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Suspended Lake County cop accused in rape case pleads ‘not liable’ to disciplinary charges

A suspended Lake County officer accused of rape in criminal charges pleaded not liable to his disciplinary charges Thursday.

Nicholas Medrano, 34, of Crown Point, was indicted by a Lake County grand jury in June on two counts of rape, attempted rape, criminal confinement and sexual battery.

At Lake County Sheriff John Buncich’s request, the Lake County Sheriff’s Police Merit Board suspended Medrano last month without pay as his criminal charges are pending.

Buncich filed four disciplinary charges against Medrano, including violating state law; committing conduct unbecoming (of) an officer of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department; failing to treat another officer or civilian or any person civilly and courteously; and committing acts which bring or tend to bring the individual and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department into disrepute.

Medrano pleaded “not liable” to each of the four charges at a special merit board meeting Thursday to address the topic.

The board scheduled a status hearing on the disciplinary charges Sept. 28.

Medrano previously pleaded not guilty in July to his criminal charges. His alleged crimes occurred between Jan. 10, 2013, and June 30, 2014, with a “professional co-worker,” according to Lake County court records and Indiana State Police.

Medrano’s attorney, Paul Stracci, said the woman is not an employee of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

Medrano appears in court again on the criminal charges Aug. 29.

He has been with the sheriff’s department for more than 10 years.

Is surface mining damaging people’s health in Appalachia? Federal panel seeks input.

A panel studying the potential link between surface mining and health problems in Appalachia plans meetings in Kentucky to gather information.

The committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will hold a town hall meeting in Hazard on Aug. 21 to gain “insights and information” from people in the area, according to a news release.

That meeting will be 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Perry County Library, 289 Black Gold Boulevard.

On Aug. 22, the committee will hold panel discussions in Lexington involving representatives of the state Department of Public Health, the Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Kentucky Geological Survey and several universities.

That event will be 12:45 to 5 p.m. at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort on Newtown Pike.

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement commissioned the study, saying the research agency would examine a “growing amount of academic research that relates to possible correlations between increased health risks as a result of living near surface coal mine operations.”

That issue has been controversial.

Several studies have concluded that mountaintop mining in Central Appalachia is associated with higher rates of cancer, heart disease and other health problems among local residents.

Michael S. Hendryx, who led several studies of the issue while he was a professor at West Virginia University, said dust kicked up by surface mining, which contains rare Earth metals, is a likely source of health problems.

Research “strongly indicates that mountaintop-removal coal mining is destructive of local environments and impairs human health,” Hendryx said in an interview last year.

But a 2012 study by a Yale University researcher Jonathan Borak and others did not find that mining or mining-related pollution directly contributed to health problems in Central Appalachia.

Rather, the results pointed to “substantial economic and cultural disadvantages that adversely impact the health of many area residents,” the study said.

The coal industry supported Borak’s work, but he said during a webinar Tuesday that that didn’t influence his findings.

Former NBA player shot while shielding children from gunfire

Brandon Roy, a former NBA star was shot Saturday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department. According to witnesses, two people approached a home where children were outside playing basketball. They open fired and Roy was struck in the leg, while shielding some of the children.

Authorities were unsure of a motive at this point, but a detective unit conducting the investigation gave a statement:
“The victims indicated they were standing in front of a residence watching children play basketball when they saw the suspects walking toward them. As the suspects approached their location, the victims heard multiple gunshots. The suspects immediately fled the area.”

Three other people were injured, but nobody was seriously wounded. All victims have since been treated and released from local hospitals.

The Portland Trail Blazers, the team Roy played for during five of his six NBA seasons, released the following statement:
“Like many others, we’re just learning of the injury suffered by former Trail Blazers player Brandon Roy in a shooting over the weekend in California. According to those reports, Brandon was wounded as a bystander, but is expected to recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brandon and his family during this time.”

Wine Cellar News 5/1/17

Look who’s in favor of ‘Medicare for all’: Trump voters and Sanders supporters

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WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Last month’s failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare had nothing to do with the welfare of the American people, and everything to do with the power struggle between political factions in Washington.

But out of the shambles of that failed effort may come a reform that actually does provide affordable universal health care: a national single-payer system, aka Medicare for all.

Both ends of the political spectrum — the far left under Bernie Sanders and, improbable as it may seem, the far right under the likes of Richard Spencer — are pushing single-payer not only as the solution to guaranteeing humane health care but as a self-regulating system to rein in spiraling costs.

Unfortunately, it is the middle of the political spectrum that controls Congress, and they remain in the pocket of drug companies and health insurers that profit so richly from the current, inefficient hodgepodge of coverage.

On Bated Breath, Sanders Supporters Await Judge’s Order on DNC Fraud Lawsuit

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On Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch heard oral arguments regarding a Motion to Dismiss filed by attorneys representing the Democratic National Committee and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz in the class-action lawsuit filed against them in June 2016, Wilding et al. v. DNC Services Corp. and Deborah “Debbie” Wasserman-Schultz.

 The lawsuit, filed on June 28, 2016, seeks damages on behalf of plaintiffs comprising various classes of American citizens who made financial contributions to the DNC for then-candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders under the presumption the Democratic Party’s nominating process would be fair to all candidates running for the Party’s presidential nomination.

 Article 5, Section 4 of the DNC’s official Charter states as follows:

In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson [Debbie Wasserman-Schultz] shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.

 The lawsuit was filed by Attorneys Jared Beck and Elizabeth Lee Beck approximately one month prior to the Democratic National Convention in which Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the Democratic Party’s nomination for President following an initial leak by the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 that exposed coordinated, behind-closed-doors efforts by Clinton, Wasserman-Schultz, and individuals within the political and media establishment to ensure Clinton was the democratic nominee in direct violation of the DNC’s impartiality clause.

#Good Cops Murder Innocent Black Boy In Texas.

The tragic Saturday night shooting of a 15-year-old boy by a Balch Springs police officer is, without question, disturbing.
In this case, like in virtually all officer-involved shootings, a conflicting pair of narratives quickly emerged: one that sets out to explain why an officer fired his weapon at a car full of teenagers hurriedly leaving a party, and one that condemns the haphazard use of deadly force.

The fact that the victim, Jordan Edwards, is black already has intensified public attention, given the movement nationwide to give more scrutiny to the killings of young black men by police; people are calling for not just answers, but for the officer’s dismissal.
Yet, as bad as this looks to many on the outside, and as emotionally wrenching as it may be to mourn the loss of a young life, we must remain patient and calm in our resolve for truth and justice.
No one can make light of the risks facing first responders who hear “Shots fired!” and run into the danger; the sad story Monday of a Dallas Fire-Rescue medic who was shot while responding to a call for help is an all-too-real reminder.
That’s all the more reason why the public needs a full and transparent accounting of what transpired in Balch Springs. That requires giving the multiple agencies investigating the shooting — including the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, the Dallas County district attorney’s office and the Balch Springs Police Department — the time they need to get to the bottom of it.
The early reports are encouraging: The police chief of Balch Springs, a town of just under 25,000 people about 16 miles east of Dallas, immediately requested outside help from Dallas County, whose relative independence and additional resources should lend credibility to any findings.
So far, the basic outline is this: Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said officers heard gunshots while responding to a call of drunken teens about 11 p.m. Saturday in the 12300 block of Baron Drive. Haber said a car was backing down the road toward officers “in an aggressive manner.” An officer fired at the vehicle and struck Jordan, apparently through a passenger-side window.
The unidentified officer has been placed on routine administrative leave. No officers were injured.
Were there additional factors that made officers feel at risk? Were there extenuating circumstances to justify shooting into a moving car, despite the fact that many police experts and departments no longer believe that is good policy? What were these officers trained to do in a situation like this?
We wait with so many others in North Texas to hear these answers, to help us make sense of why Jordan lost his life.
Our hearts go out to the family of Jordan Edwards, whom friends and family described as a cheerful, well-liked football player and honor-roll freshman at Mesquite High School.
His death, sadly, bears the unfortunate markings of a preventable tragedy.
From the Dallas County DA
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson released this statement on Monday:
“The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit includes a specialized group of experienced attorneys and investigators. The Civil Rights Team responds to all officer-involved shootings in Dallas County to conduct an impartial and independent investigation.
“As such, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death of Jordan Edwards. We offer our sincere condolences to Jordan’s family and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we move forward expeditiously, with a commitment to justice and transparency. ”

Mountaintop Removal Site Could Become Kentucky’s Largest Solar Farm

Kentucky, like most of the Appalachian region, has been in economic distress since the bust of the coal mining industry. But, new hope for jobs and the ravaged environment may come in the form of the state’s largest solar farm.

The company spearheading the initiative, Berkeley Energy Group, used to be a coal mining company and still owns thousands of acres of land in the area, including the abandoned mountaintop removal site in Pike County, Kentucky, just outside of Pikeville in the heart of coal country. Berkeley Energy is working with EDF Renewable Energy and former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen to build a 50-100 megawatt farm right on top of the old mine. The project was announced on Tuesday.

“This is really a history-making project for the region,” said Ryan Johns, an executive with Berkeley Energy Group.

“Bringing together major players in both coal and renewable energy to build a solar farm on a mountaintop removal site, creating opportunity for out-of-work miners, is a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Edelen told the Herald-Leader.

Coal production has drastically dropped over the last few years since the boom of natural gas and lower installation costs for renewables. According to Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, in 2016 alone, coal production in the region, including Pike County, dropped by 40 percent from 2015, and the number of coal jobs in the county decreased by 30 percent.

“We have the opportunity to combine the strengths of both companies to bring jobs and economic development to Appalachia,” Doug Copeland, EDF development manager, said.

Though the developers aren’t sure how many jobs would be supplied by the solar farm, the project would be a massive undertaking and several hundred acres would be used to operate the facility.

Pike County is in eastern Kentucky, which doesn’t get quite as much annual sunlight as western parts of the state. But, building it in this specific location would help the developers work with the electric grid supplied by PJM, an electric company that works with homeowners to allocate renewable energy resources.

But, before they can establish anything with PJM, the developers must complete geological and energy studies to measure the potential for solar on the property. EDF said this could take until the end of the year. But, Johns said, “if it can be done, we’ll get it done.”

Protest at St. Olaf after latest racist threat against black student; class boycott in works

Protesters and others filled the commons area Saturday night at St. Olaf College.

St. Olaf College was in upheaval over the weekend as students gathered to protest a string of racist incidents on campus, the latest being a threatening note that was left on the windshield of a black student’s car demanding that she “shut up or I will shut you up.”

Protests are expected to continue with a student boycott of classes on Monday.

David R. Anderson, president of the private liberal arts college in Northfield, acknowledged in an e-mail sent to students on April 21 that there have been numerous racist expressions on campus stretching back to last fall, and he likened them to a form of terrorism.

“I am as angry and frustrated as you are at the repeated ­violations of our values and community norms by someone who defaces the campus with scrawled racial epithets,” Anderson wrote. “I would love nothing more than to discover who is responsible for these acts and to remove that person from our community.”

Students swarmed the interior of the campus’ Buntrock Commons on Saturday night in response to this incident and others. Among them was the woman who found the note on her vehicle that afternoon. It read: “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less [N-word] this school has to deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up.”

Speaking to her fellow students, senior Samantha Wells was quoted by the Northfield News as saying, “It’s been something that’s been going on all year. I think the big message is we shouldn’t let this happen again. The administration needs to do something that stops it indefinitely.”

Student Amanda Vergara, who attended the rally, said, “This is the third time a black student has been individually targeted with an anonymous letter” in the past week.

One student found a note on his car that had “the N-word on it,” she said. “Then on Monday afternoon, a student returned from work and a note was put in her backpack that said, ‘Go back to Africa.’ ”

Vergara said Saturday night’s protest pretty much filled up balconies and the main floor inside Buntrock Commons.

One black student, Krysta Wetzel, got behind a megaphone from high above and said to the protesters and others going about their weekend routine, “We as students of color feel unsafe on this campus, and we will continue to make noise and disrupt your lives until ours are made safer in a really strategic and structured way.”

Wetzel added that on such a small campus, someone needs to step up and reveal who is behind the racist messages. “I think on a campus of 3,000, where you can’t even [pee] alone, someone somewhere knows who it is,” she said.

“Also, if you’re the one,” she continued, “I live in Rand 200. My P.O. box says Krysta Wetzel. If you sign your name, we can have a conversation.”

The pushback resumed Sunday morning at the campus chapel, where “students lined up standing on the sides of the chapel in solidarity” for about 15 minutes before leaving to make plans for further student response, according to Vergara.

On Monday, students will boycott classes and gather in Tomson Hall beginning at 7:50 a.m., Vergara said. Tomson is where the president’s office is located.

School spokeswoman Kari VanDerVeen said college leaders will meet with students Monday morning “to listen and answer questions.”

St. Olaf is the latest campus in Minnesota to confront racist behavior in recent months. In November, a racial epithet was scrawled on a sidewalk at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. “This is not who we are and cannot be tolerated,” St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan and Provost Richard Plumb said in a joint statement soon afterward.

In December, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education said in its 2016 annual report that it received 198 complaints related to racial harassment at colleges and universities nationwide.

Enrollment at mostly white St. Olaf as of last fall was roughly 3,000, with 2 percent identified as black or African-American.

Anderson said in his e-mail that the incidents have a pattern. “Even the handwriting on the notes is similar from incident to incident,” he wrote.

“This person has adopted a strategy similar to the one terrorists use,” the president continued, by acting “under the cover of darkness and anonymity [to] engage in acts that frighten, dishearten and frustrate people with a goal of unsettling the community and turning people against one another.”

The president said that when the incidents began in the fall, he “swiftly informed the community and unequivocally denounced the person and this person’s acts. I have deliberately not repeated my announcement every time this person scrawls another racial epithet somewhere because then this person wins. I don’t want to give this person the power to evoke at will a message to the campus from the president.”

In a news release issued Saturday evening, St. Olaf said officials are doing “everything we can to catch the people involved in perpetrating these hate-filled acts. An active investigation is underway, and there are several leads that we are following up on using every tool we have at our disposal.” Northfield police are assisting in the investigation.

Texas passes anti BDS bill

The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on Thursday banning state entities from dealing with businesses that boycott Israel or its settlements.

The bill follows the state Senate’s approval of a similar bill in March by overwhelming numbers. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign a reconciled version of both bills next month.

In statements, pro-Israel groups that lobbied for the bills praised its passage.

“The relationship between the Jewish state and the Lone Star State is built upon shared values, including a rock-solid commitment to standing up for liberty – especially when it is threatened by radical Islamic extremism,” Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United For Israel, said in a statement.

Josh Block, CEO of The Israel Project, sounded a similar note.

“The people of the Lone Star State and Israel share an unbreakable bond based upon mutual values, and by passing this legislation – ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not fund discrimination – Texas has reaffirmed this important friendship,” he said.

The House bill requires that Texas maintain a list of companies boycotting Israel. Civil liberties groups have objected to such provisions in other states, saying they amount to a blacklist.

In some cases the lists, drawn from the media and other open sources, have proven inaccurate, including companies not boycotting Israel.

Liberal pro-Israel groups say that including prohibitions on boycotting settlements undercuts efforts to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Texas would be the 20th state with laws or executive orders banning state business with BDS-compliant companies.

SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR ADULTS