerous Road

The Free Press WV

“I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.”—Osama bin Laden (October 2001)

Ironically, during the same week that we mark the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we find ourselves commemorating the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

While there has been much to mourn about the loss of our freedoms in the years since 9/11, there has been very little to celebrate. Indeed, we have gone from being a nation that took great pride in serving as a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.

What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance. The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time, but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.

All the while, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage, however, has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, the courts and the like—a recitation of the Bill of Rights would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution today.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered null and void.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies and regulations, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Yet those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Still, it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.

As the National Review rightly asks, “How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.”

Americans are constitutionally illiterate.

Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights.

A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a little more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while another one-third (35 percent) could not name a single one. Only a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. And more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate.

A 2006 survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one out of a thousand adults could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpsons television family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.

It gets worse.

Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment.

Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.

In fact, while some educators want students to learn about freedom, they do not necessarily want them to exercise their freedoms in school. As the researchers conclude, “Most educators think that students already have enough freedom, and that restrictions on freedom in the school are necessary. Many support filtering the Internet, censoring T-shirts, disallowing student distribution of political or religious material, and conducting prior review of school newspapers.”

Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.

So what’s the solution?

Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.

As Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

From the President on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.

Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.

Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card.

If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, freedom in America will be doomed.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, Donald Trump wants to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

As actor-turned-activist Richard Dreyfuss warned:

Unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable. You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in schools, and if you don’t, you will lose it. You will lose it to the darkness, and what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty. If it lasts for more than our lifetime, for more than our kids’ lifetime, it is only because we put some effort into teaching what it is, the ideas of America: the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly.”

~~  John W. Whitehead ~~

National News

The Free Press WV


►  FEMA auctioned disaster trailers before Harvey made landfall

The federal government auctioned off disaster-response trailers at fire-sale prices just before Harvey devastated southeast Texas, reducing an already diminished supply of mobile homes ahead of what could become the nation’s largest-ever housing mission.

More than 100 2017-model Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers were sold over the two days before the Category 4 hurricane landed in the Gulf Coast, an analysis of government data by The Associated Press found. Harvey was already projected to be a monster storm that would inflict unprecedented damage.

The trailers were designated to be sold through August 28, after floodwaters sent thousands of Texans onto rooftops and into shelters.

About 79,000 homes in the areas affected by the hurricane were flooded with 18 inches or more of water, Michael Byrne, FEMA’s federal disaster recovery coordinator for Harvey, told AP.

The auctions — about 300 since the beginning of the year — have left FEMA with a standing fleet of only 1,700 units. The agency has put out bids for another 4,500, but officials could not say when they would be ready to meet needs arising from Harvey, Irma and potentially future storms.

“There’s a vast chasm between what they can supply and what is actually needed,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, adding that he found the trailer auctions an “unfortunate decision.”

FEMA officials said that the units sold had all been used to house survivors of last year’s floods in Southern Louisiana, who returned them with damages that made them unfit for redeployment.

“The ones you will hear about being auctioned are the used models that we’ve determined it’s not cost-effective to refurbish. We’re very rigid and strict about what we’ll refurbish and it’s got to be something that quite frankly any one of us would be comfortable living in and willing to put our families into,” Byrne said.

Yet the 300 trailers sold on the Government Services Agency’s online auction since the beginning of the year 2017 were advertised either without problems, or with only minor damage, such as flat tires, buckling trim or missing furniture, GSA records showed. FEMA said trailers also go to the auction block because of leaks, roach infestations and odor left by cigarette smoke.

FEMA officials said the trailers it had recently ordered will cost the agency around $40,000 for a one-bedroom. By contrast, GSA sold a 2017-model trailer August 23 with damage it described as normal wear and tear and low or flat tires for less than $5,000.

FEMA deployed 144,000 trailers after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but started selling off its stock in 2007 when the trailers became symbols of the troubled federal response after lawsuits accused some of those units of being riddled with high levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde.

Sales were halted after tests by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 showed formaldehyde leaching from the trailers’ pressed-wood products. The auctions resumed after a court order was lifted in 2010, and Katrina-era units resurfaced on Native American reservations, in North Dakota’s oilfields and in Texas, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to Chemical Heritage Foundation fellow Nicholas Shapiro.

In 2011, FEMA announced that all of its trailers would be built with wood products that met emission standards set by the California Air Resources Board. Units rolled out in 2016 ranged in size from one to three bedrooms and were equipped with smoke detectors, fire sprinklers and central heating and air conditioning, with hookups for washing machines and cable TV.

FEMA has auctioned off trailers during disasters before.

As Superstorm Sandy churned up the Atlantic coast in 2012, dozens of trailers sat idle in a supermarket parking lot in Northeastern Pennsylvania, — about two hours from the New Jersey coast.

The trailers were deployed for a flood the previous year, but many went unused and instead wound up on the government auction block at a fraction of their original cost, landing on the resale market or being refurbished for personal use.


►  Taxpayers billed $1,092 for an official’s two-night stay at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club

The bedroom suites at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, available only to members and their guests, feature hand-painted Moorish ceilings, antique Spanish-tiled mosaics and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.

On a weekend in early March, during one of seven trips by Trump and his White House entourage to the posh Palm Beach property since the inauguration, the government paid the Trump-owned club to reserve at least one bedroom for two nights.

The charge, according to a newly disclosed receipt reviewed by The Washington Post, was $1,092.

The amount was based on a per-night price of $546, which, according to the bill, was Mar-a-Lago’s “rack rate,“ the hotel industry term for a standard, non-discounted price.

The receipt, which was obtained in recent days by the transparency advocacy group Property of the People and verified by The Post, offers one of the first concrete signs that Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago as the “Winter White House” has resulted in taxpayer funds flowing directly into the coffers of his private business.

Given the number of high-profile presidential events at Mar-a-Lago, questions about who pays for meals and rooms have generally gone unanswered. When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited in February, the White House made a point of saying that Abe would stay at the club free of charge as a personal guest of Trump.

The March invoice was provided to the advocacy group by the Coast Guard in response to a broader Freedom of Information Act request seeking records on the agency’s expenses related to Trump-affiliated properties. The Coast Guard FOIA office searched the agency’s credit card payment records, which led it to the invoice, according to an explanation provided by the agency.

The advocacy group has been filing records requests with the Trump administration through a project it calls Operation 45.

It is not clear whether the invoice stemmed from a one-time occurrence or represented one of many Mar-a-Lago rooms that have been booked at government expense for presidential aides or other officials since Trump took office and began traveling there on a regular basis. Other agencies that likely have had regular presence at the club, such as the Secret Service, have declined to provide The Post information about potential payments to Mar-a-Lago and have referred requests to the General Services Administration. The GSA told The Post in March that it had no records of such payments.

The document from March does not reveal anything about the occupant beyond a note atop the page that reads: “National Security Council.“

White House officials and a Coast Guard spokeswoman, as well as representatives of the Trump Organization and Mar-a-Lago, did not respond to questions, including whether Trump’s company regularly charges the government for members of his traveling party to stay at the club.

The disclosure of the government payment to Mar-a-Lago comes as Trump, who has retained ownership of his real estate and hotel company, faces persistent allegations that he has inappropriately profited from his tenure in public office. Some critics have alleged that by doing business with foreign governments and other entities, Trump has violated the Constitution’s foreign “emoluments” clause, which prohibits the president from receiving gifts or benefits from foreign governments.

Now, some ethics experts say the government payment to Mar-a-Lago raises concerns about the domestic emoluments clause, which was intended to prevent the president from receiving payments beyond his salary from state or federal governments.

In addition, some questioned why the federal government should pay top dollar for luxury Palm Beach lodging when less expensive options are available nearby.

“The choice to stay there and have the government pay the $546-a-night rate seems imprudent,“ said Kathleen Clark, a Washington University law professor who specializes in ethics issues. “If it were not owned by the president, it would still seem problematic. The fact that it’s owned by the president makes it doubly problematic.“

Mar-a-Lago has long been one of the signature pieces of Trump’s corporate empire.

The estate, which he bought in 1985 and later converted to a private club, includes two swimming pools, five red-clay tennis courts, the Trump Salon and the Trump Spa, as well as banquet facilities that host elaborate charity balls and weddings.

The business has experienced changes since Trump won the presidency. Soon after the election, the club doubled its initiation fee to $200,000, returning the amount to its pre-recession level. After Trump’s sharp rhetoric on immigration and race in recent months, a number of regular charity customers have opted to move their banquets elsewhere.

Trump’s frequent trips there have come at an expense to taxpayers. The Coast Guard’s increased costs to protect the waterfront property with round-the-clock patrols and gun-mounted boats have been widely publicized.

Financial disclosures filings show that Mar-a-Lago is 99 percent owned by Trump’s revocable trust, from which the president can withdraw money at any time. The club made $37 million in resort-related revenue from January 2016 to this April.

On the weekend that the government paid for the room, March 3 and 4, Trump was joined by a large retinue of administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then-chief strategist Stephen Bannon and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who has since become Trump’s chief of staff.

On that Saturday, Trump presided over a security briefing, dined with top officials from his administration and mingled with guests in the hallway outside a charity fundraiser for the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

The question of whether the president’s company can profit directly from the government is raised in an emoluments lawsuit that was filed by an ethics watchdog group in January.

Much of the attention to the case has focused on the Constitution’s ban on foreign “emoluments” and the business practices of Trump’s Washington hotel. The Constitution also states that the U.S. president “shall not receive . . . any other emolument” from the United States other than his fixed salary.

Trump has said the suit is without merit, and his company has pledged to donate profits from foreign countries to the U.S. Treasury. His attorney, Sheri Dillon, has said that transactions such as hotel room payments are “arm’s-length” transactions that would not amount to an “emolument.“

Oral arguments are scheduled for the suit next month in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“The fact that government officials would spend tax dollars at the president’s property raises serious constitutional questions under the domestic emoluments clause,“ said Brianne Gorod, chief counsel with the Constitutional Accountability Center, a nonprofit Washington think tank.

Ted Shugerman, a Fordham University law professor, said that the founding founders clearly viewed attempts to curry favor from the president as a serious issue. But Shugerman said a reasonable argument could be made that emoluments would need a minimum value to qualify as a clear benefit.

“You have to make a leap from what was on the page in the 18th century to what is meant in the 21st century,“ he said. “History answers some of these questions more clearly than others. History does not clearly answer this question.“


►  Pennsylvania hospital staffers took photos of anesthetized patient’s genitals

It seemed as if the whole hospital was in the operating room. The crowd had gathered with smartphones in hand, snapping photos and recording video, the object of their fascination a patient’s genitals with a protruding object.

It was “a ton” of staff, one staffer said.

“At one point when I looked up, there were so many people it looked like a cheerleader-type pyramid,“ a physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Bedford Memorial hospital said, according to a report issued Wednesday by Pennsylvania’s Department of Heath and Human Services. The report did not describe the injury.

The serious breach of privacy for an unconscious patient has led to the suspension of one physician for 28 days, another for a week, and the ousting of the surgical services nursing director, according to the report, which followed an investigation.

The citation listed numerous violations including failure to protect a patient’s confidentiality and privacy, allowing staff not central to the patient’s care to enter the operating room, and allowing personal devices to be used to photograph the patient.

The incident occurred December 23, and the following month “a hospital employee came forward to complain about photographs that were circulating around the hospital of a patient under anesthesia” while in the operating room, the report said.

Physicians and hospital employees who were interviewed gave various reasons for why they flocked to the operating room. One physician claimed a need to photograph the injury for medical research purposes, the report said.

“We have a camera in the [operating room] for that purpose, but it was reportedly broken and so personal phones were used.

“Initially, we thought there was only one picture taken but later we learned of others,“ the report stated.

The camera, it turned out, did work. But it was “too complicated to use,“ investigators found.

One individual came for “sheer curiosity.“

“I was doing a tendon repair, when someone—I don’t remember who, one of the OR staff—came into the room and said that there was a patient in the ER with a genital injury. I thought, ‘How does this happen?‘ I couldn’t imagine how the patient did it,“ the individual said.

The unnamed hospital employee admitted sharing photos with a spouse.

Pennlive.com, which reported the story from a health-care privacy blog, relayed a statement from the hospital’s network saying that the behavior was “abhorrent” and that the patient, who was not identified in the citation, had been alerted.

The health department could not be reached for comment.

In additional to the suspensions and firing, the hospital took further action, including a memo reminding staff about hospital policies and retraining surgical staffers in privacy and confidentiality issues.

Some hospital workers interviewed said the photos circulated beyond the staff. One staffer seemed to shrug off the issue as part of the morbid reality of surgical work.

“I received a picture text on my phone from Anesthesia, made a comment and moved on. We do pass on interesting stuff,“ the report said.


►  Melania Trump slowly finds her first lady persona: More Bess Truman than Jackie Kennedy

In the early days of the Trump White House, the question frequently lobbed about by Washington’s chattering class was, “Where is Melania?“

Now, though, she is providing an answer, taking on a public schedule that is beginning to resemble those of her predecessors.

This week, the first lady flew with her husband to Florida, where they surveyed the wreckage left by Hurricane Irma and handed out FEMA lunches. She returned to Washington that same Thursday evening to host a reception for the White House Historical Association, a venerable group founded by Jackie Kennedy to maintain and protect the executive mansion. The event included a sit-down dinner where Donald Trump introduced his wife as “the star of the Trump family.“

On Friday afternoon, she traveled to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland to visit a youth center in a show of support for military families. Then she and her husband boarded Air Force One for a weekend at their New Jersey golf resort.

“She is more visible and starting to do some of the more conventional first lady things,“ said Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University who studies first ladies.

Still, “we don’t see her rushing in to do some public press conference about her cyberbullying project” - a cause Mrs. Trump said during the campaign she hoped to champion.

From the start, Melania Trump has said she would take her own time filling out the contours of the role. She delayed her move to the White House but accompanied her husband overseas during his first diplomatic outings. She had a leisurely summer with few public events but is revving up her schedule and frequently sharing “thoughts and prayers” on her Twitter feed.

Behind the scenes, she has taken an interest in the federal government’s efforts to assist families devastated by recent hurricanes, attending some FEMA meetings. At the reception Thursday, she told guests she is making her voice heard on disaster-relief issues.

The first lady’s public persona is still coming into focus, though. Her visit to the youth center Friday was a classic first lady photo op of the sort pioneered by Lady Bird Johnson, who went out to read to schoolchildren to promote the Johnson administration’s creation of the Head Start program.

With a group of reporters observing behind a red rope, Mrs. Trump sat at a table as children played with Lego bricks and made paper airplanes with a group of older children and launched a few of the planes herself. (Elsewhere on the base, her husband was observing an air fleet demonstration.)

“Oh, I brought you some crayons,“ she said softly to a small table of elementary school students. “You want to color with me?“

For Mrs. Trump, an increase in such community-oriented events could help shift the public discussion about her, which until now has largely focused on the former model’s clothing choices.

That’s largely what has led to the frequent comparisons to Jackie Kennedy - another first lady who made high-fashion style statements with simple lines and monochromatic dresses. But in terms of public persona, Trump most resembles Bess Truman - a first lady who dutifully showed up for events but played the role quietly, said Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian of the National First Ladies’ Library.

“Bess Truman never gave press interviews at all - and that was after Eleanor Roosevelt, who had a Sunday radio show and held press conferences,“ Anthony said. “When [reporters] said to Bess Truman, ‘How are we going to know you without your giving us an interview?,‘ she quipped back: ‘You don’t need to know me. I’m only the wife of the president and the mother of his daughter.‘ “

Melania Trump hasn’t yet sat for any in-depth interviews, either. Still, her interests are emerging, said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to Laura Bush and sits on the board of the White House Historical Association.

McBride, who attended the White House reception this week, said the first lady seems to be putting her mark on the place in small ways. There were fragrant gardenias in the grand foyers and softly dimmed lighting in the dining room, where the meal was served on the gold china selected by the Clintons to mark the White House bicentennial.

“She is obviously someone who is very comfortable entertaining and hosting people in the White House,“ said McBride, who directs conferences on the first ladies as an executive in residence at American University.

Melania Trump spoke more extensively than usual at the reception, telling guests, “Our family’s appreciation for this home grows each and every day, and we could not be more grateful for your dedication to the White House.“

Meanwhile, she has signaled some interest in the advocacy role expected of past first ladies, recently sitting in on a meeting about the opioid crisis. Still, like any first lady, she has the freedom to choose: She can do a lot publicly, or nothing at all.

“She is doing it according to a timetable that suits her,“ McBride said, “as every first lady should do.“


►  Judge rules Justice Dept. can’t keep grant money from uncooperative sanctuary cities

A federal judge on Friday blocked the Justice Department from withholding grant funds from places that don’t provide immigration authorities access to local jails or give advance notice when people suspected of being in the country illegally are to be released - dealing a major blow to the Trump administration’s vowed crackdown on sanctuary cities.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in Illinois wrote in a 41-page opinion that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had probably exceeded his lawful authority when he imposed new conditions on particular law enforcement grants, requiring recipients to give immigration authorities access to jails and notice when people suspected of being in the country illegally were to be released.

The judge blocked Sessions from implementing the conditions not just on the city of Chicago - which had sued over the matter - but across the nation, writing that there was “no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago or that the statutory authority given to the Attorney General would differ in another jurisdiction.“

His ruling follows an order from another federal judge in California blocking Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities.

Justice Department spokesmen did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Chicago officials said they planned to hold a news conference later Friday. The judge issued a preliminary injunction - which means the administration is blocked temporarily while the case makes its way through the courts.

The Trump administration has waged an aggressive campaign against sanctuary cities - a term that has no set meaning but which generally refers to places that are welcoming to those in the country illegally and resistant to federal authorities’ efforts to deport those in the country illegally.

Donald Trump signed an executive order in January declaring that such places would not be eligible for federal grants, and Sessions has tried to make the threat a reality.

In April, the attorney general demanded that several jurisdictions produce proof that they are communicating with federal authorities about those in the country illegally or risk losing grant funding.

In July, he announced new conditions on a particular pool of money - the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program - requiring recipients to allow federal immigration authorities access to detention facilities and to provide 48 hours notice before releasing people suspected of being in the country illegally.

“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,“ Sessions said in announcing the change. “These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law.“

The crackdown, though, has been stymied by the courts. A federal judge in San Francisco largely halted Trump’s executive order in April, though his ruling exempted the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which already required places to certify they were complying with an immigration-related law.

After Sessions imposed the new conditions, Chicago, which received $2.33 million for itself and neighboring jurisdictions, sued, saying he was exceeding his authority, and his edict would put at risk funds for critical technology, including to detect when and where gunshots were fired.

Leinenweber largely agreed with the city, though he stopped short of saying it need not certify compliance with an immigration-related law tied to the grant. That law effectively says jurisdictions cannot block their employees from communicating with immigration authorities, though Leinenweber asserted it does not require local authorities to assist their federal counterparts.


►  U.S. Army kills contracts for hundreds of immigrant recruits; some face deportation

U.S. Army recruiters have abruptly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of foreign-born military recruits since last week, upending their lives and potentially exposing many to deportation, according to several affected recruits and a retired Army officer and former Pentagon official familiar with their situation.

Many of these enlistees have waited years to join a troubled immigration recruitment program designed to attract highly skilled immigrants into the service in exchange for fast-track citizenship.

Now recruits and experts say that recruiters are shedding their contracts to free themselves from an onerous enlistment process, which includes extensive background investigations, to focus on individuals who can more quickly enlist and thus satisfy strict recruitment targets.

Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer who led creation of the immigration recruitment program, told The Washington Post that she has received dozens of frantic messages from recruits this week, with many more reporting similar action in Facebook groups. She said hundreds could be affected.

“It’s a dumpster fire ruining people’s lives. The magnitude of incompetence is beyond belief,“ she said. “We have a war going on. We need these people.“

The nationwide disruption comes at a time when Donald Trump navigates a political minefield, working with Democrats on the fate of “dreamers” while continuing to stoke his anti-immigrant base. It was not immediately clear if Pentagon officials have taken hard-line immigration stances from the White House as a signal to ramp down support for its foreign-born recruitment program.

Stock said a recruiter told her there was pressure from the recruiting command to release foreign-born recruits, with one directive suggesting they had until September 14 to cut them loose without counting against their recruiting targets, an accounting quirk known as “loss forgiveness.“

The recruiter told Stock the Army Reserve is struggling to meet its numbers before the fiscal year closes September 30, and canceling on resource-intensive recruits is attractive to some recruiters.

On Friday, the Pentagon denied ordering a mass cancellation of immigrant recruit contracts and said there were no incentives to do so. Officials said that recent directives to recruiters were meant to reiterate immigrant recruits must be separated within two years of enlistment unless they “opt in” for an additional year.

But some recruits among half a dozen interviewed for this article said they were not approaching that two-year limit when their contracts were canceled, sowing confusion about the reason they were cut loose. The Pentagon declined to address whether messages to recruiters contained language that could have been misinterpreted.

Some anti-immigration sentiment has swirled in the Pentagon for years, former staffers have said, where personnel and security officials from the Barack Obama administration larded the immigrant recruiting process with additional security checks for visa holders already vetted by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

“Immigrant recruits are already screened far more than any other recruits we have,“ Naomi Verdugo, a former senior recruiting official for the Army at the Pentagon, told The Post, including one American who fought with Russian-backed militants in Ukraine but enlisted in the U.S. Army without triggering suspicion.

“It seems like overkill, but there seems to be a sense that no matter what background check you do, it’s never enough,“ she said.

Verdugo, along with Stock, helped implement the program. One Indian immigrant, a Harvard graduate and early recruit who is now a Special Forces soldier and served in Iraq, was called back to undertake the updated security checks, she said.

“Even though you’re in the Army, even though you’re naturalized, these policies say ‘we’re not going to treat you like any other soldier,‘“ Verdugo said of the concerns over immigrants held by some at the Pentagon.

Internal Pentagon documents obtained by The Post have said the immigrant recruitment program, formally known as the Military Accessions to Vital National Interest (MAVNI), was suspended last fall after the clearance process was paralyzed and officials voiced concern over foreign infiltrators, though it remains unclear if any actual threats have ever materialized.

Lola Mamadzhanova, who immigrated to the United States from Kyrgyzstan in 2009, said she heard that Army recruiters in Evanston, Illinois, texted immigrant recruits last week asking whether they still wanted to enlist, with an unusual condition: They had 10 minutes to respond. She never received the text message.

“The recruiters did some dirty trick just to get me out so I won’t be trouble anymore,“ Mamadzhanova, 27, told The Post on Thursday. Her active-duty contract was canceled September 07, according to a separation document obtained by The Post that said she “declined to enlist.“ She later learned the recruiters used a wrong number to text her.

The senior recruiter at the station contacted by The Post declined to comment and called Mamadzhanova seven minutes afterward to reverse previous guidance, saying her unlawful immigration status was the reason she was released. She enlisted in December 2015, which puts her three months outside the two-year limit.

Mamadzhanova was assured by other recruiters that her status would not be an issue and she would ship for training soon after her immigration status slipped around her enlistment date. Mamadzhanova, who is fluent in Russian, said the shifting and unclear rules have blindsided her.

“Joining the Army was a dream of mine since America has treated me so well,“ she said. She applied for asylum in April, joining other recruits who have either sought asylum or fled.

Experts say the relatively small number of recruits in the MAVNI program possess skills with outsize value, such as foreign languages highly sought by Special Operations Command. The program has rotated 10,400 troops into the military, mostly the Army, since its inception in 2009.

Although the military says it benefits from these recruits, they can generate a disproportionate amount of work for recruiters who must navigate an enormous amount of regulations and shifting policies. The layered security checks can add months or years to the enlistment process, which frustrate recruiters who must meet strictly enforced goals by quickly processing recruits.

In a summer memo, the Pentagon lists 2,400 foreign recruits with signed contracts who are drilling in reserve units but have not been naturalized and have not gone to basic training. About 1,800 others were waiting for their active-duty training to begin.

The document acknowledges 1,000 of those troops waited so long that they are no longer in legal status and could be exposed to deportation. That number probably has climbed since the memo was drafted in May or June. Lawmakers have asked Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to intervene on behalf of those recruits.

Senators Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., filed an amendment in the defense authorization bill Tuesday to retain MAVNI recruits until their lengthy background investigations are finished.

“These brave men & women enlisted & the Administration turns its back on them,“ Harris tweeted Friday. “We must pass Senator Durbin’s & my bill to protect these recruits.“

During July 19 testimony in a lawsuit filed by recruits who said the federal government unlawfully delayed their naturalizations, Justice Department attorney Colin Kisor assured the district court in Washington that recruits would only see their contracts canceled if “derogatory” information was found in extensive background investigations.

Mamadzhanova and others said their screenings, which take months to complete, have begun recently and could not have returned results.

Meanwhile, confusion reigned for recruits in multiple states.

At one office in Illinois, a senior recruiter restored a contract less than two hours after The Post inquired about a case. In Texas, a recruiter did the same 12 minutes after a call seeking to confirm whether a recruit’s contract was canceled.

An immigrant recruit who came to the United States in 2006 and enlisted in Virginia said her contract was canceled Tuesday after waiting for two years, just as her legal immigration status expired. Recruiters had assured her, saying her contract was a shield from federal immigration authorities, she said. She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

She now fears deportation to her native Indonesia, which strips native-born people of citizenship if they enlist in a foreign military or pledge loyalty to another country, as she has done.

“I feel devastated,“ she said. “The Army was my only hope.“

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Germany’s Merkel: flexible in politics and modest in private

She’s been named the world’s most powerful woman, seen off a series of domestic rivals and led an unsentimental response to Europe’s debt crisis. But to many Germans, Chancellor Angela Merkel is a reassuring figure known simply as “Mutti” — Mom.

Beyond her bold decision to allow in large numbers of migrants and her insistence on budget cuts in Greece, Merkel’s more ordinary traits have helped make her an enduring presence and favorite to win a fourth term in Germany’s September 24 election.

Merkel is not the most glamorous of political operators. But that’s part of her appeal.

People like a leader who grows her own vegetables, takes unglamorous walking holidays, is occasionally seen shopping at the supermarket and lives in the same Berlin apartment she did before becoming chancellor 12 years ago.

Merkel has broadly satisfied Germans with a combination of ideological flexibility, calm decision-making, personal modesty and a touch of wry humor.

“I had a phase in my childhood where I wanted to do everything I was really bad at — ballet dancer, balance beam gymnast,” Merkel said in June. “Over the years, I have made my peace with what I can and can’t do.”

Her pragmatic approach and willingness to adopt liberal competitors’ ideas — coupled with luck — have allowed the conservative leader to stamp her mark on Germany’s political center ground. Her knack for convincing Germans that she is on top of complicated crises and taking account of their worries earned her the “Mutti” nickname.

As chancellor, she dropped military conscription, introduced benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children, and abruptly accelerated the shutdown of Germany’s nuclear power plants following Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

She allowed in large numbers of asylum-seekers in 2015, declaring that “we will manage it,” before gradually pivoting to a more restrictive approach. Most recently, she cleared the way for parliament to legalize same-sex marriage — without actually endorsing the change herself.

It’s an approach that has roots in Merkel’s improbable route to the top: the daughter of a Protestant pastor, who grew up in East Germany, she had an early career as a physicist and entered politics only in her mid-30s as communism crumbled.

“She has a fixed compass as far as her relationship with human rights is concerned, because of her experience of dictatorship and her Christian belief,” says Jacqueline Boysen, a Merkel biographer. “She is certainly a woman who is very principled, but she is unideological.”

As the leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, Merkel has slowly but surely modernized the party, to make sure it keeps up with changes in society.

She has shifted positions quickly when needed: in 2005, after barely winning an election in which she was expected to prevail easily, she struck a coalition deal with her center-left rivals and dropped talk of far-reaching economic reforms at home.

Critics see opportunism and a lack of vision. Her first vice chancellor, center-left Social Democrat Franz Muentefering, later said that “if you imagine being with her in a plane that she is flying, you don’t have to be worried about crashing — but you don’t know where you will land.”

The chancellor’s methodical approach reflects her scientific background.

“My decisions sometimes take a very long time, but when they are made I very seldom have problems with these decisions,” Merkel said at a summer event hosted by a women’s magazine.

Over the years, Merkel says she has become more direct in saying what she wants. All the same, her public speaking is still notorious for idiosyncratic and circuitous formulations — another legacy, perhaps, of her upbringing behind the Iron Curtain.

She recalls “always having to read between the lines” in East Germany, where “very delicate hints were enough almost to put you on the side of the class enemy.”

“In a society where there is freedom of opinion, everyone is used to putting their interests on the table much more clearly,” she says. After German reunification, she “thought people would understand my delicate hints — but that didn’t always work.”

If the chancellor’s words aren’t always crystal clear, her body language can be telling. Merkel herself acknowledges that she doesn’t have a poker face.

“I’ve given up — I can’t do it,” she says. “You have to live with your weaknesses.”

That self-deprecating humor underlines a generally reserved and modest lifestyle.

“She is not someone who is interested in luxury — big cars, jewelry, handbags and shoes, it doesn’t interest her at all,” says Boysen, the biographer. “And that has the effect of inspiring confidence in German voters.”

Other than annual trips to the Bayreuth opera festival, Merkel and her second husband, publicity-shy chemistry professor Joachim Sauer, keep their private life private. They have no children.

Merkel offers the occasional fleeting glimpse of home life — she mashes potatoes to make potato soup, rather than pureeing them. Walking is a passion “because you can clear your head.”

On the world stage, Merkel has outlasted most leaders, bringing a reputation for endurance to all-night negotiating marathons. She’s not one for backslapping friendships, but has built durable relationships with difficult leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. She has worked to engage Donald Trump while also publicly keeping her distance.

A succession of domestic rivals has struggled to unseat her as Germany’s economy has powered ahead. Merkel has camped out in the center ground and held back from personal attacks — and, critics say, from formulating meaningful policies.

In June, center-left challenger Martin Schulz accused the conservative leadership of avoiding a debate on Germany’s future and seeking to push down turnout.

“I call it an attack on democracy,” he said.

The response? A smiling putdown.

“I’ve always had a different impression of Martin Schulz, and the election campaign is probably very arduous,” Merkel said a few days later. “Let’s forget it.”


►  Pentagon chief Mattis describes Mexico as a longtime partner ‘keenly aware’ of its security challenges

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday highlighted Mexico’s efforts to stop illegal drugs and human trafficking, saying officials here are “keenly aware” of their security challenges and working with the United States to confront them.

Mattis made his comments as he flew to Mexico to join celebrations of the country’s Independence Day and meet senior Mexican officials, including Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray.

The visit coincides with the continuing debate over Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall, which is deeply unpopular in Mexico. Mattis said he wanted to “pay our respects to our southern neighbor.“ The United States and Mexico have very supportive military-to-military ties, and his visit is an effort to reinforce that, he said.

“I’m going down to build the trust and show the respect on their Independence Day,“ he said.

The visit marks the latest occasion in which the defense secretary is attempting to reassure a U.S. partner hostile to positions taken by the Trump administration. The defense secretary, however, has expressed frustration when he has been portrayed as at odds with the president on policy, and instead has sought to highlight the strong relationships the U.S. military has with its counterparts across the world.

Mattis planned to meet Friday with senior Mexican military officials, including General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico’s secretary of national defense, and Adm. Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz, the secretary of Mexico’s navy. They were joined by U.S. Air Force General Lori Robinson, the chief of Northern Command, and the top U.S. Navy officer, Adm. John Richardson.

Mattis is the fifth U.S. defense secretary to visit Mexico and the first to do so for Independence Day festivities, defense officials said.

Mattis arrived in Mexico just after The New York Times reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly - in a meeting between Trump and congressional leaders - had compared Mexico to Venezuela during the tumultuous rule of Hugo Chávez and suggested Mexico was on the verge of a collapse.

Asked about the report, Mattis seemed to question such a dire characterization of Mexico.

“Every nation has its challenges,“ he said of Mexico. “I’m here to support them in dealing with them.“

The defense secretary said there is no role for the U.S. military in defending the U.S.-Mexican border, adding that it will continue to be protected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Our job is overseas,“ Mattis said of the military. “We have no arrest authorities.“

The U.S. military also has no role in stopping drug interdiction inside Mexico’s territorial waters, he said. In open ocean, the Pentagon works with the Colombian, Mexican and Costa Rican navies, he said.

Mattis’ visit marks the third stop in a trip in which he met with U.S. troops overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons mission at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. He was at the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the U.S. nuclear mission, when North Korea launched its latest missile test Thursday evening, sending a ballistic missile over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

The defense secretary said the latest missile launch will further isolate North Korea.


►  British police arrest 18-year-old man in connection with London subway attack

Following a fast-moving investigation and manhunt, British police on Saturday morning arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with an attack the previous day on the London subway, in which at least 29 people were injured and authorities labled as terrorism.

Authorities said the man was arrested by Kent police in the port area of Dover on the English Channel. Police suspect he might have been seeking a boat out of England.

In addition, armed police raided and began searching a property in Sunbury west of London Saturday afternoon. Counterterrorism units were at the scene and police told reporters the operation was connected to the subway explosion.

The homemade bomb exploded on a London subway train at Parsons Green station Friday morning, sending a scorching blast of flame and smoke through a London subway car.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday that it was “good fortune” the improvised explosive device “did so little damage,“ but she suggested that the materials used to build the bomb were too readily available.

“We have to make certain we take all the steps we can to ensure that the sort of materials this man was able to collect become more and more difficult to combine together,“ Rudd said.

Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu called the arrest “significant” but added that the investigation is ongoing.

The man is being held for questioning under the Terrorism Act. “For strong investigative reasons we will not give any more details on the man we arrested at this stage,“ Basu said.

In the town of Sunbury-on-Thames, located about 15 miles to the west of central London, residents waited outside of a police cordon on Saturday evening, as forensics experts entered a row house on Cavendish Road.

Anna Wilkins 43, said she lived right next to the house which was being searched. “I saw a young man come out of there with his bike a couple of times in recent weeks,“ Wilkins said. The young man whom she described as “Asian” only appeared to have arrived in the house a couple of months ago and lived with an elderly couple, believed to be British. It is unknown whether the young man described by Wilkins is the suspect arrested in Dover.

“I never spoke to him and only saw him when he left the house with his bike, but I was always suspicious of him,“ said Wilkins.

Police officers were guarding a purple house about 100 yards away from the police cordon. A street sign indicated that Cavendish Road is part of a “Neighborhood Watch” project, where residents help to guard their district, to keep it safe.

While police cars kept arriving, some of the evacuated residents ordered pints of beer in a pub nearby.

One resident living near the house being searched said that he had never seen anyone entering or leaving it. “This isn’t an area where people really know each other,“ said 51-year old Chris Ross. “This afternoon, there were suddenly armed police officers who told us to get out of our houses as soon as possible. They only gave us a couple of seconds.“

After the bombing, security measures were immediately tightened across London’s vast mass-transit network, and the government described the threat level as critical, meaning another attack could be imminent.

British media reported that the crude explosive device, carried in a bucket and shoved into a shopping bag, had a simple timer, suggesting that some degree of bomb-making knowledge was employed.

The Islamic State terrorist group asserted responsibility for the explosion on its Amaq News Agency website. Experts cautioned that the group often seeks credit for attacks it may have only inspired, as well as ones it had nothing to do with.

As the investigation unfolded, in London the message was the now familiar “keep calm and carry on.“

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick traveled -very visibly, escorted by news media -via the Underground subway to Waterloo station and “patrolled” the South Bank of the River Thames

“Yesterday we saw a a cowardly and indiscriminate attack, which could have resulted in many lives being lost,“ Dick said. “Again we saw a quick response from all the emergency services and transport staff. Since then, we have had teams of detectives and specialists working through the night on the investigation and officers throughout London mobilizing and providing an increased visible police presence - especially in crowded places.“

The explosion on London’s Tube is bound to rekindle pointed debate about whether countries such as Britain have been tough enough in fighting terrorism. Just hours after the blast, President Donald Trump suggested that Britain needed to be “more proactive.“

Authorities said the 29 injured largely suffered from flash burns. Emergency services said none of those hurt had life-threatening injuries.

“We have hundreds of detectives involved looking at [closed-circuit] TV, forensic work and speaking to witnesses,“ said Mark Rowley, head of London’s police counterterrorism unit.

Friday’s explosion was the fifth terrorist attack in Britain this year. At least three of the attackers who struck Britain this year were previously known to law enforcement officials. Authorities have acknowledged that it is impossible to keep track of all suspects, and it is believed that British security services are constantly monitoring about 500 people. According to European Union officials, the number of Islamist extremists in the country could be up to 50 times that.

After the recent spate of attacks in London and Manchester, the British prime minister was criticized by the opposition for slashing local police staffs.

On Thursday, Britain’s Home Office announced that police, using broader authorities, had arrested a record 379 people for terrorism- related offenses in the past months, an increase of almost 70 percent.

Medicare For All Can Reshape the ‘Art of the Possible’

The Free Press WV

Bernie Sanders unveiled his Medicare for All bill this week, and 16 Democratic senators signed on as cosponsors. The last time he introduced a bill like it, not one senator was willing to join him. They considered the idea impossible, utopian.

Times have changed.

The senators who shared a podium with Sanders understand this bill won’t pass in today’s Republican-dominated Congress. They signed on because it’s a good idea, and because they recognize that by doing so they can both reflect and reshape a shifting political landscape.

They’re aware that Sanders’ presidential campaign triggered a wave of energy and activism that continues today. They recognize that this nascent political movement is a powerful political engine, and its diverse millennial base makes it the Democratic engine of the future.

They understand how change happens: as an ongoing dance between street-level activism and electoral politics.


A Declaration of Principles

With this bill, 17 senators – nearly one-third of the Senate’s Democrats, including several presidential prospects – are saying health care is a human right and a public good. That’s a declaration of principle.

They are also defending the principle of progressive taxation. The program would be funded through higher taxes on the wealthy, eliminating special tax breaks, a one-time tax on offshore profits, and a fee levied against big banks.

Their cosponsorship is a declaration of principle in another way, too. Not one of the bill’s 16 cosponsors describes her- or himself as a “democratic socialist,” as Sanders does. But this bill shows us how government can make our lives better, as it already does through programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Democrats have too often been reluctant to proclaim the value of government in recent years. They’ve kept government at an embarrassed arm’s length, like a parent at a junior high dance. These Democrats, on the other hand, are embracing an unabashedly pro-government idea. No embarrassment, just pride.


The Flag

The bill has no chance of passage in the current Congress. In that sense it’s symbolic, a flag. But flags have value. They give people something to rally around, and they can be used to point the way forward.

Democrats could use a few more flags these days.

For too long, “centrist” Dems made the mistake of elevating process over principle. Process is important, of course. But elections are won and lost on principle, on flags. Democrats who speak of “the art of the possible” in the context of a Republican-dominated Congress are on a fool’s errand. They’ll accomplish little or nothing of value.

The goal must be to take over Congress, not surrender to a hostile one, so that the “possible” is redefined. This bill can help make that happen.

These senators are being active rather than reactive. Instead of complaining about Donald Trump, they’ve provoked Trump into complaining about them. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president thinks this bill is a “horrible idea.”

That’s how you win elections – by framing the terms of the debate. Let the Republicans tell the American people why they don’t think healthcare is a human right. Let them tell voters why they’re defending the runaway greed of insurance companies and Big Pharma.


Dollar By Dollar, Life By Life

The bill includes a transitional phase-in period. That’s important. Healthcare in the United States is a $3.4 trillion economy, so it will take some time to ensure a smooth transition. And, as Harold Meyerson notes, the bill’s gradualism is also “designed to make it progressively easier for legislators to support and progressively more difficult for such entrenched interests as the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to defeat.”

There is entrenched resistance to single-payer healthcare. It’s easier for a politician to defend a healthcare program for a defined population – children under 19, for example – than it is to defend something that can be abstracted away as “socialized medicine.”

It should also be noted that somewhere between one-third and one-fourth of all U.S. health spending is already government-funded. In that sense, any new government healthcare proposal should be considered “gradualist.”

This bill lays out the long-term goal, but its phased-in approach gives breathing space for other forms of health-related activism in the meantime. They include the fight to defend current government healthcare programs, and the battle for Medicaid expansion in states like Texas and Florida.

Medicare For All can be the flag for all of these health activism fronts, and all of them can be pursued with a single, unifying goal in mind: Dollar by dollar, life by life, public health insurance must be defended and expanded until it is available to everyone.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV
Huge Yard Sale

Friday, September 15 and Saturday, the 16th

8am to 4pm

Rosedale Senior Center in Rosedale

This is a multi family yard sale with a variety of items hosted by the Normantown Knights 4-H Club

All sales benefit the Normantown 4-H Club




The Free Press WV
Pioneers Host Nationally Ranked Shepherd University in Week Three

For the first time since 2014 the Glenville State Pioneer Football team is 0-2 (0-2 MEC) as they fell last week on the road at Notre Dame College, 35-10. This week GSC returns home to the confines of Morris Stadium as they host Nationally Ranked Shepherd University at 12 p.m. this Saturday, September 16th.

In the Pioneers first road game of the season last week GSC out gained the Falcons offense on the day as they ran 78 plays for 467 yards while Notre Dame ran 69 plays for 407 total yards. Glenville State was flagged nine times for 84 yards while Notre Dame was flagged five times for 63 yards.

Offensively, Ja’Quay Garmon completed 21-of-25 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. True Freshman Jaylen McNair also completed four passes for 44 yards.  DJ Williams finished the game with 111 receiving yards on seven catches while fellow wideout Javon butler added 101 yards on five receptions. Austin Ratliff had 48 yards including the only Pioneer touchdown of the day. Dominique Gibson led the rushing attack for the Pioneers as he carried the ball 15 times for 88 yards.

Defensively for the Pioneers, Cory Roberts led the team with nine tackles, as Wil Mayes and Austin Hill would contribute eight and seven tackles respectively.  Bakari Davis would intercept a pass for the Pioneers, their first of the year.

Shepherd 1-0 (1-0 MEC) comes into the matchup again nationally Ranked at No. 4 in the NCAA DII. The Rams also had a bye week last week. However in week one of the 2017 season they defeated the Notre Dame College Flacons at home 54-49.

In the Rams and Falcons matchup, Notre Dame ran 69 plays and gained 389 yards against Shepherd’s defense. Rams Quarterback Connor Jessop has thrown for 476 yards with five touchdowns and is completing 72.9% of his passes. Jessop, is also the Rams leading rusher so far this season as he has carried the ball seven times for 50 yards and has two rushing touchdowns.

In last year’s matchup between the Pioneers and Rams, Glenville State fell 38-7. GSC only managed 11 first downs while Shepherd gained 24. The Pioneers ran 11 less players than the Rams, Glenville State ran 63 plays for 235 total yards while the defense gave up 439 total yards to Shepherd on 74 total plays.

Glenville State is looking for their first win over Shepherd since the 2010 season as the Rams have won the last six straight. Kickoff between the Pioneers and Rams is set for 12 p.m. from Morris Stadium this Saturday.

 

The Free Press WV


The Free Press WV

“Calling all artists”, come to the Trillium Arts Guild’s meeting on Tuesday,  September 16, 2017 at 5:00 PM

We would love to have more artists join us

We will be working on 6x6” works of art for a fundraiser at the Parkersburg Arts Center on November 12, 2017 - the art will sell for $20 each.

We will meet at the West End Cafe in West Union where you can order a reasonably priced meal and either work on a project or bring in your completed painting (must be exactly 6x6 inches and not have any hanging apparatus as they will be displayed on shelves.)

We also have “show and tell” at our meetings and you do not have to be an artist to attend.

 

The Free Press WV

RAMSEY BENEFIT

From 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday September 17, 2017 the Gilmer Parks Board and friends are sponsoring a benefit dinner for Darrell Ramsey in order to take care of all the final expenses for his late son, Adam. 

The public is invited and pay by donation.


MENU

Baked Ham, Scallop Potatoes,

Buttered Corn,  Hot Rolls

Variety of Desserts

Coffee/Tea/Lemonade/Ice Water

The Gilmer Free Press

Area High School Football Scoreboard
2017: Week 4 Games
Gilmer County (0-4) 0 Lewis County (0-4) 14
Sherman (3-1) 43 Braxton County (2-1) 20
Ritchie County (2-2) 40 #8 Nicholas County (4-0) 30
Calhoun County (0-4) 0 Roane County (0-4) 0
Doddridge County (2-2) 43 Ravenswood (2-1) 26
Tygarts Valley (1-3) 0 Tyler Consolidated (1-3) 12
#3 Midland Trail (4-0) 35 Marietta, OH 19
Richwood (1-3) 13 #2 St. Marys (3-0) 63
Steubenville Catholic, OH 14 #1 Fayetteville (4-0) 18
#5 South Harrison (3-0) 48 Meadow Bridge (0-4) 6
#15 Grafton (AA) (3-1) 42 Frontier, OH 10
Notre Dame (1-3) 22 #7 Cameron (3-0) 56
Wirt County (3-1) 54 Valley (Wetzel) (2-2) 29
Parkersburg Catholic (0-3) 12 #7 Clay-Battelle (2-1) 18
Clay County (AA) (3-1) 37 Bridgeport, OH 52
Valley (Fayette) (0-4) 8 Paden City (0-3) 0
#4 Fairmont Senior (4-0) 14 Williamstown (1-3) 23
#2 Bridgeport (3-1) 10 Wheeling Central (1-2) 28
Philip Barbour (2-2) 7 #13 Parkersburg (1-2) 21
#9 Liberty Harrison (3-0) 35 #3 Huntington (4-0) 35
Lincoln (AA) (2-2) 28 #15 Robert C. Byrd (AA) (2-2) 23
#13 Buckhannon-Upshur (1-2) 20 Preston (1-3) 25
Parkersburg South (1-3) 23    
Princeton (0-3) 7    
BYE WEEK:  Webster County

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Census Data Show West Virginia is Fifth Highest in Poverty Rate

New federal data show 319,063 West Virginians living below the poverty line last year, a 17.9 percent rate unchanged from the year before and slightly lower than a measured peak in 2011.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows 88,351 children under 18 years old in poverty, or 24 percent of those living in West Virginia in 2016.

It had the fifth highest overall poverty rate among its 1.78 million people, behind the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico.

Among those employed in West Virginia, the rate was 7.8 percent.

Sean O’Leary, of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, says state options to address the problem including protecting Medicaid and other programs low- and moderate-income families rely on and investing in higher education.


►  WV DOH advises Doddridge motorists of delays

The West Virginia Division of Highways has issued an advisory warning motorists to be aware of a traffic delays in Doddrige County in the coming days.

Due to pipeline work, drivers on Doddridge 50/10, Englands Run Road, can expect delays of up to two hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Also due to pipeline work, drivers on Doddridge 30/3, Jockey Camp Road, can expect “long” delays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.


►  Statewide legal groups set up toll-free legal hotline for flood victims

A toll-free legal hotline (877.331.4259) is available to connect low-income individuals affected by the recent storms and flooding in West Virginia with local legal aid, according to officials.

The service, which allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer, is a partnership between the West Virginia State Bar, Legal Aid of West Virginia, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

According to officials, the volunteers can provide:

— Assistance securing government benefits available to disaster victims;

— Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims;

— Replacement of important legal documents destroyed in the disaster;

— Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems; and

— Counseling on landlord-tenant problems

The hotline is available 24/7 and callers can leave a message any time, according to officials.


►  WV DMV wins Center for Digital Government inaugural award for ‘Skip the Trip’

The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles was recognized this week for winning an inaugural “State Government-to-Citizen Experience” award from the Center for Digital Government.

The “Skip the Trip” initiative that gives customers the opportunity to do DMV business online or at a convenient self-service kiosk was submitted to the Center for consideration in this new category.

Kiosk and online services include vehicle registration renewal and driver’s license renewal, as well as obtaining a driving record. Additional services will continue to be added, and more are available online, including conducting a personalized plate search and paying reinstatement fees.

Visit www.dmv.wv.gov to see the most current list of online services available, as well as kiosk locations, or contact the DMV at 800.642.9066.


►  Mountain State Art and Craft Fair underway at Cedar Lakes

The 55th Mountain State Art & Craft Fair got underway Friday at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Jackson County.

The event is known for its talented juried artisans, fair president Karen Facemyer said.

“We’ve got 38 artisans out of 100 that are also juried in at Tamarack. A lot of these started at the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair years ago,” Facemyer told MetroNews affiliate Ravenswood-based WMOV Radio.

The event is actually five fairs situated around the finger lakes focusing on American, Celtic, Italian, German and Swiss culture.

“We have metal working to water colors to soap makers, the shingle splitter, jewelry is always a very popular item,” Facemyer said.

You can’t forget the food.

“Between the fudge and bread–we’ll see which one wins out of selling the most this year,” Facemyer said.

Fair hours are from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16. The Fair is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 17 with admission each day ranging from $4 to $8.


►  Late summer weekend events September 16, 2017, at West Virginia state parks

Many late-summer special events and activities are planned at West Virginia State parks the weekend of September 16, 2017.  Here’s a quick peek at the variety of family-friendly venues you’ll find.


Harvest Festival at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park features crafts, applebutter making, Trailing and Rescue with AMMAR, Eight Rivers Amateur Club, Harvest Campfire, WV Operation Lifesaver, pumpkin sale and more.  A square dance in the community center is set for Friday evening, September 15, with Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters calling and playing. For more information call 304.456.4300 or visit www.cassrailroad.com.

The 28th Astronomy Weekend, “Dark Sky Treasurers” is at Blackwater Falls State Park.  Hosted by the Kanawha Valley Astronomical Society, the weekend is packed with outstanding speakers on the subjects of how galaxies form, making of the milky way, black holes, radio bursts, and astrophotography. Speakers are form the WVU Physica and Astronomy Department, former NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Marshall University and NASA’s New horizons spacecraft mission. Whether you are new to astronomy or an expert, everyone is welcome. Star parties will be held for dark sky observations. Free and open to the public. Call 304.259.5216 or visit kvas.org or www.blackwaterfalls.com for details.


The Legacy of Mary Ingles is staged at Beech Fork State Park. The Mary Ingles Trail Association sets up encampments that represent an era when West Virginia was unsettled and engages attendees with activities and conversation about early American Indian and European settlers’ primitive encampment. Since 1989, the Mary Ingles Trail Associates have presented a historical encampment based on research of the life of Mary Draper Ingles. Embroiled in the turmoil of the French & Indian War, Mary was captured by the Shawnee Indians in July of 1755. After several months, she escaped and made her way back home by walking more than 500 miles. That journey took her through the Kanawha Valley. Call 304.528.5794 for additional information and times or visit www.beechforksp.com


The Fall Nature Walks at Kanawha State Forest feature 12 walks. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and the hikes and walks depart at 9 a.m. The cost is $5 per adult and $2 for youth under age 16. The event is sponsored and organized by the Kanawha State Forest Foundation. At 1 p.m., Three Rivers Avian Center will present Wings of Wonder, a birds of prey program. Free and open to the public. The events are at the Nature Center/pool area. Call 304.558.3500 for details or visit www.kanawhastateforest.com


The 10th annual Appalachian Fall Festival at Tygart Lake begins at 10 a.m. Activities include apple butter making, a raffle, crafters and yarn/spinning demonstrations. The event is an annual production by the Tygart Lake Foundation. Call for details at 304-265-6144 or visit www.tygartlake.com.


Fall Festival and Pig Roast at Camp Creek State Park is an outdoor event all about music and good food. The County (band) plays at noon followed by The Princeton Silverettes Twirl Team at 12:45 p.m.; Lily Comer, Hinton’s Got Talent Winner at 1:10 p.m; The Appalachian Hoedowners cloggers at 1:30 p.m.and again at 3:00 p.m., Blue Rockin’ Gras (band) at 2:15 pm.; Hiser, Rasnake & the Bluegrass Boys at 3:45; and Tender Mercies Bluegrass Gospel at 5 p.m. Apple butter making, corn meal grinding, Appalachian Crafts and Displays, and BBQ platters and more food will be available for purchase by the Camp Creek State Park Foundation. For more info call 304.425.9481 or visit www.campcreekstatepark.com.


Campfire Stories with ‘Bugs’ Stover  at Twin Falls State Park is at 6:30 p.m.


Tie-dye tee shirts at Pipestem State Park begin at 11 a.m.


Nature Wonder Weekend is at North Bend State Park. In its 50th year, founder Edelene Wood, President of the National Wild Foods Association, is the key speaker on “It Wonders Me.” The weekend is fee based. For more information, call Wendy Greene at 304.558.2754.

Find these events and other upcoming activities at West Virginia State Parks on the website www.wvstateparks.com.

National News

The Free Press WV


►  Equifax victims may face another hassle in buying an iPhone

Apple fans who froze their credit after the Equifax data breach may end up with another hassle on their hands if they try to get one of the new iPhones that can cost more than $1,000. People who rushed to lock down their credit and want to make any other big purchases may find the same inconveniences.

Since Equifax disclosed that 143 million Americans had their Social Security numbers and other personal data hacked, experts have encouraged people who may affected to put in place what’s known as a credit freeze. That locks down a person’s credit from being stolen by identity thieves — but could also mean delays and more fees for Equifax victims who want to finance a new phone.

You can unfreeze your credit before a big purchase and freeze it again afterward. How long it will take and how much it costs vary state by state. Experts say generally it’s best to give the major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — notice of several hours or even a few days before you apply for financing. And people just getting used to the idea of freezing their credit could pay $3 to $10 for each action at each of the three bureaus.

Payment plans are a growing business for the major wireless carriers, many of which no longer subsidize a customer’s purchase, because a monthly payment makes an expensive smartphone more affordable. And Apple and the wireless carriers often need access to your credit report in order to approve the sale of a new phone under a monthly plan.

“But if you are someone who has frozen their credit record, you may suddenly discover that you can’t afford an iPhone X, after all,” said Patrick Moorhead, an industry analyst with Moor & Insights.

Providence, Rhode Island-based Citizens Financial Group, which runs the Apple financing program, said any new or existing customer who has a credit freeze on their information will be declined financing. So they would have to unfreeze their credit, at least temporarily. Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T run credit checks with the agencies for new customers. Policies vary for existing customers.

Analysts say two-year financing plans have become essential to selling high-end smartphones. International Data Corp. analyst Ramon Llamas called them “critical.” Moorhead expects virtually everyone interested in the new iPhone X, which rolls out later this year, to use an installment plan.

Apple rolled out its program two years ago that lets customers upgrade to a new phone each year and divides the cost of the phone into a monthly payment. The company doesn’t share details on how many customers finance their phones through Citizens/Apple instead of their carriers, and declined to disclose how many of its iPhones are financed.

For other carriers, it’s clearly big business. AT&T sold 3.58 million smartphones to customers under payment plans last quarter, according to its most recent filing. Verizon customers financed $14.51 billion in smartphones under the company’s payment plan in the first six months of 2017, and roughly half its customers who pay a cellphone bill at the end of each month are on a payment plan.

The Verizon and AT&T figures include sales of both iPhones and other smartphones like Samsung, which has a larger worldwide share of the smartphone market than Apple. But iPhones generally cost more than phones by other makers — roughly $685 compared to the $340 average price of a Samsung phone — so analysts think a greater share of iPhone customers may finance theirs.


►  Schools seek to help immigrants amid mixed signals on DACA

Mixed signals from Washington over a possible agreement to preserve protections for young immigrants are increasing anxiety and confusion on college campuses, where the stakes are high.

Amid the uncertainty, colleges and universities are stepping up efforts to protect students enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, telling them to be hopeful but plan for the worst.

Harvard University has opened a round-the-clock emergency hotline for immigrants in the program. The University of Illinois at Chicago has posted advice on what to do if federal agents show up on campus. UC Berkeley, the University of San Francisco and many other campuses are offering free legal advice to immigrant students now facing fears of deportation. Nearly sixty college and university presidents sent a letter urging congressional leaders to make the program permanent out of “moral imperative and a national necessity.”

An estimated 350,000 of the country’s nearly 800,000 DACA recipients are currently enrolled in school, most at colleges or universities, according to a 46-state survey this year by the advocacy group Center for American Progress. Under the program, they were protected from deportation and allowed to legally work in the United States with two-year permits.

The top congressional Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, emerged from a White House dinner Wednesday to say they had reached a deal with Donald Trump to save DACA. But amid backlash from conservative Republicans, Trump said Thursday that they were “fairly close” but nothing had been agreed to.

It was the latest in a confusing back-and-forth on the subject that started last week when the Trump administration announced it was rescinding the program, but gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix.

“I don’t think anybody can put much faith in the statement that there is a deal, because so much can change,” said John Trasvina, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law and an immigration expert who worked in Washington under the Clinton and Obama administrations. “I’ve seen tons of times when people think they have an immigration deal, and then it goes away.”

Under the Trump administration plan, those already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their two-year permits expire. If their permits expire before March, 5, 2018, they can renew them for another two years as long as they apply by October 5. But the program isn’t accepting new applications.

The University of San Francisco, which has about 80 DACA recipients, is advising students to adhere to that deadline and is raising money to help pay the $495 renewal fee.

Despite reassurances from schools that they’ll be able to continue attending classes, many students are anxious. They’re worried about how they’ll pay for school if they can’t work.

Ana Maciel, a 23-year-old who works full time to put herself through a University of San Francisco education Master’s program, says she’s been on “an emotional roller coaster.” She fears being deported to Mexico, the country she left at age 3, and wonders if it’s smart to keep investing in school if she can’t work afterward.

“Is this what I should spend my money on?” Maciel says about her $8,000 tuition. “Everything is up in the air.”

Trump’s DACA announcement on September 5 came after 10 Republican attorneys general threatened to sue in an attempt to halt the program. They were led by Attorney General Ken Paxton in Texas, which has the second-highest number of DACA recipients after California.

Three days after Trump announced the administration was phasing out the program, the Arizona attorney general brought a separate lawsuit that claims the state’s universities cannot provide in-state tuition rates for DACA recipients. Attorney General Mark Brnovich says the schools are violating Arizona law which makes it clear in-state tuition is eligible only to those with legal immigration status. The schools are vowing to fight back.

And critics of the program were swift to denounce the possibility of a deal in Congress. Numbers USA denounced the prospect of making a deal on border security to provide “amnesty for the so called ‘dreamers’ to compete and take jobs from Americans and those here legally.”

Meanwhile, immigrants are fearful of being sent back to countries they don’t consider home.

Andrea Aguilera, a Dominican University junior in suburban Chicago, worries about being deported and separated from family members, some of whom are citizens. She was illegally brought across the Mexican border at age 4.

“You never know what can happen under this administration. We do want to feel relief. We’ve been fighting for something more permanent for a really long time,” she said. “It seems like it’s a game (to political leaders). They don’t realize how many peoples’ lives are being affected by this.”

At UC Berkeley, Burmese-Taiwanese national Amy Lin, a 23-year-old doctoral student in the university’s ethnic studies department, has set up an emergency phone tree for DACA students. She fears Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials might come knocking.

“The university says it doesn’t allow ICE agents on campus, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come in,” said Lin, who was brought to the U.S. illegally at age 12.

University of California President Janet Napolitano filed a lawsuit last Friday that’s one of several high-profile legal challenges to Trump’s decision.

Napolitano helped create the program in 2012 as Homeland Security secretary under President Barack Obama. The 10 schools in the UC system have about 4,000 students without legal permission to stay in the U.S.

UC schools are among those offering student loans to DACA students, and they’ve directed campus police not to question or detain individuals based on their immigration status.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, which has hundreds of DACA students, has posted online instructions for students and security staff to call campus police immediately if anyone, including federal agents, comes on campus and starts asking questions.

“We have to follow the law, obviously,” said UIC Provost Susan Poser, but “we’re going to do everything we can to support (students).”

At Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, president Elizabeth Kiss plans to invite DACA students to her home to meet with an attorney. Georgia bars in-state tuition rates for students without legal immigration status.

“I have no intention of picking a fight with the Georgia Legislature,” said Kiss. “I also have to keep students safe and support their well-being.”


►  In rapidly flooding house, Houston mother grabbed her family’s potential lifeline: DACA paperwork

Ruby Rodriguez focused on one thing when the floodwaters started slithering into her home: the papers underneath the bed.

They are the anchors of her family’s tenuous life in the United States. Inside a little briefcase were Mexican passports and birth certificates and the title for the house they purchased in Houston five years ago. But what Rodriguez most treasured was her daughter’s nearly completed DACA application.

Since President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, Rodriguez and her husband, Arturo Medrano, had been waiting for Yazmin to be old enough to apply. The program offers a two-year renewable work permit, protection from deportation, a chance to obtain a driver’s license and better opportunities for college - stability they had not been able to give their daughter since they crossed the border from Mexico illegally with her in 2006.

Under Trump, a longtime critic of DACA, the program was under threat, with a September 5 deadline for his administration to end it or risk having it challenged in court as unconstitutional.

So in late June, as soon as Yazmin Medrano turned 15, the rush to gather school, residency and other vital paperwork began. It took longer than Rodriguez had expected. But by late August, they had what they needed.

Then Hurricane Harvey arrived.

The once-in-a-century storm sent water into the house that Rodriguez and Medrano had paid off just a few weeks earlier, pooling in Yazmin’s bedroom, getting closer to the bed.

Rodriguez’s feet squashed when she went to retrieve the soft leather case. She pressed it against her chest as she sat, stupefied, on the couch with her husband and daughter, watching the water rise. They heard splashing near the front door.

“It’s time to go,“ said a voice outside in the night. “Vamanos.“

Rodriguez, 35, and Medrano, 40, bought their home in northern Houston in a foreclosure sale. Years of apartment living grated on the couple. They wanted something of their own, a place where their only child could play outside with neighborhood kids.

Rodriguez, who attended cosmetology school in Texas, works at a salon and independently has clients. Medrano is a cook at a popular Mexican restaurant.

In recent months, as the climate toward undocumented immigrants grew more hostile in Texas and nationwide, they decided to work double time to pay off their house as quickly as possible.

It was one thing, they thought, that could not be taken from them.

They hated that Yazmin, who dreams of studying medicine, spent her school vacations sitting eight hours at a time in a salon chair while her mother worked. They hated telling their daughter that she could not accompany her friend to Disney World, because they could not risk her running into a federal immigration agent or police officer who might ask her citizenship status. They hated having to remind her every day that not having papers meant she had to be extra careful about choosing in whom to confide. They hated having to work so hard to move their family forward.

“I used to get mad because I never saw my father and they were always working,“ Yazmin said. “But I understand now why they did it.“

In early August, the couple made their final payment on a mortgage they secured after making a down payment in cash and obtaining a federal tax ID number, their attorney said. Houston banks and businesses have long catered to undocumented families even though it may irritate regulators. Many immigrants who are in the country illegally pay taxes this way.

Among Hurricane Harvey’s victims were probably hundreds of thousands of people like Rodriguez and Medrano, immigrants living illegally in Houston and greater Southeast Texas. The Pew Research Center estimates that more than 575,000 undocumented immigrants reside in the city’s metropolitan area - the nation’s third-largest unauthorized immigrant population.

Fifteen days later, the floods came, covering the deep-brown wood floors Medrano had installed months earlier.

Neighbors appeared with flashlights on Sunday night, August 27, and used a boat to pull Rodriguez, Medrano and Yazmin to a home up the street, on higher ground. The next morning, a brigade of men and teenagers tied water hoses around trees to help pull a boat filled with the family of three and others across dangerous currents to rescuers on dry land.

Yazmin and her parents ended up at a makeshift shelter at Lone Star College.

They’d slept in the gym for two nights when, at the urging of officials at the shelter, other families began registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Rodriguez and Medrano held back, reluctant to let anyone know who they were and why they probably weren’t eligible for federal cash assistance.

At one point, Rodriguez became desperate and approached Mario Castillo, Lone Star College’s chief operating officer, in tears.

We don’t have papers, she said. We can’t apply for anything.

Castillo, a U.S.-born son of undocumented immigrants, tried to reassure her.

Then Rodriguez told him about Yazmin, and the nearly finished DACA application she had rescued from under the bed.

Castillo connected the family to Jacob Monty, a Houston lawyer who had joined Trump’s Hispanic advisory council during the 2016 presidential campaign but then broke with the candidate over his immigration stance.

“I had to help them,“ Castillo said. “It’s my way of honoring my own parents.“

Monty understood the importance of sending Yazmin’s DACA application quickly. With only days to go until the September 5 deadline, he knew that a White House announcement ending the program could come at any time.

On Thursday, August 31, a day after meeting Rodriguez and Medrano, Monty called a news conference with DACA recipients, urging the president to keep the program in place.

That same day, he found a hotel the family could stay in, made sure Yazmin’s application was in order and put it in the mail to Washington.

On Friday, September 1., the Trump administration said a decision about DACA would be announced Tuesday, the day of the deadline the Texas attorney general and others had set for filing a lawsuit over DACA if Trump didn’t rescind it.

Because Monday was Labor Day, neither Monty nor Yazmin’s parents knew whether her application for the program would arrive in time.

The family was back home, ripping out drywall and discarding ruined furniture, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DACA program would be phased out, starting in March. First-time applications received by September 5 would still be processed.

Sessions and Trump said Congress, whose inability to pass immigration legislation is what led Obama to create the program, should approve measures that would allow DACA recipients to stay in the country if lawmakers support that option.

Yazmin’s packet most likely arrived on time, Monty said. So now the family is waiting.

If she is accepted into the program, she will be shielded temporarily from deportation and offered a work permit that will expire in two years.


►  Shkreli’s out-of-court antics could guarantee him a longer prison sentence, experts say

In the two years since bursting onto the national scene, Martin Shkreli has often appeared to be his own worst enemy.

When the public lashed out at the former hedge fund manager for raising the price of a critical drug 5,000 percent, he heckled them as uninformed. Hauled before Congress, Shkreli smirked and refused to answer questions. Then, he called the lawmakers “imbeciles.“

Even after a Brooklyn jury convicted him of defrauding his investors last month, Shkreli continued to use social media to interact with fans - and detractors. He needed a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair, he told his 70,000 Facebook followers recently, and was willing to pay $5,000 for it.

Now, it appears Shkreli’s loquaciousness could be the biggest hurdle to his legal prospects.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto revoked his $5 million bail and said he would spend the next four months awaiting his sentencing in a federal prison. Shkreli’s post on Clinton and other online commentary about female reporters show that he is a threat to the community, Matsumoto said. “This is a solicitation of assault. That is not protected by the First Amendment,“ she said of the Clinton post, which also caught the attention of the Secret Service.

By early Thursday morning, Shkreli had been assigned an inmate number at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a prison housing nearly 2,000 male and female inmates that has been the subject of criticism from judges and attorneys for its poor conditions.

Shkreli and his attorneys have said they would appeal his conviction on three counts of securities fraud, which carry a potential sentence of 20 years. But even if the convictions stood, Shkreli has said he was likely to be sentenced to little or no jail time in a minimum security facility.

That now appears much less likely, legal experts say.

“Shkreli has again proven he’s his own worst enemy [and] . . . doesn’t have the impulse control needed to keep him out of jail,“ said James Goodnow, an attorney with Fennemore Craig, a corporate defense firm. “Shkreli’s conduct is a textbook case of everything you shouldn’t do as a defendant in a criminal case.“

Matsumoto’s willingness to revoke Shkreli’s bail may indicate she is open to giving Shkreli a longer prison sentence and decided that given his bad behavior he should start his time behind bars immediately, legal experts said. “This is not a good sign of what the judge might be thinking” in terms of sentencing, said Ira Matetsky, a partner at New York law firm Ganfer & Shore.

Shkreli, 34, is best known for raising the price of Daraprim - a 62-year-old drug primarily used to treat newborns and HIV patients - from $13.50 to $750 a pill, but he was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of defrauding the investors in his hedge funds. Shkreli lied to obtain investors’ money, then didn’t tell them when he made a bad stock bet that led to massive losses, prosecutors argued. Instead, they said, he raised more money to pay off other investors or took money and stock from a pharmaceutical company, Retrophin, he was running.

In white collar cases such as Shkreli’s, the sentence is usually meted out in proportion to the losses faced by their victims. Shkreli’s hedge fund investors actually made a hefty profit, which would typically work in his favor, legal experts say. But his out-of-court antics may have crushed those prospects. Matsumoto appeared at times angry and confused by Shkreli’s conduct, and the judge ignored repeated pleas by his attorneys to give him another chance.

“I got the strong sense that for the judge this was the straw that broke the camel’s back,“ said David Chase, a former prosecutor for the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The judge still retains some element of discretion. This post-trial conduct will not help him.“

Shkreli has also inadvertently inserted himself into a larger debate about when a person’s online persona deserves real-world consequences. His attorneys argued that while “stupid” and “unfortunate,“ his comments on Facebook did not amount to a threat. He has never been violent and did not expect anyone to take him seriously, they said.

But prosecutors noted that the Secret Service took his comments seriously enough to increase Clinton’s security and they noted Shkreli could not guarantee that one of his followers, seeking the $5,000 payoff, fame or just Shkreli’s approval, might not act on his behalf.

The same comments made by someone other than Shkreli likely would not have attracted the same level of attention or legal consequences, experts said. “But the context here is different. This comes on the heels of a lot of other [questionable] conduct,“ said Matetsky.


►  Republicans need a tax plan for 2017, not 1981

It’s not 1981 anymore. That’s the message of an editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard, which warns Republicans not to design a tax reform patterned on the one that Ronald Reagan signed in his first year as president.

Mimicking the Reagan tax cuts is a temptation both because of Republicans’ enduring admiration for the 40th president and because his program has been the source of the economic ideas they have championed ever since his time in office.

But the Standard is right that times have changed. That doesn’t mean the Gipper’s basic disposition toward lower and less onerous taxes needs to be junked. It means that today’s Republicans (and Democrats!) need to grapple with four differences between our time and his.

First: The federal debt is much larger now, and looks to grow larger still. When Reagan took office, that debt stood at 31 percent of GDP. It’s now about 103 percent. The Baby Boomers were still entering the workforce then. Now that they are leaving it, the debt picture we can anticipate is much worse.

Reaganites would have preferred it if spending restraint had accompanied tax cuts, but they were willing to accept rising deficits rather than give up those tax cuts. That trade-off looks worse in our current fiscal position.

Second: The top individual income tax rate is a lot lower than it was in 1981. Reagan inherited a tax code with a top rate of 70 percent. His tax legislation lowered it to 50 percent, and by the time he left office he brought it down to 28 percent. It is now roughly 40 percent.

Supply-siders argue that reducing tax rates increases incentives to work, save and invest. But this logic is subject to diminishing returns. The 1981 bill raised the after-tax return on a dollar earned from 30 cents to 50 cents: a 67 percent increase. Cutting the top tax rate from 40 to 30 percent now would yield an increase of only 17 percent.

Another way of putting it is that today’s tax rates aren’t the obstacle to growth that the rates of the 1970s were. Bringing them down should not be as high a priority for today’s Republicans as it was for their predecessors.

Third: The payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare has grown in importance while the income tax has shrunk. In 1981, only 20 percent of households escaped paying the income tax. Now 44 percent do. For three-fifths of households, the payroll tax is a bigger burden than the income tax. If Republicans want to provide relief for the middle class, they should be looking at reducing payroll taxes and not just cutting income-tax rates as they did in 1981. One option would be to apply an expanded child credit against payroll taxes.

Fourth: The corporate tax rate has become a bigger problem. It has fallen since 1981, from 46 to 35 percent. But other countries have cut their rates further. In 1981, the corporate tax rates for Germany, the U.K. and Ireland were 56, 52 and 45, respectively. Now they are 39, 19 and 12.5. The U.S. corporate tax has made the country a less attractive place to invest, and rectifying that problem should be a priority for modern tax reform.

To their credit, Republicans are dealing with some of these new realities. They’re giving more attention to cutting the corporate tax rate than cutting the top income-tax rate. But it remains to be seen how much they are willing to change. The old reflexes are still strong, even if they were adapted for an environment we no longer inhabit.


►  Motel 6 says employees will be prohibited from sharing guest lists with ICE

The Motel 6 budget lodging chain is commonly associated with its longtime slogan of welcoming hospitality: “We’ll leave the light on.“

But for immigration attorneys in the Phoenix area, the motel chain has become the site of a troubling string of immigration arrests. And according to a report published Wednesday by the Phoenix New Times, employees at two Motel 6 locations may have been sending guest information directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

After the story published, Motel 6 released a statement Wednesday saying the practice was “implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.“

“When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued,“ Motel 6 wrote in the statement posted on Twitter and Facebook.

On Thursday, following criticism of its vague initial statement, Motel 6 said it would be issuing a directive to each of its more than 1,400 locations nationwide, “making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.“

The chain apologized for the incident and said it would be undertaking a comprehensive review of its current practices.

Immigration agents arrested at least 20 people at two Motel 6 locations between February and August, dropping by about every two weeks, the New Times reported. The actual number is likely to be even higher, the publication reported, because several court documents contained ambiguous information about arrest locations.

The two Motel 6 locations are in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, not far from Mexican bakeries and restaurants. Both locations are corporate-owned - neither are franchises.

Phoenix Police department spokesman Jonathan Howard confirmed to the New Times that “on occasion and through informal contacts,“ a number of hotels and motels have shared guest lists with law enforcement officers.

A spokeswoman for ICE’s Phoenix division told the New Times that she was unable to confirm whether the agency routinely reviews hotel guest lists or investigates tips from Motel 6 employees. “Those are investigative techniques that we wouldn’t be able to talk about,“ she said.

But, she added: “If hypothetically we were somewhere - if we did administratively arrest some folks - that happens all the time. We conduct targeted enforcement operations every day.“

Employees at the two respective Phoenix locations told the New Times that reporting guest lists to ICE was standard practice.

“We send a report every morning to ICE - all the names of everybody that comes in,“ one front-desk clerk told the New Times. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.“

In about a third of the arrest records reviewed by the New Times, ICE agents entered the motel without a search warrant, in what the newspaper described as a “knock and talk.“ Officers simply knocked on the motel room door and asked to go inside.

In one instance, immigration officials arrested Mexican native Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez, 33, six hours after he checked into a Motel 6. When he had reserved the room, Rodriguez-Juarez had shown the front-desk clerk his only form of identification, his Mexican voter ID card.

Arrest records did not indicate how ICE had nabbed him, only that officers were “following a lead.“ Immigration officials had “received information that Rodriguez-Juarez was checked into room #214,“ according to Department of Homeland Security records cited by the New Times.

Rodriguez-Juarez’s lawyer still wonders how officials found that “lead,“ and whether someone at Motel 6 may have reported him. Rodriguez-Juarez is being held at an immigration detention center while his attorney pursues his asylum case.

The revelations in the New Times article prompted ire from immigration advocates across social media, and praise from some supporters of Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown. It also stirred a debate over privacy concerns, and left many wondering: If some Motel 6 locations are tipping off ICE, could other motels or lodges nationwide be following suit? Others suggested the report could indicate racial profiling on behalf of motel employees who report certain guests to ICE.

On Twitter, many people condemned Motel 6, decrying the chain’s vague response and calling for a more detailed explanation. The hashtag #BoycottMotel6 began circulating Wednesday night.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona tweeted: “Will new policy reflect this “discountined” practice, @motel6? We look forward to reading it.“ The national ACLU account also tweeted at Motel 6 asking for its company policy.

Tom Bodett has been the brand spokesman for the Motel 6 chain for over 25 years, according to his website. He is the voice behind the slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you.“

On Wednesday, Bodett tweeted: “If you’ve been vexed by the situation with @motel6 in Phoenix. Here is the response from their HQ. I had faith this was the case.“ Some of his followers called on him to condemn the chain.

This is not the first time Motel 6 has come under scrutiny for providing police with guest lists. In Rhode Island in 2015, police implemented new protocol in which the hotel agreed to fax them a daily guest list, for authorities to check it for known criminals or suspects. The agreement came after a string of high-profile police calls to the hotel, including a prostitution arrest and a meth lab raid, according to the Providence Journal.

At the time, the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU said it was troubled by the agreement between police and the motel, calling it “hardly the sort of ‘hospitality’ one anticipates from such an establishment.“

“When visitors go to a hotel for the night, they expect to be treated like guests, not potential criminals,“ the ACLU of Rhode Island wrote. “A family on vacation should not be fearful that police may come knocking on the door in the middle of the night, courtesy of the motel, because Dad has an outstanding parking ticket he never paid.“

Concerned about the legal ramifications of the protocol, the Warwick Police chief stopped the practice 16 days later, the Providence Journal reported.

The following month, in June 2015, the Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles ordinance that allowed police to inspect hotel guest records on demand. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office had argued police needed the authority to prevent motels from becoming havens for criminal activity.

But after a group of motel owners sued, the Supreme Court said the ordinance was unconstitutional because a hotel owner who refuses could get arrested. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said motel owners deserve the chance to go to a judge and object a search.


►  NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular, but completely untrue, headlines of the week. None of these stories are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:

NOT REAL: Florida Governor Rick Scott Now Listed As ‘Critical’ After Bizarre Hurricane Cleanup Accident

THE FACTS: The Last Line of Defense, a well-known producer of hoax stories, has claimed in a series of articles that Scott was severely hurt when a ceramic roof tile hit him in the head Monday during the cleanup following Hurricane Irma. Scott has been crisscrossing Florida surveying damage and checking in on relief efforts in the days since the storm hit and was not injured.

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NOT REAL: Georgia Mosque KEEPS Hurricane Harvey donations, will send to Syrian refugees instead

THE FACTS: This viral hoax story from Daily Notify says the Ramazala Mosque in Peachton, Georgia, is diverting relief money for Harvey victims to refugees from Syria. Neither the mosque nor the town exists. In addition, the photo included in the story also appears on the site of a Canadian relief organization providing aid to Myanmar.

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NOT REAL: Vladimir Putin donates $5 million dollars to Houston Hurricane Harvey victims

THE FACTS: While many well-known figures opened their wallets to make sizable contributions to relief efforts in Texas, the Russian president wasn’t one of them. A site make up to look like a news outlet claims Putin also called on “other individuals, organizations and also countries” to follow his lead in donating money. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells the AP he’s not aware of the leader making any such donation.

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NOT REAL: Tony Romo OUT 4-6 Weeks After Suffering Sore Throat In Broadcasting Debut

THE FACTS: The former Cowboys quarterback is scheduled to be in the CBS broadcast booth Sunday in New Orleans when the New England Patriots take on the Saints. A prank story from Daily Snark claimed Romo would be replaced by a young broadcaster named Pak Brescott. The site appears to be ribbing Romo, who lost his job to rookie Dak Prescott last year after getting injured in the preseason.

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NOT REAL: World’s most popular candy to be removed from shelves by October 2017!

THE FACTS: Fans of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups shouldn’t be concerned about the sweet and salty snack disappearing just before Halloween despite a story from Breaking News 365 that claims the candy is being discontinued. Hershey’s, which owns the Reese’s brand, tells the AP that people can rest assured that “the only people removing Reese’s products from shelves are consumers, who are taking them home to eat.”

International News6

The Free Press WV

►  In the face of criticism, China has been cleaning up its organ-transplant industry

China’s organ-transplant system was once a cause of international scorn and outrage, as doctors harvested organs from prisoners condemned to death by criminal courts and transplanted them into patients who often paid dearly for the privilege.

After years of denials, China now acknowledges that history and has declared that the practice no longer occurs - largely thanks to the perseverance of a health official who, with the quiet backing of an American transplant surgeon, turned the system around over the span of a decade.

That official, Huang Jiefu, built a register of voluntary donors, overcoming both entrenched interests that profited from the old ways and a traditional Chinese aversion to dismemberment after death. In true modern Chinese fashion, donors can sign up through a link and app available through the ubiquitous Alipay online payment system. More than 230,000 people have done so, and a computerized database matches donors with compatible potential recipients, alerting doctors by text message as soon as organs become available.

Leading transplant experts outside China, including once-severe critics, have slowly been won over.

“There has been a substantial change in China which has been in the right direction,“ said Jeremy Chapman, a leading Australian physician and former president of the Transplantation Society who in the past had harshly censured Chinese transplantation practices.

Yet skeptics still abound, and a darkly sinister accusation continues to be heard.

Just last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning “state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting” in China, and accusing the Communist Party of killing prisoners of conscience - held in secret, outside the usual criminal prisons - to feed the transplant industry.

Huang and his allies in the transplant industry around the world dismiss those allegations. In their eyes, the China that has emerged on the world stage as a financial and technological power, with a rising and increasingly sophisticated middle class, has successfully done away with a wicked practice from the past.

The use of prisoners’ organs had left China a global pariah in the transplant field. Relying on prisoners caught in a corrupt and inhumane legal system, China had built the world’s second-largest transplant industry after the United States’. It was effectively an unregulated system in which organs were being delivered not to the most deserving recipients but to the highest bidders. Vast profits were generated as medical ethics were set aside.

“Financial interests were driving malpractice,“ Huang said. “The allocation of organs had become a game of wealth and power, with no social justice.“

Thousands of organs were being harvested from executed prisoners every year, but over the course of a decade, Huang has garnered support at the highest levels of government and succeeded in pushing China’s medical establishment into dropping the often-lucrative practice.

Since 2010, Huang has slowly built the register of voluntary donors, who now meet the needs of patients who require transplants. Such a register is a breakthrough for China.

The turn toward reform began in 2006, when Huang was the first to publicly acknowledge an open secret in the medical industry - that prisoners’ organs were the basis of the nation’s fast-growing transplant industry.

Huang’s efforts to clean up the system, with the quiet backing of University of Chicago transplant surgeon Michael Millis, surmounted stiff resistance - and met with skepticism and sometimes lurid allegations that continue to dog their work.

“It has been very tough going over 10 years,“ Huang said in an interview in his office in Beijing, as he described his battle against powerful vested interests.

Huang and Millis both work for medical centers with close links to the Rockefeller Foundation and its spinoff the China Medical Board (CMB). They met at a Rockefeller-CMB-sponsored meeting nearly a decade ago. They discovered a shared concern about the workings of China’s transplant industry.

The pair agreed that an abrupt end to the use of prisoners’ organs was not feasible and would only create a black market. Instead, they resolved to work for gradual change. With a grant from the CMB, and with Millis as Huang’s main consultant, they began to investigate alternative approaches.

China had more than 600 organ transplant centers in a sprawling, unregulated system. That number was whittled down to about 160 registered and approved centers in 2007, when legislation was also introduced to outlaw organ trafficking and ban foreigners from coming to the country to receive Chinese organs.

The public was brought on board with the help of the Chinese Red Cross, and skeptics in China’s medical profession were gradually won over by Huang’s persistence and his ability to secure official support.

Last year, Huang said, 4,080 donors supplied organs after their deaths, and 2,201 living donors gave organs to relatives. In total, China performed 13,238 organ transplant operations, mostly of kidneys and livers, but a few hundred hearts and lungs, too. None of those came from prisoners, Huang said.

“Our system is transparent and traceable,“ he said. “We know where every organ comes from and where every organ goes.“

That may overstate the reality, but Huang’s allies say that irregularities are now the exception rather than the rule.

Chinese law does not explicitly rule out using organs of prisoners condemned to death by the criminal courts, and Huang himself was quoted in Chinese media in late 2014 and early 2015 as saying prisoners could “voluntarily” donate organs.

Huang now disavows those comments, insisting there is “zero tolerance” for using any prisoners’ organs in the hospital system. But in a country of 1.3 billion people, he said at a Vatican conference in February, “I am sure, definitely, there is some violation of the law.“

Lawyer Yu Wensheng said that one of his clients had shared a Beijing prison cell with a man facing the death penalty last November and that the condemned man was given a form to sign to “voluntarily” donate his organs.

Death-row prisoners, he said, were “given the choice not to sign the forms, but they would receive much more mistreatment and suffer much more. If they sign, their last days of life would pass more easily.“

Yet the supply of organs from executed prisoners seems to have been drying up because the number of death sentences appears to have fallen dramatically after a 2007 mandate requiring the Supreme Court to review all capital cases.

When she introduced the House resolution condemning China’s organ-transplant system, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., declared, “We cannot allow these crimes to continue.“ She accused the “ruthless dictatorship” running China of persecuting peaceful practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, and of the “sickening and unethical practice” of harvesting organs without consent.

The basis for this allegation is research compiled over many years by David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer, David Kilgour, a former Canadian politician, and Ethan Gutmann, a journalist, who assert that China is secretly carrying out 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants a year, mostly with organs taken from Falun Gong practitioners held in secret detention since a crackdown on the movement in 1999.

But research and reporting by The Washington Post undercut these allegations.

Transplant patients must take immunosuppressant drugs for life to prevent their bodies from rejecting their transplanted organs. Data compiled by Quintiles IMS, an American health-care-information company, and supplied to The Post, shows China’s share of global demand for immunosuppressants is roughly in line with the proportion of the world’s transplants China says it carries out.

Xu Jiapeng, an account manager at Quintiles IMS in Beijing, said the data included Chinese generic drugs. It was “unthinkable,“ he said, that China was operating a clandestine system that the data did not pick up.

Critics counter that China may also be secretly serving large numbers of foreign transplant tourists, whose use of immunosuppressant drugs would not appear in Chinese data. But this assertion does not stand up to scrutiny.

Jose Nuñez, head of the transplantation program at the World Health Organization, which collects information on transplants worldwide, says that in 2015 the number of foreigners going to China for transplants was “really very low,“ compared with the traffic to India, Pakistan or the United States, or in comparison with transplant-visitor numbers in China’s past.

Chapman and Millis say it is “not plausible” that China could be doing many times more transplants than, for instance, the United States, where about 24,000 transplants take place every year, without that information leaking out as it did when China used condemned prisoners’ organs.

And lawyers who have defended Falun Gong practitioners also reject allegations that those prisoners’ organs are being harvested.

“I have never heard of organs being taken from live prisoners,“ said Liang Xiaojun, who said he had defended 300 to 400 Falun Gong practitioners in civil cases and knew of only three or four deaths in prison.

In China, despite state repression, family members can be determined in speaking out and seeking justice when relatives vanish.

If tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were being executed every year, that information would emerge, experts say.

A U.S. congressional commission on China, the State Department and the Falun Gong community website have separately tried to estimate the number of political prisoners in China, and the figures range from 1,397 to “tens of thousands” - and even that upper number is significantly lower than the 500,000 to 1 million claimed by Gutmann and others.

The symbolic focal point of China’s organ transplant industry is the Oriental Organ Transplant Center, a gleaming 14-story building in the northeastern city of Tianjin that is the largest of its kind in Asia.

In the lobby, a sleek promotional video advertises the center’s expertise in supplying livers, lungs, hearts and pancreases to save thousands of lives every year.

On a recent visit, a handful of patients from Pakistan, Libya and the Middle East were observed in transplant wards. Two Pakistani families said they had brought their own donors with them, although one admitted that the donor was not related to the recipient, in breach of Chinese law.

The families said they were paying $70,000 to $80,000 each for the operations.

Wei Guoxin, public relations director at Tianjin First Center Hospital, which runs the transplant center, said accusations that China used organs from Falun Gong practitioners were “ridiculous” and part of a conspiracy against the country. But she did not respond to subsequent requests for data on the transplants carried out at the center or the number of foreign patients served.

But in Beijing, doctors say a steady stream of organs is flowing in from voluntary sources.

When 72-year-old Lu Wen suffered a brain hemorrhage on New Year’s Eve and was put on life support, her husband, Zhao Hongxi, had no hesitation in agreeing that her organs be used to save others’ lives.

“She always liked to help others and wanted to contribute,“ said Zhao, a retired engineer in the People’s Liberation Army and a loyal Communist Party member. “If the organs are usable, they should be used to help others, as a way of lengthening her life.“

His two daughters soon agreed, although 47-year-old Zhao Wei said she hesitated at first: She had imagined holding her mother’s hand when the life support system was turned off, but the need to swiftly remove her organs made that impossible. Still, she said, she soon came around to the idea, her Christian faith helping her to accept her family’s decision.

“While I waited downstairs in the hospital for my mother to die, I felt huge love,“ she said.


►  Britain raises number of bombing injured to 29

The Latest on an incident at a subway station in London (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

British authorities say the number of people treated at hospitals after the bombing on the London Underground subway has risen to 29.

The National Health Service says 21 people are being treated and eight others have already been discharged. The London Ambulance Service says it took 19 patients to hospitals, most with minor injuries. The others went in themselves.

Police say most of those injured by an improvised explosive device on Friday suffered from flash burns. They say there have been no reports of serious life-threatening injuries.

The device burst into flames aboard a train at the Parsons Green station during the morning rush hour. London police are conducting a wide manhunt for the person or persons responsible.

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6:05 p.m.

Britain’s prime minister says U.S. Donald Trump has called to offer his condolences over the subway attack.

Downing Street said in a statement that Trump telephoned Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss the “cowardly” rush-hour bombing attack Friday on a London subway train.

Officials say the two also talked about North Korea’s latest missile test.

Earlier, May said speculation about the London subway bomber is unhelpful, after Trump suggested in a tweet that London police missed an opportunity to prevent it.

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4:45 p.m.

Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have tweeted their support for the people of London in response to the attack on a subway train.

Netanyahu tweeted “We stand with PM (Theresa) May and the people of Britain in our common fight against the forces of terror.”

Israel’s ambassador to London, Mark Regev, wrote that “Israel stands in solidarity with the people of London. Our thoughts are with #ParsonsGreen victims & their families at this difficult time.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, referring to the TLV in LDN festival, tweeted that “Last week we brought love & culture to London. Today terrorists sent message of hate. Israel & UK stand together against #terror.”

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4:25 p.m.

The New York Police Department says it’s moved extra officers, bomb-detection dogs and heavy weapons teams into the city’s transit system as a precaution following the London subway bombing.

Department spokesman J. Peter Donald said Friday that the NYPD also is monitoring intelligence through a joint terrorism task force.

Commissioner James O’Neill said Friday there’ve been no direct threats to New York City — but he says people should always be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, says he’s directed state law enforcement to increase transportation security at airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems across New York.

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3:50 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says speculation about the London subway bomb is unhelpful, after U.S. Donald Trump suggested that London police missed an opportunity to prevent it.

Trump tweeted that the bombing was “another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

Asked about Trump’s comments, May said “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

London police have declined to comment on Trump’s tweets. A manhunt is on to find those behind the bombing that wounded 22 people on a Friday morning rush-hour subway train.

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2:55 p.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain’s official threat level from terrorism remains at “severe,” meaning an attack is highly likely, and has not been raised in the wake of the London subway bombing.

After chairing a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, May said the threat level was not being raised to “critical,” which would mean an attack is imminent.

She says that decision will be kept under review. The threat level was briefly raised to critical after the May 22 suicide bombing at Manchester Arena.

Authorities say 22 people were injured when an improvised bomb exploded aboard a subway train during Friday’s rush hour. Most of the victims suffered flash burns, and none was seriously hurt.

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2:45 p.m.

Terrorism analyst Magnus Ranstorp with the Swedish Defense University says Londoners have been very fortunate because the bomb placed on a subway appears not to have fully detonated.

After studying photos of the device, he said Friday the bomb had only “partially” burned since much of the device and its casing remained intact. He said that will make it easy for police and security services to determine what chemicals and methods were used to make the bomb.

He says “they were really lucky with this one, it could have really become much worse.”

He said the bomber chose to conceal the device in a bucket and a plastic shopping bag rather than a backpack. He also says, from the photos, “it seems that this was hastily put together. Probably not very well mixed together.”

In all, 22 people were wounded by the bomb on Friday.

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1:45 p.m.

German and French leaders say the bomb attack on a London subway train only strengthens their determination to increase international cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Berlin on Friday: “Our thoughts are of course with the wounded, our thoughts are with the British population.”

Philippe said the London bomb and an attempt early Friday by a knife-wielding assailant to attack a soldier at a Paris subway interchange “show how much we collectively, in France, Britain and also in Germany, face a major threat.”

He added “we must find answers at national level and all together ... to give our fellow citizens the greatest possible security,” including intelligence cooperation.

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1:30 p.m.

British police say no one has been arrested in connection with a bombing on a London subway train, but hundreds of detectives are at work trying to hunt down the perpetrator or perpetrators.

The Metropolitan Police force says police “are making fast-time inquiries to establish who was responsible and are working closely with the security services.”

Counterterrorism policing chief Mark Rowley says hundreds of detectives are looking at surveillance camera footage, carrying out forensic work and speaking to witnesses.

Police say 22 people were wounded Friday, mostly with burns, when an improvised explosive device exploded on a train at London’s Parsons Green station. Emergency workers say none of the injuries is believed to be life-threatening.

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12:35 p.m.

Health officials say the number of people injured in the London subway bombing has risen to 22.

Eighteen were taken to hospitals by ambulance, and four more presented themselves at hospitals.

None of the injuries is thought to be serious or life-threatening.

The National Health Service says the patients are being treated at four London hospitals and clinics.

Police say the blast at Parsons Green station was caused by an improvised explosive device.

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12 noon

U.S. Donald Trump is calling a fire at a London subway station another attack “by a loser terrorist” and suggesting police there may have missed an opportunity to prevent it. He also is suggesting that the government cut off internet access to extremist groups.

Trump tweeted Friday: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

He later added: “Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”

The London Ambulance Service says 18 people have been taken to hospitals with injuries, not thought to be life-threatening

___

11:50 a.m.

Police say the fire on a London subway train was caused by the detonation of an improvised explosive device.

Police say it was a terrorist incident and is being handled by the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit.

Police said there were 18 people injured, with most suffering flash burns.

There will be an increased police presence on London as the incident is investigated.

Police did not provide details on any suspects.

___

11:25 a.m.

The London Ambulance Service says 18 people have been taken to hospitals after a fire at a subway station that police are calling a terrorist attack.

The ambulance service says none of the injuries is thought to be serious or life-threatening.

Passengers reported seeing people with burns to their faces and bodies after the fire on a Tube train at Parsons Green station.

The ambulance service says it was called at 8:30 a.m. Friday and the first crews were on the scene within five minutes.

___

11:05 a.m.

The mayor of London says the city “will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.”

Sadiq Khan says the city “utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life.”

He says Londoners should remain “calm and vigilant” after a fire on a subway train that police are calling a terrorism incident.

London has been targeted by attackers several times this year, with vehicle attacks near Parliament, on London Bridge and near a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London.

Khan says he will be attending a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee with Prime Minister Theresa May later.

___

10:55 a.m.

Chris Wildish, who was on London subway train where a fire occurred that is being treated as terrorism, said he saw “a massive flash of flames” that reached up to the ceiling of the train and then the air was filled with the smell of chemicals. Wildish told Sky News that many of the passengers were schoolchildren, who were knocked around by people trying to get away from the fire.

Wildish said he saw several burned passengers and later, during evacuation of the station, caught sight of a bucket still in flames.

Footage filmed from the platform through the train door as people were evacuated shows flames licking from the bucket, which is inside a plastic shopping bag. “That bag’s on fire,” a woman exclaims, before a London Underground staff member orders commuters to get away from the carriage to the end of the platform.

___

10:45 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee in response to a subway fire that police have called a terrorist incident.

May tweeted Friday: “My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green and emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident.”

Police say several people have been injured in the rush-hour incident on a Tube train at Parsons Green station in west London.

Britain’s official threat level from terrorism stands at “severe,” the second-highest rung on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is highly likely.

___

10:25 a.m.

London’s Metropolitan Police says a fire on the London subway has been declared a “terrorist incident.”

The force says counterterrorism officers are leading the investigation into the incident at Parsons Green station, where “a number” of people have been injured.

Passengers reported an explosion in a carriage of the train shortly after 8 a.m., during the morning rush hour. Several people appeared to have burn injuries.

Police say it’s “too early to confirm the cause of the fire, which will be subject to the investigation that is now underway by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.”

___

10:05 a.m.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says people should “keep calm and go about their normal lives” as emergency services respond to an incident at a London subway station.

Johnson says it would be “wrong to speculate,” and that police and transit authorities “are on it.”

The police, ambulance and fire services say they are responding to an “incident” at Parson’s Green station in southwest London. Passengers reported people fleeing in panic after reports of an explosion.

___

10 a.m.

London firefighters are leading passengers off a train along elevated subway tracks near where a reported explosion sent commuters fleeing in panic. Video from the scene showed people picking their way along the tracks.

The evacuation comes after police responded to “an incident” at the Parsons Green station during Friday rush hour.

Photos taken inside the District Line train show a white plastic bucket inside a supermarket shopping bag. Flames and what appear to be wires can be seen. Witnesses said commuters fled the station in a panic. London ambulance services said they had sent multiple crews to the scene, and police advised people to avoid the area.

___

9:25 a.m.

A commuter whose train had just left the Parsons Green station in southwest London says there was panic after a woman on the platform saw what appeared to be an explosion. Richard Aylmer-Hall said he saw several people injured, apparently trampled as they fled.

“There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off,” he said. “Some people got pushed over and trampled on, I saw two women being treated by ambulance crews.” He said he did not believe anyone was hurt by the actual device.

The London ambulance service said multiple crews had been dispatched.

Police confirmed the incident Friday morning. Few details were released as emergency services rushed to the scene. The station was closed.

The incident happened during rush hour when the Underground system is crowded. Passengers were advised to use alternate routes.

London Fire Brigade said they were called to the scene at 8:21 a.m. Friday. The London Ambulance Service said it was working with police on the scene.

___

9 a.m.

London’s Metropolitan Police and ambulance services are confirming they are at the scene of “an incident” at the Parsons Green subway station in the southwest of the capital. The underground operator said services have been cut along the line.

All three sent out information via Twitter, saying they would update as soon as possible.

Date Set for Dr. Tracy Pellett’s Inauguration at GSC

The Free Press WV

The inauguration date for Glenville State College’s twenty-fourth president, Dr. Tracy L. Pellett, has been set.

Pellett will be officially installed as GSC’s newest leader at the ceremony which will take place on Friday, November 10 at 4:00 p.m. in the College’s Fine Arts Center Auditorium. The public is invited.

Pellett began serving as Glenville State College’s President on July 01, 2017 and came to GSC from the College of Coastal Georgia where he was serving as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

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