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CANBERRA, Australia Australia’s Parliament voted Thursday to allow same sex marriage across the nation, following a bitter debate settled by a much criticized government survey of voters that strongly endorsed change.

The public gallery in the House of Representatives erupted with applause when the bill passed. It changes the definition of marriage from solely between a man and a woman to “a union of two people” excluding all others. The legislation passed with a majority that wasn’t challenged, although four lawmakers registered their opposition.

The Senate passed the same legislation last week 43 votes to 12. The government later announced that same sex couples will be able to apply to marry starting Saturday, with the first weddings potentially from Jan. 6.

Champagne and tears flowed in the halls of Parliament House as gay celebrities including Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe and actress Magda Szubanski hugged lawmakers and ordinary folk in a party atmosphere.

“What an amazing day, I’m a little bit delirious, it’s extraordinary,” said Szubanski, who sat in the public gallery during Thursday’s daylong debate.

Labor Member of Parliament Linda Burney celebrates as the Australian Parliament passed the same sex marriage bill in Canberra on December 7, 2017. SEAN DAVEY/AFP/Getty Images

Thorpe thanked “our straight brothers and sisters” for strongly backing marriage equality in the two month postal survey.

“Quite literally without them voting for us, this would never have happened,” Thorpe said.

“It means that we’ve created an Australia that is more equitable, it’s more fair, it’s more just,” he added.

Janet Rice, a minor Greens party senator, hugged and kissed her transgender wife of 31 years, Penny Whetton, after the decision. They have been allowed to remain married because Whetton is listed as male on her birth certificate.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Rice said. “It’ been such a huge thing that we’ve been living with for so, so long and we’ve finally achieved equality.”

Tracy Clark and her partner Justyna Greinart embrace as they gather with a crowd of people to watch a large television screen at Federation Square as it is announced that same sex marriage will be legal in Australia with Parliament agreeing to change the Marriage Act and end the ban on gay and lesbian couples marrying on December 7, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Amendments meant to safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay marriage opponents were all rejected, though those issues may be considered later. The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage is a reality in Australia.

Lawmakers advocating marriage equality had argued that the national postal survey in November mandated a change of the marriage definition alone, so changing the law should not be delayed by other considerations.

“What a day. What a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it.” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Gay marriage was endorsed by 62% of voters who responded to the postal ballot.

“It is now our job as members of Parliament to pass a fair bill that does not extend or create any new discriminations,” an emotional government lawmaker Warren Entsch, who helped draft the bill, told Parliament. “It is a strong bill that already strikes the right balance between equality and freedom of religion.”

Most gay rights advocates believed the government should have allowed marriages years ago and saw various ideas for a public survey as a delaying tactic. Human Rights Committee had called the ballot survey “an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll.”

A man celebrates after the passing of the gay marriage bill on December 7, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Getty Images)

The current bill allows churches and religious organizations to boycott gay weddings without violating Australian anti discrimination laws.

Existing civil celebrants can also refuse to officiate at gay weddings, but celebrants registered after gay marriage becomes law would not be exempt from anti discrimination laws.

One of the rejected amendments would have ensured Australians could speak freely about their traditional views of marriage without fear of legal action. It was proposed by Attorney General George Brandis and supported by Turnbull, both gay marriage supporters.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was a high profile advocate of traditional marriage, told Parliament that Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten had failed to deliver detailed protections for freedoms of speech, conscience and religion in the bill.

“A promise was made by the leaders of this Parliament and the promise has not adequately been delivered on,” Abbott said.

Equality ambassadors and volunteers from the The Equality Campaign gather in front of Parliament House in Canberra on December 7, 2017, ahead of the parliamentary vote on Same Sex Marriage. SEAN DAVEY/AFP/Getty Images

Abbott pointed to an Australian teenager who lost her job for advocating against gay marriage on social media and an Australian Catholic bishop who was taken before a state anti discrimination tribunal over a pamphlet he published extolling traditional marriage. The complaint against the bishop was dropped.

“The last thing we should want to do is to subject Australians to new forms of discrimination in place of old ones that are rightly gone,” he said.
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Crowds in Melbourne erupted in cheers after the result was announced.This image is for use with this specific article only. Members of the public, including Christine Forster and partner Virginia Edwards, react from the gallery in Parliament House after legislators passed the same sex marriage bill on Thursday,.This image is for use with this specific article only. Alice Bennett and her partner Miranda Hill nuzzle each other among a crowd who gathered to watch the announcement on a large television screen at Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia on.By Joshua Berlinger, Ted McDonnell and Ben Westcott CNN CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) Australia Parliament voted to legalize same sex marriage Thursday after years of political jockeying and fierce public debate.Cheers and applause broke out as lawmakers voted in favor of the bill following hours of debate and emotional speeches at Parliament House in Canberra.”This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect for everyone,” said an effusive Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as he introduced the bill for a final vote.”This is a great day, it belongs to every Australian.”The bill passed its third reading with only four members of Parliament in opposition.The parliamentarians who voted in favor of same sex marriage took time to let the jubilant moment sink in, celebrating with hugs and handshakes and proudly sporting rainbow colored clothing.In a particularly poignant moment, the ministers on the House floor and guests in the gallery began singing “I am, you are, we are Australian.”The move follows a two month national postal survey that showed 61% of more than 12 million respondents were in favor of marriage equality.The country is now the 24th in the world to allow same sex couples to marry, according to Pew Research. Though the bill was expected to pass into law without significant opposition,
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the lengthy legislative process was excruciatingly slow for the hundreds of advocates watching from the public gallery.Among them was Christine Forster, the gay sister of Tony Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister who has long been seen as the face of the “no” campaign.Forster was joined in the public gallery by her partner, Virginia Edwards. They plan to marry next year, and Abbott has said he attend despite his personal views.Abbott and other conservatives proposed amendments to the bill to include further religious protections, all of which were voted down.”These amendments are important and I stress they are not against same sex marriage, they are simply in favor of the rights of religious organizations to keep doing what they doing,” Abbott said.Opponents of the changes argued they would legalize discrimination against the gay community. The 500 or so people in the gallery were vocal in their disapproval of the amendments. They were warned multiple times that parliamentary rules prohibit them from making noise and even applauding.An emotional weekAfter the bill passed the Senate last week, House proceedings kicked off with fireworks Monday when Liberal MP Tim Wilson surprised his colleagues by proposing to his longtime partner Ryan Bolger.The next day, Liberal MP Andrew Wallace, who is a devout Catholic, shared with his colleagues how his gay daughter helped change his position on same sex marriage.”She said: Dad, in the years to come, my generation will look back and judge your generation about how you deal with the issue of homosexuality in the same way that your generation considered your parents generation in the way that they dealt with our indigenous people,” Wallace said.Fighting back tears, Liberal MP Sarah Henderson told the story Wednesday night of a close gay friend of hers who died months ago and who, in one of their last conversations,
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asked her to continue to push for same sex marriage.Survey says yesThursday vote comes three weeks after the Australian public voted overwhelmingly to legalize same sex marriage as part of a national postal survey lasting two months.

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O’Day comes to Austin College from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., where he most recently served as vice president of strategic initiatives and secretary of the college.

“As my wife, Cece, and I have gotten to know the Austin College community, we have met people who are truly committed to preparing students for rewarding careers and for full, engaged, and meaningful lives,” O’Day said. “We share this commitment and look forward to our work together to ensure Austin College’s place among the nation’s treasured liberal arts institutions for generations to come. ”

Prior to his work at LVC, O’Day spent 15 years at Franklin Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., in a number of senior leadership roles.

He began his career in higher education as the head coach of women’s soccer from 1997.

O’Day describes his career in higher education as being driven by a deeply held belief that we are called upon to personally educate and support the whole student mind, body, and spirit in the classroom and lab, on the athletic field, on the stage, in the studio, in the workplace, in the residence hall, throughout the global community, and in every facet of the student experience.

O’Day received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Millersville (Pa.) University, and a juris doctor degree from Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia.

He also completed the Management Development Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Prior to beginning his career in higher education, O’Day was a practicing attorney in Lancaster and Philadelphia.

“His diversified skill set and demonstrated success at small, private liberal arts schools make him uniquely qualified for our campus leadership,” said Michelle Filander, women’s basketball coach and staff representative to the selection committee. “We are confident and enthusiastic about his ability to lead Austin College as we face challenges both specific to our institution and those facing higher education at large.”
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Day one of the Austin City Limits Music Festival was marred by a fire that broke out in a large truck, critically burning two workers. The fire also burned some portable toilets, sending a massive column of black smoke up over the festival. Patrons, ever the gracious type, completely accommodated emergency crews, moving back quickly and even helping to set up perimeters.

Pete Yorn, whose set interrupted by the fire, provided just the right up chill music to allay any fears of festival goers. based singer is on tour with Crowded House, who turned in a fine set later in the day.

Louisiana Amy LaVere, now based in Memphis, showed that powerful things can come in small packages by playing her stand up bass that is much bigger than she is. LaVere, who played the role of Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash based film Walk the Line, charmed the crowd with numbers from her new album Anchors and Anvils and moved easily between country and blues. She also won the best song title of the day award with Him didn make the Love go Away. She apparently had never had anyone doing sing for the deaf during her shows so asked the interpreter to show her what the title looked like after the number was over. She also did a female take of Dylan remember you that was quite sweet.

Peter Bjorn John, known as PBJ to the initiated, have been touring for two years non stop, and thus were very comfortable on stage. But they do carry the burden of having a song so catchy that folks just can wait to hear it, Folks, otherwise known as whistling song. Two of their tour mates joined them to give it an added twist, with Melanie Draisey of Clientele providing the female verse and chorus. The crowd seemed pleased. And they closed out their set with a great version of Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn showing why that 1978 song is such a Buzzcock classic.

Changing gears into a soulful direction, I wandered off to see The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker based on a friend recommendation. The group was doing some explosive 50 and 60 R ala James Brown, and Walker was up to the task. That is the beauty of this festival. Tired of Rock? Wander over and see some country. Tired of that? Go see some soul. That gets old? Go see Queens of the Stone Age or the Killers. You get the idea.

The inexplicably named Manchester Orchestra provided a heavy bass drone, making you want to listen even if you weren familiar with their music. Don expect Beethoven or Bach, this band is more Death Cab for Cutie. The somewhat haunting have you been? provided a highlight for their set.

A few large raindrops from some welcome clouds came down during Crowded House performance, cooling the crowd with the cool group. The venerable band seemed to please old fans and probably made some new ones. Neil Finn explained they were happy to be ending their current tour with the reunited group in Austin, a well known loving cradle of pop music. Many had never seen the House, as they hadn really existed since This year they reformed and have been touring, but as lead Neil Finn explained, their members were about to be scattered to the wind of the far reaches of the globe, including Los Angeles, New Zealand, England and beyond. At first blush it might sound like the latest dance floor pap, but listen to the lyrics and you hear references to the Tamil Tigers and the PLO. The crowd seemed at first unfamiliar, but warmed quickly for a set at least, the Dell stage was turned into a hip European nightclub. A friend has said he had seen her on Letterman the night before and she didn do much, but she turned in a workout video performance Friday. Her second album Kala was recently released.

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Gotan Project provided a big highlight for the day, with Argentinian tango seamlessly interwoven with electronica and dance dub, mesmerizing the crowd and even freezing the photographers in the pit from taking pictures for a moment. The stage draped in white provided a classical environ where a full 10 piece group, including a string section, a bandeon and a classical guitarist. Formed by members from Argentina, France and Switzerland, the group truly is the definition of international. They showed by they are a KCRW staple and why tango es en musico de vida. impressed in a funky gold and black dressed and wearing face paint that Mel Gibson might have worn in Braveheart if he was warring the Pixie nation. Her quirkiness appeals to some, annoy others, and confounds most. But with so few stateside appearances, everyone wanted to see her and she did not disappoint, singing tunes from her latest Spectacle? Yes. Spectacular? Depends on your point of view, as she is definitely an acquired taste, but no one can deny her uniqueness.

Up today are LA Cold War Kids, Blue October, Arctic Monkeys, Damien Rice, Arcade Fire and Muse, among many others. Check back Sunday for more coverage. And for pictures. I got to have SOME fun you know.

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Fifty years is a long time. Seventy years is even longer. Marine Corps. The year was 1966 and the Vietnam War was in full swing. The two Augusta County teens, both graduates of Central Augusta High School and longtime friends, enlisted on the same day Sept. 15, 1966. As proud graduates from basic training at Parris Island, they came home a few months later for Christmas. The next time they came home they were in flag draped caskets.

Clarence Willis Obie III was the oldest of four boys and two girls and, according to his younger brother John Obie, was a real charmer. He enjoyed hunting and playing baseball. He was a connoisseur of R music, especially James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Motown sound. When he graduated in 1965 from Central Augusta he was voted Personality of his class. He was also the class vice president. was always involved in student government. He was a leader, very popular, and had a lot of charm, said John. His ambition, according to his senior high school yearbook, was to be an engineer.

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Their plan

Bo had been working at DuPont in Waynesboro for much of the year after graduation. His best friend, Leonard Taylor Williams, was a year behind him in school. Together they hatched the idea of enlisting after Lin finished at Central Augusta in 1966.

Bo Obie before he enlisted. (Courtesy of John Obie)

Lin, the middle of three boys, was a worker according to his mother Arizona White. the afternoon when he came home from school he helped the farmers and he also worked at a drug store. He loved to work. He told me when he got out of the service he was going to buy a farm, Mrs. White recalled of her son, adding that he was quite religious and sang in the choir at Mount Marine Baptist Church in Kiddsville.

Bo Obie in Vietnam.

When Lin told his mother that he had enlisted in the Marines, she simply said Lin and broke down in tears. Bo parents, Clarence and Vivian Obie, drove the boys to the enlistment office in Norfolk on that fateful day in September of 1966. went in and they never came out and my mother cried all the way home, recalled John Obie who was about 12 at the time of his older brother entry into the service.(Photo: Courtesy Arizona White)

The two friends were split apart at Parris Island, but they both came home for Christmas and were able to spend some time together. Photos show two handsome and smiling young men in uniform. Bo came home for Christmas I was home and he surprised everyone and my mother and two sisters ran and jumped in his arms, recalled his brother John.

After Christmas the family drove Bo to the airport in Weyers Cave so he could return to his base. walked to the airplane and he turned and waved. He was straight and tall and that is the last we ever saw him, remembers John of that day a half century ago.

Less than a year later in separate combat incidents about five months apart, each young man lost his life in Vietnam. This summer they each would have celebrated their 70th birthdays, Bo on June 15 and Lin on Sept. 1. Instead of happy celebrations and remembering the simple trials and tribulations of everyday life, the families of Clarence Obie and Leonard Williams will remember more than 100 birthdays that never happened. Two young men with so much promise who never got to fulfill their dreams, know their children, or even kiss their families goodbye.

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Lin was the first to go. Mom, I guess by now that you know I been hurt. But, I luckier than most men. I was shot in the back. from the waist up. Don worry, I feel that everything will be all right. Love, Your son, Lin.

(Photo: Courtesy Arizona White)

Arizona White will never forget that letter dictated to a USO worker by her 19 year old son who was in the hospital in the Philippines after being shot by a sniper. The 89 year old widow received that precious message on the same day that two Marines came to tell her that her son was dead. was at home by myself and had just gotten home from work. I was so hurt and upset, she said. lived three days and then his kidneys stopped working. Marine Baptist Church.

(Photo: Nancy Sorrells/Special to The Ne)

PFC Leonard T. Williams died on July 26, 1967. He would have been 20 on Sept. 1 of that year.

On Aug. 2, 1967, Bo, whom his mother called Sonny, wrote his mother from Vietnam. Mom, I received your letter yesterday. What happened to Lin? I haven heard a thing. You talked like he had been killed or something. I don want to believe it. However, the rest of the Obies were among those crowded into the packed country church for the young man summer funeral at Mount Marine Church. There were so many people that nearly 100 people had to stand outside.

didn like violence. He loved life, but he answered the call of his country, said a teary eyed Rev. Carter R. Wicks, Jr. at the service. A Marine honor guard had stood watch over Private Williams body at Jones Funeral home and then the six man honor guard formed at the home of Lelia Williams, Lin grandmother, which was next door to the church.

was a handsome boy, Mrs. White remembers of seeing her son in the flag draped casket. there he looked like he was asleep.
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This is the story of an amazing connection between our area and a small village in Northern Ireland. And it is also a thanks to a local business who helped prevent international embarrassment recently when telling part of that story. Over the last several years I have been weaving together the connections between a small village in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and Augusta County, Virginia. We know that vast numbers of Presbyterian settlers from a region in the north of Ireland called Ulster settled our area of Augusta and Rockbridge. So many of these Ulster Scots, or Scotch Irish as they were later called, settled in our area that it quickly became known as the Irish Tract.

But Ulster is a fairly large region and Maghera (pronounced Ma Her ah) is a fairly small village. Why so many from in and around Maghera wound up here is still somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that history has shown us that very often immigrants cluster together and come as family groups or church groups. Some person or persons from Maghera, caught up in that great migration stream from southeastern Pennsylvania, settled here in the Irish Tract and they sent word back that this was a welcoming place.

In 1739, just outside the village of Maghera, the Thomson family lived in Gorteade Cottage. John Thomson was a prosperous linen trader. His wife had recently passed away and he determined to make a new life for himself and his six children, William, Alexander, John, Charles, Matthew, and Mary, in America. In that year he and at least his four older sons set sail for America. Most accounts say that the youngest, Matthew and Mary, were to be sent for later.

The dream turned into a nightmare when the Thomson father passed away within sight of the American shore. The ship captain apparently absconded with the boys’ money and set them ashore in New Castle, Delaware as penniless orphans. The boys were split up, perhaps farmed out to relatives or thrown upon the mercy of the community. At any rate the family was scattered to the winds. Eventually the two younger children arrived in America as well.

Buy PhotoAfter cleanup, the Pilson cemetery revealed a remarkable story. (Photo: Nancy Sorrells/Special to The News Leader)

Of particular interest is 10 year old Charles Thomson who eventually wound up in Philadelphia and became a prosperous linen manufacturer and friend of Benjamin Franklin. Thomson entered the political arena, was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly, and became involved in successful negotiations with the restless Native Americans on the Pennsylvania frontier. When the Revolution rolled around, he was a natural for the Continental Congress, where he was the Secretary of the Continental Congress for 15 years. When the new republic was formed, it was Thomson who designed the Great Seal of the United States that we see on our money. Although he is virtually forgotten today, during the Revolutionary period he would have been as well known as many of the other founding fathers.

So what does Thomson have to do with Augusta County? You remember those orphan brothers who were scattered to the winds? One of them certainly and probably three of them wound up in Augusta County. The key to figuring this is out is Matthew Thomson, the youngest brother who might have come to America later than his older four siblings. When he died in 1822, a short notice ran in a number of newspapers across the country. It said that Matthew Thomson, aged 91, from Augusta County, Virginia, had died. “He was a native of Ireland, but for upwards of 60 years had been a citizen of Augusta and was the only surviving brother of the venerable Charles Thompson, Secretary to Congress during the war of 76.”

Turns out that the obituary matches the will in the Augusta courthouse and a tombstone in a small family cemetery on Swartzel Shop Road near the Riverheads Volunteer Fire Department. There are several Thomsons in the cemetery as well as Pilsons, Blackwoods, Shields, and many other local Ulster Scots names among the 60 or so stones. Most if not all of the cemetery inhabitants were probably members of Bethel Presbyterian Church.

Trying to figure out why Thomson is there was easy. The cemetery is almost certainly on at least a piece of what was Matthew’s land on the “waters of Christians Creek.” From there we can work outward to see that adjoining lands were owned by John and by William Thomson, all on the waters of Christians Creek. William’s and John’s wills are found in the Augusta County court records. None of the wills mention a direct connection to Charles Thomson but we can connect the dots because of that short obituary. The descriptions in the wills match the lands and the names of relatives. Almost certainly these were Matthew’s brothers and by conclusion Charles’ brothers.

Buy PhotoThe grave of Matthew Thomson, brother to Continental Congress Secretary Charles Thomson. (Photo: Nancy Sorrells/Special to The News Leader)

The piece that seals this interconnectedness in my mind are two documents: first a deed in 1816 between Charles Thomson “of the county of Montgomery and state of Pennsylvania” for 142 acres in the county of Augusta on the “waters of Christians Creek.” The land is in close proximity if not directly adjoining the lands owned by the other three brothers.

Second, because he owned land in Augusta, Charles Thomson’s will is probated in Augusta as well as Pennsylvania, further cementing the connection. True, there could have been another Charles Thomson in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, (where THE Charles Thomson lived) who just happened to send a representative to buy land adjoining that of Mathew Thomson who happened to also have a brother named Charles living in Montgomery Co., but that is unlikely.

Now to the part about staving off international embarrassment. Four years ago almost to the day, my husband and I were invited to Maghera by a journalist and local Ulster historian Bruce Clark. He wanted me to come and speak about these Irish Augusta connections. He actually lives in the Thomson homeplace where Charles and all his siblings were born. While in Ulster, Bruce introduced us to a BBC documentary producer Kathryn Baird and presented an idea. As the four of us sat in a Belfast coffee house, the idea was hatched for a documentary on American patriot Charles Thomson.

Fast forward four years and Bruce rang me and told me to get ready because he and Kathryn wanted to work in two days of filming in the Valley to tell the Ulster Scots story as part of the bigger Charles Thomson story.

So a jam packed visit to the Frontier Culture Museum to see flax production, a visit to Matthew’s grave, and a visit to Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church, where the congregational members were good sports about having their Sunday worship filmed, all took place a few weeks ago. It was a very successful two days of filming and we were even able to provide some appropriately Irish like chilly and rainy weather.

It might not have turned out so well. I woke up in the middle of the night about 10 days before the visitors from Northern Ireland were to arrive with a terrible thought. The small family cemetery, maintained by aging descendants, might not be in the best shape. A visit confirmed my worst fears. Honeysuckle had engulfed the stones.

Chapman Williams of Williams Brothers Tree Lawn Service saved the day. He made a trip to the top of the hill with me to look at the sea of vines. The Williams brothers, I might add, are members of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church but maintain the historic North Mountain Meeting House cemetery, so they have already made a long term commitment to preserving our area heritage. As Chapman and I chatted, I told him the Thomson story and asked him if my husband and I could hire his crew to at least clear around the Thomson stones. Chapman stood there for a minute or two and then said that we needed to avoid international embarrassment and clean up the whole thing. He asked if I thought I could raise the money to pay his crew back. I agreed (part of the reason for this story!) to do so. He said if I did that he would make a commitment to keep it maintained in the future.

And so it came to passover the Easter weekend his crew went up and a miracle took place. When the BBC crew arrived a week later it was to a cleared cemetery filled with history and not honeysuckle. The final bill was $800. The board of the Augusta County Historical Society has agreed to run any donations to the clean up through the Society so that donations are tax deductible. Box 686, Staunton, VA 24402). I have put together a PowerPoint program on the Maghera Augusta connections if anyone has a group who would like to see the program, just let me know. Perhaps your group would like to learn more and give a small donation to the cemetery clean up. When the documentary is finished later this year, the Society will host a showing.

At the beginning of this article I promised to tell you about multiple Maghera Augusta connections, because they do not stop with the Thomsons. I guess the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, will come in another column.

The story was updated to reflect the fact that the Williams brothers ofWilliams Brothers Tree Lawn Service attend Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church.
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Mike Daulton, Vice President of Government Relations for Audubon, said, “In the midst of an historic assault on the environment in the House of Representatives, we were reminded of the value and power of the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful conservation laws, which has been a critical safety net for species on the brink of extinction and recovered America’s symbol the Bald Eagle.”

“This historic vote demonstrates the strong support that exists for protecting our nation’s most imperiled wildlife. We applaud the 224 members of Congress who supported the amendment sponsored by Representatives Norm Dicks (D WA), Mike Fitzpatrick (R PA), Mike Thompson (D CA), and Colleen Hanabusa (D HI) striking language from the Interior and Environment bill that would have dismantled endangered species protections.
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cheap raptors jerseys Auditor finds lax control over cash in Gainesville

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An audit released by the city of Gainesville last week shows the city had no way of knowing whether revenues for its bus service, Regional Transit Systems, were accurately reported.

The report also found that former employees had access and entered revenue room. At least 44 days of surveillance was or not recorded, because there was no procedure in place for management to check surveillance daily.

City officials said there is no way of knowing how much money if any is missing or how far back the issue dates, but that there are variances between bus passes sold at the RTS Rosa Parks downtown station and revenues reported on daily cash reports since 2015.

The audit found that periodic background checks were not done for employees who handled cash on a regular basis, poorly angled cameras did not capture all cash exchanges and clerks at the downtown station used the same drawer and login information, the report found.

have never seen such a negative report in a long time about internal control, said Commissioner Harvey Budd. kind of shocked that this has gone on so long. Auditor Carlos Holt, who joined the city in early 2015, said this was the first audit on RTS services in 20 years. He reported the findings to city commissioners Thursday evening.

RTS ridership numbers have declined in recent years, resulting in lower revenues. During the 2016 2017 fiscal year, RTS had reported revenues of approximately $31 million, though almost 40 percent came from the University of Florida. Fares and bus passes that year made up about $700,000.

Holt found that daily deposit reports in 2016 were submitted 12 days late, on average.

RTS sells passes that are good for as long as a month, but one pass was found that had been extended for up to 6 years. At least seven others were printed for more than 30 days.

RTS staff members stored preprinted stacks of bus passes, rang them up as $0 account and placed them in a drawer for easy access during customer sales, the report said. The tracking system displayed $0 received for those passes, removing any ability to track what had been paid.

Among the report’s recommendations:

assign cashiers individual login credentials;

implement procedures to fully account for bus pass sales;

ensure video equipment monitors cash handling;

conduct periodic background checks of cash handling employees and reassign those with a history of mishandling cash;

review and reconcile transactions daily.

Holt said RTS management is taking the matter seriously and will check again in a year to see if appropriate changes have been made.
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SALEM A new state audit identifies questionable expenditures by the Oregon Commission for the Blind, including the purchase of NFL jerseys, employee perks and a seven day biking trip to the San Juan Islands.

The spending totaled $61,000 in public money, according to the secretary of state’s audit division. But auditors also questioned whether an additional $1.4 million was spent prudently because competitive pricing procedures were not followed.

In March 2007, the state Audits Division received complaints alleging mismanagement at the agency. That kicked off a two year audit. The subsequent report, to be released by the secretary of state today, identified several examples in which spending could not be tied to specific client needs:

In September 2006, the commission spent $12,000 for a weeklong camping and biking trip to the San Juan Islands. Of the 21 people on the trip, two were commission clients. The others were employees, former clients and volunteers.

The commission spent $700 on football jerseys and other football themed items for a client’s coffee cart. It also purchased a gym membership, a leather jacket and two bottles of cologne for other clients.

Auditors noted the commission “has established a pattern of providing unnecessary meals and refreshments” to staff. For example, they noted $5,100 spent on meals for a training and awards event in December 2006 at the Hotel Vintage Plaza in Portland. Another $3,100 was spent to give employees and others $50 gift cards during the awards event.

“Our concern had to do less with the dollar amount and more to do with the purpose,” Drummond Kahn, Audits Division interim director, said Thursday. “What concerned us was that we were identifying patterns and individual cases of spending that appeared both unusual and disconnected from a client’s plan.”

Linda Mock, administrator for the commission, was not available Thursday.

Earlier this week, she submitted a nine page response to the findings.

The commission has incorporated a number of recommendations contained in the report, Mock wrote.

She noted that the commission has frequently relied upon recreational activities to help people adjust to blindness. The San Juan trip “came about as a result of a deceased staff member who donated significant funds to the commission for this specific trip,” she said. “Half of the participants on the bike trip were legally blind . and were eligible to participate in the activity.”

Mock said the $8,200 spent on the awards dinner followed state and federal guidelines. “The commission believes it is important to identify ways to recognize staff for their hard work and dedication to its mission.”.
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