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BANGOR, Pa. –

The Bangor teachers union says no to random drug testing.

A year ago the school board passed the ground breaking measure, but it can’t be implemented without union approval.

The Bangor Area School District would have been the first in the state with a random drug testing policy for teachers and staff, but union officials say the policy would violate their Fourth Amendment rights.

The school board passed a random drug testing policy for teachers and staff back in 2013, but the measure still needed approval from the union before being implemented.

Last night the union voted no.

I wasnt totally surprised,” said Bangor school board president, Pamela Colton. “I understand the trepidation trying to implement something like this. It would be groundbreaking. No other school district in Pennsylvania randomly drug tests their staff.

The board passed the measure at the urging of the community.

In 2009 Bangor High School teacher Gina Riso died from an overdose at the apartment of Brad Washburn, a former Bangor wrestling coach.

In a statement, union officials say drug testing is not wrong as a pre-employment requirement.

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Bangor Area School District teachers vote no to random drug

Kits with lifesaving aids such as ring buoys and youth life jackets will appear at 10 public beaches along Lake Michigan in an effort to prevent drowning due to dangerous currents, officials announced Monday.

Michigan Sea Grant said the kits will be installed this summer. Additional support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to put similar equipment on beaches in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania during the next two years.

A database assembled by Michigan Sea Grant and the National Weather Service shows 138 swimmers drowned in the Great Lakes in the past 12 years including 69 in Michigan in incidents blamed at least in part on rip currents.

Michigans Great Lakes coasts, and the shore of Lake Michigan in particular, have become the epicenter of drowning-related deaths in the Great Lakes region, said Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grants communications and education services director.

Dangerous currents occur throughout the Great Lakes and are common along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Rip currents are strong, narrow currents that move away from the shore. Trying to swim against a rip current can quickly lead to exhaustion.

Many Great Lakes beaches dont have trained lifeguards on duty. Each of the beach safety kits will contain a ring buoy, a throw bag and U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for youths. Cards encouraging people to closely watch children at the beach also will be distributed.

We want people to enjoy the Great Lakes and to be safe at the beach, and this outreach effort will help raise awareness, said Michigan Sea Grant Director Jim Diana, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.

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Beaches along Great Lakes to get lifesaving aids



Pennsylvania Middle School Students visit NASA to celebrate the Hubble Telescope Research
Students and teachers from Pennsylvania's Mapletown Jr/Sr High School and Margaret Bell Middle School were joined by their partner organization “Beating the Odds Quarterbacks of Life…

By: Space Sciences

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Pennsylvania Middle School Students visit NASA to celebrate the Hubble Telescope Research – Video

Pennsylvania drivers once had a choice when faced with a police request to search their cars: Consent or make officers get a warrant.

But the state Supreme Court has ruled police in Pennsylvania no longer need warrants to search private vehicles if they suspect evidence of a crime inside.

The decision broadens the power of police to search cars without a judge first deciding whether they have a valid reason to do so. The practice was previously allowed only when officers could show the evidence might be destroyed or moved if they waited.

It also brings Pennsylvania into line with a majority of states that have adopted a federal exception to the Fourth Amendment’s protection against warrantless searches when it comes to vehicles a legal doctrine that grew out of the Prohibition-era war on bootleggers.

Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, who wrote Tuesday’s 4-2 majority opinion, said the change is needed to remedy decades of “fractured jurisprudence” that have left police and prosecutors with little guidance.

Pennsylvania courts had largely followed federal courts, allowing warrantless vehicle searches until 1995. That year the state Supreme Court reversed itself in a series of decisions that warrantless searches of cars were illegal if the officers had time to get a judge’s approval.

“Accordingly, it remains difficult, if not impossible, for police officers in the field to determine how [the state Supreme Court] would rule in motor vehicle search-and-seizure cases, the circumstances of which are almost endlessly variable,” wrote McCaffery, a former Philadelphia police officer.

Chief Justice Ronald D. Castile and Justice J. Michael Eakin joined McCaffery’s opinion. Justice Thomas G. Saylor filed his own opinion, saying that although he had reservations, he joined McCaffery “for the sake of certainty and consistency.”

In a strongly worded dissent joined by Justice Max Baer, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd said the majority “eviscerated the strong privacy protections” the state Constitution provides motorists and “heedlessly contravenes over 225 years of unyielding protection against unreasonable search and seizure which our people have enjoyed as their birthright.”

The decision stems from a Philadelphia drug case in which Sheim Gary was stopped Jan. 15, 2010, by police who believed the tint of his sport utility vehicle’s windows was too dark. The officers smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and when the police asked, Gary admitted he had some weed.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules police don't need warrants to search cars

By Brandon Stoneburg

bstoneburg@eveningsun.com

@b_stoneburg on Twitter

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently gave its opinion on the fourth amendment as it pertains to drivers in the Keystone State. Police will no longer need a warrant to search a vehicle; it can be done based solely on probable cause.

Local police chiefs said while the policy is new, not much will change in how officers handle traffic stops and searches.

“There are no grave changes here because you still need probable cause, which is key,” Penn Township Police Chief Jim Laughlin said. “Nobody is going to arbitrarily pull a vehicle over and search it.”

There were already exceptions to warrant laws, Southwestern Regional Police Chief Gregory Bean said. For example, an officer didn’t need a warrant to search a vehicle if illegal items were visible and there was probable cause, which Laughlin described as an officer using his senses to see or smell contraband, drugs or weapons.

A search could also be performed if the driver admits to being in possession of something illegal.

“If you have probable cause and articulate it, you can do an immediate search instead of holding the car and waiting for a warrant,” Laughlin said. “Before, if you thought there was probable cause, but were denied access by the car operator, you would’ve had to wait.”

A safeguard is still in place against any potential illegal searches. If the police officer fails to show or explain probable cause, the defendant could challenge it and the evidence could be thrown out, York County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tim Barker said.

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Local police: Updated vehicle-search law still requires probable cause



Second Amendment Action Day Rally
The 9th annual 2nd Amendment Action Day rally was held outside the Pennsylvania Capitol.

By: RepMetcalfe

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Second Amendment Action Day Rally – Video



Second Amendment Action Day 2014 at the Pennsylvania Capitol
PA State Rep. Tim Krieger speaks during the 2014 Second Amendment Action Day at the Pennsylvania Capitol.

By: RepKrieger

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Second Amendment Action Day 2014 at the Pennsylvania Capitol – Video



Second Amendment Action Day
Several lawmakers and speakers take part in the 9th annual 2nd Amendment Action Day at the Pennsylvania Capitol.

By: PAHouseGOP Digital Media

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Second Amendment Action Day – Video



Second Amendment Rally
Second Amendment rally in Pennsylvania… we must defend our Constitutional rights! And be sure to catch my latest podcast: http://the405media.com/2014/04/28…

By: FriddleThe

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Second Amendment Rally – Video

Sarasota, Florida (PRWEB) April 12, 2014

Jonathan Greco, MD will speak on the subject of regenerative medicine on Monday, April 14th at the Savannah Grand Senior Community in Sarasota, Florida. Dr. Greco is a leading physician in Regenerative Medicine, a rapidly growing field that offers alternatives to invasive surgeries. Titled “Keeping Your Own Hardware – Alternatives to Joint Replacement” the presentation will begin at 11:30 a.m. and include a question and answer session, and there is no charge.

Every day there are breakthroughs in the science of regenerative medicine, which is really exciting and promising for patients who are in pain, said Dr. Greco. Surgery is always an option, but we are trying to restore health through these new technologies, which involve far less stress and strain on the body.

Advances in PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) and CRP (C-Reactive Protein) therapies are offering realistic and effective treatments that can actually repair damage to joints from normal aging and injuries.

Dr. Greco graduated from the Pennsylvania State University and Drexel University School of Medicine with advanced work at the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital and the Philadelphia Veteran’s Administration Hospital. Certifications include American Board of Clinical Lipidology, American Board of Internal Medicine, and the National Board of Medical Examiners. Licensed in Florida and Pennsylvania, Dr. Greco has numerous published cases and research papers and is nationally renowned in regenerative medicine.

The Savannah Grand of Sarasota is located at 7130 Beneva Road | Sarasota, FL 34238 | Phone: 941-404-1473.

Dr. Grecos office is located at 1990 Main Street, | Suite 700 | Sarasota, FL 34236 | Phone 941-952-3300 | http://www.kneepainflorida.com.

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Regenerative Medicine Specialist to Speak on Alternatives to Joint Replacement

The University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine will host a symposium on Friday, April 11, 2014 to detail the progress researchers are making toward reprogramming human cells to treat a variety of diseases.

In addition to talks on the basic science of regenerative medicine, Nobel laureate John Gurdon will present the keynote address entitled, “Past, Present and Future Prospects for Nuclear Reprogramming by Amphibian Eggs and Oocytes,” and New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade will speak about “Regenerative Medicine: Promises and Perils.”

When: Friday, April 11, 2014, 8:30am – 5:00pm

Where: BRB Auditorium, 421 Curie Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104

What: Agenda and other details can be found on the IRM web site.

Symposium schedule:

8:30 Introduction and Welcome J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD Executive Vice-President, University of Pennsylvania for the Health System Dean, Perelman School of Medicine John Gearhart, PhD Director, Institute for Regenerative Medicine

8:45 Keynote: Past, Present and Future Prospects for Nuclear Reprogramming by Amphibian Eggs and Oocytes John Gurdon, FRS, FMedSci 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute The Henry Wellcome Building of cancer and Developmental Biology

9:45 Progress Towards Instructing Our Cells for Therapies John Gearhart, PhD

10:00 BREAK

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Penn Medicine to host symposium on regenerative medicine

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Newswise PHILADELPHIA The University of Pennsylvanias Institute for Regenerative Medicine will host a symposium on Friday, April 11, 2014 to detail the progress researchers are making toward reprogramming human cells to treat a variety of diseases.

In addition to talks on the basic science of regenerative medicine, Nobel laureate John Gurdon will present the keynote address entitled, Past, Present and Future Prospects for Nuclear Reprogramming by Amphibian Eggs and Oocytes, and New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade will speak about Regenerative Medicine: Promises and Perils.

When: Friday, April 11, 2014, 8:30am 5:00pm

Where: BRB Auditorium, 421 Curie Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104

What: Agenda and other details can be found on the IRM web site.

Symposium schedule:

8:30 Introduction and Welcome J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD Executive Vice-President, University of Pennsylvania for the Health System Dean, Perelman School of Medicine John Gearhart, PhD Director, Institute for Regenerative Medicine

8:45 Keynote: Past, Present and Future Prospects for Nuclear Reprogramming by Amphibian Eggs and Oocytes John Gurdon, FRS, FMedSci 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute The Henry Wellcome Building of cancer and Developmental Biology

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Symposium on Cellular Reprogramming to be Held at Penn Medicine

Pennsylvania students have a free speech right to wear ‘i boobies’ bracelets to school to support breast cancer awareness, a US appeals court had ruled. The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal, letting that decision stand.

The US Supreme Court on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that seventh- and eighth-grade students in a Pennsylvania school district have a free speech right to wear bracelets proclaiming i boobies!

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School officials had asked the high court to take up the case and reverse the ruling to allow administrators more leeway to censor messages worn by students at school.The high court turned aside the appeal without comment.

The bracelets were designed to build awareness of the struggle against breast cancer, and wearing them became a fad among a group of 11- to 14-year-old middle-school students in the Easton Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania.

School officials were uncomfortable with the sexual double-entendre and concluded that the slang reference to female anatomy constituted lewd or vulgar speech that detracted from the schools educational purpose.They worried that the bracelets might contribute to a sexually hostile environment at school.

They banned the bracelets.

They took the action even though the school district had voted to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In an effort to enforce the ban, a school official made a televised announcement instructing students not to wear the bracelets to school. That announcement was made the day before Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

Most students followed the mandate. But two female students, ages 12 and 13, wanted to make a statement. They asked their mothers for permission to wear their bracelets to school to show solidarity with those fighting the disease and in defiance of the school ban. The mothers agreed.

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Student free speech prevails, as Supreme Court refuses 'boobies' bracelet case

Pennsylvania students have a free speech right to wear ‘i boobies’ bracelets to school to support breast cancer awareness, a US appeals court had ruled. The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal, letting that decision stand.

The US Supreme Court on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that seventh- and eighth-grade students in a Pennsylvania school district have a free speech right to wear bracelets proclaiming i boobies!

Subscribe Today to the Monitor

Click Here for your FREE 30 DAYS of The Christian Science Monitor Weekly Digital Edition

School officials had asked the high court to take up the case and reverse the ruling to allow administrators more leeway to censor messages worn by students at school.The high court turned aside the appeal without comment.

The bracelets were designed to build awareness of the struggle against breast cancer, and wearing them became a fad among a group of 11- to 14-year-old middle-school students in the Easton Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania.

School officials were uncomfortable with the sexual double-entendre and concluded that the slang reference to female anatomy constituted lewd or vulgar speech that detracted from the schools educational purpose.They worried that the bracelets might contribute to a sexually hostile environment at school.

They banned the bracelets.

They took the action even though the school district had voted to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In an effort to enforce the ban, a school official made a televised announcement instructing students not to wear the bracelets to school. That announcement was made the day before Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

Most students followed the mandate. But two female students, ages 12 and 13, wanted to make a statement. They asked their mothers for permission to wear their bracelets to school to show solidarity with those fighting the disease and in defiance of the school ban. The mothers agreed.

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Student free speech prevails, as Supreme Court refuses 'boobies' bracelet case (+video)



Ken Krawchuk (K'14 #014) at the Harrisburg Liberty Alliance
http://www.KenK.org – Ken Krawchuk, Libertarian for Pennsylvania Governor in 2014, gives his stump speech at the monthly meeting of the Harrisburg Liberty Al…

By: Ken Krawchuk

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Ken Krawchuk (K’14 #014) at the Harrisburg Liberty Alliance – Video

At first glance, Katy Perrys latest music video, the Egypt-themed fantasy Dark Horse, seems to bear little resemblance to actual Egyptian history but you might want to look twice. The clips director says theres good reason for the Egyptian references, and prominent Egyptologists say that reason is good enough for them.

[Perry] said that theres actually a place in Egypt called Memphis, and she thought it was so interesting that Juicy J is from Memphis, Tenn., explains director Mathew Cullen. She basically came to me and said, I want to do something Egyptian and I want to combine it with Memphis hip-hop. Thats music to my ears when an artist has a couple concepts that they want to mash up to create something fresh.

Cullen says that while there was no on-site Egyptologist involved in the Los Angeles video shoot, they researched the period online to better respect the symbolism while having fun. Though Perry has been criticizedfor appropriating the symbols and images of other cultures and has been under attack for Dark Horsefor the same reasons Cullen says he believes that while its dangerous to rip things directly from modern cultures without adding anything to them, ancient Egypt is part of what he calls our shared collective mythology.

Were only here because we build on the stories of every human being since the beginning of mankind, he says. The most important thing is that when you create something, and this is actually something Katy and I worked to do you bring a new spin to it.

And as it so happens, Perry and Cullen (who also directed the California Gurls video) did a pretty good job building on those stories.

(MORE:Miley Cyrus and the History of the Wrecking Ball)

Full disclosure: when I called up some Egyptologists to ask them about Katy Perry, I was fully expecting them to trash the video. The inaccuracies in her similarly-themed performance of the song at the Britshave already been pointed out,andfans who are sticklers for history wereturned off the video.But the reality was very different.

I find this really very wonderful, but Im willing to bend my formal standards, says Robert K. Ritner, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago.Whoever put this together actually knew something about the myth of Cleopatra. There are a number of features in here that I could use in class.

Here are some of those points that get a hearty thumbs up, courtesy of Ritner and David P. Silverman, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania and Curator of Penn Museums Egyptian Section:

And even the parts that arent accurate at all the Twinkies, for example arent problematic. If Katy Perry fans do a little research about Ancient Egypt, theyll follow a long line of people whose interest was sparked by Egypt-inspired pop-culture from Boris Karloffs mummy to Brendan Frasers, and from Betty Boops Cleopatra to Elizabeth Taylors.

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Theres a Very Good Reason Why Katy Perrys Dark Horse Video Is Set in Ancient Egypt

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'Transhumanism: Recreating Humanity' Exposes a New Cult of Scientists

Before the lawsuits and the retreat into federal bankruptcy court, before the change in ownership in a veiled roll-up by an out-of-state coal baron, before the Justice Departments environmental-crimes investigation, the presidentially declared emergency, and the National Guards arrivalnine years before all of thatthe co-founder of Freedom Industries, the company at the center of the Jan. 9 chemical spill that cut off tap water for 300,000 West Virginians, was convicted of siphoning payroll tax withholdings to splurge on sports cars, a private plane, and real estate in the Bahamas. And 18 years before that, in 1987, before he started Freedom Industries, Carl Kennedy II was convicted of conspiring to sell cocaine in a scandal that brought down the mayor of Charleston.

Little known, even locally, Freedom was born and operated in a felonious milieu populated by old friends who seemed better suited to bartending at the Charleston-area saloons they also owned. These people who were running Freedom Industries werent the sort youd put in charge of something like chemical storage that could affect the whole community, Danny Jones, Charlestons current mayor, says. Who are these guys, anyway?

Good question. Kennedy kept the books for bars and restaurants, including a rib house Mayor Jones used to own, although he hadnt gotten to know him well. He was pleasant enough, Jones says. Until the spill, the mayor had no idea his former accountant had been enmeshed with Freedom. That really seems troubling, Jones says, especially with the cocaine stuff in his history.

Kennedys main partner was a college buddy named Dennis Farrell, who had some technical background and took over Freedom after Kennedy went to prison in 2006. By Farrells own account, the company, founded in 1992, nearly ran aground on his watch. Only a rescue in 2009 funded by the federal antirecession stimulus program kept the company going.

The third member of the companys leadership triad, Gary Southern, has served as Freedoms public face since the spill. He lives in Marco Island, Fla., and says hed been advising the company for several years before becoming full-time president in 2013. Not blessed with a talent for public expression, Southern didnt mention in the first days after the leak of 10,000 gallons of coal-processing compounds that Freedom had been acquired, only 10 days earlier, by Cliff Forrest.

A different sort of character from Kennedy, Farrell, and Southern, Forrest founded and heads Rosebud Mining, the third-largest coal producer in Pennsylvania and the 21st-largest in the country. Hes a prominent figure in his industry and an opponent of what he calls the Obama administrations war on coal. Why he wanted Freedoms decrepit facilities for blending and distributing chemicals remains a mystery. Publicly, Forrest hasnt said a word. His connection to Freedom wasnt confirmed until Jan. 17, when his lawyers put the company into bankruptcy. The Chapter 11 filing in Charleston required disclosure of a financial paper trail that led to Forrests coal company headquarters near Pittsburgh via another entity called Chemstream Holdings.

So while the spill revealed once again that porous legislation and murky assumptions about industry self-policing hinder oversight of dangerous chemicals, it also highlighted a peculiar and deeply troubling element of American commerce, one where holding companies and roll-ups make it difficult to determine whos accountable. Kennedy grew up in Montgomery, W. Va., a small city on the Kanawha River. He went to college there at West Virginia University Institute of Technology. It was later, in Charleston, that he attained a measure of notoriety.

West Virginias rugged mountains and forested hollows are home to struggling coal-mining communities. Locals call the Kanawha region Chemical Valley because of the network of foul-smelling refining plants spread across it. The state ranks among the nations poorest. Charleston, with its office towers and expensive eateries, is a place apart: Home to a social and business elite of lawyers, lobbyists, and coal executives, the capital enjoys a wealth and lan alien to the states rural and industrial precincts.

In the mid-1980s, Kennedy moved easily in a narcotic-fueled night scene associated with Charlestons Republican mayor at the time, James Mad Dog Roark. Targeted by a federal investigation, Roark pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in 1987, resigned as mayor, and went to jail. The same year, Kennedy, then 30 years old, was charged with distributing the not-trivial amount of 10 ounces to 12 ounces of coke. In a plea deal, he admitted to one distribution count and was sentenced to five years probation. In all, federal prosecutors notched some 30 convictions.

A forgiving town, Charleston didnt ostracize Kennedy. Despite his criminal record, he and Farrell became prolific business partners. Farrell had earned a masters degree from West Virginia University and for a time was employed by a company called Sherex Chemical. Together they invested in commercial real estate and a saloon in Montgomery called the Bank Bar & Grill. In a laudatory 2002 article, the Charleston Gazette marveled at the pairs far-flung array of business ventures, which included a manufacturer of a synthetic fuel additive, a trucking company, and a plant in the town of Nitro, W. Va., that mixed chemicals. Kennedys portfolio also contained Freedom Industries, which he incorporated in 1992, according to filings with the West Virginia secretary of state. (Kennedy, Farrell, and lawyers who have represented them over the years all failed to respond to telephone and e-mail messages.)

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Who Runs Freedom Industries? West Virginia’s Chemical Spill Mystery

It hasnt taken long for fratricide to erupt between two companies blamed for the early January chemical spill in West Virginia. In a court filing, a local water utility has accused Freedom Industries, the chemical supplier blamed for the leak in Charleston, of trying to pull a fast one in its federal bankruptcy filing.

As I explained in my last post on the legal wrangling in the wake of the spill, closely held Freedom Industries filed on Jan. 17 for Chapter 11 protection from its creditorsan unsurprising move designed to freeze a growing wave of liability lawsuits seeking damages related to the cutoff of public water to some 300,000 customers in the Charleston area.

Freedom also hinted in the filing that it would attempt to shift culpability to the West Virginia unit of American Water Works. Many of the plaintiffs suing Freedom have filed claims as well againstAmerican Water Works (AWK) (AWK)for failing to move swiftly enough to close its intake in Charleston. The intake to the public water system is a mere mile and a half down the Elk River from Freedoms chemical-storage facility. Freedom suggested that perhaps American Water had helped cause the leak in the first place when a water main break contributed to damage to a storage tank.

In its own filing dated Jan. 19 and made available yesterday, the West Virginia unit of the water company fired back. West Virginia-American Water accused the chemical supplier of concealing its true ownership, using a proposed emergency loan to put creditors at a disadvantage, and generallyfailing to provide the bankruptcy court with sufficient financial information about such matters as Freedoms insurance coverage. The situation smells of collusion, the water utility alleged in its court papers.

West Virginia-American Water said it has a big stake in Freedoms Chapter 11 because the utility suffered expensive damages as a result of the water shut-down. The utility added that, in those suits naming it as a defendant, the company plans to file cross-claims shifting liability to Freedom. West Virginia-American Water ultimately will become the largest creditor by far in this bankruptcy case, the utility said.

Freedoms Chapter 11 filing is indeed vague about the chemical companys current owner, identified in court papers only as Chemstream Holdings, a Pennsylvania company. Cross-referencing publicly filed corporate records from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, however, I was able to show that Chemstream appears to be controlled by a Pennsylvania coal magnate named J. Clifford Forrest, who had the misfortune of acquiring Freedom Industries only weeks before the Charleston chemical spill was discovered on Jan. 9. I also showed that, via other corporate vehicles, Forrest has proposed to loan his deeply troubled new acquisition $5 million to keep it operating during the bankruptcy process.

Now West Virginia-American Water is alleging that the loan, which would require bankruptcy-court approval, is actually a disguised tool to manipulate the bankruptcy process. Without naming Forrest, the water company warned the court that Freedoms owner is trying to use the loan to hold onto those parts of the business that it deems valuable, abandoning the rest, taking the going concern value from the debtor, and leaving the debtor and its many creditors holding the bag.

West Virginia-American Water requested that the bankruptcy judge slow down the process, allow the water utility and other creditors an opportunity to get organized, and force Freedom Industries to be more transparent about its ownership structure and plans for satisfying creditors claims.

So far, lawyers for Freedom and Forrest havent responded to my inquiries. Presumably they will soon answer the utilitys allegations in their own court filings. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Businessweek will stay on top of these strange legal doings in Charleston.

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New Accusations Against Freedom Industries in West Virginia Spill

It hasnt taken long for fratricide to erupt between two companies blamed for the early January chemical spill in West Virginia. In a court filing, a local water utility has accused Freedom Industries, the chemical supplier blamed for the leak in Charleston, of trying to pull a fast one in its federal bankruptcy filing.

As I explained in my last post on the legal wrangling in the wake of the spill, closely held Freedom Industries filed on Jan. 17 for Chapter 11 protection from its creditorsan unsurprising move designed to freeze a growing wave of liability lawsuits seeking damages related to the cutoff of public water to some 300,000 customers in the Charleston area.

Freedom also hinted in the filing that it would attempt to shift culpability to the West Virginia unit of American Water Works. Many of the plaintiffs suing Freedom have filed claims as well againstAmerican Water Works (AWK) (AWK)for failing to move swiftly enough to close its intake in Charleston. The intake to the public water system is a mere mile and a half down the Elk River from Freedoms chemical-storage facility. Freedom suggested that perhaps American Water had helped cause the leak in the first place when a water main break contributed to damage to a storage tank.

In its own filing dated Jan. 19 and made available yesterday, the West Virginia unit of the water company fired back. West Virginia-American Water accused the chemical supplier of concealing its true ownership, using a proposed emergency loan to put creditors at a disadvantage, and generallyfailing to provide the bankruptcy court with sufficient financial information about such matters as Freedoms insurance coverage. The situation smells of collusion, the water utility alleged in its court papers.

West Virginia-American Water said it has a big stake in Freedoms Chapter 11 because the utility suffered expensive damages as a result of the water shut-down. The utility added that, in those suits naming it as a defendant, the company plans to file cross-claims shifting liability to Freedom. West Virginia-American Water ultimately will become the largest creditor by far in this bankruptcy case, the utility said.

Freedoms Chapter 11 filing is indeed vague about the chemical companys current owner, identified in court papers only as Chemstream Holdings, a Pennsylvania company. Cross-referencing publicly filed corporate records from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, however, I was able to show that Chemstream appears to be controlled by a Pennsylvania coal magnate named J. Clifford Forrest, who had the misfortune of acquiring Freedom Industries only weeks before the Charleston chemical spill was discovered on Jan. 9. I also showed that, via other corporate vehicles, Forrest has proposed to loan his deeply troubled new acquisition $5 million to keep it operating during the bankruptcy process.

Now West Virginia-American Water is alleging that the loan, which would require bankruptcy-court approval, is actually a disguised tool to manipulate the bankruptcy process. Without naming Forrest, the water company warned the court that Freedoms owner is trying to use the loan to hold onto those parts of the business that it deems valuable, abandoning the rest, taking the going concern value from the debtor, and leaving the debtor and its many creditors holding the bag.

West Virginia-American Water requested that the bankruptcy judge slow down the process, allow the water utility and other creditors an opportunity to get organized, and force Freedom Industries to be more transparent about its ownership structure and plans for satisfying creditors claims.

So far, lawyers for Freedom and Forrest havent responded to my inquiries. Presumably they will soon answer the utilitys allegations in their own court filings. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Businessweek will stay on top of these strange legal doings in Charleston.

See the article here:
Freedom Industries Faces New Claims in Chemical Spill



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