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It Was the Salmon or the Sea Lions. The Senate Has Chosen

The Free Press WV

A bill that would make it easier to kill sea lions that feast on imperiled salmon in the Columbia River has cleared the US Senate. State wildlife managers say rebounding numbers of sea lions are eating more salmon than ever and their appetites are undermining billions of dollars of investments to restore endangered fish runs, per the AP. Senate Bill 3119, which passed Thursday by unanimous consent, would streamline the process for Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and several Pacific Northwest Native American tribes to capture and euthanize potentially hundreds of sea lions found in the river east of Portland, Ore. Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican who co-sponsored the bill with senators from all three states, said the legislation would help ensure healthy populations of salmon for years to come.

Supporters of the bill—including Oregon, Washington, and Idaho’s governors; fishing groups; and tribes—say it will give wildlife managers greater flexibility in controlling California sea lions that dramatically increased from about 30,000 in the ‘60s to 300,000 or so under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. Critics called it ill-conceived and say it won’t solve the problem of declining salmon, which also face other problems such as habitat loss and dams. Washington, Idaho, and Oregon wildlife managers now have the federal OK to kill problem sea lions that eat salmon in the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam, east of Portland, but they must first go through a lengthy process to ID and document specific sea lions that cause problems, including observing them eating a salmon and using non-lethal hazing measures on them. Both the House and Senate bills would remove those mandates.

Trump Administration Puts Biscuits Back on the School Lunch Menu

The Free Press WV

The national school lunch program is making room on menus again for noodles, biscuits, tortillas, and other foods made mostly of refined grains. The Trump administration is scaling back contested school lunch standards implemented under the Obama administration including one that required only whole grains be served, the AP reports. The US Department of Agriculture said Thursday only half the grains served will need to be whole grains, a change it said will do away with the current bureaucracy of requiring schools to obtain special waivers to serve select items made with refined grains. Low-fat chocolate milk will also be allowed again and a goal for limiting sodium will be scrapped. Previously, only fat-free milk could be flavored, although that rule had also been temporarily waived.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents local cafeteria operators and companies like Domino’s Pizza, Kellogg, and PepsiCo, had called for the scale back of the whole grain-only requirement, saying it was too difficult for some districts to meet. Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association, said whole-grain bread and buns generally aren’t a problem. But she said students complained about other items, in many cases because of cultural or regional preferences. Whole-grain biscuits and grits are also a challenge in the US South, she said, while tortillas are a challenge in the Southwest. Not everyone welcomed the relaxed rules. The American Heart Association encouraged schools to “stay the course” and commit to meeting the stricter standards that started going into effect in 2012. The Center for Science in the Public Interest also said the decision to roll back the whole-grain requirement makes no sense because most schools were already in compliance.

5 Phrases You Can’t Say Anymore, According to PETA

The Free Press WV

“I’m going to die laughing” is probably not the reaction PETA was seeking with its latest initiative supporting animal rights, this one demanding people abandon commonly used phrases with “anti-animal language.“ That includes “kill two birds with one stone,“ “bring home the bacon,“ and “take the bull by the horns”—phrases rooted in what PETA terms “speciesism,“ or discrimination based on species membership. “Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language, phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are,“ the group said in a Tuesday tweet, per Mashable. Click through to see its suggested replacement phrases, which left plenty of Twitter users amused.

  • “Feed two birds with one scone” over “kill two birds with one stone”
  • “Be the test tube” over “be the guinea pig”
  • “Feed a fed horse,“ not “beat a dead horse”
  • “Bring home the bagels” rather than “bring home the bacon”
  • “Take the flower by the thorns” over “take the bull by the horns”
  “Sounds like some blatant anti-plantism to me,“ says one Twitter user, per HuffPo. “‘Feed two birds with one scone’ has broken my brain i’m going to die laughing,“ says another.

Teacher Chopped Kid’s Hair While Singing Anthem

The Free Press WV

A California teacher is behind bars with bail set at $100,000 after she allegedly followed through on what students thought was a teasing offer of “free haircuts.“ Police were called to Visalia’s University Preparatory High School on Wednesday in response to an Instagram video that appeared to show science teacher Margaret Gieszinger using scissors to chop off a student’s hair during a first-period chemistry class. Hair flew amid the teacher’s loud rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,“ per the Visalia Times-Delta, which adds Gieszinger stopped the male student as he tried to get away. “You’re not done,“ she allegedly said, and continued cutting. Gieszinger then was said to have grabbed the hair of a female student before kids screamed and ran for the classroom door.

Two days earlier, Gieszinger had claimed students were responsible for a test that had gone missing, a parent tells the Times-Delta. “They asked for help from administrators on Monday but were told they had to go back to class,“ one parent says. One student describes the behavior as out of character for the 52-year-old teacher, later arrested at her home on suspicion of felony child endangerment, per YourCentralValley.com. “Loving and kind,“ she’s “usually all smiles and laughs. This is not the Miss G. we know and love,“ the student tells the Times-Delta. But: “I hope I never have to see her at the school again,“ another student tells KFSN. “I can never see her as a respectable authority figure in my life.“ Gieszinger was handed two-week suspensions for unknown reasons in 2007 and 2016.

Nearly Half of Young Adults Live at Home in This State

The Free Press WV

Adults in New Jersey might be less embarrassed than most to utter the words, “I live with my parents.“ That’s because the state hosts a higher percentage of young adults living with one or two parents than any other state in the country, per North Jersey Record, which surveyed census data from 2017. It showed 47% of New Jersey residents aged 18 to 34 still lived with their parents. On the opposite pole is North Dakota. The five states with the highest and lowest percentages of young adults living with their parents:

Highest:

  1. New Jersey: 47%
  2. Connecticut: 42%
  3. Rhode Island: 41%
  4. New York: 41%
  5. Florida: 40%
Lowest:
  1. North Dakota: 16%
  2. South Dakota: 19%
  3. Nebraska: 21%
  4. Iowa: 22%
  5. Wyoming: 23%

THC-Laced Candies Send Students to Hospital

The Free Press WV

A Florida 12-year-old is facing seven felony charges for allegedly bringing a package of THC-laced gummy candies to school and sharing them with his classmates during a morning gym class at Mulberry Middle School in Polk County, ABC reports. Several students became ill with symptoms that included stomach pain, nausea, and dizziness after eating the Green Hornet brand gummies.

Of the two boys and four girls who ate the pot candies, five were taken to the hospital and one was picked up by their parents, the Ledger reports, adding that the boy who brought the gummies to school did not consume them. The kids are reportedly recovering. Edible marijuana products are not currently legal in Florida, which has a medical marijuana program but not a recreational one. “I warned us that all of this was coming,” Sheriff Grady Judd, called by the Ledger a “staunch” opponent of medical marijuana, said.

DC clerk stalls marriage over ‘foreign’ New Mexico ID card

The Free Press WV

A District of Columbia clerk and a supervisor refused to accept a New Mexico man’s state driver’s license as he sought a marriage license because she and her supervisor believed New Mexico was a foreign country.

Gavin Clarkson told the Las Cruces Sun-News it happened Nov. 20 at the District of Columbia Courts Marriage Bureau as he tried to apply for a marriage license.

After approaching the clerk for a license and showing his New Mexico ID, Clarkson said the clerk told him he needed an international passport to get the marriage license.

Clarkson said he protested to a supervisor, who also told him that he needed a foreign passport.

The clerk finally concluded New Mexico was a state after Clarkson objected three times. The clerk granted the license to Clarkson and his fiancée.

“She thought New Mexico was a foreign country,” Clarkson said of the clerk. “All the couples behind us waiting in line were laughing.”

Clarkson, who is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, said if he’d had his tribal identification card he might have had an easier time than showing his New Mexico driver’s license.

In a statement, the D.C. courts system acknowledged the staff error to the Sun-News.

“We understand that a clerk in our Marriage Bureau made a mistake regarding New Mexico’s 106-year history as a state,” Leah H. Gurowitz, spokeswoman for D.C. Courts, said in an email. “We very much regret the error and the slight delay it caused a New Mexico resident in applying for a D.C. marriage license.”

New Mexico became a U.S. state in 1912.

University Has Interesting Idea for Defense Against Shooters

The Free Press WV

Michigan’s Oakland University came up with an unlikely idea for self-defense against an active shooter: hockey pucks. While training faculty members back in March on what to do should a gunman come into their classroom, Police Chief Mark Gordon advised them to be ready to throw something at the shooter if they couldn’t run away or hide, since the school has a no-weapons policy. As a last resort, throw something, anything, he said—even a hockey puck. (He once coached youth hockey and got hit in the head with a puck.) “It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment idea that seemed to have some merit to it and it kind of caught on,“ Gordon explains to the Detroit Free Press. Now the university is giving out pucks to faculty and students.

A professor led a union effort to purchase 2,500 of the pucks at 94 cents apiece, and the school started handing them out earlier this month. Some students tell WXYZ the idea of puck-as-defense is “absurd,“ but they serve another purpose: They’re imprinted with a number that can be entered on the university’s website to donate money toward a campaign to install interior locks on classroom doors; the student body VP says the pucks are raising awareness about that need. As for the pucks themselves, “It’s just the idea of having something, a reminder that you’re not powerless and you’re not helpless in the classroom,“ says the professor who led the effort. Gordon says “anything that has weight” would work in a similar way, including staplers and laptops, noting that if 20 or 30 people in a classroom were to all throw their pucks simultaneously, “it would be quite the distraction.“

What Trump’s Labor Secretary Had to Do With Billionaire Pedophile’s Deal

The Free Press WV

It’s long been known that billionaire financial adviser Jeffrey Epstein got a sweet plea deal from Florida prosecutors, serving just 13 months in a private wing of the county jail followed by a year of house arrest rather than the massive sentence he could have faced had he been hit with sex trafficking charges over allegations that he molested dozens of underage girls between 2001 and 2005, some of whom he was suspected of trafficking from overseas. Instead, he pleaded guilty to a single count of soliciting prostitution from someone underage. In an extensive new piece for the Miami Herald based on thousands of emails, court documents, and FBI records, plus interviews with key players, Julie K. Brown looks at what President Trump’s current labor secretary had to do with the deal. Then Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta forged the deal, which hid the full extent of the crimes Epstein was suspected of, with Epstein’s attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

Miami police referred the Epstein investigation to the FBI a year after it was launched, due to suspicions that the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office was undermining their investigation. The non-prosecution agreement forged by Acosta ultimately scuttled that FBI probe before it could determine the scope of a possible international sex trafficking operation and whether any other powerful people were involved. It also concealed the deal from victims until a judge approved it, meaning none of the victims were able to attempt to derail it. “The conspiracy between the government and Epstein was really ‘let’s figure out a way to make the whole thing go away as quietly as possible,‘“ says an attorney representing several victims. One expert compares it to the Catholic Church’s cover-up of pedophile priests. Brown’s story comes as two upcoming civil lawsuits could shed more light on Epstein’s alleged crimes, giving some of his victims their day in court after more than a decade. Read the full article HERE.

New US Life Expectancy Statistics Are ‘Sobering’

The Free Press WV

In 1918, the double whammy of World War I and the worldwide flu pandemic drove down American life expectancy for a third year in a row. A century later, another triple-year decline has been recorded—and this time, suicide and drug overdoses are major causes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual report, US life expectancy dropped to 78 years and 7 months in 2017, down around a month from the year before, the AP reports. Men could expect to live 76.1 years, and women 81.1. Public health experts called the statistics alarming, noting that early deaths among middle-aged people did the most to bring life expectancy down. After 22 years of steady rises, life expectancy dropped in 2015 and again in 2016, though it will need to drop a lot more to reach the level of 1918, when life expectancy was 39.

“These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,“ CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. Another CDC report found that the number of drug overdose deaths rose almost 6,600 in 2017 to 70,237, CNN reports. The suicide rate rose to its highest in at least 50 years, with rates much higher in rural counties than in urban ones. Another factor was a harsh flu season. Experts say they find it worrying that in the US, life expectancy is going in a different direction than in most developed nations. “Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world. It shouldn’t be declining in the United States,“ Joshua Sharfstein at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tells the Washington Post.

San Diego Art Gallery Busted for Ivory Trafficking

The Free Press WV

Authorities confiscated $1.3 million worth of collectibles containing elephant tusks and hippo teeth from the Carlton Gallery under a 2016 state law banning the sale or possession of almost all forms of ivory.

An undercover sting operation in May led officers to seize more than 300 illicit items from the gallery and its warehouse.

Criminal charges were filed against the owner and a salesman, who could spend a year in prison on multiple misdemeanors.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates tens of thousands of elephants fall victim to the ivory trade annually.


Learn More:    The San Diego Union-Tribune      NPR

9-year-old gets Colorado town to end ban on snowball fights

The Free Press WV

A 9-year-old boy has convinced the leaders of a small northern Colorado town to overturn a nearly century-old ban on snowball fights, and he already knows who his first target will be — his little brother.

Dane Best, who lives in the often snow-swept town of Severance, presented his arguments at a town board meeting Monday night, and members voted unanimously to lift the ban.

“I think it’s an outdated law,” Dane said in the lead-up to the meeting. “I want to be able to throw a snowball without getting in trouble.”

Dane’s mother, Brooke Best, told The Greeley Tribune her son had been talking about snowballs since he found out about a month and a half ago that it was illegal to throw them within town limits. The last time it snowed, Dane said he and his friends looked around for police and joked about breaking the law.

Kyle Rietkerk, assistant to the Severance town administrator, said the rule was part of a larger ordinance that made it illegal to throw or shoot stones or missiles at people, animals, buildings, trees, any other public or private property or vehicles. Snowballs fell under the town’s definition of “missiles.”

“All of the kids always get blown away that it’s illegal to have snowball fights in Severance,” Rietkerk said before the meeting. “So, what ends up happening is (town leaders) always encourage the kids with, ‘You have the power you can change the law.’ No one has.”

Then Dane took up the cause, writing letters with his classmates in support of overturning the ban.

And after Monday night’s success, his 4-year-old brother Dax had better watch out. When board members asked Dane during a meeting in November who he wants to hit, he pointed directly at his little brother.

Dane and his family have researched other Severance ordinances, including one that defines pets only as cats and dogs.

Dane has a guinea pig, which is illegal in Severance, too.

Overdoses, Suicides Spur Overall Drop in US Life Expectancy

The Free Press WV

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows American life expectancy has trended downward over the last few years, averaging 78.6 in 2017.

While several 0.1 percent annual dips aren’t massive, their cause is worrying:

Experts blame rapidly increasing rates of fatal drug overdoses, especially from synthetic opioids.

Last year saw more than 70,000, the most ever recorded, with West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania hit the hardest.

Meanwhile, suicide rates continue to climb, but heart disease and cancer remain the leading causes of death.


Learn More:    Vox    Ars Technica

Man Finds Lost Wallet, Returns It in the Best Way

The Free Press WV

It’s that most terrifying of moments: when you realize you lost your wallet, which holds your ID, a signed paycheck, your debit card, and $60. For Hunter Shamatt, that mishap has the most heartwarming of endings. The 20-year-old was en route to his sister’s Vegas wedding when he deplaned in Denver without his wallet. It came back to him, with this note: “Found this on a Frontier flight from Omaha to Denver-row 12, seat F wedged between the seat and wall. Thought you might want it back. All the best. TB PS: I rounded your cash up to an even $100 so you could celebrate getting your wallet back. Have fun!!!“

A Facebook post from Shamatt’s mom noted the envelope’s return address listed Applied Underwriters of Omaha. Yahoo Lifestyle reports the company’s brand manager reached out to employee TB—that’s Todd Brown—and put him in contact with a very grateful Shamatt and his mom. As for Brown’s motivation for slipping in some extra cash, he tells Yahoo, “I was 20 once, and that’s a lot of money for a kid.“ It’s also a sort of habit: “When I send my mom a card, I still put a dollar in there because it feels good when you open it.“

These Were Bush’s Final Words

The Free Press WV

The last four words George HW Bush spoke were to son George W. Bush, reports the New York Times: “I love you, too.“ The younger Bush was at home in Dallas Friday night when he was put on speakerphone with his dad in Houston to say goodbye. He did so, telling HW that he had been a “wonderful dad.“ The elder Bush had been “fading” over the period of a few days, per the Times, spending most of his time in bed, asleep, and not eating. It seemed, to members of his inner circle, that after years of surviving brushes with ill health, the former president was in his final days. See the Times for more on those final days, including a visit from old friend James A. Baker, his former secretary of state.

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