Saturday, October 26, 2019

God's Precious Gifts

Essays on Faith

26 October - Charleston Gazette Mail

Page 5C

God's Precious Gifts

By Peggy Toney Horton

             “Let me stay in this moment... forever!” I said, as I surveyed my surroundings on this glorious October afternoon. The hills are speckled with color. Dazzling reds, oranges and yellows stand out amid dull greens and browns. Warm sunshine, less intense than it was a month ago, highlights the beauty of the mountains.

A few days ago, I was excited about the beautiful orange maple tree in my front yard. Well, guess what? Millions of orange and yellow maple leaves now cover my front yard. 

They're ankle-deep! 

And the few left on the tree are letting go willingly as the gentle October breeze nudges them. The scene reminds me of an overnight snowfall in January – when you go to sleep in one kind of world and awaken in another. I think it’s odd, too, that the maple tree is nearly naked while a pear tree standing a few feet from it is still covered with shiny dark green leaves. It’s as if the ornamental pear tree allows me one last look at summer even as I relish the splendor of autumn.

Ah, how the changing seasons delight me! 

Spring with the sudden appearance of a warm, yellow sun, welcome after a long, cold winter; showers that assist the sun in the gentle awakening of sleeping violets, crocus and daffodils. 

Summer with its sometimes unbearable heat and humidity; lightning and thunderstorms that both frighten and amaze us; evenings filled with the giggles of children as they play a variety of games or catch lightening bugs.
My beloved autumn who flaunts her cerulean sky, brilliantly colored foliage, shorter days, and a quietness that foretells a more restful time ahead. 
Winter with its cold gray days, long nights, unexpected snowfalls that delight children of all ages, and joyous holidays that bring families together in loving celebration.
But with only five days left of the month I eagerly anticipate all year, I plan to enjoy each day to the fullest. 

How could I not love October?

The first man I ever loved was born in this magnificent month. My father. And he was every bit as gentle as October. He had a smile like a soft, white cloud that could melt a chocolate bar at twenty paces. He hated discord and was a peacemaker his whole life. 

He was the brightest ray of sunshine in my life. He was always there for me. My mother worked outside the home and my father worked shift work, making it easy for him to be with me when she couldn’t. He cooked, he took me places, he was funny, always cheerful and my friends liked him. Thanks to this arrangement, I was a happy child.

But nothing ever stays the same. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change!

Sometimes, when things are going very well, we wish they’d never change but, deep down in our soul, we know they will because that’s just the way life is. Without change, we wouldn’t grow. Without change, we wouldn’t learn. Without change, life would become stale.

Most of us don’t like change because we fear the unknown. But it comes whether we want it or not, and whether or not we like it!

Some say change is not difficult if you’re in control, but we all know that God is in control of everything that happens in our lives and He has a good reason for everything He does. Yet, our human nature often resists the changes that come and it’s difficult to adjust.

Unfortunately, all changes aren’t good. Some alter your life in ways that aren’t welcome.

On the coldest, dreariest day in January, a month that is nobody’s favorite, my father passed away. It was the darkest day of my life! I couldn’t understand why God would take such a good man and loving father; a man who had not one enemy.

After he died, my mother never stopped telling me, “You’re exactly like your dad!” But I didn’t mind. I reasoned that if I were that much like him, then a part of him still lived.

As time passed, that theory was borne out as I began to see his face in the warm, yellow glow of springtime and hear his laughter in the giggles of children as they played games on hot summer evenings; and when I caught a glimpse of his smile in a clear, blue autumn sky, and recalled his quiet demeanor on a hushed October evening; and when winter brought an unexpected snowfall, reminding me that my father loved snow as much as I.

Thank you, God, for each lovely season and for the precious gift of memory that allows us to hold our loved ones ever near to us.

Peggy Toney Horton may be reached at

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Home in the Heavens

17 Aug 2019 

Essays on Faith 

A Home in the Heavens

By Peggy Toney Horton

            We once lived in a two-story house so high on a hill that you could almost reach up and touch the clouds.To get there, you had to drive around and around a hillside on a narrow road, almost meeting yourself coming back in one spot. When you finally reached flat land, you were in front of our house, except you had to look up to see it. It was perched atop another hill and had 30 or 40 steps leading to it.
Higher and higher you climbed until you were on the front porch, which spanned the full width of the house and had a porch swing at one end. We enjoyed many summer evenings swinging on that old squeaky swing while watching lights twinkle in the darkness of the city below.
The front door opened into a large living room with a fireplace on one side and a flight of stairs on the other. Upstairs, the master bedroom, on the front of the house, boasted three adjoining windows. The view was dizzying as your eyes were drawn to the winding road that led to our home.
I couldn't help thinking, "This has to be about as close to Heaven as one can possibly get without dying."
We moved there in midsummer - a spectacular time! With copious blooming flowers and trees, cultivated by previous owners, surrounding the house, it felt surreal - like another world - and yet, in only five minutes, you could be off the hill and back into civilization.
Winters were beautiful, but difficult. Trying to drive the hill in snow was an exercise in futility and walking it was nearly impossible. However, when snow covered the abundant foliage and long, pointy icicles formed on roof edges, it was a lovely sight to behold and felt even more otherworldly than summer.
Our children played on the hillside that was our front yard. Although it was practically a prerequisite to have one leg shorter than the other, they adjusted and had a wonderful time. One saving grace was the level concrete patio at the back, right outside the kitchen door. It was the width of the house, giving our youngest daughter ample room to ride her tricycle.We bought a 6-foot redwood picnic table where the kids shared their summer lunches with ants and bees and the family dog.  Family picnics were fun, too!
Our two sons started school during our time on the hill. I felt uneasy when they left each morning to walk down the many steps that took them off the nearly vertical hillside and then several blocks to the school they attended. Fortunately, our next door neighbors had a daughter, a few years older, who agreed to look after them, both going and coming. In those days, people helped each other without expecting anything in return.
That trudge to school, even in wintertime, is still a fond memory for both sons.
They also walked all that distance back home for lunch every day. Most of the "hill kids" did. Those were different times.
Though life seemed near perfect, there was a fly in the ointment.
Our eldest son was a gentle soul, the essence of kindness. He wouldn't even kill a bug! He and his younger brother argued regularly over the fate of insects they often encountered.
When gentle son arrived for lunch one day with tears streaming down his face, I rushed to his side, "What's wrong?" I asked. Flinging his arms around me, he said, "Stevie Jones was mean to me."
Through clenched teeth, I said, "What did Stevie do?"
Sobbing, he said, "He hit me and called me names."
"Did you hit him back?"
Seething, I asked, "Why not?"
Looking at me in wide-eyed wonder, my boy said, "I didn't want to hurt him! Why can't he just be nice?"
Stunned, I hugged him and said, "Maybe you should ask him that question."
I prayed continuously for my son's safety. Happily, Stevie's interest in bullying was short-lived.
After four short years, we were forced to move when we learned we'd soon need more room for a new brother or sister.
Moving day was sad. None of us wanted to leave our home in the Heavens. But God always provides a pleasant memory to ease the pain of a bad experience.
Unbeknownst to us, our youngest son smuggled a kitten into the moving van just before its doors were closed. Hours later, when we unloaded and found a hungry black kitty meowing loudly, and learned how it got there, we shared a good laugh and Cleo had a good home until she died many years later.
I thank God for beautiful memories like these that bind families together forever.

"A home in the hilly Heavens" Charleston Gazette Mail 17 Aug 2019: C4
Bulletin board
Kanawha Trail Club hikes The Kanawha Trail Club will have a "Bearly Droopy Creeky Hike" on Saturday. Meet at the parking lot at the corner of Ohio Avenue and Randolph Street, across from Sherwin Williams, at 9:30 a.m. Bear Town State Park is a level half-mile boardwalk loop around amazing rock ledges and escarpments. Droop Mountain State Park is a 2.5-mile loop through history with wonderful views. Falls of Hills Creek is a 1-mile round-trip view of 3 waterfalls. On Sunday, meet at the same parking lot for a trip to Eleanor City Park. Hike about 4 miles on moderate trails, including some new sections with short hills. Zumba class The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 314 Donnally St., will offer a Basis 1 Zumba Class from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, starting Aug. 27. Each session will last two weeks. The cost per session is $20. For information, call Dax Miller at 304-348-6404 or email Girls Who Code West Virginia State University Extension Service will host an information session for the "Plane Janes" Girls Who Code 4-H Club from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 at the WVSU Aerospace Education Laboratory on the Institute campus. The free club is for middle school and high school girls interested in learning about and developing skills in computer coding. Space is limited. For information and to RSVP, contact Emma Gardner at 304-437-2448 or
How Woodstock - the bird - was inspired by the 1969 music festival
By Michael Cavna The Washington Post Ever since the early '50s beginnings of "Peanuts," creator Charles Schulz feathered his beloved comic strip with anonymous birds that popped in with mischievous, chirping whimsy. Yet it was two decades until a winged "Peanuts" creature finally got a name, becoming a fully nested character. On June 22, 1970, Schulz officially christened Snoopy's little yellow friend Woodstock, naming him for the massive counterculture music festival that was staged 50 years ago this week on the farm in Bethel, New York. Schulz was not particularly a fan of rock music - his record collection leaned toward classical and country-western - yet Life magazine's coverage of the event caught his eye. The Minnesota-born cartoonist lived in the Bay Area, which had been the locus of the "Summer of Love" a couple of years before, but the tumultuous decade was mostly reflected only glancingly in the strip, through the mostly warm and fuzzy filter of situational humor. Yet something about that word, amid the generational rise of a new youth culture, rather fascinated Schulz. "I can see him saying: 'That sounds like a bird species name,'" Benjamin Clark, curator of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, says of choosing Woodstock. "The character was pretty well-established - the character we had come to love - so he's going: 'OK, we're going to need a name so I can go forward,'" he added. Schulz - who collected words that amused him - was continually experimenting with his cast of characters, and one canary-yellow bird kept emerging as a fun foil to Snoopy, the beagle prone to flights of fancy. So what about the Woodstock name and its associations made it worthy for the cartoonist's star bird? Schulz, it turns out, was "kind of cryptic" about that, says Clark, who guided the museum's current exhibit, "Peace, Love and Woodstock," which runs through March. In one interview, the cartoonist said that the name would "be good for people who like that sort of thing," says Clark before posing the question: Was he being a savvy businessman? "I think it's much more than that," the curator continues. "He's middle-aged and looking at these young people behind him, protesting, and [asking]: 'What's that about?'" Schulz, who served in the Army during World War II, began pulling back some on the war-themed strips during the Woodstock era, including Snoopy's dogfight scenes piloting his fantasy plane, the Sopwith Camel. (The Royal Guardsmen had released the hit novelty song "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" in 1968; the tune can be heard in Quentin Tarantino's new 1969-set film, "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.") Yet "Peanuts" did sometimes reflect the changing times, including nods to civil rights and the Vietnam War. In one story, Snoopy gets invited to give a commencement speech at Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, where there's a tear-gassed demonstration over the enlistment of dogs being sent to Vietnam. And in the summer of 1968, Schulz integrated "Peanuts" by introducing Franklin, after a California schoolteacher - while grieving the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination - wrote a letter urging the cartoonist to create a black character. Franklin, whose father is serving in Vietnam, begins by sharing a beach day with Charlie Brown. Beyond the symbolism, "Schulz didn't really take a strong, definite stance on some issues, but you know he was thinking about it," Clark says. "He couldn't quite come out and be an anti-war protester." Still, in "Peanuts" strips of the era, Schulz drew birds holding protesting signs that sported only perplexing punctuation marks. Snoopy, perhaps as the cartoonist's avatar, observes the action with a wary but curious eye. For the "Peace Love and Woodstock" exhibit, the Schulz Museum borrowed historic festival memorabilia from New York's Museum at Bethel Woods, including the original art for the "Aquarian Exposition" poster that features a white bird perched on a guitar neck. For his "3 Days of Peace & Music" paper cut-out artwork, Arnold Skolnick had been influenced by a Matisse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. The Schulz Museum cannot say for sure whether the cartoonist ever saw that poster. But the naming of Woodstock continued the evolution of this particular bird character, who at one point had been Snoopy's female secretary. Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer of the classic "Peanuts" TV specials, including "A Charlie Brown Christmas," says that as Woodstock emerged as a sidekick, he became especially useful on screen. "Woodstock gave the animators a chance for action, gave Snoopy someone new to get involved with - and gave viewers a new friend." At times, Snoopy and Woodstock became like a pantomiming comedy team. Mendelson believes the animated Woodstock reached a creative zenith in the Emmy-nominated 1980 special "She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown," in which the bird provides the impromptu musical accompaniment for Peppermint Party's competitive figure-skating routine. Champion whistler Jason Victor Serinus provided the "voice" of Woodstock by recording Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro." Serinus thinks Charles "Sparky" Schulz found a sweet spot of appeal with Woodstock. The key ingredient, he says, is the character's charm. "Sparky had a way," Serinus says, "of capturing the innocence and naïveté, as well as in some ways the dark side, of humanity that speaks to people." Schulz, for example, said that Woodstock wrestled with feeling small and inconsequential. (Serinus notes, too, that Schulz once told him he initially intended the character to be a baby bald eagle.) Sarah Boxer, the writer and graphic novelist ("In the Floyd Archives"), takes a more skeptical view of the rise of Woodstock. By the 1970s, she says, Snoopy had become the rock star of the strip, necessitating a shift in character dynamics. "Woodstock evokes two things at once," says Boxer, a contributor to the forthcoming anthology "The Peanuts Papers." "At his best, he reminds us of what Snoopy used to be in the strip - the id, the sole being who communicates only with gestures, noises and thoughts." Snoopy had spent the early years of the strip walking on all fours, behaving more like an actual dog, but he increasingly assumed human characteristics. "But at his worst," Boxer says, "he reminds us what a huge commercial success Snoopy came to be, and how all superstars need acolytes flitting around them" - as Woodstock indulges Snoopy's various guises of coolness and expanding sense of self. Some readers have long wanted to find aspects of Schulz's personality within such main characters as hard-luck Charlie Brown and the ever-charming Snoopy. Yet was there part of Sparky in the small bird that couldn't fly straight, yet kept seeking to elevate his life? "There's this idea of mattering - it's so easy to feel insignificant," the museum curator says. "Schulz himself struggled with that, and thought about that a lot." And Steve Martino, who directed "The Peanuts Movie," says that sense of insignificance is essential to the character. "I think the secret to capturing Woodstock's essence is to always feel 'the struggle of the little guy,' " he says. "No flight path can be straight, and everything he does takes great effort, but he gives it his all." (Disclosure: The author wrote the foreword for the Peanuts collection "Celebrating Snoopy.")
Slovenly lifestyle could be a relationship deal-killer
Dear Abby: I've been dating my boyfriend for a year and a half. We're both 30, and we have pretty much decided to tie the knot. The only thing holding me back is his hygiene. When we met, he wasn't all that into showering and using deodorant. Slowly, over time, he has started to shower daily and wear deodorant, but he still doesn't brush his teeth. His apartment is my biggest nightmare. It is filled with opened delivery boxes, there are beard trimmings all over the bathroom, a pink ring of death in his shower, and his stovetop - well, you get the point. Should I mention that I'm one of the cleanest people I know? I grew up with well-dressed, great-smelling men in my life. They're the walking, talking real-life versions of a men's fashion commercial. Is this a make-or-break situation? We get along in so many other ways. - Hygiene's The Problem Dear H.t.p.: I'm glad you asked. Yes, this is a make-or-break situation, and it needs to be resolved before you sign up with this "cellmate" for life. While I appreciate his making the effort to shower as a step in the right direction, his lack of attention to his dental health is a cause for worry. Decaying teeth and periodontal disease can cause serious health problems - including heart issues - later in life and may be related to Alzheimer's disease. If you think his living conditions are a turn-off now, consider how they'll affect you if you marry him. He either never learned or doesn't care to pick up and clean up after himself. That task will be all yours. If you really love him, draw the line now, and perhaps it will put him on the right path. Better late than never. Dear Abby: My boyfriend of several years financially supports his parents for cultural reasons. It was expected of him from an early age because he is the only child, and he intends to support them for the rest of their days. Not only does he pay their mortgage and provide a sizable monthly allowance, but I have just learned that he is paying off all of the debts his father has accumulated over the years as well. This is in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in spending money he has given them to visit the homeland every few years. Combine this with his massive school loan repayments and it's unlikely he will have enough to be able to retire, let alone for us to have children. I am at the age where if I am going to have kids, it needs to be within the next few years, and it is looking unlikely. I love him dearly, but I'm wondering if I should stay with him, knowing that his parents will eventually need to live with us for the rest of their lives. Even questioning this is making me feel guilty and selfish. (By the way, he has told me he would have proposed by now but couldn't afford a ring as all of his discretionary income goes to his parents.) Advice? - Getting Resentful Dear Resentful: Have you told your boyfriend how you feel? If you haven't discussed it with him, you should. He sounds like a caring and dutiful son. However, unless you intend to join him in becoming a childless indentured servant to his parents, end the relationship.
Things to do today
Music JAZZ & BLUES IN THE 'VILLE: 12 p.m. Single day tickets $20. Full weekend $35. Collection of local and regional jazz and blue acts. Historic Fayette Theatre, 115 S. Court St., Fayetteville. Call 304-574-4655. HUNTINGTON BLUES CHALLENGE: 1 p.m. Free. Live music and food vendors. Heritage Station, 210 11th St., Huntington. GOSPEL SING: 6 p.m. Donations accepted. Featuring the Brightside Quartet and The Believers. Elk River Community Center, 1078 Main St., Elkview. Call 304-965-3722. CHESTER WINKLER: 7 p.m. Adults $5. Children $3. Jerry Run Summer Theater, W.Va. 20, Cleveland, near Holly River State Park. Call 304-493-6574. THE MADISON THREE WITH ALAN GRIFFITH: 7 p.m. Free. Bluegrass Kitchen, 1600 Washington St. E. Call 304-346-2871. NO REGRETS BAND WITH BILL WYMER: 7 p.m. Cover $10. Marmet Recreation Center, 8500 MacCorkle Ave. Call 304-590-0238. STEVE HIMES AND PHIL WASHINGTON: 7 p.m. Free. Olive Tree Cafe, 333 Second Ave. SW. South Charleston. Call 681-265-9158. BLUE YONDER AND BANJOU NICKARU & THE WESTERN SCOOCHES: 7:30 p.m. Adults $10. Youth 17 and under free. Pocahontas County Opera House, 818 Third Ave., Marlinton. Call 304-646-9979 or visit BLACK GARLIC AND CURSES: 10 p.m. Cover $7. The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St. Call 304-345-3914 or visit Film "SWORD OF TRUST": 5 p.m. Adults $9. Students $5. A pawnshop owner and employee team up with a couple trying to sell a sword that perhaps proves the South won the Civil War. Floralee Hark Cohen Cinema, 226 Capitol St. Call 304-767-1293. "GHOST FLEET": 7:30 p.m. Adults $9. Students $5. A group of activists risk their lives to find justice and freedom for enslaved fishermen in Indonesia. Floralee Hark Cohen Cinema, 226 Capitol St. Call 304-767-1293. Theater AUDITIONS FOR "DARK OF THE MOON": 2 p.m. Free. Directed by Robert Hutchens. A Witch Boy falls in love with a human. The play is a blend of folklore, fantasy and Appalachian culture, including musical numbers from mountain ballads and hymns. Some roles are non-singing, some are non-speaking. Pea Ridge United Methodist Church, 5747 East Pea Ridge Road, Huntington. Etc. SUMMERFEST: 9 a.m. Free. Car show. Activities for kids, food and live entertainment. The Mound in South Charleston.
Today in History
The Associated Press Today in History Today is Saturday, Aug. 17, the 229th day of 2019. There are 136 days left in the year. Today's Highlight in History: On August 17, 1987, Rudolf Hess, the last member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle, died at Spandau Prison at age 93, an apparent suicide. On this date: In 1863, federal batteries and ships began bombarding Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor during the Civil War, but the Confederates managed to hold on despite several days of pounding.In 1915, a mob in Cobb County, Georgia, lynched Jewish businessman Leo Frank, 31, whose death sentence for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan had been commuted to life imprisonment. (Frank, who had maintained his innocence, was pardoned by the state of Georgia in 1986.)In 1943, the Allied conquest of Sicily during World War II was completed as U.S. and British forces entered Messina.In 1969, Hurricane Camille slammed into the Mississippi coast as a Category 5 storm that was blamed for 256 U.S. deaths, three in Cuba.In 1978, the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight ended as Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman landed their Double Eagle II outside Paris.In 1982, the first commercially produced compact discs, a recording of ABBA's "The Visitors," were pressed at a Philips factory near Hanover, West Germany.In 1998, President Bill Clinton gave grand jury testimony via closed-circuit television from the White House concerning his relationship with Monica Lewinsky; he then delivered a TV address in which he denied previously committing perjury, admitted his relationship with Lewinsky was "wrong," and criticized Kenneth Starr's investigation.In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed when a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck Turkey.In 2017, a van plowed through pedestrians along a packed promenade in the Spanish city of Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring 120. (A 14th victim died later from injuries.) Another man was stabbed to death in a carjacking that night as the van driver made his getaway, and a woman died early the next day in a vehicle-and-knife attack in a nearby coastal town. (Six suspects in the attack were shot dead by police, two more died when a bomb workshop exploded.)
Robin Thede looks to build legacy in HBO's 'Black Lady Sketch Show'
By Jonathan Landrum Jr. The Associated Press LOS ANGELES - Robin Thede knew plenty of talented African American women comedians, but only a few were getting hired on popular TV comedy shows such as "Saturday Night Live" and "Mad TV." So, Thede decided to create her own show featuring some of the industry's funniest black women. The comic-writer-producer-actress is breaking new ground with her HBO comedy series "A Black Lady Sketch Show," which airs Friday nights. The six-episode series offers sketches written and performed by an all-black woman cast. It stars Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis and Quinta Brunson. Guests, mostly black women, include Angela Bassett, Kelly Rowland, Marsai Martin, Lena Waithe, Patti LaBelle and Natasha Rothwell. "It's a culmination of a lifelong passion for sketch," said Thede, a co-producer of the series with Issa Rae, who also makes an appearance. "When black women do get on sketch shows, we really stand out. But there are only a handful of black women who have ever been on sketch shows. Why not stack the deck and put them on all at once on one show?" Between each sketch, the four ladies huddle up inside an apartment after a mysterious apocalypse wiped out the rest of civilization. The cast plays more than 100 different characters in sketches exploring a variety of comedic story lines. There's an invisible plus-size black woman spy, for example, and sketches about ashy skin and unexpected marriage proposals. That variety is the point, Thede said. "I wanted to do a show that was challenging the views of black women in comedy for a lot of people and showing we can do anything. We can play men, women, aliens or whatever we want. It's all sorts of genres, styles and characters in this show," she said. "We've never seen black women like this before. ... In a way, this show is a love letter to black women." Thede became the first woman, African American head writer of a late-night talk show in 2015, with "The Nightly Show with Larry Whitmore." She created and executive produced BET's late-night comedy series "The Rundown with Robin Thede," which was canceled after one season. Shortly after that, Thede pitched the idea for "A Black Lady Sketch Show" to HBO. She said the network bought it "within minutes" after a dinner with her, Rae and executives. "I never shot a pilot," she said, adding that the network's quick approval showed "how confident they were in me, the idea, and the partnership between me and Issa. It's one of those ideas that when people hear it, they go, 'Yeah, of course. Why not?' It feels like something we've been missing." Thede said Black, Dennis and Brunson were "no-brainer" choices. They didn't audition for the roles, she said, because she already knew "what they brought to the table." Dennis was a stand-up comedian early in her career before she starred in Netflix's Marvel's "Luke Cage" and as Whitney Houston in the BET miniseries "The Bobby Brown Story." "No casting director would've brought me into this based on my body of work," she said. "I would not have come into someone's head for sketch. But you know luckily, how God places steps and pieces things of that nature along the way, this happened because Robin knew me from my days of sketch and stand-up. It's a full-circle moment. This gave me chills." Black is an actress-comedian who won an Emmy Award in 2017 for her writing on TBS' "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee." Brunson was a social-media sensation before she starred on her own Facebook Watch series, "Quinta vs. Everything," and had recurring roles on ABC's "Single Parents" and CW's "iZombie." Writing for "A Black Lady Sketch Show," Black said, gives her freedom to express herself like never before. "As an actor, you are beholden to a lot of other people's wishes. You get a script, there's a director, and they have an idea of how they're going to use your body to tell a story," she said. "For me, it just was never good because I'm a plus-size black woman. No one really wanted to tell the story where I'm really happy. It was always like, your life is terrible. You're sad. There's a cake hiding in your fridge. That's every script I read. The first time I did sketch, I had a chance to write it. For this show, I get to be in charge of the entire utterance of how I'm being represented." Thede was gratified by rave reviews after the first episode. "I do everything to leave a legacy," she said. "I feel like this is going to be a big part of all our legacies. That will remain true whether one person watches or 100 million. We hope for the latter. But I think this is so revolutionary, because now it exists. It's cinematic. It's beautiful. We feel proud of it. My work is about what we leave behind, not what we take." --- Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter:
A home in the hilly Heavens
By Peggy Toney Horton We once lived in a two-story house so high on a hill that you could almost reach up and touch the clouds. To get there, you had to drive around and around a hillside on a narrow road, almost meeting yourself coming back in one spot. When you finally reached flat land, you were in front of our house, except you had to look up to see it. It was perched atop another hill and had 30 or 40 steps leading to it. Higher and higher you climbed until you were on the front porch, which spanned the full width of the house and had a porch swing at one end. We enjoyed many summer evenings swinging on that old squeaky swing while watching lights twinkle in the darkness of the city below. The front door opened into a large living room with a fireplace on one side and a flight of stairs on the other. Upstairs, the master bedroom, on the front of the house, boasted three adjoining windows. The view was dizzying as your eyes were drawn to the winding road that led to our home. I couldn't help thinking, "This has to be about as close to Heaven as one can possibly get without dying." We moved there in midsummer - a spectacular time! With copious blooming flowers and trees, cultivated by previous owners, surrounding the house, it felt surreal - like another world - and yet, in only five minutes, you could be off the hill and back into civilization. Winters were beautiful, but difficult. Trying to drive the hill in snow was an exercise in futility and walking it was nearly impossible. However, when snow covered the abundant foliage and long, pointy icicles formed on roof edges, it was a lovely sight to behold and felt even more otherworldly than summer. Our children played on the hillside that was our front yard. Although it was practically a prerequisite to have one leg shorter than the other, they adjusted and had a wonderful time. One saving grace was the level concrete patio at the back, right outside the kitchen door. It was the width of the house, giving our youngest daughter ample room to ride her tricycle. We bought a 6-foot redwood picnic table where the kids shared their summer lunches with ants and bees and the family dog. Family picnics were fun, too! Our two sons started school during our time on the hill. I felt uneasy when they left each morning to walk down the many steps that took them off the nearly vertical hillside and then several blocks to the school they attended. Fortunately, our next door neighbors had a daughter, a few years older, who agreed to look after them, both going and coming. In those days, people helped each other without expecting anything in return. That trudge to school, even in wintertime, is still a fond memory for both sons. They also walked all that distance back home for lunch every day. Most of the "hill kids" did. Those were different times. Though life seemed near perfect, there was a fly in the ointment. Our eldest son was a gentle soul, the essence of kindness. He wouldn't even kill a bug! He and his younger brother argued regularly over the fate of insects they often encountered. When gentle son arrived for lunch one day with tears streaming down his face, I rushed to his side, "What's wrong?" I asked. Flinging his arms around me, he said, "Stevie Jones was mean to me." Through clenched teeth, I said, "What did Stevie do?" Sobbing, he said, "He hit me and called me names." "Did you hit him back?" "No." Seething, I asked, "Why not?" Looking at me in wide-eyed wonder, my boy said, "I didn't want to hurt him! Why can't he just be nice?" Stunned, I hugged him and said, "Maybe you should ask him that question." I prayed continuously for my son's safety. Happily, Stevie's interest in bullying was short-lived. After four short years, we were forced to move when we learned we'd soon need more room for a new brother or sister. Moving day was sad. None of us wanted to leave our home in the Heavens. But God always provides a pleasant memory to ease the pain of a bad experience. Unbeknownst to us, our youngest son smuggled a kitten into the moving van just before its doors were closed. Hours later, when we unloaded and found a hungry black kitty meowing loudly, and learned how it got there, we shared a good laugh and Cleo had a good home until she died many years later. I thank God for beautiful memories like these that bind families together forever.
Armed churchgoers training in wake of shootings
By Jake Bleiberg The Associated Press HASLET, Texas - Acrid gun smoke clouded the sunny entrance of a Texas church on a recent Sunday. Seven men wearing heavy vests and carrying pistols loaded with blanks ran toward the sound of the shots, stopping at the end of a long hallway. As one peeked into the foyer, the "bad guy" raised the muzzle of an AR-15, took aim and squeezed the trigger. The simulated gunfight at the church in Haslet was part of a niche industry that trains civilians to protect their churches using the techniques and equipment of law enforcement. Rather than a bullet, the rifle fired a laser that hit Stephen Hatherley's vest - triggering an electric shock the 60-year-old Navy veteran later described as a "tingle." The shootings this month killed more than 30 people at an El Paso Walmart and Dayton, Ohio, entertainment district. But gunmen have also targeted houses of worships in recent years, including a church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas, where more than two dozen people were shot dead in 2017. The anxiety of one mass shooting after another has led some churches to start training and arming their worshippers with guns. Not all security experts support this approach, but it has gained momentum as congregations across the country grapple with how to secure spaces where welcoming strangers is a religious practice. "Ten years ago, this industry was not a thing," said David Riggall, a Texas police officer whose company trains churchgoers to volunteer as security guards. "I mean, sanctuary means a safe place." In 1993, Doug Walker said security wasn't at the fore of his mind when, as a recent Baptist seminary graduate, he founded Fellowship of the Parks church in Fort Worth. But six years later, after a gunman killed seven people and took his own life at another church in the Texas city, the pastor said his thinking changed. Today, the interdenominational church has four campuses and 3,000 worshippers on an average Sunday, Walker said. It has increased security as it has grown, asking off-duty police to carry weapons at church events. And it recently hired Riggall's company, Sheepdog Defense Group, to train volunteers in first aid, threat assessment, de-escalation techniques, using a gun and tactical skills, such as clearing rooms during an active shooting. Walker, 51, said there wasn't a single event that prompted his church to decide its guards needed more training. But Riggall said that after mass shootings congregations reach out. "Every time the news comes on and there's another shooting in a school or church or something like that, the phone starts ringing," Riggall said. The 46-year-old police officer said that he and a colleague had the idea for the company after the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. They started doing firearms trainings with parents and, after Riggall became certified under Texas law to train security guards, transitioned to churches. The company incorporates Christian teachings into its courses and more than 90 people at 18 churches have completed the 70 hours of initial training and become state-licensed guards through its program, Riggall said. The so-called sheepdogs are insured and technically employed by the company. But they volunteer doing security at their own churches, which in turn pay Riggall. On a Sunday in July, Brett Faulkner stood with an AR-15 in hand and his back to the cross in the sanctuary of Fellowship of the Parks campus in Haslet, a community about 15 miles north of Fort Worth. He pointed the rifle at a young woman's back and yelled at the armed men advancing into the room, "I'm going to kill this woman. It's going to happen right now." Faulkner, a 46-year-old information technology worker, already completed a Sheepdog session but came to another church's to play the bad guy and keep his skills sharp. "It really just comes down to caring about the people in that building," Faulkner said of choosing to guard his small Baptist church. Faulkner said his congregation re-evaluated its security after recent mass shootings and went with Riggall's company as a cost-effective option. "This is a good balance between the cost of paying professionals and relying on untrained volunteers," he said. Security professionals differ on what balance is right. After 11 worshippers were shot dead during Shabbat morning services at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the city's Jewish community has added layers of defenses. Since that October attack, congregations that once felt guns were unnecessary or inappropriate have welcomed armed security, said Brad Orsini, security director for The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. But arming worshippers is not an approach the former FBI agent recommends. "Carrying a firearm is an awesome responsibility," said Orsini, who served in the Marine Corps before his nearly three decades with the FBI. "Because you have the ability to have a carry concealed permit does not make you a security expert. Because you have a firearm doesn't necessarily mean you should be carrying it at the church on the weekend." Sheepdog Firearms, a Birmingham, Alabama-area gun range, offers police-style training to people looking to protect their churches. Owner David Youngstrom acknowledged the eight-hour course doesn't produce experts. But, he said, many of the roughly 40 Alabama churches that have sent people to take the class are small, rural congregations with limited means. For them, having armed volunteers can feel like the only option, he said. And the trainings provide churches with evidence of having a security program in place if a tragedy turns into litigation. "It gives a good record for something that will hold up in court," Youngstrom said. Laws about carrying firearms in houses of worship vary from state to state. But as a general matter of liability, churches training members for security is not much different from a business hiring guards, according to Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law. A church could be sued if people were harmed because its security was badly trained, Volokh said, but also if it generally failed to protect people on its grounds. Both can be insured against and either is unlikely, he said. Brian Higgins, a former police chief for Bergen County, New Jersey, and instructor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said he's seen varied approaches to firearms in his work consulting at houses of worship. Attitudes toward guns differ between urban and rural areas, as do the security needs, he said. And churches comfortable arming members also draw lines to preserve an environment conducive to worship. Fellowship of the Parks allows congregants to have concealed weapons in church. But Walker, the pastor, said that other than security, people carrying openly are asked to put their guns away or leave. "If people open carry who are not uniformed that can be very unsettling," Walker said. "You may not know if that person is a possible shooter or criminal, so we try to balance it." --- Follow Jake Bleiberg at .
As summer wanes, the gains of fall are in the garden
By Alyce Faye Bragg For the Gazette-Mail A brief shower fell sometime in the night, washing the summertime dust from the leaves of the trees and refreshing the flowerbeds. The evening primrose shines pale yellow after the refreshing rain, and the garden drinks greedily of the needed moisture. The evening primrose is a unique plant. It opens at dusk and remains open through late morning. I have always loved its clean, lemon scent, and it is able to perfume an entire garden. I've always known that primrose oil has many medical uses, but research tells me that the entire plant is also edible. The leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable (greens?) and the flowers make a beautiful salad garnish. I discovered that primrose oil has many uses - it is used for preventing high blood pressure in pregnancy and also for PMS, endometriosis and hot flashes during menopause. Acne and eczema patients find it quite useful for their condition. I've always valued it for its wonderful aroma, but it seems that it is far more valuable for medicinal usage. Summer seems anxious to make her departure, as Joe-pye weed and goldenrod make their appearance. Rose of Sharon bushes still present their warm and colorful blossoms, from deep rose to lavender and deep purple. Mom's mother, Laura Alice Dodd Samples, cherished her "Rosy-churn" bushes. It was years before Mom knew she was speaking of Rose of Sharon! Yard flowers at that time included hollyhocks and black-eyed Susans, which I still favor. I remember the cosmos that Mom planted around our yard when I was a little girl, and in my mind, I can still smell their spicy scent. Fragrances seem to bring back many long ago memories, as honeysuckle brings back high school graduation and heirloom roses remind us of Memorial Day. Autumn flowers are not scented like the delicate flowers of spring, although their colors are more vivid. Ironweed brings the deep purple color and brilliant blue of the flower we once called blue gentians, but that is not their name at all. They are a low-blooming, bushy little flower, and I wish someone would identify it for me. Asters will soon be blooming, and the New England type are some of the most beautiful. There are many varieties here in West Virginia, and they are all lovely. Summer is on the wane - the gardens have a ragged look; bedecked by wild morning glories in a riot of color. A late summer fragrance hangs over the garden composed of ripe corn tassels, sweet clover and late cucumber blossoms. The creek runs low and drowsy, while above it the elderberries hang in glossy black clusters. Potato vines turn dry and brown, and orange pumpkins grow fat as the vines creep through the late corn patch. Harvest time is almost here. Soon the summer will be ended - the farewell dirge of the katydids is a lonesome sound in the night, and the plaintive quirring of the tree frogs add a melancholy note. The nights are becoming blessedly cooler, and the mornings are misty and fall-like. There is a harvest of wild foods for the gathering. Elderberries make a delicious jelly, especially when lemon juice is added. Mom used to combine it with apple juice, and she also combined apple juice and wild grape juice for jams and jellies. Another wild food appearing at this time is green milkweed pods. Believe it or not, they are really good (I think!) I fixed some when we lived on Phillip's Run, near Summersville, and fed them to one of our truck drivers. He chewed them reflectively, and then made his decision, "It's not bad. In fact, it's sort of good. A little different; kind of like a cross between green beans and broccoli." (Thank you, Rusty.) They did look a little peculiar, but the texture was tender and chewy, and the flavor was good. There was a slight tinge of bitterness, but that was probably due to my blanching process. They have to be blanched in boiling water at least three times. If I were able to get out and gather some, I'd try them again. If you are lucky enough to have sweet corn in your garden, I was sent a tip for freezing it from my friend Gloria. She says, "Barely shuck it, leaving several leaves on the cob. Pull out most silks, wrap in waxed paper, and then foil. Place it in freezer bags and freeze. To cook, thaw in refrigerator overnight, and then cook in water, or in covered pot in the microwave oven." She adds that this truly tastes fresh, and it is so easy. She gave another method for cooking fresh corn. She says to put a cooler outside, add the corn, and cover it with boiling water, Close the lid for 30 minutes - no peeking! This is perfect for fresh or thawed corn on the cob. My late friend, Norma Gray, used to cut corn off the cob, simmer it with butter, and then freeze it. It was absolutely delicious! I don't know if she cooled it before she froze it, or how she did it. I do know it was so good. Another late summer wild food is the little meadow mushrooms. They usually appear after a rain shower, and are brownish white on top and pink ruffled underneath. I have always relished them with an egg for breakfast. I remember one year when they were so bountiful that Mom made canned mushroom soup with them. I am so thankful that the Heavenly Father has let us live here in the hills where wild foods are plentiful, and His beautiful handiwork is seen all around us. I have lived here in the same spot for almost all my 84 years. I was a year old when my parents brought me here, and except for a year in Kanawha County and one year in Jackson County, this has been my home. I aim to stay here until God calls me home.
Church activities: Aug. 17, 2019
Anniversaries/homecomings Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church, 124 Marshall Ave., Dunbar, will celebrate its 101st church anniversary at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday at the church. Guest speaker will be the Rev. Racquel Gill of Winnsboro, South Carolina. For additional information, call 304-768-8351 or 304-768-4232. Sunlight Baptist Church will have its annual homecoming service at the 10 a.m. service on Aug. 25 at the church located on Island Branch in Sissonville. Preacher will be Daniel Davis and special singers include Brenda Griffin-McCutcheon and Alice Bowe. Food will follow the service. Miscellaneous Twice Blessed, a ministry of Christ Church United Methodist, will hold a Consignment Sale from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Quality children's items will be available at affordable prices. The sale also assists families in selling their gently used items and helps generate funds that support local children's charities and children's areas of the church. Elizabeth Memorial United Methodist Church's Annual Flea Market will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the church, located at 108 Oakwood Road. This giant indoor sale will feature furniture, collectibles, toys, sporting goods, housewares, home décor, art, seasonal and holiday items, small appliances, linens, clothing and more. A bake sale and hot dog sale will also be featured. Proceeds benefit global missions and state and local outreach projects. The Ministers Wives and Ministers Widows (MWMW) is celebrating their annual 5th Sunday Extravaganza at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Marriott Hotel, 200 Lee St. Tickets are $45 each and African dress is requested. The evening features fashion, fun and food. For information, call Linda Ealy at 304-419-4873, Janice Mosley at 304-444-1645 or Roberta Smith at 304-549-2332. The Minister's Wives and Ministers Widows will have a hot dog sale and yard sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday on the parking lot of New Covenant Baptist Church, corner of Florida Street and 1st Avenue, across from Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary. Sunlight Baptist Church, Sissonville, service Saturday at 7:00 p.m. with Pastor Daniel Davis preaching. Roger Cunningham will sing. Music Liberty Baptist Church, 2469 Yates Crossing in Milton, will have an outdoor sing at 5 p.m. Saturday at the church. Admission is free and no offering will be taken. The Harvesters Quartet from Sanford, North Carolina, and the Humphreys from Ripley will be guest performers. Bring a lawn chair and friend. For questions, call John Snodgrass at 304-638-0639. The Women's Chorus of Ebenezer Baptist Church, 1530 Third Ave., will have its annual Choir Reunion at 3 p.m. Sunday at the church. Featured will be Pastor Debbie Schultz and the youth team from the south Park Presbyterian Church. The Burs Family, Minister James Reese and the Martin Luther King Junior Male Chorus Band. A gospel sing featuring The BrighterSide Quartet and The Believers Quartet will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Elk River Community and Education Center at 902 Main Street in Elkview. No admission charge but donations appreciated. Concessions will be sold. Mountain Heights Church, 1201 Chestnut St., Spring Hill, will present the "Heaven" play, a musical drama, at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Danny Pettit will sing at 7 p.m. on Monday at Lucy Wilson Baptist Church, Wills Creek, Elkview. Special services Men's Day will be celebrated on Sunday at Levi First Missionary Baptist Church, 5125 Church Drive, Rand. Minister Keith Tyler will be guest speaker and Brothers in the Cross will provide music. The men of St. Paul A.M.E. Church, 1108 Second Ave., will celebrate their annual Men's Day on Sunday with an 11 a.m. service featuring Rev. John Sylvia and the Men's Choir, and a 3:30 p.m. service with guest Minister Shaun Shamblin, lay elder at Putney Memorial Church, and music by the Women of Praise from Ohio. Liberty Missionary Baptist Church, 1343 Lewis St., Charleston, will honor First Lady Cassandra Staples on Friday at 7 p.m. Guest speaker will be First Lady Chanel Collins, choirs and congregation of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. The church will celebrate the 7th Pastoral Anniversary of Dr. Jerry Staples on Aug. 25. Guest speaker at 11 a.m. will be Bishop Thomas Murray, Pastor, First Baptist of Montgomery and guest speaker at 3:30 p.m. will be Rev. Walter M. Leach, pastor, St. Paul Baptist Temple, Beckley. Dinner will be served following morning service. Brookside Ministries COGIC in Mount Carbon will feature Dr. Bruce E. Hogan, senior pastor, and a Pastoral Fellowship Service on Aug. 25 at 3:30 p.m. Guest speaker will be Apostle Robert Haley from A More Excellent Way Life Center Church in Charleston. Vacation Bible School Pilgrim Home Missionary Baptist Church, at 7015 Kanawha St. in St. Albans, will celebrate its 10th annual Women's Day during the 11 a.m. morning worship service on Sunday. The theme is "Live a life in full bloom with purpose for His Glory." The guest speaker will be Mary Poke, first lady of St. Paul Baptist Church of St. Albans. Items for Church Activities may be submitted by mail to Charleston Gazette-Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301, faxed to 304-348-1233 or email: Notices will be run one time free. Please include a contact person's name and a daytime telephone number. Information will not be taken by phone. The deadline is noon Thursday.
Mormon church: Beware of fancy coffee drinks, vaping
By Brady McCombs The Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a warning to members that coffee is prohibited no matter how fancy the name, that vaping is banned despite the alluring flavors and that marijuana is outlawed unless prescribed by "competent" doctors. The new guidance in the August issue of a church youth magazine does not include fundamental changes to the religion's strict health code, but the clarifications are significant and seem to reflect growing concern about young Latter-day Saints' adherence to the rules. The article says it aims to clear up issues that could be confusing for young people within the religion's "Word of Wisdom," a set of rules about what foods and drinks are good for members and what substances they should avoid. The rules prohibit alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs and coffee and tea. They are based on what church members believe was a revelation from God to founder Joseph Smith in 1833. The faith's rejection of coffee has long generated curiosity and more than a few jokes, including a scene in the biting satirical Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon" in which dancing cups of coffee appear in a missionary's nightmare. The new instructions about coffee make clear that there's no gray area allowing coffee infused drinks and allude to the wide variety that could tempt members of the faith widely known as the Mormon church. "The word coffee isn't always in the name of coffee drinks. So, before you try what you think is just some new milkshake flavor, here are a couple of rules of thumb: One, if you're in a coffee shop (or any other shop that's well-known for its coffee), the drink you're ordering probably has coffee in it, so either never buy drinks at coffee shops or always ask if there's coffee in it," the article said. "Two, drinks with names that include cafe or caffe, mocha, latte, espresso, or anything ending in -ccino usually have coffee in them and are against the Word of Wisdom." As coffee shops have become common in the United States, more young church members feel comfortable going to places like Starbucks and drinking iced coffee, said Patrick Mason, a church member and religious scholar who is the Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University. For past generations, just entering coffee shops was considered taboo, he said. The guidance will dash the hopes of some members who hoped the church would loosen the rules about coffee, he said. Starbucks announced recently that it would open its first stand-alone shop in the heavily Mormon city of Provo near the church-owned Brigham Young University next year. Starbucks does offer some non-coffee drinks, including hot chocolate and lemonade. "This is the church clearly responding to higher levels of non-compliance to the Word of Wisdom than we've seen in previous generations," Mason said. Jana Riess, a church member and author, said she was shocked to find that four in 10 active church members under age 51 had drank coffee during the previous six months in a 2016 survey she conducted for her book, "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church." She also found that younger members are less concerned than older members about obeying the health code, which is one of the ways the religion is distinct from other faiths. Church leaders have occasionally issued similar clarifications based on changing social norms and eating and drinking habits, Mason said. In 2012, church leaders clarified that the health code did not prevent members from drinking caffeinated soft drinks. Church leaders provide additional instructions as needed to help guide members about the health code designed for the "physical and spiritual benefit of God's children," according to a statement sent by spokesman Eric Hawkins on behalf of the church. The church declined to say why it decided to issue the new clarifications now. Brandt Malone, a church member from Detroit who hosts the Mormon News Report podcast, said he wishes the section on coffee would have instead provided guidance to young members about how to order and behave in coffee shops, which are a common place for professional work meetings. "Let's teach people how to make the proper choices and think for themselves based on the construct of your religious health code," Malone said. Malone and Riess both praised the church stance on vaping, which laments the misconception that e-cigarettes contain only flavors. "Most vaping pods contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and all of them contain harmful chemicals," the article says. The passage about marijuana seems to underscore the faith's desire to carve out a space to allow some members to use medical marijuana, while reiterating that recreational use is prohibited. The faith worked with Utah state legislators, many of them church members, and medical marijuana advocates to craft a medical marijuana program last year. "Medical uses are being studied, but just like many pain medications such as opioids, marijuana is an addictive substance," the article said. "Such habit-forming substances should be avoided except under the care of a competent physician, and then used only as prescribed."
'Easy Rider' star, writer Peter Fonda has died at 79
By Lindsey Bahr and Andrew Dalton The Associated Press LOS ANGELES - Actor Peter Fonda, the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right after both writing and starring in the counter-culture classic "Easy Rider," has died. His family said in a statement that Fonda died Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. The official cause of death was respiratory failure due to lung cancer. "In one of the saddest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts," the family said in a statement. "As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy." Born into Hollywood royalty as Henry Fonda's only son, Peter Fonda carved his own path with his non-conformist tendencies and earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the psychedelic road trip movie "Easy Rider." He would never win that golden statuette, but would later be nominated for his leading performance as a Vietnam veteran and widowed beekeeper in "Ulee's Gold." Fonda was born in New York in 1940 and was only 10 years old when his mother Frances Ford Seymour died. Fonda had an estranged relationship with his father, but said that they grew closer over the years before Henry Fonda died in 1982. Although Peter never achieved the status of his father or even his older sister Jane Fonda, the impact of "Easy Rider," which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, was enough to cement his place in popular culture. Fonda collaborated with another struggling young actor, Dennis Hopper, on the script about two weed-smoking, drug-slinging bikers on a trip through the Southwest and Deep South. On the way, Fonda and Hopper befriend a drunken young lawyer - Jack Nicholson in a breakout role - but raise the dander of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home. Fonda's character Wyatt wore a stars-and-stripes helmet and rode a motorcycle called "Captain America," re-purposing traditional images for the counter-culture. Fonda produced "Easy Rider" and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time. The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave its official blessing in 1998 when "Easy Rider" was included in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Hundreds defy restrictions, join protests in Kashmir
By Ashok Sharma and Edith M. Lederer The Associated Press NEW DELHI - Hundreds of people protested an unprecedented security crackdown and clashed with police Friday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, as India's government said it was constantly reviewing the situation in the disputed region and the restrictions there will be removed over the next few days. The U.N. Security Council met on Jammu and Kashmir for the first time in decades, and Pakistan's ambassador to the world body said the session showed that people in the region "may be locked up ... but their voices were heard today." The Security Council took no action during the closed meeting, which was called for by China and Pakistan. A heavy troop presence and a near-constant curfew and communications blackout remained in place in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir for a 12th day. The government imposed the lockdown to avoid a violent reaction to its decision on Aug. 5 to downgrade the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Kashmir region. Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region, which is divided between the nuclear-armed rivals. The decision by the Hindu-led government in New Delhi has raised tensions with Pakistan and touched off anger in the Indian-controlled region. Young and old demonstrators took to the streets in Srinagar, the region's main city, after Friday prayers. They carried green Islamic flags and signs reading "Stop Genocide in Kashmir, Wake Up World." Some threw stones and clashed with security forces, who responded with tear gas. Earlier in the day, a senior Indian official in Kashmir, B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, confirmed there would be some loosening of restrictions on residents, saying that landline phone services would be restored gradually beginning Friday night and schools reopened as of Monday. He didn't announce any immediate restoration of mobile phone service, which he said could be misused by terrorist groups. India's Supreme Court decided to give the government more time before ruling on a petition demanding the lifting of media restrictions following its assurances that they will be eased soon, attorney Vrinda Grover told reporters. She represents Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin, who said she was unable to publish her newspaper in Srinagar. Subrahmanyam also said that government offices had started functioning normally. He said Friday prayers were held peacefully and life in 12 of the region's 22 districts was almost back to normal. Public transport will be restored gradually after evaluating the security situation, he said. "Some preventive arrests were made in the region as a preventive measure to maintain law and order," Subrahmanyam said, though he did not say how many. "We have prevented any loss of life or serious injuries to anyone despite concerted efforts by terrorist groups, radical groups and continuing efforts by Pakistan to destabilize the situation," he said. Pakistan's ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, called the closed-door consultations of the Security Council "the first and not the last step." "It will only end when justice is done to the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Lodhi said. "This is the first time in over 50 years that this issue has been deliberated upon by the Security Council," Lodhi said. "I think this meeting nullifies India's claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India." India's U.N. Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin insisted its recent actions on Kashmir were "entirely an internal matter" with "no external ramifications." He rejected comments by Lodhi and China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun that Kashmir is an international dispute, insisting it is bilateral. Akbaruddin said India is committed to the 1972 Simla agreement calling for India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve Kashmir's status, saying: "It's now for Pakistan to make that commitment, too - stop terror to start talks." He dismissed a 1948 Security Council resolution promising a U.N.-sponsored referendum on Kashmir's "final disposition," saying "every new agreement overtakes the past." President Donald Trump spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan by phone and conveyed the importance of India and Pakistan reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue, said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also disclosed the conversation, and he added that Trump said he will talk to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. Qureshi described it as "a good conversation," adding that Khan described "how delicate, how concerning and how alarming" the situation was. At a news conference in Islamabad, Qureshi also described the holding of the Security Council meeting as a diplomatic win for Pakistan, saying it was held despite India's opposition. In a tweet, Khan condemned the continued clampdown and warned Modi, that "no nation can be defeated militarily when it rises for independence." He described Modi as a "fascist, Hindu supremacist," and equated him with Adolf Hitler, saying he feared "genocide of Muslims in Kashmir." Before Indian elections in April and May, Khan had expressed hope that the Kashmir issue could be resolved through talks if Modi's Hindu nationalist party won the vote. Modi has defended the Kashmir changes as freeing the territory from separatism, and his supporters welcomed the move. One of the revisions allows anyone to buy land in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which some Kashmiris fear could change the region's culture and demographics. Critics have likened it to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. Meanwhile, the family of a Kashmiri journalist said he has been detained by the Indian armed forces. Irfan Amin Malik, who works for Greater Kashmir, one of the largest newspapers in Kashmir, was taken into custody Wednesday night at his house in Tral in Pulwama, a southern district in Kashmir, according to his father, Mohammed Amin Malik. "We are worried about our son," he told The Associated Press. Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal of the Jammu and Kashmir region said he was looking into the case. Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbagh Singh declined comment. Malik is the first journalist known to have been detained since Kashmir's special constitutional status was revoked. Pakistan's military said that Indian firing across the Line of Control dividing the region killed another soldier, raising the death toll to six in less than 24 hours. Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned an Indian diplomat and lodged a protest over the killings. The ministry said the "cease-fire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation." There was no immediate comment from the Indian army. --- Lederer reported from the United Nations. Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi contributed. --- This story has been corrected to show spelling of Indian official's name is Subrahmanyam instead of Subramaniam.
Critics blast Oregon repeal of tsunami-zone building ban
By Andrew Selsky The Associated Press NEWPORT, Ore. - With sunlight sparkling off surrounding Yaquina Bay, workers are putting up an ocean-studies building, smack in the middle of an area expected to one day be hit by a tsunami. Experts say it's only a matter of time before a shift in a major fault line off the Oregon coast causes a massive earthquake that generates a tsunami as much as seven stories tall. Even as work on Oregon State University's Marine Studies Building was underway in Newport, the Legislature went a step further and repealed a ban on construction of new "critical facilities" in tsunami inundation zones, allowing fire stations, police stations and schools to be built in the potential path of a tsunami. Passage of the bill in June was little noticed during one of the most tumultuous legislative sessions in Oregon history. But it has since been roundly criticized - including by Gov. Kate Brown, who told journalists the bill's passage was one of her disappointments, even though she signed the measure and previously said it benefited economic development. Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State University professor and an earthquake geologist, says putting the $60 million oceanography building in the path of a tsunami is "beyond ironic," and allowing even more construction threatens lives in favor of development. "It's foolhardy. In every other country in the world, best practice for tsunamis is avoidance, not building in a tsunami zone," Goldfinger said at a symposium for journalists in Newport that included a tour of the construction project. Proponents of the university facility point out that the building will withstand strong earthquakes and be higher than the biggest tsunami. It will feature a rooftop evacuation site that can accommodate more than 900 people, accessed via an exterior ramp. Two days of supplies, including water, food and first aid, will be kept on the roof, said Cinamon Moffett, research facility coordinator for the marine center. Once the water subsides, survivors would be evacuated to a community college on a nearby hill, she said. An earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone, which extends in the ocean off Northern California to Canada's Vancouver Island, has a 37 percent probability of happening off Oregon in the next 50 years, with a slightly lower chance of one striking near Washington state, Goldfinger said. Cascadia earthquakes have an average magnitude of around 9, making them among the world's biggest. Evidence of a Cascadia earthquake's awesome destructive power is visible 30 miles up the coast from Newport. There, a "ghost forest" of Sitka spruces juts up from a beach in the tiny town of Neskowin. An earthquake 2,000 years ago likely caused the ground beneath the trees to plunge, and tsunami debris buried them. The remnants were partially uncovered by storms in 1997. Today, the barnacle-encrusted trees stand like sentinels, facing the Pacific Ocean with vacation homes and a motel nearby. The last time the ocean reared up from a Cascadia earthquake was in 1700. The estimated magnitude 9 quake sent a tsunami across the Pacific into the coast of Japan, where it flooded farm fields, damaged fishermen's shacks and ascended a castle moat. In the Pacific Northwest and Canada, the impact was far worse, and is described in the folklore of indigenous peoples. One tale describes a struggle between a thunderbird and a whale that caused the earth to shake and the ocean to wash away people and homes. Oregon became a leader in tsunami preparedness when the Legislature, in 1995, banned construction of certain public facilities in inundation zones. Vancouver Island in Canada's British Columbia province was slammed by the 1700 tsunami. But no law prohibits construction of public buildings in tsunami zones there, according to Emergency Management BC. Washington state requires municipalities and counties to establish rules to limit development in areas that are frequently flooded or could be hit by tsunamis, landslides or other calamities. California has no state-mandated development restrictions in tsunami zones, said Rick Wilson, senior engineering geologist with the California Geological Survey. But the state recently adopted new language in its building code requiring that certain types of buildings be constructed to withstand tsunami forces, Wilson said. Other states are moving to do the same, using standards from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Japan, reacting to a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 18,000 dead or presumed dead, passed a law allowing towns to set tsunami warning zones and make evacuation and reconstruction plans. The government is spending 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) to build giant seawalls around the northern coastline. Moving to higher ground is not required, though some coastal communities have done so. "Oregon has gone from sort of a leader in this to full reverse," said Goldfinger, who was attending a seismology conference in Japan when the 2011 earthquake hit. Oregon lawmakers overwhelmingly repealed the 1995 construction ban in June, as tensions in the Capitol ratcheted up over Republican opposition to a bill addressing global warming. Few people attended hearings at which lawmakers from coastal districts testified in favor of the repeal. Democratic Rep. David Gomberg, one of its sponsors, told members of a House committee to imagine the impacts if the state banned new schools, parking garages and police and fire stations in their communities. "What would be the consequence of that, to your ability to get insurance on your home, your ability to attract a new business into a neighborhood that's not safe enough for fire departments, your ability to resell your home in a neighborhood not safe enough for police departments?" Gomberg asked. He said the state geology department should "help us rather than to stop ... our communities growing, thriving or continuing." Gomberg said his bill gives the department responsibility for advising where a new inundation line should be and how risks can be mitigated. He also said he will introduce legislation for Oregon to adopt the American Society of Civil Engineers' tsunami and earthquake building standards. Republican Sen. Brian Boquist, who was at the center of a Republican walkout over the global warming bill, was the only senator to vote against the repeal. Boquist said in an email that it allows public entities to build, knowing full well the buildings will not survive a tsunami. It is too soon to tell if coastal cities will use the new leeway to build facilities in inundation zones. Some have been doing the opposite. The town of Seaside, 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Portland, is moving schools out of the tsunami zone. Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer said his city has no plans to build critical facilities in the inundation zone. But he praised the Marine Studies Building for its rooftop evacuation site, which can fit the population of an entire neighborhood of his fishing town. "We consider it to be a unique solution," he said. Meanwhile, the Corvallis Gazette-Times noted in an editorial that while it is possible to design a building that can survive an earthquake and tsunami, "that doesn't answer the question of why we should take the risk in the first place." The newspaper urged lawmakers to reassess the new law when they convene next year.
Maryland lags behind other states in compensating wrongfully convicted
By Ovetta Wiggins The Washington Post ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Nearly three dozen wrongly convicted felons have been exonerated over the past 30 years in Maryland which, like most other states, allows individuals to be compensated for years spent behind bars. But only nine exonerees have sought payment - and just three have received money. The most recent damages were awarded 15 years ago. The state lags far behind others in compensating those who were wrongly imprisoned, experts say. Since spring of last year, five exonerees have petitioned the state Board of Public Works for more than $12 million in redress. Their requests have largely gone unanswered. And elected officials are trading blame for why the system doesn't work better. A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said the Democratic-majority General Assembly needs to pass a bill establishing compensation standards before the Board of Public Works can act on requests. Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, who has sponsored such bills, said the board has the power to make awards even without the legislation. Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee, twice has blocked Kelley's bills, which he says were overly broad. "Even when everyone thinks the person is innocent, we still can't get them compensated," said Shawn Armbrust, the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which represents several of the men. "For such a progressive state, it's really callous." Together, Lamar Johnson, Jerome Johnson, Walter Lomax, Clarence Shipley Jr. and Hubert James Williams spent 120 years behind bars. Each man was charged with a felony: four with murder, one with attempted murder. Each said he didn't commit the crime. Their petitions were submitted over the past 18 months. "We urge the board to follow Maryland's compensation law and swiftly compensate these individuals, who are working hard to reclaim the lives they lost," attorneys for four of the men wrote in a joint letter to state officials last month. "Each endured unimaginable pain while incarcerated . . . Although they are now physically freed, their suffering continues." The number of exonerations throughout the country has risen steadily over the past three decades as the use of DNA testing by law enforcement officials has become more common, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Between 1989 and 2018, 2,472 people were released from prison with their convictions overturned, according to the registry. A third of those happened between 2014 and 2018. The data shows that African Americans are disproportionately affected by wrongful convictions, with blacks seven times more likely than whites to be jailed for crimes they didn't commit. The District of Columbia and 35 states, including Maryland and Virginia, have passed legislation authorizing exonerees to be compensated for their time served. In Alabama, exonerees are entitled to at least $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment. An exoneree in Missouri is given $50 for each day of incarceration, but no more than $36,500. Maryland law states that an award may be granted for "actual damages sustained by the individual," but does not set a minimum or maximum amount. A 2018 task force recommended at least $50,000 per year of incarceration, with an additional $10,000 for living expenses and services such as education and health and dental care. A bill to approve those recommendations stalled in the legislature. The state's "convoluted system," Kelley said, leaves exonerees without the resources they need and the justice they deserve. Jeffrey Gutman, co-director of the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics at George Washington University Law School, said the percentage of Maryland exonerees who have asked for redress is lower than the national average. So is the percentage who have received it. According to Gutman's data, 50 percent of exonerees have been compensated in Virginia and nearly a quarter have received redress in the District of Columbia, compared to 9 percent in Maryland. Until 2017, a wrongly convicted person in Maryland had to obtain a pardon from the governor to be awarded damages from the Board of Public Works, which includes the governor, the state comptroller and treasurer. With few pardons granted by Hogan and his predecessors, including former Democratic governor Martin O'Malley, the General Assembly removed that requirement two years ago. A convicted person now can obtain a "writ of innocence" from a judge and then petition the board for damages. Zirkin said his Senate committee wants exonerees to receive redress, but has yet to come up with the best way to do it. Kelley's bill, he said, could have allowed even those who had not obtained a writ to petition for compensation. "We believe a legislative fix is necessary to address this issue, to have a clear and coherent policy direction for these and future cases," Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said. "Without a legislative fix, the board's decisions could be arbitrary or inconsistent." Susan O'Brien, a spokeswoman for Comptroller Peter Franchot, said Franchot plans to work with Hogan, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Board of Public Works staff "to choose the most appropriate path forward." Jerome Johnson, Lamar Johnson, Shipley and Williams are seeking $8.1 million in compensation from the board - $100,000 for each year of their incarceration. Lomax, 71, who served 39 years in prison, asked for $4 million in his petition. Jerome Johnson, 51, is also suing the Baltimore City Police Department, alleging that police purposely withheld evidence in the 1988 killing of Aaron Taylor, for which he was convicted and then exonerated. He declined an interview request. Lamar Johnson, 36, who is no relation to Jerome Johnson, said he finds it frustrating that the state has not acted on the petitions. "I just want the board to put themselves in our shoes," he said. "Some exonerees don't even have places to live." He was locked up at age 20 and freed in 2017. While family and friends were at his mother's house celebrating, he hid in the bathroom for 45 minutes, sitting on the floor. Confining himself in that closed room, similar in size to his prison cell, was an early indication of how difficult it would be to adjust to his newfound freedom, Johnson said later. He wasn't around when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, or for his cousin's funeral, or to watch his twin sisters grow up. He was released with no identification, no medical insurance and no real job training. "It was like the state admitted, 'We made a mistake, now go fix your life,'" he said. "I had nothing." Williams, 67, a military veteran and recovering addict, was convicted of murder in 1974, at age 22. He had been out of prison and on parole for five months when he was accused in the 1997 shooting and attempted robbery of a bartender in Baltimore County. Back in prison, he twice attempted suicide. A detective who had worked on the case as a uniformed officer eventually started looking into Williams' claims of innocence, and he found witnesses who had lied under oath. His work persuaded prosecutors to push for Williams' release in 2009. Since then, Williams has been homeless at times, living in the woods in Takoma Park. He was recently treated at the VA Medical Center in the District, where he described his time in prison to a reporter. His voice was shaky, and his story rambled. "I had to keep saying to myself, 'James, it's okay. James, it's okay,'" he said, sitting on his hospital bed. After his discharge, he was scheduled to check into a rehab facility in West Virginia. Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby apologized to Shipley in December when he was released after 27 years in prison, exonerated for the 1991 murder of Kevin Smith. Shipley, 47, was convicted based on testimony of a man who, after an investigation by the Innocence Project, admitted to lying to get a shorter sentence for a crime he committed. Prosecutors now say Smith was killed by a man named Larry Davis, who died in 2005. Shipley, who became a Christian during his incarceration, said he carries no bitterness and has forgiven those who played a part in his wrongful conviction. No amount of money, he said, could make up for the time he lost with his family or for having to mourn from prison after his 12-year-old son, Isaiah, died in a house fire in 2002. But, like the other exonerees, he believes the state is obliged to provide redress. "Not only would it help me," Shipley said, his voice cracking. "It would help my family. My family still lives in the projects, still struggling. It would do a lot for me."
Sealed records on Dayton gunman pit safety against privacy
By Julie Carr Smyth The Associated Press COLUMBUS, Ohio - Disturbing behavior that the Dayton gunman reportedly exhibited in his youth may be detailed in law enforcement and school files so far off limits to the public, records that could shed light on whether authorities properly handled early warning signs. The measures used to shield 24-year-old shooter Connor Betts' school records and whatever is on his juvenile rap sheet were intended to protect people's privacy as they move from childhood into their adult lives. But could erasing youthful bad behavior from the public record limit insights that could protect public safety? And might such measures also serve to insulate school officials from having their decisions questioned? "Obviously, it's a very, very complex issue," said Rachael Strickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Betts was killed by police after opening fire Aug. 4 in the city's crowded Oregon District entertainment area, killing nine, including his sister, and injuring dozens more. High school classmates have since said Betts was suspended years ago for compiling a "hit list" of fellow students he wanted to harm. Two of the classmates said that followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault. Police investigators say they now know that Betts had a "history of obsession with violent ideations with mass shootings and expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting." The FBI said it uncovered evidence Betts "looked into violent ideologies." On Thursday, the Montgomery County coroner said Betts had cocaine, alcohol and an antidepressant in his system and more cocaine on his body at the time of the shooting. Authorities have yet to publicly identify a motive, and the shielded records could provide insights into Betts' previous activities both in and out of school. Dayton police said Tuesday that they're divided on one of the more vexing questions: whether Betts intended to kill his sister, Megan, or whether her death was inadvertent. His school district, Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools, has denied media requests for access to Betts' high school files on the grounds that such "records are generally protected by both federal and state law." News organizations, including The Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times and others, have sued. Likewise, his juvenile police record has been expunged, which makes it off limits to the public. Strickland said her coalition mostly focuses on protecting children from the lifelong ramifications of systematic monitoring of their social media. She said the group opposes "as a matter of principle" government surveillance of children without due process, saying it takes staff and police hours to carry out while "unfairly labeling kids." That was part of the thinking of those who championed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the federal law that protects student education records, back in 1974. The act does give districts the option to release a student's records "in connection with an emergency," however. "The mandate to Ohio schools is that we must not divulge confidential student records without clear consent from the student or parents and we have not received such consent," Liz Betz, board president for Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools, said in a statement after the shooting. "We know everyone is trying to make sense of the devastation that occurred, but we cannot bypass the law, plain and simple." While the U.S. Department of Education holds that federal privacy protections cease upon death for those over 18, the school district is arguing that Ohio law provides broader protection. The district's lawyer, Tabitha Justice, said that if the protections expire, as the media organizations have argued, that would mean "that the families and estates of all students who pass away, regardless of the manner of death, would be entirely without recourse with respect to those records." In their complaint, the news outlets also argued the records can make a significant contribution to local and national debate that has followed the shooting. "Respondents' failure to comply with their legal obligations under Ohio law should not be tolerated," the complaint said. "This community and the country at large deserve to know why this tragedy happened, what might have led to it, and what may be done to prevent future tragedies." Michael Miller, a former longtime Franklin County prosecutor, said expungement is also a tool aimed at helping people - even well into their adulthood - avoid lifelong negative consequences for the mistakes of their past. Lawyers sometimes offer to expunge a person's record as part of their service agreement or, if the offense is minor, some magistrates do it automatically, he said. Miller said he puts no stock in a person's bad behavior as a teenager being a predictor of future violence. "They're all over the map on why they do these things," he said. "It's virtually impossible to think that if we do this or that, we'll stop violence and killing people. It's been going on since the beginning of time."
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