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Found 159 results

  1. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will end in January 2019 a special status given to 5,300 Nicaraguan immigrants that protects them from deportation, senior Trump administration officials said on Monday. A U.S. flag flutters over top of the skyline of New York (R) and Jersey City (L), as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey, August 6, 2011. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn They also said the program known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, would be extended until July 2018 for about 86,000 Honduran immigrants, but added it could then be terminated. The decision to end TPS for Nicaraguans is part of President Donald Trump’s broader efforts to tighten restrictions on immigration.Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from across Central America live and work in the United States, but some are protected from the threat of deportation under the TPS program. Thousands from both Nicaragua and Honduras were given the special status in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America. In all, TPS protects more than 300,000 people from nine countries living in the United States. Trump’s administration was faced with a Monday deadline to announce its decision on Nicaragua and Honduras. Critics have complained the TPS program allows participants to repeatedly extend their stays in 6-month to 18-month increments in case of a natural disaster, civil strife or other emergencies in their homelands. In the case of Nicaragua, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke decided the conditions caused by Hurricane Mitch “no longer exist, and thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement. The TPS for thousands of Nicaraguans was due to expire on Jan. 5, 2018, but it was delayed by 12 months “to allow for an orderly transition.” Read more:
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  2. MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida family is speaking out days after an 83-year-old, wheelchair-bound woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver on her way to church in Miami. Margaret Ruiz’s loved ones are seeking solace in their faith. “You can’t avoid these things that happen in life, but we have to believe, and we have to have trust and love and faith,” said Lucy Ruiz, the victim’s sister. Lucy, 73, said she is still in shock over how her older sister was killed. “It’s very upsetting to hear that. So sudden,” she said. Grainy surveillance video captured her as she traveled on her electric wheelchair down the sidewalk, near Northeast 62nd Street and Second Avenue, moments before, police said, she was struck by a four-door, dark-colored sedan, Wednesday evening. “If she were here, I would just tell her how much I love her,” said Lucy. Margaret, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, was heading to religious services at the time of the hit-and-run. The surveillance footage shows the car involved in the crash fleeing from the scene. Margaret leaves behind five children. One of her sons, Barry Pantoja, arrived to South Florida from New York with his entire family on Monday. “She was my whole world for many years, and she loved her family very much,” he said. Pantoja said his mother was a devoted mother and an esteemed member of her faith community. “She was loved, and she really appreciated, in so many ways, the way people extended themselves to her and her congregation,” he said. Pantoja said Margaret moved to Florida to live with her sister. Over the years, she became isolated from her family and never returned to her home in New York. Relatives said Margaret eventually fell on hard times and became homeless. She later moved into an affordable housing community. Lakeisha Ware, Margaret’s case manager, helped the elderly woman transition off the streets. “It’s hard because you have to have a mother. She is somebody’s mother. She’s somebody’s grandmother,” said Ware. How can you do that to a person and not look back?” Amid their grief and pain, Margaret’s family hopes to see her again. “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we believe in a resurrection, and I actually look forward to the day I see my mother again,” said Pantoja as he held back tears. “It’s the hope we all hold in our faith, and it’s the only thing that keeps us from being totally devastated.” If you have any information on this hit-and-run, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.
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  3. by DANIELLA SILVA, RIMA ABDELKADER, ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, EMILY PANDISE and PETE WILLIAMS A gunman opened fire inside a rural Texas church on Sunday, killing about 25 people and injuring at least another 10, officials said. "Approximately 25 people" were deceased, including the gunman, following the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett told NBC News. A single shooter walked into the church and opened fire, Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. said earlier Sunday. Law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Devin Patrick Kelley, age 26, of neighboring Comal County. Read more:
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  4. Purchaser will turn 21 Clark St. into seniors housing called The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle The Jehovah's Witnesses have sold one of the grand jewels of their real-estate portfolio for about $200 million. The Towers, a former Brooklyn Heights Historic District hotel where the Dodgers lived and presidents gave speeches, will now be turned into seniors housing by its purchaser. Built in the 1920s, the Leverich Towers Hotel, as it was originally known, has colonnaded towers on its four corners like a Venetian palazzo — a really big palazzo. The 16-story, 313,768-square-foot property at 21 Clark St. played host in its heyday to the highest-paid Brooklyn Dodgers. Only the stars of Brooklyn's since-departed baseball team were allowed to live in its splendid suites during baseball season. Other players lived elsewhere, including the Hotel Saint George in Brooklyn Heights. President Harry Truman spoke at The Towers. Advertisements called it “The Aristocrat of Brooklyn Hotels.” It was designed by Starrett & Van Vleck, the architecture firm that also designed Manhattan flagship stores for Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. Later, the Watchtower, which owned the Towers for four decades, used the Clark Street property as a residence and dining hall for more than 1,000 people who worked at its nearby world headquarters. Here's The Towers' grand staircase, which echoes the grandeur of its early days as a hotel. Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors is the purchaser The Jehovah's Witnesses put the former hotel, which has frontage on Willow and Pineapple streets, up for sale in May 2016. The purchaser, Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors, plans to transform The Towers into seniors housing and rename it The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights. “Meticulously maintained since its inception in the late 1920s, The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights epitomizes a Class A property with a unique redevelopment opportunity: To introduce modern, luxury living for seniors in Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Al Rabil, Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors' managing partner and CEO, said in a press release. The new owner is “committed to upholding the property's unique legacy,” Rabil said. The Boca Raton-based investment firm is the real-estate private equity arm of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors L.P. Watermark Retirement Communities, a nationwide operator of seniors housing communities, is partnering with Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisors on The Towers' redevelopment. The sale deed for the Towers has not yet appeared in city Finance Department records. But according to the Wall Street Journal — which was the first to report The Towers' sale — the price was about $200 million. The Watchtower paid $1,992,229.08 for The Towers in 1975, Finance Department records indicate. The Towers' rooftop terrace has views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Watchtower property sell-off moves closer to finish line The sale of The Towers brings the Jehovah's Witnesses a big step closer to completing their years-long effort to liquidate their once-vast property portfolio in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. The sell-off was precipitated by their decision to move their world headquarters to the upstate New York town of Warwick. “For those of us who lived in Brooklyn Heights, we'll remember The Towers not just as a landmark building but as a beautiful and comfortable home,” Watchtower spokesman David Semonian said in a statement. “With this most recent transaction, we close another chapter of our history in Brooklyn,” he said. Other buyers of the religious organization's properties include the Kushner Cos., which spent about $1 billion with investor partners on Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Watchtower purchases. The firm was headed by Jared Kushner until he stepped aside to serve as senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
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  5. A Madera police dispatcher who is a church elder is charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl he mentored, Fresno police reported. Fresno police received an anonymous tip on Sept. 20 about Martin Ramos, 43, and launched an investigation, Sgt. Daniel Macias said. Investigators learned that Ramos was an elder at a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in the 4000 block of West McKinley Avenue. There, he met a teen girl and her family three years ago. Ramos mentored the girl, and the two communicated through text messages. At one point, the two exchanged “inappropriate” photos and their relationship turned physical, Macias said. During the course of the investigation, police learned Ramos worked as a dispatcher with the Madera Police Department. Ramos was arrested Sept. 21 and cooperated with police. He is charged with felony oral copulation, possession and distribution of child pornography and misdemeanor child molestation. Ramos pleaded not guilty to all charges earlier this month and is out on bail. He is due back in court in November. Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, bcalix@fresnobee.com, @BriannaCalix Martin Ramos FRESNO POLICE DEPARTMENT
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  6. Almost every major U.S. city has seen years of decline in bus ridership, but Seattle has been the exception in recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, Seattle experienced the biggest jump of any major U.S. city. At its peak in 2015, around 78,000 people, or about one in five Seattle workers, rode the bus to work. That trend has cooled slightly since then, but Seattle continues to see increased overall transit ridership, bucking the national trend of decline. In 2016, Seattle saw transit ridership increase by 4.1 percent—only Houston and Milwaukee saw even half that increase in the same year. Read more:
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  7. NORTH STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — A Voluntown man is facing charges after police say he disrupted services at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in North Stonington. Police say 34-year-old Paul Johnson was carrying a pair of wire cutters and was intoxicated when he entered through the doors of the building. According to officials, Johnson was threatening and causing alarm to the nearly 104 members inside. Authorities say he tried to cut the sound system as the service was going on. Members then surrounded Johnson and prevented him from cutting the wires. Johnson was arrested and was transported to a local hospital. He is facing charges of Criminal Trespassing in the 1st Degree, Breach of Peace, and Threatening.
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  8. A collage of photos of Liza Jade Parker and her children were displayed during a graveside service Saturday afternoon celebration her life. Parker died last week when her car crashed into a heavily wooded median along the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Old Town. An estimated 250 people gathered Saturday afternoon in a small cemetery in Wytopitlock to celebrate the young mother whose life was abruptly cut short last week in a crash off Interstate 95 in Old Town. Liza Jade Parker, 26, died after her car crashed Sept. 24 into a heavily wooded median strip along the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Old Town. Her two small children, 5-year-old Mason Worcester and 1½-year-old Tiaona Robinson, were secured in car seats and suffered minor injuries. Parker’s car was not found until the following day, when it was spotted by a passing tractor-trailer driver, according to police. Saturday’s graveside service took place on a sunny, cool, crisp autumn day at Evergreen Cemetery, where her great-grandparents, Dale and Wilma Dow, are buried. Set up near the Dows’ grave was a display of photos of Parker and her children, a framed poem, pink flowers and candles and some mementos from her childhood, including the tiny pink dress she wore home from the hospital shortly after she was born. “I wouldn’t have it any other place and neither would Liza,” her brother, Rory Parker of West Palm Beach, Florida, said before the service began. Parker’s grandmother, Marilyn Dow, said she and her husband, Rodger, were devastated by the untimely death because out of all of their 12 grandchildren, she was the only granddaughter. “Liza was his diamond. That’s what he called her. It’s terrible at home, terrible. You can’t expect anything different,” Dow said. “We would feel the same if we lost any of our family members, any of our other grandchildren but the difficult part is that she was the only granddaughter,” Dow said. “ She was Puppa’s girl. They had a wonderful relationship.” Dow said she, Liza’s mother Shauna Dow and several other family members were drawing strength from the Jehovah’s Witness community to which they belong. On hand were family, friends and many of the people who were part of the support network that helped her beat an addiction to heroin more than a year ago. Parker’s success on that front captured the attention of Gov. Paul LePage, who held her up as a role model during a visit from former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and senior presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway. During the service, Brother Rory Merrill from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bangor shared memories about the young mother that family and friends told to him. Common themes from those who knew her included her devotion to her children, her smile and the twinkle in her eye and the strength and courage she showed during her battle with addiction. Rory Parker had this to say: “Liza did not suffer. She left this world in the best possible version of herself and her life. She was amazing. I miss my sister. I love my sister and always will.” Parker was reported missing after she did not show up in Howland for a meeting with her son’s father in Howland scheduled for Sept. 24. It’s still not clear what caused the crash, which remains under investigation by Maine State Police. “It was just an accident. She drifted off the road,” her brother Rory said. “She died instantly. She did not suffer.” Parker died from head and neck injuries she suffered in the crash, according to autopsy results released Wednesday by Mark Belserene, spokesman for the state medical examiner’s office. Belserene also said the manner of her death was ruled accidental.
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  9. The U.S. government banned all use of Kaspersky Lab Inc. software in federal information systems, citing concerns about the Moscow-based security firm’s links to the Russian government and espionage efforts. All agencies will be required to identify any Kaspersky products they have used within 30 days and develop plans to discontinue their use, according to a directive from Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products,” DHS said Wednesday in a statement. “The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.” Read more:
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  10. HOUSTON — Floodwaters in two Houston neighborhoods have been contaminated with bacteria and toxins that can make people sick, testing organized by The New York Times has found. Residents will need to take precautions to return safely to their homes, public health experts said. It is not clear how far the toxic waters have spread. But Fire Chief Samuel Peña of Houston said over the weekend that there had been breaches at numerous waste treatment plants. The Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that 40 of 1,219 such plants in the area were not working. The results of The Times’s testing were troubling. Water flowing down Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor contained Escherichia coli, a measure of fecal contamination, at a level more than four times that considered safe. Read more:
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  11. Robert E. Lee

    "Robert E Lee was married to George Washington's granddaughter. He worked with Grant during the Mexican-American war and became a decorated war hero defending this country He believed slavery was a great evil and his wife broke the law by teaching slaves to read and write. After the civil war he worked with Andrew Johnson's program of reconstruction. He became very popular with the northern states and the Barracks at West Point were named in his honor in 1962. He was a great man who served this country his entire life in some form or other. His memorial is now being called a blight. No American military veteran should be treated as such. People keep yelling, "You can't change history." Sadly you can. This is no better than book burnings. ISIS tried rewriting history by destroying historical artifacts. Is that really who we want to emulate? As they tear down this "blight" keep these few historical facts in your mind. No military veteran and highly decorated war hero should ever be treated as such. This is not Iraq and that is not a statue of Sadam. IN ADDITION:: Lee was also very torn about the prospect of the South leaving the Union. His wifes grandfather George Washington was a huge influence on him. He believed that ultimately, states rights trumped the federal government and chose to lead the Southern army. His estate, Arlington, near Washington DC was his home and while away fighting the war, the federal government demanded that Lee himself pay his taxes in person. He sent his wife but the money was not accepted from a woman. When he could not pay the taxes, the government began burying dead Union soldiers on his land. The government is still burying people there today. It is now called Arlington National Cemetery. DO THEY WANT TO TEAR THAT UP ALSO ??
  12. Alvin Mann and Gertrude Mokotoff exchanged vows on Aug. 5 before 50 family members and friends at Middletown City Hall in Middletown, N.Y. CreditJustin Gilliland/The New York Times Gertrude Mokotoff and Alvin Mann were introduced eight years ago at a gym in Middletown, N.Y., where they still work out twice a week. “A mutual friend said to me, ‘I’d like you to meet a very nice young lady,’” Mr. Mann recalled after chopping wood one recent morning at his mountaintop home in nearby Cuddebackville, N.Y. On their first date, he drove her to a restaurant in Middletown called Something Sweet. “He was a perfect gentleman,” she said, and he added, “There was something about her that made me want to keep on talking.” In a heartbeat, they became an item, talking about dreams and goals and sharing a life together. Read more:
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  13. Power Rangers at Comic-Con. Daniel Knighton/Getty Images Attendees arrive dressed in costume for opening day. REUTERS/Mike Blake Part of the atmosphere at Comic-Con International. Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images Read more:
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  14. FAIRFIELD, CA—On July 28, 2017, Tagalog circuit in Northern California of Jehovah’s Witnesses will begin their three-day annual conventions with the theme “Don’t Give Up!” The program will be held in 2020 Walters Road, Fairfield CA. As in years past, the Witnesses are participating in a global campaign to personally invite the general public to attend.Admission to each event is free and no collections are taken. “Nearly thirteen million persons attended our conventions last year worldwide,” states David A. Semonian, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in Warwick, New York. “We hope to have an even larger audience this year.” Angelito Roque, the Tagalog’s local circuit convention spokesman, has estimated 1,900 Filipino to attend this years’ convention which is similar to last years’ attendance.The program is divided into 52 parts and will be presented in a variety of formats, including brief discourses, interviews, and short videos. Additionally, one segment of a three-part feature film entitled Remember the Wife of Lot will be shown each afternoon. Media outlets may contact Mr. Roque for reporters planning to cover the convention.“Challenges in life can rob us of peace and even cause some to think about giving up,” says Mr. Semonian. “Our convention this year will benefit both Witnesses and non-Witnesses because it promises to empower individuals not only to keep enduring but also to cope with challenges productively.”For more information, please go to
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    then click the “Convention” section under the “About Us” heading. Regional Media Contact: Angelito Roque, telephone: (408)238-1063
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  15. Swaying To The Music

    Cancer Does Not Stop Local Jehovah's Witness Couple Leslie and Jim Donigan attend the Jehovah's Witnesses conference today at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri. (Mike Sherry | Flatland) At happy moments, Jim and Leslie Donigan often find themselves dancing to “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” the Andy Williams hit that has been their song since they first met at a pizza joint in Mission, Kansas, decades ago. One of those dance-worthy occasions took place late last year, at the end of a long medical journey. The memory remains strong, even though they have hit a recent bump in the road. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they plan to attend the Midwest convention that runs today through Sunday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri. Organizers believe few attendees embody this year’s theme, “Don’t Give Up,” more than the Donigans, who are both 71 years old and live in Kansas City. About 5,000 people are expected to attend, said Craig Cochran, the convention’s media services coordinator. The ability to be part of a global experience of faith is important to the Donigans, as they once again face medical uncertainty. “It’s like a spiritual family reunion,” Jim said. A website for the religion says there are more than 8.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 240 countries. According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than 1 percent of American adults are Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Don’t Give Up” is the them of this year’s Jehovah’s Witness conference. (Mike Sherry | Flatland) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in God, who is called Jehovah. As Christians, they believe in heaven and salvation, but they do not believe in hell or eternal suffering. Witnesses, as followers are called, believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. However, they recognize some parts are symbolic and do not believe all parts of the Bible are to be understood literally. Jehovah’s Witnesses also do not believe in blood transfusions, based upon their reading of passages in both the Old and New testaments. They cite Genesis 9:4, for example, where God says, “Only flesh with its soul — its blood — you must not eat.” No ‘Cowards in the Foxhole’ On Oct. 1, 2004, Leslie fainted. That was abnormal for her, a runner who lives a healthy lifestyle. Doctors could not pinpoint a cause, and later that month they understood why: They found a gastrointestinal stromal tumor, a rare cancer that leaves no blood marker. The tumor was growing on a section of the small intestine and was also threatening her pancreas. The belief about blood transfusions was an obvious complication when it came to surgery. So, the Donigans worked through a Jehovah’s Witnesses group in Brooklyn to find Dr. Marvin Romsdahl, a surgeon at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who performed a modified version of a common surgery to remove pancreatic tumors. The modified version did not require a transfusion. The night before the surgery, the anesthesiologist backed out because of the risks of doing surgery without blood transfusions. “That’s good,” Jim told Romsdahl. “We don’t need any cowards in the foxhole.” The surgery lasted 13.5 hours, but it was successful. Yet further treatment included a prescription for the chemotherapy pill Gleevec. The cost of the therapy, which Leslie said at the time cost $2,500 per month, brought them to the breaking point, even after using Social Security and Medicare. “It’s always been more than we could swallow,” Jim said, “and progressively over time, it took everything.” More bad news hit in 2008, when Jim lost his banking job during the recession. They had to sell the house they had built nearly four decades before, the same house where they had raised their three children. But in one sliver of good news, a neighbor approached them during their garage sale and told them he would buy another house for sale on the block and then rent it to them. Things began to look up, as Jim found another job, Leslie qualified for a hardship program that allowed her to take Gleevec for free, and then got off the medication altogether when her cancer went into remission. The cancer returned, however, and Leslie must remain on Gleevec for the rest of her life. Now, Gleevec costs $13,000 per month, she said. Another Test In April 2016, the family was tested again, when Jim started having shortness of breath. Their first thought was a heart problem, but the first diagnosis was multiple myeloma, a form of incurable blood cancer. A second opinion was different, but not any better: a form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which causes tumors to grow in the lymphatic system. A PET scan revealed 100 tumors, and Jim started his own costly round of chemotherapy. The Donigans vist with their son, Joel, and his wife, Carrie, at the conference. (Mike Sherry | Flatland) His lymphatic system failed during treatment, causing fluid buildup around his stomach and lungs. Jim suffered malnutrition when draining the fluid removed electrolytes and proteins. By October, doctors gave him two months to live. Leslie got it in writing. Yet as he sat in the hospital, saying his goodbyes, Jim had a thought: “Why couldn’t we take those fluids from my stomach and put them back into my heart, where they need to be?” The question sparked an idea for one of Jim’s doctors, who inserted a shunt normally used to treat cirrhosis. Within two weeks, the fluid buildup was gone. On Dec. 27, when he was home filing paperwork, Jim came across the letter telling him he only had two months to live. He did the math, and then they had an “I ain’t dead yet party.” At the party, Jim sipped his first glass of wine in a year, and the couple danced once again to their favorite song. The luster remained up until this week, when an infection flared up around the shunt, and the fear of cancer returned. This most recent medical challenge has shown Jim and Leslie how important their faith is in preparing them for the troubles that can lie ahead. The convention, and especially its theme, is coming at just the right time to help guide them through this newest trial, Leslie said. “No one is shielded from the human experience,” Leslie said. “But personally, we find it better to be prepared to keep these types of relapses in their proper perspective.” — Catherine Wheeler is a multimedia intern for Flatland. She is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Catherine has a bachelor’s degree in English-Writing from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She currently lives in Kansas City. You can reach her at cwheeler@kcpt.org
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  16. How to get kids ready for, and excited about, the Great American Eclipse You’re standing in the yard with your children. The temperature has just dropped 20 degrees, and it’s pitch dark. Not normal nighttime dark — your kids have seen that before — but completely black, as though all the light is gone from the world. Because it has. The Great American Eclipse is coming Aug. 21. For the first time in American history, a total solar eclipse will be seen only in the United States. It is also the first total solar eclipse since 1918 to move from coast to coast. At 10:15 a.m. Pacific time, totality begins outside Depoe Bay, Ore.; at 2:49 p.m. Eastern time, it ends near McClellanville, S.C. In the time between, the eclipse will darken 12 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. Eighty percent of the U.S. population lives within 600 miles of the eclipse path. In short, if you don’t live in what scientists call “the totality band,” you need to get there. The rest of North America will see a partial solar eclipse, but astronomer Jay M. Pasachoff says settling for a partial eclipse when you could see a total one is like “standing outside an opera house and saying that you have seen the opera; in both cases, you have missed the main event.” Stepping one millimeter outside totality changes everything. Read more:
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  17. Kushner Companies, CIM Group and LIVWRK plan to turn building into office complex The iconic Watchtower sign, a glowing fixture over Brooklyn Heights, will soon disappear from the skyline. Earlier this month, the Jehovah’s Witnesses filed a permit application seeking to remove the 15-foot-tall letters from the roof of the organization’s now-former headquarters. The request comes nearly a year after developers Kushner Companies, CIM Group and LIVWRK Holdings purchased the building at 25-30 Columbia Heights for $340 million. Removal of the letters will cost an estimated $70,500, according to documents filed with the city’s Department of Buildings. The sign’s framework will remain in place, according to the application filed June 9. The developers — who collectively go by Columbia Heights Associates — declined to comment. Representatives for the Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t return messages seeking additional information on the sign’s future. The sign has hovered over Brooklyn Heights for nearly 50 years. The religious organization purchased the building in 1969 from pharmaceutical giant E.R. Squibb & Sons. At the time, Squibb had its own sign on the roof. According to the Witnesses’ website, the sign’s red neon lights were swapped for LEDs in 2009 — saving the organization some $4,000 in annual maintenance costs. The departure of what many have described as a Brooklyn landmark is not necessarily a surprise. When the new owners unveiled plans in May to convert the building into a 635,000-square-foot office complex — dubbed “Panorama” — renderings show some sort of sign but not the iconic letters. At the time, the Brooklyn Eagle speculated that one of the building’s new tenants would secure the rights to put their own sign in the old one’s place. In a video posted on the religious group’s website, Vernon Wisegarver, one of the group’s leaders, hinted that the sign’s time with the building was limited: “As for its future, it will probably remain with that building as long as we remain with that building.”
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  18. Sorry, not those aliens. A new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution points to the Hawaiian Islandsas a global hotspot for "established alien species," or invasive breeds of plants, animals, and insects. So although when we picture the Big Island we may conjure its iconic giant sea turtles and surfing dolphins, it's actually teeming with life introduced by humans. Hundreds of feral pigs, goats, donkeys and sheep run free on land, while cute-but-destructive guppies are pervasive beneath the waves. The study, conducted by an international team of scientists based at Durham University, is the first to identify global hot and coldspots of invasive species by analyzing data on eight different taxonomic groups (birds, fish, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, vascular plants, ants, and spiders). Yes, spiders get their own category. By identifying areas saturated with non-native species, the researchers were able to find trends—qualities that made these areas especially prone to ecosystem-upsetting infiltrators. In particular, they found that hotspots are more common in island or coastal areas in regions with high gross domestic product per capita, and high human population density. In other words, wealthier, more populated areas connected to the ocean have more alien species. That means there is no doubt that we play a key role in introducing these potentially destructive creatures. Read more:
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  19. President Barack Obama signed a letter to the United Nations in 2016 accepting the Paris climate Last week, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But it will take more than one speech to pull out: Under the rules of the deal, which the White House says it will follow, the earliest any country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020. That means the United States will remain a party to the accord for nearly all of Mr. Trump’s current term, and it could still try to influence the climate talks during that span. So the next four years will be a busy time for climate policy. Mr. Trump’s aides plan to keep working to dismantle domestic climate programs like the Clean Power Plan. And the world’s nations will meet regularly to hash out details of the Paris agreement, even as the United States’ exit looms. Here is what comes next. Read more:
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  20. Jehovah’s Witnesses from across the region are preparing for their annual convention next month in St. Charles, Missouri. A message of persevering with hope over the daily struggles of life is the theme of the two consecutive weekends, July 21 and July 28, at Family Arena in St. Charles. “Most would agree that we live in a world of uncertainty so the significance of this event is to show how God supplies endurance to all sorts of people today,” said Bob Valenti, media services overseer for Jehovah’s Witnesses. The convention features talks and interviews by some of the church’s elders. There will also be guest speakers from Jehovah’s Witnesses’ world headquarters in Warwick, New York. Valenti said that what draws most people to the convention is the public discourses Sundays at 11:20 a.m. “This will prove to be most encouraging. In addition to the entire event, it will show how individuals and families can enjoy a happy life,” Valenti said. “Our attendees walked away with renewed hope.” All sessions are free. For more information, go to bit.ly/1oA5CA1 [www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/conventions/].
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  21. Indiana woman Jamie Porter claimed her first-grader son was punished for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance. Now she is suing the teacher and principal allegedly responsible. The complaint, obtained by Fox 59, said the incident happened in March. Fuqua Elementary School teacher Kelly McFarland allegedly sent the boy to the principal’s office because he stayed seated during the pledge. Asked why he didn’t recite it, he said that “he was doing it to protest the government of the United States, as it was racist, greedy and does not care about people,” the lawsuit stated. Later, Principal Mary Beth Harris‘ office allegedly made him practice reciting the pledge. He and his mother now seek damages after he disliked the way school officials treated him. He was also still mourning after his father recently passed away, the lawsuit said. LawNewz.com reached out to McFarland and Harris for comment, and will update when they respond. The Vigo County School Corporation, a public school district, has not been sued. Case law on this sort of allegation remains very clear: officials cannot make students say the pledge. Doing so violates kids’ First Amendment rights. This dates back to the 1943 Supreme Court case West Virginia v. Barnette. They voted 6-3 on behalf of several students, all of whom were Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to stand for the pledge on religious grounds. Justice Robert H. Jackson said the government, including school officials, couldn’t force people to say things they don’t mean: To sustain the compulsory flag salute, we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individual’s right to speak his own mind left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not in his mind.
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  22. “It is time for states and governors to lead,” Gov. David Ige said. Hawaiian Gov David Ige (D) signed two new climate bills into law on Tuesday that adhere to the Paris Agreement. Hawaii has become the first American state to pass environmental measures that adhere to the Paris climate agreement, just days after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the international pact. “Truly, in this day and age, it is time for states and governors to lead,” Hawaiian Gov. David Ige (D) said at a press conference on Tuesday, ahead of signing the two bills into law. Senate Bill 559 and House Bill 1578 commit to expanding methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state. They also target agricultural practices with the goals of improving soil health and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a statement from the governor’s office. “Hawaii’s natural environment is under threat,” Ige said. “Climate change is real, regardless of what others say. Hawaii is seeing the impacts, first hand.” Read more:
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  23. It was one in the morning in late March when Luis, a 43-year-old Mexican man, tiptoed across the floor in his socks. He had just been startled from sleep by the sound of violent knocking on the door of the double-wide trailer where he and a few other farmworkers live. He was terrified; he leaned against the wall and listened. Luis is no stranger to violence. Even though he has worked on a relatively tranquil apple farm in upstate New York’s mid-Hudson region for over a decade, he originally came to the United States to flee the violence in Guerrero state on Mexico’s west coast. For years there, vigilante militias have been fighting back against local warlords. The last time he was home, five years ago, Luis wanted to stay. He drove a pickup truck as a form of taxi service for hotel workers, but the warlords held him up at gunpoint, threatening to kill him if he didn’t give them a cut of his fares. (Pseudonyms have been used in several instances throughout this article to protect the identities of undocumented farmworkers and the farmers who employ them.) “If you don’t pay,” Luis told me, “they kill you.” So he journeyed back to the United States, walking across Mexico every night for a week under the guidance of a “coyote,” or human smuggler. That, too, was frightening. He says he was so thirsty, he thought he might die. But in March, in the middle of the night in the Hudson Valley, Luis’s fear wasn’t dehydration or gangs—he was afraid that agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement might be outside. He locked the door to his bedroom and waited. Eventually, the knocking stopped, but Luis barely slept that night. The next day, he found out that the hammering on the trailer’s door was an incoming guest worker who had wound up sleeping outside on the stoop of another sprawling double-wide trailer on the farm. During picking season in late summer, the farm houses dozens of seasonal and undocumented workers. Luis had good cause to be afraid. About a week prior to the late-night knocking, ICE had picked up an undocumented farmworker on this same farm because he’d been convicted of two DUIs. And a few days after that, on a different apple farm just a few miles away, ICE had come before sunup for a 23-year-old man, Diego, who is from Guatemala. He had also been charged with DUIs. Diego is one of four brothers who, one by one over the years, all hitchhiked from Central America, walked across Mexico, and eventually found their way to the Hudson Valley to pick apples. He’s now detained, awaiting deportation proceedings in lower Manhattan. According to his attorney at a local nonprofit public-defense firm, Diego has a less than 5 percent chance of getting bail, much less staying in the United States. Continue reading
  24. ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - Four conventions will be held in Lubbock, Texas for the Jehovah's Witnesses this summer. Jehovah's Witnesses from Eastern New Mexico and West Texas will be gathering at the Memorial Civic Center in Lubbock, Texas over the summer for four conventions exploring the theme "Don't Give Up". The group is also extending the invitation to all, regardless of religious affiliation or belief. "The theme will be discussed through scriptural presentations, dramatizations of real-life events and recreations of biblical accounts" said event spokesman Robert Sprecher, an elder at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Portales, New Mexico. The four three-day conventions will be divided into two Spanish and two English events. The first of the three-day Spanish conventions will begin Friday, June 16. The second will begin on Friday, July 7. The first English convention will begin Friday, August 4, and the second will begin on Friday, August 25. All events will begin at 9:20 a.m. There is no admission fee for the events and no collections taken. The Jehovah's Witnesses are supported by voluntary donations. This year the group expects around 10,700 members and interested persons to attend this years conventions. Last year there were over 430 conventions in 110 cities and 32 languages. Recently, Jehovah's Witnesses were in the news after being labeled an "extremist organization" by Russia. Worldwide there are more than 8,300,000 Witnesses in over 119,000 congregations. Fore more information, visit their website at www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/conventions
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