Heart Association Predicts Big Increase in Cardiovascular Disease

The Free Press WV

Nearly half of all Americans will have cardiovascular disease by 2035, according to the American Heart Association. In a new projection released the week of Valentine’s Day, the group said it expects broken hearts to cost the nation and its medical system $1 trillion a year at that point.

Shane Mandel said too many folks are likely to go through something he knows firsthand. A year and a half ago, he went to the emergency room with chest pain and heartburn. The doctor there asked him a question.

“ ‘So, when did you have your heart attack?‘ And I looked up at him and I said, ‘What are you talking about? I’ve never had a heart attack.‘ But he said, ‘No, you’ve had a heart attack in the last 10 days.‘ “ Mandel said. “And at that point, the world just totally changed.“

According to Mandel and the Heart Association, the United States needs to ramp up research and encourage a culture of healthy living, both of which will help the nation prepare. West Virginia has some of the nation’s highest rates of chronic health issues.

American Heart Association president Steven Houser said Congress also can play a role, keeping the current protections in the Affordable Care Act in place so people with pre-existing conditions don’t lose their health insurance.

“In my view, we cannot afford to be complacent about these projections,“ he said. “If they become a reality, a serious health and economic crisis is on our horizon.“

Mandel said the Heart Association wants to see increased funding for heart-related research through the National Institutes of Health.

“I’m alive today because of research,“ he said. “Continuing to fund research is a crucial step in getting people like me back to their lives, and preventing the disease from ever becoming part of another person’s life.“

According to the American Heart Association, the death rate from cardiovascular disease rose in 2015 and 2016, reversing steady declines dating back to 1969.

The full report is online at

Dan Heyman

West Virginia Scientists Present Economic and Community Impact Of Research

The Free Press WV

Scientists at colleges and universities from across the state came together to discuss how their innovative research projects impact West Virginia’s communities and are contributing to economic growth. During the STEM Salon event, hosted by the Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research, four scientists gave brief presentations about their work.

Representing Marshall University was Dr. Nadja Spitzer who spoke about her research into how exposure to silver nanoparticles could be affecting the brains of children and adults. Spitzer was awarded a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for her research. She also spoke about the Brain Expo she created at Marshall which allows school groups to visit campus for a reverse science fair with many interactive activities relating to the brain.

Dr. Joseph Allen from Concord University touched on his research in structural geology which focuses on understanding earthquakes preserved in deep fault zones. In addition, he is a leader in science education that includes research into the correlation between undergraduate research and learning.

Dr. Sanjaya is the Director of West Virginia State University’s Energy and Environmental Science Institute. He described his lab’s research program which is geared to specifically designing plants and microalgae to enhance their bioenergy and nutritional value. He is also involved in phytoremediation, or the innovative use of green plants to clean up the environment.

Representing West Virginia University’s Energy Institute was Dr. Brian Anderson. A Ripley, West Virginia, native, Anderson has conducted extensive research in developing sustainable energy systems and currently leads numerous national and international efforts promoting the state’s energy resources and capabilities.

The event took place on February 7 at BridgeValley’s Advanced Technology Center at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park.

The Division of Science and Research directs the federal EPSCoR program in West Virginia, while also managing other state and federally funded academic research programs across the state. The program provides strategic leadership for infrastructure advancement and development of competitive research opportunities in STEM disciplines.

Bill Discourages Political Fundraising During Legislative Session

The Free Press WV

One of the more uncomfortable (and potentially unseemly) activities during the annual regular session of the West Virginia Legislature is political fundraisers.  Historically, it’s been a common occurrence for some lawmakers to have receptions during the 60-day session where supporters are expected to attend and donate money to the candidates.

It could be argued by some politicians that the timing makes sense—they are in Charleston, attention is focused on politics—but the practice sets up an unhealthy atmosphere.  Lobbyists will tell you they feel pressured to attend and contribute, especially if they have bills pending during the session.

It’s an awkward dance that makes all parties uncomfortable and at least creates the impression that financial contributions are linked to the success or failure of legislation. That’s why House Bill 2319 is important.

The bill, which has cleared the Judiciary Committee is now on second reading in the House, stops short of preventing fundraisers—that would likely be unconstitutional—but it does
significantly increase the disclosure requirements during the session.

The bill says any member or candidate committee that has a fundraising event while the Legislature is in session “shall disclose the existence of the event and the receipt of all contributions, including the source and amounts, within five business days after the fundraising event.”

Currently, the entire regular session passes without any such disclosure. The first hint we get now is in May when lobbyists make their first of three annual reports where their political donations would become a matter of public record, but by then the regular session is already over.

One bill supporter said HB 2319 should serve as a sort of “Scarlet Letter,” shaming politicians into avoiding trying to shake down lobbyists during the session. Imagine the controversy if a disclosure shows that the chairman of a powerful committee accepted contributions from groups in favor of (or against) a particular bill while that bill is pending before his committee?

We understand that politicians need to raise money, and races are getting more expensive all the time.  We also know that contributions come from individuals and groups who support particular candidates or their positions.  Not every contribution should be viewed as the opening for a quid pro quo.

However, the fundraising that comes during the regular session is much closer to a tawdry connection between money and policy.  HB 2319 won’t eliminate that, but it should at least discourage what has become a common practice in Charleston, especially during election cycles.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

What Kind Of Cherry Tree Did Washington Fell? (If He Did)

The Free Press WV

Washington’s birthday is a good time to think about cherry trees. But rather than questioning whether George really chopped down the tree and then admitted to it, I find myself wondering what kind of a cherry it could have been.

(The story, incidentally, may be apocryphal. It was reported by Mason Locke “Parsons” Weems for his 1802 book, “Life of George Washington: With Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honorable to Himself and Exemplary to his Young Countrymen,“ but has never been decisively confirmed.)

Possible cherries felled by George

That cherry tree could well have been something akin to the sweet cherries we can buy or grow today. Sweet cherries (Prunus avium), sometimes called bird cherries or, in their wilder state, mazzard cherries, were among the plants ordered from Europe by the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629. By 1650, there was a cherry orchard in Yonkers, New York, and before the end of that century, there were plantings in Rhode Island, Maryland and Virginia.

Those cherry trees became so abundant that by 1749 Peter Kalm wrote that “all travelers are allowed to pluck ripe fruit in any garden which they pass by, provided they do not break any branches; and not even the most covetous farmer hindered them from so doing.“

So it is not unlikely that Washington had a few sweet cherry trees planted at his farmstead along the shores of the Rappahannock River in Virginia.

The legendary felled tree also could have been a tart cherry (P. cerasus). Though native to the Caucasus Mountains, this tree has been grown in many different places. The ancient Romans knew eight different varieties, and by the 17th century, 24 varieties were being grown in England. Colonists in Massachusetts planted tart cherries (the variety “Red Kentish”), so this tree also may have made its way in the nursery trade south to Virginia.

Cherries that George could not have felled

One thing is certain: Washington’s famous cherry tree could not have been one of the ornamental types commonly planted these days. These non-fruiting cherries originated in Asia and were introduced into America only about 100 years ago.

The most famous of these species is perhaps the Yoshino cherry (P. x yedoensis), which fringes the tidal basin in Washington, D.C.

Other Asian species introduced around the turn of the last century include the Higan cherry (P. subhirtella), the Sargent cherry (P. sargentii) and, perhaps the most widely planted today, the Japanese flowering cherry (P. serrulata).

Native cherries

Besides exotic introductions, the Eastern United States was full of wild, native cherry trees. Our native pin cherry (P. pennsylvanica, but also called bird cherry) is not much more than a bush. And if George had cut down a chokecherry (P. virginiana), another native species, his father probably would not have been riled. The tree doesn’t grow very large and the fruit, to quote William Ward (1634), “so furre the mouth that the tongue will cleave the roof.“ Good wildlife food, though, both of these species.

Also abundant – I am looking at three large, wild trees from my window as I write – is our native black cherry (P. serotina), also known as the rum cherry. This species is sometimes called the American sweet black cherry, but “sweet” is a stretch. Fruits of some trees have respectable flavor, but it’s accompanied by bitterness. Colonists did eat the fruit or, more often, mix it with rum into a cherry liqueur.

Black cherry fruit is enjoyed by birds and some humans, and the tree can be attractive, especially in a few months, when the branches will be drooping with long, white racemes of flowers.

The best part of the black cherry tree is the wood, a hardwood which with some sanding and then oil or varnish takes on a soft brown finish, with just a hint of red.


The Free Press WV

  • Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago as president cost millions in federal funds:    Trump plans to spend the coming weekend at his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida, making it the third weekend away in a row. These trips will cost an estimated $10 million in federal money. Here’s the cost breakdown.  MIC

  • CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTIC:  Secrets of Trump’s Controversial New EPA Secretary.  Scott Pruitt is Donald Trump’s controversial nominee to be EPA Secretary. He is also the Oklahoma Attorney General. A judge…  HEAVY

  • There Are Drawbacks to Those Autopilot Cars:  The headline says it all: “Elon Musk: Self-Driving Car Revolution Will Leave 15 Percent of World Population Without Jobs.“ Even as it improves the lives of some, technology destroys the livelihoods of others. What is significant here is that Musk is admitting it, something tech moguls rarely do. Good for him.    Heat Street

  • A Holocaust Historian Explains Why People Believe Trump’s Lies:  Insights about the science—and power—of denial.  ESQUIRE

Gilmer County Board of Education Meeting Monday - 02.20.17 - Today

The Free Press WV
Gilmer County Board of Education
Central Office
Monday, February 20, 2017 – 5:30 PM

I. CALL TO ORDER - Roll Call by President







        West Virginia School Board Association Executive Director

        General discussion regarding procedures for conducting a county superintendent search


        A. Minutes: January 17, 2017

        B. Student Transfers

        C. Field Trips

        D. Volunteers

        E. Treasurer’s Report

        F. Policies ATTACHMENT VIII.F


        A. CGCC – January 17, 2017 - Dr. Carl Armour

        B. RESA 7 – January, 2017 - Norma Hurley



        A. Appointment of Extension Service Representative

        B. Elevator Contract


        A. Field Trips

        B. Reports

        C. Academic Reports

The next Regular Board Meeting is Monday, March 20, 2017.


Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., is seeking to price its initial public offering at $14 to $16 a share

It’s setting its valuation below initial expectations.

Mark Zuckerberg has shared a lengthy new letter explaining his vision for the future of Facebook

The post is Zuckerberg’s first revision to the original founder’s letter he wrote ahead of Facebook’s public offering more than five years ago.

Samsung chief Jay Lee has been arrested

He is under investigation for his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led parliament to impeach President Park Geun-hye.

Google built an AI that will play piano duets with you

The project is called “A.I. DUET”.

Twitter has a new tactic for curbing abuse and harassment: a time-out

The company has started temporarily restricting the access of accounts it determines to be abusive, a Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider. Affected accounts will only have their tweets seen by their followers until the ban is lifted.

Spotify will expand its U.S. headquarters and relocate to 4 World Trade Center in New York City

It is creating 1,000 new jobs.

Airbnb has acquired Montreal-based Luxury Retreats, which boasts properties like an eight-bedroom villa in Turks and Caicos

Bloomberg first reported the deal and pegged the acquisition cost at under $300 million.

Tinder has bought a video sharing app that could make it more like Snapchat

The app — bought for an undisclosed price — is called Wheel.

80 new Pokémon have officially been released into the wilds of the Pokémon Go smartphone game

They are drawn from the “Pokémon Gold” and “Pokémon Silver” classic Game Boy Colour games.

Uber reportedly has a secret program that allows staff to cash out shares

The company is now valued at $68 billion.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  WV Scholar Program underway

The 10th annual MetroNews West Virginia Scholar Program is underway for high school juniors across the Mountain State. The student chosen will win a four-year scholarship to West Virginia Wesleyan valued at $160,000.

Students can apply at The application deadline is April 16. Semifinalists will be announced May 1 and finalists announced May 22. Online voting at will take place from May 22-June 16. The winner will be announced at the 2017 WV Scholar Award Luncheon at Wesleyan on June 21.

The grand prize includes tuition, fees, room and board at the Buckhannon school.

Second prize is a four-year, $5,000 scholarship, while third prize is a four-year, $2,500 scholarship to West Virginia Wesleyan. All of the awards begin with the 2018 fall semester.

The scholarship is available to any high school junior in West Virginia.

“Every winner always says they didn’t think they had a chance to win this scholarship,”  John Waltz, vice president for enrollment management at West Virginia Wesleyan, said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “We encourage everyone to take time to tell their stories.”

In addition to MetroNews and West Virginia Wesleyan, the sponsors for the 2017 MetroNews West Virginia Scholar Program are the West Virginia Hospital Association, ZMM Architects and Engineers, the West Virginia Forestry Association, the West Virginia Farm Bureau and Friends of Coal.

►  Longtime private trout stream to become DNR property

A fertile trout stream in Grant County, maintained as a private fishery for many years, will soon be open to the public.  The Division of Natural Resources announced at the recent meeting of the Natural Resources Commission plans to purchase a 140 acre tract of land which includes a little more than a mile of stream along Spring Run near the community of Dorcas.

“For probably more than 40 or 50 years it’s been managed as a fly fishing only, catch and release stream,” said Brett Preston, Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “We thought it was important to continue that management as we acquire the property.”

Property owner Jerry Burke was adamant about maintaining the integrity of the stream and required strict adherence to his rules over five decades.  Since the property has been private, it’s not presently on the DNR’s trout stocking list.  It was stocked many, many years ago, however it’s unlikely it will be added to the state’s stocking list anytime soon because according to Preston the stream is naturally productive.

“It has maintained itself as a reproducing wild rainbow trout fishery,” Preston said. “But recently some of the surveys have indicated wild brook trout numbers are increasing in Spring Run as well.  We’re pretty excited about the opportunity.”

Fly fishermen are equally excited.  The agency has no plans to change anything other than access.  Under Burke’s jurisdiction, fishing was allowed with permission, but that will no longer be the case as the state buys the land and opens it to the general public.  However, it will still be maintained as catch and release and fly fishing only.

The section being purchased is the middle section between the Spring Run Trout Hatchery and the main road along Spring Run.  It’s surrounded by private land on either end.

►  Bills dealing with antler sheds and Sunday hunting top DNR legislative agenda

A lot of dedicated hunters in West Virginia will comb the woods of their favorite hunting ground during January, February, and March in search of shed antlers.  Finding the dropped tines of whitetail trophy bucks has become as much of a passion to some as actually hunting the deer itself.  Some hunters use those sheds as part of their planned pursuit of the same buck the following year.  A discovery of shed antlers is confirmation he survived hunting season.

One problem though, shed hunting in West Virginia is illegal.  Few in West Virginia probably realized the practice was against the law unless you’re extremely familiar with the West Virginia State Code.

“Those are considered to be parts of wildlife,” said Deputy Division of Natural Resources Director Emily Fleming. “You cannot keep, maintain, and possess parts of wildlife unless you legally kill it.”

However, Fleming admitted the illegality is an extreme technicality.  The agency has never enforced the rule and now wants to erase it from the book entirely.

“The DNR is very optimistic we can get this passed because it’s an activity that’s going on now,” Fleming said. “What we want to do is take the code that prohibits this and allow it to happen. We want those who are taking advantage of going out and hunting those sheds to be able to do so.”

The shed legislation is one of a package of bills the DNR is pushing during the 2017 regular legislative session.  The other major bill in the bundle is is a measure which would lift the prohibition on Sunday hunting statewide.

“It has been blessed by the Governor’s office and we hope to grow the economy of the state by allowing more out-of-state residents to come in and hunt as well as our state residents who want to be in the woods seven days a week,” Fleming said.

Last year’s strong showing of support in the 11 counties where the Sunday hunting question was on the ballot provided the fuel many lawmakers will need to support the idea. Typically the Division of Natural Resources has remained neutral on the question of Sunday hunting, but this year that has changed.  Governor Jim Justice and new DNR Director Steve McDaniel are very interested in making West Virginia hunting a tourist attraction.  It’s reasoned the task will be made far easier if visitors get an extra day to hunt on the weekend and could be a financial windfall to thousands of private businesses who derive a sizeable portion of their revenue from hunting..

“That’s what we hope to do is get those people from out of state to come to West Virginia and give them that extra hunting day,” explained Fleming.

Previously voted upon measures allowed for Sunday hunting on private land only. The bill backed by the DNR, according to Fleming, will apply to all land in West Virginia–both private and public.

The DNR’s other bills for the session include creation of a special category of Hunter Education Certification for those who have a developmental disability.  The bill calls for creation of a hunter education program specifically designed to help those individuals become certified and allowed to hunt under the supervision of a licensed adult hunter.

Another piece of legislation would seek to exempt the names and personal information of hunting and fishing license holders in West Virginia from the rules governing the Freedom of Information Act.  Fleming told members of the Natural Resources Commission there was concern over protecting the information.  She cited an example of a manufacturer of outdoor products who could seek and legally obtain the information through FOIA to create a potential customer list.

Two more bills introduced by the DNR are considered “clean up” measures to adjust technical problems with the language in the state’s crossbow hunting law and legislation regarding the Department of Wildlife.

►  3 chosen as finalists for Fairmont State president

Three candidates have been chosen as finalists for president at Fairmont State University.

The finalists are Anthony L. Brizendine, Christopher P. Cirmo and Michelle R. Howard-Vital.

Brizendine is chairman of the Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management at the University of North Carolina. Cirmo is dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Howard-Vital is executive vice president and provost at Florida Memorial University.

Brizendine visited Fairmont State’s campus last week, while Cirmo and Howard-Vital have campus visits scheduled later this month.

Maria Rose is retiring as Fairmont State president in June.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►  Presidents Day comes at interesting time

Presidents Day is set aside to honor all presidents. But it is primarily a federal holiday to celebrate the birthday of George Washington.

In some states, such as Arizona, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln is specifically included as part of Presidents Day, though Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) is not a federal holiday.

Recently, in a column that I wrote in this space about Black History Month, the first Black History Week honored the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Many things have been said and written – some factual and some not – about both men, but there are some things that we know for a fact.

Washington, regarded as the “father of our country,” fought long and hard for his country, well before he became president. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-75), was commander in chief of the Continental Army and the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention.

The Electoral College (we’ve heard these two words quite a bit lately) made Washington its unanimous choice for our first president and elected him to a second term in 1793. He was the only president who did not represent a political party. During his presidency (1789-97), the first U.S. patent was issued, the first U.S. Census was taken and the New York Stock Exchange was founded.

Because Lincoln struggled to preserve the Union and ultimately prevailed, he has become a symbol of democracy for all Americans. At age 25, he was elected to the Illinois Legislature as a member of the Whig Party and re-elected in 1836. He also served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican Party chose Lincoln in 1860 as its presidential candidate. When he was inaugurated in 1861, seven states had already left the Union. A month later, the Civil War had begun. In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. Historians go back and forth about his reasons for freeing the slaves.

Lincoln was the first president to wear a beard and was the tallest at 6 feet 4 inches.

During Lincoln’s presidency (1861-65) a Civil War was fought, he gave his famous Gettysburg speech, the first federal money was issued, West Virginia and Nevada became states and transcontinental telegraph lines were completed.

“His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong,” American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about Lincoln.

Our most recent presidential inauguration gives us an opportunity to look back at the accomplishments of two past presidential giants as well as a time to look at how difficult the job of the presidency can be.

I found some interesting statements made by some from the past who expressed their thoughts on the perils of serving as president of the United States:

  • “I’d rather see my son thrown as a log on a fire than see him president of the United States,” John Quincy Adams’s mother, Abigail – a former first lady  – once wrote.
  • Martin Van Buren’s wife said after his election, “I wish that my husband’s friends had left him where he is, happy and contented in retirement.”
  • The daughter of William Howard Taft said of his term in office, “Those years in the White House were the only unhappy years of his entire life.”
  • Zachary Taylor’s wife prayed that her husband would not be elected and called his nomination “a plot to deprive me of his society and shorten his life.”
  • When Vice President Harry Truman was told of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he asked Mrs. Roosevelt, “Is there anything we can do for you?” The weary first lady replied, “Is there anything that we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”
  • “In America any boy can become president, and I suppose it’s just one of the risks he takes,” Adlai Stevenson once said.

Little wonder that former first lady Michele Obama wants no part of speculations about her running for president. Her husband was treated so poorly by some that one can only imagine how a woman of color would fare. Though many aspire to become president, it’s a daunting job, as most find out – no matter who you are.

►  Drivers see higher premiums after not-at-fault crashes

Most drivers don’t expect to be hit with a rate hike on their auto insurance after a car accident that wasn’t their fault. But a consumer group says it happens, and it’s a problem.

The Washington-based Consumer Federation of America says it found rate hikes on annual premiums as high as $400, in some cases.

In the report released Monday, the group analyzed premium quotes in 10 cities, including New York and Chicago, from five of the nation’s largest auto insurers. The researchers found that Progressive aggressively used a not-at-fault penalty, surcharging drivers in eight of the 10 selected cities. Rates in Oklahoma City and Los Angeles did not change. Oklahoma and California prohibit not-at-fault penalties.

The group said GEICO and Farmers raised rates in some states by 10 percent or more. Allstate had occasional penalties. State Farm was the exception, with no increases on premiums for not-at-fault accidents.

“Most people know that if they cause an accident or get a ticket they could face a premium increase, but they don’t expect to be punished if a reckless driver careens into them,“ said Bob Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and the former insurance commissioner of Texas.

The industry countered that setting auto insurance rates is complicated and insurers look at many factors, such as a person’s driving record, where the driver lives, the kind of car insured and the number of miles on it. Some insurers may consider not-at-fault accidents, according industry officials, but not all do.

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies says there could be other reasons for the rising premiums that CFA found. But, “the report itself only underscores the fact that insurance rates can vary widely from company to company, based on how different companies may weigh the many different factors that are considered in determining rates,“ said Neil Alldredge, the association’s senior vice president for state and policy affairs.

Among the cities tested, drivers in New York City and Baltimore paid out the most for doing nothing wrong, the consumer group said. In Baltimore, premiums increased more than $250 and in New York City, it was about $400. In Chicago and Kansas City, the average increase was about $100.

The federation’s report found that people with moderate incomes often saw bigger premium increases than upper-income people. That seemed to mirror average premiums in the report even for people with clean driving records and no accidents, with middle-income people generally seeing higher premium rates than those people with bigger incomes.

The consumer group called the five biggest auto insurers and asked for quotes for two 30-year-old female drivers, living at the same address in the different cities, licensed for 14 years and driving a 2006 Toyota Camry with 10,000 miles. One woman had a master’s degree and was a home owner. The other woman had a high school diploma and rented her home.

The report found drivers with higher incomes, on average, paid $78 more after a no-fault accident. Moderate-incomes drivers paid $208 more after an accident in which they were not to blame.

►  Mystery Man Now ‘Main Suspect’ in Girls’ Murders

A man photographed walking along a northern Indiana trail system around the time two teenage girls later found slain were dropped off by a relative is now considered “the main suspect,“ State Police said Sunday. The unidentified man previously had been considered a person authorities wanted to speak to in their investigation of the killings of 14-year-old Liberty German and 13-year-old Abigail Williams, reports the AP. “He’s not just someone we want to talk to; we consider him a suspect in these murders,“ Sgt. Tony Slocum said Sunday. “We’re officially calling him a suspect versus a subject we’re looking to speak to. He’s going to be our main suspect at this time,“ he said. The girls’ bodies were found Tuesday about a quarter-mile from an abandoned railroad bridge that’s part of a trail system where the teens had gone hiking on during a day off school in Delphi, a community of about 3,000 people.

Their deaths have been ruled a double-homicide, but authorities have not disclosed how the girls died. Slocum said the fact that the man hasn’t contacted authorities in the days since two photos of him were released is just a tiny part of what led them to describe him as a suspect. “That doesn’t make him a suspect by not contacting us. It’s the totality of the evidence we’ve been developing so far that leads us to that,“ he said. Slocum is urging the public to call police with tips about the man. Police on Wednesday released two photos of the man walking Monday along Delphi’s trail system around the time the girls were dropped off. On Saturday, a large crowd filled Delphi Community High School for a memorial honoring the two girls. A line of mourners wrapped around the school as people waited to enter the building. Private funeral services were scheduled Sunday for the teens.

►  Man Found After 5 Nights Lost in Colorado Wildnerness

A man from New York with “little winter gear” survived five nights lost in a Colorado park while beset by heavy snow and freezing temperatures, the Denver Post reports. Bryan Skilinski entered Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on February 11. According to a Facebook post from park staff, Skilinski immediately became “disoriented” while hiking in deep snow. He spent the coming days covering many miles while trying to find his car. A search involving nearly 30 people from various agencies was launched Thursday after park staff realized Skilinski’s car had been sitting in a parking lot unattended for five days. Skilinski was found a mile and a half from the park’s visitor center. Park staff say he was in “relatively good health.“

►  ‘Jane Roe’ of Roe v. Wade Dies at 69

Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure, died Saturday. She was 69. McCorvey died at an assisted living center in Texas, journalist Joshua Prager, who is working on a book about McCorvey told the AP. He said she died of heart failure. McCorvey was 22, unmarried, unemployed, and pregnant for the third time when in 1969 she sought to have an abortion in Texas, where the procedure was illegal except to save a woman’s life. The subsequent lawsuit, known as Roe v. Wade, led to Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that established abortion rights.

Decades later, McCorvey underwent a conversion, becoming an evangelical Christian and joining the anti-abortion movement. A short time later, she underwent another religious conversion and became a Roman Catholic. “I’m 100 percent pro-life. I don’t believe in abortion even in an extreme situation. If the woman is impregnated by a rapist, it’s still a child. You’re not to act as your own God,“ she said 1998. Prior to that, though, she was an ardent supporter of abortion rights and worked for a time at a Dallas women’s clinic where abortions were performed. Her 1994 autobiography included abortion-rights sentiments along with details about dysfunctional parents, drug abuse, alcoholism, an abusive husband, an attempted suicide, and lesbianism.

►  Man Convicted in World Trade Center Bombing Dies in Prison

The man known as the “blind sheikh,“ who was convicted of plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist attacks in New York City, died Saturday in a North Carolina jail, CBS News reports. According to the AP, Omar Abdel-Rahman, born in Egypt, had been blind since he was an infant due to childhood diabetes. He became a leader of the militant group Gamaa Islamiya and, Reuters reports, was the “face of radical Islam” during the 80s and 90s. Despite being on a State Department list of people with terror connections, Rahman arrived in the US on a tourist visa in 1990 then received a Green Card and permanent resident status. The CIA may have pulled some strings for him.

In 1993, a truck bomb exploded under the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring a thousand more. Rahman was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for planning that attack and an expanded “war of urban terrorism” that would include the bombings of New York City bridges and the UN. Rahman sought to end the US’ support of Israel and Egypt. He continued as a leader for radical Muslims while in prison. Osama bin Laden had even vowed to free him at one point. Officials say Rahman died of natural causes following a history of coronary artery disease and diabetes. He was 78.

►  Fake Agent Gets 40 Years for Extorting Photos From Girls

A California man who posed as a modeling agent to extort nude photos from young girls across America has been sentenced to almost 40 years in prison—twice as long as he has been alive. Cesar Mauricio Estrada-Davila, 20, pleaded no contest this week to 38 felony counts, including 16 counts of possessing child or youth pornography, and was sentenced to 39 years and 8 months, CBS reports. Prosecutors say that for several months in early 2015, Estrada-Davila reached out to young girls he found on social media websites. He told them he could make them famous and asked for photos of them in their underwear, then threatened to show the underwear photos to their families and friends if they didn’t send him nude photos.

Estrada-Davila was charged in connection with 21 victims between the ages of 12 and 17 in eight states. Police say he was arrested after a 14-year-old California girl told her father about his demands, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports. Cops searched his Los Angeles County home and found more than 26,000 pages of text and online conversations between him and his victims. Before a plea deal was worked out, Estrada-Davila faced more than 150 charges, enough to send him to prison for life several times over.

►  Woman Scores Half-Court Shot, $500, Fiancé

When Erin Tobin shoots, sometimes she really scores: The 30-year-old New Yorker and college basketball fan was watching her alma mater Siena take on Manhattan on Thursday night in Albany when she got the opportunity to take a half-court shot with a $500 gift card on the line. Not only did she sink the shot and score the cash, reports People, but she turned around to see the Dunkin’ Donuts mascot ditching his costume—revealing Tobin’s boyfriend, Steve Duckett, who sank to one knee, ring in hand.

“I was jumping up and down after hitting the shot since my brother said he’d give me $50 if I even hit the rim,“ says Tobin. “Then I turned around expecting a gift card from Dunkin’ Donuts and there he was on his knees and I didn’t have any words.“ Spoiler alert: She said yes. Says Duckett: “I said to myself, ‘Of course she would hit the shot.‘“ The AP notes that that wasn’t the end of Tobin’s streak that night: Siena beat Manhattan 94-71.

►  MIA After Party: $65K Elk Head

It’s just not a good party until the stuffed animal head goes missing, and now the AP reports that police in Delaware are searching for a mounted elk’s head valued at $65,000 that went missing from a home during what was apparently a heck of a party. Police said in a statement that they were called Monday to a home in Wilmington in Delaware’s New Castle County. Police say when they arrived they were told that the elk’s head was taken from the home at some point during a February 10 party thrown by the homeowner’s daughter, reports the Journal News. Police say about 50 people were at the party and that officers who walked through the home afterward saw multiple holes in walls and three broken windows. Police are asking that anyone with information about the missing elk’s head to contact them.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Protagonist in Vatican leaks scandal leaks more in new book

The most colorful protagonist in the Vatican’s leaks scandal – an ambitious, name-dropping communications consultant — has emerged from a bruising trial with a baby, a business and a book describing the behind-the-scenes drama of Pope Francis’ reform efforts.

“In the Name of Peter” hits Italian bookstores Tuesday, seven months after author Francesca Chaouqui received a 10-month suspended sentence for conspiring to pass confidential documents onto two journalists.

In an interview Monday, Chaouqui called the book her “testament of truth” and said she doesn’t fear a possible new Vatican trial for publishing confidential Holy See documents in her book.

“I’m ready to defend myself in Italy with all the strength that I have,“ she told The Associated Press in an interview at a downtown Roman hotel. “I’m not the same person who went (to the Vatican) like an obedient puppy who they put on trial.“

Chaouqui was the lone woman on an eight-member papal reform commission tasked with compiling information about the Vatican’s vast financial holdings and recommending ways to improve efficiency and transparency.

In the book, Chaouqui recounts the commission’s utter dysfunction, as members went their own ways and angled for prominence with Vatican authorities behind each other’s backs. She reproduces emails and previously unpublished documents, audits and proposals for financial reform.

“It tells how the commission, in reality, failed in its mission,“ Chaouqui said. “In reality, it created an enormous chaos, enormous.“

Three of the commission members ended up with continued Vatican roles; Chaouqui and two others ended up on trial.

The Vatican accused Chaouqui; Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, and Vallejo’s assistant of conspiring to leak confidential documents from the commission’s work to two journalists. The journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, also were put on trial, accused of breaking Vatican law by publishing confidential information.

Fittipaldi and Nuzzi wrote two blockbuster books that exposed the greed of bishops and cardinals angling for huge apartments, the extraordinarily high costs of getting a saint made, and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euros in rental income because of undervalued real estate.

In July, the Vatican court declared it had no jurisdiction to prosecute the journalists, but it convicted Chaouqui and Vallejo of conspiracy, while absolving the assistant. Vallejo was sentenced to 18 months in prison, though Francis ordered him freed just before Christmas.

As the trial neared its end, Chaouqui gave birth to baby Pietro, who now vies for her attention along with her consulting firm, the book and another book in the works. She insists “In the Name of Pietro” isn’t meant to hurt the church, but to tell the truth and “make order” out of the chaos that her life became at the center of Vatican intrigue.

Asked Monday about Chaouqui’s book, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said, “We’re not losing sleep over it.“

“As for the suspended sentence, let’s not anticipate the work of the competent authorities,“ he added in an email.

►  Pakistan shuts key border crossing in wake of shrine attack

Pakistani authorities shut down a second key border crossing into Afghanistan, halting trade supplies to the neighboring landlocked country and increasing tensions between the two nations in the wake of a bloody suicide bombing at a beloved shrine in Pakistan, officials said Saturday.

The border closure at Chaman in southwest Baluchistan province came after an attack on a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday left 88 worshippers dead. The move was seen as an effort to pressure Kabul to take action against militants who Pakistan says have sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

Responsibility for the attack at Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine in Sehwan was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Pakistan security forces have launched nationwide operations that they say have left more than 100 “terrorists” dead.

Pakistan closed the border at Torkham hours after the bombing and the Chaman border was shut late Friday, said a senior army official.

A second official confirmed the details, saying trucks and shipping containers carrying trade supplies were parked miles away from the border crossings. Torkham connects Pakistan to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province and Chaman is located near Spin Boldak in Kandahar.

The Pakistani officials asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to brief the media on the record.

The latest developments come amid media reports that Pakistani troops backed by artillery targeted camps belonging to Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, near the Afghan border, causing an unspecified number of militant casualties.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed to have carried out a number of attacks, including the February 13 suicide assault in Lahore that killed seven police officer and six civilians. Pakistan says Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the main Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militant groups had been operating from Afghan areas near the Pakistani border and that Kabul in the past ignored Islamabad’s pleas to take action against them.

Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister in the eastern Punjab province, announced late Friday the arrest of a suspect in connection with the February 13 suicide bombing. He played a video containing what he said was the man’s confession, in which the man says he was associated with Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and that he helped the bomber to carry out the attack.

Pakistan’s military said Friday it summoned Afghan diplomats and handed over a list of 76 suspected “terrorists” who were hiding in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants immediate action by Afghan authorities, including the suspects’ extradition to Islamabad.

In Kabul, the Afghan government Saturday summoned Pakistan’s ambassador in protest of recent shelling in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces. The foreign ministry summoned Ambassador Abrar Hussain in Kabul, where Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai sought an explanation from Hussain, but also gave his condolences regarding recent suicide attacks in Pakistan.

At least two people have been killed and two others wounded in the shelling from Pakistan, according to reports.

Karzai said the Afghan government wants Pakistan to take strict action against terrorists that are hiding in Pakistan.

He expressed concern over the closure of the Torkham and Chaman border crossings and asked that the gates be reopened. Apart from disrupting trade, the closure of border may also delay the repatriation of Afghan refugees by the refugee agency of the United Nations.

These refugees have been living in Pakistan since the 1980s after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Pakistani officials say the country sheltered 5 million Afghan refugees at one time and there are still an estimated 1.3 million registered and over a million more unregistered living in the country. Pakistan has allowed registered refugees to remain in the country until the end of this year.

Also on Saturday, Afghan army chief of staff General Qadam Shah Shahim, said his forces killed 1,955 Islamic State group fighters over the past year.

He told reporters in Kabul that he regretted that Pakistan attacked eastern Afghanistan with artillery fire and said “we have shared our concerns through diplomatic channels with Pakistani authorities. We are waiting for the response through the diplomatic channels; otherwise we are fully ready to defend our country.“

To a question about the list of 76 “terrorists” given by Islamabad to Kabul, Shahim said they too gave such a list of terrorists to Pakistan in the past and hoped Pakistan will act against them because they were using Pakistani soil to launch attacks in his country.

►  U.S.-backed Syrian fighters inch closer to IS ‘capital’

U.S.-backed fighters captured a village in northern Syria Saturday from members of the Islamic State group, bringing them closer to cutting a road linking two major IS-held cities in the country and closing in on the extremists’ de facto capital.

The push came as Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned that if the predominantly Kurdish force eventually entered the city of Raqqa it will have negative effects on the relations between Ankara and Washington.

The Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces has been on the offensive toward the city of Raqqa since November. Still, once they approach the city the battle is expected to be bloody and long since the extremists have set up fortifications and have thousands of battle-hardened fighters.

Iraqi forces have been trying to capture Mosul since October and the extremists still hold the western half of the city.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the SDF said Saturday that the predominantly-Kurdish force captured the village of Jawees.

The Observatory said SDF fighters are getting close to cutting the road that the extremists use to travel between Raqqa and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

SDF fighters now control most of the villages and towns north of Raqqa and are gaining ground in eastern areas. The loss of Raqqa would be a major blow to the extremists since it was one of the first cities they fully controlled before declaring a caliphate in June 2014 in large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Yildirim was quoted by the state-run Anadolu new agency while on a flight in Germany as saying that Turkey has made an offer regarding “saving Raqqa” from IS, adding that it will not be correct to move in with Kurdish fighters.

In August, Turkish troops rolled over the border to help Syrian opposition forces battle IS and halt the advance of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters. But Turkey has become bogged down in a grueling battle over the town of al-Bab, one of the few remaining IS strongholds in northern Syria.

Turkey views the main Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as a terrorist organization because of their links to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. It accuses the group of involvement in a series a bomb attacks in Turkey carried out by Kurdish militants – charges the YPG rejects. The YPG is major element of the SDF.

The U.S. has embedded 300 special forces troops with the SDF. The White House says they are advisers. French special forces are also embedded with the group.

“We have said that a terror organization cannot be used against another terror organization,“ Yildirim said. “That doesn’t work in friendship. I think the new U.S. administration will take this evaluation into consideration.“

The Turkish prime minister said he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Germany can be included in the Raqqa operation. He said that the operation can be carried out by Turkish and U.S. troops along with Syrian opposition fighters “them in the front, us in the back.“

“There will be a military presence from the U.S. and Turkey. We will not directly join the operation; we will give tactical support, if we agree in principle. Possibilities and capacities are being evaluated,“ Yildirim said.

Last week, the top U.S. commander for the counter-IS campaign in Iraq and Syria, Lt. General Stephen Townsend, said forces leading the fights for Raqqa and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul should prevail within the next six months.

Regarding the U.S. entering Raqqa with the YPG, Yildirim said: “We are hoping they will not make such a decision. If they do, it would be a serious problem in relations with the U.S.“

►  Russia now recognizes Ukrainian rebel documents, passports

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order for Russia to recognize passports and other documents issued by separatist rebel authorities in eastern Ukraine.

The signing, announced by the Kremlin on Saturday, brought sharp criticism from Ukrainian officials. Ukraine’s national security council head, Oleksander Turchynov, said the order effectively means that Russia is recognizing the rebel authorities and is abandoning the Minsk Agreement, a two-year-old stalemated plan to end the war between the government and the Russia-backed separatists.

However a Russian lawmaker, Vladimir Dzhabarov, said the measure does not formally recognize the rebel authorities as legitimate.

Some rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine borders Russia, and Ukrainians will never forget that Russia annexed their Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

More than 9,800 people have died in the war in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

►  Trump sons open Dubai golf club as namesake now US president

Two of Donald Trump’s sons ceremonially opened a Trump-branded golf club in Dubai on Saturday, meeting privately with Emirati elites as questions remain about how separated their father is from the empire bearing his name.

Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who now lead the Trump Organization, watched as fireworks lit the sky over the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, on the outskirts of the city-state home to the world’s tallest building and other architectural marvels.

The course’s opening comes after Donald Trump tried for years to enter the Arab market as a real estate mogul who later earned millions licensing his name to projects. The course’s opening now, as well as long-standing plans to open a second Trump-branded course in Dubai, could raise security and ethical issues for America’s 45th president going forward.

Though bars at the club eventually will serve alcohol, only soft drinks were dispensed at the windy gala Saturday night.

Billionaire Hussain Sajwani’s DAMAC Properties partnered with the Trump Organization to build the golf course at the heart of a development of villas and apartment blocks called DAMAC Hills. Among them are some 100 Trump-branded villas selling from $1.3 million to more than $4 million.

A string octet played classical music on the edge of the course designed by American golf architect Gil Hanse.

A pro shop inside the clubhouse sold Trump International Golf Club baseball caps for $40 and Trump-branded golf balls for $5.50. Absent were the red “Make America Great Again” caps made famous by Trump’s campaign.

Both sons gave brief remarks at the opening, neither touching on their father’s new job. Donald Jr. instead applauded Dubai’s hereditary ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“It’s truly awe inspiring,“ he said. “In Dubai, if you can envision it, you can build it.“

Earlier Saturday, Eric and Donald Jr. attended a private luncheon at Sajwani’s mansion on Dubai’s man-made Palm Jumeirah archipelago, speaking underneath an ornamental clock whose face spelled “SAJWANI VILLA.“

“It’s rare in the world where you can be such great friends with a partner and that’s what we have right here,“ Eric Trump said. “Hussain, he is an amazing person and DAMAC is an amazing company.“

The two Trump brothers met with the over 80 people gathered at the event, attendee Niraj Masand told The Associated Press.

They were “expressing their gratitude to Mr. Sajwani, who is the chairman of DAMAC, and sort of expressing their happiness to meet with all the partners,“ said Masand, a director of the real estate firm Banke International.

Ties between the Trumps and Sajwani remain strong. One of the Trump Organization’s subsidiaries received from $1 million to $5 million from DAMAC for running the golf club, according to a U.S. Federal Election Committee report submitted in May.

Sajwani and his family also attended a New Year’s Eve celebration at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where Trump referred to them as “the most beautiful people from Dubai.“

Trump days later told journalists that DAMAC had offered the Trump Organization $2 billion in deals after his election, something DAMAC also confirmed.

“I must say, working with the Trump family and the Trump Organization was and continues to be a pleasure,“ said Sajwani, who made some of his fortune supplying U.S. forces during the 1991 Gulf War that expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Over the past decade, his companies have been awarded at least $1 million in contracting work, according to U.S. government records reviewed by the AP.

The Trump Organization has said it won’t make new foreign deals while its namesake is president. A previously planned Trump-branded golf course designed by Tiger Woods is still being built by DAMAC further down the road.

However, Kuwait and Bahrain both have scheduled events at a Trump-branded hotel in Washington. Experts also have raised concerns that existing Trump business abroad could run afoul of the so-called “emoluments clause” of the U.S. constitution.

That clause bars public officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments and companies controlled by them without the consent of Congress. Already, a liberal-funded watchdog group has filed a lawsuit citing the clause.

Trump’s sons attended the Dubai events as private businessmen, but still traveled with a Secret Service detail as they are immediate family to the president. Guests went through a metal detector and had their bags X-rayed before attending the gala, though Dubai police kept a low profile.

Experts already have warned the Trump brand abroad now faces a global terror risk . However, the United Arab Emirates, a staunch U.S. ally in the war against the Islamic State group and host to some 5,000 American military personnel, remains a peaceful corner of the Middle East.

Gulf Arab leaders largely have been positive so far about Trump, hoping to see a harder line from America on Iran following the nuclear deal with world powers negotiated in part by the Obama administration.

The UAE’s foreign minister even backed Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations earlier this month, which didn’t include the UAE or neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai golf course marks Trump’s first successful venture in the Arab world. But it has raised questions about how the Trump Organization’s many international business interests will affect Trump’s administration.

Meanwhile, trips abroad by Trump’s two sons are expected to continue. Before Trump’s inauguration, his son Eric visited the Trump Tower Punta del Este in Uruguay to check on the tower’s progress and personally greet buyers. A Trump hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, is also expected to soon host Trump’s sons.

►  Turkish Airlines flight to Toronto evacuated after note seen

A Turkish Airlines plane in Istanbul was evacuated Saturday after a suspicious note was discovered in one of its bathrooms.

The Turkish Airlines cabin crew found the words “BOMB TO TORONTO” on the bathroom’s wall on Flight TK-17 during its pushback from the gate, a Turkish Airlines press official told The Associated Press. The plane was leaving Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport for Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The plane returned to its parking spot and was evacuated. The airline said the plane and its passengers underwent security procedures, but the official said nothing suspicious was found. The press official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed by his company to give his name.

A new plane has been designated for the flight to Toronto.

►  Protesters in Barcelona urge Spain to take in more refugees

At least 160,000 protesters marched Saturday in Barcelona to demand that Spain’s conservative-led government increase its efforts to take in refugees from war-torn countries like Syria.

Spain has accepted just 1,100 refugees of the over 17,000 it has pledged to take in.

Marchers held a large banner and signs in Catalan with the slogans “Enough Excuses! Take Them In Now!“ and “No More Deaths, Open The Borders!“ as they made their way through the city center to its Mediterranean coast.

Barcelona police said 160,000 people took part in the march, while organizers said it reached 300,000 participants.

“There is an ample consensus in Catalonia to demand that the (government’s) commitments are upheld,“ said organizer Ruben Wagensberg.

In September 2015, Spain’s government pledged to bring 17,337 refugees in within two years: 15,888 from camps in Italy and Greece and 1,449 from Turkey and Libya. On Thursday, a group of 66 refugees— 65 Syrians and one Iraqi – who arrived in Madrid raised the total number of refugees that Spain has taken in to just 1,100.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, a former anti-eviction activist who has pushed Spain’s government to let her city accept more refugees, joined the march.

“It is very important that in a Europe of uncertainty where xenophobia is on the rise for Barcelona to be a capital of hope,“ Colau said.

Colau had also criticized the federal government’s stance toward refugees in December at a Vatican conference on Europe’s refugee crisis.

In contrast to Spain, fellow European Union member Germany took in 890,000 asylum-seekers in 2015 and another 280,000 in 2016.

Germany decided last year on more than 695,000 asylum applications. Nearly 60 percent of the applicants were granted either full refugee status or a lesser form of protection.

►  Vatican-sponsored conference criticizes Trump orders

Speakers at a Vatican-sponsored conference in Northern California — including an archbishop — denounced Donald Trump’s orders on immigration and travel and vowed to fight them at a meeting Friday.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said President Barack Obama deported a high number of people, but the harsh tone and cruelty coming out of the new administration was prompting mass fear and panic.

“They’re playing with people’s emotions and toying with their lives and futures, and that is not right,“ said Gomez, who noted his city has an estimated 1 million people who are living in the country illegally.

Talk at the four-day conference on economic inequality in Modesto, California, was bound to collide with the new president because the agenda involved housing, migration and worker dignity.

Modesto lies in California’s agricultural heartland where Latino immigrants represent a significant part of the labor force for the area’s farmers. The meeting was being held in the United States for the first time after Pope Francis nearly three years ago launched global meetings to explore the “economy of exclusion.“

The pope welcomed the group Thursday night with a letter in which he said “no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist” and urged those gathered to make neighbors of anyone in need, especially those without homes, money or work.

The conference was scheduled before the U.S. presidential election and Trump’s recent announcement of a crackdown on people illegally in the country and a travel ban limiting entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The ban is legally on hold, and Trump is drafting a new order.

The conference opened Thursday with the first names called of some two dozen activists who did not attend because they were fearful of the political climate.

Trump won 52 percent of the Catholic vote, propelled by strong support from white Catholics, according to the Pew Research Center.
Not all oppose the president’s orders. Chris Jackson of the organization Catholics4Trump said in an email that Trump’s ban limiting entry from largely Muslim countries is reasonable and designed to protect citizens.

“Catholicism has always recognized the right of nations to have and enforce borders,“ he said.

The gathering of more than 600 clergy and social justice activists also included a session on racism Friday, where speakers encouraged religious people and institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, to confront their own racism.

Bishop Shelton Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana said the church has whispered at times when “the church should have spoken boldly.“

Likewise, Andrea Cristina Mercado of the National Domestic Worker Alliance called on the church to do more.

“We need the church to speak clearly,“ she said, to rousing cheers from the audience. “Be bold. Take bold action. Offer sanctuary at Catholic churches.“

Innocent Rugaragu, a 42-year-old member of the PICO National Network immigration reform group, said he never thought people could be rounded up and deported from a country as wealthy as the United States, which he said has always stood for hope to people around the world.

Rugaragu, who is from Kigali, Rwanda, does not know how to convey to the Trump administration that the worries are real and not an attack on the president.

“These are genuine people who are really concerned and don’t have evil intentions,“ he said.

►  S. Korea: N. Korea Killed Kim’s Brother

Malaysian police investigating the murder of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother have arrested a North Korean man, reports the Wall Street Journal, and they’re looking for four more North Koreans believed to have left the country the same day Kim Jong Nam was killed. Ri Jong Chol, 46, was arrested Friday night in a raid based on information given police from one of two women earlier arrested; he’s now the fourth person arrested in the incident, but apparently not the last. “We are searching for a few more,“ says a local police chief. Those few more, reports the AP, are four North Korean men who left Malaysia the day Kim died. The men hold regular, not diplomatic passports.

That’s all enough for South Korea to throw the blame for his death at Pyongyang, reports the BBC. “We believe the North Korean regime is behind this incident considering five suspects are North Koreans,“ says a unification ministry spokesman. “Considering North Korea has so far committed crimes against humanity and terror acts, we, together with the international community, are closely watching this brutal, reckless incident with serious concerns,“ he added. Malaysia’s national police chief says he expects autopsy results within days, a procedure that was performed over North Korea’s protestations. North Korea’s ambassador accused Malaysia of “trying to conceal something,“ and complained that the autopsy was performed “unilaterally and excluding our attendance.“

Walking and Rolling in 2017

When it comes to walking, small steps can add up and make a big difference in our health.

In 2015, I issued a “Call to Action” on walking. Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities encourages all of us to walk for our health and also, to raise awareness about the need for safe places to do so in urban and rural communities. Having safe places to walk not only promotes health and well-being but also helps communities build social cohesion and unity.  Local economies may also benefit in areas where people can live and walk to where they shop, dine, and just hang out. 

For me, walking is not only a public health priority; it is also a personal priority. A few years ago, I made the conscious decision to make walking a bigger part of my life. Whenever possible, I choose to walk instead of drive. I started walking to and from work.  Instead of catching up with friends over coffee, I began connecting with them by walking together.

Last year, I participated in the Step It Up! Challenge as a Special Guest, powered by FitBit, where people could measure their walking against mine. I’m pleased to share that more than 600,000 people across the country virtually joined me in the Step It Up! Challenge. Together we walked more than 60 billion steps. That’s enough to circle the earth 1,152 times!

In honor of American Heart Month, I encourage you to commit to making walking a greater part of your life. Be creative and think of places and spaces in your community that can be used for walking, such as shopping malls, school track fields and faith-based centers. Walking can be modified for individual needs and preferences, making it accessible and adaptable for Americans of all ages and stages. For persons living with disabilities, walking or moving with assistive devices is also possible. So let’s remember that when it comes to walking, small steps can add up and make a big difference in our health.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  West Virginia governor to visit highway project

Governor Jim Justice plans to visit a highway project in Raleigh County on Sunday, calling it the first stop on his statewide “S.O.S Tour.“

In the early afternoon visit to the Coalfields Expressway project on Route 121 near Sophia, Justice says he’ll discuss his proposal to create up to 48,000 jobs building roads using more than $1 billion in bonding.

To seed that financing, he proposes raising the annual license plate decal fee to $50, increasing the West Virginia Turnpike toll by $1 and raising the excise tax on gasoline by 10 cents a gallon.

Justice, a 65-year-old businessman, has also called for setting aside $105 million for economic development and infrastructure investment in an “SOS” fund intended to help the state hurting from a downturn in coal mining.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►  Dozens Fired After Participating in ‘A Day Without Immigrants’

Thousands of immigrants stayed home from work Thursday, shuttering restaurants and slowing other industries, for the national “A Day Without Immigrants” protest. Now it appears many were asked not to come back. In Oklahoma, a dozen workers at I Don’t Care Bar and Grill were fired after missing work Thursday; most had been working at the restaurant since it opened, KTUL reports. “You and your family are fired,“ their boss said in a text message. “I hope you enjoyed your day off and you can enjoy many more. Love you.“ According to WLTX, 21 workers at Encore Boat Builders in South Carolina—most of them long-term employees with young kids—were fired after taking part in A Day Without Immigrants.

Meanwhile in Tennessee, 18 workers at Bradley Coatings were fired after informing their supervisors they planned to participate in the protest, NewsChannel5 reports. They say it was “unfair after working for them for so many years,“ especially because they were going to make up the time missed on Sunday. In a statement, Bradley Coatings says it has “always celebrated diversity and supported the immigrant community,“ but it “had no choice” but to fire the workers. According to WTVD, two employees at a North Carolina packing warehouse were suspended for missing work Thursday. Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina are right-to-work states, which means employers can terminate employees with few restrictions.

►  Taxpayers to Foot Massive Bill for Trump Family Travels - And some of that money will be going into the president’s pockets

A few years ago, Trump called then-President Obama’s travel expenses “unbelievable,“ ABC News reports. According to the Washington Post, those expenses were estimated at $97 million over eight years. Trump and his family are on pace to exceed that total in just seven months, and taxpayers are footing the bill, New York Magazine reports. It starts with the president himself. Despite once promising he would “rarely leave the White House,“ Trump is spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago for the third week in a row. Those three trips are estimated to have cost the US Treasury about $10 million. And the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office says it pays $60,000 in overtime for every day Trump is at his golf resort.

But it doesn’t end with the president. New York City is paying $500,000 per day for security at Trump Tower, where Melania Trump and Barron are living, and estimates it will spend more than $180 million per year. Meanwhile, Trump’s adults sons and their Secret Service detail are in the United Arab Emirates for a Trump-brand golf course opening this weekend. A similar trip to Uruguay recently cost the Secret Service and US Embassy nearly $100,000. All told, the Trump family’s “unusually elaborate lifestyle” is expected to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years—far more than is typical for presidents. And some of that money will go directly to Trump himself, as he hasn’t divested from his businesses.

►  Cops: Florida Man Had Bizarre Plan to Tank Target Stock

A Florida man is in custody charged with plotting a bombing campaign as part of a bizarre investment strategy. Investigators say Mark Charles Barnett, 48, planned to put at least 10 bombs disguised as food items on the shelves of Target stores along the East Coast, NBC News reports. Court documents state that Barnett believed the bombings would tank the company’s stock, “allowing him to cheaply acquire shares of Target stock before an eventual rebound in prices.“ The registered sex offender was busted after offering a man $10,000 to place the explosive devices in Target stores in New York, Virginia, and Florida. The man went to authorities instead, giving them the devices Barnett had provided and explaining the plot.

Prosecutors say the devices Barnett crammed in containers, including empty stuffing mix boxes, could have caused serious injury or death, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Investigators found more bomb-making materials at his home. Barnett has been charged with “possession of a firearm (destructive device) affecting commerce by a previously convicted felon” and faces up to 10 years in prison. He’s already locked up without bail for violating parole conditions related to his disturbing past: News 6 reports he was on probation for felony charges, including for a 1992 kidnapping and rape of a math teacher in South Carolina.

►  Officer Allegedly Told He’s Too Gay to Be Promoted

A St. Louis County police sergeant alleges in a lawsuit against the department that he was told to “tone down” his gayness if he wanted a promotion, the AP reports. Sgt. Keith Wildhaber, a 22-year-old veteran of the department, also alleges he was passed over for promotions and reassigned after he filed a discrimination complaint in April 2016, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wildhaber said in the lawsuit that nearly all of his peers were promoted even though he ranked third in promotions tests and received “superior” ratings in all categories in performance reviews. “(The department) believes plaintiff’s behavior, mannerisms, and/or appearance do not fit the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be,“ according to the lawsuit.

The sergeant alleges that John Saracino, a member of the department’s civilian police board in 2014, told him that his being gay was a problem. “The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt (get a promotion), you should tone down your gayness,“ Saracino allegedly told Wildhaber. Saracino denied that allegation. Wildhaber filed a discrimination complaint in April 2016 with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Missouri Commission on Human Rights. He said a short time later he was reassigned from afternoon shifts to midnights in a precinct about 30 miles from his home.

►  Viral Video Shows Employee’s Amazing Catch ... of a Kid

Surveillance video at an indoor skydiving facility in Houston shows an instructor quickly catching a toddler as the child falls backward off a counter, the AP reports. The boy was standing on the counter and holding onto his father when he tumbled backward. Jesse “Tex” Leos, an instructor at iFly, was standing on the other side of the counter, saw the boy falling out of the corner of his eye, and quickly reached out with his left hand to catch him before gathering him up in his arms. On Wednesday, Leos posted the video to his Facebook page where it’s been viewed more than 700,000 times. He told KPRC-TV that regular training for skydiving helps keep his reflexes sharp.

►  Woman Says Gymnastics Doc Molested Her for Years

A former US Gymnastics doctor already facing federal child pornography charges and dozens of civil lawsuits from gymnasts who say he molested them will have to stand trial for criminal sexual conduct, a Michigan judge has ruled. CBS News reports the decision was made after a 25-year-old woman testified against Larry Nassar on Friday. The woman says Nassar, a family friend, sexually abused her between the ages of 6 and 12, according to MLive. The woman says the abuse started with Nassar exposing himself to her, then graduated to rubbing his genitals on her feet and masturbating in front of her during games of hide-and-seek in his basement, NBC News reports. She says the smell of lotion “still makes me sick.“

The woman, who also claims Nassar “often” put his fingers inside her ######, told her parents about the abuse when she was 13, but “they made me feel like I had done something terrible.“ She says her father promised to ruin her life if she didn’t admit she was lying about Nassar, who they remained friends with and continued to visit. The woman’s father killed himself last year. Nassar has pleaded not guilty in all the cases against him. On Friday, his lawyer tried to discredit the woman, saying she wasn’t emotional enough while discussing the alleged abuse. Nassar’s other alleged victims, some of them US Olympians, say he molested them under the guise of performing medical treatments.

►  Ex of Dad Who Left Son to Die in Hot Car: ‘It Was an Accident’

The ex-wife of a 36-year-old Georgia man convicted of murder for leaving their toddler son to die inside a hot SUV says she still believes “it was an accident,“ the AP reports. Justin Ross Harris was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty in November. His son, 22-month-old Cooper Harris, died after being left for hours in the SUV outside his father’s workplace. Harris’ ex-wife, Leanna Taylor, told ABC’s 20/20 in an interview airing Friday that she “never” believed Harris meant to kill their son. Taylor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV that she saw Harris as “a very engaged, involved father who wanted to be with his child.“ The fact that he cheated on her during their marriage has no bearing on whether he would hurt their child, she adds.

“There was evidence in our relationship that would suggest that he would be capable of being unfaithful to me,“ she says. “There was no evidence in our relationship that suggested that he would harm anyone, much less his own son.“ She says her son is “seen as a child that wasn’t loved and wasn’t wanted, and that just wasn’t true.“ On the subject of having more children someday, she adds that she always wanted to be a mother, but “when you have experienced every parent’s worst nightmare, to think about having another child and that fear of something happening again and that constant worry of wanted to keep them safe—for me it’s going to be 10 times worse than for the average parent.“ Taylor moved from metro Atlanta to Alabama after Cooper’s death. She testified in Harris’ defense at his trial.

►  He Was Found Dead in His Cell. Then Came the Good News

Roger Largent will never get a chance to clear his name in the rape of a disabled woman: He was found beaten to death in his prison cell four days before a court tossed his conviction. Authorities suspect Largent’s cellmate in the slaying, but they have not cited a motive or filed charges in the Saturday attack. On Wednesday, a Maryland appeals court threw out Largent’s conviction and said he should get a new trial because the jury verdict last year hinged largely on a prosecution witness’ improper testimony. The assault happened in 2015 when Largent went to the mentally disabled woman’s house to give her and her blind husband a ride to a doctor’s appointment. The woman testified that Largent walked up behind her, covered her mouth, and raped her in the kitchen while her husband was upstairs.

At trial, assistant public defender Amy Taylor suggested that the woman made the rape allegation because she felt guilty about being unfaithful. Largent initially denied having sex with the woman, a family member in her late 40s, then said it was consensual. Taylor noted that the accuser did not have any bruises or scratches. That made the testimony of the nurse who examined the woman, Ashley Hall, crucial to the case. Hall testified that a woman can be raped but show no bruising or other physical signs of an assault. Although Hall was trained in the examination of sexual assault victims, prosecutors did not seek to qualify her as an expert, and the trial court “abused its discretion in permitting Ms. Hall to offer a lay opinion,“ the ruling said, per the AP. “He was going to get this fair trial and now he’s been deprived of that opportunity,“ says Taylor.

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Remember Bill Clinton and his big spending back in the day?
And how he was going to ‘spend America out of debt’?
How did that work out?

By James  on  02.19.2017

We remember real well. He left the office with a surplus. He made it so the people on food stamp could get it for only 14-month and then they had to work. GW Bush changed all of that.
Also like it has been said here before focus on what shape our country is going to be in the future and quit trying to change the subject by using Clinton’s. She is no more, although most Americans voted for her. When Bill traveled he only had a little girl. Not a huge family with lavish life style. Wait and see you mo###s. Every weekend since Trump has started calculate the total cost to Americans which has gone to his pockets. Playing golf every weekend!!!!!!!

By Madison  on  02.20.2017

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►  South Korea Has Simple Plan to Tell North of Assassination

If North Koreans living along the country’s demilitarization zone with South Korea don’t yet know that their leader’s half-brother was assassinated this week, they probably will soon. South Korea announced plans Thursday to broadcast news of Kim Jong Nam’s death on loudspeakers aimed across its border with North Korea, reports Chosun Ilbo. A military official said “North Koreans will be quite shocked” by the news since Nam was the “eldest descendant” of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung. South Korea has previously used the speakers to broadcast anti-Pyongyang propaganda and world news up to 15 miles away.

Meanwhile, Malaysian officials say North Korea has filed a request to claim Kim’s body, per the Guardian. However, the officials say the body won’t be released without a DNA sample of a family member. Kim is thought to have six children, but the Washington Post reports that no relative has emerged to claim or even identify the body. North Korean officials are also said to have tried unsuccessfully to prevent an autopsy on Kim. No results have been released, but he is believed to have been poisoned. Three people have been arrested, including an Indonesian woman who may have thought she was participating in a prank.

►  Spanish Princess Won’t Be a Spanish Prisoner

In a tax fraud case that captivated Spain, Princess Cristina was found not guilty Friday of being an accessory to fraud, but her husband was convicted and sentenced to more than six years in prison. A panel of judges ruled that Cristina, the 51-year-old sister of King Felipe VI, has to pay more than $280,000 in fines because the court feels she indirectly benefited from the fraud, the AP reports. Her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, 49, was found guilty of evading taxes, fraud, and other charges. He was sentenced to six years, three months in prison and a fine of $545,000. The trial centered on accusations that Urdangarin used his former title, the Duke of Palma, to embezzle about $6.6 million in public funds for the nonprofit Noos Institute. Urdangarin can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

In a country mired with corruption scandals in politics and business, Spaniards have paid close attention to the case since the first signs of Urdangarin’s involvement emerged six years ago. As the scandal unfolded, former King Juan Carlos’ decision to abdicate the throne in 2014 was seen as an effort to allow his son, Felipe, to restore the monarchy’s credibility. When his sister Cristina was indicted, King Felipe canceled her title of Duchess of Palma, granted by their father in 1997 on the occasion of her wedding. She and Urdangarin are no longer invited to any official events by the Royal House. A spokesman for the Royal House told Spanish media they respected the courts’ independence.

►  Mugabe’s Wife Has Plans for Husband’s Corpse to Lead

Dictators have a notoriously firm grasp on power, but this is ridiculous. The AP reports the wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe—who turns 93 next week—says he should still run for president even if he dies before the next election. “If God decides to take him, then we would rather field him as a corpse,“ Grace Mugabe, 51, said during a rally Friday. She said Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, should run for president as a dead man to “prove that people love him,“ according to News24. Mugabe has said he wants to live to 100 and plans to rule for life. His wife apparently has bigger plans. Last year, Grace Mugabe told supporters her husband will be their leader ever after he’s “in the grave.“

►  Pence Tells NATO Allies to Pay More for Defense

Mike Pence promised NATO allies Saturday that they had the “unwavering” support of the US, while also making it clear that the administration considers most of them to be freeloaders. The vice president, speaking to European leaders at the Munich Security Conference, said European countries are failing to “pay their fair share” on defense, the BBC reports. Pence said only four other NATO countries—the UK, Greece, Estonia, and Poland—met a commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. “The time has come to do more,“ Pence said, echoing Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Pence said the US plans to boost military spending and will “hold Russia accountable” for its actions in Ukraine.

“Peace only comes through strength,“ Pence said, per the Wall Street Journal. “Trump believes we must be strong in our military might.“ German Chancellor Angela Merkel also addressed the conference and said Germany will increase its spending to meet NATO’s target, but it won’t be rushed into it, the Guardian reports. She added that it would be a mistake to believe that defense spending is the only way to boost security. “Security is ensured just as much by increasing one’s development spending,“ she said. Merkel said the US was a valuable partner in the fight against terrorism, along with Islamic nations who can show “that a misguided Islam, rather than Islam itself, is the cause of terrorism.“

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