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The Free Press WV

  • Celebrities Are Begging Electoral College Voters to Abandon Trump. Some West Wing alums try to keep Trump out of the West Wing. ESQUIRE


  • Corporations worry about Trump’s corporate-shaming. “The concern among executives and free-market conservatives is that Trump will tweet first and ask questions later if he hears about plans he doesn’t like, potentially hitting stock prices, turning public opinion against companies before they have a chance to explain themselves and chilling investment.”  Politico


  • Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions will be great for crime victims. Just look at his record in Congress on victims’ rights legislation. Fox News

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Glenville State College seeking new president

Glenville State College is looking for a new president to begin duties next July.

President Peter Barr announced in August he will retire at the end of the current academic year.

The school announced this week that its Board of Governors had initiated a search for the next president. A news release said the school is looking for a leader to build on its mission and “extend its role in West Virginia and the region.“

Glenville State is located in central West Virginia’s Mountain Lakes Region and has 1,800 students, primarily from West Virginia.


►  3 W.Va. Electors Steady in Support of Trump

Three West Virginia representatives to the electoral college are clear and unequivocal that they will be voting for Donald Trump to be the next U.S. president regardless of emails, letters and calls urging them not to.

The state’s five electoral college representatives were all chosen earlier this year by West Virginia’s Republican Party. They got the nod after their party’s candidate won a majority of the state’s popular vote.

Trump, the Republican, received 489,371 votes in November, 68.6 percent of the statewide total.

Democrat Hillary Clinton got 188,794 votes in West Virginia, or 26.5 percent. The remaining 5 percent were split among three minor-party candidates.

One of the state’s five electors is Senate President Bill Cole, who lost his bid for governor to Democrat Jim Justice. An owner of car dealerships, he feels a particular affinity for Trump, who won his vote in the primary and general election, and who has not wavered.

“I see him as a businessman. I’m a businessman. And it’s OK to do things differently. I know that’s going to rankle some in Washington but gee whiz, it’s time to do things differently,“ Cole said. “And I’m excited. I think America’s getting ready for unprecedented growth and economic opportunity to bring a free-market capitalistic private-sector approach to Washington I think will be wonderful with the Republicans in control of both houses.“

The state’s other delegates to the Board of Elections are Mac Warner, an attorney and GOP candidate elected West Virginia secretary of state; Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, re-elected last month to a second four-year term; Ron Foster, president of a building-supply company in Scott Depot; and Ann Urling, a Charleston banker who lost the race for state treasurer. Neither Foster nor Urling replied to Associated Press requests to discuss their role as electors.

Morrisey and Warner said they voted for Trump in the primary and general elections and will do the same Monday.

“There’s been a tremendous outreach by people, perhaps on the other side, from across America ... texts, phone calls, letters. There’s been a deluge of effort to try to get me to vote otherwise,“ said Warner, a West Point graduate and former military JAG officer. “But they’ve been unpersuasive in their argument.“

He said some of Trump’s public statements gave him pause, but said he believes the New York developer loves America and has a vision for where he wants to take it. “The overreach of the government, federal regulations, there’s so much that needs to be turned back to the states,“ he said.

Morrisey said he thinks it’s his job as an elector to support the will of West Virginia’s voters, who overwhelmingly chose Trump.

West Virginia law, unlike some states, doesn’t require its electors to follow the popular vote. Four years ago, the state’s five electors all voted for presidential loser Mitt Romney, who won the popular vote in West Virginia with 62 percent over President Obama’s 35 percent in his re-election nationally.

Warner said electors should represent both the will of voters and the candidate they believe is best, though the party made clear it wanted electors who would follow the voters. “Any time you reflect a democracy position you have to balance those two things, which are your personal feelings vs. representing the will of the people. I am doing that now, and now I have both of those come together in the same point in this case,“ he said.

All three who were interviewed support keeping the current electoral college system, established 250 years ago, where less populous states like West Virginia have proportionately more influence than more densely populated states.

“This is the system that’s been set up by the Founders protecting the unique voices from across the country,“ Morrisey said. “And it ensures all the campaigning won’t simply occur in populated areas.“


►  Justice Says too Soon to Identify Ways to Cut Budget Gap

West Virginia’s incoming governor said Thursday that he wants to closely examine state finances before deciding how to approach the government’s projected $400 million budget deficit next year.

Governor-elect Jim Justice said they’ve “got to scrub all the financials in every way and see really where we stand,“ which will show the way forward.

An owner of coal mines and other businesses, Justice said he still believes there will be significant tax gains from increased coal mining, a budget gap will remain, and he doesn’t want to raise taxes or just cut.

Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss recently told West Virginia lawmakers they probably will have to figure out how to close a funding deficit of more than $400 million when they begin work on the state’s 2017-18 budget in February. The fiscal year starts in July.

Justice was in Charleston on Thursday for a meeting of his transition policy committees. He told reporters that he’s asking people to work “outside the box” for approaches going forward.

He also said that he’ll remove himself completely from his businesses’ daily decisions as governor, that it would be “frivolous” to close businesses to contribute millions of dollars to the state, and he doesn’t want anything from his new post for them. “I ran for this office for nothing for me,“ he said.

Justice called “despicable” two recent apparently racist incidents in West Virginia — a black teen shot by a white man and a racist tweet by the director of a state-supported nonprofit about First Lady Michelle Obama. “There’s no place ... in any of society for racial issues today,“ he said.

Pamela Taylor was suspended for six weeks from the Clay County organization provides services to elderly and low-income residents. Justice was asked whether she should go back. “I don’t know all the particulars about the job, but if I were to say, I’d say no because I just think it’s outrageous,“ he said.


►  New data show spike in severe black lung disease

New data show many more coal miners across Appalachia suffering from the most serious form of black lung disease than federal regulators previously reported.

National Public Radio says its investigation shows cases 10 times more prevalent, with 11 black lung clinics in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio recording 962 cases so far this decade.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said Thursday that 60 current and former miners -from Pike, Floyd, Letcher and Knott counties in Kentucky - were diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe form of black lung, between January 2015 and last August.

The NIOSH findings, first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, spike from 31 cases identified nationwide from 1990-1999.

Black lung has caused about 78,000 deaths since 1968.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►  5 Most Significant Historic Events of Americans’ Lifetimes

The Pew Research Center recently asked 2,025 US adults to name the 10 most significant historic events of their lifetimes and found that “nothing else has come close to being as important or as memorable” to Americans as the September 11 terrorist attacks, which ranked No. 1 on the survey, with 76% of respondents including it on their lists. The rest of the top 5:

  1. The election of President Barack Obama. This came in at No. 2 overall, with 40% of respondents including it on their lists. But for black Americans, this event shared the top spot with 9/11.
  2. The tech revolution. This category is where Pew lumped any and all mentions of the internet, computers, cellphones, smartphones, and social media. It was included on the lists of 22% of respondents.
  3. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. This was included on 21% of respondents’ lists, and was particularly important to Baby Boomers.
  4. The Vietnam War. This was included on 20% of respondents’ lists, and was particularly important to Baby Boomers.

Click for the full top 10, plus how different generations ranked events differently.


►  Obama: We Will Take Action on Russian Hacking

President Obama says America will “take action” in response to Russian election hacking, and he’s aiming to have an official White House report on the matter before Donald Trump takes office next month. Action needs to be taken “when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections,“ the president told NPR in a Morning Edition interview. “And we will—at a time and place of our own choosing,“ he said. “Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.“ It’s clear that the hackers created “more problems for the Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign,“ Obama said, though he didn’t endorse the CIA’s claim that Russia worked to get Trump elected, and he made it clear he wasn’t suggesting that the Trump campaign did anything more than exploit the leaks for its own benefit.

Obama accused Republicans of hypocrisy over the issue. “For most of my presidency, there’s been a pretty sizable wing of the Republican Party that has consistently criticized me for not being tough enough on Russia,“ he said. “Some of those folks during the campaign endorsed Donald Trump, despite the fact that a central tenet of his foreign policy was we shouldn’t be so tough on Russia. And that kind of inconsistency, I think, makes it appear, at least, that their particular position on Russia on any given day depends on what’s politically expedient.“ Democrats and Republicans including Trump have criticized Obama for not acting sooner. Sources tell NBC News that the administration didn’t respond more forcefully before the election because they believed Hillary Clinton was going to win despite Russian interference.


►  Here’s What’s Inside the FBI’s File on Muhammad Ali

The FBI kept an eye on Muhammad Ali for a period of time in 1966, according to newly released documents posted on the FBI’s website. In the documents, the FBI insisted that Ali himself was not under investigation, but that the Nation of Islam was—and Ali was of interest to the bureau because of his involvement with the group, the New York Times reports. The documents, some of which were previously classified, were released after conservative group Judicial Watch sued to obtain them. They refer to the Nation of Islam as an “all-Negro, semireligious, antiwhite” organization. Ali later converted to orthodox Islam.

Included in Ali’s 142-page file was information on the late boxer’s ties to the Nation of Islam from FBI informants, as well as newspaper clips (even a gossip item) and other publicly available info. One memo deals with the captain’s uniform from the Nation of Islam’s paramilitary wing that Ali wore; the FBI also kept tabs on disputes between Ali and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. More personal details, including Ali’s divorce and even traffic tickets he received, were also included in his file. Another memo centers on Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the US military, which led to his heavyweight title being stripped from him, Reuters reports. Ali discussed the controversy in a speech at a mosque in 1966, blaming the “white man,“ per an FBI memo included in his file. More documents are expected to be released next year.


►  LI Serial Killer Case Gets ‘Biggest Revelation in Years’

A new DNA analysis in the investigation into the Long Island serial killer has resulted in what the Long Island Press calls “the biggest revelation in the case in years.“ Records show the torso of an unidentified black woman found in a plastic bin in Rockville Centre, NY, in 1997 belongs to the same woman whose partial remains were found about 15 miles away along Ocean Parkway on Long Island in 2011. Police say the woman—nicknamed Peaches due to a peach tattoo on her left breast—was also the mother of the young child whose remains were found about 10 miles from her mother’s partial remains. Peaches’ head has yet to be found, but “each additional piece of information helps in getting an identification,“ a medical examiner says.

Only six of 11 people found dead along Ocean Parkway since 2010—including a man and eight other women—have been identified, per the AP. Police believe one female victim accidentally drowned but all others were murdered. No suspects have been named. However, the Long Island Press notes a revision to a Wikipedia article about the killings once named the killer as Joseph Foti, a retired corrections officer at Suffolk County jail, who is accused of sexual harassing female inmates. The edit—revealed in the recent A&E documentary series The Killing Season—is intriguing because it came from a computer with an IP address registered to the Suffolk County Police Department. Police have not commented.


►  Treasure Hunter Has to Stay in Jail Until ‘Epiphany’

Tommy Thompson is a shipwreck explorer believed to know the location of a fortune in gold coins—but he can’t spend them in Ohio’s Delaware County jail, and he’s not getting out until he reveals where they are. The treasure hunter has been held on a contempt charge since December last year and on Monday, a federal judge ordered another round of depositions in which Thompson could divulge the location of 500 gold coins worth up to $4 million from an 1857 shipwreck discovered in the ‘80s, the Columbus Dispatch reports. “I hope that in this season of giving, Mr. Thompson will find it within himself to give,“ Judge Algenon Marbley said, predicting that Thompson, who claims memory loss, might experience an “epiphany,“ the Washington Post reports. “It is the season of miracles,“ Marbley added, per the AP.

Thompson went on the run in 2012 after investors who funded his search for the wreck of the SS Central America accused him of selling $50 million in gold and keeping the profits for himself. He said the coins were in Belize and agreed to reveal their location in a plea deal months after he was recaptured in 2015, but he later said he’d forgotten whom he’d given them to, the Post reports. The judge ordered the fresh depositions after Thompson and his lawyers had more than a month to review 12,500 pages of documents on the treasure in the hope of jogging his memory. A defense attorney told Marbley that Thompson still “has nothing further to say.“


►  Muslim Woman Fabricated Story About Trump Supporters Attacking Her

A Muslim college student who claimed she had been attacked by apparent Trump supporters on a Manhattan subway platform on December 1 has now admitted she made the whole thing up. Yasmin Seweid claimed three young white men shouted “Donald Trump!“ and called her a terrorist, followed her, and pulled off her hijab before she got away. But after investigators couldn’t verify the story or find any witnesses or video of it, Seweid ultimately confessed Wednesday to fabricating it.

DNAinfo notes that “significant NYPD resources” were used in the investigation, and Seweid is expected to be charged with filing a false report, which could be either a misdemeanor or a felony. “This isn’t something we normally like to do, but she had numerous opportunities to admit nothing happened and she kept sticking by her story,“ a police source tells the New York Daily News. Seweid said she made up the story to get attention because she was having family trouble at home. “Maybe she was afraid that night. She was running late,“ her father speculates to DNAinfo, adding that she went missing for several days after the incident and was found at a friend’s house.


►  Indiana Town Will No Longer Jail You for Playing Pinball

“My wife and I have always dreamed our son will live in a place where pinball is legal,“ Steve Whikehart tells Fox 59. “After 40 years that dream will become a reality.“ The city council member sponsored legislation, signed into law Tuesday, that reversed a 61-year-old ban on pinball in Kokomo, Indiana, the Wall Street Journal reports. Back in 1955, the Kokomo city council determined pinball was gambling because it relied on chance, not skill, and banned it. According to news accounts at the time, pinball games “tend against peace and good order, encourage vice and immorality, and constitute a nuisance,“ and wives were upset their husbands were spending all their money on pinball. Anyone found violating the ban faced jail time and a fine.

But in 2016, most people didn’t know about the ban and officials couldn’t find any records of people being cited for breaking it. “I’ve been serving beer and wine legally out of my record store, and having illegal pinball games,” says Mike Wilson, owner of American Dream Hi-Fi. “It’s funny.” On Tuesday, Mayor Greg Goodnight signed the new pinball-legalizing bill into law on top of one of American Dream’s pinball machines, the Kokomo Tribune reports. “I was reflecting that ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball,“ Goodnight paraphrased. “From Southway up to Morgan Street, I think I played them all.“ Police chief Rob Baker, the only person in city hall who hadn’t violated the ban, then got the first game.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  China Just Seized an Underwater U.S. Drone

More tensions with China: The Pentagon says a Chinese naval ship on Thursday seized a US underwater drone in the South China Sea, reports Reuters. US officials have lodged a formal request to get the unmanned, underwater vehicle, or UUV, back. “The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,“ one American official tells the news agency. The Washington Post describes it as an “ocean glider” that was testing water conditions in international waters. The US says the the oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch was just about to retrieve the UUV when a Chinese ship arrived, scooped it up, and sailed away without responding to messages from the Bowditch.

“The United States has through their proper diplomatic channels demarched the Chinese, demanding return of our stuff,” says a US official. The move comes after reports surfaced earlier this week that China had placed weapons on its controversial man-made islands in the South China Sea. They include “significant” anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, reports the Guardian. China, which has said it is “seriously concerned” about comments being directed its way by President-elect Trump, seemed to acknowledge the move as a self-defense measure in a post on the Defense Ministry website. “If someone was at the door of your home, cocky and swaggering, how could it be that you wouldn’t prepare a slingshot?” it reads, without mentioning names, per the New York Times.


►  How to Pay Off $276M Debt? Cuba Gets Creative

Who says arguments can’t be settled and accounts squared over a good bottle of booze—or many of them. Cuba is apparently considering that route in taking care of the $276 million it owes the Czech Republic, with the BBC reporting the proposed volume of rum would last the European country more than 100 years. The AP cites the Czech Statistics Office in reporting the country imported more than $2 million of rum from Cuba in 2015. (At Forbes, a Czech Republic-based writer explains why he thinks that century-long-supply claim is overblown.)

The scheme would pay back money Havana borrowed from the former Czechoslovakia (a fellow Communist country) during Cold War times, but the Czechs say they’d like at least a partial cash payment. Restitution via pharmacy drugs was also on the table, but there’s likely too much EU regulatory red tape to break through for that kind of compensation.


►  Hitler House Not Being Torn Down After All

Austrian government officials have decided to transform the home where Adolf Hitler was born into a base for a charity, not tear down the property as some had demanded. Thursday’s decision comes a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an Interior Ministry bill to dispossess the owner, who had refused to sell the empty building in Braunau am Inn, a town on Austria’s border with Germany. Provincial Governor Josef Puehringer says destroying the structure would have fueled accusations of “tearing down a piece of burdensome history,“ the AP reports. Instead, officials want to remodel the property’s facade to eliminate its draw as a shrine for admirers of the Nazi dictator, who was born in the house in 1889. Puehringer says the house will be offered to an agency running a workshop for disabled people.


►  Explosives Traces Found on EgyptAir Victims

Traces of explosives have been found on some of the 66 victims aboard an EgyptAir Flight that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea earlier this year, and Egypt says it will now open a criminal investigation, reports the BBC. Flight 804 had been en route from Paris to Cairo when it went down, killing all aboard. Investigators have yet to pinpoint a cause of the crash, but the new evidence points toward terrorism.

The cockpit voice recorder previously revealed that the pilots tried to put out a fire as smoke detectors were activated in a lavatory and the area below the cockpit, where avionics equipment is held. But given that the plane is believed to have spun before crashing, rather than exploding mid-air—and as no group has claimed responsibility—some concluded that a fire simply overwhelmed the pilots, per the Guardian.


►  Trump Promises Syria ‘Safe Zones’

Donald Trump’s “Thank You” tour rolled into Hershey, Pa., Thursday night, where he promised to do something to end suffering in Syria. “When I look at what’s going on in Syria, it’s so sad,“ he said, per the New York Times. “It’s so sad, and we’re going to help people.“ He promised to “build and help build safe zones in Syria, so people will have a chance,“ and said Gulf states would help pay for the move. Analysts have warned that such a move could set up a confrontation with Russia, and the Times notes that this is the first time Trump has repeated his “safe zones” promise since he started receiving security briefings.

Trump also used his speech to criticize the media and recap the election, describing his victory in Pennsylvania as a “landslide,“ though the Times notes that his margin of victory over Hillary Clinton was 44,292 votes out of a total of 6.1 million. He also thanked black voters for being “too smart” to turn out to vote for Clinton, the AP reports. “That was the big thing, so thank you to the African-American community,“ he said. Many in the crowd wore Santa hats instead of Trump hats, and Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer describes the rally as “the political equivalent of Festivus—all about the airing of grievances and Trump boasting about his feats of strength.“


►  One of the Most ‘Disgustingly Brilliant’ Escapes of All Time

A 25-year-old Texan named William Ash and a 21-year old from Quebec named Eddy Asselin climbed into a toilet and dropped into a sewage pit—and that’s how the story of “one of history’s most disgustingly brilliant escape schemes” begins on Narratively. Stephen Dando-Collins presents this excerpt from The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told, due out in January, of three North American POWs held by the Germans in a WWII war camp in Poland and desperately plotting a Shawshank Redemption-like escape from a latrine called the Abort. The laborious and dangerous dig had teams assigned to various tasks, including digging, watching for cave-ins, extending the air pipe, and the “unenviable” job of hiding the evidence (the dug-out dirt) in a “lake of urine and feces,“ pumped out once a week for a local farmer’s fertilizer (the POWs told him their secret just as he started getting suspicious about the amount of earth in his haul).

“Each trip down [the tunnel] required a little more courage,“ Ash revealed later. There were other logistics to worry about, too, including the risky chore of acquiring photo IDs for their eventual freedom and calculating how many men the oxygen in the tunnel could sustain during the escape (they settled on 33). Then came the big night: March 5, 1943, a night with little moonlight and a rugby match set up as a distraction. Ash and Asselin headed to the latrine during the match, and they were the first to lift the toilet seat to descend into the tunnel. “Let’s pray this will be the last time we do this,“ Ash said to Asselin before climbing down and kicking off an escape for the legends. Why the tunnel ultimately worked, per Dando-Collins: “Not even the Germans believed that men could be so desperate to escape they would immerse themselves in human waste for months.“ (The entire fascinating dive into the latrine HERE .)

Diplomacy

The Free Press WV

Math Majors Spend Fall Semester Competing

When one thinks of competition, sporting events usually come to mind.  To some, that means football, basketball, and baseball; to others, that means mathematics.  Several math majors at West Virginia Wesleyan College have been busy this fall semester traveling to different conferences to improve their skills.

On September 24, several majors attended the Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics Conference at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  Attendees included junior Zach Abbott of Carmel, IN; senior Stacie Baumann of Gahanna, OH; senior Jacob Coleman of Belington, WV; senior Isaac Johnson of Buckhannon, WV; senior Mark Leadingham of Sharpsburg, MD; senior Daniel Plaugher of Salem, WV; senior Olivia Rycroft of Elkins, WV; and senior Trever Williams of Buckhannon, WV.

The Free Press WV
Students who attended the Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics
and Statistics Conference at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA


Baumann and Coleman presented 15-minute talks and posters of their summer research project; Baumann won best poster presentation.

On November 11-12, another cohort attended the 12th Annual University of North Carolina Greensboro Regional Mathematics and Statistics Conference at UNC-Greensboro.  Attendees included Abbott; Coleman; sophomore Rebecca Davis of Blakeslee, PA; Johnson; junior Andrew Kinkaid of Stuarts Draft, VA; Leadingham; junior Jericho Norris of Vienna, WV; Plaugher; Rycroft; and Williams.

Coleman, Leadingham, Plaugher, and Williams presented 15-minute talks of their research projects.  Leadingham won for best presentation.  Students also completed a small mathematics competition on the evening of November 11, and Coleman and Leadingham were both members of the top-three finishing teams.

On December 03, students participated in the William Lowell Putman Competition, a 12-question exam completed during two three-hour sessions.  The problems are particularly challenging, and the solutions submitted must be technically sound in order to receive consideration for credit.  Owing to the difficulty of the problems and to the grading scheme, the median score on the 120-point test is typically a 0. Official scores for the Putnam examination will be announced in the spring.  Students who pass the exam are named Putnam Fellows.

The following students completed in the Putnam Competition: Abbott, Baumann, Coleman, Davis, Kinkaid, Leadingham, Norris, Plaugher, and Williams.

G-ICYMI™: Gilmer Freed from Takeover….

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Gilmer freed from takeover if it agrees to keep state-appointed super

Gilmer County’s public school system can be freed from a half-decade of state takeover if its locally elected school board members agree to keep their state-appointed superintendent — who opposed returning local control and with whom local board members have fought — through June 30.

The West Virginia Board of Education decided Wednesday to offer the deal, three years after voting to return partial control to Gilmer’s board.

If the Gilmer board approves the memorandum of understanding requiring it to keep the state-appointed superintendent, Gabe Devono, they’ll be freed from state control Jan. 6.

Devono could leave before June 30 if he and the board mutually agree to part ways. He said his contract, which pays him $126,000 annually, expires June 30 anyway, and he didn’t know whether he’d request a contract extension or apply to another superintendent position.
State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano referenced other requirements in the MOU during Wednesday’s board meeting, but he didn’t specify them. State Department of Education spokeswoman Kristin Anderson said the actual MOU hasn’t been drafted, and said the department would just be adding to the superintendent provisions “procedural language” outlined in policies and state law.

Bill White was the only state school board member to vote no in the voice vote Wednesday, citing a “dysfunctional board” in Gilmer and that he didn’t know what else the MOU would say.

Board member Tom Campbell wasn’t present, and Gayle Manchin, whose term technically expired in November 2015, finally sent a resignation letter to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Nov. 30 of this year. She said she had asked him well before that time to fill her seat, but he hasn’t yet done so.

The vote came after an Office of Education Performance Audits report — based upon an audit conducted on Oct. 27 and 28 of this year — recommended for the first time that the state school board release its hold on Gilmer, which Devono said only has about 850 students.

That recommendation was despite the fact that the report noted Devono and two of its five local school board members told the OEPA team that they opposed the return of local democracy to their county.

“The superintendent opposed the ending of the state control, stating that the board remained dysfunctional, politicized, and incapable of functioning as a local board,” the report states. “He stated more time was needed for the treasurer and personnel [and] staff to acclimate to their job responsibilities.”

“The Gilmer County Board of Education is operating well in spite of the still somewhat dysfunctional county board and the poor relationship between some board members and the state appointed superintendent,” the audit concludes. “The OEPA Team stated the board of education office will continue to run effectively if the local board members respect and follow their roles and responsibilities provided in State code, working with and through the county superintendent.

“Based on evidence and interviews, the OEPA Team found the current local board and state appointed superintendent will not make significant progress in relations regardless of state or local control. Differing personalities, personal agendas, and political pressure will continue to plague the improvement in superintendent/board relations. Unused school property, personnel, and the role of the local board in operations will continue to be a problem for the county,” the audit continues.

“The intention for the initial state takeover of Gilmer County Board of Education was due to improper functioning of the county board of education office,” the audit continues. “This issue has been satisfactorily corrected under the state appointed superintendent and central office staff. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the OEPA that full control be returned to Gilmer County Board of Education and allow the county to determine its future operations.”

If Gilmer agrees to the MOU, Fayette County would be the only remaining public school system in the state still under state control.
The new audit notes that the Gilmer school system’s personnel department “Stated that return to local control would most likely cause the current superintendent to be removed by the local board,” and stated that it believed “the State Board should maintain control of the local board.”

While the audit notes that workers in Gilmer’s finance and curriculum offices “stated that without a strong superintendent, the board members could revert to micro-management of the system,” these employees also said Gilmer “is capable of self-management and State control needs to end,” that “the community feels that with state control, the school system is not theirs” and “the next [excess property tax] levy vote may fail if the system remains under state control.”

“The board of education office is functioning efficiently and in compliance with State code and [state board] policy,” the audit states. “Student achievement is stable and increasing.”

The board spent more than two hours in closed session Wednesday discussing what it said were personnel issues before taking a vote on Gilmer.

Also Wednesday, the board, in a voice vote with no nays heard, approved providing a total of about $1.7 million in Innovation in Education grant funds for seven schools: $276,000 for Kanawha County’s Dunbar Intermediate, $164,000 for Mary Ingles Elementary, $154,000 for Berkeley County’s Spring Mills High, $160,000 for Barbour County’s Philip Barbour High, $300,000 for Greenbrier County’s Greenbrier West High, $298,000 for Marshall County’s John Marshall High and $300,000 for Tucker County High.

The funds will go toward various initiatives in the schools, according to a state Department of Education document that briefly describes the programs.

Dunbar Intermediate, for example, will in the afternoons “use a split grade option for grades 3-5 that will allow students to be combined by choice into groups of common interest,” while Mary Ingles will, among other things, “facilitate evening classes and open internet time with potential certifications for adults [parents].”
The state Department of Education said applications were reviewed by a selection committee with representatives from the department, the state school board, the Governor’s Office, Marshall University, educators, administrators and others.

Clayton Burch, the education department’s chief academic officer, said the committee met on Dec. 7 and 8. He said there were about 50-60 “intent to apply” applications but only 43 final applications.

Burch said there’s still about $700,000 in grant money left, and the committee is still working with seven more applicants to tweak their proposals. He said he plans to present another batch of applications to the board for approval in January.

In this year’s legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill (HB 4295) that ended funding for the existing Innovation Zones and Local Solution Dropout Prevention and Recovery Innovation Zones and reallocated the current Innovation Zone funding to the Innovation in Education program.

Tomblin backed the bill, describing the program as an alternative to charter schools that offers similar flexibilities. The newly Republican-controlled Legislature had expressed interest in finally legalizing charters in West Virginia, but a bill filed this year to do so didn’t move forward.

While the winning schools will be using exemptions from various state school board policies, Burch said none of the applicants that received grants are seeking state law exemptions. Innovation in Education newly allows schools to request waivers from state personnel laws.

~~  Ryan Quinn - Gazette-Mail ~~

Rates of Smoking During Pregnancy Show Strong Signs of Decline

The Free Press WV

According to recently released data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health, smoking rates among pregnant women are steadily declining. Provisional numbers from DHHR’s Health Statistics Center indicate the rate of smoking during pregnancy in West Virginia has dropped from 28.2 percent in 2014 to 24.2 percent in 2016.

“We are encouraged to see the downward trend in smoking rates during pregnancy,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Commissioner and State Health Officer for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. “We believe the steady decline is the result of a comprehensive approach including the work of our community partners and programs such as Home Visitation and RAZE, West Virginia’s highly successful youth anti-smoking program.”

The decreases in smoking rates during pregnancy are similar to decreases in youth smoking rates. Data from the 2015 Youth Tobacco Survey indicate the percentage of West Virginia high school students that smoke has decreased to 16.2 percent from 38.5 percent in 2000.

Smoking during pregnancy is a key public health indicator because it contributes to premature birth, certain birth defects and infant death.  Families can significantly decrease health risks to their babies by not smoking and not allowing others to smoke around them.

The Free Press WV


“There is still a significant amount of work to do,” said Gupta.  “West Virginia remains well above the United States rate of 8.4 percent for smoking during pregnancy (2014), but it is vitally important to recognize the rate reduction which mirrors the State’s trend in youth smoking rates.”

As a result of West Virginia’s efforts to decrease smoking, more young women have never smoked, making them more likely to have smoke-free pregnancies.  According to Gupta, public health programs and partners have reinforced these messages during well-woman visits, home visits and health care provider training.

Work to further improve the smoking rate during pregnancy is being enhanced by the recent launch of the West Virginia Management of Maternal Smoking (MOMS) Initiative, which includes representatives from DHHR programs, the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As Trump Meets Tech CEOs, “Silicon Valley Rising” Calls For Resistance

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“Millions of families — undocumented workers, union members, women, Muslim Americans, low-wage workers who could lose healthcare or affordable housing — are living in fear of what comes next. ” – Silicon Valley Rising

Silicon Valley Rising is a coalition of community, faith-based and labor organizations that represent tech’s service workers. The coalition warns that “Trump’s policies present a dire threat to the lives and well-being of workers and contractors across the tech sector … be they immigrants, women, workers or Muslim Americans,” and are calling on tech companies “to play a leadership role in resisting unjust policies if they are put forward by the Trump Administration.”


Tech Oligarchs Meet Trump

Tech CEOs (a.k.a billionaires and a few lowly multimillionaires) (a.k.a “oligarchs”) met with President-Elect Donald Trump (billionaire, oligarch) Wednesday as tech’s workers called on them to “to take a stand and resist threats to the rights of workers, consumers and the communities they live in.”

Only heads of the largest companies were invited. Heads of startups and smaller tech companies were also not present. As the NY Times reported,

“This is a truly amazing group of people,” Mr. Trump said. “I won’t tell you the hundreds of calls we’ve had asking to come to this meeting.” Everyone laughed.

… Shortly after that, the press was ushered out of the room. It wasn’t immediately clear what unfolded after that.

However Twitter was cut from the meeting in retribution for the company refusing to create a “#CrookedHillary” emoji for the Trump campaign.


Oligarchs Want To Pocket Taxes They Owe

The tech oligarchs want deals to let them off the hook for taxes they owe on profits they have stashed in offshore tax havens. Companies have around $2.5 trillion of profits, on which they owe more than $700 billion in taxes. (See the Monday NYT op-ed Corporate Welfare Won’t Create Jobs.) Technology corporations have 29% of all untaxed offshore profits.

 

Will We the People get that $700 billion, or will Trump let them pocket it for themselves?


Oligarchs Likely Did Not Talk About Workers, Climate Change

While Silicon Valley Rising had asked the tech oligarchs to discuss “threats to the rights of workers, consumers and the communities they live in” other tech voices had also been speaking out out other Trump threats. From the NY Times report:

In the days and hours before the meeting, various factions made their positions clear. A group of engineers and other tech workers issued a statement asserting they would refuse to participate in the creation of databases that could be used by the government to target people based on their race, religion or national origin.

… Another group of entrepreneurs assembled virtually this week with the same goal of preventing any erosion of civil liberties. They also accepted “a responsibility to partner with communities where the effects of rapidly changing technologies have hurt our fellow Americans.” …

There is no indication whether any of these issues of concern were discussed. According to a Guardian report on the meeting, Trump did promise to make it easier to sell their products across borders:

The president-elect told the assembled CEOs that he would eliminate restrictions on international trade, a statement at odds with his hard stance against the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during his campaign.

Climate change is another area of importance for tech companies, like Tesla, maker of electric cars and batteries. It is not clear if this was discussed with Trump, who says climate change is a “hoax.”


The Full Silicon Valley Rising Statement

Silicon Valley Rising issued this statement:

We believe President-Elect Trump’s campaign commitments to deport millions of people, ban Muslims from entering the country and create a registry of Muslim Americans stand in stark contrast with the values many tech companies and industry leaders purport to uphold while also directly threatening workers within the sector.

President-Elect Trump’s policies present a dire threat to the lives and well-being of workers and contractors across the tech sector whose hard work day in and day out makes the success of these industries possible, and to millions of their customers  —  be they immigrants, women, workers or Muslim Americans.

Now is the time for the tech industry to step up as leaders, speak truth to power and live out the values of freedom, inclusion and opportunity. In doing so, the industry has an opportunity to be a beacon of hope for millions of Americans fearful of what comes next, and a model for how companies can begin to address the greatest economic challenges facing working families.

As leaders of community and faith-based organizations and labor unions who represent workers in the tech sector across Silicon Valley, we urge companies attending Wednesday’s meeting to play a leadership role in resisting unjust policies if they are put forward by the Trump Administration. Specifically, we call on companies to refuse to cooperate in the development of any registry monitoring Muslim Americans, sharing user and employee information or otherwise collaborate with law enforcement agencies to investigate violations of federal immigration law.

Since 2014, our Coalition has been working to encourage the largest companies in the tech sector to build an economy that works for everyone. We believe now more than ever is the time for technology companies to take actions to improve the economic prospects for workers in their operations including adopting responsible contractor standards to raise wages, improve conditions and support workers’ voices in their supply chains.

The solutions that address economic inequality in the tech sector are not going to come from the Trump Administration delivering tax cuts or slashing regulation for the industry. Instead, tech companies can begin to address these issues by leveraging the enormous power of their companies, their platforms and their supply chains to raise wages and job standards for their workers and contractors, positioning the tech sector as an example for industries across the economy.

Millions of families — undocumented workers, union members, women, Muslim Americans, low-wage workers who could lose healthcare or affordable housing — are living in fear of what comes next. At a time when racism, bigotry and economic hardship are driving our politics, it’s time for leaders in the tech sector to stand up for our communities and use their immense power and resources for good.

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

ETC.

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  • Second Amendment, Third Degree. Can’t we at least talk about how gun manufacturers are making and selling more powerful guns, which invariably are finding their way into the hands of criminals? The Trace


  • No evidence Trump sold off stock. “President-elect Donald Trump sold all of his stocks in June as he plunged into the costly general election campaign, his transition team abruptly announced Tuesday. His advisers provided no proof of the transactions and would not explain the apparent sell-off.”  Associated Press


  • “Americans Are Paying Apple Millions to Shelter Overseas Profits”: “Taking advantage of an exemption tucked into America’s Byzantine tax code, Apple stashed much of its foreign earnings—tax-free—right here in the U.S., in part by purchasing government bonds … In return, the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest…”  Bloomberg


  • Democrats plot to salvage domestic spending. “Several Democrats said they could see the two parties agreeing on a larger tax-and-spending deal that would boost both defense and infrastructure, but such a plan would likely face stiff resistance from GOP fiscal hardliners … More than a half-dozen congressional Democrats said in interviews it will be imperative to go into any negotiations demanding equal increases between defense and non-defense … The only way to enforce this ‘parity’ demand, though, is to threaten to deny Republicans the 60 votes needed to overcome a Senate filibuster … Another potential variable is whether Republicans can hold their own caucus together…”  Politico


  • Trump says he’ll “work something out” with DREAMers: “As for the people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as youths and now have work visas under Obama, Trump did not back off his pledge to end Obama’s executive orders. But he made clear he would like to find some future accommodation for them. ‘We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud … They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.‘”  Time

In West Virginia….

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►  Settlement Approved for Coal Mines Owned by Governor-Elect

A federal judge has approved a settlement requiring pollution reductions and a $900,000 civil penalty by Appalachian coal mines owned by West Virginia Governor-elect Jim Justice.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced the settlement in September with Southern Coal Corp. and 26 affiliates.

The settlement resolves allegations of Clean Water Act violations from Justice-owned mines in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

It requires Southern Coal to use an EPA-approved environmental management system, undergo compliance auditing, implement data tracking, and pay escalating penalties for future violations. It also calls for the company to set up a public website about water test results and to produce a $4.5 million letter of credit to ensure work is done.

U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad approved the consent decree this week, finding it “fair, adequate and reasonable” and not against the public interest.

Calls to Southern Coal and its attorney were not immediately returned Thursday. Company spokesman Tom Lusk said in September that most of the violations cited were from permits inherited from coal companies not previously owned by Southern Coal.

The civil penalty will be split between the federal government and Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. West Virginia withdrew from the lawsuit talks in early 2015, saying the company’s compliance had improved under state enforcement since 2008.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Cruden wrote in a brief last week, supporting approval, that the settlement followed lengthy negotiations. “It ensures compliance at existing operations, reaches beyond violating facilities to impose company-wide preventive measures, and addresses environmental concerns broader in scope than those alleged in the complaint — all the while avoiding the delay, risk, and expense of protracted litigation,“ he said.

The federal complaint, filed along with the proposed settlement in September, said the coal companies exceeded their permits for water pollution discharges or failed to sample water and monitor and report discharges “on numerous occasions.“ Environmental Protection Agency enforcement officer Laurie Ireland cited 852 violations in 2012, dropping to 405 last year and down to 272 so far year. There have been “notable improvements” in the mines’ compliance since negotiations began in 2014, she wrote in a court document filed December 02.


►  Governor Tomblin Applauds Wild, Wonderful West Virginia for Marketing Momentum

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today applauded Wild, Wonderful West Virginia for a report by Longwoods International that measured the impact of current marketing and advertising efforts. The report found that the state’s current branding and marketing campaign has significantly increased the positive image of West Virginia, while also doubling the return on investment in the campaign over the last year.

“Research shows that tourism is the fourth largest industry in the state, bringing with it $4.5 billion in travel spending and tens of thousands of jobs. Our investment in tourism last year not only helped to make these areas of growth possible, but we also have created tremendous momentum,” Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said. “While we have a lot to be proud of, there’s still work to be done as we collaborate with our tourism industry partners to make Wild, Wonderful West Virginia the premiere tourism destination.”

In 2014 Wild, Wonderful West Virginia (Division of Tourism) conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of past campaigns. In 2014, the report cited the travel and tourism industry in West Virginia returned in state taxes $7 for every $1 spent on advertising and marketing. The 2016 report shows substantial growth, with a $14 to $1 return on investment.

The report also indicates the Mountain State is closing the competitive gap on the impact and awareness of the image of West Virginia compared to surrounding states. In addition, the total visitor spending has increased from $96 per dollar spent on advertising in 2014 to $193 in 2016.

The report highlights how the impact of advertising awareness and visitation creates a “halo effect” that raises West Virginia’s image on key economic measures – most notably as a good place to live, a good place to start a career, a good place to start a business, a good place to retire, and a good place to attend college.

“This new report shows me strategic planning and aggressive tracking pays off, and robust investment in new photos, fresh video, and engaging content are paramount,” Commissioner of Tourism Amy Shuler Goodwin said. “Even though we’re still in the early stages of our campaign, we’re seeing great potential in new areas beyond our primary markets. Through new data we are finding we have a significant number of visitors coming from states such as New York, Texas, and Louisiana.”

The Wild, Wonderful West Virginia campaign generated more than $1.2 million trips to West Virginia and provided approximately $12 million in state and local taxes.


►  Appalachian Piping Products Inc. alleged to owe more than $60,000 for supplies

A Massachusetts resin supplier alleges a Glenville company has not paid for products supplied.

Mass Polymers Corp. filed a complaint on November 23 in the Gilmer Circuit Court against Appalachian Piping Products Inc. alleging breach of contract.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that since October 2014, defendant has made several orders of bulk resins from plaintiff for its manufacturing operations.

To date, the plaintiff alleges it has not receive payments for the total balance of more than $60,000.

The plaintiff holds Appalachian Piping Products Inc. responsible because the defendant allegedly breach its contract by failing to pay said amounts that remains due and owing.

The plaintiff requests a trial by jury and seeks judgment against defendant the principal amount of $65,786, plus demurrage charges of $2,350, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. It is represented by Daniel C. Cooper and Jamison H. Cooper of Cooper Law Offices PLLC in Bridgeport.


►  Nicholas County receiver Sebert-Sweeney given Moss Award

Nicholas County senior Carter Sebert-Sweeney went into the 2016 season with one thing on his mind — do whatever he could to get the Grizzlies back into the playoffs.

Sebert-Sweeney’s play helped accomplish that goal for his team, but it also earned him an award that he had never dreamed he would win.

As a result of his stellar play on the gridiron this season, the standout wide receiver was selected as the winner of the Randy Moss Award, given annually by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association to the state’s best high school receiver.

“That really sounds great. It is really a great honor,” Sebert-Sweeney said. “I never thought anything like this would happen, for sure. I am really surprised.”

While being overwhelmed by the award, Sebert-Sweeney, as he has all season, immediately passed the praise to his teammates.

“I have to thank my offensive line for blocking for (quarterback) Tate (Mayes),” Sebert-Sweeney said. “Me and Tate have been playing together since Little Bears football and just being together for all of those years really helped us form a great bond. We really know each other well and hang out all of the time. Our coaches were great and we had such a great team. I think that really helped me and Tate succeed, seeing we had such a great team around us.”

The numbers for Sebert-Sweeney are impressive, to say the least.

On just 32 receptions he tallied 830 yards — an average of nearly 26 yards per catch. But that was not his most impressive statistic.

Sebert-Sweeney scored 17 touchdowns on those 32 receptions in a season where he spent several halves on the bench during blowout wins by the Grizzlies.

“We knew coming into the season that he was a dynamic and explosive player, so we did some things to get him as many one-on-one matchups as we could,” Nicholas County head coach Gene Morris said. “We are a little biased in the fact that we think he can win most of those matchups.

“We had a pretty good guy to get him the ball. Him and Tate worked great together, but getting that many touchdowns in that many touches is a tribute to how hard he has worked.”

Sebert-Sweeney shined in the big games. In a road win over James Monroe, a team that made it to the Class AA semifinals, he scored on an 89-yard touchdown pass and finished the game with five grabs for 154 yards.

His biggest night of the season came against Westside, when he hauled in six passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns.

He displayed his versatility against Shady Spring, scoring four touchdowns in the first half.

Along with two touchdowns on just three receptions, Sebert-Sweeney returned a punt 83 yards for a score and a kickoff 61 yards for another touchdown.

Being named the Moss Award winner was not the only surprise for Sebert-Sweeney — even playing wide receiver was, too.

“I actually played running back when I was younger,” Sebert-Sweeney explained. “I always thought I would be a running back because in my third grade year I rushed for, like, 1,100 yards. We dominated the league and won the Super Bowl in our little division. But as soon as I got to high school, I played wide receiver.”

No doubt the move to wide receiver was great for him and the Grizzlies.

“Even as a sophomore he had really good athleticism,” Morris said. “He was just learning the offense at that point, but he could still contribute on a varsity level. He didn’t play JV at all. He stepped up and helped us immediately on the varsity level, even in his first season.”

And that sophomore season, while successful, gave Sebert-Sweeney the full understanding of what it takes to play on the varsity level.

“I didn’t play my freshman year, but after my sophomore year I could tell I wasn’t strong enough because I got pushed around a little,” Sebert-Sweeney explained. “So I started lifting weights after my sophomore year and I started running more.”

It was a work ethic that really impressed his coach.

“To me he is just a great guy and it has been a pleasure to coach him,” Morris said proudly. “He is somebody that is not only a great athlete and somebody that has worked really hard, but he is a total team player. He understands that he will be moving on after this season. So his ability to work with the younger receivers and help them understand our offense has been impressive. He is a total team player.”

East Hardy’s Brett Tharp was second in the voting, followed by Isaac Brown from Martinsburg and Chase Riley from Lincoln.

The Moss Award is named for former DuPont High School receiver Randy Moss, who went on to win the 1997 Biletnikoff Award at Marshall and was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFL Draft.


►  PSC approves fuel costs settlement between Mon Power, Potomac Edison

The state Public Service Commission has approved a settlement between Mon Power and Potomac Edison in connection with fuel prices.

According to a news release, the agreement allows for the recovery of costs for fuel, purchased power expenses, energy efficiency programs and environmental controls incurred by the utilities to provide safe and reliable electricity to customers.

As a result, the monthly bill for an average customer will rise about 1.9 percent or $2.13. Even with the increase, rates for Mon Power and Potomac Edison residential customers will be more than 13 percent below the national average.

The new rates begin January 01, 2017, and will remain in place until December 31, 2018.


►  Woman Appears in Court Following Deadly Lewis County Collision

The Harrison County woman accused in the DUI death of a Jane Lew woman has appeared in court.

Lewis county deputies say 26-year-old Whitney Chipps was traveling on Route 19 when her car hit and killed Erin Marshall-Heater earlier this month.

Chipps was schueduled to have a preliminary hearing Thursday morning, but chose to waive the time period requirement.

She is charged with DUI resulting in death.

Chipps will get a court-appointed attorney and will appear in court again on December 20.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

TRAUMATIZED SURVIVORS OF ALEPPO BOMBARDMENT EVACUATE

A smiling President Bashar Assad called it a historic event comparable to the birth of Christ and the revelation of the Quran, while a U.N. official described it as “a black chapter in the history of international relations.“


DYLANN ROOF CONVICTED IN SLAUGHTER OF NINE BLACK CHURCH MEMBERS

The same federal jury that found Roof guilty of all 33 counts will reconvene next month to hear more testimony and weigh whether to sentence him to death.


OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SUGGESTS PUTIN PERSONALLY AUTHORIZED HACKING

The White House also assailed President-elect Donald Trump, saying he must have known of Russia’s interference in the presidential elections.


WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS UNLIKELY TO UPEND TRUMP PRESIDENCY

AP interviews with more than 330 electors from both parties found little appetite for a revolt.


TRACES OF EXPLOSIVES FOUND ON VICTIMS OF EGYPT AIR FLIGHT FROM PARIS

The finding could deal another major blow to the country’s vital tourism sector.


WHAT MEASURES FACEBOOK IS TAKING TO FIGHT FAKE NEWS

The social media network will focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers including The Associated Press.


EX-MILWAUKEE OFFICER CHARGED IN FATAL SHOOTING OF BLACK MAN

Prosecutors alleged that the man, Sylville Smith, had thrown his gun away and was unarmed when Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown fired the fatal shot.


WHY TEXAS IS NO LONGER THE NATION’S LEADER IN EXECUTIONS

The change is because of growing legal and public hesitance to impose the ultimate punishment, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.


SCIENTISTS FIND GLOBAL WARMING PLAYED ROLE IN 24 WEIRD WEATHER CASES

The events last year included 11 cases of high heat, unusual winter sunshine in the United Kingdom, Alaskan wildfires and odd “sunny day” flooding in Miami, according to an annual report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


COLORFUL NBA REPORTER CRAIG SAGER DIES AT 65

The man known as much for his outrageous wardrobe as his relationships with the NBA’s elite succumbed to cancer after a 2-year battle.


Yahoo has admitted to a new massive hack in 2013

1 billion user accounts were stolen from the company, it says.


Donald Trump met with top tech leaders on Wednesday

But critics lambasted the fact that his children sat in on the meeting, The Hill reports.


Amazon has officially made its first ever commercial drone delivery

It delivered a bag of popcorn and an Amazon TV gadget to a customer in Cambridge, England.


Intelligence officials reportedly believe Putin was directly involved in the U.S. Democratic Party hack

The Russian president apparently sought to undermine the American election and support Trump.


A group of Google employees spent their “20% time” making Google Maps wheelchair-friendly

The app will now tell you if a venue is suitable for people with access needs.


Infidelity dating website Ashley Madison has been fined $1.6 million over its notorious 2015 hack

The sexual preferences and private lives of tens of millions of users were exposed.


Cisco’s hated rival Arista has won a huge court victory

A San Jose, California court ruled Arista did not infringe on Cisco’s patents and copyrights.


Evernote’s users are vowing to ditch the service over a questionable new privacy policy, Fast Company reports

The note-taking app lets employees read users’ notes.


The Californian DMV has criticised Uber for its self-driving car pilot in San Francisco, calling it “illegal.“

Uber did not seek a permit before launching it, The Wall Street Journal reports.


Facebook plans to bankroll its own TV shows

It wants “scripted, unscripted, and sports content,“ an exec said.

In USA….

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►  The 5 Healthiest States

What is the healthiest state in the USA? For the fifth straight year, the winner is … Hawaii, according to America’s Health Rankings. The Aloha State snagged the top spot for its low rates of uninsured people and obesity, though it scores above average for excessive drinking, reports USA Today. In last place was Mississippi, which fell the only place it had to go from No. 49 last year, faulted for problems including widespread childhood poverty, low birthweight, and smoking. (Iowa, at No. 17, was the most improved state.) The annual ranking relies on CDC data on a range of health and well-being measures. Here are the top five:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Connecticut
  4. Minnesota
  5. Vermont

Click for the FULL REPORT.


►  NJ Trooper Accused of Covering Up Creative Dating Method

Lots of people fall in love at work, but one New Jersey state trooper seemingly took this life goal to the extreme and is now paying the price for it. NJ.com reports that Marquice Prather, 37, was arrested Friday on records tampering charges and suspended without pay after authorities say he’d taken to pulling women over in their cars and asking them out on dates. He’s also accused of trying to cover it up so he wouldn’t get caught.

Per CBS News, the three-year veteran of the force would target women between the ages of 20 and 35 and try to get their phone numbers or get them to go out with him, prosecutors say. Where the cover-up allegations come in: He’s accused of falsifying the genders of people he pulled over in police logs so his pattern wouldn’t be noticed, as well as of switching off the wireless mic he was wearing and reporting it hadn’t been working right.


►  Here’s who sat where during Trump’s big meeting with tech leaders

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►  Man With Dementia Shot Dead by Cop Was Armed— With a Crucifix

More details are emerging out of California on the 73-year-old man with dementia who was shot dead by police on Monday. Police now say that Francisco Serna wasn’t holding a gun, as one Bakersfield neighbor who called 911 reported, but instead a crucifix, the Los Angeles Times reports. “During a search of Mr. Serna, a dark colored simulated woodgrain crucifix was recovered,“ a Bakersfield Police Department statement read, per USA Today. “Mr. Serna was not armed at the time of the shooting. No firearm has been recovered.“ The police report said a neighbor was being dropped off outside her home around 12:30am Monday by a friend and was confronted by Serna, who wanted to know if she lived there and who she said had his right hand “concealed inside his jacket.“

She told cops she saw “a dark brown or black handled object that she believed was a gun” in his jacket and ran inside her home, where she told her husband to call the authorities. One of Serna’s daughters tells Time that her father had recently started carrying around a 6-inch crucifix, perhaps for “security” because “there were moments where he thought he was going to die of old age.“ The cop who fired the seven shots at Serna has been identified by the Bakersfield PD as Reagan Selman, who’s been with the force since July 2015. He and six other cops at the incident have been placed on administrative leave. A note at the end of USA Today’s report: The Bakersfield Police Department was cited as one of the deadliest in the country in last year’s Mapping Police Violence study.


►  British Man Sentenced Over Plot to Kill Trump

A British man who confessed to plotting to kill Donald Trump has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal custody for trying to grab a police officer’s gun at a rally in Las Vegas earlier this year. Michael Steven Sandford, a 20-year-old who has been diagnosed with autism, pleaded guilty in September to being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and to impeding and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business and official functions, charges that could have sent him to prison for 20 years if the case had gone to trial, the Guardian reports. The BBC reports that Sandford was tearful as he apologized in court for what he had done and for costing the taxpayers money. “I just feel terrible about it,“ he said.

“You have a medical problem. You should not be ashamed or embarrassed about it. You need medication,“ the judge told Sandford. “You’re not evil or a sociopath like a lot of people we have. I don’t think you wanted to kill anybody. This was just some crazy stunt that your mind told you to do.“ According to court papers, Sandford was in the US illegally on an expired tourist visa at the time of the June 18 rally. After he was arrested for trying to grab the officer’s gun, he told Secret Service agents he had driven there from California to kill Trump. With credit for time served and good behavior, Sandford will probably be out of prison and deported back to Britain in another four months, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.


►  Boy Dies After City Workers Dump Snow on Him, Friend

A young New York boy is dead after workers inadvertently dumped a mountain of snow on him and his friend Tuesday, the Albany Times Union reports. Policy say the boys—13-year-old Joshua Demarest and 12-year-old Tyler Day—were playing in a snow pile on a private lot in Greenwich after school; they “burrowed” into the large pile to create forts. But the lot where they were playing is also where the Department of Public Works dumps snow cleared from sidewalks. Workers apparently dropped a massive amount of snow on top of the boys without ever realizing they were there. Hours later, Tyler’s sister reported them missing and a search was launched, according to News 10.

Searchers found footprints leading to the lot, and police dogs pointed to the snow pile. More than a dozen police and firefighters worked to dig the boys out. “They moved an enormous amount of snow…to recover those boys,“ says Bell, who the Daily Gazette reports estimated the boys were trapped under at least seven tons. Both boys were taken to the hospital after being stuck in the snow for nearly four hours. Joshua later died. Police are calling Tyler’s survival a “miracle,“ but his father says he’s struggling with the death of his friend. Also struggling are the workers, who police say couldn’t have known the boys were there. “The guys are devastated,“ the Department of Public Works superintendent tells News 10.


►  An Entire Town’s Police Force Just Resigned

A small Indiana town is entirely without a police force after a series of resignations Monday. (Ed. Note: Criminals, please don’t read any farther.) The AP reports Bunker Hill’s town marshal and four unpaid reserve deputies submitted their letters of resignation during Monday’s town council meeting. In his letter of resignation, town marshal Michael Thomison accused the council of asking him and his deputies to “be involved in illegal, unethical, and immoral things,“ according to the Kokomo Tribune. Those activities included requests for confidential information and criminal background checks on fellow council members. Thomison tells Fox 59 deputies were threatened when they refused those requests and were forced to share one set of body armor while dealing with criminals.

Thomison says he “felt like [council members] were serving their own agenda.“ “The town has refused to educate themselves on how to run a town; they continue to carry out their personal agendas,“ he tells the Tribune. Thomison says he was also personally wronged by the council. After being diagnosed with cancer last year, he says the council informed him it would be making him part time to get out of providing his health insurance, which was “costing the town way too much money.“ When informed of the resignation of the town’s entire police force, the council president said: “It is what it is.“ Bunker Hill’s building commissioner and council vice president also resigned Monday. County deputies will patrol the town until a new marshal is hired.


►  ‘Granny Gem Thief’ With 20 Arrests Adds Another

Her life of crime has involved more than 20 arrests on two continents over six decades—and, apparently, Doris Payne isn’t done. The 86-year-old woman, dubbed the “granny gem thief,“ was arrested Tuesday at a mall in an Atlanta suburb where she’s accused of trying to steal a $2,000 necklace, reports WXIA. Police say Payne slipped the diamond necklace into her pocket at a department store and tried to leave, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The California woman was last arrested in October 2015 when police say she took $700 earrings from an Atlanta store. She was found to have a warrant in North Carolina, where she was accused of stealing a $33,000 engagement ring, but wasn’t extradited due to health concerns.

Payne—whose crimes were chronicled in the 2013 documentary The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, available on Netflix—had previously been arrested in Greece, Switzerland, France, and beyond. In a 2014 interview, she said she started stealing watches in her 20s to escape a life of poverty in West Virginia and kept up the habit in later life. She’s stolen $2 million worth of jewelry over her lifetime, per the Journal-Constitution, which notes she tends to serve only a short time in jail before getting let out for good behavior. The Desert Sun reports she’s also been released from jail because of overcrowding. “I don’t have any regrets about stealing jewelry,“ Payne says in the documentary. “I regret getting caught.“


►  Jurors convict Dylann Roof on all counts in church slayings

Dylann Roof was convicted Thursday in the chilling attack on nine black church members who were shot to death last year during a Bible study, affirming the prosecution’s portrayal of a young white man who hoped the slayings would start a race war or bring back segregation.

Instead, the single biggest change to emerge from the June 17, 2015, slayings that shocked the nation was the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse, where it had flown for 50 years over the Capitol or on the grounds. Roof appeared with the flag in several photos in a racist manifesto.

In his confession to the FBI, the gunman said he carried out the killings after researching “black on white crime” on the internet. He said he chose a church because that setting posed little danger to him.

As the verdict was read, Roof just stared ahead, much as he did the entire trial. Family members of victims held hands and squeezed one another’s arms. One woman nodded her head every time the clerk said “guilty.“ In all, Roof was convicted of 33 counts.

Jurors will reconvene early next month to hear more testimony and decide whether Roof gets the death penalty or life in prison. Roof told the judge again Thursday that he wanted to act as his own attorney during the penalty phase.

In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams mocked Roof for calling himself brave in his hate-filled journal and during his confession, saying the real bravery came from the victims who tried to stop him as he fired 77 bullets at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church.

“Those people couldn’t see the hatred in his heart any more than they could see the .45-caliber handgun and the eight magazines concealed around his waist,“ Williams said.

Defense lawyer David Bruck conceded Roof committed the slayings, but he asked jurors to look into his head and see what caused him to become so full of hatred, calling him a suicidal loner who never grasped the gravity of what he did.

The defense put up no witnesses during the seven-day trial. They tried to present evidence about his mental state, but the judge ruled that it did not have anything to do with Roof’s guilt or innocence.

Roof was just imitating what he saw on the internet and believed he had to give his life to “a fight to the death between white people and black people that only he” could see and act on, Bruck said.

Williams’ 50-minute closing argument filled the court with tension. At times, the prosecutor raised his voice, saying Roof was a cold, calculated killer. Some family members of victims dabbed their eyes with tissues, and jurors appeared emotional when Williams, after apologizing to them, showed crime scene photos of each person killed alongside a small picture of them while alive.

Those pictures included the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, Emanuel AME’s pastor and a state senator; Myra Thompson, 59, who taught Bible study that night — the same night she was licensed to preach; Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian who stayed to support Thompson; Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, who friends said sang like an angel and was also license to preach the day of the shootings; Daniel “Dapper Dan” Simmons, 74, nicknamed for his shiny shoes and fine hats; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a high school track coach heavily involved in the church’s youth programs; Ethel Lance, 70, the church sexton who kept the bathrooms and building immaculately clean; Susie Jackson, 87, who sang in the choir and sent generations through the church; and Tywanza Sanders, 26, Jackson’s nephew and an aspiring poet who wanted to work with children.

The prosecutor said the good of all those faithful churchgoers prevailed over Roof’s hatred.

“This defendant chose to take their lives. He chose to break their bodies. But he does not get to choose who they were,“ Williams said.

In a lengthy recording played earlier at trial, Roof told FBI agents he picked Mother Emanuel because of its historic significance in the black community. The church is the oldest in the South and one of its founders Denmark Vesey led a failed 1822 slave rebellion that drove the church underground.

Roof, who was convicted of federal hate crimes and obstruction of religion, said he had felt compelled to act because of the way blacks treated whites and said the shootings were “minuscule” in comparison.

The prosecutor recounted other evidence, like how Roof sat in the church parking lot for 28 minutes in his car, likely loading the 88 bullets — a number embraced symbolically by white supremacists — into eight magazines. Roof was handed a Bible as he sat in the prayer service for nearly 45 minutes before opening fire when the worshippers closed their eyes for the final prayer. He reloaded a half-dozen times and left behind three survivors, telling one woman that he wanted to keep her alive so that she could tell the world about the shootings.

After the shootings, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley threw her support behind removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse. She had spent years in office calling it a settled issue.

“It is my hope that the survivors, the families, and the people of South Carolina can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served,“ she said in a statement.


12.16.2016
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►  Government Issues a Most Canadian Warning

Oh, Canada! The Alberta government is warning motorists to beware of moose that lick. That is, don’t physically try to stop them. The Peter Lougheed Provincial Park west of Calgary has experienced an influx of moose who enjoy sampling the salt caked to the windows and doors of parked vehicles, reports CBC News.

If you had the idea of getting between a 1,000-pound moose and its pleasure, think again. Do not to “attempt to push moose away from your vehicle while on foot,“ says Alberta Parks. Instead, sound your horn or activate your key fob’s panic button. A number is provided to report “all aggressive moose encounters.“


►  China’s Man-Made Islands Are Now Weaponized

China appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea, a US security think tank says, upping the stakes in what many see as a potential Asian powder keg. The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report late Wednesday that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attacks have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands. The outposts were built in recent years over objections by the US and rival claimants by piling sand on top of coral reefs, followed by the construction of military-grade 10,000-foot airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, radar stations, and other infrastructure, the AP reports. CSIS based its conclusions on satellite images taken in mid- to late November and published on its Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative website.

In a statement, China’s Defense Ministry repeated that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes, but it added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.“ “For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready even a slingshot?“ the statement said. A Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters he had no information about the reported weaponry, but said such deployments were China’s sovereign right. China’s new island armaments “show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,“ CSIS experts wrote in the report. “Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases.“


►  Aleppo Evacuation Is On, Despite Reports of Sniper Fire

Rescuers are trying again to evacuate the last civilians trapped by fighting in eastern Aleppo, and reports surfaced of deadly sniper fire even before the buses left. But this time, it appears the evacuation is proceeding, unlike the aborted effort on Wednesday. Under a new deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, civilians and anti-government rebels in the last sliver of eastern Aleppo that was still under rebel control were to board ambulances and buses for the trip out. But as people were beginning to do so, government snipers opened fire, killing one and injuring about six more, a rescue service spokesman tells Reuters.

So far, however, the operation has not been called off, and the vehicles have reportedly begun their journey. Russia has promised to use drones to monitor the convoy for safety. The evacuation will mark a huge win for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in the nearly 6-year-old civil war, allowing him to reclaim the city of Aleppo. Wednesday’s deal fell through for reasons that illustrate the tangled interests at stake in the fighting: While the deal was arranged by Turkey and Russia, Iran and the Syrian government balked because they were not consulted, reports the New York Times.


►  Hopeful Pot Thieves Should’ve Had Botanist in Their Crew

Botanists they aren’t. Modern Farmer reports three people were arrested last month in Canada after allegedly breaking onto a hops farm they thought was a pot farm. A farmer on Prince Edward Island called police November 26 after seeing two men and a woman on his property. Authorities arrested the trio they say mistakenly believed the hop farmer was a pot farmer. The suspects allegedly damaged a bunch of hops already packaged for transportation to a local brewery. “This senseless act has impacted the farm’s ability to provide quality product to market,” police said in a statement. While two of the suspects weren’t named, 23-year-old Warren Howatt was charged with various crimes, including breaking and entering and theft of kitchen utensils, according to the Guardian.


►  Man Sues After Drones Kill His Relatives

In August 2012, a US drone strike in Yemen killed two innocent men, and the US should apologize for their deaths, according to a historic lawsuit filed by Yemeni engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber. Jaber, who wants the drone strike that killed his family members Ahmed Salem Bin Ali Jaber and Waleed Bin Ali Jaber to be declared unlawful, filed the suit against the Obama administration in 2015. It was dismissed by the lower courts in February of this year, but Jaber appealed—making this the “first ever US appellate court hearing in a case brought by a civilian victim of the covert drone program,“ per UK-based human rights organization Reprieve, which is backing the suit.

Jaber appeared before a US appellate court on Tuesday in Washington DC, but before the hearing, he wrote to Obama to ask for an apology and an acknowledgement that his relatives were innocent. If that had been issued, he would have dropped his suit. An attorney with Reprieve has called the suit “a last resort to get something that should be very simple: an acknowledgment that his relatives were wrongly killed, and a public apology for their tragic deaths.“ Jaber also wants Obama to release more details about civilians killed by drone strikes. “The only thing that can prevent the mistakes of the past from repeating themselves in the future is accountability,“ Jaber wrote in his letter to Obama. Fusion notes that the court proceedings could ultimately “[peel] back some of the layers of secrecy surrounding America’s use of drones in its wars.“


►  Pageant Accused of Caving to China, Silencing Beauty Queen

“Why is a powerful country like China so afraid of a beauty queen?“ Anastasia Lin asked in 2015 after the country denied her a visa to keep her from competing in the annual Miss World pageant being held there. The New York Times reports the 26-year-old Canadian beauty queen has rubbed China the wrong way because she uses her platform to speak out against the country’s human rights abuses. “I don’t care about all this—the hair, the dresses,” Lin tells the Boston Globe. “I just want to get to that stage and be the voice for people who are silenced.” But now family and friends say Lin is the one being silenced, threatened with being booted from the 2016 Miss World pageant—funded largely by Chinese companies despite being held in the US this year—if she continues to speak her mind.

Moments after Lin gave the Globe the above quote, pageant officials broke up the interview. And sources tell the Hollywood Reporter that Miss World has turned down requests from the AP, Times, and Reuters to interview Lin. After a State Department official requested to meet with Lin, Miss World reportedly insisted on a pageant chaperone. Lin, also an actor, is the star of The Bleeding Edge, a film about China harvesting organs from members of a banned religious group that is premiering in the US on Wednesday. Organizers of the premiere say Miss World is banning her from attending. The head of the Miss World pageant denies any sort of “gag order” on Lin, saying she’s free to attend events and speak with anyone she wishes.


►  Explaining UK’s ‘Trousergate’: Drama Over $1265 Pants

Theresa May’s choice of pants has turned into quite a big deal in the UK. The British prime minister was photographed for a November interview with the Sunday Times while wearing $1,265 brown leather pants from UK designer Amanda Wakeley, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The Conservative Party tumult that has followed, per the BBC: MP and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told the Times that the pants had been “noticed and discussed” in Tory circles, adding, “I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on anything apart from my wedding dress.“ Then MP Nadine Dorries got on Morgan‘s case, noting that Morgan had “never criticized David Cameron’s [reportedly $5,400] suits,“ making her comments “sexist.“ Morgan then saw her invitation to a private Brexit-strategy meeting with May and others rescinded, the Guardian reports.

Photographs were produced showing Morgan carrying a purse (reportedly a gift) that cost about as much as May’s pants; angry text messages between May’s joint chief of staff, yet another MP, and Morgan were leaked; it was revealed that May holds a discount card to the Amanda Wakeley store; and on and on. Some media outlets agreed with Morgan, and May was asked during whether the pants might have been an elitist choice. (Her response was to talk about “the importance of a country that works for everyone.“) The controversy, dubbed “Trousergate,“ still hasn’t died more than two weeks after the original photo shoot, and it’s really about Brexit, the Daily Beast explains: “Morgan is a renegade Tory ‘Remainer’ who was sacked by May when she came to power, and now stands accused of seeking to undermine Mrs. May by attacking her pants.“


►  Duterte: I Used to Look for Confrontations ‘So I Could Kill

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has gone even further than supporting vigilante death squads—when he was mayor of Davao, he killed criminals himself, he said during a speech Monday night. “I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble,“ he said. “I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill. ... Just to show the guys [police] that if I can do it, why can’t you?“ Duterte, who has been nicknamed Duterte Harry after Dirty Harry, was discussing his campaign against illegal drugs at the time. He has previously expressed support for civilians taking matters into their own hands and killing drug addicts, but human rights groups have accused him of running death squads in Davao that even killed children accused of petty crimes, DW reports.

More than 5,000 people have been killed by police and “unknown assailants” since Duterte took office at the end of June, about 2,000 of them in official anti-drug operations, the Guardian reports. Duterte has also said he won’t prosecute police for extrajudicial executions, while insisting he and his security forces won’t directly participate in illegal killings. Human rights groups are concerned about order in the country deteriorating, as masked assailants are also known to kill those simply suspected to be drug traffickers or users, and both hired assassins and “hit squads” secretly made up of police officers are believed to be allowed to kill without consequences. The Washington Post says that Monday night’s comments should have been shocking, but his supporters keep shrugging such admissions off.


►  Inflatable doll ‘gift’ to minister sparks anger in Chile

A prominent Chilean business leader presented the country’s economy minister with an inflatable doll on stage at an event late on Tuesday, sparking a social media storm and criticism by President Michelle Bachelet.

Exporters’ association Asexma traditionally gives humorous gifts to VIPs attending its annual dinner, but the inflated sex toy - which was handed to economy minister Luis Cespedes with the comment that it could be used to “stimulate the economy” - backfired.

Photos of the event in local media showed a grinning Cespedes holding the life-sized blow-up doll on stage, alongside other ministers - all male - clutching their gifts, which included a blond wig meant to represent U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

“The fight for respect for women has been an essential principle in my two governments,“ said Bachelet, Chile’s first female leader, on her Twitter account. “What occurred at the Asexma dinner cannot be tolerated”.

Her comment was retweeted more than 1,200 times, and echoed by others.

“I am an entrepreneur and union member,“ tweeted small business owner Jacqueline Galvez. “This kind of situation is unacceptable.“

Center-left Bachelet ran the country between 2006 and 2010 and began her second term in 2014, with her first administration in particular notable for the number of women appointed to cabinet posts. In between the two terms, she led U.N. Women.

However, glaring inequalities persist in many areas of Chile’s traditionally ‘machista’ society. Access to abortion is illegal, skimpily dressed female ‘promoters’ are a common sight at business and sporting events, and women’s participation in the labor market remains relatively low.

“The event with the Asexma doll proves right those who say that our business world is ignorant and isolationist,“ tweeted political scientist Cristobal Bellolio.

Cespedes said the gift was unexpected, but apologized, as did Asexma head, Roberto Fantuzzi.

‘Ministro de Economia’, ‘Ministro Cespedes’ and ‘Roberto Fantuzzi’ were all trending on Twitter in Chile on Wednesday, as was the hashtag #munecainflable, the Spanish for inflatable doll.


►  Putin’s barking dog take center stage at media interview

Ahead of his visit to Japan later this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin brought his dog Yume into an interview with Japanese journalists, and the large Akita breed made sure she as well as her master were well heard.

Putin gave an interview to Nippon Television and Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in Moscow on Tuesday, accompanied at first by Yume, who was given to him by Japan’s Akita Prefecture in 2012.

Yume, who was not on a leash, entered the room quietly but she soon began barking loudly at the media crew, who stood still and smiled at the dog. Putin eventually drew Akita’s attention with treats before showing some tricks she can do.

“We are glad to see Yume happy and cheerful. However, we were a bit surprised and afraid that the beginning of the meeting would be like this,“ one of the journalists said, according to a Kremlin transcript of the interview.

Putin said Yume was protective of him. “You were right to take caution, Yume is a no-nonsense dog,“ he said. “There are many people here, with camcorders running, lights shining and cameras clicking. She is being a guard dog.“

A decade ago, with cameras running, Putin allowed his big black labrador Koni to bound into a room where he was receiving German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Black Sea residence, ignoring warnings from protocol that she has a fear of dogs.

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