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This U.S. City Is the Biggest Melting Pot of All

The Free Press WV

By the year 2060, 36% of America’s kids under the age of 18 will be what the Census Bureau deems “single-race non-Hispanic white,“ down from 52% today. The shrinking percentage is thanks to what WalletHub calls the country’s “rapid ethnic and racial diversification” over the past 40 years. The site took a look at more than 500 of the nation’s biggest cities across three key metrics (language, ethnicity and race, and where its residents were born) to find the most culturally diverse cities in America. The findings:  Most Diverse Cities

  • Jersey City, NJ
  • Gaithersburg, Md.
  • Germantown, Md.
  • Silver Spring, Md.
  • Spring Valley, Nev.
  • New York City
  • Oakland, Calif.
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • Rockville, Md.
  • Kent, Wash.

Least Diverse Cities

  1. Parkersburg, W. Va.
  2. Clarksburg, W. Va.
  3. Hialeah, Fla.
  4. Watertown, SD
  5. Barre, Vt.
  6. Miles City, Mont.
  7. Laconia, NH
  8. Bennington, Vt.
  9. Fairmont, W. Va.
  10. Rutland, Vt.
See where other cities fall in the rankings.

FBI: Partygoer stole museum statue’s left thumb after selfie

The Free Press WV

Federal authorities say a Delaware man snapped a selfie before stealing part of a $4.5 million statue at a Philadelphia museum.

According to an arrest affidavit filed Friday, 24-year-old Michael Rohana was attending an Ugly Sweater Party at the Franklin Institute Dec. 21 when he entered the “Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor” exhibit.

Authorities say Rohana took photos while posing next to a statue known as “The Cavalryman,” and then snapped off the statue’s left thumb.

Museum staff noticed the missing thumb Jan. 8, and the FBI traced it to Rohana five days later. It is unclear if he has legal representation.

A museum spokeswoman says the statue will be repaired. She says a security contractor did not follow standard procedures the night of the alleged theft.

Princeton Professor Cancels Class Over Protest of Racial Slur

The Free Press WV

A Princeton professor has canceled a class on hate speech after a handful of students walked out in protest last week when he used a racial slur multiple times during a lecture, the University Press Club reports. Students tell the Daily Princetonian that during a February 06 class for “Cultural Freedoms—Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography” professor Lawrence Rosen asked, “What is worst, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a [racial slur]?“ Students say he used the slur twice more in the ensuing discussion. One student says the lecture was about “what is acceptable as free speech and what is not.“ Four students reportedly walked out of the class as others demanded an apology from Rosen that wasn’t forthcoming.

“The professor saw how uncomfortable the students were with his language,” says one student. “If he doesn’t respect the students’ opinion, then it’s not worth learning from him.” Two students filed a complaint with Princeton officials, but the university issued a statement defending Rosen, the AP reports. “The conversations and disagreements that took place in the seminar led by Professor Rosen are part of the vigorous engagement and robust debate that are central to what we do,“ the statement reads. Christopher Eisgruber, president of Princeton, says he respects Rosen’s use of the word and stresses the importance of conversations that make people “uncomfortable.“ Faculty members say Rosen often used the racial slur during lectures and had never gotten such a negative response. Rosen announced the cancellation of the class on Monday.

McDonald’s moves cheeseburgers off Happy Meal menu

The Free Press WV

McDonald’s is taking cheeseburgers and chocolate milk off its Happy Meal menu in an effort to cut down on the calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar that kids consume at its restaurants.

Diners can still ask specifically for cheeseburgers or chocolate milk with the kid’s meal, but the fast-food company said that not listing them will reduce how often they’re ordered. Since it removed soda from the Happy Meal menu four years ago, orders for it with Happy Meals have fallen 14 percent, the company said. Hamburgers and Chicken McNuggets will remain the main entrees on the Happy Meal menu.

The Happy Meal, which has been around for nearly 40 years, has long been a target of health advocates and parents who link it to childhood obesity. McDonald’s has made many tweaks over the years, including cutting the size of its fries and adding fruit. Most recently, it swapped out its apple juice for one that has less sugar.

It’s been especially important as the company tries to shake its junk-food image, since McDonald’s is known for getting more business from families with children relative to its traditional rivals, such as Burger King and Wendy’s. McDonald’s doesn’t say how much revenue it makes from the $3 Happy Meal, but the company said 30 percent of all visits come from families.

McDonald’s will make the changes, including new nutritional standards for the Happy Meal changes, by June in the United States.

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” said Margo Wootan, the vice president for nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We would love to see many more restaurants do the same.”

McDonald’s said Thursday that it wants all its Happy Meal options to have 600 calories or fewer and have less than 650 milligrams of sodium. It also wants less than 10 percent of the meal’s calories to come from saturated fat and the same percentage to come from added sugar.

The cheeseburger and chocolate milk didn’t meet those new standards, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said. It is, however, working to cut sugar from the chocolate milk and believes it’ll be back on the Happy Meal menu eventually — but doesn’t know when that will happen.

Trudy Munk, a mother of three from Lombard, Illinois, who was at a McDonald’s with her 3-year-old niece on Thursday, said she wasn’t sure if the changes would make much of a difference.

“I just feel like if you are coming to McDonalds, you’re not necessarily looking for the healthiest option,” she said. “I see it as a treat and I don’t mind getting my kids French fries or the cheeseburgers.”

There will be other tweaks: The six-piece chicken nugget Happy Meal will now come with a kids-sized fries instead of a small, lowering calories and sodium from the fries by half. And bottled water will be added as an option to the Happy Meal menu, but will cost extra. Currently, the Happy Meal menu lists milk, chocolate milk and apple juice. Soda does not cost extra.

For international restaurants, McDonald’s Corp. said that at least half of the Happy Meal options available must meet its new nutritional guidelines. The company said some are adding new menu items to comply, like in Italy, where a grilled chicken sandwich was added to the Happy Meal menu.

Amazon to pay $1.2 million in illegal pesticide settlement

The Free Press WV

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a $1.2 million settlement with Amazon over the sale and distribution of illegal pesticides, one of the largest penalties assessed under federal pesticides laws.

Federal regulators said the agreement settles allegations that the Seattle-based internet giant committed nearly 4,000 violations between 2013 and 2016 for selling and distributing imported pesticide products not licensed for sale in the United States.

The pesticides, including insecticide in the form of chalk and cockroach bait powder, were sold by independent sellers who offered the products through Amazon’s website.

The products were sold through a program in which sellers provided products to Amazon, which stored them at its warehouses and shipped them after they were purchased, Chad Schulze, an EPA pesticide enforcement team lead, said at a news conference in Seattle Thursday.

It’s one of the first enforcement actions related to sales of illegal pesticide in the online marketplace, he added.

In a statement, Amazon said complying with regulations was a “top priority” and that it works quickly to take action when third-party sellers don’t follow the rules.

As part of the agreement filed in administrative court Wednesday, Amazon agreed to develop an online training course to educate sellers about pesticides. The training will be available to the public and online sellers and available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

“This settlement is a step in the right direction to protect the public health and the environment,” said Ed Kowalski, who directs compliance and enforcement for the EPA region covering the Pacific Northwest.

EPA interns uncovered the illegal sales in 2014 while reviewing online marketplaces, identifying unregistered insecticide chalk being sold on Amazon.com.

EPA officials purchased and analyzed those products. It then issued two orders stopping sales, once in mid-2015 for the insecticide chalk and a second time in early 2016 after finding six other unregistered pesticides.

EPA officials said Amazon quickly removed the products and prohibited foreign sellers from selling the pesticides. In October 2016, the company notified people who bought the illegal pesticides and urged them to dispose of them. It also made refunds totaling about $130,000.

Most were purchases by individuals.

The EPA has limited tools to enforce laws against foreign sellers so regulators focus on services in the U.S. that are facilitating the sale of these products, Schulze said.

Illegal pesticides are still widely available for online purchase in the U.S., the EPA said.

“This is a very difficult avenue of pesticide sales to get our hands around and that’s what this action is starting to try to do,” Schulze said.

How best to treat opioids’ youngest sufferers? No one knows

The Free Press WV

Two babies, born 15 months apart to the same young woman overcoming opioid addiction. Two very different treatments.

Sarah Sherbert’s first child was whisked away to a hospital special-care nursery for two weeks of treatment for withdrawal from doctor-prescribed methadone that her mother continued to use during her pregnancy. Nurses hesitated to let Sherbert hold the girl and hovered nervously when she visited to breast-feed.

Born just 15 months later and 30 miles away at a different South Carolina hospital, Sherbert’s second child was started on medicine even before he showed any withdrawal symptoms and she was allowed to keep him in her room to encourage breast-feeding and bonding. His hospital stay was just a week.

“It was like night and day,” Sherbert said.

The different approaches highlight a sobering fact: The surge has outpaced the science, and no one knows the best way to treat the opioid epidemic’s youngest patients.

Trying to cope with the rising numbers of affected infants, hospitals around the United States are taking a scattershot approach to treating the tremors, hard-to-soothe crying, diarrhea and other hallmark symptoms of newborn abstinence syndrome.

“It’s a national problem,” said Dr. Lori Devlin, a University of Louisville newborn specialist. “There’s no gold-standard treatment.”

With help from $1 million in National Institutes of Health funding, researchers are seeking to change that by identifying the practices that could lead to a national standard for evidence-based treatment. A rigorous multi-center study comparing treatments and outcomes in hard-hit areas could start by the end of this year, said Dr. Matthew Gillman, who is helping lead the effort.

“When there’s so much variability in practice, not everyone can be doing the very best thing,” Gillman said.

Once the umbilical cord is cut, babies born to opioid users are at risk for developing withdrawal symptoms. By some estimates, one infant is born with the condition in the U.S. every 25 minutes. The numbers have tripled since 2008 at a rate that has solid medical research comparing treatments and outcomes struggling to keep pace.

Not all opioid-exposed babies develop the syndrome, but drug use late in a pregnancy increases the chances and can cause dependence in fetuses and newborns. These infants are not born with addiction, which experts consider a disease involving compulsive, harmful drug-seeking behavior. But the sudden withdrawal of opioids from their mothers may cause increased production of neurotransmitters, which can disrupt the nervous system and overstimulate bodily functions. Symptoms can last for months.

The condition can result from a mother’s use of illicit drugs, but it also can stem from mothers being prescribed methadone or other anti-addiction medicine. Doctors believe the benefits of that treatment for the mothers outweigh any risks to their infants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t routinely track the condition, but the agency’s most recent data — from 2014 — indicates that the syndrome affects nearly 11 in every 1,000 U.S. births. The CDC said it is working with the March of Dimes and several states to get a better picture of the number of affected infants and how they fare developmentally and academically into childhood.

Some studies have suggested possible increased risks for developmental delays and behavior problems, but no research has been able to determine if that’s due to mothers’ drug use during pregnancy, infants’ treatment after birth or something completely unrelated. And there’s no definitive evidence that these children fare worse than unexposed youngsters.

“It’s very, very frustrating” not knowing those answers, Devlin said. “It’s such a difficult population to go back and do research on. They’re people who often don’t trust the system, often people who have had lots of trauma in their lives.”

Treatment aims to reduce or even prevent symptoms. Some hospitals use morphine drops, while others use methadone and sometimes sedatives. Some send the babies straight to newborn intensive care units and some focus on comfort care from moms, allowing them to room-in with their infants. A recently published Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center analysis linked rooming-in with less medication use and shorter hospital stays for infants, but it can be difficult if mothers are still in the throes of addiction.

A Florida hospital is even testing tiny acupuncture needles on affected infants.

Many hospitals use a 40-year-old scoring system to measure 21 symptoms and frame diagnosis and treatment length, but some have created their own scales.

The Government Accountability Office’s health care team has called for federal action to address the issue, saying the current recommendations from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department amount to a half-baked strategy lacking priorities and a timeline for implementation.

The department’s recommendations include education for doctors and nurses to teach them how to manage affected infants, along with an emphasis on non-drug treatment.

Katherine Iritani, director of the GAO’s health care team, said government officials have since indicated that they are convening experts to develop and finalize a plan by March 15.

“We’ll review it and make sure it’s responsive to our recommendations,” she said.

A separate GAO report released last week recommended beefed-up government guidance to help states implement programs that ensure safe care for opioid-affected infants and treatment for parents still struggling with drug use.

Medicaid pays for more than 80 percent of costs for treating affected babies, totaling about $1 billion in 2012, the GAO has found.

At Greenville Memorial Hospital, where Sarah Sherbert’s son was delivered two years ago, babies born to methadone users are given that drug before symptoms start and are sent home with a supply to continue treatment.

Clemson University research has showed that approach could reduce hospital stays by nearly half, to an average of eight days costing $11,000 compared with the state average of 15 days at a cost of $45,000.

“The baby has already been exposed to methadone for nine months so adding four to five weeks and making weaning gentle instead of quitting cold turkey we think won’t have any additional effect on babies’ brain development,” said Dr. Jennifer Hudson, who developed the treatment approach.

Sherbert, 31, said her drug use began eight years ago after she was prescribed opioid painkillers for injuries from a car accident. She was on methadone prescribed by her doctor when her daughter, now 3, was born.

She later lost custody after relapsing and her parents are caring for the children. Sherbert said she has been sober for a year and recently was promoted to supervisor at her job. She said she’s determined to get them back.

“I’ve worked so hard and come such a long way,” she said. “Seeing their little faces — that’s worth every bit of it.”

Watchdog’s report faults VA chief over Europe trip expenses

The Free Press WV

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and his staff lied that he was getting an award in order to justify his wife accompanying him at taxpayer expense on an 11-day European trip that mixed business and sightseeing, according to a blistering government investigation released Wednesday.

The 87-page report by the VA’s internal watchdog said Shulkin should reimburse the government more than $4,000 for his wife’s airfare and accused his top aide of doctoring emails to falsely represent that Shulkin as being honored in Denmark, inventing a rationale for his wife’s free travel.

“The investigation revealed serious derelictions” by Shulkin and his staff, said the report, which cited “poor judgment and/or misconduct.”

The findings are the latest in a series of controversies involving expensive or wasteful plane travel by top Trump administration officials. President Donald Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price, resigned in September after questions arose about his use of private jets for multiple government trips.

Top lawmakers on the congressional oversight committees urged Shulkin, a former VA undersecretary of health who served in the Obama administration, to fully address the findings. They stressed in a joint statement that “whether intentional or not, misusing taxpayer dollars is unacceptable.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called on Shulkin to resign and said “it is time to clean house at the VA.”

In a response attached to the report, Shulkin said he did nothing improper and he attacked the investigation as containing the “thread of bias.”

“A report of this nature is a direct assault on my spouse, my character, and my unblemished record of service to the Veterans Affairs Administration,” he wrote.

Shulkin said he will consult with the agency’s general counsel and reimburse the costs for his wife’s airfare and the Wimbledon tickets if advised to do so.

Shulkin’s overseas trip may have involved too much leisure time at taxpayers’ expense, according to the report by the VA’s inspector general, Michael Missal. It found that VA ethics officials should not have approved the commercial airfare for Shulkin’s wife, Merle Bari, and they did so only after Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, altered emails to make it appear he was receiving an award to justify his wife’s traveling on the public’s dime.

The inspector general said that “since Ms. Wright Simpson’s false representations and alteration of an official record may have violated federal criminal statutes,” it referred the matter to the Justice Department, which decided not to prosecute.

The report called on the VA to take “appropriate administrative action” against Wright Simpson, and the agency said it was reviewing the matter. A VA spokesman, Curt Cashour, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Wright Simpson.

The audit by VA inspector general Michael Missal also questioned Shulkin’s decision to use agency staff on official time to arrange his personal sightseeing activities.

An 11-member VA delegation, including Bari and six members of Shulkin’s security detail, traveled to England and Denmark last July, at a total VA cost of at least $122,334, according to the report. The trip included a tour of Westminster Abbey, attendance at the women’s final at Wimbledon featuring American Venus Williams and a cruise on the Thames River.

Missal called on Shulkin to reimburse $4,312 paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs for Bari’s travel costs as well as the price of the Wimbledon tickets. He received the seats as a gift from a professional acquaintance, Victoria Gosling, a former CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games, and then misrepresented to the news media that the gift had been preapproved by ethics counsel. In fact, his acceptance of Wimbledon tickets had not been reviewed.

The inspector general began a review in October after The Washington Post reported that Shulkin and his wife had spent nearly half their time on personal activities during the European trip. The VA said the two flew commercially, and the taxpayers covered her airfare as part of “temporary duty” travel expenses.

But the audit found the trip may have violated a cost-saving directive that Shulkin had issued to the department weeks prior to the trip to avoid unnecessary expenses.

As to the Wimbledon tickets, Shulkin told investigators that he accepted the tickets from Gosling, whom he described as his wife’s friend, after he unsuccessfully attempted to purchase tickets himself. After further questioning, the IG’s office learned that Gosling could not even recall the name of Shulkin’s wife.

Shulkin’s lawyers described the Europe trip as an important opportunity to discuss “best practices” with U.S. allies for veterans’ health care. They said Shulkin and his wife acted appropriately in taking advantage of suitable “down time” in between scheduled business meetings and paid for their tickets to local attractions.

Shulkin insisted he had planned to pay for his wife’s airfare but considered the VA reimbursement only after staff suggested the idea.

The trip included a weekend during which Shulkin and his wife did sightseeing. According to VA, it was unclear whether scheduling two separate trans-Atlantic trips to avoid the four-day gap between work-related events would have saved money.

Shulkin isn’t the only Cabinet member to have faced questions about travel since Price resigned.

Others include Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who have acknowledged the use of government or private flights costing tens of thousands of dollars. Zinke and Pruitt are being investigated by their respective department’s inspector general for their trips, which they said were pre-approved by ethics officials. Perry also has defended his travel as preapproved.

Pruitt this week broke a long silence about his frequent use of premium-class airfare at taxpayer expense, saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travelers.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was investigated for use of government aircraft for official trips. A Treasury audit last October said he failed to provide enough proof of why he needed to use more expensive modes of travel but there was no violation of law.

Trump cites mental health _ not guns _ in speech on shooting

The Free Press WV

Declaring the nation united and grieving with “one heavy heart,” President Donald Trump promised Thursday to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence.

Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared.”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”

While Trump stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements, his latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

The president spoke to the nation from the White House, one day after a former student with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 14 more. It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

Trump, who owns a private club in Palm Beach, Florida, about 40 miles away, said he planned to visit the grieving community, but no date was immediately set. He canceled plans to promote his infrastructure plan in Orlando on Friday and to attend a campaign rally in Pennsylvania next week.

Trump’s silence on guns was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions. But the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the point was “to talk about grief and show compassion in unifying the country.”

Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign

During his brief, televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.

He pledged to work with state and local officials to “help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” adding that safe schools would be a key focus when he meets with governors and state attorneys general later this month.

Trump made no specific policy recommendations, and he did not answer shouted questions about guns as he exited the room.

In contrast, former President Barack Obama tweeted out a call for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.” Obama wrote: “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job.”

In reacting to previous mass shootings, Trump has largely focused on mental health as a cause, dismissing questions about gun control. After a shooting at a Texas church in November left more than two dozen dead, the president said, “This isn’t a guns situation.”

The 19-year-old suspect in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media. He had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for “disciplinary reasons,” Broward County, Florida, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The profile photo on Cruz’s Instagram account showed a masked face wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat like those associated with Trump’s campaign.

A former Junior ROTC cadet, Cruz had participated in paramilitary drills with a white nationalist organization, according to its leader, Jordan Jereb.

Trump was criticized in early August for saying that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While Trump has offered somber responses to some tragedies, he has also drawn criticism for other reactions.

After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead in June 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London last June, he went after Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter.

News of Wednesday afternoon’s shooting had come as the White House was embroiled in a week-long scandal surrounding the handling of domestic abuse allegations against Rob Porter, a top aide who resigned last week.

The typically daily White House press briefing was repeatedly delayed, as aides tried to craft a strategy on that issue. One option was to have chief of staff John Kelly, who has come under intense pressure for his handling of the Porter matter, be part of the briefing, according to two White House officials not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations.

Once the magnitude of the Florida tragedy became clear, the White House canceled the briefing. The president tweeted his condolences and the White House deliberated its next move.

Kelly was not in the room when Trump addressed the nation on Thursday morning, and his job security remained an open question. But with the West Wing focused on the shooting aftermath, any immediate change seemed unlikely

Warning signs may have been missed in school shooting case

The Free Press WV

Months before authorities say Nikolas Cruz walked into his former high school and slaughtered 17 people, the troubled teen began showing what may have been warning signs he was bent on violence.

“Im going to be a professional school shooter,” a YouTube user with the screen name “Nikolas Cruz” posted in September.

The 19-year-old had gotten expelled last year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. A former Junior ROTC cadet, he bought a military-style AR-15 rifle. And he began to participate in paramilitary drills with a white nationalist organization, according to its leader, Jordan Jereb.

Jereb, head of the Republic of Florida, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group seeks to create a white state. He said he didn’t know Cruz personally but was told the young man had “trouble with a girl,” and he suggested the timing of the Valentine’s Day attack wasn’t a coincidence.

However, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in Tallahassee, where the Republic of Florida is based, said it monitors the group’s membership and has seen no ties between the organization and Cruz. Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Grady Jordan said the Republic of Florida has never had more than 10 members.

Students and neighbors, meanwhile, reported that Cruz threatened and harassed others, talked about killing animals, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media, and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

In fact, schoolmates weren’t surprised when Cruz was identified as the gunman in Wednesday’s rampage, said 17-year-old Dakota Mutchler.

“I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Mutchler said.

Benjamin Bennight, a Mississippi bail bondsman, was concerned enough after seeing the “professional school shooter” comment on his Youtube channel that he took a screenshot of it on his phone and called the FBI. Two FBI agents visited Bennight the next day.

The FBI said it never spoke to the Florida teen.

“No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location or the true identity of the person who posted the comment,” said Brett Carr, a spokesman for the FBI office in Jackson, Mississippi. “The FBI conducted database reviews and other checks but was unable to further identify the person who posted the comment.”

Math teacher Jim Gard told The Miami Herald that before the shooting rampage, Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat. Gard said he believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn’t be allowed on campus with a backpack.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard told the newspaper.

Student Victoria Olvera, 17, said that Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend. Cruz had been attending another school in Broward County since the expulsion, school officials said.

Jonathan Guimaraes, 17, told the Herald that he had been in JROTC with Cruz. “He was quiet, nice,” Guimaraes said. “That’s how he was able to blend in. He was wearing his JROTC uniform.”

Cruz had on a maroon polo shirt bearing an ROTC insignia and the school’s eagle mascot when he was arrested.

Cruz was an orphan — his mother, Lynda Cruz, died of pneumonia Nov. 1, and her husband died of a heart attack years ago, neighbors, friends and family members told the Sun Sentinel. The couple had adopted Nikolas and his biological brother.

Around Thanksgiving, Nikolas Cruz moved in with a friend’s family in Broward County.

According to lawyer Jim Lewis, who represents but did not identify the family, they knew that Cruz owned the AR-15 but made him keep it locked up in a cabinet and never saw him go to a shooting range with it. He did have the key, however.

Cruz passed a background check and legally purchased the assault weapon from a licensed dealer in February 2017, a law enforcement official not authorized to discuss the investigation told the AP on condition of anonymity.

The family is devastated and shocked, Lewis said. During the three months Cruz lived there, he was respectful and quiet but also sad over his mother’s death, the lawyer told the AP.

“No indication that anything severe like this was wrong,” Lewis said. “Just a mildly troubled kid who’d lost his mom. ... He totally kept this from everybody.”

Cruz’s attorney, Melisa McNeill, said after a court hearing Thursday on the murder charges against the young man that Cruz was sad and remorseful and “just a broken human being.”

“When you don’t have the support system, that affects who you are, and that affects the people around you,” McNeill said. “And when your brain is not fully developed you don’t know how to deal with these things.”

Cruz was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while but hadn’t been there for more than a year, Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN.

Denied mic, foes of offshore drilling plan hold rallies

The Free Press WV

With giant inflatable whales, signs that read “Drilling Is Killing,” and chants of “Where’s our meeting?,” opponents of President Donald Trump’s plan to open most of the nation’s coastline to oil and natural gas drilling have held boisterous rallies before public meetings held by the federal government on the topic.

That’s because the public cannot speak to the assembled attendees at the meetings. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is meeting one-on-one with interested parties, and allows people to comment online, including typing comments on laptops the agency provides. People can also hand BOEM officials written comments to be included in the record.

What they can’t do is get up at a microphone and address the room. That has led drilling opponents on both coasts to hold their own meetings before the official ones begin. The latest will take place Wednesday in Hamilton, New Jersey, just outside the state capitol of Trenton.

“They’re dodging democracy,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action environmental group, which will hold a “citizens’ hearing” before the BOEM one begins. “The government works for the people. I understand it’s uncomfortable to have a bad idea and be held accountable for it, but that’s what they’re proposing.”

Trump’s decision last month to open most of the nation’s coast to oil and gas drilling horrified environmentalists, and many elected officials from both parties oppose it. But energy groups and some business organizations support it as a way to become less dependent on foreign energy. An Interior Department official quoted on the BOEM home page announcing the drilling plan praised it as a way for the U.S. to achieve “energy dominance.”

Tracey Blythe Moriarty, a BOEM spokeswoman, said the “open house” format lets people speak directly with agency staff to learn about the drilling proposal, adding, “We find this approach to be more effective than formal oral testimony.”

Many attendees at past meetings disagree.

Environmentalists rallied on the steps of the California state capitol in Sacramento before a BOEM hearing there, citing damage from a 1969 oil rig spill in Santa Barbara and a broken oil pipe in Refugio Beach three years ago. People upset at not being able to speak publicly chanted “Where’s our hearing?”

The agency set up informational displays at its Feb. 8 meeting, including one titled “Why Oil Is Important.”

“Californians have adamantly exposed expansion of oil drilling,” because of its effects on wildlife, oceans and beaches, David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay in San Francisco, told The Associated Press this week. “So the outcry here against the administration’s outrageous proposal is no surprise.”

Before a Feb. 8 meeting in Tallahassee, Florida, drilling foes invoked the Deepwater Horizon disaster that fouled the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and said they want to ensure that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s promise to exempt Florida from the drilling plan — the only exception publicly announced — remains in place.

In Oregon, some meeting attendees said BOEM staff were unable to answer their questions about the drilling plan, and were frustrated at being directed to a row of laptops to type out comments.

A Westminster wow: Bichon frise becomes America’s top dog

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Flynn the bichon frise won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, a choice that seemed to surprise almost everyone in the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Fans who had been loudly shouting for their favorites fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her decision.

No matter, the white powder puff was picked and walked off as America’s top dog.

Guided by expert handler Bill McFadden, Flynn beat out Ty the giant schnauzer, Biggie the pug, Bean the Sussex spaniel, Lucy the borzoi, Slick the border collie and Winston the Norfolk terrier.

“It feels a little unreal,” McFadden said. “I came in expecting nothing except hoping for a good performance, and I think I got it.”

Underdogs and upsets are way more than norm on the green carpet of the Garden — inside dog fanciers indeed fancied Flynn, but the people sitting in the stands was obviously pulling for other dogs.

Ty came into this competition as the nation’s No. 1 show dog last year and finished as the runner-up. He endeared himself to the crowd by jumping up and putting his front paws around handler Katie Bernardin after winning the working group earlier in the evening. Slick and Lucy also drew applause.

Cheers of “Let’s go, Biggie!” bounced all arena for the popular pug. And Bean was a clear crowd favorite, the way he sat up straight on his hind legs and begged judges for the biggest treat in dogdom.

Almost 6, Flynn posted his 42nd career best in show victory in what is almost certainly his last show before retiring.

The famed JR was the only other bichon to win Westminster, in 2001. McFadden has enjoyed success at the Garden, having guided Mick the Kerry blue terrier to the title in 2003.

Flynn won’t get much rest before beginning his victory lap. Wednesday’s schedule includes visits to the morning TV news shows, a steak lunch at Sardi’s, a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, and he’s been invited for a walk-on part at a Broadway hit “Kinky Boots.”

The Westminster-winning team gets no prize money. Instead, there’s a shiny bowl, lucrative breeding fees and, most of all, a lifetime of memories.

The 142nd Westminster event attracted 2,882 entries in 202 breeds and varieties. Among those who didn’t quite make the cut: face-licking Spicy Nacho the miniature bull terrier who drew laughs, just not the judge’s look.

Flynn made a goodwill gesture toward Stenmark upon meeting her, offering his paw as if to shake hands when she went down the line to review the final seven dogs.

His full name is Belle Creek’s All I Care About is Love, and this champion from the nonsporting group delivered a few minutes before it became Valentine’s Day.

“He has my heart,” McFadden said. “He is pure joy.”

The fans seemed to like Flynn, too, only they hollered a lot more for several others.

“He kept wagging his tail and that sold himself to me,” Stenmark said.

GOP women frustrated by Trump’s approach to abuse charges

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The Trump White House’s handling of abuse charges against men in its midst is frustrating prominent Republican women as the party’s yearslong struggle to attract female voters stretches into the 2018 midterm elections.

“It’s the mixed signals. They’ve just got to be stronger, more consistent, clearer in the message” to women, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Tuesday. “It’s difficult being a Republican woman to have to fight through that all the time.”

The thrice-married Trump added a new chapter to his difficult history with female voters in the past week by refusing to offer public words of support to the ex-wives of two senior presidential aides. Rob Porter, the president’s staff secretary, resigned last week after ex-wives Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby came forward with allegations of abuse. DailyMail.com published photos of Holderness with a black eye. Porter denied harming either of them.

A second White House official, Trump speechwriter David Sorensen, left the White House last Friday after his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, described physical abuse that included being thrown into a wall and burned by a cigarette. He too denied the allegations.

But Trump has had only good things to say about Porter and voiced sympathy for him. The president has refused to express support for the women involved or personally condemn domestic abuse.

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new,” Trump said in a tweet Saturday. “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

The tweet especially frustrated Republicans.

“I’m extremely disappointed in this situation. Abuse is never OK,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said on CNN Tuesday.

The president still hammers at his vanquished 2016 rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he once threatened to throw in prison. His support among Republicans wavered just before Election Day with the release of an “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump can be heard bragging about grabbing women by their genitals. And more than a dozen women have accused Trump of harassing or assaulting them. Trump called them liars and said he’d sue them — though that hasn’t happened.

The White House says Americans issued their verdict on all of that when they elected Trump. Some 42 percent of women voted for Trump, while 56 percent went for Clinton. That’s similar to the gender gap for Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2012. Among registered voters, more than half of women — 54 percent — identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 38 percent who say they align with Republicans, according to 2016 Pew Research Center statistics.

But winning over women has long been an uphill battle for the GOP, and there are signs in recent polling that Trump is making it more difficult.

Most recent surveys have shown Democrats running ahead in national preference polls for Congress. One survey this month by Marist College showed Democrats leading by 21 percentage points among women. Another by Monmouth University released Jan. 31 showed Democrats up by 13 percentage points among female voters. In both polls, about 6 in 10 women disapproved of Trump.

Some GOP activists said Trump’s approach risks alienating moderate Republican women.

“The party and party leadership has had so many opportunities to try to right its wrongs, and Donald Trump’s wrongs, with women, to take a stand ... and they haven’t,” said Meghan Milloy, co-founder of Republican Women for Progress, previously called Republicans for Hillary. The GOP, she said, “is going to start losing women.”

Jennifer Horn, former New Hampshire Republican chairwoman, added, “Every single time the president tries to excuse a man who has assaulted women, it makes it harder and harder for our candidates to run credible campaigns.”

As questions swirled over the White House’s timeline on Porter’s dismissal, his security clearance and whether it’s OK for alleged abusers to work as top presidential aides, Trump left it to some of the women around him to condemn domestic abuse.

“Above everything else, he supports the victims of any type of violence, and certainly would condemn any violence against anyone,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday.

Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said in a weekend interview on CNN that she had no reason to disbelieve accounts by Porter’s ex-wives. But when asked if she was concerned for top White House aide Hope Hicks, who reportedly was dating Porter, Conway said no because “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.” Conway added that domestic violence “knows no demographic or geographic bounds,” and that she understands there is a stigma that surrounds these issues.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Holderness wrote that Conway’s first statement “implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ.”

Conservatives lash out at GOP spending binge

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The GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility no more.

That’s according to some conservatives who are grappling with a Republican-backed spending binge that threatens to generate trillion-dollar deficits for years to come while staining a cherished pillar of the modern-day Republican Party.

While Trump and most of his closest allies largely avoided the subject, fiscal conservatives lashed out against Monday’s release of President Trump’s $4 trillion-plus budget, which would create $7.2 trillion in red ink over the next decade if adopted by Congress. That follows congressional passage of last week’s $400 billion spending pact, along with massive tax cuts, which some analysts predict will push deficits to levels not seen in generations.

Deficit hawks in Congress and conservative activists who railed against President Barack Obama’s spending plans called the GOP debt explosion “dangerous,” ″immoral” and “a betrayal.” Trump’s own budget director, former South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, told lawmakers Tuesday that he probably would have voted against the spending plan if he were still in Congress.

American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp warned the Republican-controlled Congress not to underestimate the political impact of its spending decisions.

“If the Republicans in Congress don’t realize that spending control is one of the most important issues that our winning coalition cares about, if they are cavalier about spending decisions, I think we do risk our ability to go to the voters and say it matters to have us in the majority,” Schlapp said. He added, “I would urge the White House to be willing to move congressional leaders to take tougher stands when it comes to spending.”

The conservative backlash against government spending is hardly new.

Many still complain about the spending boom under Republican President George W. Bush that wiped out surpluses left by Democratic President Bill Clinton and helped produce big gains for Democrats in the 2008 election. The conservative tea party movement was borne in the subsequent years by the outrage over President Barack Obama’s spending decisions.

But barely a year into his first term, Trump’s GOP has shown inconsistent commitment at best to the three planks that have defined his party since the Reagan era: fiscal responsibility, traditional family values and a strong national defense. Beyond fiscal responsibility, the party’s commitment to family values is also suffering as Trump and some high-profile allies struggle under the weight of repeated allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse.

Economic conservatism has long helped unify an otherwise divided GOP, but that no longer appears to be the case as Republicans brace for a difficult midterm election season.

Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the network backed by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, described the recent spending from Trump and Congress “a far cry from the so-called fiscal responsibility Americans heard on the campaign trail.”

Voters may forgive Trump’s spending habits because he’s still learning the ways of Washington, but they will not be as kind to Republicans on the midterm ballots, said David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, who lashed out at last week’s Republican-backed spending plan as “of the swamp, by the swamp and for the swamp.”

“They’re not going to give a pass to the Republicans in Congress unless they start doing something to restrain the growth of government,” he said.

“You can’t let (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and the spenders in the Senate set the agenda this year,” McIntosh continued. “Because politically, if they set the agenda, then you’re going to see big losses in the House and the Senate.”

All told, Trump’s budget plan sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade. And that’s assuming Trump’s rosy economic predictions come true and Congress follows through — in an election year — with politically toxic cuts to social programs, farm subsidies and Medicare providers.

The budget includes $1.6 billion for the second stage of Trump’s proposed border wall, a 65-mile segment in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. There’s no mention of how Mexico would have to pay for it, as Trump repeatedly promised during the presidential campaign and after his victory.

The president’s spending outline for the first time acknowledges that the Republican tax overhaul passed last year would add billions to the deficit and not “pay for itself” as Trump and his Republican allies asserted. If enacted as proposed — though no presidential budget ever is — the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits.

Trump’s spending plan is like “throwing gasoline on a house that’s already on fire,” said David Biddulph, co-founder of a national organization fighting for a balanced budget amendment. “I think it’s awful what we’re doing to our grandkids.”

A self-described fiscal conservative, he blamed the political system more than the Republican Party for the latest spending binge. Yet he encouraged Trump to do more to cut spending on Medicare and Social Security, which he left largely untouched in his budget.

If not, Biddulph said, “I don’t know that we’ll ever dig our way out of this hole.”

Conservative writer Quin Hillyer, a frequent Trump critic, was more willing to condemn Trump’s GOP.

“Their spending behavior is abominable and mind-bogglingly irresponsible,” he said. “I have no idea what the Republican Party stands for anymore.”

Federal vote-protection efforts lag ahead of first primaries

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With the first primaries of the 2018 elections less than a month away, you might expect federal officials to be wrapping up efforts to safeguard the vote against expected Russian interference.

You’d be wrong.

Federal efforts to help states button down elections systems have crawled, hamstrung in part by wariness of federal meddling. Just 14 states and three local election agencies have so far asked for detailed vulnerability assessments offered by the Department of Homeland Security — and only five of the two-week examinations are complete.

Illinois, for instance —one of two states where voter registration databases were breached in 2016 — requested an assessment in January and is still waiting. Primary voters go to the polls there March 20; state officials can’t say whether the assessment will happen beforehand. DHS says the assessments should be finished by mid-April.

Meantime, fewer than half of the estimated 50 senior state elections officials who requested federal security clearances have received them, DHS says. That can hinder information sharing designed to help states deal with election disruptions.

And Congress is still sitting on three bipartisan bills that address election integrity issues, including funding to upgrade antiquated equipment.

Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up a vulnerable mishmash of 10,000 U.S. voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology. Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 general election, DHS says, and separately launched a social media blitz aimed at inflaming social tensions and sowing confusion.

The CIA director and two other top U.S. intelligence officials told the Senate Tuesday they’ve seen indications Russian agents are preparing a new round of election subterfuge. The secretary of state has said the same. Texas will hold the first primary of 2018 on March 6; Illinois follows two weeks later.

That makes local election officials “the front lines of the information age,” said Eric Rosenbach, co-director of Harvard’s Belfer Center and a former Defense Department chief of staff in the Obama administration. “After what the Russians did, every other bad guy is going to come after our democracy now.”

Since last July, a bipartisan team at Harvard — including former U.S. Marine and Army cyberwarriors, national security eggheads and Google engineers — has been trying to shore up that local line. The group, which calls itself the Defending Digital Democracy initiative, has just drafted its latest protect-the-vote election “playbooks” intended to prepare state and local officials for the worst.

“It’s not a question of whether somebody is going to try to breach the system,” said Robby Mook, manager of the 2016 Clinton campaign, which was stung by multiple email thefts later traced to Russian agents . “The question is: ‘How resilient are we and what are we doing to protect ourselves?’”

Mook helps run the effort with Matt Rhoades, who managed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run. Over six months, the authors visited 34 state and county offices and ran simulations to help local officials improve their “threat awareness.”

The team’s findings highlight resource-strapped election systems that can’t secure their own operations, vulnerable voting-equipment vendors and the threat posed by insiders and people looking for political advantage.

There’s no evidence that any hack in the November 2016 election affected election results. But there are also cases — such as in Georgia, where a key election-staging server was exposed on the open internet for months then wiped clean without a forensic exam — that haven’t been independently investigated.

And federal delays are legion. In the last election, DHS took nearly a year to inform the affected states of hacking attempts, blaming it in part on a lack of security clearances. But it hasn’t made up enough lost ground to satisfy critics on Capitol Hill.

In Illinois, for instance, the executive director of the state elections board submitted his application in August and has yet to receive his clearance, according to agency spokesman Matt Dietrich.

As a stopgap, DHS is providing one-day “read-ins” on secret information this week in Washington to about 100 senior state officials — secretaries of state and elections directors — gathered there for a meeting. “That’s a way to deal with the fact that the process hasn’t worked as quickly as we’d hoped,” Bob Kolasky, deputy assistant secretary at DHS for infrastructure protection, said in an interview.

The Harvard team recommends a variety of election safeguards, such as background checks for everyone with access to sensitive election systems, universal use of voting machines that produce a paper trail, and routine, rigorous audits of election results — currently standard only in Colorado and Rhode Island.

The team also urges local officials to quickly acknowledge any election threats and immediately explain to the public what they are doing about them — two things that don’t come naturally to them.

Elections officials “made us all a little nervous” in their handling of disinformation scenarios during tabletop exercises — such as bogus online reports of two-mile-long lines certain polling stations, said Rosenbach.

“They do not want to talk to the press, much less communicate at all,” he said. A hack is just one element of a modern election attack — “the more potent part is often info ops.”

Bill and Melinda Gates, as the world’s top philanthropists, are rethinking their work in America a

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Bill and Melinda Gates, as the world’s top philanthropists, are rethinking their work in America as they confront what they consider their unsatisfactory track record on schools, the country’s growing inequity and a president they disagree with more than any other.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the couple said they’re concerned about President Donald Trump’s “America first” worldview. They’ve made known their differences with the president and his party on issues including foreign aid, taxes and protections for immigrant youth in the country illegally.

And they said they’re now digging into the layers of U.S. poverty that they haven’t been deeply involved with at the national level, including employment, race, housing, mental health, incarceration and substance abuse.

“We are not seeing the mobility out of poverty in the same way in the United States as it used to exist,” Melinda Gates said.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is studying these topics with no plans yet for any particular initiatives, though it has done related work at home in Washington state on a much smaller scale. Last year, it funded a grant for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to look into state and federal policies that can reduce poverty.

Once the world’s richest man, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has marked a decade since transitioning away from the tech giant to focus on philanthropy. He said he’s had two meetings with Trump, where they discussed innovation in education, energy and health — including vaccines, which Trump has voiced skepticism about.

“I got, both times, to talk about the miracle of vaccines and how those are good things,” Bill Gates said.

Melinda Gates, who left her job at Microsoft to raise their three children before turning to the foundation full-time, has lately embraced her role as a public figure more boldly. She called out Trump’s behavior, saying the president has a responsibility to be a good role model when he speaks and tweets, and that his verbal attacks don’t belong in the public discourse.

“You just have to go look in Twitter to see the disparaging comments over and over and over again about women and minorities,” Melinda Gates said. “That’s just not what I believe. It’s not the world that I see.”

Trump has said he’s a counterpuncher who goes after people when they go after him, only 10 times harder.

Taking a more reflective review of their work than in years past, the couple in their annual letter published Tuesday also answered 10 questions critics often ask them. They acknowledge it’s unfair that they have so much wealth and influence but reject the notion that they’re imposing their values on other cultures.

“Behind the scenes, these are the tough, tough questions that people are asking us, and yeah, we have to wrestle with them ourselves,” Melinda Gates said in the Feb. 1 interview.

Since 2000, the Seattle-based private foundation has amassed an endowment worth over $40 billion, which includes a large portion of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s fortune. The Gates Foundation has given money to various programs in more than 100 countries, as well as in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Their approach to giving has shifted the philanthropy world as a whole. They’ve been criticized for prescribing how the money is spent and then expecting tangible proof their investments work.

About 75 percent of the foundation’s resources are dedicated to global health and development. Bill Gates said they’re proudest of their efforts to help eradicate polio and curb the number of child deaths, calling those global health improvements a miracle.

But he concedes the same level of progress didn’t happen in the U.S. with their strategy of chasing equity through education reform. U.S. education initiatives are a distant second funding priority for the foundation, but the $450 million the Gateses spend annually on the issue makes them the top funders of schools reform in America.

They’ve been major supporters of charter schools and also pushed Common Core education standards, teacher evaluation systems that factored in student test scores and a smaller schools model — highly polarizing education policy reforms that didn’t dramatically change student outcomes but made the Gateses deeply unpopular in some communities.

“It’s in taking all of those lessons and saying, ‘OK, but did they reach the majority of the school districts? Did they scale and change the system for low-income and minority kids writ large, at scale?’ And the answer when we looked at it, it was no,” Melinda Gates said.

Christopher Lubienski, an education policy expert who studies philanthropy, said he found the couple’s honesty refreshing but noted their foundation’s overall approach means it will continue to systematically influence education reform.

Lubienski, who said he has not sought nor received money from Gates, also noted that by turning their attention to poverty, the Gateses are tackling the “really big elephant in the room” when it comes to student achievement.

“It’s also a much bigger, more expensive and politically stickier area to attack than simply changing the structure of schools,” Lubienski said.

The Gateses say they’re going in a less prescriptive direction on U.S. education by funding efforts through regional networks of schools, which will lean more heavily on educators at the local level. They also intend to support new curriculum development and charters catering to students with special needs.

The foundation will spend $1.7 billion on education over the next five years, as K-12 will remain their primary focus in the U.S. But as they take stock of the country — from the West Coast’s growing income gap to the generations of racial inequities in the American South — the Gateses say they’re looking at myriad problems that hinder children in the classroom.

“Poverty is like education, where there’s not enough philanthropic resources to take on responsibility, but if you can show how to have a lot more impact, then the policies will benefit from that,” Bill Gates said.

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