How to Cut WV Poverty Rate? Pay Women More

The Free Press WV

In a new report, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research compared incomes of women and men of the same ages and education levels, working the same number of hours.

It found for West Virginia, women would see their average earnings increase almost $6,500 a year if paid the same as men.

And, since women are now breadwinners in half of American families with young children, the report says 26 million children across the U.S. also would benefit from their moms making more.

So, study director Jessica Milli says closing the gender wage gap is much more than a women’s issue.

“The additional income that equal pay would add to family incomes would reduce the poverty rate among children by nearly half, and so that was also a really striking finding from our analysis,“ she states.

The report says closing the pay gap would reduce the poverty rate in West Virginia from 8.5 percent to 5.3 percent, and add about $2.5 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Now, on average, a woman would have to work 10 years longer than a man to close the pay gap.

Milli adds the gap isn’t always a result of intentional unfairness – it’s partly because more women work in jobs that have traditionally paid less.

She says states and Congress could do more to modernize pay-related laws.

“Legislation that prohibits employers from asking potential new hires for their salary histories when they’re thinking about making an offer to them would have a huge impact on pay equality between men and women,“ she states.

Milli notes closing the pay gap would boost the entire U.S. economy, adding $500 billion a year nationally.

For now, women earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, which translates to a loss that tops $415,000 dollars over a 40-year career.

~~  Chris Thomas ~~

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  West Virginia records 4th mining death of 2017

A southern West Virginia coal miner died in a mining accident late Thursday night in Wyoming County, authorities said.

According to the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, Luches Rosser, 44, of Man, was killed at Seneca Coal Company’s Pinnacle Mine near Pineville while operating a DC Trolley tracked locomotive. The underground accident happened at 11:10 p.m. He was employed as a shuttle car operator at the mine.

Rosser was a member of UMWA Local Union 1713, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said.

“The hearts and prayers of the entire UMWA family are with the family of our brother,” Roberts said in a prepared statement. “Our Local Union and International safety representatives are at the mine now, participating in the investigation of this incident. We stand ready to assist Brother Rosser’s family in any way we can.”

Seneca spokesman George Mickum said the company is cooperating with state and federal investigators.

“Keep the Rosser family in their prayers during this most difficult time,” the company statement said.

News of the fourth recorded mining death this year in West Virginia also reached the House of Delegates Friday.

“He graduated from Man High School and had three kids,” shared Wyoming County Delegate Tony Paynter during remarks at the beginning at the House floor session Friday. “These guys put it on the line every night for our families and to give us electricity and provide for the state and the world. They don’t get much respect, it’s a thankless job.”

Delegates observed a moment of silence.

“No matter how safe we try to make it, this is always going to be a dangerous job,” Paynter said.

Governor Jim Justice released the following statement:

“Cathy and I are praying for the family and friends of the coal miner who lost his life last night in Wyoming County. It’s never easy to see someone so young leave us and it breaks my heart when West Virginia loses a member of the coal community. I spent many years of my childhood in Wyoming County and my roots are deep there. Great coal mining families always come together, and that’s what we have to do at this time.”

The Pinnacle Mine was acquired by Seneca Coal Resources an affiliate of ERP Compliant Fuels in December 2015.

►  Statement from Governor on Mining Accident in Wyoming County

Governor Jim Justice released the following statement:

Cathy and I are praying for the family and friends of the coal miner who lost his life last night in Wyoming County. It’s never easy to see someone so young leave us and it breaks my heart when West Virginia loses a member of the coal community.  I spent many years of my childhood in Wyoming County and my roots are deep there. Great coal mining families always come together, and that’s what we have to do at this time.

►  West Virginia Board of Education Limits Public Comments

West Virginia Board of Education members received pushback over their meeting agendas’ newly stated ban that prohibits members of the public from speaking on items not listed on the agenda.

The ban was discussed Wednesday. It initially appeared on last month’s agenda.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says as they travel across the state they see many things that aren’t on the agenda but need immediate attention.

Board President Tom Campbell says he wants to remove the ban on future agendas, although he may restrict the number of speakers who represent the same position.

►  West Virginia House backs alternative tax overhaul

West Virginia’s Republican-controlled House has adopted alternative legislation to cut state income taxes on military pensions and Social Security benefits and increase the personal exemption for incomes below $100,000.

The legislation approved 74-17 on Friday would extend the state’s 6 percent sales tax to cell phone and some other services.

It’s projected to raise about $100 million to help close the state government’s budget deficit.

It differs sharply from legislation pushed by Democratic Governor Jim Justice and approved by the Republican-controlled Senate to cut all income tax rates by 20 percent and exempt military pensions.

That bill would broaden the sales tax and raise it to 6.95 percent and increase the net corporate income tax from 6.5 to 7.5 percent.

Both houses are scheduled to return next week.

►  West Virginia House votes to fund ‘essential’ services

West Virginia’s House has passed legislation that would fund state government services and personnel considered “essential” and protect the benefits of other state workers who would be furloughed if the new fiscal year starts July 1 with no budget adopted.

The House, voting 82-2, would fund essential personnel from unspent funds in existing government accounts.

State Police who patrol or investigate crimes would keep working, as well as jail guards, state hospital employees, highway emergency personnel and some other law enforcement staff.

State agencies and departments would designate other essential workers and others considered non-essential.

The Republican-controlled House and Democratic Governor Jim Justice have been unable to resolve budget differences over taxes, spending and closing a projected $500 million deficit in the coming year.

NewsWest Virginia

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SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2017


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In USA….

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►  A White House official close to Trump is now a person of interest in Russia probe, people familiar with the case say

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House adviser as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

A senior White House adviser close to Trump is under scrutiny by investigators who are looking into the possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

►  He Won Fight to Leave Prison, Now Faces Deportation

Rene Lima-Marin may not be reunited with his family after all. The Colorado man freed from prison, rearrested, then ordered freed once again was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement just before he was due to walk free Wednesday and could now be deported, reports the Denver Post. The ICE said Lima-Marin, who moved from Cuba to the US when he was around 2 years old, was taken into custody “pending his removal to Cuba.“ It later cited a federal immigration judge’s 2000 ruling that Lima-Marin be removed from the country. However, it isn’t clear if Cuba will accept Lima-Marin, who could end up spending six months in ICE custody before being allowed to return home under supervision, per the Post.

Lima-Marin’s father says his son received legal residency but never applied for US citizenship. At a vigil outside the Aurora ICE Processing Center on Wednesday, an organizer said Lima-Marin had been trying to clear up his immigration status before he was thrown back in prison in 2014. His lawyer, however, says his status is “absolutely legal” and “everyone is completely devastated,“ per the AP. An immigration lawyer in talks with Lima-Marin’s family is now urging Governor John Hickenlooper to grant a pardon. Earlier this year, the Colorado Legislature passed a motion urging Hickenlooper to do the same. In a statement, Hickenlooper says he hopes Lima-Marin will be reunited with his family soon, but he adds authorities are only following the law.

►  Ex-Admiral Who Chose ‘Karaoke Over Character’ Hears Fate

An ex-admiral in the US Navy who served his country for nearly four decades was “tempted by parties and prostitutes” and ultimately chose “karaoke over character,“ US prosecutors say, and he’s now been sentenced to 18 months behind bars for that choice. Reuters reports that 56-year-old Robert Gilbeau, the first active-duty admiral to be handed a conviction for a federal crime, had pleaded guilty in 2016 to lying when federal agents asked him if he’d received gifts from one “Fat Leonard”—aka Leonard Francis, a foreign defense contractor in Singapore. Per a Justice Department statement, prosecutors say Gilbeau, who had a relationship with Francis that spanned two decades, was showered with fine dining experiences, stays at high-end hotels, and cash, and that the two men often partied together at karaoke bars and clubs, all on Francis’ tab.

In exchange, prosecutors note, Gilbeau awarded Francis lucrative contracts for services such as waste removal from US ships. Gilbeau reportedly started trashing files and documents tying him to Francis when he found out Francis and others had been arrested in 2013. In a San Diego federal courtroom on Wednesday, US District Judge Janis Sammartino told Gilbeau, “You dishonored your shipmates, the Navy, and the United States of America.“ The Washington Post says Gilbeau offered a shaky, “To the Navy, I want to say I am sorry.“ Gilbeau’s attorney notes his client’s Bronze Star and Purple Heart to Reuters and says: “We respectfully disagree with the court’s sentencing decision.“ Gilbeau, now free on bond, will sign in at the Federal Bureau of Prisons on June 23. Francis, meanwhile, faces up to 25 years in prison on bribery and conspiracy charges.

►  Dylann Roof Laughs at Family in Jailhouse Videos

In nearly three hours of jailhouse video, South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof is seen laughing at his family, asking about his cats, and becoming upset when his relatives suggest he should use his lawyers. Federal officials showed the videos to reporters in Charleston on Tuesday. The videos were part of hearings that determined the white supremacist was competent to stand trial for killing nine black church members, the AP reports. Many of Roof’s bizarre behaviors are evident in the videos, which are not being publicly released. He laughs at inappropriate times, shows no sign of remorse, and cries once when he insists he has syphilis even though he had been examined and did not have the disease.

In one exchange, Roof’s father cries after his son tells him: “I’m going to make this even worse,“ the Post and Courier reports. In another, when his mother argues he should keep his defense team instead of representing himself, he says lawyers “represent criminals and lie for them.“ CNN reports that in a transcript released earlier this week, the 23-year-old tells a psychologist that he won’t be executed because he will “be rescued by white nationalists after they took over the government.“ Another document states that Roof told an autism expert that autism was for “nerds and losers” and he was a sociopath.

►  Man Calls His Date ‘Threat to Civilized Society,‘ Sues Her

“I am fully aware of the weirdness of this situation,“ Brandon Vezmar tells KVUE. The 37-year-old from Austin, Texas, filed a complaint Thursday in Travis County small-claims court against a 35-year-old Round Rock woman for $17.31—the price of the 3D movie ticket he purchased for her on their first date, per the Austin American-Statesman. Vezmar wants his money back from the woman, whom he met via the Bumble dating app, after he says she repeatedly texted—“one of my biggest pet peeves”—during the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 showing they attended on May 6, despite his exhortations that she stop. Vezmar’s suit says his date opened up her phone between 10 and 20 times in 15 minutes to text, which he points out is a “direct violation” of the theater’s policy.

Vezmar says he asked her to stop texting then suggested she take it outside—which she did, never to return, even though she’d driven them to the theater. He later texted her to ask for his money back and says she declined to pay. The amount he’s seeking isn’t important, it’s the principle, the suit claims, “as Defendant’s behavior is a threat to civilized society.“ The unnamed woman says she didn’t even know about the suit until the American-Statesman contacted her, noting, “This is crazy.“ She says she only texted two or three times to a pal who was fighting with a boyfriend. In a statement to KVUE she explains she ditched Vezmar because he made her “extremely uncomfortable” and is filing a protective order against him because he’s been pestering her sister for the ticket money.

►  Confederate Monument No. 3 Down, but 4th Won’t Be So Easy

Workers in New Orleans took down a Confederate monument to General PGT Beauregard shortly after 3am Wednesday, the third of four such monuments to come down in the city as part of a removal process that has been anything but easy. “While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans,“ Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release. The removal comes after the city has already taken down a statue of the Confederacy’s only president and a memorial to a white rebellion against a biracial Reconstruction-era government in the city. Beauregard commanded the attack at Fort Sumter, SC, that marked the outbreak of the Civil War. His statue sat at a traffic circle near the entrance to New Orleans City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art and had been there since 1915, reports the AP.

The last remaining statue is easily the most prominent: General Robert E. Lee standing, in uniform, arms crossed defiantly, looking toward the northern horizon from atop a roughly 60-foot-tall pedestal. It was unveiled in 1884. The city said Tuesday that due to “intimidation, threats, and violence, serious safety concerns remain” so it would not announce a timeline for Lee’s removal. The City Council voted 6-1 in 2015 to remove the monuments, and workers removing the first two generally wore bulletproof vests, helmets, and face coverings to shield their identities; work took place well after midnight to minimize attention. Workers at the Beauregard removal also covered their faces and wore helmets but the atmosphere appeared slightly more low-key, with work starting in the evening on Tuesday after sunset.

In The World….

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►  Turkey demands U.S. replace envoy in spat over Syrian Kurds

Turkey has told the United States it will not join in any military operations that include Kurdish fighters in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday, while vowing to strike the U.S.-backed Kurds if they threaten Turkey’s security.

Turkey’s foreign minister also demanded that a U.S. envoy be removed for allegedly backing the Kurds, but the State Department said Brett McGurk has the “full support” of the Trump administration.

Speaking in Istanbul two days after meeting Donald Trump in Washington, Erdogan criticized the U.S. decision to ally with “terror organizations” for the long-awaited operation to capture Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group.

“We said we would not be in such an operation with you where you ally with terror organizations and so we said good luck,“ Erdogan said.

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria a terror organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Erdogan said he warned Trump that Turkey would combat YPG if the group posed any security threat. “We are already telling you in advance, our rules of engagement give us this authority, we will take such a step and we won’t discuss it or consult with anyone. Because we have no time to lose,“ he said.

Citing a cross-border offensive Turkey launched against IS and the YPG in Syria last year, Erdogan said “we won’t hesitate to launch similar operations if we see the need.“

Earlier Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Trump administration understood Turkey’s position against the YPG. “They did not say anything negative about this issue and treated it with understanding,“ he said.

In April, the U.S. had criticized Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq.

Cavusoglu said Trump’s administration seems more understanding about Turkey’s security concerns. He went on to plead for the replacement of Brett McGurk, the U.S. presidential envoy for the global coalition against IS.

“This McGurk is definitely supporting the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial for this person to change,“ he said, accusing the diplomat of carrying on Obama-administration policies.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said McGurk has done “tremendous work” in coordinating and leading the international coalition against IS, and has the support of the White House and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The U.S. respects Turkish concerns about its “by, with, and through” approach to the Syrian Democratic Forces led by the YPG, and will continue consulting with Ankara as the focus on combating IS continues, Nauert said.

Cavusoglu said Turkey received U.S. assurances that arms sent to the YPG would be used only against IS, without explaining how this would be monitored.

“The weapons provided will only be used in Raqqa and its south, they will absolutely not be used against Turkey, this will not be allowed,“ Cavusoglu said. “Turkey and the U.S. will together run an active combat against the PKK.“

A cease-fire between Turkey and the PKK collapsed in July 2015 after a two-and-a half year hiatus in fighting, leading to clashes in Turkey’s southeast and round-the-clock curfews as well as airstrikes on alleged PKK camps in northern Iraq.

According to the International Crisis Group, at least 2,798 people, including state security personnel and Kurdish militants, have been killed in Turkey. The death toll includes nearly 400 civilians.

The PKK is considered a terror group by the U.S. and Turkey’s Western allies.

►  Court May Grant ‘Extraordinary’ Student Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

An Oxford University student who admitted to stabbing her boyfriend may avoid jail time after a judge determined that legal consequences could damage her future career as a surgeon. According to the Guardian, last year Lavinia Woodward punched and then stabbed her then-boyfriend in the leg with a bread knife at the Christ Church college during a drunken and drug-fueled spat. She continued to lob objects, including a laptop, at the man, a Cambridge University student she met on Tinder, before stabbing herself, reports the BBC. Judge Ian Pringle QC reviewed the case and admitted that such crimes were “pretty awful” and normally would warrant an immediate jail sentence, but he decided to defer Woodward’s sentencing for four months after deeming the incident a “one-off.“

“To prevent this extraordinary, able young lady from following her long-held desire to enter the profession she wishes to would be a sentence which would be too severe,“ said Pringle. The 24-year-old student is studying to be a heart surgeon, and Christ Church will allow her to return in October because she “is that bright” and has a record publishing in medical journals. Her defense lawyer played up her intelligence, claiming it would be “almost impossible” for her to find work as a surgeon if it’s discovered she has a conviction. The judge cited Woodward’s drug addiction and past abuse from a partner as reasons to give her a second chance. She was given a restraining order, must undergo drug counseling, and cannot reoffend before her new sentencing date on September 25.

►  Gay Couple Sentenced to 85 Lashes

An Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country’s moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy. The court, whose sentencing Wednesday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each receive 85 lashes for having sexual relations, the AP reports. One of the men wept as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. The couple was arrested after neighborhood vigilantes in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, suspected them of being gay and broke into their rented room to catch them having sex.

International human rights groups described the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating and called for their immediate release. “The prosecution is very harsh. The verdict is harsher,“ said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to practice Shariah law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a war with separatists. Homosexuality is legal elsewhere in Indonesia, but a case before the country’s top court is seeking to criminalize gay sex and sex outside marriage.

►  France’s Le Pen to run for parliament with party in disarray

Emerging from her crushing defeat in France’s presidential contest, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Thursday she will run for a parliamentary seat in June elections and that her National Front party has “an essential role” in a new political landscape.

Le Pen will run for a seat in a district in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, a hardscrabble former mining region where she lost a similar bid in 2012. A new failure could jinx her bid to unite the National Front and to make it France’s leading opposition party.

“I cannot imagine not being at the head of my troops in a battle I consider fundamental,“ Le Pen said in an interview on the TF1 television station, her first public appearance since her May 07 loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen announced her candidacy while facing forces of division that could frustrate her new goals. Her popular niece is leaving politics, her disruptive father is back in the ring and her party is in disarray.

At the same time, Macron has upset the political equation, drawing from the left and right to win the presidency and to create his government. The new president now is looking across the political spectrum to obtain a parliamentary majority to support his agenda.

“We are in reality the only opposition movement,“ Le Pen said.

“We will have an essential role to play (and) a role in the recomposing of political life,“ she said, reiterating her contention that the left-right divide has been replaced by “globalists, Europeanists and nationalists” like herself.

Le Pen is counting on the 10.6 million votes she received as a presidential candidate to propel her anti-immigration party into parliament in the June 11 and June 18 elections.

The party also hopes to pick up votes from “electoral orphans” unsatisfied with Macron and feeling betrayed by the mainstream right, National Front Secretary-General Nicolas Bay said this week.

The National Front plans to field candidates for each of France’s 577 electoral districts, hoping to block Macron’s movement from obtaining a majority of seats and to secure a strong bloc of its own to counter his new government.

Le Pen dismissed the notion that there were links between her loss and a series of events widely seen as potentially weakening the National Front.

The party recently lost a rising star who served as a unifier on its conservative southern flank. One of the National Front’s two current lawmakers — Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen — announced last week that she was leaving politics, at least temporarily.

Enter Jean-Marie Le Pen, who likened his granddaughter’s exit from politics to a “desertion.“

The elder Le Pen, who was expelled from the party he co-founded because of his penchant for making anti-Semitic comments, is backing up to 200 parliamentary candidates through an ultra-conservative alliance, the Union of Patriots.

Some of the five parties represented in the alliance are headed by former National Front militants who, like Jean-Marie Le Pen, were expelled by his daughter in her bid to scrub up the party’s image for the presidential contest.

His own Jeanne Committees will present some 35 of the 200 candidates. The decision smacks of revenge, but the elder Le Pen’s aide denied that was the case.

“This is not meant to cause trouble for the National Front. It is to defend the values that the National Front no longer defends,“ the aide, Lorrain de Saint Affrique, said.

The risk that other far-right parties would challenge the National Front “has existed since the National Front decided to exclude Jean-Marie Le Pen,“ De Saint Affrique said. “They should have thought of that then.“

The competition from all but obscure parties is not a substantial threat to Le Pen, but mirrors frustrations roiling the National Front, some of which became public following Le Pen’s defeat.

More menacing, her top lieutenant, Florian Philippot suggested after Le Pen’s loss to Macron that he would leave the party if it decided to do away with the goal of leaving the euro currency — a divisive proposal but at the top of Le Pen’s presidential platform.
“I’m not there to keep a post at any price and defend the reverse of my deep convictions,“ he said last week on RMC radio.

Le Pen conceded Thursday that the subject of the euro “considerably worried the French” and would be discussed after the parliamentary elections. “We will have to take this into account, reflect,“ she said.

She welcomed Philippot’s launching this week of an association, called The Patriots, which could be seen as the budding of a potential rival, like the movement Macron started 13 months ago, En Marche (On the Move).

“The more ideas the better,“ she said.

Bone Receives GSC Faculty Award of Excellence

Glenville State College’s newest Faculty Award of Excellence recipient is Associate Professor of Music Dr. Lloyd Bone. He received the award at the 143rd Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 06, 2017.

“Receiving this award is truly an honor. The GSC faculty ranks are full of so many talented people who have been recognized nationally and internationally in their fields. There are so many deserving faculty and I am honored to represent all of them. However, it must be stated that awards like this do not happen in a vacuum. I would never have gotten to this point without the help of so many people. I first must thank my incredible wife of 22 years Susan and my children Casey, Tobias, and Phineas. They have sacrificed hundreds of hours of me being away. They are the ultimate blessing. Also, my previous teachers R. Winston Morris and Timothy Northcut and the fantastic mentorship from colleagues and friends. Also, our students and alumni. I would have never received this award without all of their hard work, care, passion, and love. Lastly, my mother and father who sacrificed so much for me to be in music; I will never be able to thank them enough,” Bone stated.

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GSC President Dr. Peter Barr with Dr. Lloyd Bone (right)

A nomination from a current student called Bone, “the most influential and passionate instructor I have ever had” and noted that he, “loves and supports his students 100%, every day.” Another student said, “you will rarely find someone as open, accepting, warm, or inviting as Dr. Bone – he always has something encouraging to say to everyone.”

Bone has been a faculty member at GSC since 2004. In addition to his teaching duties, he also directs the Pioneer ‘Wall of Sound’ Marching Band, the Brass Ensemble, and the Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble. He has published the world’s first guide book for the euphonium, led several groups of GSC students around the world to meetings of the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference, and was nominated for a Music Educator Award by the Grammy Foundation®. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts in Euphonium Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2015. Shortly after arriving at GSC, Bone began the GSC Honor Band and Honor Choir Festival which will enter its tenth year this coming spring. The event has become very popular and attracts students from all over West Virginia.

Bone has led the Glenville State College Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble to five straight invitations and performances to the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference. Something that, in the history of the conference, only a small number of schools around the world have accomplished. He also was personally invited as a guest artist to these conferences in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013. The Ensemble also performed at the 2007 United States Army Band Tuba and Euphonium Conference in Washington, D.C., the 2013 Midwest Tuba and Euphonium Conference at Illinois State University, as well as several West Virginia state music conferences.

Due largely to his efforts, the GSC Brass Ensemble is invited annually to perform on the busiest shopping day of the year (the Saturday before Christmas) at the Town Center Mall in Charleston. The yearly repeat performances have garnered a popular following from shoppers all over the Charleston region who come out to hear the band perform.

During his years at GSC, Bone has been involved in numerous campus committees and social organizations such as the Music Educators National Conference (now the National Association for Music Education), Baptist Campus Ministry, and as and a Cheerleading advisor. Along with members of the marching band, Bone has been to all home football games and GSC Homecoming Parades over the past 13 years, including when two of his children were born during the week of Homecoming. He directed GSC’s Pep Band for seven years, attending numerous men’s and women’s basketball games. However, according to Bone, his favorite part of being involved is through recruiting for the whole of GSC. “When I go out to speak to a high school band I am talking to potential students for all departments and often much more so than music as most bands usually only have a few students looking to major in music. I love representing the campus in this regard as my fellow faculty are so very easy to brag about with potential students!” he added.

“My favorite thing about teaching at GSC is hands down the students. We have the best students. They are some of the hardest working, determined, and caring individuals I have ever known. What many of them overcome to attain their education is just awe-inspiring. In short, our students are just blessings!” he said.

Each spring, the campus community is invited to nominate an outstanding faculty member for this award. Faculty Award of Excellence recipients must be full-time and have taught at GSC for at least two years to be eligible. Names of the honorees are displayed on a permanent plaque in the Heflin Administration Building.

Group Aims to Find, Protect Older Forests in WV, Nation

A conservation group wants to designate an old-growth forest in every county in the United States that has forestland - and four in West Virginia already are on the list.

The Old Growth Forest Network says 95 percent of the nation’s original forestland has been removed or altered - and forests in West Virginia are no exception.

Vivian Stockman, vice-director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said it’s important to preserve the remaining forestland for future generations to enjoy - but also for its ecological benefits to the environment.

“Forests certainly have incredible value in terms of flood control, air purification, water purification,“ she said. “Types of services that full-grown forests can offer are valuable not just to our human soul, but to our economic bottom line.“

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The American Society of Foresters recognized the Gaudineer Scenic Area in 1983 for its “near-natural condition,“ and it’s been a Scenic Area since 1964.

Stockman noted that many West Virginia forests fell to development years ago, and those that remain continue to be fragmented by mountaintop-removal mining and fracking-related activity.

The four that are part of the old-growth network so far are Cathedral and Carnifex Ferry state parks, the Stonecliff area of the New River Gorge, and the Gaudineer Scenic Area in the Monongahela National Forest.

According to Joan Maloof, executive director of the Old Growth Forest Network, about three out of four counties nationwide have forests worth preserving. She said tall trees help identify an older forest, but tree age isn’t the only consideration.

“You will find some trees that are larger than you would find in a more recently logged forest, and they’re home for so many organisms: so much fungi, so many insects, so many reptiles and amphibians,“ she explained.

Maloof said volunteers are key to saving forests across the country and her group is looking for people who can help.

They also take nominations for areas to be considered for inclusion in the Old-Growth Forest Network, online at

~~  Chris Thomas ~~

Kroger Is Launching A Blue Apron Killer

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Kroger is diving into the fast-growing meal-kit business.

The supermarket chain is offering meal kits — or packages that contain recipes and accompanying ingredients — at a handful of stores and launching them nationwide over the next year, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in a letter to shareholders.

The $1.5 billion meal-kit market is currently dominated by Blue Apron, a subscription service that now delivers more than 8 million meals a month — up from about 1 million meals per month two years ago. Blue Apron costs $20 for a meal that services two people.

But Kroger has two major advantages compared to Blue Apron.

First of all, Kroger’s boxes are cheaper, costing about $14 for a meal that feeds two people.

Kroger also goes a step further than Blue Apron by doing most of the food prep for customers. No chopping, slicing, dicing, grating, or other work is necessary — all the ingredients are ready to be cooked.

This means the meals can take a lot less time to make. Kroger says its meals take about 20 minutes to prepare “from kit to fork,“ whereas Blue Apron meals tend to require about 45 minutes of prep and cooking time.

Customers can select from a variety of different meals at Kroger stores where the kits are currently offered. Soon, they will be available nationwide. 

McMullen says meal kits are one of many “megatrends” that Kroger is hoping to tap into this year.

“Our culinary team has developed delicious meal kits that are available in pilot stores today, and we have plans to quickly make them available at scale over the course of the next year,“ he said. “Meal kits are one of many offerings designed to meet our customers’ changing definition of convenience.“

The meal-kit business is rapidly growing, and getting increasingly crowded along the way.

More than 100 companies now offer the kits, including Plated, HelloFresh, Sun Basket, and Amazon (in limited cities).  Supermarkets including Publix, Fresh Market, and Whole Foods are also testing the kits in some stores.

Governor Justice and the Crocodile Comments

The Free Press WV

In short order, Governor Jim Justice has become known for extended metaphors he uses when he speaks.

Dogs enter almost every conversation. He’s talked about rattleshakes. He’s described a student walking around with a raccoon. He’s talked about mayonnaise sandwiches and nothingburgers.

On Wednesday, as the governor spoke to the House of Delegates, the imagery was a crocodile.

Justice used the metaphor to describe the difficult situation the state finds itself in. Somehow, popular chain restaurants also became part of the discussion, apparently as a way to encourage lawmakers to worry about the trouble at hand.

“You’ve got your leg jammed down a crocodile’s mouth, and absolutely you’re trying to figure out whether you’re going to Wendy’s or Applebee’s tonight,” Justice said.

“You best better worry about the crocodile that’s about to inhale you. Because that’s what you’ve got.”

A few minutes later, the governor re-upped on the crocodile metaphor, saying the state needs to make bold moves if it hopes to change its perilous financial situation. He was trying to put lawmakers at ease about any fiscal uncertainty his approach could create in future years.

The governor also mixed in a quick reference to a male appendage.

“We’ve got our leg in a crocodile’s mouth,” Justice said. “Maybe it works, and if it works we go straight to the roof. We do wonderful. If it doesn’t work and we’ve got our foot in the crocodile’s mouth in 2021 or 2022.

“But right now we’ve got our whole leg in the crocodile’s mouth. And if you’re men and he gets ready to bite, it’s going to hurt more than your leg. If you hear what I said.”

~~  Brad McElhinny ~~

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


The president denies that his campaign has collaborated with Russia or that he’s tried to kill an FBI probe, contending a newly heightened investigation “hurts our country terribly.“


The president will carry the baggage of dire troubles at home during his five-stop marathon across the Middle East and Europe.


Some focus on leakers working to undermine the president. Some see a conspiratorial plot, powered by holdovers of the Obama administration.


His resignation calls into question the future of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into Trump and his campaign’s ties with Russia.


Through a career spanning a half-century, the Fox News founder mastered the art of media messaging and applied it to politics and broadcasting.


Law enforcement officials say the driver, who killed a teenager and then emerged from his vehicle wild-eyed, was hearing voices and thought he was going to die.


Brazilian President Michel Temer rejects calls for his resignation, saying he will fight accusations that he endorsed paying hush money to an ex-lawmaker jailed for corruption.


“I cannot imagine not being at the head of my troops in a battle I consider fundamental,“ the far-right leader says.


It’s the festival’s own version of the Roman gladiator thumbs-up or thumbs-down, and its judgments can be just as harsh.


The transgender soldier posts on Twitter and Instagram a photograph of her with short-cropped hair, bright red lipstick and a dark outfit with a plunging neckline.


The Free Press WV
May 19, 2017 @ 3:30 PM
Gilmer County Courthouse
Commission Office
10 Howard Street, Glenville, WV






      Discussion and/or action on:

              1) Exonerations and/or Consolidations

              2) Approve Estate Qualifications and Estate Settlements

              3) Board Appointments and/or Resignations:

                    a) Board Seats open on the:

                          i. One member for Board Members for Gilmer County Medical Center Board of Trustees

                          ii. Region VII Private Sector Member

              4) Budget Revisions

              5) Budget Control Report - None

              6) Approve Invoices for Payment

              7) Approve County Commission Minutes

              8) Receipt of County Board Minutes:

                    a) Lewis-Gilmer E-911 Yearly Totals

                    b) Gilmer County Unsafe Buildings and Lands Agency minutes for March 8, 2017



      Discussion and/or action on:

              a) Deceased persons taxes-not paid would like to have exonerated by Commission

              b) Completed audit for Magistrate Court ending December 31, 2016

              c) Oaths of Certificates for 2017 Land Books




Regular Session on June 02, 2017

The Free Press WV

Google made a series of product announcements at its annual Google I/O event

There were updates to Android, Google Home, Google Assistant, and YouTube. As well as nifty new services like Google Lens, which uses your smartphone’s camera to identify objects in the real world.

Amazon has refreshed its most popular Fire tablets

It launched updated versions of the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8.

Apple stock was down 3.3% at market close

That’s a lot for any company, but Apple is the world’s most valuable company by market cap, and the drop wipes out billions in shareholder value.

Intel and Salesforce have joined a powerful group set up to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) benefits people and society

The group is known as the Partnership on AI.

Apple executive Jimmy Iovine said Dr. Dre’s original show on Apple Music will “move the needle.“

The hip hop legend has been rumoured to be working on a show, reportedly called “Vital Signs”, since last February.

Elon Musk’s $1 billion AI startup developed a system that trains robots in virtual reality

OpenAI successfully taught a robot how to stack blocks.

Google DeepMind has expanded its public relations and communications team in recent weeks

The expansion comes as data regulators prepare to pass decisions that have the potential to damage the company’s image.

Facebook’s plan to disrupt TV advertising may have hit a wall

It wants to grab a big chunk of the $70 billion-plus US TV ad market.

Crowdstrike, the security startup best known for discovering that Russians were behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, has raised yet another $100 million

The six-year-old company is valued at just under $1 billion, the New York Times reports.

Qualcomm has sued the four companies that make most Apple products

It is suing Foxconn and others for not paying royalties.


The Free Press WV

  • Trump seeks deep cuts to public education programs in pursuit of school choice:  Documents obtained show how Trump wants to cut more than $10 billion from federal education initiatives while expanding charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. Funding for college work-study programs would be halved, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under the administration’s proposal for its first full education budget.  THE WASHINGTON POST

  • Sentate Intelligence Committee asks Comey to testify in public:    “The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested former FBI Director James Comey to testify in both open and closed sessions for its investigation of Russia’s influence in the 2016 U.S. election. In letters sent Wednesday, the leaders of the committee also asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to release ‘any notes or memorandum’ prepared by Comey related to his conversations with “senior White House and Department of Justice officials related to investigations into Russia’s efforts.”    TIME

  • Draft budget slashes renewable energy by 70 percent:    “The Trump administration wants to cut the Energy Department’s renewable and energy efficiency program by nearly 70%… environmental groups and other left-leaning advocacy groups have focused on the deep budget cuts Trump wants for the Environmental Protection Agency, but some organizations want to ensure the broader umbrella of Democratic and environmental interests also defends the clean-energy investments at the Energy Department.”  Axios

  • Trump wants deep cuts to public schools to fund school choice:    “Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives… The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.”    WaPo

  • Facebook Fined $122 Million Over Misleading Information:    They’re still getting away with merger. According to the European Union, Facebook provided misleading information to regulators when requesting clearance for its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp: It claimed the messaging app’s data couldn’t be used by Instagram and Facebook advertising platforms, but then proceeded to do exactly that in 2016. The company insists it acted “in good faith,“ and while it’s been slapped with a huge fine - on top of Tuesday’s $167,000 fine from France’s privacy watchdog - the EU isn’t retroactively overturning the approval of the merger itself.    Bloomberg

  • More First-Time Mothers in Their 30s Than Ever Before:    The biological clock is being set forward. According to new CDC statistics, 2016 saw more first-time mothers in their 30s than in their 20s - though just barely, at 103 births per 100,000 women aged 30-34 and 102 for those aged 25-29. Some believe women are waiting longer to have children because of the financial burden associated with having a family, though a steep decline in teen pregnancies was also a factor. The overall U.S. birth rate slipped to just 62 births per 100,000 women.    Jezebel

  • The White House Is Having Some HR Issues:    They have learned nothing from the Flynn debacle.  ESQUIRE

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  The Appalachian Ethane Storage Hub Study Act of 2017

Three West Virginia congressional delegates are pushing for legislation regarding a study of an ethane storage and distribution center in the Appalachians.

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-WV, Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced the Appalachian Ethane Storage Hub Study Act of 2017 on May 9. Capito is the bill’s main sponsor.

Representative David McKinley is also in support of the measure and is scheduled to participate in a press call Thursday with Manchin, Capito and American Chemistry Council President and CEO Cal Dooley.

Dooley will discuss the possible economic benefits of petrochemical and plastic manufacturing in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky, according to a Capito release.

The legislation would direct the secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Energy and Commerce to conduct a feasibility study on establishing a hub for the Marcellus, Utica and Rogersville natural gas shale formations.

The Marcellus and Utica shale plays go from southern New York to central West Virginia, and include central and eastern Ohio. The Marcellus shale formation is one mile above the Utica shale play.

The Rogersville shale formation goes from eastern Kentucky to southwestern West Virginia.

According to a release from Capito’s office, a storage hub in the Appalachian Mountains would “add needed redundancy” to the nation’s refining and manufacturing capacity, which is larger based along the Gulf Coast.

The study would regard the best geological and economic location of a possible center.

“Not only will this legislation inform future projects and policies, but it will also help attract private dollars to ensure Appalachia remains an important player in America’s energy and manufacturing strategy,” Capito said in a joint statement with Manchin and Portman.

“Our region’s access to natural gas and natural gas liquids, like ethane and propane, combined with our proximity to manufacturing markets in the Midwest and the East Coast make West Virginia an ideal location for a storage hub,” Manchin said. “This bill and resulting study are important steps to realizing the potential this hub would have for our region.”

The study would be completed within two years after the act passed.

►  State Agency Refuses Gas Pipeline Appeal

The Justice administration has refused to schedule a hearing on an appeal of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s authorization.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton signed a letter last week denying a request for a hearing challenging the DEP’s approval of a Clean Water Act certification for the MVP. The letter was sent to Appalachia Mountain Advocates, an environmental law firm that challenged the authorization.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates senior attorney Derek Teaney says individuals and groups will probably appeal Caperton’s decision in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The permit in question is a certification under the Clean Water Act that stipulates pipeline activity will not violate the state’s water quality standards.

The MVP would run about 300 miles from West Virginia to Virginia.

►  West Virginia’s Senators Urge Appalachian Natural Gas Hub

West Virginia’s U.S. senators are urging federal officials to consider building a major natural gas storage and distribution hub in the Appalachian region.

In a letter Thursday to National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, the senators say the White House should examine “the numerous benefits” of putting a world-class natural gas liquid-storage and distribution hub in the region with growing but still underutilized reserves of underground natural gas.

Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito cite an American Chemistry Council study that an Appalachian hub could attract $36 billion in new chemical and plastics industry investment and create 100,000 new jobs.

They write that building a hub and related infrastructure “will attract sorely needed economic activity to this underserved part of the country.“

►  increased cases of lyme disease in canine in the area

Anyone with four-legged loved ones may want to be sure their flea and tick medications are up to date, because area veterinarians say cases are increasing.

Dr. Scott Moore, a veterinarian at Fairmont Veterinary Hospital, said his clinic sees one to two cases per week, not only through the summer but year round.

“Over the last three years, it has gone up dramatically in this area,” Moore said. “In the state of West Virginia last year, it was about one in 16 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease. That’s a pretty high number. As far as for us, I think last year we had 90 to 95 cases in our office.”

Veterinarians predict the rise can be attributed, at least partially, to a milder winter, as it must be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for Lyme disease to become inactive.

“It was a pretty mild winter, so we had ticks in January and February, and they increase now in the spring, but they’re always out there,” said Dr. Gary McCutcheon, a veterinarian at All Pets Animal Clinic.

“They don’t go away like a lot of bugs do,” McCutcheon said.

He said Lyme disease isn’t the only disease that ticks can transmit.

“Lyme disease gets all the press, but there are also things like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and those types of things,” he said. “There are certain regions of the country where they’re more prevalent than others. Lyme disease is spreading because as people move, they might take ticks with them. It used to be just in the Southeast, but now it’s pretty much across the most of country.”

Moore said there has been a trend over the past 10 years that ticks carrying Lyme disease have been becoming more prevalent in northern states.

“So we actually expected this to happen,” he said. “Up in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, the rate of Lyme disease is a lot higher, as far as dogs tested. We’re still on the edge of it.”

Moore said his facility has also had cats test positive recently, although it’s still unknown if the disease is a significant issue for cats.

“In dogs, it causes severe lameness, and it can be to the point that those animals can’t move,” he said. “Their joints get infected and inflamed, and those animals have a lot of pain.”

In a worst-case scenario, Moore said Lyme disease can lead to a non-treatable form of kidney failure in canines.

“I have spoken with one veterinarian in the last five years who has been able to successfully get a kidney failure patient out of that situation,” he said. “They caught that patient at an extraordinarily early stage. Once they become symptomatic for kidney disease from Lyme disease, for most of those patients, it’s fatal.”

Most canine patients, however, do not progress to that point.

“The really exciting thing is the majority of cases that we diagnose are diagnosed on a screening test, so they’re asymptomatic,” Moore said. “The asymptomatic patients have actually been very effectively treated with antibiotics. It’s a month’s course of antibiotics, and when we follow up their testing, we can show that they demonstrate significant improvement.”

Diseases associated with tick bites can sometimes be hard to diagnose, McCutcheon said.

“Just like a human, they (dogs) can get bitten by a tick and not even know it,” he said. “They have symptoms, but it’s not a real common thing you think of. I think they’re becoming more prevalent, and they’re testing for it more. When you test more, you’re going to find more.”

Of course, Lyme disease is completely preventable, thanks to many preventive methods available at veterinary clinics.

“There are basically two really good ways to prevent it, and I think everybody should do both,” Moore said. “One is with a very good flea and tick product. If you’re not sure if what you’re using covers ticks, you should check with your veterinarian.”

Medications provide one-month and three-month coverage for pets.

“In dogs and cats both, Frontline has been around a long time, and many people use it,” McCutcheon said. “We also like the Seresto collar, which is an 8-month collar, with one for dogs and one for cats. It sort of acts as a repellent, too, and does a great job. They stay effective even if they get wet.”

Moore said vaccines are also available.

“There’s still not a vaccine for humans, but there is a very good vaccine for dogs,” he said. “I would recommend an annual vaccination for Lyme disease and monthly or full-coverage.”

Lyme disease, even in humans, is a relatively new disease — it was first discovered about 30 years ago — and until recently it was thought that once a patient developed the disease, it would carry it forever.

“Now, they think if you catch it early, there is a possibility of complete treatment success,” Moore said. “That’s an improvement over where we thought we were.”

Treatments have improved greatly in that time as well, McCutcheon said.

“It used to be we had to use sprays and powders and react to a problem,” he said. “Now, we have wonderful products to prevent. It’s a change of mindset where we can prevent things, and, if you can prevent things, that’s great.”  ~~  Brittany Curry ~~

►  Lunsford trial postponed until October

Next month’s trial of a Lewis County woman charged in the 2011 death of her 3-year-old daughter has been postponed until October.

The defense team for Lena Marie Lunsford-Conaway, 34, requested extra preparation time in a motion Judge Jake Reger accepted.

Jury selection was rescheduled for October 10 with the trial beginning two days later.

The defense, consisting of Clarksburg-based attorney Tom Dyer and Clay County-based attorney Barbara Harmon-Schamberger, said the volume and complexity of the case required additional time for discovery.

Lunsford-Conaway is accused of striking her daughter Aliayah Lunsford with a blunt object in the early hours of September 24, 2011 inside their Bendale home in Lewis County. She is accused of failing to provide medical attention and forcing others to withhold medical attention. The criminal complaint alleges Lunsford-Conaway fabricated a story and disposed of the body in a wooded area.

She is charged with murder of a child by parent by failure to provide necessities, death of a child by parent by child abuse, child abuse resulting in injury, and concealment of a dead body.

A conviction on the murder charge carries a life sentence.

Dyer joined the defense team March 14. Harmon-Schamberger had previously expressed to Reger her interest in postponing the trial’s start date.

Lunsford-Conaway previously resided in Pinellas County, Fla.

The trial originally was set to begin the week of June 19.    ~~  Alex Wiederspiel ~~

►  Attorney General Morrisey Fights Human Trafficking with Certified Police Training

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Thursday his office will offer law enforcement intense certified training to target and reduce human trafficking in the Mountain State.

The training, certified by the state Law Enforcement Professional Standards Board, will be offered to police departments free of charge and provide officers with valuable information, while satisfying mandatory continued education requirements.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and cannot be tolerated,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We must tackle this horrific and heartbreaking situation head on.”

West Virginia’s increased rate of drug addiction, poverty and its large number of children in foster care make the state especially susceptible to human trafficking – a criminal enterprise recognized as the second largest in the world.

National statistics indicate only 2 percent of victims are recovered.

The Attorney General believes the full day of training offered by his office will equip law enforcement with the necessary resources to better identify suspicious activity and tackle this emerging crime.

The Attorney General’s cooperation with the state Law Enforcement Professional Standards Board provides added incentive for city, county and state law enforcement to obtain training to better protect West Virginians. It ensures officers who receive this valuable instruction will have it credited to their annual in-service training.

The Attorney General’s Office will contact police departments about this initiative in coming weeks. Any law enforcement officers with questions should call the Attorney General’s Office at 304.558.2021.

►  WVU Researchers Patent Method to Strengthen Buildings

West Virginia University researchers have patented technology for reinforcing the T-shaped joints of concrete beams in buildings to make them better able to endure shocks without breaking.

Doctoral engineering student Praveen Majjigapu and his adviser, Professor Hota GangaRao, are co-inventors and share the two patents.

At a Thursday demonstration for potential partners in an industrial lab, they applied increasing pressure with a hydraulic actuator down onto a horizontal concrete beam joined to a vertical beam.

The joint was reinforced above and below with their invention — wedge-shaped modules wrapped in composite material.

The horizontal beam cracked at 65,000 pounds of pressure at the outer edge of the composite.

Majjigapu says normally joints break at about 14,000 pounds.

GangaRao says there’s a potentially wide application for renewing older structures.

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  Officer Not Guilty in Shooting of Unarmed Tulsa Man

Protesters gathered on the streets of Tulsa Wednesday night after a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man whose car had stalled was acquitted of manslaughter. The jury took more than eight hours to deliver a not guilty verdict for Betty Shelby, who shot 40-year-old father of four Terence Crutcher on September 16, 2016, after he walked away from her with his hands up, NBC reports. Earlier this week, the 43-year-old officer testified that she feared for her life when Crutcher reached into his vehicle. “I did everything I could to stop this,“ she said. “Crutcher’s death is his fault.“ Her defense attorney said the fact PCP was found in Crutcher’s system backed up her decision to treat him as a threat.

Prosecutors argued that Crutcher was not aggressive toward police during the incident. Tiffany Crutcher, Crutcher’s twin sister, said after the verdict that her brother was murdered and “corrupt” police tried to cover it up, the Tulsa World reports. She also criticized Shelby and other officers at the scene for failing to provide medical care in the minutes after the shooting. Around 100 protesters dispersed peacefully after marching from the courthouse to a hotel where they thought Shelby was staying, the AP reports. “When is it going to stop—just officer-related shootings?“ asked Marq Lewis, organizer of civil rights group We The People Oklahoma. “When will the police change policy?“

►  Teen Who Had Sex With Young GF Faces Harsh Consequences

A Texas mom says her family is “going through hell” as they wait to see if a Harris County juvenile judge will label her 14-year-old son a sex offender. The seventh-grader’s attorney, Joseph Gutheinz, tells the Houston Chronicle his client is being charged with aggravated sexual assault after having sex with his 12-year-old girlfriend, who was in sixth grade at the time. Texas, where the age of consent is 17, has a “Romeo and Juliet” law, in which a legal defense is available for minors younger than 17 who have consensual sex—as long as the two parties are within three years of age of each other. However, the law doesn’t hold if one of the kids is younger than 14, even if the sex was consensual and even if, as the teen’s mom says, “he loved her.“ “They want to … put him on the [sex offender] registry with pedophiles and child molesters—really sick and dangerous people,“ she says.

And that’s the last thing we should be doing to kids caught in similar situations, Wisconsin Representative Joel Kleefisch says, per WSAU. His state is trying to pass a bill that would deem consensual sex between kids ages 15 to 18 a misdemeanor and not require them to register as sex offenders. But even that law wouldn’t help the Texas teen, and Gutheinz says “it just blows my mind” that his client could have sex with a 13-year-old just a few days younger and be in deep trouble, or be considered the victim if he had sex with an 18-year-old. “You would think the law would be more sympathetic as you go younger, because both parties are immature,“ he notes. Still, a Harris County Public Defender’s Office lawyer says most judges look carefully at the facts of such cases and “very rarely” make teens register as sex offenders.

►  Oil pipeline opponents try going after the money

Opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline has persuaded some banks to stop supporting projects that might harm the environment or tread on indigenous rights, but calling the divest movement a success might be a stretch.

It doesn’t appear to be hurting the ability of energy companies to get financing and it doesn’t seem to concern lenders broadly. Yet pipeline opponents see victory in the fact that they have made financial institutions more aware of indigenous rights — and they’re intent on keeping up the fight on projects such as Keystone XL even after failing to stop the Dakota Access line.

“We aren’t ignoring the fact we couldn’t stop that pipeline,“ said Vanessa Green, a campaign director with the DivestInvest initiative. “There’s a battle, and then there’s a war.“

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois will be fully operational by June 1, a half-year later than planned by Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners. The project was delayed by lawsuits from American Indian tribes who fear it threatens cultural sites and drinking water, and months of protests by tribal members and their supporters. Donald Trump pushed the project through shortly after taking office.

While the protests centered on a camp in North Dakota that at times housed thousands of people, opponents also picketed banks in major U.S. cities and urged banks in Europe and even Japan to take a stand against the pipeline.

Some did. Paris-based BNP Paribas USA, Netherlands-based ING and Norway-based DNB sold off their shares of a Dakota Access loan. Private investor Storebrand and Odin Fund Management, both in Norway, sold shares in companies linked to the project. Dutch bank ABN-AMRO stopped providing credit to a parent company of ETP.

Pipeline opponents also targeted cities with some success, including in Seattle, where leaders in February voted to cut ties with San Francisco-based banking giant Wells Fargo in part due to its role in funding Dakota Access.

In all, the DefundDAPL movement claims that divestments from that project total more than $80 million from individuals and $4.3 billion from cities.

But that didn’t stop ETP from completing the Dakota Access pipeline, and the company has a number of other projects underway across the U.S.

“We do not have a concern about our current or future financing options,“ ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado said.

TransCanada Corp., which is planning the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline through the central Plains, wouldn’t say whether it has secured the necessary financing. But its first-quarter 2017 financial report indicates that finding funds overall hasn’t been a problem: The company raised $2.6 billion toward a $23 billion capital program.

As for Wells Fargo, which lists $2 trillion in assets, it calls the city divestitures “symbolic” and notes that other communities and tribes are still clients.

“Certainly, the protests have had some limited negative impact to the company’s reputation, which is a shame because it overshadows all of the tremendous work our team members and the company does to support those very same communities and local nonprofits across the country,“ spokesman Alan Elias said.

In the meantime, opponents of such projects continue to seek to broaden their efforts to educate people about the potential effects not only on the environment, but on Native Americans.

“There’s a whole widening narrative woven into what was once an environmental movement,“ said Green, with the DivestInvest initiative. “Now it’s much more integrated, with a social justice, indigenous rights focus.“

In March, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in partnership with First Peoples Worldwide, an indigenous advocacy and funding group, convened an educational meeting in Washington for global investors with Dave Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, the tribe that started the opposition to Dakota Access.

“We’re just going to continue to build awareness for companies that have no regard for the environment, have no regard for people, and hopefully the companies, banks, lenders, financial institutions understand that if you want to be socially responsible, not to invest in companies like ETP,“ Archambault said in an interview.

Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said that while market forces ultimately determine industry practices, public opinion can be a factor.

“Market factors and public opinion worked together to substantially reduce the market share of coal,“ he said. “You have those two factors working together, that’s how change takes place.“

►  Lawmaker Ruffled by Duck Ramp Told to ‘Duck Off’

The president of a non-profit that helps animals in Washington, DC, calls it a lifesaving measure. Representative Mark Walker calls it a waste of government funds. Such is the debate raging over a simple duck ramp installed by government officials at the Capitol Reflecting Pool, which is drawing quite a bit of attention, despite its seemingly lighter nature. The New York Times reports two duck ramps were installed at the reflecting pool Monday to make it easier for ducklings that have made their home at the pool to get in and out. The president of City Wildlife—which worked with the Architect of the Capitol agency to design the ramps—explains the ducklings risk drowning from exhaustion or starving to death if they can’t hurdle a “high curb at the water’s edge.“

A video shows ducklings using the newly installed ramp to avoid the curb. But Walker, a Republican from North Carolina, is not amused. “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be government waste,“ he tweeted Monday, alongside a photo of one of the ramps. He didn’t find much support, though. “I for one am glad American tax dollars paid for you to get mad online about a duck ramp,“ replied comedian Patrick Monahan. Another user said the ramp “looks like a really cheap way to offset the ecosystem disruption of the concrete structure,“ while one simply told Walker to “duck off,“ per the Huffington Post. In related news, Mashable reports ducklings were rescued from the roof of the Library of Congress on Tuesday. Walker has yet to comment on that expense.

►  After Trump-Erdogan Meeting, DC Protests Turn Violent

Authorities say nine people were hurt and two arrested during an altercation Tuesday outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC. Two of those hurt were seriously injured and taken to hospitals, reports the AP. Police say the altercation broke out about 4:30pm between two groups, but didn’t elaborate on the circumstances. “We are protesting (President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria, and in Iraq,“ Flint Arthur of Baltimore told CNN. He said Erdogan supporters breached police lines to attack them. One of those arrested was charged with assaulting a police officer. (The CNN story includes this Facebook video of the violence.)

The altercation came the same day that Erdogan met with Trump at the White House. The State Department declined to comment. Before the violence broke out, Trump and Erdogan appeared together and promised stronger relations between the two nations, though the Guardian notes that their meeting came amid strained ties on two main fronts. Turkey is angry that the US is supporting Kurdish fighters fighting the Islamic State in Syria, and it accuses the US of harboring the mastermind of a failed coup in July.

►  Odd Development in Ohio Massacre Case

Ohio state authorities have charged the brother of one of the eight relatives slain in an unsolved massacre with tampering with evidence and vandalism over the destruction of a GPS tracking device they placed on his truck. The state attorney general’s office accused James Manley of destroying the device being used in the investigation of the slayings, the AP reports. The charges “are not uncommon when a witness destroys such a device used in a government investigation,“ the attorney general’s office said Tuesday. Manley is the brother of victim Dana Rhoden. Seven adults and one teenage boy from the Rhoden family were slain in April 2016. They were found shot at four homes near Piketon.

An agent with the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation placed the device on James Manley’s truck on April 22, according to his arrest warrant. A search warrant in the case indicated that investigators believe the truck was used in connection with an aggravated murder or by a person intending such a crime, but did not specify a connection to the Rhoden investigation. The suspect’s father, Leonard Manley, who also lost three grandchildren in the massacre, tells the Cincinnati Enquirer that his son and his eldest daughter were close and there is no way he could be involved in the killings. He says it seems investigators are “grasping at straws.“

►  Prisoner to Be Freed After ‘Conscience-Shocking’ Move

“Utterly unjust.“ That’s how a Colorado judge describes Rene Lima-Marin’s 98-year sentence for robbing two stores, a wrong he’s righted after nearly two decades. Lima-Marin was just 19 when he and a friend robbed two video stores in 1998, per CNN. No one was injured (Lima-Marin claimed the gun involved was unloaded), and the pair only moved store employees from one room to another, reports the Denver Post, but Lima-Marin was convicted of kidnapping, burglary, aggravated robbery, and use of a deadly weapon. His sentences for these crimes were to be served consecutively for a 98-year sentence and a possible parole date of October 2053. But because of a clerk’s error, documents showed they were to be served concurrently.

Based on those documents, a public defender advised Lima-Marin not to file an appeal, believing he would soon be eligible for parole. In 2008, Lima-Marin was indeed released, found a job, got married, and started a family. But when the error was realized in 2014, he was again thrown in prison. In a decision Tuesday, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. said that move required the government to act with “conscience-shocking” indifference. “Requiring Lima-Marin to serve the rest of his prison sentence all these years later ... would perpetrate a manifest injustice,“ he added. Lima-Marin’s attorney says she expects her client to be released Wednesday or Thursday. Adds his wife: “I’m still a bit in shock. I can’t believe it’s over.“

►  U.S. Women in 30s Having More Babies Than Younger Moms

For the first time, women in their early 30s are having more babies than younger moms in the US, the AP reports. Health experts say the shift is due to more women waiting longer to have children and the ongoing drop in the teen birth rate. For more than three decades, women in their late 20s had the highest birth rates, but that changed last year, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the CDC. The birth rate for women ages 30 to 34 was about 103 per 100,000; the rate for women ages 25 to 29 was 102 per 100,000.

It’s becoming more common to see older parents with kids in elementary or high school, says Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Meanwhile, more teens are growing up with fewer of their peers getting pregnant, he says. “We always talk about peer pressure as a negative, but it can be a force for good,“ Albert says. Among the report’s findings: the overall birth rate was down slightly in 2016, to 62 births per 100,000 women ages 15 to 44; the average age when women have their first child is about 28; and the teen birth rate continued to drop last year.

►  Death Row Inmate’s Last Words Were an Insult

When asked if he had any final words before his execution in Georgia early Wednesday, JW Ledford Jr. did. But those words weren’t an apology or a goodbye; rather, they were a taunt, ABC News reports. The 45-year-old, who murdered his 73-year-old neighbor in 1992, smiled as he tossed out a slightly paraphrased quote from Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.“ He went on: “I am not the failure. You are the failure to communicate. You can kiss my white trash ###.“ His microphone was shut off at that point, though he began speaking again. He was dead by lethal injection shortly thereafter.

Ledford fatally stabbed his neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston—the man who had actually delivered Ledford as a baby, the BBC reports—in his home before lifting money, guns, and a vehicle from the home and threatening Johnston’s wife and tying her up. He told police he had gone to the house to ask for a ride, and lashed out after Johnston accused him of stealing and hit him. His lawyers had asked for clemency, arguing that he had an intellectual disability, had gone through a difficult childhood, and struggled with substance abuse from an early age, but that request was denied Monday. Ledford’s execution was the first carried out in Georgia this year.

►  Simple Act of Littering Leads Police to Weapons Stash

Minneapolis police say they’ve uncovered a stash of weapons and possible bomb-making materials—all because a resident saw people littering. Police say a man spotted two occupants of a parked car throwing food wrappers on the ground in north Minneapolis around 5pm Thursday, per Minnesota Public Radio. When the witness attempted to get the car’s license plate number, the occupants exited the car and informed the man that they had guns, police say. The man then flagged down officers, who tried to diffuse the situation, but the men in the car raised suspicions when they claimed they couldn’t be away from their vehicle because they were awaiting a drone delivery, police say, per the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Citing fear for the safety of the passerby, officers say they then searched the men’s vehicle and found a hand grenade, handgun, assault rifles, magazines, and ammunition. Bomb squad personnel determined the ammunition—together with cellphones, computers, drone parts, and other electronic devices in the car—could have been used to build bombs, according to a criminal complaint. Abdullah Alrifahe, 27, is now charged with carrying a pistol in public without a permit. (The Star Tribune reports he was convicted of the same offense in December.) Jail records show an apparent relative, Majid Alrifahe, 26, also faces disorderly conduct, misdemeanor assault, and weapons charges stemming from Thursday’s incident.

►  SC Home’s Mystery Tenant Actually a Genius

There’s no ghost in the upstairs apartment of a home listed for sale on Zillow as coming with a tenant who’s never paid. Rather, the place is home to something far less sinister: a kindly grandfather who happens to be what the State calls an artistic genius. Before falling on hard times about a decade ago, Randall McKissick was a renowned artist with paintings on display in Paris and New York. But emerging technology, a divorce, an eviction, and a series of thefts left McKissick down on his luck. That’s when his childhood friend Mike Schumpert stepped in, offering McKissick an apartment in his home in Cayce, SC, per WIS. “He never mentioned money,“ says McKissick, 70. “I would like to pay him, but I don’t have any.“

Schumpert’s son says his “very charitable” dad, who recently broke his back in a car accident, and his mother, who is disabled, now need to sell the home. But “we want Randy to be able to stay there,“ he says. The family is also looking at finding another apartment for McKissick and his three cats, but there are financial challenges, the State reports. “In this age when people would sell out their mothers for a buck, here’s two friends in dire straights who are trying to help each other out,“ a local artist says. McKissick, who suffers from panic attacks, often finds it hard to leave the house but says he’ll move out if he must. Though he’s “lost the spark” for painting, “I just want to paint again,“ he says.

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►  U.S. Official Warns of ISIS ‘Chemical Weapons Cell’

A US official warns ISIS could be getting all its chemical weapons experts together in a “chemical weapons cell” in a last-ditch effort to defend its remaining territory in Syria. CNN reports the unnamed official says the experts are from Iraq and Syria and haven’t previously worked together. “We know ISIS is willing to use chemical weapons. This is not something we want to see them get good at,“ says Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the US-led military coalition in Syria.

The unnamed official says the chemical weapons cell is convening in an area of ISIS-controlled Syria that the US military is getting more interested in. The official says the area in the Euphrates River Valley could now be the “de facto” ISIS capital as military pressure increases on Raqqa. Syrian forces are said to be tightening “their noose” on that ISIS stronghold, according to Reuters.

►  U.S. Strike Hits Pro-Syrian Forces Seen as ‘Threat’: Officials

US officials say an American airstrike has hit pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria as they were setting up fighting positions in a protected area. The officials say the strike Thursday near Tanf hit a tank and a bulldozer and forces there, but it wasn’t clear if they were Syrian army troops or other pro-government allies, the AP reports. One official says the pro-regime forces had entered a so-called “de-confliction” zone without authorization and were perceived as a threat to US-allied troops there. The officials say the strike was a defensive move to protect the US allies; it wasn’t clear if US forces were present. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

The area has been a source of tension as both government forces and US-backed rebels advance there. Both the government forces and the rebels are trying to rout Islamic State militants from the area. Meanwhile, a Syria state news agency says President Bashar Assad has met with Iraq National Security Adviser Faleh al-Fayad to discuss “practical” steps to improve coordination between their countries’ militaries in the anti-terrorism campaign along their shared border. Syrian state media and a monitoring group say at least 15 civilians were killed this week and dozens wounded in an ISIS offensive on the government-held village of Aqarab al-Safiyeh in central Syria. State news agency SANA says women and children were among the dead, and that some were beheaded.

►  Potentially Record-Setting Cat Has a Taste for Kangaroo

What’s it take for a cat to grow so long it’s in contention for a Guinness World Record? Good genes, a good home, and lots of raw kangaroo meat, apparently. “It’s the only meat we could find that he actually wants to eat,“ Stephy Hirst tells the BBC. The Australian woman is the owner of a 3-foot-11-inch-long Maine Coon named Omar. The Melbourne resident created an Instagram account for Omar a few weeks ago, and one of his photos was shared 270,000 times on Cats of Instagram. Then Guinness came calling. Now, Hirst is waiting to hear if she’s officially the owner of the world’s longest cat, beating the record from another Maine Coon that measures 3 feet 10.5 inches. (According to the Independent, the myth about Maine Coons and their size is they are the result of semi-wild cats breeding with raccoons.)

Hirst tells Perth Now the 31-pound Omar likes to “laze around.“ “You don’t make it to 14 kilograms climbing trees and jumping fences,“ she says. The laid-back cat is having a hard time dealing with his newfound fame—TV and newspaper interviews and even an offer to be a water company’s spokescat, the Herald Sun reports. Hirst tells the BBC Omar “had a little bit of a meltdown.“ That’s why she’s not worried about whether he actually sets the Guinness record. But owning a massive cat isn’t all world records and internet fame. “He does take up a bit too much room on the bed,“ Hirst says. The famously large kitty sleeps on the couch.

►  Dutch King Secretly Kept Pilot Job for 21 Years

Dutch passengers on KLM flights might have recognized the co-pilot’s voice when he introduced himself on the airline’s Cityhopper services. It was not just their co-pilot telling them weather conditions and estimated time of arrival. It was their king. King Willem-Alexander told national daily De Telegraaf in an interview published Wednesday that he has ended his role as a regular “guest pilot” after 21 years on KLM’s fleet of Fokker 70 planes and before that on Dutch carrier Martinair. He will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokkers are being phased out of service.

While it was no secret that Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot who had flown KLM passenger flights, it wasn’t widely known that he did it as often as twice a month and continued flying incognito after becoming king in 2013, the BBC reports. The 50-year-old calls flying a “hobby” that lets him leave his royal duties on the ground. “You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them,“ the king told De Telegraaf. “You can’t take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else.“ He said he is rarely recognized by passengers as he walks through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in his KLM uniform.

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