I scream, you scream: Jury to settle bitter dessert dispute

The Free Press WV

A battle between two dessert companies — Mister Cookie Face and 600 lb Gorillas — is heating up in Boston’s federal courthouse. And it all started with an ice cream sandwich.

600 lb Gorillas Inc., a frozen all-natural dessert maker started by a Massachusetts couple, claims another business that supplied the ice cream for its sandwiches watered down the recipe, sending sales tumbling amid customer complaints the desserts had become “kind-of-icky tasting” and “tasteless.”

Chris and Paula White are now taking the ice cream supplier, Mister Cookie Face LLC, to trial for not holding up its end of the bargain to provide the frozen treats their customers used to love.

“We wanted to believe that we could trust them, and they knew that we were relying on them and they knew that they were giving us a bad product,” Chris White said.

Mister Cookie Face denies delivering subpar ice cream and says 600 lb Gorillas can’t prove that problems with the sandwiches’ filling hurt the company’s sales.

“There were just as many complaints about the cookie tasting stale, or being too hard, not chewy, as there are any complaints about the ice cream,” said Blake Hannafan, a lawyer for New Jersey-based Mister Cookie Face and its parent company, Fieldbrook Foods Corp.

At the center of dispute, which is slated to go to trial later this month, is a key ingredient for super-creamy ice cream: butterfat.

The Whites, who no longer sell frozen treats, had an agreement with Fieldbrook that the ice cream would contain 14 percent butterfat.

But when complaints in 2014 started replacing customer praise, the Whites feared something was up, according to their breach-of-contract lawsuit, which claims the watery ice cream cost them at least $2.5 million.

When the Whites couldn’t get a straight answer from Mister Cookie Face, they had the ice cream tested in independent labs and found that the butterfat content was around 10 percent, the Whites say.

Mister Cookie Face and Fieldbrook dispute the Whites’ test results.

Chris White said he and his wife felt like they had no other choice but to fight the case, despite what he described as Mister Cookie Face’s “scorched-earth tactics” to try to force them to end the lengthy and costly litigation.

“They destroyed our business ... the worst part was they just didn’t care,” he said.

11 Historic Sites on America’s ‘Endangered’ List

The Free Press WV

Hundreds of historic sites have found their way over the past three decades onto the annual “endangered sites” list put out by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and this year’s lineup includes one of America’s most famous thoroughfares. Route 66 joins 10 other cultural or architectural gems that are considered at risk for a variety of reasons, from natural disasters to shoddy planning. In the case of our “Mother Road,“ which winds through eight states, unless the US government offers it certain protections by designating it a National Historic Trail, “a vital preservation opportunity may be lost.“ All of this year’s endangered sites here:

  • Annapolis’ City Dock area (Annapolis, Md.)
  • Ashley River Historic District (Charleston, SC)
  • Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital (Walthill, Neb.)
  • Hurricane-damaged historic resources (Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands)
  • Isaiah T. Montgomery House (Mound Bayou, Miss.)
  • Larimer Square (Denver)
  • Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses (Bridgeport, Conn.)
  • Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon, Va.) and Piscataway National Park (Accokeek, Md.)
  • Route 66 (Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California)
  • Ship-on-the-Desert (Salt Flat, Texas)
  • Walkout Schools (Los Angeles)
Making the list as a “Watch Status Site” (a site that’s threatened but can still stave off that threat with intervention) are four towns in Vermont’s Upper Valley: Royalton, Sharon, Trafford, and Tunbridge. More on each site HERE.

Defending champ Chestnut sets record with 74 hot dogs

The Free Press WV

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut extended his reign as champion eater at the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest Wednesday, downing a record 74 wieners and buns in 10 minutes to take home the coveted Mustard Belt for an 11th time.

Miki Sudo held onto her title as the top women’s competitor at the annual Brooklyn eat-off, chomping 37 franks and buns to take home the top prize for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year.

“I found a vicious rhythm,” the 34-year-old Chestnut said after the stuffing session. “I was feeling good today.”

But while Chestnut ate 10 more dogs and buns than second-place finisher Carmen Cincotti, a judging error cast initial doubt over their totals after jurists didn’t see the eaters were taking the dogs and buns from two plates.

“Frankly, the judging was just off,” George Shea, the longtime Coney Island announcer, told The Associated Press. “Joey said, ‘look at my plates’ and Carmen said ‘look at my plates.’ We counted the plates that they had eaten and it was 64 and 74.”

Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, certified the final tally and Chestnut’s record of 74, two more than he consumed last year.

“At the end of the day, Joey Chestnut came in here and ate 74 hot dogs, broke a world record,” said Cincotti, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday. “Apparently they were good dogs.”

A total of $40,000 in prize money was up for grabs, with the first-place winners taking home $10,000 each.

Sudo fell short of the 41 hot dogs she consumed last year, but easily beat out second-place finisher Mischelle Lesco of Tuscon, Arizona, who chowed down 28 wieners and buns.

Thousands of attendees, many donning mustard-colored hot dog caps, braved 83-degree temperatures and a heat index of 91 degrees to witness the annual July Fourth competition on the Coney Island boardwalk. The outlandish tradition dates to 1972, though the

company has long promoted what a former president acknowledged was a legendary start date of 1916.

Fan Martha Pleasant, 41, of Franklin, New Jersey, said she was attending the competitive eating competition to support her husband Dwight, who “loves wieners.”

“We are trying to knock something off my hubby’s bucket list,” she said.

Here, 6-Figure Salary Qualifies as ‘Low Income’

The Free Press WV

From Miami to Detroit to San Antonio, an annual household income of $117,400 puts you firmly in the “high income” group. You’d even land in the upper middle class in New York City, per Business Insider. Not so in San Francisco. Further cementing the city’s reputation as the most expensive in the country, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has revamped income limits so that a family of four earning $117,400 a year now qualifies as “low income” in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties, while a household income of $73,300 is considered “very low income,“ reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Not only is the low-income gauge the highest such limit in the country, but it represents a 10% increase over last year, per the San Jose Mercury News.

As the income limits determine who can qualify for affordable housing programs, the increases mean more people are eligible. “But they’re unlikely to make much difference in a region already suffering from a shortage of affordable housing,“ the Mercury News reports, noting the median house price in some parts of the Bay Area has jumped 25% in the past year. “It just demonstrates how broken and unsustainable our housing market is,“ says Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “California needs 1 million more units of affordable housing for people at the very low and extremely low [income limits]—those struggling the most” and “the market will never produce homes for people at that level,“ she says.

They ‘Married’ Each Other’s Daughters. The Girls Were 7, 8

The Free Press WV

A Utah man who said he was the prophet of a polygamist sect is headed to prison after his conviction and sentencing this week on a child sodomy charge. Samuel Shaffer is the Knights of the Crystal Blade leader who was arrested in December on kidnapping charges involving his two daughters, as well as the two daughters and two sons of sect co-founder John Coltharp, who was also arrested. On Wednesday in Sanpete County, Shaffer pleaded guilty to felony sodomy on a child and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, KUTV reports. Among the details Shaffer shared with detectives as they looked into his case, per People: that he’d “married” Coltharp’s 8-year-old daughter, and Coltharp had done the same with his 7-year-old daughter.

Shaffer, listed as either 34 or 35, had previously been sentenced to 26 years to life in Iron County on child rape and child abuse charges; his new sentence will run concurrent with that one. “I sincerely believed that child marriage was a correct principle from God,“ Shaffer told Sanpete County Judge Marvin Bagley, per USA Today. “And I’ve seen the consequences of what’s happened, and I know that I shouldn’t have done it now.“ But Bagley wasn’t buying his excuses. “I’m not aware of any religion in this world that justifies an adult having a sexual relationship with an 8-year-old girl,“ Bagley said. “Certainly it’s a violation of Utah law.“ Coltharp is set to be sentenced August 08.

Orange ‘Trump-shaped ecstasy pills’ seized

The Free Press WV

Police say orange-colored ecstasy pills bearing an image resembling President Donald Trump’s face are making the rounds in northern Indiana.

Indiana State Police said in a statement that a face is stamped on the front of the illegal pills and the rear bears the words, “great again,” in apparent reference to Trump’s “Make American Great Again” campaign pledge.

Friday’s release doesn’t say how many of the pills have been seized.

Police say 129 arrests were made during a six-day traffic-stop operation in June. LSD, cocaine and other drugs were also seized.

Traffickers sometimes produce uniquely shaped or colored illegal drugs as a marketing technique to distinguish their wares from the competition and encourage buyers to return for more.

Video Shows Sole Survivor of Crash Roll Out of Plane

A truly harrowing video captures footage of a single-engine plane on fire. Then, many seconds later, a figure rolls out and runs away from the wreckage. The 17-year-old caught on video is the son of Greg and Julie Boaz, who were killed Sunday night when their Cessna 210 went down outside of Detroit’s Coleman A. Young International Airport. He is reportedly in critical condition. That the teen was able to escape from the plane is reportedly thanks to witnesses, chief among them Cordell Owens. WXYZ reports that he ran toward the scene and “the gentleman in the plane started hollering and screaming.“ Larry Whitfield, 72, tells the Detroit Free Press he tried to use a stick to help the boy get out. “Didn’t work, so another guy got an ax,“ he says.

That was Owens, who was able to help the teen, identified by the Detroit News as Peyton Boaz, escape. “I don’t feel like a hero,“ Owens says, “but it is something that I had to do.“ Click2Houston reports the trio were traveling from Houston to Detroit to see Greg’s daughter play in the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship. They reportedly stopped in Arkansas along the way, departing around 4pm Sunday. An NTSB investigator describes the subsequent flight as routine but says that after the 54-year-old was given clearance to land, he reported that his landing gear did not deploy and, later, that he was running out of fuel. The aircraft hit a tree and then flipped. Greg’s nephew describes the teen as suffering from smoke inhalation and some third-degree burns. His mother is with him in the hospital; Julie, 48, was his stepmother. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.

Service Dog ‘Sully’ Now With George HW Bush

The Free Press WV

Former President George HW Bush is welcoming a new member of the family: a yellow Labrador retriever who’ll be his first service dog.The 94-year-old and his new companion, named “Sully” after Miracle on the Hudson pilot Chesley Sullenberger, got acquainted Monday at the Bush family compound on the coast of Maine. A photo sent via Twitter shows Sully lounging at the feet of Bush and former President Bill Clinton, who had been visiting on Monday. Sully can open doors, pick up items, and summon help, but “more than anything else the dog will be a wonderful companion,“ says an aide, Evan Sisley. Adds Bush rep Jim McGrath, per CNN, “he can do just about anything except make you a martini, but not to worry, he can go get you someone to make you a martini!“

The nation’s 41st president uses a wheelchair and an electric scooter for mobility since developing a form of Parkinson’s disease, per the AP. Bush is recovering from a recent hospitalization and is without his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, who died in April. Sully was trained by America’s VetDogs, a nonprofit that provides service dogs. Bush is a dog lover who has had dogs since he was a boy, and dogs are always welcome at the family home. Want to keep up with Sully? He’s got his own Instagram account.

America’s Oldest Man Robbed of His Savings

The Free Press WV

Richard Overton is something of a celebrity in Austin, Texas, because the 112-year-old WWII veteran is the oldest living man in America. He now has a new distinction: the oldest American to be robbed of his savings, reports Newsweek. Family members recently learned that an unidentified thief used Overton’s identity to buy savings bonds through the government’s TreasuryDirect site over a couple of months. It appears the thief set up a fake bank account with Overton’s Social Security number and then broke into his personal checking account. “It’s a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously,“ says cousin Volma Overton, who discovered the theft. Volma Overton noticed the withdrawals when he went to deposit funds into the account. “I don’t know how they got his Social Security number and his personal checking account number but those things they have,“ he tells KXAN.

Overton’s experience appears to be an all-too-common case of identity theft, where a thief uses someone else’s personal information to apply for credit, file taxes, or, in Overton’s case, drain an account. Fortunately, Overton’s care, which costs $480 a day, is covered by a separate GoFundMe-linked account. Austin police are working closely with the Overton family to try to track down the culprit. “We wanted to put the word out about them using his name with stolen ID,“ Volma Overton says. “It might help others realize how vulnerable we all are to this.” Overton, whose age has been verified by the Gerontology Research Group, is something of a character, reports the Dallas Morning News. His favorite pastime is sitting on his porch, where he can be seen waving at honking cars and smoking one of his 12 daily cigars.

Veteran Sets Self on Fire Outside Georgia Capitol

The Free Press WV

A man claiming to be an Air Force veteran upset with the Department of Veterans Affairs set himself on fire in front of the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday, suffering burns to at least 85% of his body. Authorities say 58-year-old John Michael Watts parked a vehicle and started walking toward the building around 10:45am. “He was strapped with some homemade incendiary devices, some firecrackers and doused himself with some kind of flammable liquid and attempted to set himself on fire,“ Capt. Mark Perry of the Georgia State Patrol says, per the New York Times. An off-duty GSP trooper driving by saw flames, jumped out of his car, “and was able to douse him pretty quickly” using a fire extinguisher, Perry adds.

The man, of no current address, was then taken to Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital with burns to 85% to 90% of his body. “He did indicate that he is disgruntled with the VA system and was seeking attention for that,“ says Perry, who initially indicated a phone number seen on a sign in the man’s windshield could be connected to another device. A bomb squad later removed the contents of the vehicle without issue, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. There were no reports of other injuries. Though it cannot “comment on the specifics of this Veteran’s case due to patient privacy laws,“ the Department of Veteran Affairs tells the Washington Post it “is ensuring he receives the VA care that he needs.“

17 States Sue Trump Over Family Separations

The Free Press WV

Seventeen states, including Washington, New York, and California, sued President Trump’s administration Tuesday in an effort to force officials to reunite migrant families who have been separated at the US-Mexico border. The states, all of which are led by Democratic attorneys general, joined Washington, DC, in filing the lawsuit in US District Court in Seattle. It’s the first legal challenge by states over the practice. “The administration’s practice of separating families is cruel, plain and simple,“ says New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “Every day, it seems like the administration is issuing new, contradictory policies and relying on new, contradictory justifications. But we can’t forget: the lives of real people hang in the balance.“

Immigration authorities have separated about 2,300 children from their parents in recent weeks, sparking global outrage as images and recordings of weeping children emerged. After falsely blaming Democrats for the separations and insisting that only Congress could fix the issue, the president last week issued an executive order designed to end the practice under his “zero tolerance” policy, which prosecutes adults who come to the US illegally. But the states say his order is riddled with caveats and fails to reunite parents and children who have already been torn apart, the AP reports. They accuse the administration of denying the parents and children due process; denying the immigrants, many of whom are fleeing gang violence in Central America, their right to seek asylum; and being arbitrary in applying the policy.

FACT CHECK: Trump’s week of faulty claims: MS-13, Russia

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump isn’t willing to embrace the truth when it comes to immigration, violence and MS-13 gangs.

In speech after speech, he links weak border enforcement to pervasive crime and the “vile gang MS-13,” with his administration suggesting MS-13 is surging.

They’re incorrect.

The MS-13 gang hasn’t been increasing in number. And much of the recent violence attributed to MS-13 appears to have been committed by U.S. citizens, not those who entered the country illegally.

His statements came during a week of hyped rhetoric, fabricated history and sometimes-dubious claims of campaign promises fulfilled.

On other issues, Trump repeated Russia’s questionable claim that it didn’t meddle in the 2016 election, glossed over the benefits of a popular provision of an Obama-era health care law in touting its repeal, and didn’t tell the full story in angry tweets about Harley-Davidson.

A look at the claims:

TRUMP: “We’ve eliminated horrible policies that burdened young Americans. You were burdened by things that were really, in some cases, insurmountable, including the individual mandate in Obamacare. A disaster. That’s where you pay a lot of money for the privilege of not buying health insurance. Right? One of the worst things. It’s gone.” — remarks Wednesday to college students at the White House.

TRUMP: “Obamacare is largely gone now.” — remarks Thursday in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.

THE FACTS: Trump’s suggestion that the sweeping Obama-era health law has wholly burdened young Americans is misleading.

Federal studies have found the Affordable Care Act’s popular provision requiring employers and insurers to keep young adults on parental coverage until age 26 has helped millions of young people transitioning from school to work, or trying to start a career. Previously, the age at which insurance companies often forced children from their parents’ plans was 19.

Since 2010, when the new provision went into effect, the number of those 19-25 who were uninsured fell by more than half, to 4.5 million last year.

Regarding the individual mandate, while Congress did repeal the requirement that most Americans carry insurance or risk a tax penalty, that doesn’t take effect until next year. People who go without insurance this year are still subject to fines.

Other major parts of the Obama-era overhaul remain in place, including its Medicaid expansion, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed “essential” health benefits, and subsidized private health insurance for people with modest incomes.


TRUMP: “Crime, crime, crime happens automatically when you have those open borders. The Democrats want to let the country be overrun. Just take a look at what’s going on, everybody comes in including the vile gang MS-13.” — remarks Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota.

TRUMP: “The Democrats are in Turmoil! Open Borders and unchecked Crime a certain way to lose elections. Republicans are for Strong Borders, NO Crime!“— tweet Tuesday.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: “Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue, which will only lead to predictable results — more heroin and fentanyl pushed by Mexican cartels plaguing our communities, a surge in MS-13 gang members, and an increase in the number of human trafficking prosecutions.” — statement Wednesday arguing for legislation to address border enforcement.

THE FACTS: It’s inaccurate for Trump and his administration to assert that weak immigration enforcement is leading to “unchecked” crime, including from the “vile gang MS-13.” Nor is there evidence of a “surge” in MS-13.

The group is unquestionably violent but its overall numbers are somewhat limited. The Justice Department has said there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as more than a decade ago. MS-13 accounts for less than 1 percent of total U.S. gang membership.

Formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by El Salvador refugees and more recently expanded in Central America, the group is indeed linked to a high number of homicides in certain parts of the U.S. Even so, an FBI report put the group well behind other gangs for crimes on the southwest border — seventh of 12 — with the Surenos, Barrio Azteca and Tango Blast ranked in the top three.

Trump suggests that weak border enforcement is contributing to crime committed by MS-13. But the gang actually has many U.S.-born members at this point — people who by virtue of U.S. citizenship can’t be denied entry based on their nationality, or deported. The government has not said recently how many members it thinks are citizens and immigrants. In notable raids on MS-13 in 2015 and 2016, most of the people caught were found to be U.S. citizens.

More broadly, Trump overgeneralizes about people who arrive illegally in the U.S. Several studies have shown that immigration does not lead to increased crime.


TRUMP: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” — tweet Thursday.

TRUMP: “When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest? Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report…And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H?” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump repeats Russia’s denial that it had meddled in the 2016 election, even though the U.S. intelligence community determined that Russia had indeed intervened to help Trump. Many Republicans and Democrats have said they accept the findings of that intelligence assessment, including Trump’s own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has warned that Russia will likely try to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Senate intelligence committee said last month it had uncovered no reason to dispute the conclusions of the intelligence assessment released in 2017. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the committee, said his staff spent 14 months “reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work” conducted by the intelligence agencies in accepting its conclusion.

Trump also refers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as “13 angry Democrats,” but Mueller is a Republican and some others on his team owe their jobs largely to Republican presidents. Some have indeed given money to Democratic candidates over the years. But Mueller could not have barred them from serving on that basis because regulations prohibit the consideration of political affiliation for personnel actions involving career attorneys. Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee.


TRUMP, on the 2016 election: “When we won the state of Wisconsin, it hadn’t been won by a Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Did you know that? And I won Wisconsin ... And Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win.” — remarks Thursday in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong. Eisenhower won the Badger State, in 1952 as well as 1956, but so did Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. Wisconsin also helped elect Republican Richard Nixon to the White House in 1968 and 1972, and gave him its backing as well in 1960, when Democrat John F. Kennedy won the presidency.


TRUMP, on reducing wait times for veterans seeking medical care: “The vets would be in line for 13 days, 18 days, 3 weeks, 7 days and they’d start off and they wouldn’t be in bad shape. And sometimes it would take so long before seeing a doctor that they would be terminally ill….Why don’t they just go to a doctor — local — that’s looking for the business? ...We got it done. I signed it.” — remarks at Wednesday’s rally in Fargo, North Dakota.

THE FACTS: No, fulfilling his campaign promise of reducing wait times by giving veterans access to private-sector care is not done.

Trump signed into law earlier this month a bill that would ease restrictions on private care. But its success in significantly reducing wait times for appointments depends in large part on an overhaul of VA’s electronic medical records to allow for a seamless sharing of records with private physicians. That overhaul will take at least 10 years to be complete.

Currently, only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days — not “13 days, 18 days, 3 weeks, 7 days” — for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense. Under a newly expanded Choice program that will take at least a year to implement, veterans will still have to meet certain criteria before they can see a private physician.

A recent Government Accountability Report found that despite the Choice program’s guarantee of providing an appointment within 30 days, veterans waited an average of 51 to 64 days. Pressed at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, VA secretary nominee Robert Wilkie declined to commit the VA to meeting the 30-day standard. He pledged to push interim fixes and better training for VA schedulers to help speed appointments.


TRUMP: “Hiring many thousands of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go - will always be disfunctional (sic). People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: The U.S. is not hiring many thousands of judges. The Justice Department’s immigration courts division has about 335 judges on staff nationwide, with the budget for 150 additional judges.

Funding for immigration courts has increased modestly in recent years despite a growing caseload of refugees waiting for a judicial hearing after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. With a backlog of 700,000, each judge would have to take on more than 2,000 cases to clear the docket. Under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, all adults caught crossing the border illegally are criminally prosecuted.


TRUMP: “Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced. Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse. Shows how unbalanced & unfair trade is, but we will fix it…..” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: He’s incorrect about what Harley-Davidson said. The company said in January that it would close its motorcycle plant in Kansas City, Missouri, in a cost-cutting move and shift those operations to its plant in York, Pennsylvania. The company did not say it was moving any Kansas City operations to Thailand.

In May 2017, the company did announce plans to build a plant in Thailand to make motorcycles for Asian markets. But that was months before it announced the closure of the Kansas City plant. Harley officials denied when they announced the Kansas City closure that it was because of the plant in Thailand.

The company has more recently cited Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for building the Thai plant, which is expected to open later this year. But Harley’s announcement Monday did not say where it will build the motorcycles that it will sell in European Union countries. Michael Pflughoeft, a spokesman, said in an email to The Associated Press only that it would be at the company’s “existing international facilities.”


TRUMP: “....When I had Harley-Davidson officials over to the White House, I chided them about tariffs in other countries, like India, being too high. Companies are now coming back to America. Harley must know that they won’t be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Pflughoeft said Harleys sold in the U.S. will continue to be made in the U.S.

US trafficking report highlights vulnerability of children

The Free Press WV

Children removed from their families and placed in institutional care are at greater risk of being trafficked, the U.S. warned Thursday in an annual report.

The State Department report, which ranks governments in their efforts to combat slavery and the flesh trade, left the Trump administration open to accusations of hypocrisy as the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has separated more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents on the country’s southern border.

The Trafficking in Persons report was unveiled in a ceremony at the State Department by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.

“Our commitment to fighting (human trafficking) and ending this together is incredibly strong,” Pompeo said. “The world should know that we will not stop before we know human trafficking is a thing of the past.”

Ivanka Trump attended the ceremony and handed out awards to individuals recognized for helping fight human trafficking, but did not make any public remarks.

Among the countries demoted to “tier 3,” the lowest rank, was Myanmar, also known as Burma. The report cited its military operations in Rakhine state that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. Other countries with “Tier 3” status include China, North Korea and Iran.

Countries on tier 3 can be penalized with sanctions, including the withholding of non-humanitarian aid and assistance that could affect agreements with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The president retains the authority to waive the sanctions in U.S. national interests or if the penalties could adversely affect vulnerable populations. Countries given the worst designation have often been granted such waivers.

The United States is listed on tier 1, among countries most effectively combating human trafficking.

In a lengthy section on the detrimental effects of institutionalizing children, the report stated that “removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort.”

Children held in “government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers” due to the “physical and psychological effects of staying in residential institutions, combined with societal isolation and often subpar regulatory oversight by governments,” the report stated.

The Trump administration recently scaled back the “zero-tolerance” policy that separated more than 2,300 migrant families. After global uproar over the policy, President Donald Trump issued an order temporarily halting the practice of splitting families at the border and prosecuting parents and guardians, but administration officials say the policy remains intact.

When asked to explain the disconnect between U.S. policy and the trafficking report, a senior State Department official said the report released Thursday covers events from April 1, 2017, through the end of March 2018. The administration began enforcing the zero tolerance policy in May of this year. The official added that the report outlines ways in which all countries, including those like the U.S. that are listed in the top tier, can improve.

Human rights activists said the administration should take its own advice.

“The State Department deserves credit for its comprehensive and eloquent exposition on the horrors of institutionalization of children,” said John Sifton, an advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “We strongly urge White House and Department of Homeland Security officials to read that section in the context of their procedures for processing asylum seekers and other persons seeking entry into the United States,” he added.

Myanmar was also included on a list of countries identified as recruiting and using child soldiers by government forces or armed groups aligned with the government. Iran and Iraq were also added to the list this year, potentially subjecting their government to restrictions on security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.

Thailand, which has faced global scrutiny for the use of slave labor on fishing vessels, was promoted from a watch list to tier 2. The report cited its convictions of traffickers and complicit officials, including 11 involved in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants.

Kroger to test grocery deliveries with driverless cars

The Free Press WV

Kroger Co. is about to test whether it can steer supermarket customers away from crowded grocery aisles with a fleet of diminutive driverless cars designed to lower delivery costs.

The test program announced Thursday could make Kroger the first U.S. grocer to make deliveries with robotic cars that won’t have a human riding along to take control in case something goes wrong.

Cincinnati-based Kroger is teaming up with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded two years ago by two engineers who worked on self-driving cars at Google. That Google project is now known as Waymo, which plans to introduce a ride-hailing service that is supposed to begin picking up passengers in fully autonomous cars by the end of this year.

Like Waymo, Kroger is only saying its self-driving delivery service will start by the end of this year.

The location of the delivery service hasn’t been determined yet either, although it most likely will involve Fry’s supermarkets in California or Arizona, said Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson.

Customers will be able to order groceries from a mobile app, much like people summon an Uber or Lyft ride. After the order is placed, a driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries at a curb, requiring the customers to be present to fetch the items. The vehicles will probably be opened with a numeric code.

Kroger currently offers grocery delivery in vehicles driven by people at about 1,200 of its 2,800 stores, covering about 20 different markets in the U.S. If the Nuro tests go well, Kroger say it’s likely to expand its use of driverless cars, potentially allowing its supermarkets to reduce its delivery fees and reassign workers who had been driving cars to other jobs focused on improving customer service.

Fox News Reminds Us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Platform Is…Pretty Reasonable

Sometimes, you get an indication that someone on Fox News is getting high on their own supply. Or maybe Sean Hannity’s graphics team is just getting sick of him. But it seems more likely that President Trump’s late-night-phone-companion is so deep into the Lib-Bashing Vortex that he is starting to lose his grip on things. The result is that, Wednesday night, Hannity found himself bashing a political platform that included “support seniors” and “clean campaign finance.“

The segment was designed to attack the platform of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist who defeated a titan of the New York Democratic machine in a primary Tuesday night. At one point, Hannity’s production team decided to throw up the policies on the screen behind him. Except they failed to run the graphic through the normally rigorous process of Fox News scaremongerization and white-resentment optimization. They just put it up there, spin-free, and it looked…pretty reasonable?

Hannity seems to think these positions are self-evidently extreme. But:

  • Medicare for All has the support of 63 percent of registered voters.

  • Tuition-free public college has 63 percent support.

  • There isn’t much polling on “housing as a human right,“ but there is strong majority support for rent control. We also already subsidize affordable housing, though far more money flows to higher-income homeowners through tax deductions.

  • A federal jobs guarantee is a new initiative, but one poll in May suggested it has 46 percent support. Another poll indicates strong majority support in every state.

  • Three-quarters of Americans support criminal justice reform.

  • There’s not much polling on abolishing ICE, but in a Fox News poll last year, 83 percent supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

  • In a 2015 poll, 85 percent of Americans said the campaign finance system must be “completely rebuilt” or see “fundamental changes.“

  • A survey in May suggested voters from both parties in key battleground House districts across the country want “overwhelming, broad-based, and intense support for curbing big banks’ influence in Washington, and holding financial companies accountable for discrimination.“ In one survey, 72 percent of likely 2018 voters supported a modern Glass-Steagall Act.

Everything else in the graphic is pretty self-explanatory. Either you believe LGBT citizens have civil rights—support for same-sex marriage now stands at 67 percent—or you do not. And if you can’t get behind “supporting seniors” or “solidarity with Puerto Rico”—which, is, after all, part of the United States—then it’s hard to see what any politician can do for you.

The amazing thing is Hannity laid all this out as, “This is the future. This is your modern Democratic Party.“ He’s showing it to millions of people. There aren’t likely to be too many converts among his viewers, but isn’t this the kind of platform that would win Democrats elections?

More than just discounting these policy prescriptions, though, Hannity’s tone communicates that he finds the very idea we’d be interested in every American having housing to be absurd. He does not even acknowledge this as a possible goal of society, despite the fact that research indicates it leads to profoundly better economic and personal outcomes. That would mean The Losers getting something They Don’t Deserve.

And that is the cancer at the root of the Fox News resentment machine. Thanks in no small part to the current president, the whole apparatus has been so completely oriented towards bashing people and filling your mug with liberal tears that the whole concept of a representative government that serves the people in real ways has gone by the wayside. In fact, it barely seems to factor in at all.

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