West Virginia Hunters Reminded To Use Electronic Game Checking
SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV – The 2015 West Virginia buck firearms season is underway and runs through Saturday, December 05. This is the state’s most popular hunting season and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is reminding hunters that they must use the new electronic game checking system for reporting their harvested animals.
Using their DNR ID#, hunters may check their game by calling 1.844.wvcheck (1.844.982.4325), by smartphone or computer at wvhunt.com, or by going to a hunting and fishing license agent. The hunter will be given a 13-digit number that must be written on a game tag or a piece of paper and attached to the animal. All field tagging, transporting and possession requirements still apply.
Hunters who do not yet have a DNR ID# may visit wvhunt.com or any license agent to get their number. Annual license buyers will find their DNR ID# in the upper left corner of their license. Lifetime license holders have already been assigned a number. They can visit wvhunt.com and log on with their Social Security number and date of birth to verify their information and get their number. If they are unable to log on, they should call the DNR headquarters at 304.558.2758 for assistance. If they try to enroll as a new customer, it will give them a second DNR ID# which will cause problems when they try to check in their game.
Hunters not required to purchase a license (resident landowners and youth, for example) may obtain their DNR ID# by visiting wvhunt.com or a license agent.
Not only is the system more convenient for hunters, but it also makes important information available more quickly to DNR staff, who use it to make better wildlife management decisions and to better enforce the state’s hunting laws.
MANCHIN ENCOURAGES WEST VIRGINIANS TO SHOP SMALL THIS SATURDAY
Small Business Saturday is November 28
Washington, D.C. ─ U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today encouraged West Virginians to shop at West Virginia small businesses this Saturday, November 28th in celebration of the sixth annual Small Business Saturday.
“We all know that small businesses are the engine of our economy, providing the goods and services we depend on every day,” Senator Manchin said. “From our family-owned restaurants and coffee shops, to the local convenience stores, West Virginia’s more than 120,000 small businesses make up an estimated 96 percent of the state’s economy. Their success is critical to staying competitive, creating jobs and moving West Virginia forward. As a small businessman myself, I understand the important contributions our small businesses make to our state and the challenges they face.
“It is important to remember that when you’re shopping at small businesses, you are investing back into the community this holiday season. Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for all West Virginians and Americans to show support for our small businesses and our small business owners to help them prosper. Today and every day, I encourage all West Virginians to shop at our small businesses.”
Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010. It is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to promote shopping at small businesses throughout the country.
To find small businesses in your community to support this Saturday, please click H E R E.
Harrisville, WV – Ritchie County Community Foundation (RCCF), an affiliate of the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation (PACF), held a reception on Tuesday, November 17, at the Harrisville Town Hall to award its fall grants. RCCF awarded a total of $5,250 in grants to six different organizations:
Harrisville Elementary School - $600 from the Ritchie County Community Endowment Fund for iPads to assist with math and reading instruction;
Harrisville Volunteer Fire Department - $1,650 from the Harrisville Civic Club Community Improvement Fund for personal protective equipment and firefighting equipment;
Town of Cairo - $600 from Ritchie County Community Endowment Fund to provide matching funds for a state grant for sidewalk improvements;
Regeneration/Packs of Plenty - $900 from the Ritchie County Community Endowment Fund and the Lowell and Wilda Jackson Community Fund to purchase food for weekends for Ritchie County elementary and middle school student in need;
Ritchie County Integrated Family Services - $900 from the Ritchie County Community Endowment Fund and the Lowell and Wilda Jackson Community Fund to support the meal delivery program for homebound seniors;
West Virginia University Foundation for Bonnie’s Bus - $600 from Ritchie County Community Endowment Fund to provide mammograms to Ritchie County women through the mobile mammography unit.
The Ritchie County Community Foundation affiliate is a collection of 25 funds within the PACF representing approx. $1.34 million in charitable assets to benefit Ritchie County causes. These permanent, charitable funds are dedicated for scholarship and grant support for Ritchie County and established by local donors, individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Every year a portion of each fund’s earnings produce annual scholarships and local community grants. Funds are dedicated to support specific organizations or causes, provide support for fields of interest like education or health, or provide scholarship support for local students (often in memory or honor of special people from the community). Once the fund reaches endowment (a minimum amount of $5,000 - $25,000 depending on the type of fund), these funds will forever provide annual grants and scholarships for today’s residents as well as those in the generations to follow.
At the program, Harrisville Mayor Allen Haught, RCCF advisory board chairman, also spoke on RCCF’s recent progress and activities. “RCCF has been fortunate to have the support of many generous people, businesses and organizations who have helped to build these resources,” Haught said. “I know that we have several of our supporters here with us today and we want to thank you for your generous gifts which are helping to ensure that our community has the resources it needs now and long into the future.”
In its most recently completed fiscal year, RCCF awarded 23 scholarships to Richie County students, totaling $21,075, and 11 grants totaling $16,360 to support a variety of community needs and organizations. Ritchie County students and nonprofit organizations also benefit by Ritchie County being a part of the broader regional foundation, as they received additional support through grants and scholarships awarded through PACF funds. The Parkersburg Area Community Foundation awarded eight scholarships, totaling $9,850, to Ritchie County students and three grants totaling $8,000 to Ritchie County organizations.
Secretary Tennant Encourages West Virginians to Shop and Dine Small this Saturday
Charleston, WV – As West Virginians start or continue their holiday shopping this weekend, Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is encouraging people to participate in Small Business Saturday and check out the small businesses in their hometown or wherever they are.
Small Business Saturday is November 28.
“Each year, we encourage West Virginians to shop and dine small on Small Business Saturday, because shopping small means supporting our neighbors and celebrating all that small businesses do for our communities,” Secretary Tennant said. “Whether you visit your local jewelry shop or toy store, or grab a cup of coffee or lunch from a local diner or shop, you’re making sure that dollars stay in your town.”
The Secretary of State’s Office works with small business owners year-round, making it easy to file important paperwork so they can focus on their product.
According to West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, about 42 percent of workers in West Virginia are employed by small businesses.
The 2014 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey estimated that $14.3 billion was spent nationwide at small businesses last year.
“Research tells us that when we spend money at local small businesses, more of that money is returned to the community when compared to chain stores,” said Secretary Tennant. “Let’s take this opportunity to support the small businesses that support our neighborhoods by spending some time with them on Saturday and throughout the year.”
Small business owners and shoppers are encouraged to use the hashtags #ShopSmall, #DineSmall or #SmallBizSatWV on Twitter.
Information for business owners and shoppers on how they can take part in Small Business Saturday can be found here on the Small Business Administration website. Main Street West Virginia and ON TRAC communities are also promoting shopping small this year.
RECEPTIONS HELD TO HONOR SUE JOHNSON-PHILLIPPE, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ST. JOSEPH’S HOSPITAL
BUCKHANNON, WV—Receptions were held to honor the President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Sue Johnson-Phillippe, in recognition of her retirement. A community reception was held November 3rd in the Greek Alumni Room on West Virginia Wesleyan’s campus followed by a hospital reception on November 18th. Attendees gathered to thank Johnson-Phillippe for her service and to wish her well.
“Sue has led the St. Joseph’s family brilliantly over the last seven years,” said Terry Cronin, Chairman of St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Board of Trustees. “She has been a true leader, in making such wise choices for the hospital, in demonstrating a passionate commitment to our mission, in always choosing a respectful and collaborative approach, all with kindness and concern for others. It has been a true joy spending time with her in service to our community. We are very proud of her accomplishments and wish her well in her retirement.”
Johnson-Phillippe began her role as interim CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital in July of 2008, becoming the permanent CEO in November of that year. Under her leadership she recruited physicians needed to serve the community including a cardiologist, urologist, internal medicine specialist, obstetrics/gynecologists and family physicians. She led the conversion of the hospital to Critical Access Status, ensuring the financial sustainability of the hospital. She opened a Skilled Nursing Facility, giving the community access to rehabilitative care close to home and created the Pallottine Care Unit, an End-of-Life suite located within the hospital. She
established a relationship with West Virginia University (WVU) Emergency Medicine to staff the hospital’s Emergency Department with WVU physicians and built the PromptCare into a strong walk-in clinic to serve the community. Most recently, she has overseen the successful transition of St. Joseph’s Hospital into the United Hospital Center/WVU Medicine family.
Johnson-Phillippe also served the community on the Upshur County Development Authority Board of Directors, the Buckhannon Rotary Club, Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce, and volunteered with Upshur County Literacy. On a state-wide level she served as the Chairwoman of the West Virginia Hospital Association (WVHA) and with the State and Regional Trauma Emergency Institute. In her capacity as Chair of WVHA, she was appointed by the West Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources to serve on the State Innovation Model Steering Committee.
During her tenure, the hospital was recognized as Industry of the Year by the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce in 2013; Johnson-Phillippe was recognized as Business Woman of the Year by the Chamber in 2014; its Nursing Care Facility was named one of the “Best in the State” by U. S. News and World Report for the fifth year in a row in 2014; and the hospital was recognized as one of America’s Best Emergency Care hospitals by the Women’s Choice Award in 2014 and 2015.
Dr. Robert Blake, Chief of Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital said “"from her first day at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Sue’s leadership inspired an infectious accountability and an unwavering resolve that changed the culture by bringing out the best of every employee. She possesses the courage and diligence to move mountains, and she did. I have the utmost respect for Sue, not only for what she has done for St. Joseph’s Hospital, but also as a person.“
“Sue Johnson-Phillippe has taken St. Joseph’s Hospital into a new era of healthcare, which is more and more sophisticated and complex,” said Sister Francesca Lowis, Vice President of Mission Integration. “She has been a great motivator and mentor to the physicians and staff and a compassionate advocate for patients and their families. She leads by example and expects the best efforts from everyone. Sue has become not only a great CEO to the hospital but a treasured friend to me.”
“Being able to serve the Mission of St. Joseph’s Hospital, its Board of Trustees and Pallottine Health Services has been an extraordinary privilege,” said Johnson-Phillippe. “It has been a capstone experience that has contributed to a dynamic transformation of the hospital on every level, paving the way for the organization to be sustainable for the future.”
► Hunter’s Fire Breaks Boulder, Which Falls and Crushes Him
West Virginia State Police say a hunter was killed after he and a fellow hunter built a fire and the heat broke apart an overhanging boulder, which tumbled onto him. According to a police statement, the hunter’s death occurred Monday afternoon, the start of the buck firearms season in the state. Police say 25-year-old Donnie Barker III died at the scene in a wooded area in Boone County. His fellow hunter, 19-year-old Steven Lee Setser, was injured but managed to make it to a relative’s house for assistance. Setser was taken to Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital with injuries that are not life-threatening. Police say the men had started the fire under the boulder to seek heat.
► Hunters arrested for illegal activity
GREEN SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV — Several hunters were arrested Wednesday night for illegal activity in Summers County.
The hunters, from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were pulled from the hunting camp in Green Sulpher Springs, even through there were 18 deer already harvesting, according to officials with the state Division of Natural Resources.
Charges varied from spotlighting, to no licenses/stamps, to safety violations. Fines totaled up to more than $10,000.
All deer seized were donated to citizens of Summers County.
► Enthusiasts revved up about remote-controlled vehicles
CLARKSBURG, WV — When it comes to remote-controlled (R/C) cars and trucks, it’s easy to become hooked.
“I’ve been interested in them for a long time,“ said Herbert Hill of Mannington, who has become a true enthusiast. “I just finally started buying them.“
That began on a snowy day last winter at Xtreme Sports at the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport.
The R/C vehicles offer enjoyment, but they are more than toys. Much more.
“It’s a nice habit,“ Hill said. “It’s fun. It’s really fun. It’s just having fun with the remote controls out here in the woods. Just having a good ol’ time. It’s nice and peaceful and everything.“
Some may prefer to keep them at home and set up courses inside the house or in the yard. That’s fine. Others prefer more of a challenge, modifying the vehicles and taking them to outdoor courses where they can compete on a track or send their vehicles over trails, up and down hills, and over rocks.
Tim Ingram, the Xtreme Sports owner who planned to open a second store at the Morgantown Mall in Westover in October, is in the process of developing 36 acres of his property off exit 115 of Interstate 79 in Harrison County south of Clarksburg for enthusiasts of R/C vehicles, a location named Xtreme Sports Park.
“We’re not utilizing all of it right now,“ he said. “Probably seven or eight acres we’re utilizing at the moment. The thing is, if you come out here and you sign that waiver and you’re a member, you’re welcome to use anything.
“We’re trying to incorporate more defined trails and things of that sort. Climb rocks. Go to the track. Whatever you want to do.“
He takes pride in offering “a diverse group of layouts” and is using funds from the memberships to expand what will be available in the future.
“There are all sorts of different things for people to do,“ he said. “Different challenges. What I’m trying to create is like when you go snow skiing. You have a beginner, intermediate and expert course. We’ve tried to incorporate the same thing with R/C. We have a beginner area if you’re a novice. Intermediate is a little tougher. Of course, we have the expert, and we’ll see how well you can run with it.
“That’s what we’ve tried to put together. It makes it nice.“
The Ingram family has 31 R/C cars and trucks.
There are places where enthusiasts who may have trouble walking can be taken to enjoy running their vehicles.
“I can get you here,“ Ingram said. “We can sit you down, down there, and you can sit there and run all over this hillside. You don’t have to worry about walking.“
Right now there are no scheduled hours, but members can go at any time. Open-run days with a fee of $10-$15 are available for people to determine if they are interested in becoming members. Individual and family plans are offered.
Brian Osbourne of Mannington is working with Ingram in developing the area to run the R/C vehicles.
“It’s the cheapest form of racing you can get into,“ he said. “We’ve got a lot of race people around. It’s a true family sport. My entire family including my wife and my two kids — both have R/C cars — does some traveling and racing at different tracks. It’s nice to have something in our backyard.“
His interest began when his son got an R/C vehicle for his birthday.
“We just started playing with it, and it grew out of that,“ Osbourne said. “We got one for the whole family. Now I’ve got 15 or 16.“
He’s enjoying working “hand-in-hand” with Ingram in developing the area to run R/C vehicles.
“If we come up with an idea, we put it in place,“ Osbourne said. “We’re trying to make it a nice place for families. That’s what we’re wanting to do.“
R/C racing, Osbourne noted, goes up to professional levels where people “travel all over the world and make thousands of dollars at races. It’s a lot bigger in the world than it has been in our area. It’s really just now starting to catch on.“
Hobby-grade R/C cars and trucks “are miniature vehicles — springs, shocks. It’s just like a real car,“ Osbourne said.
All the parts can be replaced.
“You can make one large investment, which is not too big, and that car can be upgraded to go faster,“ Osbourne said.
Tim Ingram’s son, Brody, a junior at Bridgeport High School, helped get his dad involved with the R/C vehicles.
“It started out as a hobby,“ he said. “I guess all hobbies lead to big things.“
A big attraction is meeting people who enjoy the activity and its challenges.
“It kind of gives freedom,“ he said of the time spent in the woods. “Everyone that you meet is always nice. It’s fun to do.“
It can be a high-tech adventure for those who get into the hobby very seriously.
“It’s very high-tech,“ he said. “They entail a lot of technology, but it’s just a blast. It’s fun to be with everyone and do all this kind of stuff. You definitely learn a lot. You learn something new every time you come out. Somebody knows something about your car that you didn’t and how to change something.
“It’s crazy all the stuff you can do with them. I’d love to keep going with it. It’s definitely fun.“
Tim Ingram said he and his staff are committed to helping enthusiasts as much as possible.
“We have a knowledgeable staff that’s right there available to help you,“ he said. “Not to say they’re going to know the answer to every question; however, if we can maintain a friendly, family-oriented atmosphere along with the customer service, I think we can be successful.“
An R/C vehicle — whether electric, nitro or gasoline — can involve some complicated issues. The smallest scale is 1/24, but the most popular, according to Ingram, is 1/10.
“We have the 1/5 scale, which are usually two-stroke gasoline,“ he said. “They have a regular engine in them. You mix oil and gas to run them, and they’ll run 40-45 mph and weigh anywhere from 35 to 45 pounds. They come in two-wheel-drive versions and four-wheel-drive versions.“
Serious enthusiasts enjoy working on the cars and trucks to get the most out of their experience.
“It’s almost a machine,“ Ingram said. “It’s a sophisticated, technical toy, if you still want to use the terminology ‘toy,‘ but I’m not sure that’s the proper word for it because it’s so much more than a toy. People win money racing these. They hold events. There are all sorts of different avenues to go down as far as what you can get into with these things. The sky is the limit, basically.“
It’s a much more affordable hobby than, for example, motocross, which requires thousands of dollars for a motorcycle or ATV. It’s common, though, Ingram noted, to see motocross people at R/C events and vice versa.
“You can get into one of these cars for $170 to $1,000 and up,“ Ingram said. “It’s able to bring people together for a fun, affordable hobby.“
► Loans available to businesses impacted by weather
CHARLESTON, WV — Small businesses in West Virginia that have been impacted by bad weather may be able to get financial assistance from the federal government.
The U.S. Small Business Association says economic injury disaster loans are available for certain small businesses, small agriculture cooperatives, aquaculture businesses and private nonprofit groups. The businesses must be located in Cabell, Hancock, Jackson, Marshall, Mason, Ohio, Pleasants, Tyler, Wayne, Wetzel and Wood Counties.
The administration hopes to help offset financial losses that resulted from the excessive rain, flooding, heating, landslides, mudslides, high winds, hail and lightning that impacted parts of West Virginia between March and August.
FRANCE, RUSSIA REACH CONSENSUS ON ISLAMIC STATE STRATEGY
The two presidents agreed to increase intelligence sharing and cooperate when targeting the extremist group.
WHAT CHICAGO PROTESTERS ARE PLANNING FOR BLACK FRIDAY
Demonstrators will march down the Magnificent Mile on the busiest shopping day of the year to bring attention to issues like police brutality.
TRUMP DENIES MAKING FUN OF REPORTER WITH DISABILITY
During a South Carolina speech, the Republican presidential hopeful appeared to imitate mannerisms of a reporter with a condition that affects joint movement, but he says he was only mocking his journalism.
WHY THE WHITE HOUSE HAD A THANKSGIVING LOCKDOWN
A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence outside the White House - with the Obamas celebrating inside - before being apprehended on the lawn.
HOW A SEX OFFENDER WITHOUT A TICKET MANAGED TO CHECK IN AT AIRPORT
Authorities say the man stole a boarding pass a woman accidentally left behind at a check-in kiosk earlier this month and used it to get through airport security in Salt Lake City before being caught at the flight’s gate.
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY ENDS ANNUAL LAKE JUMP AFTER STUDENT DEATH
Authorities say he probably died from a broken neck after participating in a tradition to mark college’s football rivalry with the University of Michigan.
STORES HOPE SHOPPERS BYPASS POST-THANKSGIVING DINNER NAP FOR SAVINGS
Wal-Mart, Macy’s and Toys R Us are among the stores opening on the afternoon and evening of the holiday.
THANKSGIVING CELEBRATED WITH PARADES, SECURITY
A stepped-up police presence marked the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and St. Louis resumed its parade after protests led last year’s to be canceled.
CALIFORNIA FARM RECALLS VEGETABLES BELIEVED TO BE SOURCE OF E. COLI OUTBREAK
The onion-celery mix was used in Costco chicken salad that sickened 19 peopled in seven states.
PANTHERS PRESERVE PERFECT SEASON
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likely re-injured his left collarbone in Carolina’s 33-14 win as the Panthers improved to 11-0.
► Washington College Cancels Classes Over Hate Speech
After a racist thread on social media sparked outrage on a Washington state campus, college officials sent students home a day early for the Thanksgiving holiday. Western Washington University sent out an alert canceling classes and an email to students from President Bruce Shepard on Tuesday morning. It’s unknown if the people who posted the threats are students at the state university in Bellingham, but the posts were made from a phone located within 10 miles of campus, Shepard said. “I need to be very clear here: We are not talking the merely insulting, rude, offensive commentary that trolls and various other lowlifes seem free to spew, willy nilly, although there has been plenty of that, too. No, this was hate speech,“ Shepard wrote in the email. Threats against minorities were posted over the weekend on YikYak, an anonymous social media platform.
The posts mentioned almost every ethnic group, blaming them for an effort on campus to debate changing the university’s mascot, a Viking. The threats came days after some student leaders suggested that the mascot is racist. Most of the online comments contained racist language and profanity, making fun of the mascot. One post called black students crying babies and another complimented the school for having an “overtly Aryan” mascot. The university of about 15,000 students boasts that nearly a quarter of its enrollees are from minority groups. Law enforcement officials do not believe there is a threat to general campus security, but Shepard said a threat to any Western student is an attack on the whole college community. The decision to cancel classes was precautionary and to make sure students were safe, he said.
► ‘Stressed Out’ Juror Sends ‘Highly Unusual’ Note to Judge
In a move the New York Times calls “highly unusual,“ a “stressed out” juror sent a note to the judge asking if she could go home after less than two hours of deliberations. “I don’t feel like I can be myself right now!“ the note read in part. “I need to leave!” It came in the corruption trial against former New York State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, which has been going on for three weeks. Silver is accused of taking millions in kickbacks in return for political favors, reports CBS New York. Jury deliberations started Tuesday, and that’s when Judge Valerie Caproni received a note from an unnamed juror stating: “I am wondering if there is anyway I can be excused from this case, because I have a different opinion/view so far in this case and it is making me feel very, very uncomfortable,“ per the Times.
“My heart is pounding and my head feels weird,“ the note says. “I am so stressed out right now that I can’t even write normally.“ She adds that other jurors were accusing her of not using common sense. A second juror sent the judge a note saying that one member of the panel was having trouble determining whether it was, in fact, illegal for someone like Silver to accept money in exchange for favors. That note sought clarification on state rules, notes CBS. The prosecutor recommended the stressed-out juror be released, but the judge refused, saying it was “too early to throw in the towel.“ After receiving the note, Caproni reminded jurors they need to “respectfully exchange views” during deliberations. With the jury back at work, Jezebel is left with a few questions, including, “What did she think deliberations were?“ and “How’d this happen in under two hours?“
► 8-Year-Old Girl Killed While Driving Car
A driver died Sunday in Kansas after losing control of her 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, rolling down an embankment, and landing upside down in a creek, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. The driver? An 8-year-old girl. “Grandpa said he gave her permission to drive and she crashed,“ a Kansas Highway Patrol spokesperson tells the St. Joseph News-Press. “It is just really an unfortunate accident.“ According to the Capital-Journal, Cadence Orcutt was driving the car with her grandfather in the passenger seat when she overcorrected to the left and went off the road. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time. The News-Press notes it’s unclear why Cadence lost control of the car.
Emergency responders found Cadence dead at the scene, the News-Press reports. Her grandfather was injured and taken to a local hospital for treatment. An investigation into the crash is ongoing, and charges are possible against Cadence’s grandfather. Following the crash, the girl’s mother took to Facebook to defend her parenting, according to the Capital-Journal. She says she would never have let her daughter drive if she had been there. “My heart is dying,“ she writes on Facebook. “There are no words. There’s nothing. She will never come home again.“
► DNA Clears Man in Prison for 16 Years for Rape
A California man imprisoned for 16 years for sexual assault was exonerated Monday after DNA tests showed another man committed the crimes, USA Today reports. Luis Vargas, 46, broke down when an LA Superior Court judge granted a petition to release him from his sentence of 55 years to life for three sex crimes. The move came after DNA evidence linked those assaults to a serial attacker known as the Teardrop Rapist, so labeled for having a teardrop tattoo under his eye, the AP notes. That man, who was never caught, is suspected of having committed about three dozen crimes in the LA area. Vargas had matched assailant descriptions, and he caught investigators’ eye because he had a faded teardrop tattoo under his left eye and a 1992 rape conviction involving his girlfriend at the time, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“You can sentence me to all the years you want, but ... that individual that really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there,“ Vargas warned a judge before he was sentenced in 1999. In 2012, Vargas reached out to the California Innocence Project and asked to use DNA techniques to examine samples on the clothing of one of his alleged victims, per the Times. The DNA matched that of the victim and the Teardrop Rapist. The three victims had positively IDed Vargas as the perpetrator, but an Innocence Project attorney tells the AP it was a “shaky witness” case, an assertion the LA district attorney’s office backed up in a recent court letter that said there were discrepancies and uncertainties in their identification of the rapist, the Times notes. Vargas still has to clear up some immigration issues before he’s fully released, but he hopes to be home by Christmas.
► Suspects Nabbed in ‘Black Lives Matter’ Shooting
Two of three men accused of shooting into a crowd near a “Black Lives Matter” protest Monday night in Minneapolis, injuring five, have been arrested, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. A 23-year-old white suspect, who the police tell the Washington Post will be identified after being formally charged, was taken in by Minneapolis police in Bloomington shortly before noon local time Tuesday, the paper notes, and the AP reports a 32-year-old Hispanic man was also arrested in Minneapolis. Police are seeking an additional suspect or suspects. The Minneapolis Police Department is trying to determine whether to charge the accused with hate crimes for the shooting, which wounded five black men between the ages of 19 and 43 near the police department’s Fourth Precinct station. The FBI is also “aware of the incident and … coordinating with [local police] to assess the facts and determine if further federal action” is required, per the Star Tribune.
Protesters have been gathered outside the station since the November 15 fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, and even though Clark’s family called for demonstrators to disperse after Monday’s shooting, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis says protests will continue, the Post notes. Witnesses have described the suspects as “white supremacists,“ though some authorities are holding back on that. “I don’t want to perpetuate rumor,“ state Rep. Keith Ellison tells Minnesota Public Radio. “I’m not trying to say they weren’t white supremacists. But I just haven’t been able to piece together enough information to say with any real clarity.“ Meanwhile, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton tells MPR the shootings were a “cowardly, criminal act” and that the suspects will be “brought to justice.“ But he, too, calls for protests to end, saying the shooting “underscores the treacherous nature of a significant number of people ... intermingling without any way of safeguarding people engaged in peaceful protests.“
► 91-Year-Old Shot, Set on Fire in Detroit
A man has surrendered to police and been charged after a “heinous” murder in Detroit, though police aren’t giving up details on the suspect’s identity or motive, reports the Detroit Free Press. Authorities say 91-year-old Paul Monchnik was beaten, shot in the head, doused in gasoline, and set on fire early Monday in the midst of a home invasion. Officials responded to a house fire at 2:50am and found Monchnik’s burnt body “covered with an accelerant, most likely gasoline,“ an official tells the Detroit News. He was lying on his back with his hands up and had been shot in the top of the head, investigators tell Fox 2. Authorities believe the gunshot killed Monchnik, though autopsy results are pending. Police initially raided the home next to Monchnik’s in search of an unidentified suspect in his 20s, but the man wasn’t there.
“We believe during the suspect’s entry into this home, there was an attack,“ an official said Monday, per the Detroit Free Press. “However, in order for the suspect to cover his tracks, he decided to leave the location, obtain some gasoline, return, and set the victim and the home on fire.“ Police also released surveillance video showing the suspect driving the victim’s vehicle to a gas station to buy gasoline. Monchnik’s son says his father emigrated from Poland as a child and made a living fixing TVs. He was “nearly deaf,“ but was healthy, took no medications, and “cherished his independence,“ he says. “This is a heinous act beyond anything. This guy has to get caught and held accountable,“ he adds, per the New York Daily News.
► 79-Year-Old Shot Dead Hours Before Retirement
A robbery a month ago at the Liquor Market in Boynton Beach, Fla., helped Ali Arezoumandifar’s family convince him it was finally time to retire. The 79-year-old liquor store clerk had chased after a man in a black mask who stole $300 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets on October 27 and was knocked to the ground as the perpetrator sped away. “It shook up the plaza,“ an officer tells the Palm Beach Post. Arezoumandifar was the previous owner of the store and had stayed on after its sale to help the new owners get started, reports the Sun Sentinel. During his last shift on Sunday, family members gathered to prepare a celebratory dinner. But Arezoumandifar never showed. A customer found the man dead of a single gunshot wound behind the store’s counter around 8pm.
A surveillance camera failed to capture the crime, but police say Arezoumandifar was shot while behind the counter. The cash register was found empty. Police aren’t saying whether Sunday’s crime has any link to the October robbery. In that incident, police traced the stolen lottery tickets to a couple, who face charges over another robbery at a 7-Eleven. The man is in jail, but the woman was questioned and is considered a person of interest, police say. “It’s very sad,“ says a woman who works nearby, adding Arezoumandifar spoke little English but would kiss her hand to say hello. “I’m begging of anybody who knows anything to come forward,“ Arezoumandifar’s daughter tells WPBF. “He didn’t deserve the way he died.“
► Chicago Cop No Stranger to Complaints
The Chicago police officer charged with murder in the death of Laquan McDonald was the subject of at least 18 citizen complaints before the October 2014 incident, reports WLS. Jason Van Dyke was accused of excessive force in 10 of those incidents over his 14-year career, including two when he allegedly used a firearm to cause injury, reports the Washington Post, via data compiled by the University of Chicago and nonprofit Invisible Institute. Van Dyke, however, has never been disciplined, reports WLS. “We don’t have all of Van Dyke’s complaints"—the data only includes complaints those from 2002 to 2008 and 2011 to 2015—but the “misconduct complaints … show by and large excessive force and racial slurs,“ an Institute rep says. “And he has largely operated with impunity and under a code of silence with the same huddle of officers again and again.“
NBC News reports 20 complaints address Van Dyke, including four that appear to be open investigations. “I think there’s a pattern of ‘investigation as cover-up,‘“ says Invisible Institute’s founder, Jamie Kalven. “As long as you can say there is a pending investigation, you don’t have to acknowledge the reality of what happened.“ The Institute says about 80% of officers receive no more than four complaints during their careers, but 20% make up “barrels of bad apples.“ One Chicago officer received 68 complaints but escaped disciplinary action, reports the New York Times. Only about 5% of complaints result in penalties, and white officers were half as likely to be disciplined as black officers, per the Post. Kalven says departments should monitor the number of complaints an officer receives so they can “intervene and keep small things from becoming big things.“ If such a strategy were in place, “perhaps Laquan McDonald would be alive today.“
► Ads Featuring Nazi Imagery Pulled From New York Subway
An ad campaign that featured Nazi imagery has been pulled from the New York City subway system. Seats on the 42nd Street shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal were wrapped in Nazi regalia to promote an Amazon video series called The Man in the High Castle based on a novel by Philip K. Dick. The show depicts the aftermath of World War II as if the Axis powers triumphed. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, approved the ads, which first appeared earlier this month. The agency also initially defended the ads, saying they met its guidelines. But many public officials condemned them, with Mayor Bill de Blasio calling them “irresponsible and offensive.“ Officials confirmed Wednesday that Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered them removed.
► Sheriff’s New Welcome Sign Isn’t Super Welcoming
It might be the most unwelcoming welcome sign in America. A six-term Georgia sheriff spent more than $500 of his own money to install a welcome sign outside the Harris County sheriff’s office telling anyone who doesn’t like the way they do things there to get out, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports. The sign reads: “WARNING: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America, and In God We Trust. We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you…LEAVE!“ Sheriff Mike Jolley tells the Ledger-Enquirer he installed the sign to “stir people’s belief and patriotism” and to give voice to the “silent majority.“
“I spent 20 years in the army to give everyone the right not to agree with it and to voice their opinion if they’re not, and that’s fine” Jolley tells WLTZ. Since putting the sign up Tuesday, Jolley says he’s received a lot of support from the community, including in the form of donations. He plans on using some of the money to put more signs up around the county, the AP reports. Jolley tells the Ledger-Enquirer he’s “surprised and humbled” by the reaction to his sign taking a stand for political incorrectness.
A Chinese student is suing her government over medical textbooks that classify homosexuality as a mental disorder that can be cured through shock therapy. Twenty-year-old Qui Bai—whose family turned away from her when they found out she was gay—was looking for answers about her sexuality two years ago when she found the offending passages in textbooks published by China’s education ministry, NBC News reports. “I thought textbooks should be trustworthy, but when I saw these lines I felt horrible,“ she says. “This is discrimination against homosexuality.“ According to the Washington Post, the ministry ignored Qui’s letter asking it to correct the books—the Chinese Psychiatric Association hasn’t classified homosexuality as a mental disorder since 2001—and she filed a lawsuit in August.
The New York Times reports two-dozen supporters waved signs and a rainbow flag outside a Chinese courthouse during a discussion between Qui and education officials Tuesday. While nothing was settled, Qui and her lawyer say it was a minor victory to even have the discussion while China continues to crack down on activists and human-rights lawyers. Discrimination against homosexuals is prevalent in China, and experts say with little in the way of sex education, medically accurate textbooks are essential, according to the Post. “Because textbooks are seen as having authority, everyone—including the students, the teachers, and the parents—believes them,“ one activist tells the Post. NBC reports 40% of textbooks still classified homosexuality as a disease as of 2014. “This case is not even close to ending,“Qui says. “I won’t give it up.“
► Obama: Turkey Has Right to Defend Its Airspace
President Obama and French President Francois Hollande met Tuesday in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, with perhaps the most newsworthy moment coming when they were asked about Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet. “Turkey, like every country, has the right to defend its territory and its airspace,“ Obama said at their news conference, per the Washington Post. But he also said he’d work to “discourage any escalation” of tension as the incident was investigated. Other highlights, via the New York Times and USA Today:
Obama: “Nous sommes tous Francais.“ (“We are all French.“)
Obama: “When tragedy struck that evening, our hearts broke, too. ... I want to salute the people of Paris for showing the world how to stay strong in the face of terrorism.“
Obama: “As Americans, we all have a role to play in the way we respond to threats. ... We cannot give them the victory of changing how we go about living our lives.“
Hollande: Obama “was the first one to call me” after the attacks, he said, expressing thanks for that and for broader messages of support from Americans.
Hollande: “After 9/11, we all felt American,“ he said of the French. “But after the 13th of November,“ Americans returned the favor.
Hollande: “We will not allow those who want to destroy what we have built. ... We need a joint response.“ The Paris attacks may have “generated a lot of emotion, but that’s not enough. We must act.“
► Sister of Paris’ Female Terrorist: ‘She Was Sad’
The sister of the woman killed during a raid on an apartment outside Paris last week says Hasna Aitboulahcen wasn’t a die-hard terrorist but was “manipulated by her cousin,“ alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Speaking with NBC News, 25-year-old Myriam Aitboulahcen—who last spoke with her sister at the beginning of November—says police “gave me no information” on Hasna’s alleged role in the terror attacks, but she adds Hasna, 26, “did not grow up in a stable home. She was not happy in her life. She was sad.“ Hasna was raised largely in foster care, AFP reports, and friends say the Moroccan immigrant’s daughter was a party girl who drank and used drugs. “She was unstable, she created her own bubble,“ her brother says. “She wasn’t looking to study religion, I have never even seen her open a Koran.“
Then, about six months ago, she became radicalized, he says. “She started by wearing a jilbab (which covers the whole body except the face) and then she moved on to the niqab (full-face veil),“ he told AFP. “She spent all her time on her smartphone, on Facebook and WhatsApp.“ On social media in June, Hasna posted a photo of herself in full Muslim garb. “Soon I will go to Syria, God willing,“ she wrote, per the New York Times. She never made the trip. Initially identified as Western Europe’s first female suicide bomber after the raid in Saint-Denis, authorities now say Hasna was killed when a man detonated an explosive vest nearby. Authorities say she first yelled, “Help me!“ in a failed attempt to trap officers, then opened fire with a Kalashnikov.
► Soccer Team Jerseys Drop Sponsor, Add Paris Tribute
The Paris Saint-Germain soccer team wanted to show the world that its thoughts are with its home city and the victims of the recent terror attacks—so it has (temporarily) ditched a major sponsor from its jerseys and replaced it with a message of solidarity instead, reports For the Win. “Je Suis Paris” (“I am Paris”)—reminiscent of the “Je Suis Charlie” message that proliferated after January’s Charlie Hebdo attack—will adorn the team’s jerseys for the next two games, against Malmo on Wednesday and Troyes on Saturday.
“This [message] of unity [will appear] on the shirt in the space usually occupied by our main partner Emirates,“ the team says on its website; it also tweeted a photo of some of the players sporting the jerseys. The team says Emirates Airline has given the A-OK for the limited redesign and “has been cooperative throughout the process of memorializing the victims,“ as the Washington Post puts it.
► Russia: Jet Downing Was ‘Planned Provocation’
Russia’s foreign minister says the country isn’t about to go to war with Turkey, but adds that the downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday “looks very much like a pre-planned provocation,“ per Politico. “We have serious doubts this was an unintended incident.“ The sharp words from Sergei Lavrov came after he spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu. Lavrov adds that “very strange sentiments” followed Tuesday’s NATO meeting in Brussels, “which didn’t express any regret or condolences and in effect were aimed at covering up what the Turkish Air Force did.“ NATO’s secretary-general says intelligence reports back up Turkey’s claim that the plane was flying in Turkish airspace when it was brought down. A US military rep adds that “we were able to hear everything that was going on,“ including 10 warnings issued to the Russian pilots, per the Washington Post.
A Turkish official tells the New York Times that Moscow shouldn’t be surprised at what happened. “I personally was expecting something like this, because in the past months there have been so many incidents like that,” says the undersecretary of defense. “Our engagement rules were very clear, and any sovereign nation has a right to defend its airspace.” Russian officials have proposed canceling a proposed gas pipeline to Turkey and a ban on Turkish airlines in the aftermath, but so far have only told Russian citizens to avoid Turkey. Russia also plans to send S-400 anti-missile systems to its airbase in northwestern Syria—a move that could further hamper the US-led coalition’s moves against ISIS.
► ISIS Tunnels Found Under Iraqi City
Video newly obtained by the AP sheds light on ISIS strategy under the Iraqi town of Sinjar: Militants from the Islamic State built a network of tunnels, complete with sleeping quarters, electricity, boxes of US-made ammunition, antibiotics, and sandbag fortifications. The video footage of the tunnels was uncovered by Kurdish forces that took the city in northwestern Iraq earlier in November after more than a year of ISIS rule. “We found between 30 and 40 tunnels inside Sinjar,“ says Shamo Eado, a Sinjar commander with the Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. “It was like a network inside the city. [ISIS] dug these trenches ... to hide from airstrikes and have free movement underground, as well as to store weapons and explosives.“ The freelancer-shot video shows two tunnels running several hundred yards, each starting and ending from houses, through holes knocked in walls or floors.
The narrow tunnels, apparently carved in the rock with jackhammers or other hand-held gear, are just tall enough for a man to stand in. Rows of sandbags line sections of the walls and electrical wires power fans and lights. ISIS took control of Sinjar in August 2014, capturing and killing thousands of the town’s mostly Yazidi residents. ISIS has been digging tunnels for protection and movement throughout the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, even before the US-led coalition launched its campaign of airstrikes against the group more than a year ago. After pushing ISIS out of Sinjar, peshmerga officials and locals uncovered two mass graves in the area: one not far from the city center with about 78 elderly women’s bodies, the second grave about 9 miles west of Sinjar with between 50 and 60 bodies of men, women, and children. Eado says as Kurdish forces clear Sinjar of explosives, he expects to find more tunnels and evidence of atrocities. “It’s just a matter of time.“
New Food Safety Rules: Something to be Thankful For?
CHARLESTON, WV - The Food and Drug Administration is putting new food safety rules in place, and advocates of the change say that’s something to be thankful for.
The FDA is finalizing rules for three basic categories of groceries: produce, imports, and processed foods.
Sandra Eskin, director of the Safe Food Project for The Pew Charitable Trusts, says she’s going to take a moment at her Thanksgiving table to be grateful.
“We have a safe food supply in this country, but it can be safer,“ she says. “And it’s made safer by rules like these that are going to make the people who grow and import the food responsible for the safety of it.“
Some farm and food industry lobbying groups have chafed under federal rules in the past. Eskin points out the new regulations will be phased in starting with the big operations first.
She adds many of the rules will be enforceable, rather than voluntary, for the first time.
The rules also will require producers, growers and importers to ensure the food they produce or import has minimal contamination. That’s a change, for both produce and for imports.
“For the very first time, the entity that imports a food product regulated by FDA is responsible for the safety of that product,“ says Eskin.
Many people probably assume all the important food-safety rules were put in place a long time ago. But Eskin says that isn’t the case. She says every time there is a serious food-safety problem, regulators consider updating the rules. That was the case a few years ago, when a lot of people became ill after eating fast-food hamburgers.
“Looking at ground beef, looking at this particular horrible strain of E. coli, we have cut infections by 50 percent. And that is quite an achievement,“ she says.
For consumers, Eskin notes there is still a need to follow all the basic rules for safe food handling, storage and preparation at home. But she says they can also be thankful that their food will be safer and more sanitary before they get to it.
Global Warming Might Keep Us from Passing the Oyster Dressing
CHARLESTON, WV - Climate change may be a threat to one holiday favorite - oyster dressing.
According to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation, oyster reefs are on the front lines for damage from global climate change. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s oyster expert, Chris Moore, said heating up the oceans will mean more algae, which can make it harder for the oysters to reproduce and, in some cases, make them unsafe to eat.
“When we have warmer waters over a long period of time,“ he said, “we end up with a higher likelihood of having those algal blooms.“
Moore said climate change also is making the oceans more acidic, which makes it harder for young oysters to grow their shells, which are made out of calcium carbonate.
“Unfortunately they can’t do that,“ he said, “because they can’t produce enough shell material because of the acidification.“
Chesapeake Bay is one of the nation’s most important sources for oysters, but Moore said all oyster reefs are facing these issues “no matter if you’re on the East Coast or if you’re on the West Coast. Here in Chesapeake Bay, it’s something obviously we’re very concerned about, especially as our aquaculture industry grows.“
Moore said these are good reasons to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. According to many in the coal and oil industries and their political allies, however, carbon restrictions such as those in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan would be devastating for them.
West Virginian: Don’t Mess With Land and Water Fund
CHARLESTON, WV - Congress’ failure to reauthorize a popular land and water fund is drawing widespread scorn from West Virginians. Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has taken money from offshore oil and gas royalties. It gives grants to protect and improve everything from Civil War battlefields and federal wilderness areas to state parks and city pools.
Fayette County Commissioner Matt Wender is frustrated Congress is failing to fund a program crucial to ongoing efforts to protect local tourism.
“If you were going down the Gauley River, as many, many people do in the fall, there is clear-cutting along the banks going up the sides of the gorge, and there are housing developments that go down to the river,“ says Wender. “The value of that asset needs to be protected and is at risk.“
Some West Virginians, including local officials, say they are frustrated that Congress has failed
to reauthorize a conservation fund with long-standing bipartisan support.
Part of the delay is a push by some in Congress to shift much of the money to other uses, they say need it more. Wender and others say that could gut the program.
Utah Republican Rob Bishop chairs a house subcommittee crucial to the LWCF. Bishop said he opposes the federal government buying up more land for parks and forests. He’s backing a bill he describes as expanding the LWCF’s scope. It could shift land-buying money to local governments and training for oil and gas workers.
Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations for lands with The Wilderness Society, says they favor a bipartisan alternative that would permanently fund the LWCF to do what’s long been popular in both parties. He says don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.
“In an incredibly polarized world where Congress isn’t doing much, you see this bipartisan cooperation,“ says Rowsome. “And it shows you that this is a special issue, and one that shouldn’t be caught up in the politics.“
According to Wender, tourism is worth $60 million to Fayette County each year. He says the fund has helped them make an important and difficult economic transition.
“It became a significant part of our county and softened the blow of the loss of coal jobs,“ says Wender. “It’s a part of our future that we’ve got to protect and develop further.“
The last authorization for the fund expired at the end of September.