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[l] at 4/28/17 5:56am

Owens pleads guilty to Codd killings. For a full report on why and reactions from family: https://t.co/2netZsmzOr #avlnews

— Abby Margulis (@asmargulis) April 27, 2017

A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to murdering a former Food Network contestant, her husband and their unborn child, whose dismembered remains were discovered burned in a wood stove near their property.

Robert Jason Owens admitted Thursday in state superior court that he killed Cristie Schoen Codd, a chef who once competed on the reality television show “Food Network Star.” He also admitted to killing her husband, Joseph Codd, and the couple’s unborn daughter, Skylar, the Citizen-Times reported.

Owens told investigators he killed the Cristie and J.T. Codd in March 2015. According to the Citizen-Times, Owens said he accidentally ran over the couple as they tried to move their car out of a ditch, first hitting his car’s accelerator and ramming them, then backing over them.

Human remains found in stove may be 'Food Network Star' contestant, Cristie Codd & husband. http://t.co/QUSbvsERNO

— Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem) March 30, 2015

He then hauled their bodies into their house, where he dismembered them with a reciprocating saw and placed their parts into plastic bags, he reportedly told investigators. From there, he took the remains to a wood stove at a mobile home on his property and burned them, according to the Citizen-Times. He told police he moved the couple’s cars and sold their belongings to make it look like a robbery, WPSA reported.

Under the plea deal, Owens, 37, will avoid the death penalty and instead serve a minimum of 59 and a half years in prison, according to local media. Prosecutors said family members of the Codds had approved the agreement.

“Frankly, we don’t believe there is any punishment that exists that would be a justification for what he did,” the family said in a statement. “We can only hope that he suffers for the remainder of his life on Earth and again as he rots in hell.”

In court, Owens apologized to the couple’s family and friends.

“I’m grateful for you for the mercy you have left with this court to show me,” he said, according to the Citizen-Times. “I am truly sorry.”

Owens answering questions before judge in hearing. #avlnews pic.twitter.com/4lrb2HB1LD

— Abby Margulis (@asmargulis) April 27, 2017

Cristie Codd, 38, was one of a dozen contestants who appeared on the eighth season of “Food Network Star,” a competitive cooking series. She was the first contestant to be eliminated that season, which aired in 2012.

In an interview with WannabeTVChef that year, Codd said she wanted to open a cafe that served locally grown, healthy cuisine.

“I’m an advocate of trying to motivate and educate and inspire people,” she said. “Healthy does not mean boring and bland.”

After her Food Network stint, Codd worked as a caterer. Her husband, who was 45 when he died, worked as a grip on movie and television sets.

Family members reported Codd and her husband missing on March 15, 2015. Deputies who conducted a wellness check at their home in Leicester, N.C., found cars in the driveway and pet dogs inside but no sign of the couple.

Owens was immediately flagged as a suspect. The couple reportedly knew him because he had done construction work on their home, a local resident said.

Prosecutors on Thursday called the crime “among the most disturbing killings in Buncombe County history.” His sentence was “tantamount to a sentence of death in prison,” Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said in a statement.

Family members who spoke in court remembered J.T. Codd as “larger than life” and “as genuine as a man could be,” according to the Citizen-Times. Though Cristie Codd was known for her Food Network stardom, they said, “she was much much more than some Hollywood type. … She truly lived to make others happy.”

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[Category: National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/28/17 5:25am

Oprah Winfrey and Laura Dern appear with host Ellen DeGeneres at a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” (Michael Rozman/Warner Bros./AP)

For a year before the television episode that buoyed, then tanked, and ultimately defined Ellen DeGeneres’s career debuted, rumors swirled about the comedian’s sexuality.

She was gay, the gossips whispered, and soon the character she played on her TV sitcom, “Ellen,” might come out as a lesbian.

The build-up gave DeGeneres, once Showtime’s “Funniest Person in America” a chance to play it coy.

Maybe, she teased, her bookstore-managing TV character Ellen Morgan wasn’t coming out as a lesbian, but Lebanese.

Then on the cover of Time magazine’s April 14, 1997, issue, DeGeneres unabashedly declared: “Yep, I’m Gay.”

And two weeks later, before a live studio audience on April 30, 2017, Ellen Morgan the character said that she was gay, too.

1997 Time cover "Yep, I'm Gay, @TheEllenShow I still have my copy because I wasn't out & it gave me strength. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/Urp8KSkcYy

— Air-Rum (@__aarum) April 27, 2017

“It became more important to me than my career,” DeGeneres recently told the Associated Press during an interview reflecting on the episode’s 20th anniversary. “I suddenly said, ‘Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society’s eyes?’”

It was a public coming out that earned DeGeneres bomb threats, thank-you cards and the title of first openly gay leading character on television.

On Friday, two guest stars from that historic episode — Oprah Winfrey and actress Laura Dern — will join DeGeneres on her talk show to discuss its 20th anniversary and the progress of LGBT issues.

#TBT to 20 years ago. Don't miss tomorrow's show. @Oprah pic.twitter.com/n2HLh4QLcv

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 27, 2017

In a preview clip of the conversation, DeGeneres says in her monologue that her 1997 declaration was “before ‘Will & Grace,’ Cam and Mitchell, and Hoda and Kathie Lee.”

Congress had passed the Defense of Marriage Act (which defined marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman) just six months before and the LGBT community, eager for a hero, found one in both Ellens. “It took ovaries,” wrote playwright and LGBT advocate Claudia Allen in a column at the time praising DeGeneres.

But with the admiration came trouble, first from the Christian right (“Ellen DeGenerate” said the late Rev. Jerry Falwell) and then from her bosses at Disney-owned ABC, who canceled “Ellen” a year later.

Even before the coming-out episode, the sitcom was struggling. It had dropped from fifth to 36th in ratings. Ellen Morgan had no love life. DeGeneres thought a sexual revelation could be a natural turning point for the show and critics predicted that if the comedian and her character were finally free to be sexually honest, “Ellen” could be saved.

Writing the actual episode, though, was so top secret that the script was printed on dark red paper to make photo copying impossible. The drafts were locked in safes, DeGeneres told the Associated Press, and shredded at the end of each day.

“It was crazy,” she said. “It was like we were spies or something.”

They named it “The Puppy Episode,” not because it featured dogs, but because executives initially rejected the plot twist and said, according to DeGeneres: “Well get her a puppy. She’s not coming out.”

The episode opens with Ellen Morgan in the bathroom, taking too long to prep for a date with a male TV reporter on assignment in Los Angeles. From the family room, her friends tell her to “quit jerking us around and come out already!”

At dinner, the reporter’s producer, Susan, played by Dern, joins them for dessert.

The women find instant chemistry, and Susan later tells Ellen that she is attracted to women.

But the next day, Ellen lies to her friends, claiming she and the reporter had amazing sex. She later admits the truth to her therapist, played by Oprah.

“Has there ever been anyone you felt like you clicked with?” the therapist asks.

Ellen shakes her head.

“And what was his name?”

Ellen pauses: “Susan.”

At the end of the episode, Richard and Susan prepare to depart for home at the airport. Ellen arrives with an admission for Susan, at first struggling to articulate it.

“This is so hard, but I think I’ve realized that I am …” Ellen says, pacing around the terminal in a tender, raw moment. “I can’t even say the word. Why can’t I say the word … why do I have to be so ashamed … I’m so afraid to tell people.”

The camera turns to face the two women, who are standing beside the flight attendant’s podium that is inconveniently equipped with a microphone.

“Susan,” Ellen says, learning toward Dern and over the microphone. “I’m gay.”

The live studio audience laughed and cheered.

Hollywood Flashback: 20 years ago, Ellen's "I'm gay" moment made history https://t.co/H0ahhDdWES @TheEllenShow pic.twitter.com/YZuG8wMhq5

— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 27, 2017

Before that moment, DeGeneres had not said aloud that last line.

“I realized how charged that sentence was because, you know, when you’re gay, the only time you say ‘I’m gay’ is when you’re revealing it to someone, when you’re telling your parents or when you’re telling someone close to you. Because most people never have to say, ‘I’m straight,'” DeGeneres told the Associated Press, explaining that the scene always made her tear up. “So Laura (guest star Laura Dern) kept saying, ‘Just don’t say it,’ because she saw how hard it was for me.”

Though the episode would eventually win a Peabody and an Emmy, it ultimately killed the sitcom — and, temporarily, DeGeneres’s career.

Advertisers fled. Season five revolved almost entirely around Ellen’s homosexuality and ratings tanked. Before an episode where Ellen Morgan kisses another woman, the network required a “parental advisory,” over DeGeneres’s objections.

At the end of the season, ABC canceled Ellen.

Then-ABC President Robert Iger told Diane Sawyer the decision had nothing to do with DeGeneres’s sexual orientation, but that viewers were turned off when the show “became a program about a lead character who was gay every single week.”

DeGeneres said she had no regrets.

“If I just had this one year of doing what I did on TV, I’d take that over 10 years of being on a sitcom and just being funny,” she told Sawyer.

But for three years after that, DeGeneres fell into a deep depression. She couldn’t get work and suddenly was viewed as not a comedian, but a gay comedian.

In 2000, she returned to her stand-up comedy roots, prepared for another variety show on CBS and wrote an HBO special titled “Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning” that left out any overtly gay or political humor.

“I knew I didn’t want to do that,” DeGeneres told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2000. “It’s not who I was.”

After “Ellen” failed, she realized that making her comedy all about her sexuality was a miscalculation. “I am the same person and I have the same sense of humor and the same thoughts, and I’m not going to turn my show into a gay show just because everybody knows I’m gay now,” DeGeneres said.

In 2003, she wrote another HBO special and introduced herself to a new generation of potential fans as the voice of a forgetful blue tang fish named Dory in the Pixar movie “Finding Nemo.” That same year, her current talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” debuted on NBC. It has won dozens of Emmys and made DeGeneres everybody’s BFF.

Last year, President Barack Obama awarded DeGeneres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian in the United States.

“For me to crawl out of that and to accomplish what I’ve accomplished with the show and with my brand and with my production company, and to succeed after all that,” DeGeneres recently told the Associated Press. “[It] makes me realize that no matter how dark something gets, and no matter how bad something gets, that there’s always a possibility of good coming from it.”

Others in the LGBT community have credited DeGeneres for making them feel comfortable with themselves and their sexuality, including Eric Marcus, creator and host of the podcast “Making Gay History.”

“For everyday people,” Marcus told the AP, “Ellen made gay okay.”

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[Category: Entertainment, National, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/28/17 5:25am

Oprah Winfrey, left, and Laura Dern appear with host Ellen DeGeneres at a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” (Michael Rozman/Warner Bros./AP)

For a year before the television episode that buoyed, then tanked, and ultimately defined Ellen DeGeneres’ career debuted, rumors swirled about the comedian’s sexuality.

She was gay, the gossips whispered, and soon the character she played on her TV sitcom, “Ellen,” might come out as a lesbian.

The build-up gave DeGeneres, once Showtime’s “Funniest Person in America” a chance to play it coy.

Maybe, she teased, her bookstore-managing TV character Ellen Morgan wasn’t coming out as a lesbian, but Lebanese.

Then on the cover of Time magazine’s April 14, 1997, issue, DeGeneres unabashedly declared: “Yep, I’m Gay.”

And two weeks later, before a live studio audience on April 30, 2017, Ellen Morgan the character said that she was gay, too.

1997 Time cover "Yep, I'm Gay, @TheEllenShow I still have my copy because I wasn't out & it gave me strength. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/Urp8KSkcYy

— Air-Rum (@__aarum) April 27, 2017

“It became more important to me than my career,” DeGeneres recently told the Associated Press during an interview reflecting on the episode’s 20th anniversary. “I suddenly said, ‘Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society’s eyes?’”

It was a public coming out that earned DeGeneres bomb threats, thank you cards and the title of first openly gay leading character on television.

On Friday, two guest stars from that historic episode — Oprah Winfrey and actress Laura Dern — will join DeGeneres on her talk show to discuss its 20th anniversary and the progress of LGBT issues.

#TBT to 20 years ago. Don't miss tomorrow's show. @Oprah pic.twitter.com/n2HLh4QLcv

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 27, 2017

In a preview clip of the conversation, DeGeneres says in her monologue that her 1997 declaration was “before ‘Will & Grace,’ Cam and Mitchell, and Hoda and Kathie Lee.”

Congress had passed the Defense of Marriage Act (which defined marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman) just six months before and the LGBT community, eager for a hero, found one in both Ellens. “It took ovaries,” wrote playwright and LGBT advocate Claudia Allen in a column at the time praising DeGeneres.

But with the admiration came trouble, first from the Christian right (“Ellen DeGenerate” said the late Rev. Jerry Falwell) and then from her bosses at Disney-owned ABC, who canceled “Ellen” a year later.

Even before the coming-out episode, the sitcom was struggling. It had dropped from 5th to 36th in ratings. Ellen Morgan had no love life. DeGeneres thought a sexual revelation could be a natural turning point for the show and critics predicted that if the comedian and her character were finally free to be sexually honest, “Ellen” could be saved.

Writing the actual episode, though, was so top secret that the script was printed on dark red paper to make photo copying impossible. The drafts were locked in safes, DeGeneres told the Associated Press, and shredded at the end of each day.

“It was crazy,” she said. “It was like we were spies or something.”

They named it “The Puppy Episode,” not because it featured dogs, but because executives initially rejected the plot twist and said, according to DeGeneres: “Well get her a puppy. She’s not coming out.”

The episode opens with Ellen Morgan in the bathroom, taking too long to prep for a date with a male TV reporter on assignment in Los Angeles. From the family room, her friends tell her to “quit jerking us around and come out already!”

At dinner, the reporter’s producer, Susan, played by Dern, joins them for dessert.

The women find instant chemistry, and Susan later tells Ellen that she is attracted to women.

But the next day, Ellen lies to her friends, claiming she and the reporter had amazing sex. She later admits the truth to her therapist, played by Oprah.

“Has there ever been anyone you felt like you clicked with?” the therapist asks.

Ellen shakes her head.

“And what was his name?”

Ellen pauses: “Susan.”

At the end of the episode, Richard and Susan prepare to depart for home at the airport. Ellen arrives with an admission for Susan, at first struggling to articulate it.

“This is so hard, but I think I’ve realized that I am …” Ellen says, pacing around the terminal in a tender, raw moment. “I can’t even say the word. Why can’t I say the word … why do I have to be so ashamed … I’m so afraid to tell people.”

The camera turns to face the two women, who are standing beside the flight attendant’s podium that is inconveniently equipped with a microphone.

“Susan,” Ellen says, learning toward Dern and over the microphone. “I’m gay.”

The live studio audience laughed and cheered.

Hollywood Flashback: 20 years ago, Ellen's "I'm gay" moment made history https://t.co/H0ahhDdWES @TheEllenShow pic.twitter.com/YZuG8wMhq5

— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 27, 2017

Before that moment, DeGeneres had not said aloud that last line.

“I realized how charged that sentence was because, you know, when you’re gay, the only time you say “I’m gay” is when you’re revealing it to someone, when you’re telling your parents or when you’re telling someone close to you. Because most people never have to say, “I’m straight,'” DeGeneres told the Associated Press, explaining that the scene always made her tear up. “So Laura (guest star Laura Dern) kept saying, ‘Just don’t say it,’ because she saw how hard it was for me.”

Though the episode would eventually win a Peabody and an Emmy, it ultimately killed the sitcom — and, temporarily, DeGeneres’ career.

Advertisers fled. Season five revolved almost entirely around Ellen’s homosexuality and ratings tanked. Before an episode where Ellen Morgan kisses another woman, the network required a “parental advisory,” over DeGeneres’ objections.

At the end of the season, ABC canceled Ellen.

Then-ABC president Robert Iger told Diane Sawyer the decision had nothing to do with DeGeneres’ sexual orientation, but that viewers were turned off when the show “became a program about a lead character who was gay every single week.”

DeGeneres said she had no regrets.

“If I just had this one year of doing what I did on TV, I’d take that over 10 years of being on a sitcom and just being funny,” she told Sawyer.

But for three years after that, DeGeneres fell into a deep depression. She couldn’t get work and suddenly was viewed as not a comedian, but a gay comedian.

In 2000, she returned to her stand-up comedy roots, prepared for another variety show on CBS and wrote an HBO special titled “Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning” that left out any overtly gay or political humor.

“I knew I didn’t want to do that,” DeGeneres told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2000. “It’s not who I was.”

After “Ellen” failed, she realized that making her comedy all about her sexuality was a miscalculation. “I am the same person and I have the same sense of humor and the same thoughts, and I’m not going to turn my show into a gay show just because everybody knows I’m gay now,” DeGeneres said.

In 2003, she wrote another HBO special and introduced herself to a new generation of potential fans as the voice of a forgetful Blue Tang fish named Dory in the Pixar movie “Finding Nemo.” That same year, her current talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” debuted on NBC. It has won dozens of Emmys and made DeGeneres everybody’s BFF.

Last year, former president Barack Obama awarded DeGeneres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian in the United States.

“For me to crawl out of that and to accomplish what I’ve accomplished with the show and with my brand and with my production company, and to succeed after all that,” DeGeneres recently told the Associated Press. “(It) makes me realize that no matter how dark something gets, and no matter how bad something gets, that there’s always a possibility of good coming from it.”

Others in the LGBT community have credited DeGeneres for making them feel comfortable with themselves and their sexuality, including Eric Marcus, creator and host of the podcast “Making Gay History.”

“For everyday people,” Marcus told the AP, “Ellen made gay OK.”

More for Morning Mix

‘The Simpsons’ has a grim take on Trump’s first 100 days

‘Bachelor’ Chris Soules arrested after deadly crash that killed Iowa farmer

With self-deprecation on menu for presidents at correspondents’ dinner, it’s no wonder Trump is skipping it

[Category: Entertainment, National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/28/17 4:59am

Heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, center, leaves the Armed Forces induction center with his entourage after refusing to be drafted in Houston on April 28, 1967. (AP)

When Muhammad Ali died on June 4 last year, he was treated universally as the giant he was, the embodiment of the self-bestowed title “the greatest,” itself a testament to his defiance, pride and yes, greatness as a fighter. The former heavyweight boxing champion had held the Olympic torch high at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, representing the nation, and been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush.

A half century-earlier, however, he was a more controversial figure in America, a follower of the Nation of Islam who had changed his name from Cassius Clay, denounced the Vietnam War in racial terms, and generally summoned the wrath of many Americans, particularly white Americans, including some in high places, who saw him as unpatriotic.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform,” he said, “and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

He had vowed, on religious grounds, that if drafted, he would not go.

But up until the spring of 1967, reporting for the draft had been a moot question for Ali, as he had retained a selective service classification, 1Y, deemed unfit for military service. But in April, that all changed.

Ali recalled the letter he got from the government in his autobiography, “Muhammad Ali: The Greatest,” remembering how it fell out of his memorabilia many years later and that when it did, he “was almost afraid” to pick it up and reopen it, for he “knew what it was and the memories it would bring back.”

It was dated April 1, 1967. And as was the custom, it said it was from “the President of the United States,” addressed to “Mr. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., AKA Muhammad Ali.” And it ordered him to report for induction in Houston, on April 28, 1967, at 8:30 a.m.

That was 50 years ago today.

The subsequent events changed his life and legacy in ways good and bad, by his own assessment. They would add another kind of bout to his long list of matches, this one called Cassius Clay v. United States before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was a fight Ali didn’t want against an opponent with a longer reach. He had applied for a conscientious objector exemption, on the grounds that he was a pacifist religiously opposed to fighting in war. His draft board in Kentucky rejected the claim, a decision Ali and his lawyers appealed.

Ultimately, Lawrence Grauman, a Justice Department hearing officer in Ali’s case, concluded that Ali was sincere in his claim and recommended that he be given conscientious objector status.

The Justice Department never forwarded Grauman’s findings to the Selective Service appeal board and never even told Ali about them. Both the department and President Lyndon Johnson faced considerable political pressure in Ali’s case, as Hampton Dellinger reported in Slate last year.

For example, Rep. L. Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.), the segregationist war hawk chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, “promised a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention that ‘we’re going to do something if that board takes your boy and leaves Clay home to double-talk.’”

Ali’s was a big, highly publicized and hotly contested fight. Indeed, shortly after Ali got his draft notice, he wrote in his autobiography, he went into the streets of downtown Chicago and discovered that “I’m not the only one who knows about it.”

“‘Hey! Is that Cassius Clay? That looks like Cassius Clay!'” someone from within a group of American Legionnaires shouted at him as they came out of a tavern on Michigan Avenue. “A man in a donkey cap lunges toward me for a better look,” Ali wrote. “His buddies start screaming, ‘They gotcha, they gotcha!’ One waves a little American flag. Another holds up a newspaper with its bold black headline: ARMY TELLS CLAY — PUT UP OR SHUT UP!

Ali walked a little farther, encountering a group of college students, who recognizing him, yell “‘Hell, no! Don’t go! Hell, no! Don’t go!’”

By the time he reported for induction at the federal Customs House in Houston, the country was in a frenzy. His lawyers had fought through the courts unsuccessfully for a stay until his appeals were exhausted.

The Los Angeles Times (which, like many papers, refused to call him Ali, despite his preference) described his arrival:

Clay stepped out of the cab in front of the induction center 20 minutes early for his 8 a.m. appointment and stepped into a swarm of reporters, photographers and television technicians.  He was dressed in a metallic blue silk suit, a powder blue short-sleeved shirt and black loafers.  Clay, mumbling “no comment” into a fence of outstretched microphones, made it to the third floor in about 10 minutes.

In Clay’s words: “People waiting for my arrival have jammed the sidewalk. When they see our cab drive up, they wave picket signs and scream ‘Muhammad Ali, don’t go! … Muhammad Ali.”

‘Hep, hep, don’t take that step,” they chanted.

By “step,” they meant the step forward all inductees were expected to take when their names were called after passing their final physicals. While Ali was processed as if he were just another inductee, everyone there, including about 30 other young potential draftees, knew he wasn’t.

“The white boy next to me is trembling,” Ali wrote in his autobiography (which was written with Richard Durham and edited by Toni Morrison).

“He seems very young, and his teeth are chattering. I speak to him, but he just nods his head nervously, afraid to look at me.”

Induction centers were human assembly lines, with doctors and clerks at stations along the way taking notes, checking eyes, ears, feet and genitals, prodding and poking indifferently. One young man was no different from another — except on this occasion.

“‘Take off your shorts … all the way down’” a doctor told Ali. “He adjusts his glasses,” Ali wrote, “and appraises me like I’m the bull that came into the herd.

“‘So you don’t want to go and fight for your country?'” the doctor said to Ali, his hand “tight on my testicles … A chill creeps over my whole body,” Ali wrote, “and I think of the days when castrations and lynchings were common in the South.”

Finally, those who passed all the exams, were placed on a line waiting for their names to be called. One by one they would step forward, as instructed.

Ali described himself as “sweating. … For months I’ve drilled myself for this moment, but I still feel nervous,” he wrote, hoping no one was noticing his shoulders trembling.

Finally the uniformed soldier calls out, “Cassius Clay — Army.”

Ali says nothing. The lieutenant calls out again: “‘Cassius Clay! Will you please step forward and be inducted into the Armed Forces of the United States?”

Ali doesn’t budge.

Finally, a senior officer appears.

“Er, Mr. Clay. …. Or Mr. Ali, as you prefer to be called … Would you please follow me to my office.” As Ali recalled in his book, the senior officer informs him of the “gravity of the act” he has just committed and offers him another chance, ushering him back out into the room where once again the lieutenant calls out:

“Mr. Cassius Clay … You will please step forward and be inducted into the United States Army.”

Ali never took that step.

When Ali got back to his hotel room, he heard on the radio that the New York Boxing Commission had taken away his license. Muhammad Ali was finished as a fighter, in the prime of his career.

“When I fly out of Houston,” Ali wrote in his autobiography, “I’m flying into an exile that will eat up what boxing experts regard as ‘the best years of a fighter’s life.’”

Ali was convicted of “willful refusal to submit to induction into the Armed Forces” and sentenced to five years in prison.

Boxer Muhammad Ali pile drives a right to the face of Oscar Bonavena in the third round of their bout on Dec. 7, 1970. (AP)

His case went to the Supreme Court twice, first on the question of whether the fact that he had been overheard on FBI wiretaps with, among others, Martin Luther King Jr., had tainted the government’s case (it hadn’t, the court ultimately decided) and then again in the spring of 1971, on the question of whether Ali’s induction notice was invalid because it was based on an “erroneous denial” of his claim to be classified as a conscientious objector.

In a decision famous for its behind-the-scenes shifts among justices at the high court, Ali won. In a “per curiam” (unsigned) opinion issued on June 28, 1971, the court ruled that the Justice Department wrongly advised the Selective Service appeals board to “disregard” the finding of Grauman, the hearing officer, that Ali’s CO status was legitimate. The court said that it was “wrong” to have determined that Ali’s “beliefs were not religious based and were not sincerely held.”

“Ali’s professional career,” wrote Dellinger in Slate, divides naturally into halves. In the first half (1960-67) before he was banned from the ring, Ali avoided much of the physical punishment that boxers typically suffer … In the second half (1971-80) Ali had to fight ugly to win. Heavier and slower, no longer able to fatigue and frustrate his opponents by making them miss … Ali would allow himself to be hit so often his opponents wearied from the opportunity.”

Ali still had an “awesome” string of victories, but, Dellinger wrote, “the physical and mental toll on Ali, as we know now, was just as dramatic. Ali’s Parkinson’s disease was caused, according to a medical expert in neurology who has treated Ali, by repeated blows to the head over time.”

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[Category: National, Sports, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/28/17 4:59am

Heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, center, leaves the Armed Forces induction center with his entourage after refusing to be drafted into the Armed Forces in Houston, April 28, 1967. (AP)

When Muhammad Ali died on June 4 last year, he was treated universally as the giant he was, the embodiment of the self-bestowed title “the greatest,” itself a testament to his defiance, pride and yes, greatness as a fighter. The former heavyweight boxing champion had held the Olympic torch high at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, representing the nation, and been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush.

A half century-earlier, however, he was a more controversial figure in America, a follower of the Nation of Islam who had changed his name from Cassius Clay, denounced the Vietnam War in racial terms, and generally summoned the wrath of many Americans, particularly white Americans, including some in high places, who saw him as unpatriotic.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform,” he said, “and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

He had vowed, on religious grounds, that if drafted, he would not go.

But up until the spring of 1967, reporting for the draft had been a moot question for Ali, as he had retained a selective service classification, 1Y, deemed unfit for military service. But in April, that all changed.

Ali recalled the letter he got from the government in his autobiography, “Muhammad Ali: The Greatest,” remembering how it fell out of his memorabilia many years later and that when it did, he “was almost afraid” to pick it up and reopen it, for he “knew what it was and the memories it would bring back.”

It was dated April 1, 1967. And as was the custom, it said it was from “the President of the United States,” addressed to “Mr. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., AKA Muhammad Ali.” And it ordered him to report for induction in Houston, on April 28, 1967, at 8:30 a.m.

That was 50 years ago today.

The subsequent events changed his life and legacy in ways good and bad, by his own assessment. They would add another kind of bout to his long list of matches, this one called Cassius Clay v. United States before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was a fight Ali didn’t want against an opponent with a longer reach. He had applied for a conscientious objector exemption, on the grounds that he was a pacifist religiously opposed to fighting in war. His draft board in Kentucky rejected the claim, a decision Ali and his lawyers appealed.

Ultimately, Lawrence Grauman, a Justice Department hearing officer in Ali’s case concluded that Ali was sincere in his claim and recommended that he be given conscientious objector status.

The Justice Department never forwarded Grauman’s findings to the Selective Service appeal board and never even told Ali about them. Both the department and then President Lyndon Johnson faced considerable political pressure in Ali’s case, as Hampton Dellinger reported in Slate last year.

South Carolina Democratic Rep. L. Mendel Rivers, for example, the segregationist war hawk chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, “promised a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention that ‘we’re going to do something if that board takes your boy and leaves Clay home to double-talk.’”

Ali’s was a big, highly-publicized and hotly-contested fight. Indeed, shortly after Ali got his draft notice, he wrote in his autobiography, he went into the streets of downtown Chicago and discovered that “I’m not the only one who knows about it.”

“‘Hey! Is that Cassius Clay? That looks like Cassius Clay!,'” someone from within a group of American Legionnaires shouted at him as they came out of a tavern on Michigan Avenue. “A man in a donkey cap lunges toward me for a better look,” Ali wrote. “His buddies start screaming, ‘They gotcha, they gotcha!’ One waves a little American flag. Another holds up a newspaper with its bold black headline: ARMY TELLS CLAY — PUT UP OR SHUT UP!

Ali walked a little further, encountering a group of college students, who recognizing him, yell “‘Hell, no! Don’t go! Hell, no! Don’t go!’”

By the time he reported for induction at the federal Customs House in Houston, the country was in a frenzy. His lawyers had fought through the courts unsuccessfully for a stay until his appeals were exhausted.

The Los Angeles Times (which, like many papers, refused to call him Ali, despite his preference) described his arrival:

Clay stepped out of the cab in front of the induction center 20 minutes early for his 8 a.m. appointment and stepped into a swarm of reporters, photographers and television technicians.  He was dressed in a metallic blue silk suit, a powder blue short-sleeved shirt and black loafers.  Clay, mumbling “no comment” into a fence of outstretched microphones, made it to the third floor in about 10 minutes.

In Clay’s words: “People waiting for my arrival have jammed the sidewalk. When they see our cab drive up, they wave picket signs and scream ‘Muhammad Ali, don’t go! … Muhammad Ali.”

‘Hep, hep, don’t take that step,” they chanted.

By “step,” they meant the step forward all inductees were expected to take when their names were called after passing their final physicals. While Ali was processed as if he were just another inductee, everyone there, including about 30 other young potential draftees, knew he wasn’t.

“The white boy next to me is trembling,” Ali wrote in his autobiography (which, it must be noted, was written with Richard Durham and edited by Toni Morrison.)

“He seems very young, and his teeth are chattering. I speak to him, but he just nods his head nervously, afraid to look at me.”

Induction centers were human assembly lines, with doctors and clerks at stations along the way taking notes, checking eyes, ears, feet and genitals, prodding and poking indifferently. One young man was no different from another — except on this occasion.

“‘Take off your shorts … all the way down’” a doctor told Ali. “He adjusts his glasses,” Ali wrote, “and appraises me like I’m the bull that came into the herd.

“‘So you don’t want to go and fight for your country?'” the doctor said to Ali, his hand “tight on my testicles … A chill creeps over my whole body,” Ali wrote, “and I think of the days when castrations and lynchings were common in the South.”

Finally, those who passed all the exams, were placed on a line waiting for their names to be called. One by one they would step forward, as instructed.

Ali described himself as “sweating … For months I’ve drilled myself for this moment, but I still feel nervous,” he wrote, hoping no one was noticing his shoulders trembling.

Finally the uniformed soldier calls out, “Cassius Clay — Army.”

Ali says nothing. The lieutenant calls out again: “‘Cassius Clay! Will you please step forward and be inducted into the Armed Forces of the United States?”

Ali doesn’t budge.

Finally, a senior officer appears.

“Er, Mr. Clay. …. Or Mr. Ali, as you prefer to be called … Would you please follow me to my office.” As Ali recalled in his book, the senior officer informs him of the “gravity of the act” he has just committed and offers him another chance, ushering him back out into the room where once again the lieutenant calls out:

“Mr. Cassius Clay … You will please step forward and be inducted into the United States Army.”

Ali never took that step.

When Ali got back to his hotel room, he heard on the radio that the New York Boxing Commission had taken away his license. Muhammad Ali was finished as a fighter, in the prime of his brilliant career.

“When I fly out of Houston,” Ali wrote in his autobiography, “I’m flying into an exile that will eat up what boxing experts regard as ‘the best years of a fighter’s life.’”

Ali was convicted of “willful refusal to submit to induction into the Armed Forces” and sentenced to five years in prison.

Boxer Muhammad Ali is shown pile driving a right to the face of Oscar Bonavena in the third round of their bout at Madison Square Garden, New York City on December 7, 1970. (AP)

His case went to the Supreme Court twice, first on the question of whether the fact that he had been overheard on FBI wiretaps with, among others, Martin Luther King, had tainted the government’s case (it hadn’t, the court ultimately decided) and then again in the spring of 1971, on the question of whether Ali’s induction notice was invalid because it was based on an “erroneous denial” of his claim to be classified as a conscientious objector.

In a decision famous for its behind-the-scenes shifts among justices at the high court, Ali won. In a “per curiam” (unsigned) opinion issued on June 28, 1971, the court ruled that the Justice Department wrongly advised the Selective Service appeals board to “disregard” the finding of Grauman, the hearing officer, that Ali’s CO status was legitimate. The court said that it was “wrong” to have determined that Ali’s “beliefs were not religious based and were not sincerely held.”

“Ali’s professional career,” wrote Dellinger in Slate, divides naturally into halves. In the first half (1960-67) before he was banned from the ring, Ali avoided much of the physical punishment that boxers typically suffer … In the second half (1971-80) Ali had to fight ugly to win. Heavier and slower, no longer able to fatigue and frustrate his opponents by making them miss … Ali would allow himself to be hit so often his opponents wearied from the opportunity.”

Ali still had an “awesome” string of victories, but, Dellinger wrote, “the physical and mental toll on Ali, as we know now, was just as dramatic. Ali’s Parkinson’s disease was caused, according to a medical expert in neurology who has treated Ali, by repeated blows to the head over time.”

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[Category: National, Sports, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/28/17 4:36am

Is Ivanka Trump hurting her father’s “nationalist brand?”

Maybe, says Alex Jones, the conspiracy-spewing, President Trump-loving, antiglobalist radio host.

In a nine-minute video rant posted to his YouTube page Thursday, Jones railed against Ivanka Trump for breaking with her father on allowing refugees into the country. The first daughter, who is a White House adviser, attended an international women’s summit in Germany this week, where she spoke in favor of opening U.S. borders to migrants fleeing war-torn Syria.

Jones, an avid supporter of the president’s hard line immigration policies, wasn’t having it.

“We did not elect Ivanka Trump to be the forty-fifth president of the United States,” he said in the video. “I think she’s talented, she’s beautiful, I think the dresses she wears, her clothing line are cool. I have nothing against her personally, or Jared Kushner. But we didn’t elect him to be president either.”

Kushner is Trump’s husband and a senior adviser to the president.

[Chobani sues Alex Jones, saying he falsely linked company to child rape, tuberculosis]

Trump has indeed bucked her father on one of the most contentious issues of his young presidency, saying in an interview with NBC News Tuesday that she was open to the idea of admitting more Syrian refugees into the United States.

Her remarks came at the W20 Summit in Berlin, where she gave a panel discussion and had dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who in the past two years has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere into Germany.

“I think there is a global humanitarian crisis that’s happening, and we have to come together, and we have to solve it,” Ivanka Trump told NBC News. Asked about admitting more Syrian refugees in particular, she responded, “That has to be part of the discussion, but that’s not going to be enough in itself.”

Her father has taken the opposite position. As a candidate, he vowed to stop new refugees from entering the country, calling them a “Trojan horse” that would unleash terrorism at home. As president, he has issued a pair of executive orders seeking to block refugees and migrants from several Muslim-majority countries. “The danger is clear,” he said earlier this year.

Jones lamented the father-daughter feud in his video, which he shot himself from the front seat of his car while sitting in traffic in downtown Austin.

“We didn’t elect her. And she’s over in Germany with Merkel that opened the borders up for all the Islamicists,” said Jones, who was wearing a white collared shirt and a silver wristwatch. “And she says for women we should let refugees in, and that her dad’s wrong and she wants him to change his mind. What! From seven unvested countries where the Islamicists just issue fake passports basically to terrorists.”

Ivanka Trump and German Chacellor Angela Merkel attend a dinner in Berlin, April 25, 2017. (Reuters/Michael Sohn)

Jones argued Trump was keeping his promise to defeat the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria. But as a result, he said, some terrorists were going to be “squeezed out” and could commit attacks against Westerners.

“So the answer is bring more in, because you’re for women,” he said incredulously. “More genital mutilation, more burqas.”

That language is nothing out of the ordinary for Jones, who runs the website Infowars and a popular radio program of the same name. In addition to promoting a wide array of conspiracy theories, Jones and his colleagues regularly inveigh against the supposed dangers posed by refugees, particularly those from Muslim countries.

As The Washington Post and CNN have noted, no refugee has carried out a fatal terrorist attack in the United States since screening protocols were adopted in 1980.

President Trump has called Jones a “nice guy” with an “amazing” reputation.

Despite his concerns about Ivanka Trump’s new stance on refugees, Jones ended his video on a hopeful note.

“The good news is, Trump for the nationalist brand is very strong,” he said, referring to the president.

“We can’t just become demoralized if Trump starts going sideways or off his trajectory or something,” he added. “Don’t let the fact that Trump hasn’t gotten every thing done — he’s gotten a lot done — or that his daughter’s out there doing bizarre stuff get you depressed.”

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[l] at 4/28/17 4:26am

A billboard welcomes Pope Francis, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Pope Francis is spending two days in Egypt at a time when Coptic Christians there are enduring ongoing attacks by Islamic militants.

At least 45 people were killed in two church bombings on Palm Sunday, a time Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem just days before solemn ceremonies mark his crucifixion. In December, a suicide bomber killed more than two dozen people at Egypt’s main cathedral before Christmas.

Despite security concerns, a Vatican spokesman said Francis would not be riding in an armored car. He’ll celebrate one public Mass, which is being held in a military-run stadium.

[Pope Francis arriving in Egypt at a time of great fear among Christians]

Francis says he hopes to offer support to Christians reeling from the attacks while also forging better relations with Egypt’s Muslim leaders. His visit comes at a key moment for Christians and Muslims in Egypt, but what impact the pope will have, if any, remains to be seen.

Papal trips are generally seen as ways to inspire the faithful, but not all are successful. Below are five trips taken by popes that are widely seen as significant by historians.

1. Pope John Paul II’s visit to Nicaragua: March 4, 1983

Pope John Paul II withdraws his right hand and wags a scolding finger at the Rev. Ernesto Cardenal, a theologian, poet and priest. (AP)

Pope John Paul II didn’t play the role of peacemaker as many Catholics had hoped during his visit to Nicaragua in 1983. In fact, he came across to many as something of a scolder-in-chief, ordering clergy to stay out of politics and calling upon Catholics to be obedient to their bishops.

The pope was caught on camera wagging his finger at the Rev. Ernesto Cardenal, a poet, priest, liberation theologian and the country’s Cultural Minister. At an open-air mass, he indirectly took aim at five priests holding government posts. During the ceremony, he also became visibly upset with the unruly crowd, spurred by pro-Sandinista instigators.

He repeatedly shouted at them to be quiet.

Instead of fostering unity, many Catholics said the pope stirred division. One priest told the New York Times that the pope’s visit marked the church’s official break with the Sandinista government. ”We’ve tried hard to build bridges with the youth of this country, who are already alienated from religion,” he said. ”The Pope broke those bridges in one fell swoop.”

2. Pope Paul VI’s visit to Israel: Jan. 4-6, 1964

Pope Paul VI leaves the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth after celebrating a mass on Jan. 5, 1946, during the first visit ever of a pope to the Holy Land -Jordan, Israel, Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories — since St. Peter. (AFP/Getty Images)

Months after assuming office, Paul VI became the first pontiff to set foot in Israel since St. Peter, whom Catholics consider the first pope.

It also marked the first time a pope ever rode in an airplane or even left Italy in almost two centuries.

During the 11 hours spent on the ground, the pope never once mentioned the country by name as the Vatican didn’t recognize the state of Israel at the time.

Before his death in 1978, he would become the first pope to visit every continent and was the first to visit the United States. He was not a gregarious pope, but known for his intellect and, of course, reaffirming the church’s ban on artificial birth control.

3. Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey: Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI talks to journalists aboard an airplane at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport on Nov. 28, 2006, before taking off to Ankara, part of a four-day trip to Turkey. (AP/Patrick Hertzog)

Months before visiting Turkey in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a controversial speech in Germany in which he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who said Muhammad, the founder of Islam, had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. The speech outraged Muslims, and more than 50 Islamic nations demanded an apology.

Benedict’s trip to Turkey was his first to a predominantly Muslim country since the controversy, and was aimed at bridge building. Before he arrived, thousands took to the streets to protest the visit.

While in Turkey, the pope offered messages of reconciliation to Muslims and announced his support of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. He also visited a mosque — only the second pope to ever visit a Muslim place of worship.

The trip appeared to be an important step toward mending the Vatican’s relations with Muslims.

“It didn’t take long for Pope Benedict XVI to transform himself from one of Turkey’s worst enemies to one of the country’s best friends,” Der Spiegel reported.

4. John XXIII’s visit to Loreto-Assisi, Italy: October 4, 1962

Pope John XXIII blesses crowd from window of train in the railway station of Terni, in central Italy on Oct. 4, 1962, during a brief stopover on the way to Loreto and Assisi. (AP)

When he was 81 years old, Pope John XXIII embarked a 450-mile trip, the longest journey of any pope in almost a century.

And he did it by train, becoming the first pontiff to ride by rail since popes lost the role as sovereign of the Papal States — territories on the Italian Peninsula — which had prompted Pope Pius IX to declare himself “a prisoner of the Vatican” in 1870.

In making the trip, John XXIII shattered the image of popes as isolationist.

He launched the visit ahead of the Ecumenical Council, which led to sweeping theological reforms. His first stop was a shrine in Loreto, followed by a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, where he prayed for the success of the council.

The New York Times reported, “Pope John has taken several trips outside the Vatican, but always by motorcar. The longest was that of two years ago, when he motored fifty miles to the mountain village of Roccantica, where he visited vacationing students of the seminary he had attended as a young man.”

5. Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland: June 2-10, 1979

Pope John Paul II hugs Lech Walesa, leader of Poland’ Solidarity trade union and later the country first post-communist president, during the pope’s visit to the northern port of Gdansk, 11 June 1987 in Gdansk. (Arturo Mari/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since 1523, made eight trips to his homeland, but the first was the most dramatic.

At the time, the country was still under Communist rule and government had a tenuous relationship with the church in the predominantly Catholic country.

“When John Paul’s plane landed at Okecie Airport on June 2, 1979, church bells rang across the country, an unmistakable signal that Communist efforts to eradicate Poland’s Catholic identity had failed,” the National Catholic Reporter said.

The pope delivered 32 speeches over several days, urging bishops in Poland to remain faithful in their struggle against Communism. Throngs of people turned out wherever he went.

Upon his death in 2005, John Paul was widely credited as a catalyst in the downfall of Communism, and this visit cited as pivotal.

“He gave Poles the self-confidence they needed” to form the Solidarity movement, “as a unique alliance of workers and intellectuals,” the Guardian reported. “The dismantling of communism began there.”

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[l] at 4/28/17 4:07am

Maribel Trujillo Diaz poses with her four children and husband. (Courtesy of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality).

On the other end of the phone, Maribel Trujillo Diaz kept her details sparse, her voice soft. She worried about saying too much, or revealing her exact location, in case drug cartels had tapped the line.

In the days since she was deported to her native Mexico, the 42-year-old Ohio mother said she has already received threats. She hardly eats, and has trouble sleeping, she told The Washington Post. The risks are all too real for her family in Mexico’s gang-ridden west coast state of Michoacán — both her father and her brother have been kidnapped in recent years, and her mother extorted.

But Trujillo’s concerns over the dangers in her new home pale in comparison with her worries about her four children, including her epileptic 3-year-old daughter, who are living without her, far north of the border. She spoke to The Washington Post Thursday in her first interview since her deportation.

“The pain of leaving my kids,” Trujillo said, her words trailing off. “I can’t explain what it’s like to be apart from them.”

When immigration officers detained Trujillo earlier this month, her case prompted vigils and letter-writing campaigns, garnered international attention and drew support from Washington politicians.Catholic archdioceses in multiple states lobbied the U.S. government on her behalf, gathering petitions signed by hundreds across the country calling on lawmakers to help suspend her deportation.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, spoke out against her deportation, insisting “we have enough broken families in the country,” to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

None of the efforts stopped immigration officials from proceeding with her removal. About two weeks ago, they transferred Trujillo, of Fairfield, Ohio, to a detention center in Louisiana. She was deported to Mexico on April 19.

Trujillo’s case joined a growing list of other deported immigrants now associated by the public with the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration enforcement. There was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, the Arizona mother deported after a routine check-in with ICE. There was the 23-year-old “dreamer” from California who claimed he was deported in February. But unlike the individuals deported in those two cases, Trujillo has no criminal record.

[‘I can’t take that place.’ An Arizona family struggles with a mother’s deportation.]

Her deportation was yet another clear sign that despite Trump’s claim that he is targeting dangerous criminals, his administration is deporting undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding.

“We are moving criminals out of our country and we are getting them out in record numbers, and those are the people we are after,” Trump said in an interview with the Associated Press last week. But statistics show that from January through mid-March, ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants more than doubled from the same period last year, The Post’s Maria Sacchetti reported. Of the 21,362 immigrants arrested during that time period, 5,441 — or about a quarter — had no criminal record.

Mexico’s foreign relations department last week condemned the deportation of Trujillo and the “dreamer,” Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, saying the removals “represent a violation of the stated norms for deportation.” Trujillo, Mexican officials argued, had no criminal record and did not represent a security risk.

Community members protest in Cincinnati on April 10 against the deportation of Maribel Trujillo Diaz. (Cincinnati Enquirer/AP)

“He says he is taking care of citizens, of Americans,” Trujillo said of Trump. “My kids are Americans. And just like he’s hurt my kids, he has hurt many citizens who have been left without a parent.”

Some supporters of Trump’s efforts to ramp up deportations argue that simply crossing the border illegally is a crime, and should warrant removal from the country. Trujillo acknowledges she broke the law, but she did so with her husband in 2002 to flee gang violence in Mexico.

When a drug cartel recruited her brother, about a decade ago, he refused, and they kidnapped him for several days. In 2014, the same cartel also kidnapped her father and forced her mother to pay a large sum of money to guarantee his return.

The state where they live, Michoacán, has a history of drug cartels, such as the Knights of Templar, an infamous gang that used to rule parts of the state, demanding extortion payments from businesses, farmers and workers, while moving methamphetamine and casting themselves as holy warriors. Though the gang has been displaced in recent years, cartel violence remains widespread across the state and country.

Just last weekend, at least 35 people were killed across Mexico, amid a surge in drug gang violence that has driven murders to a level not seen since 2011, Reuters reported. Nine of those people were killed in a gun battle between rival drug gangs in the mountains of Michoacán.

“I know it wasn’t right to enter the country like I did without documents,” she told The Post, “But I have not committed any crimes. I was working to get ahead for my kids.”

Immigration officials detected Trujillo about a decade ago in a raid at her workplace, Koch Foods, a chicken-processing plant. Authorities nabbed nearly 200 undocumented workers. She applied for asylum, but in 2012 was denied. In 2014, her appeals were dismissed, and she received a final removal order. At the discretion of immigration officials under the Obama administration, ICE allowed Trujillo to remain in the U.S. free from custody as long as she checked in with officials once a year.

She was issued a work permit in July 2016 valid for one year. Her lawyers filed a motion to reopen her case because of “changed circumstances” in her home country, citing the recent kidnapping of her father, and expected the motion to be considered in the coming months, Trujillo’s lawyer said.

But before she got that chance, ICE officials detained Trujillo earlier this month outside the home of her sister-in-law, just before she was heading to work. She was detained and later deported to Mexico with no belongings, clothing, passport or other documents in her possession.

Gillian Christensen, a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, told The Post in a statement that Trujillo’s case “has undergone review at multiple levels of our nation’s legal system and the courts have uniformly held that she had no legal basis to remain in the United States.”

Trujillo’s only chance of gaining asylum at this point is if the motion to reopen her case is granted in the coming months, her lawyers said. Then, it would have to be sent to an immigration judge for a hearing, which could be years from now.

“There’s no line for her,” her lawyer, Kathleen Kersh, of Ohio-based Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, told The Post. “She’s a really good example of why we need reform, because the system does not help people in her situation.

While she was being detained in Ohio, and then in Louisiana, Trujillo said she had no idea her case was attracting so much media attention, she said. In those days, “time didn’t exist, days didn’t exist, hours didn’t exist.”

Knowing now that scores of people applied pressure to try to halt her deportation, she feels blessed, and she prays for them, she said. The devout Catholic goes to church every day, praying to God “for a miracle” that would bring her back to her children.

Maribel Trujillo Diaz poses with her daughter in church. (Courtesy of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality).

“Help me touch the hearts of these people,” she prays. “Help them understand that I want to ask for forgiveness.”

She worries about her husband, who is also undocumented and now fears deportation, she said. He took time off work due to medical issues and has now returned to work in construction. But Trujillo was the main breadwinner for the family until she was deported.

When asked if she would consider moving her children to Mexico if her husband got deported, she said: “I don’t want to think about it.”

Now living with her parents in Mexico, Trujillo speaks to her children every night on video chat. There’s her oldest, Oswaldo, 14, who said he wishes he could start working early to help support the family and save up for college. He tries to keep a positive face for his younger siblings, Trujillo said, telling them his mom will come back. But earlier this month he was sent home from school early after he was acting up and crying in class.

There’s Alexa, 12, and Gustavo, 10, who has high blood sugar and early signs of diabetes. Then there’s playful Daniella, 3, whose epileptic seizures are unpredictable.

“She doesn’t understand what’s happening,” Trujillo said of her youngest. “She thinks I’m on a vacation”

“God will bring you back to me soon,” Daniella told her recently, Trujillo recounted.

Before she was deported, Trujillo would always be waiting for her children when they got home from school. After eating together, before she would leave for work in the afternoon, her children would help her get ready, saying to her, “Mami, I brought you your phone, Mami here are your shoes.” She would return from work later in the evening.

Mami, I made your bed for you,” Daniella said to her mother the other day, over the phone. “When are you going to get home to go to sleep?”

 

[Category: Americas, International, National, Politics, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/27/17 5:50am

Donald Trump reviews his first 100 days in office. Watch an all-new episode of #TheSimpsons this Sunday at 8/7c on FOX. pic.twitter.com/rDtvNgusFs

— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) April 26, 2017

In the next episode of “The Simpsons,” an ominous thunderstorm is brewing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Inside the White House, the situation is even more turbulent.

“A hundred days in office, so many accomplishments,” Trump says while looking at his cellphone in bed, a book written by Bill O’Reilly beside him. Among these accomplishments, Trump declares, are lowering his golf handicap and increasing his Twitter following by 700.

“And finally we can shoot hibernating bears. My boys will love that,” the Trump character says. His wig reveals itself to be a small dog.

With a sign pinned to his chest stating, “I quit,” the character for press secretary Sean Spicer is seen hanging himself from a noose in the press briefing room, a bit of a dark image, even for a cartoon known for its biting satire.

Kellyanne Conway walks in and declares, “I am not replacing him.”

Stephen K. Bannon and a character who appears to be Jared Kushner are strangling one another. And all the while, President Trump is scrolling through his phone, watching the news as he reviews his first 100 days in office.

And in other news, Ivanka Trump appears to have replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. (You can buy her robe with gavel earrings for only 1,000 rubles.)

A brief video posted on “The Simpsons” Twitter account Wednesday night teases the upcoming episode of the show, scheduled to air Sunday night on Fox, “paid for by Anybody Else 2020.”

[Video of the day: ‘The Simpsons’ lampoons Donald Trump in this hair-raising trip]

Trump’s presidency appears to have wreaked havoc in the Simpson household as well. Marge has run out of prescription pills, complaining “this was supposed to last me the whole four years!” Grampa Simpson is taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, declaring he is being taken back to where he came from, though he doesn’t quite remember where that is.

“The Simpsons,” of course, famously predicted a Trump presidency in an episode aired in 2000. The real estate mogul seemed to be the right comedic fit at the time, episode writer Dan Greaney told The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna. They needed a celebrity name that would sound slyly absurdist.

“He seems like a ‘Simpsons’-esque figure — he fits right in there, in an over-the-top way,” Greaney said.

“But now that he’s running for president, I see that in a much darker way,” the Emmy-winning writer-producer added. “He seemed kind of lovable in the old days, in a blowhard way.”

And in the first show to air after Trump’s victory, “The Simpsons” writers expressed their regret.

In the opening credits, which change every episode, Bart Simpson grimaced as he wrote on the blackboard: “BEING RIGHT SUCKS.”

More from Morning Mix:

Portland rose parade canceled after ‘antifascists’ threaten GOP marchers

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[Category: Entertainment, Politics, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/27/17 5:50am

Donald Trump reviews his first 100 days in office. Watch an all-new episode of #TheSimpsons this Sunday at 8/7c on FOX. pic.twitter.com/rDtvNgusFs

— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) April 26, 2017

In the next episode of “The Simpsons,” an ominous thunderstorm is brewing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Inside the White House, the situation is even more turbulent.

“A hundred days in office, so many accomplishments,” Trump says while looking at his cellphone in bed, a book written by Bill O’Reilly beside him. Among these accomplishments, Trump declares, are lowering his golf handicap and increasing his Twitter following by 700.

“And finally we can shoot hibernating bears. My boys will love that,” the Trump character says. His wig reveals itself to be a small dog.

With a sign pinned to his chest stating, “I quit,” the character for press secretary Sean Spicer is seen hanging himself from a noose in the press briefing room, a bit of a dark image, even for a cartoon known for its biting satire.

Kellyanne Conway walks in and declares, “I am not replacing him.”

Stephen K. Bannon and a character who appears to be Jared Kushner are strangling one another. And all the while, President Trump is scrolling through his phone, watching the news as he reviews his first 100 days in office.

And in other news, Ivanka Trump appears to have replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. (You can buy her robe with gavel earrings for only 1,000 rubles.)

A brief video posted on “The Simpsons” Twitter account Wednesday night teases the upcoming episode of the show, scheduled to air Sunday night on Fox, “paid for by Anybody Else 2020.”

[Video of the day: ‘The Simpsons’ lampoons Donald Trump in this hair-raising trip]

Trump’s presidency appears to have wreaked havoc in the Simpson household as well. Marge has run out of prescription pills, complaining “this was supposed to last me the whole four years!” Grampa Simpson is taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, declaring he is being taken back to where he came from, though he doesn’t quite remember where that is.

“The Simpsons,” of course, famously predicted a Trump presidency in an episode aired in 2000. The real estate mogul seemed to be the right comedic fit at the time, episode writer Dan Greaney told The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna. They needed a celebrity name that would sound slyly absurdist.

“He seems like a ‘Simpsons’-esque figure — he fits right in there, in an over-the-top way,” Greaney said.

“But now that he’s running for president, I see that in a much darker way,” the Emmy-winning writer-producer added. “He seemed kind of lovable in the old days, in a blowhard way.”

And in the first show to air after Trump’s victory, “The Simpsons” writers expressed their regret.

In the opening credits, which change every episode, Bart Simpson grimaced as he wrote on the blackboard: “BEING RIGHT SUCKS.”

More from Morning Mix

Portland rose parade canceled after ‘antifascists’ threaten GOP marchers

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[Category: Entertainment, Politics, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/27/17 5:31am

Demonstrators in Portland gesture in front of the police during a protest the election of Donald Trump as president in November 2016. (Reuters)

For 10 years, the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association has kicked off the city of Portland’s annual Rose Festival with a family-friendly parade meant to attract crowds to its diverse neighborhood.

Set to march in the parade’s 67th spot this year was the Multnomah County Republican Party, a fact that so outraged two self-described antifascist groups in the deep blue city that they pledged to protest and disrupt the April 29 event.

Then came an anonymous and ominous email, according to parade organizers, that instructed them to cancel the GOP group’s registration — or else.

“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” the anonymous email said, referring to the violent riots that hit Portland after the 2016 presidential election, reported the Oregonian. “This is nonnegotiable.”

The email said that 200 people would “rush into the parade” and “drag and push” those marching with the Republican Party.

“We will not give one inch to groups who espouse hatred toward LGBT, immigrants, people of color or others,” it said.

On Tuesday, the business association buckled, announcing it would cancel the parade altogether.

“Following threats of violence during the Parade by multiple groups planning to disrupt the event, 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association can no longer guarantee the safety of our community and have made the difficult decision to cancel the Parade,” the group said in a statement.

The “antifascist” groups Oregon Students Empowered and Direct Action Alliance were behind the organized protests scheduled for the parade Saturday but told the Oregonian they had nothing to do with the anonymous email.

A petition to bring back the parade garnered nearly 200 signatures online, but on Wednesday organizers stood firmly beside their decision.

“It’s all about safety for our fans, first and foremost. If we can’t provide safety for our fans, there’s no use in trying,” Rich Jarvis, spokesman for the Rose Festival Foundation, told the Oregonian. “Our official position is we’re extremely sad about this.”

Online, others were outraged, calling members of the antifascist groups who planned to protest “snowflakes,” “anti-American” and “a bunch of chickens and brats.”

“Shutting down free speech is the (epitome) of fascism,” one person wrote on Facebook. “This is America.”

The free speech uproar in Portland reflects controversies across the country, particularly on college campuses, where speakers with conservative and sometimes extreme right-wing ideologies have been met with occasionally violent protests or threats of protests.

Appearances by former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer and, most recently, conservative commentator Ann Coulter have all been disrupted or canceled.

In a statement, Direct Action Alliance said it was “disappointed” that the parade was canceled but added that “no Portland child will see a march in support of this fascist regime go unopposed.”

James Buchal, chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, said in a statement that his group wants the parade to continue.

“The bottom line is that Portland needs to choose between supporting terrorist thugs and protecting average citizens who want to participate in their community,” Buchal said. “The Multnomah County Republican Party is not composed of ‘Nazis’ and ‘white supremacists’ and those who think we would tolerate marching in a parade with folks carrying swastikas are delusional.”

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[l] at 4/27/17 5:06am

President Trump reacts to a question about the 9th Circuit at the U.S. Department of the Interior on April 26. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

In the short time since he took office, President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the country’s largest federal appellate court.

“A disgraceful decision!” Trump tweeted in February when the California-based court upheld a ruling against his controversial travel ban. The circuit was “in chaos” and “frankly in turmoil,” he said later. Its “terrible decisions,” he said, had been overturned “at a record number.”

Tuesday’s ruling against Trump’s sanctuary cities executive order brought another volley of criticisms (even though the decision came not from the appeals court but from a lower court judge in the circuit, which includes courts in nine states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands).

[Trump blasts ‘ridiculous’ court ruling that blocked his order on sanctuary cities]

Reacting to the ruling, Trump told the Washington Examiner that he was “absolutely” considering Republican-backed proposals to split the 9th Circuit into multiple courts. “It’s outrageous,” he said.

None of this — the insults, the criticisms, the threats to break up the court — is new. For decades, the 9th Circuit has been a whipping boy for conservatives, who say it suffers from an incorrigible left-wing bias that clouds its decisions. They point to a string of high-profile rulings over the years in favor of liberal causes, and note that most of the court’s jurists are Democratic appointees.

They also argue, erroneously, that its decisions get overturned more than any other appeals court.

Most of the grumbling happens when the 9th Circuit issues a ruling critics don’t like. The implication is that they couldn’t possibly be wrong on the law in such cases and that their defeats are a product of the court’s ideological tilt.

Sometimes things get hyperbolic. Conservative pundits are fond of calling the court the “Ninth Circus” or the “Nutty Ninth.” Newt Gingrich once proposed abolishing it entirely, bashing its opinions as “dictatorial” and “anti-American.”

“America can find no more ghoulish poster children for what is fundamentally dishonest about liberal judicial activism than those judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” conservative commentator Mark Q. Rhoads, a former Illinois legislator, once wrote of the court.

There was indeed a period when the 9th Circuit was overwhelmingly liberal. In the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter worked with a Democratic Congress to add seats on the court, then stacked it with left-wing jurists. By the end of his term, Carter had installed 15 judges to the court, including the “liberal lion” Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

“Carter appointed some of the most liberal judges ever, to any court,” Judge Alex Kozinski, a conservative 9th Circuit judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan, told the New York Times in 2010.

Where does the court stand today? That depends on whom you ask.

Conservatives say Carter’s legacy is alive and well on the 9th Circuit. As evidence, they cite a number of supposedly liberal-leaning decisions, including a 2002 ruling that found the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because of its “one nation under God” line, as well as the landmark 2012 ruling that threw out California’s same-sex marriage ban. The court’s travel ban ruling appears to have been added to the list of offending decisions.

But some legal observers contend that the court, while still generally more liberal than other circuits, has drifted back toward the center. Ben Feuer, chairman of the California Appellate Law Group LLP and a former 9th Circuit clerk, wrote last year that President Barack Obama had appointed less overtly liberal judges to replace retiring Carter appointees.

“The court earned its flower-child reputation fairly,” Feuer wrote in the Los Angeles Times. He added: “But whereas the Carter judges reliably took left-leaning positions, the Obama judges are less predictable. That’s a big difference given the 9th Circuit’s mythic liberality.”

University of Richmond Law School professor Carl Tobias seemed to agree, calling the 9th Circuit’s liberal reputation “dated.”

“The reputation is certainly deserved based on the history of the last 40 years or so,” Hellman told the Associated Press in February. “It’s been more liberal, by which we mean more sympathetic to habeas petitioners, civil rights plaintiffs, anti-trust cases, immigration cases. But it’s less of an outlier now than it was.”

Claims that the 9th Circuit is the “most reversed” appeals court are less a matter of debate.

Critics of the court like to cite a statistic showing that nearly 80 percent of 9th Circuit rulings that make it to the U.S. Supreme Court get overturned, earning it the “most reversed” moniker. Trump has mentioned the figure on multiple occasions, and did so again in a tweet Wednesday.

The claim is misleading at best. The 9th Circuit’s reversal rate was, in fact, 80 percent during the 2015-2016 term, as The Washington Post has reported. But it didn’t have the highest reversal rate that year — nor in any year since 2005. The circuit’s reversal rate was usually higher than the average, but not always. In any case, the Supreme Court only takes up a minuscule fraction of any circuit’s cases in a given year, so a court’s reversal rate, whatever it may be, really doesn’t say much about its jurisprudence. PolitiFact and the Associated Press have reached similar conclusions.

Breaking up the 9th Circuit is a different story entirely. Conservative groups and Republicans in Congress have long dreamed of carving a new 12th Circuit, floating legislation year after year to split the court in two. Such a bill was introduced again in February by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz).

There’s no shortage of nonpolitical reasons to break up the 9th Circuit. For one, the court takes on thousands more cases than any other circuit, leading some to argue it’s overburdened. It also covers a sprawling area of the country, spanning 15 federal judicial districts. That’s too big, some say.

Trump, of course, seems more focused on his ideological battles than the nitty-gritty of the judicial system.

As he said in February, “Courts seem to be so political.”

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[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/27/17 5:06am

President Trump reacts to a question about the 9th Circuit at the U.S. Department of the Interior on April 26. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

In the short time since he took office, President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the country’s largest federal appellate court.

“A disgraceful decision!” Trump tweeted in February when the California-based court upheld a ruling against his controversial travel ban. The circuit was “in chaos” and “frankly in turmoil,” he said later. Its “terrible decisions,” he said, had been overturned “at a record number.”

Tuesday’s ruling against Trump’s sanctuary cities executive order brought another volley of criticisms (even though, as many people were quick to note, the decision came not from the appeals court but from a lower court judge in the circuit, which includes courts in nine states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands).

Reacting to the ruling, Trump told the Washington Examiner that he was “absolutely” considering Republican-backed proposals to split the 9th Circuit into multiple courts. “It’s outrageous,” he said.

None of this — the insults, the criticisms, the threats to break up the court — is new. For decades, the 9th Circuit has been a whipping boy for conservatives, who say it suffers from an incorrigible left-wing bias that clouds its decisions. They point to a string of high-profile rulings over the years in favor of liberal causes, and note that most of the court’s jurists are Democratic appointees.

They also argue, erroneously, that its decisions get overturned more than any other appeals court (more on that in a moment).

Most of the grumbling happens when the 9th Circuit issues a ruling critics don’t like. The implication is that they couldn’t possibly be wrong on the law in such cases and that their defeats are a product of the court’s ideological tilt.

Sometimes things get hyperbolic. Conservative pundits are fond of calling the court the “Ninth Circus” or the “Nutty Ninth.” Newt Gingrich once proposed abolishing it entirely, bashing its opinions as “dictatorial” and “anti-American.”

“America can find no more ghoulish poster children for what is fundamentally dishonest about liberal judicial activism than those judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” conservative commentator Mark Q. Rhoads, a former Illinois legislator, once wrote of the court.

There was indeed a period when the 9th Circuit was overwhelmingly liberal. In the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter worked with a Democratic Congress to add seats on the court, then stacked it with left-wing jurists. By the end of his term, Carter had installed 15 judges to the court, including the “liberal lion,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

“Carter appointed some of the most liberal judges ever, to any court,” Judge Alex Kozinski, a conservative 9th Circuit judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan, told the New York Times in 2010.

Where does the court stand today? That depends on whom you ask.

Conservatives say Carter’s legacy is alive and well on the 9th Circuit. As evidence, they cite a number of supposedly liberal-leaning decisions, including a 2002 ruling that found the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional due to its “one nation under God” line, as well as the landmark 2012 ruling that threw out California’s same-sex marriage ban. The court’s travel ban ruling appears to have been added to the list of offending decisions.

But some legal observers contend that the court, while still generally more liberal than other circuits, has drifted back toward the center. Ben Feuer, chairman of the California Appellate Law Group LLP and a former 9th Circuit clerk, wrote last year that President Obama had appointed less overtly liberal judges to replace retiring Carter appointees.

“The court earned its flower-child reputation fairly,” Feuer wrote in the Los Angeles Times. He added: “But whereas the Carter judges reliably took left-leaning positions, the Obama judges are less predictable. That’s a big difference given the 9th Circuit’s mythic liberality.”

University of Richmond Law School professor Carl Tobias seemed to agree, calling the 9th Circuit’s liberal reputation “dated.”

“The reputation is certainly deserved based on the history of the last 40 years or so,” Hellman told the Associated Press in February. “It’s been more liberal, by which we mean more sympathetic to habeas petitioners, civil rights plaintiffs, anti-trust cases, immigration cases. But it’s less of an outlier now than it was.”

Claims that the 9th Circuit is the “most reversed” appeals court are less a matter of debate.

Critics of the court like to cite a statistic showing that nearly 80 percent of 9th Circuit rulings that make it to the U.S. Supreme Court get overturned, earning it the “most reversed” moniker. Trump has mentioned the figure on multiple occasions, and did so again in a tweet Wednesday.

The claim is misleading at best. The 9th Circuit’s reversal rate was, in fact, 80 percent during the 2015-2016 term, as The Washington Post has reported. But it didn’t have the highest reversal rate that year — nor in any year since 2005. The circuit’s reversal rate was usually higher than the average, but not always. In any case, the Supreme Court only takes up a minuscule fraction of any circuit’s cases in a given year, so a court’s reversal rate, whatever it may be, really doesn’t say much about its jurisprudence. PolitiFact and the Associated Press have reached similar conclusions.

Breaking up the 9th Circuit is a different story entirely. Conservative groups and Republicans in Congress have long dreamed of carving a new 12th Circuit, floating legislation year after year to split the court in two. Such a bill was introduced again in February by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz).

There’s no shortage of nonpolitical reasons to break up the 9th Circuit. For one, the court takes on thousands more cases than any other circuit, leading some to argue it’s overburdened. It also covers a sprawling area of the country, spanning 15 federal judicial districts. That’s too big, some say.

Trump, of course, seems more focused on his ideological battles than the nitty-gritty of the judicial system.

As he said in February, “Courts seem to be so political.”

More from Morning Mix

Portland rose parade canceled after ‘antifascists’ threaten GOP marchers

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[Category: National, Politics, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/27/17 4:12am

In this Jan. 5, 2015, file photo, Eric Frein is led away by Pennsylvania State Police Troopers at the Pike County Courthouse after his preliminary hearing in Milford, Pa. (Butch Comegys/The Times & Tribune via AP)

Eric Frein may be most remembered for the massive 48-day, 300 square mile manhunt for him that gripped the nation in 2014 after he hid in the brush outside a Pennsylvania State Police barracks and with his sniper rifle, fatally shot one trooper and severely injured another.

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers on foot, in military-style vehicles and in helicopters combed the Poconos in Pennsylvania while residents sheltered-in-place and schools closed.

Finally, on Oct. 30, 2014, the cop-killer billed in the media as a “survivalist” and military “reenactor” was found and placed in the handcuffs that belonged to the Pennsylvania state trooper he killed.

People in the rural Poconos countryside where he had been hiding out with his sniper rifle, his handgun and at one point an explosive charge, breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The rattle of search helicopters finally ceased. The schools reopened. And Halloween was uncanceled. “Trick or treating is on tomorrow night,” declared township board chairman Ralph Megliola. “We as a town think the kids have gone through enough.”

Late Wednesday, a Pike County, Pa.., jury recommended the death sentence for Frein.

But as the killer did not testify and put on no defense, whatever motivated his burst of violence remains murky.

In the end, the best answer prosecutors could come up with was terrorism. Based on his own rant in a letter addressed to his parents, Frein thought his crime would start an uprising against the government.

“Our nation is far from what it was and what it should be,” he had written while on the run to his parents. ” … There is so much wrong and on so many levels only passing through the crucible of another revolution can get us back the liberties we once had … Tension is high at the moment and the time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men. What I have done has not been done before and it felt like it was worth a try.”

But the letter gave no specifics. Nothing about “big government” or taxes or land. No complaints about a president or some group or the other taking over the country. Just a nation “far from what it was and what it should be,” and “the liberties we once had.”

Frein, Pike County District Attorney Raymond J. Tonkin said, was “a terrorist with murder in his heart, a plan in his mind and a rifle in his hand.”

The trial left no uncertainty about the careful planning that went into Frein’s assault.

Pike County Assistant District Attorney Bruce DeSarro told jurors, as the Morning Call reported, that Frein had researched a number of police stations for their suitability for an attack before choosing Blooming Grove, which is surrounded by state game lands into which he could retreat and underbrush where he could set up his .308 semiautomatic rifle.

He was “literally hunting humans,” Pike County District Attorney told jurors.

Sometime before 11 p.m. on the night of Sept. 12, 2014, Frein “slithered” into the brush, as the prosecutor put it, set up his .308 rifle and scope, and took aim at the doorway to the barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania from a distance of about 87 yards.

Soon after, Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, 38, the father of two children and a Marine, opened the door and stepped outside, allowing his silhouette to be illuminated by the light from inside.

Dispatcher Nicole Palmer was on the phone, listening to someone complaining about fireworks in their neighborhood, when she heard a loud bang outside. She looked out and saw Dickson lying motionless. She knelt over him. “When he was trying to speak,” she testified, “all I heard was blood in his throat. He just mouthed the words ‘help me.’”

One bullet hit him in the chest, instantly felling him. Another hit a tree. Yet another passed through Dickson’s shoulder, shattering his spine.

He wanted to be dragged inside, Palmer said, but she couldn’t. She feared for her life and retreated to the lobby to protect herself.

Trooper Alex Douglass, 33, was putting a bag of running clothes into his car in preparation for a run the next morning. “I heard what actually sounded like fireworks going off,” he would say later in an interview with WNEP-TV. “There’s actually a gentleman who sells fireworks a little ways down from out station so it wouldn’t be unusual.”

Cpl. Bryon Dickson (Pa., State Police via AP)

But not knowing where the noise was coming from, the 10-year veteran walked back toward the barracks to find out. As he neared the entrance, he saw Dickson on the ground. He started yelling for help.

But then, “as I walked over to Corporal Dickson to see what the issue was, that’s when I got shot. I went down to my knees. Luckily,” he said, “I was by the front doors and was able to crawl into the station. At that point, I knew someone was shooting at us. …. I didn’t know if it was an ambush. I didn’t know if there were 12 guys out there, if there was one or two guys.”

“It felt like I got hit in the back with a baseball bat,” he testified of the bullet that then crashed into his back, the Morning Call reported. 

He managed to get back into the lobby of the building, warning another trooper coming toward him, “Don’t come out, someone’s shooting at us from across the road.”

Douglass, once an ultramarathoner who now walks with a leg brace, has had dozens of surgeries since. The bullet tore through his hip and pelvis leaving a wound “probably the size of a silver dollar,” he testified.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Alex Douglass of Olyphant, Pa., takes part during the annual Pennsylvania State Police Memorial in May 2015.  (Butch Comegys/The Times & Tribune via AP)

Frein took off. A diary he kept, later discovered by police as they searched for him, described some his movements.

“Had to run,” he wrote on Sept. 13. “Jeep stuck. Ditched the (rifle.) Went on foot, heading southwest to stream under (Interstate) 84.

“Slept all day in abandoned camper,” he wrote the next day. “Crossed 84. No (police) activity. Started campfire.”

“Set up shelter and cleaned up,” he wrote three days later. Called home via cellphone “to let them know I’m still alive. Got text saying I’m a suspect. Saw patrol. Not spotted. They stuck to the trails. Listened to radio. News media calling me a ‘survivalist.’ Ha! Catchy phrase I guess. Shelter-in-place (ordered) by spooked cops.”

His last entries were between Oct. 25 and 29. “Found two packages of crackers. Broke into a place … Took rice, Ramen and oil. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”

Forty-eight days from the moment he opened fire at the barracks, Frein was captured. A team of police and U.S. Marshalls had been searching an abandoned air strip and resort in Tannersville, Pa.

One of the marshals spotted Frein just as Frein spotted him.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives members ride on Route 447 in Price Township on Sept. 20, 2014, near Canadensis, Pa., during a search for suspected killer Eric Frein. (AP/Scranton Times & Tribune)

“He turned towards me,” the marshal, Scott Malkowski, said in an interview with ABC6. “I told him to get on the ground. He pronged out, he was about five feet away. I said ‘Who are you? What’s your name?’ He said ‘Eric Frein.’”

Malkowski told ABC6 that Frein seemed disappointed that it was over. “Sad and defeated that’s what I would describe it as,” he said. “He knew it was over.”

Unarmed, Frein offered no resistance.

In a phone call with his mother after he was arrested, the two spoke about the number of interview requests coming in from news organizations. Frein, according to a recording of the call introduced by prosecutors, said he was “not giving the story away for free. The story goes to the highest bidder.”

Only Frein’s family and his lawyer pleaded for his life during the sentencing phase of the trial.

The most his mother could say about him was that he was not a monster but rather “a sweet person.”

The most his father, who holds a PhD in microbiology, could muster was “I failed Eric as a father,’ who testified about the lies he told his son, including phony stories about combat injuries in Vietnam he never suffered.

Eugene Frein, as the Morning Call reported, testified that while he served 28 years in the Army and National Guard, he never saw combat. Still, he told his son he was a sniper and tales of “covering himself with excrement so enemy soldiers would think he was dead.

“Young Eric,” as the Morning Call wrote, “soaked up his father’s tall tales, his defense attorneys said, and was influenced by Eugene Fein’s anti-government rants.”

Frein’s sister, Tiffany, 20, said her father would hit her and drag her around by her hair. Eric would comfort her, she testified. “He made me feel like someone actually loved me.”

But neither the family nor Frein’s lawyers gave the jurors much reason to spare him, and so they didn’t.

Afterward, following an old local tradition, the Pike County sheriff rang the bell on top of the courthouse eight times, signaling that Eric Frein, 33, had received the death sentence.

Whether it will be carried out is another matter entirely. Pennsylvania hasn’t executed anyone since 1999. And Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

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[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/27/17 4:12am

In this Jan. 5, 2015, file photo, Eric Frein is led away by Pennsylvania State Police Troopers at the Pike County Courthouse after his preliminary hearing in Milford, Pa. (Butch Comegys/The Times & Tribune via AP)

Eric Frein may be most remembered for the nationwide publicity surrounding the massive 48-day, 300 square mile manhunt for him by more than 1,000 law enforcement officers that came to an end on Oct. 31, 2014. On that day, the cop-killer billed in the media as a “survivalist” and military “reenactor” was placed in the handcuffs of the Pennsylvania state trooper he gunned down in a sniper attack, and driven away safely in police custody.

People in the rural Poconos countryside where he had been hiding out with his sniper rifle, his handgun and at one point an explosive charge, breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The rattle of search helicopters finally ceased. The schools reopened. And Halloween was uncanceled. “Trick or treating is on tomorrow night,” declared township board chairman Ralph Megliola. “We as a town think the kids have gone through enough.”

Media interest then waned, leaving all sorts of questions unanswered. Did he have some specific grudge involving the cops he shot or against the particular barracks of the state police on which he opened fire or against police generally? Fired from a job? A history of mental illness? Any mitigating circumstance?

Was there any plausible explanation at all?

If Frein had one, he didn’t offer it. He put on no defense at his trial and during the sentencing phase that ended Wednesday night, offered no reason why he shouldn’t be executed.

The jury on Wednesday did indeed recommend the death sentence for Frein, a decision that must be accepted by the judge.

In the end, the best prosecutors could come up with in answer to that question, why he did it, was terrorism. Frein thought his crime would start an uprising against the government.

“Our nation is far from what it was and what it should be,” he had written while on the run to his parents. ” … There is so much wrong and on so many levels only passing through the crucible of another revolution can get us back the liberties we once had … Tension is high at the moment and the time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men. What I have done has not been done before and it felt like it was worth a try.”

But the letter gave no specifics. Nothing about “big government” or taxes or land. No complaints about a president or some group or the other taking over the country. Just a nation “far from what it was and what it should be,” and “the liberties we once had.”

Frein, Pike County District Attorney Raymond J. Tonkin said, was “a terrorist with murder in his heart, a plan in his mind and a rifle in his hand.”

Pike County Assistant District Attorney Bruce DeSarro told jurors, as the Morning Call reported, that Frein had researched a number of police stations for their suitability for an attack before choosing Blooming Grove, which is surrounded by state game lands into which he could retreat and underbrush where he could set up his .308 semiautomatic rifle.

He was “literally hunting humans,” Pike County District Attorney told jurors.

Sometime before 11 p.m. on the night of Sept. 12, 2014, Frein “slithered” into the brush, as the prosecutor put it, set up his .308 rifle and scope, and took aim at the doorway to the barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania from a distance of about 87 yards.

Soon after, Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, 38, the father of two children and a Marine, opened the door and stepped outside, allowing his silhouette to be illuminated by the light from inside.

Dispatcher Nicole Palmer was on the phone, listening to someone complaining about fireworks in their neighborhood, when she heard a loud bang outside. She looked out and saw Dickson lying motionless. She knelt over him. “When he was trying to speak,” she testified, “all I heard was blood in his throat. He just mouthed the words ‘help me.’”

One bullet hit him in the chest, instantly felling him. Another hit a tree. Yet another passed through Dickson’s shoulder, shattering his spine.

He wanted to be dragged inside, Palmer said, but she couldn’t. She feared for her life and retreated to the lobby to protect herself.

Trooper Alex Douglass, 33, was putting a bag of running clothes into his car in preparation for a run the next morning. “I heard what actually sounded like fireworks going off,” he would say later in an interview with WNEP-TV. “There’s actually a gentleman who sells fireworks a little ways down from out station so it wouldn’t be unusual.”

Cpl. Bryon Dickson (Pa., State Police via AP)

But not knowing where the noise was coming from, the 10-year veteran walked back toward the barracks to find out. As he neared the entrance, he saw Dickson on the ground. He started yelling for help.

But then, “as I walked over to Corporal Dickson to see what the issue was, that’s when I got shot. I went down to my knees. Luckily,” he said, “I was by the front doors and was able to crawl into the station. At that point, I knew someone was shooting at us. …. I didn’t know if it was an ambush. I didn’t know if there were 12 guys out there, if there was one or two guys.”

“It felt like I got hit in the back with a baseball bat,” he testified of the bullet that then crashed into his back, the Morning Call reported. 

He managed to get back into the lobby of the building, warning another trooper coming toward him, “Don’t come out, someone’s shooting at us from across the road.”

Douglass, once an ultramarathoner who now walks with a leg brace, has had dozens of surgeries since. The bullet tore through his hip and pelvis leaving a wound “probably the size of a silver dollar,” he testified.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Alex Douglass of Olyphant, Pa., takes part during the annual Pennsylvania State Police Memorial in May 2015.  (Butch Comegys/The Times & Tribune via AP)

Frein took off. A diary he kept, later discovered by police as they searched for him, described some his movements.

“Had to run,” he wrote on Sept. 13. “Jeep stuck. Ditched the (rifle.) Went on foot, heading southwest to stream under (Interstate) 84.

“Slept all day in abandoned camper,” he wrote the next day. “Crossed 84. No (police) activity. Started campfire.”

“Set up shelter and cleaned up,” he wrote three days later. Called home via cellphone “to let them know I’m still alive. Got text saying I’m a suspect. Saw patrol. Not spotted. They stuck to the trails. Listened to radio. News media calling me a ‘survivalist.’ Ha! Catchy phrase I guess. Shelter-in-place (ordered) by spooked cops.”

His last entries were between Oct. 25 and 29. “Found two packages of crackers. Broke into a place … Took rice, Ramen and oil. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”

Forty-eight days from the moment he opened fire at the barracks, Frein was captured. A team of police and U.S. Marshalls had been searching an abandoned air strip and resort in Tannersville, Pa.

One of the marshals spotted Frein just as Frein spotted him.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives members ride on Route 447 in Price Township on Sept. 20, 2014, near Canadensis, Pa., during a search for suspected killer Eric Frein. (AP/Scranton Times & Tribune)

“He turned towards me,” the marshal, Scott Malkowski, said in an interview with ABC6. “I told him to get on the ground. He pronged out, he was about five feet away. I said ‘Who are you? What’s your name?’ He said ‘Eric Frein.’”

Malkowski told ABC6 that Frein seemed disappointed that it was over. “Sad and defeated that’s what I would describe it as,” he said. “He knew it was over.”

Unarmed, Frein offered no resistance.

In a phone call with his mother after he was arrested, the two spoke about the number of interview requests coming in from news organizations. Frein, according to a recording of the call introduced by prosecutors, said he was “not giving the story away for free. The story goes to the highest bidder.”

Only Frein’s family and his lawyer pleaded for his life during the sentencing phase of the trial.

The most his mother could say about him was that he was not a monster but rather “a sweet person.”

The most his father, who holds a PhD in microbiology, could muster was “I failed Eric as a father,’ who testified about the lies he told his son, including phony stories about combat injuries in Vietnam he never suffered.

Eugene Frein, as the Morning Call reported, testified that while he served 28 years in the Army and National Guard, he never saw combat. Still, he told his son he was a sniper and tales of “covering himself with excrement so enemy soldiers would think he was dead.

“Young Eric,” as the Morning Call wrote, “soaked up his father’s tall tales, his defense attorneys said, and was influenced by Eugene Fein’s anti-government rants.”

Frein’s sister, Tiffany, 20, said her father would hit her and drag her around by her hair. Eric would comfort her, she testified. “He made me feel like someone actually loved me.”

But neither the family nor Frein’s lawyers gave the jurors much reason to spare him, and so they didn’t.

Afterward, following an old local tradition, the Pike County sheriff rang the bell on top of the courthouse eight times, signaling that Eric Frein, 33, had received the death sentence.

Whether it will be carried out is another matter entirely. Pennsylvania hasn’t executed anyone since 1999. And Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

More from Morning Mix

Detroit-area doctors indicted in ‘brutal’ genital mutilation

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[Category: National, newsletter-hero]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/27/17 3:50am

FBI agents leave the office of Dr. Fakhruddin Attar in Livonia on Friday after completing a search for documents. (Clarence Tabb Jr. /Detroit News via AP)

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States, a grand jury issued a federal indictment Wednesday against two Detroit-area doctors and a medical officer manager for scheming to perform female genital mutilation.

The doctors — Jumana Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar — along with Attar’s wife, Farida Attar, were charged with performing female genital mutilation on minor girls at Fakhruddin Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Mich. Until Wednesday, only Nagarwala, 44, was charged with performing the procedure; the others were merely charged as conspirators in the case.

Genital mutilation, outlawed in the United States, is the removal of all or part of a female’s genital for nonmedical reasons. It is condemned by the United Nations and considered a human rights violation, but the practice is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The three defendants had schemed to perform the procedure on girls under 18 years of age since as early as 2005, though the exact dates are unknown, according to the indictment. All three are also charged with conspiring to obstruct the federal investigation. Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar, 53, are also charged with giving false statements to a federal agent.

In addition, the doctors face one count of conspiracy to transport a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity — a charge that carries a potential sentence of up to life in prison.

“Female Genital Mutilation has serious implications for the health and well-being of girls and women,” Daniel Lemisch, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said in a statement. “This brutal practice is conducted on girls for one reason, to control them as women. FGM will not be tolerated in the United States.”

The case, which is now headed to trial, centers on allegations that the doctors performed the procedure on two Minnesota girls, both age 7, who traveled to Michigan with their parents. But prosecutors say they believe there are many other victims.

In January, Nagarwala sent a text message to a parent of one of Minnesota girls, stating, “Feb 3 at 6:45 p.m.?” according to phone records cited in the indictment. On Feb. 3, Fakhruddin Attar, an internal medicine physician, allegedly allowed Nagarwala to perform female genital mutilation procedures at his office, the Burhani Medical Clinic, after it was closed for the day. Farida Attar was employed as an office manager of the clinic.

Nagarwala has maintained through her defense lawyer that she performed a religious procedure involving removing the girls’ genital membrane and giving it to relatives for burial. She insists this was merely a scraping procedure, and it did not involve cutting the genitalia, the Detroit Free Press reported.

But according to a juvenile protection petition filed in Minnesota, along with federal court documents, the injuries sustained by the Minnesota girls are far more severe than Nagarwala described. A doctor’s findings cited scarring, a small tear, healing lacerations and what appears to be surgical removal of a portion of her genitalia, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The child protective services petition also revealed new details surrounding the parents in the case. The father of one of the 7-year-old girls allegedly knew about the trip through texts with his wife while she was in Detroit. He told a child protection investigator he now regrets letting his daughter come to Michigan in light of the explosive criminal charges, according to the documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press.

According to the petition, one of the girls told a child protection investigator that she and her friend “got cake after” the procedure “because the doctor said they were doing good.” The girl also told the investigator that “the doctor made her cry,” the petition states.

None of parents have been charged. Authorities removed both girls from their homes, though one of them has been returned to her parents. The other girl’s child protective custody case remains sealed, and it is not known whether she has been returned to her parents yet, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, his wife Farida Attar (both shown) + Dr. Jumana Nagarwala indicted on multiple counts including FGM today pic.twitter.com/TnZXsRxmYL

— Sonia Moghe (@soniamoghe) April 26, 2017

The doctors and Attar’s wife are members of a small Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra. Wednesday’s indictment implies a link between the insular Dawoodi Bohra community in Detroit and the sect in Minnesota, based on phone exchanges between Fakhruddin Attar and a member of the community in Minnesota.

An organization that oversees the Dawoodi Bohra community in Detroit defended the sect in the wake of the case, saying it does not support the violation of any U.S. law and is offering its assistance to the investigating authorities.

Any violation of U.S. laws, the organization said, “does not reflect the everyday lives of the Dawoodi Bohras in America. We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking.”

In conspiring to perform the procedures, the indictment alleges, Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar agreed to make false statements to law enforcement and other investigating agencies. Nagarwala falsely stated to a special agent that she had never been present when a female genital mutilation was being performed on minors, and that she had no knowledge of the procedures being performed.

Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement: “As the first federal indictment in the U.S., these charges will hopefully deal a critical blow to stamping out this inhumane practice in the United States and around the world,”

The Attars, who have been in custody since last week, were due in court Wednesday for a bond hearing, but the hearing was rescheduled for May 3.

Outside the courthouse, defense attorney Mary Chartier said Fakhruddin Attar was not in the examination room with Nagarwala and the girls, the Associated Press reported.

“What happened at the clinic was not FGM,” Chartier said. “I believe they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs, and I do not make that allegation lightly.”

More from Morning Mix

‘Murder in his heart’: Eric Frein, sniper-killer of Pa. trooper, sentenced to death

‘We have to take a stand’: Mormon history scholars file brief against Trump travel ban

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[Category: National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/27/17 3:17am

Protesters gathered at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in Washington, D.C., on March 7 to oppose the revised travel ban signed by President Trump. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Muslims fearful that President Trump’s travel ban targets them are finding an ally in scholars of Mormon history.

A group of 19 scholars recently filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit comparing the government’s proposed treatment of Muslims to how it treated Mormons in the 19th century.

“This Court should ensure that history does not repeat itself,” wrote the scholars, only some of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church. The church is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The court is expected to hear arguments on Trump’s revised ban next month. That ban suspends the admission of new refugees and new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

District court judges in Hawaii and the state of Washington have halted key portions of the ban on the grounds that it likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The scholars don’t take a position on whether the executive order violates the clause or is “otherwise unlawful.”

[Trump’s talk — ‘Muslim ban,’ ‘Islam hates us’ — comes back to bite him in court again]

“Most relevant to this case, animus against the Mormons led federal officials and lawmakers to attack Mormon immigration,” the scholars said. “In 1879, the Secretary of State sent a circular letter to all American diplomatic officers, calling on them to pressure European governments to prohibit Mormon emigration from their countries.”

Many Americans and even many Mormons have either forgotten or are unaware of this history, according W. Paul Reeve, who teaches classes in Utah and Mormon history at the University of Utah. He was among the scholars who signed the brief.

“My hope is that it is a piece of evidence that the courts will consider and help them as they deliberate the course they will take,” Reeve told The Washington Post. “We are a pluralistic society and we value religious pluralism. An attack against one religion is an attack against all religion.”

[Read the federal judge’s ruling on Trump’s new travel ban]

The scholars said that the federal government carried out a sustained campaign against church members, which included “several measures” to restrict Mormon immigration, which had grown due to a “successful overseas proselytizing program.”

“Latter-day Saints suffered mob violence countenanced by state officials, legal attacks by the federal government, and a crusade of discrimination waged against Mormon immigrants because of their religion,” the court document said.

After the religion was founded in 1830, Mormons were driven out of Missouri by hostile crowds and later endured the same fate in Illinois, where the faith’s founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob. The document acknowledges that some of the hostility was due to the Mormon practice of polygamy, which the church officially adopted in 1852 and “publicly abandoned” in 1890, the document states.

But the animus toward Mormons existed before polygamy was embraced, the scholars argue. In many cases, it carried overtones of “Islamophobia.”

Mormons “were compared to the supposedly violent and lustful Turks and Arabs; the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was derisively referred to as the ‘American Mohamet,’” the brief said. “In the same vein, critics of Mormonism remarked on the Latter-day Saints’ ‘dangerously’ sympathetic attitude toward Muslims.”

Richard Bushman, an emeritus professor at Columbia University, who signed the brief, said in a statement that Mormons were “among the most reviled” when they came to the United States.

“We have to take a stand with those who flee to America as a refuge,” he said.

Kathleen Flake, who teaches religious studies at the University of Virginia and signed the brief, said the “Mormon ban” showed the lasting, negative impact such measures have on target groups.

“A Muslim ban under whatever name should alarm those who value freedom of conscience, America’s ‘first freedom,’” she said.

Read the court brief

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[Category: National, Politics, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/27/17 3:11am

Chris Soules, former star of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” after his arrest. (Buchanan County Sheriff/AP)

Iowa farmer Chris Soules, a former star on ABC’s “The Bachelor” who charmed reality TV viewers with his rural lifestyle in a small town Iowa, was arrested this week after police said he fled a crash that killed a fellow farmer.

Soules, 35, was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash, a class D felony, and could face up to five years in prison if he is convicted.

The case has garnered the attention of Soules’ “Bachelor” fans as well as residents of Arlington, Iowa, where he lives, who had come to appreciate the reality TV star’s work as an unofficial Iowa ambassador and farm industry advocate.

“This story is going to spread like wildfire around here and probably all over because of who he is,” Mary Jo Brown, Arlington’s city clerk, told the Des Moines Register. “Sometimes fame isn’t your friend.”

Soules, who also appeared in “Dancing with the Stars” and “Worst Chefs in America,” called 911 at 8:20 p.m. Monday evening to report that he had rear-ended a tractor on a rural road north of the tiny town of Aurora, about six miles away from his home.

The tractor veered into a ditch after being struck by his 2008 Chevrolet Silverado, Soules said.

The tractor driver — later identified as 66-year-old Kenneth Mosher, a Vietnam War veteran — was unconscious and not breathing, Soules told the 911 operator, according to audio obtained by local media. The man had a pulse, but there was blood around his mouth, Soules said.

Soules identified himself on the call, which lasted nearly six minutes, and sounded frantic. Between heavy breathing, he answered the dispatcher’s questions and took instructions. Soules told the 911 operator he did not know how to perform CPR and could be heard asking unidentified people at the scene if they could perform the lifesaving measure.

The called ended abruptly after the operator told Soules law enforcement and medical first responders were on the way.

“Can I, can I call you back really quick?” Soules asked the dispatcher.

“Yeah, you can call me back,” she says.

“Thank you,” Soules responds.

Soules left the crash site after emergency responders arrived, but before deputies with the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office were on the scene, according to authorities. Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright told the Des Moines Register that Soules fled the scene on foot and later got into a truck. In police audio obtained by local media, a deputy told a dispatcher that Soules “took off” in a red truck.

Authorities are trying to identify who picked up Soules in the truck, Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Wolfgram told the Associated Press. That person could face charges, he said.

Alcohol was found at the scene and investigators are trying to determine whose it was and whether it or speed were factors in the crash.

Soules was arrested about five hours after the incident and booked into the Buchanan County Jail, the Associated Press reported. He posted a $10,000 bond Tuesday morning and was released on the condition that he surrender his passport and wear an electronic monitor.

During his first appearance in court, the Buchanan County assistant attorney told the judge that Soules refused to cooperate with law enforcement after they located him at his home. He “would not come out,” the attorney said, until officials obtained a search warrant, which “took hours.”

Chris Soules making his initial court appearance in Buchanan County @KWWL pic.twitter.com/72bvEg0wVR

— Elizabeth Amanieh (@EAmaniehKWWL) April 25, 2017

Wolfgram told the Associated Press that investigators were “running into some roadblocks when it comes to getting information” but acknowledged Soules was acting within his constitutional rights.

According to court documents, Soules had several run-ins with the law in his early 20s. In 2011, he was charged three times with underage alcohol possession and pleaded guilty and paid a fine for an open container violation, reported the Des Moines Register.

The following year, he received three citations for fighting and noise, unlawful use of a license and leaving the scene, which was amended down to defective brakes, court documents showed.

Then in 2005, Soules was charged with driving while intoxicated and received one year of probation.

A statement from Soules’ publicist earlier this week said he was “devastated” to learn that Mosher had died from the crash and that his “thoughts and prayers” were with the man’s family.

Mosher, a lifelong resident of the Aurora — population 200 — lived on his family farm near the crash site, reported the Argus Leader. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Nancy, and the couple had two sons and three grandchildren, according to Mosher’s obituary.

A U.S. Army veteran, Mosher served six years, including a tour in Vietnam. He farmed his entire life and was a member of the Aurora American Legion and the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

“Kenny loved playing golf, farming and spending his winters in Florida biking and visiting his mother,” Mosher’s obituary said. “His family was most important to him, especially his grandchildren.”

In northeast Iowa, where Mosher and Soules both farmed, community members told local media they were heartbroken for the family’s of both men.

Chris Soules, left, and Whitney Bischoff during the finale of the reality dating competition series “The Bachelor.” (AP/ABC)

Soules’ three sisters signed him up to be a suitor on “The Bachelorette” in 2014. He was a fan favorite, making it to the final three before Bachelorette Andi Dorfman sent him home. Soules — nicknamed “Farmer Chris” — later returned as the star of his own season. He proposed to Whitney Bischoff, a contestant from Chicago, but the two split after a brief engagement.

He later competed on “Dancing with the Stars” and the Food Network’s “Worst Chefs in America.” Soules has since made guest appearances on various “Bachelor” franchise spin-offs shows and was rumored to be a cast member for this summer’s taping of “Bachelor in Paradise,” where former contestants search for love on a tropical island.

Soules had used his reality TV platform to travel Iowa and the Midwest advocating for agricultural issues, including ethanol and renewable fuels.

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[Category: Entertainment, National, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 10:11pm

Bishop Karen Oliveto in the sanctuary of a United Methodist Church near her office in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)

The fate of the United Methodist Church’s first openly gay married bishop is in the hands of a church court.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was elected last summer, immediately saw her election challenged by a Midwestern laywoman who said it violated church law, which forbids the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Dixie Brewster of Milton, Kan., wants the court to invalidate the election.

The two women greeted one another and shook hands before Tuesday’s hearing before the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court. Nearly 200 people attended the hearing at a New Jersey hotel. It lasted almost three hours.

A ruling is expected within days.

With 12.8 million members, the United Methodist Church is the country’s third largest denomination. The church’s Book of Discipline states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” a doctrine that many members strongly support, including the denomination’s growing numbers in Africa.

Others, however, have long worked to overturn or relax what they consider archaic and bigoted theological views.

Church leaders have tried various tactics over the years to avoid an outright schism. On the eve on Tuesday’s hearing, its bishops announced a special session of the General Conference, the top policymaking body of the denomination, would be held in February 2019 in St. Louis to consider recommendations from a 32-member commission on how to “lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality.”

Oliveto serves as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, which includes Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and a church in Idaho. Her spouse, Robin Ridenour, is a church deaconess.

At the time of her election, Oliveto was a 58-year-old senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. She won on the 17th ballot with 88 votes from clergy and lay delegates from states representing the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction.

The denomination’s news story about Oliveto’s ceremony was headlined: “Married lesbian consecrated United Methodist bishop.” It reported the new bishop received a “resounding standing ovation” but noted: “As the first out lesbian to be elected a bishop, she is not receiving the same affirmation from across the denomination.”

That tension was palpable at Tuesday’s hearing. One side largely argued Oliveto’s election violated church law and the other argued that one United Methodist jurisdiction, or region, should not be allowed to overrule the decision of another. Brewster is from the South Central Jurisdiction, based in Oklahoma.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, an attorney and elder in the denomination’s Virginia Conference, argued Brewster’s case. In his opening brief, Boyette said the action by the Western Jurisdiction and “nomination, election, consecration of assignment of Karen Oliveto as bishop” violates church law and is, therefore, “null, void, and of no effect.”

A response filed on behalf the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops said the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing on the matter.

Under our polity and its unique separation of powers, each jurisdictional conference is constitutionally autonomous from the other jurisdictional conferences where episcopal elections are concerned. It is improper for one jurisdictional conference to challenge or otherwise interfere with the election, consecration and assignment of a bishop in another jurisdictional conference.

Brewster’s petition asks the Judicial Council for a “declaratory decision.”

Ahead of the hearing, Oliveto released a video asking for prayer.

“I love being your bishop,” she said.

Read more:

Motion to Judicial Council for a declaratory decision

Opening brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Opening brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

Reply brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Reply brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

The #UMC is bracing for ruling on gay bishop. An overview of how folks are preparing for Judicial Council meeting https://t.co/f9dxWa2RQy pic.twitter.com/qfRCckpXRv

— UM News Service (@UMNS) April 21, 2017

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[Category: Uncategorized, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 10:11pm

Bishop Karen Oliveto in the sanctuary of a United Methodist Church near her office in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)

The fate of the United Methodist Church’s first openly gay married bishop is in the hands of a church court.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was elected last summer, immediately saw her election challenged by a Midwestern laywoman who said it violated church law, which forbids the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Dixie Brewster of Milton, Kan., wants the court to invalidate the election.

The two women greeted one another and shook hands before Tuesday’s hearing before the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court. Nearly 200 people attended the hearing at a New Jersey hotel. It lasted almost three hours.

A ruling is expected within days.

With 12.8 million members, the United Methodist Church is the country’s third largest denomination. The church’s Book of Discipline states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” a doctrine that many members strongly support, including the denomination’s growing numbers in Africa.

Others, however, have long worked to overturn or relax what they consider archaic and bigoted theological views.

Church leaders have tried various tactics over the years to avoid an outright schism. On the eve on Tuesday’s hearing, its bishops announced a special session of the General Conference, the top policymaking body of the denomination, would be held in February 2019 in St. Louis to consider recommendations from a 32-member commission on how to “lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality.”

Oliveto serves as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, which includes Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and a church in Idaho. Her spouse, Robin Ridenour, is a church deaconess.

At the time of her election, Oliveto was a 58-year-old senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. She won on the 17th ballot with 88 votes from clergy and lay delegates from states representing the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction.

The denomination’s news story about Oliveto’s ceremony was headlined: “Married lesbian consecrated United Methodist bishop.” It reported the new bishop received a “resounding standing ovation” but noted: “As the first out lesbian to be elected a bishop, she is not receiving the same affirmation from across the denomination.”

That tension was palpable at Tuesday’s hearing. One side largely argued Oliveto’s election violated church law and the other argued that one United Methodist jurisdiction, or region, should not be allowed to overrule the decision of another. Brewster is from the South Central Jurisdiction, based in Oklahoma.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, an attorney and elder in the denomination’s Virginia Conference, argued Brewster’s case. In his opening brief, Boyette said the action by the Western Jurisdiction and “nomination, election, consecration of assignment of Karen Oliveto as bishop” violates church law and is, therefore, “null, void, and of no effect.”

A response filed on behalf the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops said the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing on the matter.

Under our polity and its unique separation of powers, each jurisdictional conference is constitutionally autonomous from the other jurisdictional conferences where episcopal elections are concerned. It is improper for one jurisdictional conference to challenge or otherwise interfere with the election, consecration and assignment of a bishop in another jurisdictional conference.

Brewster’s petition asks the Judicial Council for a “declaratory decision.”

Ahead of the hearing, Oliveto released a video asking for prayer.

“I love being your bishop,” she said.

Read more:

Motion to Judicial Council for a declaratory decision

Opening brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Opening brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

Reply brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Reply brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

The #UMC is bracing for ruling on gay bishop. An overview of how folks are preparing for Judicial Council meeting https://t.co/f9dxWa2RQy pic.twitter.com/qfRCckpXRv

— UM News Service (@UMNS) April 21, 2017

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[l] at 4/26/17 4:43am

Posters featuring Fox News talent are displayed on the News Corp. headquarters building in Midtown Manhattan in April 2017. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The alleged exploits of some of Fox News’ most prominent men have cast the channel as a hostile work environment for women in the last year and, just this month, caused an advertising and public relations nightmare for executives.

Now, a fresh crop of Fox News employees are making accusations — this time about race.

On Tuesday, a combined total of 13 current and former employees of Fox News — all people of color — took three separate legal actions against the organization, alleging years of “hostile racial discrimination.”

Eleven people, including Emmy-winning reporter Kelly Wright, filed a class-action lawsuit against the network in New York State Supreme Court; a 12th former employee filed a separate discrimination lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York; and a 13th person turned to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with a discrimination charge.

Each complaint, at least in part, addresses the behavior of Judith Slater, the company’s longtime comptroller whom Fox News fired in late February. Slater, the complainants allege, subjected black and other nonwhite employees in the payroll department to “top-down racial harassment.”

According to the complaints, Slater mocked the way these employees pronounced words like “month” and “ask,” insinuated that black men were “women beaters” and expressed insulting racial stereotypes about Mexicans, Chinese men and people of Indian descent.

The employees claim that top executives had known for years of Slater’s alleged behavior, but told black employees that “nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives,” including former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, former chief financial officer Mark Kranz and former “O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly.

All three men have left Fox News in the last year.

Roger Ailes (AP)

Ailes was ousted last July after multiple sexual harassment allegations were brought against him, including from former anchor Gretchen Carlson, and Kranz, who has deep knowledge of the company’s finances, was reportedly pushed out the following month.

Then in early April of this year, a New York Times investigation revealed that the network had paid five women a total of $13 million to settle sexual harassment and misconduct claims lodged against O’Reilly, marking the beginning of the end of the host’s Fox News career. More women stepped up with additional allegations, advertisers fled “The O’Reilly Factor” and, after mounting pressure, Fox News eventually severed ties with O’Reilly.

An earlier version of the class-action lawsuit was first filed in late March, just before O’Reilly’s downfall began.

Two black women who worked in the Fox News payroll department — Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright — sued Slater, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, alleging that Slater’s bosses did nothing about her behavior for years.

Fox countered in a statement to the New York Times, claiming that the company “took prompt and effective remedial action” before Brown and Wright ever filed their lawsuit.

“There is no place for inappropriate verbal remarks like this at Fox News,” the statement read. “We are disappointed that this needless litigation has been filed.”

But in the amended class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday, Brown and Wright, joined by nine others, described a coverup culture at Fox News that not only enabled an uncomfortable work environment for women but also for people of color.

“Indeed, the only consistency at Fox is the abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination that was inflicted on minority employees that appears more akin to Plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment,” the class-action lawsuit says.

It added Dianne Brandi, Fox News’ general counsel, to the list of defendants from Brown and Wright’s original suit.

Monica Douglass, a credit and collections manager who is black and Panamanian, was the third person to join. She claimed that Slater called Brooklyn the “murder capital of the world” because of its large black population, ridiculed Douglass’s accent and called black people “your people.”

Slater also called Douglass, a breast cancer survivor, “boobs girl” and “cancer girl,” the complaint claims, and warned Douglass against going to the human resources department. “I am HR,” Slater allegedly said.

Douglass complained anyway, the lawsuit claimed, but was ignored.

Another former employee claimed he was paid less than his white colleagues and, after complaining, received quiet, retroactive pay raises, only to face retaliation from Slater that made him leave the company.

The racial discrimination allegations were not limited to Slater, though. A Bangladeshi former employee named Musfiq Rahman accused Ailes of building a wall in his office to keep out dark-skinned employees, the lawsuit alleges.

And the most widely recognized employee on the lawsuit, “America’s News Headquarters” co-host Kelly Wright, claims that “despite his performance, and because he is black,” the veteran reporter has “been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ — the racist caricature of a Black entertainer.”

In the class-action suit, Kelly alleged that O’Reilly refused to let him discuss the racial divide in Ferguson, Mo., on “The O’Reilly Factor and would not play his “Beyond the Dream” project, stories about the African American community, because it showed blacks in “too positive” a light.

Kelly also claimed that his career was stunted because Fox News promoted his white colleagues over him.

The federal discrimination lawsuit filed by Adasa Blanco, another employee in Fox News’ payroll department, listed 21st Century Fox, Fox News, Slater, Brandi and Susan Lovallo, another Fox employee, as plaintiffs, and alleged similar grievances as those outlined in the class-action lawsuit.

Blanco claims she reported “the racially hostile work environment” at Fox to Brandi as early as 2008, eight years before Slater was fired. Blanco is Puerto Rican and was “constantly mocked” by Slater for her accent, according to the federal lawsuit.

A Fox News spokesman told CNN in a statement that the company and Brandi “vehemently deny” the allegations in both lawsuits.

“They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month,” the spokesman told CNN. “We will vigorously defend these cases.”

USA Today reported that Wasim Rafik, a former Fox News employee, filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. Rafik was one of several employees who complained to human resources about Slater.

Attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen are representing all 13 people alleging racial discrimination.

“When it comes to racial discrimination,” the attorneys said in a statement Tuesday, “21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox.”

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[l] at 4/26/17 4:43am

Posters featuring Fox News talent are displayed on the News Corp. headquarters building in Midtown Manhattan in April 2017. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

The alleged exploits of some of Fox News’ most prominent male powerhouses has cast the conservative TV company as a hostile work environment for women in the last year and, just this month, caused an advertising and public relations nightmare for executives.

Now, a fresh crop of Fox News employees is tossing more accusations onto the pile — this time about race.

On Tuesday, a combined total of 13 current and former employees of Fox News — all people of color — took three separate legal actions against the organization alleging years of “hostile racial discrimination.”

Eleven people, including Emmy-winning reporter Kelly Wright, filed a class-action lawsuit against the network in New York State Supreme Court; a 12th former employee filed a separate discrimination lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York; and a 13th person turned to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with a discrimination charge.

Each complaint, at least in part, addresses the behavior of Judith Slater, the company’s longtime comptroller who Fox News fired in late February. Slater, the complainants allege, subjected black and other nonwhite employees in the payroll department to “top-down racial harassment.”

According to the complaints, Slater mocked the way these employees pronounced words like “month” and “ask,” insinuated that black men were “women beaters” and expressed insulting racial stereotypes about Mexicans, Chinese men and people of Indian descent.

The employees claim that top executives had known for years of Slater’s alleged behavior, but told black employees that “nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives,” including former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, former CFO Mark Kranz and former “The O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly.

All three men have left Fox News in the last year.

Roger Ailes (AP)

Ailes was ousted last July after multiple sexual harassment allegations were brought against him, including from former anchor Gretchen Carlson, and Kranz, who has deep knowledge of the company’s finances, was reportedly pushed out the following month.

Then in early April of this year, a New York Times investigation revealed that the network had paid five women a total of $13 million to settle sexual harassment and misconduct claims lodged against O’Reilly, marking the beginning of the end of the host’s Fox News career. More women stepped up with additional allegations, advertisers fled “The O’Reilly Factor” and, after mounting pressure, Fox News eventually severed ties with O’Reilly.

An earlier version of the class-action lawsuit was first filed in late March, just before O’Reilly’s downfall began.

Two black women who worked in the Fox News payroll department — Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright — sued Slater, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, alleging that Slater’s bosses did nothing about her behavior for years.

Fox countered in a statement to the New York Times, claiming that the company “took prompt and effective remedial action” before Brown and Wright ever filed their lawsuit.

“There is no place for inappropriate verbal remarks like this at Fox News,” the statement read. “We are disappointed that this needless litigation has been filed.”

But in the amended class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday, Brown and Wright, joined by nine others, described a coverup culture at Fox News that not only enabled an uncomfortable work environment for women, but also for people of color.

“Indeed, the only consistency at Fox is the abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination that was inflicted on minority employees that appears more akin to Plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment,” the class-action lawsuit says.

It added Dianne Brandi, Fox News’ general counsel, to the list of defendants from Brown and Wright’s original suit.

Monica Douglass, a credit and collections manager who is black and Panamanian, was the third person to join. She claimed that Slater called Brooklyn the “murder capital of the world” because of its large black population, ridiculed Douglass’ accent and called black people “your people.”

Slater also called Douglass, a breast cancer survivor, “boobs girl” and “cancer girl,” the complaint claims, and warned Douglass against going to the human resources department. “I am HR,” Slater allegedly said.

Douglass complained anyway, the lawsuit claimed, but was ignored.

Another former employee claimed he was paid less than his white colleagues and, after complaining, received quiet, retroactive pay raises, only to face retaliation from Slater that made him leave the company.

The racial discrimination allegations were not limited to Slater, though. A Bangladeshi former employee named Musfiq Rahman accused former CEO Ailes of building a wall in his office to keep out dark-skinned employees, the lawsuit alleges.

And the most widely recognized employee on the lawsuit, America’s News Headquarters co-host Kelly Wright, claims that “despite his performance, and because he is black,” the veteran reporter has “been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ — the racist caricature of a Black entertainer.”

In the class-action suit, Kelly alleged that O’Reilly refused to let him discuss the racial divide in Ferguson, Mo., on The O’Reilly Factor and would not play his “Beyond the Dream” project, stories about the African American community, because it showed blacks in “too positive” a light.

Kelly also claimed that his career was stunted because Fox News promoted his white colleagues over him.

The federal discrimination lawsuit filed by Adasa Blanco, another employee in Fox News’ payroll department, listed 21st Century Fox, Fox News, Slater, Brandi and Susan Lovallo, another Fox employee, as plaintiffs, and alleged similar grievances as those outlined in the class-action lawsuit.

Blanco claims she reported “the racially hostile work environment” at Fox to Brandi as early as 2008, eight years before Slater was fired. Blanco is Puerto Rican and was “constantly mocked” by Slater for her accent, according to the federal lawsuit.

A Fox News spokesperson told CNN in a statement that the company and Brandi “vehemently deny” the allegations in both lawsuits.

“They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month,” the spokesperson told CNN. “We will vigorously defend these cases.”

USA Today reported that Wasim Rafik, a former Fox News employee, filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. Rafik was one of several employees who complained to human resources about Slater.

Attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen are representing all 13 people alleging racial discrimination.

“When it comes to racial discrimination,” the attorneys said in a statement Tuesday, “21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox.”

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[l] at 4/26/17 4:22am

Donald Trump attends the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on October 20, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Suppose Donald Trump wasn’t skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday. Suppose he showed up, and like other presidents before him had to be funny, which at this particular dinner has traditionally meant being self-deprecating.

For example:

“I’m not doing so bad. I mean, at this point in his administration, William Henry Harrison had been dead for sixty-eight days!” (President Clinton.)

Or, “It’s been quite a year … lots of ups, lots of downs. Except for my approval ratings, which have just gone down.” (President Obama.)

“I always look forward to these dinners where I’m supposed to be funny — intentionally.” (President George W. Bush.)

Could Donald Trump do it?

It’s a matter of speculation. But there’s already been one test case, the Al Smith dinner on Oct. 21, 2016, in the midst of the campaign. Though he opened to a few chuckles, his jokes, which went from funny to flat to offensive, soon drew silence, then gasps and finally loud, angry boos.

You can watch his full remarks below, but here are a few highlights:

  • “It’s great to be here with 1,000 wonderful people, or as I call it, a small intimate dinner with some friends. Or as Hillary calls it, her loudest crowd of the season.”
  • “Just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said ‘Pardon me.’ And I very politely replied, ‘Let me talk to you about that after I get into office.’”
  • “Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate commission.”
  • “We have learned so much from WikiLeaks. For example, Hillary Clinton believes it is vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and it is only different policy in private. That’s okay. I don’t know who they are angry at, Hillary or I. Here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
  • “Everyone knows, of course, Hillary has believed that it takes a village, which only makes sense, after all, in places like Haiti, where she has taken a number of them.”
  • “The media is even more biased this year than ever before … You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. … My wife, Melania, gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case.”

Self-deprecating it wasn’t. Indeed, the jokes weren’t aimed at himself at all.

“The jokes he went to the stage with were completely consistent with his character,” said Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Clinton.

It was a contrast even to Hillary Clinton, who isn’t famous for being funny. “This is such a special event that I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule. … It is a treat for all of you, too, because usually I charge a lot for speeches like this.”

Based on his performance at the Al Smith dinner, and Trump’s general attitude, Evan Davis, the founder of Headwriters who wrote jokes for Bush, thinks Trump couldn’t bring it off.

“Humor is human,” Davis said, adding that writing for Bush was easy because “he was always more than willing to shine a light on his own humility.”

Trump, on the other hand, seems like someone who cannot laugh at himself, said Davis.

Even Trump, at the Al Smith dinner, conceded that self-deprecation was not a strength.

“They say when you do this kind of event, you always start out with a self-deprecating joke,” Trump said. “Some people think this would be tough for me, but the truth is I’m actually a modest person. Very modest. In fact, many people tell me that modesty is perhaps my best quality. Even better than my temperament.”

Self-deprecation is useful, David Litt, a former speechwriter for President Obama, told The Post. “It earns you some points with the crowd, and it gives the impression that president doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

But given Trump’s contentious relationship with the press and the efforts he devotes to looking hostile to the “enemy of the American people,” maybe he doesn’t want those kind of points.

Plus, self-deprecation is not his strength.

Eric Schnure, former White House speechwriter for Vice President Gore and co-founder of the Humor Cabinet who has written jokes for politicians on both side of the aisle, suggested another comedic approach President Trump might have taken: Playing an exaggerated version of himself, like Alec Baldwin.

That would have problems too, suggested Schnure. It would be “really hard for Donald Trump because he’s already a caricature of himself,” Schnure said. “Can you make yuge any yuger?”

So the prospects were not promising to begin with. Perhaps that’s one reason Trump is skipping the dinner, a break with past presidents for which he has offered no explanation.

“He’s not going because he doesn’t want to be the subject of jokes,” Schnure suggested.

“Somewhere someone knows it was impossible to pull off,” said Mark Katz, the humorist who penned the William Henry Harrison joke for Clinton. “I think deep down he understands to stand in front of a room and ask people to laugh at your jokes is to submit yourself to their approval.”

“Instead he selected another audience on Saturday night,” Katz added, referring to the “BIG rally in Pennsylvania” the president tweeted about, which he will be holding instead of attending the dinner.

Next Saturday night I will be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania. Look forward to it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2017

The speechwriters regard it as a missed opportunity, especially with relations between the press and the White House so stressed. He’s giving up the chance to use humor as other presidents have, to address things they otherwise couldn’t.

“It’s the one day the president can say out loud things that he and the White House denied for the rest of the year,” said Katz.

The jokes serve to humanize the presidents and earn them a moment of empathy while also giving them the chance to influence, if only slightly, the media narrative.

“Humor’s just a good way to address headaches and help steer the press away from taking those things too seriously,” said Litt. “If you can say this is a little absurd and everyone agrees this is absurd, you can help define what’s a political problem and what is not.”

At the 2014 Correspondents Dinner, after the disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website, for example, Obama joked, “In 2008, my slogan was ‘Yes, we can.’ In 2013, my slogan was ‘control-alt-delete.’”

“Joking about the ACA and the rollout at the dinner was a way of saying, that’s in the past,” Litt said. “If it was truly as cataclysmic as our critics said it was, it wouldn’t be the kind of thing we’d joke about

Even humorless former president Nixon, in the midst of the Watergate Scandal, climbed on stage and said, “It is a privilege to be here at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I suppose I should say it is an executive privilege.” (A reference to his ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep his secret White House tapes out of the hands of a congressional committee.)

“[Trump’s] walking away from a lot of upside, and I read the polls,” Katz said. “He could use the boost.”

Plus, he added, “There is a speech to be written that could be a home run,” in part, he said, because “the expectations would be very low for him walking into the room.”

On the other hand, Katz said, it could backfire and become a complete disaster.

“He has this kind of mean, Rat Pack sense of humor,” Katz said, comparing the president’s punchlines to clenched fists. “There’s a violence to them, an anger to them that’s unseemly.”

Take, for example, Trump’s tweet responding to a fan who asked “how much would it take for you to make out with Rosie O’Donnell?” Trump’s cruel punchline: “One trillion, at least!”

“Singe, don’t burn” is among the rules of political comedy, Schnure said.

But “if a joke doesn’t burn, if it only singes, doesn’t even think about it as funny,” Schnure said.

Comedy, of course, is far from a president’s main concern. But it has its uses.

“A president who is not funny just has fewer ways of engaging with the American public,” Litt said. “If you’re not willing to tell jokes, then humor is just one tool you don’t have that other presidents did.”

On the other hand, maybe Trump simply doesn’t want to be seen by his base hobnobbing at a glitzy dinner with reporters, who remain a foil for him (“enemy of the American people”) with his base.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “it’s hard when you’re up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp.”

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[l] at 4/26/17 4:18am

When a long list of comments from President Trump, his surrogates and his spokespersons shows up in a federal court ruling, it’s fair to say it can only mean one thing: a constitutionally questionable executive order is about to get a judicial smackdown.

That was true in March, when federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland suspended Trump’s travel ban, saying the administration had showed a clear animus toward Muslims, despite government lawyers’ claims to the contrary.

And it was true on Tuesday, when U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick of California temporarily froze Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities, ruling that it likely violated the Constitution.

Trump’s order, signed Jan. 25, threatens to cut off funding from local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco challenged the order, arguing, among other things, that the president doesn’t have the power to withhold federal money. Orrick found the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on all their claims, as The Washington Post reported.

The 49-page ruling focused largely on an all-to-familiar theme for the young administration: bragging and bluster by Trump and top administration officials.

Just like the judges who ruled on Trump’s travel ban, Orrick homed in on the vast discrepancies between what government lawyers defending it argued in court and what administration officials said in public about the sanctuary cities order.

In court, the administration’s lawyers argued essentially that the order doesn’t actually do anything, at least not at the moment. It was their way of convincing the judge to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that no city or county has yet suffered any harm. Under federal law and precedent, where there’s no harm there’s usually no case.

But in public, the officials bragged incessantly about how the order would force “sanctuary cities” to their knees. The order described in court as essentially an empty shell was portrayed in public as a powerful weapon to protect the public from dangerous undocumented immigrants being shielded by cities and counties.

It was that gap that disturbed Orrick.

The judge pointed to a February interview between Trump and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, in which Trump called the order “a weapon” to use against cities that tried to defy his immigration policies.

“I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state,” Trump said in the interview. “If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.”

The judge also cited news conferences in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to “claw back any funds” awarded to a city that violated the order.

And the judge brought up remarks by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said in no uncertain terms that “counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cities don’t get federal government funding.”

On top of that, the judge said, Trump and Sessions has repeatedly held San Francisco up as an example of the supposed dangers sanctuary cities pose to ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

It was more than enough to show the intent of Trump’s order, Orrick wrote.

But government lawyers sang an entirely different tune in court.

According to Orrick, the government contended that the order was merely an example of Trump using the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement” — in essence, something much more benign than what Trump and company had described.

The argument was lost on the judge, who ridiculed the government’s argument as “schizophrenic.”

“Is the Order merely a rhetorical device,” Orrick wrote, “or a ‘weapon’ to defund the Counties and those who have implemented a different law enforcement strategy than the Government currently believes is desirable?”

“Adopting the Government’s proposed reading would transform an Order that purports to create real legal obligations into a mere policy statement and would work to mislead individuals who are not able to conclude … that it is fully self-cancelling and carries no legal weight,” he added.

The ruling continued: “The statements of the President, his press secretary and the Attorney General belie the Government’s argument in the briefing that the Order does not change the law. They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the Executive Order.”

If all that sounds familiar, it’s because other federal judges reached similar conclusions about the administration’s credibility in lawsuits challenging Trump’s travel bans pointing out that officials said one thing in public and another in court.

Indeed, the proceedings are taking on an almost Twilight Zone-type quality, with government lawyers arguing statements by the president himself don’t have any bearing on his signature policies.

In March, judges in Hawaii and Maryland both issued rulings that temporarily halted Trump’s travel ban, which seeks to bar new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and suspends the admission of new refugees.

In both cases, government lawyers contended that calls for a “Muslim ban” by Trump and some of his closest advisers should not factor into the rulings. The judges disagreed, saying it was obvious that the administration’s intent was obvious.

“Plainly-worded statements by Trump and his surrogates “betrayed the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” one judge wrote, using language strikingly similar to Orrick’s.

The Trump administration has vowed to fight rulings in the travel ban and sanctuary cities cases all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. In a statement Tuesday, it called Orrick’s decision “one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”

As long as the administration continues to issue sweeping executive orders, it should expect to have statements by its top officials to come up in court, said Jayashri Srikantiah, an immigration law professor at Stanford.

“It’s hard to imagine not seeing more of these kinds of legal challenges,” she said. “The president is the president and the attorney general is the attorney general, and we have to take seriously what they say about an executive order with such broad implications.”

[Category: National, Politics, newsletter-hero]

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[l] at 4/26/17 3:49am

These jeans, coated in fake mud, cost $425. Seriously. (Screengrab)

Nordstrom is selling “mud-stained” jeans to the tune of $425.

They’re called the “Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans” and come with some sort of fake mud substance caked all over them. (It’s not clear what that substance is.) The knees, pockets and crotch of the jeans appear bear most of the faux brown muck.

And as CNN discovered, “the dirt does not wash out, because it’s actually not real dirt.”

The jeans were designed by PRSP and are sold on Nordstrom’s website, which describes them this way:

Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.

A few people with jobs that involve getting “down and dirty” are pretty miffed.

Among them is Mike Rowe, the former host of TV’s “Dirty Jobs,” who channeled his befuddled anger in a Facebook post that’s been shared more than 13,500 times and liked more than 31,000 times as of Wednesday morning.

“This morning, for your consideration, I offer further proof that our country’s war on work continues to rage in all corners of polite society,” he wrote of the jeans. “Finally — a pair of jeans that look like they have been worn by someone with a dirty job … made for people who don’t.”

“But forget the jeans themselves for a moment, and their price, and look again at the actual description,” Rowe wrote. “‘Rugged Americana’ is now synonymous with a ‘caked-on, muddy coating.’ Not real mud. Fake mud. Something to foster the illusion of work. The illusion of effort. Or perhaps, for those who actually buy them, the illusion of sanity.”

He added later in the post, “The Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans aren’t pants. They’re not even fashion. They’re a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic — not iconic.”

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This morning, for your consideration, I offer further proof that our country’s war on work continues to rage in all…

Posted by Mike Rowe on Monday, April 24, 2017

The response from Twitter was swift.

As one person tweeted, “Welp, it’s official. Working class is en vogue.”

“If you want to look dirty and broke, here are those stupid dirty jeans,” tweeted another user. “I’ll stick to actual work.”

“My husband has jeans like this that he’s been wasting on car repair,” tweeted another.

$425 for a pair of jeans that are dirty and muddy, hell I'll throw your city slicker ass into a mud hole for 50 bucks

— Heath Lee (@lee_speedy20) April 25, 2017

Hey folks if you want muddy jeans, don't pay $500 for a pair just find you a mud hole in Bama somewhere.

— Matthew cook (@matthewkcook) April 25, 2017

@SpaceGiko I guess running through a muddy field with regular jeans is too much work.

— John Smith III (@FreshAccount777) April 25, 2017

@brannonmc @BenSasse "I knew I should have splurged on the muddy jeans" pic.twitter.com/gMgYcZqZJa

— Little Finger (@realDonaIdRump) April 25, 2017

@SylviaGam @RickCanton @Nordstrom pathetic. If you want muddy jeans, try hard work. That builds character, too.

— StangerTweets (@stangertweets) April 25, 2017

for rich people who want to cosplay as working classhttps://t.co/E87wFHO9qv

— Charlotte Ercoli (@Charlesdecrema) April 25, 2017

For when you need a pair of jeans as fake as you are. https://t.co/MDRgWS3ffY

— Steve Butts (@SteveButts) April 25, 2017

@kylegriffin1 Barracuda straight leg jeans company makes these jeans they figure if The US can elect a Fraud they will surely buy these jeans…1

— Mrs. B (@MrsAmy47) April 25, 2017

 

my grandpa is selling his barracuda straight leg jeans for $400, cheaper than what Nordstrom wants, hmu for details!!! pic.twitter.com/Nas2ftGmFG

— ㅤty (@WickeTyler) April 26, 2017

The jokes spilled onto Nordstrom’s website but have since been deleted, according to Business Insider.

One read, “This is a joke, right? Do you also sell jeans covered in cow manure? Oh, that must be the deluxe model.”

Another read, “Gotta love being able to look like I have fed the pigs, helped deliver a calf, and get the tractor unstuck without ever having to leave my BMW.”

Nordstrom, however, is used to such publicity.

Earlier this year, the company caught the public’s attention for selling a pair of jeans with square-cut holes at the knee, then covered in clear plastic. “Slick plastic panels bare your knees for a futuristic feel in tapered and cropped high-waist jeans,” read the description.

They “clear knee mom jeans,” as they were call, sold for $95.

Nordstrom is losing their minds! $425 for "fake mud" covered jeans & $95 clear knee mom jeans w/ plastic windows? Who is buying this stuff? pic.twitter.com/8bMDMPfnXM

— Curvy Coed Carly (@Curvycoedcarly) April 25, 2017

And then there was the company’s “medium leather wrapped stone,” — medium-sized stone wrapped in leather.

“A paperweight? A conversation piece? A work of art? It’s up to you, but this smooth Los Angeles-area stone — wrapped in rich, vegetable-tanned American leather secured by sturdy contrast backstitching — is sure to draw attention wherever it rests, ” read the description, which also boasted of its “simplicity and functionality.” That functionality remains unclear.

The product sold out last year.

@Nordstrom I've been looking for this my entire life! Finally a leather wrapped stone! pic.twitter.com/58btcOyTsb

— John Lewis (@j_patrick_lewis) December 21, 2016

Some folks found a silver lining in the jeans (one that isn’t covered in mud).

One Facebook user wrote, “On a positive note, hard working guys everywhere can now sell the jeans they no longer want to wear for $400 bucks a pop!”

[Category: National, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 3:37am

Extreme preterm babies are currently given air through a ventilator and fed through tubes. (YouTube screengrab)

Each year in the United States, some 30,000 babies are born before gestating for 26 weeks, which is considered “critically preterm.” The resulting health problems are vast. Half perish, and those who don’t face a 90 percent risk of lasting health problems.

Such premature births are responsible one-third of infant deaths and half of the cerebral palsy cases in the country.

“The first health challenges the very preterm babies face is actually surviving,” Kevin Dysart, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said. “Among those that survive, the challenges are things we all take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing.”

“Just looking at them, it is immediately clear that they shouldn’t be here yet,” Emily Partridge, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a video. “They’re not ready.”

Modern medicine doesn’t yet have a great handle on caring for such extreme preemies.

That could change in the coming decade. As outlined in a preclinical study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have made great strides in creating an artificial womb for critically preterm babies that could allow them to continue developing naturally outside of their mother’s uteruses.

Currently, these babies — sometimes so small they fit comfortably in an adult human hand — are placed in incubators, where they are fed through tubes and delivered oxygen via ventilators.

The problem with this set-up, though, is they aren’t ready for gestation to end. In the womb, their mothers delivered oxygen via blood through their umbilical cords. If out of the womb, a breath of air stunts lung development.

“These infants are desperate for solutions and for innovation,” Partridge said. Desperately needed is a stopgap to help certain developments, such as lung development.

The team decided to focus on a new solution.

Rather than treat the preemies as if they were fully developed, ready to be in an open-air world, the team focused on recreating the actual environment of a human womb. It’s one in which the baby would be suspended in fluid and receive oxygen through its umbilical cord, rather than a breathing tube. This would allow gestation to continue for another month and potentially curb developmental problems.

“These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother’s womb and the outside world,” said fetal surgeon and study leader Alan Flake. “If we can develop an extrauterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks, we can dramatically improve outcomes for extremely premature babies.”

They developed an artificial womb — essentially a polyethylene bag filled with artificial amniotic fluid — that the child would immediately be placed into after being removed from its mother via C-section.

They would be given a drug to prevent them from breathing while being transported from their mother to the device, which “allows the fetus to swallow and breath amniotic fluid, like it’s supposed to during development,” Flake said.

An illustration of the device, which has been tested with lambs. (Nature Communications)

The artificial womb also includes a circulatory system to deliver oxygen to the baby. Two tubes are connected to the baby via its umbilical cord. One tube carries blood from the child into an oxygenator, where the blood is infused with oxygen. The second tube then carries the oxygenated blood to the child. The device is powered by baby’s heartbeat.

Researchers successfully tested the device on eight lamb fetuses which were 105 to 115 days old, which is similar in development to a 23-week-old human fetus.

“Most of what know about human fetal development is from the lamb. All of the physiologic research over the past 50-60 years that have told us about fetal circulation, about developmental events, most of it has been from the lamb,” Flake said.

The lambs developed naturally for another 4 weeks after being placed in the device, opening their eyes and growing wool.

The same lamb fetus pictured at the beginning and end of four weeks in the device. (Nature Communications)

The team hopes to soon begin testing on humans.

“We’re in the process of interacting with the FDA, so it’s not inconceivable that we could be talking about a clinical trial one to two years from now,” Flake said.

That’s fairly impressive, given that when the researchers first conceived the artificial womb about three years ago, still thinking of it as “science fiction,” they didn’t yet have a grant — much less advanced equipment. The first few prototypes were built with “plumbing piping,” purchased from Home Depot, eBay and beer stores.

“Sir Thomas Edison said, ‘To be an inventor, all you need is an imagination and a pile of junk,'” Marcus Davey, a researcher at the hospital, said. “And essentially that is the story of this system.”

More from Morning Mix

How a lab chemist went from ‘superwoman’ to disgraced saboteur of more than 20,000 drug cases

Study links diet soda to higher risk of stroke, dementia

‘Like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone’: Painful rat lungworm disease on upswing in Hawaii

[Category: Science, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 3:20am

Bishop Karen Oliveto in the sanctuary of a United Methodist Church near her office in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)

The fate of the United Methodist Church’s first openly gay married bishop is in the hands of a church court.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was elected last summer, immediately saw her election challenged by a Midwestern laywoman who said it violated church law, which forbids the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Dixie Brewster of Milton, Kan., wants the court to invalidate the election.

The two women greeted one another and shook hands before Tuesday’s hearing before the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court. Nearly 200 people attended the hearing at a New Jersey hotel. It lasted almost three hours.

A ruling is expected within days.

With 12.8 million members, the United Methodist Church is the country’s third largest denomination. The church’s Book of Discipline states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” a doctrine that many members strongly support, including the denomination’s growing numbers in Africa.

Others, however, have long worked to overturn or relax what they consider archaic and bigoted theological views.

Church leaders have tried various tactics over the years to avoid an outright schism. On the eve on Tuesday’s hearing, its bishops announced a special session of the General Conference, the top policymaking body of the denomination, would be held in February 2019 in St. Louis to consider recommendations from a 32-member commission on how to “lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality.”

Oliveto serves as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, which includes Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and a church in Idaho. Her spouse, Robin Ridenour, is a church deaconess.

At the time of her election, Oliveto was a 58-year-old senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. She won on the 17th ballot with 88 votes from clergy and lay delegates from states representing the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction.

The denomination’s news story about Oliveto’s ceremony was headlined: “Married lesbian consecrated United Methodist bishop.” It reported the new bishop received a “resounding standing ovation” but noted: “As the first out lesbian to be elected a bishop, she is not receiving the same affirmation from across the denomination.”

That tension was palpable at Tuesday’s hearing. One side largely argued Oliveto’s election violated church law and the other argued that one United Methodist jurisdiction, or region, should not be allowed to overrule the decision of another. Brewster is from the South Central Jurisdiction, based in Oklahoma.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, an attorney and elder in the denomination’s Virginia Conference, argued Brewster’s case. In his opening brief, Boyette said the action by the Western Jurisdiction and “nomination, election, consecration of assignment of Karen Oliveto as bishop” violates church law and is, therefore, “null, void, and of no effect.”

A response filed on behalf the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops said the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing on the matter.

Under our polity and its unique separation of powers, each jurisdictional conference is constitutionally autonomous from the other jurisdictional conferences where episcopal elections are concerned. It is improper for one jurisdictional conference to challenge or otherwise interfere with the election, consecration and assignment of a bishop in another jurisdictional conference.

Brewster’s petition asks the Judicial Council for a “declaratory decision.”

Ahead of the hearing, Oliveto released a video asking for prayer.

“I love being your bishop,” she said.

Read more:

Motion to Judicial Council for a declaratory decision

Opening brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Opening brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

Reply brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Reply brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

The #UMC is bracing for ruling on gay bishop. An overview of how folks are preparing for Judicial Council meeting https://t.co/f9dxWa2RQy pic.twitter.com/qfRCckpXRv

— UM News Service (@UMNS) April 21, 2017

More from Morning Mix

Turmoil over diversity strikes Unitarian Universalist Association

Watch: Brazilian robbers pick on the wrong Mormon missionary

Church of England, prime minister, lash out after ‘Easter’ dropped from national egg hunt

[Category: Uncategorized, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 3:20am

Bishop Karen Oliveto in the sanctuary of a United Methodist Church near her office in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (David Zalubowski/AP)

The fate of the United Methodist Church’s first openly gay married bishop is in the hands of a church court.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was elected last summer, immediately saw her election challenged by a Midwestern laywoman who said it violated church law, which forbids the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Dixie Brewster of Milton, Kan., wants the court to invalidate the election.

The two women greeted one another and shook hands before Tuesday’s hearing before the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court. Nearly 200 people attended the hearing at a New Jersey hotel. It lasted almost three hours.

A ruling is expected within days.

With 12.8 million members, the United Methodist Church is the country’s third largest denomination. The church’s Book of Discipline states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” a doctrine that many members strongly support, including the denomination’s growing numbers in Africa.

Others, however, have long worked to overturn or relax what they consider archaic and bigoted theological views.

Church leaders have tried various tactics over the years to avoid an outright schism. On the eve on Tuesday’s hearing, its bishops announced a special session of the General Conference, the top policymaking body of the denomination, would be held in February 2019 in St. Louis to consider recommendations from a 32-member commission on how to “lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality.”

Oliveto serves as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, which includes Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and a church in Idaho. Her spouse, Robin Ridenour, is a church deaconess.

At the time of her election, Oliveto was a 58-year-old senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. She won on the 17th ballot with 88 votes from clergy and lay delegates from states representing the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction.

The denomination’s news story about Oliveto’s ceremony was headlined: “Married lesbian consecrated United Methodist bishop.” It reported the new bishop received a “resounding standing ovation” but noted: “As the first out lesbian to be elected a bishop, she is not receiving the same affirmation from across the denomination.

That tension was palpable at Tuesday’s hearing. One side largely argued Oliveto’s election violated church law and the other argued that one United Methodist jurisdiction, or region, should not be allowed to overrule the decision of another. Brewster is from the South Central Jurisdiction, based in Oklahoma.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, an attorney and elder in the denomination’s Virginia Conference, argued Brewster’s case. In his opening brief, Boyette said the action by the Western Jurisdiction and “nomination, election, consecration of assignment of Karen Oliveto as bishop” violates church law and is, therefore, “null, void, and of no effect.”

A response filed on behalf the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops said the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing on the matter.

Under our polity and its unique separation of powers, each jurisdictional conference is constitutionally autonomous from the other jurisdictional conferences where episcopal elections are concerned. It is improper for one jurisdictional conference to challenge or otherwise interfere with the election, consecration and assignment of a bishop in another jurisdictional conference.

Brewster’s petition asks the Judicial Council for a “declaratory decision.”

Ahead of the hearing, Oliveto released a video asking for prayer.

“I love being your bishop,” she said.

Read more:

Motion to Judicial Council for a declaratory decision

Opening brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Opening brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

Reply brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Reply brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

The #UMC is bracing for ruling on gay bishop. An overview of how folks are preparing for Judicial Council meeting https://t.co/f9dxWa2RQy pic.twitter.com/qfRCckpXRv

— UM News Service (@UMNS) April 21, 2017

More from Morning Mix

Turmoil over diversity strikes Unitarian Universalist Association

Watch: Brazilian robbers pick on the wrong Mormon missionary

Church of England, prime minister, lash out after ‘Easter’ dropped from national egg hunt

[Category: Uncategorized, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 3:20am

Bishop Karen Oliveto in the sanctuary of a United Methodist Church near her office in Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP/David Zalubowski)

The fate of the United Methodist Church’s first openly gay married bishop is in the hands of a church court.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was elected last summer, immediately saw her election challenged by a Midwestern laywoman who said it violated church law, which forbids the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Dixie Brewster of Milton, Kan., wants the court to invalidate the election.

The two women greeted one another and shook hands before Tuesday’s hearing before the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court. Nearly 200 people attended the hearing at a New Jersey hotel, which lasted almost three hours.

A ruling is expected within days.

With 12.8 million members, the United Methodist Church is the country’s third largest denomination. The church’s Book of Discipline states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” a doctrine which many members ardently support, including the denomination’s growing numbers in Africa.

Others, however, have long worked to overturn or relax what they consider archaic and bigoted theological views.

Church leaders have tried various tactics over the years to avoid an outright schism. On the eve on Tuesday’s hearing, its bishops announced a special session of the General Conference, the top policymaking body of the denomination, would be held in February 2019 in St. Louis to consider recommendations from a 32-member commission on how to “lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality.”

Oliveto serves as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, which includes Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and a church in Idaho. Her wife, Robin Ridenour, is a church deaconess.

At the time of her election, Oliveto was a 58-year-old senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. She won on the 17th ballot with 88 votes from clergy and lay delegates from states representing the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction.

The denomination’s news story about Oliveto’s ceremony was headlined: “Married lesbian consecrated United Methodist bishop.” It reported the new bishop received a “resounding standing ovation, but noted: “As the first out lesbian to be elected a bishop, she is not receiving the same affirmation from across the denomination.

That tension was palpable at Tuesday’s hearing. One side largely argued Oliveto’s election violated church law and the other argued that one United Methodist jurisdiction, or region, should not be allowed to overrule the decision of another. Brewster is from the South Central Jurisdiction, based in Oklahoma.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, an attorney and elder in the denomination’s Virginia Conference, argued Brewster’s case. In his opening brief, Boyette said the action by the Western Jurisdiction and “nomination, election, consecration of assignment of Karen Oliveto as bishop” violates church law and is, therefore, “null, void, and of no effect.”

A response filed on behalf the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops said the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing on the matter.

Under our polity and its unique separation of powers, each jurisdictional conference is constitutionally autonomous from the other jurisdictional conferences where episcopal elections are concerned. It is improper for one jurisdictional conference to challenge or otherwise interfere with the election, consecration and assignment of a bishop in another jurisdictional conference.

Brewster’s petition asks the Judicial Council for a “declaratory decision.”

Ahead of the hearing, Oliveto released a video asking for prayer.

“I love being your bishop,” she said.

Read:

Motion to Judicial Council for a declaratory decision

Opening brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Opening brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

Reply brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster

Reply brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

The #UMC is bracing for ruling on gay bishop. An overview of how folks are preparing for Judicial Council meeting https://t.co/f9dxWa2RQy pic.twitter.com/qfRCckpXRv

— UM News Service (@UMNS) April 21, 2017

[Category: Uncategorized, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/26/17 3:07am

One of the last surviving Blockbuster Video outlets is located in Fairbanks, Ala. (Courtesy Kevin Daymude).

For families across the United States, driving to the local Blockbuster Video was a Friday night ritual. The kids fought over which movies to rent, parents had to pay off the late fees and all succumbed to the popcorn and candy buckets at the register.

Blockbuster once operated 9,000 stores nationwide, bringing in $6 billion in annual revenue at its peak. In 1989, a Blockbuster was opening every 17 hours. But the image of the blue-and-yellow ticket stub logo now merely evokes nostalgia, and memories of a time before Netflix, before online streaming, before some laptops eliminated DVD players altogether.

After a long decline, the video rental business declared bankruptcy and its new parent company — Dish Network — began closing all remaining retail locations in 2013. Netflix had won, and Blockbuster was dead. Or so Americans thought.

At least 10 known Blockbuster stores across the country have managed to stay afloat in the digital age. However, the largest cluster of Blockbuster stores are not on the mainland, but in Alaska, where dark, long winters and expensive WiFi have helped maintain a core group of loyal customers.

“A lot of them are still quite busy,” Alan Payne, a Blockbuster licensee-owner, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “If you went in there on a Friday night you’d be shocked at the number of people.”

Alan Payne owns eight of the last surviving Blockbuster stores in the country, including seven in Alaska and one in Texas, employing about 80 people in total. Payne first purchased Blockbuster franchises in 2000, just years before the industry as a whole began to decline. At one point his Austin-based company, Border Entertainment, owned 41 stores across the country.

After the 2008 recession hit, and after Netflix began to emerge as a major threat, Payne and his team of managers said, “Okay, we’re going to do this as long as it makes sense.”

Business indeed took a tremendous hit, and sales have been on a continual decline. In 2013, 40,000 people were coming through Payne’s stores, and that number has now dropped to about 10,000. Just this week, one of Payne’s last two Blockbusters in Texas closed. He didn’t think his stores would last past 2016, but through a “managed downscaling” Payne has managed to keep them profiting, without making any cuts to employee salaries and without any support from Blockbuster’s owner, Dish Network. He simply pays a licensing fee to use the business name and logo.

“We just keep plodding along,” Payne said.

The stores’ survival has depended on aggressive real estate deals with landlords willing to offer short-term leases and reduced rent. It has required running the business “a lot differently” than Blockbuster ever did, avoiding what Payne calls “a contentious culture over late fees.” Unlike the old Blockbuster, Payne’s version never sends out invoices to customers for late fees, they simply collect them whenever they came into the store. But they have also refused to eliminate late fees entirely like Blockbuster did, a decision Payne calls the “final nail in the coffin.”

Still, a great deal of the business’s endurance has come from the core customer base in Alaska, primarily made up of older people. Alaska ranks high in disposable income among the states, due to good-paying jobs, exceptionally low taxes and payments from reinvested oil savings. Moreover, Internet service is substantially more expensive than in most states, since most data packages are not unlimited. Heavy Netflix streamers could end up paying hundreds of dollars per month in Internet bills, Payne said.

For this reason, a hefty 20 percent of sales in Payne’s Blockbuster stores come from rentals of TV shows — from the “binge watchers,” he says.

Alaska’s cold, long and dark winters also lend themselves to plenty of in-home entertainment, Payne said. The most profitable Blockbuster store is in bitterly cold Fairbanks, where temperatures can reach 50 below zero.

[This video rental business says everything about America’s political divide]

Most of Payne’s managers have remained in their roles for at least a decade, riding out the wave of closures and declining sales. If any of them were to leave now, Payne said, “it would be impossible for me to go out and hire a new management team.”

But Payne said, “They love the business, they want to see it to the end.” What has kept his managers around for so long is also what has kept Blockbuster alive — the interaction with customers.

“There’s not a whole lot of retail businesses that people go to because they truly want to,” Payne said. “When you went on a Friday or Saturday night to rent a movie … that was just fun.”

In fact, more than half of Blockbuster’s revenue is generated during a six-hour period on Friday nights, Payne said. “Most of our people remember those days, and it’s still fun to be there on a weekend.”

When asked why people keep coming to his store, Kevin Daymude, the manager of a Blockbuster outlet in Anchorage, said: “Easy. Customer service.”

“Everyone likes to feel like they’re special and that they can talk to someone face to face if they have a question,” Daymude said. He has known some of his regular customers for more than 20 years. Despite its challenges, he has stuck around because he still believes in Blockbuster, “our little company in the ‘Last Frontier’” Daymude said.

“When you go in the store, walk down the aisle, you’re going to see all kinds of things you never thought of,” Payne said. There’s something about finding a “diamond in the ruff” on a shelf that is simply more gratifying than scrolling on a computer screen.

Yet Payne accepts the reality that it’s only a matter of time before he is forced to close his Blockbuster stores for good. And for some loyal customers, the closure of a Blockbuster store cuts deep.

In Mission, Texas, Hector Zuniga’s parents would rent movies for him twice, even three times a week from their nearby Blockbuster. Hector, 20, is autistic and nonverbal, and though he has trouble communicating, he always had a way of telling his family when he wanted to go to Blockbuster.

He simply said, “Barney,” according to his brother, Javier, 19.

When his parents told him the Blockbuster in Mission, Texas would be closing, Hector was heartbroken, and confused. Knowing how much Hector loved the store, and how accustomed he was to visiting it as part of his routine, his parents came up with a solution: they decided to create a mini-Blockbuster in their home.

When they revealed the surprise this week, Hector began to smile, laugh and clap, Javier said. In their home, the parents had set up a display rack, complete with a Blockbuster sign, and stocked the shelves with movies they purchased in the store’s closing sale. Among the movies were all of Hector’s favorites: Elmo, Veggie Tales, Rugrats and of course, Barney.

MY AUTISTIC BROTHER WAS SAD THAT BLOCK BUSTER WAS CLOSING DOWN SO MY PARENTS MADE A MINI ONE AT HOME FOR HIM! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/B4oo74NBvi

— jaavii (@Javiii_Zuniga) April 23, 2017

[Category: Business, National, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/25/17 5:36am

#Dallas: Rep. Victoria Neave inicia ayuno en oposición a la propuesta anti-inmigrante #SB4: https://t.co/V9fQqpF8I6 #FastAgainstSB4 #txlege pic.twitter.com/lOMUZIZCH0

— HOY Dallas (@Hoydallas) April 24, 2017

On Sunday, Texas state Rep. Victoria Neave attended mass at Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas, asked the priest for a blessing and received Holy Communion.

She hasn’t eaten anything since.

Neave, a Democrat, is fasting for four days in protest of a “sanctuary city” bill, which the Texas House is scheduled to debate on Wednesday. The bill would ban cities, counties and universities from preventing local law enforcement agencies from asking about a person’s immigration status or enforcing immigration law.

The Texas Senate has approved the legislation, and those against the bill are outnumbered in the House, Neave said. After years of attempts, Texas Republicans are closer than ever to passing such a bill, which they say would create consistency among law enforcement agencies and would prevent jailed undocumented immigrants from being released.

But many Democrats and immigrant rights advocates fear the measure would lead to racial profiling, incite fear and create a chilling effect in immigrant communities. And for Neave, a rookie lawmaker who represents parts of Dallas, Mesquite and Garland, the bill is personal. Her father, now a United States citizen, initially entered the country illegally.

“I feel like this is an attack on my dad and millions of other families across our state,” she said in an interview Monday with The Washington Post. With the House debate only days away, Neave said she is “praying for a miracle.”

“What else can I do to defeat this bill?” she said. “The last alternative I thought I could turn to was prayer.”

President Trump signed an executive order in January declaring that sanctuary jurisdictions would not be eligible to receive federal grants, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed last month during a White House news conference to take Justice Department money from such places. On Friday, he demanded that nine jurisdictions produce proof that they are communicating with federal authorities about undocumented immigrants. If not, they risk losing grant funding, he said.

Neave said she has noticed heightened anxiety in immigrant communities stemming from steps taken at the national level to ramp up deportations and punish “sanctuary cities,” Neave said.

[How sanctuary cities work, and how Trump’s executive order might affect them]

Her fast, she said,was inspired by the hunger strikes of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. Dozens of Texans are joining her with prayer or fasting, hoping to “soften the hearts” of state lawmakers planning on voting for the bill, she said.

On the Facebook page for the fast, organizers write: “This bill will undermine community policing efforts and will affect our neighbors, our workforce, kids in our schools, and the relationship between police and our communities. This doesn’t just affect the immigrant community, it impacts everyone who will need to prove he or she is a citizen.”

More than 1,200 immigrant families recently packed into a recent informational session held locally, Neave said. And teachers have come to her office and shared that their elementary school students are afraid about “what’s going to happen if they’re parents are deported.”

“I could see the fear in their eyes,” Neave said.

#SB4 will make us less safe & have a chilling effect on communities. I'm fasting for 4 days in opposition #txlege https://t.co/lo7g6pLiKC

— Victoria Neave (@Victoria4Texas) April 23, 2017

Earlier this month, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said his department found the number of Hispanics reporting rape is down 42.8 percent from last year, and those reporting other violent crimes has registered a 13 percent drop.

Due to fears of deportation, Neave said, “people are not going to want to report a crime if they are a victim of a crime.”

“This is going to make our communities less safe, not more safe,” Neave said.

In a separate demonstration, as many as 750 immigrant detainees in Tacoma, Wash., launched a hunger strike earlier this month to protest conditions at the 1,500-bed Northwest Detention Center.

This is not the first time Neave has fasted in protest — she led hunger strikes while attending law school about a decade ago. For her, this hunger strike is a spiritual matter, a way of “trying to give everything I can, everything of myself.”

“It’s a form of personal sacrifice,” she said.

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[Category: National, Politics, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/25/17 4:17am

David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis., speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Just a few hours into Terrill Thomas’s eighth day in solitary confinement at the Milwaukee County Jail last year, correction officers found the 38-year-old man on the ground and not moving.

He was dead.

Thomas had spent his final days begging for water, inmates later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, because jail staff had shut off the flow to the pipes in his cell as punishment for bad behavior.

The cause of death was ultimately ruled “profound dehydration” and the medical examiner classified it a homicide — meaning death at the hands of others — an announcement that drew a torrent of rage from Sheriff David Clarke, a tough-talking and loyal President Trump surrogate.

Still, nearly a year later, no criminal charges have been filed in Thomas’s death.

But an inquest this week by prosecutors could shed more light on the circumstances of the case, whether someone should be held responsible and, if so, who and for what.

The first major court revelation came Monday, when prosecutors told the jury that Thomas had endured seven days without any liquid, lost 35 pounds and grown weak and quiet before he died inside his cell last year, reported the Journal Sentinel.

By the end of the week, Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley told jurors they would be asked to answer three questions, according to Fox 6: “What was the cause of Mr. Thomas’ death? Was it the result of criminal activity? And if so, who committed the crime?”

Inquests are relatively rare in the United States.

Under Wisconsin law, an inquest may be ordered by a prosecutor when a death is considered suspicious. Witnesses are subpoenaed and testimony is presented under oath to a jury (as in this case) or to a judge. The judge or jury determines whether a crime has been committed and by whom, but the finding is advisory. A county or district attorney can decide whether to prosecute.

In this case, the “potential crime” that may have been committed is felony abuse of an inmate, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in March, without indicating who specifically did the abusing.

During an opening statement, Benkley said three corrections officers were captured on surveillance video cutting off Thomas’s water supply, reported the Journal Sentinel. They never turned it back on and failed to document the action or alert supervisors.

Inmates in solitary are only served beverages with their meals on Sundays, officer DeCorie Smith testified Monday, according to Fox 6. The other six days of the week, inmates get their water from the sinks in their cells, to which Thomas had no access.

Thomas had been moved to solitary in the discipline unit after he used his bedding to flood his jail cell in the special needs unit, where he was initially kept for his bipolar disorder.

“This order to shut off Mr. Thomas’ water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail,” Benkley said Monday, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Benkley told the jurors they will hear from fellow inmates who claim Thomas called for water. He also said there is evidence that Thomas’s compromised mental health made it clear he was “unable to tell people about his basic needs.”

Thomas had been in the county jail just eight days for allegedly shooting a gun at a group of men standing outside. One man was hit in the chest and underwent surgery at a hospital. According to court documents, Thomas was aiming at a man he believed had stolen his Mercedes-Benz the day before.

Thomas later went to the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee, where he fired the gun into the air several times, yelled for everyone to get on the ground and claimed there were snakes everywhere. He scooped poker chips into his pockets.

When police arrived, Thomas dropped the gun into a garbage can and lay on the ground, according to reports. He faced five charges and a maximum of more than 60 years in prison.

Thomas’s family said he was having a mental breakdown when he committed the crimes.

The man’s sons filed a lawsuit in federal court last month claiming their father “was subjected to a form of torture” during his time in solitary confinement and that officers ignored his pleas for help.

The lawsuit claimed that police took Thomas for a hospital examination after he was disruptive at the jail and showed “signs of acute psychological disorders,” reported the Associated Press. The hospital cleared him for transport.

Days before he died, a judge ordered a competency examination for Thomas.

“We see what happened as a completely preventable death and a grave injustice of a mentally ill man,” Erik Heipt, attorney for Thomas’s estate, told Fox 6 last month. “He was in a mental health crisis, he needed help. He didn’t need to be punished by throwing him into a solitary unit without water.”

Even at the end of the inquest, it could be difficult for prosecutors to prove negligence. To charge a person with abuse of a prisoner, officials have to show that jail staff neglected Thomas or were aware of the neglect and didn’t intervene, reported the Journal Sentinel.

When Thomas’s family filed the lawsuit last month, the sheriff did not comment to the Associated Press about the lawsuit, but he did note Thomas’s criminal background, which included a drug charge.

“I have nearly 1000 inmates. I don’t know all their names but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke told the Associated Press. “The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.”

Thomas was one of four people to die at the Milwaukee County Jail during a six-month period in 2016, according to Fox 46.

In December, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would consider investigating the deaths after a congresswoman requested it. State lawmakers and an activist organization called on Clarke to resign over the deaths.

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[Category: National, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/25/17 4:17am

David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis., speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Just a few hours into Terrill Thomas’ eighth day in solitary confinement at the Milwaukee County Jail last year, correction officers found the 38-year-old man on the ground and not moving.

He was dead.

Thomas had spent his final days begging for water, inmates later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, because jail staff had shut off flow to the pipes in his cell as punishment for poor behavior.

The cause of death was ultimately ruled “profound dehydration” and the medical examiner classified it a homicide — meaning death at the hands of others — an announcement that drew a torrent of rage from Sheriff David Clarke, a tough-talking and loyal President Trump surrogate.

Still, nearly a year later, no criminal charges have been filed in Thomas’ death.

But an inquest this week by prosecutors could shed more light upon the circumstances of the case and guide the district attorney’s decision to hold responsible those who failed Thomas.

The first major court revelation came Monday, when prosecutors told the jury that Thomas had endured seven days without any liquid, lost 35 pounds and grown weak and quiet before he died inside his cell last year, reported the Journal Sentinel.

By the end of the week, Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley told jurors they would be asked to answer three questions, according to Fox 6: “What was the cause of Mr. Thomas’ death? Was it the result of criminal activity? And if so, who committed the crime?”

An inquest is different from a jury trial because it happens before anyone has been formally charged with a crime. The process allows prosecutors to try their case in a sort of practice run, calling witnesses and soliciting testimony then asking the jurors to decide a verdict.

The judge overseeing the inquest determines which possible charges the jury can consider.

The district attorney does not have to heed the juror’s decision, though, and could ultimately choose not to bring criminal charges.

The “potential crime” that may have been committed is felony abuse of an inmate, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in March, without indicating who specifically did the abusing.

During an opening statement, Benkley said three corrections officers were captured on surveillance video cutting off Thomas’ water supply, reported the Journal Sentinel. They never turned it back on and failed to document the action or alert supervisors.

Inmates in solitary are only served beverages with their meals on Sundays, officer DeCorie Smith testified Monday, according to Fox 6. The other six days of the week, inmates get their water from the sinks in their cells, to which Thomas had no access.

Thomas had been moved to solitary in the discipline unit after he used his bedding to flood his jail cell in the special needs unit, where he was initially kept for his bipolar disorder.

“This order to shut off Mr. Thomas’ water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail,” Benkley said Monday, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Benkley told the jurors they will hear from fellow inmates who claim Thomas called for water. He also said there is evidence that Thomas’ compromised mental health made it clear he was “unable to tell people about his basic needs.”

Thomas had been in the county jail just eight days for allegedly shooting a gun at a group of men standing outside. One man was hit in the chest and underwent surgery at a local hospital. According to court documents, Thomas was aiming at a man he believed had stolen his Mercedes-Benz the day before.

Thomas later went to the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee where he fired the gun into the air several times, yelled for everyone to get on the ground and claimed there were “snakes” everywhere. He scooped poker chips into his pockets.

When police arrived, Thomas dropped the gun into a garbage can and laid on the ground, according to reports. He faced five charges and a maximum of more than 60 years in prison.

Thomas’ family claimed he was having a mental breakdown when he committed the crimes.

The man’s sons filed a civil lawsuit in federal court last month claiming their father “was subjected to a form of torture” during his time in solitary confinement and that officers ignored his pleas for help.

The lawsuit claimed that police took Thomas for a hospital examination after he was disruptive at the jail and showed “signs of acute psychological disorders,” reported the Associated Press. The hospital cleared him for transport.

Days before he died, a judge ordered a competency examination for Thomas.

“We see what happened as a completely preventable death and a grave injustice of a mentally ill man,” Erik Heipt, attorney for Thomas’ estate, told Fox 6 last month. “He was in a mental health crisis, he needed help. He didn’t need to be punished by throwing him into a solitary unit without water.”

Even at the end of the inquest, it could be difficult for prosecutors to prove negligence. To charge a person with abuse of a prisoner, officials have to show that jail staff neglected Thomas or were aware of the neglect and didn’t intervene, reported the Journal Sentinel.

When Thomas’ family filed the lawsuit last month, the sheriff did not comment to the Associated Press about the lawsuit, but he did note Thomas’ criminal background, which included a drug charge.

“I have nearly 1000 inmates. I don’t know all their names but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke told the Associated Press. “The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.”

Thomas was one of four people to die at the Milwaukee County Jail during a six-month period in 2016, according to Fox 46.

In December, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would consider investigating the deaths after a congresswoman requested one. State lawmakers and an activist organization called on Clarke to resign over the deaths.

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[Category: National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/25/17 3:40am

In this Monday, April 17, 2017 photo, “Infowars” host Alex Jones arrives at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, on April 17. (Tamir Kalifa/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Chobani, the maker of Greek yogurt, is suing right-wing provocateur Alex Jones, claiming he published articles and videos that falsely linked the company to child rape and a tuberculosis outbreak near its plant in Twin Falls, Idaho.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Idaho state court, says Jones’s Infowars website defamed Chobani and owner Hamdi Ulukaya in a series of reports alleging the company’s practice of hiring refugees had brought crime and disease to the town of 45,000.

Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists,” read an April 11 tweet from Infowars highlighted in the complaint. The tweet linked to a video containing what Chobani said were false statements about the company. The complaint also cited an August 2016 article that suggested Chobani was responsible for a “500% increase in tuberculosis in Twin Falls.”

Chobani said Jones had ignored requests to remove the reports, which as of early Tuesday were still accessible on the “Alex Jones Channel” on YouTube as well as the main Infowars site. As a result, the lawsuit said, some customers had called for a boycott of the company’s products.

“The Defendants’ defamatory statements have caused and continue to cause harm to Idaho residents, including Chobani employees, their families, and other members of the Twin Falls community associated with Chobani,” read the complaint.

In an audio statement posted on his YouTube channel Monday night, Jones said “sources” in the White House and Congress told him that billionaire George Soros, a frequent target of Jones’s attacks, was behind the lawsuit. Soros is not named in court documents, and there is nothing suggesting he is involved in any way.

Jones vowed to fight the case, saying it was without merit.

“I’m not backing down, I’m never giving up, I love this,” he said in the recording. “They have jumped the trillion-pound great white shark on this baby.”

Jones has made a name for himself peddling outrageous conspiracy fantasies over the years, including claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and that the government orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Last month, he apologized for promoting “Pizzagate,” a fabricated story that accused Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman of running a child sex abuse ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Jones has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the past year, buoyed in part by his chummy relationship with President Trump, who appears to have based some of his own conspiratorial views on Infowars stories.

Chobani’s plant in Twin Falls is the largest yogurt producing facility in the world. Ulukaya, the owner, is a Turkish immigrant known for his refugee advocacy. More than 300 refugees work at the Twin Falls plant and another facility in New York, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The company came into Jones’s crosshairs last summer, after a story about refugees in Twin Falls sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl drew national attention. Several right-wing websites, including Infowars, seized on the news, inaccurately reporting that the girl was raped at knifepoint by a gang of Syrian men. Infowars, Breitbart News and other outlets sought to connect the incident to the refugees employed at the Chobani plant in town.

Authorities in Twin Falls said the girl was sexually assaulted, not raped, and that there was no knife involved in the attack. They also said the suspects, who have since pleaded guilty, were minors from Iraq and Sudan, as The Washington Post has reported.

As recently as mid-April, Infowars was still linking Chobani’s refugee hiring practices to the crimes, according to the company’s lawsuit.

“Jones is no stranger to spurious statements. He has claimed that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut,” read the complaint. “Mr. Jones has now taken aim at Chobani and the Twin Falls community.”

Chobani’s lawsuit comes as Jones is fighting a closely-watched custody battle in Texas. The case has focused in part on whether Jones’s fire-breathing radio persona reflects how he behaves outside the studio or amounts to a sort of performance art, as The Post has reported. His lawyers in that case have argued he is “playing a character.”

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[Category: Media, National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/25/17 3:28am

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Break free from hair HATE. See how these women have finally learned to embrace hair LOVE.

Posted by SheaMoisture on Thursday, April 20, 2017

For years, women of color embraced Shea Moisture for hair products catering to naturally coily and curly hair. The family-owned business — inspired by a grandmother who sold shea butter across the Sierra Leone countryside nearly a century ago — has prided itself on empowering and meeting the needs of women of color.

But Shea Moisture also touted a message of inclusivity, broadening its reach to include women of all backgrounds and hair types. Marketing that expanded reach while appealing to its loyal customers, it turns out, can get a bit complicated.

A promotional video posted on its Facebook page provoked backlash Monday for focusing much of the ad on two white women, instead of its predominant customer base. The video centers on a message of “break free from hair hate” and opens with a black woman discussing the challenges of growing up with naturally coily hair. But then it turns to a blonde woman with straight hair. She says there are many days when she stares in the mirror and doesn’t “know what to do” with her hair. Another white woman with barely wavy red hair complains about feeling pressured to die to hair blonde.

Scores of Shea Moisture’s consumers — predominately women of color — felt insulted by the ad, which one writer called a “blatant erasure of African American women who made the brand what it is.” Much like criticism of the phrase “All Lives Matter,” black women felt the ad discredited their community’s needs, needs that most mainstream products in the hair care industry do not meet.

“Yes, we know good hair is for everyone,” a BET writer said, “but that is why companies that cater specifically to Black women need to exist — because so many of the products out there do not.”

[Her daughter was taught to think her Afro wasn’t ‘normal.’ So she created a billboard to change that.]

Shea Moisture, owned by Sundial Brands, issued a statement that said it would be pulling the ad immediately, saying in a Facebook post that video did not represent what it intended to communicate.

“Please know that our intention was not — and would never be — to disrespect our community,” the statement said.

“So, the feedback we are seeing here brings to light a very important point,” it went on. “While this campaign included several different videos showing different ethnicities and hair types to demonstrate the breadth and depth of each individual’s hair journey, we must absolutely ensure moving forward that our community is well-represented in each one so that the women who have led this movement never feel that their hair journey is minimized in any way.

“We are different — and we should know better,” it added.

Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands, said in an interview with The Post the video post aimed to spotlight the challenges all women face with defining their beauty, but agreed the execution of the video missed the mark. He said he hoped to ensure women of color that the company is not attempting to “abandon” them for a different type of consumer.

“Their sentiment — of wanting to make sure that the brand is no longer focused on them and is leaving them behind — is simply not correct and accurate,” Dennis said. “We continue to stand for women of color. We continue to service them. We are not changing anything, we’re overwhelmingly innovating for them.”

Still, the company’s apology did not stop many customers to tweet that they would no longer be using Shea Moisture products. Some expressed parallels to times in which black women felt the culture was being appropriated by white women, such as when the Kardashian sisters posted pictures on social media wearing cornrows.

“The Shea Moisture fiasco should be proof that we aren’t exaggerating,” one Twitter user wrote. “We really can’t have anything to ourselves.”

Others made references to a recent Pepsi commercial that was criticized for appropriating serious political and social-justice movements to sell soda. Pepsi later apologized and announced it was pulling the ad.

To an 'ethnic isle' near you #sheamoisture #Shea pic.twitter.com/yP5S8bpUef

— Sonia Grace (@Sonia_GoodGirl) April 25, 2017

"I never liked my red hair, so I dyed it blonde. I use Shea Moisture now for no reason in particular, thanks for listening, drink Pepsi."

— Writey McScriberson (@afroSHIRL) April 24, 2017

"HEY! We want to use Shea Moisture too!" pic.twitter.com/9qfoGBKZAf

— Ira Madison III (@ira) April 24, 2017

Shea Moisture centered white women in a black woman space and that is so hurtful. Yall not getting my coins. Them white women can have yall

— busan babe™ (@melaninbarbie) April 24, 2017

Yet others criticized the backlash, claiming it was an overreaction to a company’s attempt to diversify its customer base. Some white women came forward to share that they, too, have used Shea Moisture products, even if their hair isn’t naturally coily or curly.

I've used "ethnic" products for over a dozen years, without shame. I ❤️ great products. #SheaMoisture #Cantu @SheaMoisture pic.twitter.com/dU1dSjeJdh

— Charinda Stoll (@CharindaStoll) April 25, 2017

As Kristal Brent Zook wrote in The Post in September, this is not the first time Shea’s push to broaden its reach has led to awkward hiccups.

In February 2015, the company posted several Twitter ads featuring white and Asian babies and children — a move that prompted black-oriented blogs such as MadameNoire to take them to task for a marketing shift they called “jarring.”

Last September, the company again faced backlash after announcing its new “strategic partnership” with Bain Capital Private Equity, a firm founded by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Sundial’s reassurances that it would remain “majority family-owned and operated” weren’t enough to escape accusations of “selling out” and abandoning black consumers.

At the time, Dennis explained that biracial people are the new “general” market.

“My mother is biracial. My grandfather was white, in a village in Sierra Leone in the 1940s,” he told Zook. “Just because you see someone physically doesn’t necessarily mean you know who they are. That’s not where the world is headed.”

Born in Liberia, Dennis came to the United States to attend business school Babson College. When he graduated in 1991, he was unable to return to Liberia because of civil war. He decided to partner with his college roommate, Nyema Tubman, to launch a company that would address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies.

With the help of his mother and Tubman, Dennis began selling natural hair and skin preparations on the streets of Harlem, inspired by his grandmother, Sofi Tucker. Widowed at 19, Tucker began making handmade shea butter soaps and other products and selling them to missionaries and villagers as a way to support her family in her native Sierra Leone.

When the company started in 1992, there were very few companies focused on creating natural products for natural and textured hair needs, Dennis wrote in 2015. Since then, a growing number of brands have launched products catering to curly and textured hair. Department stores and pharmacies have begun carrying more brands specifically for such hair, at times stocking shelves beyond the “ethnic hair” aisle.

“More and more, women are embracing the natural state of their hair,” Dennis told The Post. “And that movement has been led by black women.”

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[Category: National, newsletter]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/24/17 4:40am

Part 1 – Forever Queen 👸🏾" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" /> Digital drawing on a photo of @michelleobama ✊🏾" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />❤️✊🏾" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" /> Original photo – Collier Schorr . . #nubian #blackart #digitaldrawing #phontart #supportblackart #art #illustration #drawing #draw #TagsForLikes #picture #artist #sketch #artsy #instaart #beautiful #instagood #gallery #masterpiece #creative #photooftheday #instaartist #graphic #graphics #artoftheday #phoneart #supportblackart #melanin #African #blackartist @_blackqueens

A post shared by G🐼 (@thick_east_african_girl) on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:45am PDT

Gelila Mesfin, an Ethiopian art student in New York, had long admired Michelle Obama — her grace, her stoicism, and perhaps more than anything, her influence as a role model for black women.

So last year, as a tribute to the first lady, Mesfin drew a digital portrait depicting Obama in a gold and green Egyptian headdress. She uploaded the image to her Instagram account with the caption, “forever queen.”

That was in November, just before the 2016 election.

On Friday, more than five months later, an almost identical version of Mesfin’s work showed up as a mural on a building on Chicago’s South Side, just blocks from where Obama grew up.

No one had contacted Mesfin about the mural. Nor had anyone had credited her.

That might not have been a problem for the 24-year-old, who said she said she was initially flattered that a stranger hundreds of miles away had turned her image into a piece of public art.

But the person who painted the mural, artist and urban planner Chris Devins, appeared to have profited from the project, raising nearly $12,000 on a GoFundMe page. He also suggested to local media the depiction of Obama was his idea.

“I wanted to present her as what I think she is, so she’s clothed as an Egyptian queen,” Devins told DNAinfo on Friday. “I thought that was appropriate.”

Devins’s mural had only been up for a matter of hours when word got back to Mesfin. She objected to the use of her work without permission in a widely circulated Instagram post that triggered a wave of outrage online, saying she felt like Devins stole her piece.

“I was very disheartened when he did that,” Mesfin told The Washington Post. “There’s a common code among all artists that you can get inspired by someone’s work but you have to pay homage and you have to give credit for it.”

Now, Mesfin and Devins said they’re negotiating a resolution to the dispute. The details are confidential, they said, but Mesfin told The Post she has sought help from an attorney.

Devins said he never intended to take credit for Mesfin’s creation, which itself was based off a portrait by New York Times photographer Collier Schorr. Mesfin credited Schorr’s work on her Instagram post.

In an interview with The Post, Devins said he has been painting murals around Chicago for more than two years. Most of them depict well known black figures who are connected to the city in some way, among them Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. For the most part, he said, he bases the murals on “found” images and public domain pictures he finds in the Library of Congress or Wikimedia Commons.

Devins said he makes little to no money off the installations, which he said he paints to “reaffirm the identity” of the surrounding community.

“This is a free service that I do as a benefit for Chicago youth as a counter to the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ portrayal of Chicago’s south side,” he said.

In November, Devins started a GoFundMe seeking to raise at least $5,000 to paint a mural of the first lady on Bouchet Elementary, which Obama attended as a youth.

The fundraising page showed a black and white portrait of Obama with folded arms, nothing like Mesfin’s rendering.

But after raising $11,785, it was Mesfin’s work that wound up on a wall — not on the school, but a beige brick apartment building nearby.

Artist Sparks Outrage For Ripping Off Design For Michelle Obama Mural https://t.co/syp9UE76g6 pic.twitter.com/xdWXlToUIS

— Chicagoist (@Chicagoist) April 23, 2017

Devins said he came across Mesfin’s drawing on the sharing site Pinterest and was unable to track down the artist. He explained his decision to use the image without permission in an analogy, saying he was creating a “remix” of a piece of art in the way that a DJ remixes songs.

All of the money, he said, went to the cost of painting the mural.

“I didn’t find out until she complained online that it was her image,” Devins said. “That’s why I didn’t give her any credit.”

After receiving backlash on social media, Devins apologized to Mesfin and issued multiple statements saying the work was hers. It did little to quell the anger among some users, who accused Devins, who is black, of racism, sexism and outright theft for using a young black woman’s art for his own purposes.

turns out that beautiful mural of Michelle Obama was stolen from a black woman artist. SMH https://t.co/XpRqf8LyH2

— Tracy Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) April 22, 2017

@LeagueOfExtra This image of Louis Armstrong is in the public domain already, by gift. The art you used for Michelle Obama mural was not.

— Hollin B (@HollinBrave) April 23, 2017

the Michelle Obama mural is @MissGeeBaby's work. you didn't "find" or "select" it, you stole it. pay her, then shut up @LeagueOfExtra.

— jessica (@jluwrites) April 22, 2017

Though he was apologetic, Devins said he resented that he was “accused of being mannish.”

“I moved ahead. I consider it to be collaboration after the fact,” he told The Post. He speculated that Mesfin may have “gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars of free publicity” from the attention generated by the dispute.

Mesfin had a different take. For one, she told The Post, she makes no money off her art, nor does she seek to. Her Instagram feed is full of images like the Obama portrait, showing black female icons — Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé — in brightly colored African garb that Mesfin has drawn onto existing photographs. They are not for sale.

Her depiction of Obama was inspired in part by her love of Egyptian culture. The idea of first lady in a headdress popped into her head as soon as she came across the Collier Schorr portrait, which ran in the New York Times in October, she said.

Mesfin said the goal of much of her art is to show the “rich heritage” of black women by portraying them in a “beautiful light.” When she uses another photographer’s work, she said, she goes out of her way to give credit.

“It’s just showing appreciation,” she said. “If you’re going to do something like this, it’s a common courtesy.”

Mesfin has called on her followers not to insult Devins while the two of them work out a resolution.

“I understand why he did it. At the same time, I was just surprised,” she said. “It would have been fine if he had just said that he got it from me.”

More from Morning Mix

Conservationist, author of ‘I Dreamed of Africa’ ambushed and shot at her ranch in Kenya

Digital devices snub Icelandic language, which is a problem for Iceland

A 10-year-old Virginia girl without a hand wanted to play violin. Now she can.

[Category: National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/24/17 4:12am

Conservationist Kuki Gallmann speaks on April 9, 2006 during the launch of the World Migratory Bird Day, at Laikipia. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

Since Kuki Gallmann moved to Kenya in 1972, the conservationist’s life has been plagued by loss and tragedy. Africa cost her the life of her husband, killed in a car accident, and of her 17-year-old son, who died from the bite of a snake he had studied with avid curiosity.

And yet instead of returning to a comfortable life in her native Italy, Gallmann stayed, compelled by her love for the land and desire to protect it. She would chronicle her experiences in the best-selling novel “I Dreamed of Africa,” which would later be turned into a movie starring Kim Basinger.

Now, a wave of misfortune has struck Gallman again, the result of months-long local violence and drought. The prominent author and conservationist, 73, was driving to her property in Laikipia on Sunday morning, assessing damage inflicted by arsonists at one of her tourism lodges, when her vehicle was ambushed by gunmen. She was shot in the stomach, according to the Laikipia Farmers’ Association.

Rangers with the Kenya Wildlife Service helped her flee the area, and she was transported to a hospital in Nanyuki, a town south of Laikipia, where a British field medic treated her. Then she was flown to a hospital in Nairobi to undergo surgery. Gallmann suffered serious injuries but was in stable condition after surgery, family members told authorities.

Though it is not yet known exactly who is responsible for the shooting, the gunmen are believed to be armed cattle-herders who been invading Gallman’s land and other nearby ranches in search of grazing land. A fierce drought has driven these herders — and tens of thousands of cattle — onto private farms and ranches, local media reported.

Many residents of the area accuse local politicians of inciting the violence ahead of the August elections, trying to drive out voters who might oppose them and win votes by promising supporters access to private land.

At least one local politician has already been arrested in connection to the violence. Matthew Lempurkel, the member of Parliament for Laikipia North, in March was arrested in Nairobi for inciting the murder of Tristan Voorspuy, a British military veteran who was shot to death while riding a horse and inspecting the remains of one of his ranches. Prosecutors later declined to press charges against Lempurkel, citing lack of evidence.

Kenya’s political leaders and local farming authorities have denounced the violence and Sunday’s attack on Gallmann, one of the area’s most prominent ranch owners. The Gallmann family owns the 100,000-acre Laikipia Nature Conservancy and employs 250 Kenyans on the luxury lodges, ranch, and other businesses on the land.

“For months these criminals have been rampaging around with their illegal weapons, destroying lives and livelihoods,” said Martin Evans, chairman of the Laikipia Farmers Association, calling it a “vicious assault against an elderly and defenceless woman.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta decried the shooting, warning politicians in the area not to inflame tension through “reckless rhetoric”.

“Politicians encouraging invasions of privately-owned property or attacks on individuals can expect strong deterrent action in terms of the law,” he said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

Raila Odinga, Kenya’s opposition leader and the country’s former prime minister wrote in a statement that his party, the National Super Alliance, detests and condemns “the hooliganism taking roots in this part of the country and demand action that will restore order before things get completely out of control.”

More than 30 people have died in the conflict over grazing land, the Associated Press reported. Kenya’s military and police have been working for more than a month to drive the herders out of the private land they’ve invaded, but their efforts seem to have escalated the violence. When driven from one ranch, nomadic herders will simply move onto another ranch.

Laikipia, located in Kenya’s central highlands, is one of Kenya’s most popular areas for tourism, and many business owners are afraid that if the herders are not stopped, the violence could spread and the economy could take a hit.

Late last month, a luxury lodge owned by Gallmann was burned down by suspected cattle herders in an attack believed to have been retaliation for a police operation. Police had reportedly shot dead about 100 cattle in her surrounding conservancy. Since then, a number of other lodge facilities and farm buildings on her property have been “systematically destroyed and looted by the invading militias,” the farmer’s association wrote in a news release.

Following the arson of the Mukutan Retreat lodge, Gallmann posted a poem on her Facebook earlier this month, writing that “with a bleeding heart” she was trying to gain the strength to see what was left of the lodge, “the monument of my love and loss and longing.”

“They burnt a bit of my soul,” she wrote. “They knew how it would hurt.”

As the armed men set fire to the lodge, they repeatedly shot at her daughter, Sveva Gallmann, who lived nearby.

“Our operations buildings and our house came under direct gunfire from armed men,” she said in a statement, Reuters reported. “My nine-month-old daughter was in the house with her carers and I was shot at three times as I ran between the buildings to get to her.”

Speaking to the New York Times this month, Gallmann said that in the past few days, herders had been nearing closer and closer to her home, and were attacking her property in revenge for the recent military activity against them.

And this is not the first time raiders have tried to kill Gallmann before. In 2009, she was driving alone across her property when herders surrounded her and hurled stones, hitting her in the head and hand, the New York Times noted. She barely escaped.

But despite the dangers, Gallmann told the newspaper: “There is absolutely no question that I want to stay in this place, die in this place, which could be any minute.”

Gallmann has called Kenya her home since she moved there in 1972, divorced and recovering from a crippling car accident. She found a fresh start in Kenya with her second husband Paolo, an adventure-loving Italian aristocrat. In 1980, when Paolo was driving home a cradle for his yet-to-be-born daughter, he was hit head on by a truck and killed instantly. Three years later, Gallmann’s 17-year-old son by her first marriage, Emanuele, was killed by a poisonous bite from a puff ader.

When her book first published, some claimed the white European’s story of love and loss in Africa gave off an air of colonialism. But others have praised Gallmann as a viable force in the field of conservatism. The Kenyan citizen has waged a war against rampant poaching, in an attempt to protect lions, leopards, elephants and other endangered wildlife in Laikipia. She has funded scholarships to help Kenyans use pharmaceutical technology and tribal medicine to halt deforestation and fight disease.

“Landowners? . . . I do not feel like a landowner,” she wrote in “I Dreamed of Africa.”

“I cannot believe that we really own the land. It was there before us, and it will be there after we pass. I believe we can only take care of it, as well as possible, as trustees, for our lifetime. I was not even born here. It is for me a great privilege to be responsible for a chunk of Africa.”

In memory of her husband and son, she created the Gallmann Memorial Foundation, which promotes “coexistence” between humans and nature.

“On the grave of both I swore to dedicate my life and my resources to making a difference for the chunk of Africa where we live, which they loved,” she said in an interview with Kenya Citizen TV.  Both her husband and son are buried on her ranch.

“There is nothing that people can do to scare or to make me lost heart,” she said.

 

[Category: International]

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[l] at 4/24/17 3:35am

Part 1 – Forever Queen 👸🏾" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" /> Digital drawing on a photo of @michelleobama ✊🏾" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />❤️✊🏾" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" /> Original photo – Collier Schorr . . #nubian #blackart #digitaldrawing #phontart #supportblackart #art #illustration #drawing #draw #TagsForLikes #picture #artist #sketch #artsy #instaart #beautiful #instagood #gallery #masterpiece #creative #photooftheday #instaartist #graphic #graphics #artoftheday #phoneart #supportblackart #melanin #African #blackartist @_blackqueens

A post shared by G🐼 (@thick_east_african_girl) on Oct 30, 2016 at 9:45am PDT

Gelila Mesfin, an art student in New York, had long admired Michelle Obama — her grace, her stoicism, and perhaps more than anything, her influence as a role model for black women.

So last year, as a tribute to the first lady, Mesfin drew a digital portrait depicting Obama in a gold and green Egyptian headdress. She uploaded the image to her Instagram account with the caption, “forever queen.”

That was in November, just before the 2016 election.

On Friday, more than five months later, an almost identical version of Mesfin’s work showed up as a 10-by-13-foot mural on a building on Chicago’s South Side, just blocks from where Obama grew up.

No one had contacted Mesfin about the mural. Nor had anyone had credited her.

That might not have been a problem for the 24-year-old, who said she said she was initially flattered that a stranger hundreds of miles away had turned her image into a piece of public art.

But the person who painted the mural, artist and urban planner Chris Devins, appeared to have profited from the project, raising nearly $12,000 on a GoFundMe page. He also suggested to local media the depiction of Obama was his idea.

“I wanted to present her as what I think she is, so she’s clothed as an Egyptian queen,” Devins told DNAinfo on Friday. “I thought that was appropriate.”

Devins’s mural had only been up for a matter of hours when word got back to Mesfin. She objected to the use of her work without permission in a widely circulated Instagram post that triggered a wave of outrage online. She said she felt like Devins stole her piece.

“I was very disheartened when he did that,” Mesfin told The Washington Post. “There’s a common code among all artists that you can get inspired by someone’s work but you have to pay homage and you have to give credit for it.”

Now, Mesfin and Devins said they’re negotiating a resolution to the dispute. The details are confidential, they said, but Mesfin told The Post she has sought help from an attorney.

Devins said he never intended to take credit for Mesfin’s creation, which itself was based off a portrait by New York Times photographer Collier Schorr. Mesfin credited Schorr’s work on her Instagram post.

In an interview with The Post, Devins said he has been painting murals around Chicago for more than two years. Most of them depict well known black figures who are connected to the city in some way, among them Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. For the most part, he said, he bases the images off public domain images he finds in the Library of Congress or Wikimedia Commons.

Devins said he makes little to no money off the installations, which he said he paints to “reaffirm the identity” of the surrounding community.

“This is a free service that I do as a benefit for Chicago youth as a counter to the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ portrayal of Chicago’s south side,” he said.

In November, Devins started a GoFundMe seeking to raise at least $5,000 to paint a mural of the first lady on Bouchet Elementary, which Obama attended as a youth.

The fundraising page showed a black and white portrait of Obama with folded arms, nothing like Mesfin’s rendering.

But after raising $11,785, it was Mesfin’s painting that wound up on a wall — not on the school, but a beige brick apartment building nearby.

Artist Sparks Outrage For Ripping Off Design For Michelle Obama Mural https://t.co/syp9UE76g6 pic.twitter.com/xdWXlToUIS

— Chicagoist (@Chicagoist) April 23, 2017

Devins said he found Mesfin’s drawing on the sharing site Pinterest and was unable to track down the artist. He explained his decision to use the image without permission in an analogy, saying he was “remixing” a piece of art in the way that a DJ remixes songs.

All of the money, he said, went to the cost of painting the mural.

“I didn’t find out until she complained online that it was her image,” Devins said. “That’s why I didn’t give her any credit.”

After receiving backlash on social media, Devins apologized to Mesfin and issued multiple statements saying the work was hers.

Even so, Devins told The Post he feels like Mesfin benefited from publicity created by the dispute. “She’s probably gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars of free publicity,” he said.

Mesfin had a different take on the dispute. For one, she told The Post, she makes no money off her art, nor does she seek to. Her Instagram feed is full of images like the Obama drawing, showing black female icons — Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé — in brightly colored African garb that Mesfin has drawn onto existing photographs. They are not for sale.

Mesfin, who was born in Ethiopia, said her goal is to show the “rich heritage” of black women by portraying them in a “beautiful light.” When she uses another photographer’s work, she said, she goes out of her way to give credit.

“It’s just showing appreciation,” she said. “If you’re going to do something like this, it’s a common courtesy.”

Ultimately, Mesfin said she feels like she and Devins are working toward the same aim of empowering the communities they live in. That, she said, is helping her keep a cool head as they work out a resolution.

“We all want our work to be acknowledged because we’re trying to bring positivity around us and inspire people in general,” she said. “Yes, he did make a mistake. But I do appreciate him reaching out.”

[Category: National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/24/17 2:37am

Salome Sigurjonsdottir, 10, tests a voice-controlled television in an electronics store in Reykjavik. Sales assistant Einar Dadi said none of his TVs understood Icelandic. (Egill Bjarnason/Associated Press)

If you want to change the default language on your iPhone, you have many options to choose from, such as Turkish, Dutch, Catalan and both the Brazilian and Portuguese dialects of Portuguese.

If you speak Icelandic, though, you’re out of luck.

The same is true on many computers, particularly voice-activated devices such as televisions, virtual assistants and electronics (such as refrigerators). Some people believe this — along with the world’s increasing globalization and widespread usage of English — could lessen the use of the Icelandic language, which is spoken by less than half a million people.

It wouldn’t be the only language facing this fate.

“Many of the world’s 6,000 languages will not survive in a globalized digital information society,” the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance said in a report stating Icelandic is one of the most endangered languages in the digital age. “It is estimated that at least 2,000 languages are doomed to extinction in the decades ahead.”

“The status of a language depends … on the presence of the language in the digital information space and software applications,” the report said.

The report stated usage of Icelandic in language technology was “virtually non-existent” in 1999. All that existed in the digital sphere for the language, according to META, was a good spell checker and a weak language synthesizer.

It has  gained more of a foothold since then, but the gap between it and other languages leaves much to be desired. As Mashable reported, “Vehicle GPS units stumble over Icelandic names for streets and highways. So-called digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa don’t understand the language.”

Of course, the Icelandic language has done just fine for centuries without digital devices.

The language was originally brought to what is Iceland in the 9th and 10th entries by settlers from western Norway. Given the island country’s remoteness, it “has remained relatively unchanged since the 12th century, and so old Icelandic manuscripts can still be read by today’s Icelanders,” National Geographic reported.

The language is unique, but it also isn’t spoken by many people — the country’s population, after all, is only about 339,000. It isn’t used much outside the country, either. Only about 5,000 Americans speak it, for example.

But there isn’t a particularly compelling reason for companies, particularly those based in Silicon Valley, to include the language in its devices.

Former Iceland President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir recently told the Associated Press without this trend changing, “Icelandic will end up in the Latin bin.”

Some have been concerned about that for years. Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, a language professor at the University of Iceland, spoke to the Reykjavík Grapevine in 2013 about the continuing rise of voice-activated technology that doesn’t include Icelandic.

“The more our everyday lives become a field where we can’t use our mother tongue — which is not something happening to an isolated group of people, but all Icelanders — the more danger it is that people give up on the language, thinking: ‘Why bother learning this language, why don’t we just switch over and start using English so we can be competitive in a modern world?’” he said.

Ásgeir Jónsson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland, pointed out to the Associated Press that the current trend could lead to a “brain drain” for the country.

“Not being able to speak Icelandic to voice-activated fridges, interactive robots and similar devices would be yet another lost field,” he said.

It’s not something native speakers take lightly.

“If we lost the Icelandic language, there would be no Icelandic nation. And if there’s no Icelandic nation, there is no Icelandic sovereignty,” Ari Páll Kristinsson, head of language planning at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, the Icelandic government’s language research agency,” told PRI.

Currently, the small country’s Ministry of Education estimate it would cost 1 billion krona — about $8.8 million — to fund an open-access database that would allow developers to incorporate Icelandic into our digital devices. But time is of the essence.

“If we wait, it may already be too late,” said Svandís Svavarsdóttir, a member of Iceland’s parliament for the Left-Green Movement.

More from Morning Mix

A 10-year-old Virginia girl without a hand wanted to play violin. Now she can.

When bad things happen to hash browns. Golf balls, for instance.

Hawaii residents to Jeff Sessions: ‘We’re not just some island’

[Category: International, Tech, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/23/17 11:54pm

Golf balls (Getty) and potatoes (iStock)

Hash browns are suddenly making news because of a recall on frozen packages that may contain pieces of golf balls in them.

That would make them harsh browns.

And raises the question: How did this happen?

Were the potatoes grown in fields next to golf courses? Were golfers using potato fields as driving ranges?

“Despite our stringent supply standards,” McCain Foods USA said in a statement Friday, “extraneous golf ball materials” may have been “inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product.”

The company said that, if consumed, the hash browns “may pose a choking hazard or other physical injury to the mouth.”

Weird stuff is found in food all the time, prompting recalls, though seldom do we learn how the problem occurred. For instance, last month Oklahoma-based OK Food recalled more than 900,000 pounds of breaded chicken products due to possible contamination “with extraneous materials, specifically metal.”

Metal? Like, from a chicken coop? OK Food isn’t spilling the details.

A chicken stands in a coop. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

On Saturday, the Campbell Soup Company said it was recalling  an estimated 4,185 pounds of chicken soup products due to mislabeling. Consumers who bought “Campbell’s Homestyle Healthy Request Chicken with Whole Grain Pasta” were surprised to find the cans actually contained “Campbell’s Homestyle Healthy Request Italian-Style Wedding Spinach & Meatballs in Chicken Broth” soup.

A problem, but not on the scale of golf balls.

The hash browns in question are two-pound bags of “Southern style” from Roundy’s (UPC 001115055019) and Harris Teeter (UPC 007203649020). The Roundy’s products were sent to Marianos, Metro Market and Pick ’n Save supermarkets in Illinois and Wisconsin, while the Harris Teeter hash browns were distributed in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina and Virginia.

They look like this:

(Photos courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration)

That may not be your image of hash browns if you grew up eating the deep-fried patties at McDonald’s.

Screen grab from McDonald’s.

Or the shredded and fried version of hash brown popular in many diners. Yum.

A cheese omelet and hash browns at a diner in Maryland. (James M. Thresher/The Washington Post)

So what form did hash brown take when first invented? The history is disputed, according to Don Odiorne of the Idaha Potato Commision, who fields questions from the public under the persona “Dr. Potato.” (He isn’t a real doctor, but Mr. Potato Head was taken.)

For hash brown history, Dr. Potato cites Barry Popik:

Hash browns (also called ‘hashed browns,’ ‘hash brown potatoes’ and ‘hashed brown potatoes’) are a popular breakfast dish, served today at fast food restaurants almost everywhere. The term ‘hashed brown potatoes’ was used by food author Maria Parloa (1843-1909) in 1888, ‘hash brown potatoes’ is cited from 1895, ‘hash browns’ is cited from 1911 (part of lunch counter slang), and ‘hashed browns’ is cited from 1920. Hashed brown potatoes were a popular breakfast dish in New York City in the 1890s and were served in the finest hotels.

In short, people have long made them in different ways, adding their own special ingredients, though never golf balls.

How to make hashbrowns in a waffle iron. https://t.co/rF0xm8Km1m pic.twitter.com/wzBiK60bbz

— Food & Wine (@foodandwine) April 14, 2017

Hurry to get this recipe for Homemade Hash Browns. Why? Because you need to make them. Get the sizzle here: https://t.co/fJrG8Nd5tC pic.twitter.com/CXFTsABwC5

— IdRatherBeaChef (@IdRatherBeaChef) April 3, 2017

Mexican Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo) – https://t.co/M3nRmeTAHn via @RebeccaGF666 #glutenfree #recipe pic.twitter.com/qrGpUZySwG

— Jac -Tinned Tomatoes (@tinnedtoms) April 12, 2017

When you are suffering gel and bar fatigue, these portable hash browns are sure to lift your spirits: https://t.co/OmR76fF0Os pic.twitter.com/JHTNaCFWa4

— Triathlete Magazine (@TriathleteMag) April 7, 2017

Bacon and Tomato Sandwich on Parmesan Peppercorn Bread, Shredded Hash Browns and Cole Slaw. Hugs, xo #homemadegood #goodeats #foodie pic.twitter.com/5PsgyHNauI

— Barbara Journal (@Barbara_Journal) April 12, 2017

Don't be someone who makes just *okay* hash browns https://t.co/LhbHLlUdT5 pic.twitter.com/who08Md70I

— Bon Appétit (@bonappetit) April 9, 2017

More from Morning Mix

Study links diet soda to higher risk of stroke, dementia

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[Category: Business, National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/23/17 11:46pm

FAIRFAX, Va. — Dressed for the occasion in a red dress and a white, glittery beret topped with plastic flowers, 10-year-old Isabella Nicola picked up her violin.

But this was no recital. And Isabella is no ordinary violin player. The fifth grader from Alexandria, Va., was born without a left hand and part of her forearm.

That hasn’t stopped her. Her mother, Andrea Cabrera, always instructed her not to say “I can’t,” but to say “I can’t yet.”

Now, thanks to five George Mason University bioengineering seniors — Ella Novoselsky, Racha Salha, Mona Elkholy, Yasser Alhindi, Abdelrahman Gouda — who used 3-D printing technology to create a prosthetic bow arm for her, she’s begun training on an instrument that beguiles even the most astute musicians.

They call it the VioArm.

The new prosthetic holds a bow. (AP/Steve Helber)

On Thursday, Isabella donned her fancy clothes for the presentation and subsequent fitting of the latest — and, its creators hope, final — version of the custom-designed, under-12-ounce prosthetic limb made of plastic. The arm holds her bow, and she uses muscles in her shortened forearm and shoulder to manipulate it.

A smile spread across her face and her eyes widened as  the team began fitting her with the hot pink, glitter-covered VioArm with her name etched in script on the side. “Oh my gosh,” she gasped, then took charge, asking the team to tighten a screw, loosen a bolt.

Time wasn’t wasted as Elizabeth Adams, a violin/viola professor in the GMU School of Music, began her lesson.

During the next 45 minutes, Isabella played scales, “Mississippi Hot Dog,” “Ode to Joy” and, begrudgingly, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” while Cabrera sat in the corner, eyes and cheeks wet with emotion.

It was the culmination of a journey merely to begin learning an instrument, a journey most don’t have to take.

The project started last year when Isabella, then a fourth grader, decided she wanted to play a string instrument. After all, she did everything else with one hand, even learning to tie her shoes alone at a younger age than her three brothers. Admiring her grandmother’s mastery of the guitar, she originally chose bass. The violin proved a better fit with her small frame.

Her mom was supportive but scared.

“I’ve never had to tell her you can’t do something,” Cabrera told The Washington Post, but she thought that time had finally come. Still, she heeded her own advice of adding “yet” to the phrase “I can’t.” A devout Catholic, she believed God would help them find a way.

“Everything just seemed to fall into place,” she said. “I do believe in miracles.”

Ten-year-old Isabella Nicola smiles after playing her violin with her new prosthetic. (AP/Steve Helber)

Suddenly, a string of well-wishers came out of the woodwork. Technicians at Potter Violins, a local violin shop in Takoma Park, Md., reversed the strings on her instrument, so she could finger with her right hand. Her first music teacher, Amber Hicks, plucked the strings while Isabella practiced fingering.

“She learned to play all the notes fourth graders are required to learn without ever making a sound on her own,” Matthew Baldwin, strings director for Island Creek Elementary — Isabella’s school told The Post.

Baldwin then changed everything.

Motivated by his Christian faith and Isabella’s dedication, the GMU alum purchased supplies at the hardware store and began tinkering in hopes of creating a bow arm for his young student. Combining PVC pipes, O-rings and eye screws, he made a usable prosthetic, Baldwin said, using “things you find under your sink.”

Isabella Nicola holding a violin bow with her first prosthetic, designed by Matthew Baldwin. (Courtesy Matthew Baldwin)

“As soon as I got it on her, and we were able to put the bow on the strings, she played a D-major scales,” Baldwin said. “She was able to hear it for the first time playing herself, and her face just lit up.”

Exciting as the prosthetic was, it wasn’t ideal. It was heavy and didn’t allow the full range of motion necessarily to truly bow the violin, so Baldwin contacted his alma mater in October. As luck would have it, a group of engineering students needed a senior project.

“I’m so blessed to have them,” Isabella said.

They decided to create her prosthetic using a 3-D printer, which is exactly what it sounds like: a printer that can take a digital 3-D model of an object and “print” it using various materials, such as plastic, metal and even chocolate. It can be, and has been, used for everything from printing spacecraft parts to a carbon fiber plastic working car to knockoff Lego bricks to complexly designed cookies and fondant wedding cake toppers, to name a few.

The technology also created the potential for affordable, easily customization prosthetics for the about 2 million people living in the U.S. with limb loss.

When asked if five college students could have created a usable prosthetic that cost less than $500 in raw materials before 3-D printing, all five students shouted an emphatic, “NO!” And yet they did.

It’s important to note 3-D printing is still young and has limitations. Many advanced prosthetics are made from a mixture of plastics and electronics and fit into a socket inside the body, the making of which requires equipment and technical expertise that isn’t readily available to the lay person.

“The idea is — you’re trying to securely attach a hand or a foot or whatever to somebody’s skeleton — which is inside their body — through the soft tissue that’s still around it without damaging that soft tissue or it being uncomfortable,” Jon Kuniholm, who lost his right arm to an IED as a Marine in Iraq and founded The Open Prosthetic Project told the Atlantic. “Most of the time, a surface scan of somebody’s body isn’t going to create something that is going to be useful, because it has to interact with the bony part that’s inside.”

In particular, prosthetics made for professional musicians, Alhindi said, tend to be much more advanced. But, the students soon learned that a beginner to the violin, such as Isabella required something far simpler as she learned to hold the weight of a prosthetic while manipulating her muscles in new ways.

“We have to consider our user’s age, and the simplicity of the design was one of our goals,” Alhindi said.

The team went through a few different models before Thursday’s fitting, working with Isabella along the way to make adjustments. The very first one, for example, uncomfortably rubbed the end of her forearm, which is extremely sensitive, so the team designed the VioArm to attach higher on her upper arm. They also worked to shorten it, which would reduce the arm’s weight.

Perhaps the most important change to Isabella, though, was the color. The last version was a chalky white. That just wouldn’t do. So she chose a pink glitter.

“I really, really like the color,” she said, beaming at the new arm.

Isabella Nicola applies rosin to her bow. (AP/Steve Helber)

The students will soon graduate, but their work will remain. Since the VioArm’s design is simply a 3-D digital model, it can easily be replicated. As Salha explained, the only necessity for immediately duplicating the prosthetic to fit a new client is that person’s individual measurements.

They could then pop those measurements into the computer and hit “print.”

In theory, many more children who never imagined being able to play a string instrument could soon be working their way through “Mississippi Hot Dog,” while their teachers remind them to practice daily and their proud moms beam at their fortitude.

Because for Cabrera, secondary to the skill with which Isabella can now handle a violin bow was the sheer courage her young daughter displayed when she climbed on stage for the Winter Performance well before she could hold a bow at all and played in front of her peers while Ms. Hicks plucked the strings.

“I lost it at that moment,” she said.

“To have the courage to stand in front of your peers in fourth grade and have your teacher pluck for you and have a smile and a confidence throughout the whole thing,” Cabrera said. “To not be embarrassed, to not be afraid of what they would think, but to do it with pride, that’s when I won. I thought whether she plays the violin or not, we won already.”

Isabella Nicola, 10, plays her violin with her new prosthetic at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.  (AP/Steve Helber)

 

More from Morning Mix

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These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned.

America’s first female mayor was elected 130 years ago. Men nominated her as a cruel joke.

[Category: National, Science, newsletter-hero]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/21/17 12:23pm

A Florida state senator has stepped down amid intense backlash after he used the n-word to criticize several colleagues during an alcohol-fueled diatribe at a Tallahassee bar.

Sen. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) said Friday morning in a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron that he was accepting responsibility for his actions — days after fellow legislators started pushing for his expulsion.

“It is clear to me my recent actions and words that I spoke fell far short of what I expect for myself, and for this I am very sorry,” he wrote in the letter. “I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all of my fellow Senators and lawmakers. To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness. My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State.

“I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”

[After using n-word in front of black colleagues, Fla. state senator faces calls to resign]

The Republican state senator had been facing pressure to resign since a heated conversation Monday night with Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston, both of whom are black.

The three lawmakers were chatting at the members-only Governor’s Club near the state Capitol when Artiles called Negron, the senate president, a vulgar word for female genitalia and said he had won his position because “six n—–s” had elected him, according to the Miami Herald.

When Gibson and Thurston recoiled at the comment, Artiles tried to defend himself by saying he meant to use a different version of the n-word, ending with “as” rather than “ers,” according to Politico. The word was acceptable, he reportedly told them, because he hailed from Hialeah, a largely Hispanic city in Miami-Dade County. At one point, Politico reported, he also called Gibson an insulting word.

With that, Gibson stormed off, saying, “I’m done,” Politico reported.

Thurston told the Herald he stayed and urged Artiles to apologize.

Eventually, Artiles did — but it took the intervention of the Senate minority leader and another lawmaker, according to the Herald.

“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” he said in a statement provided to the newspaper. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”

The senate president reprimanded Artiles in a statement Tuesday, saying: “I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening. Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President.”

On Wednesday morning, Negron forced Artiles to extend a formal apology while on the Senate floor, according to the Miami Herald.

Still, the newspaper reported, other legislators wanted to see him go.

“If every time a senator made a mistake or someone made a mistake that they were going to resign, we’d have half the Senate gone for whatever reason,” Artiles told reporters Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald. Asked whether he would consider stepping down, he added: “Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’m not only not going to resign, but I’m also going to file for 2018 and win my election.”

In a statement Friday, Artiles took a much different tone, saying he now plans to “prioritize the people that matter most in my life.”

“This experience has allowed me to see that for too many years I have sacrificed what I hold most dear in my life, my wife and my two young daughters,” Artiles said in the statement to The Washington Post. “While I take full responsibility for using language that was vulgar and inappropriate, my family has fallen victim to a political process that can distort the truth for the sole purpose of political gain.

“I clearly made comments that were hurtful, unacceptable and inappropriate. The American people and Floridians want their leaders to be accountable and responsible, and by resigning my elected office I believe I am demonstrating those qualities they desire and deserve.”

A previous version of this story misidentified Artiles’s race in the headline. The post has been updated.

Read more:

This mayor denied accusations he solicited sex from a 14-year-old girl. Then, he resigned.

Okla. state senator accused of trying to have sex with teen boy now plans to resign, attorney says

‘Saying no is easy, leading is hard’: GOP congressman resigns from Freedom Caucus after health-care drama

[Category: National]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/21/17 12:23pm

A Florida state senator has stepped down amid intense backlash after he used the n-word to criticize several colleagues during an alcohol-fueled diatribe at a Tallahassee bar.

Sen. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) said Friday morning in a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron that he was accepting responsibility for his actions — days after fellow legislators started pushing for his expulsion.

“It is clear to me my recent actions and words that I spoke fell far short of what I expect for myself, and for this I am very sorry,” he wrote in the letter. “I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all of my fellow Senators and lawmakers. To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness. My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State.

“I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”

[After using n-word in front of black colleagues, Fla. state senator faces calls to resign]

The Republican state senator had been facing pressure to resign since a heated conversation Monday night with Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston, both of whom are black.

The three lawmakers were chatting at the members-only Governor’s Club near the State Capitol when Artiles called Negron, the senate president, a vulgar word for female genitalia and said he had won his position because “six n‑‑‑–s” had elected him, according to the Miami Herald.

When Gibson and Thurston recoiled at the comment, Artiles tried to defend himself by saying he meant to use a different version of the n-word, ending with “as” rather than “ers,” according to Politico. The word was acceptable, he reportedly told them, because he hailed from Hialeah, a largely Hispanic city in Miami-Dade County. At one point, Politico reported, he also called Gibson an insulting word.

With that, Gibson stormed off, saying, “I’m done,” Politico reported.

Thurston told the Herald he stayed and urged Artiles to apologize.

Eventually, Artiles did — but it took the intervention of the Senate minority leader and another lawmaker, according to the Herald.

“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” he said in a statement provided to the newspaper. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”

The senate president reprimanded Artiles in a statement Tuesday, saying: “I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening. Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President.”

On Wednesday morning, Negron forced Artiles to extend a formal apology while on the Senate floor, according to the Miami Herald.

Still, the newspaper reported, other legislators wanted to see him go.

“If every time a senator made a mistake or someone made a mistake that they were going to resign, we’d have half the Senate gone for whatever reason,” Artiles told reporters Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald. Asked whether he would consider stepping down, he added: “Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’m not only not going to resign, but I’m also going to file for 2018 and win my election.”

In a statement Friday, Artiles took a much different tone, saying he now plans to “prioritize the people that matter most in my life.”

“This experience has allowed me to see that for too many years I have sacrificed what I hold most dear in my life, my wife and my two young daughters,” Artiles said in the statement to The Washington Post. “While I take full responsibility for using language that was vulgar and inappropriate, my family has fallen victim to a political process that can distort the truth for the sole purpose of political gain.

“I clearly made comments that were hurtful, unacceptable and inappropriate. The American people and Floridians want their leaders to be accountable and responsible, and by resigning my elected office I believe I am demonstrating those qualities they desire and deserve.”

This story has been updated.

Read more:

This mayor denied accusations he solicited sex from a 14-year-old girl. Then, he resigned.

Okla. state senator accused of trying to have sex with teen boy now plans to resign, attorney says

‘Saying no is easy, leading is hard’: GOP congressman resigns from Freedom Caucus after health-care drama

[Category: National]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/21/17 5:15am

Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens to reporters’ questions on April 18 at the Justice Department in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

On that day in March of 1959, thousands took to the streets of Honolulu, playing Dixieland music and waving banners, with children stopping to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Congress had just sent a bill to the White House to give Hawaii the statehood it had “so long deserved,” local reporters wrote. Five months later, on Aug. 21, the collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean officially became the 50th state of the United States.

During the years of statehood that followed, thousands of Hawaii citizens served in the military, died and were wounded in wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, won countless decorations and spearheaded civil rights advancements. Others served with distinction in Congress, particularly the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, who had lost an arm fighting in World War II with the famed Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, ultimately winning the Medal of Honor.

One Hawaii-born American rose to become the president of the United States.

But on Thursday, some felt as though the 50th state was being disrespected, relegated to five words: “an island in the Pacific.”

In an interview with “The Mark Levin Show” that was later uncovered by CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions implied that a judge from Hawaii — which he called simply “an island in the Pacific” — should not be able to strike down Trump’s travel ban.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said.

Later, Justice Department spokesman Ian D. Prior clarified Sessions’s remarks in a statement: “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” he said. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”

The comments were not only demeaning, it was noted, but also geographically incorrect. The state of Hawaii is not, in fact, an island in the Pacific — it is a stunningly beautiful collection of islands, an archipelago of eight major islands and many islets and atolls. Its wondrous beaches and mountains attract millions of visitors from the U.S. mainland, who don’t need passports to visit, and bring in massive amounts of revenue to the United States from foreign countries, especially Japan.

One of its islands is indeed called Hawaii, but the federal judge that Sessions criticized is based in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

The fact that Sessions didn’t even say the state’s name in his initial remarks was most offensive for some, said Nadine Y. Ando, president of the Hawaii State Bar Association.

“Excuse me?” Ando said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We have been a state for 58 years. We’re not just some island.”

The comments were also dismissive of Judge Derrick Watson, an appointed and confirmed federal judge, Ando said, “not some outlier judge sitting in the middle of nowhere.” While she understood Session’s desire to express his opinions regarding the judge’s decision, Ando said, “It’s unfortunate that in the process of doing that, he demeaned the entire state.”

The disparaging statement or as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser called it, “Sessions’ diss of Hawaii,” spurred lawmakers, politicians and others who call Hawaii home to defend the 50th state, latching onto the hashtag #IslandinthePacific.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin gave a subtle yet scathing response, tweeting a photo of the statute that established Hawaii’s statehood.

#IslandinthePacific pic.twitter.com/v62vpD7sz4

— Hawaii AG (@AtghIgov) April 21, 2017

He also released a statement, saying: “Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason. Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”

Both senators from Hawaii also sounded off on Sessions’s comments.

This is the unanimous Senate vote confirming Judge Derrick Waston. It includes a "yea" vote from AL Sen. Jeff Sessions #IslandinthePacific pic.twitter.com/tVcmeMNojn

— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 21, 2017

Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect. https://t.co/sW9z3vqBqG

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017

And in the process of defending Hawaii, some on social media decided to give a bit of a history lesson on the 50th state.

“Does Pearl Harbor sound familiar to Jeff Sessions?” one Twitter user wrote.

Hawaii was the site of the day that would “live in infamy” in American history, Dec. 7, 1941, when a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft destroyed and damaged 19 American ships and obliterated nearly 200 planes, resulting in the deaths of 2,403 American men, women and children.

During World War II, Hawaii was also home to members of the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. The 442nd was composed entirely of Japanese Americans, mostly from Hawaii. Hawaii is frequently ranked among the top 10 states with the largest population of active military personnel. It has also been ranked among the states with the largest shares of veterans who served during wartime — roughly 4 in 5 veterans.

Last year, personal finance website WalletHub ranked it as the sixth most patriotic state, using metrics such as military engagement, voting habits and civil-education requirements.

Jeff Sessions calls it "some island in the Pacific"
We call it the 50th state and site of the only WWII battlefield on US soil. pic.twitter.com/vhz8Ij0kB6

— Oliver Willis (@owillis) April 20, 2017

#IslandInThePacific
Home of the most decorated unit in American history. Come check out some of our museums sometime to learn more #Hawaii pic.twitter.com/i4nVfGsx5d

— HawaiiScienceMuseum (@HawaiiScience) April 20, 2017

Just an #IslandinthePacific where ALL OF US – red and blue – stop to remember what we fought and died for. #PriceofFreedom pic.twitter.com/RiXGqP35iU

— The Loyal Dissenters (@loyaldissenters) April 21, 2017

President Barack Obama, who was born in Honolulu, made multiple symbolically powerful gestures for his home state while in office.

Under Obama, the Interior Department in September finalized a rule to allow for the reestablishment of a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.

A month earlier, Obama created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet when he expanded a national marine monument in Hawaii to encompass more than half a million square miles.

He than quadrupled the size of the Papahanaumokuakea (pronounced “Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah”) Marine National Monument to 582,578 square miles of land and sea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Statehood granted to Hawaii. (AP)

Hawaii residents are proud of their multiethnic state and many have been in the forefront of civil rights legislation.

A Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii, the late Rep. Patsy Mink, played a leading role in passing Title IX of the federal education act, which, among other things revolutionized opportunities for women in athletics. Before Roe v. Wade, Hawaii in March 1970 became the first state to legalize abortion at the request of the woman.

Hawaii also became the first state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, just a half-hour after the Senate passed it on March 22, 1972.

@ACLU This #islandinthepacific 1st to legalize #abortion, first to ratify #ERA, authored #TitleIX#civilrights in our DNA & not stopping!

— ACLU of Hawaii (@acluhawaii) April 20, 2017

Some on social media went even further to criticize Sessions — they pointed out that Sessions’s home state, Alabama, once attempted to secede from the Union. Hawaii, in its nearly 58 years of statehood, has not.

I'll note for Jeff Sessions' benefit that the #IslandInThePacific, unlike his home state of Alabama, never tried to LEAVE the United States.

— Chad (@RevDJEsq) April 20, 2017

I'm perplexed that someone from a state that tried to leave the US to keep its slaves has the gall to call Hawaii an #IslandinthePacific

— schrobble (@schrobblehead) April 21, 2017

I'm amazed a President from an island in the Hudson River with a statue welcoming immigrants continues to push anti-immigration policies https://t.co/H7YkOQxyF5

— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) April 21, 2017

More from Morning Mix:

How a lab chemist went from ‘superwoman’ to disgraced saboteur of more than 20,000 drug cases

Study links diet soda to higher risk of stroke, dementia

Harley Davidson perfume? Trump board game? ‘Museum of Failure’ celebrates legendary product flops.

[Category: National, Politics, newsletter-hero]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/21/17 5:15am

Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens to reporters’ questions on April 18 at the Justice Department in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

On that day in March of 1959, thousands took to the streets of Honolulu, playing Dixieland music and waving banners, with children stopping to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Congress had just sent a bill to the White House to give Hawaii the statehood it had “so long deserved,” local reporters wrote. Five months later, on Aug. 21, the collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean officially became the 50th state of the United States.

During the years of statehood that followed, thousands of Hawaii citizens served in the military, died and were wounded in wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, won countless decorations and spearheaded civil rights advancements. Others served with distinction in Congress, particularly the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, who had lost an arm fighting in World War II with the famed Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, ultimately winning the Medal of Honor.

One Hawaii-born American rose to become the president of the United States.

But on Thursday, some felt as though the 50th state was being disrespected, relegated to five words: “an island in the Pacific.”

In an interview with “The Mark Levin Show” that was later uncovered by CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions implied that a judge from Hawaii — which he called simply “an island in the Pacific” — should not be able to strike down Trump’s travel ban.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said.

Later, Justice Department spokesman Ian D. Prior clarified Sessions’s remarks in a statement: “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” he said. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”

The comments were not only demeaning, it was noted, but also geographically incorrect. The state of Hawaii is not, in fact, an island in the Pacific — it is a stunningly beautiful collection of islands, an archipelago of eight major islands and many islets and atolls. Its wondrous beaches and mountains attract millions of visitors from the U.S. mainland, who don’t need passports to visit, and bring in massive amounts of revenue to the United States from foreign countries, especially Japan.

One of its islands is indeed called Hawaii, but the federal judge that Sessions criticized is based in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

The fact that Sessions didn’t even say the state’s name in his initial remarks was most offensive for some, said Nadine Y. Ando, president of the Hawaii State Bar Association.

“Excuse me?” Ando said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We have been a state for 58 years. We’re not just some island.”

The comments were also dismissive of Judge Derrick Watson, an appointed and confirmed federal judge, Ando said, “not some outlier judge sitting in the middle of nowhere.” While she understood Session’s desire to express his opinions regarding the judge’s decision, Ando said, “It’s unfortunate that in the process of doing that, he demeaned the entire state.”

The disparaging statement or as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser called it, “Sessions’ diss of Hawaii,” spurred lawmakers, politicians and others who call Hawaii home to defend the 50th state, latching onto the hashtag #IslandinthePacific.

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin gave a subtle yet scathing response, tweeting a photo of the statute that established Hawaii’s statehood.

#IslandinthePacific pic.twitter.com/v62vpD7sz4

— Hawaii AG (@AtghIgov) April 21, 2017

He also released a statement, saying: “Our Constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason. Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are coequal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.

Both senators from Hawaii also sounded off on Sessions’s comments.

This is the unanimous Senate vote confirming Judge Derrick Waston. It includes a "yea" vote from AL Sen. Jeff Sessions #IslandinthePacific pic.twitter.com/tVcmeMNojn

— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 21, 2017

Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect. https://t.co/sW9z3vqBqG

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017

And in the process of defending Hawaii, some on social media decided to give a bit of a history lesson on the 50th state.

“Does Pearl Harbor sound familiar to Jeff Sessions?” one Twitter user wrote.

Hawaii was the site of the day that would “live in infamy” in American history, Dec. 7, 1941, when a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft destroyed and damaged 19 American ships and obliterated nearly 200 planes, resulting in the deaths of 2,403 American men, women and children.

During World War II, Hawaii was also home to members of the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. The 442nd was composed entirely of Japanese Americans, mostly from Hawaii. Hawaii is frequently ranked among the top 10 states with the largest population of active military personnel. It has also been ranked among the states with the largest shares of veterans who served during wartime — roughly 4 in 5 veterans.

Last year, personal finance website WalletHub ranked it as the sixth most patriotic state, using metrics such as military engagement, voting habits and civil-education requirements.

Jeff Sessions calls it "some island in the Pacific"
We call it the 50th state and site of the only WWII battlefield on US soil. pic.twitter.com/vhz8Ij0kB6

— Oliver Willis (@owillis) April 20, 2017

#IslandInThePacific
Home of the most decorated unit in American history. Come check out some of our museums sometime to learn more #Hawaii pic.twitter.com/i4nVfGsx5d

— HawaiiScienceMuseum (@HawaiiScience) April 20, 2017

Just an #IslandinthePacific where ALL OF US – red and blue – stop to remember what we fought and died for. #PriceofFreedom pic.twitter.com/RiXGqP35iU

— The Loyal Dissenters (@loyaldissenters) April 21, 2017

President Barack Obama, who was born in Honolulu, made multiple symbolically powerful gestures for his home state while in office.

Under Obama, the Interior Department in September finalized a rule to allow for the reestablishment of a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.

A month earlier, Obama created the largest ecologically protected area on the planet when he expanded a national marine monument in Hawaii to encompass more than half a million square miles.

He than quadrupled the size of the Papahanaumokuakea (pronounced “Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah”) Marine National Monument to 582,578 square miles of land and sea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Statehood granted to Hawaii. (AP)

Hawaiians are proud of their multiethnic state and many have been in the forefront of civil rights legislation.

A Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii, the late Rep. Patsy Mink, played a leading role in passing Title IX of the federal education act, which, among other things revolutionized opportunities for women in athletics. Before Roe v. Wade, Hawaii in March 1970 became the first state to legalize abortion at the request of the woman.

Hawaii also became the first state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, just a half-hour after the Senate passed it on March 22, 1972.

@ACLU This #islandinthepacific 1st to legalize #abortion, first to ratify #ERA, authored #TitleIX#civilrights in our DNA & not stopping!

— ACLU of Hawaii (@acluhawaii) April 20, 2017

Some on social media went even further to criticize Sessions — they pointed out that Sessions’s home state, Alabama, once attempted to secede from the Union. Hawaii, in its nearly 58 years of statehood, has not.

I'll note for Jeff Sessions' benefit that the #IslandInThePacific, unlike his home state of Alabama, never tried to LEAVE the United States.

— Chad (@RevDJEsq) April 20, 2017

I'm perplexed that someone from a state that tried to leave the US to keep its slaves has the gall to call Hawaii an #IslandinthePacific

— schrobble (@schrobblehead) April 21, 2017

I'm amazed a President from an island in the Hudson River with a statue welcoming immigrants continues to push anti-immigration policies https://t.co/H7YkOQxyF5

— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) April 21, 2017

More from Morning Mix:

How a lab chemist went from ‘superwoman’ to disgraced saboteur of more than 20,000 drug cases

Study links diet soda to higher risk of stroke, dementia

Harley Davidson perfume? Trump board game? ‘Museum of Failure’ celebrates legendary product flops.

[Category: National, Politics, newsletter-hero]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/21/17 4:23am

Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute, listens to a judge at Brockton Superior Court in Massachusetts in 2013. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)

The injustice orchestrated by lab chemist Annie Dookhan was first revealed five years ago, after she had been working for the Massachusetts state drug lab for nearly a decade to help prosecutors, in her words, get drug dealers “off the streets.” Then the lab chemist once called “superwoman” for her exceptional speed running tests, told state police that she had “screwed up big-time.”

In the year that followed, authorities would call into question the convictions of tens of thousands of drug cases handled by Dookhan in the Massachusetts state drug lab.

There was a reason she was so fast it turned out: she eventually told investigators she tripled the productivity rates of her colleagues by not actually testing all the drugs that came before her, forging her co-workers’ initials and mixing drug samples so that her shoddy analysis matched the results she gave prosecutors.

Her motivation, according to her attorney, reflected the overachiever mentality she had exhibited throughout her life: to be “the hardest working and most prolific and most productive chemist.”

But the full consequences of her crimes became clear only this week when prosecutors in eight Boston-area counties announced they would dismiss 21,587 drug cases tainted by Dookhan’s misconduct.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made those dismissals officials. The American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts called it the largest dismissal of convictions in U.S. history.

“Today is a major victory for justice, fairness, and the tens of thousands of people who were wrongfully convicted based on fabricated evidence,” ACLU executive director Carol Rose said in a statement.

[Prosecutors dismiss more than 21,500 drug cases in wake of Mass. lab chemist’s misconduct]

It appears Dookhan has remained mum since her own conviction in 2013 for these deceptions, which the Supreme Judicial Court once said “cast a shadow over the entire criminal justice system.”

Her silence is not surprising. Profiles by the Boston Globe and Associated Press from years ago, when Dookhan was first arrested, portray the Trinidad-born immigrant as soft-spoken, work-obsessed and deeply private.

She was a go-getter so anxious to please, former friends and colleagues said, that she made a habit of stretching the truth — and sometimes outright lying — to inflate her personal narrative.

The turning point, the reports suggest, may have come in 2009, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Melendez-Diaz v Massachusetts that defendants in drug cases have a right to confront the chemists who test the drugs. Chemists, as a result wound up spending a lot more time in court and a lot less time in their labs.

While the productivity of Dookhan’s fellow chemists dropped off, Dookhan’s continued to skyrocket.

By the end of 2009, the Globe reported that other chemists had completed an average of 1,981 tests.

Dookhan had run 6,321.

That year, she also told police she started to “dry-lab” to further increase her productivity so she could keep up. Dry-labbing is essentially identifying the drugs as what they were suspected to be. If a sample was returned to her after a retest revealed it wasn’t what she said it was, she would contaminate it so it matched.

[When a state’s drug chemist lies for years, should all her cases be thrown out?]

“My colleagues call me ‘superwoman’ and say that I do too much for the lab and everyone else, in general,” Dookhan wrote in an email to an assistant district attorney, reported the Globe. “I am not a workaholic, but it is just in my nature to assist in any way possible.”

At an unassuming 4 feet 11 inches, Dookhan had gotten the nickname “Little Annie.” But “Little Annie” turned out to be a big liar.

One of Annie Dookhan’s first known fibs played out on her resume 20 years ago, according to the Globe, when she claimed she had graduated from her prestigious Boston prep school, Boston Latin Academy, “magna cum laude.”

But that distinction, according to the school, did not exist.

She peddled other exaggerations and lies — about her parents’ job titles, her job titles, her salary and divorce proceedings.

Most damning though, beyond the tampered drug tests, was the lie she told about advanced degrees she never earned, which ultimately resulted in additional charges. She once swore under oath she earned a master’s degree, which she hadn’t.

There was no doubt about her intelligence. Classmates, professors at the University of Massachusetts, bosses and colleagues all attested to that in interviews with the Globe. She would come to work early and leave late, never resting for lunch or snacks and often taking work home with her.

“She wanted to be able to say that she was an accomplished person,” Anthony Parham, Dookhan’s former supervisor at a vaccine lab where she had previously worked told the Globe.

“She grew up very isolated, without many people of her background around her,” said Parham, who is African American. “I understand what it is like to be a minority in America. I think that experience reinforced her determination to show that she was just as good, or even better.”

[Mass. supreme court orders prosecutors to review 24,000 cases tainted by ‘rogue’ chemist]

Dookhan started working for the state drug lab in 2004, and in her first full year on the job tested 9,239 drug samples, three times more than other chemists in the lab. The following year, that number jumped to 11,232, four times more than the average chemist and nearly double the second-most productive person behind her.

The same year she started at the state lab, Dookhan married Surrendranath Dookhan, who would years later send frantic text messages to a district attorney his wife had befriended.

In them, he told the former assistant Norfolk district attorney George Papachristos that his chemist wife was “looking for sympathy and attention.”

“This is Annie’s husband do not believe her, she’s a liar, she’s always lying,” one text message said.

Papachristos later resigned from his district attorney job after news reports of his personal friendship with Dookhan.

At work, colleagues began to question the lab’s most unrealistically productive chemist, and in 2010, supervisors conducted a paperwork audit of her work but found no problems, reported the Associated Press. They did not retest her samples.

In June 2011, she was suspended from lab duties after she was caught forging a colleague’s initials.

It wasn’t until March 2012, after nearly a decade on the job, that Dookhan resigned.

That’s when she said “I screwed up big-time,” according to a state police report. “I messed up bad. It’s my fault.”

[Mass. crime chemist admits daily drug use in lab, sparking a second scandal]

In 2013, Dookhan pleaded guilty to 27 counts of misleading investigators, tampering with evidence and filing false reports. She was sentenced to three years in prison, plus probation. A year ago this month, Dookhan was released.

The court has asked prosecutors to decide which cases to retry and which to drop.

Meanwhile, authorities in Massachusetts are now dealing with a second major scandal at the Massachusetts state drug lab stemming from the disclosure last year that another chemist, Sonja Farak, was actively stealing and using seized drug samples while also analyzing them. She pleaded guilty in 2014. The consequences of Farak’s case are still be calculated.

More from Morning Mix

Harley Davidson perfume? Trump board game? ‘Museum of Failure’ celebrates legendary product flops.

Wife of famed boot-maker Merrell and stepgrandson still missing in Grand Canyon. Search scaled back.

Study links diet soda to higher risk of stroke, dementia

 

[Category: National, newsletter-hero]

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[l] at 4/21/17 3:49am

In his years as an innovation researcher at Lund University in Sweden, Samuel West got sick of hearing the same story over and over — the tired narrative of the nerdy innovator from humble beginnings whose brilliant idea made him a millionaire.

“Everybody in the innovation business knows that 80 to 90 percent of projects fail,” West, now an organizational psychologist, told The Washington Post. “So where are all these failures? Why do we only read about the successes?”

To chip away at those questions, West started buying failed products online. At first, he did it for his own amusement, but it quickly turned into an obsession. Eventually, he said, he amassed dozens of items.

Now, his one-of-a-kind collection of flops is getting a permanent home.

In the coming weeks, West is set to open the Museum of Failures in Helsingborg, Sweden, celebrating some of the corporate world’s most extreme misfires. The goal, he said, is to show that innovation requires failure. Every exhibit offers “unique insight into the risky business of innovation.” In other words, we can all learn a lot from bad ideas, so we should stop pretending they never happened.

So what will be on display?

For starters, there’s the short-lived Harley Davidson “Hot Road” perfume:

(Samuel West)

Visitors will get a look at the Sony Betamax video cassette player, which became a case study in marketing defeats after it lost the war over videotape formats to its rival, VHS:

(Samuel West)

Some more recent products made the cut as well, including the 2008 Twitter Peek, a tweeting device whose display was too small to fit 140 characters, and the Nokia N-Gage, a combination smartphone and gaming system that became a poster child for poor design after its release in 2003.

(Sofie Lindberg)

Food products will be featured as well, including Orbitz, a 1990s fruit drink with floating edible balls, and a microwave beef lasagna from Colgate, which consumers weren’t ready to buy from a toothpaste company.

(Samuel West)

Remember Bic for Her, the pink and purple pens “for women” that were ridiculed as sexist when they showed up in the office supply aisle in 2012? Those are in the museum, too.

(Sofie Lindberg)

And what Museum of Failure would be without an artifact from President Trump’s days as a businessman? Yes, he made a Monopoly-style board game once. It bombed.

(Sofie Lindberg)

West said the idea for a standalone museum dawned on him last summer during a family trip to Zagreb, Croatia. While there, he stumbled across the Museum of Broken Relationships, which collects mementos from failed romances and displays them under glass.

“This is a crazy museum, a spectacular idea,” West remembered thinking. “I just lost it. I was like, ‘I’m doing this.’ ”

Of course, West didn’t know a thing about how to run a museum. But he said he got a confidence boost when he set up his first pop-up exhibit.

In January, West brought six products from his collection of failures to an innovation conference in London. Representatives from Adobe and Microsoft had set up booths nearby, but “everybody came to look at this hokey museum,” West said. “It was a wild success.”

Shortly after, West put out a call for people to send their own failed products. The collection quickly grew to the 70 or so items he has now.

The Museum of Failure doesn’t open for another several weeks, but West has already fielded media requests from around the globe and messages from tour groups to come visit.

Why the fascination with failure?

“I think I’m not the only one fed up with this surface image that everything is perfect, ” West said.

“Everybody’s got a big PR department whose job is to make the company look good in every possible way. And we love it when people mess up,” he said, using an expletive not printable here.

One recent example, he said, was the widely-mocked Pepsi ad that showed Kendall Jenner solving the world’s social justice problems by giving a can of the soda to a police officer. Pepsi pulled the ad after it was ridiculed as tone-deaf and exploitative.

There’s a nostalgia factor at play, too, in the new museum.

“As soon as something doesn’t exist anymore, everybody loves it,” West said. “You can’t just go out to Walmart and buy these things anymore.”

“But if you went to Walmart and bought everything,” he added, “a lot of those products might also be in the museum in 10 or 20 years.”

[Category: Business, International, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/21/17 3:24am

In his years as an innovation researcher at Lund University in Sweden, Samuel West got sick of hearing the same story over and over — the tired narrative of the nerdy innovator from humble beginnings whose brilliant idea made him a millionaire.

“Everybody in the innovation business knows that 80 to 90 percent of projects fail,” West, now an organizational psychologist, told The Washington Post. “So where are all these failures? Why do we only read about the successes?”

To chip away at those questions, West started buying failed and discontinued products online. At first, he did it for his own amusement, but it quickly turned into an obsession. Eventually, he said, he amassed dozens of products.

Now, his one-of-a-kind collection of flops is getting a permanent home.

In the coming weeks, West is set to open the Museum of Failures in Helsingborg, Sweden, celebrating some of the corporate world’s most extreme misfires. The goal, he said, is to show that innovation requires failure. Every exhibit offers “unique insight into the risky business of innovation.”

So what will be on display?

For starters, there’s the short-lived Harley Davidson “Hot Road” perfume:

(Samuel West)

To be sure, visitors will get a look at the Sony Betamax video cassette player, which over the years has become a case study in marketing mistakes:

(Samuel West)

Some more recent products made the cut as well, including the 2008 Twitter Peek, a tweeting device whose display was too small to fit 140 characters, and the Nokia N-Gage, a combination smartphone and gaming system that became a poster child for poor design after its release in 2003.

(Sofie Lindberg)

Food products will be featured as well, including Orbitz, a 1990s fruit drink with floating edible balls. And there’s microwave beef lasagna from Colgate, which consumers weren’t ready to buy from a toothpaste company.

(Samuel West)

Remember Bic for Her, the pink and purple pens “for women”? Those are in the museum, too.

(Sofie Lindberg)

West said the idea for a standalone museum dawned on him last summer during a family trip to Zagreb, Croatia. While there, he stumbled across the Museum of Broken Relationships, which collects mementos from failed romances and displays them under glass.

“This is a crazy museum, a spectacular idea,” West remembered thinking. “I just lost it. I was like, ‘I’m doing this.’ ”

Of course, West didn’t know a thing about how to run a museum. But he said he got a confidence boost when he set up his first pilot exhibit.

In January, West brought six products from his collection of failures to an innovation conference in London. Representatives from Adobe and Microsoft had set up booths nearby, but “everybody came to look at this hokey museum,” West said. “It was a wild success.”

Shortly after, West put out a call for people to send their own failed products. The collection quickly grew to the 70 or so items he has now.

The Museum of Failure doesn’t open for another several weeks, but West has already fielded media requests from around the globe and messages from tour groups to come visit.

Why the fascination with failure?

“I think I’m not the only one fed up with this surface image that everything is perfect, ” West said.

“Everybody’s got a big PR department whose job is to make the company look good in every possible way. And we love it when people mess up,” he said, using an expletive not printable here.

One recent example, he said, was the widely-mocked Pepsi ad that showed Kendall Jenner solving the world’s social justice problems by giving a can of the soda to a police officer. Pepsi pulled the ad after it was ridiculed as tone-deaf and exploitative.

There’s a nostalgia factor at play, too, in the new museum.

“As soon as something doesn’t exist anymore, everybody loves it,” West said. “You can’t just go out to Walmart and buy these things anymore.”

“But if went to Walmart and bought everything,” he added, “a lot of those products might also be in the museum in 10 or 20 years.”

[Category: Business, International, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/21/17 3:06am

Photos of Lou Ann Merrell and Jackson Standefer taken before they went missing. (Family photo)

Randy Merrell has been making boots for as long as anyone can remember. He was so good at it that he became a leading maker of outdoor footwear in the United States.

But by 1986, he’d had enough of the corporate life. He walked away from his post as president of the company bearing his name to go back to making orthotics and high-end boots.

“Life was crazy,” Merrell told the Deseret News in 2012. “The last year I was there, I traveled a full 100,000 miles-plus in one year. The relationship between my wife and I was strained. My four boys would wonder who was the stranger who occasionally walked in the door. I didn’t enjoy corporate life.”

Randy Merrell shows a custom boot at his lab in Dry Fork Canyon, northwest of Vernal, Utah, in 2012. (Deseret News/AP)

The Merrells settled in Dry Fork Canyon, northwest of Vernal, Utah, near the Colorado border. Like many in the area, they loved outdoor adventure, and were avid hikers.

Merrell was hiking with family in Grand Canyon National Park last Saturday when two members of his party lost their footing while crossing Tapeats Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. His 62-year-old wife, Lou Ann Merrell and her 14-year-old stepgrandson, Jackson Standefer, were swept away by the current.

Search crews have been combing the remote area ever since to no avail. On Friday, their efforts will be scaled back, a heartbreaking decision for family members to hear, though one that they support.

“After carefully considering all the information available to us, and based on our personal knowledge of the search area, we support Grand Canyon National Park’s (GCNP) decision to scale back the search,” said a statement released Thursday by the Merrell and Standefer families.

The families “are still praying for a miracle,” said the statement, which also extended thanks to all who had helped in the search.

Tapeats Creek in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, where Jackson Standefer, 14, and Lou Ann Merrell, 62, lost their footing and fell into the water during a family trip (National Park Service/AP)

The family had been hiking at the bottom of the canyon near the North Rim, a less-traveled area of the park. At one point, three teams combed the grounds along the creek and the river, while the National Park Service searched by helicopter and motor rafts with assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety as well as county search and rescue crews.

The Merrell Shoe Company as well as the Standefer family sent volunteers and other assistance as well.

“In an effort to bolster the existing search efforts, the Merrell shoe company has been working over the past several hours to provide climbers and rescuers to continue the search. These volunteers will help speed the search efforts, and we are grateful for their assistance,” a family statement said.

The Standefer family sent “a specialist with Chattanooga-based Skytec Aerial Data Specialists to deploy a Sky Ranger military-grade drone equipped with extra capabilities to aid in the search,” WRCB-TV3 reported.

We are grateful to the people working around the clock and continue to be hopeful. pic.twitter.com/OutErPmp8G

— Merrell® Outside (@merrelloutside) April 19, 2017

The Grand Canyon attracted nearly 6 million visitors last year, according to National Park Service data. Some 1,000 medical emergencies, 15 deaths and 318 search and rescue incidents in 2015, which is the latest data available, the Associated Press reported.

Standefer, an eighth grader at McCallie School in Chattanooga, is “very well known and very well liked,” Jim Suddath, middle school chaplain, told the Chattanooga Free Press. He said school faculty and counselors are helping students cope with the uncertainty.

“The school has been keeping up with the reports that have come out, and we have prayed, a lot,” Suddath said.

Jackson Standefer (McCallie School/AP)

On his website, Randy Merrell says that boot-making has been more of a craft than a career to him.

“Although my father was not a bootmaker, my grandfather, like many rural men of his time, repaired footwear for his family in addition to the harnesses and other horse tack,” he said.

He honed his skills at Lynn Shoe School in Massachusetts, studying abroad with artisans. He later opened Merrell FootLab in a building on his father’s ranch in Dry Canyon Creek in Utah.

Merrell became so good at his craft that Backpacker Magazine once called his shoes “the most comfortable and functional boots in North America.”

In 1981, he teamed with two partners to found the outdoor shoe company that bears his name. In 1996, the company became a subsidiary of Wolverine World Wide, which acquired Merrell’s assets.

He also launched the Merrell Institute of Bootmaking in Utah to train 30 or so people a year in the skill. “That’s about as many boot-makers as existed in all of the United States a generation ago,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997.

Added his wife and partner, Lou Ann Merrell: “People want something that’s real and personal. They come here from all over the country to study. And they all say the same thing. They seem to be feeling an urgency to build something of value and worth.”

When it came to values, the Sun-Times notes, Randy Merrell’s priorities were obvious.

“To Randy Merrell, the important things in life are family, faith and comfortable feet.”

More from Morning Mix

Study links diet soda to higher risk of stroke, dementia

NASA ‘sting’ operation against 74-year-old widow of Apollo engineer draws court rebuke

‘I’ll see him again’: Wife of Texas church bus driver who died in crash is found dead

[Category: National, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/21/17 2:47am

(iStock photo)

Americans trying to stay healthy have abandoned sugary drinks for diet drinks in droves over the past few decades on the theory that the latter is better than the former. Now, more evidence has emerged to refute that rationale.

Indeed, a new study shows an association between diet soda and both stroke and dementia, with people drinking diet soda daily being almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia as those who consumed it weekly or less.

“This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia,” said Matthew Pase, a Boston University School of Medicine neurologist and the lead author of the study published in the journal Stroke.

While emphasizing that the research did not show causation, only a correlation, Pase said in a video explaining the study that diet drinks “might not be a healthy alternative.”

People should be “cautious” about their intake of diet sodas, he said.

And they should most definitely not retreat to sugary drinks, he said. They have been associated not only with obesity and its consequences, such as diabetes, but with poorer memory and smaller overall brain volumes.

The study kept track of 2,888 individuals age 45 and over for the development of a stroke and 1,484 participants age 60 and older for dementia over a 10 year period. All are participants in the famous Framingham Heart Study, several thousand men and women who have had blood tests done periodically since the 1970s.

The study “found that those who reported consuming at least one artificially sweetened drink a day, compared to less than one a week, were 2.96 times as likely to have an ischemic stroke, caused by blood vessel blockage, and 2.89 times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease,” said a summary from the AHA.

(American Heart Association)

The results were adjusted for variables such as age, sex, caloric intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking.

“So, the bottom line is, ‘Have more water and have less diet soda,” Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in an AHA release. “And don’t switch to real soda.”

He added “Nobody ever said diet sodas were a health food.”

The American Beverage Association was quick to defend diet drinks.

“Low-calorie sweeteners have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities as well as hundreds of scientific studies and there is nothing in this research that counters this well-established fact,” it said in a statement. It added:

While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect.

More from Morning Mix

The country’s first drive-through marijuana shop is opening in Colorado

‘Like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone’: Painful rat lungworm disease on upswing in Hawaii

Husband of New York judge who was found dead challenges reports of apparent suicide

[Category: Science, newsletter]

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[l] at 4/20/17 4:12am

The sudden death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam — and the hours that led up to it — remains shrouded in mystery.

Shortly after the body of Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found floating fully clothed in the Hudson River with no apparent signs of trauma or criminality, local police said they were treating the death as an apparent suicide.

But about a week later, following an inconclusive autopsy, authorities have begun asking for the public’s help in the investigation. While there are still no signs of foul play, the case is being treated as suspicious, a spokesman from the New York Police Department said.

And on Wednesday, Abdus-Salaam’s husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, joined the police in appealing for help from anyone with information that might help determine what happened in the moments before his wife’s death. In his first public comments since the death, Jacobs firmly pushed back against reports that Abdus-Salaam’s death was an apparent suicide.

“These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death,” Jacobs, who serves in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, wrote in a statement to NBC News. “Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality.”

The judge’s extended family also criticized what they said were inaccurate reports that Abdus-Salaam’s mother and brother had committed suicide.

“Sheila’s mother, the matriarch of our family who died at age 92 in 2012, did not take her own life,” their statement read, NBC News reported. “Shelia’s younger brother, who died in 2014, lost his battle with terminal lung cancer.”

Abdus-Salaam was found on the afternoon of April 12, floating in the river near Upper Manhattan wearing sweats and sneakers, authorities said, a day after her husband reported her missing.

In the moments after her inexplicable death, colleagues, relatives and local political leaders remembered the judge as a humble trailblazer. They hailed her as an intelligent, clear and fair decision-maker — a fixture in New York legal circles.

Her husband’s family wrote a message on the website for his church.

“We are deeply grieved at the untimely passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whom her family mourns as a beloved wife and devoted stepmother,” the family wrote. “She gave tirelessly and selflessly as a public servant, mentor, distinguished jurist, and community leader throughout her 40-year legal career. She was greatly admired for compassion, wisdom, commitment to excellence, and revered for her support of and sensitivity to the aspirations of young lawyers and law students.”

Some of Abdus-Salaam’s friends and colleagues described their shock at the possibility that her death may have been a suicide, saying she seemed upbeat in recent days. Yet other close friends told the New York Times that the judge was dealing with a heavy caseload, was in demand as a speaker and may have struggled handling the pressure.

“What she shared with me is she had been under a lot of stress recently and that she was having trouble sleeping,” said Marilyn Mobley, an official at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who saw her friend for breakfast in New York two weeks ago. “The truth is she was accomplished, resilient and strong, and she had a breaking point like everyone else. I fear it got there.”

[Category: National, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/20/17 4:12am

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found dead last week in the Hudson River.  (AP/Mike Groll)

The sudden death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam — and the hours that led up to it — remains shrouded in mystery.

Shortly after the body of Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found floating fully clothed in the Hudson River with no apparent signs of trauma or criminality, local police said they were treating the death as an apparent suicide.

But about a week later, following an inconclusive autopsy, authorities have begun asking for the public’s help in the investigation. While there are still no signs of foul play, the case is being treated as suspicious, a spokesman from the New York Police Department said.

And on Wednesday, Abdus-Salaam’s widowed husband joined the police in appealing for help from anyone with information that might help determine what happened in the moments before her death. In his first public comments since the death, the judge’s husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, firmly pushed back against reports that her death was an apparent suicide.

“These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death,” Jacobs, who serves in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, wrote in a statement to NBC News. “Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality.”

The judge’s extended family also criticized what they said were inaccurate reports that Abdus-Salaam’s mother and brother had committed suicide.

“Sheila’s mother, the matriarch of our family who died at age 92 in 2012, did not take her own life,” their statement read, NBC News reported. “Shelia’s younger brother, who died in 2014, lost his battle with terminal lung cancer.”

Abdus-Salaam was found on the afternoon of April 12, floating in the river near Upper Manhattan wearing sweats and sneakers, authorities said, a day after her husband reported her missing.

In the moments after her inexplicable death, colleagues, relatives and local political leaders remembered the judge as a humble trailblazer. They hailed her as an intelligent, clear and fair decision-maker — a fixture in New York legal circles.

Her husband’s family wrote a message on the website for his church.

“We are deeply grieved at the untimely passing of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whom her family mourns as a beloved wife and devoted stepmother,” the family wrote. “She gave tirelessly and selflessly as a public servant, mentor, distinguished jurist, and community leader throughout her 40-year legal career. She was greatly admired for compassion, wisdom, commitment to excellence, and revered for her support of and sensitivity to the aspirations of young lawyers and law students.”

Some of Abdus-Salaam’s friends and colleagues described their shock at the possibility that her death may have been a suicide, saying she seemed upbeat in recent days. Yet other close friends told the New York Times that the judge was dealing with a heavy caseload, was in demand as a speaker and may have struggled handling the pressure.

“What she shared with me is she had been under a lot of stress recently and that she was having trouble sleeping,” said Marilyn Mobley, an official at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who saw her friend for breakfast in New York two weeks ago. “The truth is she was accomplished, resilient and strong, and she had a breaking point like everyone else. I fear it got there.”

[Category: National, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/20/17 4:04am

Environmental activists protest outside an elementary school before a visit by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in East Chicago, Ind. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For the first stop on his “back-to-basics” campaign tour — focused on rolling back environmental protections — EPA head Scott Pruitt chose a small Indiana town plagued by toxic levels of lead and arsenic.

On Wednesday, Pruitt toured the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Ind., listed as one of the nation’s most contaminated in 2009, and promised city leaders and residents that they had the full support of his agency.

“The reason I’m here is because it’s important that we restore confidence to the people here in this community that we’re going to get it right,” Pruitt told reporters in a 90-second statement at a news conference.

[East Chicago children have lead in their blood from contaminated dirt. Is this the next Flint?]

But he left the podium without taking any questions, and refused to address a rumor that the EPA’s Region 5, which contains both East Chicago and Flint, Mich., could be on the federal government’s funding chopping block.

And when a group of 100 protesters marched to the elementary school where Pruitt was speaking, carrying signs that said “PRUITT-GET2IT” and “WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT,” police blocked them from the property.

Pruitt speaks during a news conference in East Chicago, Ind. (Teresa Crawford/AP)

For nearly a year now, community leaders and residents in East Chicago, a predominantly black and Hispanic town of 29,000 people, have been fleeing the land they once considered home after tests showed dangerous levels of lead and arsenic had contaminated their soil and drinking water.

The crisis, though, has centered on the West Calumet public housing complex.

The homes there were built where a smelting facility operated for most of the 20th century. It turned refined copper and lead into batteries — and spewed dark, toxic dust across the land.

In 2009, decades after the factories closed, the EPA designated the area a priority cleanup site. Several years later, tests showed alarmingly high levels of lead, and a plan was made to haul away tons of contaminated soil.

But those plans stalled, and little was done until May 2016, nearly eight years after the first official red flag.

That month, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland received test results from the EPA with elevated numbers his office claims he had never seen before.

Soon, signs posted across the complex warned parents to keep their children out of the dirt and wash all their outdoor toys. By the end of July, the Housing Authority announced that the land was so toxic the entire 346-unit complex had to be demolished — leaving 1,000 people, including 600 children, without homes.

“Somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, an East Chicago resident, told the Associated Press at the time. “Maybe it was intentional, or maybe by mistake. Maybe it was negligence.”

A nearby elementary school was shuttered weeks before the school year began and the EPA set up office space inside.

A sign placed by the EPA warns people not to play on the lawn at the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Ind. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Then the EPA notified state officials it had detected high levels of lead in 18 of 43 homes tested in East Chicago, reported the Times of Northwest Indiana. The lead in the water was unrelated to the lead in the soil, the local newspaper reported, but residents exposed to both could face extreme health risks.

Up to 90 percent of the city’s water lines could be composed of lead pipes, according to the Times, and the EPA advised all residents to assume their water is contaminated and use a certified filter.

“We can’t drink the waters. The land we walk upon is contaminated. And the air we breathe is contaminated,” Thomas Frank, one of five East Chicago residents selected to meet privately with Pruitt, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rally organizers called for more water testing, expedited clean-up of the contaminated sites and lifelong health care for those exposed to the toxic soil and water, reported the Sun-Times.

“We are here in the West Calumet complex because injustice is here in East Chicago,” the Rev. Cheryl Rivera said during the rally Wednesday. “We are here because environmental racism is here. We are here because climate injustice is here. We are here because thousands of families’ lives are at risk.”

The EPA this week began cleaning up homes in the Superfund site, which includes three separate zones, the public housing complex, the school and private residences.

Workers remove topsoil from the yard of a home near the Carrie Gosch Elementary School, where Scott Pruitt was meeting with residents and community leaders. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other advocacy organizations petitioned the federal agency to give all residents of East Chicago — not just those in the Superfund site — water filters and bottled water, reported the Chicago Tribune, a request that is still being reviewed by EPA officials.

“Up to now, it’s only been voluntary measures to try to get filters and bottled water to folks. When we filed the petition, the intent was to light a fire under the city,” Meleah Geertsma, a Midwest-based senior attorney at the NRDC, told the environmental publication E&E News before Pruitt’s visit. “Our main point is that the residents of East Chicago are being bombarded by lead in all directions.”

In a news release, the EPA outlined actions it has already taken and will take this year, including giving East Chicago $16.5 million in federal State Revolving Fund money for drinking water infrastructure upgrades. The agency already handed out filters and bottled water to residents of some Superfund properties and will give water filters to all residents in zones 2 and 3 this year.

Cleanup work will resume in some areas now that the EPA got several “potentially responsible parties” to fund the work at an estimated $16 million, the release said. The agency will remove contaminated soil from at estimated 73 “high priority” properties and clean up the yards in an additional 120 properties.

Skeptics, though, are concerned that President Trump’s proposed 31 percent EPA budget cut — which includes shrinking the Superfund clean-up program from over $1 billion to $762 million — could devastate those plans, especially if the Region 5 offices are trimmed back or cut altogether.

That rumor was reported by a Chicago Sun-Times columnist last week, citing an unnamed “city source.” The source, the columnist wrote, said the Chicago-based office would be consolidated with one in Kansas. The region director has since denied the allegations, but when asked about it after the news conference Wednesday, Pruitt said nothing.

Frank told Chicago Tonight that during his private meeting with Pruitt, the EPA chief “categorically denied that they had any plans” to close the Region 5 offices.

Officials say two dozen families remain at the 45-year-old West Calumet housing complex. Those who already evacuated have been forced to live across state lines or in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.

Mike Pence, Indiana’s former governor and the current vice president, declined to declare a state of emergency in East Chicago. Newly elected Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb did earlier this year.

Local leaders have praised members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Joe Donnelly (D) and Todd C. Young (R) along with Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D), for putting East Chicago on the radar of federal officials.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has pledged a visit of his own, though he has not said when it will occur.

“Maybe we’re a poor community,” April Friendly, with the community strategy group, told WGN. “It doesn’t mean we can’t be a heard community.”

More from Morning Mix

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‘Like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone’: Painful rat lungworm disease on upswing in Hawaii

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[Category: National, Science, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/20/17 4:04am

Environmental activists protest outside the Carrie Gosch Elementary School before a visit by U.S. EPA Adminstrator Scott Pruitt in East Chicago, Ind. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For the first stop on his “back-to-basics” campaign tour — focused on rolling back environmental protections — EPA head Scott Pruitt chose a small Indiana town plagued by toxic levels of lead and arsenic.

On Wednesday, Pruitt toured the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Ind., listed as one of the nation’s most contaminated in 2009, and promised city leaders and residents that they had the full support of his agency.

“The reason I’m here is because it’s important that we restore confidence to the people here in this community that we’re going to get it right,” Pruitt told reporters in a 90-second statement at a news conference.

[East Chicago children have lead in their blood from contaminated dirt. Is this the next Flint?]

But he left the podium without taking any questions, and refused to address a panic-inducing rumor that the EPA’s Region 5, which contains both East Chicago and Flint, Mich., could be on the federal government’s funding chopping block.

And when a group of 100 protesters marched to the elementary school where Pruitt was speaking, carrying signs that said “PRUITT-GET2IT” and “WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT,” police blocked them from the property.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at a news conference in East Chicago, Ind., following a tour of a public-housing complex where roughly 1,000 people were ordered evacuated because of lead contamination. (AP/Teresa Crawford)

For nearly a year now, city leaders and residents in East Chicago, a predominantly black and Hispanic town of 29,000 people, have been fleeing the land they once considered home after tests showed dangerous levels of lead and arsenic had contaminated their soil and drinking water.

The crisis, though, has centered on the West Calumet public housing complex.

The homes there were built where a smelting facility operated for most of the 20th century. It turned refined copper and lead into batteries — and spewed dark, toxic dust across the land.

In 2009, decades after the factories closed, the EPA designated the area a priority cleanup site. Several years later, tests showed alarmingly high levels of lead, and a plan was made to haul away tons of contaminated soil.

But those plans stalled, and little was done until May 2016, nearly eight years after the first official red flag.

That month, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland received test results from the EPA with elevated numbers his office claims he had never seen before.

Soon, signs posted across the complex warned parents to keep their children out of the dirt and wash all their outdoor toys. By the end of July, the Housing Authority announced that the land was so toxic the entire 346-unit complex had to be demolished — leaving 1,000 people, including 600 children, without homes.

“Somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, an East Chicago resident, told the Associated Press at the time. “Maybe it was intentional, or maybe by mistake. Maybe it was negligence.”

A nearby elementary school was shuttered weeks before the school year began and the EPA set up office space inside.

A sign, placed by the EPA, warns people not to play on the lawn at the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Ind. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Then the EPA notified state officials it had detected high levels of lead in 18 of 43 homes tested in East Chicago, reported the Times of Northwest Indiana. The lead in the water was unrelated to the lead in the soil, the local newspaper reported, but residents exposed to both could face extreme health risks.

Up to 90 percent of the city’s water lines could be comprised of lead pipes, according to the Times, and the EPA advised all residents to assume their water is contaminated and use a certified filter.

“We can’t drink the waters. The land we walk upon is contaminated. And the air we breathe is contaminated,” Thomas Frank, one of five East Chicago residents selected to meet privately with Pruitt, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rally organizers called for more water testing, expedited clean-up of the contaminated sites and lifelong health care for those exposed to the toxic soil and water, reported the Sun-Times.

“We are here in the West Calumet complex because injustice is here in East Chicago,” the Rev. Cheryl Rivera said during the rally Wednesday. “We are here because environmental racism is here. We are here because climate injustice is here. We are here because thousands of families’ lives are at risk.”

The EPA this week began cleaning up homes in the Superfund site, which includes three separate zones, the public housing complex, the school and private residences.

Workers remove topsoil from the yard of a home near the Carrie Gosch Elementary School where U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was meeting with area residents and community leaders. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other advocacy organizations petitioned the federal agency to give all residents of East Chicago — not just those in the Superfund site — water filters and bottled water, reported the Chicago Tribune, a request that is still being reviewed by EPA officials.

“Up to now, it’s only been voluntary measures to try to get filters and bottled water to folks. When we filed the petition, the intent was to light a fire under the city,” Meleah Geertsma, a Midwest-based senior attorney at the NRDC, told the environmental publication E&E News before Pruitt’s visit. “Our main point is that the residents of East Chicago are being bombarded by lead in all directions.”

In a news release, the EPA outlined actions it has already taken and will take this year, including giving East Chicago $16.5 million in federal State Revolving Fund money for drinking water infrastructure upgrades. The agency already handed out filters and bottled water to residents of some Superfund properties and will give water filters to all residents in zones 2 and 3 this year.

Cleanup work will resume in some areas now that the EPA got several “potentially responsible parties” to fund the work at an estimated $16 million, the release said. The agency will remove contaminated soil from at estimated 73 “high priority” properties and clean up the yards in an additional 120 properties.

Skeptics, though, are concerned that President Trump’s proposed 31 percent EPA budget cut — which includes shrinking the Superfund clean-up program from over $1 billion to $762 million — could devastate those plans, especially if the Region 5 offices are trimmed back or cut altogether.

That rumor was reported by a Chicago Sun-Times columnist last week who cited an unnamed “city source.” The source, the columnist wrote, said the Chicago-based office would be consolidated with one in Kansas. The region director has since denied the allegations, but when asked about it after the news conference Wednesday, Pruitt said nothing.

Frank told Chicago Tonight that during his private meeting with Pruitt, the EPA chief “categorically denied that they had any plans” to close the Region 5 offices.

Officials say two dozen families remain at the 45-year-old West Calumet housing complex. Those who already evacuated have been forced to live across state lines or in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.

After former Indiana governor and current Vice President Pence would not declare East Chicago in a state of emergency, newly elected Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb did earlier this year.

Local leaders have praised members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Joe Donnelly (D) and Todd C. Young (R) along with Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D), for putting East Chicago on the radar of federal officials.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has pledged a visit of his own, though he has not said when it will occur.

“Maybe we’re a poor community,” April Friendly, with the community strategy group, told WGN. “It doesn’t mean we can’t be a heard community.”

More from Morning Mix

Husband of New York judge found dead challenges reports of apparent suicide

‘Like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone’: Painful rat lungworm disease on upswing in Hawaii

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[Category: National, Science, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/20/17 3:18am

The clinical description of the symptoms of rat lungworm illness — “severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, seizures, and neurologic abnormalities” — lets this particular affliction off the hook.

To really fathom its hideousness, you have to listen to the words of someone suffering through it, like Tricia Mynar, who’s been describing her experience on TV in Hawaii to raise awareness.

It’s like the pain of childbirth “every day,” said the mother of three.

“That was like eating ice cream compared to this,” she told KHON TV. “It was like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone, in my chest and in the back of my neck. The majority is in your head and the pain is just excruciating.”

When she first contracted it, “it was like people pushing needles “in my back, pushing forward from my shoulder blades all the way to my lungs” and out “the front of my chest,” she told Maui News Now.

“I couldn’t sleep. I had to stand at my kitchen counter and put my hands on the counter to hold my body up. I literally slept two nights standing. I couldn’t have any type of wind touch my skin because my nerves were hypersensitive.”

And then there were her feet. “It was like my nerve endings snapping in my feet. I was feeling like there was fire ants, hundreds of them, crawling on my feet … like a luau of fire-ants.”

And the headaches: Worse, she said, than the “worst migraine you could feel.”

“I would never want anyone to experience this.”

Fortunately, relatively few people are.

But the incidence of angiostrongyliasis, nicknamed “rat lungworm” illness because of its origins (it comes from a parasite in the lungs of rats via rat feces to snails and slugs and then through contaminated food or drink to humans) is on the rise in Hawaii.

The Hawaii State Department of Health confirmed two new cases Wednesday, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 11 this year in the state. There are also four related cases considered “highly probable based on clinical indications,” the department said.

That’s already more than the average of 9 for an entire year in the state, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Angiostrongyliasis, which affects the brain and the spinal cord, is caused by a parasitic nematode or worm called Angiosrongylus cantonensis (A. cantonensis.) According to the Hawaii health department fact sheet, which has become a bit of a must-read in the state in recent weeks, A. cantonensis, which is found in rodents, travels like this:

The rodents poop, releasing the larvae of the worm into the ecosystem. It is then consumed by snails, slugs, freshwater shrimp, land crabs and frogs. They, in turn, can spread it to produce. The produce, not to mention any ingestion of the mollusks, can spread it to humans.

Hawaii State Sen. Josh Green, who is a physician, described it more colloquially in a TV interview. ““What happens is, it’s in the rat. It’s in their lung,” Green explained on KHON. “The worms … ultimately have larvae. They bust out of the rat, then they poop, and then slimy mollusks go over them. It can affect your lettuce. It can affect your vegetables. That’s why you’ve got to either cook the heck out of these slugs or probably snails, because I don’t think people are eating slugs, or really wash your lettuce.”

The cases in Hawaii have been found on the Hawaii Island, known as the Big Island, and Maui.

The latest group to become infected with the parasite, according to the Department of Health, picked it up at a home in Keaau on the Big Island a few weeks after drinking homemade kava, made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. They had left the kava out in uncovered buckets after preparing the drink at home, according to the health department.

They had left the kava out in uncovered buckets after preparing the drink at home, according to the health department.

(Hawaii Department of Health)

It was then “poured into a large and after consuming most of the contents, the individuals noticed a slug at the bottom of the bowl.” An investigation by the health department “determined the source of the infections was likely the homemade kava tainted by slugs.”

“The assumption,” state epidemiologist Sarah Park told a news conference, “is because it was in an area … we know was infested with these mollusks, that there were probably more in there that were inadvertently ingested.”

“Cases like this recent cluster are especially concerning,” Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler said in a news release, “because they can be prevented with basic precautions such as storing food in covered containers and properly inspecting and washing food before eating. These healthy habits can protect against food contamination and prevent serious illnesses”

The disease attacks the brain and the spinal cord. It can also cause a rare type of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis.

Some of those infected show no symptoms or have mild symptoms. Others get battered with “severe headaches, stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin or extremities, low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting” and sometimes a temporary paralysis of the face and light sensitivity.

Mynar said she couldn’t stand to be in the light for a while, and lived out some of her days in dark rooms.

Eliza Lape, of San Francisco, told KPIX, she and her husband were infected while in Hawaii for their marriage. “It was a feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body,” she said.

Ben Manilla, her husband, wound up in intensive care in San Francisco.

Tricia Mynar who lives on Maui, thinks she got it while visiting the Big Island from eating her favorite salad, but that’s not been confirmed by health officials.

Diagnosis is challenging as there is no readily available blood test, according to the state health department. The patients start out thinking they have

The patients start out thinking they have flu, as Mynar did. Doctors refine the diagnosis by looking at what they’ve eaten and where they’ve been.

“Angiostrongyliasis is of increasing public health importance as globalization contributes to the geographical spread and more international travelers encounter the disease,” said a 2014 study. “The parasite is on the move. It has spread from its traditional endemic areas of Asia and the Pacific Basin to the American continent including the USA, Brazil and Caribbean islands. Recently, the incidence of human infections has increased rapidly. Most reports of the disease are from Thailand and Taiwan with increasing reports from mainland China.”

Humans cannot spread the disease to each other. And the parasites “cannot mature or reproduce in humans,” said the health department.

But the treatments do not cure the illness. People have to wait it out, sometimes with rehabilitation, taking pain medications and steroids to reduce the symptoms, which can last anywhere between 2 to 8 weeks or longer.

So far no sense of crisis appears to have overtaken Hawaii, a state accustomed because of its climate and location to diseases like dengue fever that rarely appear in the continental U.S., and to the respiratory distress caused by “vog” (volcanic smog) from the sulfur emitted by active volcanoes.

Apart from sharing the pain of sufferers like Mynar, officials worry about the impact on tourism, a mainstay of the state’s economy, and on restaurants.

Maui restaurants have already “taken a hit as customers steer clear of local produce,” reported Hawaii News Now.

Nor are officials anticipating anything they are willing to call an epidemic.

“We’re probably seeing more cases because you all are helping to get the word out,” state epidemiologist Park said.

“All our rules we have in place now, if followed, are more than adequate,” sanitation official Peter Oshiro told Hawaii News Now, “and we’re very confident that it can prevent the occurrence of any more rat lungworm diseases from any of our regulated establishments.”

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[l] at 4/20/17 3:00am

Colorado’s Tumbleweed Express Drive-Thru, the nation’s first drive-through marijuana dispensary, on April 19, 2017. (Mark Smith/Courtesy Tumbleweed Express Drive-Thru/Reuters)

When the “for sale” sign went up on the Valley Car Wash in Parachute, Colo., Mark Smith didn’t waste a second.

The 58-year-old businessman had recently opened a marijuana dispensary across the street, and was struck by the number of people who would come knocking after-hours, according to the Post Independent.

What better way to serve his late-night customers, he thought, than a drive-through window?

“It seemed like the perfect fit,” Smith told Fox 31. So he bought the car wash and set to work transforming the vehicle bay into a new place to sell his wares.

The project, reportedly hatched one evening while working alone in his shop, could establish Smith in his own small way as an innovator in the burgeoning marijuana industry.

On Wednesday, just in time for the unofficial pot enthusiast holiday 4/20, Smith will open the Tumbleweed Express, believed to be the country’s first legal drive-through marijuana retailer, as local media reported.

National news outlets are expected to cover the grand opening, which will take place from 1 p.m. to midnight and feature food trucks, live music, radio broadcasts and product giveaways.

Smith said he was taken aback by all the attention.

“I didn’t set out thinking this would be national news,” he told the Post Independent. “I didn’t have some big epiphany. I just saw a need for our customers.”

For Smith, 58, becoming a marijuana entrepreneur was something of a career change. He used to work in the pawnshop business, at one point owning 23 stores, he told Fox 31. Eventually, he sold them to the national pawnshop chain EZ Pawn and used the money to start his business in Colorado.

Parachute, home to 1,100 people, had previously banned marijuana establishments after Colorado legalized the drug in 2014. Enticed by the revenue pot sales would generate, the town voted to lift the ban in June 2015, the Daily Sentinel reported.

The original Tumbleweed dispensary opened in February 2016, situated on the east edge of town near a Wendy’s, a Shell station and a liquor store. In the time since, Smith has opened other shops in the Colorado towns of Edwards, Eagle-Vail and Frisco.

FIRST LOOK: We take you live inside the country's first DRIVE THRU marijuana dispensary. Tune in now! @ABCNewsLive https://t.co/4hdnGIRpZq pic.twitter.com/3sA5TU1cUG

— Clayton Sandell (@Clayton_Sandell) April 17, 2017

Smith didn’t seem to run into many hurdles when he proposed retrofitting the car wash to become a drive-through for weed products, sliding through the approval process without serious resistance.

“We think the drive-through is a very creative and innovative idea,” Parachute Town Manager Stuart McArthur told the Post Independent in February.

“Tumbleweed has been a good neighbor and has made large investments into town,” he added later. “We’re excited to have Tumbleweed here and get on the map with something that is totally unique.”

Robert Goulding, spokesman for the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, said the business would be the first of its kind.

“As far as I can tell we are not aware of this business model ever coming up before,” Goulding told the Post Independent.

The Tumbleweed Express will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday. All the state’s dispensary rules apply. Under the law, no one younger than 21 is allowed in the drive-through, even if they’re riding in the back seat of the car. Smith must also provide security and surveillance at the business and ensure that no marijuana is visible from outside the property.

Smith told Fox 31 he picked the right spot for his new venture.

“The stars were in alignment. A lot of things lined up,” he said. “We like the town. They are very supportive here.”

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[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/20/17 2:45am

Judge Gonzalo Curiel. (AP/U.S. District Court)

Months before Donald Trump was elected president, he attacked a federal judge assigned a case involving the defunct Trump University, accusing him of being biased because of his Mexican heritage. The unusually personal, racially tinged remarks against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel alarmed legal experts, spurred fierce criticism from the Republican Party, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Now, the Trump administration must coincidentally face that same judge in a lawsuit in California filed on behalf of Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, who immigration advocates say is one of the first “dreamers” to be deported under President Trump.

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez. (Courtesy of National Immigration Law Center)

Attorneys on behalf of Montes, who was brought to the U.S. as a child, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday demanding that the federal government turn over all information about the 23-year-old’s case. They assert the California resident was deported in February despite his status as a “dreamer”— a beneficiary of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Department of Homeland Security disputes their claim.

Despite conflicting accounts, the allegations heightened existing concerns that DACA recipients are now being targeted for deportation, notwithstanding Trump’s pledges to “show great heart” toward them. Montes’ lawsuit could help define Trump’s approach to the DACA program, which has granted permits to more than 770,000 people since 2012.

[A ‘dreamer’ claims he was secretly deported. The government claims it never happened.]

Tuesday’s lawsuit came less than a month after Curiel approved a $25 million settlement in a case alleging the defunct Trump University misled customers and committed fraud. Trump frequently assailed the judge, and in one interview said his Mexican heritage presented a “absolute conflict” in his fitness to hear the lawsuit because of Trump’s tough stance on immigration and his promises to build a border wall.

Curiel, who was born in Indiana to parents who emigrated from Mexico, made no public comments about Trump’s attacks and did not recuse himself in the Trump University case.

Legal experts say the attacks against Curiel, an Obama appointee who was a former U.S. attorney, should not affect his fitness to hear the lawsuit, a case that was randomly assigned to the judge. The judicial court of conduct states that impropriety occurs when “reasonable minds” with knowledge of the relevant circumstances would conclude that the judge’s honesty, integrity or impartiality is impaired.

“The idea that you would lack impartiality because you were criticized by a public official just never has been thought of something that would meet that standard,” said Scott L. Cummings, Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. This, he said, was a fairly clear-cut case in which the judge should have complete authority to hear the merits of the suit.

If such a standard of impartiality existed, Cummings said, public officials would have a “perverse” incentive to criticize judges with differing opinions.

Since taking office, Trump has continued to criticize the judicial system and some judges. In February he lashed out at the “so-called judge” that decided to temporarily block enforcement of his controversial travel ban, sending tweets throughout the day. He later said that an appeals court’s hearing regarding his immigration executive order was “disgraceful,” and claimed the judges were more concerned about politics than following the law.

[Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch says Trump’s attacks on judiciary are ‘demoralizing’]

Cummings said the “vitriol” and personal nature of the attacks on the judiciary are at a level he has never seen before.

The assignment of the dreamer lawsuit to Curiel, Cummings said, “is an amazing coincidence and one which might make the president think twice next time he wants to criticize in personal terms judges on the bench.”

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[Category: National, newsletter]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 4/19/17 11:43pm

Richard Simmons in Los Angeles in 2013. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

After retreating from public view more than three years ago, the eccentric fitness icon Richard Simmons made a rare public statement to fans Wednesday, seeking to dispel rumors about his well being.

Simmons, who has not been seen publicly since early 2014, was hospitalized earlier this week for what his spokesman said was “severe indigestion,” fueling concerns that he was seriously ill.

In a Facebook post, the 68-year-old Simmons sought to reassure his more than 350,000 followers that all was well.

“Aren’t you sick of hearing and reading about me?! LOL Well by now you know that I’m not ‘missing,’ just a little under the weather,” Simmons wrote. “I’m sure I will be feeling good and back home in a couple of days.”

“Just knowing you care has already made me feel better,” he said. “Hope to see you again soon!”

The post, which was signed “Richard,” included a photo of Simmons wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and black undershirt with the slogan “keep calm and carry on.” A spokesman confirmed the post’s authenticity to the Associated Press.

Rumors about Simmons’s mental and physical health began to circulate in February 2014, when Simmons suddenly stopped showing up to teach $12 exercise classes at his Beverly Hills studio and stopped speaking with friends, as The Washington Post has reported.

[Is Richard Simmons missing? Or is he just dearly missed?]

Speculation has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, prompted in part by the launch of “Missing Richard Simmons,” a popular podcast that took an in-depth look at his disappearance from the public spotlight. Critics panned the podcast as voyeuristic.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles police conducted a wellness check at Simmons’s house after receiving reports that his housekeeper was holding him hostage. Police told People they found Simmons “perfectly fine” and “very happy” when they stopped by.

[L.A. police reportedly say Richard Simmons is fine: ‘If he wants to go out in public or see anybody he will do that’]

The reports were based on an old rumor that Simmons had previously tried to dispel. When it came up in March 2016, Simmons called into the “Today” show to say it wasn’t true.

“No one is holding me in my house as a hostage,” he said in the call. “You know, I do what I want to do as I’ve always done, so people should sort of just believe what I have to say because, like, I’m Richard Simmons.”

He made similar remarks in a conversation with Entertainment Tonight last year, saying “no one should be worried about me.”

In his Facebook post Wednesday, Simmons thanked fans for showing concern for him and sending well wishes.

“This has reminded me that when you need help you can’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it,” Simmons said. “We all think we should always be able to solve our problems all by ourselves and sometimes it’s just bigger than we are.”

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Hello to everyone who has shown concern for me and sent their good wishes. You will never know how much it means to…

Posted by Richard Simmons on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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[l] at 4/19/17 7:01pm

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23. (Courtesy of National Immigration Law Center)

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez appeared to have a promising future in the United States.

He is now one of the first dreamers to be deported by President Trump, immigration advocates and lawyers say, violating the protected status undocumented people brought to the United States as children are expected to have.

As recently as February, the 23-year-old — who was brought to the United States as a child — had a job picking fruits and vegetables in California fields while he pursued a degree in welding. Montes is a “dreamer”— a beneficiary of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

He is now living with relatives in Mexico, his lawyers said.

[ICE nabs young ‘dreamer’ applicant after she speaks out at a news conference]

The Trump administration has ramped up deportations under sweeping new enforcement guidelines, but has not yet overturned the DACA program, which granted renewable, two-year work permits to more than 750,000 immigrants who came to the country illegally as children. On a number of occasions, Trump has expressed his interest in showing sympathy to DACA recipients.

In February, Trump said: “We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids.”

During an appearance on Fox News Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said DACA enrollees were not the government’s deportation priority, but he refused to say they would not be subject to deportation. “DACA enrollees are not being targeted,” Sessions told Fox News anchor Jenna Lee. “I don’t know why this individual was picked up.” But when pressed, Sessions said, “The policy is that if people are here unlawfully, they’re subject to being deported.”

“We can’t promise people who are here unlawfully that they’re not going to be deported,” Sessions added.

Montes’s deportation

While Montes was walking to a taxi station in Calexico, Calif., a Border Patrol agent on a bicycle stopped him, asking him for identification. Having accidentally left his wallet in a friend’s car, Montes’s lawyers say, he had no identification on him, and no way of proving his status as a “dreamer” allowing him to live in the United States legally.

Another officer was called to the scene and took Montes into custody that night, Feb. 17, driving him to a station near the border. Hours later, at about 1 a.m., immigration officials walked Montes across the border, physically removing him from the United States and leaving him in Mexico, his lawyers say.

The Department of Homeland Security disputes these claims and says the government has no record of detaining Montes on Feb. 17 and then deporting him hours later — it didn’t happen, they say. Officials have confirmed that Montes was deported when he tried to re-enter the country on or about Feb. 19, an occurrence Montes’s lawyers and the government agree on.

While DHS initially said Tuesday they had a record of Montes’s DACA expiring in 2015, they released new information Wednesday confirming that Montes was approved for DACA that lasted until 2018.

But, DHS officials say, Montes lost that status by leaving the United States without permission “on an unknown date prior to his arrest by the U.S. Border Patrol on Feb. 19, 2017.”

“During Mr. MONTES-Bojorquez’s detention and arrest by the United States Border Patrol on February 19, he admitted to agents that he had illegally entered the United States and was arrested,” David Lapan, a DHS spokesman said in a statement to The Washington Post, noting that Montes made the same admission under oath. “All of the arrest documents from February 19, 2017, bear MONTES-Bojorquez’s signature. During his arrest interview, he never mentioned that he had received DACA status.”

“However,” Lapan added, “even if MONTES-Bojorquez had informed agents of his DACA status, he had violated the conditions of his status by breaking continuous residency in the United States by leaving and then reentering the U.S. illegally.”

Attorneys on behalf of Montes filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act on Tuesday demanding that the federal government turn over all information about his sudden removal. The lawsuit was filed, they say, because their FOIA requests were “ignored.”

The conflicting accounts surrounding the case leave many questions unanswered, but the allegations heightened existing concerns that DACA recipients are now being targeted for deportation, despite Trump’s pledges to “show great heart” toward them.

U.S. government response

Asked Wednesday about whether undocumented immigrants without a criminal record would face deportation, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration is focused on individuals who “are a threat to public safety,” according to CNN.

Spicer directed questions about the Montes case to DHS.

“That situation is evolving right now,” he added. “I would not rush to judgment.”

Nora Preciado, a Los Angeles attorney with the National Immigration Law Center and one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, said the lawyers on March 15 requested all records of Montes’s interactions with immigration authorities, but DHS has not yet provided them.

“Juan Manuel has been unequivocal in his assertion that he never voluntarily left the country while he had DACA,” Preciado said Wednesday. “We believe him. We filed a FOIA lawsuit to get answers. Rather than continue to provide half-truths and varying assertions, DHS should respond to our request for documentation.”

“We will see them in court,” she added.

Asked to respond to Preciado’s assertion that her client claims he never voluntarily left the United States, Lapan said DHS doesn’t comment on “pending litigation.”

“We stand by our statement of the facts in this case,” he said.

Lapan pointed out that Montes was convicted of shoplifting in 2016, but his lawyers maintain that conviction has no bearing on his DACA status, which is subject to a background check.

Montes’s lawyers say he had obtained an employment authorization document, a type only granted to DACA recipients. Lapan noted that Montes’s Employment Authorization Document is not valid for entry or admission into the United States, but Preciado said her client knew that although he had permission to work in the United States, he did not have permission to leave the country while he had DACA.

“Instead of providing his attorneys with information and documents, the government is providing varying stories to the media. He deserves to know why the federal government that promised he wouldn’t be deported for two years broke that promise to him without any explanation or documentation.”

Montes’s status

Montes claims he was assaulted a few days after he was deported to Mexicali, Mexico. Shaken by the alleged assault and fearing for his safety, Montes then attempted to return to the United States. After hiding on the north side of the border for about a half-hour, he came across immigration officers and decided to turn himself in. Hours later he was once again removed to Mexico. Though Montes claims this was his second deportation, this is the only removal DHS has confirmed.
“The really important questions come up after the first time,” Preciado said. “The government doesn’t want to focus on that. It doesn’t want to answer those hard questions.”

[Daniel Ramirez Medina: I’m a ‘dreamer,’ but immigration agents detained me anyway]

Montes, who was brought to the United States when he was 9, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and has a cognitive disability, the lawsuit alleges. He was enrolled in special education classes through high school, and has been employed as a farm worker for about two years.

“I was forced out because I was nervous and didn’t know what to do or say,” Montes said in a statement. “I miss my job. I miss school. And I want to continue to work toward better opportunities. But most of all, I miss my family, and I have hope that I will be able to go back so I can be with them again.”

DACA fears

In March, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tweeted: “DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are typically a lower level of enforcement priority.”

Still, many DACA beneficiaries now feel they have reason to fear deportation. On Feb. 10, “dreamer” Daniel Ramirez Medina was detained in Seattle, drawing national attention. He was released more than a month later.

In late March, Daniela Vargas, 22, was detained after speaking at a news conference in Mississippi. She was also later released. At least 10 DACA recipients are currently in federal custody, United We Dream, an advocacy organization made up of DACA enrollees and other young immigrants, told USA Today.

“The federal government made a promise to Juan Manuel and all DACA recipients,” Preciado told The Post. “Unfortunately, Juan Manuel’s case proves that promise has been broken.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Tuesday that instead of honoring the protections of DACA, “President Trump has unleashed an indiscriminate deportation dragnet of appalling inhumanity.”

Greisa Martinez, advocacy director at United We Dream and a DACA beneficiary herself, said in a Facebook live video on Tuesday that “this is the moment of truth where we hold those people accountable.”

“In these moments of uncertainty,” she said, “there’s a lot of questions. What does this mean for us? Where do we go?”

This post has been updated.

Read more: 

Trump supporter thought president would only deport ‘bad hombres.’ Instead, her husband is being deported.

For years, immigration authorities gave this Arizona mother a pass. Now she has been deported.

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[l] at 4/19/17 4:03am

Updated with clarification.

Self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at Auburn University in Alabama Tuesday night after a federal judge reversed the school’s cancellation of the event on First Amendment grounds.

He was greeted by protests that authorities said remained peaceful. A brief scuffle led to three arrests.

“I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone,” Auburn police chief Paul Register told the Plainsman, the student newspaper. “It could have been a lot worse. I attribute the peaceful nature to the students.”

Auburn police spokesman Capt. Lorenza Dorsey told the Associated Press three people were arrested for disorderly conduct, though it remains unclear if they were protesters or attendees of Spencer’s talk. A video released by AL.com showed a man with spiked hair and a bloody face on the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back.

Hundreds gathered before his talk around Foy Hall, where Spencer appeared, according to AL.com. The video showed a portion of this crowd chanting, “No alt-right. No KKK. No racist USA.” One protester carried a sign reading, “Fighting Fascism an American Tradition Since 1941.”

Kimberly Costen, Auburn freshman, yells at supporters of Richard Spencer’s right to speak. (Albert Cesare/Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

Spencer indeed cited race during his speech, saying, “The alt-right is about being a white person, being a European in the 21st century,” and later adding, “There’d be no history without us.”

Controversy surrounding Spencer’s appearance stretched back for a week before Tuesday’s talk, though. Many attempted to bar Spencer from speaking at Auburn and had succeeded until a federal judge intervened.

Cameron Padgett, identified in court documents as an Atlanta-area resident, paid $700 to rent out the 400-seat Foy Auditorium at Auburn for Spencer to speak. When the talk was announced, many student groups voiced concerns that Spencer — perhaps best known for shouting “Let’s party like it’s 1933” at a conference of white nationalists in Washington — might incite violence on campus.

Initially, Auburn released a statement that said, “We strongly deplore his views, which run counter to those of this institution. While his event isn’t affiliated with the university, Auburn supports the constitutional right to free speech.”

On Friday, though, Auburn canceled the event, posting this brief statement: “In consultation with law enforcement, Auburn canceled the Richard Spencer event scheduled for Tuesday evening based on legitimate concerns and credible evidence that it will jeopardize the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

The mere promise of divisive speakers like Spencer has previously ignited violent riots. The University of California Berkeley canceled an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos after protesters caused $100,000 worth of damage to its campus and threw fireworks, rocks and Molotov cocktails at buildings and police. At least six were injured. The protest at Auburn were a contrast to what happened at Berkeley.

“I’m not going to allow that to happen,” Spencer told the Plainsman, Auburn’s student newspaper, after the cancellation announcement. “Auburn is going to rue the day that they made this total bulls— decision. I will not back down. I will be there. This is going to be so much bigger than they ever imagined.”

Police, meanwhile, told the student paper, “Based on an assessment of possible civil unrest and criminal activity during a requested event, it is the opinion of the Auburn Police Division that allowing Mr. Richard Spencer to proceed with his appearance at Foy Hall on April 22 would pose a real threat to public safety.”

Padgett sued Auburn, which as a public institution must adhere to the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees. The lawsuit stated: “Various minority advocacy groups of Jews, Blacks and immigrants and left-wing/liberal groups demanded that no forum be afforded for the expression of views that contradict their own and which they find unhelpful for their identity group agendas and political agendas.”

Spencer previously advocated for an all-white country, stating in 2013, “We need an ethno-state, so that our people can ‘come home again,’ can live amongst family and feel safe and secure.”

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday barred Auburn from blocking Spencer, stating there was no evidence that he advocates violence.

“Discrimination on the basis of message content cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment,” he wrote in the ruling.

“This is a moment to savor,” Spencer said in a video shot outside the Montgomery courthouse and posted to Twitter after the ruling. “We just achieved a great victory. It was certainly a great victory for the alt-right, but it’s a great victory for free speech, for identifiable movements around the world, really.”

Victory in Auburn pic.twitter.com/w1keyvedaw

— Richard Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) April 18, 2017

Auburn released a third statement, urging any protesters to remain peaceful.

Auburn University supports the rights and privileges afforded by the First Amendment. However, when the tenets of free speech are overshadowed by threats to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, we have a responsibility to protect our campus and the men and women who unite our academic community. The decision to cancel the Richard Spencer event last week was informed by leadership from all of the university’s shared governance groups and the Auburn Police Division, all of whom articulated legitimate concerns for the safety and security of our campus.

This afternoon, a federal judge ruled that Auburn must allow Spencer to speak in the Foy Auditorium tonight. It is now more important than ever that we respond in a way that is peaceful, respectful, and maintains civil discourse.

Clarification: The original version of this article overstated the violence, which was brief, confined and involved a few people. The story has been updated to reflect that.

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