The Man Behind

first_imgDr. Ray Russell is a man of many talents. A minister with a Ph.D. in computer science and a running coach’s certification, Russell is mostly known around town as the weatherman. Self-taught in the art of meteorology, Russell first began reporting weather in the High Country after the blizzard of ’93 blew through Boone, bringing with it nearly 36 inches of snow. As a professor of computer science at Appalachian State University (a position he maintains to this day), Russell was one of the few who could decipher the inner workings of the Internet, which was then only in its infancy.Using primitive web design, Russell crafted a snow report for western North Carolina on his university site, posting semi-regularly during the winters of 1994-96. By the time he received a weather station from his wife during the Christmas of ’98, Russell already had a well-established following of weather watchers.Now, Russell’s forecast ( covers more than the High Country surrounding Boone, spanning the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee, N.C., to Waynesboro, Va. Though Russell now has five meteorologists working for him, he still updates daily forecasts for his hometown. The company’s annual Fearless Forecast has become like a Farmers’ Almanac to southern Appalachian powder hounds awaiting winter’s arrival.ray-russell-boston-marathonRay Russell Runs the Boston MarathonBRO: CAN YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU EVER EXPRESSED INTEREST IN THE WEATHER?RAY: When I was young, I bought every book a 10-year-old could get on meteorology and read. When you asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, well, I was going to be a meteorologist of course. As time went on, I did other things. The weather just kinda happened out of hobby and interest and accident.BRO: WHEN WAS THE TURNING POINT FOR RAY’S WEATHER?RAY: February of 2000. Unbeknownst to me, a local radio station started going to the site and looking at it. They wanted me to talk about weather on the radio. For the next three years, every day at 7:10, that became a staple of the radio station.BRO: WHAT MAKES YOUR WEATHER FORECAST DIFFERENT?RAY: If you go to, they’re going to tell you what the temperature is in Beech Mountain, but they don’t have any idea. They’re just guessing. With those national [weather] sources, there are no people behind that. It’s all computer generated. It goes from a computer model through some processing straight to the website or mobile device with no human brain that ever intervenes in that process.BRO: DO YOU THINK YOUR ACCURACY HAS LED TO RAYSWEATHER.COM’S SUCCESS?RAY: I call it my hobby gone berserk. I don’t really understand it all. Back in the day, I wrote some pretty zany things I couldn’t get away with anymore, but it was a creative outlet for me, not just the weather, but just to write something funny. We have a golf-o-meter for good days and snowman-o-meter for snow days. We’ll issue a white leg warning on the first warm day after winter, and if it’s windy, we’ll issue a big hair alert. We have fun with it but it’s a serious forecast.BRO: SO WHAT’S OUR WINTER LOOKING LIKE?RAY: It’ll be a slow start to winter, but snowier than average in the Foothills and throughout Southern Appalachia. The heart of our winter will begin late January and February.[divider]Related Contact[/divider]last_img read more

Bill would expand funding for Guardian ad Litem Program

first_imgBill would expand funding for Guardian ad Litem Program April 1, 2002 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Bill would expand funding for Guardian ad Litem Program Associate EditorWhy put a children’s legal advocacy program in the agency that deals with the elderly? Why risk independence by moving the Guardian ad Litem Program from the judiciary to the executive branch? Despite those concerns, SB 686 passed out of the Senate on third reading March 14.The bill was pending on the House special order calendar as this News went to press.The product of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Locke Burt, R-Ormond Beach, SB 686, at a cost of about $12 million, expands funding for the Guardian ad Litem Program. Now, despite a statutory mandate and a judge appointing them, guardians are only available for half of the abused and neglected children in need.“In fact, it doubles the funding so there will be no child in Florida unrepresented,” Burt said during the Senate floor debate on second reading March 13.The bill also clarifies when the guardian ad litem or an attorney is appointed in dependency proceedings and gives the court flexibility to adjust the representation of the child based on the age of the child and the child’s level of understanding, Burt said.While children’s advocates applaud increasing representation for children in dependency court, especially with a statutory mechanism in place to pay for legal representation of children, the sticking point was where to move the Guardian ad Litem Program. Now, the GAL program is housed at the Office of State Courts Administrator without a state director. SB 686 would move the GAL program to the Department of Elder Affairs, where a new executive director will be appointed by the governor. That executive director, who will serve for three years, will supervise a separate Statewide Public Guardianship deputy director and a separate Children’s Representation deputy director.“I am terribly concerned that we are going to not only remove the independence out of the Guardian ad Litem Program, which it now enjoys under the judicial branch, but also give it to an agency that has absolutely nothing to do with responsibility to children,” said Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Pembroke Pines.Echoing the position of Rep. Cindy Lerner, D-Miami, whose HB 629 dealing with a new home for the GAL Program had stalled in the House, Wasserman Schultz said it was best to heed the recommendation of the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. OPPAGA recommended the Guardian ad Litem Program be administered by the Judicial Administrative Commission, that now does the accounting procedures for the state attorneys, public defenders, and capital collateral lawyers.Also, Wasserman Schultz warned, the only state that houses its GAL program in the executive branch is South Carolina, “and right now they are going through chaos.”She also reminded senators of when the Department of Children and Families was the old HRS, where programs for both the elderly and children were housed, and “that department was a fiasco.”Under SB 686, she said, “I don’t really understand how the Guardian ad Litem Program will get the independence it needs and get the attention it deserves.”Burt responded: “Well, it will get the attention it deserves because it will have a gubernatorial appointment in charge. That’s number one: The person running it will not be an employee of any other state agency. I think that you’re hung up over the administrative housing of the agency, as opposed to the operational aspects of the agency.”Burt detailed how his Judiciary Committee wrestled with other alternatives, including using the public defender’s office or the attorney general’s office to administer the program, but there were inherent conflicts of interest, just as there currently are with the judges who must decide a child’s fate also administering an advocacy program that represents that child.“It didn’t make any sense to us to put a commission in charge of it, which was the other alternative,” Burt said. “And it didn’t make sense to us to have this float sort of in never-never land.”Sen. Ron Silver, D-N. Miami, said he, too, wanted to leave the program in the judiciary, but learning about the current conflicts changed his mind.“Let me just tell you this: You have to put it somewhere,” Silver said. “I would hope that you don’t deal with the nomenclature, but you deal with what we are trying to do. We are trying to provide advocacy for children.. . . Look, I’m as frustrated as anybody else about where to put this. But this seems to be the best place of all the alternatives. I’m just suggesting to you: Let’s give this a chance.”last_img read more

Indonesia, Japan commit to ‘cooperation’ against COVID-19

first_imgIndonesia and Japan have committed to closer cooperation to address the spread of COVID-19 while calling for strong collaboration within the international community to fight the pandemic.The commitment was made on Monday during a phone call between Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.Retno reportedly used the occasion to also convey Indonesia’s appreciation for Japan’s recent help in evacuating the Indonesian crewmen of the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan. “Indonesia and Japan are committed to intensify bilateral, regional as well as international cooperation through the G-20 mechanism in fighting COVID-19,” Retno tweeted on Monday.Meanwhile, Motegi said on Monday in a statement issued through the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta that it was high time that the international community came together to curb the further spread of the lethal virus around the world.He said that Japan had decided to contribute 1.5 billion yen (US$13.6 million) in emergency aid for distributing to affected countries through the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.The phone call between the foreign ministers took place  in lieu of a bilateral meeting that had been scheduled prior to the outbreak.This year’s Indonesia-Japan meeting of foreign and defense ministers would have been be the second “2+2” meeting since 2015, when Retno and then-defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu met with their Japanese counterparts, then-foreign minister Fumio Kishida and then-defense minister Gen Nakatani, for the inaugural meeting in Tokyo.On Tuesday morning, Indonesia had reported 579 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while Japan had reported 1,128 confirmed cases. Topics :last_img read more

GOP leader says ‘good chance’ sports book legalized in Iowa this year

first_imgDES MOINES — The 2019 Iowa legislature convenes on Monday and odds are that lawmakers will consider a bill to make it legal to bet on sporting events.“I think we have a really good chance to get sports betting passed here in the State of Iowa this year,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny who decides which bills get debated in the state senate.The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last May that all states may legalize wagering on sporting events.“As I travel to conferences across the country and meet with other leaders, there’s a lot of states that are looking at that right now,” Whitver told Radio Iowa today. “I think right now the conversations have progressed pretty well in the state of Iowa. You have a lot of people interested in that bill seem to be on the same page and that makes it a lot more feasible this year.”Over the past couple of years, casino industry lobbyists urged Iowa legislators to prepare for the Supreme Court’s ruling and set up a system that would give the state-licensed casinos authority run sports book operations. New Jersey and Delaware immediately legalized sports betting this past spring and Whitver says Iowa casinos seem the likely host for wagering on sports — if it’s legalized here.“We have a fairly good system set up with the casinos and our Racing and Gaming (Commission) overseeing gambling and so I think you’d largely use that structure as you look at how to implement sports betting,” Whitver said.Iowa Lottery officials say several of the state’s largest lottery retailers want the option of offering a sports lottery — similar. perhaps, to the one now legal in Delaware. Whitver said it “makes more sense” to have sports wagering managed by the casinos.“There’s a lot of people that want a piece of the action,” Whitver said. “…The casinos are used to the regulation. They understand the process. The systems are all set up there. It would be totally different to allow the lottery to get into the gambling world and so, right now, I would be more focused on the casinos, but open minded to listen to what those who are advocating for the lottery would say.”Estimates indicate Americans illegally bet hundreds of billions of dollars on sporting events every year. Bills to legalize sports betting in Iowa have been introduced in the Iowa legislature since 2010, but none advanced beyond the committee level.last_img read more