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Hundreds gather in Richmond to protest natural gas pipelines

The Free Press WV

Hundreds of people from across Virginia have rallied in Richmond to protest two proposed natural gas pipelines that would cross the state.

Landowners, activists, a state lawmaker and two newly elected delegates were among those gathered at Capitol Square on Saturday to oppose the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. Speakers addressed the crowd before attendees marched peacefully to a theater for a concert.

Organizers said more than 500 people attended.

The protest comes ahead of a crucial permitting decision by the State Water Control Board on whether to grant water quality certifications to the projects.

Opponents say the pipelines will degrade water quality, infringe on property rights and further commit the region to fossil fuels.

Supporters say the projects will create jobs, boost economic developments and lower energy costs.

Billy Bush says Trump ‘Access Hollywood’ tape is real

The Free Press WV

Billy Bush said it was indeed Donald Trump’s voice captured on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape talking about fame enabling him to grope and try to have sex with women.

“Of course he said it,” the former “Access Hollywood” and “Today” show personality said in an op-ed published Sunday in The New York Times.

The video shows Trump, who was the star of “The Apprentice,” riding on an “Access Hollywood” bus with then-host Bush. At one point, Trump describes trying to have sex with a married woman. He also brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real. We now know better,” Bush said in the op-ed.

The recording of the lewd conversation between Bush and Trump emerged during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump later said he never did any of the actions described on the tape, and dismissed his words as locker room talk.

In the waning days of the presidential election, more than a dozen women came forward to say that Trump had sexually assaulted or harassed them over the years. He denied it.

But Bush said he believes the women, and he felt the need to write the piece following reports that Trump had privately suggested that the “Access Hollywood” tape was not authentic.

“I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention,” Bush said. “This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.”

Bush, who had recently been hired as co-host of the “Today” show, lost his job following the release of the tape. He said he has since gone through a lot of soul searching.

“None of us were guilty of knowingly enabling our future president,” he said. “But all of us were guilty of sacrificing a bit of ourselves in the name of success.”

The Cities in Every State Where Americans Live the Shortest

The Free Press WV

In 2015, life expectancy in the US was 78.8 years. But it varied widely for Americans living in different states—and even in different cities within the same state. Now 24/7 Wall St. has cataloged the city in every state with the lowest life expectancy—from 73.9 years in Gadsen, Alabama, to 80.9 in Burlington, Vermont—using 2014 data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The life expectancy in various cities is largely linked to the general wealth of their residents. Cities with the lowest life expectancy tended to have lower household incomes and more residents living in poverty. Here are the cities in every state where Americans live the shortest:

  • Gadsden, Alabama: 73.9
  • Anchorage, Alaska: 78.5
  • Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Arizona: 75.7
  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas: 74.7
  • Redding, California: 76.7
  • Pueblo, Colorado: 77.5
  • Worcester, Massachusetts: 79.6 (this metro area actually counts as Connecticut’s city with the highest rate)
  • Dover, Delaware: 77.5
  • Panama City, Florida: 76.5
  • Macon, Georgia: 74.9
  • Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii: 81.0
  • Pocatello, Idaho: 77.9
  • Danville, Illinois: 76.2
  • Terre Haute, Indiana: 76.3
  • Sioux City, Iowa: 78.8
  • St. Joseph, Kansas: 77.2
  • Huntington-Ashland, Kentucky: 75.7
  • Hammond, Louisiana: 74.3
  • Lewiston-Auburn, Maine: 78.3
  • Hagerstown-Martinsburg, Maryland: 77.4
  • Springfield, Massachusetts: 79.3
  • Flint, Michigan: 76.1
  • Duluth, Minnesota: 79.0
  • Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Mississippi: 75.5
  • Joplin, Missouri: 76.5
  • Great Falls, Montana: 78.8
  • Grand Island, Nebraska: 79.3
  • Carson City, Nevada: 76.8
  • Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire: 80.1
  • Vineland-Bridgeton, New Jersey: 76.6
  • Farmington, New Mexico: 77.3
  • Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, New York: 78.5
  • Rocky Mount, North Carolina: 75.8
  • Bismarck, North Dakota: 80.4
  • Weirton-Steubenville, Ohio: 76.3
  • Lawton, Oklahoma: 76.0
  • Grants Pass, Oregon: 77.3
  • Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, Pennsylvania: 77.7
  • Providence-Warwick, Rhode Island: 79.6
  • Florence, South Carolina: 74.2
  • Rapid City,South Dakota: 80.2
  • Morristown, Tennessee: 75.6
  • Odessa, Texas: 75.1
  • Salt Lake City, Utah: 79.3
  • Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont: 80.9
  • Roanoke, Virginia: 77.8
  • Longview, Washington: 77.5
  • Beckley, West Virginia: 74.9
  • Janesville-Beloit, Wisconsin: 78.9
  • Casper, Wyoming: 77.7

First baby from a uterus transplant in the U.S. born in Dallas

The Free Press WV

The first birth as a result of a womb transplant in the United States has occurred in Texas, a milestone for the U.S. but one achieved several years ago in Sweden.

A woman who had been born without a uterus gave birth to the baby at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Hospital spokesman Craig Civale confirmed Friday that the birth had taken place, but said no other details are available. The hospital did not identify the woman, citing her privacy.

Baylor has had a study underway for several years to enroll up to 10 women for uterus transplants. In October 2016, the hospital said four women had received transplants but that three of the wombs had to be removed because of poor blood flow.

The hospital would give no further information on how many transplants have been performed since then. But Time magazine, which first reported the U.S. baby’s birth, says eight have been done in all, and that another woman is currently pregnant as a result.

A news conference was scheduled Monday to discuss the Dallas baby’s birth.

A doctor in Sweden, Mats Brannstrom, is the first in the world to deliver a baby as a result of a uterus transplant. As of last year, he had delivered five babies from women with donated wombs.

There have been at least 16 uterus transplants worldwide, including one in Cleveland from a deceased donor that had to be removed because of complications. Last month, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia announced that it also would start offering womb transplants.

Womb donors can be dead or alive, and the Baylor study aims to use some of both. The first four cases involved “altruistic” donors — unrelated and unknown to the recipients. The ones done in Sweden were from live donors, mostly from the recipients’ mother or a sister.

Doctors hope that womb transplants will enable as many as several thousand women born without a uterus to bear children. To be eligible for the Baylor study, women must be 20 to 35 years old and have healthy, normal ovaries. They will first have in vitro fertilization to retrieve and fertilize their eggs and produce embryos that can be frozen until they are ready to attempt pregnancy.

After the uterus transplant, the embryos can be thawed and implanted, at least a year after the transplant to make sure the womb is working well. A baby resulting from a uterine transplant would be delivered by cesarean section. The wombs are not intended to be permanent. Having one means a woman must take powerful drugs to prevent organ rejection, and the drugs pose long-term health risks, so the uterus would be removed after one or two successful pregnancies.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a statement Friday calling the Dallas birth “another important milestone in the history of reproductive medicine.”

For women born without a functioning uterus, “transplantation represents the only way they can carry a pregnancy,” the statement said. The group is convening experts to develop guidelines for programs that want to offer this service.

Should opioids be banned in court over fears of exposure?

The Free Press WV

The potency of certain opioid painkillers has Massachusetts’ judiciary considering whether to ban the substances from being brought into courtrooms as evidence — a move some experts say is driven by a misunderstanding of the real dangers.

The chief justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court recently told prosecutors that she fears allowing fentanyl and carfentanil into courtrooms puts lawyers, jurors and defendants at risk even when the drugs are properly packaged.

“Given their demonstrated potency and toxicity, the risk of accidental exposure, the training necessary to safely handle even though those samples that have been securely packaged as evidence, we believe a ban on these substances may be a necessary and reasonable measure,” the Justice Paula Carey said in a letter.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said in new guidelines for first responders this year that even a tiny amount of fentanyl — the equivalent to five to seven grains of table salt — is enough to cause respiratory failure and possibly death. Carfentanil, which is used to tranquilize elephants, is up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine, officials say.

The Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab has said that even drugs contained in plastic packaging as evidence should be handled with nitrile gloves and that courtrooms should have the overdose antidote naloxone on hand in case there’s an accidental tear, Carey said in the letter.

Fears of the powerful drugs have been driven by reports of law enforcement falling ill after coming in contact with the substances, but the stories have been challenged by professionals who say they don’t make medical sense. While powdered opioids are dangerous if they get into the bloodstream, they aren’t easily absorbed into the skin, so just accidently touching the drugs shouldn’t make someone sick, experts say.

“If something got out and fell into a pile on the tabletop, I’d walk over and sweep it into a garbage can with my hand. I wouldn’t waste time finding a hazmat suit,” said Dr. Edward Boyer, a medical toxicologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Boyer and Dr. Andrew Stolbach, another medical toxicologist, said the drugs would pose no risk in the courtroom if they’re properly packaged.

“Concern, or even hysteria, might be natural when people are faced with something new,” said Stolbach, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Courts have been grappling with how to handle drug evidence for decades, with several judges moving in the 1990s to bar prosecutors from bringing liquid PCP into courtrooms, said David Labahn, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Some individual courthouses have similarly banned opioids like fentanyl, Labahn said, but he is unaware of any statewide actions like the one being considered in Massachusetts.

How fentanyl and carfentanil prosecutions would change under the new proposal, which was first reported by The Boston Herald, remains unclear. The trial court has been collecting feedback from district attorneys and defense lawyers and hopes to have a policy ready in early December, spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue said.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, president of the state district attorneys association, said the group is waiting to see the final policy but shares the chief judge’s concerns and supports a change as long as it also safeguards the rights of defendants.

And Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel of the state’s public defenders agency, said it’s “examining how to balance what appears to be a safety issue with the critical ability for defendants to ensure that, at their trial or at their plea, that the evidence is in fact what the government claims it is.”

Photographs or videos of drug evidence could be provided to jurors, and drug lab chemists who analyzed the substances could be brought into court to testify and face questions from the defense, said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

“This is such a serious public safety issue that it does require flexibility on behalf of the defense community and the prosecutorial community,” Healy said. “It may cost some additional money to get through these trials, but I think its money and resources well spent so you don’t lose an innocent life.”

GOP Higher Ed Plan Would End Student Loan Forgiveness

The Free Press WV

House Republicans on Friday proposed a sweeping overhaul of a federal law that governs almost every aspect of higher education, a plan that would eliminate some popular student aid programs and impose restrictions on others.

The legislation seeks to reshape higher education by limiting the federal role in a way that Republicans say will make colleges and universities more responsive to the needs of employers, while reducing taxpayers’ stake in the financing of education. The bill is the first significant step in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, and some provisions are already being met with resistance.

House Republicans want to whittle the suite of eight student loan repayment plans down to two: one standard 10-year plan and one income-based plan. As it stands, people can opt to have their monthly loan payment capped to a percentage of their earnings, with the remaining balance of the debt forgiven after 20 to 25 years. The House plan would eliminate that loan forgiveness, but cap the interest payments on the loan after 10 years.

“It’s a very regressive and punitive change,“ said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “The cap provides some insurance that your costs will never exceed a certain amount of money. It’s useful and worth exploring, but taking away any form ofloan forgiveness is a big penalty.“

Getting rid of loan forgiveness would address some concerns about the cost of the program. A 2016 study by the Government Accountability Office estimated that the popular repayment plans would cost at least $108 billion for loans made from 1995 to 2017. To lower the expense, critics have called for caps on the amount of graduate student debt eligible for forgiveness.

House Republicans are also envisioning the end of loan forgiveness for college graduates who pursue careers in the public sector. The plan, much like the White House budget, would do away with Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a program that wipes away federal student debt for people in the public sector after they have made 10 years’ worth of payments.

The program, enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush, was designed to encourage college graduates to pursue careers as social workers, teachers, public defenders or doctors in rural areas. But critics say it is a back-door subsidy for graduate school, and one that primarily helps doctors and lawyers with tremendous earning potential.

Changes to both the public sector program and income-driven plans would apply only to borrowers who enroll after June 2018, withno one currently expecting loan forgiveness affected, according to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce staff.

“With 6 million unfilled jobs and over a trillion dollars in student debt, simply reauthorizing the Higher Education Act will help no one,“ said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairwoman of the House Education committee, in a statement. “A hard truth that students, families and institutions must face is that the promise of a post-secondary education is broken.“

The House plan falls in line with broader Republican objectives to streamline the federal student aid program with only one loan and one grant program, a proposal championed by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Education committee. An aide for Alexander said he hopes to have the forthcoming Senate version of the higher education legislation ready for debate and amendments in March.

The House plan would address the needs of undergraduates, graduate students and parents. Most undergraduates could borrow no more than $39,000 in total, raising the current threshold from about $31,000. Graduate students could take out no more than $150,000 over the course of their studies, while loans made to parents would be capped at $56,250, ending the unlimited borrowing that exists for both groups.

It’s unclear what impact the loan limits would have on the federal budget, but eliminating loan forgiveness could offset some of the decline in revenue from the graduate and parent loan programs.

“Loans will probably be viewed as more profitable because they’d eventually get the money,“ said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.

House Republicans would also do away with fees the federal government charges students and parents for the origination of their loans. Student loan origination fees generated $1.6 billion in revenue for the federal government in the 2016-2017 award year, and $8.1 billion over the past five years, according to a recent paper by the financial aid association.

The legislation would alsoend the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, a $732 million program that provided aid to 1.6 million students in the 2014-15 academic year. It would also wind down the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, a federal program that provides money to students willing to work in high-needs schools or teach subjects in desperate need of educators for four years. The bill calls for no new grants after June 20, 2018.

The one grant the legislation leaves in place would do more to encourage students to complete their degree on time. House Republicans are adopting an Obama-era proposal to raise the maximum Pell Grant award $300 for students who take 15 or more credits per semester in a school year. Pell is a form of federal aid for students whose families typically earn less than $60,000 a year.

House Republicans would also reform the Federal Work-Study Program by directing more money to schools where a high percentage of Pell recipients graduate. It would relax some requirements that make it difficult for schools to take advantage of the program, but would no longer allow graduate students to access Work-Studyfunding.

Opossum breaks into liquor store and gets drunk as a skunk

The Free Press WV

An opossum that apparently drank bourbon after breaking into a Florida liquor store sobered up at a wildlife rescue center and was released unharmed.

Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge officials say the opossum was brought in by a Fort Walton Beach, Florida, police officer on Nov. 24. A liquor store employee found the animal next to a broken and empty bottle of bourbon.

“A worker there found the opossum up on a shelf next to a cracked open bottle of liquor with nothing in it,” said Michelle Pettis, a technician at the refuge. “She definitely wasn’t fully acting normal.”

Pettis told the Panama City News Herald the female opossum appeared disoriented, was excessively salivating and was pale. The staff pumped the marsupial full of fluids and cared for her as she sobered up.

“We loaded her up with fluids to help flush out any alcohol toxins,” Pettis said. “She was good a couple of days later.”

Pettis says the opossum did not appear to have a hangover.

The store owner, Cash Moore, says he never had an opossum break in before.

“She came in from the outside and was up in the rafters, and when she came through she knocked a bottle of liquor off the shelf,” Moore said. “When she got down on the floor she drank the whole damn bottle.”

“But it just goes to show that even the animals are impressed with Cash’s,” he said.

Trump alters story on why he fired Flyn

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump changed his story Saturday on why he fired Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, now suggesting he knew at the time that Flynn had lied to the FBI as well as to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russians during the presidential transition.

That was a turnabout from his initial explanations that Flynn had to go because he hadn’t been straight with Pence about those contacts. Lying to the FBI is a crime, and one that Flynn acknowledged Friday in pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Trump’s tweet: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

It’s unclear now why Trump would cite lying to the FBI as a reason for firing Flynn. Doing so suggests the president knew at the time that Flynn had done something that is against the law, and therefore the investigation could not be as frivolous as he’s been portraying.

It’s also unclear how he would know that, if information about Russian contacts had not reached him, as he has been implying in his own defense.

Flynn left the White House in February, only acknowledging that he had given an incomplete account to Pence of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. After Trump forced Flynn out, he asked FBI Director James Comey to end the bureau’s probe in the matter, according to Comey’s account. Comey refused, and Trump fired him, too.

Trump has been publicly dismissive of Comey and of special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation, and was often generous in his appraisal of Flynn, except to say his adviser could not stay on the job after misleading his vice president.

At the time, Pence said Trump was justified in firing Flynn because Flynn had lied to him. Neither Trump nor Pence indicated concern then that the FBI had not been told the true story.

Pence, who served as head of Trump’s transition, has not publicly commented on Flynn’s plea.

White House officials did not respond to questions Saturday about Trump’s altered explanation as to why he fired Flynn.

Cat banned from library develops social media following

The Free Press WV

A tabby named Max has been playing a game of cat and mouse with some Minnesota college librarians.

The furtive feline has been sneaking into the Macalester College library in St. Paul when people open the door and has been seen scampering around the bookshelves.

The library put up a wanted-type poster asking patrons, “Please do not let in the cat.”

The Star Tribune reports that the conundrum has caused a stir on Twitter and Reddit, where people have been posting Max-inspired artwork. Someone even made a library card for Max, who has been grounded by his owner over his naughty behavior.

GOP Bill Would Allow Colleges To Delay Sexual Assault Probes At Police Request

The Free Press WV

Colleges would be allowed to delay or suspend their internal investigations of sexual assault allegations if police or prosecutors ask them to do so, under a House Republican higher education bill released Friday.

The provision, on page 406 of a 542-page bill, is one of several dealing with sexual assault in a bill proposed by leaders of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. It is not surprising that the bill would address what has become a major topic on college campuses. The language is part of a section that amends a federal campus safety law known as the Clery Act:

“Nothing in this subsection may be construed to prohibit an institution of higher education from delaying the initiation of, or suspending, an investigation or institutional disciplinary proceeding involving an allegation of sexual assault in response to a request from a law enforcement agency or a prosecutor to delay the initiation of, or suspend, the investigation or proceeding, and any delay or suspension of such an investigation or proceeding in response to such a request may not serve as the grounds for any sanction or audit finding against the institution or for the suspension or termination of the institution’s participation in any program under this title.“

The roles of police and college investigators have been hotly debated in recent years. Some argue that colleges are ill-equipped to investigate sexual violence and should simply leave the issue to the police. Others say colleges must be involved in matters that affect their ability to provide a safe educational environment.

Should criminal and internal inquiries proceed at the same time?

The Obama administration answered yes to that question in a 2014 question-and-answer guidance document on sexual violence and the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX. It said: “A school should not wait for the conclusion of a criminal investigation or criminal proceeding to begin its own Title IX investigation. Although a school may need to delay temporarily the fact-finding portion of a Title IX investigation while the police are gathering evidence, it is important for a school to understand that during this brief delay in the Title IX investigation, it must take interim measures to protect the complainant in the educational setting.“

Under President Donald Trump, the Education Department withdrew that guidance in September. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pledged to set up new rules for how colleges should respond to sexual misconduct complaints.

Some advocates for sexual assault prevention say the provision in the House bill could deter victims from reporting crimes to police if they believe that criminal investigations would slow or impede internal misconduct inquiries. “This would be very counterproductive,“ said Alyssa Peterson, with the activist group Know Your IX, who is a law student at Yale University. Peterson noted that Obama-era guidance advised schools not to interfere with gathering of criminal evidence. “That’s appropriate,“ she said. “The school shouldn’t sabotage the survivor’s opportunity to seek justice.“

But a GOP committee aide, who declined to be named, said lawmakers included the provision after hearing from law enforcement that separate college investigations can be a hindrance. “Colleges are not supposed to be courts, and sexual assault is a crime,“ the aide wrote in an email. “If the crime is reported to law enforcement, they need to be able to conduct their investigation without the college or university getting in the way.“ The committee is chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

Another provision of the House bill would provide schools with a new exception to the Clery Act’s requirement that they must provide timely warning of threats to campus communities. That requirement became an issue after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, when a gunman killed 32 people on the campus in Blacksburg before killing himself. Critics said the public university failed to provide adequate warning to students and faculty during a pause in the violence while a gunman was on the loose. Virginia Tech disputed the criticism, but it paid a $32,500 fine in 2014 after the Education Department concluded that the school had violated the law.

Under the bill, a school “may delay issuing a report” on a threat “if the issuance would compromise ongoing law enforcement efforts, such as efforts to apprehend a suspect.“ The bill adds that the federal government:

“ . . . shall defer to the institution’s determination of whether a particular crime poses a serious and continuing threat to the campus community, and the timeliness of such warning, provided that, in making its decision, the institution acted reasonably and based on the considered professional judgment of campus security officials, based on the facts and circumstances known at the time.“

David Bergeron, a former education official in the Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, said the proposal would weaken the timely warning requirement. “It could result in loss of life,“ he said. The key point of the law is “if there’s harm being done to members of your community, tell your community,“ he said.

The GOP aide said the provision was drawn from the recommendations of a higher education task force. “If the police are on the scene, they may not want the suspect to know that they are looking for him/her, so they may request the [school to] hold off on doing the notifications,“ the aide wrote.

U.S. Rig Count Rises by 6 This Week to 929,

The Free Press WV

The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. went up by six this week to 929.

That’s a significant rise from 597 rigs that were active this time a year ago.

According to Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes, 749 rigs were drilling for oil and 180 for natural gas this week. Baker Hughes released its tabulation Friday.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained four rigs to reach 454 total. Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah each added one.

Louisiana and Colorado each lost one rig.

Alaska, Arkansas, California, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.

U.S. Troops Get Freeze-Dried Plasma for Battlefield Bloodshed

The Free Press WV

All of the U.S. military’s special operations fighters sent off to warzones and raids now have an essential addition to their first-aid kits: freeze-dried blood plasma.

Last month, the Marines Corps’ special ops units became the last of the military branches to begin carrying freeze-dried plasma. The plasma helps clot blood and can prevent badly wounded troops from bleeding to death on the battlefield.

It saved Army Cpl. Josh Hargis’ life. He lost parts of both legs in 2013 when he stepped on a land mine during a midnight raid in Afghanistan. The medic in his Ranger unit used the freeze-dried plasma to keep him alive on the battlefield for more than 90 minutes until he could be evacuated by helicopter.

The medic, Sgt. Bryan Anderson, said having plasma ready made the difference in helping stanch internal bleeding after the blast shattered Hargis’ pelvis.

“Wherever blood is oozing out, it’s helping to clot that blood up,” Anderson said. “It blows my mind that Josh was able to stay alive and I think about that night every day of my life.”

Their raid on a Taliban leader’s compound killed four Americans and even more friendly troops by suicide bombers and land mines. Anderson’s life-saving labor continued despite seven explosions within 10 yards (9 meters), leading to a Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military honor for heroism.

The plasma Anderson used was stored in a thick glass bottle and kept in a kit with IV lines and distilled water. The medic has to pour the water into the bottle, swirl it around and inject it. Before his injury, Hargis used to think the freeze-dried equipment took up too much room in the medic’s bag.

“It really seemed like something that was a little unrealistic to carry out in the field, but it ended up working out,” said Hargis, who lives in Peyton, Colorado, with his wife and kids. A photo of Hargis’ commanding officer giving him a Purple Heart went viral online.

Plasma is a straw-colored liquid that contains proteins that make the blood clot. Unlike current plasma supplies that have to be slowly thawed from frozen storage, the dehydrated and powdered freeze-dried version needs no refrigeration and can be used within minutes after swirling it in water.

Over the past five years, the military’s special ops units in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have received about 1,000 kits of the freeze-dried plasma, including 430 this year. While specific numbers on usage are scarce, the U.S. Special Operations Command said it had been used at least 24 times by Green Berets and other special operations teams in the past five years. Of those treatments, 15 patients survived long enough to be transferred to a hospital.

U.S. forces used freeze-dried plasma in World War II, but quit after it was linked to hepatitis outbreaks. In the years since, the safety testing of it improved and for years militaries including the French, Germans, Norwegians and Israelis have used it.

Army Special Operations medics saw it in use and said they wanted it too. The U.S. military currently gets its supply from the French, whose plasma is made from volunteer donors. It has a shelf life of about two years.

The U.S. is using the French product as a stopgap while Teleflex Inc. partners with the Army to win Food and Drug Administration approval by 2020. The slow pace led some in Congress to propose giving the Pentagon the ability to circumvent the FDA and allow emergency approval of new medical devices or drugs to treat troops, while other lawmakers propose speeding up FDA approvals for military medical products.

Teleflex is shooting to buy its donated plasma from blood banks and produce enough for the armed services and civilian emergency rooms in what is projected to be $100 million-a-year market.

The granulated plasma could help in civilian emergencies, said Dr. Jeremy Cannon, a former trauma surgery chief at San Antonio Military Medical Center.

Whether it’s an accident victim arriving at a rural Texas hospital without a blood bank or a mass casualty event such as the Las Vegas shooting massacre, powdered plasma could be crucial, said Cannon, who now teaches surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s hospital.

“This is the ideal situation for FDP use — first responders and in emergency departments swamped with bleeding patients — especially when the supply of conventional plasma becomes depleted,” Cannon said.

Trump and Elizabeth Warren

The Free Press WV

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly used the name “Pocahontas” to bash Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • He most recently referred to the senator as “Pocahontas” at an event meant to honor surviving Native American code talkers.

  • “Pocahontas” was the nickname of a teenage girl who was abducted by English colonists in 1613 and died at about the age of 21.

U.S. President Donald Trump referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” during an event honoring Native American code talkers on Monday.

“We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago,“ Trump said. “They call her ‘Pocahontas.‘ But you know what, I like you, because you are special. You are special people. You are really incredible people.“

It wasn’t the first time Trump used the name to bash Warren.

It links back to when Scott Brown, Warren’s Republican opponent in the 2012 race for a Senate seat in Massachusetts, “accused her of faking her Native American ancestry after reports surfaced that she listed herself as a minority in a directory of law school professors,“ Business Insider’s Jeremy Berke reported.

Even before Trump began using her name as an insult, Pocahontas has occupied a prominent place in American pop culture.

But who was Pocahontas, and how did we come to be so fixated on her?

First of all, she wasn’t named Pocahontas — it was a nickname that means something along the lines of “mischievous one.“ A colonist named William Strachey chronicled how 11-year-old Pocahontas would visit the settlers’ fort at Jamestown and turn cartwheels with the English children, according to the book “Malinche, Pocahontas, and Sacagawea: Indian Women as Cultural Intermediaries and National Symbols.“

There’s a reason we remember Pocahontas and not other members of her tribe and family. Her interactions with the English colonist John Smith had a major role in shaping her legacy.

In December 1607, a Powhatan leader named Opechancanough — who was also Pocahontas’ uncle — captured Smith while he was exploring the Chickahominy River. Smith later claimed that Pocahontas disrupted his execution, throwing her body across his to protect him. In a 1616 letter to Queen Anne, he even wrote, “She hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine.“

Numerous historians, however, have said the event most likely did not happen as Smith described it — if it even happened at all. He left his alleged encounter with Pocahontas out of his earliest writings, not mentioning it until 1624.

And it wasn’t the first time Smith had claimed to have been rescued by a young woman who intervened to save him from her male relatives. In “Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma,“ Camilla Townsend writes that Smith said a young Muslim woman had protected him in a similar manner while he was enslaved in Turkey.

Chief Roy Crazy Horse, who was a longtime leader of the Powhatan Renape Nation, wrote that Smith’s account helped propel Pocahontas to lasting fame.

“Of all of Powhatan’s children, only ‘Pocahontas’ is known, primarily because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the ‘good Indian,‘ one who saved the life of a white man,“ he wrote.

In 1613, a few years after Pocahontas was said to have saved Smith, an English captain named Samuel Argall lured Pocahontas onto his ship and took her hostage during the First Anglo-Powhatan War. Indian Country Today reported that the Mattaponi tribe’s oral history says that she was raped in captivity and that her abduction separated her from her first husband and daughter.

Ultimately, she converted to Christianity and was baptized as Rebecca. On April 5, 1614, she married a settler named John Rolfe, who had lost his wife Sarah after some English colonists were shipwrecked on Bermuda. Pocahontas and Rolfe had one child together, a son named Thomas.

The marriage established what became known as “the Peace of Pocahontas,“ a lull in the fighting between the English and the Powhatan. The cash-strapped Virginia Company hoped to establish the couple as a “symbol of peaceful relations,“ according to Encyclopedia Virginia, so in 1616, Pocahontas, her husband, and her young son traveled to England for a publicity tour — on a ship captained by none other than Argall.

She would never return to Virginia.

In March 1617, the family boarded the ship that would take them back to North America, but Pocahontas and Thomas became suddenly ill as they sailed down the Thames River. He survived. She did not.

Pocahontas, who was only about 21 years old, was buried in Gravesend, England, while Rolfe returned to Virginia. He died in 1622, possibly in an attack orchestrated by Opechancanough, according to “The Cultural Roots of the 1622 Indian Attack.“ In 1646, Thomas Rolfe became a lieutenant in the English military and fought against the Powhatan, his mother’s people.

Former Trump Adviser Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI

The Free Press WV

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI, becoming the first Trump White House official to face criminal charges and admit guilt so far in the wide-ranging election investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Flynn also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe, which focuses on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign aimed at sending the Republican businessman to the White House.

Flynn was an early and vocal Trump supporter on the campaign trail and was present for consequential moments in the campaign, the following transition period and the early days of Trump’s presidency, making him a valuable potential tool for prosecutors and agents. His business dealings and foreign interactions have made him a central focus of Mueller’s investigation.

Trump’s former national security adviser admitted to lying about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump’s inauguration.

In a statement, Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general said he accepted responsibility for his actions and added: “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country.”

Flynn is the fourth former Trump associate to face charges in the investigation, the first who actually served in Trump’s White House. He has been under investigation for a wide range of allegations, including lobbying work on behalf of Turkey, but the fact that he was charged only with a single count of false statements suggests he is cooperating with Mueller in exchange for leniency.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb sought to distance the plea from Trump himself, saying, “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Early on in is administration, Trump had taken a particular interest in the status of the Flynn investigation. Former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing in May precipitated the appointment of Mueller as special counsel, has said Trump had asked him in a private Oval Office meeting to consider ending the investigation into Flynn. Comey has said the encounter unnerved him so much that he prepared an internal memo about it. The White House has denied that assertion.

Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI just days after Trump’s inauguration, was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Administration officials said Flynn had not discussed sanctions that had been imposed on Russia in part over election meddling. In charging Flynn, prosecutors made clear they believe that claim to be false.

Days after Flynn’s interview with the FBI, then-acting attorney general, Sally Yates alerted White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was potentially compromised and vulnerable to blackmail because of discrepancies between public assertions — including by Vice President Mike Pence — that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions and the reality of what occurred.

Mueller’s team announced charges in October against three other Trump campaign officials, former chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and a former campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his own foreign contacts.

Signs of Flynn cooperating with Mueller’s team surfaced in the past week, as his lawyers told the legal team they could no longer discuss information about the case with them. Scheduled grand jury testimony regarding Flynn was also postponed by prosecutors.

The two-page charging document makes reference to two separate conversations with Kislyak, and to separate false statements prosecutors say he made regarding that communication.

Besides a Dec. 29 conversation about sanctions, prosecutors also cite an earlier December meeting, in which Flynn asked Kislyak to delay or defeat a U.N. Security Council resolution. That appears to refer to the body’s vote a day later to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In a striking rupture with past practice, the Obama administration refrained from vetoing the condemnation, opting instead to abstain. The rest of the 15-nation council, including Russia, voted unanimously against Israel.

At the time, Israel was lobbying furiously against the resolution and President-elect Trump’s team spoke up on behalf of the Jewish state. Trump personally called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to press the case against the condemnation, and Egypt surprisingly postponed the scheduled showdown on Dec. 22 — the same day Flynn met Kislyak.

After more procedural wrangling, the vote occurred a day later.

Trump almost immediately condemned the U.N. result via Twitter.

“As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” Trump said, referencing his upcoming inauguration.

One Of The Biggest U.S. Oil Fields Turns To An Unexpected Power Source: Solar

The Free Press WV

The Belridge oil field near Bakersfield, California, is one of the largest in the country. It has been producing oil for more than a century and last year produced around 76,000 barrels a day, according to operator Aera Energy.

Now the oil field is about to become even more remarkable. Its future production will be powered partly by a massive solar-energy project to make the extraction process more environmentally friendly, according to Aera and GlassPoint Solar, the firm that will create the solar project.

The Belridge field was discovered in 1911. Oil from the field flowed out of the ground because of natural pressure in the geologic reservoirs. Later, as the pressure declined, many companies said the field was exhausted. The field gained new life in the 1960s through a process known as enhanced oil recovery. But squeezing more crude oil from the Belridge requires large amounts of steam to loosen the heavy crude, which in turn requires energy.

Traditionally, Aera used natural gas to heat water to create steam. Now Aera and GlassPoint will use a large, 850-megawatt solar thermal array to evaporate the water that’s pumped into the ground to liberate more oil. The companies say this will offset 4.87 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year and avoid the emission of 376,000 tons of carbon. The water used emerges from the process of oil extraction itself and will be recycled and pumped back into the ground.

The project was made possible by the recent extension of California’s cap-and-trade system for carbon-dioxide emissions to 2030, said Christina Sistrunk, chief executive of Aera Energy, a company jointly controlled by Shell and ExxonMobil.

“We need some level of what I would call regulatory and legislative stability to be able to fund projects that really need a couple of decades worth of certainty to be economic,“ Sistrunk said. “The extension of that program really underpinned our ability to make this long-term commitment.“

The solar thermal array will capture the sun’s energy using curving mirrors that are enclosed in a greenhouse, then use that energy to heat water. A smaller, 26.5-megawatt solar photovoltaic installation will help power oil-field operations. The project should start operations by 2020, the participating companies said.

This is the second such megascale solar-oil project for GlassPoint, which is building the massive, 1-gigawatt Miraah project in Oman, on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. (A gigawatt refers to the capacity to instantaneously generate 1 billion watts of electricity; a megawatt refers to the capacity to generate 1 million watts.) The Belridge project will be California’s largest solar project, the company said.

“From the day we start operating, Aera will see an enormous reduction in the amount of gas they consume in a given day,“ said Ben Bierman, chief operating officer and acting CEO of GlassPoint Solar.

The combination of massive solar and massive oil is not what comes to mind when it comes to the global expansion of renewables, which generally has been led by wind and solar installations. But joint projects of various types between major oil producers and renewable energy players are growing, too. The Norwegian oil giant Statoil has announced plans to build solar arrays in Brazil with a clean-energy industry partner and made a major push into offshore wind energy; Shell is exploring a large solar project in Australia.

What’s different about the Belridge project is the use of renewables, which don’t emit greenhouse gases, to produce more fuel that will emit those gases. That could leave environmentalists feeling rather ambiguous. But this, too, has parallels—a recent major carbon-capture and storage project in Texas will capture most of the carbon dioxide emitted by a major coal facility, then pipe the gas in a liquid form to an oil field where it will, once again, be used in enhanced oil recovery.

What these examples show perhaps most of all is that as renewable energy becomes more and more a part of our lives, it will also become increasingly integrated into more traditional energy systems.

From an environmental perspective, Aera-GlassPoint project is a “good step,“ said Simon Mui, director of California vehicles and fuels for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. But Mui, who said his group had not yet fully evaluated that project, noted a distinction between reducing emissions from “fossil fuel infrastructure,“ which the current project would do, and a more long-term project of reducing the emissions from transportation as a whole by substituting battery-powered vehicles or other technologies for cars that run on oil.

“I think it’s a false solution to think you can only do one or the other,“ Mui said. “And I think the state policies are looking to do two things: one is accelerate the transition to electric-drive technologies and other alternative sources, as well as to clean up the existing fossil-fuel infrastructure. You kind of have to do both to meet both state and global air-quality and greenhouse-gas targets.“

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