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State-and-regional
Domestic violence advocacy group launches prevention training for hairstylists

Two months ago, Katie Hughes received an unusual Facebook message from her Laramie hairstylist.

The stylist, Paige Elliot, had heard about a program in Illinois that trained beauty professionals to recognize the signs of domestic violence and refer their clients to support services. She wanted to know if Hughes, who works at the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, could help launch a similar program in the Cowboy State.

Hughes brought the idea to her coworkers at the coalition and at the end of October the group hosted its first online training for Wyoming beauty professionals. The program, called Cut It Out, teaches stylists about the realities of domestic violence and ensures they know where to refer clients if they believe they are victims of abuse.

“We’re not asking them to become an advocate,” Hughes said, “but to be supportive, to show compassion and to know where their clients can go for support.”

Thousands of people are abused by loved ones every year in Wyoming. In one day in 2014, the state’s domestic violence resource centers served more than 270 victims, according to data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Beauticians, hair stylists and other salon workers are in a unique position to help survivors of domestic violence, Hughes said. Beauty professionals often develop a trusting relationship with their clients over an extended period of time and the sessions leave plenty of time for talking.

“They have more of a personal connection, so survivors are more likely to reach out and connect on a personal level about what they have going on in their life,” she said.

When she first heard of the program, Elliot thought the work was a little out of her job title. But the more she learned about the training she found that she wanted to be involved. She knows many of her clients very well — some have been with her since she started work as a stylist eight years ago. She hears about their work, their families and their relationships.

“I’m close with my clients and I care about them, whether I’ve done their hair once or a hundred times,” Elliot said in an email. “I feel like I’m a safe space for someone to open up, or maybe I’m the only person to ask if they’re okay.”

The training covers the power dynamics of domestic violence and what constitutes abuse. It trains stylists to recognize the signs that someone is being abused, like bruising across the body, low self-esteem or fear of their partner. Finally, beauty professionals learn to refer clients who are victims of abuse to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which connects survivors to local resources.

The training also combats common misunderstandings about the dynamics of domestic violence. For example, Hughes said that many people believe abusers hurt their victims due to mental illness or addiction, or because of a genetic trait. While those may be factors in the violence, abusing someone is always a choice, Hughes said.

The training program also explains the barriers that keep victims, who are often women, from leaving those who abuse them. Victims sometimes stay with an abuser because they fear the violence against them or their loved ones will escalate if they attempt to leave. Other victims have limited financial resources and fear leaving a provider will make them homeless or unable to feed their children.

“Victims are not weak,” Hughes said. “Victims are often staying in relationships because it’s risky to leave.”

Hughes said the training is a positive trend across the country. The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence created the program in 2002 and in 2003 the National Cosmetology Association began offering the training across the U.S. Now, many states offer the program and Illinois passed a law last year that mandated all beauty professionals receive similar instruction.

A handful of participants signed up for the first online training on Oct. 30 and in the future Hughes hopes to host in-person training sessions across Wyoming.

“It’s a really exciting partnership that we’re going to build over time,” Hughes said.


Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune  

Kelly Walsh players warm up before their semifinal match against Thunder Basin on Friday evening during the Wyoming State High School Volleyball Championships at the Casper Events Center. The four state championship matches get underway 4 p.m.


Crime-and-courts
Casper Police Department review recommends scheduling more officers at busiest hours

An outside review of the Casper Police Department indicates that patrol staffing levels are appropriate, but also recommends ramping up the number of officers on duty during certain busy times such as summer nights.

The review, conducted by the Center for Public Safety Management, indicates that Casper’s police force has a below-average number of officers for a city of its size. However, the review cautions against using that metric to determine staffing levels.

The methodology used in the review to determine appropriate staffing levels is based on officer downtime. No more than 60 percent of officer time should be dedicated to answering calls, according to the report. When officers spend too much time responding to calls, they don’t have enough time to engage in proactive policing. Instead, overworked officers go from call-to-call, without time to initiate police work of their own volition.

Casper officers usually have enough of what is called “discretionary patrol time,” in which they can initiate calls of their own. But the force does break the 60 percent barrier on weekend afternoon and nights in the summer.

To combat this, the review suggests the department ramp up it’s staffing during those busier hours and pull officers off the street during slower times.

The review indicates that “sufficient patrol resources are allocated and available to handle the workload.” Despite this, the review also suggests filling staffing vacancies as soon as possible. Were the department to hire more patrol officers, vacancies in the command structure could be filled via promotion.

The 155-page review has been in the works since March. It used data, officer interviews, a site visit and more to assess all aspects of the department, from record keeping to the handling of investigations. It was released last week.

The review suggests that the department expand its recruitment efforts by attending job fairs, expanding the use of social media and focusing on attracting minorities and women to the department.

Sgt. Ben Mattila, who oversees hiring, said some of those efforts had already been in the works. The department has had an increased presence at job fairs held at military bases in the past few months, and Mattila said he expects that to continue.

The sergeant said that the department has hired “five or six” women in the past three years, though he said not all of those cadets have gone on to become officers and remain with the force.

Meanwhile, the department is reviewing background checks as it undergoes another hiring cycle.

The department is eight officers short of it’s authorized staffing levels. Interim Chief Steve Schulz said in September that during his nearly two decades on the force the department had rarely ever filled the maximum number of positions authorized by City Council.

A police department spokesman said Schulz had not finished going over the results of the review and was not yet available to comment on them.

Mattila said that the department is expecting a couple of officers to retire before the current crop of recruits will be ready to hit the streets. Those recruits will enroll in police academy in January, but it will take at least six more months before they are ready to patrol on their own.


Washington
AP
US report contradicts Trump team: Warming mostly man-made

WASHINGTON — A massive U.S. report concludes the evidence of global warming is stronger than ever, contradicting a favorite talking point of top Trump administration officials, who downplay humans’ role in climate change.

The report released Friday is one of two scientific assessments required every four years. A draft showing how warming affects the U.S. was also published.

Despite fears by some scientists and environmental advocates, David Fahey of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several authors said there was no political interference or censoring of the 477-page final report.

“A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think,” said Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, one of dozens of scientists inside and outside the government who wrote the reports.

Since 1900, Earth has warmed by 1.8 degrees and seas have risen by 8 inches. Heat waves, downpours and wildfires have become frequent.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt have repeatedly said carbon dioxide isn’t the primary contributor to global warming.

It’s “extremely likely” — meaning with 95 to 100 percent certainty — that global warming is man-made, mostly from the spewing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists concluded.

“Over the last century, there are no convincing alternative explanations,” the report said.

Scientists calculated that human contribution to warming since 1950 is between 92 percent and 123 percent. It’s more than 100 percent on one end, because some natural forces — such as volcanoes and orbital cycle — are working to cool Earth, but are being overwhelmed by the effects of greenhouse gases, said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech.

“This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization,” she said.

For the first time, scientists highlighted a dozen “tipping points” of potential dangers that could happen from warming, things that Hayhoe said “keep me up at night.”

They include the slowing down of the giant Atlantic Ocean circulation system that could dramatically warp weather worldwide, much stronger El Ninos, major decreases in ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, which would spike sea level rise, and massive release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost that could turbo-charge warming.

Researchers did not provide an estimate of how likely tipping points would occur, but “there is certainly some chance of some of these things happening,” Fahey said.

The report also documented how different climate change-caused events can interact in a complex way to make life worse, such as the California wildfires and Superstorm Sandy five years ago.

The world’s oceans are under a “triple threat” — the water is getting warmer, more acidic and seeing a drop in oxygen levels, Hayhoe said.

In a 1,504-page draft report on the impacts of climate change, scientists detailed dozens of ways global warming is already affecting parts of the U.S.

Scientists said global warming is already sickening, injuring and killing Americans with changes to weather, food, air, water and diseases. And it’s expected to get worse, hurting the economy, wildlife and energy supply.

“Risks range from the inconvenient, such as increasing high tide flooding along the East Coast related to sea level rise, to ... the forced relocation of coastal communities in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast,” the draft report said.

Outside experts said the reports are the most up-to-date summary of climate science.

“It shows that if anything the findings of scientists have become more dire” since 2013, said University of California, Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who wasn’t part of the work.


Energy
Wyoming coal shows positive earnings as the sector slowly defines its "new normal"

It’s been a positive three months for Powder River Basin coal with the largest producer, Peabody Energy, posting $203 million in profits, nearly $500 million for the year so far.

Production in the PRB climbed by about 13 million tons in the third quarter, though the final tally was shy of the third quarter numbers last year when Wyoming’s mines hit a high point in an otherwise dismal 2016.

The market is still in correction-mode after two difficult years, and production numbers may be firming around new expectations as coal companies adjust to fewer longer-term contracts and more spot buying, experts say. The bankruptcies and layoffs were likely an exaggerated reaction to uncertainties in the coal sector, and recent improvements in added jobs or production are leveling out to what is repeatedly referred to as coal’s new normal, in which coal faces steep competition with other fuels.

“In this day and age, the long-term contracts where companies are just delivering on a contract they signed five years ago are not there anymore,” said Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association. “In a tight energy market with higher competition from gas and renewables, that’s just where we are right now.”

PRB mines produced 82.6 million tons of coal between June and September to be shipped out to power plants across the Midwest, about 1.5 million less than last year. The largest surface mines in the country, Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle mine and Arch Coal’s Black Thunder, both in Campbell County, dug 27.8 and 19.3 million tons respectively, their highest volumes since the last quarter of 2016.

***

Earnings reports so far have also been welcome news.

Peabody in particular stood out with a proud call with investors Oct. 25, boasting their $203 million profit, a dramatic turn around for the company that slid into tremendous debt and filed for bankruptcy in 2016. It emerged earlier this year.

Recent news of more coal plant closures from their customers down in Texas did not dent the firm’s enthusiasm last week.

“We don’t view plant closures in a singular sense as being game changers to us,” said Amy Schwetz, Peabody’s chief financial officer. The company’s portfolio in the Powder River Basin is diverse, and the company has already adjusted its expectations to the projected coal closures in the coming years.

The PRB has also proved its ability to withstand a 2 percent decrease in electricity demand this year, said the company’s president, Glenn Kellow.

“I expect the PRB and Illinois Basin are most competitive in natural gas over time,” he said. “The PRB was a standout this quarter, increasing 8 percent, as electricity demand for all other coal basins weakened.”

Other companies also showed improvements this quarter, with Arch reporting a net income of $37.2 million.

Cloud Peak, a smaller producer by Peabody and Arch standards, posted a far more modest $2.7 million in earnings for the quarter and a year-to-date net loss of $24.5 million.

The company’s CEO noted a struggle finding demand to justify producing its lower heat coal during an investor’s call on Oct. 26

Marshall said the general outlook right now depended on the weather, particularly the need for a cold winter.

“I think we’d actually be seeing some reasonable strengthening in demand and some interest in the utilities as they will be burning a lot more coal, and I think it would be quite a positive report you would be getting in February,” Marshall said. “If we have another winter like last year than that wouldn’t be so good.”

***

This year’s total Wyoming production is expected to be higher than the last, which started out with record lows, but the numbers also reflect the fluctuations of the market.

Deti said he agreed with state economists' recent revenue report projecting the yearly total for Wyoming would fall to around 330 million tons.

And the ups and downs of the market are impacting the employment figures, with more short-term workers being hired on and let go quarter by quarter as companies adjust to selling with short term contracts, Deti said.

“I think what it reflects is a different energy market,” he said. “If they need to hire on a few more temporary workers to fill an order then that’s what they’re doing.”

Jobs lost in the downturn totaled about 964, according to the state mine inspector report released at the beginning of the year. According to self-reporting from the mines, about 330 coal miners came back to work.