By Jenn Menendez, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Big East Conference has an expansion plan to add BCS-caliber schools to the league, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement issued Wednesday after a meeting of members Tuesday night in New York.

“President [James] Clements and I represented West Virginia University at last night’s Big East meeting in New York. The group concluded the meeting with a strategy to recruit top level BCS-caliber institutions that match the league’s strong athletic and academic histories and traditions,” said Luck in the statement.

What exactly that strategy is has not been shared.

Among the schools that could be considered is East Carolina University, which announced late Wednesday it officially had applied for membership in the Big East. ECU is a member of Conference USA which, unlike the Big East, does not have an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid.

A source told The Associated Press the Big East is targeting Navy and Air Force.

Other schools among the speculation: Temple and I-AA Villanova.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto was not available for comment.

The future of West Virginia athletics has been the subject of wide speculation since Pitt and Syracuse suddenly left the Big East this past weekend for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that West Virginia had been rejected by the ACC and Southeastern Conference, but the university has not publicly confirmed or denied that.

“As I stated before, WVU is an excellent flagship, land-grant University, with national-caliber athletic and academic programs,” Luck said in the statement.

“We are, and will remain, a national player in college athletics.”

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by Adam Clark Estes

The fact that The Huffington Post doesn’t pay their bloggers has always been a contentious issue, and the latest report that they’re now recruiting teenagers as young as 13 to blog for free will certainly not win them any more fans. Jeff Bercovici at Forbes reports that “as AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group gears up for the launch of its next vertical, HuffPost High School. It will join an ever-expanding constellation of topic sites that already includes religion, tech, parenting and divorce. But it will be unique in that it will be the only site produced by minors: Its editor, wunderkind Myles Miller, is only 17, and it will feature the work of teenage bloggers.”

It should not come as a surprise that this fact angered Jonathan Tasini, the guy behind a class action lawsuit against The Huffington Post over alleged labor law violations related to their blogs. A former president of the National Writers Union compared the effort to child labor and called Arianna a couple of bad things. “I assume for the no-ethics, no-morals owner the next step after middle school students is importing work from surplus slave labor in China,” he told Bercovici who raised a few of his own concerns about privacy. “Should teenagers who can’t legally vote, drink or have sex be allowed to decide for themselves what to publish in a place where it could potentially be read by millions of people?”

It’s unclear exactly where the bar of ethics will fall. We’ve known that Miller, a minor himself, would be running the site for a while now, but the new details about the role of underage bloggers complicates the equation. Miller has been recruiting actively for weeks, and while he says that the young bloggers will retain the rights to their posts, he doesn’t provide any details about checks and balances. In an August post on the City Year blog, he asked for anything and everything:

I know what it’s like to dream big and feel like no one is listening. So, if you’ve ever wanted to be a reporter, writer, poet, investigator, photographer, here’s your shot.

I’d love to offer you the opportunity to blog for Huffington Post High School–a brand new section dedicated to teens that is launching this fall. In order to write for us, you must be betwen the ages of 14-18. There are no deadlines or commitment; you can blog to your heart’s desire or whenever your muse strikes.

Myler’s last sentence tends to be the refrain given by The Huffington Post’s spokesperson about why unpaid blogging doesn’t violate labor laws. However, not until the site goes live, and teenagers start posting will we know the extent to which adolescent bloggers will overshare on the site–just like the adult bloggers have been doing for six years.

Full disclosure: I worked as an editor at The Huffington Post from 2009 to the end of 2010

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Government says crime hasn’t increased since gun ban

Australian government officials have accused the National Rifle Associationof using inaccurate statistics in a new television ad about gun crime down under.The NRA ad, which claims Australia’s recent passage of draconian gun control laws has increased gun crime significantly, is presented as a television news story and claims crimes involving guns have increased in Australia since the laws were introduced in 1996.

Specifically, Australian law now bans private ownership of all semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns.

On Tuesday, Australian Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams accused the NRA of falsifying government statistics and urged the gun-rights organization to “remove any reference to Australia” from its website.    Read More→

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Latest WVU study ties C8 to chronic kidney disease

 

There’s another significant new study out from the folks at West Virginia University’s C8 Health Project, who are churning out tons of important research about the potential toxic effects of the DuPont chemical C8.

This one is called Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals and Chronic Kidney Disease in U.S. Adults (subscription required) and was published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study examined data for more than 4,500 adults from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, or NHANES, and found associations between higher levels of C8 and PFOS exposure and chronic kidney disease, or CKD.    Read More→

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West Virginia - Bought and Paid for?

West Virginia - Bought and Paid for?

A group called the American Legislative Exchange Council has been under the microscope lately, so readers might find it interesting to look at the organization’s connections to West Virginia politics.

ALEC says its mission is “to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.” The group crafts “model legislation” that its members introduce in Statehouses across the country.

ProPublica, a non-profit online news organization, has a summary of recent reports by The Nation and the L.A. Times about the council:

Critics say it has devolved into a pay-for-play operation, where state legislators and their families get to go on industry-funded junkets and major corporations get to ghostwrite model laws and pass them on to receptive politicians…In a multipart report [last week], the Nation profiled ALEC’s influence on state legislation related to privatization and anti-union efforts, fighting Obama’s health care reform, privatizing public education and enacting voter ID laws, which critics say are designed to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to vote Democratic. The Nation also provides a deeper look at the financial and ideological links between the Koch brothers and ALEC.

What are some examples of ALEC legislation that lawmakers here in West Virginia have sponsored? They include this year’s Intrastate Coal and Use Act, separate versions of which were introduced by Delegates Gary Howell, R-Mineral, and Scott Varner, D-Marshall. The bill, which didn’t pass, sought to give authority for mine permits to the state Department of Environmental Protection, instead of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.      Read More→

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Coal River Mountain as seen from nearby Kayford Mountain. Photo courtesy of Coal River Mountain Watch.

Last week’s CNN poll about mountaintop removal had some Coal Tattoo readers wanting more … and today, we’ll get more.

There’s a new poll out this morning examining public attitudes across Appalachia about the coal industry, mountaintop removal and environmental protection. It was paid for by Appalachian Mountain Advocates (formerly the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment), Earthjustice and the Sierra Club. The polling was done by the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners, with consulting by a GOP firm, Bellwether Research & Consulting. There’s a news release here, a poll summary, and the more detailed results.       Read More→

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To fail to understand this most basic of realities is to fail to understand American politics in the Age of Obama.

A sign from a recent right wing rally.

A sign from a recent right wing rally.

Just as they did with their poor coverage of the Birther issue, and out of fear of a Conservative backlash, the mainstream media is loathe to speak truth to power and point out the obvious: racial hostility is one of the primary forces driving the opposition of the Tea Party GOP to President Obama. This has been evident during the debt ceiling debate and on policy matters across the board. To fail to understand this most basic of realities is to fail to understand American politics in the Age of Obama.

Having matured with the smear campaign against President Bill Clinton, Right-wing talk radio and Fox News have created an echo chamber in which ideological purity is the premier value: this dynamic has amplified the tensions between Conservatives and the rest of the American people, and removed any possibility of finding a shared middle ground on issues of common concern. A normal politics of negotiation and compromise is imperiled because the terms of the debate are presented in dire, stark, and apocalyptic language.

As a result, extreme party polarization, when added to a political conversation in which the volume has been turned up way high by the Right-wing rage machine, has created a situation where the temptation to use racial appeals to destroy President Barack Obama is almost too great to resist.

There are several elements driving the Tea Party GOP’s efforts to “blacken” President Obama with the goal of limiting his ability to lead the country, and hobbling the Democratic Party at every turn.     Read More→

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his wife Diana

In April of 2010, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) appointed Diana Cantor — the wife of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — to the Virginia Retirement System’s board. She became chair of the board two months later. One month after Ms. Cantor joined this board, the Bank of New York Mellon started making the maximum allowable contribution to Rep. Cantor’s PAC. The Virginia Retirement System is a $4.5 million per year client of Bank of New York Mellon.

 

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You learn a lot about people from how they respond to praise, and even more from their reaction to criticism.

In that sense, 2011 has been a revealing year for Republican budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

His budget proposal was first hailed by pundits as “courageous,” among other adjectives. Then it was gutted by writers who double-checked his math, and ultimately rejected by voters angered at the Republican idea to replace Medicare with undervalued coupons. Ryan welcomed the early praise, and when the analytic types savaged the plan’s projections, Ryan’s allies simply disappeared the dishonest numbers, but his reaction to voter backlash was telling.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc

At an April town hall meeting, Ryan had a Medicare heckler tossed out of the room. On ABC in May, he dismissed the anger directed at his policy ideas as a “sign of the anxiety of the times and” the “misinformation perpetrated out there,” without ever acknowledging that voter opposition might be legitimate.

Now the August recess is here, and Ryan’s changed tactics. Rather than face his critics in open forums with constituents, he’s only appearing at closed meetings with entry fees. Politico reports:

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Ignore all the process stories about the vaunted Gang of 12 — here’s how the endgame plays out.

In the months ahead, we’re going to be treated to an endless parade of process stories about the Gang of 12 “super congress” that emerged from the debt ceiling deal. Each time a staffer leaks some bit of trivia about the internal machinations of this opaque committee, the Beltway media will write a flurry of stories about it, lawmakers will signal whether they might support this provision or that one and the pundits will sift through the tea leaves trying to predict whether this time the kind of “grand bargain” the Washington Post editorial board lusts after will finally come to pass.

It will all be a piece of Kabuki theater. The way this deal ends is fairly easy to predict – it’s a set-up that will result in fairly deep cuts to domestic spending, won’t raise taxes on the wealthy and will leave “defense” spending largely untouched – a process that will force cuts to important public services.

In the real world, here’s the end result of that ludicrous battle over the debt ceiling: Tens of thousands of vulnerable people will lose health coverage, funding for Head Start will be cut, thousands of low-income students will be denied an education, and many more public sector workers will be added to the unemployment rolls. Neither the environment nor our decrepit 19th-century infrastructure will get their needed funds.     Read More→

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