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November 13, 2014 - Image 3

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-13

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, November 14, 2014 - 3A

Jury indicts Ex-CEO of coal
mine that exploded, killing 29

Executive charged
with numerous
counts of conspiracy
(AP) - Don Blankenship, the 1
steely-eyed executive once
dubbed "The Dark Lord of Coal
Country," on Thursday became
the highest-ranking coal offi-
cial to face federal charges in
the nation's deadliest mine
disaster in 40 years. 1
A federal grand jury indict-
ed the former Massey Energy t
CEO on numerous counts of i
conspiracy in the April 2010 u
underground explosion that
killed 29 men at the Upper t
Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, p
West Virginia.
The 43-page indictment said t
Blankenship "knew that UBB s
was committing hundreds of 1
safety-law violations every year
and that he had the ability to
prevent most of the violations G
that UBB was committing. Yet t
he fostered and participated
in an understanding that per- k
petuated UBB's practice of rou- F
tine safety violations, in order k
to produce more coal, avoid the
costs of following safety laws,
and make more money."
His attorney, William W.
Taylor III, said in a statement F
that Blankenship "is entirely t
innocent of these charges. He 1
will fight them and he will be i
"Don Blankenship has been a
tireless advocate for mine safe-
ty," the statement said. "His p
outspoken criticism of power-
ful bureaucrats has earned this
indictment. He will not yield to t
their effort to silence him. He
will not be intimidated." k
But Pam Napper, whose son,
From PageA A
Jeremiah Chamberlin, assis-
tant director of the English
Department Writing Program
and editor-in-chief and pub-
lisher of Fiction Writers Review,
sat down for an interview with
The Michigan Daily, to discuss
the writing process and how the
Write-a-thon expands on that
"Writing is normally thought of
as a very solitary act. When some-
one says 'writer,' they envision
someone alone, in a room, often
a garret, in some sort of mental
anguish or wonderful ecstasy as
the muse either speaks or does not
speak to them," Chamberlin said.
"And so I think it's important to
remember that writing is a collab-
orative act, and it's a community
act. While we do spend a large
portion of our day writing at that
desk or at that tablet by ourselves,
almost every writer I know shares
their work."
For writers, the Write-a-thon
is a means to validate their ambi-
tions and connect with other
writers in the Ann Arbor area.
Drafting is a struggle, but at least
they can struggle together.

"I really love the idea of writers
coming together for the shared
endeavor. It's a kind of solidar-
ity. It's a kind of making public
what's often a solitary act ... It's
reaffirming, to share a room with
a dozen or twenty people who are
all engaged in that act," Chamber-
lin said.
And in Espresso's tiny seating
area, hundreds of new ideas will
be simmering in the air above the
writers' heads, electrifying the
already charged atmosphere.
"I also love the notion that, in
this space, there are new poems,
new stories, new plays, new nov-
els, all being generated simulta-
neously ... And I think it inspires
people," Chamberlin said.
From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday,
through Espresso's window front,
Ann Arborites can see writers
bringing novels, poems and plays
to life, just a plane of glass sepa-
rating chilly sidewalk strollers
from the architects of tomorrow's
O classic tales.
"By making it in the front win-
dow of Espresso Royale, everyone
who walks by looks in and sees
writers, and they see writers at
work. And they'll see writers on

Josh Napper, was among the
miners who died that day, said
"it's about time" Blankenship
was called to account.
"He was a big part of this,"
she said. "He knew what was
going on in that mine and con-
tinued to let it go. I hope he gets
what he deserves. I am so excit-
ed. They aren't sad tears today.
They're happy tears."
Earlier this year, Blanken-
ship sponsored and appeared
in a 50-minute documentary
titled "Upper Big Branch -
Never Again." In it, he argued
that regulators never got to the
truth about what happened
"If someone wants to know
the truth about what hap-
pened at UBB, they need to go
ubbneveragain.com and watch
the documentary," Blanken-
ship, in his signature even
baritone, told MSNBC's Chris
Hayes early last month.
But U.S. Attorney Booth
Goodwin said the truth is con-
tained in the indictment.
In February 2013, a former
longtime subordinate, David
Hughart, testified that Blan-
kenship ordered the wide-
spread corporate practice of
warning coal miners about
surprise federal inspections.
The federal Mine Safety and
Health Administration said
the root cause of the blast was
Massey's "systematic, inten-
tional and aggressive efforts"
to conceal life-threatening
problems. MSHA said manag-
ers even maintained two sets of
pre-shift inspection books - an
accurate one for themselves,
and a sanitized one for regula-
The indictment says Blan-
kenship conspired to violate
standards at the mine from

January 2008 until April
2010, when the explosion tore
through the tunnels.
The explosion prompted fed-
eral officials to begin monthly
"impact" inspections at prob-
lem mines throughout Appa-
lachia in addition to routine
state and federal visits. MSHA
said last month that it has con-
ducted 823 "impact" inspec-
tions sites and issued more
than 13,000 citations since the
Alpha Natural Resources
bought Massey for $7.1 bil-
lion in June 2012. Blankenship
retired ahead of the merger.
"We can only hope that the
outcome of the upcoming pro-
ceedings that were announced
today will provide some level
of comfort and closure for the
families of the fallen miners
and to the larger community
where we live and operate,"
Alpha said in a statement.
Four investigations into
the disaster found that worn
and broken cutting equipment
created a spark that ignited
accumulations of coal dust
and methane gas. Broken and
clogged water sprayers allowed
what should have been a minor
flare-up to become an inferno.
Blankenship started a blog
to push his assertion that the
presence of natural gas in the
mine, and not methane gas and
excess coal dust, was at the
root of the explosion. He said
getting to that "truth" was "the
best way to honor the victims
of Upper Big Branch..."
In the November 2010 Roll-
ing Stone article in which
the "dark lord" moniker was
coined, Jeff Goodell described
the former $18 million-a-year
man as "the undisputed king of
coal in West Virginia."

"Other Big Coal CEOs who'
operate in Appalachia are
business-school types who
have offices in other states
and leave the dirty work to
their minions," he wrote.
"Blankenship, by contrast, is a
rich hillbilly who believes that
God put coal in the ground so
that he could mine it, and any-
one - or any law - that stands
in his way needs to be beaten
down, bought off or tied up in
"Blankenship is hated,
feared and respected, but
nobody wants to tangle with
Until now. If convicted,
Blankenship could face up to 31
years in prison.
Others have been convicted
in the case. Former White Buck
Coal Co. President Hughart,
who testified that Blankenship
ordered the inspection warn-
ings, pleaded guilty to federal
conspiracy charges. Hughart,
who never worked at Upper Big
Branch, was eventually sen-
tenced to 3 1/2 years in prison
for his role.
Former UBB superinten-
dent Gary May was sentenced
last year to one year and nine
months in prison on charges
he defrauded the government
through his actions at the
mine, including disabling a
methane gas monitor and falsi-
fying records. May cooperated
with prosecutors.
He testified at the Febru-
ary 2012 sentencing of former
Massey security chief Hughie
Elbert Stover, who was sent to
prison for three years for lying
to investigators and ordering a
subordinate to destroy docu-
ments. It was one of the stiff-
est punishments ever handed
down in a mine safety case.

From Page 1A
groups have strongly contested
that interpretation.
Several cities and public
institutions within Michigan,
including Ann Arbor and the
University, have amended their
own ordinances and policies
to include both gender identity
and expression and sexuality,
but these changes are relatively
isolated, making amending the
act on the state level a focus for
many LGBTQ groups.
"The ability to be fired just
because of who you are is bigger
than just a theoretical debate,"
said Jason Morgan, co-chair of
the Jim Toy Community Cen-
ter's Public Policy committee.
"It's a very real issue for people.
And there are people who've
been fired for being gay. So it's
not just about the broader civil
rights discussion. There is a very
real, tangible impact on the lives
of people to be protected that is
Foster, who will lose his seat at
the end of the lame duck legisla-
tive session in December, intro-
duced his revised amendment
with the backing of Speaker of
the House Jase Bolger (R-Mar-
shall), who previously stated he
did not support Singh or War-
ren's bills.
Bolger introduced a third bill
along with Foster's, the Michi-
gan Religious Freedom Resto-
ration Act, that parallels a 1993
federal legislation which per-
mits broad exemptions to fed-
eral laws if they conflict with an
individual's religious beliefs. In
a statement, Bolger said the act's
passage would be necessary for
him to allow Foster's bill to come
to avote.
"I have been researching this
issue for well over a year and
said repeatedly that I would
work on finding legislation that
could strike a balance between
protecting personal liberties and
defending religious freedom,"
Bolger said. "I believe Rep. Frank
Foster's bill on Elliott Larsen and

my bill on MiRFRA provide that
necessary balance."
His stance was applauded by
the Michigan Catholic Confer-
ence, which represents Roman
Catholic bishops in the state, as
an important expression of reli-
gious tolerance.
However, both the state
Democratic caucus and various
LGBTQ advocacy groups indi-
cated they would not support
Foster's bill, and condemned the
additional legislation concerning
religious exemptions.
In an interview Wednesday
morning, before Foster's bill
was announced, Rep. Jeff Irwin
(D-Ann Arbor), who co-spon-
sored Singh's bill, said religious
exemptions had the potential to
reduce the impact of the ELCRA.
"It's really opening up the
biggest possible loophole in our
anti-discrimination laws," Irwin
said. "Because much of the dis-
crimination that people face, if
not based on religion, is justified
by religious scripture."
Following the introduction of
Foster and Bolger's bills Wednes-
day, a coalition of LGBTQ advo-
cacy groups announced they
would beginexploringnon-legis-
lative pathways, such as a ballot
question, to get the original ver-
sion of the amendment passed.
Irwin said any proposed
amendments that didn't include
gender identity and expression,
or came tied to potential reli-
gious exemptions, had the poten-
tial to halt the momentum built
up around the issue -in Lansing
over the past few years.
"If this is something we're
going to do in a bipartisan way,
with some folks from both sides
- though probably more votes
from Democrats in support - it's
got to be something that Demo-
crats actually support," Irwin
said. "A bill that is not fully
inclusive, that leaves the most
persecuted and the most dis-
criminated part in this commu-
nity behind and that really opens
up a loophole for discrimination
against gay and lesbian people,
that will not be the kind of pol-
icy I think that progressives are
going to'rally behind."

laptops and on iPads and pens and
notebooks and on manual type-
writers-(as donated by Harlequin
Creature)," Chamberlin said.
He also stressed that you don't
need to be a seasoned writer to
stop in on Friday; all are welcome
to find a table, plug in their lap-
top and write that first sentence,
regardless of confidence or skill
"Every single writer will tell
you that every time he or she
starts a new project, it's as if
they're learning to write for the
first time. Every novelist will tell
you that while one gains more
confidence with each book and
learns a few tricks along the way,
every project has its own unique
challenges," Chamberlin said.
"So it's just as likely that the
award-winning author sitting
next to you is having just as much
From renowned faculty to
seasoned lecturers, from MFA
students to Creative Writing Sub-
concentrators, from freshman
trying their hand at English 223 to
that guy in your physics class who
likes Sci-Fi, Espresso will house a
catalog of writers for all 10 hours,
each completely absorbed with
the tedious, mind-eroding writing
process, rather than the output.
And all are welcome.
"People can stop in for fifteen
minutes, write a note on the type-
writer, or they can stay for a few
hours and really work away at
something ... I would remind all
writers, myself included, that it's
the process of doing the work that
matters most and the process of
exploration that happens on the
page," Chamberlin said.
First instituted in Ann Arbor in
2009, the Write-a-thon is a chance
for Ann Arbor's writers to sip cof-
fee, nibble a donut and tap their
keyboard a few thousand times
until something remarkable hap-
pens. For 10 hours on Friday, head
down to Espresso on State Street,
find a table near the front and
inhale the aroma of hot chocolate,
sweaty palms and blind determi-
The November Write-a-thon
is for the writers, all of them.
Whether you're a Hopwood win-
ner or you don't know what that
is, wander over to Espresso on Fri-
day. Even if you've never touched
a keyboard, there's still plenty of
reason to join.
"This space is for you today ...
and so we're giving free coffee
and donuts while supplies last."'

From Page 1A
different identities.
"Students want opportuni-
ties for interaction across dif-
ferent groups - not just race,
but other identities as well,
and they get that in IGR," she
LSA senior Sarah Berkman
has already expressed interest
in completing the new minor.
As a Community Action and
Social Change minor, Berk-
man has already fulfilled most
of the credits required for the
IGR minor. Berkman said CAS
was their only option for stu-
dents wanting to have a minor
dealing with social justice.
Now, students can explore
both IGR and CAS and decide
which minor is right for them.
"There are a lot of people in
IGR dialogues and facilitating
classes who decide to become
CAS minors because a lot of
the IGR classes fulfill CAS,"
she said. "I think maybe some
of those people now would do
the IGR minor."
While IGR administra-
tors were structuring the
new minor, they also planned
to have an IGR class count
for LSA's Race & Ethnic-
ity requirement. The class
counting for credit is Inter-
group Dialogues, listed as
course is three credits and it
is one of two core classes for
the IGR minor. However, the
class is open to any student
and the course will fulfill the

RE requirement regardless
of whether or not a student
wants to minorin IGR.
Last year, members of the
Black Student Union lobbied
the University to enact a Race
and Ethnicity requirement in
every school and college.
In response, former CSG
President Michael Proppe
said the University should
consider allowing IGR classes
to fulfill Race and Ethnicity
requirements. The comments
were delivered at a meeting
of the University's Board of
Regents shortly after the BSU
launched their #BBUM cam-
Maxwell said the only rea-
son the course didn't previ-
ously count for RE is because
it was only two credits, and a
course must be at least three
credits to be considered. IGR
was considering changing
the course anyway because
facilitators were commenting
that two hours a week was not
enough time for meaningful
dialogue. Due to the changes
that came with the minor,
Maxwell said it was a good
time to increase the course's
credit hours.
"With the changing demo-
graphic of our society, by
2042, there won't be a major-
ity racial group in the United
States," Maxwell said. "We
have to be in a position to be
able to understand cultural
differences and be able to
communicate inter-culturally
in a way that acknowledges
both the cultures that we
come from and people from
other groups."

From Page 2A
many socio-economic and skills
based resources to know how to
participate," Valentino said.
LSA junior Kayla Garthus,
vice-president of the University's
chapter of the Young Americans
for Liberty, joined the organiza-
tion during her freshman year
and said the diversity of the
members has increased in the
time she joined.
Young Americans for Liberty
is a non-partisan libertarian
organization that had 150 chap-
ters nationwide at the end of
2009. That number has increased
to 527 today.
Garthus said the organiza-
tion has a mixture of people with
different identities, including
Republicans and Democrats. She
believes that nonpartisanship
has helped the group expand.
"I would say that people are
less inclined nowadays to be
so politically active due to the
unfortunate circumstances
involving the government and
just political parties," Garthus
LSA senior Sarah Cunning-
ham, secretary of the Uni-
versity's chapter of College
Republicans, said the group is
steadily growing stronger and
the midterm elections have
helped the group gain some
attention on campus.
She said students often do not
participate in politics because,
among other. things, they are
busy with other priorities.

"A lot of students that I've met
maybe stray away form being
super-involved in political par-
ties because they feel that they
have become more polarized
or that current representatives
don't represent their beliefs. And
I think that's even more reason
to get involved," Cunningham
Business senior Elena Bren-
nan, a senior adviser for the Col-
lege Republicans, said she does
feel that political parties are
becoming less popular among
young people.
"The College Republicans here
at U of M have actually adapted
to this by creating a 'Students
For' position on the board that
heads up committees focused on
specific issues that are relevant
to students - issues that we
care about looking towards our
futures," Brennan said.
Like the College Democrats,
the College Republicans has
roughly 50 members that show
up consistently, Brennan said.
Cunningham said another
basic determinant for political
involvement is being able to con-
duct a dialogue. She said when
students openly identify with a
political party, other students
assume they will not be open to
new ideas.
She added that another fac-
tor that keeps students involved
with a political group are the
friends they make there. As a
freshman, Cunningham was an
independent but she said she
found a lot in common with Col-
lege Republicans and identified
with her peers rather than politi-
cians themselves.

From Page 1A
Detroit and has family in the
city, said these statistics did
not change her perspective of
Detroit and she will continue to
visit family.
"Because I already knew it
was kind of a dangerous place,
I don't think this has changed
my perception," she said. "The
crime is kind of why we left in
the first place but we still go
visit almost every weekend."
Members of Crowd 313 - a
student organization focused
on bringing students to Detroit

for various cultural events and
exposing them to cultural and
economic aspects of the city -
said statistics like these have
motivated them to show stu-
dents that Detroit is stilla place
worth visiting.
"Crime is a big city phe-
nomenon, it has obvious cor-
relations to less affluent areas,"
said Architecture sophomore
Olivia Howard, a Crowd 313
member. "It doesn't necessar-
ily mean that everyone is more
likely to encounter crime if
they go to Detroit and I don't
think it makes the culture any
less rich or the communities
any less strong."
According to the Detroit

News, Detroit was followed
by New Orleans, Newark, St.
Louis and Baltimore in terms
of murder rates. The FBI does
comparative crime statistics
for U.S. cities with crime rates
per 100,000 people.
LSA freshman Kevin Zhang
agreed that the statistics on
crime in Detroit will not make
him less likely to go to Detroit
to watch the Tigers, Lions or
Red Wings, or events like the
North American International
Auto Show.
"The statistics impacted my
perception negatively, obvi-
ously, but I think I already had
a negative of view of the city in
terms of violent crime, so it just

confirms sort of what I already
thought," he said.
LSA senior Lauren Kissel
shared the feelings of other
students who have visited
Detroit for cultural events or
volunteer opportunities, say-
ing she does not think crime in
Detroit will impact the activi-
ties they attend in the city.
"The statistics definitely
kind of makes me wary, but
I think the places I would be
going to like the DIA or vol-
unteering would probably be
more safe," she said. "The sta-
tistics did not really change my
view of the city because I kind
of already knew crime was a
problem there."


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