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WV Senate Bill 1006 Changes DMV Fees Effective July 01, 2017

The Free Press WV

Due to the passage of Senate Bill 1006, starting Saturday, July 01, 2017, the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will implement changes to its fees for vehicle and driver services, including registrations and driver’s licenses.

Vehicle registrations for regular Class A plates will increase by $21.50 to $51.50. 

Special plates will pay the additional $21.50 on top of the special plate fee. 

DMV customers with July and August renewals that have already received their paperwork in the mail will need to pay the additional $21.50 beyond what is listed in the renewal notice per the new legislation. 

Other vehicle fee changes include:


·      Vehicle Sales Tax, 5% to 6%

·      Title Fee, $10 to $15

·      Duplicate Title, $10 to $15

·      Salvage Title/Cosmetic Loss, $15 to $22.50

·      Reconstructed Title, $10 to $15

·      Legal Heir Title Transfer, $0 to $15

·      Lien Recording, $5 to $10

·      Registration Transfer, $5.50 to $10.50

·      Legal Heir Registration Transfer, $0 to $10.50

·      Duplicate Decals, Plates, and Registrations, $5 to $10


Driver services changes include an increase in fees for the Class E Driver’s License to $5 per year. 

Adult and Child Identification Cards will also increase by $5 per year. 

Additional fees include:

·      Level One GDL Knowledge Test, $7.50 per attempt

·      Level One GDL Permit Test, $7.50

·      Level Two GDL Skills Test, $7.50 per attempt

·      Level Three, Full Class E (18 and over) $5 per year

·      Class E Knowledge Test, 18 and older, $7.50 per attempt

·      Class E Permit, 18 and older, $7.50

·      Duplicate Permits and License, $7.50

·      Docket Fee, $15.00

·      Driving Record, $7.50


All online services, as well as the DMV Now kiosks, will be programmed with these new legislative changes to begin July 01, 2017.

For more information, visit the DMV web site at dmv.wv.gov or call 1.800.642.9066.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

AUSTRALIA MOST SENIOR CATHOLIC CHARGED

Police say they are charging a top Vatican cardinal with historical sexual assault offenses. Cardinal George Pell now becomes the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be charged in the church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal.


OBAMACARE REPEAL IS ON THE BRINK

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is exploring options for salvaging the battered Republican health care bill. But he’s confronting a growing chorus of GOP detractors.


WHAT PEOPLE FLYING TO THE US FACE

The Homeland Security Department is demanding that airlines around the world step up security measures for international flights bound for the U.S. or face the possibility of a total electronics ban for planes.


U.S. OFFICIALS FINALIZING DETAILS OF TRUMP’S REVIVED TRAVEL BAN

They are deciding which residents of six mostly Muslim nations will be allowed to travel to the United States under a scaled-back travel ban set to take effect Thursday.


VENEZUELA’S POLITICAL CRISIS DEEPENS OVER MYSTERIOUS ATTACK

A police detective who’s also a pilot, movie star and dog trainer is now a fugitive, accused of leading a quixotic attempt to set off a revolt against President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela with a largely ineffective helicopter attack on the Supreme Court and Interior Ministry.


WHO CHINA RELEASED

Three Chinese investigators who went undercover at a factory that made Ivanka Trump shoes walked out of a police station after a month behind bars, and still might face charges.


WHY STOPPING RANSOMWARE IS SO DIFFICULT

Artificial intelligence is taking on ransomware, but getting protections onto computers presents its own challenges.


HOW LONG A TEN COMMANDMENTS MOMUMENT LASTED IN ARKANSAS

The privately funded monument had been in place outside the state Capitol in Little Rock for less than 24 hours when a man yelling “Freedom!“ crashed his vehicle into it.


PHIL JACKSON LEAVES KNICKS

The basketball legend’s days as New York Knicks president are over, after presiding over one of the worst eras in team history and feuding with star Carmelo Anthony.


WHAT INSPIRED THE CREATION OF PADDINGTON BEAR

Michael Bond, who died at age 91, was inspired to create the beloved character by a teddy bear he bought for his wife one Christmas Eve and named him after the station he used for daily commutes.

The Free Press WV

After 41 years of loyal and honorable service

Circuit Clerk Karen Elkin

Will be retiring

June 29, 2017

Noon to 2:00 p.m.

At

The Gilmer County Courthouse

Glenville, WV

Come out and celebrate and share your memories.

The Free Press WV
LARGE YARD SALE

THURSDAY, June 29 to SATURDAY, July 1

1 MILE BELOW CEDARVILLE

AT THE BRANNONS.



The Free Press WV




A massive cyberattack impacted companies around the world, including a Russian oil firm, Ukrainian banks and government departments, and major multinationals

Security researchers analysing the malicious software said it was similar to WannaCry, which was used in last month’s cyberattack.


Google was hit by a $2.7 billion fine by European regulators who said the company unfairly promoted its shopping comparison service above rivals’

The European Commission said Google abused its dominance in search to promote Google Shopping above search comparison services.


Facebook now has 2 billion users

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the milestone brought him closer in the company’s mission to “bring people together.“


Binary Capital, the VC firm quit by partner Justin Caldbeck after several women made sexual harassment allegations, is shutting down its second fund

The firm had raised around $175 million, according to Bloomberg, but very little had been invested.


Twitter has a new vice president of diversity and inclusion

The company has hired Candi Castleberry-Singleton to replace Jeffery Siminoff, who left after just a year.


Uber will now let you order a ride for someone else, even if they don’t have the smartphone app

A new in-app feature lets you request and pay for a journey on behalf of someone else.


Pandora is halting operations in Australia and New Zealand, its only markets outside the U.S.

The decision comes just after CEO and founder Tim Westergren stepped down.


Actor and early Uber investor Ashton Kutcher has come out in support of the company, saying Uber had become “the poster child” for common Silicon Valley’s issues

He also said he didn’t know that it was a “good idea” for CEO Travis Kalanick to step down after the company’s many troubles.


Apple Music is aping Spotify with personalized playlists, curated by algorithm

The company delivered its first “Chill” playlist to a small test group of users on Sunday, and will roll it out more widely this summer.


Google News, the search firm’s news aggregation service, is getting a redesign

The updated version includes a personalised “For You” section for the first time.

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • How Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are fueling, not hindering, our “American carnage.”  The eternal case against drug prohibition keeps getting stronger.  The Atlantic


  • This Republican Congressman Wants a $2,500 Housing Stipend for Members of Congress:  You might remember him from such plans as “sell off public lands.“  ESQUIRE


  • SCOTUS allows church to receive state funds, will hear gay cake case in October:  “The last day of the Supreme Court’s term was notable not only for what was announced but also for what wasn’t… In a highly watched religious liberty case, the court sided with a church that had sought a grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground. And the justices said they’ll take on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado.”  AP


  • A little-noticed justice reform under Trump.  The feds are poised to make a new investment in “Sentinel Events” programs, which help local jurisdictions identify systemic problems that lead to mistakes by police, prosecutors and courts.    The Crime Report


  • Trump rolls back Obama’s Clean Water Rule:  “The Clean Water Rule, which was first proposed in 2014, sought to clarify the legal jurisdiction of the federal government under the Clean Water Act. In doing so, it expanded protection for two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands. Also known as the Waters of the United States Rule, the rule was widely criticized by industry — including fossil fuel producers, manufacturers, and agribusiness — as well as by Republican lawmakers, who called the rule an example of overreach by a federal agency.”  ThinkProgress

McKinley: Brownfields Redevelopment Vital for Economic Growth

Energy and Commerce Passes Bipartisan Bill to Improve Brownfields Program

The Gilmer Free Press

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill sponsored by Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) to improve the Brownfields Program, which provides resources to clean up and redevelop contaminated industrial sites.

The Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3017) passed through the Committee with strong bipartisan support.

“Across the Northern Panhandle and the rest of West Virginia we have hundreds of former industrial sites that sit empty,” said McKinley. “Many of these sites would be attractive for redevelopment but have legacy contamination issues that must be addressed first. The Brownfields Program has been an important tool to turn abandoned eyesores into economic opportunity.”

“Earlier this month, Pietro Fiorentini, a supplier to the natural gas industry, broke ground on a new manufacturing facility located on a site in Weirton that was cleaned up through the Brownfields Program,” said McKinley. “This is just one example of the jobs and investment that can be created by reclaiming these sites.”

“The Brownfields Program benefits communities across the country,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Chairman of the Environment Subcommittee. “In Danville, the largest city in my district, a $400,000 Community Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant recently helped leverage $472,373 in additional funding for a dozen projects. But even with this investment, there is still much more work to be done to create jobs and revitalize local economies. I’m happy to see this bipartisan bill advance today, and I urge the Appropriations Committee to fund the program at the authorized amount.”

In drafting the bill, McKinley and the Committee worked with stakeholders who use the program – including organizations in West Virginia – to suggest improvements.

“These are game changing amendments that expand the benefits of the Brownfields Program to entities that are in a better position to collaborate with multiple stakeholders to leverage private investment on sites most suitable for economic development,” said Pat Ford, Executive Director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.

“Across the nation there are more than 450,000 brownfields sites,” added McKinley. “This bill will improve this program to clean up more sites and increase the impact it has on communities across America.”


Background

The Brownfields Enhancement Economic Redevelopment and Reauthorization Act of 2017 reauthorizes the EPA Brownfields Program for the first time since 2006 and makes a number of reforms including:

  • Creating multipurpose grants, which will provide flexibility to communities trying to cleanup multiple brownfields sites;

  • Increasing the limit for remediation grants from $200,000 to $500,000;

  • Expanding eligibility for non-profit organizations and entities that owned property prior to the original enactment of the brownfields law so that they may receive brownfields grant funding; and

  • Making it easier for small, rural, or disadvantaged communities to participate in the brownfields program.

Governor Jim Justice’s Learning Curve

The Free Press WV

Candidate Jim Justice promised he would be a different kind of Governor, and he has been so far. What is unclear after five months is whether his style and method of governing will be successful.

The early results are mixed.

Justice did manage to win approval for a massive highway plan that, at minimum, will generate another $130 million annually for road construction. The total new spending on roads could reach between $2.5 billion and $2.8 billion if voters approve a bond issue on Saturday, October 07.

The Governor already deserves credit for making the state’s decaying infrastructure a priority.  If he can help win approval for the bond issue then he will have a signature accomplishment for the first year of his administration.

However, the Governor’s budget plan flopped.  He initially proposed $450 million in tax increases to avoid cuts as well as pay for new spending on a classroom teacher pay raise and a Save Our State investment fund.  By the time the regular session and a three week long special session ended, the tax increases were gone, as were his spending initiatives.

The Legislature settled on a $4.2 billion budget. Justice decided to let it become law without his signature. “I can’t possibly put my name on it,” Justice said during a press conference last week.

Okay, but the Governor could not resist parting shots at lawmakers whom he battled with. “I don’t know if Jesus himself could bring this bunch together,” he said. Justice questioned the House leadership, both Republican and Democrat. “I’m really, really disappointed with the Democrats because they were family.”

House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) fumed.  “I could be personal, but I’m not going to be.  I know it’s his first time as Governor,” Miley said on Talkline.  “But for him to blame everyone but himself is a problem that’s going to follow him the next three years.”

“Every time I hear the Governor blame everybody but himself I feel like I’m in junior high school,” Miley said.

Justice operates without a filter, and that is often refreshing. The last election on both the state and national level showed voters were worn out with politics as usual and political correctness. They wanted a shake-up in the political establishment, and they got it.

But being forthright does not mean one has to abandon discretion.  Justice’s outspokenness, while often novel, sometimes makes his job more difficult.  It is possible for him to temper his insults without kowtowing to those who have differing views, or even those he sees as obstinate.

It’s worth noting that the longer the budget debate continued, the less the Governor got of what he wanted. It’s naïve for Justice to not accept some responsibility for that.

Justice’s relentless optimism and willingness to abandon past political narratives still hold promise. The people elected him because he gave them hope of a different path forward and a vision for what West Virginia could be, not a continuation of what it has been.

However, there is a learning curve to governing; the success of the Justice administration and ultimately the state for the next three-and-a-half years will depend on whether the Governor is willing to make an accurate accounting of his successes and failures and apply that knowledge going forward.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  WVU Releases Coal Industry Outlook for W.Va.

Short term coal production in West Virginia is likely to increase, according to a report released by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Those short term gains won’t off set overall production declines in the industry.

The annual report published by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research is titled “Coal Production in West Virginia.“ It sets out both long term and short term outlooks in the industry.

The Summer 2017 report says statewide, coal production will reach an estimated 89 million tons in 2017 and remain in that range through the early 2020s. But a decade later, coal production will once again begin to dip in the state.

Nationally, West Virginia has seen more drastic declines in coal production than any other state in the country, but the report’s author, WVU Research and Assistant Professor Brian Lego, writes that West Virginia coal production is split between two regions which have seen very different results in recent years due to both national and international economic trends.

In northern West Virginia where steam coal is mined, production slightly increased between 2008 and 2016. During that same period though, coal production in southern West Virginia plunged by 61 percent. Mines in the region largely produce metallurgical coal, or coal used to make steel. Lego says steel production in the U.S. is expected to see an uptick through the end of 2018, contributing to that expected short term production increase.

The report also lays out the potential impacts on the industry as natural gas prices fluctuate.


►  School Boards to Receive School Building Authority Grants

The board of West Virginia’s School Building Authority has voted to distribute about $6.7 million to 10 county public school systems that requested the “major improvement project” grant money.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the board gave final approval after discussion in voice votes on Monday with no “nays” heard for the funding in the selected counties: Fayette, Randolph, Webster, Pocahontas, Taylor, Lincoln, Pendleton, Mason, Mercer and Monongalia.

 

Kanawha, Cabell, Mingo and Tucker counties didn’t get any of the funding they had requested from the school building authority.

Counties requested a total of $9 million from the SBA in this year’s “major improvement project” grant cycle. The grants cannot exceed $1 million unlike the SBA’s larger “needs” grants.

The board distributes money to public schools for construction and renovation projects statewide.


►  West Virginia Attorney General Sues Charter Bus Company

West Virginia’s attorney general has asked a state judge to shut down a charter bus company saying it failed to refund nearly $18,000 for two canceled field trips.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says Cav’s Coach Company LLC, based in Cross Lanes, and owner Christopher Todd Cavender defaulted on refund agreements for the field trips meant to celebrate eighth-grade graduations.

Morrisey says the company has a “long history” of defaulting on its consumer obligations since it started in 2005.

He asked the court to permanently bar it from the charter bus business, order refunds for the school field trips and impose $5,000 penalties for every consumer protection law violation.

A phone number listed for the company was not in service Tuesday.


►  October 7th Special Election called by Governor

Secretary of State Mac Warner issued a legal notice to state newspapers today, announcing the details and date of a road bond election.

The West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 6, the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017, at the request of Governor Jim Justice on April 8th. The amendment, if passed by the voters, will give the Legislature authorization to issue and sell state bonds to be used for improvement and construction of state roads.

Governor Jim Justice signed a proclamation on June 28th setting the date for the road bond special election for Saturday, October 7th, 2017. The state Constitution requires that any amendment to the Constitution be submitted to voters for ratification or rejection in a special election.


►  Capito says thousands contacted her about health overhaul

West Virginia’s Republican U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito says she heard from thousands of constituents concerned about their future health care in deciding she couldn’t support the Senate GOP leadership’s proposed overhaul.

She says most affecting are personal stories showing the impact of policy decisions.

She says health care “is a very personal thing and people have very deep feelings about it.“

Many people have told her how the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act gave them or loved ones access to treatment for cancer or long-term health problems.

Small business owners are saying insurance premiums under “Obamacare” are “excruciating,“ having risen 169 percent.

Capito supports ending the tax penalty for people who don’t get insurance, but continuing taxes on the wealthiest to support care for others.


►  After mix-up, group flies correct name over West Virginia

A women’s political advocacy group has taken two tries to fly the correct U.S. senator’s name over West Virginia after a mix-up that had Charleston residents scratching their heads.

UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a third-party vendor jumbled signs targeting Nevada Senator Dean Heller and West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

No one caught the error until the banner reading “Senator Heller: Keep your word, vote no on Trumpcare” was soaring over Charleston on Monday.

The group re-printed the Capito sign and flew it in her state Tuesday afternoon, reading “Senator Capito: Trumpcare hurts WV families.“

The Heller sign may not fly in Nevada due to extreme heat.

UltraViolet flew a third banner targeting Senator Susan Collins over Portland, Maine on Monday.

The three Republicans have not supported a GOP bill to overhaul federal health laws.


►  Dozens protest topless to normalize female bodies

Dozens of topless women silently marched through West Virginia’s capital city to protest for topless equality and normalization of the female body.

Women, men and children marched through Charleston for the “Free the Nip Top Freedom Rally” on Saturday.

The marchers walked from Davis Park to Kanawha Boulevard. Some protesters went topless, while others were fully clothed. Spectators stood yards away and used their phones to film the women undressing.

Protester Jade Magoun says the march is one of the only ways to normalize breastfeeding.

Organizers moved the protest to 6:30 p.m. because a local arts nonprofit, called FestivALL, had several kids’ events planned on the same day.


►  West Virginia University Team Wins Rocket Competition

A team from West Virginia University won first place in the rocket-launching competition in New Mexico.

The university’s Experimental Rocketry team captured first place in the 10,000-foot launch category at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition.

The competition calls on college students to design, build and launch rockets to a targeted altitude. More than 100 teams from around the world competed in the event, which is run by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association.

The team from WVU built a 12-foot long fiberglass rocket that soared to an altitude of more than 9,600 feet while carrying nearly nine pounds of payload.

The team received top scores in all aspects of the competition, beating out 24 teams in their category for the victory.


►  West Virginia hospital hit by ransomware attack

The FBI is investigating the hacking of the computer system at a West Virginia hospital.

Local news outlets report employees at Princeton Community Hospital were hit by a ransomware attack Tuesday morning and were unable to access files. It is unclear if patient records were compromised.

Hospital spokesman Rick Hypes says the hospital has established protocols for situations in which the computer system cannot be accessed, which ensured a continuation of patient care.

PCH vice president Rose Morgan says nothing is yet known about the origin of or reason for the disruption, but the hack was from an outside source. She said no one has contacted the hospital related to the hacking, which prompted users to recover files by purchasing a decryption key for $300 in virtual currency.

All of Donald Trump’s Lies

Last weekend, The New York Times performed a noble public service by publishing nearly every lie Donald Trump has told since taking the oath of office (just four months and a few days ago, but it seems like an eternity, no?). The op-ed chart of tiny but readable font fills the entire page, until at one point, in the mind’s eye, they appear to morph into termites burrowing deep into the foundation of democracy, leaving sawdust in their wake.

The Free Press WV

One subtitle reads: “Trump Told Public Lies or Falsehoods Every Day for His First 40 Days.” Another reminds us: “Trump’s Lies Repeat — and Shift With Repetition.” David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson, the journalists in charge of the project, wrote:

“We are using the word ‘lie’ deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naivete to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.”

Their effort deserves the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. We also hope that once they finished the task, they rushed right home to a long and cleansing shower.

Meanwhile, you may want to remind yourselves of the Big Lie that Donald Trump rode to power — the Birther Lie. It was never true when the right wing media — talk radio, internet trolls and Fox News — began to spread the story that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and was therefore an illegitimate president.

Yet Trump shamelessly championed the lie and made it central to his campaign. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he told gullible television hosts as early as 20ll. A year later he tweeted that “an extremely credible source” had called his office to inform him that Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.” Then he urged hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

The Big Lie worked for Trump because it had been sown in the fertile soil of slavery and segregation, and he knew that after eight years of a black president, white supremacy was ripe for harvesting. I talked about the Birther Lie with four noted historians in this video, which we posted on Jan. 20 — the day Trump was inaugurated as Barack Obama’s successor.

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  In rural Kentucky, solar eclipse preparation keeps town busy

Cross over the old Louisville & Nashville Railroad in this town remembered for its Civil War encampment and you’ll see the first signs — there’s fresh anticipation in the rural areas that will be prime viewing locations for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to sweep the United States in 99 years.

“We’ve talked about this a lot. It’s exciting to have all these people coming together,” said Julie-Anna Carlisle, owner of a wellness boutique in downtown Hopkinsville. “We live across town, but we’ve decided to camp out in the shop. I don’t want to be caught in a traffic jam and not be able to open the store.”

Tens of thousands of people — estimates reach 100,000 people from as far as Japan and South Africa — will watch the eclipse from the area, and that has communities small and large bracing for an influx that could put a strain on resources and infrastructure.

Hopkinsville, a city of about 32,000 people and the birthplace of the “sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce, is nearest the point of greatest eclipse — as the axis of the moon’s shadow cone passes closest to Earth’s center. Hopkinsville is in the area that will be getting the longest total eclipse — at 1:24 p.m. CDT August 21, the moon will pass in front of the sun and cast darkness on the rolling farmland, plunging it into darkness for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

The cosmic event has even captured the attention of the Vatican. Brother Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory, is traveling 5,000 miles to watch the eclipse and give a presentation on faith and science at a Hopkinsville church.

“Everybody is talking about the eclipse because they see it as such a wonderful opportunity. It provides a unique, scientific experience for eclipse chasers from all over the world,” Hopkinsville mayor Carter Hendricks said. “They’re excited that Hopkinsville is on the international map. They’re excited to play host to visitors from all over the world.”

Hendricks said the city learned of its place in the path of totality — total darkness, as day briefly becomes night — about 10 years ago and has spent more than half a million dollars on preparations. His biggest concern isn’t just the weather — cloud cover or rain the afternoon of the eclipse — but people not showing up.

“The good news for us is the science is on our side that it will be a sunny, hot day,” Hendricks said. “If it’s cloudy, then we’ll just have to deal with that reality as best we can and help people get to other locations. But, if somehow we overprepare and we’re underwhelmed by the crowd size, that’s a big concern for me.”

Preparations outside Hopkinsville extend well into rural Christian County. The city has asked Governor Matt Bevin to station National Guard troops on some of the county’s two-lane roads to help control traffic. The state gave the Hopkinsville-Christian County Airport a $300,000 grant for upgrades. Public safety officials are coordinating with fire departments, law enforcement officials, and doctors and hospitals to handle emergencies.

More than 20 local events are planned, including a three-day music festival, a bourbon tasting, and a festival commemorating the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter — the reported landing of “little green men” in nearby Kelly on August 21, 1955.

The eclipse is expected to have a $30 million economic impact on Christian County. Carlisle, who opened Milkweed Health & Harmony Emporium about a year ago, designed an eclipse-themed T-shirt with the latitude and longitude of Hopkinsville. Most hotels are sold out.

Hopkinsville plans to turn off its street lights near its designated viewing areas so visitors can get the most out of the eclipse experience. Brooke Jung, city eclipse coordinator, says watchers will be able to see the moon’s shadow stretch across the land.

“It’ll look like twilight outside. You’ll be able to see stars. Four planets will be visible — Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. You’ll notice the temperature drop about 5 to 10 degrees,” Jung said. “You’ll notice that animals will get a little disoriented. Birds will think that it’s nighttime and go in to roost. Some of the flowers and plants that close up at night will close up.”

The last time a total solar eclipse swept the whole width of the U.S. was in 1918.

This year, total darkness will fall over 14 states from the Pacific Northwest to the South Carolina Lowcountry. NASA says 391 million people in the U.S. will be able to see at least part of it.


►  Lawsuits over new Utah monument to test president’s power

Native American tribes and environmental groups preparing for a legal battle to stop Donald Trump from dismantling Utah’s new national monument face a tougher challenge than anticipated.

Republican officials in the state who oppose Bears Ears National Monument asked Trump to rescind the designation. But U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended the monument be downsized instead, noting past presidents have tinkered with the boundaries of lands protected under federal law.

Legal experts disagree on whether the 1906 Antiquities Act allows a president to reduce a monument, and it’s something that has never been challenged in court.

Environmentalists and Indian tribes were ready to pounce at the notion Zinke would recommend Bears Ears be abolished, armed with their belief that no president may undo the work of another by rescinding a monument, and the fact that no president has tried.

But past presidents have trimmed national monuments and redrawn their boundaries — 18 times, according to the National Park Service.

Bears Ears, established by President Barack Obama in December, is about the size of Delaware, covering roughly 2,000 square miles (5,300 square kilometers). It protects more than 100,000 archaeological sites on what’s considered sacred tribal land in southeastern Utah.

A largely GOP group of Utah officials wants the monument repealed and see it as an overly broad, unnecessary layer of federal control that closes off the area to energy development and other access.

Republican state Representative Mike Noel said shrinking a monument is politically and legally much easier to defend than attempting to undo one.

“There’s been enough history of downsizing, even fairly large areas, significantly large areas,” Noel said.

Many times, past presidents reduced monuments only slightly, like when Franklin Roosevelt removed about 52 acres from Arizona’s Wupatki National Monument in 1941 to make way for a dam. But occasionally the changes were drastic, like President Woodrow Wilson’s move in 1915 to cut Mount Olympus National Monument roughly in half to open more land for logging.

Environmental groups and others gearing up for a fight note that no president has tried to downsize a monument since the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which they say restricts a president’s ability to do so. The groups also contend past presidents never faced court challenges for shrinking monuments.

“Whatever this administration does will certainly not go unchallenged,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice.

Legal experts disagree on whether the environmental groups are right, but the court battle that’s expected if Trump tries to cut down Bears Ears could significantly alter what’s generally been a lasting protection from presidents.

The 1906 Antiquities Act that gives presidents the power to declare monuments does not explicitly say whether a president can nullify a monument proclamation or shrink its boundaries.

Donald J. Kochan, a professor of natural resources, property and administrative law at Chapman University in Orange, California, said the president’s broad power to create a monument comes with an inherent ability to change a monument or undo it, just as presidents regularly undo other policies or regulations from past administrations.

Mark Squillace, professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado-Boulder, disagreed. He said Congress controls public lands and it’s significant that in passing the Antiquities Act, lawmakers spelled out only that the president can create a monument.

Congress took care in other laws passed around that time, more than a century ago, to explicitly give the president powers to both act and undo acts, Squillace noted.

He said the 1976 land policy law and congressional records of the law’s drafting also make it clear that Congress didn’t want to give presidents the authority to shrink or undo monuments.

The question about whether the president has the power to shrink a monument “is one of these big, lingering issues that’s been out there for a long time,” Squillace said. “I think there’s a very strong case against the president’s authority to do this.”

Lawsuits are expected from the Navajo Nation, groups like the Wilderness Society and Earthjustice, and even outdoor gear company Patagonia once Trump takes action on Bears Ears. That’s not likely to happen until at least August, when Zinke finishes the president’s request that he review 26 other monuments.

Noel said he’s working on legislation that will commit the state of Utah to intervening in the lawsuit to help defend the Trump administration’s action.

Representatives for Governor Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, both Republicans, declined to say whether they’d join a lawsuit. Messages seeking comment from the Interior Department were not returned.


►  Mississippi man takes Confederate flag fight to high court

A black Mississippi citizen is taking his case against the state’s Confederate-themed flag to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In papers filed Wednesday, attorneys for Carlos Moore said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms him and his young daughter by violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

His attorneys wrote that under the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Moore, “a city could adopt ‘White Supremacy Forever’ as its official motto; or a county could incorporate an image of white hooded figures and a noose hanging from a tree into its county seal; or a state could incorporate a Nazi swastika, as an endorsement of Aryan/white supremacy, in its state flag.”

Mississippi’s is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. Voters kept it in a 2001 election.

However, several cities and towns and all eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying the flag amid concerns that it is offensive in a state where 38 percent of the population is black. Many took action after the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online.

The fresh scrutiny has extended to other Old South symbols on public display; New Orleans recently removed statues of Confederate officers and a monument to white supremacy, and other cities are considering similar demotions.

The lawsuit Moore filed in February 2016 says the Mississippi flag is “state-sanctioned hate speech,” and seeks to have it declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed it in September without ruling on the merits, saying Moore lacked legal standing to sue because he failed to show the emblem caused an identifiable legal injury.

But despite ruling against Moore, Reeves devoted nine pages of his decision to historical context, noting the racial terror intended to maintain segregation and white supremacy in the Deep South in the years leading up to Mississippi’s adoption of the flag with the Confederate emblem.

Reeves specifically rejected an argument some flag supporters make outside the courtroom, that there is no connection between slavery and the Confederate battle emblem. The judge cited Mississippi’s 1861 secession declaration, which said: “‘Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.’”

Moore, himself an attorney, is now asking the Supreme Court to send the case back to Reeves’ federal courtroom for a full trial on the merits of his arguments. Ultimately, Moore wants the Confederate symbol removed from the flag.

“While acknowledging that the Establishment Clause prohibits a state from expressing the view that one religion is superior to, or preferred over, others, the court of appeals reached the remarkable and unwarranted conclusion that the Equal Protection Clause does not similarly prohibit a state from expressing the view that one race is superior to, or preferred over, another,” wrote Michael Scott and Kristen Ashe, who represent Moore.

It will be October, at the earliest, before the Supreme Court will say whether it will take the case. The Mississippi attorney general’s office, which has defended the state, declined to comment Wednesday, spokeswoman Margaret Ann Morgan said.

Republican Governor Phil Bryant has said if the flag design is to be reconsidered, it should be done in another statewide election. Legislators filed several bills in 2016 and this year, to either change the flag or financially punish universities that refuse to fly it. All failed because leaders said they couldn’t reach consensus.


►  Pastor to face trial in granddaughter’s faith healing death

The pastor of a fundamentalist congregation that eschews modern medicine will stand trial on a charge he should have alerted authorities when his 2-year-old granddaughter was dying of pneumonia last year, a Pennsylvania judge ruled Wednesday.

District Judge Ann Young said prosecutors put on enough evidence to send the case against Rowland Foster to the Berks County Courthouse for trial, reversing a different judge’s decision in April to throw out the charge of failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

Young called the death of Ella Foster “tragic, sad, beyond belief,” and told Foster she was not questioning his religious beliefs.

Her decision came after watching a video of state police questioning the elder Foster, but Young said an important part of her decision was testimony at the previous preliminary hearing by Dr. Neil Hoffman, a forensic pathologist.

Hoffman did not testify Wednesday, but Young drew from the transcript of the earlier hearing in which he said the girl’s condition would have been easily treatable and that if she had been, she almost certainly would have survived.

Young called Hoffman’s testimony “clear, convincing and compelling.”

Rowland Foster, 72, of Lebanon, ignored questions as he left the hearing, but his defense attorney, Chris Ferro, said prosecutors will have difficulty getting a conviction at trial, which will require a more stringent level of proof than was needed before Young.

“I think the commonwealth is going to be unable to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ferro said.

Prosecutor Jonathan Kurland argued to the judge that Ella Foster had been subjected to child abuse, and that her grandfather, as a pastor, was required by law to report suspected abuse and willfully failed to do so.

“Dr. Hoffman testified (that) in the morning before she died, it would have been apparent to a reasonable person that Ella was in need of medical care and medical intervention,” Kurland said.

He said Rowland Foster’s comment to a detective that he has never been to a doctor was evidence of “rationalization and justification and awareness.”

Ferro called his client “a grieving grandfather, not a criminal” and said Ella Foster’s death was “a crater in the heart of the community.”

Ella Foster was being cared for before she died, Ferro said, including being given food and liquids.

“This is not a mandatory reporter who is turning his blind eye to child abuse,” Ferro said.

Ella’s parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, await trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Rowland Foster leads the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which instructs members to avoid doctors and pharmaceutical drugs. An advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect says the church’s position has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable conditions.


►  2 railroad workers struck, killed on tracks in Washington

Two conductors who got out of their freight train to follow up on an alert that there was a problem with one or more of the train’s wheels were struck and killed by a passenger train near Washington’s Union Station.

The CSX employees were responding Tuesday night after one of the detectors that are placed along the tracks about every 25 miles (40 kilometers) identified an abnormality, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Wednesday at a news conference.

He could not say if the operator of the Amtrak train saw the CSX employees before hitting them but said that’s being investigated. He said there were “few definitive facts at this early stage.”

The train, which was traveling from Baltimore, is about 9,000 and 9,500 feet (2,740 to 2,900 meters) long, he said. The CSX employees were struck by an Amtrak train that was traveling from Boston and New York and was approaching Washington’s Union Station. Amtrak says none of the train’s passengers or crew was injured in the accident.

CSX said in a statement that the names of the employees were being withheld for their families’ privacy.

Amtrak service was suspended between Washington and Philadelphia after the two employees were struck, but service resumed Wednesday morning, with delays. Riders traveling on two commuter train lines could expect major delays Wednesday and possible train cancellations, said transit officials in Maryland.

The area where the employees were struck has two tracks that belong to CSX and two that belong to Amtrak, Weener said. Investigators will be looking at communication between CSX and Amtrak.


►  Little progress evident as GOP hunts health bill votes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explored options for salvaging the battered Republican health care bill Wednesday but confronted an expanding chorus of GOP detractors, deepening the uncertainty over whether the party can resuscitate its bedrock promise to repeal President Barack Obama’s overhaul.

A day after McConnell, short of votes, unexpectedly abandoned plans to whisk the measure through his chamber this week, fresh GOP critics popped forward. Some senators emerged from a party lunch saying potential amendments were beyond cosmetic, with changes to Medicaid and Obama’s consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements among the items in play.

“There’s a whole raft of things that people are talking about, and some of it’s trimming around the edges and some of it’s more fundamental,“ said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. “Right now, they’re still kind of, ‘Can we do it?‘ and I can’t answer that.“

Yet while this week’s retreat on a measure McConnell wrote behind closed doors dented his reputation as a consummate legislative seer, no one was counting him out.

“Once in Glacier National Park I saw two porcupines making love,“ said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “I’m assuming they produced smaller porcupines. They produced something. It has to be done carefully. That’s what we’re doing now.“

Having seen the House approve its health care package in May six weeks after an earlier version collapsed, Democrats were far from a victory dance.

“I expect to see buyouts and bailouts, backroom deals and kickbacks to individual senators to try and buy their vote,“ said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “What I don’t expect to see, yet, is a dramatic rethink of the core” of the bill.

A day after McConnell prodded Republicans by saying a GOP failure would force him to negotiate with Schumer, the New Yorker set a price for such talks — no Medicaid cuts or tax reductions for the wealthy. No negotiations seem imminent.

Facing a daunting equation — the bill loses if three of the 52 GOP senators oppose it — the list of Republicans who’ve publicly complained about the legislation reached double digits, though many were expected to eventually relent. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said “of course” his support was uncertain because he wants to ease some of the measure’s Medicaid cuts, and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., told The Omaha World-Herald that the bill was not a full repeal, adding, “Nebraskans are dissatisfied with it and so am I.“

McConnell, R-Ky., wants agreement by Friday on revisions so the Senate can approve it shortly after returning in mid-July from an Independence Day recess. Several senators scoffed at that timetable, with McCain saying, “Pigs could fly.“

At the White House, Trump continued his peculiar pattern of interspersing encouragement to GOP senators trying to tear down Obama’s 2010 statute with more elusive remarks.

Trump told reporters that Republicans have “a great health care package” but said there would be “a great, great surprise,“ a comment that went without explanation. On Tuesday, he said it would be “great if we get it done” but “OK” if they don’t, and two weeks ago he slammed as “mean” the House version of the bill that he’d previously lionized with a Rose Garden ceremony.

The GOP’s health care slog has highlighted discord between moderates who say the bill cuts Medicaid and federal health care subsidies too deeply, and conservatives eager to reduce government spending and shrink premiums by letting insurers sell policies with scantier coverage than Obama’s law allows.

GOP support for the measure sagged this week after a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would produce 22 million fewer insured people by 2026 while making coverage less affordable for many, especially older and poorer Americans. It wasn’t helped when an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll said that 17 percent of people approved of the Senate bill.

McConnell showed no signs of abandoning his push for the legislation.

“We’ll continue working so we can bring legislation to the floor for debate and ultimately a vote,“ he said as the Senate convened Wednesday.

To succeed, McConnell must balance demands from his party’s two wings. It’s a challenge that’s intricate but not impossible, with some saying an eventual compromise could include elements both want.

Centrists from states that expanded Medicaid health insurance for the poor under Obama’s law are battling to ease the bill’s cutoff of that expansion, and to make the measure’s federal subsidies more generous for people losing Medicaid coverage. These senators, including Ohio’s Rob Portman and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, also want expanded funds to ease the death toll from the illegal use of drugs like opioids.

Conservatives including Ted Cruz of Texas, Utah’s Mike Lee and Kentucky’s Rand Paul want to let insurers sell policies with fewer benefits. Some would further trim Medicaid spending and the health care tax credits, with Paul seeking to erase the package’s billions to help insurers contain costs for lower-earning customers and protect the companies against potential losses.

Each group has been trying to grow its numbers to boost clout with McConnell.


►  Officials finalizing details of Trump’s revived travel ban

Senior officials from the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security labored Wednesday to finalize rules for visitors from six mostly Muslim nations who hope to avoid the Trump administration’s revived travel ban and come to the United States.

The deliberations came as U.S. embassies and consulates awaited instructions on how to implement this week’s Supreme Court order that partially reinstated the ban after it was blocked by lower courts. The administration has given itself a Thursday deadline for implementing the scaled-back ban, which applies to visitors from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen.

The justices’ opinion exempts applicants from the ban if they can prove a “bona fide relationship” with a U.S. person or entity. Government lawyers must determine how to define such a relationship. The court offered only broad guidelines — suggesting they would include a relative, job offer or invitation to lecture in the U.S.

Shortly after the court’s ruling, the State Department advised all U.S. diplomatic posts to await instructions.

Until the new guidance is complete, posts were told to process applications as they had been, according to officials familiar with the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal communications publicly.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday that his agency is now starting to examine what more can do be done to better determine who is coming into the country and why. During a speech at a security event in Washington he did not address how the travel ban will be implemented.

President Donald Trump’s initial travel ban in January led to chaos at airports around the world, but airlines say they don’t expect similar problems this time. After a judge blocked the original ban, Trump issued a scaled-down order and the court’s action Monday further reduced the number of people who would be covered by it. Also, while the initial order took effect immediately, adding to the confusion, this one was delayed 72 hours after the court’s ruling.

Virgin Atlantic said it was working with Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security agency responsible for admitting arriving foreigners into the United States. The airline said anyone with valid travel documents is expected to be able to travel to the U.S. as normal, but it recommended that passengers from the six countries check first with the U.S. Embassy.

Some immigration groups plan to send lawyers to airports in case there are problems. The Dulles Justice Coalition, which established a pool of volunteer attorneys at Dulles International Airport after the first travel ban, is planning to return to the Virginia airport outside Washington, said DJC board member Sirine Shebaya.

It remained unclear exactly when new instructions would be distributed to embassies and consulates. Among other questions lawyers were grappling with was how specific the instructions should be in interpreting a “bona fide relationship.“

A broad interpretation, for example, could allow for a contract or reservation with a rental car agency or hotel in the United States to be considered a legitimate relationship, the officials said.

Similarly, an applicant’s relationship with a distant, nonblood relative in the U.S. could be considered legitimate. The officials said the new guidance might not delve into such specifics and leave consular officers with discretion to make their own determinations.

The Homeland Security Department has said only that it will implement the travel ban “professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice.“

The Supreme Court order also placed similar limitations on Trump’s plan to temporarily halt all refugee admissions. But that may have minimal effect for now. Of the 50,000 refugees the government planned to accept in the current budget year, more than 48,900 have been allowed to enter the U.S.

The State Department has said that the few remaining refugees to be admitted this year will not have to prove a “bona fide relationship.“ A new cap won’t be in place until the start of the budget year in October, around the time that the Supreme Court considers the case.

Trump ordered the refugee ban and a travel ban affecting the six countries, plus Iraq, shortly after taking office. He said it was needed to protect the U.S. from terrorists, but opponents said it was unfairly harsh and was intended to meet a Trump campaign promise to keep Muslims out of the United States.

After a federal judge struck down the bans, Trump signed a revised order intended to overcome legal hurdles. That was also struck down by lower courts, but the Supreme Court’s action Monday partially reinstated it.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  China frees 3 activists who probed Ivanka Trump supplier

The three Chinese investigators who went undercover at a factory that made Ivanka Trump shoes walked out of a Chinese police station Wednesday after a month behind bars, but face an uncertain future and threat of a trial.

Chinese authorities released the three on bail after allegedly breaking the law by using secret cameras and listening devices. It is extremely rare for individuals to be freed on bail if they had been criminally detained, a possible sign that they won’t be formally charged and put on trial.

Political dissidents and other activists who are released in China typically face restrictions on what they can do and say, including comments to the media.

“This is a way of keeping people under pressure, under police control, without subjected them to actual confinement,” said Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University and a Chinese human rights expert. “Whether they are prosecuted depends on how they behave.”

One of the activists, Hua Haifeng, was clearly relieved as he held his 3-year-old son outside the police station in Ganzhou, a city in southeastern Jiangxi province. But he was unwilling to talk much.

“I appreciate the media following my case the last month,” Hua told The Associated Press, “but I’m not ready to speak yet.”

Hua and his colleagues at the labor rights group China Labor Watch were preparing to publish a report alleging low pay, excessive overtime, crude verbal abuse and possible misuse of student labor at Huajian Group factories. The factories produced Ivanka Trump shoes, among other brands.

Huajian Group has denied allegations of excessive overtime and low wages. It says it stopped producing Ivanka Trump shoes months ago.

Hua and two other activists — Su Heng and Li Zhao — disappeared or were detained in late May. China Labor Watch said two were taken from a hotel room while the third was detained by customs officials in the southern city of Shenzhen while en route to Hong Kong.

NYU’s Cohen said he suspects the case wasn’t strong enough, and now may follow the pattern of the one against Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist who was released on bail in 2011 and never faced trial.

“I think this is face saving way to get rid of the case,” Cohen said. “Formally, the case will exist for another year, then it will be dropped unless these people misbehave.”

Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, said the Huajian’s factory in Ganzhou was as among the worst he has seen in nearly two decades investigating labor abuses. His group says pay can be as low as a dollar an hour, in violation of China’s labor laws. According to China Labor Watch investigators, until recently, workers might get only two days off — or less — per month.

China Labor Watch said the company forced workers to sign fake pay stubs with inflated salary numbers and threatened to fire workers if they didn’t fill in questionnaires about working conditions with pre-approved answers.

Separately, the AP recently spoke to three workers at the Ganzhou factory — one current and two former employees — who confirmed some of what the labor group has reported.

The three worker told the AP that beatings were not unheard of, and that they had each witnessed a particularly gruesome scene one day: A worker with blood dripping his head after an angry manager had hit him with sharp end of a high-heeled shoe.

“There was a lot of blood. He went to the factory’s nurse station, passing by me,” said one of the former workers, who said he quit his job at the Huajian factory because of the long hours and low pay.

All three workers spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution or arrest.

The detention of the three activists prompted the U.S. State Department to call for their immediate release. At the time, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the men had been accused of using secret recording devices to disrupt normal commercial operations and would be dealt with under Chinese law.

“Other nations have no right to interfere in our judicial sovereignty and independence,” she said, adding, “the police found these people illegally possessed secret cameras, secret listening devices and other illegal monitoring devices.”

The White House directed any questions about the detainees on Wednesday to the State Department. Anna Richey-Allen, a State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and the Pacific, said: “We urge China to afford them the judicial and fair trial protections to which they are entitled.”

Ivanka Trump’s brand has declined to comment on the allegations or the detentions. Marc Fisher, which produces shoes for Ivanka Trump and other brands, has said it is looking into the allegations. Ivanka Trump’s lifestyle brand imports most of its merchandise from China, trade data show.

The detentions came as China has cracked down on perceived threats to the stability of its ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch.

Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.

As he left the police station Wednesday, Hua was surrounded by family members. “I’m happy to be out,” he said. “I just want to spend some time with my family,”

Hua declined further comment but said he had not been mistreated.


►  Intel report: Kremlin sees U.S. urging regime change in Russia

Kremlin leaders are convinced America is intent on regime change in Russia, a fear that is feeding rising tension and military competition between the former Cold War foes, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has assessed.

The unclassified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which will be publicly released later Wednesday, portrays Russia as increasingly wary of the United States. It cites Moscow’s “deep and abiding distrust of U.S. efforts to promote democracy around the world and what it perceives as a U.S. campaign to impose a single set of global values.”

“The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine,” the report says, referencing the claims by President Vladimir Putin’s government that the U.S. engineered the popular uprising that ousted Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovich, in 2014. Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region and supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“Moscow worries that U.S. attempts to dictate a set of acceptable international norms threatens the foundations of Kremlin power by giving license for foreign meddling in Russia’s internal affairs,” the report says. Titled “Russia Military Power,” it is the agency’s first such unclassified assessment in more than two decades.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report in advance of its public release. It harkens to Cold War days when the intelligence agency published a series of “Soviet Military Power” studies that defined the contours of the superpower rivalry. Those reports ended with the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. Now they return, DIA’s director, Marine Lt. General Vincent R. Stewart, says, with an eye on the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

“Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge,” Stewart wrote in a preface to the report. No new, global ideological struggle akin to the Cold War is forecast, but the report cautions that Moscow “intends to use its military to promote stability on its own terms.”

During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the U.S.-Russian relationship deteriorated from an initial “reset” to American allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election to aid Donald Trump’s victory. In between, were intense disagreements over Ukraine and Syria, where Russia has provided military help to President Bashar Assad’s government and the U.S. has backed anti-Assad rebels.

While Trump’s campaign rhetoric was widely seen as sympathetic to Russia, ties have not improved in his first six months of his presidency. In April, Trump said U.S.-Russian relations “may be at an all-time low.” Trump is expected to meet Putin for the first time at an international summit in Germany next week.

Thursday’s report, prepared long before Trump’s election, reflects the Pentagon’s view of the global security picture shifting after nearly two decades of heavy American focus on countering terrorism and fighting relatively small-scale wars across the Middle East. Russia, in particular, is now at the center of the national security debate in Congress, fed by political divisions over how to deal with Putin and whether his military buildup, perceived threats against NATO and alleged election interference call for a new U.S. approach.

Representative Adam Smith, the House Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat, issued Wednesday a “national security manifesto” on Russia. He and a group of lawmakers writing in Time magazine cited the threat of “Putinism,” which they termed “a philosophy of dictatorship” that seeks to extinguish democratic ideals such as government transparency by exploiting “discontented facets of democratic polities worldwide.”

At a Senate intelligence committee hearing Wednesday, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel’s ranking Democrat, said Russia is becoming more brazen.

“Russia’s goal is to sow chaos and confusion — to fuel internal disagreements and to undermine democracies whenever possible, and to cast doubt on the democratic process wherever it exists,” Warner said.

Jim Kudla, a DIA spokesman, said his agency’s report is unconnected to any recent events. It wasn’t requested by Congress.

The 116-page document offers a deep assessment of every dimension of Russian military power. It contains no new disclosures of military capability but portrays Russia as methodically and successfully rebuilding an army, navy and air force that weakened after the Soviet Union collapsed.

“The Russian military today is on the rise — not as the same Soviet force that faced the West in the Cold War, dependent on large units with heavy equipment,” the report says. It describes Russia’s new military “as a smaller, more mobile, balanced force rapidly becoming capable of conducting the full range of modern warfare.”

It cites the example of Moscow’s 2015 military intervention in Syria. The Kremlin cast the effort as designed to combat Islamic State fighters. Washington saw Moscow largely propping up Assad by providing air support for the Syrian army’s offensive against opposition forces.

The report says the Syria intervention is intended also to eliminate jihadist elements that originated on the former Soviet Union’s territory to prevent them from returning home and threatening Russia.

In any case, the report credits the intervention for having “changed the entire dynamic of the conflict, bolstering the Assad regime and ensuring that no resolution to the conflict is possible without Moscow’s agreement.”

“Nevertheless, these actions also belie a deeply entrenched sense of insecurity regarding a United States that Moscow believes is intent on undermining Russia at home and abroad,” the report says.


►  Experts encourage more public awareness of Russian meddling

The United States will get hit again by Russian cyberattacks if the country doesn’t pay closer attention and work more closely with European allies who are also victims, international elections experts warned on Wednesday.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, experts described extensive Russian interference in European elections and encouraged more awareness among the American of how Russians are trying to undermine U.S. candidates and faith in government. One witness, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, criticized both former President Barack Obama and current Donald Trump for not doing more to publicize the problem and combat it.

“I do think that it’s time for Congress and not the president to lead the response to Russia’s cyberattack on the United States,” said Nicholas Burns, who worked as NATO ambassador and undersecretary at the State Department under President George W. Bush.

Burns criticized Obama for not doing more as it became apparent during last year’s election that Russia was trying to interfere. But he had harsher words for Trump, saying he hadn’t been skeptical enough of Russia’s role in the election.

“If he continues to refuse to act, it’s a dereliction of his most basic duty to protect the country,” Burns said.

Russian officials have denied any meddling in the 2016 election. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that President Vladimir Putin was responsible.

Burns recommended that the United States work more closely with Europe to identify Russia’s cyber disinformation — fake news spread through social media, for example — and share information in real time. He also recommended that U.S. print, radio and television networks find ways to quickly discredit those Russian efforts as they happen.

Janis Sarts, director of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, said “society and its perceptions” are the main target of Russian influence operations, so popular awareness that they are happening is key.

“We have seen resilience levels raise instantly as society recognizes being targeted,” he said.

All four witnesses — Burns, Sarts, Ambassador Vesko Garcevic of Boston University and Dr. Constanze Stelzenmueller of The Brookings Institution — said they believe Putin is directly responsible for the efforts to influence the election.

Senators expressed concerns that there would be more efforts to undermine next year’s congressional elections, and committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., agreed the U.S. must “lean on our allies” as those elections approach.

“We must advance more quickly than our adversary and only together can we do so,” Burr said.

After the hearing, Burr said he’d like to finish the investigation into Russian meddling by the end of this year, but acknowledged “that’s aspirational right now.”

Burr said the panel has an aggressive schedule in July, and may go into the August recess having done as many as 80 interviews.

He also said the Senate panel doesn’t have plans at this point to bring in longtime Trump confident Roger Stone for an interview. Stone is scheduled to appear before the House intelligence committee next month.

“We still have a very difficult time understanding whether he has anything to contribute to our investigation,” Burr said.

Stone has said he communicated with Guccifer 2.0, an unnamed hacker who has taken credit for breaking into the servers at the Democratic National Committee. But Stone has denied that he worked with Russian officials to influence the presidential election.

In a statement Tuesday, Stone’s lawyer said the political operative has been “much maligned by innuendo and misinformation” regarding the investigations into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Lawyer Robert Buschel said Stone looks forward to providing the House panel “a timeline based only on the facts.”


►  Companies, governments assess damage from latest malware

Companies and governments around the world on Wednesday counted the cost of a software epidemic that has disrupted ports, hospitals and banks. Ukraine, which was hardest hit and where the attack likely originated, said it had secured critical state assets — though everyday life remained affected, with cash machines out of order and airport displays operating manually.

As the impact of the cyberattack that erupted Tuesday was still being measured at offices, loading docks and boardrooms, the Ukrainian Cabinet said that “all strategic assets, including those involved in protecting state security, are working normally.”

But that still left a large number of non-strategic assets — including dozens of banks and other institutions — fighting to get back online. Cash machines in Kiev seen by an Associated Press photographer were still out of order Wednesday, and Ukrainian news reports said that flight information at the city’s Boryspil airport was being provided in manual mode.

A local cybersecurity expert discounted the Ukrainian government’s assurances.

“Obviously they don’t control the situation,” Victor Zhora of Infosafe in Kiev told the AP.

Others outside Ukraine were struggling, too. Logistics firm FedEx says deliveries by its TNT Express subsidiary have been “slowed” by the cyberattack, which had “significantly affected” its systems.

At India’s largest container port, one of the terminals was idled by the malicious software. M.K. Sirkar, a manager at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai, said that no containers could be loaded or unloaded Wednesday at the terminal operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk, the Denmark-based shipping giant.

In a statement, Moller-Maersk acknowledged that its APM Terminals had been “impacted in a number of ports” and that an undisclosed number of systems were shut down “to contain the issue.” The company declined to provide further detail or make an official available for an interview.

At the very least, cybersecurity firms say thousands of computers worldwide have been struck by the malware, which goes by a variety of names including ExPetr.

In Pennsylvania, lab and diagnostic services were closed at the satellite offices of the Heritage Valley Health System. In Tasmania, an Australian official said a Cadbury chocolate factory had stopped production after computers there crashed. Other organizations affected include U.S. drugmaker Merck, food and drinks company Mondelez International, global law firm DLA Piper, and London-based advertising group WPP.

But most of the damage remains hidden away in corporate offices and industrial parks.

As IT security workers turned their eye toward cleaning up the mess, others wondered at the attackers’ motives. Ransomware — which scrambles a computer’s data until a payment is made — has grown explosively over the past couple of years, powered in part by the growing popularity of digital currencies such as bitcoin. But some experts believed that this latest ransomware outbreak was less aimed at gathering money than at sending a message to Ukraine and its allies.

That hunch was buttressed by the way the malware appears to have been seeded using a rogue update to a piece of Ukrainian accounting software — suggesting an attacker focused on Ukrainian targets.

And it comes on the anniversary of the assassination of a senior Ukrainian military intelligence officer and a day before a national holiday celebrating a new constitution signed after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

“The threat we’re talking about looks like it was specially developed for Ukraine because that was the place it created most of the damage,” said Bogdan Botezatu, of Romanian security firm Bitdefender, calling it a case of “national sabotage.”

Suspicions were further heightened by the re-emergence of the mysterious Shadow Brokers group of hackers, whose dramatic leak of powerful NSA tools helped power Tuesday’s outbreak, as it did a previous ransomware explosion last month that was dubbed WannaCry.

In a post published Wednesday, The Shadow Brokers made new threats, announced a new money-making scheme and made a boastful reference to the recent chaos.

The malware didn’t appear to make a lot of money for its creators. A bitcoin wallet used to collect ransoms showed only about $10,000. And some analysts going through the malware’s code said that the ransomware may not even operate as ransomware at all; victims’ data appear to be hopelessly scrambled, rather than recoverable after the payment of ransom.

Matthieu Suiche, the founder of Dubai-based Comae Technologies, said the ransom demand was merely “a mega-diversion.” In a blog post, he wrote that the code pointed not to criminals, but “in fact a nation state attack.”

West Virginia Public Libraries Roll Out Summer Learning Programs

The West Virginia Library Commission promotes “Build A Better World” summer reading program for 2017

The Free Press WV

West Virginia public libraries in cooperation with the West Virginia Library Commission have kicked off their Summer Learning programs for 2017. Children, teens and adults are encouraged to participate throughout the summer in a variety of reading and education programs in the state’s 172 public libraries.

Each year, WVLC partners with the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), a national consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for readers of all ages. Working with CSLP, the Library Commission has developed a program for Summer 2017 based around the theme “Build A Better World,” which emphasizes how readers can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

WVLC provides a manual for each participating library in the state, training for the “Build A Better World” curriculum, and book recommendations. Each library then determines how it will implement the program, which can include pool parties, teen game rooms, exercise classes, movies nights, book clubs, and more.

Melissa Brown, WVLC Librarian says, “Summer learning programs are an integral part of our children’s education. Reading during the summer bridges the gap from one school year to the next, and special summertime activities encourage lifelong learning.”

For many families, the public library is the only community space available during the summer months where they can access free educational activities and programs. WVLC and the state’s public libraries are proud to provide programs to help students maintain their reading skills during summer vacation and develop positive attitudes about reading, books, and the library.

To learn more about summer learning programs, parents should contact their local library.


West Virginia Library Commission encourages lifelong learning, individual empowerment, civic engagement and an enriched quality of life by enhancing library and information services for all West Virginians. WVLC is an independent agency of the Office of the Secretary of Education and the Arts. To learn more about WVLC, please visit www.librarycommission.wv.gov or call us at 304.558.2041.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Secretary Crouch Comments on Jackie Withrow Hospital and Other Similar DHHR-Owned Facilities

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch issued the following statement:

“Governor Justice has asked that I prepare a comprehensive statewide plan for all of our state facilities that will benefit the patients in our care, reward our dedicated employees, and generate economic development with new construction in the communities where these facilities are located.  I will be working with the legislators from these areas to determine what course they would like to pursue, as well as with the staff of these facilities to get their input.  I will also be meeting with city and county officials to discuss how we can make these projects an integral part of their communities. 

The State of West Virginia loses millions of dollars every year in the operation of DHHR’s facilities.  I believe that by working together, we can save the state millions of dollars annually, improve the care of the patients, ensure our employees retain their jobs, and promote economic development in these communities.  I will be prepared to submit a new plan to the Legislature prior to the next legislative session to replace these aged facilities with new, modern facilities to improve living conditions for our patients.”


►  Marshall University to Fire Professor in Kickback Scheme

The termination process has begun for a university professor who recently pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in connection with a kickback scheme involving the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that a Marshall University official said on Monday the school plans to fire civil engineering professor Andrew P. Nichols, who has taught there since 2007. Nichols’ plea agreement says the 38-year-old admitted to conspiring with a state Division of Highways worker to impede the IRS from collecting proper taxes between 2009 and 2011.

Federal prosecutors allege the scheme illegally diverted $1.5 million worth of state projects to Dennis Corporation, a South Carolina engineering consulting firm.

Marshall spokeswoman Ginny Painter says Nichols has been notified of the university’s intent and has the right to appeal his termination.


►  Committee Holding 4th Meeting on Coal Dust Exposure

A committee looking at how decisions are reached on controlling coal miners’ exposure to coal dust will meet this week in West Virginia.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee is assessing the effectiveness of monitoring and sampling approaches used to make the decisions.

The committee is holding its fourth public meeting Thursday in Morgantown. The open session of the meeting will be from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Morgantown Marriott. Anyone who can’t attend may join online .

The National Academies said in a news release that the committee will hear from representatives of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, followed by a public comment period.


►  Seeking Shutdown of Charter Bus Company, Refund For Canceled Field Trips

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a circuit judge to permanently shut down a charter bus company and its owner based upon its failure to refund nearly $18,000 for two canceled field trips after years of alleged consumer protection law violations.

The lawsuit alleges Cav’s Coach Company LLC and its owner Christopher Todd Cavender defaulted on its agreement to fully refund the canceled field trips, both scheduled to celebrate eighth-grade graduations.

“The filing of this lawsuit was necessitated by Cav’s Coach’s long history of defaulting on its obligations to consumers,“ Attorney General Morrisey said. “Unless the court enters an order permanently prohibiting Cav’s Coach from engaging in the business of offering charter bus and related travel services, the public will continue to be irreparably harmed.“

The field trips, involving students at Kermit Area School and Crum Middle School in southwestern West Virginia, were canceled for different reasons, but in both instances the lawsuit alleges Cav’s Coach refunded less than one-fifth of the agreed upon refund amount.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Mingo County Circuit Court, outlines at least six examples of Cav’s Coach having allegedly failed to fulfill its contractual obligations since it began doing business in 2005.

Consumers have been allegedly stranded along the highway after bus breakdowns or had their trips canceled on the eve of departure. In some instances, the first notice of cancellation was when buses did not show up on the scheduled departure date, according to the lawsuit.

The alleged conduct continued after both the Attorney General and Marshall University sued and obtained separate judgments against the company.

In addition to Cav’s Coach and its owner, the lawsuit lists affiliate AllAboard Tours and Charters LLC as a defendant. All are based in Cross Lanes in western Kanawha County.

The lawsuit sets forth claims of fraud, deception, misrepresentation and the violation of a previous injunction as causes of action, along with the defendants’ failure to comply with its refund policy and provide transportation as contracted.

The Attorney General seeks $17,882 to refund the Kermit and Crum field trips, a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for every violation of the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and a court order prohibiting the defendants from engaging in the business of arranging or selling charter bus services, booking travel or any related travel service.


►  I-79 construction to be completed by ‘first part of August

Harrison County residents and those traveling through North Central West Virginia will only have to put up with traffic jams and delays on Interstate 79 for another month, according to a West Virginia Department of Transportation official.

Brent Walker, director of communications for the Department of Transportation, said the department has paid Triton Construction an “incentive” to complete work on several bridges between Anmoore and Lost Creek by the “first part of August.”

“We have worked with the contractor to expedite that,” he said. “We have offered an incentive that will allow them to expedite that project. We were looking at another 45 days, but we think this is going to be a really big help.”

The incentive allows Triton to add more workers to the project, Walker said. However, the amount of the incentive will not be released until the project is complete.

“I don’t know what it will end up costing us to do that,” he said. “Those numbers won’t come in until work is completed. I don’t know the specifics of the incentive. They can come in several forms, but I don’t know the details of how they contracted this.”

The construction project, occurring between mile posts 111 and 117.5 in the northbound and southbound lanes, began in early April.

The decision to undertake the renovation of multiple bridges was an attempt to save time and money, Walker said.

“We are trying to be efficient,” he said. “What we had decided to do with some of those was to take advantage of the timing and clump those together.”

The savings from grouping the projects together should outweigh the cost of paying to speed up completion, Walker said.

“They didn’t cancel themselves out; it still will have saved us some money,” he said.

However, Walker said he did not know how much money was saved by grouping the projects together.

Having multiple bridges in need of repair in close proximity is a unique situation that required affecting a large portion of the interstate, Walker said.

“This particular project has to do with bridge decks,” he said. “You’re not going to have, probably very often, that many bridge decks in a 4- or 5-mile area. That’s just how it worked out, and it made sense to do that.”

The number of vehicle accidents related to the delays could be reduced if drivers were more aware, Walker said.

“We’re having a lot of accidents and a lot of fender-benders,” he said. “At some point, and we’re not saying across the board, those are preventable,” he said. “Fender-benders and those things are oftentimes a sign of distracted driving or just not paying attention.”

Anmoore Police Chief Don Quinn said many drivers seeking alternative routes around the delays are traveling through Anmoore.

“In particular, when crashes occur up there, we get a great deal of spillover that tends to come to our municipality to try and get around those crashes. It does create a problem,” he said. “When they have one or two wrecks up there, people immediately get off the interstate and start traversing through Anmoore to get around it and expedite their arrival elsewhere.”

Many drivers traveling though the town are driving unsafely, Quinn said.

“I guess because of lack of familiarity with the speed limits of Anmoore — it is 25 miles an hour — a lot of people are speeding through here,” he said. “That becomes a problem for our citizens, as well as the police department.”

Quinn said he expects the increased volume of traffic to affect road conditions in the town.

“I would certainly think that the more these roads are traveled, the more depreciation of the roads will occur,” he said. “There’s a great deal of potholes, and that increase in traffic is definitely going to make it a little bit worse.”


►  Lewis Commission increases dispatch fees for Gilmer County and city of Weston

The Lewis County Commission approved a contract Monday between the Lewis-Gilmer 911 Center, the Gilmer County Commission and the city of Weston for non-emergency dispatch fees.

It includes a 10-percent increase in fees that have not been raised since 1994, County Administrator Cindy Whetsell said.

The annual contract for dispatch services only will be $38,500 for Gilmer County and $39,600 for the city of Weston.

“This does not include administrative lines for Glenville State College, which were never a part of the contract,” Lewis-Gilmer 911 Director Bill Rowan said. “It excludes after-hour non-emergency calls for the college.”

The contract does not cover emergency or 911 calls, which are funded by landline and wireless phone fees through an ordinance, Whetsell said.

The contract is in effect for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and must be signed by both of the other parties to be executed, Whetsell said.

In other business, the commission clarified a new policy agreed upon last week regarding the retiree health care subsidy.

“The subsidy will not affect current employees,” President Pat Boyle said. “However, there will be changes due to years of service.”

Employees must have tenure of at least 10 years — eight years for the sheriff — in Lewis County to be eligible for the retirement subsidy, effective July 01. Transfers from other counties or state offices will not count toward tenure.

“All new employees hired July 01 or after will not receive the subsidy,” Boyle said.


►  Flags to be Lowered for Former West Virginia Delegate

Governor Jim Justice has ordered that state flags be lowered Tuesday on state buildings at the West Virginia Capitol Complex and in Monroe County, home of former Delegate Mary Pearl Compton.

Groves Funeral Home says Compton died Wednesday in Fairlea after a long illness. She was 86. Her service is Tuesday in Union.

Justice said in a news release that flags should be displayed at half-staff from dawn until dusk on the day of Compton’s service.

Compton was a retired educator and was in the House of Delegates from 1988 to 2002.


►  West Virginians to vote on highway bonds in October

West Virginians will vote October 07 on Governor Jim Justice’s plan to issue bonds to support about $3 billion in projects to repair and rebuild state highways and bridges.

Justice says he believes it will pass and would be “a terrible mistake” for people to not want better roads, thousands of jobs and the economic boost he says the state needs and would get.

The Legislature agreed to hold the referendum and separately to immediately boost the state’s road repairs, supported by an increase in the gasoline tax of 3.5 cents a gallon that takes effect July 01.

Another bill, signed Tuesday by Justice, gives authorization to the state Parkways Authority for construction bonding and setting tolls for the West Virginia Turnpike including an $8 annual fee for passenger vehicles.


►  6 arrested at Charleston office of Senator Capito

Six people demanding Republican U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito vote against the Senate GOP leadership’s proposed health care overhaul have been arrested at her office in Charleston.

Organizers say the six, all Capito constituents, arrived about 11:30 a.m. Monday and were arrested about 5:30 p.m. for refusing to leave after the building was closed.

They said they would stay until Capito declared her opposition.

Ashley Berrang, spokeswoman for the senator, said that Capito is “continuing to review and working to improve the health care legislation released last week.“

The sit-in was organized by Rise Up West Virginia, the West Virginia Citizens Action Group and the Kanawha Valley Democratic Socialists of America.

They say at least 170,000 West Virginians will lose their health coverage under the Senate plan.

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • John McCoy: WV DNR’s federal funding doesn’t come from politicians:  A story that credited U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for bringing $11.6 million in aid to WV is misleading. That money comes from a federal excise tax paid by sportsmen.    GAZETTE-MAIL


  • The CBO Score Proves It:  This Healthcare Bill Is a Con. People will pay good money for bad insurance.  ESQUIRE


  • EU Hits Google With Record $2.7 Billion Antitrust Fine:  Not feeling so lucky, then. A years-long investigation has led the EU to conclude that Google’s searches favor its own price-comparison service, and the company must pay $2.7 billion, along with 5 percent of parent firm Alphabet’s earnings as long as it continues its “anticompetitive” practice. Some of Google’s American rivals, including Oracle and Yelp, signed on to a letter attempting to refute claims that the EU’s case is driven by anti-American sentiment and backing stiff penalties - likely hoping they’ll pick up some of Google’s business.    Bloomberg


  • Study Finds Extinction Event Accompanied Climate Change:  Sometimes, life doesn’t find a way. A new analysis published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has found that 36 percent of marine megafauna species, including swimming sloths and giant sharks, went suddenly extinct at the end of the Pliocene Epoch, 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. Scientists say much of the upheaval, which also destroyed huge swaths of seabird and turtle species, may have been caused by climate change and coastal habitat depletion - and thus could provide a cautionary tale for our own era as well.    Newsweek


  • The ban on the ban on the travel ban.  A ruling more hostile to the Trump administration than first believed.    Just Security

  • A carefully-crafted balance that honors judicial deference.  Lawfare

  • Preserving the peace, for now at least.    Politico

  • An endgame in sight.    The Washington Post

  • A muddled ruling that may be good news for Trump.  Slate

  • The court didn’t go far enough in restraining the injunction.  National Review


  • Kellyanne Conway says people who lose Medicaid should just find better jobs:  “White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested that, for the people who lose Medicaid coverage because of the more than $800 billion in cuts included in the Senate’s health care bill, the solution is as simple as finding a better job… But Conway’s talking point mischaracterizes the life circumstances of most Medicaid recipients, a majority of whom work low-income jobs that don’t offer health insurance and that keep them near the poverty line.”    ThinkProgress

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

‘OBAMACARE’ REPEAL TEETERS AFTER SENATE SHELVES VOTE

The development leaves the bill’s fate uncertain while raising new doubts about whether Trump will ever erase his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement.


WHAT VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT SAYS ABOUT CHOPPER GUNFIRE

Nicolas Maduro says a stolen police helicopter fired on the Supreme Court in what he called a thwarted “terrorist attack” aimed at ousting him from power, but those who oppose him claim it was a ruse to justify a crackdown.


WHERE LATEST CYBERATTACK ATTACK LIKELY CAME FROM

A new, highly virulent strain of malicious software that is crippling computers globally appears to have been sown in Ukraine.


3 CHICAGO OFFICERS ACCUSED OF LYING ABOUT TEEN’S SHOOTING

The officers are indicted on charges they conspired to cover up and lie about what happened when a white police officer shot black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.


WHAT WORKERS SAY ABOUT FACTORY THAT MAKES SHOES FOR IVANKA TRUMP

They tell the AP that they’ve faced long hours, low pay as well and verbal and physical abuse in China.


HOW ZINKE VIEWS NATIONAL MONUMENTS

The U.S. interior secretary is recommending that Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument be downsized instead, noting presidential precedent.


EX-TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIR REGISTERS AS FOREIGN AGENT

The move by Paul Manafort is for political consulting work he did for a Ukrainian political party, acknowledging that he coached party members on how to interact with U.S. government officials.


SARAH PALIN SUES NEW YORK TIMES

The former vice presidential nominee is accusing the newspaper of defamation over an editorial that linked one of her PAC ads to the mass shooting that severely wounded Gabby Giffords.


GIRLS ARE NEWEST ACTION HEROES

In the Netflix series “Stranger Things” and films like “Logan” and “Okja,“ little girls have the kind of power and strength onscreen that used to just belong to boys.


TRANSFER QBs COULD MAKE BIG IMPACTS

Florida follows Auburn, West Virginia, Houston and Pitt to become the latest team to turn to a transfer quarterback when the Gators land Malik Zaire, formerly of Notre Dame.

The Free Press WV

After 41 years of loyal and honorable service

Circuit Clerk Karen Elkin

Will be retiring

June 29, 2017

Noon to 2:00 p.m.

At

The Gilmer County Courthouse

Glenville, WV

Come out and celebrate and share your memories.



Apple’s iOS 11 is out in public beta, and entails a massive update for the iPad

That includes a new file management app and multitasking features.


Google was hit by a massive $2.7 billion fine by EU regulators for promoting its shopping search service above rivals

Google has 90 days to change its behavior, or start paying up to 5% of parent firm Alphabet’s global daily turnover.


Apple has acquired a German eye-tracking firm called SensoMotoric

SensoMetric develops eye-tracking hardware and software for virtual and augmented reality, and it seems Apple bought the firm through a shell company called Vineyard Capital Corporation.


Nintendo is releasing a miniature version of its classic Super Nintendo console, called the SNES Classic

The new system comes with 21 games, including “Star Fox 2”, a game which was completed in the 1990s but never released to the public.


Apple and Alphabet have separately teamed up with two car rental firms, Hertz and Avis respectively, to help with their self-driving vehicle efforts

Apple is leasing six Lexus SUVs for its tests, while Avis will store and service Alphabet’s fleet of self-driving cars.


Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube have formed an alliance to help prevent terrorist and hate speech appearing on their platforms

The four will jointly work on technical solutions, fund research, and work with governments and civil groups.


Google Talk, or Gchat, is officially dead

Google has retired its chat service in favour of the feature-rich Hangouts messaging service.


Apple is hiring Siri engineers right in its rival Amazon’s backyard

The company is hiring two engineers to its “advanced” Siri team in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered.


Google got a kicking while it was down, with U.S. rivals across various industries like Yelp, News Corp, and Oracle signing a letter supporting the EU’s decision to fine the company

The letter condemned Google’s “anticompetitive” conduct.


Russia has threatened to block messaging app Telegram, saying the service was used by terrorists to carry out a suicide bombing on Russian soil

The app is under pressure from the local communications regulator to hand over data on its users.

The United States’ Next Ground War In The Middle East Might Erupt Without Warning

6 Trigger Points:
How the Conflict Between the United States and Iran Is Fast Escalating Toward War

The Free Press WV

The long-simmering conflict between the United States and Iran is fast escalating toward war. The battlefield is the desert expanse of eastern Syria where civil war has raged for the last five years. Tehran wants to keep U.S. forces out of the area, while Washington wants to use the region to wage war against Iran’s ally, Syria.

After 15 years of unsuccessful war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is pursuing a policy of “regime change“ in Iran that might lead to a third U.S. ground war in the Middle East since 2001.

Restraint is breaking down. While President Obama resisted U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, Trump has approved it. While Obama pursued dialog with Iran, Trump has embraced the new Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who laid down his country’s new, harsher line in April. ‘We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia,“ he said, “but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.“

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, while resisting White House pressure for rapid escalation, has given battlefield commanders more leeway to attack Iranian-backed forces. The result is a series of unprecedented incidents that have Washington experts asking “Is Trump preparing for a conflict with Iran?“

  • On May 18, the United States attacked a convoy of Iranian-backed militiamen in southern Syria, reportedly killing eight fighters.
  • On June 07, ISIS struck inside Iran for the first time, with a pair of suicide attacks that killed 18 people. One top Iranian official said the United States, by supporting Saudi Arabia, effectively supports ISIS.
  • On June 18, Iran fired ballistic missiles at ISIS positions in eastern Syria, in retaliation for the two terror attacks. It was the first time Iran has used such heavy weaponry on the Syrian battlefield.
  • That same day U.S. forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, the first time the U.S. has attacked the air force of Iran’s ally.

As the United States and Iran compete for battlefield advantages, here are six places their struggle might erupt into war.


1. Raqqa

After ISIS is defeated the Syrians, backed by Iran, want to reestablish the authority of the President Bashar Assad’s regime throughout the area. The U.S.-backed forces want to pivot from the fight against ISIS to take on the Syria government directlyRaqqa is  where these ambitions will collide.


2.
 Eastern Syria

As the sway of ISIS shrinks, Assad and his allies have launched an operation to “take control of the eastern desert in Syria,” which borders on Iraq. They want to drive out the Sunni extremists, but also prevent other rivals—namely the United States—from filling the void.

Iran fears that that U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces will seize northern Syria while other U.S.-backed rebels take control of the rest of the Iraqi border.

Iran wants to deny the United States and its allies a sanctuary, while the U.S. military seeks freedom to operate in the area. Both sides hope to benefit from the changing status quo in eastern Syria to their advantage. Only one can prevail.


3. Unfriendly skies

American, Iranian, Syrian, Russian, and Turkish air forces are all active in the airspace over Syria—and all are becoming less tolerant of the others.

When the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet last week, Russia warned it would target all foreign aircraft west of the Euphrates River. When the Iranians sent drones over U.S.-controlled territory, the United States shot down two of them.

The conflict is escalating vertically, as well as horizontally.


4. Missiles

Iran compensates for its weak army and air force with a potent ballistic missile force that the United States regards as a threat to Israel and the region. The U.S. Congress just voted to increase sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s decision to use the missiles in eastern Syria was more than a message to ISIS, said Iranian Gen. Ramazan Sharif in a television interview.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,“ Sharif said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.“

If the United States is threatening Iran with regime change, and Iran uses missiles when it feels most threatened, then missile warfare is more likely.


5. Hostages 

Americans of a certain age will never forget that the Iranians took 52 Americans hostages in 1979 and held them for more than a year. Another hostage situation would inflame American public opinion and be used to justify escalation.

When the Iranian navy detained 10 U.S. sailors whose patrol boats strayed into Iranian waters in January 2016, the sailors were released within 24 hours. Secretary of State John Kerry used his working relationship with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to secure their freedom.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no such communication channel with the Iranians, and no interest in having one. If such an incident occurred again, opened-ended escalation is much more likely than quick resolution.


6. Special Forces

Both Iran and the United States have deployed elite military forces to the Syrian battlefield.

More than 500 U.S. Special Operations forces are advising and training anti-Assad forces in Syria. An equally big contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, under the command of legendary general Qasem Soleimani, are advising and fighting with pro-Assad forces.

In a crisis, military and civilian commanders on both sides are less likely to back down, compromise or negotiate if their most prestigious forces are fighting and dying. 

Ali Vaez, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

~~  Jefferson Morley ~~

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