Tag Archive: Mark J Shuster


 

 

 

 

kim jong un.jpgNorth Korea has abruptly cancelled high-level talks with South Korea and threatened to pull out of a planned summit with Donald Trump in protest of joint U.S.-South Korea military drills currently being staged on the peninsula.  The scheduled talks with South Korea were a follow-up to a rare summit that was held on April 27th.  Representatives had planned to discuss further details of the agreements they had made at the historic summit including ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons and turning the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 into a peace treaty.

The North Korean state news agency called the U.S.-South Korea air force drills “deliberate military provocation.”  North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also directly criticized Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, for saying North Korea could follow the so-called Libyan model for nuclear abandonment.  In a statement issued through the state news agency, Kim called Bolton’s idea an “awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers.”

A North Korean official said the country had no interest in a summit with US if it was based on “one-sided” demands to give up nuclear weapons, according to state media.  Citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s central news agency said the fate of the US summit as well as bilateral relations “would be clear” if Washington speaks of a Libya-style denuclearization for the North.

The statement added Trump would remain as a “failed president” if he followed in the steps of his predecessors.  “We will appropriately respond to the Trump administration if it approaches the North Korea-US summit meeting with a truthful intent to improve relations,” Kim said. “But we are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-US summit meeting.”

The joint U.S.-South Korea two-week military drills, known as Max Thunder, involve fighter jets and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. North Korea has long claimed the drills are rehearsals for a military invasion.  In the past, they have threatened an “all-out offensive” in response to the exercises and condemned them as pouring “gasoline on fire”.  The “Max Thunder” drills involve 100 warplanes, including an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets.  The US and South Korea have insisted that that all drills are purely for defense purposes, and based out of a mutual defense agreement they signed in 1953.  They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.

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Officials have identified nine Puerto Rico Air National Guard airmen killed when their plane crashed shortly after taking off in Savanna, Georgia. The plane, a C-130-type cargo plane from Puerto Rico’s 156th Airlift Wing, had been in Savannah for several days for routine maintenance. It took off about 11:30 a.m on Wednesday morning heading to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Arizona, where it was set to be decommissioned since it was one of the oldest such aircraft still flying—at more than 60 years old.
The plane made it about a mile from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport before it nose-dived toward a state highway intersection and exploded into a ball of fire and black smoke. Witnesses say the aircraft, with four turboprop engines on its overhead wing, banked left as it rapidly descended. The plane then plummeted behind trees. Seconds later, a fireball and thick black smoke erupted from the tree line. The wreck left a debris field of 360,000 square feet — about the area of six football fields. Chatham County officials said that Georgia Highway 21 will remain closed indefinitely as investigators examine the crash site and debris field.
Those killed in the crash have been identified as the pilot, Maj. Jose R. Roman Rosado from Manati, who left behind a wife and two sons; co-pilot, 1st Lt. David Albandoz from Madison, Alabama who left behind a wife and daughter; navigator, Maj. Carlos Perez Serra from Canovanas, who left behind a wife, two sons and a daughter; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini from Canovanas who left behing two daughters and son; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred from Carolina who left behind a wife and two sons; Master Sgt. Mario Brana from Bayamon who left behind a daughter; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns from Rio Grande who left behind a wife, two stepdaughters and son; Master Sgt. Victor Colon of Santa Isabel, who left behind a wife and two daughters and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, from Salinas, who is survived by his grandmother.
An investigation into the cause of the crash is being carried out by the National Guard Bureau and the Air Force including whether it could be related to maintenance performed on the plane shortly before it took off or the craft’s age. A team from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina is conducting the investigation, while a team from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware was sent to recover the airmen’s remains.
The destroyed C-130 and all nine crew members killed had helped with the hurricane recovery effort. The plane had been used to rescue Americans stranded in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean late last year. Days later, Hurricane Maria slammed into the 156th Airlift Wing’s home base in Puerto Rico, and the plane subsequently transported supplies from the U.S. mainland to the ruined island. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló declared nine days of mourning for the crew, during which flags in the territory will fly at half-staff, according to a statement from his office.

 

 

 

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A deadly shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in suburban Nashville in the early morning hours of April 22, 2018 ended with four people dead and another four wounded before a heroe patron wrestled the gun away from the shooter. After being disarmed, the shooter, identified as 29-year-old Travis Reinking, fled on foot. Reinking was taken into custody the next day not far from his apartment complex, after an intense 34 hour manhunt.
Reinking reportedly arrived at the Waffle House naked, except for a jacket, armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle just after 3am. He fatally shot two people just outside the Waffle House, 20 year old Joe Perez and 29 year old waffle house employee Taurean C. Sanderlin before entering and continuing his rampage. Once inside, he killed DeEbony Groves and shot 23 year old Akilah DaSilva, who was rushed to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he later died.
DaSilva’s 21-year-old girlfriend Shanita Waggoner and 24-year-old Sharita Henderson were also shot and wounded in the shooting. Two other people were wounded by breaking glass during the shooting. Twenty-nine year old James Shaw Jr., who suffered a bullet graze wound, has been hailed a hero for ending the bloodshed. Shaw hid near the restaurant’s bathrooms when the shooting began but when he saw an opportunity, he rushed the shooter and wrestled the rifle away. The gunman then fled on foot, leaving behind his rifle and ammunition.
Reinking was from Morton, Illinois but moved to the Nashville area in the Fall of 2017. He has had a history of erratic and delusional behavior. In May 2016, Tazewell County police responded to a call from Reinking’s parents in the parking lot of a drugstore, where a paramedic said Reinking had delusions that Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone. Reinking had previously lived in an apartment above his father’s crane rental business in Tremont, Illinois. In June 2017, an employee of the business called police, saying Reinking had come downstairs carrying a rifle, wearing a pink dress, and using an expletive before tossing the rifle in his trunk and leaving the building. On another occasion around the same time, a public pool director called police to report Reinking had come to the pool in a “pink women’s housecoat” and then exposed himself to lifeguards.
In July 2017, the U.S. Secret Service arrested Reinking near the White House after he crossed a barrier and refused to leave. The Secret Service said Reinking had said he “wanted to set up a meeting with the president.” Reinking was charged with a misdemeanor, unlawful entry and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in July 2017. Reinking performed 32 hours of community service and was ordered to stay away from the White House. Reinking successfully completed the program in November 2017 and the court dismissed the case.
A month after his arrest, Illinois authorities revoked his state firearms authorization and seized four of his weapons, including the AR-15 used in the Nashville shooting. Two additional rifles and a handgun were also seized. The sheriff of Tazewell County, Illinois, said that Reinking’s father, Jeffrey Reinking held a valid state authorization card and asked sheriff’s deputies whether he could keep the guns. They allowed him to do so after he assured them he would keep them secure and away from his son. Reinking’s father now could face criminal charges after he admitted that he eventually gave all four guns back to his son which is potentially a violation of federal law.

 

 

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A Pennsylvania court found comedian Bill Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. The 80 year old comedian is facing 30 years in prison and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for this summer. Though he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele indicated he would not press for that sentence.
Legal experts believe that it is unlikely Cosby will ever be incarcerated and a judge will probably sentence him to home refinement due to his poor health. Legal analyst Areva Martin said the judge’s rulings so far suggest he will give Cosby a much reduced sentence. “I think the fact that the judge yesterday allowed him to walk out of that courtroom, did not remand him immediately to jail, gives us a sense about what this judge is likely to do when he gets to the sentencing hearing,” she said.
Judges can take any number of mitigating factors into consideration when issuing a sentence, she explained. “He will be able to take into consideration Cosby’s age, the status of his health, the philanthropic work that he’s done over the last several decades, the fact that this is his first criminal conviction — all of those will be factors that the judge can take into consideration when sentencing him.”
Constand is the former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee and one of about 60 women who have accused him of sexual assaults dating back decades. Constand’s case is the only criminal case stemming from the dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct — all of which the comedian/actor denies. She says she was “paralyzed” by pills he gave her while he claimed it was just Benadryl and that the encounter was consensual.
He maintains that the sexual encounters were consensual but has admitted to giving them drugs prior to the encounters. In January 2005, in a civil suit Constand filed, she accused Cosby of giving her pills, groping her and assaulting her. Thirteen other women relayed similar claims in court papers and agreed to testify to these claims but the case was settled out of court in 2006. Many of the women gave similar accounts of what happened to them but didn’t come forward for years because they felt no one would believe them over the well-loved actor/comedian.
That changed in October 2014 when comedian Hannibal Burress made fun of Cosby during a stand-up comedy bit and called him a rapist. “People think I’m making it up. I’m like ‘Bill Cosby has a lot of rape allegations,’ (they reply back) ‘No, you do’….That sh*t is upsetting, if you didn’t know about it trust me. Google ‘Bill Cosby rape.
Then in November 2014, Barbara Bowman wrote a Washington Post essay that immediately went viral in which she discussed being raped by Cosby and questioned why it took so long for people to believe her. For months after that essay, dozens of women came forward with similar accusations occurring as far back as the 1960’s.

 

 

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Sacramento, California police have arrested 72-year-old former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo after obtaining DNA evidence that he is the “Golden State Killer,” a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and ’80s. The Golden State Killer is believed to be responsible for at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes and a slew of burglaries and other crimes. In April 24, 2018, DeAngelo was arrested at his Citrus Heights area home in Sacramento, where his crime spree began over four decades earlier.
DeAngelo served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, before returning to the U.S. He worked as a police officer in Exeter from 1973 to1976. He then worked as a police officer in Auburn from 1976 until 1979, when he was fired for shoplifting. He committed crimes throughout the state and acquired various monikers in different regions before it was conclusively linked that all the crimes were committed by the same person.

Beginning as the Visalia Ransacker before later moving to the Sacramento area and becoming the East Area Rapist and East Bay Rapist and finally in Southern California as the Original Night Stalker. He is also less frequently known as the Diamond Knot Killer based on the knot he would tie while binding some of his victims.
When his crimes escalated from burglary to rape, his modus operandi was to stalk middle class neighborhoods at night looking for women who were alone in single-story homes, usually near a school, creek, trail, or other open space. Police believe he had a pattern of extensive reconnaissance on several homes in a targeted neighborhood before selecting one for attack. They believe he would stalk his future victims for several nights prior to attacking. On a few occasions, it is believed that he entered the homes of future victims to unlock windows, unload guns, and plant binding ligatures for future use. He would also frequently call future victims either hanging up or pretending to have the wrong number, sometimes for months in advance to learn their daily schedules and routines. He also called some of his victims after the attacks threatening to harm them again.
Investigators also believe that he followed news of his crimes and changed his modus operandi after a widely distributed newspaper article focused on his targeting of women who were either alone in their homes or with children. The suspect then began to attack couples instead, usually breaking in through a window or a sliding glass door and awakening his victims with a flashlight while armed with a handgun. The victims were tied up, gagged and separated with the attacker often stacking dishes on the back of the male, stating that if he heard the dishes rattle he would kill everyone in the house. After one attack ended with the male victim confronting the rapist, the attacker progressed to murder. The attacks stopped in 1986 and police suspected their murderer may have been incarcerated for other crimes.
Forensic technology advanced and in 2001 investigators linked the East Area Rapist’s crimes with the Original Night Stalker’s murders. Once the slew of crimes were connected either through DNA evidence or the same modus operandi, he was dubbed the Golden State Killer. Recently retired investigator Paul Holes admits he worked the case obsessively for over 10 years and knew the killer would be in his 70’s if still alive. He credits two key elements in the investigation, one of which was a forensic pathologist’s insistence on making duplicate rape kits and the second was the use of a genealogy website known as GEDMatch. In January, Holes uploaded the DNA profile of the “Golden State Killer” to allow the GEDMatch servers to produce a list of people that potentially shared DNA. Investigators created about 25 family trees containing thousands of relatives from the 1800s down to the present day. They narrowed their search down to Joseph James DeAngelo before matching DNA that led to his arrest.

Barbara Bush Passes Away

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Former first lady Barbara Bush has died at her home in Houston, Texas at the age of 92 at. She is one of only two women in U.S. history to be both the wife of a U.S. president and the mother of another.  The mother of six children — one of whom, a daughter, Robin, died as a child from leukemia, stood by her husband George H.W. Bush’s side during his nearly 30 year political career has he rose to become vice president and president.

Known as the “enforcer” in her family — the glue who kept the high-powered clan together, she adopted literacy as a cause, raising awareness and eventually launching the nonprofit Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. After George H.W. Bush’s presidency, he and Barbara raised more than $1 billion for literacy and cancer charities.  “I chose literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society,” she said.

She had been admired by many for her trademark bluntness, her championing of literacy efforts and her embrace of HIV-positive babies in the late 1980s, when ignorance about the disease was rampant.  Grief over her daughter Robin’s death from leukemia allowed her to comfort others who were afflicted and made it easy for her to relate to the underdog.

Bush battled health problems for most of her later years of life. In 1988, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease that commonly affects the thyroid. In 2008, she underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer and in 2009 she had open-heart surgery.  In her final years, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as well as congestive heart failure.   Despite these health setbacks, she and her husband kept an active public schedule, raising money for charity.

In April 2018, her family released a statement regarding her failing health, stating that she had chosen to be at home with family-desiring “comfort care” rather than further treatment.  According to family spokesman Jim McGrath, her decision came as a result of “a series of recent hospitalizations.”  Funeral services will be held April 21st at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.

 

 

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The crude oil spill from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November has turned out to be nearly twice as big as first reported.  Around 407,000 gallons spilled onto farmland when the pipeline broke near Amherst in Marshall County on Nov. 16th.  TransCanada had originally put the spill at 210,000 gallons but the new number would make the spill the seventh-largest onshore oil spill since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

TransCanada had shut down the 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline, one of Canada’s main crude export routes linking Alberta’s oil fields to U.S. refineries, immediately following the spill.  Repairs were made and TransCanada resumed using the pipeline 12 days after the leak.  Immediately after the leak was reported South Dakota regulators said they could revoke TransCanada’s permit for the Keystone Pipeline if an investigation concludes that the company violated its terms. If that happens, the company would have to correct any issues—in the worst case, even replace part of the pipeline—before oil shipments could resume.

A preliminary report indicated that the pipeline might have been damaged during its’ construction in 2008, though the investigation is ongoing. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is expected to release its final report on the leak in the next few weeks. The federal agency has estimated that the leak cost TransCanada $9.57 million.  The Keystone Pipeline carries oil more than 2,600 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Oklahoma and Illinois.

In February, TransCanada Corp. reported that the cleanup of the massive oil spill was halfway finished.  TransCanada spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said work at the Amherst site has transitioned from excavation to remediation. She stated that all of the excavation work has been completed and most of the impacted soil has been removed.  In late March, Tysver said the company had replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.”   The company also agreed to restore the roads used by trucks transporting equipment and soil.

A spill and activity report on the agency’s website shows that TransCanada has installed groundwater monitoring systems, which haven’t yet detected any contamination.

The pipeline runs through both Dakotas and two other states and drew fierce resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the tribe’s allies and environmentalists.  Opposition to the pipeline sparked month’s long protests, with as many as 10,000 people participating during the peak of the demonstrations.

 

 

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The federal government, along with state regulators have halted the demolition of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation until a safe plan can be developed after the discovery that dozens of demolition workers have inhaled or ingested radioactive particles in the past year.  The Hanford site is a plutonium processing plant from the 1940s located Richland, Washington that took liquid plutonium and shaped it into hockey puck-sized disks for use in nuclear warheads.  The plant helped create the nation’s nuclear arsenal and made key portions of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan that ended WWII.

Plutonium production ended in the 1980s and by 1989, the site switched its focus to cleanup of nuclear wastes.  The contamination is a discouraging delay in a massive $2 billion a year cleanup effort that started in 2016.  Hanford is the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. The Energy Department, which owns Hanford, has launched an independent investigation into the spread of radiation at the plant.

Hanford officials issued a report in late March that said a total of 42 Hanford workers inhaled or ingested radioactive particles from demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant when they were exposed during contamination events in June and December of last year.  Radioactive contamination was also found outside plant offices and inside two dozen vehicles, the report said.  Seven workers’ homes were checked for radioactive contamination, with none found, the report said.  The report concluded Hanford officials placed too much reliance on air-monitoring systems that failed to pick up the spread of radioactive particles.

According to the report, managers of the private contractor performing the demolition work for the federal government were caught between maintaining safety and trying to make progress toward project deadlines.  The risk escalated as walls of the plutonium plant were knocked down and the rubble was stored in piles. The report stated that fixatives sprayed on the rubble to keep radioactive particles from blowing away may not have been effective.  This theory seems to be backed up by the the state Health Department’s findings of very small amounts of airborne radioactive contamination near Highway 240 in the past year that is believed to have come from the plant demolition 10 miles away.

The amount of radiation involved was reportedly low, lower than naturally occurring levels of radiation people are exposed to in everyday life.  The amounts of radiation that have escaped are considered too small by state experts to pose a health risk.   All the contamination was found on lands that are closed to the public.  The project was not supposed to exposed workers to any contamination but in June radioactive particles escaped and traces were found inside 31 workers.   In December, eleven more workers were found to be contaminated which prompted the government to shut down demolition.

The state Health Department said there is presently no threat to public health from the releases.  “However, we are concerned if work resumes without better controls, a risk to the public may develop,” the agency said in a recent letter to Hanford managers.

 

 

 

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Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill seeking to placate angry lawmakers by saying he would be open to some sort of regulation to protect the privacy of users on his global social-media platform.  The hearings are the result of revelations last month that a company called Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of 50 million Facebook profiles.  This information was allegedly used to map out voter behavior in 2016 for both the Brexit campaign and the US presidential election.

Cambridge Analytica is a British company that helps businesses “change audience behavior”.  Back in 2015, a Cambridge psychology professor called Aleksandr Kogan built an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” and Kogan’s company Global Science Research had a deal to share info from the app with Cambridge Analytica.  The app was a personality quiz that asked Facebook users for information about themselves and an estimated 270,000 Facebook users signed up and took personality tests.  The app collected the information of each user’s Facebook friends, who had not provided consent.

The company used the data to build psychological profiles of 87 million Facebook users in order to tailor ads that could sway their political views.  Since the breach was revealed Facebook has stated that Kogan’s app picked up information in “a legitimate way” but that their rules were violated when the data was sold on to Cambridge Analytica.  Around the same time the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, news that Facebook has been collecting and storing call records and SMS data from Android devices for years.

Facebook has been requesting access to contacts, SMS data, and call history on Android devices to improve its friend recommendation algorithm and distinguish between business contacts and  personal friendships. Facebook appears to be gathering this data through its Messenger application, which often prompts Android users to take over as the default SMS client. Facebook has, at least recently, been offering an opt-in prompt that prods users with a big blue button to “continuously upload” contact data, including call and text history. It’s not clear when this prompt started appearing in relation to the historical data gathering,

The hearings were held to determine whether Washington will create regulations that address increasingly widespread concerns about digital privacy.  During Mr. Zuckerberg’s two days of testimony, he repeatedly said that he had learned the lesson of the recent data-breach scandals, saying he thought it was inevitable that there will need to be some regulation but warned that poor regulations could leads to unintended consequences.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, House Commerce Chairman Greg Walden described it as “a wake-up call for Silicon Valley and the tech community that if you let these things get out of hand, having grown up in a very lightly regulated environment, you could end up with a lot more regulation than you seek.”  “I don’t want to rush into regulation minutes after having the first hearing of this magnitude. But certainly if they can’t clean up their act, we’ll clean it up for them.” ​He said lawmakers would consider calling other tech CEOs.

 

 

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The wave of teacher protests in recent weeks has shown no signs of slowing down.  School districts in Oklahoma and Kentucky were forced to close due to statewide teacher sickouts.  Thousands of Oklahoma and Kentucky teachers rallied Monday at their state capitals, demanding more education funding for students.  Many say they’ll keep fighting until lawmakers meet their demands.

The state of Oklahoma has the lowest average teacher salaries in the US with many teachers saying they have not received a pay raise in 10 years.  Many say that the lack of funding and low wages keep new teachers out of their districts which have seen classroom sizes swell to 40 kids because of teacher shortages.

The Oklahoma teachers union wants $10,000 raises for teachers, $5,000 raises for support staff such as janitors and cafeteria workers and $200 million in education funding.  Ultimately, the governor signed legislation last week granting teachers’ pay raises of about $6,100, raises of $1,250 for support staff and $50 million in education funding.  The state’s two largest school districts, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, announced that schools would be closed Monday as the strike enters its second week.

In an effort to produce for state revenue so more can be allocated to education funding, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), working in collaboration with lawmakers, is seeking to end the strike by Tuesday following Friday’s passage of a revenue and tax bill that is expected to raise $20 million from an internet sales tax and $24 million from the legalization of “ball and dice” gambling in the state.  The union praised the senate’s action on Friday and called for two additional measures of removing capital gains exemptions, saying that this would add an additional $100 million in revenue, and for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to veto the repeal of a tax on guests at hotels and motels—another regressive measure.

Meanwhile, more than 30 Kentucky school districts had schools close after massive teacher call outs.   Educators were furious after the state Legislature approved changes to their pension the day before.  Kentucky teachers have opposed changes to their pension, which was in Senate Bill 1 that proposed reducing benefits.  But in a surprise move, elements of Senate Bill 1 were tucked into another bill, Senate Bill 151, which had been about sewage services.  The nearly 300-page Senate Bill 151 passed both the state House and Senate on Thursday.

The Kentucky Education Association, which represents teachers and other education professionals, slammed the maneuver as a “classic legislative bait and switch.”  “It stripped all the ‘local provision of wastewater services’ language out of SB151 and replaced it with many of the harmful provisions of SB1,” the association stated.

Under the new pension bill, new hires will have to use a hybrid cash balance plan, rather than a traditional pension, which will drive new teachers to leave the state.  Other elements of the bill include limiting the number of sick days teachers can put toward their retirement and no changes to the annual cost of living adjustments, which will remain 1.5%.

Gov. Matt Bevin supports reforming the system and says it’s critical to fix the pension crisis, which ranks as one of the worst in the US. He said a wider demonstration like a teacher strike would be “illegal.”  “I would not advise that,” Bevin said during a Capitol news conference. “I really wouldn’t. I think that would be a mistake.”  In Kentucky, public employees are prohibited from striking.