Another school year has started again for thousands of children in the Valley. As all parents and grandparents know, there is nothing more precious to us than our children. I love seeing children with their mothers waiting for the school bus in the morning, talking to their buddies, holding their mother's hand and waiting for the bus dressed in their new school clothes with their new book bags and waiting to meet new friends and engage in new activities in school. When I was a child, I loved going to the store to pick out the new notebooks that I would be using in class with my favorite action adventure hero, sports star or movie hero on the cover. It was great fun getting new pencils and crayons and going shopping with my grandparents to get new shoes and clothes that I would be wearing for the first time the first week or two of school. Although I was not then particularly fond of school itself, I was very excited about starting a new year and seeing the friends I missed over the summer and meeting new friends.
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Halloween is finally upon us, and trick-or-treaters will soon be knocking at your door. Piles of candy and amazing costumes make October 31 st a night of fun and excitement for so many families. However, as you take your children house to house, it is best to be informed of any potential dangers within your area. The Belmont County Sheriff's Department has gone the extra mile to help with this. For the citizens of this county, Sheriff Dave Lucas has created a sex offender registry website for easy access. This website will allow a user to determine if there are any sex offenders living within their neighborhood. It is important to note that, if you register, this website will also notify you of any future sex offenders that move into your neighborhood. Ohio residents living in other counties can obtain comparable information through the Ohio registry here . With this helpful information, parents can plan a safe trick-or-treating route for their children.
So next weekend I'm participating in Dancing With the Ohio Valley Stars . I'd be lying if I said I'd jumped at the opportunity. In fact, my first thought upon being asked involved flying pigs in a frozen Hell. After all, I don't know anything about dancing. I've never watched the ABC show and can't tell a Rumba from a Roomba. Plus, I'm not exactly built for speed when it comes to the dance floor. "Break a leg" is a phrase probably closer to prophecy than favor when it comes to my natural acumen, or lack thereof, as a dancer. But when it was explained that the event is a benefit for the Augusta Levy Learning Center , I quickly reconsidered and agreed to step way out of my comfort zone. After all Augusta Levy is a wonderful organization providing a host of valuable services for needy children. I know several who have benefitted from the organization's offerings, and I really welcomed the chance to participate for such a noble cause. As far as my being asked to participate, I still can't help but think that somebody on the selection committee must have lost a bet. I keep flashing back to Steve Carrel's character in "Dinner With Schmucks". But the flyers are printed, so they're stuck with me now.
After the death of my yellow lab, Otis, I couldn't stop feeling like something was missing in my life. I started looking for another lab to help fill the void. My son Ben's chocolate English lab, Stubby, had died a couple of years before Otis died and he was also suffering from "lab loss". You see, once you've had a lab you become addicted and have to have your lab fix. Ben asked if I would consider getting an English chocolate lab like Stubby. And so my quest began. I regularly checked lab rescue sites on the internet and asked my dear friend Barb Scanlon at the Marshall County Animal Rescue League to be on the lookout. Every time I located a rescue dog that was what I was looking for I was too late. You see, every rescue organization has its own application . By the time they call your references, talk to your vet and sometimes do a home study someone else would have been approved and gotten that dog. My disappointment was growing and I started to feel like a bad parent. Maybe this was harder than fostering a child. I then started contacting breeders to see if they had any adult dogs they were retiring or weren't suitable for breeding.
As Forbes magazine recently reported, nearly half a million people die each year from preventable medical errors . The Forbes article relies on a study recently completed by the highly-regarded Journal of Patient Safety . In the words of Forbes , new research techniques have allowed investigators to identify "killer errors in hospitals" and to locate "where the bodies are buried."
Despite various efforts to turn the housing market around, 10.8 million homeowners remain underwater (meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth), which represents 22% of all mortgages in the country. While policy makers continue to butt heads on how to respond to this huge drag on the economy, homeowners continue to suffer. Lower interest rates have not had the desired impact as underwater homeowners are generally unable to refinance at recent low rates. Putting aside for a moment the question of a political remedy, how did millions of American homeowners find themselves underwater? Yes, economic forces and a decrease in housing prices can explain part of it (but even these forces were driven by over-lending, many might say predatory lending, that was so prevalent over the last decade). However, many regions, especially those that were already economically depressed, including locally (at least until very recent times), did not see the large run-up and subsequent collapse of housing prices. Yet, under water mortgages are still prevalent.
When I was in school, history was one of my least favorite classes. I always felt it was so boring to have to memorize names and dates of explorers, inventors, wars etc. Why was learning to recite the Gettysburg address in front of the whole class so important? It all seemed so unnecessary. The only thing that did pique my interest was the study of prehistoric times. I became intrigued by the study of Neanderthals and the gigantic dinosaurs that used to roam the Earth so many years ago. And the pyramids of Egypt! Who doesn't enjoy a good mummy story? I remember sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table painstakingly building tiny replicas of the great pyramids of Egypt with some spilt salt declaring that I was going to be an archeologist when I grew up. I envisioned myself in khaki shorts, work boots, long hair in a braided ponytail, driving my jeep around in some hot exotic land to a "dig" to find mummies and treasures. But of course I did not fulfill that dream (cliché that it was) since I've spent most of my adult life behind a desk in a law office.
Three recent news stories reveal that "zero tolerance" policies in our schools have truly run amok. In Boston, Massachusetts, Erin, a 17-year-old high school honor student, received a call from a friend saying that she had been drinking at a party. The friend asked for a ride home and Erin obliged. Erin arrived at the party at the same time as the police. Even though the responding police officer personally wrote a statement indicating that Erin had no alcohol and had not been drinking, the school found that Erin had violated its banned substances policy. Accordingly, she was suspended for five days and removed as captain of the school's volleyball team.
"Warning to West Virginia Motorists: If you text or talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving you could be pulled over, convicted and fined"
A few weeks back, I wrote an article that discussed how insurance companies and big business are using their vast wealth to pervert the jury system and gain an unfair advantage over folks seeking fair compensation for injuries they have suffered as a result of the misconduct of others. As I was writing that article, I couldn't help but think of the many, many cases I have tried in which evidence which would have had a significant impact on the jury's ultimate decision was kept from them due to the rule of law. I have always felt that the more information we can give to jurors, the more likely they are to reach a fair decision. Unfortunately, the law determines what information members of the jury are allowed to receive and consider, and a good deal of information jurors would like to have is kept from them as a result. I can't count the number of times I have been involved in a trial in which the jury submits a written question to the judge during its deliberations, only to have the judge respond that the requested information is not something the jurors are allowed to consider. It happened to me again just last month.