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►  Possible shutdown, health care quagmire awaiting Congress

Lawmakers returning to Washington this coming week will find a familiar quagmire on health care legislation and a budget deadline dramatized by the prospect of a protracted battle between Donald Trump and Democrats over his border wall.

Trump’s GOP allies control Congress, but they’ve been unable to send him a single major bill as his presidency faces the symbolic 100-day mark on April 29 — the very day when the government, in a worst-case scenario, could shut down.

Feeling pressure to deliver results, Trump wants to revive a troubled health care measure from House Republicans to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Trump also hopes to use a $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities.

Congress faces a midnight Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown. But negotiations on the spending measure, a huge pile of leftover business from last year that includes the budgets of almost every federal agency, have hit a rough patch.

Rank-and-file Republicans received few answers on a Saturday conference call by top House GOP leaders, who offered little detail and said deals remained elusive on both health care and the catchall spending measure, with no votes scheduled yet.

It’s looking like a one- or two-week temporary measure will be needed to prevent a shutdown and buy time for more talks. Negotiations have faltered because of disputes over the border wall and health law subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance.

Trump’s Capitol Hill allies had been tempering expectations that the president will win much in the budget talks. Democratic support will be needed to pass the spending measure and Republicans fear taking the blame if the government shuts down on their watch.

“We have the leverage and they have the exposure,“ House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told fellow Democrats on a conference call Thursday, according to a senior Democratic aide. Pelosi wants the spending bill to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico help with its Medicaid obligations, and Democrats are pressing for money for overseas famine relief, treatment for opioid abuse, and the extension of health benefits for 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families.

An additional Democratic demand is for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under Obama’s health law. The payments are a critical subsidy and the subject of a lawsuit by House Republicans. Trump has threatened to withhold the money to force Democrats to negotiate on health legislation.

Trump’s presidential victory makes it “completely reasonable to ask and to insist that some of his priorities are funded,“ White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an interview. “We are more than happy to talk to the Democrats about some of their priorities but we encourage them to recognize that they are a minority party.“

Both the White House and Democrats have adopted hard-line positions on Trump’s $1 billion request for a down payment on construction of the border wall, a central plank of last year’s campaign. Talk of forcing Mexico to pay for it has largely been abandoned. But in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Trump stopped short of demanding that money for the project be included in the must-pass spending bill.

Health care is on a separate track and facing trouble, too. The White House is pressing House Republicans to rally behind a revised bill so GOP leaders can schedule a vote this coming week that could let Trump fulfill a 100-days promise.

A quick vote, let alone approval, seems unlikely.

GOP leaders have shown no desire to revisit the issue until they’re assured there’ll be no replay of the legislative train wreck from March. The failure of that earlier attempt stung Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. The measure would have repealed much of Obama’s 2010 overhaul and replaced it with fewer coverage requirements and less generous federal subsidies for many people.

As part of the White House drive to resuscitate the bill, members of Trump’s team including Mike Pence and chief of staff Reince Priebus have made multiple calls to Republicans.

Two leaders of the House GOP’s warring moderate and conservative factions devised a compromise during Congress’ recess to let states get federal waivers to ignore some requirements of the health law. Those include one that now obligates insurers to cover specified services such as for mental health, and one that bars them from raising premiums on seriously ill patients.

But there are widespread doubts that the new attempt has achieved the support it needs.

Representative Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., an opponent of the bill, said last week that “it doesn’t cure the issues that I had concerns” about the bill. The moderate said his objections included changes to Obama’s law that would still leave people with excessive out-of-pocket costs.

The potential amendment was brokered by Representative Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who heads the conservative House Freedom Caucus and Representative Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., a leader of the moderate House Tuesday Group.

Ryan called off a March 24 House vote on the measure after realizing that objections by conservative and moderate Republicans would have assured its defeat. Democrats were uniformly against the legislation.


►  Air Marshal Forgets Gun in Airplane Bathroom

Oops. CNN reports a federal air marshal left her gun in the bathroom during an April 6 Delta flight from England to New York. The gun was found by a passenger, who fortunately handed it over to the flight crew. The air marshal failed to report the incident to her superiors for a number of days and apparently wasn’t punished when she did, according to the New York Times. Former and current air marshals says she should have been. “If someone with ill intent gets hold of that weapon ... they are now armed,“ one former air marshal says. The incident could be used as further fuel for critics of the air marshal program, which costs nearly $1 billion per year, covers less than 1% of domestic flights, and has apparently not prevented any acts of terrorism.


►  Trump Administration Says Exxon Can’t Drill in Russia

The US government won’t be granting Exxon Mobil a waiver from Russian sanctions, Politico reports. It had been reported this week that the oil and gas company was seeking a waiver to allow it to drill in the Black Sea. The refusal of that waiver came Friday in the form of a one-sentence press release from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who added that no US companies will be given a waiver from Russian sanctions. The sanctions were put in place in 2014 by the Obama administration after Russia invaded Ukraine. They interrupted a partnership between Exxon and Russia’s state-owned Rosneft.

Exxon’s apparent request for a waiver was condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike, CNBC reports. For example, John McCain’s response was a succinct, “Are they crazy?“ It also put the Trump administration in a tough spot between continuing reports of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s new gig as Secretary of State, according to the New York Times. An expert in energy geopolitics says had the waiver been granted, it may have ended up being bad, at least in terms of optics, for both the Trump administration and Exxon. The denial of the waiver comes with Trump apparently cooling on Russia and its president.


►  Firefighter Makes Most Important Catch of His Life

“It was something to see,“ Larry Carter tells Fox 5. The plumber got video of a Georgia firefighter catching a baby that had been thrown from a burning apartment building Tuesday in Decatur. Good Morning America reports the baby’s father was unable to get out of the building, so he tossed the baby from the second floor and into the arms of firefighter Robert Sutton. Carter says Sutton “caught it like a football pass.“ While others are calling Sutton a hero, colleagues say he’s being “very humble” about his lifesaving catch. “I just did what any of the other firefighters out here would have done.“ The baby’s father was eventually pulled from the building by firefighters, and no injuries were reported.


►  Lawyer in Rape Case: Women Are Weaker Sex, Good Liars

Shock and outrage after—in the closing arguments of rich Tennesee man’s rape trial—a defense attorney claimed women are especially adept liars. “Women can be especially good at it because they’re the weaker sex,“ the Commercial Appeal quotes Steve Farese as saying Thursday. He apparently defended the “weaker sex” part of the comment by saying, “That’s what the books says,“ adding that women take advantage of men’s desire “to protect them.“ Farese is defending Mark Giannini. WMC reports the 51-year-old is accused of raping a woman who came to his mansion for what she believed was a job interview for a housekeeping position. She says Giannini raped and choked her, and she woke up in the hospital.

Deborah Clubb, the executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, calls Farese’s comments “absolutely despicable.“ She also says they don’t appear to be great strategy, as they were made to a jury that includes 11 women. For his part, Farese says he doesn’t care if he offends people. He also blamed Giannini’s accuser for wearing a sexy top to the interview and accused her of “crying on cue” and “crying for dollars” during the trial, Fox 13 reports. Giannini has been charged raping three women dating back to 2002. There’s no verdict yet in this week’s trial.


►  Cops Put Cheetos in 4/20 ‘Trap’ for Pot Smokers

If Minnesota’s Wyoming Police Department had been serious, it might’ve actually nabbed some pot smokers with its “discreet” trap on 4/20. As it is, the department instead got plenty of laughs—and even praise—for a tweeted photo showing an officer holding a net near a stash of video games, Cheetos, and a bag from White Castle, per ABC 7. “Undercover #420 operations are in place,“ read the Thursday tweet, liked or retweeted more than 500,000 times. In a later tweet, the department added, “All jokes aside, substance abuse is a real issue. We use tongue in cheek humor to bring attention to those issues.“


►  Their Plane Crashed at the Airport, but No One Noticed

A family aboard a 1948 Cessna 170 attempted a takeoff from Florida’s Williston Municipal Airport around 3pm Saturday. Instead, they crashed 150 feet before a tree line at the taxiway’s north side, reports the Gainsville Sun. But though some 20 to 30 planes took off from the airport later Saturday—and nearby pilots should have registered the signals from the plane’s emergency locator transmitter—the crash was only reported to police some 22 hours later. Authorities say a pilot first spotted the wreckage and called it in around 1pm Sunday, per WXIA. Inside, authorities found Nathan Enders, 37, of Williamson, Ga.; his wife Laura, 42; and their two young sons, Jaden, 7; and Eli, 5. All four were dead. A GoFundMe page has been set up to provide for funeral expenses and a scholarship fund for a surviving son who was not on the plane.

“For all that traffic, no one thought to call us,“ says Williston’s deputy chief of police. “This is really a huge complacency issue.“ Nathan’s sister expressed her heartache on Facebook: “It is so awful still, thinking of ... what was going through their minds, if they knew what was happening or felt any pain as they sat there [upside down] waiting ... to be found.“ The Sun reports the airport has a full-time manager and two part-time employees, but couldn’t confirm whether they were at work Saturday as Enders, an experienced pilot and air traffic controller himself, was taking off. The National Transportation Safety Board is compiling a preliminary report but says it could be months before officials determine the cause of the crash, which occurred in fair weather, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


►  Navy SEAL Arrested on Child Porn, Molestation Charges

A Navy SEAL has been arrested after authorities say they found 78 images of apparent child pornography on his phone, including videos of the SEAL molesting a young girl while she slept, the Virginian-Pilot reports. According to the AP, Petty Officer 1st Class Gregory Seerden was arrested April 3 in San Diego, where he is stationed, following a three-month investigation. The felony charges against the 31-year-old member of SEAL Team One weren’t unsealed until this week. The investigation into Seerden started in January after a woman accused him of raping her while they were drinking on a Navy base in Virginia, the Los Angeles Times reports. The woman says she remembers telling Seerden to stop and informed a gate sentry about the alleged rape afterward.

Seerden has been charged with four felonies related to child pornography and child sex assault. He’s facing a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison. The images on Seerden’s phone were discovered during the investigation into the alleged rape. Authorities say they include dozens of images of prepubescent children engaged in sexual acts, including one involving a dog. There are also four videos showing a man, allegedly Seerden, masturbating next to a sleeping child, who appears to be 5 or 6 years old, and touching her in a sexual way. Photos on the phone show Seerden reading a book to the girl and other children. An investigation into the alleged rape of the woman in January is ongoing, and no charges have been filed in that case.


►  Flight Attendant Hits Woman With Stroller, Taunts Passenger

An American Airlines flight attendant has been suspended after allegedly hitting a woman with her stroller and—witnesses say—barely missing her two children. Jalopnik reports a video posted to Facebook shows the second half of the incident on a flight Friday from San Francisco to Dallas. A woman holding a child is crying when a male passenger can be heard saying he’s “not going to sit here and watch this.“ He confronts a male flight attendant, telling him, “You try that with me and I’ll knock you flat,“ according to Business Insider. The flight attendant then goads the passenger with “hit me” and “bring it on.“ The video appears to show a female passenger also confronting the flight staff.

An American Airlines spokesperson tells Reuters the incident started over a dispute about whether or not the woman could bring her stroller on the flight. Witnesses say the woman, who had two young children with her, was looking for room to store the foldable stroller when a flight attendant told her she had to check it, Q13 Fox reports. Security was requested when she refused to hand over the stroller, and the male flight attendant “violently” took it from her, hitting her in the head and nearly striking her children. The flight attendant has been suspended, and American Airlines says it’s investigating. The company says it’s “deeply sorry” for the incident. The woman and her family, who were traveling internationally, were upgraded to first class for the rest of their trip.


►  Trump Budget Chief: Border Wall Will ‘Protect Millions Of Low Income Americans’ Who Lose Obamacare

After years of Republican obstructionism under Democratic President Barack Obama, Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday that it was the Democrats who are guilty of “stunning” obstructionism because they will not negotiate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.


During an interview on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace noted that Donald Trump had offered Democrats a deal: If you fund the border wall, payments to Obamacare will not be cut.

“You are holding hostage health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans,“ Wallace pointed out.

“Actually, what I would say is they’re holding hostage national security,“ Mulvaney replied. “Again, something they supported in the recent past when President Obama was in the Senate.“

“We’re worried that this is sending a message that this is going to be the next four years,“ he added. “The Democrats will oppose everything that this president wants to do, which is stunning to us, especially when we are offering them something they want in return.“

Wallace countered: “You’re saying, give us what we want. And if you don’t, we’re going to cut off funding that would provide health insurance for millions of lower income Americans.“

Mulvaney insisted that Trump was tying to build a border wall to “protect millions of low income Americans” who may lose their health care benefits in the trade-off.

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►  Obama’s Surgeon General Has Been Asked to Resign

The Trump administration has relieved Dr. Vivek Murthy of his duties as US Surgeon General, the AP reports. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services says Murthy was asked to resign after “assisting in a smooth transition” under Trump. Murthy was a holdover from the Obama administration.

Murthy’s deputy, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, is serving as acting surgeon general and leader the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps until the Senate confirms a replacement. Her previous positions include being a nurse officer in the US Army. Health department spokesperson Alleigh Marre says Murthy will remain a member of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Murthy says on Facebook that he was humbled and honored to serve. He says serving was the “privilege of a lifetime.“


►  Videos Show NY Judge Walking Alone for Hours Before Death

Security cameras around Manhattan captured the final hours of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s life as authorities continue trying to piece together what happened to the first African-American woman to sit on the New York Court of Appeals, the Los Angeles Times reports. Prior to the discovery of the videos, the last sighting of Abdus-Salaam, who was found dead in the Hudson River April 12, was at 10am April 11, according to the New York Daily News. She had told her assistant she was sick and not coming into work. The videos show her walking quickly alone in sweats and sneakers—by all appearances she could be exercising. The New York Times reports the videos show Abdus-Salaam walking for hours in Riverbank State Park. The last video is her standing by the water’s edge shortly after midnight April 12.

While police have labeled Abdus-Salaam’s death suspicious, they still believe it’s most likely she killed herself, saying she was possibly depressed or distraught about the deaths of her mother and brother, which occurred around the Easter holiday in recent years. But Abdus-Salaam’s husband says she wasn’t suicidal and wouldn’t have killed herself. And while signs point to the 65-year-old judge being alive when she went into the Hudson River, she did have bruises on her neck. Authorities say she may have been choked in the hours or days before she died. However, it’s possible the bruises were created when her body was removed from the river. The medical examiner’s office still hasn’t issued a cause of death.


►  Authorities: Please Don’t Perform Liposuction in Barns

Michigan authorities say a doctor may have endangered patients and the public by performing liposuctions in a pole barn, the AP reports. Health officials said they learned from Allegan County sheriff’s investigators that the doctor was performing the procedures in the building in the town of Glenn. Allegan County Health Officer Angelique Joynes warned people Friday to seek immediate medical care if they had surgery at the site and show any signs of infection such as fever, redness, and swelling.

The health department says the building doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy and isn’t approved “for any business activities.“ The Sheriff’s Department expressed concern that the doctor may not have followed appropriate biohazard standards. A complaint has been filed with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.


►  We’re Spending $50M to Resettle 1K Desert Tortoises

The mission: to airlift 1,156 desert tortoises to a place where there’s no threat of being flattened by tanks. The Marines are this month moving the reptiles out of a corner of California’s Mojave Desert where the Corps will soon begin extensive live-fire training, the Los Angeles Times reports. Packed up two per plastic bin, the hubcap-sized creatures are being loaded into helicopters and flown 25 miles away to federal lands beyond the Marines’ Twentynine Palms base northeast of Palm Springs. Their new home is far enough away to keep tortoises from wandering back into the line of fire when the Marines begin “longer and more involved” training exercises this summer that the Press-Enterprise reports will better position them to carry out missions in “global hot spots.“

Operation Desert Tortoise doesn’t come cheap: Its $50 million price tag covers everything from the 125 biologists USNI News describes as setting out to locate, examine, and box up the tortoises to an agreed-upon 30 years of monitoring. The Marines have been pushing for this move since 2008, an effort complicated by the tortoises’ “threatened” status. Environmentalists threatened to sue, citing the harm that taking away 100 square miles of habitat might do, but the Times reports the program got final approval after the US Fish and Wildlife Service said it couldn’t finish its review before the spring relocation window closed. A biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity expressed concerns there might not be adequate food in the new habitat.


►  Teen Who Disappeared After Prom Dies in Car Crash

The Idaho teenager who disappeared following his prom—and was later charged with running away from home—died in a car crash Wednesday, bringing a sad end to a week of headlines. KBOI reports the driver of a Chevy Tahoe was speeding when he lost control of the car and rolled it down a small embankment. The driver had to be extracted from the car, according to the Spokesman-Review. The driver was identified as 17-year-old Kristian Perez, whose death was confirmed by a nurse at an area hospital. Deputies say Perez had taken his parents’ Tahoe without permission. Deputies had been called regarding a possibly suicidal person prior to the crash.

Perez was reported missing by his mother Friday night when he didn’t return home after his prom. He was found early Tuesday voluntarily staying at the home of a 26-year-old man. Running away from home is a crime in Idaho, and Perez was arrested, charged, and released.


►  ‘White Privilege’ Shows Up in New Profile of Rachel Dolezal

If you haven’t tired of hearing about Rachel Dolezal—the woman who was born white but now identifies as black— Ijeoma Oluo has penned “The Heart of Whiteness,“ a new piece for the Stranger that Jezebel calls “so good we never have to think about [Dolezal] again.“ Oluo flew out to Spokane, Wash., to interview Dolezal, who just published a new memoir and now calls herself Nkechi Amare Diallo, a fact that rubs Oluo the wrong way (Nkechi is her Nigerian-born sister’s name) before they even meet. But Oluo decides to give the story a go, meeting in her subject’s home for a conversation that ends up evolving into an often uncomfortable, sometimes cringeworthy exposé on Dolezal’s thoughts on race appropriation, authenticity, and what Oluo calls “The Question”: “How is her racial fluidity anything more than a function of her privilege as a white person?“

Oluo has to note she’s “a black woman ... who writes about race and culture for a living” when Dolezal exhibits a “dismissive and condescending attitude” toward blacks with different views of blackness from her own, which Dolezal chalks up to a lack of education on their part. Oluo muses whether it “isn’t blackness that Dolezal doesn’t understand but whiteness,“ taking her to task for the fact that she was first drawn to the concept of blackness when she saw images in National Geographic as a kid—“representations,“ Oluo says, that were “crafted by white supremacy.“ Oluo soon realizes Dolezal is just caught up in a system that’s not new. “She will haunt me no more and simply blend into the rest of white supremacy that I battle every day,“ Oluo writes. Her compliment for Dolezal: “She is, in all honesty, a very talented painter.“ Oluo’s piece, including an uneasy exchange over taking Dolezal’s picture.


►  He Handed Over Some Rope, Spent 40 Years in Prison

David Goodwin has been in prison in Florida for 40 years for his role in the 1977 quadruple homicide known as the “Sandy Creek murders.“ For 32 of those years, his fiancée has been patiently waiting for his release. The day is finally about to arrive. Goodwin, 70—who was on death row until his sentence was changed to life upon appeal in 1981—was granted parole Wednesday and will leave Everglades Correctional Institute in Miami on May 2, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. Especially ecstatic is Wanda Pate, 82. Pate, whose daughter is married to Goodwin’s younger brother, began exchanging letters with Goodwin several years after his incarceration. She later visited him in prison, where the two fell in love, though she hasn’t seen him in six years.

On January 23, 1977, Goodwin was among a group smuggling marijuana onto a Bay County beach; it was part of an FBI sting designed to nab a high-profile drug smuggler, and the agency used an informant to staff the operation. Goodwin was one of those recruits and was there when four witnesses came upon the group. One was immediately shot dead, while the three others, including two teen girls, were tied up and executed more than a hundred miles away, per the Panama City News Herald. Though he didn’t pull the trigger, and wasn’t near the scene of the later deaths, per WJHG, Goodwin handed over the rope used to bind the victims. (The prosecution alleged he also tied them up.) Goodwin was convicted of first-degree murder for aiding in the killings. Says Pate: “I know he didn’t do [the murders] and that’s the thing that kept me going with him.“

Weekend Marches: “Facts Matter” For Drug Policies

Drug policy should be based on facts, not fear. That’s one of the messages scientists, academics and their allies will be taking to Washington, D.C., today.

Responding to the rise of “alternative facts,“ the National March for Science is being promoted as a call for policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.

According to Julie Netherland, director of academic engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance, drug policy too often is driven by fear and misinformation rather than science and facts.

“It’s why we’ve seen things like the disastrous ‘War on Drugs,‘ and a lot of punitive policies that have had absolutely no effect in their stated goals of reducing drug use,“ she explained.

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With overdose deaths rising in West Virginia and around the country, scientists are arguing for treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime.


Advocates fear a new emphasis on “law and order” in the Trump administration may roll back recent progress toward treating drug use as a public-health issue.

As an example, Netherland notes that during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for a national “stop-and-frisk” program.

“So, there are a lot of concerning signs that they are going to head in the wrong direction, just at a time where we’re making real gains to have a drug policy that was more based in research and science,“ she said.

New York City’s “stop-and-frisk” program targeted mostly young Black and Latino men and arrested thousands for nonviolent drug offenses.

Rather than law enforcement, Netherland believes the United States should embrace what she calls “a harm reduction approach” to drugs, including safer injection facilities where addicts have a clean environment with access to treatment.

“Those are interventions that have been used in Canada and Europe, and have shown to reduce overdose deaths, to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases, and have a host of really positive outcomes,“ she added.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

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The Free Press WV


►  Arkansas Executes Inmate After 5-4 Supreme Court Vote

After 12 years and hundreds of hours of legal battles, the state of Arkansas has successfully taken a man’s life. Ledell Lee, a convicted murderer who had been on death row for more than 20 years, was executed late Thursday after the US Supreme Court decided not to intervene, CNN reports. Prison officials say the 51-year-old inmate, who denied killing 26-year-old Debra Reese in 1993, requested Holy Communion as his last meal and declined to make a final statement. Neil Gorsuch voted with the majority in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to allow the execution to proceed, reports the New York Times. Lee, whose death warrant expired at midnight, took 12 minutes to die and was pronounced dead at 11:56pm.

Arkansas had planned to execute eight inmates before the end of April, but court decisions spared the first three men and put the execution of a fourth in doubt, the AP reports. The ACLU and the Innocence Project had called for post-conviction DNA testing in the case of Lee, who was also convicted of two rapes and suspected of a second murder. In the attack Lee was executed for, Reese was sexually assaulted before being hit 36 times with a tire-thumping tool that her husband, a truck driver, had given her to protect herself with when he was on the road. Her son, Joseph Lucky, was six years old when she was killed. At Lee’s final clemency hearing, Lucky called him “the embodiment of evil,“ THV11 reports.


►  Trump Intervened to Free U.S. Prisoner in Egypt

In what appears to be a major foreign-policy victory for Trump,a freed Egyptian-American charity worker is back in the US after the president personally intervened in the case, officials say. Aja Hijazi, a 30-year-old US citizen who had been detained in Egypt for nearly three years, flew from Cairo to Washington with her family Thursday in a US government aircraft sent by Trump, the Washington Post reports. Hijazi, her husband, and four colleagues at a foundation to help street children had been jailed on what US authorities say were false charges of child abuse and human trafficking. Officials say the acquittal of all six on Sunday came weeks after Trump became involved in Hijazi’s case.

Trump was criticized for not raising Hijazi’s case when Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi visited the US early this month, but officials say that before the visit, the administration quietly secured a promise to release her. After being briefed on the case, Trump “just said, ‘Let’s bring her home,‘“ an insider tells the New York Times. Administration officials contrast what they call Trump’s “discreet diplomacy” with the approach of former President Barack Obama, who publicly called for Hijazi’s release but did not invite al-Sissi to visit the US. Hijazi and family members are scheduled to meet with Trump, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner at the White House Friday.


►  Trump Inspires GQ’s List of Best New Restaurants

While the rest of us were taking in Donald Trump’s inauguration, GQ‘s Brett Martin was zipping around the US visiting restaurants that had opened in the last 18 months. But not just any new restaurants. Martin chose to check in on restaurateurs who were born outside the US or were the children of immigrants, and “dedicate” his resulting 10 Best New Restaurants list to them. “These are times in which it seems that everything that should go without saying needs to be said—among them that the very qualities of pluralism currently under attack are what make our eating more exciting than ever before,“ he writes. His resulting list has its roots in places as varied as Israel, Korea and Sweden. Among them:

Click to read about some of Martin’s favorite dishes at the full list of 10 restaurants.


►  Old Chat With Manning May Be New Trouble for Assange

The Justice Department has long viewed Julian Assange as a menace, but it might soon officially view him as a criminal. Federal prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder in order to seek his arrest, reports CNN. The possibilities range from the most serious one of espionage to lesser ones such as theft of government property, reports the Washington Post. Top officials such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions must still sign off on any charges, and that hasn’t happened yet. The Obama White House also considered criminal charges against Assange after his group published classified information obtained by Chelsea Manning, but ultimately decided against it on freedom-of-the-press grounds. But now prosecutors think they can make the case that Assange went beyond the role of mere publisher.

That argument hinges on something that came up during Manning’s court martial, notes the Post: the revelation that Manning and Assange chatted about a password-cracking technique. “I think their only realistic hope is some conspiracy charge based on WikiLeaks’ involvement in the actual hacking, not just publishing the results of the hacking,“ says a former Justice Department official. Another potential avenue to criminal charges is WikiLeaks’ alleged role in the hacking of US spy tools. On Thursday, Sessions said making arrests of leakers such as Assange is a “priority,“ reports the Guardian. That follows CIA chief Mike Pompeo’s blistering criticism. Assange, meanwhile, remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, and he recently wrote an op-ed in the Post arguing that WikiLeaks deserves the same protections as newspapers.


►  This May Be Biggest Dismissal of U.S. Criminal Convictions Ever

Prosecutors in Massachusetts moved to throw out more than 21,000 drug convictions on Tuesday, five years after a chemist at the state drug lab was caught tampering with evidence and falsifying tests, the AP reports. The state’s highest court had ordered district attorneys in seven counties to produce lists by Tuesday indicating how many of approximately 24,000 cases involving Annie Dookhan they would be unable or unwilling to prosecute if the defendants were granted new trials. The ACLU said Tuesday night that 21,587 cases had been recommended for dismissal. It said that would be the largest dismissal of criminal convictions in US history. The cases would be formally dismissed by court action, expected Thursday, the ACLU said.

Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to obstruction of justice, perjury, and tampering with evidence after being accused of falsifying her work as far back as 2004. Prosecutors said Dookhan admitted testing only a fraction of a batch of samples, then listing them all as positive for illegal drugs. Her motive, they said, was to boost her productivity and burnish her reputation. She was sentenced to three years in prison and was paroled last year. Many of the drug case defendants have already completed their sentences, though some probably remain in prison because of other charges not contaminated by the lab scandal. About 2,000 cases had been resolved before Tuesday.


►  ‘Unspeakable Monsters’ Learn Fate After California Murders

When Audrey Carey met Morrison Lampley, Sean Angold, and Lila Alligood in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in October 2015, the Canadian backpacker thought she’d found new friends. “She trusted you, you three unspeakable monsters … And you stole her from me,“ her mother said in a statement read out in a San Rafael courtroom on Tuesday, per the San Francisco Chronicle. Both Lampley, 24, and Alligood, 19, had pleaded guilty to murdering 23-year-old Carey and later 67-year-old Steve Carter. During a preliminary hearing, Angold, 25—who took a plea deal in exchange for testimony against the pair, per NBC Bay Area—said the three were using marijuana, heroin, meth, and LSD leading up to their crimes, which began when they stole a handgun from an unlocked truck in San Francisco.

The group then befriended Carey with the goal of robbing her, Angold said. But after Alligood got her to the ground, Angold said he heard gunshots and Lampley told him, “She’s dead, dude. Don’t worry about it.“ Three days later, Lampley shot and killed Carter, whom the group had targeted for his station wagon, as he hiked with his dog in Marin County, Angold said. Authorities soon after tracked the vehicle to a soup kitchen in Portland, Ore., where the suspects were arrested. Lampley was sentenced Tuesday to 100 years in prison for first-degree murder. Alligod received 50 years but will be eligible for youthful offender parole in 25 years. Angold was given 15 years for second-degree murder. All three asked for forgiveness for their crimes, reports KRON.


►  Turns Out, Millennials Aren’t Job-Hoppers After All

It seems to be a rite of passage that “young adults” in the US (classified as those between the ages of 18 and 34, per the US Census Bureau) take a bit of guff from the generations that preceded them. Millennials, ID’d by Pew Research as those born between 1981 and 1997, haven’t escaped this fate, but while many label the current younger set as simply hanging out “in the basement playing video games,“ as USA Today notes, that’s not quite the case. The Census Bureau released a population report Wednesday that looks back at the 18-34 demographic over the past four decades, comparing today’s young adults to those going back to 1975. “If one theme describes how adulthood has changed over the last 40 years, it is growing complexity,“ the report notes. A few notable trends stand out, and the internet is buzzing about them:

  • Parents who dread an empty nest can relax, because the Kansas City Star notes your millennial boarders may not be going anywhere anytime soon. In 2005, just 26% of young adults still shacked up with Mom and Dad, but that number settled in at around 34% in 2015—a 30% spike in just 10 years.
  • Per the Miami Herald, millennials seem to look more highly upon a good education than their predecessors, with 37% boasting at least a bachelor’s degree in 2016, compared with 23% in 1975. The extra schooling likely explains a drop homeownership among millennials, from 52% in 1975 to 29% today.
  • You won’t find millennials starting families as soon as they’re done with that schooling, and women especially aren’t as eager to be relegated to homemaker roles as past generations, NBC Washington reports. Economic security comes before marriage—and while about 84% of young men are in the workforce (a number that’s stayed constant this whole time), that percentage has jumped from 50% to 70% for women since 1975.
  • A separate study finds that the most popular brands among millennials are Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, and Nike, reports Bloomberg.
  • Pew Research dispels the myth that millennials are flakes when it comes to holding down a job, pointing out that millennials in 2016 stayed at their jobs for five years or longer at around the same numbers as Generation Xers did when they were the same age—and actually outpaced Gen Xers by a few percentage points when it came to sticking it out with an employer for 13 months or longer.
  • Adulting classes for millennials might not be necessary after all, then?


►  As Weed Hits Mainstream, Businesses Brace for 4/20

April 20 wasn’t just a holiday for stoners: In a world where recreational marijuana is legal in eight states, it’s basically the entire Christmas shopping season rolled into a single day for pot businesses. “We’re just expecting to get slammed,“ the owner of a smoking room in Colorado tells CNN. One expert expects to see an increase in business of 30% to 40%, especially as some marijuana retailers are offering discounts of up to 50%. It’s no wonder Thursday is being called a “really good time to stock up” for potheads. Here’s what else you need to know about 4/20:

  • There’s a lot of incorrect information floating around about the origin of the term “420.“ Mental Floss sets us straight, revealing that it started in 1971 with a group of California high-schoolers whose personal slang—referring to the time of day they met up to smoke—caught on with the Grateful Dead.
  • But do we really need 4/20 as a rallying point anymore? That’s the question Rolling Stone asks as the legalization of weed goes mainstream. Snoop Dogg, for one, says yes, calling it one of his “favorite days.“
  • Rolling Stone also has a list of the best country songs to play while smoking pot. Willie Nelson obviously makes an appearance.
  • With the majority of Americans now believing marijuana should be legal, according to a recent poll, Quartz looks at where in the US you can get high without worry. (Hint: Go west, young pothead.)
  • Gizmodo runs an old article explaining the science behind the munchies.
  • Finally, the Stranger takes a look at “the booming world of $100,000 bongs.“ Basically, one could argue that if you’re going to spend a small fortune on a piece of art that won’t get you high, why not spend it on art that will?


►  How Authorities Found Fugitive Teacher, Missing Student

The manhunt for fugitive Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins is over thanks to somebody who spotted his vehicle in a remote area on the other side of the country, authorities say. The 50-year-old was captured and 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas was taken into custody unharmed after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the sheriff’s office in Northern California’s Siskiyou County received a tip late Wednesday that a vehicle with no license plate that matched the description of Cummins’ 2015 Nissan Rogue was at a cabin in a rural area of Cecilville, near the Oregon border, ABC News reports. The caller said an adult male and a young female had been staying in the cabin for about a week.

Police set up a perimeter around the cabin after the call and arrested Cummins after he emerged around 9:30am Thursday, the Tennessean reports. Siskiyou Sheriff Jon Lopey says two loaded handguns were found inside. Cummins is being held without bond on a federal charge of knowingly transporting a minor with the intent to engage in sexual activity and will be arraigned on Friday. Police say Thomas, who came out of the cabin as Cummins was being arrested, has been transferred to FBI custody and is being treated as a crime victim, the Siskiyou Daily News reports. TBI chief Mark Gwyn says Cummins was caught because they “mobilized a nation” to be on the lookout, and “you can’t hide from millions of people.“


►  Complaint Lays Out Planning of Alleged Kidnapping

Elizabeth Thomas’ father says he believes his 15-year-old daughter was brainwashed by Tad Cummins, the former teacher accused of kidnapping her, the Tennessean reports. Cummins and Elizabeth were found this week at a cabin in northern California, weeks after they disappeared from Tennessee. While Anthony Thomas says he hasn’t had a chance to speak to his daughter yet—he hopes to soon—he says she is going to need therapy to recover from the ordeal. It remains unclear whether Elizabeth went with Cummins willingly, according to the New York Daily News.

Meanwhile, authorities say Cummins’ actions prior to going on the lam show he was planning on kidnapping Elizabeth, apparently for sexual purposes. According to a federal complaint, Cummins, 50, refilled his prescription for erectile dysfunction medication and made reservations for one-bed rooms at multiple Super 8 motels prior to kidnapping Elizabeth. CNN reports Cummins told his wife he needed to borrow her car for a (nonexistent) job interview and took out a $4,500 loan “to meet their financial needs.“ Cummins had been suspended from his teaching job for conduct with Elizabeth. The federal complaint also states Cummins bought chocolates and sexual lubricant at Walmart while on the run with Elizabeth.

Could the Education Department’s Days Be Numbered?

If this congresswoman gets her way, the days of federal education regulations are over.
The Free Press WV

U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx wants the federal Department of Education to disappear. She wants Washington to stop passing down rules and regulations schools have to follow.

As the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, the seven-term North Carolina congresswoman has a powerful forum to talk about all that.

Trouble is, she probably doesn’t have the votes to do much of what she wants. It takes 60 to get most legislation through the Senate, where Republicans control only 52 seats, and she’s up against a powerful education lobby that resists sweeping change in federal policy.

She’s trying. Foxx, who helped lead the writing of the 2016 Republican Party platform and served in House leadership, figures she’ll have to dilute Education Department power bit by bit. Already, she’s championing the use of a rare legislative tactic in Congress to eliminate some Obama administration regulations.

And Foxx is putting pressure on her colleagues in Congress to write the sort of legislation she wants, contending that some past laws were written sloppily and left too much leeway for federal departments to fill in gaps with rules and regulations.

Any federal educational policies, she told McClatchy in an interview, should come from lawmakers–not bureaucrats.

“We’ve got some good laws in place–let Congress do its oversight,” she said. “Sometimes doing nothing from the federal level is good.”

Foxx and her Republican congressional allies have a new favored tool for walking back regulations: the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn specific federal rules and regulations and prevent them from coming back up.

This year was the first time a Congressional Review Act was used to override an education regulation, and Congress has already overturned two of them.

One imposed a template on states under a requirement to submit detailed school-accountability plans to the federal Education Department. The other required states to build a rating system for local teacher education programs, including judging teacher preparation based on student performance.

Sure enough, Foxx stood beside President Donald Trump in March as he signed those Congressional Review Acts into law, repealing both regulations.

Democrats dislike tearing up Obama-era education regulations.

“The federal government needs to require certain things. … If you don’t have some (regulations), the law won’t get implemented,” said Representative Alma Adams, D-N.C., who sits on the House education committee.

Specifically, Adams says the Congressional Review Act rolling back regulations associated with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act inhibits the Education Department’s ability to make sure states help low-performing schools–something the state accountability plans would address.

Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, the top Democrat on the House education committee, has also criticized the swift repeal of the accountability rule, saying it creates confusion for local education officials, who had been working on their state plans since last year.

But Foxx, who served on Watauga County’s school board for 12 years before joining Congress in 2005, wants decision-making left to states and local school districts.

“The closer you are to what’s happening, the more likely there is to be self-correction,” she said. “I want to devolve as much as possible to the localities and to the states.”

The National Governors Association–which has 33 Republican governors on its membership roll this year–supported Republicans in Congress using Congressional Review Acts to roll back education rules, saying the federal regulations attempt to usurp local power.

Others, like U.S. Representative David Price, D-N.C., worry that Congressional Review Acts move too quickly through Congress without much debate.

“It’s a scattershot process that so far, anyway, has not been accompanied by very much in the way of hearings or getting input from stakeholders,” he said.

Democrats in Congress will have limited power as Foxx and other conservatives look for a reset at the Education Department. Foxx said she’d found an ally in Secretary Betsy DeVos.

As things unfold, Foxx’s simple advice to DeVos has been: “You can start with: Don’t do anything.”

Rules, regulations and “dear colleague” letters from the department in the past incensed Foxx. Too often, she said, federal departments use regulations or executive power to distort legislative intent.

“We’re gonna stop this foolishness of letters and then people saying, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ Where is the authority for that? There’s no authority, but the school systems are scared,” she said.

With DeVos, it’s unlikely the Education Department needs Foxx’s urging to lay off the rules and regulations. Before DeVos was confirmed, Trump invoked a government-wide regulatory freeze and DeVos herself has said she plans to run a limited-government department.

Still, Foxx promises she’ll scrutinize executive actions and department-level authority in Trump’s administration.

“I want to show our Democrat colleagues we’re just as concerned about that in a Republican administration as in a Democrat administration,” she said.

Chances are, though, Foxx won’t reach her most cherished goal: to abolish the Education Department.

The conservative drumbeat to get rid of the department or strip its power has been around for decades, starting with President Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on eliminating the department just a year after it was created.

This spring, Congress will consider Trump’s pitch to cut the Education Department’s funding by $3 billion, or 13.5 percent. The decision on spending, though, is not up to Foxx’s committee, but to the House and Senate Appropriations panels.

“It seems unlikely there will be cuts at the magnitude he proposed,” said Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget who’s a former Capitol Hill staffer for two House Democrats.

Any shift of money away from traditional public schools will be met with resistance from powerful groups like the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union for educators and school employees that supports Democratic campaigns and candidates.

Federation President Randi Weingarten said Trump’s 2018 budget proposal “eviscerates public education.” Trump looks to cut money for after-school programs, professional development for teachers and college-prep programs for low-income students.

“This is taking a meat cleaver to the investments that are done to level the playing field for Americans who are not rich. This is not about giving locals more control,” Weingarten said.

Conservatives in North Carolina say there’s an appetite for reducing the federal role in the classroom.

“The primacy of federal influence and authority seems out of proportion, especially when you consider only 11 percent of all public school funds in North Carolina are provided by the federal government,” said Bob Luebke, a senior policy analyst with Civitas, a N.C.-based conservative think tank.

Foxx’s big idea? Which is highly unlikely to happen: Stop collecting federal taxes for education.

“I’d get rid of the Department of Education if I could,” she said. “But we cannot just devolve things without allowing (states) to have the money. … If we’re still hauling that money in up here, we haven’t solved the problem.”

~~  Anna Douglas,  McClatchy ~~

In USA….

The Free Press WV

 

►  10 U.S. Cities With the Worst Air Pollution

Despite California’s imposing environmental laws, the state has some of the worst air pollution in the country, reports USA Today via the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report, out Wednesday. While the report names Visala/Hanford, Calif., as having the worst overall year-round pollution, it also notes eight of the 25 US cities with the worst short-term air pollution are in the Golden State. The top 10 in that category:

  1. Bakersfield, Calif.
  2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  3. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  4. Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  5. Fairbanks, Alaska
  6. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  7. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  8. Logan, Utah
  9. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  10. Reno-Carson City-Fernley, Nev.

Click for the FULL REPORT.


►  Report: Alleged Stalker Asks Malia Obama to Marry Him

A 30-year-old man is facing possible charges for allegedly stalking and harassing Malia Obama, the New York Daily News reports. According to NBC New York, Jair Cardoso showed up at the New York City building where the 18-year-old daughter of the former president is interning three days in a row, from April 10 to April 12. Sources say on April 10 Cardoso held up a sign and yelled for Obama to marry him before Secret Service agents told him to leave. Two days later, he was stopped by agents while allegedly following Obama after she left her internship, CBS New York reports.

On April 13, Secret Service agents interviewed Cardoso at his apartment and took him to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Sources say Cardoso is trying to use Obama to get to her father, who he wants to ask for help. Agents believe Cardoso, who they say repeatedly tried to get into the White House in the past, is emotionally disturbed. The Secret Service filed police reports regarding Cardoso’s alleged behavior on Tuesday. The NYPD is considering stalking or harassment charges, though none have yet been filed.


►  South Korea Mocks Trump’s ‘Ignorant Remarks’ - Trump puts his foot in his mouth, again, angering yet another ally.

South Korean officials have demanded the White House confirm that remarks made by US Donald Trump are accurate, after they sparked fury among political leaders in the country.

On Thursday the South Korean foreign ministry said it was working to find out whether Chinese President Xi Jinping told Mr. Trump that the country “used to be part of China”.

The comments were quoted in a Wall Street Journal interview with the President where he was recounting what the Chinese leader had told him in a recent meeting.

While the comment was not used in the initial article, it was later posted in a transcript online with Trump saying about Xi: “He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years ... and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China.”

A Quartz article later drew attention to it, calling the comment a “glaring historical inaccuracy that has, somehow, not yet enraged South Korea which is usually extremely defensive about suggestions that it is lesser than China or has ever been dependent on it.”

Since then, South Korean media has picked up the comment despite it being dismissed by the foreign ministry as “not worthy of a response” according to news agency Yonhap.


►  U.S. reverses itself on status of deported Mexican

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday reversed its position on the status of a man who has sued over his deportation to Mexico, acknowledging he was enrolled in a program to shield people who came to the country as young children.

Juan Manuel Montes, 23, was entitled to be in the United States until January 25, 2018 under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to Homeland Security, which broke from its position a day earlier that his status expired in August 2015 and wasn’t renewed. But it said Montes acknowledged under oath that he entered the country illegally on February 19, forcing him to lose status because it was an admission that he left without required permission.

Montes’ attorneys say their client is believed to be the first known DACA recipient to be deported by Donald Trump. They say he qualified in 2014 and renewed his status for two years in 2016.

A lawsuit seeking records about Montes’ deportation was assigned to U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, who last month approved an agreement for Trump to pay $25 million to settle cases alleging that his now-defunct Trump University misled customers. Trump repeatedly criticized the Indiana-born judge during the presidential campaign, insinuating that his Mexican heritage exposed a bias.

The case may define Trump’s approach to DACA, which was introduced in 2012 by President Barack Obama. Trump has kept it in place and made sympathetic remarks about its beneficiaries, upsetting some immigration hardliners.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday that he didn’t want to “rush to judgment” about Montes and referred questions to Homeland Security. He said the administration’s enforcement priorities are people who committed crimes in the United States and pose a threat.

“I would respectfully suggest that, in this case, the facts are not completely out, so I would rather not jump to conclusions about what happened,“ he said.

U.S. Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican, applauded Montes’ removal in a tweet that linked to a story in USA Today, which first reported the case. Above a photo of a mug, he wrote, “First non-valedictorian DREAMer deported. Border Patrol, this one’s for you.“
Even after its latest statement, Homeland Security’s account sharply differed from what Montes’ attorneys say happened.

The attorneys said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Southern District of California that their client left the country February 17 only because he was stopped by a law enforcement official and asked for identification while walking to a taxi stand in Calexico, California, about 120 miles east of San Diego. He was asked to sign documents without being given copies or an opportunity to see an immigration judge.

After getting assaulted in the Mexican border city of Mexicali, Montes returned to the United States two days later and turned himself over to authorities, according to the lawsuit. He was again asked to sign documents, not provided copies and returned to Mexico.

Homeland Security said Wednesday that the Border Patrol had no record of the initial encounter in Calexico and that Montes had left the United States “on an unknown date.“ The Border Patrol arrested after him after he climbed over a border fence in the California border town of about 40,000 people.

The National Immigration Law Center, which represents Montes, stood by its account. Its lawsuit seeks records on why their client was deported, alleging that immigration officials violated the Freedom of Information Act for failure to respond to its request beyond acknowledging receipt.

“Juan Manuel has been unequivocal in his assertion that he never voluntarily left the country while he had DACA,“ said attorney Nora Preciado. “We believe him ... Rather than continue to provide half-truths and varying assertions, DHS should respond to our request for documentation. We will see them in court.“

Montes, who came to the United States when he was 9 years old, graduated high school in 2013 and pursued a welding degree at community college, according to the lawsuit. He then worked two years picking crops in California and Arizona. He is currently in Mexico.

Homeland Security said Montes was convicted of shoplifting in July 2016. His lawyers acknowledged in the lawsuit that he had a misdemeanor on his record and “minor traffic offenses,“ none of which would have disqualified him from DACA.

The government has issued nearly 800,000 DACA permits since President Barack Obama introduced the program in 2012 and nearly 700,000 renewals.


►  From ‘Politicized Prisoner’ to Inmate Hero

Reporter Joseph Shapiro first met Martin Sostre after New York’s governor granted the inmate clemency in 1976. The prisoner’s story sparked a lifelong interest in prison activism for Shapiro, who documents for NPR his search for the long-disappeared Sostre. Shapiro dives into the early life of the self-described “street dude” from Harlem whose first bust (for drugs) in 1952 sent him to upstate New York’s Sing Sing correctional facility and kicked off his tenure as a “politicized prisoner.“ Along with newfound knowledge he gained reading about law, black history, philosophy, and the Constitution, Sostre decided to take the hustling skills he’d gained on the streets and put them to good use fighting for prisoners’ rights. He was even thrown in solitary for his push for religious concessions as a member of the Nation of Islam.

Sostre and two other inmates won a lawsuit in 1961 against a warden at another prison for denying prisoners their religious rights, setting the foundation for other inmates’ suits against other correctional facilities. When Sostre was released, he opened a leftist-leaning bookstore in Buffalo, which he ran until a 1967 raid at his bookstore landed him a decades-long sentence in prison on drug charges he denied. He continued to stand up for his rights and those of other inmates, filing legal motions to protest stints in solitary and what he said were other violations. His victories earned him hero status among inmates nationwide. “No single figure played a greater role in securing legal rights for prisoners in the history of US prisons than Martin Sostre,“ one historian notes. More at NPR on what Shapiro found out when he tracked down Sostre’s wife.


►  Lost Wallet Found— After Nearly 60 Years

Good news: The wallet lost by Isolde Zitzewitz in a Washington state Bon Marche has been found. Bad news: The wallet appears to have been lost nearly 60 years ago, the Bon Marche is long gone, and Zitzewitz died in 2009. The wallet-turned-time capsule was discovered by a construction crew demolishing what is now a Macy’s in downtown Spokane. It fell out of a drainpipe six stories off the ground (it’s unclear how the wallet ended up in such an improbable spot). The wallet worked its way up the chain of command from the construction crew, eventually landing in the newsroom of the Spokesman-Review.

The wallet contained Zitzewitz’s ID cards for the Women’s Army Corps; a credit card that predates American Express; a US Army vehicle operator’s license; a Fred Meyer receipt for ice cream and coffee; a joke card handed out by commissioned officers when their subordinates complained; and more. None of the documents, some of which are in German, are dated past 1958. A volunteer researcher at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society tracked down Zitzewitz, discovering she died in 2009, apparently without ever marrying or having children. But the Spokesman-Review found her nephew, Gus Zitzewitz, who describes his aunt as “extremely educated” and worldly. He says she never mentioned losing her wallet. Read the full story HERE .


►  Teen Who Disappeared After Prom Faces Criminal Charge

The 17-year-old Idaho high-schooler who disappeared after his prom has been found—and is now facing criminal charges for running away from home, KTVB reports. Kristian Perez was reported missing by his mother on Saturday when he didn’t return home following his prom in Orofino. According to the Spokesman-Review, police found Perez’s broken cellphone, tuxedo jacket, and one shoe near the car of a relative who had driven Perez to prom. Police believed there was the possibility of foul play, KLEW reports. Police dogs followed Perez’s scent to a parking lot near the prom but lost it there.

Police found Perez shortly before 1am Tuesday at a house a few miles from the prom after receiving a tip. Authorities say he was fine and voluntarily staying with a 26-year-old man named Tyson Imel. Perez was arrested and is facing the possibility of probation on a runaway charge. Idaho is one of nine states where running away from home is a crime. Imel may also face charges. Orofino’s police chief says the department spent “a lot of man-hours” searching for Perez, and they’re “disappointed” he ran away without telling his family.


►  Georgetown Apologizes for 1838 Slave Sale

Georgetown University and the group of Catholic priests that founded the school in Washington, DC, have apologized for selling slaves in 1838 in order to raise money to pay off the college’s debts. The school has renamed two buildings in honor of two of the 272 people sold, reports the AP. Their descendants gathered on the Georgetown campus for a dedication ceremony Tuesday.

One building is named Isaac Hawkins Hall in honor of the first person listed in documents related to the sale. Another bears the name of Anne Marie Becraft, a free woman of color who taught Catholic black girls in Georgetown. Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States president Rev. Timothy Kesicki said during a prayer service that the group has “greatly sinned” and is “profoundly sorry.“ Georgetown is also offering a preference in admissions to descendants of those sold.


►  Man Believed to Be First DACA Deportee Sues U.S.

A 23-year-old man sued the federal government over his deportation to Mexico, saying he was entitled to remain in the US under a program shielding people who came to the country as young children. Juan Manuel Montes’ attorneys say their client is believed to be the first known person who qualifies for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to be deported by Trump, the AP reports. The attorneys say Montes qualified for DACA in 2014 and renewed his status for two years in 2016. US Customs and Border Protection disputes Montes’ account of his immigration status, saying his DACA permit expired in August 2015 and wasn’t renewed. The agency says Montes was once convicted of theft and sentenced to probation. His lawyers acknowledge in the suit he had a misdemeanor on his record and “minor traffic offenses,“ none of which would have disqualified him from DACA.

The suit, which says Montes came to the US when he was 9, notes he was sent to Mexico on February 17 after law enforcement stopped him in Calexico, Calif., and asked for ID. It says he’d forgotten his wallet in a friend’s car and felt “scared and confused.“ The suit adds he was asked to sign documents without being given copies or meeting with an immigration judge. Montes returned to the US February 19 and turned himself in; he was again asked to sign documents and returned to Mexico. CBP says Montes was arrested after climbing over a Calexico border fence and admitting he’d entered the country illegally. “I was forced out because I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or say,“ he says. A National Immigration Law Center attorney says he was “funneled across the border without so much as a piece of paper to explain why ... The government shouldn’t treat anyone this way.“


►  NYT Tweet of Patriots-Trump Photos Causes a Stir

It’s another Trump-related brouhaha over crowd size. The New York Times set this one off with a tweet of two photos, one showing the New England Patriots visiting Trump at the White House on Wednesday and another showing them visiting President Obama in 2015. The Obama crowd was much bigger. A few hours later, the Patriots took public exception to the tweet with one of their own complaining that the images “lack context.“ And they have a point: The 2015 photo included players, coaches, and administrative staff. The 2017 photo included players and coaches only—those same staffers were seated in the audience. All of which caught the attention of Trump himself, who tweeted Thursday: “Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to W.H.“

It’s true that fewer players attended this year’s event than in 2015—34 vs. about 50. But a team spokesman says even that comparison is unfair given that it’s the team’s second Super Bowl win in three years, reports the Boston Globe. It’s just human nature that fewer would come this time, he suggested, not politics. However, at least one player skipped because of the president’s politics, notes the Washington Post: free safety Devin McCourty. QB Tom Brady also skipped this year, though he cited family reasons, and he skipped in 2015, too. Meanwhile, the Huffington Post notes that his wife, Gisele Bundchen, issued a tweet Wednesday perceived as anti-Trump. It’s since been deleted, but it supported an April 29 march in DC against new White House environmental policies. “March for climate, jobs, and justice,“ it read.


►  Report: CIA Hunting WikiLeaks Source

A manhunt is underway for a CIA employee or contractor who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks, revealing the agency’s ability to turn smartphones, TVs, and computers into surveillance equipment. The CIA and FBI are searching for the unknown individual, who would’ve been among hundreds to have physical access to the documents in a secure section of the agency, reports CBS News. In related news, Page Six reports Hillary Clinton’s camp is investigating the source of leaked information provided to the authors of a book about her doomed campaign. A rep for Clinton, however, says details contained in the book are “flat-out made up.“


►  Judge’s Husband: She Did Not Kill Herself

The husband of a New York judge found floating in the Hudson River has made an anguished plea to the public to help solve her death. In a statement to NBC News, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs rejected claims his wife, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman to sit on the state’s high court, committed suicide. Abdus-Salaam, 65, was found in the river in Upper Manhattan on April 12, one day after her husband reported her missing, per the Washington Post. She was wearing sweats, and her body showed no signs of trauma. Although police called the death suspicious, they’re calling it a probable suicide. Breaking his silence, Jacobs dismissed “unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind.“ He added, “Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality.“

The medical examiner has not established a cause of death. The Episcopal minister appealed to “anyone in the neighborhood to step forward with any information that might help us determine what may have happened during those hours before her death.“ While some friends expressed doubt Abdus-Salaam took her own life, others told the New York Times she was stressed and struggling under the pressure of a heavy caseload. The judge’s extended family also countered reports she was the first woman Muslim judge, telling NBC the former Sheila Turner hadn’t practiced the religion in 20 years, and used her first husband’s name professionally. “We will forever remember witnessing her happiness as she united in marriage to an Episcopal priest last year,“ they said.

Conservation Encouraged on Earth Day and Every Day

The Free Press WV

Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia wants to remind all citizens that conserving the earth’s natural resources can also lower your utility bills.

Saving money on heating and cooling bills can be as simple as changing furnace filters every month.  It is possible to save between 15-35% of a home’s energy loss by repairing loose or broken ductwork, caulking and weather stripping.  Shading windows during the warmer months can save up to 25% of the cost to cool a home.  Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, which last up to five times longer and cost almost six times less to use than traditional incandescents.  If your electric utility provider offers a free energy audit, take advantage of it.  The information can save you money all year round.

Residents can also lower their water bill by making small changes in water usage and checking for leaks.  Nationwide, household water leaks waste more than one trillion gallons of water each year.  That’s enough to provide a year’s worth of water for 11 million homes.  Ten percent of homes have leaks that can waste 90 gallons or more per day.  A faucet dripping at the rate of one drop per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.  Check faucet gaskets and washers and replace them when necessary.  Installing a low flow showerhead or faucet aerator can save gallons and dollars every time the tap is turned on.  Turning off the water while brushing your teeth will save three to five gallons or as much as 1,200 gallons a month for a family of four.

On Earth Day and every day, remember that saving the earth’s resources is good for the planet and good for the budget.

For more information, visit the PSC website: www.psc.state.wv.us and click on the links under the heading “Conservation.”

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  3 Arrests as White Nationalist Speaks at Auburn

White nationalist Richard Spencer spoke in a crowded auditorium at Auburn University on Tuesday after a federal judge blocked the Alabama school from banning his appearance. Only a few chairs were empty in the 400-seat-plus room as Spencer and other speakers railed against ethnicity and racial diversity, liberals, the media, and more, saying they wanted to promote “white pride,“ the AP reports. Supporters and opponents engaged in shouting matches beforehand. An Auburn police spokesman says three people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.

Video posted online shows two men scuffling outside the building where Spencer spoke, with one suffering a facial cut and bleeding afterward. Officers led both men away, and one woman also was handcuffed. A judge cleared the way for Spencer’s speech after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by a Georgia man who rented the room where he spoke. The suit claimed the university violated free-speech rights by trying to stop Spencer’s appearance. Auburn officials cited public safety concerns in trying to stop Spencer from appearing in the student union building.


►  Drive-Thru Workers Could Get $50K ‘Facebook Killer’ Reward

The McDonald’s employees who bravely held up the order of an armed and dangerous customer could be in line for a big payday. Police were able to catch up with alleged “Facebook killer” Steve Stephens after drive-thru workers at the Erie, Pa., McDonald’s recognized him Tuesday morning and tried to stall him, meaning the workers could be in line for the $50,000 reward offered by the FBI, ATF, and US Marshals Service for the arrest of the fugitive, TMZ reports. Stephens, on the run after allegedly killing an elderly man in Cleveland, wasn’t arrested: He shot and killed himself after a police chase, but law enforcement officials say there’s still a very good chance that the workers could get the reward.


►  George HW Bush Hospitalized in Houston

Former President George HW Bush has been hospitalized in Houston for four days with a recurrence of a case of pneumonia he had earlier in the year, a family spokesperson said Tuesday. The 92-year-old former president and father of a former president has been in Methodist Hospital in Houston since Friday for observation because of a persistent cough, Jim McGrath said in a brief statement. He said doctors diagnosed a mild case of pneumonia that has been treated and resolved. The former president “is in very good spirits and is being held for further observation while he regains his strength,“ the AP quotes McGrath as saying.

Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, had spent 16 days in the hospital for treatment of pneumonia in January. He was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was also hospitalized in Houston the previous December for about a week for shortness of breath. He spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues. Bush has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility. Despite his loss of mobility, Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by making a tandem parachute jump. Last summer, Bush led a group of 40 wounded warriors on a fishing trip at the helm of his speedboat, three days after his 92nd birthday celebration.


►  A Sister Cracks a Murder Case, a Shocking Discovery Follows

Kalimah Truesdale isn’t a lawyer or a member of the NYPD. In fact, when she got the call informing her that her brother was being charged with murder, she was at her job at Home Depot. And yet she was “the one who cracked” the 2009 case, Robert Grossman, a lawyer whose specialty is post-conviction cases, tells the New Yorker. The magazine outlines a little sister’s dogged quest to free her wrongfully convicted brother. That phone call came in 2011, two years after a teen was murdered in her Bronx neighborhood. Steven Odiase, then 25 and five years older than his sister, was identified by a self-admitted “buzzed” witness as one of the two shooters and convicted. And Truesdale’s quest began. She began asking around, and secretly recording anyone who seemed to know something about the crime.

And she found something—a female eyewitness who said it wasn’t Odiase—but a new motion was denied and Odiase was in 2013 sentenced to 25 years to life. It was Odiase who learned about Grossman and his partner, Jonathan Edelstein, and they followed up on Truesdale’s digging, sending a PI to talk to the woman. She said she had told what she saw to a detective. That confused Truesdale, who didn’t remember seeing her name in the police report. What happened next caused Grossman to exclaim “Holy s—-!“ The attorneys ended up with two copies of the police report, one that referenced the woman, and one that didn’t. Odiase’s trial attorney had been given the latter. “This was not an accident,“ Edelstein says. On Monday, the guilty verdict was vacated and Odiase was released; the Bronx DA tells the New York Times she is not sure whether she will retry the case. Read the New Yorker’s PIECE IN FULL.


►  After the Prom: Busted Phone, One Shoe, Missing Teen

A 17-year-old high school student in Idaho signed out of his senior prom at exactly 9:32pm Friday, but he never returned home—a lone shoe, his tux jacket, and a busted cellphone were found near the car he came in, KREM reports. Kristian Perez’s family says no one’s heard from him since he left the event Friday night, and local police say in a statement in the Idaho County Free Press that they’ve obtained a search warrant for his phone and are now scouring his call and text logs for possible clues. Cops say Kristian’s mom reported him missing when he didn’t come home after the prom, which was held at the National Guard Armory in Orofino.

Per KLEW, a police dog-sniffing team tried to follow Kristian’s scent, which apparently led west from the armory, but the scent vanished right at the entrance to a parking lot along the same highway the armory is located on. Investigators speculate Kristian may have gotten into a vehicle at that location. Cops say in the statement that a possible sighting of Kristian in Lewiston, about an hour away, came up empty after they reviewed a surveillance tape and concluded the person seen in the video wasn’t the missing teen.


►  California Secession Bid Fails: Leader Is Living in Russia

Supporters of one long-shot bid to make California an independent nation ended their effort on Monday, while another group said it will launch a new campaign for a statewide vote next year, reports the AP. The Yes California Independence Campaign faltered after its president, Louis Marinelli, revealed ties to Russia. Marinelli’s wife is a Russian national who has struggled with the US immigration process, notes the San Diego Union-Tribune. In a lengthy message to supporters Monday, Marinelli said he is in Russia and seeking permanent residence because of his “frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with the United States.“ The secretary of state’s office confirmed that Marcus Ruiz Evans, the group’s vice president, withdrew the California Nationhood ballot measure.

Evans said he was leaving the Yes California group and joining the California Freedom Coalition, which he described as a grassroots organizing effort that evolved since last year’s election. The coalition plans to file its own ballot measure in coming weeks, without the baggage of Marinelli’s Russian ties, said Steve Gonzales, the new group’s secretary-treasurer and board member. “It prevented Yes California from getting any serious money, I can tell you that,“ Gonzales said. The coalition would need to collect more than 585,000 signatures to qualify a ballot measure declaring California’s independence for the November 2018 ballot. Congress and 38 states would have had to agree to change the Constitution to permit California to actually secede.


►  Family: Merrell Shoe Founder’s Missing Wife Has Survival Skills

The woman who was swept down a remote creek in Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday is the wife of a popular outdoor footwear company founder, leaving her family hoping the 62-year-old has the skills to keep her stepgrandson and herself alive until they’re found. Lou-Ann Merrell, wife of Randy Merrell—who helped found the Merrell Boot Co. in 1981 and was also on the trip—and Jackson Standefer, 14, lost their footing during a family trip in the Arizona park and fell into Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. Mark McOmie, Jackson’s uncle, tells the AP the water roars down through rocks, so the family is hoping the two could be on a boulder or have found a cave for shelter. McOmie, who was not on the trip, says the Merrells are avid hikers and know the North Rim area, which only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors go to, well.

Lou-Ann Merrell is “a very experienced backpacker,“ McOmie says. “If they can get to a spot where they cannot be in the water and stay warm, she’s got the skills needed to get them through it.“ But “the odds aren’t great,“ he adds. McOmie says searchers have found the pair’s backpacks with belongings inside, which the family has interpreted with mixed feelings: It looks as if they were able to get their backpacks off, but “they don’t have their gear,“ McOmie says. The park service still hasn’t determined what went wrong. The Merrells live in Utah; Jackson is an eighth-grade student at the all-boys McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn. The search resumed Tuesday and includes three ground teams plus a helicopter, drone, and a motorized boat. Officials were alerted when an emergency GPS locator beacon was set off below the canyon’s North Rim, says a National Park Service Representative


►  Dad’s Lesson in Honesty Costs Him $14K

An Ohio man says he was trying to set a good example for his children when he turned in $14,000 he found on the side of the road. Jake Bowers found the money April 8 as he drove his family to a park in Worthington, a Columbus suburb, reports the AP. Bowers says when he initially saw what he tells the Worthington News was a “blue felt bag” on the roadside, he thought it might contain someone’s laptop. Instead, it was filled with $100 bills.

Bowers and his family drove straight to the Worthington police station, and the bag was returned to its owner. It wasn’t too hard to find him: WBNS-10TV reports a wallet containing the owner’s ID was inside the bag. Bowers tells the News it would have been nice to put the money toward his car loans, but he had something more valuable in his hands: “the opportunity to help restore someone’s faith in humanity.“ A police report says the owner had taken the cash to a car dealer but left without buying a vehicle. He told police he must have left it on top of his car and driven off.


►  Highway Buckles, Sends Motorcyclist Flying

Another major highway through Atlanta was partially shut down on Monday, this one after underground utility work caused the pavement to rise up, break apart, and send a passing motorcyclist flying through the air. While the east-west highway could reopen as soon as Tuesday, the rupture was another headache for Atlanta area motorists already struggling with the collapse of an overpass on a key north-south route. Witnesses say the motorcyclist was riding in the carpool lane when the pavement suddenly rose up in front of him, the AP reports. Others rushed to his aid. DeKalb County spokesman Andrew Cauthen says the man was hospitalized with multiple fractures.

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The buckling was caused by a utility crew using machinery to bore a new natural gas pipeline under Interstate 20, authorities say. DeKalb County police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell says a pipeline being filled with concrete ruptured, and the concrete was forced upward. The pressure caused the pavement to rise and break apart, creating a mound as high as six feet or more in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane. The Atlanta Gas Light company says it was performing work in the area, but the incident did not involve natural gas. Authorities hope to have the entire road reopened by noon Tuesday.


►  1 Dead After Army Helicopter Crashes Into Golf Course

A Black Hawk helicopter crashed onto a golf course in Maryland during a routine training flight Monday, killing one crew member and injuring two others, the US Army said. The cause of the crash is under investigation, the US Army Military District of Washington said in a statement Monday evening, per the AP. “We are deeply saddened by this loss within our community,“ said Maj. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the US Army Military District of Washington. “Our condolences go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time.“

Three crew members were aboard the UH-60 Blackhawk. The Army said one person is in serious condition and one is in critical condition. They are being treated at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. They were not identified, pending notification of relatives. The aircraft was from the 12th Aviation Battalion, stationed at Davison Airfield, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Kevin Bowen, who works in the pro shop of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, said he saw the helicopter “flying kind of low” and then “saw it spinning” before it went down between the third and fourth holes of the course in Leonardtown, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC.


►  Teen, Grandma Swept Away on Family Grand Canyon Trip

Authorities searched Grand Canyon National Park on Monday for a teenager and his step-grandmother who were swept away as they tried to cross a creek during a family trip in a remote part of the park, the AP reports. Two fellow hikers in their group alerted officials over the weekend by setting off an emergency GPS locator beacon in the backcountry below the canyon’s North Rim, according to Chief Ranger Matt Vandzura of the National Park Service. He said the 14-year-old boy and 62-year-old woman lost their footing and were swept away Saturday in Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River that runs through the Arizona landmark.

Vandzura said it’s too early in the investigation to determine what went wrong. No rain or flash flooding was reported in the area, but it was not known whether the water level of the creek was higher than usual. Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts, Vandzura said. An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter searched for the missing pair Saturday night, and the Park Service sent a helicopter and several ground crews to comb the area Sunday. The Park Service resumed the search Monday with ground crews, a helicopter and a drone.


►  ‘Despair’ Led to College Prof’s ‘Trump Must Hang’ Tweet

An ill-advised tweet about Trump has led to a “voluntary leave of absence” for a history instructor at Fresno State, per a university statement cited by the Fresno Bee. Fresno State President Joseph Castro says Lars Maischak will spend the rest of the spring semester doing research instead of teaching after a February tweet Maischak sent out to a few dozen followers, the Washington Post reports. “To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better,“ he wrote in a tweet that the Post notes stayed “lost in the ether” until Breitbart publicized it and other Maischak tweets in an April 08 article. The FBI and Secret Service got involved in the probe, and an online petition went up calling for Maischak’s firing for “inciting violence.“

In a written statement to the Bee last week, Maischak apologized for the “cathartic” tweet, which he said wasn’t meant to spur violence and was “the end point of a dark train of thought” from his “despair over the actions of the present US government.“ He said he didn’t think anyone other than a few people who knew him well would ever read his remarks and that he has taken down his Twitter account so no one sees his comments as “encouragement to act violently or unlawfully.“ USA Today notes the spotlight is once again on academia viewed as “elitist” by some. “[This is] why universities across the country are now viewed with disdain by average, salt-of-the-earth Americans,“ the Breitbart article read. Subtitutes will take over Maischak’s classes, the university notes.

Critics: Social Security Change “a Trojan Horse”

A proposal to change how Social Security is funded is being attacked as a sneaky way of undermining the program.

The Trump administration is floating what’s been described as a trial balloon - end the separate payroll taxes deducted for Social Security and replace them with general revenue or a consumption tax, similar to a sales tax.

But Nancy Altman, president of the group Social Security Works, said those payroll deductions function like insurance premiums - you have to pay in to get benefits. She said stopping those would be the first step to cutting benefits.

“Undermining the premiums, which are the dedicated revenue, which can only be used for Social Security - the dominant source of funding that’s been there since 1935 - it fundamentally alters the program,” Altman said.

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Social Security took American seniors from being the highest poverty age group to one of the most secure.


Critics say Social Security is going bankrupt and has to be changed. The latest federal estimates say the program’s trust fund will run out in 2034. But Altman said the program would still pay out nearly 80 percent of current benefits with an empty trust fund.

Since Social Security has its own dedicated source of funding, it adds nothing to the deficit. But Altman said ending the payroll taxes would leave Social Security benefits vulnerable to cuts as a way to reduce the deficit at some point in the future.

“So I’ve actually called it a Trojan horse, because it looks like a gift, it looks like middle class tax relief, but really it’s undermining middle class economic security,” she said.

During the campaign, President Trump said he wouldn’t cut Social Security benefits. But Altman said Trump has criticized the program in the past. And she said the payroll tax structure has been a cornerstone of Social Security since it was founded.

“Roosevelt said ‘this is a premium that people are paying,’” she said. “And that is part of what gives this program its strength - people know they’ve not only earned these benefits, they’ve paid for these benefits.“

About two-thirds of American seniors rely on Social Security for most or all of their income. Without the program, economists estimate the poverty rate for seniors could multiply by three or four times.

More information is available at SocialSecurityWorks.org.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  Former NFL Star Hernandez Hangs Himself in Prison

Startling news out of a Massachusetts prison: Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez hanged himself in his cell overnight, say authorities at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. Hernandez, serving a life term for murder, used a bed sheet attached to the window in his cell, say the prison officials, per WCVB. Corrections officers found him about 3am Wednesday, and he was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead about an hour later.

Prison authorities say Hernandez had jammed items in front of his cell door from the inside. Last week, the former Patriots player was acquitted of a 2012 double murder, but he was already serving a life term without parole for the 2013 killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez, who was 27, played tight end for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. His former team, the current Super Bowl champs, will be at the White House on Wednesday, notes the Boston Globe.

►  Surprise: U.S. Carrier Nowhere Near N. Korea

If the USS Carl Vinson is supposed to be near the Korean peninsula sending an ominous signal to North Korea, nobody informed the USS Carl Vinson. Despite a slew of reports suggesting that the aircraft carrier was in the area, or about to be, a report at Defense News reveals the reality: The Vinson is currently about 3,500 miles away, taking part in military exercises with the Australian navy south of Singapore. That’s not to say the carrier won’t get to the Korean peninsula, but even if it left now and traveled at its top speed, it would take four to five days, reports Stars and Stripes. Defense officials tell CNN that things won’t happen that quickly: They expect the Vinson and its strike group to arrive off the Korean peninsula around the end of the month.

Just don’t expect an announcement about the destination from the Navy, which doesn’t divulge details about the location of its warships. Stars and Stripes notes that reports suggesting the Vinson was high-tailing it toward North Korea have come from officials in Washington, not the Navy, which has said more broadly that the carrier is moving toward the “Western Pacific Ocean” and avoided any mention of a timetable. Last week, Trump spoke of “sending an armada” to the region, and reports about the Vinson even caught the attention of North Korea, which called it “nothing but a reckless action of aggression to aggravate the tensions in the region.“


►  Suspect in Facebook Murder Kills Self as Cops Close In

The hunt for the alleged Facebook killer is over. Police in Erie, Pa., say Steve Stephens fatally shot himself after a brief chase, reports the Daily Beast. Stephens, 37, had been on the run since Sunday, when he was accused of shooting a 74-year-old man to death in a random attack in Cleveland and posting a video of it on Facebook. In a tweet, the Pennsylvania State Police wrote: “Stephens was spotted this morning by PSP members in Erie County. After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself.“ The fugitive had said in the Facebook video that he had “snapped” and killed others, but police have found no victims beyond the man in Cleveland, Robert Godwin.


►  ‘Chaotic’ Day Ends With SCOTUS Sparing Ark. Inmate

The US Supreme Court spared the life of an Arkansas inmate minutes before his death warrant was set to expire Monday, scuttling the state’s efforts to carry out four double executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expires. The court’s decision to maintain the Arkansas Supreme Court’s stay for Don Davis capped a chaotic day of legal wrangling in state and federal courts to clear the obstacles Arkansas faced to carrying out its first executions since 2005, the AP reports. Governor Asa Hutchinson said the state would continue to push for the other lethal injections to be carried out. Two inmates are set to be put to death on Thursday.

The Supreme Court ruling came hours after the state had cleared two main obstacles to resuming executions. The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge’s ruling blocking the executions over the use of midazolam, a drug used in flawed executions in other states. The state Supreme Court also lifted a lower court ruling preventing the state from using another drug that a supplier said was sold to be used for medical purposes, not executions—but it granted Davis a stay until the US Supreme Court hears an upcoming case on defendants with mental health problems.


►  12-Year-Old Uses Van’s Safety Feature to Stop Carjacker

Maddie Weiler has been given explicit instructions from her mom and dad on what to do if anyone ever tried to abduct her. The 12-year-old from Williamsburg, Va., got to put that advice to good use on Saturday when a man tried to carjack the van she and her younger sister were in as their mom tried to assist at the scene of a car accident, WSET reports. Maddie’s mom was taking her and 7-year-old Mollie to Busch Gardens when they saw a car accident take place. Their mom jumped out to see if she could help, and that’s when Maddie said a man came out of nowhere, stuck his hand through one of the vehicle’s windows to unlock the door, and slipped inside. Maddie says she could think of nothing else “except he’s a psycho and he needs to get out of the car,“ so she leaped into action.

First she took advantage of one of the van’s safety features: She put the vehicle in drive so the man couldn’t start the engine, then started yelling and punching him as Mollie fled. Cops intervened and nabbed the suspect, identified as 21-year-old Paul Salsman. A James City County Police Department rep says Salsman admitted to cops he’d taken LSD and smoked crack cocaine, WYDaily.com reports. Police say Salsman, who had to be hit with a stun gun twice before being taken into custody, was charged with felony carjacking (he’s accused of trying to steal three vehicles at the scene), felony hit-and-run, and driving under the influence of drugs. Maddie did break a growth plate in her wrist during her ordeal, but Mollie is thankful her big sister took charge. “It was amazing,“ Mollie tells WSET.


►  Border wall could leave some Americans on ‘Mexican side’

The last time U.S. officials built a barrier along the border with Mexico, they left an opening at the small road leading south to Pamela Taylor’s home on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Taylor hadn’t been told where the fence would be built, and she doesn’t know now whether officials are coming back to complete it.

“How would we get out?“ asked Taylor, 88, sitting in the living room of the home she built with her husband half a century ago. “Do they realize that they’re penalizing people that live along this river on the American side?“

Taylor’s experience illustrates some of the effects that the border wall Donald Trump has imagined could have on residents in the Rio Grande Valley, the sunny expanse of bilingual towns and farmland that form the southernmost point of the U.S.-Mexico border. The wall could seal some Americans on the “Mexican side” – technically on U.S. soil, but outside of a barrier built north of the river separating the two countries. Landowners could lose property, and those that already lost some for the existing fence are already preparing for a new battle.

Even if they don’t win, lawyers hope to tie up the wall in court long enough that politics could effectively stop it, either in Congress or after another election.

“That’s a fight that we’ve been ready to fight,“ said Efren Olivares, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

The U.S. government will select finalists to build pieces of wall in San Diego, then choose a company to complete the rest. Ron Vitiello, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a new barrier will eventually be built in the Rio Grande Valley, where sections of rust-colored poles 18 feet high already run through neighborhoods in Brownsville and nearby towns. Vitiello told an audience in San Antonio that the government plans to complete a wall or fence in towns that have long been under consideration.

“There will likely be (barriers) there if all of the plans come together, but I can’t tell you where,“ he said.

Trump said he would build the wall to stop migrants entering illegally and what he described as a flow of drugs and crime. The Border Patrol makes more apprehensions along the more than 300 miles of border in the Rio Grande Valley than anywhere else.

In and around Brownsville, people have lived next to the river for generations, and residents of both sides cross bridges to work or shop daily. Taylor and others who live closest to the river routinely see border crossers walking up to their homes.

Many people living in the valley say the fence doesn’t work, and there’s widespread opposition there to a bigger wall. While the region is one of the Texas Democratic Party’s few strongholds in a deeply conservative state, many people here resent outsiders and politicians of both parties for using the border as a talking point. The 2006 law authorizing a fence passed with support from many Democrats, including then-Senator Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in November.

When the U.S. government built the fence, it had to take hundreds of landowners to court to use its power of eminent domain. That’s because unlike in other southern border states, most Texas border land is privately owned, and tough terrain and water use agreements with Mexico meant some fence was built a mile or more north of the river.

With court fights also expected over Trump’s wall, the Texas Civil Rights Project has begun signing up landowners and identifying people who might be affected.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the government must prove it wants to seize land for public use and must offer a landowner “just compensation.“ While challenging the wall’s “public use” would be difficult, those who believe they’re not getting the full value of their land could take the case to court, setting up trials that could take years.

Antonio Reyes said he’s seen people scale the border fence that bisects his backyard and jump down in seconds. Sometimes they carry bales of what appear to be drugs.

A higher wall is “still not going to stop them,“ he said. “They’ll shotput it or whatever they have to do.“

In Roma, a town of 10,000 people, a visitor standing on the bluffs overlooking the Rio Grande can see traffic moving across a tiny bridge and hear chickens clucking on the Mexican side. The Border Patrol occasionally uses blimps to monitor traffic, with agents stationed nearby.

Juan Moreno, a 64-year-old retiree, recalls surveyors measuring his neighborhood several years ago for a fence, although it was never built in Roma.

He credits Border Patrol agents for monitoring the border and providing much-needed business for stores in Roma. But he chuckled when asked about the wall.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be in the U.S. or Mexico,“ he said. “It’s up to Trump.“

In San Benito, Eloisa Tamez spent seven years trying to stop the government from running the fence through her property, which had been in her family since the 1700s. The government eventually won, but only after agreeing to pay about $56,000, many times what it initially offered. She uses a gate to access the part of her property that’s on the other side of the fence.

Now, she’s preparing for the possibility of another court battle.

“I probably have one more decade to live, and I had one decade of torture,“ said Tamez, 82. “I think if they start that business again, I don’t know how much fight I’ll have left in me, but I’m going to fight it until the end.“


►  Lawsuit: Army should factor PTSD in discharge decisions

A federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges the U.S. Army has issued less-than-honorable discharges for potentially thousands of service members without adequately considering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.

The plaintiffs, two Army veterans from Connecticut who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, say in the lawsuit that they were wrongly denied honorable discharges. The lawsuit filed in Connecticut by Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic is seeking class-action status.

An Army spokeswoman said the branch doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

One of the plaintiffs, Steve Kennedy, said he developed PTSD and depression after fighting in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 and began abusing alcohol and cutting himself. After going absent-without-leave to attend his own wedding, he was diagnosed by the Army with depression, and he received a general discharge because he had gone AWOL, according to the lawsuit.

Kennedy was later diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but his discharge status prevented him from receiving benefits including tax exemptions and scholarships that are open only to honorably discharged veterans, the lawsuit said.

“As my PTSD became impossible to manage on my own, my commander told me that the only way I could receive treatment was by leaving the Army with a bad paper discharge,“ said Kennedy, who is now pursuing a doctorate in biophysical chemistry. “Just like that, the Army wiped away years of distinguished service to my country and deemed it less than Honorable.“

The lawsuit targets the review boards that give veterans a chance to contest discharges that may have been unjustly harsh.

It is the first lawsuit to argue that the Army Discharge Review Boards are inconsistently following a requirement that they apply a liberal standard to considerations of veterans’ claims alleging PTSD or related conditions, according to Mario Gazzola, a law student intern with the Yale clinic.


►  Aaron Hernandez Acquitted in 2012 Double Murder

Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez was found not guilty Friday of murdering two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012, Reuters reports. But that doesn’t mean the ex-New England Patriot is going to be a free man any time soon. Hernandez is currently serving life without parole for murdering an acquaintance in 2013. The double murder charges stemmed from an altercation that reportedly started over a spilled drink and ended with Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado dead. According to CNN, Hernandez was acquitted of all eight charges related to the double murder except for a single weapons possession charge. The judge added four to five years to the end of Hernandez’s current life sentence for that charge.

Hernandez’s defense team cites a lack of evidence as the reason for the acquittal and claims Hernandez’s friend, who testified against him, is the actual killer. One of the eight charges against Hernandez was for witness intimidation for allegedly shooting the friend in the face to keep him from testifying. An attorney for Hernandez says the 27-year-old is “relieved” about the verdict. The attorney tells the Boston Globe he hopes people will now see Hernandez “for who he is—a very good young man.“ The district attorney says there’s “some consolation” that Hernandez will remain behind bars regardless. He was found guilty two years ago in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiance’s sister.


►  Tribal Chief Who Signed Treaty With Pilgrims to Be Reburied

The remains of the Wampanoag leader who forged a peaceful relationship with the Pilgrims will be reburied at his original gravesite in Rhode Island, the AP reports. Members of the Wampanoag Nation have spent 20 years tracking down the remains and artifacts of Massasoit Ousamequin. It was their “spiritual and cultural obligation,“ said Ramona Peters, who coordinated the effort. Ousamequin signed the first treaty with the Pilgrims after they arrived on the Mayflower, promising in 1621 in the village that became Plymouth, Massachusetts, to protect each other, according to the Wampanoags. The peace lasted for decades.

Ousamequin was buried on a hilltop overlooking Narragansett Bay. His remains and artifacts were scattered when a railroad was built through the burial site nearly two centuries after his death and archaeologists and local residents dug there. Objects belonging to Ousamequin became part of collections in seven museums. A private ceremony is planned for May at the gravesite. A federal law that took effect in 1990 requires museums to transfer remains and any associated burial objects to culturally affiliated tribes. The purpose of the law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was to allow for reburials consistent with tribal traditions. Peters said it has been difficult because there was resistance from some museums at first.


►  Navy Bans E-Cigs After Series of ‘Mishaps’

The Navy has issued a partial ban on vaping after a series of what it characterizes as “mishaps,“ NPR reports. According to the Hill, there were 15 incidents involving e-cigarettes between October 2015 and June 2016. Eight of those incidents happened aboard vessels or aircraft, and two involved e-cigarettes exploding while actually in the mouths of sailors. The Navy says “multiple” sailors have been injured by exploding e-cigarettes, including some who’ve suffered first-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In addition to sailors, the ban—which bars anyone from possessing or using e-cigs on Navy crafts—is meant “to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft, and equipment.“ The ban goes into effect May 14 and doesn’t affect vaping while on shore.


►  Fire Damages Bellagio on Vegas Strip

A fire official says a Thursday night blaze damaged decorative facing on the roof of the Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip, the AP reports. Assistant Clark County Fire Chief Larry Haydu said Friday that no one was injured in the fire about 11pm Thursday. He says damage was limited to the roof of the Via Bellagio annex. A cause wasn’t immediately known. Hotel spokesperson Yvette Monet says the retail area was evacuated, but operations weren’t interrupted at the posh casino and hotel with nearly 4,000 rooms.

Gusty winds made fighting the fire difficult for the more than 70 firefighters who responded, and the Review-Journal reports that part of Las Vegas Boulevard was shut down temporarily. (Bystanders captured the scene in videos like this one.) Haydu says crews had trouble reaching the rooftop adjacent to the iconic dancing fountains near the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road. The retail area has high-end stores like Tiffany & Co. and Chanel, and celebrity restaurants line the fountain lake.


►  Cop Fired for Kicking Handcuffed Man in Head

Two videos circulating on social media showed a Georgia man being assaulted by two cops during a traffic stop this week, and now those cops have been fired, the AP reports. Robert McDonald was canned Thursday after the first video came to light involving motorist Demetrius Bryan Hollins, the Gwinnett County PD says. Michael Bongiovanni was let go later that day after a second video emerged, per the Washington Post. “The revelations uncovered in this entire investigation are shocking,“ read a Gwinnett PD statement tweeted Thursday night. Hollins, 21, had been pulled over in Lawrenceville around 4pm Wednesday by Bongiovanni, the police say, and as shown in a video that appeared on the Everything Georgia Twitter feed, Bongiovanni punched Hollins in the face after Hollins came out of the car with his hands up.

The other video shows McDonald rushing over as Hollins was lying in the street and slamming his foot into Hollins’ head. Hollins’ lip and nose appeared to be bloodied in his booking photo. Bongiovanni’s incident report said he had pulled Hollins over for a busted brake light and a lack of signaling while changing lanes. The officer said Hollins had started to “act strange,“ yell, and resist directions, and he remembered similarly disruptive behavior from a previous arrest. Hollins was released on bond Thursday after he was charged with the original citations, in addition to driving with a suspended or revoked license and registration and possessing less than an ounce of pot.


►  In Church’s Hour of Need, Rare Coin Comes to the Rescue

When Ben Lamb put out the call for funds for a new home for his Indiana church, the pastor hoped congregants would to show their generosity. But as time ticked away to secure a bank loan for a permanent building for GracePoint Church, Lamb began to lose hope. One man donated $150,000, but the church needed twice that to meet the bank’s terms, the Chicago Tribune reports. Then a woman offered up a gold $20 Double Eagle coin. The rare piece stamped 1866 was in the first series stamped with “In God We Trust.“ The coin, one of 30, was never put in circulation. There are believed to be only 10 left, a rep for Heritage Auctions tells NBC Chicago. She estimates the coin could sell for more than $300,000 at an auction later this month. “Honestly, we were completely stunned by the value of the coin,“ Lamb says.

The Free Press WV

The donor, who requested anonymity, tells CBS Chicago she has all she needs. “I can get by just fine. I’m not looking for wealth.“ But Lamb tells NBC the coin, which was purchased by her late husband, a collector, has been something of a “thorn in her side” since four assailants broke into her house a few years ago and tried to steal it. A neighbor intervened and they failed. For Lamb, the “incredible gift” that will allow GracePoint to move into a converted furniture store has restored his faith. “It’s ironic that the last few hours before our financial deadline, the congregation had to do exactly what the coin’s motto said over a hundred years ago: trust God.”


►  Cops: Facebook Killer’s Phone Pinged in Pennsylvania

The Cleveland man accused of shooting an elderly man Sunday and posting video of the murder on Facebook is armed, dangerous, and could be out of Ohio by now, police say. An aggravated murder warrant was issued for Steve Stephens late Sunday and police have asked people in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan to be on the alert, CBS reports. Cops say Stephens’ phone pinged in Erie, Penn., which sits some 100 miles from Cleveland, reports CNN. Police, who initially said Stephens broadcast the murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin on Facebook Live, now say he posted the video after the killing. In the video, Stephens appears to target the elderly passerby at random. In another video, the 37-year-old claims to have killed more than a dozen other people, reports Cleveland 19.

Police describe Stephens as a 6-foot-1, 244-pound black male with a full beard and say he is driving a white Ford Fusion sedan that may have the temporary Ohio tag E363630. In his videos, Stephens, who works for an agency that provides youth counselling services, says he snapped because of problems with partner Joy Lane and other family members. At a Sunday evening press conference, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams called the killing “senseless” and urged Stephens to turn himself before he harms anybody else, the Cleveland Dispatch reports. Williams said police hadn’t found any evidence to support Stephens’ claim to have carried out more killings.


►  Sole Survivor Marks 75th Anniversary of 1st U.S. Raid on Japan

At age 101, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole says his memories are vivid of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders mission that helped change the course of World War II. Now the sole survivor of the original 80-member group, he plans to take part in events Monday and Tuesday at the National Museum of the US Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that rallied America and jarred Japan. It will be “a somber affair” when he fulfills the long Raider tradition of toasting those who’ve died in the past year, using goblets engraved with their names, Cole tells the AP. In a private ceremony, he will offer tribute to retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, who died last year at age 94 in Missoula, Mont.

The Raiders, led by aviation pioneer Jimmy Doolittle, launched their assault April 18, 1942, in B-25 bombers not built to fly off an aircraft carrier at sea. After hitting Tokyo and other targets in the first US airstrike on Japan’s home islands, they continued to China because it would have been impossible to land the bombers back on the USS Hornet. Three Raiders died trying to reach China. Out of eight later captured by Japanese soldiers, three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Their attack inflicted scattered damage—and stunned Japan’s people. Its military diverted resources to guard their homeland, while news of the raid lifted US morale after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and a string of Japanese victories in the Pacific.


►  Shaq Steps Up for Family of Kid Who Killed Self on Instagram

The 13-year-old boy who accidentally killed himself on Instagram Livea> will be laid to rest on the dime of Shaquille O’Neal, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. After hearing about the tragic death of Malachi Hemphill, who was attempting to load a gun when he shot himself in the head, O’Neal volunteered to cover the funeral expenses as Shaniqua Stephens says goodbye to her only son. “No mother should have to go through this,“ O’Neal said in a statement. “I just wanted to do what I could to help them at such a terrible time.“ O’Neal made the offer in a visit Thursday. “We just broke down and started crying because Malachi didn’t have any insurance,“ Malachi’s godmother Shantirea Bankston told the Bleacher Report. “We weren’t prepared to bury him this young. We didn’t have insurance for him. So to have that from Shaquille O’Neal, it was a blessing and very touching.“

Trump’s Five Worst Tax Secrets, Revealed

The Free Press WV

Thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday to demand that Donald Trump release his tax returns. But, barring an unexpected surprise – a W2 form issued by Vladimir Putin, or a 1099 from mafia boss Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno – we already know Trump’s ugliest tax secrets. We will reveal those secrets…

… right after this break.

Many readers will recognize this reference to Rachel Maddow’s televised release of Trump’s 2005 tax return, The MSNBC host kept her viewers in suspense for a total of 84 minutes before learning that Trump paid an effective federal tax rate of 24 percent that year. That was considered an anticlimax. It even led some observers that Trump might have leaked the return himself, since many people had assumed that Trump hadn’t paid any federal taxes at all for years.

That gets us to Trump’s first terrible tax secret: his tax return for that year was not unusual. Few wealthy individuals pay the official rate, which is currently 39.5 percent, even though the rich have never been richer at any point in this country’s history. Mitt Romney, for instance, released a tax return during his presidential run, which showed he paid just over 14 percent in 2011, and that year may have been chosen because others were even more embarrassing.

Over the years, lobbyists have worked to fill the tax code with giveaways for wealthy individuals and corporations. The resulting loopholes make it very rare for any individual or corporation, no matter how prosperous, to pay anything close to the top rate.

Given the eagerness of the rich to avoid paying their official rate, you might think that rate is excessive. But the top marginal tax rate in this country is much lower than it’s been for most of the last century, despite today’s extreme concentration of wealth at the top:

The Free Press WV
Source: IRS.GOV

Although the official rate is only slightly more than one-third of its highest levels, an entire industry has been formed to help the wealthy avoid paying it. (This story shines a light on one small corner of that industry.)  As James Kwak points out, Warren Buffett – who uses his vast wealth for philanthropic purposes, unlike Trump – takes advantage of today’s tax code on a much larger scale than Trump does.

Trump’s second terrible tax secret is one he shares with the entire Republican Party: Instead of being grateful toward the country that has allowed them to accumulate such wealth, Trump and the GOP are willing to let people die for an additional tax cut.  They were willing to deprive millions of people of health insurance in order to repeal a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a tax of less than one percent on high wages.

Trump’s third tax secret? The attack on the Affordable Care Act is just the start of tax clawbacks. His tax plan represents a massive tax giveaway to his billionaire friends and associates, and to corporations that are also paying far less than their official tax rate. Americans for Tax Fairness examine the injustice behind Trump’s tax plan, including the fact that it would raise taxes on roughly 9 million families while lowering the top tax rate even more.

The Trump/GOP assault on the estate tax, for instance, is a giveaway to America’s aristocracy>. Trump’s even trying to eliminate the biggest tax he pays personally – the alternative minimum tax.

The fourth secret is this: Trump and his party don’t believe in progressive taxation at all. As I wrote recently, Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney recently suggested that he preferred to let the ultra-wealthy “keep their money” – an extremist and inaccurate framing that is well outside the mainstream of both Republican and Democratic thought over the last century. They especially dislike the idea of taxing billionaires to help people in need.

That’s pretty terrible.

The fifth and final secret is this: Trump and his billionaire friends get away with paying low or no taxes because the rich have far too much influence over our political system. In fact, as political scientists Martin Gilens and Lawrence Page found in a 2014 study, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

In other words, the wealthy in our country almost always get the policies they want.

In a response to their critics, Gilens and Page wrote, “The affluent are, not surprisingly, (even) better at blocking policies they dislike than achieving policy change they desire. When a policy is strongly opposed by the affluent… that policy is adopted only 4 percent of the time.”

That’s why today’s tax code is so excessively favorable to the wealthy and corporations. It’s very difficult to make changes they dislike, and tax increases for the wealthy are certainly among the changes they dislike the most.

But that’s no reason to quit. Americans have overthrown oligarchies before, most notably at the end of the era Mark Twain described as “the Gilded Age.” We are, by any reasonable definition, going through a second Gilded Age today.

You don’t need Donald Trump’s tax returns to know that we need a more just tax system, one that calls upon the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. What’s more, the fight for fair taxation is inseparable from the fight against oligarchical wealth. That’s more reason to keep fighting.

Donald Trump tweeted that “someone should look into who paid for” the “small” rallies demanding that he release his tax returns.

The real question is, who pays for all the tax breaks that are given to people like Donald Trump?

The answer is, we all do.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~


04.18.2017
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

The fix could be simple. First, everyone pay 10 percent federal, 3 percent state, and 1 percent local taxes on all income.  Straight forward, no arguments, taken from pay checks and paid to the proper authorities (that is if we can get good ones elected that will use the money properly for education, infrastructure, defense, aid for the true disabled/welfare, etc).  Second, there are no deductions(sorry accountants).  Third, no taxes on corporations so they are free to reinvest into their business and hire more people to work(that is if you can find qualified people not on drugs these days).  Fourth, get people off government support that don’t belong there(sorry again druggies and lazies).  Now if you find someone taking advantage of the current tax laws, don’t blame them for wanting to keep their own money.  That’s correct, their money, not yours. We have elected the people and keep doing that who make these laws.  The Clinton’s and the Bush’s and the Kennedy’s, life long politicians.  If you get rich being a politician, then you need to go.  At least Trump got rich first and then became a politician.  Sort of did it backwards didn’t he.  Each and every person that wants Trump to produce his tax returns, it is time for all of them to produce theirs.  The world is full of them.  Me, I can care less what he makes.  Good for him.  Good for me.  Get over it, the left lost the election, just like the right did 8 years ago.  The reason Trump is president is because the last 8 years the left didn’t get it done and Clinton was a horrible candidate.  Too much baggage and ran a horrible campaign also.  I think she thought she couldn’t lose but she did.  Now the left is acting like babies that they can be at times and it doesn’t look good.  Instead of trying to run Trump(who used to be a democrat) down, why not give him a bit of support so our country will come back stronger.  It seems the media is completely against Trump, all we see is negative articles.  Never positive articles so the media is losing support from the people.  Sorry for the long post but it is what it is.  Thanks.

By RC  on  04.18.2017

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►  Americans Don’t Seem to Know Much About Taxes They Pay

The deadline to file federal taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18, and procrastinators have Abraham Lincoln to thank for the extra time, explains MarketWatch. Tax Day is normally April 15, but not so this year because it fell on a weekend. Typically, that would mean it gets pushed to the following Monday, but because Washington, DC, observes Emancipation Day on Monday—the day Lincoln freed the slaves in the capital, which is actually April 16, but that, too, fell on a weekend—Tuesday it is. A look at coverage:

  • Consider this stat: 57% of Americans think they pay too much in federal taxes, but 45% of Americans actually pay no federal taxes at all. How to explain the anomaly? Americans are seriously ignorant about taxes, writes Tulane prof Marjorie Kornhauser in the Washington Post. Progressive vs. flat? Marginal rates vs. effective rates? She’s got some suggestions to remedy this, including teaching tax literacy in schools.
  • Think you are among the tax literate? Prove it with a quiz from NPR. Sample question: The highest earners pay a significantly higher share of federal income taxes than they did in 1980. True or false?
  • Which state sends the most tax dollars per person to the federal government? Delaware is tops at $16,000. However, Washington, DC, trumps all the states by a mile at $37,000, reports the AP.
  • As many people remember in the spring, filing taxes can be an “absurdly complex” process, writes TR Reid in the New York Times. He makes the case that it doesn’t need to be this way, starting with the IRS pre-filling in our forms with the numbers it already knows.
  • Tax Day may be behind the markets’ recent struggles, explains a post at CNBC.
  • A post at Scientific American floats the idea of moving Tax Day up a month to March 15. The idea is that, counter-intuitively, the shorter deadline will reduce the number of late filers.
  • With Tax Day comes freebies at various businesses on Tuesday. ABC15 rounds them up, including a deal on Quarter Pounders at McDonald’s.


►  Pearl Harbor Vet Laid to Rest In Sunken USS Arizona

Raymond Haerry always planned to return to Pearl Harbor, where as a young sailor he valiantly fought to save his ship, the USS Arizona, as it sank on December 7, 1941, after being attacked by Japanese warplanes. Haerry never made it back to Hawaii before his death last September at age 94. On Saturday, the retired master chief petty officer was laid to rest inside the remains of the battleship, an honor reserved for the men who survived the sneak attack that launched the US into World War II, KITV reports. “Raymond Haerry, even in the last days of his life, decided he was going home, going home to the USS Arizona,“ says Daniel Martinez, chief historian of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. More than 100 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial to bid farewell to Haerry.

Afterward, a team of divers delivered an urn containing Haerry’s ashes deep below Pearl Harbor, placing it in turret No. 3, near the remains of the 1,177 who perished. Of the 335 who lived that day, only five are still alive. It took Haerry 50 years to tell his story, per the AP. Only 19 when the bombs fell, he raced to an anti-aircraft gun, but found it unarmed. A massive blast split the ship apart, sending Haerry into the fiery, oily water. He made it to shore, grabbed a gun and began firing. He spent days retrieving bodies. Many survivors “went on to fight the war like Raymond Haerry,“ says Martinez. Like 41 other Arizona survivors who made the same choice, he says Haerry “has returned to his ship and his shipmates.“


►  Telecom lobbying muscle kills privacy rules

The telecom industry’s lobbying muscle pushed a consumer privacy measure to a swift death in Congress.

Republicans struck down Obama-era rules that would have imposed tight restrictions on what broadband companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast could do with their customers’ personal data. Digital-rights and consumer-advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation supported keeping the rules. But they were outmatched by telecom trade groups and lobbyists.

“These guys spend a fortune in D.C., they’re very plugged in on the Hill and this was clearly their priority,“ said Craig Aaron, the president of consumer-advocacy group Free Press.

Former AT&T lobbyist Steve Billet, now on the faculty at George Washington University, said the telecom industry’s willingness to spend big on lobbying marks “the difference between them and the Electronic Frontier Foundation guys.“

ROLLING IN THE CASH

The overall lobbying tab for telecom services and telephone companies exceeded $123 million in 2016, the money-influence research group Center for Responsive Politics says. That makes them among the top-spending industries in Washington. By contrast, some of the most active privacy and consumer groups on the other side spent just over $1 million, according to the nonpartisan group’s data.

The lobbying on both sides goes far beyond privacy. Other issues on the agenda included immigration, taxes, cable boxes and cybersecurity. But the disparity in the spending totals shows that when it comes to politics, industry can wield a lot of power with its pocketbook.

Telecom has also given more in political contributions to the House Republicans who voted to repeal the rules (about $138,000 on average over their careers) than to the 15 Republicans who voted to keep them ($77,000), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the Senate, the Republicans who voted to undo broadband privacy received more from telecom ($369,000) than the Democrats who voted to keep the rules ($329,000).

Representative Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who heads the House subcommittee on communications and technology, received more than $125,000 from telecom for the 2016 elections, while the ranking Democrat, Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, got about $88,000.

In the Senate, Jeff Flake, R.-Ariz., chairman of a privacy and technology subcommittee, received some $59,000, compared with nearly $27,000 for the ranking Democrat, Al Franken of Minnesota.

To be sure, money does not guarantee a favorable vote. Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House, received more than $1.3 million from telecom over his career and nearly $190,000 for the 2016 election. Yet he joined every other voting Democrat in opposing the industry’s repeal efforts.

GETTING HEARD

The repealed rules would have required companies to get customers’ permission before offering marketers a wealth of information about them, including health and financial details, geographic location and lists of websites visited and apps used.

Republicans and industry officials complained that the restrictions would have unfairly burdened internet providers, as advertising rivals such as Google and Facebook don’t have to abide by them.

The rules had been scheduled to take effect later this year. Congress used an obscure 20-year-old law to scrap this and numerous other regulations that Republicans consider costly, burdensome or excessive. Donald Trump signed the privacy repeal into law early this month.

Although this repeal came as part of a broader deregulatory rush, the money that large corporations and their employees are able to spend on lobbyists and give to lawmakers helps get such issues on the agenda.

Individuals concerned about privacy would probably chat with an intern or low-level aide; corporate executives giving a lot of money would have lawmakers’ ears at fundraising events, if not on Capitol Hill. Same goes for lobbyists for those companies.

“It’s the classic story where the side with more money has more influence here,“ said Dallas Harris, a policy fellow at Public Knowledge, which organized a campaign against the privacy repeal.

Comcast and Verizon did not respond to emailed questions. AT&T, when asked about lobbying’s role in the repeal, pointed to a blog post saying its privacy protections have not changed. The cable trade group NCTA said it doesn’t comment on specifics of lobbying.

A BIGGER FIGHT

Internet service providers and the rest of the telecom industry also had help. Groups representing the online advertising and broader consumer technology industries also wanted the rules gone. Google itself criticized them before the Federal Communications Commission approved them last year. This wasn’t the net neutrality fight of 2014, when telecoms squared off against tech companies.

“I don’t know that the ISPs themselves could have gotten the attention this issue got,“ said Bennett Ross, a telecom lawyer at Wiley Rein, which has a large telecom industry practice that’s home to many former government staffers. “I think it absolutely helped to have a number of different constituencies coming to Congress and saying this is a problem.“

Plus, Free Press’ Aaron said, “There were no citizens raising their voice saying this was a great idea. The lines were dropped pretty clearly here and Congress went with the companies. This was one of those instances that there wasn’t an industry counterweight.“

Expect fiercer lobbying — and more spending — as Republicans target a repeal of net neutrality rules, which prohibit ISPs from favoring their services over rivals. That battle is being waged at the FCC’s offices as well as Congress.


►  Mar-a-Lago Had Long List of Health-Code Violations

Unsafe seafood. Insufficiently refrigerated meats. Rusty shelving. Cooks without hairnets. Reports show Florida health inspectors cited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort with 15 violations in late January, days before the US leader hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a diplomatic visit, reports the AP. Still, the state inspectors allowed the luxury resort’s main restaurant and beach club grill to remain open as staff scrambled to make several immediate corrections. Among the “high priority” problems described as “potentially hazardous” were faulty fridges with meats stored well above the required 41 degrees Fahrenheit. In the restaurant’s walk-in cooler, the duck and beef were 50 degrees, while a ham was at 57.

Other issues included smoked salmon served without “proper parasite destruction” and a handwashing sink running water that was not hot enough. A rep for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, however, says the violations—found during a routine inspection—“were corrected on site, and the establishment was immediately brought into compliance.“ The January inspections were not the first time inspectors have found problems at Mar-a-Lago. Over the last three years, records show the club has been cited 78 times for violations that included chefs handling food without washing their hands, dirty cutting boards, a slicer “soiled with old food debris” and an ice machine containing a “black/green mold-like substance.“


►  Older Boys Used 12-Year-Old as Shield in Chicago Shooting

A 12-year-old Chicago boy was waiting for a convenience store to open Tuesday when a car drove by and someone started shooting from it. Older boys who were standing near Adrian Clayton used the preteen and his friends as shields, and he was shot in the chest, according to the report of the incident his parents received from police. One of his friends, also 12, was shot in the leg. “They should be allowed just to go across the street to the store ... without stuff like this happening,“ his mother, Krystal Falkner, tells the Chicago Tribune. The family lives in an apartment building across the street from the store in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

The boys ran inside the apartment complex after the shooting; Adrian later told his parents he didn’t realize he’d been shot until he got back to the complex, father Curtis Clayton says. Both children, and an older man who was also shot in the incident, are in stable condition at local hospitals. Adrian’s parents say there aren’t enough programs in the neighborhoods to keep kids off the streets, and that’s what they blame for the gang activity in the neighborhood. “When it all boils down, the city ain’t ever got no money when it come down to the youth, and that’s messed up,“ Curtis Clayton says.“Something got to give in Chicago. Something have to give.“ Click for their full interview.


►  Michigan’s Capital Changes Mind on ‘Sanctuary City’ Label

Michigan’s capital reversed a decision to call itself a “sanctuary city” that protects immigrants regardless of their legal status, bowing to pressure from a business community concerned that the term would draw unwanted attention to Lansing from Trump’s administration and cost the city federal funding, the AP reports. The city council voted 5-2 late Wednesday to reverse course just nine days after unanimously deciding to call Lansing a sanctuary. The term “sanctuary city” has no legal definition and varies in application, but it generally refers to jurisdictions that do not cooperate with US immigration officials.

Under Lansing policy set out last week in an order from Mayor Virg Bernero that stays in effect, employees cannot ask about immigration status, except as required by US or Michigan law or a court order. Police also are prohibited from holding immigrants for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless federal authorities have a judicial warrant. “It is not the two words that make this a sanctuary city. We have an executive order right now that protects folks and keeps them and their family intact,“ said Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar, who opposed dropping the term. The new vote followed 2½ hours of contentious public comment during which more than 70 people spoke for and against the measure.


►  Grandma Gets Life for Dressing as Witch to ‘Torture’ 7-Year-Old

A 51-year-old woman who dressed as a witch named Nelda to “repeatedly torture” her 7-year-old granddaughter received three life sentences Thursday, the Oklahoman reports. Geneva Robinson of Oklahoma City pleaded guilty to five counts of felony child abuse. The assistant DA says Robinson’s granddaughter spent months living in a “house of horrors” in 2014. Robinson would scratch the girl’s neck, hit her with a rolling pin, cut her hair while she slept, whip her, burn her, use a dog leash to hang her from the ceiling by her arms, and imply she was going to eat her. She did all this while dressed up as a witch named Nelda.

A cellphone video shows Nelda grabbing the girl while her crying siblings watch, KWTV reports. The girl begs Nelda for mercy. Robinson’s boyfriend, 33-year-old Joshua Granger, says Nelda was meant to keep the children from misbehaving. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of felony child abuse for dressing up as a demon named Coogro and helping Robinson. Robinson was arrested in 2014 after bringing the malnourished girl to the hospital. Robinson’s own children had also reportedly been abused by the witch, but the victim’s father says he didn’t think Robinson still did the “Nelda thing.“ The 7-year-old victim wrote a letter to Robinson forgiving her and saying she was a great grandmother.


►  Judge Slammed for Calling Rapist Bishop a ‘Good Man’

Judge Thomas Low called former Mormon bishop Keith Vallejo an “extraordinarily good man” when he sentenced him to up to life in prison on rape and sexual abuse charges this week, leaving open the question of what somebody would have to do for Low to consider them a bad person. Julia Kirby, who was 19 when she was groped on multiple occasions by Vallejo, her brother-in-law, tells the AP that she plans to file an official complaint against the Provo, Utah judge. “He only cared about the person he was convicting, and I think that is really kind of despicable,“ says Kirby, one of two victims that testified against Vallejo. Authorities say dozens of complaints about the judge have already been received.

“The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man,“ Low said, becoming emotional while sentencing the father of eight, who had been found guilty on 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape. “But great men sometimes do bad things.“ Low received one-to-15 years sentences on the abuse charges and a five-years-to-life term for the rape, with the sentences to run concurrently. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Low was also criticized last month when he allowed Vallejo to remain free on bail after his conviction, despite the prosecutor’s request to have him jailed until sentencing. The prosecutor says the judge’s comments were inappropriate and may have been a response to the dozens of letters he received praising Vallejo’s good character.


►  ‘Absolute Chaos’ as 2 Killed in Shooting at Arizona Mall

Two men were killed and a woman injured in a shooting Friday night at an Arizona mall, CNN reports. According to KOLD, witnesses reported hearing 10 shots around 7:30pm in the bar area of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill at La Encantada Mall in Tucson. Authorities say all three people involved in the shooting knew each other, though their relationship to each other hasn’t been released. It’s also unclear what precipitated the shooting.

One witness describes “absolute chaos” in the crowded mall when the shooting started, telling KGUN, “It was like what you see in a movie.“ Another witness, who was at the restaurant for her daughter’s 13th birthday and hid under a table, tells KOLD it was “pretty harrowing.“ Authorities say only one gun was used in the shooting, and some witnesses say the shooter eventually shot himself. The woman involved was hospitalized with a gunshot to the leg, and no bystanders were hurt.


►  Courts Halt Arkansas Multiple Execution Plan

Arkansas’ goal of executing seven inmates in 11 days before its supply of lethal injection drugs expires may be a dead plan walking after two court rulings Friday. In the first ruling, the state Supreme Court temporarily stayed the execution of convicted killer Bruce Earl Ward, NPR reports. Attorneys for Ward, who was due to be executed Monday night, argued that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic who doesn’t understand the punishment or the reason why. A second ruling, from Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen, put the remaining six executions on hold by blocking the state’s use of its supply of the execution drug vercomium bromide, the AP reports. The drug’s maker, McKesson Medical Surgical, said it had been misled by the state.

In its lawsuit, McKesson said Arkansas ordered the drug using a license that only allowed it to obtain drugs for legitimate medical purposes. The company said it asked for the drug back when it learned it would be used for executions, but though Arkansas agreed to return its supply and was granted a refund, it never returned the drug, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The makers of the other two drugs in the state’s three-drug lethal injection cocktail have also gone to court. On Friday, Johnny Depp joined former death row inmate Damien Echols in a rally against the executions at the Capitol in Little Rock, KTHV reports. Echols was freed in 2011 after spending 18 years on death row.


►  Boy Dies After Getting Stuck at Atlanta Rotating Restaurant

A 5-year-old boy has died after getting caught in the rotating wall of an Atlanta restaurant, the AP reports. Atlanta Fire Department spokesperson Sgt. Cortez Stafford tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the little boy got his head stuck between two tables and suffered a head injury Friday. He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

It was unclear how the child got stuck at the Sun Dial, which sits atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel. According to its website, the Sun Dial opened in 1976 and features a revolving restaurant, a rotating cocktail lounge, and an observatory level with a 360-degree panorama of the skyline from 723 feet. A guest services representative with the hotel said the Sun Dial will be closed until Monday.


►  Mega Asteroid to Buzz Earth on Wednesday

Here’s one less thing to worry about. A giant asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, but the folks at NASA say there is no chance it could hit us. The space rock the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, per AFP, or six NFL football fields, per CNN, will make a harmless fly-by on Wednesday. “Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid this size,“ NASA says in a statement. After looping around the sun, the 2,000-foot-wide space chunk named 2014-JO25 will buzz Earth at a distance of 1.1 million miles, or a reassuring five times the distance to the moon. It will then keep going past Jupiter. Smaller space rocks swirl around Earth all the time, but this is the closest pass of a really big one since 2004, when the 3.1-mile-wide Toutatis passed within “four lunar distances,“ NASA says.

Not much is known about the latest asteroid, though reports indicate it has a reflective surface twice as bright at the moon. The close encounter means that even amateur astronomers with small telescopes or binoculars will be able to catch a peek, Fox News notes. It will be visible for one or two nights, before slowly fading away. (You can watch it live HERE .) NASA telescopes in California and Puerto Rico will deliver radar images that “could reveal surface details as small as a few meters.“ NASA says, calling it an “outstanding opportunity to study this asteroid.“


►  Couple on Way to Own Wedding Kicked Off United Flight

A bride and groom from Utah say they barely made it to their own wedding on time after getting kicked off a United Airlines flight. Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell say they were on their way from Salt Lake City to Costa Rica with friends on Saturday when they boarded their connecting flight in Houston and found a sleeping man sprawled across their row of seats, the Houston Chronicle reports. They say they were the last passengers to board the flight and decided to sit in empty seats a few rows up instead of waking the man. They say they moved back to their assigned seats after a flight attendant asked them to—but then, a US marshal boarded the plane, said they’d been disorderly, and told them to get off.

“It was the strangest thing I have ever had to go through,“ Hohl tells KUTV. He says they decided to comply with the officer’s order because they remembered video of passenger David Dao being dragged off a United flight the previous weekend. He says they made it to their Sunday wedding after being rebooked on a flight the next day—but they won’t be flying United again. The airline has a different take on events, KHOU reports. In a statement, United said the couple repeatedly tried to sit in upgraded premium economy seats they hadn’t bought and refused requests to return to their seats. The TSA tells the Chronicle that no federal air marshals were involved in the incident.

5 Reasons Why Blended Learning Programs Fail-And How To Save Them

The Free Press WV

Too often, educators who are considering investing in blended learning pull back after hearing horror stories of good programs gone bad. Whether it’s botched rollouts, network snafus, or general apathy that kills an initiative, many telling signs can be traced back to the planning and initial support stages.

We won’t pretend that our district has everything figured out, but after seven years of blended learning, going 1:1 at our four secondary schools and all fifth grades, and having our model elementary school recognized by the International Center for Education and Learning, Meriden Public Schools has seen rising graduation and attendance rates, and we are better off than we were before our blended journey began.

As we have discovered through trial and plenty of errors, without staff and community buy-in, many otherwise well-intentioned programs hit the skids before they’ve really gotten up to speed. We are proud to share some of the challenges we’ve encountered, along with best practices for ensuring that your program remains on the road to success.


1. Some programs start too fast.

Creating a successful blended learning program isn’t a race, and ours has taken nearly a decade to achieve. When we began our foray into blended learning about seven years ago, nobody was even talking about a device program, and the thought of going 1:1 seemed light-years away from where we were. Instead of jumping in feet first, we laid the groundwork and did the small things we thought we could accomplish.

We upgraded our WiFi, making it more robust than ever, and prepared for future growth. Then we implemented a district-wide BYOD program where kids as young as kindergarten were bringing in devices to share with their class. But as a district with a large free-and-reduced meals program, we knew BYOD was leaving gaps in access that were best addressed by going 1:1.

Now, all secondary students are issued a Chromebook that is theirs to keep—even during the summer. We use Chromebook carts for K-5 students and offer iPad carts that teachers can check out on demand.


2. There’s no staff buy-in.

Teachers are understandably wary about fly-by-night initiatives that take time and attention away from their teaching and give back little appreciable benefits. We wanted to make sure our teachers would embrace the change, see its benefit, and be comfortable with what we were asking them to do.

In response, we created a tech team from among our staff to help advise the teachers and students with questions as they came up. We also used students as on-site coaches to help teachers and peers with any tech issues. Providing that on-site support allowed us to offer tiered interventions for our staff.

We were clear and upfront with sharing the data collected. We want our teachers to see the success. By sharing this information openly, we showed teachers that students really were progressing at higher levels.


3) Tools aren’t chosen strategically.

Buy-in doesn’t end with getting teachers on board at the start of a program. It impacts everything, including how they will embrace the technology and software you implement.

At Meriden, the teacher buy-in process starts early. We include teachers when we’re looking at new products, bringing teachers with us to weigh in on what they need in their classrooms. We can ask them if the product addresses a need they’re seeing, instead of asking them to make something fit after the fact.

We also make sure the digital content we use is embedded in the core curriculum. Once we look at usage, then we ask what type of supports we need to put in place to make sure our teachers and students improve.


4) Students don’t feel invested.

We never want learning to feel forced upon students, any more than we want it to feel forced upon teachers. In the same way we give teachers a voice in how a program is constructed, we also strive to give students a measure of control over their own learning.

Literacy is a big part of our blended learning program, which encourages students to engage with texts in a variety of ways to help sharpen their literacy skills, all the while providing valuable feedback in the form of data that teachers can use to target instruction.

In general, the whole process goes more smoothly when students enjoy what they’re reading. Using literacy software like myON, students are able to select from thousands of books, and best of all, they can recommend their favorites to others. With Imagine Learning also embedded into our literacy curriculum, we have forged a powerful literacy connection from which everyone benefits.


5) The org chart looks the same as before.

We believe it’s essential to make connections between the data we’re collecting and the teachers. Since blended learning is so critical to our district’s success overall, we created a staff position at Meriden called the blended learning supervisor. It’s this person’s job to analyze ways to maximize teacher use of our digital curriculum products and give assistance as needed. Our first blended learning supervisor was someone from within the teacher’s union who became an expert with our programs, and who can really work closely with teachers and technology integration specialists to make sure we’re tracking and following up on the right things.

We also combined our technology supervisor and curriculum director positions, eliminating debates about where digital content fit into the curriculum. We like our administration to be accessible to teachers so we can discover whether or not the technology is easy for them to use or gives them what they need. In the end, having one person in charge has expedited our mission.

Finally, we have used teachers as leaders to help scale up our program. When some of our teachers who have been working with the model for a while meet specific criterion, they become “I’m Charged” teachers and are recognized as pioneers in digital content. We ask them to open their classrooms and teach other teachers. Because, as we’ve found, when our teachers learn, our students learn.

~~  Mark D. Benigni and Barbara A. Haeffner   ~~

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  Which state sends most taxes to DC? Hint: It’s not a state

As Tax Day approaches, show some love for the good people who live in the nation’s capital.

Washington, that swampy den of iniquity that politicians love to scorn, sends the most tax dollars per person to the U.S. government.

By a lot.

Last year, the District of Columbia paid Uncle Sam $37,000 per person in federal income, payroll and estate taxes. The next closest was Delaware, at $16,000 per person.

“It’s where the money is,“ said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center. “The reason the District pays so much in taxes is that there are a lot of high-income people there.“

Washington is an outlier because, despite years of lobbying, it is not a state. It doesn’t even have a vote in Congress. It is, however, a city with a relatively high cost of living.

West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico have low median household incomes, which helps explain why they their residents pay far less in federal taxes. West Virginia paid $3,600 per person last year, while Mississippi paid $3,900 per person and New Mexico residents paid a little more than $4,000.

The Associated Press calculated each state’s per-capita tax bill using data from the IRS and population estimates from the Census Bureau.

The deadline to file federal tax returns is Tuesday. It was pushed back because the usual April 15 deadline was Saturday, and because Monday is a holiday in the District of Columbia.

The IRS says millions of taxpayers have yet to file their returns. As they do, they shouldn’t feel too bad for D.C. residents.

The nation’s capital gets a good return on its tax investment. For every dollar the District sends to the federal government, it gets back almost $4, according to a 2015 study by the New York state comptroller.

For years, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., would document that New York paid more to the federal government than it got back. In 2015, the state’s comptroller took up the cause.

Washington’s rate of return is higher than any state – most of it comes from wages for federal employees. The closest state is Mississippi, which gets back $2.57 in federal spending for every dollar it sends to Washington. New Mexico, West Virginia and Alabama are also big winners when it comes to federal taxes and spending.

These states are big takers because they have a lot of residents who get federal benefits, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability benefits and food stamps.

“They have lower incomes so they pay less in taxes and, because they have lower incomes, they get more federal aid,“ said Morgan Scarboro, a policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.

So why do so many of these states that benefit from the federal government produce conservative politicians who complain that the government is too big?

“There is this perception that so much money is being spent on things that don’t benefit them,“ Williams said. “They ignore the things that do benefit them.“

Williams cited foreign aid as a favorite target, even though it makes up only 1 percent of the federal budget, if you count military assistance.

“People view the world as cut my taxes and cut his spending,“ Williams said. “His spending is wasteful and my taxes are hurting me badly.“

Most states are winners when it comes to getting more money from the federal government than they pay in taxes. On average, Americans get $1.22 for every dollar they send to Washington, according to the New York study.

That’s why the federal government has a budget deficit.

The federal spending comes from social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as grants to state and local governments and spending on infrastructure.

States such as South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia benefit from having large military bases.

The biggest losers when it comes to taxes and spending are New Jersey, Wyoming and Connecticut. New Jersey gets back just 77 cents for every dollar it pays, while Wyoming gets back 81 cents and Connecticut gets 83 cents.

New York gets 91 cents for every dollar it sends to Washington, according to the comptroller’s report.

All these states have incomes above the national average.

“It’s a good example of a progressive tax code,“ Scarboro said. “That is how it is designed to work.“


►  Native American tribes fear end of federal heating help

Eva Iyotte was waiting on propane ordered under a federal energy assistance program Donald Trump has targeted for elimination when she lost power at her home on frozen tribal land in South Dakota.

As the January conditions sent temperatures plummeting inside the house, the 63-year-old, her daughter and two grandsons took blankets to their car, where they waited with the heater running until the electricity was restored.

Iyotte said there would be many more cold days like that if the program ends. It’s unclear whether Congress, which passes the federal budget, will agree to the change the Trump administration is seeking.

“We might be poor, but we’re like other people. We want to survive,“ said Iyotte, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. “If that program is cut, I don’t know who’s going to help us out.“

Tribal officials in states with harsh winters fear what would happen without the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as LIHEAP. Ending it, as Trump’s budget blueprint would do, could disproportionately affect Native Americans, backers of the program say.

Iyotte said propane is the primary heating source for her home. As she waited for it to arrive in January, she kept a pot of water boiling on the electric stove for warmth – until the power went out.

“People will die” without LIHEAP, said Eileen Shot, who administers it for the Rosebud Sioux, which has gotten about $850,000 this fiscal year. Trump’s budget blueprint calls it a “lower-impact program.“

It’s not Trump’s only move to spur concern among tribes. His strong support for oil pipelines including Dakota Access and Keystone XL put him in direct opposition to American Indians who have long resisted both projects.

LIHEAP helps low-income households meet their heating and cooling needs. Under federal income guidelines, American Indians qualify for the program at slightly higher rates than Latino and black households, and far higher than whites, according to a February report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank that supports officials and experts who serve minority communities.

Besides tribal members’ higher poverty rates, some reservations are in rural areas with extreme weather, and many are home to large populations of young and elderly members, making the help even more critical, said Clara Pratte, director for the Campaign for Home Energy Assistance, which works to ensure the LIHEAP program is fully funded.

The federal government each year directly funds LIHEAP to roughly 150 tribal governments and organizations. Those groups provided about 43,000 Native American households with heating assistance during the 12-month period that ended in September 2016, according to preliminary data.

Tribes have gotten $33.3 million since October, part of a larger $3 billion handed out to date nationwide for the current budget year. Tribes that don’t apply directly to the Administration for Children and Families to administer LIHEAP are typically served through the corresponding state program.

Trump has also proposed eliminating all funding this fiscal year that hasn’t already been apportioned.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said LIHEAP is an inefficient program that would be better run and funded by states. He said advocates for every federal program that assists low-income people unrealistically treat it as the “only thing standing between the poor and some dark future.“

“I like to say it’s kind of like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where you only look at one piece at a time,“ he said.

States were expecting the program to be funded at least $3.3 billion for the 12-month period that begins this October, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. He said it’s unlikely that states would make up all that money if the federal program ends.

“There are a number of ways to help people afford energy, but you can’t take $3.3 billion away from this program without consequences,“ Wolfe said. “The amount of money is so significant it cannot be made up by supplemental state funding or charitable resources.“

A spokeswoman for Senator Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, said in a statement that Trump’s budget proposal is “only the president’s recommendation.“ During the appropriations process, the Senate will look at the merits of each program, said spokeswoman Natalie Krings, adding that LIHEAP has been funded in the past and will likely continue to be funded in the future.

Paulette Ecoffey, 40, said that she sees the program helping her and many other people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Oglala Sioux member late last year got two cords of wood through the program for her wood stove, which helped heat her trailer for about a month.

“Wood’s like gold in my house,“ said Ecoffey, whose furnace gave out about 2 1/2 years ago. “That’s how we keep warm.“


►  This Is the Strangest Animal Skirmish You’ll See Today

It’s not the first pairing that comes to mind when you think of natural enemies in the animal kingdom, but it turns out that horses apparently aren’t fond of alligators. Visitors to Florida’s Paynes Prairie State Park near Gainesville learned that first-hand on Wednesday. Video posted online shows a horse attacking a gator and forcing it to move away, notes WTVT-TV. The visitors’ best guess is that the horse was protecting younger ones in its herd.


►  Boy Killed in School Shooting Had Rare Genetic Condition

Jonathan Martinez, the 8-year-old boy killed in Monday’s San Bernardino school shooting, was “the happiest kid you’ll ever meet” despite the rare genetic condition he suffered from, says teaching assistant Jennifer Downing. Jonathan was born with Williams syndrome, which affects around one in 10,000 people and causes developmental delays as well as heart problems, the AP reports. But the genetic condition, which the boy’s family want to raise awareness of, also makes children friendly and sociable, qualities Jonathan was known and loved for at North Park Elementary, the San Bernardino Sun reports. Downing says Jonathan, who had already undergone heart surgery once, was also the best reader in the class.

Jonathan was killed in his special-needs classroom when Cedric Anderson opened fire on his estranged wife, teacher Karen Smith. Fellow teacher Diane Abrams says the boy’s sweet nature makes the violent manner of his death even harder to deal with.“ He was so special to teach. He was curious to learn and wanted to do his very best,“ she tells the Los Angeles Times. “He’d sit with his hands folded at his desk and look at me and say, ‘Ms. Abrams, am I being an all-star?‘“ A GoFundMe page set up to help the family has so far raised more than $121,000 of its $10,000 goal. Nolan Brandy, the 9-year-old boy wounded in the shooting, was still in the hospital Wednesday but was recovering and in good spirits, his family says.


►  Widow Can Sue Over NASA’s Brutal Sting Operation on Her

A 75-year-old widow in tough financial straits reached out to NASA about selling a speck of moon rock her late husband had given her. Joann Davis then became the target of a sting operation at a Denny’s that a federal appeals court suggested Thursday was outrageous overkill. The lead agent “organized a sting operation involving six armed officers to forcibly seize a Lucite paperweight containing a moon rock the size of a rice grain from an elderly grandmother,“ wrote Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in the decision allowing Davis to sue, per the Los Angeles Times. One awful detail from the 2011 incident: The agents refused Davis’ request to use the bathroom, and she urinated in her pants during the two-hour ordeal at the restaurant in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Agents also forcibly restrained her second husband, who had accompanied her to the supposed sale.

Davis’ first husband, Robert, worked as an Apollo 11 engineer, and he saved a paperweight with moon material and another with a bit of the heat shield. He died in 1986, and years later Davis found herself raising grandchildren in her 70s following her daughter’s death and her son’s illness. She called NASA about selling the mementos. Instead of informing her that selling moon material was illegal, investigators ordered the sting, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. A federal prosecutor later opted not to press charges. In this week’s ruling, the judges said Davis made a case that the detention violated her constitutional right regarding unreasonable seizure. She is suing agent Norman Conley, who “had no law enforcement interest in detaining Davis for two hours while she stood wearing urine-soaked pants in a restaurant’s parking lot during the lunch rush,“ wrote Thomas.


►  Man Beheaded in Freak Accident Had Pregnant Wife

The man decapitated in a freak motorcycle accident in San Bernardino, Calif., on Tuesday morning has been identified as Fabian Zepeda, a 27-year-old who’d been married for less than a year and whose wife is four months pregnant. “I am very happy to keep a little blessing from my husband,“ Vanessa Quintana writes on a GoFundMe page, describing her husband, whom she met in 2012, as a “caring, loving, family orientated, unique individual who always managed to care for others before himself.“ The San Bernardino County coroner says Zepeda was decapitated by a tension wire that had been left stretched across the roadway minutes earlier when a Ford Taurus driver slammed into a telephone pole, breaking it in two, People reports.

“At that height at that time, it would have been really hard to see that wire,“ an investigator tells the San Bernardino Sun. The Taurus driver, who lost control of his vehicle for an unknown reason and rolled through a yard and down the street before hitting the pole, was interviewed by police and didn’t appear to be under the influence of alcohol, though a blood sample has been sent for testing, says a San Bernardino police spokesman. The accident is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol as well as the San Bernardino Police Department. The GoFundMe campaign has raised $11,000 as of Friday morning; Quintana is expecting a girl.


►  Man Refuses to Date ‘Hot Women,‘ Riles Up the Internet

Hoo-boy. The New York Post ran a story Wednesday titled “Why I won’t date hot women anymore” featuring an interview with a 40-year-old private equity executive who boasts he “could have [anyone] I wanted.“ Dan Rochkind says he used to go on multiple dates a week with “20-something blond models,“ but he eventually realized these hot women were all “flighty, selfish, and vapid.“ They were “full of themselves” and “couldn’t carry a conversation,“ he adds. And that’s why he’s now engaged to a 30-year-old woman, despite the fact that she’s a “softer beauty” who’s far too short to be a runway moDelegate Understandably, people had some strong feelings on the article. Here are some of them:

  • New York says the article is the Post’s “greatest troll yet,“ ably accomplishing the paper’s usual goal of angering the internet for a day or two.
  • A hot woman responds on Jezebel while “crying hot tears from my hot hot eyes” because she can no longer date the “average-looking, uninteresting man” from the article. It only gets more brutal from there.
  • A reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal sums up the story on Twitter: “Pretty women are terrible and stupid and all men are great and smart.“
  • The Huffington Post, which sarcastically refers to Rochkind as a hero, rounds up some of the other great Twitter reactions to the piece.
  • Rochkind’s fiancee, Carly Spindel, doesn’t appear too pleased with the article, accusing the Post on Instagram of “making me look beyond unattractive.“
  • Spindel’s mom, who runs a matchmaking site and set up Rochkind with her daughter, called out what she saw as some of the article’s flaws in an interview with the Boston Globe. (“My daughter is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.“)
  • Finally, the Mary Sue offers its own list of reasons not to date hot women, including that hot women have scary strong arms from taking selfies all the time; may actually be statues brought to life rather than merely statuesque; and, of course, cooties.


►  Alleged Child Rapist Caught After Flight Delayed

An accused child rapist who tried to flee from Maryland to Guatemala was thwarted by bad weather, authorities say. Sergio Morales Soto, 19, was arrested on board a flight at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport the day after the alleged April 4 rape, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. After he was identified as a suspect, police discovered that Soto had boarded an early morning flight in Baltimore, with a connection in Atlanta. Homeland Security officials say flight delays caused by severe weather in the Southeast gave them enough time to catch up with him. Soto was detained in Georgia and put on a plane back to Maryland this week to face six felony assault charges, WSB-TV reports.


►  Girl, 17, Guilty of Homicide in Delaware School Death

A 17-year-old girl was convicted Thursday of criminally negligent homicide in a school bathroom attack in Delaware that left a 16-year-old classmate dead. The ruling came in a nonjury trial for three girls charged in the death of Amy Joyner-Francis, the AP reports. All three were 16 when the fight happened last year and were tried as juveniles. The girl convicted of homicide also was found guilty of misdemeanor conspiracy. One of the other girls, who in an online post said “we gonna get her. .... she’s scared” and kicked Amy while she was on the floor struggling to defend herself, also was convicted of conspiracy.

Family Court Judge Robert Coonin acquitted the third girl of conspiracy, saying there was no evidence she threatened Amy and was even seen on a cellphone video pulling the girl convicted of homicide off Amy. All three girls opted not to testify. The AP is not naming them because they’re minors. An autopsy found that Amy, who had a rare heart condition undetected by her doctors, died of sudden cardiac death, aggravated by physical and emotional stress from the April 2016 fight at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington. The families of Amy and of her assailant left the courthouse without commenting. Sentencing for the two girls declared delinquent is set for May 23.


►  ‘Targeted’ Incident on Atlanta Train Leaves 1 Dead, 3 Hurt

A shooting that killed a man and wounded three other riders Thursday on an Atlanta public transit train appears to be a “targeted, isolated incident,“ officials say. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Police Chief Wanda Dunham said in a statement late Thursday that officers arrested a suspect in the death of Zachariah Hunnicutt at the West Lake station, the AP reports. Dunham didn’t release the suspect’s name or details about what led to the shooting at around 4:30pm. A MARTA spokesman says one man died at the scene. Two men and a woman who were wounded by gunfire were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.

Cedric Peterson tells WGCL he regularly rides the train after work and that the ride started off normally. “Everybody’s sitting down. It’s quiet,“ he says. “After we pulled off, we heard a sound like a crash, like we ran into maybe a tree limb that was on the track. Then like three seconds later, I’m hearing pop, pop, pop. I look back and see a guy’s back and see his outstretched arm. I’m like, ‘Yo, man, this is a shooter.‘ Then I’m running for the door.“ The shooter got on the train just like anyone else, Peterson says: “He was wearing headphones and just bobbing his head. There was no argument or anything. Then I heard the first pop.“


►  April the Giraffe Gives Birth. Finally

After approximately 1,400 hours of livestreaming video, April the giraffe finally gave birth, the Washington Post reports. And nearly 2 million people spent their Saturday morning watching. According to USA Today, the 15-year-old giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in New York has been pregnant for 16 months and finally went into labor around 7:30am ET. Shortly before 10am, her baby hit the ground. “Perfect delivery, perfect fall,“ the park’s owner says. Hundreds of thousands of people had spent weeks checking in on the livestream, which will remain active for another five days, hoping to catch the birth. April’s pregnancy made national news when the livestream was flagged for being sexually explicit.


►  Cops Say Fear Is Holding Back Witnesses in Ohio Massacre

Fear in the community is holding back information about the unsolved massacre of eight family members in southern Ohio nearly a year ago, investigators said Thursday. Some of that fear is of retaliation by the killers, and some is fear of witnesses incriminating themselves over their own criminal activity—likely involving drugs—unrelated to the slayings, investigators said. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind or in any investigator’s mind that there’s information that may be part truth, but not all the way true,“ said Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader. Witnesses who come forward will be treated fairly, said Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is leading the investigation. The focus is on the homicide, not those individuals’ crimes, he said, per the AP.

On April 22, 2016, investigators found seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family shot to death at four homes near Piketon. A newborn, another baby, and a young child were unharmed. One of the victims, Christopher Rhoden Sr., operated a commercial marijuana growing operation on his property “with the purpose of distributing the marijuana,“ according to DeWine’s office. Reader on Thursday pleaded for more donations to the reward fund, stuck at $10,000 for several months, for information leading to a conviction. The sheriff hinted that the victims’ involvement in drug crime may be holding people back from donating. Both DeWine and Reader said they expect an arrest someday, with DeWine saying “significant progress” has been made and the case is still his office’s top priority. Despite a massive investigation, no arrests have been made and no suspects identified.

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