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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 115)

‘Voice’ coach Gwen Stefani won’t be returning for Season 18

Westlake Legal Group gwen-stefani-the-voice-nbc 'Voice' coach Gwen Stefani won't be returning for Season 18 Sasha Savitsky fox-news/person/kelly-clarkson fox-news/person/gwen-stefani fox-news/person/blake-shelton fox-news/entertainment/music fox-news/entertainment/genres/reality fox-news/entertainment/genres/competition fox news fnc/entertainment fnc bfab6c74-d531-529e-b8eb-128e3b71780d article

Gwen Stefani announced she will not be returning as a coach for Season 18 of “The Voice.”

The news comes after Nick Jonas was revealed to be a new coach on the singing competition series. He joins Stefani’s beau, Blake Shelton, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.

Instead, Stefani, 50, will focus on the final dates of her “Just a Girl” Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood’s Zappos Theater in February and May 2020.

GWEN STEFANI DIDN’T KNOW WHO BOYFRIEND BLAKE SHELTON WAS BEFORE ‘THE VOICE’

“I didn’t expect to be doing [the Vegas show] and ‘The Voice’ at the same time,” the singer told Entertainment Tonight. “I just feel like I’m alive in a way I’ve never been before, because I have to be! Because doing both is a lot.”

In addition to her Las Vegas residency, Stefani, who just rang in the big 5-0, has another reason to celebrate.

She and fellow coach Shelton, 43, are reaching a milestone in their relationship: four years of dating.

The couple first met on the set of “The Voice” in 2014 and sparks quickly flew.

BLAKE SHELTON IN NO RUSH TO MARRY GWEN STEFANI, ‘CAN’T IMAGINE’ WORKING ON ‘THE VOICE’ WITHOUT ADAM LEVINE

“It’s actually shocking that it has already been that long,” Shelton admitted to People in June. “It’s kind of a blur. It still feels like it’s pretty new to me. I guess it is, relatively. Four years isn’t forever, but man, it seems like it just happened in no time.”

Westlake Legal Group gwen-stefani-the-voice-nbc 'Voice' coach Gwen Stefani won't be returning for Season 18 Sasha Savitsky fox-news/person/kelly-clarkson fox-news/person/gwen-stefani fox-news/person/blake-shelton fox-news/entertainment/music fox-news/entertainment/genres/reality fox-news/entertainment/genres/competition fox news fnc/entertainment fnc bfab6c74-d531-529e-b8eb-128e3b71780d article   Westlake Legal Group gwen-stefani-the-voice-nbc 'Voice' coach Gwen Stefani won't be returning for Season 18 Sasha Savitsky fox-news/person/kelly-clarkson fox-news/person/gwen-stefani fox-news/person/blake-shelton fox-news/entertainment/music fox-news/entertainment/genres/reality fox-news/entertainment/genres/competition fox news fnc/entertainment fnc bfab6c74-d531-529e-b8eb-128e3b71780d article

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Biden plan: Free community college, expanded loan programs

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6093007278001_6092994476001-vs Biden plan: Free community college, expanded loan programs fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/person/joe-biden fnc/politics fnc Associated Press article 952e76c0-7723-5d9c-863f-3021c29f6c14

Joe Biden is calling for making community and technical college free while making existing federal college loan programs more generous as he continues charting a policy course that moves leftward but stops short of his more progressive rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former vice president’s $750 billion higher education plan represents a major expansion of the federal government’s role in educating Americans beyond high school. But Biden’s pitch Tuesday is not as sweeping as proposals from his 2020 rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom offer plans exceeding the $1 trillion mark.

JOE BIDEN UNVEILS NEW STRATEGY TO DEAL WITH GROWING UKRAINE CONTROVERSY

The competing approaches reflect Democrats’ efforts to address spiking tuition costs in the United States and the $1.5 trillion-plus in student debt held by about 45 million Americans. The party’s education policy divide is similar to the gap that separates Biden from the two progressive senators on health care, with the former vice president proposing to expand the federal government’s role in the existing health insurance market, while Warren and Sanders propose a single-payer insurance system that would see the federal government essentially replace private insurance altogether.

Jill Biden, the candidate’s wife and a longtime community college professor, explained her husband’s approach.

“My students inspire me,” she said in a conference call with reporters, “and they ask for one thing in return: opportunity.”

The crux of Biden’s higher education plan is a federal-state partnership to cover community college tuition and technical training. Biden calls for the federal government to cover 75 percent of the tuition costs, with states covering the rest. That’s a similar financing concept to the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and the disabled, with states required to cover some costs to qualify for federal money to cover the majority of the program.

Biden proposes that the federal government cover 95 percent of the community college tuition cost at Native Americans’ tribal campuses.

Sanders and Warren propose universal, free access to all undergraduate public colleges and universities.

On student debt, Biden’s more limited approach calls for doubling the Pell Grant program for low-income Americans and cutting in half the income percentage caps on student loan repayments. Borrowers now must pay up to 10 percent of their discretionary income. Biden calls for capping payments at 5 percent of discretionary income, while also delaying payments for anyone making less than $25,000, with the borrower accruing no additional interest.

Biden’s plan would forgive any remaining debt after 20 years of payments and would allow borrowers to get out of their debts as part of personal bankruptcy.

Sanders, conversely, proposes eliminating all student loan debt, while Warren calls for broad debt relief based on income. Warren’s idea would cancel $50,000 in debt for each person with household income under $100,000, with additional proportional relief for those making up to $250,000 annually.

CLICK HERE FOR  THE ALL-NEW FOXBUSINESS.COM

Biden and Warren have another noticeable split on for-profit colleges, which have come under scrutiny because their graduates have a much higher default rate on loans as they struggle to find quality jobs. Biden proposes tighter regulations on those colleges to stop them “from profiteering off of students.” Warren calls for banning such businesses from getting federal money altogether.

All three Democratic hopefuls point to proposed tax increases to pay for their spending. Sanders would tax Wall Street transactions. Warren points to her “wealth tax,” 2 cents on every dollar of a household’s net worth beyond $50 million. Biden calls for eliminating certain breaks in inheritance taxes and capping itemized deductions for the wealthiest Americans.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6093007278001_6092994476001-vs Biden plan: Free community college, expanded loan programs fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/person/joe-biden fnc/politics fnc Associated Press article 952e76c0-7723-5d9c-863f-3021c29f6c14   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6093007278001_6092994476001-vs Biden plan: Free community college, expanded loan programs fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/person/joe-biden fnc/politics fnc Associated Press article 952e76c0-7723-5d9c-863f-3021c29f6c14

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Samuel Little Has Confessed To Strangling 93 Women, FBI Says

Westlake Legal Group 5d9c29142100003d07abec7b Samuel Little Has Confessed To Strangling 93 Women, FBI Says

Samuel Little, a 79-year-old convicted murderer who’s confessed to strangling more than 90 women, is the most prolific serial killer in American history, the FBI says. 

The FBI said in a Sunday statement that it had verified at least 50 of the 93 slayings Little claims to have committed, and believed all of his confessions to be “credible.” 

The astounding death toll attributed to Little surpasses that of Gary Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, who was convicted of 49 murders and who confessed to about 20 more.

Like Ridgway, Little targeted vulnerable women, including sex workers and drug addicts. In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Little said of his victims: “They was broke and homeless and they walked right into my spider web.”

Little began confessing to the murders in 2018 during conversations with Texas Ranger James Holland. Little was already behind bars at the time, having been convicted in 2014 for three murders.

Until his interactions with Holland, however, Little had maintained his innocence. But over the course of several months last year, Little confessed to Holland that he had killed 93 women across the country over the span of three decades.

Little’s recall of the murders was “phenomenal,” Holland said, and the killer was able to create detailed portraits of dozens of his victims ― drawings that law enforcement has used to close cold cases, some decades old. 

Little is “wicked smart” and has a “photographic memory,” Holland told “60 Minutes.”

“For example, Little remembered unusual arches close to the spot where he killed a woman outside of Miami. Sure enough, when Miami detectives investigated, they saw the arches. Little had strangled Miriam Chapman near those arches in 1976,” Holland said.  

The ranger added that none of Little’s confessions had “been proven to be wrong or false. We’ve been able to prove up almost everything he said.” 

Video footage released by the FBI this week shows Little ― who has expressed no remorse for the slayings ― speaking animatedly about his crimes. He speaks of the murders casually, often smiling and laughing. 

“I don’t think there was another person that did what I liked to do,” Little told “60 Minutes.” “I think I’m the only one in the world. That’s not an honor. That’s a curse.”

The FBI said it’s seeking the public’s help in identifying Little’s other victims and verifying his confessions.  

“For many years, Samuel Little believed he would not be caught because he thought no one was accounting for his victims,” Christie Palazzolo, an FBI crime analyst, said in a statement. “Even though he is already in prison, the FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim — to close every case possible.”

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Virtual Reality Goes To Work, Helping Train Employees

Westlake Legal Group strivr_edu-101-003--9138050d0dc6a6d71ab24164ca2d79cbdccb3c10-s1100-c15 Virtual Reality Goes To Work, Helping Train Employees

Employers are using virtual reality to train millions of workers in everything from operating machines to how to handle active shooters. Courtesy of Strivr hide caption

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Courtesy of Strivr

Westlake Legal Group  Virtual Reality Goes To Work, Helping Train Employees

Employers are using virtual reality to train millions of workers in everything from operating machines to how to handle active shooters.

Courtesy of Strivr

Virtual reality — long touted as the next big thing in tech — hasn’t taken off as a consumer product, but employers are embracing it as a more efficient and effective tool for on-the-job training.

This year, Walmart is training over a million employees using virtual reality. And moving companies, airlines, food-processing, and financial firms are all using VR in different ways. In the virtual world, cashiers are taught to show greater empathy, mechanics learn to repair planes, and retail workers experience how to deal with armed robbery.

The sensory immersion is key to its effectiveness. Because things look and sound as if they were real, the brain processes virtual reality as though it were a real experience, says Stanford communication professor Jeremy Bailenson, who also founded the school’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

“People learn by doing … getting feedback on mistakes, and then repeating and iterating,” he says.

Not every workplace situation is conducive to virtual-reality training. Some tactile skills, for example, are better experienced in real life. But the technology is especially useful for training people for novel or emergency situations.

Verizon, for example, has been using the technology to train its retail workers in handling armed robberies — a common crime in the wireless industry. Retail workers can reenact being held up at gunpoint, and in the process learn proper ways to prioritize safety and minimize physical harm.

Feeling like they’re at gunpoint creates a real stress response, without putting employees in actual danger. Verizon employees who survived robberies say the video version is true to life, says Lou Tedrick, who heads the company’s learning and development.

“The emotions that they felt during the robbery experience they feel during the VR experience,” she says.

That realism, she says, makes them better prepared and more likely to remember the lessons. “By the end of the [virtual reality] experience, they feel like they’ve been robbed three times and by the third time their confidence is significantly higher,” Tedrick says.

The concept for VR training started as a project in Bailenson’s lab at Stanford. Its first real-world application took place nearby, on the school’s football fields.

Westlake Legal Group david-shaw1_vert-2560d7794825cfca1438cf0ac3140319217377fd-s800-c15 Virtual Reality Goes To Work, Helping Train Employees

Stanford football coach David Shaw says virtual reality training has helped his team. “Their brain is seeing these visuals, these different formations and motions and plays and defenses,” he says of players using VR. “The more they see them, the quicker they react.” Yuki Noguchi/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Yuki Noguchi/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Virtual Reality Goes To Work, Helping Train Employees

Stanford football coach David Shaw says virtual reality training has helped his team. “Their brain is seeing these visuals, these different formations and motions and plays and defenses,” he says of players using VR. “The more they see them, the quicker they react.”

Yuki Noguchi/NPR

Five years ago, Stanford head football coach David Shaw tested an early prototype of 3D video goggles with his quarterbacks and defensive linemen. Players could look around and feel as through the moves were unfolding in real life.

“This crazy thing happens when guys get in the VR — usually within 10 minutes, most of them start to sweat,” despite the fact they’re barely moving in real life, Shaw says. “But their brain is seeing these visuals, these different formations and motions and plays and defenses. The more they see them, the quicker they react.”

In this way, players could do reps — or repeated practice plays — without being on a field, on their own time. In 2016, two years after starting VR training, Stanford won the Rose Bowl and Shaw says he thinks it helped the team win. The technology has spread to the NBA, NFL, Olympic skiers and other elite athletes.

The early prototype Shaw used became the basis of Strivr, one of several companies using VR in training.

The concept of practice through repetition is useful across many workplace tasks, says Derek Belch, Strivr’s CEO and founder, and a former student of Bailenson’s. “For sexual harassment training, for interviewer training, we’ve got to give you reps, too,” Belch says.

But using VR to address things like unconscious bias or sexual harassment is still a new frontier.

Current software isn’t yet good at responding to subtle things, like how an employee rolls his eyes or raises his voice. So virtual reality could someday be programmed to understand the complexities of human interaction, and help people make better decisions. But for now, there isn’t enough research to say where those limits lie.

There’s no evidence VR training can change how people think or feel, says Chris Dede, an education professor at Harvard.

“The goal isn’t somehow to make people unbiased, which I don’t think is possible; the goal is to make you aware of your biases,” he says. The hope is that virtual reality will make people more aware of the right behavior, and give them opportunities to practice that.

Walmart is already testing it as a way to interview job candidates, says the retailer’s head of learning, a man aptly named Andy Trainor.

“With all the data you get from VR you can see where they look. You can see how they move and how they react,” Trainor says. “You could do an interview in VR and based on the way they answer the questions you can preselect whether or not they’d be a good fit for that role.”

The retailer purchased 17,000 goggles that it’s using in 4,700 locations to train most of its workforce this year. Trainor says VR is a far cheaper and easier way to train people across a big organization.

For example, Walmart recently introduced a new machine used to retrieve orders customers placed online.

“Previously, we had to send three to four people to the store to train how to set it up, how to maintain it, how to interact with customers with it,” Trainor says. “Now we just send a pair of VR goggles. We have VR modules that teach them how to do all of that stuff without any human intervention.”

Editor’s note: Verizon and Walmart are among NPR’s financial supporters.

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Betsy DeVos Could Face Jail After Judge Rules She Violated 2018 Order on Student Loans

Westlake Legal Group goq461Gcs7VPbv_D4QbvA_XdaP0tABqCz4Vrf5nx4Js Betsy DeVos Could Face Jail After Judge Rules She Violated 2018 Order on Student Loans r/politics

If we can get some candidates into office we can make sure it’s a lot. Also,

The system that allows for Billionaires to exist only works if the lower classes are exploited to the tune of…

Well, Facebook exists because everybody gave Zuck their data… But!

All that money is ours. Amazon isn’t much different.

They didn’t earn it and they do not let their employees own their own labor.

I own my data and no user agreement can give it to Zuck.

Commercials, spam mail, spam ads, ads, billboards, popups…

Capitalism needs to be fucking wrangled to the ground like the demon bull it is and castrated, to be led back to the barn. That fucker doesn’t need to be running around the lands unregulated.

If you choose capital you are an idolator setting fire to our lives, humans on Earth. Worship your new fire God. Oh how the gold doth glitter and dance. But you are the bad guy. If you are not willing to give up your standard of living, you are the bad guy.

Choosing trump won’t protect your standard of living. It will condemn it to a downward spiral of until your shot by his robot fascist force. Capitalism and authoritarian states have predictable outcomes and as China is learning the hard way… It’s only a matter of time.

Authoritarianism and capitalism are working together to subjugate humans to feed their systems.

We can build egalitarian systems people. Get in the game.

This lady is evil incarnate, and education is our greatest weapon against this golden hemmed idolatry.

Edit: Data is more valuable than oil and they literally put pipes into all our houses to suck it up from us

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Is Your Retirement Fund Ruining Our Economy?

Westlake Legal Group investment-3247252_1920-ebdf21d8fe3ac33d8670fa140efa97cf9884bf9d-s1100-c15 Is Your Retirement Fund Ruining Our Economy?
Westlake Legal Group  Is Your Retirement Fund Ruining Our Economy?

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money’s newsletter. You can sign up here.

In the mid-2000s, Michael Burry smelled trouble in the housing market, realizing that big banks were packaging shady subprime mortgages and reselling them as surefire investments. He concluded that it would lead to a spectacular collapse, made a huge bet against the market and, ultimately, tons of money. His story was dramatized in the book The Big Short by Michael Lewis and in a Hollywood movie in which he was played by Christian Bale.

Burry recently told Bloomberg that he sees another massive bubble happening. This time, he says, it’s in index funds. Instead of relying on financial experts to actively pick winners and losers, index funds buy everything in a market, passively going up and down as the entire market goes up and down. If you’re saving for retirement, there’s a good chance you’re invested in at least one of them.

In 1995, index funds represented only 4% of the total assets invested in equity mutual funds. By 2015, that had jumped to 34%. There is now over $4 trillion in passive funds indexed to the U.S. stock market, more than the market cap of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Google combined.

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-504967844-8df3a6e81b34cff5cabe7d90644afe075172e838-s800-c15 Is Your Retirement Fund Ruining Our Economy?
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Westlake Legal Group  Is Your Retirement Fund Ruining Our Economy?

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Index funds make a persuasive offer. Don’t pursue the expensive and risky strategy of buying and selling individual stocks. Don’t pay brokers or mutual funds big fees to move money around for you. Instead, just park your money in these passive moneymakers, which offer lower fees, diversified risk, and — as the data has made clear — better returns over the long run.

It sounds almost too good to be true, and Burry is arguing it is. And he’s not alone in expressing concerns about the astonishing rise of index funds.

The Price Isn’t Right

Actively buying and selling stocks and bonds provides a service to the market: It’s called “price discovery.” If something is overvalued, traders sell it. If it’s undervalued, they buy it. That moves the price of the asset — and it is the crucial mechanism to make sure the price is right, signaling its true value.

But index funds don’t really discover prices. Investors just dump money into these investments, which mindlessly hold stock in companies whether they’re doing well or not. Burry believes the fall of active buying and selling has led to overvaluations, and he’s predicting a crash in the value of the large companies held in index funds. “I just don’t know what the timeline will be. Like most bubbles, the longer it goes on, the worse the crash will be,” he told Bloomberg. He’s now investing in small companies, which he says are often ignored by index funds.

Burry has not disclosed much about his data or methodology. And like any trader, he could be wrong. But, even if he is, concerns about index funds go well beyond bubbles.

A Specter

Legal scholars Lucian A. Bebchuk and Scott Hirst recently published a working paper called “The Specter of the Giant Three.” The vast majority of money flowing into index funds are run by three companies: Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street Global Advisors. Their combined average stake in each of the top 500 American corporations (the S&P 500) has gone from 5.2% in 1998 to 20.5% in 2017.

The market for index funds, Bebchuk and Hirst argue, naturally favors bigness. Managing a trillion dollar fund is not dramatically more expensive than managing a billion dollar firm. This means the big firms can use their larger revenue streams to offer consumers lower fees, giving them a competitive advantage. Innovations in types of index funds are also easy to copy, meaning that it’s especially hard for small companies to disrupt the big ones.

As more and more people put their money in index funds, Bebchuk and Hirst believe these companies will just continue getting bigger and bigger. And, unlike many other investors, Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street reliably vote at shareholder meetings, which makes them even more influential when it comes to company decision-making. If trends continue, Bebhcuk and Hirst project these three companies could cast over 40% of the votes in every single one of the 500 largest American corporations within the next couple decades.

“In this Giant Three scenario, three investment managers would largely dominate shareholder voting in practically all significant U.S. companies that do not have a controlling shareholder,” Bebchuk and Hirst warn. They fear this could have drastic implications for corporate governance and competition.

Another group of scholars, Eric A. Posner, Fiona Scott Morton, and E. Glen Weyl, argue these gigantic institutional investors are already posing a threat to a healthy marketplace. And they urge the federal government to adopt new rules that limit institutional investors from owning large stakes in multiple companies in the same industry.

We now look back at the housing bubble with an astonishment at the mass delusion behind the idea that home prices could always go up, and that more people like Michael Burry didn’t see it coming. It’s possible that someday, we’ll look at the promise that everyone can just buy and hold pieces of an entire market and nothing will go wrong the same way.

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This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Photos by Lauren Justice

On a hot midsummer morning in 2012, Rhonda Carrell received a mailer from the Wysocki Family of Companies announcing its intention to build a mega-dairy and farm – Golden Sands – just a stone’s throw from her driveway in Saratoga, Wisconsin.

Carrell’s small town was a convenient location for the big agriculture firm. Twenty miles east of its headquarters, Saratoga is a midpoint between the company’s farm fields, another of its mega-dairies, and its offices. 

The day before Carrell got the mailer, a Wysocki delegate had come through Saratoga to drop off permit applications for Golden Sands Dairy. Its proposal included 5,300 cows and more than 6,000 acres of farmland scattered throughout the community. If the plan moved forward, the rural town of 5,000 residents would have more cows than people.

It was a prospect that frightened the Carrells. Wisconsin, known as the dairy capital of the U.S., is no stranger to mega-dairies. The proposed Golden Sands would join around 300 already operating in the state. Known as CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, these giant factory farms hold upwards of 1,000 animals that are kept mostly in confined conditions.

Their sheer scale makes them cost-efficient, but efficiency comes at a heavy price. Not only can they knock smaller farms out of business by outpacing them on price, but the waste they churn out can carry a heavy environmental toll – especially when it comes to water. And Rhonda Carrell was aware of what was at stake.

The big problem with CAFOs, such as Wysocki’s, is what comes out of the cows: manure.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8a2bd02200005900fb916d This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Carrell looks out over a portion of the proposed site of Golden Sands Dairy in Saratoga, Wisconsin, on Sept. 20.

A dairy cow can produce up to 80 pounds of manure per day. A site like Golden Sands could have more than 150 million pounds of manure on its hands each year. To dispose of this waste, CAFOs often buy up thousands of acres nearby for vegetable production. These fields are known as manure application fields. While manure is a commonly used crop fertilizer – and, if managed properly, can return nutrients to the soil – the amounts produced by CAFOs are often vastly more than what can be absorbed in the soil, meaning animal waste can end up leaching into water supplies, contaminating them.

In Wisconsin, this is a dire problem. The state is plagued with contaminants from animal waste — particularly nitrate, which has been linked to birth defects and cancer. Nitrates can concentrate in groundwater from a variety of sources, including bad septic systems, but here, 90% of them come from agriculture. About 40% of Wisconsinites rely on private well water, and at least 10% of all private wells in Wisconsin contain unsafe levels of nitrates. 

The day the mailer fell onto the Carrells’ doormat was the start of an epic battle – one that is still ongoing and has pitched the tiny community of Saratoga, terrified of losing its pristine drinking water, against a big agricultural company determined to build another mega-diary. 

Saratoga citizens’ fight against Golden Sands represents a battle for clean water across the region.

“I’ve given up a lot of my life because of this fight,” Carrell told HuffPost over the phone in late January. She admitted she was exhausted. The fight was almost at its seven-year mark, and she still couldn’t see the finish line.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8a2c5a2200005a00fb9290 This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Carrell at her home hair salon in Saratoga, Wisconsin, on Sept. 20.

Carrell moved to Saratoga more than 12 years ago to open a hair salon. She set up shop just beyond her back porch. She and her husband planned on a quiet life with walks among the red pine plantations, weekends fishing in pristine trout streams and eventual retirement. She didn’t expect to sacrifice so much of her income, time and mental health on a battle to preserve clean drinking water in the town. 

The Carrells are among a growing number of residents in a tricounty agricultural corridor — comprised of Juneau County, Adams County and Wood County, where Saratoga is located — who are concerned about high levels of nitrates in their drinking water. 

One of the most well-known health effects from nitrates is blue baby syndrome, a decrease in the blood’s oxygen levels which can lead to infant death, but new studies have also found links to birth defects, thyroid disease and cancer

It’s a particular problem in the middle of the state where Golden Sands has been proposed. The region, called Central Sands, was formed by a glacial lake, leaving behind the Wisconsin River as a souvenir. A quarter of this flat, broad landscape is now devoted to agriculture. 

The soil is made of about 100 feet of pure sand and gravel, making it highly permeable, according to George Kraft, a hydrogeologist and professor of water resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The soil doesn’t hold water or pollutants well, and nitrates can easily slip into the groundwater. And because the water table is shallow, the wells most residents rely on for their water are shallow, too. 

Many big farms try to circumvent pollution problems with state-approved nutrient management plans that set out strategies for what farms will do with the manure produced by their animals. But Kraft believes these plans often simply provide a legal loophole for farmers to maximize their use of fertilizer and waste disposal systems. The plans do not include regulations around ground or surface water contamination. 

“They’re not water protection tools,” Kraft said.

Once they learned of Wysocki’s plans, Carrell and other concerned Saratoga residents quickly formed a citizens group — Protect Wood County — to conduct water testing and monitor their nitrate levels.  Since 2012, Saratoga has created one of the most comprehensive baseline water testing databases in the state. The town’s water is essentially pristine, with a nitrate level of around 0.2 milligrams per liter.

Criste Sullivan-Greening, a member of Protect Wood County, grew up behind Saratoga’s town hall and raised her three kids along one of the town’s clear streams. 

Westlake Legal Group 5d8a2d1e2200005a00fb937c This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Criste Sullivan-Greening, an active member of Protect Wood County, at her home in Saratoga, Wisconsin, on Sept. 20, 2019.

“We didn’t want the CAFO,” Sullivan-Greening said. “We knew we had to organize, and that’s what the citizens did. Within 30 days, we had multiple committees formed to study potential impacts to roads, air quality, and quality of life. We had hundreds of community members teaming together to do research on what it could do to our township.” 

Along with water testing and community organizing, the town also contested Wysocki’s permit in 2012 on the basis that agricultural zoning laws prevented the company from using the 6,000 acres as farmland. 

This kicked off a series of lawsuits between the town and the mega-dairy that eventually reached Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. In 2018, after six years of legal battles, the court delivered a blow to Saratoga’s hope of seeing off Golden Sands, ruling that the dairy could farm on the land, as long as it built the dairy first.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8a2de62200003300fb94ad This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Signs protesting Wysocki and water contamination along Highway 73 in Saratoga, Wisconsin, on Sept. 20.

HuffPost contacted Wysocki Family of Companies multiple times via email and phone. A spokesperson for the company emailed, saying they would endeavor to provide information, but did not respond to any questions.

Sullivan-Greening remains hopeful that given some of the challenges Wysocki faces, including historically low milk prices, the company won’t move forward with the controversial CAFO. She even sees a silver living to the struggle.

“Back in 2012, our community was a community of strangers,” she said. “Now, years later, we’re a family. What Wyscoki’s done to our community has made us stronger.”

For a sense of the potential impact of the proposed Golden Sands Dairy, one need only look across the Wisconsin River to Juneau County, where Wysocki opened its Central Sands mega-dairy in 2007.

Pam Murray and her husband, Scott, spent 20 years raising their kids in the town of Armenia in Juneau County. After Wysocki opened the Central Sands CAFO in 2007, their house, about 300 feet away from manure application fields, was in the line of fire. According to Murray, manure overspray covered their home, pool and cars, and began to permeate their inner walls, their carpet and even their clothes. 

In 2011, the couple agreed to be bought out by Wyoscki. Scott died five years later at just 55. Their neighbor, Diane Miller, also agreed to be bought out after her husband, Ray, passed away from cancer. Miller said the overspray became so bad that her husband, who used a wheelchair, was unable to go outside unassisted because the ramp was too slick. Miller died in 2014. Of the two couples bought out by Wysocki, only Pam Murray is still alive.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8a304123000059006d4e8b This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Pam Murray at her home in October 2018.

Then, in 2016, the death of a baby girl further galvanized neighbors against the CAFO. 

Celina Stewart, who lives 2 miles east of the Central Sands Dairy and downstream from its farm fields, believes nitrates in her water led to the death of her baby at 23 weeks due to serious birth defects. When the Department of Agriculture tested her water after she lost her daughter, results showed nitrate levels of 35 milligrams per liter, Stewart said. However, a privately commissioned test showed nitrate levels of 42.5 milligrams per liter. The federal safe drinking water level is 10 milligrams per liter

Two years later, Nancy Eggleston, environmental health supervisor for the Wood County Health Department, organized a community-wide water test of residential wells near Armenia. She was shocked when 41% of the 104 private wells tested had nitrates above the safe drinking water level – 4.5 times the statewide average for nitrate contamination. The Wood and Juneau County Health Departments issued a warning to residents not to drink their well water if it had high nitrate levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency was also testing water near Central Sands, and its adjacent farm fields found that 65% of their groundwater samples down-gradient from Central Sands showed nitrate contamination. 

Ken Wade, a former hydrogeologist for the Department of Natural Resources, wasn’t surprised. In 2013, one well being monitored at Central Sands Dairy showed that groundwater nitrates had spiked to nearly four times the safe drinking water standard. The next year, another well was measured to have nitrate levels that were 7.7 times the standard. It was “the highest nitrate groundwater contamination I’ve seen anywhere in the state,” Wade said.

Following the testing by Eggleston and the EPA, Wysocki formed a coalition with two nearby industrial agriculture corporations. In a public letter from August 2018, the alliance — called the Armenia Growers Coalition — attributed the elevated nitrate levels in part to “legacy agricultural practices,” or farms that existed in the region decades before their own cattle and crop enterprises arrived.

But George Kraft, who has studied the area since the 1990s, doesn’t buy it.

“The connection that this group is making, that it’s a legacy problem dating back to the 1950s, doesn’t make sense,” Kraft said. Data shows that nitrate levels in the groundwater have become more severe over time, he added.

The Armenia Growers Coalition volunteered in August 2018 to provide bottled water to residents whose water had nitrate levels above 10 milligrams per liter, at least until a water treatment system was installed at the residents’ homes. According to Cameron Field, the coalition’s attorney, 36 reverse osmosis systems (which filter out nitrates) have been installed in residents’ homes, though 62 were requested.

But these efforts were not enough to stave off legal action against Wysocki. In November 2018, a lawsuit brought by 81 families who live near Central Sands Dairy claimed that Wysocki’s harmful practices caused medical problems — including cancer, thyroid disease, miscarriages and birth defects — and that Wysocki initially lied to residents about the potential environmental impact. The court case is ongoing, and according to Breanne Snapp, an attorney for the plaintiffs, the suit has now more than doubled to 174 plaintiffs. The bottled water and treatment systems provided by the Growers Coalition are “not a comprehensive solution to the problem,” Snapp said.

Wysocki did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment on the lawsuit. However, Tim Huffcutt, a spokesperson for Wysocki Family of Companies, sent a statement to the USA Today Network-Wisconsin in January, saying, “there are various sources of nitrates in the environment” and repeating suggestions that these could be linked to legacy farming practices. Huffcutt’s statement also said the Armenia Growers Coalition believes providing bottled water and treatment systems “is the best way forward.”

Agricultural runoff, such as manure and other fertilizers, is largely exempt from federal regulation under 1972’s Clean Water Act, which leaves agricultural supervision largely up to the states. Although large CAFOs have to get permits for their nutrient management planning, there’s little oversight in Wisconsin for how CAFOs dispose of waste.

“We haven’t been able to crack the agricultural pollution nut,” Kraft said. “Somehow, we have to get that done.” 

There’s some hope under Wisconsin’s new Democratic governor, Tony Evers. Evers announced in January that 2019 was the year of clean drinking water. Of the $125 million water quality budget he proposed, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature approved $48 million in new funding for pollution prevention. Evers also announced plans to limit the amount of nitrates in the groundwater by creating new statewide limits on agricultural runoff.  

But those plans will take at least 2½ years. As it stands, the only solution for residents fearing nitrate pollution throughout the state is Eggleston’s: Test your water and know your nitrate number. Test annually and at different times of the year, as farming seasons can influence the level of pollutants, she said. And if it’s above the federal drinking water limit, don’t drink the water. If you’re pregnant, don’t drink any well water at all.

“I can’t imagine looking at your faucet and thinking, ‘I can’t drink that,’” Eggleston said.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8a30fb2200003300fb9a1d This Town Is Desperately Fighting For Its Drinking Water

Downtown Saratoga, Wisconsin, on Sept. 20.

However hard Saratoga works, everything still hinges on Wysocki. Daniel Helsel, a policy initiatives manager at the Department of Natural Resources, said the permitting process for Wysocki has been on hold since 2016 as it waits for Wysocki to provide information needed to review their application. But the application could stay open indefinitely.

“The permit applications themselves do not expire,” Helsel said. “The permit can only be withdrawn at the request of the applicant.” 

Attorney Paul Kent, who has been involved in Saratoga’s fight for more than half a decade, said if Wysocki decides to proceed with the dairy, it could mean another three to five years of court battles. It’s Kent’s impression that the building permit Wysocki initially applied for has been sitting for so long that it’s no longer tenable and is unlikely to be approved. But, he admits, “I’ve given up trying to guess.”

Carrell remains troubled. She grew up believing farmers to be good stewards of the land and the water, and she has been “shocked at revelations since our battle began.”

“It’s taken my peace of mind knowing a corporation can do something like this to a community,” Carrell said.

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HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to thisnewworld@huffpost.com.

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NBA Draft bust resurfaces with new look in Serbian basketball league

Westlake Legal Group Darko-Milicic NBA Draft bust resurfaces with new look in Serbian basketball league Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nba/the-memphis-grizzlies fox-news/sports/nba/orlando-magic fox-news/sports/nba/new-york-knicks fox-news/sports/nba/minnesota-timberwolves fox-news/sports/nba/detroit-pistons fox-news/sports/nba/boston-celtics fox-news/sports/nba fox news fnc/sports fnc article 9767af7b-ed13-5282-95d8-45968a4fa443

Darko Milicic, who the NBA’s  Detroit Pistons selected with the No. 2 pick in 2003, after LeBron James and before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, is considered one of the biggest draft busts in league history

Milicic, who was just 18 when he was drafted, had an unremarkable 10-year career and is now best known as a trivia question. But a new picture of him surfaced on social media Monday showing the 7-footer back on the court and looking bulkier than the 250 pounds he carried in the NBA.

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Milicic, now 34, had been out of basketball for seven years before he signed with a Serbian team in his hometown of Novi Sad in September. According to Yahoo Sports, the team plays in the Second Men’s Regional League.

He reportedly scored two points in the game before exiting with a shoulder injury.

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Milicic debuted with the Pistons during the 2003-04 season and only played 96 games for them before he was traded to the Orlando Magic during the 2005-06 season.

He bounced around the NBA before leaving the U.S. for good after the 2012-13 season.

Milicic played with the Pistons, Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics.

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A year after leaving the NBA in 2013, Milicic took up kickboxing and had at least one fight in Serbia. He lost via TKO to Radovan Radojcin in the second round.

Westlake Legal Group Darko-Milicic NBA Draft bust resurfaces with new look in Serbian basketball league Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nba/the-memphis-grizzlies fox-news/sports/nba/orlando-magic fox-news/sports/nba/new-york-knicks fox-news/sports/nba/minnesota-timberwolves fox-news/sports/nba/detroit-pistons fox-news/sports/nba/boston-celtics fox-news/sports/nba fox news fnc/sports fnc article 9767af7b-ed13-5282-95d8-45968a4fa443   Westlake Legal Group Darko-Milicic NBA Draft bust resurfaces with new look in Serbian basketball league Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nba/the-memphis-grizzlies fox-news/sports/nba/orlando-magic fox-news/sports/nba/new-york-knicks fox-news/sports/nba/minnesota-timberwolves fox-news/sports/nba/detroit-pistons fox-news/sports/nba/boston-celtics fox-news/sports/nba fox news fnc/sports fnc article 9767af7b-ed13-5282-95d8-45968a4fa443

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3 Scientists Win Nobel Prize In Physics For Work That Examines The Evolution Of The Universe

Westlake Legal Group 5d9c1bd320000069054f1474 3 Scientists Win Nobel Prize In Physics For Work That Examines The Evolution Of The Universe

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Three scientists won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for their work in understanding how the universe has evolved, and the Earth’s place in it.

The prize was given to James Peebles “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology,” and the other half jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star,” said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that chooses the laureates.

An exoplanet is a planet outside the solar system.

Hansson credited the three for their “contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe, and Earth’s place in the cosmos.”

The prize comes with a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award to be shared a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates receive them at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, together with five other Nobel winners. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

This was the 113th Nobel Prize in Physics awarded since 1901, of which 47 awards have been given to a single laureate. Only three women have been awarded it so far: Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018, according to the Nobel website.

On Monday, Americans William G. Kaelin Jr. and Gregg L. Semenza and Britain’s Peter J. Ratcliffe won the Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, for discovering details of how the body’s cells sense and react to low oxygen levels, providing a foothold for developing new treatments for anemia, cancer and other diseases.

Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and the inventor of dynamite, decided the physics, chemistry, medicine and literature prizes should be awarded in Stockholm, and the peace prize in Oslo.

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry will be announced Wednesday, two Literature Prizes will be awarded on Thursday, and the Peace Prize comes Friday. This year will see two literature Prizes handed out because the one last year was suspended after a scandal rocked the Swedish Academy.

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Pac-12 Commissioner: Serious concerns with California law

Westlake Legal Group CFB-USC-football Pac-12 Commissioner: Serious concerns with California law fox-news/sports/ncaa-fb fox-news/sports/ncaa-bk fox-news/sports/ncaa fnc/sports fnc fa589f26-b075-5e67-b59f-84623a02c1aa Associated Press article

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has expressed serious concerns about a new law that would allow college athletes in California to hire agents and be compensated for the use of their names or likenesses through endorsement deals or other money-making opportunities.

The law signed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom would blur the lines between college athletics and professional sports, Scott said Monday at the Pac-12 women’s basketball media day. He also noted that other states considering similar legislation could create an unbalanced state-by-state approach to governing amateur sports.

“We are for choice and if young people want to earn money from their name, image or likeness or get paid to play, they should have that opportunity. That’s called pro sports,” said Scott, who met with Pac-12 coaches and student-athletes Monday and discussed the issue. “College sports is different. You go to get an education. It’s amateur, they’re students. Those are the defining characteristics and we’d like to see those lines not get blurred.”

The NCAA, the main governing body for college sports, had called on Newsom to veto the bill. Some opponents also argued it would give California schools an unfair recruiting advantage because it would give student-athletes an added incentive to go where they could make money.

“Schools recruit nationally, compete for national championships. There have to be common rules that apply. I don’t think state-by-state legislators deciding how college sports should run is the way to go, and we’re going to be very active in trying to seek a national response and solution, whether it’s through the NCAA or otherwise,” Scott said.

“I think the other concern we’ve got — while I’m sure the legislators and Gov. Newsom are very well-intended — those of us that work in college sports understand a lot of flaws with this bill and the way it’s written. I’ve seen plenty of people comment on this because people that understand college sports would immediately understand there’s recruiting in college sports, and there’s very aggressive recruiting and a lot of competition for student-athletes. And I think the concern is that while it may be well-intentioned to try to provide name, image, and likeness opportunities for that very, very small handful — maybe half a percent, 1 percent of our student-athletes go on to have successful professional careers and maybe have a name, image and likeness value — it’s pretty clear that there’s a market for recruiting student-athletes.”

“So, the idea that agents would be involved, helping negotiate deals for student-athletes, our concern is that winds up being payment for recruiting and trying to get student-athletes to go to a certain school,” Scott said.

The California law, which is set to take effect in 2023, could have implications for women’s sports, too, Scott and coaches said, though everyone is still learning how this might work.

“It’s such a delicate line, right? You want players to have opportunities and you never want to limit opportunities but you also don’t want unintended consequences to maybe trickle down to how it could affect women’s opportunities and how it could play out in recruiting circles,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “It’s this good intention to try to reward image and likeness, is it really going to play out to reward that or will there be some other things that are taken away that are unintended?

“I think that’s sort of my caution but I don’t think I’m educated enough yet to do a side. I think it’s a complicated issue that we need to think carefully about and we need to not get sucked up into the momentum of public opinion but at the same time listen well, consider well, research well and my job is always to look out for especially women’s basketball, but women in sport in general.”

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck takes great pride in knowing his players will leave the program with an education after having been part of a tight-knit team community through highs and lows.

“There are so many benefits to that experience that I have watched with my own eyes, and their preparation for life beyond what we do, that if this classroom were to be changed in some way that would impact that negatively it would make me sad,” Rueck said.

Also Monday, Oregon was picked to win the Pac-12 for the third straight season in a poll of the conference coaches, followed by perennial power and defending Pac-12 Tournament champion Stanford and Oregon State in third. UCLA was fourth, followed by Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, USC, Washington, Washington State, California and Colorado.

Scott announced that the Pac-12 finalized arrangements to hold the men’s and women’s conference tournaments in Las Vegas for two more years, through March 2022.

Westlake Legal Group CFB-USC-football Pac-12 Commissioner: Serious concerns with California law fox-news/sports/ncaa-fb fox-news/sports/ncaa-bk fox-news/sports/ncaa fnc/sports fnc fa589f26-b075-5e67-b59f-84623a02c1aa Associated Press article   Westlake Legal Group CFB-USC-football Pac-12 Commissioner: Serious concerns with California law fox-news/sports/ncaa-fb fox-news/sports/ncaa-bk fox-news/sports/ncaa fnc/sports fnc fa589f26-b075-5e67-b59f-84623a02c1aa Associated Press article

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