North Korea ordered to pay parents, estate of student $500M
By ERIC TUCKER
Wednesday, December 26
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million in a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died shortly after being released from that country.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell harshly condemned North Korea for “barbaric mistreatment” of Warmbier in agreeing Monday with his family that the isolated nation should be held liable for his death last year. She awarded punitive damages and payments covering medical expenses, economic loss and pain and suffering to Fred and Cindy Warmbier, who alleged that their son had been held hostage and tortured.
Warmbier was a University of Virginia student who was visiting North Korea with a tour group when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 on suspicion of stealing a propaganda poster. He died in June 2017, shortly after he returned to the U.S. in a coma and showing apparent signs of torture while in custody.
In holding North Korean responsible, Howell said the government had seized Warmbier for “use as a pawn in that totalitarian state’s global shenanigans and face-off with the United States.”
“Before Otto traveled with a tour group on a five-day trip to North Korea, he was a healthy, athletic student of economics and business in his junior year at the University of Virginia, with ‘big dreams’ and both the smarts and people skills to make him his high school class salutatorian, homecoming king, and prom king,” the judge wrote. “He was blind, deaf, and brain dead when North Korea turned him over to U.S. government officials for his final trip home.”
The arrest and death of Warmbier came during a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea over the country’s nuclear weapons program. President Donald Trump held a first-of-its-kind summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June 2018 and plans another next year.
The judgment may be mostly a symbolic victory since North Korea has yet to respond to any of the allegations in court and there’s no practical mechanism to force it do so. But the family may nonetheless be able to recoup damages through a Justice Department-administered fund for victims of state-sponsored acts of terrorism, and may look to seize other assets held by the country outside of North Korea.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, who are from a suburb of Cincinnati, said they were thankful the court found the government of Kim Jong Un “legally and morally” responsible for their son’s death.
“We put ourselves and our family through the ordeal of a lawsuit and public trial because we promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him,” they said in a statement. “Today’s thoughtful opinion by Chief Judge Howell is a significant step on our journey.”
The lawsuit, filed in April, describes in horrific detail the physical abuse Warmbier endured in North Korean custody, recounting how his parents were “stunned to see his condition” when they boarded a plane to see him upon arrival in the U.S.
The 22-year-old was blind and deaf, his arms were curled and mangled and he was jerking violently and howling, completely unresponsive to his family’s attempts to comfort him. His once straight teeth were misaligned, and he had an unexplained scar on his foot. An expert said the injuries suggested he’d been tortured with electric shock, and a neurologist later concluded that the college student suffered brain damage, probably from a loss of blood flow to the brain for five to 20 minutes.
North Korea has denied Warmbier was tortured and has said he contracted botulism, though medical experts said there was no evidence of that.
The complaint also said Warmbier was pressed to make a televised confession, then convicted of subversion after a short trial. He was denied communication with his family. In June 2017, his parents were informed he was in a coma and had been in that condition for one year.
Though foreign nations are generally immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts, Howell cited several exceptions that she said allowed her to hold North Korea liable. Those include the fact that North Korea has been designated by the U.S. as a sponsor of terrorism, that the Warmbiers are U.S. citizens and that the actions of the North Korean government involved torture and hostage taking.
The penalty awarded to the Warmbiers and to Otto Warmbier’s estate includes punitive damages as well as damages for economic losses, pain and suffering and medical expenses.
The lawsuit was brought on the Warmbiers’ behalf by Richard Cullen, a prominent Virginia lawyer and former U.S. attorney. He told The Associated Press that while “nothing will ever bring Otto back to the Warmbiers or erase their memories of his horrid last 18 months,” the judge’s decision was “very good news for his family and friends.”
Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP
Ohio high school heads into holiday with Reindeer Games
By WARREN DILLAWAY
Monday, December 24
JEFFERSON, Ohio (AP) — Antlers, Santa hats and Christmas sweaters, complete with lights, were all key components to Reindeer Games at Jefferson High School on Friday afternoon.
For more than three decades on the last day of school before Christmas, students and teaches get to wind down with competition, silly games and flying pies.
“This was going on when I was in school,” said teacher Scott Barber, who graduated from Jefferson High School in 1986.
Jefferson High School cheerleaders plan the Reindeer Games with their adviser, Carrie Pawlowski. Musical chairs, whipped cream slurping, eggnog chugging, pin-the-tail-on-the-Grinch and many other fun diversions kept the students laughing throughout the afternoon.
Jefferson High School Principal Jeremy Huber said the cheerleaders have done a nice job of organizing the event after taking over from student council more than six years ago.
Huber said students were making up tests and listening to the jazz band at lunch before getting their competitive juices going. Student Sheridan Wilber was all about that.
“They are competitive (and) I am a very competitive person,” she said.
One game involved students collecting Christmas ornaments with a Christmas present box while on their stomach on a skateboard — not for the faint of heart, but five teams gave it their all and only a few “near collisions” were visible.
The school’s philanthropy club got into the action by sponsoring a contest to choose who got hit with a pie. Students voted on their pie recipient by putting money in a jar with the teacher’s name on it. Rob Mead was the lucky “winner,” taking a pie in the face to help others.
“I’m so excited. It is very festive … and we get to throw pie in Mr. Mead’s face,” said senior Cheyenne Kase.
Philanthropy club president Mary Hostetler said the club tries to use the money for a “Share a Christmas” family.
Grady Wessollek got wrapped up, literally, in his task of becoming a snowman. Senior classmates Kase, Lilith Joerns and Haley Sukalac wrapped him in toilet paper, put a fancy hat on his head and added other accoutrements to win the contest against the younger students.
Overall, the points race for the Reindeer Games class winner came down to a singing battle between the juniors and the seniors, with the soon-to-be graduates winning the day.
Pawlowski said it takes about eight hours of planning, over several weeks, to organize the games.
“We figure out what games to play and what we need to bring in,” she said.
Skip fights about digital devices over the holidays – instead, let them bring your family together
December 17, 2017
Author: Shelia R. Cotten, Professor of Media and Information, Michigan State University
Disclosure statement: Shelia R. Cotten has received funding from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging for part of the research that she conducted that was cited in this article as background literature (Grant #5R01AG030425).
Partners: Michigan State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Holidays are a time for family and friends to come together, to celebrate and to enjoy each other’s company. Older adults, who are often lonely and socially isolated, can particularly look forward to reconnecting with family and friends. However, when technology enters the picture, gatherings may not be quite so positive.
All across the U.S., people of all ages are increasingly using technology – including adults 65 and older. My research, and that of others, has found that using computers, smartphones and the internet can help seniors fight depression and loneliness, and enhance their sense of well-being and self-worth. Technology use can also help older adults feel like they matter to others and help them stay connected with loved ones.
However, my research, with colleagues, has also found that older adults still prefer in-person social interactions. This can cause problems during holiday-season family gatherings, when younger relatives are likely to want to spend lots of time on their smartphones and other devices, often ignoring others in the same physical location. It’s a conflict one of my Ph.D. students, Christopher Ball, has called the “physical-digital divide.” Fortunately, our work both offers explanations for these difficulties and suggests ways to turn holiday disagreement and disappointment into increased family connection that can last all year long.
When they’re away on family visits that can last several days, it’s common for young people – tweens, teens and those in their 20s – to want to stay connected to their friends. However, older adults nearby may feel frustrated, disrespected, isolated and even offended.
In our study, older adults told us they often attempt to limit this and other negative effects of digital devices by declaring tech-free “bubbles” at particular times or places. They ask their friends and relatives to put devices aside during mealtimes and other key activities, to better focus on engaging with others face to face.
But that’s not the only way to create a balance between using technology and interacting directly.
Certainly there can be times when devices should be put down and in-person interaction comes first. Yet all generations can benefit when older family members see how they can use technology to improve their own lives.
Our work suggests that situations with potential for intergenerational conflict can be shifted to bring relatives together: Younger generations can show their older family members about technological devices.
Grandchildren, for example, can demonstrate to their grandparents how they use mobile phones, tablets and social media, explaining what they like about the technologies. It might even turn into a teaching opportunity, helping older family members learn to entertain themselves online. They might even want to find out how to text – or even video chat – with geographically distant relatives. Using these technologies can help people stay connected to friends and family once the holidays are over.
That will likely require some additional patience on the part of the younger technology coach. Older adults learn at slower rates than younger generations. And it may be harder for them to remember instructions, so they might need to be shown how to use the device or app several times. A key factor is making sure the relatives know they can ask for help when technical difficulties inevitably strike.
If older family members see how excited their descendants are about using digital devices, they may decide to cross the generational digital divide – which can help them live more enjoyable, connected lives not just during the holidays, but all throughout the year.
Ohio dairy returning to ‘more intimate’ option: bottled milk
By JANELLE PATTERSON
The Marietta Times
Sunday, December 23
BELPRE, Ohio (AP) — On 100 acres of pasture tucked in the rolling hills, sits a barn just six minutes outside of Belpre and Little Hocking.
It’s called Twin Pines Dairy, and that’s where a family of five is forging a new path down an old-fashioned road.
“My Grandpa and my Dad were dairy farmers down near Parkersburg,” Dave Florence explained after a recent morning milking. “And just a year and a half before I was born, they switched from the old-fashioned glass bottle way to the bigger commercial way used by most places.”
But now, with his wife Tara, daughter Allison, 16, and twin 13-year-old sons, Austin and Adam, there’s a plan in motion to switch back.
They hope by springtime to have a new pasteurization and bottling process built, certified and selling old-fashioned milk from the farm’s storefront and in local coffee shops and small markets in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
“It’s an opportunity to provide a different product, not saying the commercial way is better or worse, we just want to do it a little different, in a way that can be more intimate,” Florence said. “This way, we can keep it in the family and stay in business with a small farm giving those who want to know where their milk came from that answer.”
All five family members are up before dawn each day, and are feeding, milking and caring for their 100 head before breakfast.
“That’s common with cow farmers, but you start with them and take care of their needs before you ever take care of your own,” Florence said. “There are people that think farmers are out to be cruel to or abuse animals, but they see their needs met first. They’re our family.”
Two times a day, around 5 a.m. and by 4 p.m., 45 to 50 of the cows — the ones actively producing milk — begin, of their own accord, to line up outside a pen ready to file in and be milked six at a time.
“They know it’s time, they can feel it,” Florence explained.
He said his sons help to herd the cows into a pen and one will man a sliding door in the milking barn that allows the cows to file in.
“They really don’t fight it, because this feed in here is like candy to them,” he said.
Lined diagonally on an elevated concrete stoop, each cow has its own spot to nibble while prepared for milking.
Florence sanitized each teat with an iodine sanitizing solution, then cleared the teats of the first squirt of milk by a pull, called forestrip.
“That just makes sure we’ve cleared the line and the milk coming out is pure,” he explained.
Then Allison attached the milking units which pump all four teats at the same time.
“It sucks and then it lets go,” she said. “That takes maybe five minutes to finish milking the cow.”
Each group of six cycles through the process in 11 minutes before they’re released back to go lay down in their free stall, or drink water and eat feed or roam about the pasture.
“They’re free to do whatever they want on their own time, if they want to go stand out in the field they can, if they want to lay down they can,” said Florence, pointing out a pregnant cow as another reached out for Allison to scratch her head.
The milk then moves through overhead lines into the next room over where it’s stored in a refrigerated tank that’s drained and trucked to be pasteurized at a plant every other night.
Dave Florence grew up with the tales of a simpler pasteurization process and a more intimate relationship with the consumers of his family’s dairy products.
His father and grandfather had a delivery truck and glass bottles and they milked into pales.
“Right now, with the sheer volume the huge plants are producing for the big grocery stores it’s all about efficiency and passing that milk through the process as quickly and safely as possible,” he explained.
But what gets lost in that quick time and high-temperature pasteurization and homogenization are some of the good bacteria, he said.
“So, we’re going back down in temperature to 145 degrees for 30 minutes, not the 180 to 200 degrees for one to two seconds,” Florence said. “That kills off the bad but keeps the good and creates a rich taste.”
He said it’s a niche market that some consumers are looking for, not only supporting the local dairy farmer but wanting to be more aware of and trust what’s in the foods they’re consuming.
“It’s all regulated and Allison and I both just got certified to test to prove no antibiotics are in any batch of milk, that’s already done at the plant but when we take on the bottling we’ll have to do the testing too,” said Florence.
The push to go old school was not only influenced by researching scattered small farms across the country taking on the micro-market, but also by the costs to produce, market and sell the milk to larger chains.
“And, right now in this industry, these small farms are closing,” he said. “We’re getting killed with the costs just to get it to the consumer.”
His family started in its dairy business in 1925, and Florence continued the tradition after opening Twin Pines in 2000.
But now, at 48, his knees don’t keep up with the labor the way his younger self could. And he relies more on the family team to carry out the feeding of calves, heifers and milk cows, as he supervises and milks.
“I was getting to the point where I couldn’t keep running this by myself with how much it costs but the kids are interested in continuing this, so we thought about making a change,” he said.
“It’s something our family has done and we’re good at,” explained Allison.
“And I like driving all the tractors,” laughed Austin.
“This is for them, they have their strengths here on the farm and what they like doing, and they’ve proved they can take care of all the chores when I’ve had to leave in an emergency,” Florence said. “(Allison) is super good with the cows and she’s got the numbers sense and these boys-you’re not going to get a better tractor driver or harder workers than these two.”
The processing building has been under construction through the fall and it has exterior walls and a roof above.
Next on the list are fiberglass interior walls and the installation of equipment, a walk-in freezer and the fridges to sell whole and 2 percent milk with additional flavors of chocolate, strawberry and seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice.
“Plus, we’ll sell drinkable yogurts and maybe some beef here too,” said Florence. “And we’ll have a window here in the storefront where you can come in and watch the whole process if you’d like from the milk coming in through a line to being bottled after it’s pasteurized.”
New rules could close some child care businesses in Ohio
Sunday, December 23
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Some child care providers in Ohio could lose state funding and decide to close because of new rules that are designed to improve educational offerings and better prepare children for school, the Dayton Daily News reported.
The new rules that go into effect in 2020 include a five-star rating system for child care programs receiving state funding.
Providers will be required to earn at least one star by July 2020 and three stars by 2025 in order to receive funding.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which administers the program, downplayed concerns of a crisis, and said just over half of the state’s children in state-funded child care centers are in rated programs now.
But a review by the Dayton Daily News found that more than 1,000 of 1,513 centers in southwest Ohio that receive subsidized child care are currently unrated.
Small, home-based child care centers have the biggest hurdles to climb, the newspaper reported.
Advocates say some operators will choose to close over the new requirements, forcing parents to find new child care providers.
Melissa Boswell, who has operated a daycare out of her home in Springfield for 28 years, doesn’t have a high school diploma, which is a requirement under the new standards.
“I expect to change careers,” she said. “I have a hard time going back to school to do something I’ve been doing for 28 years.”
The state said it will host fairs to help programs get rated and will commit scholarships for child care teaching staff.
“We’re hitting a crisis point,” said Lisa Babb, strategic operations director of 4C for Children, which is helping publicly funded child care centers meet the new requirement.
Ohio currently allocates more than $630 million per year to subsidized child care — helping to fund centers that serve more than 100,000 Ohio children.
The Job and Family Services department last year released a study that found that child care providers with higher star ratings are associated with better child outcomes.