Teacher vs. Student
Teacher: A student told me I ‘couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.’ Here’s what I did then.
Emily E. Smith is a fifth-grade social justice and English language arts teacher at Cunningham Elementary School in Austin. She was just awarded the 2015 Donald H. Graves Excellence in the Teaching of Writing award given at the National Teachers of English Language Arts Convention in Minneapolis. Smith created and founded The Hive Society, a classroom that inspires children to creatively explore literature through critical thinking and socially relevant texts.
In her speech accepting the award, Smith talked about a seminal moment in her career when she realized she needed to change her approach to teaching students of color, one of whom told her that she couldn’t understand his problems because she is white. The following is an excerpt of the speech in which she discusses her transformation (and which I am publishing with permission).
From Smith’s speech:
I’m white. My classroom is not. Sure, it’s been my dream to work at an “urban” school. To work with kids whose challenges I could never even fathom at such a young age. And changing at-risk lives through literature is almost a media cliché by now. These were, however, how I identified myself at the beginning of my teaching career. I was a great teacher. I taught children how to truly write for the first time and share meaningful connections on a cozy carpet. We made podcasts about music lyrics and filled our favorite books so full with annotated sticky notes that they would barely close. We even tiptoed into the alien world of free verse poetry.
But something was missing. If you’ve already forgotten, I’m white. “White” is kind of an uncomfortable word to announce, and right now people may already be unnerved about where this is going. Roughly 80 percent of teachers in the United States today are white. Yet the population of our students is a palette. That means America’s children of color will, for the majority of their school years, not have a teacher who is a reflection of their own image. Most of their school life they will be told what to do and how to do it by someone who is white, and most likely female. Except for a few themed weeks, America’s children of color will read books, watch videos, analyze documents and study historical figures who are also not in their image.
I’ve been guilty of that charge. But things changed for me the day when, during a classroom discussion, one of my kids bluntly told me I “couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.” I had to agree with him. I sat there and tried to speak openly about how I could never fully understand and went home and cried, because my children knew about white privilege before I did. The closest I could ever come was empathy.
My curriculum from then on shifted. We still did all of the wonderful things that I had already implemented in the classroom, except now the literature, the documents, the videos, the discussions, the images embodied the issues that my children wanted to explore. We studied the works of Sandra Cisneros, Pam Munoz Ryan and Gary Soto, with the intertwined Spanish language and Latino culture — so fluent and deep in the memories of my kids that I saw light in their eyes I had never seen before. We analyzed Langston Hughes’s “Let America be America” again from the lens of both historical and current events and realized that the United States is still the land that has never been. The land that my kids, even after reading an excerpt from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son that connected so deeply to their personal experiences, decided they still wanted to believe in. The land they decided to still hope for. The land that one of my kids quietly said would be changed by her generation. A generation of empathy.
We read about the Syrian crisis, analyzing photographs of war-torn faces at the border and then wrote poetry of hope, despair and compassion from the perspectives of the migrants. Many of my kids asked to write about their own journeys across the border and their [dreams] for a better future. One child cried and told me he never had a teacher who honored the journey his family took to the United States. He told me he was not ashamed anymore, but instead proud of the sacrifice his parents made for him.
We listened to StoryCorps podcasts by people from different walks of life, and children shared their own stories of losing pets, saying goodbye to a mother or father in jail, the fear of wearing a hoodie while walking to a 7-Eleven, and thriving under the wing of a single parent who works two jobs.
So as I stand here today I can declare that I am no longer a language arts and social studies teacher, but a self-proclaimed teacher of social justice and the art of communication with words.
Looking back, I think that my prior hesitation to talk about race stemmed from a lack of social education in the classroom. A lack of diversity in my own life that is, by no means, the fault of my progressive parents, but rather a broken and still segregated school system. Now that I’m an educator in that system, I’ve decided to stand unflinching when it comes to the real issues facing our children today, I’ve decided to be unafraid to question injustice, unafraid to take risks in the classroom — I am changed. And so has my role as a teacher.
I can’t change the color of my skin or where I come from or what the teacher workforce looks like at this moment, but I can change the way I teach. So I am going to soapbox about something after all. Be the teacher your children of color deserve. In fact, even if you don’t teach children of color, be the teacher America’s children of color deserve, because we, the teachers, are responsible for instilling empathy and understanding in the hearts of all kids. We are responsible for the future of this country.
So teach the texts that paint all the beautiful faces of our children and tell the stories of struggle and victory our nation has faced. Speak openly and freely about the challenges that are taking place in our country at this very moment. Talk about the racial and class stereotypes plaguing our streets, our states, our society. You may agree that black and brown lives matter, but how often do you explore what matters to those lives in your classroom?
Put aside your anxieties and accept your natural biases. Donald Graves once said, “Children need to hang around a teacher who is asking bigger questions of herself than she is asking of them.” I know I’m going to continue to ask the bigger questions of myself and seek the answers that sometimes feel impossible, because my kids deserve it … you’re welcome to join me. Thank you.
Feeding The Hungry
Hunters Encouraged To Donate Deer To The Hungry
Families who depend on one of the state’s 600 food programs could benefit from donations to Hunters Helping the Hungry.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources program, initiated in 1992, encourages hunters to donate deer for processing and delivery to the Mountaineer Food Bank.
From there, the ground venison is distributed to pantries and shelters in 48 of the state’s 55 counties.
“The DNR has worked very hard this year to excite everybody about the program and excite the meat processors to participate in the program. I’m hoping there’s a great turnout and that there’s a lot of people to donate,” said Mountaineer Food Bank executive director Chad Morrison.
Hunters finished the opening day of firearm deer season with a harvest of 20,105 bucks. That is up 77 percent from opening day 2014.
The deer are more plentiful and officials indicated they are larger than what hunters were seeing last year.
A good first day in November could mean increased donations to the food bank following a taxing holiday season.
“January, we don’t have a lot on inventory. Most of the food pantries don’t have any mean whatsoever,” Morrison explained. “So the timing works really well because it really replenishes the food bank and the food pantries at the right time.”
There are 16 processors in the state taking donations until the end of December at no cost to hunters. A list of participating processors in 6 districts across the state can be seen by clicking here.
“The processors package it and ground it up and put it into 2 pound packages. Then the food bank distributes it to our feeding programs,” according to Morrison.
An annual fundraiser helps cover processing expenses which are an estimated $1.45 per pound. An average sized deer provides a little more than 35 pounds of ground venison, enough for 142 meals.
“It’s one of those items we can’t get into the food bank enough. It’s not donated really frequently. Food pantries, they love it when we’re able to get it in,” Morrison said.
Deer donations dropped by half from 2007 to 2013.
“It kind of slacked off there to where we weren’t able to provide all of our food pantries with deer meat. It was kind of a down year for us. Hopefully this year kind of bounces back,” Morrison added.
Eight years ago, 48,789 pounds of ground venison ended up in local food pantries. Two years ago the total was just 19,247 pounds.
Remembering an Early Civil Rights Victory in West Virginia
One-hundred and seventeen years ago this month the West Virginia Supreme Court issued one of its most significant decisions in the state’s history on the issue of civil rights. The case was Williams v. Board of Education of Fairfax District.
The case began in the 1890’s. The Tucker County School Board decided to reduce the school term for black students to five months to save money, while keeping the full eight month term for white students.
Carrie Williams, a black teacher at the “colored” school in Coketon went to J.R. Clifford, the state’s first black attorney and early civil rights leader, for advice. Clifford told her to keep teaching for the full eight months without pay.
Clifford took the case to court, arguing Williams was due $120 for duties she performed. The school board countered that Williams had no written contract. The local court ruled in Williams’ favor and the board appealed to the State Supreme Court.
On November 16th, 1898, the high court ruled in Williams’ favor in a decision authored by Justice Marmaduke Dent. The Monongalia County native was an early believer in equality among all people, regardless of race or sex.
Dent’s decision contains a number of notable findings, particularly for the times.
He called the Tucker County School Board’s decision to shorten the term at black schools “arbitrary,” adding, “This distinction on the part of the board, being clearly illegal, and a discrimination made merely on account of color, should be treated as a nullity, as being contrary to public policy and good morals.”
Dent went on to say that public policy makers should do all they can to improve public education for blacks because of the history of slavery and suppression and the impact that has had on “this great republic.”
“A nation that depends on its wealth is a depraved nation, while moral purity and intellectual progress alone can preserve the integrity of free institutions, and the love of true liberty, under the protection of equal laws, in the hearts of the people,” concluded Dent.
Of course many years of segregation and discrimination would still follow. It would be another half century (1954) before the U.S. Supreme Court would issue the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring the flawed “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional.
Still, America does not reach these seminal moments without brave individuals doing the right thing, usually in the face of hostile opposition. This month’s anniversary of the West Virginia Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Board of Education should serve as a reminder of people like Carrie Williams, J.R. Clifford and Justice Marmaduke Dent who were guided by the courage of their convictions.
~~ Hoppy Kercheval ~~
Credit and Debit Chip Card Email Scam
CHARLESTON, WV — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today warned consumers to be wary of scammers trying to take advantage of the millions of consumers who haven’t yet received a credit or debit chip card.
Here’s how the scam works: Scammers email consumers posing as the card issuer. The scammers claim in order to receive a new chip credit or debit card, the consumer needs to update his or her account by confirming some personal information or by clicking a link to continue the verification process.
If the consumer replies to the email with personal information, the scammer can use the response to commit identity theft. If the consumer clicks on the link, he or she may unwillingly install malware on their device, which can cause the device to crash, monitor a consumer’s online activity, send spam, steal personal information and commit fraud.
Attorney General Morrisey said consumers should be aware of some important information if they receive an email claiming to validate a chip card request:
• There’s no reason your card issuer needs to contact you by email or by phone to confirm personal information before sending a new chip card. Don’t respond to an email or phone call that asks you to provide your card number.
• If you’re still not sure the email is from a scammer, contact your card issuer at the phone numbers on your card.
• Don’t trust links in emails. Only provide personal information through a company’s website if you typed in the web address yourself and you see signals that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the “s” stands for secure).
“These scammers can be very persuasive,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our office urges consumers to always remain calm and proceed with extreme caution when giving out financial or personal information through email or phone.”
If you believe you have been the victim of this phone scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1.800.368.8808 or visit the office online at www.ago.wv.gov.
Study: Total Renewable Power Possible by 2050
CHARLESTON, WV - All 50 states and 139 countries can shift to 100 percent wind, water, and solar power by 2050, according to a new analysis from Stanford University.
The research shows factoring in the health and climate-related costs of air pollution, the transition would save money and spark more employment.
Stanford engineering professor and director of the Stanford University Atmosphere/Energy Program Mark Jacobson says when all costs are included, wind is now the cheapest energy source in the U.S., even without subsidies, and solar is nearly as cheap.
Jacobson says that could mean faster economic growth.
“By transitioning, we’d create two million more jobs, both construction and permanent operation jobs, than we would lose,“ says Jacobson.
Critics of renewables argue they would raise the price of electricity. Jacobson says that’s only true if you ignore the negative health impacts of air pollution.
A new analysis finds West Virginia could shift to 100 percent wind, water, and solar power by 2050
Electricity generated by an older coal plant can sell for as little as three-cents per kilowatt-hour, in part because those facilities are paid for and have, until now, dodged some pollution rules. But Jacobson says power from a newer coal plant with updated pollution controls is closer to 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to four to seven cents for wind or solar.
Jacobson says some of the most important hidden costs of coal show up where the industry is the strongest.
“Since 1970, the United States has spent over $80 billion on the black-lung program,“ says Jacobson. “Coal miners themselves, they’re suffering, and 500 die per year.“
According to Jacobson, coal only looks cheap when some very real costs are ignored.
“The rest of us are paying that cost,“ he says. “So, while somebody’s using coal electricity, someone else is getting a cardiovascular disease. Say you’re having a heart attack, you’re more likely to die of that heart attack when you’re in polluted air than when you’re in clean air.“
According to the research, savings from reduced pollution could cover the cost of West Virginia’s transition in as little as two years. Diplomats from around the world are in climate talks in Paris this week.
~~ Dan Heyman ~~
In West Virginia….
► George Washington High graduate raises awareness about U.S. Naval Academy
CHARLESTON, WV — Charleston native Chris Kay is back home from the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland to offer words of advice to high school students in Kanawha County interested in joining the Navy.
Kay, a 2014 graduate of George Washington High School, is one of nearly 300 midshipmen who were sent back to their hometowns to raise awareness about the Academy.
“They asked about what our daily life is,” said Kay about the students he spoke with at Charleston Catholic High School and the Jamie Dickenson guidance office. “They asked about the admissions process and they were just really curious about how people’s lives changed when they came.”
Kay said the transition from high school to the Naval Academy was a bit of a culture shock for him.
“You go from being in high school where you’re in charge of yourself. You make all of your own decisions,” he said. “Someone telling you how to do everything else, then you forget how to tie your own shoes.”
Being a second year student at the Academy has been slightly less challenging for Kay. He said it was a significant change for him when he first arrived in Annapolis.
“Before you start the Naval Academy you have seven weeks of a basic training-like environment. They go in and shave your head. They take all of your clothes away and give you brand new clothes. It’s really just an indoctrination into the military,” he said.
Kay is studying cyber operations that ties in with computer science. The workload has been very structured, but he said he enjoys that aspect.
“It’s not as tough as it could be just because we’re so structured. I mean I’m told when I have to study, so they definitely eliminate the distraction,” Kay said.
Before heading off to Maryland, Kay participated on the swim and basketball teams at GW.
Last summer, he took a trip to Boston and New York with the Naval Academy Yard Patrol and also traveled to San Diego to shadow enlisted personnel.
In 2016, he will visit Estonia and Germany for various cyber conferences then study cyber operations abroad.
Kay is part of the program called OPINFO at the Academy. He is also an active member of the SHAPE program and the “Its on Us” campaign where he was invited to listen to Vice President Joe Biden discuss the effort.
► WVSU receives $600K for security improvements
INSTITUTE, WV — The West Virginia State University Foundation has received a $600,000 contribution from Bayer CropScience.
University president Brian O. Hemphill and foundation leaders announced the contribution Monday.
According to the university, the money will be used for campus security and related enhancements, including a diesel generator capable of supplying electricity to fully power even the largest facility on campus. Other improvements include an additional public safety officer, new police cruisers and a surveillance camera system.
► Weston Mayor Shares Concerns With Fully Staffing Small Town Law Enforcement
WESTON, WV — Mayor Julia Spelsburg remains concerned about the lack of police in small towns, but she’s grateful to have added a new member–Sean Carlton–to the Weston Police force.
“He was working up at the Court House, and we were so fortunate to bring him on board,” she said during an interview on the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network. “Nice young guy.”
That increases Weston’s force to five police officers, but Spelsburg said it remains a struggle because of competitive pay in other industries.
“It’s always a struggle for small police departments because, let’s face it, a lot of it has to do with money,” she said.
In addition to other industries, county jobs generally pay better than the jobs in small towns or cities like Weston.
“I’ve had people tell me that they would love to work for us, but when it comes to comparing pay between our city and say going to the county, the county wins out because it’s a little more money,” she said.
Spelsburg also lamented on the reduction in federal tax dollars as another cause of the issue.
“20 or 30 years ago there used to be a lot of federal money flowing, and that’s not the case anymore,” she said. “So we’re sort of on our own.”
► Company, Ex-Employee File Lawsuits Against Each Other
An aluminum company in Jackson County and a former employee are suing each other in state and federal courts.
Lawyers for Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood LLC allege fraud and deceit against Kenneth Rogers. Rogers, on the other hand, says he was discriminated against and forced to work in a racially hostile work environment.
The company says Rogers lied about a lien to persuade the company to buy a house he was trying to sell after he was hired in 2014. The company says it paid him $190,000 before it discovered a lien against Rogers.
Rogers also filed a lawsuit a month later, saying he was subject to racial and sexual jokes and was fired after he stood up to workers in the company.
Did You Know?
WHAT’S AIM OF CLIMATE TALKS
World leaders are hoping to reach a deal charting a path toward reduced reliance on coal, oil and gas and expanded use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
SUSPECT IN PLANNED PARENTHOOD RAMPAGE APPEARS IN COURT
Robert Dear, 57, will face first-degree murder charges for the shootings that killed three at the clinic in Colorado Springs, prosecutors say.
ONLINE THREAT FORCES UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO TO CANCEL CLASSES
A black man allegedly threatened to kill whites at the school and was motivated by the police shooting of a black teen, authorities say.
HOW MUCH MONEY CHANGED HANDS ON ‘CYBER MONDAY’
It’s expected to be the biggest online shopping day ever, likely racking up more than $3 billion in sales.
BLACK PASTORS PRESS TRUMP
The ministers, during a meeting that turned tense at times, ask the GOP front-runner to address what some call his use of racially charged rhetoric.
WHY SCIENTISTS, ETHICISTS ARE GATHERING IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Being debated are the boundaries of human genome editing, a technology that could lead to designer babies - but also to the end to some diseases.
SEVEN EARTHQUAKES RATTLE OKLAHOMA
The quakes raise concerns that the state isn’t doing enough to curb the seismic shaking that scientists have linked to oil and gas activity.
NEW YORK CITY IMPLEMENTING FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND RULE TARGETING SALT
The regulation requires a salt-shaker emblem on menu items at chain restaurants that top the recommended daily limit of sodium.
FAMOUS PIRELLI CALENDAR GETS MAKEOVER
It’s no more nudes - this year, at least, with photographer Annie Leibovitz at the helm.
‘ASTONISHING GIFT’ BOOSTS CHARITY
Salvation Army officials say a couple dropped a $500,000 check into a red kettle in suburban Minneapolis.
Don’t Get Grinched by Cybercrime during the Holiday Season
NEW YORK, NY — Online fraud spikes during the holiday shopping season, as people searching for the perfect gifts take to cyberspace and head to traditional stores armed with their smartphones.
“The Pandora’s box of cyberattacks is about to open,“ says Pete Tyrrell, chief operating officer for Digital Guardian, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based data protection firm. “The cybercriminals are getting more and more creative – and at the end of the day, it’s your personal information at risk.“
Here are some tips for protecting yourself and your information from online Grinches.
BEWARE OF GIFTS OF FREE WI-FI
It’s awful tempting to sign on to a store’s free Wi-Fi while you’re out shopping, especially since store walls are notorious for blocking or weakening smartphone data connections. But fraudsters also may be lurking on the networks, ready to use that connection to steal credit card or other personal information.
“People may want to log on to their Best Buy or Amazon accounts to check prices, but open Wi-Fi is probably the least secure place to do that,“ says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.
And never use open Wi-Fi connections to check bank account information. The last thing you want a hacker to have is a direct connection to your bank account.
If you’re tech-savvy enough to use VPN software – short for “virtual private network,“ a technique for shutting would-be eavesdroppers out of your connection – on your phone, then free Wi-Fi is safe so long as you have the VPN on. For most people, though, it’s simply best to stick to your cellular connection.
Shoppers also need to be on the lookout for less high-tech thieves when shopping online in crowded public places like coffee shops, says Nitin Bhandari, senior vice president for products at Opera Software Solutions. That means keepings your screens out of the views of others – even smartphones, which are bigger and easier to read from a distance than they used to be.
SWIM AWAY FROM POTENTIAL PHISH
Phishing spikes during the holiday season. Emails that offer great deals on holiday gifts or donation pitches from charities could actually be attempts to steal your credit card or login information. Another popular trick: fake emails supposedly sent by online retailers or shippers such as FedEx or UPS, saying that a payment for an order didn’t go through, or that an order didn’t ship.
Don’t click on links in these emails. It could contain malware or take you to a fake website that looks very much like that of a legitimate company. Instead of getting help, you’ll most likely have your personal information stolen.
Panic over the possibility of not getting a gift in time can make people click before they think, Kaiser says. So, it’s best to slow down. If you think an email is genuine, just go directly to the company in question’s main website.
CHECK YOUR ACCOUNTS FOR “NAUGHTY” ACTIVITY
Both during and after the holidays, shoppers need to keep a close eye on their accounts. The easiest way to do this is to use the same credit card for all of your holiday shopping. Never use your debit card; if hackers get ahold of your number, they could clean out your bank account.
A dedicated email account can also help keep things organized.
It’s also a good idea to use different user names and different passwords for your various shopping accounts. That way if one is compromised, it’s less likely that the others will fall to hackers as well, says Tim Francis, the head of “cyber insurance” policies at Travelers.
IF IT LOOKS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE . . .
Websites and emails that advertise hot deals on popular or hard-to-find gifts, along with free or deeply discounted gift cards, are probably scams. “I still haven’t been able to buy an iPad for $7,“ Tyrrell joked.
It’s best to stick with e-commerce sites you know are real and go directly to those websites. Don’t click on Web ads.
Shopping on the websites of companies you’ve previously done business with can also save you time and hassle, says Steve Platt, a vice president at credit monitoring company Experian.
Online retailers will be on the lookout for fraudsters too. That means they might be more likely to flag a transaction – and slow down your shopping – if they haven’t dealt with you before.
“The more information they know about you and your purchases, the more likely you’ll have a seamless experience,“ Platt says.
► Would-Be Burglar Gets Stuck in Chimney, Dies
The latest entrant for the Darwin Awards is a hapless guy who got stuck Saturday in the chimney of the Central California house he was apparently trying to burgle. Poor burgling turned fatal, however, when the AP reports that the homeowner lit a fire in the fireplace; when he heard someone yell, he tried to put the fire out as the house filled with smoke. Rescuers broke the chimney apart with jackhammers, but the unidentified man was declared dead at the scene, reports the Fresno Bee. Officials think he tried to break in overnight Friday and became stuck. An autopsy is set for Sunday.
► Was DB Cooper a Grocery Manager From Michigan?
On November 24, 1971, an airplane hijacker who would become known as DB Cooper donned a parachute, strapped $200,000 in cash to his body, and leaped out of a Boeing 727 jetliner somewhere between Seattle, Wash., and Reno, Nev. His true identity and whether he survived the jump remain a mystery to this day, though law enforcement has investigated thousands of leads. Now, WZZM reports, Michigan writer Ross Richardson has offered a new theory for the identity of Cooper: A grocery store manager from Grayling, Mich., named Robert Richard Lepsy, who disappeared on October 29, 1969. Local law enforcement at the time determined that Lepsy left voluntarily. He has not been heard from since. “I strongly believe the proof is out there” that Lepsy is Cooper, Richardson says.
Richardson tells WZZM that, as he researched Lepsy’s disappearance, he uncovered more and more similarities between Lepsy and Cooper, among them:
- Lepsy’s physical appearance matches witness descriptions of Cooper.
- Cooper left behind a tie nearly identical to the type that Lepsy wore.
- Cooper wore loafers, Lepsy’s favorite type of shoe.
Daughter Lisa Lepsy tells WZZM that family members noted the same similarities in 1971 when a sketch of Cooper was shown on TV: “Everyone looked at each other and said, ‘That’s Dad!‘” She also recounts that in 1993 two mysterious men in black suits and sunglasses visited her home. “The first words out of their mouths,“ she recalls, “were, ‘Have you found your father yet?‘“ They were gone in minutes, she says. The case of DB Cooper is the United States’ only unsolved hijacking, WZZM notes. Read the whole fascinating story H E R E.
► Guy Leaves Town, Town Knocks His House Down
When a US Navy veteran traveled from Long Island to Florida for a knee replacement, his house was the last thing on his mind. Philip Williams’ home was demolished in the spring by Hempstead town officials while he spent about six months recuperating in Fort Lauderdale. Back in New York, officials in the town deemed his modest home unfit for habitation and knocked it down. The 69-year-old has now waged a legal battle against the town. He wants reimbursement—for the house and all the belongings inside. “It’s just wrong on so many levels,“ he said “My mortgage was up to date, my property taxes were up to date ... everything was current and fine.“ According to town officials, neighbors had been complaining the house was in disrepair and a blight. Hempstead officials, responding to those complaints, sent inspectors and determined the house was a “dilapidated dwelling” unfit for habitation. So they knocked it down.
“The town basically took everything from me,“ said Williams. Town officials say they tried to contact Williams and provided copies of letters they mailed to the home and to banks. They also held a public hearing before the demolition. But Williams contends he never received any notices and said he couldn’t figure out why the letters were mailed to four separate banks where he never had accounts.“Under the law, it should not happen,“ his attorney, Bradley Siegel said. “It’s un-American. It just doesn’t seem believable.“ Williams has filed a notice of claim, the first step in a lawsuit against the town, and also is fighting for public records he believes may show what happened. Williams has contacted police and the Nassau County district attorney’s office and has asked for a criminal inquiry. “You see people who went through a tornado or a flood and they say they lost everything, but that’s not preventable,“ Williams said. “This was preventable. The town took my house.“
► Newborn Found Buried Alive
Two sisters were out taking a walk in Compton, Calif., on Saturday when they heard a baby crying—or was it a cat? They weren’t sure, but two deputies soon arrived and found a newborn buried alive under rubble and pieces of asphalt on a bike path by a riverbed, CBS News reports. “The baby was wrapped in a blanket and cold to the touch,“ says an LAPD sergeant. Vital signs were positive, so paramedics came and took the baby to hospital, where she’s reported in stable condition. “I know we living in some bad times, but damn,“ says a nearby resident and grandfather. “They need to catch this person. You know, you need to go to jail. That’s the place for you.“ The baby was born as recently as 24 hours before being discovered, NBC Los Angeles reports.
► Mom of 2, Iraq Vet Died in Planned Parenthood Attack
The two civilians killed in Friday’s attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic have been identified as an Iraq War veteran and a mother of two, both of whom were at the Colorado Springs, Colo., clinic to support friends. Jennifer Markovsky, 35, was a stay-at-home mom who “lived for her kids,“ her sister-in-law tells the Colorado Springs Gazette. She grew up in Hawaii and moved to Colorado with her husband, who is in the military. The other victim named on Sunday, 29-year-old Ke’Arre Stewart, was an Iraq War veteran and the father of two girls, the Gazette reports. Stewart, who grew up in Texas, “was caring, giving, funny, and just a damn good person,“ a friend writes on a GoFundMe page set up to help his family.
The third person killed in the attack was identified Saturday as 44-year-old University of Colorado at Colorado Springs officer Garrett Swasey, who, like the other two victims, had two children. At a Sunday service at the Hope Chapel, where he was a co-pastor, he was described as a devoted husband and father as well as a dedicated police officer and an accomplished figure skater, the Washington Post reports. In other developments:
- Regional Planned Parenthood chief Vicki Cowart gave more details of the attack on ABC’s This Week, the AP reports. Cowart—who says hateful speech directed at the organization has contributed to attacks—said none of the clinic’s 15 employees were injured and that the gunman never made it past a locked door to the main clinic area. The nine people injured in the attack include five police officers, the AP notes.
- More details about the alleged gunman, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, also emerged on Sunday, though police haven’t discussed a motive. Dear, who apparently moved from North Carolina to Colorado last year, has been described as a loner who handed out anti-government pamphlets. His relatives, including his mother and at least some of his four children and three ex-wives, live in the Charleston, SC, area and have been reluctant to talk to journalists, the Post reports.
- Dear, who reportedly said “no more baby parts” after his arrest, will appear in court today and could end up facing federal charges, possibly under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, as well as local ones, the AP reports.
► U of Chicago Cancels Classes After Threat
The University of Chicago canceled all classes and activities scheduled for Monday on its main campus following an online threat of gun violence passed on by the FBI. The university said in a statement Sunday night that an online threat from an unknown person mentioned the campus quad, a popular gathering place, and a time of Monday morning at 10am. “It was pretty specific in terms of time and place,“ a university spokesman says. Faculty, students, and nonessential staff were asked to stay away from the Hyde Park campus on Chicago’s South Side Monday, the university’s statement said. Students in college housing on campus should stay indoors.
The university said the decision was taken after taking into account “recent tragic events” at other campuses across the country and consulting with federal and local authorities. “We have decided in consultation with federal and local law-enforcement officials, to exercise caution by canceling all classes and activities on the Hyde Park campus through midnight on Monday,“ the statement said. An FBI Chicago spokeswoman provided no further details about the threat except to say that the FBI is investigating the source.
► Ex-Rikers Inmate Killed on Eve of Huge Payout
Robert Hinton had a chance to move on with his life. But the former inmate of Riker’s Island—whose savage beating there by guards spawned a pending $450,000 settlement—was shot and killed Thursday night outside a housing project in Brooklyn, the Daily News reports. Hinton had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner with his family when the 28-year-old went home with his nephews and little sister, according to his aunt, Lynette Johnson. She says the family was still together when they heard news of his death. “It was devastating,“ says Johnson. “It doesn’t seem real. In the blink of eye you’re gone. He was a beautiful person.“ Another victim was shot in the leg and fled the scene, officials say. Police are still seeking the gunman.
Hinton was just weeks from receiving his money over the beating he suffered at Riker’s in April 2012, the New York Times reports. In his lawsuit, Hinton said a captain and five guards shackled and beat him, fracturing a vertebra and breaking his nose; all six were later fired for the attack. Hinton apparently hoped for a new start with the payout, but his mom, Parys Johnson, tells the Daily News that he “felt like something was going to happen to him.“ She says her son was likely “set up” by people who believed he already had the settlement money. Hinton has a pregnant girlfriend, but it’s unclear who, if anyone, will receive the money. Hinton had been linked to the Bloods street gang and was serving time for shooting and injuring a man when the beating occurred.
In The World….
► Experts ‘90%‘ Sure of Hidden Chamber in Tut’s Tomb
Egyptian officials are now “approximately 90%“ certain there’s a hidden chamber inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun, AFP reports. And at least one archeologist believes he knows what it holds. “Clearly it does look from the radar evidence as if the tomb continues, as I have predicted,“ Nicholas Reeves said at a news conference on Saturday. “I think it is Nefertiti, and all the evidence points in that direction.“ The tomb of Queen Nefertiti has never definitively been found, and Reeves believes King Tut was actually buried in her tomb because his wasn’t ready, with her being shunted off to a side room, according to the BBC. He came up with his theory while analyzing detailed scans of King Tut’s tomb used to create a replica for tourists. He claims those scans revealed two doorways that were covered up.
Infrared scans made earlier this month seemed to support Reeves’ theory, showing differing heat patterns along the walls of the tomb, AFP reports. According to the BBC, Egypt’s Antiquities ministry did further scans to test the theory over the past few weeks, leading to Saturday’s “90%“ estimate. The scans are being sent to Japan for further analysis. And while experts are now fairly convinced Reeves was right about the hidden chamber, the question of who—if anyone—is inside is still being debated. The AFP reports the next step for researchers is to figure out how to get through the hidden doorways without damaging King Tut’s tomb.
► With Protests Banned, 20K Pairs of Shoes Dot Paris
Some 20,000 pairs of empty shoes were lined up in downtown Paris ahead of the start of international climate negotiations Sunday, filling in for global warming protesters who were not permitted to march because of security after this month’s attacks. The footwear ranged from high heels to boots, and included a pair of shoes sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis, reports Reuters. Instead of protests, environmental advocacy groups held marches outside of Paris and around the world. A nearly empty conference center seemed to have more security guards than negotiators as country delegations and media started dribbling into the venue where two weeks of intense talks are expected. Formal negotiations between lower level officials are scheduled to begin late Sunday.
On Monday, more than 140 leaders are expected to arrive, including leaders of the United States, China, and Russia, to talk about their commitment to fight climate change and reduce ever-rising carbon dioxide emissions. The climate negotiations happen as weather officials across the globe proclaim that this is the hottest year on record. And they say that Earth has crossed some significant thresholds in climate. The world has warmed by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times and carbon dioxide levels now are pretty much permanently above the 400 parts per million mark, scientists say. Armed security was noticeable nearly everywhere at the Le Bourget center where negotiations will take place.
► ISIS Defections Show Cracks in Armor: Officials
Islamic State fighters have been defecting over the last month, military officials say, a sign that US-led bombing and other efforts that have killed 23,000 militants since 2014—3,000 since mid-October—are taking a toll on the group, USA Today reports. However, experts say, it’s too early to know if the trend will continue. “Individual metrics like these can be deceptive,“ Brookings Institution military expert Michael O’Hanlon tells USA Today, adding that a wait-and-see attitude is in order. And, according to Army Col. Steve Warren, the Islamic State still has 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, and maintains its grip on Mosul and Ramadi in Iraq, along with a large part of Syria.
Nonetheless, per USA Today, there are plenty of signs that the Islamic State is feeling the strain, including:
- Mass defections, such as the 90 militants who turned themselves over to Kurdish forces last week.
- Kurds in Syria and Iraq have had recent battlefield victories, capturing key spots along the Islamic State’s supply line.
- Fewer militants are guarding Islamic State checkpoints.
- Elite Islamic State fighters, once used as “shock troops,“ are being used to man checkpoints and other routine duties.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Meet the Press on Sunday that anti-Islamic State efforts need to be stepped up. However, he says, that doesn’t mean sending a large number of US troops to the Middle East, suggesting, instead, the use of more advisers, special forces, and covert operations.
► Brawls Erupt at Refugee Shelters
Cops responded to two brawls at refugee centers in Berlin on Sunday—one so big that more than 100 officers arrived at the scene, the Guardian reports. Several arrests were made at the former Tempelhof airport, where “many hundreds of people [were] involved,“ according to a police spokesman. Michael Elias, who runs the shelter, says 20 or 30 people started the ruckus in the crowded space; AFP reports that it erupted amid food distribution lineups. “It’s the simple fact that there are a lot of young men traveling alone here,“ says Elias. “We withdrew … because the situation simply exploded. It was a complete blow-out.“ Per Elias, 830 people currently reside at the shelter; AFP says it can accommodate 1,200.
Police also responded to another Berlin shelter after 500 people fled fighting inside the building “in fear and panic,“ AFP says. Several residents were hurt, fire extinguishers used, sofas tossed, and windows smashed in the brawl, according to police. Smaller fights broke out in two other shelters—one between Syrians in the showers at a facility in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. Fights have erupted in other shelters before, and authorities have been accused of “playing down” allegations of sexual assault and rape in order to avoid reprisals against refugees, the Guardian reports. Yet such reports aren’t too common considering how many refugees Germany expects to allow in: a million people in 2015 alone.
► Country Mulls Plan for Heroin Epidemic: Give Them Heroin
If you can’t cure heroin addicts, at least give them good-quality smack in a safe environment—or so say newly elected politicians in Norway. Facing a high national heroin-overdose rate, left-wing leaders in Oslo and Bergen want to treat hardcore addicts with a medical version of heroin that keeps them off the streets, away from crime, and away from bad heroin, the AP reports. “We can’t go on criminalizing our drug users,“ says an addict and member of a drug-policy campaign group. “We need the trust between us and the health professionals.“ The new approach would include traditional therapies like methadone, but target the highest-risk users with medical heroin, or diamorphine.
Originally marketed by Bayer as a pain reliever, diamorphine was banned by most countries for being addictive. But trials in Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands found that supervised use of diamorphine can be useful for addicts who don’t respond to treatments like methadone. The goal of preventing overdoses may be laudable, but hurdles remain, including the drug’s cost of up to $22,000 per year for each user. Also, addicts would “need to show up at the same place and time several times a day,“ and “many of these people are not capable of that,“ says one critic. Meanwhile, the US has seen heroin-overdose deaths rise by 286% between 2002 and 2013, the CDC says, and the issue is coming up repeatedly in the presidential race, Fox News reports.
► Paris Busts 100 as Banned Protests Turn Violent
The Paris police chief says that about 100 people have been detained after a protest seeking a global climate deal turned violent. Michel Cadot told reporters that police identified about 200 or 300 people who violated a ban on all protests under the country’s state of emergency. The state of emergency was declared because of the recent extremist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris. Cadot said Sunday about 100 people who were found to have projectiles or other suspicious objects were detained. Police fired numerous rounds of tear gas on protesters to disperse them in an early test of the authorities’ determination to ban public demonstrations during the international climate negotiations. Protesters had earlier lined the streets of Paris with thousands of pairs of shoes.
Protests flared elsewhere, including thousands of people who marched through London, urging world leaders not to blow their chance to take strong action on climate change. Actress Emma Thompson, designer Vivienne Westwood, and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are among demonstrators urging politicians to strike a binding agreement at climate talks in Paris. Corbyn told the crowd that the talks were “an enormous opportunity” to tackle “pollution, climate change, inequality, environmental refugees, war refugees and resources wars. If we are to make a real difference in Paris, all these issues have got to be thought about and addressed.“ Thompson said that climate change, once seen as a fringe cause, was now “the issue of the 21st century.“ Events are taking place around the world on the eve of the Paris talks.
► Brazilian police hunt Santa Claus who stole Sao Paulo helicopter
Brazilian police are hunting for a Sao Paulo Santa Claus who kicked off the Christmas shopping season by stealing a helicopter.
The thief rented the aircraft late Friday from an air taxi service at the Campo Marte airport in Sao Paulo for a Black Friday “surprise,“ the Sao Paulo state security secretariat said on Saturday.
During the flight, the Santa forced the pilot to fly to a small farm outside of Sao Paulo city, where they were met by a third person, the secretariat said.
The pilot was tied up and the two perpetrators flew away.
After several hours, the pilot managed to escape and alert police. There has been no sign of the helicopter, a Robinson model 44, authorities said.
► Woman pleads guilty in South African court to trying to sell baby online
A mother pleaded guilty in a South African court on Monday to having tried to sell her baby on the Internet for 5,000 rand ($346), the online news service News24 said.
“I admit that my actions were wrongful, unlawful and intentional. I have no defense,“ the 20-year-old woman was quoted as saying by News24.
Police said the woman was arrested in October following a tip-off from a member of the public who said that a baby was being sold on the website Gumtree.
She was freed on bail and placed under house arrest. Sentencing will be carried out on February 29 at the Magistrates Court in the eastern town of Pietermaritzburg.
GSC Pledges Increased Support for Student Veterans
GLENVILLE, WV – Glenville State College is pledging increased support for student veterans as part of the West Virginia’s ‘5 Star Challenge’ initiative which launched earlier this fall. The Challenge, which calls on institutions to adopt a set of exemplary standards for supporting student veterans, is a tribute to the military tradition of issuing ‘challenge coins’ to service members who embody the values and standards of their military units.
A brief ceremony took place on November 07 during the Military Appreciation Ball that was organized by GSC’s Student Veterans Association. That ceremony included the presentation of the ‘5 Star Challenge’ coin. Glenville State College President Dr. Peter Barr, a proud veteran himself, said he is happy to see West Virginia’s state colleges and universities banding together to further help student veterans.
GSC Student Veterans Association President Jon Clark (L) with President Peter Barr (R).
President Barr holds the ‘5 Star Challenge’ coin that Clark presented to him.
In accepting the Challenge, GSC has committed to 1) providing a signed commitment from President Barr to adopt best practices and standards, 2) emphasizing a focus on increasing access and affordability to higher education for student veterans, 3) providing increased academic support including priority registration for classes, 4) enhancing social networks for veterans on campus, and 5) encouraging greater collaboration with community organizations working to meet the needs of military service members. A detailed outline of the Challenge can be found at www.cfwv.com, the state’s free college and career-planning website.
Currently, Glenville State College has over forty student veterans enrolled.
A close-up of the ‘5 Star Challenge’ coin
“We are proud to announce that all public four-year undergraduate institutions in West Virginia have accepted the ‘5 Star Challenge,‘“ Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission said. “Their participation in this effort not only acknowledges a sincere commitment to meeting the unique needs of our student veterans, but also results in real policies that will provide tangible benefits to military service members who are pursuing higher education. By providing student veterans with services such as priority registration and building stronger support networks on campus, we are honoring their service to our country and equipping them with the resources they need to succeed.“
The 5 Star Challenge is an initiative of the Office of Veterans Education and Training Programs within the Division of Student Affairs at the Commission and WVCTCS. In addition to issuing the challenge to campuses, the Commission and WVCTCS are committing to providing more resources to help student veterans navigate the higher education system and find support on campus and in the community.
Franklin County Judge Dismisses Trespass Charges Against Glenville Pipeline Surveyors
Franklin County resident Glenn Frith grimaced Wednesday morning after a General District Court judge dismissed misdemeanor trespass charges against two members of a survey crew working in July for Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.
“We just don’t have any property rights anymore,” Frith said after the trial. “Money from somewhere has bought off our property rights.”
Frith said he was disappointed but not surprised by Judge Robert Adams’ decision to dismiss the trespass charges, which stemmed from a confrontation Frith had July 30 with surveyors on his property west of Boones Mill. Frith said Virginia law seems to be on the side of the private company that wants to build and bury a 42-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline through the region.
The controversial law, 56-49.01, allows a natural gas company or its contractors to survey private property even if the owner has denied access. That’s true as long as the company has provided notification required by the law.
To date, the law has survived challenges in federal court and in at least one county’s circuit court. And Adams cited the law’s provisions when dismissing the trespass charges against Nicholas Constantine, 46, of Burlington, New Jersey, and Jeremy Dean, 33, of Glenville, West Virginia.
Both men testified Wednesday that they were working for Mountain Valley Pipeline on July 30 when they walked onto Frith’s land with the intention of surveying it for a possible route for the high-pressure pipeline.
Earlier, Kevin Wagner, a regional land director for Mountain Valley, testified that the company had followed the notification requirements specified by 56-49.01 before launching survey work on Frith’s property.
But Frith has said he thought that a certified letter he’d sent Mountain Valley denying access to his property, along with “No trespassing” signs specifically targeted to pipeline crews, would keep surveyors off his land.
He said later that a lack of clarity about the state law could lead to tragic consequences if Franklin County property owners reacted angrily to survey crews working where they weren’t wanted.
Lawyer Ward Armstrong, a former member of the House of Delegates, was the attorney for Constantine and Dean in court Wednesday. In 2004, when Armstrong, a Democrat, represented Henry County, he voted for 56-49.01.
On Wednesday, he said the law and others like it allow necessary survey work to occur when electric utilities or natural gas companies are studying possible routes for transmission power lines or pipelines. He said society has to decide whether it wants to support utility infrastructure projects that appear to provide a public benefit.
He acknowledged that there is controversy about whether the Mountain Valley project, which would transport natural gas from West Virginia to another transmission pipeline in Pittsylvania County, provides a public benefit to any of the communities through which it might travel.
Regardless, he said, opponents to the law granting survey access or to the pipeline project itself should fight their battles with civil lawsuits and not with criminal charges.
He said Constantine and Dean were simply doing their job, “just trying to put food on the table.” He said both men slept little on the eve of Wednesday’s trial.
Mountain Valley submitted an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month, seeking the commission’s blessing for the 301-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline project — an endeavor that has garnered support and stirred opposition.
Armstrong referenced the latter when addressing the court Wednesday.
“I know that this case generates a lot of emotion,” he said.
Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley, said she is not aware of any other trespass charges pending against surveyors along the pipeline’s route.
In July, two men working for a Mountain Valley subcontractor pleaded no contest to misdemeanor trespass charges in Craig County after using a posted private road to gain access to the Jefferson National Forest.
Cox said Wednesday that Mountain Valley has completed surveying for nearly 80 percent of the proposed pipeline route.
“Some surveying activities can continue while others are seasonal,” Cox said, noting that some surveying will continue through the winter.
WV Secretary of State’s Office Prepares for Changes in 2016 Election
CHARLESTON, WV — Secretary of State Natalie Tennant says her office is doing as much as they can to inform West Virginia voters about changes to come in the 2016 election.
For the first time, West Virginia voters will choose their judges during next May’s primary election without any indications of political party affiliations on the ballots.
“With the education that we’ll be putting out is that it will be toward the end of the ballot,” said Tennant. “Folks are used to seeing the Supreme Court as a statewide race near the top of the ballot, but it will be at the end.”
The state law allowing for nonpartisan judicial elections officially took effect in June. The change will apply to elections, by division, for the state Supreme Court along with circuit court, family court and magistrate court.
Tennant said the ballot will be slightly longer this year including every race except for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.
“This is going to be a huge ballot,” she sad. “So from (U.S.) President to Board of Education.”
Judicial candidates will be placed on the back end of the ballot to avoid confusion.
“That’s when boards of education members are elected during a primary election. You already are having separate, so that’s part of cost saving measures that you’re going to have a Republican, Democrat, libertarian and so all of those would be similar and then you have the non-partisan at the end,” Tennant said.
Because the judicial candidates will run as non-partisan candidates, Tennant said that doesn’t change the way they run their campaign. She said they are separate from other candidates, though.
“They can’t go and ask (for) money, where a candidate for House of Delegates, Senate, Secretary of State or Treasurer can go and ask someone ‘would you please contribute to my campaign?’ A judicial candidate cannot do that,” she said.
The Secretary of State’s website will soon be providing information on the upcoming election along with a description of the changes.
West Virginia’s primary election will be held on May 10, 2016.
Christmas in Glenville, WV
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