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Black men, due process, and Brett Kavanaugh

The Free Press WV

They have every right to be frustrated by the inevitable rush to judgment when they are accused of sexual assault.

They have few of the advantages Kavanaugh did in clinging to presumptions of innocence.


Learn More:    The Atlantic

Old Owner Gives Up Salem Witch-Trial House

The Free Press WV

A house where a victim of the Salem witch trials once lived is on the market for $600,000 just in time for Halloween, the AP reports. The nearly 4,000-square-foot home built in 1638 was once the home of John Proctor, who was convicted of witchcraft and hanged in 1692. The six-bedroom, two-bathroom home is in Peabody, which at the time was part of Salem. Real estate agent Joe Cipoletta, of J. Barrett and Co., says some parts of the original structure, including wooden beams, are still visible. It has been modernized and includes an in-ground pool. The home’s owner died earlier this month.

Michael Bonfanti, vice president of the Peabody Historical Society, tells the Salem News the organization is looking into whether it’s feasible to purchase the home and make it a public resource. “We are right now exploring the possibility of purchasing the Proctor House,“ says Dick St. Pierre, the society’s president. “What we are working on are a number of joint projects with other groups that may help with the cost. We would love to get the house because it was a big part of the Salem Witch Trials. The problem is taking on that kind of funding.“

Beware Voter Suppression, Even Before the Storm

The Free Press WV

Go to Vote.org and check your voting status.

Nothing can be taken for granted, and in districts where candidates are proving disruptive, we need to be mindful of possible voter suppression.

Even before Hurricane Michael struck Florida, for example, voter registration tools were down.

In Georgia, a hold has been put on more than 53,000 voter registration applications, and nearly 70 percent of them are for African Americans.

Surprise, surprise.

We’re still a few weeks out, so expect more scandals, and subsequent lawsuits.

We must pressure our leaders to push back against voter interference, both foreign and domestic.


Learn More:    The Root    Politico    CNN

Scientists Surprised at How Good Our ‘Facial Vocabulary’ Is

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Humans have historically lived in groups of about 100, yet our facial recognition skills easily adapt to a modern world where we see endless faces each day, whether in person or on TV. A new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the first to give an evidence-based estimate of how many faces the average human knows, puts the number at an impressive 5,000, though some participants recognized as many as 10,000, reports the Telegraph. “Given the social lives of our ancestors, the ability to recognize thousands of individuals might seem like overkill,“ but “we haven’t yet found a limit on how many faces the brain can handle,“ University of York psychologist Rob Jenkins explains in a release.

Twenty-five volunteers were given an hour to recall as many faces as possible—belonging to friends, acquaintances, famous people—and came up with 550 on average, reports Nature. They were then shown 3,441 faces of famous people and recognized 800 on average. Estimating “facial vocabulary” based on the ratio of famous faces recalled versus recognized, and how a person’s recall rate slowed, researchers were “surprised by how high the top end was,“ co-author Mike Burton tells the Guardian. However, we have faults with the unfamiliar. For example, “people are surprisingly bad at checking a real face against a photo ID,“ Burton adds.

Zinke Signs Mining Ban Near Yellowstone

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke approved a 20-year ban on new mining claims in the towering mountains north of Yellowstone National Park on Monday after two proposed gold mines raised concerns that an area drawing tourists from the around the globe could be spoiled. As Zinke signed the mineral ban at an outdoor ceremony in Montana’s Paradise Valley, a bank of clouds behind him broke apart to reveal the snow-covered flank of Emigrant Peak, the AP reports. The picturesque, 10,915-foot mountain has been at the center of the debate over whether mining should be allowed.

The former Montana congressman was joined by local business owners and residents who pushed for the ban after companies began drafting plans for new mines in an area frequented by wolves, elk, bears, and other wildlife. “I’m a pro-mining guy. I love hardrock” mining, Zinke said. “But there are places to mine and places not to mine.“ Zinke’s order extends a temporary ban imposed in 2016 under former President Obama on new claims for gold, silver, and other minerals on 47 square miles of public lands in the Paradise Valley and Gardiner Basin. Most of the land is within the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

USPS Just Had One of Its Biggest Inside Thefts Ever

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A Louisiana man who makes about $70,000 a year lost more than $650,000 gambling over the past seven years, casino records show—and federal prosecutors now say they know how he got the money to support his habit, the Times-Picayune reports. The DOJ is calling it “one of the largest internal Postal [thefts] by a Postal Service employee in the history of the US Postal Service,“ and it involves 46-year-old Ryan Cortez and what prosecutors say was a massive theft of stamps—more than $630,000 worth—from the Kenner post office where he works. Cortez was arrested Wednesday and charged with misappropriation of postal funds or property.

The criminal complaint against Cortez says he admitted to stealing the stamps, then hawking them on eBay. USPS investigators got wind of the alleged scheme when both eBay and PayPal notified them of “significant quantities” of stamps being sold on the former’s site. Agents then discovered Cortez “had a very active presence” at casinos, and records from Harrah’s show Cortez had lost upward of $667,000 since 2011—more than $220,000 of it last year alone. The complaint also notes he admitted to embezzling thousands of dollars from the local church where he served as treasurer.

Michigan City Creates No-Spanking Zones

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Parents in a Detroit suburb are being told not to spank their children in public. With a 5-1 vote last month, Madison Heights’ city council adopted “Hit Free Zones” in at least 10 public areas in an effort to stop violence of any kind, including children hitting other children. But councilman David Soltis says spanking was forefront in his mind when he proposed the resolution, which comes with no penalty for violators, reports the Detroit Free Press. A former emergency medical technician, Soltis says he was stunned to learn how many children are hit by adults; 76% of adult males and 66% of adult females support spanking on some level, according to 2016 study by Childtrends.org, reports WFIE.

Signs at the library, police station, recreation center, and city hall aim to send a clear message to parents. But they aren’t without detractors. “Current state law allows parents to spank their children, and I do not believe it is the role of the city to dictate how people discipline their children,“ says councilwoman Roslyn Grafstein, a mother of two who opposed the move. Councilwoman Margene Scott agrees, though she supported the resolution. In some cases, spanking children “can be the only way to get their attention,“ she says. Noting spanking has been linked to “negative outcomes for kids,“ a child psychologist suggests a reasoned discussion of bad behavior as an alternative.

Jamie Lee Curtis Targeted by Fox News for Guns in Movies

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The network called the Halloween star a hypocrite for wielding guns in her latest movie, arguing, “Curtis’s on-screen actions stand in contrast to her real-life persona as an advocate for gun control.”

Fox cited several of her tweets as evidence, including two decrying school shootings and another bragging about her prowess with a .357-caliber firearm while filming the 11th installment in the horror franchise.

Senator Ted Cruz joined the fray, calling out “Hollywood liberals” for using armed security guards while advocating for gun control.


Learn More:    Mashable    Fox News

Here Are This Year’s ‘Genius Grant’ Winners

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A violinist who organizes concerts for the homeless, a professor whose research is being used to increase access to civil justice by poor communities, and an activist pastor are among this year’s MacArthur fellows and recipients of so-called genius grants, the AP reports. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Thursday named 25 people , including academics, activists, artists, scholars and scientists, who will receive $625,000 over five years to use as they please. The Chicago-based foundation has awarded the fellowships each year since 1981 to people who have shown outstanding talent to help further their creative, professional or intellectual pursuits. Potential fellows are brought to the foundation’s attention by an anonymous pool of nominators. Those selected are sworn to secrecy until their names are announced. Details on some winners:

  • Los Angeles Philharmonic first violinist Vijay Gupta said he was “pretty overwhelmed” when he told he was named a MacArthur fellow. The 31-year-old received the honor for being the co-founder and artistic director of Street Symphony, which has performed at homeless shelters, jails and halfway houses for about eight years. “They have reminded me why I became a musician,“ Gupta said of the homeless. “Artists have a role in telling the truth about what is happening in our world today.“
  • “It was an extraordinary experience and a complete shock,“ said Rebecca Sandefur, an associate professor of sociology and law at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, of learning she won. “It was not something you would expect.“ Sandefur’s research is promoting a new approach to increasing access to the justice system by poor communities. The 47-year-old created the first national mapping of civil legal aid providers, revealing which states had the resources to provide such aid and which didn’t.
  • Fellow Gregg Gonsalves, 54, is a global health advocate and assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale University. A longtime HIV/AIDS activist, his work focuses on the use of quantitative analysis and operations research to improve responses to global public health challenges. He co-founded the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale to advance human rights and social justice perspectives in public health and legal research and teaching.
  • Matthew Aucoin, a 28-year-old composer, conductor and artist-in-residence at the Los Angeles Opera, composes instrumental works, ranging from pieces for solo performers to compositions for chorus and orchestra. His operatic work “Crossing,“ which drew from Walt Whitman’s diary entries during his Civil War work tending to wounded soldiers, premiered in 2015.
  • Also named a fellow was William J. Barber II, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, and founder of Repairers of the Breach, a leadership development organization. In 2017, Barber began a series of “Moral Monday” rallies outside the North Carolina state Capitol to protest laws that suppress voter turnout.
The New York Times has a complete list of winners.

These Are the Fastest-Growing Cities in the US

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Looking to move somewhere with a bright outlook? The bottom line of a new WalletHub analysis is that in the US, “the South currently seems to be an attractive place to move.“ The site looked at 515 cities and compared 15 measures of growth and decline over a seven-year period. Those factors include population growth, GDP growth, and decrease in the unemployment rate. The top 15 fastest-growing cities in the US, eight of which are in the South:

  1. Fort Myers, Fla.
  2. Midland, Texas
  3. Pearland, Texas
  4. Bend, Ore.
  5. McKinney, Texas
  6. College Station, Texas
  7. Lehigh Acres, Fla.
  8. Mount Pleasant, SC
  9. Enterprise, Nev.
  10. Irvine, Calif.
  11. Milpitas, Calif.
  12. Pleasanton, Calif.
  13. Murfreesboro, Tenn.
  14. Meridian, Idaho
  15. Redwood City, Calif.
Click for the complete rankings, as well as subsets of the data—Austin, Texas, for example, is No. 18 overall but is the No. 1 entry in the “large cities with the highest growth” category.

Requiem for the Supreme Court

The Free Press WV

It is no longer the nation’s unifying institution and things are going to get worse now that Brett Kavanaugh is a justice.    The Atlantic


Now and for the foreseeable future, a Supreme Court that will be an enemy to a majority of Americans.    Rolling Stone


Can we talk just one more time about the FBI’s role in the Kavanaugh investigation?    Just Security

Wannabe Burglar Hurls Brick, the Brick Hits Back

Either he didn’t know he was facing bulletproof glass, or he didn’t quite know what happens when you throw something at bulletproof glass. Either way, a guy who broke into a Maryland takeout restaurant on Sept. 20 was likely nursing a nasty head bump the next day. NBC New York reports on the attempted burglary in Suitland, in which the would-be burglar did manage the first step of getting into the eatery by smashing the front window and stepping into the venue’s waiting area. His next task: to break the window leading to the locked-down back room.

As surveillance footage shows, that’s when things hit a snag. The suspect threw what appears to be a brick (WJLA says it may have been a large rock) two times at the window, which was made of bulletproof material. On the third try, as seen in the video, the brick once more bounces off the window, but this time it smacks the “Bad Luck Bandit” (CBS Philly’s name for him) right in the head. He falls to his hands and knees in what was surely a good amount of pain, and NBC notes he stretched out on the ground for a few minutes before getting up and leaving. Cops are still looking for him.

Toddler Shreds $1K in Cash

The Free Press WV

Leo Belnap, a 2-year-old boy in Holladay, Utah, loves putting junk mail and other paper in the shredder that he sometimes helps his mom with. Unfortunately for his parents, some of the paper he put through it recently was green and had pictures of presidents on it. Ben and Jackee Belnap say Leo shredded an envelope containing $1,060 they had saved to reimburse Ben’s father for Utah Utes season tickets, People reports. They say they searched the house desperately for it over the weekend, when they planned to hand it over—and eventually discovered the remains of the cash in the shredder.

The Belnaps believe Leo put the envelope in the shredder when they weren’t looking. “For like five minutes, we just shuffled through it, not talking. We didn’t know what to do and then I broke the silence and I’m like, ‘Well, this will make a great wedding story one day,‘“ Jackee tells KSL. But they might eventually get the money back. Ben says he found out about a government department that deals with mutilated cash. “I called the guy the next morning and he said, ‘Oh, we might be able to help you here,‘ and I was shocked,“ Ben says. “He said, ‘Bag it up in little Ziploc bags, mail it to DC, and in one to two years, you’ll get your money back.‘“

‘I’ve got faith’: Potential aluminum workers wait on jobs

The Free Press WV

Things fall through for Chris Jackson.

A construction job, promised if he completed a carpentry program, vanished two weeks before his exit exam. A coveted, $100,000-a-year union job at a steel mill disappeared when the plant closed.

Now a businessman is promising him — and more than 130 others — a job at an aluminum mill in eastern Kentucky if he can complete a two-year degree program with at least a B average and no positive drug tests. But the mill is not built, and its financing is not complete. It’s a big risk for Jackson, a 41-year-old who turned down two other jobs hundreds of miles away for the chance to stay in his hometown.

It’s also a risk for Kentucky taxpayers. The state has offered its usual package of economic incentives to the company, Braidy Industries. But in a rare move, the state legislature unanimously approved a $15 million investment in the project, making taxpayers partial owners of the mill. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, seeking re-election in 2019, has touted the project as evidence of his leadership to bring jobs to Appalachia, where steady work that pays well has been hard to find.

But what has been touted as a sure thing has recently shown signs of uncertainty. In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, company officials revealed they haven’t raised enough money yet to complete construction. They need another $400 million to $500 million. And while a website touting the company’s stock offering notes “200 percent of the mill’s capacity for the next seven years has been reserved,” the SEC filing says prospective buyers are not “contractually committed.”

It’s enough to worry Jackson, who says his future depends on the mill.

“All my friends and family know I have put 110 percent into Braidy,” said Jackson, who said his tuition is paid for by a federal program to help unemployed workers. “Everyone starts questioning you, whether you made the right decision.”

Company officials warned skeptics not to jump to conclusions based on their SEC filing, which is required to include a section on risks for investors. And they said it is “commonly understood” in the business world that sales at this stage of development are “non-binding commitments to purchase.”

Craig Bouchard, Braidy’s CEO, says he feels the pressure, too. He said the No. 1 reason he chose Ashland was not because the GOP-controlled legislature passed a “right-to-work” law that banned mandatory union dues from employees. He said he chose Ashland primarily because it and the surrounding area were filled with eager workers. Of the likely 600 jobs available, he said the company has received 7,000 applications.

“I wake up, literally every single morning with 10,000 families riding on my shoulders and it’s the most important thing in my life, my career,” he said.

One of those people is 24-year-old Holly Miller, who lives in nearby Ironton, Ohio. She started working when she was 16 in the cafeteria of a Christian university and has since bounced between retail and restaurant jobs. She’s now in the two-year degree program for future Braidy workers. It will cost her at least $11,000, which she is paying with a mix of financial aid and her own money. She goes to class during the day, then works at Sam’s Club from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. She says she sleeps an hour in the morning and an hour at night.

“Everything is really riding on (Braidy),” she said. “I mean, our whole livelihoods are riding on it.”

Bouchard says the company has 45 employees and will expand to about 80 by the end of the year, with most of the 600 workers being hired next year. He insisted the company was on schedule to begin production in 2020.

“Whether it is in the second, third, fourth, fifth month of 2020, quite frankly I don’t care,” he said. “I just want it to look good when it opens.”

The site for the mill is next to the Ashland Community and Technical College, where 135 students are in their first year of a two-year degree program. There is a waiting list to get in, according to Mike Tackett, the school’s advance integrated technology coordinator. In an interview, Bouchard said anyone who completes the program with a B average and no drug tests would be guaranteed a job. Jackson and Miller said they have not been guaranteed a job, but have been promised an opportunity.

Jackson is studying physics, trigonometry and algebra in what he says is “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” even more difficult than quitting smoking. But he keeps going, he said, because “I’ve got faith in this place.”

“Those people make you believe it,” he said of company officials. “And if it doesn’t happen, it’s going to be a huge letdown because I’ve lost two years I can’t get back. But, I think it’s worth waiting on.”

Michigan High School Can’t Account for 9 Pot Brownies

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That marijuana-laced brownies were brought to a Michigan high school and distributed has been confirmed, but Fox17 has a tidbit that makes the story something extra. The person who tipped off police using the OK2Say app alleged the brownies were brought in by a cheerleader who doled out some to football players and used others in a bid to secure homecoming votes. MLive reports police last Wednesday forwarded the tip to Hartford High School administrators, who looked into the claim and found it to have merit. The school on Tuesday said “all individuals are being dealt with according to our district policies and student handbooks.“

Fox17 reports the 17-year-old female allegedly brought a dozen brownies to school and only three have been recovered. They’re being tested by the state police crime lab. The station points out the obvious: Students possibly ate the other nine. A rep for the Hartford Police Department notes that the fact the school is in a drug-free zone could theoretically mean felony charges could be issued.

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