Minnesota’s first residential gambling treatment center remains only … – South Washington County Bulletin

There have been lessons learned in how best to help those in need, but otherwise, only incremental gains have been made in responding to what many term the “silent addiction,” according to today’s team at the Vanguard program.

In terms of access to care for compulsive gambling, the country today is where it was in the early 1970s with treating chemical dependency, according to Mike Schiks, executive director and CEO of Project Turnabout, which also offers alcohol and drug recovery.

The Vanguard Center for Gambling Recovery in Granite Falls, an independent program within Project Turnabout, remains the only residential treatment program for compulsive gamblers in the state, and one of only a handful in the country, he said.

Most of those who arrive for care discover insurance companies do not cover their treatment costs, unlike the case for chemical dependency. Vanguard “stretches” the funds made available by the state of Minnesota from unclaimed lottery prizes and its own fundraising efforts to make possible much of the care it offers, according to Schiks and Mark Sannerud, communications director for Project Turnabout.

Many other things remain the same as 25 years ago too. Only 1 to 10 percent of those who need help for compulsive gambling will obtain it, according to Sheryl Anderson, coordinator for Vanguard.

Their lives may be in a mess, but they put off getting help in the belief that it can all be solved with one big win.

“Just maybe I can get myself out of this,” said Sherry Parker, director of residential services, of the thought pattern.

There’s another, equally disturbing pattern with this disease: “It is pretty standard that people that have a gambling problem are seeking help for lots of other things way before they ever seek help for gambling specifically,” Anderson said.

Anxiety; thoughts and attempts at suicide; financial, marital and family stress; and criminal behavior are among the issues that many will report as their problems. And yet, unless the question is directly asked, few will disclose that compulsive gambling is at the root of their troubles. “So much shame and stigma is associated with it,” Anderson said.

The secret about this addiction that remains the most difficult to expose yet today is the toll that compulsive gambling takes on families and communities, according to Sannerud. Arrests of formerly law-abiding citizens. Divorces and broken families. Suicide attempts, ER visits. Bankruptcies.

Schiks believes more should be done to identify and steer those with gambling problems to the help they need. Every county has a designated professional whose job it is to assess people who may need chemical dependency treatment. Far harder to find are those trained to recognize problem gamblers.

“Most physicians, most social workers, most psychologists, most chaplains, get almost zero training in this area,” Schiks said.

And in many ways, Minnesota is far ahead of other states. Some of those coming to Vanguard are from states where “zero” help is offered for this addiction, he said.

The Vanguard residential facility on the Project Turnabout campus in Granite Falls can care for 20 people at a time. There are usually 12 to 18 receiving treatment in any given week, Anderson said. Most patients remain for 30 days. Outpatient treatment and participation in Gamblers Anonymous or other programs is critical for recovery.

Obtaining continued care can be a challenge for those with this addiction, Schiks said. While virtually every small community has an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous group, Gamblers Anonymous groups are far fewer.

Men and women seem equally vulnerable to compulsive gambling. At Vanguard, it’s been roughly a 53 percent to 47 percent split in terms of men and women receiving care, respectively.

Statistically, men are more likely to start gambling earlier in life, but they progress to the problem stage at a slower pace, Anderson said.

Women tend to start at a later age, but make up for the lost time quickly, she said. More so than men, they tend to gravitate toward video gaming machines, where the onset of compulsive gambling appears to have a faster progression.

Opportunities for gambling are never more than a smartphone away. The venues in Minnesota for gambling, whether it’s sports betting, charitable gambling, or Indian casinos, have expanded greatly since Vanguard opened its doors.

Last year in the U.S., more than $9 billion was wagered during the “March Madness” NCAA college basketball tournament, according to the NorthStar Gambling Alliance.

Schiks is quick to point out that there are many in the state’s gaming industry who recognize the need to help compulsive gamblers. There is a certain portion of the population vulnerable to the addiction, while the majority of people can treat gaming as recreation without the adverse consequences, he explained.

“This isn’t about good guys and bad guys. This is about certain folks desperately in need of help and they deserve it,” he said.

Schiks said Vanguard’s mission today remains exactly what it was 25 years ago: Giving those with the courage to walk through its doors hope to carry with them as they walk out.

Vanguard has met many challenges in its 25 years, including the need to rebuild after a tornado tore apart its then newly built facilities in 2000.

Schiks said the Project Turnabout board of directors remains committed to providing care for compulsive gamblers even though in many ways, the financial and societal challenges remain as daunting today as 25 years ago.

“At the bottom of it all is people are worth it,” he said. “This population is worth it.”

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Minnesota’s first residential gambling treatment center remains only … – South Washington County Bulletin

1-800-GAMBLER helpline receives thousands of calls | News … – Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD More than 13,000 calls for help have been dialed to the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia since its inception in 2000, over 300 calls have been answered by the network from Mercer County alone.

Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia Marketing and Communication Director Sheila Moran said the problem is bigger than you think in West Virginia.

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that about 1 percent of the population meets the criteria for Gambling Disorder, and another 2 to 3 percent have some symptoms of problem gambling, Moran said. If you look at that in terms of the population we have in West Virginia, that is a pretty large number. Weve taken about 13,000 calls since we started in 2000.

Moran said, as with most addictions, the great majority of people dont call for help. Weve taken significantly more from Mercer (than McDowell County,) Moran said. But, again, most folks with this issue are not calling our helpline, so it is difficult to say.

When asked if the proliferation of gray machines or video poker machines made gambling worse in Mercer County or the state, Moran said the data was not available to answer the question.

We dont have the data to give an answer on that, Moran said. The majority of our calls are from people who cite limited video lottery terminals in local bars and restaurants as their primary type of gambling. The second most common type of gambling our callers cite is slot machines in casinos. We also get calls from people who play table games, scratch off tickets, bingo, online gambling and just about anything you can name.

Moran said March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. We have a 24/7 helpline, Moran said. 1-800-GAMBLER, for anyone in West Virginia who feels he or she is struggling with a gambling problem. We offer crisis counseling, mail self-help materials, give them information on support groups, and schedule them for a free consultation with a counselor in their area. We also offer guidance and counseling for people who are concerned their loved one has a gambling problem. If for any reason someone is unable to pay for continued treatment, we have funds for that.

Moran said that during this month officials work to do statewide outreach to make everyone aware of the symptoms of problem gambling as well as the help available. We are currently mailing information out to all the addiction treatment centers in the state (many people with a gambling problem have other addictions), Moran said. We are also visiting all the mental health centers in the state to provide education to them.

Moran said officials offer a free online chat for those struggling with an addiction.

We have a lot of great information on our website, 1800Gambler.net, including all of the symptoms of problem gambling, Moran said. We offer free online chat as well. Folks who develop this disorder often take desperate actions. Many people tell us they have committed illegal acts, usually stealing form their company or family or writing bad checks to gamble. Gambling addiction has the highest rate of suicide of any addiction. Many people tell us they have lost their job, spouse, and are thousands in debt due to their addiction. The good news is, we do follow up with callers who go to treatment, and we find that about 80 percent are able to stop gambling within 6 months.

Contact Blake Stowers at bstowers@bdtonline.com

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1-800-GAMBLER helpline receives thousands of calls | News … – Bluefield Daily Telegraph

SXSW 2017: At SXSports panel, future of gambling is topic – MyStatesman.com

Get ready, sports fans: Legalized gambling might be coming to a venue near you.

And if that comes true, it would mean high-dollar revenue streams at a minimum, an average of $500 million per league in rights fees alone, for pro teams and maybe even the NCAA.

On Saturday, some gambling experts made those predictions as part of the Sports Betting: No Longer Taboo panel at SXSports, part of the South by Southwest festivals.

Pro leagues and teams already are embracing daily fantasy sports, which represent small change in comparison with the $150 billion thats illegally bet on games each year.

Dan Wallach, a gaming and sports law expert, said the shift to legalized betting could happen beginning next year. It depends on whether the Supreme Court decides to hear a case involving a New Jersey law that would have made gambling on games at casinos or racetracks legal in the state. Wallach said that a conservative court could rule in favor of New Jersey.

Sara Rayme, with the American Gaming Commission, believes that legalized gambling could come online as soon as 2019.

Do stadium fans even matter anymore?

If youre a sports team, how do you turn a like or a follower on social media into a dollar figure?

These fans are big business. They buy the team merchandise and are the ones who are loyal to the sponsors. Yet chances are, theyve never been inside the stadium or arena to watch a game in person.

Claire Lewis, who is marketing director for Italys F.C. Internazionale, estimates that only 1 percent of sports fans attend games. So that means teams should start worrying more about the 99 percent, i.e., who they are, what they buy, where they live. Thats where the money is.

But how do you mine the 99 percent for revenue?

Mike Conley is tasked with that as vice president for digital marketing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It would seem to be a cool job. The Cavs are the defending NBA champions, and LeBron James could be the most well-known athlete in the world.

But in Conleys world, its about getting fans, especially the international ones, to become loyal to the Cavs as opposed to sticking specifically with James.

If I can get 2 million people in China to start wearing (a T-shirt) with Cleveland across their chests, Conley said, then my job is done.

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SXSW 2017: At SXSports panel, future of gambling is topic – MyStatesman.com

States Spending the Most (and Least) on Gambling – 24/7 Wall St. – 24/7 Wall St.


24/7 Wall St.
States Spending the Most (and Least) on Gambling – 24/7 Wall St.
24/7 Wall St.
Source: ThinkstockTaking risks is at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit that is often associated with the American way of life. While not exactly entrepreneurial, …
Could a Sands Casino sale seal the deal for online gambling in Pa …Allentown Morning Call
Opinion: Online gambling won't cure Pennsylvania's budget …Pocono Record
Iowa gambling regulators may consider impact of casinos when deciding on new licensesGamingTodaySlotsToday
Play Pennsylvania –Casino Scam Report
all 9 news articles »

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States Spending the Most (and Least) on Gambling – 24/7 Wall St. – 24/7 Wall St.

Sheriff: Massive ‘pill house’ and gambling operation busted – FOX 5 Atlanta

TELFAIR COUNTY, ga. – Since Wednesday, a short piece of plywood stood propped up in the front of a Telfair County home with a simple message spray-painted on it: “Pill House is Closed — Telfair County Sheriff.”

In this case, a suspected major supplier of dangerous prescription drugs is now out of business and if convicted, will likely spend the rest of his life in a prison cell where he will never attribute to the death or demise of another person suffering from an addiction to prescription pills, Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson wrote on the agencys Facebook page this week.

Wednesday, deputies raided Lumber City home. Investigators said they seized thousands of prescription pills, illegal drugs, numerous firearms, more than a dozen slot machines, and cash in excess of $12,000. The sheriffs office said this is the culmination of a 4-month investigation which began a tip from a citizen and ended with the execution of a search warrant and the arrest of two people.

This investigation began after concerned citizens alerted me to unusual and suspicious activity in the area of the Sirmans residence near Lumber City Ga. Our deputies patrolling the area quickly developed the necessary information that assisted sheriffs investigators in building a rock solid case against the suspects, Sheriff Steverson wrote.

Arthur Alex Sirmans, 69, of Lumber City, who owns the home, and Bethany Dawn Thompson, 25, of a Brunswick, were taken into custody on multiple felony charges.

If not for the actions taken by these private citizens and our law enforcement, untold thousands of pills would without a doubt continue flowing through this network, wrote Sheriff Steverson.

Sirmans is being charged with multiple counts of sale, possession and intent to distribute Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V drugs. He is also charged with multiple counts of possession of a gambling device and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Thompson is being charged with conspiracy to commit a crime. Investigators said both are likely to face more charges once they have fully processed the evidence and completed the investigation into their operation.

We can be proud of those Concerned Citizens for getting involved, as well as our exceptionally hard working and determined Deputies and Investigators who worked this investigation tirelessly from start to finish, Sheriff Steverson wrote.

Investigators will be busy going over hours of home security video footage and interviewing possible witnesses. They expect to arrest more individuals as the investigation progresses.

NEXT ARTICLE:U.S. Marshal’s Office: Dangerous criminal may be in Atlanta area

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Sheriff: Massive ‘pill house’ and gambling operation busted – FOX 5 Atlanta

Gambling lords get STL franchises – Inquirer.net

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno ALBERT ALCAIN/Presidential Photo

To eradicate the illegal numbers game jueteng, the government has decided to grant franchises to gambling lords so that they would shift to small-town lottery (STL) instead, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said on Sunday.

Sueno said the granting of STL franchises by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) was part of President Dutertes efforts to stamp out jueteng and replace it with STL.

He wants everyone to shift to STL because the government gets a percentage from its earnings. I think [PCSO] earned around P400 million monthly last year from STL, Sueno said in a radio interview.

The PCSO was able to find a way to give a franchise to these gambling lords. There should be no more jueteng only STL, he said.

Sueno said the monthly government income from STL was expected to rise this year to around P2.2 billion a month.

Sueno said it was from these funds that the President obtained the money to help Filipinos in need of medicine or food.

Actually, he has already released P1 billion I think either to (the Department of) Health or to DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) to buy medicines, he said.

Sueno earlier vowed to fight illegal gambling after reports surfaced that certain individuals were allegedly using his name to collect bribe money from illegal gambling operators.

I dont want to receive anything from illegal gambling. So, for the local government units and the Philippine National Police, expect that we will be strict in the implementation of anti-illegal gambling policies, Sueno said.

He said there should be a stop to the proliferation of illegal gambling if local government units and the PNP work hand in hand with a clear mandate of combating illegal gambling.

The LGUs and the PNP should be working doubly hard to eradicate illegal gambling, because if they help each other, there is no way it will persist, Sueno said.

He also released information relating to his statement and admission of being bribed by undisclosed illegal gambling protectors during a Senate hearing for games and amusement early this week.

Even before I became [Interior] Secretary, someone from Manila was already going to me asking if I want to accept [a bribe]. I said, I dont want to accept, I dont even want to entertain you, he said.

Sueno said the bribery attempts continued as early as his first week as chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government but he added that he did not to accept any money.

He said he was stunned when he heard reports that someone collected money on his behalf.

I have asked somebody to investigate on this matter. They say a police officer collects P12 million a month in Central Luzon. Here in Metro Manila, its P400,000. That does not include the other regions, he said.

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Gambling lords get STL franchises – Inquirer.net

Euthanasia should be a last resort Bjorn Formosa, ALS sufferer – Malta Independent Online

Well-known activist, founder of the Malta ALS Foundation and ALS sufferer Bjorn Formosa believes that the debate about euthanasia is being made prematurely, and that it should only be a very last resort.

Speaking with The Malta Independent, Mr Formosa explained that it is his belief that if a person is still able to communicate with the world in one form of another, there is still scope for living.

We want to improve the quality of lives. You cannot decide what state a person is in, and ultimately the choice is always individuals.

Mr Formosa believes that we need to speak about the living-will before speaking of euthanasia. As I have always said, the living will is something that gives peace of mind to all. If a patient fills out a living-will and gives their indication of what they require, the doctor will know what the patients wishes are precisely, as it is written black on white.

A living will is a written consent form which allows a terminally ill patient to decide not to receive treatment, should their state deteriorate to unmanageable levels.

Like that, the next of kin do not have to decide on behalf of the patient, and the patients can decide for themselves. Everything is written and confirmed from before, whether the person wishes to receive treatment or not when reaching a certain stage. This already takes place indirectly anyway.

Mr Formosa continued: In many cases, at least with regard to ALS sufferers, patients lose hope because they dont have adequate care, or rather the means to access adequate care. For example in my case, if I didnt have certain things, I would be much more negative.

So for those people living with terminal illness, who look at life in a very negative way and are suffering, I believe that everything should be done in order to improve that quality of life. I would try to leave the issue of euthanasia as the last option.

As long as a person can communicate their message in some shape or form, I believe that person can still do a lot. When a person has literally no way of communicating with the world, then the situation becomes much more difficult. As long as I have some strength left in my body, I always want to work in favour of life.

Look at that Italian guy, who became paralyzed, he is blind, and is enduring endless suffering. In that case, the scope for life is greatly diminished. I believe that we are jumping the gun when we speak of euthanasia in a number of specific cases, such as mine. Certain problems can be tackled through medical interventions, and we should fight to get more solutions.

If a person wants euthanasia, nobody can really control that situation, it is an individual decision.

ALS respite home

Last Friday, Mr Formosa, through the popular PBS programmeXarabank,managed to raise over 900,000 in order for the Foundation to realise its dream of setting up a specially equipped respite home for ALS sufferers.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the government will cover the annual expenses of the home.

Yesterday, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, through the Malta Community Chest Fund (MCCF), presented Mr Formosa with a cheque worth 10,000 in aid of the Malta ALS Foundation. Speaking at the press conference, Mr Formosa had said that he hopes the project will be able to give ALS sufferers some genuine hope and rest, and that they may receive treatment and care in a place specially equipped for the requirements of such patients. He expressed hope that at some point a cure would be found for the tragic illness.

Asked what his chances are of being able to see his dream project completed, Mr Formosa bravely said: Well, I used to work in iGaming, so I look at it as a game of odds. If I had to place a bet, it would be leaning more towards the side of me not living to see this project completed. It would be really difficult to see it done, but obviously I will do everything in my power to see it progress as much as possible. This project has given me peace of mind, in the sense that, with or without me, this project is going to happen and funds have been allocated, so that other ALS sufferers will have everything they need to improve the quality of their lives.

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Euthanasia should be a last resort Bjorn Formosa, ALS sufferer – Malta Independent Online

Euthanasia’s slippery slope is no longer a fantasy – National Right to Life News

By Charles Lewis

It ran in The Ottawa Citizen in December at a time when most people were thinking about the glad tidings of Christmas.

Health Canada, the story said, had struck a committee of experts to study expanding the current euthanasia law to mature minors and those with mental illness. The term mature minors was not defined, the story said. The committee will also look at adding an advance consent clause such as to specify desire to be killed in a living will. It must report by December 2018.

It was a confirmation the slippery slope argument against legalized euthanasia was not just a paranoid fantasy to scare supporters of state-sanctioned death but a living, breathing menace.

The law passed last June was supposed to be restrictive and safe. It said only adults whose suffering was unbearable and whose death was reasonably foreseeable could legally die at the hands of their physicians. From the time of legalization to mid-December, the last statistics made available, 744 Canadians had died under the new death regime. The same act that was considered murder just over a year ago is now an acceptable part of medical practice.

We know nothing about those 744. The specifics are private. Those physicians and ethicists who oppose euthanasia will tell you the current law allows for judgment calls since reasonably foreseeable is not an exact science. End-of-life predictions have become more difficult which should be something to celebrate. We all know those who have had cancer, a diagnosis that was a death sentence a generation ago, living for many good years and in some cases beating the disease completely. Euthanasia has the potential to destroy those years beyond which a reasonable diagnosis can predict.

This is one of the perverse things about euthanasia. For years medical science has made huge strides in fighting deadly diseases and finding ways to quell pain. Yet, just as progress was soaring a collective decision was made to throw death into the mix.

As for the Health Canada review, no one should be surprised. Those of us who have been battling euthanasia have long known how Belgium and The Netherlands degenerated into death societies over the past two decades. In those countries almost any reason is good enough to die. It is embedded in those countries cultures and it will not be long before the vast majority of citizens of those countries will be unable to remember a time when life was precious and worth saving.

The evidence for the slippery slope was also made apparent during the run-up to legalization.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision in February 2015 to scrap the Criminal Code prohibitions against euthanasia and a subsequent parliamentary committee charged with creating new legislation demanded by the court, recommended those with chronic pain, psychiatric issues and those who were dying be given access to death. There was also a call to study euthanasia for teens.

The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau seemed to choose a more reasonable law, hailed by some as a Solomon-like compromise. But now the ghosts of those earlier extreme proposals loom.

Euthanasia is a corrupter of society. It destroys law, medicine, and care. It destroys the sense of nobility in which men and women strive to save and restore lives. We still sorely lack palliative care for those of us who do not want to kill ourselves but live our days as if each was a gift from God. At last count 70 per cent of Canadians who need palliative care cannot get it.

How we got here is now less important than what we will do now. There is no political party who will save us. At least on this issue, politics is dead.

Having said that, we should lobby provincial MPPs [Member of Provincial Parliaments] to make sure doctors whose conscience tells them euthanasia is murder are not penalized for their refusal to cooperate in any way with the killing of their patients. The Archdiocese of Toronto along with many allies is gallantly fighting for conscience protection.

Beyond that there will still be doctors who are willing to kill. And God only knows what the next generation of medical school students will be taught.

We must find ways of taking care of ourselves. It will have to happen at the parish level, sometimes the only true communities left in our ultra-mobile world. And it will have to mean that those Catholics who present themselves for the Eucharist, who harbor support for killing, better wake up and remember who they are. You may fool some but not God.

Get ready. Learn as much as you can. A new dark age is already happening. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Editors note. Mr. Lewis is a Toronto writer. This appeared in The Catholic Register.

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Euthanasia’s slippery slope is no longer a fantasy – National Right to Life News

Groton man who robbed Old Lyme bank on a bike sentenced to five years – theday.com

A judge sentenced a Groton man to five years in prison Wednesday for robbing an Old Lyme bank in 2015, telling the man to put himself in the position of the victims of his lengthy criminal record.

Herman “Butchie” Smith says he doesnt remember the afternoon in September 2015 when he walked into the Webster Bank in Old Lyme andgave a teller a white plastic bag and a note written in purple crayon that said, “Give me the money no one gets hurt,” his defense attorney told Judge Hillary B. Strackbein in New London Superior Courton Wednesday.

Smith, whose acquaintances told police the Groton resident was addicted to heroin, was under the influence of drugs that day,attorney M. Fred DeCaprio said before Strackbein sentenced Smith to five years in prison and imposedfive years of special parole following his release.

Smith, 40,had pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery as part of a plea agreement between DeCaprio and State’s Attorney Lawrence J. Tytla.

Tytla said Smith, who fled the scene of the robbery on a bicycle, left the bank with about $14,000.

He has 22 criminal convictions for robbery, larceny and drug possession, and served three years in prison for the 2007 robbery of a Mystic Bank, according to police and court records. He also has violated probation requirements for many of those sentences, Tytla said Wednesday.

Smith’s sentence also includes a three-year sentence for conspiracy to commit second-degree larceny and a one-year sentence for violation of a protective order, both of which he will serve concurrentlywith the five years for robbery.

Smith pleaded guilty to both of those charges under the Alford Doctrine, which indicates he does not agree with the state’s version of the case but does not want to risk a trial, where he could receive a harsher sentence if convicted.

After police releasedsurveillance photographs of the Sept. 23 robbery to the media, several relatives and acquaintances contacted police to identify him. Some recognized Smith, a reported UConn Huskies fan and an avid bicyclist, because he was wearing aHuskies basketball cap in the surveillancephotos andfled on a racing bike.

Strackbein admonished Smith for his lengthy criminal record and told him that bank tellers “have to live in fear anytime someone walks in the bank.”

“People who think that drugs are victimless crimes are wrong, once again,” she told Smith. “If you want to use drugs and rob people, and rob banks,that’s going to be your life … and so far that’s been your life.”

m.shanahan@theday.com

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Groton man who robbed Old Lyme bank on a bike sentenced to five years – theday.com

Readers Write (March 12): Fishing fees, teacher shortages, urban/rural divide and culture, Uber discounts and … – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Since the late 1950s, when my stepdad and I fished what later became the Boundary Waters, I have been an avid outdoorsman and fisher; thus, I feared I would take a significant step down in quality of these experiences when I moved to St. Louis in 1998. I was wrong. From home, I was 50 minutes from Boundary Waters-like experiences, wading a clear, spring-fed stream in the Ozarks, casting for smallmouths, which, though smaller than most in Minnesota, were as feisty; and although I didnt catch walleye or northerns, I did catch rainbow and brown trout bigger than most Minnesota specimens, and large crappies and sunnies. I recently moved back to Minnesota and, after reading in the Star Tribune about proposed fishing license fee increases, thought I would cost comparison, state vs. state, these experiences.

Last year in Missouri, being over 65, I paid nothing for a resident fishing license, just $7 for trout. In Minnesota, I would pay $22, though if 90 (past my life expectancy), I would also be able to fish free (thank you) plus $10 for trout. In Minnesota, I can fish with one line and two over ice. In Missouri, I once calculated that, between pole, jug and trot, I could fish with 23 lines (plus two hands for noodling). And its easier to fish in Missouri. One page in that states fishing regulations book lists all license fees; in Minnesotas, its three pages. Missouris regs book is 48 pages; Minnesotas, 92. Now, Missouri has few natural lakes but many reservoirs and fishable ponds, and though Minnesota, with 12,000-plus lakes, has more fishing opportunities, its probably worthwhile to put all this in perspective.

William Pilacinski, Blaine

TEACHER SHORTAGES

So theyre flaming out. The question, then, is: Why?

The March 5 article on teacher shortages in Minnesota with emphasis on the metro area was interesting, alarming to a point and woefully short of information. The information included the numbers of teaching vacancies posted last month for special education, science and math (more than 200). Statistics included 46 percent leaving the profession since 2008, 15 percent leaving after year one and a three-year retention rate of 55 percent for St. Paul schools. Not a strand of information about why teachers are leaving the profession other than use of the term flaming out. Good solutions require good problem definition. Until the Minnesota Department of Education and the Legislature take a good look at why teachers leave the profession, I would imagine their solutions will be ineffective. Thats a shame for a state that used to be a net exporter of well-qualified teachers.

Alan Briesemeister, Delano

As a former student in a special education teaching program, I believe there is more to the deficit in qualified teachers than stringent licensing requirements. I lost interest in a career as a public school educator once I actually spent time in a classroom. When 15 percent of new teachers leave after one year, we need to look at the education system as a whole.

Our public schools are designed like factories, rather than being a reflection of the communities they serve. Million-dollar, state-of-art facilities with the latest in technology are not what our teachers or children need to succeed. Strict schedules, one-size-fits-all curriculum and an emphasis on indoor work is not helping our national test scores surpass those of other countries, especially Finland. Finnish classrooms emphasize play, creativity, outdoor learning and the arts, according to Timothy D. Walker, an American teacher who moved to Finland and runs the Taught by Finland website.

Minnesota has options for private or charter schools offering a different learning focus, including Montessori programs and arts-focused schools like Da Vinci Academy. However, for new teachers who want a job, these smaller, private programs may not be geographically or financially feasible, or even be hiring. Why cant our public schools evolve? We should be empowering teachers to creatively form their own learning spaces, rather than focusing on fulfilling bureaucratic testing goals. Our kids need art class more than iPads, outdoor learning more than technology, and play time more than work sheets. Lets encourage our local public schools to be more open to hiring teachers who passionately implement different learning tools and unique ideas, rather than alienating those who cant (or wont) conform.

Danielle Wiener, Stacy, Minn.

URBAN/RURAL DIVIDE

At least us country mice know how to dress at the theater

The March 5 commentary Bridging our city mouse/country mouse divide contained some very interesting points. I would question who the hayseeds are, though.

My wife and I, residents of West Central Minnesota, attended The King and I on a recent Saturday night at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. We felt overdressed. My wife wore a dress, and I wore a sport coat with a tie. I saw two other ties on men in a crowd of approximately 2,000.

After the play, we noticed some people on the sidewalk taking selfies with the marquee in the background. These hayseeds had dresses and sport coats on and were obviously excited to be at a high-caliber performance.

I wonder what the Lincoln Center touring company thought when they looked out over the audience and saw stocking caps, bluejeans, T-shirts and tennis shoes. And most of those outfits suggested that the wearer had just left a burning house.

Gordy Wagner, Glenwood, Minn.

UBER

Journalists should steer away from pitching its promotions

Shilling for Uber, as occurred in a short item the March 5 Minnesota section, is not appropriate. While noting the companys expansion is one thing, listing its promotion codes is an entirely different and unethical matter. Especially given an earlier article on Ubers lack of ethics (Uber used its app to identify, block law enforcement, March 4). Star Tribune, please revisit your policies and editing.

Christine Soderling, Eagan

TRUMP AND AYN RAND

She would have adored him, and Democrats are obstructionists

When Democrats made a movie about Republican Ayn Rands book, Atlas Shrugged, it was docile, as expected.

Now Ive read Jennifer Burns We just might miss the heartless Ayn Rand (March 5).

After the first three paragraphs, I was done. They were wrong, wrong and again wrong.

Then, for some inexplicable reason, I started back on it, as she was trying to tie Milo Yiannopoulus into the mix.

Well, Ms. Burns, I think Trump is the absolute capitalist outsider Rand would have loved.

My liberal friends are screaming at me every day that Trump is failing (OK Monday through Friday). Well, he doesnt even have his full Cabinet in place sheesh!

Tell Sen. Al Franken to give Trump some breathing room. How can we possibly evaluate his progress when Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar havent even voted in his Cabinet?

Rob Godfrey, St. Louis Park

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Readers Write (March 12): Fishing fees, teacher shortages, urban/rural divide and culture, Uber discounts and … – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Liberal party defends preference deal with One Nation after WA election loss – The Guardian

The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, says the Liberal partys preference deal with One Nation was intended to minimise losses in the Western Australian election. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

One of the architects of the Liberal partys preference deal with One Nation in Western Australia, the federal finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has defended the controversial arrangement, and he has refused to rule out a future preference deal at the federal level.

Cormann told the ABCs Insiders program on Sunday the preference deal, which put One Nation ahead of the National party in some areas, was negotiated in an attempt to put a floor under the Liberal partys declining primary vote, which he said was as low as 29% in internal party polling.

The strategy failed to deliver the desired result and Labor has swept to power in WA courtesy of the weekend election, with Mark McGowans new government currently tipped to pick up 40 seats in the state parliament.

The latest count in WA puts the negative swing against the Liberal party at 15.7% and the positive swing to Labor at 9.7%. One Nation, which had been polling in the double digits according to published surveys, polled under 5% in the final state wide count.

Cormann on Sunday defended the controversial preference arrangement with One Nation, arguing it would make a positive difference for the Liberals in a couple of seats and was justified on the evidence before the partys state executive at the time they made the decision.

Anticipating backbiting and bloodletting in his home state, Cormann noted the state executive had approved the deal unanimously.

If we wanted to minimise losses, maximise our chances of holding on to seats, we needed to be able to source preferences and, clearly, these werent going to come from Labor and the Greens, the finance minister told the ABC on Sunday morning.

He refused to rule out further cooperation at the national level, saying these are judgements that will be made at the right time.

Cormann said the Liberal party would assess the factors behind the weekend rout in WA.

I am personally very comfortable that Labor and the Greens obviously should always be towards the bottom of our ballot paper, Cormann said.

But the deputy prime minister and Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, was unequivocal in his negative assessment of the preference deal, which he categorised on Sunday as a mistake.

He said the preference deal had two problems: the Liberals had overestimated One Nations electoral support and had confused their constituency.

Its in the Liberal partys interest to be close to the National party and its in the National partys interest to be close to the Liberal party, and its in both our interests not to confuse anybody else, Joyce told ABC radio.

I think the Liberal party should preference the Liberal party and the Nationals should preference the Liberal party.

They are separate parties, they talk to different constituencies, but people see them as a team and we should stick to that idea.

It hasnt been a good day in the office and there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.

You rate your preferences in the order of people you would like to run the country.

Joyce noted the One Nation campaign had been a bit of a shocker but the Nationals had done well in farming regions and would likely hold their at-risk seats in the mining regions.

The One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, was also walking away from the preference arrangement on Saturday night.

Doing the deal with the Libs has done damage to us, in all honesty. It was a mistake, Hanson said. We are really going to have to have a good look at this because all I heard all day leading up to this election was why are you sending your preferences to the Liberal party?

Hanson suggested the problem stemmed from doing a deal with a major party leader past his use by date. It wasnt One Nation. I think it was Colin Barnett people did not want Colin Barnett.

Its like when youve got milk in your fridge and its starting to go sour, you throw it out, and thats what they should have done.

Cormann was asked about criticism from the National veteran Ron Boswell last week that the Liberal party was being too accommodating to Hanson since her return to the federal scene last year.

He rejected the Boswell critique, saying the government had no choice other than to develop a positive relationship.

In the Senate, if we want to get important legislation through for our country, in our national interests, we have to deal with the people that have been elected by the Australian people into the Senate, Cormann said Sunday.

We have to work with One Nation senators as we have to work with Nick Xenophon Team senators, as we have to work with the Liberal Democrats and Cory Bernardi and others represented in the Senate.

That is our duty and responsibility to do that.

Cormann also played down local controversy about WAs share of the GST as a factor in the result.

This was a big issue in the lead-up to the last federal election and we won 11 out of 16 seats, and 54.7% of the two-party preferred vote, the finance minister said.

This is an issue in WA, no doubt about it. By the same token, we have to be realistic on what a national government can do in relation to these sorts of issues and the timetable is determined by what happens with the GST sharing arrangements moving forward.

There is a flow-through effect, principally from the prices for iron ore and the royalty revenue that is generated on the back of iron ore exports.

That will play out over the next few years and there is an expectation in the not too distant future, WAs share of the GST will start increasing again and, if and when that happens, there are certain options available where the floor can be established without actually taking money away from any other state.

That is the way it should happen.

Federal Labor argued there were substantial federal implications from the result, with frontbenchers arguing the recent Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates had hurt the Liberals and One Nation both supporters of the proposed cut.

Bill Shorten took to Twitter to deliver his verdict and to criticise Cormann for failing to rule out future preference deals with One Nation.

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Liberal party defends preference deal with One Nation after WA election loss – The Guardian

New Liberal MP rings opponent at 3am – 9news.com.au

Newly-elected Liberal MP Peter Katsambanis rang his opponent in the middle of the night to gloat after winning a bitterly fought battle for the seat of Hillary’s in Perth’s north.

Rob Johnson, a former police minister who fell out with Premier Colin Barnett and turned independent, on Sunday released what he said was a “drunken phone message left on my mobile at 2.49am this morning from Peter Katsambanis”.

“Hello Rob, this is Peter Katsambanis calling, have a great day, enjoy the rest of your life, thank you, bye bye,” it said.

Mr Johnson was unimpressed, saying “this demonstrates exactly why I ran for the seat in yesterday’s election – I believe the people of Hillarys deserve better.

“This phone message and his comments to the media last night and this morning were deplorable and is representative of the dirty, vindictive and dishonest campaign he ran against me in the past few weeks,” he said.

“On a brighter note, I have thoroughly enjoyed tremendous support and loyalty from my local community and am proud of what I achieved in my 24 years in parliament.”

Mr Katsambanis lost preselection for Hillary’s to local businessman Simon Ehrenfeld in a vote by local branch members but Liberal powerbrokers stepped in and would not endorse him.

AAP 2017

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New Liberal MP rings opponent at 3am – 9news.com.au

Pauline Hanson Blames Liberal Preference Deal For Failure To Win A Single Seat In WA Election – BuzzFeed News

Labor has stormed home to win the state vote, achieving its biggest primary vote in WA since 1986. With a swing of around 16% against the eight-and-a-half year Liberal Barnett government, four Liberal ministers have lost their seats and Labor could win 10 more seats than the 30 needed to form government.

With 67% of the vote counted, ABC election analyst Antony Green has predicted Labor will hold 40 seats to the Liberals 14 and the Nationals five in the lower house. Only 4% of the upper house vote has been counted but at this stage Labor is in the lead, followed by the Liberals, Nationals, One Nation and the Greens.

Federal finance minister Mathias Cormann said the Liberals huge loss in WA was a long time coming and big swings werent unexpected.

Cormann was behind a preference deal that saw the Liberals preference One Nation ahead of Coalition partner the Nationals in upper house regional areas, in return for One Nation preferencing Liberals over Labor in all lower house seats it contested.

He admitted on Sunday morning that the deal had backfired.

Fewer people ended up voting for One Nation than otherwise might, he said on the ABCs Insiders.

At the beginning of the campaign, our primary vote was on 29%. The published polls were indicating that One Nation was on a 13% primary vote, and they have come in less than that. People will have all sorts of interpretation but, in the end, you have to look at the evidence.

But Cormann refused to rule out any future preference deals with the right wing party, either at a state or federal level.

Rebecca Le May / AAPIMAGE

ID: 10684790

One Nations support collapsed in the last week before the campaign.

At the start of the campaign the party was polling 13%, but that fell to 8% after comments by Hanson questioning the safety of childhood vaccination. In the end it achieved just 4.7% of the primary vote.

As the results started to roll in on Saturday night, Hanson admitted the deal with the Liberals was a mistake.

All I heard all day and leading up to this election was why are you sending your preferences to the Liberal Party? she told Seven News.

Hanson said she would look closely at any future preferences deals.

See the rest here:

Pauline Hanson Blames Liberal Preference Deal For Failure To Win A Single Seat In WA Election – BuzzFeed News

Arizona Trump supporters call for ‘liberal genocide’ – The Grio

Last weekend, an Arizona community held a March for Trump that included heavily armed militiamen, white nationalists, a few elected officials and other locals.

I heard lock her up, lock her up, and we still need to pursue that, announced Arizona Congressman Anthony Kern in reference to Donald Trumps campaign promises to jail Hillary Clinton. And that was one of the milder things said at the rally.

If you dont like it here, go to Syria, go to someplace else, one attendee said.

I dont want em, as a veteran I dont want em, let em go back home, said another. If theyve got a problem, let Saudi Arabia take care of em.

Georgia student allegedly said he wanted to exterminate alln****s

Others spoke toDan Cohen of the The Real News Network about just who they wanted out of the country.

If she is Jewish, she should go back to her country, a 13-year-old Trump supporter said.

This is America, wedont want Sharia Law, one attendee explained. Christian country.

Then there was the chilling call for a liberal genocide from an Oath Keeper, who said:I just want to let them know that I cant wait for the liberal genocide to begin.

Thats the way to make America great again, he later toldCohen. Liberals are destroying the country.

See original here:

Arizona Trump supporters call for ‘liberal genocide’ – The Grio

Donald Trump’s election and the erosion of liberal democracy (3 letters) – The Denver Post

Thinkstock by Getty Images

Re: Is liberal democracy in retreat? March 4 Christopher Hill column.

Christopher Hill suggests that President Donald Trump is threatening liberal democracy and has little respect for our system of checks and balances. Hill needs to check his data on who is doing the eroding.

President Trump is taking decisive action to reverse past presidential erosions by enforcing immigration laws, nominatingSupreme Court Justices who dont userelativistic interpretations, stopping the EPA from making laws, and overturning a federal health care law that is being forced on states and individuals.

Therefore, it is strange for Hill to say, alluding to Trump:Elections are not meant to transcend or overturn democratic institutions or the separation of powers.

Perhaps the worldwide retreat to which Hill has alluded has been caused by imposing liberal democracy on countries whose social structure is tribal allegiance (Iraq and Afghanistan), and the erosion of the rule of law in our own country.

Don Garretson, Conifer

Christopher Hills commentary clearly shows why Donald Trump won the election. His assertion that this bizarre presidency produces constant anxiety ignores the fact that the hysterical, outlandish refusal to accept defeat by the Democrats is what creates the anxiety. Protesters and mobs have tried to bring the government to a standstill, if not to its knees. Hill goes on to say that the president doesnt understand American democracy and its checks and balances.

Seems to me Trumpunderstands them very well. He has tried to correct actions by the previous administration using the same executive orders as it did. Having a cherry-picked judge impose a stay does not make an action wrong. Many of us are tired of these tactics and want to see courts that respect the Constitution, not progressivism.

People who make a living in politics lose their objectivity and a feel for the pulse of the nation, and Hill should spend time speaking to real people, instead of politicians and world leaders who see everything through the prism of government control.

Rick Roeder, Littleton

Christopher Hill seems content to denigrate President Donald Trump, arguably the worlds easiest target, rather than to ponder Trumps surprising rise. As many ordinary Americans know, our citadel of democracy functions little better than its Middle Eastern equivalent. The system has been gamed by the personal-wealth-seeking, bait-and-switch political class.

Heres the question Hill should ask: How did Trump do it? Hint: It wasnt the Russkies. Voters were given the choice between a kleptocrat who got rich while inpublic service and an unscrupulous business tycoon who got rich beforepublic service. Struggling wage earners, ignored except during political campaigns, desperately grasped onto a few populist phrases.

In 1517, when Martin Luther tacked his manifesto on the door of a German chapel, who knew it presaged the downfall of the greedy, monolithic European Church? With pundits like Hill unable to see the forest for the trees, Americans must wait for our Martin Luther.

Mary Marcus,Englewood

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Donald Trump’s election and the erosion of liberal democracy (3 letters) – The Denver Post

Pfaff: GOP Leadership Undermining the Trump Agenda Setting Up 2018 Fight with House Freedom Caucus? – Breitbart News

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It turns out that isnt the case at all. The House Freedom Caucus and conservative groups like Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks and Club For Growthamong otherscame out opposing the plan. And the furor began. Whats being revealed as this plays out is the real challenge it will be to drain the swamp. And as the fault lines between conservatives and leadership in the House widen, the Trump agenda is truly at risk.

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Paul Ryan in his now famous PowerPoint Press Conferencesent a message to the House Freedom Caucus and conservative groups. They dont understand the reconciliation process, he said. He drew a line in the sand against to their efforts when he said, The time is here. The time is now. This is the moment, and this is the closest this will ever happen. It really comes down to a binary choice.

Its a binary choice over something which has no costs associated with it. The Congressional Budget Office has not released their report on its budget effect. And some members of Congress are openly concerned the report might show severe impacts on future spending. House leadership hasnt been forthcoming on the fiscal impact either.

Paul Ryan has been sending a message to conservatives. He is telling them to either accept the plan or not. And while conservatives arent yet falling into line, an effort to oppose them during the 2018 campaign is beginning to emerge. It may be a repeat leaderships 2016 efforts to take out conservative members.

Just this week, a group began a $500,000 ad campaign targeting 30 House Freedom Caucus members calling upon them to support what is now being called Ryancare. Similar efforts were initiated against Freedom Caucus members like Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) last year taking out Huelskamp.

Ultimately, Paul Ryan is causing severe harm to the agenda of President Trump. The Speaker knew the bill he released would have strong opposition from conservatives. Sen. Rand Paul was already explaining the reasons for opposition when he complained how the House was hiding the bill in the last few weeks. As the politics in the House continues to deteriorate, there is speculation that while feigning support for the Presidents agenda, House leadership is using the legislation to set up an electoral fight with conservatives next year.

I found myself in the middle of this give and take serving Cong. Tim Huelskamp as his Chief of Staff. Immediately after the 112th Congress began in January 2011, leaders in the House offered a spending cut of $38.5 billion in the budget. They claimed they were taking aggressive steps to get spending under control. But no CBO report had been issued to confirm that number. Our office found the actual CBO research which revealed the cut was only $352 million (not billion but million). House leadership was apparently hiding the report. We released it to a furor of condemnation in the House. I met with Boehners Chief of Staff Barry Jackson. He was furious. Ill just say this meeting set the tone for the ongoing backlash against House Freedom Caucus members and John Boehner ever since.

A typical pattern emerged in the House after 2011. Bills were written in the Speakers office. They were forced through the committees with limited amendments. They proceeded to the Rules committee which is stacked with members loyal to the speaker. Conservative amendments were killed there. And the bill reached the floor with rules taking away the right of members to amend the bill.

Conservatives have been shut out of the process for years. And it seems nothing has changed.

The House could have offered a full repeal bill. Speaker Ryan is making a passionate plea against the idea saying it would be filibustered in the Senate and die. But experts are saying that might not be the case at all.

Reconciliation is a mystery to the average Americanmostly because members of Congress make it so. Reconciliation is a process created through the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 that allows changes to budget items to reconcile with the then current budget on a simple majority vote. Spending items only are allowed under Reconciliation.

Some experts believe Congress can pass a full repeal of Obamacare in a reconciliation bill. Paul Winfree of the Heritage Foundation argued this in a Politico article last November:

it is clear that those rules are inseparable from the rest of the ACAs structure. In fact, the Obama administration argued this before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell, the case over whether enrollees who buy insurance through the federal exchange are eligible for subsidies. As a result, Congress may repeal those regulations via reconciliation.

The Senate Parliamentarian could certainly rule against a bill with full repeal language, but there is a simple fix to that. The presiding officer can rule against the parliamentarian, and the Senate can overrule her with a simple majority vote.

GOP leadership in the Senate and House know this. But they are unwilling to take the risk.

This is where President Trump can use his political heft to bring a solution. And it just might save his agenda from an initial defeat.

He can sit down with Speaker Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and conservatives and hash out a full repeal now. President Trump can send Mike Pence to the Senate to override any negative ruling by the parliamentarian, and Obamacare can go to the ash heap of history.

The Swamp doesnt want this. But Donald Trump could once again defy the odds and make winning great again.

Continued here:

Pfaff: GOP Leadership Undermining the Trump Agenda Setting Up 2018 Fight with House Freedom Caucus? – Breitbart News

Hicks column: Tell South Carolina lawmakers you believe in open records, meetings – Charleston Post Courier

Despite this unexpected burst of quasi-winter weather, its Sunshine Week in South Carolina.

Now, folks who believe this nonsense about the press being the enemy of the people may dismiss concerns about the Freedom of Information Act. They might think its just whining by the Fourth Estate. But its not.

Sunshine Week is about the peoples right to know what the government is up to. Anyone who has ever invoked FOIA to extract information from a police department, state agency or city council knows what a pain that can be.

Bureaucrats often delay requests for months and then charge unreasonable, unfathomable copying and research fees that are seemingly meant to deter people from access to information that, technically, they already own.

As a front-page story today notes, when reporters Lauren Sausser and Tony Bartelme asked to see emails regarding an incident at MUSC, they were given a bill for $275,000.

That is exactly why South Carolina needs more Sunshine not for the tourists, for the transparency.

The only people who can control this particular sunshine, however, are state lawmakers. And now they’re getting push-back from state bureaucrats.

So they need to know this matters not only to the press, but to voters.

For more than four years, the General Assembly has tried to pass meaningful FOIA reform.

The House actually passed it in a previous session, and the Senate was ready to follow suit when those efforts were derailed by the objections of one senator.

These bills are not a huge sea change from what government is already supposed to provide, which is easy access to public documents and information. All this legislation does is set reasonable copying fees and turn-around times for requests, and establish a dedicated administrative law judge to quickly review disputed requests.

You know, when state officials don’t think they should have to turn over certain documents.

This is common sense stuff, but over the years there has been some wrangling over the public’s right to see autopsy reports, police car dash cams and officers body camera footage. One insidious bill in the hopper right now would even exempt nonprofits and chambers of commerce from the FOIA.

Sorry, but any group that takes public money must show how it is spent.

The real problem right now is a fiscal impact statement from the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office which suggests it will cost state agencies about $800,000 to comply with the law. Which they are already supposed to be doing.

A half-dozen state agencies have claimed it would take of an average of $150,000 each to supply the manpower needed to honor FOIA requests in a timely fashion.

That could cost FOIA reform some support, even though many lawmakers believe those numbers are padded or agencies aren’t complying with the law now.

Either way, it’s a flimsy excuse to deny citizens’ right to know how their taxes are spent.

State Rep. Weston Newton, the FOIA reform bill’s primary sponsor, believes freedom of information is one of the fundamental duties of government. People have a right to know how their money is spent and what their elected officials are doing.

He’s right.

Newton believes FOIA reform will pass this year, but state agencies have muddied the water a bit.

“The bill we have has been through a multi-year, multi-level vetting and it’s a good bill,” he says. “I am disappointed that a handful of state agencies have come in at the 11th hour to say it’s going to cost taxpayers significantly more to do that which they are already supposed to be doing.”

Cynical people might think elected officials, being politicians, would be the ones most opposed to complete transparency in government. Turns out it’s the bureaucrats.

This is probably no conspiracy; state agencies are not likely hiding rampant malfeasance. The sad truth is they probably just don’t want to be bothered with pulling the records and providing the information and being forced to get it done on a deadline.

The problem is their cries of added cost could result in some lawmakers wavering in their support. After all, these folks aren’t real keen on spending money.

But let’s keep this in perspective. This isn’t just a media issue, it’s meant to protect the people and their money. Frankly, regular citizens have the toughest time navigating FOIA red tape.

And they don’t have First Amendment lawyers on speed dial.

These days a lot of folks are politically active and waste no time calling elected officials to voice their opinion. So maybe it’s time they add Freedom of Information Act reform to their weekly calls.

Let state legislators know this isn’t about the press it’s about transparency.

Here is the original post:

Hicks column: Tell South Carolina lawmakers you believe in open records, meetings – Charleston Post Courier

Whole of It: ‘Free Cake at the Top’ – Scottsbluff Star Herald

At one point during our trip to New Zealand, I pedaled next to Carol along the 84-mile long West Coast Cycle Trail near Kumara, New Zealand, and took in the scenery. The grade wasnt awful but since wed been climbing for the past 10 miles we were wondering if wed ever make it to the crest of the hill. Just then a man whizzed past us on the downhill and shouted Free Cake at the Top! Curious, and knowing there was a caf ahead, we redoubled our efforts.

New Zealand was like that. Always something around the corner. We knew New Zealand would be cool. Thats why we decided to go to New Zealand because it would be summer for the first leg of our 5-month overseas adventure, and it was far, far away. We were also cutting the rubber band, that invisible force that keeps small children close to their parents at playgrounds and airports, and adults from getting too far out of our comfort zone.

I expected to be wowed by the beautiful, exotic country and I was. There is no other country Ive seen that packs such sweeping vistas, exotic geology, such a kind people in so small a space. But as much as I was continually stunned by the views that greeted me each day, or warmly welcomed by the Kiwis; the two-island country is not where Id want to live.

The U.S. is my country and despite her flaws, I love everything about her. Others leave for a myriad of reasons, some political and some practical. Last year, 5,411 people voluntarily gave up U.S. citizenship, according to numbers from the U.S. Treasury. Many were already living overseas and became tired of negotiating U.S. bank and tax regulations. But, over 50,000 people in the U.S. looked at the Immigrate New Zealand website the day after the US general election in November. Hopefully, some of those who looked at New Zealand as a harbor in a storm will benefit from our experience.

Before chucking it all and moving to New Zealand, here are a few things everyone should know.

Auckland, New Zealand is 7,623 miles from the center of the U.S. It is tomorrow, today, as we crossed the international dateline just west of American Samoa and east of Tonga near 180 degrees longitude to reach New Zealand. The flight can take as little as 16 hours and as much as two days. The first thing the customs officer asks is, When are you leaving?

New Zealand is split into two islands, about the area of Colorado, and is located along the Ring of Fire upon which most of the active volcanoes lie. The geology is young since the country continues to rise from the ocean due to frequent earthquakes. The 2011 earthquake in Christchurch damaged 100,000 homes, destroying 10,000. The 2016 Christchurch earthquake damaged thousands more and raised the seabed about 18 feet around parts of the coastline. In neighborhoods and along the roads are blue signs indicating tsunami evacuation routes. Tip: If youre threatened by a tsunami climb up.

New Zealand is expensive, even factoring the 18 percent discount we get with the U.S. dollar. While we were riding in Bar Harbor, Maine, we met a man who had planned on biking about eight weeks in New Zealand but left after four.

The beer was too expensive, he said. I ran out of money.

Carol and I cooked most of our own meals while in New Zealand. We found the prices are higher than in the U.S. by a pretty good margin. A can of Old El Paso refried beans cost $5 USD. A can of Libbys pumpkin $4.50 USD. We were surprised that many staples, like peanut butter, $4 USD for 16 ounces, are processed in and imported from China. At the PaknSave (like an Aldi) streaky bacon is $5 USD per pound; ice cream $4.20 USD half-gallon; ground beef $4.20 USD per pound; and boneless chicken breast $3.40 USD per pound.

Carol and I also planned to Wild Camp on public lands to save money during our trip. Wild camping is free. Unfortunately, due to a small percentage of campers who left messes wherever they camped, most districts recently restricted tent camping on public lands and require campers to go to private holiday parks. Those parks charged tent campers $32 USD to $56 USD per night for a spot. Granted, most of those had common kitchens we used, but we found out that an AirBnB, with a soft bed and shower, instead of cold, wet, hard ground, only cost a few dollars more and sometimes less.

New Zealand also promotes bicycle touring, which we did. The infrastructure is not yet there to help the touring bicyclist. We cut our touring short because of four things: We did not agree with the guidebooks characterizations of multiple daily 1,000 foot ascents as rolling hills; there are no shoulders on the roads to protect us from large trucks, tourists in RVs not used to driving on the left side of the road, and our timeline. We simply did not have enough time to ride the distances, safely, that we needed. A bicycle tour in New Zealand should be solely on the bike trails, and there are many and the views are better without the smell of diesel. The rub is that to get from trail to trail the cyclist needs vehicle support, and that drives up the cost.

Even with the expense and remoteness of New Zealand, a reason to move to New Zealand is the people. We were treated with kindness and curiosity about Trump everywhere we visited.

Among the many kindnesses we received was from a bike shop owner. Our last day on Waiheke Island we toured an outdoor art show and Carol got a flat tire, literally the only day we rode without a patch kit. I removed the tire and rode the 3 miles into town to eCyclesNZ. In the back door came Carol and the owner of the shop, Darleen Tana. She and her family had given Carol and her bike a ride into town. We rented the bikes from another shop on the mainland.

I saw the bike missing the wheel and wandered over, Darleen said. I thought maybe it was stolen.

As Andrew, the shop mechanic, put aside his work and fixed the flat, Darleen told us her husband is an automotive engineer by trade but is currently developing the Onya Electric bike. She said they moved to the island to have a better life.

We wanted the children to be able to go to school barefoot, she said.

We thanked them for all their help.

Just tell people to use their local bike shop. Use their local bike shop.

Our expectation of New Zealand as a utopia were unmet, but the generosity and kindness we received from everyone, made the first stage of our trip enjoyable. We biked hundreds of miles, ran a half-marathon midway through for a good cause, and camped by rivers, mountains, and lakes with absolutely stunning views.

As for the free cake at the top there was no free cake or any cake at all. There was just a small American western/cowboy themed resort where we bought sandwiches and ate them.

Continue reading here:

Whole of It: ‘Free Cake at the Top’ – Scottsbluff Star Herald

Aged care play Oceania Healthcare’s pitch to fundies – The Australian Financial Review

More than two-thirds of Oceania Healthcare’s sites are on New Zealand’s North Island.

Meet the aged care rollout story setting course for the listed market.

Macquarie-backed initial public offering candidate Oceania Healthcarehas told fund managers it has 1674 new residences in the pipeline with about 1000 already eitherconsented or under construction.

The New Zealand-basedcompany had $NZ47 million in proforma underlying EBITDA in the 2016 financial year, which was up from $NZ26.9 million in 2014 and $NZ29.6 million in 2015.

That represents 32 per cent average annual growth, and Oceania expects similar sorts of numbers into the medium term fuelled by the aforementioned development at sites including Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Nelson and Christchurch.

Oceania said care beds were the biggest part of its portfolio, and would make up 47 per cent of its business under current development plans. Independent units is its biggest growth engine, and is expected to grow to 38 per cent of the portfolio.

That’s Oceania’s pitch, as it goes about meeting Australian fundies ahead of a planned listing.

Owner Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets has house broker Macquarie Capital on board to manage the offer, while Kiwi brokers Deutsche Craigs and First NZ Capital – affiliates of the local Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse respectively – are also along for the ride.

Fundies expect the company to be back in front of them as early as next month. As always, whether the IPO floats or flops will depend on pricing.

Investors were quick to compare Oceania torivalsSummerset Group Holdings and Metlifecare, which are already on the ASX boards, and the NZX-listed Ryman Healthcare and Arvida Group.

While the five players operate in the same sector, their respective business mixes are quite different. Oceania has made its name in care beds, which is similar to Arvida, while Summerset Group and Metlifecare make their money from independent units. Rymanis split more evenly between the two sub-sectors.

Oceania is just the latest in a long line of Kiwi floats seeking to drum up support among the Australian institutional investment community.

Its run at the ASX boards comes after earlier attempts to attract a private equity or trade buyer for the 48-strong retirement facility portfolio.

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Aged care play Oceania Healthcare’s pitch to fundies – The Australian Financial Review

Hayley Wolfenden rides to an Oceania BMX podium – Western Advocate

12 Mar 2017, 10:30 a.m.

Bathurst BMX Club rider Hayley Wolfenden earned herself a new career highlight an Oceania podium.

TWELVE months after she placed secondat the national titles, Bathurst BMX Club rider Hayley Wolfenden earned herself a new career highlight an Oceania podium.

GOOD START: Bathurst BMX Club’s Hayley Wolfenden leads the way over Kiwi rival Toni James in a moto during the Oceania Championships. Photo: ANYA WHITELAW

Competing at her home track over three days of racing last weekend, the 26-year-old showed up some of her more experienced rivals.

Riding in the 17 and over womens class, she placed third in both BMX Australias national series on Friday night and the Grands Assault series on Sunday afternoon.

Though that pair of podiums was impressive, it was eclipsed by her second placing in Saturdays Oceania Championships for her class.

The result was the biggest of her BMX career thus far.

Its your home track, so its sort of strange to contemplate that it came it such a big event, she said.

Youre racing international riders. It definitely felt like something bigger than a club meet.

Its pretty much the second highest group before you turn pro, if youre not riding pro you tend to ride that group.

While a mistake on the second jump on Friday night saw Wolfenden go from first to third in her final moto, the performance still gave her confidence heading into the Oceania Championships.

With no final conducted for her class, it meant Wolfenden needed strong performances in each of her three motos.

The first race I was leading to the line where I shouldve got one extra peddle in, but I didnt, she said.

I thought I might be up for therewin after that. But the next two motos were a bit of a different story, I just got seconds and that was what decided the overall result.

If your group was small, what they did was a point score system instead of a final, so every race counts. So its even harder again, its not just a matter of making the final and pulling it all out then.

I needed to win two out of three to get first placebut second, I cant complain, thats for sure.

Wolfenden placed second in each of her three motos to be runner-upbehind undefeated New Zealand rider Toni James.

The Kiwienjoyed a clean sweep for the three events, but given her experience, Wolfenden was happy to have tested James.

The girl that beat me on Saturday, well she beat me every day, I think she said that she has been racing since was three whereas I have been racing for five years. I was Okay, youve probably got 10 years or so of racing on me.

Ive just got to work on a few tiny things and hopefully next time I will be keeping up with the experienced ones.

Wolfendens next big test will be Septembers state titles.

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Hayley Wolfenden rides to an Oceania BMX podium – Western Advocate