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Marshall University's theater department rehearses for its upcoming performance of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre in Huntington.

W.Va. to have first Lego convention next summer

CHARLESTON — For the first time, a West Virginia city is scheduled to host a Lego convention.

The BrickUniverse Lego Fan Convention is scheduled to be at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center on July 25-26 next year, and will feature attractions centered around the beloved plastic building blocks.

According to the team at BrickUniverse, previous events in other cities have seen thousands of Lego fans show up to see live Lego builds, the Building Zone with thousands of Lego bricks for attendees to build with, and select galleries of life-sized Lego models.

Professional Lego artist Jonathan Lopes is scheduled to attend Charleston’s event from San Diego, California, to showcase more than 30 of his select Lego displays, including an 8-foot-high Lego Model of New York City’s Woolworth Building. According to organizers, he will be in attendance all weekend and will be able to talk to attendees on his life as a professional Lego artist and how to become a Lego master builder.

Chicago-based Lego artist Rocco Buttliere also is scheduled to bring more than 50 massive Lego models of famous landmarks from around the world, such as the largest skyscraper in the world, Burj Khalifa; the full Westminster Palace in London; and more. Both artists have had exhibitions in cities around the world, from London to Chicago, Dallas, Copenhagen and New York.

Other attractions are scheduled to include:

  • Lego Friends Building Area: Tons of Lego Friends bricks to build with.
  • Big Brick Building: Younger visitors can explore imagination through building with larger Lego Duplo bricks.
  • Lego Retail: Purchase Lego merchandise and goodies.
  • “Star Wars” Zone: Build spaceships and more with thousands of Lego “Star Wars”-themed bricks.
  • The Building Zone: Thousands of bricks laid out for attendees to build with.

Tickets are $12.99 and are available now for either Saturday, July 25, or Sunday, July 26, at www.brickuniverse.com/westvirginia. Based on sell-outs at other cities’ conventions, organizers say early booking is advised.

Cabell Huntington Hospital nurses vote to unionize

HUNTINGTON — Registered nurses at Cabell Huntington Hospital have voted to unionize after two days of voting.

Voting overseen by the National Labor Relations Board ended Wednesday night with an “overwhelming majority” of nurses voting to join the Service Employees International Union 1199, said Sherri McKinney, spokesperson for SEIU’s nursing campaign. Voting totals were not available by press time.

The vote means the hospital’s 900 registered nurses will join about 870 sanitarians, housekeeping, maintenance, pharmacy techs and patient care assistants represented by SEIU.

Nurses announced their plan to seek union representation in October, hand-delivering a petition asking the hospital to extend union coverage to the nurses — a request that was denied.

Those in favor of unionizing cite short staffing, mandatory overtime and changes, particularly to insurance, since the merging of Cabell Huntington and St. Mary’s Medical Center as to why they need collective bargaining rights.

Hospital administration hired former union employees to educate nurses on the union, saying the union could not guarantee better pay, benefits or staffing.

“We’re disappointed that the majority of nurses who participated in the election chose to be represented by an outside party,” said Lisa Chamberlin Stump, vice president of strategic planning, marketing and business development for CHH.

“However, as the law requires, we’ll begin the lengthy process of bargaining in good faith to reach a collective bargaining agreement that governs registered nurses’ wages, benefits and conditions of employment.”

Diplomats accuse Trump as impeachment hits Americans’ TVs

WASHINGTON — For the first time, the Democrats’ case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment streamed from Americans’ TVs Wednesday, including a new contention that he was overheard asking about political “investigations” that he demanded from Ukraine in trade for military aid.

On Day One of extraordinary public U.S. House hearings — only the fourth formal impeachment effort in U.S. history — career diplomats testified in the open after weeks of closed-door interviews aimed at removing the nation’s 45th president.

The account they delivered was a striking though complicated one that Democrats say reveals a president abusing his office, and the power of American foreign policy, for personal political gain.

“The matter is as simple and as terrible as that,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as he opened the daylong hearing. “Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself.”

Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kyiv, offered new testimony that Trump was overheard asking on the phone about “the investigations” of Democrats that he wanted Ukraine to pursue that are central to the impeachment inquiry.

Trump said he was too busy to watch on Wednesday and denied having the phone call. “First I’ve heard of it,” he said when asked.

All day, the diplomats testified about how an ambassador was fired, the new Ukraine government was confused and they discovered an “irregular channel” — a shadow U.S. foreign policy orchestrated by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that raised alarms in diplomatic and national security circles.

The hearing, playing out on live television and in the partisan silos of social media, provided the nation and the world a close-up look at the investigation.

At its core, the inquiry stems from Trump’s July 25 phone call when he asked Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for “a favor.”

Trump wanted the Ukraine government to investigate Democrats’ activities in the 2016 election and his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden — all while the administration was withholding military aid for the Eastern European ally that is confronting an aggressive neighbor, Russia.

Both sides tried to distill it into soundbites.

Democrats said Trump was engaged in “bribery” and “extortion.” Republicans said nothing really happened — the military aid was ultimately released after Congress complained.

Trump restated his aggressive defense with rapid-fire tweets, a video from the Rose Garden and a dismissive retort from the Oval Office as he met with another foreign leader.

“It’s a witch hunt. It’s a hoax,” he said as he appeared with visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by his side.

Across the country, millions of Americans were tuning in — or, in some cases, deliberately tuning out.

Viewers on the right and left thought the day underscored their feelings. Anthony Harris, cutting hair in Savannah, Georgia, had the hearing on in his shop, but he said, “It’s gotten to the point now where people are even tired of listening.”

The hours of partisan back-and-forth did not appear to leave a singular moment etched in the public consciousness the way the Watergate proceedings or Bill Clinton’s impeachment did generations ago.

“No real surprises, no bombshells,” said committee member Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.

Still, the session unspooled at least partly the way Democrats wanted with the somber tones of career foreign service officers telling what they knew. They sounded credible.

The witnesses, the graying Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in his bow tie, defied White House instructions not to appear. Both received subpoenas.

They are among a dozen current and former officials who already testified behind closed doors. Wednesday was the start of days of public hearings that will stretch into next week.

Taylor, who was asked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to return to Ukraine as Trump was firing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, introduced new information Wednesday.

He testified that a staff member recently told him of overhearing Trump when they were meeting with another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call to the Ukraine president that sparked the impeachment investigation.

The staff member explained that Sondland had called the president and they could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.” The ambassador told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified.

In the face of Trump’s denial, Schiff expects the person to appear before investigators for a closed-door deposition. He is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv, according to an official unauthorized to discuss the matter and granted anonymity.

Republicans argued that even with the diplomats at the witness table the Democrats have only second- or third-hand knowledge of Trump’s alleged transgressions.

A Trump ally on the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, mockingly called Taylor the Democrats’ “star witness” and said he’d “seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this.”

Taylor, a West Point graduate and former Army infantry officer in Vietnam, responded: “I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything.”

The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said Trump had a “perfectly good reason” for wanting to investigate the role of Democrats in 2016 election interference, giving airtime to a theory that runs counter to mainstream U.S. intelligence which found that Russia intervened and favored Trump.

Nunes accused the Democratic majority of conducting a “scorched earth” effort to take down the president after the special counsel’s Russia investigation into the 2016 election failed to spark impeachment proceedings.

The veteran foreign service officers delivered heartfelt history lessons about Ukraine, a young and hopeful democracy, situated next to Russia but reaching out to the West.

Asked about Trump’s withholding military aid from such an ally, Taylor said, “It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.”

Both men defended Yovanovitch, a career officer who Kent has said was subject to Giuliani’s “campaign of lies.” She is to testify publicly Friday.

Kent, in his opening remarks, directly contradicted a core complaint against Joe Biden being raised by allies of the White House. While he said he himself raised concerns in 2015 about the vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, being on the board of Burisma, a Ukraine gas company, he “did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny.”

Republicans sought to hear from the anonymous whistleblower by subpoenaing him for a closed-session. The panel voted down the request and Schiff and repeatedly denied the GOP claim that he knows the person.

“We will do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower’s identity,” Schiff declared.

The Constitution sets a dramatic but vague bar for impeachment, There’s no consensus yet that Trump’s actions at the heart of the inquiry meet the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.

The anonymous whistleblower first alerted officials to concerns about the Trump phone call with Zelenskiy. The White House released a rough transcript of the telephone conversation, with portions deleted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was initially reluctant to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. But she pressed ahead after the whistleblower’s complaint. She said Wednesday it was sad that the country has to undergo the inquiry with Trump, but “he will be held accountable.”


Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Mike Balsamo, Eric Tucker, Laurie Kellman, Alan Fram, Zeke J. Miller and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Record low temperature recorded in Huntington as cold snap continues

HUNTINGTON — Workers braved the cold to assemble a large Christmas tree at Judd Plaza in Ashland one day before record-breaking temperatures crept across the Tri-State on Wednesday.

Meteorologists said temperatures fell to a record low of 13 degrees in Huntington for a Nov. 13. The last daily record was set Nov. 13, 1911, which saw temperatures dip to 17 degrees.

A cold snap continues to affect the Tri-State, but the region is expected to begin to warm up throughout the week, according to a daily briefing provided by the National Weather Service.

Temperatures are expected to return to average by the weekend.