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Attacked Runner Kills Cougar, Drives to Hospital

The Free Press WV

The survival instinct kicked in for a northern Colorado man, who not only killed a mountain lion that attacked him as he was running in a mountain park on Monday, but then hiked out of the area, and drove himself to a hospital. “The runner did everything he could to save his life,“ Colorado Parks and Wildlife rep Mark Leslie says of the unnamed man, who heard a noise behind him as he ran alone on the West Ridge Trail in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space near Fort Collins. As the man turned, a juvenile mountain lion pounced, biting his face and wrist, reports ABC News. Suffering puncture wounds to his arms, legs, and back, the man fought off and killed the animal, whose body was found near several of the man’s possessions. He was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, though a wildlife manager notes “this could have had a very different outcome,“ per CBS News.

Three people have died in mountain lion attacks in Colorado since 1990. But attacks in general are quite rare, with the last reported in the state in June 2016, per NBC News. A man who claims to have run a “couple thousand times” in the area of Monday’s attack tells the Coloradoan he’s never even seen a mountain lion, only carcasses of deer they’ve killed. “We joke about [being attacked], but maybe we shouldn’t,“ he says. “In the event of a lion attack, you need to do anything in your power to fight back just as this gentleman did,“ says Leslie. While it’s unclear how the man killed the animal, survivors “have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands successfully,“ according to CPW. In case of a sighting, officials say you should look big, wave your arms, and throw stones, all without turning your back on the predator.

Autopsy: Meth Killed Man Before Bear Ate Him

The Free Press WV

A man found dead in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was killed by a methamphetamine overdose, not the bear that was found eating his body, authorities say. According to an autopsy released Monday, there were signs of “extensive postmortem animal predation” on the body of 30-year-old William Lee Hill, but no evidence that the black bear had attacked him, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The autopsy report states that syringes and other drug paraphernalia were found near the body of the Louisville resident, whose body was found on Sept. 11 last year. Hill, who had a history of drug use, had disappeared four days earlier while illegally gathering ginseng in the park with a friend.

The autopsy states that Hill’s body had to be identified through tattoos, including a Confederate flag with the words “IT’S A REDNEK THING.“ The autopsy’s finding came far too late to save the bear, which stayed in the area and behaved aggressively after Hill’s body was found, WBIR reports. It was briefly captured and fitted with a GPS collar when the body was recovered. Authorities said at the time they made the “difficult decision” to euthanize it after reviewing the evidence, although they were unable to track it down until Sept. 16. Officials said there was no sign the 3-year-old bear, one of around 1,500 in the park, had rabies.

FACT CHECK: Trump declares emergency with faulty claims

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency at the southern border while acknowledging that rapid construction of a wall is not a necessity, but rather his preference. In justifying the extraordinary step, he brushed aside his administration’s conclusions that drugs come into the country primarily at official points of entry, not over remote territory that a barrier could seal off.

Trump invoked what his aides called the “common authority” of presidents to take unilateral action through the declaration of a national emergency. But there’s nothing common about a president taking command of billions of dollars without the approval of Congress to pay for a campaign promise.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said, raising questions about why he sees an emergency unfolding today. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

At a Rose Garden news conference, Trump also claimed progress on wall construction that hasn’t occurred.

A look at some of his comments:

TRUMP: “I’ve built a lot of wall. I have a lot of money, and I’ve built a lot of wall.”

THE FACTS: He’s built no new miles of wall, lacking the money. His new construction to date has replaced existing barriers.

This month marks the start of construction of 14 miles (22 kilometers) of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the first lengthening of barrier in his presidency. That’s from money approved by Congress a year ago, most of which was for renovating existing barrier.

Money approved by Congress in the new deal to avert another government shutdown would cover about 55 more miles (88 km).

He has often portrayed his wall, falsely, as largely complete, to a point where “Finish the wall” has become his rallying cry, replacing “Build the wall.” That masks a distinct lack of progress in physically sealing the border — a frustration that is now prompting him to find money outside the normal channels of congressional appropriation. Trump inherited about 650 miles (1,050 km) of physical border barrier from previous administrations.

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TRUMP, on past presidents declaring national emergencies: “There’s rarely been a problem. They sign it; nobody cares. I guess they weren’t very exciting. But nobody cares. ... And the people that say we create precedent — well, what do you have? Fifty-six? There are a lot of times — well, that’s creating precedent. And many of those are far less important than having a border.”

THE FACTS: Those declarations were rarely as consequential, and that’s precisely why they were mostly uncontroversial. He’s roughly correct about the numbers. But past declarations did not involve the unilateral spending of substantial sums of money that Congress — which holds the power of the purse — did not approve.

Emergency declarations by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were overwhelmingly for the purpose of addressing crises that emerged abroad. Many blocked foreign interests or terrorist-linked entities from access to funds. Some prohibited certain imports from or investments in countries associated with human rights abuses.

Trump’s number resembles findings from the Brennan Center for Justice, which has tracked 58 emergency declarations back to 1978.

“It’s extremely rare for a president to declare a national emergency in a bid to fund domestic construction projects, particularly one that Congress has explicitly refused to fund,” said Andrew Boyle, an attorney in the national security program at the center. “The ones that former presidents declared are of a different sort.”

Obama declared a national emergency in July 2011 to impose sanctions on transnational criminal groups, blocking any American property interests and freezing their assets, authorizing financial sanctions against anyone aiding them and barring their members from entering the United States. It authorized sanctions against criminal cartels in Mexico, Japan, Italy and Eastern Europe. It did not direct billions in spending by the U.S. treasury.

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TRUMP: “And a big majority of the big drugs — the big drug loads — don’t go through ports of entry. They can’t go through ports of entry. You can’t take big loads because you have people — we have some very capable people; the Border Patrol, law enforcement — looking.

TRUMP: “We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border. When you look and when you listen to politicians — in particular, certain Democrats — they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”

THE FACTS: His own administration says illicit drugs come mainly through ports of entry. He has persistently contradicted his officials — never mind Democrats — on this point. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2018 report that the most common trafficking technique by transnational criminal organizations is to hide drugs in passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers as they drive into the U.S. at official crossings. They also use buses, cargo trains and tunnels, the report says, citing smuggling methods that would not be choked off by a border wall.

“Only a small percentage” of heroin seized by U.S. authorities comes across on territory between ports of entry, the agency says, and the same is true of drugs generally. The great majority of heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and fentanyl is seized at ports of entry. Marijuana is one exception; significant quantities are seized between entry ports.

Even if a wall could stop all drugs from Mexico, America’s drug problem would be far from over. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 40 percent of opioid deaths in 2016 involved prescription painkillers. Those drugs are made by pharmaceutical companies. Some feed the addiction of people who have prescriptions; others are stolen and sold on the black market. Moreover, illicit versions of powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have come to the U.S. from China, not Mexico.

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TRUMP: “Take a look at our federal prison population. See how many of them, percentage-wise, are illegal aliens. Just see. Go ahead and see. ”

THE FACTS: About 40 percent of the people who entered federal prison in 2014 were foreigners, according to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics. The vast majority of the foreigners (20,842 of 28,821) were being held for immigration violations, not violent or property crimes. It’s not clear how many were in the country illegally. The federal prison population is not a solid yardstick of immigrant crime because it represents only 10 percent of the overall prison population of the U.S. Most people convicted of crimes are in state prison.

Hawaii Bill Would Raise Legal Smoking Age by ... Well, a Lot

The Free Press WV

Hawaii wants to free a “heavily addicted” group that’s been “enslaved by a ridiculously bad industry.“ That’s per state Rep. Richard Creagan, an ER doctor and the sponsor of a bill that goes after “the deadliest artifact in human history”—the cigarette. How HB 1509 would do so: by slowly raising the minimum age at which people can buy cigarettes until it hits 100 in 2024, so that eventually only the state’s oldest residents would be able to purchase them (if they can track any down). Hawaii is one of six states whose minimum buying age has already been raised to 21, USA Today notes; the others are California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon. Tourists could still bring in their smokes, and the sales ban wouldn’t apply to cigars, e-cigarettes, or chewing tobacco, per CNN.

If the bill passes, the first change would come in 2020, when cigarette purchasers would need to produce ID showing they’re 30. The legal age would stairstep to 40, then 50, then 60, then 100 over the following four years. The by-degrees approach would allow time for Hawaii to figure out how to recoup the $100 million per year it brings in from cigarette sales taxes. Although Creagan—a pot legalization advocate who doesn’t think marijuana is as bad for you, nor as addictive, as cigarettes—knows the bill could receive pushback in the courts, he believes it will hold up. “We don’t allow people free access to opioids, for instance, or any prescription drugs,“ he tells the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “This is more lethal, more dangerous than any prescription drug, and it is more addicting.“

3 Reasons to End US Involvement in the War on Yemen

Here’s 3 powerful reasons why we must end that war now.

Ginsburg Emerges Amid Concerns About Health

The Free Press WV

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is making her first public appearance since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December. The 85-year-old Ginsburg attended a concert Monday at a museum a few blocks from the White House that was given by her daughter-in-law and other musicians. Patrice Michaels, a soprano and composer, is married to Ginsburg’s son, James. The concert was dedicated to Ginsburg’s life in the law. Ginsburg had surgery in New York on Dec. 21. She missed arguments at the court in January, her first illness-related absence in more than 25 years as a justice. She has been recuperating at her home in Washington since late December.

Ginsburg had two previous bouts with cancer. She had colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009. The justice sat in the back of the darkened auditorium at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the AP reports; many didn’t even know she was there until she was spotted leaving, notes the Washington Post. James Ginsburg said before the concert that his mother is walking a mile a day and meeting with her personal trainer twice a week. The performance concluded with a song set to Ginsburg’s answers to questions. In introducing the last song, Michaels said it would “bring our show to a close, but not the epic and notorious story of RBG.“

Chuck E. Cheese’s oddly-shaped pizza ignites a bizarre conspiracy theory

Chuck E. Cheese’s oddly-shaped pizza ignites a bizarre conspiracy theory viewed by millions on YouTube

Someone’s Blasting a School District Online. Now, an Unmasking?

The Free Press WV

A southeast Nebraska school district wants a court to help it learn who’s behind a Twitter account that has targeted the district and superintendent. Friend Public Schools says the unknown person behind the Friend Bulldog account has made false, libelous, and defamatory statements accusing Superintendent David Kraus or the district of public indecency and other offenses. The account has been active since last fall, per the AP. In a Jan. 7 post, Kraus’ face was positioned over actor Jim Carrey’s in a poster for Carrey’s movie Liar Liar; another post from September of last year compared Kraus to Adolf Hitler. The district’s attorney, Justin Knight, also said in the lawsuit filed last week that the Twitter account might be mistaken for the district’s official one because it uses a picture of the Friend Bulldog mascot.

“The goal is to clear the reputations of the individuals that have been targeted in the account,“ Knight says. District officials made other efforts to contact the online critic and resolve the issue—including an open invitation from the school board—but those weren’t successful. Knight says the district didn’t decide to file the suit until after several other district employees were singled out. The Lincoln Journal Star reported on the lawsuit first. On Saturday, the person behind the Twitter account posted, “The name’s Doe, John Doe.“ The individual, who later added, “I can’t believe you guys guessed my real name!,“ didn’t respond to a Twitter message the AP sent Monday seeking comment. A Twitter rep said she was looking into the case. The company says it tries to notify users about a legal request for user info, then reviews the request before deciding whether to comply.

Name a Cockroach After Your Ex, Then Watch It Get Eaten

The Free Press WV

If a recent breakup has ruined your plans for Feb. 14, El Paso Zoo will at least provide satisfying entertainment. In what it’s calling “the perfect Valentine’s Day gift,“ the Texas zoo is offering to name a cockroach after your ex before feeding it to a meerkat, marmoset, or tamarin before your eyes. The “Quit Bugging Me” promotion is “a fun way to get the community involved in our daily enrichment activities,“ event coordinator Sarah Borrego tells KTVT, noting you can watch your cockroach be devoured in a Feb. 14 live-stream on the zoo’s website or Facebook page. The initial plan, revealed Monday, was for meerkats to dine exclusively. By Thursday, the zoo said marmosets and tamarins would also be snacking following “a tremendous response.“

Those interested in participating can still send the zoo a message on Facebook with their ex’s name by Sunday, per KFDM. There’s no charge, though the zoo is accepting donations. The names will then be displayed around the animal exhibits, and on social media, starting Monday. The meerkats are expected to feast at 2:15pmMST on Feb. 14. Feasting times for cotton-top tamarins, golden tamarins, and white-headed marmosets are to be announced next week. And if it helps inspire your choice of name, Borrego notes the cockroaches will be Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which are “very large” and “do actually hiss.“

Another Big Dog Food Recall

The Free Press WV

Dog owners have another food recall to worry about. This time, it involves Hill’s Pet Nutrition brands, many of which are formulated for dogs requiring special diets. The concern is excessive vitamin D, which can be lethal for dogs, reports People. Hill’s blames a supplier and says it’s getting the problem under control. The list of affected varieties (they’re all canned) can be found HERE. The move follows an FDA recall of several other brands in December, also for excessive vitamin D. Details on that recall, involving Elm Pet Foods, Sunshine Mills, Nutrisca, Natural Life Pet Products, and others, are HERE. While vitamin D is essential for dogs, too much can cause toxicity leading to death.

The Washington Post notes that one of its own reporters, Caitlin Gibson, tweeted about her dog’s death after the animal ate one of the affected Hill’s brands and started showing symptoms of vitamin D poisoning (vomiting, loss of appetite, and increased thirst are among them). The story also rounds up comments from other dog owners with similar stories who responded online to the Hill’s announcement. As the San Jose Mercury News notes, these recalls follow a warning last year from the FDA about grain-free, legume-rich dog food and a potential link to canine heart disease. Researchers in the story say the best advice they can give dog owners is to discuss their pets’ food with their veterinarian.

Kavanaugh Dissents as Supreme Court Blocks Abortion Law

The Free Press WV

The Supreme Court has blocked a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana—but only temporarily. Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted to uphold an almost identical law in Texas in 2016, joined the court’s four liberal justices in voting to block the law, which would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, the New York Times reports. Critics said the law would leave the state with just one doctor qualified to perform abortions, meaning all but one of Louisiana’s abortion clinics would be forced to close, reports USA Today. The 5-4 decision, made just hours before the law was due to come into effect, granted a temporary stay, but the court is expected to return to the case in October. The court, short-handed after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, voted 5-3 against the Texas law in 2016.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a dissent, arguing that there is a dispute over how many doctors would be qualified to perform abortions under the law, and denying the stay would settle the question without “causing harm to the parties or the affected women,“ the Washington Post reports. In a statement, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the court had “stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women.“ “The three clinics left in Louisiana can stay open while we ask the Supreme Court to hear our case,“ she said. “This should be an easy case—all that’s needed is a straightforward application of the court’s own precedent.“

Dozens of Cities Are Secretly Testing Predictive Policing

The Free Press WV

An investigation by Vice using public record requests has revealed that dozens of American police departments have contracts with PredPol, a company that claims its algorithmic predictions are so precise they can target crime-riddled areas as small as 250,000 square feet.

Is that a bad thing?

Critics say the algorithm’s focus on petty crime — or the “broken windows” approach — leads to over-policing in poor areas, and even a PredPol document acknowledges “privacy and constitutional concerns.”


Learn more:    Motherboard

Feds: Not Sure We Can Reunite Migrant Families

The Free Press WV

The Trump administration says it would require extraordinary effort to reunite what may be thousands of migrant children who have been separated from their parents and, even if it could, the children would likely be emotionally harmed. Health and Human Services Department officials said in court filings late Friday that removing children from “sponsor” homes to rejoin their parents would endanger their welfare, the AP reports. The officials say they don’t have authority to take children away from sponsors and that the effort would be cost-prohibitive.

The government didn’t adequately track separated children before a judge in San Diego ruled in June that children in its custody be reunited with their parents. The American Civil Liberties Union wants the order to apply to children who were separated before June. Officials say there may be thousands.

Superintendent Who Took Sick Student to Doctor Resigns

The Free Press WV

An Indiana school superintendent who was arrested after using her insurance to get medical treatment and meds for a sick student has resigned. Elwood Community Schools Superintendent Casey Smitherman provided the IndyStar with a statement explaining her decision was fueled in part by the “negative attention” she and her community have gotten since taking the 15-year-old boy to be treated for strep throat on Jan. 9 and using her son’s insurance. The bill for the doctor’s visit and antibiotic was $233, and she was charged with insurance fraud and Identity deception.

She described herself as “very embarrassed” by that attention and said, “I sincerely hope this single lapse in judgement does not tarnish all of the good work I’ve done for students over the span of my career.“ The board had been supportive of Smitherman initially, but were expected to hold a vote on Smitherman on Friday. However, WTHR reports the vote was not held because she resigned Friday. Smitherman was placed into a diversion program, meaning she doesn’t have to plead guilty, won’t have a record as a result of this incident, and can have the charges dismissed if she isn’t arrested again over the next year.

San Francisco’s Soda Warnings Ruled Unconstitutional

The Free Press WV

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a San Francisco law requiring health warnings on advertisements for soda and other sugary drinks in a victory for beverage and retail groups that sued to block the ordinance, the AP reports. The law violates constitutionally protected commercial speech, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said in a unanimous ruling. The judges granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the ordinance from taking effect and kicked the case back to a lower court. The required warnings “offend plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by chilling protected speech,“ the judges wrote. The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and others, joined retail and advertising organizations to argue in court that the rules should be blocked.

“We are pleased with this ruling, which affirms there are more appropriate ways to help people manage their overall sugar consumption than through mandatory and misleading messages,“ the beverage association said in a statement. The law passed by San Francisco in 2015 would require beverage advertisements within city limits to include warnings that drinking sugary drinks contribute to health issues. The judges wrote that the city “may be commended for aiming to address serious and growing public health problems.“ But they agreed that beverage companies were likely to suffer irreparable harm if the law went into effect because the warnings would drown out the ads’ main messages. A three-judge panel of the circuit court blocked the law in 2017. The entire 11-judge panel said last year it would rehear the case.

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