GOP loses leaders, maintains majorities in W.Va. Legislature
By JOHN RABY
Wednesday, November 7
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia teacher Cody Thompson has worked second jobs over the years to help make ends meet. He has another one to look forward to — as a state legislator.
The Democrat was the top vote-getter Tuesday in a House of Delegates district race that represents Randolph and Pocahontas counties. Thompson had defeated a Democratic incumbent in the May primary.
Thompson was part of the wave of thousands of teachers who took over the Capitol during a nine-day strike last winter. It ended with lawmakers passing a 5 percent pay raise and the formation of a task force to seek a long-term funding solution to an insurance program for teachers and other public employees.
A social studies and civics teacher at Elkins High School, Thompson has shared his story many times about having side jobs — selling pizza, serving tables, working at a discount store, and being employed in a federally funded outreach program to help prepare students for college.
Thompson, who didn’t immediately return a telephone message Wednesday, has said he’ll work to promote a better quality of education in West Virginia and “would like to see a better input from people in the classroom.”
He told The Inter-Mountain he believed voters saw similarities between him and themselves.
“I struggle to pay my bills, I struggle to pay my house insurance and I’m just like they are,” he said.
Raleigh County bus driver Christopher Toney scored another win for public employees. Toney, a Republican, defeated two other candidates Tuesday in a House race. Toney has been employed by the county school system for 12 years.
While other teachers who ran as first-time Democratic candidates were unsuccessful Tuesday, teachers unions did declare victory on several fronts.
Republicans will maintain control of the Legislature but lost their majority leaders in the House and Senate. Both were opposed by the unions.
“In a state where (President Donald) Trump came so many times to energize a base, those wins are very important,” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said Wednesday.
Senate Majority leader Ryan Ferns was unseated by Democrat Bill Ihlenfeld, a former U.S. attorney. Ferns is a Republican from Ohio County who came under scrutiny during the teachers strike. Ferns had made a motion to table a vote on the pay raise negotiated by Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders. The Senate adopted the motion, but the raise was later approved.
The other ousted incumbent was Kanawha County Republican Ed Gaunch, who lost to union-backed Democrat Richard Lindsay.
The GOP won nine of the 17 Senate seats up for grabs Tuesday night. The other 17 seats were not on the ballot.
Republicans will enter 2019 with a 20-14 Senate majority, down two from this year, and a 59-41 majority in the House, down five seats.
In the House, newly appointed Majority Leader Riley Moore, a Republican from Jefferson County, was defeated by former Delegate John Doyle in a close race. Moore had been appointed by new House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, who had taken over after Speaker Tim Armstead resigned to run for the state Supreme Court.
Also ousted was Monongalia County Republican Delegate Joe Statler, vice chairman of the House education committee. Dale Lee said Statler was a longtime supporter of eliminating seniority protections for teachers.
Ferns and Upshur County Republican Sen. Robert Karnes, a union critic, were the “two biggest opponents of educators during the work action,” Lee said. “And they’re no longer there.”
Karnes was ousted in the May primary.
Thanksgiving Travel Volume Expected to Hit Near Record Levels
COLUMBUS, Ohio (November 8, 2018) – For the second year in a row, AAA predicts the highest Thanksgiving travel numbers since 2005, with 54.3 million Americans, including more than 2.2 million Ohioans, planning to travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 25. This is a 4.8 percent increase over last year both nationally and in Ohio.
Economy Boosts Travel
“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president.
Due to this economic strength, Thanksgiving holiday travel is making its 10th consecutive year of growth nationwide (9th in Ohio). This year’s national Thanksgiving travel predictions are 43 percent higher than the 2008 recession low.
Drivers Beware: Thanksgiving’s Terrible Traffic
More than 89 percent of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations. With 2.3 million more Americans, including nearly 90,000 more Ohioans on the roads this year, travelers should expect crowded roads, especially during evening commutes starting Monday, Nov. 19.
Travel times in the most congested U.S. cities could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip, according to global mobility analytics company INRIX. In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday, or Saturday. Drivers should also expect increased travel times Sunday, Nov. 25, as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after a long weekend.
With the extra traffic, the Ohio Department of Transportation will suspend roadwork and open as many lanes as possible. However, drivers should pay extra attention while driving through work zones and allow additional time to reach your destination.
Drivers should also take time to prepare their vehicles before their holiday road trip. AAA expects to rescue more than 360,000 motorists nationwide this Thanksgiving weekend, including more than 14,500 in Ohio. The top reasons motorists will request roadside assistance include dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
In addition, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is reminding motorists to buckle up, never drive impaired and always follow traffic laws. Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, there were 17 fatal crashes that killed 22 people on Ohio’s roadways. Five of those fatalities were the result of an impaired driver and 11 were unbuckled. Troopers will have an increased presence on Ohio’s roadways to promote a safe Thanksgiving holiday.
Air Travel Soars to New Heights
Airports will also be busy over the holiday weekend with 4.27 million Americans, including nearly 185,000 Ohioans, flying. This marks an increase of 5.4 percent nationally and 6.3 percent in Ohio over last year, and is the highest number of Thanksgiving air travelers since 2007 nationally and the highest number on record in Ohio.
Across the country, travelers who take to the sky must account for long security lines and increased drive times to the airport. Travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to their flight’s scheduled departure.
Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average roundtrip ticket price, according to an analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years. Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average ticket price and is the lightest travel day.
Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 23 and Oct. 25, and paid an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Those who still need to book flights may find slightly cheaper airfares, with roundtrip ticket prices expected to cost an average of $459 between now and Nov. 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be limited.
Car Rental Costs Fall, Hotel Prices Mixed
Travelers can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving. At $63, the average daily rate is 10 percent less than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
Travelers can also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels, with an average nightly rate of $166, which is 6 percent less than last year. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased 6 percent to an average cost of $124 per night.
Holiday Forecast Methodology:
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS 2018 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast can be found on the AAA Newsroom.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.
INRIX is a global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. INRIX’s partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, and enterprises large and small. Learn more at INRIX.com.
Troopers seize $1.3 million worth of marijuana in Cuyahoga County
Ohio State Highway Patrol
November 8, 2018
OLMSTEAD FALLS – Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers filed felony drug charges against a California woman after a traffic stop in Cuyahoga County. During the traffic stop, troopers seized 510 pounds of marijuana valued at approximately $1.3 million.
On November 5, 2018, at 1:20 p.m., troopers stopped a 2018 Penske truck with Indiana registration for speed and marked lanes violations on the Ohio Turnpike. Criminal indicators were observed and a Patrol drug-sniffing canine alerted to the vehicle. A probable cause search revealed the contraband.
The driver, Keryl J. Lopez, 48, from McKinleyville, Calif., was incarcerated in the Strongsville City Jail and charged with possession and trafficking in marijuana, both first-degree felonies.
If convicted, she could face up to 22 years in prison and up to a $40,000 fine.
OHIO BUREAU OF MOTOR VEHICLES TO OFFER ONLINE DRIVER LICENSE/IDENTIFICATION CARD RENEWAL OPTION TO MILITARY MEMBERS
COLUMBUS —Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is now offering deployed military service members, their spouses and dependents, online renewal services for driver licenses and identification cards.
“The BMV proudly supports our armed forces and we are pleased to be able to now provide online renewals of driver licenses and identifications cards,” said Don Petit, BMV Registrar. “Our military heroes may be out of sight, but they are never out of our minds.”
Aside from being more convenient for military members, the new online renewal process through BMV Online Services saves an average of two weeks by providing electronic access as opposed to mailing a packet of information to be completed and mailed back.
Now, the information is automatically uploaded into the processing system eliminating the need for redundant data entry, saving time and improving accuracy. The new process will also reduce the likelihood of errors by identifying incomplete or missing information as well as informing the customer if there is an issue that prevents their application from being processed.
Applicants will receive email notifications of the status of their application, including a notice when the application is approved and ready for payment. Applicants are also able to monitor the status of their application directly through BMV Online Services.
“Ohio has men and women deployed to locations across the globe in service to our nation. Being able to go online from anywhere in the world to renew a driver’s license or identification card will be an incredible resource for them and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Bartman, the adjutant general and Ohio National Guard commander.
For more information, visit www.bmv.ohio.gov
Driving autonomous cars off the beaten path
November 8, 2018
Matthew Doude, Associate Director, Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems; Ph.D. Student in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Mississippi State University
Christopher Goodin, Assistant Research Professor, Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, Mississippi State University
Daniel Carruth, Assistant Research Professor and Associate Director for Human Factors and Advanced Vehicle System, Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, Mississippi State University
Matthew Doude receives funding from Mississippi State University, the Mississippi State University Foundation, the US Department of Energy, the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), and the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).
Christopher Goodin receives funding from the US Army Engineer Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Mississippi State University.
Daniel Carruth receives funding from the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Mississippi Department of Transportation, and Mississippi State University. Dr. Carruth is a member of SAE International.
Partners: Mississippi State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Autonomous vehicles can follow the general rules of American roads, recognizing traffic signals and lane markings, noticing crosswalks and other regular features of the streets. But they work only on well-marked roads that are carefully scanned and mapped in advance.
Many paved roads, though, have faded paint, signs obscured behind trees and unusual intersections. In addition, 1.4 million miles of U.S. roads – one-third of the country’s public roadways – are unpaved, with no on-road signals like lane markings or stop-here lines. That doesn’t include miles of private roads, unpaved driveways or off-road trails.
What’s a rule-following autonomous car to do when the rules are unclear or nonexistent? And what are its passengers to do when they discover their vehicle can’t get them where they’re going?
Accounting for the obscure
Most challenges in developing advanced technologies involve handling infrequent or uncommon situations, or events that require performance beyond a system’s normal capabilities. That’s definitely true for autonomous vehicles. Some on-road examples might be navigating construction zones, encountering a horse and buggy, or seeing graffiti that looks like a stop sign. Off-road, the possibilities include the full variety of the natural world, such as trees down over the road, flooding and large puddles – or even animals blocking the way.
At Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, we have taken up the challenge of training algorithms to respond to circumstances that almost never happen, are difficult to predict and are complex to create. We seek to put autonomous cars in the hardest possible scenario: driving in an area the car has no prior knowledge of, with no reliable infrastructure like road paint and traffic signs, and in an unknown environment where it’s just as likely to see a cactus as a polar bear.
Our work combines virtual technology and the real world. We create advanced simulations of lifelike outdoor scenes, which we use to train artificial intelligence algorithms to take a camera feed and classify what it sees, labeling trees, sky, open paths and potential obstacles. Then we transfer those algorithms to a purpose-built all-wheel-drive test vehicle and send it out on our dedicated off-road test track, where we can see how our algorithms work and collect more data to feed into our simulations.
We have developed a simulator that can create a wide range of realistic outdoor scenes for vehicles to navigate through. The system generates a range of landscapes of different climates, like forests and deserts, and can show how plants, shrubs and trees grow over time. It can also simulate weather changes, sunlight and moonlight, and the accurate locations of 9,000 stars.
The system also simulates the readings of sensors commonly used in autonomous vehicles, such as lidar and cameras. Those virtual sensors collect data that feeds into neural networks as valuable training data.
Building a test track
Simulations are only as good as their portrayals of the real world. Mississippi State University has purchased 50 acres of land on which we are developing a test track for off-road autonomous vehicles. The property is excellent for off-road testing, with unusually steep grades for our area of Mississippi – up to 60 percent inclines – and a very diverse population of plants.
We have selected certain natural features of this land that we expect will be particularly challenging for self-driving vehicles, and replicated them exactly in our simulator. That allows us to directly compare results from the simulation and real-life attempts to navigate the actual land. Eventually, we’ll create similar real and virtual pairings of other types of landscapes to improve our vehicle’s capabilities.
Collecting more data
We have also built a test vehicle, called the Halo Project, which has an electric motor and sensors and computers that can navigate various off-road environments. The Halo Project car has additional sensors to collect detailed data about its actual surroundings, which can help us build virtual environments to run new tests in.
Two of its lidar sensors, for example, are mounted at intersecting angles on the front of the car so their beams sweep across the approaching ground. Together, they can provide information on how rough or smooth the surface is, as well as capturing readings from grass and other plants and items on the ground.
We’ve seen some exciting early results from our research. For example, we have shown promising preliminary results that machine learning algorithms trained on simulated environments can be useful in the real world. As with most autonomous vehicle research, there is still a long way to go, but our hope is that the technologies we’re developing for extreme cases will also help make autonomous vehicles more functional on today’s roads.